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Stalinism

`Second assassination' of Trotsky -- Paul Le Blanc reviews Robert Service’s biography of Trotsky

Review by Paul Le Blanc

Trotsky: A Biography
By Robert Service
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009
600 pages

December 25, 2009 -- ESSF -- Robert Service has written, to great acclaim, a new biography of Leon Trotsky. “Trotsky moved like a bright comet across the political sky,” Service tells us. Along with Lenin and other leaders of the Russian Revolution associated with the Bolshevik – soon renamed Communist – party, “he first came to global attention in 1917. … He lived a life full of drama played out with the world as his stage. The October Revolution changed the course of history, and Trotsky had a prominent role in the transformation. … There is no denying Trotsky’s exceptional qualities. He was an outstanding speaker, organizer and leader.” (1, 3)

Paul Le Blanc: Theories of Stalinism

The Marxism of Leon Trotsky
By Kunal Chattopadhyay
Kolkata: Progress Publishers, 2006, 672 pages

Western Marxism and the Soviet Union
By Marcel van der Linden
Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2009, 379 pages

Reviews by Paul Le Blanc

Karl Marx and his comrades deemed their own approach “scientific”, as compared to “utopian” intellectual efforts on behalf of socialism, because they believed that practical efforts to challenge and ultimately replace capitalism with something better must be grounded in a serious study of economic, political, social, historical realities and dynamics.

More, they believed that lessons learned from practical organising and political experiences of the working class and popular social movements — sometimes glorious victories and often tragic defeats — must also guide practical efforts of the future. The combination of such study and experience has been called “Marxist theory”.

The massive crisis of capitalism has put the meaning of “socialism” back into public debate. Superficially equating state intervention in the economy with “socialism”, some are inclined to agree with Newsweek magazine that “we are all socialists now.”

`Freedoms won, freedoms lost' -- left views on the fall of the Berlin Wall

November 15, 2009 -- For the past few weeks the international capitalist mass media has been awash with triumphalist hoopla about the so-called ``collapse of Communism'' as it celebrates the 20th anniversary of the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall. Below Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal posts a number of commenatries from the left that deal with facts and fictions of those dramatic events, and how the people most effected are faring today.

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By Chris Slee

November 16, 2009 – Green Left Weekly -- The 20th anniversary of the opening of the Berlin wall -- November 9 -- was the occasion for self-congratulation by supporters of the capitalist system. They talked of the fall of the wall as heralding a new era of freedom.

They failed to note that other walls and fences have been built or strengthened during the past 20 years.

People's Republic of China at 60: Maoism and popular power, 1949–1969


Youth demonstrate during the Cultural Revolution.

[Click HERE for more analysis of the Chinese Revolution and its evolution.]

By Pierre Rousset

With the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) found itself at the head of a country three times larger than Western Europe, with a population of some 500 million. The internal situation was favourable to the revolutionary regime. At the end of a long series of civil and foreign wars, the population sought and relied on the new leaders to achieve peace while the ongoing people’s mobilisation opened the way for a deep reform of society.

People's Republic of China at 60: 1925–1949 -- Origins of the Chinese revolution

Mao Zedong (on horse) during the Long March.

[Click HERE for more analysis of the Chinese Revolution and its evolution.]

By Pierre Rousset

Retrospectively, we know the importance of the period opened in China by the overthrow in 1911 of the Qing Dynasty: it concluded, nearly four decades later, with the victory of the Communist revolution on October 1, 1949 – an event of historical scope. However, at the time, the future of the country looked very uncertain. Power was fragmenting in China, but the European states were not in a position to seize this opportunity to impose their colonial domination on the Middle Kingdom and were soon going to be at war with each other. The new imperialist powers (the United States and Japan) were not yet ready to replace them and claim for themselves the conquest of China. But it was only a matter of time. China seemed to be condemned to be dismembered into Japamese and Western zones of influence.

Victor Serge: `dishonest authoritarian', `anti-worker anarchist' or revolutionary Bolshevik?

[The following exchanges were first published in the US socialist magazine Against the Current. They have been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission. Susan Weissman is the author of Victor Serge: The Course is set on Hope and editor of The Ideas of Victor Serge and Victor Serge: Russia Twenty Years After. She is a member of the editorial boards of Against the Current and Critique. The first essay is adapted from a section of a paper she delivered at a July 2008 conference on Trotsky’s legacy and first appeared in Against the Current, issue 136, September-October 2008. Following that is a response from Ernie Haberkern and reply by Susan Weissman. Some of Victor Serge's writings are available at the Marxists Internet Archive and at Resistance Books.]

By Susan Weissman

Versailles vs Comintern: two visions of world peace

Lenin addresses the opening of the second congress of the Communist International.

By Barry Healy

June 28, 2009, was the anniversary of the two bookends of World War I, in which it is estimated more than 15 million people died. On that date in 1914 Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo and, five years later, in 1919, 90 years ago this year, the Versailles Treaty was signed in Paris.

The first war in which the capacity of modern industry to deploy, feed, arm and dismember people was so hideously demonstrated, WWI was experienced by its victims as the "war to end all wars". Unfortunately, it proved not to be.

Out of the ashes of the conflict two competing visions of world peace arose: Versailles and the revolutionary and democratic alternative represented by the Communist International (Comintern) emanating from the 1917 Russian Revolution.

US President Woodrow Wilson swept into the treaty negotiations declaring: “The world must be made safe for democracy.” Over six months of intense horsetrading at Versailles a new imperialist order was hammered out, resulting in many of the conflicts that followed.

Australia: Towards a history of the Communist Party of Australia

[These articles were first published in Green Left Weekly in 1995 to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of Australia.]

By John Percy

September 27, 1995 -- Seventy-five years ago, under the impact and inspiration of the October 1917 Russian Revolution, the Communist Party of Australia was founded. It was a modest beginning, but an historic event. The CPA formed in 1920 finally dissolved in 1991, but for most of its life it was the dominant party on the left in Australia and an important force in the workers movement.

There are many proud chapters in its history -- the numerous trade union struggles led; organising the unemployed, women, Aborigines, young people; important civil liberties fights; and solidarity with international struggles, in Spain, Indonesia, Vietnam, South Africa and East Timor, to name a few.
The CPA's founders had a vision of socialist revolution in Australia, and this was the goal of most of its rank-and-file members over the years. The party inspired dedication and commitment from thousands of men and women, and organised the most militant, idealistic, self-sacrificing section of the Australian working class.

But it was also a history of mistakes, of betrayals, of lost opportunities.

To mark this important anniversary, Green Left Weekly will be carrying a series of articles on the history of the CPA.

Communism in Australia

By Dave Holmes

[This talk was presented at the A Century of Struggle Laborism and the radical alternative: Lessons for today conference, held in Melbourne, Australia, on May 30, 2009. It was organised by Socialist Alliance and sponsored by Green Left Weekly, Australia’s leading socialist newspaper. To read other talks presented at the conference, click HERE.]

China: Looking back on the 1989 democracy movement and the Tiananmen Square massacre

To mark the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reproduces an excerpt from the analysis by an eyewitness to the 1989 democratic upsurge that preceded the brutal attack. The writer was an Australian socialist who was studying in China at the time. It first appeared in Green Left Weekly on June 26, 1996.

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By Liang Guosheng

On June 4, 1989, troops, armoured personnel carriers and tanks of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) forced their way through human and constructed barricades into central Beijing, taking control of Tiananmen Square. In the process, according to an estimate by Amnesty International soon afterwards, approximately 1000 unarmed protesters were gunned down or otherwise killed.

Numerous eyewitness accounts confirmed the extent of the massacre. The dead were students and other Beijing workers and residents who had gathered the previous evening to protest against the PLA's forced entry into central Beijing and the square, which on May 20, 1989, China's Premier Li Peng had declared a martial law district.

50 years after: The tragedy of China’s `Great Leap Forward'

By John Riddell

April 21, 2009 -- Socialist Voice -- On October 1, the People’s Republic of China will mark the 60th anniversary of its foundation. This will be an occasion to celebrate one of the most influential victories of popular struggle in our era.

This great uprising forged a united and independent Chinese state, freed the country from foreign domination and capitalist rule, ended landlordism, provided broad access to education and health care, and set in motion popular energies that modernised and industrialised its economy. The revolutionary triumph of 1949 laid the foundation for China’s present dynamism and influence, as well as providing an enormous impetus to anti-colonial revolution worldwide.

Yet despite these gains, the socialist movement and ideology that headed the revolution, identified with Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong, disappeared from China soon after his death in 1976. The revolution’s central leader is still revered, but his doctrines have been set aside. The country’s present leadership has promoted private capitalist accumulation, not socialist planning, as China’s chief engine of growth. Its policies have aroused much popular protest, but not a revived Maoist movement.

Lessons from the past: The Great Depression and the Communist Party of Australia

A section of the Wharfie's Mural, the large-scale work of art from the walls of the CPA-led Waterside Workers Federation (WWF) canteen in Sussex Street, Sydney, in the 1950s and '60s.

By Dave Holmes

[This is an excerpt from the new pamphlet, Meltdown! A socialist view of the capitalist crisis, by Resistance Books. Meltdown! features essays by John Bellamy Foster, Phil Hearse, Adam Hanieh, Lee Sustar and others. Purchase a copy from Resistance Books.]

The current economic crisis is a fundamental crisis of the world capitalist system. British socialist Phil Hearse calls it the “third slump” in the history of the capitalism (the other two being the Great Depression of the 1930s and the 1974-75 sharp downturn). And the levels of mass distress may yet come to rival the 1930s.

Present-day Russia needs a renewal of the feminist movement

By Anna Ochkina, translated from Russian for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by Renfrey Clarke

January 1, 2009 -- In the Soviet Union feminism was elevated to the status of official state policy and ultimately was destroyed as an ideology and a social movement. The dominant concept was one of a general, global equality; as a result, a separate movement for the rights of women simply could not exist. The feminist reference points of Soviet social policy took the form of a set of rights for women: employment in the workforce on an equal basis with men; political rights; equality before the law, and so forth. The gaining of formal rights, however, resulted in the restricting of particular, specific rights of women, which in practice proved very difficult to realise.

Proceedings of Fourth Congress of the Communist International to be published

In October, John Riddell, co-editor of Socialist Voice, completed a draft translation of the proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International. This ambitious effort (more than 500,000 words) will make all of the resolutions, speeches, and debates from that important 1922 meeting, together with full explanatory annotation, available in English for the first time. The work, which Riddell is preparing in collaboration with the London-based journal Historical Materialism, is planned for publication in 2010.

The British newspaper Socialist Worker interviewed John Riddell (below) about this project for its November 22, 2008, issue.

*  *  *

By Ken Olende

In 1922 socialists from around the world travelled to Russia to discuss and debate the future of the workers’ movement.

Women and the Russian Revolution: `Our task is to make politics available to every working woman'

By Lisa Macdonald

The following is the Introduction to On the Emancipation of Women, a collection of the key articles and speeches on women’s liberation by Russian revolutionary V.I. Lenin, published by Resistance Books. On the Emancipation of Women is available online at http://www.resistancebooks.com.

* * *

The persistence of gender inequality in the most advanced capitalist societies, with the most complete bourgeois democracy in which women have full formal equality, has put paid to the idea that women's liberation is possible within the framework of capitalism, even in its "healthiest" periods of expansion. Today, in a period of global capitalist stagnation and crisis, as the "gender gap" widens and women, especially in the Third World, bear the brunt of the capitalist class's neo-liberal offensive against the working class as a whole, the correctness of the Marxist analysis of women's oppression as a cornerstone of class society and its revolutionary approach to achieving women's liberation is clearer than ever before.

Slideshow: Stalinism -- How did the Russian Revolution degenerate and was it inevitable?

Nationalism, revolution and war in the Caucasus

By Tony Iltis

August 27, 2008 -- Since the European Union-brokered ceasefire brought the shooting war between Georgia and Russia to an end on August 12, there has been a war of words between Russia and the West. One point of contention is the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia-proper (that is, Georgia excluding the de facto independent territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia), in particular the towns of Gori, Zugdidi and Senaki and the port of Poti.

The war began with Georgia’s August 7 attack on the territory of South Ossetia. Russia responded with a military assault that first drove Georgian troops out of South Ossetia, then continued to advance within Georgia-proper.

Russia agreed to withdraw when it signed the ceasefire and has since indicated that it is doing so — but slowly, and not before systematically destroying Georgia’s military capacity.

A bigger difference, based on competing interpretations of what is and isn’t Georgian territory, is Russia’s stated intention to maintain a beefed-up peacekeeping presence in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

A history of the Australian Labor Party, 1890-1967

By Peter Conrick

Conrick's History of the Australian Labor Party originally appeared in Direct Action (the precursor to Green Left Weekly), newspaper of the Socialist Workers League of Australia, between December 21, 1972, and June 14, 1973, and was published as a pamphlet by the Socialist Workers Party in 1979. The SWP is now the Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP). This digital version was created by Ozleft. The pamphlet reflected the DSP's attitude towards the ALP at that time, however significant changes were introduced to this viewpoint in the 1980s. This document should be read in conjuction with The ALP and the Fight for Socialism. See also The ALP, the Nuclear Disarmament Party and the 1984 elections.

For a deeper analytical treatment of the social origins of social democracy in general and the ALP in particular, please consult Jonathan Strauss' series of Links articles on the concept of the labour aristocracy.

Baruch Hirson: The South African left and the Russian connection (1991)

Click HERE to view a CVET video production of a seminar at the
University of the Western Cape on the past, present, and future of
Marxism in South Africa, held in September 1991. It was addressed by veteran South African Trotskyist activist Baruch Hirson. Participating in the seminar were Ciraj
Rassool, Baruch Hirson, Andrew Nash, Colin Bundy, Adam Habib, Paul
Allen and Neville Alexander.  

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