On This Day 2007: Death of Mary Low

This is part of her excellent obituary,  by Jim Jump, in the Independent (hyperlinks added):

Mary Low was a poet, linguist and classics teacher who, as a 24-year-old Trotskyist, vividly described the revolutionary fever that gripped Barcelona in the months following the military uprising against the Spanish Republic in July 1936. The era ended in May 1937 when the Republican authorities suppressed the city’s anarchist and dissident Communist movements.

Low’s Red Spanish Notebook: the first six months of revolution and the civil war (1937) was jointly written with her Cuban husband, the Surrealist poet Juan Breá, with a foreword by the Marxist historian and critic C.L.R. James. Her contribution consisted of 11 snapshots of mostly everyday life in those extraordinary times – when, as she reported, street barrel-organs played the “Internationale”, shoeshine boys carried an anarchist union card, waiters refused tips and notices were hung in brothels urging the clientele: “You are requested to treat the women as comrades – The Committee (by order)”.

George Orwell praised the book in a review for Time and Tide on 9 October 1937: “For several months large blocks of people believed that all men are equal and were able to act on their belief. The result was a feeling of liberation and hope that is difficult to conceive in our money-tainted atmosphere. It is here that Red Spanish Notebook is valuable . . . it shows you what human beings are like when they are trying to behave as human beings and not as cogs in the capitalist machine.”

This was the scene that Low found in Barcelona’s central thoroughfare of Las Ramblas:

“Housefronts were alive with waving flags in a long avenue of dazzling red. Splashes of black or white cut through the colour from place to place. The air was filled with an intense din of loudspeakers and people were gathered in groups here and there under the trees, their faces raised towards the round discs from which the words were coming.”

She brought a perceptive outsider’s – and Anglo-Saxon – eye to convey the quirks of life in “red” Barcelona, avoiding the heavy-handed heroics of some of her contemporaries. She notes, for example, the bureaucratic culture of the politicians and functionaries of the Catalan government in contrast to the egalitarian mood on the street. She visits the deserted suburb of San Gervasio, its fountains still playing in the gardens of the locked villas where the city’s rich families once lived.

There is no pomposity or romanticisation in her account of the burial of the anarchist leader Buenaventura Durruti, killed in November 1936 leading his militia in the defence of Madrid. His funeral, attended by tens of thousands of supporters, was delayed because alterations had to be made after it was discovered that the tomb for his coffin was too small, as was the pane of glass for viewing his embalmed corpse.

Newly arrived in the Catalan capital, she was horrified to find that the siesta was still being practised. “Do you mean to say that you shut up everything and go to sleep from one till four during the revolution and civil war?” she and Breá asked one inhabitant incredulously, only to note: “He stared at us from large languid eyes as if the sun had struck us.” Equally dispiriting for her was the continuing enthusiasm of the locals for the lottery – “the eternal lottery, like a veil of illusion still preserved for Catalan eyes”.

Born in London in 1912 to Australian parents – her father was a mining engineer and her mother a former actress – Low was educated in France and Switzerland. She mixed in circles frequented by left-wing political activists and avant-garde artists in Paris, where she met Breá in 1933. Among their friends were André Breton, Paul Eluard, René Magritte and Yves Tanguy. They travelled around Europe and to Cuba, eventually making their way to Barcelona in August 1936, where General Francisco Franco’s revolt had been crushed by workers’ militias and elements of the armed services loyal to the Republic.

Like Orwell, Low and Breá joined the quasi-Trotskyist POUM (Workers’ Party of Marxist Unity). Low worked on the English-language broadcasts for the party’s radio station and helped finance, co-edit and translate its fortnightly English newsletter, The Spanish Revolution. She was also the POUM’s representative in the press office of the Catalan government.

Paul Hampton gives more detail here:

She was part of a talented group of Trotsky-influenced young people, including the surrealist poet Benjamin Peret, Kurt and Katia Landau, Hipólito and Mika Etchebehere, Lois Cusick (Orr) and Charles Orr, Pavel Thalmann and Clara (Ensner) Thalmann, Nicola Di Bartolomeo and Virginia Gervasini, Robert de Fauconnet, Erwin Wolff and Hans Freund who went to Spain to fight for working class socialism. Many paid for their courage with their lives.

Low did radio broadcasts and edited the 8-page English-language weekly newspaper, The Spanish Revolution, from its first nine issues from 21 October 1936 until 23 December 1936. She was responsible for the section “News and notes” and for translating into English articles published in the POUM’s paper, La Batalla.

She and Breá left Spain on 28 December 1936. (The following issue of The Spanish Revolution, Volume II, No1, 6 January 1937 announced her departure.) Breá had been detained twice by the Stalinists and was involved in a near fatal and suspicious car “accident”.

Jump again:

Low and Breá were married in London in September 1937, shortly before the publication [by Secker and Warburg] of Red Spanish Notebook, for which Low translated Breá’s seven chapters from Spanish into English. Following interludes in Cuba and Paris, from early 1938 the couple lived in Prague, where they had several Surrealist friends, until July 1939 when they were forced to leave in the wake of the Nazi invasion.

Low’s poetry first appeared in a joint compilation with Breá, La Saison des flûtes, published in Paris in 1939. Again displaying her skills as a linguist, the poems were written in French and, in “La Chauve-souris visite Marseille” (“The Bat Visits Marseilles”), contain the apparently self-referential lines:

Type standard de l’aventurière internationale 
cheveux roux 
regard fatale, longue 
robe blanche, accent onomatopé 
aux surprenantes ambiguïtés harmoniques.

In 1940, Low and Breá boarded a transatlantic liner in Liverpool and made their way to Cuba, where she would remain for the next 25 years. Breá, however, was already ill and died just over a year later. In 1943 in Havana Low published a selection of essays, La verdad contemporánea, on political and cultural themes which featured a foreword by the French poet Benjamin Péret, whom she had known in Paris and Barcelona. The essays were edited versions of talks which she and her late husband had given at the city’s Institute of Marxist Culture in 1936 under titles such as “The Economic Roots of Surrealism” and “Women and Love from the Perspective of Private Property”.

In 1944 Low married Armando Machado, a Trotskyist Cuban trade-union leader, with whom she would have three daughters. At the same time she acquired Cuban citizenship, keeping her dual British-Cuban nationality for the rest of her life.

More poetry collections followed: Alquimia del recuerdo (“Alchemy of Memory”) in 1946, illustrated by the Cuban-born Surrealist Wilfredo Lam, and Tres voces – Three Voices – Trois voix in Spanish, English and French in 1957, for which the Cuban artist José Mijares provided illustrations. In 1948 she also translated El rey y la reina, as The King and the Queen, by the exiled Spanish novelist Ramón Sender.

Low and Machado welcomed the 1959 Cuban revolution. She taught English and Latin at the University of Havana and both of them became leading members of the re-formed Trotskyist POR (Revolutionary Workers’ Party). However, the party soon fell out of favour with the new regime. Indeed Machado was on one occasion arrested and only freed following the personal intervention of Che Guevara. Low moved to Sydney in 1965 and in 1967 she and Machado settled in Miami. She taught Latin and classical history at some of Florida’s élite private schools, having been barred from any public-sector teaching posts on account of her background in left-wing politics. She continued her writing and poetry, which were published in In Caesar’s Shadow (1975), Alive In Spite Of – El triunfo de la vida (1981), A Voice in Three Mirrors (1984) and Where the Wolf Sings (1994).

She retired from teaching in 2000 and, until wheelchair-bound in her final year, continued to travel, regularly visiting and making new friends in Europe, with whom she enjoyed telling anecdotes from her eventful life.

JJ Plant adds, in relation to her later years:

She worked closely with the Surrealist tendency associated with Franklin Rosemont….

In October 2002 she was one of the many signatories to the Surrealist-sponsored declaration Poetry Matters: On the Media Persecution of Amiri Baraka. Her final militant act was to sign a declaration of critical historians opposing the dominant historiography that depicts the Spanish revolution simply as a struggle between fascism and anti-fascism, (exemplified by Hobsbawm among UK academics) and seeks to erase the struggle between the classes from the historical record.

Mary Low’s ashes were scattered in Cuba and in Paris.

Some further sources and image from this wonderful Cezch website:

GUILLAMÓN, Agustín. Esbozo biográfico de Juan Breá. La Bataille socialiste [webové stránky], 2010 (původně otištěno v časopise Balance, noviembe 2009, no. 34).

GUILLAMÓN, Agustín. Mary Low, poeta, trotskista y revolucionaria. La Bataille socialiste [webové stránky], 2009.

GUILLAMÓN, Agustín. Perfiles revolucionarios: Mary Low y Juan Breá. Iniciativa Socialista [webové stránky] (původně jako předmluva ke knize Mary Low a Juana Breá Cuaderno Rojo de Barcelona /Barcelona: Alikornio, 2001/).

Juan Breá. In KELLEY, Robin D. G. – ROSEMONT, Franklin (eds.). Black, Brown & Beige: Surrealist Writings from Africa and the Diaspora. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2009, s. 55-58.

JUMP, Jim. Mary Low. The Independent, January 30, 2007.

ROCHE, Gérard. Mary Low (1912-2007) (materiál kombinuje autorovy texty otištěné v knize Mary Low Sans retour: Poèmes et collages /Paris: Syllepse, 2000/ a v bulletinu, vydávaném Sdružením přátel Benjamina Péreta, Trois cerises et une sardine, novembre 2007, no. 21).

Věnování z publikace Juana Breá Poemas de entonces (La Habana, 1942)

Věnování B. Broukovi a Toyen z publikace Juana Breá Poemas de entonces (La Habana, 1942/1943?)

Mary Low (1912-2007) a Juan Breá (1905-1941), nedatováno

Mary Low (1912-2007) a Juan Breá (1905-1941), nedatováno

Mary Low (1912-2007), Barcelona, 1936

Mary Low (1912-2007), Barcelona, 1936

Mary Low (1912-2007), nedatováno

Mary Low (1912-2007), nedatováno

Arsenal: Surrealist Subversion (1989, obálka)

Arsenal: Surrealist Subversion (1989, obálka)

Poumicated

I have not posted much here for ages. Here are some radical history items I’ve spotted in my recent browsing.

libcom.org launches new working class history Facebook page

Today, 30 July, anniversary of the first recorded strike in North American history, we are launching a new working class history page on Facebook to celebrate our history: people’s history.

Rosie Bell: Flippant Nihilist

I only know Alexander Cockburn as an editor of the creepy Counterpunch, and his airy dismissals  of anyone who thought Israel Shamir a dodgy piece of work.

There’s a fascinating account of him by Paul Berman.

Cockburn is reminiscent of Christopher Hitchens – the English journalist who lives in America and writes stylishly about American and international affairs. The political framework may be leftwards, the cultural references English literature, quoted with ease to point the moral and adorn the tale.[…]

Naomi Weisstein: The Chicago Women’s Liberation 
Rock Band, 1970-1973

A Memoir and Reflection on Badass 
Boffo Revolutionary Feminist MusicImage

In Chicagoland, in 1970, almost every teenage girl listened to rock. They considered it their music—hormonal, quasi-outlaw, with screaming guitars and a heavy, driving beat. But it was sooo misogynist! This wasn’t the Beatles’ playful woman-affectionate songs.

 For many years the dominant trend in scholarship on C.L.R. James has been to emphasize his cultural and literary writings. Arguably the most popular way to frame his legacy has been to situate him as a forerunner to cultural studies, post-colonial studies, and identity politics. Grant Farred, for example, has criticized “earlier modes of James studies” that addressed “debates that occupied sectarian James scholars” and welcomed “the centrality of cultural studies within James scholarship,” while Brett St. Louis has argued that the “march of identity politics and post-modernism” is “irresistible,” and that James’s work is of value precisely because it “grapples with a proto-post-marxist problematic.”

ImageDan La Botz: Ricardo Flores Magón – Mexican Anarchists and American Socialists

Claudio Lomnitz.The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón. New York: Zone Books, 2014. 594 pages. Notes. Index of Names. Photos. Hardback. $35.95.

If it were a house, Claudio Lomnitz’s The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón would be a rambling, decaying mansion with various jerrybuilt stories and wings, a ramshackle place filled with archives and artifacts, old political posters and antique typewriters, a building straddling the U.S.-Mexico border, a shared abode whose residents are an interesting and odd collection of characters, some of them lovely people, some noble, and others quite disagreeable, coming and going at all hours, sometimes reciting poetry. And don’t be surprised if, while you’re visiting, the place is raided by Furlong or Pinkerton agents, by the police or the Texas rangers who carry off some of the boarders to prison; some of whom will be gone for years at a time.

Ian Birchall: Lenin: Yes! Leninism: No?

That Lenin was an important revolutionary leader, and that his life and work repay our study today, are not in doubt. But what of “Leninism”?

Paul Le Blanc: Leninism, No?

There is a distinctive political approach and body of thought that can legitimately and constructively be termed Leninism.

Marshall BermanTodd Gitlin: Hurling the Little Streets Against the Great: Marshall Berman’s Perennial Modernism

For Marshall Berman, the street was not just the site where modernism was enacted; it was modernism incarnate. {…}

 Ingo Schmidt: Rosa Luxemburg – Economics 
for a New Socialist Project

Right-wing militias killed Rosa Luxemburg and dumped her dead body into the Landwehr Canal after the Spartacus uprising in Berlin. Social democrats and communists finished off her intellectual and political legacy by putting her on their respective pedestals. She became a principal witness against Bolshevik organizing practices for the former and was praised as a co-founder of the German Communist Party and a revolutionary martyr by the latter.

Andrew Coates: Jean Jaurès: The Anniversary of his Assassination, July 31st 1914. A Tribute.

Jaures l'Humanite

Jaurès was killed blindly, yet with reason:/‘let us have drums to beat down his great voice’. (The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy. Geoffrey Hill.)

A hundred years ago today, Jean Jaurès the leader of French socialism (SFIO, Section française de l’Internationale ouvrière), and Editor/Founder of l’Humanité were preparing an article against the coming war. Jaurès had supported the call of the Socialist International, launched by Keir Hardie and the Frenchman, Édouard Vaillant, to launch a general strike if armed fighting broke out.

By 1914 Europe was on the brink of war. At the end of July an emergency meeting of the Socialist International was held in Brussels, which endorsed a call for peace. On the 29th of July Jaurès spoke with Rosa Luxemburg, at a rally of seven thousand people against militarism and the coming confrontation at the Cirque Royal. He had already warned that fighting would lead to a catastrophe, “Quel massacre quelles ruines, quelle barbarie!” (Discours de Vaise. 25th July 1914) Now he talked of his “hatred of our chauvinists” and that we would not “give up the idea of a Franco-German rapprochement”. This looked less and less probable. Jaurès’ newspaper column (published after his death) would describe of the climate of “fear” and “anxiety” spreading across the continent.

Jaurès paused from his journalism and went to the near-by Café du Croissant to eat. At 20.45, the nationalist student Raoul Villain approached him and fired two bullets. One stuck his neck and was fatal. Villain claimed to have acted to “eliminate an enemy of the nation.”[…]

100 years after Jean Jaures’ murder, his name still inspires

Jean Juares

By Dick Nichols, Barcelona. July 31, 2014 — Green Left Weekly — When you travel through France, there’s one name that appears most in public space ― on streets, schools and metro stations. Not Jeanne d’Arc, Napoleon, or even World War II resistance leader and later president Charles de Gaulle. No, the name you can pretty safely bet you’ll find on some sign in the next sleepy village is that of Jean Jaures. Jaures was France’s most famous socialist leader and deputy, a tenacious and passionate fighter for workers’ rights and against war, anti-Semitism, clericalism and colonialism. Trying to explain his huge impact, the young Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky said in 1909: “As an orator he is incomparable and has met no comparison … it is not his rich technique nor his enormous, miraculous sounding voice nor the generous profusion of his gestures but the genius’s naivete of his enthusiasm which brings Jaures close to the masses and makes him what he is.”

One hundred years ago, on the evening of July 31, an extreme right-wing nationalist called Villain shot Jaures dead in Montmartre’s Cafe du Croissant. Jaures, accompanied by the editorial staff of l’Humanite, the socialist daily he had founded in 1904, was having dinner before finishing the next day’s edition. […]

Archive ImageKate Redburn: Unite Queer

Out in the Union, a new book by Miriam Frank, shows that unions have been crucial to the growth and success of the modern LGBT rights movement. {…}

Ian Birchall reviews Ernie Tate’s ‘Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s & 60s’

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal readers can read an excerpt HERE. To order a copy, email terryconway@tiscali.co.uk.

August 6, 2014 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — Anyone who was active in Britain’s Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (VSC) in the late 1960s will remember Ernie Tate, whose energy and enthusiasm made such a contribution. Now, 45 years later, he has published two volumes of memoirs from the 1950s and 1960s.

The first volume deals with the period 1955 to 1965. Tate was born in deep poverty in Belfast – he left school at 13 and tells us he “had never known or met anyone who had been to a secondary school, never mind university”. His only university was the revolutionary movement, and to judge by his later development it gave him a fine education.

Andrew Coates: Imperialism, Anti-Imperialism, and the Left. A Reply to Andrew Murray.

Imperialism, the Marxist historian Victor Kiernan claimed, shows itself, “in coercion exerted abroad, by one means or another, to extort profits above what simple commercial exchange can procure.” Andrew Murray begins Imperialism has Evolved since 1914, but it still Rules to World (Morning Star. 2.8.14. reproduced on 21st century Manifesto), by citing this assertion to observe that the “wars of 1914 and 1939 are the outstanding examples of what happens when that international system of extortion breaks down.” “Break-down and crisis” are as much a feature of “imperialism” as growth and slump are of capitalism. We might explain this, as a critic of Kiernan once noted, as the result of an inherent “atavistic” tendency to revert to type. […]

Portales, Suceso (1904-1999)Suceso Portales

 Martin Oppenheimer: New Light on the KKK

 Sit-ins at lunch counters by black students began in Greensboro, North Carolina, on February 1, 1960. Blacks had traditionally not been served there or anywhere in the South at that time. Within a week the sit-ins spread to Durham and Winston-Salem. Eleven of the first sit-ins were within 100 miles of Greensboro. After many arrests, and assaults by white hoodlums, on July 25 all Greensboro stores targeted by the sit-ins agreed to serve blacks on an equal basis.

 Alan Wald: Astonished by the present – The impatient life of Daniel Bensaïd

Daniel BenSaid

 Let us start, like Dante, in the middle. At age twenty-two, Daniel Bensaïd (1946–2010), a French-Algerian-Jewish philosophy student, vaulted eagerly onto the world stage of the international youth radicalization of 1968. His political stardom came by way of a leading role in the actions igniting the largest general strike in the history of France. At the suburban campus of the University of Paris at Nanterre, Bensaïd joined with his German-Jewish classmate Danny (“The Red”) Cohn-Bendit (b. 1945) to form the March 22nd Movement. This was a surprising partnership of anarchists, situationists, Trotskyists, and Maoists who seized an administrative building to proclaim demands addressing class discrimination and bureaucracy in the educational system. Bold for its time, the Nanterre occupation is customarily credited with detonating the chain of student strikes and protests climaxing in the sensational actions in Paris six weeks later: The May 6 demonstration of 20,000 at the Sorbonne and the May 10–11 all-night battle on the Left Bank.

Angiolillo’s vengeance

The story of Michele Angiolillo, an Italian anarchist who assassinated the repressive Spanish Prime Minister Antonio Cánovas in 1897

E. Haberkern: When the Red States Really Were Red

 The labor- and third-party movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have been studied and written about extensively by academics and writers on the left. Most readers of this journal are probably familiar with much of this material. This book, however, is of particular interest today for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the author concentrates on the South and emphasizes the biracial nature of the movement.

The tragic week, Spain 1909 – Murray BookchinGeneral strike, Barcelona, 1909

A short history of the ‘Star of Peru’ Bakery Workers’ Federation (FOPEP)

Mark Kosman: World War I and 100 years of counterrevolution

accuserJohn Maclean: the accuser of capitalism

To mark the 100th anniversary of the first world war, People & Nature today publishes Accuser of Capitalism: John Maclean’s Speech from the Dock on 9 May, 1918. (Introduction here, text of speech here.) Maclean, a Scottish Marxist, was one of a small number of socialists across

Europe who denounced their governments’ participation in the war, urged workers to resist it, and hoped that it would be superceded by class war.

The Slocum massacre, 1910Descendants of some of the victims of the massacre

From the archive of struggle: the Spanish Civil War at Warwick, the Marxist Internet Archive, and more

It is a long time since I have done one of these posts, and my comrade Entdinglichung has been relaxing for a while, so we have not had the benefit of his services to the cause. First, some news (thanks Liz in a comments thread), from the Modern Records Centre in Warwick, in the UK:

Work is now underway on a major new project to digitise internationally significant archives relating to the Spanish Civil War.

The project will result in over 10,000 pages of archive material being made available online free of charge. Transcriptions will be available for every item, allowing researchers to search through the mass of material for key words or phrases.

It is anticipated that the project will be completed in Spring 2012.

What is being digitised?

The archive collection of the Trades Union Congress includes 45 files on different aspects of the conflict. The files contain correspondence, minutes, reports, memoranda and propaganda material produced by members of the British and Spanish governments; political groups; international, British and Spanish trade unions; pressure groups, aid organisations, and other interested parties.

In addition, we are also digitising a small number of publications from the collections of the Trotskyists Henry Sara and Hugo Dewar. These include examples of bulletins (in English and Spanish) produced by Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM).

This is great news. Those interested might also be interested in some of their other digital resources:

Examples of documents relating to the conflict in Spain are included in our online resources for the History Department module ‘Anti-fascism, Resistance and Liberation in Western Europe (HI392)’. Photographs of Basque refugees in Britain are included in our image gallery ‘North Stoneham Camp for Basque Children: Snapshots of a Volunteer’.

Below is extracted from the former, and I urge you to spend some time there:

Letter from Willy Brandt of the German Seamen's Group, Oslo, to Edo Fimmen, Secretary of the International Transport Workers' Federation, 1937 Letter from Willy Brandt of the German Seamen’s Group, Oslo, to Edo Fimmen, Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, 1937Willy Brandt was Chancellor of West Germany between 1969-1974 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971 for his attempts to improve relations between the East and West. As an active socialist and anti-fascist, Brandt (born Karl Herbert Frahm) fled to Norway in 1933 to avoid arrest by the Nazi authorities. It was then that Frahm adopted the new name that he would use for the remainder of his life. [Added, from Wikipedia: “After passing his Abitur in 1932 at Johanneum zu Lübeck, he became an apprentice at the shipbroker and ship’s agent F.H. Bertling. He joined the “Socialist Youth” in 1929 and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in 1930. He left the SPD to join the more left wing Socialist Workers Party (SAP), which was allied to the POUM in Spain and the Independent Labour Party in Britain. In 1933, using his connections with the port and its ships, he left Germany for Norway to escape Nazi persecution. It was at this time that he adopted the pseudonym Willy Brandt to avoid detection by Nazi agents. In 1934, he took part in the founding of the International Bureau of Revolutionary Youth Organizations, and was elected to its Secretariat.” -Poumista][Included in the records of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, document reference: MSS.159/3/C/A/52]
'The Spanish Revolution', Bulletin of the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM), 3 February 1937 ‘The Spanish Revolution’, Bulletin of the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification (POUM), 3 February 1937English language bulletin published in Barcelona. This edition counters Communist or Stalinist accusations against POUM. One of the inside pages also includes a reference to a visit to the offices of the publication by “the well-known British author” Eric Blair [George Orwell].[One of a series of publications on the Spanish Civil War from the papers of Henry Sara, Trotskyist; document reference: MSS.15/3/8/255/9]
'Barcelona Bulletin', second edition, 15 May 1937 ‘Barcelona Bulletin’, second edition, 15 May 1937Anarchist news sheet describing the fighting between the Communists, and the anarchists and the Trotskyists (POUM) in Barcelona. It includes reports by Jane H. Patrick and Ethel Macdonald on events between 5-9 May.[One of a series of publications on the Spanish Civil War from the papers of Henry Sara, Trotskyist; document reference: MSS.15/3/8/243]

More archival news from the Alliance for Workers Liberty:

The archives of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and our forerunners, deposited at the library of the London School of Economics, are now catalogued and available to researchers. http://archives.lse.ac.uk/TreeBrowse.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&field=RefNo&key=AWL The archives include all the documents and publications of the AWL and our forerunners except the most recent stuff, which is on this website or (in the case of more recent minutes of AWL committees) in electronic archives available to AWL members.

The rest of this post is a round-up of some of the main radical digital archive sites.

From HathiTrust:

From Robert Graham:

At the Kate Sharpley Library:

  • Iron Column by Abel Paz printedThe story of the Iron Column: militant anarchism in the Spanish Civil War by Abel Paz, a Kate Sharpley Library copublication with AK Press, is back from the printers. If you can’t wait until we get copies, AK are already selling it at: http://www.akpress.org/2011/items/storyoftheironcolumn
  • New publication: Anarchism In Galicia : Organisation, Resistance and Women in the UndergroundThe Anarchist movement in Galicia is unknown to English-language readers. These essays tells the stories of the men and women who built it, fought for it, and how they kept it alive in the face of incredible odds. ‘The FAI in Galicia’ by Eliseo Fernández gives a brief history of Galician anarchism before the foundation of the FAI (Federación Anarquista Ibérica: Iberian Anarchist Federation) in 1927. It goes on to detail the structure and activities of the FAI in Galicia, and shows how the tensions and tactical disagreements within Spanish anarchism played out at a local level, including within the CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo: National Confederation of Labour). ‘Vigo 1936’ by Antón Briallos records the desperate – and ultimately unsuccessful – battle in the streets against the fascist revolt of July 1936. Full biographical details of anarchists mentioned show the roots, structure and fate of the anarchist movement in Vigo before, during and after the Spanish Civil War. ‘The Anarchist Homes of Libertarian Women’ by Carmen Blanco tells how Galicia’s anarchist women sheltered other militants and were central to attempts to rebuild the anarchist movement. This tribute reveals the extent of their involvement and the terrible price they paid. Edited and translated by Paul Sharkey. ISBN 9781873605127 Publication details and online review copy
  • July 2011 KSL Bulletin online: KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library No. 67, July 2011 has just been posted on the site. You can get to the contents here or read the full pdf here.

At Libcom:

  • Cover of the book - published by Les nuits rougesLa « Garde rouge » raconte (“The “Red Guard” tells its story”): The centre of gravity of the workers’ committee movement in Italy in the late ’60s to late ’70s was the Milan area, and it was the committee of Magneti Marelli in the Crescenzago factory which was the most advanced expression of the committees in this region, and thus in the whole country. This book by the Italian historian Emilio Mentasti examines the whole history of the committee from its birth during the economic crisis of 1973 to its dissolution under the blows of judicial repression and industrial restructuring. Unfortunately, there is no English edition available as yet…
  • The IWW Reply to the Red Trade Union International: Executive Committee, R.I.L.U., Moscow, Russia.
  • The Left in the Detroit Labour Movement – Martin Glaberman: Martin Glaberman reviews – and contests the accuracy and honesty of – two books on the Detroit union movement: Christopher H. Johnson, Maurice Sugar: Law, Labor, and the Left in Detroit, 1912-1950(Detroit: Wayne State University Press 1988); Margaret Collingwood Nowak, Two Who Were There: A Biography of Stanley Nowak(Detroit: Wayne State University Press 1989).
  • Rediscovering Two Labor Intellectuals – Steve Early: Steve Early reviews collections of writings by Martin Glaberman and Stain Weir, while tying their experience and outlook to the emerging split within the AFL-CIO in 2004: Singlejack Solidarity. By Stan Weir. (Edited and with an afterward by George Lipsitz. Forward by Norm Diamond.) Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2004. 369 pp. $19.95, paperback; Punching Out & Other Writings. By Martin Glaberman. (Edited and introduced by Staughton Lynd.)Chicago, Ill: Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company, 2002. 229 pp. $15 paperback.
  • Radical Unionism and the Workers’ Struggle in Spain – Ruben Vega Garcia and Carlos Perez: A piece on Spanish trade unionism since the Franco’s death. The Spanish labor movement inherited a revolutionary legacy whose most important landmarks are the general strike of 1917, the proletarian insurrection of 1934, and the zealous antifascist reaction of 1936. However, as a result of its defeat in the Spanish Civil War, the prolonged iron dictatorship profoundly disrupted the continuity of this tradition.
  • cover of Workers Against WorkWorkers Against Work: Labor in Paris and Barcelona During the Popular Fronts – Michael Seidman (PDF). PDF of the complete book.
  • The Old and New in Anarchism: A Reply to Comrade Malatesta Piotr Arshinov’s 1928 reply to Errico Malatesta. In the anarchist organ Le Reveil of Geneva, in the form of a leaflet, comrade Errico Malatesta has published a critical article on the project of the Organisational Platform edited by the Group of Russian Anarchists Abroad.
  • The Struggle in the Factory: History of a Royal Ordnance Factory. The History of Dalmuir R.O.F. is the history of any other war-time factory, it is the story of the workers’ struggle against the forces of capitalism aided an abetted by the fakirs of the trade unions and the Communist Party. Faced with these odds it is creditable that the workers did not succumb entirely, and that a band of them continued in opposition and endeavoured to preserve some degree of sanity throughout the welter of lies, distortions and intrigue that surrounded the worker.

At Workers Liberty:

At the Marxist Internet Archive:

Added to the POUM History Archive:

Added to the Max Shachtman Archive:

Added to the Spanish Helmut Wagner Archive:

Added to the Tony Cliff Archive:

Added to the U.S.A. History Section:

  • 24 issues of Labor Defender, the monthly journal of the International Labor Defense. Completed are the full first two years of journal, 1926 – 1927. The Labor Defenderwas an “pictorial” magazine with dozens of photographs and drawings from the best labor illustrators of that era. Articles were written and edited by, variously, Upton Sinclair, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, James P. Cannon, Max Shactman, Carloline Scollen and Eugene V. Debs.

Added to the Raya Dunayevskaya Archive:

Added to the Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line new Militant Project, part of the Left Opposition Publications Digitization Project:

  • All 55 issues of The Militant for Volume VI, 1933 and all of the last year of The Militant, 1934. These additions represents the end of the Communist League of America (Opposition) era before merging with the American Workers Party (lead by A. J. Muste) that formed the new Workers Party of the U.S. which published The New Militant. This new period ended the period of being a public faction of the Communist Party of America while seeking to win that party back to what the Trotskyists of the CLA considered a genuine Leninist and revolutionary program. Both the failure of the German Communist to prevent Hitler from coming to power and the leadership of the CLA in the Minneapolis Teamster Strikes of 1934, the CLA concluded that it can have more of impact on revolutionary politics as a party in it’s own right than a faction of one they believed was playing an increasingly negative role in the workers movement in the U.S. and internationally through the Communist International.
  • All the issues of the New Militant for 1935 and 1936, its entire run, published by the newly formed Workers Party of the U.S. This brings to an end the newspaper publication efforts of the Trotskyists in the form of The Militant and then the New Militant due to their organized entry into the left-moving Socialist Party of America. After this point it is not until August of 1937 with the start of publication of Socialist Appeal do the Trotskyists again publish a weekly workers paper.

Added to the C.L.R. James Archive:

Added to the new Raymond Challinor Archive in the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL):

Added to the Alexander Shliapnikov Archive:

  • On the Eve of 1917 (1923) (Book-length memoir of his experiences in the underground both in Russia and abroad during the World War I by Alexander Shliapnikov, a Bolshevik organiser and later leader of the Workers’ Opposition)

Added to the Periodical Page:

  • The Class Struggle was a bi-monthly Marxist theoretical magazine published in New York City by the Socialist Publication Society. The SPS also published a series of pamphlets, mostly reprints from the magazine during the short period of its existence. Among the initial editors of the publication were Ludwig Lore, Marxist theoreticians Louis B. Boudin and Louis C. Fraina, the former of whom left the publication in 1918. In the third and final year of the periodical, The Class Struggleemerged as one of the primary English-language voices of the left wing factions within the American Socialist Party and its final issue was published by the nascent Communist Labor Party of America.

Added to the Murray Bookchin Internet Archive:

  • State Capitalism in Russia, 1950. Article by Murray Bookchin when he was associated with the German ex-Trotskyists of the IKD putting their view on the nature of the USSR and historical retrogression.

An addition to the Spanish-language Archivo Andreu Nin:

At Anarkismo: (more…)

From the archive of struggle, no.35: Holt Labor Library special

In previous editions, I have featured the Labadie Collection and the Greater Manchester Collection. This week, we focus on the Holt Labor Library, with more below the fold. Browse the whole series here.

The Holt Labor Library in San Francisco has a truly exemplary website. Below are some snippets from some of its exhibitions, which are hyperlinked to their source pages.

The Bob Mattingly Button Exhibit.

[1991] Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) was formed in 1976 from a number of reform groups including Teamsters for a Democratic Contract and UPSurge. They were reacting to corruption within the union caused by leadership being too close to businesses, as well as their alleged affiliation with organized crime and the Nixon administration. Professionals Drivers’ Council (PROD) merged with TDU in 1979, bringing their lobbying and legal expertise, and new members from the East Coast and South. As a reform group within the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, TDU believes in a democratic union with control resting in the membership. Their Rank and File Bill of Rights emphasizes election of union leadership, majority approval of contract votes, equality throughout the union, workplace standards and fair salaries. Over the years, several of their goals have been implemented union-wide. In 1988, Majority Rule on Contracts became part of the IBT Constitution. TDU won direct election of officers through a federal RICO lawsuit in 1989. With the election of TDU-backed Ron Carey as Teamsters president in 1991, officers’ pay was slashed and financial waste ended. The TDU was active in the successful 1997 UPS strike. They supported Tyson Foods workers in Pasco, Washington in 1999 who called a strike even without IBT support. Today they continue their reform struggle against current IBT president James Hoffa, Jr., who they blame for new corruption and a loss of union membership.

[1984] United Farm Workers (UFW) leader César Chávez called for a third boycott on California table grapes in 1984. Whereas previous UFW boycotts had been about farm worker conditions, this one called for a ban on five major pesticides used in grape fields. The UFW claimed in their 1989 film, “Wrath of Grapes,” that the chemicals caused cancer and birth defects, and that they were getting into the ground water of surrounding communities. Chávez went on a 36-day hunger strike in 1988 to promote the boycott, receiving support from many politicians and celebrities. Later that year, city leaders in San Francisco, San Jose and Alameda County joined the boycott. UFW continued its boycott after Chávez’s death in 1993, ending it in 2000 when four of the five pesticides in question had been banned and the fifth regulated.

[1996] “The long-running, low key but aggresive campaign to organize a new party anchored firmly inside the American Labor Movement, will culminate next June in Cleveland, Ohio when delegates from across the nation formally launch a grassroots, working class-based political movement.” (Labor Party Advocate, August 1995) According to the organization’s website, the founding conference attracted “1,400 delegates from hundreds of local and international unions as well as individual activists.” They adopted a 16-point program, the “Call for Economic Justice,” that “demands that everyone who wants to work have a right to a decent-paying job. As long as millions of us remain jobless or employed at jobs that pay poverty wages, all of us will suffer.” (Labor Party: FAQs. http://www.thelaborparty.org/a_faqs.html )

Holt Labor Library Audio Collection

A selection of the library’s audio collection is online in mp3 format, hosted by the Marxists Internet Archive. Currently, lectures by George Breitman, James P. Cannon, Farrell Dobbs, Tom Kerry, Ernest Mandel, Robert Langston, Larry Trainor, Evelyn Reed and Harry Ring are available, with more to be added.

There are also special features, each with lots of links, on topics such as the San Francisco General Strike of 1934 (including folk song sheet music), the late Sylvia Weinstein, Sacco and Venzetti, Joe Hill, the Lawrence textiles strike, and the United Farm Workers of America.

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Memetic

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

Words

Bob on Anti-fascism

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

History is Made at Night on Surrealism

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

Martin in the Margins on Saramago

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

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

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

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

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

Books

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

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

Bob on CLR James The Black Jacobins

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

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

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

More books

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

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

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

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

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

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

More from Horrox at Zeek.

One more thing

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

From the archive of struggle, no.26

This week, a bumper edition, and a multi-lingual treat. Includes lots of things stolen from Entdinglichung, and possibly repeating one or two things I’ve already mentioned. Features the POUM, the Spanish civil war, Italian anarchists in WWII, Irish anarchists in the 1970s, German left communism, American Trotskyists in the 1930s (including Dwight MacDonald and Hal Draper), Trotsky himself, ultra-leftists on the Iraq war, and much more. Beneath the fold. Stuff in English at the top, scroll down for other languages.

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