The Bolshevik faction and the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.

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.

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Continue reading “The Bolshevik faction and the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.”

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permanent revolution in the andes?

David Broder reviews S. Sándor John’s history of Bolivian Trotskyism

It is commonplace for western leftists to reduce Bolivia to a mere appendage of developments in Venezuela and Cuba. Yet it is in Bolivia itself that there is the strongest movement from below of any country in the Americas. Despite its relative economic underdevelopment and the small size of its working class, the rich heritage of class struggle in the country is the envy of most of the rest of the world.

Moreover, Bolivia is unique for its political culture. This has been shaped by the failure of Stalinism and classical social democracy to sink roots; significant indigenous and peasant movements; it is the only country apart from Sri Lanka and Vietnam where Trotskyism has found mass influence.

S. Sándor John’s book Bolivia’s Radical Tradition is a history of Bolivian Trotskyism written by a member of a Trotskyist organisation in the USA, the Internationalist Group. It offers a valuable insight into a much-ignored history, and is also important in what it tells us about Trotskyist politics more generally. Continue reading “permanent revolution in the andes?”

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”

obituary of brian pearce

by Terry Brotherstone, from The Guardian

Brian Pearce, who has died aged 93, was one of the most acute scholars of Russian history and British communism never to have held an academic post. Of the historians who broke with the Communist party of Great Britain (CPGB) after the Khrushchev “secret speech” and the suppression of the Hungarian revolution in 1956, he was the most insistent on the need for historical analysis of the party’s record.

A prodigious translator from both Russian and French, Pearce won the Scott-Moncrieff prize three times – in 1976 for Marcel Liebman’s Leninism Under Lenin, in 1980 for Roland Mousnier’s The Institutions of French Monarchy Under Absolutism, and in 1991 for Paul Veyne’s Bread and Circuses. Literary translation was his main source of income after he stopped working for the CPGB, for which he did various journalistic, cultural relations and translation jobs after leaving the civil service in 1950.

Expelled from the party in 1957, he had continued to work as a teacher of English at the Soviet Embassy, but the next year Harry Pollitt, the CPGB’s former general secretary, saw him there. “Soon my pupils … very embarrassed, made excuses for terminating their lessons,” Pearce recalled. Continue reading “obituary of brian pearce”

review of ‘resistance to nazism’

by David Broder

Recently I have engaged in a fair degree of research into working-class resistance during the Second World War, and so at yesterday’s Anarchist Bookfair I was interested to pick up a copy of the Anarchist Federation’s pamphlet ‘Resistance to Nazism’ (subtitle ‘Shattered Armies: How the Working Class Fought Nazism and Fascism 1933-45’), reprinted this May.

The stated aim of the pamphlet is to present an alternative ‘history from below’ discussing the struggles and experiences of working-class people rather than looking at the world through the prism of competing governments and military figures. This is a worthy aim indeed. Continue reading “review of ‘resistance to nazism’”

l’étincelle expelled from lutte ouvrière

The majority faction in Lutte Ouvrière, the second largest Trotskyist group in France, this Sunday expelled its minority L’Étincelle faction, which is sympathetic to the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire and its proposed New Anti-capitalist Party project. Continue reading “l’étincelle expelled from lutte ouvrière”