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revolutionary organisation

Occupy and the tasks of socialists

"Out of clouds of pepper spray and phalanxes of riot cops a new generation of revolutionaries is being forged, and it would be a shame if the Peter Camejos, Max Elbaums, Angela Davises, Dave Clines and Huey Newtons of this generation end up in separate “competing” socialist groups ... Now is the time to begin seriously discussing the prospect of regroupment, of liquidating outdated boundaries we have inherited, of finding ways to work closely together for our common ends. "

For more on the #Occupy movement, click here.

By Pham Binh

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).

Paul Le Blanc: Marxism and organisation

By Paul Le Blanc

This presentation was given at the Chicago educational conference of the US International Socialist Organization, Socialism 2011, on the July 2-3, 2011, weekend. The text first appeared at Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières.

* * *

It is always worth examining the question of Marxism and organisation because, if we would like to be organised Marxists who effectively struggle for socialism, we have a responsibility to know what we are about -- and such knowledge is deepened by ongoing examination. There are scholarly reasons for going over such ground, but for activists the primary purpose is to improve our ability to help change the world. There are three basic ideas to be elaborated on here: 1) there must be a coming together of socialism and the working class if either is to have a positive future; 2) those of us who think like that need to work together hard and effectively -- which means we need to be part of a serious organisation; and 3) socialist organisations must be a democratic/disciplined force in actual workers’ struggles -- that is the path to socialism. In what follows I will elaborate on this.

Lenin and us: Into the past, back to the future

Cover of Lars Lih's latest book, Lenin (London: Reaktion Books, 2011).

By Paul Le Blanc

June 14, 2011 -- Europe Solidare Sans Frontieres -- I will never forget, as the 20th century trudged through its final decade, a once-close comrade telling me and others that developments of our time had consigned the Leninist conception of the party to “the dustbin of history”. Yet its dusty tracks may be something we will discover as we make our way into the near future. Polemical sparks spraying out from those engaged in the vibrant renewal of Lenin scholarship suggest that it still has life.

In 2008 – while on a Left Forum panel entitled “Lenin’s Return”, and in surveying the recent proliferation of works on Lenin at that time, including Lars Lih’s huge and important book Lenin Rediscovered – I said:

Lars T. Lih: ‘We must dream!’ Echoes of `What Is to Be Done?’ in Lenin’s later career

[Talk given at the US International Socialist Organization’s Socialism 2010 conference, Chicago, June 2010. Posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with Lars Lih's permission. Lars T. Lih's Lenin, a short volume in the Critical Lives series of Reaktion Books, will be published later this year. Click here for a special offer. Read more by and about Lars T. Lih HERE. You can also read more about Lenin HERE.]

* * *

By Lars T. Lih

Lars T. Lih: Scotching the myths about Lenin's `What is to be done'

By Lars T. Lih

October 21 2010 -- Weekly Worker -- What is to be done? was written for the first time in Russian between the autumn of 1901 and spring of 1902. It was a success among the rather limited number of people he was addressing: namely the people in the social-democratic [as revolutionary socialism was still know as] movement in Russia and interested parties. Of course, this audience was not sufficient to make it a real bestseller, but it did have an impact. When we look at the pamphlet today we want to have a sense of when, why and for whom he wrote it.

So, first, I am going to look at the basic task that Lenin and his comrades had set themselves. The reason for this is that he shared this task with other leaders in the movement, and even with some of the people he is arguing against. But, because he shares it, it is not actually set out in the book itself. It becomes background; because he assumes agreement on the basic task, he does not talk about it. We have to be aware of this.

Making sense of Trotskyism in the United States: Two memoirs

[This review-essay was written for and is scheduled to appear in the British journal Revolutionary History, which has granted permission to circulate it on-line. Please include this acknowledgement when sharing it. The text is from Labor Standard.]

North Star, A Memoir (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2010)
By Peter Camejo
364 pages with index

Outsider’s Reverie, A Memoir (Los Angeles: Boryana Books, 2010)
By Leslie Evans
438 pages with index.

By Paul Le Blanc

October 1, 2010 -- The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) of the United States was for a number of years the largest and strongest section of the Fourth International — both of which were formally established in 1938, both representing the revolutionary socialist perspectives associated with Leon Trotsky. Rooted in opposition to Stalinism in the early Communist movement, the U.S. Trotskyists worked closely with Trotsky in building the Fourth International, the global network of small revolutionary groups adhering to the original “Bolshevik-Leninist” perspectives. They also played a heroic role in U.S. class struggles of the 1930s, and their reputation among many was as unyielding partisans of workers’ democracy and Trotsky’s revolutionary Marxist orientation. Yet in the non-revolutionary aridity of 1950s America, their ranks dwindled down to handfuls of stalwarts, perhaps 400 aging members, in a handful of cities.

Australia: The DSP in the 1980s

[This first appeared as the introduction to Building the Revolutionary Party: Jim Percy Selected Writings 1980-87 (Resistance Books: Chippendale, 2008). Dave Holmes is now a leader of the Socialist Alliance in Melbourne. This and other writings are also available at Dave Holmes' blog, Arguing for Socialism.]

By Dave Holmes

This is the second volume of writings and speeches by Jim Percy, one of the founders of Australia's Democratic Socialist Perspective and its longtime central leader until his death in 1992. These seven items — reports given by Jim to conferences and leadership gatherings of the DSP (or SWP, Socialist Workers Party, as it was known in this period) — span the years 1980 to 1987.

James P. Cannon: An introduction

[This the introduction to Building the Revolutionary Party: An Introduction to James P. Cannon (Resistance Books: Chippendale, 1997). Dave Holmes is now a leader of the Socialist Alliance in Melbourne. This and other writings are also available at Dave Holmes' blog, Arguing for Socialism.]

By Dave Holmes

James P. Cannon was a pioneer of the Communist Party of the United States and one of its central leaders in the 1920s. Breaking with the Stalinised CP in 1928 he founded the US Trotskyist movement and played the decisive role in building it for over three decades.

The socialist revolution and the mass revolutionary party

Lenin: "In its struggle for power the proletariat has no other weapon but organisation".

By Dave Holmes

Today humanity faces a global crisis stemming from the incredible rapacity of the capitalist system. In the first place, there is catastrophic climate change which threatens to end life on our planet, then there is endemic war and conflict, mass poverty in the Third World and neoliberalism's ever more ruthless assault on working people everywhere.

Capitalism will destroy the human race. It is absolutely clear that the bourgeoisie will continue to put the drive for corporate profit ahead of everything, even our own future as a species. It is incapable of changing. Even when it recognises the danger it cannot stop doing what it does. If capitalism is not overthrown, humanity is most likely doomed.

The only way out is the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by socialism. And the only means to do this is anti-imperialist revolutions in the Third World and proletarian socialist revolutions in the advanced capitalist countries.

‘Socialism of the 21st century’ and left unity


By the Socialist Alliance, Australia

[The following is the text of a leaflet being distributed by the Socialist Alliance in Melbourne.]

April 2, 2010 -- The triumphalism spouted by capitalist apologists in the early 1990s with the collapse of the Soviet Union has long gone. Today the problems are so obvious: global warming and the world economic slump are shaking the capitalist world and casting a growing shadow over the future.

“Capitalism is the road to hell”, as Venezuela’s leader Hugo Chavez said at the Copenhagen climate conference. The revolutionary process in Venezuela and the bold stand taken by its leader have resurrected the idea of socialism in the consciousness of millions. His call for a “socialism of the 21st century” has inspired people around the world. And now Chavez has called for a new international socialist organisation which would unite parties and movements that want to fight imperialism and neoliberalism.

But important as solidarity with Venezuela is and much as we may admire Chavez, our fundamental task is to fight for social change right here.

Survival of humanity is at stake

Lars T. Lih's contribution to a Leninism for the 21st century

Lenin Rediscovered: What Is To Be Done? In Context
By Lars T. Lih, Haymarket Books, Chicago 2008, 840 pages

Review by Barry Healy

If a spectre haunted 19th century Europe, as Marx said of the embryonic communist movement, then the name of Lenin was no ghost for the 20th century bourgeoisie, it was a terrifying reality.

For the capitalists, with Leninism the communist phantom came howling out of the underworld, beginning with the 1917 Russian Revolution, sweeping whole continents clean of capitalist rule. Millions of human beings found their life’s purpose in learning from and extending into their own national contexts the ideas of Lenin.

Epic intellectual – and sometimes bitter, physical – conflicts have been waged over the meaning of Lenin’s ideas. Among leftists, the Trotskyists in particular, to their ever-lasting credit, argued for a revolutionary, liberationist reading of Lenin, in defiance of Stalin’s bureaucratic evisceration, often at the cost of their lives.

Australia: 'It's time for the DSP to merge into the Socialist Alliance'

Peter Boyle speaks at the Socialist Alliance seventh national conference, Januray 2, 2010. Photo by Alex Bainbridge.

[This report, presented by Peter Boyle on behalf of the Australian Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP) national executive was adopted, by the 24th DSP congress on January 2, 2010. See also ``Australia: New era of left unity as DSP votes to merge with the Socialist Alliance''.]

We are proposing to take an important step forward in our party building effort, an effort that has now spanned some four decades. We propose, at this 24th congress, to merge the Democratic Socialist Perspective into the Socialist Alliance, to take everything we have learned and built over these years of political struggle (organised through the DSP) into a broader political organisation, an organisation which has a majority of members who don't come from the DSP.

Recent experiences in left regroupment and reconstruction

By Jim McIlroy

November 23, 2009 -- How do you build socialism in the First World countries right now? Of course, we are part of a world movement for socialism, including the Third World. We can learn a lot from recent and current experiences in left regroupment and party building that are happening around the world at present -- with all proportions guarded, and realising that there is no direct transposition of one historical, national experience onto another.

When we talk about left regroupment and reconstruction, unlike some of the other overseas examples that I will refer to, Socialist Alliance in Australia is not at this stage a broad left party or a regroupment organisation in quite the same way as some of the other international experiences. But it is a vehicle for constructing one and it is a nucleus for building a broad-based socialist party in the future.

Pamphlet to download: Marta Harnecker's `Ideas for the Struggle'

This 12-part series of articles by Marta Harnecker (translated by Federico Fuentes) on ideas for how to organise for socialism in the 21st century first appeared in Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal. It is now available download free as a pamphlet in PDF format.

Four goals for a new left party

By Duncan Chapel

November 14, 2009 -- Socialist Resistance -- The people on this platform share a lot of ideas.

  • We want a working-class party to the left of the Labour Party, with a socialist program that confronts the dual crises of the ecology and the economy, which the ruling class is struggling to contain
  • We want a party in which anti-capitalists are hegemonic, but not monolithic. We have to be open to everyone who’s for the class struggle, not just those with Marxist ideas
  • We want a party of struggle, based on the ground, that’s developing a movement of resistance as well as an electoral campaign.

That’s a lot of agreement. It’s meaningful. It’s new. We like it.

But what’s the next step? Where do we go from here? And in particular, some of us are in different places -- so that means different routes to the same destination. Socialist Resistance has four ideas we want to share with you about our idea of the route to a new party.

1. We need a party based on the struggle, not just a party for the election

In this crisis, the capitalists are starting a new offensive against social and democratic rights to increase the exploitation of labour and protect profits. Western governments are making working people pay for the crisis: “just as before, or almost and perhaps worse”.

Lenin's place in history

By Graham Milner

Lenin stands out as one of the unquestionably great personalities of 20th century history. Yet such has been the impact of this man on the course of history in this century that his life and ideas have often become the subject of either the most vicious distortion or the most abject and craven cult-worship.

Lenin is said to have requested that no great fuss be made in commemorating his death, and that no personality cult be allowed to develop around him.[1] Lenin recognised that tendency that turns the most revolutionary figures, after their deaths, into harmless icons -- to be worshipped, while their ideas are ignored.[2] He had seen Marx's legacy treated in this way by leading ``Marxists'' in the Second International, and had spent most of the latter part (and a good deal of the former part) of his political life fighting the disastrous consequences of this tendency for the socialist movement.

Lenin's ``successors'' in the Kremlin repeated the errors of Second International's Eduard Bernstein and Karl Kautsky. Each May Day parade in Moscow, the Soviet hierarchs stood atop Lenin's mausoleum, like pygmies. The greater were Lenin's praises sung, the wider grew the gap between the practice and the prattle of the Soviet bureaucrats. On the other side of the Cold War divide, distortion and denigration called the tune.

Paul Le Blanc -- Why I'm joining the US International Socialist Organization: Intensifying the struggle for social change

Paul Le Blanc.

By Paul Le Blanc

October 2009 -- I have decided to join the International Socialist Organization (ISO) because I believe socialists can and must, at this moment, intensify the struggle to bring about positive social change. I have been active in this struggle for most of my life -- as a member of the "new left" in the 1960s and early '70s (first in Students for a Democratic Society and briefly in the New American Movement), then in the Trotskyist movement (the Socialist Workers Party for ten years, briefly in Socialist Action, the Fourth Internationalist Tendency for another eight years). I have always considered "Trotskyism" as the same as revolutionary socialism, associated with some of the most useful ideas and most inspiring traditions that ever existed -- something I will come back to shortly.

Since 1992 I have been a member of Solidarity, which over the years has attracted a number of fine people who have done excellent work, although it has never proved able to sustain a membership of more than 300. I feel I have done all that I can to help build Solidarity. At this point I believe I may have more to contribute to building the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and am hopeful that the ISO can play a badly needed role in the intensification of the struggle to bring fundamental social change.

Free pamphlet: Revolutionaries and parliament: The Bolshevik experience

By Maurice Sibelle

One of the greatest obstacles to winning working people to the perspective of a socialist revolution is the widespread and deeply ingrained illusion — inculcated in their minds day-in and day-out by the capitalist rulers — that through the institutions of bourgeois democracy, particularly parliament, working people can defend and advance their interests.

Historical experience has shown that socialists cannot destroy this widely held illusion simply by presenting arguments against it. On the contrary, the working masses can only be convinced that parliament is an instrument of capitalist rule when this argument is backed up by their own experience. That is, the masses of working people will have to go through the practical experience of struggles in which they can test the limits that the parliamentary system places on their activity before they can be convinced of the necessity of overthrowing this system and replacing it with genuinely democratic political institutions — a centralised system of elected committees or councils of working people’s delegates like the Russian soviets of workers’ deputies that emerged in the 1905 revolution and again in 1917.

Between 1912-14, the Russian Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin were able to use the tsarist parliament — the Duma — to help build a revolutionary workers’ movement. This experience provides possibly the richest period for lessons in revolutionary parliamentarism. It was a vital period in the history of the Bolshevik Party. The work done in this period laid the ground work for the rapid changes that occurred in 1917 and the eventual victory of the October Revolution.

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