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Dilip Simeon

REVOLUTION AND EVOLUTION IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
By James and Grace Lee Boggs
Monthly Review Press, New York and London, 1974, 266, 2.00

VOLUME I NUMBER 4 October - December 1976

It was perhaps too much to hope that under this grandiose title, M.R.P. would publish material of serious historico-analytic worth. Be that as it may, the Boggs have merely offered the world yet another example of the populist moral science that charact­erizes much of American radicalism today. The outstanding feature of the Boggs’s approach is the attitude of 1iberal journalism. The reader is treated to a strong dose of what Trotsky called ‘socialism for the radical tourist’. One is taken round the world, from Russia through to China, Vietnam, etc., and introduced to the Great Leaders, all of whom (naturally) are on The Right Path of Faith-in-the-People and Adaptation-to-the-Concrete. All the religious axiomatic categories of modern populism appear: the Nation, the Masses and the Dialectical Laws of History. Apart from this eager obeisance to the established fact, we are expected to believe that Lenin, of all people, was the god­father of the ‘from the masses, to the masses’ man­tra of modern Maoism; and that Marx, because of his unfortunate preoccupation with making a scientific analysis of capitalist production, was not a revolutionary politician. The reader is just as well gearing himself for the worst, for the worst does come to pass, in a chapter on Dialectics where the laws of social science are explicated to us via the inevitable formula: temperature egg gives chicken; temperature stone—no chicken. In fact, an even more earth-shattering revelation is vouchsafed unto us: ‘Foxes don’t act like chickens, nor do foxes come from chickens.’ Apart from such useful in­sights into the Laws of History, we are also warned against the pitfalls of ‘mechanical materialism’. One should not indulge in fantasies of ‘what might have been’, say the Boggs, referring to Trot­sky’s struggle against the bureaucratization of the Bolsheviks. On the very next page, however we are told that Lenin in 1923, mutatis mutandis, ‘might have been’ ready for ‘a cultural revolution as dras­tic as that launched by Mao in 1966.’ They rail against the anti- intellectualism of the American radicals and yet refer sarcastically to the Menshe­viks (whose base among the Russian Workers was for many years much wider than that of the Bolshe­viks), as ‘Martov and his intellectual friends’—ad­vertising not merely their attitude but also their ig­norance of Russian history. We are informed that ‘masses have wants which are ...


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