Friday, May 30, 2014

Otto Ruhle: Nine Characteristics of Bolshevism

Otto Ruhle, a leader in the German left in the first half of the 20th century, was mentioned in passing by Dan Gallin during a discussion of his new book Solidarity at last week's LabourStart's Global Solidarity conference in Berlin.

The name seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn't recall any details. It turns out that Ruhle wrote one of the first Marxist books I ever read which was a condensed version of Marx's Capital, though it is understandable that his name didn't really register.  The thin paperback was introduced by Leon Trotsky and it was marketed as Leon Trotsky Presents the Living thoughts of Karl Marx . (It is online as Karl Marx's Capital.) 

There's lots more that is interesting about Ruhle. 
Ruhle worked closely with Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, and was an activist in the Spartacist League. Later he was associated with the Council Communist movement and was an opponent of Leninism from the left.  An early opponent of fascism, he fled to Mexico after Hitler's seizure of power. In 1937 he served on the Dewey Commission which examined and rejected the Stalinist calumnies against Trotsky.

Of the many writings by and about Ruhle at the Marxist Internet Archive, one is particular caught my attention: the 1939 essay "The Struggle Against Fascism Begins with the Struggle Against Bolshevism."

Ruhle  ends his essay by setting forth nine characteristics of Bolshevism.
If one looks with critical eyes at the picture of Bolshevism provided by Lenin’s pamphlet [Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder] , the following main points may be recognized as characteristics of Bolshevism:

1. Bolshevism is a nationalistic doctrine. Originally and essentially conceived to solve a national problem, it was later elevated to a theory and practice of international scope and to a general doctrine. Its nationalistic character comes to light also in its position on the struggle for national independence of suppressed nations.

2. Bolshevism is an authoritarian system. The peak of the social pyramid is the most important and determining point. Authority is realized in the all-powerful person. In the leader myth the bourgeois personality ideal celebrates its highest triumphs.

3. Organizationally, Bolshevism is highly centralistic. The central committee has responsibility for all initiative, leadership, instruction, commands. As in the bourgeois state, the leading members of the organization play the role of the bourgeoisie; the sole role of the workers is to obey orders.

4. Bolshevism represents a militant power policy. Exclusively interested in political power, it is no different from the forms of rule in the traditional bourgeois sense. Even in the organization proper there is no self-determination by the members. The army serves the party as the great example of organization.

5. Bolshevism is dictatorship. Working with brute force and terroristic measures, it directs all its functions toward the suppression of all non-bolshevik institutions and opinions. Its “dictatorship of the proletariat” is the dictatorship of a bureaucracy or a single person.

6. Bolshevism is a mechanistic method. It aspires to the automatic co-ordination, the technically secured conformity, and the most efficient totalitarianism as a goal of social order. The centralistically “planned” economy consciously confuses technical-organizational problems with socio-economic questions.

7. The social structure of Bolshevism is of a bourgeois nature. It does not abolish the wage system and refuses proletarian self-determination over the products of labour. It remains therewith fundamentally within the class frame of the bourgeois social order. Capitalism is perpetuated.

8. Bolshevism is a revolutionary element only in the frame of the bourgeois revolution. Unable to realize the soviet system, it is thereby unable to transform essentially the structure of bourgeois society and its economy. It establishes not socialism but state capitalism.

9. Bolshevism is not a bridge leading eventually into the socialist society. Without the soviet system, without the total radical revolution of men and things, it cannot fulfill the most essential of all socialistic demands, which is to end the capitalist human-self-alienation. It represents the last stage of bourgeois society and not the first step towards a new society.

These nine points represent an unbridgeable opposition between Bolshevism and socialism. They demonstrate with all necessary clarity the bourgeois character of the Bolshevist movement and its close relationship to fascism. Nationalism, authoritarianism, centralism, leader dictatorship, power policies, terror-rule, mechanistic dynamics, inability to socialize-all these essential characteristics of fascism were and are existing in Bolshevism. Fascism is merely a copy of Bolshevism. For this reason the struggle against the one must begin with the struggle against the other.
 [Emphasis added and I've capitalized Bolshevism throughout.]

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