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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:
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.
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
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By John Riddell
Latin America at the Crossroads. By Roberto Regalado. Translation by Peter Gellert. Ocean Press (www.oceanbooks.com.au), 2007, US$17.95; America latina entre siglos. Ocean Press, 2007, US$17.95.
This compact book by Roberto Regalado, a veteran member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, strongly reaffirms the need for revolution in Latin America and beyond.
Regalado, a section chief in the Cuban CP's Department of International Relations, is anything but dogmatic. He is attentive to recent new trends in Latin American economics and politics, and respectful toward the diverse currents of socialist opinion. He stresses the importance of the new features of Latin American social struggles: the role of peasants, the landless, indigenous peoples, women, environmentalists and others.
But his careful and unpretentious analysis leads toward a striking conclusion: only a revolutionary seizure of political power by the masses can open the road to social progress south of the Rio Bravo and even within the imperialist countries.
Advent of neoliberalism
In just 232 pages Regalado provides a handbook of Marxist politics, outlining Marxism's basic anti-capitalist premise and examining closely the evolution of revolutionary and reformist schools of thought through the 20th century.
[The following is the introduction to a new pamphlet, Comintern: Revolutionary Internationalism in Lenin's Time, produced by the Canadian Socialist Voice collective. The full text is available at http://www.socialistvoice.ca/wp-content/uploads/2007/12/comintern-riddell.pdf]
By John Riddell
When Bolivian President Evo Morales formally opened his country's constituent assembly on August 6, 2006, he highlighted the aspirations of Bolivia's indigenous majority as the central challenge before the gathering. The convening of the assembly, he said, represented a ``historic moment to refound our dearly beloved homeland Bolivia''. When Bolivia was created, in 1825-26, ``the originary indigenous movements'' who had fought for independence ``were excluded'' and subsequently discriminated against and looked down upon. But the ``great day has arrived today ... for the originary indigenous peoples''.
During the preceding weeks, indigenous organisations had proposed sweeping measures to assure their rights, including guarantees for their languages, autonomy for indigenous regions and respect for indigenous culture and political traditions.
This movement extends far beyond Bolivia. Massive struggles based on indigenous peoples have shaken Ecuador and Peru, and the reverberations are felt across the western hemisphere. Measures to empower indigenous minorities are among the most prestigious achievements of the Bolivarian movement in Venezuela.