Marxist Theory

Marxism and ecology: clearing the air

Review of Paul Burkett, 2006, Marxism and Ecological Economics, Amsterdam: Brill

The conventional wisdom among Greens is that, so far as environmental struggles go, the organised labour movement is only occasionally an ally and often an opponent. Most ecologists dismiss Marxism as having little to offer today’s environmental concerns such as climate change.

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Socialism and Democracy: a Debate - Michael Foot and John O'Mahony

Click on "read more" to download the whole pamphlet as pdf, or to read it section-by-section online.
Download the Foot/ O'Mahony debate as pdf
Download appendices, including texts on socialism and democracy by James P Cannon, Max Shachtman, V I Lenin, and Hal Draper.
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Introduction: Democracy, direct action, and the class struggle
Michael Foot: My kind of democracy (part 1)
Michael Foot: My kind of democracy (part 2)

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Socialism and democracy: appendices

Appendices to the Workers' Liberty pamphlet, with texts by James P Cannon, Max Shachtman, V I Lenin, and Hal Draper on socialism, democracy, and the Russian Revolution of 1917; and articles by John Bloxam and John O'Mahony on current issues of democracy and the Labour Party in the 1980s.

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Marxism and democracy

By James P Cannon. This is an extract from Cannon's reply to a criticism of his court evidence in 1941.

Comrade Munis [1] is dissatisfied with our assertions at the trial that “we submit to the majority”.

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The movement of the majority

By James P Cannon, from Socialism on Trial, 1941. This is an extract from Cannon's evidence in the court where, during World War 2, he and other American Trotskyists and trade unionists were put on trial and jailed for hindering the US war effort.

Q: And how will the dictatorship of the proletariat operate insofar as democratic rights are concerned?

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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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Vladimir Lenin on democracy and dictatorship

Lenin called for the "dictatorship of the proletariat" as a great expansion of democracy.

By "dictatorship" he meant the rule of a class, not of a Hitler or a Stalin. This is an abridged version of Lenin's "Theses on Bourgeois Democracy and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat", adopted by the founding congress of the Communist International in March 1919. Long-forgotten contemporary references and examples have been cut.

Lenin called for the "dictatorship of the proletariat" as a great expansion of democracy.

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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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Democracy, Direct Action and Class Struggle: the Defects of Bourgeois Democracy

Pinochet

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John O'Mahony
This debate on democracy, early in 1982, between Michael Foot, then leader of the Labour Party, and Socialist Organiser, a forerunner of AWL, may help readers form a clearer picture of the issues beyond small-scale financial corruption.

The malaise of bourgeois democracy in Britain is now a subject of much discussion and concern. The discussion on democracy, early in 1982, between Michael Foot, then leader of the Labour Party, and Socialist Organiser, a forerunner of AWL, may help readers form a clearer picture of the issues beyond small-scale financial corruption.

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What is left anti-semitism?

What is “left-wing anti-semitism”? Where is it manifested? What is to be done about it?

There are three difficulties, three confusions and obfuscations, that stand in the way of rational discussion of what we mean by “left-wing anti-semitism”.

The first is that left-wing anti-semitism knows itself by another and more self-righteous name, “anti-Zionism”. Often, your left-wing anti-semite sincerely believes that he or she is only an anti-Zionist, only a just if severe critic of Israel.

The fact that their proponents are surely not racists does not answer the questions raised by root-and-branch "smash Israel" agitational themes.

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Marxism at Work: Overtime

Lots of workers do overtime to supplement low wages. But while you might feel the need to do this to get by, the system of overtime itself helps the bosses keep your wages down.

Other workers, even if their pay is OK, might feel pressured to do overtime to keep the job running and save their workmates from carrying the burden of uncovered duties. But where employers can rely on workers doing overtime, you find that vacancies take longer to be filled. Why should the company hurry up spending money on recruiting, training and kitting out new staff when they can use the existing ones? Even where overtime rates are higher than normal rates, they are cheaper for the employer than hiring a new worker.

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The Resilience of Nationalised and Collectivised Property Relations

Russia is taking back energy resources into state control. The latest move is to take back control of the Sakhalin 2 project from Shell. It has used similar methods to that used against Khodorkovsky, the Russian oligarch, to take back control of Yukos. The state now owns the majority of energy resources in Russia through the medium of the state owned Gazprom. It has also used the huige financial resources of Gazprom to extend state control of other industries totally unrelated. For example, the majority of the media is now back in state hands with Gazprom recently acquiring further media interests.

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Not a penny, not a man, for this system

In the summer of 1913 the government introduced a military bill… It was supposed to cost a thousand million Reichmarks for both new and current expenditures. However, the SPD confined itself to mere parliamentary protests; its members in the Reichstag even voted for the financial measures necessary to meet the military demands, because this time these were to be covered by property taxes. Even members of the party’s left wing (Radek and Pannekoek) advocated the passing of these measures. But knowing that nationalist and imperialist sentiments had moved many of the Reichstag members to vote in favour of the tax measures, Rosa Luxemburg underlined the principle that, in view of the rapidly approaching danger or war, the party should do nothing which might create even the appearance of expressing confidence in the government and consenting to its armaments policy.

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My political faith by Ignazio Silone

(January 1956)

I do not adhere to any system of philosophy, to any ideology, or to any orthodoxy. I think that all the ideological systems inherited from the last centuries, like the society that produced them, are in crisis at present — which does not mean that they do not contain some partial truth. I think that this has been the lot also of Marxism, in all of its variants. All metaphysics has lost its self-evidency.

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What is the Third Camp?

The central concern of “Third Camp” socialists is to promote independent working-class politics. Working-class independence from the given working class’s “own” ruling class and, not least, independence from its own ruling class’s enemies. My ruling class’ enemy ruling class is most decidedly not my friend. “The main enemy is at home”, as the heroic Karl Liebknecht put it during World War One. Everything depends on that.

The central concern of “Third Camp” socialists is to promote working-class political independence from warring bourgeois camps.

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Democracy and the workers movement

This explanation by HW Benson of the relationship of the working class to democracy and the fight to widen, expand and defend democracy, appeared 50 years ago in the American socialist weekly Labour Action. It was a time in the USA when socialists and even liberals were under tremendous pressure from the anti-communist “McCarthyite” witch hunts. We too live in a time when democratic liberties are under attack. We must resist this attack, as Labour Action and The Militant, the two US Trotskyist papers of the time, did, alongside others.

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Joining The Dots of a Confused Picture

I found reading the latest edition of Solidarity a bit confusing, like one of those Dot to Dot puzzles, where the picture only emerges if you connect the dots in the right order.

On Page 2 there is an article about the strike at NHS, Logistics, on Page 3/4 a lengthy article on “Can the Labour Party be Reclaimed?”, on Page 5 an article on the Left at Labour’s Conference, and another on Unions (and actually CLP’s) voting down Blair at Conference, on Page 8 an article attacking Brown’s hypocrisy, on Page 12 an article on the Cuban Revolution, on Page 14 a strange article entitled “Democracy and the Workers Movement”, on Page 18 an article attacking Socialist Action for their failure to attack Livingstone’s privatisation proposals, and finally on the back page a call for support for John McDonnell. All of these constituted the dots, but instead of looking at them and seeing a clear picture what came across to me was confusion and in some cases contradiction.

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Marxism at Work: New technology - friend or foe?

Whether it is Avantix, smart-card ticketing systems such as Oyster, or Manual Electronic Logging in signal boxes, technology continues to develop and to affect our life at work.

Management often target new technology into ticketing, even while they leave safety and operational systems in the 19th century. So passengers have contactless, stored-value, plastic tickets, while we still secure points with blocks of wood and metal clips!

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What Should Be Marxists Attitude to Bourgeois Democracy?

This blog is to set out and clarify some of the arguments I have put forward in other debates linked to in this latest post:

Bourgeois democracy and where I also take up the argument again.

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Workers’ control and socialism

"Control lies in the hands of the workers ..."

By Paul Hampton

“Control lies in the hands of the workers. This means: ownership and right of disposition remain in the hands of the capitalists. Thus, the regime has a contradictory character, presenting a sort of economic interregnum…

“In a developed form, workers’ control thus implies a sort of economic dual power in the factory, the bank, commercial enterprise, and so forth.

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Marx and the “Marxist line” on war

Tom Unterrainer reviews Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution, Volume V: War and Revolution by Hal Draper

This is the fifth volume of Hal Draper’s mammoth project to organise the political ideas developed by Marx and Engels on a coherent, closely argued and contextualised basis. It is something Marx managed for himself in his economic writing, but never with the diffuse array of journalism, essays and correspondence that constitutes his directly political writing.

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350 at Marxist conference

Over 350 people, mostly young, attended a conference - "Towards a cosmopolitan Marxism" - sponsored by Historical Materialism magazine in London on 4-6 November.

The conference had no institutional backing, and no special "big names" speaking. Yet workshops were crammed, with people sitting on the floor and standing round the walls.

The distinctive feature of the conference was that it brought a number of German and Italian Marxist writers - Wolfgang Fritz Haug, Domenico Losurdo, Fabio Frosini, Jan Rehmann, and others - to London.

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