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:

Centrist Marxism

English: Heading of an ILP letter

The material on centrist Marxism was removed from the Wikipedia article on Centrism, so I have created a new article on the former. It is very much a work in progress, so anyone reading this who is a Wikipedia editor, please work on it. It started like this:

Centrism has a specific meaning within the Marxist movement, referring to a position between a revolutionary and reformist position. For instance, the Independent Labour Party (ILP) was seen as centrist because they oscillated between advocating reaching a socialist economy through reforms and advocating revolution. The members of the so-called Two-and-a-half and Three-and-a-half Internationals, who could not choose between the reformism of the social democrat Second International and the revolutionary politics of the Communist Third International, are exemplary of centrism in this sense; instances are the Spanish Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification (POUM), ILP and Poale Zion.

Revolutionary Marxists often describe centrism in this sense as opportunistic, since it argues for a revolution at some point in the future but urges reformist practices in the mean time; Libertarian socialists and anarchists view any reformism as political opportunism because they view reformism as incapable of effecting structural changes to social organization.[1]

The term “Centrism” also denotes positions held by some of the Bolsheviks during the 1920s. In this context, “Centrism” refers to a position between the Right Opposition (which supported the New Economic Policy and friendly relations with capitalist countries) and the Left Opposition (which supported an immediate transition to a socialist economy and world revolution). By the end of the 1920s, the two opposing factions had been defeated by Joseph Stalin who eventually gained enough support from members of the factions through the application of various ideas formed by the factions’ various leaders. (i.e. Leon TrotskyNikolai Bukharin, etc.)

(more…)

Polemics

I enjoyed this post by Alan A at Harry’s Place on the the Stalinist control of  “progressive” political space in Britain. Here’s an extract:

The Guardian’s Wykhamist associate editor, Seumas Milne,  cut his political teeth in the Straight Left faction of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Straight Left were “Tankies”: that is, hardline Stalinist opponents of the liberalising “Eurocommunist” faction within the CPGB. They were called “Tankies” becstdause they (notionally) supported the “liberation” (by tanks) of Hungary and Czechoslovakia from “counterrevolutionaries” in 1956 and 1968. Here’s Milne, demonstrating his lack of repentance:

For all its brutalities and failures, communism in the Soviet Union, eastern Europe and elsewhere delivered rapid industrialisation, mass education, job security and huge advances in social and gender equality. It encompassed genuine idealism and commitment… Its existence helped to drive up welfare standards in the west, boosted the anticolonial movement and provided a powerful counterweight to western global domination.

Milne has helped to fill the comment pages of the Guardian with the supporters and representatives of genocidal antisemitic terrorist movements.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is run by Kate Hudson, who is a leading member of the Communist Party of Britain. The CPB is the Stalinist rump of the CPGB, which reconstituted itself after the Eurocommunist wing dissolved the party. CND itself previously contained a Stasi spy, Vic Allen, at its highest level.

Hudson was previously married to the late Redmond O’Neil, Ken Livingstone’s chief of staff, who was an activist in Socialist Action: which is what the Trotskyite International Marxist Group became after it infiltrated the Labour Party. Socialist Action controls the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Kate Allen, the Director of Amnesty International UK… Under her leadership, Amnesty has hosted a series of meetings promoting the delegitimisation and indeed the destruction of Israel, at which prominent anti-Jewish racists have spoken. Moreover, her team at Amnesty includes Elena Dallas the daughter of Tony Cliff: the founder of the Socialist Workers Party,

The Stop the War Coalition is run by Andrew Murray, also of the Communist Party of Britain. He is also the communications officer of the union, Unite. Famously, he is a supporter of North Korea:

“Our Party has already made its basic position of solidarity with Peoples Korea clear”

I could say more, but you get the general idea.

Stalinism watch:

From The Soviet Files: An American ‘Negro Republic’ – the Communist Secession plot; Paul Robeson, Stalinist;

More polemics:

The AWL versus the anarchists; Carl Packman vs Hugo Chavez.

Book notes:

A review (scroll down) of Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against the American Grain by Dwight Macdonald (New York Review of Books, October 2011)

Unfortunately, like the political causes Macdonald championed—he was long-involved with the anti-Stalinist left and fancied himself an anarchist—history has not been kind to his cherished concept of Midcult. The cultural lines that Macdonald defended have mostly gone the way of the Berlin Wall, replaced by a heterogeneous culture of blended boundaries.

And from Socialist Review: A Rebel’s Guide to Rosa Luxemburg by Sally Campbell, Classic read – Studs Lonigan by James T Farrell.

History notes:

The AWL on the Clyde Workers’ Committee of 1915; Rosa Luxemburg on trade union bureaucracy; Paul Buhle on syndicalism;

From Entdinglichung:

Erklärung des Barrikade-Herausgebers zu den Ermittlungsverfahren wegen Rudolf Rocker, gefunden auf syndikalismus.tk, die Staatsanwaltschaft Münster hat das vom Rechthaber und bürgerlichen Kommunalpolitiker Heiner M. Becker angestrengte Verfahren gegen einen Genossen wegen angeblicher Verletzung Beckerscher Urheberrechte an Rudolf Rocker eingestellt, hier ein Auszug:

„Die Staatsanwaltschaft Münster hat umfängliche Untersuchungen angestellt und das gesamte Umfeld der FAU und der Internet-Plattform „Syndikalismus.tk“ ausgeleuchtet.

Was bleibt? Bösartige Verleumdung, nachweislich falsche Anschuldigungen, unbewiesene Behauptungen – und eine Staatsanwaltschaft, die nun eine dicke Akte über die aktuelle anarchosyndikalistische Szene („Bewegung“) vor sich liegen hat.

Dies hat nun zwar für mich keine weiteren strafrechtlichen Konsequenzen, aber der Schaden für unsere kleine Bewegung ist immens. Aus diesem Grunde verlange ich eine öffentliche Erklärung der FAU Berlin zu diesem Vorgang und die Übernahme sämtlicher Kosten, die durch diese Beschuldigung [strafrechtlich übrigens ebenso relevant lt. §§ 164 und 187 StGB wie eine Verletzung eines angeblichen Urheberrechts] entstanden sind, durch die Verursacher.

Ansonsten bleibt es dabei: weder Heiner M. Becker noch sonstwer hat die Rechte und private Verfügungsgewalt über das literarische und agitatorische Werk von Rudolf Rocker und seiner Frau Milly Wittkop-Rocker!“

bleibt anzumerken, dass die Schriften aller Revolutionäre der revolutionären Bewegung gehören, woran auch das Rumgepupe von angeblichen Eigentümern – ob sie nun Herr Becker oder Pathfinder Press heissen – nichts ändert!

From the US Marxist Humanists:

An assessment of the Arab Spring half a year later, in light of (1) the “clash of barbarisms” between the U.S. and Al Qaeda, (2) Marx’s concept of revolution, and (3) the possibilities for a revolutionary future Read More…

Marx’s writings on slavery, race, and class in relation to capital are examined in light of critics who paint him as a class reductionist with little awareness of or sensitivity to race

Poummm

The Road to Wigan Pier

Image via Wikipedia

Paul Stott: History Retold: From Wigan Pier To The Paris Commune

Two interesting uses for Twitter and Blogging.

Seventy five years on, the people behind the Orwell Prize website have been reposting daily extracts from George Orwell’s The Road To Wigan Pier. The format seems to suit Orwell perfectly, and to take one example – his description of Rudyard Lake in Staffordshire, is evocative to anyone who has every visited a sight out of season.

A second use of this method comes from Alex Butterworth, who is tweeting a daily update of events at the Paris Commune, reproducing the voices of the participants – shame we know how it ended!

And a third to mark 200 years on from the days when the Luddites rioted across the north and the midlands - even would you believe, in Wilmslow!

Jim D at Shiraz Socialist:

Of course, the New Statesman has form. Back in the 1930′s it refused to publish George Orwell’s writings on the Spanish Civil War for fear of offending the Comintern and their local agents. Orwell never forgave the then-editor Kingsley Martin, a supple-spined “left” power-worshipper who seems to have uncannily prefigured both Peter Wilby (editor 1998-2005) and the present incumbent Jason Cowley.

The final straw, for me,  came last week with an edition edited by upper class “wadical” Jemima Kahn, largely devoted to promoting the preening anti-semitic loon Julian Assange and other posh friends and relatives like her Tory brother Zac Goldsmith and her ex-hubby Hugh Grant. The high-spot of the issue is Jemima’s own interview with her friend  Nick Clegg , who wails, “I’m not a punchbag: I have feelings.”

Rosie Bell:

On the left there is a hero gap.  Che is dead, Castro too old, Ortega is compromised, and Chavez is a bit of a buffoon. Enter Assange to fill the space.  His appearance adds to the mystique.  He is pale, and looks slightly alien and that along with his giant computer-like brain gives him the air of someone from a science fiction world, some sister planet of Vulcan where they have not evolved pointed ears.  He came as the man of mystery and enigma.

Also:

Witty anarchists: Red Star Commando on Marxism and anarchism. Anarchist jokes.

Earnest Trotskyists: Lenin and James Connolly on the Dublin labour war of 1913. Peter Taaffe on Eric Hobsbawm. SOYMB on Chris Bambery. (OYMB not the earnest Trots – Bambery is!)

Alternative socialist traditions: Andrew Coates on GDH Cole, guild socialism and Blue Labour, and via him an interesting Guild Socialism blog, with posts on Karl Marlo and loads more.

Towards a theory of radical history: Dave Osler on generations, and the 2010 generation of radicals.

Unrelated: Dali and the Jews.

Notes on Third Campism and liberal interventionism

1. Read the series of posts on Libya at Lady Poverty: 1234.

2. Read Kellie on Eammon McCann’s reminiscences in Socialist Worker of his meeting with Gaddafi in 1987.

3. An extract from Boffy’s comments at Though Cowards Flinch:

However, the problem I still have is that if you argue that workers intervnetion is alright up to a point, but given our weaknesses at the moment, there is a limit to what they can achieve, you still end up with the “Something Must Be Done” argument. The point is that sometimes doing nothing other than what you can do, which might simply be saying what should be done if workers had the power to do it, is better than doing something, which is a lesser evil.

For example, a while ago, I wrote some blogs about the AWL’s position taken from Albert Glotzer about the establishment of the state of Israel. Glotzer & ImmigrationGlotzer & The Jews As Special, and Glotzer, anti-Semitism and the degenerated workers state. Glotzer argued that the socialist position argued up to that time that nationalist struggles were reactionary and divisive of the working class could no longer hold for the Jews after the Holocaust. Jews could not wait for the working-class to come together and resolve the problem. Only the Zionist idea of creeating a separate Jewish State could address the immediate concerns of Jews. Something had to be done. It was a moral not a Marxist argument. (more…)

ibn-Poum

My new favourite blog: Journeyman. See for example:

Via the Journeyman, On This Deity. Some recent samples:

In a related vein, a great post from Rustbelt Radical: Egypt, the Commune and Coriolanus; Marx and Shakespeare in Historic Times

And a soundtrack to this post: Nina Simone.

Below the fold, from the archive of struggle, via Entdinglichung: (more…)

Poumatica

Debs Poster USA 1904

Image via Wikipedia

“Stalin proclaims the happiness of the people, distributes decorations, photographs, watches, with both hands and has his picture taken kissing little girls of all the old races of Asia….The widows of dead aviators thank him, the entire press is nothing but praises for the “beloved leader”, “the wisest and greatest of all ages”…Everything revolves around the new Imperator cult. And never will the paean of praise attain a higher pitch of exaltation than the day after the leader has massacred his oldest comrades in struggle, the men who had worked with Lenin.” (’From Lenin To Stalin’, Monad Press, New York,1973, p.82. Via Des Derwin)

The past in the present

*Paul Mason: Interviewing Karl Marx on the economic crisis.

*Orwell’s Indian birthplace has been declared a protected site. (See here for background.)

*Christopher Hitchens: A nice cup of tea. (See also Freemania: “Tea, like modesty, irony and imperialism, is something that we Brits understand far better than Americans do (indeed, we have our imperialism to thank for our tea expertise). Perhaps the USA would benefit from the establishment of a Campaign for Real Tea, to promote this simple, vital but apparently not self-evident truth.”)

*Victor Serge: Tunisia, A Restless Winter Walk. Beautiful.

*CLR James: Haiti: The Black Jacobins

*David Rosenberg: ‘The Battle of Cable Street’ – 75 years on

*Louis Proyect: Rethinking the question of a revolutionary program (love the photo illustrating the post)

*Carl Packman: Internal bickering versus “whistling in the dark” (citing Paul Mattick); The Independent Labour Party and the scourge of left wing politicsA reply to Jim Jepps.

*Paddington: We want our teachers back!

*Tony PinkneyMasters of the universe: Paul Lafargue on the present banksters’ crisis.

*Luisa Passerini, Lance Thurner: Memory, history, and activism on the Mexican border:

*Andrew Stone: the state of history teaching in British schools today in the latest issue of International Socialism journal. [H/t Snowball]

*The Resolute Reader: Karl Kautsky’s The Agrarian Question

*Owen Hatherley; Why have you come to Murmansk?

*American Leftist: Anarchism in the city; Serge’s Unforgiving years.

*Sasha Abramsky: A house of books (on Chimen Abramsky)

*David Osler: The right to sell socialist newspapers (“have no time for the RCG’s peculiar brand of nutty semi-Stalinist third worldist ultraleftism. But this development will surely worry everybody who has ever stood outside a shopping centre or an industrial workplace trying to flog revolutionary socialist agitprop.”)

*River’s edge: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine an Armani stiletto, stamping on a human face, forever.”

*Kellie Strom: A stain on a wall: Erich Kastner in Tunisia.

*Jim Denham: Police spies in our midst.

*Histomatist: Journalists and Revolution: The Case of Arthur Ransome

From the archive of struggle (more…)

Published in: on January 19, 2011 at 3:14 pm  Comments (2)  
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For Engels

Friedrich Engels picture at Nikolaistraße/Kaul...

Image via Wikipedia

Sunday was the 190th anniversary of Friedrich Engels’ birth. The great man is honoured in this post at Socialism or Your Money Back.

Also read: David Riazanov on the Anti-Duhrung (also a major theme on Thomas Riggins’ philisophy blog), a great Engels quote at Stalin’s moustache, and this portrait of his friend Helen McFarlane.

Update: Stalin’s moustache brings you the t-shirt:

 

Great Belgian Marxists

Dave Osler last week opened his post “What Amber Wellesley-Smith hates about Ed Miliband” with two truly brilliant sentences:

AS A working journo myself, I do fully appreciate that the designation ‘Red Ed’ has attractions for tabloid headline writers that ‘meat and potatoes continental European social democrat Ed’ can never hope to match.

But even though Mr Miliband is the offspring of the second-greatest Marxist thinker Belgium ever produced, the latter is actually a rather more accurate description.

Not surprisingly, the debate opens on who the greatest Marxist thinker Belgium produced. The obvious contender is of course Ernest Mandel, who was born in Frankfurt and grew up in Antwerp. Others include Abram Leon, born in Warsaw but grew up in Belgium and my favourite Victor Serge, who was born in Brussels to Russian exile parents (nominated by Skidmarx). Andrew Coates mentions the syndicalist Andrew Renard, who gave his name to Renardism. Bob adds Marcel Liebman, a close friend of Ralph Miliband‘s. He’s not exactly a great thinker, but there is also Georges Vereeken, who played a key role in Belgian Trotskyism and in the international support for the POUM. Then, from Wikipedia, I learn of  Todor AngelovManuel AbramowiczAlbert De Coninck, Bert Van Hoorick and Charles Plisnier, although none of them really counts, as far as I can tell, as a great thinker. However, for a small country, what a lot of Marxist talent.

By the way, I have created a new category on the blog, “Milibandism“, for all the posts on Ralph, Ed, Dave and co. Don’t ever say I don’t ride the waves of fashion.


Published in: on October 19, 2010 at 12:34 pm  Comments (2)  
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Poumastise

Anarchism versus Marxism

A Greek tragedy (on the Leninist fight against petit bourgeious violence in the revolution).

Marxist theory

Reading The Grundrisse; Thinking About Athens’ Rage

Bonapartism, Bureaucracy, Categories, Lessons And The Revolution Betrayed

Chris Harman: not all Marxism is dogmatic

Daniel Bensaid: Working class, social movement, alliances – and the limits of radical democracy

Stalinism and anti-Stalinism

Stalin, Robeson, and Me.

Claire Berlinski at City Journal wonders why hardly anyone cares about the unread Soviet archives [via Michael Totten]. Ron Radosh responds. Berlinksi replies to him. Ron comes back again.

Human Rights Watch in the NYRB on Castro’s Cuba. (And Radosh’s response to that.)

Anarchist theory

Murray Bookchin’s political development.

Dave Graeber interview (original source here, with unreadable formatting).

Iberian culture

Belated

I can’t believe I missed the death of the talented singer songwriter Llasa de Sela age just 37 at the start of 2010. See Roland/Jams.

And some late additions to my Colin Ward obituaries: from Peter Marshall, author of Demanding the Impossible, from Critical Chatting, and from Robert Graham.

And one more for Michael Foot – the JC with a Jewish angle.

And two more obituaries, via Histomatist: The new issue of Socialist Review has a short article on the founder of the International Socialist TendencyTony Cliff (1917-2000) by Ian Birchall – at work on a forthcoming biography of this critically important twentieth-century revolutionary Marxist thinker. See also Sabby Sagall on the British actor and revolutionary socialist [sic] Corin Redgrave (1939-2010).

Talking of mourning (not that we’re mourning Redgrave), the New Centrist: “Pray for the twenty-nine West Virginia miners who lost their lives and their families. Then get active. Amending Joe Hill’s famous phrase, don’t only mourn, organize.”

Max Dunbar: All shall have prizes. On the Orwell Prize, Stephen Mitchelmore, Nick Cohen, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and George Orwell’s anti-pacifism. Related, did Christopher Hitchens read the SWP’s John Molyneux and blogger Snowball after reading Animal Farm?

Principia D: Eric Hobsbawm: The Marxist who never read Marx. (“Not judging by this survey of Post-war Italy, anyway. “) More on this in a future post, maybe.

From January, Kathedar Blog with two very good interrelated posts: on Alex Callinicos on imperialism and on Marx and the dialectic.

AF: Steps towards re-emergence of anarchism in Cuba. See also here.

Jamie Bartlett: Politics and the English language 2.0.

Continuing our anarchism vs Marxism discussion, these lapidary posts from Lady Poverty are well worth your time: Marx and Foucault; A note about Marx and FoucaultThe point, as it relates to Holden Caulfield and Karl Marx; Marxism vs. identity anarchism. And here, very much less to my taste, is a contribution from a Maoist: Anarchism or revolutionary Marxism? by Arindam Sen of the CPI(ML).

Also chronically belated: New Statesman: Jonathan Derbyshire interviews Terry Eagleton on nostalgia for 1970s socialism.

And some considerable time after Michael Foot’s death, this from Brian Brivati: Foot and Nye Bevan.

Wobbling around the world: a socialist belatedly discovers the IWW.

On Maoism: Richard Wolin remembers the Maoist 1960s, and Apoorvanand analyses Maoism in India, as does Dilip Simeon.

Wolin and Brivati come from Arguing The World, the now not quite brand new trans-Atlantic blog at Dissent. Here is one more from that: Alan Johnson: Žižek or Bobbio? (The blog title is familiar to me from the PBS documentary about the New York intellectuals I link to over to the right – I ought to know whose being quoted: Irving Howe?)

I meant to link to this article on William Morris discovering socialism in Iceland when it came out, then forgot, but was prompted after noticing it at Histomatist – seems kind of timelier now, as Morris would no doubt be enjoying the effects of the volcano on the global tourism and agri-industries.

Finally, how can I post these days without mentioning Hugo Chavez? This is from the Venezuelan anarchist journal El Libertario: Venezuela: the myth of “Eco-socialism of the XXI Century” The author is Professor and Researcher at the Simon Bolivar University in Caracas. This contribution is the revised excerpt from a longer article appeared in Spanish in the Journal of Economics and Social Sciences (FACES-UCV) entitled “XXI Century Eco-socialism and Bolivarian Development Model: the myths of environmental sustainability and participatory democracy in Venezuela “, 2009, vol. 15, No. 1, pp.187-223 

Anarchism versus Leninism

I’ve still not followed this up, but Andy brings to our attention a whole spate of recent Leninist critiques of anarchism. The most sophisticated is Marxism and anarchism byPaul Blackledge in International Socialism Journal. Most of the others are by crude defenders of ortho-Marxism like Alan Woods. Slightly different, and worth reading, are Steven Strauss’ socialist indictment of Noam Chomsky (Freedom Road Socialist Party) and “The Historical Failure of Anarchism” [pdf] by Christopher Day, then of Love and Rage.

The question is, I suppose, why are Leninist so keen right now to take up arms against anarchism? Is it a sign that anarchism is ascendant, that anarchism has better expressed working class rage at the economic crisis at a time when the left should be growing but isn’t?

Poumunk

Colin Ward

From SlackBastard:

[…] UK anarchist Colin Ward has died. His Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2004) is both very short and quite good, and his appeal as a writer was widespread, his many, generally pithy writings emphasising the practical dimensions of Anarchy in Action. (Revolution by the Book has an extract from Anarchy in Action here; AK Press is also publishing Autonomy, Solidarity, Possibility: The Colin Ward Reader later this year.) In addition to being the author of numerous books and pamphlets, Ward edited Anarchy zine for its first 100 issues (1961–1970), criticised by some as being reflective of anarchism’s absorption by the middle class.

OBITUARIES – 20: COLIN WARD, Paul Anderson, GAUCHE, February 17, 2010 | Colin Ward, RIP, Jesse Walker, Reason, February 17, 2010 | Colin Ward: pioneer of mutualism, Next Left, February 14, 2010 | Colin Ward Presente!, Dan Cull Weblog, February 14, 2010 | Colin Ward, Rob Ray, libcom, February 13, 2010 | Colin Ward, Ross Bradshaw, Five Leaves Blog, February 12, 2010.

See also : Anarchism in Action: Methods, Tactics, Skills, and Ideas, Second Edition (draft), Complied and Edited by Shawn Ewald.

Marxism etc

Bob versus the Moonbats: marxism necessary but not sufficient.

Some items of interest from The Commune: Beyond the party-state, beyond the big bang; El Alto, bastion of social struggles in Bolivia; Readings on the Paris Commune from Marx, Bakunin, Kropotkin and the Situationists; The early Russian revolution: Laurat in wonderland (this is part 1 of a text on Lucien Laurat’s book L’Économie Soviétique: Sa Dynamique, son méchanisme, by  João Bernardo of Passa Palavra; the original in Portuguese is here, with part 2 here, presumably awaiting translation).

Half a century of the New Left Review: Coatesy has a long and fascinating critical elegy, and Entdinglichung reminds us of the 1960 edition. Michael Weiss has a different take.

Trottishness etc

The departure of Lindsey German from the British SWP is raising some interesting discussions of party democracy in the UK left blogosphere. Among the contributions are these: “When Zinoviev is in the majority he is for iron discipline, when he is in the minority he is against it“; “Once Tiberius is dead I, Sejanus, will rule as Emperor in Rome”; “It was the best times, it was the worst of times”….; United fronts or just fronts?; The examination of the conscience (or lack thereof). Odd how it brings out the erudition in bloggers with these titles.

Uncle Hugo

From SlackBastard:

And finally, um, for reasons best known to himself, but perhaps related to the recent departure of significant sections of the International Marxist Tendency, Uncle Hugo’s best mate Alan Woods has attacked Bakunin In Defence of Marxism.

The last link is worth clicking on, as it gets you an English translation of The Third Chavez by Demétrio Magnoli in O Estado de Sao Paulo, apparently “Brazil’s main bourgeois paper”. I found it quite perceptive, and Woods’ reply too tedious to bother with.

Karl Marx created the 1st International, Friedrich Engels participated in the founding of the 2nd, Lenin established the 3rd, Leon Trotsky founded the 4th and Hugo Chávez has just raised the banner of the 5th. “I take responsibility before the world, I think it is time to rally the 5th International and dare to make the call,” he said in a speech lasting five hours, at the opening session of the extraordinary congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) to the applause of 772 delegates in red shirts.

The congress was held in November. Then Chavez imposed energy rationing in the country, devalued the currency and introduced a dual exchange rate, nationalized a supermarket chain, suspended cable TV broadcasts and unleashed a bloody crackdown on student protests. […]

Chavez is living his third incarnation, which is also the last. The first Chavez emerged after the failed coup of 1992, in the guise of nationalist and anti-American warlord mesmerized by the image of an imaginary Simón Bolívar. Under the influence of Argentine sociologist Norberto Ceresole, that original Chavismo flirted with anti-Semitism and dreamed of the establishment of an authoritarian, fascist-style state, which would reunify Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador in a restored Great Colombia.

A second Chávez could be discerned in outline in the spring of the first term in 1999, after the break with Ceresole, when the Leader drew close to Heinz Dieterich, a German Professor of Sociology in Mexico who came out of obscurity to formulate the concept of “socialism of the 21st century.” Chavismo reinvented itself and acquired left-wing collaborators, formed an alliance with Cuba and engaged in the project of building a state capitalism that was presented as a long transition towards a kind of socialism untainted by the Soviet legacy.

Brandishing a copy of The State and Revolution by Lenin, the Chavez of the extraordinary congress of the PSUV announced his conversion to the programme of the destruction of the “bourgeois state” and the building of a “revolutionary state.” This third Chavez was already implied in 2004, when the Leader got to know the British Trotskyist Alan Woods, and was fully manifest by the time of his defeat in the referendum of December 2007, shortly after the break with Dieterich. The PSUV is a result of Chavismo of the third period, as is also the proclamation of the 5th International.

The uses and abuses of history cont.

Bob posts on the Holocaust against the Roma and Jewish partisans in Greece, with lovely music. Chris Ford responds to Red Maria on Stepan Bandera (which I linked to here, to Will’s consternation). Graeme writes on an overlapping topic here.

Some things I’ve read lately

La Brigada on George Orwell:

I observed the fiftieth anniversary of Orwell’s death by re-reading Crick’s biography of the man. It is a remarkably fine achievement. This incongruous story appeals:
‘When Queen Elizabeth [the late Queen Mother], whose literary adviser was Osbert Sitwell, sent the Royal Messenger to Secker & Warburg for a copy [of Animal Farm] in November, he found them utterly sold out and had to go with horse, carriage, top hat and all, to the anarchist Freedom Bookshop, in Red Lion Square, where George Woodcock gave him a copy.’

Oliver Kamm on British Stalinists Andrew Murray and Kate Hudson:

Murray and Hudson are members of a group called the Communist Party of Britain. You’ll find that Ms Hudson’s idea of nuclear disarmament, as urged to a party gathering in 2006, is unusual, for here was the message from the platform:

‘Keith Bennett of the Korea Friendship and Solidarity Campaign said that the current crisis on the Korean peninsula had not been caused by the North Korean nuclear test.

‘”The context is one of unfinished business of a national liberation struggle against US imperialism,” he asserted.’

The national liberation struggle he has in mind is the triumph of what – since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein – has no rival as the worst, most nightmarish tyranny in the world.

Murray once wrote a short book called The Communist Party of Great Britain: A Historical Analysis to 1941. It’s not dated but it was published in the mid-1990s by a short-lived group called Communist Liaison. Here’s Murray’s analysis of the Communist Party’s attitude to Stalinist terror (page 74, emphasis added):

“Over the whole period of the CPGB’s existence, its relation to the USSR has been probably the most controversial issue, both within and without the Party. The Party has clearly paid a price for its defence of the first Socialist state in the world, particularly when it has subsequently been proved that that defence was based on misinformation and misjudgments. Yet the party could only judge on the information it had, and even that had to be handled in the context of the international class struggle in which the USSR was seen as playing (and actually did play) the most important role on the side of anti-fascism, anti-imperialism and social progress. That things happened in the USSR which were inexcusable and which ultimately prejudiced Socialism’s whole prospect is today undeniable. Whether Communists in the capitalist world could or should have done more than they did is much more contentious.”

In short, Murray believes that it’s an open question whether the Communist Party would have been right to protest against the Moscow Trials and the Great Terror.

Terry Glavin on the uses and abuses of history:

My good friend Peter Ryley has composed an important protest against that similarly popular abuse of history which sets out to simplistically conflate socialism with fascism and thus elide crucial distinctions between authoritarianism and totalitarianism. Equally detestable though these tyrannies may be, there’s no excuse for falling for propaganda so silly that it will have you playing games of connect-a-dot between Naziism and liberalism.

To properly interrogate this contemporary fad, you will unavoidably encounter its evil twin, which is to say you will find yourself staring at the ugliest face of European pro-Islamofascist leftism, as noted a while back by the always interesting Anti-German Translation. Their headline sums it up well enough: The Racism of Radical Islam’s Useful Idiots.

For further and necessary proofs of Peter’s case, historical evidence is in abundance in Enzo Traverso’s The Aporias of Marxism. He notes that too many German Jews kept faith for too long in the resilience of the identity they had incorporated within German society, and they were not alone in their mistake: “The workers’ movement was no more ready to deal with the catastrophe.” There were warnings, of course, most presciently from Leon Trotsky. But they want largely unheeded, owing to eejits making a similar kind of silly “liberalism equals fascism” mistake that’s popular today. “However, in 1933, Nazism unleashed its attack on the workers’ organizations, not on the Jews. Nazi anti‑Semitism developed gradually and inexorably, passing through several stages: first discrimination and the questioning of emancipation again (1933-35); then economic depredations and the adoption of a policy of persecution (1938-41); finally extermination (1941-45). The destruction of the workers’ movement was not a gradual process: it was, in fact, one of the conditions for the consolidation of the Nazi regime.” And some people obstinately refuse to learn from the great errors of history: “Marxist literature of the interwar period tended to explain Nazi anti-Semitism as a ‘tool’ of the ruling classes, without seeing in it a new phenomenon.”

Also: Bob’s father remembers Bertrand Russell. Max Dunbar and Paul Sagar on the left and China. Eamonn McDonagh on the smearing of Jacobo Timerman. Engels Defrocked and other book reviews in the Socialist Standard. RIP Nina Fishman.

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.

Two Cries of Freedom

[José Serrano: ‘Soleá’]

From Two Cries of Freedom: Gypsy Flamenco from the Prisons of Spain (ROIR, 1998), feat. José Serrano and Antonio “El Agujetas”.

Dedicated to Paul ‘Jock’ Palfreeman, a 23 year old Australian currently in prison in Sofia, Bulgaria. He is undergoing trial on charges of murder and attempted murder after an encounter with a gang of 16 far-right football hooligans. The gang were assaulting two Roma (Gypsy) men when Jock intervened in their defence.

More bloggery below the fold. (more…)

From the archive of struggle no.37

In previous issues, I have featured the Labadie Collection, the Holt Labor Library, and other American archives. Today, we turn to Ireland.

The MultiText Project in History is an innovative educational project, brought to you by the History Department, University College Cork. It is the largest and most ambitious project undertaken by any university to provide resources for students of Modern Irish History at all levels: University students, the general reader, and second-level students. The project aims to publish a minimum of 12 books, each dealing with a separate period of Irish history. Each book contains accounts of key personalities, concepts, and detailed elucidations of some case studies in the period.

Among the project’s galleries are one on James Connolly and one on James Larkin, and a case study of the 1913 strike and lockout in Dublin . Here are some of the features:

Farewell dinner for Connolly, New York, 1910.
Farewell dinner for Connolly, New York, 1910.
Farewell dinner on the occasion of Connolly’s departure from New York to return to Dublin, 14 July 1910.
Election leaflet in Yiddish.
Election leaflet in Yiddish.
Election leaflet in Yiddish in support of James Connolly in his campaign for election to Dublin Corporation for the Wood Quay Ward in 1902.
Moscow3
Larkin in Moscow as representative of the Workers’ Union of Ireland at the Fifth Congress of the Comintern.

Libertarian socialism?

My last post was on anarchist history, the one before on Marxist theory. This post links to some blog posts that try and think through the relationships between those two traditions. Many of these take as their starting point Staughton Lynd and Andrej Grubacic Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism and Radical History (which you can buy here).

Lady Poverty: Politics and class; Communists/Rudolf Rocker.

Socialist Humanism with a human face: Towards socialism; Anarchism and Marxism.

Eric Kerl, International Socialist Review: Debating how to change the world.

Revol68, LibCom: Marxism and Anarchism.

Upping the Anti: Wobblies and Zapatistas.

Independent Working Class Association: Economic democracy – the need for a vision, part 1.

Marxist theory 2

From The Commune:

From Workers Liberty:

Sketchy Thoughts:

Notes and Commentaries:

Links:

Marxist Theory 1 here.

Graphic Witness

This is wonderful: Karl Marx’s Capital in lithographs, by Hugo Gellert, from 1934, reached via Hak Mao. Gellert illustrated Max Eastman’s The Liberator too. File:Liberator-cover-1803.jpg

Below the fold, From the Archive of Struggle, no.31. I think this edition is almost completely stolen from Entdinglichung.

(more…)

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