In a recent debate between, Lars T Lih, Paul Le Blanc, and Pham Binh(1) there is agreement that, it was not the formal aim of Lenin to proclaim the birth of the Bolshevik Party in 1912 in Prague at the conference of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. Nor was it the formal aim of Lenin to create a separate Bolshevik Party. Again the debate clarified, that in 1912 there was not the birth of a party of a new type, free of opportunism, but the birth of a myth of such a party. Yet for all practical purposes, the RSDLP that emerged from Prague, in 1912, was a Bolshevik Party, in all but name.
Mark Hoskisson departs from the conventional Trotskyist interpretation of the Russian Revolution, in his analysis of Thermidor and the Russian Revolution. (Permanent Revolution issue 17). His conclusion is that the political counter-revolution took place inside the Bolshevik party in 1921 and was led by Lenin and supported by Trotsky.
Yet Mark still dismisses the possibility of Bolshevik values, and methods of organisation, prior to 1921, contributing to the betrayal of the political aspirations of 1917. He still clings to the orthodox view that the Bolshevik Party could somehow be a custodian of workers’ power, despite substituting itself for the working class following 1917, as long as the right to form factions were preserved. Hence, the banning of party factions in 1921 is seen as the historic turning point. Mark asserts that Bolshevism’s descent into counter-revolution marked a distinct break with, not a continuation of its fundamental character and politics in the period 1912 to 1920. Continue reading “The red jacobins : no substitute for workers’ freedom”
Adam Ford reviews The Russian Revolution in Retreat, 1920-24. Soviet workers and the new communist elite, by Simon Pirani, Routledge, 2008.
“I cannot be that sort of idealist communist who believes in the new God That They Call The State, bows before the bureaucracy that is so far from the working people, and waits for communism from the hands of pen-pushers and officials as though it was the kingdom of heaven.” – excerpt from the resignation letter of a Bolshevik Party member
Within what is usually labelled ‘the left’, your answer to the question ‘When did the Russian revolution go wrong?’ is a kind of touchstone. Each organisation seems to have its own One True Answer, and giving the wrong response at the wrong meeting can earn you the kind of scorn that the very religious reserve for those whose beliefs differ ever so slightly from theirs. Cue many weary Life of Brian jokes. Continue reading “a revolution in retreat”
Much has been written on the revolution in Ukrainian, on the nationalists, the Makhnovists and the Bolsheviks. Yet there were others with a massive following whose role has faded from history. One such party was the Borotbisty, the majority of the million strong Ukrainian Socialist Revolutionaries, they formed an independent communist party seeking an independent Soviet Ukraine.
Though widely known amongst revolutionary Europe in their day, the Borotbisty were decimated during the Stalinist holocaust. Out of print for over half a century Borotbism by Ivan Maistrenko has now been republished. Maistrenko (1899-1984) was a veteran of the revolutionary movement. A red partisan in 1918-20 he was a journalist and opponent of Stalin in the 1920’s becoming deputy director of the All-Ukrainian Communist Institute of Journalism in 1931. A survivor of the gulag he lived as a post-war refugee in Germany becoming editor of the anti-Stalinist workers paper Vpered. His Borotbism is a thought provoking study which challenges previous approaches to the fate of the Russian Revolution and European revolutions. With the permission of the author we publish below part of the introduction to Borotbism, by Chris Ford. Continue reading “the unknown revolution: ukraine 1917-21”
When free expression and open organisation was allowed – before February 1922 when Lenin authorised the political police to operate within the Communist Party itself – the leftist opposition never ceased to criticise the economic system then being established. In 1920 and 1921 the Workers’ Opposition attacked the power the old management had won back in the Soviet economy and the control political organs exercised on workplace union organisation: yet this tendency was closer to the union bureaucracy than it was to the rank-and-file workers.
Within the Communist Party the rank-and-file perspective was expressed above all by the Democratic Centralist group, formed in 1919. Contrary to what one might imagine, the name of this group was not at all a reference to the Leninist form of internal party regime, bur rather the means of economic organisation. Members of this faction admitted the necessity of central planning but considered that this must be premised on democratic bases, characterised by the management of enterprises by workers’ committees: and not Lenin and Trotsky’s system of management by a technocracy of specialists, including former administrators and even the old factory owners. Continue reading “the social fabric of stalinism”
The latest pamphlet produced by The Commune looks at the regimes which existed in the Eastern Bloc and the state of the working class in those countries today.
The pamphlet features a symposium of critical Marxists from Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, and Bosnia on the twentieth anniversary of the historic events of 1989-91 and the lessons for communists today. Click here for PDF. Continue reading “new pamphlet: the collapse of the eastern bloc and after”
November marks twenty years since the fall of the Berlin wall. This event represented one of the high points of a great mass struggle against the tyrannical order in the Eastern Bloc, and led to the downfall of the Soviet Union. But with the defeats of movements opposed to both these statist régimes and the free market, the popular movements of 1989 are now used to prove there is no alternative to capitalism.
Here we present sections of a series of interviews with communists from the former Eastern Bloc focussing on the struggles of the time, what system really existed in the “communist” countries and what has happened to the working class over the last twenty years. Continue reading “twenty years after the berlin wall fell”
Latest in a series of interviews with communists from the former eastern bloc upon the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Can you briefly introduce yourself/organisation?
My name is Borys Chervonyy. I’m a member of the executive committee of the “Zakhyst Pratsi” (Defence of Labour) independent trade union, a member of the “New Left” movement and a member of the organisational committee of the Ukrainian Left Party (ULP). The ULP is supposed to be an international revolutionary organisation; the program of the ULP will be based on the principles of communism and social liberation in all its forms; and will stand, in particular, on the traditions of Ukrainian left thought. Continue reading “borys chervonyy: twenty years after the berlin wall fell”
The third in a series of interviews with communists from the former Eastern Bloc on the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
I am one of the editors of “Commons” (http://commons.com.ua), a Ukrainian left-wing intellectual web-site aimed at filling the gap in quality leftist analysis that might contribute to social struggles here and now, in Ukraine and across the globe. There is a gap between existing leftist theories and the practical work of grassroots social movements, the latter not receiving satisfactory analysis. Local movements often fail to use practical experience and theoretical discussions from other regions of the globe. Continue reading “volodymyr ishchenko: twenty years after the wall fell”
The coming week marks twenty years since the fall of the Berlin wall. This event represented one of the high points of a great mass struggle against the tyrannical order in the Eastern Bloc, but with the defeats of movements opposed to both these statist régimes and the free market, the popular movements of 1989 are now used to prove there is no alternative to capitalism.
In the coming week The Commune shall be presenting a series of interviews with communists from the former Eastern Bloc focussing on the struggles of the time, what system really existed in the ‘”communist” countries and what has happened to the working class over the last twenty years. In the first of these we talk to Russia’s Marxist Labour Party. Continue reading “russia’s marxist labour party: twenty years after the wall fell”
Knowing how to fight one enemy means knowing how to fight another: this sentiment underlay the Stalinist politburo’s attitude towards refugees from the fascist countries. Second in a series by João Bernardo: see here for part one.
Why did those who fled from fascism, only to end up in the democratic countries’ prisons, not seek exile in the Soviet Union? Moreover, what happened to the people who did go to there, the country of the October revolution and the socialist fatherland? Continue reading “the shipwrecked (part II): anti-fascist refugees during world war II”
by Chris Kane
At The Commune’s successful day-school on the Russian Revolution some debate arose on the national question during the discussion on Ukraine and Hungary. A key point of reference on the national question for communists to this day is the debates which took place amongst Marxists within the Second International and the period of the First World War (1914-1918).
The national question took on a new importance after the outbreak of the war and the collapse of the Second International. Currents which had taken shape prior to 1914 were forced to reconsider their views and re-articulate positions in light of the crisis of international socialism.
A diverse trend of Social-Democrats, (as Marxists called themselves in this period) argued against the concept of the right of nations to self-determination, including the Polish Marxists Luxemburg and Radek. Today Lenin is seen as the principle defender of the right of national-self determination, and he was supported by the majority of the RSDRP(Bolsheviks) Central Committee. However he was challenged by a strong body of opinion in his own party, its foremost representative being Yuri Pyatakov, and Yevgenia Bosh, both leading Bolsheviks in Ukraine, who in exile in 1915 joined with Nikolai Bukharin to publish the Stockholm-based journal Kommunist. Continue reading “two rare texts on the national question”
12-5pm, Saturday 29th August, at the Artillery Arms, 102 Bunhill Row, near Old Street, London
In 1917 the Councils of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, soviets, took power proclaiming a workers’ and peasants’ republic in Russia. In the aftermath of the First World War revolutions established Soviet republics in Ukraine, Hungary, Bavaria and Slovakia in 1919. A new Communist International was founded to unite the international struggle to overthrow capitalism and establish a communist society. By 1921 the revolution was in retreat, a process which culminated in the triumph of counter-revolution and Stalinist totalitarianism.
The legacy of the revolutions remain with us to this day, but what does it mean for communists seeking to create a new society in the 21st century? Is it our tradition; were these revolutions a dead end never to be repeated; or does it assist us with a perspective for today? The Commune is holding a summer school to discuss these questions and others. Continue reading “saturday’s russian revolution day school in london”
Click image for leaflet (two A5) or here for an A4 poster. Full details below.