The trouble with Hitchens

Tom Unterrainer of the Alliance for Workers Liberty on Christopher Hitchens. Read with good comment thread at Shiraz Socialist.

Oh, and I think I already linked to this, but just in case: Why Hitchens Matters, by James Bloodworth.

Published in: on July 31, 2010 at 1:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

A month of music Mondays: The Men They Coudn’t Hang

George does Sundays and so does Entdinglichung, Martin does Fridays. I’m going to do Mondays. Just over the summer, as I won’t have much computer time.

The Men They Coudn’t Hang: The Ghosts of Cable Street

Published in: on July 26, 2010 at 11:58 am  Comments (3)  

¡Diego presente! Diego Giménez Moreno (1911-2010)

Obituaries from Entdinglichung, A-Infos.

Veteran of the Spanish civil war, died in Sao Paulo, age 99.


On Nye Bevan: a hatchet job from a Kinnockite in the Guardian, and an eloquent reply from Peter Taaffe, the current guru of what was Militant. Incidentally, for a glimpse of Aneurin Bevan’s grandeur, check this out. (See also Reuben on Marxism, social democracy and New Labour’s illiberalism.)

On Hugo Chavez: Judeosphere on his allies’ antisemitic conspirationist website (more from Modernity), and Obliged to Offend on his Stalinist drift.

On democratic socialism: More from Entdinglichung on Ken Coates. Related: the Blair Wilson project. Socialism restated. David Miliband’s Keir Hardie lecture.

On Lenin and Trotsky: a Cold Warrior attacks Trotsky’s defenders (see also on Lenin in Karkov and the myth of Trotsky as romantic hero). The first post is against the following, all of which I think I have linked to already: Peter Taafe, A Dis-Service to Trotsky The Socialist Party/Socialist; Paul Hampton, A Hatchet Job on Trotsky ( Worker’s Liberty ); David North, In the Service of Historical Falsification (WSWS); David North, Historians in the Service of the “Big Lie”: An Examination of Professor Robert Service’s Biography of Trotsky; Hillel Ticktin, In Defence of Leon Trotsky.

On the new left: Jeffrey Williams in Dissent on the New Left Review at 50. Meanwhile, C&S, in a post entitled “Capitalist Provides Rope“, writes: “Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal provides an excerpt from Richard Wolin’s book The Wind from the East.” The excerpt is very worth reading. It is about gauchisme, including Cornelius Castoriadis, the Arguments group and the background to Guy Debord.

On the SWP: 10 years since Tony Cliff died – what did he achieve?; Dave Osler replies to Alex Callinicos on Marxism. Plus critical views of Marxism 2010 from Eyes on Power, Red Star Commando, Viceland, James Turley and Claire Fisher.

On anarcho-syndicalism: A review of Vadim Damier’s ‘Anarcho-syndicalism in the 20th Century’. Tom Wetzel reviews the International Socialist Review‘s article on contemporary anarchism. (The ISR article, by Eric Kerl is here. I think I’ve already linked to this response to Eric Kerl’s review of Wobblies and Zappatistas, on which it builds.)

On Colin Ward: Ross Bradshaw on the Colin Ward memorial meeting, and with some lovely tangential reflections.

From the archives: Henri Rabasierre (1956) and Paul Lafargue (1883) in Dissent on the right to be lazy. Murray Bookchin on Marxism as bourgeois society (1979). George Orwell on a nice cup of tea (1946). Karl Marx on Chartism (1852). Engels on the siege of Lucknow (1858: “A critique of bourgeois marriage and the marriage market. A critique of colonial privilege. A critique of masculine self-righteous presumption regarding both. Conceptually connected. And funny.”)

Internationalism from below: Libertarian statement of solidarity with the comrades in Oaxaca, Mexico.

The opposite of internationalism from below: Monthly Review’s support for Stalinism and genocide.

Histories: The Anarchist and Maximalist uprising in Samara 1918Dare to be a Daniel! – Wilf McCartneyThe Petrenko incident: an opening shot in the attack by the Bolsheviks on the Revolution; East Germany and the 1984-85 UK miners strike; the US unemployed movement in the 1930s; Henryk Grossman for today; Was Churchill a hero?; Joseph Dietzgen’s Brain Work; The re-dedication of Nottingham’s International Brigade memorial; Edward Carpenter’s England Arise; working class resistance of the Tory austerity of 1918-22; two sides to Tolpuddle; a facelift for Orwell’s birthplace in Bihar, but not for British imperialism.

Below the fold, a poem.


Today in 1906: Birth of Yitzhak Ben Aharon

1906: Birthdate of Yitzhak Ben Aharon. (more…)

Published in: on July 17, 2010 at 11:34 am  Comments (2)  

The Stalin school of falsification continued

Two posts by Shiraz Socialist on Stalinist lies:

On the Morning Star’s smear of trade unionist Eric Lee. (Previously on Lee here.)

On Seamus Milne and the Chinese working class.

Published in: on July 14, 2010 at 10:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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On this day: 12th July 1936 – the Murder of José Castillo

12th July 1936 – the Murder of José Castillo

(José Castillo, left, and José Calvo Sotelo, right)
It was going to happen anyway, but the murder on the streets of Madrid of Lt. José Castillo on the evening of 12th July 1936 was to the Spanish Civil War what the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was to World War I … the final, crucial key which quickly set in motion a sequence of events that led to the ‘official’ beginning of what would be a savage three-year national conflict that ran the entire gamut of twentieth century political ideologies.

At approximately 9.30pm, the newly married Castillo – a lieutenant in the governing Republic’s special police Guardia de Asalto as well as a member of an anti-fascist organisation for military members (UMRA) – left his house for the last time to make the short walk to the police station where he was about to go on duty. But when he reached the corner, a gang of Falangists, Spain’s principal fascist movement, shot and killed him.


Published in: on July 12, 2010 at 10:12 am  Comments (4)  
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Revolutionary Ghosts of Waldheim Cemetery

From Andrea Gibbons, on a Chicago cemetary, a year ago. Some extracts:

Haymarket…back from the time we didn’t have at least the stated standard of an 8 hour day. To win it there was a general strike on May 1st, 1884. On May 3rd, police killed two strikers. On May 4th there was a rally in Haymarket square, a bomb went off, people died. I think it was probably the Pinkertons, but the police arrested 8 anarchists for simply inciting the act and hanged 4 of them. It didn’t help when they were later cleared of all blame…the damage was done, the press had crucified all ideals of justice and so we live in a country that inspired May Day and yet has never celebrated it properly…


Ken Coates

Ken CoatesI once wrote this about Ken Coates:

The pacifist tradition that Baker and Kurlansky inherit is not an ignoble tradition. In the UK, its home was, for many decades, the Independent Labour Party. I have a lot of respect for the ILP and its heritage. Ken Coates is the contemporary figure who probably most represents the political tradition of the ILP. Over the years I’ve been influenced considerably by Ken Coates, his humanist socialism, his advocacy for workers’ control, his sense of industrial democracy as an extension of the republican liberties fought for by the likes of Tom Paine. However, in his little magazine, The Spokesman, I have long noted an unpleasant drift towards sloppy conspirationist thought, anti-American hysteria, a “New World Order” mentality. Habibi at Harry’s Place nails this trend, and shows how it spills over into very unpleasant antisemitic territory.

I still hold to that opinion, and was saddened to read about his death on the 27 June. Ken Coates was one of the most thoughtful of British socialists, and one of the most activist of its theorists. His work on workers’ control is indispensable. This came out of his own proletarian experiences, out of an engagement with the experiments in self-management in Tito’s Yugoslavia (the cause of his 1948 break with Stalinism) and then out of Michael Raptis’ development of the Titoist model within the context of Trotskyism.

At the same time, I think that the dark side of Pabloism – its excessive enthusiasm for a Second Campist kind of national self-determination, which led it into supporting some authoritarian “anti-imperialist” regimes – also coloured his thinking. This element came to the fore in his later years, when geopolitics rather than class struggle became his central concern at The Spokesman. (See, for instance, this rabbit’s eye view of his use of Christian antisemitism in his late rhetoric.)

'The dirty war in Mr Wilson. Or how he stopped worrying about Vietnam and learned to love the dollar', 1966Among the groups Coates passed through, after the Communist Party, were the Revolutionary Socialist League, the International Group, forerunner of the International Marxist Group, the the Institute for Workers’ Control, the International Socialists (he was one of the journal editors in the 1960s, its greatest period, although I am not sure if he was ever a member), the Labour Party (several times, including a fair few expulsions), the Independent Labour Network and the  North Derbyshire Socialist Alliance.

Please read Andrew Coates’ eulogy to this great man. Andrew has other links too: Guardian Obituary Here – letters about it here, Independent Here, Blog Three Score Years and Ten Here, Five Leaves Blog Here. Also: Socialist Unity.

Below the fold, some treasures from the archive: (more…)

Colin Ward Life and Work: London 10 July


Saturday, 10 July 2010, 2.00pm-5.00pm
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1

Ken Worpole: Colin Ward and the anarchism of everyday life

“Colin Ward in conversation with Roger Deakin”, introduced by Mike Dibb

Harriet Ward: On meeting Colin Ward

Stuart White: Colin Ward: making anarchism respectable, but not too respectable

Peter Marshall: Colin Ward in the history of Anarchism

Tony Fyson: Colin Ward at work

Dennis Hardy: On the margins

More on Colin Ward here.

Published in: on July 7, 2010 at 11:18 am  Leave a Comment  

For Christopher Hitchens

La Bird Boheme, Rosie Bell (12), Michael WeissDavid HorowitzAndrew AnthonyDavid BrooksJason Dobbins,  American OrwellShiraz Socialist.

A thought: Hitchens’ cancer is of the oesophagus, the gullet. George Orwell was shot in the gullet when serving in Spain.

Published in: on July 7, 2010 at 10:14 am  Leave a Comment  


Can’t make an omelette without…: From the vaults of the Manchester Guardian, Beatrice Webb, the ultimate Stalinist fellow traveller, and her hatred for the working class.

The First war on terror: via @ndy:

The first war on terror Laura Miller June 20, 2010: Miller reviews “A new history of bomb-throwing anarchists and conniving intelligence agents in the 1800s”; it is “chillingly familiar”. Three months earlier, so did Stuart Christie (The World That Never Was: A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists and Secret AgentsThe Guardian, March 27, 2010). I think The Slow Burning Fuse: The lost history of the British Anarchists by John Quail is neat, while the Kate Sharpley Library continues to find bodies buried beneath the mounds of bourgeois history. The International Campaign Against Anarchist Terrorism, 1880-1930s (Richard Bach Jensen) provides some historical context for the antics of the anarcholocos

Book reviews: Andrew Coates on Callinicos’ Bonfire of Illusions and Perry Anderson New Old World. And from Phil Dickens via @ndy:

Adam Form has excellent reviews of both The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and Simon Pirani’s The Russian Revolution in Retreat, 1920-24. The latter offering historical context on the Russian revolution which ties in nicely with my Property is Theft post on Communism and the State.

Hitch 22: Ian Buruma in NYRB, Carlo Strenger, BJ Bethel and the Hitch himself on Christopher Hitchens.

Franco and the Nazis: Modernity on the even darker side of Spain’s dictator.

A patriotic left: Michael Kazin on loving one’s country (2002), from the Dissent archive via Arguing the World’s 4th July post.

Gnome Chomksy: the latest Chomskyiana from Bob’s gnomic series.

Marxism 2010: on Alex Callinicos’s week case for the triumph of historical materialism, and a dissection of what might have happened at this year’s SWP sh’bang, whose last day is today. (Possibly more on this in a future post.)

French Stalinism: I have already linked to this piece by Andrew Coates on the new leader of the French Communist Party, but I did so very flippantly and want to re-link with a recommendation to read it. The post comes from a solidly anti-Stalinist perspective, but also shows something of the grandeur of some elements of the French Stalinist tradition, as well as explaining a little about the complexity of the PCF’s internal politics.

The passion of Arthur Koestler: Roger Boylan on a complicated man.

Published in: on July 5, 2010 at 3:55 pm  Comments (3)