Leninism

Revolutionary defeatism

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As the First World War broke out Lenin called for socialists to oppose their own governments. How his analysis of the war and his defeat slogan were eventually proved to be correct.

In August 1914 Lenin argued that the First World War was an inter-imperialist conflict and the key task for Russian socialists was to continue the struggle against the Tsar — who in his view was “one hundred times” worse than Germany’s Kaiser.

Lenin’s proposition was that, “From the viewpoint of the working class and all the Russian people the ‘lesser evil’ would be the defeat of the Tsarist monarchy and its army.”

The trouble with Lenin

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Continuing the debate on the role of Leninism, Joseph Choonara argues that the Bolshevik leader's concept of the party remains the model around which socialists should unite.

"Dead Russians," Respect MP George Galloway once said, "must be discussed in private." But Lenin and the contested tradition known as Leninism have today become a topic of intense public discussion among many who consider themselves radical opponents of capitalism. Much of the commentary is negative.

Why read 'Left Wing' Communism

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In August 1914 the Second International grouping of socialist parties failed its most important test with catastrophic consequences.

Nearly all the leaders of European socialism collapsed into chauvinism, supporting their own nations' interests in an imperialist war which cost the lives of tens of millions of workers.

One of the few parties to remain against the war throughout was the Bolsheviks in Russia. The experience of war and disillusionment with their leaders led to the radicalisation of workers and soldiers.

Lenin, Luxemburg and the War

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Lenin's critical response to Rosa Luxemburg's Junius pamphlet

Rosa Luxemburg's First World War Junius pamphlet, written in prison and so vividly described by Sally Campbell in February's Socialist Review, was arguably the greatest anti-war statement of the last century.

Its haunting theme, socialism or barbarism, prophetically cast its shadow over the 20th century and continues to do so now.

What sort of party do we need?

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In our ongoing series of debates on the role of Leninism today, Alex Callinicos replies to Ian Birchall's contribution in last month's Review. He returns to the fundamentals of Leninist organisation and presents a different account of the political arguments of the 1980s

There has been a shift in the focus of anti-capitalist debate. A decade ago, in the immediate wake of Seattle, Genoa, and Florence, in a climate of popular revolt against capitalism and war, a major question was: party or movement? In other words, were various forms of localised organisation sufficient for what Michael Hardt and Toni Negri call the "multitude" of those oppressed by capital to break the power of the ruling class?

What does it mean to be a Leninist?

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In February's issue of Socialist Review Alex Callinicos addressed the claim that Leninism is finished. Here, Ian Birchall responds to Alex arguing that he asks the question, but does not fully answer it

There is much in Alex Callinicos's article "Is Leninism finished?" (SR, February 2013) that Socialist Review readers will agree with: the inability of reformism to offer any way out of the horrors of capitalism, the need for working class revolution led by a revolutionary party, the defence of the Bolshevik Revolution and in particular of Lenin. Alex has restated themes developed by the SWP, notably in the work of Tony Cliff.

A note on factions

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Alex Callinicos ("Is Leninism finished?" SR, February 2013) claims that during the recent internal debate in the SWP some comrades were "arguing for...a different model involving a much looser and weaker leadership, internal debate that continually reopens decisions already made, and permanent factions (currently factions are only allowed in the discussion period leading up to the annual party conference)."

Now I can speak only for myself here; maybe some comrades did wish this, though I don't recall such a demand being made in any document of the opposition faction.

Why read State and Revolution

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Lenin finished writing State and Revolution in September 1917. At the time the fate of the Russian Revolution hung in the balance. After the February Revolution overthrew the Tsar, the country was run by a provisional government involving socialists in coalition with bourgeois forces.

Workers across Europe continued to be sent to the trenches in their millions in a seemingly endless imperialist war.

Lenin was aware of the desperate need for workers to take power in Russia, but also for revolution to spread beyond Russia. He aimed his arguments at Karl Kautsky, who had been the leading theoretician of the influential pre-war German Social Democratic Party (SPD). The key question was whether the existing state under capitalism could be taken over and used to advance the interests of workers.

Is Leninism finished?

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Do revolutionary parties, like the Socialist Workers Party, that draw on the method of organising developed by Lenin and the Bolsheviks still fit in the twenty first century? Alex Callinicos challenges the critics and argues that Leninism remains indispensable

The demise of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and of the political tradition that it seeks to embody have been widely proclaimed on the British left in recent weeks. Thus the columnist Owen Jones has announced that "the era of the SWP and its kind is over." Is he right?

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