PaulHampton's blog

1. The Left against Europe redux

Introduction

The revolutionary left once had reputable politics towards Europe, an inheritance from Trotsky that was not finally dispensed with until the early 1970s. The story of how the British revolutionary left went from an independent working class stance to accommodation with chauvinism...

2. How the Stalinists shaped the debate on Europe

The hostile attitude towards European unity on the ostensibly revolutionary left derived ultimately from the poisoned well of Stalinism. Internationally, the USSR under Stalin embraced the nationalistic ‘socialism in one country’ doctrine in the mid-1920s, as it sidelined the perspective of...

3. The attitude of the revolutionary left before 1970

The attitude of the revolutionary left in Britain towards Europe before 1970 was almost unanimously internationalist, a legacy of Trotsky’s consistent support for a United States of Europe. The revolutionary left began the post-war period mostly united within the Revolutionary Communist Party...

4. The chauvinist summer of 1971

Before 1971 almost the entire revolutionary left held an abstentionist position on the Common Market: In or out, it was about capitalist integration and not a matter for workers to choose a side to support. Although this left several key questions begging, it at least had the virtue of maintaining a...

5. How the revolutionary left fell in behind the Stalinists in 1971

The revolutionary left on the cusp of the 1970s was significantly larger than it had been since the mid-1920s, when the CPGB was a real revolutionary force with around 10,000 members. In 1964 the SLL had an estimated 500 members, IS around 200 members and Militant about 40 members. After 1968 all...

6. 1975 and all that

The revolutionary left grew significantly between its volte-face over the Common Market in 1971, Britain’s accession to the EEC on 1 January 1972 and the Labour government’s referendum on membership on 6 June 1975. However this growth was not accompanied by greater political clarity, but rather...

United Europe and the Marxist tradition

Working-class socialists will advise workers how to vote in the UK’s European Union (EU) in/out referendum by addressing the actual question on the ballot paper and by evaluating the known, quantifiable consequences of the options. Judged on the basis of workers’ interests, it is clear that however...

2. Marxists in the nineteenth century

Marx and Engels developed their original synthesis of socialism as working class self-liberation through combining elements of English political economy, Germany philosophy and French socialism. Marx and Engels inherited the common sense demand for a federal united Europe from other socialist...

3. The debate on a united Europe around the First World War

The threat of world war did not recede into the new century. On the contrary, it became clear by the second decade of the twentieth century that Europe was fast heading towards a terrible armed conflict. In these circumstances, the demand for European unity took on a growing urgency.

The next...

4. The Comintern and the Fourth International

The nascent Russian workers’ state survived beleaguered the civil war and resulting economic collapse, but saw capitalism stabilise and the immediate possibilities of workers’ revolution recede across Europe. Lenin and Trotsky sought to reorient the Communist Parties through their joint work in the...

5. Third Camp Trotskyism on European unity

Just before Trotsky’s death, a dreadful schism took place within the Fourth International. A debate sparked by the Hitler-Stalin pact within the American SWP resulting in a split within Trotskyism, between the ‘orthodox’ strand of Cannon and Mandel on the one hand and the heterodox, Third Camp...

New insight on Trotsky in Norway

Oddvar Høidal, Trotsky in Norway: Exile, 1935–1937: University of Illinois Press (2013).

When Leon Trotsky published his autobiography, My Life (1930) aged 50, he had already experienced three periods of exile. The first, from 1903 to 1905, took place between two spells of underground work, two...

Callinicos and the SWP: wrong on imperialism

At the Second Congress of the Communist International, in the debate on the national and colonial question, just after his book Imperialism had been translated into German and French, Lenin warned delegates they should “establish concrete facts and to proceed from concrete realities, not abstract...

Lenin’s laboratory: A review of Day and Gaido, Discovering Imperialism

“It is the same with the policy of Social Democracy as with any other: if you do not move forwards, you go backwards. Whoever closes his eyes out of a (not necessarily conscious) fear of the consequences of stating what is, has not only failed to fulfil his Social-Democratic duty to say what is but...

The Making of Global Capitalism by Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin

The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire by Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin is one of the best Marxist analyses of the modern epoch published in a long time. The book (Panitch and Gindin 2012: vii) is devoted to understanding “how it came to be that the American...

The burning question is politics

The climate movement has begun to revive and not before time. The age of extreme energy is upon us – with the rise of fracking and tar sands, along with increased demand for coal – and this will have dire consequences for climate change. Bill McKibben’s essay in Rolling Stone magazine last year was...

Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary (2012 edition)

At last, seventy years after its first publication in French and half a century after the first abridged English translation, we have the Victor Serge’s fantastic Memoirs of a Revolutionary in full. Around one-eighth of the 1963 edition was trimmed by nearly two hundred cuts under duress from the...

An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital

Michael Heinrich’s book, An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital, (Monthly Review Press 2012) is a lucid and refreshing theoretical interpretation of Marxist political economy.

Apparently, it has gone through nine editions in Germany and is used widely in German...

A university of Marxism

John Riddell’s Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International (Haymarket 2012) is a tremendous work of scholarship in the tradition of David Riazanov. The book is a remarkable paperback of 1,300 pages, but it repays reading: it is a manual for...

A university of Marxism - Part 5: Anti-imperialism

The Fourth Congress adopted a call for an anti-imperialist united front in the colonial and semi-colonial countries, aimed at “the mobilisation of all revolutionary forces” in “an extended, lengthy struggle against world imperialism”(2012: 1187). The expression was new, but the concept of an anti...

A university of Marxism - Part 4: Hegemony and struggles against oppression

The early Communist International’s focus was on working class self-liberation and this was reflected in the time spent on discussions on party building, work to transform the labour movement and on the specifics of class struggle strategy. But the Bolsheviks had made their reputation as tribunes of...

A university of Marxism - Part 3: The workers’ government slogan

Probably the most wide-ranging and rancorous discussion at the Fourth Congress concerned the transitional slogan of a workers’ government. This debate is of exceptional importance to the tradition represented by the AWL, yet outside our ranks it is rarely discussed or propagated at present...

A university of Marxism - Part 2: Transitional demands and the united front

The Fourth Congress of the Communist International synthesised and systematised for the first time seminal but largely latent ideas found within the Marxist tradition that had preceded it. Most strikingly, the elaboration of a conception of transitional demands, the tactical importance of the united...

A university of Marxism - Part 1: Assessment of global class forces

John Riddell’s Toward the United Front: Proceedings of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International (Haymarket 2012) is a tremendous work of scholarship in the tradition of David Riazanov. The book is a remarkable paperback of 1,300 pages, but it repays reading: it is a manual for...

Why Gramsci is important

The AWL’s book, Antonio Gramsci: working-class revolutionary, has started some very fruitful discussions about what it means to be a Marxist in the present period. Martin Thomas has highlighted important conceptions from Gramsci, such as “the democratic philosopher” and “permanently active...

Anniversary of the Balfour declaration

Today is the 95th anniversary of the Balfour declaration, the promise made by the British government to support a Jewish state in Palestine. The anniversary is already the subject of letters to the Guardian and no doubt will prove a fillip for discussion on the self-defined “anti-imperialist” left...

The John Carlos story: a life of protest

The black-gloved salute from the podium at the 1968 Olympics is one of the most riveting images in the history of protest, surpassing its sporting moment. The John Carlos Story (Haymarket 2012) is the autobiography of one of the central protagonists. Carlos’ protest was a conscious political act...

Assessing the global slump

There is no definitive Marxist assessment of the current economic crisis or of the period leading up to it, but there is a vibrant debate among Marxists trying to grapple with the underlying causes of the world we’re in. David McNally’s book “Global Slump” provides one of the most panoramic and...

The Marxism of José Carlos Mariátegui

Latin America appears to have long been in the thrall of ‘barbaric’ Marxism: the stale Stalinism of the official Communist Parties, the populist Stalinism of the Castro current, the national reformism of the Sandinistas and more recently the Bonapartism of Chavistas. But there is a rich and...

Is Marxism Eurocentric?

A common charge heard against Marxism in recent decades is that it is a Eurocentric theory, one with arguably colonial assumptions and underpinned by Western values. If so, then Marxism cannot claim to be a universal theory of human emancipation; it might even simply rationalise the domination of a...

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