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 →]

Marcel Bois: Kommunisten gegen Hitler und Stalin – Die linke Opposition der KPD in der Weimarer Republik – Eine Gesamtdarstellung (Book Review)

Marcel Bois
Kommunisten gegen Hitler und Stalin
Die linke Opposition der KPD in der Weimarer Republik – Eine Gesamtdarstellung
Klartext Verlag, Essen 2014
ISBN 978-3-8375-1282-3

boiskommunisten4

With this 600 page strong book Marcel Bois offers the first comprehensive overall presentation of the history and sociology of the left opposition of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in the 1920s and early 1930s. The emphasis is on a very detailed and scientifically documented depiction of those groups who left the KPD from the mid-20s onwards in the course of its Stalinisation. These were on the one hand the groups around the former leaders of the party such as Ruth Fischer, Arkadij Maslow and Werner Scholem, who with Hugo Urbahns and others, founded the Leninbund (Lenin-League). On the other hand there were the Entschiedene Linke (Decisive Left) and the Gruppe Kommunistische Politik around Ernst Schwarz and Karl Korsch respectively, as well as The Wedding Opposition and smaller groups like Bolschewistische Einheit (Bolshevik Unity). A bit later, the organisational roots of Trotskyism in Germany also emerged. The Spartakusbund linkskommunistischer Organisationen around Franz Pfemfert had a special position in the milieu of the left oppposition.

The founding conference of the KPD took place at the turn of the year 1918/1919 within two months of the end of World War I. Less than two weeks later, two of its most important leaders, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, were murdered. There were several attempts from this time through 1923 to make the revolution in Germany happen, which all failed. Already in 1919 a back-and-forth started between more ‘left’ or ‘right’ leaning leaderships, and as early as October 1919 a large section of the party’s left were expelled. The issues at stake were the rejection of elections to parliament and the Leninist party concept by the left. In April 1920 this left constituted the Communist Workers Party (Kommunistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands, KAPD), and took with them a large part of the membership of the KPD. This marked a decisive historical break in the international communist movement that was echoed in similar processes of regroupment in other countries. Lenin famously targeted the left with his nasty pamphlet “Left-Wing” Communism, An Infantile Disorder, denouncing its ‘opinion, declamations and angry ejaculations’ as ‘childish’, ‘particularly stupid’, ‘fundamentally wrong’ and amounting ‘to no more than empty phrase-mongering’. In the process he defended participation in parliamentary elections and reactionary unions, and effectively the dictatorship of the party over the dictatorship of the proletariat. The KPD in the meantime ditched the ‘right’ leadership under Paul Levi, who was appalled by the fact that the party had been dragged into the ‘putschist’ adventure of the ‘March Action’ in 1921. Levi then printed the previously unavailable – now famous – text by Rosa Luxemburg in which she severely criticised the Bolsheviks. [Read more →]