From the archive of struggle: The Newsletter

Just saw this on the great Hatful of History blog:

After last week’s post about new avenues of research for British leftist history, I just thought I’d mentioned that another resource has appeared online. The Newsletter was edited by Peter Fryer, the Daily Worker reporter who had left the Communist Party of Great Britain after the invasion of Hungary in late 1956, after his departure from the CPGB and during his brief membership in The Club. The Club was an orthodox Trotskyist entrist group run by Gerry Healy, who later formed the Socialist Labour League (which transformed in the 1970s into the Workers Revolutionary Party). The Newsletter was edited by Fryer while he was involved in The Club, but after 1958, the publication was taken over by Healy and it became an SLL publication shortly afterwards, alongside Healy’s Labour Review (which also attracted former CPGB members, such as Brian Pearce). The ‘independent’ version of The Newsletter, under Fryer’s editorship from May 1957 to December 1958, has now been digitised by Steve Drury and is available on Norman Harding’s blog Staying Red (Harding was a long-term member of the SLL/WRP), as well as on the Marxist Internet Archive’s ETOL site.

The original flyer announcing the publication of The Newsletter (April 1957). Pic from Staying Red blog.

The original flyer announcing the publication of The Newsletter (April 1957). Pic from Staying Red blog.

Je suis marxiste

“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.

Bloggery

Norman Geras: Long overdue justice for Victor Jara; War memory: what is it good for?

David Osler: Two Milibands on the monarchy.

Book reviews

David Osler: Maonomics by Loretta Napoleoni; Bash the Rich by Ian Bone.

From the archive of struggle

At radicalarchive.org:

*Murray Bookchin: Anarchism vs Syndicalism (1992)
*Murray Bookchin: using x-rays for hair removal and fitting children’s shoes (1962)

Espace contre ciment:

*Rudolf Rocker: Seid aktive Nichtwähler! (1924)

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]

Zionism/Apartheid/Stalinism/Trotskyism: going off on a tangent

Cross-posted from Bob From Brockley

Jessica Goldfinch writes at Greens Engage on what Greens might or might not want to affiliate to. This is interesting on the echoes of the anti-apartheid movement in the “Palestinian solidarity” movement.

For the record, I can’t remember any anti-white racism in my Anti-Apartheid branch, but agree about the brushing under the carpet of some of problems within the resistance in South Africa. More importantly, my branch was unusual in that there was internal dissent. There was a significant Trotskyist group, mostly affiliated to eitherthe sensible (“Slaughterite”) faction of the Workers Revolutionary Party* or to Labour Briefing (with close links to South African Trots), who fought against the Stalinist leadership of AA and its slavish following of every ANC line.In particular, the Trots drew attention to ANC murders of internal dissidents, many carried out by or on the orders of the Stalinist Chris Hani, who later became something of an ANC martyr when he was in turn murdered by far right white racists. Those in solidarity with the dissidents were treated as pariahs within the mainstream anti-apartheid movement, and denounced as agents of imperialism. (Worth adding that the denouncing was often led by Jewish South African exiles.)

My early exposure to this apartheid-era anti-ANC dissent inoculated me against the illusions many leftists would have in post-apartheid “black rule”. I think of this often now, as I watch the ANC repression of grassroots social justice activism (such asAbahlali baseMjondolo), its support for Mugabe’s dictatorial regime, the corruption and authoritarianism of the party leadership, and the racist demagoguery of the party left.

I was prompted by Jessica’s post to do a little googling around Searchlight South Africa, the group around Baruch Hirson and Paul Trewhela, South African exiles who had served time in apartheid prisons for their resistance to the racist regime who then fought to get the British left to recognise the totalitarian nature of the ANC leadership and its brutal treatment of dissenters. Few listened during the apartheid years, when most of the left wanted to see things in black and white (if that’s the right term to use!), and few listened during the presidency of Saint Mandela, but their warnings seem very relevant now. Here are some readings: the story of Searchlight South Africathe table of contentsInside Quadro, Trewhela’s expose of the ANC’s Stalinist repressionTrewhela on Mbeki and AIDSTrewhela at LibcomHirson at MIA;Various documents on the Stalinism of the ANC (including “Inside Quadro”, mistakenly attributed to Hirson); Trewhela on John Pilger’s belated discovey of the ANC’s dark sideon the exile history of the ANCPanduleni: A comrade they could neither destroy nor buy.In the 1980s, it was an article of faith across much of the left that apartheid defined the essential evil in the world, and that the ANC defined the essential good. More complex, critical, reflective thinking was almost impossible in this time. Those who raised questions about the ANC, such as the South African Trotskyists, were denounced as traitors and witch-hunted out of the mainstream left. It was right to resist the Stalinist groupthink then, and it is right to resist it now.

Previous: The indestructible beats of SowetoMbeki and MugabeRCP v WRP.

*Some day I will post my own recollections of this group of Trots. For now, Marko Hoare on the Slaughterite (“Workers Press”) faction of the WRP.

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 theWorkers 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.

Histories

From the blogs:

From Lawrence and Wishart, the ex-Stalinist publishing company:

From the archive of struggle:

Features:

Also:

Credits: Entdinglichung (1, 2, 3)

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.

(more…)

Corin Redgrave

I missed this article by Nick Cohen, plus further commentary from smart ex-leftist Ron Radosh. Any more I missed?

Published in: on May 15, 2010 at 2:12 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , ,

Poumerast

In this issue, some Trotskyist stuff, and then some Orwellia, and finally some dispatches from the real world.

From the Archive of Struggle no.46

I’ve been down on Alan Woods lately, for his support of the soft-Stalinist authoritarian populist regime of Hugo Chavez, which in turn has supported the repression of the working class in the Islamic Republic of Iran. So, in the spirit of ecumenicism, I have been spending time at his website, and am dedicating this special edition of From the Archive of Struggle to Woods and his guru Ted Grant.

On James Connolly and the Easter Uprising
*Ted Grant: Connolly and the 1916 Easter Uprising [1966]
*Ted Grant and Alan Woods: James Connolly and the Easter Uprising [2001]
*Fightback: Ireland: Easter then and now – Socialism the only way out! [2010]
On Trotskyism and Stalinism:
* Ted Grant: Stalin Versus Marx [1946]
*Ted Grant: New Purges in Russia [1946]
*Ted Grant: Stalin Liquidates Two Republics [1946: on the roots of the Chechen conflict]
*Ted Grant: Opposition at C.P. Conference—Reformist policy criticised [1947]
*Ted Grant: Stalinist land programme wins peasants – Chiang’s conscripts roped to prevent escape [1949: on the Chinese revolution]
*Ted Grant: The General Strike and the “Communist Party” [1971]
*Ted Grant: Jan Sling arrest—“Communist” Party apologies [1972]
*Alan Woods: Introduction to the Indonesian edition of The Revolution Betrayed [2010]
*International Marxist Tendency: For the Fifth International [2010]
On British politics:
*Ted Grant: The I.L.P. at the Crossroads [1945]
*Ted Grant: Tories in Conference—A bankrupt policy [1948]
On German politics:
*Ted Grant: German Workers Vote Labour—Demonstrate Opposition to Nazism [1946]

Down with the revisionists, running dogs, etc!

Apparently,

Alan Woods is under attack again not from a Brazilian right wing analyst as was the case two weeks ago, but from loud-mouthed TalCual editor/publish Teodoro Petkoff, who dedicates an editorial to the Welshman…

Like in the Brazilian article, Petkoff referred to Woods as the latest of Chavez’ “political advisers” and the man who got Chavez to admit that he was a Marxist-Leninist … like Petkoff once was when he was a 60-70s guerrilla.

What Petkoff does is amplify the Brazilian piece, adding trinkets such as calling Heinz Dieterich — a “German charlatan” — and Chavez “catching measles” from the “heavy brick of Hungarian Marxist, Istvan Meszaros.”  Alan Woods is quickly dismissed as one of that “handful of castaways who left the shipwreck of the USSR … a solitary soul looking for a sponsor … without a refreshing or new idea.”

Here’s Wikipedia on Petkoff, ex-Stalinist turned liberal social democrat. I can’t find the article on-line, but just Woods’ reply (see here). I’m a bit of a fan of Istvan Meszaros, and would like more politicians to read his work. Any readers who can provide more info on all of this, please do.

Meanwhile, as already reported, Woods’ Iranian comrades have deserted his micro-movement, due to his apologies for Chavez’s support for the tyrannical regime in Iran. Here is the newly launched website of the Iranian Revolutionary Marxists’ Tendency. Here is a website, KarlMarx.Net, which is associated with the IRMT and their supporters. Among the documents are something very interesting by Pat Byrne (who I think is from the Alliance for Green Socialism) on the origins of the slate system for leadership voting in Leninist parties (also published at Tendance Coatesy, with better formatting to make it more readable, and by A Very Public Sociologist), and a Marxist reply by John Gandy to Woods’ series on anarchism mentioned here. There is also an interesting document on the split in the IMT from the Learning from Our Past group here.

Also read: David Osler’s review of Richard Gott on the Bolivarian revolution.

Also read: LabourStart’s news from Iran: Journalist who wrote about and defended union workers gets long jail term 2010-04-07 [Radio Free Europe]; IFJ Urges Iran to Release Detained Journalists 2010-03-22 [IFJ]; ‘New minimum wage rate spurs widespread indignation’ 2010-03-16 [Iran Labor Report]; ‘Forcing hunger on Iranian workers in the new year’ 2010-03-16 [Iran Labor Report]; Worker Protest in the Age of Ahmadinejad 2010-03-16 [Middle East Report]; Where Life Reeks of Death: Working Women and Child Laborers2010-03-07 [Iran Labor Report]; Union Leaders Under Attack 2010-03-07 [Iran Labor Report]; Workers’ Protest in Isfahan 2010-03-07 [Iran Labor Report]; IFJ Condemns Closure of Newspapers in Iran 2010-03-06 [IFJ]; ‘Kaleidoscopic’ Worker Protests Grow in Iran 2010-02-26 [In These Times].

Down with the revisionists, running dogs, etc! Part 2

Moving on from Ted Grant to his evil twin Gerry Healy, possibly the most destructive force ever on the British far left. Or, rather, to Healy’s disciple Corin Redgrave, whose death recently I’ve only touched on in passing. Read: Corin Redgrave: Traitor to MarxismGerry Healy and the WRPThe Daily Telegraph, Corin Redgrave and a Libel CaseCorin Redgrave, authoritarian figureCorin Redgrave: scenes from a political life; and What has the Left got to be so smug about?. And, from the archive, No One Likes Us, We Try Not To Care.

The girl with the dragon tattoo

Talking of Trots, Marko follows Nick Cohen, Max Dunbar and Christopher Hitchens in reviewing dead Swedish Trot Stieg Larsson, the “man who wasn’t really all that left-wing.”

Orwellia

Having already posted this, here is another Orwell Prize nominee, Madame Miaow, on George Orwell. Recommended.

Meanwhile in the real world

Tolpuddle guides go on strikeKyrgyzstan: colour revolution and permanent revolutionU.S. and Colombia Cover Up Atrocities Through Mass GravesThe Rights of Mother Earth: Bolivia Births a New Revolution; The harvest of death in Canada; India’s coalfire workers.

Corin Redgrave and the falsification of history

Jim Denham versus Foyle’s War.

When Skateboards will be free

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.

Related: Gary Younge “Memoirs of a teenage Trot”, on being a WRP member in the 1980s.

Previously: Trotsky on TV/Trotsky on Book of the Week.

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