To Her Excellency Teresita Vicente Sotolongo,
Embassy of the Republic of Cuba in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland:
Dear comrade Vicente,
The General Committee and Staff of the Marx Memorial Library & Workers' School in Clerkenwell, London extends our sincere condolences and solidarity with the people of Cuba on behalf of our members and students on the sad announcement today of the death of Fidel Castro Ruz.
Fidel's contribution to the great task of the liberation of humanity will be reckoned among the greatest of the 20th century. The defeat of apartheid in South Africa, the throwing back of imperialism in country after country and the inspiration that the Cuban people's revolution has brought would not have been possible without the leadership, determination and intelligence of Fidel and his love for the people.
We mourn his death in solidarity with the Cuban people and we continue to be inspired by the great achievements Fidel led, particularly in the field of education and adult literacy, where Fidel's legacy is seen in Cuba's role today as a world leader breaking through barriers of illiteracy and ignorance.
We look forward to continuing our work with the representatives of the Cuban people's revolution in the struggle for peace, socialism, freedom and independence.
Farewell comrade Fidel.
Hasta la Victoria Siempre!
On behalf of the General Comittee of the Marx Memorial Library & Workers' School:
John Foster, Secretary
Alex Gordon, Chair
Marjorie Mayo, Vice Chair
Graham Stevenson, Treasurer
A message to all members and readers that MML's reading room will be closed from 15 December to 9 January. This also means that no tours will be taking place over this period. Apologies for any inconvenience.
We are delighted to announce that we have been awarded a grant of £27,841 from the National Archives Cataloguing Grants Scheme to catalogue our Spanish Collection - which documents the British response to the Spanish Civil War including the Aid Spain movement and the experiences of the International Brigades - making it available on-line and accessible to new generations of researchers.
This is a collaborative project with the International Brigade Memorial Trust which will enable the creation of a dedicated education pack on the Spanish Civil War and International Brigades aimed at school children.
The archive, with additional records donated from the IBMT, will be catalogued to item level on our online Soutron cataloguing system. This will mean archives that have previously not been available to researchers - including photos and correspondence of Brigaders - will be searchable on-line and accessible at the MML.
This is a huge step for the MML. Not only will this take us a long way towards our goal of cataloguing all of our unique archives and making sure they are presevred for the long-term, but we are sure to secure our position as international centre for research and study on the Spanish Civil War and International Brigades.
We are delighted to announce that we have been awarded a grant of £27,841 from the National Archives Cataloguing Grants Scheme to catalogue our Spanish Collection - which documents the British response to the Spanish Civil War including the Aid Spain movement and the experiences of the International Brigades - making it available on-line and accessible to new generations of researchers
We have compiled a short bibliography of books and texts about the Russian Revolution. This is not an exhaustive list but an introduction to the subject, aimed at non-specialist readers as well those already familiar with the topic. The list, which inevitably reflects different perspectives on those momentous events, will be updated over time.
If you have any recommended texts you would like to see added, don't hesitate to contact us.
Eye Witness Reports
Ten Days that Shook the World, John Reed
From July to October, from “My Life”, Leon Trotsky
The October Days, from Krupskaya’s “Reminiscences of Lenin”
History of the Russian Revolution, Leon Trotsky
The Years of Revolution, from Alexandra Kollontai’s autobiography
Contemporary accounts of the Russian Revolution
The Russian Revolution, Karl Kautsky November-December 1917
The Russian Revolution, Rosa Luxemburg 1918
Capitalist Europe and Socialist Russia , Morgan Philips Price November 1918
The Russian Revolution and the Soviet Government, Peter Kropotkin April 1919
Third Anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Georgi Dimitrov 3 November 1920
The Paths of the Russian Revolution, Karl Radek 1922
Lessons of October, Leon Trotsky 1924
Year One of the Russian Revolution, Victor Serge 1925-1928
‘Can We Write the History of the Russian Revolution’ in On History, London, 1997, pp.241-52, Eric Hobsbawm (The paper was first presented as the Isaac Deutscher Memorial Lecture at the London School Of Economics on December 3, 1996)
History of Soviet Russia, E H Carr (especially vols 1 to 3)
The Russian Revolution from Lenin to Stalin, 1917-1929, E. H. Carr (and see: http://www.historytoday.com/edward-acton/russian-revolution-lenin-stalin-1917-1929#sthash.qWLwpVUh.dpuf)
The Russian Revolution, Sheila Fitzpatrick
Rethinking the Russian Revolution, Edward Acton
History of the Russian Revolution, Trotsky (earlier writings will be easier to include than later ones)
The Russian Revolution, W.H.Chamberlin
A History of the U.S.S.R. , Andrew Rothstein
Lenin and the Russian Revolution, Christopher Hill
Trade Unions and the Russian Revolution
Little Moscows: working-class politics in inter-war Britain (1980), Stuart Macintyre
‘Red Strongholds Between the Wars’, Marxism Today, March, 1979, S. Macintyre
Soldiers Strikes of 1919, Andrew Rothstein
The Scottish Miners, 1874-1939, vol. 2: trade unions and politics (2000), Alan Campbell
‘British Labour and Soviet Russia, 1920’, English Historical Review, 109, 432, 1994, Stephen White
Lenin, The State and Revolution, April Theses etc
The October Revolution and internationalism: 1917 – 2017
By John Foster
‘Capital is an international force. To vanquish it, an international workers' alliance, an international workers' brotherhood, is needed. We are opposed to national enmity and discord, to national exclusiveness. We are internationalists.’
Peace, Bread and Land
‘Peace, Bread and Land’ was the slogan of the October Revolution. On the day following the overthrow of the Provisional Government the All-Russia Congress of Soviets adopted its Decree on Peace. This ‘Appeal to the Peoples and Governments of the Belligerent Countries’ called for immediate negotiations for a ‘just, democratic peace without annexations’. It declared all secret treaties null and void. It offered an immediate three month armistice. The Appeal ended with a call to the working people of the three foremost capitalist countries, Germany, France and Britain: ‘the workers of these countries will understand the duty that now rests with them of rescuing mankind from the horrors of war’ and linked this fight for peace, as the October Revolution itself had done, to emancipation from ‘all forms of slavery and exploitation’.
War: defensive or imperialist ?
In doing so the Decree on Peace highlighted the key nature of the October Revolution: the way it combined the struggle against capitalism with that for genuine socialist internationalism.
At the onset of war in 1914 socialist internationalism had been betrayed. In 1912 the Socialist International, which united socialist parties across Europe and the world, had unanimously adopted a manifesto which bound the socialist parties of all countries to use their industrial power to halt preparations for war. However, when war came, the great majority of socialist parties failed to do so and instead ended up supporting their own government’s war mobilisation. Each accepted the definition of the war as laid down by their own ruling class as defensive and legitimate. This happened in Germany, Britain, Austria, Italy and, eventually, in France.
Almost alone, Russia’s Bolsheviks did not. Their leader, Lenin, condemned the war as imperialist, fought in the interests of the ruling classes of each country and deriving directly from the nature of the capitalist system in its monopoly phase.
Internationalism begins at home
Internationalism, Lenin argued, was not an abstract, general aspiration. In his book Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism he sought to demonstrate that capitalism in its most developed, monopoly phase, was now inherently imperialist and aggressive. Its own internal contradictions meant that each leading capitalist nation had to grab external territories for their resources and markets. Opposing capitalism could not be waged simply at the economic level. It meant opposing the politics of the ruling class, exposing how the capitalist system demanded the subjugation of other peoples. Workers had therefore to oppose all imperialist wars – not in general but directly in their own countries and link this opposition to the struggle against the capitalist system. To do otherwise, to support the propaganda of their rulers, would disarm the working class movement and subordinate it to the ideology of the ruling class. Internationalism had to start at home.
In Russia it was the growing opposition to war that provided the spark for the October revolution. In autumn 1917 the Soviets, the mass organisations created in the wake of the first February Revolution, were finally won to back the slogan Peace, Bread and Land. Up to that point the right-wing socialists, who had been carrying on the war in alliance the representatives of Russian big business, had controlled the Soviets. Now they were defeated by the Bolsheviks and their allies. The slogan of All Power to the Soviets meant a government that would end the war. That was why its first act was the Decree on Peace and why it also immediately published the Tsarist secret treaties to expose the war’s imperialist character: Russia had sought to grab Constantinople; Britain and France the oil resources of the Middle East.
Opposing war and imperialism brings revolutionary change
The call for peace by Russian workers led directly to action by workers elsewhere – action that hitherto had not taken place. Within eight weeks 400,000 workers had struck work to demand an end to the war in Germany. A similar number took strike action in Austria. In the Adriatic Austrian Navy mutinied and attempted to establish Workers and Soldiers Councils. Later mass strikes against the war took place in France and Italy. On Clydeside 90,000 workers defied the ban on strike action on May Day 1918 to demand solidarity with the Soviet Revolution. Ultimately it was the mutiny by German sailors and the strikes in Berlin that brought the war to a close.
By 1918 this bringing together of the fight for socialism and that against imperialism was transforming the nature of the working class movement across Europe. Workers were moving beyond immediate reforms to demand social system change. In Hungary and Finland Soviet governments were established. In Germany and Austria workers challenged for political power. The pre-existing Socialist International split as the right-wing pro-war socialists now became the front-line of defence for the old order, heading governments in Austria, Germany, Poland and very shortly in Britain too. The Third International united the newly formed Communist Parties. It brought together all those socialists who opposed the imperialism of their own ruling class and were committed to social system change, to socialist revolution.
Internationalism today must also challenge capitalism and imperialism
Today imperialism is different in its outward form. Empires and colonies have long gone. Instead they have been replaced by the soft power of trade treaties, international organisations for the provision of credit and regional economic blocs – all of which lay down rules which subject the weakest to the strongest, require conformity to the needs of the (imperialist dominated) market and bar progress towards socialism. Those who refuse to comply are subject to ‘soft power’ reprisals and ultimately war. As in 1917, there remain those in the working class movement who still define internationalism in terms of these structures that serve imperialism.
The lesson of the October Revolution is that real internationalism demands that working people challenge, especially in the main capitalist countries, their own ruling class and the wider system that sustains oppression and exploitation across the world.
80 years ago in October 1936, three months after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the International Brigades were formally constituted. 40,000 volunteers from across the globe volunteered to fight fascism in Spain, and to defend the democratically elected Republican Government. 2,500 went from the UK, and 500 never returned.
The Marx Memorial Library's joint festival to mark this anniversary - with the International Brigade Memorial Trust, Townsend Productions and Unite the Union - reached a grand finale on Sunday 30 October. Highlights from Townsend Production's new ‘Dare Devil Rides to Jarama’ about the International Brigades commissioned by the IBMT were performed against the backdrop of original Spanish Civil War banners on display in the Marx Memorial Library's main hall.
This was followed by a drinks reception and the unveiling by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry MP of a plaque naming the 90 men of the British Battalion who were killed in the Battle of the Ebro in the summer of 1938. The plaque was first unveiled on the Ebro battlefield in 2005 by International Brigade veterans Bob Doyle, Jack Jones, Sam Lesser and Alan Menai Williams. It was smashed to pieces two years later by Spanish neo-fascists. A replacement was soon re-installed, but this original plaque, though damaged, now has pride of place in our memorial garden in Clerkenwell.
Meirian Jump, Archivist & Library Manager, explained that there could be no better place to host the festival. Not only was the MML founded in response to the rise of fascism in Europe, the same set of political circumstances that motivated the Brigaders to leave for Spain, but it is also home to the Spanish Collection which includes original banners, correspondence, battalion rolls and the memoirs of volunteers.
This was not only an occasion for commemoration, but also of celebration. Meirian Jump, Archivist & Library Manager, announced that the MML has just received news that it has been awarded a grant of £27,841 from the National Archives to employ a full-time professional archivist to work cataloguing the collection. This will enable access to important parts of the collection which have not yet been made available to the public for the first time, and will make the archive searchable online. Meirian explained 'the MML will soon become the research centre on the International Brigades and Aid Spain Movement in Britain'.
Tour dates and further information on Townsend Productions new play can be found here http://www.townsendproductions.org.uk/
Further information on the Spanish Collection is available here http://www.marx-memorial-library.org/collections/spain-collection
MML is working with the British Library on an AHRC collaborative doctoral project on American Political Pamphlets 1920-45 - we are looking for an academic partner. Please share and help us spread the word.
We will withdraw the material from our website upon receipt of your written objection and our initial verification of your complaint, while the matter is investigated. Your objection will be acknowledged within seven working days of receipt.
Within the last 10-15 years many thousands of women worldwide have begun to recognise and to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD). It is, however, unfortunate that that its origins are not more widely known given that its foundation almost 100 years ago and subsequent history is truly inspirational.
The motivation for IWD came from two sources: the struggle of working class women to form trade unions and the fight for women’s franchise. These two issues united European women with their sisters in the USA. In 1908 hundreds of women workers in the New York needle trades demonstrated in Rutgers Square in Manhattan’s Lower East Side to form their own union and to demand the right to vote. This historic demonstration took place on March 8th. It led, in the following year to the ‘uprising’ of 30,000 women shirtwaist makers which resulted in the first permanent trade unions for women workers in the USA.
Meanwhile news of the heroic fight of US women workers reached Europe - in particular it inspired European socialist women who had established, on the initiative of the German socialist feminist, Clara Zetkin (1857-1933), the International Socialist Women’s Conference. This latter body met for the first time in 1907 in Stuttgart alongside one of the periodic conferences of the Second International (1889-1914). Three years later in 1910 the Copenhagen Conference of the Second International Clara Zetkin proposed the following motion:
'…..the Socialist women of all countries will hold each year a Women’s Day, whose foremost purpose it must be to aid the attainment of women’s suffrage. This demand must be handled in conjunction with the entire women’s question according to Socialist precepts. The Women’s Day must have an international character and is to be prepared carefully.’
The motion was carried: March 8th was favoured, although at this stage no formal date was set. Nonetheless IWD was marked by rallies and demonstrations in the US and many European countries in the years leading to World War One, albeit on different days each year (e.g. March 18th in 1911 in Austria-Hungary, Germany Denmark and Switzerland and the last Sunday in February in the US.)
In 1917 in Russia, International Women’s Day acquired great significance – it was the flashpoint for the Russian Revolution. On March 8th (Western calendar) women workers in Petrograd held a mass strike and demonstration demanding Peace and Bread. The strike movement spread from factory to factory and effectively became an insurrection. In 1922, in honour of the women’s role on IWD in 1917, Lenin declared that March 8th should be designated officially as women’s day. Much later it was a national holiday in the Soviet Union and most of the former socialist countries. The cold war may explain why it was that a public holiday celebrated by communists, was largely ignored in the West, despite the fact that in 1975 (International Women’s Year), the United Nations recognised March 8th as International Women’s Day.
Today we acknowledge that IWD gives us an opportunity to draw attention to our own struggles for women’s rights, to link this with women’s struggles worldwide and to demonstrate international sisterly solidarity with working women everywhere. However, the socialist feminist origins of IWD should never be forgotten.