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The roots of 1917: Kautsky, the state and revolution in Imperial Russia



By Eric Blanc


October 14, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from John Riddell’s blog with permission — This article reexamines the perspectives on the state and revolution advocated by the early Karl Kautsky and revolutionary social democrats across the Tsarist Empire. Contrary to a common misconception, these “orthodox” Marxists rejected the possibility of a peaceful and gradualist utilization of the capitalist state for socialist transformation. I show that Second International “orthodoxy” proved to be a sufficiently radical political foundation for the Bolsheviks and Finnish socialists to lead the Twentieth century’s first anti-capitalist seizures of power.


What is socialism for the twenty-first century?



By Michael A. Lebowitz


October 11, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Monthly Review — Often the best way to begin to understand something is to consider what it is not. Socialism for the twenty-first century is not a society in which people sell their ability to work and are directed from above by others whose goal is profits rather than the satisfaction of human needs. It is not a society where the owners of the means of production benefit by dividing workers and communities in order to drive down wages and intensify work—i.e., gain by increasing exploitation. Socialism for the twenty-first century, in short, is not capitalism.


Georgi Plekhanov: Tragedy of a forerunner



Georgi Plekhanov


By Doug Enaa Greene


July 28, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — When the names of Russian Marxism are remembered, those of Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky and Nikolai Bukharin figure as leading lights. However, these figures built upon the pioneering work of Georgi Plekhanov. Plekhanov almost single-handedly introduced Marxism into the Russian Empire and popularized it for a generation of socialist militants. However, Plekhanov's Marxism was seriously flawed in a number of ways and he was not up to the challenge of revolutionary politics. It fell to the generation who came after him to carry the struggle forward to victory. Yet Plekhanov's limitations do not take away from his contributions as a pioneer, something always recognized by his Marxist pupils.


Partido, clase y marxismo: ¿Era Kautsky “leninista”?



[Original article in English here]


By Eric Blanc


June 3, 2016 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal traducido para Sin Permiso por G. Buster -- En los últimos años, los socialistas han discutido encarnizadamente sobre la cuestión de los llamados “partidos amplios”. Muchos han defendido que hay que desechar el modelo "leninista" en favor de formaciones más amplias, como Syriza, Podemos, el Partido Laborista británico, los Verdes, etc. Otros han rechazado participar en este tipo de organizaciones, con el argumento "leninista" de que la construcción de partidos marxistas revolucionarios independientes sigue siendo la tarea de organización estratégica de los socialistas.


Entrelazado con este debate ha habido una seria reevaluación del propio "leninismo". En particular, después de la publicación del monumental Lenin Rediscovered de Lars T. Lih, se han abierto algunas grandes interrogantes: ¿Rompió Lenin en la teoría y / o práctica con la estrategia "ortodoxa" articulada por el teórico marxista Karl Kautsky? ¿Fueron los bolcheviques, en otras palabras, un "partido de nuevo tipo"?


At the crossroads of Blanquism and Leninism



Doug Greene, author of the forthcoming "Specters of Communism: Blanqui and Marx", takes up the accusation that Leninism is "Blanquist".


By Douglas Enaa Greene[1]


June 1, 2016 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Rosa Luxemburg once said that Bolshevism is nothing more than the “mechanical transposition of the organizational principles of Blanquism into the mass movement of the socialist working class.”[2] Many leftists, both now and a century ago, share Luxemburg's position that Leninism is elitist and/or Blanquism. Yet all of these judgments are far off the mark. For Lenin, Blanquism was something that the communist movement needed to overcome if they wanted to win a successful socialist revolution. Leninism is not simply Blanquism or Jacobinism adapted to Russian conditions, but the development of a Marxist mode of politics that draws clear revolutionary lessons from the defeat of the Paris Commune. The central operator of the Leninist mode of politics is a revolutionary vanguard party devoted to the emancipation of the oppressed workers and peasants. However, there remains a grain of truth in the accusation that Leninism is Blanquist, since “Blanquism” is a label used by social democrats and revisionists to condemn the revolutionary essence of Marxism


Party, class, and Marxism: Did Kautsky advocate ‘Leninism’?



Karl Kautsky


By Eric Blanc


May 25, 2016 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from -- The question of broad parties has been heatedly debated by socialists in recent years. Many have argued that “Leninism” should be discarded in favor of wider formations such as Syriza, Podemos, the British Labour Party, the Greens, etc. Others have rejected participating in such structures, on the “Leninist” grounds that building independent revolutionary Marxist parties remains the strategic organizational task for socialists.


Intertwined with this debate has been a serious reassessment of “Leninism” itself. Particularly following the publication of Lars Lih’s monumental Lenin Rediscovered, big questions are being asked: Did Lenin break in theory and/or practice with the “orthodox” strategy articulated by Marxist theoretician Karl Kautsky? Were the Bolsheviks, in other words, a “party of a new type”?


New books shed light on Trotsky's struggle against Soviet bureaucracy

Leon Trotsky


  Reviewed by Barry Healy


Leon Trotsky
Paul Le Blanc
Reaktion Books, 2015, 224 pp., $39.99


  Trotsky and the Problem of Soviet Bureaucracy
Thomas M. Twiss
Brill, 2014, 502 pp., $205.00


  January 25, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — Leon Trotsky was one of the central leaders of the Russian Revolution. As the organiser and Commissar of the Red Army that saved the Soviet power and leading light of the struggle against Stalinism, he is surely one of the great heroic — and tragic — figures of the Twentieth Century.


  Taken together these two books provide an insight into the major theoretical dilemma that emerged from the Russian experience: how a successful revolution could degenerate into a parody of workers’ democracy to the point of becoming a murderous dictatorship.


  Because Trotsky’s revolutionary integrity remained untarnished after his murder in 1940 at the hands of a Stalinist assassin it is easy to fall into a deification of his work — something that competing Trotskyist sects have delighted in doing.


  Paul Le Blanc steers clear of those rocks in his very fine, short biography. He demonstrates a very clear-eyed and measured approach, combined with an unqualified opposition to Stalinist tyranny.


Nicos Poulantzas: State, class and the transition to socialism

Click for more on Nicos Poulantzas and more by Doug Enaa Greene.

By Doug Enaa Greene

August 5, 2015 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- We live in an era where too much of the left, both in the USA and abroad, remains stuck to old orthodoxies and failed strategies. Marxism is reduced to holy writ and rote, devoid of any ability to either interpret or change the world.

In order to win, the left desperately needs to break away from past habits and recover the ability to raise questions anew by using Marxist methodology to formulate strategy. In this endeavour, there are a number of thinkers we can profitably learn from; one of whom is Nicos Poulantzas. Despite the limitations and contradictions within Poulantzas' methods, he was not afraid to ask the right questions and to develop new strategies.

To that end, it is worth looking at Poulantzas' work in three areas: the state, class and the transition to socialism.

I. Biography

Lars Lih: The ironic triumph of ‘old Bolshevism’ -- the ‘April debates’ and their impact on Bolshevik strategy

June 1, 2015, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Lars T. Lih challenges a commonly held view of the Russian Bolshevik party's conduct during the Russian Revolution of 1917, stressing the continuity between the Bolsheviks’ positions before World War I and those advanced during the revolutionary upheaval.

The text is based on a talk Lih gave in 2010 and recently revised. Following the text is a note on other places where Lih’s views on this topic are available – John Riddell.

* * * 

By Lars T. Lih

Lenin's Comintern compromise of 1921

For more on the Communist International, click HERE. For more by or about John Riddell

By John Riddell

May 5, 2015 --, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In 1921, a time of declining mass struggles, the Communist International (Comintern) was thrown off course by insistent demands at every level of the organisation for the young movement to launch confrontational actions, even if Communists must fight almost alone. In mid-1921, the Comintern’s Third Congress turned decisively away from this policy. Under the slogan, “To the masses”, it adopted, on Lenin’s insistence, the strategy of unifying working people in struggle that was codified six months later as the “united front”.

Ian Birchall on John Riddell's 'To the masses': Essential resource on communism's early years

To The Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921
edited and translated by John Riddell
Brill, Leiden & Boston, 2015
1299 pages, €399.00

April 12, 2015 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The following review by British socialist historian Ian Birchall introduces a major addition to our knowledge of the revolutionary movement of Lenin's time: John Riddell's To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921. Birchall's review is scheduled for publication in Revolutionary History, a journal with 43 published volumes.

The review is published here with kind permission of Revolutionary History and Ian Birchall. Riddell's latest volume, available only in Brill's library format at the moment, will be published in a popular, more inexpensive edition by Haymarket Books in February 2016.

For more on the Communist International, click HERE. Click for more by or about John Riddell.

* * *

Review by Ian Birchall

Lars Lih: Russia 1917 — Bolshevism was fully armed

Pravda editor Lev Kamenev

Pravda editor Lev Kamenev.

Article by Lars Lih, introduction by John Riddell

April 22, 2015 --, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Did the Bolsheviks, as has often been argued, set aside their pre-1914 strategy in April 1917 on Lenin’s insistence? Recent studies by Lars Lih criticise this thesis, maintaining that the actual course followed by the Bolsheviks in 1917 was close to that of pre-war “Old Bolshevism”.

In the following article, Lih tests his conclusion by examining the editorial course of the Bolsheviks’ main newspaper, Pravda, soon after the February revolution and before Lenin’s return to Russia.

Lih’s text is followed by both a translation and the original Russian text of a March 1917 Pravda editorial by Lev Kamenev, and by a note on further reading.

SYRIZA win sparks interest in Comintern’s workers’ government debate: some resources

For more on the Communist International, click HERE. Click for more by John Riddell.

By John Riddell

March 17, 2015 --, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Efforts by working people to gain governmental power in our new century, most recently in Greece, have drawn attention to the Communist International’s historic discussion on this issue at its Fourth World Congress in Moscow in 1922.

Here are links to all significant comments on this issue from the congress record, plus the segment of its Theses on Tactics taking up this question, and my commentary setting the historical context. Delegates’ comments on this point were spread over many congress sessions and are made available in one place for the first time in any language.

Paul Le Blanc on Tamás Krausz's 'Reconstructing Lenin': Sorting through Lenin’s legacy

Reconstructing Lenin: An Intellectual Biography
By Tamás Krausz
New York: Monthly Review Books, 2015
564 pages; Order HERE

For more discussion on Lenin, click HERE. For more by Paul Le Blanc, click HERE

Review by Paul Le Blanc

March 10, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- This edition of Tamás Krausz’s study of Russian revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Lenin is compelling and imposing in more than one way. It is not, strictly speaking, an intellectual biography. So much is offered in this remarkable volume, however, that many readers will not complain that they are not actually treated to a chronological narrative tracing the evolution of Lenin’s thought.

Nikolai Bukharin: ‘The favourite of the whole party’

By Doug Enaa Greene

February 13, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- “Bukharin has thirty years of revolutionary work to his credit.”[1] This was the final judgment of Leon Trotsky, Nikolai Bukharin's erstwhile adversary in 1938, after his death. These words were not without truth. He lived a life of deep revolutionary and intellectual commitment. Bukharin was one of the leading theorists and leaders of the Bolshevik Party, reaching the heights of power in the USSR in the 1920s.

He was the fierce proponent for the New Economic Policy (NEP) and presented an alternative path of market socialism, to those of Trotsky and Joseph Stalin. He was an ally of Stalin during the party debates of the 1920s, when Stalin declared, "We are, and shall be, for Bukharin."[2]

Socialists and World War I: Turn the imperialist war into a civil war

Industrial Workers of the World poster against WWI.

By Doug Enaa Greene

February 2, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- It has been a hundred years since the outbreak of the First World War. The centennial of the “war to end all wars” has seen countless commemorations of the millions of heroic soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice for king and country.

Yet missing from all of the observances of the war are the deeper questions of its causes – to divide colonies among predatory ruling classes – and the heroism of those who opposed the mass slaughter. And for the left, that is how we should remember this 100th anniversary – but honoring those socialists and communists who fought against all the odds to end the slaughter.

Heroic class leadership: Lars T. Lih's ‘Lenin’

By Lars T. Lih. London: Reaktion Books, 2011
235 pages

[Click HERE for more by or about Lars Lih. For more discussion on Lenin, click HERE.]

Review by Doug Enaa Greene

January 19, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Too often, when the name of Lenin is brought up in this day and age, it conjures up certain uncomfortable images in the popular and academic mind. Lenin is seen as the founder of the Bolshevik Party, who was hell-bent on establishing a totalitarian state. It is time that this image of Lenin be discarded. Lenin should be embraced by revolutionaries the world over desiring to build a society free of exploitation.

Lenin y Kautsky: El extraño caso de Lenin en el armario

[English at "Lars Lih on Lenin and Kautsky: 'The strange case of the closeted Lenin'",]

Por Lars Lih, traducción para Gustavo Buster

14/12/14 -- -- En primer lugar, permítanme decir que es muy elogioso tener dos críticas - una sustancial, la otra no - a mis puntos de vista sobre Lenin publicados recientemente. La primera es de Kevin Corr y Gareth Jenkins, del SWP[1]) y la segunda está escrita por Peter Taaffe del Socialist Party in England and Wales[2].

En mi opinión, la crítica de Taaffe no tiene que ver con mis puntos de vista y no le interesa realmente lo que defiendo. Peter Taaffe simplemente afirma que escribo frases pretenciosas, románticas y después expone sus propios puntos de vista. No es una polémica seria digna de una respuesta. Por su parte, sin embargo, Corr y Jenkins en su artículo, "El caso de la desaparición de Lenin”, pretenden refutar mis puntos de vista reales y en su mayor parte su crítica hace un buen trabajo a la hora de resumir cuales son..

Solía existir en la izquierda una narrativa lineal, indiscutible, que era algo como:

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