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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An answer to “Questions without answers”

Anti-critique of a leftist book review of

The Dutch and German Communist Left (1900-1968)

The Dutch and German Communist Left (1900-1968)

In Vol. 1#2 (Try-out issue, May 2017) of this Digest, we briefly presented this elaborate work of political history in its first English translation, that has appeared with Brill (Leiden/Boston) in 2016. This was followed by the introduction of a review on Libcom titled “Council communism or councilism? – The period of transition”.

Since, we have had occasion to present its 3rd, revised Edition in French (June 2018) in Vol. 2#4 (August- September 2018) and on pages of this blog, in a more extensive way.

Unfortunately, serious reviews of this important work, in either language, and notably by adherents of the communist Left, or of proletarian internationalism in a broad sense, are very rare. When we discovered a rather extensive review of the English edition in a bourgeois left-wing, Trotskyist, periodical appearing in the Netherlands, our curiosity was raised. What follows is the result of a considerate examination.

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Willy Huhn (1961): On the doctrine of the revolutionary party (3)

In this last part of his article, Huhn develops on the reasons for the scission  from the ‘League of Communists’ by a minority (the “Willich-Schapper fraction”), as it became increasingly clear that a resurgence of the 1848 uprisings was out of the question. At the hand of the writings of Marx and Engels, both from this episode and from their later reviews, he demonstrates their conception of the purpose and possibilities of a revolutionary organization, which ultimately led them to dissolve the ‘League’ and take their distance.

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Willy Huhn (1961): On the doctrine of the revolutionary party (2)

Willy Huhn poses the question how far Lenin has “directly taken up the doctrine of Marx and Engels in the question of the Party”, as his adversary Dracker puts it. Contrary to the latter’s a-historical approach, Huhn endeavors to explain how the organizational question arose in the practice of the 1848 bourgeois revolutions. In doing so, he shows that Lenin, in the (supposedly) bourgeois revolution in Russia from the outset of the 20th Century, represented a concept of organization that was substantially different from that of Marx and Engels.

Today more than 150 years have passed since the 1848 bourgeois revolutions; more than 100 years since the proletarian world revolution announced itself in the Red October of 1917, and almost 60 years since Huhn opposed Leninism in this text. The communist minorities again face the question of how to organize themselves to fulfill their function in the workers’ struggle. Huhn’s text advances  essential elements for a valid reply, even if it is still deeply influenced by the last years of the counterrevolution at the time.

In this second part of our translation Huhn continues his demonstration on the role of communist minorities at the hand of two speeches addressed to the Communists’ League by its central authority in the Spring of 1850 in view of reorganizing the League after the defeat of the 1848 democratic uprisings throughout Europe, with the expectation of a new upsurge soon to come.

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Spartacus and Trotskyism (1946)

Introduction

After the Second World War, the Communists’ League “Spartacus” emerged from illegality in the Netherlands as one of the few groups in the world that put forward the struggle of the working class against all imperialist camps, i.e. against fascism, against bourgeois democracy and against Stalinism. They were also opposed to the Trotskyism of the so-called Fourth International, which took part in the Second World War in defense of Russian state capitalism.

The following text from the communist League’s weekly publication ‘Spartacus’ in 1946 shows how the Trotskyists tried to get a grip on the League and how they falsified the history of the latter’s main predecessors, the R.S.A.P., portraying the proletarian internationalists as ultra-radicals. This Trotskyist tactic is still relevant today.

With reference to this first time translation, we have added a concise glossary on the most important organizational expressions of the historical communist Left in the Netherlands.

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Willy Huhn (1961): On the doctrine of the revolutionary party (1)

In ‘A Free Retriever’s Digest’ Vol.2 #1 (February -March 2018) we presented a biographic work on the council communist Willy Huhn (1909 – 1970), together with a concise review (Book Review: “In Search of Rosa’s Heritage”). Subsequently we translated a text expounding Huhn’s view on Lenin:  Willy Huhn (1948): ‘Lenin as a Utopian’ (in Vol.2 #2, April – May 2018).  In the following  we resume our translation series with (the first part of) a more extensive article, in which Huhn compares the ‘Marxist-Leninist’ conception of the communist party and that developed by Marx and Engels, in a polemic that took place in the early 1960s.

Willy Huhn poses the question how far Lenin has “directly taken up the doctrine of Marx and Engels in the question of the Party”, as his adversary put it. Contrary to Dracker’s ahistorical approach, Huhn endeavors to explain how the organizational question arose in the practice of the 1848 bourgeois revolutions. In doing so, he shows that Lenin, in the (supposedly) bourgeois revolution in Russia from the outset of the 20th Century, represented a concept of organization that was substantially different from that of Marx and Engels.

Today more than 150 years have passed since the 1848 bourgeois revolutions; more than 100 years since the proletarian world revolution announced itself in the Red October of 1917, and almost 60 years since Huhn opposed Leninism in this text. The communist minorities again face the question of how to organize themselves to fulfill their function in the workers’ struggle. Huhn’s text advances  essential elements for a valid reply, even if it is still deeply influenced by the last years of the counterrevolution at the time.

Continue reading “Willy Huhn (1961): On the doctrine of the revolutionary party (1)”

The Workers’ Councils in Germany 1918-23 (Part 2/2)

This is the second and last part of the historical summary article by Ph. Bourrinet on the workers’ councils in the proletarian struggles of 1918 -1923. The first part has been published in A Free Retriever’s Digest Vol.2 #6 (December 2018 – January 2019) and can be read on this web blog as well.

 

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The Workers’ Councils in Germany 1918-23 (Part 1/2)

 

Introduction

‘To think of emancipation’, a century after the global revolutionary wave that began in 1917, is to question the very term emancipation. Who is the subject of this emancipation and who emancipates who, in a struggle that is anything but an ideological game between four walls. This emancipation has its source in the working class (manual and intellectual). It cannot be assimilated to a “struggle of the people”, whose “Cause” would be national and patriotic. ‘To think of emancipation’ in [2018] is to look back at the great proletarian revolutionary insurrections in Russia and Germany and draw lessons from them at the beginning of the third millennium. In doing so, the revolution in Germany from 1918 to 1921 is an essential milestone, since it raised the question of the forms of organization of any revolutionary class struggle: workers councils, workers’ unions, revolutionary factory organizations, factory committees or action committees. Like the Russian Revolution, it raised – albeit to a lesser degree, in the absence of a real takeover of power – the question of socialization of the means of production, and therefore of the abolition of the capitalist system based on profit.

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