The Russian Revolution and Its Fate

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KARL MARX IN AUGUST (The Fall of Russian Stalinism)

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

KARL MARX IN AUGUST
(To the tune of "Joe Hill")

I dreamt I saw Karl Marx last night,
I saw him standing there,
His hair jet black, no longer white,
Fierce eyes, with a bold young stare:

August 1991

Marxist Theory and History: 

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We fight the sea at Kronstadt

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

We fight the sea at Kronstadt

Across the frozen, hostile, misted sea

To Kronstadt, to attack entrenched White Guards
Manning the garrison there, mysteriously
All-powerful, where once we could command,
Talking now to our own as we talked before:
Workers' control, soviet power (with no
Bolsheviks!), peasant rights—echoing the roar
From the countryside: impossible demands!

Th battle for Kronstadt 1921

Marxist Theory and History: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Cliff's State Capitalism in Perspective — Part 1

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

For the whole article online, click here. For part 1 of it published in three parts, read on.

"A negative slogan unconnected with a definite positive solution will not sharpen, but dull, consciousness, for such a slogan is a hollow phrase, mere shouting, meaningless declamation."

Lenin

"Sects change their doctrines more readily than they change their names."

Anon

An in-depth re-examination of Tony Cliff's version of the theory that Stalinism was a form of "State Capitalism."

Marxist Theory and History: 

After the Dictatorship of the Lie

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

After the Dictatorship of the Lie

“The lies dished up and spread
by the powerful machinery of
government [] can reach everyone,
everywhere... We are... in [an]

Russian and East European Stalinism collapsed in 1989-91. The battle sketched in here, between despair and nihilism on one side and, on the other, understanding and the sense of sharp responsibility, was fought out then in the minds of many socialists.

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The Ukrainian Revolution 1917-1921: Deciding the fate of European socialist revolution

Author: 

Chris Ford

On the ninetieth anniversary of the Russian Revolution it is important to recognise that it was more than a Russian event. It swept across the entire Russian Empire with the long oppressed nations making their bid for freedom. The most important challenge was in “Russia’s Ireland” – Ukraine. To mark the anniversary of the proclamation of the Ukrainian Peoples Republic ninety years ago on November 22, 1917 this article examines the Ukrainian Revolution of 1917-21, which was pivotal in deciding the fate not only of the Russian Revolution but the entire European socialist Revolution.

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1917 + 90 — Leon Trotsky: All power to the soviets!

This is the 90th anniversary of the Russian workers’ revolution of November 1917. Since the fall in 1991 of the Stalinist regime which eventually overwhelmed the workers’ government and made a counter-revolution in the 1920s, more has been available to researchers in the west. Some new books have advanced our understanding of the revolution. None, however, can match the exciting exposition of the course of 1917, in Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution. Written in 1930, Trotsky’s book presents a fascinating study of the ebbs and flows of a complex class struggle.

Marxist Theory and History: 

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Alexandra Kollontai: Socialist Feminist

Author: 

ROSALIND ROBSON

The Russian revolutionary, Alexandra Kollontai, is best known for her organisational work among Russian working class women prior to, and immediately after, the 1917 revolution and her writings on sexual morality and the family. She has become better known largely as the result of feminist interest in her life and career.

At the end of her life Kollontai made this comment: “Women and their fate occupied me all of my life, and concern for their lot brought me to socialism.”

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1917: how the workers made a revolution

Download whole pamphlet as pdf (12MB). The pamphlet was published in November 1987, on the 70th anniversary of the 1917 revolution.
Contents:
"Great days": why the Russian revolution is important today
The story of 1917
The party of victory
Stalin's counter-revolution
Myths and realities
Leaders of the revolution: Lenin, Trotsky
Lenin on insurrection
Workers' democracy - what it was and what it will be
Trotsky on permanent revolution
Women and revolution
The national question

Marxist Theory and History: 

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Reading for dayschool on Russian revolution, 1 September 2007

1. For a timeline of the revolution, click here.

2. For a short summary article from We stand for workers' liberty, click here.

3. For a PDF of the AWL pamphlet 1917: how the workers made a revolution (published in 1987 on the 70th anniversary of the revolution), click here. (Warning: this is quite a large file, 12MB.) 32 pages long, this is an excellent overview, also including articles on less well-known issues connected to the revolution such as the national question, women's liberation and black liberation.

Marxist Theory and History: 

Revolution and counter-revolution in Russia: a timeline

Key dates

1917

February (March by the western calendar): workers' demonstrations in Russia overthrow the Tsar (king). Prince Lvov leads Provisional Government; Petrograd workers set up a "Soviet" (workers' councils).

Marxist Theory and History: 

Trotsky and 21st century socialism

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

“I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence and enjoy it to the full.”
Leon Trotsky, April 1940

The October Revolution showed for all time what the working class is capable of achieving, what working-class socialists, democratically organised and clear-headed, can do. It proved that the idea of working-class socialism is no delusion.

Trotsky's ideas and his legacy, from the introduction to The Fate of The Russian Revolution

Marxist Theory and History: 

1917 + 90: Why Should You Care About the Russian Revolution? A dayschool, 1 September

A dayschool for new activists

For various reading about the Russian revolution, click here.

For a downloadable leaflet, click here.

12-5.30pm, Saturday 1 September, The Lucas Arms, Grays Inn Road, Kings Cross (Kings Cross rail or tube)

This year is the 90th anniversary of the Russian revolution. But why take the Russian revolution as a model? Isn't it irrelevant nowadays, or worse, proof that revolution can't work? Didn't the Bolsheviks lead to Stalin's dictatorship?

Marxist Theory and History: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

'Apparatus Marxism', Impoverished Twin of 'Academic Marxism'

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

“You who have really done something, must have noticed yourself how few of the young literary men who attach themselves to the Party take the trouble to study economics, the history of trade, of industry, of agriculture, of the social formations… The self-conceit of the journalist must therefore accomplish everything and the result looks like it…" — Friedrich Engels

In post-Trotsky “kitsch Trotskyism", the tendency over decades is for “the party" and what is considered to be good for “the party” to become the all-defining supreme good..,.

Marxist Theory and History: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

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"Weekly Worker" and USSR Imperialism — Kabul 1978 and Petrograd 1917: was the Russian Revolution a 'coup'?

In defence of the October Revolution: Kabul 1978 and Petrograd 1917. Was the Russian Revolution a 'coup'? By Sean Matgamna (August 2004). Download pdf or read articles in html below.

Introduction. Afghanistan and the left

Under the sign of the oxymoron

Communism or Stalinism?

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The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Around the world: 

The Voyage of Vladimir Columbus

“And tomorrow I sail far away
O’er the raging foam,
For to seek a home
On the shores of Amerikaiy”.

(19th century Irish song)

“O my America! my new-found-land”

(John Donne, To His Mistris Going To Bed)

Bold Vladimir Columbus sets his sails due West
Into the stormy deep unknown, much-charted seas
To find Amerikaiy: he goes at last to quest
For the Unfound Land. Where others hide and bide, he’ll seize

To the shores of Amaerikaiy

Culture and Reviews: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

The anti-Stalinist revolutions in Eastern Europe, 1989-90

A collection of articles on solidarity with workers in Eastern Europe before the revolutions of 1989, and on those revolutions and the prospects they opened up

The anti-Stalinist revolutions in Eastern Europe, 1989-90

Around the world: 

Marxist Theory and History: 

Russia's 1917 Revolution: Kerensky, head of the government that Lenin ousted, debates Max Shachtman

SELDOM does history record the former head of a government, deposed by social revolution, facing up in an open debate 34 years later to a modern representative of the same ideological current which swept him from power. This was the situation in the February 8 [1951] debate at the University of Chicago where Max Shachtman confronted Alexander Kerensky, the head of the régime which was overthrown by the great Russian Revolution.

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Glossary for Trotsky's "Three Conceptions"

19O5: strikes broke out in December 1904 and January 1905. On 9 January workers marching to the Tsar's palace lo appeal for his help were shot down. The strike wave grew.

Strikes continued through the summer. Peasants withheld taxes. Sailors mutinied on the battleship 'Potemkin'.

In September a new strike wave exploded. A joint council of workers' delegates - a 'soviet' in Russian - was set up in St Petersburg (Leningrad).

Glossary for Trotsky's "Three Conceptions"

Marxist Theory and History: 

How not to quote Lenin

AS noted in the accompanying summary of the debate, Kerensky spent much of his time working over scraps of quotations from Lenin — from different periods, contexts, and articles indiscriminately, — la Boris Shub — under the heading of a discussion of the Russian Revolution and democracy.

While it takes at least ten times longer to nail one of these forgeries than it takes to reel off the distorted quotation, Shachtman was able to take them up effectively.

Marxist Theory and History: 

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October was a true working class revolution

By Max Shachtman

THE Independent Socialist League does not subscribe to any doctrine called Leninism. It does not have an official position on the subject and I am pretty certain that nobody could get the League to commit itself officially on a term which has been so varyingly and conflictingly defined as to make discussion of it more often semantic than ideological or political.

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Trotsky on democracy in the Russian Revolution (1918)

THE FATE OF THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY.

When, after Korniloff’s adventure, the paramount parties on the Soviets made an attempt to make amends for their previous attitude of indulgence towards the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie, they demanded the speedy convocation of the Constituent Assembly.

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Marxist Theory and History: 

Hal Draper: An Eye-Witness Account of the Russian Revolution

Author: 

Hal Draper

The Russian revolution was the most important event of the 20th century.

It was the most important event in the entire history of the working class. The working class took and held power in territory that covered one sixth of the globe.

That working class power was overthrown in the early-mid 1920s by the Stalinist counter-revolution, which though continuing to call itself "communist" and "working class" put in a brutal and savage state bureaucracy as a new ruling class over the working people.

An account by I N Steinberg, a political opponent of the Bolsheviks, here summarised by Draper, shows that the 1917 upheaval was not a conspiracy but a real people’s revolution.

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