Resources for a 21st century Marxism – Paul Le Blanc interviewed by New Left Project

Egyptian revolutionary socialist in Tahrir square

Paul Le Blanc, co-editor of Leon Trotsky: Writings in Exile and Revolution, Democracy, Socialism: Selected Writings of V.I. Lenin, spoke to Ed Lewis from New Left Project about the Get Political campaign:

It seemed to me that the Lenin, Luxemburg and Trotsky volumes could be taken as a sort of trilogy. Here were three revolutionary activists, steeped in the Marxist tradition and devoted to the struggles of the working class, who made distinctive analytical contributions to an understanding of capitalist society, and to strategic, tactical, and organizational orientations within the global labour movement. Each was critical-minded and creative, having some significant differences with each other, but also sharing considerable common ground. Taken together they provide a rich and multifaceted body of ideas that still has relevance to the world we live in. We knew that there were others who felt the same way as we did – and it seemed natural to draw some of them into an effort to help generate interest in the ideas of these prominent revolutionary figures.

This resulted in our drawing up the statement “Get Political – It’s Time” and then gathering signers for it. Our discussion of this plan also stimulated the conceptualization of a special Pluto Press web site, with study guides and informative slide-shows and relevant links, which would further encourage people to consider and wrestle with what Lenin, Luxemburg, and Trotsky had to offer.

Paul discusses how Trotsky, Lenin and Luxemburg might be relevant in an age where radical politics seems to be moving in a ‘horizontalist’ and ‘non-ideological’ direction:

Several themes in the writings of these three revolutionaries deserve special attention from today’s activists. Lenin, Luxemburg and Trotsky each focused serious attention on the intersection and interplay of class, race, nationality, and gender in the struggle for human liberation. All three also provided a clear understanding of the centrality of revolutionary internationalism in the development of strategic orientations – Trotsky quite dramatically with his theory of uneven and combined development from which flows his distinctive theory of permanent revolution. Both Lenin and Luxemburg, each in their own way, did the same in advancing an understanding of imperialism as the framework for the global politics within which all of our struggles evolve. There is also the centrality of genuine democracy to the very realization of socialism. This is at the heart of Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, which holds that democratic struggles can only be fully realized through uncompromising struggles of the working class, whose victory puts socialism on the agenda – a point also found in Lenin’s writings especially under the impact of World War I. The fact that both compromised their democratic commitments after the 1917 revolution, as the catastrophe of civil war overtook Russia, brought an illuminating pro-democratic challenge from their comrade Rosa Luxemburg – though she was, no less than them, a key figure in the early Communist movement.

Among Luxemburg’s other contributions were her critique of non-revolutionary reformism, and her explanation of the interrelationship of struggles for life-giving reforms and revolutionary transformation. Luxemburg led the way in exploring spontaneous or semi-spontaneous mass strikes and mass action, and their link with the day-to-day work and strategic orientations of socialist organizations. The vital necessity of such organizations was stressed by Luxemburg, Trotsky, and Lenin alike – although it was certainly Lenin who led the way in richly theorizing their specifics. The united front tactic – advancing broad and unified struggles by an alliance groups, without compromising revolutionary principles – was also developed by Lenin, but also taken up and applied to new contexts by Trotsky. Politically active for roughly twenty years longer than Luxemburg and Lenin, Trotsky could also analyze fascism and Stalinism, as well as the further evolution of bureaucracy in the workers’ movement.

Such political resources, I think, have obvious relevance even now. Activists should consider their value for future struggles.

Visit New Left Project to read the interview in full.

Leon Trotsky

Writings in Exile

Leon Trotsky, edited by Kunal Chattopadhyay and Paul Le Blanc

Introduces the writings of Leon Trotsky.

“Leon Trotsky stands as a shining beacon amid the revolutionary events of our epoch. Out of the vast ideological arsenal he produced, Trotsky always considered that his most important works were those from his years in exile, which remain essential reading for those seeking to bring about fundamental change today. Kunal Chattopadhyay and Paul Le Blanc have done a great service in helping to make available, in a single volume, these texts to new generations of revolutionary activists.” – Esteban Volkow, Grandson of Leon Trotsky and President of the Board, Leon Trotsky House Museum, Coyoacan, Mexico

“This bracing book provides theoretical nourishment for our times, just as millions take to the streets worldwide demanding a just economic system. Leon Trotsky hit the world stage as President of the St. Petersburg Soviet in the 1905 Russian Revolution. … Trotsky continues to educate and inspire, his flame refuses to be extinguished.” – Suzi Weissman, Professor of Politics, Saint Mary’s College of California

£14.99 only £13.00 on the Pluto site

Revolution, Democracy, Socialism

Selected Writings of V.I. Lenin

V. I. Lenin, edited by Paul Le Blanc

The first serious collection of Lenin’s writings for decades. Editor Paul Le Blanc argues that Lenin was committed to democracy.

“We desperately need the resurrection and revival of the kind of strategic thinking and principled commitment that Lenin epitomised in the era of 1917, and all that it promised. For those interested in this rebirth of the politics of alternative to capitalism, Paul Le Blanc’s account of the democratic, socialist, and revolutionary Lenin will prove indispensable. Reading it is a reminder that what is, need not be, and that what has, seemingly, failed, can be reconstituted anew.” – Professor Bryan Palmer, Trent University

£14.99 only £13.00 on the Pluto site

Rosa Luxemburg: Socialism or Barbarism

Selected Writings

Rosa Luxemburg, edited by Paul Le Blanc and Helen C. Scott

The best introduction to the range of Rosa Luxemburg’s thought, including a number of writings never before anthologised.

“Rosa Luxemburg has never been more relevant! Here, at last, in a single volume is an accessible introduction to one of the most important radical political thinkers of the 20th century with analysis and insight for a new generation of activist.” – Elaine Bernard, Executive Director of the Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School

£12.99 only £11.50 on the Pluto site

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