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Lars Lih: Workers and intellectuals – A ‘revolutionary Social Democrat’ consensus

By Lars T. Lih

In place of an introduction

The following essay was written in 2011 for circulation among colleagues. I have decided to publish it unchanged in 2017 for two main reasons. First and foremost, the essay explains and documents the views of Lenin, the Russian Bolshevik Alexander Bogdanov, and Karl Kautsky on a crucial issue: the proper relations between workers and intellectuals within Social Democracy. It therefore serves as an extension of my earlier attack on the “textbook interpretation” of Lenin’s views.

lenin-1900

V.I. Ulyanov (Lenin)

In this essay, I focus on a variation of the textbook interpretation that is put forward by many writers on the Left: Yes, Lenin was “worried about workers” in 1902, when he wrote What is To be Done?, but he renounced this outlook in 1905 because he was so impressed with the revolutionary prowess of the workers, something that was supposedly a complete surprise to him. In contrast to this thesis, Lenin actually stressed that the revolution in 1905 had confirmed his earlier views, making Bolshevism the guardian of the Russian Social Democratic tradition. Read more…

‘For a provisional revolutionary government of workers and poor peasants’

“1917: The View from the Streets” – leaflets of the Russian revolution – #4.

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Alexander Shlyapnikov, sketch by Yuri Artsybushev about December 1917

100 years ago this week, in February 1917, the Bolshevik Petersburg Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party issued the following proclamation as a response to Menshevik appeals to workers to come out in support of the Duma (parliament) on the day of its convocation (see Document #3).

The Bolshevik committee warned workers not to trust attempts to ally them with Duma liberals, calling instead for a one-day strike on February 23 (10) to commemorate the second anniversary of the trial of the Bolshevik deputies to the State Duma. The Petersburg Committee had forgotten, however, that many factories would be closed on that date, because it fell during a Russian religious holiday. Read more…

‘Only a provisional government can bring freedom and peace’

‘1917: The View from the Streets’ – leaflets of the Russian revolution – #3

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Menshevik leader Fyodor Dan (1871-1947)

100 years ago today, on February 6 (January 24), 1917, a Menshevik-influenced workers’ group within the Central War Industry Committee issued the following appeal for a demonstration calling for a provisional government.

The War Industry Committees were set up by Russian businessmen in 1915 to assist the Russian imperial government with military supplies. Managers and engineers filled the committees, which were supplemented by groups of workers elected from factories. Bolsheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries were generally opposed to such collaboration by workers with owners and managers of industry, but some Mensheviks participated in the worker groups.

Read more…

‘The day of the people’s wrath is near’

‘1917: The View from the Streets’ – leaflets of the Russian revolution #2

100 years ago today, on January 22 (9) 1917, an estimated 150,000 workers in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) carried out a protest strike against the war and the tsarist autocracy, a foreshock of the Russian revolution that broke out six weeks later (see “Historian’s summary” below).

The following call for this action was circulated during the previous days by the Social Democratic Interdistrict Committee (Mezhrayonka). January 22 (9) was the anniversary of Bloody Sunday in 1905, when the tsarist government used military force to violently suppress a peaceful demonstration. (See “Note on Russian dates,” below) Read more…

Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s rebellious life

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“Farewell, Fidel! With all our love from your Canadian compañeros
of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.” Holding the banner: Katheryne
Schulz (left), Kathy Le, and Janet Teibo (right).

By Katheryne Schulz. We must have been feeling a bit crazy on Tuesday [November 29] when we decided to fly from British Columbia to Cuba two days later to attend Fidel Castro’s funeral. My mother, Pat Schulz, was active in the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in the 1960s that sent delegations of working class Canadians down to Cuba after the revolution. These folks came back and met with Canadians in cities and towns across the country to explain how the Cuban dictator Batista had turned Cuba into a brothel and casino for rich Americans and mafiosos, and how the Cuban revolutionaries led by Fidel and Che Guevara had overthrown Batista and were working to implement a socialist revolution. Read more…

‘Down with the war. Long live the revolution!’

‘1917: The view from the streets’ – leaflets of the Russian revolution #1

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Shlyapnikov, Soviet Commissar of Labour, 1917.

One hundred years ago this month, in December 1916, an organizing committee of Bolshevik-influenced students issued this underground proclamation calling on students in Russia who were opposed to the war to come together with workers and peasants to put a provisional revolutionary government in power. The organizing committee linked revolutionary student circles at higher educational institutions in Petrograd, Russia. Its proclamation reflects the impact of the Zimmerwald movement upon leading student revolutionary activists in Russia. Translation and annotation by Barbara Allen. Originally published by Alexander Shlyapnikov in 1923.

This is the first in a series of new translations of revolutionary leaflets and statements being published in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution by U.S. historian Barbara Allen and John Riddell. They are available for reposting uncut and with a linked acknowledgment to https://johnriddell.wordpress.com.

Read more…

Colleen Levis: For a labor alternative in Montreal elections (1974)

 

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Colleen Levis 1946-2016. Photo by Cyril McInnis 1973.

Introduction by John Riddell. Colleen Levis, a leader of the socialist movement in Canada and Quebec, died on October 14, 2016, at the age of 70. In her memory , I am republishing here an article she wrote in 1974, “Labor Alternative Needed in Montreal Civic Election.”

Born in Calgary in 1946, Colleen Sharon Levis attended the University of Toronto in the mid-1960s and became active in movements for women’s liberation, against the war in Vietnam, and for defense of the Cuban revolution. She joined the Young Socialists and later the League for Socialist Action/Ligue Socialiste Ouvrière (LSA/LSO) and soon became a prominent figure in the socialist movement. Read more…

Fidel Castro: Fight the ecological destruction threatening the planet!

fidel-castro¡Compañero Fidel, presente!

Climate & Capitalism joins millions of people around the world in mourning the death and honoring the life of Fidel Castro Ruz.

He lives in our memory as a champion of, and an active participant in, the global fight against poverty, ignorance and oppression, and for a sustainable world.

In this short talk at the 1992 Earth Summit, Fidel described the Earth System crisis and identified its causes more powerfully than any other delegate.—Ian Angus

reprinted from Climate and Capitalism


Tomorrow will be too late

Mr. President of Brazil Fernando Collor de Melo;

Mr. UN Secretary General Butrus Butrus-Ghali; Your Excellencies; Read more…

Fidel Castro on the fight to defend Cuba’s socialist revolution

Introductory note by Mike Taber

To honor the contributions of Fidel Castro to the world revolutionary movement, below are three short excerpts by him from 1961, at the time of the U.S.-organized invasion at the Bay of Pigs. The fall of the regime of Fulgencio Batista on January 1, 1959, opened up a period of sustained popular mobilization throughout Cuba. Led by Fidel Castro and a broad team of July 26 Movement cadres, over the next two years Cuban working people carried out one of the most profound revolutionary transformations in modern history.

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Resisting the U.S.-organized Bay of Pigs invasion, April 1961

Encouraged by the revolutionary government, working people and peasants organized and mobilized on many levels: in armed militia units, in block-by-block defense organizations; in trade unions; in women’s organizations and youth organizations. Through its organized power, the Cuban working class was the conscious force that eliminated institutionalized racism; implemented radical urban and agrarian reforms; made initial steps to bring about women’s emancipation; established workers’ control of factories and enterprises; and ultimately carried out the definitive nationalization of domestic- and foreign-owned capital throughout the country. Read more…

Key to the Leap: Leave the oil in the soil

leap-manifestoIn the Autumn 2016 issue of Canadian Dimension magazine George Martell argues that “the Leap Manifesto offers a genuine opportunity to move beyond social democracy — to directly face up to capitalism — if we are prepared to take the Manifesto’s demands seriously.”

Martell’s thoughtful essay is followed by responses from activists representing a variety of viewpoints, including the following contribution by John Riddell and Ian Angus. Ian Angus is editor of Climate & Capitalism and an activist with Sustainable North Grenville. John Riddell, a historian of the socialist movement, is active in Toronto East End Against Line 9.Climate&Capitalism


Read more…

The roots of 1917: Kautsky, the state, and revolution in Imperial Russia

By Eric Blanc.

Karl Kautsky

Karl Kautsky

Abstract: This article reexamines the perspectives on the state and revolution advocated by the early Karl Kautsky and revolutionary social democrats across the Tsarist Empire. Contrary to a common misconception, these “orthodox” Marxists rejected the possibility of a peaceful and gradualist utilization of the capitalist state for socialist transformation. I show that Second International “orthodoxy” proved to be a sufficiently radical political foundation for the Bolsheviks and Finnish socialists to lead the Twentieth century’s first anti-capitalist seizures of power.

A Spanish translation of this article is now available at Viento Sur. Read more…

Fair Play! Building solidarity with revolutionary Cuba (1960-1970)

cuba-flagThe triumph of the Cuban revolution in 1959 gave rise to widespread solidarity work in the U.S. and Canada, organized through Fair Play for Cuba committees. Two participants in this experience report here on its scope and lessons.  

John Riddell and Suzanne Weiss gave the following joint talk on the work of Fair Play for Cuba on July 31, 2016, at a conference of Ideas Left Outside at Elbow Lake, Ontario. For other writings on Fair Play for Cuba, see below.

John Riddell: On September 2, 1960, one million Cubans gathered in Havana in a General Assembly of the Cuban people to hear and approve Cuba’s reply to U.S. attacks on its sovereignty. This statement, known as the First Declaration of Havana, pledged Cuba to nothing less than a hemispheric struggle for freedom from U.S. domination. Read more…

Käte Duncker 1916: Use workers’ power to end the war

Käte Duncker

Käte Duncker

Introduction by John Riddell: 100 years ago today, Käte Duncker, a leading antiwar socialist in Germany explained the need for revolution to end the First World War. Her audience was delegates to the last unified national conference of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), held in Berlin on September 21-23, 1916.

The vote by SPD parliamentary representatives in support of German war spending on August 4, 1914, had split the party. At the September 1916 conference, the right-wing pro-war Majority Socialists were opposed by the Working Group (later USPD – a centrist grouping), as well as by the revolutionary current, the International Group (later the Spartacus League), led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. In November 1918, supporters of the USPD and Spartacus League led a workers’ revolution that overturned the German emperor and brought the war to an abrupt end. Read more…

NDP publishes discussion guide on Leap Manifesto

By John Riddell. The Federal New Democratic Party has sent its constituency groups a detailed guide to the Leap Manifesto, which compares the Manifesto’s provisions with adopted NDP policies. The manual is a response to a decision by the party’s April 2016 convention to adopt the Manifesto as a basis for discussion.

NDP-guidebook-on-Leap-Manifesto

The guide’s publication is the NDP’s first publicized move to implement that decision. Read more…

Climate justice and the prospect of power

A balance sheet of the movement to block the cross-Toronto ‘Line 9’ pipeline project.

With notes on the meaning of “climate justice” and the relationship of socialism to social movements.

No Line 9 demo-2By John Riddell. Umair Muhammad’s post on my blog, “Let’s commit to the long haul,” reviews the record of an anti-pipeline movement in which both he and I have been active. He concludes that “while we were good at organizing efforts against particular harmful projects and initiatives, we did not have a broader strategy for social change.”

Umair criticizes today’s activists for their “tepidness about power” and challenges us to “work with institutional forms that can deliver protracted challenges to the status quo.” In short, he asks us to set the goal of building a movement to take and exercise power. Read more…