This quarter’s selection

Issue: 146

This issue of International Socialism overlaps with two of New Left Review (II/90 and 91). They include an ambitious two-part study of Marx in the 1840s by Gopal Balakrishnan. He tries to reframe the old argument about whether there is a “break” between the young humanist Marx and the later “scientific” Marx of Capital. As the title—“The Abolitionist”—indicates, Balakrishnan’s focus is on the political thought of the early Marx.

He argues that Marx’s first studies of political economy deepened the sense that he had already derived from his critique of Hegel’s political philosophy that modern bourgeois society was defined by a profound and alienating separation of state and civil society. He came to see communism as a way of overcoming this separation and hoped that the 1848 revolutions would mark the first step in this direction. It was their defeat that pushed Marx in a new direction, prompting him to undertake a much more profound examination of the economic structures of a capitalist mode of production that was now coming into its own but leaving some of the questions raised by his earlier critique of politics unresolved.

NLR is running a series of interviews exploring the new media associated with the movements of the past few years. In II/90 the subject is Bhaskar Sunkara, founder of the highly successful American leftist magazine Jacobin. The interview leaves one with a strong impression that a new generation is taking over (Sunkara was born in 1989)—the depth of Sunkara’s engagement with left social-democratic politics is also striking. II/91 interviews Evgeny Morozov, a leading critic of internet-hype.

This journal carried a critique by Kevin Corr and Gareth Jenkins of Canadian scholar Lars Lih’s interpretation of Lenin’s thought in issue 144. The latest issue of Historical Materialism (volume 22, issue 3-4) includes a critique by John Marot. Marot argues that Lih is limited by a static understanding of the relationship between Lenin’s ideas and wider movements. For Marot the mass involvement of workers in the 1905 Russian Revolution led them rapidly to develop socialist ideas prompting Lenin to abandon his previous formulation that the workers’ movement could only spontaneously develop trade union consciousness and would need to be taught socialism “from without”. Similarly the formation of a provisional government in 1917 presented new objective circumstances for Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Marot says that Lenin’s call to overthrow the provisional government represented a clear break with Old Bolshevik politics rather than its continuation, as Lih argues.