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‘We demand the publication of the secret treaties’: Biography of a sister slogan

Seventh and concluding part of Lars Lih’s series, ‘All Power to the Soviets!’

See also appendix: “March 1917 Editorials on the War by Kamenev and Stalin.” For links to previous parts of the series, see bottom of this postSee also “Index to the 1917 debate.”

By Lars T. Lih: On March 4, 1917 (using the old Russian calendar), Paul Miliukov, the Foreign Minister of the Provisional Government newly installed by the February revolution, sent a telegram around to Russian embassies abroad. He told them what Allied governments wanted to hear: the new post-tsarist government intended to fully honor the treaties between them and Russia. In Miliukov’s mind, in fact, the whole point of the revolution was to be able to carry out the obligations imposed by the treaties more effectively. Yet, in his rush to reassure the Allies, Miliukov planted a time bomb—for himself personally and, a few months later, for the Provisional Government. Read more…

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March 1917 editorials on the war by Kamenev and Stalin

Appendix to ‘We demand the publication of the secret treaties’: Biography of a sister slogan, part 7 of ‘All power to the Soviets,’ a series by Lars T. Lih. Ellipses in Stalin’s text are found in the Russian original. See also “Index to the 1917 debate.”

1. Kamenev, ‘Without secret diplomacy

Pravda, March 15, 1917

The war goes on, the Great Russian Revolution has not cut it off. And no one has any hopes that it will end tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. The soldiers, peasants and workers of Russia, going off to war at the call of the overthrown tsar and spilling blood under his banners, have liberated themselves, and the tsarist banners have been replaced by the red banners of the revolution. But the war will continue, since the German army is not following the example of the Russian army and still follows the orders of its emperor, which greedily aim at booty on the fields of death. Read more…

Andreas Malm on climate crisis, hunger, and revolution

Does the 1917 uprising in Russia prefigure the possible impact of climate crisis?

By John Riddell: In the following text, an excerpt from “Revolutionary Strategy in a Warming World,” eco-socialist writer Andeas Malm projects how the catastrophic effects of unchecked climate crisis may launch the world’s most vulnerable societies into revolutionary upheaval. Malm draws parallels with the effects of food emergency in Syria (2011) and Russia (1917), basing the latter analysis on a pathbreaking volume by Lars T. Lih.

The entire text of Malm’s article is available in Climate and Capitalism; it also appears in Rethinking Revolution, Socialist Register 2017.

“It doesn’t take much imagination to associate climate change with revolution,” Malm writes. “If the planetary order upon which all societies are built starts breaking down, how can they possibly remain stable?” Read more…

A life for socialism: Bea Bryant (1922-2016)

Marxist activist and community organizer

Bea Bryant at Ban the Bomb demo-2

Bea Bryant at anti-war march in the 1960s

By John Riddell: Half a century ago, the highpoint of my schedule as a socialist organizer in Toronto was the monthly hour-long drive up Bayview Avenue for an evening with Bea Bryant and her partner George in their Richmond Hill home. Their solidarity work in that sleepy and conservative suburb was the most innovative and instructive I had ever seen.

Memories of those stirring events faded with the years. Bea’s passing two years ago was not widely reported among Toronto socialists. This account, drawing on my memories and an 1999 interview, is an initial step toward compiling her political biography.

Making the Vietnam war personal

Back in the late 1960s, Bea was the sparkplug of the Richmond Hill Committee to End the War in Vietnam. Bea had met this lively collection of campaigners for the most part in varied community activity in her teachers’ union, the New Democratic Party, and Cuba solidarity. Opposition to the U.S. war in Vietnam was widespread in those days, but it was not easy to persuade working people in Bea’s community to move into action, given that Canada was not directly involved in the fighting. Read more…

35 years of Comintern publishing: A balance sheet

The following text is a much expanded and updated version of a talk that I gave in 2013, under the title “Toward the United Front: Translations for the Twenty-First Century.” For a list of my related online articles on the Communist International, see “Lenin’s Comintern Revisited: Index.” –JR

LSRIBy John Riddell: In June 1983, after returning home from my shift in a machine shop in Brampton, Ontario, I received a visit from two leaders of the New York-based socialist publisher Pathfinder Press, Mary-Alice Waters and Barry Sheppard. They asked me to head up a full-time project to translate, edit, and publish the record of world revolutionary movement in Lenin’s time – principally, the record of major Communist International (Comintern) gatherings from 1919 to 1923. Pathfinder would commit substantial resources for this work, they said, over a period of a decade or more.

I objected that I had no background in academic research and publishing. Waters and Sheppard countered that given my grasp of history in that period, my knowledge of the three main translation languages, and my experience as a socialist activist attempting to implement the Comintern’s ideas, I was the obvious choice.

I accepted the challenge and took charge of the project. It has taken a good deal more than a decade. Along the way, Pathfinder has been replaced as publisher by Historical Materialism Book Series and Haymarket Books. Nine documentary books have now gone to press, totaling 6,500 pages, and another is in preparation. (See list of volumes below.) More than 100 collaborators have helped in various ways to produce them. Read more…

Rosa Luxemburg, national liberation, and the defeated Polish revolution

Part 3 of ‘Rosa Luxemburg and Polish socialism (1893-1919)’

The following piece is an edited excerpt from ‘The Rosa Luxemburg Myth: A Critique of Luxemburg’s Politics in Poland (1893–1919)’, published in Historical Materialism 2018, 26, 1: 1-34. Click here for subscriptions to Historical Materialism. See also:

Rosa_Luxemburg pic

Rosa Luxemburg

By Eric Blanc. This article challenges widespread uncritical portrayals of Rosa Luxemburg. By examining the politics and practices of Luxemburg and her SDKPiL party regarding the national question in Poland, I show that their commitment to proletarian emancipation was undermined by sectarian and doctrinaire tendencies that contributed to the defeat of the Polish Revolution of 1918–19. I argue that the Polish Socialist Party, Luxemburg’s main political rival, posed a viable Marxist alternative for Poland’s revolutionary movement. Read more…

Rosa Luxemburg and the revolutionary party revisited

Part 2 of ‘Rosa Luxemburg and Polish socialism (1893-1919)’

Rosa Luxemburg picBy Eric Blanc. The following text is an edited excerpt from ‘The Rosa Luxemburg Myth: A Critique of Luxemburg’s Politics in Poland (1893–1919)’, published in Historical Materialism (2018, 26, 1: 1-34.) Click here for subscriptions to Historical Materialism. See also “Part 1: Rosa Luxemburg’s Bloc with the SPD Bureaucracy.”

This article re-examines Rosa Luxemburg’s approach to the party question by analysing the overlooked experience of her political intervention and organisation in Poland. In particular, I challenge the myth that Rosa Luxemburg advocated a ‘party of the whole class’, ‘spontaneism’ or consistent party democracy. The perspectives and practices of her party – the  Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL) – demonstrate that there were no steady strategic differences between Luxemburg and V.I. Lenin on the role of a revolutionary party. In practice, the most consequential divergence between their parties was that the Bolsheviks, unlike the SDKPiL, became more effective in mass workers’ struggles during and following the 1905 revolution.

The party and spontaneity

One of the most important political strengths of Luxemburg and her party was undoubtedly their emphasis on working-class action. It was largely due to the SDKPiL’s tireless agitation among working people that it gained a popular base during 1905–6. Moreover, Luxemburg’s famous 1906 pamphlet on the mass strike posed a clear alternative to European Social Democracy’s prevailing prioritisation of organisation and education over action. Arguing that the 1905 revolution pointed the way forward for the workers’ movement across Europe and the world, Luxemburg articulated three inter-related theses: Read more…

Newly published speeches by Lenin, Trotsky, and Béla Kun

PA76An exchange on ultraleftism at the 1921 Comintern Third Congress

To read the speeches go to:
** Leon Trotsky, ‘Clear-headed revolutionary thinking is needed’
** Béla Kun, ‘The French Communists are guilty of opportunist conduct’
** V.I. Lenin, ‘Trotsky was a thousand times right’

The three speeches posted here constituted a turning point in efforts at the Communist International’s Third Congress, held in 1921, to reorient the movement away from adventurist leftism and toward the mass movements of working people. They were delivered June 16-17 at a pre-conference session of the Comintern’s Executive Committee. Read more…

Leon Trotsky: ‘Clear-headed revolutionary thinking is needed’

Trotsky c1917

Leon Trotsky

Newly published speeches by Lenin, Trotsky, and Béla Kun, part 1

See also:

** Béla Kun, “The French Communists are guilty of opportunist conduct”
** V,I. Lenin, “Trotsky was a thousand times right”
** “Newly published speeches by Lenin, Trotsky, and Béla Kun”

Leon Trotsky gave the speech on 16 June 1921 to the Communist International Executive Committee plenum held to prepare the International’s Third Congress, which opened six days later. Trotsky replied to the two initial speakers in this session, Edy Reiland (1896-1967) of Luxemburg and Maurice Laporte (1901-87) of France, both of whom criticized what they considered to be opportunist errors of the Communist Party of France. Read more…

Béla Kun: ‘The French Communists are guilty of opportunist conduct’

Kun-2

Béla Kun

Newly published speeches by Lenin, Trotsky, and Béla Kun, part 2

See also:

** Leon Trotsky, “Clear-headed revolutionary thinking is needed”
** V.I. Lenin, “Trotsky was a thousand times right”
** “Newly published speeches by Lenin, Trotsky, and Béla Kun”

Béla Kun, an exiled leader of the Hungarian communist movement and a leader of the Comintern Executive Committee, spoke immediately after Trotsky. Kun, who was known for his “leftist’ views, had come under criticism for his role in the March Action, an unsuccessful general strike called by the German Communist Party in March 1921. For explanation of the term ‘Turkestaner,’ see endnote 1. Read more…

V.I. Lenin: ‘Trotsky was a thousand times right’

Lenin2-2

V.I. Lenin, 1920

Newly published speeches by Lenin, Trotsky, and Béla Kun, part 3

See also:

Lenin’s speech, given 17 June 1921 at the Communist International’s Third Congress, followed remarks by Trotsky on ultra-leftist errors within the French Communist movement and a response by Hungarian Communist Béla Kun.

The speech posted below is absent from editions of his Collected Works, presumably because his expression of strong support for the views of Leon Trotsky offended the anti-Trotskyist editors of these collections.

Read more…

Rosa Luxemburg’s bloc with the SPD bureaucracy

Part 1 of ‘Rosa Luxemburg and Polish socialism (1893-1919)’

By Eric Blanc. The following text is an edited excerpt from ‘The Rosa Luxemburg Myth: A Critique of Luxemburg’s Politics in Poland (1893–1919)’, published in Historical Materialism 2018, 26, 1: 1-34. Click here for subscriptions to Historical Materialism.

Spanish translation available in “Sin Permiso

Rosa Luxemburg-2

Rosa Luxemburg

Introduction

Rosa Luxemburg’s contributions to the revolutionary movement and the development of Marxism are undeniably important. Yet many writers today uncritically romanticise Luxemburg as a humanistic, undogmatic, and democratic alternative to Social Democracy, Leninism, and/or Stalinism. Sobhanlal Datta Gupta, for example, argues that Luxemburg ‘inaugurated the heritage of an alternative understanding of Marxism with a revolutionary humanist face, as distinct from liberalism, social democratic revisionism as well as Stalinist authoritarianism. It is through the lens of Rosa Luxemburg that it is possible to understand what went wrong with Soviet socialism and how we can reposition our understanding of socialism in the twenty-first century.’[1] Read more…

Protests in Iran: The international dimension

Fifth fleet

U.S. Fifth Fleet is based 200 km. from Iran’s seacoast.

By John Riddell: The four articles on social protests in Iran published on January 2 and 9 in Socialist Project’s online blog, The Bullet, offer little on-the-spot news but raise major issues of political analysis that deserve attention. In particularly, the articles do not link progressive struggles by worker and social movements within the country to issues raised by the external threats against Iran.

For the Bullet articles, see:

I have been a partisan of the national and social liberation process in Iran for half a century, but always from afar. I lack close knowledge of conditions in Iran and cannot judgment on workers’ and social struggles there. Still, I am concerned regarding the four Bullet articles’ treatment of external threats. Read more…

Fruits and perils of the ‘bloc within’

Part 3 of ‘The Comintern and Asia 1919-25’

See also
Part 1, Toward a global anti-imperialist strategy
Part 2,  Should Communists ally with revolutionary nationalists?

Chen_Duxiu

Chen Duxiu

By John Riddell. The most advanced experience of Communist alliance with national revolutionists occurred in Indonesia (Dutch East Indies) prior to the Baku Congress. However, it was not mentioned at the congress, even though one of its architects – the Dutch Communist Maring (Henk Sneevliet) – was present in the hall. Maring had been a leader for many years of revolutionary socialist Dutch settlers in Indonesia, who had achieved the remarkable feat of transforming their group into one predominantly indigenous in leadership, membership, and programmatic orientation. The key to success had been a close alliance with a mass national-revolutionary organization of the type described by the Second Congress, called Sarekat Islam.

Their tactic, which they called a “bloc within,” involved building a Communist fraction within the Islamic organization both by sending comrades into the movement and recruiting from its ranks. The bloc with Sarekat Islam, which started up before the Comintern was formed, had resulted in consolidation of a small but viable Communist party in Indonesia.[1] Read more…

Should Communists ally with revolutionary nationalism?

Part 2 of ‘The Comintern and Asia 1919-25’

See also Part 1, Toward a global anti-imperialist strategy.
Part 3, Fruits and perils of the ‘bloc within’

Turar_Ryskulov-12

Turar Ryskulov (1894-1938)

By John Riddell. As described in part 1 of this series, the Comintern leadership concluded at the end of 1919 that “[T]he civil war of the working people against the imperialists and exploiters in all the advanced countries is beginning to be combined with national wars against international imperialism.”[1]

But how would the proposed alliance of workers’ and national uprisings be effected? This strategic issue was addressed in the Comintern’s Second Congress, held in Moscow 9 July-7 August 1920. The civil war was now won, and Soviet troops were advancing into Poland. Despite the continuing blockade, 218 delegates attended the congress, including 33 representing groups in 12 countries and peoples in Asia. Although most of these groups were no more than small nuclei, Lenin, in his opening report, stressed the significance of their presence in the first truly global congress of world socialism. The congress, he said, was taking the first steps toward union in struggle of the revolutionary proletarians with the masses of countries representing 70% of the world’s population who “find it impossible to live under the conditions that ‘advanced’ and civilized capitalism wishes to impose on them.”[2] Read more…