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Party, class, and Marxism: Did Kautsky advocate ‘Leninism’?

By Eric Blanc. (Eric Blanc is an activist and historian based in Oakland, California. For the text of the Kautsky article discussed here, see “Karl Kautsky: Sects or class parties”.)

Karl Kautsky

Karl Kautsky

The question of broad parties has been heatedly debated by socialists in recent years. Many have argued that “Leninism” should be discarded in favor of wider formations such as Syriza, Podemos, the British Labour Party, the Greens, etc. Others have rejected participating in such structures, on the “Leninist” grounds that building independent revolutionary Marxist parties remains the strategic organizational task for socialists.

Intertwined with this debate has been a serious reassessment of “Leninism” itself. Particularly following the publication of Lars Lih’s monumental Lenin Rediscovered, big questions are being asked: Did Lenin break in theory and/or practice with the “orthodox” strategy articulated by Marxist theoretician Karl Kautsky? Were the Bolsheviks, in other words, a “party of a new type”? Read more…

Karl Kautsky: ‘Sects or class parties’

By Karl Kautsky. The following article, first published in Neue Zeit in July 1909 (vol.13 no.7), is republished from Marxists Internet Archive. Some paragraphing has been added and some typographic errors corrected. It is published in conjunction with a commentary by Eric Blanc: “Party, class, and Marxism: Did Kautsky advocate ‘Leninism’?

1. Marx and the political problems of the trade unions

In his observations regarding the unity of the working class (Neue Zeit, #24 (1909), Comrade Radek attacks a Belgian comrade as well as our friend, [Max] Beer, but I am probably not far from the truth when I assume that he has me too in view with regard to the resolution admitting the British Labour Party to the International, which I proposed at the last meeting of the International Socialist Bureau. This resolution was accepted, but it appeared to some of my political friends to be something of a heresy to my principles. I consequently willingly use this opportunity of stating my grounds for this resolution in greater detail than was possible at Brussels. Read more…

The Kiental Manifesto: Socialists against war, 1916

100 years ago this week

The second appeal against the First World War by the socialist Zimmerwald Movement. Also published in The Kiental Manifesto is published as part of a series (“100 years ago”) documenting the socialist response to World War 1.

By John Riddell. One hundred years ago this week, socialist opponents of the First World War gathered in Kiental, Switzerland, issued an appeal calling on working people to “use every means possible to bring a rapid end to the human slaughter.” The appeal, known as the “Kiental Manifesto,” appears here for the first time online in English. Read more…

The path to power: ‘Let’s commit to the long haul’

The following discussion of strategy for social change, by Umair Muhammad, was first published under the title “An Altered Position,” as an afterword to the second edition of his book Confronting Injustice: Social Activism in the Age of Individualism.

Umair launchBy Umair Muhammad. During the summer of 2014 I became involved in an anti-pipeline campaign in Toronto. Part of the campaign against the oil pipeline involved occupying worksites. I myself was able to take part in two such occupations. The first occupation resulted in a one-day stoppage of work. The second stopped work for at least two days and resulted in work equipment being carried offsite. The occupations were in part meant to serve as precursors for larger actions to come, allowing the activists involved to build links and gain experience. Read more…

‘To the Masses’ – ‘A vibrant and healthy political debate’

V.I. Lenin in 1920, drawing by Isaak Brodsky

V.I. Lenin in 1920, drawing by Isaak Brodsky

By Mark Ugolini. Thanks to John Riddell and Mike Taber for the huge effort over many years that has brought us To the Masses and the other wonderful books that make up their series on the Communist International in Lenin’s time. Now in print is nearly the entire documentary record of the first four historic congresses, rich in lessons for the entire working-class movement.

I finished reading To the Masses recently, and what an interesting journey it was. In some ways it reads like a good novel, telling the fascinating story of the central political struggle of the Third Congress. The appendices are excellent, and I followed John’s advice to read them as they are referenced in the main body of the book.  I found myself frequently flipping between the chapters and the Appendices. This helped me follow the political debate, and allowed a fuller appreciation of the unfolding story. Read more…

‘To the Masses’ – ‘Great confusion and contradictory impulses’

CI TowerA review of “To The Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921,” edited and translated by John Riddell, Haymarket, 2016, 1299 pages, US$55 softcover. Reprinted with permission from Against the Current 180, January-February 2016.

By Ted McTaggart. In late June 1921, the Third Congress of the Communist International convened amidst great confusion and contradictory impulses within the international workers’ movement.

Soviet Russia had just emerged victorious from a protracted civil war against imperialist-sponsored forces of reaction. In the wake of this victory, however, the Communist Party had introduced the New Economic Policy, granting limited concessions to foreign capitalists and reintroducing elements of a capitalist economy into the workers’ state. The Communist government had also been forced to violently suppress an armed uprising by sailors at Kronstadt (once a bulwark of support for the October revolution) who had rallied around the call for “soviets without Communists.” Read more…

Anti-Imperial Marxism: Borderland Socialists and the Evolution of Bolshevism on National Liberation

By Eric Blanc. First published in International Socialist Review, #100, Spring 2016. Reprinted with permission. Copyright © 2016 Eric Blanc.

Introduction: Given the importance Marxists place on the fight against racial and national oppression, it is surprising that relatively little attention has been paid to the socialists of imperial Russia’s borderlands. Most of the inhabitants of the Tsarist empire were non-Russian (Poles, Jews, Ukrainians, Finns, Latvians, Georgians, Muslims, etc.), as were most revolutionaries. Yet academic and activist historiography has distorted our understanding of the socialist movement’s overall development by narrowly focusing on Central Russia.

1900 przed n6 cover

Cover of Przedświt (“Dawn”), the theoretical journal of the Polish Socialist Party.

This article examines some of the major debates on the national question between borderland and Russian Marxists before the 1905 revolution. In the empire’s periphery – notably Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, the Caucasus, and Ukraine – non-Russian Marxist parties sought to tie national liberation to a class struggle orientation. Most advocated a united revolutionary movement on the basis of national autonomy or federalism.

In this early period, both V.I. Lenin and the Iskra current to which he belonged were less sympathetic to national aspirations than has usually been assumed. Iskra’s push for working-class unity was undermined by the limitations of its stance on the national question. Many of the positions later championed by Lenin and the Communist International were in these years opposed by Iskra and advocated by non-Russian socialists. Read more…

Leap Manifesto builds climate justice campaigns

“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has acknowledged shocking details about the violence of Canada’s near past. Deepening poverty and inequality are a scar on the country’s present. And Canada’s record on climate change is a crime against humanity’s future.” —The Leap Manifesto

by John Riddell

Leap-ManifestoFive hundred Toronto-area supporters crowded into a west-end school auditorium March 27 to support the Leap Manifesto, launched early this year in support of a rapid, “justice-based” energy transition to a renewable economy.

The movement was launched in January 2016 to popularize the ideas of Naomi Klein’s influential book on climate change, This Changes Everything. Klein pointed to the need for a mass social movement addressing both the urgent need for climate action and an agenda for social justice. Read more…

Lars Lih: ‘To the Masses’ is ‘A triumphant climax’ to an ‘epic scholarly venture’

PA76Lars Lih, a noted historian of Russian Marxism, here assesses the newly published proceedings of the Communist International’s Third Congress (1921), placing it in the context of a 33-year project to publish the records of the revolutionary socialist movement in the era of the great Russian revolution. –  JR

By Lars T. Lih. The publication of To the Masses brings to a triumphant climax one of the epic scholarly ventures of our time: John Riddell’s series entitled The Communist International in Lenin’s Time. The first volume in the series appeared in 1985 and the seventh final volume in 2015 – over 5,500 pages in all that cover the tumultuous period from 1907 to 1922. In these books we hear the authentic voice of a revolutionary epoch, as activists from all over the globe talk, fight, speechify, and search together for the elusive path to socialist revolution. Read more…

‘To the Masses’ launches in Chicago March 4

To the Masses HaymarketI will be in Chicago this Friday for the launch of the Haymarket Books edition of my ‘To the Masses,’ containing the proceedings of the Communist International’s Third Congress (1921).

Here is an announcement of this meeting circulated by ‘Historical Materialism,’ which published the cloth edition of this book in 2015. I am looking forward to seeing many of you there.

The book launch also signals the completion of a several months of personal effort to relocate and downsize, while preserving my personal archives. Thanks to the many friends who provided help and encouragement. – John Riddell Read more…

Ian Birchall: Paul Levi in perspective

A review article

Paul Levi

Paul Levi (1883-1930)

Ian Birchall’s 9,000-word study of Paul Levi, the central leader of German Communism during its first years, provides a vivid picture of this outstanding workers’ leader and weighs his controversial legacy.

A prominent British socialist activist and scholar for half a century, Ian Birchall is the author of A Rebel’s Guide to Lenin (2005) and Tony Cliff: A Marxist For His Time (2011) and many other works.

This review article was first published in Historical Materialism 23.3 (2015) 143–170 and is reprinted with permission from Ian’s website, Dim and Grim. For other articles on this website related to Paul Levi, see end of text. —John Riddell Read more…

Appeal to Justin Trudeau on climate and tar sands

Fossil-fuels-are-not-my-futureThe Liberal Party victory in Canada’s October 19 elections posed an urgent challenge for opponents of the country’s climate-destroying tar sands pipelines.

Justin Trudeau, the new prime minister, has indicated support for such pipeline projects, like Enbridge’s Line 9 and Trans-Canada’s Energy East. Yet he is also committed to reforming the country’s pipeline regulator in ways favourable to indigenous and community opponents of these ventures. Read more…

Quebec’s anti-austerity movement rolls toward a showdown

A massive anti-austerity movement in Quebec in recent weeks has gone almost without notice in English Canada. The following analysis by Ashley Smith, the most extensive I have seen in English, first appeared in Chicago-based Socialist Worker. For more on the background to this struggle, see Smith’s “Headed for a Showdown in Quebec.” — John Riddell

By Ashley Smith. Montreal, November 9, 2015 – Workers in the Canadian province of Quebec are mobilizing the largest struggle against austerity in North America.

Public-sector workers across Quebec have hit the picket lines for a wave of strikes to defend jobs, wages, working conditions and public services. In the first round of rotating regional strikes from October 26-29, more than 400,000 unionists organized in the Common Front shut down schools, hospitals and government offices in and around Montreal. Read more…

20% reduction available on Third Comintern Congress proceedings

To the Masses cover_1Haymarket Books is offering a 20% reduction on pre-publication orders for To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921. The Haymarket paperback edition of this 1,300-page documentary collection will ship in February 2016.

To order, go to To the Masses page at the Haymarket site and add the coupon code MASSES2015 at the bottom of the checkout page. Price after reduction: US$44.

The hardcover library edition can be ordered from Brill for US$517.

Here are comments on the book by two well-known socialist scholars: Read more…

Welcoming refugees then and now

My personal historical research finds current resonance. By Suzanne Weiss. 

In September I accompanied Suzanne Weiss on a research trip concerning the work of anti-Nazi resistance in France 1940-45 to save Jewish children. Suzanne’s work took an unexpected turn, becoming part of present debate on attitudes to refugees. Here is her report. For the French text, see Europe Solidaire. — John Riddell

Suzanne Figaro 2Toronto, 1 October 2015: Last month I visited Auvergne, a farming region in central France where, as a Jewish child of two, I was protected from the Nazis by a peasant family. It was the third time I had gone there with John Riddell, my husband, to find out where and how I had been saved from the Holocaust.

To my surprise, this time reporters sought me out for interviews to learn my story. How am I connected to Auvergne? Why was I interviewing villagers? Why did I seek the place where I had been hidden? Read more…


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