Solidarity for workers' power #7.11

Solidarity cover

Issue of Solidarity from mid-1974 with articles about the UWC strike, James Connolly, Paul Cardan, the ACTT and the WRP and more.

Submitted by Steven. on December 16, 2013


  • U.W.C. General Strike
  • 'The Pimp Between Man and His Need'
  • Monkey Business
  • Connollism - a review of James Connolly: Selected Writings and the ideas of the man himself.
  • Letter from Ford's Proletarian Man
  • Revolutionary Bureaucracy - an article on the nature of the bureaucratisation seen in the Russian Revolution.
  • A New Movement?
  • Eco-Politics at Leeds
  • Solidarity for Workers' Power
  • Wot? No Contradictions?



Connollism – Solidarity

Connollism – Solidarity
Connollism – Solidarity

A review in Solidarity for Workers' Power vol. 7, no. 11 of James Connolly: Selected Writings edited by P. Berresford Ellis and published by Pelican Books in 1973.

Submitted by robynkwinters on June 5, 2018

“The great only appear great because we are on our knees: let us rise!” This statement, attributed to Connolly, (although Camille Desmoulins apparently said it first) used to appear among the banners in Civil Rights marches in Ireland. It is perhaps ironic that Connolly himself should be so much the “great man” among Irish political thinkers, something like Marx among leftists as a whole. At least this new selection of his writings provides, in the absence of a complete Collected Works, a useful guide to the sort of things he actually said.


The longest single item in the book is “Labour, Nationality and Religion”, pp.57-117, written in 1910 to refute a clerical attack on socialism. Here Connolly is strongly critical of priests’ attitudes and the record of the Catholic Church as an institution, and applies materialist analytical methods to religious history. His personal position on religion, however, remained at best ambivalent (1). He maintained that “Socialism is neither Protestant nor Catholic, Christian nor Freethinker, Buddhist, Mahometan or Jew; it is only HUMAN” (p. 117), and that personal religious beliefs were not relevant to politics.

This is to ignore the function of religious ideology, as a reactionary social force and a factor in the individual’s repression and authoritarian conditioning. Anyone who denies, either from a mechanistic materialist outlook or from concentration on “politics” as such, that such psychological influences are highly significant, runs the risk of perpetuating all sorts of ruling class assumptions. Connolly was not alone in falling into this trap. The results are apparent throughout his writings (2).


A good illustration of how received ideas can operate simultaneously with revolutionary intentions is provided by Connolly’s attitude to the emancipation of women. In the section on “Women’s Rights” the editor presents us with (pp. 189-195) an excerpt from “The Reconquest of Ireland”, 1915. In it Connolly follows Engels’ explanation of the “Origin of the Family”, describes the specific economic oppression of women in society, and in Ireland in particular – not without perception and sympathy – and expresses support for the women’s movement. “But”, he concludes, “whosoever carries the outworks of the citadel of oppression, the working class alone can raze it to the ground”, which assumes a separation between women and the working class, and accords only marginal status to women’s struggles. A similar attitude was apparent in the controversy with De Leon over August Bebel’s book Woman. Connolly was not under the illusion that economic revolution would bring the solution to all women’s problems, but neither did he see sexual and psychological questions as having a direct bearing on the revolution itself (3).

It would be a mistake to think that nothing more could be expected, even from conscious socialists, in the first decade of this century. Already the long tradition of sexual repression was meeting fundamental challenges, not only in theoretical works like Bebel’s but in the life styles of women and men (4). Even in Ireland we have an example of a more genuinely radical approach in the life and writings of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington (5). Connolly, however, continued to make assumptions about “morality”, “duty”, and the desirability of monogamy which have quite counter-liberatory implications (6).


What Connolly did regard as vital to the struggle for socialism was industrial organisation. He ascribed the weakness of the existing trade unions, as weapons of defence and as means of raising class consciousness, to their organisation on a craft basis, and became a strong advocate of industrial unionism (pp. 147-185). For this reason he is often described as a syndicalist, especially by syndicalists. But his ideas were in many respects different from those of anarcho-syndicalists.

For example, although he saw the conquest of economic power, through industrial unionism, as primary (p. 163), even considering that “the Socialism which is not an outgrowth and expression of that economic struggle is not worth a moment’s serious consideration” (p. 165), he also considered it “ABSOLUTELY INDISPENSIBLE FOR THE EFFICIENT TRAINING OF THE WORKING CLASS ALONG CORRECT LINES THAT ACTION AT THE BALLOT BOX SHOULD ACCOMPANY ACTION IN THE WORKSHOP” (p. 159, his emphasis). Later, of course, he chose to make the bid for political power by means of insurrection instead, considering that revolutionary action was appropriate to extraordinary times.

In considering the future society, Connolly envisaged “social democracy” proceeding from the bottom upwards, but “administered by a committee of experts elected from the industries and professions of the land” (p. 151). This was intended to avoid bureaucracy, and extend the freedom of the individual, blending “the fullest democratic control with the most absolute expert supervision” (p. 152). In fact, as subsequent history has shown, reserving a special role for “experts” invites a new bureaucracy to create and perpetuate itself.

The same idea that certain people, whether called leadership, vanguard or experts, have a special function is present in Connolly’s strategy for struggle. He endorsed (p. 167) the statement of the Communist Manifesto that “the Socialists are not apart from the Labour movement, are not a sect, but simply that part of the working class which pushes all others, which most clearly understands the line of march”. In the industrial organisation he eventually suggested a form of Cabinet, with “the power to call out members of any union when such action is desirable, and explain the reasons for it afterwards” (p. 184).

Admittedly this is not the whole picture. Connolly also wrote in favour of the retention of officials “only as long as they can show results in the amelioration of the conditions of their members and the development of their union as a weapon of class warfare” (p. 180). He contended that “the fighting spirit of comradeship in the rank and file was more important than the creation of the most theoretically perfect organisation – which could indeed be the greatest possible danger to the revolutionary movement if tending to curb this fighting spirit” (p. 176). He was aware that the “Greater Unionism” might serve to load the working class with greater fetters if infused with the spirit of the old type of officialism (p. 180).

All the same there are enough signs that his ideas on organisation left the way open for the domination of a minority group of leaders (7). And the record of a “great Industrial Union” such as the American U.A.W. (8) shows that the creation of “One Big Union” only gives such a group more scope for exercising bureaucratic power.


Perhaps the aspect of Connolly’s thought most relevant to the present time is his concern with Irish nationalism. He was concerned with it despite socialist internationalism, despite the effort to continue emphasising the class struggle, despite the ability to see through the aims of straight Nationalists.

It has been observed that the sense of Connolly’s writings is the sense of revolutionary movements in the underdeveloped world today (9); certainly they have a lot in common with the ideology of “national liberation” as supported by so much of the left. We can find most of it here: emphasis on the “main” – imperialist – enemy and his foreign-ness, on the specific oppression of the natives and their assumed common interest in liberation, on the importance of this conflict along with the claim to be engaged in class politics.

Even the well known statement “If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain” continues: “England would still rule you…” (p. 124). The text in which this is contained, from “Shan Van Vocht”, January 1897, is all the same a more convincing attempt to get to grips with socialism and nationalism than many of Connolly’s later efforts. It is a long way from the emotive nationalist rhetoric with which he celebrated his own hoisting of the green flag over Liberty Hall in April 1916 (pp. 143-5), but the progression is not accidental. The supposedly saving clause about the cause labour being the cause of Ireland and vice versa is still present.

The point is not whether Connolly continued to believe in class struggle and had some sort of vision of a socialist future, but whether the tendency of his thought and action was consistent with this. In fact the Irish dimension led him into tortuous paths which are now familiar. Although in an ideal society states were to be mere geographical expressions (p. 152), the validity of the concept of a nation is assumed to be self-evident, and “peoples” are entities capable of autonomy. The notion that “the enemy of my enemy must be my friend” is made explicit in Connolly’s pro-German stance during the First World War (p. 259) “the instinct of the slave to take sides with whoever is the enemy of his own particular slave-driver is a healthy instinct and makes for freedom”. The German Empire is also represented as being more “progressive” (10).

But socialist ideas about progressive development were not followed uncritically. “North East Ulster” (p. 263) is described as being contrary to all Socialist theories, “the home of the least rebellious slaves in the industrial world” while “Dublin, on the other hand, has more strongly developed working class feeling than any city of its size in the globe”. In practice, the “least rebellious slaves” were to be denied the right to opt out of Connolly’s “United Ireland – and Ireland broad based upon the union of Labour and Nationality” (p. 279); the project of letting them vote on the question of partition was denounced (p. 283).

Connolly tended to get exasperated with British and other socialists who called critical attention to his nationalism (11), asserting the need for an indigenous Irish socialist party with its own literature. Perhaps he would be better pleased with some of their present-day counter-parts of the left. At least he had the excuse of lacking the evidence we now have of what “national liberation” regimes mean in practice, and how far they are from leading to socialism.


In 1897 Connolly regarded “the unfortunate insurrectionism of the early socialists” (p. 125) as having been abandoned by modern Socialism in favour of the “slower, but surer method of the ballot-box”. He continued to advocate the parliamentary road, although ideally the socialist vote was to be directed by a revolutionary industrial organisation. But he believed that in Ireland independence was a pre-requisite, so that the Irish Nationalist was seen as “an active agent in social regeneration” (p. 126) “even when he is from the economic point of view intensely conservative”.

The method of physical force, while not to be favoured for its own sake, was not excluded from the “party of progress”. There were, however, certain conditions which should precede its adoption; first, perfect agreement on the end to be attained, then presentation of the demand for freedom through elected representatives. Discussing street fighting, Connolly assumes a large scale rising with the support of the populace (pp. 228-30). The implication is that success will justify the method.

In the event the Easter Rising of 1916 was put into effect by a group of leaders with differing ultimate aims, united by nationalism and the intention to turn the opportunity afforded by the First World War to what they saw as Ireland’s advantage. Connolly was a prime mover (12), committing the Irish Citizen Army despite his reported conviction in the end that there was no chance of success and they were “going out to be slaughtered” (Introduction, p. 30).

It was no monstrous aberration that he ended his career as a martyr for old Ireland and is often remember as such, however unjust it would be to claim he was no more than that. He has a place in labour history as well as in the history of socialist thought. The Selected Writings are divorced from the context of action and controversy in which they were produced, but it is useful and legitimate to judge them on their own merits and see where the ideas tend.

Perhaps, after all, it is to Connolly’s credit that his writings are not fully and exclusively compatible with any one of the theoretical traditions claiming affinities with him – less so, that they endorse sentiments and ideas present in so many of them.



“…this is what Father Kane said: ‘Divorce in the socialist sense means that women would be willing to stoop to be the mistress of one man after another’. A more unscrupulous slander upon womanhood was never uttered or penned. Remember that this was said in Ireland, and do you not wonder that some Irish women – some persons of the same sex as the slanderer’s mother – did not get up and hurl the lie back in his teeth, and tell him that it was not law that kept them virtuous, that if all marriage laws were abolished tomorrow, it would not make women ‘willing to stoop to be the mistress of one man after another’. Aye, verily, the uncleanness lies not in this alleged socialist proposal, but in the minds of those who so interpret it…”
James Connolly, Labour, Nationality and Religion, 1910

“…The frontiers of Ireland, the ineffaceable marks of the separate existence of Ireland, are as old as Europe itself, the handiwork of the Almighty, not of politicians. And as the marks of Ireland’s separate nationality were not made by politicians so they cannot be unmade by them.

As the separate individual is to the family, so the separate nation is to humanity…”
J.C., Workers’ Republic, 12-2-1916

“The Council of the Irish Citizen Army has resolved, after grave and earnest deliberation, to hoist the green flag of Ireland over Liberty Hall, as over a fortress held for Ireland by the arms of Irishmen.

This is a momentous decision in the most serious crisis Ireland has witnessed in our day and generation. It will, we are sure, send a thrill through the hearts of every true Irish man and woman, an send the red blood coursing fiercely along the veins of every lover of the race…”
J.C., Workers’ Republic, 8-4-1916


(1) See Connolly in America by M. O’Riordan, Irish Communist Organisation, 1971; and Mind of an Activist by O.D. Edwards, Gill & Macmillan, 1971.
(2) “As a rule the socialist men and women are … immensely cleaner in speech and thought … devoted husbands and loyal wives … industrious workers…” from Workshop Talks, quoted in Voice of the People, vol. 2, no. 6.
(3) Connolly in American, pp. 16-17. For Solidarity’s views on “The Irrational in Politics” see our pamphlet of that title, price 15p.
(4) see Hidden from History by Sheila Rowbotham, Pluto Press, 1973.
(5) 1916: the Easter Rising, ed. O.D. Edwards & F. Pyle, McGibbon & Kee, 1968, includes “Francis Sheehy-Skeffington” by O. Sheehy-Skeffington, and “An Open Letter to Thomas McDonagh” by Francis Sheehy-Skeffington who expresses the opinion that the exclution of women from the Volunteers was deeply significant
(6) Connolly in America, pp. 16-17
(7) e.g. Labour and Easter Week, ed. Desmond Ryan, 1949, p. 114: leaders have a right to confidence, “let them know that you will obey them…let them know what the rank and file are thinking and saying.” They are to be challenged but not rashly.
(8) see Solidarity Motor Bulletin No. 2, “U.A.W. Scab Union”. (price 5p)
(9) by Conor Cruise O’Brien in 1916: Easter Rising
(10) Solidarity has discussed this type of theory in “Whose Right to Self Determination?” and “Thesis on Ireland”, in vol. 7, no. 1.
(11) Many British socialists may of course have been chauvinists. But Labour and Easter Week provides an example of Connolly describing British draft-dodgers in Ireland as “cowardly runaways” and “shirkers”, and defending this against criticism from a Glasgow reader.
(12) The editor’s introduction to 1916: Easter Rising, p. 19, states that the I.R.B. Military Council was forced to establish an alliance with Connolly lest he should start his own insurrection.



Revolutionary Bureaucracy – Solidarity

Revolutionary Bureaucracy – Solidarity
Revolutionary Bureaucracy – Solidarity

An article from Solidarity for Workers’ Power vol. 7, no. 11 on the nature of the bureaucratisation seen in the Russian Revolution.

Submitted by robynkwinters on June 6, 2018

The October 1917 revolution in Russia was recognised by friend and foe as a major historical event. It was clear that this was not just the overthrow of a government and a regime, but that an entire social order collapsed and out of its ruins something genuinely new was about to be constructed. The debates about the nature of the new social order and its origins have been with the revolutionary movement ever since and split it up into mutually hostile camps. What is the political basis for this hostility?


As early as November 1918, while Lenin was in full command with Trotsky at his side and Stalin was hardly heard of, Rosa Luxemburg, a comrade-in-arms of the Bolsheviks, wrote a sympathetic but critical appraisal of the Bolshevik revolution. Her criticism contained an ominous warning on the possible consequences of Lenin’s restrictions on the authority, and freedom of expression, of the workers’ councils (soviets).

“Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep, a few dozen party leaders of inexhaustible energy and boundless experience direct and rule. Among them, in reality only a dozen outstanding heads do the leading and an elite of the working class is invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders, and to approve proposed resolutions unanimously – at bottom then, a clique affair – a dictatorship, to be sure, not the dictatorship of the proletariat, however, but only the dictatorship of a handful of politicians, that is, a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense, in the sense of the rule of the Jacobins (the postponement of the Soviet Congress from three-month periods to six-month period).

Yes, we can go even further: such conditions must INEVITABLY cause a brutalisation of public life, attempted assassinations, shooting of hostages, etc. (Lenin’s speech on discipline and corruption.)”
(“Rosa Luxemburg speaks”, Pathfinder Press, New York, 1970, p. 381.)

The warnings of Rosa Luxemburg were ignored by most revolutionaries during the first years following the revolution. Even her own party in Germany did not publish them. This can be understood when one considers the tremendous enthusiasm for the first successful breach of the Bourgeois world. However, as the years passed, and the regime of the Bureaucracy in Russia produced unprecedented “brutalisations of public life”, Rosa Luxemburg’s warnings acquired a new significance.

Already in the mid-1920’s and throughout the 1930’s many in the revolutionary left started a critical reappraisal of the Russian revolution, regime, and the relation between these two.

“What went wrong?”
“When did things start to go wrong?”
“Why did things go wrong?”


One of those who attempted to answer these questions was Trotsky, whose role in the revolutions of 1905, and October 1917, makes him second only to Lenin. Trotsky produced many analyses of the new society that was taking shape under Stalin’s rule. Stalin did not merely establish the dictatorship of the Politburo and the Secret Police, but moulded an entire society to go with it. New property relations, new social roles, new motivations, new personality types, new authority relations, new legitimisations, new social classes and strata, new attitudes to production, life, sciences, arts. Whether one liked this society or not – it came into existence as an accomplished fact and had to be dealt with.

In the new Russian society there was no private ownership of the means of production, no free market economy, and no profit motive, so that it could hardly qualify as “Capitalism”. However, since 99.9% of the population in that society had no influence on the political decision-making process and were reduced to the permanent status of an audience “invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders and approve proposed resolutions unanimously” it was not what most revolutionaries understood as “Socialism”.

The essence of Trotsky’s answer was that Russia was still a “Workers’ State” due to the fact that there was no private ownership of the means of production, but the Party’s apparatus (i.e. the full-time officials), though not a “class”, established itself as a cancerous “growth” on a basically healthy political system. The rule of the Bureaucracy was, said Trotsky, “a temporary relapse”.

Trotsky’s answer calmed the gnawing doubts of many revolutionaries by invoking historical analogies: “just as it was too early to appraise the French Revolution and the post-revolutionary society during the period of Napoleon, so was it too early to appraise the Russian revolution and society during Stalin’s period”.

How “temporary” must a social system be before it is recognised as a viable historical phenomenon?

What conclusions must revolutionary socialists draw once they recognise the rule of the bureaucracy as a viable historical entity?


Again it was Trotsky who dared to touch these ideologically explosive questions. In September 1939, shortly after the start of the Second World War, but well before Russia was attacked, he expressed his views clearly with an ideological courage most of his followers lack:

“If this war provokes, as we firmly believe, a proletarian revolution, it must inevitably lead to the overthrow of the bureaucracy in the USSR and the regeneration of Soviet democracy on a far higher economic and cultural basis than in 1918. In that case the question as to whether the Stalinist bureaucracy was a ‘class’ or a growth on the workers’ state will be automatically solved. To every single person it will become clear that in the process of the development of the world revolution the Soviet bureaucracy was only an EPISODIC relapse.

If, however, it is conceded that the present war will provoke not a revolution but a decline of the proletariat, then there remains another alternative: the further decay of monopoly capitalism, its further fusion with the state and the replacement of democracy where it still remained, by a totalitarian regime. The inability of the proletariat to take into its hands the leadership of society could actually lead under these conditions to the growth of a new exploiting class from the Bonapartist fascist bureaucracy. This would be, according to all indications, a regime of decline, signalising the eclipse of civilisation.

An analogous result might occur in the event that the proletariat of advanced Capitalist countries, having conquered power, should prove incapable of holding it and surrender it, as in the USSR, to a privileged bureaucracy. Then we would be compelled to acknowledge that the reason for the bureaucratic relapse is rooted not in the backwardness of the country and not in the imperialist environment but in the congenital incapacity of the proletariat to become a ruling class. Then it would be necessary in retrospect to establish that in its fundamental traits the present USSR was the precursor of a new exploiting regime on an international scale.

We have diverged very far from the terminological controversy over the nomenclature of the Soviet state. But let our critics not protest: only by taking the necessary historical perspective can one provide himself with a correct judgement upon such a question as the replacement of one social regime by another.

The historical alternative, carried to the end, is as follows: either the Stalin regime is an abhorrent relapse in the process of transforming bourgeois society into a socialist society, or the Stalin regime is the first stage of a new exploiting society.

If the second prognosis proves to be correct, then of course, the bureaucracy will become a new exploiting class. However onerous the second perspective may be, if the world proletariat should actually prove incapable of fulfilling the mission placed upon it by the course of development, nothing else would remain except only to recognise that the socialist programme, based on the internal contractions of capitalist society, ended as a Utopia.

It is evident that a new ‘minimum’ programme would be required for the defence of the slaves of the totalitarian bureaucratic society.”
(“The USSR in war”, from “In defence of Marxism”, Merit publishers, New York, 1965, p. 9.)

In the decades that passed since these words were written Stalin’s Russia fought the bloodiest war in human history and emerged victorious. The society created by Stalin proved viable and the political bureaucracy ruling it emerged entrenched in its dominant role beyond its own expectations. Moreover, the same type of regime spread to Eastern Europe, and later – to China. Trotsky’s wondering as to whether the bureaucracy was an “episodic relapse” or “a precursor of a new exploiting regime on an international scale” received an unambiguous answer by the development of history over the last thirty years. The rule of the bureaucracy is a viable historical phenomenon in its own right. The bureaucracy can develop and manage a modern industrial society and become a world power in the political, economic, and military sense.

Once the bureaucracy is recognised as a viable historical entity it must be treated as such, that is: its own history must be treated not as some accidental diversion from the mainstream of human history, but as a major feature.

What is the life cycle of this new ruling caste?
Where was this bureaucracy before it established itself in a dominant role?
What is the embryonic, pre-revolutionary, phase of the bureaucracy like?
What is the self-image of the bureaucracy?
How does the bureaucracy legitimise its role to its followers before it becomes a ruling caste?
How does the bureaucracy reproduce, and legitimise, its role to new generations?

History is not a magician’s hat out of which ruling castes and new societies are conjured by snapping dingers. The Bourgeoisie emerged and developed long before the Bourgeois revolution established it as a dominant class, Christians were crucified for centuries before the Church became the most powerful institution in Europe. Doesn’t the bureaucracy exist before it takes over power?

The standard answer to these questions, accepted by most Marxists, locates the origin of the bureaucracy in the backwardness of Russia and its isolation by hostile imperialist regimes. These specific circumstances no doubt created conditions favourable to the ascendance of the Bureaucracy, but in history, as in crime, it is not the circumstances but the motivations that account for the act.

The motivations of the Bureaucracy in its pre-revolutionary phase must not be judged by its post-revolutionary face. The revolutionary bureaucrat is not a power-hungry political careerist, seeking to further his own interests, nor is he an adventurer seeking “a place in history”. Lenin and his followers were willing to pay with their lives and careers for their convictions – and many of them did so. Most of them could choose a different life and gain success in Bourgeois society – some did. Those who chose to remain revolutionaries were amongst the most intelligent and sensitive in their generation. They had the courage to face external perils as well as inner doubts and temptations. Many despaired after the failure of the 1905 revolution, others succumbed to the pressures of “normal” family life. Those who remained were neither organisational fanatics nor theoretical doctrinaires which today, alas, swell the ranks of most Marxist organisations. Their motives were totally unselfish, they were appalled by the suffering of workers and peasants in Bourgeois society and were determined to bring about a fundamental change in society so as to put an end to this suffering. Lenin did not rule by personal authority of by disciplinary regulations. He was often outvoted in his party and never advocated expulsions. It is doubtful whether a sincere and sympathetic investigation, from a revolutionary viewpoint, will reveal any overt flaw in the personality or motives of most pre-revolutionary Bolsheviks, including Stalin and associates like Molotov. And yet it was this party which carried within itself the potentialities of developing into a regime which inflicted unprecedented cruelties upon those whose suffering it sought to alleviate, and unprecedented humiliations upon its own disciples.

It is often argued that Lenin’s organisational concept of “Democratic Centralism” is the root of the bureaucratisation. Clearly, this organisational structure enables those at the centre to dominate the entire organisation indefinitely.

However, even if “only a dozen heads at the centre do the leading” it is up to them to decide how to use the organisational apparatus which is at their disposal. Why choose to abolish the National Congress of Workers’ Councils? Why choose persistently to oppose shop-floor management in industry? The organisational structure cannot account for the nature of the political decision.

A penetrating analysis of the Russian revolution reveals that Lenin had to choose between a policy of “All power to the workers’ councils” and one of “All power to the revolutionary party”. As long as the party has a majority within the workers’ councils this painful choice was not apparent, but how was a revolutionary to choose if the two came into conflict? The answer in know to every Marxist: only those aware of the historical, rather than the immediate, interests of the working class, can take the right decisions. It is therefore their duty to put their understanding of history into action. The revolutionary bureaucrat’s self-image is that of “a specialist in the science of History”.

Could it be that the potentiality of bureaucratisation in the socialist revolutionary movement resides not only in Lenin’s concept of Democratic Centralism, but in Marx’s concept of the dynamics of history?


All revolutionaries share the conviction that he existing social evils cannot be cured by reforms, but only by changes in the foundations of the social structure. This shared view often blinds them to the fundamental differences within their own ranks.

In all past revolutions one section of the revolutionary camp established itself as a new dominant class revealing horrifying potentialities to their former comrades. The Levellers, Danton, Bukharin, and Trotsky suffered worse than eventual assassination by their former comrades, they suffered the belated realisation that they helped create regimes they abhorred.

Is this the inevitable fate of most successful revolutionaries? Even if the answer is yes it would not deter many from joining the revolutionary camp. Those who do so in full awareness of this terrible possibility will have only themselves to blame if they play down the fundamental differences between the various revolutionary ideas and organisations.

Social revolution is, possibly, the most profound act of creation; its products are not creations outside our selves, but new patterns of selves. We do not know if it pays to be careful with that mysterious process called History, but we know what one pays for being uncareful.




6 years 1 month ago

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Submitted by jondwhite on June 7, 2018

I'm surprised this was published by a libcom group (and surprised it is on libcom). Apart from such howlers attributing the creation of secret police to Stalin (as oppose to Lenin), it generally reads as a Trotskyist apologetic with Luxemburg crowbarred in for council communist credentials. They must have snuck this past the editors.


6 years 1 month ago

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Submitted by Steven. on June 7, 2018


I'm surprised this was published by a libcom group (and surprised it is on libcom). Apart from such howlers attributing the creation of secret police to Stalin (as oppose to Lenin), it generally reads as a Trotskyist apologetic with Luxemburg crowbarred in for council communist credentials. They must have snuck this past the editors.

I haven't read it yet, however we host everything we can which was written by Solidarity, and this is from their journal which we host, Solidarity for Workers Power.

That said, if the content of this article is a bit rubbish then we can just add a short critical intro – feel free to do it for us if you think it's necessary and it includes factual errors as you say


6 years 1 month ago

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Submitted by Spikymike on June 7, 2018

Yes I'm not sure why RobynK has chosen to post these extracts from the old Solidarity UK journal separately on libcom. There are certainly some criticisms that could be made of this article in terms of Solidarity, and Castoriadis more specifically, views on the nature of modern bureaucracy as a general tendency within global capitalism commonly held by others at that time, but I don't think the spgb's jondwhite would be best placed to make that based on his irritated response to what is anyway a pretty thin article.

R Totale

6 years 1 month ago

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Submitted by R Totale on June 7, 2018


Yes I'm not sure why RobynK has chosen to post these extracts from the old Solidarity UK journal separately on libcom.

FWIW, without passing judgement on the articles themselves, I find having individual articles in text format way more convenient than just having the pdfs of whole issues alone, so thanks to Robyn for posting them.


6 years 1 month ago

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Submitted by robynkwinters on June 7, 2018

I thought it was generally considered helpful to have articles transcribed and posted separately so they aren't hidden away in PDFs. Even if I don't always agree with the pieces I transcribe, I think it's good to have them more easily accessible for people to read, discuss, and debate. If the admins want, though, I can stop transcribing articles I stumble upon in PDFs, or just transcribe articles they agree are more in need of being pulled out of PDFs.

Mike Harman

6 years 1 month ago

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Submitted by Mike Harman on June 7, 2018

People only usually read PDFs out of desperation, transcribing is great. It might be worth a forum thread to try to co-ordinate transcriptions but for me personally I don't think it matters if 'bad' articles get transcribed - eventually we could end up with the entire Solidarity back catalogue in HTML which would not be a bad thing regardless of the order it happens.

This article does read as essentially Trotskyist, but didn't some Solidarity/Subversion people have crossover with the pre-SWP ISJ? (I vaguely remember someone mentioning it on another thread but can't remember the details).

A lot of people around that milieu, especially the Facing Reality group but also Ngo Van Xuyet with SouB were breaking/had broken with Trotskyism, so it would not surprise me if someone got involved who had not quite broken with it. Also with CLR James specifically, there was some elasticity between breaking with Leninism as a current practice, and breaking with Lenin as a historical figure/theorist.


6 years 1 month ago

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Submitted by Steven. on June 7, 2018

Yeah, the only reason we have any PDFs here is because it takes time to transcribe them, so we are extremely grateful to Robyn for her assistance in this regard.

Solidarity did come out of a Trotskyist group, and they had a relatively broad membership with a range of opinion within it. We also completely disagree with loads of Solidarity stuff in terms of their support for the ideas of Castoriadis, and some form of market economy, but it's relevant to the historical record in terms of their collective body of work which we want to reproduce in its entirety


6 years 1 month ago

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Submitted by Auld-bod on June 7, 2018

I read this as mildly critical of Trotsky. It’s worth remembering that in 1974 there were still some trots who would argue that the Second World War was not over, as there had been no world revolution as predicted by their prophet. It is a ‘bit thin’ though Solidarity had a mixed working class readership and many would never have read the usual turgid stuff (dense text and no illustrations) often served up as serious Marxist theory.


6 years 1 month ago

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Submitted by jondwhite on June 7, 2018

Fair enough to both responses. Sorry to sound pointed.


6 years 1 month ago

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Submitted by Spikymike on June 8, 2018

Mike Harman,
Please don'rt get the UK Solidarity and Subversion groups or membership mixed up as there is plenty recounting the relationships that existed between the Solidarity (for Social Revolution), Social Revolution, Wildcat and Subversion groups on this site. None other than some of the early Solidarity London people were ever in a Trotskyist group.