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Lenin

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Paul Le Blanc: The birth of the Bolshevik party in 1912

Portrait of Lenin by Isaac Israelovich Brodskii, 1924.

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

By Paul Le Blanc

April 17, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- How odd it would be, one century after the fact, to hear the following over the air waves: NEWS FLASH! THE BOLSHEVIKS BECAME A POLITICAL PARTY IN 1912! In fact, it was the opposite “news” that flashed across a little corner of the internet’s far-left end. A young activist in the US socialist movement, Pham Binh, making positive reference to the outstanding contributions of historian Lars Lih in challenging myths regarding Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s revolutionary organisational perspectives, advanced his own challenging re-interpretation of Lenin’s thought and practice, claiming to have exploded “the myth that the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks separated into two parties in 1912.”[1]

Complexities of constructing the socialist alternative

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

By Steve Ellner

April 2012 – Science & Society, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by the author -- Michael Lebowitz has drawn on the diverse experiences that led to the failure of socialism in the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and elsewhere, and those in Venezuela where he has resided for nearly a decade, to bolster his thesis on the need to place the transformation of values at the centre of socialist construction.

Paul Le Blanc: 1912 and 2012

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

By Paul Le Blanc

April 5, 2012 -- Weekly Worker, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- I would like to respond to two problematical contentions advanced by Pham Binh in his article ‘Wanting to get Lenin wrong’ (Weekly Worker, March 29, 2012). One of these contentions is about my motivation for disagreeing with his interpretation of Lenin’s thought, and the other has to do with a historical question -- when the Bolsheviks became a separate party. This is part of an extended debate having to do with history and politics (Lenin and the Bolsheviks; tasks facing socialists today). My own contributions touching on these questions can be found at http://links.org.au/taxonomy/term/579.

Doug Lorimer's introduction to 'Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism'

Introduction by Doug Lorimer

I. Lenin's aims in writing this work

The term "imperialism" came into common usage in England in the 1890s as a development of the older term "empire" by the advocates of a major effort to extend the British Empire in opposition to the policy of concentrating on national economic development, the supporters of which the advocates of imperialism dismissed as "Little Englanders". The term was rapidly taken into other languages to describe the contest between rival European states to secure colonies and spheres of influence in Africa and Asia, a contest that dominated international politics from the mid-1880s to 1914, and caused this period to be named the "age of imperialism".

The first systematic critique of imperialism was made by the English bourgeois social-reformist economist John Atkinson Hobson (1858-1940) in his 1902 book Imperialism: A Study, which, as Lenin observes at the beginning of his own book on the subject, "gives a very good and comprehensive description of the principal specific economic and political features of imperialism" (see below, p. 33).

Lenin had long been familiar with Hobson's book. Indeed, in a letter written from Geneva to his mother in St. Petersburg on August 29, 1904, Lenin stated that he had just "received Hobson's book on imperialism and have begun translating it" into Russian.(1)

Paul Le Blanc: Why Occupy activists should read the greats of revolutionary socialism

[Read more from Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal on Lenin, Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg.]

The New Left Project's Ed Lewis interviews Paul Le Blanc

March 6, 2012 -- Paul Le Blanc is professor of history and political science at La Roche College, Pittsburgh. He is the author of a number of books on revolutionary and radical politics, most recently Marx, Lenin and the Revolutionary Experience and Work and Struggle: Voices from U.S. Labor Radicalism. He spoke to Ed Lewis about the Get Political campaign, which aims to bring radical activists of today into critical engagement with the ideas of Lenin, Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg.

Ed Lewis: What is the "Get Political" initiative?

Lenin: 'democratic, socialist and revolutionary'

March 1, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Fifty key figures on the left including Ian Angus, John Riddell, Patrick Bond, Paul Le Blanc, China Miéville, Ken Loach, Lindsey German, Alex Callinicos, Suzi Weissman, Michael Yates and Immanuel Ness have backed Pluto Press' Get Political! campaign urging activists fighting for the 99% to draw inspiration from the lives and writings of the giants of 20th century political change, including VI Lenin.

Below is Bryan Palmer's review of the new collection of Lenin's writings, edited by Paul Le Blanc. It is posted with Palmer's permission. For full details on the Get Political! campaign, go to www.getpoliticalnow.com.

* * *

Lenin: Revolution, Democracy, Socialism
By Paul Le Blanc,
London: Pluto Press, 2008

Reviewed by Bryan D. Palmer

Get political! Occupy activists urged to engage with writings of Trotsky, Lenin and Luxemburg

[Read more from Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal on Lenin, Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg.]

February 23, 2012 -- Fifty key figures on the left including Ian Angus, John Riddell, Patrick Bond, Paul Le Blanc, China Miéville, Ken Loach, Lindsey German, Alex Callinicos, Suzi Weissman, Michael Yates and Immanuel Ness have backed a Pluto Press campaign urging activists fighting for the 99% to draw inspiration from the lives and writings of three giants of 20th century political change: Leon Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg and VI Lenin.

The "Get Political" campaign statement (see below; also at www.getpoliticalnow.com) contends that "it will not be a simple thing to win the battle of democracy ... Luxemburg, Trotsky and Lenin were among the most perceptive and compelling revolutionaries of the 20th century. The body of analysis, strategy and tactics to which they contributed was inseparable from the mass struggles of their time. Critically engaging with their ideas can enrich the thinking and practical activity of those involved in today’s and tomorrow’s struggles for a better world."

The Lenin wars: Over a Cliff with Lars Lih

Nadezhda Krupskaya and Lenin with journalist Lincoln Eure in the Kremlin, February 1920.

[Click HERE to follow the entire debate on Tony Cliff's Lenin.]

By Paul Le Blanc

February 19, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- There has been a competing set of political agendas underlying the recently initiated historical debate over how to understand Lenin and the Bolsheviks. From the standpoint of revolutionary socialism, this aspect of the debate is hardly cause for dismay. As activists we are appropriately attempting to get a handle on “what is to be done”. This does not absolve us of the responsibility to get the history right. But for Marxists the point is not simply to understand history, but also make use of such understanding to help change the world.

Lars Lih: Falling out over a Cliff

Click HERE to follow the entire debate on Tony Cliff's Lenin. For more discussion on revolutionary organisation, click HERE.More articles by Lars Lih are available at http://links.org.au/taxonomy/term/500.

* * *

Remarks on the 1905 Congress and the 1912 conference of the Russian Social Democratic Worker Party (RSDWP)

By Lars T. Lih

The collapse of 'communism' in the USSR: Its causes and significance

By Doug Lorimer

Doug Lorimer is a member of the National Executive of the DSP. This article is based on a report adopted by the 14th National Conference of the DSP, held in Sydney, January 2-6, 1992.

©Resistance Books 1997; first published 1992, second (revised) edition 1997

Contents

Stalinism in the Soviet Union

Paul D’Amato: The mangling of Tony Cliff

Boris Kustodiev's 1920 painting "Bolshevik".

[Click HERE to follow the debate on Tony Cliff's Lenin. For more discussion on Lenin, click HERE. For more discussion on revolutionary organisation, click HERE.]

By Paul D’Amato

February 4, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Pham Binh’s criticism of the late British Marxist Tony Cliff’s Lenin: Building the Party (“Mangling the Party”), published in the Australian journal Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, is substantially wrong on many points; but its chief defect is that it is a hatchet job.

Un debate de actualidad: Gobierno de trabajadores y transición al socialismo

Por John Riddell

Fecha de publicación: 01/02/12  -- America XXI -- El concepto de gobierno de los trabajadores es el hijo torpe de la joven Internacional Comunista.  La idea que expresa es fundamental para el marxismo: los trabajadores deben luchar para tomar el poder político. Sin embargo, en los comienzos de la Comintern, se unió a una perspectiva entonces discutible para los marxistas: que los trabajadores pudieran formar un gobierno que funcione inicialmente en un Estado capitalista aún existente.

Como comenta el marxista francés Daniel Bensaid, “la fórmula algebraica del ‘gobierno de los trabajadores’ ha dado lugar a lo largo del tiempo a las interpretaciones más diversas, y a menudo contradictorias” [1].

Veamos qué luz puede arrojar sobre esta cuestión el registro del Congreso Mundial de la Comintern de 1922, publicado recientemente en inglés [2]. Esta fue la reunión que celebró la discusión más extensa de la Comintern acerca de la cuestión del gobierno de los trabajadores, y que adoptó su posición inicial.

Five points in response to Pham Binh

By Paul Le Blanc

"The creation of healthy, democratic and cohesive revolutionary organisations on the Leninist model is both possible and necessary, in my opinion."

February 1, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- I am sorry that Pham Binh has chosen to respond in the way that he has to my criticism of his article ("Mangling the party: Tony Cliff's Lenin"). I will make only a few comments here to help clear up misunderstandings.

1. My critical comment about Pham’s article not providing us with anything useful for those engaged in today’s struggles was not a judgment about him as a person or about all things that he may have written about the Occupy movement or anything else. A substantial review article having to do with building the revolutionary party, however, should contain (in my opinion) something of value for those of us who are committed to such things.

Paul Le Blanc’s defence of Tony Cliff’s ‘Building the Party’ – Pham Binh replies

By Pham Binh

[Read Paul le Blanc's response HERE.]

January 31, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- When I discovered that Paul Le Blanc had responded to my review of Tony Cliff’s Building the Party I was hoping for the scholarly and thorough approach he used in writing his book Lenin and the Revolutionary Party. What I found was quite the opposite.

Le Blanc begins his response by claiming that my book review’s “obvious purpose is to persuade the reader that Tony Cliff’s book is little more than a mass of ‘egregious misrepresentations’ and ‘has so many gross factual and political errors that it is useless as a historical study of Lenin’s actions and thoughts.’ This is a demolition job. It doesn’t offer much that we can use and build on as we face the challenges of today and tomorrow.”

I drew my conclusions about Cliff’s book only after I closely studied what Lenin said and did and compared it to what Cliff claimed Lenin said and did. The more I studied, the more striking the divergences became.

Revolutionary method in the study of Lenin – A response to Pham Binh

[For more discussion about Lenin, click HERE.]

By Paul Le Blanc

[Read Pham Binh's reply HERE.]

January 31, 2012 – Submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Amid a continuing crisis of capitalism, the renaissance of Lenin studies – what I once referred to as “Lenin’s return” – continues. Aspects of this find reflection in new books, new articles, symposiums and debates as we attempt to clarify the actuality of Lenin’s thought and example, and (for some of us) their relevance for the situations we face.

Lenin and the Bolshevik Party: A reply to Tony Cliff and the International Socialists (1996)

By Bruce Landau

Introduction

Published in 2002 by Resistance Books, first published 1996 -- There is no more pressing task for revolutionary Marxists today than the construction of a party capable of leading the proletariat's struggle against world capitalism. But as the record of the past decades has shown, building such a party requires more than good intentions. It requires a scientific understanding of the relationship between the proletariat and its class-conscious vanguard. No one understood that relationship better than Vladimir Ilyich Lenin; he proved that by building the strongest, most flexible, and most successful workers' party in history -- the Bolshevik Party.

Mangling the party: Tony Cliff’s Lenin

[For more discussion on how socialists organise, click HERE.]

By Pham Binh

January 24, 2012 – Submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Tony Cliff's Lenin: Building the Party published in 1975 was the first book-length political biography of Lenin written by a Marxist. As a result, it shaped the approach of subsequent investigations by academics like Lars T. Lih as well as the thinking of thousands of socialists in groups like the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP, founded by Cliff), the US International Socialist Organization and Paul Le Blanc, author of Lenin and the Revolutionary Party and former member of the US SWP (no relation to Cliff's group).

Cliff begins his biography by debunking the USSR’s official state religion of Lenin-worship that “endowed [Lenin] with superhuman attributes”. Yet throughout the book Cliff refers to these “superhuman attributes”:

Lenin adapted himself perfectly to the needs of industrial agitation.

Workers’ governments and socialist strategy — a discussion

"The FSLN government in Nicaragua immediately after the fall of the Somoza dictatorship may qualify as a workers' government" -- David Camfield.

January 17, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- A discussion is taking place at John Riddell's website on the demand for a workers' government and issues raised in the article by Riddell, "A ‘workers’ government’ as a step toward socialism". Below are article-length responses from David Camfield and Nathan Rao, a comment by Tim K, and a response by John Riddell.

Workers’ governments and the crisis of politics

By David Camfield, an editor of New Socialist Webzine

January 10, 2012 -- John Riddell is right that, “The Comintern’s decisions on governmental policy were rooted in a political environment that no longer exists.”

'Leaps Leaps Leaps': Lenin and politics

By Daniel Bensaid

From “International Socialism” n° 95, July 2002 -- Hannah Arendt was worried that politics might disappear completely from the world. The century had seen such disasters that the question of whether ‘politics still has any meaning at all’ had become unavoidable”. The issues at stake in these fears were eminently practical: ‘The lack of meaning in which the whole of politics has ended up is confirmed by the dead end into which specific political questions are flocking.’ (1)

For her, totalitarianism was the form taken by this disappearance which she feared. Today we are confronted with a different form of the danger: totalitarianism, the human face of market tyranny. Here politics finds itself crushed between the order of the financial markets - which is made to seem natural - and the moralising prescriptions of ventriloquist capitalism. The end of politics and the end of history then coincide in the infernal repetition of the eternity of the commodity, in which echo the toneless voices of Fukuyama and Furet: ‘The idea of another society has become almost impossible to conceive of, and no one in the world today is offering any advice on the subject. Here we are, condemned to live in the world as it is.’ (2) This is worse than melancholy, it is despair, as Blanqui might have said, this eternity of mankind through the Dow Jones and the FT 100.

Road maps, dead ends and the search for fresh ground -- How can we build the socialist movement in the 21st century?

[For more discussion on how socialists organise, click HERE.]

By Dan DiMaggio

December 2010 -- Cultural Logic, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with Dan DiMaggio's permission -- For the past seven-plus years I have devoted much of my life to effort to build a socialist movement in the United States. As a member of one of the many tiny socialist groups on the US left, I have organised dozens of anti-war, labour solidarity, immigrant rights and other rallies and campaigns. I have toured the country to speak at college campuses about socialism. I have set up numerous study groups and conferences and written and edited hundreds of articles for socialist publications. Most people might say, “Dan, you’re crazy if you think that socialism can be achieved in a country like the United States!” But despite the challenges, I hope to continue doing this for the next 50 or so years.

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