On a roll, no.3

Continuing the very slow tour through the links roll, from the bottom up.

One blog

US Marxist-Humanists

This is the blog of one of the many fractious factions of the American “Marxist-Humanist” current, the political and philosophical current inaugerated by Raya DunayevskayaDunayevskaya was Russian-born and multilingual, emigrating to the United States as a child. She joined the Communists young, but became part of the Trotskyist left opposition early on. She joined the left opposition group around Antoinette Konikow, which, after leaving the CP formally constituted itself as the Independent Communist League (see “Letter to Lovestone“, 1928). Konikow’s group threw in its lot with the larger Trotskyist group around Shachtman, Cannon and Abern, the Communist League of America which we looked at here. She was briefly one of Trotsky’s fleet of secretaries in Mexico in 1937. (According to Will Lissner, “Ms. Dunayevskaya joined Trotsky’s entourage  in 1937. She served as his Russian secretary, which is to say his economist. (Trotsky’s Russian secretaries always collaborated on his economic  articles.)”) For a while, Dunayevskaya was closely associated with CLR James; they parted with the Trotskyists; and then they parted ways with each other. It was at this point, in the 1950s, that she began to articulate her position as “Marxist-Humanism”.

Personally, I have a real problem with the kind of proper-noun nature of “Marxism-Humanism”, the way that it imagines itself as a fully formed, complete system which encompasses everything. It feels very theological to me, and inherits some of the worst traits of orthodox Leninism in this regard. It is probably for that reason that Marxist-Humanists have been as sectarian and fractious as the Trotskyists, especially in their American homeland, where the roots in the Trotskyist milieu and its sectarian culture are probably strongest.

The “US Marxist-Humanists” are an affiliate of the International Marxist-Humanist Organization. Its three gurus are, I believe, Peter HudisKevin Anderson and David Black, who are all extremely interesting Marxian scholars. The website has a number of interesting articles, including, for example, on the possibility of war with North Korea, on economic turbulence, on Marxism and non-Western societies, on Hegal and Rosa Luxemburg, and lots more. Well worth a good rummage around the archives.

Four non-blogs

Wilson Quarterly

Actually not on my blogroll, but I thought I’d take the opportunity to link to Irving Horowitz’s review of A Dictionary of 20th Century Communism, edited by Silvio Pons and Robert Service.

William Morris Society

I am a big fan of William Morris, one of Britain’s few original Marxist thinkers, and a key figure in the development of libertarian socialism, as well as a good writer and designer. The William Morris Society tends to lean towards his arts work rather than his politics, but has lots of fascinating stuff. American readers should check out what the Society is doing on that side of the Atlantic, while British-based readers should check out the UK branch‘s events. There’s also a branch in CanadaNews from Anywhere is the blog of the William Morris Society.

They have a journal. The new issue of the Journal (Volume XIX, Part 1, Winter 2010), which will be appearing shortly, contains the following articles (among others): “‘Socialism” and “What we have to look for’”: Two unpublished lectures by William Morris’ (Florence S. Boos); Denys P. Leighton, ed, Lives of Victorian Political Figures IV. Volume 2: Thomas Hill Green and William Morris (reviewed by Tony Pinkney); Laurence Davis & Ruth Kinna, eds, Anarchism and Utopianism (reviewed by David Goodway). The Winter 2011 issue of the Journal (Volume XIX, Part 3) will be a special issue with the theme ‘Morris the Green’.

What Next?

What Next? is an occasional magazine of independent-minded left socialism in the UK, deeply engaged with the history of the Marxist tradition, and bursting out of the straitjacket of orthodox Trotskyism. It is edited by Bob Pitt, and sadly Pitt seems to have spent more and more of his time on his IslamophobiaWatch project; his involvement with the reactionary politics of the apologists for the Muslim Brotherhood has, alas, been very much to the detriment of the development of British marxism, and the journal now almost never appears.

The “current” issue is from 2007, it contains a load of nonsense from Tony Greenstein about the AWL and a welcome “enlightened” criticism by my comrade Andrew Coates of the SWP’s Ian Birchall and his defence of Islamism (written, I think, before the smallest mass party in the world divorced Respect). More relevant to our purposes are WHAT HAPPENED IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR? in which Jim Creegan takes apart some of Counterpunch’s Stalinist propoganda and THE ‘SPIRIT OF PETROGRAD’?  THE 1918 AND 1919 POLICE STRIKES in which Owen Jones rescues some British radical history.

The  ever about to be published issue no.32 may or may not contain the following items, among others: LESSONS OF THE ANTI-NAZI LEAGUE by Toby Abse, THE MAY DAYS IN BARCELONA by Andrés Nin and some items of Sri Lankan Trotskyism. Browsing through some of the back issues, some gems include UNDERSTANDING FASCISM:  DANIEL GUÉRIN’S BROWN PLAGUE David Renton, A DANISH TROTSKYIST IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR Åge Kjelsø, THREE DOCUMENTS, 1921-1926 Victor Serge, AUSTRO-MARXISM AND THE NATIONAL QUESTION Andrés Nin, TOGLIATTI:  LOYAL SERVANT OF STALIN Tobias Abse, LIFE AFTER TROTSKYISM: A PERSONAL ACCOUNT Harry Ratner, NDEPENDENT LABOUR POLITICS Martin Sullivan, STALIN: WHY AND HOW Boris Souvarine, TROTSKYISTS AND THE LABOUR PARTY: SOME LESSONS FROM HISTORY John Archer, and lots more.

Weekly Worker

There is a significant overlap between the Weekly Worker milieu and the What Next? milieu, despite the former’s Stalinist heritage and the latter’s Trotskyist one. Weekly Worker, the organ of the party currently known as the CPGB, not to be confused with the old CPGB, or indeed with the legendary New York nightclub CBGB.

In the early 1990s, I used to read a fascinating magazine called Open Polemic, which eventually mutated, more or less, into the Weekly Worker. OP was a heavy-duty theoretical journal dedicated to “communist rapprochement”, which utterly failed to rapproche many communists. WW is indispensable reading for all left trainspotters. It is particularly good on Iran and trade unionism, and particularly bad on Zionism and the war on terror.

Here are some articles you should read: Theocracy threatens bloodbath as mass movement grows: Iranian workers are one the offensive, reports Chris Strafford; Not explaining the crisis: David Osler reviews Chris Harman’s Zombie capitalism: global crisis and the relevance of Marx; Anarchist bombs and working class struggle: David Douglass reviews Louis Adamic’s Dynamite: the story of class violence in America AK Press; More glasnost, less perestroika: Maciej Zurowski interviews Circles Robinson of ‘Havana Times’, a web magazine that features critical writing from Cuba.

Published in: on January 27, 2011 at 12:58 pm  Comments (13)  
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HOPE

The Carnival of Socialism no.51 is up at Bob From Brockley. The theme is pessimism and optimism

Ken McLeod is also reflecting on that theme:

Jim Cannon’s socialist hope

Speaking of optimism, here’s the peroration of a speech that James P. Cannon, an American socialist, made in 1953.

All will be artists. All will be workers and students, builders and creators. All will be free and equal. Human solidarity will encircle the globe and conquer it and subordinate it to the uses of man.

That, my friends, is not an idle speculation. That is the realistic perspective of our great movement. We ourselves are not privileged to live in the socialist society of the future, which Jack London, in his far-reaching aspiration, called the Golden Future. It is our destiny, here and now, to live in the time of the decay and death agony of capitalism. It is our task to wade through the blood and filth of this outmoded, dying system. Our mission is to clear it away. That is our struggle, our law of life.

We cannot be citizens of the socialist future, except by anticipation. But it is precisely this anticipation, this vision of the future, that fits us for our role as soldiers of the revolution, soldiers of the liberation war of humanity. And that, I think, is the highest privilege today, the occupation most worthy of a civilised man. No matter whether we personally see the dawn of socialism or not, no matter what our personal fate may be, the cause for which we fight has social evolution on its side and is therefore invincible. It will conquer and bring all mankind a new day.

It is enough for us, I think, if we do our part to hasten on the day. That’s what we’re here for. That’s all the incentive we need. And the confidence that we are right and that our cause will prevail, is all the reward we need. That’s what the socialist poet, William Morris, had in mind, when he called us to

Join in the only battle
wherein no man can fail
for whoso fadeth and dieth
yet his deeds shall still prevail.

Cannon’s deeds have prevailed all right. You may never have heard of him, but the world we live in would be noticeably different if Cannon had never lived, or had made different choices. Ignazio Silone once said that the final conflict would be between the communists and the ex-communists. One less-than-final but still significant conflict today, that over the left’s response to war, is between those who work and think along the lines that Cannon laid down and those – the inheritors, whether they know it or not, of Shachtman on the one hand and of Stalinism on the other – who don’t. Without Cannon, there wouldn’t be an antiwar movement. There would be a ‘peace’ movement, begging the warmakers to see sense. There would be a ‘Decent left’, cheering the warmakers on. And that – give or take a few fringe intransigents – would be that.*

How did Cannon acquire the confidence that the cause for which he fought had ‘social evolution’ on its side? As a youth he walked into a meeting to hear a lecture on ‘Marx and Darwin’. That lecture, and further study, convinced him ‘theoretically – and that is the firmest conviction there is’ that capitalism is inseparable from crises and wars, that the great majority of working people would sooner or later be compelled to move into action against these crises and wars, and that they would establish as capitalism’s successor system one of global co-operation for abundance, peace, and freedom. ‘The victory of Socialist America is already written in the stars.’

Nothing that has happened since his death in 1974 would have surprised him if he’d lived to see it, or disillusioned him. He had no illusions. Cannon’s theoretical conviction allowed him to face unflinchingly the terrible realities of the 20th Century: World War, the rise of Stalinism, the Depression, the Yezhovschina, the Second World War, the Holocaust, the atomic bombings, the Stalinist labour camps, the Cold War and the colonial wars. Unlike some, he faced and fought them all while they happened, in real time. He never gave an inch.

We’re all so much more sophisticated now.

*Poumista postscript: as a bit of a Silonian/Shachtmanite, I don’t agree with this bit of what Ken says!

Published in: on January 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Today in 1892: Back to the Future

From IISG:

First edition News from nowhere 1890 callnr. E 1780/2

William Morris’ utopian novel News from Nowhere or An Epoch of Rest starts with six friends at the Socialist League having a ‘brisk discussion about what would happen on the day of the Revolution’. One of the friends went home, awaked in the future, and described a communist society. After his return from the future, he states: ‘and if others can see it as I have seen it, then it may be called a vision rather than a dream.’ On 22 November 1892 this book was completed by the Kelmscott Press, Morris’ own publishing house which he had started in 1891. 300 copies, decorated with a woodcut of Morris’ summer house Kelmscott Manor, were printed. But to Morris’ grief, this was not the first edition of his own book. After the text had been published in chapters in Commonweal, the organ of the Socialist League, it was almost immediately published in America in 1890, without his special permission. Here is the title page of this first American edition.

See also:

•  William Morris papers

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Published in: on November 22, 2010 at 2:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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From the archive of struggle no.50: the thin red line

All of these are second hand, mostly from Entdinglichung and some from Platypus and Caring Labor, but I’ve added some annotation. Some I might have already posted. I have organised it like this to make more explicit the “thin red line” of the political tradition this blog celebrates. (more…)

Belated

I can’t believe I missed the death of the talented singer songwriter Llasa de Sela age just 37 at the start of 2010. See Roland/Jams.

And some late additions to my Colin Ward obituaries: from Peter Marshall, author of Demanding the Impossible, from Critical Chatting, and from Robert Graham.

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 TendencyTony 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?

Principia D: Eric Hobsbawm: The Marxist who never read Marx. (“Not judging by this survey of Post-war Italy, anyway. “) More on this in a future post, maybe.

From January, Kathedar Blog with two very good interrelated posts: on Alex Callinicos on imperialism and on Marx and the dialectic.

AF: Steps towards re-emergence of anarchism in Cuba. See also here.

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 FoucaultThe 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.

On Maoism: Richard Wolin remembers the Maoist 1960s, and Apoorvanand analyses Maoism in India, as does Dilip Simeon.

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 

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.

(more…)

Ashes, teabags, etcb

Leon Trotsky’s ashes stolen and baked into cookies.* Will as George Orwell, part 2. The battle of ideas in Cuba. Nestor Makhno and the Anarchist Black Cross. Maps on EP Thompson on William Morris. And on the last days of Max Jacobs (a propos of fascist desecrations at Drancy).Tony Allen at Speaker’s Corner. Theodore Dalrymple on the word “so”.

*UPDATE from Roland.

Miscellany

The ghosts who refuse to die

Wonderful post by Terry Glavin on George Orwell. (And, here, the ghost of Eric Blair inhabits Will Rubbish.)

Nick Cohen on Eric Hobsbawm and the Hitler-Stalin pact.

Isaac Rubin and Paul Mattick Junior: A three part essay by PM on the financial crisis in the Brooklyn Rail (1, 2, 3), brought to us by Will. Principia Dialectica hosted the late I Rubin in London last week.

Paul Hampton on William Morris, ecology and socialism (the sixth of a series).

From the archive of struggle, no.6

Trotsky on workers’ control (posted by the AWL’s Rebbe Sean Matgamna to hold the line against The Commune and their alleged “drift towards anarchism“.)

From Entdinglichung: some early Bolshevik Max Eastman, lots of De Leon, Serge in Dutch and more.

In the new Democratiya, Susan Green of the Independent Socialist League/Workers Party from 1949 on the third camp position.

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