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'Transitional Program': 'a program of action from today until the beginning of the socialist revolution'

The demand for shorter working hours with no loss in pay has been a key transitional demand.

By Doug Lorimer

[This is the introduction to Resistance Books' The Transitional Program and the Struggle for Socialism. For discussion on the left about the significance of the transitional method for socialists, see "In defence of the transitional method" by Dave Holmes.]

I

Paul Le Blanc: Leninism is unfinished

February 1, 2013 -- The crisis in the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP) has stirred a sharp debate among party members about the allegations of sexual harassment and rape at the centre of the crisis and about how a revolutionary organisation deals with disputes and disagreements among its members and leaders. In response to an article titled "Is Leninism Finished" by SWP leader Alex Callinicos, Paul Le Blanc, author of numerous books, including Lenin and the Revolutionary Party, published the following comment on the website of the newspaper of the US International Socialist Organization.

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[For more on the British SWP, click HERE. 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.]

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By Paul Le Blanc

Britain: Socialist Workers Party members debate 'Leninism', party democracy (updated Feb. 3)

The first document below was produced by opposition members of British Socialist Workers Party (SWP) (authors listed at its conclusion, the best known include Richard Seymour, Neil Davidson and China Miéville). The SWP is the dominant party within the International Socialist Tendency, with affiliates around the world. The SWP is presently in the midst of a major dispute over inner-party democracy. The article is a reply to SWP leader Alex Callinicos' recent article, "Is Leninism finished?"

Following that are two articles by Tom Walker, a former Socialist Worker journalist who resigned from the SWP during the current dispute.

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Forgotten legacies of Bolshevism on revolutionary organisation

"Iskra. It is often argued that the early period of the organisation of Iskra resembled the small, highly homogenous and monolithic cadre grouping that today is promoted as the sine qua non of revolutionary organisation, but if one looks at the original concept of the Iskra editorial board, we can see it promoted debate among a plurality of tendencies."

[Click HERE for more discussion on revolutionary organisation.]

Paul Le Blanc: Lenin and Luxemburg through each other’s eyes

August Thalheimer, a revolutionary who knew and worked with both of them, insisted on the formulation “not Luxemburg or Lenin – but Luxemburg and Lenin”, explaining that “each of them gave ... what the other did not, and could not, give”.

[More by (and about) Paul Le Blanc HERE, more on Lenin HERE and more on Rosa Luxemburg HERE.]

By Paul Le Blanc

(Talk presented at the International Conference on “Lenin’s Thought in the Twenty-First Century: Interpretation and Its Value”, Wuhan University, October 20-22, 2012.)

January 3, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg first met in 1901 but actually got to know each other amid the revolutionary workers’ insurgencies sweeping through Russia and Eastern Europe in 1905-1906. As Luxemburg biographer J. P. Nettl tells us:

Self-guided tours of revolutionary history: Fourth Congress of the Communist International (1922)

Toward the United Front, Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922
Edited and translated by John Riddell
Brill, 2011 (hard back), 1310 pages, 200 euros
Haymarket Books, 2012 (paper back) US$55

In Australia, Toward the United Front is also be available from Resistance Books

To recommend the Brill hardcover edition to your favourite library, go to Brill Academic Publishers and click on “recommend”.

For more on the Communist International, click HERE; for more study guides of socialist history and theory, click HERE.

By John Riddell

How workers rallied to aid the early Soviet republic: International Workers’ Aid for Soviet Russia (+ study guide)

Munzenberg

Willi Münzenberg.

December 29, 2012 -- The following talk on work by the Communist International to gather material aid for the Soviet Republic was given by Suzanne Weiss at the fourth Toronto study session on Toward the United Front, a 1300-page edition the fourth Communist International Congress (1922).

The study session, entitled “The Comintern’s Struggle for Social Hegemony”, surveyed the Comintern's work in unions, cooperatives, education, youth organisations and on material assistance to Soviet Russia. The presentation, taking up a speech by Willi Münzenberg, is followed by a brief biography and a description of the study session. More information on Toward the United Front is available HERE. – John Riddell

This article first appeared at Johnriddell.wordpress.com and is posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.

China: Lenin’s ideas, Marxism discussed at international conference in Wuhan

[Read Paul Le Blanc's keynote address to the international conference HERE. For more by (and about) Paul Le Blanc HERE and more on Lenin HERE.]

By Paul Le Blanc

January 2, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province in central China, is graced by the prestigious Wuhan University, which has been the site of international conferences on two of the world’s foremost revolutionary thinkers and organisers – Rosa Luxemburg in 2006 and most recently Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.

On October 20-22, 2012, it hosted the "International Conference on Lenin’s Thought in the Twenty-First Century: Interpretation and its Value”. Both events were organised under the leadership of Professor He Ping, an outstanding scholar whose qualities of thoughtfulness and caring result in a loyal following among her studentsand whose global reach and intellectual openness have generated impressive intellectual exchanges.

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

John Riddell: What would Lenin's Comintern have made of SYRIZA? The Comintern as a school of socialist strategy

[For more articles by John Riddell, click HERE; for more on SYRIZA, click HERE; for more on the Communist International, click HERE.]

By John Riddell

September 3, 2012 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com/Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In his review of my edition of the Communist International’s Fourth Congress (1922),[1] Ian Birchall warns against a “scriptural approach” to the Comintern record, but also affirms that studying it “can be of great value”. Where can this value be found? A controversy among Marxists over this year’s elections in Greece points our way to an answer.

Paul Le Blanc: The great Lenin debate -- history and politics

Lenin "favoured an organisation that functioned like a democratic, cohesive, activist collectivity".

[Read more by (and about) Paul Le Blanc HERE;more by (and about) Lars Lih HERE; and more on Lenin HERE. The Pham Binh-Paul Le Blanc- Lars Lih debate can be found HERE.]

By Paul Le Blanc

[A talk resented at the Communist Party of Great Britain’s Communist University, London, August 20-26, 2012.]

September 1, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The deepening of global crises, the intensification of popular protest and insurgency, and the spread of revolutionary possibilities have been generating renewed interest in Marxism and, along with that, a renewal of Marxism. A key figure in the Marxist tradition – and in the renewal – is the person who was central in the first revolution to be led by revolutionary Marxists: Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.

Communist International's Fourth Congress: revolutionary fulcrum of the modern world

Toward the United Front, Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922
Edited and translated by John Riddell
Brill, 2011 (hard back), 1310 pages, 200 euros
Haymarket Books, 2012 (paper back), US$55

Haymarket Books is now taking pre-publication orders of Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, at US$50, a 10% reduction. It is due to be released in November 2012.

To take advantage of Haymarket’s offer, go to Toward the United Front, order the book, go to “check-out” and enter RIDDELL2012 in the “coupon code” field.

To recommend the Brill hardcover edition to your favourite library, go to Brill Academic Publishers and click on “recommend”.

Toward the United Front will also be available from Resistance Books in November.

Review by Barry Healy

John Riddell: Toward the United Front -- the Fourth Congress of the Communist International (audio)

June 28, 2012 -- A talk presented by John Riddell to the US International Socialist Organization's Socialism 2012 gathering in Chicago, on June 28, 2012. The recording is also available at Wearemany.org, where it first appeared.

Click HERE for more articles on the history of the Communist International.

Read more articles by John Riddell HERE.

How anarchists, syndicalists, socialists and IWW militants were drawn to Bolshevism: four case studies

William Dudley (Big Bill) Haywood, US labour movement leader, marching with strikers in Lowell, Massachusetts, circa 1912.

Read more on the IWW, Gramsci and Victor Serge.

By Doug Enaa Greene

“The unity of thought and action gave Bolshevism its original power; without entering into doctrinal questions we can define Bolshevism as a movement to the left of socialism -- which brought it closer to anarchism -- inspired by the will to achieve the revolution immediately.”[1]

These words of Victor Serge sum up a whole new wave of thinking that came over many anarchists, anarcho-syndicalists, and socialists with the onset of the Russian Revolution. Many anarchists, syndicalists, and socialists who had been hostile to the practices of organized socialist parties for decades found themselves drawn to the example of the Bolshevik Revolution and joined the emerging Communist Parties, providing them with valuable cadres. One of these men was Victor Serge, a Russian exile most noted for his later work as a novelist. Another was Bill Haywood, an American trade unionist active in both the Western Federation of Miners and the Industrial Workers of the World. A third was James P. Cannon, another trade union militant in the USA. A fourth was Antonio Gramsci, an Italian journalist and political activist.

Lars Lih: Bolshevism and revolutionary social democracy

Lenin.

By Lars Lih

June 7, 2012 -- Weekly Worker -- Lenin’s pamphlet "Leftwing" communism -- his last work of more-than-article size -- was written in spring 1920 in order to be distributed to the delegates of the 2nd Congress of the Communist International, or Comintern. The message that Lenin intended to send cannot be understood apart from the particular circumstances of this event.

Comintern was founded in spring 1919, a time of great enthusiasm and hope about the possibility of soviet-style revolutions sweeping across Europe. Exuberantly confident predictions were made by Lenin and Grigorii Zinoviev that the 2nd Congress of the new international would be a gathering not just of parties, but of new soviet republics. Accordingly, little attention was given to the party as such. As Trotsky put it later, the hope was that “a chaotic, spontaneous [elemental or stikhiinyi] assault” would mount in “ever-rising waves, that in this process the awareness of the leading layers of the working class would become clarified, and that in this way the proletariat would attain state power in the course of one or two years”.[1]

Lessons of the Comintern experience, by Helen Scott, John Riddell and Lars Lih

May 12, 2012 -- LeftStreamed, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Three presentations from the Historical Materialism conference in Toronto on May 11–13.

Presentations by:

  • Helen Scott, University of Vermont – "Rebuilding the International: Rosa Luxemburg and the Comintern";
  • John Riddell, "The Workers' Government: Fiction, Pseudonym or Transition";
  • Lars T. Lih, "From 'Party of an Old Type' to 'Party of a New Type'".

New voices and new views on revolutionary history

By John Riddell

May 28, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal/johnriddell.wordpress.com -- Some familiar issues were addressed with originality and new vigour at the Historical Materialism conference in Toronto on May 11–13. Attendance at the three sessions on revolutionary history, organised by Abigail Bakan (Queen’s University), ranged between 30 and 75 of the 400 conference participants.

Given that eight of 11 presentations had a European focus, the discussions were opened fittingly by Montreal scholar Daria Dyakonova with a paper on a little-studied aspect of revolutionary history here in Canada: the birth of communism in Quebec.

The pioneers of this movement faced objective obstacles, including severe repression and formidable opposition by the Catholic Church. In addition, Dyakonova explained, “after Lenin and especially after 1929”, the Canadian Communist Party’s “policies were determined from Moscow”. The line dictated by the leadership of the Communist International (Comintern) was “often at odds with national or local needs”.

Lars Lih: How Lenin's party became (Bolshevik)

By Lars T. Lih

May 17, 2012 -- Weekly Worker -- Did Lenin seek to exclude Mensheviks from Russia's revolutionary organisation in order to forge a "party of a new type"?

From 1898 on, there existed a political party called the Rossiiskaia sotsial-demokraticheskaia rabochaia partiia (RSDRP), or Russian Social Democratic Worker Party. Rossiiskaia means “Russian” in the sense of citizens of the Russian state, as opposed to russkaia, which refers to ethnic Russians. Of course, the party title made no reference to either of its two later factions, Mensheviks and Bolsheviks.

At its 7th Congress in March 1918, this party officially changed its name to Rossiiskaia kommunisticheskaia partiia (bol’shevikov) or RKP(B). The party now referred to itself as "Bolshevik", even if only in parentheses. The question arises: did the party ever have an intermediate title such as RSDRP(B) -- for example, during the period from April 1917 to March 1918?

No. The label "RSDRP(B)" was occasionally used informally in 1917 (for reasons to be discussed later), along with other improvised labels. Nevertheless, a party with the name "RSDRP(B)" never existed.

Paul Le Blanc responds to Lars Lih: Bolshevism and party building – convergence and questions


[Click HERE to follow the entire debate on Lenin.]

By Paul Le Blanc

May 5, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Revolutionary upheavals are made possible by the coming together of a number of diverse factors, one of which is the organisation, accumulation of experience and proliferating influence of conscious revolutionaries.

“Did the Bolshevik Party become the leading party of the Russian proletariat, and hence the Russian nation, by chance?”, asked Italian revolutionary Antonio Gramsci in 1924. A brilliant and knowledgeable analyst, he answered his own question: “The selection process lasted thirty years; it was extremely arduous; it often assumed what appeared to be the strangest and most absurd forms.” He added that the process involved “struggles of factions and small groups; ... it meant splits and fusions ...” (Gramsci, Selections from Political Writings 1921-1926: 210).

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