Bolsheviks

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...

Rosa Luxemburg on 1905

“The extent to which the party rises to the occasion [of a revolutionary upsurge] — that depends in the greatest degree on how widely [the Marxists have] known how to make their influence felt among the masses in the pre-revolutionary period...” It depends on “the extent to which [they were] already successful in putting together a solid central core of politically well-trained worker activists with clear goals, how large the sum of all their political and organisational work has been”. Volume 3 of the new Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg, published this year, shows how false the idea is that...

Werner Scholem: Trotskyism, Zinovievism, antisemitism

The socialist life of Werner Scholem deserves to be better known. The publication of Ralf Hoffrogge’s exhaustive biography, A Jewish Communist in Weimar Germany (Haymarket 2018), means that English readers now have the opportunity to appreciate his contribution. Werner Scholem was born in Germany in December 1895. He joined the Socialist Workers’ Youth group as a teenager in 1912 and then the Social Democratic Party (SPD) on turning 18. Scholem opposed the First World War but was conscripted, wounded on the Eastern front and then imprisoned for anti-war activities. He was sent to the Western...

Last stand for Bolshevism

A review of In Defence of Bolshevism, a collection of writings by Max Shachtman edited by Sean Matgamna There is little that is new here, good or bad. The most provocative stuff is contained in Sean Matgamna’s introduction, and this is a rehash of themes that he has presented better elsewhere, the unrelieved badness of the Soviet Union, the equation of antisemitism with anti-Zionism, as well as his failure to provide even a skeleton of a programme for the semi-colonial world, and, of course, more justifiably (and enjoyably) his attacks on the leaders of rival organisations to his Alliance for...

How not to quote Lenin

“The October Revolution is an imperishable page in the history of the great movements of the masses to take their destiny into their own hands that began with the French Revolution. “It was the second stage of the elemental upsurge of the Russian masses that began in February. “The Kerensky regime had done its utmost to block its further advance by frustrating the efforts of the masses to end the war and divide the land. The regime sought to stretch out its undemocratic authority as long as possible by repeatedly postponing the elections of a Constituent Assembly. If the revolution was to...

VIDEOS: In Defence of Bolshevism

Watch this series of short videos on the Bolsheviks and what they stood for. Workers’ Liberty has a book of the same title , edited by Sean Matgamna. The bulk of the book is a polemic by Max Shachtman in which he defends the Bolsheviks and the Russian revolution, and their continued relevance. Order a copy of the book here . To select individual videos, click on the playlist selector in top right of the video image above. See Workers' Liberty's channel for other playlists , and individual videos .

The Bolsheviks: mistakes and limits

Barry Finger's review ( Solidarity 497) of In Defence of Bolshevism quotes approvingly Max Shachtman's statement, in Shachtman's 1943 article on "The Mistakes of the Bolsheviks", that "we must... defend Bolshevism". In its last sentence, though, it declares: "The Bolsheviks themselves – Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin — nevertheless 'took the theoretical lead', in Hal Draper's words, 'in gutting socialism of its organic enrootment in the mass of the people' paving the 'juridical' framework for the counter-revolution in class power." This has some truth to this, but only within limits, and it is...

Pioneering work on Lenin and Bolshevism

Paul Le Blanc reviews "In Defence of Bolshevism" by Max Shachtman. (Picture: Shachtman in later years.) This is an important work on Lenin and the Bolshevik tradition. While many have been profoundly impressed by the valuable work of Lars Lih in Rediscovering Lenin (2006), Max Shachtman was articulating and documenting many of the same points in the late 1930s, through the 1940s and 1950s, and into the early 1960s. His defence of Bolshevism was articulated over and over, with facts and citations buttressed with brilliant turns of phrase, sometimes with entertaining (even hilarious) flourishes...

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