Miscellany

Criticism etc

I have added a rss feed for Criticism etc down at the bottom right, as I find myself wanting to re-post almost everything there. Here are some recent items.

Retrospective Review: Paul Buhle’s Marxism in the United States

Marxism in the United States: Remapping the History of the American Left by Paul Buhle Verso, 1991 (revised edition; original edition 1987)

Buhle’s book undertakes the formidable task of presenting a concise history of the experience of American Marxism, from its arrival with the German émigrés of 1848 to the Ronald Reagan era. He is strongest in his interpretation of the often contention-fraught relationship between the radicalism of the native-born socialists and that of the many immigrant communities that played such an important role in the history of the U.S. nineteenth and early twentieth-century left. Buhle’s signal concern is culture, specifically popular culture, and it tends to subsume almost all other elements here, including philosophical debates (admittedly, not a strong point in American Marxism). The survey of classroom Marxist debates in the book’s final chapter hasn’t aged well, although, as far as academic prominence goes, Buhle was certainly vindicated in the focus he placed on Frederic JamesonCriticism &c. highly recommends.

The Digital MEGA

The latest issue of Socialism and Democracy includes an update on the progress of the Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe project, the international scholarly effort to publish all of the works of Marx in the languages in which they were written. The author, Gerd Callesen, is a Danish librarian and editorial participant in the project. While the expensive volumes in the series are not intended for use by the average person interested in Marx (and shrinking academic library budgets mean that few students may even have a chance to use them), some volumes in the series are being made freely available on the web. Criticism &c. provides here an excerpt from the article focusing on the MEGA’s digital portion and some concluding paragraphs on the future of the project.

An Excerpt from Charles Denby’s Indignant Heart

Libcom.org has made available three chapters from Indignant Heart: a Black Worker’s Journal by Charles Denby. Denby, an African-American auto worker and revolutionary, was a member of the Johnson-Forest Tendency and became one of the founding members of News and Letters Committees in 1955. Indignant Heart (the title comes from a quote by Abolitionist Wendall Phillips) was originally published by the JFT in 1952 and attributed to the pseudonym Matthew Ward. Denby, whose real name was Simon Owens, greatly expanded the book in a new edition published by South End Press in 1978. Wayne State University Press published this edition in 1989 with an introduction by William H. Harris, an historian of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

The chapters selected by Libcom are the final three from the 1952 edition. Note the episode in Chapter 15 in which Denby—at a public meeting—asks novelist and CP member Howard Fast, “What is the relationship of the Russian workers to production?”

Another Comment on Charles Denby’s Indignant Heart

Among the chapters of Indignant Heart recently made available by Libcom, Chapter 16 (“The Trotskyist Party”) is extremely important for its depiction of the strong current of racism that pervaded the Marxist parties, an under-acknowledged aspect of the history of the U.S. left. It’s not possible to discern any difference between the attitudes Denby faced every day from S.W.P. members and the racism prevalent in the larger society of the time. On the theoretical level, Denby exposes the fact that the Trotskyists did not even have an official party position on question of racial oppression in U.S. society. The unidentified speaker at the 1948 convention was, of course, C.L.R. James (the Johnson-Forest Tendency had rejoined the S.W.P. the previous year). The resolution put forth at the convention, the Revolutionary Answer to the Negro Question in the U.S., was published in Fourth International in December 1948 (under the byline J. Meyer). A revised version adopted by the party in 1950 (“Negro Liberation Through Revolutionary Socialism“) appears in Fourth International, May-June 1950. Both texts are available in the Marxists Internet Archive.

A preview excerpt from the Wayne State University edition of Indignant Heart is available at Google Books.

Also:

Both Libcom (see above) and the AWL have published some material relating to Victor Serge recently. The former has published his Year 1 of the revolution. In the latter, Paul Hampton wrote on Victor Serge and Kronstadt in January, with replies by Martyn Hudson and others, followed by Martyn Hudson again, followed by the publication of a first and second instalment of Karl Radek’s view. Meanwhile, Serge’s great memoirs are due to be re-published in April:

Memoirs of a Revolutionary
By Victor Serge
Translated by Peter Sedgwick
April 2012

Victor Serge is one of the great men of the twentieth century, anarchist, revolutionary, agitator, theoretician, historian of his times, and a fearless truthteller. Here Serge describes his upbringing in Belgium, the child of a family of exiled Russian revolutionary intellectuals, his early life as an activist, his time in a French prison, the active role he played in the Russian Revolution, as well his growing dismay at the Revolutionary regime’s ever more repressive and murderous character. Expelled from the Soviet Union, Serge went to Paris, and barely escaped the Nazis to find a final refuge in Mexico. Memoirs of a Revolutionary describes a thrilling life on the frontlines of history and includes brilliant portraits of politicians from Trotsky and Lenin to Stalin and of major writers like Alexander Blok and Andrey Bely. Above all, it captures the sensibility of Serge himself, that of a courageous and singularly appealing advocate of human liberation who remained undaunted in the most trying of times.

Peter Sedgwick’s fine translation of Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary was cut by a fifth when it was first published in 1963. This new edition is the first in English to present the entirety of Serge’s book.

Read Richard Greeman here on the current dissent in Russia. James B on the Falklands or the Malvinas. And finally: Ron Radosh on Oliver Stone’s Stalinist history of America.

Orwellian, Marxian, etc

CLR James

I see via a post by Lady Poverty that there is a newish CLR James collection from AK Press, reviewed here by Rico Cleffi in the Indypendent.

Everything is a commodity.  My glasses are a commodity, cigarettes are commodities, tea is a commodity, the gramophone is a commodity, the tape recorder is a commodity — everything is a commodity.  The important thing that I want you to remember in your study of Capital is Marx’s insistence that the particular commodity that is important in the study of capital is the labor-power of the individual.  In all societies that are in any way developed, there is commodity production.   But that the man sells his labor, his labor-power — a commodity — to the capitalist, Marx says, once you begin there, the whole of capitalist society grows from that; that the labor-power of the human individual is sold as a commodity.

George Orwell

Champagne Charlie on why Orwell got it right about Dunkirk, and Rosie Bell reading Orwell’s diary from that time.

Leninist apologias

Mike E of Kasama, whose task is to rejuvenate some of the most moribund elements of the Marxist-Leninist tradition, has a post on Kronstadt that is very sophisticated, but in my view better described as sophistry. Bermuda radical also publishes a piece from International Socialism attacking the “myth” of Nestor Makhno.

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Published in: on June 11, 2010 at 1:05 pm  Comments (3)  
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Latinate

Falklands/Malvinas: My Michael Foot post the other day (he was a defender of the Falklands war) reminded me of a recenitish interesting post and discussion thread at Dave’s Place on the correct left responses then and now, including the issue of Socialist Organiser (the Soggies?) and the split in the Workers’ Socialist League. Here, for further reference, is Sean Matgamna reflecting on the issue in 2007. Here is an SPGB position, taking a kind of “third camp” between Foot’s pro-Britain and the League for the Fifth International‘s psuedo-”revolutionary defeatist” support for the Argentine dictatorship. And here, as always representing great value for money, is Nick Cohen.

Cuba: This is from Francis Sedgemore:

Orlando Zapata Tamayo (1967-2010)

“He wasn’t a murderer. He wasn’t a thief. He wasn’t a rapist. He was simply a young man who wanted a better future for Cuba.” [Laura Pollan, Ladies in White]

RIP Orlando Zapata Tamayo – plumber, democrat, dissident, prisoner of conscience.

Kronstadt: I already posted on the queer historical epic, Maggots and Men, which re-imagines the Kronstadt sailors’ story with a cast of 100 transgender actors. Here’s more from Schalom Libertad:

Watch the trailer! // Read about it.

Maggots and Men, an experimental historical narrative set in post-revolutionary Russia, re-tells the story of the 1921 uprising of the Kronstadt sailors with a subtext of gender anarchy. (more…)

On this day, 1921: The Kronstadt Programme

On February 28 1921, in response to the growing authoritarianism of the Bolshevik regime, the Kronstadt sailors raised their 15 demands. By March 19, the Red Army had defeated the uprising, drowning it in a sea of blood, and in doing so defeated the last hope for a genuine revolution.


The Red Army takes Kronstadt, March 1921.

Image from Locust St.

Published in: on February 28, 2010 at 2:00 pm  Comments (3)  
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From the archive of struggle no.44

I have fallen behind on this task, not having done it for about 6 weeks. Below the fold are basically my personal choices from Entdinglichung’s Sozialistika series.

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Poumtang

Resources for critical thought:

Kronstadt and its revenges… an anarchist dissection of the corpse of Trotskyism today.

Platypus: Review of Dave Renton’s Dissident Marxism.

Platypus: Review of Perry’ Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism.

Andrew Flood: Towards an anarchist history of the Chinese revolution.

Paul LeBlanc: Marxism and revolutionary democracy (review of Simon Pirani and Soma Marik).

Paul LeBlanc: Trotsky lives! (on Robert Service).

Larry Gambone: Principled Bakuninism in Latin America.

Declaration against re-intensified oppression in Cuba. [Spanish source, and signatories.]

International Communist Tendency: Kronstadt 1921: The beginning of the counter-revolution.

On Arthur Koestler: Christopher Hitchens, Louis Menand, Bernard Avishai, Christopher Caldwell.

Iain McKay: anarchist-communist critique of mutualism.

Libertarian communist forum in Moscow.

Catalunya: Amadeu Casellas announces new hunger strike.

Heather Gautney: Which Anarchism? Which Autonomism? Between Anarchism and Autonomist Marxism.

My obsessions

Leon Trotsky:

A good review by Andrew Coates of Patenaude and Robert Service‘s books, and a rather plodding defence of Trotsky from Service by Peter Taafe.

Ignazio Silone:

Silone on liberty. An interview with Tim Parks that touches on the “Silone question” (via The Perfect Package, see last quote). Any Persian readers reading this? Here’s some Silone in Farsi.

Albert Camus:

Coates on Camus in the Pantheon.

The Spanish Civil War:

Wilebaldo Solano on the POUM (more on this later). Review of An Anarchist’s Story: The Life of Ethel MacDonald.

Bertolt Brecht:

Excellent post by The Fat Man on a Keyboard, contra Nick Cohen on The Good Soul of Szechuan.

Kronstadt:

Finally, I am sad that I missed the New York Queer Film Festival, where I could have seen this:

Closing Night: Maggots & Men
Seeing Cary Cronenwett’s Maggots and Men, you have nothing to lose but your perceptions of gender. This utopian re-visioning of the Kronstadt Uprising of 1921, featuring film history’s first cast of over 100 transgender actors, paints an idyllic portrait of formerly pro-Soviet sailors at the Kronstadt naval garrison who rebelled against the perceived failures of the new Bolshevik state.

Shoot them like partridges

I don’t care much for people who enjoy killing things, but I am willing to put up with hunters as long as they don’t carry their habits into private and public life. (Trotsky wired Zinoviev re the Kronstadt sailors, in revolt for the fulfillment of the promises of the Revolution, “Shoot them like partridges.” Bertrand Russell commented, “A hunter should never be allowed to lead a revolution.”)

—Kenneth Rexroth “Hemingway”, 1961

***

“You think perhaps I am a Royalist? No. If there was anybody in heaven or hell to pray to I would pray for a revolution — a red revolution everywhere.”

“You astonish me,” I said, just to say something.

“No! But there are half a dozen people in the world with whom I would like to settle accounts. One could shoot them like partridges and no questions asked. That’s what revolution would mean to me.”

“It’s a beautifully simple view,” I said.

—Joseph Conrad The Arrow of Gold, 1919

***

In a recent post, I quoted Michael Ezra thus:

In [Isaac Deutscher's] account of the Kronstadt rebellion, there is no mention of Trotsky’s famous order, “shoot them like partridges.”

In a comment, Steve Parsons writes:

I might be wrong but I think it was Zinoviev who is associated with the phrase “shoot them like p[h]easants”.

For an extensive review – a political critique but also a partial listing of some of the numerous factual inacurracies – of Service’s biography on Trotsky see David North’s ´In the service of historical falsification’

I’ve always thought it was Trotsky, but wondered if it was one of those urban myths, so present here the fruits of some of my googling. It seems it was a committee that Zinoviev chaired, although Trotsky may have had a role in its distribution. However, I think it is fair to say that Trotsky shared the sentiment.

TrotskyParade01.JPG (60177 bytes)Quick background: in February 1921, the sailors of Kronstadt in Russia, a stronghold of the revolution, raised 15 demands for greater freedom for working class people and peasants. In March, the Red Army moved to suppress the sailors, killing over 1000. Leon Trotsky, as Commissar for War, played a key role in this suppression. As did Zinoviev, by 1921 head of the Petrograd party organization, chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, and a full member of the party’s Politburo.

1. From Israel Gertzler Kronstadt 1917-1921: The Fate of a Soviet Democracy (2002, p.220):

on 4 March 4 an ‘Appeal’ by Zinoviev‘s Defence Committee of Petrograd denounced ‘all those Petrichenkos and Tu[k]ins’, meaning Kronstadt’s Revolutionary Committee, as ‘puppets who dance at the behest of Tsarist general Kozlovsky’ and ‘other notorious White Guards’, and demanded the Kronstadters’ unconditional surrender, or else ‘you will be shot down like partridges‘.

2. From The Soviet image: a hundred years of photographs from inside the TASS archives by Peter Radetsky, p.59:

Trotsky ordered leaflets airdropped over the [Kronstadt] base, informing his former comrades that if they didn’t surrender within twenty-four hours, “I’ll shoot you like pheasants.”Downtown, Buenos Aires: Viva the Kronstadt rebellion by michaelramallah.

3. Ida Mett, from “The Kronstadt Commune” (1938):

On 5th. March, the Petrograd Defence Committee issued a call to the rebels.

‘You are being told fairy tales when they tell you that Petrograd is with you or that the Ukraine supports you. These are impertinent lies. The last sailor in Petrograd abandoned you when he learned that you were led by generals like Kozlovskv. Siberia and the Ukraine support the Soviet power. Red Petrograd laughs at the miserable efforts of a handful of White Guards and Socialist Revolutionaries. You are surrounded on all sides. A few hours more will lapse and then you will he compelled to surrender. Kronstadt has neither bread nor fuel. If you insist, we will shoot you like partridges.

‘At the last minute, all those generals, the Kozlovskvs, the Bourksers, and all that riff raff, the Petrichenkos, and the Tourins will flee to Finland, to the White guards. And you, rank and file soldiers and sailors, where will you go then? Don’t believe them when they promise to feed you in Finland. Haven’t you heard what happened to Wrangel’s supporters? They were transported to Constantinople. There they are dying like flies, in their thousands, of hunger and disease. This is the fate that awaits you, unless you immediately take a grip of yourselves. Surrender Immediately! Don’t waste a minute. Collect your weapons and come over to us. Disarm and arrest your criminal leaders, and in particular the Tsarist generals. Whoever surrenders immediately will be forgiven. Surrender now.

‘Signed: The Defence Committee’.

4. Alexander Berkman, from The Kronstadt Rebellion:

smp1Trotsky had been expected to address the Petro-Soviet, and his failure to appear was interpreted by some as indicating that the seriousness of the situation was exaggerated. But during the night he arrived in Petrograd and the following morning, March 5, he issued his ultimatum to Kronstadt:

The Workers and Peasants Government has decreed that the Kronstadt and the rebellious ships must immediately submit to the authority of the Soviet Republic. Therefore I command all who have raised their hand against the Socialist fatherland to lay down their arms at once. The obdurate are to be disarmed and turned over to the Soviet authorities. The arrested Commissars and other representatives of the Government are to be liberated at once. Only those surrendering unconditionally may count on the mercy of the Soviet Republic.

Simultaneously I am issuing orders to prepare to quell the mutiny and subdue the mutineers by force of arms. Responsibility for the harm that may be suffered by the peaceful population will fall entirely upon the heads of the counter-revolutionary mutineers. This warning is final.

TROTSKY
Chairman Revolutionary Military Soviet of the Republic

KAMENEV
Commander-in-Chief

The situation looked ominous. Great military forces continuously flowed into Petrograd and its environs. Trotsky’s ultimatum was followed by a prikaz which contained the historic threat, “I’ll shoot you like pheasants”.

[Note: The same text is in Voline’s The Unknown Revolution, bk.3, pt.1, ch.5, and in Berkman’s The Paris Commune and Kronstadt, which notes that the threat was distributed “by a military flying machine”].

5. Daniel Bell, from “First Love and Early Sorrows” (Partisan Review, 1981):

frontpiecesome anarchist relatives, cousins of my mother, a Russian Jewish couple who lived in Mohegan Colony… took me to see Rudolf Rocker, the venerable Anarchist leader, an imposing and portly man with a large square head and imposing brush of gray hair, who then lived in the Colony… In parting, he gave me a number of Anarchist pamphlets, by Malatesta, by Kropotkin (on the Paris Commune), and in particular two pamphlets by Alexander Berkman, The Russian Tragedy and The Kronstadt Rebellion, pamphlets in English but “set up and printed for Der Syndikalist,” Berlin 1922–pamphlets That I have before me as I write (one inscribed in a large round hand, “with fraternal greetings, A.B.. “)–and he suggested that I read Berkman’s The Bolshevik Myth, the diary of his years in Russia, 1920-1922, a copy of which I soon found, and still have.

Every radical generation, it is said, has its Kronstadt. For some it was the Moscow Trials, for others the Nazi-Soviet Pact, for still others Hungary (The Raik Trial or 1956), Czechoslovakia (the defenestration of Masaryk in 1948 or the Prague Spring of 1968), the Gulag, Cambodia, Poland (and there will be more to come). My Kronstadt was Kronstadt.

… I wish it were possible to reprint in full the twelve pages of Berkman’s diary in Petrograd, from the end of February through mid-March 1921, for no bare summary can convey the immediacy, tension and drama as the sailors from the First and Second squadrons of the Baltic Fleet at Kronstadt, the men from the naval base at Petrograd who had catalyzed the October days in 1917, now appealed, following the spontaneous strikes of workers in Petrograd and Moscow, for the establishment of freedom of speech and press “for workers and peasants, for Anarchist and Left Socialist parties,” for the liberation of “all political prisoners of Socialist parties,” to “equalize The rations of all who work,” etc.

For Trotsky, who was Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Soviet, This was mvatezh, or mutiny. He demanded That the sailors surrender or “I’ll shoot you like pheasants.” The last three entries of Berkman’s diaries tell of the sorry end:

March 7. –Distant mumbling reaches my ears as I cross the Nevsky. It sounds again, stronger and nearer, as if rolling towards me. All at once I realize that artillery is being fired. It is 6 A.M. Kronstadt has been attacked! ….

March 17.–Kronstadt has fallen today.

Thousands of sailors and workers lie dead in its streets. Summary execution of prisoners and hostages continues.

March 18.7-The victors are celebrating the anniversary of the Commune of 1871. Trotsky and Zinoviev denounce Thiers and Gallifet for The slaughter of the Paris rebels.

6. Victor Serge, from“Kronstadt ’21″, originally published in Dwight and Nancy MacDonald’s politics (1945):

The Political Bureau finally made up its mind to enter into negoiations with Kronstadt, lay down an ultimatum, and, as a last resort, attack the fortress and the ice-bound battleships. As it turned out, no negotiations ever took place. But an ultimatum, couched in revolting language, appeared on the billboards over the signature of Lenin and Trotsky: ‘Surrender or be shot like rabbits!’. Trotsky, limiting his activities to the Political Bureau, kept away from Petrograd.

7. John G Wright, of the American SWP, in New International (1938):

In his recent comments on Kronstadt, Victor Serge concedes that the Bolsheviks once confronted with the mutiny had no other recourse except to crush it. In this he demarcates himself from the assorted varieties of Anarcho-Menshevism. But the substance of his contribution to the discussion is to lament over the experiences of history instead of seeking to understand them as a Marxist. Serge insists that it would have been “easy” to forestall the mutiny – if only the Central Committee had not sent Kalinin to talk to the sailors! Once the mutiny flared, it would have been “easy” to avoid the worst – if only Berkman had talked to the sailors! To adopt such an approach to the Kronstadt events is to take the superficial viewpoint: “Ah, if history had only spared us Kronstadt!” It can and does lead only to eclecticism and to the loss of all political perspectives.

8. Emma Goldman, from “Trotsky Protests Too Much” (1938):

Victor Serge is now out of the hospitable shores of the workers’ “fatherland.” I therefore do not consider it a breach of faith when I say that if Victor Serge made this statement charged to him by John G. Wright, he is merely not telling the truth. Victor Serge was one of the French Communist Section who was as much distressed and horrified over the impending butchery decided upon by Leon Trotsky to “shoot the sailors as pheasants” as Alexander Berkman, myself and many other revolutionists. He used to spend every free hour in our room running up and down, tearing his hair, clenching his fists in indignation and repeating that “something must be done, something must be done, to stop the frightful massacre.” When he was asked why he, as a party member, did not raise his voice in protest in the party session, his reply was that that would not help the sailors and would mark him for the Cheka and even silent disappearance. The only excuse for Victor Serge at the time was a young wife and a small baby. But for him to state now, after seventeen years, that “the Bolsheviki once confronted with the mutiny had no other recourse except to crush it,” is, to say the least, inexcusable. Victor Serge knows as well as I do that there was no mutiny in Kronstadt, that the sailors actually did not use their arms in any shape or form until the bombardment of Kronstadt began. He also knows that neither the arrested Communist Commissars nor any other Communists were touched by the sailors. I therefore call upon Victor Serge to come out with the truth. That he was able to continue in Russia under the comradely régime of Lenin, Trotsky and all the other unfortunates who have been recently murdered, conscious of all the horrors that are going on, is his affair, but I cannot keep silent in the face of the charge against him as saying that the Bolsheviki were justified in crushing the sailors.

Leon Trotsky is sarcastic about the accusation that he had shot 1,500 sailors. No, he did not do the bloody job himself. He entrusted Tuchachevsky, his lieutenant, to shoot the sailors “like pheasants” as he had threatened. Tuchachevsky carried out the order to the last degree. The numbers ran into legions, and those who remained after the ceaseless attack of Bolshevist artillery, were placed under the care of Dibenko, famous for his humanity and his justice.

Tuchachevsky and Dibenko, the heroes and saviours of the dictatorship! History seems to have its own way of meting out justice. [Tukhachevsky and Dibenko were executed by Stalin in 1937.]

[serge]9. Gabriel and Dany Cohn-Bendit, from Obsolete Communism, the Left-Wing Alternative (1968):

Every attempt to settle matters peacefully was rejected out of hand by the government; Trotsky ordered his troops ‘to shoot the Kronstadt “rebels” down like partridges’, and entrusted the task to Toukhatchevsky, a military expert taken over from the Old Regime.

10. Ian Birchall, from “Victor Serge: Hero or Witness?” (1998):

Serge’s position on Kronstadt is fairly clear (see the extensive treatment in The Serge-Trotsky Papers). At the time, although profoundly unhappy, he decided to accept the suppression of the revolt as necessary. Later, in the 1930s, when he was trying to explain why the revolution had degenerated, he came to see Kronstadt as one of the key stages. This led to a sharp exchange of views with Trotsky, which became perhaps unnecessarily polarised.

11. Cajo Brendel, from “Kronstadt: Proletarian Spin-Off of the Russian Revolution” (1971):

The Kronstadt Rebellion destroyed a social myth: the myth that in the Bolshevik state, power lay in the hands of the workers. Because this myth was inseparably linked to the entire Bolshevik ideology (and still is today), because in Kronstadt a modest beginning of a true workers’ democracy was made, the Kronstadt Rebellion was a deadly danger for the Bolsheviks in their position of power. Not only the military strength of Kronstadt – that at the time of the rebellion was very much impaired by the frozen gulf – but also the demystifying effect of the rebellion threatened Bolshevik rule – a threat that was even stronger than any that could have been posed by the intervention armies of Deniken, Kolchak, Judenitch, or Wrangel.

For this reason the Bolshevik leaders were from their own perspective or better, as a consequence of their social position (which naturally influenced their perspective) – forced to destroy the Kronstadt Rebellion without hesitation. While the rebels were – as Trotsky had threatened being ‘shot like pheasants’, the Bolshevik leadership characterized the Rebellion in their own press as a counterrevolution. Since that time this swindle has been zealously promoted and stubbornly maintained by Trotskyists and Stalinists.

This is what a pheasant looks like. This is what a partridge looks like. This is what the Red Army looked like.

Related reading: Steve Parsons on Robert Service’s A History of Twentieth Century Russia; The Truth About Kronstadt.

The life of Trotsky

Excellent post by Michael Ezra a propos of Robert Service’s new biography of Trotsky, but mainly taking apart Isaac Deutscher’s hagiography of Trotsky. Extract:

In [Deutscher's] account of the Kronstadt rebellion, there is no mention of Trotsky’s famous order, “shoot them like partridges.” He  was also not immune from errors of fact. For example, Deutscher claimed that the Kronstadt rebellion was “led by Anarchists.” In truth, as Robert Daniels had previously shown (American Slavic and East European Review, December 1951), it was “a strong opposition movement … in Communist Party organisations” that had been at the forefront of the rebellion. Despite the fact that thousands were killed by the Bolsheviks for this rebellion, Deutscher does not draw the logical conclusion that P.G. Maximoff had earlier drawn:

As in many other instances we have here a clear case of mass murder subject to criminal prosecution.

If anyone is any doubt as to the way Deutscher viewed Trotsky, his following sentence should give some clarification:

The passions of [Trotsky’s] intellect and heart, always uncommonly large and intense… swelled into a tragic energy as mighty and high as that which animates the prophets and the law-givers of Michelangelo’s vision.

Some interesting stuff too in the comments thread.

And from an opposite perspective, the Cedar Lounge Revolution on a review by Robert Harris of Service’s book. Also an interesting comment thread.

Or, for a totally different sort of Trotsky biog, check this out.

Bonus links: Trotsky on terrorism 1 & 2, Exile in Buyukada, Peter Taafe on Robert Service, Trotsky on factionalism, Sergei Essenin.

The image at the top comes from a wonderful photoset which goes with this nice post: The Trotsky Museum.

Click here for related posts, including Trotsky’s bad driving, Hitchens and Service chatting about Trotsky, Stalin’s nemesis, Trotsky’s ashes based into cookies.

Published in: on October 19, 2009 at 11:10 am  Comments (7)  
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Anarchist histories

Anarchist histories from Ian Bone. (Plus, below the fold, From the Archive of Struggle no.34, anarchist special, and some new books from AK Press.)

FELICIA BROWNE – ONLY PHOTO OF SPANISH CIVIL WAR FIGHTER

img059.jpg picture by sidstreet

KRONSTADT VIDEO

SPANISH ANARCHISTS SHOULD HAVE ELIMINATED COMMUNISTS IN JULY 1936

Ethel MacDonald writing from Barcelona.

ANARCHIST MEDALS

One for Leah Feldman.

MALATESTA FILM 1970?

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More notes

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

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

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

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

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