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John Riddell on Zimmerwald, 1915: New socialist resistance against war

Site of Zimmerwald Conference

Site of Zimmerwald conference

Click for more by or about John Riddell.

By John Riddell

August 21, 2015 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- The Zimmerwald conference, a small gathering held in Switzerland 100 years ago, on September 5-8, 1915, marked a turning point in the world socialist movement. Socialists from many countries issued an appeal that united anti-war socialists during World War I and helped prepare the revolutions with which it concluded. To mark the Zimmerwald centenary I am presenting links to three major documents of the conference in new translations, together with my short introduction.

Documents of the Zimmerwald conference

Triumph, disarray, defeat – German workers 1918-1933

Berlin November 1918: Workers and sailors join in revolutionary uprising.

Berlin November 1918: Workers and sailors join in revolutionary uprising.

The German Left and the Weimar Republic
By Ben Fowkes
Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2015
399 pages, US$28.

Click for more on the Communist Party of Germany; click for more by or about John Riddell

Review by John Riddell

Britain: Why Jeremy Corbyn's Labour leadership bid panics the right

Jeremy Corbyn joins Pride in London, alongside some of the activists backing his campaign. Photo: Steve Eason.

The surprising support for Jeremy Corbyn in the race for the leadership of the British Labour Party has electrified the left and is terrifiying the right. Below a number of articles from the British left explain why.

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Left Unity Newsletter, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal on July 28, 2015-- The movement in support of Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader has set politics alight – and got the media in a panic. Corbyn’s candidacy is demonstrating the mass support that exists in society for the policies he stands for, and Left Unity has also supported since its foundation: an end to austerity and war, a different society based on peace and equality.

This unexpected movement is an expression of the same sentiment that is seeing a new left rise across Europe – with the difference in expression perhaps down to Britain’s archaic electoral system.

Left Unity wishes the campaign all the best. This is an opportunity for the Labour Party to become the party it was founded to be, defending and extending its great achievements of the welfare state – the party that millions want.

Social democracy's past and present dissected

A Short History of Social Democracy: From Socialist Origins to Neoliberal Theocracy
By John Rainford
Resistance Books
184 pp.

Order your copy HERE

Review by Jim McIlroy

April 27, 2015 -- Green Left Weekly, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The rise and then fall of social democracy as a movement for fundamental social change is a modern tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. It is one of the epic stories of the 19th and 20th centuries.

This new book by Socialist Alliance member and unionist John Rainford charts the history of the doctrine from the birth of socialist thought in the 19th century. It focuses on the development of social democracy, which essentially became a project for “reforming” capitalism, expressed in parties such as the Australian Labor Party (ALP).

It examines the political forces opposed to social democracy on its left and right, its victories and its “golden years” after World War II. The book examines its surrender to “free market” neoliberalism before suggesting what might constitute “an anti-capitalist politics for the 21st century”.

Scotland: Labour’s love lost? Behind the Scottish Labour Party's collapse

Tony Benn discussing politics with Ralph Miliband (right) at the Socialist Society Conference, Chesterfield in 1988. Photograph: John Harris/reportdigital.co.uk.

By Andrew Perchard

April 16, 2015 -- History Workshop, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In the midst of last year’s Scottish independence referendum campaign, a friend and fellow historian of modern Britain, visiting from the north west of England, recounted his Damascene moment in grasping the national conversation in Scotland.

He had been visiting friends several weeks before and was taken to a bar one night in a former mining village in central Scotland. There he had been struck by the overwhelming number of those in the bar, whose politics he typically associated with the Labour Party, who openly declared they would be voting in favour of Scottish independence.

1915: When socialist women united against WWI

Clara Zetkin

Clara Zetkin.

100 years ago: The first international socialist conference against World War I

By John Riddell

March 28, 2015 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Eight months into World War I, socialist women united across the battle lines in adopting the first international socialist appeal to stop the war.

Their statement, translated below, ended, “Down with capitalism, which sacrifices untold millions to the wealth and power of the propertied! Down with the war! Forward to socialism!”

The 29 conference delegates came from Russia, Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, France and Britain. They met March 26-28, 1915, in the People’s House of Bern in neutral Switzerland.

Socialists and World War I: Turn the imperialist war into a civil war

Industrial Workers of the World poster against WWI.

By Doug Enaa Greene

February 2, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- It has been a hundred years since the outbreak of the First World War. The centennial of the “war to end all wars” has seen countless commemorations of the millions of heroic soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice for king and country.

Yet missing from all of the observances of the war are the deeper questions of its causes – to divide colonies among predatory ruling classes – and the heroism of those who opposed the mass slaughter. And for the left, that is how we should remember this 100th anniversary – but honoring those socialists and communists who fought against all the odds to end the slaughter.

How socialists of Lenin’s time responded to colonialism

Manabendra Nath Roy

Manabendra Nath Roy.

For more discussion on the Communist International, click HERE. Click for more by John Riddell.

By John Riddell

[This text was first presented at the Ideas Left Out conference on Elbow Lake, Ontario, August 2, 2014.]

December 14, 2014 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- As the 19th century neared its close, revolutionary socialists were hostile to the world’s imperial powers and to their colonial empires, which then encircled the globe. They foresaw the overthrow of colonialism as a by-product of socialist revolution in the industrialised capitalist countries.

They had little knowledge, however, of the anti-colonial freedom movements that began to emerge at that time. It was not until the Russian Revolution of 1917 that an alliance was forged between revolutionary socialism and the colonial freedom movement.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s 'The Era of the People': 'Citizens’ revolution' and ecosocialist vision


[The people] are supposed to exercise power through parliamentary assemblies. But the financial oligarchy which rule our present situation have taken upon themselves the right to veto their decisions. This is why the system doesn’t fear the left, which it has been able to control … But it has a clear-headed fear of the people. Since it is the people who directly and physically contend with them for power with a spontaneous program that is the negation of the established order. -- Jean-Luc Mélenchon

By Liam Flenady

Social democracy and neoliberalism: victim or vanguard?

By Damien Cahill, Sydney

December 4, 2014 -- Damien Cahill: Thoughts on Politics, Economy and Culture, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- Earlier this year Ed Miliband, leader of the British Labour Party, addressed a specially organised gathering of business leaders with the following words: “I would be a prime minister who champions the rights of the consumer and the rights of businesses to succeed and make profits in a competitive market at the same time.”

That such sentiments could be expressed by a Labour leader in the neoliberal era is unremarkable. Social-democratic parties have been falling over themselves during the last few decades to reassure capital that, not only have they jettisoned their socialist inheritance, they are also firmly on board with the neoliberal agenda.

For British Labour, Miliband is just the latest in a series of leaders that have driven the party to embrace neoliberalism.

When Karl Liebknecht said ‘no’ to World War I

Karl Liebknecht.

By John Riddell

December 2, 2014 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- During the first four months of the First World War, no statement from German socialists appeared denouncing the war. Government repression and the bonds of Social Democratic Party discipline prevented anti-war voices, such as those of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, from gaining a hearing.

This changed 100 years ago on December 2, 1914. Liebknecht took a bold stand against the slaughter as the first deputy to vote in the German parliament (Reichstag) against allocating funds for war spending. His protest resounded across Europe and gave new hope and energy to socialist antiwar currents.

Australia: How and why the Gough Whitlam government's far-reaching reforms were won

By Jim McIlroy

November 1, 2014 -- Green Left Weekly -- The passing of former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam at the age of 98 on October 21 provoked a wave of emotion from the community, both young and old. At a time when the federal government is trying to smash the remnants of the progressive reforms initiated during Whitlam's Australian Labor Party (ALP) government — in office from December 1972 to November 1975 — the Whitlam era seems like a period from another political universe.

A letter to the Sydney Morning Herald on October 23, 2014, summed up the mood: "The death of Gough Whitlam not only provided an opportunity for political midgets such as [present ALP federal leader] Bill Shorten and [Liberal Party-National Party coalition Prime Minister] Tony Abbott to become authorities on giants ... It also showed how these two agree on almost everything else. The contrast with the Whitlam era is complete.”

Communist resistance in Nazi Germany

Historian Doug Enaa Greene, as part of the Center for Marxist Education's Red History Lecture Series, speaks on "Communist Resistance in Nazi Germany".

For more by Doug Enaa Greene, click HERE.

By Doug Enaa Greene

October 29, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In 1943, a member of the Communist Party, sentenced to die for resistance activities as a member of the Red Orchestra, wrote these final words to his father:

Responding to capitalist global disaster: World War I and today

The following talk was delivered to the US International Socialist Organization's Socialism 2014 conference in Chicago, June 28, 2014. It has been edited for publication in International Socialist Review. See also John Riddell's article, “Capitalism’s First World War and the Battle Against It“, in Socialist Worker. Read more on World War I.

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By John Riddell

August 5, 2014 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- On August 5, 100 years ago, a Bosnian nationalist assassinated the crown prince of Austria-Hungary, setting in motion a chain of events that led a month later to the outbreak of the First World War.

The war shattered the world socialist movement and unleashed an overwhelming social catastrophe in Europe, killing 17 million soldiers and civilians. The resulting revolutionary struggles brought the war to an abrupt end in 1918, while toppling the continent’s three great empires and bringing workers and peasants to power in Russia. The war also contributed to a global rise of anti-colonial struggles.

What does this unique cataclysm mean for us today? It is useful to compare World War I with the dangers posed today by climate change and environmental collapse.

European elections: Hope in the gloom as left gains in Greece, Spain, Ireland

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras (centre). Syriza outpolled all other parties in Greece.
For more coverage of the 2014 European elections, click HERE.

[See a table containing all the results for the European left, Green and left nationalist parties at the end of the article.] 

By Dick Nichols

May 30, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal/Green Left Weekly, an earlier version of this article appeared at Green Left Weekly -- The result of the May 25 European parliamentary poll was dominated by the victories of the xenophobic and racist National Front (FN) in France (26%, 24 MEPs, Members of the European Parliament) and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in Britain (26.8%, 24 MEPs). It has set off a wave of mainstream media angst across the old continent.

Sweden: How the welfare state was stolen

[For more on Sweden, click HERE.]

By Adam Bott

April 2014 -- Red Pepper, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- For a hundred years, ABF-Huset on Sveavägen has been the headquarters of the workers’ education movement, a pillar of Sweden’s "study-circle social democracy". Every day and all evening the classrooms and lecture halls are filled with adult education classes, theatre and music performances, as well as political discussions.

Tonight’s public meeting is standing room only. The mood is cheerful, earnest, disciplined and, dare I say it, rather churchly. Fittingly, we begin with songs: first a hymn tune with the refrain "Everything is for sale", then a jazzier number that goes "Got any money? (Then you can buy a place in the queue)". Next there’s a short dystopian pantomime set in a hospital waiting room: the man with the private plan goes straight upstairs while the lady on the public option has to wait in line. The sheepish uninsured fellow with the broken leg is shown a price list, then the door.

Tony Benn (1925-2014): A great communicator of the socialist cause

By Phil Hearse

March 15, 2014 -- Socialist Resistance, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- It is a bitter irony that Tony Benn has died in the very same week as Bob Crow, two giants of the labour movement who will be cruelly missed.

Numerous instant obituaries and comments have concentrated on Benn’s determination, his speaking and writing talents, his humour and his personal kindness. Of course. But in celebrating his life the important thing for the left, especially the younger generation, is to make an assessment of Benn and Bennism as a political phenomenon, why it constituted such a threat to the existing powers that be (including in the trade unions and Labour Party) and why such an array of forces gathered together to attempt to put an end to it.

Scottish socialists debate trade union links with the Labour Party

November 22, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialst Renewal -- The Scottish Left Review (issue 79) published this roundtable of the relationship of the trade unions and the British Labour Party.

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Gregor Gall reviews Len McCluskey’s Jimmy Reid Memorial Lecture and concludes that the Unite leader is perhaps too generous in identifying signs of real change in the Labour Party leader Ed Milliband’s Labour Party.

At the second annual Reid Foundation lecture, Len McCluskey, general secretary of the largest union in Britain, Unite, proclaimed that at the September 2013 British Labour Party conference Ed Miliband had delivered the most radical party conference speech for 30 years. The reason for this, McCluskey argued, was that Miliband had broken with neoliberal dogma of "New" Labour.

Belgium: Class trade unionism seeks political expression

Daniel Piron, the Charleroi regional secretary of the FGTB.

By Daniel Tanuro

October 17, 2013 -- International Viewpoint -- In the social and political history of Belgium, May 1, 2012, could mark a milestone. On that day the leaders of the Charleroi regional branch of the socialist trade union General Federation of Belgian Labour (Fédération Générale du Travail de Belgique/Algemeen Belgisch Vakverbond, FGTB/ABVV) — the second biggest in the country, with 102,000 members — publicly broke with the social-democratic party and called for a rallying of the left to the perspective of a new broad, anti-capitalist force to the left of the Parti Socialiste (PS) and the Greens. An unprecedented thunderbolt… and not without consequences.

May Day speeches in Belgium are generally unsurprising but like all rules, this has its exceptions. On May 1, 2012, in Charleroi, a big stone was thrown in the water by Daniel Piron, the regional secretary of the FGTB. Before stunned and furious social-democratic leaders, and in the presence of several hundred enthusiastic trade unionists, Piron denounced the austerity policies with which the PS has collaborated for 25 years without a break.

On Marxism and melodrama: An interview with Lars Lih

Lars Lih has explored the political and theoretical relationships between Lenin and Karl Kautsky.

[Click HERE for more by or about Lars Lih. For more discussion on Lenin, click HERE.]

Lars Lih interviewed by Dario Cankovic

October 2, 2013 -- The North Star, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by Dario Cankovic -- Lars T. Lih lives and works in Montreal, Quebec. He is an adjunct professor of musicology at the Schulich School of Music, McGill University and writes about Russian and socialist history on his own time. His books include Bread and Authority in Russia, 1914-1921 (1990), Lenin Rediscovered: What Is to Be Done in Context (2006) and Lenin (2011), a biography. Links to his articles online can be found here.

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