Boris Souvarine: Black October – Ten Years of the Russian Revolution (1927)

“Leninism is the Opium of the International”

Boris Souvarine (1895-1984) was a co-founder of the French Communist Party and activist in the Communist International. He broke from the party in 1924 and became a critical supporter and part of the anti-Stalinist opposition within the international communist movement, observing and analysing the degeneration of the Bolsheviks from a revolutionary force to the political organisation of a new ruling stratum in Soviet Russia. When discussing if and how to address the centenary of the Russian October Revolution in datacide, we came across the text Black October by Souvarine. This text appeared in 1927 in the journal Bulletin Communiste, one of the mouthpieces of the communist opposition in France. This insightful text has, as far as we can see, never been translated into English before. With hindsight it can be judged as too optimistic despite its harsh criticisms of the regime, but the catastrophic developments that turned the Bolshevik takeover into a full fledged counter-revolution had not completely unravelled in 1927. Of course we are aware of the other critiques of Bolshevism coming from both left communist and anarchist circles, some of which are easily available in English. Others are still relatively obscure, especially the critiques from the French, Italian and German dissident Marxist milieus. We are documenting a crucial assessment of a particularly lucid writer for the first time in English here. Illustrations by a.a.a

The tenth anniversary of the October Revolution was a paradoxical celebration with many contradictions that obscured the general meaning of the evolution of the first proletarian state. [Read more →]

From Adorno to Mao, or: the Decomposition of the ’68 Protest Movement in Germany

Extended book review of:

Jens Benicke: Von Adorno zu Mao – über die schlechte
Aufhebung der antiautoritären Bewegung (ça ira, Freiburg im
Breisgau 2010)

Jens Benicke describes in his book the development of the German far left in the years around 1968 from positions strongly influenced and informed by the Critical Theory of Adorno, Horkheimer and Marcuse to the neo-leninist cadre organisations, which became in the 1970’s the strongest formation on the far left. In this article I’m using the book as a starting point to elaborate on some topics I touched upon in the text Hedonism and Revolution in datacide eleven.

The situation of the German Left after the War until 1967
The Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School provided an intellectual pole of critical Marxism amidst the general post-war West German anti-communist consensus. After the war, the holocaust, the eventual defeat of fascism and the ensuing occupation which produced two German states, the Institute for Social Research, originally founded in 1923 and exiled in 1933, finally returned to Frankfurt at the beginning of the 50’s, and took a unique place in the development of the left.
In terms of left wing organisations and parties which had reformed/ returned from exile after 1945, there were two key dates eventually leading to the student movement of the 60’s. In 1956, the Communist Party (KPD) was made illegal in West Germany.
In 1959, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) declared its transition from a workers party to a “people’s party” in its Godesberg Program. The more radical student organisation associated with the SPD, the SDS, didn’t go along with this move towards the political center. The SPD banned dual membership with the SDS and thus effectively expelled its members.
Far from being delivered to political oblivion, the SDS became the driving organizational force for the “extra-parliamentary opposition” (APO) in the 60’s. [Read more →]

Local Elections in England and Wales and the failure of the Left

The results are out and so is the mainstream analysis (and sorry for posting this a little bit late – you may have already forgotten). As a result of the May 1st elections, England and Wales have gone through a right wing shift, Boris Johnson has been elected mayor of London, and the Tories are on a roll to win the next General Election.

So what, you may think after the transformation of the Labour Party into “New Labour” there surely is very little difference between the two main parties in Britain. Many aspects of Thatcherism have been perpetuated by the Blair government, nothing whatsoever has been retracted or turned back. The poll tax fell when the Tories were still in power, the council tax was not abolished by Labour, nor were the amendments to the Criminal Justice Act 1994 revoked. Of course not. [Read more →]