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…)

Slow

I know I’ve been a slow blogging here lately. Here are some of the things I’ve been reading in my absence, if you know what I mean. Beatrix Campbell and the “invisible” women of Wigan Pier. Hitchens’s introduction to Orwell’s Diaries. Algeria: Fifty Years of Independence. An evening with the SWP. Malatesta on Bakunin as “too marxist”. Book notes: Michael Staudenmaier on the Sojourner Truth Organization. Back to that first International? In what senses can we describe certain political, religious and social movements of the English Revolution (1640-1660) as radical?

Below the fold, some of the gems from Entdinglichung’s weekly workers series. (more…)

From the archive of struggle, no.72

Thanks once again Petey for spotting an error in my last post. I’ve reposted the link below, with extras. Thanks once again, of course, Entdinglichung, whose archival gleaning is becoming impossible to keep up with.

Cover of "Waterfront Workers of New Orlea...

“The roots of multi-racial labour unity in the United States” was published in International Socialism 2:63, Summer 1994, and can be read either at MIA or the SWP’s own archive. It’s a review  of Eric Arnesen, Waterfront Workers of New Orleans: Race, Class and Politics, 1863-1923 (New York and Oxford, 1991). Here’s the intro:

The idea that white workers in the US have historically benefited from racism is widely accepted on both the academic and political left. Even those who hesitate to draw such conclusions concede that a class analysis is insufficient to explain the persistence of racism in the US. [… For socialists in the US the question of the ‘socio-economic nutriments’ of racism is a matter of practical politics. The persistence of racism cannot be accepted as a ‘baffling phenomenon’, but is either explicable in terms of the class struggle, or, if race can be proven to be a more fundamental social division than class the struggle for workers’ power in the United States is sheer utopianism.

Previous articles in this journal have taken up the relationship of race and class in general and racism in the US in particular.2 Therefore there is no need here to recount the theoretical debates on the centrality of class. Rather this review article will attempt to show how multi-racial workers’ unity could take root in seemingly the least likely context: the segregated 19th century South. It will argue that whites did not benefit from the exclusion of blacks from the ranks of organised labour, but that such divisions were disastrous for black and white workers alike.

Further, despite white supremacy, black workers North and South often rejected alliances with the small, but influential, conservative black middle class to make common cause with white workers in trade unions and socialist organisations. It will conclude by arguing that the struggle against racism in the US working class is above all a political question that cannot be resolved within the economic framework of trade unionism. Rather it must be rooted in the struggle for socialism and black liberation.

You can read Lee Sustar elsewhere,at ZSpace (on various historical and political topics), at International Viewpoint (on Egypt), at Viewpoint (on Karl Marx) and even at NPR (on Dennis Brutus).

Here’s some recently posted material from Entdinglichung, including stuff I’d missed last month.  (more…)

From the archive of struggle, no.35: Holt Labor Library special

In previous editions, I have featured the Labadie Collection and the Greater Manchester Collection. This week, we focus on the Holt Labor Library, with more below the fold. Browse the whole series here.

The Holt Labor Library in San Francisco has a truly exemplary website. Below are some snippets from some of its exhibitions, which are hyperlinked to their source pages.

The Bob Mattingly Button Exhibit.

[1991] Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) was formed in 1976 from a number of reform groups including Teamsters for a Democratic Contract and UPSurge. They were reacting to corruption within the union caused by leadership being too close to businesses, as well as their alleged affiliation with organized crime and the Nixon administration. Professionals Drivers’ Council (PROD) merged with TDU in 1979, bringing their lobbying and legal expertise, and new members from the East Coast and South. As a reform group within the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, TDU believes in a democratic union with control resting in the membership. Their Rank and File Bill of Rights emphasizes election of union leadership, majority approval of contract votes, equality throughout the union, workplace standards and fair salaries. Over the years, several of their goals have been implemented union-wide. In 1988, Majority Rule on Contracts became part of the IBT Constitution. TDU won direct election of officers through a federal RICO lawsuit in 1989. With the election of TDU-backed Ron Carey as Teamsters president in 1991, officers’ pay was slashed and financial waste ended. The TDU was active in the successful 1997 UPS strike. They supported Tyson Foods workers in Pasco, Washington in 1999 who called a strike even without IBT support. Today they continue their reform struggle against current IBT president James Hoffa, Jr., who they blame for new corruption and a loss of union membership.

[1984] United Farm Workers (UFW) leader César Chávez called for a third boycott on California table grapes in 1984. Whereas previous UFW boycotts had been about farm worker conditions, this one called for a ban on five major pesticides used in grape fields. The UFW claimed in their 1989 film, “Wrath of Grapes,” that the chemicals caused cancer and birth defects, and that they were getting into the ground water of surrounding communities. Chávez went on a 36-day hunger strike in 1988 to promote the boycott, receiving support from many politicians and celebrities. Later that year, city leaders in San Francisco, San Jose and Alameda County joined the boycott. UFW continued its boycott after Chávez’s death in 1993, ending it in 2000 when four of the five pesticides in question had been banned and the fifth regulated.

[1996] “The long-running, low key but aggresive campaign to organize a new party anchored firmly inside the American Labor Movement, will culminate next June in Cleveland, Ohio when delegates from across the nation formally launch a grassroots, working class-based political movement.” (Labor Party Advocate, August 1995) According to the organization’s website, the founding conference attracted “1,400 delegates from hundreds of local and international unions as well as individual activists.” They adopted a 16-point program, the “Call for Economic Justice,” that “demands that everyone who wants to work have a right to a decent-paying job. As long as millions of us remain jobless or employed at jobs that pay poverty wages, all of us will suffer.” (Labor Party: FAQs. http://www.thelaborparty.org/a_faqs.html )

Holt Labor Library Audio Collection

A selection of the library’s audio collection is online in mp3 format, hosted by the Marxists Internet Archive. Currently, lectures by George Breitman, James P. Cannon, Farrell Dobbs, Tom Kerry, Ernest Mandel, Robert Langston, Larry Trainor, Evelyn Reed and Harry Ring are available, with more to be added.

There are also special features, each with lots of links, on topics such as the San Francisco General Strike of 1934 (including folk song sheet music), the late Sylvia Weinstein, Sacco and Venzetti, Joe Hill, the Lawrence textiles strike, and the United Farm Workers of America.

(more…)

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