Notes

Orwellia: Rosie compares notes with George Orwell. Max Dunbar on why Richard Seymour should have won the Orwell Prize (not).

Iberia/Anti-fascism: Portugal’s cultural revolution 35 years on. Franco has only got one ball. Hearing Emma Goldman’s voice is justification enough for the internet. Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin.

North African diaspora/music and dance: Barcelona Maghrebi music. Dancing: for Visteon, in Spain, and in the Paris Commune.

Obituaries: On the passing of Chris Gray. On the passing of Ernest Millington: from Roy Roebuck, Graham Pointer, Around the Edges, Yorkshire Ranter, Hopi Sen.

Anarchist reading room

I. Especifismo

From Machete 408:

Mujer20Zapatista2.jpg picture by adam_freedom

An informal reader has been put together on especifismo, the anachist tradition and practice from Latin America that speaks for the need to form specifically anarchist orgnaization and for ’social insertion’ within social movements. With similarities to the currents of Anarchist-Communism and Platformism, the especifists argue for a particular understanding of the charactor of anarchist organization and relationships with social movements. With roots going back to the period of dictatorships in the 1980’s, knowledge of the especifist tradition has only reached North America within the last several years.

The reader can be found here and begins with introductory articles (though I think the second one it could do without) and is followed with a series of interviews and translated documents and theory peices. Other projects to translate and gather documents and history related to this tradition are underway.

Contents:

Introductions

  1. Especifismo: The anarchist praxis of building popular movements and revolution organization in Latin America – Adam Weaver

  2. Building a Revolutionary Movement: Why Anarchist Communist Organization? – Adam Weaver

The organizations

  1. The Social Question: Latin American Anarchism and “Social Insertion” – Michael Schmidt (Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Federation, South Africa)

  2. NEFAC Interviews The Federacao Anarquista Gaucha (FAG Brazil) – Red Sonja (North Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists-Boston)

  3. Who We Are, What We Want, The Path We Follow – Coletivo Comunista Anarquista (Brazil)

  4. Anarchist Advances in Uruguay and Brazil -from Rojo y Negro (CGT, Spain)

  5. The Principles of the Forum of Organized Anarchism -Fórum do Anarquismo Organizado (Brazil)

Theoretical discussions

  1. The Need of Our Own Project – Libertarian Socialist Organization (Argentina)

  2. The Specific Organization – Jaime Cubero (Centro de Cultura Social, Sao Paulo)

  3. Materialism and Idealism – Anarchist Collective of “Zumbi dos Palmares” Forum of Organized Anarchism (Brazil)

Theory, Ideology, and Historical Materialism - Internal Education Secretary of Libertarian Socialist Organization (Brazil)

II. Anarcho-syndicalism

I’ve been poking around the website of the anarcho-syndicalist Workers Solidarity Alliance. They’ve got quite a good library, with some classic stuff, although mostly available elsewhere:

Assembly
Members of the IWW Agricultural Workers Organization take a vote in the early ’20s.

Radical history web 2.0

[From the archive of struggle, no.17]

Via Tendance Coatesy, we find a blog for the Country Standard, the Communist Party of Great Britain’s rural paper. A bit Stalinist, of course, for my liking, but some fascinating historical stuff. In particular, quite a bit about the early history of the Indendent Labour Party in rural areas, especially in the Northwest, and of the Clarion movement.

Across the Atlantic, The Sojourner Truth Organization: Notes Toward a History is a wonderful project. Of particular interest among recent(ish) stuff is Don Hamerquist in the 1970s articulating a careful anti-Stalinist Leninism in polemics against a then-nameless grouping from Boston, which eventually became the core of the Proletarian Unity League, which in turn was one of the founding elements of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization in the mid-1980s.

The STO, incidentally, have been discussed in the Big Flame blog I already linked to. The use of blogging for grassroots history projects, as in these three examples is one of the great features of Web 2.0, of what Bob calls “citizen scholarship“.

Partisans and parasites

Rokhl Kafrissen on Yiddish folky Daniel Kahn. Extract:

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.

Via Will, who provides some audio-visuals. Here Rokhl’s blog. Here’s Jewish Currents, where she writes. Here’s Daniel’s webpage, and his MySpace.

Also:

Ken Loach: I love many of Loach’s films. But I have started to despise the man. Why? Ask Rosie, Alex Massie, Alec or Martin.

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.

La Linea: Labour news from Molly

TAKE ACTION ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF MARIA’S DEATH:

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.[]

The following story and appeal for a “virtual vigil” is from the United Farm Workers.
Join the virtual vigil for heat victim Eladio HernandezTake action to prevent future deaths:
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.[…]

This is another item that has been all over the “anarcho-net”. I have chosen to reprint the version in the Polish anarchism news service Centrum Informacji Anarchistczej . The original source is the Venezuelan anarchist magazine El Libertario.
The following is about yet another case of the so-called socialist government of Venezuela versus the workers of that country. To say the least this comes as no surprise to Molly, as she is very doubtful of the “good intentions” of a new ruling class such as the ‘Boli Bourgeoise‘ (as they are called in Venezuela) whatever their ideological pronouncements. Self interest tends to weigh very heavy in the scale. The situation described below will undoubtedly reoccur time after time in the future, barring the end of the Peronist Chavez regime. The word “Peronist” is important in the previous sentence. Without going off the ideological deep end in describing the present regime in Venezuela as “fascist” it is very important to note that this regime stands in a long line of dirigiste populist movements in Latin America, of which the Peronist regime in Argentina was the original model, regimes that use the rhetoric of “popular power” to actually undermine any real attempt at such.[…]


Published in: on May 21, 2009 at 9:07 pm  Comments (1)  

Everything in the world archived

I have only recently discovered the infinite joy of the Internet Archive, archive.org. Here are a few examples:

Audio:

George Sossenko is an 88-year old veteran of the Spanish Civil War. At the age of 16, he left his home in France to fight against Franco’s fascists with the anarchists of the Durruti column. A dedicated, life-long anarchist, George is still an active organizer as he travels and gives lectures on this important period in revolutionary history. Here, looking back from 2008, he talks about the lessons of the war.

A lovely “chill out” version of the Spanish anarchist classic “A las barricadashere. No information on singer or trumpeter.

Here, the dull, ponderous and vastly over-rated Stalinist Paul Robeson sings the classic “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night” to a Scottish miners’ benefit after the war.

Vastly superior is this, Harry McClintock (aka Haywire Mac, of “Big Rock Candy Mountain” fame) singing his Wobbly anthem “Hallelujah! I’m A Bum” in 1926.

Video:

The Archive of the Anonymous Narrated Image curates here some ordinary people’s family photos from the Spanish Civil War.

Books:

Here, via the National Yiddish Book Center is a reproduction of Rudolf Rocker’s memoirs in Yiddish, published in Argentina in the 1970s.

Here are the proceedings of the 1966 Socialist Party USA convention. Delegates included Norman Thomas, Michael Harrington, David McReynolds, Joshua Murachivik, Max Shachtman and Erich Fromm.

[From the archive of struggle, no.15]

One more for Franklin

I think I missed this one:

Franklin Rosemont In Memoriam – 1943-2009 Friends of Franklin

From Area Chicago: Everybody’s Got Money Issues

Previous obituaries: here, here, here.

More Chicago radical local history from Area Chicago No.7 68/08:

Poumerouma

The libertarian socialist tradition

New blog: Big Flame, on the history of this UK radical group of the 1970s.

Why Philosophy? Why Now? On the Revolutionary Legacies of Raya Dunayevskaya, CLR James and Anton Pannekoek, By David Black at The Hobgoblin

Andre Gorz, or the Ecological Demand, by Serge Audier at Principia Dialectica.

Anarchist Studies: Perspective 2009. On the legacy of Murray Bookchin.

Poster art, folk song and historical memory

More from BCNDesign: The everyday comes to Santa Coloma: Local things for local history. Graphic design in 1930s Spain.

History Today: The Mexican suitcase. British volunteers and Republican posters.

Rio Wang: Russian poster design and the war on coca-cola. Carlos Gordel and the zorzal.

George Szirtes: Fado da Tristeza.

Polish gentile, Jan Jagielski, chief archivist at the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, to receive the Irena Sendler Memorial Award from the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture.

The extraordinary anti-Nazi photo-montages of John Heartfield.

Scoop Review of Books: Kiwi Compañeros: NZ’s anti-Franco volunteers. See more in TNC‘s comment here. Which led me to these two great older posts: Fieldtrip to the International Center for Photography (Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, Francesc Torres and poster art). ¿Viva la Insurgencía?: The Spanish Civil War and the Legacy of the Totalitarian International Brigades. There’s plenty more TNC posts on memory and archives and on Communism.

Watch Land and Freedom at A Complex System of Pipes.

From the archive of struggle, no.14 (below the fold) (more…)

Dark is the room where we sleep

Art News

Artium Presents the Exhibition Dark is the Room Where We Sleep, by Francesc Torres



“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.”

one city: Painting as an act of compassion

“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.”

Orwellia
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.”

Will Self on Jura:

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.

Coque

Obituaries

José María Martínez Castillo, ‘Koke’
1926 Cabredo-  2009 London

Word doc from Children of ’37

Paul Larkin on Jack Jones, Martin McGuinness and Bob Doyle.

Below the fold: anarchist history from Australia, Pittsburgh, Russia and Italy, council communist texts on-line, Karl Korsch, Franklin Rosemont… (more…)

In the Mexican suitcase

Robert Capa’s “Mexican” Suitcase.  photo © Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Gerda Taro, Air Raid Victim in the Morgue, Valencia, 1937.

Highbrow

Lowbrow

Folkish

Churchillian

Activist

Obituary

Drawing clear lines

Today’s battles

1. The Popular Front has been one of the great dead ends of the socialist movement. Today, a terrible version of it has emerged in the NO2EU electoral front in the UK, an alliance of Stalinists and Stalinoid trade union hacks with the most reactionary Little Englanders, with a smattering of anorak left groupuscules to give it some hard left legitimacy. Reminiscent of some of the dangerous alliances created by the Communist Party of Great Britain in the 1930s, when they allied with reactionary war-mongerers simply because they were anti-Nazi.  Yourfriendinthenorth neatly analyzes No2Eu here.

2. Historically, the flipside to the “anti-Nazi” Popular Front was (objectively pro-Nazi) pacifism. The argument for pacifism has recently been made by Nicholson Baker in Human Smoke. As mentioned already, Max Dunbar has been taking up the metaphorical cudgels against Baker (here, then here and then here). Terry Glavin has taken note:

I’m happy to see that Max Dunbar has now joined Anne Applebaum, William Grimes, Adam Kirsch and others in helpfully rubbishing Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke for being an ahistorical apologia for pacifism. Baker’s efforts at redeeming pacifism’s ill-deserved reputation in the context of the Second World War appear to follow exactly the same lines as Mark Kurlansky’s Nonviolence: Twenty-Five Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea, which I was happy to rubbish a while back.

George Orwell was there, of course, long before us, when he noticed that pacifism is “a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security.” Will I still be able to refer approvingly to Orwell’s many expressions of contempt for the bourgeoisie if the Liberal Party proceeds with granting the CHRC its greater powers?

You have to read the whole post for that last sentence to make sense, so please do.

3. The pacifist tradition that Baker and Kurlansky inherit is not an ignoble tradition. In the UK, its home was, for many decades, the Independent Labour Party. I have a lot of respect for the ILP and its heritage. Ken Coates is the contemporary figure who probably most represents the political tradition of the ILP. Over the years I’ve been influenced considerably by Ken Coates, his humanist socialism, his advocacy for workers’ control, his sense of industrial democracy as an extension of the republican liberties fought for by the likes of Tom Paine. However, in his little magazine, The Spokesman, I have long noted an unpleasant drift towards sloppy conspirationist thought, anti-American hysteria, a “New World Order” mentality. Habibi at Harry’s Place nails this trend, and shows how it spills over into very unpleasant antisemitic territory.

After the fold: Historical Notes, From the Archive of Struggle, Book notes, Blog notes. (more…)

Carnivalesque

One or two dues to pay.

The Seven Songs for Spring meme has made very slow progress through the turgid waters of the internet, if that’s not too mixed a metaphor. Anyway, The Fat Man has picked it up. A few venn diagram moments, including Arlo Guthrie and Leonard Cohen. Honourable mentions for Airforce Amazons, Johnny Guitar and The Contentious Centrist, down other tributaries of this meme.

A while back I debuted in the 32nd Carnival of Socialism, hosted by AVPS.

Lastly POUMISTA looks at the use and abuse of George Orwell – quite timely as a few right wing establishment writers have made the shortlist for the Orwell prize for blogging.

Boffy’s Blog, which I featured here, is hosting next, so you never know.

La Tendance Coatesy, however, is not so happy with that carnival.

There’s something called the ‘Carnival of Socialism’. It’s a rotating list of Blog posts the ‘Carnis’ decide are socialist. I suppose they must be  -  if I could be arsed to check up on all of them. Like most self-appointed glee clubs it’s terribly dull. The latest one looks as if it’s written by a professional dullard. Somehow Tendance Coatesy, despite its leading position in the labour movement, and the hope and joy it spreads amongst the world’s struggling oppressed, doesn’t get mentioned. In its place too many Quorn pies of bland comment maketh a sorry feast.

With a proud tradition of contrarianism we at the Tendance are now holding an alternative Carnival, of, you guessed it, Contrariness. Here are some recent recommended Posts that grade the make: Tony Greenstein has a go at David Aaronovitch and ‘anti-Zionist’  Gillad Atzmon  (here). Bob from Brokley (where?) is a, “Blog about trans-Atlantic translation, Jews and Jew-haters, the old and new Stalinists, islam and secularism, contrarians and refuseniks, and South London.” Voltaire’s Priest has some excellent musings on religion’s claims to spread peace  at Shiraz Socialist. This drew forth a  reply from the Grande Dame of West London, Red Maria (not, I suspect, her real name). Charlie, who actually thinks about economics, asks if the left should consider a ’sustainable austerity’ programme. Stroppy pleads,  “can commentators on this please try to debate without calling people names such as scabs and nazis?”   Nation of Duncan does a bit of battling for the class struggle. Mick talks up the Japanese Communist Party. Pouminista does a magnificent job speaking about the often forgotten parts of the anti-fascist, anti-Stalinist left. Social Republic has some sharp thoughts on Italian nationalism. The Soul of Man Under Capitalism opines that “the man is screwing you through every fucking orifice…” Ian Bone recommends that we “get up off your arses..” Dave Osler controversially argues against Tax Cuts for the Rich. And Modernity does a Quick ‘Anti-Zionist’ Quiz that is certain to bring joy to members of George Galloway’s dwindling band of last-standers. Rosie Bell  has thoughtful reflections on the play Seven Jewish Children. Enty gets ready for May Day.

Modernity followed up by noting some rather poor practice in a subsequent Carnival of Socialism: positive press for the anti-socialist butcher of Tehran, racist dictator Ahmadinejad. (However, the carnival in question, the 34th, did have one or two highlights: Mick’s obit for Jack Jones, Charlie Pottins’ Toldpuddle history lesson, Splintered Sunrise’s Marxist revisionism.

While I’m blowing my own trumpet, finally, I also featured in Slack Bastard’s Random Notes:

A neat-o blog I recently discovered is called Poumista, ‘Against Stalinism and Fascism’, written from the perspective (one assumes) of a follower of Nin who escaped 1930s Spain via his/her own personal TARDIS and is now wreaking their revenge by blogging furiously. Poumista’s first blog entry (June 2008) concerns Communist hack Claud Cockburn: I still gotta copy of his writings on the conflict in Spain lying around somewhere.

Never had the word “neat-o” attached to me before. In the fine company, by the way, of Reading the Maps.

I think that’s it.

Published in: on May 6, 2009 at 3:21 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: ,

Poumable

Blog notes

Max Dunbar: Human Smoke, pacifism, fascism and just aggression. Not just Orwell: Christopher Hall on the stories of the ILP volunteers in Spain. WSWS: A Trotskyist view of the Spanish Civil War.

Obituaries

Luis Andrés Edo, a Barcelona syndicalist who resisted Franco. More Franklin Rosemont: on mods, rockers and Wobblies.

Book notes

From Bob Helms on the Research on Anarchism list:

I’m writing to announce with delight that my book, which has been in the works for about 15 years, has just been released, and I received copies in the mail today.  I’m so happy right now that I want to tell the world about it without delay.  The book is:

Forty Years In The Struggle: The Memoirs of a Jewish Anarchist
by Chaim Leib Weinberg
Translated by Naomi Cohen
Edited and Annotated by Robert P. Helms
Published by Litwin Books (Duluth, Minnesota, 2009)
[Sponsored in part by Wooden Shoe Books]

Chaim Weinberg (1861-1939) was an anarchist of Philadelphia who wrote his memoirs in 1930.  The book was published in Yiddish in 1952 and remained quite obscure ever since.  Today old Chaim’s have been released from the chains of time, with his funny stories of his public speeches to working people, his grandfatherly way of remembering the distant past, his qualities and his forgivable flaws. Weinberg would arrive in an auditorium to give a speech to Jewish strikers, and the audience would giggle as he approached the podium, and the organizers would cringe –because the man was funny-looking. Then, as he began to speak, he would hold their hearts in the palm of his hand, giving them tears or wild laughter at will.

The only regret that I have regarding this book is that I did not dedicate it to my mentor and friend Paul Avrich (nor anyone), who passed away in 2006.  Without Paul, none of these things could possibly have happened.

[MORE DETAILS HERE]

From the archive of struggle. no.11

1. Back to the 1980s:

Arthur Bough of Boffy’s Blog publishes some long internal documents from the Workers Socialist League of 1984/5. For non-trainspotters, the background is that a couple of years earlier the International Communist League – of which Bough had been a member – and the Workers Socialist League of Alan Thornett had merged (under the WSL name), but would soon split again. The split was over the Falklands War: the ICL argue (rightly) for a plague on both the houses, while the WSL called for victory for Galtieri’s Argentine dictatorship. The ICL mutated via Socialist Organiser into the Alliance for Workers Liberty. Here are the texts:

Imperialism, Industrialisation, Trade and Sub-Imperialism
Imperialism and The New International Division of Labour
Imperialism and War
Palestine – Nationalism v Socialist Internationalism

The key argument, absolutely valid today, is that we should not talk about “oppressed nations” versus “imperialist nations”, but, rather, about exploited classes who can be oppressed by capitalists of all sorts of colours and creeds.

And here is Bough on the lessons of the Spanish Civil War.

2. More from the archive (after the fold) (more…)

A hero

Honouring a hero: Karl Pfeifer

May 1

Read Terry (1,2)

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