History Theory

Forty-two years ago this week, South Korea was engulfed in the flames of class struggle. Amidst the fight by the masses for democracy and to bring down the military, a heroic episode took place in Gwangju – a city of nearly one million people. The workers beat back a vicious military, and for a few days the working class de facto took over the running of the city, which was briefly under the control of armed workers’ militias.

There are many myths surrounding Lenin and the Bolsheviks – particularly regarding the origins of the revolutionary party in Russia. Rob Sewell examines an important chapter from the history of Bolshevism, and the lessons for Marxists today.

The French Revolution initiated a decades-long phase of bourgeois revolutions across Europe and beyond that raised the flags of democracy, national liberation, and civil rights against the injustices of the feudal system. These political convulsions prepared the ground for the international ascendancy of the capitalist system in the nineteenth century. Yet in most countries, the democratic promises of the bourgeois revolution remained largely unfulfilled. The Greek war of independence that began over 200 years ago was no exception.

13 April 2022 marked 80 years since the Dutch revolutionary socialist Henk Sneevliet, along with six of his comrades, were executed by the Nazi German occupiers. Sneevliet devoted his whole life to fighting for the interests of the working class of the Netherlands, as well as the oppressed in Indonesia and China.

Fifty years ago, on 29 April 1972, violence between Hutus and Tutsis broke out in Burundi. This was the latest round of ethnic conflict in the African Great Lakes region, and marked the beginning of a genocide of up to 300,000 people. Western imperialism bears direct responsibility for the horrors of the spring of 1972. They didn’t lift a finger to stop it, and in some cases, they actively supported it. Today, while western imperialists cry crocodile tears over Ukraine, they bury the history of the far greater abominations they perpetrated just 50 years ago.

102 years ago, British workers struck in solidarity with the Russian Revolution. Conditions were ripe for revolution, though the opportunity was missed. Rob Sewell explains the revolutionary potential displayed by the working class in Britain, the errors of their leadership, and the lessons of these experiences for the class struggle today, at a time when war, crisis and chaos are similarly rampant. This article first appeared in issue 30 of In Defence of Marxism, the theoretical magazine of the International Marxist Tendency. Click here to subscribe and get the latest issue.

“The left needs a new narrative.” Such is the idea that has gripped the minds of many on the left around the world today, as attempts are made to build alternatives to the dominant, bourgeois parties. What is the substance behind this idea? And can it help take the working class forward in any way? As Yola Kipcak explains in this article, first published in issue 34 of In Defence of Marxism, playing around with words is no substitute for class struggle. Click here to subscribe and get the latest issue of In Defence of Marxism magazine.

We are proud to provide the following reading guide for Lenin's classic philosophical text, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. Published in 1909, during the period of black reaction following the defeat of the 1905 Russian Revolution, the book mounts an uncompromising defence of philosophical materialism.

In November 1918, Germany exploded into revolution. In the spring of 1919, the working class succeeded in seizing power and declaring a Bavarian Soviet Republic. In its short, heroic lifetime, the republic had to fight not only against open counter-revolution, but also against the results of its own inexperience. This article was first published in the theoretical magazine ‘In Defence of Marxism’. Get your copy of the latest issue here.

50 years ago, on Sunday 30 January 1972, the British Army opened fire on a peaceful civil rights march in Derry in the North of Ireland. 14 innocent people were killed in an atrocity. For decades, the British ruling class attempted to cover up the atrocity. When British troops were sent into Ireland in 1969, some mistakenly believed they were there to bring peace.

Postmodernism is an amorphous philosophical school of thought that rose to prominence in the postwar period. Beginning as a fringe trend, it has since grown to become one of the dominant schools of bourgeois philosophy, permeating large parts, if not the majority, of academia today. It embodies the utter dead-end and pessimism of bourgeois philosophy given the senile decay of capitalist society.

Few books have received as much attention on the American left as Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. The son of two Jewish immigrant factory workers, Zinn dedicated himself to popularizing the many episodes in American history that have been distorted or ignored by mainstream bourgeois intellectuals. Above all, he took it upon himself to fight against the idea that only “great men” make history and instead explained history from the “bottom-up”—that is, from the perspective of the exploited and oppressed.

Wellred Books is proud to announce the forthcoming release of an important new title by Marie Frederiksen, The Revolutionary Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg. This great revolutionary martyr has often been misrepresented as an opponent of the October Revolution, and as standing for some sort of ‘softer’, ‘anti-authoritarian’ Marxism as against that of Lenin and the Bolsheviks.

Millions of workers and youth in the US are fed up with the two parties of the capitalist class: the Republicans and the Democrats. The lack of a mass working-class party leaves voters with little real choice: either vote for one of the ruling class’s parties; cast a protest vote for a tiny third party; or abstain altogether. But why is there no mass workers’ party in the US? Why have past attempts to build one failed? What lessons can we learn from history to change this in the future?

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the capture of Cuauhtémoc [the last Aztec ruler] on 13 August 1521 by the Spanish invaders, an event that marked the date of the fall of Mexico-Tenochtitlán. This fall represented a very important stage in the process of the ascent of capitalism and its worldwide rise to dominance. It was one of the starting points of capitalist globalisation. And it represented a clash between two modes of production: capitalism in its early stage of development, and the mode of production of the Mesoamerican world, with its own peculiarities.

Rob Sewell, editor of Socialist Appeal and author of Chartist Revolution, recently appeared on A People’s History podcast talking about the Chartist movement, alongside John McDonnell, Emma Griffin and Katrina Navickas. The Chartist movement represented the first time the organised working class fixed its eyes on the seizure of power. The Chartists unashamedly fought for radical, socialist changes. Today, the Marxist movement stands on the shoulders of the great Chartist fighters – a revolutionary tradition to which we owe a tremendous debt.

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For hundreds of thousands of years human beings inhabited the Earth without private property, classes, states, or any of the other elements that make up class society as we know it. And yet we are taught that class division is a natural and universal condition of human existence. As Josh Holroyd and Laurie O’Connel explain in this article first published in the IMT’s theoretical journal, In Defence of Marxism, modern archaeology has produced a plethora of evidence attesting to the fact that the division of society into classes is a relatively recent development in human history. And just as it came into existence, Marxists understand it must eventually go out of existence. ...

June 4th marks the 32nd anniversary of the brutal crushing of the Tiananmen Square movement in China in 1989. This year, like every year, we will no doubt see many bourgeois commentators producing articles that use the tragic events of 1989, not to explain what the movement was actually about, but to denounce “communism/socialism” as a failure. They will paint it as a system that cannot work, and present capitalism as the only viable system available to humanity. The media in the west present it as a movement for bourgeois parliamentary democracy and for capitalist restoration in China.

100 years ago, the ultra-left leaders of the German Communist Party prematurely launched a revolutionary offensive. This proved to be a fiasco, wrecking the authority of the party. The 1921 ‘March Action’ contains important lessons for today.

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