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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 37, No. 7. April, 17 1974

"Democracy and freedom are relative not absolute'

"Democracy and freedom are relative not absolute'

Dear Roger,

As could be expected, the debate around the exile of Solzhenitsyn from the Soviet Union has been 'deftly' shifted by Mr Rotherham onto 'a number of broader issues'. What does this mean? A glance at Mr Rotherham's weekly bible 'international Press' reveals that the fascist Solzhenitsyn has become too embarrassing even for American Trotskyites. Consequently the nigged fringes of the Fourth International—i.e. Rotherham and Co are in a state of great disorder, although for them the situation is not excellent. I will spare our one-time defender of the dissident to end all dissidents from further embarrassment. But what smokescreen does our hero put up in order to retreat from his untenable position?

In his letter Rotherham claims to have explained how "in Stalinist Russia (which is his term for the Soviet Union—P.f.) and China a system of monolithism has been established". This claim is empty. Rotherham did indeed proffer a few cob-webbed cold war phrases in reply to Terry Auld's concrete analysis. So have Trotskyites and fascists "argued" since their emergence. And, one might very fairly ask—so what? In his reply to the letters of Terry Auld and Don Franks Rotherham employs neither a single fact nor any logic whatever, let alone the concrete analysis of concrete conditions demanded by Lenin.

To attempt to debate with such a person is tiresome and would indeed be entirely futile, were it not for the fact that the 'Marxist' Rotherham has, like all phenomena, a positive side to him.

Rotherham is like Trotsky before him, a great teacher by negative example. Rotherham is no Marxist-Leninist, neither is he an openly reactionary right-winger. He is simply a miserable liberal, dedicated to vulgarising Marxism in a manner scarcely equalled by Trotsky himself. Witness his attitude to the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Rotherham repeats Don Franks' quotation from Lenin that "proletarian democracy is a million times more democratic than any bourgeois democracy'. He then goes on to draw the conclusion that only in 'times of intense crisis such as during the civil war following the Russian Revolution(it is) necessary to suppress oppositon viewpoints." He then emphasis the democracy and freedom of the proletarian dictatorship to such a degree, and in such a vague and classless way as to merely pay lip service to the other aspect of the contradiction.

Lenin himself makes nonsense of Rotherham's liberalism, pointing out that "The dictatorship of the proletariat is a most determined and most ruthless war waged by the new class against a man powerful enemy, the bourgeoisie, whose resistance is increased tenfold by its overthrow." and that "The dictatorship of the proletariat is a persistent struggle—bloody and bloodless, violent and peaceful, military and economic, education and administrative—against the forces and traditions of the old society." (Foundations of Leninism, Moscow 1950. page 63).

Quoting Karl Marx, Lenin said further that, "It will be necessary under the dictatorship of the proletariat to re-educate 'millions of peasants and small masters, hundreds of thousands of office employees, officials and bourgeois intellectuals,' to subordinate them all to the proletarian state and to proletarian leadership (my italics) to overcome 'their bourgeois habits and traditions...." just as we must "....in a protracted struggle waged on the basis of the dictatorship of the proletariat re-educate the proletarians themselves(my italics) who do not abandon their petty bourgeoise prejudices at one stroke, by a miracle, at the behest of the Virgin Man', at the behest of a slogan, resolution or decree, but only in the course of a long and difficult mass struggle against mass petty bourgeois influences" (Ibid, page 64).

Fortunately Rotherham does not have a monopoly over ideas on freedom and democracy under proletarian dictatorship. As if in reply to Rotherham's milk and water idealism, Mao Tsetung clearly points out the dialectical nature of these phenomena.

"Both democracy and freedom are relative, not absolute, and they come unto being and develop in specific historical conditions. Within the ranks of the people democracy is correlative with centralism and freedom with discipline. They are the two opposites of a single entity, contradictory as well as united and we should not over ideally emphasise one to the denial of the other.....This unity of democracy and centralism, of freedom and discipline constitutes our democratic centralism. Under this system, the people enjoy extensive democracy and freedom, but at the same time they have to keep within the bounds of socialist discipline." (Four Essays on Philosophy, page 86).

In contrast to Mr Rotherham's shambolic version of a "dictatorship of the proletariat" in which "different working class tendencies" (i.e. Trotskyists and Solzhenitsyns) are free to spread their idealistic, unscientific and downright reactionary ideas we see that proletarian democracy proper is militant, scientific and based on a clear class understanding and foundation.

Perhaps this may help to explain why no Trotskyite party has yet led a successful revolution, why Rotherham's 'Young Socialists' are so utterly divorced from the working class and an understanding of scientific socialism and why liberals like Rotherham spend their time defending parasitic Russian fascists instead of the prominent militant union delegates recently sacked from Ford Motors and the Gear Meat Company.

Yours fraternally,

Peter Franks