Sunday, July 1, 2018
World Revolution, 1917–1936: The Rise and Fall of the Communist International (The C. L. R. James Archives) Paperback – August 11, 2017 by C. L. R. James (Author), Christian Høgsbjerg (Editor) ( Duke University Press)
This is a classic, contemporary contribution from 1937 written by a black, Carribean activist in the UK. For its era, this is a fairly original critique of Stalin's line for the Third International and the Soviet Union in the 'third period', but it is solidly Trotskyist, ie. grounded in the analysis of the Fourth International. Its thesis is that the failure of the German October uprising n 1923 by the Third International led, amidst the death of Lenin, to leadership crisis that saw Trotsky supplanted by Stalin and a corresponding corruption of the Comintern' s commitment to world revolution. Unique to C.L.R. James' approach is an emphasis on Lenin' s attachment to Marx and his notions of revolution fr om 1848 as an era of continuous class struggle, or as Trotsky put it, permanent revolution. Of interest is James's analysis of the international crisis In the 1930s, less perhaps for its devotion to the Fourth International than to the evident loss of a clear Marxist perspective in the twilight years of the inter-war era. Leninist Bolshevism was indeed as he argues based on a conviction that the era of imperialist war(s) of late capitalism ushered forth a trans-national, world crisis requiring an international political leadership of Marxist socialism imposed on the national sections of the Second International. But certainly the problem of this dialectical dilemma was that the world and permanent revolution meant a permanent world and civil war(s) led by a Leninist party of "a new type" (Trotsky's new Jesuits) that would become a surrogate, a substitute for the self- organized working class of Marx. Trotsky and Lenin had driven the revolution into the swamp much earlier, as early as November 1917 or by the crisis of 1921 associated with the Kronstadt affair.
The elusive revolution in Germany (in 1917/8, in 1918/29, in 1923/4, or 1929/33) refused to turn over into world revolution, and if Trotsky thought it was all that simple to form Soviets in Germany and lead workers militias against machine guns, he should have climbed down from ivory tower, picked up the red flag and led the charge himself. All in all the problem of transition, of revolution, war and civil war and its tragic and heroic qualities was best, most realistically confronted, not by Marx, Lenin, Trotsky or Stalin, but by Jack London, The Iron Heel...It would have meant an epochal struggle on the most unequal of terms and with horrendous sacrifice and victory would come only as a scientific fictional history. This book by James is a curiosity, worthy as a contribution to the Trotskyist controversies and as a tribute to black, Third World intellectuals and the tragedy of Marxist, revolutionary socialism.