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Trotsky, Krupskaya and the Bolshevik tradition

 

 

By Paul Le Blanc

August 1, 2021 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — This contribution will touch on Leon Trotsky’s relationship to the Bolshevik organization headed by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. To gain insights into this, we will consider some of the critical reflections of Nadezhda Krupskaya, one of the founders of the Bolshevik tradition, and a central figure within it. All too often, she has been perceived as “merely” the companion of Bolshevism’s central figure, Lenin. In fact, she came to this relationship as a Marxist revolutionary in her own right. For decades she had a far more alert and interactive engagement with Lenin, intellectually and politically, than is sometimes acknowledged. She was also an outstanding educator influenced by Leo Tolstoy and John Dewey. After the Bolshevik Revolution, she became part of the new People's Commissariat of Enlightenment, headed by Anatoly Lunacharsky.[1] 

Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution and the legacy of Russian Marxism: A dissent to Michael Löwy’s piece

 

 

By Seiya Morita

March 5, 2021  — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — Michael Löwy's article "Leon Trotsky, prophet of the October Revolution" in Imprecor[1], the French-language journal of the Fourth International, is an excellent piece overall. However, I would like to point out that his statement about Russian Marxism includes a couple of misunderstandings.

Party organization in Lenin’s Comintern

 

 

By John Riddell

January 7, 2021 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary — Many socialist groups today seek to shape their organizational principles in the spirit of “democratic centralism” identified with V.I. Lenin. Yet as historian Lars Lih has demonstrated (“Fortunes of a Formula” and “Further Fortunes of a Formula”), Lenin himself used the term only occasionally, and then with widely varying emphasis. The formula’s meaning for socialists today is in fact derived mainly from its application by the Communist International (Comintern) in Lenin’s lifetime and under his guidance (1919–23).

Lenin150 (Samizdat): A Lenin birthday book

 

 

Review by Paul Le Blanc

Lenin150 (Samizdat)
Ed. by Hjalmar Jorge Joffre-Eichhorn and Patrick Anderson (translator), photography by Johann Salazar. 
Hamburg, Germany: KickAss Books, 2020, in English. 
15 Euros for individuals and 50 for institutions. 
Books can be ordered directly from the editor at lenin150@posteo.de.

September 30, 2020 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — 2020 is the birthday year of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, whom most of us know as Lenin. If still alive, he would be 150 years old. This explains part of the book’s title. There is also the word “samizdat,” commonly associated with the clandestine copying and distribution of literature banned by authoritarian regimes, especially in the formerly Communist countries of Eastern Europe. But here its meaning is simply: self-published. The book was deemed too weird for regular publishers to risk investing in.

Lenin’s Boys: A short history of Soviet Hungary

 

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

August 26, 2020 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Cosmonaut — It is 1919 and Russia is in the midst of a ruthless civil war with fronts stretching for thousands of kilometers across a ruined country. On one side are aristocrats and capitalists who had been overthrown less than two years before and are now desperately fighting to return to power. On the other side are the workers and peasants of the former Russian Empire, who had seized power from their former masters and were now determined to defend it. It is a savage struggle between two irreconcilable worlds with only two ways it can end: total victory or death. 

Lenin, 150 years on

 

 

By Julian Coppens

April 27, 2020 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — For Stalinists and liberals, Vladimir Lenin has been useful both as a myth and as a scapegoat. For the former, a myth selectively cited and distorted to justify the terror of bureaucratic rule and the theory of socialism in one country that undermined the international communist movement; for the latter, a scapegoat on which to attribute the Stalinist degeneration of the Soviet Union and, therefore, of Marxist practice.

However, the lessons and legacy of one of the most prominent and influential figures in the history of the labour movement and revolutionary praxis, despite deliberate discredit, remain valid 150 years after his birth on April 22, 1870.

Lenin, the Labour Party, and Democrats

 

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

May 5, 2019 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Left Voice with permission — There is a relatively common justification among large sections of the American left who offer various levels of support to the Democratic Party that they are merely creatively applying Lenin’s tactics to the present moment. The argument is familiar: the British Labour Party had the allegiance of the trade unions and millions of workers. And in order not to be isolated from the mass of workers, Lenin argued that British communists should affiliate to the Labour Party and support its candidates in elections. In present day America, it is claimed that the Democrats are an equivalent to the Labour Party since they have the support of organized labor and that their candidates, especially “democratic socialist” ones, deserve the support of socialists in order to advance working-class interests. However, this is a false equivalence. The Labour Party of 1920 and the Democratic Party of 2019 are fundamentally different organizations, with the former owing its origin to trade unions and the latter being a thoroughly bourgeois institution.

 

Looking for loopholes: On the misuses of Lenin’s “‘Left-Wing’ Communism”

 

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

March 26, 2019  
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Left Voice with the author's permission — With the 2020 U.S. presidential election already in full swing, we are already hearing the familiar clichés from liberals: that this is the “most important election in our lifetime” and that we must support the Democrats to defeat Donald Trump. Any left-wing criticism of the Democrats is met with a prompt demand to “shut up,” renounce our principles and get in line. Unfortunately, there are socialists and communists who not only repeat these liberal refrains, but also quote Lenin to justify supporting for the Democratic Party and to attack other socialists and communists as “dogmatists,” “purists” and “ultra-leftists.” The Lenin text most often cited as providing “loopholes” for radicals to abandon their principles and support the class enemy is “‘Left-Wing’ Communism: An Infantile Disorder” (LWC). This is, however, a gross misinterpretation of the purpose of Lenin’s LWC, which is not about rationalizing opportunism; rather, it is intended to help communists think seriously about strategy and tactics in order to successfully lead the working class.

 

The now neglected history of Soviet anti-colonialism

 

 

By Rohit Krishnan

 

September 7, 2018
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Africa is a Country — In 1920, prior to the second Congress of the Comintern, Lenin circulated a draft of his theses on “The Question of Colonized People and Oppressed Minorities.” The end-result of this was the inclusion in the “21 Conditions” for Comintern membership, of an obligation to provide “direct aid to the revolutionary movements among the dependent and underprivileged nations and in the colonies.” While often cited by Marxists as evidence of the Bolshevik’s commitment to anti-imperialism, few cite the role of colonized activists in its formation.

 

Lenin for today

 

 

Lenin for Today
By John Molyneux
Bookmarks, 2017
289 pages
£12.99; $44.01
Paperback

 

Reviewed by Paul Le Blanc

 

March 27, 2018
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — The first chapter of John Molyneux’s newest book, Lenin for Today, is one of the best discussions one can find of the relevance of Lenin. It is also the best part of the book. Far from being an organic whole, Lenin for Today offers seven distinct essays, each of which can more or less stand alone. Some offer analysis and explication of Lenin’s own ideas and perspectives, with indications of their continuing relevance. Others – increasingly as the book goes along – present discussions of current issues and recent events from the standpoint of the author and his organization (the Socialist Workers Party in Britain and its sister organization of the same name in Ireland, where he currently resides.)

 

Karl Korsch's Philosophical Bolshevism

 

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

January 25, 2018
Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal When Karl Korsch is remembered, he is generally alongside Georg Lukács and Antonio Gramsci as one of the founders of “Western Marxism”. Western Marxism is typically viewed as a diverse trend that focuses more on issues of culture and ideology instead of political economy, and eschews political engagement. It is certainly the case that most of what we understand by Western Marxism, notably the Frankfurt School, falls under that broad definition.

 

After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, Korsch believed that Marxism needed to be restored as a revolutionary philosophy. Korsch wrote his most famous work, Marxism and Philosophy, in 1923 when he was a leader in the Communist Party of Germany. Far from being a Western Marxist, Korsch like Gramsci and Lukács, is better characterized as a “Philosophical Bolshevik” who was committed to the theory and practice of socialist revolution.

 

'Letter from Afar', corrections from up close: Censorship or retrofit?

 

 

In March 1917 Alexandra Kollontai, then in Oslo, provided a link between Lenin,
still in Switzerland, and the Bolsheviks in Russia.

 

By Lars Lih

 

June 26, 2017  — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary website — The standard “rearming the party” interpretation of Bolshevism in 1917 is a gripping and highly dramatic narrative that goes something like this: Old Bolshevism is rendered irrelevant by the February revolution, the Russian Bolsheviks flounder until Lenin returns home and rearms the party, and the party is subsequently divided over fundamental issues throughout the year. Party unity is restored—to the extent that it was restored—after the other leading Bolsheviks cave in to Lenin’s superior force of will. Only by these means was the party rearmed by a new strategy that proclaimed the socialist nature of the revolution—an essential condition for Bolshevik victory in October.

 

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.

 

Lars Lih: Workers and intellectuals – A ‘revolutionary Social Democrat’ consensus

 
lenin-1900

 

By Lars T. Lih

 

In place of an introduction

 

February 25, 2017 Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from John Riddell's Marxist Essays and Commentary websiteThe following essay was written in 2011 for circulation among colleagues. I have decided to publish it unchanged in 2017 for two main reasons. First and foremost, the essay explains and documents the views of Lenin, the Russian Bolshevik Alexander Bogdanov, and Karl Kautsky on a crucial issue: the proper relations between workers and intellectuals within Social Democracy. It therefore serves as an extension of my earlier attack on the “textbook interpretation” of Lenin’s views.

 

Redeeming the revolution: A review of “October 1917 - Workers in Power”

 

 

Reviewed by Doug Enaa Greene

 

October 1917 – Workers in Power.
Paul Le Blanc, Ernest Mandel, David Mandel, François Vercammen, and contemporary texts by Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin, Leon Trotsky.
Edited by Fred Leplat and Alex de Jong
London: Merlin Press, the IIRE and Resistance Books, 2016. 256 pages

 

Georgi Plekhanov and the roots of Soviet philosophy

 

 

By Jason Devine

 

January 11, 2017 –– Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal –– Marxism was born through a critical appropriation of Hegel’s method and a radical break with the philosophy of Young Hegelianism.[1] With this, Marx declared that philosophy was over. As he wrote to Ferdinand Lassalle in regards to the Hegelian dialectic, “This dialectic is, to be sure, the ultimate word in philosophy and hence there is all the more need to divest it of the mystical aura given it by Hegel.”[2] Even more explicitly, Engels wrote in an early introduction to his Anti-Dühring: “The Hegelian system was the last and consummate form of philosophy, in so far as the latter is presented as a special science superior to every other. All philosophy collapsed with this system.”[3] Hence, any attempts to revive philosophy i.e. a specific form of ideology, could only be a step backwards from the advance made by Marx and Engels, could only ever be a reactionary project. If carried out within Marxism it can only mean a reversion back to pre-Marxist times, to pre-scientific views in the study of society. Dialectical materialism as the philosophy of Marxism is exactly such a reactionary turn. In fact, dialectical materialism, the ruling philosophy in the USSR, a philosophy which, in whole or in part, countless Marxist-Leninist parties, groups, and sects claim adherence to today, was essentially the product of Georgi Plekhanov. However, Plekhanov’s philosophy of dialectical materialism was not and is not synonymous with Marx’s method, with scientific socialism. Rather, the former can be more correctly described as neo-Young Hegelian.

 

The critical communism of Antonio Labriola

 

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

December 30, 2016 –– Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from International Socialist Review with the author’s permission –– Antonio Labriola, if he is known today at all, is remembered as a minor Marxist theorist in the Second International, overshadowed by such well known figures as Karl Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg, or Eduard Bernstein. Sometimes Labriola will be mentioned as a formative influence on the Marxism of Antonio Gramsci and Leon Trotsky. Yet Labriola deserves to be known and studied based on his own merits. He provided a critique of Second International orthodox Marxism, arguing that it divorced theory and practice, engaged in sterile, dogmatic systematization, and held to an economically deterministic form of Marxism. Labriola revived Marxism as an open philosophy of praxis, that is, as a critical and revolutionary method. He did not take for granted the inevitability of historical progress, but argued that it was necessary for socialists to intervene actively in shaping it.

 

Bullets and barricades: On the art of insurrection

 

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

To my friend and comrade Francesca.

 

November 6, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — “What side of the barricades are you on?” This phrase expresses the poignant meaning that the term barricades has in the revolutionary lexicon. Barricades represent a line of demarcation in the class war between the exploiters and the exploited. To stand with the exploited on the barricades is to pick a side, it is an action of solidarity with one's comrades, and shows that one is read to sacrifice their life for the cause. Although barricades dominated the insurrectionary movements during the nineteenth century, as time passed the barricade was found wanting as a effective tactic to topple the state, especially as the forces of order redesigned cities to prevent uprisings and revolutionaries pursued legal channels for political advance. When revolutionary opportunities came following the Russian Revolution, the barricade was relegated to the background in favor of more sophisticated approaches to insurrection.

 

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.

 

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