What can you say about the three key figures of British post-war Trotskyism? Gerry Healy was a hyperactive pseud with a penchant for thuggery, rape and doing dodgy deals with unsavoury Arab regimes. Tony Cliff was flighty, excitable and an inveterate bandwagon chaser – qualities he imparted to the Socialist Workers Party. And there is Ted Grant. Founder of the Militant Tendency and with a reputation for super seriousness, of all of Trotsky’s British progeny it was he who came closest to disturbing the sleep of the great and the good. But for all that, it’s the repulsive Healy and the Mercurial Cliff who are most often recalled and discussed among the tiny circles of people who care about such things. Poor old Ted, the longest lived and most successful of them all merits nary a mention. Perhaps not recruiting enough celebrities or future Guardian journalists has something to do with it.
Digesting some of the material about the collapse of the British SWP. Here are some of the links that are relevant beyond UK sectariana but of interest to those interested in Marxist theory and Trotskyist history more broadly. For those interested in the gory details, go to Jim Jepps’ ever-growing link list, from which a couple of the items below are pilfered, or to Mikey’s tabloid version. Apologies this is so un-chronological, with stuff from January through to April.
Leninism, vanguardism, party democracy, activist culture:
- Phil (A Very Public Sociologist): Life on the revolutionary treadmill; SWP, Rape, and Revolutionary Justice; Where now for the SWP?; British Trotskyism after the Cold War; the SWP, an obituary.
- Paul Cotteril (Though Cowards Flinch): The SWP meltdown, institutional legitimacy and the broader lesson for the left
- Lives running: Workers’ democracy and the politics of wrath
- Anna Chen: People’s Assembly and Nechayev’s Catechism: be very afraid …
- Soviet Goon Boy: Reflections on the SWP crisis; The bureaucratic imperative; From the vaults: “Democracy in the International Socialists”, 1975; Order prevails in Vauxhall; Building the leadership; The age gap, and why it matters; The uses of paranoia. Interesting reflections in some of these on the precedent from Gerry Healy’s WRP.]
- Corey Ansel: Sherry Wolf – Writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
- Keith Watermelon: The SWP in crisis, what do socialists say?
- Ed Maltby and Martin Thomas: Politics without oxygen
- John Riddell: Party democracy in Lenin’s Comintern – and now
- Tim Nelson: Rosa Luxemburg and the Revolutionary Party
- Louis Proyect: A Reply to Alex Callinicos; Mike Gonzales and the ideological priesthood
- Norman Geras: Leninism forever?
- Paul LeBlanc: Leninism is unfinished (reply by Louis Proyect)
- Tom Walker: Lenin versus Leninism
- Gregor Gall: Democracy and the left
- Tendance Coatesy: The International Marxist Group and the SWP Crisis.
- International Socialists: Is Zinovievism finished?
Theorising Marxism and feminism:
- Camilla Power: ‘Feminism is a dirty word’. What would Marx and Engels think today?
- Radical Anthropology Group: SWP ‘expulsions’ for discussing rape – not for the first time! (1991)
- Yassamin Mather: Sexism: Macho culture and the lessons we can learn from the Middle East
The “IS tradition”:
- Captain Jack: The SWP and the IS tradition.
- JOAQUÍN BUSTELO: On The Two Souls of Socialism (2005)
- Roobin: Some thoughts on IS theory
The radical movement in Britain
- 10 years on, a comment on the British SWP, Mike Marqusee
- SPGB: An open letter
- Hatful of History: Is this a turning point for the British left?
Historical Materialism journal:
- Delhi HM committee: Disentangling the Delhi HM Conference from the SWP Crisis
- Ross Wolfe: Hysterical Materialism etc
Tags: Alex Callinicos, Comrade Delta, democratic centralism, feminism, Gerry Healy, Historical Materialism, International Socialism, International Socialist, International Socialists, IS, John Rees, Karl Marx, Leninsm, Louis Proyect, Marxism, Norman Geras, Rosa Luxemburg, Sherry Wolf, Socialist Workers Party, SWP, Tony Cliff, Trotskyism, vanguard party, vanguardism, Vladimir Lenin
“Quote me as saying I was mis-quoted.” – Groucho Marx
Welcome to 2013 at Poumista. Here’s a taster of some stuff I’ve been reading lately.
David Osler: Two Milibands on the monarchy.
From the archive of struggle
Espace contre ciment:
At David Osler’s blog:
*Duncan Hallas: Cult Becomes a Cropper (1985) [on Healy's WRP, but eerily relevant to the current enjoyable crisis of the British SWP]
[Some links via my usual source]
Against Martovism! Some fantastically po-faced Stalinism spotted in the Morning Star letters page.
When tweeting can get you hard labour: Against Socialist Unity’s support for the Chinese regime.
Obituary for an anarchist: John Brailey 1934-2012.
Edd Mustill: The Daily Herald is one hundred years old
Our operaismo: Extract from Mario Tronti’s memoirs. Not read it yet, but I like this from the NLR intro: it offers an illuminating contrast of the springtime of 56 and hot autumnn of 69, and draws a sharp distinction between classical operaismo and its distant echo, autonomism, which persisted on the counter-cultural margins of Europe’s cities from the late 70s, to emerge in more hygenic form in Hardt and Negri’s Empire at the turn of the century.
From the archive of struggle no.74
This material mostly comes from a bumper edition at Entdinglichung. This leads off with MIA’s pdfs of The Workers’ council. An organ for the Third International. For info on this, see here or here. This was from an overwhelmingly Jewish and New York based left faction in the Socialist Party, that merged in 1921 with the WPA, i.e. what became the CPUSA. (more…)
Tags: Alliance for Workers Liberty, C.E. Ruthenberg, Communist Party USA, Daily Herald, George Breitman, Isaac Deutscher, John Brailey, Mario Tronti, Morning Star, Permanent Revolution, Socialist Unity, Socialist Workers Party
Most important link today is an apparently previously unpublished text by Emma Goldman on “The political Soviet grinding machine“, written in Barcelona in 1936.
I’ve only recently noticed the newish website Anti-Fascist Archive, which mainly has material from the history of British militant anti-fascism. Here’s a recent weekly update to give you an idea of what’s there:
- The blanks have been filled in the fighting talk collection.
- The World in Action documentary on anti-fascism is final available for all to watch!
- Information about picture 6 in the Collection of Beatings post has been supplied by Pedro.
- TAL fanzine and Celtic anti-fascist information has been helpfully supplied
- An old picture of Joey Owens has been added
- A new various AFA literature post
- Pre-War articles on anti-fascism
- Some fascist stickers have been added too
Most relevant to this blog, I guess, is the pre-war stuff, so here’s a taster.
The Two-Gun Mutualist site has been updating its translations. Among the updated are: “Nihilism” by Voline (ca.1929); Joseph Déjacque,Authority—Dictatorship (Down with the Bosses!) and Exchange; Henri Rochefort, letter on Louise Michel; Han Ryner, from “The Congress of Poets” and “The Revolt of the Machines“.
There’s lost more from the radical archive at Entdinglichung, mainly in French but also including Rare texts by the Situationist International 1966-1972 and Nestor Machno’s The Anarchist Revolution (192?).
Below the fold, what’s new at the Marxist Internet Archive: (more…)
Tags: Andreu Nin, Anti-fascism, Anti-Fascist Action, Emma Goldman, Fourth International, International Socialism, Paul Elaurd, Peter Petroff, Plebs League, Socialist Workers Party
From Criticism etc:
Raya Dunayevskaya’s Marxism and Freedom has been translated into Arabic and published in a small edition. The project was undertaken by the Victor Serge Foundation, based in Montpellier, France, and organized by the American expatriate and Serge translator Richard Greeman (New York Review Books has just published his translation of Serge’s novel Conquered City). A brief account of a book release event held in the Moroccan coastal town of Benslimane (“On Socialism and Freedom in Morocco“) appears in the new issue of News & Letters. A fuller account of Greeman’s visit to the country (“Violent Crackdown in Morocco Fails to Halt Movement“) can be found on his Z Space blog. A PDF version of the translation of Marxism and Freedom can be found on the web site of the U.S. Marxist-Humanists.
The new issue of Against the Current features a long essay by historian Alan Wald on the U.S. Socialist Workers Party (“A Winter’s Tale Told in Memoirs“), of which he was a member in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is safe to characterize the piece as largely an exercise in SWP nostalgia and nowhere near as interesting as his book The New York Intellectuals (1987), in which he discusses in penetrating depth the actual period of the disintegration of the SWP and Trotskyism as a whole (1939-1941). Wald, a sympathizer of the Cannonite tradition, instead places the decline in 1970s when the (in his account) semi-natural phenomenon of “radicalization” began to wane and the current leadership consolidated its position. Even though this piece is disappointing, Criticism &c. looks forward to the third installment of Wald’s trilogy on American leftist writers (see Exiles from a Future Time and Trinity of Passion for the first two).
Brown University Library’s Center for Digital Initiatives hosts a collection of scanned images of two important U.S. New Left/post-New Left journals, Radical America and Cultural Correspondence. The two journals, closely connected with the prolific historian of the left and left culture Paul Buhle, were among the more interesting intellectual by-products of Students for a Democratic Society.
Principia Dialectica: Putting Counterfire’s John ‘Bonzo’ Rees to bed
Check out this fab doco on the American Yiddish anarchist paper Freie Arbeiter Stimme. Here is the blurb that goes with the video:
“The Free Voice of Labor: The Jewish Anarchists” traces the history of a Yiddish anarchist newspaper (Fraye Arbeter Shtime – The Free Voice of Labor) publishing its final issue after 87 years. Narrated by anarchist historian Paul Avrich, the story is mostly told by the newspaper’s now elderly, but decidedly unbowed staff. It’s the story of one of the largest radical movements among Jewish immigrant workers in the 19th and 20th centuries, the conditions that led them to band together, their fight to build trade unions, their huge differences with the communists, their attitudes towards violence, Yiddish culture, and their loyalty to one another.
It is a pretty great story. What I would have liked to have seen would be the sites where tensions in such a movement lied. Where did the characters in this story depart in their politics? Where did they think their activism “worked” and where, with all that time to look back on the production of the paper, did they think they could have focused their energies more? [READ THE REST]
Below the fold, lots of rich material from Signalfire: (more…)
Recently discovered, via a Greek radical history website that made me wish I spoke Greek. Plus, at the bottom, some things from Histomatist and other bloggers.
Prophets from across the Pacific: The influence of Canadian agitators on New Zealand labour militancy in the early twentieth century
H M Fitzgerald (ATL photo 1/2-007676-F)
— From the Evening Post, 8th July, 1913
- Cresciani, Gianfranco, ‘Italian anti-fascism in Australia, 1922-45′, in Wheelwright, E.L. & Buckley, K. (ed.), Essays in the political economy of Australian capitalism, volume three, 1978 edn, vol. 3, Australia & New Zealand Book Company, Brookvale, 1978, pp. 86-101. [ | | Details... ]
- Gibson, Ralph, ‘Struggle against war and fascism’, in My years in the Communist Party, International Bookshop, Melbourne, 1966. [ | | Details... ]
- Manton, Joyce, ‘War can be prevented’, in The centenary prepares war, Melbourne University Council Against War, Melbourne, 1934. [ | | Details... ]
- Smith, Bernard, ‘The realisms of war’, in Noel Counihan: artist and revolutionary, 1993 edn, Oxford University Press, Melbourne & New York, pp. 180-97. [ Details... ]
- Smith, Bernard, ‘The fascist mentality in Australian art and criticism 1946′, in The critic as advocate selected essays 1941-1988, 1989 edn, Oxford University Press Australia, Melbourne, 1989, pp. 44-51. [ Details... ]
This is a portrait of Francesco Giovanni Fantin [1901-42] pictured just before he left Italy as an antifascist emigre in 1924. Note the foulard which was an anarchist dress symbol. Since 1985 I have been researching the biography of Fantin, an important Italo Australian anarchist activist who was assassinated by fascist conspirators whilst interned as an enemy alien at Loveday in the SA Riverland, 16 November 1942. This website contains previously unpublished photographs, supplied by friends and relatives of Fantin, and interpretative argument by me about Fantin’s life and times. Fantin is presented as a significant figure in the history of political heterodoxy, emigration and multicultural diversification which were beginning to assume historical proportions in Italo-Australian relations during his lifetime. This then is the larger than life story of a grass roots activist who explored democratic notions of citizenship resolved `to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield’. It should be of interest to all interested in the history of democracy and Italo-Australian social and political history, whether they share Fantin’s anarchism, or, like myself, only his socialism.
Tony Cliff: A Marxist for his Time
by Ian Birchall
Hardback £25 9781905192793/Paperback £16.99 9781905192809Tony Cliff came to political consciousness in the darkest period of the 20th century and spent his life developing revolutionary Marxism against Stalinism. From his early days as a revolutionary in British-occupied Palestine, through years of obscurity and isolation in London and Dublin to the high points of struggle in post-war Britain, Cliff worked to restore lost ideas and traditions, fan flames of resistance and develop our understanding of a system in constant change. Ian Birchall’s lovingly crafted book is the culmination of years of work, drawing on interviews with over 100 people who knew Cliff and painstaking research in archives around the country. It is a majestic example of political biography at its best.
I have just finished reading The Crisis of Theory: EP Thompson, the New Left, and Postwar British Politics a highly readable new study by Scott Hamilton of Reading the Maps fame. I can happily and heartily recommend it to readers of Histomat as a fine companion volume to Thompson’s The Poverty of Theory and Other Essays (1978). Hamilton’s work comes with what now reads as a rather poignant recommendation from the late socialist historian and EP Thompson’s partner, Dorothy Thompson, and overall I found it a fascinating introduction to Thompson the thinker and writer – someone who I didn’t know before now was given cricket lessons by Nehru while a boy. Personally would have liked a little more on Thompson the great Marxist historian, but I am aware that would have probably meant a different book – and in any case, myself and Hamilton had a little debate about Thompson and Marxist historiography about five years ago – a debate I am not sure either of us feel the compulsion to return to just now. Many congratulations anyway to Scott on the publication of his homageto EPT.
As [Eagleton] acknowledges, our age of no-strings-attached state handouts to banks and punitive cuts to social services has embraced a form of capitalism so grotesque that it resembles the caricatures of the most leaden Soviet satirists. Eagleton presents his book as the fruit of “a single, striking thought: what if all the objections to Marx’s thought are mistaken?” In order to demonstrate this, each of the chapters of this erudite yet breezy (occasionally too breezy) tract begins with a series of assertions about Marx and Marxism, which Eagleton then proceeds to debunk, one by one.
From Hatherley’s review of Eagleton’s Why Marx was Right and Lih’s Lenin. Personally I disagree very slightly with Hatherley’s conclusion, at the end of his discussion of Lih’s biography of Lenin: Yet what really endures here is the sense that, for Lenin, a revolutionary leader has a duty to lead the working class into revolution, and all the theory in the world won’t help if the political and economic conditions are missing. Lenin believed that the first world war offered a real chance to destroy capitalism, and when – in 1919, as revolution briefly engulfed Europe – he seemed to be proved right, he felt vindicated, even relieved. He learned his mistake, and died deeply troubled by it.Yet Lenin was not ‘mistaken’ when the world revolution failed to triumph outside of Russia post First World War – the conditions did exist for the successful socialist revolution in Europe – not least in Germany which underwent two revolutionary situations in 1918 and then again in 1923. Lenin knew that making the revolution in Russia was a gamble, but, he wagered, it was right to make that gamble – a gamble after all that was critical to ending the bloodshed of the First World War and, everything taken into account did demonstrate the possibilities for socialist revolution in the 20th century.
As Rosa Luxemburg noted,‘Everything that a party could offer of courage, revolutionary farsightedness, and consistency in a historic hour, Lenin, Trotsky, and the other comrades have given in good measure. All the revolutionary honor and capacity which the Social Democracy of the West lacked were represented by the Bolsheviks. Their October uprising was not only the actual salvation of the Russian Revolution; it was also the salvation of the honour of international socialism.’
From Tendence Coatesy
I recently saw the film Louise-Michel.
It’s a bit, so-so (I went for the name- see below).
The film begins with a coffin being jammed in a Crematorium while the Internationale plays. A textile factory, in Picardy, is delocalised. The boss leaves the women workers in the lurch. Rather than go for a nude Calender, or take up stripping, they decide to hire a killer to bump him. Louise (Yolande Moreau), finds one, a man transsexual. Louise turns out to be man.
The comedy, such as it is, takes place the surreal Picardy environment, a decaying Communist bastion, with co-ops and council housing falling apart. The only real laughs are in the search for the ultimate boss responsible for the closure. This takes the pair, Louise and her pro ((Bouli Lanners) to a posh gala dinner, Brussels ( with , nonantes and septantes said every other sentence, and finally to Jersey where a much appreciated bloodbath of the bourgeoisie ensues.(Here.)
The only really good scene in Louise-Michel – and still a bit Little Britain in its humour – is when the duo pass by and visit the farm where Louise had shot a bank-manager out to forfeit her indebted property. It’s now an organic bed-and-breakfast heaven, with fair-trade coffee, bio bogs, hand-woven degradable carpets, spring water showers, crystal therapy breakfasts, and recycled air -in the dull flat Picardy mud.
Anyway, apart from the chance of seeing Siné in the flesh – in a walk-on part – I wouldn’t recommend the film.
But at the end there is a quote on the screen from the real-life Louise Michel.
Now she is someone the English-speaking left should get to know.
“Michel became highly admired by French workers and revolutionaries, particularly for her association with theParis Commune. From after her death until 1916, a demonstration was held every year at her tomb at Levallois-Perret.
A legendary figure of the labour movement, Michel had the ability to incite crowds to act. Frequently, the language used to describe her is that reserved for saints and heretics; she is often referred to as “Bonne Louise” (Good Louise) or the “Vierge rouge” (red Virgin). For better or worse, Michel seems to have fascinated her contemporaries. This woman, educated and cultured, intelligent without being shy and retiring, and lacking the beauty of certain demimondaines and other women of loose morals who populated the period before the Belle Epoque, was surrounded by many male celebrities. They were often her steadfast friends, until the end of her life, or more frequently to the end of theirs. For a period when women still had essentially no rights, she was in many respects an exception.”
If were to go to the black cemetery
- Brothers, throw on your sister,
- As a final hope,
- Some red ‘carnations’ in bloom.
- In the final days of Empire,
- When the people were awakening,
- It was your smile red carnation
- which told us that all was being reborn.
- Today, go blossom in the shadow of the black and sad prisons.
- Go, bloom near the somber captive,
- And tell him/her truly that we love him/her.
- Tell that through fleeting time
- Everything belongs to the future
- That the livid-browed conqueror
- can die more surely than the conquered.
There is a very well expressed article by Nick Rogers in the latest Weekly Worker on the 140th Anniversary of the Paris Commune – Here.
The historical experience of the Paris Commune teaches us a threefold lesson.
First, the key role of political leadership and programme. The Commune clearly lacked coherent political leadership. It did not even have a clear idea of what it sought to achieve. This was partly a question of political ideology, but it was also an expression of the lack of any working class party to speak of. In Paris (and in the other cities of France, where during this period several communes of only a few days’ duration were declared) there were political traditions, clubs and conspiratorial groupings. Lacking from the political firmament was any party seeking to democratically represent the interests of the whole class.
The International came closest and was subsequently blamed by the French government for the uprising. It banned the International in France and wrote to governments around Europe urging them to take the same action. But the Proudhonist majority in the French section held to a theoretical position that rejected political action (and trade unionism, for that matter). It was not ready to lead a workers’ revolution.
Second, the spontaneity of the working class is capable of great feats. What was achieved in Paris during April and May 1871 by the citizens of the city retains the capacity to inspire. Local initiatives proliferated. Right up to the last week a mood of festival prevailed. It is not the role of a political party to subsume or subdue such initiative, but to provide a focal point for directing the working class’s capacity for political and organisational creativity in an agreed direction.
Third, a workers’ revolution transforms the political and constitutional landscape or it is not a revolution. That is why communists raise democratic and republican demands. It is a lesson most of the present-day ‘revolutionary’ left has forgotten. The rediscovery of Kautsky “when he was a Marxist” can help hammer home that lesson.
This is a crystal-clear summary of the Commune’s enduring political meaning.
At Coatesy: Lenin. Lars T. Lih. Review: a ‘Heroic Scenario’. / Localism and the Big Society: An Emerging Left Critique. / Vanessa Redgrave and the Red Sex Slaves: A Marxist Analysis, er.. / Everything Flows. Vasily Grossman. A Review. / Levellers’ Day, Burford. / 33 Revolutions Per Minute. A History of Protest Songs. Dorian Lynsky. Review. / Leninism’ and the Socialist Party (Taaffe). / Les Maoïstes. Christophe Bourseiller, Review and Reflections.
At Shiraz Socialist:
- Snips (poumista.wordpress.com)
- Variousness 37 (antigerman.wordpress.com)
- From the archive of struggle: Haymarket and May Day (poumista.wordpress.com)
- 17 December 1925: Fascist meeting in Manchester (guardian.co.uk)
- 6 April: Remembering war in Sarajevo (poumista.wordpress.com)
True, Gaddafi has not won yet. But it is starting to look as if superior military hardware is a telling that advantage that will deliver victory to the Libyan strongman sooner or later.
Although I haven’t had a chance to think the question through yet, my gut instinct would be to support calls for western governments to arm the rebels. But as far as I am aware, no prominent political figure in the US or Europe has publicly backed such a plan.
Jim Denham has some more compelling analogies: The Morning Star: those wonderful folks who brought you the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact / From Jack London to the scabs of the Morning Star, Socialist Worker and Counterfire. Dale Street also notes George Galloway’s Stalinism:
In his semi-autobiographical work “I’m Not the Only One”, Galloway wrote: “”Just as Stalin industrialized the Soviet Union, so on a different scale Saddam plotted Iraq’s own Great Leap Forward. … He is likely to have been the leader in history who came closest to creating a truly Iraqi national identity, and he developed Iraq and the living, health, social and education standards of his own people.”
And in the comments thread at BobFromBrockley:
Clearly, the SWP are taking a much better line than the reactionary hardcore anti-imp position (the scab position, as Jim Denham rightly puts it) taken by Noah and Calvin Tucker, Andy Newman and John Wight. It would be good to see the SWP revert to Third Camp form, having swayed so long to a Second Camp position. (Interesting that John Wight attributes the SWP’s wrongness to their state capitalist analysis: Tucker, Wight, Newman and co are essentially Stalinists, whose very un-21st century idea of “socialism” always involves a strong state and a strongman at the helm.)
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Left Harryism: Raincoat Optimism on Hugo Chavez.
Totally un-related: The State as a Social Relationship: Gustav Landauer Revived – Dov Neuman of Jewdas interviews Gabriel Kuhn. More on this some other time. Maybe.
To add to the blogroll: In the hands of the many.
I need quite a bit of time to catch up with: Arthur Bough.
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 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.)
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 1918; Dare to be a Daniel! – Wilf McCartney; The 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.
And one more for Michael Foot – the JC with a Jewish angle.
And two more obituaries, via Histomatist: The new issue of Socialist Review has a short article on the founder of the International Socialist Tendency, Tony Cliff (1917-2000) by Ian Birchall – at work on a forthcoming biography of this critically important twentieth-century revolutionary Marxist thinker. See also Sabby Sagall on the British actor and revolutionary socialist [sic] Corin Redgrave (1939-2010).
Talking of mourning (not that we’re mourning Redgrave), the New Centrist: “Pray for the twenty-nine West Virginia miners who lost their lives and their families. Then get active. Amending Joe Hill’s famous phrase, don’t only mourn, organize.”
Max Dunbar: All shall have prizes. On the Orwell Prize, Stephen Mitchelmore, Nick Cohen, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and George Orwell’s anti-pacifism. Related, did Christopher Hitchens read the SWP’s John Molyneux and blogger Snowball after reading Animal Farm?
Jamie Bartlett: Politics and the English language 2.0.
Continuing our anarchism vs Marxism discussion, these lapidary posts from Lady Poverty are well worth your time: Marx and Foucault; A note about Marx and Foucault; The point, as it relates to Holden Caulfield and Karl Marx; Marxism vs. identity anarchism. And here, very much less to my taste, is a contribution from a Maoist: Anarchism or revolutionary Marxism? by Arindam Sen of the CPI(ML).
Also chronically belated: New Statesman: Jonathan Derbyshire interviews Terry Eagleton on nostalgia for 1970s socialism.
And some considerable time after Michael Foot’s death, this from Brian Brivati: Foot and Nye Bevan.
Wobbling around the world: a socialist belatedly discovers the IWW.
Wolin and Brivati come from Arguing The World, the now not quite brand new trans-Atlantic blog at Dissent. Here is one more from that: Alan Johnson: Žižek or Bobbio? (The blog title is familiar to me from the PBS documentary about the New York intellectuals I link to over to the right – I ought to know whose being quoted: Irving Howe?)
I meant to link to this article on William Morris discovering socialism in Iceland when it came out, then forgot, but was prompted after noticing it at Histomatist – seems kind of timelier now, as Morris would no doubt be enjoying the effects of the volcano on the global tourism and agri-industries.
Finally, how can I post these days without mentioning Hugo Chavez? This is from the Venezuelan anarchist journal El Libertario: Venezuela: the myth of “Eco-socialism of the XXI Century”. The author is Professor and Researcher at the Simon Bolivar University in Caracas. This contribution is the revised excerpt from a longer article appeared in Spanish in the Journal of Economics and Social Sciences (FACES-UCV) entitled “XXI Century Eco-socialism and Bolivarian Development Model: the myths of environmental sustainability and participatory democracy in Venezuela “, 2009, vol. 15, No. 1, pp.187-223
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Tags: Alex Callinicos, Colin Ward, Corin Redgrave, Eric Hobsbawm, George Orwell, Hugo Chavez, Industrial Workers of the World, International Socialist Tendency, IWW, Karl Marx, Llasa, Llasa de Sela, Maoism, Marxism, Michael Foot, Michel Foucault, Socialist Workers Party, SWP, Terry Eagleton, Tony Cliff, William Morris, Wobblies
Independent Labour Party
La Brigada with timely blast from the past: Mr Asquith versus Labourism 1895.
New Left Review
I’m not sure if I already linked to Stefan Collini’s piece in The Guardian on NLR at 50, an exceptional piece of writing in the noughties Grauniad. A piece with a similar slant, by Nikal Saval, appeared in n+1 magazine. Here’s our occasional contributor Michael Ezra reminding us of a less glorious moment in the NLR‘s history.
Comrade Ezra again, from David Horowitz’s old redoubt, Ramparts.
And here’s Michael again, with extracts from Bash The Rich: True-Life Confessions of an Anarchist in the UK.
Socialist Workers Party
Mark Perryman in 1995 on Tony Cliff and his cult. (Yes, Michael again.)
On a great anti-communist cartoonist. (Not Michael.)
In my last post in this series, I did not include anything from the Marxist Internet Archive, which has had a huge amount of interesting material added to it since I last looked. You’ll find a selection below the fold, but first some other archival links.
Via Espace contre ciment, I have found a few sites I don’t think I’ve seen before, which I have or am adding to the blogroll.
Barataria: Situationism in French from Belgium. Recently added: some picture of the Mexican revolution: Exécution d’un officier fédéral; Barricade; Armes saisies aux troupes fédérales; American Insurrectos.
Patlotch! Free texts, regularly added to, mostly French.
Les Gimenologues: On some partisans of the Spanish war, mainly in French. Recent books include:
If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger,There’d Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats: Extraordinary blog, trawling through the visual detritus of American modernity. Here are some fragments:
Ofenschlot: A German language blog which excavates the web for texts which help to explode capitalism. For English-speaking readers, this post links through to a pdf of a 1980 Marxism Today review of the important but neglected marxist economic theorist Bob Rowthorn.
From the Marxist Internet Archive: (more…)
Tags: 1936 Berlin Olympics, Anatoly Lunacharsky, Andreu Nin, Anton Pannekoek, Bund, Cajo Brendel, Chris Harman, Daniel Bensaïd, Daniel Guérin, Edgar Hardcastle, Ernest Mandel, First International, Henry Hyndman, International Socialists, Ira Gershwin, Jesse Owens, K Boris, Kurt Weill, Luis Buñuel, Max Shachtman, pieter lawrence, Raya Dunayevskaya, Social Democratic Federation, Socialist Party of Great Britain, Socialist Workers Party, SPGB, Sylvia Pan, Tony Cliff, Workers Socialist Federation, Zelda Kahan
[...] UK anarchist Colin Ward has died. His Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2004) is both very short and quite good, and his appeal as a writer was widespread, his many, generally pithy writings emphasising the practical dimensions of Anarchy in Action. (Revolution by the Book has an extract from Anarchy in Action here; AK Press is also publishing Autonomy, Solidarity, Possibility: The Colin Ward Reader later this year.) In addition to being the author of numerous books and pamphlets, Ward edited Anarchy zine for its first 100 issues (1961–1970), criticised by some as being reflective of anarchism’s absorption by the middle class.
OBITUARIES – 20: COLIN WARD, Paul Anderson, GAUCHE, February 17, 2010 | Colin Ward, RIP, Jesse Walker, Reason, February 17, 2010 | Colin Ward: pioneer of mutualism, Next Left, February 14, 2010 | Colin Ward Presente!, Dan Cull Weblog, February 14, 2010 | Colin Ward, Rob Ray, libcom, February 13, 2010 | Colin Ward, Ross Bradshaw, Five Leaves Blog, February 12, 2010.
See also : Anarchism in Action: Methods, Tactics, Skills, and Ideas, Second Edition (draft), Complied and Edited by Shawn Ewald.
Bob versus the Moonbats: marxism necessary but not sufficient.
Some items of interest from The Commune: Beyond the party-state, beyond the big bang; El Alto, bastion of social struggles in Bolivia; Readings on the Paris Commune from Marx, Bakunin, Kropotkin and the Situationists; The early Russian revolution: Laurat in wonderland (this is part 1 of a text on Lucien Laurat’s book L’Économie Soviétique: Sa Dynamique, son méchanisme, by João Bernardo of Passa Palavra; the original in Portuguese is here, with part 2 here, presumably awaiting translation).
The departure of Lindsey German from the British SWP is raising some interesting discussions of party democracy in the UK left blogosphere. Among the contributions are these: “When Zinoviev is in the majority he is for iron discipline, when he is in the minority he is against it“; “Once Tiberius is dead I, Sejanus, will rule as Emperor in Rome”; “It was the best times, it was the worst of times”….; United fronts or just fronts?; The examination of the conscience (or lack thereof). Odd how it brings out the erudition in bloggers with these titles.
And finally, um, for reasons best known to himself, but perhaps related to the recent departure of significant sections of the International Marxist Tendency, Uncle Hugo’s best mate Alan Woods has attacked Bakunin In Defence of Marxism.
The last link is worth clicking on, as it gets you an English translation of The Third Chavez by Demétrio Magnoli in O Estado de Sao Paulo, apparently “Brazil’s main bourgeois paper”. I found it quite perceptive, and Woods’ reply too tedious to bother with.
Karl Marx created the 1st International, Friedrich Engels participated in the founding of the 2nd, Lenin established the 3rd, Leon Trotsky founded the 4th and Hugo Chávez has just raised the banner of the 5th. “I take responsibility before the world, I think it is time to rally the 5th International and dare to make the call,” he said in a speech lasting five hours, at the opening session of the extraordinary congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) to the applause of 772 delegates in red shirts.
The congress was held in November. Then Chavez imposed energy rationing in the country, devalued the currency and introduced a dual exchange rate, nationalized a supermarket chain, suspended cable TV broadcasts and unleashed a bloody crackdown on student protests. [...]
Chavez is living his third incarnation, which is also the last. The first Chavez emerged after the failed coup of 1992, in the guise of nationalist and anti-American warlord mesmerized by the image of an imaginary Simón Bolívar. Under the influence of Argentine sociologist Norberto Ceresole, that original Chavismo flirted with anti-Semitism and dreamed of the establishment of an authoritarian, fascist-style state, which would reunify Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador in a restored Great Colombia.
A second Chávez could be discerned in outline in the spring of the first term in 1999, after the break with Ceresole, when the Leader drew close to Heinz Dieterich, a German Professor of Sociology in Mexico who came out of obscurity to formulate the concept of “socialism of the 21st century.” Chavismo reinvented itself and acquired left-wing collaborators, formed an alliance with Cuba and engaged in the project of building a state capitalism that was presented as a long transition towards a kind of socialism untainted by the Soviet legacy.
Brandishing a copy of The State and Revolution by Lenin, the Chavez of the extraordinary congress of the PSUV announced his conversion to the programme of the destruction of the “bourgeois state” and the building of a “revolutionary state.” This third Chavez was already implied in 2004, when the Leader got to know the British Trotskyist Alan Woods, and was fully manifest by the time of his defeat in the referendum of December 2007, shortly after the break with Dieterich. The PSUV is a result of Chavismo of the third period, as is also the proclamation of the 5th International.
The uses and abuses of history cont.
Bob posts on the Holocaust against the Roma and Jewish partisans in Greece, with lovely music. Chris Ford responds to Red Maria on Stepan Bandera (which I linked to here, to Will’s consternation). Graeme writes on an overlapping topic here.
Tags: Alan Woods, Chavismo, Colin Ward, Demétrio Magnoli, Fifth International, Hugo Chavez, International Marxist Tendency, Lindsey German, Lucien Laurat, Marxism, Mikhail Bakunin, New Left Review, Socialist Workers Party, Stepan Bandera, SWP, Trotskyism, United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Venezuela
Today’s feature is the Just Seeds Visual Artsts’ Co-op.
From the archive, below the fold: (more…)
European Trotskyists respond to the anniversary of World War II: An interesting feature on the World Socialist Website, with contributions from Françoise Thull, Barbara Slaughter, Julie Hyland, and David North.
Obituaries for Chris Harman: Michael Rosen, Andrew Coates, Jim Denham, Histomatist. Histomatist rounds up other obituaries from SWPers, but these are the most interesting to my mind. Histomatist contrasts Harman’s erudition to his low status among academo-Marxists, a very important point, as the Marxism of the ivory tower becomes ever more divorced from Marxism as a movement. Coates suprised me by positioning Harman as important in the libertarian heritage of the IS within the SWP, which can be contrasted to Denham’s portrayal of Harman the greatest betrayer of the IS’s third campism. (Added: another from The Commune.)
In the tradition of Marceau Pivert and Tom Paine: Andrew Coates on laïcité.
Misusing the word Stalinism: Tory fool Graham Warner.
Today’s feature archive is YIVO. Founded in 1925 in Vilna as the Yiddish Scientific Institute, YIVO was the national research institute and archive of Yiddishland. Salvaged from the ruins of European Jewry in 1940, YIVO was re-founded in New York, where it now as an excellent archival collection, and some cool digital collections.
Here are some of the extraordinary materials you will find. Click on the objects to see them in their contexts.
Bek, a Yiddish translation of The Call of the Wild by Jack London, published by the Kultur Lige (Jewish Workers Cultural Association) in Kiev, 1925.
Union of Jewish Writers and Journalists of Warsaw membership card of Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904–1991)
May Day demonstration jointly organized by the Jewish Socialist Bund and Poalei-Zion Left (Warsaw, 1936).
The Bundist song, Di Shvue (“The Oath”)… penned in 1902 by S. An-ski (Shlomo Zanvil Rapoport), the Russian Jewish writer. This Yiddish song, whose melody source also is unknown, exhorts Jews to unite, and to commit themselves body and soul to the defeat of the Russian Tsar and of capitalism… [The partisan song Zog nit keyn mol ]
Arbeter-froyen (Working Women) (965kb)
Text: David Edelshtat (1866-1892)
Sung by Adrienne Cooper
Edelshtadt’s Arbeter-froyen addresses women in its protest of the hardships of factory work. The song sounds a call to oppressed women workers to join the labor movement in its fight for justice and equality. Published in the New York newspaper Freie Arbeiter Stimme (Free Voice of Labor) in 1891, it was also sung by striking workers in Russia and Poland.Yugnt-himen (Youth Anthem) (766kb)
Text: Szmerke Kaczerginski (1908-1954)
Music: Basya Rubin (n.d.)~
h Children’s Chorus, The New Yiddish Chorale, and the Workmen’s Circle Chorus
Vilna poet and partisan Szmerke Kaczerginski wrote this stirring march song for the youth movement in the Vilna ghetto. Many of the young people who took part in the ghetto’s active resistance movement later also became combatants in the partisan units that fought the Nazis in the forests.
Members of the Tsukunft Self-Defense Group carry the Socialist flag on May Day, Warsaw. 1930s.
Chicago 1912 – Outdoor portrait of the Jewish Socialist Self-Education Club — Includes Abraham Reisen
“Jewish Woman‚ Vote for the Women’s Slate, Slate Number 3.”
From the archive of struggle no.38:
* Chris Harman: extracts from “Party and Class” (1969), “The Prophet and the Proletariat” (1994), “Spontaneity, Strategy, Politics” (2004) – makes the interesting case that Harman’s political legacy is the libertarian streak in the IS/SWP tradition, the element that is worth valuing and preserving. Chris Harman died last week. RIP.
World Socialist Website:
International Communist League:
*Socialist Workers League: “War Is Here—What Now?” (September 1939)
The rest are via Entdinglichung, with some annotation.
* Leon Trotsky: The Bolsheviki and world peace (1918). [For an authoritative text version of this, as The War and the International, go to MIA. The introduction is by Lincoln Steffens, a muckracking journalist associated with the Progressive Party who became a Communist fellow traveller after a visit to the Soviet Union in 1919 with the Swede Karl Kilbom. I believe he later embraced Mussolini. This book, published by a mainstream American publisher, shows the extent to which Trotsky was considered a great hero of the revolution world-wide; he was the object of cult-like reverence, a figure of great romance in the West.]
* Bertram Wolfe: Marx and America (1934). [Wolfe was a founder-member of the CPUSA and active in the Comintern. He was close to the majority faction of the CPUSA around CE Ruthenberg and Jay Lovestone, who fought against the Foster-Cannon faction, a leftist minority. By 1934, however, he was an oppositionist, part of Lovestone's Independent Communist Labor League in America and the Communist Party Opposition internationally. Wolfe was the Lovestonite's chief theorist, and argued for "American exceptionalism". In this erudite pamphlet, he makes the argument by drawing on Marx's scattered writings about the US, showing that America posed a special case for the communist movement.]
* International Communist Opposition (ICO): International Class Struggle, Spring 1937. [The ICO, often known as the "Right" Opposition, initially had a pretty robust organisation. Zinoviev, a "Rightist", had been the chair of the Comintern from its founding until 1926, but Nikolai Bukharin, the chair until the end of the Second Period in 1928, was the real leader after Lenin's death. Bukharin was the intellectual hero of most of the ICO leadership, and it was Bukharin's fall from grace under Stalin that prompted the break of the ICO from the mainstream. ICO leaders were therefore already well networked internationally, and able to hit the ground running organisationally, in contrast to the much slower moving "Left" Opposition. However, the ICO tended to lack a mass base in the labour movement, although there were some exceptions to this (the Lovestone-Wolfe group had a strong base in the Yiddish sections of the ILGWU; Steffens' erstwhile friend Kilbom's Communist Party of Sweden was pretty big; in Spain the BOC (one of the POUM's predecessors, was important). This, along with the right-ward drift of many of their key thinkers, was probably the main reason they atrophied by WWII.
This is the ICO's American journal, vol. 1, no.3, and it includes a fraternally critical letter to the POUM from the bureau of the ICO; a piece on the CIO by George F Miles, the Lovestonites' labour expert; "D. Swift" on proletarian novels, particularly contemptuous of James T Farrell; an account of the German CPO's underground existence under Hitler; a critical account of Leon Blum's Popular Front in France; and a cruel attack on Jean Juares as a prototype of the Popular Front policy. No. 1 and No. 2 are also on-line at archive.org, but I haven't looked at them yet.]
* Leon Trotsky on labor party: stenographic report of discussion held in 1938 with leaders of the Socialist Workers Party (1968). [A long introduction by Fred Meuhler and Tim Wohlforth draws on Engels and Lenin to argue for an American Labor Party. Then a transcript of Trotsky's conversation in Mexico with James Cannon, Max Shachtman and Vincent Dunne. By 1938, the Right Opposition were in decline globally, and the Left Opposition was on the rise. However, it is interesting that the American SWP, which was led precisely by James Cannon, Lovestone and Wolfe's rival in the early CPUSA, had come around to a version of the "American exceptionalism" thesis, and were now calling for an American Labor Party.]
Tags: Bertram Wolfe, Bund, Bundism, Bundist, Chris Harman, Communist Left, Communist Party Opposition, David Edelshtat, Henri Chazé, Isaac Bashevis Singer, James Cannon, James P. Cannon, Jay Lovestone, Jewish Labour Bund, Kalman Reisen, Labour Monthly, Left communism, Leon Trotsky, Reg Groves, S. Ansky, Socialist Workers Party, SWP, Vilna, yiddish, YIVO, Zionism
I already featured a couple of these, but thought it is worth making more of a splash:
The history of the Teamster Rebellion in Minneapolis is packed with lessons, especially the importance of mobilizing a militant rank and file. [Socialist Worker US September 29, 2009]
The 1934 Teamsters strike in Minneapolis, led by the Trotskyists of the Communist League of America (the forerunner of the Socialist Workers Party), was a decisive moment in the US labor and socialist movements. During the years preceding the strike, few would have expected the upsurge that took place in 1934. [By David May, Marxist.com, 17 July 2009]
After a bitter coal yard workers’ strike and organizing campaign in early 1934, Teamsters Local 574 won the right to represent thousands of workers in Minneapolis. But by May, a second strike became necessary, after the trucking and warehouse bosses refused to recognize the local. [By David May, Marxist.com, 24 September 2009]
The 1934 Auto-Lite strike in Toledo, Ohio showed how workers could unite, employed with unemployed, to defeat the power of the bosses. [Socialist Worker US, September 15, 2009]
The San Francisco General Strike in July 1934 involved 200,000 workers up and down the West Coast, making it the largest general strike in U.S. history. [Socialist Worker US, September 21, 2009]
Added: For more links on the SF General Strike, go to the Holt Labor Library, from which the below is taken:
This week, BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week is the touching, amusing memoir of growing up on the American far left, When Skateboards Will be Free, by American-Iranian Said Sayrafiezadeh. Episode 2, this morning and repeated just after midnight, covers the Party deciding he and his single mother should move to Pittsburgh. This is the American SWP, portrayed perfectly. The title refers to his mother not letting him have a skateboard – until after the revolution, when they’ll be free.
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.