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Doug Enaa Greene

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A fight on two fronts: On Jean-Luc Godard’s 'La Chinoise'

 

 

By Doug Enaa Greene and Shalon van Tine 

 

September 7, 2019 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Cosmonaut — Jean-Luc Godard’s La Chinoise (1967) is not an ordinary film. On the surface, La Chinoise seems simple enough: it tells the story of French students in the 1960s who form a Maoist collective, live together, have political discussions, and eventually turn to revolutionary violence. However, the film is difficult to follow since it not only lacks a coherent narrative structure, but the viewer is bombarded with slogans, images, and ideas on everything from popular culture to revolutionary politics. Anyone who attempts to analyze their meaning will easily feel buried by all the sights and sounds that Godard packs into it. Considering the chaotic nature of La Chinoise, the slogan found at the beginning — “We should replace vague ideas with clear images” — may well appear out of place, if not ironic.[1]

 

The democratic socialist cul-de-sac: A critical look at 'The Socialist Manifesto'

 

 

The Socialist Manifesto
By Bhaskar Sunkara
New York: Basic Books, 2019

 

Reviewed by Doug Enaa Greene

 

Leon Trotsky and cultural revolution

 

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

May 13, 2019 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Cosmonaut — The argument that a “cultural revolution” is a necessary part of a socialist revolution is generally associated with Mao Zedong and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) that he initiated in China. However, Leon Trotsky, in a vastly different way than Mao, stated that Russia needed a cultural revolution. According to Trotsky, a cultural revolution was needed along with industrialization to construct socialism. Trotsky’s industrialization plan for Russia would increase the social weight of the proletariat. A cultural revolution would raise the masses’ cultural level by eradicating mass illiteracy and superstition and change their habits and customs, which would make the working class fit to rule society.

 

Michael Harrington and his afterlives

 

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

May 5, 2019 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Cosmonaut — Michael Harrington (1928-1989) was the most important advocate for democratic socialism in the United States in the latter half of the twentieth century. He is widely, and deservedly, recognized for writing The Other America, a seminal exposé of poverty in the United States. However, Michael Harrington was not simply a public intellectual but a political activist who developed a vision to make democratic socialism into a major force in American life. His strategy was to realign the Democratic Party by driving out the business interests and transform it into a social democratic party. This new party of the people would then not only represent the interests of the vast majority and pass genuine reforms, but begin the transition to democratic socialism. Michael Harrington’s politics and vision have outlived him and they remain the “common sense” of much of the American left, shaping debates in the organization he founded, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

 

Lenin, the Labour Party, and Democrats

 

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

May 5, 2019 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Left Voice with permission — There is a relatively common justification among large sections of the American left who offer various levels of support to the Democratic Party that they are merely creatively applying Lenin’s tactics to the present moment. The argument is familiar: the British Labour Party had the allegiance of the trade unions and millions of workers. And in order not to be isolated from the mass of workers, Lenin argued that British communists should affiliate to the Labour Party and support its candidates in elections. In present day America, it is claimed that the Democrats are an equivalent to the Labour Party since they have the support of organized labor and that their candidates, especially “democratic socialist” ones, deserve the support of socialists in order to advance working-class interests. However, this is a false equivalence. The Labour Party of 1920 and the Democratic Party of 2019 are fundamentally different organizations, with the former owing its origin to trade unions and the latter being a thoroughly bourgeois institution.

 

Looking for loopholes: On the misuses of Lenin’s “‘Left-Wing’ Communism”

 

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

March 26, 2019  
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Left Voice with the author's permission — With the 2020 U.S. presidential election already in full swing, we are already hearing the familiar clichés from liberals: that this is the “most important election in our lifetime” and that we must support the Democrats to defeat Donald Trump. Any left-wing criticism of the Democrats is met with a prompt demand to “shut up,” renounce our principles and get in line. Unfortunately, there are socialists and communists who not only repeat these liberal refrains, but also quote Lenin to justify supporting for the Democratic Party and to attack other socialists and communists as “dogmatists,” “purists” and “ultra-leftists.” The Lenin text most often cited as providing “loopholes” for radicals to abandon their principles and support the class enemy is “‘Left-Wing’ Communism: An Infantile Disorder” (LWC). This is, however, a gross misinterpretation of the purpose of Lenin’s LWC, which is not about rationalizing opportunism; rather, it is intended to help communists think seriously about strategy and tactics in order to successfully lead the working class.

 

Karl Kautsky: From Pope to Renegade

 

 

Eduard Bernstein and Karl Kautsky, 1910

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

October 25, 2018 
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Left Voice with author's permission — At the height of the Second International, Karl Kautsky was recognized by socialists and anti-socialists alike as “The Pope of Marxism” for his popularization and systematization of Marxist ideas. The great figures of the day looked to him for guidance, whether Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky, V. I. Lenin, or Eugene Debs. Since Kautsky was such an authoritative voice on Marxism, his subsequent betrayal was so deep that later communists could be forgiven for mistaking his first name as “Renegade” (as Lenin bitterly called him). Although Kautsky fell into obscurity following the Russian Revolution, in the last few years there has been a revival of interest in his politics in both academia (notably by the scholar Lars Lih) and on the political left. This raises questions about the meaning of Kautsky’s orthodox Marxism and about what, if anything, a renewed revolutionary left should adopt from it as our own?

 

More than universal healthcare: the meaning of socialism

 

 

Schemes of state and municipal ownership, if unaccompanied by this co-operative principle, are but schemes for the perfectioning of the mechanism of capitalist government - schemes to make the capitalist regime respectable and efficient for the purposes of the capitalist; in the second place they represent the class-conscious instinct of the business man who feels that capitalist should not prey upon capitalist, while all may unite to prey upon the workers... To the cry of the middle class reformers, “make this or that the property of the government,” we reply, “yes, in proportion as the workers are ready to make the government their property.”

 

  James Connolly [1]

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

August 1 2018
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Left VoiceA recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times boldly stated, “Americans like socialism now.” Increasingly among younger people, the word “socialism” has lost its Cold War stigma. According to the article, the new-found interest in socialism is linked to the 2008 crash and its recovery, “which has seen nearly all newly created wealth claimed by the 1% while wages stagnate, has led to a rebirth of the American left.”[2] In other words, for most people, capitalism just wasn’t working.

 

The Relevance of Marx at 200

 

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

May 10, 2018 
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Left Voice  — May 5 is the 200th birthday of Karl Marx. However, what is there to celebrate? Surely, Marx is out of date now with the fall of the Soviet Union and the triumph of capitalism.

 

Menshevism: The Girondins of 1917

 

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

April 25, 2018
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Left Voice with the author's permission — Whatever their differences, Lenin, Plekhanov, Martov, and Trotsky all saw the Russian Revolution as following in the experience of the French Revolution of 1789. The Russian revolutionaries also modeled themselves on the different parties of the French Revolution, whether consciously or unconsciously, as guides for action. Lenin and the Bolsheviks believed they were modern-day Jacobins – stalwart revolutionaries who would organize the working class and take power. By contrast, the Mensheviks were moderate Girondins. Menshevism was committed to gradualism and opposed to the “historical impatience” of a socialist revolution. Like the Girondins, the Mensheviks were honorable, but like their predecessors, they lacked faith in the revolutionary abilities of the people. That was the root of their failure in 1917.

 

Blanqui and the Communist Enlightenment

 

 

Dedicated to my cousin, Finley William

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

February 6, 2018 
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Left Voice with the author's permission — Currently, the principles of the Enlightenment are under attack on several fronts. On the one hand, there are fascists and religious fundamentalists who are opposed to secularism, democracy, and equality. On the other hand, large segments of the left have rejected Enlightenment-inspired “grand narratives” as inherently oppressive and totalitarian. Now that Enlightenment ideas are under attack, the left stands on the same philosophical ground as the right, making it ill-equipped to defend universalist principles. Other so-called defenders of the Enlightenment, whether liberals or social democrats, offer no positive alternative to reactionaries. They remain stalwart defenders of the status quo of capitalism, wars, and racism.

 

Blanqui’s Politics of Revolution: An Interview with Doug Greene

 

 

October 18, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Left Voice — In this interview, historian Doug Greene talks about Blanqui, his life and politics, and more. His new book, Communist Insurgent: Blanqui's Politics of Revolution, will be out next month.

 

Gracchus Babeuf revisited

 

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

September 11, 2017 
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from RS21 — In most English language scholarship on the French Revolution, Gracchus Babeuf (1760-1797) remains a marginal figure. At most, he merits a mention in a few paragraphs, where he is generally portrayed as an eclectic and utopian figure, who led an extremist movement doomed to fail. Sadly that view is shared by too many socialists, who dismiss Babeuf as just a Jacobin elitist with little to teach the present. Thankfully, Ian Birchall’s Spectre of Babeuf provides a welcome corrective to the neglect of Babeuf by giving him the respect he deserves as a participant in the French Revolution and as an original socialist thinker from whom revolutionaries can still learn a great deal.

 

Crisis and Breakdown

 

 

 

“Either the socialist transformation is, as was admitted up to now, the consequence of the internal contradictions of capitalism, and with the growth of capitalism will develop its inner contradictions, resulting inevitably, at some point, in its collapse, (in that case the “means of adaptation” are ineffective and the theory of collapse is correct); or the “means of adaptation” will really stop the collapse of the capitalist system and thereby enable capitalism to maintain itself by suppressing its own contradictions. In that case socialism ceases to be an historic necessity. It then becomes anything you want to call it, but it is no longer the result of the material development of society."

 

Rosa Luxemburg

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

The Oath: The story of the Jewish Bund

 

 

Jewish Bund demonstration during the Russian Revolution of 1917

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

We swear an endless loyalty to the Bund.

Only it can free the slaves now.

The red flag is high and wide.

It waves in anger, it is red with blood!

Swear an oath of life and death!

Di Shvue

 

Marxism: The philosophy of praxis

 

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

To Harrison and Sam.

 

“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”
-Karl Marx

"Marxism is the theory of the proletarian movement for emancipation."
-V. I. Lenin

 

Revolutionary theory and popularization

 
 

By Doug Greene

 

February 23, 2017 Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Left Voice with the author's permission — Marxist theory is not the same thing as the popularization of socialist or communist ideas but is (at its best) an open-ended, creative, and continually developing theoretical framework for understanding and changing the world. As Lenin put it, "without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement."[1] However, in order for Marxist theory to fulfil its goal, ways must be found to popularize it for millions so they can understand and apply it.

 

Why Blanqui?

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

February 1, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Verso Books with the author's permission — Karl Marx claimed that Louis-Auguste Blanqui was the “man whom I have always regarded as the brains and inspiration of the proletarian party in France.” Although largely forgotten today, there was a time when revolutionaries throughout the world viewed this nineteenth century French political prisoner as a central figure and hero of revolutionary socialism. In this time of so much political backsliding and compromise, it is worth looking at the life of Blanqui.

 

Redeeming the revolution: A review of “October 1917 - Workers in Power”

 

 

Reviewed by Doug Enaa Greene

 

October 1917 – Workers in Power.
Paul Le Blanc, Ernest Mandel, David Mandel, François Vercammen, and contemporary texts by Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin, Leon Trotsky.
Edited by Fred Leplat and Alex de Jong
London: Merlin Press, the IIRE and Resistance Books, 2016. 256 pages

 

The critical communism of Antonio Labriola

 

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

December 30, 2016 –– Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from International Socialist Review with the author’s permission –– Antonio Labriola, if he is known today at all, is remembered as a minor Marxist theorist in the Second International, overshadowed by such well known figures as Karl Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg, or Eduard Bernstein. Sometimes Labriola will be mentioned as a formative influence on the Marxism of Antonio Gramsci and Leon Trotsky. Yet Labriola deserves to be known and studied based on his own merits. He provided a critique of Second International orthodox Marxism, arguing that it divorced theory and practice, engaged in sterile, dogmatic systematization, and held to an economically deterministic form of Marxism. Labriola revived Marxism as an open philosophy of praxis, that is, as a critical and revolutionary method. He did not take for granted the inevitability of historical progress, but argued that it was necessary for socialists to intervene actively in shaping it.

 

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