54. Juche : a philosophical upgrade?

korean dymastyKim Jong Il’s birthday is one of the biggest national holidays in the DPRK and designated on February 16, 2012 , it is called the “Day of the Shining Star” . It was the literary output attributed to him that did more than anything else to popularise the concept of the Juche idea authored by his father. Under Kim Jong Il it was given a greater international dimension emphasising its originality in its philosophical gaze.

echo 1 echo 2

Kim Hun Hyok (ed) 2014 (Juche 103) Echoes Down the Centuries. Pyongyang: Foreign Languages Publishing House pp 7-8

Mao and Kim 1 Mao and Kim 2 Mao and Kim3.jpg

Chairman Mao Zedong  and North Korean leader Kim Il-sung share a warm handshake at Mao’s home in Beijing’s Zhongnanhai garden on April 18, 1975.


In a book review[1] of Echoes Down the Centuries, Dermot Hudson, leading member of the Korean Friendship Association (KFA), repeats the inference that Mao told the Korean communist leader that he hoped that Kim Il Sung would lead the international communist movement and world revolution after he passed away.

Whether the story is genuine or not is immaterial as it illustrates a truth that is part of the mythology that Korean authorities want to portray: the idea of continuity and rupture in the development of the Juche idea was convey most starkly in the writings attributed to Kim Jong Il as he codified the ideas of his father.

In 1980s Britain, the chances are good that it was a newspaper advert that was the first introduction to Kim Il Sung. A paid article in smaller newsprint type would be the text of his speech on the importance of Korean independence. It was the ideological and theoretical exploits of Kim Jong Il, his son and successor, who took that central emphasis on independence and applied it to wider spheres such as philosophy to build a universalist ideological edifice around the Juche idea. It was Kim Jong Il and his successor, and son, Kim Jong Un, in their speeches advanced the idea of a “Golden Age of the Kimilsungist-Kimjongilist” in the systemization of Juche idea. The evolution of the idea has seen it emerged, in the wake of the collapse of Soviet-style “existing socialism” promoted as “an original idea and perfect revolutionary theory of communism the great leader created reflecting the requirements of the new era of history, the era of independence.”

Now people in many countries of the world are envious of our form of socialism, calling it a “model of socialism” and a “unique socialism”. Reality graphically proves that the Juche idea on which our socialism is based is the greatest ideology.[2]  

dermot

Despite the propaganda, Juche does not travel well outside the state sponsorship of North Korea. Adherents are few in number and the many friendship associations that populate cyberspace today are maintained by a handful recycling the circular arguments and mutual support that sustains the foundation of the international allegiance.

The crusade to promote the DPRK as a model goes against the self-professed tenants of the Juche idea that was rooted in the Korean experience. Despite the number of leftist organisations that signed the 1992 Pyongyang Declaration, officially titled Let Us Defend and Advance the Cause of Socialism, support for the country (not necessarily the regime) is on terms of its defence against continuing US hostility towards the regime. On the tenth anniversary of the Declaration on April 20, 2002, the Korean Central News Agency announced that it had been endorsed by 258 parties .Ideological identification with the ideas of the ruling WPK is rare on the political left – in Britain a single organization (with as many members) declares itself for Juche, while others fringe communists express solidarity with the DPRK. From that same mielu comes, understandably, accusations of revisionism – after all, dynastic succession is an ill-fit with an ideology that has a classless society as its end goal.

[1] https://friendsofkorea.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/echoes-down-centuries.html

[2] Kim Il Jong On Some Problems of the Ideological Foundation of Socialism Juche 79 (1990)


dpkp logo

There was a struggle to convince the ranks of the WPK of the interpretation that was being promoted. He alluded to opposition to his father’s ideas “anti-Party, counterrevolutionary factionalists, steeped in worship of big powers and dogmatism, would slander them, measuring them against the theories and propositions advanced by the authors of Marxism-Leninism.” [1]

On numerous occasions Kim Jong IL, in talks to senior officials of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea had to lay down instructions and argued that the Juche idea, “our Party’s outlook on the world”, is the guiding idea of our times which illuminates the absolutely correct way of achieving independence for the popular masses.[2]

[1] Kim Jong Il, On Correctly Analysing and Reviewing the History of the Preceding Revolutionary Ideology of the Working Class. Juche 55 (1966)

[2] e.g. , On Having A Correct Viewpoint and Understanding of the Juche Philosophy Juche 79 (1990)


It was in 1966 that Kim Jong Il directed that analysing and reviewing the revolutionary ideology of the preceding working class was necessary for overcoming flunkeyism and dogmatism in Marxism-Leninism and establishing Juche in the field of ideology and theory.[1]

It was a constant repeated theme, that underlined the Korean approach of analysing, and valuing, the feats and limitations of Marxism-Leninism from the standpoint of Juche, so as “to give our Party members and other working people a correct understanding of the originality and superiority of the socialist ideology and theory of our Party.”[2]

Kim Jong Il, in talks to Social Scientists in the summer of 1966, had launched a “comprehensive analysis and review of Marxism-Leninism”. The context of “Leftist” and Rightist opportunism emergent in the international communist movement, and what was rightly being challenged the sycophantic and dogmatic approaches towards Marxism-Leninism as “its proponents are interpreting Marxism-Leninism in their favour”. Instead, there was an ideological offensive that the “great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung’s revolutionary Ideology–his ideas, theories and policies –should be our sole yardstick for analyzing and assessing the preceding theories.”

It was argued that some cadres and intellectuals have not yet relinquished the habit of interpreting the leader’s revolutionary ideas within the framework of Marxism-Leninism, under the misapprehension that the latter contains solutions to all the problems arising in the revolution and construction. What was identified was a very practical mistaken stance that was described as “exerted a considerable negative influence” that tried to define Korean developing reality according to set formulae and propositions that did not conform to the actual conditions in the DPRK.

[1]Kim Jong Il, On Correctly Analysing and Reviewing the History of the Preceding Revolutionary Ideology of the Working Class. Juche 55 (1966)

[2] Kim Jong Il, Socialism Is The Life of Our People Juche 81 (1992)


 

The aim was clearly stated:

“a comprehensive examination, analysis and review of the 100-year-long history of the working-class ideology, Marxism-Leninism. To analyse and review the preceding revolutionary ideology of the working class is a prerequisite for eliminating sycophantic and dogmatic approaches towards Marxism-Leninism and establishing the Juche orientation in the field of ideology and theory.”

Kim Jong Il advised, having identified “more than 30 of their works” [Marx, Engels and Lenin], “relinquish the old habit of worshiping the classics of Marxism-Leninism blindly. You should study each and every phrase of the works and, in the context of their settings and purposes, analyze their historical significance and limitations. You should also assess whether the individual propositions contained in the works suit our present situation or not.”

The prescribed framework for an assessment of the historical limitation set out a number of observation offered by Kim Jong Il that underplays any universalist element, and in highlighting these limitations, historical, ideological and theoretical, of Marxism-Leninism doctrine, Kim Jong Il was underlining the view that this historical legacy was less relevant than those ideas promoted as Korea’s own, the Juche of Kim Il Sung. Arguments for the alternative abandons basic Marxist methodology, historical materialism, political economy, and essentially argues “times have changed” before going on to prescribing idealist assertions devoid of explanation and reasoning.

  • This doctrine [Marxism-Leninism] does not provide solutions to the theoretical and practical problems in the revolution and construction in former colonies and semi-colonies which make up the overwhelming majority of the nations on earth.
  • They could not anticipate the theoretical and practical problems that would arise in setting up socialist system and then building socialism and communism after the seizure of power by the working class, nor could they give specific solutions to these problems.
  • The works they wrote contain elements of the preceding bourgeois theories, those of Hegel’s philosophy in particular, and there are more elements of them in their earlier publications.
  • It is impossible to find solutions to the theoretical and practical problems of the present times in Marxism, which emerged as a result of a theoretical analysis of pre-monopoly capitalism on the social foundations of a few developed capitalist nations in Western Europe. And among the revolutionary theories advanced by Marx and Engels, several lost their viability after the shift from capitalism to imperialism.
  • You should not refer to Marxism for theories concerning the building of socialism and communism in our era. Because they had no experience in building socialism and communism, the authors of the doctrine could not give solutions to the pertinent problems, and their theories with regard to the building of socialism and communism are highly superficial and simplistic and lie within the confines of speculation.
  • Leninism, as a variant of Marxism, defending the revolutionary essence of Marxism against a diverse range of opportunistic distortions and assaults and developing its fundamental principles in line with the specific conditions in the Russian revolution and the changed circumstances of the times.
  • Lenin, could not anticipate the legion of problems that have been raised in the present times and, accordingly, no answers to these problem s are given in his theories and works.
  • You need to know that the Leninist theory on the socialist revolution, to all intents and purposes, presented a strategy and tactics that reflected the reality of contemporary Russia.
  • Lenin provided answers to some of the theoretical and practical problems raised in the early days of socialist construction, but died shortly after the revolution. So he could not provide specific solutions to the theoretical and practical problems arising in the building of socialism and communism as he lacked practical experience of it.
  • Leninism is, above all else, formulated, based on the same world outlook as Marxism, and the two doctrines are similar in composition. This defines the scope of the originality of Leninism. All in all, Lenin was a staunch champion of and faithful successor to Marxism. But his achievements in the creative development of Marxism pale into insignificance compared to those in championing and inheriting it.

 

Kim Il Jong On Some Problems of the Ideological Foundation of Socialism Juche 79 (1990)

In a Speech Delivered to the Senior Officials of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea on May 30, 1990, Kim Jong Il explained

As we have the Juche idea, we have solved with credit the problem of consolidating the ideological foundation of socialism. If we had not the Juche idea or had we blindly followed others, we would not have been able to build our unique form of socialism which is the most advantageous in the world.

The essential point driven home in the elevation of Juche idea within the WPK was that it was not be viewed as a simple inheritance and development of Marxism-Leninism; it must be viewed as a new and original idea. This ideological rupture and upgrading intensified with the collapse of Soviet-style “existing socialism” at the beginning of the 1990s.

juche poster

“Socialism devoid of ideological foundation and perfect guiding ideology cannot be called genuine socialism and it might be frustrated, unable to check the anti-socialist schemes of the imperialists and reactionaries. This is shown graphically by the lesson of those countries where socialism was frustrated and capitalism has been restored. Our socialism is advancing victoriously unperturbed amidst the continuing vicious moves of the imperialists and reactionaries just because it is based on the Juche idea and guided by this idea.”


 

Any respect given to the historical achievements of the dialectical materialism of Marxism, as it smashed the reactionary idealistic and metaphysical outlook on the world, in this view is due to the role it played in facilitating the development of Kim Il Sung’s Juche idea as the ideological foundation of socialism.

“We must recognize the exploits Marx, Engels and Lenin performed for mankind and respect them. Thanks to the creation of Marxism-Leninism, the socialist theory developed from fantasy to science; the working class was able to have a guiding ideology for the first time in history and they could struggle vigorously against capital and for class emancipation, national liberation and socialism. Respecting the authors of the theories is an obligation on us in view of the principle of the juniors of the revolution respecting their seniors.”[1] Kim Jong Il, Socialism Is The Life of Our People Juche 81 (1992)

The claim is that the Juche idea must not be viewed as a simple inheritance and development of Marxism-Leninism; it must be viewed as a new and original idea. That we should see originality in context with derivations in understanding means that the Juche idea is not an ideology, which contrasts with Marxism-Leninism:

In the seminar work, On Having A Correct Viewpoint and Understanding of the Juche Philosophy (1990), Kim Jong Il’s talk to the Senior Officials of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea chided the WPK for an error “we must correct the tendency to explain the superiority and originality of the Juche idea from the point of view of Marxist dialectical materialism”.

Explaining Marx’s philosophy as a critical inheritance, the contribution of Marxism-Leninism that had shaped the initial philosophical stance of the WPK was characterised as a stepping stone to later insights.

Marx directed his main efforts to critically examining the existing philosophical theories so as to free the working class, which was making a fresh appearance on the historical stage, from the outdated and reactionary outlook on the world. By discarding what was unscientific and reactionary in the preceding materialism and dialectics and by inheriting and developing a reasonable core, Marx created dialectical materialism.

A crude orthodoxy, long since challenged in theory and practice, is set up by the Korean authorities to contrast with the Juche idea. Thus the description that Marxism considered the development of society to be the history of replacement of the mode of production taking place by the law of adaptation of the relations of production to the character of the productive forces. According to this opinion, one can understand that revolution is carried out in the main when a socialist mode of production has been established and therefore it is concluded that there remains only work to consolidate and develop the socialist mode of production. Asif nothing has occurred to challenge this schematic view.

It is argued that the revolutionary idea created by the great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung is an integrated system of idea, theory and method of Juche. It is said to be a completely original idea that can be called upon only in association with the august name of the leader. The Juche idea created by the great leader is an original philosophical ideology in that it presented, to start with, a new fundamental question of philosophy and systematized its structural system and content.

The improvement is said to lie in the emphasis that “the essential attributes of man, a social being, are not products of evolution; they have been formed and developed socially and historically.” Kim Jong Il was critical of those who still attempting to consider man’s essential characteristics with the evolutionary methodology arguing, simplistically and not without contention from others, that Man is the only social being in the world, therefore, we cannot compare him with animals. The idea is further refined: “Man is a social being. This implies that he is a being who lives in a social relationship. This term is used to distinguish man from natural being. As man is a social being, he has independence, creativity and consciousness, attributes which are peculiar to him and which other material beings cannot have.”

Again stressing the questionable “originality of the Juche philosophy” not as a derivative but a rupture as “present bourgeois thinkers, revisionists and reformists are infusing people with spontaneity and the matter-first doctrine, considering all things and phenomena from the biological and evolutionary point of view and the vulgar materialistic viewpoint. In explaining and propagating the Juche philosophy, we ought to direct the spearhead of criticism to such a biological and vulgar materialistic outlook on the world.”

When Kim Jong IL and others argues that “Socialist construction shows in practice that the advantages of socialism cannot be given full play and the masses’ and the cause for independence cannot be accomplished unless revolution is carried on in the field of ideology and culture after the establishment of the socialist system.” It could be demonstrated that this was hardly an original insight of a new philosophy, when a principle evident in Soviet life in the 1920s and 1930s.

The bland assertion, oft repeated in the literature of supporters, again without supporting evidence and argumentation, (and excuse the gender bias) is that “The basic advantage of our form of socialism is that it is a man-centred society, a society which considers everything with man at the centre and makes everything serve him. This advantage is defined by the Juche idea, a man-centred idea.” From this arises the claim that by elucidating the philosophical principle that man is the master of everything and decides everything, the Juche idea gave the most correct answer to the question of man’s position and role in the world.

Far from giving a scientific solution to the question of continuous revolution in the socialist society, the Juche idea repeats the exhortations of selfishness and self-sacrifice that many voluntarists’ campaigns have employed. Establishing the threshold that “the masses are completely freed not only from socio-political subjugation but also from the fetters of nature and outdated ideology and culture” resembles a utopian science fiction scenario rather than reflective of society’s future development.

Facing the vestiges of the old society with its class structure, gender inequalities, racist oppression and sexual divisions, the prescription for freeing people from the fetters of nature and outmoded ideas and culture, as practiced in the DPRK, is far from transparent and dependent upon circular argumentation that has evolved to justify a move away from a materialist and dialectical understanding to a more idealist, nationalist and mystic exhortation to focus on the leader. DSC_0321


 

This emphasis on the value of an individual’s contribution, that is Kim Il Sung’s, should not be confused with other currents such as ‘Guiding Thought.’ Although equally focused on an individual leader, this marginal trend tries to maintain a fidelity to marxist science rather that replace it. In this school of thought, those individuals are not “genius” with great “ideas”, but people judged to have understanding reality in the dialectical materialist way, a synthesis and not an assembly of teachings, and accepting it as it is. This, essential Gonzalist tendency promotes the concept of Guiding Thought of revolution as at the heart of Maoism, “it explains that a Leadership is generated in the revolutionary process, that a person synthesizes in a Dialectical Materialist way the understanding of the situation, showing the path to follow”[1] .

The argument is that in each country, class struggle generates individuals who proceed to the analysis of their own social and national reality, understanding the contradictions they live in, paving the way for progress through revolution, i.e. New Democratic Revolution or Socialist Revolution. The “thought” is genuine and correct only if it means a real confrontation on all aspects of old society, the practical aspect being on the forefront. Hence their emphasis on Marxism-Leninism Maoism Gonzalo thought, principally Gonzalo thought.[2]

[1] Lenin’s Thought. Communism No.2 November 2016

[2] See: COMMUNISM No.5 –published September 2017 on the theme “In defense of Gonzalo, theoretician of Maoism” http://lesmaterialistes.com/fichiers/pdf/revues/communism-005-gonzalo.pdf


Questions and Answers On the Songun Idea . FLPH Pyongyang Juche 101 (2012) p16

Q and A 27

The Korean emphasis on the Juche idea and the family that is identified with its creation and application has served to maintain an independent stance for the DPRK in the face of a hostile world. It has made a virtue out of an autarkical necessity but even then clothes any [unacknowledged] assistance or dependent economic relationships. Even with the body of literature it has produced to underpin its claims, its ulitarian political convenience is illustrated by the adoption of Songun politics under Kim Jong Il. In light of difficult international and domestic situation in the 1990s, he was first to establish the military-first policy [although back-dated to the armed revolutionary struggle under Kim Il Sung] and it moved the WPK further away from it Marxist foundations. The narrow application of such an idea, similar to Soviet development thinking in the 1960s that identified the army of third world states as the most stable national institution for progressive advance, could only be applied by parties holding state power. In all, this school of thought, promoted as some kind of upgrade to revolutionary science, provides a retrogressive step reinforcing  the sycophantic and dogmatic approaches that it was said to challenge.

nk laughs

Irish Revolutionary Tradition in Cork Workers Club’s Publications (Part 2 )

Small press publications have traditionally been the vehicle for radical political argument and providing an alternative record from the dominant narrative that makes up the general fare of public and academic publishing. Throughout the 1970s, the Cork Workers’ Club were industrious in publishing a series of historical reprints of classic texts of Irish socialist republicanism, including James Connolly. There was eventually twenty pamphlets in the series that reflected an orthodox Marxist analysis of Ireland’s radical tradition. These long out of print pamphlets had an international distribution.  

The Cork Workers Club emerged from the Cork Communist Organisation. The latter had itself been formed in 1972 in reaction to the Irish Communist Organisation’s shift from a Republican standpoint to a ’two nations’ and functionally pro-Unionist one. Through a number of organisational developments the Cork Workers’ Club, operated out of the same premises in St Nicholas Church Lane in south Cork that the republican Saor Éire had used since 1968 as its headquarters. The premises acted as a meeting place, bookshop and printing house.

Memories of CWC posted by Fintan Lane on the Irish blogsite The Cedar Lounge Revolution in 2007 recalls:

The ‘Cork Communist Organisation’ was made up largely, I believe, of the Saor Eire people (publishers of ‘People’s Voice’ etc.), who had earlier merged with the ICO. Their politics was a mixture of Marxist-Leninism (Maoism in this instance) and republicanism. My father – Jim Lane – was involved….

The CCO later morphed into the Cork Workers Club, which survived into the late 1970s as a real group and, afterwards, as a sort of publishing house. The bookshop in Nicholas Church Place remained open until the early 1980s, when it was actually an IRSP bookshop/office. It was a centre for the anti-H-Block campaign during the hunger strikes and was later used by the Release Nicky Kelly Campaign. In its early years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, public meetings were held upstairs at times. I remember once seeing a poster advertising an appearance there by Eamon McCann.

I ‘staffed’ the bookshop for a while in the early 1980s, when it was open only on Saturday and some week nights. There were some regular customers, but, as time moved on, few people slinked in besides the affiliated. Its heyday really was at the end of the 1960s and early 1970s when it was the place to go in Cork to get left-wing and republican literature. It was a genuine backstreet bookshop and when other places opened, such as the bookshop in the Quay Co-op in the early 1980s, it effectively no longer had much of a purpose. It was too far off the beaten track. A strange place, in some ways. Internet shopping would have wiped it out, had it survived that long, because it primarily dealt in political material that mainstream shops wouldn’t sell.

Source: Fintan Lane – October 30, 2007

— February 2018

THE CORK WORKERS’ CLUB ~ HISTORICAL REPRINTS

Reprints of pamphlets, booklets and newspaper articles of historical value to the study of the Socialist Movement in Ireland

 No.1   James Connolly and Irish freedom. A Marxist analysis G.Schuller

http://michaelharrison.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/James-Connolly-and-Irish-Freedom-G-Schuller-Cork-Workers-Club-1974.pdf

No.2  British Imperialism in Ireland  by  Eleanor Burns

http://michaelharrison.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/British-Imperialism-in-Ireland-A-Marxist-Historical-Analysis-Elinor-Burns-Cork-Workers-1974.pdf

No.3  Marx, Engels and Lenin on the Irish Revolution

http://collections.mun.ca/PDFs/radical/MarxEngelsAndLeninOnTheIrishRevolution.pdf

No.4    The Irish Republican Congress by George Gilmore

http://michaelharrison.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/The-Irish-Republican-Congress-George-Gilmore-Historical-Reprints-No-4-Cork-Workers-Club-1974.pdf

 No.5    The James Connolly Songbook (1972)

No. 6   Workshop Talks  by  James Connolly                              

No.7   The Irish Question (1894)  by  John Leslie

http://michaelharrison.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/The-Irish-Question-John-Leslie-Cork-Workers-Club-1974.pdf                           

No.8 The Historical Basis of Socialism in Ireland  by Thomas Brady

http://michaelharrison.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/The-Irish-Question-John-Leslie-Cork-Workers-Club-1974.pdf

No.9   The Connolly-Walker Controversy on Socialist Unity in Ireland

No.10 The Story of Irish Labour  by J.M.MacDonnell

Read Here cwc 10 

No.11 Ireland Upon The Dissecting Table – James Connolly on Ulster &             Partition.

No.12 Convict No. 50945: Jim Larkin, Irish Labour Leader

No.13 Irish Labour and its International Relations in the era of the 2nd             International and the Bolshevik Revolution.

No.14 Freedom’s Road for Irish Workers (1917)

No.15 The Connolly-DeLeon Controversy:On Wages, Marriage and the Church (1904)http://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1904/condel/index.htm

No.16   The Irish Crisis, 1921 – The C.P.G.B. stand by William Paul

Read Here cwc 16

No.17  The Struggle of the Unemployed in Belfast October 1932

http://michaelharrison.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/The-Struggle-of-the-Unemployed-in-Belfast-October-1932-by-Tom-Bell.pdf

No.18   The Irish Free State and British Imperialism  by “Gerhard”

Read Here cwc 18

 No.19   Sinn Fein and Socialism: James Connolly, “Charles Russell”,  Selma Sigerson

No.20   The Irish Case for Communism: Sean Murray, Jim Larkin Jun., Seamus MacKee & the C.P.I.

 

 

History in instalments: The Irish Revolutionary Tradition (Part 1 )

While visiting relatives in west Cork appreciative comments on the illustrated copy of the 1916 Proclamation hanging on the wall led to an afternoon of stories and recollections . I had found my republican relatives: Michael Collins may have stayed his last night at a cousin’s hotel, but here were the part of the family that sided and fought with the anti-treaty forces. That personal connection to the fight for Irish freedom came long after my own republican sympathies were expressed campaigning on the streets of London, but that family continuity was pleasing, and although never known, I could share their pride in that history.

Any reading of the Irish struggle generally present it as alternating between radical and constitutional republicanism each building upon the legacy of the previous failure to secure a united Ireland. Between the waning and waxing of these periods there is a connecting thread of ideas and people, even organisations which contribute to re-ignite a dormant struggle. The preservation of these connections will often be found in print, with history in instalments in the format of a small circulation pamphlets. More often than not, the arguments of yesteryear are echoed in the positions taken by contemporary activists, take one example relevant to the Irish struggle, most of the British ‘left’ still consider the national struggle to be a diversion to the class struggle. There are some at variance   with that position that draws upon a past recorded radical tradition. James Connolly pointed out a century ago that it would not be enough to win formal independence – that without taking the banks and industry into social ownership Ireland would remain dominated by imperialism through its economic power which in the end, means political power. With the movements of the oppressed for their national self-assertion, the national struggle is, therefore, not only the first stage in the revolution, it is the necessary springboard to socialist transformation and development of society.

Any exploration of the revolutionary tradition in Ireland would appreciate the sterling work of Einde O’Callaghan (Administrator, James Connolly Internet Archive) who provides a  selection of Connolly’s writings, although there are alternative websites providing access to some of the writings of James Connolly , some organisational related , others individual labour as with this selection of the best known writings of the leader of the Irish Citizen Army executed in the aftermath of the Easter Rising of 1916

There are various interpretations within the broad sweep of radical positions that looks to assess the legacy of past struggles and there are many landmarks in Ireland’s complex and enduring struggle. Out there there are a vast selection of material that seeks to maintain that revolutionary legacy. Here are links to three random instalments from this diverse history:

  1. An overview on Ireland’s revolutionary tradition Read Here Ireland RT   , and Michael Harrison’s ‘Left side of the Road’ website has made available a number of pamphlets with a radical perspective on Irish history.
  2. The landmark republican rising of 1798,    Read Here 1798
  3. and The Limerick Soviet of 1919                  Read Here Limerick

 

History on the Left

woodsmokeInformation overload is a curse. The inability to match one’s interests with the overwhelming amount of material that can be accessed from a keyboard is both frustrating and adds to the backlog of material to read even on a minority interest like the left in Britain. Previously the grey literature of bibliophiles was the print medium, found in obscure, often agitational pamphlets and publications, with the internet it has exploded beyond reasonable levels.

History sources on the Left are varied and many but still small radical presses and distributors are found via their web pages and more easily accessed. Individual local initiatives still exist like the Workers Educational Associations talks and course that may provide a print record. More commonly there are the limited distribution of self-published material of little known episodes in the class war that reflect an activist’s dedication. These can refer to quite localised events.

And obviously there are the archive builders. These often find expression with a dedication to provide a legacy of previous labour as in the provision of the work online of the Communist Historian Group and its publication “Our History”. There is a selection online of the 83 studies produced over 20 years of its operation. http://banmarchive.org.uk/collections/shs/index_frameset1.htm

Now superseded by the Socialist History group http://www.socialisthistorysociety.co.uk/.

The digital medium makes somethings possible that would be very difficult in the physical world such as the international co-operation and co-ordination for such political depositories as Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line that allows access to material that is scattered, rare and uncatalogued. There is no equivalent resource as it allows access and has more holdings than even a National library collection of record. https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/erol.htm

There are the products of stakhanovite activism, the perspective of those political groups and individuals, always an interesting exploration from the anarchist perspective, is the libcom library which contains nearly 20,000 articles of international history from the other side of the barricades. https://libcom.org/library . Many leftist sites are worth exploring for accounts [undoubtedly partisan] of Leftist history.

Other examples of contemporary online promotion of the local radical history revival are these two sites

  1. past tense promotion of London’s radical history https://pasttenseblog.wordpress.com/ and
  2. Bristol Radical History Group http://www.brh.org.uk/site/pamphleteerRecount episodes forgotten, uncelebrated and still worthy of acknowledgment.

Listing the obscure, out-of-print and difficult to now obtain pamphlets to add to the awareness of this history would not be much assistance, so instead more accessible material from a home Library listing of “Books on the History of the English Left” that can be found in the diminishing libraries of Britain, and from online booksellers like http://www.leftontheshelfbooks.co.uk/ , or try http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/ethicalreports/buyingbookswithoutamazon/radicalbookshopsdirectory.aspx


GENERAL BACKGROUND

Beer, M (1940 ) A History of British Socialism. George Allen & Unwin

Blatchford ,Robert (1893/ 1977) Merrie England. The Journeyman Press

Cole, G.D.H & Postgate, Raymond (1938) The Common People 1746-1938.Methuen

Cornforth ,Maurice ed.(1978) Rebels and their Causes: essays in honour of A.L.Morton. Lawrence & Wishart

Gerhold, Gerhold (2007) The Putney Debates 1647.Self-published

Harrison, Stanley (1974) Poor Man’s Guardian: a survey of the Struggles for a Democratic Press,1786-1973. Lawrence & Wishart

Hampton, Christopher (1984)A Radical Reader: the struggle for change in England,1381-1914. Penguin

Horspool, David (2009) The English Rebel: one thousand years of troublemaking, from the to the Nineties. Penguin Books

Jones, Colin (1983) Britain and Revolutionary France: conflict, subversion and propaganda. University of Exeter

MacCoby, S (1957) The English Radical Tradition 1763-1914.New York University Press

Manning, Brian (2003) Revolution and Counter-Revolution in England, Ireland and Scotland. Bookmarks

Samuel, Raphael & Jones, Gareth Stedman (1982) Culture, Ideology and Politics. Routledge & Keegan Paul

Royle, Edward (2000) Revolutionary Britannia? Reflections on the threat of revolution in Britain, 1789-1848. Manchester University Press

Thompson E.P. (1984) The Making of the English Working Class. Penguin

Walzer, Michael (1966) The Revolution of the Saints: A study in the origins of radical politics. Weidenfield and Nicolson

Wells, Roger (1986) Insurrection: the British Experience 1795-1803. Alan Sutton


 

19th CENTURY LIVES OF LABOUR

Briggs, Asa (1962) Chartist Studies. MacMillan

Briggs, Asa & Saville, John (1971) Essays in labour history 1886-1923.Macmillan

Charlton, John (1999) ‘It just went like tinder’: The mass movement & New Unionism in Britain. Red Words

Cherry, Steven (1981) Our History– a pocket history of the Labour Movement. Self-published

Coleman, Stephen ed. (1996) Reform and Revolution: three early socialists on the way ahead. Thoemmes Press

Fox, Ralph (nd) The Class Struggle in Britain in the epoch of imperialism 1880-1923 (two volumes) Martin Lawrence

Hobsbawm E.J. (1965) Labouring Men: studies in the history of labour. Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Kynaston, David (1976) King Labour: The British Working Class 1850-1914. George Allen & Unwin

Lane, Tony (1974) The Union Makes Us Strong: The British working class, its politics and trade unionism. Arrow

Marcus, Steve (1985) Engels, Manchester and the working class .Norton

Morris, Williams (1979) Political Writings. Lawrence & Wishart

Morton, A.L. & Tate,George (1973 I 1956) The British Labour Movement 1770- 1920. Lawrence & Wishart

Murphy, J.T. (1934/1972) Preparing for Power: a critical study of the history of the British working class movement. Pluto Press

O’Brien, Mark (2009) Perish the Privileged orders: a socialist history of the Chartist Movement. New Clarion Press

Pelling, Henry (1977) A History of British Trade Unionism. Penguin

Rosenberg, David (2015) Rebel Footprints: a guide to uncovering London’s radical history. Pluto Press

Samuel, Raphael (1982) Village Life and Labour. Routledge

Stearns, Peter (1975) Lives of Labour: work in a maturing Industrial Society. Croom Helm

Torr, Dona (1956) Tom Mann and his Times Vol One: 1856-1890.Lawrence & Wishart


 

THE BRITISH LABOUR PARTY

Bealey, F & Pelling, H. (1958) Labour and Politics 1900-1906: a history of the Labour Representation Committee. MacMillan

Burgess, Keith (1980) The Challenge of Labour: shaping British society 1850-1930. Croom Helm

Cliff, Tony & Gluckstein, Donny (1988) The Labour Party – a Marxist History. Bookmarks

Clough, Robert (1992) Labour, a party fit for imperialism. Larkin Publications [RCG]

Howell, David (1980) British Social Democracy, a study in development and decay. Croom Helm

Lyman, Richard (nd) The First Labour Government 1924. Chapman & Hall

Miliband, Ralph (1979) Parliamentary Socialism: a study in the politics of Labour. Merlin Press

Ramsay, Robin (2002) The Rise of New Labour. Pocket Essentials


 

EARLY 20TH CENTURY

Challinor, Raymond (1977) The Origins of British Bolshevism. Croom Helm

Duncan, Rolbert & Mcivor, Arthur (1992) Militant Workers: labour and Class Conflict 1900-1950. Essays in honour of Harry McShane (1891-1988). John Donald

Kendall, Walter (1971) The Revolutionary Movement in Britain 1900-21: the origins of British Communism. Weidenfeld and Nicolson

Northedge F.S. & Wells, Audrey (1982) Britain and Soviet Communism, the impact of a revolution. Macmillan

Paul, William (nd) The State: its origins and function. Socialist Labour Press

Rosenberg, Chanie (1987) Britain on the brink of revolution 1919. Bookmarks

Skelly, Jeffrey (1976) The General Strike 1926. Lawrence & Wishart

Thrope, Andrew (1989) The Failure of Political Extremism in inter-war Britain. University of Exeter

Weller, Ken (1985) ‘Don’t Be A Soldier!’ The radical anti-war movement in North London 1914-1918 . Journeyman

Werskey, Gary (1988) The Visible College: a collective biography of British scientists and socialists of the 1930s. Free Association Books


 

COMMUNIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN

Adereth, Max (1994) Line of March: an historical and critical analysis of British Communism and its revolutionary strategy. Praxis Press

Attfield, John & Williams, Stephen (1984) 1939:The Communist Party and War. Proceedings of a conference held on 21April1979 organised by the Communist Party History Group. Lawrence & Wishart

Beckett,Francis (1995) Enemy Within: the rise and fall of the British Communist Party. John Murray

Beckett,Francis (2004) Stalin’s British Victims. Sutton Publishing

Bell, Tom (1937) British Communist Party, a short history. Lawrence & Wishart

Black, Robert (1970) Stalinism in Britain, a Trotskyist analysis. New Park Publication

Bronstein, Sam & Richardson, AI (nd) Two Steps Back: Communists & the wider labour movement 1934-1945. A study in the relations between vanguard and class. Socialist Platform

Clegg, Arthur (1989) Aid China 1937-1949.A memoir of a forgotten campaign. New World Presss

Cohen, Phil (1997) Children of the Revolution: communist childhood in Cold War Britain. Lawrence & Wishart

Croft, Andy (1998) A Weapon in the Struggle: the cultural history of the Communist Party in Britain. Pluto Press

Croft, Andy ed. (2012) After The Party: reflections on life since the CPGB. Lawrence & Wishart

Dewar, Hugo (1976) Communist Politics in Britain: The CPGB from its origins to the Second World War. Pluto Press

Drake, Bob (1952) The Communist Technique in Britain. Penguin Press

Green, John (2014)  Britain’s Communists: The Untold Story. Artery Publications

Gollan, John (1978) Reformism and Revolution. Communist Party

Hannington, Wal (1979 I 1936) Unemployed Struggles 1919-1936: My life and struggles amongst the Unemployed. Lawrence & Wishart

Hinton, James & Hyman, Richard (1975) Trade Unions and Revolution: the industrial politics of the early British communist Party. Pluto Press

Hyde, Douglas (1952) I Believed: the autobiography of a former British communist. The Reprint Society

Macintyre, Stuart (1980) A Proletarian Science: Marxism in Britain 1917-1933.  Lawrence & Wishart

Macleod, Alison (1997) The Death of Uncle Joe. Merlin Press

Mcilroy, Morgan & Campbell (2001) Party People, Communist Lives; explorations in biography. Lawrence & Wishart

Mitchell, Alex (1984) Behind the Crisis in British Stalinism. New Park Publication

Morgan, Kevin, Cohen, Gideon and Flinn, Andrew (2007) Communists and British Society 1920-1991 .River Cram Press

Murray, Andrew (1995) The CPGB , a historical analysis to 1941. Communist Liaison

Parker, Lawrence (2008) The kick inside: revolutionary opposition in the CPGB 1960-1991. Self-published. Second edition published by November Publications, 2012.

Pearce, Brian & Woodhouse, Michael (1975) Essays on the History of Communism in Britain. New Park Publications

Pelling, Henry (1958) The British Communist Party, a historical profile. Adam & Charles Black

Piratin, Phil (1980/ 1948) Our Flag Stays Red. Lawrence & Wishart

Rust, William (1949) The Story of the Daily Worker. People’s Press

Samuel, Raphel (2006) The Lost World of British Communism. Verso

Thompson, Willie (1992) The Good Old Cause: British Communism 1920-1991.Pluto Press

Trory, Erine (1974) Between the Wars: recollections of a communist organiser. Crabtree Press

Zinkin, Peter (1985) A Man To Be Watched Carefully. People’s Publication

 

HISTORY of the Communist Party of Great Britain

Published by Lawrence & Wishart

  1. Formation and early years 1919-1924 (Klugmann)
  2. The General strike 1925-1926                (Klugmann)
  3. HISTORY of the Communist Party of Great Britain 1927-1941 (Branson)
  4. HISTORY of the Communist Party of Great Britain 1941-1951 (Branson)
  5. Cold Wars, Crisis and Conflict: the CPGB 1951-1968                  (Callaghan)
  6. Endgames and New Times: the final years of British Communism 1964- 1991 (Andrews)

 

THE SIXTIES

Alleyne, Brian (2002) Radicals Against Race; Black activism and cultural politics. Berg

Callaghan, John (1987) The Far Left in British Politics. Blackwell

Caute, David (1988) Sixty-Eight, the year of the barricades. Hamish Hamilton

Chun, Lin (1993) The British New Left. Edinburgh University press

Clutterbuck, Richard (1980) Britain in Agony, the growth of political violence. Penguin

Heinemann, Benjamin J. (1972) The Politics of Powerless: a study of the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination. Institute of Race Relations. Oxford University Press

Shipley, Peter (1976) Revolutionaries in Modern Britain. The Bodley Head

Smith, Evan & ‎ Worley, Matthew (2017)   Against the Grain: The British Far Left from 1956. Manchester University Press

Tariq Ali (1972) The Coming British Revolution. Jonathan cape

Thayer, George (1965) The British Political Fringe, a profile. Anthony Blond

Tomlinson, John ( 1981) Left, Right : the march of political extremism in Britain. John Cape

Widgery, David (1976) The Left in Britain 1956-1968. Penguin


 

MAOISM

Ash,William (1978) A Red Square: the autobiography of an unconventional revolutionary. Howard Baker

Beil, Robert (1985/2015) Eurocentrism and the Communist Movement Kersplebedeb Publishing Montreal.

McCreery (n.d.) The Way Forward: a Marxist-Leninist of the British state, the CPGB and revolutionaries. WPPE

Podmore, Will ( 2004) Reg Birch: engineer, trade unionist, communist. Bellman books

Sherwood, Marika (1999) Claudia Jones, a life in exile. Lawrence & Wishart

 


 

TROTSKYISM

Bronstein, Sam & Richardson, Al (1986) War and the International: a history of the Trotskyist movement in Britain 1937-1949. Socialist Platform

Cliff, Tony (2000) A World To Win: life of a revolutionary. Bookmarks

Crick, Michael (1986) The March of Militant. Faber

Downing, G. (1991) WRP Explosion. The Socialist Fight Group

Essays on Revolutionary Marxism in Britain and Ireland from the 1930s to the 1960s. Revolutionary History Vol.6 No.2/3 Summer 1996

Grant, Ted (2002) History of British Trotskyism. Wellred Publications

Grant, Ted (1989) The Unbroken Thread: the development of Trotskyism over 40 years. Fortress Press

Groves, Reg (1974) The Balham Group: how British Trotskyism Began. Pluto Press

Higgins, Jim (1997) More Years for the Locust ; the origins of the SWP. IS group

Ratner, Harry (1994) Reluctant Revolutionary: memoirs of a Trotskyist 1936-1960. Socialist Platform

Taafe, Peter (1995) The Rise of Miltant : Militant’s 30 years. Militant Publications

The Fourth International, Stalinism and the origins of the International Socialists: some documents (1971) Pluto Press


 

MEMOIRS

Bone, Ian (2006) Bash The Rich; true-life confessions of an anarchist in the UK. Tangent Books

Cohen, Nick (2007) What’s Left: how Liberals lost their way. Fourth Estate

Kilfoye, Peter (2000) Left behind: Lessons from Labour’s heartland. Politico

Mitchell, Alex (2012) Come the Revolution: A Memoir. UNSW Press

Saville, John (2003) Memoirs From The Left. Merlin Press

Steel, Mark (2001) Reasons To Be Cheerful: from Punk to New labour through the eyes of a dedicated Trouble Maker. Scribner

Stuart, Christie (2005) Granny Made Me An Anarchist. Scribner


50. John MacLean

Maclean

John Maclean, Scottish Marxist, one of the leaders of the ‘Red Clydeside’ era died on 30 November 1923 in Glasgow at the age of 44 .His funeral was attended by thousands of his fellow Glaswegians and at the time, was the biggest funeral ever seen in the city. Even today John Maclean is remembered by a Commemoration in November with a march and graveside oration at Eastwood Cemetery.

Maclean’s daughter, Nan Milton, provided a biography on her father and her selected works of Maclean, In the Rapids of Revolution was the first published collection of essays, articles, pamphlets and letters by the revolutionary organiser and educator of Clydeside. The indispensable Marxist Internet Archive have his articles from Justice and Forward, available online https://www.marxists.org/archive/maclean/index.htm

January 2018 saw the publication of Gerard Cairns new book on John MacLean titled: ‘The Red and the Green – a Portrait of John Maclean. The former Secretary of the John Maclean Society has a chapter in the book that highlights Maclean’s links with Irish revolutionaries on Clydeside, and the practical assistance hejohnmacleanbook on saale at Lighthouse, Edinburgh's radical bookshop. gave to the cause of Irish freedom. The author of “The Irish Tragedy: Scotland’s Disgrace”, is known better on the Left than in wider society. There has been a gradual increase in the literature that focuses on John Maclean and his political life but he remains still a controversial icon, partly because of his advocacy of a Scottish Workers Republic and rejection of the then newly formed Communist Party of Great Britain, an issue explored in John MacLean and the CPGB by Bob Pitt, on the Trotskyist left, who political disagreements with Maclean’s conclusions are open and reflective of the British Left’s attitude http://www.whatnextjournal.org.uk/Pages/Pamph/Maclean.html

That Maclean is published by others who politically oppose him, like the SWP’s 1998 study by Dave Berry, reflects the problem of how to incorporate an obvious revolutionary internationalist who stands for Scottish Republicanism in an essentially unionist Left. There was renewed interest in the importance of Maclean in the context of the debate about Scottish independence that saw the image of MacLean as a meme! While others equally ideologically hostile strangely try to claim him as their own [see Terry Brotherstone’s introduction to the WRP’s  Accuser of Capitalism published in 1986.]

Accuser 1918 cover

Then [as today] radical socialists operate on a British stage to an agenda set largely in response to the British state centred on London. The perspective offered by Maclean did not gel with that metropolitan-influenced analysis. As Graham Bain states Historians on the whole have been unkind about John MacLean.” Drawing upon his own mythologies, MacLean argued for an anti-war class patriotism, to refuse to fight each other over the interests of Europe’s capitalist classes. The call to break up the British state through Scottish Independence was “All Hail the Scottish Workers Republic” and not the patrician bourgeois call of ‘Scotland Free’.

All hail MayDay 1923

“Scotland must again have independence, but not to be ruled over by traitor chiefs and politicians. The communism of the clans must be re-established on a modern basis. (Bolshevism, to put it roughly, is but the modern expression of the communism of the mir.) Scotland must therefore work itself into a communism embracing the whole country as a unit. The country must have but one clan, as it were – a united people working in co-operation and co-operatively, using the wealth that is created.”

There are a minority of activists who will regard John Maclean as a legacy for today. His dedication and determination alone means he should not slumber in some ill-deserved obscurity. His expression and contemporary analysis maybe dated, his Marxist optimism and appeal to the working class endure:

1918 in the dock

MacLean turning to friends in the court shouted, "Keep it going, boys; keep it going".

Gerard Cairns (2018) ‘The Red and the Green – a Portrait of John Maclean. Connolly Books £6.99

Mail order: http://www.calton-books.co.uk/books/the-red-and-the-green-a-portrait-of-john-maclean/


Of Interest

Accuser of Capitalism. John MacLean’s speech from the dock, May 9th 1918. New Park Publications 1986

Bain, Graham (nd) John MacLean, His Life and Work 1919-1923. John MacLean Society

McHugh J. and Ripley, B.J.,   John Maclean, the Scottish Workers’ Republican Party and Scottish Nationalism Scottish Labour History Society Journal, No.18, 1983.

MacLean, John (1973) The War After The War Socialist Reproduction.

MacLean’s pamphlet ‘The War After the War’ has been republished by the Bristol Radical History Group.

Milton, Nan (ed) (1978) In the Rapids of Revolution. Allison & Busby

Milton, Nan (1979) John Maclean. Pluto Press

Sherry, Dave (1998) John Maclean. Socialist Workers Party

John Maclean – “The Most dangerous man in Britain” –   http://democracyandclasstruggle.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/john-maclean-most-dangerous-man-in.html   [July 1, 2014]

Sean Ledwith, The Scottish Lenin: the life and legacy of John Maclean http://www.counterfire.org/revolutionary/17009-the-scottish-lenin-the-life-and-legacy-of-john-maclean [February 21, 2014]

John Maclean’s Pollokshaws http://www.glasgowwestend.co.uk/people/johnmaclean.php


Legacy ayecomrade