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…)

After the storm

Català: Placa Andreu Nin a Biblioteca Pública ...

Català: Placa Andreu Nin a Biblioteca Pública de les Rambles de Barcelona (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gabriel Schoenfeld had an article about why he supported Mitt Romney. Bizarrely, he thanks Max Shachtman. [h/t TNC]. Eric Lee also writes on Shachtman’s legacy. Remembering Hilda Friedstein: Hashomer Hatzair activist and animal rights pioneer. James Bloodworth:  Chavez’s dark side; It’s time to give Christopher Hitchens a statue. Andrew Coates: On the left press; European revolutionaries and Algerian independence 1954-1962.

Blogging Victor Serge: A wonderful series by Adam David Morton. The Lectern on The Case of Comrade Tulayev. More links from Sarah J Young.

Blogging George Orwell: On the publication of The Road to Wigan Pier.

From WSWS: Exhibition of photographer Agustí Centelles in Barcelona: Many unanswered questions about the Spanish Civil War; Wolfgang Brenner’s Hubert in Wonderland: A life in the shadow of Stalinism; The reactionary politics of Grace Lee Boggs; The dead-end of Catalan independence.

Below the fold, some items from Entdinglichung’s Weekly Worker feature: (more…)

History notes

Current affairs

Orwell’s Kilburn flat is getting a new blue plaque, which is nice. And it is Orwell Prize nomination time of year again. Phil AVPS picks his best ten posts here, and reckons Laurie Penny will get it because she is surfing the zeitgeist, a suggestion Paul in Lancashire beautifully deconstructs here. I’m not sure if I’ll nominate myself; I don’t think I managed ten decent posts in 2010.

Totally unrelated, here’s Ron Radosh on the decline of the New York intellectuals. Talking of NY intellectuals, Alfred Kazin’s journals are soon to be published.

The Accidental Anarchist: an interview with writer Bryna Kranzler.

The latest Carnival of Socialism is hosted by Luna17 here. It takes the theme of “Debating the way forward”, very necessary indeed. This is from right at the end:

Charlie Pottins pays tribute to Jayaben Desai, who uttered these immortal words:

“What you are running here is not a factory, it is a zoo. In a zoo, there are many types of animals. Some are monkeys who dance on your fingertips, others are lions who can bite your head off. We are those lions, Mr Manager.”

On the 20th January we’re with Bob from Brockley and then at the beginning of Feb we’ll be with the Great Unrest.

From the archive of struggle

Mostly via Ent.. as usual.

Dublin Council of Trade UnionsIn Dublin City in 1913: Songs and Stories of the Workers of Dublin, May Day Festival, 1988. There are articles on 1913, on May Day in Dublin since 1890, a profile of Jim Larkin and James Connolly and a range of other materials of interest.

* [Leon Trotsky] Leo Trotskij: Revolutionen i Spanien och kommunisternas uppgifter (1931). In Swedish.

* National Youth Committee, Communist League of America (Opposition)Young Spartacus, Nr. 1-11 (1931-1932) // Opposition Group in the Workers (Communist) Party of America/Communist League of America (Opposition): The Militant, 1-18 1929 // Communist League of America (Opposition): The Militant, 1-34 1930 /The Militant, 1-37 1931. // * Hugo Oehler: Americas role in Germany (1933) / Communist League of America (Opposition) (CLA):  The Militant, 8. Dezember 1934. These are early texts of the Trotskyist movement in America, mainly written by James P Cannon, Max Schactman and Martin Abern. The movement went through a number of incarnations until 1940, when Shachtman and Abern, with James Burnham, left to form the Workers Party (taking Hal Draper, CLR James and the other most intelligent members of the movement).

* Karl KorschThe Passing of Marxian Orthodoxy: Bernstein-Kautsky-Luxemburg-Lenin (1937). In this dense and not particularly readable short text, Korsch argues that Eduard Bernstein, Karl Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg and Vladimir Lenin were all essentially exemplars of a moribund orthodox Marxism which fetishised the form of the political party.

* Raya DunayevskayaEisenhower-Khrushchev Spectacular (1959). Dunayevskaya had been a member of the Shachtman/Cannon Trotskyist movement, following Shachtman in his break from Cannon’s orthodox Trotskyism in 1940, along with her close colleague CLR James. This text is from News and Letters, the magazine of Dunayevskaya’s movement from 1955 onwards, after she had split with James, favouring a stronger organisational form for the revolutionary movement than James countenanced. However, if anything hers was the stronger anti-Stalinism, as comes across in the closing words of this text: “But – just as the steel workers have refused to be cowed, although their stomach are getting pretty empty, and just as all workers, American and European and African, refuse to separate their fight for bread from that for freedom – so the workers in each country on each side of the Atlantic, will prove to be the real antagonists against these hypocritical state-capitalist leaders. Until that struggle is settled, no others can be – because all the others only lead back to the same old exploitative society.” Also new on-line: American Civilization on Trial: Black Masses as Vanguard [Excerpt] (1963)

* Hal DraperMarx and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat (1962). This is from New Politics, Vol. 1, No. 4, Summer 1962. It was later, I think, expanded into his major work Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution, Vol III: The Dictatorship of the Proletariat, published by Monthly Review Press. Around this time, Draper broke from Shachtman (by then leading an entrist faction in the Socialist Party) to form the Independent Socialist Club (ISC), and I think that the article bares traces of his struggle with the legacy of orthodox Trotskyism in the Shachtmanite scene.

* Brian PearceTrotsky as an Historian (1960). I think of Pearce as Britain’s Hal Draper. This from the period of his evolution from Pollit-esque Brit-Stalinism to orth0-Trot politics, writing for The Newsletter, the publication of Gerry Healy’s Trotskyist “Club“, which in 1959 became the Socialist Labour League (later the Workers Revolutionary party) – the paper edited by Pearce’s close comrade the great Peter Fryer, with whom, I think, he had left the CPGB.

*C.L.R. James: World Politics Today (1967) /  Che Guevara (1967) /  World Revolution: 1968 (1967) // Martin GlabermanUpheaval in China (1967) /  The United States and the Russian Revolution (1967) / Martin Luther King, Jr (1968)
* Martin Glaberman: Regis Debray: Revolution Without a Revolution (1968) / Indonesian Communism: The First Stage (1968) / On Balance: The French Events (1968) // George RawickToward a New History of Slavery in the U.S. (1967) / A New Nation in a New World (1967) /George Rawick: Notes on the American Working Class (1968). These are texts by three figures then involved in the journal Speak Out, monthly newsletter (edited by Glaberman) of the Facing Reality group, which evolved from the Johnson-Forest Tendency founded by James and Dunayevskaya as they moved away from the Trotskyist movement. Kent Worcester, in C.L.R. James: A Political Biography, sees this period as Facing Reality flirting with Maoism, so it is interesting to read these texts in that light.

* Israeli Revolutionary Action Committee (Abroad) (ISRAC)ISRAC, Mai 1969. According to Wikipedia, “In the late 1960s and early 1970s, supporters of Matzpen abroad published Israca (Israeli Revolutionary Action Committee Abroad). The magazine included many articles published in Matzpen. Some of Matzpen was censored and that material was republished in IsracaMoshé Machover, Eli Lobel, Haim Hanegbi and Akiva Orr were all part of the editorial board. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, supporters of the organisation and other radical left academics and activists formed another journal in the UK, Khamsin, in which they published their analyses of current events.”

* International-Communist League (I-CL)Debate on Cambodia, 1979 (1978/1979). The I-CL was the forerunner of the Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL).
* Alan JohnsonThe „other Trotskyists“ and Palestine (~ 1997). Here Johnson, then of the AWL, discusses the politics of Hal Draper’s movement.

Texts from libcom: (more…)

Poumisceral

Danny Lambert of the Socialist Party of Great ...

Image via Wikipedia

Timothy Snyder’s new book Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin is getting some attention. It sounds fascinating but flawed. Here are two sample reviews: by Neal Ascherson and by Richard J Evans. (More reviews, from automatically generated links, at the bottom of the page.) Also read this great piece by Snyder on totalitarian Belarus: In Darkest Belarus.

The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party by Brian Hanley and Scott Millar has also gotten a fair amount of press, rather more surprisingly. Here’s reviews by Daniel Finn, Conor McCabe, and Chris Gray.

Other book reviews by Andrew Coates: Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty (on Stalinism’s “golden age”), John Holloway’s Crack Capitalism.

Mike McNair has had an interesting series in the Weekly Worker on Trotskyist entrism in the Labour Party over the years, which I keep meaning to link to. Here’s the final episode. Also in the WW: Jack Tansey defends left communism.

Sean Matgamna’s very belated obit for Ernst Mandel. Also from the AWL: Dale Street on How Stalinism crushed the Vietnamese Trotskyists, and Matgamna on what a revolutionary party is and is not.

Below the fold, From the Archive of Struggle no.53, mainly from Entdinglichung: (more…)

Marxism is the gateway to a revolutionary socialism which is thoroughly democratic and a democratic socialism which is thoroughly revolutionary

Phyllis Jacobson remembered – from New Appeal to Reason:

There are a number of remembrances of Phyllis Jacobson who played a leading role in the the creation and sustenance of New Politics, one of the most important journals of the American democratic left. Bogdan Denitch, Barry Finger, Sam Farber and others.

New Politics had two lives–from 1961 to 1975 and from 1986 to the present. It occupies a space to the left of Dissent (and to my left) and  has always been a valuable and thought provoking journal.

Joanne Landy and Steve Shalom write

“The Jacobsons did not want an editorial board of clones. They welcomed board members from a range of left perspectives that supported the basic orientation of New Politics: standing “in opposition to all forms of imperialism,” “uncompromising in its defense of feminism and affirmative action,” and above all insisting “on the centrality of democracy to socialism and on the need to rely on mass movements from below for progressive social transformation.”

If that sounds like the kind of thing you might be intersted in, check out New Politics. And if you like what you see, subsribe.

At Arguing the World: Alan Johnson on Zizek part 2 (extract below the fold); Ben Gidley on left antisemitism; Nicolaus Mills on Ivan Dee.

Ron Radosh defends Elena Kagan.

Oliver Kamm on Paul Hirst in his Communist days (provoked by Alex Massie on a Stalinist optimist).

A miscellany from The New Centrist. (more…)

Max Shachtman, Hal Draper and the anarchists

This is rather belated, but Radical Archives has published something very important to my topic, an appreciation of Hal Draper’s analysis of Stalinism in a 1956 New York anarchist publication. RA sets the context:

View and Comments was published by the anarchist Libertarian Labor League in New York City. The cover of #13 also features an ad for a “May Day Meeting” at the Libertarian Center in New York, which was billed as featuring “Speakers from the following organizations: Independent Socialist League, Industrial Workers of the World, Libertarian League, Solidaridad Internacional Antifascista, Young Socialist League and the War Resisters League.”

Little attention has been paid to the intersection between post-Trotskyist Schachtmanite Marxism and anarchism. The evolution of certain “Left Schachmanites” paralleled the evolution of other thinkers who originated in Trotskyism but moved to a libertarian socialist position. This trend was represented by groups such as the Johnson-Forrest Tendency (which included C.L.R. James, Grace Lee Boggs and Raya Dunayevskaya), Socialism ou Barbarie (which included Cornelius Castoriadis, Claude Lefort and Jean-François Lyotard) and Solidarity (UK)  – as well as individual theorists such as Dwight Macdonald, Murray Bookchin and Daniel Guerin. Other non-Trotskyist Marxists were also moving towards anarchism, including Fredy Perlman and the Situationist International.

The majority of the ISL eventually entered the Socialist Party of America. However, some members (including Hal Draper) disagreed with this move, and later formed the Independent Socialist Clubs, which then became the Independent Socialists (IS). The Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL) split off IS in 1973. Over the years, the RSL became increasingly anti-Leninist as members moved towards anarchism, and it dissolved in 1991. Later, on the same day, a number of former members co-founded Love and Rage with a group of anarchists, in particular the Revolutionary Anarchist Bowling League. In 1993 Love and Rage split between those who favored a network and those who favored a more centralized apparatus (which included the RSL members), and the later became the Love & Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation (LRRAF). A couple RSL members, including writer Wayne Price, passed through LRRAF and later entered the North Eastern Federation Of Anarchist-Communists (NEFAC).

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.

(more…)

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.]

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.


Hal Draper: The sect and working class lifestyle, or why intellectuals should know their place

Splendid stuff, from Shiraz Socialist

Published in: on February 12, 2009 at 11:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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More from the archive of struggle

[From the archive of struggle, no.3]

Excellent round-up at Entdinglichung. Highlights:

And, from the reading list:

From the archive

[From the archive of struggle, no.2]

Some good new stuff at La Bataille Socialiste and The Commune, including:

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