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Eric Blanc

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What are the ‘right lessons’ for socialists? A reply to Eric Blanc

 

 

By Mike Taber

November 14, 2021 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary via World-Outlook — Eric Blanc is a serious and dedicated socialist historian and activist who doesn’t hesitate to jump into the fray and take positions he knows are controversial. Such an attitude is commendable, even if I disagree with his conclusions. His latest article, “Socialists Should Take the Right Lessons from the Russian Revolution” — published in Jacobin and reprinted on John Riddell’s website — is no exception and merits careful examination.

In his article Blanc aims to set the record straight on V. I. Lenin and the Russian Revolution, and to demolish the “myth of Bolshevik exceptionalism,” which he asserts is “wrong for our own time.” Instead, he seeks to establish the “right lessons” socialists should take from the history of the fight for “socialist transformation.”

Socialists should take the right lessons from the Russian Revolution

 

 

By Eric Blanc

November 14, 2021 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from World-Outlook — Socialists have rightly taken inspiration from the Russian Revolution for generations, but many of the lessons drawn from it are wrong for our own time. To make change today, we need to take democratic socialism seriously as a theory and practice.

Radicals have lived under the political shadow of the Russian Revolution for more than a hundred years. Inspired by the example of 1917, generation after generation of socialists sought to learn and implement what they took to be the core political lessons of the Bolsheviks.

Though millions of activists gave everything to this project and played important roles in winning gains for working people across the world, Leninist parties have never come close to making their own revolution in advanced capitalist democracy. The tragedy of the Bolsheviks’ inspiring example was not only that they so quickly succumbed to the horrors of Stalinism, but that they over-projected a revolutionary approach ill-suited for parliamentary contexts.

Rosa Luxemburg and the revolutionary party revisited

 

 

By Eric Blanc

 

March 10, 2018 
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from John Riddell's Marxist essays and commentary  — This article re-examines Rosa Luxemburg’s approach to the party question by analysing the overlooked experience of her political intervention and organisation in Poland. In particular, I challenge the myth that Rosa Luxemburg advocated a ‘party of the whole class’, ‘spontaneism’ or consistent party democracy. The perspectives and practices of her party – the  Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL) – demonstrate that there were no steady strategic differences between Luxemburg and V.I. Lenin on the role of a revolutionary party. In practice, the most consequential divergence between their parties was that the Bolsheviks, unlike the SDKPiL, became more effective in mass workers’ struggles during and following the 1905 revolution.

Rosa Luxemburg’s bloc with the SPD bureaucracy

 

 

By Eric Blanc

 

February 3. 2018 — 
Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — Rosa Luxemburg’s contributions to the revolutionary movement and the development of Marxism are undeniably important. Yet many writers today uncritically romanticise Luxemburg as a humanistic, undogmatic, and democratic alternative to Social Democracy, Leninism, and/or Stalinism. Sobhanlal Datta Gupta, for example, argues that Luxemburg ‘inaugurated the heritage of an alternative understanding of Marxism with a revolutionary humanist face, as distinct from liberalism, social democratic revisionism as well as Stalinist authoritarianism. It is through the lens of Rosa Luxemburg that it is possible to understand what went wrong with Soviet socialism and how we can reposition our understanding of socialism in the twenty-first century.’[1]

 

October 1917 and its relevance: A discussion with China Miéville

 

 

Eric Blanc interviews China Mi
éville

 

July 25, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Historical Materialism with the author's permission — For those interested in engaging with the history of the Russian Revolution in the hope of more effectively challenging capitalism, a tension between the universal and the particular looms large. The difficulty that inevitably arises is how to disentangle what was historically specific about Russia 1917 and Bolshevism from what might reflect a more generalised tendency. To quote award-winning author China Miéville’s recent October: The Story of the Russian Revolution (Verso): ‘This was Russia’s revolution, certainly, but it belonged and belongs to others, too. It could be ours. If its sentences are still unfinished, it is up to us to finish them.’

 

Finland’s forgotten revolution

 

 

Crowds during the general strike in Helsinki, Finland, 1905.

 

By Eric Blanc

 

June 4, 2017 
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Jacobin with the author's permission — In the past century, histories of the 1917 revolution have usually focused on Petrograd and Russian socialists. But the Russian empire was predominantly made up of non-Russians — and the upheavals in the imperial periphery were often just as explosive as in the center.

 

Tsarism’s overthrow in February 1917 unleashed a revolutionary wave that immediately engulfed all of Russia. Perhaps the most exceptional of these insurgencies was the Finnish Revolution, which one scholar has called “Europe’s most clear-cut class war in the twentieth century.”

 

A revolutionary line of march: ‘Old Bolshevism’ in early 1917 re-examined

 
Lev Kamenev reading Pravda
 

March 31, 2017 Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Historical MaterialismIn the hundred years since the overthrow of Tsarism, there has been a near consensus among socialists and scholars that Bolshevism underwent a strategic rupture in early 1917. According to this account, the Bolsheviks supported the liberal Provisional Government until Vladimir Lenin returned to Russia in April and veered the party in a radical new direction by calling for socialist revolution and soviet power.

 

Through a re-examination of Bolshevik politics in March 1917, the following article demonstrates that the prevailing story is historically inaccurate and has distorted our understanding of how and why the Bolsheviks eventually came to lead the Russian Revolution.

 

Before Lenin: Bolshevik theory and practice in February 1917 revisited

 
Petrograd protesters on 23 February
 

By Eric Blanc

 

March 1, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Historical Materialism Assessing Bolshevik policy before Lenin’s return to Russia in April 1917 has long been one of the most heated historiographic controversies in the socialist movement.

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