German and Dutch Left

The Dutch and German lefts are generally grouped together because of the extremely close links between the two. Like the Italian Left, they were expelled from the Third International as it degenerated, and in some respects had more immediately correct insights into the critical questions of the day (notably the union question). However, their complete under-estimation of the organisational question, added to ferocious repression during the 1930s-40s, meant that the groups were unable to maintain a coherent existence and to pass on their lessons to the new generation.

Correspondance between Bordiga and Trotsky

The letters from Bordiga and Trotsky: presentation

In International Review n°s 98 and 99 we dealt with the defeat of the German revolution as a sign of the defeat of the world revolution; we now return to this question through the debates and srough the debates and struggles that took place within the Communist International at the time. The German question and the defeat suffered by the workers’ movement in Germany in 1923 were key questions of the day for the international working class. The eclecticism and tactical oscillations of the CI produced a disaster in Germany. This put an end to the revolutionary wave of the 20s and prepared the ground for the defeats that followed: in China (a situation we have already examined in this Review) and in Britain (the Anglo-Russian Committee and the General Strike). In the end it led to the irrecoverable loss of the International when it adopted the thesis of ‘socialism in one country’ and to the crisis of the Communist Parties which were sucked into the counter-revolution and the second imperialist war.

Unravelling the Russian enigma: 1926-36

Understanding the nature of the Stalinist system is a key aspect of the communist programme: without such an understanding, it would be impossible for communists to outline clearly what kind of society they are fighting for, to describe what socialism is and what it is not. But the clarity that communists have today about the nature of the USSR was not easily attained...

1905: the mass strike opens the door to the proletarian revolution

From the beginning of the first series of these articles, we argued against the cliché that 'communism is a nice idea, but it could never work' by affirming, with Marx, that communism is not at all reducible to a 'nice idea', but is organically contained in the class struggle of the proletariat. Communism is not an abstract utopia dreamed up by a few well-intentioned visionaries; it is a movement given birth by the very conditions of present day society. And yet, that first series was very much a study of the 'ideas' of communists during the ascendant period of capitalism - an examination of how their conception of the future society and the way to achieve it developed during the course of the 19th century, before the communist revolution was on the immediate historical agenda.

Crisis theories in the Dutch Left

In this third part of the series, we are going to deal with one of the most important theoretical foundations of the Dutch Left. From its origin at the begin­ning of this century, the Dutch Left gave an interpretation of historical materialism which be­came a characteristic mark of the ‘Dutch Marxist school' (Anton Pannekoek, Hermann Gorter, H. Roland-H­olst). This interpretation of Marxist method is often called ‘spontaneism'. We will show in this article why the term is inappropriate. Gorter and Pannekoeks' position on the role of spontaneity allowed the Dutch Left to understand the changes imposed on the class struggle with the onset of capitalist decadence. At the same time, we can see certain weaknesses in Pannekoek which today's ‘councilists' have pushed to their most absurd conclusions.


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