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John Riddell

Climate justice and the prospect of power

 

 

 

A balance sheet of the movement to block the cross-Toronto ‘Line 9’ pipeline project by John Riddell. With notes on the meaning of “climate justice” and the relationship of socialism to social movements.

 

Karl Liebknecht 1916: ‘Down with the war; down with the government!’

 

 

Karl Liebknecht addressing Berlin demonstration.

 

Introductory note by John Riddell

 

July 20, 2016 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from John Riddell’s blog with permission — One hundred years ago, on June 28, 1916, 55,000 metalworkers in Berlin went on strike to protest the sentencing of Karl Liebknecht to two and a half years in prison. It was Germany’s first mass protest strike of World War 1. Liebknecht received mass support in Germany and beyond as the first German socialist to have voted against parliamentary allocations to pay for the government war spending. He had been arrested at an illegal May Day demonstration organized by the Spartacist League, just after calling out, “Down with the war! Down with the government!” Two days after his arrest, Liebknecht explained the goals of the May Day demonstration and the Spartacist League in the following statement at his trial.

 

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 Kiental Manifesto: Socialists against war, 1916

 

 

Rosa Luxemburg’s Spartacists called at Kiental for a new International.

 

By John Riddell

 

April 27, 2016 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from John Riddell’s blog with permission -- One hundred years ago this week, socialist opponents of the First World War gathered in Kiental, Switzerland, issued an appeal calling on working people to “use every means possible to bring a rapid end to the human slaughter.” The appeal, known as the “Kiental Manifesto,” appears below.

 

Naomi Klein-inspired 'Leap Manifesto' shakes up Canadian left

 

 

Canada: Leap Manifesto unites broad forces, builds climate justice campaigns

 

“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has acknowledged shocking details about the violence of Canada’s near past. Deepening poverty and inequality are a scar on the country’s present. And Canada’s record on climate change is a crime against humanity’s future.” —The Leap Manifesto

 

by John Riddell

 

April 3, 2016 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Climate and Capitalism -- Five hundred Toronto-area supporters crowded into a west-end school auditorium March 29 to support the Leap Manifesto, launched early this year in support of a rapid, “justice-based” energy transition to a renewable economy.

 

The movement was launched in January 2016 to popularize the ideas of Naomi Klein’s influential book on climate change, This Changes Everything. Klein pointed to the need for a mass social movement addressing both the urgent need for climate action and an agenda for social justice.

 

A workers’ International
 at a turning point: Introducing excerpts from the Communist International’s Third Congress

 

Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin addressing the
Third Congress of the Communist International in 1921.

 

By John Riddell

 

March 16, 2016 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from International Socialist Review with the author's permission -- When revolutionary socialists met in a global congress in 1921, both their strong and their weak points were on full display. Their world alliance, the Communist International (Comintern), had built mass parties in the decisive countries of Europe. Yet, as 600 delegates from fifty-five countries gathered in Moscow that year, Lenin wrote, “Something is wrong in the International. . . . We must say Stop! . . . Otherwise, the International is lost.”[1]

 

The complete record of this tumultuous three-week event, finally available in English, enables today’s activists to make the acquaintance of their predecessors in the era of the Russian revolution and witness their efforts to map a new course. To the Masses, Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921 will be available in a Haymarket Books edition in early 2016.

 

International Socialist Review is publishing three sets of excerpts from this book, the first of which is reposted below.

 

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

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

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.

John Riddell on Michael Lebowitz: Dissecting the failure of Soviet ‘socialism’

Real Socialism

For more articles and videos by or about Michael Lebowitz, click HERE.

For more by or about John Riddell.

Review by John Riddell

The Contradictions of “Real Socialism”: The Conductor and the Conducted
by Michael A. Lebowitz
New York: Monthly Review 2012.

May 19, 2015 -- JohnRiddell.Wordpress.com, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by the author -- In current discussions of twenty-first century socialism, the work of Michael Lebowitz has a unique merit: it is rooted in the experience of Cuba and Venezuela, where efforts in recent decades to move toward socialism have been the most vigorous. Quotations from Che Guevara and Hugo Chávez set the tone.

Lenin's Comintern compromise of 1921

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

By John Riddell

May 5, 2015 -- JohnRiddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In 1921, a time of declining mass struggles, the Communist International (Comintern) was thrown off course by insistent demands at every level of the organisation for the young movement to launch confrontational actions, even if Communists must fight almost alone. In mid-1921, the Comintern’s Third Congress turned decisively away from this policy. Under the slogan, “To the masses”, it adopted, on Lenin’s insistence, the strategy of unifying working people in struggle that was codified six months later as the “united front”.

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

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.

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.

SYRIZA win sparks interest in Comintern’s workers’ government debate: some resources

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

By John Riddell

March 17, 2015 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Efforts by working people to gain governmental power in our new century, most recently in Greece, have drawn attention to the Communist International’s historic discussion on this issue at its Fourth World Congress in Moscow in 1922.

Here are links to all significant comments on this issue from the congress record, plus the segment of its Theses on Tactics taking up this question, and my commentary setting the historical context. Delegates’ comments on this point were spread over many congress sessions and are made available in one place for the first time in any language.

ALBA after ten years

ALBA
By John Riddell

February 23, 2015 --  Johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- The following talk was given at a celebration of ALBA in Toronto, February 21, 2015.

* * *

Today we celebrate a decade of achievement of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA). For 10 years ALBA has stood on the world stage as a defender of peace, solidarity and popular sovereignty.

Before ALBA, Cuba stood alone for many years against the U.S.-led empire. But through ALBA, an alliance of countries, with wide influence and many friends among governments and peoples, now challenges imperialism on a range of issues. While representing only a few small and poor countries, ALBA exercises great moral authority and carries weight in world affairs. ALBA is the most effective international alliance based on solidarity in modern history.

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.

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.

Naomi Klein: ‘Only mass social movements can save us’ from climate catastrophe

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

By Naomi Klein
Alfred A. Knopf, 2014

Review by John Riddell

October 20, 2014 -- Climate and Capitalism, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Despite endless conferences, treaties and solemn promises, greenhouse gas emissions have risen 61% since 1990, and the rate of increase is accelerating. As Naomi Klein tells us in her new book, This Changes Everything, we are now experiencing an “early twenty-first century emissions explosion”.

The reason for this ominous failure, she shows, is that the present capitalist profit system itself is incompatible with climate and environmental stability. Our only hope is the rise of mass movements with the combined goals of saving the environment and achieving social justice.

This Changes Everything is a rich resource of fact and argument: it’s a book that every climate justice activist should read, use and share.

‘The Right is right’

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