Anton Pannekoek: Marxism and Darwinism (1909, 1914)

An Introduction by Ph. Bourrinet, October 2019

In A Free Retriever’s Digest Vol. 4 Issue #2, April – June 2020 (April 21, 2020) we have presented Anton Pannekoek’s classic work on Marxism, Darwinism and their thorny relationship at the hand of a summary written for its recent French translation. (a)

In the following we continue with the elaborate introduction to Pannekoek’s synthesis by its French translator, which endeavors a critical evaluation of this work and its reception in diverse quarters.

We wholeheartedly support this effort to review the ‘classics’ of historical materialism in the light of the lessons taken from the historical experiences of the working class struggle and in that of the evolution of science – not limiting ourselves to saving them from the “the gnawing criticism of the mice”, nor to simply repeating them – and hope this review contributes to a meaningful discussion among the political minorities that lay claim to proletarian internationalism.

Due to the length and scope of this contribution and its extensive annotations, we publish our translation on the portfolio pages. The following presents the contents at the hand of excerpts, with links to the full text.

H.C., September 7, 2020

a) “Marxismus und Darwinismus. Ein Vortrag von Ant. Pannekoek” (2nd German edition, Leipzig 1914). Its French translation is available with Moto Propio, Paris, November 2019.

Note:  The full text is available here since September 14, 2020.


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Essay: On unionism and its revolutionary overcoming

A contribution to a debate between council communists
(Roi Ferreiro, August 17, 2020)

The following essay is a discussion contribution on the (trade- or industrial) union question from the perspective of overcoming the latter’s inherent limitations, which has been proposed in a recently emerging, council communist discussion forum.

Departing from the radicalizing tendencies that openly combated the official trades’ unions during the revolutionary upsurge in Germany 1917-1923, the essay  takes care to reestablish the vision of Marx and Engels on the possibilities and limits of ‘unionism’, both in their own time and in general. It subsequently attempts a terminological clarification, relating the ‘union’ or ‘syndicalist’ types of organizations and struggles to their historical period and respective aims and origins. Based on these preliminary considerations, the essay engages in an  investigation of the limitations and pitfalls in the conceptions, slogans and practices embodied by the K.A.P.D. and the Arbeiter-Unionen, as the most advanced expressions of a workers’ struggle for class autonomy at the time. Limitations and pitfalls that can also be found in more recent manifestations of proletarian struggles since the 1960s, albeit in a profoundly altered political-historical context, engaging very different force relations. A series of reflections is advanced that amount, a.o. to situating the workers’ struggles of the past decades as marked by a decline of ‘unionist’ illusions, and to re-calibrating the question of self-organizing in workers’ struggle. It appears that the old theses defended by the GIC in the 1930s are considered as still of use.

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The Corona-virus and the Communists Today

I.O.D.: An invitation to an open debate among proletarian internationalists

Whereas ‘A Free Retriever’s Digest‘ does not adhere to Leninist conceptions of the role and function of politicized minorities of the proletariat, it is not blind to relevant analyses of burning questions either, let alone to promising efforts to contribute to a renewal of Marxism, that may originate from Leninist tendencies. As such we consider the Istituto Onorato Damen (I.O.D.), that has originated from a split of Battaglia Comunista in 2009. We present its latest revue and its long-term project (AFRD Vol.4 issue #3, on page 7 ff.). The following article sets forth their vision on the actual tasks and responsibilities of proletarian internationalists and a proposition for an open debate on the basis of an historical materialist approach, criticizing certain tendencies with origins in the historical Italian communist Left for abandoning this terrain.

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Iran: A New Wave of Strikes and Workers’ Protests and the Need for Workers’ Solidarity

A Communiqué by ‘Internationalist Voice’ (August 3, 2020)

The following communiqué provides a first time account of the acutely revived workers’ combativity in Iran, despite the corona-virus pandemic hitting the country hard, and the omnipresent state repression and political maneuvering by the local regime. For the first time in recent years, the workers in the oil- and gas industry are massively implied. The communiqué is followed by a brief commentary from ‘Arbeidersstemmen’. We hope to provide more details and analysis on the present struggles in due time.

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Capitalism, Wars and Epidemics (II)

The second part of this contribution opens with a historical sketch of wars and epidemics from capitalism’s early expansion since the turn of the 16th Century: the discovery of the “West Indies” and the ensuing conquest of the Americas by Europe’s incipient colonialism, as well as its  expansion to Africa and the “East Indies”, until the era of modern imperialism, since the First World War. It focuses on the ‘natural’ spread of lethal diseases and epidemics as a consequence of the interaction of hitherto physically separated populations across continents, under the conditions of a merciless exploitation of slave and forced labor.

It continues by developing on biological warfare that only became systematically developed in the context of modern imperialism by all major rivaling powers, alongside chemical and – after WW-2 – in addition to nuclear warfare. Military-scientific programs for ‘weaponizing’ a diversity of biological agents (bacteria and viruses, like for instance anthrax, botulinum, plague or Ebola) and the yet limited attempts at “testing” and “applying” them in war conflicts are briefly reviewed, including the telling example of the Aun sect in Japan (formally a non-state actor).

This part concludes with some theses for discussion, and a brief rejection of the speculation that the present Covid-19 pandemic would have originated from Chinese military laboratory experiments.

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Internationalist statements on the wave of protests and riots apropos of US state repression (Spring 2020)

A Rapid Press Overview

In the following we present a number of statements and press releases by groups, circles and authors claiming adherence to (proletarian) internationalism, mostly from US- or North American sources, apropos of the wave of international protests and riots sparked off by the police killing of Mr. George Floyd at Minneapolis (Minnesota). The concise ones have been adopted in full, the longer ones by extracting their conclusion.

The list does not pretend to be exhaustive and is supplemented.

The editor

(Last updated: Monday June 29, 2020)

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The murder of George Floyd sets the USA on fire…

A Statement by M. Lupoli (I.O.D.)

Yet another brutal murder of a black man by a policeman has triggered a wave of protests, involving thousands of protesters in the USA and beyond. As always, the bourgeoisie uses violence, racism and repression against workers and anyone who protests against its order. Although there are widespread and radical demonstrations, expressing widespread discontent, every revolt is condemned to be exhausted by the system in absence of the revolutionary party.

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France: Cheerful and quarrelsome 1st-of-May Days?

Some findings on the present

state of emergency

“This May 1st, 2020 is like no other. Today, no gathering in our cities to celebrate, as we have done for so many years, International Workers’ Day (…). And yet, the spirit of May Day, this spirit of solidarity among workers, has perhaps never been so powerful, so alive. For it is indeed thanks to the work, celebrated on this day, that the Nation holds.”

“Deprived of the rituals (sic) of this day, we feel today all the value, all the meaning. With this strong will: to rediscover as soon as possible the cheerful, sometimes quarrelsome, first of May Days, which makes our Nation. My dear compatriots, we will find them again, these cheerful first of May Days!” (i) [Little red book of President M. .., to be published?] (ii)

i Tweets section, La Croix, May 1st, 2020.

ii With a little imagination, one can easily give meaning to this mysterious M… The reading of “La P… respectueuse” (The Respectful Prostitute) by Jean-Paul Sartre can be a clue. This play is very contemporary since it is about a dominant class which acts in the name of the “common good” and finds a majority only concerned about its survival, without questioning the acts that are imposed on it.


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