A conversation with Hillel Ticktin

I was in Glasgow recently and took the opportunity to look up Hillel Ticktin. I have always admired the journal "Critique" which is edited by Hillel amongst others. It was always interesting and stimulating even if I sometimes disagreed with it. It was a model of what creative Marxism is about. The problem with journals tied to parties and groups is the tendency towards a stifling orthodoxy.

I said that Ticktin was correct in his analysis of the USSR where he regarded the alleged successes of the planned economy with a sceptical eye. Here Ernest Mandel regarded the planned economy as a surviving gain of the October revolution. Given what we now know of the chaos of the economy Ticktin was obviously right. I forget the exact place but the GDR was once considered the fourth or fifth largest economy in the world. On itís collapse it turned out that this was nonsense. The economy was based on out of date technologies and wholesale misplanning. The first thing the capitalist west did was not so much privatise the economy as shut down plant. The real inheritance of the capitalists was a skilled workforce

He alluded to Mandel`s excessive confidence in the ability of Marxists like himself in turning the workers of the USSR to Socialist goals after the collapse of Stalinism. Many Marxist groups invested a lot of time and effort in trying to set up groups in the former USSR with so far not much of a dividend.

We touched on Workers Control vis a vis Cuba. He raised an interesting point on the city wide 3examples of workers control in the USSR which peter out due to the lack of an alternative at government level. I am reminded of Leninís statement that the Bolsheviks were willing to take state power when a Menshevik, I think, raised a similar point. When push comes to shove all the current opposition groups in the former USSR only offer an alternative to Yeltsin`s drinking.

On reading his critical tribute to Mandel I though interesting his points about developing Marxism in a creative way which Mandel sought to do with some success where others were satisfied with a view that all the essential discoveries of Marxism had already been discovered and it was just a matter of mining the texts for the way forward.

I raised the question I saw posed of an ethnic class view of some struggles. His point was that these as in South Africa were super exploited sections of a common working class. I must get his book on South Africa.

We talked about the Moscow archives. He felt that essentially they did not add much. E.g. these archives proved that the Military committee of the Petrograd Soviet lead by Trotsky actually carried out the revolution.

In his Mandel tribute he dealt with some pettiness at an Oxford conference where he was excluded from the platform