In Defence of Bolshevism

Submitted by Gemma_S on 17 August, 2018 - 12:26

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Max Shachtman's Under the Banner of Marxism, which forms the bulk of this book, deserves to be considered one of the classic polemics of the Marxist movement, alongside The Poverty of Philosophy, Anti-Dühring, and others. It defends the Bolsheviks, their revolution, their work to build a revolutionary socialist movement, and the continued relevance of their approach.

The British political labour movement is trying to recreate itself. Over the last three years something like half a million people have joined the Labour Party, and done so mostly because they want to be politically active as left-wingers. Around 40,000 have joined Momentum for the same reason.

Yet the legacy of previous defeats for socialism still weighs heavy. There is a strong current of opinion within the broad left which suggests that a broadly left-wing Labour Party will suffice. What has the experience of the Bolsheviks and the Bolshevik tradition have to say to them?

The book contains also other relevant documents on the Bolshevik Revolution and texts by Leon Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, and Hal Draper.


Click here to download a study guide for use with the book.


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(Cover price, not including postage, £10).


Published September 2018. ISBN: 978-1-909639-43-0


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Full contents

Introduction, by Sean Matgamna: the British labour movement and Bolshevism

The Russian revolution
The Third International and the Fourth
The British and Russian labour movements
The first Thatcher
The left and the EU in the 1970s
Thatcher’s counter-revolution
The Benn movement
The political anatomy of the left in 1979-85
Left antisemitism
The left today
Honour the Bolsheviks!

Part 1: Under the Banner of Marxism, by Max Shachtman. [This, the main text in this book, Under the Banner of Marxism, was a reply by Max Shachtman in 1949 to a document by a hitherto prominent comrade, Ernest Erber, announcing his withdrawal from organised revolutionary Marxist politics. Erber's document, and a letter of his from the same time, are available online at Erber had joined the Trotskyist movement in the mid-30s and was a leading figure in the Workers Party between 1940 and 1948. After resigning Erber made a career as a town planner and was only marginally active in politics, considering himself a sort of social democrat].

In an age of apostasy
Lenin and the Marxian theory of the state
State and revolution in the light of two experiences
Revolution and violence

Part 2 : The party that led the revolution. [Where not otherwise indicated, the texts in parts 2, 3, and 4 are by Max Shachtman]

The party that won the victory
Did Bolshevism produce Stalinism?
The working class and socialism
The “mistakes” of the Bolsheviks
Bolshevism and gossip
October was a true working class revolution

Part 3: Lenin, Bolshevism, and Rosa Luxemburg

Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg

Part 4: Appendices

Shachtman confronts Kerensky — Labor Action
An anti-Bolshevik eye-witness — Hal Draper
What is Trotskyism?
Blanquism and social democracy — Rosa Luxemburg
Hands off Rosa Luxemburg! — Leon Trotsky
Trotskyism and the PSOP — Leon Trotsky
The class, the party and the leadership — Leon Trotsky
Tradition and revolutionary policy — Leon Trotsky

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