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Lars Lih

Lars Lih: The ironic triumph of ‘old Bolshevism’ -- the ‘April debates’ and their impact on Bolshevik strategy

June 1, 2015 --Johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Lars T. Lih challenges a commonly held view of the Russian Bolshevik party's conduct during the Russian Revolution of 1917, stressing the continuity between the Bolsheviks’ positions before World War I and those advanced during the revolutionary upheaval.

The text is based on a talk Lih gave in 2010 and recently revised. Following the text is a note on other places where Lih’s views on this topic are available – John Riddell.

* * * 

By Lars T. Lih

Lars Lih: Russia 1917 — Bolshevism was fully armed

Pravda editor Lev Kamenev

Pravda editor Lev Kamenev.

Article by Lars Lih, introduction by John Riddell

April 22, 2015 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Did the Bolsheviks, as has often been argued, set aside their pre-1914 strategy in April 1917 on Lenin’s insistence? Recent studies by Lars Lih criticise this thesis, maintaining that the actual course followed by the Bolsheviks in 1917 was close to that of pre-war “Old Bolshevism”.

In the following article, Lih tests his conclusion by examining the editorial course of the Bolsheviks’ main newspaper, Pravda, soon after the February revolution and before Lenin’s return to Russia.

Lih’s text is followed by both a translation and the original Russian text of a March 1917 Pravda editorial by Lev Kamenev, and by a note on further reading.

Heroic class leadership: Lars T. Lih's ‘Lenin’

Lenin
By Lars T. Lih. London: Reaktion Books, 2011
235 pages

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

Review by Doug Enaa Greene

January 19, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Too often, when the name of Lenin is brought up in this day and age, it conjures up certain uncomfortable images in the popular and academic mind. Lenin is seen as the founder of the Bolshevik Party, who was hell-bent on establishing a totalitarian state. It is time that this image of Lenin be discarded. Lenin should be embraced by revolutionaries the world over desiring to build a society free of exploitation.

Lenin y Kautsky: El extraño caso de Lenin en el armario

[English at "Lars Lih on Lenin and Kautsky: 'The strange case of the closeted Lenin'", http://links.org.au/node/4186.]

Por Lars Lih, traducción para www.sinpermiso.info: Gustavo Buster

14/12/14 -- Sinpermiso.info -- En primer lugar, permítanme decir que es muy elogioso tener dos críticas - una sustancial, la otra no - a mis puntos de vista sobre Lenin publicados recientemente. La primera es de Kevin Corr y Gareth Jenkins, del SWP[1]) y la segunda está escrita por Peter Taaffe del Socialist Party in England and Wales[2].

En mi opinión, la crítica de Taaffe no tiene que ver con mis puntos de vista y no le interesa realmente lo que defiendo. Peter Taaffe simplemente afirma que escribo frases pretenciosas, románticas y después expone sus propios puntos de vista. No es una polémica seria digna de una respuesta. Por su parte, sin embargo, Corr y Jenkins en su artículo, "El caso de la desaparición de Lenin”, pretenden refutar mis puntos de vista reales y en su mayor parte su crítica hace un buen trabajo a la hora de resumir cuales son..

Solía existir en la izquierda una narrativa lineal, indiscutible, que era algo como:

Lars Lih on Lenin and Kautsky: 'The strange case of the closeted Lenin'

December 4, 2014 -- Weekly Worker, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- According to some comrades in the Socialist Workers Party (UK), Lenin was a hypocrite who did not say what he thought. In this article, based on a speech to a London Communist Forum, Lars T. Lih puts the record straight.

* * *

First of all let me say that it is very complimentary to have two critiques -- one substantial, one not -- of my views on Lenin recently published. The first is by Kevin Corr and Gareth Jenkins of the Socialist Workers Party1 and the second is written by Peter Taaffe of the Socialist Party in England and Wales.2

Lars T. Lih: ‘All Power to the Soviets’: a biography of a slogan

"All power to the soviets!"

For more by or about Lars Lih, please click HERE.

By Lars Lih

August 18, 2014 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- “All power to the Soviets!” is surely one of the most famous slogans in revolutionary history. It is right up there with “Egalité, liberté, fraternité” as a symbol of an entire revolutionary epoch. I would like to examine this slogan in its original context of Russia in 1917, in order to see why it arose, where it came from, and to what extent it was carried out in practice.[1]

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.

Socialism and the workers' movement: comments on Lars Lih on the narrative of their merger

Lars Lih.

By Jonathan Strauss

[This is an edited text of a presentation made on June 9, 2013, at the “Organising for 21st century socialism” seminar, held in Sydney. Strauss is a member of the Socialist Alliance in Cairns.]

Paul Le Blanc: Organising for 21st century socialism -- Reflections on the history and future of Leninism

The following was presented by Paul Le Blanc to the "Organising for 21st century socialism" seminar in Sydney on June 8, 2013. The seminar was organised by the Socialist Alliance. Le Blanc also addressed meetings in Wollongong, Melbourne and Adelaide. Photo by Alex Bainbridge. A video of the presentation can be viewed at http://links.org.au/node/3396.

More by Paul Le Blanc can be found HERE.

* * *

By Paul Le Blanc

In the first portion of these remarks I want to explain, first of all, why Leninism is worth talking about not only for understanding some of what happened in history, but also for helping change the world in the here-and-now of the early twenty-first century. I want to explain what I mean by the term Leninism, then touch on several historical controversies that may shed light on how to make use of this tradition in our ongoing political work. In the second portion of my remarks, I will offer thoughts on ways to apply and contribute to the Leninist tradition in our practical efforts for the coming period.

Leninism’s meaning and value

Lars Lih on the fortunes of a formula: From ‘DEMOCRATIC centralism’ to ‘democratic CENTRALISM’

Lenin A

For more by (or about) Lars Lih, click HERE. For more discussion on forms of revolutionary organisation, click HERE.

By Lars Lih

April 14, 2013 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com -- Vladimir Nevsky (1876-1937) lived the life (in the words of an autobiographical sketch written in the 1920s) of an “ordinary party worker”, a professional, in the Bolshevik underground. Joining the party in 1897, he was a mid-level Bolshevik praktik who played a visible role in 1917 conducting party work in the army. Like so many others in his generation, he was arrested in the mid-thirties and executed in 1937.

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.

John Riddell: Lars Lih and Ben Lewis reveal Zinoviev at his best

Zinoviev and Martov: Head to Head in Halle
Edited by Ben Lewis and Lars T. Lih,
London: November Publications, 2011, pp. 229 [1]

Review by John Riddell

June 22, 2012 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com/Weekly Worker, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- The Thrilla in Halle! A ringside seat, just for you, as Gregory Zinoviev (in the red trunks) and Julius Martov (his are pale pink) duke it out before delegates of the 700,000-member Independent Social-Democratic Party of Germany (USPD). The stakes: should the USPD join the Communist International (Comintern)? Here at last, after 92 years, the full text of their historic speeches to the October 1920 USPD congress in Halle, Germany, translated and edited by Ben Lewis and Lars Lih.

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).

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]

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