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Trotsky

Bullets and barricades: On the art of insurrection

 

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

To my friend and comrade Francesca.

 

November 6, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — “What side of the barricades are you on?” This phrase expresses the poignant meaning that the term barricades has in the revolutionary lexicon. Barricades represent a line of demarcation in the class war between the exploiters and the exploited. To stand with the exploited on the barricades is to pick a side, it is an action of solidarity with one's comrades, and shows that one is read to sacrifice their life for the cause. Although barricades dominated the insurrectionary movements during the nineteenth century, as time passed the barricade was found wanting as a effective tactic to topple the state, especially as the forces of order redesigned cities to prevent uprisings and revolutionaries pursued legal channels for political advance. When revolutionary opportunities came following the Russian Revolution, the barricade was relegated to the background in favor of more sophisticated approaches to insurrection.

 

Trotsky and Gramsci on revolutionary strategy

 

 

Gramsci and Trotsky: Strategy for the Revolution in the West
Emilio Albamonte and Matías Maiello
Argentina: Left Voice, 2016
158 pages

 

Review by Doug Enaa Greene

 

The development of Trotsky’s analysis of the Soviet bureaucracy

 

 

Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin

 

By Thomas M. Twiss

 

August 19, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — In his presentation, Paul Le Blanc has provided a brief account of the darkening situation in the Soviet Union in the years following the revolution, of the heroic resistance by members of the Left Opposition, and of the “deep black night” of Stalinism in the mid-late 1930s. He also summarized for us Leon Trotsky’s final theory of Soviet bureaucracy and — I think appropriately —emphasized its value for understanding that history. What I want to do is to briefly sketch the development of Trotsky’s analysis of the problem of Soviet bureaucracy in order to get a deeper understanding and appreciation of his final theory, with all of its strengths and limitations. For as Trotsky observed in a 1933 preface to a collection of his oppositional writings, “It is impossible to understand correctly either scientific or political ideas without knowing the history of their development.”

The darker the night, the brighter the star: Leon Trotsky’s struggle against Stalinism

 

 

By Paul Le Blanc

 

July 18, 2016 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal – The title of this session – “the darker the night, the brighter the star” – is the title of the fourth and final volume of Tony Cliff’s biography of Leon Trotsky, who was a central leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution of workers and peasants, which turned the Russian Tsarist empire into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. One of the founders of modern Communism and the Soviet state, Trotsky is also the best known of those who fought against the degeneration of that revolution and movement brought on by a vicious bureaucratic dictatorship led by Joseph Stalin.[1]

 

A missed revolutionary opportunity: The Comintern Third Congress discussion on the 1920 Italian factory occupations

 

 

Factories under control of the Red Guards in Italy, 1920

 

Introductory note by Mike Taber and John Riddell

 

July 12, 2016 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from International Socialist Review -- As the Communist International’s Third Congress convened in Moscow in June–July 1921, the powerful working-class upsurge that had shaken Italy months earlier was fresh in delegates’ minds and posed a backdrop to their debates.

 

The September 1920 occupation of the factories in Italy is a lesser-known revolutionary experience of the post–World War I years, yet its impact was no less significant. By starkly posing the question of which class should run the economy, the occupations legitimized a new form of proletarian struggle—expressed in part through the tactic of the sit-down strike that was widely utilized during the 1930s. Possessing the potential for working-class victory, the defeat of this movement instead opened the door to the rise to power of Benito Mussolini and Italian fascism.

The Communist Order of Samurai: Leon Trotsky and the Red Army

 

 

Leon Trotsky addresses soldiers of the Red Army during the Russian Civil War

 



By Doug Enaa Greene

 



Dedicated to my friend, Sam Miller.

 


May 17, 2016 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Marxist historian Victor Serge described Trotsky's task in organizing the Red Army as its enemies threatened the embattled Soviet Republic as follows:

 

The principal organizer of the October Revolution now has the task of organizing the defence of the Soviet Republic. He goes to war, forges the blade, carries the responsibility on all fronts. He incarnates, in its keenest expression, the revolution’s will to survive.[1]

 

In 1918, Trotsky was given the job of creating a Red Army to fight off its enemies from within and without. Organizing an effective army in a society shattered and exhausted by war would have been a monumental task for even the most experienced general. Yet Trotsky, who possessed no military training, forged a well-organized, centralized, disciplined and effective fighting army of 5.5 million people by 1920 that was fired by revolutionary zeal and triumphed in the Civil War.

 

New books shed light on Trotsky's struggle against Soviet bureaucracy

Leon Trotsky

 

  Reviewed by Barry Healy

 

Leon Trotsky
Paul Le Blanc
Reaktion Books, 2015, 224 pp., $39.99

 

  Trotsky and the Problem of Soviet Bureaucracy
Thomas M. Twiss
Brill, 2014, 502 pp., $205.00

 

  January 25, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — Leon Trotsky was one of the central leaders of the Russian Revolution. As the organiser and Commissar of the Red Army that saved the Soviet power and leading light of the struggle against Stalinism, he is surely one of the great heroic — and tragic — figures of the Twentieth Century.

 

  Taken together these two books provide an insight into the major theoretical dilemma that emerged from the Russian experience: how a successful revolution could degenerate into a parody of workers’ democracy to the point of becoming a murderous dictatorship.

 

  Because Trotsky’s revolutionary integrity remained untarnished after his murder in 1940 at the hands of a Stalinist assassin it is easy to fall into a deification of his work — something that competing Trotskyist sects have delighted in doing.

 

  Paul Le Blanc steers clear of those rocks in his very fine, short biography. He demonstrates a very clear-eyed and measured approach, combined with an unqualified opposition to Stalinist tyranny.

 

Victor Serge: On the borders of victory and defeat

 

 Victor Serge (left), Benjamin Péret, Remedios Varo, and André Breton

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

January 18, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, reposted from Red Wedge with the author's permission — In 1941, reflecting on his own life, which spanned several revolutions, exile, and prison, Victor Serge commented:

 

The only meaning of life lies in conscious participation in the making of history. The more I think of that, the more deeply true it seems to be. It follows that one must range oneself actively against everything that diminishes man, and involve oneself in all struggles which tend to liberate and enlarge him. This categorical imperative is in no way lessened by the fact that such an involvement is inevitably soiled by error: it is a worse error to live for oneself, caught within traditions which are soiled by inhumanity. [1]

 

John Riddell: Socialist planning and the bureaucratic economy

Che Guevara.

Click for more by or about John Riddell.

By John Riddell

May 17, 2015 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- The following previously unpublished position paper, pulled from my archives, was written in 1992. I am posting it in conjunction with my review of Michael Lebowitz’s Contradictions of "Real Socialism". My comments raised many of the themes found in Lebowitz’s writings of that time, of which I was then quite unaware. My approach, however, gives more emphasis to the problem of economic allocation and the role of non-capitalist markets.

Ian Birchall on John Riddell's 'To the masses': Essential resource on communism's early years

To The Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921
edited and translated by John Riddell
Brill, Leiden & Boston, 2015
1299 pages, €399.00

April 12, 2015 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The following review by British socialist historian Ian Birchall introduces a major addition to our knowledge of the revolutionary movement of Lenin's time: John Riddell's To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921. Birchall's review is scheduled for publication in Revolutionary History, a journal with 43 published volumes.

The review is published here with kind permission of Revolutionary History and Ian Birchall. Riddell's latest volume, available only in Brill's library format at the moment, will be published in a popular, more inexpensive edition by Haymarket Books in February 2016.

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

* * *

Review by Ian Birchall

Nikolai Bukharin: ‘The favourite of the whole party’

By Doug Enaa Greene

February 13, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- “Bukharin has thirty years of revolutionary work to his credit.”[1] This was the final judgment of Leon Trotsky, Nikolai Bukharin's erstwhile adversary in 1938, after his death. These words were not without truth. He lived a life of deep revolutionary and intellectual commitment. Bukharin was one of the leading theorists and leaders of the Bolshevik Party, reaching the heights of power in the USSR in the 1920s.

He was the fierce proponent for the New Economic Policy (NEP) and presented an alternative path of market socialism, to those of Trotsky and Joseph Stalin. He was an ally of Stalin during the party debates of the 1920s, when Stalin declared, "We are, and shall be, for Bukharin."[2]

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:

Leon Trotsky: 'Learn to think -- a friendly suggestion to certain ultra-leftists' (1938)


By Leon Trotsky

Written on May 22, 1938.
Source: New International, Vol.4 No.7, July 1938, pp.206-207.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.


CERTAIN PROFESSIONAL ultra-left phrase-mongers are attempting at all cost to “correct” the thesis of the Secretariat of the Fourth International on war in accordance with their own ossified prejudices. They especially attack that part of the thesis which states that in all imperialist countries the revolutionary party, while remaining in irreconcilable opposition to its own government in time of war, should, nevertheless, mold its practical politics in each country to the internal situation and to the international groupings, sharply differentiating a workers’ state from a bourgeois state, a colonial country from an imperialist country.

Leninism, No? Paul Le Blanc replies to Ian Birchall

For more by Paul Le Blanc, click HERE. For more discussion of "Leninism", click HERE.

August 6, 2014 -- Socialist Worker (USA) -- Paul Le Blanc is a veteran socialist and author, most recently, of Unfinished Leninism: The Rise and Return of a Revolutionary Doctrine. In response to an article by British socialist Ian Birchall published at the Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century website [published by the socialist group of the same name, abbreviated as RS21], Le Blanc wrote this commentary to contribute to the discussion of "Leninism".

* * *

Ian Birchall has made an important contribution to the ongoing discussion on the international left about the meaning and value of Leninism, which is one of the focal points of my recent collection Unfinished Leninism: The Rise and Return of a Revolutionary Doctrine. Here I would like to make a few comments about what this esteemed comrade has to say.

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.

* * *

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.

Barry Sheppard: Three theories of the USSR

"In the US and elsewhere, including Britain, a mass anti-war movement developed against the US war in Vietnam. By 1968, the International Socialists in the US and the IS in Britain changed their line [of neutrality between the 'two imperialisms'] and came out against the US and defended Vietnam. In the US they joined the mass demonstrations to 'Bring the troops home now!'"

Read more by Barry Sheppard HERE.

By Barry Sheppard

June 6, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In this two-part article I examine the ramifications for today of the three theories of the USSR that emerged from the Left Opposition: state capitalism, bureaucratic collectivism and Leon Trotsky’s theory of the degenerated workers’ state. (Read more on the theory of state capitalism HERE.)

Leon Trotsky and revolutionary insurrection

Trotsky aboard his famous armoured train during the Civil War in Soviet Russia.

[See also Doug Enaa Greene's "Day of the people: Gracchus Babeuf and the communist idea".]

By Doug Enaa Greene

December 15, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- "The entire labor of practical organization of the insurrection was placed under the immediate direction of the president of the Petrograd Soviet, comrade Trotsky. It can be stated with certainty, that the party owes the rapid coming over of the garrison into the camp of the soviets and the skillful work of the Revolutionary Military Committee above all and essentially to Comrade Trotsky."[1]

Ironically, this recognition of Trotsky's role as the main organizer of the successful October Revolution was made by Stalin (who would become Trotsky's bitter opponent in the 1920s).

In 1917, Trotsky's role in the Bolshevik revolution was widely recognized by friend and foe alike. Yet Trotsky as a theorist and practitioner of insurrection has taken a back seat to discussion of his theories of permanent revolution, analyzes of the USSR under Stalin and his historical texts.

The role of the united-front tactic

Australian protest against the US war on Vietnam. Socialists argued for the movement to have as its central demand the call for the immediate withdrawal of US and Australian troops from Vietnam.

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- This talk was presented by Peter Boyle representing the then Democratic Socialist Party (since merged with the Socialist Alliance) to a workshop with comrades from the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD) of Indonesia in 2000. It was based on a talk by Doug Lorimer to a Resistance leadership training school in Sydney on April 24-25, 1995. It was published in The Activist, volume 5, number 6, 1995. Doug Lorimer passed away on July 21, 2013. Read more of Doug Lorimer's writings HERE.]

* * *

Review: Paul Le Blanc and Kunal Chattopadhyay’s Trotsky selection ‘a missed opportunity’

Review by Michael Fisher

Leon Trotsky: Writings in Exile
By Kunal Chattopadhyay and Paul Le Blanc (eds.)
London: Pluto Press, 2012

March 28, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Few figures in the history of socialist politics have attracted as much praise and contempt as Leon Trotsky. Liberals and social democrats loathed him for his unwavering defence of the October revolution and his uncompromising opposition to the politics of reformism. Communists reviled him for opposing Stalin and Stalinism, for declaring the degeneration of the Soviet regime and pouring scorn on the notion of socialism in one country.

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