Raymond Challinor 1997

Review: Ernest Haberkern and Arthur Lipow (eds.), Neither Capitalism nor Socialism, and Hal Draper, War and Revolution

Source: New Interventions, Volume 8, no 1, Summer 1997

Ernest Haberkern and Arthur Lipow (eds), Neither Capitalism nor Socialism: Theories of Bureaucratic Collectivism, Humanities Press, New Jersey, 1996, pp 203, 32.50

Hal Draper, War and Revolution: Lenin and the Myth of Revolutionary Defeatism, Humanities Press, New Jersey, 1996, pp 159, 32.50

If you could only see half a soccer field, you would gain a false and inadequate idea of the football match. In the same way, there must have been many comrades, like myself, who secured a lopsided, sometimes erroneous view of the battle in 1939-40 in the Trotskyist movement over the class nature of the Soviet state. In those days, thrust into your hands, almost immediately you joined the movement, was a copy of Trotsky’s In Defence of Marxism. No attempt was made to give an accurate statement of the views he opposed.

Haberkern and Lipow’s book helps to repair this omission. I had always thought that Trotsky’s workers’ state theory was first questioned in 1939, a panic reaction by petty-bourgeois members of the US Socialist Workers Party to the menace of impending war. Actually, objections surfaced three years earlier, when The Revolution Betrayed appeared. There, Trotsky envisages either a revolutionary party overthrowing the Stalinist bureaucracy, or a bourgeois party smashing the workers’ state.

James Burnham and Yvan Craipeau query this scenario, and subsequent events seem to prove them correct. One can point to the courageous defence of the Soviet Union in 1919, attacked by 19 marauding armies, during the Civil War. No similar resistance happened after 1989 in response to Gorbachev’s and Yeltsin’s changes. On the one occasion, workers thought they were fighting to protect their state and their interests, and to establish a beacon of hope for the oppressed of the world. On the other occasion, they saw the Russian state as an exploitative apparatus, not worth lifting a finger to protect.

Other essays are by Jack Brad, Joseph Carter, Hal Draper, Max Shachtman and many others. They deal with the implications of the Hitler – Stalin non-aggression pact, query whether collectivised property inexorably provides the basis for socialism, and assert the need for revolutionaries to adopt a Third Camp position, campaigning for neither Washington nor Moscow but international socialism.

In my opinion, many contributions have withstood the test of time remarkably well. Indeed, in some instances, revelations have surfaced that simply serve to underline what had been written. For instance, it now emerges that Ribbentrop and Molotov secretly met behind German lines in 1944 to discuss whether there could again be peace between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Negotiations broke down because of Molotov’s sticking point – the Kremlin insisted on the restoration of all Tsarist territory. Who says the Second World War was not an imperialist conflict?

Hal Draper remains an unrecognised giant amongst Marxist theoreticians. All his books are well worth reading. In the one under review here, he explains and dissects the various views that socialists have expressed towards war. Though I don’t accept his central thesis, nobody could put the case against revolutionary defeatism better than Draper.