Books

The October revolution: taking power and holding on

Submitted by Matthew on 18 October, 2017 - 11:51 Author: Paul Vernadsky

In the early hours of 24 October the soviet seizure of power began. This was not a response to the government’s ill-conceived decision to launch punitive action against the Bolsheviks. The blueprint had already been drawn up by the Military Revolutionary Committee; insurrectionary forces were to seize the Marinskii Palace and disperse the pre-parliament. Then the Winter Palace was to be surrounded, ministers arrested and the Provisional Government overthrown.

Embers of Light: review of "The Two Trotskyisms Confront Stalinism" AWL Fri, 10/13/2017 - 21:03

Revolutionary socialism at its liveliest is always a vast theater of ideological battlegrounds, a Permanent War of Questions, as Julius Jacobson – a one-time follower of Max Shachtman – so aptly put it. For those, and there were precious few, who still valiantly retained the capacity, the sitzfleisch as well as the activists’ militant vigor, in the years leading up to and through the second world war, to think through and refine volumes of innumerable majority and minority reports, theses and resolutions, what was at stake was nothing short of a desperate race to outpace history.

Colin Shindler reviews "The Left in Disarray" AWL Fri, 10/13/2017 - 20:48

Most of the time, the key terms of the anti-capitalist Left have no clear meaning, they express and convey emotion, not reason. They are the tools of demagogy more than of reasoned discourse…our language of politics is decayed, disablingly.

1917 was a revolution, not a coup

Submitted by Matthew on 4 October, 2017 - 11:43 Author: Paul Hampton

The British Trotskyist group Socialist Resistance has published a book, October 1917 — Workers in Power (Merlin 2016), which defends the key decisions of the Bolsheviks, while making some reasonable criticisms of the regime created after the civil war. The collection of essays is useful in many respects, but feels somewhat stale and has a number of notable gaps.

Antinomies of the concept of hegemony

Submitted by AWL on 3 October, 2017 - 7:43 Author: Paul Hampton
The H Word

Hegemony is a primary concept for understanding global politics today. Principally it expresses the hierarchy of states under US leadership, but hegemony has deeper meanings associated with the ways ruling classes maintain their rule. For socialists, hegemony also encapsulates working class leadership in the struggles of other oppressed layers, along with Marxist leadership of the labour movement. Antonio Gramsci used hegemony in a rich variety of contexts in his important contributions to Marxist thinking.

Cuba: the role of the working class

Submitted by AWL on 3 October, 2017 - 7:30 Author: Pablo Velasco
Castro and Guevara

What role did the Cuban working class play in the 1959 revolution? This is the key question discussed in Steve Cushion’s provocative book, A Hidden History of the Cuban Revolution: How the Working Class Shaped the Guerrillas’ Victory, (Monthly Review, 2016). Whilst the book demonstrates the active role workers played in Cuban history during the 1950s, the author is soft on Castroism and inflates the role of the Stalinists.

Don’t mourn, organise!

Submitted by AWL on 3 October, 2017 - 6:45 Author: Paul Hampton
Don’t mourn, organise!

Left-wing melancholia aptly sums up the psychology of many socialists of a certain age, beaten down by decades of defeat and sanguine about the resources of hope in the present. Enzo Traverso brings this issue to the foreground in his recent book, Left-Wing Melancholia: Marxism, History, and Memory (2017). Traverso is a professor at Cornell University and politically close to the Fourth International of Mandel, Bensaid and Löwy. Yet this new book – as befitting the subject matter – is a bitter disappointment.

The life of Ernest Mandel and the impasse of orthodoxy

Submitted by martin on 1 September, 2017 - 12:12 Author: Martin Thomas
Sample

Ernest Mandel (1923-95) was the world's best-known Trotskyist for some decades; the interpreter and synthesiser for the "Orthodox Trotskyist" mainstream; and also a prolific writer many of whose books reached readerships far beyond circles sympathising with Trotskyism.

Jan Willem Stutje, a Dutch academic professing "a close affinity" to Mandel's ideas, has written a biography which is of great interest for the reasons that biographies are generally interesting, that they help us see how the subject's ideas intertwined with their life and times.