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Ernest Mandel

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Ernest Mandel

Ernest Mandel

Ernest Ezra Mandel (Dutch: ; also known by various pseudonyms such as Ernest Germain, Pierre Gousset, Henri Vallin, Walter; 5 April 1923 – 20 July 1995), was a revolutionary Marxist theorist.


  • Life 1
  • Activity 2
  • Writings 3
  • Legacy 4
  • Bibliography 5
    • Selected bibliography 5.1
    • Books he (co-)edited 5.2
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Sources 8
  • External links 9


Born in Frankfurt, Mandel was recruited to the Belgian section of the international Trotskyist movement, the Fourth International, in his youth in Antwerp. His parents, Henri and Rosa Mandel, were Jewish emigres from Poland, the former a member of Rosa Luxemburg's and Karl Liebknecht's Spartacist League. Ernest's start of university study was interrupted when the German occupying forces closed the university.

During World War II, he escaped twice after being arrested in the course of resistance activities, and survived imprisonment in the German concentration camp at Dora. After the war, he became a leader of the Belgian Trotskyists and the youngest member of the Fourth International secretariat, alongside Michel Pablo and others. He gained respect as a prolific journalist with a clear and lively style, as an orthodox Marxist theoretician, and as a talented debater. He wrote for numerous media outlets in the 1940s and 1950s including Het Parool, Le Peuple, l'Observateur and Agence France-Presse. At the height of the Cold War, he publicly defended the merits of Marxism in debate with the social democrat and future Dutch premier Joop den Uyl.


After the 1946 World Congress of the Fourth International, Mandel was elected into the leadership of the International Secretariat of the Fourth International. In line with its policy, he joined the Belgian Socialist Party where he was a leader of a militant socialist tendency, becoming editor of the socialist newspaper La Gauche (and writing for its Flemish sister publication, Links), a member of the economic studies commission of the General Federation of Belgian Labour and an associate of the Belgian syndicalist André Renard. He and his comrades were expelled from the Socialist Party not long after the general strike in 1960-1961 Winter General Strike for opposing its coalition with the Christian Democrats and its acceptance of anti-strike legislation.

He was one of the main initiators of the 1963 reunification between the International Secretariat and the majority of the International Committee of the Fourth International, a public faction led by James Cannon's Socialist Workers Party that had withdrawn from the FI in 1953. The regroupment formed the Reunified Fourth International. Until his death in 1995, Mandel remained the most prominent leader and theoretician of both the USFI and of its Belgian section, the Communist League (Belgium).

On the verge of the 1960s, he failed to oppose the Third Worldist policies of Michel Pablo in the Fourth International: his loyalty to the old cause overcoming the necessity to criticize its leaders (see Stutje).

Until the publication of his massive book Marxist Economic Theory in French in 1962, Mandel's Marxist articles were written mainly under a variety of pseudonyms and his activities as Fourth Internationalist were little known outside the left. After publishing Marxist Economic Theory, Mandel travelled to Cuba and worked closely with Che Guevara on economic planning, after Guevara (who was fluent in French) had read the new book and encouraged Mandel's interventions.[1]

He resumed his university studies and graduated from what is now the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris in 1967. Only from 1968 did Mandel become well known as a public figure and Marxist politician, touring student campuses in Europe and America giving talks on socialism, imperialism and revolution.

Although officially barred from West Germany (and several other countries at various times, including the United States,[2] France, Switzerland, and Australia), he gained a PhD from the Free University of Berlin in 1972 (where he taught some months), published as Late Capitalism, and he subsequently gained a lecturer position at the Free University of Brussels. In 1978 he delivered the Alfred Marshall Lectures at the University of Cambridge, on the topic of the long waves of capitalist development.

Mandel campaigned on behalf of numerous dissident left-wing intellectuals suffering political repression, championed the cancellation of the third world debt, and in the Mikhail Gorbachev era spearheaded a petition for the rehabilitation of the accused in the Moscow Trials of 1936-38. As a man in his 70s, he travelled to Russia to defend his vision of a free and democratic socialism and continued to support the idea of Revolution in the West until his death.[3]


Het Vrije Woord, October 1940

In total, he published approximately 2,000 articles and around 30 books during his life in German, Dutch, French, English and other languages, which were in turn translated into many more languages. During the Second World War, he was one of the editors of the underground newspaper, Het Vrije Woord. In addition, he also edited or contributed to many books, maintained a voluminous correspondence, and went on speaking engagements worldwide. He considered it his mission to transmit the heritage of classical Marxist thought, deformed by the experience of Stalinism and the Cold War, to a new generation. And to a large extent he did influence a generation of scholars and activists in their understanding of important Marxist concepts. In his writings, perhaps most striking is the tension between creative independent thinking and the desire for a strict adherence to Marxist doctrinal orthodoxy. Due to his commitment to socialist democracy, he has even been characterised as "Luxemburgist".[4]


He is probably remembered most of all for being a tireless rationalist populariser of basic Marxist ideas, for his books on late capitalism and Long-Wave theory, and for his moral-intellectual leadership in the Trotskyist movement. Despite critics claiming that he was 'too soft on Stalinism', Mandel remained a classic rather than a conservative Trotskyist: writing about the Soviet bureaucracy but also why capitalism hadn’t suffered a death agony. His late capitalism was late in the sense of delayed rather than near-death. He still believed though that this system hadn’t overcome its tendency to crises.

Mandel was co-founder, with Livio Maitan, of the International Institute for Research and Education, which was selected as the home of the Ernest Mandel Study Centre after this death. Working together with the Ernest Mandel Foundation, the IIRE plays a key role in expanding the circulation of Mandel's works.


Selected bibliography

  • Traité d'économie marxiste, 1962. (Marxist Economic Theory, trans. Brian Pearce, 1968.)
  • Die EWG und die Konkurrenz Europa-Amerika, 1968. (Europe versus America: Contradictions of Imperialism, trans. Martin Rossdale, 1970.)
  • La formation de la pensée économique de Karl Marx: de 1843 à la rédaction du "Capital", 1970. (The Formation of the Economic Thought of Karl Marx, 1843 to Capital, trans. Brian Pearce, 1971.)
  • Decline of the Dollar: a Marxist view of the Monetary Crisis, 1972 (a collection of articles)
  • Der Spätkapitalismus, 1972. (Late Capitalism, trans. Joris de Bres, 1975.)
  • Vervreemding en revolutionaire perspectieven, 1973.
  • The Marxist Theory of Alienation, 2nd ed, Ernest Mandel & George Novack, 1973
  • Why they invaded Czechoslovakia, 1974.
  • Introduction au marxisme, 1975. (From class society to communism: an introduction to Marxism, trans. Louisa Sadler, 1977.)
  • La longue marche de la revolution, 1976 (a collection of articles)
  • Krise und Aufschwung der kapitalistischen Weltwirtschaft 1974-1977, 1977. (The second slump: a Marxist analysis of recession in the seventies, trans. Jon Rothschild, 1978.)
  • Critique de l'eurocommunisme, 1978. (From Stalinism to Eurocommunism, trans. Jon Rothschild, 1978.)
  • De la Commune à Mai 68: Histoire du mouvement ouvrier international, 1978 (articles)
  • Long Waves of Capitalist Development, 1978.
  • De la bureaucratie, Editions la Brèche, 1978
  • Revolutionäre Strategien im 20. Jahrhundert : politische Essays, trans. and ed. Gisela Mandela, 1978.
  • Revolutionary Marxism Today, ed. by Jon Rothschild, 1979 (based on interviews and discussions)
  • Réponse à Louis Althusser et Jean Elleinstein, 1979.
  • Trotsky: A Study in the Dynamic of his Thought, 1979.
  • Offener Marxismus: ein Gespräch über Dogmen, Orthodoxie und die Häresien der Realität, 1980 (with Johannes Agnoli)
  • La crise 1974-1982: les faits, leur interprétation marxiste, 1982.
  • Karl Marx: die Aktualität seines Werkes, ed. Willy Boepple, 1984.
  • The meaning of the Second World War, 1986.
  • Delightful Murder: A Social History of the Crime Story, 1985.
  • Cash Crash & Crisis: Profitboom, Börsenkrach und Wirtschaftskrise, 1989
  • Où va l'URSS de Gorbatchev, 1989. (Beyond Perestroika: the future of Gorbachev's USSR, trans. Gus Fagan, 1989.)
  • Octobre 1917 - coup d'État ou révolution sociale?, 1992. (October 1917: Coup d'état or Social Revolution?, trans. by Penny Duggan and Steve Bloom, 1992.)
  • Trotzki als Alternative, 1992. (Trotsky as Alternative, trans. Gus Fagan, 1992.)
  • Kontroversen um "Das Kapital", trans. Alfred Kosing, 1992 (taken from Mandel's introduction to Marx's Capital)
  • The Place of Marxism in History, 1994,
  • Power and Money: A Marxist Theory of Bureaucracy, 1994.
  • Revolutionary Marxism and Social Reality in the 20th Century: Collected Essays, ed. Stephen Bloom, 1994.

Books he (co-)edited

  • 50 Years of World Revolution 1917-1967: an International Symposium, 1968
  • Arbeiterkontrolle, Arbeiterräte, Arbeiterselbstverwaltung, 1971
  • Ricardo, Marx, Sraffa: the Langston Memorial Volume, 1984
  • New Findings in Long-Wave Research, 1992

See also


  1. ^ Ernest Mandel, a revolutionary life
  2. ^
  3. ^ The Marxist Case for Revolution Today
  4. ^ The Actuality of Ernest Mandel by Gilbert Achcar


  • Achcar, Gilbert, ed. Gerechtigkeit und Solidarität. Ernest Mandels Beitrag zum Marxismus. Neuer isp-Verlag, Köln 2003
  • North, David. Ernest Mandel 1923-1995: A Critical Assessment of His Role in the History of the Fourth International, Labour Press Books, 1997
  • Stutje, Jan Willem. Ernest Mandel: Rebel tussen Droom en Daad. Antwerpen: Houtekiet/Amsab, 2007 (published in English as Ernest Mandel: A Rebel's Dream Deferred by Verso in 2009).

External links

  • Ernest Mandel Foundation (Online archive of Mandel's works)
  • Mandel archive
  • Bibliography of Ernest Mandel by Wolfgang Lubitz and Petra Lubitz, presented at the Lubitz TrotskyanaNet
  • Symposia on Mandel's work (see also Gilbert Achcar (ed.), The Legacy of Ernest Mandel [London: Verso, 1999])
  • Ernest Mandel Study Center at the IIRE
  • Obituary, Andre Gunder Frank
  • Obituary, Frank Lovell
  • Ernest Mandel, A Revolutionary Life by Barry Healy, 29 June 2009
  • A Systematic Biography of Ernest Mandel by Michael Löwy
  • Thirty Years After: A Critical Introduction to the Marxism of Ernest Mandel by Daniel Bensaïd
  • A film about life and times of Ernest Mandel, mostly in French, with some English
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