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The Russian revolution of November 1917 – or October according to the calendar it inherited from the tsars – was the world’s first successful workers’ revolution and an inspiration to socialists everywhere. Established in the midst of Europe’s most senseless and destructive war, the new Soviet state met with concerted resistance from within and without its borders and drew on campaigns of international solidarity as part of a world-wide movement against capitalism and colonial rule. Nevertheless, when seventy-four years later the Soviet state collapsed, there was no significant movement to defend it either nationally or internationally.
Lisa A. Kirschenbaum
It was a communist romance. In 1923, Croatian American communist Steve Nelson (born Stjepan Mesarsoš) met Margaret Yeager, the daugh-ter of ‘radical’ German immigrants, at the Communist Party office in Pittsburgh. As Nelson recalled in his 1981 memoir, ‘everything happened’ very quickly, and the two married the same year. Both understood that Yeager, the ‘better educated’ and ‘more sophisticated’ of the two, would not accept a ‘passive role’ in the relationship. Indeed her mother gave the nineteen-year-old bridegroom a copy of August Bebel’s Woman and Socialism as a wedding gift. Nonetheless, they soon took on stereotypical roles. He became an important activist, while she ‘tailor[ed] her life to what was required of me’. Recognising that an outsider might ‘conclude … that Maggie accepted a traditional female role because she shared the accepted view of a “woman’s place” at the time’, Nelson assured his readers that she did not: ‘As a revolutionary she consciously gave me all the breaks, feeling this would be best for the movement’. Thus a self-consciously revolution-ary union produced a paradoxically traditional marriage.
Kevin Morgan introduces a special issue commemorative issue of Twentieth Century Communism.
Commemorations express a political will to remember, a process that relies on establishing a mythologised historical referent. The Russian Communists were aware of the importance of this instrument forthe implantation of a regime whose legitimacy was contested both domestically and abroad, and proceeded therefore to construct a new collective memory through the reordering of time around the regime’s founding act: the great socialist revolution of October.
Gavin Bowd, Dianne Kirby, David Kirby, Michael Waller, André Liebich
Books reviewed: Fedor Il’ich Dan, translated and edited by Francis King, Two Years of Wandering: A Menshevik Leader in Lenin’s Russia, London: Lawrence & Wishart, 2016, ISBN 9781910448724, 236pp; Phillip Deery, Red Apple: Communism and McCarthyism in Cold War, New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2014, ISBN 978-0-8232-5368-5, xi + 252pp; Åsmund Egge and Svend Rybner (eds), Red Star in the North. Communism in the Nordic Countries, Stamsund: Orkana Akademisk, 2015, ISBN 8281042427, 355pp; Tauno Saarela, Suomalainen kommunismi ja vallankumous 1923-1930, Helsinki: SKS, 2008, ISBN 9522220515, 840pp; Tauno Saarela, Finnish Communism Visited, Finnish Society for Labour History, Papers on Labour History VII, 2015, ISBN 9789525976182, 233pp; Eric Aunoble, La Révolution russe, une histoire française. Lectures et représentations depuis 1917, Paris: La Fabrique, 2016, ISBN 9782358720793, 255 pp.
Anarchist Studies' artwork editor Allan Antliff explains the history behind this issue's cover image, 'Follow Your Leader' by David Wilcox.
This article opens with a press report of a particularly violent action involving anar-chists at an anti-fascist action in the USA, shows how it was inaccurately perceived by media and law professionals, and how this indicates a universal lack of under-standing about anarchists and militant anti-fascism. We then focus on the UK to see how anarchists prioritise anti-fascism and show their historical connections with militant groups like Anti-Fascist Action (AFA), No Platform and Antifa from the 1980s through to the early 2000s, and their current support for the militant Anti-Fascist Network.
Sara Farris, Catherine Rottenberg
Sara Farris and Catherine Rottenberg introduce New Formations 91: Righting Feminism.
In this essay I reflect on a sample of a relatively new literature that has emerged in recent years on the growth of ‘womenomics’ and what Adrienne Roberts has called ‘transnational business feminism’. Are these developments a triumph for the influence of feminist activists around the globe? Or do we see them as yet another classic attempt by the agents of capitalist globalisation to contain the energies of women and turn them to the advantage of the bottom line? I look at some examples of TBF on the part of Goldman Sachs, Unilever, Levi-Strauss, and the Nike Foundation; at the debate among feminist scholars over whether neoliberal feminism is ‘really’ feminism; at the rise of the concept of ‘empowerment;’ and finally, at some elements that TBF leaves out of the picture, including the neoliberal assault on social reproduction; the extreme exploitation of women workers, from Walmart to Export Processing Zones; the retreat from class analysis under neoliberalism; and the continuing effects of ‘structural adjustment’ on countries in the North like Greece subject to the ravages of the international financial order. I conclude with a call to the international male left to be as welcoming and as creative toward the ideas and the activism of the international women’s movement as their corporate adversaries.
Niall Gildea, Joe Darlington, Simone Natale, Debra Benita Shaw, Sean Phelan
Books reviewed: David Wills, Inanimation: Theories of Inorganic Life, Minneapolis and London, University of Minnesota Press, 2016, 318pp; $30.00 paperback. Trebor Scholz, Uberworked and Underpaid: How Workers are Disrupting the Digital Economy, New York, Polity Press, 2016, 242 pp. Esther Leslie, Liquid Crystals: The Science and Art of a Liquid Form, London: Reaktion, 2016, 296pp, £25 hardback.
Foreword by Paul Mason 'Jeremy Corbyn has re-packaged socialism into something progressive and essential, something that isn't archaic as we've been told it is for so long. Striving for justice and fairness isn’t a sign of our weakness but the sign of our great strength. That’s The Corbyn Effect for me and this book explains why.' - Maxine Peake This is an essential post-election read for those seeking to understand the present political moment, Corbyn’s leadership and a possible future for the Labour Party. Free chapter: read Mark Perryman's introduction and opening chapter for free by clicking the button below.
How do we build on the hopes raised in the June election? Jeremy Corbyn’s election campaign, and its outcome, is without doubt the most positive development that has taken place in British politics for more than twenty-five years - since Tony Blair became leader of the Labour Party. The reason for this is that it is the first substantial challenge to neoliberalism that has emerged from Labour in all those years. Corbyn’s campaign has now demonstrated that a politics based on the rejection of neoliberalism - the contemporary version of ‘full capitalism’ - and the development of an alternative to it - is capable of electoral success.
Rebecca Bramall, Joe Painter, Ash Ghadiali, Ewan Gibbs, John Barry, Kirsten Forkert
We invited a range of contributors to reflect on the results of the June 2017 election, to think about what the results mean for the future of the country, and what we might do to consolidate and develop the gains they represent.
Ben Little, Alison Winch
In this first instalment of our Soundings series on critical terms, we look at the idea of ‘generation’, a term which has become highly prevalent within political discourse since the financial crisis.1 As with all the concepts in this series, the idea of generation is differently mobilised by different political actors. Right-wing thinkers use generation in a sense that can be traced back to Edmund Burke to mean the transmission of property and culture through time, while other commentators draw on meanings derived from Mannheim to refer to the experiences of particular cohorts at times of rapid political change. For activists on the left, it is important to distinguish between these different connotations of generation. The Burkean approach has regressive implications, for example in the justification of austerity as a way of protecting future generations from debt; and the Mannheimian understanding, although not as conservative, needs to be connected to an intersectional analysis that looks at other identity markers alongside those of age - such as class, race, gender and sexuality - so as to avoid flattening differences within cohorts and impeding solidarities between generations.
Inequality is one of the most pressing issues of our time. It has long been the Labour Party’s lodestar. We need to take a clear-eyed look at its causes and consequences in the twenty-first century in order to put together coalitions and policies to tackle it effectively. The challenges are great, but there are new analyses and ideas on the left that should give us hope.
Income inequality may soon start to fall, but this isn’t a cause for great optimism. Inequality is at far higher levels in Britain than other large European countries, with hugely damaging effects for society and quality of life, as well as for politics: high inequality tends to go along with political disengagement and high levels of far-right voting.
The left has traditionally viewed the fight against inequality through the lens of the poorest in our society. But the stagnating real incomes of those in the middle of the income spectrum means we need to reframe it as a majoritarian issue, and tackle it with a comprehensive plan that attacks inequality from different angles.
Mike Savage, Sam Friedman
Britain’s class landscape has changed: it is more polarised at the extremes and messier in the middle. The distinction between middle and working class is less clear-cut. The elite is able to set political agendas and entrench their own privilege. The left needs a clear narrative showing how privilege leads to gross unfairness – and effective policies to tackle the ‘class ceiling’ so entrenched in our society.