On this day: 31 July 1937- NKVD operative order 00447

NKVD operative order 00447 «Об операции по репрессированию бывших кулаков, уголовников и других антисоветских элементов» (The operation for repression of former kulaks, criminals and other anti-Soviet elements) is approved by the Politburo. Originally the operation was planned for four months; the plan was for 75,950 people to be executed and an additional 193,000 to be sent to the GULAG. The operation was extended multiple times. Altogether, through the summer of 1938, at least 818,000 people were arrested and not less than 436,000 were executed.

To execute this order, NKVD troikas were created on the levels of republic, krai, and oblast. Investigation was to be performed by operative groups “in a speedy and simplified way”, the results were to be delivered to troikas for trials.

The chairman of a troika was the chief of the corresponding territorial subdivision of NKVD ( People’s Commissar of a republican NKVD, etc.). Usually a troika included the prosecutor of the republic/krai/oblast in question; if not, he was allowed to be present at the session of a troika. The third person was usually the Communist Party secretary of the corresponding regional level. The staff of these troikas were personally specified in the Order # 00447.

Protocols of a troika session were passed to the corresponding operative group for executions of sentences. Times and places of executions of death sentences were ordered to be held in secret.

The same order instructed to classify kulaks and other anti-Soviet elements into two categories: the First category of repressed was subject to death by shooting, the Second category was subject to labor camps. The order set upper quotas per territory and category. For example Byelorussian SSR was estimated to have 2,000 (1st cat.) + 10,000 (2nd cat.) = 12,000 anti-Soviet elements. It was specifically stressed that quotas were estimates and could not be exceeded without personal approval of Yezhov. But in practice this approval was easy to obtain, and eventually these initial quotas were exceeded by orders of magnitude. For example, in September 1937, the Dagestan obkom requested the increase of the First Category from 600 to 1,200; the request was granted the next day.

After this Order, the terms First/Second Category became standard abbreviations in NKVD documentation for “the highest measure of punishment” and “placing into corrective labor camps”, respectively.

The implimentation was swift. Already by August 15, 1937, 101,000 was arrested and 14,000 convicted.

Sources: 1, 2.

¶ Related: I recently found an interesting document on Archive.org: the memoirs of Valentín González, “El Campesino”, Spanish Republican guerrilla fighter who spent years in a Soviet labour camp at Vorkuta. The memoirs were written in France with the help of Poumista Julian Gorkin.

Published in: on July 31, 2009 at 3:56 pm  Comments (2)  
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Clement Atlee for today

Clement Atlee speaks before Picasso's Guernica at the Whitechapel GalleryAlthough he is a little reformist and socialism-from-above for me, I have a soft spot for Clement Atlee, not least because he went to Spain in 1937 to support the Republican cause, and because he was involved in getting Picasso’s “Guernica” to the Whitechapel gallery. Here is Carl Packman on the relevance of Atlee in the economic crisis today (version 1, version 2).

While we’re kind of on the subject (well, very loosely), here’s one labour movement activist’s thoughts on Tolpuddle. And here’s Champagne Charlie on the last British veteran of World War I.

American radicalism

Michael Harrington

July marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Michael Harrington. This post is for him.

IF Stone

Another American radical:

American Radical: The Life and Times 0f I. F. Stone by D. D. Guttenplan, 2009. Reviewed at The Socialist Webzine. Guttenplan talking about it. At HuffPost, talking about Stone and Michael Jackson. Ex-radical Ron Radosh with a different view.

While I’m here, more from Ron Radosh: on Arlo Guthrie, on “progressive Jews”, on the legacy of Stalinism in the US, on Cuba’s American spies.

One day in July

Via Renegade Eye: One day in July, a page made in 2004 to commemorate the 1934 Teamsters’ Strike in Minneapolis. A great site. (more…)

Kolakowski once more

One final Leszek Kolakowski post: Dave Osler, Trotskyist, answers the man’s hagiographers in “Contra Kolakowski: a defence of Marx“. Extract:

Surely Marxists should have learned not to defend the ruling classes of out-and-out repressive theocracies like Iran, even if they do constitute ‘regional bulwarks against imperialism’. Nor does the US embargo excuse Cuba’s lack of multiparty democracy and trade union rights.

But these errors flow from the stupidity and reductionism of the leaderships of such far left currents as embrace these positions, rather than being in any way intrinsic to Marxism per se.

Marx, remember, was a German public intellectual living in exile in Victorian London. That specific class-divided social formations are riven with internal tensions, which consequently explode with ugly results, cannot meaningful be attributed to him, or to any other individual.

Myself, I agree with Osler’s defence of Marxism, but disagree with his dismissal of Kolakowski and of Kolakowski’s supporters Christopher Hitchens, Nick Cohen, Oliver Kamm, Harry’s Place. The critique is important.

This was also posted at Harry’s Place,which is rather decent, no pun intended, of the Harryites. As usual there, the comment thread is toxic, but scroll down to Michael Ezra’s comment.

Published in: on July 28, 2009 at 4:22 pm  Comments (1)  
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Facing East 2: George Orwell

I just found this great image:

Photograph of 'Voice' monthly radio programme team in 1942

‘Voice’, the monthly radio magazine programme in the Eastern Service of the BBC, 1942: (left to right, sitting) Venu Chitale, J. M. Tambimuttu, T. S. Eliot, Una Marson, Mulk Raj Anand, Christopher Pemberton, Narayana Menon; (standing) George Orwell, Nancy Barratt, William Empson.

I found it at a site called Making Britain: South Asian Visions of Home and Abroad, 1870–1950. It highlights the fact that Orwell, although thought of by some as a Little Englander, was fundamentally an internationalist and cosmopolitan, and in many senses a postcolonial figure.

More photos of this period of Orwell’s life here. More of this story beneath the fold.

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Facing East 1: Henk Sneevliet

Henk Sneevliet is not that well known in the English-speaking world. He was a Dutch socialist who was active in the early years of the Communist Party in the Netherlands, and later led the RSAP, the independent anti-Stalinist grouping that was aligned with the POUM. Being outside the mainstreams of Stalinism and Trotskyism has meant that (like the POUM, and like their Sneevliet’s close associates in Belgium, around Georges Vereeken) there is noone to conserve and curate his memory. In Asia, however, he is regarded as a hero of the anti-imperialist movement, for his role in Indonesian independence and the formation of the Chinese Communist Party. Hence this interesting thing:

Mind and Heart for Revolutionary Socialism in Europe and Asia

Sneevliet exhibition

Sneevliet Exhibition at the Memorial Hall of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Shanghai
29 June 2009 – 10 August 2009
In Commemoration of the 126th Anniversary of the Birth of Sneevliet
Flyer of exhibition (.pdf, 1.2 Mb)

Henk SneevlietOn June 29 an exhibition is opening on the life of Dutch revolutionary Henk Sneevliet (1883-1942) at the Memorial Hall of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Shanghai. Many of the documents on display are part of IISH collections. Never before has the IISH lent such a large number of documents for an exhibition in Asia.

In China Sneevliet is still admired for his part in the foundation of the Chinese communist party. It was Sneevliet who helped advance Mao Zedong in the party.

Sneevliet exhibitionThe exhibition shows a broad view of Sneevliet’s political and personal life. Official documents as well as personal letters are on display. Some of Sneevliet’s notes were even written in Shanghai.

Most of the exhibited archival documents are part of the Sneevliet papers. There are also documents from the F.M. Wibaut papers and the Willem van Ravesteyn papers, which are also IISH collections.

This site contains an Outline of his Life, with many documents of Sneevliet’s political and personal life, and a chronology.

Below the fold, Dutch socialist ex libris from the IISG. (more…)

Published in: on July 26, 2009 at 2:08 pm  Comments (2)  
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Vicente Ferrer

Martin in the Margins writes:

A saint of social action

Every now and then I read about someone who has managed to combine in their life elements that remain fragmented and conflicted in my own – and to accomplish things that make the achievements of ordinary mortals seem trifling. Yesterday’s Guardian carried an obituary for Vicente Ferrer, who fought for the POUM during the Spanish Civil War and was imprisoned by Franco, then trained to be a Jesuit priest, with the idea of ‘helping others':

In 1952 he volunteered to go to India. At first he devoted himself to his spiritual development in Pune, but, surrounded by desolation, he soon moved from reflection to action. He started with a school and 12 acres of land at Manmad, north-east of Mumbai. In an arid area, he persuaded farmers to dig wells, offering them oil and wheat while they dug. Then, the digger of one well would help another, in a system Ferrer termed “linked brotherhood”.

He was to spend the rest of his life in India, entering into conflict with landowners and political bosses because of his co-operative methods, emphasis on education and challenges to the caste system and to the subjugation of women. He lived and worked among the poorest, especially the dalits (untouchables), who lacked all rights and were mostly illiterate.

Ferrer’s approach was rather different from that other European missionary in India, Mother Theresa:

“Misery and suffering are not meant to be understood, but to be solved,” and “I’ve declared war on pain and suffering” were two phrases that helped him raise money, not just from leftwing Catholics (he was never friends with the church hierarchy, who were unrepresented at his funeral) but from a wide base of donors.

His achievements seem to have been nothing short of heroic:

By the time of Ferrer’s death, his foundation had opened and supported 1,700 village schools, serving 125,000 children and employing 2,000 teachers, and three general hospitals with 1,300 staff. It had planted 3m trees and opened libraries, an Aids clinic and family-planning clinics. It organised wells and irrigation schemes. Several projects focus on women, especially dalits, whose lives are blighted by constant childbearing, rape and murder.

If you have to have saints, then Ferrer sounds like a pretty good candidate.

From the Michael Eaude obituary:

Ferrer was born in Barcelona. Just before the outbreak of the Spanish civil war in 1936, he joined the revolutionary party POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista, or the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification). He fought in the Battle of the Ebro in late 1938 and, like many, was forced to retreat all the way into France with the Republic’s defeated army. There he was interned in the Argelès-sur-Mer camp. Returning to Spain, he was sent for the rest of 1939 to Franco’s Betanzos concentration camp before being forced to do three years’ military service. He then began to study law, but gave it up in 1944 to train as a Jesuit priest, with the idea of “helping others”.

Published in: on July 25, 2009 at 10:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Blog notes

I don’t recommend Fatal Paradox often enough. This post is very, very interesting and very pertinent to the issues this blog covers. Extract:

Reading Mark Derby’s book Kiwi Compañeros (which compiles a wealth of primary source material detailing the involvement of New Zealanders in the Spanish Civil War) recently I was struck by the disjunction between the confused and often demoralising experiences of the some of the participants whose stories were reproduced in that volume and the traditional leftist narrative according to which the Spanish Civil War was the most glorious hour of the Popular Front and the struggle against Fascism.

I managed to miss this post at Boffy’s blog, introducing some of Comrade Bough’s favourite blogs, including, I am pleased to say, this one, and I find myself in fine company indeed. Not sure, though, I agree with Serge’s Fist’s analysis of the United Front and Popular Front, but need to read it more carefully. (And certainly I would endorse Trotsky’s excellent advice to the ILP. It is not unlike the advice I would give to the AWL in its foolishly positive response to the SWP’s sham unity letter, but that’s for another place.) Again, it’s a bit off the topic of this blog, but Arthur has some good posts about Iran.

I have other favours to acknowledge: Peter Storm for Vrije landen tegen Che en Obama, TNC for Friday round-up, Bob for Remembering Steve Cohen, Martin for Balancing beatitude and Loach, Garaudy and the reactionary left, Histomatist for In Defence of Leon Trotsky.

Talking of Ken Loach, here’s Norm on Loach’s strangebedfellows, the Chinese totalitarian regime. And, staying with Norm, on another topic I’ve covered here: Marx and politics, Kolakowski notwithstanding

And some other Histomatist posts of note: Sheila Rowbotham on the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Homage to John Saville and Hubert Harrison on how to review books. John Saville also got a lovely appreciation from Doreen Massey and Hilary Wainwright in the Gruaniad. Hubert Harrison features in this ISJ review.

Finally, also in ISJ, this is important: Luke Stobart’s review of Michael Eaude’s Triumph at Midnight of the Century: A Critical Biography of Arturo Barea. Barea is a vastly underrated person in the English-speaking world.

Arturo Barea

Arturo Barea: This drawing originally appeared with An Honest Man (March 6, 1975)

Leszek Kolakowski

First and second hand links to appreciations of Leszek Kolakowski, some for the first time, some the second time around.

Via Terry Glavin: “A free mind, no longer among us: Leszek Kolakowski. Nick Cohen remembers him here, and the other day, Christopher Hitchens eulogized him here. From the great Yank heartland, Stuart posts an essay from Kolakowski’s Modernity on Endless Trial, here.”

Via Martin in the Margins: Norm defends Marx against Oliver’s Kolakowski-inspired dismissal of his legacy. Michael Weiss gives his own take on the Polish philosopher’s spat with E.P.Thompson.”

[Here, by the way, is a pdf of Kolakowski's reply to Thompson, via a post at History Today, which also mentions Ignacio Silone.]

Earlier, at the start of Martin’s own nice appreciation: “There’s a terrific guest post by Andrew Murphy over at Harry’s Place, about Leszek Kolakowski, who died last Friday. Andrew links to Christopher Hitchens’ thoughts on the great Polish thinker, which you can find here. I also recommend this post by The New Centrist, who in turn links to this fascinating conversation between Kolakowski and Danny Postel (whose work I recommended here).”

From Jonathan Todd: “Top stuff from Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian today, which alerted me to the death of a great man, Leszek Kolakowski, whose description of social democracy was one that Denis Healeymuch liked and which I do too:  “An obstinate will to erode by inches the conditions which produce avoidable suffering, oppression, hunger, wars, racial and national hatred, insatiable greed and vindictive envy”. It concisely presents social democracy as it is: a creed not just for our times but for all times.”

Reading the Maps: “Leszek Kolakowski liked to talk of Marxism and socialism as dogmatisms that had beem made obsolescent by the history of the late twentieth century. He was inclined to see anyone interested in Marx and in socialist politics as a quixotic anarchronism. In truth, though, it was Kolakowski who had become an anachronism with the end of the Cold War. Like the Stalinists he had so often condemned, he had adopted a worldview which relied upon an interpretation of Marx and Marxist history that was ballasted by the Cold War, rather than by facts. When the Cold War ended, and Marx was released from the rival simplifications of Stalinists and right-wingers, Kolakowski found himself with nothing interesting to say. Perhaps he should have listened more carefully to his old friend Thompson.” READ THE REST.

Ragbag: “Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski died on Friday. The Telegraph’s obit is good, capturing his influence as well as his attractively sceptical and mordant approach to life. I think he was one of the heroes of the twentieth century. I went to a seminar he gave in All Souls College once, on communism, about fifteen years ago. I left liking the man very much – as dry as talc but with a warm wit that revealed itself in asides made whilst sipping black coffee – but also with a feeling of disappointment: I hadn’t heard anything new or revelatory.” READ THE REST, including comment on Hitch and religion.

The Israeli water engineer: “In 1972 I had to spend a night in Posadas, Misiones, Argentina so I bought a bottle of red wine and a book in a second hand shop. The book was a collection of essays, among them “What are philosophers paid for?” which explored the issue why a Communist regime maintained philosophers and what he – Kolakowski – was being paid for. The Communist regime maintained that everyone had to do productive work – no parasitic intermediary luftgescheftn permited – and everyone had to produce something tangible for society. Why, then, were philosophers like himself being allowed to do “nothing”? His conclusion was that Marxist philosophers satisfied a basic necessity of the Communist regime: the theoretical, intellectual infrastructure (justification?) of the regime. READ THE REST.

Leiter Reports: “Rather than a younger version of Herbert Marcuse (who at the time used to raise his fist and intone “Power to the people!” when he lectured), Kolakowski was an urbane ironist of immense cultivation.” READ THE REST.

UD: “Leszek Kolakowski’s death reminds us that Terry Eagleton‘s recent attack on the atheism of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins is only the latest instance of a curious but now familiar trajectory, in which a left thinker in his or her latter days (think of Christopher Lasch among Americans, and, among the British, Gillian Rose) embraces, if not the truth of religion, the validity and endurance and even inescapability of its cultural power.” READ THE REST.

Steven Hayward: “In my forthcoming Reagan book I quote Kolakowski’s prescient prediction made in May 1983 (two years before Gorbachev and his wrecking crew arrived in the Kremlin): “We can imagine that the Soviet rulers, under the combined pressure of self-inflicted economic disasters and social tensions, will accept, however grudgingly, a genuine verifiable international disarmament plan and concentrate their efforts on a large-scale economic recovery, which they cannot achieve without a number of social and political reforms. This might conceivably usher in a process of gradual and non-explosive disintegration of the empire.” In that same article he anticipated the “velvet revolution” of 1989: “Certainly in Poland or Czechoslovakia (or in Hungary) Communism would fall apart within days without the Soviet threat.” “

More:

Published in: on July 24, 2009 at 1:01 pm  Comments (3)  
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The memory that will not die

From Slack Bastard, neat-o anarchist blogger, but with a couple of added links:

schalom libertad notes that “The title of this blog is lifted from Arno Lustiger’s book “Schalom Libertad!: Juden im spanischen Bürgerkrieg” (Hello Freedom! Jews in the Spanish Civil War).”

Speaking of Spain, the 73rd anniversary of the outbreak of civil war and social revolution in that country has been noted by some bloke from Boston called Julius Purcell. He writes (‘The Memory That Will Not Die: Exhuming the Spanish Civil War’, Boston Review, July/August 2009):

I live in Barcelona, whose leftist regional government is one of the few in Spain to have enthusiastically embraced historical memory. Payne’s warning note strikes a chord here, in a city with its own historical taboos. As Catalan separatism grows, and with it the tendency to lay all blame at the door of reactionary Spain, certain things are best not mentioned. The brutality of Barcelona’s anarchist mobs during the Republican era itself, for example, is rarely discussed in liberal dinner party conversations. Likewise, the violent anti-clericalism and church-burnings.

The ‘liberal’ account of those years was famously dissected by Uncle Noam in ‘Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship’, parts of which were originally “delivered as a lecture at New York University in March 1968 as part of the Albert Schweitzer Lecture Series”, and published in the collection American Power and the New Mandarins, Penguin, 1969.

With the crowd of commonplace chatterers, we are already past praying for: no reproach is too bitter for us, no epithet too insulting. Public speakers on social and political subjects find that abuse of anarchists is an unfailing passport to popular favour. Every conceivable crime is laid to our charge, and opinion, too indolent to learn the truth, is easily persuaded that anarchy is but another name for wickedness and chaos. Overwhelmed with opprobrium and held up to hatred, we are treated on the principle that the surest way of hanging a dog is to give it a bad name. ~ Élisée Reclus (March 15, 1830–July 4, 1905)

Published in: on July 23, 2009 at 4:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Saint Che

On the liberal beatification of a Stalinist thug.

Published in: on July 23, 2009 at 10:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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Leszek Kolakowski/UCLA Labor Center

Two posts from The New Centrist:

Polish Anti-Authoritaran Leszek Kolakowski Passes On

Leszek Kolakowski

“Freedom is always vulnerable and its cause never safe”–Leszek Kolakowski

Polish anti-authoritarian historian and theorist Leszek Kolakowski has passed away on Friday, June 17, at the age of 81. Kolakowski was Senior Research Fellow Emeritus at All Souls College, Oxford. The Library of Congress awarded him the first John W. Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Human Sciences.

If you are unfamiliar with the man, he was a supporter of Solidarity and penned the magnificent three-volume Main Currents of Marxism: Its Rise, Growth and Dissolution (1976-78), one of the best texts I have ever read on the subject. Kolakowski argued that the barbarity of Stalinism and other communist states were no aberation from Marxism but the logical conclusion of the application of Marx’s concepts. Some of his other works are The Individual and Infinity (1958), The Philosophy of Existence, the Defeat of Existence (1965), Husserl and the Search for Certitude (1975), If There is no God (1982), Metaphysical Horror (1988).

The Library of Congress website notes:

The relationships between freedom and belief, examined in many different contexts, have been lifelong themes of his scholarly work, and are displayed fully in a wide range of essays written in a non-technical language and accessible to a wide range of readers. In his, “The Death of Utopia Reconsidered” (1983), he explains his view of philosophy:

The cultural role of philosophy is not to deliver the truth but to build the spirit of truth, and this means never to let the inquisitive energy of mind go to sleep, never to stop questioning what appears to be obvious and definitive, always to defy the seemingly intact resources of common sense, always to suspect that there might be “another side” in what we take for granted, and never to allow us to forget that there are questions that lie beyond the legitimate horizon of science and are nonetheless crucially important to the survival of humanity as we know it.

What Kolakowski exemplifies and defends is the treatment of every individual as a rational and freely acting subject, aware that there is a spiritual side of life, able to have faith, yet eschewing absolute certainty of either an empirical or transcendental sort. It is the essence of a vibrant human culture to honor the universality of human rights while welcoming conflict of values, and repeated self- questioning, with what he calls “an inconsistent scepticism:” [READ THE REST.]

More, with good links, at Martin’s place. AND MORE. UPDATE: MORE OBITS HERE.

UCLA Labor Center Faces Possible Closure

ucla labor center

Regular readers know I can’t stand the Huffington Post or Ariana Huffington. Nevertheless, I received a link to this article about the possible closing of the UCLA Labor Center by political scientist Peter Dreier through the H-Labor listserv that I thought was worth sharing.

Our society is so dominated by corporate culture that we hardly notice it. Every daily newspaper has a “business section,” but not a single paper has a “labor” section. Politicians and pundits talk incessantly about what government should do to promote a healthy “business climate,” but few discuss how to improve the “labor climate.” Most economics courses treat businesses as the engines of the economy, workers as a “cost of production,” and unions as an impediment. Most universities in the country have a large, well-endowed “business school,” but only a handful of them have even a small “labor studies” program.

Among the small number of labor studies programs, the one at the University of California-Los Angeles is one of the best, and now it has been targeted for extinction by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the UCLA administration. Allies of the UCLA Labor Center have mounted a letter-writing campaign to persuade Chancellor Gene Block to reverse this decision and restore funding for this cutting-edge program. Block can be reached at: chancellor@conet.ucla.edu.

Each year for the past five years, Schwarzenegger — egged on by the state’s corporate powerbrokers and right-wing Republicans — has tried to kill the University of California’s labor research and education programs at UCLA and Berkeley, but has been thwarted by resistance from its supporters and its allies in the state legislature.

This year, with the worst state budget crisis in memory, anti-labor forces think they can prevail. UC labor studies, a minuscule part of the state budget, is the only UC program that the Governor specifically targeted for elimination. The combined budgets for these programs is only $5.4 million a year. The UCLA Labor Center has 20 staff members involved in research, teaching, and community outreach.

UCLA Labor Center director Kent Wong learned about the administration’s plan to eliminate the Center from a July 11 article in the New York Times.

[read it all here]

More from the center’s website:

As part of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education plays a unique role as a bridge between the university and the labor community in Southern California.This role has grown in the past few years with the dramatic changes that have overtaken the Southern California economy.

As part of the university, the Labor Center serves as an important source of information about unions and workers to interested scholars and students. Through its extensive connections with unions and workers, the Labor Center also provides labor with important and clearly defined access to UCLA’s resources and programs. An advisory committee comprised of about forty Southern California labor and community leaders (representing more than one million members in the public and private sectors) provides advice and support for the center.

The Labor Center also hosts a downtown office just two blocks from the L.A. County Federation of Labor, amid the majority of L.A.’s union halls and worker centers and in the heart of a diverse immigrant community.

Laborers-Artwork


Published in: on July 22, 2009 at 9:34 am  Comments (1)  
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From the archive of struggle, no.26

This week, a bumper edition, and a multi-lingual treat. Includes lots of things stolen from Entdinglichung, and possibly repeating one or two things I’ve already mentioned. Features the POUM, the Spanish civil war, Italian anarchists in WWII, Irish anarchists in the 1970s, German left communism, American Trotskyists in the 1930s (including Dwight MacDonald and Hal Draper), Trotsky himself, ultra-leftists on the Iraq war, and much more. Beneath the fold. Stuff in English at the top, scroll down for other languages.

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July 19: Assault Guards in Diputacio Street, Barcelona

From here:

centelles.jpg

Agusti Centelle (1909-1985) was considered one of the foremost photojournalist during the Spanish Civil War. Called “Spanish Robert Capa”, he was one of the great image-makers of the Republican resistance during the war. Originally working in Barcelona and throughout Catalonia, He exiled himself over the Pyrenees to the Bram refugee camp when his side lost. There in Bram, under extremely difficult conditions, he continued to photograph. When he returned into Spain, he hid several thousand negatives to protect the identities of the revolutionaries from Franco. Only forty years later after Franco died, Centelles returned to France and reclaimed many of his negatives.

His most iconic photo was shown above. Taken in Barcelona on 19 July 1936, it shows the republican forces barricading behind the dead horses. Like Picasso’s anguished horse in Guernica, dead horses and soon-to-be-dead revolutionaries showed the chaos, violence, conflict and suffering unleashed by the civil war. The photo was titled, “Assault Guards in Diputacio Street. Barcelona”. Like Capa’s Loyalist Militiaman, the photo has long be accused of being staged. An exhibition at Centro Cultural Conde Duque in February 2008 confirmed that suspicion by showing the contact strip from which the final work was taken. The image was indeed the best composed and the most convincing of the entire photo-op.

See his other photos here.

From The Kate Sharpley Library: The 19th of July is the anniversary of the Spanish Revolution of 1936. To mark the date, here’s a review of “Durruti in the Spanish Revolution” by Abel Paz, anarchist historian, who has sadly died recently.

Alternative histories

Harry Barnes remembers his father (beautiful piece). Histomatist defends Trotsky. Martin remembers to remember Bastille Day (and Casablanca). Rosie is underwhelmed by Katyn. Dennis Healey remembers the Italian campaign but can’t remember who wrote Lili MarleneEd Walsh reviews Leo Panitch’s call for a renewal of socialism. Conor McCabe remembers the 1955 Irish/Yugoslav soccer international. The Irish Left Archive retrieves the Anarchist Worker of 1979. Bataille Socialiste remember Marceau Pivert with Orwell in Spain. Bataille Socialiste rescue the legacy of Charles Allegier. Entdinglichung archives The Left. Hillel Ticktin and Adam Buick debate Trotskyism.

left_53_1941_1

masses-pub1947-450pixe

Not Just Orwell…

Having already reported on the visit to Ireland of Catalan POUM veteran Roma Marquez Santo [TOMORROW NIGHT IN DUBLIN], here are some more related links. Marquez Santo was also in Salford, at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford , for the launch of Not Just Orwell by Christopher Hall, telling the story of the ILP volunteers who fought in Spain against fascism. Not Just Orwell is published by Warren and Pell. A plaque to the ILP Contingent was also unveiled, and attended by Sidney Robinson, an Independent Labour Party activist in the 1930s who chaired the Newport Spanish Aid Committee. (Excellent report from Matthew Brown at the ILP. Good report at The Olive Press, including a wonderful YouTube of revolutionary Barcelona and George Orwell drinking tea [from George Orwell: A Life in Pictures]. Brief reports at SB News and Histomatist.)

Related material at Bataille Socialiste: a YouTube of the POUM cavalry in Barcelona.

More on the POUM from BS here, including just a couple of English texts:

Great men

The Cedar Lounge Revolution: A conversation with Roma Marquez Santo… veteran of the Spanish Civil War

Santo final copy

Roma Marquez is a 93-year old Catalan who joined the POUM militia on the outbreak of the generals’ revolt in July ‘36 and who later joined the anarchist militia after the POUM were suppressed.

He spent several years in prison after the war and returned to live in BCN where he has remained politically active.

Be sure to read the fascinating comment thread, including this from one of the organisers:

Roma [Marquez Santo] was born in 1916, the same year as Bob Doyle[1] and one of his earliest memories is being told by his mother of the death of Terence MacSweeny. This was at a time when anarchists were striking in BCN in support of the Irish Republic and Roma has continued to keep in touch with what passes here for political development.
Roma joined a mortar unit with the POUM militia on the Aragón front. His unit was in the line with anarchists, who encouraged them to sign over politically to avoid arrest by Soviet agents. Roma and his comrades joined the CNT militia and after it was subsumed into the Communist-controlled Republican Army, Roma was sent to an officer training camp. He was promoted to lieutenant and sent to the quiet front at Estramadura, where he says he ‘avoided the bloody slaughter of the Ebro’.
The POUM were affiliated with the ILP in the UK and George Orwell was perhaps their best known British volunteer. To a certain extent the SP occupy this political ground today. Roma also knew Durutti and attended his funeral after his death in Madrid.

And some interesting items from Jim Moneghan, such as:

Paddy Trench who was in the ILP in Britain worked with the POUM.
Brian Verschoyle Gould who was a comintern courier expressed doubts about the supression of the POUM, was kidnapped in Barcelona and died in the Gulag.
Nora Connolly O’Brien wrote a letter on behalf of the POUM when it was supressed.
I think the ILP affiliate in NI had a relationship with the POUM.[...]

On a footnote most of the Russians who were sent to Spain died in the gulag. The last major purge in the Eastern European states took many of the Spanish veterans. Read Arthur London’s “[The Confession]”, filmed with Yves Montand. Having fought in Spain was effectively evidence of Zionist/trotskyist deviations of at least that you were a spy. I think this purge turned many away from the Socialist/Communist ideal and to zionism. From the God that failed to the zionist God so to speak.
The awful La Pasionaria was still telling lies up to the end. She slandered the anarchist head of the Valencian collectives as a millionaire when he was a waiter in an hotel in South America. See Beevors book on the Civil War.
The best website on the Irish and the Spanish civil war is run by Ciaran Crossey who was if not still is a member of the Socialist party.
The safest place to be for a IB veteran was probably the USA and the West.
The defence of the purges and the mentality about it helped create the atmosphere in the Officials that aggravated the internecine fight with the IRSP. I remember the stuff about how Joe Stalin knew how to deal with these people.

Best film Gregory Peck as an anarchist fighter who refuses to give up. “Behold a pale horse”. With Anthony Quinn as the Franco police chief.
Best book “Hermanos” by Heerick. On a CPUSA member who is disillusioned.

Subversive Historian – 07/09/09

Oliver Law and the Lincoln Brigade

Back in the day on July 9th, 1937, Oliver Law, Commander of the Lincoln Brigade, died leading his troops during a campaign of the Spanish Civil War. Noted by history as the first African-American to command an integrated military force of U.S. citizens, Law suffered a fatal wound in the attack on Mosquito Ridge during the Battle of Brunete. Of internationalist concerns prior to the outbreak of Civil War in Spain, Law was born in West Texas and served in the segregated U.S. army. Following his career in the military he went to Chicago and became an organizer who was arrested for speaking at a rally against Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia. Firmly anti-Fascist, Law joined many other African-Americans and other U.S. citizens in forming the volunteer Lincoln Brigade to assist in the struggle against General Franco.

Wishing to enshrine the life of Law and others like him, Paul Robeson once said, “I would like to make a film on the life of a Black commander of the Lincoln Battalion who died there; but this would be refused by the big Yankee movie companies.”

More great men: Sam Wild, Bernard McKenna, the Welshmen of the XV.

Anti-fascism: liberal and militant

Cross-posted at Anti-German Translation.

My comrade Bob From Brockley once created two wikipedia articles on “liberal anti-fascism” and “militant anti-fascism”. These articles have now been deleted and merged into the anti-fascism article, where their content has been whittled away. For the historical record, while the two old articles can still be found on the commercial sites that plunder wikipedia’s content, I am reproducing them here, below the fold.

(more…)

Published in: on July 14, 2009 at 5:23 pm  Comments (3)  

Latin American anarchism

Three via the Turista:

Latin American Anarchism by Chuck Morse
anarchism A review of three Spanish-language books on anarchism in Latin America.
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The Need of Our Own Project by Organisación Socialista LibertariaoslA short piece advocating specific organization (”Especifismo”) from an Argentinian group.
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The Social Question: Latin American Anarchism and “Social Insertion” – Michael Schmidtfarj2Latin American anarchist organizations, especifismo and involvement in mass movements.
Published in: on July 12, 2009 at 1:57 pm  Comments (1)  
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Stalin’s nemesis

This week’s Radio 4 book of the week, Stalin’s Nemesis:

Nigel Anthony reads from Bertrand M Patenaude’s account of the exile and subsequent assassination of Leon Trotsky, who was outmanoeuvred by his great rival, Josef Stalin.

About Patenaude. Q&A with Patenaude. Review by Robert Service. Review in Socialist Review. Review by Richard Overy. review. Review in Times. Review in The Socialist.

A carpy review in The Oxonian made me want to read the book more:

The dustbunnies that Patenaude brings to light range the gamut, from real bunnies—Trotsky kept them on his Mexican patio as pets and tended to them just before his murder—to oral sex, a frank discussion of which appears in a letter that Trotsky wrote to his wife Natalia during the liaison with Frida. Why Patenaude believes that readers want to know about Trotsky’s erections, or rather lack thereof, is anyone’s guess. But blinded by the temptations of salaciousness, Patenaude forges ahead into the biographical depths, right down to the revolutionary’s anus: apparently, certain species of Mexican bacteria aggravated Trotsky’s colon, which was already irritated by colitis.

The book’s effusive details, some fascinating and others wholly unnecessary, hardly end there. For example, we learn that Trotsky briefly lived in the Bronx before returning to launch the revolution in 1917; the surrealist André Breton offended Trotsky by stealing Mexican figurines from a church the two visited together; the writer Saul Bellow sat in the hospital waiting room as Trotsky died; and the artist Diego Rivera—Frida’s husband and the guarantor of the old man’s asylum in Mexico—first appeared on Trotsky’s radar when he inserted Lenin’s face into a mural he painted at Radio City Music Hall. Ramon Mercader, the Spanish-born NKVD agent who infiltrated Trotsky’s inner circle and killed him, apparently worked as a chef at the Ritz in Barcelona.

Published in: on July 9, 2009 at 4:19 pm  Comments (4)  
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