Saturday, January 10, 2015

Support The Boston Public School Bus Drivers!

Let All GLBTQ Groups, Veterans For Peace and All Peace Activists In The Annual Saint Patrick's Day Parade in 2015  

Veterans For Peace
For Immediate Release
Contact: Pat Scanlon, Office: 978-475-1776, Cell: 978-590-4248, 
Veterans For Peace applauds the decision by the Allied War Veterans Council to allow OUTVETS, a fledging new LGBT veterans group, to walk in the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.
The LGBT community has been denied participation in the traditional Saint Patrick’s Day Parade for over twenty years. This certainly signals a step in the right direction.
It is wonderful that this group can participate. Now what about the rest of the LGBT community and area peace groups? “Now may be the time to invite Veterans For Peace and all the other LGBT groups and peace groups to participate in the celebration of Saint Patrick on this very special day,” stated Pat Scanlon, a Vietnam Veteran, and the Coordinator of the Boston area chapter of Veterans For Peace.
Veterans For Peace is a national veterans organization with headquarters in Saint Louis, Missouri. The organization has 140 chapters and 4,000 members across the country. One of the largest and most active chapters is known as the Smedley D. Butler Brigade right here in the Boston area. Several members of the local chapter are life long residents of South Boston yet are not allowed to march in the traditional parade because they advocate peace.
Veterans For Peace is the only veterans organization in the country that opposes war as an instrument of national policy, and advocates exhausting all avenues of diplomacy and negotiations before sending our young men and women into battle. Because of this stance veterans who have dutifully served this country, many who have experienced the horrors of war, are not allowed to participate in this historic parade because they now advocate peaceful resolution to conflict.
Five years ago Veterans For Peace applied to walk in the traditional parade and were denied. The stated reason for the denial was that the parade organizers “did not want the word peace associated with the word veteran.”. For the past five years Veterans For Peace have organized their own “Saint Patrick’s Peace Parade, the alternative parade for Peace, Equality, Jobs, Environmental Stewardship, Social and Economic Justice, that follows the same route as the first parade, but a mile behind. “Our parade is welcoming and inclusive of all groups especially the Boston area LGBT and peace groups because of their past exclusion,” added Scanlon. Last year the Saint Patrick’s Peace Parade had two thousand participants, eight divisions, eight bands and a lot of Irish revelry celebrating the patron saint of Ireland.
We think that the time has come to combine both parades and have one inclusive welcoming parade for all those wishing to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. Maybe this is year,” concluded Scanlon.
Web:    Twitter: @smedleyVFP       Facebook:
The Latest From The "Jobs With Justice Blog"-The Seemingly One-Sided Struggle Continues-It's High Time To Push Back-Push Back Hard-30 For 40 Is The Slogan Of The Day.

Click below to link to the Jobs With Justice Blog for the latest national and international labor news, and of the efforts to counteract the massively one-sided class struggle against the international working class movement.
From the American Left History blog-Wednesday, June 17, 2009
With Unemployment Too High, Way Too High - The Call "30 For 40"- Now More Than Ever- The Transitional Socialist Program

Click Below To Link To The Full Transitional Program Of The Fourth International Adopted In 1938 As A Fighting Program In The Struggle For Socialism In That Era. Many Of The Points, Including The Headline Point Of 30 Hours Work For 40 Hours Pay To Spread The Work Around Among All Workers, Is As Valid Today As Then.

From The Transitional Program Of The Fourth International In 1938- Sliding Scale of Wages and Sliding Scale of Hours

Under the conditions of disintegrating capitalism, the masses continue to live the meagerized life of the oppressed, threatened now more than at any other time with the danger of being cast into the pit of pauperism. They must defend their mouthful of bread, if they cannot increase or better it. There is neither the need nor the opportunity to enumerate here those separate, partial demands which time and again arise on the basis of concrete circumstances – national, local, trade union. But two basic economic afflictions, in which is summarized the increasing absurdity of the capitalist system, that is, unemployment and high prices, demand generalized slogans and methods of struggle.

The Fourth International declares uncompromising war on the politics of the capitalists which, to a considerable degree, like the politics of their agents, the reformists, aims to place the whole burden of militarism, the crisis, the disorganization of the monetary system and all other scourges stemming from capitalism’s death agony upon the backs of the toilers. The Fourth International demands employment and decent living conditions for all.

Neither monetary inflation nor stabilization can serve as slogans for the proletariat because these are but two ends of the same stick. Against a bounding rise in prices, which with the approach of war will assume an ever more unbridled character, one can fight only under the slogan of a sliding scale of wages. This means that collective agreements should assure an automatic rise in wages in relation to the increase in price of consumer goods.

Under the menace of its own disintegration, the proletariat cannot permit the transformation of an increasing section of the workers into chronically unemployed paupers, living off the slops of a crumbling society. The right to employment is the only serious right left to the worker in a society based upon exploitation. This right today is left to the worker in a society based upon exploitation. This right today is being shorn from him at every step. Against unemployment,“structural” as well as “conjunctural,” the time is ripe to advance along with the slogan of public works, the slogan of a sliding scale of working hours. Trade unions and other mass organizations should bind the workers and the unemployed together in the solidarity of mutual responsibility. On this basis all the work on hand would then be divided among all existing workers in accordance with how the extent of the working week is defined. The average wage of every worker remains the same as it was under the old working week. Wages, under a strictly guaranteed minimum, would follow the movement of prices. It is impossible to accept any other program for the present catastrophic period.

Property owners and their lawyers will prove the “unrealizability” of these demands. Smaller, especially ruined capitalists, in addition will refer to their account ledgers. The workers categorically denounce such conclusions and references. The question is not one of a “normal” collision between opposing material interests. The question is one of guarding the proletariat from decay, demoralization and ruin. The question is one of life or death of the only creative and progressive class, and by that token of the future of mankind. If capitalism is incapable of satisfying the demands inevitably arising from the calamities generated by itself, then let it perish. “Realizability” or “unrealizability” is in the given instance a question of the relationship of forces, which can be decided only by the struggle. By means of this struggle, no matter what immediate practical successes may be, the workers will best come to understand the necessity of liquidating capitalist slavery.



 Every January leftists honor three revolutionaries who died in that month, V.I. Lenin of Russia in 1924, Karl Liebknecht of Germany and Rosa Luxemburg of Poland in 1919 murdered after leading the defeated Spartacist uprising in Berlin. Lenin needs no special commendation.  I will make my political points about the heroic Karl Liebknecht and his parliamentary fight against the German war budget in World War I in this space tomorrow so I would like to make some points here about the life of Rosa Luxemburg. These comments come at a time when the question of a woman President is the buzz in the political atmosphere in the United States in the lead up to the upcoming 2016 elections. Rosa, who died almost a century ago, puts all such pretenders to so-called ‘progressive’ political leadership in the shade.   
The early Marxist movement, like virtually all progressive political movements in the past, was heavily dominated by men. I say this as a statement of fact and not as something that was necessarily intentional or good. It is only fairly late in the 20th century that the political emancipation of women, mainly through the granting of the vote earlier in the century, led to mass participation of women in politics as voters or politicians. Although, socialists, particularly revolutionary socialists, have placed the social, political and economic emancipation of women at the center of their various programs from the early days that fact had been honored more in the breech than the observance.

All of this is by way of saying that the political career of the physically frail but intellectually robust Rosa Luxemburg was all the more remarkable because she had the capacity to hold her own politically and theoretically with the male leadership of the international social democratic movement in the pre-World War I period. While the writings of the likes of then leading German Social Democratic theoretician Karl Kautsky are safely left in the basket Rosa’s writings today still retain a freshness, insightfulness and vigor that anti-imperialist militants can benefit from by reading. Her book Accumulation of Capital , whatever its shortfalls alone would place her in the select company of important Marxist thinkers.
But Rosa Luxemburg was more than a Marxist thinker. She was also deeply involved in the daily political struggles pushing for left-wing solutions. Yes, the more bureaucratic types, comfortable in their party and trade union niches, hated her for it (and she, in turn, hated them) but she fought hard for her positions on an anti-class collaborationist, anti-militarist and anti-imperialist left-wing of the International of the social democratic movement throughout this period. And she did this not merely as an adjunct leader of a women’s section of a social democratic party but as a fully established leader of left-wing men and women, as a fully socialist leader. One of the interesting facts about her life is how little she wrote on the women question as a separate issue from the broader socialist question of the emancipation of women. Militant leftist, socialist and feminist women today take note.

One of the easy ways for leftists, particularly later leftists influenced by Stalinist ideology, to denigrate the importance of Rosa Luxemburg’s thought and theoretical contributions to Marxism was to write her off as too soft on the question of the necessity of a hard vanguard revolutionary organization to lead the socialist revolution. Underpinning that theme was the accusation that she relied too much on the spontaneous upsurge of the masses as a corrective to the lack of hard organization or the impediments that  reformist socialist elements threw up to derail the revolutionary process. A close examination of her own organization, The Socialist Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, shows that this was not the case; this was a small replica of a Bolshevik-type organization. That organization, moreover, made several important political blocs with the Bolsheviks in the aftermath of the defeat of the Russian revolution of 1905. Yes, there were political differences between the organizations, particularly over the critical question for both the Polish and Russian parties of the correct approach to the right of national self-determination, but the need for a hard organization does not appear to be one of them.

Furthermore, no less a stalwart Bolshevik revolutionary than Leon Trotsky, writing in her defense in the 1930’s, dismissed charges of Rosa’s supposed ‘spontaneous uprising’ fetish as so much hot air. Her tragic fate, murdered with the complicity of her former Social Democratic comrades, after the defeated Spartacist uprising in Berlin in 1919 (at the same time as her comrade, Karl Liebknecht), had causes related to the smallness of the group, its  political immaturity and indecisiveness than in its spontaneousness. If one is to accuse Rosa Luxemburg of any political mistake it is in not pulling the Spartacist group out of Kautsky’s Independent Social Democrats (itself a split from the main Social Democratic party during the war, over the war issue) sooner than late 1918. However, as the future history of the communist movement would painfully demonstrate revolutionaries have to take advantage of the revolutionary opportunities that come their way, even if not the most opportune or of their own making.
All of the above controversies aside, let me be clear, Rosa Luxemburg did not then need nor does she now need a certificate of revolutionary good conduct from today’s leftists, from any  reader of this space or from this writer. For her revolutionary opposition to World War I when it counted, at a time when many supposed socialists had capitulated to their respective ruling classes including her comrades in the German Social Democratic Party, she holds a place of honor. Today, as we face the endless wars of imperialist intervention in the Middle East and elsewhere in Iraq we could use a few more Rosas, and a few less tepid, timid parliamentary opponents.  For this revolutionary opposition she went to jail like her comrade Karl Liebknecht. For revolutionaries it goes with the territory. And in jail she wrote, she always wrote, about the fight against the ongoing imperialist war (especially in the Junius pamphlets about the need for a Third International).  Yes, Rosa was at her post then. And she died at her post later in the Spartacist fight doing her internationalist duty trying to lead the German socialist revolution the success of which would have  gone a long way to saving the Russian Revolution. This is a woman leader I could follow who, moreover, places today’s bourgeois women parliamentary politicians in the shade. As the political atmosphere gets heated up over the next couple years, remember what a real fighting revolutionary woman politician looked like. Remember Rosa Luxemburg, the Rose of the Revolution.      

As The 100th Anniversary Of The First Year Of World War I (Remember The War To End All Wars) Continues ... Some Remembrances-Writers’ Corner  

In say 1912, 1913, hell, even the beginning of 1914, the first few months anyway, before the war clouds got a full head of steam in the summer they all profusely professed their unmitigated horror at the thought of war, thought of the old way of doing business in the world. Yes the artists of every school but the Cubist/Fauvists/Futurists and  Surrealists or those who would come to speak for those movements, those who saw the disjointedness of modern industrial society and put the pieces to paint, sculptors who put twisted pieces of metal juxtaposed to each other saw that building a mighty machine from which you had to run created many problems; writers of serious history books proving that, according to their Whiggish theory of progress,  humankind had moved beyond war as an instrument of policy and the diplomats and high and mighty would put the brakes on in time, not realizing that they were all squabbling cousins; writers of serious and not so serious novels drenched in platitudes and hidden gabezo love affairs put paid to that notion in their sweet nothing words that man and woman had too much to do, too much sex to harness to denigrate themselves by crying the warrior’s cry and by having half-virgin, neat trick, maidens strewing flowers on the bloodlust streets; musicians whose muse spoke of delicate tempos and sweet muted violin concertos, not the stress and strife of the tattoos of war marches with their tinny conceits; and poets, ah, those constricted poets who bleed the moon of its amber swearing, swearing on a stack of seven sealed bibles, that they would go to the hells before touching the hair of another man. They all professed loudly (and those few who did not profess, could not profess because they were happily getting their blood rising, kept their own consul until the summer), that come the war drums they would resist the siren call, would stick to their Whiggish, Futurist, Constructionist, Cubist worlds and blast the war-makers to hell in quotes, words, chords, clanged metal, and pretty pastels. They would stay the course.  

And then the war drums intensified, the people, their clients, patrons and buyers, cried out their lusts and they, they made of ordinary human clay as it turned out, poets, artists, sculptors, writers, serious and not, musicians went to the trenches to die deathless deaths in their thousands for, well, for humankind, of course, their always fate  ….            

Guide to the battlefields. Italian front, vol III, Piave-Cadore-Carnia

Guide to the battlefields. Italian front, vol III, Piave-Cadore-Carnia
Tourist guide, published in 1919, by an Italian Touring Club highlighting the importance of battlefields and monuments.
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Differences between countries

During and after the war, the process of memorialisation posed a number of questions. The dead, in particular, were difficult. Where were they to be interred? How should their resting places be marked? How should the absent dead – those with no known grave and those buried in a field far from home – be represented? The answers related to wider questions that concerned the living. Which aspects of wartime behaviour should be commemorated for future generations? What versions of the war offered an acceptable ‘truth’? The answers were conditioned by practical issues of finance and manpower, but determined by factors that were cultural and political. For all these reasons, remembrance differed from country to country.

At a national level, differences in commemoration were born out of military and diplomatic realities. Was the tension that they had to resolve between mass bereavement and victory or mass bereavement and defeat? For the UK, the wave of commemoration that took place at the start of the 1920s – including the opening of the permanent Cenotaph in Whitehall, the burial of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, and the construction of war grave cemeteries at home and overseas – was hardly triumphalist, but it was able to legitimate wartime death in terms of a crusade to defend civilisation. In Germany, the aftermath of defeat meant that it was longer before national monuments could be constructed. The Tannenberg Monument was opened in 1927 and an unknown soldier interred in Berlin in 1931. In comparison to the war’s victors, German memorials were even more sombre reminders of death: it was much harder for them to cast the war as moment of salvation or liberation.

The decision to convert the London Cenotaph from a temporary structure, built to represent the dead at the Peace Parade of 1919, to a permanent monument, was occasioned by the strength of public response to the original memorial. As this suggests, national remembrance could be a ‘bottom-up’ as well as a ‘top-down’ process, but it was never equal or all-inclusive. By its nature, commemorating the war meant privileging some versions of the war and discounting others: memorials were a means of forgetting as well as remembering. For example, remembrance reflected a world in which some empires had survived the war: beyond the Western Front, neither France nor Britain memorialised Asian and African service personnel in the same way as their white counterparts.
- See more at:
As Obama, His House And Senate Allies, His “Coalition Of The Willing”    Ramp Up The War Drums-Again- Stop The Bombings-Stop The Incessant Escalations-- Immediate Withdrawal Of All U.S. Troops And Mercenaries From The Middle East! –Stop The U. S. Arms Shipments …

Frank Jackman comment:

Nobel “Peace” Prize Winner, U.S. President Barack Obama (and yes that word peace should be placed in quotation marks every time that award winning is referenced), abetted by the usual suspects in the House and Senate as well as internationally (Britain, France, the NATO guys, etc.),  has over the past several months ordered more air bombing strikes in the north of Iraq and in Syria, has sent more “advisers”, another fifteen hundred most recently, to “protect” American outposts in Iraq and buck up the feckless Iraqi Army, has sent seemingly limitless arms shipments to the Kurds now acting as on the ground agents of American imperialism whatever their otherwise supportable desires for a unified Kurdish state, and has authorized supplies of arms to the cutthroat and ghost-like moderate Syrian opposition if it can be found to give weapons to,  quite a lot of war-like actions for a “peace” guy (maybe those quotation mark should be used anytime anyone is talking about Obama). All these actions, and threatened future ones as well, have made guys who served in the American military during the Vietnam War and who, like me, belatedly, got “religion” on the war issue from the experience, have learned to think long and hard about the war drums rising as a kneejerk way to resolve the conflicts in this wicked old world have made us very skeptical. We might very well be excused for our failed suspension of disbelief when the White House keeps pounding out the propaganda that these actions are limited when all signs point to the slippery slope of escalation (and the most recent hike of fifteen hundred kind of puts paid to that thought).

And during all this deluge Obama and company saying with a straight face the familiar (Vietnam-era familiar updated for the present)-“we seek no wider war”-meaning no American combat troops. Well if you start bombing places back to the Stone Age, or trying to, if you cannot rely on the weak-kneed Iraqi troops who have already shown what they are made of and cannot rely on a now virtually non-existent “Syrian Free Army” which you are willing to give whatever they want and will still come up short what do you think the next step will be? Now not every event in history gets repeated exactly but given the recent United States Government’s history in Iraq those old time Vietnam vets who I like to hang around might be on to something. In any case dust off the old banners, placards, and buttons and get your voices in shape- just in case. No New War In Iraq!–Stop The Bombings !- Stop The Arms Shipments!-Vote Down The Syria-Iraq War Budget Appropriations!     


No Killer/No Spy Drones...

Ever since the early days of humankind's existence an argument has always been made by someone and not always the gung-ho warriors that with some new technology, some new strategic gee-gad, warfare, the killing on one of our own species, would become less deadly, would be more morally justified, would bring the long hoped for peace that lots of people have yacked about in the abstract until they get their war blood up. Don't believe that false bill of goods, don't believe the sanity war lies, its the same old killing machine that has gone on for eons. Enough said and enough of killer drones killing and spy drones spying too.  

Friday, January 09, 2015

On The 110th Anniversary Of Russian Revolution of 1905 As We Honor Of The Three L’s –Lenin, Luxemburg, Liebknecht-Honor Another  Historic Leader Of The Russian Revolution-Leon Trotsky




Leon Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution is partisan history at its best. One does not and should not, at least in this day in age, ask historians to be ‘objective’. One simply asks that the historian present his or her narrative and analysis and get out of the way. Trotsky meets that criterion. Furthermore, in Trotsky’s case there is nothing like having a central actor in the drama he is narrating, who can also write brilliantly and wittily, give his interpretation of the important events and undercurrents swirling around Russia in 1917.

If you are looking for a general history of the revolution or want an analysis of what the revolution meant for the fate of various nations after World War I or its effect on world geopolitics look elsewhere. E.H. Carr’s History of the Russian Revolution offers an excellent multi-volume set that tells that story through the 1920’s. Or if you want to know what the various parliamentary leaders, both bourgeois and Soviet, were thinking and doing from a moderately leftist viewpoint read Sukhanov’s Notes on the Russian Revolution. For a more journalistic account John Reed’s classic Ten Days That Shook the World is invaluable. Trotsky covers some of this material as well. However, if additionally, you want to get a feel for the molecular process of the Russian Revolution in its ebbs and flows down at the base in the masses where the revolution was made Trotsky’s is the book for you.

The life of Leon Trotsky is intimately intertwined with the rise and decline of the Russian Revolution in the first part of the 20th century. As a young man, like an extraordinary number of talented Russian youth, he entered the revolutionary struggle against Czarism in the late 1890’s. Shortly thereafter he embraced what became a lifelong devotion to a Marxist political perspective. However, except for the period of the 1905 Revolution when Trotsky was Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet and later in 1912 when he tried to unite all the Russian Social Democratic forces in an ill-fated unity conference, which goes down in history as the ‘August Bloc’, he was essentially a free-lancer in the international socialist movement. At that time Trotsky saw the Bolsheviks as “sectarians” as it was not clear to him time that for socialist revolution to be successful the reformist and revolutionary wings of the movement had to be organizationally split. With the coming of World War I Trotsky drew closer to Bolshevik positions but did not actually join the party until the summer of 1917 when he entered the Central Committee after the fusion of his organization, the Inter-District Organization, and the Bolsheviks. This act represented an important and decisive switch in his understanding of the necessity of a revolutionary workers party to lead the socialist revolution.

As Trotsky himself noted, although he was a late-comer to the concept of a Bolshevik Party that delay only instilled in him a greater understanding of the need for a vanguard revolutionary workers party to lead the revolutionary struggles. This understanding underlined his political analysis throughout the rest of his career as a Soviet official and as the leader of the struggle of the Left Opposition against the Stalinist degeneration of the Russian Revolution. After his defeat at the hands of Stalin and his henchmen Trotsky wrote these three volumes in exile in Turkey from 1930 to 1932. At that time Trotsky was not only trying to draw the lessons of the Revolution from an historian’s perspective but to teach new cadre the necessary lessons of that struggle as he tried first reform the Bolshevik Party and the Communist International and then later, after that position became politically untenable , to form a new, revolutionary Fourth International. Trotsky was still fighting from this perspective in defense of the gains of the Russian Revolution when a Stalinist agent cut him down. Thus, without doubt, beyond a keen historian’s eye for detail and anecdote, Trotsky’s political insights developed over long experience give his volumes an invaluable added dimension not found in other sources on the Russian Revolution.

As a result of the Bolshevik seizure of power the so-called Russian Question was the central question for world politics throughout most of the 20th century. That central question ended (or left center stage, to be more precise) with the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s. However, there are still lessons, and certainly not all of them negative, to be learned from the experience of the Russian Revolution. Today, an understanding of this experience is a task for the natural audience for this book, the young alienated radicals of Western society. For the remainder of this review I will try to point out some issues raised by Trotsky which remain relevant today.

The central preoccupation of Trotsky’s volumes reviewed here and of his later political career concerns the problem of the crisis of revolutionary leadership of the international labor movement and its national components. That problem can be stated as the gap between the already existing objective conditions necessary for beginning socialist construction based on the current level of capitalist development and the immaturity or lack of revolutionary leadership to overthrow the old order. From the European Revolutions of 1848 on, not excepting the heroic Paris Commune, until his time the only successful working class revolution had been in led by the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917. Why? Anarchists may look back to the Paris Commune or forward to the Spanish Civil War in 1936 for solace but the plain fact is that absent a revolutionary party those struggles were defeated without establishing the prerequisites for socialism. History has indicated that a revolutionary party that has assimilated the lessons of the past and is rooted in the working class, allied with and leading the plebeian masses in its wake, is the only way to bring the socialist program to fruition. That hard truth shines through Trotsky’s three volumes. Unfortunately, this is still the central problem confronting the international labor movement today.

Trotsky makes an interesting note that despite the popular conception at the time, reinforced since by several historians, the February overthrow of the Czarist regime was not as spontaneous as one would have been led to believe in the confusion of the times. He noted that the Russian revolutionary movement had been in existence for many decades before that time, that the revolution of 1905 had been a dress rehearsal for 1917 and that before the World War temporarily halted its progress another revolutionary period was on the rise. If there had been no such experiences then those who argue for spontaneity would have grounds to stand on. The most telling point is that the outbreak occurred in Petrograd, not exactly unknown ground for revolutionary activities. Moreover, contrary to the worshipers of so-called spontaneity, this argues most strongly for a revolutionary workers party to be in place in order to affect the direction of the revolution from the beginning.

All revolutions, and the Russian Revolution is no exception, after the first flush of victory over the overthrown old regime, face attempts by the more moderate revolutionary elements to suppress counter-posed class aspirations, in the interest of unity of the various classes that made the initial revolution. Thus, we see in the English Revolution of the 17th century a temporary truce between the rising bourgeoisie and the yeoman farmers and pious urban artisans who formed the backbone of Cromwell’s New Model Army. In the Great French Revolution of the 18th century the struggle from the beginning depended mainly on the support of the lower urban plebian classes. Later other classes, particularly the peasantry through their parties, which had previously remained passive enter the arena and try to place a break on revolutionary developments.

Their revolutionary goals having been achieved in the initial overturn- for them the revolution is over. Those elements most commonly attempt to rule by way of some form of People’s Front government. This is a common term of art in Marxist terminology to represent a trans-class formation of working class and capitalist parties which have ultimately counter-posed interests. The Russian Revolution also suffered under a Popular Front period under various combinations and guises supported by ostensible socialists, the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries, from February to October. One of the keys to Bolshevik success in October was that, with the arrival of Lenin from exile in April, the Bolsheviks shifted their strategy and tactics to a position of political opposition to the parties of the popular front. Later history has shown us in Spain in the 1930’s and more recently in Chile in the 1970’s how deadly support to such popular front formations can be for revolutionaries and the masses influenced by them. The various parliamentary popular fronts in France, Italy and elsewhere show the limitations in another less dramatic but no less dangerous fashion. In short, political support for Popular Fronts means the derailment of the revolution or worst. This is a hard lesson, paid for in blood, that all manner of reformist socialists try deflect or trivialize in pursuit of being at one with the ‘masses’. Witness today’s efforts, on much lesser scale, by ostensible socialists to get all people of ‘good will, etc.’, including liberal and not so liberal Democrats under the same tent in the opposition to the American invasion of Iraq.

One of Trotsky’s great skills as a historian is the ability to graphically demonstrate that within the general revolutionary flow there are ebbs and flows that either speed up the revolutionary process or slow it down. This is the fate of all revolutions and in the case of failed revolutions can determine the political landscape for generations. The first definitive such event in the Russian Revolution occurred in the so-called "April Days" after it became clear that the then presently constituted Provisional Government intended to continue participation on the Allied side in World War I and retain the territorial aspirations of the Czarist government in other guises. This led the vanguard of the Petrograd working class to make a premature attempt to bring down that government. However, the vanguard was isolated and did not have the authority needed to be successful at that time. The most that could be done was the elimination of the more egregious ministers. Part of the problem here is that no party, unlike the Bolsheviks in the events of the "July Days" has enough authority to hold the militants back, or try to. These events only underscore, in contrast to the anarchist position, the need for an organized revolutionary party to check such premature impulses. Even then, the Bolsheviks in July took the full brunt of the reaction by the government with the jailing of their leaders and suppression of their newspapers supported wholeheartedly by the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionary Parties.

The Bolsheviks were probably the most revolutionary party in the history of revolutions. They certainly were the most consciously revolutionary in their commitment to political program, organizational form and organizational practices. Notwithstanding this, before the arrival in Petrograd of Lenin from exile the Bolshevik forces on the ground were, to put it mildly, floundering in their attitude toward political developments, especially their position on so-called critical support to the Provisional Government (read, Popular Front). Hence, in the middle of a revolutionary upsurge it was necessary to politically rearm the party. This political rearmament was necessary to expand the party’s concept of when and what forces would lead the current revolutionary upsurge. In short, mainly through Lenin’s intervention, the Party needed to revamp its old theory of "the democratic dictatorship of the working class and the peasantry" to the new conditions which placed the socialist program i.e. the dictatorship of the proletariat on the immediate agenda. Informally, the Bolsheviks, or rather Lenin individually, came to the same conclusions that Trotsky had analyzed in his theory of Permanent Revolution prior to the Revolution of 1905. This reorientation was not done without a struggle in the party against those forces who did not want to separate with the reformist wing of the Russian workers and peasant parties, mainly the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries.

This should be a sobering warning to those who argue, mainly from an anarchist or anarcho-syndicalist position, that a revolutionary party is not necessary. The dilemma of correctly aligning strategy and tactics even with a truly revolutionary party can be problematic. The tragic outcome in Spain in the 1930’s abetted by the confusion on this issue by the Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) and the Durrutti-led left anarchists, the most honestly revolutionary organizations at the time, painfully underscores this point. This is why Trotsky came over to the Bolsheviks and why he drew that lesson on the organization question very sharply for the rest of his political career.

The old-fashioned, poorly trained, inadequately led peasant-based Russian Army took a real beating at the hands of the more modern, mechanized and disciplined German armies on the Eastern Front in World War I. The Russian Army, furthermore, was at the point of disintegration just prior to the February Revolution. Nevertheless, the desperate effort on the part of the peasant soldier, essentially declassed from his traditional role on the land by the military mobilization, was decisive in overthrowing the monarchy. Key peasant reserve units placed in urban garrisons, and thus in contact with the energized workers, participated in the struggle to end the war and get back to the take the land while they were still alive. Thus from February on, the peasant army through coercion or through inertia was no longer a reliable vehicle for any of the various combinations of provisional governmental ministries to use. In the Army’s final flare-up in defense, or in any case at least remaining neutral, of placing all power into Soviet hands it acted as a reserve, an important one, but nevertheless a reserve. Only later when the Whites in the Civil War came to try to take the land did the peasant soldier again exhibit a willingness to fight and die. Such circumstances as a vast peasant war are not a part of today’s revolutionary strategy, at least in advanced capitalist society. In fact, today only under exceptional conditions would a revolutionary socialist party support, much less advocate the popular Bolshevik slogan-‘land to the tiller’ to resolve the agrarian question. The need to split the armed forces, however, remains.

Not all revolutions exhibit the massive breakdown in discipline that occurred in the Russian army- the armed organ that defends any state- but it played an exceptional role here. However, in order for a revolution to be successful it is almost universally true that the existing governmental authority can no longer rely on normal troop discipline. If this did not occasionally occur revolution generally would be impossible as untrained plebeians are no match for trained soldiers. Moreover, the Russian peasant army reserves were exceptional in that they responded to the general democratic demand for "land to the tiller" that the Bolsheviks were the only party to endorse and, moreover, were willing to carry out to the end. In the normal course of events the peasant, as a peasant on the land, cannot lead a modern revolution in even a marginally developed industrial state. It has more often been the bulwark for reaction; witness its role in the Paris Commune and Bulgaria in 1923, for examples, more than it has been a reliable ally of the urban masses. However, World War I put the peasant youth of Russia in uniform and gave them discipline, for a time at least, that they would not have otherwise had to play even a subordinate role in the revolution. Later revolutions based on peasant armies, such as China, Cuba and Vietnam, confirm this notion that only exceptional circumstances, mainly as part of a military formation, permit the peasantry a progressive role in a modern revolution.

Trotsky is politically merciless toward the Menshevik and Social Revolutionary leaderships that provided the crucial support for the Provisional Governments between February and October in their various guises and through their various crises. Part of the support of these parties for the Provisional Government stemmed from their joint perspectives that the current revolution was a limited bourgeois one and so therefore they could go no further than the decrepit bourgeoisie of Russia was willing to go. Given its relationships with foreign capital that was not very far. Let us face it, these allegedly socialist organizations in the period from February to October betrayed the interest of their ranks on the question of immediate peace, of the redistribution of the land, and a democratic representative government.

This is particularly true after their clamor for the start of the ill-fated summer offensive on the Eastern Front and their evasive refusal to convene a Constituent Assembly to ratify the redistribution of the land. One can chart the slow but then rapid rise of Bolsheviks influence in places when they did not really exist when the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries, formerly the influential parties of those areas, moved to the right. All those workers, peasants, soldiers, whatever political organizations they adhered to formally, who wanted to make a socialist revolution naturally gravitated to the Bolsheviks. Such movement to the left by the masses is always the case in times of crisis in a period of revolutionary upswing. The point is to channel that energy for the seizure of power.

The ‘August Days’ when the ex-Czarist General Kornilov attempted a counterrevolutionary coup and Kerensky, head of the Provisional Government, in desperation asked the Bolsheviks to use their influence to get the Kronstadt sailors to defend that government points to the ingenuity of the Bolshevik strategy. A point that has been much misunderstood since then, sometimes willfully, by many leftist groups is the Bolshevik tactic of military support- without giving political support- to bourgeois democratic forces in the struggle against right wing forces ready to overthrow democracy. The Bolsheviks gave Kerensky military support while at the same time politically agitating, particularly in the Soviets and within the garrison, to overthrow the Provisional Government.

Today, an approximation of this position would take the form of not supporting capitalist war budgets, parliamentary votes of no confidence, independent extra-parliamentary agitation and action, etc. Granted this principled policy on the part of the Bolsheviks is a very subtle maneuver but it is miles away from giving blanket military and political support to forces that you will eventually have to overthrow. The Spanish revolutionaries in the 1930’s, even the most honest grouped in the Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) learned this lesson the hard way when that party, despite its equivocal political attitude toward the popular front, was suppressed and the leadership jailed by the Negrin government despite having military units at the front in the fight against Franco.

As I write this review we are in the fourth year of the American-led Iraq war. For those who opposed that war from the beginning or have come to oppose it the victory of the Bolshevik Revolution shows the way to really end a fruitless and devastating war. In the final analysis if one really wants to end an imperialist war one has to overthrow the imperialist powers. This is a hard truth that most of even the best of today’s anti-war activists have been unable to grasp. It is not enough to plead, petition or come out in massive numbers to ask politely that the government stop its obvious irrational behavior. Those efforts are helpful for organizing the opposition but not to end the conflict on just terms. The Bolsheviks latched onto and unleashed the greatest anti-war movement in history to overthrow a government which was still committed to the Allied war effort against all reason. After taking power in the name of the Soviets, in which it had a majority, the Bolsheviks in one of its first acts pulled Russia out of the war. History provides no other way for us to stop imperialist war. Learn this lesson.

The Soviets, or workers councils, which sprang up first in the Revolution of 1905 and then almost automatically were resurrected after the February 1917 overturn of the monarchy, are merely a convenient and appropriate organization form for the structure of workers power. Communists and other pro-Communist militants, including this writer, have at times made a fetish of this organizational form because of its success in history. As an antidote to such fetishism a good way to look at this form is to note, as Trotsky did, that a Soviet led by Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries does not lead to the seizure of power. That tells the tale. This is why Lenin, in the summer of 1917, was looking to the factory committees as an alternative to jump-start the second phase of the revolution.

Contrary to the anarchist notion of merely local federated forms of organization or no organization, national Soviets are the necessary form of government in the post- seizure of power period. However, they may not be adequate for the task of seizing power. Each revolution necessarily develops its own forms of organization. In the Paris Commune of 1871 the Central Committee of the National Guard was the logical locus of governmental power. In the Spanish Civil War of 1936 the Central Committee of the Anti-Fascist Militias and the factory committees could have provided such a focus. Enough said.

For obvious tactical reasons it is better for a revolutionary party to take power in the name of a pan-class organization, like the Soviets, than in the name of a single party like the Bolsheviks. This brings up an interesting point because, as Trotsky notes, Lenin was willing to take power in the name of the party if conditions warranted it. Under the circumstances I believe that the Bolsheviks could have taken it in their own name but, and here I agree with Trotsky, that it would have been harder for them to keep it. Moreover, they had the majority in the All Russian Soviet and so it would be inexplicable if they took power solely in their own name. That, after a short and unsuccessful alliance with the Left Social Revolutionary Party in government, it came down to a single party does not negate this conclusion. Naturally, a pro-Soviet multi-party system where conflicting ideas of social organization along socialist lines can compete is the best situation. However, history is a cruel taskmaster at times. That, moreover, as the scholars say, is beyond the scope this review and the subject for further discussion.

The question of whether to seize power is a practical one for which no hard and fast rules apply. An exception is that it important to have the masses ready to go when the decision is made. In fact, it is probably not a bad idea to have the masses a little overeager to insurrect. One mistaken assumption, however, is that power can be taken at any time in a revolutionary period. As the events of the Russian Revolution demonstrate this is not true because the failure to have a revolutionary party ready to roll means that there is a fairly short window of opportunity. In Trotsky’s analysis this can come down to a period of days. In the actual case of Russia he postulated that that time was probably between late September and December. That analysis seems reasonable. In any case, one must have a feel for timing in revolution as well as in any other form of politics. The roll call of unsuccessful socialist revolutions in the 20th century in Germany, Hungary, Finland, Bulgaria, Spain, etc. only painfully highlights this point.

Many historians and political commentators have declared the Bolshevik seizure of power in October a coup d’├ętat. That is facile commentary. If one wants to do harm to the notion of a coup d’├ętat in the classic sense of a closed military conspiracy a la Blanqui this cannot stand up to examination. First, the Bolsheviks were an urban civilian party with at best tenuous ties to military knowledge and resources. Even simple military operations like the famous bank expropriations after the 1905 Revolution were mainly botched and gave them nothing but headaches with the leadership of the pre- World War I international social democracy. Secondly, and decisively, Bolshevik influence over the garrison in Petrograd and eventually elsewhere precluded such a necessity. Although, as Trotsky noted, conspiracy is an element of any insurrection this was in fact an ‘open’ conspiracy that even the Kerensky government had to realize was taking place. The Bolsheviks relied on the masses just as we should.

With almost a century of hindsight and knowing what we know now it is easy to see that the slender social basis for the establishment of Soviet power by the Bolsheviks in Russia was bound to create problems. Absent international working class revolution, particularly in Germany, which the Bolsheviks factored into their decisions to seize power, meant, of necessity, that there were going to be deformations even under a healthy workers regime. One, as we have painfully found out, cannot after all build socialism in one country. Nevertheless this begs the question whether at the time the Bolsheviks should have taken power. A quick look at the history of revolutions clearly points out those opportunities are infrequent. You do not get that many opportunities to seize power and try to change world history for the better so you best take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves.

As mentioned above, revolutionary history is mainly a chronicle of failed revolutionary opportunities. No, the hell with all that. Take working class power when you can and let the devil take the hinder post. Let us learn more than previous generations of revolutionaries, but be ready. This is one of the political textbooks you need to read if you want to change the world. Read it.

On The 110th Anniversary Of Russian Revolution of 1905 As We Honor Of The Three L’s –Lenin, Luxemburg, Liebknecht-Honor An Historic Leader Of The American Labor Movement-“Big Bill Haywood 




Book Review

Big Bill Haywood, Melvyn Dubofsky, Manchester University Press, Manchester England, 1987


If you are sitting around today wondering, as I occasionally do, what a modern day radical labor leader should look like then one need go no further than to observe the career, warts and all, of the legendary Bill Haywood. To previous generations of radicals that name would draw an automatic response. Today’s radicals, and others interested in social solutions to the pressing problems that have been bestowed on us by the continuation of the capitalist mode of production, may not be familiar with the man and his program for working class power. Professor Dubofsky’s little biographical sketch is thus just the cure for those who need a primer on this hero of the working class.

The good professor goes into some detail, despite limited accessibility, about Haywood’s early life out in the Western United States in the late 19th century. Those hard scrabble experiences made a huge imprint on the young Haywood as he tramped from mining camp to mining camp and tried to make ends mean, any way he could. Haywood, moreover, is the perfect example of the fact that working class political consciousness is not innate but gained through the hard experiences of life under the capitalist system. Thus, Haywood moved from itinerant miner to become a leading member of the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) and moved leftward along the political spectrum along the way. Not a small part in that was due to his trial on trumped up charges in Idaho for murder as part of a labor crackdown against the WFM by the mine owners and their political allies there.

As virtually all working class militants did at the turn of the 20th century, Big Bill became involved with the early American socialist movement and followed the lead of the sainted Eugene V. Debs. As part of the ferment of labor agitation during this period the organization that Haywood is most closely associated with was formed-The Industrial Workers of the World (hereafter IWW, also known as Wobblies). This organization- part union, part political party- was the most radical expression (far more radical than the rather tepid socialist organizations) of the American labor movement in the period before World War I.

The bulk of Professor Dubofsky’s book centers, as it should, on Haywood’s exploits as a leader of the IWW. Big Bill’s ups and downs mirrored the ups and downs of the organization. The professor goes into the various labor fights that Haywood led highlighted by the great 1912 Lawrence strike (of bread and roses fame), the various free speech fights but also the draconian Wilsonian policy toward the IWW after America declared war in 1917. That governmental policy essentially crushed the IWW as a mass working class organization. Moreover, as a leader Haywood personally felt the full wrath of the capitalist government. Facing extended jail time Haywood eventually fled to the young Soviet republic where he died in lonely exile in 1928.

The professor adequately tackles the problem of the political and moral consequences of that escape to Russia for the IWW and to his still imprisoned comrades so I will not address it here. However, there are two points noted by Dubofsky that warrant comment. First, he notes that Big Bill was a first rate organizer in both the WFM and the IWW. Those of us who are Marxists sometimes tend to place more emphasis of the fact that labor leaders need to be “tribunes of the people” that we sometimes neglect the important “trade union secretary” part of the formula. Haywood seems to have had it all. Secondly, Haywood’s and the IWW’s experience with government repression during World War I, repeated in the “Red Scare” experience of the 1950’s against Communists and then later against the Black Panthers in the 1960’s should be etched into the brain of every militant today. When the deal goes down the capitalists and their hangers-on will do anything to keep their system. Anything. That said, read this Haywood primer. It is an important contribution to the study of American labor history.

On The 110th Anniversary Of Russian Revolution of 1905 As We Honor Of The Three L’s –Lenin, Luxemburg, Liebknecht- -Honor An Historic Leader Of The American Socialist Left-James P. Cannon  




Markin comment on founding member James P. Cannon and the early American Communist Party taken from a book review on the American Left History blog archives from 2006:


If you are interested in the history of the American Left or are a militant trying to understand some of the past mistakes of our history and want to know some of the problems that confronted the early American Communist Party and some of the key personalities, including James Cannon, who formed that party this book is for you.


At the beginning of the 21st century after the demise of the Soviet Union and the apparent ‘death of communism’ it may seem fantastic and utopian to today’s militants that early in the 20th century many anarchist, socialist, syndicalist and other working class militants of this country coalesced to form an American Communist Party. For the most part, these militants honestly did so in order to organize an American socialist revolution patterned on and influenced by the Russian October Revolution of 1917. James P. Cannon represents one of the important individuals and faction leaders in that effort and was in the thick of the battle as a central leader of the Party in this period. Whatever his political mistakes at the time, or later, one could certainly use such a militant leader today. His mistakes were the mistakes of a man looking for a revolutionary path.


For those not familiar with this period a helpful introduction by the editors gives an analysis of the important fights which occurred inside the party. That overview highlights some of the now more obscure personalities (a helpful biographical glossary is provided), where they stood on the issues and insights into the significance of the crucial early fights in the party.


These include questions which are still relevant today; a legal vs. an underground party; the proper attitude toward parliamentary politics; support to third party bourgeois candidates ;trade union policy; class war defense as well as how to rein in the intense internal struggle of the various factions for organizational control of the party. This makes it somewhat easier for those not well-versed in the intricacies of the political disputes which wracked the early American party to understand how these questions tended to pull it in on itself. In many ways, given the undisputed rise of American imperialism in the immediate aftermath of World War I, this is a story of the ‘dog days’ of the party. Unfortunately, that rise combined with the international ramifications of the internal disputes in the Russian Communist Party and in the Communist International shipwrecked the party as a revolutionary party toward the end of this period.


In the introduction the editors motivate the purpose for the publication of the book by stating the Cannon was the finest Communist leader that America had ever produced. This an intriguing question. The editors trace their political lineage back to Cannon’s leadership of the early Communist Party and later after his expulsion to the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party so their perspective is obvious. What does the documentation provided here show? I would argue that the period under study represented Cannon’s apprenticeship. Although the hothouse politics of the early party clarified some of the issues of revolutionary strategy for him I believe that it was not until he linked up with Trotsky in the late 1920’s that he became the kind of leader who could lead a revolution. Of course, since Cannon never got a serious opportunity to lead revolutionary struggles in America this is mainly reduced to speculation on my part. Later books written by him make the case better. One thing is sure- in his prime he had the instincts to want to lead a revolution.


As an addition to the historical record of this period this book is a very good companion to the two-volume set by Theodore Draper - The Roots of American Communism and Soviet Russia and American Communism- the definitive study on the early history of the American Communist Party. It is also a useful companion to Cannon’s own The First Ten Years of American Communism. I would add that this is something of a labor of love on the part of the editors. This book was published at a time when the demise of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe was in full swing and anything related to Communist studies was deeply discounted. Nevertheless, for better or worse, the American Communist Party (and its offshoots) needs to be studied as an ultimately flawed example of a party that failed in its mission to create a radical version of society in America. Now is the time to study this history.