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John Riddell

Nationality’s role in social liberation: the Soviet legacy

Painting slogans for the Congress of the Peoples of the East, September 1920, Baku. Photo from IISG.

By John Riddell

July 21, 2011 -- http://johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- Just under a century ago, the newly founded Soviet republic embarked on the world’s first concerted attempt to unite diverse nations in a federation that acknowledged the right to self-determination and encouraged the development of national culture, consciousness and governmental structures. Previous major national-democratic revolutions – in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the United States – had been made in the name of a hegemonic nation and had assimilated, marginalised or crushed rival nationalities. The early Soviet regime, by contrast, sought to encourage, rather than deny, internal national distinctiveness.

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).

Honduras resistance launches political party; Political statement of the FARP; Cartagena Accord debated

By Felipe Stuart Cournoyer and John Riddell

July 11, 2011 -- johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- A national assembly of the resistance, uniting more than 1500 delegates from across Honduras, voted on June 26 to launch a new political party, the Frente Amplio de Resistencia Popular (Broad Front of Popular Resistance, FARP).

The assembly was convened by the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (National People’s Resistance Front, FNRP), the main coordinating body of popular struggle since a right-wing coup overthrew the democratically elected government of President Manuel Zelaya two years ago, on June 28, 2009.

The new party is to function as an arm of the Resistance Front in the political-electoral arena and will contest the 2013 presidential elections.

The delegates met under large suspended banners displaying the images of ALBA presidents—Hugo Chávez (Venezuela), Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), Raúl Castro (Cuba) and Evo Morales (Bolivia), alongside those of Francisco Morazán, Simón Bolívar, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. Honduras was illegitimately removed from the ALBA alliance by the coup regime established in 2009.

The Communist Women’s International (1921-26)

"Emancipated woman -- build up socialism." Poster by Strakhov-Braslavskij A. I., 1926.

By John Riddell

June 12, 2011 -- The following working paper was presented to the Toronto conference of Historical Materialism on May 16, 2010. It first appeared on John Riddell's blog and is posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission.

* * *

When we celebrate International Women’s Day, we often refer to its origins in US labour struggles early last century. Less often mentioned, however, how it was relaunched and popularised in the 1920s by the Communist Women’s International. Moreover, this movement itself has been almost forgotten, as have most of its central leaders.

The Communist Women’s International was founded by a world gathering of communist women in 1921, which elected a leadership, the International Women’s Secretariat, reporting to the executive of the Communist International, or Comintern. It also initiated the formation of women’s commissions in national parties, which coordinated work by women’s bodies on a branch level, and called periodic international conferences of Communist women.

Honduras: Agreement signed for democratic rights

By Felipe Stuart Cournoyer and John Riddell

May 24, 2011 -- http://johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- On May 22, Hondura's president Porfirio Lobo Sosa and former president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales signed an agreement 'For National Reconciliation and the Consolidation of the Democratic System in the Republic of Honduras".

Lobo was elected in November 2009 in a rigged vote organised by the regime installed through the June 28, 2009, military coup that overthrew Zelaya. The majority of Latin American and Caribbean nations refused to recognise the legitimacy of the Lobo government, despite the strong support it received from the United States and Canada.

The present agreement, finalised in Cartagena, Colombia, also bears the signatures of Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos and Venezuela's foreign minister Nicolás Maduro (on behalf of President Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías) as witnesses.

This agreement opens the door to significant changes in the Central American political landscape and to the re-entry of Honduras into the Organization of American States (OAS) and SICA (Central American Integration System).

Progress in Bolivia: A reply to Jeff Webber

Bolivia's president Evo Morales addresses a press conference during theWorld People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, April 2010.

[See also "Debate on Bolivia: Government, social movements and revolution". For more article on Bolivia, click HERE.]

By John Riddell

May 5, 2011 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Six years after Bolivians elected their first Indigenous-led government, their ongoing struggle for national and social liberation remains a subject of debate and disagreement among socialists around the world.

Montreal conference rallies support for rights of nature

By John Riddell

April 23, 2011 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Bolivia marked Earth Day (April 22) this year by formulating the Law of Mother Earth, which—when adopted—will establish 11 new rights for nature, including the right not to be polluted and the right to continue vital cycles free from human interference.

On April 20, the United Nations General Assembly debated a proposal introduced by Bolivia, with support of other South American countries, to adopt a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Nature. The proposed global treaty says that “Mother Earth has the right to exist, persist, and to continue the vital cycles … that sustain all human beings”.

Meanwhile, Canada’s political and media establishment have organised an election campaign in which the world’s ecological crisis is barely mentioned.

Canada: How can we aid Libya’s freedom movement?

Libyan Canadian shouts down with Gaddafi slogans outside Calgary City Hall, February 22, 2011. Photo by Ted Rhodes, Calgary Herald.

By John Riddell

February 28, 2011 -- Socialist Voice -- The brutal massacres of civilians in Libya at the order of the country’s dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, have shocked the world. His air force has carried out air strikes against unarmed civilians. On February 25, Qaddafi followers aimed murderous fire on anti-government protests in his last stronghold, Tripoli. The government declares its intention of reconquering the country in civil war.

What can those in Canada do to end the killings?

On February 26, the United Nations Security Council voted for sanctions against the Libyan regime, including an arms embargo and  the freezing of assets of Qaddafi and his family. These measures are hardly more than cosmetic, serving to polish up great-power credentials.

Toronto G20 protests: What was gained and what was lost

Toronto, June 25, 2010. The peaceful mass protests against the G20 were largely ignored by the mass media.

By John Riddell and Art Young

September 2, 2010 -- Socialist Voice -- Two months after the protests against the G20 summit in Toronto and the accompanying police rampage, it is time for an initial balance sheet of what was gained and lost.

Some on the left view the experience as entirely positive. In particular, the Toronto Community Mobilization Network (TCMN) declares flatly that “the people won”, citing participation by “nearly 40,000 people”, the success of the June 24 march for Indigenous sovereignty, and the involvement of a wide spectrum of social movements and “over 100 grassroots organizations”. The July 26 TCMN statement also highlights protesters’ capacity to carry on in the face of arrests and intimidation, including deployment of almost 20,000 cops and a formidable array of weaponry, at a cost of more than C$1.2 billion.

John Riddell: (Audio) The Comintern, 1919-1923: The two souls of centralism

A talk presented by John Riddell to International Socialist Organization's (USA) Marxism 2010 conference in Chicago. The talk was originally posted at Wearemany.org. John Riddell is co-editor of Socialist Voice (Canada) and editor of The Communist International in Lenin’s Time, a six-volume anthology of documents, speeches, manifestos and commentary.
Download mp3 file -- Press arrow to play

Clara Zetkin’s struggle for the united front

Clara Zetkin (left) with Rosa Luxemburg.

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Listen to John Riddell present a workshop on Clara Zetkin at the US International Socialist Organization's Socialism 2009 conference in Chicago:

Tour builds Venezuela solidarity in Canada

By John Riddell

March 15, 2010 -- Socialist Voice -- Federico Fuentes and Kiraz Janicke concluded their 10-day tour of Canada on March 7, with a rally in Vancouver entitled “Change the system, not the climate”. Fuentes shared the platform with Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s UN ambassador and chief spokesperson on climate change.

 

Suffering and struggle in rural China

Will the Boat Sink the Water? The Life of Chinese Peasants.
By Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao.
New York: Public Affairs 2006

Review by John Riddell

Is China killing the goose whose golden eggs have financed its economic upsurge? Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao pose this question in their gripping portrayal of the suffering and struggles of Chinese peasants today.

Their book’s title refers to a 1400-year-old Chinese saying, attributed to Emporer Taizong: “Water holds up the boat; water may also sink the boat.” That is, the peasantry that sustains the state may also rise up and overturn it. Chen and Wu argue that in China today, the weight of the state is suffocating the peasantry: the boat may sink the water.

A media and publishing sensation

Iranian workers in action for democratic rights

Tehran's bus drivers have joined the struggle for democratic and trade union rights.

Introduction by Robert Johnson and John Riddell

June 29, 2009 -- Socialist Voice -- The mass protests in Iran, sparked by charges of fraud in the June 12 presidential elections, express deeply felt demands for expanded democratic rights. The establishment press has been silent on the aspirations of rank-and-file protesters. Socialist Voice is therefore pleased to be able to publish several statements by components of Iran's vigorous trade union movement, which has been a major target of repression by Iran's security forces. We have provided the titles and some introductory comments.

World farmers’ alliance Vía Campesina challenges food profiteers (excerpt from new pamphlet)

The following review is an excerpt from a new pamphlet, La Vía Campesina: Farmers North and South Confront Agribusiness, by John Riddell and Adriana Paz, published by Socialist Voice in Canada. To download the pamphlet, please click HERE.

More on Via Campasina.

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Review by John Riddell

La Vía Campesina: Globalization and the Power of Peasants by Annette Aurélie Desmarais. Fernwood Publishing, 2007.

May 31, 2009 -- The neoliberal assault that has driven labour into retreat over the last two decades has also sparked the emergence of a peasants’ international, La Vía Campesina. Based in 56 countries across five continents, this alliance has mounted a sustained and spirited defence of peasant cultivation, community and control of food production.

Annette Desmarais’s book on La Vía Campesina has given us a probing and perceptive account of the world peasant movement’s origins, outlook and activities. (”La Vía Campesina” means “Peasant Path” or “Peasant Way”. See “Peasants or Farmers?” at the end of this article.)

50 years after: The tragedy of China’s `Great Leap Forward'

By John Riddell

April 21, 2009 -- Socialist Voice -- On October 1, the People’s Republic of China will mark the 60th anniversary of its foundation. This will be an occasion to celebrate one of the most influential victories of popular struggle in our era.

This great uprising forged a united and independent Chinese state, freed the country from foreign domination and capitalist rule, ended landlordism, provided broad access to education and health care, and set in motion popular energies that modernised and industrialised its economy. The revolutionary triumph of 1949 laid the foundation for China’s present dynamism and influence, as well as providing an enormous impetus to anti-colonial revolution worldwide.

Yet despite these gains, the socialist movement and ideology that headed the revolution, identified with Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong, disappeared from China soon after his death in 1976. The revolution’s central leader is still revered, but his doctrines have been set aside. The country’s present leadership has promoted private capitalist accumulation, not socialist planning, as China’s chief engine of growth. Its policies have aroused much popular protest, but not a revived Maoist movement.

The capitalist crash and the challenges facing socialists in Canada

By Roger Annis and John Riddell

[Roger Annis will be a featured guest at the World at a Crossroads conference, to be held in Sydney, Australia, on April 10-12, 2009, organised by the Democratic Socialist Perspective, Resistance and Green Left Weekly. Visit http://www.worldATACrossroads.org for full agenda and to book your tickets.]

The first casualty of the financial collapse has been the claim that “there is no alternative” to unrestricted free market capitalism. The imperialist governments are bankrolling imperilled banks and industrial conglomerates with immense bailouts — an estimated $5.1 trillion in the US alone by November 2008 — while preparing “stimulus” packages aimed at restoring financial markets.[1]

The “stimulus” includes potentially useful projects along with many that are far more dubious. But urgently needed social investment, such as housing or a national daycare program, receives scant consideration. The spending is shaped to restore corporate profitability, not to sustain workers’ livelihoods. Thus, the US government’s auto industry bailout is conditional on wages and working conditions in union-organised plants being cut to match non-union operations, and Canada’s federal government has set similar conditions.

Proceedings of Fourth Congress of the Communist International to be published

In October, John Riddell, co-editor of Socialist Voice, completed a draft translation of the proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International. This ambitious effort (more than 500,000 words) will make all of the resolutions, speeches, and debates from that important 1922 meeting, together with full explanatory annotation, available in English for the first time. The work, which Riddell is preparing in collaboration with the London-based journal Historical Materialism, is planned for publication in 2010.

The British newspaper Socialist Worker interviewed John Riddell (below) about this project for its November 22, 2008, issue.

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By Ken Olende

In 1922 socialists from around the world travelled to Russia to discuss and debate the future of the workers’ movement.

From Marx to Morales: Indigenous socialism and the Latin Americanisation of Marxism

By John Riddell

June 16, 2008 -- Over the past decade, a new rise of mass struggles in Latin America has sparked an encounter between revolutionists of that region and many of those based in the imperialist countries. In many of these struggles, as in Bolivia under the presidency of Evo Morales, Indigenous peoples are in the lead.

Latin American revolutionists are enriching Marxism in the field of theory as well as of action. This article offers some introductory comments indicating ways in which their ideas are linking up with and drawing attention to important but little-known aspects of Marxist thought.

Che Guevara's final verdict on the Soviet economy

By John Riddell

June 8, 2008 -- One of the most important developments in Cuban Marxism in recent years has been increased attention to the writings of Ernesto Che Guevara on the economics and politics of the transition to socialism.

A milestone in this process was the publication in 2006 by Ocean Press and Cuba's Centro de Estudios Che Guevara of Apuntes criticos a la economía política [Critical Notes on Political Economy], a collection of Che's writings from the years 1962 to 1965, many of them previously unpublished. The book includes a lengthy excerpt from a letter to Fidel Castro, entitled ``Some Thoughts on the Transition to Socialism''. In it, in extremely condensed comments, Che presented his views on economic development in the Soviet Union.[1]

In 1965, the Soviet economy stood at the end of a period of rapid growth that had brought improvements to the still very low living standards of working people. Soviet prestige had been enhanced by engineering successes in defence production and space exploration. Most Western observers then considered that it showed more dynamism than its US counterpart.

At that time, almost the entire Soviet productive economy was owned by the state. It was managed by a privileged bureaucracy that consolidated its control in the 1920s under the leadership of Joseph Stalin. Managers were rewarded on the basis of fulfilling production norms laid down from above; workers were commonly paid by the piece.

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