On a roll, no.3

Continuing the very slow tour through the links roll, from the bottom up.

One blog

US Marxist-Humanists

This is the blog of one of the many fractious factions of the American “Marxist-Humanist” current, the political and philosophical current inaugerated by Raya DunayevskayaDunayevskaya was Russian-born and multilingual, emigrating to the United States as a child. She joined the Communists young, but became part of the Trotskyist left opposition early on. She joined the left opposition group around Antoinette Konikow, which, after leaving the CP formally constituted itself as the Independent Communist League (see “Letter to Lovestone“, 1928). Konikow’s group threw in its lot with the larger Trotskyist group around Shachtman, Cannon and Abern, the Communist League of America which we looked at here. She was briefly one of Trotsky’s fleet of secretaries in Mexico in 1937. (According to Will Lissner, “Ms. Dunayevskaya joined Trotsky’s entourage  in 1937. She served as his Russian secretary, which is to say his economist. (Trotsky’s Russian secretaries always collaborated on his economic  articles.)”) For a while, Dunayevskaya was closely associated with CLR James; they parted with the Trotskyists; and then they parted ways with each other. It was at this point, in the 1950s, that she began to articulate her position as “Marxist-Humanism”.

Personally, I have a real problem with the kind of proper-noun nature of “Marxism-Humanism”, the way that it imagines itself as a fully formed, complete system which encompasses everything. It feels very theological to me, and inherits some of the worst traits of orthodox Leninism in this regard. It is probably for that reason that Marxist-Humanists have been as sectarian and fractious as the Trotskyists, especially in their American homeland, where the roots in the Trotskyist milieu and its sectarian culture are probably strongest.

The “US Marxist-Humanists” are an affiliate of the International Marxist-Humanist Organization. Its three gurus are, I believe, Peter HudisKevin Anderson and David Black, who are all extremely interesting Marxian scholars. The website has a number of interesting articles, including, for example, on the possibility of war with North Korea, on economic turbulence, on Marxism and non-Western societies, on Hegal and Rosa Luxemburg, and lots more. Well worth a good rummage around the archives.

Four non-blogs

Wilson Quarterly

Actually not on my blogroll, but I thought I’d take the opportunity to link to Irving Horowitz’s review of A Dictionary of 20th Century Communism, edited by Silvio Pons and Robert Service.

William Morris Society

I am a big fan of William Morris, one of Britain’s few original Marxist thinkers, and a key figure in the development of libertarian socialism, as well as a good writer and designer. The William Morris Society tends to lean towards his arts work rather than his politics, but has lots of fascinating stuff. American readers should check out what the Society is doing on that side of the Atlantic, while British-based readers should check out the UK branch‘s events. There’s also a branch in CanadaNews from Anywhere is the blog of the William Morris Society.

They have a journal. The new issue of the Journal (Volume XIX, Part 1, Winter 2010), which will be appearing shortly, contains the following articles (among others): “‘Socialism” and “What we have to look for’”: Two unpublished lectures by William Morris’ (Florence S. Boos); Denys P. Leighton, ed, Lives of Victorian Political Figures IV. Volume 2: Thomas Hill Green and William Morris (reviewed by Tony Pinkney); Laurence Davis & Ruth Kinna, eds, Anarchism and Utopianism (reviewed by David Goodway). The Winter 2011 issue of the Journal (Volume XIX, Part 3) will be a special issue with the theme ‘Morris the Green’.

What Next?

What Next? is an occasional magazine of independent-minded left socialism in the UK, deeply engaged with the history of the Marxist tradition, and bursting out of the straitjacket of orthodox Trotskyism. It is edited by Bob Pitt, and sadly Pitt seems to have spent more and more of his time on his IslamophobiaWatch project; his involvement with the reactionary politics of the apologists for the Muslim Brotherhood has, alas, been very much to the detriment of the development of British marxism, and the journal now almost never appears.

The “current” issue is from 2007, it contains a load of nonsense from Tony Greenstein about the AWL and a welcome “enlightened” criticism by my comrade Andrew Coates of the SWP’s Ian Birchall and his defence of Islamism (written, I think, before the smallest mass party in the world divorced Respect). More relevant to our purposes are WHAT HAPPENED IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR? in which Jim Creegan takes apart some of Counterpunch’s Stalinist propoganda and THE ‘SPIRIT OF PETROGRAD’?  THE 1918 AND 1919 POLICE STRIKES in which Owen Jones rescues some British radical history.

The  ever about to be published issue no.32 may or may not contain the following items, among others: LESSONS OF THE ANTI-NAZI LEAGUE by Toby Abse, THE MAY DAYS IN BARCELONA by Andrés Nin and some items of Sri Lankan Trotskyism. Browsing through some of the back issues, some gems include UNDERSTANDING FASCISM:  DANIEL GUÉRIN’S BROWN PLAGUE David Renton, A DANISH TROTSKYIST IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR Åge Kjelsø, THREE DOCUMENTS, 1921-1926 Victor Serge, AUSTRO-MARXISM AND THE NATIONAL QUESTION Andrés Nin, TOGLIATTI:  LOYAL SERVANT OF STALIN Tobias Abse, LIFE AFTER TROTSKYISM: A PERSONAL ACCOUNT Harry Ratner, NDEPENDENT LABOUR POLITICS Martin Sullivan, STALIN: WHY AND HOW Boris Souvarine, TROTSKYISTS AND THE LABOUR PARTY: SOME LESSONS FROM HISTORY John Archer, and lots more.

Weekly Worker

There is a significant overlap between the Weekly Worker milieu and the What Next? milieu, despite the former’s Stalinist heritage and the latter’s Trotskyist one. Weekly Worker, the organ of the party currently known as the CPGB, not to be confused with the old CPGB, or indeed with the legendary New York nightclub CBGB.

In the early 1990s, I used to read a fascinating magazine called Open Polemic, which eventually mutated, more or less, into the Weekly Worker. OP was a heavy-duty theoretical journal dedicated to “communist rapprochement”, which utterly failed to rapproche many communists. WW is indispensable reading for all left trainspotters. It is particularly good on Iran and trade unionism, and particularly bad on Zionism and the war on terror.

Here are some articles you should read: Theocracy threatens bloodbath as mass movement grows: Iranian workers are one the offensive, reports Chris Strafford; Not explaining the crisis: David Osler reviews Chris Harman’s Zombie capitalism: global crisis and the relevance of Marx; Anarchist bombs and working class struggle: David Douglass reviews Louis Adamic’s Dynamite: the story of class violence in America AK Press; More glasnost, less perestroika: Maciej Zurowski interviews Circles Robinson of ‘Havana Times’, a web magazine that features critical writing from Cuba.

Published in: on January 27, 2011 at 12:58 pm  Comments (13)  
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Archive special

From the archive of struggle, no.19. Non-anoraks, skip this post, and go to this one, on Obama’s taste in reading and an alternative to the Richard and Judy book club, or this one,  on early jazz and recent fado, or this one, on how blogging has re-invigorated radical history.

Steve Cohen

First of all, ArchivesHub last month highlighted the Greater Manchester Collection of Steve Cohen, lawyer and anti deportation campaigner, 1975-1996. Go here for the website, which includes links to selected websites and some excellent suggested reading.. For background on Steve Cohen, check Engage/Bob.
Image of a demo rally poster Image of a campaign poster Image of an anti deportation campaign poster

The rest

Marxist Internet Archive:

  • Added to the J. T. Murphy Archive: The Communist Party of Great Britain (1943) and The Last Great Split in World Communism (1948) [Poumista: Latter is particularly recommended. Murphy played a part in the 1926 expulsion of Trotsky from the Communist International, was expelled himself in 1932 for challenging its disasterous ultra-left Third Period politics, and reflects here on these two expulsions and on Tito’s. By the way,  Murphy’s wikipedia page badly needs editing!]
  • Added to the Rudolf Hilferding Archive: State Capitalism or Totalitarian State Economy 1940 [Poumista: This piece is also important, as a key intervention in the debate about the character of the Soviet Union. Hilferding wrote it as the Nazis boot was stamping on the face of France, not long before he was handed by the Vichy French to the Gestapo, who would murder him and take his wife Rose to Auschwitz, where she perished. His characterisation of the Stalinist system as totalitarian has considerable force.]
  • Added to the Brian Pearce Archive: Rank-and-file Movements of the Thirties, 15 November 1958 (Constant Reader) [Poumista: Pearce is another important, neglected character. Like EP Thompson, he was part of the Communist Party Historians Group, but re-thought Stalinism in the wake of Russia’s counter-revolution crushing of the Hungarian revolution 1956, getting himself expelled in 1957. A close associate of Peter Fryer, he passed with him through the orbit of Gerry Healey. This piece, I think, dates from his time with Healey’s Club, and is an important contribution to the 1950s’ revisioning of Anglo-Stalinist and labour history.]

[Beneath the fold: Spanish anarchist histories, and more besides] (more…)

Radical history web 2.0

[From the archive of struggle, no.17]

Via Tendance Coatesy, we find a blog for the Country Standard, the Communist Party of Great Britain’s rural paper. A bit Stalinist, of course, for my liking, but some fascinating historical stuff. In particular, quite a bit about the early history of the Indendent Labour Party in rural areas, especially in the Northwest, and of the Clarion movement.

Across the Atlantic, The Sojourner Truth Organization: Notes Toward a History is a wonderful project. Of particular interest among recent(ish) stuff is Don Hamerquist in the 1970s articulating a careful anti-Stalinist Leninism in polemics against a then-nameless grouping from Boston, which eventually became the core of the Proletarian Unity League, which in turn was one of the founding elements of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization in the mid-1980s.

The STO, incidentally, have been discussed in the Big Flame blog I already linked to. The use of blogging for grassroots history projects, as in these three examples is one of the great features of Web 2.0, of what Bob calls “citizen scholarship“.