Revolution

Syria: a revolt from below

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Ghayath Naisse argues that the local committees, councils and Free Syrian Army brigades that emerged out of the revolt are a testament to the popular nature of the revolution.

The Co-ordinating Committees (tansiqiyat) are an organisational form for directing the daily struggle of the masses. They are active across Syria, even in areas still controlled by the regime. In every neighbourhood, or every workplace, or small towns and villages, there are a network of committees. These committees work together, and when they cooperate at a neighbourhood, or village level, then they are called a Local Committee. When a number of committees work together, or form a network together, they are called Co-ordinating Committees.

Syria's revolution behind the lines

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Manbij is a poor and rural town of some 200,000 people in north eastern Syria. The city is half an hour's drive from the border with Turkey and the vital Tishrin Dam. It sits in the agricultural hinterland of Aleppo with one of the largest mills in the region, grinding some 500 tonnes of flour a day. Control over Manbij is a strategic prize for the Syrian revolution.

Why Read The History of the Russian Revolution?

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Isaac Deutscher, Trotsky's biographer, described The History of the Russian Revolution as Trotsky's, "Crowning work, both in scale and power and as the fullest expression of his ideas on revolution." Trotsky himself says "The history of a revolution, like every other history, ought first of all to tell what happened and how. That however is, little enough. From the very telling it ought to become clear why it happened thus and not otherwise...

"The most indubitable feature of a revolution is the direct interference of the masses in historical events. In ordinary times the state, be it monarchical or democratic, elevates itself above the nation, and history is made by specialists in that line of business kings, ministers, bureaucrats, parliamentarians, journalists. But at these crucial moments when the old order becomes no longer endurable to the masses, they...sweep aside their traditional representatives and create by their own interference the initial groundwork for a new regime."

Why Read The Civil War in France?

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The Paris Commune of 1871 was the result of the world's first working class revolution. It survived for only two months but it was the most democratic and liberating government the world had seen up till that point. It offered a glimpse of a model of democracy that goes beyond the limited parliamentary democracy which is the best we can expect under capitalism.

Marx did not pluck a theory of what real democracy would look like from thin air - he learnt it from the concrete example of the Paris Commune. The Civil War in France, a pamphlet based on speeches to the First International, was written by Marx in 1871. It is both an impressive, succinct history of the Paris Commune and a powerful polemic against capitalism.

Which strategy for the left?

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In last month's Socialist Review, Ed Rooksby, a supporter of the Left Unity initiative, put forward his view that a left government can play a key role in the fight for radical change. Mark L Thomas argues this ignores the role of the state.

The Left Unity initiative has struck a chord with a significant number of socialists in Britain. The call by Ken Loach and others for a new left party had seen over 8,000 people put their names to it and Left Unity has now held a series of meetings and formed local groups across the country. It clearly expresses a mood for something better than the austerity agenda accepted by Labour under Ed Miliband.

South Yemen: a clash of wills

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The struggle in South Yemen for independence from the North continues to be way down the agenda of the international media. Mirfat Sulaiman reports on a rising revolutionary tide which no amount of repression seems capable of stemming.

Travelling through the port city of Aden in South Yemen gives you a clear picture of both a city under occupation - with army checkpoints, tanks and armoured vehicles in the streets - and a people's demand for independence. The South Yemeni flag is painted and hanging everywhere, along with revolutionary slogans, pictures of movement leaders and photos of those killed during the ongoing uprising. In contrast, the regime's "unity" flag can only be seen on government buildings and military vehicles.

Syria: the vultures circle

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There is growing alarm in Israel, the West and its Arab allies at the turn of events in Syria. Barack Obama's administration is divided between those who urgently want to create a Syrian proxy by arming the official Free Syrian Army (FSA), those who advocate direct military intervention, and a growing number who consider Syrian dictator Bashar Assad "the lesser evil".

There is growing alarm in Israel, the West and its Arab allies at the turn of events in Syria, exasperated by a paralysis on how to approach the revolution. Barack Obama's administration is divided between those who urgently want to create a Syrian proxy by arming the official Free Syrian Army (FSA), those who advocate direct military intervention, and a growing number who consider Syrian dictator Bashar Assad "the lesser evil". The recent attempt by Britain and France to lift the embargo in order to arm "friendly forces" was sharply slapped down by its European partners.

Lessons of defeat: German communists and the rise of Hitler

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Eighty years ago Hitler came to power, crushing the strongest workers' movement in the world. Donny Gluckstein, author of A People's History of the Second World War, looks at the fatal mistakes the German left made in response to the rise of Nazis and draws lessons for today

This year, 2013, marks a tragic anniversary. It is 80 years since Hitler established his dictatorship over Germany. On 27 February 1933, shortly after his appointment as chancellor, the parliament (Reichstag) burned down in a fire which was probably started by the Nazis. This was the excuse needed to ban the Communist Party and begin mass repression. On 22 March the first concentration camp opened at Dachau near Munich.

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.

Egypt: the Muslim brotherhood under pressure

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In recent months thousands of Egyptians have protested against President Mohamed Morsi. Sameh Naguib, a leading Egyptian revolutionary socialist, argues that the liberals and Muslim Brotherhood are losing their influence over the movement in the streets and workplaces

The starting point for our analysis has to be the crisis which has engulfed the Muslim Brotherhood and the so-called "secular" liberal opposition forces. In part, this crisis stems from both camps' misunderstanding of the nature of the Egyptian Revolution. Liberal writers, for example, refer to the democratic transformation which took place in Spain in 1974, or the democratic transition in Eastern Europe and the "colour revolutions".

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