For Engels

Friedrich Engels picture at Nikolaistraße/Kaul...

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Sunday was the 190th anniversary of Friedrich Engels’ birth. The great man is honoured in this post at Socialism or Your Money Back.

Also read: David Riazanov on the Anti-Duhrung (also a major theme on Thomas Riggins’ philisophy blog), a great Engels quote at Stalin’s moustache, and this portrait of his friend Helen McFarlane.

Update: Stalin’s moustache brings you the t-shirt:


Music Mondays: Yiddish tango

Continuing last week’s Yiddish theme

Zully Goldfarb: “Papirosen

This is a song about a boy selling cigarettes on the street, hoping he will not die of cold like his sister did.

Divina Gloria: “A Shoa Daine”

Argentine vocalist Divina Gloria, dancing by Schwee Miguel and Tango Ganas, courtesy of Yiddishkayt LA. The song, as sung by Shifra Lerer, appears on the album Yiddish Tango, as do some of the other songs I’m posting today.

Metropolitan Klezmer: “Yiddish celluloid closet”

This video interweaves Metropolitan Klezmer with Edgar Ullmer’s New York Yiddish film “An American Matchmaker”, and brings out the queer subtexts.

Jose Derasner: “La Cumparsita”

A Yiddish version of “La Cumparsita“, the classic tango by Gerardo Matos Rodríguez, as performed by Jose Derasner.

Jacob Sandler: “Tsvey Shvartsen Oygen”

Jewish Tango Cabaret

This is a medley including some of the previous songs and others, setting them in chronological context from Buenos Aires to the Warsaw Ghetto to Auschwitz and beyond.


Today’s post is mainly anarchist.
History notes: E

xchange on Black Flame between Spencer Sunshine and the authors, in recent Anarchist Studies. /

George Fontenis RIP.Anarchist Publications of the May Fourth Era by Daniel S. S. Cairns / Guy Alfred Aldred (1886 – 1963) by Martin Robb (more on Aldred to come soon at Poumista) / Wayne Price: the Korean war 60 years on. / Frank Mintz on Bakunin, Kropotkin and the Spanish libertarian workers movement (in Spanish).

New site: Libertarian Communist Webzine. Includes: Durutti: A New World in Our Hearts / Cool photo of Freedom Press, London / AF North: Why we are not on the LeftThe Proletarian ConditionThe IWW by David BaileyNestor Makhno 1889 – 1934 /  In memory of Leah Feldman / Rosa Luxemburg on Living MarxismMay Day by Grethe Christensen / YouTube music Spain in 1936.


Consumerism: New books and stuff to buy: WORK: A 2011 Calendar by Justseeds and AK Press (see images to the right). / Dancing with Dynamite: States and Social Movements in Latin America. / Argentina’s anarchist past: Paradoxes of Utopia. / Anarchism and the City: Revolution and Counter-revolution in Barcelona, 1898–1937. / Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism. / The Third Revolution?: Peasant and worker resistance to the Bolshevik government. Loads more.

Theory: Sam Haraway on Kropotkin and capitalism.

Cuba: A letter to those who still look to Cuba.

Below the fold, From the Archive of Struggle no.54 (more…)

Published in: on November 27, 2010 at 3:47 pm  Comments (1)  
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On a roll, no.2

Continuing where we left off here

Three blogs

A Very Public Sociologist

A blog by a Political Education Officer of a Labour Party branch, a former member of the Socialist Party of England and Wales, resident in the darkest Potteries, whose PhD was on British Trotskyism. Both a deservedly popular and pleasantly generous blogger, one of Phil’s regular features is listing some new blogs on the (mainly British) left. Also worth reading for his long, thoughtful posts on Marxist theory, often taking their lead from Gramsci.

Tragic Life Stories

Also from the British left, but a very different corner of it. An extremely infrequently updated blog that  focuses more or less exclusively on the sort of left sectariana that fascinates trainspottery types like me, from the perspective of Communist Students, a loosely affiliated section of the CPGB. Get the dirt on the Communist Party of Britain, the Revolutionary Communist Party, and other sects.

Totalitarianism Today

A fascinating blog, which I don’t visit often enough. Good-looking, intelligent, erudite. Read about Alexander Blok and the internet, Octave Mirbeau on the voters’ strike, the non-friendship between Golda Meir and Hannah Arendt, and lots more. Check out some of the names from a daunting list of intellectual kin:  Dwight MacdonaldCzeslaw MiloszIsaac Bashevis SingerIsaiah BerlinNicolae IorgaRandolph BourneRaymond AronSimone WeilVaclav HavelVoltairine de CleyreWalter Benjamin.

Tony Cliff: A World to Win

A hagiographic blog created by a true believer over three months in 2009. Tony Cliff, the heterodox Trotskyist leader who came to Britain shortly after WWII, broke with the official movement over his (correct) belief that the Soviet Union was state capitalist and not a deformed workers’ state, and went on to lead “the smallest mass party in history”, the IS, later the SWP. Many of his twists and turns, particularly after around 1980, were emphatically in the wrong direction, but Cliff was one of the (few) towering geniuses of post-Trotsky Trotskyism. This site is a great work of “citizen scholarship”, both archiving and providing very informative introductions and contextualisations to Cliff’s political developments.

Three Way Fight

This blog is the platform for a North American political tendency, primarily inspired by Don Hamerquist, a veteran of the American New Left and specifically of the Sojourner Truth OrganizationThis post by Mike S, one of the key members of the tendency, sums up their position, i.e. that revolutionary forces are engaged in a fight with capitalism, but also with reactionary forms of anti-capitalism. For related reading, check this post at Gathering Forces. The blog is very interesting, but I wish they would put a bit more work into it!

Three non-blogs

Young Democratic Socialists

This is the site of the youth arm of Democratic Socialists of America. My politics draw on four or five distinct political traditions, including anarchism, left communism, centrist Marxism, Trotskyism, and democratic socialism. That last tradition is the tradition of Eugene Debs, Norman Thomas, Michael Harrington, Irving Howe and Bayard Rustin – the tradition of Democratic Socialists of America. From the label on the tin:

Democratic Socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically to meet the needs of all, not to merely make profits for a select few. Democratic Socialism is a philosophy based on empowerment, liberty, democracy, and feminism, where community well being and individual development are the metrics of success.  We advocate for stronger public goods like universal healthcare and free higher education in addition to more democracy in the work place.  Our method is one of empowering communities and engaging in the politics of the possible while being guided by our ideals.

I don’t really have anything else to say about these guys.

Victor Serge Papers

Victor Serge, you may have noticed, is one of my heroes. He stands at the intersection of all of the traditions mentioned above. This is the website of his papers at Yale University.

The Victor Serge Papers contain correspondence; writings; immigration and identification documents for Serge and his wife, Liouba; death masks of Serge and of Leon Trotsky; and various materials concerning Serge (including correspondence, clippings, and photocopies of writings) that were collected by his son, Vlady Kibalchich. The correspondence includes letters between Serge and his wife, son, and other relatives; a few letters between third parties; letters between Serge and his friends and colleagues, including André Breton, Michael Fraenkel, André Gide, Julián Gorkin, Daniel Guérin, Lucien Laurat, Dwight Macdonald, Jean Malaquais, Marcel Martinet, Magdeleine Marx (Paz), Emmanuel Mounier, Natalii︠a︡ Ivanovna Trot︠s︡kai︠a︡, Leon Trotsky, Leon Werth, and Maurice Wullens; and letters between Serge and publishing companies, journals, and organizations, including The New Leader and Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista.
The writings include holograph and typescript notes and drafts for Serge’s articles, books (including “L’Affaire Toulaév”, “Les Derniers temps”, and “Mémoires d’un révolutionnaire”, among others) and poems. There are also several notebooks, including two daybooks for 1936.

Victor Serge Internet Archive

And this is the Serge section of the wonderful Marxist Internet Archive, the current contents of which are below the fold. (more…)

Today in 1892: Back to the Future

From IISG:

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

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

See also:

•  William Morris papers

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Published in: on November 22, 2010 at 2:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Music Mondays: partisan songs

Chava Alberstein: “Zog nit keynmol”

Paul Robeson: “Zog nit keynmol”

Two versions of the great Warsaw Ghetto partisan song I wrote about here.

The liner notes from the Paul Robeson version read as follows. I am curious about this. I hear what sounds like booing amongst the applause. This was the month, June 1949, when the greatest of Soviet Yiddish poets, among the greatest Yiddish poets, were arrested, to be murdered in 1952. I am curious about what Robeson knew about this, and if he knew what he thought. (more…)

Published in: on November 22, 2010 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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Danny Lambert of the Socialist Party of Great ...

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Timothy Snyder’s new book Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin is getting some attention. It sounds fascinating but flawed. Here are two sample reviews: by Neal Ascherson and by Richard J Evans. (More reviews, from automatically generated links, at the bottom of the page.) Also read this great piece by Snyder on totalitarian Belarus: In Darkest Belarus.

The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party by Brian Hanley and Scott Millar has also gotten a fair amount of press, rather more surprisingly. Here’s reviews by Daniel Finn, Conor McCabe, and Chris Gray.

Other book reviews by Andrew Coates: Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty (on Stalinism’s “golden age”), John Holloway’s Crack Capitalism.

Mike McNair has had an interesting series in the Weekly Worker on Trotskyist entrism in the Labour Party over the years, which I keep meaning to link to. Here’s the final episode. Also in the WW: Jack Tansey defends left communism.

Sean Matgamna’s very belated obit for Ernst Mandel. Also from the AWL: Dale Street on How Stalinism crushed the Vietnamese Trotskyists, and Matgamna on what a revolutionary party is and is not.

Below the fold, From the Archive of Struggle no.53, mainly from Entdinglichung: (more…)

On a roll, no.1

A friend of mine was complaining about the length of my blogroll. She assured me that size does not matter. I keep intending to parcel it up into more digestible categories, but I can’t work out the taxonomy. Instead, as a service to readers, I have decided to start this new series where I highlight some of the links on the roll. In the spirit of honouring the underdog, I’ll start at the bottom of the alphabet, and in each entry highlight five blogs and five non-blogs, and see how we go.

Five Blogs


This blog, whose title means Awaken (I think), seems to have fallen asleep in 2010. It’s a revolutionary, anti-assimilationist, anarchist blog, in Yiddish. Featuring: lyrics to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in Yiddish; lyrics to Crass’ “Where next Columbus?” in Yiddish; a poem about the Botwinists, the Jewish brigade in the Spanish civil war; and the template for some Yiddish anarchist stencil graffiti (right).


One of my favourites. Contrarian democratic socialism from Northern Ireland. Poumistas might like, for example, Ignoring the inevitable?, on totalitarianism in North Korea, or this post on what Facebook would have looked like a couple of centuries ago.

What in the hell…?

An extremely smart, readable and good-looking blog from an activist in the Workers Solidarity Alliance, a North America anarchist organisation in a broadly syndicalist tradition. The shtik is that every post answers a “What in the hell…?” question, as in … is the big deal about tenure? or … is the relationship between local history and radical history? or … was I on about? In fact, looking at it now, I realise that I’m going to have to go and print off lots of the posts and read them properly. Go get stuck in.

Virtual Stoa

The elder statesman of my corner of the blogosphere, the Virtual Stoa, Chris Brooke’s blog, has been going since May 2001. Among the features are Dead Socialist Watch, obituaries for socialists, part of a larger “Leftwingery” section.

Utopia or Bust

According to the tin, “Utopia Or Bust is a blog and online repository based out of Portland, OR. The aim of Utopia Or Bust is to formulate a relevant practice and cohesive theory for the living-out of everyday life under the decidability of our own desires, and connecting the dots between technology, social antagonism, art, critical theory, and urban design. Many intellectual motifs used in this blog come from the Situationist International, the Italian Autonomist movement, and others found in the tag section.” Greatest hits are here. Perhaps slightly highbrow for me, but well-written, witty and fascinating.

Five other web resources

Yale Annals of Communism

This is a publicity site for a Yale University research programme and book series. Among its gems, this podcast: WBEZ (Chicago) broadcast featuringSpain Betrayed and Stalin’s Secret Pogrom; and electronic documents like these: Enemies within the Gates? The Comintern and the Stalinist Repression, 1934-1939; and Voices of Revolution, 1917. The site is now in need of some updating, but has a fair bit for any student of Stalinism to munch on.

Wu Ming Foundation

Wu Ming is an Italian collective authorship project with roots in the post-autonomist social centre movement. Most relevant to Poumistas would be 54, already mentioned here, which moves from anti-fascist Italian partisans via Cary Grant to the repression of autogestion in Yugoslavia. They also have a blog. See e.g. The hero who killed Giovanni Gentile.

World in Common

This rarely updated website represents the diverse current of the ‘anti-market anti-statist sector’. It has links to a vast library of important texts from this tradition, featuring Marx, Kropotkin, Pannekoek and all sorts of others. It has a large link directory. And its hosts three issues of a journal Common Voice.

Workman’s Circle/Arbeter Ring

More Yiddishism. The New York Workman’s Circle was once a major institution of secular, proletarian Jewish cultural life, intimately linked to the labour movement. It survives today to promote Yiddish culture, progressive politics and secular Jewishness. This text explains its dynamic reinvention in its second century of existence.

Workers Liberty

One of the smallest but most perfectly formed of all of Britain’s Trotskyists sects. The party, led by reb Sean Matgamna, has gone through many incarnations since it began as a faction within the IS, the predecessors of today’s SWP. It practises a heterodox Trotskyism, more closely linked to Max Shachtman and Hal Draper than with the moribund mainstream of orthodox Trotskyism.

Published in: on November 17, 2010 at 11:54 am  Comments (4)  

Music Mondays: Victor Jara

Victor Jara: Manifiesto

Published in: on November 15, 2010 at 5:03 pm  Comments (1)  
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From the archive of struggle no.52

On radical history:

Flora Tristan: The Beauty of Life as a Feminist Socialist.

A magnificent article by Sean Matgamna, “The survivors of Atlantis”, in the new issue of Solidarity, encapsulates the entire tragedy of twentieth century Marxism and the twists and turns of its various Trotskyisms. A must read. The AWL also publishes “The socialist ABC” by old folkie Alex Glasgow.

From the archive, via Ent., below the fold:


Published in: on November 12, 2010 at 6:04 pm  Comments (2)  
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Music Mondays: Kristallnacht/Lagrimas para ti

John Zorn: Kristallnacht

John Zorn: Lagrimas para ti

Published in: on November 8, 2010 at 4:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Today in 1918: Bavarian Free State

From IISG:

Kurt Eisner flanked by ms Eisner and minister of social affairs Hans Unterleitner (BG A4/537)

In the aftermath of the First World War there was an insurrection in Munich headed by the leader of the Bavarian Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (USPD), Kurt Eisner. Eisner proclaimed the Free State of Bavaria on 8 November 1918. The main political feat of Eisner’s government was to organize elections in January 1919. The USPD was roundly defeated. Eisner was murdered on 21 February 1919 by a rightist radical. A leftist radical government now came to power. This Soviet Republic of Munich existed only about two months.

See also:

•  Gustav Landauer papers

Wikipedia: Bavarian Soviet Republic. Two more images from an odd Russian site, Fractal Vortex. The first is where Kurt Eisner was murdered. The second is the Munich Red Flag.

Published in: on November 8, 2010 at 2:54 pm  Comments (1)  
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Today in 1936: Trotsky Papers Stolen

From IISG:

Press conference by IISH management team after the burglary
Amsterdam, November 1936

BG A28/385

Trotsky‘s son Leon Sedov lived in Paris, where, in 1936, there was a branch of the IISH on the Rue Michelet. He arranged for the transfer of parts of his father’s archive to the Institute. Only four people knew about this precarious transaction. And one of these worked for the Soviet secret police, the GPU. In the night of 6 -7 November 1936, a part of Trotsky’s papers was stolen from the Rue Michelet. The directors of the IISH tried to play down the news by saying that they contained printed matter of no importance. This was partly untrue. To enhance security, later acquisitions of collections related to Trotsky were given the code name of ABEL. This went well with KAIN, the name Trotsky used for Stalin.

See also:

•  IISH History
•  Trotsky/ILO papers


Published in: on November 6, 2010 at 2:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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54 and Filuzzi

Read this post at History is Made at Night on 54 (the Wu Ming book), Josep Tito, Cary Grant and the filuzzi subculture, and watch the cool video.

Published in: on November 4, 2010 at 3:42 pm  Comments (1)  
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Top recommendation: Martin in the Martins: Chile: mine rescue stirs memories.

A rather tedious series of articles at the snappy-looking World Socialist Website relate to some meetings held by the German Socialist Equality Party (Partei für Soziale Gleichheit, PSG), Mehring Publications and the International Students for Social Equality (ISSE), on the occasion (close enough anyway) of Trotsky’s assassination by Stalinist agents. This post introduces them; this post is about a talk by American historian Alexander Rabinowitch on his new book The Bolsheviks in Power: The First Year of Bolshevik Rule in Petrograd; and here is International Committee of the Fourth International tsar David North‘s speech Seventy years since the assassination of Leon Trotsky”. Here, on a different note, is Trotsky turning in his grave in 1989.

Slack Bastard has a funky new design featuring nuns with guns. One great recent article is on Benson ka-Ngqentsu, Brian Bunting District Secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP), who recently released a statement condemning the Abahlali baseMjondolo organisation and claiming that ‘blockading public roads’ — one of the tactics employed by the organisation — is ‘anarchy and reactionary’. The article goes on to an excellent harsh analysis of South African Stalinism.

In another post, he republishes “Hitler’s Ghost” by Christopher Hitchens in Vanity Fair June 1996. This is a great piece of writing, taking on both Daniel Jonah Goldhagen and his Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust and the evil Holocaust denialist David Irving. Meanwhile, Roland posts a YouTube of Hitchens in top form, tragically hairless due to chemo, debating his brother.

Meanwhile, the Gabber has an exclusive from Jairus Banaji, the veteran Indian Marxist (ex-IS), on the ironies of Indian Maoism. Highly recommended historical and critical account of the Naxalite movement.

More left sectariana: Bob from Brockley’s memoir of recruitment to the Spartacist League prompts some other great memories of teenage sect behaviour. And, via Phil, we have the best blog ever, that of the RNCPGB(ML) – Revolutionary New Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist). A must visit, for all fans of Michael Jackson or North Korea.

Vaultology: Operation Icepick, 1976; “Death to the generals!” Socialist Worker, 1979Vietnam Workers’ Party, 1953Jews Against the Vietnam War, ca.1970.

Quick links: No Israel boycott for Pete Seeger. Peter the Painter and his footballing legacy. Chetniks and Jews.

More links from Roland. I’ve also taken the image above from his place.

Día de los Inocentes/Music Mondays: Rebekah del Rio/Lila Downs

Rebekah del Rio: Llorando (Crying)

Lila Downs: La Sanduga

Published in: on November 1, 2010 at 4:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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