Revisiting a Classic: Roll, Jordan, Roll and Hegemony

A spectre continues to haunt the historiography of slavery in the United States – the spectre of Eugene Genovese’s “nettlesome” classic on enslaved people’s culture in the antebellum United States.  That classic is Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made. Over the past decades Genovese’s masterpiece has been subject to a number of different criticisms, but … More Revisiting a Classic: Roll, Jordan, Roll and Hegemony

A Note on Democratic Centralism

Commentators, both Marxist and anti-Marxist, often mischaracterize democratic centralism as a necessary evil, an expedient that contradicts the liberatory thrust of socialist struggle. James P. Cannon, the remarkably gifted pioneer of American Trotskyism, said of it: “Democratic-centralism has no special virtue per se. It is the specific principle of a combat party, united by a … More A Note on Democratic Centralism

Hailing Red Armies

In 1978 the fortunes of the poorest and most oppressed of Afghanistan seemed to be looking up. In April the so-called “Saur Revolution” – essentially a military coup, with tacit support from the Kabul-based coalition of a nascent middle class, students, and government bureaucrats – toppled the regime of Mohammed Daoud Khan. Replacing him was Nur Muhammad Taraki, leader … More Hailing Red Armies

Lenin and State Capitalism: Debunking a Persistent Myth

Something I have run up against repeatedly over years of discussing Marxist politics in person and online is the myth that Lenin mistakenly believed socialism to be a form of capitalism. One piece of “evidence” for this claim is a quote drawn from Lenin’s “The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It.” In the section … More Lenin and State Capitalism: Debunking a Persistent Myth

Back in the USSR: State Capitalism Theory, Its Problems, and Its Context (DWS Series Part III)

In my previous blog post in this series, I distinguished between deformed and degenerated workers’ states presiding over planned economies and bonapartist third-world dictatorships that used sweeping nationalizations to accelerate bourgeois development and accumulate capital through a combination of black markets, bribery, and rent-seeking. Some ostensible Trotskyist groups, like those descended from Ted Grant’s Militant tendency, make no … More Back in the USSR: State Capitalism Theory, Its Problems, and Its Context (DWS Series Part III)

“Proletarian Bonapartism” and Prebendal Politics (DWS Series Part II)

In Part 1 of the DWS series, I laid out what I consider to be a theory of deformed workers’ states. That theory posited that such states came into existence under distinct conditions. Petty-bourgeois movements, usually anti-imperialist, were supported by discontented layers of workers and/or peasants and were thereby forced to smash the bourgeois state managed … More “Proletarian Bonapartism” and Prebendal Politics (DWS Series Part II)

Deformed Workers’ States: Socialism From Above? (DWS Series Pt. 1)

Of all the topics in Marxism (and Trotskyism), probably the most unintuitive and controversial subject of them all is that of deformed workers’ states. After all, an ABC of Marxism is that only workers can make a workers’ state and that it must take place under the leadership of the most advanced layer of class … More Deformed Workers’ States: Socialism From Above? (DWS Series Pt. 1)