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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".

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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.

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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.

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.]

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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.

‘Toward the United Front’: Recovering revolutionary memory for 21st century socialism (+ video)

 Part 1.

February 16, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal – On February 3, 120 socialists took part in a Toronto meeting to celebrate publication of Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922, available in paperback from Haymarket Books. This 1300-page volume is the seventh book of documents on the world revolutionary movement in Lenin’s time edited by John Riddell. Riddell’s address to the Toronto meeting, below, explains the purpose of the book and the publishing project. The video of the event, filmed by Left Streamed, begins above and continues below. It was moderated by Abbie Bakan, with additional commentary by David McNally, Greg Albo, Suzanne Weiss and Paul Kellogg.

'Transitional Program': 'a program of action from today until the beginning of the socialist revolution'

The demand for shorter working hours with no loss in pay has been a key transitional demand.

By Doug Lorimer

[This is the introduction to Resistance Books' The Transitional Program and the Struggle for Socialism. For discussion on the left about the significance of the transitional method for socialists, see "In defence of the transitional method" by Dave Holmes.]

I

In defence of the transitional method

Sue Bolton speaking at a rally for refugee rights in September. Photo by Aneleh Bulle. 

[See also "How socialists work to win mass support" and "'Transitional Program': 'a program of action from today until the beginning of the socialist revolution'".]

By Dave Holmes

[This talk was presented on January 18, 2013 at the Socialist Alliance (Australia) national conference, held in Geelong.]

January 18, 2013 – Links international Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Socialist Alliance is currently engaged in a process of discussion and clarification with Socialist Alternative, with a view to exploring the possibilities of greater cooperation and unity. How this will ultimately develop is an open question. But I think it is fair to say that on both sides today there is a much greater interest in the political positions and approach of the other.

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?

'Uneven and combined Marxism' within South Africa’s urban social movements

A protest by Kliptown Concerned Residents and the Anti Privatisation Forum.

By Patrick Bond, Ashwin Desai and Trevor Ngwane

February 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The political dynamics of contemporary South Africa are rife with contradiction. On one hand, it is among the most consistently contentious places on earth, with insurgent communities capable of mounting disruptive protest on a nearly constant basis, rooted in the poor areas of the half-dozen major cities as well as neglected and multiply-oppressed black residential areas of declining towns. On the other hand, even the best-known contemporary South African social movements, for all their sound, lack a certain measure of fury.

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."

Un debate de actualidad: Gobierno de trabajadores y transición al socialismo

Por John Riddell

Fecha de publicación: 01/02/12  -- America XXI -- El concepto de gobierno de los trabajadores es el hijo torpe de la joven Internacional Comunista.  La idea que expresa es fundamental para el marxismo: los trabajadores deben luchar para tomar el poder político. Sin embargo, en los comienzos de la Comintern, se unió a una perspectiva entonces discutible para los marxistas: que los trabajadores pudieran formar un gobierno que funcione inicialmente en un Estado capitalista aún existente.

Como comenta el marxista francés Daniel Bensaid, “la fórmula algebraica del ‘gobierno de los trabajadores’ ha dado lugar a lo largo del tiempo a las interpretaciones más diversas, y a menudo contradictorias” [1].

Veamos qué luz puede arrojar sobre esta cuestión el registro del Congreso Mundial de la Comintern de 1922, publicado recientemente en inglés [2]. Esta fue la reunión que celebró la discusión más extensa de la Comintern acerca de la cuestión del gobierno de los trabajadores, y que adoptó su posición inicial.

A ‘workers’ government’ as a step toward socialism

Soviet poster dedicated to the fifth anniversary of the October Revolution and Fourth Congress of the Communist International.

By John Riddell

January 1, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, for more articles by John Riddell, go to http://johnriddell.wordpress.com -- The concept of a workers’ government is the awkward child of the early Communist International. The thought it expresses is central to Marxism: that workers must strive to take political power. But in the early Comintern, it was attached to a perspective that was contentious for Marxists then and is so now: that workers can form a government that functions initially within a still-existing capitalist state.

As French Marxist Daniel Bensaid commented, “The algebraic formula of a ‘workers’ government’ has given rise over time to the most varied and often contradictory interpretations.”[1]

Let us see what light can be shed on this question by the record of the Comintern’s 1922 World Congress, recently published in English.[2] This was the gathering that held the Comintern’s most extensive discussion of the workers’ government question and adopted its initial position.

How socialists work to win mass support

By Dave Holmes

[The following talk was presented at the Socialist Ideas Conference organised by the Australian Socialist Alliance and Resistance, Melbourne, September 3, 2011. It first appeared at Dave Holmes' Arguing for Socialism and is posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.]

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Will the level of popular and working-class struggle rise significantly in the coming years? How can we overcome or neutralise the deadly effect of ruling-class propaganda on the minds of so many ordinary people? Can left-wing forces rally significant support and lead big struggles? How do we work towards this goal?

Bible sects like the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Mormons go door to door preaching their message. Their success depends on the scope of the effort: How many people can they mobilise and how many doors can they knock on? It also depends on the general level of social distress and alienation in society, on the number of people searching for solace and comfort.

Socialists obviously don't reject propaganda, we are putting it out all the time, but our strategy is — and must be if we are serious — fundamentally based on something else.

On the meaning of ‘popular front’

The Bolivarian movement led by Hugo Chávez contains bourgeois forces and has been the scene of repeated struggles between popular and bureaucratic wings. But far from subordinating workers to bourgeois leadership, it has served as the instrument to mobilise the masses in struggles that have won significant gains.

By John Riddell

August 8, 2011 -- also availabe at johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links international Journal of Socialist Renewal with John Riddell's permission -- In a comment posted July 16 to my article “Honduras Accord: A Gain for Ottawa?” Todd Gordon warns against the danger of “popular-front style organization” and a “popular front electoralist strategy” (see his comment below this article). Socialists often use the term “popular front” or “people’s front” as a form of condemnation. But what exactly does the term mean, and how does apply it to poor, oppressed countries like Honduras?

Lenin and revolutionary organisation today: An exchange

Introduction

Anyone familiar with the socialist movement in the industrialized countries today must be struck by the huge gap between what’s needed — mass socialist parties with deep roots in the working class — and the reality — small groups of socialists with little influence. The following exchange contains a searching discussion of these issues between the noted Marxist scholar Paul Le Blanc and John Riddell.

The exchange opens with an article by Le Blanc and continues with an exchange between Riddell and Le Blanc. The discussion was first published in Socialist Voice in June 2008 and later appeared on John Riddell's website (with more comments).

About the authors

Paul Le Blanc, a former member of the U.S. Socialist Workers Party, has been a long-time anti-war, anti-racist, activist in Pittsburgh. He teaches History at La Roche College. He is author of Marx, Lenin, and the Revolutionary Experience (Routledge 2006).

Scott McLemee: Re-assassination of Trotsky

[For more articles on Trotsky at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, click HERE.]

By Scott McLemee

July 8, 2011 -- Inside Higher Ed, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- Every so often, one scholar will assess another’s book so harshly that it becomes legendary. The most durable example must be A.E. Housman, whose anti-blurbs retain their sting after a century and more. Housman is best-known for the verse in his collection A Shropeshire Lad (1896). But classicists still remember his often pointed reviews of other philologists’ editions of ancient poetry, and can sometimes quote snippets from memory.

“When I first open an edition of Persius,” he writes in one of them, “I turn to VI 51 to see if the editor knows what part of speech adeo is. I regret to say that Mr. Summers thinks it is a verb.” Or consider the following line, which kills two dons with one stone: “I imagine that Mr. Buechler, when he first perused Mr. Sidhaus’s edition of the Aetna, must have felt something like Sin when she gave birth to Death.”

How the Communist Party of Australia exposes the Democratic Socialist Party's 'Trotskyism'

By Doug Lorimer

[This article first appeared in the Democratic Socialist Party's internal discussion bulletin, The Activist, volume 10, number 7, August 2000.]

The Communist Party of Australia has recently published a pamphlet by David Matters entitled Putting Lenin's Clothes on Trotskyism which claims that the DSP's rejection of Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution is really a cover for its support for Trotskyism. However, the real purpose of the pamphlet is to criticise the DSP's position on the 1998 waterfront dispute.

This is made clear in the introduction to Matters' pamphlet by CPA general secretary Peter Symon:

In writing Putting Lenin's clothes on Trotskyism, David Matters has contributed to the task of clarifying ideas and maintaining the validity and truth of Marxism...

The attack on Marxism in the name of Marx, or on Lenin in the name of Lenin, is a particularly pernicious form which can easily mislead those who are not familiar with what Marx, Engels and Lenin actually said and wrote.

The pretension that Trotsky was a great Leninist is one of these misrepresentations and was refuted time and again by Lenin.

`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)

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