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The 1917 July Days uprising: Soviet leadership clashes with ranks

‘1917: The view from the streets’ – leaflets of the Russian Revolution #14-15.

July Days in Petrograd: Protesters on Nevskii Prospect flee army assault.

One hundred years ago this week, between 16-20 [3-7] July 1917, a protest movement of workers and soldiers in Petrograd was repelled by military and police attacks, with hundreds of casualties.

The July Uprising or July Days came about due to the failure of the Russian military offensive in June, a worsening of the crisis in Petrograd’s food and fuel supply, and a crisis of confidence in the government after two Liberal (Kadet) ministers resigned over their opposition to Ukrainian autonomy. Read more…

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Assessing revolutionary social democracy: A response to Duncan Hart

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1917 helsinki general strike-3

Helsinki general strike 1917

By Eric Blanc. First of all, I would like to thank Comrade Duncan Hart for his contribution “Lessons from Finland: Reply to Eric Blanc.” While I do not share its analysis, I agree that a serious discussion about the Finnish Revolution is useful for Marxists today. Though some of Hart’s criticisms of the Finnish Social Democratic Party (SDP) are well founded, I will argue below that his text fundamentally mischaracterizes the political stance of the SDP and its revolutionary social democratic leaders.

As such, Hart’s article does not help us come to a clearer analysis of Finnish (and German) “orthodox” Marxism, Finland’s 1917-18 revolution, or the lessons we can learn from this history. My forthcoming book goes into these questions in detail; here, a few comments will have to suffice. Read more…

Lessons from Finland: Reply to Eric Blanc

By Duncan Hart. Eric Blanc’s article “Lessons from Finland’s 1917 revolution” raised a series of political arguments that would be extremely damaging for the Left today to adopt from the Finnish experience – primarily that the revolution vindicated the political strategy of Kautskian Social Democracy. Unfortunately Jacobin, which first published Blanc’s article, declined to publish my response, so I am posting it here so at least some comrades might read it.


Finland’s revolution of 1917-1918 deserves more attention than it has received from the Left. It provides  an example of a relatively developed society, both politically and economically, where a social revolution of the working class arguably progressed to a greater extent than any other society excepting Russia. Read more…

The Cuban Revolution dared to win

Introduction

The following text is based on the notes for a presentation by Felipe Stuart Courneyeur to the Canada-wide convention of the Canadian Network on Cuba, held at Toronto’s City Hall June 3-4, 2017[1]. He shared the panel with Sandra Rodríguez, head of the North American Bureau of Cuba’s Institute for Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP).

Stuart Courneyeur has dual Nicaraguan-Canadian nationality; he divides his time between the two countries. He is an active member of the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional.

People cheer for the "Cuban Five" in Havana

Celebrating the release of the ‘Cuban 5’ political prisoners from U.S. jails, Havana, December 2014.

Read more…

Comintern publishing effort prepares two new books

With special thanks to the many readers of this blog who have helped over the years  in ways large and small to prepare and publicize these volumes.—JR

2WC cover 1

Second World Congress, 1147 pages, published 1991

By Mike Taber and John Riddell. In 1983 a project was begun to translate into English and annotate major documents of the world socialist movement from 1907 to 1923. The project’s core was publication of the proceedings and decisions of the first four congresses of the Communist International (Comintern) – those congresses held while Lenin was still alive.

Edited by John Riddell, the project aimed above all to make accessible to new generations of revolutionary-minded working people and activists the lessons of the first major attempt to build a genuinely worldwide movement dedicated to the goal of overturning capitalist rule and putting working people in power. Read more…

Letter from Afar, corrections from up close: Censorship or retrofit?

Part 3 of Lars Lih’s series ‘All Power to the Soviets’

By Lars T. Lih. The standard “rearming the party” interpretation of Bolshevism in 1917 is a gripping and highly dramatic narrative that goes something like this: Old Bolshevism is rendered irrelevant by the February revolution, the Russian Bolsheviks flounder until Lenin returns home and rearms the party, and the party is subsequently divided over fundamental issues throughout the year. Party unity is restored—to the extent that it was restored—after the other leading Bolsheviks cave in to Lenin’s superior force of will. Only by these means was the party rearmed by a new strategy that proclaimed the socialist nature of the revolution—an essential condition for Bolshevik victory in October.

Observers with strikingly opposed political viewpoints all had their reasons for supporting some version of the rearming narrative.[1] This story seemed doubly confirmed when it became known in the 1950s that the version of Lenin’s first Letter from Afar that was printed in Pravda in March 1917 had been heavily edited, with almost a fourth of the text removed. This fact became the basis of a vivid and persuasive anecdote of how the flabbergasted and frightened Petrograd Bolsheviks allegedly censored Lenin, their own vozhd. Read more…

Lenin’s ‘Letter from Afar,’ as printed in Pravda, March 21 and 22, 1917

Appendix 1 to “Letter from Afar, Correction from Up Close: Censorship or Retrofit” by Lars Lih

Translated by Lars Lih. Location of cuts made by Pravda editors is indicated by bracketed letters, A to Z; the excised passages can be found in Appendix 2. Text in brackets was added by the Pravda editors. Read more…

Passages excised from Lenin’s Letter from Afar

Appendix 2 to “Letter from Afar, Correction from Up Close: Censorship or Retrofit” by Lars Lih

See also Appendix 1: “Lenin’s Letter from Afar, as Printed in Pravda, March 21 and 22, 1917

The following passages were deleted from Lenin’s first “Letter from Afar” when it was printed in Pravda on March 21 and 22, 1917 LINK). Prepared by Lars Lih. Read more…

Communist International Publishing Project: List of Books

PA76By John Riddell: The record of the Communist International (Comintern) during Lenin’s lifetime, 1919-23, is widely considered by Marxists to form the foundation of revolutionary socialist policy in the modern era. Nonetheless, many of the basic documents of this movement were long unavailable in English.

Since 1983, I have worked with Mike Taber and a broad team of collaborators to publish in English major documents of revolutionary Marxist movement from 1907 to 1923, with a focus on the first five years of the Communist International. All of these volumes are available from Pathfinder Press and Haymarket Books.

Here are the volumes published so far: Read more…

A controversial Bolshevik appeal finds an echo in the streets

‘1917: The View from the Streets’ – leaflets of the Russian Revolution #12-13.

June 18 demo B-2

Banners  on July 1 (June 18) demonstration in Petrograd: “Peace to the entire world; all power to the people; all land to the people. Down with the minister-capitalists.

One hundred years ago today, on June 22 (9) 1917, the Bolshevik Party circulated among Petrograd workers the first proclamation below (drafted by Joseph Stalin). Nine days later, the Bolsheviks’ slogans won mass support at a giant Soviet-called demonstration. 

In mid-May, the Bolshevik Military [soldiers] Organization (BMO) proposed to the Bolshevik Party Central Committee (CC) a demonstration opposing the Provisional Government’s planned military offensive. Fearing that such an action was premature, the CC was not receptive. BMO organizers became more insistent over coming weeks, as soldiers worried about attempts to restore military discipline and feared transfer to the front. Read more…

Lessons from Finland’s 1917 revolution

See also translations into French, Portuguese, and Spanish.

By Eric Blanc. The forgotten Finnish Revolution has perhaps more lessons for us today than events in 1917 Russia.

Finnish women red guard 1917-1

Women members of Red Guards, Finland 1917

In the past century, histories of the 1917 revolution have usually focused on Petrograd and Russian socialists. But the Russian empire was predominantly made up of non-Russians — and the upheavals in the imperial periphery were often just as explosive as in the center.

Tsarism’s overthrow in February 1917 unleashed a revolutionary wave that immediately engulfed all of Russia. Perhaps the most exceptional of these insurgencies was the Finnish Revolution, which one scholar has called “Europe’s most clear-cut class war in the twentieth century.” Read more…

Climate vandalism and North American capitalism

(First published in The Bullet, June 7, 2017. Reposted by permission.)

By Socialist Project. North America has been witness to two distinct forms of climate vandalism over the last year.

North America has been witness to two distinct forms of climate vandalism over the last year.

In the case of the United States, it came from President Donald Trump’s decision last week to formally withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord of December 2015, an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) set for 2020 to address greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, and adaptation, as well as proposals for financial assistance. The 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris was adopted by consensus, and as of June 2017, 195 countries have signed the agreement, with 148 ratifying it, with each country setting targets, making plans and reporting on its efforts to mitigate climate change. Read more…

Moderate socialists call for peace – and renewed offensives

‘1917: The view from the streets’ – leaflets of the Russian Revolution #10-11

Raternization Russia Germany 1918

Russian and German soldiers fraternizing at the front

One hundred years ago, on May 15 (2), 1917, the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies issued two appeals – one to all socialists of the world and the other to all soldiers at the front. Read more…

The proletariat and its ally: The logic of Bolshevik ‘hegemony’

Part 2 of Lars Lih’s series ‘All Power to the Soviets’

By Lars T. Lih, April 2017. Were the Bolsheviks fundamentally prepared or fundamentally unprepared by their previous outlook to meet the challenges of 1917? To answer this question, we must first arrive at an understanding of the political strategy of Old Bolshevism. A coherent political strategy must answer two fundamental questions:

  1. What are the driving forces of the revolution in Russia—that is, what classes of Russian society would determine the course of the revolution, what were their interests and degree of organization, how would these classes clash and interact?
  2. What are the prospects of the upcoming revolution—that is, what progressive accomplishments could socialists reasonably hope for and what accomplishments were unlikely to happen?

Read more…

Karl Kautsky: The proletariat and its ally

The following is the concluding section of “The Driving Forces and the Prospects of the Russian Revolution,” written by Kautsky in 1906. For a discussion of this article, see “The Logic of Bolshevik ‘hegemony’ ”. Selected and translated by Lars T. Lih. Read more…