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.
Pietro Tresso (pseudonym, Blasco) was one of the early leaders of the Italian Communist Party. He was forced into exile by the fascist régime in 1929, and then expelled from the party on 1930 on account of his critique of the Stalinist claim that social democrats should be treated as fascists. Tresso helped create the Nuova Opposizione Italiana but also joined the Trotskyists in France, where he was exiled.
In August 1938 Tresso wrote this article in Quatrième Internationale, explaining that the Stalinists were not anti-fascists, but rather manoeuvred to curry favour with the black-shirts to suit the USSR’s diplomatic interests. The dark warnings in Tresso’s article did indeed play out. In August 1939 Stalin signed a pact with Hitler, abandoning his previous anti-fascism. In 1944, liberated from the Puy-en-Velay prison camp in German-occupied France, Tresso was himself murdered by Stalinists. Continue reading “stalinism and fascism in 1930s italy”
David Broder writes on the disappointed revolutionary aspirations of the WWII-era left
The recent collapse of dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia marked inspiring victories for the mass uprisings in the Arab world. However, these revolts have again posed an age-old question of revolutionary politics: is the aim to get rid of this or that leader, or to overthrow the system as such?
This question was sharply posed in the late World War II period when mass resistance movements besieged fascist régimes across Europe. These movements were dominated by activists who believed in the desirability of communism.
But as such, the maintenance of capitalist order after the war was a major defeat. Why did resistance not mean revolution? Here I shall focus on the examples of France and Italy. Continue reading “a hope unfulfilled: communists in world war II”
“Even Communist Cuba has got with the programme that we need to cut the budget deficit and actually get spending under control. We’ve got comrade Castro on the same page as the the rest of us. We’ve just got to get the Labour Party and the trade unions on to that planet at the same time.” – David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions, September 15th
This week the state-run Cuban trade union confederation announced government plans to lay off 1 million public sector employees, some 20% of the working population. Half of the cuts will be over the next six months alone, in what marks a stunning retreat for the Communist Party and a sharp attack on working-class living standards. President Raúl Castro has targeted workers’ “dependency” on the public sector: by which he means, the same bureaucratic and management apparatus which closely monitors many aspects of everyday life in the country.
In this article Eduardo Semtei, a former Venezuelan government bureaucrat, describes his impressions of ordinary Cuban citizens’ lives. Although The Commune does not share Semtei’s politics – for instance, he harshly criticises the Venezuelan government for subsidising Cuba – his comments do offer an insight into existing social relations and the warped model of “socialism” on the island. Continue reading “cuba: the island of happiness ?”
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”
The next Bristol reading group session will be on Sunday 25th April at 6pm in Café Kino on Ninetree Hill, Stokes Croft, Bristol.
The session will discuss the nature of the Soviet Union and the crushing of workers’ self-emancipation. Suggested background reading below. All welcome: email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info. Continue reading “the commune bristol reading group 25th april: the soviet union”
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”
note by David Black: The Nature of the Stalinist Parties – a document of several thousand words – was published in the internal discussion bulletin of the Socialist Review Group in May 1951, with five sections:
1 The Importance of the Nature of the Stalinist Parties for our Movement
2 The Classical Trotskyist Position
3 The Stalinist International as the Instrument of the State-Capitalist Bureaucracy
4 The Social Composition Of The Stalinist Parties
5 Political Conclusions
Hillman concluded that the SRG could make no impact on the membership of the Stalinist British Communist Party, which he sought to show was becoming increasingly petit-bourgeois. Therefore, he argued, the SRG should concentrate on building in the Labour Party. In practical terms, as Ian Birchall has suggested, Hillman was more in tune with Shachtmanite ‘Third Campism’ than James/Boggs/Dunayevskaya. The ‘immovability’ of the CP membership proved to be a temporary phenomenon; but it was only shaken up by world events (especially Hungary) rather than pressure from the Far Left. As regards Dunayevskaya, I should point out that her later analysis (from 1953 onwards) was markedly different to that of ‘State-Capitalism and the World Revolution’ (1950). The latter, in my view, while important, was wrong on a lot of things (such as the national question), and inadequate on others (especially philosophy).
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”
A motion to the Labour Representation Committee conference proposed by The Commune
The Labour Representation Committee notes this year marks the twentieth anniversary of the fall the Berlin Wall, and the beginning of the change of regimes in the USSR and Eastern Europe in the years 1989-1991. Conference salutes the great freedom struggles by the working people, of the communist and socialist oppositionists to the dictatorships which ruled in the name of “actually existing socialism”, such as the rebellions of 1953 in Berlin, 1956 in Hungary and Poland, 1968 in Czechoslovakia, 1980-1989 in Poland, and the myriad struggles in the USSR.
Conference recognises that the legacy of the Stalinist regimes continues to hinder the struggle for a new society today. As part of developing the vision of a viable alternative to capitalism in the 21st century, our movement needs to learn the lessons of their historical failure, including of the previous state socialist conceptions. The Labour Representation Committee conference recognises that: Continue reading “social ownership and workers’ self-management”
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”
Twenty years ago a revolutionary wave on the scale of 1848 and 1919 swept across Eastern Europe and the USSR. It brought down the state-socialist regimes which called themselves “communist”. Western capitalism declared the “collapse of communism” and some spoke of the “end of history” with a new era of liberal democracy. Instead the era of neo-liberal globalisation brought a new phase of war and recessions: in Eastern Europe the optimism of 1989 gave way to economic shock-therapy and widespread impoverishment, while in the former USSR the old elite has been replaced by the rule of exploitative oligarchs.
What happened to the radical ideals of the freedom movements of workers and intellectuals which challenged the old regimes, which called for workers self-management, and end to all forms of oppression and alienation, which opposed the ruling bureaucracy and the restoration of capitalism? The legacy of totalitarian “communism” still hangs over us all; amidst the worse crisis of capitalism in decades there remains a real crisis of confidence in a viable alternative to this system.
Did communism really collapse? Can we develop a vision of an emancipatory communism in the 21st century? On Thursday June 25th The Commune is hosting a forum in London to address these questions. Continue reading “twenty years after the ‘collapse of communism’: june 25th forum”