A Serge/Sontag footnote, or an excuse for defending the anti-Stalinist tradition

Victor Serge Susan Sontag

Three years ago, in a post on Victor Serge, I linked to a blogpost  by Nick at Churls Gone Wild which attacked Susan Sontag. I called Nick’s post “petty, mean-spirited, Stalinoid”. Those are quite extreme and intemperate and probably unfair words, for which I should apologise, prompted by a comment last month from the author of the post. However, I kind of think I wasn’t totally wrong. I am not a big fan of Sontag, but I have often been struck by the attacks on her from a particular leftist tradition, attacks which echo those made from the same tradition on other anti-Stalinist leftists, such as Serge, Arendt, Orwell, Shachtman and the New York intellectuals or, later, figures such as Walzer and Hitchens. I wouldn’t call these attacks Stalinist, exactly, but I don’t think Stalinoid is too wrong a word. Here’s why.  (more…)

Morris Beckman, anti-fascist hero

Cross-posted from BobFromBrockley

I was very sad to read today of the passing of Morris Beckman, a great anti-fascist, mentsh and citizen historian.Photo credit to Janette Beckman - http://www.janettebeckman.com/

Dan Carrier’s obituary of him is nicely titled “Morris Beckman fought fascism, home and away“. Here’s some of it:

WHEN Morris Beckman returned to London at the end of the Second World War, having risked his life as a radio operator on ships crossing oceans filled with U-Boats, he was disgusted to see British fascists peddling their views on the streets of Camden. Morris, who passed away this week aged 94, would not stand idly by as the far right made speeches and sold pamphlets that denied the Holocaust. Instead, he and other Jewish ex-servicemen set up the 43 Group – an organisation that fought fascists on post-war London’s streets.

Morris was born in Hackney in 1921. He had tried to join the RAF in 1939 but was turned down – instead he learned Morse code and became a radio operator on ships making the dangerous Atlantic crossings. During the Battle of the Atlantic in 1942, two of his ships were torpedoed.

Morris went into the clothing trade after the war, running a menswear business until the 1970s. In the 1980s, he turned his hand to writing, documenting his life in the Merchant Navy and the 43 Group. Books included The Hackney Crucible, The Jewish Brigade: An Army With Two Masters, Flying The Red Duster and Atlantic Roulette. In his 1992 book The 43 Group, he wrote of the shock servicemen felt when they saw the doctrine they had defeated in Europe still alive in Britain.

He recalled how he was moved to act after he and his cousin Harry Rose watched a fascist rant on the corner of Star Street in Kilburn. Harry had fought with General Wingate behind Japanese lines in Burma.

“He said to me: ‘I’m going to shut that bastard up’,” recalled Morris.

“I calmed him down but we asked ourselves – what is anyone going to do about this?”

They tried lobbying MPs and using lawful means but with no success. Instead, they set about disrupting inflammatory demonstrations by fascists.

[…]

He saw his bravery as merely a twist of fate that put him in extraordinary times and he believed he acted as anyone else would do.

This is from a Guardian piece, with Beckman describing why they set up the 43 Group:

“I had been in the merchant navy, survived two torpedo attacks on the Atlantic convoys, and I came back home to Amhurst Road, Hackney to hugs and kisses. My mother went out to make some tea and my dad said, ‘ The bastards are back – Mosley and his Blackshirts’.”

“The Talmud Torah (religious school) in Dalston had its windows smashed. Jewish shops were daubed ‘PJ’ (Perish Judah). You heard, ‘We have got to get rid of the Yids’ and ‘They didn’t burn enough of them in Belsen’.”

With the Labour home secretary James Chuter Ede refusing to take action and the Jewish establishment urging peaceful protest, the demobbed Jews had had enough.

Famously, Vidal Sassoon was a member. Sandy Rashtry‘s JC obit explains why it was called the 43 Group:

43 people (38 men and five women) who formed the group at the Maccabi House sports club in Hampstead in 1946. …[By] 1947 [it] had more than 1,000 members in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Newcastle….

“We were one of the very few groups of diaspora Jews who took a stand against Jew-baiting by fighting it instead of passively accepting the situation.”

He said: “Make no mistake. Mosley was very well connected with the upper echelons of British society. If Hitler had succeeded in invading Britain, there were powerful people in double-breasted suits who would have pinned swastikas on their velvet lapels and supported the deportation of British Jews.”

Paul Stott writes:

Graeme Kennedy and Andrew French‘s Unfinished War:

Watch his 2010 talk in Bristol on the secret war against the fascists. Listen to an interview at Last Hours.



The 43 Group was published by Centerprise, which sadly closed a couple of years ago, a victim of central government cuts to local government budgets, but there is a newer edition too.

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Published in: on June 3, 2015 at 10:18 pm  Comments (1)  
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From the archive of struggle no.84: A Libcom special

The IWW since 1932 – George Pearce

Organizing “wall-to-wall”: the Independent Union of All Workers (1933-1937) – Peter Rachleff

What is “Alternative Unionism”? – Staughton Lynd

An article by Staughton Lynd about the militant unionism of the 1930s.

Wobbly driplines: strikes, stowaways & the SS Manuka

Built in 1903 and wrecked off New Zealand’s southern coast in 1929, the Manuka was a floating fragment of class society—and of class warfare. This article uses the Manuka to tell the wider story of syndicalism, transnationalism, anti-militarism, and the IWW in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“The American blindspot”: Reconstruction according to Eric Foner and W.E.B. Du Bois – Noel Ignatiev

Noel Ignatiev’s review of two books about Reconstruction, which was the period in American history where the victorious Northern federal government attempted to transform the state and society in the South.

The Spanish revolution 1931-1939 – Pierre Broué

An essay on the “political” dimension of the revolution and the years immediately preceding it in Spain during the 1930s, “the struggle of the Spanish workers and peasants for their rights and liberties, for the factories and the land, and finally, for political power”, examining not only “demonstrations, strikes, storming the prisons, militiamen clad in overalls, barricades, dinamiteros, summary executions and collectivizations” but also “contradictory exegeses, theoretical debates, polemics and personal conflicts, and battles between political machines, fractions and tendencies”, as well as the “ever-present” menace of the counterrevolution.

The search for a useable past: an interview with Paul Buhle on Radical America

An interview of Paul Buhle, the founder of the radical journal, Radical America.

Anarchist portraits – Clifford Harper

A beautiful set of 36 woodcut style portraits of anarchists by Clifford Harper, originally published as a set of picture cards by Freedom Press. If you enjoy these images please donate or buy materials from Freedom or Clifford from their websites.

Images from Radical America

Images from Radical America, a magazine associated with the New Left and published from 1967-1999.

Bakunin – Guy Aldred

A pamphlet by Scottish anarchist communist Guy Aldred on Mikhail Bakunin, the founding figure of modern anarchism, published in 1940.

Ned Kelly’s ghost: the Tottenham IWW and the Tottenham tragedy – John Patten

Red years, black years: anarchist resistance to fascism in Italy

A detailed pamphlet on the history of the Italian anarchist resistance to fascism from the 1920s to 1945 and beyond by region. First published in 1973, translated to English by Alan Hunter and published in 1989 by ASP.

Personal recollections of the anarchist past – George Cores

Cartoons and images from The Voice of the People

Art, images and cartoons from ‘The Voice of the People’, a New Orleans based newspaper of the Industrial Workers of the World published from 1913-1914.

Manifesto of the Socialist Party of Canada 1944

Western Socialist 1933

This pamphlet was first published in 1910 as the Manifesto of the Socialist Party of Canada. During the ten-year period ending in 1920, five editions, totalling more than 25,000 copies, were issued. The growing insistence of members and sympathisers impels us to place the Manifesto once again in the hands of the working class. The present edition consists of 5,000 copies.

An Interview with Miguel Amorós – Cazarabet-El Sueño Igualitario

In this 2015 interview, Miguel Amorós discusses his book about Buenaventura Durruti, Durruti in the Labyrinth (2006), the controversies and enigmas surrounding the untimely and mysterious death of this charismatic figure of anarchism, and the impact of his death on the anarchosyndicalist movement in Spain during the civil war, which Amorós says was not dependent on the actions of any single individual, but that his demise demoralized the rank and file of the anarchist movement and reinforced the trend towards bureaucratization in the CNT-FAI by providing those institutions with a martyr for propaganda purposes to rally the masses behind the war and government collaboration.

The War and The Socialist Position

Socialist Standard September 1914

The text is taken from the original leaflet, THE WAR AND THE SOCIALIST POSITION, produced and printed by The Socialist Party of Great Britain. The leaflet was published for distribution to the working class until being prevented from being circulated at meetings by the capitalist State on the spurious grounds that it was considered “likely to cause disaffection to His Majesty or to interfere with the success of His Majesty’s forces by land or sea etc.” with the imposition of The Defence of the Realm Regulations enacted in November 1914.

From the Archive of Struggle no.83: Workers Liberty special

A participant’s account of the Norwegian General Strike against the occupying Nazis. From Norwegian Worker / Labor Action.
This assessment of Richard Wright, the great black American Communist, author of “Black Boy”, and “Native Son”, appeared in the New International, late in 1941, as a review of “Bright and Morning Star”. By James M. Fenwick.
This fine declaration of faith, principles and motives for socialist action was made by the great American Marxist James P Cannon as he and 15 others prepared to go to jail for their political activities.

Tasks of Communist Education (1923)

An article by Leon Trotsky, first published in a publication of the pre-Stalinist Communist Party of Great Britain.
 Maybe the first big classical-Marxist statement on imperialism was by Karl Kautsky, in 1899, replying to Eduard Bernstein’s call for a “revision” of the perspective of Marx and Engels.
***
The Archive of Struggle, previous editions:

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Black Lives Matter: Documenting a century of police violence in America

The website Black & Blue: History and Current Manifestations of Policing, Violence & Resistance, which “brings together several resources about policing and violence developed by Project NIA and the Chicago PIC Teaching Collective“, has a series of pamphlets on  “Historical Moments of Policing, Violence & Resistance”. An (Abridged) History of Resisting Police Violence in Harlem (PDF) by Mariame Kaba and designed by Eric Kerl covers 1943-1964. There’s also 1937 Memorial Day Massacre (PDF) by Samuel Barnett and designed by Madeleine Arenivar, The Mississippi Papers (PDF) by Mariame Kaba and Mauricio Pineda on police violence in the South in the mid-20th century, and Chicago Red Summer 1919 (PDF) by Elizabeth Dadabo & designed by Madeleine Arenivar. The texts are fascinating and the graphics are powerful.

US SWP Zionist shock

From the Meretz USA blog. Note this is the American SWP not the British SWP, totally unrelated beasts.

Trotskyist Party Turns Pro-Zionist

Our colleague, Arieh Lebowitz, has learned over the weekend that the old Trotskyist political party, the Socialist Workers Party, has dropped its traditionally fierce anti-Zionism.  The following is a statement by an SWP candidate for the city council of Washington, D.C.  Note that it includes this explicitly pro-Zionist sentence: “We support the right of return for all Jews to move to Israel if they choose.”  It also condemns Hamas terrorism.

This calls to mind the fact that Isaac Deutscher, a follower and classic biographer of Leon Trotsky, had regretted his anti-Zionism when he reflected on what happened to Polish Jews he had advised against leaving for Palestine.  This also may remind us of the brief pro-Jewish phase of Soviet policy in its early years, and the brief pro-Zionist stance of the USSR at Israel’s birth.

Vol. 79/No. 4      February 9, 2015

DC socialist: ‘Workers
need to fight Jew-hatred!’

Recent murderous attacks on Jews in Argentina, in a kosher grocery store in France and on the street in Israel are a blow and a challenge to all working people. (more…)

Published in: on February 20, 2015 at 12:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Workers Unite! The International Working Men’s Association 150 Years Later

Here’s a book review of what looks like an interesting book:

Workers Unite! The International Working Men’s Association 150 Years Later. Edited by Marcello Musto. Bloomsbury. 2014.

In the document-based collection Workers Unite! The International Working Men’s Association 150 Years Later, Marcello Musto succeeds in locating the International Working Men’s Association (IWMA) or First International in its historical context while also offering pointers as to future prospects for the international socialist movement.

The book contains eighty documents charting the history of the IWMA divided between thirteen topics including official addresses as well as thematic essays on subjects as diverse as trade unions, strikes, collective ownership, internationalism, and opposition to war. The selection covers official texts and speeches, and therefore excludes journalism, published works, and letters. Each document has a brief introductory note which identifies the first date of composition and publication/delivery, and the book contains useful appendices (pp. 66-8) with a timeline of International Congresses, and (approximate) national membership figures for the IWMA. [READ THE REST]

 

Published in: on February 3, 2015 at 6:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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POUMblogging

This was recently posted at the Austrialian Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

The POUM: Those who would?

On January 3, 2015, historian Doug Enaa Greene led a discussion on the history of the POUM and the lessons to be drawn for today. It was presented to the Center of Marxist Education. His talk was based on the text below.

For more by Doug Enaa Greene, click HERE.

For generations of leftists, the most recognizable images of the Spanish Civil War is from May 1937 comes from George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia of anarchist and POUMist workers defending the Telephone Exchange in Barcelona from the Communist Party. This image is said to represent the betrayal of Spain’s libertarian communist revolution by agents of Moscow. In the decades since May 1937, a great number of polemics have been exchanged on what went wrong and on many “what ifs” on how the revolution could have won in the streets of Barcelona. [READ THE REST]

Meanwhile, this is cool:

That’s a POUM wallet is displayed with volunteers’ belongings from the Spanish Civil War. It’s from a really nice post on the excellent design blog Dubdog about a visit to the People’s History Museum in Manchester.

Finally, it comes to my notice, via this blog, that George Orwell has been immortalised in a war game toy soldier:

George Orwell, POUM militia man, Spanish Civil War: Artizan (North Star) figure

As have militia men (but apparently not militia women) of the anarchist CNT:

Spanish Anarchists

Notes towards the recovery of the tradition of the British dissident left

Here are three completely (well, not completely) unrelated items from Dave Renton’s excellent “lives; running” blog.

1. What Engels’ supporters did next

This is a nice post on the dissidents in Henry Hyndman’s SDF who broke with the authoritarian social democratic cult (it’s hard not to read the SWP of the last decade or two into Renton’s description) to experiment with a more supple, democratic, libertarian socialism in the Socialist League, in particular Frederick Engels, William Morris, Tom Maguire and Eleanor Marx. The SL, for a while, included both Marxists and anarchists, and represents an important alternative possibility, a path not travelled, in the history of the left. It gave birth (along with Tom Mann, who left the SDF for the ILP) to both the centrist Independent Labour Party and the British anarchist movement.

Renton is harsh on the SL anarchists, over-emphasising their affinity for terror. He talks about the ex-SLers that went into “anarchism of the deed” without mentioning that many of them were actually crucially involved in mainstream anarchism’s turn from insurrectionist violence to syndicalism (again along with Tom Mann) and anarchist-communism. It is also interesting that the ILP, despite being to the right of the SL, maintained good contacts with anarchists on and off; Keir Hardie fought to keep anarchism within the newly formed Second International, for example, and Orwell’s connection with the anarchists represents the coming back together of the two main traditions of the Socialist League.

Finally, I think Renton is overplays the description of the ILP as bureaucratic, reformist and parliamentary. In fact, I think, the ILP kept alive the spirit of Morris – democratic, utopian, anti-parliamentary, critical – within the heart of a labour movement otherwise burdened by the twin curses of reformist social democracy and Stalinism that were the SDF’s bequest.

(If you  are interested in this, see also Frank Kitz’s Reflections, including recollections of Morris in the East End, and the late Terry Liddle on the heritage of William Morris.)

Hogsbjergcover2. A new life of CLR James

This is a notice about Christian Hogsbjerg’s new biography of Nello.

It is a compelling book, of the right length for its material (280 pages), which sheds significant light on three aspects of James’ development, first his debt to revolutionary Nelson, second the impact of cricket on his Marxism, third, his (re)discovery of Toussaint L’Ouverture.

James himself stated repeatedly that he learned his revolutionary politics among the Lancashire weavers, and in particular in the small town of Nelson, to which he travelled in 1932 as Learie Constantine’s ghost-writer. Hogsbjerg tracks down details of James’s career as a visiting member of Nelson’s second XI. He finds examples of Nelson being described as a Little Moscow in the 1920s. He locates the source of James’ copy of Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution – loaned by a fellow bibliophile Fred Cartmell. He vividly portrays the almost insurrectionary 1931-2 “More Looms” cotton strike, the immediate prelude to James’ arrival in the town. And he finds notes of James’ meetings for the ILP branch in Nelson.

The post-colonial version of James is often these days separated from the Trotskyist version of James, so it is good to see them brought together here. And the story of James encountering dissident Marxism within a milltown ILP branch belies the dismissive version of the ILP in Renton’s Engels post above.

3. Love is run on fascist lines

sedge

This is a poem by Peter Sedgwick, written in 1956, the year he made the same move as William Morris, leaving the Communist Party (the inheritor of the SDF tradition) to join Tony Cliff’s Socialist Review group, as Stalin’s tanks rolled into Budapest applauded by the CPGB’s loyalists. The SR group, which became the International Socialists (IS), for a while represented something of the same spirit as Morris’ Socialist League, heavily influenced by the late ILP (the term “Neither Washington nor Moscow” was actually coined by the ILP, although the IS/SWP would claim it as their own). Sedgwick left the IS in 1976 when it became the SWP, i.e. when it took on the role of the SDF (with Cliff as its Hyndman); hindsight shows how right he was.

Anyway, read the poem.

Trotsky-Surrealism-Peret-Durruti-Brazil

One of the purposes of this blog is to join the dots in a history of the anti-Stalinist left: transnational traditions of dissident Marxism, democratic and libertarian socialism and class struggle anarchism which have actively resisted totalitarianism in all its forms. I came across this  at the blog Psychadelic Bolshevik, and I take the liberty of reproducing it here. I’ve covered a lot of this material before (click on the tags at the bottom for more), but this puts it all together well. After I pasted it in, I realised most of it is the text by Nick Heath published on libcom, to which I have added a hyperlink where the quotation starts. However, in re-reading that, I am a little confused on the different French Trotskyists twists and turns, so added a note on that. If anyone can check that and let me know if I’ve got it right, I’d be grateful.

SURREALISM, PERET AND TROTSKY (DELEGATES DELIGHTS) BY SLIM BRUNDAGE

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Mike Marqusee z”l

I was sad to hear that Mike Marqusee died before Christmas. I didn’t know him personally, but coincided with him in the Socialist Alliance and in the Social Forum movement, in both of which the democratic politics that he represented were stitched up by the Stalinist tactics of the Socialist Workers Party. I disagreed with him on lots of topics, but he was a fine writer and,  I believe, a person of integrity. The Guardian published an excellent obituary. Here’s a tribute from Pluto Press. My thoughts are with Liz, his partner.

Here are some of his articles: (more…)

Defining left libertarianism

I occasionally contribute to the editing of Wikipedia pages, including those relating to left libertarian political traditions. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of cranky libertarians involved in Wikipedia, so pages you  edit there get swiftly re-edited. For example, the page on left libertarianism insists that said ideology is some odd US free market scene:

It later became associated with free-market libertarians when Murray Rothbard and Karl Hess reached out to the New Left in the 1960s.[3] This left-wing market anarchism, which includes mutualism and Samuel Konkin III‘s agorism, appeals to left-wing concerns such as feminism, gender and sexuality,class, immigration, and environmentalism.[1] Most recently, left-libertarianism refers to mostly non-anarchist political positions associated with Hillel Steiner, Philippe Van Parijs, and Peter Vallentyne that combine self-ownership with an egalitarian approach to natural resources.[4]

I think most people I know who call themselves left libertarians, certainly in Europe, would find that description hard to recognise. Here’s an old version of a section on libertarian socialism, that got deleted recently, which seems to me roughly right:

Libertarian socialism is a political philosophy that promote a non-hierarchical, non-bureaucratic society without private property in the means of production. Libertarian socialism is opposed to coercive forms of social organization. It promotes free association in place of government and opposes the social relations of capitalism, such as wage labor.[note 1]

The term libertarian socialism is used by some socialists to differentiate their philosophy from state socialism.[7]

For some writers, libertarian socialism is seen as synonymous or overlapping with the terms social anarchism[8][9][10], left anarchism.[8][9][11] and even left libertarianism.[2][12]

Political philosophies commonly described as libertarian socialist include most varieties of anarchism (especially anarchist communism, anarchist collectivism, anarcho-syndicalism,[13] and mutualism[14]) as well as autonomism, Communalism, participism, libertarian Marxist philosophies such as council communism and Luxemburgism,[15] and some versions of utopian socialism[16] and individualist anarchism.[17][18][19] There have also been libertarian socialist currents in the mainstream labour and socialist movements.

[Footnotes below]

There has also been a section on green left libertarianism, again recently re-deleted. A recent version looked like this:

The Green movement has been influenced by left libertarian traditions, including by anarchism, mutualism, Georgism and [[individualist anarchism. Peter Kropotkin provided a scientific explanation of how “mutual aid” is the real basis for social organization in his Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution. New England Transcendentalism (especially Henry David Thoreau and Bronson Alcott) and German Romanticism, the Pre-Raphaelites, and other “back to nature” movements combined with anti-war, anti-industrialism, civil liberties, and decentralization movements are all part of this tradition. In the modern period, Murray Bookchin and the Institute for Social Ecology elaborated these ideas more systematically. Bookchin was one of the main influences behind the formation of the German Green Party – the first green party to win seats in state and national parliaments.[citation needed]Modern Green Parties attempt to apply these ideas to a more pragmatic system of democratic governance as opposed to contemporary individualist or left anarchism.

Thus the Green movement, or left-facing sections of it, is often described by political scientists as left libertarian.[84] Often referred to here are European political parties, such as Ecolo and Agalev in Belgium, the German Green Party, or the Green Progressive Accord/GreenLeft in the Netherlands. Political scientists see these parties as coming out of the New Left and emphasising spontaneous self-organisation, participatory democracy, decentralisation and voluntarism, and therefore contrasting to the “traditional left”‘s top-down, bureaucratic or statist approach, hence the term “left libertarian”. Other similar non-socialist radical left political parties, such as the Italian Radicals, are often described in similar terms.[85] These parties situate themselves on the left of the political spectrum, and therefore tend to ally electorally with left parties (e.g. in the Rose in the Fist coalition in Italy), while being pro-market and strongly supporting a civil libertarian agenda, and hence are called left libertarian.

[Footnotes below]

What do you think of when you think of left libertarianism? What would you include in an article?

I think of a tradition described in David Goodway‘s book Anarchist Seeds beneath the Snow, which includes the likes of William Morris, John Cowper Powys, Alex Comfort, Herbert Read, Colin Ward and Maurice Brinton.

From William Morris to Oscar Wilde to George Orwell, left-libertarian thought has long been an important but neglected part of British cultural and political history. In Anarchist Seeds beneath the Snow, David Goodway seeks to recover and revitalize that indigenous anarchist tradition. This book succeeds as simultaneously a cultural history of left-libertarian thought in Britain and a demonstration of the applicability of that history to current politics. Goodway argues that a recovered anarchist tradition could—and should—be a touchstone for contemporary political radicals. Moving seamlessly from Aldous Huxley and Colin Ward to the war in Iraq, this challenging volume will energize leftist movements throughout the world.

Crucially, some of these people are anarchists – but not all are. Left libertarianism clearly stretches on the one side towards the anarchism of Colin Ward but also towards the democratic socialism of Orwell or the Marxism of Morris and EP Thompson, who all feature in Goodway’s book. As Bernard Crick puts it regarding Orwell: “He was an English Socialist of the classic kind, in the same mould as Michael Foot and Aneurin Bevan – left-wing, but also libertarian, egalitarian and hostile to the Communist Party.” Similarly, Thompson started off a Communist, but became sharply anti-Stalinist.

As this excellent review of Goodway’s book by Martin Heggarty describes, the title of the book comes from a novel by Ignazio Silone, which strongly influenced Colin Ward’s turn to anarchism. Silone, however, was not an anarchist, but an anti-Stalinist socialist.

We could take Goodway’s history into the 1960s and 1970s, with groups such as Big Flame and Solidarity, as described in this reading list, as well as people like Ken Coates. Moving past the 1970s, it becomes a little less clear.

That history is, of course, anglocentric, but I am sure a Francophone version of it could be written (including Victor Serge, Daniel Guerin, Cornelius Castoriadis and Claude Lefort) or an American version (including Mother Jones, Paul Goodman, Nancy and Dwight MacDonald, Murray Bookchin and Noam Chomsky). Those lists are quite white and male, and would need to be re-written to make them less so.

What do you think?

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East London Big Flame! 1970s activism and autonomy

A new fantastic resource online: an archive of East London Big Flame in the 1970s. From the Who We Were page:

We were a fluid group of about a dozen young women and men who came together in east London. We probably would have described ourselves as left libertarians. We organised in the community, in workplaces, around class, racism, women’s and men’s issues, for personal change/self-help therapy, and against bias in the media. We saw ourselves not as outside, but as part of these struggles, and saw the links between these different issues as embodying politics in everyday life.

From 1973–5 we belonged to a nationwide grouping called
‘Big Flame’ (www.bigflameuk.wordpress.com). Our projects carried on until the early 1980s, and after that we dispersed and took our ideas and values into different areas of work (teaching; architecture; psychotherapy; archaeology; local government;  film-making; writing) as well as into continuing political and community activism.

East London Big Flame   HomeHere are links to the sections: (more…)

Published in: on September 30, 2014 at 11:27 am  Comments (2)  
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Chinese Labour (1887)//Asturias (1934)

A couple of items for the Archive of Struggle, from Slack Andy.

The (Australian) Anarchists on Chinese Labor (1887)

Text at SlackBastard. Andy writes, by way of introduction:

Honesty was published from April 1887 to November 1888. It was the first anarchist newspaper in Australia, produced by the Melbourne Anarchist Club. Contributors included David Andrade, his brother Will (later well known as a radical bookseller), J.A. Andrews and Chummy Fleming. Source : Reason in Revolt.

La Revolución de Octubre 1934 (José Muñoz Congost)

Octubre-34

Andy writes:

On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Asturian October 1934 revolution Exilio Libertario, a Melbourne-based group of Spanish anarchist exiles, have published in PDF format a booklet in Spanish written by compañero José Muñoz Congost.

[La Revolución de Octubre 1934 (José Muñoz Congost)]

Poumicated

I have not posted much here for ages. Here are some radical history items I’ve spotted in my recent browsing.

libcom.org launches new working class history Facebook page

Today, 30 July, anniversary of the first recorded strike in North American history, we are launching a new working class history page on Facebook to celebrate our history: people’s history.

Rosie Bell: Flippant Nihilist

I only know Alexander Cockburn as an editor of the creepy Counterpunch, and his airy dismissals  of anyone who thought Israel Shamir a dodgy piece of work.

There’s a fascinating account of him by Paul Berman.

Cockburn is reminiscent of Christopher Hitchens – the English journalist who lives in America and writes stylishly about American and international affairs. The political framework may be leftwards, the cultural references English literature, quoted with ease to point the moral and adorn the tale.[…]

Naomi Weisstein: The Chicago Women’s Liberation 
Rock Band, 1970-1973

A Memoir and Reflection on Badass 
Boffo Revolutionary Feminist MusicImage

In Chicagoland, in 1970, almost every teenage girl listened to rock. They considered it their music—hormonal, quasi-outlaw, with screaming guitars and a heavy, driving beat. But it was sooo misogynist! This wasn’t the Beatles’ playful woman-affectionate songs.

 For many years the dominant trend in scholarship on C.L.R. James has been to emphasize his cultural and literary writings. Arguably the most popular way to frame his legacy has been to situate him as a forerunner to cultural studies, post-colonial studies, and identity politics. Grant Farred, for example, has criticized “earlier modes of James studies” that addressed “debates that occupied sectarian James scholars” and welcomed “the centrality of cultural studies within James scholarship,” while Brett St. Louis has argued that the “march of identity politics and post-modernism” is “irresistible,” and that James’s work is of value precisely because it “grapples with a proto-post-marxist problematic.”

ImageDan La Botz: Ricardo Flores Magón – Mexican Anarchists and American Socialists

Claudio Lomnitz.The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón. New York: Zone Books, 2014. 594 pages. Notes. Index of Names. Photos. Hardback. $35.95.

If it were a house, Claudio Lomnitz’s The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón would be a rambling, decaying mansion with various jerrybuilt stories and wings, a ramshackle place filled with archives and artifacts, old political posters and antique typewriters, a building straddling the U.S.-Mexico border, a shared abode whose residents are an interesting and odd collection of characters, some of them lovely people, some noble, and others quite disagreeable, coming and going at all hours, sometimes reciting poetry. And don’t be surprised if, while you’re visiting, the place is raided by Furlong or Pinkerton agents, by the police or the Texas rangers who carry off some of the boarders to prison; some of whom will be gone for years at a time.

Ian Birchall: Lenin: Yes! Leninism: No?

That Lenin was an important revolutionary leader, and that his life and work repay our study today, are not in doubt. But what of “Leninism”?

Paul Le Blanc: Leninism, No?

There is a distinctive political approach and body of thought that can legitimately and constructively be termed Leninism.

Marshall BermanTodd Gitlin: Hurling the Little Streets Against the Great: Marshall Berman’s Perennial Modernism

For Marshall Berman, the street was not just the site where modernism was enacted; it was modernism incarnate. {…}

 Ingo Schmidt: Rosa Luxemburg – Economics 
for a New Socialist Project

Right-wing militias killed Rosa Luxemburg and dumped her dead body into the Landwehr Canal after the Spartacus uprising in Berlin. Social democrats and communists finished off her intellectual and political legacy by putting her on their respective pedestals. She became a principal witness against Bolshevik organizing practices for the former and was praised as a co-founder of the German Communist Party and a revolutionary martyr by the latter.

Andrew Coates: Jean Jaurès: The Anniversary of his Assassination, July 31st 1914. A Tribute.

Jaures l'Humanite

Jaurès was killed blindly, yet with reason:/‘let us have drums to beat down his great voice’. (The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy. Geoffrey Hill.)

A hundred years ago today, Jean Jaurès the leader of French socialism (SFIO, Section française de l’Internationale ouvrière), and Editor/Founder of l’Humanité were preparing an article against the coming war. Jaurès had supported the call of the Socialist International, launched by Keir Hardie and the Frenchman, Édouard Vaillant, to launch a general strike if armed fighting broke out.

By 1914 Europe was on the brink of war. At the end of July an emergency meeting of the Socialist International was held in Brussels, which endorsed a call for peace. On the 29th of July Jaurès spoke with Rosa Luxemburg, at a rally of seven thousand people against militarism and the coming confrontation at the Cirque Royal. He had already warned that fighting would lead to a catastrophe, “Quel massacre quelles ruines, quelle barbarie!” (Discours de Vaise. 25th July 1914) Now he talked of his “hatred of our chauvinists” and that we would not “give up the idea of a Franco-German rapprochement”. This looked less and less probable. Jaurès’ newspaper column (published after his death) would describe of the climate of “fear” and “anxiety” spreading across the continent.

Jaurès paused from his journalism and went to the near-by Café du Croissant to eat. At 20.45, the nationalist student Raoul Villain approached him and fired two bullets. One stuck his neck and was fatal. Villain claimed to have acted to “eliminate an enemy of the nation.”[…]

100 years after Jean Jaures’ murder, his name still inspires

Jean Juares

By Dick Nichols, Barcelona. July 31, 2014 — Green Left Weekly — When you travel through France, there’s one name that appears most in public space ― on streets, schools and metro stations. Not Jeanne d’Arc, Napoleon, or even World War II resistance leader and later president Charles de Gaulle. No, the name you can pretty safely bet you’ll find on some sign in the next sleepy village is that of Jean Jaures. Jaures was France’s most famous socialist leader and deputy, a tenacious and passionate fighter for workers’ rights and against war, anti-Semitism, clericalism and colonialism. Trying to explain his huge impact, the young Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky said in 1909: “As an orator he is incomparable and has met no comparison … it is not his rich technique nor his enormous, miraculous sounding voice nor the generous profusion of his gestures but the genius’s naivete of his enthusiasm which brings Jaures close to the masses and makes him what he is.”

One hundred years ago, on the evening of July 31, an extreme right-wing nationalist called Villain shot Jaures dead in Montmartre’s Cafe du Croissant. Jaures, accompanied by the editorial staff of l’Humanite, the socialist daily he had founded in 1904, was having dinner before finishing the next day’s edition. […]

Archive ImageKate Redburn: Unite Queer

Out in the Union, a new book by Miriam Frank, shows that unions have been crucial to the growth and success of the modern LGBT rights movement. {…}

Ian Birchall reviews Ernie Tate’s ‘Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s & 60s’

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal readers can read an excerpt HERE. To order a copy, email terryconway@tiscali.co.uk.

August 6, 2014 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — Anyone who was active in Britain’s Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (VSC) in the late 1960s will remember Ernie Tate, whose energy and enthusiasm made such a contribution. Now, 45 years later, he has published two volumes of memoirs from the 1950s and 1960s.

The first volume deals with the period 1955 to 1965. Tate was born in deep poverty in Belfast – he left school at 13 and tells us he “had never known or met anyone who had been to a secondary school, never mind university”. His only university was the revolutionary movement, and to judge by his later development it gave him a fine education.

Andrew Coates: Imperialism, Anti-Imperialism, and the Left. A Reply to Andrew Murray.

Imperialism, the Marxist historian Victor Kiernan claimed, shows itself, “in coercion exerted abroad, by one means or another, to extort profits above what simple commercial exchange can procure.” Andrew Murray begins Imperialism has Evolved since 1914, but it still Rules to World (Morning Star. 2.8.14. reproduced on 21st century Manifesto), by citing this assertion to observe that the “wars of 1914 and 1939 are the outstanding examples of what happens when that international system of extortion breaks down.” “Break-down and crisis” are as much a feature of “imperialism” as growth and slump are of capitalism. We might explain this, as a critic of Kiernan once noted, as the result of an inherent “atavistic” tendency to revert to type. […]

Portales, Suceso (1904-1999)Suceso Portales

 Martin Oppenheimer: New Light on the KKK

 Sit-ins at lunch counters by black students began in Greensboro, North Carolina, on February 1, 1960. Blacks had traditionally not been served there or anywhere in the South at that time. Within a week the sit-ins spread to Durham and Winston-Salem. Eleven of the first sit-ins were within 100 miles of Greensboro. After many arrests, and assaults by white hoodlums, on July 25 all Greensboro stores targeted by the sit-ins agreed to serve blacks on an equal basis.

 Alan Wald: Astonished by the present – The impatient life of Daniel Bensaïd

Daniel BenSaid

 Let us start, like Dante, in the middle. At age twenty-two, Daniel Bensaïd (1946–2010), a French-Algerian-Jewish philosophy student, vaulted eagerly onto the world stage of the international youth radicalization of 1968. His political stardom came by way of a leading role in the actions igniting the largest general strike in the history of France. At the suburban campus of the University of Paris at Nanterre, Bensaïd joined with his German-Jewish classmate Danny (“The Red”) Cohn-Bendit (b. 1945) to form the March 22nd Movement. This was a surprising partnership of anarchists, situationists, Trotskyists, and Maoists who seized an administrative building to proclaim demands addressing class discrimination and bureaucracy in the educational system. Bold for its time, the Nanterre occupation is customarily credited with detonating the chain of student strikes and protests climaxing in the sensational actions in Paris six weeks later: The May 6 demonstration of 20,000 at the Sorbonne and the May 10–11 all-night battle on the Left Bank.

Angiolillo’s vengeance

The story of Michele Angiolillo, an Italian anarchist who assassinated the repressive Spanish Prime Minister Antonio Cánovas in 1897

E. Haberkern: When the Red States Really Were Red

 The labor- and third-party movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have been studied and written about extensively by academics and writers on the left. Most readers of this journal are probably familiar with much of this material. This book, however, is of particular interest today for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the author concentrates on the South and emphasizes the biracial nature of the movement.

The tragic week, Spain 1909 – Murray BookchinGeneral strike, Barcelona, 1909

A short history of the ‘Star of Peru’ Bakery Workers’ Federation (FOPEP)

Mark Kosman: World War I and 100 years of counterrevolution

accuserJohn Maclean: the accuser of capitalism

To mark the 100th anniversary of the first world war, People & Nature today publishes Accuser of Capitalism: John Maclean’s Speech from the Dock on 9 May, 1918. (Introduction here, text of speech here.) Maclean, a Scottish Marxist, was one of a small number of socialists across

Europe who denounced their governments’ participation in the war, urged workers to resist it, and hoped that it would be superceded by class war.

The Slocum massacre, 1910Descendants of some of the victims of the massacre

Sixty years ago: Death of Frida Kahlo

From On This Deity:

“They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”

…and Frida’s reality was a lifetime of extreme physical pain and tortuous suffering, punctuated with a tempestuous emotional turbulence.

Artist Frida Kahlo was born in 1907, the daughter of Hungarian Jewish father and indigenous Mexican mother. She grew up in Mexico City at a time when Mexicans were beginning to take great pride in their native culture and traditions. Frida was proud of her pre-Columbian heritage and wore local costume, including long embroidered skirts in bright colours, big silver earrings, flowers, and jewellery from the folk tradition. Her distinctive look gave her a brand, yet averted attention from her tiny, weak, disabled body. (more…)

Eighty years ago: the death of Nestor Makhno

From On This Deity:

Today we recall the Ukrainian revolutionary leader, Nestor Makhno, who died seventy-seven years ago on this day in poverty, illness and oblivion. Fellow exiles who had watched Makhno drink and cough himself to death in the slums of Paris could scarcely believe the tragic fate that had befallen the legendary “Little Father” of Ukraine who, just fifteen years earlier, had been one of the most heroic, glamorous and indefatigable figures of the Russian civil war and the inciter of one of the few historic examples of a living anarchist society. As the leader of the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine, this self-educated peasant-born military genius had waged wildly creative guerrilla war against native tyrants, foreign interlopers and counter-revolutionaries. On behalf of what was always an uneasy alliance with the Red Army, Makhno’s forces had twice immobilised the seemingly unstoppable White advance in South Russia; indeed, so decisive were these against-all-odds victories that the Bolsheviks might never have won the civil war and consolidated power but for Makhno and his insurgent peasants. As the instigator, military protector and namesake of Ukraine’s simultaneous anarchist revolution – the Makhnovshchina – few have come closer than Nestor Makhno to establishing an anarchist nation. For nearly a year between 1919 and 1920, some 400 square miles of Ukraine was reorganised into an autonomous region known as the “Free Territory” in which farms and factories were collectively run and goods traded directly with collectives elsewhere. In his heyday, Nestor Makhno was an unmitigated living legend and folk hero – a real-life Robin Hood and proto-Che. But by the time of his death at the age of forty-six, so comprehensively dragged through the filthiest, shittiest mud was the name of this once unassailable revolutionary that it has yet to fully recover. So what happened? (more…)

Farewell Marina Ginestà

With thanks to Rob Palk.

From the RHP blog:

Marina Ginestà of the Juventudes Comunistas, aged 17, overlooking Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War.

Marina Ginestà, aged 17, overlooking Barcelona from Hotel Colón. She worked as a translator for a Soviet journalist of Pravda during the Spanish Civil War. She was a member of Juventudes Socialistas Unificadas (Socialist Youth), the youth organization mainly directed by Partido Comunista de España (PCE, Communist Party of Spain). Despite her initial involvement she quickly grew disillusioned with the path that the Stalinists were taking. Marina remained a militant throughout the rest of the war and was drawn to other groups at that time such as the anti-Stalinist P.O.U.M (which George Orwell was a member of) and the Anarchist C.N.T. This photographs was taken by Juan Guzman (who was born Hans Gutmann in Germany before going to Spain where he photographed the International Brigades). Date of the photo: July 21, 1936.

Marina did not know about the photo until 2006, although the iconic image was printed and circulated everywhere, serving as cover for the book “Thirteen Red Roses’ by Carlos Fonseca, and was also along with dozens of other photographs in the book “Unpublished images of the Civil War” (2002) with introduction by G. Stanley Payne.

She was identified by Garcia Bilbao who read the memoirs of Soviet correspondent of Pravda Mikhail Koltsov, with whom the young girl appears in another photo. Garcia Bilbao found that Jinesta Marina, with J, which was identified by Guzman in the caption was actually Marina Ginesta, an exile who lived in Paris translating French texts.

Marina Ginesta, the iconic girl of the Spanish Civil War, died January 6, 2014 in Paris, aged 94.

The rifle she is carrying is M1916 Spanish Mauser. It was manufactured at famous Oviedo factory in Spain for the Spanish Army.

Marina Ginesta, 2008Marina Ginesta, 2008

Colored Version

Here is a little more, from Publico, badly translated by me: (more…)

2013 at Poumista

The posts with most traffic in the year, with those published this year in bold

  1. Ralph Miliband: democrat and anti-fascist
  2. On this day, 1945: Eileen O’Shaughnessy died
  3. Photography: Sergio Larrain/Lewis Hine
  4. Blog recommendations, for homeless leftists
  5. Orwell turning in his grave?
  6. Jews versus Stalinists in the Spanish Civil War
  7. Amidah: Defiance
  8. Spanish Revolution and Civil War gallery
  9. Stalin in Clerkenwell Green
  10. Socialist Wanker
  11. On this day 100 years ago: Bonnot Gang executions
  12. Franco’s Spain – how many dead?
  13. Trabajadores: Spanish Civil War Archives Online
  14. Fifty years ago: the execution of Francisco Granados and Joaquin Data Martinez Delgado

Very few of my referrals this year were from blogs. Most were from search engines, with many from social media too. Top bloggy referrers were:

  1. Shiraz Socialist
  2. Tendance Coatesy
  3. Corey Ansel
  4. Hatful of History
  5. Sketchy Thoughts
  6. rooeravotr
  7. Rosie Bell
  8. Bob From Brockley
  9. For Workers Power
  10. Radical Archives

Thanks comrades.

Top search terms:

  1. Death of Trotsky
  2. Spanish Civil War
  3. George Orwell
  4. Sergio Larrain
  5. Eileen O’shaughnessy
  6. Carnation revolution
  7. Georges Kopp
  8. John Molyneux
  9. Mika Etchebéhère
  10. Andres Nin

Happy new year.

Published in: on January 7, 2014 at 3:47 pm  Comments (3)  

Talking heads

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

Bayard Rustin vs Malcolm X, on black nationalism and Islam

Sidney Hook on liberalism, socialism and social democracy

Leon Trotsky on the Moscow trials

Emma Goldman on returning to the United States

EP Thompson on “society” for historians and for anthropologists

Raya Dunayevkaya on being a radical

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