In Defence of Bolshevism

Submitted by Gemma_S on 17 August, 2018 - 12:26 Author: Sean Matgamna and Max Shachtman

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Max Shachtman's Under the Banner of Marxism, which forms the bulk of this book, deserves to be considered one of the classic polemics of the Marxist movement, alongside The Poverty of Philosophy, Anti-Dühring, and others. It defends the Bolsheviks, their revolution, their work to build a revolutionary socialist movement, and the continued relevance of their approach.

The British political labour movement is trying to recreate itself. Over the last three years something like half a million people have joined the Labour Party, and done so mostly because they want to be politically active as left-wingers. Around 40,000 have joined Momentum for the same reason.

Yet the legacy of previous defeats for socialism still weighs heavy. There is a strong current of opinion within the broad left which suggests that a broadly left-wing Labour Party will suffice. What has the experience of the Bolsheviks and the Bolshevik tradition have to say to them?

The book contains also other relevant documents on the Bolshevik Revolution and texts by Leon Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, and Hal Draper.

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Published September 2018. ISBN: 978-1-909639-43-0

Full contents

Introduction, by Sean Matgamna: the British labour movement and Bolshevism

  • The Russian revolution
  • The Third International and the Fourth
  • The British and Russian labour movements
  • The first Thatcher
  • The left and the EU in the 1970s
  • Thatcher’s counter-revolution
  • The Benn movement
  • The political anatomy of the left in 1979-85
  • Left antisemitism
  • The left today
  • Honour the Bolsheviks!

Part 1: Under the Banner of Marxism, by Max Shachtman.

This, the main text in this book, Under the Banner of Marxism, was a reply by Max Shachtman in 1949 to a document by a hitherto prominent comrade, Ernest Erber, announcing his withdrawal from organised revolutionary Marxist politics. Erber's document, and a letter of his from the same time, are available online at Erber had joined the Trotskyist movement in the mid-30s and was a leading figure in the Workers Party between 1940 and 1948. After resigning Erber made a career as a town planner and was only marginally active in politics, considering himself a sort of social democrat.

  • In an age of apostasy
  • Lenin and the Marxian theory of the state
  • State and revolution in the light of two experiences
  • Revolution and violence

Part 2 : The party that led the revolution.

[Where not otherwise indicated, the texts in parts 2, 3, and 4 are by Max Shachtman]

  • The party that won the victory
  • Did Bolshevism produce Stalinism?
  • The working class and socialism
  • The “mistakes” of the Bolsheviks
  • Bolshevism and gossip
  • October was a true working class revolution

Part 3: Lenin, Bolshevism, and Rosa Luxemburg

Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg

Part 4: Appendices

  • Shachtman confronts Kerensky — Labor Action
  • An anti-Bolshevik eye-witness — Hal Draper
  • What is Trotskyism?
  • Blanquism and social democracy — Rosa Luxemburg
  • Hands off Rosa Luxemburg! — Leon Trotsky
  • Trotskyism and the PSOP — Leon Trotsky
  • The class, the party and the leadership — Leon Trotsky
  • Tradition and revolutionary policy — Leon Trotsky

Study Guide

Click here to download a study guide for use with the book.


Watch this series of short videos on the Bolsheviks and what they stood for. Workers’ Liberty has a book of the same title, edited by Sean Matgamna. The bulk of the book is a polemic by Max Shachtman in which he defends the Bolsheviks and the Russian revolution, and their continued relevance. Order a copy of the book here.

To select individual videos, click on the playlist selector in top right of the video image above. See Workers' Liberty's channel for other playlists, and individual videos.

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20 copies £140

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