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Stalinism

Heaven or hell? Books look back on the German Democratic Republic

Stasi Hell or Workers’ Paradise? Socialism in the German Democratic Republic ― What Can We Learn From It?
By John Green & Bruni de la Motte
Artery Publications, 2009
50 pp.

Red Love: The Story of an East German Family
By Maxim Leo
Pushkin Press, 2013
272 pp.

Reviews by Barry Healy

November 16, 2014 -- Green Left Weekly -- The German Democratic Republic (GDR, or "East Germany") disappeared a quarter of a century ago after 41 years’ existence. The East German state is mostly remembered as “Stasiland”, as Anna Funder’s history of its secret police is called.

Yet, for all of its Stalinist failings, East Germany’s values still stubbornly retain many Germans’ endorsement, especially those of the eastern regions. In 2008, Der Spiegel surveyed young Germans nationwide and discovered that most defended what the GDR stood for.

This is usually dismissed as merely a form of nostalgia, but these two texts grapple with the fuller picture. What they recall are memories of when the fear of fascism could motivate whole nations ― and the promise of socialism inspired.

Husband and wife team Bruni de la Motte and John Green have personal links to the GDR. Born in Britain, Green studied in the GDR between 1964 and '68 and then worked on GDR television for 20 years.

East of the West: Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland after the EU election


A supporter of the the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) at a party rally.

By Jirí Málek

[This analysis was presented at the international workshop of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation “On the situation of the left in Europe after the EU elections: New challenges”. Held July 21-23, 2014, in Berlin.]

Transform! Network -- Before me is the task of speaking in a limited time on things that can hardly be responsibly described in brief. For that reason please allow me to make use of a method that could be compared to tossing a flat stone along a flat surface – ever grazing the water, making a couple of little waves and flying off a little more to brush the surface again. With regards to several issues I too will merely brush the surface and rush on to others. And it is likely more questions will arise than answers.

What will I be speaking about? The Karlovy Vary Film Festival has a section called: East of the West. Likewise we will devote this time to the area east of the West, though in the slightly narrower sense of the part of Central Europe otherwise known as the Visegrad Four: the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland (total 106 European parliament seats – 14.1 %).

On the causes of totalitarianism

By Chris Slee

December 12, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Conservatives often claim that totalitarianism is the inevitable result of attempts to radically transform society. For example, Waleed Aly (a Monash University academic and prolific media commentator) equates communism, Nazism and radical Islam, claiming that they are all “utopian” movements that, if successful in gaining power, lead to totalitarianism:

The struggle for ecology under socialism

Models of Nature
By Douglas R. Weiner
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000, 1988.

Review by Ben Courtice

November 28, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The USSR was not known, in the West, as a pioneer of ecology. Unfortunately, it was known more for the Chernobyl nuclear power station accident, for acid rain and air pollution, and oil spills and the pollution of unique environments such as the Aral sea.

What if the USSR had been different? What if it had tried to preserve its natural ecosystems, after the tsar was overthrown?

It is little known today, but there was a small yet promising movement of scientific ecology and nature preservation in Russia, with roots in the tsarist order of the 19th century, which flourished in the revolutionary USSR of the 1920s.

Russell Brand is right, we need a revolution (but his sexism is wrong)

Russell Brand versus Jeremy Paxman.

By Stuart Munckton

November 2, 2013 -- Green Left Weekly -- Comedian, Hollywood star and former host of MTV and Big Brother's Big Mouth Russell Brand took on veteran BBC broadcaster Jeremy Paxman in a Newsnight interview subsequently viewed millions of times on YouTube (see above).

The journalist, veteran of many bruising encounters with politicians of all stripes, decisively lost.

Brand was interviewed because he had just guest-edited a special edition of left-leaning magazine The New Statesman on the theme of revolution.

As well as a 4500-word essay by Brand arguing that the status quo totally fails ordinary people and only revolutionary change could save humanity from destruction, the edition includes contributions from radical writers Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky, as well as a range of actors and singers.

The talented and reviled Mr Pepper (Comintern agent)

A Communist Odyssey: The Life of József Pogány/John Pepper
By Thomas Sakmyster
Budapest-New York: Central European University Press, 2012
Photos, bibliography, index; 249 pp.

Reviewed by Dan La Botz

October 2013 -- New Politics, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- During normal times in a capitalist society, skill and drive are harnessed by the corporations, the labour union bureaucracy and the political parties, but when the crisis comes a revolutionary party must harness the most talented and most ambitious for its purposes. The idealistic and the opportunistic, the selfless and the self-aggrandising, the ruthless and the kind, the brave and the cowardly among those most determined and striving souls must somehow be made use of for the higher purposes of the revolution and ultimately for of all of humanity. The revolutionary movement must bring out the best in them, for we are the only material we have.

Open Marxism and the dilemmas of coherence: Paul Le Blanc's reflections on the contributions of Michael Löwy

Michael Löwy.

More by Paul Le Blanc can be found HERE.

By Paul Le Blanc

September 8, 2013 -- ESSF, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with Paul Le Blanc's permission and urging -- The discovery of a wondrous continent is what it felt like when some of my closest comrades and I connected with Michael Löwy, this remarkable revolutionary Marxist intellectual and activist -- himself a blend of Austrian Jew, Brazilian, Parisian, seeming to reach out to the world in all directions, an outstanding modern-day representative of Trotsky’s Fourth International. [1]

Michael Lebowitz: Some explanations of the fall of ‘real socialism’

By Michael Lebowitz

September 13, 2013 -- The Bullet, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission. This essay is from a talk given to the Centre for Political Emancipation in Belgrade, Serbia, on May 6, 2013. It can also be seen above and on YouTube. -- Why did "real socialism" and, in particular the Soviet Union, fall? Let me note a few explanations that have been offered. With respect to the Soviet Union, one very interesting explanation that has been suggested is that it's all the fault of Mikhail Gorbachev. And not simply the errors of Gorbachev but the treachery. Those who offer this explanation rely in particular upon a document which is sometimes described as his confession. This document begins as follows:

Å bygge sosialisme for det tjueførste hundreåret: intervju med Michael A Lebowitz

[For more articles by or about Michael Lebowitz, click HERE.]

[English at http://links.org.au/node/3355.]

Michael A Lebowitz intervjua av Darko Vesić og Aleksandar Stojanović.

– Kapitalismen har vore i krise i mange år no, og dei kapitalistiske statane svarer på krisa med såkalla innstrammingstiltak. Ser me på dynamikken til kapitalismen dei seinaste femti åra, så var svaret på krisa på 1970-tallet det som no er kalla «nyliberalismen». Om ny vekst er svaret på krisa, kan me seie at nyliberalismen på 70-tallet hadde suksess. Men gjeld det same dagens «innstrammingstiltak»?

- Eg trur me må sjå på somme av premissa i spørsmålet. For det første meiner ikkje alle marxistar at kapitalismen som eit heile er i krise, i motsetning til kapitalismen i spesielle område. For det andre, om kapitalismen er i total eller partiell krise, kva er årsaka?

Australia: Revolutionary unity to meet the capitalist crisis -- Socialist Alliance responds to Socialist Alternative

Socialist Alliance national convenor Peter Boyle speaks at Socialist Alternative's Marxism 2013.

[A response from Socialist Alliance to "What kind of organisation do socialists need?", published in the Summer 2013 issue of Socialist Alternative's Marxist Left Review. This article first appeared in Marxist Left Review, Winter 2013 and is posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.]

By Nick Fredman, Pip Hinman and Susan Price

Catalonia: Left unites to pay homage to Andreu Nin

Andreu Nin.

By Dick Nichols

June 21, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- It took 76 years and one day since his abduction on the orders of Stalin during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), but on June 17, 2013, all parties of the Catalan left came together in Barcelona to recognise the contribution to the Catalan and Spanish working people of revolutionary fighter Andreu Nin.

At midnight on June 16, 1937, Nin, the general secretary of the Workers Party of Marxist Unification (POUM), was abducted by Stalinist agents outside the POUM’s headquarters. He was then taken to a secret prison near Madrid, where he was tortured and then murdered once it was clear he would never “confess” to being in the pay of Hitler. His remains have still to be discovered.

Building socialism for the 21st century: interview with Michael A. Lebowitz

[For more articles by or about Michael Lebowitz, click HERE.]

Michael A. Lebowitz interviewed by Darko Vesić and Aleksandar Stojanović

May 7, 2013 -- Left East,suggested to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by Michael Lebowitz.

Darko Vesić and Aleksandar Stojanović: Capitalism has been in crisis for several years now and in response to this crisis the capitalist states practice  so-called austerity measures. If we look at the historical dynamics of capitalism in the last half century, we see that they responded to the crisis of the 1970s with what is now called “neoliberalism”. If the restoration of growth is what must be carried out as a response to the crisis, we can say that neoliberalism of the 1970s was successful. Yet, can we say same of present-day “austerity measures”?

Michael Lebowitz: 'Spectres and struggles' (video): a new vision for socialism in the 21st century

By Michael A. Lebowitz

May 3, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The above talk was presented in Zagreb, Croatia, at a conference organised by the Centre of Workers' Studies.(More videos are available at http://www.youtube.com/user/SkriptaTV?feature=watch.)

A spectre is haunting the working class of Europe (both east and west) and the working class of developed capitalism in general. That spectre is the spectre of communism. For the working class, that frightful hobgoblin is a society of little freedom, a society of workers without power (in the workplace or community) and a society where decisions are made at the top by a vanguard party which views itself as the sole repository of truth. Of course, this was not what communism meant for Karl Marx and Frederick Engels nor, indeed, for Lenin.

Review: Paul Le Blanc and Kunal Chattopadhyay’s Trotsky selection ‘a missed opportunity’

Review by Michael Fisher

Leon Trotsky: Writings in Exile
By Kunal Chattopadhyay and Paul Le Blanc (eds.)
London: Pluto Press, 2012

March 28, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Few figures in the history of socialist politics have attracted as much praise and contempt as Leon Trotsky. Liberals and social democrats loathed him for his unwavering defence of the October revolution and his uncompromising opposition to the politics of reformism. Communists reviled him for opposing Stalin and Stalinism, for declaring the degeneration of the Soviet regime and pouring scorn on the notion of socialism in one country.

Paul Le Blanc: Leninism and organisation today

[For more on revolutionary organisation, click HERE. For more discussion on Leninism, click HERE and HERE. More articles by Paul Le Blanc can be found HERE.]

By Paul Le Blanc

March 14, 2013 -- Socialist Worker (USA), posted at Links Internarional Journal of Socialist Renewal at the author's suggestion and with his permission -- I appreciate the comradely spirit of Joaquín Bustelo's contribution to the discussion ("There's no universal model of Leninism"). The issues he raises are important--from the standpoint of revolutionary politics and also from the standpoint of revolutionary history. It is possible to be wrong on one and right on the other, although I will argue that my old comrade is partly wrong on one (politics) and entirely wrong on the other (history).

Marta Harnecker: 'Chavez's legacy: with the people, building a socialist alternative to capitalism'

Thousands turn out in Caracas to remember Chavez.

By Marta Harnecker, translated by Yoshie Furuhashi for MRZine

March 6, 2013 -- La Segunda -- When Hugo Chávez triumphed in the 1998 presidential elections, the neoliberal capitalist model was already floundering. The choice then was whether to re-establish the neoliberal capitalist model -- clearly with some changes including greater concern for social issues, but still motivated by the same logic of profit seeking -- or to go ahead and try to build another model.

‘Toward the United Front’: Recovering revolutionary memory for 21st century socialism (+ video)

 Part 1.

February 16, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal – On February 3, 120 socialists took part in a Toronto meeting to celebrate publication of Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922, available in paperback from Haymarket Books. This 1300-page volume is the seventh book of documents on the world revolutionary movement in Lenin’s time edited by John Riddell. Riddell’s address to the Toronto meeting, below, explains the purpose of the book and the publishing project. The video of the event, filmed by Left Streamed, begins above and continues below. It was moderated by Abbie Bakan, with additional commentary by David McNally, Greg Albo, Suzanne Weiss and Paul Kellogg.

How real was 'real socialism'? Michael Lebowitz's 'Contradictions of Real Socialism'

[For more articles by or about Michael Lebowitz, click HERE. For a free excerpt from The Contradictions of "Real" Socialism: the conductor and the conducted, click HERE.]

Review by Doug Enaa Greene

The Contradictions of Real Socialism: the Conductor and the Conducted
By Michael A. Lebowitz
New York: Monthly Review Press, 2012.
221 pages

For Asia-Pacific readers it is also be available from Resistance Books

January 8, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Even though the dominant capitalist system is experiencing its worst crisis in decades, those in search of Marxist alternatives are often scared off by this regular refrain from the system's defenders: “Well, what about the USSR? Things didn't work out quite so well there.”

Indeed. The popular memory of the USSR is one of bureaucratic red tape, long lines for basic necessities and harsh repression. If the Marxist answer is that the inevitable outcome of any revolution is merely the drab and misery of the USSR, then it is best to accept capitalism (with all its warts). Or so we are led to believe.

Paul Le Blanc: International conference in China on Lenin’s thought

Paul Le Blanc presents the keynote address to the international conference on “Lenin’s thought in the 21st century: interpretation and its value”, held October 20-22, 2012.

[Read more by (and about) Paul Le Blanc HERE and more on Lenin HERE.]

By Paul Le Blanc

Malaysian socialist MP: 'Socialism and democracy are indivisible!'

Socialism 2012 ends with a rousing rendition of the "Internationale".

By Jeyakumar Devaraj

[The following paper was presented at the Socialist Party of Malaysia's Socialism 2012 conference in Kuala Lumpur, over the November 25-26, 2012, weekend. Jeyakumar is a member of parliament for the PSM.]

November 24, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Socialism has been painted as the antithesis of democracy – and millions of people the world over believe this untruth. Right-wing political propaganda states (among other things) that

  • A society based on socialism is “unnatural”. It goes against human nature which is individualistic. That’s why socialist and communist countries developed into totalitarian states. People had to be compelled to act against their normal human instincts.
  • A socialist program therefore will breed dictatorship and an authoritarian government with a repressive political police etc.
  • Democracy and a system of checks and balances are only possible in the free market (capitalist) system. Socialism will lead to totalitarianism.

False beliefs such as these are among the main reasons why, despite the ongoing implosion of capitalism in Europe, the majority of the people are not yet decisively moving towards a socialist economic model.

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