The Arab spring/Spanish echoes

703577_photo_1.jpgDave Osler writes:

True, Gaddafi has not won yet. But it is starting to look as if superior military hardware is a telling that advantage that will deliver victory to the Libyan strongman sooner or later.

Analogies have already been drawn with the Spanish civil war [here and here, for instance], which seems to me to stretch the historical parallels somewhat.

Although I haven’t had a chance to think the question through yet, my gut instinct would be to support calls for western governments to arm the rebels. But as far as I am aware, no prominent political figure in the US or Europe has publicly backed such a plan.

Jim Denham has some more compelling analogies: The Morning Star: those wonderful folks who brought you the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact / From Jack London to the scabs of the Morning Star, Socialist Worker and Counterfire. Dale Street also notes George Galloway’s Stalinism:

In his semi-autobiographical work “I’m Not the Only One”, Galloway wrote: “”Just as Stalin industrialized the Soviet Union, so on a different scale Saddam plotted Iraq’s own Great Leap Forward. … He is likely to have been the leader in history who came closest to creating a truly Iraqi national identity, and he developed Iraq and the living, health, social and education standards of his own people.”

And in the comments thread at BobFromBrockley:

Clearly, the SWP are taking a much better line than the reactionary hardcore anti-imp position (the scab position, as Jim Denham rightly puts it) taken by Noah and Calvin Tucker, Andy Newman and John Wight. It would be good to see the SWP revert to Third Camp form, having swayed so long to a Second Camp position. (Interesting that John Wight attributes the SWP’s wrongness to their state capitalist analysis: Tucker, Wight, Newman and co are essentially Stalinists, whose very un-21st century idea of “socialism” always involves a strong state and a strongman at the helm.)

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Poumastic

Distant Spanish echoes

Michael Totten interviews Stephen Schwartz of the Centre for Islamic Pluralism. (Schwartz is the co-author of one of the most important books in English on the POUM, Spanish Marxism versus Soviet Communism with Victor Alba.)

Your Friend in the North on the Battle for Spain.

The King’s Speech

Is a pack of lies, says Isaac Chotiner, and Christopher Hitchens, and Hitchens again.

“Progressive” [sic] politics

At BobFromBrockley:

Shiraz Socialist publish a couple of shameful articles from the vaults of News Line, the paper of Gerry Healey’s Trotskyist cult the Workers Revolutionary Party. The articles, from 1983, exhibit a particularly disgusting brand of anti-Zionist antisemitism, portraying a reactionary Zionist web that stretches from the “rich Jews” who colluded with Hitler right through to rival Trot group Socialist Organiser, a conspiracy that silences opposition by playing its “anti-Semitic trump card” – phrases that have become all too common on the left. Anyway, the articles are relevant now because they contain a defence of the tyrant Muammar Gaddafi as anti-imperialist: try and swallow the words “in support of the Libyan masses under their leader Muammar Gaddafi.” And it is relevant to the “Progressive London” post because it generously quotes Ken Livingstone defending the WRP. Ken claims News Line “gives you an objective presentation of the news and political developments and supports the base struggles of the working class in industry and the community” and describes his enemies in the Labour Party as “agents of the Begin government”. I had forgotten how far back Ken goes with this “anti-imperialist” swamp. More on this sort of thing from Andrew Coates, David Osler and Michael Ezra and (from the archive) Sean Matgamna and Paul Anderson.

Also these two posts by Louis Proyect: “Qaddafi and the Left” and “Qaddafi and the Monthly Review” (re-posted at Kasama).

The new Stalinism

Darren Redstar on the new Stalinist witch-hunting of anarchists at Socialist Unity.

Pacifism: objectively pro-fascist, or objetively pro-imperialist?

Louis Proyect has a long piece attacking Gene Sharp (who I don’t know enough about to defend, although I find many of Louis’ accusations questionable). He includes this quote from the NYT:

Some people suspect Mr. Sharp of being a closet peacenik and a lefty — in the 1950s, he wrote for a publication called “Peace News” and he once worked as personal secretary to A. J. Muste, a noted labor union activist and pacifist — but he insists that he outgrew his own early pacifism and describes himself as “trans-partisan.”

Louis continues, interestingly, about AJ Muste, which struck me as interesting, given a discussion here a while back. Not often, I imagine, that Proyect and Michael Ezra are in agreement.

The Muste connection is interesting. In the 1930s, Muste was the leader of a group called the Workers Party that spearheaded major labor struggles. In James P. Cannon’s “History of American Trotskyism” there is a useful discussion of Muste’s importance. When Cannon found his own Trotskyist group growing closer to Muste’s, he broached the subject of a fusion that Muste was agreeable to. The Trotskyists were at that time doing what is called “entryism” in Norman Thomas’s Socialist Party. When they were expelled, they united with Muste as the Socialist Workers Party, reflecting each group’s antecedents.

Eventually Muste abandoned Marxism and became a Christian pacifist. As a leader of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Muste became critical in the formation of the Vietnam antiwar coalitions that would challenge the imperialist war-makers. One crucial difference between Muste and Sharp was their chosen arena of struggle. Muste targeted his own government while Sharp saw his role as providing leadership to struggles elsewhere, particularly in the Soviet bloc countries. During the Korean War Sharp spent nine months in a federal prison in Danbury, Conn., as a conscientious objector. He also took part in some civil rights protests but from the 1960s onwards his emphasis has been on providing consultation to people in other countries.

Grrrr…

UPDATE: An amendment beneath the fold.

It is not the purpose of this blog to get involved in contemporary political debates, even very trivial ones. But I was incensed at the nonsense spouted by Andy Newman, top socialist blogger, in the comment thread here.

It is not of course unheard of for anarchists to find common ground with fascists.

Sergio Pannunzio and Filippo Corradini went so far as to join Mussolini’s fascisti and become the main ideologues of Italian fascism, while still considering themselves anarchists.[…]

am saying that a certain type of ‘ squadristi ‘ mindset, which stresses localism, is broadly “anti-politics”, and a mythical shared community of working class life is a phenomenon that is mirrored on both the right and in some anarchist circles.

The fact that some anarchists in London are prepared to take time off from their PhD dissertations in order to condemn “Islamic extremeism” at precisley the time when media hysteria against such alleged extremism is being used to seek to demonise and marginalise mainstream Muslim activists is an illustration of what little grasp of politics you really have.

Ian Bone deals with the smears here.

One thing to add: “squadristi” is a term of abuse with a history.* It was used by the Italian Stalinists to smear the independent working class anti-fascist movement when the latter refused Communist control. It was later taken up by the SWP in the late 1970s, an essentially Stalinist party in form if not in content, to smear their working class former comrades who went on to form Red Action.

Bonus link: the Whitechapel Anarchist Group. (more…)