Marxist Theory

Stalinism and Afghanistan: socialists and the 1979-89 war: Workers' Liberty 3/55

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

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Afghanistan’s “Great Saur Revolution”, in April 1978, and the Russian invasion of Afghanistan that flowed from it 20 months later, at Christmas 1979, were two of the most important events of the second half of the 20th century.

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Writing out anti-bourgeois art

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Hugh Daniels

Hugh Daniels reviews Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932, at the Royal Academy until 17 April.

A review of Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932, at the Royal Academy until 17 April.

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Marxism and autism

Author: 

Janine Booth

Can Marxism can help us to understand autistic experience in modern capitalism? How might Marxism inform our struggles for equality and liberation?

There are different approaches to understanding autism. Perhaps the dominant approach is a medical one: seeing autism as a disease or tragedy, and autistic people as being broken and needing fixing. Over recent years, a more progressive approach has developed. It stresses acceptance of autistic people rather than simply “awareness”, and demands rights, equality and support rather than abusive “treatments”.

For autistic people, modern capitalism is both developed and distressing. It brings huge advantages, but it also great distress.

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When we reassessed the Stalinist states

Author: 

Simon Nelson

In 1988, the Socialist Organiser Alliance, a forerunner of Workers’ Liberty, at its annual conference, officially dropped the “degenerated and deformed workers’ states” description of the USSR and similar systems which we had inherited from “Orthodox Trotskyism”. It categorised these states as exploitative class systems not superior to capitalism.

In the late 1980's, the Eastern European regimes fell; by 1991 the USSR was no more. Our attitude to this question was not an esoteric hunt for programmatic dogmatism but, as a September 1988 editorial in Socialist Organiser said: “Our concern is first and foremost to develop an exact, concrete assessment of the workers’ struggles and the bureaucracy’s operations in the Eastern Bloc, and to fight for a programme for workers’ liberty East and West.”

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Dare to hope and fight

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

Are we nothing higher than a modern commercially-conducted and regulated rendition of animals, amongst them primitive humankind, spending an entire lifetime browsing and grubbing for food?

That is the “shop until you drop” ethos which this society glorifies and depends on for dynamism. Leavened maybe with a bit of religious uplift, a half-tongue-in-cheek consultation with a horoscope to see what “the stars” are going to do to you? The small bacchanalia of a pop festival once a year or so?

In this excerpt from Can Socialism Make Sense? Sean Matgamna makes the case for being a socialist activist.

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From Shachtmanite Trotskyism to Anarchism: Exploring the Relationship of a Marxist Tendency to Anarchism

Author: 

Wayne Price

This article, by the anarchist writer Wayne Price, was published in the journal The Utopian. It explores the relationship between the “Third Camp” Trotskyist tradition, with which Workers' Liberty identifies, and anarchist politics. It is republished with the author's permission. Visit the website of The Utopian here.

The anarchist writer Wayne Price explores the relationship between the "Third Camp" Trotskyist tradition, with which Workers' Liberty identifies, and anarchism.

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Part II: Ted Grant and Alan Woods on Afghanistan

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

What characterises Bolshevism on the national question is that in its attitude towards oppressed nations, even the most backward, it considers them not only the object but also the subject of politics.

Militant’s politics on Afghanistan were identical to the politics of the old Fabian imperialists, who thought of countries like Britain as the hub of contemporary progress. Militant looked to the USSR instead.

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Part III: Conclusions

In relation to Afghanistan, Militant abandoned the basic commitment to working-class political independence, as well as the Trotskyist programme.

The Russian bureaucracy and their Afghan supporters are in effect carrying through the tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution in that country”, says Woods — though they are doing it in a “distorted”, Bonapartist fashion. The same idea is expressed by Grant in his 1978 article: the “proletarian Bonapartist” regimes “carry out in backward countries the historic job which was carried out by the bourgeoisie in the capitalist countries in the past”.

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Civilisation, backwardness and liberation

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

What is the attitude of Marxists to "backward" and "underdeveloped" countries and peoples who are being assaulted, occupied, or colonised by a more advanced but predatory civilisation?

No-one expressed it so clearly and so forcefully as Leon Trotsky:

What is the attitude of Marxists to "backward" and "underdeveloped" countries and peoples who are being assaulted, occupied, or colonised by a more advanced but predatory civilisation?

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Appendix: Ted Grant and Marxism

Author: 

Sean Matgamna and Martin Thomas

When the Russians invaded Afghanistan In December 1979, almost every “orthodox Trotskyist” group in the world supported them, or at any rate refused to call for their withdrawal. Some were wildly enthusiastic for a while. A big part of the so-called “United Secretariat of the Fourth International”, grouped around the Socialist Workers’ Party of the USA, hailed the Russians as “going to the aid of the Afghan revolution”.

The dominant notion in the Pablo-Mandel mainstream of the Trotskyist movement was that the “world revolution” was “on the rise”, but its “epicentre” was in the underdeveloped countries. Many would-be Trotskyists developed all sorts of illusions in this “revolutionary process”.

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