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Rosa Luxemburg

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”.

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?

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."

Communist history debated at ‘Historical Materialism’ London conference

By John Riddell

November 25, 2011 -- http://johnriddell.wordpress.com --The eighth annual conference of Historical Materialism, sponsored by the journal of the same name, held in London November 10–13 , 2011, featured a coordinated stream of papers on the history of the world Marxist movement during the era of the Communist International (Comintern) (1919-43). The 38 presentations in this stream reflected vigorous activity in this field, while also pointing up some research challenges for historians of the workers’ movement.

The conference as a whole marked an important expansion of this event, with some 750 registered participants and more than 400 presentations.

Centre and periphery

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.

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.

Comparing 1911 and 2011: What's relevant for socialists today?

The German gunboat, Panther, tried to halt French claims to Morocco in 1911.

By Dimitris Fasfalis

June 4, 2011 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- History, of course, never repeats itself. Yet there are lessons to be learned from past experiences, especially when similar patterns affect similar historical actors in different epochs and settings. This seems to be the case for revolutionary socialists when we compare 2011 and 1911. Despite their differences, these are times when imperialist war threatens while a revolutionary-democratic upsurge sweeps vast areas that were thought of as stable, if not stagnant. Hence the question: what’s relevant for us on the left today in our socialist predecessors’ experience in 1911?

Threat of imperialist war

First, the early 20th century socialists developed an understanding of the contradictory dynamics of capitalist globalisation and imperialist rivalries.

Is the economic crisis over?

Introduction by Mike Treen

May 2, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Below is the latest entry from the Critique of Crisis Theory blog by Sam Williams [posted here with Williams' permission]. In it he analyses the current stage of the industrial cycle and asks, “Is the economic crisis over?”.

I hope that reading this post will encourage people to look more closely at the entire series on Critique of Crisis Theory, which has taken the form of a developing book on crisis theory.

The first chapter explains the biggest challenge the author faced — the fact that Marx did not leave a completed crisis theory. It was certainly the plan when Marx began Capital, but in the end only one volume was completed before his death and volumes two and three only took partial steps to a completed theory.

The German Communist Party and the crisis of 1923

Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebnecht, murdered by the Social Democrat government.

By Graham Milner

The German Communist Party (KPD) was founded in the very heat of revolutionary struggle. One of the party's major problems from the beginning was that it was formed as a separate organisation too late to influence significantly the course of the German Revolution of 1918-19. If there had been in existence at this time a mass revolutionary party along the lines of Lenin's Bolshevik party, then there could well have been a radical reconstruction of German society into a republic of workers' councils. Instead of such an outcome, the stunted bourgeois-democratic regime of Weimar came into being, in which most of the existing state machine, including the army, judiciary and civil service, was preserved intact.[1]

Alex Callinicos on imperialism, two reviews

Review by Barry Healy

Imperialism and Global Political Economy
By Alex Callinicos
Polity, 2009
227 pages

October 2, 2010 -- The topic of “imperialism” greatly occupied the minds of late-19th and early-20th century socialists. Some of the tradition’s greatest minds toiled mightily to discern the fundamental changes in capitalism that were occurring before their eyes.

Capitalism, as analysed by Karl Marx, had grown fat in its European heartland through the ruthless exploitation of colonies and the brutal factory system in its coal dark cities. But suddenly new phenomena started to appear in the late 1800s.

Banking capital moved from being a support for industrial capital, first merging into and then dominating manufacturing. This agglomeration of money power created massive industrial complexes, like Germany’s famous Krupps steelworks.

The colossal scale of these industrial works dwarfed human beings.

Clara Zetkin’s struggle for the united front

Clara Zetkin (left) with Rosa Luxemburg.

* * *

Listen to John Riddell present a workshop on Clara Zetkin at the US International Socialist Organization's Socialism 2009 conference in Chicago:

Rosa Luxemburg and Marxist politics

Graphic by Julia Casimira.

By Graham Milner

Rosa Luxemburg (1870-1919) is one of the greatest figures ever produced by the international socialist movement. Her contribution, as theorist and activist, deserves to be recognised and celebrated by the newer generations of socialist activists who have become involved in the movement in recent decades. Those of us who have been involved in the socialist left for rather longer may also benefit from a critical review of the achievements of this great woman.

Interest in Rosa Luxemburg among historians, political scientists and activists alike has increased considerably since the radicalisation of the 1960s and early 1970s brought with it a re-evaluation of the long-buried revolutionary tradition in the world socialist movement.[1] The questioning of the reformist and Stalinist orthodoxies dominant on the left in the 1950s and 1960s, which accompanied this radicalisation process, made essential a reassessment of those socialist theorists and activists who fitted into neither of these categories.

If socialism fails: the spectre of 21st century barbarism

By Ian Angus

July 27, 2008 -- From the first day it appeared online, Climate and Capitalism’s masthead has carried the slogan “Ecosocialism or Barbarism: there is no third way.” We’ve been quite clear that ecosocialism is not a new theory or brand of socialism — it is socialism with Marx’s important insights on ecology restored, socialism committed to the fight against ecological destruction. But why do we say that the alternative to ecosocialism is barbarism?

Marxists have used the word “barbarism” in various ways, but most often to describe actions or social conditions that are grossly inhumane, brutal, and violent. It is not a word we use lightly, because it implies not just bad behaviour but violations of the most important norms of human solidarity and civilised life. [1]

The slogan “Socialism or Barbarism” originated with the great German revolutionary socialist leader Rosa Luxemburg, who repeatedly raised it during World War I. It was a profound concept, one that has become ever more relevant as the years have passed.

15 years since the murder of Chris Hani

On April 10, 1993, South African Communist Party (SACP) leader Chris Hani was asassinated by right-wing extremists hoping to derail South Africa's transtion to democratic rule. On the 15th anniversary of his death, Links reproduces a speech by socialist and African National Congress (ANC) veteran Pallo Jordan delivered to mark the 10th anniversary of the assassination.

***

By Dr Pallo Jordan

Allow me first to thank the leadership of the SACP and the central executive committee of Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) for inviting me to deliver this inaugural Chris Hani Memorial Lecture. I consider it a great honour to have been chosen for this task because Comrade Chris was a close and very dear friend of mine.

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