John Cornford

The Marxist Internet Archive, as I noted here, are undertaking the wonderful task of adding Brian Pearce’s regular column, Constant Reader, from the 1950s, to their great collection. A couple of items caught my eye. This is from March 1959:

John Cornford’s warning

A useful book on this subject is ‘John Cornford: A Memoir’, edited by Pat Sloan (1938). It consists of selections from the writings of the young man to whom the socialist movement in the universities in that period owed more than to anybody else, together with contributions by people who knew him.

Cornford was killed in action in December 1936, fighting with the International Brigade in Spain. His writings while in Spain suggest that, had he lived, his Marxist approach would have brought him into conflict with Stalinism.

For Cornford the struggle in Spain was ‘a revolutionary war’.

‘In Catalonia at least the overwhelming majority of the big employers went over to the fascists. Thus the question of socialism was placed on the order of the day.’

The Communist Party should ‘force recognition from the government of the social gains of the revolution’.

Cornford feared that the party was ‘a little too mechanical in its application of People’s Front tactics. It is still concentrating too much on trying to neutralize the petty bourgeoisie – when by far the most urgent task is to win the socialist workers…’

And this is from the following week:

Cornford and the anarchists

An error crept into one of my quotations from Cornford last week – an error which it is particularly worth correcting, as it weakens the point of the passage quoted.

It was not the ‘socialist’ but the ‘anarchist workers’ that Cornford thought the Spanish communists should concentrate on winning.

Though he had no time for anarchism, Cornford saw that the main body of militant workers in the principal industrial region of Spain, around Barcelona, were anarchists, and, being a sincere communist, that meant for him that the party’s task was first and foremost to get among those workers, establish close ties with them, and win them for Marxism.

The line actually taken by the Stalinists was first to stick a label on the anarchist workers (‘uncontrollables’, the 1937 equivalent of ‘Left adventurists’), then to work up a pogrom spirit against them among the followers of the Communist Party, and finally to attack and decimate them, using an armed force recruited among former policemen and the middle class.

Very relevant to what we were talking about here.

From the magazine rack

Principia Dialectica: ‘the Bolshevik system – a system to which I was opposed, and to which I am still opposed today’: Hungarian Marxian philosopher Gáspár Miklós Tamás takes on Andrei Plesu.

New Politics has had a much-needed makeoever and is looking good. They’ve now got bloggy stuff, like Scott McLemee on Hubert Harrison [see also McLemee at CJR]. And some of the recent articles are interesting, such as Dan Jakopovich on revolutionary unionism, Stephen Eric Bronner on critical theory, and Jorge Robles on the workers’ movement in Mexico.

Over at Dissent: THE OTHER GEORGE: Lichtheim on Imperialism by Mitchell Cohen
AN INDEPENDENT mind, George Lichtheim was “the real thing, not the self-announced sort,” writes Mitchell Cohen. “His histories of socialism and Marxism are among the most intelligent that we have….Even if you would dispute him on something or many things, you’ll feel smarter for the disagreement.”
Finally, Schalom Libertad reports on the history of Jewish Currents, while The Tablet celebrates Yiddish radio.

Marxist theory

1. Hal Draper’s piece on Israel posted by angelus novus at Contested Terrain (and linked to here) has prompted a very thoughtful, intelligent response by Mira Vogel, posted at Engage and Greens Engage, two excellent British left-wing anti-racist sites.

2. Larry Gambone has a couple of recent articles of interest, most notably his dissection of the myth of Lenin’s “libertarian” State and Revolution (a myth that Draper contributed to).

3. Via Bermuda Radical (a bit Pabloite for my liking), I came across Sebastian Lamb’s critique of J Sakai and his theory of “settler” racism – useful.

4. I also recently found the Notes and Commentaries, a very interesting communist blog. This article, on sectarianism and the party, is especially good. (Again, Draper is a key reference point.)

5. Principia Dialectica lay into Amadeo Bordiga and his cult here.

Below the fold: From the archive of struggle, no.22

(more…)

History, etc

News from the frontline of the workers’ struggle:

On Thomas Paine:

Solidarity Federation: Direct Action new issue, includes:

From the archive of struggle, no.22:

From the New International, April 1941 [Via Ent.]

From Socialist Appeal, January/February 1936 [Via Ent.]

Anti-Stalinism/Hitchery/Bloggery

Anti-Stalinism

Anne Applebaum on the KGB in America. Enty on John Saville. The secret life of Victor Serge.

The Hitch

Christopher Hitchens on Abraham Lincoln’s centenary. Hitchens on Hemingway’s libido. Hitchens on Edward Upward. Hitchens on Karl Marx.

Bloggery

This blog – The Fatal Paradox – is new to me. I found it via Phil and will be visiting again! (Phil: “one of those blogs that defy easy categorisation. Hailing from New Zealand, it offers commentary on history, art and theory with a slight Spanish tinge to proceedings. Well worth checking out.”) We have Moriscos, Un chien andalou, Juan Goytisolo on Genet, Pablo Neruda: what more could one want?

Another blog new to me is Workers Self Management, an blog. Includes a bit of english history to be proud of, and a link to a WSA article on solidarity unionism that talks about the landless movement in Brazil and Spain in the 1930s.

Poumatic

Orwellia:

Hitchens on Orwell and 1984. Truth tellers. Rosie’s flowers.

Ken Loach ad absurdum:

Principia Dialectica on the Ken Barlow of film again

Marxist theory:

Moishe Postone/Paul Mattick.

Iberica/Judaica:

Barack Obama, Moses Maimonides and Roger Garaudy in Cordoba. Asymmetrical parallels between Is/Pal and republican Spain.

From the archive of struggle, no.21:

Hal Draper: How to Defend Israel (1948)
Hal Draper: Karl Marx and Simon Bolívar (1970)

Max Farrar: The Libertarian Movements of the 1970s. What can we learn (1989, pdf)

Obituaries/appreciations:

Entdinglichung plays dub for Walter Rodney. Adam Kirsch on IF Stone on Zionism and Communism.


From the archive of struggle, no.20

Heroes:

Spain Turns by Roberto. From the International Review, Vol.2 No.3, New York, April 1937

“From 1936 to 1939 a magazine called International Review was published in New York, with contributions from exiles from Germany and other European countries. It was responsible for the first English translation, from the German, of Rosa Luxemburg’s  ‘Reform or Revolution’ and Julius Martov’s ‘The State and the Socialist Revolution’. Its general political line can be best described as “Anti-Bolshevik Marxism”, rejecting Lenin and Trotsky’s vanguardism and arguing that the socialist revolution, to be successful, required the conscious understanding and active participation of the working class.
A MySpace exclusive: this is the first time that this article has appeared on the web.”

[Thanks to Darren for the tip.]

Great George Orwell photo gallery here.

Villains:

Added to the Dolores Ibárruri Archive: Stalin, Leader of Peoples, Man of the Masses, (1940). A lot of people think “La Pasionaria” was a wonderful person, because she came out with that great line about living on your knees or dying on your feet. In fact, at least until late in her life, she was a Stalinist hack, complicit in the murders of people like Andreu Nin and, more directly, Gabriel León Trilla.

Ambivalent:

I only recently found the excellent TheoryAndPractice.org.uk, which mainly archives texts from the ultra-left, including Amadeo Bordiga and Gilles Dauvé (aka Jean Barrot). I am ambivalent about these people: Bordiga fetishisation of the party rivals Lenin’s, and while Dauvé’s critiques of vanguardism are powerful, his anti-anti-fascism is reprehensible. On the other hand, The Communist Club and Julius Martov were cool.

Silone/Farrell

Following up yesterday’s Ignazio  Silone post, I notice that the author (Stanislao G. Pugliese) of the book under review (Bitter Spring), is interviewed here at Publishers Weekly. Short but sweet. There’s a good review here too. Pugliese has also written about Carlo Rosselli.

Robert K Landers, who wrote the WSJ review, has also written about James T Farrell, another fascinating and inspiring writer/activist. Kyle Semmel writes about Farrell nicely here.

Every line of serious work I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism as I understand it.

[Bitter Spring]I missed this excellent post by Jim Denham in my last Orwellia round-up: Orwell and socialism. Highly recommended.

Talking of great anti-fascists, here is Wall Street Journal, of all periodicals, on Ignacio Silone. More on this in later posts.

Published in: on June 11, 2009 at 2:03 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , ,

Poumacious

Some day I’ll get around to writing an original blog post. In the meantime, more notes and notelets.

In City Journal, Fred Siegel takes a razor to the horrible, proto-fascist, eugenicist Fabian HG Wells, and argues that he is the godfather of American liberalism. From a conservative perspective, but absolutely right in many ways, although I don’t think that he makes the case for how Wells shaped American liberalism, and that his anti-democratic politics really left a legacy. Wells, however, like his fellow Fabians, represents a socialism-from-above that has been a strong strain in the British left, arguably inherited by the paternalist New Labour project today. Luckily, it has been countered by a tradition of socialism-from-below, running through William Morris, Keir Hardie, George Orwell, Nye Bevan, Michael Young, Raymond Williams and Maurice Brinton. Who inherits that tradition todGeorge Orwell - broadcasting 1984, which is 60 years old next weekay though?

Talking of socialism-from-below, in the Telegraph, the irritating Jeremy Paxman has an excellent piece about George Orwell‘s wonderfulness. Sunday was, of course, the 60th anniversary of Orwell’s 1984, and the chattering classes have been going to town. Here, a number of them twitter about Orwell. Alexei Sayle’s contribution stands out. And, decidedly beyond the chattering classes, here is the late Robert Barltrop of the SPGB.


Archive special

From the archive of struggle, no.19. Non-anoraks, skip this post, and go to this one, on Obama’s taste in reading and an alternative to the Richard and Judy book club, or this one,  on early jazz and recent fado, or this one, on how blogging has re-invigorated radical history.

Steve Cohen

First of all, ArchivesHub last month highlighted the Greater Manchester Collection of Steve Cohen, lawyer and anti deportation campaigner, 1975-1996. Go here for the website, which includes links to selected websites and some excellent suggested reading.. For background on Steve Cohen, check Engage/Bob.
Image of a demo rally poster Image of a campaign poster Image of an anti deportation campaign poster

The rest

Marxist Internet Archive:

  • Added to the J. T. Murphy Archive: The Communist Party of Great Britain (1943) and The Last Great Split in World Communism (1948) [Poumista: Latter is particularly recommended. Murphy played a part in the 1926 expulsion of Trotsky from the Communist International, was expelled himself in 1932 for challenging its disasterous ultra-left Third Period politics, and reflects here on these two expulsions and on Tito's. By the way,  Murphy's wikipedia page badly needs editing!]
  • Added to the Rudolf Hilferding Archive: State Capitalism or Totalitarian State Economy 1940 [Poumista: This piece is also important, as a key intervention in the debate about the character of the Soviet Union. Hilferding wrote it as the Nazis boot was stamping on the face of France, not long before he was handed by the Vichy French to the Gestapo, who would murder him and take his wife Rose to Auschwitz, where she perished. His characterisation of the Stalinist system as totalitarian has considerable force.]
  • Added to the Brian Pearce Archive: Rank-and-file Movements of the Thirties, 15 November 1958 (Constant Reader) [Poumista: Pearce is another important, neglected character. Like EP Thompson, he was part of the Communist Party Historians Group, but re-thought Stalinism in the wake of Russia's counter-revolution crushing of the Hungarian revolution 1956, getting himself expelled in 1957. A close associate of Peter Fryer, he passed with him through the orbit of Gerry Healey. This piece, I think, dates from his time with Healey's Club, and is an important contribution to the 1950s' revisioning of Anglo-Stalinist and labour history.]

[Beneath the fold: Spanish anarchist histories, and more besides] (more…)

Who would have expected that of Herr Bronstein from Cafe Central!

A long and interesting post from Principia Dialectica about Leon Trotsky, his twists and turns, and his legacy.

Meanwhile, Roland, having heard that Hugo Chavez is planning to give Barack Obama a copy of Lenin’s What is to be Done next time he sees him, conjures up the appalling spectacle of a Chavez book club. On the Lenin gift, Jams comments “That should save Obama a few prescriptions for sleeping tablets”, and Bob adds “Personally, I think that, if books can be called evil, that What is to be Done is up there with Mein Kampf. And it’s boring!”

Meanwhile, Obama himself, interviewed on Radio 4 on his way to Cairo, mentioned he was currently reading Joseph O’Neil’s Netherland, a book heavily influenced by one of my heroes (and part of Trotsky’s legacy), CLR James.

World revolution (and Portuguese saudade)

Another extraordinary post from the great music blog Locust Street, going chronologically through the twentieth century and now up to 1919. Go read and listen – here’s some of the illustrations to whet your appetite – and there’s some lovely lusophone music below that.


IWW headquarters after Palmer raid, NYC, 15 November 1919.


El Lissitzky, Beat the Whites With the Red Wedge.


Women protesting during the Egyptian Revolution, Cairo, 1919.


Before the band broke up: Kamenev, Lenin and Trotsky at the 8th Party Congress

Interlude: scenes from the mayfly countries


The Bavarian Soviet Republic (April-May 1919)


The Hungarian Soviet Republic (March-August 1919)

The Slovak Soviet Republic (16 June-7 July 1919)

Beckmann, The Night.

Meanwhile, Martin in the Margins, who I’m thanking for this, has some reflections on the word “saudade” and YouTubes of gorgeous Portuguese-language songstresses Cesaria Evora (from Cape Verde) and Mariza (from Lisbon).

Published in: on June 2, 2009 at 11:10 am  Leave a Comment  

More notes

Bloggery/Anti-Stalinism: A wonderful photo of Leon Trotsky, Diego Rivera and Andre Breton in Mexico. Standing with Trotsky’s victims at Kronstadt. Dovid Katz: Prague’s Declaration of Disgrace, on the purported moral equivalence between fascism and Stalinism. Michael Lind: “neoconservatism looks less like Wilsonianism than like Trotskyism-Trumanism”.

Bloggery/Orwellia: Ken McLeod on Jura, discussing surveillance. Orwell’s 1984 and the Fabians. Ken Loach locks out George Orwell. Ken Loach as the Ken Barlow of film. Better than Loach: Kevin Spacey and Homage to Catalonia. The misapprorpiation of Orwell by the free market right.

History: AWL narrates its pre-history in British Trotskyism from the 1940s to the 1960s. Socialist and anti-Stalinist songs of the 1950s by by Joe Glazer and Bill Friedland and others.

Below the fold: From the archive of struggle, no.18:  (more…)

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