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Paul Le Blanc

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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.

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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.

Lenin and us: Into the past, back to the future

Cover of Lars Lih's latest book, Lenin (London: Reaktion Books, 2011).

By Paul Le Blanc

June 14, 2011 -- Europe Solidare Sans Frontieres -- I will never forget, as the 20th century trudged through its final decade, a once-close comrade telling me and others that developments of our time had consigned the Leninist conception of the party to “the dustbin of history”. Yet its dusty tracks may be something we will discover as we make our way into the near future. Polemical sparks spraying out from those engaged in the vibrant renewal of Lenin scholarship suggest that it still has life.

In 2008 – while on a Left Forum panel entitled “Lenin’s Return”, and in surveying the recent proliferation of works on Lenin at that time, including Lars Lih’s huge and important book Lenin Rediscovered – I said:

Making sense of Trotskyism in the United States: Two memoirs

[This review-essay was written for and is scheduled to appear in the British journal Revolutionary History, which has granted permission to circulate it on-line. Please include this acknowledgement when sharing it. The text is from Labor Standard.]

North Star, A Memoir (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2010)
By Peter Camejo
364 pages with index

Outsider’s Reverie, A Memoir (Los Angeles: Boryana Books, 2010)
By Leslie Evans
438 pages with index.

By Paul Le Blanc

October 1, 2010 -- The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) of the United States was for a number of years the largest and strongest section of the Fourth International — both of which were formally established in 1938, both representing the revolutionary socialist perspectives associated with Leon Trotsky. Rooted in opposition to Stalinism in the early Communist movement, the U.S. Trotskyists worked closely with Trotsky in building the Fourth International, the global network of small revolutionary groups adhering to the original “Bolshevik-Leninist” perspectives. They also played a heroic role in U.S. class struggles of the 1930s, and their reputation among many was as unyielding partisans of workers’ democracy and Trotsky’s revolutionary Marxist orientation. Yet in the non-revolutionary aridity of 1950s America, their ranks dwindled down to handfuls of stalwarts, perhaps 400 aging members, in a handful of cities.

`Second assassination' of Trotsky -- Paul Le Blanc reviews Robert Service’s biography of Trotsky

Review by Paul Le Blanc

Trotsky: A Biography
By Robert Service
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009
600 pages

December 25, 2009 -- ESSF -- Robert Service has written, to great acclaim, a new biography of Leon Trotsky. “Trotsky moved like a bright comet across the political sky,” Service tells us. Along with Lenin and other leaders of the Russian Revolution associated with the Bolshevik – soon renamed Communist – party, “he first came to global attention in 1917. … He lived a life full of drama played out with the world as his stage. The October Revolution changed the course of history, and Trotsky had a prominent role in the transformation. … There is no denying Trotsky’s exceptional qualities. He was an outstanding speaker, organizer and leader.” (1, 3)

Paul Le Blanc: Theories of Stalinism

The Marxism of Leon Trotsky
By Kunal Chattopadhyay
Kolkata: Progress Publishers, 2006, 672 pages

Western Marxism and the Soviet Union
By Marcel van der Linden
Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2009, 379 pages

Reviews by Paul Le Blanc

Karl Marx and his comrades deemed their own approach “scientific”, as compared to “utopian” intellectual efforts on behalf of socialism, because they believed that practical efforts to challenge and ultimately replace capitalism with something better must be grounded in a serious study of economic, political, social, historical realities and dynamics.

More, they believed that lessons learned from practical organising and political experiences of the working class and popular social movements — sometimes glorious victories and often tragic defeats — must also guide practical efforts of the future. The combination of such study and experience has been called “Marxist theory”.

The massive crisis of capitalism has put the meaning of “socialism” back into public debate. Superficially equating state intervention in the economy with “socialism”, some are inclined to agree with Newsweek magazine that “we are all socialists now.”

Paul Le Blanc -- Why I'm joining the US International Socialist Organization: Intensifying the struggle for social change

Paul Le Blanc.

By Paul Le Blanc

October 2009 -- I have decided to join the International Socialist Organization (ISO) because I believe socialists can and must, at this moment, intensify the struggle to bring about positive social change. I have been active in this struggle for most of my life -- as a member of the "new left" in the 1960s and early '70s (first in Students for a Democratic Society and briefly in the New American Movement), then in the Trotskyist movement (the Socialist Workers Party for ten years, briefly in Socialist Action, the Fourth Internationalist Tendency for another eight years). I have always considered "Trotskyism" as the same as revolutionary socialism, associated with some of the most useful ideas and most inspiring traditions that ever existed -- something I will come back to shortly.

Since 1992 I have been a member of Solidarity, which over the years has attracted a number of fine people who have done excellent work, although it has never proved able to sustain a membership of more than 300. I feel I have done all that I can to help build Solidarity. At this point I believe I may have more to contribute to building the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and am hopeful that the ISO can play a badly needed role in the intensification of the struggle to bring fundamental social change.

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