Workers’ Liberty

Some features from the Alliance for Workers Liberty, some new, some from the archive, below the fold. I have already included some of these in my From the Archive of Struggle series, but, hey, you can’t have too much of a good thing! Also, further down, a small number of other articles, including Eric Lee on Trotsky and some recent pieces from Against the Current.

The Alliance for Workers Liberty

Many of these come from a special issue of Workers’ Liberty (vol 3, no.26) entitled Looking Backwards: Fifty years in the socialist movement. (Click on the image for a pdf.) I’ve arranged the texts more or less chronologically in terms of the topic rather than their publication:

*Sean Matgamna: Was the 1916 Dublin rising a putsch? (a 2002 polemic against a Weekly Worker Stalinist about the Saur (April) PDP army coup in Afghanistan, refracted through Lenin’s understanding of the 1916 Easter rising. I have to say the AWL are very bad at contextualising the material they are uploading. The piece does not hyperlink the piece it is replying to (Weekly Worker 2002), which was replying to a Matgamna (“Owen MacThomas”) piece, “Critical notes on the CPGB/WW”, that once had this now dead url. Related documents include the 2002 AWL pamphlet Kabul 1978 and Petrograd 1917: was the Russian Revolution a ‘coup’? [pdf] and WL 2/2. The re-release now is part of a new folder or pamphlet (again, hard to see what) called Lenin, Marxism, the Irish Revolution, part of which comes from a 1995 WL and part from Workers’ Socialist Review no.2, 1982. Confusing.)

*Paul Hampton: on The Morning Star on Robert Service on Leon Trotsky (new blog post, continues the theme of attacking the tankies)
*Leon Trotsky: key documents on the the United Front against fascism (1930-31)

*Peter Thomas: The revolutionary ideas of Antonio Gramsci

*Sean Matgamna: The dilemmas of “communism” (on supporting or not supporting Communist parties)
*Sean Matgamna: Working Class Life in Ennis in the Mid-Twentieth Century (Ireland in th 1950s)
*Sean Matgamna: finding my way to Trotskyism, part 1: the “manacles” of nation and class (from Irish nationalism to Communism in in Ennis in the 1950s)
*Sean Matgamna: My 18-year old self
*Sean Matgamna: finding my way to Trotskyism, part 2: from “communism” to “orthodox Trotskyism” (covers the Young Communist League, Gerry Healey’s Socialist Labour League and Ted Grant’s Revolutionary Socialist League, in the late 1950s and early 1960s)
*Sean Matgamna: How the AWL tendency started in 1966
*Sean Matgamna: The AWL from “orthodox Trotskyism” to the “Third Camp” (on Workers’ Fight and the International Socialists, 1976-1988, shifting from a “workers state” theory to Shachtmanism, via Afghanistan and Iran)
*Pete Keenlyside on the experience of the International Socialists in the 1970s
*Sean Matgamna: Debating theories of the USSR (a 1976 Workers Fight talk)

Other texts:

*D.R.O’Connor Lysaght: Comments on a smear job (a long response to a very minor footnote in this piece)

*Nathaniel Mills: On Nelson Algren’s Centenary
*Gerald Meyer: Fighting Lynch Laws in America (review of Rebecca Hill Anti-lynching and Labor Defense in U.S. Radical History)
*Amanda Armstrong: The Politics of Surrealism (review of Michael Löwy Morning Star: surrealism, marxism, anarchism, situationism, utopian)
* Kit Adam Wainer: Looking at Che Guevara (review of Olivier Besancenot and Michael Löwy Che Guevara: His Revolutionary Legacy)
* Paul Le Blanc: Theories of Stalinism (review of Kunal Chattopadhyay The Marxism of Leon Trotsky and Marcel van der Linden Western Marxism and the Soviet Union)
*Frank Fried: Leon Despres, Chicago Rebel In Memoriam
*Alan Wald: A Mandel for All Seasons
*In Memoriam: J. David Edelstein; Mike Parker: Joe Frantz, 1950-2009

*In my Archive of Struggle post yesterday I linked to a couple of pieces from Neprimye, a blog I only just discovered, with some key texts from the history of British Trotskyism – arguments within the RCP in the 1940s over the class nature of the Soviet Union and in the SWP in the 1970s on party democracy – which I thought I’d mention again, as they fit here.

*Finally, from Eric Lee:

Trotsky: Can’t the media get anything right?

trotsky.jpgI just spotted this and cannot believe that journalists cannot write even a couple of paragraphs about Trotsky within making at least one error — significant political errors — in each sentence.

Here are two important ones:

“Trotsky was the founder of the Red Army, and along with Vladimir Lenin, one of the prime movers in the Bolshevik revolt that overthrew Tsar Nicholas II.”

Wrong. Neither Trotsky nor Lenin was even in Russia when Tsar Nicholas II was overthrown. The Bolsheviks overthrew the Provisional Revolutionary Government, which at the time was headed by Kerensky.

“Today Leon Trotsky is almost forgotten, even though he was a real Russian Che Guevara — a revolutionary who dreamed of global revolution,” Alexander Smirnov, organiser of the exhibition at the Museum of Political History, told AFP.

Wrong. Che Guevara was a totalitarian Stalinist who would have been happy to plunge the world into nuclear war, had no problem with the persecution of dissidents (including homosexuals) and so on. His own party ruthlessly crushed Trotsky’s own followers in Cuba. Trotsky is known today — and respected — precisely because he became an outspoken opponent of the totalitarian shift in Soviet Russia.

A generation ago, we had to contend with Stalinist media that lied about Trotsky. Today our enemy is ignorance.

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16 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Poumista,

    Seasons greetings!

    Worthwhile mentioning, although I cannot find it free on line, is the following debate that was published in a pamphlet form by AWL:

    Socialists Answer The New Right
    John O’Mahony* and Martin Thomas debate Roger Scruton, Ken Minogue, and David Marsland.

    *John O’Mahony is a pseudonym for Sean Matgamna.

    As it is Christmas, I copy below for you below a couple of songs that were published in the Second Edition of the Sectarian Songbook that was for sale at the National Union of Students Conference. All proceeds went to Justice for the Miners. The first edition was 60 copies and distributed at NUS Easter 1987 conference. This edition was distributed at Xmas 1987 NUS conference. The songs published in the pamphlet were written anonymously but I believe Conor Foley had quite a lot to do with them.

    Esso Blues
    To the tune of Gates of Portlaoise)

    At NUS conference we put out the line
    Reject feminist nonsense we said there’s no doubt
    Our womens officer should be elected by men
    But in the debate sure the line changed again

    Change the line, Change the line
    We changed it on Ireland and then Palestine

    Our leader’s Matgmana he’s other names too
    Mahoney and Cleary perhaps Scooby Doo
    Imaginary loyalists were all he could find
    But in the debate sure they still changed his mind

    Change the line, Change the line
    We changed it on Ireland and then Palestine

    We said Arafat sold out a long time ago
    Denounced all the moderates in the PLO
    Called Zionists racists sure now who could guess
    That we’d have turned entryist inside UJS**

    Change the line, Change the line
    We changed it on Ireland and then Palestine

    On non implementation and no platform too
    Lobbying and rent strikes cartwheels we can do
    And Militant won’t learn though time after time
    When SSiN*** do deals then we rat on our line

    **UJS is the Union of Jewish Students – a Zionist body.
    ***SSiN stands for Socialist Students in NOLS where NOLS stood for the National Organisation of Labour Students. SSiN were the student arm of Socialist Organiser the forerunner to AWL.

    Do the Trotty Potty****
    (To the tine of Hokey Kokey)

    We want Troops Out*****
    We want Troops In
    Out in out in
    The Huns might vote for SSiN
    We bend the line a little
    And our principles a lot
    That’s ’cause we are Trots

    People say that we are loonies
    Even worse than the Moonies
    Still we know we’re a vanguard
    But we’re not sure of what

    **** “Potty” in this instance refers to Simon Pottinger who was the leading Socialist Organiser supporter on the NUS executive committee.
    *****”Troops” in this instance refers to British Troops in Northern Ireland.

  2. “Trotsky is known today — and respected — precisely because he became an outspoken opponent of the totalitarian shift in Soviet Russia.”

    *cough* Sorry, just choked on my Christmas turkey when I read that.

    The latest Workers Liberty offering looks interesting, though I’m guessing that the bulk of it will be a rejigging of material that’s already been published previously in their pages. (At least, a lot of it looks familiar to these tired eyes.)

  3. One more song:

    (to the tune of My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean)

    Leon Trotsky is lying in a graveyard
    With an ice-pick sticking out of his head
    Leon Trotsky is lying in a graveyard
    I’m so glad that Trotsky is ….

    (Make a quick runner before the last word in case a bunch of paper sellers come after you.)


    Please share this link with those who might be interested.

    P.S. The book is waiting for a reviewer

  5. […] … auf Poumista finden sich Hinweise zu anarchistischen Plakaten und zur Geschichte von Workers’ Liberty … leider dieses mal keine Updates von, weil gerade […]

  6. Thanks Mike and others. Great songs. Happy new year.

  7. Mike, These songs are fantastic, brought me back to my student activist days. I was a year or two late in the NUS to coincide with these, but recently, clearing out my office, I came across some classics of the same genre: “Socialist Turd” and “Socialist Sellout”. I was a NOLS dissident in those days, angry at the way the NOLS leadership did its deals with the UJS and SSiN/Socialist Organiser, the latter being my faction’s arch-enemy. The SWP (“Socialist Wanker” as we called them) were an irrelevance; when we said “the Trots”, we always meant Socialist Organiser. Odd that two decades on I should find myself allied with Workers Liberty on most issues, and saving my hatred for the SWP…

  8. Bob,

    I should be really grateful if you would copy the songs below. I have an interest in such things. In exchange I shall provide you one more!

    57 Varieties
    (To the tune of The Chicken Song)

    We’re a small Trot sect
    With a small red student base
    But we dream one day
    That we’ll rule the human race
    People laugh at us
    But we’ll show the world they’re wrong
    Overthrow the State
    While we sing this left wing song

    Build a Workers’ Front
    Sell a paper to your gran
    Have a fuse then split
    Be as wacky as you can
    Caucus in a letter box
    Change your name another time
    Turn to industry
    And then alter all your lines

    There’s fifteen of us
    We’re the vanguard of our class
    With a dialectic task
    Met this bloke in Greece
    Now an international’s formed
    Like the Bolsheviks
    When the Czar’s Palace they stormed

    Have a faction fight
    Write polemics by the score
    Purge your tendency
    And reduce your ranks to four
    Call for unity
    Say the enemy is Benn
    Liquidate in Workers Power
    And then do it all again

    Become entryists
    Utilise the bourgeois courts
    Launch an armed struggle
    Try and build a base in Shorts
    Call a general strike
    Like Poussad look to the stars
    For you never know
    Perhaps there’s a loony Trot in Mars

  9. It’s not songs, it’s scurrilous badly photocopied satire. It’s in a box right now, so I’ll have to refind it and then maybe get someone to scan it for me – but I will!

  10. Thanks Bob – Please do. I’d be very keen to see it. If you manage to locate the stuff and scan it in for uploading, please come back to this thread and post the link.

  11. Will do!

  12. Thanks Bob!

    One more song to encourage you!

    Shut Up

    Oh shut up you lousy Trotskyist
    And follow the Party line
    You may not understand it yet
    But you’ll work it out sometime.
    We sometimes shift our policies left
    And other times shift them right
    It’s a dialectical process
    When you’re winning the workers fight.

  13. The early versions of the ‘songbook’ were produced by me, a couple of other Soers in Manchester and Conor Foley.

  14. paul m,

    I see you are reclaiming something from the past. From page 1 of the songbook:

    The following people deny all responsibility for the contents of this songbook, and no we haven’t got anything better to do with our time

    Conor, Roz, Dave, Paul, Brendan, Hugh, Alan, Liz, SV, Donald Dewar MP, Derek Nimmo, General Jaruselski, Immelda Maros and Stan Crooke.

    If you can put names to all the people, I should be grateful.

  15. I think Roz was Conor’s girlfriend at the time. Dave was Dave Brennan, me; the others were more than likely mates of Conor’s who I gladly don’t remember, but were probably Scottish or Irish.

    I remember using either a gestetner copier or a knackered old photocopier, the week before NUS conference. I think Dave and I ‘performed’ a couple of the Trot numbers at the NOLS disco. I think Dave and I lost interest after the first edition, but Conor might have done a couple more.

    Not sure the SO elder were too happy.

  16. […] Workers’ Liberty […]

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