In January of this year, we initiated a new approach to publishing articles on Insurgent Notes. Instead of waiting until we had enough articles to constitute a whole issue of the journal, we posted articles as they were submitted to us and approved. We did so in part because we wanted to provide readers with more regular opportunities to engage with our views than was the case with a publication schedule that has averaged about two and a half issues per year. At the same time, we intended to periodically assemble a selection of those individual posts into another whole issue.
Issue #10 is the first such whole issue. It features a long essay by Loren Goldner which critically re-assesses the agrarian context of the Russian Revolution. Goldner suggests that the political blinders of the Russian revolutionaries regarding the political potential of the great mass of the peasants, formed by their effective embrace of the theories of Second International Marxism regarding the obsolescence of the peasantry led to both a misunderstanding of what took place in 1905 and in 1917—it was far from a pure proletarian revolution—and to a profound underestimation of the potential of the peasant revolts that crossed the country. Had the peasant commune, which had been highlighted by Marx in his later years, been recognized and supported, a whole different history of proletarian and peasant politics might have been opened up. Instead, while mass proletarian revolts never disappeared, the central role of socialist or communist parties all but completely evaporated, and peasant politics (in countries in Asia, Africa and South America) were constrained by the logic of a state-led developmentalist/authoritarian model. The possibility of communism, including the development of profoundly new relationships between town and country, was fundamentally obscured.
The issue also includes an article and two book reviews that focus on different moments of the American South—a place that is perhaps as little understood by contemporary American revolutionaries as the Russian countryside was a century ago. Our correspondent, C. Price, writes about the current situation of the working class in Alabama; Matthew Quest reviews Akinyele Umoja’s We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement, and Noel Ignatiev reviews David Williams’s Bitterly Divided: the South’s Inner Civil War. All suggest that there’s much more to be seen and understood than we are accustomed to.
We close out the issue with a Letter from Mexico, from a regular contributor, on the privatization of PEMEX, the Mexican oil company; a review of J. Arch Getty’s Practicing Stalinism: Bolsheviks, Boyars and the Persistence of Tradition (which echoes and anticipates some of the concerns addressed by Goldner in the featured article); and, finally, a review by Matthew Quest of Christian Hogsbjerg’s C.L.R James in Imperial Britain. While Quest’s review can be seen as another chapter in his ongoing contributions to Insurgent Notes on the life and politics of James, it stands by itself as an acknowledgment of an important new contribution by Hogsbjerg. We should note that Hogsbjerg has already commented on some of Quest’s observations.
As always, we welcome comments, including critical ones, on all that we publish and we encourage readers to consider submitting articles for possible publication. We hope that our overall political orientations are clear enough to provide guidance about what kinds of articles we’d consider but we welcome inquiries.