New York Yiddish anarchists in Mexico

I have been been reading lately about Jack Abrams. His basic life story is told by Nick Heath at Libcom, and he is a minor character in The Gentle General: Rose Pesotta Anarchist and Labor Organizer by Elaine Leeder. He was born in Russia in 1883, went to America in 1906, worked (like many key anarchist activists of the period) as a bookbinder, became a trade union militant and anarcho-syndicalist.  With about a group which included his partner Mary Abrams and Mollie Steimer, he edited the underground newspaper Frayhayt (Freedom), from an apartment at 5 East 104th Street in East Harlem. The most dramatic and well-known part of his story came in 1918, as told here by Nick Heath:

He was the author of two leaflets calling for a general strike against the US intervention of spring –summer 1918 against the Russian Revolution. These called for a social revolution in the United States. The paper was folded up tightly and posted in mailboxes around New York and the leaflets each had a print run of 5,000. The federal and local authorities began to be on the lookout for the authors of this propaganda. He was arrested on the 24th August 1918 along with Jacob Schwartz. The two were beaten with fists and blackjacks on the way to the police station. There further beatings were dished out. The arrest of the Frayhayt group signaled the start of massive repression of the anarchist movement in the United States. The Abrams case as it became known was a was a landmark in the suppression of civil liberties in the USA. Schwartz died in October due to the severe beatings he had received, although the authorities put it down to Spanish influenza…

On October 25th 1918 Jack , together with Sam Lipman and Hyman Lachowsky, was sentenced to 20 years hard labor and fined $ 1000 on charges of “anti-American activities.”, whilst Mollie Steimer received fifteen years and a $500 fine… In mid-1919 was filed an appeal, and in the meantime Jack and the others were released.

Socialist Party leader Norman Thomas was one of the people active in the campaign that led to this release. The Supreme Court upheld the conviction, but was notable for the dissenting opinion of Oliver Wendell Holmes (joined by  Louis Brandeis):

we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threatened immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.

The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. “That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution.

Anyway, the group tried to escape to Mexico but got waylaid and some went to Russia, where (ironically, considering the defence of the revolution had got them locked up) they witnessed the deepening repression of the Bolshevik state, and before long were deported from there too. Eventually, in 1926, Mary and Jack Abrams wound up in Mexico, in Cuernavaca, not far from Mexico City, where he joined a group of Spanish anarchist exiles, Tierra y Libertad (Land and Freedom).

Creative Commons License. Photo from the Triangle Fire Open Archive. Contributed by David Bellel. Circa 1930s. Photo shows Mary Abrams, a shirtwaist fire survivor, with her husband Jack Abrams, Rose Pesotta, Senya Fleshin and Mollie Steimer. The picture was taken in Mexico in the late 1930s where the group lived in exile (except for Pesotta) as a result of the Palmer Raids of 1919. At that time Mary was part of the anarchist Frayhayt group. Mary passed away in 1978. Source: Jewish Women’s Archive.

Steimer’s route to Mexico was even more complex, also via Russia, where she was imprisoned by the GPU (forerunner of the KGB), to Berlin, from which she fled when Hitler came to power, to France, where she was again interned in  Camp Gurs as a German. (She must have been there, May-June 1940, at the same time as Hannah Arendt. I wonder if they met?) Then to Vichy – according to Wikipedia “Steimer was aided principally by May Picqueray (1893-1983), the militant anarchist editor of Le Refractaire, who had previously assisted the couple by protesting their imprisonment in Russia by the Bolsheviks in 1923.”

And finally to Mexico City, where her and Fleshin had a photo studio, SEMOHere‘s two of their 1952 photo of the opera singer Maria Callas:

 

And here’s Fleshin at his trade:

Senya Fleshin

They retired to Cuernavaca in 1963.

Ron Radosh, the red diaper baby turned anti-Communist, was a nephew of Jack Abrams, and in his memoir Commies he writes:

My first remembrance of the many visits we made to Mexico City is from 1945, when I was nine. As others were gathering in Times Square to celebrate the end of World War II, we saw the giant parade that wound through downtown Mexico City. Abrams took me to the major sites and to children’s films, willingly spending hours with me while my parents went off to experience Mexico’s revolutionary culture. In a later visit, either 1949 or 1950, Abrams, who had learned from my parents that I had already begun to circulate in the orbit of New York’s young Communist movement, did his best to warn me about the ethics and true nature of Stalin’s regime.

As we all walked through the streets of beautiful Cuernavaca (now a famous tourist resort), my parents spotted the painter David Alfaro Siqueras, one of the founders of the Mexican muralist school. The famed artist approached Abrams to say hello, and much to my shock, Abrams refused to shake his hand and exchange greetings. “I don’t talk to murderers,” he shouted at Siqueras, and turned and walked away. When he had calmed down, Abrams told me about Siqueras’s role in the attempted murder of Leon Trotsky at his estate in the Coyocan suburb of Mexico City, when the painter led a group of machine-gun-toting raiders in a failed effort to kill the exiled Bolshevik.

Abrams often socialized and became friends with other exiles, despite occasionally severe political differences. He was a regular guest at Trotsky’s walled-in compound, where the two played chess and argued about Bolshevism. After his death, Trotsky’s widow presented Abrams a set of Trotsky’s favorite Mexican-made dishware as a remembrance of their solidarity and friendship—a gift which Abrams later passed on to my parents. Often in later years, I would serve cake to my Stalinist friends on these plates, and after they admired the beauty of the design and craftsmanship, I would tell them whose dishes they were eating from, and watch them turn pale.

Abrams also befriended the great painter Diego Rivera, who spent his years moving from Bolshevism to Trotskyism and back to official Soviet Communism. Despite these twists and turns, and probably because at critical moments Rivera had opposed Stalin, Abrams maintained the relationship. Once, he took me to meet the artist and watch him paint the murals—some of the last he was to create—in the Del Prado Hotel in the main part of the city. In later years, the hotel would cover the murals with curtains because of embarrassment about their anti-Catholic and revolutionary themes. Rivera gave Abrams some of his paintings, one of which Abrams gave to my parents. My mother kept it in her New York City apartment.

Abrams gave the twelve year old Radosh a copy of Franz Borkenau‘s The Spanish Cockpit, presenting the anti-Stalinist view of the Spanish revolution and civil war.

Further reading: Abrams, Jack. J. Aybrams-bukh dos lebn un shafn fun an eygnartike perzenlikhkayt. [Jack Abrams Book, The Life And Works Of A Peculiar Personality] Mexico City: Centro Cultural Israelita de Mexico, 1956. 329pp [via YAB] If anyone has this, and wants to write a guest post based on it, please get in touch!

Stalin in Clerkenwell Green

From Eric Lee:

This article appears in Solidarity.  Feel free to add your comments below.


It was a beautiful May morning, one of the first warm and sunny days we’ve had all year. In Clerkenwell Green, hundreds of people were assembling for the annual official London May Day march. Many of you will not have been there — in fact there were very few trade unionists at all on this year’s march.

So let me tell you who was there — the twentieth century’s greatest serial killer, Joseph Stalin. Stalin was on several banners, and not only his image side by side with Lenin and Mao, but huge banners just with his picture alone — and quotations from his writings.

As I marched along with some trade union leaders and a traditional brass band, I could not help feeling ashamed at what the march would have looked like to onlookers, of whom there were many along the route. Ashamed and disgusted.

It’s disgusting because holding aloft iconic images of Stalin at a trade union march shows a complete lack of moral judgement. Seventy years ago, it may have been understandable — the second world war was raging, the Soviet leadership had not yet acknowledged Stalin’s crimes. But after 1956, anyone who still believed that Stalin was a great revolutionary leader was delusional. (more…)

Jams O’Donnell: The Good Soldier Cushing

I have been working my way through the late Shaun Downey‘s telling of the Red Cushing story. We started at the end of the Spanish Civil War, with Thomas “Red” Cushing, veteran Irish Republican fighter, joining up with the Americans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Then, in the next installment, he got disillusioned with the Brigade’s Communist officers, and headed off to join the British Army to fight Hitler instead. Shaun then cut to Cushing as a POW alongside Stalin’s son, whose suicide he claims he played a bizarre part in.

Some months later, in 2009, Shaun went back to fill in the gaps.

It’s been a while since I wrote about Thomas “Red” Cushing. I promised to do so a lot earlier but hey ho! This is the first of a group of posts covering Red Cushing’s time between leaving Spain disillusioned and his time in Sachsenhausen with Yakov Stalin. This is taken from his autobiography “Soldier For Hire” (John Calder 1962) (more…)

Published in: on May 3, 2013 at 4:57 pm  Comments (1)  
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Poumadrama

Radical Archives: Mina Graur: Rudolf Rocker debates Otto Strasser.

The JLC’s call for a posthumous medal of freedom for the great Bayard Rustin.

Ross Wolfe: Some preliminary thoughts on Endnotes’ critique of Platypus (for the pointyheads amongst you)

Coatesy on Applebaum on totalitarianism and on the Movement for Workers’ Control.

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Published in: on April 30, 2013 at 11:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jams O’Donnell: Red Cushing and the several deaths of Yakov Stalin Part II

Here, in tribute to the late Shaun Downey, aka Jams O’Donnell, I continue his story of Red Cushing. In the first installment, Cushing joined the International Brigade. By the end of the second installment, he had wound up in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, alongside Stalin’s son. Read on: (more…)

From the archive of struggle no.76: Poumism and Shachtmanism

Up to January 2013 now with new additions to the extraordinary Marxist Internet Archive. Obviously, the first thing here is of most interest to me.

La Verite

Added to the archive of the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista/Workers Party of Marxist Unification a section of the Spanish Revolution History Archive is the complete run of the POUM’s English Language publication edited in Barcelona by American revolutionary socialists Lois and Charles Orr: The Spanish Revolution.

Spanish Revolution was the English language publication of the P.O.U.M. Edited by Lois and Charles Orr. In 1936 they had setup within the ranks of the Socialist Party of America the Revolutionary Policy Committee of the Socialist Party of the U.S. While the P.O.U.M. itself was never Trotskyist, many in the ranks of Trotskyism, and those near it politically, supported the publication.

Russell Blackwell, who was in Spain as a supporter of the P.O.U.M wrote, 30 years later for the Greenwood Reprints of The Spanish Revolution, the following:

Spanish Revolution faithfully reported events during its period of publication from the point of view of the P.O.U.M. Its first issue appeared on October 21, 1936, at a time when the revolutionary process was already beginning to decline. Its final issues dealt with the historic May Days of 1937 and the events immediately following, which led to the Stalinist takeover.

These 28 issues of The Spanish Revolution  were digitized by Marty Goodman of the Riazanov Library Project

They are all digitised as whole pdfs for each issue.

Other stuff: (more…)

In search of Jarj Arwil

Lovely article:

Bihari Days

By ABHISHEK K CHOUDHARY | 1 April 2013
Debapriya Mookherjee looks on as Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar bows before a bust of George Orwell during his 2012 visit to Motihari.
IN 1983, British journalist Ian Jack travelled to the town of Motihari in Bihar to visit the place where George Orwell was born. In a piece published in 1984 in the Sunday Times, titled “In search of a Jaarj Arwil”, Jack recounted that locals were clueless that their town was the writer’s birthplace, and that it took a string of enquiries before he finally found the opium godown where Orwell’s father, Richard Blair, had worked as an employee of the Opium Department of the Indian Civil Service. Orwell, whose birth name was Eric Blair, was born in quarters nearby in 1903.

But Jack may have been exaggerating when he wrote: “I found that nobody, save the district magistrate, had ever heard of Orwell.” “The first time I read Orwell was in college [in the early 1970s],” recalled Debapriya Mookherjee, a soft-spoken businessman of 57, when I met him at his Motihari residence this February. But Mookherjee admitted that it was only after Indian publications ran accounts of Jack’s visit that he learnt that his hometown was also the birthplace of the author ofNineteen Eighty-Four. (more…)

Published in: on April 21, 2013 at 9:22 pm  Comments (1)  
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Jams O’Donnell: Red Cushing and the several deaths of Yakov Stalin Part I

Last week, I published the first installment of Shaun Downey’s series on the great Red Cushing, as a tribute to Shaun who died last month. Parts 2 and 3 were taken from Ciaran Crossey’s Ireland and the Spanish Civil War website, so I will not reproduce it in full.

Part 2 deals with Cushing joining the International Brigade (after hearing in a New York bar about “General O’Duffy’s Blue Shirts”, Catholic Irish Republicans fighting in Spain on the fascist side), becoming platoon leader in Number One Company, the Lincoln Washington Battalion, and his scrapes with the Communist Party commissars who sought to discipline the Brigadiers.

We had no idea what the overall situation was. Any information about the general course of the war was carefully withheld from us by the Party leaders. Gradually it dawned on these political panjandrums that what they needed in Spain was less tub-thumping and more military know-how, so at last they decided to ship me back to the States with a view to recruiting some young men with initiative and leadership qualities.

Part 3 sees Red’s disillusionment tempting him to join the French Foreign Legion, but deciding that war with fascist Germany was the enemy he should be fighting, leading him to return to Britain to sign up there:

I travelled to England by way of Paris and Dieppe, disembarking at Newhaven and proceeding to Victoria… As I was leaving Victoria, with a view to catching a ‘bus to Paddington. a slimy-looking character tried to sell me The Daily Worker. His smug references to the Spanish Civil War so incensed me that I hauled off and belted him one. I derived a great deal of personal satisfaction out of that blow, throwing into it all the anger and disgust I felt about Communist mismanagement in Spain. It symbolised for me my complete repudiation of the Party line…

Jams concludes, tempting us on to the next intallment:

Make of this what you will. Cushing was a larger than life character but think he should be read with a pinch of salt. His later adventures as a POW-cum-potential German spy are a mixture of comedy and tragedy.

However, it is at this point we jump forward to Jams’ real story, which unfolds after Red has been taken prisoner by the Germans. As before, I have edited punctuation and format, but no text, and added some hyperlinks for reference.

Red Cushing and the several deaths of Yakov Stalin Part I

 It was my good fortune to wander into the bookshop in the departure lounge at Cork Airport. Otherwise I would not have picked up a copy of Terence O’Reilly’s Hitler’s Irishmen.Hitler’s Irishmen is mainly concerned with the fortunes of “James Brady” (a pseudonym – we do not know his true identity) and Frank Stringer, two soldiers who were imprisoned in Jersey at the time of the German occupation and who became the only Irishmen to join the Waffen SS. It also provides a detailed account of the farcical attempt to raise an “Irish Brigade” from the POW population. Roger Casement had tried the same thing during WWI with little success – his Irish Brigade numbered just over 50 men. This attempt attracted a mere handful; and some of them had no intention of serving the Reich. Brady and Stinger and the Friesack Camp are for another day though.

By 1942 the Germans realised that four of the recruits (William Murphy, Patrick O’Brien, Andrew Walsh and our old friend Thomas “Red” Cushing) were not quite as loyal to the Reich as originally thought. The four were sent to a segregation unit in Saschenhausen concentration camp.

Born in 1907 Yakov Iosifovich Dzhugashvili (I will use Stalin rather than Dzhugashvili) was Joseph Stalin’s oldest child. An artillery lieutenant, he was taken prisoner by the Wehrmacht at Smolensk in July 1941. By 1942 he too was in Saschenhausen sharing accommodation [wiuth] Vasili Korkorin, the nephew of Vyacheslav Molotov , Murphy, O’Brian, Walsh and Red Cushing.

English: Yakov Dzhugashvili (1907-1943), the e...

English: Yakov Dzhugashvili (1907-1943), the eldest son of Joseph Stalin Polski: Jakow Dżugaszwili (1907-1943), najmłodszy syn Józefa Stalina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yakov Stalin died in Saschenhausen in April 1943. The general consensus seems to be that he effectively committed suicide either with or without the help of a German bullet. However, more than one reason has been put forward for his suicide.

Cause 1: Abandonment

According to a Time article from 1 March 1968 Yakov, devastated by his father’s refusal of a German offer to exchange him for Field Marshall Von Paulus (who had surrendered at Stalingrad in January), picked his way through a maze of trip wires to the camp fence. He then called to a nearby SS guard: “Don’t be a coward. Shoot, shoot.” When the prisoner made a grab for the fence, the guard obliged, firing a single bullet which killed him in instantly.

Cause 2: Shame over the Katyn massacres

In June 2001, however, the Daily Telegraph carried an article which purported to provide the definitive answer to Yakov’s end. Already dispirited by his father’s rejection of an exchange for Von Paulus, Stalin was so overcome by shame at the news of his father’s massacre of 15,000 Poles at Katyn in 1940 that he committed suicide by flinging himself on to the camp’s electric fence.

According to professor John Erickson (an authority on the Great Patriotic War who died in 2002), “It is clear that Yakov, who had become close friends with the Poles and had made two abortive escape attempts with them, was so distraught when goaded with the news of his father’s massacre of the Polish officers, which was revealed in German newspapers in 1943, that he took his life. Driven to despair by the horrific conditions in the camp – he was emaciated and on the point of starvation – and the strain of the propaganda campaign the Germans had involved him in, the news that his father had sanctioned the Poles’ murder was the final straw.”

To be continued

Socialist Wanker

Digesting some of the material about the collapse of the British SWP. Here are some of the links that are relevant beyond UK sectariana but of interest to those interested in Marxist theory and Trotskyist history more broadly. For those interested in the gory details, go to Jim Jepps’ ever-growing link list, from which a couple of the items below are pilfered, or to Mikey’s tabloid version. Apologies this is so un-chronological, with stuff from January through to April.

Leninism, vanguardism, party democracy, activist culture:

Theorising Marxism and feminism:

Tony Cliff, founding figure of the British Int...

Tony Cliff, founding figure of the British International Socialists. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The “IS tradition”:

The radical movement in Britain

Historical Materialism journal:

Poumerotica

Some miscellaneous reading:

From Mehmet Ali to Mubarak: a history of Egyptian nationalism.

Trotsky’s killer in Santa Fe Haagen-Dazs.

Ross Wolfe on utopia and programme.

From Insurgent Notes: Matthew Quest: C.L.R. James’s Conflicted Intellectual Legacies on Mao Tse Tung’s China; John Garvey: Trotsky Reconsidered: Claude Lefort’s Perspective. [Hat tip: Ent.]

From Critique Sociale: Victor Griffuelhes et l’action syndicalisteLire Rosa Luxemburg : entretien avec Peter Hudis.  [Hat tip: Ent.]

Michael Löwy: Der Urkommunismus in den ökonomischen Schriften von Rosa Luxemburg – Für eine romantisch-revolutionäre Geschichtsauffassung (1989)   [Hat tip: Ent.]

Flesh is Grass: The Spirit of ’45.

Interview with Noah Gataveckas on the Ted Grant and the spectre of Trotsky.

Peter Camejo: Problems of Vanguardism (1984)

Dave Renton revisits dissident Marxism.

Published in: on April 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jams O’Donnell: Red Cushing and the Spanish Civil War

Red Cushing - Solider for Hire

On Monday, I posted that my friend Shaun Downey – described by Francis Sedgemore as ” Gentleman and Blogger of the Parish of Romford” - has died. Shaun was what I have called before a “citizen scholar”, a polymath, who rigorously researched and shared his passions. Among his interests were military history, anti-fascist partisans and Irish Republicanism.

When blogs are not attended, there is a terrible tendency for them to be hacked and become fonts for spam, which is a shameful fate for someone who has passed. Mindful of that, and in tribute to him, I have decided to re-post over time a long series he wrote on an extraordinary figure, Red Cushing. Here is the first installment, from August 2008. Shaun italicised his quotes rather than indenting them, so I have indented the whole post to make its authorship as clear as possible. I have added a couple of hyperlinks and two pieces of punctuation.

This post was inspired by recent posts by two of my favourite bloggers: Roland Dodds on the vandalising of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion memorial and Bob from Brockley’s Spanish Civil War in San Fransisco.

Irishman Thomas “Red” Cushing is almost certainly resting in his grave now (if he were still alive he would be in his late 90s) but he definitely had a life less ordinary. In the first 35 years of his life he was an IRA member, had a yoyo career in the US army with a sideline of training Sandino’s forces; served in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (his sobriquet refers to his hair not his political allegiance, he has bolshie, not a Bolshevik!), joined the British army, taken prisoner during the fall of France…. and then his adventures really began!

I first came across his name in “Renegades: Hitler’s Englishmen”, Adrian Weale’s excellent account of the Britisches Freikorps (the BFC) and other British traitors of WWII Cushing was mentioned in respect of the Reich’s farcical attempt to raise an Irish legion. He also appears in Mark Hull’s “Irish Secrets: Espionage in Wartime Ireland” and Terrence O’ Reilly’s “Hitler’s Irishmen”. However, he was no traitor himself and he continued his career in the British Army into the 1960s

Cushing wrote an account of his rollercoaster life in the book “Soldier For Hire”. It is long out of print but fortunately it is not hard to track down a reasonably inexpensive copy. The chapter “No Castles in Spain” which covers his time in Spain is very handily reproduced on Ciaran Crossey’s superb Ireland and the Spanish Civil War website. Plagiarism is not intended but I have a damaged wrist and anything that will cut down my typing is a godsend at the moment!

… While on demob leave, I stayed at the Army and Navy Club in Lexington Avenue, New York. I took the opportunity of visiting all the army posts where I had friends. To keep myself solvent I boxed a few times. Then, one morning in 1936, I wandered as far as the Army Base in Brooklyn, hoping to bump into somebody I knew…

My luck was out… I finished up in a saloon bar, sitting at the same table as five or six young fellows, listening to their conversation and occasionally chipping in when the talk became general. Somehow we had got on to the subject of soldiering abroad. During a lull in the discussion, an unmistakably military figure detached itself from the bar and slid easily into the seat next to mine.

‘I’m recruiting for the Lincoln Washington Battalion, now serving in Spain,’ he announced without preamble. ‘Any of you guys interested?’ ‘What are the prospects?’ I asked him. He shrugged. ‘Well, I guess that depends on what you can do. Have you soldiered before?’

I fished from my wallet the army documents I carried around with me and dropped them on the table in front of him. He scrutinised them in silence, lingering especially over an impressive list of courses I had passed. At last he looked up and eyed me appraisingly. ‘Seems to me you’re the type we want, brother. Can’t guarantee it, but with these qualifications you should swing a commission.’

‘Never mind the commission. My interests are tipple and bananas.’

… First we went to a building on the Grand Concourse, where I was medically examined and pronounced physically fit. Then, we proceeded to a dingy office not far from Union Square. There I completed a sort of application form, signed on the dotted line and was duly inducted. I received a cash advance of fifty dollars and was warned to hold myself in readiness… A day or two later, my instructions arrived. I was ordered to report to an address on Eighth Avenue and Sixteenth Street… I was introduced to a number of curious characters, all belonging to the school of thought that condemns soap and water as capitalist luxuries. Even before they opened their mouths, I knew what I had let myself in for. I had stepped into a gathering of Communist Party members.

Although I had no time for such crapology, I decided to ride along with them and find out how they ticked. I therefore listened patiently to my long-haired friend’s appreciation of the situation. .. I had been appointed conducting officer and was responsible for shepherding forty volunteers from New York to the Spanish front.

…The ‘Commissar’, as I had mentally labelled him, next led me into a dance hall, where I passed on his information to my comrades… When I first saw them, my heart sank. There were intellectuals, students from Columbia University and a generous sprinkling of Bowery bums and dead-beats, who had evidently espoused the Communist cause in order to be issued with meal tickets…. When I had finished, the Commissar gave them a long political speech, loaded with the usual Communist clichés. The workers of the world had to unite, fight for freedom, win a lasting peace and had nothing to lose but their chains. The students and the self-styled intelligentsia lapped it all up, but the talk made little impression on the bums. The squad was then dismissed and the Party members gathered round me, eager to give me a propaganda injection.

‘Gentlemen,’ I said to the shower of nanny goats, ‘I’m a professional soldier, not a politician. I’ve volunteered to go to Spain simply for the experience. As far as I’m concerned, you can stick your Communist racket up your jaxies! So cheerio, comrades! I’ll be seeing you at nine o’clock to-morrow morning.’ With an ironic bow to the Commissar, I made a quick exit…

To be continued

There are a couple of interesting comments on the post:

Anonymous Joseph Conlon said…

My dad met Red Cushing. We have a photo of him on our bathroom wall at home. I’m just reading the book ‘Soldier For Hire’ and its great so far.

I asked my dad today – Red’s dad seems like a bit of a nutter to which her replied “yes but Red’s daughter was even worse”… guess I have got more to find out…

Peter said…

I was Red Cushing’s platoon commander 9n Germany (Berlin) and Korea in the 1950′s. I have many stories about him – most of which revolved around his problem with “the drink” (he really loved his beer!). He was truly a one of a kind character, and I’m pleased to see that people are still interested in his exploits.

(more…)

From the archive of struggle no.75: anti-Stalinist Leninism in the 1930s (MIA special)

It’s months now since I’ve looked through the Marxist Internet Archive. Since I’ve last been there, loads of really good stuff is up. The below is just from November and December last year, and it covers a period from ca.1930 to ca.1940 which was pivotal in the development of the anti-Stalinist left.

The material here focuses on three overlapping currents in this anti-Stalinist left. The first is the POUM, the Spanish party whose name this blog’s is taken from, who fused the “left” and “right” opposition in Spain to the official Stalinist Communist party, to form a democratic mass movement of radical socialism, before being liquidated by the Stalinists in during the Spanish Civil War.

The second is the Trotskyist movement, Communism’s “left” opposition. While Trotsky supplied much of the intellectual justification for Stalin’s brutal misrule in the Soviet Union, his sharp critique of the degeneration of the Stalinist state made him a criminal in the dictatorship. His followers have formed one of the main planks of anti-Stalinist socialism globally. The material below focuses mainly on American Trotskyists, but particularly those who developed beyond the rigid and damaging orthodoxies of “official” Trotskyism.

Parallel to Trotsky’s Left Opposition, the Right Opposition called for a more democratic path to socialism, and was bitterly excluded from the Communist movement. Unlike Trotksyism, it leaves little organisational trace today, and so its history remains more deeply buried.

In the period from 1930 to 1940, these currents moved from composing a dissatisfied internal dissident streak within Stalinism, to a fully developed critical analysis of Stalinism. From 1940 to 1950, they several different interesting directions forward, some positively, others less so. Between them (along with anarchist, democratic socialist and left communist currents not represented here), they constitute a significant part of the heritage of anti-Stalinism that continues to be relevant to thinking about the task of reforging a radical movement today.

The POUM

Added to the Spanish-language Archivo Andreu Nin and English-language Andrés Nin Archive:

The Catalan Andreu (or Andres in Spanish) Nin i Pérez was a left dissident in the Communist Party, forming a left opposition group Communist Left of Spain (ICE), which merged with the Right Opposition party Bloque Obrero y Campesino, to form the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) in 1935.

Added to the new Julián Gorkin Archive in the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL): (more…)

Monday music: for Jams

It’s been a long while since I did this, but I was moved to hear of the death of my friend Shaun Downey, also known as blogger Jams O’Donnell of The Poor Mouth. Read an obituary here. The first of these songs are Bebo Valdés, the wonderful Cuban pianist who died on the same day as Shaun. I don’t know if Shaun liked his music, but I think he probably would. The other songs are songs that I know he did like.

Bebo Valdés: Diane

Bebo Valdés & Diego El Cigala: Veinte Anos

Mari Boine: Cuovgi Liekkas

Mor Karbasi: La Pluma

Rajna: Epidauros

Mindful of the fact that neglected blogs are so easily hacked and stolen, I plan to re-post, with attribution, Jams’ series of extraordinary posts on the great Red Cushing, over the next couple of weeks.

EVENT: Annexation, Autonomy, or Independence? The Politics of Cuban Identity in the Émigré Communities of New York and Florida, 1840s-1890

Via 171 bus:

ElProductorEvan Daniel, Queens College, City University of New York

“Annexation, Autonomy, or Independence? The Politics of Cuban Identity in the Émigré Communities of New York and Florida, 1840s-1890s”

Thursday 18th April 2013, 2 pm – 3.30 pm

Seminar Room, Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6QS

Hosted by the ESRC Centre on Migration Policy and Society (COMPAS)

This seminar will explore the changing modalities of diasporic identities among émigré Cuban workers in the nineteenth century, including tensions between Creole and Peninsular orientations, and tensions between different conceptions of nationalism and internationalism in the anarchist and labour movements.

For information, please contact Ben Gidley, COMPAS ben.gidley@compas.ox.ac.uk

Directions and map at: http://www.compas.ox.ac.uk/about/how-to-find-us/

free_cuba_cigar_label

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On this day 100 years ago: Paterson

Strike leaders Patrick Quinlan, Carlo Tresca, ...

Strike leaders Patrick L. Quinlan, Carlo Tresca , Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Adolph Lessig, and Bill Haywood. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the Modern School:

April 3, 1913 - Pietro Botto, socialist mayor of Haledon, N.J., invited the Paterson silk mill strikers to assemble in front of his house. 20,000 showed up to hear speakers from the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Upton Sinclair, John Reed and others, who urged them to remain strong in their fight. (From Work Day Minnesota)  The Patterson strike lasted from Feb. 1 until July 28, 1913. Workers were fighting for the eight-hour workday and better working conditions. Over 1800 workers were arrested during the strike, including IWW leaders Big Bill Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Five were killed. Overall, the strike was poorly organized and confined to Paterson. The IWW, the main organizer of the strike, eventually gave up. (From the IWW: Its First Seventy Years, by Fred Thompson and Patrick Murfin).

1920s Trotskyiana

From Ross Wolfe:

Trotskiana

1920s Trotsky memorabilia

Untitled.
IMAGE: Cubo-futurist rendering of Trotsky,
uncredited (probably Annenkov, 1922)
Untitled.

Mikhail Adamovich, porcelain Trotskii mugs (1923)

Mikhail Adamovich, porcelain Trotskii mugs (1923)

Check out the rest

Published in: on March 24, 2013 at 12:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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On this day 100 years ago: Bonnot Gang executions

From the Modern School:
April, 21, 1913 –Andre Soudy and Raymond Callemin, members of the anarchist Bonnot Gang, were executed. Callemin had started the individualist paper “L’anarchie” withVictor Serge. The Bonnot Gang was a band of French anarchists (plus Serge, who was Russian) who tried to fund their movement through robberies in 1911-1912. The Bonnot Gang was unique, not only for their politics, but for their innovative use of technology, too. They were among the first to use cars and automatic rifles to help them steal, technology that even the French police were not using. While many of the gang members were sentenced to death, Serge got five years and eventually  went on to participate in (and survive) the Barcelona and Soviet uprisings. Later, while living in exile, Serge wrote The Birth of Our Power. (From the Daily Bleed and Wikipedia)
Published in: on March 21, 2013 at 5:37 pm  Comments (1)  
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On this day 100 years ago: Mother Jones

Workers' Memorial Day poster Pray for the dead...

From the Modern School:
February 12, 1913 – Mary Harris “Mother” Jones led a protest against conditions in the West Virginia mines was arrested. (On May 8, newly-elected Governor Hatfield releases her from jail.) A government official once called Mary Jones “The most dangerous woman in America.” She was still out there at age 83. No rockin’ chair for her… (From the Daily Bleed)
Published in: on February 12, 2013 at 3:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Covered up

That’s from the cover of by a new “Great Orwell” edition of George Orwell’s 1984, newly published by Penguin and designed by David Pearson, featured in Creative Review.

Meanwhile, last month “marked the 130th birthday of pioneering Austrian sociologist, philosopher, and curator Otto Neurath, who in the 1930s, together with his wife Marie, invented ISOTYPE — the vintage visual language of pictograms that gave rise to modern infographics.” Check out some interesting examples via Maria Popova.

 

Robert Capa

From Getty Images:

 

01 Jan 1938
A portrait of Hungarian-born photojournalist Robert Capa (1913 – 1954) used to introduce an article, featuring his pictures of the Spanish Civil War, in Picture Post, 3rd December 1938. (Photo by Pict… Read more
By: Picture Post
Collection: Hulton Archive
People: Robert Capa

Via Jonathan Woods, who has the full un-watermarked image.

 

Published in: on January 11, 2013 at 10:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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