Corrigendum

Bund election poster from Latvia, inviting to ...

Bund election poster from Latvia, inviting to a meeting with member of Saeima (Parliament) Dr. Noah Maizel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanks to Entdinglichung for red greetings and EP Thompson. Thanks to Petey and Peter for pointing out a couple of wrong links in recent posts. I’m re-posting the links here.

From the Eugene Debs archive: The New Age Anniversary: The Socialist Leader Says Support Labor Press that Opposed the War (pdf, 1922)

Ten years have passed since The New Age was launched and  in this brief span of time the world in which we live has been shaken and shocked, torn and devastated; ravaged and bled as never before in its history. Every page of the record capitalism has made in that time has been written in the blood of its slaughtered victims. All previous wars were crude and dismal failures in point of slaughter as a science and destruction as a fine art compared to the Twentieth Century World War under the Christian Capitalist Competitive System. All the modern ingenuity the world afforded, all the arts and sciences in its command were employed in the highly Christianized and civilized undertaking to blow the earth to atoms, destroy everything in sight, and slaughter all mankind, save alone the international bankers and profiteer and their hireling slaves.

The New Age does not have a Wikipedia entry; the British periodical of the same name and same period does, but this is the Buffalo, New York one. Founded in 1912, it was associated with the Socialist Party of America. For more information, see this tenth anniversary review by co-editor Robert Wark at archive.org.

Nick Cohen: How the Left turned on the Jews, Standpoint. Flawed but fascinating. Some extracts:

“You cry out against Jewish capital, gentlemen?” cried one. “You are against Jewish capital and want to eliminate the stock manipulators. Rightly so. Trample the Jewish capitalists under foot, hang them from the street lamps, stamp them out.”

Ruth Fischer sounded like a Nazi. She used the same hate-filled language. She wanted to murder Jews. But Hitler would never have accepted her. Fischer was a leader of the German Communist Party. She made her small differences of opinion with the Nazis clear when she went on to say that her audience should not just trample Jewish capitalists to death, but all capitalists.[…]

The movements for Jewish self-determination and Russian Communism were twins separated at birth. The First Zionist conference met on August 27, 1897, to discuss the escape from anti-Semitic Europe to Palestine. The General Jewish Labour Bund held its first conference in Vilnius on October 7, 1897, to organise the Russian Empire’s Jews in a united socialist party. The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, from which the Bolsheviks split, held its first conference in March 1898. Naturally, the Bund sent delegates. For liberal and left-wing Europeans of the late 19th century, no regime was more repellent than Tsarist autocracy, and nothing better symbolised its reactionary nature than its anti-Semitic pogroms. Jews responded to the terror by keeping their Jewish identity and joining Jewish socialist movements, such as the Bund, or by becoming entirely assimilated Communists, as Trotsky and many others did.[…]

Rudé Právo, the organ of the Czech Communist Party, said that Slansky and his co-defendants were “Jewish cosmopolitans, people without a shred of honour, without character, without country, people who desire one thing — career, business and money”. Communists and their supporters imagined a vast Zionist conspiracy reaching from the US Supreme Court to Tito’s anti-Stalinist supporters in Yugoslavia. For all that, they maintained that they were not anti-Semites but enemies of Zionism. They might have been modern “leftists” talking about the “Israel Lobby” conspiring to organise the Iraq War of 2003, while all the time insisting that there was nothing remotely racist about their conspiracy theories.[…]

Ralph Miliband, the father of Ed and David, dissected it well. He was a Marxist who retained the capacity for independent thought, and got into a furious argument with Marcel Liebman, a fellow Marxist Jew, at the time of the Six Day War of 1967. Miliband pointed out an essential truth: that the corrupt regimes of the Middle East needed Israel and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories to distract the attention of their peoples. “If Israel did not exist, they would have to invent it,” he said.[…]

Andrew Hosken, Ken: The Ups and Downs of Ken Livingstone, Arcadia Books, 10 April 2008. Extracts at Powerbase and Adloyada. Extract from the extracts:

John Ross was at the forefront of the internal struggle to ditch the industrial strategy and get all IMG members to join the Labour Party en masse and then seek to control the Left bloc within it. Supporting Ross was another key figure in Livingstone’s political career, Redmond O’Neill. At the December 1982 conference, Ross carried the day and over the next few months IMG members joined the Labour Party. A minority who disagreed with the policy of ‘deep entryism’ split away and formed its own party, the International Group which became a political irrelevance.

Despite becoming Labour members, the Ross majority still remained organised as a separate political organization. They decided to rebrand themselves as the Socialist League, and to establish a newspaper called Socialist Action. Like Militant, the group became known by the name of their paper rather than as the Socialist League. ‘The.next steps towards a revolutionary party comprise a fight for a class struggle within the Bennite current,’ said one discussion paper at the time. […]

The Socialist League/Socialist Action met for the first time as a central committee at the Intensive English School in Star Street near Marble Arch for the start of a two-day conference on Saturday, 22 January 1983. The official launch of Socialist Action took place the following morning[13] and it first appeared on 16 March. The group’s old paper, Socialist Challenge, ceased to exist.[14] The group’s overall revolutionary objective did not change, only the strategy to bring it about, as an internal document in January 1983 made clear: ‘…

Socialist Action believes that it will be impossible to make the transition to socialism without incurring the armed resistance of the ruling class and thereby the necessity for violent self-defence by the working class.'[15] From the outset, Ken Livingstone was clearly an important force within the ‘Bennite current’ for Socialist Action. John Ross and comrades identified two Bennite wings: the Labour Co-ordinating Committee, a left-wing coalition within the Labour Party comprising Chartists from Briefing, and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, CLPD. Socialist Action identified the second wing ‘crystallising around forces such as the Campaign Group of MPs, Livingstone, the left of Labour Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (LCND)… and the constituency left…'[16] Its slogans were now: ‘Deeper into the Labour Party!’, ‘Deeper into the trade unions!’, ‘For a new newspaper!’,[17] ‘Defend socialist policies!’, ‘Stop the witch-hunt!’, ‘Remove the right-wing Labour leaders!'[18]

In September 1983, Socialist Action took the decision to disappear from public view. This meant closing down the Other Bookshop and taking extreme security measures to guarantee invisibility and deniability. Two months after the decision, Socialist Action’s leadership drew up a document entitled The dissolution of the public face’. It said: ‘This is a historical fact – namely that the public face dissolved itself. This requires no public announcement but all bodies of the [Trotskyist] world movement must be informed and act accordingly.'[23] Some members disagreed with the decision; one wrote: ‘The September meeting took a momentous decision. It voted 23 for and one against to formally dissolve our public organisation. The decision was taken on the basis of a false prognosis: that following the Labour Party conference there will be an immediate witch-hunt of our supporters within the mass organisation.'[24]

Jim Denham on Eric Hobsbawm. Extract:

On the minus side is his persistent lack of identification with the working class (indeed, he now seems to say that it no longer exists), his “reality denial” (Robert Conquest’s term) over the Soviet Union, his shameful and evasive record over Hungary in 1956 (the Soviet invasion led Hill ad Thompson to resign from the CP while Hobsbawm remained) and his persistent refusal to come to terms with Stalinism itself. The fact that he was – and remains – a person of towering intellect makes these shortcomings less, not more, forgivable. While working class Communist Party members could be forgiven for not knowing about, or believing the truth of,  the full counter-revolutionary barbarity of Stalinism, an intellectual like Hobsbawm has no such excuse. As David Caute put it “One keeps asking of Hobsbawm: didn’t you know what Deutscher and Orwell knew? Didn’t you know about the induced famine, the horrors of collectivisation, the false confessions, the terror within the Party, the massive forced labour of the gulag? As Orwell himself documented, a great deal of evidence was reliably knowable even before 1939, but Hobsbawm pleads that much of it was not reliably knowable until Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin in 1956.”

Also new at the Marxist Internet Archive (and hopefully with no dud links this time; items in bold especially recommended):

“Added to the USA History Publications Section as part of joint project involving the Holt Labor Library, the Encyclopedia of the Trotskyism On-Line and the Riazinov Library, we have completed the digitization of he remaining volumes of the International Socialist Review published by the Charles H. Kerr Publishing Co. from 1900 through 1918. Representing America’s premier Socialist journal, the ISR had the full pantheon of American revoluitonary socialist thought expressed in it’s pages, from Eugene V. Debs to Big Bill Hayword to John Reed. Presented in high resolution PDFs. Later, we will upload separate issues for each volume, starting with the volumes listed below: 1902 – 1903, Volume 2 1910 – 1911, Volume 10 1911 – 1912, Volume 11

Added to the International Socialism Archive – 2nd Series (1991–2003):

Added to the USA History Publications Section as part of joint project involving the Holt Labor Library, the Encyclopedia of the Trotskyism On-Line and the Riazinov Library, the Left Opposition Digitization Project has started placing online the internal discussion bulletins of the early Trotskyist movement in the United States organized as the Communist League of America (Opposition)1928-1934 and then the Workers Party of the United States (1935-1936). These are the first of the entirety of the internal bulletins of the US Trotskyists through the early years of the Socialist Workers Party. Presented in high resolution PDFs.”

Below the fold, more from Entdinglichung: (more…)

Poumismic

Egypt and Tunisia, what is to be done?

Boffy: on Bonapartism and permanent revolution.

Bob: on the carnation revolution, the jasmine revolution, and Marx’s love of flowers.

Johnny Guitar: on some of the scum (Hosni Mubarak…) allowed in the Socialist International these days, and on its belated rectification.

From the archive: Tony Cliff on the Middle East at the crossroads (1945), John Rees on the democratic revolution and the socialist revolution (1989).

Dorothy Thompson, z”l:

Entdinglichung, Sheila Rowbotham, Shiraz Socialist.

Also:

Michael Weiss: on Julian Assange as Bakunin with a MacBook.

Owen Jones, in the spirit of Keir Hardie: the left needs to watch its language.

Andrew Coates, in the spirit of Robert Tressel and Oscar Wilde: Big Society goes bang.

Nick Cohen: on disgusting old Stalinist Eric Hobsbawm and his How to Change the World.

Ron Radosh: commie Camp Kinderland still exists.

Jim Denham: on Norman Geras’ Marxism.

HiM@N: on the death of Rosie the Riveter.

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.

Leon Trotsky drinking Mexican coffee

Robert Service on Trotsky again: Service was on the weekend’s The Forum on the BBC World Service. The Service bit starts at 27 minutes. I don’t like Service’s analysis, although he is partly right. Service is right about Trotsky’s personality: cold, prim, glacial, disdainful, arrogant, self-centred. But Service basically says Trotsky and Stalin are “blood brothers”, that Trotsky was as ruthless as Stalin, who in turn was as much a “man of ideas” as Trotsky. This is surely not right, despite Trotsky’s faults. However, Service is right that Trotsky would have suppressed the peasants to achieve industrialisation, less brutally than Stalin but nonetheless harshly.

One interesting point Service makes is that other Russian exiles were making similar analyses of Soviet Russia, and have been forgotten. (He doesn’t name names, but Victor Serge, Ante Ciliga, Boris Souvarine, Voline, the exiled Mensheviks André Liebich writes about in From the Other Shore, and so on.) Service suggests that it was because Trotsky was a great writer and subsequently a great martyr that he became so important. I think this is true, but the third factor, both Trotsky’s strength and his flaw, his hubris perhaps, was that he was a great factionalist, with a sense of himself as a leader of a movement, something that was untrue of the other, more modest key figures of the anti-Stalinist left. Anyway, I still prefer Hitchens’ version. Lots more here.

***

Heroes: Josef Frantisek. Marek Edelman, Steve Cohen and Mercedes Sosa. John Saville. Bongani Mkhungo.

Villains: Nat Hentoff.

George Orwell: His lessons for combating antisemitism today.

Histories: The Communist Party in the French resistance. New York elections: from honourable Jewish socialists to odious Marxoid cults. The end of the left’s Cuba romance? The state of Bund historiography [pdf]. The Labour Party and the Battle of Cable Street.

Book reviews: Platypus on Communist Chicago. Colin Waugh’s Plebs. Geoffrey Foote on Paul Flewers’ New Civilisation. Andrew Coates on Flewers and two other books on Communism.

Interviews: Nick Cohen in Black Flag.

The Kaminski affair: Bob has a good round-up (scroll to “Strange alliances”).

Marxist theory: Louis Proyect on John Molyneux on party democracy. Playtpus on Karl Korsch. David Black (Hobgoblin London) on philosophy and revolution.

Un-Marxist theory: Irving Howe “Class and sociology” 1957, plus replies by Lewis Coser and Dennis Wrong.

If sharks were people: From Brecht’s Tales from the Calendar.

Consumerism: Buy Zapatatista coffee! And buy the new edition of Zapata of Mexico. And buy The Workers’ Next Step. And The Insurrectionists by Bill Fishman.

Democratiya

I don’t know if it’s been there for a while, but I just noticed that Dissent has an archive of really nicely pdfed back issues of Democratiya. Here are some gems:

(more…)

Poumishly

Anti-Stalinism

Eugene Debs: war resistor. Ilse Mattick: a great woman. Leni Jungclas: A great woman. Stieg Larsson: The Trot Who Played with Fire. Dwight MacDonald: Partisan Middlebrow. Barroso v Cohn-Bendit: debating European politics. George Orwell: poet of the everyday. Martin Simecka: dissident legacy. Added: Alas, poor Trotsky (against Justin Raimondo).

Stalinism

All that pink: Nancy Astor and Bernard Shaw with Uncle Joe. Stalin nostalgia. Fauxialism, in Venezuelan, Chinese and British varieties. Russia, Poland and the history wars.

More on Irving Kristol

Hendrik Hertzberg, Cas Muddle, Dave Osler.

Memetic

Two memes channeled by my comrade Bob: the five word meme, and the academic bestsellers meme. Here are some snippets.

Words

Bob on Anti-fascism

antifascismAnti-fascism is at the core of my political being. The first political activism I was involved in, as a 15 year old, was action against the NF. Almost everything else about my politics has changed, but that has remained constant. What has changed, of course, is fascism. The classic Nazi-style fascism of the NF is no longer much of an issue (although extreme right violence remains a threat in the US and UK, and classic neo-Nazis are a major issue in parts of Central and Eastern Europe). The two mutations of fascism that are most important to combat now are, first, the rising forms of Euro-nationalist populism that are predicated on a generalised anti-immigrant racism as well as anti-Muslim racism, a movement that has been growing electorally across Western Europe, and, second, the rising forms of Islamist fascism which have had such a destructive effect on so many parts of the world.

History is Made at Night on Surrealism

trotsky-780584When I first got interested in politics I was greatly attracted to Dada, Surrealism and the Situationists, initially through second hand accounts in books like Richard Neville’s Play Power, Jeff Nuttal’s Bomb Culture and indeed Gordon Carr’s The Angry Brigade. The emphasis on play, festival and the imagination still resonates with me, but I would question the notion of desire as an unproblematic engine of radical change. Desire is surely formed amidst the psychic swamp of present social conditions and I would no longer advise everybody to take their desires for reality – sadly I have seen far too much of the impoverished desires of men in particular. Just look through your spam emails.

Martin in the Margins on Saramago

SaramagoI used to say that the veteran Portuguese writer was my favourite novelist, until I remembered that I’ve only ever finished one of his books. However, that book – The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis – ranks as one of the best (if not the best) works of fiction that I’ve ever read. In this phantasmagoric exploration of Lisbon, Saramago’s usual quirky and meandering prose is held in check by an intriguing plot and aborbing sense of place – not the case in the other novels of his that I’ve tried. When I first read the book some fifteen or twenty years ago, its author’s politics – he’s a lifelong Communist – were an added enticement to me. That was before my own disillusionment with ‘democratic centralism’, and before I discovered that Saramago’s involvement in the Portuguese revolution, far from being heroic, revealed the Stalinist tendencies of his (and his party’s) politics. Not to mention my disappointment that a writer capable of such great prose and historical imagination could make such foolish, naive and offensive comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany, as he did notoriously on a trip to the West Bank. A shining illustration, then, that creative genius and political stupidity can and often do co-exist.

The Social Republic on Chartism
One has to be awe of the millions who marched, organised and campaigned for the Charter. They did so in times of great and cruel distress, in a time before telegrams or mass railways, when the main traditional bases of such a cause were in near terminal decline. The General Unions had been broken in the most part, the old clubs of the Radicals were dying. You have to remember too that the Political Unions of the 1830s, seeking a similar political solution, had been a cynical con, carried on the masses who had given them a power to threaten the system.One under researched element of the movement, only touched upon by the culturalists, is that the Whig reforming state had erupted into areas of life untouched by the previous ‘Old Corruption’. Be it the poorhouse, exclusion from borough and parish government or the moves against popular ‘messy’ festivals, these ‘innovations’ aligned with a general and crippling crisis in the economy created a nomic crisis for the poor. As the church failed to keep up with the explosion in urban population and relief without the gulag conditions of the workhouse disappeared, the Charter was transformed.

In its political demands were a longing for a more equitable and less ruthless past and a brighter and ‘progressive’ future. Within the carnival of the movement, the realisation of the moral power of the crowd and the rhetoric, we can detect a attempt to break out of a time of misery into a meaningful time of hope and change. The movement that pushed self-education and self awareness, probably doing more for mass literacy that anything till the public schools of 1870, could create experiments in collective living, in ground upwards politics. Blessed with the belief in the moral case for the charter, the movement was able to become a transformative revitalisation movement. As a reaction to the crisis of modernity, such a formation is common. However, this mass movement, unlike Fascism or Bolshevik Communism, had no cult of struggle, of dying or killing. It’s internal discussions over Moral versus Physical power showed a remarkable maure level of understanding on the dangers of volence to the cause and the subsequent corruption of their ends.

This maturity, noted by Marx, combined with its moral power and willingness to openly discuss and challenge show a sparkling precedent for the left. How one could see Hamas or the CCP ‘progressive’ after learning of the ragged millions joyfully declaring their liberty and their rights is beyond my fuzzy headed imagination.

The New Centrist on Avrich
The historian of the U.S. and European (esp. Russian) anarchist movements. I had the opportunity to hear him speak a couple of times and he was an inspiration to me and my work. Attended his funeral in 2006 and remember his daughters talking about him taking them to a cemetery in Russia to locate the graves of Kropotkin and I think Bakunin as well but I could be wrong about Bakunin.

Books

Henry on E.P. Thompson, Making of the English Working Class

A classic, which reads more like a novel than a piece of academic history, rescuing organizers, sectaries, pamphleteers and gutter journalists – from the enormous condescension of posterity. Moving, smart, and wonderfully written.

Bob on CLR James The Black Jacobins

This makes a nice companion to Thompson. As Peter Linebaugh has written, while Thompson was writing in the shadow of the Soviet tanks in Budapest, James was writing against the Communist murder of non-CP anti-Franco partisans in Spain. The Black Jacobins tells the story of the Haitian revolution, showing how slave struggles in the colonies helped drive the great revolutionary moment of 1776-1792, unveiling a different dimension to the emergence of the great values of liberty, democracy and rights which triumphed in the French and American revolutions.

Brigada Flores Magon on The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, Jonathan Rose

I have to declare an interest as my paternal grandfather, an iron-moulder who had been disabled aged 19, as a private in Pontius Pilate’s Bodyguard, in the Kaiserschlacht of Spring 1918, was as good an autodidact as you’d find outside the Jura Federation and this book is very largely about the autodidact tradition among the British working classes, taking in the WEA and other helping hands as it goes along. I have read it at least three times since I bought it in 2002 and return to it again and again for encouragement. It is written in a thoroughly professional way but full of what can only be called love for the matter and manner of lifelong learning. Anyone involved in education must read this book.

More books

Moving on from memes, but kind of related to the book issue, a post from the Raincoat Optimist about writing drunk, touching on the brothers Hitchens, Nick Cohen at the Orwell Prize, and the “old culture” of the pub.

Finally on books, Contested Terrain notes three new publications of note, of which this one caught my eye:

A Living Revolution: Anarchism in the Kibbutz Movement
By Jame Horrox

Against the backdrop of the early development of Palestinian-Jewish and Israeli society, James Horrox explores the history of the kibbutz movement: intentional communities based on cooperative social principles, deeply egalitarian and anarchist in their organisation.

“The defining influence of anarchist currents in the early kibbutz movement has been one of official Zionist historiography’s best-kept secrets…It is against this background of induced collective amnesia that A Living Revolution makes its vital contribution. James Horrox has drawn on archival research, interviews and political analysis to thread together the story of a period all but gone from living memory, presenting it for the first time to an English-reading audience. These pages bring to life the most radical and passionate voices that shaped the second and third waves of Jewish immigration to Palestine, and also encounter those contemporary projects working to revive the spirit of the kibbutz as it was intended to be, despite, and because of, their predecessors’ fate.” —Uri Gordon, from the foreword

“A brilliant study of anarchism in the kibbutz movement, particularly regarding economy and polity. Revealing the roots and processes of the influx of anarchist ideas and practices into the early Jewish labour movement, assessing the actual kibbutz practice and seeing the kibbutzim as both a model way to live and a set of experiments to learn from, Horrox gives this history the meticulous attention it deserves. A Living Revolution is comprehensive, caring and even passionate, but also critical. Horrox’s study is an exemplary undertaking we can learn much from.”—Michael Albert, editor Znet and Z Magazine.

More from Horrox at Zeek.

One more thing

Because I haven’t found a better post to put this in, read this excellent account of Gramsci’s relevance today, at Left Luggage.

Poumlicious

Nick Cohen takes no shit. Trotsky on religion. A Los Barricados: folk songs and other songs from On A Raised Beach. Anglo-Buddhist Combine: Maurice Brinton/Christopher Pallis. Harry Barnes’ military service: Basra, Bombs, and Books. SlackBastard’s books (including Haymarket: A Novel by Martin Duberman, Julián Casanova’s Anarchism, the Republic and Civil War in Spain: 1931–1939, Stuart Chrsitie’s We The Anarchists!: A Study Of The Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI) 1927–1937, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four). Paul as Orwell. Hamas kills opponents, Clare Short turns blind eye.

Miscellany

The ghosts who refuse to die

Wonderful post by Terry Glavin on George Orwell. (And, here, the ghost of Eric Blair inhabits Will Rubbish.)

Nick Cohen on Eric Hobsbawm and the Hitler-Stalin pact.

Isaac Rubin and Paul Mattick Junior: A three part essay by PM on the financial crisis in the Brooklyn Rail (1, 2, 3), brought to us by Will. Principia Dialectica hosted the late I Rubin in London last week.

Paul Hampton on William Morris, ecology and socialism (the sixth of a series).

From the archive of struggle, no.6

Trotsky on workers’ control (posted by the AWL’s Rebbe Sean Matgamna to hold the line against The Commune and their alleged “drift towards anarchism“.)

From Entdinglichung: some early Bolshevik Max Eastman, lots of De Leon, Serge in Dutch and more.

In the new Democratiya, Susan Green of the Independent Socialist League/Workers Party from 1949 on the third camp position.

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