Party and class

The origins of Bolshevism: Marxism and the class struggle

Author: 

Jack Cleary

Click here for the series on The Roots of Bolshevism of which this article is part
Jack Cleary continues his analysis of and selection from Lenin’s 1902 book What is to be Done?

Arguing that the educational work of Marxists was essential if the “spontaneous” working class trade “unionist” movement were to become socialist, Marxist movement, Lenin cites the experience of the German labour movement.

Continuing an analysis of and selection from Lenin’s 1902 book What is to be Done?

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The roots of Bolshevism: What is to be done?

Author: 

Jack Cleary

Click here for the series on The Roots of Bolshevism of which this article is part

Lenin’s What Is To Be Done?, written in late 1901 and early 1902, is one of the most important books ever written. Certainly it is one of the most important socialist texts in existence.

A reading of What Is To Be Done? in its real context demolishes the myths

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Against the Stream - a Discussion between Trotsky and CLR James

Author: 

Trotsky/CLR James

European Stalinism began to collapse with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The former USSR satellites on whose people Russian Stalinism had imposed totalitarian dictatorship for nearly 50 years began to free themselves from Russia overlordship. Stalinism in the USSR itself collapsed completely when an inept hard-line Stalinist attempted coup failed, in August 1991.

A discussion between Trotsky and CLR James, in 1938, on why the Trotskyist movement remained small though it had been proved right by great events such as the coming to power of Hitler in Germany, and the course of the Spanish Revolution and civil war.

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United front, popular front, workers' government

Debate and discussion: The Mensheviks were right

Having now completed reading the third in Sean Matgamna’s series on Iraq (Solidarity 3-63, 64 and 65), I want to return to a point he makes several times in the first of the series.

In attempting to distinguish the views of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty from those of Labour Friends of Iraq (LFIQ), Sean makes use on several occasions of the word “Menshevik”.

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Balance sheet on James P Cannon

James P Cannon still has a lot to teach Marxists today and the balance sheet on his life and politics is largely positive (Solidarity 3/56 and 3/57). There is no doubt his decision to support Trotsky in 1928 was of enormous significance in creating the international tendency opposed to Stalinism, on whose shoulders we stand today.

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Labour Parties in the USA

Paul Hampton reviews True Mission: Socialists and the Labor Party in the US by Eric Chester (Pluto 2004, £14.99)

The debate about working class representation in the United States takes place in very different conditions from those we encounter in Britain. However, discussions on the US left over the last hundred years are very instructive — both for our concerns in Britain and for American comrades today.

True Mission discusses the history of third party efforts in the United States over the past 120 years.

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Marxists and the workers' party. Labour: norm or exception?

Martin Thomas concludes a series on "Marxists and the workers' party" with a warning against fetishising the trade-union-based forms of "old Labour"

In 1909, Karl Kautsky, then a Marxist, wrote that moves to set up trade-union-based Labour Parties in continental Europe "must be fought with all the means at our disposal" (Neue Zeit, July 1909, Vol.13 no.7, pp.316-28).

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Debate and dicussion: Marxists and the workers' party

Reformism has not collapsed

As far as I know, the catchphrase "Build the revolutionary party!" or "Build the party!" was first used as a regular slogan, directed at the general public, by French Trotskyists in the mid-1940s.

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"Workers' government": what it means. 2. Trotsky and the CI.

Below are three excerpts from the writings of Leon Trotsky, and a resolution of the 4th Congress of the Communist International.
Des textes similaires (pas exactement les memes) disponibles en francais:
Le gouvernement ouvrier en France, novembre 1922
Gouvernement ouvrier et Etats-unis d'Europe, juin 1923

Marxist Theory and History: 

"Workers' government": what it means. 1. Britain in 1998.

Author: 

Jill Mountford

Excerpts from Jill Mountford, The case for a workers' government, Workers' Liberty 45

The mass working-class political movement has, with Blair and his gang, reached the end of a long political road. It is time to ask ourselves, where did we go wrong? Where did we take the wrong turning? The short answer is: when the movement began to lose sight of the original working-class goals for the realisation of which the labour movement first turned to independent politics.

Excerpts from "The case for a workers' government", Workers' Liberty 45

Marxist Theory and History: 

How the Bolshevik party was built

Author: 

Brian Pearce

Click here for the series on The Roots of Bolshevism of which this article is part
Between 17 July and 10 August 1903, in the course of 37 sessions, the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party held its Second Congress in Brussels and London. In reality this was the first, the constituent, congress of the RSDLP.

The 'First Congress' held in March 1898 in Minsk had lasted one day and all nine delegates were arrested! The 'party' it proclaimed existed only as scattered, uncoordinated local groups and circles.

An outline history of the Party that led the Russian Worker's Revolution in October 1917

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Amendments on the Labour Party

Amendments on the Labour Party to various conference documents, from Bruce R.

'CLASS, UNION AND PARTY'

Add new 3(a):

"There has been a considerable erosion in traditional working class support for Labour, particularly amongst young people. Symptoms include the increase in electoral abstention, particularly in inner-city areas, and the growth of the BNP."

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Debate & discussion: For a republican socialist workers' party

In a recent editorial Jack Conrad (CPGB) argues (Weekly Worker 498 October 2 2003) that "the SA could commit itself to the aim of a new workers' party. Not an old Labour mark two; rather a revolutionary party basing itself on a clear Marxist programme." As if to disprove himself he turns to the Scottish Socialist Party as his example. He says "riddled with left nationalism though it is, the SSP can nevertheless be used to illustrate what can be done". He then goes on to show how the SSP's intervention in the anti-war movement has enabled them to benefit in contrast to the Liberal Democrats in England. All this is fine except for the obvious point. The SSP is neither 'old Labour Mark two' nor 'revolutionary party basing itself on a clear Marxist programme.' Surely there is another alternative.

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What's wrong with "socialism from below"

Author: 

Martin Thomas.

In the pamphlet Two Souls of Socialism, first published in 1960, Hal Draper coined the phrase "socialism from below" to describe Marxian socialism as against the "socialism from above" of Stalinism, Fabianism, and many pre-Marxian socialists who saw the future in terms of a benevolent authority reshaping society according to a rational blueprint of collective organisation.

I would not argue with Hal Draper using the phrase as a literary device in his "Two Souls of Socialism". But to go from that literary usage to making "socialism from below" our defining political label is wrong.

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Class, trade unions and the workers' party

The trade unions are not only the bedrock of the labour movement. With the Blairite hijacking of the Labour Party, which had been founded at the beginning of the 20th century by the trade unions and socialist organisations such as Keir Hardie's Independent Labour Party to fight for working class interests, the trade unions are pretty much all that's left of the labour movement. Even though the number of trade unionists has fallen from its peak strength 25 years ago it is still a very powerful movement. There are twice as many trade unionists in Britain now as there were in France in 1968, when the working class seized the factories in a general strike. The work that Solidarity and Workers' Liberty does in the trade unions is the most important work we do.

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What do we mean by a Workers Party?

by Gerry Byrne

It seems almost flavour of the month. Everyone is declaring for a Workers Party. But it could have two distinct meanings, and it’s important to distinguish the two and work out what is the relation between them.

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Leon Trotsky on Trade unions and the working class

The discussion in Solidarity about the trade union relationship to the Blairite Labour Party raises general questions about the relationship of trade unions to working class politics. As a contribution to the ongoing discussion we reprint an article which Leon Trotsky wrote in 1923 in a discussion about French syndicalist politics.

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Class, party and leadership

By Sean Matgamna

Our discussion about the unions, the Blair Labour Party, standing in elections, and the role of the AWL has raised many basic questions.

In fact, the differences reduced to practicalities are not, in my opinion, very large. But Tom's and Maria's document raises many of the basic questions the answers to which constitute the raison d'etre of Solidarity and Workers' Liberty. And indeed of all tendencies rooted as we are in the early Communist International and Trotsky's movement in the 1920s and 30s.

If Tom and Maria understand what they have written, and mean what they write, then the differences are very large indeed. Implicitly or explicitly, they raise many very important questions about the nature of working-class movements and of organisations like the AWL. The organisation is faced with a discussion of the basics of the Marxist conception of "the class, the party and the leadership".

Nowhere, except in the 1917 Russian Revolution, were the complexities of that question unfolded more clearly than in the Spanish Revolution of 1936-9.

In Catalonia the workers made a great revolution but were unable to consolidate it or even to defend it against the Republican bourgeois-Stalinist counter-revolution that destroyed it and prepared the way for fascist victory in the whole of Spain and 40 years of fascist rule thereafter.

Trotsky's writings on Spain during the 1930s have been collected into a large book, which those comrades who have not read it should read. I made the following collection of extracts from Trotsky's commentaries in 1995 for a special issue of Workers' Liberty on the Spanish Revolution. I believe it has much to say to our discussion now.

The last item is dated 20 August 1940, the day Stalin's assassin used an ice-pick to strike down Leon Trotsky. He died the next day. Trotsky's working title was, "The class, the party and the leadership". It is a tremendously valuable analysis of the fundamentals of the questions that concern us in our current "trade-union" discussion.

Read Trotsky on the Spanish Revolution here.

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AWL conference 2000: Labour, the left and the AWL

1. New Labour in power

New Labour's mantra about creating a 'wealthy economy' is one of their few strategic goals. They talk of a 'trickle down effect' but the idea that everyone will benefit from 'good times for capitalists' has never been sustainable. Only the rich get richer. An economic upturn will benefit some workers-and this may bring some welcome wage militancy. Overall our class faces only the guiding principles of wage slavery-get modern, be part of the team, knuckle down, shut up. For the working poor, poor pensioners and the jobless, life is getting worse. The inequality that New Labour's policies perpetuate permeates every area of social existence, causing only new areas of misery.

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Learning from Rosa Luxemburg

Draft leaflet for SWP Rosa Luxemburg meetings

REFORM AND REVOLUTION. "For Social Democracy", wrote Rosa Luxemburg, meaning, in the language of the day, "for working-class socialism", "there exists an indissoluble tie between social reforms and revolution. The struggle for reforms is its means; the social revolution, its goal... The practical daily struggle for reforms, for the amelioration of the condition of the workers within the framework of the existing social order, and for democratic institutions, offers Social Democracy the only means of engaging in the proletarian class struggle and working in the direction of the final goal..."The revolutionary who believes that concerns for votes and elections and "democratic institutions", or defence of limited working-class betterment on issues like the welfare state or trade-union rights, is "reformist", is a poor and ineffective revolutionary. Workers' Liberty is working with the SWP and others to get joint working-class socialist slates to challenge New Labour in the June Euro-elections. We work with other socialists - and urge the SWP to join - in the Welfare State Network and the United Campaign for Trade Union Rights.

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Transitional demands and the workers' government

AWL: Transitional demands have the following characteristics :1. they aim to give a lead to the mass movement; 2. they aim to link the struggles of today to the socialist future; 3. they encourage working-class self-organisation; 4. they assert working class needs against the logic of the market and the needs of the capitalists.

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