I know I’ve been a slow blogging here lately. Here are some of the things I’ve been reading in my absence, if you know what I mean. Beatrix Campbell and the “invisible” women of Wigan Pier. Hitchens’s introduction to Orwell’s Diaries. Algeria: Fifty Years of Independence. An evening with the SWP. Malatesta on Bakunin as “too marxist”. Book notes: Michael Staudenmaier on the Sojourner Truth Organization. Back to that first International? In what senses can we describe certain political, religious and social movements of the English Revolution (1640-1660) as radical?

Below the fold, some of the gems from Entdinglichung’s weekly workers series. (more…)

Music Mondays: Woody Guthrie at 100

[This post is cross-posted from Bob’s Beats]

Saturday would have been Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday (thanks to Carl for blogging about this already). Woody Guthrie is one of my favourite singers, and surely one of the greatest ever songwriters as well as a great American radical. As a wordsmith, he is up there with Bob Dylan (whose whole oeuvre is un-imaginable without Guthrie’s influence), with John Steinbeck or Kenneth Patchen.

My mother brought me up on Woody, and I believe her parents brought her up on him. I’ve passed him on to my sons, who sing songs like “Pretty Boy Floyd” and the Car Song.

A number of blogs have featured nice tributes to him: my comrade Jim Denham at Shiraz Socialist, Ernie at 27 Leggies, and Boyhowdy at Cover Lay Down. That last one is covers, of which Jeffrey Foucault’s “Philadelphia Lawyer“, John McCutcheon’ “1913 Massacre“, Pierce Pettis’ “Pastures Of Plenty” and Slaid Cleaves‘ “This Morning I Am Born Again” are particularly good. Beck is not up there with them, but is surprisingly good.

I’ve written a fair amount on Woody before, at BobFromBrockley and Poumista. Here’s some links: “Folk music”, folk music, trad jazz, and the trad left; This Land Is Our Land; Good and bad versions of Deportees; Our Humanly Race; Stalinist songs of the Spanish Civil War (scroll down); Jesus Christ; We Shall Be Free; Vigilante Man; Hobo’s Lullaby.

Like Jim, I have reservations about a hagiographic approach to Woody Guthrie, who was at the very least a close fellow traveller of the Communist Party at a time when the Stalinist regime was committing some of the worst crimes of the twentieth century. (Jim recommends Scott Borchert’s very interesting “Woody Guthrie: Redder than Remembered” from Monthly Review.) But that does not diminish him as an artist in my eyes.

I’ve had a hard time choosing which song to accompany with post with, but I think “Jesus Christ”, which Carl’s post featured, is the right one:

Published in: on July 16, 2012 at 4:26 pm  Comments (3)  

On this day in history

JPG image of the National Industrial Recovery ...

Image via Wikipedia

From Modern Education:

 June 16, 1836 – The London Working Men’s Association was formed, launching the Chartist movement.The Chartists took their name from the People’s Charter, which demanded universal suffrage for men, regardless of social class. (From the Daily Bleed)
June 16, 1848 – The Berlin arsenal was captured by rebellious citizens. The “German Revolutions” of 1848 swept across 50 European states, mostly affiliated with the German Confederation and Austria. While the middle classes were fighting for a unified German state and increased civil liberties, the working class had more revolutionary aspirations. Participants in the revolution included communist and anarchist revolutionaries like Marx, Engels and Mikhail Bakunin, as well as the composer Wagner. (From the Daily Bleed)
June 16, 1869 – In the small mining town of Ricamarie, France, troops were called in to suppress a workers’ strike, opening fire on demonstrators protesting the arrest of 40 workers, killing 14 (including a 17-month-old girl in her mother’s arms) and wounding 60 others (including 10 children). (From the Daily Bleed)

June 16, 1873
 – Susan B. Anthony was arrested for voting. (From the Daily Bleed)


June 16, 1918 –Eugene Debs delivered his famous Canton, Ohio anti-war Speech. America was at war with Germany, at the time, and radicals were being routinely rounded up and jailed, often illegally, when Debs gave this speech. The new Espionage Act was being used to prosecute people for their opposition to the war and Deb’s speech was used to make the case that he had violated the Act. (From the Daily Bleed)
June 16, 1920 – The U.S. Marines began fighting in Haiti to defend U.S. “interests” there. (From the Daily Bleed)
June 16, 1933 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the National Industrial Recovery Act, which recognized the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively through unions. The legislation was later found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, it helped inspire a wave of union organizing and pave the way for the National Labor Relations Act, which was passed in 1935. (From Workday Minnesota)
International Brigadiers at the Battle of Belchite

June 16, 1937 – The Trotskyist POUM, a significant constituent of the Spanish Republican forces (and the group with which George Orwell fought) was outlawed and its militants persecuted by the counter-revolutionary Stalinists and the Republic’s police, thus making the Republic and the Stalinists more vulnerable to the fascists. (From the Daily Bleed). For a good fictionalization of the Spanish war against the fascists, and the POUM’s and anarchist’s betrayal by the Stalinists, see Ken Loach’s Tierra y Libertad.

June 16, 1953 – Jack Hall of the ILWU and six others (the “Hawai‘i Seven”) were convicted under the Smith Act for being communists. (From the Daily Bleed)