His original songs evoke a Brechtian level of discomfort by problematizing heroes and making the grotesque sympathetic. For example, “Six Million Germans/Nakam” recounts the story of the hero of the Vilnius (known in Yiddish as Vilna) partisans, Abba Kovner, who was among the brave men and women who fought, with few weapons and terrible odds, against the Nazis and their collaborators. Less discussed is Kovner’s decision, with a group of friends, to take revenge on the Germans after the war. Calling themselves Nakam (revenge), they concocted a plan to poison German water supplies and take millions of German victims in retribution. The song, performed as an upbeat klezmer polka, jarringly juxtaposes subject and tone to bring up two of Kahn’s favorite themes, violence and revenge, and forces the listener to question the nature of heroism and justice.
From the archive of struggle. no.16: At the risk of descending into some kind of ever-decreasing spiral of circularity, big thanks to entdinglichung, who thanks me in the latest in the excellent series of archival material from the history of the left. Included in this installment is more Karl Korsch from Class Against Class, Pierre Monatte in English from LBS, Sean Matgamna on Tony Cliff and the IS/SWP from back in 1969, a still anarchist Victor Serge in 1912 on banditry, and a homage to Marc Bloch, French anti-Nazi Resistance hero, by Georges Altman, founder of the “third force” socialist Rassemblement démocratique révolutionnaire.
Snippets: Dave O and Entdinglichung on the passing of Guillermo Lora, leader of Bolivia’s Partido Obrero Revolucionaria, one of the few Trotskyist organisations in history ever to gain a mass following. And Dave on why now is not the 1930s. Lefty parent in the basement of the library with Bakunin. More snippets from Roland and Bob. Soundtrack from Martin.
One year ago today 17 year old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez became another grim statistic in the all too frequent deaths of agricultural workers in the heat of California’s fields. Today the United Farm Workers is asking that you remember her death by joining them in pressing the government of California to pass a bill removing some of the impediments to unionization of agricultural labourers in that state. Only strong unions can prevent such unnecessary deaths. Here is the UFW’s appeal.[...]
Fifteen farm workers have died of heat-related complications since July 2004. We will be conducting vigils on the anniversary of each of their deaths–where we will share the worker’s story–and invite you to join in virtually by telling legislators and Gov. Schwarzenegger that enough is enough, farm workers need a tool where they can protect themselves.[...]
“Whilst doing only what is possible is healthy and reasonable, it is also dreary, and life is short anyway. Maybe for these reasons I am determined to win the Spanish Civil War”. These words were uttered by the Catalonian artist Francesc Torres (Barcelona, 1948), talking about his installation Dark Is The Room Where We Sleep, which has provided the title for the exhibition presented at ARTIUM. He went on to explain what he meant by his statement. Winning the war “consists, no more and no less,” he declares, “of preventing people from mistaking those who are in the right historically for those who are not. It involves never putting the innocent and the tyrants in the same basket. It consists of recovering the victims of a sinister regime so that everyone may know that they were indeed the victims and, once the fire is out, abandon weapons.”
“Painting is a medium in which the mind can actualize itself; it is a medium of thought…Painting is…the mind realizing itself in color and space.” – Robert Motherwell
On Friday May 1st, the ID Project Arts Group went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to visit one of Robert Motherwell’s paintings from his series of “Elegies to the Spanish Republic”. He made over one hundred and seventy of these paintings which were a lament for the people and the culture that died in the Spanish Civil War. Motherwell, who was only 21 at the time the Civil War broke out was struck by the realization “that the world could, after all, regress.”
Cervantes on Orwell on Jura
The locals knew him by his real name of Eric Blair, a tall, cadaverous, sad-looking man worrying about how he would cope on his own. The solution, when he was joined by baby Richard and his nanny, was to recruit his highly competent sister, Avril. Richard Blair remembers that his father “could not have done it without Avril. She was an excellent cook, and very practical. None of the accounts of my father’s time on Jura recognise how essential she was.”
George Orwell wrote 1984 on Jura. Did you think about him much?
Yes, particularly when I went up to Barn Hill. The people there now are the same people who rented the house to Orwell, so there’s that continuity. The house is unchanged since he was there. I found it oddly moving – which is not like me. The consciousness of how ill he was and how driven he was to work under those circumstances, what a grim time it was in the post-war period.
José María Martínez Castillo, ‘Koke’
1926 Cabredo- 2009 London
Below the fold: anarchist history from Australia, Pittsburgh, Russia and Italy, council communist texts on-line, Karl Korsch, Franklin Rosemont… (more…)
Robert Capa’s “Mexican” Suitcase. photo © Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
Gerda Taro, Air Raid Victim in the Morgue, Valencia, 1937.
- Images above from a post on Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and David Seymour (Chim) at Venetian Red: highly recommended.
- Review of Victor Serge’s Unforgiving Years. ( “Yet another blow struck against Stalinist despotism and for the recovery of an authentic socialist tradition from the ‘midnight in the century’ of totalitarianism. This project is part of what Vasily Grossman called the ‘radiant dossier’ that would emerge from the debris of NKVD archives that one day would be opened.” )
- E. San Juan Jr on Bertolt Brecht on the Spanish Civil War and the Philippine Revolution.
- Sklyansky on Robert Service’s new biography of Trotsky.
- Mayakovsky’s Suicide, by Leon Trotsky, at Rustbelt Radical.
- Intense light on a forgotten war: Ian Gibson’s introduction to David Baird’s Between Two Fires, on the Andalusian anti-Franco partisans.
- Of cars, footballers, fascists and rockers: a wonderful post on Barcelona. Film fragments from 1900 to now, including the July ’36 revolution, la Rumba Catalana and Manu Chao.
- Remember the Christmas of 1946: bizarre Stalinist marginalia.
- James Connolly as hero, at Rustbelt Radical. Great Irish folk music YouTubes at the end.
- Rosie Bell on the anatomy of a song.
- Yet again: Ron Radosh on Pete Seeger, continued.
- Subversive Historian: Grapes of Wrath, Argentina’s May Day massacre 1909, Ludlow Massacre, the Limerick Soviet, Zapata’s assassination, Kronstadt.
- Some Readings on Workers Councils, Militancy, and Generalized Self-Management (Pannekoek, Cajo Brendel, Benjamin Peret, Marcelo Vieta, etc)
- Stroppyblog: 1931 again?
- Ellen Wilkinson: a great MP.
- And, for all the old hacks, Kevin Higgins sums up the mood.
- The woman who captured Robert Capa’s heart (independent.co.uk)
- Dalí, Richter and Houdini in Chains! (nytimes.com)
- The Trotsky Conundrum (3quarksdaily.com)
- Frida: raises an eyebrow | Reel History (guardian.co.uk)
- Album: Lila Downs, Y la Misteriosa en Paris – Live (World Village) (independent.co.uk)