This book surveys revolutionary socialist ideas and engages a gallery of contentious political thinkers, offering an indispensable assessment of the place of revolutionary collectives in this radical tradition.
Beginning with a broad and informative survey of scholarship on V.I. Lenin and “Leninism,” Le Blanc goes on to explore the multifaceted “collective” qualities of the Russian Bolshevik organization. He then turns his attention to several of its central figures as well as a rich variety of activist-intellectuals who in one way or another continued to engage with Lenin’s perspectives after his death, including Leon Trotsky, Alexander Bogdanov, Georg Lukács, Antonio Gramsci, Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Korsch, and Daniel Bensaïd.
The volume concludes by considering related questions which have more recently posed problems within left-wing organizations, gesturing toward the dynamics and needs of future struggles.
“A brilliant collection of essays on the revolutionary Marxist tradition, from the classics – Lenin, Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg – up to recent authors, such as the South-African poet Dennis Brutus or the French activist and philosopher Daniel Bensaïd. The essays deal both with their individual contribution and their place in a collective movement. As LeBlanc persuasively argues, their ideas do not only belong to the past but are also a compass for the struggles of the present.” —Michael Löwy, author of The Theory of Revolution in the Young Marx“Paul Le Blanc tackles the thorny but inescapable problem of the 'revolutionary collective' in this valuable selection of his essays with his usual lively tone and openness to opposing views. This is a fine book for the beginner or advanced activist thinking about what we have lost and what we might recuperate.” —Paul Buhle, co-editor of the Encyclopedia of the American Left“This collection of essays crystalizes many of the themes running throughout Paul Le Blanc’s life’s work. Ever attentive to the reciprocal and complex relationships between individuals and broad historical forces – ‘history is the lives of innumerable people’ – Le Blanc explores a diverse range of figures in the global tradition of socialism from below and draws out their lasting lessons for the future. The essays provide sufficient contextual explanation and clarity to be accessible to those new to this history, while supplying rich and unexpected details that will hold the interest of seasoned revolutionary Marxists. These stories of collective organization and struggle, which combine expansive scholarship with personal anecdote, will provide sustenance and hope to those seeking to understand and resist capitalism in our own calamitous present.” —Helen C. Scott, editor of The Essential Rosa Luxemburg“Paul Le Blanc provides us with a sparkling array of revolutionary portraits, illuminating the interplay of socialist movements with individual liberatory initiative.” —John Riddell, editor of the multi-volume The Communist International in the Lenin’s Time“Paul Le Blanc has a gift for tracing the life course of his subjects, keeping their individual face always present but putting them in a thick context of events, disputes, and organizational loyalties. This gift is particularly telling in the case of activists who may be little more than a name to many of us, including such determinedly original thinkers as Alexander Bogdanov and James Burnham. Paul certainly has his heroes but thankfully very few villains – no, not even the ex-Trotskyist turncoat James Burnham. Throughout he engages in genuine dialogue with other scholars, myself included. In all, a remarkable achievement to add to the list of Le Blanc’s impressive studies of the twentieth-century Marxist left.” —Lars T. Lih, author of Lenin Rediscovered“Is there a future for Leninism? In an outstanding assembly of essays with a bold mission, Paul Le Blanc brings a lifetime of socialist commitment to bear on the entangled affinities and conflicts within the revolutionary Marxist tradition. A dozen discrete studies, marked by a broad and deep knowledge, allow him to offer unexpected links that remind us of the promise and possibilities of the collective enterprise of social transformation.” —Alan Wald, author of The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left From the 1930s to the 1980s“A series of highly readable sketches of participants in the revolutionary movement over the last century, including such central figures as V. I. Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky, and Antonio Gramsci. Some of the individuals portrayed remained devoted to the struggle their entire lives, while others abandoned it along the way. Nevertheless, each made contributions to revolutionary political thought and activism that are worth studying today. A central unifying theme of the book is why ‘a democratic collective process is needed by revolutionary activists.’” —Mike Taber, editor of Under the Socialist Banner: Resolutions of the Second International, 1889-1912“People do not make history as they please, but under given circumstances that have been transmitted from the past – and yet they do make history. In Revolutionary Collective, Paul Le Blanc gives us an overview of some of the most important revolutionary thinkers and activists of the twentieth century, people who were committed to changing those circumstances. A red thread throughout the book is an examination of the interaction between individual engagement and collective emancipation. Written in his usual erudite, intellectually generous and lucid style, Le Blanc’s book is a gift to radicals today, equipping us with historical lessons and helping us to orientate ourselves for the ongoing task of changing the world.” —Alex de Jong, co-director, International Institute for Research and Education, Amsterdam