Bolsheviks

Malm: Further into the swamp

Second in a series of articles about the writings on climate politics of Andreas Malm. More here. Since the publication of his celebrated book Fossil Capital (2016), Andreas Malm has continued to expound his views on climate change. He has published several books, includingThe Progress of This Storm (2018), Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency (2020) and How to Blow Up a Pipeline (2021), along with numerous journal articles. Malm’s evolution has been erratic, consistent only with his pseudo-profound pontification. His advice to the climate movement has veered from geoscience to acts of sabotage...

Was Stalinism the new barbarism?

Published in Workers' Liberty Series 1 No. 66 January 2001. Paul Hampton analyses the arguments used by Tony Cliff and others to rubbish the ideas developed in the 1940s by Max Shachtman and the “unorthodox” Trotskyists in the USA about the USSR. This is the second part of an article whose first part appeared in Workers’ Liberty 62. By the late forties Shachtman came to the conclusion that Stalinism was “the new barbarism”. Cliff understood that there were two meanings of the term “barbarism’; the first sense meant a description of the period since 1917, given the belatedness of the socialist...

Stalinism in theory and history

Published in Workers' Liberty Series 1 No. 62 March 2000 In theories of Stalinism, as Haberkern comments in his review of The Fate of the Russian Revolution (WL59-60), plainly there are many nuances, and valuable contributions from the likes of Burnham, Carter and Draper which ought to be more widely known. But the book, criticised by Ernie for its failure to include more such texts, was not intended as a compilation of theories of bureaucratic collectivism. It is rather a critique of the ideas of latter-day Trotskyism, from the premises of Trotsky and by his most ardent followers. Many...

The dynamics of bureaucratism

Left Oppositionists in Siberian exile, late 1920s Published in Workers Liberty Series 1 No.59/60 December 1999 / January 2000 The Fate of the Russian Revolution: Lost Texts of Critical Marxism Volume One is a significant contribution to the literature of the anti-Stalinist left. Long buried in the archives the polemics and analyses of those socialists who refused to accept the definition of Stalin’s barbaric regime as a “workers’ state” simply because property was nationalised and private property, large and small, was obliterated, deserve to see the light. My criticism of this anthology...

Penetrating but unsound

Statue of Stalin toppled in the 1956 Hungarian revolution Published in Workers Liberty Series 1 No. 53 February 1999 I welcome the publication of The Fate of the Russian Revolution: Lost Texts of Critical Marxism Volume One a sort of library in itself. It is a handy compendium of the sweep of Max Shachtman's journalism, and of his co-thinkers. Always penetrating, often witty, and never without interest, Shachtman was a very gifted revolutionary journalist. But he was no theoretician. This puts him well ahead of James P Cannon, who was neither, but journalism is what it is, and not theory. The...

The pilots who weathered the storm

Natalia Sedova, Frida Kahlo, Leon Trotsky and Max Shachtman In the first of a series of critical responses to The Fate of the Russian Revolution: Lost Texts of Critical Marxism, recently published by Phoenix Press and Workers’ Liberty, Alan Johnson argues that the book can play an invaluable role in restoring democracy to the heart of Marxism and help lay to rest the theoretical confusions of post-Trotsky Trotskyism. Originally published in Workers Liberty Series 1 No.50/52 October 1998/January 1999. “However well-intentioned Marxists are nowadays about the need to value democracy the latter...

Combatting antisemitism within the revolution

“Bolshevism has made Russia safe for the Jew. If the Russian idea should take hold of the white masses of the western world, then the black toilers would automatically be free,” wrote the Jamaican-American author Claude McKay in September 1919. By contrast, journalist and playwright Isaac Babel’s description of antisemitism in the Red Army in the years immediately following the October Revolution led him to ask the question: “Which is the Revolution and which the counter-revolution?” Echoing Babel’s question, the writer Ilia Ehrenburg described his experience of waiting to vote in the...

Learning from the rich debates of the past

The Communist International (Comintern), founded in the aftermath of the October 1917 Russian revolution, was the greatest forum for Marxist strategic debate so far. The first five years of the Comintern, between 1919 and 1923 were a school for learning and discussing how revolutionary parties should be built, how to assess the situation and orientate, and how to win a majority of workers to socialism. The publication of The Communist Movement at a Crossroads: Plenums of the Communist International’s Executive Committee, 1922-1923, edited by Mike Taber, is extremely valuable. This volume is...

Not the “people’s daily”

Some of the best people I have ever encountered in the labour movement — or anywhere else, for that matter — were CPers, that is, Stalinists, in one degree or another. These were people who had dedicated themselves mind and limb to a cause which in its broad points of reference and ultimate goals is our own cause, the cause of socialism, and who had given everything they had to it. They were not “selfless” in any narrow ascetic sense, but people who rejected the values and concerns of the bourgeois world around them with disdain, and who had organised their own lives around the working-class...

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