Blog recommendations, for homeless leftists

Cross-posted from Bob From Brockley

We have reached the level of the dark times of the early Middle Ages. The need to reflect on this. The extreme difficulty of reflecting on it. — Victor Serge

Lots of the blogs I have followed for a long time seem to be slowly dying,  but there are new ones out there, and old healthy ones, and ones that are not so new but new to me. Here are a couple that have caught my eye lately. (more…)

From the archive of struggle, no.73: sound edition

From Ubuweb:

Bertolt Brecht’s Audio Works A sweep of recordings and interpretations of Brecht’s plays and speeches, both historical and contemporary. Includes Brecht singing two songs from “Die Dreigroschenoper” (rec. 1928/29), his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee (1947), plays by the legendary Berliner Ensemble from the mid-50s, as well as archival radio plays of Brecht’s work including “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui,” “Mr Puntila & His Man Matti,” “In The Jungle of Cities,” “The Life Of Galileo,”The Trial of Lucullus,” “A Respectable Wedding,” “Schweik in the Second World War,” and “The Threepenny Opera.”

George Grosz Das Gesicht der herrschenden Klasse: 57 politische Zeichnungen (1921); Mit Pinsel und Schere: 7 Materialisationen (1922)

Kurt Schwitters Anna Blume: Dichtungen (1919); Memoiren Anna Blumes in Bleie: Eine leichtfassliche Methode zur Erlernung des Wahnsinns für Jederman (1922)

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Not exactly sure if thee fit here, but there’s a fascinating post at the Meretz USA blog about Inventing Our Lives, a new documentary on the history and evolution of the kibbutz movement, including some interesting details about the history of the Israel left (the Hashomer Hatzair linked Kibbutz Artzi Federation, the Mapam/Meretz socialist-Zionist tradition, and the alternative left Sheli party).

And Facing the War deploys an excellent paragraph by Lezcek Kołakowski to think about anarchist rhetoric in the anarchist movement and other problems of the left today.

And Julian Wright reviews some books about Jean Jaures.

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Other material from Entdinglichung beneath the fold: (more…)

From the archive of struggle no.68

First, here’s Steve Hanson on the Working Class Movement Library, Salford:

Across from the Museum and Art Gallery in Salford is the Working Class Movement Library, which houses some very important documents about co-operative societies, including records on the Fenwick Weavers, a very early society:

‘Early societies tended to operate separately and did not come together to form a movement until the early 19th century, during the Industrial Revolution. Industrialisation brought the rapid growth of towns and fewer people producing their own food.’

Robert Owen is viewed as a founder of the movement, paying higher wages for shorter hours in the factory, much like the Fielden family over on the Yorks-Lancs border. The movement then blossomed in places such as nearby Rochdale, a place now on it knees, which is attempting some desperate revivification of the area around the train station.

What else?

Mühsam on the cover of the novel "Café Grössenwahn" by Rose Austerlitz

Erich Mühsam (1878-1934) was a leading figure in the German anarchist movement. The Erich in English site will be home to critical English editions of several of his most important works.

Newly published old texts now. In agone the entirity of Retour à l’Ouest by Victor Serge, written June 1936 to May 1940, via Ent./Espace contre CimentFrom the same source: Revolutionäre Kommunisten Deutschlands: Bulletin VI/2 (März-April 1946), G. Munis: La non-révolution (1966), Marc Chirik: La nature non-prolétarienne de l’État russe et sa fonction contre-révolutionnaire (1944)

From Bastard Archive: by Colin Ward Anarchism – A very short introduction (2004), via Ent.

And the next several items are also from Ent.:

Moses Hess: Zunächst der Hinweis auf ein Online-Archiv mit Texten von Moses Hess, der am 25. Januar 200 Jahre alt geworden wäre und eine nicht zu unterschlagende Rolle in der revolutionären Bewegung in Deutschland gespielt hatte, es war Hess, der Marx und Engels für die Idee des Kommunismus gewonnen hatte [an online archive of texts by Moses Hess , who on 25 January would be 200 years old. Hess had played a not inconsiderable role in forging the revolutionary movement in Germany; it was Hess, who won Marx and Engels for the idea of communism:]

Der Mensch muß mit sich anfangen, mit dem Ich, wenn er schaffen, tätig sein will. — Wie die alte Geschichte, die Naturgeschichte, mit dem ersten Menschen anfing, so muß auch die neue, die Geschichte des Geistes, mit dem ursprünglichen Individuum anfangen. Cartesius hat einen unglücklichen Versuch gemacht — er ist, wie wir gesehen haben, beim zweiten Worte gescheitert. Spinoza hat alles getan, aber die Geschichte hat sich nicht sogleich seiner Tat bemeistert; seine Ethik lag mehrere Jahrhunderte unfruchtbar im Boden, bis endlich das zwei­schneidige Schwert der geistigen und sozialen Revolution den Schutt wegräumte, der den Keim der Neuzeit erdrückte. Da zeigten sich plötzlich zwei Blättchen, deren Wurzel unbekannt. Atheismus und Kommunismus wurden von Fichte und Babeuf in den beiden Hauptstädten diesseits und jenseits des Rheins, in Berlin und Paris, zum Schrecken der Philister gelehrt, und Jünger strömten herbei, die sich für die Lehre begeisterten. Atheismus und Kommunismus!” (aus Philosophie der That, 1843)

Gefunden dank La Bataille socialiste: der Grand dictionnaire socialiste von Adéodat Compère-Morel (1924), der leider wie viele andere seines Milieus als Vichy-Kollaborateur endete [thanks to La Bataille Socialiste: the Grand dictionnaire Socialiste of Adeodat Compere-Morel (1924), who unfortunately ended like many others of his milieu as a Vichy collaborator]

Three texts at Collectif Smolny:

* Paul Mattick: Interview à Lotta Continua (1977)
* GLAT: Pour un regroupement révolutionnaire (1969)
* BILAN: Le droit au soulèvement armé (1937)
Acta de la reunión del Comité Central del  Buró Internacional de las Juventudes Revolucionarias (1937 unter den Anwesenden u.a. Willy Brandt)

From the website of  Fundación Andreu Nin, mainly Poumist related texts:

* Benjamin Péret: Cartas de Benjamin Péret a André Breton sobre la revolución española (1936-1938)
Reunión del Subsecretariado Internacional del POUM, 14 de mayo de 1937: Informe del camarada Gorkin sobre las “jornadas de mayo”(1937)
* Juan Andrade:  Prefacio a la edición de Ruedo Ibérico de Los problemas de la revolución española (1931-1937), de Andreu Nin (1986)
* Joaquin Maurin: Hacia la segunda revolución (1935)
* Amigos de Durruti: Hacia una nueva revolución (1937)

In La Presse Anarchiste:  La Voix du Travail n°2 of  IAA from September 1926.

From Marxists Internet Archive:  1941 volume of  The Militant. [“These are intermediate to high resolution scans for almost the entire year, 46 issues, preceeeding the US entry into World War II. These scans were made possible by the combined efforts of the ETOL, Holt Labor Library and Riazanov Library project.” This is when Felix Morrow and Albert Goldman were editors.]

Also at MIA: Added to the Spanish Archivo Andreu NinLa situación política y las tareas del proletariado (1937)

From the Anarchist Library:

Letter of América Scarfó to Émile Armand  (Buenos Aires, 3 December 1928. Translation of an important document in the history of Argentinian anarchism and of anarchist thinking on amatory ethics. “I desire for all just what I desire for myself: the freedom to act, to love, to think. That is, I desire anarchy for all humanity.” From Libcom, updated.)

The Luddites’ 200th birthday by Bernard Marszalek (FIFTH ESTATE #386, Spring, 2012, Vol. 47, No. 1, page 4)// Back to 1911 by Peter Lamborn Wilson (“Reversion to 1911 would constitute a perfect first step for a 21st century neo-Luddite movement. Living in 1911 means using technology and culture only up to that point and no further, or as little as possible.” FIFTH ESTATE #386, Spring, 2012, Vol. 47, No. 1, page 10) // Against Negation Or, Positively Revolting by Patrick Dunn (FIFTH ESTATE #386, Spring, 2012, Vol. 47, No. 1, page 24) // Disobedience: The antidote for miserablism by Penelope Rosemont (Tracing a line from Paul Lafargue to Andre Breton and Jacques Vache to Franklin Rosemont to Bernard Marszalek to Fredy Perlman to Occupy. FIFTH ESTATE #386, Spring, 2012, Vol. 47, No. 1, page 25) //Redrawing The Line: The Anarchist Writings of Paul Goodman by Paul Comeau (A review of Drawing The Line Once Again: Paul Goodman’s Anarchist Writings, PM Press, 2010. FIFTH ESTATE #386, Spring, 2012, Vol. 47, No. 1, page 28)  //  Declaration by the Ghost of Emma Goldman by Rick London (FIFTH ESTATE #386, Spring, 2012, Vol. 47, No. 1, page 30) // Three anarchist Rebellions on Film by Dan Georgakas (“Hundreds of films take on anarchist themes in some manner, but only a handful deal with anarchist governance. Three of the most interesting of these are, Alexander the Great (Megalexandros, 1980, Greek), Viva Zapata! (1952, United States), and Rebellion in Patagonia (La Patagonia Rebelde, 1974, Argentina)… Rebellion in Patagonia deals with a revolt in 1821 by Argentine anarcho-syndicalist workers in the rural area of Santa Cruz and their alliance with workers in Buenos Aires who also raised the black flag. The film opens with an anarchist hurling a fatal bomb at a Lieutenant Colonel Zavala, a prominent military officer. .” FIFTH ESTATE #386, Spring, 2012, Vol. 47, No. 1, page 36) // Spain: model for anarchist organizing by David Porter (A review of The CNT in the Spanish Revolution, Volume I by Jose Peirats, Edited and Introduced by Chris Ealham; Translated by Paul Sharkey PM Press / Christie Books; 432pp, 628; www.pmpress.org, FIFTH ESTATE #386, Spring, 2012, Vol. 47, No. 1, page 45)

The Unknown Revolution, 1917-1921  by Voline (A complete translation of La Revolution Inconnue, 1917-1921, first published in French in 1947, and re-published in Paris in 1969 by Editions Pierre Belfond. An abridged, two-volume English translate of the work was published in 1954 and 1955 by the Libertarian Book Club (New York City) and Freedom Press (London). The present edition contains all the materials included in the earlier edition (translated by Holley Cantine), as well as the sections which were omitted (Book I, Part I and II, and some brief omissions later in the work, translated by Fredy Perlman). Originally at Ditext, copied at Anarchist Library and recently updated there. More from Ditext below.)

Ditext – Digital Text International – is a large and bizarre repository of texts on anarchism, Marxism, philosophy and the Ukraine. Sections include Anarchism: The Unfinished Revolution. Here are some texts: Camillo Berneri, Peter Kropotkin: His Federalist Ideas, 1942 // John Paul Himka, Socialism in Galicia, 1983. // Colin Ward, “The Anarchist Sociology of Federalism” Freedom, June-July 1992. // Rudnytsky, Ivan L. Essays in Modern Ukrainian History. Edited by Peter L. Rudnytsky, Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, 1987 (includes The Political Thought of Soviet Ukrainian Dissidents) // Adams, Arthur E. The Great Ukrainian Jacquerie The Ukraine, 1917-1921: A Study in Revolution, edited by Taras Hunczak, 1977. // Arshinov, Peter. History of the Makhnovist Movement (1918-1921), Translated by Lorraine and Fredy Perlman, 1974, originally published in 1923 by the Group of Russian Anarchists in Germany. // Conquest, Robert. The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. // Hunczak, Taras, ed. The Ukraine, 1917-1921: A Study in Revolution. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, 1977 // Souchy, Augustin. The workers and peasants of Russia and Ukraine, how do they live? 1922.

Vie Ditext, I followed links to a number of digital text archives and portals.

*The López Martín Collection. “This collection inspired by the Spanish and Portuguese Historical Society (SPHP) and sustained by Lynn H. Nelson (University of Kansas), Jack Owens (Idaho State University), and Ignacio López Martín (European University Institute) is since 1996 the first step of a wider project regarding the use of Internet to study Early Modern Iberian history.” In turn this has links to other sites such as Roberto Ortiz de Zarate’s Political Collection, a collection of political leaders and formation of Spanish Governments from 1931. Ferrol Urban History by José María Cardesín (U. Coruña) (“La ciudad española de Ferrol fue diseñada “ex-novo- por ingenieros militares que trabajaban al servicio de la monarquía de la Ilustración, para alojar una base naval, astilleros y arsenales. La doble necesidad de defender la ciudad frente a ataques del exterior y de asegurar la disciplina de sus trabajadores condujo a la aplicación de un plan espacial cargado de violencia y segregación entre la Marina de Guerra y la clase trabajadora. A largo plazo los cambios que se fueron produciendo en la economía y en la geopolítica internacional, así como aquellas novedades que se introdujeron en el arte de la guerra, tuvieron un impacto directo en la ciudad y vinieron a arrojar dudas sobre su viabilidad. Así mismo, los cambios que también se fueron produciendo en la cultura política y en las alianzas de clase condujeron a una redefinición de las prácticas de poder. A lo largo del siglo XIX, la base naval y la economía de enclave que caracterizaba a Ferrol sufrieron repetidas crisis de obsolescencia. Más adelante, durante la Guerra Civil española, la Marina franquista erigió la represión de la clase trabajadora en objetivo mayor dentro de la cuestión principal de derrotar a la España Republicana. La dictadura franquista conllevó el retorno de un Ferrol segregado y militarizado, un modelo que quedaría finalmente obsoleto a partir la década de 1980, con la consolidación de la democracia y la integración de España en la Unión Europea.”) History of Madrid by Luis Enrique Otero Carvajal and Angel Bahamonde (U. Complutense) “An excellent site on the evolution and development of Madrid from “Borderline to Metropolitan Area””. Loads of Catalan history resources here.

*KnowledgeRush Book Directory Large directory of popular literary works and historical documents available on the Web. Includes biographies of some authors and can be browsed by author, genre, or title.

*The Humanities Text Initiative. This includes such things as this:

The Great Depression conjures up one of the profound American twentieth-century experiences. Unlike earlier depressions and periods of hard times, this economic paralysis was of a magnitude and duration that approached trauma and and although amelioration was evident after federal relief measures were taken, the long-awaited recovery never took place. Almost all of the items exhibited here come from the Labadie Collection of social protest materials, with some augmentation from the main Special Collections Library, the Graduate Library, and the Music Library. This particular collection captures over 100 digital images of the items from this exhibit.

Miscellany

Criticism etc

I have added a rss feed for Criticism etc down at the bottom right, as I find myself wanting to re-post almost everything there. Here are some recent items.

Retrospective Review: Paul Buhle’s Marxism in the United States

Marxism in the United States: Remapping the History of the American Left by Paul Buhle Verso, 1991 (revised edition; original edition 1987)

Buhle’s book undertakes the formidable task of presenting a concise history of the experience of American Marxism, from its arrival with the German émigrés of 1848 to the Ronald Reagan era. He is strongest in his interpretation of the often contention-fraught relationship between the radicalism of the native-born socialists and that of the many immigrant communities that played such an important role in the history of the U.S. nineteenth and early twentieth-century left. Buhle’s signal concern is culture, specifically popular culture, and it tends to subsume almost all other elements here, including philosophical debates (admittedly, not a strong point in American Marxism). The survey of classroom Marxist debates in the book’s final chapter hasn’t aged well, although, as far as academic prominence goes, Buhle was certainly vindicated in the focus he placed on Frederic JamesonCriticism &c. highly recommends.

The Digital MEGA

The latest issue of Socialism and Democracy includes an update on the progress of the Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe project, the international scholarly effort to publish all of the works of Marx in the languages in which they were written. The author, Gerd Callesen, is a Danish librarian and editorial participant in the project. While the expensive volumes in the series are not intended for use by the average person interested in Marx (and shrinking academic library budgets mean that few students may even have a chance to use them), some volumes in the series are being made freely available on the web. Criticism &c. provides here an excerpt from the article focusing on the MEGA’s digital portion and some concluding paragraphs on the future of the project.

An Excerpt from Charles Denby’s Indignant Heart

Libcom.org has made available three chapters from Indignant Heart: a Black Worker’s Journal by Charles Denby. Denby, an African-American auto worker and revolutionary, was a member of the Johnson-Forest Tendency and became one of the founding members of News and Letters Committees in 1955. Indignant Heart (the title comes from a quote by Abolitionist Wendall Phillips) was originally published by the JFT in 1952 and attributed to the pseudonym Matthew Ward. Denby, whose real name was Simon Owens, greatly expanded the book in a new edition published by South End Press in 1978. Wayne State University Press published this edition in 1989 with an introduction by William H. Harris, an historian of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

The chapters selected by Libcom are the final three from the 1952 edition. Note the episode in Chapter 15 in which Denby—at a public meeting—asks novelist and CP member Howard Fast, “What is the relationship of the Russian workers to production?”

Another Comment on Charles Denby’s Indignant Heart

Among the chapters of Indignant Heart recently made available by Libcom, Chapter 16 (“The Trotskyist Party”) is extremely important for its depiction of the strong current of racism that pervaded the Marxist parties, an under-acknowledged aspect of the history of the U.S. left. It’s not possible to discern any difference between the attitudes Denby faced every day from S.W.P. members and the racism prevalent in the larger society of the time. On the theoretical level, Denby exposes the fact that the Trotskyists did not even have an official party position on question of racial oppression in U.S. society. The unidentified speaker at the 1948 convention was, of course, C.L.R. James (the Johnson-Forest Tendency had rejoined the S.W.P. the previous year). The resolution put forth at the convention, the Revolutionary Answer to the Negro Question in the U.S., was published in Fourth International in December 1948 (under the byline J. Meyer). A revised version adopted by the party in 1950 (“Negro Liberation Through Revolutionary Socialism“) appears in Fourth International, May-June 1950. Both texts are available in the Marxists Internet Archive.

A preview excerpt from the Wayne State University edition of Indignant Heart is available at Google Books.

Also:

Both Libcom (see above) and the AWL have published some material relating to Victor Serge recently. The former has published his Year 1 of the revolution. In the latter, Paul Hampton wrote on Victor Serge and Kronstadt in January, with replies by Martyn Hudson and others, followed by Martyn Hudson again, followed by the publication of a first and second instalment of Karl Radek’s view. Meanwhile, Serge’s great memoirs are due to be re-published in April:

Memoirs of a Revolutionary
By Victor Serge
Translated by Peter Sedgwick
April 2012

Victor Serge is one of the great men of the twentieth century, anarchist, revolutionary, agitator, theoretician, historian of his times, and a fearless truthteller. Here Serge describes his upbringing in Belgium, the child of a family of exiled Russian revolutionary intellectuals, his early life as an activist, his time in a French prison, the active role he played in the Russian Revolution, as well his growing dismay at the Revolutionary regime’s ever more repressive and murderous character. Expelled from the Soviet Union, Serge went to Paris, and barely escaped the Nazis to find a final refuge in Mexico. Memoirs of a Revolutionary describes a thrilling life on the frontlines of history and includes brilliant portraits of politicians from Trotsky and Lenin to Stalin and of major writers like Alexander Blok and Andrey Bely. Above all, it captures the sensibility of Serge himself, that of a courageous and singularly appealing advocate of human liberation who remained undaunted in the most trying of times.

Peter Sedgwick’s fine translation of Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary was cut by a fifth when it was first published in 1963. This new edition is the first in English to present the entirety of Serge’s book.

Read Richard Greeman here on the current dissent in Russia. James B on the Falklands or the Malvinas. And finally: Ron Radosh on Oliver Stone’s Stalinist history of America.

On a roll, no.4

An incredibly slow moving series, highlighting, in reverse alphabetical order, some of the links on my blogroll.

Work of the Negative

This is a Marxist-Humanist blog by  Franklin Dmitryev, follower of Raya Dunayevskaya involved in the News and Letters posse. It mixes material on on-going anti-capitalist struggles from the US and the rest of the world, with theoretical material on Marxist-Humanism, by Dunayevkaya, Dmitriyev and others, for instance on eco-socialism.

Women’s History Month

This is a British feminist history resource, with a blog (mainly news about events) and resources (a TimelineLesson plansProfiles of women in historyUK women’s firsts10 things you didn’t know were invented by a womenWalks and
Links). There is stuff on women and activism including Labour women. Lots of useful stuff, and especially recommended for teachers.

Weimar: Art and Modernity

This blog is mainly huge numbers of fascinating images, mainly today with twentieth century German modernism. There is lots on Brecht, a little on Walter Benjamin, dada and on surrealism (from where I took the image below). And a very fine blogroll.

 Gregorio Prieto Muñoz, Lupanar de Pompeya, 1928

Voltairine de Cleyre: the Exquisite Rebel

Voltairine de Cleyre was an American anarchist born in 1866. She was close to the Wobblies but believed in an “anarchism without adjectives.” De Cleyre was based 1889 to 1910 in Philadelphia, where she lived among poor Jewish immigrants, and where sympathy for anarchist beliefs was common. There, she taught English and music, and she learned to speak and write in Yiddish. This nice-looking site has her biography, texts, links to lots of resources elsewhere, and (unlike most of the pages below) is regularly updated.

Victor Serge net

This is a site about the great Russian/Belgian revolutionary Victor Serge. Although full of great material, it is not well put together, and hard to navigate. There is a list of Serge’s novels; reproductions of some of his wonderful but less well known poems, mainly written while he was in exile in Orenburg; biographical material; images, including paintings by his son Vlady; information on the Victor Serge Foundation in Montpelier. I think the site is a production of Richard Greeman, world’s foremost Serge scholar.

Vlady

And this is a site about Serge’s son Vlady, an artist, who died in 2005. Vlady was based in his adult life in Cuernavaca in Mexico, producing extraordinary muralsdrawings and and paintings. The site includes writings, biographical materials and art.

Varian Fry Foundation Project/Varian Fry Institute

Varian Fry was the man who saved the lives of Victor Serge and Vlady Kibalchich. With co-conspirators  Miriam Davenport and Mary Jayne Gold at the Villa Air-Bel near Marseilles, his Emergency Rescue Committee helped smuggle artists, dissidents and others out of Nazi-occupied Europe into Spain, Portugal and North Africa, and on to America and the Caribbean. The Varian Fry Foundation site tells his story, with  biographical notes by Annette Riley Fry, material on the recognition of his heroism, and links to lots of web resources. The Varian Fry Institute is a division of the Chambon Foundation in LA, which celebrates those who saved the lives of French Jews. The Institute is working on a documentary on Fry by Pierre Sauvage. The site has material on Fry’s American colleagues and on Sauvage’s other activities. The framework of this site is noble American righteous gentiles; I prefer the more political take of the Foundation. Neither do justice to Fry’s French colleagues, for which I recommend Rosemary Sullivan‘s Villa Air-Beli, which gives a prominent place to Serge and also to Andre Breton. Further reading: A Tribute to Varian Fry from Holocaust Survivors and Remembrance Project; online biography by Barry Gewen.

Back some time for the letter T.

From the archive of struggle: Rosemary Feurer’s Labor History Links

The trial of Giovannitti, Ettor, and Caruso wa...

Image via Wikipedia

What an amazing resource, found via Never Got Used To It.

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

Lawrence 1912: the Singing Strike

The Singing Strike and the Rebel Students: Learning from the Industrial Workers of the World

Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union: Black and White Unite?

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:

Labor Organization, Radicalism and Uprisings of the Early 20th century
WWI Era, Postwar Uprisings and Red Scare
1920s
Great Depression Era
World War II & Postwar Era

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:

Places, mainly in the US, but also Latin America.

And a lot more besides. Go feast.

From the archive of struggle

And for our regular round-up, last week saw a bumper crop from Entdinglichung. Below the fold. (more…)

Wonders of the web

From the highly recommended New Appeal to Reason:

Mohammed Alim Khan, Emir of Bukhara, taken in ...

Image via Wikipedia

1. Russia 1900-1915 in color photographs.  These are beautiful and teach a lot about history. Sergey Mikhaylovich Prokudin-Gorsky was a pioneering Russian photographer. These photos were taken three in rapid succession with different filters, which then allowed a composite color photograph to be constructed.

2. The Band this is a great fan site,  from Norway, though the site is in English.

Also:

Michael Yates on the decline of the left.

Bob Potter on Marinus van der Lubbe, anti-fascism and Stalinist falsification via Red Star Commando.

Also from the Weekly Worker: Ian Isaac on the miners’ strike; Paul Smith on building marxist culture free of Stalinism (1 & 2).

Paul Buhle on Madison, Wisconsin.

Annarky: Glasgow anarchists 1915.

On Victor Serge:  Pavle R on and What’s Cooking.

Benjamin Kerstein on Stieg Larrson’s politics.

Peter Dreier and Donald Cohen on the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire a century ago.

The AWL’s Martin Thomas on Working-class struggle and anarchism, and later responding to the debate.

The barricades then; the uprisings now.

From the archive of struggle

Selma James and other key readings on wages for housework.

ADDED:

A wonderful series on Georges Heinen and surrealism in Eygpt.

al-Poum

GeorgeOrwell

Image via Wikipedia

Following on from Mikey’s post here about socialist commandments, here are a couple with titles inspired by socialist hymns: Arise ye workers from your slumbers (about the SWP front, the Right to Work campaign – even the name should be anathema to real communists) and On tyrants only we’ll make war! (about the Stop the War left’s hypocrisy about tyrants).

Talking of tyrants, David Osler has a very good piece on whether clerical fascists can turn social democrats (thinking of the Muslim Brotherhood), which cites an excellent piece on the Middle East from Tony Cliff in 1946, which I think I recently linked to.

And talking of Cliff’s International Socialists, I didn’t know Lord Macdonald of Tradeston was an ex-member, until reading this piece by comrade Osler, whose title references one of my favourite Lenin paraphrase. Unrelated, here’s comrade Osler on Japanese Maoism.

In the most surprising places… Tess Lewis in the Wall Street Journal on Victor Serge. Opening para:

‘No poison is more deadly than power!” The Russian anarchists’ slogan is the perfect motto for the life of the writer and revolutionary Victor Serge (1890- 1947). A life-long man of the radical left, he saw almost all his friends, heroes and enemies destroyed by the poison of Soviet communism and spent his life exposing the psychosis of absolute power. Yet even in his darkest hour—isolated and destitute in Mexico City in 1943, surviving on donations from friends, unable to get his writing published in more than a few small journals, his wife driven insane by the persecution of the Soviet secret police—Serge never lost his faith in the ideals of socialism

DJ Taylor on Mubarak and the Neds, citing George Orwell:

Monitoring last week’s news from Tahrir Square, it was impossible not to be reminded of an essay George Orwell published in an obscure monthly magazine called The Adelphi shortly before the start of the Second World War.

The piece seldom gets reprinted these days, doubtless due to its somewhat bracing title: Not Counting Niggers. In it, Orwell makes the, by now unexceptionable, point that in a prosperous country left-wing politics is always partly humbug, because a thorough-going reconstruction of society would lead to a drop in living standards, which no politician of any party is ever prepared to countenance. He also points out – this was in 1939 when the Empire’s working-class population included several hundred million Indian labourers – that Britain’s standard of living was linked to the exploitation of people earning a few pence a day and dying before they were 40.

Fast-forward 72 years and a very similar piece of moral sleight-of-hand applies to our relationship with the autocracies of the Middle East.

A new blog to me: Work Resumed on the Tower, “a blog focused [on] popular culture, literature, and politics from a radical, anti-capitalist perspective.” I very much recommend a recent post: In Defense of (a slightly more modest) Marxism.

Taming the Trots: Anarchism’s Sisyphean Task: Rachel at Northern Voices on a misery of sharing the left with the likes of Linda Taafe.

A note on the post-Gerry Healey Workers Revolutionary Party, from Marko Attila Hoare, with which I thoroughly concur, having been close to this faction at that time and being almost exactly the same age as Marko:

The members of the WRP (‘Workers Press’) with whom I collaborated in Workers Aid were among the bravest, most principled and most committed fighters for social justice and political liberation that I have ever met. When the Bosnian genocide was at its height and when much of the rest of the Western left was either sitting on the sidelines or actively sympathising with the perpetrators, these people built the Workers Aid movement to bring aid to, and show solidarity with, the people of the Bosnian city of Tuzla. This was an industrial city with a proud left-wing and working-class history, whose own miners had supported the British miners’ strike in the 1980s and whose citizens maintained a social democratic administration in power throughout the Bosnian war. Members of the WRP/WP and other supporters of Workers Aid – sometimes risking their own lives as they guided their convoy of rickety lorries along the broken roads of a country at war and through sniper zones – built a movement of solidarity between British and European trade unionists and Bosnian trade unionists that defied the ethnic cleansers and their Western backers.

That is the WRP with which I worked in the 1990s, and to whose newspaper I contributed. Although I have since mostly lost touch with them, I remember with particular respect and fondness Bob Myers, Dot Gibson, Charlie Pottins, Bronwen Handyside, Cliff Slaughter, the late Geoff Pilling and others, some of whose names I don’t recall. It was an honour to have worked with them and to have contributed to their newspaper, and though I suspect they might not approve of my subsequent political evolution, I would do so again. So no, I don’t find my past association with them ‘embarrassing’ (I have advertised my former involvement with Workers Aid in the ‘About’ section of my blog since the day it was launched); they represented what was best in the British left. For someone like Daniel Davies, whose sole political activity seems to consist of running a blog devoted to smearing and rubbishing other left-wingers, the same cannot be said.

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Revenants

Transpontine channels Victor Serge. James Horrox channels Gustav Landauer. Jill Mountford channels Mary MacArthur, the chainmaker’s champion. The AWL channels Pierre Broue on the Bolsheviks as they really were. Lars Lih channels Lenin.

Poumatica

Debs Poster USA 1904

Image via Wikipedia

“Stalin proclaims the happiness of the people, distributes decorations, photographs, watches, with both hands and has his picture taken kissing little girls of all the old races of Asia….The widows of dead aviators thank him, the entire press is nothing but praises for the “beloved leader”, “the wisest and greatest of all ages”…Everything revolves around the new Imperator cult. And never will the paean of praise attain a higher pitch of exaltation than the day after the leader has massacred his oldest comrades in struggle, the men who had worked with Lenin.” (’From Lenin To Stalin’, Monad Press, New York,1973, p.82. Via Des Derwin)

The past in the present

*Paul Mason: Interviewing Karl Marx on the economic crisis.

*Orwell’s Indian birthplace has been declared a protected site. (See here for background.)

*Christopher Hitchens: A nice cup of tea. (See also Freemania: “Tea, like modesty, irony and imperialism, is something that we Brits understand far better than Americans do (indeed, we have our imperialism to thank for our tea expertise). Perhaps the USA would benefit from the establishment of a Campaign for Real Tea, to promote this simple, vital but apparently not self-evident truth.”)

*Victor Serge: Tunisia, A Restless Winter Walk. Beautiful.

*CLR James: Haiti: The Black Jacobins

*David Rosenberg: ‘The Battle of Cable Street’ – 75 years on

*Louis Proyect: Rethinking the question of a revolutionary program (love the photo illustrating the post)

*Carl Packman: Internal bickering versus “whistling in the dark” (citing Paul Mattick); The Independent Labour Party and the scourge of left wing politicsA reply to Jim Jepps.

*Paddington: We want our teachers back!

*Tony PinkneyMasters of the universe: Paul Lafargue on the present banksters’ crisis.

*Luisa Passerini, Lance Thurner: Memory, history, and activism on the Mexican border:

*Andrew Stone: the state of history teaching in British schools today in the latest issue of International Socialism journal. [H/t Snowball]

*The Resolute Reader: Karl Kautsky’s The Agrarian Question

*Owen Hatherley; Why have you come to Murmansk?

*American Leftist: Anarchism in the city; Serge’s Unforgiving years.

*Sasha Abramsky: A house of books (on Chimen Abramsky)

*David Osler: The right to sell socialist newspapers (“have no time for the RCG’s peculiar brand of nutty semi-Stalinist third worldist ultraleftism. But this development will surely worry everybody who has ever stood outside a shopping centre or an industrial workplace trying to flog revolutionary socialist agitprop.”)

*River’s edge: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine an Armani stiletto, stamping on a human face, forever.”

*Kellie Strom: A stain on a wall: Erich Kastner in Tunisia.

*Jim Denham: Police spies in our midst.

*Histomatist: Journalists and Revolution: The Case of Arthur Ransome

From the archive of struggle (more…)

Published in: on January 19, 2011 at 3:14 pm  Comments (2)  
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On a roll, no.2

Continuing where we left off here

Three blogs

A Very Public Sociologist

A blog by a Political Education Officer of a Labour Party branch, a former member of the Socialist Party of England and Wales, resident in the darkest Potteries, whose PhD was on British Trotskyism. Both a deservedly popular and pleasantly generous blogger, one of Phil’s regular features is listing some new blogs on the (mainly British) left. Also worth reading for his long, thoughtful posts on Marxist theory, often taking their lead from Gramsci.

Tragic Life Stories

Also from the British left, but a very different corner of it. An extremely infrequently updated blog that  focuses more or less exclusively on the sort of left sectariana that fascinates trainspottery types like me, from the perspective of Communist Students, a loosely affiliated section of the CPGB. Get the dirt on the Communist Party of Britain, the Revolutionary Communist Party, and other sects.

Totalitarianism Today

A fascinating blog, which I don’t visit often enough. Good-looking, intelligent, erudite. Read about Alexander Blok and the internet, Octave Mirbeau on the voters’ strike, the non-friendship between Golda Meir and Hannah Arendt, and lots more. Check out some of the names from a daunting list of intellectual kin:  Dwight MacdonaldCzeslaw MiloszIsaac Bashevis SingerIsaiah BerlinNicolae IorgaRandolph BourneRaymond AronSimone WeilVaclav HavelVoltairine de CleyreWalter Benjamin.

Tony Cliff: A World to Win

A hagiographic blog created by a true believer over three months in 2009. Tony Cliff, the heterodox Trotskyist leader who came to Britain shortly after WWII, broke with the official movement over his (correct) belief that the Soviet Union was state capitalist and not a deformed workers’ state, and went on to lead “the smallest mass party in history”, the IS, later the SWP. Many of his twists and turns, particularly after around 1980, were emphatically in the wrong direction, but Cliff was one of the (few) towering geniuses of post-Trotsky Trotskyism. This site is a great work of “citizen scholarship”, both archiving and providing very informative introductions and contextualisations to Cliff’s political developments.

Three Way Fight

This blog is the platform for a North American political tendency, primarily inspired by Don Hamerquist, a veteran of the American New Left and specifically of the Sojourner Truth OrganizationThis post by Mike S, one of the key members of the tendency, sums up their position, i.e. that revolutionary forces are engaged in a fight with capitalism, but also with reactionary forms of anti-capitalism. For related reading, check this post at Gathering Forces. The blog is very interesting, but I wish they would put a bit more work into it!

Three non-blogs

Young Democratic Socialists

This is the site of the youth arm of Democratic Socialists of America. My politics draw on four or five distinct political traditions, including anarchism, left communism, centrist Marxism, Trotskyism, and democratic socialism. That last tradition is the tradition of Eugene Debs, Norman Thomas, Michael Harrington, Irving Howe and Bayard Rustin – the tradition of Democratic Socialists of America. From the label on the tin:

Democratic Socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically to meet the needs of all, not to merely make profits for a select few. Democratic Socialism is a philosophy based on empowerment, liberty, democracy, and feminism, where community well being and individual development are the metrics of success.  We advocate for stronger public goods like universal healthcare and free higher education in addition to more democracy in the work place.  Our method is one of empowering communities and engaging in the politics of the possible while being guided by our ideals.

I don’t really have anything else to say about these guys.

Victor Serge Papers

Victor Serge, you may have noticed, is one of my heroes. He stands at the intersection of all of the traditions mentioned above. This is the website of his papers at Yale University.

The Victor Serge Papers contain correspondence; writings; immigration and identification documents for Serge and his wife, Liouba; death masks of Serge and of Leon Trotsky; and various materials concerning Serge (including correspondence, clippings, and photocopies of writings) that were collected by his son, Vlady Kibalchich. The correspondence includes letters between Serge and his wife, son, and other relatives; a few letters between third parties; letters between Serge and his friends and colleagues, including André Breton, Michael Fraenkel, André Gide, Julián Gorkin, Daniel Guérin, Lucien Laurat, Dwight Macdonald, Jean Malaquais, Marcel Martinet, Magdeleine Marx (Paz), Emmanuel Mounier, Natalii︠a︡ Ivanovna Trot︠s︡kai︠a︡, Leon Trotsky, Leon Werth, and Maurice Wullens; and letters between Serge and publishing companies, journals, and organizations, including The New Leader and Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista.
The writings include holograph and typescript notes and drafts for Serge’s articles, books (including “L’Affaire Toulaév”, “Les Derniers temps”, and “Mémoires d’un révolutionnaire”, among others) and poems. There are also several notebooks, including two daybooks for 1936.

Victor Serge Internet Archive

And this is the Serge section of the wonderful Marxist Internet Archive, the current contents of which are below the fold. (more…)

Wilebaldo Solano

Wilebaldo Soledano, homenatge a Andreu Nin

Image by Jose Téllez via Flickr

Wilebaldo Solano joined the POUM in 1935, when it was founded, and was its secretary from 1947. He was our last real link to the tragic, glorious era of the Spanish Revolution. Exiled to France in 1939, incarcerated by Vichy, served with the maquis, Ant-fascist, anti-colonialist, socialist. Journalist, fighter. Rest in peace.


Texts in English:
*The Spanish Revolution: The Life of Andreu Nin
*The POUM’s Seven Decades
*Our POUM Comrade Critique 28: Victor Serge
*Review of Ken Loach’s Land and Freedom
*The Life of Andreu Nin

Also read: La Bataille Socialiste; EntdinglichungAndrew Coates; Funda Nin.

Published in: on September 12, 2010 at 1:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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On this day: 22 June 1937 – Andres Nin murdered

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.

A Spanish Spectre

andreu NIN y Solano

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.

poum copia (more…)

From the archive of struggle no.44

I have fallen behind on this task, not having done it for about 6 weeks. Below the fold are basically my personal choices from Entdinglichung’s Sozialistika series.

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Poumic

Stalinism and anti-Stalinism

At AVPS, an interesting discussion on what actually “Stalinism” is. At Coatesy’s place, Lindsey German and the Trotskyist Tradition, on democratic centralism, the SWP and Trotky’s ambiguous legacy. From Michael Ezra, some real Stalinists, those who defend North Korea.

Found via Bermuda Radical, here is Paul Kellog on Slavoj Zizek’s failed encounter with Leninism. (“The net effect of Žižek’s analysis is not to resurrect Lenin, but to resurrect Stalin – an utterly irresponsible project given the nightmare of Stalinism from which we have only just emerged. The article will offer some suggestions for a more fruitful approach to “resurrecting” the political legacy of Vladimir Lenin.”)

 

French Writer Albert Camus Smoking Cigarette on Balcony Outside His Publishing Firm Office Premium Photographic Print

Albert Camus

Lettrist discusses Camus The Stranger here. Meanwhile, an intriguing snippet from a Romanian magazine, via Eurozine:

Radu Cosasu writes that Albert Camus was “neither communist nor anti-communist”, a nuance difficult to digest for those “incapable of seeing the Left as anything but communist” (issue 310); and Sever Voinescu explains why such nuances are impossible for the moment in Romania: the country “never had an anti-communist Left; at most, and emerging just now, it has a Left that is indifferent to communism”.

Victor Serge

Not sure if I’ve already linked to this: Victor Serge: Revolution in life and literature, found via Marxist Update. Here is a snippet from a Jonathan Ree piece on JM Coetzee:

Susan Sontag would have agreed with Coetzee about the political significance of literature. The novel, as she remarks in her last, posthumous collection At the Same Time (Hamish Hamilton), exists to recall us to a sense of the interminable diversity that is the basis of what she calls “politics, the politics of democracy.” In a substantial essay on Victor Serge, she praises him for having combined political militancy with a serious engagement with the art of writing. As a mature novelist, she says, Serge was able to deploy “several different conceptions of how to narrate,” elaborating a capacious “I” as a device for “giving voice to others.” It was through his narratorial doubles that he liberated himself from what he called the “former beautiful simplicity” of the fight between capitalism and socialism, so as to produce books that were “better, wiser, more important than the person who wrote them.”

Poumly

Bella ciao, Iran: a song of freedom.

“Revolutionary syndicalism serves the proletariat, whereas anarchism is one brand of humanism”: Juan García Oliver interviewed.

The Politics of Saint-Making: Jacopedia on the Catholic Church and the Spanish civil war.

The Neoconservative Père et Fils: Michael Signer on Bill Kristol Sr and Jr.

Baudelaire, Benjamin, Gramsci: Blackdaffodil on three dead men.

Dirty rotten commies: the Slackster continues his tour of the “Marxist-Leninist” swamp.

The Death of Anna LoPizzo: the subversive historian on America’s hidden labour histories.

Debunking Ramparts: Ron Radosh on 60s New Left neo-Stalinism.

Flame On The Snow: Victor Serge on the Russian revolution.

Zinn’s legacy: David Adler on a leftist icon.

Endless blues: Stanley Crouch on Ralph Ellison.

Not a hero: Red Maria on Stepan Bandera.

Strange days indeed: Andrew Coates reviews Francis Wheen.

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

From the archive of struggle, no.39: Trotsky in Glasgow special feature

This week’s feature archive is the University of Glasgow’s Special Collections. Specifically, I will focus on the Leon Trotsky Virtual Exhibition. To be honest, it is not a particularly good example of an on-line exhibition in terms of informativeness (although their is a chronology of the Old Man’s life) or zip, but it has some great examples of cover art, and certainly lots of stuff I’d like to look at. Here are some features. (All hyperlinks in the text below and all text in square brackets added by me – Poumista.)

Cours nouveau
Paris: 1924
Sp Coll Trotsky F73.12Edited and translated by Boris Souvarine, this is a French translation of Novyi kurs (New course), a work which grew out of a series of articles in Pravda in December 1923. An English translation of this work did not appear until 1943.

[In this text, Trotsky criticised the bureaucratisation of the Party, the violation of democracy and the failure to develop adequate economic planning. It marked the start of an open conflict with Stalin, prior to Lenin’s death. For his support for Trostky, Souvarine was removed from his official roles within the PCF in early 1924, and was expelled by the Comintern in July. I am not sure whether this publication was before his expulsion or afterwards, nor who published it.]

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Shoot them like partridges

I don’t care much for people who enjoy killing things, but I am willing to put up with hunters as long as they don’t carry their habits into private and public life. (Trotsky wired Zinoviev re the Kronstadt sailors, in revolt for the fulfillment of the promises of the Revolution, “Shoot them like partridges.” Bertrand Russell commented, “A hunter should never be allowed to lead a revolution.”)

—Kenneth Rexroth “Hemingway”, 1961

***

“You think perhaps I am a Royalist? No. If there was anybody in heaven or hell to pray to I would pray for a revolution — a red revolution everywhere.”

“You astonish me,” I said, just to say something.

“No! But there are half a dozen people in the world with whom I would like to settle accounts. One could shoot them like partridges and no questions asked. That’s what revolution would mean to me.”

“It’s a beautifully simple view,” I said.

—Joseph Conrad The Arrow of Gold, 1919

***

In a recent post, I quoted Michael Ezra thus:

In [Isaac Deutscher’s] account of the Kronstadt rebellion, there is no mention of Trotsky’s famous order, “shoot them like partridges.”

In a comment, Steve Parsons writes:

I might be wrong but I think it was Zinoviev who is associated with the phrase “shoot them like p[h]easants”.

For an extensive review – a political critique but also a partial listing of some of the numerous factual inacurracies – of Service’s biography on Trotsky see David North’s ´In the service of historical falsification’

I’ve always thought it was Trotsky, but wondered if it was one of those urban myths, so present here the fruits of some of my googling. It seems it was a committee that Zinoviev chaired, although Trotsky may have had a role in its distribution. However, I think it is fair to say that Trotsky shared the sentiment.

TrotskyParade01.JPG (60177 bytes)Quick background: in February 1921, the sailors of Kronstadt in Russia, a stronghold of the revolution, raised 15 demands for greater freedom for working class people and peasants. In March, the Red Army moved to suppress the sailors, killing over 1000. Leon Trotsky, as Commissar for War, played a key role in this suppression. As did Zinoviev, by 1921 head of the Petrograd party organization, chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, and a full member of the party’s Politburo.

1. From Israel Gertzler Kronstadt 1917-1921: The Fate of a Soviet Democracy (2002, p.220):

on 4 March 4 an ‘Appeal’ by Zinoviev‘s Defence Committee of Petrograd denounced ‘all those Petrichenkos and Tu[k]ins’, meaning Kronstadt’s Revolutionary Committee, as ‘puppets who dance at the behest of Tsarist general Kozlovsky’ and ‘other notorious White Guards’, and demanded the Kronstadters’ unconditional surrender, or else ‘you will be shot down like partridges‘.

2. From The Soviet image: a hundred years of photographs from inside the TASS archives by Peter Radetsky, p.59:

Trotsky ordered leaflets airdropped over the [Kronstadt] base, informing his former comrades that if they didn’t surrender within twenty-four hours, “I’ll shoot you like pheasants.”Downtown, Buenos Aires: Viva the Kronstadt rebellion by michaelramallah.

3. Ida Mett, from “The Kronstadt Commune” (1938):

On 5th. March, the Petrograd Defence Committee issued a call to the rebels.

‘You are being told fairy tales when they tell you that Petrograd is with you or that the Ukraine supports you. These are impertinent lies. The last sailor in Petrograd abandoned you when he learned that you were led by generals like Kozlovskv. Siberia and the Ukraine support the Soviet power. Red Petrograd laughs at the miserable efforts of a handful of White Guards and Socialist Revolutionaries. You are surrounded on all sides. A few hours more will lapse and then you will he compelled to surrender. Kronstadt has neither bread nor fuel. If you insist, we will shoot you like partridges.

‘At the last minute, all those generals, the Kozlovskvs, the Bourksers, and all that riff raff, the Petrichenkos, and the Tourins will flee to Finland, to the White guards. And you, rank and file soldiers and sailors, where will you go then? Don’t believe them when they promise to feed you in Finland. Haven’t you heard what happened to Wrangel’s supporters? They were transported to Constantinople. There they are dying like flies, in their thousands, of hunger and disease. This is the fate that awaits you, unless you immediately take a grip of yourselves. Surrender Immediately! Don’t waste a minute. Collect your weapons and come over to us. Disarm and arrest your criminal leaders, and in particular the Tsarist generals. Whoever surrenders immediately will be forgiven. Surrender now.

‘Signed: The Defence Committee’.

4. Alexander Berkman, from The Kronstadt Rebellion:

smp1Trotsky had been expected to address the Petro-Soviet, and his failure to appear was interpreted by some as indicating that the seriousness of the situation was exaggerated. But during the night he arrived in Petrograd and the following morning, March 5, he issued his ultimatum to Kronstadt:

The Workers and Peasants Government has decreed that the Kronstadt and the rebellious ships must immediately submit to the authority of the Soviet Republic. Therefore I command all who have raised their hand against the Socialist fatherland to lay down their arms at once. The obdurate are to be disarmed and turned over to the Soviet authorities. The arrested Commissars and other representatives of the Government are to be liberated at once. Only those surrendering unconditionally may count on the mercy of the Soviet Republic.

Simultaneously I am issuing orders to prepare to quell the mutiny and subdue the mutineers by force of arms. Responsibility for the harm that may be suffered by the peaceful population will fall entirely upon the heads of the counter-revolutionary mutineers. This warning is final.

TROTSKY
Chairman Revolutionary Military Soviet of the Republic

KAMENEV
Commander-in-Chief

The situation looked ominous. Great military forces continuously flowed into Petrograd and its environs. Trotsky’s ultimatum was followed by a prikaz which contained the historic threat, “I’ll shoot you like pheasants”.

[Note: The same text is in Voline’s The Unknown Revolution, bk.3, pt.1, ch.5, and in Berkman’s The Paris Commune and Kronstadt, which notes that the threat was distributed “by a military flying machine”].

5. Daniel Bell, from “First Love and Early Sorrows” (Partisan Review, 1981):

frontpiecesome anarchist relatives, cousins of my mother, a Russian Jewish couple who lived in Mohegan Colony… took me to see Rudolf Rocker, the venerable Anarchist leader, an imposing and portly man with a large square head and imposing brush of gray hair, who then lived in the Colony… In parting, he gave me a number of Anarchist pamphlets, by Malatesta, by Kropotkin (on the Paris Commune), and in particular two pamphlets by Alexander Berkman, The Russian Tragedy and The Kronstadt Rebellion, pamphlets in English but “set up and printed for Der Syndikalist,” Berlin 1922–pamphlets That I have before me as I write (one inscribed in a large round hand, “with fraternal greetings, A.B.. “)–and he suggested that I read Berkman’s The Bolshevik Myth, the diary of his years in Russia, 1920-1922, a copy of which I soon found, and still have.

Every radical generation, it is said, has its Kronstadt. For some it was the Moscow Trials, for others the Nazi-Soviet Pact, for still others Hungary (The Raik Trial or 1956), Czechoslovakia (the defenestration of Masaryk in 1948 or the Prague Spring of 1968), the Gulag, Cambodia, Poland (and there will be more to come). My Kronstadt was Kronstadt.

… I wish it were possible to reprint in full the twelve pages of Berkman’s diary in Petrograd, from the end of February through mid-March 1921, for no bare summary can convey the immediacy, tension and drama as the sailors from the First and Second squadrons of the Baltic Fleet at Kronstadt, the men from the naval base at Petrograd who had catalyzed the October days in 1917, now appealed, following the spontaneous strikes of workers in Petrograd and Moscow, for the establishment of freedom of speech and press “for workers and peasants, for Anarchist and Left Socialist parties,” for the liberation of “all political prisoners of Socialist parties,” to “equalize The rations of all who work,” etc.

For Trotsky, who was Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Soviet, This was mvatezh, or mutiny. He demanded That the sailors surrender or “I’ll shoot you like pheasants.” The last three entries of Berkman’s diaries tell of the sorry end:

March 7. –Distant mumbling reaches my ears as I cross the Nevsky. It sounds again, stronger and nearer, as if rolling towards me. All at once I realize that artillery is being fired. It is 6 A.M. Kronstadt has been attacked! ….

March 17.–Kronstadt has fallen today.

Thousands of sailors and workers lie dead in its streets. Summary execution of prisoners and hostages continues.

March 18.7-The victors are celebrating the anniversary of the Commune of 1871. Trotsky and Zinoviev denounce Thiers and Gallifet for The slaughter of the Paris rebels.

6. Victor Serge, from“Kronstadt ’21”, originally published in Dwight and Nancy MacDonald’s politics (1945):

The Political Bureau finally made up its mind to enter into negoiations with Kronstadt, lay down an ultimatum, and, as a last resort, attack the fortress and the ice-bound battleships. As it turned out, no negotiations ever took place. But an ultimatum, couched in revolting language, appeared on the billboards over the signature of Lenin and Trotsky: ‘Surrender or be shot like rabbits!’. Trotsky, limiting his activities to the Political Bureau, kept away from Petrograd.

7. John G Wright, of the American SWP, in New International (1938):

In his recent comments on Kronstadt, Victor Serge concedes that the Bolsheviks once confronted with the mutiny had no other recourse except to crush it. In this he demarcates himself from the assorted varieties of Anarcho-Menshevism. But the substance of his contribution to the discussion is to lament over the experiences of history instead of seeking to understand them as a Marxist. Serge insists that it would have been “easy” to forestall the mutiny – if only the Central Committee had not sent Kalinin to talk to the sailors! Once the mutiny flared, it would have been “easy” to avoid the worst – if only Berkman had talked to the sailors! To adopt such an approach to the Kronstadt events is to take the superficial viewpoint: “Ah, if history had only spared us Kronstadt!” It can and does lead only to eclecticism and to the loss of all political perspectives.

8. Emma Goldman, from “Trotsky Protests Too Much” (1938):

Victor Serge is now out of the hospitable shores of the workers’ “fatherland.” I therefore do not consider it a breach of faith when I say that if Victor Serge made this statement charged to him by John G. Wright, he is merely not telling the truth. Victor Serge was one of the French Communist Section who was as much distressed and horrified over the impending butchery decided upon by Leon Trotsky to “shoot the sailors as pheasants” as Alexander Berkman, myself and many other revolutionists. He used to spend every free hour in our room running up and down, tearing his hair, clenching his fists in indignation and repeating that “something must be done, something must be done, to stop the frightful massacre.” When he was asked why he, as a party member, did not raise his voice in protest in the party session, his reply was that that would not help the sailors and would mark him for the Cheka and even silent disappearance. The only excuse for Victor Serge at the time was a young wife and a small baby. But for him to state now, after seventeen years, that “the Bolsheviki once confronted with the mutiny had no other recourse except to crush it,” is, to say the least, inexcusable. Victor Serge knows as well as I do that there was no mutiny in Kronstadt, that the sailors actually did not use their arms in any shape or form until the bombardment of Kronstadt began. He also knows that neither the arrested Communist Commissars nor any other Communists were touched by the sailors. I therefore call upon Victor Serge to come out with the truth. That he was able to continue in Russia under the comradely régime of Lenin, Trotsky and all the other unfortunates who have been recently murdered, conscious of all the horrors that are going on, is his affair, but I cannot keep silent in the face of the charge against him as saying that the Bolsheviki were justified in crushing the sailors.

Leon Trotsky is sarcastic about the accusation that he had shot 1,500 sailors. No, he did not do the bloody job himself. He entrusted Tuchachevsky, his lieutenant, to shoot the sailors “like pheasants” as he had threatened. Tuchachevsky carried out the order to the last degree. The numbers ran into legions, and those who remained after the ceaseless attack of Bolshevist artillery, were placed under the care of Dibenko, famous for his humanity and his justice.

Tuchachevsky and Dibenko, the heroes and saviours of the dictatorship! History seems to have its own way of meting out justice. [Tukhachevsky and Dibenko were executed by Stalin in 1937.]

[serge]9. Gabriel and Dany Cohn-Bendit, from Obsolete Communism, the Left-Wing Alternative (1968):

Every attempt to settle matters peacefully was rejected out of hand by the government; Trotsky ordered his troops ‘to shoot the Kronstadt “rebels” down like partridges’, and entrusted the task to Toukhatchevsky, a military expert taken over from the Old Regime.

10. Ian Birchall, from “Victor Serge: Hero or Witness?” (1998):

Serge’s position on Kronstadt is fairly clear (see the extensive treatment in The Serge-Trotsky Papers). At the time, although profoundly unhappy, he decided to accept the suppression of the revolt as necessary. Later, in the 1930s, when he was trying to explain why the revolution had degenerated, he came to see Kronstadt as one of the key stages. This led to a sharp exchange of views with Trotsky, which became perhaps unnecessarily polarised.

11. Cajo Brendel, from “Kronstadt: Proletarian Spin-Off of the Russian Revolution” (1971):

The Kronstadt Rebellion destroyed a social myth: the myth that in the Bolshevik state, power lay in the hands of the workers. Because this myth was inseparably linked to the entire Bolshevik ideology (and still is today), because in Kronstadt a modest beginning of a true workers’ democracy was made, the Kronstadt Rebellion was a deadly danger for the Bolsheviks in their position of power. Not only the military strength of Kronstadt – that at the time of the rebellion was very much impaired by the frozen gulf – but also the demystifying effect of the rebellion threatened Bolshevik rule – a threat that was even stronger than any that could have been posed by the intervention armies of Deniken, Kolchak, Judenitch, or Wrangel.

For this reason the Bolshevik leaders were from their own perspective or better, as a consequence of their social position (which naturally influenced their perspective) – forced to destroy the Kronstadt Rebellion without hesitation. While the rebels were – as Trotsky had threatened being ‘shot like pheasants’, the Bolshevik leadership characterized the Rebellion in their own press as a counterrevolution. Since that time this swindle has been zealously promoted and stubbornly maintained by Trotskyists and Stalinists.

This is what a pheasant looks like. This is what a partridge looks like. This is what the Red Army looked like.

Related reading: Steve Parsons on Robert Service’s A History of Twentieth Century Russia; The Truth About Kronstadt.

Tristes tropiques

Levi Strauss

Claude Lévi-Strauss has died, aged 101.

Lévi-Strauss fled Vichy France in 1940, having been dismissed from his job due to Vichy racial laws. The New School for Social Research in New York, a reconstituted version of the Frankfurt school set up to rescue German refugee intellectuals, found a job for him, and the Rockefeller Foundation had a programme to rescue European scientists and thinkers. He made his way to Marseilles, and set sail for freedom in March 1941.

Other passengers on the boat, the Captain Paul-Lemerle, were Victor Serge, Andre Breton and Anna Seghers. The three of them were among the anti-fascists rescued by the great Varian Fry, a story told in his colleague Mary Jayne Gold’s Crossroads Marseilles 1940 (1980, now out of print) and more recently Rosemary Sullivan’s Villa Air-Bel (2006 HarperCollins).

Seghers was a German Communist writer. She had fled Nazi Germany for France, and was active in the exiled German writers union, which met at the Cafe Mephisto on Boulevarde St-Germain. Seghers had slipped across the line from German-occupied France to Vichy France the same month that Walter Benjamin took his life after being turned back from Spain in his bid to get to New York.

She had played a major role in the Congress for the Defence of Culture, held in Paris in 1935. At the Congress, Henri Poulaille, a French anarchist writer and editor, Magdelana Pa, a French Trotskyist, and Gaetano Salvemini, an Italian socialist, raised the question of Victor Serge’s incarceration in the Soviet gulag. (Serge was exiled in Orenberg at that time, the subject of his book Midnight in the Century.) Seghers, disgracefully, said this was a distraction: “When a house is burning, you can’t stop to help someone with a splinter in their finger.” It is not recorded, as far as I know, what conversation they had on the Captain Paul-Lemerle.

The Captain Paul-Lemerle, which had been built in 1921, landed in Martinique and then in Puerto Rico. At the latter, Lévi-Strauss had document trouble, and the Americans almost stopped him from proceeding. The fortunage intervention of another anthropologist, Jacques Soustelle, who happened to be PR in the service of De Gaulle’s Free French, rescued him. Levi Strauss went on to New York, where he was known as Claude L. Strauss, to avoid confusion with the popular jeans. Once the war was over, he worked as cultural counsellor of the French Embassy in Washington, before moving back to France in 1948. The first, very short, version of his wonderful memoir, Tristes Tropiques, was published in Encounter, the CIA-sponsored journal of the anti-Stalinist left.

Serge’s journey was not straightforward. He went to

Mexico (on a visa granted by President Cardenas hiniself), via Martinique (where he was detained in a camp for a month), Ciudad Trujillo and Havana. He reached Mexico in September 1941, and was immediately the object of violent articles, threats (to his life) from local and refugee Stalinists. (Jean Riére)

Seghors also went on to Mexico. Her anti-fascist novel, The Seventh Cross, which she had written in France, was published in English in New York and in German in Mexico. It has been serialised by a Soviet journal, International Literature, but the serialisation abrubtly halted with the Hitler-Stalin pact, when anti-fascism was no longer a Stalinist cause. Her Transit Visa, published in 1944, was a fictionalised account of the escape from France of the anti-fascist intellectuals, and the complex choreography of accidedents, lucky breaks and dishonesties by which they were able to obtain visas – “The Battle of the Visas” was Serge’s phrase for this.

Breton spent time in Martinique, then went on to New York.  He returned to France in 1946, and was active in radical politics until his death.

Added: Pierre Bourdieu on Levi-Strauss.

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