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In Memory of Ernie Tate (1934-2021)

A Life of Revolutionary Activism

By John Riddell, February 13, 2021: The socialist movement lost an outstanding educator and organizer with the passing of Ernest (Ernie) Tate in Toronto on 5 February. An outstanding partisan of global anti-imperialist solidarity, Ernie also contributed, with his partner Jess MacKenzie, to building revolutionary Marxist groups and to promoting socialist unity in Canada and Britain.

Raised in an impoverished working-class community in Belfast, Ernie left school at age 14, taking a job at Belfast Mills as apprentice machine attendant. An avid reader and a rebel at heart, Ernie sympathized – unusually, given his Protestant background – with the Irish republican movement.

During a youthful jaunt through France in 1954, Ernie was deeply impressed by the mass solidarity actions celebrating the victory of Vietnamese freedom fighters in Dien Bien Phu. The following year, Ernie took the path of so many of his countrymen and emigrated, settling in Toronto.

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Two Months That Set a New ‘Normal’ in U.S. Bourgeois Politics

The following text is reprinted with permission from World-Outlook, a significant new voice of revolutionary Marxism in the United States. The many comments submitted on this article, available at World Outlook, are worth checking out. World-Outlook is edited by Argiris Malapanis, Geoff Mirelowitz, and Francisco Picado.

By Argiris Malapanis and Geoff Mirelowitz:February 3, 2021—In the article titled “Radicalism, Bonapartism, and the Aftermath of the 2020 U.S. Elections,” published January 13 by World-Outlook.com, we described the January 6 rightist mob attack on the U.S. capitol as the culminating step in a series of developments that posed serious dangers to civil liberties and the working class.

Trump supporters erected wooden gallows near Capitol reflecting pool during January 6 rally in Washington, D.C., where the former U.S. president pushed his “Stop the Steal” campaign and incited the attack on the Capitol. The noose is a symbol of the lynching of African Americans. (Photo: Shay Horse/Nurphoto)

These events, we said, “indicate that a not insignificant minority of the privileged classes at least considered sidestepping the legislative and judicial branches of government and handing all important policy decisions to the executive, run by an individual with extraordinary powers. One who would not act as a servant of the institutions of capitalist democracy, but who would instead be anointed to ‘rescue the nation,’ in order to finally ‘make America great again.’ This is what we mean by the term ‘Bonapartism.’” [1]

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How Pioneer Communists Assessed the Russian Soviet Republic

The following text is the second-last of a series of posts analyzing the early Communist International, which are listed at ‘Lenin’s Comintern Revisited.’

Contents

  1. Resisting Imperialist Intervention
  2. Correcting Colonialist Abuses of Soviet Power
  3. Weighing the New Economic Policy
  4. Providing Material Aid to Soviet Republic
  5. Parrying a Social-Democratic Intrusion
  6. Debating the New Economic Policy

By John Riddell: The Communist International (or Comintern) was founded in Moscow in 1919, with the goal of helping to extend the socialist revolution that had taken place in Russia across Europe and around the world.  

Emblem of Russian Federated Soviet Socialist Republic

The Russian Communist (Bolshevik) party that had led in establishing Soviet power was respected in the International as a prime source of strategic and tactical guidance. Yet the Comintern’s statutes did not accord any primacy to the Russian Communist Party (RCP). Like other Comintern sections, the Russian party was answerable to the International’s world congresses.

Comintern gatherings frequently discussed developments in Soviet Russia, organized material and political aid to the Soviet republic, and, on one occasion, proposed reforms to the Soviet structures that were rapidly implemented. Let us consider six significant occasions during Lenin’s lifetime when non-Russian Comintern parties discussed or influenced political and social issues in the Russian Soviet republic.

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Key Lessons of Trump’s Failed Insurrection

A Socialist Analysis

Malik Miah and Barry Sheppard write regularly for Australia-based Green Left Weekly.

For a related socialist interpretation, see “Radicalism, Bonapartism, and the Aftermath of the 2020 U.S. Elections,” by Geoff Mirelowitz, Argiris Malapanis, and Francisco Picado, on World-Outlook.com.

By Malik Miah and Barry Sheppard: The most important aspect of the January 6 march on the Capitol building, where both the House of Representatives and the Senate meet and where the Congress people have their offices, and the subsequent violent occupation of the building, was its open display of white supremacy.

It was organized and led by the white supremacist president of the United States, Donald Trump.

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Charting New Paths: The Comintern in 1922-1923

A review of The Communist Movement at a Crossroads

The Communist Movement at a Crossroads: Plenums of the Communist International’s Executive Committee, 1922-1923, edited by Mike Taber; translated by John Riddell, Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2019, 796 pages, $50. Reposted from Against the Current #210 with permission from Tom Twiss and ATC.

By Tom Twiss: In 1922-1923 the Communist International found itself in shifting terrain that presented fresh opportunities and new dangers. The clearing of smoke from European battlefields and barricades had revealed devastated economies and exhausted workers.Years of war and revolution had left European workers exhausted. But by 1922 they were slowly regaining their combativeness in the face of mounting pressure from their ruling classes

Following two years of fascist terror in Italy, Benito Mussolini’s appointment as prime minister was stimulating the spread of similar movements throughout Europe.

Meanwhile, in the heartland of the revolution, Lenin’s incapacitation by strokes was opening a struggle for leadership that would lead to sharp reversals of Comintern policy.

In multiple ways then The Communist Movement at a Crossroads is a highly appropriate title for a published collection of Comintern materials from these years. This volume, edited by Mike Taber and translated by John Riddell, is the latest addition to the monumental multi-volume series, “The Communist International Publishing Project,” with titles published by Pathfinder Press, Brill, Haymarket and LeftWord Books.(1)

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How Socialists Resist Rightist Coups

Lessons from the Early Communist International

Part One: The Kornilov and Kapp Putsches

(See also Part 2: “Toward a United Front Against Fascismand 
Part 3: “1920: German Workers Foil a Rightist Putsch)

By John Riddell: Parliaments and elections are no guarantee of democratic rights and fair treatment for working people. Capitalist forces displeased with an electoral outcome are all too likely to take direct action to impose their will, whether by financial manipulations, economic blockades, or military coups.

Even apparently stable parliamentary regimes in dominant countries can be challenged in this way. So it was that a military revolt brought down the French Fourth Republic in 1958 and, in 2020-21, Donald Trump mounted a campaign including an apparent coup attempt aiming to overturn the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.

Socialists are challenged to actively oppose rightist coup attempts without lending support to any wing of the ruling capitalist class.

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Toward a United Front Against Fascism

How Socialists Resist Rightist Coups: Part 2

See also Part 1: “How Socialists Resist Rightist Coups: The Kornilov and Kapp Putschesand Part 3: “1920: German Workers Foil a Rightist Putsch” 

By 1920, The working-class movement urgently needed to find a road to effective resistance to such rightist threats, including when these assaults took the form of a military coup replacing one capitalist government with another.

The initiative for united working-class action came from the Communists in Germany (see “The Origins of United Front Policy”). On 8 January 1921 the KPD addressed an open letter to all other major workers’ organizations, proposing common action around nine demands, representing goals that the entire workers’ movement held in common. The first two goals set the tone: wage struggles on behalf of all workers and increased pensions. One of the demands addressed the threat from far-right enemies of the Weimar Republic:

7. Disarmament and dissolution of armed bourgeois detachments and formation of workers’ self-defence organisations.[i]

Conceptually, the Open Letter was in one sense a return to the spirit of the Erfurt Program rejected by Rosa Luxemburg in December 1918. It offered a “minimum program” of immediate goals to be set alongside the revolutionary objective of overthrowing capitalist rule and establishing a government of workers’ councils. But the Open Letter posed the action program in a novel way – as a platform for an alliance of all major workers’ organizations.

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1920: German Workers Foil a Rightist Putsch

General Strike Sent Rebel Generals Running

(See also Part 1: “How Socialists Resist Rightist Coups
and
Part 2: “Toward a United Front Against Fascism.”)

By John Riddell: The strongest workers’ upsurge in Europe in the early years after the Russian revolution took place in March 1920, when 12 million workers in Germany rallied in a giant strike against a right-wing military coup.

During the months following the German revolution of November 1918, which swept away the country’s monarchs and ended World War 1, militant workers there had suffered a stinging defeat at the hands of murderous monarchist and proto-fascist militias, known as “Freikorps.”

The right-wing assault had been organized by none other than the leaders of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), which then led Germany’s government. The SPD’s betrayal cast a deep shadow over hopes for united workers’ resistance. Yet despite this stinging defeat, the workers of Germany soon rallied in renewed struggles.

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When Social Democracy and Communism Acted Together

The 1926 German Referendum to Expropriate the Nobility

Could Hitler’s rise to power in Germany have been blocked by common action by Social Democracy and Communism? On one occasion, in 1926, such a working alliance came briefly into existence. As German historian Marcel Bois demonstrates, the results were dramatic.

The following text is excerpted from “‘March Separately, But Strike Together!’ The Communist Party’s United Front Policy in the Weimar Republic,” by Marcel Bois, in Historical Materialism, 28.3 2020, pp. 148–52. Translation by Darren Roso. Reposted by permission.

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By Marcel Bois: The Communist Party of Germany (KPD) first coined the united front policy in 1921, representing a promising effort to bolster Communist influence in the workers’ movement of that country. … [T]he KPD recruited large numbers of new members and significantly improved its electoral returns as a result. Despite this success, however, the party only pursued the united front policy in two phases (1921–3 and 1926)…. [T]he KPD bid farewell to the united front as ‘Stalinisation’ began to set in during the Weimar Republic’s final years – with lethal consequences, as its abandonment decisively abetted the victory of German fascism.[1]

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National-Revolutionary Movements and the Comintern

The Congress of the Toilers of the Far East (1922)


Alliance of Adversaries: The Congress of the Toilers of the Far East, edited by John Sexton. Historical Materialism Book Series (Brill, 2018; Haymarket Books, 2019). 369 pages. $28.00 in paperback (currently available from Haymarket at the special price of $16.80 at: https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/1388-alliance-of-adversaries.)


Book review by Mike Taber. This important book contains the proceedings of the First Congress of the Toilers of the Far East, organized by the Communist International (Comintern).  That meeting, held in Moscow and Petrograd in January-February 1922 – attended by delegations from China, Korea, Mongolia, the short-lived Far Eastern Republic, and Japan, as well as individual delegates from India and the Dutch East Indies – was a complement to another congress that had taken place a year and a half earlier: the First Congress of the Peoples of the East held in Baku in August-September 1920.

The record of the Baku congress can be found in To See the Dawn, a book published in 1993 by Pathfinder Press and edited by John Riddell.[1] The new book, edited by John Sexton, should be seen as a companion volume to it.

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A Strategic Perspective for Uniting Ecosocialists in Quebec

‘Révolution écosocialiste’: Basis of Unity

Newly formed ‘Révolution écosocialiste’ organization proposes a green, ecosocialist and democratic program for building a mass movement in the 21st century.


Introduction by Richard Fidler: Ecosocialist activists in Quebec have formed a new organization, Révolution écosocialiste (RE). The following English translation of the group’s Basis of Unity is taken from Climate & Capitalism.

Interviewed by the magazine Nouveaux Cahiers du Socialisme, Benoit Renaud explained that he and the other signatories felt that an earlier networking group, the Réseau écosocialiste founded in 2013, was no longer the activist organization they had originally envisaged, and instead functioned as little more than a “talk shop” (lieu d’échange).

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Next Steps for Comintern Publication Project

By Mike Taber: The publication project on the Communist International (Comintern) under Lenin was begun in 1983 by Pathfinder Press, under the general editorship of John Riddell. Fifteen years after Pathfinder discontinued work on the project in the early 1990s, it was restarted by John Riddell with vital publishing assistance from the Historical Materialism Book Series and Haymarket Books. In 2018 I took over from John the task of overall project coordinator, although John remains both an active collaborator and the project’s senior adviser.

First Congress, Communist Women’s Movement, Moscow, 1920

Project Framework

1. Its volumes are directed toward workers, youth, and activists in the fight for social change. This affects everything about them – from the contents to the type of annotation required.  While these books will rightly be valued and utilized by historians and specialists, they are not its target audience.

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How Democratic Centralism Was Applied

Part 2 of ‘Party Organization in Lenin’s Comintern’

See Part 1: Shaping a Policy

Clara Zetkin, 1920

By John Riddell: The Comintern’s 1921 organizational theses, discussed in Part 1 of this study, were next mentioned in a world congress by Lenin himself, in his address to the Fourth World Congress in 1922. At the end of what was to be his last speech to the world movement, he expressed concern regarding the resolution. Although “prepared to subscribe to every one of its fifty or more points,” Lenin said, the resolution was “too Russian” and incomprehensible to non-Russian Communists. “Everything in it is based on the Russian experience”; non-Russians “will not understand it” and “cannot carry it out.” Lenin said. “The most important thing for all of us, Russian and non-Russian comrades alike,” is to take time to study.[1]

Only Clara Zetkin spoke to his remarks. Highlighting Lenin’s remark “that we all have much to learn,” Zetkin interpreted this as an appeal for patience. Declaring that “to win time is to win everything,” Zetkin added a characteristically elegant quotation from the German poet Goethe: “Time is my estate, and time my field to plough.”[2]

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Party Organization in Lenin’s Comintern

Part 1: Defining Democratic Centralism

See also Part 2: Applying Democratic Centralism

Lenin at Third World Congress, where organizational theses on party organization were adopted.

By John Riddell: Many socialist groups today seek to shape their organizational principles in the spirit of “democratic centralism” identified with V.I. Lenin. Yet as historian Lars Lih has demonstrated (“Fortunes of a Formula” and “Further Fortunes of a Formula”), Lenin himself used the term only occasionally, and then with widely varying emphasis. The formula’s meaning for socialists today is in fact derived mainly from its application by the Communist International (Comintern) in Lenin’s lifetime and under his guidance (1919–23).

This article will examine how this principle was expressed in the internal functioning of the Comintern’s national parties and also in their relationship to the Comintern’s leadership, the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI).

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The 1970 Women’s Strike for Equality

How a mass march relaunched women’s struggle for liberation in the US. An interview by Nancy Rosenstock with Ruthann Miller, reposted with permission from Jacobinmag.com.

Women’s March in New York, August 26, 1970.

Introduction

In August 1970, campaigners for women’s liberation mounted a huge demonstration that recharged feminism in the US. Ruthann Miller, the protest coordinator, was a socialist activist. She talks here to Nancy Rosenstock about the march, and the need to combine feminist and socialist politics.

The Strike for Equality put forward three main demands: free abortion on demand — no forced sterilization; free, community-controlled 24-hour childcare centers; and equal opportunities in jobs and education.

The Women’s Strike for Equality in August 1970 was a landmark in the development of second-wave feminism. On August 26, 50,000 women marched down New York City’s Fifth Avenue, defying the efforts of the police to confine them to the sidewalk as they mounted the largest feminist demonstration that the United States had seen.

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