Ben Lewis

Ben Lewis is a translator whose main area of research is the disputed legacy of 'Second International Marxism' and its main theoretician, Karl Kautsky. He has written many articles on this subject and translated several key German language texts from this period. Together with historian Lars T Lih, he has co-produced a book on the Halle Congress of the German USPD in 1920, Martov and Zinoviev: Head to Head in Halle. He sits on the Revolutionary History Editorial Board and on the Marxists' Internet Archive Steering Committee.

Latest articles by Ben Lewis

Socialism and socialising

Eduard Bernstein gets us into the Christmas spirit with his fascinating recollections of Frederick Engels’ London home as an often ‘squiffy’ salon of international socialism and good cheer - with an introduction by Ben Lewis.

Clean breaks and clear principles

Today’s left largely misunderstands and therefore misrepresents Clara Zetkin’s contribution to the politics of Marxism. Ben Lewis provides an excerpt from the introduction to a newly translated pamphlet

Online Communist Forum, Sunday July 30 5pm

SUPPLEMENT: Letting the facts speak for themselves

Otto Kilian, preface to ‘White terror in central Germany: the truth about the March battles - stenographic report of the proceedings of the Prussian state parliament’s investigative committee over October 27-28 1921’ (translator: Ben Lewis)

SUPPLEMENT: Before, during and after March

Ben Lewis explores the multiple causes behind what was a badly calculated bid to artificially induce revolution in Weimar Germany

Zinoviev in Halle

To mark the centenary of the pivotal Halle congress of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany on October 20 1920, Ben Lewis looks at the lead-up to and consequences of Grigory Zinoviev’s marathon four-hour speech

Dispelling the Kautsky myths

Ben Lewis introduces his recently published Karl Kautsky on democracy and republicanism. This article is based on a talk he gave to the March 1 London Communist Forum.

Reactionary by nature

The case of the 39 migrants from Vietnam who froze to death in the back of a refrigerated lorry, when trying to enter Britain, has once again highlighted the need for a principled working class response.

Revolutionary Germany: how did the right of the left react?

On November 9 1918, the kaiser abdicated and Germany became a republic. One hundred years later, we publish - thanks to Ben Lewis’s translation - abridged passages from the rightwing social democratic leader, Philipp Scheidemann

German revolution: diverted and betrayed by leaders of official social democracy

In this supplement, Ben Lewis shows how the heroic actions of November 1918 were doomed by misleaders

A forgotten strategist

Ben Lewis introduces Karl Kautsky’s article of April 1917

Lenin’s arrival in Russia

One hundred years ago a small group of revolutionaries returned to Russia in the famous ‘sealed train’. Ben Lewis introduces his translation of Grigory Zinoviev’s account of this truly historic event

Sources, streams and confluence

Ben Lewis offers some thoughts on the origins of democratic centralism

Direct legislation by the people and the class struggle

By Karl Kautsky

Kautsky on referenda

As a contribution to the debate regarding the tactics to adopt in relation to the European Union referendum, Ben Lewis has translated this piece by Karl Kautsky on ‘direct legislation’. Kautsky (1854-1938), known as the “pope of Marxism”, was a thinker who, as recent scholarship has underlined, had a profound influence on the theory and practice of Lenin’s Bolsheviks

Origins of democratic centralism

Demands to bring parliamentarians into line; rightwing MPs complaining about the threat of deselection; pleas to put electability first - it all sounds very familiar

Before the great betrayal of August

Ralf Hoffrogge Sozialismus und Arbeiterbewegung in Deutschland: von den Anfängen bis 1914 Schmetterling Verlag, 2011, €10, pp216(1)

Models and humanitarian myths

Die Linke is plumbing ever greater opportunist depths, writes Ben Lewis

Oasis between bible groups

Communists on campus are still swimming against the tide, reports Ben Lewis

Tied to the national state

Support for Germany’s 1914-18 war effort did not just come from the right. As shown by Konrad Haenisch’s letter, there was a pro-war left that banked on a German victory in order to bring about socialist revolution

Referenda and direct democracy

Ben Lewis looks at Karl Kautsky’s Parliamentarism and democracy

World War I: SPD left's dirty secret

Ben Lewis discusses a largely forgotten and ignominious chapter in the history of the German workers’ movement

A leading rank-and-filer

Paul Frölich Im radikalen Lager: Politische Autobiographie 1890-1921 (1938) €29.80, pp416, edited by Reiner Tosstorf, Berlin 2013

Clara Zetkin: Preached principle, promoted unity

Marilyn J Boxer and John S Partington (eds) Clara Zetkin: national and international contexts Socialist History Society occasional publications, series No31, pp118, £7

Border controls: Reactionary by nature

The issue of open borders has provoked some controversy in the WW letters page. This motion from the Stuttgart Congress of 1907 is part of the proud history of our movement on this question

Other side of border controls

Ben Lewis notes a tragic subplot in the mysterious disappearance of flight MH370

Taaffe: Superannuated teacher, superannuated politics

Peter Taaffe’s approach to Bolshevik history reveals the mindset of a man more committed to preserving his sect regime than learning from our movement’s past. Ben Lewis responds to his review of Lars T Lih

SWP: Creating a desert waste

For the third time in just over a year, the leadership is ‘drawing a line’. Actually, argues Ben Lewis, Charlie Kimber and Alex Callinicos are busily destroying their own organisation

Die Linke: Courtship with an eye on 2017

The latest developments in German politics should serve as a reality check for the ‘broad party’ advocates in this country, argues Ben Lewis

Luxemburg: Rosa and the republic

Last weekend, Ben Lewis spoke at an international conference in Paris on ‘Rosa Luxemburg’s concepts of democracy and revolution’. This is an expanded version of his paper

Die Linke: Principled opposition, not coalition poker

With Die Linke potentially emerging from last weekend’s elections as the biggest opposition party in parliament, big challenges lie ahead, argues Ben Lewis

Die Linke: Rotten politics and rotten terms

This weekend’s elections will be a test for Die Linke, argues Ben Lewis, especially when it comes to the coalition-making that will follow

Alex in wonderland

Attempts by the leadership to portray the SWP as the only ‘Leninist’ organisation in town are totally at odds with reality, argues Ben Lewis

Egypt & SWP: Nothing revolutionary about a high command coup

The SWP’s flip-flop on the Muslim Brotherhood reflects a profound crisis of perspectives, argues Ben Lewis

To get out of the gutter, begin by looking up at the stars

Should the left aim for a non-socialist stage of capitalism? A stage acceptable to Stalinites, trade union bureaucrats and left reformists? Ben Lewis responds to Tim Nelson of the International Socialist Network

Left Unity: Broad party illusions

Ben Lewis offers some critical thoughts on a recent International Socialist Network article

Second International: Imagination, inspiration and betrayal

Ben Lewis reviews: Kevin Callahan, 'Demonstration culture: European socialism and the Second International, 1889-1914' Troubador Publishing, 2010, pp324, £24.95

Women and socialism: Bebel’s forgotten legacy

Ben Lewis reviews: Anne Lopes and Gary Roth, 'Men’s feminism: August Bebel and the German socialist movement', Amherst, 2000, pp261, £28

SPEW: Peter Taaffe and his own scandal

Ben Lewis discusses SPEW’s version of ‘democratic centralism’

Alex Callinicos: haunted by the real Lenin

Ben Lewis observed few signs of ‘revolt’ at last weekend’s SWSS day school

Socialist Party: Taaffe’s significant silence

The Socialist Party in England and Wales appears to have decided to effectively ignore the SWP crisis. But why? Ben Lewis investigates

SWP: No return to normal

The fight for democracy and accountability in the SWP is gaining ground, reports Ben Lewis

The left: Rebellion, regroupment and the party we need

Ben Lewis surveys the British left’s response to the crisis gripping the SWP, and calls for a radical change of culture

Solidarity marathon: Running through the pain

Ben Lewis calls for more donations to support the solidarity efforts of Workers Fund Iran runners

Durham Debate: Stalinism reinforces capitalist apologetics

Ben Lewis spoke at the Durham Union Debating Society

Robin Hood and solidarity

Ben Lewis reports on comrades running the Nottingham half-marathon in support of Workers Fund Iran

What kind of party do we need? - Ben Lewis

Fighting on two fronts - Ben Lewis of the CPGB gives his view, taken from a speech to Communist University 2012

Permanent revolution and the battle for democracy

Ben Lewis reviews: D Gaido and R B Day (editors and translators) Witnesses to permanent revolution: the documentary record Haymarket books, 2011, pp682, £25.99

Doing it better than our enemy

Many on the left see sport as nothing else than another way for the bosses to dupe the workers. Ben Lewis disagrees, and argues for a workers’ sport movement

A dead end and dishonest initiative

James Turley and Ben Lewis argue that there can be no short cuts to building the mass, Marxist student movement we need

Ditch sects and fronts

Last Saturday's launch of the Anti-Capitalist Initiative provided further evidence of an increasingly fractured, rightward-drifting left. Ben Lewis reports

Another split, another sect

The left must organise on the basis of genuine democratic centralism, argues Ben Lewis

Breaking with the cold war consensus

Has today's anti-Stalinist left sleepwalked into a Stalinoid conception of 'Bolshevism'? This is an edited and expanded version of the speech delivered by the CPGB's Ben Lewis to the March 31-April 1 Platypus convention in Chicago

Iran: all options remain on the table

Rhetoric about Iran is all too reminiscent of the prelude to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, warns Ben Lewis

Holy trinity of reaction

The queen's jubilee is a timely event for the forces of reaction in an age of austerity, argues Ben Lewis. For its part, the workers' movement needs to rediscover the tradition of militant republican democracy

Opposing imperialism does not mean supporting oppression

Anti-war protest disrupted by attack on supporters of the Iranian green movement. Ben Lewis reports

Left rhetoric and reformist illusions

The 1891 Erfurt programme adopted by the Social Democratic Party of Germany was regarded as a 'return to Marxism', writes Ben Lewis. If only the same could be said of Die Linke's 2011 version

Debating the republic and extreme democracy

Ben Lewis reports on some interesting exchanges at the 'Historical Materialism' weekend

Kautsky: From Erfurt to Charlottenburg

Ben Lewis introduces Karl Kautsky's 'Guidelines for a socialist action programme'. This is the first published English translation

Living in the end times

Ben Lewis reviews Lars von Trier's Melancholia (Nordisk Films, 2011, general release)

Mind over matter

Runners at the 38th Berlin marathon raised EUR350 for Workers Fund Iran. Ben Lewis was there to cheer them on

Batting and bowling for Iran's workers

Ben Lewis took part in an annual event that has become a key part of the extremely important work done for Workers Fund Iran

A victorious debate

The 1920 Halle congress of the Independent Social Democrats of Germany (USPD) was a turning point for our movement. It was also a moment of triumph for Grigory Zinoviev. This is an excerpt from Ben Lewis's introduction to a new book, 'Zinoviev and Martov: head to head in Halle'

COR conference: Missing perspective

Ben Lewis attended a workshop on 'Unions and the anti-cuts movement'

London: Grounds for optimism

Hopefully it will be a rather hot autumn, writes Ben Lewis

Marxism 2011: Impressions from sectarian alley

Ben Lewis found the SWP a lot less hostile than in previous years

Pace, race, and resistance

Ben Lewis reviews director Stevan Riley's 'Fire in Babylon' (2011, DVD,

Striking together

Ben Lewis looks forward to a bold show of mass opposition to austerity on June 30

Truth, memory and distortion

Ben Lewis reviews Peter Watkins's (director) 'La Commune' 2000, DVD

The Second Empire and the Paris Commune

This is the final excerpt in the current series from Karl Kautsky's 'Republic and social democracy in France', translated by Ben Lewis[1] and published in English for the first time. Kautsky begins his discussion of the Commune by examining the situation in France under emperor Napoleon III

Second Republic and the socialists

The second part of Karl Kautsky's 1905 work, 'Republic and social democracy', translated by Ben Lewis

Same hymn sheet

Ben Lewis introduces another excerpt from his translation of Karl Kautsky's 'Republic and social democracy in France'- published in English for the first time

Republic and social democracy in France[1]

For the first time in English, an extract from Karl Kautsky's 'Republic and social democracy in France', translated by Ben Lewis

Getting things into perspective

The defeat of Clare Solomon offers us a snapshot of the student movement, argues Ben Lewis

Beyond disunity

In seeking to prop up their crisis-ridden system, the capitalist class is united around cuts, cuts and more cuts. If we are to fight back and win, our class must also unite, argues Ben Lewis

Capitalism with Chinese characteristics

Ben Lewis wonders why some still consider China a model for socialist development

Mobilise the majority

Ben Lewis reports on the lack of ambition witnessed at the seventh London Student Assembly

Keeping up the pressure

Ben Lewis reports on a promising weekend of student action and plans for the battles ahead

No to fake new regime

London-based Tunisian socialist Nadim Mahjoub looks forward to an Arab revolution. Ben Lewis spoke to him

Wider and deeper

On Sunday January 12 around 150 student activists attended the fifth London Student Assembly at the University of London Union. Ben Lewis reports

Apathy or boredom?

Ben Lewis reviews 'The Trotsky', Jacob Tierney (dir), Alliance Films (general release in Canada)

Illusion of being a master of strategy

Ben Lewis reviews John Rees 'Strategy and tactics: how the left can unite to transform society' Counterfire, 2010, pp65, £4

Zinoviev and the Halle Congress

Zinoviev's largely forgotten speech and Martov's counterblast for the first time in English, plus introductory essays by Ben Lewis and Lars T Lih

Lies will not help the anti-war movement

Ben Lewis reports on the Stop the War Coalition's annual conference, where underhand methods were once again deployed to reject the affiliation of Hands Off the People of Iran

Subtext and loyal opposition

How far does John Molyneux's critique of SWP bureaucratic centralism go? Ben Lewis reports

Where now for the left?

The Labour left has a constant tendency to look to its right for allies, writes Ben Lewis

Regime paranoia

Ben Lewis reports on the campaign to free all political prisoners in Iran

See no evil, hear no evil

Ben Lewis is astounded by the PCS call for the state and employers to be granted more power over the workforce in the name of anti-fascism

Panahi stages hunger strike

Ben Lewis reports on the campaign to free the outspoken film maker imprisoned by the Iranian regime

Confidence and conscience clauses

Around 120 people attended the 'Women's question time' organised by Tower Hamlets Respect on Wednesday April 21. Ben Lewis was among them

Limits of Labourism

Ben Lewis reviews Labour Representation Committee's 'A people's agenda: a pamphlet for the general election 2010'* pp12, donation

Critical vote for Abjol

Respect's general election challenge is warming up in east London. Back from the campaign trail, Ben Lewis takes a look at Respect's politics and the people involved

Reactionary realignments and a left in crisis

Ben Lewis reports on the latest CPGB aggregate, where discussion of the looming general election dominated the agenda

Hopi week of action

Reports from England, Wales, and Ireland by Ben Lewis, Dani Thomas, and Anne Mc Shane

Why we should not call for jailing of Tony Blair

To effectively oppose imperialist wars we must avoid the trap of legalism, argues Ben Lewis

Some thoughts on the proposed charter

Ben Lewis welcomes the initiative of Communist Workers of Iran and offers some fraternal criticisms

Taking Labour seriously

The Labour Representation Committee has just published a list of Labour candidates that it will be actively supporting in the coming general election. It is a starting point, argues Ben Lewis

Ecology and economism

Ben Lewis reviews Martin Empson's Marxism and ecology: capitalism, socialism and the future of the planet Bookmarks, pp32, £1.50

SUPPLEMENT: Prospects of the Russian Revolution

By Karl Kautsky. translated into English for the first time by Ben Lewis

SUPPLEMENT: Kautsky, Lenin and the 'April theses'

Could Karl Kautsky - the 'pope' turned 'renegade' of orthodox Marxism - have influenced Vladimir Ilych's 'April theses'? Here we print a Karl Kautsky article from April 1917, translated into English for the first time by Ben Lewis. It is introduced by Lars T Lih, a historian based in Canada, who has been at the forefront of re-examining the complex relationship between these two widely misunderstood figures of the 20th century workers' movement

Coming out for Wales

In 2010 we might just see a sporting world where homosexuality is at least less of a taboo, and for this we must thank Alfie Thomas, writes Ben Lewis

Green and red solidarity

Ben Lewis reports on the green movement protest outside the Iranian embassy in London and the positive reception Hopi received

Blue wave needs red vision

On Saturday December 5, around 50,000 activists took part in the London 'blue wave' demonstration against climate change. Ben Lewis was there

Hopi: fight on two fronts

Ben Lewis makes a call to truly champion the cause of the Iranian masses

How not to stop the BNP

The continued rise of the British National Party raises key questions about the left's strategy. Ben Lewis takes a look at the Socialist Workers Party's analysis and argues for a root-and-branch rethink

Getting real about the BNP

Benjamin Klein takes issue with comrades Jim Grant and Dave Isaacson on the nature of the far right and the threat it poses

Pro-imperialists snubbed

Hopi's steering committee unanimously rejected holding a joint meeting with the AWL's Education Not for Sale at the NUS conference on Iran and the imprisoned students, proposing instead an ENS v Hopi debate. Ben Lewis looks at the issues

Posing left or defending principle

David Broder, a member of the Alliance for Workers' Liberty, has responded to an article by Tina Becker on the campaign for democracy in the National Union of Students. Ben Lewis continues the debate

Reject exclusion of Communist Students

Ben Lewis takes Owen Jones (Socialist Youth Network) to task over his enthusiastic support for the undemocratic exclusion of Hopi and Communist Students from the Stop the War Coalition

Support Die Linke - but organise to fight

As of June 16 the two dominant forces on the German left, the Linkspartei.PDS and the WASG, formally ceased to exist and joined forces to create the new left party, Die Linke. Ben Lewis reports from Germany

Whatever happened to student radicalism?

The National Union of Students annual conference was held from March 27-29. Ben Lewis and Dave Isaacson report on the consolidation of rightwing control

No strategy for free education

Go home and write to your MP

The October 29 student demonstration against the further marketisation of higher education was uninspired and timid. Ben Lewis and Dave Isaacson report

On the road to social democracy

Ben Lewis reports from the Hanover programme convention of L.PDS and WASG

German left punished for coalitionism

The poor performance of the reformist left, mass electoral apathy and the rise of the far right in the September 17 elections in two German states highlight the urgent need for a Marxist alternative. Ben Lewis reports

Fight on two fronts

July 29 saw the official launch of the election campaign for the September 17 Berlin regional elections, where the local WASG (Electoral Initiative for Labour and Social Justice) and the governing Linkspartei.PDS are to stand against each other. Ben Lewis reports from Germany

Wanted: principled opposition

There is a joint left opposition emerging in the two German groups, WASG and Linkspartei.PDS, coming together in a new workers' party. But is it prepared to take on the existing leaderships in both organisations? Ben Lewis reports from the June 10 conference in Berlin, 'For an anti-capitalist left'

Merger in jeopardy

Tina Becker and Ben Lewis reply to Sascha Stanicic (Sozialistische Alternative) on the questions of his organisation's role in the Wahlalternative Arbeit und Soziale Gerechtigkeit

Berlin haunts proceedings

Tina Becker and Ben Lewis report from the April 29-30 conference of the Wahlalternative Arbeit und Soziale Gerechtigkeit (WASG) in Ludwigshafen. Intended to smooth the way for unity with the Linkspartei.PDS, it was marked by discontent, threats and the profound disorientation of the left opposition

Ben Lewis

CPGB comrade Ben Lewis stood as a candidate in the elections for the six vacant posts on the WASG national executive

Difficult birth pangs

April 29-30 will see conferences of WASG and the Linkspartei.PDS. Both are crucial for the working class in Germany. The formation of a fused party will be at the core of proceedings. Ben Lewis reports from Germany

'Reformism from above'?

April 29-30 will see conferences of WASG and the Linkspartei.PDS. Both are crucial for the working class in Germany. The formation of a fused party will be at the core of proceedings. Ben Lewis reports from Germany

Merger opportunity

Ben Lewis, a member of the CPGB and the German left party WASG, reports on the result of the Urabstimmung (membership ballot) within the WASG, which highlights widespread discontent over the leadership's bureaucratic manoeuvres in pursuing the merger with the Linkspartei.PDS ballot

Fight for unity, fight for principle

Ben Lewis (a member of the CPGB and the German left party, WASG) reports on last week's regional elections in three German federal states and the local elections in the state of Hesse, which give a useful snapshot of the soon-to-be-united left

Approaching crisis point

The European Social Forum is in real danger of disintegrating. All democrats and communists must work hard to prevent this. Despite our many criticisms of the process, it is currently the only real avenue that exists for the cooperation of the European left. Tina Becker and Ben Lewis report from the latest preparatory meeting in Frankfurt, which took place from March 3-5

Education for all, not the few

Ben Lewis on the need for a united communist party for an effective fightback against the neo-liberalisation of education

Fair trade or socialism?

Ben Lewis reviews: George Monbiot, The age of consent Harper Collins, 2003, pp274, £15.99