Remembering women revolutionaries: Antoinette Konikow

This is the first in a new series of posts on under-remembered radical women. Today we focus on Antoinette F. Konikow. Konikow has a very good quality Wikipedia article, so I’ll start with that, although

Antoinette F. Buchholz Konikow (1869–1946) was an American physician, feminist, and radical political activist. Konikow is best remembered as one of the pioneers of the American birth control movement and as a founding member of the Communist Party of America, forerunner of the Communist Party, USA. Expelled from the Communist Party as a supporter of Leon Trotsky in the fall of 1928, Konikow went on to become a founder of the Communist League of America, the main Trotskyist organization in the United States. Konikow’s 1923 book, Voluntary Motherhood, is regarded as a seminal work in the history of 20th Century American feminism.

Antoinette F. Buchholz was born on November 11, 1869, in the Russian empire, the daughter of Theodor Buchholz and Rosa Kuhner Buchholz, both of whom were ethnic Jews.[1] She attended secondary school in Odessa in the Ukraine before emigrating to Zurich, Switzerland to attend the university there.[1]

She married a fellow student, Moses J. Konikow (pronounced KO-ni-koff), in Zurich in 1891.[2] While in Switzerland, Konikow joined the Emancipation of Labor group headed by Georgii Plekhanov.[3]

The Konikows subsequently came to America in 1893.[4] Antoinette attended Tufts University, near Boston, from which she graduated with honors in 1902 with a medical degree.[1] The couple had two children, Edith Rose Konikow (b. 1904) and William Morris Konikow (b. 1906) before divorcing in 1908.[1] She remained a practicing medical doctor in Boston up through the 1930s.

Political career

Antoinette Konikow was politically active from an early age, joining the Socialist Labor Party of America (SLP) in 1893 and writing and speaking on the organization’s behalf.[1] She was a delegate to the organization’s 1896 National Convention at which it determined to establish the dual union to the American Federation of Labor, the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance.[5]

Konikow also worked closely with the Boston Workman’s Circle (Yiddish: אַרבעטער־רינג, Arbeter Ring), a socialist Jewish social aid organization.[6] In order to participate in the organization, Konikow learned Yiddish, one of five languages which she learned in her lifetime.

She left the SLP in 1897 over what she believed to be the narrow and dogmatic policies of the organization.[7] Instead, Konikow cast her lot with the Social Democracy of America headed by Eugene V. Debs and Victor L. Berger, going so far as to sign a petition to the Massachusetts SLP convention inviting it to merge with the fledgling Chicago group.[8] For her trouble the May 1898 Massachusetts State Convention of the SLP saw fit to formally expel Konikow from the organization.[8]

Konikow followed Debs and Berger in an 1898 split which established the Social Democratic Party of America and in 1901 became a founding member the Socialist Party of America (SPA) when that organization was created through a merger of the Social Democratic Party and an Eastern organization by the same name composed of former SLP dissidents.

Konikow was a delegate to the SPA’s 1908 National Convention,[9] and was later instrumental in the establishment of several Socialist Sunday Schools, institutions designed to train working class children in socialist principles and ethics as an alternative to religious instruction.[1]

When the Socialist Party split at its 1919 Emergency National Convention, Konikow cast her lot with the Communist Party of America (CPA), in which the radical foreign language federations of the old SP played a large role. Konikow participated as a delegate to the founding convention of the CPA in Chicago in September 1919.[5]

Konikow was also active in the Communist Party’s “aboveground” activities in this period, serving as chair of the New England Division of the National Defense Committee, a party organization dedicated to raising funds to pay for its legal defense needs. Konikow was a delegate to the second convention of the Workers Party of America, successor to the underground Communist Party of America, held in New York City from December 24 to 26, 1922.[10] In 1924, Konikow stood as the Workers Party’s candidate for U.S. Senate from Massachusetts.[11]

Konikow was also deeply committed to the cause of birth control, a taboo topic in this era. She was a member of the Society of Sanitary and Moral Prophylaxis, one of the leading birth control organizations of the day.[1] In the mid-1920s, she and her son-in-law, Joseph Vanzler (a.k.a. John G. Wright), jointly developed an inexpensive spermicidal jelly, the formula of which she shared with officials in the Soviet Union when she visited there as a birth control specialist in 1926.[7]

An article by Sharon Smith on Marxist feminism discusses this period of her life:

Historians have focused much attention on the pioneering role in the early birth control movement of then-socialist Margaret Sanger, who later converted to a racist eugenics viewpoint.

But many other women radicals in the IWW and SP received far less acclaim yet maintained a lifetime commitment to fighting for the right of women to control their own reproductive lives. At a time when dispensing even information about contraception was illegal, these activists faced police raids and arrest as they continued their work among women.

Antoinette Konikow, a Russian revolutionary who migrated to the United States in 1893, dedicated herself to this project while remaining central to the US revolutionary socialist movement until her death in 1946. Konikow explicitly tied women’s right to control their fertility to the fight for women’s equality. As she wrote in her 1923 pamphlet, Voluntary Motherhood, “Women can never obtain real independence unless her functions of procreation are under her own control.”26 Konikow never veered from this approach, presaging themes that emerged in women’s liberation movements of the 1960s.

Konikow’s offices were raided regularly, so she kept her medical files in code to prevent police from prosecuting her patients. As socialist-feminist Diane Feeley commented, “Although the overwhelming majority of her patients were poor immigrant women, whenever Dr. Konikow was arrested, she found that bond was quickly posted by some wealthy woman, who, given Massachusetts’ repressive laws, may have had to turn to this revolutionary for help.”27

As a medical doctor, Konikow described how university training left doctors ignorant of birth control methods and therefore unable to help their women patients urgently seeking to control their fertility. In response, she authored The Physician’s Manual of Birth Control in 1931, which included not only a detailed discussion of the female anatomy but also information on what she considered the most reliable method of birth control at the time—the diaphragm and spermicidal jelly.28

Back to Wikipedia:

While in the USSR, Konikow was won over to the political ideas of Leon Trotsky, then embroiled in a bitter factional dispute with the leadership of the Russian Communist Partyheaded by Joseph Stalin and Nikolai Bukharin. From 1927, Konikow was open in her support with the program of the United Opposition of Trotsky with Grigorii Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev in the USSR.[12] This did not lead to her immediate removal from the party, however, only to the loss of her position as an instructor in the local party training school.[12]

Konikow was expelled from the Communist Party headed by Executive Secretary Jay Lovestone in November 1928 as a Trotskyist. Upon her expulsion, she formed a tiny group in Boston calling itself the Independent Communist League. This group later merged with the Communist League of America headed by James P. Cannon, Martin Abern, and Max Shachtman at the time of its formation later that same year.[13] She remained active in this movement until her death, contributing frequently to the party press on women’s issues. At the convention establishing the Socialist Workers Party in January 1938, Konikow was named an honorary member of its governing National Committee.[7]

The orthodox Trotskyists of the ICL (the Sparts), describe her expulsion from the CP:

After James P. Cannon’s faction in the CP was expelled in 1928 for supporting the Left Opposition, Konikow was summoned to appear before the CP’s Political Committee. She wrote a defiant letter to CP secretary Jay Lovestone.

This letter is published on the Marxist Internet Archive, for some reason in the archive of the SWP patriarch Cannon rather than her own rather meagre one:

Dear Comrade:

This sudden order to appear Friday noon in New York before the Political Committee is in line with your usual tricky policy. You know well that going to New York from Boston means quite an expense and that leaving my medical practice for several days involves a big financial loss. Why can’t a local committee consider my case? Because they fear the indignation of the local comrades? Or you are not sure that the local committee would act against me with the desired decision? All you want is to be able to tell the rank and file you offered me a hearing and I refused to avail myself of the opportunity. According to the latest decision of the Comintern we should have full inner party democracy and inner party criticism. Why does this not apply to the Trotsky Opposition? Because a few faked resolutions were forced through our party organization by misrepresentation and terrorism? I did work for Trotsky’s ideals and tried to arouse sentiment for the Opposition in our party, and I consider I have the full right to do so according to the party’s stand on inner party democracy. But it is useless to expect your committee to accept this viewpoint, for your leadership would not last long under rules of real democracy in our party. I consider that the party has taken an outrageously wrong standing on the Trotsky situation in Soviet Russia. This stand is a result of the servile submission to the Stalin faction.

It happens that I am one of these comrades of whom comrade Stalin in his answer to the American Trade Union Committee said, “Real Communists cannot be controlled from Moscow.” I am willing to submit to discipline if a proposition had been given free discussion where both sides were equally given a chance to express themselves. Otherwise I consider it my right and duty to oppose wrongly imposed discipline.

Your decision about me is already made up and my statement will never reach the comrades until I see to it myself. It is good that you have not the power to take away my livelihood as it is done in Soviet Russia. As to besmirching of my name before the comrades, this is to be expected.

A comrade of thirty-nine years services in the socialist cause.

Dr. A.F. Konikow


The Sparts again:

Lovestone in his uniquely nasty manner said after reading Konikow’s letter to the November 2 meeting of the Committee: “It is obvious from her letter that she is the worst kind of a Trotskyite, biologically as well as politically. The sooner we throw her out the better for the party.”

Due to feminists such as Konikow, the Trotskyists took up feminist positions that perhaps grated with the workerism that was their dominant tone. Her 1941 article, “Birth Control Is No Panacea, But It Deserves Labor’s Aid Against Reaction“, is on the Marxist Internet Archive. It was published in the SWP’s The Militant and shows how feminist birth control politics were articulated within and to some extent against orthodox Leninist analysis.

The Sparts also movingly write about the end of her political life:

In November 1938, there was a celebration of Konikow’s 50 years as a revolutionary Marxist. She was presented with a signed picture of Trotsky, who wrote: “We are proud, my dear Antoinette, to have you in our ranks. You are a beautiful example of energy and devotion for our youth. I embrace you with the wish: Long Live Antoinette Konikow. Yours fraternally, Leon Trotsky, Oct. 28, 1938, Coyoacán.”

I will end with two quotes from her speech at that meeting; the words still jump off the page today.

“In 1888, fifty years ago, I joined the Social Democratic Party of Russia. Life was as dark and hopeless as it may seem to many today. I was delighted to hear the words of Plekhanov at the first congress of the Second International: ‘Only the working class will lead the Russian revolution!’ But the working class of Russia was spiritually even further away from us than the workers of the United States today. If anyone had told us at that time that 15 years later a strike of one and a half million workers would almost overthrow Czarism, and that 15 years after that the Russian soldier would turn his gun not only against Czarism but against the Russian bourgeoisie, we would not have believed it. We would have laughed. But it happened—and it will happen again. Only this time it will not take 30 years.”

To the youth in the room that day, she said: “We place in your hands a banner unsoiled. Many times it was dragged into the mud. We lifted it up and lovingly cleansed it to give it to you. Under the red banner of Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky, you will conquer.”

Footnotes: (more…)

From the Archive of Struggle no.83: Workers Liberty special

A participant’s account of the Norwegian General Strike against the occupying Nazis. From Norwegian Worker / Labor Action.
This assessment of Richard Wright, the great black American Communist, author of “Black Boy”, and “Native Son”, appeared in the New International, late in 1941, as a review of “Bright and Morning Star”. By James M. Fenwick.
This fine declaration of faith, principles and motives for socialist action was made by the great American Marxist James P Cannon as he and 15 others prepared to go to jail for their political activities.

Tasks of Communist Education (1923)

An article by Leon Trotsky, first published in a publication of the pre-Stalinist Communist Party of Great Britain.
 Maybe the first big classical-Marxist statement on imperialism was by Karl Kautsky, in 1899, replying to Eduard Bernstein’s call for a “revision” of the perspective of Marx and Engels.
The Archive of Struggle, previous editions:


US SWP Zionist shock

From the Meretz USA blog. Note this is the American SWP not the British SWP, totally unrelated beasts.

Trotskyist Party Turns Pro-Zionist

Our colleague, Arieh Lebowitz, has learned over the weekend that the old Trotskyist political party, the Socialist Workers Party, has dropped its traditionally fierce anti-Zionism.  The following is a statement by an SWP candidate for the city council of Washington, D.C.  Note that it includes this explicitly pro-Zionist sentence: “We support the right of return for all Jews to move to Israel if they choose.”  It also condemns Hamas terrorism.

This calls to mind the fact that Isaac Deutscher, a follower and classic biographer of Leon Trotsky, had regretted his anti-Zionism when he reflected on what happened to Polish Jews he had advised against leaving for Palestine.  This also may remind us of the brief pro-Jewish phase of Soviet policy in its early years, and the brief pro-Zionist stance of the USSR at Israel’s birth.

Vol. 79/No. 4      February 9, 2015

DC socialist: ‘Workers
need to fight Jew-hatred!’

Recent murderous attacks on Jews in Argentina, in a kosher grocery store in France and on the street in Israel are a blow and a challenge to all working people. (more…)

Published in: on February 20, 2015 at 12:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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From the archive of struggle: The Newsletter

Just saw this on the great Hatful of History blog:

After last week’s post about new avenues of research for British leftist history, I just thought I’d mentioned that another resource has appeared online. The Newsletter was edited by Peter Fryer, the Daily Worker reporter who had left the Communist Party of Great Britain after the invasion of Hungary in late 1956, after his departure from the CPGB and during his brief membership in The Club. The Club was an orthodox Trotskyist entrist group run by Gerry Healy, who later formed the Socialist Labour League (which transformed in the 1970s into the Workers Revolutionary Party). The Newsletter was edited by Fryer while he was involved in The Club, but after 1958, the publication was taken over by Healy and it became an SLL publication shortly afterwards, alongside Healy’s Labour Review (which also attracted former CPGB members, such as Brian Pearce). The ‘independent’ version of The Newsletter, under Fryer’s editorship from May 1957 to December 1958, has now been digitised by Steve Drury and is available on Norman Harding’s blog Staying Red (Harding was a long-term member of the SLL/WRP), as well as on the Marxist Internet Archive’s ETOL site.

The original flyer announcing the publication of The Newsletter (April 1957). Pic from Staying Red blog.

The original flyer announcing the publication of The Newsletter (April 1957). Pic from Staying Red blog.

Ted Grant, best or worst of a bad bunch?

Phil writes:

What can you say about the three key figures of British post-war Trotskyism? Gerry Healy was a hyperactive pseud with a penchant for thuggery, rape and doing dodgy deals with unsavoury Arab regimes. Tony Cliff was flighty, excitable and an inveterate bandwagon chaser – qualities he imparted to the Socialist Workers Party. And there is Ted Grant. Founder of the Militant Tendency and with a reputation for super seriousness, of all of Trotsky’s British progeny it was he who came closest to disturbing the sleep of the great and the good. But for all that, it’s the repulsive Healy and the Mercurial Cliff who are most often recalled and discussed among the tiny circles of people who care about such things. Poor old Ted, the longest lived and most successful of them all merits nary a mention. Perhaps not recruiting enough celebrities or future Guardian journalists has something to do with it.


From the archive of struggle no.76: Poumism and Shachtmanism

Up to January 2013 now with new additions to the extraordinary Marxist Internet Archive. Obviously, the first thing here is of most interest to me.

La Verite

Added to the archive of the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista/Workers Party of Marxist Unification a section of the Spanish Revolution History Archive is the complete run of the POUM’s English Language publication edited in Barcelona by American revolutionary socialists Lois and Charles Orr: The Spanish Revolution.

Spanish Revolution was the English language publication of the P.O.U.M. Edited by Lois and Charles Orr. In 1936 they had setup within the ranks of the Socialist Party of America the Revolutionary Policy Committee of the Socialist Party of the U.S. While the P.O.U.M. itself was never Trotskyist, many in the ranks of Trotskyism, and those near it politically, supported the publication.

Russell Blackwell, who was in Spain as a supporter of the P.O.U.M wrote, 30 years later for the Greenwood Reprints of The Spanish Revolution, the following:

Spanish Revolution faithfully reported events during its period of publication from the point of view of the P.O.U.M. Its first issue appeared on October 21, 1936, at a time when the revolutionary process was already beginning to decline. Its final issues dealt with the historic May Days of 1937 and the events immediately following, which led to the Stalinist takeover.

These 28 issues of The Spanish Revolution  were digitized by Marty Goodman of the Riazanov Library Project

They are all digitised as whole pdfs for each issue.

Other stuff: (more…)

Socialist Wanker

Digesting some of the material about the collapse of the British SWP. Here are some of the links that are relevant beyond UK sectariana but of interest to those interested in Marxist theory and Trotskyist history more broadly. For those interested in the gory details, go to Jim Jepps’ ever-growing link list, from which a couple of the items below are pilfered, or to Mikey’s tabloid version. Apologies this is so un-chronological, with stuff from January through to April.

Leninism, vanguardism, party democracy, activist culture:

Theorising Marxism and feminism:

Tony Cliff, founding figure of the British Int...

Tony Cliff, founding figure of the British International Socialists. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The “IS tradition”:

The radical movement in Britain

Historical Materialism journal:

Kurt Landau

Newly published at M.I.A. A useful text on POUM history.

Pierre Broué: Kurt Landau

Also known as Agricola, Wolf Bertram, and Spectator


From Revolutionary HistoryVol. 9 No. 4, 2008, pp. 229–236.
From Dictionnaire biographique du mouvement ouvrier français, partie 4, 1914–1939, t. 33, Paris 1988, pp. 203–205.
Transcribed by Alun Morgan for the Revolutionary History Website.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Born on 29 January 1903 in Vienna (Austria); disappeared in Barcelona (Spain), September 1937. Member of the Austrian Communist Party, then of various Left Opposition groups in Vienna, Berlin and Paris. Member of the POUM in 1936.

The son of a prosperous Viennese wine merchant, Kurt Landau had a Bohemian student youth similar to that of many young people from the Jewish intelligentsia in the imperial capitals: but it is also said that he attempted various circus jobs and for a time was a lion tamer at the Hagenbeck Circus. In 1921 this educated and cultured adolescent joined the new-born Austrian Communist Party, already shaken by fierce factional struggles and in 1922 became leader (Leiter) of the Warring district (Bezirk) in Vienna. Early in 1923 he supported the left-wing criticisms made by the Italian Bordiga [1] of the new line of the International, which was described as “opportunist”. In 1924, still in Vienna, he made the acquaintance of Victor Serge, who was part of a group of Comintern emissaries and who worked on its press bulletin Inprekorr[2] It seems that Serge gave him the first solid items of information about the factional struggle in the USSR. The same year Landau took charge of the CP agitprop department and became an editor of its main publication, Die Rote Fahne (Red Flag), with responsibility for cultural matters. In the discussion on culture he adopted the arguments developed by Trotsky against “proletarian culture”. (more…)

An antidote to Tito nostalgia

Spartacus (Fast novel)

Image via Wikipedia

 Criticism etc writes on Raya Dunayevskaya, Tito nostalgia, Howard Fast and Spain. Extract:

[…] Dunayavskaya’s passing mention of Tito’s activities in Spainduring the revolution. Tito was a seasoned Comintern functionary long before he lead the partisan war against the Germans and it is an accepted part of his biography that in the 1930s he funneled volunteers from the Balkans to Spainto serve in the International Brigades. Proof that Tito was actually in Spainduring the revolution is scant, but the novelist and recipient of the Stalin Peace Prize, Howard Fast, author of Spartacus(which was made into the film starring Kirk Douglas), wrote a 1944 homage with the immortal title The Incredible Tito which places him in the country. If this is accurate, it is entirely possible that Tito participated in the Stalinist repression of the POUM and the Trotskyists (or the Bolshevik-Leninists, as they called themselves).

Fast claims in his memoir Being Red, that at the time in 1946 when he was called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities about his work with the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee he learned that the Josip Broz in Spain he had heard about as an employee of the Office of War Information during WWII was not the one we know as Tito, but rather another person by that name (Fast was questioned about aid that may have helped Broz escape occupied France). Criticism &c. is inclined to belive the story as Fast recorded it in 1944. Regardless, Dunayevskaya may well have been informed from sources closer to the topic than Fast was privy to.

The irony in all of this is that in their frantic search for post-WW II perspectives, the Trotskyists went strongly pro-Tito for a time afterYugoslavia’s expulsion from the Cominform.

 C etc is right in noting the Tito nostalgia that pervades the left, both neo-Pabloite Trots and fellow travelling social democrats like Tony Benn. It was one of the factors that led much of the left to find themselves on the wrong side of the Yugoslav conflicts of the 1990s, when many associated the irredentist and ultimately genocidal Serbian nationalism with the partisan cause and the Croatian, Bosnian and other resistances to it with the Ustache.

On this day in 1971: Socialism on Other Planets

From IISG:

brochure J. Posadas, La Ciencia Espacial Bro 790/2

Close encounters and flying saucers also have a place in socialist theory. The posadists (supporters of Juan Posadas) in Latin America believed this concept was a logical extension of Marxist dialectical materialism. Posadas led a group of the Trotskyist Fourth International in Argentina. He was especially interested in the Chinese and Russian space programmes, and wrote a pamphlet in 1971 called La Ciencia Espacial. He envisioned the extension of the socialist revolution to outer space. Many pamphlets by Posadas and the Posadists can be consulted in the IISH library.

See also:

•  Pamphlets by Posadas
•  Quatrième Internationale Posadiste collection


Published in: on July 1, 2011 at 3:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Notes on Third Campism and liberal interventionism

1. Read the series of posts on Libya at Lady Poverty: 1234.

2. Read Kellie on Eammon McCann’s reminiscences in Socialist Worker of his meeting with Gaddafi in 1987.

3. An extract from Boffy’s comments at Though Cowards Flinch:

However, the problem I still have is that if you argue that workers intervnetion is alright up to a point, but given our weaknesses at the moment, there is a limit to what they can achieve, you still end up with the “Something Must Be Done” argument. The point is that sometimes doing nothing other than what you can do, which might simply be saying what should be done if workers had the power to do it, is better than doing something, which is a lesser evil.

For example, a while ago, I wrote some blogs about the AWL’s position taken from Albert Glotzer about the establishment of the state of Israel. Glotzer & ImmigrationGlotzer & The Jews As Special, and Glotzer, anti-Semitism and the degenerated workers state. Glotzer argued that the socialist position argued up to that time that nationalist struggles were reactionary and divisive of the working class could no longer hold for the Jews after the Holocaust. Jews could not wait for the working-class to come together and resolve the problem. Only the Zionist idea of creeating a separate Jewish State could address the immediate concerns of Jews. Something had to be done. It was a moral not a Marxist argument. (more…)

Raymond Challinor

I have been meaning to write my obituary for Raymond Challinor. See Shiraz Socialist for more. Guardian obituary by Stan Newens, hereSocialist Worker obituary by John Charlton, here

Published in: on April 5, 2011 at 12:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ken Coates

Ken CoatesI once wrote this about Ken Coates:

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.

I still hold to that opinion, and was saddened to read about his death on the 27 June. Ken Coates was one of the most thoughtful of British socialists, and one of the most activist of its theorists. His work on workers’ control is indispensable. This came out of his own proletarian experiences, out of an engagement with the experiments in self-management in Tito’s Yugoslavia (the cause of his 1948 break with Stalinism) and then out of Michael Raptis’ development of the Titoist model within the context of Trotskyism.

At the same time, I think that the dark side of Pabloism – its excessive enthusiasm for a Second Campist kind of national self-determination, which led it into supporting some authoritarian “anti-imperialist” regimes – also coloured his thinking. This element came to the fore in his later years, when geopolitics rather than class struggle became his central concern at The Spokesman. (See, for instance, this rabbit’s eye view of his use of Christian antisemitism in his late rhetoric.)

'The dirty war in Mr Wilson. Or how he stopped worrying about Vietnam and learned to love the dollar', 1966Among the groups Coates passed through, after the Communist Party, were the Revolutionary Socialist League, the International Group, forerunner of the International Marxist Group, the the Institute for Workers’ Control, the International Socialists (he was one of the journal editors in the 1960s, its greatest period, although I am not sure if he was ever a member), the Labour Party (several times, including a fair few expulsions), the Independent Labour Network and the  North Derbyshire Socialist Alliance.

Please read Andrew Coates’ eulogy to this great man. Andrew has other links too: Guardian Obituary Here – letters about it here, Independent Here, Blog Three Score Years and Ten Here, Five Leaves Blog Here. Also: Socialist Unity.

Below the fold, some treasures from the archive: (more…)

Corin Redgrave

I missed this article by Nick Cohen, plus further commentary from smart ex-leftist Ron Radosh. Any more I missed?

Published in: on May 15, 2010 at 2:12 pm  Comments (2)  
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I can’t believe I missed the death of the talented singer songwriter Llasa de Sela age just 37 at the start of 2010. See Roland/Jams.

And some late additions to my Colin Ward obituaries: from Peter Marshall, author of Demanding the Impossible, from Critical Chatting, and from Robert Graham.

And one more for Michael Foot – the JC with a Jewish angle.

And two more obituaries, via Histomatist: The new issue of Socialist Review has a short article on the founder of the International Socialist TendencyTony Cliff (1917-2000) by Ian Birchall – at work on a forthcoming biography of this critically important twentieth-century revolutionary Marxist thinker. See also Sabby Sagall on the British actor and revolutionary socialist [sic] Corin Redgrave (1939-2010).

Talking of mourning (not that we’re mourning Redgrave), the New Centrist: “Pray for the twenty-nine West Virginia miners who lost their lives and their families. Then get active. Amending Joe Hill’s famous phrase, don’t only mourn, organize.”

Max Dunbar: All shall have prizes. On the Orwell Prize, Stephen Mitchelmore, Nick Cohen, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and George Orwell’s anti-pacifism. Related, did Christopher Hitchens read the SWP’s John Molyneux and blogger Snowball after reading Animal Farm?

Principia D: Eric Hobsbawm: The Marxist who never read Marx. (“Not judging by this survey of Post-war Italy, anyway. “) More on this in a future post, maybe.

From January, Kathedar Blog with two very good interrelated posts: on Alex Callinicos on imperialism and on Marx and the dialectic.

AF: Steps towards re-emergence of anarchism in Cuba. See also here.

Jamie Bartlett: Politics and the English language 2.0.

Continuing our anarchism vs Marxism discussion, these lapidary posts from Lady Poverty are well worth your time: Marx and Foucault; A note about Marx and FoucaultThe point, as it relates to Holden Caulfield and Karl Marx; Marxism vs. identity anarchism. And here, very much less to my taste, is a contribution from a Maoist: Anarchism or revolutionary Marxism? by Arindam Sen of the CPI(ML).

Also chronically belated: New Statesman: Jonathan Derbyshire interviews Terry Eagleton on nostalgia for 1970s socialism.

And some considerable time after Michael Foot’s death, this from Brian Brivati: Foot and Nye Bevan.

Wobbling around the world: a socialist belatedly discovers the IWW.

On Maoism: Richard Wolin remembers the Maoist 1960s, and Apoorvanand analyses Maoism in India, as does Dilip Simeon.

Wolin and Brivati come from Arguing The World, the now not quite brand new trans-Atlantic blog at Dissent. Here is one more from that: Alan Johnson: Žižek or Bobbio? (The blog title is familiar to me from the PBS documentary about the New York intellectuals I link to over to the right – I ought to know whose being quoted: Irving Howe?)

I meant to link to this article on William Morris discovering socialism in Iceland when it came out, then forgot, but was prompted after noticing it at Histomatist – seems kind of timelier now, as Morris would no doubt be enjoying the effects of the volcano on the global tourism and agri-industries.

Finally, how can I post these days without mentioning Hugo Chavez? This is from the Venezuelan anarchist journal El Libertario: Venezuela: the myth of “Eco-socialism of the XXI Century” The author is Professor and Researcher at the Simon Bolivar University in Caracas. This contribution is the revised excerpt from a longer article appeared in Spanish in the Journal of Economics and Social Sciences (FACES-UCV) entitled “XXI Century Eco-socialism and Bolivarian Development Model: the myths of environmental sustainability and participatory democracy in Venezuela “, 2009, vol. 15, No. 1, pp.187-223 


In this issue, some Trotskyist stuff, and then some Orwellia, and finally some dispatches from the real world.

From the Archive of Struggle no.46

I’ve been down on Alan Woods lately, for his support of the soft-Stalinist authoritarian populist regime of Hugo Chavez, which in turn has supported the repression of the working class in the Islamic Republic of Iran. So, in the spirit of ecumenicism, I have been spending time at his website, and am dedicating this special edition of From the Archive of Struggle to Woods and his guru Ted Grant.

On James Connolly and the Easter Uprising
*Ted Grant: Connolly and the 1916 Easter Uprising [1966]
*Ted Grant and Alan Woods: James Connolly and the Easter Uprising [2001]
*Fightback: Ireland: Easter then and now – Socialism the only way out! [2010]
On Trotskyism and Stalinism:
* Ted Grant: Stalin Versus Marx [1946]
*Ted Grant: New Purges in Russia [1946]
*Ted Grant: Stalin Liquidates Two Republics [1946: on the roots of the Chechen conflict]
*Ted Grant: Opposition at C.P. Conference—Reformist policy criticised [1947]
*Ted Grant: Stalinist land programme wins peasants – Chiang’s conscripts roped to prevent escape [1949: on the Chinese revolution]
*Ted Grant: The General Strike and the “Communist Party” [1971]
*Ted Grant: Jan Sling arrest—“Communist” Party apologies [1972]
*Alan Woods: Introduction to the Indonesian edition of The Revolution Betrayed [2010]
*International Marxist Tendency: For the Fifth International [2010]
On British politics:
*Ted Grant: The I.L.P. at the Crossroads [1945]
*Ted Grant: Tories in Conference—A bankrupt policy [1948]
On German politics:
*Ted Grant: German Workers Vote Labour—Demonstrate Opposition to Nazism [1946]

Down with the revisionists, running dogs, etc!


Alan Woods is under attack again not from a Brazilian right wing analyst as was the case two weeks ago, but from loud-mouthed TalCual editor/publish Teodoro Petkoff, who dedicates an editorial to the Welshman…

Like in the Brazilian article, Petkoff referred to Woods as the latest of Chavez’ “political advisers” and the man who got Chavez to admit that he was a Marxist-Leninist … like Petkoff once was when he was a 60-70s guerrilla.

What Petkoff does is amplify the Brazilian piece, adding trinkets such as calling Heinz Dieterich — a “German charlatan” — and Chavez “catching measles” from the “heavy brick of Hungarian Marxist, Istvan Meszaros.”  Alan Woods is quickly dismissed as one of that “handful of castaways who left the shipwreck of the USSR … a solitary soul looking for a sponsor … without a refreshing or new idea.”

Here’s Wikipedia on Petkoff, ex-Stalinist turned liberal social democrat. I can’t find the article on-line, but just Woods’ reply (see here). I’m a bit of a fan of Istvan Meszaros, and would like more politicians to read his work. Any readers who can provide more info on all of this, please do.

Meanwhile, as already reported, Woods’ Iranian comrades have deserted his micro-movement, due to his apologies for Chavez’s support for the tyrannical regime in Iran. Here is the newly launched website of the Iranian Revolutionary Marxists’ Tendency. Here is a website, KarlMarx.Net, which is associated with the IRMT and their supporters. Among the documents are something very interesting by Pat Byrne (who I think is from the Alliance for Green Socialism) on the origins of the slate system for leadership voting in Leninist parties (also published at Tendance Coatesy, with better formatting to make it more readable, and by A Very Public Sociologist), and a Marxist reply by John Gandy to Woods’ series on anarchism mentioned here. There is also an interesting document on the split in the IMT from the Learning from Our Past group here.

Also read: David Osler’s review of Richard Gott on the Bolivarian revolution.

Also read: LabourStart’s news from Iran: Journalist who wrote about and defended union workers gets long jail term 2010-04-07 [Radio Free Europe]; IFJ Urges Iran to Release Detained Journalists 2010-03-22 [IFJ]; ‘New minimum wage rate spurs widespread indignation’ 2010-03-16 [Iran Labor Report]; ‘Forcing hunger on Iranian workers in the new year’ 2010-03-16 [Iran Labor Report]; Worker Protest in the Age of Ahmadinejad 2010-03-16 [Middle East Report]; Where Life Reeks of Death: Working Women and Child Laborers2010-03-07 [Iran Labor Report]; Union Leaders Under Attack 2010-03-07 [Iran Labor Report]; Workers’ Protest in Isfahan 2010-03-07 [Iran Labor Report]; IFJ Condemns Closure of Newspapers in Iran 2010-03-06 [IFJ]; ‘Kaleidoscopic’ Worker Protests Grow in Iran 2010-02-26 [In These Times].

Down with the revisionists, running dogs, etc! Part 2

Moving on from Ted Grant to his evil twin Gerry Healy, possibly the most destructive force ever on the British far left. Or, rather, to Healy’s disciple Corin Redgrave, whose death recently I’ve only touched on in passing. Read: Corin Redgrave: Traitor to MarxismGerry Healy and the WRPThe Daily Telegraph, Corin Redgrave and a Libel CaseCorin Redgrave, authoritarian figureCorin Redgrave: scenes from a political life; and What has the Left got to be so smug about?. And, from the archive, No One Likes Us, We Try Not To Care.

The girl with the dragon tattoo

Talking of Trots, Marko follows Nick Cohen, Max Dunbar and Christopher Hitchens in reviewing dead Swedish Trot Stieg Larsson, the “man who wasn’t really all that left-wing.”


Having already posted this, here is another Orwell Prize nominee, Madame Miaow, on George Orwell. Recommended.

Meanwhile in the real world

Tolpuddle guides go on strikeKyrgyzstan: colour revolution and permanent revolutionU.S. and Colombia Cover Up Atrocities Through Mass GravesThe Rights of Mother Earth: Bolivia Births a New Revolution; The harvest of death in Canada; India’s coalfire workers.

Letters from Barcelona

9780230527393A book I want to read: Letters from Barcelona: An American Woman in Revolution and Civil War edited by Gerd-Rainer Horn, letters by American socialist Lois Orr and some by her husband Charles Orr.

Letters from Barcelona provides a unique insight into the mentality and actions of an entire generation of socialist activists caught up in the maelstrom of cataclysmic events in interwar Europe. Based on carefully chosen representative selections from the copious letters sent by the young protagonist to family and friends in the United States, the atmosphere described in these letters vividly recreates the challenges, the hopes and the disappointments associated with living in Barcelona in the first year of the Catalan Revolution and the Spanish Civil War. These letters reconstruct the vibrant atmosphere of the campaign for a self-managed socialist society, stymied and ultimately crushed by the twin challenges of fascist and Stalinist dictatorships. The primary documents are placed into a larger context by the editor’s introductory remarks on the nature of the Catalan Revolution and the place of Lois Orr’s writings in the emerging literature on women’s autobiographies.



Falklands/Malvinas: My Michael Foot post the other day (he was a defender of the Falklands war) reminded me of a recenitish interesting post and discussion thread at Dave’s Place on the correct left responses then and now, including the issue of Socialist Organiser (the Soggies?) and the split in the Workers’ Socialist League. Here, for further reference, is Sean Matgamna reflecting on the issue in 2007. Here is an SPGB position, taking a kind of “third camp” between Foot’s pro-Britain and the League for the Fifth International‘s psuedo-“revolutionary defeatist” support for the Argentine dictatorship. And here, as always representing great value for money, is Nick Cohen.

Cuba: This is from Francis Sedgemore:

Orlando Zapata Tamayo (1967-2010)

“He wasn’t a murderer. He wasn’t a thief. He wasn’t a rapist. He was simply a young man who wanted a better future for Cuba.” [Laura Pollan, Ladies in White]

RIP Orlando Zapata Tamayo – plumber, democrat, dissident, prisoner of conscience.

Kronstadt: I already posted on the queer historical epic, Maggots and Men, which re-imagines the Kronstadt sailors’ story with a cast of 100 transgender actors. Here’s more from Schalom Libertad:

Watch the trailer! // Read about it.

Maggots and Men, an experimental historical narrative set in post-revolutionary Russia, re-tells the story of the 1921 uprising of the Kronstadt sailors with a subtext of gender anarchy. (more…)


Colin Ward

From SlackBastard:

[…] UK anarchist Colin Ward has died. His Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2004) is both very short and quite good, and his appeal as a writer was widespread, his many, generally pithy writings emphasising the practical dimensions of Anarchy in Action. (Revolution by the Book has an extract from Anarchy in Action here; AK Press is also publishing Autonomy, Solidarity, Possibility: The Colin Ward Reader later this year.) In addition to being the author of numerous books and pamphlets, Ward edited Anarchy zine for its first 100 issues (1961–1970), criticised by some as being reflective of anarchism’s absorption by the middle class.

OBITUARIES – 20: COLIN WARD, Paul Anderson, GAUCHE, February 17, 2010 | Colin Ward, RIP, Jesse Walker, Reason, February 17, 2010 | Colin Ward: pioneer of mutualism, Next Left, February 14, 2010 | Colin Ward Presente!, Dan Cull Weblog, February 14, 2010 | Colin Ward, Rob Ray, libcom, February 13, 2010 | Colin Ward, Ross Bradshaw, Five Leaves Blog, February 12, 2010.

See also : Anarchism in Action: Methods, Tactics, Skills, and Ideas, Second Edition (draft), Complied and Edited by Shawn Ewald.

Marxism etc

Bob versus the Moonbats: marxism necessary but not sufficient.

Some items of interest from The Commune: Beyond the party-state, beyond the big bang; El Alto, bastion of social struggles in Bolivia; Readings on the Paris Commune from Marx, Bakunin, Kropotkin and the Situationists; The early Russian revolution: Laurat in wonderland (this is part 1 of a text on Lucien Laurat’s book L’Économie Soviétique: Sa Dynamique, son méchanisme, by  João Bernardo of Passa Palavra; the original in Portuguese is here, with part 2 here, presumably awaiting translation).

Half a century of the New Left Review: Coatesy has a long and fascinating critical elegy, and Entdinglichung reminds us of the 1960 edition. Michael Weiss has a different take.

Trottishness etc

The departure of Lindsey German from the British SWP is raising some interesting discussions of party democracy in the UK left blogosphere. Among the contributions are these: “When Zinoviev is in the majority he is for iron discipline, when he is in the minority he is against it“; “Once Tiberius is dead I, Sejanus, will rule as Emperor in Rome”; “It was the best times, it was the worst of times”….; United fronts or just fronts?; The examination of the conscience (or lack thereof). Odd how it brings out the erudition in bloggers with these titles.

Uncle Hugo

From SlackBastard:

And finally, um, for reasons best known to himself, but perhaps related to the recent departure of significant sections of the International Marxist Tendency, Uncle Hugo’s best mate Alan Woods has attacked Bakunin In Defence of Marxism.

The last link is worth clicking on, as it gets you an English translation of The Third Chavez by Demétrio Magnoli in O Estado de Sao Paulo, apparently “Brazil’s main bourgeois paper”. I found it quite perceptive, and Woods’ reply too tedious to bother with.

Karl Marx created the 1st International, Friedrich Engels participated in the founding of the 2nd, Lenin established the 3rd, Leon Trotsky founded the 4th and Hugo Chávez has just raised the banner of the 5th. “I take responsibility before the world, I think it is time to rally the 5th International and dare to make the call,” he said in a speech lasting five hours, at the opening session of the extraordinary congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) to the applause of 772 delegates in red shirts.

The congress was held in November. Then Chavez imposed energy rationing in the country, devalued the currency and introduced a dual exchange rate, nationalized a supermarket chain, suspended cable TV broadcasts and unleashed a bloody crackdown on student protests. […]

Chavez is living his third incarnation, which is also the last. The first Chavez emerged after the failed coup of 1992, in the guise of nationalist and anti-American warlord mesmerized by the image of an imaginary Simón Bolívar. Under the influence of Argentine sociologist Norberto Ceresole, that original Chavismo flirted with anti-Semitism and dreamed of the establishment of an authoritarian, fascist-style state, which would reunify Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador in a restored Great Colombia.

A second Chávez could be discerned in outline in the spring of the first term in 1999, after the break with Ceresole, when the Leader drew close to Heinz Dieterich, a German Professor of Sociology in Mexico who came out of obscurity to formulate the concept of “socialism of the 21st century.” Chavismo reinvented itself and acquired left-wing collaborators, formed an alliance with Cuba and engaged in the project of building a state capitalism that was presented as a long transition towards a kind of socialism untainted by the Soviet legacy.

Brandishing a copy of The State and Revolution by Lenin, the Chavez of the extraordinary congress of the PSUV announced his conversion to the programme of the destruction of the “bourgeois state” and the building of a “revolutionary state.” This third Chavez was already implied in 2004, when the Leader got to know the British Trotskyist Alan Woods, and was fully manifest by the time of his defeat in the referendum of December 2007, shortly after the break with Dieterich. The PSUV is a result of Chavismo of the third period, as is also the proclamation of the 5th International.

The uses and abuses of history cont.

Bob posts on the Holocaust against the Roma and Jewish partisans in Greece, with lovely music. Chris Ford responds to Red Maria on Stepan Bandera (which I linked to here, to Will’s consternation). Graeme writes on an overlapping topic here.

Workers’ Liberty

Some features from the Alliance for Workers Liberty, some new, some from the archive, below the fold. I have already included some of these in my From the Archive of Struggle series, but, hey, you can’t have too much of a good thing! Also, further down, a small number of other articles, including Eric Lee on Trotsky and some recent pieces from Against the Current.