On 12 November 2011, Wembley Stadium hosted a friendly between the football teams of England and Spain. Amongst the usual pre-match shots of flags and anthem singing, the television cameras picked out one English fan in the crowd with a home-made placard commemorating the British volunteers of the International Brigade, who had fought for the Spanish Republic 75 years earlier. The incident was an example of how the Spanish Civil War has maintained its place in the British popular consciousness in a way that is perhaps only exceeded by the two world wars.
In recent years it has been the subject of popular history books and formed the backdrop to best-selling novels and an HBO made/Sky broadcast television series starring Nicole Kidman; meanwhile the often bitter debates between supporters of different Republican factions in 1936-39 continue to be played out on internet message boards. Despite this public and academic interest, only a small quantity of primary sources in English were freely available to researchers online – last year the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick, added over 13,000 pages more. (more…)
Up to January 2013 now with new additions to the extraordinary Marxist Internet Archive. Obviously, the first thing here is of most interest to me.
Added to the archive of the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista/Workers Party of Marxist Unification a section of the Spanish Revolution History Archive is the complete run of the POUM’s English Language publication edited in Barcelona by American revolutionary socialists Lois and Charles Orr: The Spanish Revolution.
Spanish Revolution was the English language publication of the P.O.U.M. Edited by Lois and Charles Orr. In 1936 they had setup within the ranks of the Socialist Party of America the Revolutionary Policy Committee of the Socialist Party of the U.S. While the P.O.U.M. itself was never Trotskyist, many in the ranks of Trotskyism, and those near it politically, supported the publication.
Russell Blackwell, who was in Spain as a supporter of the P.O.U.M wrote, 30 years later for the Greenwood Reprints of The Spanish Revolution, the following:
Spanish Revolution faithfully reported events during its period of publication from the point of view of the P.O.U.M. Its first issue appeared on October 21, 1936, at a time when the revolutionary process was already beginning to decline. Its final issues dealt with the historic May Days of 1937 and the events immediately following, which led to the Stalinist takeover.
These 28 issues of The Spanish Revolution were digitized by Marty Goodman of the Riazanov Library Project
They are all digitised as whole pdfs for each issue.
Other stuff: (more…)
It’s months now since I’ve looked through the Marxist Internet Archive. Since I’ve last been there, loads of really good stuff is up. The below is just from November and December last year, and it covers a period from ca.1930 to ca.1940 which was pivotal in the development of the anti-Stalinist left.
The material here focuses on three overlapping currents in this anti-Stalinist left. The first is the POUM, the Spanish party whose name this blog’s is taken from, who fused the “left” and “right” opposition in Spain to the official Stalinist Communist party, to form a democratic mass movement of radical socialism, before being liquidated by the Stalinists in during the Spanish Civil War.
The second is the Trotskyist movement, Communism’s “left” opposition. While Trotsky supplied much of the intellectual justification for Stalin’s brutal misrule in the Soviet Union, his sharp critique of the degeneration of the Stalinist state made him a criminal in the dictatorship. His followers have formed one of the main planks of anti-Stalinist socialism globally. The material below focuses mainly on American Trotskyists, but particularly those who developed beyond the rigid and damaging orthodoxies of “official” Trotskyism.
Parallel to Trotsky’s Left Opposition, the Right Opposition called for a more democratic path to socialism, and was bitterly excluded from the Communist movement. Unlike Trotksyism, it leaves little organisational trace today, and so its history remains more deeply buried.
In the period from 1930 to 1940, these currents moved from composing a dissatisfied internal dissident streak within Stalinism, to a fully developed critical analysis of Stalinism. From 1940 to 1950, they several different interesting directions forward, some positively, others less so. Between them (along with anarchist, democratic socialist and left communist currents not represented here), they constitute a significant part of the heritage of anti-Stalinism that continues to be relevant to thinking about the task of reforging a radical movement today.
The Catalan Andreu (or Andres in Spanish) Nin i Pérez was a left dissident in the Communist Party, forming a left opposition group Communist Left of Spain (ICE), which merged with the Right Opposition party Bloque Obrero y Campesino, to form the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) in 1935.
And loads of great material from entdinglichung:
* George Orwell: Mein Katalonien (Nemesis)
* Manifesto & Policy of the POUM during the Barcelona May Days (La Bataille Socialiste)
* Augustin Souchy: The Tragic Week in May (The Struggle Site)
* Grandizo Munis: The Spanish Left in its Own Words (Marxists Internet Archive)
* Hugo Oehler: Barricades in Barcelona (Revolutionary History)
* Waldemar Bolze: Where are the Real Saboteurs? (Revolutionary History)
* Andreu Nin: The May Days in Barcelona (Marxists Internet Archive)
* Katia Landau: Stalinism in Spain (Marxists Internet Archive)
Related articles (more…)
Newly published at M.I.A. A useful text on POUM history.
Pierre Broué: Kurt Landau
Also known as Agricola, Wolf Bertram, and Spectator
From Revolutionary History, Vol. 9 No. 4, 2008, pp. 229–236.
From Dictionnaire biographique du mouvement ouvrier français, partie 4, 1914–1939, t. 33, Paris 1988, pp. 203–205.
Transcribed by Alun Morgan for the Revolutionary History Website.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Born on 29 January 1903 in Vienna (Austria); disappeared in Barcelona (Spain), September 1937. Member of the Austrian Communist Party, then of various Left Opposition groups in Vienna, Berlin and Paris. Member of the POUM in 1936.
The son of a prosperous Viennese wine merchant, Kurt Landau had a Bohemian student youth similar to that of many young people from the Jewish intelligentsia in the imperial capitals: but it is also said that he attempted various circus jobs and for a time was a lion tamer at the Hagenbeck Circus. In 1921 this educated and cultured adolescent joined the new-born Austrian Communist Party, already shaken by fierce factional struggles and in 1922 became leader (Leiter) of the Warring district (Bezirk) in Vienna. Early in 1923 he supported the left-wing criticisms made by the Italian Bordiga  of the new line of the International, which was described as “opportunist”. In 1924, still in Vienna, he made the acquaintance of Victor Serge, who was part of a group of Comintern emissaries and who worked on its press bulletin Inprekorr.  It seems that Serge gave him the first solid items of information about the factional struggle in the USSR. The same year Landau took charge of the CP agitprop department and became an editor of its main publication, Die Rote Fahne (Red Flag), with responsibility for cultural matters. In the discussion on culture he adopted the arguments developed by Trotsky against “proletarian culture”. (more…)
A teachers’ corner, stuffed with stuff like this:
Women and Social Movements, 1820-1940 - A fabulous teaching resource, with some of it geared toward labor history–though most of it is now subscription-based only. Example: primary documents and lesson plans on women and labor, including the 1909-1910 New York shirtwaist strike, Lawrence, Massachusetts textile strike of 1912, the 1938 Pecan Shellers strike in San Antonio, and much much more
Tenement Museum Lesson Plans including “teaching with objects” “doing oral history” “primary source activities” from elementary level to high school
Center for Working Class studies syllabus library- mostly not history, but great ideas here.
Steeltown USA: A Digital Library of Poetry, Images, and Documents - Another site “provides a variety of resources for secondary and college teachers who want to include attention to work and working-class studies in their courses.
A chronological page, with sections like this:
and timelines like these:
Today in labor history from Union Communication Services
Labor Heritage Foundation timeline
AFL-CIO Timeline of Labor History
An Eclectic List of Events in U.S. Labor History
Samuel Gompers Papers Timeline 1850-1924
Biographies, of folks like Rose Schneiderman:
- Rose Schneiderman
- Schneiderman’s speech on the Triangle Fire(PDF)
- Teaching plan on Schneiderman by Jewish Women’s archive site
And a lot more besides. Go feast.
From the archive of struggle
SolFed publish Bob Holman’s history of anarcho-syndicalism in Merseyside. Jim Dick is mentioned, a student of Spanish free educationalist, who later formed a life partnership with Nellie Ploschansky, who was close to Rudolf Rocker and his sons in London. Nellie and Jim crossed the Atlantic after WWI and joined the free school movement there, and crop up in Paul Avrich‘s oral histories of immigrant anarchism and the free schools.
Sticking with anarchism, the image above is lifted from Phil Dickens’ “Communism through the eyes of a corpse“, a critique of Marxism-Leninism.
From the archive of struggle
From the blogs:
- From Shiraz Socialist: The King’s Speech – a right royal falsification; Remembering Dorothy Thompson.
- Timothy Snyder: Hitler vs. Stalin: Who Was Worse?
- From BobFromBrockley: “Progressive London”: A Popular Front for reactionaries.
- Peter Berger: Revolutionaries with American passports.
From Lawrence and Wishart, the ex-Stalinist publishing company:
- Kevin Morgan on John Saville’s life (from John Saville: Commitment and history)
- Andrew Thorpe on the origins of Lib-Lab division (from Renewal 18.3/4)
- Alexandre Christoyannopoulos and Terry Hopton on Tolstoy (from Anarchist Studies)
- Sylvain Boulouque on French communism from the First World War to the Cold War (from Twentieth Century Communism)
- Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja on the history of democracy in DR Congo (from Soundings 34, 2006)
From the archive of struggle:
- Joseph J. Cohen: “The Right to Self-Determination” (1951) This is a fascinating text from The World Scene From The Libertarian Point of View. For information on Cohen, see Notes in the margins.
- “The movement must fight back as one”. News Line (April 9, 1983); “May Day in Libya” News Line (May 1976). Bitter irony as the people of Libya rise up heroically against the dictator Gadafi.
- Joseph A. Labadie: “Is Tyranny a Necessity?” in Liberty X.21, Whole No. 307 (February 23, 1895). 7.
- “Sunday Schools That Teach Children Anarchy,” from the New York Times (May 8, 1910)
- Simone Weil: “Le sang coule en Tunisie” (1937)
- Harry Rogoff: Di diaur fun prolearia (1900)
- Jan Wacław Machajski: State socialism (1900)
- William Charles Owen: Stray Thoughts (1911)
- Alexander Schapiro: The crisis of power (1917)
- Leo Trotzki: What is a revolutionary situation? (1931)
- Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM): Révolution espagnole, 24. November 1936; Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM): Révolution espagnole, 17. September 1936
- Friedrich Adler: The Witchcraft Trial in Moscow (1936)
- Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM): Réponse du POUM à l’article de la Pravda et de l’Humanité (1937)
- Andreu Nin: Majdagarna i Barcelona (1937)
- Leo Trotzki: Upproret i Barcelona (några preliminära kommentarer) (1937)
- Pierre Broué: ”Majdagarna” i Barcelona 1937 (1988)
- George Padmore: Chris Jones: Fighter for the Oppressed (1944)
- Claude Lefort: The Contradiction of Trotsky (1948)
- Natalia Sedowa Trotzki: Bruch mit der 4. Internationale (1951)
- C.L.R. James/Raya Dunayewskaya: State Capitalism and World Revolution (1950/1986)
- Raya Dunayewskaya: The Revolt In The Slave Labor Camps In Vorkuta (1955)
- La Révolution prolétarienne: Czar Staline est mort (1953, Artikel von Robert Louzon, Alfred Rosmer, V. Cardey und Pierre Monatte)
- Ignacio Iglesias: Conversación con Silone (1955)
- Helmut Rüdiger: Aus Rudolf Rockers Briefen (1958)
- Social Revolution: NUS: What Now? (1976) / Where We’re At (1976)
- Ian Pirie: School Report (1976)
- World Revolution: The SPGB: Parliamentary Cretins (1976, wo die IKS Recht hat, da hat sie Recht)
- Agis Stinas: In the transfer section of Piraeus (1977)
- Boris Souvarine: Stalin: Why and How (1978)
- Sam Dolgoff: The Cuban Revolution: A Critical Perspective (19??)
- Adam Buick/John Crump: La dynamique capitaliste des économies étatisées (1985)
- Marcel van der Linden: Second thoughts on revolutionary syndicalism (1988)
- Nikolai Bucharin/Luigi Fabbri/Albert Meltzer: The Poverty of Statism, Anarchism vs. Marxism (19??)
- Wayne Thorpe: Anarchosyndicalism in Inter-War France: The Vision of Pierre Besnard (?)
- Carl Levy: Currents of Italian syndicalism before 1926 (2000)
- Philippe Bourrinet: The workers’ councils in the theory of the Dutch-German communist left (?)
- Philippe Bourrinet: Victor Serge: Totalitarianism and State Capitalism (Socialist Deconstruction and Collectivist Humanism) (2002)
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I read this post from Rustbelt Radical last year, a few months after it was posted, and it moved me greatly. Rather than link to it then, I thought it would be good to save it for the anniversary this year. It is Victor Serge’s tribute to a great man and his indictment of Stalinism.
The memory of Stalinism in the collective mind is often focused on the gray tower bloc and the gulag, on the cult of personality and the official lie. Stalinism’s perfidy was not limited, however, to razor wire on the Siberian steppe or to the assassination chamber of a spattered Moscow basement. On this day in 1937 in the midst of the Spanish Civil War Andrès Nin, a leading member of the Workers Party of Marxist Unity (POUM), was murdered by Stalinists.
Stalinism’s raison d’être, like all bureaucracies, was the defense of itself and the greatest threat to it came from the working class it claimed to lead. Perhaps nowhere was that threat greater than in the Spain of the 1930s. Nin was a partisan of workers’ power, of workers’ democracy- ideas fatal to Stalinism. He was murdered along with thousands of others in the name of “anti-fascist unity”; that is unity between the Stalinists and the ghosts of the liberal Spanish bourgeoisie. The fascists won and ruled Spain for the next 40 years. Never forgive, never forget.
A book I want to read: Letters from Barcelona: An American Woman in Revolution and Civil War edited by Gerd-Rainer Horn, letters by American socialist Lois Orr and some by her husband Charles Orr.
Letters from Barcelona provides a unique insight into the mentality and actions of an entire generation of socialist activists caught up in the maelstrom of cataclysmic events in interwar Europe. Based on carefully chosen representative selections from the copious letters sent by the young protagonist to family and friends in the United States, the atmosphere described in these letters vividly recreates the challenges, the hopes and the disappointments associated with living in Barcelona in the first year of the Catalan Revolution and the Spanish Civil War. These letters reconstruct the vibrant atmosphere of the campaign for a self-managed socialist society, stymied and ultimately crushed by the twin challenges of fascist and Stalinist dictatorships. The primary documents are placed into a larger context by the editor’s introductory remarks on the nature of the Catalan Revolution and the place of Lois Orr’s writings in the emerging literature on women’s autobiographies.
A very interesting event this weekend, which I read about here. It is organised by Meretz UK and looks at the connections between refugees in Britain, Israel/Palestine and elswhere, at the time of the 1905 Aliens Act, the kindertransport, and today.
One of the speakers, of whom Poumista is a fan:
David Rosenberg: is a teacher and writer who also leads guided walks on London’s radical history (http://www.eastendwalks.com/). He is on the National Committee of the Jewish Socialists’ Group and on the editorial committee of the Jewish Socialist Magazine. During the 1980s he was co-ordinator of the Jewish Cultural and Anti-Racist Project and then worked for the Runnymede Trust – a research and information body dealing with issues of racism and discrimination.
Meretz, by the way, are part of the extended Poumista family, in that, although a member of the reformist social democratic Socialist International, it was born from the Poale Zion Left (the Marxist wing of the pre-WWII Zionist movement) and Hashomer Hatzair Workers Party. The latter, a socialist binationalist movement in Palestine and the Jewish diaspora, was affiliated to the “Three-and-a-half” International, the International Revolutionary Marxist Centre (also known as the “London Bureau”), and was thus a sibling party of the POUM. Lenni Brenner writes:
Only one Zionist tendency, the Hashomer Hatzair, ever tried to grapple with the deeper implications of the Spanish revolution. Its members had devoted considerable efforts to try to win over the British Independent Labour Party (ILP) to a pro-Zionist position, and they closely followed the fate of the ILP’s sister party in Spain, the Partido Obrero de Unificacion Marxista (POUM). The political failure of the Popular Front strategy in Spain prompted a broad critique of the Stalinists and Social Democrats. However, there is no evidence that any of their members went to Spain, certainly not in an official capacity, or that they did anything for the struggle there beyond the raising of an insignificant donation, in Palestine, for the POUM.
Coates on Camus in the Pantheon.
The Spanish Civil War:
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.
In previous editions, I have featured the Labadie Collection and the Greater Manchester Collection. This week, we focus on the Holt Labor Library, with more below the fold. Browse the whole series here.
The Holt Labor Library in San Francisco has a truly exemplary website. Below are some snippets from some of its exhibitions, which are hyperlinked to their source pages.
 Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) was formed in 1976 from a number of reform groups including Teamsters for a Democratic Contract and UPSurge. They were reacting to corruption within the union caused by leadership being too close to businesses, as well as their alleged affiliation with organized crime and the Nixon administration. Professionals Drivers’ Council (PROD) merged with TDU in 1979, bringing their lobbying and legal expertise, and new members from the East Coast and South. As a reform group within the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, TDU believes in a democratic union with control resting in the membership. Their Rank and File Bill of Rights emphasizes election of union leadership, majority approval of contract votes, equality throughout the union, workplace standards and fair salaries. Over the years, several of their goals have been implemented union-wide. In 1988, Majority Rule on Contracts became part of the IBT Constitution. TDU won direct election of officers through a federal RICO lawsuit in 1989. With the election of TDU-backed Ron Carey as Teamsters president in 1991, officers’ pay was slashed and financial waste ended. The TDU was active in the successful 1997 UPS strike. They supported Tyson Foods workers in Pasco, Washington in 1999 who called a strike even without IBT support. Today they continue their reform struggle against current IBT president James Hoffa, Jr., who they blame for new corruption and a loss of union membership.
 United Farm Workers (UFW) leader César Chávez called for a third boycott on California table grapes in 1984. Whereas previous UFW boycotts had been about farm worker conditions, this one called for a ban on five major pesticides used in grape fields. The UFW claimed in their 1989 film, “Wrath of Grapes,” that the chemicals caused cancer and birth defects, and that they were getting into the ground water of surrounding communities. Chávez went on a 36-day hunger strike in 1988 to promote the boycott, receiving support from many politicians and celebrities. Later that year, city leaders in San Francisco, San Jose and Alameda County joined the boycott. UFW continued its boycott after Chávez’s death in 1993, ending it in 2000 when four of the five pesticides in question had been banned and the fifth regulated.
 “The long-running, low key but aggresive campaign to organize a new party anchored firmly inside the American Labor Movement, will culminate next June in Cleveland, Ohio when delegates from across the nation formally launch a grassroots, working class-based political movement.” (Labor Party Advocate, August 1995) According to the organization’s website, the founding conference attracted “1,400 delegates from hundreds of local and international unions as well as individual activists.” They adopted a 16-point program, the “Call for Economic Justice,” that “demands that everyone who wants to work have a right to a decent-paying job. As long as millions of us remain jobless or employed at jobs that pay poverty wages, all of us will suffer.” (Labor Party: FAQs. http://www.thelaborparty.org/a_faqs.html )
Holt Labor Library Audio Collection
A selection of the library’s audio collection is online in mp3 format, hosted by the Marxists Internet Archive. Currently, lectures by George Breitman, James P. Cannon, Farrell Dobbs, Tom Kerry, Ernest Mandel, Robert Langston, Larry Trainor, Evelyn Reed and Harry Ring are available, with more to be added.
There are also special features, each with lots of links, on topics such as the San Francisco General Strike of 1934 (including folk song sheet music), the late Sylvia Weinstein, Sacco and Venzetti, Joe Hill, the Lawrence textiles strike, and the United Farm Workers of America.
I’m not sure whether or not I’ve linked already to this short interview with Roma Marquez Santo, POUM veteran of the Spanish Civil War, recently in Dublin. There is an inaccuracy in the title: I’m pretty sure Roma is not a veteran Spanish anarchist, but a veteran Spanish socialist, but thanks to WSM for publishing this anyway. He was in a POUM militia, and when the Popular Front government regularised the Republican army (as part of the Stalinist-led counter-revolution within the anti-fascist struggle) this became ‘s 29th Division. It was liquidated after the Barcelona “May events”, and after it was liquidated joined the 28th Division, which was basically an anarchist militia. Also, Roma was a member of the CNT (the anarcho-syndicalist affiliated union), whereas most Poumistas were in the UGT (the socialist affiliated union).
P.S. Also at WSM: Biography of Dr John Creaghe, cosmopolitan Irish anarchist.
This blog has been around long enough to now be the number one google hit for the term “Poumista”, and people clearly are coming here to find out about the POUM. However, I realise that I don’t have much actually about the POUM on this site. This post is not an attempt at any kind of comprehensive account of the POUM, but rather a disorganised pointer towards various sources of information, including some pieces of ephemera that I have recently come across.
Other key wikipedia pages: Anti-Stalinist left, ILP Contingent, International Revolutionary Marxist Centre (aka London Bureau, Three and a Half International).
Recent bloggery: Justice Triumphs at La Bataille Socialiste, Markin on Trotsky on the POUM, Markin on the ortho-Trot International Communist League on the POUM, Markin on Andy Durgan on the POUM, Liam on Pierre Broué and Emile Teminé on the Spanish Civil War. All POUM posts at La Bataille Socialiste.
From the journals: The Spanish Left in its own words, Andy Durgan on the POUM and the Trotskyites, A Brandlerite militant in the POUM militia on the Huesca front, Keith Hassell on Trotsky on the POUM, Don Bateman on Georges Kopp and the Poum militias, Richardson and Rogers on Schwartz and Alba (Revolutionary History); A Danish Trotskyist in the POUM militia (What Next); The Foreign Legion of the Revolution (Libcom); Land and Freedom, Martine Vidal, The Hidden Story of the Revolution, Andy Durgan, The Meaning of a Defeat, Pelai Pagès (New Politics).
My Poum pages: Roma Marquez Santo 2, Vicente Ferrer, Not Just Orwell…, Roma Marquez Santo, May 1, Poumish (a bloggish miscellany), From the archive of struggle, no.26, From the archive of struggle, no.7, Benjamin Péret: songs of the eternal rebels, Ramón J. Sender, Stephen Suleyman Schwartz on POUM historiography.