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Toronto City Council pushes back against petro giants

By John Riddell. Toronto City Council unanimously adopted a series of motions on April 1 seeking to protect residents against transport of toxic oil products by pipeline and rail. While the motions have no legal effect, they mark an important victory for local ecological campaigners and all Toronto residents.

Most notably, the council voted 28 to 4 to ask the Province of Ontario to “conduct a comprehensive environmental assessment of the Enbridge Line 9B application” – a project to run diluted tar sands oil (“dilbit”) through an aging pipeline (“Line 9”) that cuts across the city (see “Ethical Enbridge?”) The vote, on a motion by Councillor Mike Layton, was a slap in the face of Canada’s federal government, whose National Energy Board (NEB) had approved the project March 6 in a decision aimed at shutting down controversy over the troubled project. Read more…

Michael Lebowitz on socialism and creative energy

By Michael Lebowitz. In the following interview, Michael Lebowitz, a leading exponent of socialism for the twenty-first century, discusses mobilizing the creative energy of the population as a decisive factor in building a socialist society.

His remarks, made in the context of challenges facing Cuba today, summarize views developed in several books, listed at the close. The interview, compiled by Vicente Morin Aguado, first appeared on March 28 in Havana Times.org, which also published a Spanish text. It is republished with Michael’s permission. Read more…

Reading Zetkin: What strategy for women’s liberation?

By John Riddell. In a recent comment to this blog, Tad Tietze defines Clara Zetkin’s approach to women’s oppression as marked by “consistent method, flexible application.” To portray this approach, he offers us an important speech by Zetkin to a convention of German socialists in 1896. In my view, Zetkin’s address is a classic of Marxism, worth careful study, but does not offer us a satisfactory strategy for the women’s liberation struggle today. Read more…

Zetkin and oppression: consistent method, flexible application

The following is a comment on my post, “Reading Zetkin in Context.” Other articles in this exchange are listed at the close.–JR

By Tad Tietze. John, I am unconvinced by your positions on both Zetkin’s views and the issue of “context.” On Zetkin’s views, it seems to me that while she shifted some of her specific views over time, what she did across her political life was to try to understand how different oppressions and injustices were shaped by the central dynamics of capitalist society using the same general approach. Read more…

Reading Zetkin in context

Thanks to Lindsey German for her constructive comment, Clara Zetkin: oppression, class, and socialism. She has provided useful documentation of Zetkin’s views on socialism and feminism from the years before World War 1.

Reading these quotations, it seems to me that some of Zetkin’s opinions can be better understood as a description of conditions at the time of writing rather than as an instruction valid for all times. Read more…

Climate disasters threaten Bangladesh’s social gains

by John Riddell. “Bangladesh is a world leader in adaptation to natural disasters,” Bangladeshi community organizer Nasima Akter told a Toronto audience January 8. “But now climate change threatens to wash away all our gains.”

Akter had been invited by East End Against Line 9, a neighbourhood committee formed to protest a proposed cross-Toronto tar-sands pipeline. The East End committee wanted to learn about the implications of Canada’s reckless tar-sands development for a poor and vulnerable nation. Read more…

Clara Zetkin: oppression, class, and socialism, by Lindsey German

Among the responses to my article, “Clara Zetkin in the Lion’s Den,” the following comment by Lindsey German is of particular interest. Lindsey is a London-based activist and writer for socialism and women’s liberation. She is a frequent contributor to Counterfire.org and is the author of “Women’s liberation: a class perspective.” My reply will follow. Click here for other responses. — John Riddell

By Lindsey German. Your article is, as ever, informative and fascinating about the treatment of Clara Zetkin at the Third Congress of the Comintern, and about her determination to fight against the ultra left folly of the March Action. Zetkin was a principled Marxist all her life, courageous enough to be one of a handful from German Social Democracy who opposed imperialist war in 1914, and a committed campaigner against women’s oppression. Read more…

Clara Zetkin in the lion’s den

Workers’ unity and feminism at a Comintern congress

By John Riddell. In 1921, when the Communist International (Comintern) held its Third World Congress, Clara Zetkin was the most widely respected Communist outside Russia. Yet she was the victim of vigorous efforts on the eve of the congress to vilify her and drive her out of the Comintern leadership, if not from the movement. Nonetheless, she ranks, together with Lenin and Trotsky, among the dominant intellectual figures at the congress. Read more…

More ‘Lars Lih Online’: six further studies of Bolshevism

Lars Lih is one of the most influential and innovative contemporary historians of Marxism, and my April 2013 listing of eight of his online studies proved unexpectedly popular. Since then, six more online papers by Lars have come to my attention. Here are the six new articles, followed by the original list. For each article, I have added a quotation indicating its topic. — John Riddell Read more…

‘Canadian Charger’ must oppose Ottawa’s fake ‘anti-terrorism’ list

On December 11, 2013, the Canadian Charger, a web-based weekly with many readers in the Muslim community, formally retracted its editorial call for the Harper government to place Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood on its fake “anti-terrorism” list. The Charger thus responded to a wave of protests of its damaging editorial, published in its December 4 issueAlong with its retraction, the Charger featured the following article, which combines two of the protest letters. – JR and SW.   Read more…

Solidarity Saved Me from Hitler: Now It Must Save Palestine

In October 2013 I accompanied Suzanne Weiss in a trip back into the history of rural France under Nazi occupation. Suzanne’s interviews there provided a framework for the following talk given by her to Solidarity for Palestine Human Rights at the University of Western Ontario on November 20, 2013. A portion of her speech has been published by Electronic Intifada;  the full text first appeared in Bullet, a publication of Socialist Project — JR.

By Suzanne Weiss. We hear disturbing reports this year from southern Israel. The government proposes to relocate some 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their present homes to government-approved townships. This is called the Prawer Plan, and Israel’s parliament approved it by a three-vote majority in June. The Prawer Plan would destroy 35 Bedouin villages in the Negev region and extinguish Bedouin claims to land seized from them after the foundation of Israel. The government denies basic services to these villages. Right beside them, in many cases, are new, modern, fully serviced communities for Jewish settlers. Read more…

Women in lead at London Marxism conference

By John Riddell. The tenth annual Historical Materialism conference, held in London November 7–10, was younger and more diverse in composition than its predecessors. Probably the world’s leading gathering of Marxist theorists, the conference, this year entitled “Making the World Working Class,” welcomed 880 registered participants to 140 sessions. Read more…

Five precedents for understanding Egypt’s July coup

By John Riddell. Two months after Egypt’s generals ousted its elected Muslim Brotherhood government, there is still a wide spectrum of views among socialists regarding the meaning of this event. (See my “Egypt: Socialists Need to Rethink”) This discussion can be deepened by considering a few precedents from socialist history – some well known, others obscure. Read more…

Egypt: Socialists need to rethink the military takeover

By John Riddell. The military massacres in Egypt are “part of a plan to liquidate the Egyptian Revolution and restore the military-police state of the Mubarak regime,” say the Revolutionary Socialists (RS) of Egypt in an August 15 statement. Their present analysis contrasts sharply with their previous positive appraisal the July 3 military coup that ousted Egypt’s elected government.

The RS, who enjoy a wide reputation as a revolutionary voice in the Egyptian struggle, are reconsidering the meaning of this experience. Socialists abroad should be rethinking it as well.

In the rich and varied world discussion of these events, contributions in the Green Left Weekly newsgroup (Australia) provide useful starting points for reflection, as do the reactions of several ALBA governments. Read more…

No thanks, Enbridge: Line 9 refit is all pain, no gain

Canada’s National Energy Board excluded my neighborhood committee on tar sands pipelines, East End Against Line 9, from its hearing on the Enbridge project, which aims to run diluted bitumen through Toronto. Here is the letter we sent them in response. I was among ten committee members, listed at the end, who helped compile it. Read more…

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