Topic: Left Debates

A Marxist critique of the Australian Greens

Over the course of nearly 40 years, the Greens have been transformed from a tiny environmentalist organisation into a sizeable and serious party perceived to be to the left of the ALP. This article will look at the origins of the Greens and the class basis of their politics; examine the demographics of their voters and membership, and comment on their organisational and political dimensions before looking at their current political trajectory.

The Northern Territory Intervention and the liberal defence of racism

The idea that Aboriginal inequality is caused by the racist attitudes of ordinary people is widespread. Yet it was not working-class attitudes to Aborigines that drove the Australian government’s 2007 intervention into Northern Territory Aboriginal communities. Instead, elements of the middle class played a crucial role.

Marx and Engels on women’s and sexual oppression and their legacy

Friedrich Engels published his The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State in 1884. He argued that women’s oppression arose with the development of classes in society.  Most feminists of the 1960s and 1970s recognised Engels’ work as a key text, whether inclined to agree with or oppose him.  Yet for all the debates about the book, there is very little understanding of the actual content and importance of not just Engels’, but also Marx’s contribution to establishing the basics of a fight for women’s liberation.

The origins of Socialist Alternative: summing up the debate

The need for a socialist workers’ party that could rebuild rank and file union organisation and mount sustained resistance to every ruling class attack could not be more sharply posed. This is a task that Socialist Alternative has dedicated itself to over the last fifteen years. While we are still far from being the mass party we need to be – a party that could intervene in and attempt to lead every struggle by workers and the oppressed – we have, despite the generally difficult political climate, made modest steps forward and are now the largest organisation on the revolutionary left in Australia. This article is an attempt to sum up the lessons of the debates in the International Socialist Tendency (IST) about the assessment of the political situation and perspectives for building revolutionary organisations that led to the formation of Socialist Alternative in 1995.

Confronting the Stalinist legacy

One of the magnificent features of the Arab revolutions is the ruthless manner in which they have exposed the dirty, duplicitous, hypocritical, blood-soaked truth about the global political establishment. As the revolutionary wave spread to envelop almost the whole of North Africa and the Middle East, Western politicians, diplomats, university heads, business executives and government bureaucrats squirmed, as evidence of their ties with the despots of the Arab world circulated across the internet.

Islamophobia, secularism and the left

The rise of Islamophobia in the West needs a clear and principled response from the left. Mick Armstrong takes a critical look at the traditions of "secularism" and the failure of even some in the socialist left to oppose anti-Muslim racism.

Does the Australian working class have the power to change society?

Tom Bramble, using a wealth of data, refutes arguments which claim that the Australian working class no longer has the power to challenge capitalist rule.

The ALP: what class of party?

The Labor Party is in crisis. Its branch structures continue to fracture, its active membership continues to shrink, its working class vote continues to decline and year after year the party shifts further to the right. Can it in any sense still be regarded as some form of workers’ party? Ben Hillier argues that the answer is a qualified “yes".

The Arab Spring: revolution and counter-revolution

The Arab revolutions continue. Sandra Bloodworth looks at the danger of counter-revolution and discusses the political questions and challenges for the left posed by these momentous events.

Revolutionary strategy and the united front

Rick Kuhn looks at the history of the revolutionary strategy known as the united front, which aims to draw wide layers of workers away from the influence of their reformist leaders and into revolutionary struggle. Rick’s study draws out lessons for socialists from these experiences.

Overpopulation or overblown lies?

Allyson Hose exposes the racist core of arguments which blame “overpopulation” for environmental crisis and exposes the population panic as based on lies. She shows that the world could support many more billions of people and lays the blame for environmental degradation on the relentless drive for profit at the heart of capitalism.

Dealing with climate change

Liz Ross shows that Labor’s carbon tax is just another plank in the capitalists’ neoliberal agenda to make workers pay for their crisis. Support by environment groups and some on the left for such anti-working class policies is moving the political climate to the right. The fight to deal with climate change needs to be part of a wider struggle to defend workers’ living standards.

Who is to blame for racism in Australia?

Tess Lee Ack takes on the common assumption that racism among workers drives government policies and shows who actually promotes it.

What kind of organisation do socialists need?

Corey Oakley looks at the discussions about socialist organisation that have been thrown up by unity talks on the Australian left.

Lenin vs "Leninism"

Sandra Bloodworth attacks the persistent myths and misconceptions about "Leninism with an examination of Lenin's writings and activities as he struggled to build a revolutionary party.

An international balance sheet of the "broad party" strategy

John Percy looks at the "broad party" experience.

Socialist trade union strategy in the Bolshevik era

In the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution, the newly formed Communist International  attempted to develop a revolutionary approach to union work in the West. Mick Armstrong looks at the application of that strategy in Australia and Britain.

Revolutionary unity to meet the capitalist crisis

A response from Socialist Alliance to "What kind of organisation do socialists need?" published in the last issue of Marxist Left Review.

The impact of women's changing role in the workplace

Diane Fieldes looks at the impact on the family of women's increased participation in the paid workforce.

Marxism and women's liberation

Louise O’Shea analyses the position of women today. Engaging with recent feminist and Marxist discussions of women’s oppression argues that Marxism offers the only satisfactory theory and strategy for women’s liberation.

Trotsky's transitional program: its uses and abuses

Allen Myers cuts through the debate on the so-called transitional method to expose how this important Marxist concept has been both used and abused by various currents on the left.

A critique of the writings of Murray Smith on broad left parties

Mick Armstrong offers a critical assessment of Murray Smith’s approach to broad left parties – one of the key debates on the socialist left internationally over the last fifteen years.

Lenin and a theory of revolution for the West

Sandra Bloodworth argues that Lenin and the other great revolutionaries of the early twentieth century provide us with a theory of revolution for advanced democracies.

Understanding imperialism: a reply to Sam King

Patrick Weiniger replies to Sam King’s article on imperialism in Marxist Left Review 8.

The broad left party question after Syriza

Mick Armstrong revisits the question of broad left parties to draw some conclusions after the experience of Syriza in Greece.

Podemos and left populism

Omar Hassan analyses why the promise of a radical, democratic alternative to bourgeois parliamentary politics has evolved into a hierarchical party which has abandoned any serious pretence of fighting austerity even before being tested in government.

Nestor Makhno: the failure of anarchism

Mick Armstrong dismantles the romanticism surrounding Makhno in some anarchist circles today with a study of his activity during the Russian Civil War.

British Labour, Australian Labor: splits and insurgencies

In the context of the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, Tom Bramble compares the history of splits and struggles in the Australian Labor Party with those of its British counterpart.

The origins of the criminal Assad dynasty

Omar Hassan confronts the myth that the Assad dynasty in Syria was ever socialist or anti-imperialist.

Between Como and confinement: Gramsci’s early Leninism

Rjurik Davidson, winner of the Ditmar Award, author of Unwrapped Sky, The Stars Askew and other fiction, examines Antonio Gramsci’s political practice in his early years.

US vs Free Syrian Army vs Jabhat al-Nusra (and ISIS): History of a hidden three-way conflict

Michael Karadjis answer the “comic-book view widely expressed in tabloid journals of the mainstream, left and right", that alleges the Syrian rebellion against the dictatorship of Bashar Assad is a conspiracy of incompatible forces.

Kautsky: the abyss beyond parliament

Darren Roso contributes to debates about what kind of parties the revolutionary left needs and the role of Karl Kautsky, the leading theorist of the Second International before World War I.

Our unions in crisis: how did it come to this?

Tom Bramble, drawing on decades of research and active involvement in the labour movement, argues that 35 years of passivity and class collaboration rather than an emphasis on militant, class struggle unionism is the core reason our unions are in crisis.

Against reductionism: Marxism and oppression

Sarah Garnham critically examines theories on the left that have emerged in response to identity politics.

The origins of women’s oppression – a defence of Engels and a new departure

Sandra Bloodworth revisits Engels’ arguments about the origin of women’s oppression.

The 2019 federal election: Why did Labor lose and what next?

Tom Bramble surveys the election results and puts forward an explanation for Labor's surprising defeat that rests on the party's long-term shift to the right.

Learning from disaster: The Workers' Party and the left in Brazil

Mick Armstrong critically assesses the experience of the Workers' Party, concluding that a far more independent approach was required by revolutionaries who participated.

Marxism and state theory

In this fascinating lecture given just a few years before he died, the late Colin Barker makes the case for a revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeois state and for further Marxist theorising about its complex dynamics.

Review: Bhaskar Sunkara's Socialist Manifesto

As an emerging American left struggles with powerful strategic challenges, Daniel Taylor argues that this new book by the publisher of Jacobin promotes a distorted vision of the history of the socialist movement, leading to fundamentally conservative conclusions.

Marxism and post-colonial theory

Sagar Sanyal argues that post-colonial theory is an inadequate theoretical and political response to the horrors of colonialism.

From revolutionary possibility to fascist defeat: The French Popular Front of 1936-38

Sandra Bloodworth draws on the French experience to refute reformist calls for a revival of Popular Front strategies.

We’ve been down this road before: Jesse Jackson, the Democrats and the left

Nick Everett re-examines the Jesse Jackson experience, in the process casting light on debates regarding the candidature of Bernie Sanders.

New movement, new debates: The contested politics of climate change 

Sarah Garnham assesses the new climate movement and makes a case for a revolutionary perspective.

Fuelled by coal: Piercing the mirage of a sustainable capitalist Australia

Catarina Da Silva looks at the economic roots of Australia's bipartisan support for the fossil fuels industry, arguing that a timely transition is impossible within capitalism.

The poverty of patriarchy theory

In this important piece, Sandra Bloodworth critiques feminist theories of women's oppression, focusing

The utopian fantasy of post-fordism

Tom Bramble assesses and rejects the argument that the end of 'fordism' means the end of working class power.

Mariátegui: A South American revolutionary

Tom O'Lincoln examines the politics of an influential Latin American revolutionary, Jose Mariátegui.

Stalin’s industrialisation and the myth of the planned economy

Anne Picot debunks the commonly held idea that the USSR was an example of a planned economy.

Marx and the communal village

David Glanz responds critically to Tom O'Lincoln's piece on Mariategui in the previous edition of the Socialist Review.

The new Australian militarism

Tom O'Lincoln surveys the history of Australian imperialism, arguing that Australia has independent reasons for maintaining the US alliance, which it uses to dominate and exploit peoples across our region.

The Marxist tradition and women's liberation

In an important article later republished as a pamphlet, Tess Lee Ack outlines a marxist theory of women's oppression and a strategy for liberation

‘Conventional capitalism is dying’: COVID-19, recession and the return of the state

Jordan Humphreys argues that the neoliberal model is history, based on the dramatic policies implemented by governments across the world in response to the health and economic crises triggered by the pandemic.

Rape, sexual violence and capitalism

In this groundbreaking piece, Sandra Bloodworth critiques bourgeois feminist approaches to understanding and combating rape and sexual violence.

The Left and Gorbachev

Marxist historian Robert Bollard surveys a range of responses to Mikhail Gorbachev on the broad left, and finds them wanting.

The rise and fall of Gough Whitlam

Tom O'Lincoln recounts the rise and fall of Australia's last reforming government, finding that the myths of Whitlam's radical policies do not reflect the more pragmatic reality.

Review: A Jewish Communist in Weimar Germany

Darren Roso reviews a new biography of Werner Scholem, a leading figure in the ultra-left faction of the German Communist Party during the tumultuous Weimar republic.

Pandemic politics: 2020 in hindsight, and a perspective on 2021

Omar Hassan analyses the economic, political and social dynamics unleashed by the pandemic.

Between syndicalism and reformism: Founding the Communist Party of Australia

Mick Armstrong surveys the many debates that emerged during the founding of the CPA, drawing out lessons for contemporary revolutionaries.

Capitalism, colonialism and class: A Marxist explanation of Indigenous oppression today

Jordan Humphreys offers a Marxist explanation of Indigenous oppression today.

The failure of identity politics: A Marxist analysis

Sarah Garnham presents a critique of identity politics and its toxic impact on the fight against oppression.

The Italian left and the factory councils: 1919-1920

Luca Tavan reexamines the revolutionary upsurge in Italy following WW1, drawing out strategic errors made by Gramsci and the leadership of the Italian Communist Party.

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