In an interview he gave to discuss his new book, October, China Mieville observed that to his surprise, there has been comparatively little published on the centenary of the Russian Revolution. This means that public commentary and reflection on the revolution is inevitably poorer as a result, and that more expectation is piled onto those books that have come out. Unfortunately neither Mieville’s October nor Tariq Ali’s The Dilemmas of Lenin: Terrorism, War, Empire, Love, Revolution are politically or intellectually sufficient to occupy even a small part of that gaping expanse resulting from the absence of wider discussion.
IN HIS LATEST BOOK Continuity and Rupture (2016), professor of philosophy at York University Josh Moufawad-Paul argues that the science of revolution has undergone a qualitative change in its epistemological foundation. What was taken as truth in the theory of Marxism-Leninism needs to be reconsidered in the light of the continual unfolding of history. The contradictions of Leninism can no longer be ignored, both in the light of the wealth of 20th century Marxist philosophy as well as the concrete experiences of class struggle.
WHEN PRESIDENT TRUMP ANNOUNCED the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Accord on June 1, 2017, for many liberals it meant that doom was upon us, that the earth was surely soon to be uninhabitable. Yet, if the Paris Accord was the best shot that our civilization had at survival, we were perhaps doomed from the start. NASA scientist James Hansen, at least, one of the earliest voices to raise the alarms about the effects of climate change, had deemed the Accord to be thoroughly inadequate to begin with.
Stalinism’s impact is difficult to see in the world today. North Korea and Cuba limp along, sponsored by a capitalist China and caudillo-ist Venezuela, respectively. The official Stalinist parties in the Western world remain, at least on paper, but tend to throw support behind Hillary Clinton or the local equivalent. In one way or another, any examination of Stalin is thus historical—not a critique of a living political movement, but of a movement situated in a time remote from our own. The object of investigation is a legacy whose practical effect in the present is deeply obscure.