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.

READ THE REST…

Franco’s Spain – how many dead?

In a recent post, I quoted Dorian Cope claiming that two million people were killed in Franco’s Spain. TNC made the comment  below. I’m pretty innumerate myself, but I think TNC is most likely right and Cope wrong: the death toll was more like a million, it slowed down after Franco’s reign consolidated, and it should be seen alongside the (much smaller) “red terror” in which rightists were killed too, i.e. in a Civil War context and not just that of a dictatorship. I have started reading Giles Tremlett’s Ghosts of Spain, which addresses the legacy of these deaths, which I hope to post on when I’ve finished.

Where does the two million number come from? The reason I ask is the number I have read from a few secondary sources including Paul Preston and Stanley Payne that put it closer to one million killed by both sides in the conflict. Also, most of the mass killings stopped by the end of the 1940s. I know people were tortured and murdered in horrible ways, including the garrot, but the evidence suggests a slowing of the mass murder certainly by the early 1950s.

Paul Preston writes:

“The numbers of right-wingers killed in Republican Spain (after the military coup destroyed the structures of law and order and before the Republican government could rebuild them) is 37000. The number of people murdered in the Francoist zone is likely to be 150,000. The reason for doubt is that finding out is a painstaking business, village by village, and only 36 of Spain’s 50 provinces have been reasonably thoroughly investigated. Those thirty-six provinces have currently produced 98,000 known victims. However, even there it is very difficult to be sure that all the dead have been counted… (more…)

Trabajadores: Spanish Civil War Archives Online

This, by Liz Wood, is in a recent History Workshop Journal:

MRC 2011 087On 12 November 2011, Wembley Stadium hosted a friendly between the football teams of England and Spain. Amongst the usual pre-match shots of flags and anthem singing, the television cameras picked out one English fan in the crowd with a home-made placard commemorating the British volunteers of the International Brigade, who had fought for the Spanish Republic 75 years earlier. The incident was an example of how the Spanish Civil War has maintained its place in the British popular consciousness in a way that is perhaps only exceeded by the two world wars.

In recent years it has been the subject of popular history books and formed the backdrop to best-selling novels and an HBO made/Sky broadcast television series starring Nicole Kidman; meanwhile the often bitter debates between supporters of different Republican factions in 1936-39 continue to be played out on internet message boards.  Despite this public and academic interest, only a small quantity of primary sources in English were freely available to researchers online – last year the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick, added over 13,000 pages more. (more…)

Fifty years ago: the execution of Francisco Granados and Joaquin Data Martinez Delgado

From on this deity (1910): 

Forty-seven years ago today, in 1963, two young Spanish anarchists were executed by General Franco’s obscene regime for a Passport Office bombing of which they had no knowledge, while the real perpetrators slipped quietly away. Despite the absence of any evidence of their involvement, Francisco Granados (27) and Joaquin Data Martinez Delgado (29) – both members of the anti-Franco movement called the Iberian Federation of Libertarian Youth – were interrogated, brutally tortured, tried behind closed doors and executed by garotte at Franco’s notorious Carabanchel Prison, and all of this in just eighteen days after having been arrested.

For many, these unfortunates were but two more victims of an unrestrained and merciless tyrant estimated to have executed almost two million non-combatants between 1939-75, during his arduous near four-decade-long reign of terror. But what separated this grotesque event from the rest of Franco’s merciless pogroms against his own people was that it took place not at the chaotic post-Civil War beginning of his ‘reign’, but twenty-four grueling years into his rule, and during this cynical tyrant’s attempt to pass off his regime as ‘respectable’ to the rest of the Western World. For, as a resurgent wave of underground resistance began –throughout 1963 – to rise up from the ashes of violent repression, General Franco openly recommenced his policy of institutionalised revenge and intent to eradicate from Spain all democrats, liberals, socialists and – above all others – his most-despised enemies from the war, the communists and anarchists. (more…)

For a Third Square!

What is the Third Square?

The Third Square (Arabic: الميدان الثالث‎) is an Egyptian political movement created by liberal, leftist and moderate Islamist activists who reject both Muslim Brotherhood and military rule following the 2013 Egyptian coup d’état.

The movement first appeared when the Egyptian defence minister, General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, called for mass demonstrations on 26 July 2013 to grant his forces a “mandate” to crack down on “terrorism”,[1] which was seen as contradicting the military’s pledges to hand over power to civilians after removing Mr. Morsi and as an indication for an imminent crackdown against Islamists.[2] The announcement by General Al-Sisi was rejected by a number of political groups that had initially supported the military coup, such as the revolutionary April 6 Youth Movement,[3] the moderate Strong Egypt Party,[4] the Salafi Al-Nour Party[5] and Egyptian Human Rights groups.[6]

The Third Square movement, demonstrating in Sphinx Square, Cairo (more…)

Published in: on August 12, 2013 at 11:20 pm  Comments (1)  
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Poumastica

In the Atlantic:  The Lawyer Who Told FDR He Couldn’t Censor a Trotsky Speech.

From Howie’s Corner:  Why do they call themselves “Socialist” Unity? / Martin Smiths “confidential resignation” / Is the Socialist Party heading for a split? / The “forgotten” Socialist Party (of Great Britain)..

From the archive of struggle, no.78

I have recently discovered Monoskop Log. Here are some treasures from it:

*Zenit, International Review of Arts and Culture, No. 1-43 (1921-26) [SH/FR/DE/RU]

*Graham Roberts: The Last Soviet Avant-Garde: OBERIU – Fact, Fiction, Metafiction (1997)

*Mary Gabriel: Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution (2011)

*Peter Linebaugh: Ned Ludd and Queen Mab: Machine-Breaking, Romanticism, and the Several Commons Of 1811-12 (2012)

*Marcel Duchamp: The Afternoon Interviews (2013)

And from a similar site, UbuWeb:

*Man Ray (1945-1998): Les Mystères du château de Dé (1929) / Emak Bakia (1926)  / Le Retour à la raison (1923)  / L’Étoile de mer (1928)  / Home Movies (1923-1937)  / Home Movies (1938) / The Bazaar Years (1990, documentary)

*Klaus Kinski Singt Und Spricht Berthold Brecht:

  1. Und Was Bekam Des Soldaten Weib? 6:16
  2. Der Anstreicher Spricht Von Kommenden Grossen Zeiten (Intro) 0:56
  3. Der Barbara-Song Oder Die Ballade Vom Nein Und Ja 10:58
  4. O Du Falada, Da Du Hangest… 7:06
  5. Ballade Vom Weib Und Dem Soldaten 6:17
  6. An Die Nachgeborenen 6:39
  7. Kinderkreuzzug 1939 14:05
  8. An Meine Landsleute 3:50
  9. Vier Aufforderungen An Einen Mann Von Verschiedener Seite Zu Verschiedenen Zeiten 1:36
  10. Vom Sprengen Des Gartens 0:54

In the Marxist Internet Archive:

*Added to the Andreas Nin ArchiveFinal Declaration to the Police 21st June 1937

*Added to the Grace Lee Boggs Archive in the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL)The Chinese Sailors “Mutiny” (as Ria Stone) (1942) / “March on Washington” Movement Stirs Again (as Ria Stone) (1942) / Negroes, March on Washington! (as Ria Stone) (1942)

*Added to the Irving Howe Archive in the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL)Labor Action Replies to Christian Science Monitor (1942) / The Saturday Evening Post Slanders the Jewish People (1942) / Labor Action Answers California Eagle Attack (1942) / Stalinists Defend War Profiteers! (1942) / Jim Crow – Who Will Win the New Orleans Race? (1942)

*Added to the Hugo Oehler Archive in the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL)The Negro and the Class Struggle (series) (1932) / The S.P. “Lefts’” Program (1932) / The Slogan of the Defense of the U.S.S.R. (1932)

And here’s a sample of new material added to the wonderful Early American Marxism website: (more…)

Anarchism in the Eastern Mediterranean

Two interesting items:

The colour brown: de-colonising anarchism and challenging white hegemony by  in Random Shelling. Extract:

The appearance of the Egyptian Black Bloc in Cairo’s streets in January 2013 triggered gullible excitement in Western anarchist circles. Little thought was given to the Egyptian Black Bloc’s political vision – or lack thereof – tactics, or social and economic positions. For most Western anarchists, it was enough that they looked and dressed like anarchists to warrant uncritical admiration. Facebook pages of Israeli anarchists were swamped with pictures of Egyptian Black Bloc activists; skimming through the US anarchist blogosphere during that period would have given one the impression that the Black Bloc was Egypt’s first-ever encounter with anarchism and anti-authoritarianism. But as American writerJoshua Stephens notes, the jubilant reaction many Western anarchists have towards the Black Bloc raises unflattering questions concerning their obsession with form and representation, rather than content and actions. And in this regard, these anarchists are not different from the Islamists who were quick to denounce the Black Bloc as blasphemous and infidel merely because they looked like Westerners. Further, many Western anarchist reactions to the Black Bloc unmask an entrenched orientalist tendency. Their disregard of Egypt and the Middle East’s rich history of anarchism is one manifestation of this. As Egyptian anarchist, Yasser Abdullah illustrates, anarchism in Egypt dates back to the 1870’s in response to the inauguration of the Suez Canal; Italian anarchists in Alexandria took part in the First International, published an anarchist journal in 1877, and took part in the Orabi revolution of 1881; Greek and Italian anarchists also organised strikes and protests with Egyptian workers. Yet these struggles are nonchalantly shunned by those who act today as if the Black Bloc is the first truly radical group to grace Egyptian soil….

I begin by showing that colonial attitudes made the Republicans of the Spanish Revolution neglect Spanish colonialism in North Africa, leading them to focus solely on fighting fascism at home. That the Spanish Revolution continues to serve as an important reference for today’s anarchist movements, it is not surprising that similar colonial attitudes lead today’s movements to write-off centuries of anti-authoritarian struggle in Asia, Africa and the Middle East….

Exceedingly Immersed in their fight against fascism and tyranny in Spain, the [Spanish] revolutionaries ignored Spain’s colonialism, fascism and tyranny across the Mediterranean. The level of dehumanisation toward the “Other” was so high that, according to most pro-revolution narratives, the only role colonised Moroccans were given to play was one of mercenaries brought in by General Franco to crush the Popular Front. Much pro-revolution sentiment would go as far as referring to Moroccans in a racist manner. While it is difficult to argue that mutual solidarity between Spanish revolutionaries and colonised Moroccans could have changed the outcome of the War, it is also difficult to know whether this kind of solidarity was ever feasible in the first place. As the late American historian Howard Zinn puts it: “In the short run (and so far, human history has consisted only of short runs), the victims, themselves desperate and tainted with the culture that oppresses them, turn on other victims.” On the other hand, anarchism, in its essence, means rejecting and fighting against any form of authority and subjugation, including colonialism and occupation. To be truly anti-authoritarian, therefore, any struggle against fascism and dictatorship at home should be internationalist and cannot be separated from the struggle against fascism and tyranny abroad, in its role as a colonial power….

And Palestinian Anarchists in Conversation: Recalibrating anarchism in a colonized country, by Joshua Stephens, originally in the Lebanese magazine The Outpost. Extract:

ahmad

“I’m honestly still trying to kick the nationalist habit,” jokes activist Ahmad Nimer, as we talk outside a Ramallah cafe. Our topic of conversation seems an unlikely one: living as an anarchist in Palestine. “In a colonized country, it’s quite difficult to convince people of non-authoritarian, non-state solutions. You encounter, pretty much, a strictly anticolonial – often narrowly nationalist – mentality,” laments Nimer. Indeed, anarchists in Palestine currently have a visibility problem. Despite high-profile international and Israeli anarchist activity, there doesn’t seem to be a matching awareness of anarchism among many Palestinians themselves.

See also: anarchist tagged posts on Tahrir-ICN about Egyptian anarchists.

No Gods, no bosses, no husbands: the other half of anarchy

This article appears in Italian in Corriere della Sera’s La ventisettesima ora

Fifteen “rebellious women” of the twentieth century – But who are their heirs? by 

Fifteen fascinating and scandalous women , fifteen women rebels… largely forgotten by history. Educated women, aristocratic or workers, publishers, poets, journalists, writers, activists, who from Italy to Japan, Russia to England, Spain to Argentina choose a rough path of autonomy , siding always on with the weak and exposing the same oppression of fascism, Nazism and Communism. Denounced, arrested, imprisoned, exiled, sometimes victims of violence, in one case killed: their stories are told for the first time by Lorenzo Pezzica, historian and archivist of Milan, who, with her book Anarchists: Rebel women of the twentieth century (Shake editions, 2013) fills a void in the history of anarchism, reserved so far only for men.

Forget therefore Bakunin and Kropotkin, Malatesta and Pisacane. Here are red Emma, the Lithuanian Goldman, the only internationally known, called “the most dangerous woman in America”, pioneering feminist and champion of free love, despite being tormented by jealousy. And Virginia Bolten who only twenty years old, 1 May 1890, is the first woman speaker of the nascent labor movement in the city of Rosario, and wrote “Ni Dios, ni patron ni marido”.

Or Dora Marsden, petite and daring suffragette arrested in London in 1909, believing that it is high time for women to take control of their lives. She joined , the first feminist magazine of the 1900s, but would eventually break from movement, denouncing its hierarchical organization too . And again, Lucía Sánchez Saornil, declared lesbian, forced to go underground in Franco’s Spain, who throughout her life will try to reformulate the identity of “those who do not count.” Then, Nancy Cunard, depicted on the cover of the book, provocative dark lady and convinced anti-racist, who? rejects the English aristocracy from which committed all his energies in the Spanish revolutionary cause, and will pay its unconventional choices with loneliness and cultural existential…

Among the best stories is that of May Picqueray , French and pacifist anarcho-syndicalist, independent woman who lived by the tragedies of the twentieth century, raising her three children alone had three different companions… Not to mention, finally, the Italian: Maria Luisa Berneri, a tireless opponent of all wars in its short existence marked by the tragic death of her father Camillo, who was killed in 1937 in Barcelona by the assassins of the Comintern. And Luce Fabbri, a life spent in exile in Uruguay, recalling that totalitarian nightmare of Orwell, a  machinery of power increasingly sophisticated and oppressive that, although experienced as a painful wound, never translates [for these women] into a sense of helplessness…

Beyond their ideas, shared or not, I am struck by the determination and courage of these women perpetually wandering, uncomfortable and insubordinate, here and now they want to accomplish their dream of a better life. Women, as  Ida Fare writes in the introduction , linked by a network that truly embodies the words of the song anarchist “Our homeland is the whole world, our law is freedom.”

But who today could represent an ideal continuity with their thinking, with their willingness to transgression is difficult to find examples of disruptive approved in the current world, where it quickly becomes polluted every thrust antagonist.

The article nominates  Aliokhina Maria, the youngest member of Pussy Riot, serving two years in prison for the anti-Putin punk prayer in the Orthodox Cathedral in Moscow. Or the fierce Inna Shevchenko, leader of Femen, the movement that was born in Kiev with its clamorous protest topless which spread to, among others, the Tunisian blogger Amina.  Or Nawal El Saadawi, Egyptian activist and renowned psychiatrist, or Vandana Shiva , the Indian environmentalist, champion of biodiversity.
(more…)

Poumathon

(Montage stolen from The Tablet. Clockwise from top left: La Laetti/Flickrurbanartcore.eu/Flickrfrischundsauber/FlickrChristian Dalager/Flickr,ms.akr/FlickrXurxo Martínez/Flickrsvennevenn/Flickr, and Sr. X/Flickr.)

Some reviews of Jonathan Sperber’s new biography of Karl Marx: an amusing and virulently anti-communist one with a Jewish angle by David Mikics at The Tablet; a perceptive though not wholly factually accurate one by Richard J Evans in the LRB.

Good stuff from Ian Bone: Game of Trots, which you’ll find hilarious if you follow the British leftuscules; If only everyone on the left was like Andrew Burgin (a surprising outbreak of non-sectarian friendliness); and some interesting archival stuff on Class War and Red Action, and on the latter’s original electoral vehicle, the Red Front.

A very interesting article: Faith, flag and the ‘first’ New Left, E. P. Thompson and the politics of ‘one nation’ by Michael Kenny.

Also interesting: Jeffrey C Isaac on “the mirage of neo-communism”, a critique of Jodi Dean. Also in DissentCheerleaders for Anarchism by Nikil Saval.

From Infantile & Disorderly, a re-reading of Danny Burns’ important pamphlet on the anti-poll tax movement, and what it means today.

From the archive of struggle, no.77: Encounter

Taking a break from my well-behind trawl through MIA, UNZ, a website of free periodicals, has uploaded loads of back issues of Encounter. For those of you who think I’m a neocon, my pleasure at this will be further evidence.  For those of you less well versed in all of this, here’s Wikipedia:

Encounter was a literary magazine, founded in 1953 by poet Stephen Spender and journalist Irving Kristol. The magazine ceased publication in 1991. Published in the United Kingdom, it was a largely Anglo-American intellectual and cultural journal, originally associated with the anti-Stalinist left. The magazine received covert funding from the Central Intelligence Agency, after the CIA and MI6 discussed the founding of an “Anglo-American left-of-centre publication” intended to counter the idea of cold war neutralism. The magazine was rarely critical of American foreign policy, but beyond this editors had considerable publishing freedom

Here’s just some of the material in the amazing first issue from 1953:

Interesting global range, and a larger number of female contributors than many other cultural journals of the day (though still not many).

Here are other things that jumped out at me. From 1953:

From 1954:

From 1955:

Then, fast forwarding to the late 1960s, the mood has not changed one bit, with just the slightest sense of the cultural revolution at large in the world. Here’s some stuff from 1967:

Other periodicals available from the site:

1930s+

1950s+

1960s+

1970s+

Sorry, No. You Are Not Living In Oceania Airstrip One.

Cover of "Nineteen Eighty-Four"From my comrade Terry Glavin:

If we are to turn to the great George Orwell in this hour of our NSA Deep-State Surveillance Machine disorientation – is it even possible that the Washington Post and the Guardian could have mucked things up this badly? – the overwhelming evidence is against the claim that it should be Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. I set out my case in the Ottawa Citizen today: Big Brother Isn’t Watching You.

If it’s Orwell’s guidance we need at the moment – and when would Orwell’s counsel not come in handy? -a far more pertinent text might be Orwell’s Politics and the English Language, the essay that synthesizes Orwell’s lifelong concerns about the mortal perils of euphemism and the virtues of precision and plain speaking.
It was Orwell’s habit to rail, as he does in that essay, against the sort of rhetoric that can “make lies sound truthful.” To allow that journalism is quite capable of performing that ugly trick, too, is to be led directly to the sort of journalism underlying the NSA-PRISM rumpus at hand, which now consists mainly of a great unraveling of a whole lot of mischief made by the reliably sinister Glenn Greenwald, the creepy Laura Poitras and the sad little paranoid.
I’m banging on a bit about Orwell in the Citizen today not only because everybody keeps bringing him up but also because I’m a bit of an Orwell anorak. I taught a course on Orwell’s life and legacy in my stint as the University of Victoria’s Harvey Southam-Stevenson Lecturer in Journalism a couple of years ago. Don’t get me started because I won’t shut up.Orwell’s legacy of integrity and honesty is not a torch that has been picked up by the Washington Post and the Guardian in recent days. Snowden can’t even claim to be a “whistleblower” in any conventional meaning of that venerable term. He has exposed no wrongdoing, shed light on no lie, and exposed no criminal act. There has been edifying contemplation and reflection, mind you. For instance Christian Caryl’s thoughtful and illuminating essay in Foreign Policy, composed around the question: What’s Worse? The NSA or the East German Stasi? Avert your gaze to avoid this spoiler: “Definitely the Stasi.”

[READ THE REST]

Homage to Latakia: Spain 1936/Syria 2013?

Gene at Harry’s Place:

Michael Petrou, author of a book about the working-class Canadians who went to Spain to fight against Franco’s fascist uprising in the 1930s, makes a telling point about the parallels between that war and the current civil war in Syria. It has to do with what Petrou calls “the fallacy of non-intervention.”

That was the policy adopted by the democracies — including Canada — in 1936, when the Spanish general Francisco Franco, backed by his allies Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, launched a rebellion against Spain’s democratically elected government that eventually toppled it and enslaved the country.

We said it was a Spanish conflict, a civil war, and should be decided by the Spaniards. It wasn’t. The democracies might not have intervened, but other powers did. Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany picked one side; Stalinist Soviet Union picked the other.

When the war began, the Communists were a minor force within Spain’s republican coalition. Then Spain’s presumed democratic friends deserted it, while the Soviet Union sent weapons and men. Soviet and Spanish Communist power consequently grew. By 1937, the Soviet NKVD and its Spanish allies ran secret jails in Madrid where they murdered political opponents from amongst their supposed anti-fascist comrades.

And in Barcelona too. Those who have read George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” (and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?) will be familiar with that ugly chapter of the Spanish civil war.

Which brings us to Syria. It’s been two years, some 80,000 deaths, and hundreds of thousands of displaced. What began as a democratic uprising has become a civil war. Those against doing anything about it have cycled through various arguments, all of which miss a basic point. Non-intervention isn’t an option, because intervention is already happening. Saying you’re against intervention in Syria is like standing in the middle of a blizzard and saying you’re against snow.

READ THE REST

Revolutionary biscuits

..and then you’ve got your Peek Freans Trotsky Assortment

Published in: on May 22, 2013 at 11:32 am  Comments (2)  
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New York Yiddish anarchists in Mexico

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).

Creative Commons License. Photo from the Triangle Fire Open Archive. Contributed by David Bellel. Circa 1930s. Photo shows Mary Abrams, a shirtwaist fire survivor, with her husband Jack Abrams, Rose Pesotta, Senya Fleshin and Mollie Steimer. The picture was taken in Mexico in the late 1930s where the group lived in exile (except for Pesotta) as a result of the Palmer Raids of 1919. At that time Mary was part of the anarchist Frayhayt group. Mary passed away in 1978. Source: Jewish Women’s Archive.

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 finally to Mexico City, where her and Fleshin had a photo studio, SEMOHere‘s two of their 1952 photo of the opera singer Maria Callas:

 

And here’s Fleshin at his trade:

Senya Fleshin

They retired to Cuernavaca in 1963.

Ron Radosh, the red diaper baby turned anti-Communist, was a nephew of Jack Abrams, and in his memoir Commies he writes:

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.

Abrams gave the twelve year old Radosh a copy of Franz Borkenau‘s The Spanish Cockpit, presenting the anti-Stalinist view of the Spanish revolution and civil war.

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!

Stalin in Clerkenwell Green

From Eric Lee:

This article appears in Solidarity.  Feel free to add your comments below.


It was a beautiful May morning, one of the first warm and sunny days we’ve had all year. In Clerkenwell Green, hundreds of people were assembling for the annual official London May Day march. Many of you will not have been there — in fact there were very few trade unionists at all on this year’s march.

So let me tell you who was there — the twentieth century’s greatest serial killer, Joseph Stalin. Stalin was on several banners, and not only his image side by side with Lenin and Mao, but huge banners just with his picture alone — and quotations from his writings.

As I marched along with some trade union leaders and a traditional brass band, I could not help feeling ashamed at what the march would have looked like to onlookers, of whom there were many along the route. Ashamed and disgusted.

It’s disgusting because holding aloft iconic images of Stalin at a trade union march shows a complete lack of moral judgement. Seventy years ago, it may have been understandable — the second world war was raging, the Soviet leadership had not yet acknowledged Stalin’s crimes. But after 1956, anyone who still believed that Stalin was a great revolutionary leader was delusional. (more…)

Jams O’Donnell: The Good Soldier Cushing

I have been working my way through the late Shaun Downey‘s telling of the Red Cushing story. We started at the end of the Spanish Civil War, with Thomas “Red” Cushing, veteran Irish Republican fighter, joining up with the Americans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Then, in the next installment, he got disillusioned with the Brigade’s Communist officers, and headed off to join the British Army to fight Hitler instead. Shaun then cut to Cushing as a POW alongside Stalin’s son, whose suicide he claims he played a bizarre part in.

Some months later, in 2009, Shaun went back to fill in the gaps.

It’s been a while since I wrote about Thomas “Red” Cushing. I promised to do so a lot earlier but hey ho! This is the first of a group of posts covering Red Cushing’s time between leaving Spain disillusioned and his time in Sachsenhausen with Yakov Stalin. This is taken from his autobiography “Soldier For Hire” (John Calder 1962) (more…)

Published in: on May 3, 2013 at 4:57 pm  Comments (1)  
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Poumadrama

Radical Archives: Mina Graur: Rudolf Rocker debates Otto Strasser.

The JLC’s call for a posthumous medal of freedom for the great Bayard Rustin.

Ross Wolfe: Some preliminary thoughts on Endnotes’ critique of Platypus (for the pointyheads amongst you)

Coatesy on Applebaum on totalitarianism and on the Movement for Workers’ Control.

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Published in: on April 30, 2013 at 11:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jams O’Donnell: Red Cushing and the several deaths of Yakov Stalin Part II

Here, in tribute to the late Shaun Downey, aka Jams O’Donnell, I continue his story of Red Cushing. In the first installment, Cushing joined the International Brigade. By the end of the second installment, he had wound up in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, alongside Stalin’s son. Read on: (more…)

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…)

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