F. Palinorc(April 2001)
Like classes, rackets are a product of domination. They probably emerged when shamans, military chiefs or clan patriarchs first conspired against other humans from their own or nearby communities. Pillage, warfare and enslavement dissolved primitive communities, and rackets were formed in that violent process. Commodity relations, the emergence of the division of labour, classes and the state changed rackets fundamentally, but that’s not an evolution we can discuss now. What concerns us is the existence and persistence of rackets in modernity, in capitalist society. We will talk about rackets in the political sense, especially in Marxist organisations.
Nowadays it’s common to narrowly define a racket as an illegal organisation set up for profit, such as extortion, protection and fraud. This juridical definition originates in states, which criminalise smaller rivals. In specific cases, like the drug cartels, rackets can grow to ominous size and influence, seeping into the fabric of Leviathans. There’s nothing more ‘normal’ than a racket.
What restrains state rackets from mutual extermination is their awareness that cohesion and self control assures their mutual survival. Below them, there’s the mass of humanity enclosed by exploitation and national frontiers. Dominant rackets have learned to negotiate and tolerate each other by coexisting in the state. The role of national mediation alters their function, from private looting to large scale administration and bureaucratic (and legal) access to the national treasure. In this form, modern politicians and functionaries buy themselves national pedigree, legitimacy and incomes. But the racket remains the underlying state module. Dominant classes secrete them constantly, and in a democracy this tendency is generalised in civil society. The fragmentation of commodity society and its consequent ‘war of all against all’, creates a fertile soil for rackets. As long as a strong Leviathan is not disturbed and undermined by this, rackets are tolerated even if legally proscribed.
Political rackets are informal specialist bodies, usually legal and aspiring to state domination. However, their reduced size forces them to an unstable and precarious existence. At most, they become pressure groups for parties that have gone beyond the racket stage. The larger the racket, the more it approximates a party, which contains a few rackets called tendencies or factions. Only extraordinary world and national events propel rackets to become mass parties and even attain state power. But these moments are few and far between. Most rackets have a relatively short existence. A few last for years, as torture chambers for their members.
Rackets lack a significant and visible system of ideological justification. What they are, they conceal, under many layers. Leviathans have a long list of ideologists, from Plato to Hobbes, Locke, Jefferson, Hegel and even Schmitt. Insofar as one knows, rackets have no such eulogisers. There are many doctrines justifying Leviathans, but rackets lack this shielding. Their real function of domination is incognito.
Though political rackets seldom attain their goal of state power, their internal organisation mimics statist functions. The membership of the racket is its proletariat, and the leaders constitute a sort of portable mini-state. Rackets are essentially conservative, even if some of them, the Marxist and anarchist ones, spout radical or emancipatory messages.
But joining a racket is usually exhilarating at the beginning, when the new recruit is convinced that his participation will shape history and that he’s joining a collective venture to help humanity. He also feels that he’s found a heroic community of like-minded comrades. Joining a racket has this hidden libidinal dimension, which explains the enormous attachment and zealotry of the members. At the beginning, a recruit is unaware that he’ll be persuaded to lose most of his individuality and free time, and that the false community of the racket will only accentuate his alienation.
It’s useful to quote a few political writers and critics who have attempted to analyse the racket phenomenon.
Machiavelli (1469-1527) feared rackets because he saw in them the dissolution of the virtuous state. His The Prince is a description of an ideal Renaissance state. Machiavelli doesn’t describe rackets in detail, but they are always present in the background. The Prince’s paranoia stems from Machiavelli’s acute concern that unless a virtuous Prince consolidates the state, this machine will be devoured by unprincipled and ruthless factions out for themselves, not the ‘common good’. Machiavelli understood rackets well, he had closely studied how Renaissance states arose from them. He advocated taming the racketeering spirit, hoping that ‘the country’ would benefit from the rule of virtuous princes. In a utopian way, Machiavelli thought that the self destructive greed of rackets could be held in check and neutralised by the modern state.
He warned princes: "... the person who introduces this new form [of virtuous government] makes enemies of all those who benefited under the old form, ..." These enemies gather strength from "a unified faction". The only way to defeat this danger is for the Prince to use force: "... all armed prophets are victorious and the unarmed destroyed. ... the people are by nature fickle. It is easy to persuade them of something, but difficult to secure them in that conviction. For this reason it is worthwhile being organised in such a way that, when people no longer believe, they can be made to believe by force." (1) In the fluid use of strategies of persuasion and terror against civil society, rackets and Leviathans differ only in scale. Machiavelli was blind to the reality that rackets and states operate in unison, and share a basic synergy because both depend on domination.
A remarkable critic is Etienne de La Boétie (1530-1563). In his Discourse of Voluntary Servitude he wasn’t concerned with advising princes, but in castigating humanity’s predisposition to ‘voluntary servitude’. According to de La Boétie, this servility is what keeps princes in power. In spite of a circular moralising, he has a profound insight on the nature of rackets:
"Whoever thinks that halberds, sentries, the placing of the watch, serve to protect and shield tyrants is, in my judgment, completely mistaken. ... It is not the troops on horseback, it is not the companies afoot, it is not arms that defend the tyrant." He then explains that if six racketeers who have the tyrant’s ear recruit 600 adepts, they in turn have 6,000 under them. "The consequence of all this is fatal indeed..." observes de la Boétie, pointing out that tyrants often destroyed their own servile followers. "...whoever is pleased to unwind the skein will observe that not the 6,000 but a 100,000, and even millions, cling to the tyrant by this cord to which they are tied." (2) That’s the true bulwark of tyranny: the fragmentation of society into servile accomplices of power and gang chieftains. In other words, rackets. De La Boétie thought that in a tyranny there were almost as many people corrupted by it as those to whom liberty seemed desirable. Here society seems subsumed into rackets, possibly because in the 16 C, civil society was relatively undifferentiated in terms of class structure.
Georg Simmel (1858-1918) wrote copiously about groups and secret societies. He grasped well the persecutory synergy between Leviathan and racket: "the secret society is so much considered an enemy of the central power that, even conversely, every group that is politically rejected, is called a secret society." (3) Secret groups and rackets exist because of the dearth of individual subjectivity and autonomy caused by the division of labour. Individuals try to compensate for this lack by voluntarily entering communities where there is an appearance of individuality, by the mere fact of not being mainstream. Simmel is one of the more important writers on rackets, and his writings on groups, subordination and domination are profoundly pertinent.
Max Weber (1864-1920) wrote on bureaucracy, castes, sects, rationality, charisma, power and authority, which throw light on rackets. In his writings, Weber supports capitalist ‘rationality’ against undeveloped forms of pre-capitalist domination. He was a loyal and consistent apologist of Leviathans, and, as Simmel, became a raving German patriot in WW1.
TW Adorno (1903-1969), like Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse of the Frankfurt School, analysed how individuals were damaged under an increasingly administered society. However, Adorno’s writings on rackets (he used the term) seem, in English, to be scattered and unfinished. According to Rolf Wiggerhaus, the theory of rackets developed by Horkheimer and Adorno remained an ‘unfinished torso’. This is a pity. Nevertheless, across much of Adorno’s dense prose we capture gems like: "Anyone who wants to change the world must on no account finish up in the swamp of petty rackets where fortune tellers languish with political sectarians, utopians, and anarchists.’ (4) You have been warned.
In Adorno, rackets seem to be mainly criminal (economic ones), and how the specifically political ones operate is not clearly dealt with. Still, many insights on rackets in Minima Moralia are mini-concentrates, rich in meanings.
So-called situationism, especially Guy Debord, has contributed enormously to a critique of rackets. In Debord's’ The Society of the Spectacle there are poignant insights on the horrifying loss of individuality through the separations in capitalist society. In Debord one finds profoundly elaborated themes on alienation, from texts by Marx, Adorno and probably Simmel. Still, the grouplet around Debord seems to have engaged itself in many racket activities, including group megalomania and the usual leftist-type expulsions.
Fredy Perlman’s Ten Theses on the Proliferation of Egocrats have been influenced by situationism and an earlier Baudrillard. His theses are concise and have no truck with ‘militant organisations’, ie, rackets, including situationist ones.
Jacques Camatte has written extensively on the social (or asocial!) basis of rackets. His views on rackets (gangs) are found concentrated in the long letter-essay ‘On Organisation’ (1969). It’s a devastating exposé of rackets, and it’s superior to Adorno’s treatment in that Camatte dissects political (mainly leftist-ultraleft) rackets in a comprehensive and extended way, linking them to the total domination of capital.
Bolshevism, like Marxism in general, has little understanding of rackets. Bolshevism itself arose as a political racket, and climbed to state power after becoming a party tempered in mass mobilisations against the Tsarist regime. This gave it the ‘birthright’ to later demoralise and crush the insurgent proletariat and peasantry. Perhaps for these reasons the more famous Bolshevik theoreticians, like Bukharin, Rakovsky and Trotsky, were incapable of being self-critical when confronting the unfolding of Stalinism. None could accept that Bolshevism had let loose a revamped capitalist state in Russia, with a totalitarian stratum that was effectively a state ruling class. Rakovsky comes closest to admitting it in 1928, but recoils from this conclusion.
We can say that modern political rackets have these general characteristics:
- They gyrate around a guru, a charismatic leader (Weber) or ‘egocrat’ (Perlman). The guru is usually male, though rackets run by female gurus have been known to exist;
- The guru fosters and controls a centralised and despotic hierarchy. He relies on an inner faction of conspirators, who plot permanently against the racket’s membership. No racket is ruled by consensus or by transparent participatory methods;
- Rackets have a political platform or programme, usually of a messianic kind. One of the tasks of the guru is to inherit or draft and uphold this platform. Rackets attempt to influence the world around them by publishing regularly (or maintaining a web site). To them influencing others means recruitment, not contributing to an ongoing clarification of consciousness;
- Rackets recruit individuals who voluntarily join and are systematically persuaded by the guru’s infallibility. Once recruited, the racket’s goals is to alienate individuals further by making them sever many of their links with society. This is not a conscious conspiracy, but a process in which recruiter and recruited delude themselves and each other. The first by his denial of what takes place in the racket, and the latter by his suspension of critical thought;
- Rackets strive to become permanent but are constantly disrupted by internal dissension, splits and competition from rival rackets. Political divergences are rarely addressed – they are replaced by personal factionalism and competition for positions in the hierarchy. Thus the pervasive use of scapegoating and ad hominem attacks;
- Paradoxically, the survival of rackets depends on internal factionalism and external enemies. The climate of paranoia and search for scapegoats strengthens the guru’s control. He is reinforced by recurrent purges. New rivals, often formed by the expelled members, focus the survival instincts of the racket, creating paroxysms of hate and fostering a state of siege mentality. These centripetal and centrifugal ‘crises’, both carefully stage managed, aid the rackets’ survival;
- The more virulent rackets attempt to organise themselves in military fashion. The move illegalises them and places them in direct confrontation with Leviathan. This tends to deplete them of female members and increases the dysfunction of militants enormously. These rackets tend to exist more in the peripheries of the system, where Leviathans are weak and depend mostly on naked terror to survive. This method of rule unleashes an indiscriminate war between Leviathans and opposing rackets, where terror and extermination are the sole methods of asserting domination;
But where do the members of rackets come from? During the Renaissance and the Enlightenment the growing capitalist division of labour released layers of professional and cultured people no longer beneficiaries of church or royal patronage.
Some of these layers were employed as state functionaries. A number of them remained unemployed, or underemployed. These ‘floating’ layers are the main social basis for political rackets. Historically, they aspired to:
– influence state policy;
– be employed by the state;
– take over the state to run it according to their ideology and doctrine. The state no longer was the attribute of royalty, but of ‘the people’. Because of the tendency of state capitalism, the state itself became a hugely coveted unit of capital. Its capacity as tax collector, manager of the national bank and budget, plus state enterprises, made it an ideal capitalist conglomerate. Rackets of all persuasions were formed to attain the status of parties, the necessary step to attaining state power and reaching state coffers.
State power is also the ultimate goal of political rackets. Trotsky means this when he says "Every serious political tendency strives to conquer [state] power." (5)
The liberal Italian sociologist Gaetano Mosca (later approved by Fascists) observed that ‘The idea that each separate individual should have an equal share in the exercise of sovereignty could have arisen only after bureaucratic absolutism had broken up the old groups and destroyed all sovereign powers intermediate between the state and the individual." (6) This conception of the equal and sovereign individual is at the heart of bourgeois politics, and is linked to a society of generalised commodity production.
Capitalism needed many of these separate and trained individuals from the start. The system’s scientific and technological development required vast numbers of specialists. Max Nomad, the disciple of Waclaw Machajski [himself a critic of Marxist rackets] had this to say about them:
"Sandwiched between the capitalists and the manual workers there has emerged an ever growing stratum of neo-bourgeois or not-yet-quite-bourgeois engaged in mental or near-mental occupations. ‘Intellectual workers,’ ‘privileged employees of capital,’ ‘new middle class’ – these are the various terms used interchangeably for this amazing variety of people: office-holders, teachers, professional men, technicians, clergymen, commercial and financial experts, journalists, writers, artists, politicians, professional revolutionists and agitators, trade union organizers and so on. In short, a vast crowd of educated and semi-educated people, all of them ‘propertyless,’ who may or may not have a college degree, but can make a livelihood without resorting to manual or lower clerical work."
But these were mostly conservative in outlook, unwilling to disturb the social peace and endanger their own privileged incomes. Against these supporters of the status quo, are arrayed the "... ‘outs,’ the unemployed or underpaid journalists, lecturers, college graduates and undergraduates, ‘lawyers without clients and doctors without patients’ [Marx], educated ex-workers in search of a white-collar position – in short all that motley army of impecunious or starving intellectuals, who are dissastified with the existing system and very often militantly active in the various radical or fascist movements. It is the members of this group who have the ambition of eliminating the capitalist class of parasitic consumers and of establishing their own rule in a system based on government control or ownership of industries, and an unequal distribution of incomes." (7)
One doesn’t have to go along with Nomad’s bitterly conspiratorial description to agree broadly with his definition. These atomised individuals have provided the social base for political rackets and their gurus.
In the late 19 C, Marxism became the ideology of the more extreme and consistently radical faction of political specialists. After constant defeats and massacres, the proletariat learned to be wary of the radical petty-bourgeoisie (1830-1848 in France and Central Europe). Other ideologists replaced these recuperated rackets. In these countries Marxist and anarchist parties and unions managed to implant themselves in a minority of the proletariat. In 1914 most of these organisations supported their own warring states in World War One. They did the same in World Two, when Stalinism proved conclusively that the October revolution had ended in a catastrophic counter-revolution.
These historic defeats confirmed that the proletariat requires no political parties. Its emancipation can become a reality through the worldwide, and co-ordinated, transcendence of value and dissolution of private (including state) property. The needs of the proletariat contradict the existence of social classes and all political domination. To claim that the proletariat requires ‘revolutionary parties’ contradicts the nature of this class, which is fated to dissolve itself in the communist emancipation of society. The existence of rackets, which speak in the name of the proletariat, is thus a retrogressive remnant of a period of historic defeat and mass delusion.
In The Socialist Revolution, Kautsky observed that: "The smaller the number of individuals who take part in a given social movement, the less this movement appears as a mass movement – then the less the general and necessary are evident among them, and the more the chance and the personal predominate." Kautsky was referring to socialist sects, without suspecting that this phenomenon, where ‘chance and the personal predominate’, would become common in society once atomisation was generalised. Disaffected individuals are more attracted to rackets, not to large Leviathanic corporations like parties, official churches and unions.
The form political party is an ideal form of capitalist class rule. The present ruling classes have a political wing – ie, parties, because only a minority of specialists has to rule for these classes (a product of their own division of labour). To assume this for the proletariat is based on a false analogy. Ie, that a minority of the proletariat can also represent the whole class, as it happens with the capitalist class. In this exploited and communist class, any party claiming to represent it becomes an alien stratum over it, linked to the dominant society. This justification is not a ‘substitutionist’ mistake but an expression of exploitative needs.
Sometimes the need for the party is justified by the ‘heterogeneity’ of class consciousness in the proletariat. This is specious, because the social fragmentation of the proletariat, and thus its various false views under capitalism, can’t be resolved by a permanent minority of specialists. This Leninist justification pretends that the division of labour of capitalism, which has produced the heterogeneity, has an emancipatory potential. However, the fragmentation can only be reduced and finally resolved by explicit and expanding struggles for communism. Only these will allow the widest active participation not only within the proletariat but also from all humanity going beyond value and Leviathan.
Even if we were to agree that proletarian fragmentation produces a specialised ‘theoretical-practical’ consciousness in a minority, this doesn’t follow that this minority is a ‘political vanguard’. On the contrary, historical experience confirms that these ‘vanguards’ are rackets because of their militarised structure, cultist practices, fragmentation and isolation from the proletariat as a whole. Their ideology allows capital to recuperate these rackets as soon as they’re formed. The idea that these rackets express the minds and needs of the working class is a cliché of omnipotence, concealing destructive appetites within these rackets. With a fine instinct, they recognise in the proletariat their cannon fodder for apocalyptic desangres (Bastille or Winter Palace stormings). October 1917 as mythology is embedded in all Leninist rackets.
Once the idea of a proletarian party is accepted, the idea that it will be the ruling state party is also accepted. Leninism was always a Leviathanic ideology.
Even the attempt to create social mediations and cushions through a separation of powers in ‘the transition period’ is unrealistic. The centripetal tensions at the core of all Leviathans in our state capitalist period will unify political functions, and fanatical, war-supporting mass mobilisations will be indispensable. The proletarian party is an ideal organisation to centralise and inspire these spectacles. The solipsism is thus not resolved – to the end, Lenin and Bordiga’s sons will defend their bloodied birthright – ‘The state is us’.
If one national proletarian party is possible, then many proletarian parties across the globe are possible. They will either regroup in the long term or exterminate each other. These parties, or rackets, replicate a tendency of capitalist firms – bankruptcy or merger-monopoly. It’s the fate of all bourgeois parties – the totalitarian dynamic is inherent in them. This permanent anthropophagy is visible internally: no factions or tendencies are truly allowed. In addition, it’s enough to imagine the size of such a worldwide ‘revolutionary party’ to grasp the bizantine vision of leftist and ultraleft rackets. A machine with ‘consciousness raising’ and mass-organising tasks would have to be a centralised party of many millions of members. The only operational techniques open to such a slumbering Leviathanic machine would be militaristic, totalitarian, terroristic, ones.
The increasing atomisation and passivity in civil society provides a fertile soil for rackets and future totalitarianisms. 1984 has never gone away. State violence fascinates many people, and instead of confronting it in their minds – a prerequisite for confronting it collectively one day – they submit, hoping to ingratiate themselves. However, people’s passivity is rooted not in stupidity, but in a schizoid and fearful compulsion to evade barbaric truths. When people’s bodies are overworked and their minds fragmented, they prefer the infantile and spectacular icons of the mass media, reeking in sentimentality and comforting bad-faith. How can atomised individualists find solidarity and community in the warzone of all against all? Reality appears as a maze with infinite separations and opaque screens. To confront truths, which take time to unearth, and not let resistance become raging despair or cynicism, is a daily test for each thinking human. Reason alone, with forgiveness and persistence, can illuminate a way forward. That this reason, in its intransigent single-mindness, contains empathy for all beings, goes without saying. But it is not easy to resist the lure of rackets, religious or political.
The consolidation of a revamped state based on unmitigated terror obviously appealed to a sanguinary apparatchik like Stalin. It was a situation without modern European precedent (except perhaps the short Jacobin and Thermidorean dictatorships). Bolshevism under Stalin fostered an apparatus – like an old Asiatic or Inca despotism, endowed with total arbitrary power. The arrest and execution of anybody who could oppose Stalin’s regime came as a natural and irresistible option. Who was there to stop him? Nobody, as nobody could have stopped Lenin once in power. ‘From the proletarian revolution to the Lubyanka’ – this was not an impossible progression. The decline started very early, from 1917. Marc Ferro, and others, document this abdication of power by the councils and factory committees.
Religious rackets recruit victims by presenting themselves in camouflage. Their long-term aim may be world power but the everyday aim of extorting the maximum amount of cash from their devotees is paramount. Thus their sophisticated manipulation and use of mass marketing techniques. In contrast, political rackets are not out to amass money. In the case of leftist and ultraleft rackets, they aim at power only in specific social circumstances. In the meantime they are doomed to stagnate and decompose partly because they have no flexibility, no updated ‘marketing techniques’ that would allow them to grow. On the contrary, they insult all and sundry, giving the (correct) impression of isolated lunatic fringes. In periods of social contraction this ‘sectarian’ tendency becomes very manifest. If the social circumstances change, such rackets may be too isolated to have any influence. Thus there are objective limits to the size and influence of political rackets such as these. But history also gives us many surprises.
We should look forward to the day when social transformation, and the ‘utopian’ vision of an emancipated society, can be discussed without the stigmata of Bolshevism. That will take some time, because such myths have a powerful irrational basis in society. Factual evidence is a weak antidote, as facts can be denied or cunningly explained away. The leftist and ultraleft school of Bolshevik hagiography was started by the Bolshevik Party in power, and the Bordiguists – like all supporters of October – uncritically swallowed the mythology. It was enough that a party of the Zimmerwald-Kienthal left took power for all critical thought to go out of the window. Nothing succeeds like success. Even Luxemburg deluded herself, when she congratulates Bolshevism for having ‘saved the honour of international socialism’ (in more sober instances, her critique of Bolshevism is scathing).
The accumulation/valorisation process of the capitalist mode of production may yet contain important consequences for a communist consciousness. The breakdown can suggest an enthropic collapse of the militarised constituent parts of Leviathan. This would allow the unified forces of civil society to ‘leave this world’ (Camatte) with a minimum of destruction and violence, which, if it permeates society, would affect mostly the proletariat. Perlman describes how the Taborites, in defending themselves against Leviathan, rebuilt it within their own ranks. It’s a tragic warning. The Bolsheviks did the same, in part because their own ideology supported Jacobinism, and because the Russian Leviathan had needs that Bolshevism unconsciously expressed from the start (Lenin: ‘we will become defensists only when we’re in power’). ‘We’ of course wasn’t the proletariat but a party serving Leviathan.
According to Marc Ferro, the soviets/factory committees ceased to function by 1918. Maurice Brinton’s book on workers’ control confirms this. Victor Serge’s golden age of ‘soviet democracy’ is a fable. Maybe ‘democracy’ [ie, racket factionalism] did survive inside the Party for a while longer (a few weeks more? Up to 1921?) This is a formalist matter, if one rejects that the proletariat’s historic interests can be represented by any party or state.
For ultraleft rackets, their devotion to the Bolshevism of 1917 is ‘loyalty to revolutionary positions’, or to a ‘socialist state’, but not to the countless individuals – workers or whoever – who were sacrificed by the Bolshevik Leviathan. Thus Kronstadt doesn’t really matter; it’s a ‘mistake’ caused by who knows what (not revolutionary positions of course, these never fail). But Kronstadt is used here as shorthand – the anti-human perfidy started long before 1921. The capacity of the Bolshevik apparat – both party and state – to betray and terrorise supporters and neutrals started from day one. Once the mass forms that the proletariat and society had created to emancipate themselves were subverted, the communist movement in gestation was aborted. Right there and then, probably by early 1918. The proletariat, and humanity, got caught in a trap in 1917. And paid very dearly for this, and the trap can be re-activated nearly 80 years later.
Reading the Serge/Trotsky correspondence of 1936, one notices a related racketeering attitude. Often, Serge mentions that his wife, exiled with him in Brussels, is suffering from schizophrenia. Trotsky, to his credit, asks after her and gives advice. Serge never elaborates; he only mentions laconically that she’s getting worse. Serge describes the terrible conditions of oppositionists in the gulag with much greater detail and warmth than his wife’s endless nightmare. When his 16 year old son wants to enlist and fight for Republican Spain, what his mother thinks is never mentioned (Serge dissuaded him, for age reasons). It’s distressing, so... ‘macho’. And so it goes on, letter after letter, with a line or two from Serge about her worsening illness... and what happened in the end? Did she escape with him to Mexico? And what happened to their 18-month girl? We’re never told. One’s suspicions were reinforced – these great revolutionaries lacked some elementary empathies, and thought that great historical scenes, pastiches, compensated for this lack. They never do.
In Georges Vereeken’s The GPU in the Trotskyist Movement, one reads the following, chilling, passage: "What always comes to my mind, almost obsessively, is the execution of two friends, both thieves. They died without showing fear, facing the rifles, and shouted: ‘Long live the CNT’...they were two good comrades." (p. 138)
This is from a letter of a young Belgian comrade of Vereeken, written from the Spanish trenches in 1936. This militant had joined the CNT militias. The CNT ‘revolutionaries’ shoot thieves, of course, and the poor friendly wretches even salute their executioners – Ave CNT, morituri te salutant – something only ‘two good comrades’ would do. Vereeken offers no criticism, and neither does the young letter writer. There is no indication that the young ‘friend’ of the thieves interceded for them. Such were the sewer morals of those years. After all, Trotsky introduced the death penalty in the Red Army, and the Red Terror thrived on summary executions and hostage taking. Why not in Spain, in the name of anarchism and the POUM? Naturally, the CNT’s participation in the Republican government was not an act deserving any swift draconian retribution. Tartuffians and state assassins, that’s what glorious cenetismo ended upholding.
The neurotic and obsessive clinging to ‘politics’ only as positions and programmes is a ploy to conceal a racket’s real activities. Under this denial and camouflage, manoeuvres and tricks – the real stuff of politics, the art of the possible and the rotten – can take place unhindered. All rackets engage in them, but deny that these practices take place. Or accuse other rackets, but never themselves, of these practices. To openly admit that they take place would be an admission of deceit and moral bankruptcy. Yet an outside critic must carefully analyse why rackets act in these ways. The preservation of power of course is the main component of these practices. Yet for many Marxists, expert critics of ‘bourgeois power’, this aspect of power is not politics. It doesn’t count.
This from the August 1995 issue of the ICG’s Communism. This is an ultraleft racket, it’s the immediatist, messianic clone of the ICC. The essay ‘General characteristics of the struggles of the present time’ starts interestingly but soon degenerates into the predictable: "Today’s world is characterised by the consequences of the tragic lack of permanent association of the proletariat: no permanent nucleus, no meeting centre, no massive classist press, no international organisation of the proletariat able to gather the vanguard of this community of struggle that shows up here and there. Therefore, [here starts a long non-sequitur] the importance of permanent militant activity, of directly internationalist communist action (?) centred on a revolutionary program of action, (?) of organisation, of perspectives such as the one developed by our little group [!] of militants – in spite of our very weak forces, becomes clear." (p. 44)
Such fantasies trivialise a social problem of gigantic dimension, pretending that a racket can be the missing link to humanity’s consciousness and global emancipation.
The ICG spice their journals with pictures of looting, of ‘Red Terror against White Terror’ (showing a Chinese Army officer burned by proletarians in Beijing in June 1989), as if this didn’t express the general barbarism and confusion of humanity at this time. Some militants’ dreams re-enact the worst nightmares of the 20C. Every socio-political vision selects appropriate cadre. Apart from social necrophily, it’s difficult to know what the ICG stand for, but the future will tell us. Whatever it is, one doubts it will be positive.
Why did Lenin and Trotsky conceal their intentions of total power prior to October? They certainly did so. They knew that the proletarian soviets and factory committees would have ignored, if not resisted, a Bolshevik take-over. But the important question is not ‘why’ but HOW Bolshevism managed to persuade the proletariat into an experiment that could only end in a world defeat for communism. If the mechanism of mass delusion and influence is exposed, perhaps we can contribute to a higher consciousness tomorrow.
Dysfunctional individuals can only reproduce – through displacement – the families of which they are a product. That the displacement hooks into a politics of disgust and hatred masquerading as ‘love of the human race’, is bound to lead, once its object – ‘the class’, that metaphysical category – ignores the message, into a disgust and hatred for one’s fellow-believers. Exophagy becomes endophagy. The Christs eat each other.
Destructive impulses are transferred to society through the ideological hegemony of Leviathan. The subsoil is the peculiar alienation of capitalism, that complete spiritual and material dispossession of humans. This impoverishment in the midst of potential abundance is a historically cumulative process. We must assume also that there is a geometric growth of violent and repressive mental material. In the proletariat, this material works itself through this class’s acceptance of wage labour, the nuclear family, nation and Leviathan. Up to now, this has paralysed and deflected the only social class capable of freeing a classless humanity. It neutralises and disperses their emancipatory capacities. Integration is a violent process, and creates a mindset of passivity and seething unconscious rage among billions of atomised individuals.
In moments of deep crisis, Leviathan channels these destructive impulses into actions, from electoral spectacles to support for ‘authoritarian’ solutions like Fascism, ‘humanitarian wars’ or for various populist demagogues in the peripheries. Religious rackets and state fundamentalism mop up further atomised millions. Scapegoating is a key component in these strategies.
Faced with these Leviathanic initiatives, mankind remains with decisive and urgent practical tasks. Most vital is the need to understand that capital and Leviathan are not invincible – thus the need to see the (economic-social) crisis in historical terms. The ‘crisis’ didn’t start today. It started with the dissolution of the primitive human communities. There’s the urgent need to emancipate something higher, on a planetary basis. Not a return, as Perlman-Camatte sometimes seem to advocate. Not a ‘leaving of this world’ but the emancipation of a new global community, using reason, science, empathy and individual/social love. Communism ‘frees’ mankind as it can be potentially.
Historically, various working class layers have acquiesced and supported Leviathan and capital. Yet this isn’t a question of blame or moralising. If this class has an emancipatory potential, then it can have, in certain moments, the essential ability to choose life against necrophilia. And, because it has this choice, its mistakes, abasement and self-betrayals can be understood and transcended in practice. The rackets and parties running Leviathans don’t have that capacity for self-reflection. They are structurally linked to power, and only an emancipated proletariat can take those individuals out of this trap, showing them a new way of living (without wage labour and nation-states), disarming them without retributions and with the least possible bloodshed. The proletariat in motion will have to show a way out to millions of people now snared and employed by Leviathans. The collective transformation of humanity has no need for vengeance or red terrors. The enemy has always been social relations, not humans.
Such a stance to the rest of mankind appears as a possibility for the proletariat in moments leading to imminent universal disintegration. In those occasions the proletariat will show whether it’s capable of freeing society, so that individuals change to remain human. Before that time, individuals who partake of critical views can only hope to disseminate them in small discussion circles. This doesn’t require any formal structure, ‘membership’ or unwritten power agendas. The racketeering principle is broken up in these loose, transient, but committed projects.
Bolshevism never understood this need for individual and collective responsibility and therefore it showed the masses only the murderous enactment of destructive impulse and action. Thought, which includes concern for human life and individual responsibility, must interpose itself between irrational impulses and action. The historical tendency of punishing the outsider, the scapegoat, is one of the main factors destroying proletarian revolutions from within. The ‘red terror’ of Lenin-Trotsky-Dzerzhinsky exemplifies this tendency. In Russia the expropriated landlords and capitalists were the ideal scapegoats and a war of extermination allegedly against them ensued, the vast majority of victims being workers and peasants. This trend of obliterating civilians was already present in the 1789 French Revolution. These atrocities could only depress consciousness on a massive scale, and disarm mankind of its inner spiritual resources and solidarity.
Towards potential recruits and circles, rackets always appear benign, open, even obsequious... at the beginning. Religious cults behave similarly. Faction fights in rackets share something – they express a totalitarian dynamic intrinsic to life today. In the final analysis, this dynamic reflects the needs and preservation of domination. The gurus of leftist and ultraleft rackets defend a deeply totalitarian worldview. Racket-building, which contains the seeds of Party-Building, follows a managerial method. It’s a system of mind-control. Lenin was certainly THE master builder within this dynamic’s tradition, but elements of it already exist in various 19C movements. John Zerzan persuasively claims that Marx participated in racket activities. The ultraleft milieu, to a lesser (Dutch Left) or greater (German/Italian Lefts) degree, shared this tradition with Leninism.
Rackets are unable to look at the whole logic of organisation. It is their blind spot. Some of their analyses are interesting and show a genuine theoretical quest, even if still trapped by the dogmas of Leninism and manipulative polemics. Let’s take the example of October 1917, the main icon of these rackets. What are the ‘lessons’ of October? The evidence suggests that the ‘Russian Commune’ died at birth. Yet that creates an unbearable psychological dilemma for rackets: how are we going to defend ‘party traditions’ if there are next to none in October? This obstinate resistance confirms that deluded legends and ‘traditions’ are crucial to racket building. They provide comfort, a teleological assurance, historic continuity and legitimacy... something like a company’s ‘mission’. Yet these are all lies, social lies.
Nevertheless, just because Marxism ended up being ‘the last refuge of the bourgeoisie’ (Mattick) doesn’t mean that humanity can’t learn an immense amount from the many insights of Marx and Engels, and many thinkers in that tradition. As it can and must from Hegel, Weber, and countless others. It’s as if the contribution and relevance of The Enlightenment haven’t ended yet.
There is nothing wrong in forming reading or study circles, or noyaux engaged in exchanging ideas and discussions. What’s debilitating is the racketeering notion that all this is a ‘duty’ with a historical destiny, moreover, a role so vital that humanity’s fate depends on it. The idea of the World Party lies behind this notion of omnipotence. That such a Party will ever emerge now is most improbable, and if it was essential, we have missed the boat for more than 150 years. In any case, there’s nothing one can do about it now. The world proletariat has no lasting and genuine relationship with ‘its minorities’, and hasn’t for generations. Which suggests that mankind will have to do without them – without the many World Parties – when the time comes. Perhaps revolutionary fractions were always unnecessary, or can be generated during the revolution itself? In a movement of billions, such associations may appear simultaneously everywhere, and will not carry the racketeering virus.
Historically, lofty motivations and proclaimed intentions of parties and individuals, or even by the masses, are no warranty or criteria in themselves. One must judge the results, short and long-term, of social actions. All revolutionary ideas can degenerate and serve Leviathan, and they only prove to be truly human when the whole of humanity is involved in its self-emancipation. A proof that ideas are revolutionary (negating Leviathan and the law of value) is that the population itself understands, adopts and practically implements those ideas. After all, these ideas do stem from historical practice, when previous communities have attempted to reverse Leviathan’s domination. This is possible only during a revolutionary period, and on a worldwide scale. Before that, the masses of the population are suffering some sort of stupor, and thus under the psychological and material sway of Leviathan and the atomisation implicit in the global domination of value.
A new revolutionary movement –which means most of humanity in motion – can only arise in a revolutionary period. This period is a possibility, not an inevitability. Assuming that this period will come about, the racketeering ideas of Bolshevism, even heavily reformed, may be one of the most formidable enemies of this movement, because Bolshevism, in its innumerable forms, will masquerade as ‘revival’ of a long and valid tradition. The tradition is indeed Jacobinism, a vindictive early bourgeois militarism, but taken historically, it’s the millennia of domination. Individuals can contribute to humanity’s emancipation if they help to clarify the general goals of a world community (communism) during a revolutionary period. Their role is not to lead or to create a party. They are part of the population which is becoming revolutionary as a whole. Before that period, they should try to clarify among themselves basic questions about Leviathan and communism. They should try to anticipate what the future may bring. Revolutionaries belong to humanity, and their ideas – if they are truthful – belong to humanity’s quest for biophilia and may contribute to and hasten mass communist consciousness. Belonging to a racket adds nothing to this quest. On the contrary, all ‘revolutionary’ rackets are training grounds for future Orwellian policemen.
That individuals are sucked into rackets is a regrettable waste of human potential. But the situation in the peripheries is monstrously tragic in that huge numbers very young humans are being recruited into military rackets working in tandem with genocidal Leviathans. Children as Praetorians of African warlords and prime ministers (Congo, Somalia, etc), children as paramilitaries and sicarios of drug rackets in Colombia, children as human waves in the Iran-Iraq and Ethiopian-Eritrean wars, children as torturers and commando forces in the Balkans, children as sadists, rapists and drug addicts, and rackets co-ordinating at root level these endless necrophilous activities. Few realities express more brutally the decadence of a social system based on a predatory inhumanity. It’s during this decline that military rackets come into their own, processing human misery and bodies on vast scales, mopping up whatever life Leviathans leave in their trail of extermination and mayhem.
Rackets express a need for personal access to community. But in warzones these are false communities, nightmares posing as dreams. Rackets result from the decomposition of society, and they also contribute to it, by foreclosing human solutions, by destroying all hope in the future.
The humans who will dismantle a collapsing capitalist system will have to be the same who will emancipate an alternative fit for humans. They’re the people who are today ‘integrated’ into capitalism because everybody is. In our present epoch, there is no room for nihilist gangs of ‘outsiders’ or ‘barbarians’ who destroy a collapsing system from the outerlands, as happened in the fall of the Western Roman empire.
Only in this way will rackets disappear forever.
Below, a letter from 1997 dealing with a grotesque pantomime. The ICC, a well-known ultraleft racket (called ‘apparat’ here) had expelled one of its leaders and was proposing a ‘trial’ called a ‘Jury of Honour’ (!) to confirm his expulsion. All the material used here was obtained from their public press and the writer offered these comments to a friend, who isn’t a member of any racket. The case displays the full pathology of a political racket. The letter has been slightly edited. The case wasn’t unique. All leftist and ultraleftist rackets display similar paranoia and uncontrolled spite. On a historical level, the case is interesting also because it shows the racketeering activities of Luxemburg and Lenin, two revered icons of leftism and ultraleftism, and the complete integration of the German SPD, before 1914.
On the question of JJ and the ‘Jury of Honour’ proposed by the apparat. It took me a few readings of the article ‘The Jury of Honour, a weapon for the defence of revolutionary organisations’ (WR 201, p. 4) to make some sense of what they’re saying. A few thoughts on the question.
JJ’s expulsion means that a trial has already taken place within the apparat and that he was found ‘guilty’. So why an additional trial? The apparat presents the ‘Jury of Honour’ as its response to JJ’s rejection of the apparat’s charges. The apparat claims that the ‘Jury of Honour’ is a traditional procedure of the ‘workers movement’ (citing the cases of Azev and Radek), and insists that JJ must appeal and submit to this new tribunal.
The lecture continues: "When a militant is the object of serious accusations, he has the duty and responsibility to show the loyalty of his engagement by making an appeal to a jury of comrades charged with leading an in depth inquiry into his trajectory and actions. Any member of a communist organisation [but JJ is no longer a member] who, faced with these accusations, refuses to defend his militant communist honour can only give credence, through his attitude of capitulation, to the suspicions which weigh on him..." (ibid).
One would have thought that the whole point of appealing was to request to a superior court to review a decision of a lower court. Does the apparat consider itself a lower court of any sort? Hardly, so it will NEVER be bound by any unfavourable decision of this ‘Jury of Honour’. To avoid surprises, it will carefully screen, with right of veto, the composition of this tribunal (because sympathisers and contacts hardly exist nowadays, most having become ‘parasites’, who will be the jury?) The CWO might agree to participate. After all, they proudly assert: "In the past we have supported the ICC against its various splitters..." (RP 5, p. 19). But I doubt that the IBRP, their sponsors, will accept this role, unless they can use it as a forum to deflate the ICC, accusing it of ‘councilism’.
An appeal is motivated by a desire to undo an injustice. From what we read, it doesn’t seem that JJ wants to return to the apparat. Neither did he propose this ‘Jury of Honour’ and it appears that he has refused to participate in it. In any case, the apparat hasn’t said that JJ could be re-instated if the ‘Jury of Honour’ clears him of the ‘charges’. The apparat is convinced of JJ’s ‘guilt’, which is why they expelled him, so his claims of innocence would be pointless then as now. I note that JJ’s lack of co-operation won’t dampen the apparat’s persistence. Anyway, need we say it, this proposal is not motivated by the concern for an ex-member’s good name (how chivalrous, and beside the point, are these allusions to ‘honour’ and ‘loyalty’).
The apparat has another agenda: "... the necessity to appeal to a Jury of Honour (or Revolutionary Tribunal) is not imposed solely to safeguard militants or for the moral health of the organisation. This political process equally constitutes a weapon for the defence of the proletarian political milieu faced with disturbing elements, whether agents of the state or simple adventurers acting on their own account." (ibid). Thus the apparat reveals the underlying motivation – the ‘Jury of Honour’ is another tactic in the strategic campaign against ‘parasitism’. In passing, it will aim at further slandering JJ, together with those who ‘don’t understand the dangers of parasitism’. To go back to the original accusations against JJ. In their articles on JJ’s ‘case’, the apparat doesn’t quote from any Masonic document written by JJ, or cites testimonials from anybody. Yet he’s accused of constituting "... a secret network of adepts of Masonic ideology." (ibid) There’s an internal dossier on JJ – an ex-member, L, was offered to see it. The stuff must be pretty riveting, as the apparat hasn’t published any of it. Furthermore, it’s not mentioned if JJ’s Masonic ‘adepts’ were also expelled. Interestingly, the recent RP (5) asserts that "...at least a dozen other members of the organisation have resigned..." (p. 19). In the latest WR, it’s stated that "JJ rejected the arguments given for his exclusion, notably the conscious and deliberate character of his actions, by attributing to the judgements of the ICC a ‘collective delirium’ and an ‘interpretive (sic) paranoia’". This suggests that JJ did try to defend himself. It’s never too late, bravo for JJ!
The 1981 Chénier case established important precedents for the ‘defence of the organisation’ (although these go back to Marx & Engels, and Jacobinism). In 1981, the apparat also called for a ‘Jury of Honour’ to justify its gangster raids, but the other apparats smelled a rat and kept their distance. When Chénier’s new racket, L’Ouvrier Internationaliste, responded with a call to form a tribunal to clear Chénier’s name and judge the apparat’s actions, the apparat rejected participating in it out of hand. Only the apparat has the historic right to organise trials, raids and expulsions.
To the apparat, trials aren’t there to establish the truth, but to punish. The accused is automatically guilty, because in the apparat’s vision, ‘the truth’ invariably belongs with the apparat’s leading Torquemadas. A trial is about dishing out ‘penalties’, like in an auto-da-fé. Before I comment on the examples given by the apparat, of Azev and Radek, let’s not forget that these two weren’t expelled from of their organisations before the verdicts. Therefore, there’s no analogy with JJ’s case. This holds true also for Malinovsky, who, contrary to what the apparat claims, did face a party trial in June 1914. In fact, he craftily requested a ‘Jury of Honour’ to clear his name! A commission was formed, chaired by Hanecki, with Lenin and Zinoviev as members. The commission sat for weeks and reached no conclusions as WW1 intervened. Even in 1916 Lenin continued to believe in Malinovski’s innocence and corresponded with him. So much for the value of a ‘Jury of Honour’.
I won’t comment much on the case of Azev, whose party, the SRs, were never part of the ‘workers movement’ in spite of the apparat’s assertion. Still, it’s the only case cited where a ‘Jury of Honour’ seems to have uncovered an agent provocateur. Nevertheless, a careful reading of the apparat’s version suggests a ‘Jury of Honour’ more interested in protecting one of its ‘own’ – Azev – against the external evidence of Burtsev the ‘fellow traveller’ (soon to become something like a ‘parasite’). Azev was finally exposed not because of the ‘Jury of Honour’ but through the perseverance of Burtsev and the denunciation of Azev by an ex-Director General of the Tsarist police.
In the case of the Okhrana agent Malinovsky, the apparat pontificates: "This responsible attitude of the SRs, consisting of convoking a Jury of Honour faced with the accusations against Azev, unfortunately wasn’t shared by Lenin in 1914 when faced with the case of Malinovsky. When Malinovsky was suspected of working for the Okhrana, the Bolsheviks proposed treating his case in front of a revolutionary Tribunal. Lenin rejected this on the basis of a totally subjective belief that Malinovsky was a militant entirely devoted to the cause of the proletariat." (ibid). As I write above, this description of the events is false.
The ‘Radek case’ is particularly important for the apparat’s case. Unfortunately for the apparat, its version of what happened is riddled with half-truths and slanders against Radek. Once more, their intellectual and moral debasement is confirmed: "This jury [in Radek’s case] did not have the mission of clearing a militant suspected of being a state agent, but of penalising [!] the political behaviour of Radek within the Party." (ibid). In reality, Radek had to endure FOUR such ‘juries of honour’– two set up by the SDKPiL Luxemburg-Jogiches apparat and another by the SPD apparat. The fourth, held in Paris, cleared him of all charges.
According to the apparat, the 1911 SDKPiL-nominated commission in the ‘Radek case’ "led to nothing". By this they mean that the ‘Jury of Honour’, finding the evidence inconclusive, didn’t pronounce Radek guilty. He had been accused, the apparat says, of stealing "...the clothes of a comrade,...of books belonging to the Party library...and...money." The apparat claims that Radek "ended up admitting having stolen the books and clothes..." There’s no evidence presented that Radek admitted this. When the Luxemburg-Jogiches apparat saw that the commission they had set up didn’t deliver the goods: they dissolved it and set up a Party ‘Revolutionary Tribunal’ which predictably found Radek guilty in less than two weeks.
To throw some light on this affair I had to go back a few years in Radek’s life. According to Radek’s ‘Autobiography’ (1925?), he moved from Krakow to Switzerland in the autumn of 1903, "leaving unpaid debts." (Georges Haupt & Jean-Jacques Marie, Makers of the Russian Revolution, London 1974, p. 363) No other admission of possible wrongdoing appears in that autobiography, written when Radek had fallen from power in Bolshevik Russia. In 1903 he was 18 and still not a member of the Polish SDKPiL, which he joined in Zürich as an émigré member in 1904.
Radek’s previous mentor, the national socialist Emil Häcker of the PPSD, had publicly accused Radek of theft in September 1910. It seems that he was echoing claims of this sort made in Warsaw in 1908 against Radek. It’s not clear by whom or theft of what. The interesting thing is that Rosa Luxemburg, Jogiches and Marchlewski, the de facto Berlin executive of the SPKPiL, indignantly defended Radek against the charges. (Peter Nettl, Rosa Luxemburg, abridged edition, London 1969, p. 354). Häcker’s attacks were echoed by the notorious Polish antisemite Niemojewski, a rabid baiter of the SDKPiL. In 1910, it was honourable to defend Radek against charges of theft.
However, a year later, Radek’s luck changed radically when he sided with the dissident Warsaw organisation of the SDKPiL – Hanecki, Malecki, Leder, Unszlicht et al. Unszlicht was slandered by allusion as an agent provocateur by Luxemburg-Jogiches, proving that slander is another ‘weapon for the defence of revolutionary organisations’. Indeed, the ICC against Chénier tested this weapon in 1981. (After 1917, as Chekist under Dzerzhinsky, Unszlicht used his turn to similarly terrorise people and, progress in history, shoot them as well.) But back to Radek. At this time, 1912-13, he wrote Meine Abrechnung (‘My Reckoning’) refuting the charges, but I’ve not seen it and ignore if an English translation exists.
In May 1912, as the ‘Jury of Honour’ mulled over the Radek question, Jogiches formally declared the Warsaw organisation disbanded (!) Malecki and Unszlicht were delivered to another ‘party court’ (who knows on what charges, probably as ‘troublemakers’ or ‘provocateurs – isn’t it the same?). I ignore what this eminent tribunal decided. Fed up with their overloaded schedule of ‘Juries of Honour’, the Warsaw dissidents formed a separate SDKPiL Opposition Party (the two factions reunited in 1916).
It’s obvious that Radek was made a scapegoat by the Berlin SDKPiL, and his supposed irregularities used to undermine his faction in Warsaw. The truth or falsity of the charges wasn’t the point (the accusers took them to be truthful when suitable). What took precedence over questions of truth was the factional needs of the Berlin SDKPiL apparat.
To poison matters further, Luxemburg-Jogiches couldn’t forgive Radek for having ‘betrayed’ them. Radek had been their protégé, but had the temerity of publicly criticising Marchlewski, one of the SDKPiL Egocrats. After this, the paranoiac and vindictive animosity shown to Radek by Luxemburg probably pushed Radek to break with the Berlin SDKPiL. Acting as ‘la grande dame’ of the left, she couldn’t sit in the same restaurant table with others if Radek was present, and called him a ‘political whore’ in a private letter to the Zetkins. In 1918 she had to be persuaded to shake Radek’s hand when he re-appeared in Germany as a Bolshevik envoy. "Luxemburg was judged by her allies to be irresponsible at times, even ‘pathological’" comments Stanley Pierson (Marxist Intellectuals and the Working-Class mentality in Germany 1887-1912, Cambridge, 1993, p. 254). Her loathing for Radek certainly backs this up. Nettl, Luxemburg’s able biographer, politely opines that "She was clearly unfair to Radek." (opus cited, p. 317)
The split in the SDKPiL developed when the Warsaw dissidents got tired of the despotic behaviour of Jogiches. He was rude and treated his comrades with open contempt (we’ve mentioned already his mania for ‘Juries of Honour’). At one point he even threatened Luxemburg, his former lover, with a gun (Robert Service, Lenin, A Political Life 2, London 1995, p. 27). These ‘small personal incidents’ make one think that Stalinism had a robust gestation period in the 2nd International, including in the left, and many ‘resolute revolutionaries’ would later become – without apparent inner conflict – devoted torturers and genocidists. From the evidence, Jogiches was an ideal candidate for this role. That this possible evolution was cut short by the SPD’s bloodbath in which Jogiches tragically achieved martyrdom shouldn’t blind us to his prewar behaviour.
Lenin was also instrumental in the rift between the SDKPiL factions, as he consistently supported the dissidents against Berlin and defended Radek. He saw from early that they were potential allies against the Mensheviks in the RSDLP. Similarly, Pannekoek, Knief, Thalheimer, etc, defended Radek unconditionally against the 1911-12 charges. It’s so clear – as it was then – that only when Radek changed factions were the old charges revived and thrown at him.
Radek was accused of: stealing a coat (or ‘clothes’) in Krakow (in 1902?), books (how many?) from comrades or from a Party newspaper library (it’s not clear which, or both?), a watch, 300 rubles belonging to the Warsaw unions (in one source this becomes ‘several hundred’), failure to pay party dues and of diversion of party funds. According to Nettl, he admitted the theft of the books and the clothes (or was it ‘the coat’?). But Nettl offers no evidence for this (opus cited, p. 355).
Radek insistently denied stealing money, although the admission about his unpaid debts in leaving Krakow suggests that there was an issue there. But maybe he paid his debtor(s) later, as this issue wasn’t raised by anyone (unless by unpaid debts Radek meant a coat?). In view of all this confusion, Nettl rightly observes that "The case deserves further study, especially in view of Radek’s later eminent position in the Russian party and his influence on German left-wing affairs." (opus cited, p. 355) But for the ICC apparat the ‘lesson’ about the ‘Radek case’ is about "juries of honour as weapons for the defence of revolutionary organisations". The use of ‘Juries of Honour’ in the ‘Radek case’ doesn’t prove anything of the sort. Possibly the only tribunal that was fair to Radek was the fourth, held in Paris. But as Lenin seems to have been very influential in it, one cannot ignore the factional dimension.
But let’s return to 1911-12. As it turned out, the Berlin SDKPiL apparat, mainly Jogiches, wanted Radek to be expelled also from the German SPD. For his personal disloyalty, Radek had to become a pariah everywhere. Especially in Germany, where Radek was then active. Never mind that he supported Luxemburg’s politics. He had been unfaithful, and that demanded a blood atonement, at least symbolically. If Aztec chest surgery, or a Mauser, weren’t available, then an expulsion was the next best thing. Luxemburg was prepared to side with the executive of the SPD (Ebert & Co) to punish Radek. In so doing she blindly undermined the position of her own allies – the left in Bremen and many other German leftists who supported her. But her wrath towards Radek also had a factional dimension. It was she who proposed to Jogiches that the dissident Warsaw Committee be slandered as being "...in the hands of agents provocateurs; that names cannot yet be named [an old ICC trick!] but the CC [the Berlin executive] is on their track;..." (Elzbieta Ettinger, Rosa Luxemburg, A Life, London 1978, p. 177).
Astounding behaviour on the part of Luxemburg! There is indeed a ‘Luxemburg Legend’ that she was above this filth, that she had scruples and personal integrity. The reality is more complex. Obviously she learnt nothing from the slanders spewed at her comrades Kasprzak and Warszawski (Warski) in 1896 by the social patriots of the PPS. Both were accused of being Okhrana agents (Nettl, opus cited, p. 60). A ‘Jury of Honour’ cleared Warski and a SPD commission cleared Kasprzak in 1901. There’s no doubt that these slanders were the common fare of the prewar revolutionary apparats. Which may explain why real spies could do their job so well – the revolutionaries had become impervious to the repetitive and meaningless charge. The ‘Jury of Honour’ so praised by the ICC apparat was seldom an effective weapon. Real spies were hardly exposed by these pantomimes. But they served as useful propaganda exercises for the factions involved.
In 1912 the SDKPiL Berlin apparat, possessed by the ‘party spirit’, approached Ebert’s SPD executive (the same people who would vote for war credits in 1914 and murder Luxemburg and 30,000 German workers in 1919), informing them that Radek had been expelled from their Party. The SDKPiL had no hesitation in divulging Radek’s real name (Sobelsohn): "The German executive was officially informed of the decision [Radek’s expulsion from the SDKPiL] on 24 August  ...in doing so the Polish Central Committee used Radek’s real name and thus broke his pseudonym; according to him his departure for Bremen ... was due to the danger from the police in the capital." (Nettl, opus cited, p. 355) The SPD executive doesn’t appear to have minded this provocative ‘lapse’ and didn’t rebuke the SDKPiL for potentially delivering an outspoken foreign militant to the Prussian police.
At the annual SPD Congress in Chemnitz (September 1912) the Radek case received an enormous amount of attention. As is common when tribal bloodlust for scapegoats is aroused, Radek was baited and ridiculed. In his ‘Autobiography’ Radek remarks, slyly pointing at Stalin’s régime: "Citing my expulsion from Polish social democracy, the German leadership announced that it no longer considered me a member of its Party. At the Chemnitz party Conference, it played an excellent trump card: it derided this obscure personage of foreign extraction [a Jew of all things!] who dared to accuse the German CC of corruption." (Haupt & Marie, opus cited, p. 368)
As Radek recalls, the SPD apparatchiks had strong reasons to go after his blood. They wanted to crush the left (‘lance it’ as Ebert had said in Göppingen) and this was an ideal opportunity. Radek was a vocal and merciless critic of their revisionism, and he had embarrassed Ebert personally during the recent ‘Göppingen incident’. But too many decent SPD members, of left and right, criticised the executive’s treatment of Radek at the conference, and a second ‘Jury of Honour’ was appointed to investigate him. This German ‘revolutionary tribunal’ reported to the 1913 Jena Congress of the SPD. It’s not clear if Radek was present at Chemnitz, or ‘helped the SPD’s Jury of Honour with their enquiries’ or attended the Jena Congress, just as it isn’t clear if he attended the previous SDKPiL’s ‘investigations’. As I don’t have access to the conference proceedings or reports of the ‘Juries of Honour’, his presence can’t be confirmed. I have tried to establish what Radek said at these trials in his defence (having studied law, he probably defended himself well). But this is not possible at the present time.
The specialist librarian H. Schurer comments on what happened at Jena: "A decision was reached that any member of a fraternal party expelled for dishonourable conduct should be ineligible for membership of the German Party. The ruling was to be applied retroactively to Radek and, on the basis of this specially created lex Radek, the culprit was solemnly expelled from the SPD, despite the protests of his friend Pannekoek. (H. Schurer, ‘Radek and the German Revolution I’, Survey, London 1965, p. 62).
At Jena, Luxemburg voted against the measure of automatic expulsion because at last she saw that it set a dangerous precedent for all critics of the German executive. She realised that Ebert & Co had outmanoeuvred the SDKPiL by throwing Radek’s expulsion back on their court. As Radek’s biographer, Warren Lerner, observes,"By this resolution, the Executive Committee declared in effect that Radek had never been a member of the German Social Democratic Party, and thus spared the Congress the necessity of voting to expel him. The resolution embarrassed the SDKPiL, since it put the onus for the expulsion on them and clearly implied that only by their petition could Radek be granted continued membership in the SPD. Since Rosa Luxemburg had no desire at this time [or ever] to help Radek, she did nothing and the ex-post-facto statute automatically brought about his expulsion from the SPD." (Karl Radek, The Last Internationalist, Stanford 1970, p. 30)
But something more far reaching than the ‘Radek case’ had unfolded at Chemnitz in 1912. Pierson writes that "...the radical Marxists, led by Pannekoek and Lensch, suffered crushing defeats in their challenges to the party’s policies on imperialism and its electoral treaty with the Progressives. Afterward Pannekoek conceded that the revisionist point of view, now supported by the orthodox Marxists [like Kautsky], had triumphed on all the critical issues." (opus cited, p. 253) For the ICC, this defeat isn’t mentioned – the ‘lesson’ for them is the commendable persecution of Radek by the magistrates of the ‘party spirit’. Imperceptibly the apparat sides with the Eberts, the Müllers and the other power-servers of the SPD, precisely the state functionaries who would crush all oppositions from 1914 to 1919.
Thus, the ‘crushing defeat’ of the left, supposedly a forefather of the ICC apparat, is ignored in its account of the ‘Radek case’. Even more grotesquely, the ICC justifies Radek’s expulsion with two trumped-up charges never raised in 1911-1913: that Radek was expelled "...above all because of his trouble-making, in particular exploiting on his own account the dissensions within Social Democracy" (ibid). The apparat doesn’t bother to explain in what way Radek was a ‘trouble maker’ [after all, he considered himself a revolutionary, so this shouldn’t be surprising]. Neither do they explain how Radek was ‘exploiting’ the ‘dissensions within Social Democracy’. Was he diverting Party funds? Or, to take a cue from the apparat’s recent incursions into pop psychology, was he flattering his id? Or his ego? These idiocies feed its current ‘anti-parasite’ phobias, projecting them into history. As it’s doing with the ‘struggle against Bakunin’. Thus critics are: 1) ‘trouble-makers’ and 2), ‘parasites’, because they act for ‘their own account’.
Incidentally, the ‘dissensions’ can be subsumed into ONE, namely the conflict between revisionism-social patriotism and ‘revolutionary Marxism’. As a result of the ‘Juries of Honour’ in the crucial years 1912-13, Radek, one of the most hard-hitting publicists of the isolated prewar German left, was effectively weakened if not silenced. Small details no doubt, which pale in insignificance in front of the ‘Juries of Honour’ on the eve of the first imperialist war. Considering the apparat’s obsessions with ‘lessons’ and ‘traditions’, this blindness is remarkable.
Also not mentioned is that Radek refuted the charges after his expulsion in the mentioned My Reckoning. As said before, after Jena, Radek assembled another ‘Jury of Honour’ in Paris, called the ‘Paris Commission’ "...which absolved him of all the charges, and he also gained the support of Lenin, Trotsky and Karl Liebknecht." (Haupt & Marie, opus cited, p. 380) It seems that this trial was actively supported or organised by the Bolsheviks.
Mehring, protesting at how Radek had been treated, stated that Social Democracy should at least "...guard the moral existence of its members...with the same legal guarantees which bourgeois society has thus far maintained unbroken for all its members, including the working class." (mentioned in Carl Schorske, German Social Democracy 1905-1917, Harvard 1955, p. 256)
Fortunately for Radek, the Bremen leftists protested the decision of the SPD executive and continued to provide Radek with an outlet for his writings in their paper. Had they not done this, his financial situation would have been worse. These leftists were no worshippers of ‘Juries of Honour’ set up for repressive reasons.
Shurer confirms that "Early in 1914, the traditional court of honour appointed in such cases by the various wings of the Russian and Polish marxist movements sat in Paris and decided unanimously in favour of Radek. Among the judges was Lunacharsky. Lenin and Trotsky made additional separate statements in his favour. Normally the whole case would have gone back to the German party for reconsideration of its earlier decision, but the outbreak of the war stopped this. For the great majority of German socialists, Radek remained a marked man." (opus cited, p. 62)
In 1912 Lenin refuted Luxemburg’s account of the ‘splinter’ group in Warsaw [which Radek supported]. According to her the dissidents had broken discipline and the whole thing was the work of ‘agents provocateurs’. This was baseless, but like the ICC’s slander against Chénier in 1981, it was designed to obscure any ongoing political and theoretical clarification. Lenin knew this and therefore ignored the SDKPiL’s ‘Jury of Honour’ against Radek. Of course the apparat doesn’t mention Lenin’s attitude in the ‘Radek case’. They either truly ignore his position or conceal it. Maybe the latter, as they criticise Lenin for his laxity regarding Malinovsky, preparing the ground for saying that this was a Lenin weakness, his inconsistency towards the ‘Jury of Honour’. But Lenin wasn’t inconsistent. When it suited him, he played the ‘Jury of Honour’ card well and knew his facts, which can’t be said for the ICC.
It’s noteworthy that the mentioned WR article is not a signed article but one carrying the ICC imprimatur. It stems from its highest cabal, expressing its vision and morals. Well, the lack of historical accuracy is abysmal. But only academic parasites would dare point out such things.
In 1919, Rosa Leviné-Meyer had a conversation with Radek in which he explained what happened in 1911-12: "A nasty incident nearly wrecked his political life. He was accused of embezzling 300 marks [see how the rubles transmigrate]... from Party funds. The chief plaintiff was Leo Jogiches. Radek told me without any bitterness that Jogiches might have been prompted by a desire to rid himself, or the Party, of a troublesome opponent. Perhaps it was something in between. A hapless mistake, very probable in an underground movement which makes it quite impossible to keep documents and receipts, threw suspicion on the unfortunate Radek. The matter was cleared up in the end but Radek went through a terrible ordeal..." (Inside German Communism, London 1977, p. 201)
It seems that Radek was indifferent to money and sloppy in financial dealings. On a personal level, he was considered a bohemian and a cynical intriguer by some. Those perceptions were used by apparatchiks who wanted to defeat him politically. But they were too lazy and malevolent to use upfront political debates. They opted for the easy option of smears and ad hominem attacks. Like today, they hid their manoeuvres behind ‘the defence of the organisation’. In his booklet What Revolutionaries Should Know About Repression, Serge observes that it’s usually the opportunists, the cowards, the tired and self-serving bureaucrats that go for such sewer-material. It should be said that Serge’s booklet is also apologetic of apparats – when they engage in repression and Chekist terror, it’s for the benefit of mankind. (Victor Serge, Ce que tout révolutionnaire doit savoir de la répression, Maspéro, Paris 1970, p. 52)
Under the Bolshevik régime Radek became a fanatical supporter and apologist of state terror, serving Stalin well after Trotsky was defeated. Poor Radek played the victim as the victimiser in all his political life. The roulette ended tragically when he perished in the gulag:
"The story has it that sometime in 1939, one such pack of the Revolution’s monsters [the thousands of orphaned children called the bezprizornii] cornered Karl Radek in the prison yard. He was far from history now. The killing winter was all around him and he was alone with the revolution’s wretches, nameless. Someone flung him to the ground [Radek was 54 then]. Then, following the impulses by which they lived, the bezprizornii were all kicking together, smashing out the brains of this brain-proud man against the tundra. Nemesis the goddess is fierce. Fierce – and ingenious."
So writes Stephen Koch in Stalin, Willi Münzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals, London 1995, p. 145.
Still, I prefer other gods to Koch’s Nemesis. The Hebrew god, if I’m correct – and when he’s in a playful mood – protects all the persecuted, whether they be evil or unfair, and even against just and good men, if they be persecutors. Inspired by this god, the memory of Karl Radek deserves to be protected when he was being persecuted, and that happened in 1911-13."
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