From the archive of struggle, no.85

Gosh it’s a long time since I last did this.

I was browsing through the Marxist Internet Archive and noted a few recent additions.

SHACHTMANISM 1939-1944-1948

These texts all relate to American Third Camp Trotksyism. In 1939, its future leaders were still in the SWP, one grouping around Max Shachtman, another around Albert Goldman and Felix Morrow, and a third around CLR James and Raya Dunayevskaya. The Workers’ Party, led by Max Shachtman, was formed in 1940 as a breakaway from the Socialist Workers Party, which Shachtman had led with James P Cannon.  The WP took a more uncompromisingly anti-Stalinist line than the SWP. By 1944, James and Dunayevskaya were in the WP, which they left with their grouping (the Johnson-Forest Tendency) to rejoin the SWP by 1948. Goldman, on the other hand, had stayed in the SWP but had joined the WP by 1948, although by the end of the year, with James T Farrell, he had left to join the far larger Socialist Party of America while Morrow did not join any party.

Added to the Felix Morrow Archive:

These texts are interesting for their strong sympathy with the Jews of Palestine, seen as victims of British imperialism, and for the linking of this issue with the struggle against fascism in Spain and beyond. They also show how Stalinist forms of anti-fascism were at best partial and argue for a more militant form of anti-fascism.

Added to the Max Shachtman Archive:

Added to the C.L.R. James Archive:

Added to the new Ernest Rice McKinney Archive in the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL):

MIA does not yet have a biography of Rice McKinney. This is from the University of Pittsburgh’s archive:

Born in Malden, West Virginia, in 1886, McKinney, also known under the pseudonym David Coolidge, was the son of a coal miner. At different points in his life, McKinney endeavored a variety of jobs which included becoming editor of, This Month, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Courier (1932), Executive Secretary of the Unemployed Citizens’ League of Allegheny County (1933), a Social Worker, and Assistant to the Director, Kingsley House. In 1916 an oral history conducted at Columbia University resulted in McKinney writing a 116 page book of memoirs published by Harvard University, The Reminiscences of Ernest Rice McKinney. The memoir deals with the development of the National Unemployed League, depression days; organizing steel workers for CIO, membership in the Workers’ Socialist Party; upgrading African Americans in industry; Working Men’s Welfare Committees; Workers Party of the United States (Trotskyist Group) and its relationship to Communist and Socialist Parties; and McKinney’s resignation from Workers Party.

Workers’ Liberty add:

McKinney had joined the Communist Party in Pittsburgh in 1920, at the age of 24, and A J Muste’s Conference for Progressive Labor Action in 1929. With the CPLA, he joined the US Trotskyists in 1933. He had sided with Shachtman and Draper when they divided from the “orthodox” Trotskyists in 1939-40 over attitudes to the USSR’s invasions of Poland and Finland. In 1950, like others around that time, and while remaining socialist-minded, he drifted away from organised politics.

Louis Proyect adds:

In 1943 CLR James submitted a resolution titled “The Historical Development of the Negroes in American Society” to the Workers Party for discussion and adoption. It was a conscious attempt to apply Lenin’s support for the self-determination of oppressed nationalities in general to the specific problem of self-determination for black America, an internal quasi-colony.

His was a minority position. Within the Workers Party, James had been derided as an ultraleftist and an eccentric. Max Schachtman, the party leader, called James a “literary man” as a put-down. The fact that James had led study circles on Hegel and Capital was another sign that James was not a real Bolshevik. The party member most hostile to James, however, was Ernest Rice McKinney. He gave James the nickname “Sportin’ Life”, after the villainous pimp in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. (Again, I tip my hat to Scott McLemee who provides this background data in his excellent introduction to “CLR James and the Negro Question”.)

Writing for the party majority, McKinney put forward the classic “black-white unity” position of American socialism directly opposed to James’s embrace of black nationalism:

“The white worker must take the lead and offensive in the struggle for the Negro’s democratic rights…The white workers are strongly organized, they have had ages of experience and they are powerful. On the other hand, no matter how great their courage and determination, the Negroes are organizationally, financially and numerically weak in comparison with the white workers, and woefully and pitifully weak in the face of present-day capitalism…”

Added to the new Andrzej Rudzienski Archive:

I’d never heard of Rudzienski and couldn’t find much about him. This is from James Robertson in Revolutionary History:

The Shachtman WP-ICL had a journalistic collaborator, apparently a Polish emigré probably resident in Chile, who wrote on Latin American affairs under the name Juan Rey or Juan Robles. When writing on East Europe he used the name Andrzej Rudzienski, which might have been his real name.

In May 1952 ‘Juan Rey’ raised the call for a workers’ government in Bolivia, criticising the FOR, official section of the Fourth International, for tailing the bourgeois nationalist Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR – Revolutionary National Movement)

Whereas this is also from RH:

a series of reports written from different parts of Latin America which appeared mainly in the Workers Party newspaper, Labor Action, with increasing regularity during the late 1940s and early 1950s over the pseudonyms of ‘Juan Robles ’and ‘Juan Rey’. Why the author saw fit to change his pen name is not at all clear, any more than his real identity. But it is almost certain that he was the Peruvian Trotskyist Emilio Adolfo Westfallen (Bestfalling), a founder of the GOM, which changed its name to the POR (Peru) in 1947, who was a supporter of Shachtman.

Added to the Natalia Sedova Trotsky Archive:

This is an attack on the Stalinist-turned-Gaullist Andre Malraux for claiming some affiliation with Trotsky. The letter from Sedova is also quite hostile to Victor Serge. It doesn’t make much sense without the context, which is supplied here by Richard Greeman:

in January 1948, a month after Serge’s death, that great confabulator André Malraux launched a macabre press campaign claiming Serge as a deathbed convert to Gaullism.[7] The sad fact is that six days before he died, Serge had sent a grossly flattering personal letter to Malraux, begging the support of de Gaulle’s once and future Minister of Culture (and Gallimard editor) to publish his novel Les Derniers temps in France.[8] Desperate to leave the political isolation and (fatally) unhealthy altitude of Mexico for Paris, Serge indulged in an uncharacteristic ruse de guerre, feigning sympathy for Malraux’s “political position” — according to Vlady, at his urging. Serge’s ruse backfired. His letter and the news of his death reached Paris simultaneously, and Malraux seized the moment by printing selected excerpts and leaking them to C.L. Sulzberger, who published them in the N.Y. Times — thus recruiting Serge’s fresh corpse into the ranks of the Western anti-Communist crusade.[9]

Aside from this letter, there is zero evidence in Serge’s writings, published and unpublished,[10] of sympathy for Gaullism or Western anti-Communism — quite the contrary.

Added to the Hal Draper Archive:

Added to the Albert Goldman Archive:

  • Partition One Thing; Aid to Jews Another (letter) (1948) [Also very interesting, setting out an argument for the rights of Jews in Israel to defend themselves against the Arabs who are seen as a reactionary force, but also against partition and for a united but democratic Palestine with minority rights.]

Added to the Irving Howe Archive:

Added to the Susan Green Archive:

As well as Sarah Green, an important activist in the Third Camp scene for a while, there are pieces by two other women: Reva Craine and Mary Bell. I don’t know anything about either – if any readers do, please leave a comment.

Added to the Stanley Plastrik Archive:

Stanley Plastrik had served as an enlisted man in the infantry in France during World War II and returned there later to earn a doctorate at the Sorbonne in Paris. He later joined the faculty of the Staten Island college after teaching in high school for a time. He would later go on to co-found and edit Dissent magazine.

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)

Notes towards the recovery of the tradition of the British dissident left

Here are three completely (well, not completely) unrelated items from Dave Renton’s excellent “lives; running” blog.

1. What Engels’ supporters did next

This is a nice post on the dissidents in Henry Hyndman’s SDF who broke with the authoritarian social democratic cult (it’s hard not to read the SWP of the last decade or two into Renton’s description) to experiment with a more supple, democratic, libertarian socialism in the Socialist League, in particular Frederick Engels, William Morris, Tom Maguire and Eleanor Marx. The SL, for a while, included both Marxists and anarchists, and represents an important alternative possibility, a path not travelled, in the history of the left. It gave birth (along with Tom Mann, who left the SDF for the ILP) to both the centrist Independent Labour Party and the British anarchist movement.

Renton is harsh on the SL anarchists, over-emphasising their affinity for terror. He talks about the ex-SLers that went into “anarchism of the deed” without mentioning that many of them were actually crucially involved in mainstream anarchism’s turn from insurrectionist violence to syndicalism (again along with Tom Mann) and anarchist-communism. It is also interesting that the ILP, despite being to the right of the SL, maintained good contacts with anarchists on and off; Keir Hardie fought to keep anarchism within the newly formed Second International, for example, and Orwell’s connection with the anarchists represents the coming back together of the two main traditions of the Socialist League.

Finally, I think Renton is overplays the description of the ILP as bureaucratic, reformist and parliamentary. In fact, I think, the ILP kept alive the spirit of Morris – democratic, utopian, anti-parliamentary, critical – within the heart of a labour movement otherwise burdened by the twin curses of reformist social democracy and Stalinism that were the SDF’s bequest.

(If you  are interested in this, see also Frank Kitz’s Reflections, including recollections of Morris in the East End, and the late Terry Liddle on the heritage of William Morris.)

Hogsbjergcover2. A new life of CLR James

This is a notice about Christian Hogsbjerg’s new biography of Nello.

It is a compelling book, of the right length for its material (280 pages), which sheds significant light on three aspects of James’ development, first his debt to revolutionary Nelson, second the impact of cricket on his Marxism, third, his (re)discovery of Toussaint L’Ouverture.

James himself stated repeatedly that he learned his revolutionary politics among the Lancashire weavers, and in particular in the small town of Nelson, to which he travelled in 1932 as Learie Constantine’s ghost-writer. Hogsbjerg tracks down details of James’s career as a visiting member of Nelson’s second XI. He finds examples of Nelson being described as a Little Moscow in the 1920s. He locates the source of James’ copy of Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution – loaned by a fellow bibliophile Fred Cartmell. He vividly portrays the almost insurrectionary 1931-2 “More Looms” cotton strike, the immediate prelude to James’ arrival in the town. And he finds notes of James’ meetings for the ILP branch in Nelson.

The post-colonial version of James is often these days separated from the Trotskyist version of James, so it is good to see them brought together here. And the story of James encountering dissident Marxism within a milltown ILP branch belies the dismissive version of the ILP in Renton’s Engels post above.

3. Love is run on fascist lines

sedge

This is a poem by Peter Sedgwick, written in 1956, the year he made the same move as William Morris, leaving the Communist Party (the inheritor of the SDF tradition) to join Tony Cliff’s Socialist Review group, as Stalin’s tanks rolled into Budapest applauded by the CPGB’s loyalists. The SR group, which became the International Socialists (IS), for a while represented something of the same spirit as Morris’ Socialist League, heavily influenced by the late ILP (the term “Neither Washington nor Moscow” was actually coined by the ILP, although the IS/SWP would claim it as their own). Sedgwick left the IS in 1976 when it became the SWP, i.e. when it took on the role of the SDF (with Cliff as its Hyndman); hindsight shows how right he was.

Anyway, read the poem.

Mike Marqusee z”l

I was sad to hear that Mike Marqusee died before Christmas. I didn’t know him personally, but coincided with him in the Socialist Alliance and in the Social Forum movement, in both of which the democratic politics that he represented were stitched up by the Stalinist tactics of the Socialist Workers Party. I disagreed with him on lots of topics, but he was a fine writer and,  I believe, a person of integrity. The Guardian published an excellent obituary. Here’s a tribute from Pluto Press. My thoughts are with Liz, his partner.

Here are some of his articles: (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…)

Talking History

Reificationofpersonsandthings posts a wonderful video of EP Thompson and CLR James talking history in (presumably) the mid-1980s. I can’t find much information about this film, apparently released in 2007 in Ipswich, Suffolk by Concord Media.

According to Amazon,

This classic filmed conversation between two radical historians covers many issues: from the threat of nuclear war to the significance of the Solidarity movement in Poland, the independence struggle in Zimbabwe and the overthrow of the Shah in Iran. Do these movements offer encouragement to those suffering repression in other parts of the world? What does the future hold for India and the black African states? The film illustrated with archive footage and music is provided by Spartacus R.

Spartacus R died two years ago. He was the bassist in the great Osibisa. Here is his MySpace page.

Update: Histomatist has also posted it.

Update 2: Principia Dialectica on EP Thompson and George Lichtheim on William Morris.

Published in: on October 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , ,

The Hitch on Marx and Nello

Here’s Richard King on Christopher Hitchens:

For Hitchens, who still considers himself a Marxist, it isn’t what you think that matters – it’s how you think. One of the finest pieces in Arguably is on the early journalism of Karl Marx. Here is the writer on the fact that Marx wrote some articles for the New York Tribune: ”If you are looking for an irony of history, you will find it not in the fact that Marx was underpaid by an American newspaper, but in the fact that he and Engels considered Russia the great bastion of reaction and America the great potential nurse of liberty and equality.”

The keyword here is ”irony”, by which Hitchens means not mere coincidence but that quality of contradiction and incongruity that has the power to capsize the ”official” narrative. Marx himself deployed irony in this way and so Hitchens is paying him an implicit compliment by identifying this aspect of his thinking. And, of course, in doing so he shows that a respect for the American ideal is congruent with the most radical philosophical elements. Not bad for a sentence of about 50 words.

Like Marx, Hitchens is steeped in literature. Indeed, he is the finest example we have of that vanishing breed: the political man of letters. Like George Orwell, he knows that a feeling for language is an invaluable tool when seeking to expose and counter the totalitarian world view. As he puts it in a piece on C.L.R.James, the Trinidadian Marxist historian: ”One notices time and again that [he] is moved to anger by the sheer ugliness and euphemism of the enemy’s prose style. His training in English literature was as useful to him as his apprenticeship in dialectics.”

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/books/political-man-of-letters-20110908-1jya9.html#ixzz1Y88nwpj7

Published in: on September 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

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…)

History notes

Current affairs

Orwell’s Kilburn flat is getting a new blue plaque, which is nice. And it is Orwell Prize nomination time of year again. Phil AVPS picks his best ten posts here, and reckons Laurie Penny will get it because she is surfing the zeitgeist, a suggestion Paul in Lancashire beautifully deconstructs here. I’m not sure if I’ll nominate myself; I don’t think I managed ten decent posts in 2010.

Totally unrelated, here’s Ron Radosh on the decline of the New York intellectuals. Talking of NY intellectuals, Alfred Kazin’s journals are soon to be published.

The Accidental Anarchist: an interview with writer Bryna Kranzler.

The latest Carnival of Socialism is hosted by Luna17 here. It takes the theme of “Debating the way forward”, very necessary indeed. This is from right at the end:

Charlie Pottins pays tribute to Jayaben Desai, who uttered these immortal words:

“What you are running here is not a factory, it is a zoo. In a zoo, there are many types of animals. Some are monkeys who dance on your fingertips, others are lions who can bite your head off. We are those lions, Mr Manager.”

On the 20th January we’re with Bob from Brockley and then at the beginning of Feb we’ll be with the Great Unrest.

From the archive of struggle

Mostly via Ent.. as usual.

Dublin Council of Trade UnionsIn Dublin City in 1913: Songs and Stories of the Workers of Dublin, May Day Festival, 1988. There are articles on 1913, on May Day in Dublin since 1890, a profile of Jim Larkin and James Connolly and a range of other materials of interest.

* [Leon Trotsky] Leo Trotskij: Revolutionen i Spanien och kommunisternas uppgifter (1931). In Swedish.

* National Youth Committee, Communist League of America (Opposition)Young Spartacus, Nr. 1-11 (1931-1932) // Opposition Group in the Workers (Communist) Party of America/Communist League of America (Opposition): The Militant, 1-18 1929 // Communist League of America (Opposition): The Militant, 1-34 1930 /The Militant, 1-37 1931. // * Hugo Oehler: Americas role in Germany (1933) / Communist League of America (Opposition) (CLA):  The Militant, 8. Dezember 1934. These are early texts of the Trotskyist movement in America, mainly written by James P Cannon, Max Schactman and Martin Abern. The movement went through a number of incarnations until 1940, when Shachtman and Abern, with James Burnham, left to form the Workers Party (taking Hal Draper, CLR James and the other most intelligent members of the movement).

* Karl KorschThe Passing of Marxian Orthodoxy: Bernstein-Kautsky-Luxemburg-Lenin (1937). In this dense and not particularly readable short text, Korsch argues that Eduard Bernstein, Karl Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg and Vladimir Lenin were all essentially exemplars of a moribund orthodox Marxism which fetishised the form of the political party.

* Raya DunayevskayaEisenhower-Khrushchev Spectacular (1959). Dunayevskaya had been a member of the Shachtman/Cannon Trotskyist movement, following Shachtman in his break from Cannon’s orthodox Trotskyism in 1940, along with her close colleague CLR James. This text is from News and Letters, the magazine of Dunayevskaya’s movement from 1955 onwards, after she had split with James, favouring a stronger organisational form for the revolutionary movement than James countenanced. However, if anything hers was the stronger anti-Stalinism, as comes across in the closing words of this text: “But – just as the steel workers have refused to be cowed, although their stomach are getting pretty empty, and just as all workers, American and European and African, refuse to separate their fight for bread from that for freedom – so the workers in each country on each side of the Atlantic, will prove to be the real antagonists against these hypocritical state-capitalist leaders. Until that struggle is settled, no others can be – because all the others only lead back to the same old exploitative society.” Also new on-line: American Civilization on Trial: Black Masses as Vanguard [Excerpt] (1963)

* Hal DraperMarx and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat (1962). This is from New Politics, Vol. 1, No. 4, Summer 1962. It was later, I think, expanded into his major work Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution, Vol III: The Dictatorship of the Proletariat, published by Monthly Review Press. Around this time, Draper broke from Shachtman (by then leading an entrist faction in the Socialist Party) to form the Independent Socialist Club (ISC), and I think that the article bares traces of his struggle with the legacy of orthodox Trotskyism in the Shachtmanite scene.

* Brian PearceTrotsky as an Historian (1960). I think of Pearce as Britain’s Hal Draper. This from the period of his evolution from Pollit-esque Brit-Stalinism to orth0-Trot politics, writing for The Newsletter, the publication of Gerry Healy’s Trotskyist “Club“, which in 1959 became the Socialist Labour League (later the Workers Revolutionary party) – the paper edited by Pearce’s close comrade the great Peter Fryer, with whom, I think, he had left the CPGB.

*C.L.R. James: World Politics Today (1967) /  Che Guevara (1967) /  World Revolution: 1968 (1967) // Martin GlabermanUpheaval in China (1967) /  The United States and the Russian Revolution (1967) / Martin Luther King, Jr (1968)
* Martin Glaberman: Regis Debray: Revolution Without a Revolution (1968) / Indonesian Communism: The First Stage (1968) / On Balance: The French Events (1968) // George RawickToward a New History of Slavery in the U.S. (1967) / A New Nation in a New World (1967) /George Rawick: Notes on the American Working Class (1968). These are texts by three figures then involved in the journal Speak Out, monthly newsletter (edited by Glaberman) of the Facing Reality group, which evolved from the Johnson-Forest Tendency founded by James and Dunayevskaya as they moved away from the Trotskyist movement. Kent Worcester, in C.L.R. James: A Political Biography, sees this period as Facing Reality flirting with Maoism, so it is interesting to read these texts in that light.

* Israeli Revolutionary Action Committee (Abroad) (ISRAC)ISRAC, Mai 1969. According to Wikipedia, “In the late 1960s and early 1970s, supporters of Matzpen abroad published Israca (Israeli Revolutionary Action Committee Abroad). The magazine included many articles published in Matzpen. Some of Matzpen was censored and that material was republished in IsracaMoshé Machover, Eli Lobel, Haim Hanegbi and Akiva Orr were all part of the editorial board. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, supporters of the organisation and other radical left academics and activists formed another journal in the UK, Khamsin, in which they published their analyses of current events.”

* International-Communist League (I-CL)Debate on Cambodia, 1979 (1978/1979). The I-CL was the forerunner of the Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL).
* Alan JohnsonThe „other Trotskyists“ and Palestine (~ 1997). Here Johnson, then of the AWL, discusses the politics of Hal Draper’s movement.

Texts from libcom: (more…)

Poumastasia

First, two blogs to be added to the blogroll: Marc, the Happy Communist, and via him, the brilliant Guardians of the Secret.

Another fallen comrade: Tiziano Bagarolo.

Remembering CLR James in Hackney – a fight surprisingly easily won.

Johnny Guitar on the strange death of Hardy, the leader of the French Trot sect Lutte Ouvriere.

This week’s dose of anti-communism: “Leftists Defy Sandinistas As Labor Strife Hits Peak”, by Stephen Kinzer, New York Times, April 14, 1988.

Some highlights from Entdinglichung’s on-going wonderful Sozialistika series, which makes my From The Archives of Struggle series completely irrelevant: (more…)

Orwellian, Marxian, etc

CLR James

I see via a post by Lady Poverty that there is a newish CLR James collection from AK Press, reviewed here by Rico Cleffi in the Indypendent.

Everything is a commodity.  My glasses are a commodity, cigarettes are commodities, tea is a commodity, the gramophone is a commodity, the tape recorder is a commodity — everything is a commodity.  The important thing that I want you to remember in your study of Capital is Marx’s insistence that the particular commodity that is important in the study of capital is the labor-power of the individual.  In all societies that are in any way developed, there is commodity production.   But that the man sells his labor, his labor-power — a commodity — to the capitalist, Marx says, once you begin there, the whole of capitalist society grows from that; that the labor-power of the human individual is sold as a commodity.

George Orwell

Champagne Charlie on why Orwell got it right about Dunkirk, and Rosie Bell reading Orwell’s diary from that time.

Leninist apologias

Mike E of Kasama, whose task is to rejuvenate some of the most moribund elements of the Marxist-Leninist tradition, has a post on Kronstadt that is very sophisticated, but in my view better described as sophistry. Bermuda radical also publishes a piece from International Socialism attacking the “myth” of Nestor Makhno.

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Published in: on June 11, 2010 at 1:05 pm  Comments (3)  
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The Black Jacobins, 2010: Haiti, CLR James (and George Orwell)

From Airforce Amazons:

There was a story in the paper last week about the discovery of a copy of the Haiti’s Declaration of Independence from the original printing in 1804, found in the British National Archives by Julia Gaffield of Duke University. (more…)

Published in: on April 10, 2010 at 11:31 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: ,

From the archive of struggle no.44

I have fallen behind on this task, not having done it for about 6 weeks. Below the fold are basically my personal choices from Entdinglichung’s Sozialistika series.

(more…)

Tings and tings

Killing and dying for “the old lie” – World War and the triumph of militarism over anti-fascism.

Spain is nice at this time of year – the BNP and Spanish fascism.

Beijing Coma – can the symbols of classic socialism still be symbols of emancipation, despite their blood stains?

Oscar Wilde on socialist songs – Up, ye People! or down into your graves!

The partisan poet – Adam Kirsch on Abba Kovner.

Ethel MacDonald and Bob Smillie – and Guy Aldred and Fenner Brockway. More Guy Aldred.

Carlo Tresca – The Dilemma of an Anti-Communist Radical.

The sweet and the cruel – Ian Buruma on Occupied Paris.

The Labour Party between the wars – ideological contours.

A postcard from Coyoacan – Trotsky’s last home in Mexico.

TROTSKY’s STUDY – WHERE HE WAS SITTING WHEN HE WAS MURDERED  WITH AN ICE PICK

Translated novels – including Victor Serge’s Unforgiving Years.

Stalin’s Terror – a review by Peter Taafe.

David North on Robert Service on Leon Trotksy (and on James Burnham on Isaac Duetscher on Leon Trotsky) – not sure if I’ve already posted this one.

Open letter to Havana – on Stalinist slurs against the Freedom Socialist Party.

The Black Marxist Tradition – an interview with Cedric J Robinson.

You don’t play with revolution, Alfie – Lady Poverty on CLR James on Marxism. (And here’s James from AK.)

The Search for the Tassili Frescoes – Afrocentrist history and CLR James at Federal College.

The John Hope Franklin File – the FBI, anti-communism and black history.

Stalin: Why and How – Boris Souvarine.

The myth of Mondragon – Louis Proyect debunks Spanish autogestion?

Poplarism – a review of Janine Booth’s book.

Half a century of Hausman’s – from the North East London radicals, from Permanent Revolution.

A Rebel’s dream – Ian Birchall on Ernest Mandel.

George Padmore – forgotten fighter.

Reasoning otherwise – Canadian radicalism 1890-1920.

More years of the locust – Permanent Revolution on Jim Higgins on the origins of the IS.

Decline – Scott McLemee on Cornel West. Plus more from Michael Tomasky.

New from AK: Italian anarchism 1864-92, French anarchism 1917-45, Zapatismo and the Panthers.

Flag Day in Lawrence, MA, 1912 – a slice of IWW history.

What is the CNT? Two from Christie Books:

Facts About the Spanish Resistance 2 – What is the CNT? by José Peirats

Anarchists in LondonThe Anarchists in London 1935-1955 by Albert Meltzer

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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Poumatic

Stalin, Hitler’s enabler, and his aristocratic apologists today. Podcast on the 1934 San Francisco General StrikeRecommended reading for ordinary peopleWin a CLR James T-shirt. Victor Serge: `dishonest authoritarian’, `anti-worker anarchist’ or revolutionary Bolshevik? An incredibly superficial A-Z of socialism, with one highlight being Ian Birchall’s U for United Front. Lindbergh in Des Moines. Roland’s Link-O-Mania. TNC’s last link-o-mania.

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.

On this day: 7 August

At the bottom of the post, below the fold, book notes and the archive of struggle.

On this day, from Anarchoefemerides:

On this day in 1900, in Mexico, Regeneración: Periódico Jurídico Independiente was founded by Jesús Flores Magón,  Antonio Horcasitas, and Ricardo Flores Magón. This was a key event in Mexican anarchism and in starting the Mexican revolution. Read more here, here and here.

On this day in 1894, in Gijón in Asturias, Avelino González Mallada was born. He died earlier this month. Orphaned when he was six, he was brought up by his grandmother, and started work at a factory aged 11. In 1911 he joined the National Confederation of Labor (CNT) and was fired shortlywards. After a spell in Paris, he returned to Spain and, blacklisted for his politics, worked in the anarchist movement, editing periodicals likeVida Obrera and Solidaridad and teaching in libertarian schools. y, luego, de CNT de Madrid. During the Civil War, he supported the Popular Front and was active in its military defence, in the Provincial Committee of the Popular Front in Oviedo and later the Defense Committee in Gijón and the Commissariat of War on behalf of the CNT. On October 15, 1936, he was elected mayor of Gijón. In 1938, he was appointed special delegate of the General Council of the International Solidarity Antifascist and moved to United States to seek help. There he died in a car accident on March 27, 1938. [Source/Source]

On this day in 1927, there were global demonstrations against the execution in the US of the Italian anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti. In Paris, 200,000 supporters marched. More on Sacco and Venzetti from the People’s Informative.

Continue reading for reviews of books on Mandel, Silone, Orwell and Berlin and for archival material on Brinton, James, Dunayevskaya and others.

(more…)

Who would have expected that of Herr Bronstein from Cafe Central!

A long and interesting post from Principia Dialectica about Leon Trotsky, his twists and turns, and his legacy.

Meanwhile, Roland, having heard that Hugo Chavez is planning to give Barack Obama a copy of Lenin’s What is to be Done next time he sees him, conjures up the appalling spectacle of a Chavez book club. On the Lenin gift, Jams comments “That should save Obama a few prescriptions for sleeping tablets”, and Bob adds “Personally, I think that, if books can be called evil, that What is to be Done is up there with Mein Kampf. And it’s boring!”

Meanwhile, Obama himself, interviewed on Radio 4 on his way to Cairo, mentioned he was currently reading Joseph O’Neil’s Netherland, a book heavily influenced by one of my heroes (and part of Trotsky’s legacy), CLR James.

Poumerouma

The libertarian socialist tradition

New blog: Big Flame, on the history of this UK radical group of the 1970s.

Why Philosophy? Why Now? On the Revolutionary Legacies of Raya Dunayevskaya, CLR James and Anton Pannekoek, By David Black at The Hobgoblin

Andre Gorz, or the Ecological Demand, by Serge Audier at Principia Dialectica.

Anarchist Studies: Perspective 2009. On the legacy of Murray Bookchin.

Poster art, folk song and historical memory

More from BCNDesign: The everyday comes to Santa Coloma: Local things for local history. Graphic design in 1930s Spain.

History Today: The Mexican suitcase. British volunteers and Republican posters.

Rio Wang: Russian poster design and the war on coca-cola. Carlos Gordel and the zorzal.

George Szirtes: Fado da Tristeza.

Polish gentile, Jan Jagielski, chief archivist at the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, to receive the Irena Sendler Memorial Award from the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture.

The extraordinary anti-Nazi photo-montages of John Heartfield.

Scoop Review of Books: Kiwi Compañeros: NZ’s anti-Franco volunteers. See more in TNC‘s comment here. Which led me to these two great older posts: Fieldtrip to the International Center for Photography (Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, Francesc Torres and poster art). ¿Viva la Insurgencía?: The Spanish Civil War and the Legacy of the Totalitarian International Brigades. There’s plenty more TNC posts on memory and archives and on Communism.

Watch Land and Freedom at A Complex System of Pipes.

From the archive of struggle, no.14 (below the fold) (more…)

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