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International Socialism, Spring 1967


David L. Purdy



From International Socialism (1st series), No.28, Spring 1967, pp.29-30.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Revolutionary Internationals 1864-1943
Ed. Milorad M. Drachkovitch
Stanford UP/Oxford, 45s

Most of the contributors to this collection of essays are anxious to remind us that the three Internationals can only be understood by reference to the socio-economic setting in which they operated. The reader is thus misled into expecting a free-ranging survey of the links between the various parts of the historical drama enacted during the years which the essays cover. Instead he receives at best a straightforward, unoriginal narrative of events, and at worst a stream of glib and hoary moralising that passes for criticism of Marxism. Carl Landauer writing on Social Democracy even manages to disinter the argument that if Socialism is inevitable why should one bother to work for it? The very posing of this antiquated question as if it dealt the final death-blow to the whole corpus of Marxist theory indicates the writer s failure to disentangle Marx’s original theory of historical materialism from the ‘explanatory appendages’ formulated by Engels, which were taken over by the SPD and transmitted thence to the bulk of the Second International.

It is also remarkable that in the whole section dealing with the Second International there is only one passing mention of contemporary theories of Imperialism. The inconsistencies in the stand adopted at successive Congresses on the questions of nationalism and war are neatly exposed, but there is no attempt to relate them to the politico-military constellation in Europe and contemporary developments in the world economy.

The best essay in this otherwise unmemorable collection is that by Drachkovitch and Lazitch, showing how the Comintern came to perform the dual function of sustaining and stifling the international Communist movement simultaneously. Lenin’s strictures against the unreflecting imitation of all things Bolshevik were quickly forgotten after his demise until under Stalin the cause of the Soviet Union became substituted for the cause of the international working class. It is no accident that Communist revolutions were successful only where the Comintern was unable to exercise ‘guidance’ (China, Yugoslavia).

In general, however, the book is too skimpy to be either instructive or stimulating. Its authors, ‘distinguished experts on Communism,’ are all too obviously out of sympathy with their subject.

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