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Black liberation and the Communist International

Claude McKay.

By John Riddell

September 11, 2011 -- This article also appears at http://johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with John Riddell's permission -- The influence of the Communist International was decisive in the early 1920s in winning a generation of black revolutionaries to Marxism. On this the historians agree. But what did this influence consist of, and how was it exerted?

Lucy Parsons: 'More dangerous than a thousand rioters'

Lucy Parsons, 1930: "I have seen many movements come and go. I belonged to all of those movements. I was a delegate that organized the Industrial Workers of the World. I carried a card in the old Socialist Party. And now I am today connected with the Communists."

By Keith Rosenthal

Evolution not 'reinvention': Manning Marable's Malcolm X

Malcolm’s political evolution was influenced by his own experiences and his discussions with Fidel Castro and Che ..., with Nasser in Egypt and Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, as well as with discussions with North American ex-patriates in Africa. 

By Malik Miah

Movie: Ken Loach's 'Land and Freedom' (104 minutes)


British director Ken Loach's drama about the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39.

Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin: 'Agent Orange in Vietnam was a crime against humanity'

Appeal of the Second International Conference of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin

Hanoi, Socialist Republic of Vietnam

August 9, 2011 -- The Second International Conference of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin, held in Hanoi from August 8 to 9, 2011, included participants from around the world: Agent Orange victims, victims of other toxic chemicals, scientists, lawyers and social activists. The conference is a significant and important historic event, marking the 50th anniversary of the first spraying of the toxic chemical Agent Orange (1961-1971) by the US forces in Vietnam and Indochina.

The delegates to the conference agree that:

During the Vietnam War, from 1961 to 1971, US forces through Operation Ranch Hand sprayed nearly 80 million litrrs of herbicides over South Vietnam, of which 61% was Agent Orange containing at least 366kg of dioxin, the most toxic substance known to science.

The Comintern’s unknown decision on workers’ governments

"Workers of the World, Unite!", by Gustavs Klucis. Produced for the 1922 Fourth Congress of the Communist International.

By John Riddell

August 14, 2011 -- Also available at johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with John Riddell's permission -- English-language discussion of the Communist International’s 1922 call for workers’ governments has been based on a preliminary draft that was significantly altered before its adoption. Below, probably for the first time in English, is the amended text that the 1922 congress actually adopted.

The call for a workers’ government emerged from German workers’ struggles in 1920 as a way of posing the need for workers’ power in a context where no alternative structure of revolutionary councils, or soviets, yet existed.

When a right-wing coup in March 1920 was countered by an insurrectionary general strike of German workers, the head of the Social Democratic unions, Carl Legien, proposed to resolve the crisis through creation of a government of workers’ parties and trade unions.

Baltic far right attempts to rewrite history

Estonian Nazis parade on July 30, 2011.

By Rupen Savoulian

August 12, 2011 -- Antipodean Athiest, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- Early in August, a major World War II anniversary was marked in Europe; August 1 was the 67th anniversary of the heroic Warsaw uprising by the Polish underground resistance movement against Nazi German occupation forces. I raise this anniversary to highlight the importance of commemorating the courageous struggles by the peoples oppressed by the Nazi regime, and to underscore the importance of historical debate for comprehending the tremendous social forces that have shaped the world today.

My point is not to just go over old historical ground, but to highlight a growing problem; Baltic ultranationalism which has mutated to outright neo-fascism.

On the meaning of ‘popular front’

The Bolivarian movement led by Hugo Chávez contains bourgeois forces and has been the scene of repeated struggles between popular and bureaucratic wings. But far from subordinating workers to bourgeois leadership, it has served as the instrument to mobilise the masses in struggles that have won significant gains.

By John Riddell

August 8, 2011 -- also availabe at johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links international Journal of Socialist Renewal with John Riddell's permission -- In a comment posted July 16 to my article “Honduras Accord: A Gain for Ottawa?” Todd Gordon warns against the danger of “popular-front style organization” and a “popular front electoralist strategy” (see his comment below this article). Socialists often use the term “popular front” or “people’s front” as a form of condemnation. But what exactly does the term mean, and how does apply it to poor, oppressed countries like Honduras?

Photo essay: People Apart: Cape Town Survey 1952; Photographs by Bryan Heseltine

People Apart: Cape Town Survey 1952. Photographs by Bryan Heseltine from Pitt Rivers Museum archive films on Vimeo.

By Pitt Rivers Museum

July 19, 2011 -- BBC audio slideshow about the exhibition with commentary by exhibition curator Darren Newbury

Cape Town in the early 1950s was a city in the midst of profound transformation. Added to the social challenges of rapid urbanisation were South Africa’s unique set of political tensions and conflicts. The Nationalist Party, elected in 1948, was just beginning to implement its policy of apartheid, which extended existing segregation with the ultimate aim of a society based on total racial separation.

Nationality’s role in social liberation: the Soviet legacy

Painting slogans for the Congress of the Peoples of the East, September 1920, Baku. Photo from IISG.

By John Riddell

July 21, 2011 -- http://johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- Just under a century ago, the newly founded Soviet republic embarked on the world’s first concerted attempt to unite diverse nations in a federation that acknowledged the right to self-determination and encouraged the development of national culture, consciousness and governmental structures. Previous major national-democratic revolutions – in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the United States – had been made in the name of a hegemonic nation and had assimilated, marginalised or crushed rival nationalities. The early Soviet regime, by contrast, sought to encourage, rather than deny, internal national distinctiveness.

Aotearoa/New Zealand: 'Patu!' -- 30th anniversary of the 1981 mass protests against the Springbok tour

July 17, 2011 -- Information taken from from Film Archive (NZ) and Wikipedia; video from NZonScreen -- From July to September 1981, South Africa's all-white national rugby team, the Springboks, toured New Zealand. South Africa was still under apartheid rule at that time, and a Commonwealth ban on all sporting contact, known as the Gleneagles Agreement, had been in place since July 1977. The ban was won by an international mass solidarity movement calling for the boycott of South Africa's racist system.

The New Zealand Rugby Football Union, however, was determined to proceed with the long-planned tour, and New Zealand’s right-wing National Party government (led by Prime Minister Robert "Piggy" Muldoon), whose constituency was largely pro-tour, was not going to stop them.

Audio: Who was Rosa Luxemburg?

July 15, 2011 -- Rosa Luxemburg was a revolutionary icon, a pathbreaking Marxist theorist and, according to the editors of Verso's new volume of her correspondence, a "fanatical" letter writer. Essayist, memoirist and critic Vivian Gornick, author of The Men in My Life and Fierce Attachments, who also reviewed the new voluime for the US Nation, and Paul Le Blanc, professor of history at La Roche University and editor of Rosa Luxemburg: Reflections and Writings discuss -- and debate -- what Luxemburg's letters can tell us about women and communism at the dawn of the Soviet era.

The discussion is hosted by Marissa Brostoff from the Beyond the Pale radio program. It was broadcast on June 12, 2011.

Scott McLemee: Re-assassination of Trotsky

[For more articles on Trotsky at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, click HERE.]

By Scott McLemee

July 8, 2011 -- Inside Higher Ed, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- Every so often, one scholar will assess another’s book so harshly that it becomes legendary. The most durable example must be A.E. Housman, whose anti-blurbs retain their sting after a century and more. Housman is best-known for the verse in his collection A Shropeshire Lad (1896). But classicists still remember his often pointed reviews of other philologists’ editions of ancient poetry, and can sometimes quote snippets from memory.

“When I first open an edition of Persius,” he writes in one of them, “I turn to VI 51 to see if the editor knows what part of speech adeo is. I regret to say that Mr. Summers thinks it is a verb.” Or consider the following line, which kills two dons with one stone: “I imagine that Mr. Buechler, when he first perused Mr. Sidhaus’s edition of the Aetna, must have felt something like Sin when she gave birth to Death.”

Paul Le Blanc: Marxism and organisation

By Paul Le Blanc

This presentation was given at the Chicago educational conference of the US International Socialist Organization, Socialism 2011, on the July 2-3, 2011, weekend. The text first appeared at Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières.

* * *

It is always worth examining the question of Marxism and organisation because, if we would like to be organised Marxists who effectively struggle for socialism, we have a responsibility to know what we are about -- and such knowledge is deepened by ongoing examination. There are scholarly reasons for going over such ground, but for activists the primary purpose is to improve our ability to help change the world. There are three basic ideas to be elaborated on here: 1) there must be a coming together of socialism and the working class if either is to have a positive future; 2) those of us who think like that need to work together hard and effectively -- which means we need to be part of a serious organisation; and 3) socialist organisations must be a democratic/disciplined force in actual workers’ struggles -- that is the path to socialism. In what follows I will elaborate on this.

‘One on One’ with Tariq Ali


June 20, 2011 -- Tariq Ali talks to Riz Khan on Al Jazeera's  One on One program about growing up in Pakistan, his student days at Oxford University, the anti-war movement, the US empire and paths of the international left.

Review: `The Muslim revolt: A journey through political Islam'

By Rupen Savoulian

June 25, 2011 -- http://rupensavoulian.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Since the September 11, 2001, twin tower attacks, there has been renewed interest in the questions of Islam, political Islamism and jihadism. Books have been published by the truckload, seminars bringing together various political scientists and experts have been held, reams of paper analysing the origins and trajectory of political Islam have been published, and the airwaves resonate with talkback from pundits about the impact of Islam and Islamism in the world. How can one make sense of all this? Where does one begin?

Excerpts from 'Environment, Capitalism and Socialism': Sources of modern environmentalism; Currents in ecological thought

The following are excerpts from Environment, Capitalism and Socialism, drafted for the  Democratic Socialist Party of Australia by Dick Nichols,and  published by Resistance Books in 1999. The book can be purchased from Resistance Books' website. The extensive footnotes are only available in the hard copy. (The DSP merged with the Socialist Alliance in January 2010.) Despite its age and inevitable flaws, this book was ahead of its time in many respects and was among the first serious attempts by a revolutionary party to apply a Marxist analysis to the environment question. It remains an essential document for socialists and ecologists alike.
* * *

The Communist Women’s International (1921-26)

"Emancipated woman -- build up socialism." Poster by Strakhov-Braslavskij A. I., 1926.

By John Riddell

June 12, 2011 -- The following working paper was presented to the Toronto conference of Historical Materialism on May 16, 2010. It first appeared on John Riddell's blog and is posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission.

* * *

When we celebrate International Women’s Day, we often refer to its origins in US labour struggles early last century. Less often mentioned, however, how it was relaunched and popularised in the 1920s by the Communist Women’s International. Moreover, this movement itself has been almost forgotten, as have most of its central leaders.

The Communist Women’s International was founded by a world gathering of communist women in 1921, which elected a leadership, the International Women’s Secretariat, reporting to the executive of the Communist International, or Comintern. It also initiated the formation of women’s commissions in national parties, which coordinated work by women’s bodies on a branch level, and called periodic international conferences of Communist women.

Free Tibet!

By Norm Dixon

September 25, 1996 -- Green Left Weekly -- The visit of Tibet's exiled ruler Tenzin Gyatso, better known as the 14th Dalai Lama, has focused attention on the Chinese government's continued denial of the Tibetan people's right to national self-determination, the absence of democratic rights and the widespread repression of dissent.

Tibetans are entitled to claim their right to national self-determination. They have a common language, territory and culture. A distinct, continuous Tibetan history can be traced back 2500 years. Whatever the arguments about the independence or otherwise of Tibet during this long period, when China's last dynasty was overthrown in 1911, all Chinese officials were expelled and the 13th Dalai Lama issued a proclamation that many Tibetans consider a declaration of independence.

While no country formally recognised this independence, Tibetan officials conducted all governmental functions without reference to, or interference from, Beijing. Lhasa conducted government-to-government relations with many countries, signing trade pacts and other deals. Until 1950, Tibet operated as a de facto independent state.

A history of oppression: the Tamils of Sri Lanka

By Danielle Sabai

June 2, 2011 -- Asia Left Observer, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- In February 2011, the president of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, celebrated the 63rd anniversary of the island’s independence. In his speech, he stressed the necessity of “protecting the reconstructed nation”, as well as protecting “one of the oldest democracies in Asia”, its unity and its unitary character.

This speech came nearly two years after the end of the war on May 19, 2009, between the Sri Lankan state and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The military command of the LTTE was decimated in the last two months of a merciless war that has had led to tens of thousands of deaths since the early 1980s.

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