Category Archives: Theory

Book reviews: State and Revolution and Terrorism and Communism

State and Revolution by V.I. Lenin

By: Barry Weisleder

In the midst of the storms of insurrection, V.I. Lenin wrote a book about workers’ democracy. It was in response to reformists and anarchists, though more in sympathy with the latter. Karl Kautsky, a leader of German social democracy, is exposed as a reformist who clings to the capitalist establishment uttering phrases all too familiar today: workers are not ready for radical change; just replace the top officials, the reformists say. Then the state can serve all, including the most oppressed. Lenin systematically eviscerates that claim.

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Terrorism and Communism by Leon Trotsky Pathfinder Press

This polemic against Karl Kautsky, the dean of European Marxism in the early 20th century, is not only a defence of the Russian Revolution (then in its third year), but agitates for a class-based approach to the state and the lessons of the Paris Commune of 1871.

The Verso edition of the book foists upon its readers a tortuous Foreword by Slavoj Zizek who sings along with the renegade Kautsky, contending that only a slight difference distinguishes Trotsky from the hangman Stalin. The Bolsheviks employed stern measures to give the first workers’ state a chance to survive attacks occurring on every side. Zizek accuses them of not being able “to perceive in the Stalinist terror the ultimate offspring of their own acts.” But he concludes more charitably: “In Trotsky, the dead Lenin continues to live like Joe Hill – he lives wherever there are people who still struggle for the same Idea.”

What is a revolution? Who is responsible for its maternal birth pangs? Is there a peaceful, parliamentary road to socialism? Can the class struggle be resolved by a vote in a legislature? What is the role of terror in past revolutions? Will the bourgeoisie abandon its booty without inflicting war and destruction? The Paris Commune of 1871 was a ‘working institution’, not a parliament, the French word for ‘talk shop.’ The Commune’s earnest strides forward were lost due to its lack of organization, its divided authority, and the terror of Adolphe Thiers and Versailles.

What is the dictatorship of the proletariat? It is the antidote to sadistic counter-revolution, which Paris suffered so completely.

System change entails much more than a Cabinet shuffle. “The policy of coalitions contradicts internally the regime of the revolutionary dictatorship.”

Pertaining to matters of life and death, on the knife edge of foreign intervention, Kerensky’s military policy is that of an ostrich.

Trotsky saw compulsory labour service as the temporary answer to economic prostration – to avoid turning the whole country into a peasant state. Improve transport, open up a period of machine building, and later produce articles for personal consumption. Electrification occurred by leaping over the age of steam.

He debates the one-man principle versus the collegiate approach to management, in a country with few capable managers to be trusted.

Kautsky presents the Russian working class as a collection of egoists, loafers and cowards. He says not a word about the conduct of the Russian bourgeoisie, nor does he excuse his apathy towards German and Entente militarism which erected an iron blockade around Russia. An open split with the reformists is inevitable, wrote Trotsky. Only the timing was to be determined. Evidently.

Book review: Unfinished Leninism

Paul Le Blanc and Leninism

By: Barry Weisleder

Accomplished historian and former SWP and SA-member Paul Le Blanc sets out in his “Unfinished Leninism” to defend the ideas of the great Russian revolutionist from the distortions and depredations of Lars Lihn, Pham Binh, Charles Post, and others. Le Blanc mostly succeeds. His book is an anthology of twelve essays he authored between 2007 and 2013. Taking up debates on the Marxist left, he ably summarizes the views of V.I. Lenin on revolutionary strategy and organization.

The Leninist party is indispensable, but according to Le Blanc, the workers’ movement is not ready; it is only at a pre-First International stage of consciousness. Members of many existing socialist tendencies will someday come together to build the needed party. Le Blanc, when he joined the International Socialist Organization, hoped it would be one of them — until it exploded as a result of sectarian abstention from struggle, including the anti-war movement. Incidentally, the demise of the ISO was triggered by a sex scandal. Lesson: Ignore policy and practice at one’s peril. If “Unfinished Leninism” means anything, it means that in this late phase of imperialist decay, more urgent than ever is the actual construction of Leninist parties with a principled praxis in the working class. Strive for the convergence of far-flung revolutionists, yes indeed. But don’t expect it to occur spontaneously, or without the exercise of sharp polemics. Lenin proved that over a century ago.leninismunfinished

Video of Education for Activists conference now available!

Video of each of the sessions at the Education for Activists conference, November 15-16, 2019 in Toronto is now available!

Working class politics — The crisis of the labour movement, lessons of the federal election, and a strategy to win.

Speakers: Dirka Prout, NDP candidate in London North-Centre; Barry Weisleder, federal secretary of Socialist Action Canada and Yvonne Hanson, NDP candidate in Vancouver Granville.

Capitalism versus Life on Earth. Is the answer the ‘free’ market, green capitalism, or mass anti-capitalist action?

Speakers: Ian Angus, editor, Climate and Capitalism; Gary Porter, leading member of SA based in Victoria, B.C.; Yvonne Hanson, NDP candidate in Vancouver Granville.

The Next Great Recession — The business cycle, decline in the rate of profit, and the socialist alternative.

Speakers: Dimitri Lascaris, lawyer, journalist, Montreal-based coordinator of Disruption Network Canada; John Clarke, founding member of Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, and Jeff Mackler, national secretary, Socialist Action-USA, and Rebecca Keetch, worker at GM Plant in Oshawa and UNIFOR Local 222 Political Action Committee and Education Committee.

Imperialism, Origins and nature of the system. Are Russia and China imperialist?

Speakers: Jeff Mackler, socialist candidate for President of the United States, and Robbie Mahood, leading member of SA/LAS Canada based in Montreal.

This session will open with Giovanna Riccio reading her poem about the public campaign to ‘Take the Plant’ at GM Oshawa, and George Elliott Clarke, National Poet Laureate, 2016-17, with an anti-imperialist poem.

Working Class Politics

presentation by Barry Weisleder on Working Class Politics at the Education for Activists conference in Toronto, November 2019.

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I taught high school for 35 years, but let me assure you this is not a civics class.  Feel free to take notes.  The only test will be life itself.  I will talk about the federal election.  First, let’s consider what is working class politics.

It begins with the fact that society is class divided.  There are two main classes:

1. The working class is at least 85% of society.  We sell our labour power to survive. Workers and nature are the source of all wealth, but we possess nearly zero economic and political power.

  1. The capitalist class, the less than 1% of society, produce almost nothing and have nearly total control of economic and political decision making, exercised through their state apparatus. The self-employed and managerial petty bourgeoisie, the intermediary 10 to 14% of the population, cling to the coat-tails of the capitalist class. They do its bidding.  In a deep crisis the petty bourgeoisie will split between the main classes. Most will go over to the working class if there is a mass revolutionary party.

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