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Could Bhaskar Sunkara Really Know as Little of the History of the Soviet Union as He Feigns?

Kronstadt rebellion Google Search

I think the answer is "probably". I think he is probably not feigning. I think he probably has no clue of what goes down at the Finland Station.

At the Finland Station, you see, elections are fine only as long as they produce socialist results. When push comes to shove, it is indeed the case at the Finland Station that, as Lenin wrote: "Every direct or indirect attempt to consider the question of the [election] from a formal, legal point of view, within the framework of ordinary bourgeois democracy and disregarding the class struggle and civil war, would be a betrayal..." Sunkar can see this not as the act of "crazed demons", and instead choose—and it is a choice—to see Lenin and company as "well-intentioned people trying to build a better world out of a crisis". But on-the-ground really-existing "ordinary bourgeois democracy" is and always has been of little value to Lenin's flavor of socialists.

That is why they call themselves "socialists" rather than "social democrats", after all:

Bhaskar Sunkara: Socialism’s Future May Be Its Past: "The threat to democracy today is coming from the right, not the left... https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/06/26/opinion/finland-station-communism-socialism.html

...Politics seems to present two ways forward, both decidedly non-Stalinist forms of authoritarian collectivism. “Singapore Station” is the unacknowledged destination of the neoliberal center’s train. It’s a place where people in all their creeds and colors are respected—so long as they know their place. After all, people are crass and irrational, incapable of governing. Leave running Singapore Station to the experts. This is a workable vision for elites who look at the rise of an erratic right-wing populism with justified fear.... The Singapore model is not the worst of all possible end points. It’s one where experts are allowed to be experts, capitalists are allowed to accumulate, and ordinary workers are allowed a semblance of stability. But it leaves no room for the train’s passengers to yell “Stop!” and pick a destination of their own choosing.

“Budapest Station”... is the final stop for the populist right. Budapest allows us to at least feel like we’re back in charge. We get there by decoupling some of the cars hurtling us forward and slowly reversing. We’re all in this together, unless you’re an outsider who doesn’t have a ticket, and then tough luck. The “Trump train” is headed this way. President Trump can’t offer tangible gains for ordinary people by challenging elites, but he can offer a surface-level valorization of “the worker” and stoke anger at the alleged causes of national decline—migrants, bad trade deals, cosmopolitan globalists. The press, academia and any other noncompliant parts of civil society are under attack. Meanwhile, other than having to adjust to more protectionism and restrictive immigration policies, it’s business as usual for most corporations.

But there is a third alternative: back to “Finland Station”.... This time, people get to vote. Well, debate and deliberate and then vote—and have faith that people can organize together to chart new destinations for humanity.... Socialism... seeks to empower civil society to allow participation in the decisions that affect our lives.... Worker-owned cooperatives, still competing in a regulated market; government services coordinated with the aid of citizen planning; and the provision of the basics necessary to live a good life (education, housing and health care) guaranteed as social rights. In other words, a world where people have the freedom to reach their potentials, whatever the circumstances of their birth.

We can get to this Finland Station only with the support of a majority.... We can’t ignore socialism’s loss of innocence over the past century. We may reject the version of Lenin and the Bolsheviks as crazed demons and choose to see them as well-intentioned people trying to build a better world out of a crisis, but we must work out how to avoid their failures...

My Kronstadt was the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly elected in November 1917:

Wikipedia: Russian Constituent Assembly election, 1917: "The elections to the Russian Constituent Assembly... were held on 25 November 1917... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Constituent_Assembly_election,_1917

...It is generally reckoned as the first truly free election in Russian history. The Bolsheviks, who had seized power in the October Revolution, believed that it would consolidate their power and prove that they had a clear popular mandate to govern. Instead, the election yielded a clear victory for the Socialist Revolutionary Party (SRs), who polled almost double the votes of the Bolsheviks...

Wikipedia: Russian Constituent Assembly: "Lenin's Theses on the Constituent Assembly were published anonymously in the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Constituent_Assembly

...The theses argued that "revolutionary Social-Democracy has ever since the beginning of the Revolution of 1917 repeatedly emphasised that a republic of Soviets is a higher form of democracy than the usual bourgeois republic with a Constituent Assembly.... The party which from May to October had the largest number of followers among the people, and especially among the peasants—the Socialist-Revolutionary Party—came out with united election lists for the Constituent Assembly in the middle of October 1917, but split in November 1917, after the elections and before the Assembly met.... The interests of this [October 1917] revolution stand higher than the formal rights of the Constituent Assembly.... Every direct or indirect attempt to consider the question of the Constituent Assembly from a formal, legal point of view, within the framework of ordinary bourgeois democracy and disregarding the class struggle and civil war, would be a betrayal of the proletariat's cause, and the adoption of the bourgeois standpoint...

Cf:Jonathan Chait: 100 Years After the Revolution, Communism Hasn’t Changed http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/06/100-years-after-the-revolution-communism-hasnt-changed.html: "'Under the leadership of President Hugo Chávez and now President Nicolás Maduro...

...the accumulation of power in the executive branch and erosion of human rights guarantees have enabled the government to intimidate, persecute, and even criminally prosecute its critics,” says Human Rights Watch. “Human rights defenders and journalists frequently faced campaigns to discredit them, as well as attacks and intimidation. Political opponents and critics of the government continued to face imprisonment,” notes Amnesty International.... Readers of Jacobin have gotten a very different sense of things. The magazine’s coverage of Venezuela, at least as far as I was able to find online, dates back to the immediate aftermath of Chávez’s death. Even by that relatively late date, when the authoritarian nature of the regime was already clear, Jacobin was defending it against its perfidious neoliberal critics.

The tone of the nearly two dozen Jacobin stories on Venezuela I was able to find ranges from celebratory to defensive. “Today we mourn the death of Chávez, tomorrow we return to the grind for socialism,” concludes one 2013 piece. Much of Jacobin’s early “criticism” of the regime laments that Chavism has not gone far enough. The Jacobin line in 2014 was that, “Only a deepening of the Bolivarian Revolution can save it.” Or, “What is needed today, and what is more urgent than ever, is not dialogue or reconciliation, not harmony and understanding, but a radical commitment to press decisively forward.” Indeed, the counterrevolutionary dissidents needed to be crushed: “To the extent that the Bolivarian Revolution has problems, the solution to them won’t come from chats with those looking to overthrow it, but rather the organization of workers trying to fulfill its potential. There can be no neutral ground between those two positions.” The “so-called human-rights abuses” were merely a pretext for Yankee imperialism.... The revolution is not a dinner party, etc., etc.

As the Venezuelan economy has tumbled into crisis and the regime’s failure has grown harder to deny, Jacobin’s coverage has softened, but only incrementally. Demands for more fervent adherence to Marxist dogma have given way to criticisms of the regime’s critics. If you have read the mainstream conservative analysis of Donald Trump, which focuses heavily on pushing back against the media and his opponents, the tone will be familiar. “In mainstream accounts of last week’s protests in Caracas, the opposition is depicted as an essentially peaceful force,” complains one story. “Strangely missing from the narrative of the Venezuelan opposition’s peaceful march to victory over a cruel dictatorship was the small detail of the murder of a Venezuelan police officer by demonstrators Wednesday evening,” insists another article, assailing a double standard: “In most cases, ‘blue lives’ apparently matter an awful lot—except when they’re serving under a self-declared socialist national government that has been branded an ‘unusual and extraordinary threat’ by the United States.” A procession of stories has dismissed reports of failure in the country. “Western journalists” are wrong, FiveThirtyEight is wrong, even Bernie Sanders is wrong.

Sunkara may want to work out why Marxist principles failed in the past, but he seems determined not to arrive at any conclusion that implicates the ideological principles that caused those failures.

In his Times op-ed, Sunkara suggests, “The threat to democracy today is coming from the right, not the left.” That is correct, but only because in the United States today, Marxism represents a minuscule faction with no plausible opportunity to obtain national-scale power. Those on the left who care about safeguarding democracy should work to keep it that way...

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