East London Big Flame! 1970s activism and autonomy

A new fantastic resource online: an archive of East London Big Flame in the 1970s. From the Who We Were page:

We were a fluid group of about a dozen young women and men who came together in east London. We probably would have described ourselves as left libertarians. We organised in the community, in workplaces, around class, racism, women’s and men’s issues, for personal change/self-help therapy, and against bias in the media. We saw ourselves not as outside, but as part of these struggles, and saw the links between these different issues as embodying politics in everyday life.

From 1973–5 we belonged to a nationwide grouping called
‘Big Flame’ (www.bigflameuk.wordpress.com). Our projects carried on until the early 1980s, and after that we dispersed and took our ideas and values into different areas of work (teaching; architecture; psychotherapy; archaeology; local government;  film-making; writing) as well as into continuing political and community activism.

East London Big Flame   HomeHere are links to the sections: (more…)

Published in: on September 30, 2014 at 11:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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Chinese Labour (1887)//Asturias (1934)

A couple of items for the Archive of Struggle, from Slack Andy.

The (Australian) Anarchists on Chinese Labor (1887)

Text at SlackBastard. Andy writes, by way of introduction:

Honesty was published from April 1887 to November 1888. It was the first anarchist newspaper in Australia, produced by the Melbourne Anarchist Club. Contributors included David Andrade, his brother Will (later well known as a radical bookseller), J.A. Andrews and Chummy Fleming. Source : Reason in Revolt.

La Revolución de Octubre 1934 (José Muñoz Congost)

Octubre-34

Andy writes:

On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Asturian October 1934 revolution Exilio Libertario, a Melbourne-based group of Spanish anarchist exiles, have published in PDF format a booklet in Spanish written by compañero José Muñoz Congost.

[La Revolución de Octubre 1934 (José Muñoz Congost)]

Poumicated

I have not posted much here for ages. Here are some radical history items I’ve spotted in my recent browsing.

libcom.org launches new working class history Facebook page

Today, 30 July, anniversary of the first recorded strike in North American history, we are launching a new working class history page on Facebook to celebrate our history: people’s history.

Rosie Bell: Flippant Nihilist

I only know Alexander Cockburn as an editor of the creepy Counterpunch, and his airy dismissals  of anyone who thought Israel Shamir a dodgy piece of work.

There’s a fascinating account of him by Paul Berman.

Cockburn is reminiscent of Christopher Hitchens – the English journalist who lives in America and writes stylishly about American and international affairs. The political framework may be leftwards, the cultural references English literature, quoted with ease to point the moral and adorn the tale.[...]

Naomi Weisstein: The Chicago Women’s Liberation 
Rock Band, 1970-1973

A Memoir and Reflection on Badass 
Boffo Revolutionary Feminist MusicImage

In Chicagoland, in 1970, almost every teenage girl listened to rock. They considered it their music—hormonal, quasi-outlaw, with screaming guitars and a heavy, driving beat. But it was sooo misogynist! This wasn’t the Beatles’ playful woman-affectionate songs.

 For many years the dominant trend in scholarship on C.L.R. James has been to emphasize his cultural and literary writings. Arguably the most popular way to frame his legacy has been to situate him as a forerunner to cultural studies, post-colonial studies, and identity politics. Grant Farred, for example, has criticized “earlier modes of James studies” that addressed “debates that occupied sectarian James scholars” and welcomed “the centrality of cultural studies within James scholarship,” while Brett St. Louis has argued that the “march of identity politics and post-modernism” is “irresistible,” and that James’s work is of value precisely because it “grapples with a proto-post-marxist problematic.”

ImageDan La Botz: Ricardo Flores Magón – Mexican Anarchists and American Socialists

Claudio Lomnitz.The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón. New York: Zone Books, 2014. 594 pages. Notes. Index of Names. Photos. Hardback. $35.95.

If it were a house, Claudio Lomnitz’s The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón would be a rambling, decaying mansion with various jerrybuilt stories and wings, a ramshackle place filled with archives and artifacts, old political posters and antique typewriters, a building straddling the U.S.-Mexico border, a shared abode whose residents are an interesting and odd collection of characters, some of them lovely people, some noble, and others quite disagreeable, coming and going at all hours, sometimes reciting poetry. And don’t be surprised if, while you’re visiting, the place is raided by Furlong or Pinkerton agents, by the police or the Texas rangers who carry off some of the boarders to prison; some of whom will be gone for years at a time.

Ian Birchall: Lenin: Yes! Leninism: No?

That Lenin was an important revolutionary leader, and that his life and work repay our study today, are not in doubt. But what of “Leninism”?

Paul Le Blanc: Leninism, No?

There is a distinctive political approach and body of thought that can legitimately and constructively be termed Leninism.

Marshall BermanTodd Gitlin: Hurling the Little Streets Against the Great: Marshall Berman’s Perennial Modernism

For Marshall Berman, the street was not just the site where modernism was enacted; it was modernism incarnate. {…}

 Ingo Schmidt: Rosa Luxemburg – Economics 
for a New Socialist Project

Right-wing militias killed Rosa Luxemburg and dumped her dead body into the Landwehr Canal after the Spartacus uprising in Berlin. Social democrats and communists finished off her intellectual and political legacy by putting her on their respective pedestals. She became a principal witness against Bolshevik organizing practices for the former and was praised as a co-founder of the German Communist Party and a revolutionary martyr by the latter.

Andrew Coates: Jean Jaurès: The Anniversary of his Assassination, July 31st 1914. A Tribute.

Jaures l'Humanite

Jaurès was killed blindly, yet with reason:/‘let us have drums to beat down his great voice’. (The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy. Geoffrey Hill.)

A hundred years ago today, Jean Jaurès the leader of French socialism (SFIO, Section française de l’Internationale ouvrière), and Editor/Founder of l’Humanité were preparing an article against the coming war. Jaurès had supported the call of the Socialist International, launched by Keir Hardie and the Frenchman, Édouard Vaillant, to launch a general strike if armed fighting broke out.

By 1914 Europe was on the brink of war. At the end of July an emergency meeting of the Socialist International was held in Brussels, which endorsed a call for peace. On the 29th of July Jaurès spoke with Rosa Luxemburg, at a rally of seven thousand people against militarism and the coming confrontation at the Cirque Royal. He had already warned that fighting would lead to a catastrophe, “Quel massacre quelles ruines, quelle barbarie!” (Discours de Vaise. 25th July 1914) Now he talked of his “hatred of our chauvinists” and that we would not “give up the idea of a Franco-German rapprochement”. This looked less and less probable. Jaurès’ newspaper column (published after his death) would describe of the climate of “fear” and “anxiety” spreading across the continent.

Jaurès paused from his journalism and went to the near-by Café du Croissant to eat. At 20.45, the nationalist student Raoul Villain approached him and fired two bullets. One stuck his neck and was fatal. Villain claimed to have acted to “eliminate an enemy of the nation.”[...]

100 years after Jean Jaures’ murder, his name still inspires

Jean Juares

By Dick Nichols, Barcelona. July 31, 2014 — Green Left Weekly — When you travel through France, there’s one name that appears most in public space ― on streets, schools and metro stations. Not Jeanne d’Arc, Napoleon, or even World War II resistance leader and later president Charles de Gaulle. No, the name you can pretty safely bet you’ll find on some sign in the next sleepy village is that of Jean Jaures. Jaures was France’s most famous socialist leader and deputy, a tenacious and passionate fighter for workers’ rights and against war, anti-Semitism, clericalism and colonialism. Trying to explain his huge impact, the young Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky said in 1909: “As an orator he is incomparable and has met no comparison … it is not his rich technique nor his enormous, miraculous sounding voice nor the generous profusion of his gestures but the genius’s naivete of his enthusiasm which brings Jaures close to the masses and makes him what he is.”

One hundred years ago, on the evening of July 31, an extreme right-wing nationalist called Villain shot Jaures dead in Montmartre’s Cafe du Croissant. Jaures, accompanied by the editorial staff of l’Humanite, the socialist daily he had founded in 1904, was having dinner before finishing the next day’s edition. [...]

Archive ImageKate Redburn: Unite Queer

Out in the Union, a new book by Miriam Frank, shows that unions have been crucial to the growth and success of the modern LGBT rights movement. {…}

Ian Birchall reviews Ernie Tate’s ‘Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s & 60s’

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal readers can read an excerpt HERE. To order a copy, email terryconway@tiscali.co.uk.

August 6, 2014 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — Anyone who was active in Britain’s Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (VSC) in the late 1960s will remember Ernie Tate, whose energy and enthusiasm made such a contribution. Now, 45 years later, he has published two volumes of memoirs from the 1950s and 1960s.

The first volume deals with the period 1955 to 1965. Tate was born in deep poverty in Belfast – he left school at 13 and tells us he “had never known or met anyone who had been to a secondary school, never mind university”. His only university was the revolutionary movement, and to judge by his later development it gave him a fine education.

Andrew Coates: Imperialism, Anti-Imperialism, and the Left. A Reply to Andrew Murray.

Imperialism, the Marxist historian Victor Kiernan claimed, shows itself, “in coercion exerted abroad, by one means or another, to extort profits above what simple commercial exchange can procure.” Andrew Murray begins Imperialism has Evolved since 1914, but it still Rules to World (Morning Star. 2.8.14. reproduced on 21st century Manifesto), by citing this assertion to observe that the “wars of 1914 and 1939 are the outstanding examples of what happens when that international system of extortion breaks down.” “Break-down and crisis” are as much a feature of “imperialism” as growth and slump are of capitalism. We might explain this, as a critic of Kiernan once noted, as the result of an inherent “atavistic” tendency to revert to type. [...]

Portales, Suceso (1904-1999)Suceso Portales

 Martin Oppenheimer: New Light on the KKK

 Sit-ins at lunch counters by black students began in Greensboro, North Carolina, on February 1, 1960. Blacks had traditionally not been served there or anywhere in the South at that time. Within a week the sit-ins spread to Durham and Winston-Salem. Eleven of the first sit-ins were within 100 miles of Greensboro. After many arrests, and assaults by white hoodlums, on July 25 all Greensboro stores targeted by the sit-ins agreed to serve blacks on an equal basis.

 Alan Wald: Astonished by the present – The impatient life of Daniel Bensaïd

Daniel BenSaid

 Let us start, like Dante, in the middle. At age twenty-two, Daniel Bensaïd (1946–2010), a French-Algerian-Jewish philosophy student, vaulted eagerly onto the world stage of the international youth radicalization of 1968. His political stardom came by way of a leading role in the actions igniting the largest general strike in the history of France. At the suburban campus of the University of Paris at Nanterre, Bensaïd joined with his German-Jewish classmate Danny (“The Red”) Cohn-Bendit (b. 1945) to form the March 22nd Movement. This was a surprising partnership of anarchists, situationists, Trotskyists, and Maoists who seized an administrative building to proclaim demands addressing class discrimination and bureaucracy in the educational system. Bold for its time, the Nanterre occupation is customarily credited with detonating the chain of student strikes and protests climaxing in the sensational actions in Paris six weeks later: The May 6 demonstration of 20,000 at the Sorbonne and the May 10–11 all-night battle on the Left Bank.

Angiolillo’s vengeance

The story of Michele Angiolillo, an Italian anarchist who assassinated the repressive Spanish Prime Minister Antonio Cánovas in 1897

E. Haberkern: When the Red States Really Were Red

 The labor- and third-party movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have been studied and written about extensively by academics and writers on the left. Most readers of this journal are probably familiar with much of this material. This book, however, is of particular interest today for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the author concentrates on the South and emphasizes the biracial nature of the movement.

The tragic week, Spain 1909 – Murray BookchinGeneral strike, Barcelona, 1909

A short history of the ‘Star of Peru’ Bakery Workers’ Federation (FOPEP)

Mark Kosman: World War I and 100 years of counterrevolution

accuserJohn Maclean: the accuser of capitalism

To mark the 100th anniversary of the first world war, People & Nature today publishes Accuser of Capitalism: John Maclean’s Speech from the Dock on 9 May, 1918. (Introduction here, text of speech here.) Maclean, a Scottish Marxist, was one of a small number of socialists across

Europe who denounced their governments’ participation in the war, urged workers to resist it, and hoped that it would be superceded by class war.

The Slocum massacre, 1910Descendants of some of the victims of the massacre

Sixty years ago: Death of Frida Kahlo

From On This Deity:

“They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”

…and Frida’s reality was a lifetime of extreme physical pain and tortuous suffering, punctuated with a tempestuous emotional turbulence.

Artist Frida Kahlo was born in 1907, the daughter of Hungarian Jewish father and indigenous Mexican mother. She grew up in Mexico City at a time when Mexicans were beginning to take great pride in their native culture and traditions. Frida was proud of her pre-Columbian heritage and wore local costume, including long embroidered skirts in bright colours, big silver earrings, flowers, and jewellery from the folk tradition. Her distinctive look gave her a brand, yet averted attention from her tiny, weak, disabled body. (more…)

Eighty years ago: the death of Nestor Makhno

From On This Deity:

Today we recall the Ukrainian revolutionary leader, Nestor Makhno, who died seventy-seven years ago on this day in poverty, illness and oblivion. Fellow exiles who had watched Makhno drink and cough himself to death in the slums of Paris could scarcely believe the tragic fate that had befallen the legendary “Little Father” of Ukraine who, just fifteen years earlier, had been one of the most heroic, glamorous and indefatigable figures of the Russian civil war and the inciter of one of the few historic examples of a living anarchist society. As the leader of the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine, this self-educated peasant-born military genius had waged wildly creative guerrilla war against native tyrants, foreign interlopers and counter-revolutionaries. On behalf of what was always an uneasy alliance with the Red Army, Makhno’s forces had twice immobilised the seemingly unstoppable White advance in South Russia; indeed, so decisive were these against-all-odds victories that the Bolsheviks might never have won the civil war and consolidated power but for Makhno and his insurgent peasants. As the instigator, military protector and namesake of Ukraine’s simultaneous anarchist revolution – the Makhnovshchina – few have come closer than Nestor Makhno to establishing an anarchist nation. For nearly a year between 1919 and 1920, some 400 square miles of Ukraine was reorganised into an autonomous region known as the “Free Territory” in which farms and factories were collectively run and goods traded directly with collectives elsewhere. In his heyday, Nestor Makhno was an unmitigated living legend and folk hero – a real-life Robin Hood and proto-Che. But by the time of his death at the age of forty-six, so comprehensively dragged through the filthiest, shittiest mud was the name of this once unassailable revolutionary that it has yet to fully recover. So what happened? (more…)

Farewell Marina Ginestà

With thanks to Rob Palk.

From the RHP blog:

Marina Ginestà of the Juventudes Comunistas, aged 17, overlooking Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War.

Marina Ginestà, aged 17, overlooking Barcelona from Hotel Colón. She worked as a translator for a Soviet journalist of Pravda during the Spanish Civil War. She was a member of Juventudes Socialistas Unificadas (Socialist Youth), the youth organization mainly directed by Partido Comunista de España (PCE, Communist Party of Spain). Despite her initial involvement she quickly grew disillusioned with the path that the Stalinists were taking. Marina remained a militant throughout the rest of the war and was drawn to other groups at that time such as the anti-Stalinist P.O.U.M (which George Orwell was a member of) and the Anarchist C.N.T. This photographs was taken by Juan Guzman (who was born Hans Gutmann in Germany before going to Spain where he photographed the International Brigades). Date of the photo: July 21, 1936.

Marina did not know about the photo until 2006, although the iconic image was printed and circulated everywhere, serving as cover for the book “Thirteen Red Roses’ by Carlos Fonseca, and was also along with dozens of other photographs in the book “Unpublished images of the Civil War” (2002) with introduction by G. Stanley Payne.

She was identified by Garcia Bilbao who read the memoirs of Soviet correspondent of Pravda Mikhail Koltsov, with whom the young girl appears in another photo. Garcia Bilbao found that Jinesta Marina, with J, which was identified by Guzman in the caption was actually Marina Ginesta, an exile who lived in Paris translating French texts.

Marina Ginesta, the iconic girl of the Spanish Civil War, died January 6, 2014 in Paris, aged 94.

The rifle she is carrying is M1916 Spanish Mauser. It was manufactured at famous Oviedo factory in Spain for the Spanish Army.

Marina Ginesta, 2008Marina Ginesta, 2008

Colored Version

Here is a little more, from Publico, badly translated by me: (more…)

2013 at Poumista

The posts with most traffic in the year, with those published this year in bold

  1. Ralph Miliband: democrat and anti-fascist
  2. On this day, 1945: Eileen O’Shaughnessy died
  3. Photography: Sergio Larrain/Lewis Hine
  4. Blog recommendations, for homeless leftists
  5. Orwell turning in his grave?
  6. Jews versus Stalinists in the Spanish Civil War
  7. Amidah: Defiance
  8. Spanish Revolution and Civil War gallery
  9. Stalin in Clerkenwell Green
  10. Socialist Wanker
  11. On this day 100 years ago: Bonnot Gang executions
  12. Franco’s Spain – how many dead?
  13. Trabajadores: Spanish Civil War Archives Online
  14. Fifty years ago: the execution of Francisco Granados and Joaquin Data Martinez Delgado

Very few of my referrals this year were from blogs. Most were from search engines, with many from social media too. Top bloggy referrers were:

  1. Shiraz Socialist
  2. Tendance Coatesy
  3. Corey Ansel
  4. Hatful of History
  5. Sketchy Thoughts
  6. rooeravotr
  7. Rosie Bell
  8. Bob From Brockley
  9. For Workers Power
  10. Radical Archives

Thanks comrades.

Top search terms:

  1. Death of Trotsky
  2. Spanish Civil War
  3. George Orwell
  4. Sergio Larrain
  5. Eileen O’shaughnessy
  6. Carnation revolution
  7. Georges Kopp
  8. John Molyneux
  9. Mika Etchebéhère
  10. Andres Nin

Happy new year.

Published in: on January 7, 2014 at 3:47 pm  Comments (2)  

Talking heads

[Note, today, 20 December, is Sidney Hook's birthday.]

Bayard Rustin vs Malcolm X, on black nationalism and Islam

Sidney Hook on liberalism, socialism and social democracy

Leon Trotsky on the Moscow trials

Emma Goldman on returning to the United States

EP Thompson on “society” for historians and for anthropologists

Raya Dunayevkaya on being a radical

Blog recommendations, for homeless leftists

Cross-posted from Bob From Brockley

We have reached the level of the dark times of the early Middle Ages. The need to reflect on this. The extreme difficulty of reflecting on it. — Victor Serge

Lots of the blogs I have followed for a long time seem to be slowly dying,  but there are new ones out there, and old healthy ones, and ones that are not so new but new to me. Here are a couple that have caught my eye lately. (more…)

Ralph Miliband: democrat and anti-fascist

Ralph Miliband

Ralph Miliband

The Daily Mail has been in the  news for its attacks on Ralph Miliband as “the man who hated Britain“. This continues a long tradition of smearing “Red” Ed Miliband by association with his father’s politics (here, for instance, in 2010, they make a big deal of the fact that his elderly cousin, who he may not even have met, had some vague connection to Joseph Stalin half a century ago). I don’t normally comment on topical events on this blog, but this seemed kind of worth looking at.

Was Miliband anti-British?

The sole piece of evidence presented by the Mail of Miliband Sr’s “hatred of Britain” is a diary entry he wrote when he was 17. I pity my son, if he ever becomes a public figure and the Mail finds what I wrote in my diaries as a teenager… I would much rather trust his son’s memories to know anything about what the mature man actually felt about the land that gave him refuge when he fled genocide – and the land for which he served in the armed forces.

HMS Godetia, manned by the Section Belge, Belgian Section of the British Royal Navy, during World War Two. Source: Wikipedia

Ralph Miliband fought for Britain in the war against fascism. According to his Independent obit:

The three missing years to which he refers were spent in service as a naval rating in the Belgian section of the Royal Navy. Aware of the fact that many of his Belgian comrades were engaged in the war against Fascism and traumatised by the absence of his mother and sister, he had volunteered, using Laski’s influence to override the bureaucracy. He served on a number of destroyers and warships, helping to intercept German radio messages. He rose to the rank of Chief Petty Officer and was greatly amused on one occasion when his new commanding officer informed him how he had been rated by a viscount who had commanded the ship on which he had previously served: ‘Miliband is stupid, but always remains cheerful.’

However, I’m fairly sure that despite his lack of British nationality at this point, he served in the mainstream Royal Navy and not in the Section Belge (RNSB). The latter operated corvettes (such as the one picture above) and minesweepers, while Miliband served on destroyers and warships.

Was Miliband a Communist Fellow Traveller?

Harold Laski

The Mail article makes a good deal of Harold Laski‘s influence on Ralph Miliband:

At the London School of Economics, he was taught and heavily influenced by the extremist Left-winger Harold Laski, who said the use of violence was legitimate in British elections.

I see Laski, although far from “an extreme Left-winger”, as a broadly pernicious figure in British political history, and as something of a Fellow Traveller. But it is important to be clear about timing. Laski was broadly committed to a liberal, reformist, parliamentary social democracy until the early 1930s, and was close to the right-wing Labour leader Ramsay MacDonald. (Aside; MacDonald’s previous government in 1924 was brought down partly as a result of the Mail‘s publication of the forged Zinoviev letter, alleging Soviet interference with British politics – first in a long-line of dishonest anti-communist smears directed at Labour from the paper.)

Only in the 1930s, during the tumultuous years of the Depression, did Laski start to flirt with a pro-Soviet position, and come to believe that the overthrow of capitalism might not happen peacefully. Even in this period, I am fairly certain, he never said “the use of violence was legitimate in British elections”, as the Mail claims.

During 1931-1937 Laski was a key figure in the Popular Frontist movement in British politics, influenced by Laski’s friend Leon Blum in France. This movement, including Stafford Cripps and focused around the small middle-class Socialist League, as well as the more broad-based Left Book Club, sought rapprochement between the Labour movement and Communism, with the priority of defeating fascism. This movement was largely rejected both by the working class mainstream of the Labour Party and by the uncompromising anti-Stalinists of the Independent Labour Party, and Laski skunked back to Labour in 1937, increasingly settling in on the soft left of the party.

After the war, Laski did continue to argue for a more positive attitude towards Britain’s war-time Soviet allies and against the Atlanticist Cold War consensus in the Labour Party, but he no longer endorsed Communism as a viable political movement in Britain. It was this later Laski who would influence the young Ralph Miliband, who studied under him at the LSE briefly during the war and then again after his demobilisation. This more mellow Laski encouraged Miliband to think for himself and question Marxist orthodoxy.

Was Miliband a Communist?

Ralph Miliband has been described as a “Stalinist”, which is a complete travesty considering his consistent opposition to the Soviet model of socialism from above. Back in Poland, Ralph Miliband’s father had been a Bundist, a fiercely anti-Stalinist Jewish socialist movement. As a youngster in Belgium he joined the Zionist youth group Hashomer Hatzair, which was affiliated to the British Independent Labour Party, and again anti-Stalinist.

Eric Hobsbawm, on-off family friend

He was never a member or supporter of the Communist Party; he was sympathetic to Tito’s Yugoslavia in the immediate post-war years, when it broke with the Stalinist bloc; and by the the 1950s when the New Left was starting to emerge from the shadow of orthodox Communism he was a fully fledged anti-Stalinist. The Soviet crushing of democratic socialism in Hungary in 1956 and then in Czechoslovakia in 1968 repelled him deeply. In this period, as the Mail notes, he was friendly with the Stalinist Eric Hobsbawm, another refugee from fascism and ex-serviceman (in the Royal Engineers and the Royal Army Educational Corps), but, as the Mail passes over quickly, on this issue Miliband was sharply at odds with his friend. Here he is in 1968:

The invasion of Czechoslovakia show very well that this oppressive and authoritarian Russian socialism has nothing in common with the socialism that we demand,and we must state this very loudly, even at the risk of seeming to be anti-soviet and to echo bourgeois propaganda … And then, there is also this question of ‘bourgeois liberties’ … which, I am persuaded, we must put at the top of our programme. Or rather, denounce them as insufficient and to be extended by socialism. Nothing will work if it is possible and plausible to suggest that we want to abolish them. And that is one of the reasons why the democratization of ‘revolutionary’ parties is essential… The internal life of a revolutionary party must prefigure the society which it wants to establish – by its mode of existence, and its way of being and acting. While this is not the case, I don’t see any reason to want to see the current parties take power: they are quite simply not morally ready to assume the construction of a socialist society.

His anti-Stalinism was less robust than, for example EP Thompson‘s became or that of the International Socialists, and there is a still a lingering presence of the Laski-ite fellow traveller in his sense that “seeming to be anti-soviet” might be a bad thing, but he was always clear that Soviet “socialism” was oppressive and cruel.

The only quotation the Mail comes up with in relation to Miliband’s attitude to the Soviet Union was this:

Mikhail Gorbachev’s dismantling of Soviet socialism and the worker state should have shocked Miliband, but he managed to find an argument welcoming it.

He proclaimed that the Cold War had always been a useful ‘bogey’ for the Right, and that, ‘the success of Mikhail Gorbachev in democratising Soviet society . . . would deprive conservative forces of one of their most effective weapons’.

In fact, of course, that’s evidence of pretty much nothing: Gorbachev’s reforms were heartily welcomed by all who thought that the Soviet Union constituted “actually existing socialism” while condemning its authoritarianism. Here’s Miliband in 1990:

In recent years, Mikhail Gorbachev has sought with great eloquence to define the kind of internationalism which the world requires today, and has done so in terms of universal values and aspirations, beyond boundaries of nations, classes and creeds – values and aspirations relating to peace, disarmament, the protection of the environment, and so on. These are indeed universal values, and socialists obviously subscribe to them.

…the collapse of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe (and its likely collapse elsewhere) clearly constitutes a great strengthening of the hope nurtured by conservative forces that the world might be shaped (or re-shaped) in an image acceptable to them. There is now a very good chance that some Communist countries at least will move towards the restoration of capitalism: some of them are already well advanced on that road…

Such celebration and proclamation is, however, rather premature. Soviet-type Communism, with the centrally planned command economy and the monopolistic one-party political system, is out or on the way out, and will not be resurrected. But the notion that this is the end of socialist striving and eventual socialist advances leaves a vital fact out of account. This is that, despite the current apotheosis of capitalism, it has resolved none of the problems which give sustenance to socialist aspirations and struggles. Given the inherent and ineradicable failings of capitalism, there is no reason to doubt that the striving for radical alternatives will continue.

Miliband was wrong to see that the Soviet regime ever (except perhaps briefly in the last two months of 1917) represented any kind of hopeful alternative to Western market capitalism, but he was always a sharp critic of its oppressiveness.

And what about the Daily Mail?

The Mail article mentions Miliband’s “immigrant” status (they don’t use the more accurate word “refugee”) a few times:

This was the immigrant boy whose first act in Britain was to discard his name Adolphe because of its associations with Hitler, and become Ralph, and who helped his father earn a living rescuing furniture from bombed houses in the Blitz.

This will be no surprise for those of us familiar with the Mail’s fiercely anti-immigrant – and arguably xenophobic – politics. Only last year they said that the “only responsible vote” in the French elections was not for the Thatcherite Sarkozy, but the fascist Marine Le Pen! One of the by-products of this kerfuffle is to remind people that right up to the war, the Mail (under the father of the current proprietor, Viscount Rothermere), was consistently pro-fascist:

Lord Rothermere was a friend of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, and directed the Mail’s editorial stance towards them in the 1930s.[32][33]Rothermere’s 1933 leader “Youth Triumphant” praised the new Nazi regime’s accomplishments, and was subsequently used as propaganda by them.[34] In it, Rothermere predicted that “The minor misdeeds of individual Nazis would be submerged by the immense benefits the new regime is already bestowing upon Germany”. Journalist John Simpson, in a book on journalism, suggested that Rothermere was referring to the violence against Jews and Communists rather than the detention of political prisoners.[35]

Rothermere and the Mail were also editorially sympathetic to Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists.[36] Rothermere wrote an article entitled “Hurrah for the Blackshirts” in January 1934, praising Mosley for his “sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine”.[37] This support ended after violence at a BUF rally in Kensington Olympia later that year.[38]

Here are some examples:


Rothermere, as late as 1939, wrote to Hilter congratulating him on invading Prague, and urged him to march on Romania.

Further reading

Comrade Picasso

This is an extremely interesting article from the New Statesman by Jonathan Vernon:

Picasso's 'Guernica' on view at the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid. Photo: Getty
Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ on view at the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid. Photo: Getty

One would expect a game of word association on a busy street to match many a ‘Picasso’ with ‘Guernica’. Commissioned for the Spanish Republican Pavilion at the 1937 Paris World’s Fair, Guernica took as its subject the aerial bombardment of the eponymous Basque town. Heinkel bombers flying for General Franco had razed it to the ground across three days earlier that year. The visual language Picasso wrought from that event gave form to human suffering with unparalleled potency.

But it also gave birth to a reputation. It is with Guernica that we are introduced to the defiant pacifist, the Picasso that would stand firm during the Occupation of Paris, and join the French Communist Party (PCF) upon its Liberation. The story goes something like this: exiled from Spain, and fully aware of the threat its Falangist occupiers posed to civilisation, Picasso joined ‘le famille communiste’ and became its most distinguished voice in the struggle against fascist and capitalist tyranny alike.

The breast, at this point, is prompted to swell uncontrollably. After all, this tale boasts every trope of our most loved and recyclable yarns: the rustic warrior exiled from his homeland, the surging rebellion yearning a voice, and the depraved autocrat condemning it to silence. It telescopes Homer and Hemingway in equal measure. It is almost enough to make us forget that we are talking about a painter.

And yet the demands of history have a way of reasserting themselves. Such is the nature of research conducted by Genoveva Tusell Garcia, published earlier this year in The Burlington Magazine. Citing correspondence within the Franco government, Garcia makes an extraordinary claim. Although the regime’s prevailing attitude toward Picasso was one of hostility, certain of its members came to see an advantage in taming his reputation and sharing in his achievements. In 1957, they approached the painter to discuss the possibility of his work returning to Spanish collections, and even a retrospective.

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From the archive of struggle: The Newsletter

Just saw this on the great Hatful of History blog:

After last week’s post about new avenues of research for British leftist history, I just thought I’d mentioned that another resource has appeared online. The Newsletter was edited by Peter Fryer, the Daily Worker reporter who had left the Communist Party of Great Britain after the invasion of Hungary in late 1956, after his departure from the CPGB and during his brief membership in The Club. The Club was an orthodox Trotskyist entrist group run by Gerry Healy, who later formed the Socialist Labour League (which transformed in the 1970s into the Workers Revolutionary Party). The Newsletter was edited by Fryer while he was involved in The Club, but after 1958, the publication was taken over by Healy and it became an SLL publication shortly afterwards, alongside Healy’s Labour Review (which also attracted former CPGB members, such as Brian Pearce). The ‘independent’ version of The Newsletter, under Fryer’s editorship from May 1957 to December 1958, has now been digitised by Steve Drury and is available on Norman Harding’s blog Staying Red (Harding was a long-term member of the SLL/WRP), as well as on the Marxist Internet Archive’s ETOL site.

The original flyer announcing the publication of The Newsletter (April 1957). Pic from Staying Red blog.

The original flyer announcing the publication of The Newsletter (April 1957). Pic from Staying Red blog.

Ted Grant, best or worst of a bad bunch?

Phil writes:

What can you say about the three key figures of British post-war Trotskyism? Gerry Healy was a hyperactive pseud with a penchant for thuggery, rape and doing dodgy deals with unsavoury Arab regimes. Tony Cliff was flighty, excitable and an inveterate bandwagon chaser – qualities he imparted to the Socialist Workers Party. And there is Ted Grant. Founder of the Militant Tendency and with a reputation for super seriousness, of all of Trotsky’s British progeny it was he who came closest to disturbing the sleep of the great and the good. But for all that, it’s the repulsive Healy and the Mercurial Cliff who are most often recalled and discussed among the tiny circles of people who care about such things. Poor old Ted, the longest lived and most successful of them all merits nary a mention. Perhaps not recruiting enough celebrities or future Guardian journalists has something to do with it.

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Franco’s Spain – how many dead?

In a recent post, I quoted Dorian Cope claiming that two million people were killed in Franco’s Spain. TNC made the comment  below. I’m pretty innumerate myself, but I think TNC is most likely right and Cope wrong: the death toll was more like a million, it slowed down after Franco’s reign consolidated, and it should be seen alongside the (much smaller) “red terror” in which rightists were killed too, i.e. in a Civil War context and not just that of a dictatorship. I have started reading Giles Tremlett’s Ghosts of Spain, which addresses the legacy of these deaths, which I hope to post on when I’ve finished.

Where does the two million number come from? The reason I ask is the number I have read from a few secondary sources including Paul Preston and Stanley Payne that put it closer to one million killed by both sides in the conflict. Also, most of the mass killings stopped by the end of the 1940s. I know people were tortured and murdered in horrible ways, including the garrot, but the evidence suggests a slowing of the mass murder certainly by the early 1950s.

Paul Preston writes:

“The numbers of right-wingers killed in Republican Spain (after the military coup destroyed the structures of law and order and before the Republican government could rebuild them) is 37000. The number of people murdered in the Francoist zone is likely to be 150,000. The reason for doubt is that finding out is a painstaking business, village by village, and only 36 of Spain’s 50 provinces have been reasonably thoroughly investigated. Those thirty-six provinces have currently produced 98,000 known victims. However, even there it is very difficult to be sure that all the dead have been counted… (more…)

Trabajadores: Spanish Civil War Archives Online

This, by Liz Wood, is in a recent History Workshop Journal:

MRC 2011 087On 12 November 2011, Wembley Stadium hosted a friendly between the football teams of England and Spain. Amongst the usual pre-match shots of flags and anthem singing, the television cameras picked out one English fan in the crowd with a home-made placard commemorating the British volunteers of the International Brigade, who had fought for the Spanish Republic 75 years earlier. The incident was an example of how the Spanish Civil War has maintained its place in the British popular consciousness in a way that is perhaps only exceeded by the two world wars.

In recent years it has been the subject of popular history books and formed the backdrop to best-selling novels and an HBO made/Sky broadcast television series starring Nicole Kidman; meanwhile the often bitter debates between supporters of different Republican factions in 1936-39 continue to be played out on internet message boards.  Despite this public and academic interest, only a small quantity of primary sources in English were freely available to researchers online – last year the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick, added over 13,000 pages more. (more…)

Fifty years ago: the execution of Francisco Granados and Joaquin Data Martinez Delgado

From on this deity (1910): 

Forty-seven years ago today, in 1963, two young Spanish anarchists were executed by General Franco’s obscene regime for a Passport Office bombing of which they had no knowledge, while the real perpetrators slipped quietly away. Despite the absence of any evidence of their involvement, Francisco Granados (27) and Joaquin Data Martinez Delgado (29) – both members of the anti-Franco movement called the Iberian Federation of Libertarian Youth – were interrogated, brutally tortured, tried behind closed doors and executed by garotte at Franco’s notorious Carabanchel Prison, and all of this in just eighteen days after having been arrested.

For many, these unfortunates were but two more victims of an unrestrained and merciless tyrant estimated to have executed almost two million non-combatants between 1939-75, during his arduous near four-decade-long reign of terror. But what separated this grotesque event from the rest of Franco’s merciless pogroms against his own people was that it took place not at the chaotic post-Civil War beginning of his ‘reign’, but twenty-four grueling years into his rule, and during this cynical tyrant’s attempt to pass off his regime as ‘respectable’ to the rest of the Western World. For, as a resurgent wave of underground resistance began –throughout 1963 – to rise up from the ashes of violent repression, General Franco openly recommenced his policy of institutionalised revenge and intent to eradicate from Spain all democrats, liberals, socialists and – above all others – his most-despised enemies from the war, the communists and anarchists. (more…)

For a Third Square!

What is the Third Square?

The Third Square (Arabic: الميدان الثالث‎) is an Egyptian political movement created by liberal, leftist and moderate Islamist activists who reject both Muslim Brotherhood and military rule following the 2013 Egyptian coup d’état.

The movement first appeared when the Egyptian defence minister, General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, called for mass demonstrations on 26 July 2013 to grant his forces a “mandate” to crack down on “terrorism”,[1] which was seen as contradicting the military’s pledges to hand over power to civilians after removing Mr. Morsi and as an indication for an imminent crackdown against Islamists.[2] The announcement by General Al-Sisi was rejected by a number of political groups that had initially supported the military coup, such as the revolutionary April 6 Youth Movement,[3] the moderate Strong Egypt Party,[4] the Salafi Al-Nour Party[5] and Egyptian Human Rights groups.[6]

The Third Square movement, demonstrating in Sphinx Square, Cairo (more…)

Published in: on August 12, 2013 at 11:20 pm  Comments (1)  
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Poumastica

In the Atlantic:  The Lawyer Who Told FDR He Couldn’t Censor a Trotsky Speech.

From Howie’s Corner:  Why do they call themselves “Socialist” Unity? / Martin Smiths “confidential resignation” / Is the Socialist Party heading for a split? / The “forgotten” Socialist Party (of Great Britain)..

From the archive of struggle, no.78

I have recently discovered Monoskop Log. Here are some treasures from it:

*Zenit, International Review of Arts and Culture, No. 1-43 (1921-26) [SH/FR/DE/RU]

*Graham Roberts: The Last Soviet Avant-Garde: OBERIU – Fact, Fiction, Metafiction (1997)

*Mary Gabriel: Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution (2011)

*Peter Linebaugh: Ned Ludd and Queen Mab: Machine-Breaking, Romanticism, and the Several Commons Of 1811-12 (2012)

*Marcel Duchamp: The Afternoon Interviews (2013)

And from a similar site, UbuWeb:

*Man Ray (1945-1998): Les Mystères du château de Dé (1929) / Emak Bakia (1926)  / Le Retour à la raison (1923)  / L’Étoile de mer (1928)  / Home Movies (1923-1937)  / Home Movies (1938) / The Bazaar Years (1990, documentary)

*Klaus Kinski Singt Und Spricht Berthold Brecht:

  1. Und Was Bekam Des Soldaten Weib? 6:16
  2. Der Anstreicher Spricht Von Kommenden Grossen Zeiten (Intro) 0:56
  3. Der Barbara-Song Oder Die Ballade Vom Nein Und Ja 10:58
  4. O Du Falada, Da Du Hangest… 7:06
  5. Ballade Vom Weib Und Dem Soldaten 6:17
  6. An Die Nachgeborenen 6:39
  7. Kinderkreuzzug 1939 14:05
  8. An Meine Landsleute 3:50
  9. Vier Aufforderungen An Einen Mann Von Verschiedener Seite Zu Verschiedenen Zeiten 1:36
  10. Vom Sprengen Des Gartens 0:54

In the Marxist Internet Archive:

*Added to the Andreas Nin ArchiveFinal Declaration to the Police 21st June 1937

*Added to the Grace Lee Boggs Archive in the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL)The Chinese Sailors “Mutiny” (as Ria Stone) (1942) / “March on Washington” Movement Stirs Again (as Ria Stone) (1942) / Negroes, March on Washington! (as Ria Stone) (1942)

*Added to the Irving Howe Archive in the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL)Labor Action Replies to Christian Science Monitor (1942) / The Saturday Evening Post Slanders the Jewish People (1942) / Labor Action Answers California Eagle Attack (1942) / Stalinists Defend War Profiteers! (1942) / Jim Crow – Who Will Win the New Orleans Race? (1942)

*Added to the Hugo Oehler Archive in the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL)The Negro and the Class Struggle (series) (1932) / The S.P. “Lefts’” Program (1932) / The Slogan of the Defense of the U.S.S.R. (1932)

And here’s a sample of new material added to the wonderful Early American Marxism website: (more…)

Anarchism in the Eastern Mediterranean

Two interesting items:

The colour brown: de-colonising anarchism and challenging white hegemony by  in Random Shelling. Extract:

The appearance of the Egyptian Black Bloc in Cairo’s streets in January 2013 triggered gullible excitement in Western anarchist circles. Little thought was given to the Egyptian Black Bloc’s political vision – or lack thereof – tactics, or social and economic positions. For most Western anarchists, it was enough that they looked and dressed like anarchists to warrant uncritical admiration. Facebook pages of Israeli anarchists were swamped with pictures of Egyptian Black Bloc activists; skimming through the US anarchist blogosphere during that period would have given one the impression that the Black Bloc was Egypt’s first-ever encounter with anarchism and anti-authoritarianism. But as American writerJoshua Stephens notes, the jubilant reaction many Western anarchists have towards the Black Bloc raises unflattering questions concerning their obsession with form and representation, rather than content and actions. And in this regard, these anarchists are not different from the Islamists who were quick to denounce the Black Bloc as blasphemous and infidel merely because they looked like Westerners. Further, many Western anarchist reactions to the Black Bloc unmask an entrenched orientalist tendency. Their disregard of Egypt and the Middle East’s rich history of anarchism is one manifestation of this. As Egyptian anarchist, Yasser Abdullah illustrates, anarchism in Egypt dates back to the 1870’s in response to the inauguration of the Suez Canal; Italian anarchists in Alexandria took part in the First International, published an anarchist journal in 1877, and took part in the Orabi revolution of 1881; Greek and Italian anarchists also organised strikes and protests with Egyptian workers. Yet these struggles are nonchalantly shunned by those who act today as if the Black Bloc is the first truly radical group to grace Egyptian soil….

I begin by showing that colonial attitudes made the Republicans of the Spanish Revolution neglect Spanish colonialism in North Africa, leading them to focus solely on fighting fascism at home. That the Spanish Revolution continues to serve as an important reference for today’s anarchist movements, it is not surprising that similar colonial attitudes lead today’s movements to write-off centuries of anti-authoritarian struggle in Asia, Africa and the Middle East….

Exceedingly Immersed in their fight against fascism and tyranny in Spain, the [Spanish] revolutionaries ignored Spain’s colonialism, fascism and tyranny across the Mediterranean. The level of dehumanisation toward the “Other” was so high that, according to most pro-revolution narratives, the only role colonised Moroccans were given to play was one of mercenaries brought in by General Franco to crush the Popular Front. Much pro-revolution sentiment would go as far as referring to Moroccans in a racist manner. While it is difficult to argue that mutual solidarity between Spanish revolutionaries and colonised Moroccans could have changed the outcome of the War, it is also difficult to know whether this kind of solidarity was ever feasible in the first place. As the late American historian Howard Zinn puts it: “In the short run (and so far, human history has consisted only of short runs), the victims, themselves desperate and tainted with the culture that oppresses them, turn on other victims.” On the other hand, anarchism, in its essence, means rejecting and fighting against any form of authority and subjugation, including colonialism and occupation. To be truly anti-authoritarian, therefore, any struggle against fascism and dictatorship at home should be internationalist and cannot be separated from the struggle against fascism and tyranny abroad, in its role as a colonial power….

And Palestinian Anarchists in Conversation: Recalibrating anarchism in a colonized country, by Joshua Stephens, originally in the Lebanese magazine The Outpost. Extract:

ahmad

“I’m honestly still trying to kick the nationalist habit,” jokes activist Ahmad Nimer, as we talk outside a Ramallah cafe. Our topic of conversation seems an unlikely one: living as an anarchist in Palestine. “In a colonized country, it’s quite difficult to convince people of non-authoritarian, non-state solutions. You encounter, pretty much, a strictly anticolonial – often narrowly nationalist – mentality,” laments Nimer. Indeed, anarchists in Palestine currently have a visibility problem. Despite high-profile international and Israeli anarchist activity, there doesn’t seem to be a matching awareness of anarchism among many Palestinians themselves.

See also: anarchist tagged posts on Tahrir-ICN about Egyptian anarchists.

No Gods, no bosses, no husbands: the other half of anarchy

This article appears in Italian in Corriere della Sera’s La ventisettesima ora

Fifteen “rebellious women” of the twentieth century But who are their heirs? by 

Fifteen fascinating and scandalous women , fifteen women rebels… largely forgotten by history. Educated women, aristocratic or workers, publishers, poets, journalists, writers, activists, who from Italy to Japan, Russia to England, Spain to Argentina choose a rough path of autonomy , siding always on with the weak and exposing the same oppression of fascism, Nazism and Communism. Denounced, arrested, imprisoned, exiled, sometimes victims of violence, in one case killed: their stories are told for the first time by Lorenzo Pezzica, historian and archivist of Milan, who, with her book Anarchists: Rebel women of the twentieth century (Shake editions, 2013) fills a void in the history of anarchism, reserved so far only for men.

Forget therefore Bakunin and Kropotkin, Malatesta and Pisacane. Here are red Emma, the Lithuanian Goldman, the only internationally known, called “the most dangerous woman in America”, pioneering feminist and champion of free love, despite being tormented by jealousy. And Virginia Bolten who only twenty years old, 1 May 1890, is the first woman speaker of the nascent labor movement in the city of Rosario, and wrote “Ni Dios, ni patron ni marido”.

Or Dora Marsden, petite and daring suffragette arrested in London in 1909, believing that it is high time for women to take control of their lives. She joined , the first feminist magazine of the 1900s, but would eventually break from movement, denouncing its hierarchical organization too . And again, Lucía Sánchez Saornil, declared lesbian, forced to go underground in Franco’s Spain, who throughout her life will try to reformulate the identity of “those who do not count.” Then, Nancy Cunard, depicted on the cover of the book, provocative dark lady and convinced anti-racist, who? rejects the English aristocracy from which committed all his energies in the Spanish revolutionary cause, and will pay its unconventional choices with loneliness and cultural existential…

Among the best stories is that of May Picqueray , French and pacifist anarcho-syndicalist, independent woman who lived by the tragedies of the twentieth century, raising her three children alone had three different companions… Not to mention, finally, the Italian: Maria Luisa Berneri, a tireless opponent of all wars in its short existence marked by the tragic death of her father Camillo, who was killed in 1937 in Barcelona by the assassins of the Comintern. And Luce Fabbri, a life spent in exile in Uruguay, recalling that totalitarian nightmare of Orwell, a  machinery of power increasingly sophisticated and oppressive that, although experienced as a painful wound, never translates [for these women] into a sense of helplessness…

Beyond their ideas, shared or not, I am struck by the determination and courage of these women perpetually wandering, uncomfortable and insubordinate, here and now they want to accomplish their dream of a better life. Women, as  Ida Fare writes in the introduction , linked by a network that truly embodies the words of the song anarchist “Our homeland is the whole world, our law is freedom.”

But who today could represent an ideal continuity with their thinking, with their willingness to transgression is difficult to find examples of disruptive approved in the current world, where it quickly becomes polluted every thrust antagonist.

The article nominates  Aliokhina Maria, the youngest member of Pussy Riot, serving two years in prison for the anti-Putin punk prayer in the Orthodox Cathedral in Moscow. Or the fierce Inna Shevchenko, leader of Femen, the movement that was born in Kiev with its clamorous protest topless which spread to, among others, the Tunisian blogger Amina.  Or Nawal El Saadawi, Egyptian activist and renowned psychiatrist, or Vandana Shiva , the Indian environmentalist, champion of biodiversity.
(more…)

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