Max Shachtman

Shachtman's mistakes are not our model

For more debate on US politics, see here Martin Thomas (Solidarity 569, 28 October 2020) states that in 1954 “the heterodox Trotskyist Independent Socialist League [ISL] decided to back trade-union candidates… in Democratic primaries; and in the general elections if they won the primaries”. He denies that this turn contributed to their political drift to the right. Instead, it was “‘Sanders campaigning’ on a small scale 60-odd years before the fact”. Similarly, Thomas Carolan, (Solidarity 566, 7 October 2020) wrote: “The experience of Max Shachtman moving to the right once in the Democratic...

Was Stalinism the new barbarism?

Published in Workers' Liberty Series 1 No. 66 January 2001. Paul Hampton analyses the arguments used by Tony Cliff and others to rubbish the ideas developed in the 1940s by Max Shachtman and the “unorthodox” Trotskyists in the USA about the USSR. This is the second part of an article whose first part appeared in Workers’ Liberty 62. By the late forties Shachtman came to the conclusion that Stalinism was “the new barbarism”. Cliff understood that there were two meanings of the term “barbarism’; the first sense meant a description of the period since 1917, given the belatedness of the socialist...

Stalinism in theory and history

Published in Workers' Liberty Series 1 No. 62 March 2000 In theories of Stalinism, as Haberkern comments in his review of The Fate of the Russian Revolution (WL59-60), plainly there are many nuances, and valuable contributions from the likes of Burnham, Carter and Draper which ought to be more widely known. But the book, criticised by Ernie for its failure to include more such texts, was not intended as a compilation of theories of bureaucratic collectivism. It is rather a critique of the ideas of latter-day Trotskyism, from the premises of Trotsky and by his most ardent followers. Many...

The dynamics of bureaucratism

Left Oppositionists in Siberian exile, late 1920s Published in Workers Liberty Series 1 No.59/60 December 1999 / January 2000 The Fate of the Russian Revolution: Lost Texts of Critical Marxism Volume One is a significant contribution to the literature of the anti-Stalinist left. Long buried in the archives the polemics and analyses of those socialists who refused to accept the definition of Stalin’s barbaric regime as a “workers’ state” simply because property was nationalised and private property, large and small, was obliterated, deserve to see the light. My criticism of this anthology...

Penetrating but unsound

Statue of Stalin toppled in the 1956 Hungarian revolution Published in Workers Liberty Series 1 No. 53 February 1999 I welcome the publication of The Fate of the Russian Revolution: Lost Texts of Critical Marxism Volume One a sort of library in itself. It is a handy compendium of the sweep of Max Shachtman's journalism, and of his co-thinkers. Always penetrating, often witty, and never without interest, Shachtman was a very gifted revolutionary journalist. But he was no theoretician. This puts him well ahead of James P Cannon, who was neither, but journalism is what it is, and not theory. The...

The pilots who weathered the storm

Natalia Sedova, Frida Kahlo, Leon Trotsky and Max Shachtman In the first of a series of critical responses to The Fate of the Russian Revolution: Lost Texts of Critical Marxism, recently published by Phoenix Press and Workers’ Liberty, Alan Johnson argues that the book can play an invaluable role in restoring democracy to the heart of Marxism and help lay to rest the theoretical confusions of post-Trotsky Trotskyism. Originally published in Workers Liberty Series 1 No.50/52 October 1998/January 1999. “However well-intentioned Marxists are nowadays about the need to value democracy the latter...

Different in two ways

• See here for other articles debating the US election, Trump, etc. This US presidential election is different in two ways. It narrows down to a contest between a fascistic demagogue with a militant and part-militarised mass base, and a standard-issue neoliberal. And recent years have seen a sizeable though diffuse new US socialist current round Sanders’ campaigns and the Democratic Socialists of America. At the same time, the International Socialist Organization has wound itself up, and Solidarity sees itself more as an “educational centre” than an activist group. Conclusion: the most active...

ISO: stirrings in the ashes

People from the leadership of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) which was in place before the ISO’s convention in February 2019, have launched a new website, the International Socialism Project (ISP), internationalsocialism.net, and some forums in Chicago. The project also involves one or two former members of the “Orthodox Trotskyist” (in fact, semi-Assadist) Socialist Action group. Background: the ISO was long the most active group on the US far left, with up to 1500 members. Apparently overwhelmed by criticism from the ranks, the old leadership (many of them leaders since the...

Socialism and the Third Camp

Julius Jacobson (1922-2003) was a long-standing figure in the Third Camp socialist tradition. He followed Max Shachtman and Hal Draper out of the Socialist Workers' Party and helped found the Workers Party with them in 1940. Together with his wife Phyllis Jacobson, Julius founded the independent socialist journal New Politics in 1961, serving as its editor for more than 40 years. After going into dormancy in 1978, New Politics was revived for its second (and ongoing) run in 1986. This article by Jacobson, "Socialism and the Third Camp", is from the first volume of the resurrected New Politics...

Last stand for Bolshevism

A review of In Defence of Bolshevism, a collection of writings by Max Shachtman edited by Sean Matgamna There is little that is new here, good or bad. The most provocative stuff is contained in Sean Matgamna’s introduction, and this is a rehash of themes that he has presented better elsewhere, the unrelieved badness of the Soviet Union, the equation of antisemitism with anti-Zionism, as well as his failure to provide even a skeleton of a programme for the semi-colonial world, and, of course, more justifiably (and enjoyably) his attacks on the leaders of rival organisations to his Alliance for...

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