One of the purposes of this blog is to join the dots in a history of the anti-Stalinist left: transnational traditions of dissident Marxism, democratic and libertarian socialism and class struggle anarchism which have actively resisted totalitarianism in all its forms. I came across this at the blog Psychadelic Bolshevik, and I take the liberty of reproducing it here. I’ve covered a lot of this material before (click on the tags at the bottom for more), but this puts it all together well. After I pasted it in, I realised most of it is the text by Nick Heath published on libcom, to which I have added a hyperlink where the quotation starts. However, in re-reading that, I am a little confused on the different French Trotskyists twists and turns, so added a note on that. If anyone can check that and let me know if I’ve got it right, I’d be grateful.
“They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”
…and Frida’s reality was a lifetime of extreme physical pain and tortuous suffering, punctuated with a tempestuous emotional turbulence.
Artist Frida Kahlo was born in 1907, the daughter of Hungarian Jewish father and indigenous Mexican mother. She grew up in Mexico City at a time when Mexicans were beginning to take great pride in their native culture and traditions. Frida was proud of her pre-Columbian heritage and wore local costume, including long embroidered skirts in bright colours, big silver earrings, flowers, and jewellery from the folk tradition. Her distinctive look gave her a brand, yet averted attention from her tiny, weak, disabled body. (more…)
I have been been reading lately about Jack Abrams. His basic life story is told by Nick Heath at Libcom, and he is a minor character in The Gentle General: Rose Pesotta Anarchist and Labor Organizer by Elaine Leeder. He was born in Russia in 1883, went to America in 1906, worked (like many key anarchist activists of the period) as a bookbinder, became a trade union militant and anarcho-syndicalist. With about a group which included his partner Mary Abrams and Mollie Steimer, he edited the underground newspaper Frayhayt (Freedom), from an apartment at 5 East 104th Street in East Harlem. The most dramatic and well-known part of his story came in 1918, as told here by Nick Heath:
He was the author of two leaflets calling for a general strike against the US intervention of spring –summer 1918 against the Russian Revolution. These called for a social revolution in the United States. The paper was folded up tightly and posted in mailboxes around New York and the leaflets each had a print run of 5,000. The federal and local authorities began to be on the lookout for the authors of this propaganda. He was arrested on the 24th August 1918 along with Jacob Schwartz. The two were beaten with fists and blackjacks on the way to the police station. There further beatings were dished out. The arrest of the Frayhayt group signaled the start of massive repression of the anarchist movement in the United States. The Abrams case as it became known was a was a landmark in the suppression of civil liberties in the USA. Schwartz died in October due to the severe beatings he had received, although the authorities put it down to Spanish influenza…
On October 25th 1918 Jack , together with Sam Lipman and Hyman Lachowsky, was sentenced to 20 years hard labor and fined $ 1000 on charges of “anti-American activities.”, whilst Mollie Steimer received fifteen years and a $500 fine… In mid-1919 was filed an appeal, and in the meantime Jack and the others were released.
Socialist Party leader Norman Thomas was one of the people active in the campaign that led to this release. The Supreme Court upheld the conviction, but was notable for the dissenting opinion of Oliver Wendell Holmes (joined by Louis Brandeis):
we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threatened immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.
The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. “That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution.
Anyway, the group tried to escape to Mexico but got waylaid and some went to Russia, where (ironically, considering the defence of the revolution had got them locked up) they witnessed the deepening repression of the Bolshevik state, and before long were deported from there too. Eventually, in 1926, Mary and Jack Abrams wound up in Mexico, in Cuernavaca, not far from Mexico City, where he joined a group of Spanish anarchist exiles, Tierra y Libertad (Land and Freedom).
Steimer’s route to Mexico was even more complex, also via Russia, where she was imprisoned by the GPU (forerunner of the KGB), to Berlin, from which she fled when Hitler came to power, to France, where she was again interned in Camp Gurs as a German. (She must have been there, May-June 1940, at the same time as Hannah Arendt. I wonder if they met?) Then to Vichy – according to Wikipedia “Steimer was aided principally by May Picqueray (1893-1983), the militant anarchist editor of Le Refractaire, who had previously assisted the couple by protesting their imprisonment in Russia by the Bolsheviks in 1923.”
And here’s Fleshin at his trade:
They retired to Cuernavaca in 1963.
My first remembrance of the many visits we made to Mexico City is from 1945, when I was nine. As others were gathering in Times Square to celebrate the end of World War II, we saw the giant parade that wound through downtown Mexico City. Abrams took me to the major sites and to children’s films, willingly spending hours with me while my parents went off to experience Mexico’s revolutionary culture. In a later visit, either 1949 or 1950, Abrams, who had learned from my parents that I had already begun to circulate in the orbit of New York’s young Communist movement, did his best to warn me about the ethics and true nature of Stalin’s regime.
As we all walked through the streets of beautiful Cuernavaca (now a famous tourist resort), my parents spotted the painter David Alfaro Siqueras, one of the founders of the Mexican muralist school. The famed artist approached Abrams to say hello, and much to my shock, Abrams refused to shake his hand and exchange greetings. “I don’t talk to murderers,” he shouted at Siqueras, and turned and walked away. When he had calmed down, Abrams told me about Siqueras’s role in the attempted murder of Leon Trotsky at his estate in the Coyocan suburb of Mexico City, when the painter led a group of machine-gun-toting raiders in a failed effort to kill the exiled Bolshevik.
Abrams often socialized and became friends with other exiles, despite occasionally severe political differences. He was a regular guest at Trotsky’s walled-in compound, where the two played chess and argued about Bolshevism. After his death, Trotsky’s widow presented Abrams a set of Trotsky’s favorite Mexican-made dishware as a remembrance of their solidarity and friendship—a gift which Abrams later passed on to my parents. Often in later years, I would serve cake to my Stalinist friends on these plates, and after they admired the beauty of the design and craftsmanship, I would tell them whose dishes they were eating from, and watch them turn pale.
Abrams also befriended the great painter Diego Rivera, who spent his years moving from Bolshevism to Trotskyism and back to official Soviet Communism. Despite these twists and turns, and probably because at critical moments Rivera had opposed Stalin, Abrams maintained the relationship. Once, he took me to meet the artist and watch him paint the murals—some of the last he was to create—in the Del Prado Hotel in the main part of the city. In later years, the hotel would cover the murals with curtains because of embarrassment about their anti-Catholic and revolutionary themes. Rivera gave Abrams some of his paintings, one of which Abrams gave to my parents. My mother kept it in her New York City apartment.
Further reading: Abrams, Jack. J. Aybrams-bukh dos lebn un shafn fun an eygnartike perzenlikhkayt. [Jack Abrams Book, The Life And Works Of A Peculiar Personality] Mexico City: Centro Cultural Israelita de Mexico, 1956. 329pp [via YAB] If anyone has this, and wants to write a guest post based on it, please get in touch!
EVENT: Annexation, Autonomy, or Independence? The Politics of Cuban Identity in the Émigré Communities of New York and Florida, 1840s-1890
Via 171 bus:
“Annexation, Autonomy, or Independence? The Politics of Cuban Identity in the Émigré Communities of New York and Florida, 1840s-1890s”
Thursday 18th April 2013, 2 pm – 3.30 pm
Seminar Room, Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6QS
Hosted by the ESRC Centre on Migration Policy and Society (COMPAS)
This seminar will explore the changing modalities of diasporic identities among émigré Cuban workers in the nineteenth century, including tensions between Creole and Peninsular orientations, and tensions between different conceptions of nationalism and internationalism in the anarchist and labour movements.
For information, please contact Ben Gidley, COMPAS firstname.lastname@example.org
Directions and map at: http://www.compas.ox.ac.uk/about/how-to-find-us/
January 7, 1919 – This date marked the beginning of Argentina’s “Bloody Week” (AKA Tragic Week) in Buenos Aires. Workers (led by Italian anarchists) were demonstrating for the 8-hour work day and were fired upon by the authorities, leaving four dead and nearly 30 wounded. Clashes with the authorities on the day of the funerals left another 50 dead. A General Strike was called and strikers were attacked by trade union reformists and paramilitary groups collaborating with the police. By January 16 the strike was crushed, with as many as 700 dead and 2000 wounded, many of whom were Jewish-Russian immigrants targeted by racists and anti-Bolshevik hysteria.(From the Daily Bleed and Wikipedia)January 7, 1939 – Tom Mooney, a labor activist wrongly convicted of murder in the San Francisco Preparedness Day bombing in July 1916, was freed after 22 ½ years in jail, granted an unconditional pardon by Governor Culbert Olson.(From the Daily Bleed)
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Los Jaivas: Mira Niñita (1972)
From the great music blog, Rising Storm:
To the average Chilean, writing an article about Los Jaivas’ 1972 sophomore record La Ventana may very well read like beating a dead horse. Indeed, there is perhaps no single band here in Chile which has become more representative of Chilean culture and patria than this psychedelic folk-rock ensemble, and no song more universally known than their anthem of popular unity and brotherhood, “Todos Juntos.” Though the band was born from the great social and political revolutions of the early 1970s, they are today accepted even by the more conservatively minded members of the populace as, at the very least, an established symbol of Chile’s national artistic identity.
[…] Though the concept of combining late-1960s rock and roll with traditional Chilean folk music may not seem so novel today, at the time there was a strong gap between the folksingers and the mainstream rock and roll youth crowd. Like everything in Chile, this was a conflict born out of radical politics and social consciousness as the country tried to break the stranglehold countries like the United States and Britain had on its economic and cultural life. Los Jaivas refused to accept this unnecessary barrier between musics, however, recognizing both the radical consciousness and importance of their country’s folkloric movement as well as the raw excitement and appeal of the burgeoning psychedelic rock scene.
[…] The band’s fight to draw the threads of Chilean music together was strengthened by the participation of Patricio Castillo and Julio Numhauser, former members of the revolutionary Nueva Canción ensemble Quilapayún, then working in their own way to help build Chilean folk-rock as Los Amerindios. […]
Following the success of the song “Todos Juntos” La Ventana was reissued under the same name with new album artwork adhering to the progressive rock aesthetics that the band began to take on in the later seventies. The record is widely available in Chile and neighboring countries, but somewhat more difficult to come by north of the equator. Import Chilean copies include several bonus tracks that, while not essential, help to expand the album’s artistic scope and give further testimony to the group’s ground-breaking work during this era.
CD Reissue | Ans Records | buy here ]
Written by Nik |
From a recent interview with the former Argentine military ruler Jorge Videla found on World War 4 Report , during the military regime were 30,000 political activists, especially the left-Peronist guerrillas and the communist PRT-ERP but also many trade unionists and members of other organizations of the Left, were murdered, often by “disappearances”:
“Our objective” in the March 24, 1976 coup that started the seven years of bloody military rule “in what discipline to anarchized society,” Videla explained to Reato. The generals wanted “to get away from a populist, demagogic vision, in relation to the economy, to go to a liberal market economy. We wanted to discipline unionism and crony capitalism. “Argentine business owners were directly involved in the killings, Videla added, although” they washed their hands “of the actual violence. “They said, ‘Do what you have to do,’ and later they would add some on. How many times they told me, ‘You’ve come up short, you should have killed a thousand more, 10,000 more’! “
Arrival of a group of refugee from Chile to be resettled in Switzerland
UNHCR/ D.A. Giulianotti/ 1976
“UNHCR began work in Chile in 1973, a week after the overthrow of the government of Salvador Allende. Immediately after the coup, the then High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadruddin Aga Khan, sent a cable to the military junta reminding them of Chile’s obligations to protect refugees. As soon as it had opened its office, UNHCR began helping thousands of refugees from other countries who had earlier fled to Chile, and who now were being detained or felt threatened under the new government. UNHCR staff established inviolable “safe havens” inside Chile where these refugees could be lodged, protected and assisted while new countries of asylum were arranged. Several appeals were issued asking third countries to open their doors to these refugees. In 1973-74, UNHCR Santiago managed to find resettlement for about 2,600 foreign refugees, helped those opting for repatriation to return to their countries of origin, and assisted the ones who chose to remain in Chile.
At the same time, UNHCR staff in neighbouring countries had to cope with an influx of tens of thousands of Chileans escaping military repression. In all, UNHCR provided protection and assistance to more than 200,000 Chileans in surrounding countries. In the years that followed, UNHCR focused on reunifying the families of fleeing Chilean refugees.”
Source: Refugees Magazine Issue 104 (1996)
- Chile: Mapuche Still Face Exclusion And Inequality (eurasiareview.com)
“And one by one the nights between our separated cities are joined to the night that unites us.” – Pablo Neruda
I just saw that Sergio Larrain, the great Chilean photographer, died last month.
“Sergio Larrain began photographing the famous Chilean port in the 1950s but it was not until 1963 that he spent more time there, this time, in the company of the poet Pablo Neruda. The text and photographs in Valparaiso were published in the journal Du in 1966. But it had to wait until 1991 before it was published as a book, which has since gained a cult following. Not only did Sergio Larrain ceaselessly climb the narrow streets, the stairs, and the hills of this city frozen in time, but he also shed light on an entire bohemian lifestyle in the neighborhoods nearby the port, which then counted some one hundred brothels and cabarets. The result is a series of pictures that has become an essential reference in the work of this photographer who escapes categorization.”–Magnum Photos
What nonsense/You are/What a crazy/Insane Port./
Your mounded head/Disheveled/You never finish combing your hair/Life has always surprised you
Working as an investigative photographer for the National Child Labor Committee, sociologist Lewis Hine documented working and living conditions of children in the United States between 1908 and 1924. In a series of poignant photographs, Mr Hine documented children who were sent to work soon after they could walk, and were paid based on how many buckets of oysters they shucked daily. The advent of industrialisation at the turn of the 20th century meant an exploitation of child labour, as factory workers often saw children as a cheaper, more manageable alternative to older workers.
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Aurelio Martinez: Tio Sam
Aurelio Martinez, Garifuna musician and activist from Honduras, sings about migrants in the US. The album, Laru Beya, is on Real World, and is a tribute to the late, wonderful Andy Palacio. Part of it was recorded in Senegal, and the title, meaning “On the beach”, refers both to the coastal lives of the Garifuna and to the experience of seeing the coastal forts where Africans were taken out of the continent into New World slavery.
But by the time the Grammy-nominated album Watina was released in 2007 by his Belizean friend Andy Palacio, Aurelio was off the radar. He’d gone into politics – spending four years in the Honduran congress, the first politician of African descent in the country’s history.
Four years was long enough: “Corruption, discrimination, everywhere. No one was interested in indigenous rights, only in getting rich. And I had no time for music,” he says. “But through music I can reach out to everyone.”
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Harry Dean Stanton
“Harry Dean Stanton and his band perform “Cancion Mixteca” (“Paris, Texas“) @ Philip Dane’s Cigar Lounge, Beverly Hills. This clip appeared in the episode titled “The Roots of Everything” (History of the Blues) of the ABC series “Access All Areas” and went to air April 6, 1997.”
“The CECAM marching band is used in “Cancion Mixteca”, which thematically covers the Mixtec mythical character of the Sun Archer and the constant migration of the Mixtec people.”
Continuing last week’s Yiddish theme…
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”
Jacob Sandler: “Tsvey Shvartsen Oygen”
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.
Rebekah del Rio: Llorando (Crying)
Lila Downs: La Sanduga
Amparanoia: Dolor, dolor
First, an endorsement for TC’s “blogging notes”:
While waiting for the results of this morning’s start of the French Day of Action against Pension Reform here are some long overdue Blogging Notes.
Phil, the Very Public Sociologist (whose site covers with verve Theory, Politics and grass-roots activity) observed a few months back that many left Bloggers had got the taste from their time on the UK Left Network Yahoo list. The hard-fought wars played out on this forum have no doubt shaped us. Some predicted that Blogging would mean we ended up ploughing our own course, with ever-decreasing contact with reality. Has this happened? It is interesting that many of these Blogs successfully integrate activism, writing immediate posts, and articles for the socialist press.
Amongst those which are always of interest are: Organised Rage – Mick covers of a wide range of issues, particularly Irish ones, and his obituaries of labour movement figures – the latter of great value. Harpy Marx writes of her London activism, with film reviews and wonderful photos. Her in-depth knowledge of welfare makes her a leader in the field. Stroppy, a collective Blog, is entertaining with a direct insight into the doings of the London RMT. Marashajane in Union Futures integrates her work as a member of the Labour Representation Committee with East London left union and Labour politics. Anna Chen produces a professional Blog with wit. Her defence of China is carried further by Socialist Unity. Dave’s Part, Dave Osler’s Blog, manages to directly address the kind of political issues a wider public talks about. Dolphinarium swims on, in-between month-long glasses of wine.
Harry’s Place – whose founder believe or not originated on UKLN – has defended Israel more and more vociferously. Its Ezraitist phase, fighting the Cold War by re-heating Google left-overs, overshadows its continuing useful role as an exposer of Islamism and its apologists.
Other Blogs worth noting: Shiraz Socialist – for its against-the-grain attacks and good sense about Islamism. Rosie Bell, raising the cultural tone. Bob From Brockley offers an indispensable round-up of left Blogging, and recently wrote a superb history of the RCP/Living Marxism. Poumista covers with rigour the kind of left the Tendance comes from. The Spanish Prisoner does great film reviews, and – a real source of new information – explains life on the Dole as an American leftist. Entdinglichung covers such a range of European leftist news, history and theory, that one wonders how he manages it. Beyond the Transition is essential reading on the former Eastern Bloc.
“Her defence of China is carried further by Socialist Unity.” Carried a little too far in my view!
Also, a doff of the hat to Kellie, for History by Radio, with lots of wonderful radio and history links, including these:
I’ve also been revisiting the How We Got Here history podcast from PRI’s The World. From August, Jeb Sharp interviews film maker Yael Hersonski on her documentary A Film Unfinished, an investigation into the making of Nazi propaganda footage of the Warsaw Ghetto from 1942. More on the project from Bloomberg.
More recently from The World, yesterday in fact, Lisa Mullins interviews Cuban artist Inverna Lockpez on her experiences in joining Castro’s revolution, and how she became a casualty of the revolution. Comic artist Dean Haspiel has drawn an adaptation of her story, Cuba, My Revolution. His account of the project is here, and there’s an exhibition of art from the book currently at the Kentler International Drawing Space, Brooklyn. Inverna Lockpez’s own art is here. In the later part of the interview, she talks about coming to the US in the ’60s, still a liberal, but experiencing a difference with fellow artists of the American left:
…I could not talk about Fidel with my friends, with my artist friends, because they adore him, and they adore Che […] Che Guevara is an idol for so many individuals, and they don’t know who Che was really, and after fifty one years people are still looking at Fidel like the saviour, the one that has stood against the Americans.
Finally, from the afore-mentioned Shiraz Socialist, the great Jim Denham channelling James Cannon again, this time on the miracle that is the rescue of the Chilean miners. Jim has single-handedly made me reconsider by very negative views of Cannon, views accumulated as a disciple of Al Richardson and Sam Bornstein.
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Los Hermanos Zaizar: La muerte de Zapata [corrido]