PaulHampton's blog

1. The Left against Europe redux

Submitted by PaulHampton on Sun, 27/09/2015 - 15:42


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 and Stalinist ‘socialist-in-one-country’ deserves to be better known: it serves as a warning in the forthcoming European Union (EU) referendum, with its dangers of capitulation to reactionary elements.

2. How the Stalinists shaped the debate on Europe

Submitted by PaulHampton on Sun, 27/09/2015 - 15:40

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 international socialist revolution and workers’ democracy.

3. The attitude of the revolutionary left before 1970

Submitted by PaulHampton on Sun, 27/09/2015 - 15:37

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, formed in 1944. It was part of the orthodox Fourth International, led by Ernest Mandel and took much of its politics from that source.

4. The chauvinist summer of 1971

Submitted by PaulHampton on Sun, 27/09/2015 - 15:36

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 consistent internationalist position, having no truck with chauvinism and championing cross-Europe worker solidarity in the face of bourgeois integration.

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

Submitted by PaulHampton on Sun, 27/09/2015 - 15:34

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 groups grew, and so by the time of these Common Market debates the SLL had around 2,000, IS a similar number, the IMG with around 400 and Militant with 250 members (John McIlroy, ‘Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned’: the Trotskyists and the Trade Unions, 1999: 262).

6. 1975 and all that

Submitted by PaulHampton on Sun, 27/09/2015 - 15:31

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 characterised by chasing after legitimacy on the industrial front. This accommodation was disastrous for the internationalist consciousness among working class militants in Britain and ultimately for the fate of the revolutionary left itself.

International Marxist Group

United Europe and the Marxist tradition

Submitted by PaulHampton on Sat, 08/08/2015 - 12:57

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 much the EU is a capitalist club, however neoliberal it is, however hostile it plainly is to migrants and refugees seeking shelter – the alternative of “Britain out” in today’s conditions will be far worse.

2. Marxists in the nineteenth century

Submitted by PaulHampton on Sat, 08/08/2015 - 12:53

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 writings of their time – for example Henri Saint-Simon and Augustin Thierry’s De la reorganisation de la societe europeenne (1814).

4. The Comintern and the Fourth International

Submitted by PaulHampton on Sat, 08/08/2015 - 12:49

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 Communist International, particularly at the Third (July 1921) and Fourth (November 1922) Congresses.

5. Third Camp Trotskyism on European unity

Submitted by PaulHampton on Sat, 08/08/2015 - 12:46

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 Trotskyism of Shachtman and Draper on the other. Within less than a decade they would become political formations with very different politics: the former a satellite of Stalinism, while the latter fought desperately to utilise Marxism to understand the new post-war world.

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

Submitted by PaulHampton on Sun, 29/12/2013 - 11:53

“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 will also be forced to say what in reality does not exist, to spread illusions. Any misunderstanding of reality leads to confusion.”
Karl Radek, Ways and Means in the Struggle against Imperialism (14 September 1912). D&G 2012: 615


The Making of Global Capitalism by Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin

Submitted by PaulHampton on Sun, 29/12/2013 - 11:49
world capitalism

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 state developed the interest and capacity to superintend the making of global capitalism”.

The burning question is politics

Submitted by PaulHampton on Mon, 29/07/2013 - 09:40

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 one of the harbingers of the revived climate politics. McKibben, who leads the 350 degrees organisation that helped organise the biggest climate demonstration so far in the US earlier this year.

Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary (2012 edition)

Submitted by PaulHampton on Sat, 30/03/2013 - 21:51

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 publishers. This new unexpurgated edition has been restored by George Paizis and annotated by Richard Greeman. It deserves to be read by today’s generation of socialists, activists and trade unionists.

Who was Victor Serge?

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

Submitted by PaulHampton on Mon, 11/03/2013 - 21:08

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 universities. Heinrich takes inspiration from the “neue Marx Lektüre” (new Marx reading) of Capital. The result is one of best introductions to Capital for the new reader, but also many sophisticated clarifications for those who who’ve already read some Marx.

A university of Marxism

Submitted by PaulHampton on Sat, 09/02/2013 - 08:35

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 revolutionary socialist strategy, in the words of many of its finest representatives.

These five blogs explain why:

Part 1: Assessment of global class forces

A university of Marxism - Part 5: Anti-imperialism

Submitted by PaulHampton on Sat, 09/02/2013 - 08:23

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-imperialist united front had been effectively endorsed at the Second Comintern Congress and by the Congress of the Peoples of the East in Baku in 1920.

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

Submitted by PaulHampton on Sat, 09/02/2013 - 08:22

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 the people, taking up any and every matter of injustice and oppression against the tsar. While seeking to win hegemony in the working class, they also sought to gain hegemony for the working class among the exploited and oppressed as a whole.

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

Submitted by PaulHampton on Sat, 09/02/2013 - 08:19

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. Translations of the theses and debates at the Fourth Congress were published by our predecessors in the 1970s, when the original texts were long out of print and hard to obtain. They informed our own discussions about intervening to transform the labour movement from that period onwards.

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

Submitted by PaulHampton on Sat, 09/02/2013 - 08:17

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 front and the crowning transitional demand for a workers’ government were elaborated and codified in 1922, after recently practical experience, particularly in Germany.


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

Submitted by PaulHampton on Sat, 09/02/2013 - 08:15

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 revolutionary socialist strategy, in the words of many of its finest representatives.

Why Gramsci is important

Submitted by PaulHampton on Sat, 15/12/2012 - 21:15

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 persuaders”, which sum up very crisply the way Marxist worker intellectuals interact with other workers and other social layers, learning as well as teaching, educating ourselves through struggling alongside others.

Anniversary of the Balfour declaration

Submitted by PaulHampton on Fri, 02/11/2012 - 19:08

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. Criticism of British colonial policy is entirely justified, but this should not lead us to argue that the there was simply an inexorable, linear, mechanical line from the Balfour declaration to the creation of Israel, never mind to the current injustice towards the Palestinians.

The John Carlos story: a life of protest

Submitted by PaulHampton on Tue, 03/07/2012 - 21:08

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, which dwarfed even his exceptional athletic talent. Although he could foresee the unpleasant consequences of his audacity, he did not hesitate to act. John Carlos deserves to be regarded as a hero and a true champion.

Assessing the global slump

Submitted by PaulHampton on Mon, 30/04/2012 - 19:36

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 provocative accounts with many insights. He argues that the crisis of 2008 represents the terminus of a quarter-century wave of economic growth – neoliberal expansion – and the transition to a protracted period of slump (2011 p.2). He defends three broad arguments:

The Marxism of José Carlos Mariátegui

Submitted by PaulHampton on Mon, 27/02/2012 - 18:22

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 authentic tendency of Latin American Marxism, in which Jose Carlos Mariátegui is probably the brightest star. His contribution during the third decade of the twentieth century has rightly earned him the epitaph of Latin America’s Gramsci.

Is Marxism Eurocentric?

Submitted by PaulHampton on Thu, 26/01/2012 - 20:34

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 few powerful states over the rest of the world.

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