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Communist International

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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History: Why did Paul Levi lose out in the German Communist leadership? (Now with audio)

Paul Levi, 1920

Paul Levi, 1920.

[Click HERE for more by John Riddell.]

By John Riddell

This talk was part of a panel on “Paul Levi and the German socialist movement” at the Socialism 2013 conference in Chicago, June 28, 2013. The other speakers at this session were Jen Roesch and Paul Kellogg. You can listen to the full panel below, thanks to Wearemany.com.

Paul Le Blanc: Leninism and organisation today

[For more on revolutionary organisation, click HERE. For more discussion on Leninism, click HERE and HERE. More articles by Paul Le Blanc can be found HERE.]

By Paul Le Blanc

March 14, 2013 -- Socialist Worker (USA), posted at Links Internarional Journal of Socialist Renewal at the author's suggestion and with his permission -- I appreciate the comradely spirit of Joaquín Bustelo's contribution to the discussion ("There's no universal model of Leninism"). The issues he raises are important--from the standpoint of revolutionary politics and also from the standpoint of revolutionary history. It is possible to be wrong on one and right on the other, although I will argue that my old comrade is partly wrong on one (politics) and entirely wrong on the other (history).

John Riddell: Party democracy in Lenin’s Comintern – and small Marxist groups today

[For more articles by John Riddell, click HERE. For more on the Communist International, click HERE. For more on the British SWP, click HERE. For more on revolutionary organisation, click HERE.]

By John Riddell

February 20, 2013 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- How did Communist parties handle issues of internal discipline and democracy in Lenin’s time? An intense discussion now under way within the British Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) raises issues related to the nature of internal democracy in the Communist International (Comintern) during 1919–23, the period of its first four congresses.[1]

‘Toward the United Front’: Recovering revolutionary memory for 21st century socialism (+ video)

 Part 1.

February 16, 2013 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal – On February 3, 120 socialists took part in a Toronto meeting to celebrate publication of Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, 1922, available in paperback from Haymarket Books. This 1300-page volume is the seventh book of documents on the world revolutionary movement in Lenin’s time edited by John Riddell. Riddell’s address to the Toronto meeting, below, explains the purpose of the book and the publishing project. The video of the event, filmed by Left Streamed, begins above and continues below. It was moderated by Abbie Bakan, with additional commentary by David McNally, Greg Albo, Suzanne Weiss and Paul Kellogg.

'Transitional Program': 'a program of action from today until the beginning of the socialist revolution'

The demand for shorter working hours with no loss in pay has been a key transitional demand.

By Doug Lorimer

[This is the introduction to Resistance Books' The Transitional Program and the Struggle for Socialism. For discussion on the left about the significance of the transitional method for socialists, see "In defence of the transitional method" by Dave Holmes.]

I

Paul Le Blanc: Leninism is unfinished

February 1, 2013 -- The crisis in the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP) has stirred a sharp debate among party members about the allegations of sexual harassment and rape at the centre of the crisis and about how a revolutionary organisation deals with disputes and disagreements among its members and leaders. In response to an article titled "Is Leninism Finished" by SWP leader Alex Callinicos, Paul Le Blanc, author of numerous books, including Lenin and the Revolutionary Party, published the following comment on the website of the newspaper of the US International Socialist Organization.

* * *

[For more on the British SWP, click HERE. For more on revolutionary organisation, click HERE. for more discussion on Leninism, click HERE and HERE. More articles by Paul Le Blanc can be found HERE.]

* * *

By Paul Le Blanc

In defence of the transitional method

Sue Bolton speaking at a rally for refugee rights in September. Photo by Aneleh Bulle. 

[See also "How socialists work to win mass support" and "'Transitional Program': 'a program of action from today until the beginning of the socialist revolution'".]

By Dave Holmes

[This talk was presented on January 18, 2013 at the Socialist Alliance (Australia) national conference, held in Geelong.]

January 18, 2013 – Links international Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Socialist Alliance is currently engaged in a process of discussion and clarification with Socialist Alternative, with a view to exploring the possibilities of greater cooperation and unity. How this will ultimately develop is an open question. But I think it is fair to say that on both sides today there is a much greater interest in the political positions and approach of the other.

Forgotten legacies of Bolshevism on revolutionary organisation

"Iskra. It is often argued that the early period of the organisation of Iskra resembled the small, highly homogenous and monolithic cadre grouping that today is promoted as the sine qua non of revolutionary organisation, but if one looks at the original concept of the Iskra editorial board, we can see it promoted debate among a plurality of tendencies."

[Click HERE for more discussion on revolutionary organisation.]

Self-guided tours of revolutionary history: Fourth Congress of the Communist International (1922)

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

In Australia, Toward the United Front is also be available from Resistance Books

To recommend the Brill hardcover edition to your favourite library, go to Brill Academic Publishers and click on “recommend”.

For more on the Communist International, click HERE; for more study guides of socialist history and theory, click HERE.

By John Riddell

How workers rallied to aid the early Soviet republic: International Workers’ Aid for Soviet Russia (+ study guide)

Munzenberg

Willi Münzenberg.

December 29, 2012 -- The following talk on work by the Communist International to gather material aid for the Soviet Republic was given by Suzanne Weiss at the fourth Toronto study session on Toward the United Front, a 1300-page edition the fourth Communist International Congress (1922).

The study session, entitled “The Comintern’s Struggle for Social Hegemony”, surveyed the Comintern's work in unions, cooperatives, education, youth organisations and on material assistance to Soviet Russia. The presentation, taking up a speech by Willi Münzenberg, is followed by a brief biography and a description of the study session. More information on Toward the United Front is available HERE. – John Riddell

This article first appeared at Johnriddell.wordpress.com and is posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.

John Riddell: What would Lenin's Comintern have made of SYRIZA? The Comintern as a school of socialist strategy

[For more articles by John Riddell, click HERE; for more on SYRIZA, click HERE; for more on the Communist International, click HERE.]

By John Riddell

September 3, 2012 -- Johnriddell.wordpress.com/Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In his review of my edition of the Communist International’s Fourth Congress (1922),[1] Ian Birchall warns against a “scriptural approach” to the Comintern record, but also affirms that studying it “can be of great value”. Where can this value be found? A controversy among Marxists over this year’s elections in Greece points our way to an answer.

Communist International's Fourth Congress: revolutionary fulcrum of the modern world

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

Haymarket Books is now taking pre-publication orders of Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, at US$50, a 10% reduction. It is due to be released in November 2012.

To take advantage of Haymarket’s offer, go to Toward the United Front, order the book, go to “check-out” and enter RIDDELL2012 in the “coupon code” field.

To recommend the Brill hardcover edition to your favourite library, go to Brill Academic Publishers and click on “recommend”.

Toward the United Front will also be available from Resistance Books in November.

Review by Barry Healy

Another Olympics is possible: the socialist sports movements of the past

For more discussion of issues surrounding sport and politics, click HERE. For more on the Olympics, click HERE.

August 7, 2012 -- As Mike Marqusee points out in an article posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, the modern Olympic Games are "a symbolic package: individual excellence at the service of the nation-state under the overlordship of multinational capital". Today, the domination of most sport by the capitalist corporations, crude nationalism and dog-eat-dog ideology is almost complete, occasionally challenged by the actions a few principled groups and individuals. But that was not always the case.

In fact, in the early decades of the 20th century, there were mass socialist-inspired workers' sports movements that sought, to varying degrees, to challenge capitalist control and ideology in sport. The goal was to organise working-class people through sport and leisure, and in some cases to attempt to fashion a new conception of sport.

John Riddell: Toward the United Front -- the Fourth Congress of the Communist International (audio)

June 28, 2012 -- A talk presented by John Riddell to the US International Socialist Organization's Socialism 2012 gathering in Chicago, on June 28, 2012. The recording is also available at Wearemany.org, where it first appeared.

Click HERE for more articles on the history of the Communist International.

Read more articles by John Riddell HERE.

How anarchists, syndicalists, socialists and IWW militants were drawn to Bolshevism: four case studies

William Dudley (Big Bill) Haywood, US labour movement leader, marching with strikers in Lowell, Massachusetts, circa 1912.

Read more on the IWW, Gramsci and Victor Serge.

By Doug Enaa Greene

“The unity of thought and action gave Bolshevism its original power; without entering into doctrinal questions we can define Bolshevism as a movement to the left of socialism -- which brought it closer to anarchism -- inspired by the will to achieve the revolution immediately.”[1]

These words of Victor Serge sum up a whole new wave of thinking that came over many anarchists, anarcho-syndicalists, and socialists with the onset of the Russian Revolution. Many anarchists, syndicalists, and socialists who had been hostile to the practices of organized socialist parties for decades found themselves drawn to the example of the Bolshevik Revolution and joined the emerging Communist Parties, providing them with valuable cadres. One of these men was Victor Serge, a Russian exile most noted for his later work as a novelist. Another was Bill Haywood, an American trade unionist active in both the Western Federation of Miners and the Industrial Workers of the World. A third was James P. Cannon, another trade union militant in the USA. A fourth was Antonio Gramsci, an Italian journalist and political activist.

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