Spring/Autumn notes

Spring up here, but Autumn down there. Some extracts from Andy’s notes:

Anarchism / History

Wisdom earned the hard way – “The Tragic Procession: Alexander Berkman and Russian Prisoner Aid” [Review]:

It is not news to report that the Bolsheviks destroyed the anarchist movement in the Soviet Union. But how, and what were the consequences? These reprinted bulletins from the Joint Committee for the Defense of Revolutionists Imprisoned in Russia and the Relief Fund of the International Working Men’s Association for Anarchists and Anarcho-Syndicalists Imprisoned or Exiled in Russia show it as it happened. They ‘shed a little light on the struggles of our comrades and keep their names alive’ (p.x)…

See alsoBlack Flag: Bulletin of the Anarchist Black Cross (April 14, 2009) | The Unknown Revolution, 1917-1921 by Voline (1882-1945) | Leninist critiques of anarchism (March 25, 2010).

State/Politics / Trot Guide

Another call for unity on the left, this time by SA in Victoria (Socialism of the 21st century’ and left unity): “In Victoria this year we will most likely have both federal and state elections. It would be a real step forward if all socialist groups publicly supported the candidates of other socialist organisations (Socialist Alliance, Socialist Party, Revolutionary Socialist Party and Communist Party of Australia) and advocated a first-preference vote for them.”

The Socialist Equality Party — the Australian section of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), the world party of socialist revolution — is not included in this list, probably not without reason, as the SEP only make reference to the SA in order to denounce it, whereas the SA do what most everybody else does with regards the SEP, and ignore it.

    Links — which is published by SA nee DSP — has published a statement by COSATU on “the brutal murder of Eugene Terre’Blanche on April 3, 2010″. Oddly, for an Australian-based publication, Links is most popular in the US, and by a fairly wide margin.

It’s unlikely — to put it mildly — that SA or any of the other Marxists parties will trouble any former lawyers as they make their way to their rightful place to a seat in State Parliament — although stranger things have happened. For my money — and keep in mind I live below the poverty line — the only possible exception would be inner-city Melbourne, where several seats — Brunswick, Melbourne, Northcote and Richmond — which are otherwise the property of Labor are under pressure from The Greens.

See alsoWhat happened to the Left? (February 27, 2010).

[…]

History / Media / Music

History is Made at Night – The Politics of Dancing and Musicking is neat-o, especially1990: Trafalgar Square Memories (March 31, 2010), which is all about how the Militant saved the day… or not.

The bad old days will end is “Home of the Freedom Pass Anarchists and the wonderful world of professional wrestling, psychogeography, allotments and the class struggle.” The author writes: “On the day that I retired from my final job as a lockkeeper I left the following on the wall… I started work at fifteen years of age. Worked on the river and at sea but I also worked in factories and fields. In the circus and in films. I never achieved much. But I never crossed a picket line. Never judged a fellow worker by their colour or creed nor sucked up to the bosses for my own ends. Pretty much sums it all up.”

See alsoRefuting the stupid left’s charge sheet against Orwell (March 29, 2010).#

Also from History is Made at Night:

Stars Campaign for Inter-Racial Friendship: rock against racism in the 1950s? (Trad jazz versus the White Defence League)

Dancing at the Peckham Experiment (anarchism, social democracy, and dancing)

On Hugo Chavez, defender of Iranian theocracy, and his defenders in the Trotskyist movement:

Via Andy again, and relevant to this:

Iranian Revolutionary Marxists’ Tendency: The Clique and Chavez’s policy towards the IRI

Criticism of Chavez by Iranian labour activists and Marxists is nothing new. (more…)

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Refuting the stupid left’s charge sheet against Orwell

Post of the week:

If there is hope: George Orwell then and now, by Dave Osler

Here’s to Dave winning the Orwell Prize for Blogging. And here’s to Ray, my other preferred winner. Their longlisted entries below the fold. [Note: I notice that these links don’t work. I’m fixing some of them now, will try and do them all later.] (more…)

Published in: on March 29, 2010 at 1:17 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags:

Overdose

Have been blogging too much. Here is a recap of January so far. Later today, hopefully, a quality guest post, and then no new posts for a week, promise!

Published in: on January 24, 2010 at 8:41 am  Leave a Comment  

New blogs: self-governing socialism and radical archives

What looks like it will be a great blog, Self-Governing Socialism, here. Read about the Catalan collectives here, and the CNT here. The blogger is also a bit of a Poumista.

On new blogs and stuff, see also Slack Bastard Bloggy Tuesday. Among its links, just recently added to my blogroll too, is radicalarchives, a blog cataloging enticing tidbits of radical thought. So far, extracts from the following: (more…)

Published in: on January 15, 2010 at 1:04 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: ,

Poumatised

An extract from SlackBastard’s Bloggy Tuesday:

Gathering Forces is another blog what I think I’ve referred to before — but, now that I search for it, actually haven’t, I don’t think — that raises some interestink questions. If anything I wrote made the slightest difference to the success of their project, I’d wish them luck. It doesn’t, so I won’t.

Poumista is a blog I’ve referred to before, but as it’s totally neat-o, I thought I may as well do so again. It draws together a phantastic array of sauces on anarchist / Marxist / socialist history, and, like any good library, infoshop or second-hand bookshop, invites you to become lost in its wares, only to realise years have passed, and you’ve wasted your life reading. (And then you die.)

Stalin’s Moustache is all about Stalin and his moustache. Rather cleverly, the writer’s obsession with the facial hair grown on the upper lip of Uncle Joe is disguised by his authorship of various blogposts, articles and even books, seemingly dedicated to exploring such notions as socialism, biblical studies, politics, theology, philosophy “and so on”, but which the discerning reader, armed with the relevant machinetranslation, will soon discover are really all about Stalin (and, moreover, his moustache).

Stalin is alleged to have remarked that ‘Everybody has a right to be stupid, but some people abuse the privilege’. ‘There’s a sucker born every minute’ is a phrase often credited to P.T. Barnum (1810–1891), an American showman. ‘Never give a sucker an even break’, said W. C. Fields.

There then follows a long piece by Jorge Semprun which I highly recommend. Read it.

More links below the fold. (more…)

Poumnik

Rosie on Orwell as Autumn and war advance. AWL’s Jim D on SWP’s Keith Flett on Derry 1969. Photography and memory. The posthumous life of Leon Trotsky. WWII and the socialist project today. Radical thinkers?

Published in: on September 5, 2009 at 2:07 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , ,

Memetic

Two memes channeled by my comrade Bob: the five word meme, and the academic bestsellers meme. Here are some snippets.

Words

Bob on Anti-fascism

antifascismAnti-fascism is at the core of my political being. The first political activism I was involved in, as a 15 year old, was action against the NF. Almost everything else about my politics has changed, but that has remained constant. What has changed, of course, is fascism. The classic Nazi-style fascism of the NF is no longer much of an issue (although extreme right violence remains a threat in the US and UK, and classic neo-Nazis are a major issue in parts of Central and Eastern Europe). The two mutations of fascism that are most important to combat now are, first, the rising forms of Euro-nationalist populism that are predicated on a generalised anti-immigrant racism as well as anti-Muslim racism, a movement that has been growing electorally across Western Europe, and, second, the rising forms of Islamist fascism which have had such a destructive effect on so many parts of the world.

History is Made at Night on Surrealism

trotsky-780584When I first got interested in politics I was greatly attracted to Dada, Surrealism and the Situationists, initially through second hand accounts in books like Richard Neville’s Play Power, Jeff Nuttal’s Bomb Culture and indeed Gordon Carr’s The Angry Brigade. The emphasis on play, festival and the imagination still resonates with me, but I would question the notion of desire as an unproblematic engine of radical change. Desire is surely formed amidst the psychic swamp of present social conditions and I would no longer advise everybody to take their desires for reality – sadly I have seen far too much of the impoverished desires of men in particular. Just look through your spam emails.

Martin in the Margins on Saramago

SaramagoI used to say that the veteran Portuguese writer was my favourite novelist, until I remembered that I’ve only ever finished one of his books. However, that book – The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis – ranks as one of the best (if not the best) works of fiction that I’ve ever read. In this phantasmagoric exploration of Lisbon, Saramago’s usual quirky and meandering prose is held in check by an intriguing plot and aborbing sense of place – not the case in the other novels of his that I’ve tried. When I first read the book some fifteen or twenty years ago, its author’s politics – he’s a lifelong Communist – were an added enticement to me. That was before my own disillusionment with ‘democratic centralism’, and before I discovered that Saramago’s involvement in the Portuguese revolution, far from being heroic, revealed the Stalinist tendencies of his (and his party’s) politics. Not to mention my disappointment that a writer capable of such great prose and historical imagination could make such foolish, naive and offensive comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany, as he did notoriously on a trip to the West Bank. A shining illustration, then, that creative genius and political stupidity can and often do co-exist.

The Social Republic on Chartism
One has to be awe of the millions who marched, organised and campaigned for the Charter. They did so in times of great and cruel distress, in a time before telegrams or mass railways, when the main traditional bases of such a cause were in near terminal decline. The General Unions had been broken in the most part, the old clubs of the Radicals were dying. You have to remember too that the Political Unions of the 1830s, seeking a similar political solution, had been a cynical con, carried on the masses who had given them a power to threaten the system.One under researched element of the movement, only touched upon by the culturalists, is that the Whig reforming state had erupted into areas of life untouched by the previous ‘Old Corruption’. Be it the poorhouse, exclusion from borough and parish government or the moves against popular ‘messy’ festivals, these ‘innovations’ aligned with a general and crippling crisis in the economy created a nomic crisis for the poor. As the church failed to keep up with the explosion in urban population and relief without the gulag conditions of the workhouse disappeared, the Charter was transformed.

In its political demands were a longing for a more equitable and less ruthless past and a brighter and ‘progressive’ future. Within the carnival of the movement, the realisation of the moral power of the crowd and the rhetoric, we can detect a attempt to break out of a time of misery into a meaningful time of hope and change. The movement that pushed self-education and self awareness, probably doing more for mass literacy that anything till the public schools of 1870, could create experiments in collective living, in ground upwards politics. Blessed with the belief in the moral case for the charter, the movement was able to become a transformative revitalisation movement. As a reaction to the crisis of modernity, such a formation is common. However, this mass movement, unlike Fascism or Bolshevik Communism, had no cult of struggle, of dying or killing. It’s internal discussions over Moral versus Physical power showed a remarkable maure level of understanding on the dangers of volence to the cause and the subsequent corruption of their ends.

This maturity, noted by Marx, combined with its moral power and willingness to openly discuss and challenge show a sparkling precedent for the left. How one could see Hamas or the CCP ‘progressive’ after learning of the ragged millions joyfully declaring their liberty and their rights is beyond my fuzzy headed imagination.

The New Centrist on Avrich
The historian of the U.S. and European (esp. Russian) anarchist movements. I had the opportunity to hear him speak a couple of times and he was an inspiration to me and my work. Attended his funeral in 2006 and remember his daughters talking about him taking them to a cemetery in Russia to locate the graves of Kropotkin and I think Bakunin as well but I could be wrong about Bakunin.

Books

Henry on E.P. Thompson, Making of the English Working Class

A classic, which reads more like a novel than a piece of academic history, rescuing organizers, sectaries, pamphleteers and gutter journalists – from the enormous condescension of posterity. Moving, smart, and wonderfully written.

Bob on CLR James The Black Jacobins

This makes a nice companion to Thompson. As Peter Linebaugh has written, while Thompson was writing in the shadow of the Soviet tanks in Budapest, James was writing against the Communist murder of non-CP anti-Franco partisans in Spain. The Black Jacobins tells the story of the Haitian revolution, showing how slave struggles in the colonies helped drive the great revolutionary moment of 1776-1792, unveiling a different dimension to the emergence of the great values of liberty, democracy and rights which triumphed in the French and American revolutions.

Brigada Flores Magon on The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, Jonathan Rose

I have to declare an interest as my paternal grandfather, an iron-moulder who had been disabled aged 19, as a private in Pontius Pilate’s Bodyguard, in the Kaiserschlacht of Spring 1918, was as good an autodidact as you’d find outside the Jura Federation and this book is very largely about the autodidact tradition among the British working classes, taking in the WEA and other helping hands as it goes along. I have read it at least three times since I bought it in 2002 and return to it again and again for encouragement. It is written in a thoroughly professional way but full of what can only be called love for the matter and manner of lifelong learning. Anyone involved in education must read this book.

More books

Moving on from memes, but kind of related to the book issue, a post from the Raincoat Optimist about writing drunk, touching on the brothers Hitchens, Nick Cohen at the Orwell Prize, and the “old culture” of the pub.

Finally on books, Contested Terrain notes three new publications of note, of which this one caught my eye:

A Living Revolution: Anarchism in the Kibbutz Movement
By Jame Horrox

Against the backdrop of the early development of Palestinian-Jewish and Israeli society, James Horrox explores the history of the kibbutz movement: intentional communities based on cooperative social principles, deeply egalitarian and anarchist in their organisation.

“The defining influence of anarchist currents in the early kibbutz movement has been one of official Zionist historiography’s best-kept secrets…It is against this background of induced collective amnesia that A Living Revolution makes its vital contribution. James Horrox has drawn on archival research, interviews and political analysis to thread together the story of a period all but gone from living memory, presenting it for the first time to an English-reading audience. These pages bring to life the most radical and passionate voices that shaped the second and third waves of Jewish immigration to Palestine, and also encounter those contemporary projects working to revive the spirit of the kibbutz as it was intended to be, despite, and because of, their predecessors’ fate.” —Uri Gordon, from the foreword

“A brilliant study of anarchism in the kibbutz movement, particularly regarding economy and polity. Revealing the roots and processes of the influx of anarchist ideas and practices into the early Jewish labour movement, assessing the actual kibbutz practice and seeing the kibbutzim as both a model way to live and a set of experiments to learn from, Horrox gives this history the meticulous attention it deserves. A Living Revolution is comprehensive, caring and even passionate, but also critical. Horrox’s study is an exemplary undertaking we can learn much from.”—Michael Albert, editor Znet and Z Magazine.

More from Horrox at Zeek.

One more thing

Because I haven’t found a better post to put this in, read this excellent account of Gramsci’s relevance today, at Left Luggage.

Ay Carmela

Just noticed that my Ay Carmela post has lost its embedded YouTube videos and they won’t stay in, so I have hyperlinked instead. Apologies to the Tendency and the Brigada.

Published in: on August 25, 2009 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  

In the cause of freedom

From Coatesy:

¡Ay, Carmela!

Last night because  there was crap on the telly I watched my old video of ¡Ay, Carmela!

What a brilliant film.

Apart from the fact that it has like my favourite actress in the world, Carmen Maura there. If anyone wants to understand the Spanish fight  against fascism, this is a must see. When she stands up for the brave Poles who fought for the International Brigades. Well…

¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!
prometemos combatir, ¡Ay Carmela! ¡Ay Carmela!

From On A Raised Beach:

Names

Norwich North was no surprise, though the Tories, duck-houses, moats and all, should have come in for a greater caning than they did. Good to see the Greens beat the fash and, best of all, to see the Libertarians get all of 36 votes. It looks as if the good folk of East Anglia aren’t yet ready for John Galt [not, if it comes to disambiguation, the author of the still very amusing 1820 novel The Ayrshire Legatees]. The name ‘libertarian’ in this context means 70% Stirnerite, 20% Poujadiste and 10% foumart. OK, the quantities can be re-arranged to suit all tastes. Whatever way you mix the components they are not ‘libertarians’ in the sense that would be recognised by the FIJL, Federación Ibérica de Juventudes Libertarias, the youth wing of the Spanish anarchist movement in the 1930s. They were part of a movement that was against the state all right, but also against private property, fiercely anti-clerical, for self-managed collectives and for direct democracy. Oh, and they turned the Ritz Hotel in Barcelona into a workers’ canteen. As a help to confused parties a real libertarian is pictured above.

Below the fold, some music and movies. Not sure why the YouTubes embedded have failed to appear. Have hyperlinked instead.
(more…)

Blog notes

I don’t recommend Fatal Paradox often enough. This post is very, very interesting and very pertinent to the issues this blog covers. Extract:

Reading Mark Derby’s book Kiwi Compañeros (which compiles a wealth of primary source material detailing the involvement of New Zealanders in the Spanish Civil War) recently I was struck by the disjunction between the confused and often demoralising experiences of the some of the participants whose stories were reproduced in that volume and the traditional leftist narrative according to which the Spanish Civil War was the most glorious hour of the Popular Front and the struggle against Fascism.

I managed to miss this post at Boffy’s blog, introducing some of Comrade Bough’s favourite blogs, including, I am pleased to say, this one, and I find myself in fine company indeed. Not sure, though, I agree with Serge’s Fist’s analysis of the United Front and Popular Front, but need to read it more carefully. (And certainly I would endorse Trotsky’s excellent advice to the ILP. It is not unlike the advice I would give to the AWL in its foolishly positive response to the SWP’s sham unity letter, but that’s for another place.) Again, it’s a bit off the topic of this blog, but Arthur has some good posts about Iran.

I have other favours to acknowledge: Peter Storm for Vrije landen tegen Che en Obama, TNC for Friday round-up, Bob for Remembering Steve Cohen, Martin for Balancing beatitude and Loach, Garaudy and the reactionary left, Histomatist for In Defence of Leon Trotsky.

Talking of Ken Loach, here’s Norm on Loach’s strangebedfellows, the Chinese totalitarian regime. And, staying with Norm, on another topic I’ve covered here: Marx and politics, Kolakowski notwithstanding

And some other Histomatist posts of note: Sheila Rowbotham on the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Homage to John Saville and Hubert Harrison on how to review books. John Saville also got a lovely appreciation from Doreen Massey and Hilary Wainwright in the Gruaniad. Hubert Harrison features in this ISJ review.

Finally, also in ISJ, this is important: Luke Stobart’s review of Michael Eaude’s Triumph at Midnight of the Century: A Critical Biography of Arturo Barea. Barea is a vastly underrated person in the English-speaking world.

Arturo Barea

Arturo Barea: This drawing originally appeared with An Honest Man (March 6, 1975)

Alternative histories

Harry Barnes remembers his father (beautiful piece). Histomatist defends Trotsky. Martin remembers to remember Bastille Day (and Casablanca). Rosie is underwhelmed by Katyn. Dennis Healey remembers the Italian campaign but can’t remember who wrote Lili MarleneEd Walsh reviews Leo Panitch’s call for a renewal of socialism. Conor McCabe remembers the 1955 Irish/Yugoslav soccer international. The Irish Left Archive retrieves the Anarchist Worker of 1979. Bataille Socialiste remember Marceau Pivert with Orwell in Spain. Bataille Socialiste rescue the legacy of Charles Allegier. Entdinglichung archives The Left. Hillel Ticktin and Adam Buick debate Trotskyism.

left_53_1941_1

masses-pub1947-450pixe

Anti-Stalinism/Hitchery/Bloggery

Anti-Stalinism

Anne Applebaum on the KGB in America. Enty on John Saville. The secret life of Victor Serge.

The Hitch

Christopher Hitchens on Abraham Lincoln’s centenary. Hitchens on Hemingway’s libido. Hitchens on Edward Upward. Hitchens on Karl Marx.

Bloggery

This blog – The Fatal Paradox – is new to me. I found it via Phil and will be visiting again! (Phil: “one of those blogs that defy easy categorisation. Hailing from New Zealand, it offers commentary on history, art and theory with a slight Spanish tinge to proceedings. Well worth checking out.”) We have Moriscos, Un chien andalou, Juan Goytisolo on Genet, Pablo Neruda: what more could one want?

Another blog new to me is Workers Self Management, an blog. Includes a bit of english history to be proud of, and a link to a WSA article on solidarity unionism that talks about the landless movement in Brazil and Spain in the 1930s.

Poumatic

Orwellia:

Hitchens on Orwell and 1984. Truth tellers. Rosie’s flowers.

Ken Loach ad absurdum:

Principia Dialectica on the Ken Barlow of film again

Marxist theory:

Moishe Postone/Paul Mattick.

Iberica/Judaica:

Barack Obama, Moses Maimonides and Roger Garaudy in Cordoba. Asymmetrical parallels between Is/Pal and republican Spain.

From the archive of struggle, no.21:

Hal Draper: How to Defend Israel (1948)
Hal Draper: Karl Marx and Simon Bolívar (1970)

Max Farrar: The Libertarian Movements of the 1970s. What can we learn (1989, pdf)

Obituaries/appreciations:

Entdinglichung plays dub for Walter Rodney. Adam Kirsch on IF Stone on Zionism and Communism.


More notes

Bloggery/Anti-Stalinism: A wonderful photo of Leon Trotsky, Diego Rivera and Andre Breton in Mexico. Standing with Trotsky’s victims at Kronstadt. Dovid Katz: Prague’s Declaration of Disgrace, on the purported moral equivalence between fascism and Stalinism. Michael Lind: “neoconservatism looks less like Wilsonianism than like Trotskyism-Trumanism”.

Bloggery/Orwellia: Ken McLeod on Jura, discussing surveillance. Orwell’s 1984 and the Fabians. Ken Loach locks out George Orwell. Ken Loach as the Ken Barlow of film. Better than Loach: Kevin Spacey and Homage to Catalonia. The misapprorpiation of Orwell by the free market right.

History: AWL narrates its pre-history in British Trotskyism from the 1940s to the 1960s. Socialist and anti-Stalinist songs of the 1950s by by Joe Glazer and Bill Friedland and others.

Below the fold: From the archive of struggle, no.18:  (more…)

Partisans and parasites

Rokhl Kafrissen on Yiddish folky Daniel Kahn. Extract:

His original songs evoke a Brechtian level of discomfort by problematizing heroes and making the grotesque sympathetic. For example, “Six Million Germans/Nakam” recounts the story of the hero of the Vilnius (known in Yiddish as Vilna) partisans, Abba Kovner, who was among the brave men and women who fought, with few weapons and terrible odds, against the Nazis and their collaborators. Less discussed is Kovner’s decision, with a group of friends, to take revenge on the Germans after the war. Calling themselves Nakam (revenge), they concocted a plan to poison German water supplies and take millions of German victims in retribution. The song, performed as an upbeat klezmer polka, jarringly juxtaposes subject and tone to bring up two of Kahn’s favorite themes, violence and revenge, and forces the listener to question the nature of heroism and justice.

Via Will, who provides some audio-visuals. Here Rokhl’s blog. Here’s Jewish Currents, where she writes. Here’s Daniel’s webpage, and his MySpace.

Also:

Ken Loach: I love many of Loach’s films. But I have started to despise the man. Why? Ask Rosie, Alex Massie, Alec or Martin.

From the archive of struggle. no.16: At the risk of descending into some kind of ever-decreasing spiral of circularity, big thanks to  entdinglichung, who thanks me in the latest in the excellent series of archival material from the history of the left. Included in this installment is more Karl Korsch from Class Against Class, Pierre Monatte in English from LBS, Sean Matgamna on Tony Cliff and the IS/SWP from back in 1969, a still anarchist Victor Serge in 1912 on banditry, and a homage to Marc Bloch, French anti-Nazi Resistance hero, by Georges Altman, founder of the “third force” socialist Rassemblement démocratique révolutionnaire.

Snippets: Dave O and Entdinglichung on the passing of Guillermo Lora, leader of Bolivia’s Partido Obrero Revolucionaria, one of the few Trotskyist organisations in history ever to gain a mass following. And Dave on why now is not the 1930s. Lefty parent in the basement of the library with Bakunin. More snippets from Roland and Bob. Soundtrack from Martin.

Drawing clear lines

Today’s battles

1. The Popular Front has been one of the great dead ends of the socialist movement. Today, a terrible version of it has emerged in the NO2EU electoral front in the UK, an alliance of Stalinists and Stalinoid trade union hacks with the most reactionary Little Englanders, with a smattering of anorak left groupuscules to give it some hard left legitimacy. Reminiscent of some of the dangerous alliances created by the Communist Party of Great Britain in the 1930s, when they allied with reactionary war-mongerers simply because they were anti-Nazi.  Yourfriendinthenorth neatly analyzes No2Eu here.

2. Historically, the flipside to the “anti-Nazi” Popular Front was (objectively pro-Nazi) pacifism. The argument for pacifism has recently been made by Nicholson Baker in Human Smoke. As mentioned already, Max Dunbar has been taking up the metaphorical cudgels against Baker (here, then here and then here). Terry Glavin has taken note:

I’m happy to see that Max Dunbar has now joined Anne Applebaum, William Grimes, Adam Kirsch and others in helpfully rubbishing Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke for being an ahistorical apologia for pacifism. Baker’s efforts at redeeming pacifism’s ill-deserved reputation in the context of the Second World War appear to follow exactly the same lines as Mark Kurlansky’s Nonviolence: Twenty-Five Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea, which I was happy to rubbish a while back.

George Orwell was there, of course, long before us, when he noticed that pacifism is “a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security.” Will I still be able to refer approvingly to Orwell’s many expressions of contempt for the bourgeoisie if the Liberal Party proceeds with granting the CHRC its greater powers?

You have to read the whole post for that last sentence to make sense, so please do.

3. 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.

After the fold: Historical Notes, From the Archive of Struggle, Book notes, Blog notes. (more…)

Carnivalesque

One or two dues to pay.

The Seven Songs for Spring meme has made very slow progress through the turgid waters of the internet, if that’s not too mixed a metaphor. Anyway, The Fat Man has picked it up. A few venn diagram moments, including Arlo Guthrie and Leonard Cohen. Honourable mentions for Airforce Amazons, Johnny Guitar and The Contentious Centrist, down other tributaries of this meme.

A while back I debuted in the 32nd Carnival of Socialism, hosted by AVPS.

Lastly POUMISTA looks at the use and abuse of George Orwell – quite timely as a few right wing establishment writers have made the shortlist for the Orwell prize for blogging.

Boffy’s Blog, which I featured here, is hosting next, so you never know.

La Tendance Coatesy, however, is not so happy with that carnival.

There’s something called the ‘Carnival of Socialism’. It’s a rotating list of Blog posts the ‘Carnis’ decide are socialist. I suppose they must be  –  if I could be arsed to check up on all of them. Like most self-appointed glee clubs it’s terribly dull. The latest one looks as if it’s written by a professional dullard. Somehow Tendance Coatesy, despite its leading position in the labour movement, and the hope and joy it spreads amongst the world’s struggling oppressed, doesn’t get mentioned. In its place too many Quorn pies of bland comment maketh a sorry feast.

With a proud tradition of contrarianism we at the Tendance are now holding an alternative Carnival, of, you guessed it, Contrariness. Here are some recent recommended Posts that grade the make: Tony Greenstein has a go at David Aaronovitch and ‘anti-Zionist’  Gillad Atzmon  (here). Bob from Brokley (where?) is a, “Blog about trans-Atlantic translation, Jews and Jew-haters, the old and new Stalinists, islam and secularism, contrarians and refuseniks, and South London.” Voltaire’s Priest has some excellent musings on religion’s claims to spread peace  at Shiraz Socialist. This drew forth a  reply from the Grande Dame of West London, Red Maria (not, I suspect, her real name). Charlie, who actually thinks about economics, asks if the left should consider a ’sustainable austerity’ programme. Stroppy pleads,  “can commentators on this please try to debate without calling people names such as scabs and nazis?”   Nation of Duncan does a bit of battling for the class struggle. Mick talks up the Japanese Communist Party. Pouminista does a magnificent job speaking about the often forgotten parts of the anti-fascist, anti-Stalinist left. Social Republic has some sharp thoughts on Italian nationalism. The Soul of Man Under Capitalism opines that “the man is screwing you through every fucking orifice…” Ian Bone recommends that we “get up off your arses..” Dave Osler controversially argues against Tax Cuts for the Rich. And Modernity does a Quick ‘Anti-Zionist’ Quiz that is certain to bring joy to members of George Galloway’s dwindling band of last-standers. Rosie Bell  has thoughtful reflections on the play Seven Jewish Children. Enty gets ready for May Day.

Modernity followed up by noting some rather poor practice in a subsequent Carnival of Socialism: positive press for the anti-socialist butcher of Tehran, racist dictator Ahmadinejad. (However, the carnival in question, the 34th, did have one or two highlights: Mick’s obit for Jack Jones, Charlie Pottins’ Toldpuddle history lesson, Splintered Sunrise’s Marxist revisionism.

While I’m blowing my own trumpet, finally, I also featured in Slack Bastard’s Random Notes:

A neat-o blog I recently discovered is called Poumista, ‘Against Stalinism and Fascism’, written from the perspective (one assumes) of a follower of Nin who escaped 1930s Spain via his/her own personal TARDIS and is now wreaking their revenge by blogging furiously. Poumista’s first blog entry (June 2008) concerns Communist hack Claud Cockburn: I still gotta copy of his writings on the conflict in Spain lying around somewhere.

Never had the word “neat-o” attached to me before. In the fine company, by the way, of Reading the Maps.

I think that’s it.

Published in: on May 6, 2009 at 3:21 pm  Comments (2)  
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Poumlicious

Nick Cohen takes no shit. Trotsky on religion. A Los Barricados: folk songs and other songs from On A Raised Beach. Anglo-Buddhist Combine: Maurice Brinton/Christopher Pallis. Harry Barnes’ military service: Basra, Bombs, and Books. SlackBastard’s books (including Haymarket: A Novel by Martin Duberman, Julián Casanova’s Anarchism, the Republic and Civil War in Spain: 1931–1939, Stuart Chrsitie’s We The Anarchists!: A Study Of The Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI) 1927–1937, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four). Paul as Orwell. Hamas kills opponents, Clare Short turns blind eye.

Seven songs for Spring

I’ve been quite a reticent blogger until recently, but seem to have got it more or less worked out now, although I’m not as sociable as a good blogger should be. Nonetheless, I seem to have arrived in the ‘sphere, by being tagged for a meme by someone I consider a fairly big league blogger, Roland of But I Am A Liberal. The instructions are this:

“List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.”

Well, here we go. Not very spring-like, I know.

1. Leonard Cohen “The Partisan”
Here’s two versions from YouTube – poor quality live, with Spanish subtitles, or good quality from the record, with cool slide show. Here’s the story of the song, originally “La complainte du partisan”, written in London during 1943, by Emmanuel D’Astier de la Vigerie (called “Bernard” in the French Resistance, a Stalinist til 1956, then an anti-Stalinist) and Anna Marly. (Here‘s Marly’s version.)

2. The Pogues “Lorca’s Novena”

YouTube here, last.fm here, homepage here.

Ignacio lay dying in the sand
A single red rose clutched in a dying hand
The women wept to see their hero die
And the big black birds gathered in the sky

Mother of all our joys, mother of all our sorrows
Intercede with him tonight
For all of our tomorrows

The years went by and then the killers came
And took the men and marched them up the hill of pain
And Lorca the faggot poet they left till last
Blew his brains out with a pistol up his arse

Mother of all our joys….

The killers came to mutilate the dead
But ran away in terror to search the town instead
But Lorca’s corpse, as he had prophesied, just walked away
And the only sound was the women in the chapel praying

Mother of all our joys….

I was tempted to pick “The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn”,  some of the backstory here.

3. Victor Jara “Luchin”

See also two other songs I love: Arlo Guthrie’s “Victor Jara” (words by the late Adrian Mitchell), and Calexico’s “Victor Jara’s Hands”. [Download mps of last from HaHa Music, Captains Dead, Tonegents.]

4. Manu Chao “Desaparecido”

Last.fm/YouTube; homepage.

I carry on me a pain and sorrow,
that doesn’t let me breathe,
I carry on me a final sentence,
That’s always pushing me along

They call me the disappearer
when they come I’ve already gone,
Flying I come, flying I go
Quickly, quickly on a lost course.

5. Gotan Project “Santa Maria (Del Buen Ayre)”

YouTube/Last.fm; MySpace. Everyone knows this I guess. It’s a bit too ubiquitous, on loads of TV ads, but it’s still great.

6. Woody Guthrie “Hard Travellin'”

I wanted to pick something by Woody, as I’ve been listening to him a lot recently. Browsing through YouTube, I found a slightly lame Klezmatics version of “Mermaid Avenue”, some live footage of “Ranger’s Command” from 1945, and “All You Fascist’s Are Bound To Lose” with Sonny Terry from a (WWII-era?) radio show. However, “Hard Travellin'” is the Woody song I first fell in love with, many years ago.

7. The Durutti Column “Homage To Catalonea

Lovely summery Spanish guitar from my favourite post-punk proto-glitch outfit. On album Vini Reilly. Included in a great playlist here.

I’m tagging: Renegade Eye, Fat Man on a Keyboard, Terry Glavin, Francis Sedgemore, Hak Mao, History is Made at Night and (why not?) Nick Cohen.

Poumtastic 2

Some of these items follow up yesterday’s.

More Abel Paz obituaries: Happy Medium (with beautiful photographs), SlackBastard (with three perfectly chosen YouTube videos).

More on Kuhn on Grossman from Bob Gould. And more from Bob G: the sad, contradictory life of Wilfred Burchett.

A little bit of left history relevant to this: PatriotDems on the “Red Dunhams” of Washington State, 1956.

No Borders 1935: on Emma Goldman and South Wales.

St John: T.R. Healey on John Cornford.

Martin Rowson in Tribune: To the Barricades!

Tribune Book Reviews: Emmanuel Cooper on Marc Chagall, Geoffrey Goodman on the Miners’ strike in Wales, Nathaniel Mehr on Mary Davis on Labour history.

It’s twenty years since Solidarnosc was made legal in Poland. Henri Simon: Mass strikes in Poland, 1980. BBC: children of the revolution.

The Underground Rebel Book Club. (Book covers here stolen from there.)

And a news item: Mexican president given copy of Orwell’s 1984 as a present from… the Queen of England.