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Part 3: Introduction to ‘The Communist International at a Crossroads’

A Sharp Break; An Ongoing Legacy

Third installment of the Introduction to “The Communist Movement at a Crossroads: Plenums of the Communist International’s Executive Committee, 1922-1923,” by Mike Taber. Available from Haymarket Books.

Two Questions Not Discussed 

Two decisive questions, however, were not specifically addressed at the Third Enlarged Plenum although they nevertheless remained constantly in the background:

1. The Revolutionary Situation in Germany 

As the Third Enlarged Plenum was meeting in June 1923, a revolutionary crisis in Germany was unfolding. The situation was rooted in the profound crisis of German capitalism and its devastating impact on the proletariat, peasantry, and middle classes, with two overriding political and economic contributing factors:


Introduction to ‘The Communist International at a Crossroads’

Part 1: Overview; First and Second Enlarged Plenums (Feb.–Mar. and June 1922).

Part 2: Third Enlarged Plenum, June 1923

Part 3: A Sharp Break; An Ongoing Legacy


a) In January 1923 the Ruhr region in Germany, the country’s leading coal-producing area, was invaded by 60,000 French and Belgian troops, who occupied the region in an attempt to exact war reparations. While the German capitalist government called for ‘passive resistance’ to the French occupation but did nothing to organise it, the working class took the lead on the industrial front, with strikes and demonstrations. Right-wing forces were also present, waging armed resistance against the occupiers. Read more…

Part 2: Introduction to ‘The Communist International at a Crossroads’

Third Enlarged ECCI Plenum (June 1922) 

Second installment of the Introduction to “The Communist Movement at a Crossroads: Plenums of the Communist International’s Executive Committee, 1922-1923,” by Mike Taber. Available from Haymarket Books.

The Third Enlarged ECCI Plenum of 12–23 June 1923 was in several ways a contradictory meeting – more so for what it did not discuss than for what it did.

Three months earlier, Lenin had suffered a devastating stroke that left him incapacitated and ended his political life. Indeed, by mid-1923 elements of the post-Lenin Stalinist degeneration had already begun to appear in the Soviet Union. As will be described later in this introduction, this question was not discussed at the plenum, which also largely passed over the approaching revolutionary crisis in Germany.


Introduction to ‘The Communist International at a Crossroads’


Despite these negative signs, however, the Third Enlarged Plenum was nevertheless in general continuity with the first four Comintern congresses and the first two enlarged plenums, making important contributions to the Comintern’s political legacy in several key areas. For these reasons, the Third Enlarged Plenum deserves to be categorised as a legitimate part of the Lenin-era Comintern. Read more…

Introduction to ‘The Communist Movement at a Crossroads,’ Part 1

Overview; First and Second Enlarged Plenums (Feb.–Mar. and June 1922)

Editors’ Note: Posted here, in three installments, is the introduction to The Communist Movement at a Crossroads: Plenums of the Communist International’s Executive Committee, 1922-1923. Edited by Mike Taber and translated by John Riddell, the book is published by the Historical Materialism Book Series, and is available from Haymarket Books.

This volume is the latest in a series begun in 1983 under the general editorship of John Riddell. The aim of this series has been to present, in its own words, the record of the Communist International (Comintern) under Lenin, chronicling the development of this dynamic revolutionary undertaking and showing it as a vibrant and living movement embracing millions around the world.[1]

This latest volume is noteworthy in showing the Comintern taking up several questions of contemporary relevancy, among them the united front and fascism. For this reason, the book will be of special interest both to those studying the history of the world Communist movement as well as to activists seeking to examine key strategic questions that remain on the agenda today.

Mike Taber’s Introduction provides a good summary not only of the book but of the issues raised within it and the Comintern’s evolution in the period under study.–JR

To obtain the book, contact https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/1312-the-communist-movement-at-a-crossroads. Read more…

Karl Marx in Wuhan, by Carlos Martinez

China and Covid-19, a Three-Part Series, Part 2

Reposted from Invent the Future, where it forms the first part of “Karl Marx in Wuhan: How Chinese Socialism Is Defeating COVID-19“ by Carlos Martinez. See second part of Martinez’s article. For my reservations regarding Martinez’s discussion of “Chinese socialism,” see China Sets the Pace in Covid-19 Battle, by John Riddell. 

By Carlos Martinez: The initial outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) took place in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, in early January 2020. The epidemic was limited almost entirely to China until a month later, when it flared up in Iran, South Korea, Japan and Italy.

Hospital team in China

By 11 March, it was clear that sustained community-level transmission of the virus was occurring in multiple regions of the world, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared it a pandemic. With the virus spreading throughout Europe and North America, there is now a serious possibility that COVID-19 will infect a large proportion of the global population and cause the early death of millions of people. It is a global health emergency of almost unprecedented proportions.

China’s Successes Containing the Virus

In the absence of a vaccine or cure, the only way to defeat a viral epidemic is to drastically reduce contagion, and this is achieved through rigorous testing, contact tracing, isolation of patients, and social distancing for the wider population. Read more…

How Chinese Socialism Is Defeating Covid-19, by Carlos Martinez

China Sets the Pace in Global Covid-19 Battle, Part 3

Reposted with thanks from Invent the Future, where it forms the conclusion of “Karl Marx in Wuhan: How Chinese Socialism Is Defeating COVID-19“ by Carlos Martinez (March 25, 2020). See first part of Martinez’s article. For my reservations regarding Martinez’s discussion of “Chinese socialism,” see China Sets the Pace in Covid-19 Battle, by John Riddell. 

“Our greatest strength lies in our socialist system, which enables us to pool resources in a major mission. This is the key to our success.” (Xi Jinping)

Why has the response to COVID-19 been so much more thorough and successful in China than in the capitalist West? How is it possible that China – a developing country with a per capita GDP of just over $10,000 (less than 20 percent of the US figure) – is able to limit the spread of the disease to less than 0.01 percent of its population, while rich countries like Britain are talking about ‘herd immunity’?

Medical team from China arrives in Burkina Faso

As Indian communist Siteram Yechury memorably put it, “in the final analysis, it boils down to the question of who controls the state or whose class rule it is. Under bourgeois class rule, it is profit indicators that are the driving force. Under working class rule, it is society’s responsibilities that are the priorities.” Read more…

China Sets the Pace in Global Covid-19 Battle

Part 1 of a three-part series

By John Riddell. April 30, 2020: Joe Cressy, head of Toronto’s board of health, told Canada’s national broadcaster today that the city has no road map for the period of 18 to 24 months before an effective Covid-19 virus can be deployed.

“We’ll need extensive infection tracking,” he told CBC Radio, “and we’ll have to test nearly every city resident.” But the Covid-19 tests needed for such an effort are unavailable, he said. Indeed, in Ontario they have been in chronically short supply.

The spread of the disease has slowed, but it is still quick enough, by my rough calculation, to double the Ontario caseload in five weeks. In Canada as a whole, the recorded infection rate is rising a bit faster; in the U.S., a bit more slowly, but in all cases the virus still poses an urgent danger.

As for the eighteen-month target for vaccine development, the New York Times portrays it as grossly overoptimistic; a goal of deployment in four years would be more realistic. Add to that the time and effort needed to break the stranglehold of rapacious drug companies and the barriers posed by imperialist sanctions in order to make a vaccine genuinely available to all the world’s peoples.

The Example of China

Our public health strategists should draw inspiration from the gains of China in combating the Covid-19 pandemic is both unique and exemplary. The world’s most populous nation, only recently emerged from deep poverty, China was the first country to face Covid-19 and had to develop countermeasures on its own. Read more…

Remembering the Martyrs of Deir Yassin 1948-2020

In 1948, Zionist terrorists in Palestine attacked and destroyed the village of Deir Yassin, located on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. The Toronto chapter of Independent Jewish Voices asked me to commemorate this event through the following brief report to its meeting of April 30. Here is my report, posted with permission of IJV. — JR

Survivors fleeing Deir Yassin

By John Riddell: On April 9, 72 years ago, the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin was attacked without warning by Zionist commandos and destroyed with great loss of life. This atrocity greatly accelerated the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of more than 700,000 Palestinians.

Palestine was then still under British rule, but the British command refused to defend the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Zionist colonizers, mobilizing to establish an ethnically exclusive Jewish state, were systematically attacking Arab settlements.

Residents of Deir Yassin had acted boldly to assure peace and co-existence by signing agreements with the neighbouring Jewish community and with Haganah, the main Zionist military force at that time. In the process, Deir Yassin residents had pledged to keep military forces out of their village. But this did not save them. Read more…

50 Years Ago: Caribbean Black Power Activists Weigh Prospects for Revolution

Part 3 of “The 1970 Black Power Upsurge in Trinidad: A Commemoration”

Geddes Granger (Makaandal Daaga)

Fifty years ago, in February-April 1970, a mass revolutionary upsurge shook the nation of Trinidad and Tobago. It was the coming of age of the Black Power Movement in the Caribbean.

The following article gives my assessment of these events at that time. It was written on the basis of interviews I conducted together with U.S.-based socialist Tony Thomas during our visit to Trinidad, Guyana, Barbados, and Jamaica.

Another version of this text is found in of a out-of-print pamphlet, Black Power in the Caribbean (Pathfinder, 1971). The text is posted here to commemorate the 50th anniversary of this historic event.—JR


By John Riddell (1970): What was the meaning of the mass popular uprising in Trinidad and Tobago of March and April 1970?

The mass movement mobilized behind the concept of “Black power.” But it was a “Black” government, that of Eric Williams, which was their target. Students, unemployed, unionists, rural workers, soldiers every layer of the dispossessed non-white population linked up with this movement, which came close to sweeping Williams from power. Read more…

Africa Amid the Pandemic

GRILA Comments on the Coronavirus Pandemic, the Condition of the Continent and a Pan-African Response

Published by the Group for Research and Initiative for the Liberation of Africa (GRILA)

This observation and the views that follow, addressed primarily to Pan-Africanists, are intended to outline our present condition and inspire political will among decision-makers responsible for public policy decisions to come to a consensus amidst the looming COVID-19 pandemic.

It urges Pan-Africanists to embark on required initiatives beyond solely meeting medical objectives and into systemic change for broader public health and wellbeing of African populations.–GRILA.

With civic awareness, we must engage our populations and harness a self-reliant development moving beyond COVID-19 that brings our communities together to produce an effective Pan-African response.

The present exceptional combination of three realities confront us: 1) the challenge of the global capitalist order; 2) the unprecedented scale of the ongoing pandemic; 3) an impending ecological disaster.

This offers us a historic opportunity to pull ourselves together. Reinforced by Pan-African solidarity, Africa’s resilience, despite centuries of oppression that we have endured, will give us the strength we need to overcome this temporary state of inertia. In addition, as the whole planet is forced to take an ecological pause, it also grants us time to radically reinvent our praxis and internationalism. Read more…

Cuba’s Unique Model of Medical Internationalism

An Interview with John Kirk

Dr. John Kirk, Dalhousie University, Halifax

In recent weeks, more than a dozen countries — including two in Europe — have requested and received Cuban doctors to cope with the Coronavirus pandemic.

John Kirk, a professor at the Latin America program of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, is author of ‘Healthcare Without Borders’ and one of the foremost experts on Cuba’s medical internationalism. Ten years ago, he spent two months embedded with Cuba’s Henry Reeve medical emergency brigade in El Salvador after a hurricane, to observe them. In all he has interviewed 270 Cuban doctors and nurses during the course of his research.

Cuba Standard reached him by phone in Halifax to put into context Cuba’s most recent activities and the soaring demand for the island’s emergency medical know-how.


See also:
You Can Help Cuba Save Lives Around the World
an appeal by Canadian Network on Cuba in support of Cuba’s world fight against Covid-19.

The interview with John Kirk is republished below with the kind permission of www.CubaStandard.com, where this article appeared on April 1, 2020. Source: https://www.cubastandard.com/qa-cubas-unique-model-of-medical-internationalism/.


Text of Interview 

What is the Henry Reeve Brigade?

The Henry Reeve Brigade was formed in 2005. Responding to the massive problems in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Cuba offered 1,400 medical personnel and 32 tons of medicine to help in New Orleans, which was refused by the George W. Bush administration. Shortly afterwards, there was a major health problem in the Kashmir area of Pakistan after an earthquake. Cuba formed the brigade in response, and named it after an American who fought in the first war of independence, 1868-1878, against Spanish colonialism. Read more…

You Can Help Cuba Save Lives around the World

Canadian Network on Cuba Launches Aid Campaign

Editor’s Note: Even as Cuba reaches out to help victims of Covid-19 virus on several continents, the U.S. government is tightening its blockade of the island, obstructing Cuba’s import of medical supplies needed to fight the deadly virus.

An appeal from the Canadian Network on Cuba, printed below, gives us all a chance to contribute materially to this vital expression of global solidarity. A separate post presents a related interview with John Kirk on Cuba’s long record of extending medical aid to other countries. Kirk is the author of Healthcare Without Borders.

With thanks to Linda Meissenheimer and Art Young, who provided the materials for this special feature and wrote the introduction that follows.

Cuban medical brigade arrives at newly built field hospital in Lombardy, Italy.

Introduction

By Linda Meissenheimer and Art Young, April 4, 2020: As the following fund appeal by the Canadian Network on Cuba explains, Cuba is responding to the grave international health emergency that the spread of the new coronavirus represents with an extraordinary display of generosity and human solidarity unmatched by any other country in the world.

Cuba has at the present time dispatched hundreds of doctors and nurses to more than a dozen countries, ranging from nearby Jamaica to distant Italy, one of the hardest-hit centers of the COVID-19 outbreak. All of the Cuban medical staff are volunteers. They are highly qualified: 61% of them have served in other internationalist missions, 40 of them in in the perilous struggle against the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. 57% are women.

As Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel has reiterated, Cuba’s single priority is the preservation of human life at any cost. Not only Cuban lives, but the lives of others as well. Cuba stands ready to dispatch medical brigades to other countries should they request assistance. The contrast with the chauvinist, profit-oriented conduct of Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau and other leaders of the Western world could not be plainer. Read more…

The Deep Roots of Canadian Imperialism in the West Indies

Part 2 of ‘1970 Black Power Upsurge in Trinidad: A Commemoration’

Fifty years ago, in February-April 1970, the spark of Black student militancy in Montreal set off a mass popular upsurge in Trinidad and Tobago. It was the coming of age of the Black Power Movement in the Caribbean.

During the weeks that followed, I toured Trinidad and the Caribbean with U.S.-based socialist Tony Thomas to gather first-hand reports of the movement and its impact. Our reports appeared in a long out-of-print pamphlet, Black Power in the Caribbean (Pathfinder, 1971).

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of this historic event, I am posting these articles here, along with a study of events in the previous year Montreal that sparked the Trinidad upsurge.—JR

Black Power in the Caribbean: Contents

  1. The Rise of Black Power in Canada: The 1969 Student Protest Against Campus Racism,” by John Riddell (first published, January 27, 2019).
  2. The 1970 Mass Upsurge in Trinidad,” by Tony Thomas.
  3. Canadian Imperialism in the West Indies,” by John Riddell.
  4. Lessons of the 1970 Upsurge: A Discussion among Caribbean Activists,” by John Riddell

By John Riddell (First published in Labour Challenge, 1970; subheads added): The February 26, 1970, demonstration that sparked Trinidad’s revolutionary upsurge marched first against the Canadian High Commission, and then attempted to occupy the main branch of the Royal Bank of Canada. Accidental? Read more…

The 1970 Black Power Upsurge in the Caribbean: A Commemoration

Fifty years ago, in February-April 1970, the spark of Black student militancy in Montreal set off a mass popular upsurge in Trinidad and Tobago. It was the coming of age of the Black Power Movement in the Caribbean.

A few week later, I set out for Trinidad along with Tony Thomas, a U.S.-based socialist and a historian of African-American music, to gather first-hand reports of the movement and its impact. Our reports were reprinted in a Canadian-based socialist newspaper, Labor Challenge, from which the following texts were taken. They also appeared in a long out-of-print pamphlet, Black Power in the Caribbean (Pathfinder, 1971).

To commemorate this historic event, the three reports by Tony Thomas and myself appear here. They are introduced by the retrospective account that I published last year of the 1969 Black student upsurge in Montreal that gave rise to the 1970 Trinidad movement.–JR

Black Power in the Caribbean: Contents

  1. The Rise of Black Power in Canada: The 1969 Student Protest Against Campus Racism,” by John Riddell (first published, January 27, 2019).
  2. The 1970 Mass Upsurge in Trinidad,” by Tony Thomas.
  3. Canadian Imperialism in the West Indies,” by John Riddell.
  4. Lessons of the 1970 Upsurge: A Discussion among Caribbean Activists,” by John Riddell

The 1970 Mass Upsurge in Trinidad, by Tony Thomas

Over the past ten years, a new consciousness has arisen throughout the world. We see it in the struggles that rocked the U. S. in May 1970; in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia; in the struggle now going on in Palestine. People around the world are waking up to the need to fight the rotting imperialist system in order to control their lives.

For Black people around the world, this has taken the form of a movement for Black power. Blacks everywhere have demanded control of their communities. They have protested cultural genocide and identified with their African heritage. They have called for unity in the struggle againstwhite imperialist aggression. The rise of the Black power movement in the U. S. has heightened Black consciousness all over the world. Read more…

‘Holocaust to Resistance’ Tour Draws Wide Interest

Suzanne Weiss at McGill, February 17, 2020

‘Resistance to Hitler Has Lessons for Today’

By John Riddell: The dangers posed by the Covid-19 virus forced suspenion on March 19 of Suzanne Weiss’s tour introducing her memoir, Holocaust to Resistance: My Journey. But the tour’s results so far indicate encouraging interest in her story and its message of global solidarity.

Suzanne’s seventeen meetings in Toronto, Montreal, Kingston, Hamilton, Winnipeg, and Pittsburgh were attended by 1,000 participants. Many more saw or heard her four interviews in print and online. (See Interview by Radio Western.)

All Suzanne’s city and university presentations highlighted Palestinian human rights, a topic that today often triggers false accusations of anti-Semitism. (For a recent overview of this controversy, see IJV Statement.) Yet Suzanne’s meetings aroused no such criticisms. When her views were questioned, the exchange was respectful and constructive.

The meetings thus confirmed just how far removed the thinking of people in Canada is from that of its federal parliament, which has endorsed a “redefinition” of anti-Semitism aimed at stifling advocacy of human rights. Read more…

Toronto Pro-Israel Extremists Force Cancellation of a Pro-Israel Meeting

Undemocratic IHRA Redefinition Has Unexpected Result

By John Riddell: York University’s Centre for Jewish Studies has cancelled a proposed pro-Israel meeting “after the organizers learned of plans to disrupt the event,” reports the January 9, 2020, edition of Canadian Jewish News (CJN).

The disruption threat came from an extremist pro-Israel group, Jewish Defense League, with a long record of violence and disruption. (See note below)

The stated purpose of the gathering was to discuss “the current climate faced by Jewish students on campus” – a formula routinely used to introduce condemnation of students advocating human rights for Palestinians. Yet the meeting was challenged not by friends of Palestine, who scrupulously respect the rights of pro-Israel students and activists, but by a Zionist group notorious for expressing its hostility to Palestinian rights through extremism and violence. Read more…