Hey Laotian working Class, Good News! (Trotskyist Follies part 2)

April 14, 2011 at 12:50 am (Uncategorized)

Another exciting installment in an ongoing series.

The current issue of the Spartacist League (U.S.)’s newspaper Workers Vanguard has a series of letters about the class character of Laos.

Seems that very recently the International Communist League, the SL’s international organization, decided that they had been wrong about Laos. It turned out that instead of a grubby backward barely capitalist, brutal dictatorship, the fact that the state owns much of the meagre means of production means that it is in fact a deformed workers state (see below for terminology) This change in policy was announced without any fanfare in an article in Australia Spartacist a little while back, thus prompting letters from rather puzzled readers.

Now, for those not familiar with Trot-speak, the Russian Revolution was a healthy workers revolution, but by the time Stalin rolled around, it was deemed by many to have degenerated. Now with the expansion of Stalinism after the  Second World War, orthodox Trotskyists, i.e., those dwindling bands of Trotsky’s followers who still saw something progressive in the Soviet Union were faced with the problem of a whole number of societies more or less identical to the soviet Union, but which were established by the so-called Red Army rather than by any genuine workers uprisings. Hmm, the circle was squared and these states were proclaimed to be deformed workers states.

The British Militant group’s historical leader Ted Grant once suggested that whenever Soviet Army boots touched the ground, the state magically transformed into a workers state. OK, he didn’t put it quite like that, but I’m not exaggerating by much. In any event, Militant bestowed the hallowed, but somewhat tatty title of workers state on Burma at one point.   

In the case of Laos, here’s what the SL has to say:

Laos is based on a collectivized economy but ruled by a nationalist bureaucratic caste under the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party. While in recent years the Stalinist regime has enacted a series of “market reforms” following the examples of China and Vietnam, the class character of the state remains the same.

The idea that China or Vietnam constitute any sort of gain for the working class might strike many as a bit odd given the super-exploitation that exists in these societies, but apparently it doesn’t bother the SL. 

 Although the article is about Laos, less that half of it deals with Laos. The rest focuses on Cambodia, which the SL uses to characterize as a really deformed workers state. Until 1998 or so, then they began to argue that Cambodia’s insane Khmer Rouge regime was intent on destroying the means of production and therefore could not be classified as a workers state (oh well, that’s a relief.) Now, it’s characterized as a bourgeois state with a monarchy.

 What motivated this change of line on Laos, retroactive to the mid-70s is unclear.

I always wonder though about those Catholics who did time in purgatory or wherever those sinners went for eating meat on Friday before Vatican Two OK’d it. Is there some sort of Trotsky hell dimension where people end up for these sort of sins of haivng a line too early?  (Insert name of organization most closely resembling Trotskyist hell dimension here)

So good news Laotian working class, you have the honour of being part of a select group of deformed workers states which gets you exactly what again? The SL will surely defend you against imperialist attack, although their dubious Maoist “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” ideology would have allowed that anyway (“Libyan workers stop fighting  for or against Gaddafi – fight the imperialists instead to militarily defend Gaddafi” …huh?) But in real terms, it doesn’t seem to amount to very much.

On the other hand, the issue was dated April 1, and although the Spartacists are not usually known for their sense of humour, you never know…

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