Talking heads

[Note, today, 20 December, is Sidney Hook’s birthday.]

Bayard Rustin vs Malcolm X, on black nationalism and Islam

Sidney Hook on liberalism, socialism and social democracy

Leon Trotsky on the Moscow trials

Emma Goldman on returning to the United States

EP Thompson on “society” for historians and for anthropologists

Raya Dunayevkaya on being a radical

Books/Obituaries

Stuart at New Appeal to Reason posts his books of 2011. Here are some of them. Note: the numbers are messed up here, but it seems too fiddly to change. Sorry. Read the original.

  1.  John Nichols, The “S” Word: A Short History of an American Tradition…Socialism
    Nichols has written a persuasive case that socialism is as American as apple pie.  From the forgotten radical economics of founding father Thomas Paine and the utopian socialists who founded the Republican Party to Victor Berger, the socialist Congressman from Milwaukee, who opposed WWI to Michael Harrington it is a great read.
    The subtitle is a little misleading.  Nichols leaves out some important topics that even a short history should contain: the Populist movement of the 1890s and the most successful Socialist Party of the Debs era–the Oklahoma socialists, discussed brilliantly in Jim Bissett’s Agrarian Socialism in America: Marx, Jefferson, and Jesus in the Oklahoma Countryside, 1904-1920.
  2. Joe Burns, Reviving the Strike: How Working People Can Regain Power and Transform America
    Carl Finamore reviewed it on Talking Union
    a valuable contribution to resurrecting fundamental lessons from the neglected history of American labor.
    As the title suggests and as he emphasized to me, “the only way we can revive the labor movement is to revive a strike based on the traditional tactics of the labor movement.”But he doesn’t stop there. The author reviews for the reader the full range of tactics and strategy during the exciting, turbulent and often violent history of American labor.Refreshingly, he also provides critical assessments normally avoided by labor analysts of a whole series of union tactics that have grown enormously popular over the last several decades.
  3. Louisa Thomas Conscience Two Soldiers, Two Pacifists, One Family–a Test of Will and Faith in World War I Even though I’ve read two biographies of Norman Thomas, this book by Thomas’s great-granddaughter greatly added to my knowledge and appreciation of Thomas.

    Alan Riding’s review in the New York Times seems on the mark

    Louisa Thomas, who never knew her great-­grandfather, might well have chosen to write his biography as a way of meeting him. Instead, in her first book, “Conscience: Two Soldiers, Two Pacifists, One Family — A Test of Will and Faith in World War I,” she has been far more daring. In fact, the lengthy subtitle is a bit misleading. Yes, Norman and his brother Evan were pacifists and their brothers Ralph and Arthur joined the Army. And yes, Evan was jailed as a conscientious objector and Ralph was wounded in the trenches. Yet the thrust of this enthralling book lies with its title: through the experience of her forebears, Thomas examines how conscience fares when society considers it subversive.

    At issue is not Norman Thomas’s socialism: it barely enters the picture because he joined the Socialist Party only a month before the end of the war. Instead, we are shown the “making” of a socialist, formed not by Marx but by the Bible.

    Also recommended is Mark Johnson’s review and interview of Louisa Thomas on the Fellowship of Reconciliation blog.

     
  4. Bruce Watson, Freedom Summer
  5. Raymond Arsenault, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice  

    Two outstanding books on critical episodes in the civil rights movement: the 1961 Freedom Rides to confront the segregation of interstate bus terminals and the 1964 Freedom Summer to register  African Americans in Mississippi.  Watson is the author of an excellent book on Sacco and Vanzetti (which I have read) and one on the 1912 Bread and Roses strike. Aresensault’s book is a long one, but there  is an abridged version and a DVD of the PBS documentary based on it.

    9.   Philip Dray, There is Power in the Union

    I bought this at the bookstore at the 2011 Netroots nation and found that it lives up to its subtitle “Epic Story of Labor in America.” It is now out in paperback.    There are other recent general  histories of US labor (Mel Dubofsky’s Labor in America: A History and Nelson Lichtenstein’s 2003 State of the Union: A Century of American Labor, A.B. Chitty’s 2002 From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend, and the 2007 two-volume Who Built America).  They might be preferred by academics or labor studies professionals, but for the general reader, union activist, or occupier, There is Power in the Union is highly recommended.
    10. Barbara Clark Smith The Freedoms We Lost:Consent and Resistance in Revolutionary America

    This is an eye-opening study of the real-life freedoms in revolutionary America. In a post on the History News Network, Smith brings out the huge differences between today’s Tea Party and the original. If you find that post  intriguing, you might want to check out the book.

And here are two obituaries of two we lost in 2011, from Criticism etc:

Daniel Bell, 1919-2011

Now largely forgotten, Bell was once an influential intellectual and sociologist from the milieu of those who have come to be known as the New York Intellectuals. He editedThe New Leader, the organ of the right-wing of American  social democracy, during World War II and went on to receive a PhD in sociology from Columbia University. He taught for many years at Harvard. Raya Dunayevskaya often cited his The End of Ideology (1960) as the quintessence of the false intellectual representation of the official capitalist society of the age of state capitalism, while the revolts of the time, among them Hungary and the colonial world, represented the negation of that falsification of reality. Bell contributed to  the development of the school of thought of neoconservatism, so-called, (he helped launch the journal Public Interest with William Kristol), although he did not move as far to right as many of his cohort.

• • •

Lana Peters (also known as Svetlana Alliluyeva), 1926-2011

An almost ghost-like figure from another time, Stalin’s daughter lived a peripatetic life after defecting from the USSR during the early years of the Brezhnev era. She authored several memoirs, including Twenty Letters to a Friend and Only One Year. Alliluyeva’s mother was Stalin’s second wife, Nadezhda Aliluyeva, who committed suicide in 1932. Svetlana Alliluyeva married a member of the Frank Lloyd Wright-Olgivanna Wright circle, William Peters, and had a daughter with him. Although Alliluyeva had harshly criticized the USSR after her emigration, she returned there briefly in the 1980s, but once again left it behind for England and the United States. She died in Wisconsin. The New York Times obituary features several photographs, including one of her as a child in her Young Pioneers uniform.

Against Stalinism in its various forms

A sophisticated apology for Castro: Pablo Velasco reviews Workers in Cuba: Unions and labour relations. // James Bloodworth on the cult of Che. //  Sean Matgamna: The Socialist Party and the workers: “every sect is religious” // Michael Ezra on the New Worker. // Ron Radosh on Ikea and East German slave labour. // Everyone’s gotta Havana: Yoani Sanchez on US illusions in the authoritarian state.

Published in: on September 9, 2011 at 3:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Poumiliciousness

Daniele Archibugi and Marina Chiarugi: Wilson, Trotsky, Assange: lessons from the history of diplomatic transparency.
Carl Packman: Reflections on May Day, London.
Andrew Coates: Syria, the Arab Spring and the Western Left.
Bob From Brockley: George Galloway, national socialist.
Bob From Brockley: Jewish hero or Israeli criminal (with an interesting comment thread on militant v liberal anti-fascism).
Arthur Bough: Why We Need A Tomb Of The Unknown Worker.
Bobi Pasquale: Anarchism, direct action and class struggle.

And some music:

Don Cherry does Andre Breton
Aaron Copland/Alfred Hayes: Into the Streets May First

Published in: on May 4, 2011 at 7:11 pm  Comments (1)  
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Miliband and Labour

Two great bits of Milibandism from Shiraz Socialist and Entdinglichung.

Published in: on October 1, 2010 at 12:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Poumastise

Anarchism versus Marxism

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

Marxist theory

Reading The Grundrisse; Thinking About Athens’ Rage

Bonapartism, Bureaucracy, Categories, Lessons And The Revolution Betrayed

Chris Harman: not all Marxism is dogmatic

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

Stalinism and anti-Stalinism

Stalin, Robeson, and Me.

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

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

Anarchist theory

Murray Bookchin’s political development.

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

Iberian culture

Marxist theory 2

From The Commune:

From Workers Liberty:

Sketchy Thoughts:

Notes and Commentaries:

Links:

Marxist Theory 1 here.

Alternative histories

Harry Barnes remembers his father (beautiful piece). Histomatist defends Trotsky. Martin remembers to remember Bastille Day (and Casablanca). Rosie is underwhelmed by Katyn. Dennis Healey remembers the Italian campaign but can’t remember who wrote Lili MarleneEd Walsh reviews Leo Panitch’s call for a renewal of socialism. Conor McCabe remembers the 1955 Irish/Yugoslav soccer international. The Irish Left Archive retrieves the Anarchist Worker of 1979. Bataille Socialiste remember Marceau Pivert with Orwell in Spain. Bataille Socialiste rescue the legacy of Charles Allegier. Entdinglichung archives The Left. Hillel Ticktin and Adam Buick debate Trotskyism.

left_53_1941_1

masses-pub1947-450pixe

Every line of serious work I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism as I understand it.

[Bitter Spring]I missed this excellent post by Jim Denham in my last Orwellia round-up: Orwell and socialism. Highly recommended.

Talking of great anti-fascists, here is Wall Street Journal, of all periodicals, on Ignacio Silone. More on this in later posts.

Published in: on June 11, 2009 at 2:03 pm  Comments (1)  
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Poumacious

Some day I’ll get around to writing an original blog post. In the meantime, more notes and notelets.

In City Journal, Fred Siegel takes a razor to the horrible, proto-fascist, eugenicist Fabian HG Wells, and argues that he is the godfather of American liberalism. From a conservative perspective, but absolutely right in many ways, although I don’t think that he makes the case for how Wells shaped American liberalism, and that his anti-democratic politics really left a legacy. Wells, however, like his fellow Fabians, represents a socialism-from-above that has been a strong strain in the British left, arguably inherited by the paternalist New Labour project today. Luckily, it has been countered by a tradition of socialism-from-below, running through William Morris, Keir Hardie, George Orwell, Nye Bevan, Michael Young, Raymond Williams and Maurice Brinton. Who inherits that tradition todGeorge Orwell - broadcasting 1984, which is 60 years old next weekay though?

Talking of socialism-from-below, in the Telegraph, the irritating Jeremy Paxman has an excellent piece about George Orwell‘s wonderfulness. Sunday was, of course, the 60th anniversary of Orwell’s 1984, and the chattering classes have been going to town. Here, a number of them twitter about Orwell. Alexei Sayle’s contribution stands out. And, decidedly beyond the chattering classes, here is the late Robert Barltrop of the SPGB.


Poumerouma

The libertarian socialist tradition

New blog: Big Flame, on the history of this UK radical group of the 1970s.

Why Philosophy? Why Now? On the Revolutionary Legacies of Raya Dunayevskaya, CLR James and Anton Pannekoek, By David Black at The Hobgoblin

Andre Gorz, or the Ecological Demand, by Serge Audier at Principia Dialectica.

Anarchist Studies: Perspective 2009. On the legacy of Murray Bookchin.

Poster art, folk song and historical memory

More from BCNDesign: The everyday comes to Santa Coloma: Local things for local history. Graphic design in 1930s Spain.

History Today: The Mexican suitcase. British volunteers and Republican posters.

Rio Wang: Russian poster design and the war on coca-cola. Carlos Gordel and the zorzal.

George Szirtes: Fado da Tristeza.

Polish gentile, Jan Jagielski, chief archivist at the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, to receive the Irena Sendler Memorial Award from the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture.

The extraordinary anti-Nazi photo-montages of John Heartfield.

Scoop Review of Books: Kiwi Compañeros: NZ’s anti-Franco volunteers. See more in TNC‘s comment here. Which led me to these two great older posts: Fieldtrip to the International Center for Photography (Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, Francesc Torres and poster art). ¿Viva la Insurgencía?: The Spanish Civil War and the Legacy of the Totalitarian International Brigades. There’s plenty more TNC posts on memory and archives and on Communism.

Watch Land and Freedom at A Complex System of Pipes.

From the archive of struggle, no.14 (below the fold) (more…)

Poumish

Some recent blog posts on the topics close to my heart:

Uses and abuses: George Orwell and Norman Thomas

Following Terry Glavin (linked here) and the Fat Man (linked here), Rosie Bell has a really good response to Julian Barnes’ recent NYRB George Orwell essay. Among other things, like the Fat Man she addresses his appeal to libertarians and conservatives of various sorts.

An example of the appropriation of Orwell by the right comes from this post at an American anti-Obama blog. The post is entitled “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” This, of course, is the opening passage from Orwell’s amazing novel 1984. Compelling graphics show a Soviet American flag and Obama as Big Brother. Of course, it is a serious abuse of the concept of totalitarianism to think of Obama’s mild reforms as totalitarianism: there is no similarity between what Orwell observed the Soviet dictatorship doing and what Obama is doing.

Along with another quote from Orwell is this “quote” from Norman Thomas:

thomas“The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism. But, under the name of liberalism, they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program, until one day America will be a socialist nation, without knowing how it happened.”

Norman Thomas, Socialist leader, 1944

This Thomas quote is, I am fairly sure, a fabrication. If you google it, the hits all come from right-wing sites: over 54,000 hits. Malicious editors, usually anonymous, attempt to write it into Thomas’ wikipedia article, from which it is quoted by lazy bloggers as if everything in wikipedia is a fact (e.g. Standing on Truth, Moose Tracks, DaveGJ, and (slightly more intelligently) Kempite - to list those who have added to the myth this week alone).

A query at the talk page for Thomas’ wikipedia article has a response from Jim Miller, a university librarian, suggesting that the origin is a distortion of a comment made by Upton Sinclair to Norman Thomas:

We can build evidence for the possibility, or questionability, of this by looking at other people’s efforts to find it – for example, books.google.com search: liberalism socialism “norman thomas” gets 84 hits, including Lou Cannon. Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power. PublicAffairs, 2003. ISBN: 1586480308. (F866.4.R43 C36 2003 in most academic libraries; in 979.4… or BIO section of most public libraries). On page 125, Cannon says [of Reagan] …”a favorite line was this supposed prediction of Norman Thomas…”, and “This is a suspect quotation, and Reagan gave no reference for it”. Cannon also says in a note “If Thomas said this, I have been unable to find evidence of it….”

Naturally, a thorough researcher would try to find many other such books, from people of various political bents, to build a case that such a quote is either probable, possible, or unlikely. One would think such a striking quote would make it into biographies of Thomas; try the tables of contents and indexes for “Liberalism”, etc. Even statements from social and political historians (who claim to have looked for such a quote) can help build a case for or against it.

But it IS a good example of how even a false quote can take on a life of its own, because it shows how hard it is to prove a person did NOT say something – even if a “grand champion” history reference expert DOES end up finding this particular quote somewhere in unpublished Norman Thomas correspondence.”*

The right uses this fabricated “quote” to substantiate a double lie: that American liberalism is somehow socialism in disguise, and that socialism is by definition a form of totalitarianism or tyranny. The fact that Norman Thomas was a democratic socialist, who fought hard against all forms of totalitarianism or tyranny, not least the Soviet dictatorship, is utterly lost on them. The fact that American liberalism has, at most, called for mild forms of state regulation and never for any kind of socialisation of the economy is also, of course, lost on them.

*Footnote: Thanks to Bilber and Kathy for link to hoax-sniffers Snopes who are still “undecided” on the authenticity of this quote.

Workers’ democracy

The Commune has published two 1950s ILP pamphlets from the 1950s:

socialism and workers’ councils (1957) and nationalisation: a socialist analysis (1958) both counterpose industrial democracy to nationalisation by the bourgeois state, and pose the question of how the working class can rule both economically and politically.

More (via La Bataille Socialiste):

Voir aussi sur les nationalisations:

  • The Labour Government 1945-1951 vidéos
  • Le réformisme du “Programme commun” en France (1974)
  • Published in: on September 10, 2008 at 2:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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