Poumulator

Five (5) pesos. Mexican Revolution. Álvaro Obregón

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Blog posts:

Vincente Navarro: Salvador Dali, Fascist

Lauryn Oates: Hitchens Had it Right Then, and Now

Bernard-Henri Levy: Yes We Can (Save Sakineh)

Bob from Brockley: A tourist on the left

Michael Lebowitz: The spectre of barbarism, and its alternative

Next year county: Viva Mexico!

Theory and history:

Andrew Cheeseman: Two souls of socialism

Barry Biddulph: The red Jacobins

David Adam: Marx and Bakunin

Sheila Cohen: Syndicalism for the 21st century

Martine Bourne: Potere opero

Obituaries:

Tom Behan (see also this review of his book on working class resistance to Mussolini)

Edmund Kovacs

Barbara Zeluck

Ron Silber

More highlights from Against the Current, mainly on the Mexican revolution, below the fold.

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Anarchist notes

A few bits and bobs, not quite a full edition of my From the Archive of Struggle series.

Anarcho-syndicalists in the Mexican revolution: the Casa del Obrero Mundial

A critical account of the Mexican anarcho-syndicalist union the Casa del Obrero Mundial which took up arms against revolutionary peasants. From the Anarchist Federation, at LibCom.

The IWW and Music: Creating a Working Class Counter-Culture

This article discusses how the early IWW used music both as an organising tool and as a means of developing a sense of community among its members. It puts these activities in the context of the politics and practical activity of the IWW during this period.

KDVS Interview with Lucien van der Walt, co-author of “Black Flame”

The interview covers issues like defining anarchism, anarchism and trade unions today,  the issue of centralisation, anarchism and globalisation then and now, the Soviet Union and Communism,  the Spanish Civil War, anarchism and immigration today, the relationship between class struggle and other forms of oppression, anarchism after Seattle, and anarchism and postmodernism.

Proudhon, Marx and the Paris Commune

This update of Property is Theft! is focused on two key issues, Proudhon and Marx as well as Proudhon’s influence on the Paris Commune (which explains why it has been updated on the 18th of March!). The two are inter-related, simply because many key “Marxist” positions are first found in Proudhon’s work or date from the 1871 revolt and, ironically, simply repeat the ideas raised by the Communards who in turn found them in Proudhon…  The update involves the appendix of texts from the Commune as well as Proudhon’s 1846 letter to Marx and extracts from System of Economic Contradictions (both volume 1 and volume 2, some of the later translated for the first time).

Towards an anarchist history of the Chinese revolution

By Andrew Flood. Outside of a few events including the Long March and the Shanghai commune the development of the Chinese revolution is relatively unknown on the western left in comparison with the revolutions in Russia in 1917, Spain in 1936 or even the Paris spring of 1968. Those sections of that left influenced by or proclaiming themselves to be Maoist haven’t helped that situation much. Their histories have tended towards simple tales focusing on the role of one man and collapsed a 100-year history of revolution into the events important to him. [Italiano]

Organise! magazine anti-Poll Tax articles scanned in Issues 14-27 from 1988-1992

To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of non-payment of the Poll Tax in England & Wales (following non-registration in 1989 and solid mass non-payment in Scotland), to remember the commitment of community campaigns which helped us support each other in non-payment, and to take inspiration from the great Poll Tax Riot in London on 31th March 1990 and smaller uprisings in many local areas, we present all of the scanned in articles published in Organise! magazine over the period 1988-1992 spanning fourteen issue.

Books

This new book, Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver looks interesting.

Kingsolver doesn’t appear to suffer from writer’s block and she certainly hasn’t been twiddling her thumbs. Her understanding of Mexico and Spanish in The Lacuna are exemplary, and she must have researched deeply into the lives of Kahlo, Rivera, and Leon “Lev” Trotsky during the time he was one of Kahlo’s lovers. She doesn’t distort them into flawless heroes. They’re iconic figures, but portrayed warts and all: love affairs and self-obsession and revolutionary contradictions on all sides.

I haven’t yet read this review by Tariq Ali of Patenaude’s Stalin’s Nemesis and Robert Service’s Trotsky: A Biography. If anyone reads it, tell me if I should bother.

In this 1934 Diego Rivera mural, "Man, Controller of the Universe," Leon Trotsky makes an appearance.
In this 1934 Diego Rivera mural, “Man, Controller of the Universe,” Leon Trotsky makes an appearance. (more…)

Tristes tropiques

Levi Strauss

Claude Lévi-Strauss has died, aged 101.

Lévi-Strauss fled Vichy France in 1940, having been dismissed from his job due to Vichy racial laws. The New School for Social Research in New York, a reconstituted version of the Frankfurt school set up to rescue German refugee intellectuals, found a job for him, and the Rockefeller Foundation had a programme to rescue European scientists and thinkers. He made his way to Marseilles, and set sail for freedom in March 1941.

Other passengers on the boat, the Captain Paul-Lemerle, were Victor Serge, Andre Breton and Anna Seghers. The three of them were among the anti-fascists rescued by the great Varian Fry, a story told in his colleague Mary Jayne Gold’s Crossroads Marseilles 1940 (1980, now out of print) and more recently Rosemary Sullivan’s Villa Air-Bel (2006 HarperCollins).

Seghers was a German Communist writer. She had fled Nazi Germany for France, and was active in the exiled German writers union, which met at the Cafe Mephisto on Boulevarde St-Germain. Seghers had slipped across the line from German-occupied France to Vichy France the same month that Walter Benjamin took his life after being turned back from Spain in his bid to get to New York.

She had played a major role in the Congress for the Defence of Culture, held in Paris in 1935. At the Congress, Henri Poulaille, a French anarchist writer and editor, Magdelana Pa, a French Trotskyist, and Gaetano Salvemini, an Italian socialist, raised the question of Victor Serge’s incarceration in the Soviet gulag. (Serge was exiled in Orenberg at that time, the subject of his book Midnight in the Century.) Seghers, disgracefully, said this was a distraction: “When a house is burning, you can’t stop to help someone with a splinter in their finger.” It is not recorded, as far as I know, what conversation they had on the Captain Paul-Lemerle.

The Captain Paul-Lemerle, which had been built in 1921, landed in Martinique and then in Puerto Rico. At the latter, Lévi-Strauss had document trouble, and the Americans almost stopped him from proceeding. The fortunage intervention of another anthropologist, Jacques Soustelle, who happened to be PR in the service of De Gaulle’s Free French, rescued him. Levi Strauss went on to New York, where he was known as Claude L. Strauss, to avoid confusion with the popular jeans. Once the war was over, he worked as cultural counsellor of the French Embassy in Washington, before moving back to France in 1948. The first, very short, version of his wonderful memoir, Tristes Tropiques, was published in Encounter, the CIA-sponsored journal of the anti-Stalinist left.

Serge’s journey was not straightforward. He went to

Mexico (on a visa granted by President Cardenas hiniself), via Martinique (where he was detained in a camp for a month), Ciudad Trujillo and Havana. He reached Mexico in September 1941, and was immediately the object of violent articles, threats (to his life) from local and refugee Stalinists. (Jean Riére)

Seghors also went on to Mexico. Her anti-fascist novel, The Seventh Cross, which she had written in France, was published in English in New York and in German in Mexico. It has been serialised by a Soviet journal, International Literature, but the serialisation abrubtly halted with the Hitler-Stalin pact, when anti-fascism was no longer a Stalinist cause. Her Transit Visa, published in 1944, was a fictionalised account of the escape from France of the anti-fascist intellectuals, and the complex choreography of accidedents, lucky breaks and dishonesties by which they were able to obtain visas – “The Battle of the Visas” was Serge’s phrase for this.

Breton spent time in Martinique, then went on to New York.  He returned to France in 1946, and was active in radical politics until his death.

Added: Pierre Bourdieu on Levi-Strauss.

Poumatised

An extract from SlackBastard’s Bloggy Tuesday:

Gathering Forces is another blog what I think I’ve referred to before — but, now that I search for it, actually haven’t, I don’t think — that raises some interestink questions. If anything I wrote made the slightest difference to the success of their project, I’d wish them luck. It doesn’t, so I won’t.

Poumista is a blog I’ve referred to before, but as it’s totally neat-o, I thought I may as well do so again. It draws together a phantastic array of sauces on anarchist / Marxist / socialist history, and, like any good library, infoshop or second-hand bookshop, invites you to become lost in its wares, only to realise years have passed, and you’ve wasted your life reading. (And then you die.)

Stalin’s Moustache is all about Stalin and his moustache. Rather cleverly, the writer’s obsession with the facial hair grown on the upper lip of Uncle Joe is disguised by his authorship of various blogposts, articles and even books, seemingly dedicated to exploring such notions as socialism, biblical studies, politics, theology, philosophy “and so on”, but which the discerning reader, armed with the relevant machinetranslation, will soon discover are really all about Stalin (and, moreover, his moustache).

Stalin is alleged to have remarked that ‘Everybody has a right to be stupid, but some people abuse the privilege’. ‘There’s a sucker born every minute’ is a phrase often credited to P.T. Barnum (1810–1891), an American showman. ‘Never give a sucker an even break’, said W. C. Fields.

There then follows a long piece by Jorge Semprun which I highly recommend. Read it.

More links below the fold. (more…)

Poumaholic

Some alternative histories: The shipwrecked: anti-fascist refugees during WWII. Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia a century after his death. Rising East: London radical history day. Karl Pfeifer in Jerusalem.

Marek Edelman: Two more for the list: Terry Glavin’s post has a fascinating comment thread (I agree with The Plump), plus: This mandolin kills fascists.

La lucha continua: Venezuelan anarchism: Introducing El Libertario. Save Obtilia Eugenio Manuel. A visa for Principe Gabriel Gonzalez.

On old and new Stalinisms: Repelling Stalinoid attacks on Makhnovism. Happy Honecker! Nazi-Comintern collaboration and the DDR. A glorious leap backward. Socialist Unity: From Soviet Union to the GDR, and the People’s Republic of China. Stalin a mass murderer after all.

The democratic socialist tradition: The uncollected Michael Foot. Changing times: Minnie Lansbury and Poplarism. Reading about George Lansbury. Tom Paine for today.

Theory and praxis: Murdering the dead: on Amadeo Bordiga today. Castoriadis and magnanimity.

Politics and morality: The IMG and the morality of the Brighton bombing. The new McCarthyism and the BNP. A fitting tribute to Anna Politkovskaya.

See full size imageDurham Miners' Gala, Michael FootFrancisco Ferrer's PicturePolitkovskaya
Below the fold: Libcom’s most recent anarchist biographies. (more…)

On this day: 13 September 1944

Oops. Forgot that Drink-Soaked Trots is down. What’s going on there? Anyway, have pasted the whole text below the fold.

Victor Serge, “Les Carnets (notebooks) 1944″, guest posting at the Drink-Soaked Trots.

Second meeting of the committee of the independent socialist groups, to go over the draft of the political document worked out by M.P [Marceau Pivert*]., Giron [Enrique Gironella*] and W.S. It’s a kind of very primary Communist Manifesto, going back over all the old stock phrases of its kind.

I criticise it severely, considering that this kind of text can only discredit the handful of men who are responsible for it. They listen to me with interest and inward peevishness. I say that we cannot draft these documents on the spur of the moment today, since all the terms and all the ideas are due for revision in the light of the new realities, and launched into the raging storm. Confused and rather painful debate.[READ THE REST]

At this point, Serge was based in Mexico and involved in a group Socialismo y Libertad (other members included Julian Gorkin, Fritz Fränkel, René Lefeuvre and Luce Fabbri).

*For texts by Pivert in this period, see “Everything is Possible” (1936), “Down with national unity!” (1938), “Letter to Trotsky” (1939), “The Idea of a socialist Europe” (1947). Pivert was the leader of the PSOP, the POUM’s French sister party. Gironella was a POUM leader. Both were exiled in Spain. I’m not sure who W.S. is, although I ought to. Is it Wilebaldo Saldano? I think he was in France in 1944, and this meeting was in Mexico.

See also:

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Published in: on September 13, 2009 at 12:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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On this day: 7 August

At the bottom of the post, below the fold, book notes and the archive of struggle.

On this day, from Anarchoefemerides:

On this day in 1900, in Mexico, Regeneración: Periódico Jurídico Independiente was founded by Jesús Flores Magón,  Antonio Horcasitas, and Ricardo Flores Magón. This was a key event in Mexican anarchism and in starting the Mexican revolution. Read more here, here and here.

On this day in 1894, in Gijón in Asturias, Avelino González Mallada was born. He died earlier this month. Orphaned when he was six, he was brought up by his grandmother, and started work at a factory aged 11. In 1911 he joined the National Confederation of Labor (CNT) and was fired shortlywards. After a spell in Paris, he returned to Spain and, blacklisted for his politics, worked in the anarchist movement, editing periodicals likeVida Obrera and Solidaridad and teaching in libertarian schools. y, luego, de CNT de Madrid. During the Civil War, he supported the Popular Front and was active in its military defence, in the Provincial Committee of the Popular Front in Oviedo and later the Defense Committee in Gijón and the Commissariat of War on behalf of the CNT. On October 15, 1936, he was elected mayor of Gijón. In 1938, he was appointed special delegate of the General Council of the International Solidarity Antifascist and moved to United States to seek help. There he died in a car accident on March 27, 1938. [Source/Source]

On this day in 1927, there were global demonstrations against the execution in the US of the Italian anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti. In Paris, 200,000 supporters marched. More on Sacco and Venzetti from the People’s Informative.

Continue reading for reviews of books on Mandel, Silone, Orwell and Berlin and for archival material on Brinton, James, Dunayevskaya and others.

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Blog notes

I don’t recommend Fatal Paradox often enough. This post is very, very interesting and very pertinent to the issues this blog covers. Extract:

Reading Mark Derby’s book Kiwi Compañeros (which compiles a wealth of primary source material detailing the involvement of New Zealanders in the Spanish Civil War) recently I was struck by the disjunction between the confused and often demoralising experiences of the some of the participants whose stories were reproduced in that volume and the traditional leftist narrative according to which the Spanish Civil War was the most glorious hour of the Popular Front and the struggle against Fascism.

I managed to miss this post at Boffy’s blog, introducing some of Comrade Bough’s favourite blogs, including, I am pleased to say, this one, and I find myself in fine company indeed. Not sure, though, I agree with Serge’s Fist’s analysis of the United Front and Popular Front, but need to read it more carefully. (And certainly I would endorse Trotsky’s excellent advice to the ILP. It is not unlike the advice I would give to the AWL in its foolishly positive response to the SWP’s sham unity letter, but that’s for another place.) Again, it’s a bit off the topic of this blog, but Arthur has some good posts about Iran.

I have other favours to acknowledge: Peter Storm for Vrije landen tegen Che en Obama, TNC for Friday round-up, Bob for Remembering Steve Cohen, Martin for Balancing beatitude and Loach, Garaudy and the reactionary left, Histomatist for In Defence of Leon Trotsky.

Talking of Ken Loach, here’s Norm on Loach’s strangebedfellows, the Chinese totalitarian regime. And, staying with Norm, on another topic I’ve covered here: Marx and politics, Kolakowski notwithstanding

And some other Histomatist posts of note: Sheila Rowbotham on the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Homage to John Saville and Hubert Harrison on how to review books. John Saville also got a lovely appreciation from Doreen Massey and Hilary Wainwright in the Gruaniad. Hubert Harrison features in this ISJ review.

Finally, also in ISJ, this is important: Luke Stobart’s review of Michael Eaude’s Triumph at Midnight of the Century: A Critical Biography of Arturo Barea. Barea is a vastly underrated person in the English-speaking world.

Arturo Barea

Arturo Barea: This drawing originally appeared with An Honest Man (March 6, 1975)

Stalin’s nemesis

This week’s Radio 4 book of the week, Stalin’s Nemesis:

Nigel Anthony reads from Bertrand M Patenaude’s account of the exile and subsequent assassination of Leon Trotsky, who was outmanoeuvred by his great rival, Josef Stalin.

About Patenaude. Q&A with Patenaude. Review by Robert Service. Review in Socialist Review. Review by Richard Overy. review. Review in Times. Review in The Socialist.

A carpy review in The Oxonian made me want to read the book more:

The dustbunnies that Patenaude brings to light range the gamut, from real bunnies—Trotsky kept them on his Mexican patio as pets and tended to them just before his murder—to oral sex, a frank discussion of which appears in a letter that Trotsky wrote to his wife Natalia during the liaison with Frida. Why Patenaude believes that readers want to know about Trotsky’s erections, or rather lack thereof, is anyone’s guess. But blinded by the temptations of salaciousness, Patenaude forges ahead into the biographical depths, right down to the revolutionary’s anus: apparently, certain species of Mexican bacteria aggravated Trotsky’s colon, which was already irritated by colitis.

The book’s effusive details, some fascinating and others wholly unnecessary, hardly end there. For example, we learn that Trotsky briefly lived in the Bronx before returning to launch the revolution in 1917; the surrealist André Breton offended Trotsky by stealing Mexican figurines from a church the two visited together; the writer Saul Bellow sat in the hospital waiting room as Trotsky died; and the artist Diego Rivera—Frida’s husband and the guarantor of the old man’s asylum in Mexico—first appeared on Trotsky’s radar when he inserted Lenin’s face into a mural he painted at Radio City Music Hall. Ramon Mercader, the Spanish-born NKVD agent who infiltrated Trotsky’s inner circle and killed him, apparently worked as a chef at the Ritz in Barcelona.

Published in: on July 9, 2009 at 4:19 pm  Comments (4)  
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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…)

Poumtastic 2

Some of these items follow up yesterday’s.

More Abel Paz obituaries: Happy Medium (with beautiful photographs), SlackBastard (with three perfectly chosen YouTube videos).

More on Kuhn on Grossman from Bob Gould. And more from Bob G: the sad, contradictory life of Wilfred Burchett.

A little bit of left history relevant to this: PatriotDems on the “Red Dunhams” of Washington State, 1956.

No Borders 1935: on Emma Goldman and South Wales.

St John: T.R. Healey on John Cornford.

Martin Rowson in Tribune: To the Barricades!

Tribune Book Reviews: Emmanuel Cooper on Marc Chagall, Geoffrey Goodman on the Miners’ strike in Wales, Nathaniel Mehr on Mary Davis on Labour history.

It’s twenty years since Solidarnosc was made legal in Poland. Henri Simon: Mass strikes in Poland, 1980. BBC: children of the revolution.

The Underground Rebel Book Club. (Book covers here stolen from there.)

And a news item: Mexican president given copy of Orwell’s 1984 as a present from… the Queen of England.

Leib Davidovich Bronstein (Trotski) y la cuestión judía

By Arlene Clemesha at Plumas Socialdemócratas A.C:

La trayectoria y las ideas de Trotsky con relación al judaísmo presentan un múltiple interés. Primero, obviamente por el propio origen judío de Trotsky. Pero también se debe tomar en consideración el peso del antisemitismo en la tradición histórica rusa, en especial como política de gobierno de la autocracia zarista; el amplio uso del antisemitismo en la lucha de Stalin contra la oposición trotskista en la URSS, como mostró recientemente Dimitri Volkogonov; y finalmente la importancia del Holocausto perpetrado por el nazismo, como paradigma de la barbarie contemporánea. [READ THE REST – IN SPANISH]

Published in: on September 17, 2008 at 9:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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