Why Hitler Came To Power

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"The new generation, in particular, must understand the part Stalinism played in German events prior to Hitler's seizure of power, if they wish to understand its present role", wrote Ted Grant in 1944. Trotsky and the Fourth International alone warned of the catastrophe the Nazi's would bring upon the workers of Germany, Europe and of the Soviet Union. The Stalinists surrendered the German masses to Hitler and even proclaimed the coming to power of Hitler as a victory expressing the crisis of capitalism, boastfully proclaiming 'our turn next'.

See also The Menace of Fascism—What it is and how to fight it (1948) from the Ted Grant archive.


 
hitler1a.jpgThe imminent defeat of Hitler raises many questions as to the past and future of Germany. According to the reports at the Quebec Conference(1), What to do with Germany once she has been defeated has loomed large as the problem which is worrying the spokesmen of Anglo-American imperialism. They consider this to be as grave and thorny a problem as the destruction of German imperialist power itself. Their fears as to the possibility of maintaining control of Germany by means of Allied armies of occupation has led the imperialists to launch a virulent hate campaign. Now at the head of the gang, spewing forth the foul doctrines of racialism and nationalism, of indiscriminate hatred of the Germans as a nation, thus emulating the worst features of the racial doctrine of the nazis, stands the so-called Communist Party leadership. In the rear, but more cautiously, for fear of their own membership, the Labour leaders, faithfully echo the Vansittart(2) teaching of their imperialist master.

But the fate of Germany today, as it has been for many decades, remains a key question for the fate of Europe. The reason for the insistence of the ruling class and of Stalin on the formula of unconditional surrender, lies in their fear of the socialist revolution which is rapidly maturing within Germany. Once the heavy band of the Gestapo and the SS has been removed there will be no organised force capable of maintaining the repression of the German masses. During the rule of Hitler, monstrous crimes and repressions on the part of the nazis have engendered a hatred which has few parallels in history. An enormous explosion is being prepared which threatens not only to blow the Nazi Party to smithereens but threatens the whole of the capitalist system itself. Every worker in Germany knows that it is the combines, monopolies, trusts and big capitalists who organised Hitler and placed him in control. As Rauschning(3), the ex-nationalist, ex-nazi Gauleiter of Danzig has pointed out, the expropriation of the Jews leads inevitably to the posing of the problem of expropriation of all the capitalists. It is not for nothing that Hitler has attempted to give his demagogy a 'socialist' coloration. This reflects the aspirations not alone of the German workers but the overwhelming majority of the German population as a whole. In the past few decades all the forms of capitalist exploitation and political rule have been tried and found wanting. Inevitably the socialist revolution will be automatically posed with the fall of Hitler.

But this is precisely what the ruling class of Britain and America and the traitors in the Kremlin fear more than anything else. The spectre of a Geman revolution - of a new and this time completed 1918, is their main preoccupation now that German militarism is in its death throes.

The instinct of the working class in the Allied countries is, while maintaining implacable hatred for fascism, to distinguish between the fascist thugs and the ordinary German worker. Profiting from their experience after the last world war when all the armies of occupation fraternised with the German masses (who easily convinced them that they were no different from themselves) the ruling class are attempting to place barriers in the way of its reoccurrence. The army staffs of both Britain and America have backed up the ideological campaign of chauvinist incitement by strict orders threatening punishment to any soldiers fraternising with German civilians.

The attitude of the British and American workers to the German workers can decide the fate of the coming German revolution and in so doing, will also decide whether there is to be a new version of fascism and imperialist World War Three. Under these conditions the necessity to enlighten the British masses as to the history and meaning of German events, at least since the last world war, becomes doubly important. It becomes necessary to restate the most elementary propositions of Marxism. Today, those traitors who point the finger of scorn at the German workers pretend that it is the fault of the German workers that Hitler came to power. They attempt to evade their own historic responsibility for this catastrophe. In commenting on the murder of Thaelmann(4) the Daily Worker cynically says that he fought for the united front in Germany with all other working class organisations in order to destroy fascism. That is why it is all the more necessary to explain to the British and other workers exactly what did take place. The new generation, in particular, must understand the part Stalinism played in German events prior to Hitler's seizure of power, if they wish to understand its present role.

Thaelmann has been murdered by the nazis together with tens of thousands of other victims of the fascist barbarians. But it is necessary to speak the truth if there are to be no more victims of the system which produced Hitler. Now the Stalinists wish to use Thaelmann's martyrdom as a cover for their crimes against the German people. All the more necessary then, to show the role that Stalinism played in the rise of Hitler.

The truth of the matter is that the Stalinists devoted the major part of their energy to ridiculing the danger of the nazis and concentrated their whole attention on fighting the social democrats as the 'main enemy'. They fought vicously against Trotsky's suggestion that the united front was the only means of smashing Hitler and preparing the way for the victory of the working class. From the lips of Thaelmann himself we get the following:

"Trotsky wants in all seriousness a common action of the Communists with the murderer of Liebknecht and Rosa (Luxemburg), and more, with Mr Zoergiebei(5) and those police chiefs whom the Papen regime leaves in office to oppress the workers. Trotsky has attempted several times in his writings to turn aside the working class by demanding negotiations between the chiefs of the German Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party. (Thaelmann's closing speech at the 12th Plenum, September 1932, Executive Committee of the Communist International." (Communist International No 17-18, page 1329)

The Stalinists went even further, openly inciting the communist workers to beat up socialist workers, break up their meetings, etc, even carrying the fight to the school children in the very playgrounds! Thaelmann even put forward openly the slogan "Chase the social fascists from their jobs in the plants and the trade unions." Following on this line of the leader, the Young Communist organ The Young Guard propounded the slogan: "Chase the social fascists from the plants, the employment exchanges, and the apprentice schools."

But the line has to be carried through to the end. In the organ of the Young Pioneers which catered for the communist children, the Drum, the 'unifying' slogan is put forward:

"Strike the little Zoergiebels in the schools and the playgrounds."

Thaelmann Denounced the United Front

Thaelmann indignantly repudiated the very thought of a united front with the Social Democratic Party. In an article published in Die Internationale, November, December 1931, page 488:

"It [the Social Democratic Party] threatens to make a united front with the Communist Party. The speech of Breitscheid(6) (whose murder was announced at the same time as Thaelmann's) at Darmstadt on the occasion of the Hesse elections and the comments of Vorwaerts on this speech show that social democracy by his manoeuvre is drawing on the wall the devil of Hitler's fascism and is holding back the masses from the real struggle against the dictatorship of finance capital. And these lying mouthfuls...they hope to make them more palatable with the sauce of a so-called friendship for the communists [against the prohibition of the German CP] and to make them more agreeable to the masses."

And again in a vehement attack on Trotsky:

"In his pamphlet on the question, How will National Socialism be Defeated?, Trotsky gives always but one reply: 'The German CP must make a bloc with the Social Democracy...' In framing this bloc, Trotsky sees the only way for completely saving the German working class against fascism. Either the CP will make a bloc with the social democracy or the German working class is lost for 10-20 years.

"This is the theory of a completely ruined fascist and counter-revolutionary. This theory is the worst theory, the most dangerous theory and the most criminal that Trotsky has constructed in the last years of his counter-revolutionary propaganda." (Thaelmann, closing speech at the 13th Plenum, September 1932: Communist International, No. 17-18, page 1329.)

But it is not necessary to deal with the dupe. The founthead of this criminal policy was Joseph Stalin. He even put forward the nonsensical theory that the Socialist Party and the fascists were one and the same thing:

"Fascism, said Stalin, is the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie, which rests upon the active support of the social democracy. Objectively, the social democracy is the moderate wing of fascism. There is no reason to admit that the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie could obtain decisive successes either in the struggles or in the government of the country without the active support of the social democracy...There is also little reason to admit that social democracy can obtain decisive successes either in struggles or in the government of the country without the active support of the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie. These organisations are not mutually exclusive, but on the contrary are mutually complementary. They are not antipodes but twins. Fascism is a shapeless bloc of these two organisations. Without this bloc the bourgeoisie could not remain at the helm." (Stalin, quoted in Die Internationale, February 1932.)

In carrying out this theory the wise Manuilsky(7) had explained at the 11th Plenum of the Communist International April 1931:

"The social democrats, in order to deceive the masses, deliberately proclaim that the chief enemy of the working class is fascism...Is it not true that the whole theory of the 'lesser evil' rests on the presupposition that fascism of the Hitler type represents the chief enemy?" (The Communist Parties and the Crisis of Capitalism, page 112)

It was with this revision of all the teachings of Lenin that the Communist Party of Germany, with the assistance of the social democracy, confused and paralysed the workers and then handed them over without a battle into the hands of the fascist executioner.

The British hypocrites who now slander the German workers applauded this policy of betrayal at the time when the revolutionary socialists were raising their voice all over the world in an effort to prevent the tragedy which was impending in Germany. 'It is significant', jeered the Daily Worker of May 26th, 1932, 'that Trotsky has come out in defence of a united front between the Communist and Social Democratic Parties against fascism. No more disruptive and counter revolutionary class lead could possibly have been given at a time like the present'.

At the eleventh hour,just before Hitler's coming to power, Ralph Fox wrote in the Communist Review of December 1932:

"The Communist Party of Germany has now succeeded in winning the majority of the working class in the decisive industrial areas, where it is now the first party in Germany. The only exceptions are Hamburg and Saxony, but even here the Party vote has enormously increased at the expense of the social democrats.

"These successes have been won only by the most unswerving carrying through of the line of the Party and the Comintern. Insisting all the time that social democracy is the chief social support of capitalism, the Party has carried on intense and unceasing struggle against the German Social Democratic Party, and the new 'Independent Socialist Labour Party', as well as against the right wing and Trotskyist renegades who wanted the party of the proletariat to make a united front with social fascism against fascism."

It is this suicidal policy of Stalinism against which Trotsky and the International Left opposition waged a struggle in the critical years 1930-3 when the fate of Germany hung in the balance. Trotsky's works on Germany will remain forever as textbooks on the problem of the united front. They will serve as models for the revolutionary movement of the future. That we commence publication of Trotsky's material on this question in England for the first time, is a reflection on the revolutionary movement in Britain. Every student who desires an understanding of the degeneration of Stalinism will study this material with great care.

Even though Germany - The Key to the International Situation was written in 1931, it retains its freshness at the present time. The outline of the situation, not only in Germany, but in the other countries dealt with, indicates clearly Trotsky's profound understanding of the political process of development of our period. Trotsky and the Fourth International alone warned of the catastrophe that the coming to power of Hitler would mean for the workers of Germany, Europe and of the Soviet Union. When the Stalinists refused to learn the lesson of events, and in a most cowardly way, surrendered the German masses to Hitler without a fight, or even a shot being fired; when they even went so far as to proclaim the coming to power of Hitler as a victory for the working class - as it expressed the crisis of capitalism and his victory was merely that of the caliph of an hour, boastfully proclaiming 'our turn next' - it was then that Trotsky proclaimed the end of the Comintern as a force making for world socialism.

How pitiful, how despicable are the writings of the pen prostitutes of the Kremlin on Germany, when the real historical events are analysed. These Dutts(8), these Rusts, these Ehrenburgs, not satisfied with having betrayed the German workers into the hands of the Nazis, now systematically disseminate chauvinist poison to the Allied workers in order to assist Anglo-American imperialism to enslave the German people. Having proved incapable of leading the German workers to victory, they now actively oppose the socialist revolution in Germany. Thus as always in politics, ineptness and stupidity, if not corrected, become transformed into treachery.

The German and British workers will yet present their accounts not only to their imperialist oppressors but to their hirelings in the ranks of the working class. Once the working class realises the full depth of their treachery, like the traducers of the Commune, they will forever be held to scorn in the memory of the working class.

It would have been impossible to conceive that elements claiming to represent the working class should stoop to such depths as the Stalinists. From the social democrats nothing more could have been expected - they remained faithful to their past tradition of reformist betrayal. The Stalinists have often enough in the past referred to the murder of Liebknecht and Luxemburg and the betrayal of the revolution of 1918. But nothing in their record could equal the long list of crimes marked up to the account of Stalinism.

Surely, all the gods must have laughed at the spectacle of the Stalinist leaders solemnly intoning that it was necessary to 're-educate' the German workers - and their educators? Allied imperialism and Stalinism! Yes, re-education is necessary! Re-education of the ranks of the working class as to the role of the leadership of the organisations claiming to represent them. Re-education which will assist them to burn out the cancer of Stalinism and reformism which will lead the workers only to further catastrophe. In order to accomplish the task of 'educating' not only the German but the British and world workers, it is necessary that the advanced guard should be trained and armed with a knowledge of the Marxist method and of the history of past defeats. As an indispensable means of understanding the position in Germany today, it is necessary for the workers to conscientiously study the works of Trotsky. Germany is still the key to the international Situation - with an understanding and with a knowledge of the past and future tasks we will go forward to the building of a new socialist world.

Notes (from The Unbroken Thread)

(1) Towards the end of the war a series of talks took place, one in Quebec (in 1943), between Churchill and Roosevelt on problems which would emerge for imperialism at the end of the war, especially in the Balkans, central Europe and Germany.

(2) Robert Vansittart, head of the Foreign Office, opposed the policy of appeasement towards Hitler, but primarily from an anti-German stance, while paying lip-service to anti-fascism.

(3) Hermann Rauschning was a capitalist who initially supported the nazis as opponents of the organised working class but then changed his position when the nazis became out of control, publishing a book, We Never Wanted This. In nazi Germany a Gauleiter was a district 'leader'.

(4) Ernst Thaelmann joined the German Communist Party in 1920, he became its leader with Stalin's support in 1925. Arrested by the nazis in 1933, he was murdered in 1944.

(5) Karl Zoergiebel was the Social Democratic commissioner of the Berlin police. Fritz von Papen was appointed Chancellor on June 1 1932. On July 20 he removed the Social Democratic government of Prussia. He became vice chancellor under Hitler.

(6) Rudolf Breitscheid (1876-1945) was a socialist deputy in the Reichstag. He fled to France when Hitler came to power and was handed over to the Nazis by the Vichy regime. Vorwaerts was the central organ of the SPD.

(7) Dimitri Manuilsky was secretary of the Comintern 1931-43.

(8) Prominent Stalinist publicists, Dutt and Rust of the British CP and Ehrenberg of the Russian bureaucracy.

Educate Yourself

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Socialist Appeal are proud to publish this basic guide to help focus your studies of Marxist theory and practice. Visit the various tabs to find links to introductory articles, classic texts, and audio talks for different topics. We also invite our readers to become acquainted with the more basic ideas of Marxism by starting with the recommended short reading list, going through the FAQ section, reading this article that combats the myths about Marxism, and listening to the following audios:

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Reading the classics of Marxism is the best way to understand these ideas. At first it may seem difficult, but every worker and young person knows that things worth having are worth working hard for!  Patient and persistent study, discussion, and ultimately, the day to day application of these ideas over a lifetime are the key.

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Marxist theory is the basis upon which our analysis, perspectives, program, and participation in the movement are based. It is our "guide to action." This why Socialist Appeal and IMT place so much emphasis on political education. To this end, we have created an extensive Education Plan to assist comrades in their political development. This is an important resource.

However, it's length and scope may seem daunting to new comrades. With this in mind, Socialist Appeal has compiled a shorter list of classic works and other important writings we think will serve to lay a strong foundation in the ideas and methods of Marxism. We would like to encourage all our supporters and those interested in learning more about Marxism to read (or re-read!) through the works on this list.

This selection of writings is an excellent introduction to many of the fundamentals of Marxist theory. There are many other writings that could be added, but this selection provides a strong basis for those wishing to equip themselves with the necessary ideas for the daily work of fighting for socialism.

Many of these are smaller books or pamphlets; some are more lengthy books; and others are just short articles. This

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Dialectical Materialism is the philosophy or methodology of Marxism. Every political movement, party, or even statement of any kind bases itself, consciously or unconsciously, on some sort of philosophy or world outlook. Marxism is concerned with effecting a radical change in society, and therefore requires an exceptionally clear, thoroughgoing, and systemic set of philosophical principles.

The ideas of Dialectical Materialism, based on the best traditions of philosophical thought, are not a fixed dogma but a system of tools and general principles for analysing the world materialistically and scientifically.

If we are to understand society in order to change it, this cannot be done arbitrarily, since the human will is not master of nature; rather, our ideas and thoughts are reflections of necessary material laws. Instead, we must seek to understand the laws of how human society changes. By following our education plan for Dialectical Materialism, the reader will familiarise themselves with this way of looking at the world so that they too can begin to apply Marxist ideas.

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Historical Materialism is the result of Dialectical Materialism applied to human society and history. It encompasses the general theory of how and why society develops in the way it does. A deeper, more concrete understanding of these principles in combination with a study of real, living history of class struggles enables us to come to a general understanding of where capitalist society is headed and what political strategy is required to successfully influence the course of events.

The basic principles of Historical Materialism are that human society has inherent laws guiding it - its developments are by no means arbitrary or accidental, nor the mere subject of the will of great men and ideas. Human individuals can and do influence society according to their ideas, but only ever within definite material constraints and conditions. Above all, the law determining historical development is that of the development of the means of production - meaning economically productive technology, science, technique etc. The extent of the development of the productive forces determines the social relations of production - i.e. the structure of society, class relations etc. Each social system has its inherent laws of motion. If we want to overthrow capitalist society, we must understand how

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Marxist economics is the study of the laws of motion of capitalist society. Why does capitalism perpetually go into crisis? Why does mass unemployment exist? Are commodity production, the domination of the market, and rich and poor natural, immutable states of being for humanity? Or are they merely the products of this specific mode of production - capitalism? If so, is there any way capitalism can exist without these problems, or by minimising them?

Marxist economics is a “holistic” way of analysing capitalist economy. It starts out by placing it in its real historical context (rather than dreaming up abstract idealisations of capitalism to justify it, as bourgeois economics does), studying all its interconnections and contradictions, rather than artificially isolating one aspect of it. In doing so, Marxist economics lays bare the functioning of capitalism; the exploitation and injustice inherent within it. Those who want to get to the essence of why, in the 21st Century, despite having a more advanced understanding of the world than ever before, humanity seems plunged into perpetual crisis it cannot get to grips with, should look no further than Marxist economics, beginning with the writings of Marx himself.

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Like money, the state is something we are all very familiar with and take for granted, but its real essence tends to elude us. The ideologists of capitalism have tried, in various ways, to justify the capitalist state as supremely rational; a neutral arbiter for society, and the embodiment of justice. For Marxists, the state is not at all neutral, nor just. It is certainly anything but rational. We must strip the vale of mysticism away and reveal the state’s real basis. To do that, we have to treat the state historically - taking in its origins, rise, and eventual fall.

The state has not always existed. It is inseparable from class society. Ultimately, it is the instrument for the ruling class to oppress and hold down the masses, guaranteeing the status quo and the sanctity of property. Although the modern state performs many other functions, these are secondary to its real basis - the protection of a set of property relations. To do this, it needs “armed bodies of men” and a monopoly on the use of violence. To establish socialism, it will not be possible for the working class to use the state as it currently exists - that is, with

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The Russian Revolution is the greatest event in world history for Marxists. For the first time, the working class successfully took and held power. The slaves fought back and won. For these reasons, the name of Lenin and Trotsky, and the entire 1917 episode, has been deliberately dragged through the mud by the bourgeoisie ever since.

Naturally they are aided in this task by the degeneration of the revolution and by the existence of Stalin’s monstrous dictatorship. However, Stalinism represents the opposite of Bolshevism’s real traditions, which readers can read about in this section, as well as the Marxist explanation for why Stalinism took place and what this means for our movement.

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Radicalised youth, seeking to understand how to change modern society, naturally tend to look to both Marxism and Anarchism in equal measure. The question as to which philosophy, or which combination of the two, has the best answers, has long been at the forefront of the minds of revolutionaries.

Anarchism is naturally attractive to all those correctly alienated by bureaucracy in the revolutionary movement. Anarchists are certainly correct to reject Stalinism and careerism. However, it is not sufficient simply to reject these phenomena. We need to understand why bureaucracy and oppression exist and what role they play, in order to understand how to avoid them. We believe that, for all its opposition, Anarchism has little to say about the alternative to bureaucracy. Instead, it is Marxism’s historical materialist method that allows us to understand these problems. In this section the reader will find a series of articles dealing with anarchism and the issues that anarchism raises.

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The discrimination and oppression of women is integral to class society, such that Engels even referred to it as the “first class oppression”. Along with the class system itself, the oppression of women often takes on the appearance of being natural, immutable and eternal, since it has been with us for so long.

But Marxism is a historical science, concerned with understanding the fundamental changes that society goes through. It cannot be satisfied with comfortable prejudices. A study of the origins of human society, as Engels famously conducted in his book The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State, reveals that the oppression of women is by no means natural and was not even known for much of our history. As Engels explains, the oppression of women arose with the emergence of class society and private property; it will fall with it.

Marxists are fully in solidarity with feminists: we are irreconcilably opposed to the oppression of women and fully support the struggle for their emancipation. We believe this will be achieved through the class struggle, since that is the basic locomotive of history in a class society such as ours. However, Marxism represents a distinct set of

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Fascism is something of a bogeyman in modern British society, and has an almost mythical character in bourgeois public opinion. But despite constant talk of it, very little is said about why it happened and how it may or may not happen again.

Fascism is really the death agony of capitalism and the “distilled essence of imperialism”. The fascists in Germany, Italy, Spain and other countries were only able to come to power on the back of defeats of the working class. Ultimately, the madness of fascism expresses the historic crisis and dead-end of capitalism that had arrived by the early 20th Century, alongside the inability of the working class to take power and replace capitalism with a workers’ state, due to the corruption of their leadership, in the form of both reformism and Stalinism. Fascism could and should have easily been avoided had the working class possessed a militant and united leadership prepared to take power.

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The question of nationalities - that is, the oppression of nations and national minorities, which has characterised capitalism from its birth till the present time - has always occupied a central position in Marxist theory. Once again, the historical materialist approach of Marxism dissolves the apparent “natural” role of the nation as a necessary expression of human society. Nations have by no means always existed, nor will they always exist in the future.

The nation as we know it today is a product of the development of capitalism and its need to unify peoples into units of a certain size (depending on the level of the system’s development – e.g. more recently formed nations tend to be much bigger) to consolidate the market. The contradictions and tensions between nations are a result of capitalism’s “combined and uneven” development. The contradictions of the capitalist mode of production itself force each ruling class to expand outwards, developing a global market and imperialism in the process.

The violent tensions that this process breeds in turn give rise to nationalism, racism and wars. There is no way a successful world revolution, abolishing the global capitalist system, can take place without a careful and nuanced understanding of the

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Socialist Appeal is the British section of the International Marxist Tendency, which is active in around 40 countries. Our aim is to spread the ideas of Marxism, in an organised fashion, in the labour and youth movement. Only the British working class has the ability to change British society, because of the central role they play in production and their shared interest in establishing socialism.

However, we must carefully study the history and traditions of the British working class in order for Marxist ideas to connect with them. There are all too many groups who simply declare themselves the vanguard of the British working class, and have a dismissive attitude to the class’ real traditions.

In this section readers will find a series of articles explaining our position on the class struggle in Britain, the key points in the history of the British working class and the lessons to be learnt from them, and the strategy of the Marxists in relation to the movements of the masses.

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The ideas of Marxism and the need for a revolutionary party are not the result simply of a single individual, but arise from the study of history - the history of class struggle. In this respect, the revolutionary party is often referred to as being the memory of the working class, and our task is to learn the lessons from history in order to prepare for the revolutionary events taking place today and in the future.

In this section we present a series of articles and audios covering the key revolutionary struggles in history - from the early class struggles in Rome to the tremendous movements of the working class in the 20th Century. By reading and listening to these, our readers should gain a good overview of the history of the revolutionary movement and the main lessons to be learnt from these.

For analysis of 21st Century revolutionary movements, check out the News and Analysis sections of the website!

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