Stick bending and the infallible Lenin

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The phrase, bending the stick, is often used to describe Lenin‘s organisational method.  Lenin bent the stick or used exaggeration in order to grab attention. The single-minded focus on what really mattered. For many Leninist’s, he might have bent the stick too far in some circumstances, but he always bent it back or corrected his mistake in the long run. This was the infallible Lenin who embodied the actuality of the revolution. Even so, a twisted stick can distort reality. Also, the bent stick analogy is also used to suggest continuity where inconsistency exists. Continue reading “Stick bending and the infallible Lenin”

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le rétif: the secret life of victor serge

by Ernie Haberkern

In the early 1960s when I joined the socialist movement I was attracted to the “Third Camp” anti-Stalinist tendency in the American movement. One of the first books I read was Memoirs of a Revolutionary which had recently been translated into English by Peter Sedgwick. The author was Victor Serge a widely respected victim of Stalin’s purges, one of the few who survived to tell the tale. He also had a reputation as a “libertarian” among those on the American left who saw in the American IWW and the French Syndicalists the representatives of the “anti-authoritarian” tendency in the movement.

In describing the political situation in the early twenties in Russia Serge in Memoirs makes the following remarkable statement.

“… as long as the economic system remained intolerable for nine-tenths or so of the population, there could be no question of recognizing freedom of speech for any Tom, Dick, or Harry, whether in the Soviets or elsewhere. … we knew that the Party had been invaded by careerist, adventurist and mercenary elements who came over in swarms to the side that had the power. Within the Party the sole remedy to this evil had to be, and in fact was, the discreet dictatorship of the old, honest, and incorruptible members, in other words the Old Guard.” (Serge, Memoirs 188-119) Continue reading “le rétif: the secret life of victor serge”

philosophy and revolution

intro by Chris Kane

One of the most common forms of sectarian socialism today is the myriad of Trotskyist organisations based on the model of undemocratic centralism.   They claim the origin of their ideas not so much in Marx but Leon Trotsky, one of the leaders of the Russian Revolution.  Trotsky came to be identified as one of the foremost opponents of Stalinism, but as opposed to bringing about a recomposition of the communist movement, Trotskyism compounded the crisis of Marxism. The legacy of Trotsky today is one of constant fragmentation and sectarian vanguardism, whose adherents often cut themselves off from practical service to the labour movement by their antics. How did this come about?  The following critical analysis of Trotsky is by Raya Dunayevskaya, the American Marxist who originated in Ukraine.   In 1937 she moved to Mexico to work with Trotsky, serving as his Russian language secretary.  Her closeness to Trotsky did not prevent her questioning his ideas – she later wrote: “Out of the Spanish Civil War there emerged a new kind of revolutionary who posed questions, not against Stalinism, but against Trotskyism, indeed against all established Marxists”.   After the 1939 Hitler-Stalin Pact she broke from Trotsky over his continued belief Stalin’s USSR was a ‘workers state’ and developed a theory of state-capitalism.  Later she developed a Marxist Humanist current in the USA, supported by Harry McShane in Scotland.  One of her most important books was Philosophy and Revolution, published in 1973 which contains a powerful critique of Leon Trotsky as a theoretician – this is republished below. Continue reading “philosophy and revolution”

hal draper, the state and socialism from below

by David Broder

Recently this site has seen a debate over the question of the state in bourgeois society and after working-class revolution, with comrades from the Trotskyist group ‘Permanent Revolution’ arguing that such a revolution would necessarily have to create a new state which would centrally plan the economy. They call this “socialism”, to be followed by a later classless, stateless era of “communism”. They furthermore argue that state-planned economies such as Cuba’s, despite the lack of working-class power in decision-making, nonetheless represent, in some dilute form, “workers’ states”.

This has little in common with our conception of how working-class power comes about and should be exercised: by the working class itself, democratically, from below and creating its own structures organically. There are no saviours from on high: we do not want a benign régime or enlightened despot to dish out equality of poverty.

With this in mind, we have added three texts to the ‘ideas’ section of our website by the American communist Hal Draper. These argue against state socialist models and for ‘socalism from below’, and see this sentiment as a thread running through the works of Karl Marx.

Click here to read The Death of the State in Marx and Engels; the Two Souls of Socialism; and The Dictatorship of the Proletariat in Marx and Engels.

revolutionary strategy: reply by mike macnair

on friday 29th david broder posted a review of revolutionary strategy, a new book by the cpgb’s mike macnair. this provoked more than seventy comments, and mike himself has written a response, which we reproduce here. Continue reading “revolutionary strategy: reply by mike macnair”

more new content in ‘ideas’

today we have added to the ‘ideas‘ section of the website…

the solidarity group’s pamphlet on the 1871 paris commune. this compares trotsky and tales’ insistence that the communards failed because of their lack of a party unfavourably to karl marx’s civil war in france, which makes no such argument; and furthermore celebrates this great display of working class insurgency from below.

we also feature an article by david broder on the organisation of education under capitalism and the alienation of students, and an essay by chris ford on the relevance of the theory of state capitalism in today’s globalised capitalist economy.

the website is now accessible at www.thecommune.co.uk as well as the wordpress address.