From the archive

[From the archive of struggle, no.2]

Some good new stuff at La Bataille Socialiste and The Commune, including:

Orwell’s legacy, cont.

Fat Man on a Keyboard on Dave Renton on Richard Seymour on the “pro-war left” and the legacy of George Orwell, CLR James and Victor Serge.

Published in: on January 27, 2009 at 2:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Orwell matters more than ever…

… as demonstrated by Freeborn John and the Fat Man. [Via Bob]

[Previous: Good people in dark times]

Published in: on January 26, 2009 at 4:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Benjamin Péret: songs of the eternal rebels

From History is Made at Night:

Benjamin Péret (1899-1959) was active in the Surrealist movement from its formation until his death. Among other things he edited at one stage the journal ‘La Révolution surréaliste’.

[...]

Péret was one of the first of the Surrealists to break with Stalinism. In the early 1930s, living in Brazil (with his wife, the singer Elsie Houston) he joined the trotskyist Communist League. In the Spanish Civil War, he worked first with the independent socialist POUM and then an anarchist militia fighting on the Aragon front. Later he was part of a group called the Union Ouvriere Internationale which broke with the trotskyist movement over the latter’s defence of the Soviet Union as a degenerate workers state (see this biography of Ngo Van Xuhat for more about this)

In a 1949 poem, A Lifetime, Péret looked back on his long association with Andre Breton and wrote of:

‘the songs in raised fists of the eternal rebels thirsting for ever new wind
for whom freedom lives as an avalanche ravaging the vipers’ nests of heaven and earth
the ones who shout their lungs out as they bury Pompeiis
Drop everything’.

Main source: Benjamin Péret, Death to the Pigs and Other Writings, translated by Rachel Stella and others (London: Atlas Press, 1988). The best source online is L’Association des amis de Benjamin Péret (in French)

Published in: on January 21, 2009 at 5:28 pm  Comments (1)  
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Class Against Class

[From the archive of struggle, no.1]
Important new stuff at the wonderful Class Against Class archive:

Good people in dark times

Rosie Bell in the spirit of George Orwell on Paul Kaye on Gaza:

The good and sane are at a disadvantage at such times. They wring their hands, wondering why people can’t just calm down and come to some sensible agreements.

Wartime for the nation is like divorce for the individual. You commit acts, which on looking back you know were crazy and bad but at the time seemed perfectly rational, and the only thing you could do.

Orwell on HG Wells, a liberal progressive:
He was, and still is, quite incapable of understanding that nationalism, religious bigotry and feudal loyalty are far more powerful forces than that what he himself would describe as sanity. (from Wells, Hitler and the World State, 1941, from Vol 2 of The Collected Essays)

People revert to sanity, often out of sheer exhaustion, just as the divorced couple, having squandered their revenue on divorce lawyers, terrified their children, and tried the patience of their friends, come to an agreement about access and who gets the house. They capitulate to the facts of the case.

George Szirtes on Tim Lott on Andrew O’Hagan, who debased the memory of Orwell:

I let this article, a version of Andrew O’Hagan’s George Orwell Memorial Lecture, pass in last week’s Guardian Review, but I am very glad to see Tim Lott responding to it in the correspondence column of yesterdays’s Review with a certain, to my mind, justified indignation.

The tenor of O’Hagan’s lecture is that the English are a brutal, torpid, useless, subhuman race, unlike, say, his own noble, native, spirited Scots. All this is written without nuance or anything much in the way of evidence. In the course of this racist manure he ignores… well, some of what he ignores is there in Lott’s letter, eg.

[...]Second, he writes: “The English working class are far ahead of every other European lower class in the sheer energy of their indifference.” Any kind of supporting evidence for such an extraordinarily sweeping statement might have made this more convincing.

Published in: on January 19, 2009 at 5:11 pm  Comments (1)  
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Miscellany

א New at Libcom: Joe Jacobs (Solidarity UK) on the organisational question. (More Joe Jacobs here.)

א At the Morningstar Ranch (Jim Parks, The Legendary). Extract:

[Lou] Gottlieb had a concert grand he put in a hen house at the Morningstar Ranch. There, he played Brahms and other classical works. He meditated, did yoga and clowned while his sidekick, another musician named Ramón Sender Barayón, the son of Ramón J. Sender, the exiled Spanish novelist, played it straight. Sender was literally born amid the sound of machine guns during “Red October,” within close proximity of the opening battles of the Spanish Civil War, in 1934. His father, a native of Aragon, was a co-founder of Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista, or P.O.U.M., the Trotskyist militia whose ranks were filled with international volunteers, including such literary luminaries as George Orwell, author of 1984.

א liber.rhetoricae: on slogans, taglines, enthymemes, and figures of brevity in general. Extract:

Trotsky as agitator allows his contact with the lived experience of the Spanish people to challenge Trotsky as theorist or propagandist. He allows what he learns to challenge his assumptions about historical laws and revolutionary processes. This is important. “Are we not confronted with an historical paradox?” Trotsky asks, and in asking opens the possibility that any doctrine of continuity between world revolution and the Russian revolution requires urgent review and perhaps revision in light of facts discovered on the ground in Spain. Set aside your views on Trotsky or his analysis or the success of Trotsky’s enterprise. This is rhetoric as method, it is the very definition of a rational process, and it is dialectical in character in the classical sense of dialectics. This is a community engaged in review, interpretation, and argument, in the form of communicators testing their arguments in live conditions.

א Jim  Sleeper: Gaza needs a George Orwell now. Extract:

If a new Orwell informs us that Israel, although it’s hideously cruel and wrong, isn’t the only evil enemy of freedom in Gaza, will anyone want to know?

א Tom Reimann: 7 Historical Figures Who Were Absurdly Hard To Kill. Extract:

#4: Leon Trotsky

Why He Had to Go

In 1917, Trotsky was Lenin’s right hand man when the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia. He created and commanded the Red Army and was a member of the Politburo, which oversaw all other branches of Soviet government and made all policy decisions. He also wore glasses and had a wicked goatee, so you know he read books and shit.


Quiet, I’m reading this shit.

After Lenin died, Trotsky was expelled from the Communist party and kicked out of Russia. In return, Trotsky attempted to enter the United States to testify before Congress that Stalin was a major douchebag. Upon hearing this, Stalin decided his next move would be to expel Trotsky from life.

How He Went Down

Trotsky was denied entry into the U.S. and eventually found his way to a home in Mexico City. It was there that he was attacked by Ramon Mercader, an assassin working for Stalin.

While Trotsky was home reading some shit, Mercader buried an ice axe into the back of his skull.

This just pissed Trotsky off.

He stood up from his desk, axe in head, and spit on Mercader. Then he went after the assassin, wrestling with him. Trotsky’s bodyguards heard the commotion (where the fuck were they a few minutes ago?) and came running in to subdue the assassin and get Trotsky to the hospital.

Trotsky made it to the hospital and underwent surgery before finally dying a day later from complications related to being brained with a goddamn ice axe. We’re hoping he lived long enough to fire those bodyguards.

א Also: Barcelona Photoblog, Political Chess – Alekhine vrs Trotsky – Apocryphal Account, Typically Spanish: The man who killed Leon Trotsky.

A nice cup of tea

Today in 1946

A Nice Cup of Tea

By George Orwell

Evening Standard, 12 January 1946.


If you look up ‘tea’ in the first cookery book that comes to hand you will probably find that it is unmentioned; or at most you will find a few lines of sketchy instructions which give no ruling on several of the most important points.[...]

Published in: on January 12, 2009 at 1:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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