Marxists

Werner Scholem: Trotskyism, Zinovievism, antisemitism

The socialist life of Werner Scholem deserves to be better known. The publication of Ralf Hoffrogge’s exhaustive biography, A Jewish Communist in Weimar Germany (Haymarket 2018), means that English readers now have the opportunity to appreciate his contribution. Werner Scholem was born in Germany in December 1895. He joined the Socialist Workers’ Youth group as a teenager in 1912 and then the Social Democratic Party (SPD) on turning 18. Scholem opposed the First World War but was conscripted, wounded on the Eastern front and then imprisoned for anti-war activities. He was sent to the Western...

Immanuel Wallerstein 1930-2019

Immanuel Wallerstein died at the age of 88 on 31 August. He was one of the last great exponents of the 1950s-60s theory of imperialism known as “dependency theory”, and continued to write until only a few years ago. He was born in New York, the son of Polish Jews fleeing antisemitism, and worked almost all his life in US universities. He named Marx first among those to whom he “acknowledged a continuing intellectual debt”. He described himself as one of a “gang of four” with Samir Amin, Giovanni Arrighi, and Andre Gunder Frank, all also now dead. Gunder Frank was the most prolific and...

The Bolsheviks and international trade union work

Review: Reiner Tosstorff, The Red International of Labour Unions (RILU) 1920-1937. Haymarket (2018) In the aftermath of the 1917 Russian revolution, the Bolsheviks sought to advance the international socialist revolution through the formation of the Communist International (the Comintern). The first five years of the Comintern are replete with lessons for socialists, including crucial conceptions such as transitional demands, the united front and the workers’ government. One crucial sphere of the Comintern’s work concerned the trade unions, crystallised in the foundation of the Red...

Robert Fine on antisemitism and Stalinism: a comment

I read Dan Davison’s article on Robert Fine and the critique of antisemitism in Solidarity 512 with great interest. While Davison’s overall tribute to Fine is both lucid and commendable, there are two significant aspects of Fine’s critical perspective that Davison left under-examined. These are, first, Fine’s understanding of the connections between antisemitism and racism and, second, his standpoint on Stalinism and anti-Stalinism. Having written reviews of two of Fine’s books so far as part of an ongoing series, I found Fine’s ideas about antisemitism thought-provoking. Indeed, I can see key...

The "revisionism" debate of 1898-9

The "revisionism controversy" in the German socialist movement in 1898-9 is often described, with hindsight, as showing that the movement was already rotten. It is held that such central figures in the movement as August Bebel and Karl Kautsky opposed Eduard Bernstein's revisionism only half-heartedly, and really had gone most of the way to accepting Bernstein's gradualist approach. The conclusion, often, is that there is not much to learn from the writings of the movement from that era, after Marx and Engels and up to 1914, except perhaps for some texts by Lenin, Luxemburg, and Trotsky. That...

The history of "left communism"

Above, from left: Pannekoek, Bordiga, Damen, Chirik A note to supplement Todd Hamer's article "Transforming the labour movement: a reply to our critics" The nearest that Lenin came to summing up, in "textbook" form, the lessons to be learned by Marxists from Bolshevism and the Russian Revolution, was his famous 1920 pamphlet, Left-wing communism: an infantile disorder. "In the first months after the proletariat in Russia had won political power (October 25 [November 7], 1917)", wrote Lenin, "it might have seemed that the enormous difference between backward Russia and the advanced countries of...

Lukács: another view

According to John Rees and the Counterfire group (a splinter from the SWP), Georg Lukács was "the most important Marxist political philosopher since Marx". He was "the great theorist of revolution in the 20th century", and his writings were "the most sophisticated development of the classical Marxist tradition that anyone has developed". John Cunningham's presentation (Solidarity 511) is more sober. But generally Lukács has enjoyed high repute in a wide range of the left since the early 1970s, and with many Third Camp Marxists since Michael Harrington made the first English translation from...

Not the worst kind of renegade

Karol Modzelewski died on 28 April 2019. He was a well known personality on the western anticapitalist left in the 1960s, as co-author of the “Open letter to the Party”. After the collapse of “actually existing socialism”, he was treated as a moral authority by the liberal media in the Third Polish Republic, as one of the fighters for Polish democracy. Karol Modzelewski was born in Moscow in 1937 in a family of Communist activists. His stepfather, Zygmunt Modzelewski, became the foreign affairs minister in “People’s Poland” in 1947. In 1964, Modzelewski, who was then a lecturer at the...

Lukács: strange contradictions

The first translation from German of any of Lukács's History and Class Consciousness appeared in the heterodox Trotskyist journal The New International, in the summer 1957 issue. Michael Harrington translated What is Orthodox Marxism?, the first essay in the book, with the introduction reprinted here. George Lukács, the author of What is Orthodox Marxism, is one of the strangest figures of twentieth century socialism. For he is simultaneously one of the few really creative Marxist minds of his time and a man who has betrayed the ideals of the revolution to the Stalinist regime. The many...

The life and work of Georg Lukács

Georg Lukács (pictured above in 1919) was one of the best-known Marxist writers of the 20th century. He joined the Hungarian Communist Party in December 1918 and was a People's Commissar in the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic of March-July 1919. After fleeing to Vienna, he published History and Class Consciousness (in 1923, but collecting texts written since 1919). He lived in the USSR between 1929 and 1945. He was a minister in the reforming Nagy government in Hungary in 1956, survived the Russian invasion and the repression, and died in 1971. John Cunningham talked with Martin Thomas...

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