Skip to content

‘The status of women is a question for all socialists’

Interview on ‘The Communist Women’s Movement 1920-22’

8 March 2019: As we mark International Women’s Day (8 March), and the centenary of the establishment of the Communist International (March 1919), Estelle Cooch interviews Daria Dyakonova and Mike Taber about their project on the history of the Communist Women’s Movement (1920-22). The text is reprinted with permission from rs-21 (Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century). Subheadings have been added.

Estelle Cooch: The fund drive for your forthcoming book The Communist Women’s Movement, 1920-22 received an overwhelming response. Can you tell us a bit about the idea for the project came about and some of the challenges of undertaking such extensive archival research?

Zetkin-Kollontai

Clara Zetkin and Alexandra Kollontai at the 1921 conference of Communist women

Mike Taber: The original idea for the book was simply to continue the 36-year effort to publish the record of the Communist International (Comintern) under Lenin. Led by John Riddell – who remains an active collaborator on this book – the effort has already led to the publication of eight large volumes. With this ninth volume on the Communist Women’s Movement (CWM), we’ve begun to take up the Comintern’s auxiliary organizations. As we’ve worked on the book, however, we’ve come to see how valuable it is on a number of levels. Read more…

Advertisements

Heroic wager: The decision to form the Communist International

100 years ago today, on March 4, 1919

This post is Part 2 of a reader’s guide to the proceedings of the Comintern’s founding congress. See also Part 1, “How the Comintern Was Founded.”

1WC-2

‘Workers of all Countries, Unite’: Delegates at March 1919 Congress

By John Riddell: Each of the early Comintern gatherings unfolded in a surprising way, but the founding congress was unique in its unpredictability. After an initial decision to postpone forming the new movement, the delegates changed course abruptly during the third day of debate and launched the Communist International.

This decision is the outstanding event in the 1919 congress, whose entire proceedings and related documents are available in a fully annotated edition from Pathfinder.


1WCFounding the Communist International: Proceedings and Documents of the First Congress: March 1919, ed. John Riddell, New York: Pathfinder, 2012 (1987).[1] See also Part 1 of this study.


As of the projected opening day of the congress in Moscow, March 1, only two delegates had managed to break through the imperialist blockade against the Soviet republic and reach the site of deliberations. Both these delegates held that it was too soon to launch the new International, and one – Hugo Eberlein from Germany – was categorical in his opposition. Read more…

100 Years Ago – How the Comintern was founded

An introduction to the founding congress and its proceedings: First of two parts. (See Part 2)

1WCBy John Riddell: One hundred years ago, revolutionary socialists from more than two dozen countries launched a global movement, the Communist International (Comintern).

The complete record of their March 2-6 congress in Moscow was published by Pathfinder in 1987 under my editorship in Founding the Communist International. It has recently been made available for US$35 in a handsomely redesigned new printing,[1] which includes my original introduction and the entire text from the 1987 edition.

However, as yet nothing from this edition is available online.[2] My present two-part commentary aims to provide an online guide to the Pathfinder edition and encourage its use. Many points in my present text are developed more fully in my introduction to the Pathfinder edition.[3] Read more…

50 years ago: The rise of Black Power in Canada

January 29, 1969: Montreal students occupy computer lab to protest campus racism

student meeting just before occupation kennedy frederick speaking

Student meeting just before occupation; Kennedy Frederick speaking

By John Riddell: January 29 this year marks half a century since Black students at Sir George Williams University in Montreal led a bold occupation of the campus computer centre.

Their two-week action marked the dramatic arrival in Canada of Black Power, a term used to describe the militant mass struggle for Black freedom that shook the United States during the 1960s.

The occupation also triggered sharp government repression: a violent police assault on February 11 that broke up the occupation, causing an estimated $2 million in damages to the computer centre. Criminal charges were then laid against activists while an extended Canada-wide and international campaign mobilized in their defense. Read more…

Comintern appeal for funds goes over the top

‘A project of utmost importance’

By Mike Taber: The fund drive appeal for The Communist Women’s Movement, 1920-1922 has received an overwhelming response.

The new volume will tell the story of how the Communist Women’s Movement (CWM), under the leadership of Clara Zetkin, Alexandra Kollontai, and others, set out to build something new in history: an international movement to fight for women’s emancipation and to draw masses of women into the worldwide revolutionary struggle.

At the heart of this 750-page volume will be the proceedings and resolutions of the CWM’s 1920 and 1921 international conferences. Most of the material has never appeared in English, with much of it never published in any language. The book will be co-edited by Mike Taber and Daria Dyakonova, Read more…

Paul Le Blanc’s ‘October Song’: Criticism and response

Bolsheviks cover 2Paul Le Blanc’s October Song: Bolshevik Triumph, Communist Tragedy, an innovative appraisal of Russia’s 1917 revolution and its results, has provoked both praise and controversy. My review on this website was answered in an extensive comment by Pittsburgh-based socialist Marty Boyers. Paul Le Blanc, in turn, contributed a response to Marty’s criticisms. Both Marty and Paul’s comments are reprinted below, with the authors’ permission.—JR

1. Hostile pressures: The key factor in Soviet decline

By Marty Boyers: Paul Le Blanc’s book October Song has much to recommend it. As John Riddell explains in his comments, it reviews a great deal of English-language available material on the Russian Revolution, especially eyewitness accounts from its earliest years, presenting several different sides of many issues.

However, in surveying the various sources, Le Blanc often fails to differentiate enough between the good and the bad. He also does not give enough value to the fact that, inevitably, the first successful proletarian revolution involved a lot of invention, disorder, and reconfiguration. Read more…

Cuba 1959-2019: Six decades of the Revolution

Cuba FlagSixty years ago today, the Cuban revolution triumphed in Havana, completing its victory across the island. The butcher Batista and his henchmen were driven from the country, and the Cuban people set about creating a new revolutionary future.

The ongoing vitality, creativity, and internationalism of the Cuban process stands alone in the history of revolutions. On this occasion we are publishing appreciations of Cuba by two prominent defenders of Cuba, Barry Weisleder and Felipe Stuart Courneyeur. – JR


Read more…

The roots of Fascism and the seeds for its defeat

Zetkin bookA review of  ‘Fighting Fascism’ by Clara Zetkin

By Elizabeth Schulte: With the rise of the right internationally, there has never been a more pressing need for clarity about the roots of fascism, its history, and why and how it can be defeated. Among the clearest thinkers on this subject is German socialist Clara Zetkin, whose writing on the topic has been republished thanks to the work of Mike Taber, John Riddell and Haymarket Books.

Fighting Fascism: How to Struggle and How to Win brings to today’s audience Zetkin’s important insights on the character of fascism, its relationship to capitalism, and the most effective way for the socialist movement to defeat it. Read more…

Comintern project publishing appeal

A letter from John Riddell and Mike Taber

Dear friends,

Please join us in raising funds for the ninth installment of books in the Comintern publishing series The Communist Women’s Movement, 1920-1922. To help raise $3,000 in special editorial costs, go to

https://www.gofundme.com/comintern-book-on-women

xphoto

Clara Zetkin and Alexandra Kollontai at the 1921 conference of Communist women

Begun in 1983, the Comintern publication project has aimed to present the Communist International under Lenin in its own words. To this end, the proceedings and resolutions of the first four Comintern congresses have been published, as well as preparatory volumes and other material. This past June the eighth volume was published: The Communist Movement at a Crossroads: Plenums of the Communist International’s Executive Committee, 1922-1923.

We are now working on the next volume: The Communist Women’s Movement 1920-1922. This volume will tell the story of how the Communist Women’s Movement, under the leadership of Clara Zetkin and others, set out to build something new in history: an international movement to fight for women’s emancipation and to draw women into the worldwide revolutionary struggle. The volume will be co-edited by Mike Taber and Daria Dyakonova.

At the heart of the book will be the proceedings and resolutions of the Communist Women’s Movement’s 1920 and 1921 international conferences, which have never before appeared in English. The full proceedings of the 1921 meeting, never published in any language, were unearthed for this volume during a trip to the Comintern archives in Moscow. The $3,000 needed for editorial expenses relate above all to this archival work in Moscow. Read more…

RWL/LOR: Explaining a failed fusion

The Revolutionary Workers League of Canada/Ligue Socialiste Ouvrière (1977-1990): Part 2

For Part 1 of this article, see RWL/LOR: Inquest into a failed socialist fusion

By John Riddell. During the 1980s and 1990s, as neoliberal reaction tightened its grip, left-socialist activists in Canada fell into disillusion and inactivity. The traditional Communist Party broke apart; the main Maoist organizations vanished entirely. Was it this decline on the Left that doomed the Revolutionary Workers League/Ligue Socialiste Ouvrière experiment?

The facts tell a different story. Without any doubt the broader socialist movement was in decline. Yet these were the very years in which the International Socialists (IS) emerged in Canada as a dynamic and influential far-left organization. Working people mobilized on many occasions, on both union and international issues (see “The Days of Action,” below). Internationally, the far-left group most similar to the RWL/LOR in size and historical roots, the Democratic Socialist Party of Australia, has maintained its vigour and influence to this day, despite an equally challenging political environment. (The historic DSP now forms the core of a broader formation, Socialist Alliance.) Read more…

RWL: Inquest into a failed socialist fusion

The Revolutionary Workers League/Ligue Socialiste Ouvrière of Canada (1977-1990), Part 1

For Part 2 of this article, see “The RWL/LOR: Explaining a failed fusion.”

By John Riddell: Forty years ago, four significant far-left groups in Canada came together to form the Revolutionary Workers League/Ligue Ouvrière Révolutionnaire (RWL/LOR). At the time the RWL/LOR showed promise of becoming the dominant political group in the country to the left of the New Democratic Party. However, the fusion ended badly – in splits, the loss to socialism of most of the participating activists, and the withering away of the RWL/LOR itself.

Bernard Rioux has published an outstanding account of this experience as viewed from Quebec. Apart from that, little has been written on the RWL/LOR. A recent comment to this blog by Robert McMaster recalls inadequacies of leadership in this experience. In the hopes of encouraging further comment on this half-forgotten experience, I will review some basic facts, present my impressions, and consider the lessons. Read more…

‘October Song’ – A challenging portrayal of the Russian Revolution

Russia Oct SongReview of Paul Le Blanc, October Song: Bolshevik Triumph, Communist Tragedy, 1917-1924, Chicago: Haymarket, 2017, 479 pp., US$19.56.

By John Riddell. Amid a flock of volumes marking the Russian revolution’s centenary last year, Paul Le Blanc’s October Song is set apart by its unique method. Working from English-language sources, Le Blanc offers us an anthology of assessments and viewpoints on the revolution with “a strong inclination to privilege older things” – that is, testimony and opinions from its early years.

The result is a kaleidoscope of observations, some by respected historians and many by unknown or forgotten voices, which, taken together, constitute a far-ranging debate over the meaning of these world-shaking events. Read more…

The dawn of our liberation: The early days of the International Communist Women’s Movement

If women’s liberation is unthinkable without communism, then communism is unthinkable without women’s liberation.’ — Inessa Armand[1]

Women's rally c1917-2

Women in Russian revolution rally for freedom and equal rights

By Daria Dyakonova. “On July 30, [1920] in the evening, slender columns of women workers wearing red kerchiefs and holding banners make their way to the Bolshoi Theater from remote districts and outskirts of Moscow. The slogans on the banners run: ‘Through the dictatorship of the proletariat in all countries to the full emancipation of women.’

“A chorus of women’s voices singing the International is heard in the streets of Moscow. Moscow proletarian women are joyfully marching to the opening of the First International Conference of Communist Women at the Bolshoi Theater. Foreign visitors are also joining in. Read more…

In memory of Fred Feldman

Including: A guide to Fred’s online writings

A video of a New York discussion held in memory of Fred Feldman is now available on You Tube. Thanks to Dayne Goodman for passing on the URL. 

Fred Feldman young

Fred Feldman in 1972. Photo by Walter Lippmann.

By John Riddell: Fred Feldman, a widely respected socialist activist and long-time leader of the U.S. Socialist Workers Party, died August 25, 2018. An accomplished and influential writer, Fred had fallen silent in recent years due to ill health. Fortunately, most of his texts are online and easily accessible. A guide to his writings is provided below.

Fred was raised in Philadelphia. Back in the early sixties, as a student activist, he was often arrested during the Maryland Freedom Rides for Black human rights.  In 1964, Fred supported the Socialists Workers Party (SWP) presidential campaign against L.B. Johnson and Barry Goldwater. He soon joined the SWP. He wrote voluminously for SWP publications, mostly on international issues, and served for many years as a full-time volunteer on the staff of its publications and of Intercontinental Press/Inprecor. Read more…

Trudeau government acknowledges Nazi genocide against Roma

The following article was first published at suzanneberlinerweiss.wordpress.com.

Roma_Flag-B

Romani Flag

By Suzanne Berliner Weiss: More then 50 people of all ages joined in Toronto August 2, 2018, in an international day of remembrance and recognition of the Romani Holocaust (Porajmos) in Europe.

They heard Arif Virani, federal member of parliament for Toronto High Park-Parkdale, read a statement issued that day by Justin Trudeau’s government which said, in part:

On Romani Genocide Remembrance Day, we honour the memory of over 500,000 Romani who were persecuted and murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators in Europe. This genocide and the unspeakable violence inflicted on the Romani people are not widely known by the public, making them the ignored victims of WWII. Read more…