Poumshawoom

On Nye Bevan: a hatchet job from a Kinnockite in the Guardian, and an eloquent reply from Peter Taaffe, the current guru of what was Militant. Incidentally, for a glimpse of Aneurin Bevan’s grandeur, check this out. (See also Reuben on Marxism, social democracy and New Labour’s illiberalism.)

On Hugo Chavez: Judeosphere on his allies’ antisemitic conspirationist website (more from Modernity), and Obliged to Offend on his Stalinist drift.

On democratic socialism: More from Entdinglichung on Ken Coates. Related: the Blair Wilson project. Socialism restated. David Miliband’s Keir Hardie lecture.

On Lenin and Trotsky: a Cold Warrior attacks Trotsky’s defenders (see also on Lenin in Karkov and the myth of Trotsky as romantic hero). The first post is against the following, all of which I think I have linked to already: Peter Taafe, A Dis-Service to Trotsky The Socialist Party/Socialist Alternative.org; Paul Hampton, A Hatchet Job on Trotsky ( Worker’s Liberty ); David North, In the Service of Historical Falsification (WSWS); David North, Historians in the Service of the “Big Lie”: An Examination of Professor Robert Service’s Biography of Trotsky; Hillel Ticktin, In Defence of Leon Trotsky.

On the new left: Jeffrey Williams in Dissent on the New Left Review at 50. Meanwhile, C&S, in a post entitled “Capitalist Provides Rope“, writes: “Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal provides an excerpt from Richard Wolin’s book The Wind from the East.” The excerpt is very worth reading. It is about gauchisme, including Cornelius Castoriadis, the Arguments group and the background to Guy Debord.

On the SWP: 10 years since Tony Cliff died – what did he achieve?; Dave Osler replies to Alex Callinicos on Marxism. Plus critical views of Marxism 2010 from Eyes on Power, Red Star Commando, Viceland, James Turley and Claire Fisher.

On anarcho-syndicalism: A review of Vadim Damier’s ‘Anarcho-syndicalism in the 20th Century’. Tom Wetzel reviews the International Socialist Review‘s article on contemporary anarchism. (The ISR article, by Eric Kerl is here. I think I’ve already linked to this response to Eric Kerl’s review of Wobblies and Zappatistas, on which it builds.)

On Colin Ward: Ross Bradshaw on the Colin Ward memorial meeting, and with some lovely tangential reflections.

From the archives: Henri Rabasierre (1956) and Paul Lafargue (1883) in Dissent on the right to be lazy. Murray Bookchin on Marxism as bourgeois society (1979). George Orwell on a nice cup of tea (1946). Karl Marx on Chartism (1852). Engels on the siege of Lucknow (1858: “A critique of bourgeois marriage and the marriage market. A critique of colonial privilege. A critique of masculine self-righteous presumption regarding both. Conceptually connected. And funny.”)

Internationalism from below: Libertarian statement of solidarity with the comrades in Oaxaca, Mexico.

The opposite of internationalism from below: Monthly Review’s support for Stalinism and genocide.

Histories: The Anarchist and Maximalist uprising in Samara 1918Dare to be a Daniel! – Wilf McCartneyThe Petrenko incident: an opening shot in the attack by the Bolsheviks on the Revolution; East Germany and the 1984-85 UK miners strike; the US unemployed movement in the 1930s; Henryk Grossman for today; Was Churchill a hero?; Joseph Dietzgen’s Brain Work; The re-dedication of Nottingham’s International Brigade memorial; Edward Carpenter’s England Arise; working class resistance of the Tory austerity of 1918-22; two sides to Tolpuddle; a facelift for Orwell’s birthplace in Bihar, but not for British imperialism.

Below the fold, a poem.

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Poumlier

One of the better defences of Leon Trotsky from Robert Service that I’ve seen: by Hillel Ticktin in the Weekly Worker. There’s also an interview with Ticktin, one of Britain’s smartest Trotskyists, in the same issue, as a celebration of Critique‘s 50th issue.

Via Histomatist: A new website dedicated to the socialist novelist Edward Upward (1903-2009) has been launched by one of his grandsons here.

Our comrade Michael Ezra remember’s the glory days of Militant, and gives us a late Valentine’s day classic from the vaults of Tribune.

Talking of Tribune, I missed la Brigada’s mini-series on the late Michael FootEnd Of An EraFootnotePublic Speaking.

From International Perspectives, a left communist view of the “Bolivarian revolution” (posted for “nice“).

From the Christopher Hitchens archive: several videos of him talking about George Orwell, and articles on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and on his pal Francis Wheen’s biography of Das Kapital by Marx.

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.

Workers’ Liberty

Some features from the Alliance for Workers Liberty, some new, some from the archive, below the fold. I have already included some of these in my From the Archive of Struggle series, but, hey, you can’t have too much of a good thing! Also, further down, a small number of other articles, including Eric Lee on Trotsky and some recent pieces from Against the Current.

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Tings and tings

Killing and dying for “the old lie” - World War and the triumph of militarism over anti-fascism.

Spain is nice at this time of year - the BNP and Spanish fascism.

Beijing Coma – can the symbols of classic socialism still be symbols of emancipation, despite their blood stains?

Oscar Wilde on socialist songs – Up, ye People! or down into your graves!

The partisan poet – Adam Kirsch on Abba Kovner.

Ethel MacDonald and Bob Smillie – and Guy Aldred and Fenner Brockway. More Guy Aldred.

Carlo Tresca – The Dilemma of an Anti-Communist Radical.

The sweet and the cruel - Ian Buruma on Occupied Paris.

The Labour Party between the wars - ideological contours.

A postcard from Coyoacan – Trotsky’s last home in Mexico.

TROTSKY’s STUDY – WHERE HE WAS SITTING WHEN HE WAS MURDERED  WITH AN ICE PICK

Translated novels - including Victor Serge’s Unforgiving Years.

Stalin’s Terror – a review by Peter Taafe.

David North on Robert Service on Leon Trotksy (and on James Burnham on Isaac Duetscher on Leon Trotsky) – not sure if I’ve already posted this one.

Open letter to Havana - on Stalinist slurs against the Freedom Socialist Party.

The Black Marxist Tradition – an interview with Cedric J Robinson.

You don’t play with revolution, Alfie – Lady Poverty on CLR James on Marxism. (And here’s James from AK.)

The Search for the Tassili Frescoes – Afrocentrist history and CLR James at Federal College.

The John Hope Franklin File - the FBI, anti-communism and black history.

Stalin: Why and How – Boris Souvarine.

The myth of Mondragon - Louis Proyect debunks Spanish autogestion?

Poplarism - a review of Janine Booth’s book.

Half a century of Hausman’s – from the North East London radicals, from Permanent Revolution.

A Rebel’s dream – Ian Birchall on Ernest Mandel.

George Padmore – forgotten fighter.

Reasoning otherwise - Canadian radicalism 1890-1920.

More years of the locust - Permanent Revolution on Jim Higgins on the origins of the IS.

Decline – Scott McLemee on Cornel West. Plus more from Michael Tomasky.

New from AK: Italian anarchism 1864-92, French anarchism 1917-45, Zapatismo and the Panthers.

Flag Day in Lawrence, MA, 1912 – a slice of IWW history.

What is the CNT? Two from Christie Books:

Facts About the Spanish Resistance 2 – What is the CNT? by José Peirats

Anarchists in LondonThe Anarchists in London 1935-1955 by Albert Meltzer

Keeping up

No time for proper posting, but have a look at

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.

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…)

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.

Poumed

At the head of everything is God, the Lord of Heaven.
Everyone knows that.
Then comes Prince Torlonia, lord of the earth.
Then come Prince Torlonia’s guards.
Then come Prince Torlonia’s guards’ dogs.
Then, nothing at all.
Then, nothing at all.
Then, nothing at all.
Then come the peasants. And that’s all.

~ Ignazio Silone, Fontamara (1931). (via @ndy)

Debates and arguments: David Cesarani, Marek Edelman and Michal Kaminski - click the link from Engage, then return to read the comment thread.

From the magazine rack: 1989 Timothy Garton Ash (NYRB); What Is to Be Learned? Thinking about 1989 Mitchell Cohen (Dissent); The Memory That Will Not Die: Exhuming the Spanish Civil War Julius Purcell (Boston Review); 100 Years of Servitude: Gabriel García Márquez’s Infatuation With Castro and Other Dictators Enrique Krauze (New Republic); Terry Teachout on the Congress for Cultural Freedom (Commentary).

Book reviews: John Gray on Robert Service’s Trotsky; Jonathan Yardley on Kati Marton’s Enemies of the People; DG Myers on two Lionel Trilling biographies; Colm Toibin on Sheila Rowbotham’s Edward Carpenter.

Some Irving Kristol obits I missed: Christopher Hitchens, David Brooks, Myron MagnetEric Alterman , Michael Lind, Justin Vaïsse, Kevin Mattson, Seth Lipsky, John Guardiano, Christopher DeMuth, Mary Eberstadt, Joseph Epstein, Danny Finkelstein.

Archival: Walter Lacquer on Why the Shah fell (1979).

The life of Trotsky

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

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

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

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

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

Some interesting stuff too in the comments thread.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christopher Hitchens and Robert Service talk Trotsky

From National Review Online’s Uncommon Knowledge TV show. Each episode is around 6 minutes. Pretty good from the superficial listen I’ve had.

Trotsky with Hitchens and Service 1: Christopher Hitchens and Robert Service introduce Leon Trotsky, “one of the half-dozen outstanding Marxist revolutionaries.”(Background stuff. Skip it if you are among the initiated.)

Trotsky with Hitchens and Service 2: the defeat and exile of Leon Trotsky.

Trotsky with Hitchens and Service 3: What if Trotsky, rather than Stalin, attained control of the Soviet Union?

Trotsky with Hitchens and Service 4: Christopher Hitchens and Robert Service talk about Trotsky’s “moral moments.” (On anti-fascism and the 1930s)

Trotsky with Hitchens and Service 5: Trotsky today – scrutinizing the modern romantic view of Leon Trotsky.

(Twitter version: The Hitchens/Service series: 1: http://ow.ly/jygc, 2: http://ow.ly/jygo, 3: http://ow.ly/jyhv, 4: http://ow.ly/jyhO, 5: http://ow.ly/jyhW. “Christopher Hitchens is a journalist and author. His most recent book is God Is Not Great. Robert Service is a historian who has published major biographies of Lenin and Stalin. His most recent book, Comrades!, is study of communism as a worldwide movement. His upcoming work, Trotsky, will be published in November 2009.”)

ADDED: Lesley Chamberlain “Twilight in Mexico” in WSJ on Trotsky: Downfall of a Revolutionary by Bertrand M. Patenaude (published in the UK as Stalin’s Nemesis, which I blogged about here, when it was Radio 4’s Book of the Week. More from Bookhugger, Ardmayle, The Tablet. More later today about the current Book of the Week, which also has a Trotskyist theme. ).

In the Mexican suitcase

Robert Capa’s “Mexican” Suitcase.  photo © Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Gerda Taro, Air Raid Victim in the Morgue, Valencia, 1937.

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