Communist International

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.

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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.

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.

Germany, 1918-1923: the fire and the spirit of revolution

The German Revolution of 1918-1923 not only saw the collapse of the monarchy, but the real possibility of communism spreading into the heart of Europe. Communist historian Doug Enaa Greene lectures on the course of the revolution and the reasons why it didn't succeed. Presented at the Center of Marxist Education.

Click for more on the Communist Party of Germany; and more by Doug Enaa Greene

By Doug Enaa Greene

Why the whole world is watching Greece

SYRIZA supporters rally.

January 20, 2015 -- Socialist Worker (USA), posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The Coalition of the Radical Left, or SYRIZA, is favoured to win parliamentary elections on January 25, giving it a strong chance to form a new government that could confront the catastrophic austerity agenda that has plunged Greece into severe economic and social crisis. Here, Lee Sustar answers your questions about the rise of SYRIZA and what a victory for it on January 25 would mean.

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Why is so much attention focused on the Greek elections?

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.

United States: Marxists and the lost Labor Party of 1923

1919 US Labor Party convention.

By Eric Blanc

September 10, 2014 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by the author -- Discussions on how to break working people from the hold of the Democratic Party have acquired a new immediacy as a result of the recent electoral victories of independent working-class candidates in Seattle, Washington, and Lorraine, Ohio, as well as the campaign for Chicago union leader Karen Lewis to run as an independent for mayor. Those interested in promoting independent politics today may benefit from studying the rich experience of the labor party movement in the United States of the early 1920s.

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.

Weighing the legacy of Lenin’s Comintern: John Riddell replies to Paul Kellogg

Lenin A
For more discussion on the Communist International, click HERE. Click for more by or about John Riddell and Paul Kellogg.

By John Riddell

May 15, 2014 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Paul Kellogg’s review in Socialist Studies of my edition of the Communist International’s 1922 world congress raises two probing questions regarding the legacy of the Communist International (Comintern) in Lenin’s time.[1]

First, he questions a long-held conception that the Bolshevik leaders initiated all the Comintern’s major steps in policy development. Second, he challenges the belief that the Lenin-era International represents a model or template for program and strategy in our time.

Reading Clara Zetkin today: What strategy for women’s liberation?

Clara Zetkin.

By John Riddell

March 9, 2014 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- In a recent comment to this blog, Tad Tietze defines Clara Zetkin’s approach to women’s oppression as marked by “consistent method, flexible application”. To portray this approach, he offers us an important speech by Zetkin to a convention of German socialists in 1896. In my view, Zetkin’s address is a classic of Marxism, worth careful study, but does not offer us a satisfactory strategy for the women’s liberation struggle today.

Clara Zetkin en la boca del lobo: frente único y feminismo en el III congreso de la Comintern

Clara Zetkin

[In English at http://links.org.au/node/3663. Haga clic aquí para más artículos en español.]

Por John Riddell

2/2/2014 -- http://www.sinpermiso.info -- En 1921, cuando la Internacional Comunista (Comintern) celebró su III Congreso Mundial, Clara Zetkin era la comunista más respetada fuera de Rusia. Sin embargo, fue víctima en vísperas del congreso de grandes esfuerzos para vilipendiarla y apartarla de la dirección de la Comintern, e incluso del movimiento comunista. No obstante, fue, junto con Lenin y Trotsky, una de las figuras intelectuales más destacadas del congreso.

Examinaremos el papel de Zetkin en la gran lucha ideológica del III Congreso y su conexión con su participación en el movimiento por la emancipación de la mujer. Zetkin había ganado una gran reputación como la principal dirigente del movimiento internacional de mujeres socialistas antes de 1914. Se convirtió en uno de los defensores más eficaces del internacionalismo socialista durante la guerra. Ayudó a formar el Partido Comunista Alemán y fue uno de sus líderes más prominentes.

Clara Zetkin in the lion’s den: Workers’ unity and feminism at a Comintern congress

Clara Zetkin

Clara Zetkin.

Click on the following links for more articles on feminism, the Communist International, Clara Zetkin and John Riddell.

By John Riddell

January 14, 2014 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com/Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In 1921, when the Communist International (Comintern) held its Third World Congress, Clara Zetkin was the most widely respected Communist outside Russia. Yet she was the victim of vigorous efforts on the eve of the congress to vilify her and drive her out of the Comintern leadership, if not from the movement. Nonetheless, she ranks, together with Lenin and Leon Trotsky, among the dominant intellectual figures at the congress.

Let us survey Zetkin’s role in the great ideological struggle at the Third Congress and then link it to her involvement in the movement for women’s emancipation.

Luxemburg, Lenin, Levi: Rethinking revolutionary history

Part 1. John Riddell. Parts 2 and 3 below.

December 14, 2013 -- Left Streamed, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission

Moderated by Jackie Esmonde. Presentations by:

  • John Riddell, editor of Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International.
  • Paul Kellogg, author of “The Only Hope of the Revolution is the Crowd: The Limits of Žižek's Leninism”, International Journal of Žižek Studies.

More by John Riddell. More by Paul Kellogg.

Sponsored by Education Committee of the Greater Toronto Workers' Assembly.

John Riddell: Do we need an anti-capitalist government? United fronts in the 20th and 21st centuries (videos)

[Click HERE for more by John Riddell.]

November 11, 2013 -- SocResVideo, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- John Riddell, editor and translator of Towards the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922, speaking in London on November 3, 2013, at the "Building Unity, Taking Power: Left Histories and Contemporary Practice" seminar organised by the Anti-Capitalist Initiative, International Socialist Network and Socialist Resistance. The above talk is "Do we need an anti-capitalist government". The second below is "United fronts in the 20th and 21st centuries". They are followed by some of the discussion.

Toward the United Front, Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922
Edited and translated by John Riddell
Brill, 2011 (hard back), 1310 pages, 200 euros
Haymarket Books, 2012 (paper back) US$55

On Marxism and melodrama: An interview with Lars Lih

Lars Lih has explored the political and theoretical relationships between Lenin and Karl Kautsky.

[Click HERE for more by or about Lars Lih. For more discussion on Lenin, click HERE.]

Lars Lih interviewed by Dario Cankovic

October 2, 2013 -- The North Star, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by Dario Cankovic -- Lars T. Lih lives and works in Montreal, Quebec. He is an adjunct professor of musicology at the Schulich School of Music, McGill University and writes about Russian and socialist history on his own time. His books include Bread and Authority in Russia, 1914-1921 (1990), Lenin Rediscovered: What Is to Be Done in Context (2006) and Lenin (2011), a biography. Links to his articles online can be found here.

The talented and reviled Mr Pepper (Comintern agent)

A Communist Odyssey: The Life of József Pogány/John Pepper
By Thomas Sakmyster
Budapest-New York: Central European University Press, 2012
Photos, bibliography, index; 249 pp.

Reviewed by Dan La Botz

October 2013 -- New Politics, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the author's permission -- During normal times in a capitalist society, skill and drive are harnessed by the corporations, the labour union bureaucracy and the political parties, but when the crisis comes a revolutionary party must harness the most talented and most ambitious for its purposes. The idealistic and the opportunistic, the selfless and the self-aggrandising, the ruthless and the kind, the brave and the cowardly among those most determined and striving souls must somehow be made use of for the higher purposes of the revolution and ultimately for of all of humanity. The revolutionary movement must bring out the best in them, for we are the only material we have.

John Riddell: Five precedents for understanding Egypt’s July coup

General L.G. Kornilov, Moscow, August 1917.

By John Riddell

September 15, 2013 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Two months after Egypt’s generals ousted its elected Muslim Brotherhood government, there is still a wide spectrum of views among socialists regarding the meaning of this event (see “Socialists need to rethink the military takeover”).

This discussion can be deepened by considering a few precedents from socialist history – some well known, others obscure.

1. 1917: The Kornilov coup

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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