From the archive of struggle, no.86

This post follows in directly from the last in the series, with a couple more texts from the U.S. Third Camp Trotskyist scene.

 

Added to the Grandizo Munis Archive:

this was published in Socialist Action in 1939:

The seizure of power in Madrid by the General Staff of the People’s Front Government was only the logical development of the role played by the military throughout the course of the civil war. A glimpse of the functioning of the Loyalist High Command is given below in an extract from an interview with Fernando Grandizo-Muniz, leader of the Spanish Bolshevik Leninists, which appeared in La Lutte Ouvrière, organ of the Fourth International in France. Muniz was held prisoner by the Negrin Government in Barcelona until a few hours before the fall of Barcelona, when he succeeded in escaping from the doomed city.

Added to the Dwight Macdonald Archive:

  • Off the Record (1939) [This was one of Dwight MacDonakd’s regular columns in the SWP’s Socialist Appeal. (MacDonald was never a member of the SWP and was at the time also editing the Partisan Review. It says that  it says something about the SWP at that time  it’s a regular column by a non-Trotskyist.) This is a witty comment on the relationship between cops and fascists, taking as its occasion the publication of an English language edition of Daniel Guerin’s Fascism and Big Business, to which MacDonald had written the introduction. Guerin was a French socialist and at this point was one of the leaders of the new Parti Socialiste Ouvrier et Paysan (PSOP – “Workers and Peasants Socialist Party”), which had links to the POUMIST and was fraternal with but distinct from the Trotskyists.]

Added to the Jack Weber (Louis Jacobs) Archive:

  • Histadrut in Its 20th Year in Palestine (1941) [I  find this very interesting because it gives a sense of how strongly this current supported Zionism at this time. Jacobs was still as SWP member, but he was close to Shachtman and would soon leave the SWP.]

 

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Anarchism and social democracy in the First International

This book newly published in English by Merlin looks really interesting:

Social-Democracy and Anarchism in the International Workers’ Association, 1864-1877

by Rene Berthier

This book explores the conflicts that took place in the First International. Social and economic conditions varied greatly in Europe in the 1860s and 1870s. The strategies adopted by the various federations and sections of the International Workers’ Association, or IWA, reflected this diversity.

Although Marx and Engels have been seen as the leaders of the International, there were many who rejected their leadership. In September 1872 an extraordinary congress took place in Saint-Imier (Switzerland) which rejected the decisions taken at The Hague congress by Marx and his friends. A year later six IWA federations met in a regular congress in Geneva and reasserted the principle that political organising should be subordinate to workplace – economic – organisation. The great aim of the IWA was for working people to liberate themselves.

The ongoing IWA disregarded edicts of expulsion issued by the New York based General Council, at the instigation of Marx and Engels. The latter discovered they were generals without an army, isolated and at odds with the bulk of the organised labour movement.

René Berthier reviews the historiography of this conflict. Much of the ongoing IWA were inspired by Bakunin. He argued for the priority of labour solidarity. But it was not an anarchist International that was created in 1872. Anarchism was born some five years later, when Bakunin was dead. Rather, the adoption of anarchism by the remnants of the IWA marked a breach with Bakuninism.

There’s an interesting review by Dave Douglass in the Weekly Worker.

Will it be possible for those for whom Marx’s word reads like a gospel to be able to accept that, perceptive genius aside, Marx was a bureaucratic, manipulative, tendency bully and not at all a team player? Any one of us with lifetimes in the revolutionary workers’ movement will surely find such a discovery not so surprising at all; maybe they actually did not do it any better then than we do now.

…it is clear from the evidence in this book [that Marx in his First International period] foresaw something like mass social democratic parties occupying seats of office in national parliaments… Bakunin, on the other hand, like the subsequent Industrial Workers of the World, saw the need for mass industrial struggles at the heart of the productive process and centre of wage-slavery, as the workers’ industrial unions and trades societies were constructed to fight it. He thought that the struggles at work, the tasks of solidarity, the growth of class-consciousness and construction of workers’ industrial combat organisations were the way to fight capitalism in the here and now and the framework of an alternative social system of administration of wealth and power at the other end.

[Via Arieh]

From the archive of struggle, no.85

Gosh it’s a long time since I last did this.

I was browsing through the Marxist Internet Archive and noted a few recent additions.

SHACHTMANISM 1939-1944-1948

These texts all relate to American Third Camp Trotksyism. In 1939, its future leaders were still in the SWP, one grouping around Max Shachtman, another around Albert Goldman and Felix Morrow, and a third around CLR James and Raya Dunayevskaya. The Workers’ Party, led by Max Shachtman, was formed in 1940 as a breakaway from the Socialist Workers Party, which Shachtman had led with James P Cannon.  The WP took a more uncompromisingly anti-Stalinist line than the SWP. By 1944, James and Dunayevskaya were in the WP, which they left with their grouping (the Johnson-Forest Tendency) to rejoin the SWP by 1948. Goldman, on the other hand, had stayed in the SWP but had joined the WP by 1948, although by the end of the year, with James T Farrell, he had left to join the far larger Socialist Party of America while Morrow did not join any party.

Added to the Felix Morrow Archive:

These texts are interesting for their strong sympathy with the Jews of Palestine, seen as victims of British imperialism, and for the linking of this issue with the struggle against fascism in Spain and beyond. They also show how Stalinist forms of anti-fascism were at best partial and argue for a more militant form of anti-fascism.

Added to the Max Shachtman Archive:

Added to the C.L.R. James Archive:

Added to the new Ernest Rice McKinney Archive in the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL):

MIA does not yet have a biography of Rice McKinney. This is from the University of Pittsburgh’s archive:

Born in Malden, West Virginia, in 1886, McKinney, also known under the pseudonym David Coolidge, was the son of a coal miner. At different points in his life, McKinney endeavored a variety of jobs which included becoming editor of, This Month, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Courier (1932), Executive Secretary of the Unemployed Citizens’ League of Allegheny County (1933), a Social Worker, and Assistant to the Director, Kingsley House. In 1916 an oral history conducted at Columbia University resulted in McKinney writing a 116 page book of memoirs published by Harvard University, The Reminiscences of Ernest Rice McKinney. The memoir deals with the development of the National Unemployed League, depression days; organizing steel workers for CIO, membership in the Workers’ Socialist Party; upgrading African Americans in industry; Working Men’s Welfare Committees; Workers Party of the United States (Trotskyist Group) and its relationship to Communist and Socialist Parties; and McKinney’s resignation from Workers Party.

Workers’ Liberty add:

McKinney had joined the Communist Party in Pittsburgh in 1920, at the age of 24, and A J Muste’s Conference for Progressive Labor Action in 1929. With the CPLA, he joined the US Trotskyists in 1933. He had sided with Shachtman and Draper when they divided from the “orthodox” Trotskyists in 1939-40 over attitudes to the USSR’s invasions of Poland and Finland. In 1950, like others around that time, and while remaining socialist-minded, he drifted away from organised politics.

Louis Proyect adds:

In 1943 CLR James submitted a resolution titled “The Historical Development of the Negroes in American Society” to the Workers Party for discussion and adoption. It was a conscious attempt to apply Lenin’s support for the self-determination of oppressed nationalities in general to the specific problem of self-determination for black America, an internal quasi-colony.

His was a minority position. Within the Workers Party, James had been derided as an ultraleftist and an eccentric. Max Schachtman, the party leader, called James a “literary man” as a put-down. The fact that James had led study circles on Hegel and Capital was another sign that James was not a real Bolshevik. The party member most hostile to James, however, was Ernest Rice McKinney. He gave James the nickname “Sportin’ Life”, after the villainous pimp in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. (Again, I tip my hat to Scott McLemee who provides this background data in his excellent introduction to “CLR James and the Negro Question”.)

Writing for the party majority, McKinney put forward the classic “black-white unity” position of American socialism directly opposed to James’s embrace of black nationalism:

“The white worker must take the lead and offensive in the struggle for the Negro’s democratic rights…The white workers are strongly organized, they have had ages of experience and they are powerful. On the other hand, no matter how great their courage and determination, the Negroes are organizationally, financially and numerically weak in comparison with the white workers, and woefully and pitifully weak in the face of present-day capitalism…”

Added to the new Andrzej Rudzienski Archive:

I’d never heard of Rudzienski and couldn’t find much about him. This is from James Robertson in Revolutionary History:

The Shachtman WP-ICL had a journalistic collaborator, apparently a Polish emigré probably resident in Chile, who wrote on Latin American affairs under the name Juan Rey or Juan Robles. When writing on East Europe he used the name Andrzej Rudzienski, which might have been his real name.

In May 1952 ‘Juan Rey’ raised the call for a workers’ government in Bolivia, criticising the FOR, official section of the Fourth International, for tailing the bourgeois nationalist Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR – Revolutionary National Movement)

Whereas this is also from RH:

a series of reports written from different parts of Latin America which appeared mainly in the Workers Party newspaper, Labor Action, with increasing regularity during the late 1940s and early 1950s over the pseudonyms of ‘Juan Robles ’and ‘Juan Rey’. Why the author saw fit to change his pen name is not at all clear, any more than his real identity. But it is almost certain that he was the Peruvian Trotskyist Emilio Adolfo Westfallen (Bestfalling), a founder of the GOM, which changed its name to the POR (Peru) in 1947, who was a supporter of Shachtman.

Added to the Natalia Sedova Trotsky Archive:

This is an attack on the Stalinist-turned-Gaullist Andre Malraux for claiming some affiliation with Trotsky. The letter from Sedova is also quite hostile to Victor Serge. It doesn’t make much sense without the context, which is supplied here by Richard Greeman:

in January 1948, a month after Serge’s death, that great confabulator André Malraux launched a macabre press campaign claiming Serge as a deathbed convert to Gaullism.[7] The sad fact is that six days before he died, Serge had sent a grossly flattering personal letter to Malraux, begging the support of de Gaulle’s once and future Minister of Culture (and Gallimard editor) to publish his novel Les Derniers temps in France.[8] Desperate to leave the political isolation and (fatally) unhealthy altitude of Mexico for Paris, Serge indulged in an uncharacteristic ruse de guerre, feigning sympathy for Malraux’s “political position” — according to Vlady, at his urging. Serge’s ruse backfired. His letter and the news of his death reached Paris simultaneously, and Malraux seized the moment by printing selected excerpts and leaking them to C.L. Sulzberger, who published them in the N.Y. Times — thus recruiting Serge’s fresh corpse into the ranks of the Western anti-Communist crusade.[9]

Aside from this letter, there is zero evidence in Serge’s writings, published and unpublished,[10] of sympathy for Gaullism or Western anti-Communism — quite the contrary.

Added to the Hal Draper Archive:

Added to the Albert Goldman Archive:

  • Partition One Thing; Aid to Jews Another (letter) (1948) [Also very interesting, setting out an argument for the rights of Jews in Israel to defend themselves against the Arabs who are seen as a reactionary force, but also against partition and for a united but democratic Palestine with minority rights.]

Added to the Irving Howe Archive:

Added to the Susan Green Archive:

As well as Sarah Green, an important activist in the Third Camp scene for a while, there are pieces by two other women: Reva Craine and Mary Bell. I don’t know anything about either – if any readers do, please leave a comment.

Added to the Stanley Plastrik Archive:

Stanley Plastrik had served as an enlisted man in the infantry in France during World War II and returned there later to earn a doctorate at the Sorbonne in Paris. He later joined the faculty of the Staten Island college after teaching in high school for a time. He would later go on to co-found and edit Dissent magazine.

On This Day 2007: Death of Mary Low

This is part of her excellent obituary,  by Jim Jump, in the Independent (hyperlinks added):

Mary Low was a poet, linguist and classics teacher who, as a 24-year-old Trotskyist, vividly described the revolutionary fever that gripped Barcelona in the months following the military uprising against the Spanish Republic in July 1936. The era ended in May 1937 when the Republican authorities suppressed the city’s anarchist and dissident Communist movements.

Low’s Red Spanish Notebook: the first six months of revolution and the civil war (1937) was jointly written with her Cuban husband, the Surrealist poet Juan Breá, with a foreword by the Marxist historian and critic C.L.R. James. Her contribution consisted of 11 snapshots of mostly everyday life in those extraordinary times – when, as she reported, street barrel-organs played the “Internationale”, shoeshine boys carried an anarchist union card, waiters refused tips and notices were hung in brothels urging the clientele: “You are requested to treat the women as comrades – The Committee (by order)”.

George Orwell praised the book in a review for Time and Tide on 9 October 1937: “For several months large blocks of people believed that all men are equal and were able to act on their belief. The result was a feeling of liberation and hope that is difficult to conceive in our money-tainted atmosphere. It is here that Red Spanish Notebook is valuable . . . it shows you what human beings are like when they are trying to behave as human beings and not as cogs in the capitalist machine.”

This was the scene that Low found in Barcelona’s central thoroughfare of Las Ramblas:

“Housefronts were alive with waving flags in a long avenue of dazzling red. Splashes of black or white cut through the colour from place to place. The air was filled with an intense din of loudspeakers and people were gathered in groups here and there under the trees, their faces raised towards the round discs from which the words were coming.”

She brought a perceptive outsider’s – and Anglo-Saxon – eye to convey the quirks of life in “red” Barcelona, avoiding the heavy-handed heroics of some of her contemporaries. She notes, for example, the bureaucratic culture of the politicians and functionaries of the Catalan government in contrast to the egalitarian mood on the street. She visits the deserted suburb of San Gervasio, its fountains still playing in the gardens of the locked villas where the city’s rich families once lived.

There is no pomposity or romanticisation in her account of the burial of the anarchist leader Buenaventura Durruti, killed in November 1936 leading his militia in the defence of Madrid. His funeral, attended by tens of thousands of supporters, was delayed because alterations had to be made after it was discovered that the tomb for his coffin was too small, as was the pane of glass for viewing his embalmed corpse.

Newly arrived in the Catalan capital, she was horrified to find that the siesta was still being practised. “Do you mean to say that you shut up everything and go to sleep from one till four during the revolution and civil war?” she and Breá asked one inhabitant incredulously, only to note: “He stared at us from large languid eyes as if the sun had struck us.” Equally dispiriting for her was the continuing enthusiasm of the locals for the lottery – “the eternal lottery, like a veil of illusion still preserved for Catalan eyes”.

Born in London in 1912 to Australian parents – her father was a mining engineer and her mother a former actress – Low was educated in France and Switzerland. She mixed in circles frequented by left-wing political activists and avant-garde artists in Paris, where she met Breá in 1933. Among their friends were André Breton, Paul Eluard, René Magritte and Yves Tanguy. They travelled around Europe and to Cuba, eventually making their way to Barcelona in August 1936, where General Francisco Franco’s revolt had been crushed by workers’ militias and elements of the armed services loyal to the Republic.

Like Orwell, Low and Breá joined the quasi-Trotskyist POUM (Workers’ Party of Marxist Unity). Low worked on the English-language broadcasts for the party’s radio station and helped finance, co-edit and translate its fortnightly English newsletter, The Spanish Revolution. She was also the POUM’s representative in the press office of the Catalan government.

Paul Hampton gives more detail here:

She was part of a talented group of Trotsky-influenced young people, including the surrealist poet Benjamin Peret, Kurt and Katia Landau, Hipólito and Mika Etchebehere, Lois Cusick (Orr) and Charles Orr, Pavel Thalmann and Clara (Ensner) Thalmann, Nicola Di Bartolomeo and Virginia Gervasini, Robert de Fauconnet, Erwin Wolff and Hans Freund who went to Spain to fight for working class socialism. Many paid for their courage with their lives.

Low did radio broadcasts and edited the 8-page English-language weekly newspaper, The Spanish Revolution, from its first nine issues from 21 October 1936 until 23 December 1936. She was responsible for the section “News and notes” and for translating into English articles published in the POUM’s paper, La Batalla.

She and Breá left Spain on 28 December 1936. (The following issue of The Spanish Revolution, Volume II, No1, 6 January 1937 announced her departure.) Breá had been detained twice by the Stalinists and was involved in a near fatal and suspicious car “accident”.

Jump again:

Low and Breá were married in London in September 1937, shortly before the publication [by Secker and Warburg] of Red Spanish Notebook, for which Low translated Breá’s seven chapters from Spanish into English. Following interludes in Cuba and Paris, from early 1938 the couple lived in Prague, where they had several Surrealist friends, until July 1939 when they were forced to leave in the wake of the Nazi invasion.

Low’s poetry first appeared in a joint compilation with Breá, La Saison des flûtes, published in Paris in 1939. Again displaying her skills as a linguist, the poems were written in French and, in “La Chauve-souris visite Marseille” (“The Bat Visits Marseilles”), contain the apparently self-referential lines:

Type standard de l’aventurière internationale 
cheveux roux 
regard fatale, longue 
robe blanche, accent onomatopé 
aux surprenantes ambiguïtés harmoniques.

In 1940, Low and Breá boarded a transatlantic liner in Liverpool and made their way to Cuba, where she would remain for the next 25 years. Breá, however, was already ill and died just over a year later. In 1943 in Havana Low published a selection of essays, La verdad contemporánea, on political and cultural themes which featured a foreword by the French poet Benjamin Péret, whom she had known in Paris and Barcelona. The essays were edited versions of talks which she and her late husband had given at the city’s Institute of Marxist Culture in 1936 under titles such as “The Economic Roots of Surrealism” and “Women and Love from the Perspective of Private Property”.

In 1944 Low married Armando Machado, a Trotskyist Cuban trade-union leader, with whom she would have three daughters. At the same time she acquired Cuban citizenship, keeping her dual British-Cuban nationality for the rest of her life.

More poetry collections followed: Alquimia del recuerdo (“Alchemy of Memory”) in 1946, illustrated by the Cuban-born Surrealist Wilfredo Lam, and Tres voces – Three Voices – Trois voix in Spanish, English and French in 1957, for which the Cuban artist José Mijares provided illustrations. In 1948 she also translated El rey y la reina, as The King and the Queen, by the exiled Spanish novelist Ramón Sender.

Low and Machado welcomed the 1959 Cuban revolution. She taught English and Latin at the University of Havana and both of them became leading members of the re-formed Trotskyist POR (Revolutionary Workers’ Party). However, the party soon fell out of favour with the new regime. Indeed Machado was on one occasion arrested and only freed following the personal intervention of Che Guevara. Low moved to Sydney in 1965 and in 1967 she and Machado settled in Miami. She taught Latin and classical history at some of Florida’s élite private schools, having been barred from any public-sector teaching posts on account of her background in left-wing politics. She continued her writing and poetry, which were published in In Caesar’s Shadow (1975), Alive In Spite Of – El triunfo de la vida (1981), A Voice in Three Mirrors (1984) and Where the Wolf Sings (1994).

She retired from teaching in 2000 and, until wheelchair-bound in her final year, continued to travel, regularly visiting and making new friends in Europe, with whom she enjoyed telling anecdotes from her eventful life.

JJ Plant adds, in relation to her later years:

She worked closely with the Surrealist tendency associated with Franklin Rosemont….

In October 2002 she was one of the many signatories to the Surrealist-sponsored declaration Poetry Matters: On the Media Persecution of Amiri Baraka. Her final militant act was to sign a declaration of critical historians opposing the dominant historiography that depicts the Spanish revolution simply as a struggle between fascism and anti-fascism, (exemplified by Hobsbawm among UK academics) and seeks to erase the struggle between the classes from the historical record.

Mary Low’s ashes were scattered in Cuba and in Paris.

Some further sources and image from this wonderful Cezch website:

GUILLAMÓN, Agustín. Esbozo biográfico de Juan Breá. La Bataille socialiste [webové stránky], 2010 (původně otištěno v časopise Balance, noviembe 2009, no. 34).

GUILLAMÓN, Agustín. Mary Low, poeta, trotskista y revolucionaria. La Bataille socialiste [webové stránky], 2009.

GUILLAMÓN, Agustín. Perfiles revolucionarios: Mary Low y Juan Breá. Iniciativa Socialista [webové stránky] (původně jako předmluva ke knize Mary Low a Juana Breá Cuaderno Rojo de Barcelona /Barcelona: Alikornio, 2001/).

Juan Breá. In KELLEY, Robin D. G. – ROSEMONT, Franklin (eds.). Black, Brown & Beige: Surrealist Writings from Africa and the Diaspora. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2009, s. 55-58.

JUMP, Jim. Mary Low. The Independent, January 30, 2007.

ROCHE, Gérard. Mary Low (1912-2007) (materiál kombinuje autorovy texty otištěné v knize Mary Low Sans retour: Poèmes et collages /Paris: Syllepse, 2000/ a v bulletinu, vydávaném Sdružením přátel Benjamina Péreta, Trois cerises et une sardine, novembre 2007, no. 21).

Věnování z publikace Juana Breá Poemas de entonces (La Habana, 1942)

Věnování B. Broukovi a Toyen z publikace Juana Breá Poemas de entonces (La Habana, 1942/1943?)

Mary Low (1912-2007) a Juan Breá (1905-1941), nedatováno

Mary Low (1912-2007) a Juan Breá (1905-1941), nedatováno

Mary Low (1912-2007), Barcelona, 1936

Mary Low (1912-2007), Barcelona, 1936

Mary Low (1912-2007), nedatováno

Mary Low (1912-2007), nedatováno

Arsenal: Surrealist Subversion (1989, obálka)

Arsenal: Surrealist Subversion (1989, obálka)