Marxists

Was “permanent revolution” the flaw?

A discussion of Jacques Texier's book Revolution et democratie chez Marx et Engels Reformist socialism? Who is there, who could there be, who would hold to such a doctrine today? As a positive scheme for a society of free and democratic cooperation, rather than as a negative reluctance to see working-class struggle rise too high? Labour's 2017 manifesto was a refreshing break from New Labour. But it did not propose to replace a society of the rich Few and the hard-up Many by equality. It proposed only to take a little from those Few to alleviate the Many. And, unlike some reformist-socialist...

Peronism: not a model for socialists

In an interview featured in Tim Alberta’s new book American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, President Donald Trump compared Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Eva Perón. Specifically, Trump remarked that Ocasio-Cortez has “talent”, but “doesn’t know anything”. This alludes to how Eva Perón went from popular radio and film actress to powerful symbol for the political movement spearheaded by her husband, Juan Perón. The latter was President of Argentina from June 1946 to September 1955, and again from October 1973 until his death in July...

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...

Immanuel Wallerstein 1930-2019

Immanuel Wallerstein died at the age of 88 on 31 August. He was one of the last great exponents of the 1950s-60s theory of imperialism known as “dependency theory”, and continued to write until only a few years ago. He was born in New York, the son of Polish Jews fleeing antisemitism, and worked almost all his life in US universities. He named Marx first among those to whom he “acknowledged a continuing intellectual debt”. He described himself as one of a “gang of four” with Samir Amin, Giovanni Arrighi, and Andre Gunder Frank, all also now dead. Gunder Frank was the most prolific and...

The Bolsheviks and international trade union work

Review: Reiner Tosstorff, The Red International of Labour Unions (RILU) 1920-1937. Haymarket (2018) In the aftermath of the 1917 Russian revolution, the Bolsheviks sought to advance the international socialist revolution through the formation of the Communist International (the Comintern). The first five years of the Comintern are replete with lessons for socialists, including crucial conceptions such as transitional demands, the united front and the workers’ government. One crucial sphere of the Comintern’s work concerned the trade unions, crystallised in the foundation of the Red...

Robert Fine on antisemitism and Stalinism: a comment

I read Dan Davison’s article on Robert Fine and the critique of antisemitism in Solidarity 512 with great interest. While Davison’s overall tribute to Fine is both lucid and commendable, there are two significant aspects of Fine’s critical perspective that Davison left under-examined. These are, first, Fine’s understanding of the connections between antisemitism and racism and, second, his standpoint on Stalinism and anti-Stalinism. Having written reviews of two of Fine’s books so far as part of an ongoing series, I found Fine’s ideas about antisemitism thought-provoking. Indeed, I can see key...

The "revisionism" debate of 1898-9

The "revisionism controversy" in the German socialist movement in 1898-9 is often described, with hindsight, as showing that the movement was already rotten. It is held that such central figures in the movement as August Bebel and Karl Kautsky opposed Eduard Bernstein's revisionism only half-heartedly, and really had gone most of the way to accepting Bernstein's gradualist approach. The conclusion, often, is that there is not much to learn from the writings of the movement from that era, after Marx and Engels and up to 1914, except perhaps for some texts by Lenin, Luxemburg, and Trotsky. That...

The history of "left communism"

Above, from left: Pannekoek, Bordiga, Damen, Chirik A note to supplement Todd Hamer's article "Transforming the labour movement: a reply to our critics" The nearest that Lenin came to summing up, in "textbook" form, the lessons to be learned by Marxists from Bolshevism and the Russian Revolution, was his famous 1920 pamphlet, Left-wing communism: an infantile disorder. "In the first months after the proletariat in Russia had won political power (October 25 [November 7], 1917)", wrote Lenin, "it might have seemed that the enormous difference between backward Russia and the advanced countries of...

Lukács: another view

According to John Rees and the Counterfire group (a splinter from the SWP), Georg Lukács was "the most important Marxist political philosopher since Marx". He was "the great theorist of revolution in the 20th century", and his writings were "the most sophisticated development of the classical Marxist tradition that anyone has developed". John Cunningham's presentation (Solidarity 511) is more sober. But generally Lukács has enjoyed high repute in a wide range of the left since the early 1970s, and with many Third Camp Marxists since Michael Harrington made the first English translation from...

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