Bad uses of the Spanish Civil War continued

This is a little late, but I just noticed a post at HP linking to a Guardian piece by The Nation’s London correspondent DD Guttenplan, describing his regret at not going to a anti-war demonstration because of all the unsavoury elements on the march. In it, he says:

During the Spanish civil war the American poet Archibald MacLeish was attacked by Trotskyists for his willingness to support a democratically elected Spanish government led by communists, and dependent on the Soviet Union for arms. MacLeish replied:
“The man who refuses to defend his convictions, for fear he may defend them in the wrong company, has no convictions.”

As one commenter, la mano de d10s, responds:

[a democratically elected Spanish government] which brutally massacred many workers and tried to turn back the revolution, yes.
Or because it was democratically elected, therefore it must be politically supported?
And how did this government end, exactly? With the victory of Franco?
Why? Because its politics disarmed the defence against fascism, the working class, and its defence of private property led to huge economic speculation which caused great inflation, which discontented so many of its supporters, that the fascists became more confident and more popular.
This inflation could only have been solved by expropriating those sectors’ property.*

*Liberty taken of improving the grammar slightly.

Published in: on March 11, 2009 at 11:28 am  Comments (2)  
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Jim Sleeper again (the spirit of Arendt and Orwell on Gaza)

Israel’s Only Way Out (TPMCafe), U.K. and U.S. Drop Their (and Israel’s) Grand Strategy (TPMCafe), Gaza interview (WYNC)

Published in: on February 6, 2009 at 5:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Good people in dark times

Rosie Bell in the spirit of George Orwell on Paul Kaye on Gaza:

The good and sane are at a disadvantage at such times. They wring their hands, wondering why people can’t just calm down and come to some sensible agreements.

Wartime for the nation is like divorce for the individual. You commit acts, which on looking back you know were crazy and bad but at the time seemed perfectly rational, and the only thing you could do.

Orwell on HG Wells, a liberal progressive:
He was, and still is, quite incapable of understanding that nationalism, religious bigotry and feudal loyalty are far more powerful forces than that what he himself would describe as sanity. (from Wells, Hitler and the World State, 1941, from Vol 2 of The Collected Essays)

People revert to sanity, often out of sheer exhaustion, just as the divorced couple, having squandered their revenue on divorce lawyers, terrified their children, and tried the patience of their friends, come to an agreement about access and who gets the house. They capitulate to the facts of the case.

George Szirtes on Tim Lott on Andrew O’Hagan, who debased the memory of Orwell:

I let this article, a version of Andrew O’Hagan’s George Orwell Memorial Lecture, pass in last week’s Guardian Review, but I am very glad to see Tim Lott responding to it in the correspondence column of yesterdays’s Review with a certain, to my mind, justified indignation.

The tenor of O’Hagan’s lecture is that the English are a brutal, torpid, useless, subhuman race, unlike, say, his own noble, native, spirited Scots. All this is written without nuance or anything much in the way of evidence. In the course of this racist manure he ignores… well, some of what he ignores is there in Lott’s letter, eg.

[…]Second, he writes: “The English working class are far ahead of every other European lower class in the sheer energy of their indifference.” Any kind of supporting evidence for such an extraordinarily sweeping statement might have made this more convincing.

Published in: on January 19, 2009 at 5:11 pm  Comments (1)  
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א New at Libcom: Joe Jacobs (Solidarity UK) on the organisational question. (More Joe Jacobs here.)

א At the Morningstar Ranch (Jim Parks, The Legendary). Extract:

[Lou] Gottlieb had a concert grand he put in a hen house at the Morningstar Ranch. There, he played Brahms and other classical works. He meditated, did yoga and clowned while his sidekick, another musician named Ramón Sender Barayón, the son of Ramón J. Sender, the exiled Spanish novelist, played it straight. Sender was literally born amid the sound of machine guns during “Red October,” within close proximity of the opening battles of the Spanish Civil War, in 1934. His father, a native of Aragon, was a co-founder of Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista, or P.O.U.M., the Trotskyist militia whose ranks were filled with international volunteers, including such literary luminaries as George Orwell, author of 1984.

א liber.rhetoricae: on slogans, taglines, enthymemes, and figures of brevity in general. Extract:

Trotsky as agitator allows his contact with the lived experience of the Spanish people to challenge Trotsky as theorist or propagandist. He allows what he learns to challenge his assumptions about historical laws and revolutionary processes. This is important. “Are we not confronted with an historical paradox?” Trotsky asks, and in asking opens the possibility that any doctrine of continuity between world revolution and the Russian revolution requires urgent review and perhaps revision in light of facts discovered on the ground in Spain. Set aside your views on Trotsky or his analysis or the success of Trotsky’s enterprise. This is rhetoric as method, it is the very definition of a rational process, and it is dialectical in character in the classical sense of dialectics. This is a community engaged in review, interpretation, and argument, in the form of communicators testing their arguments in live conditions.

א Jim  Sleeper: Gaza needs a George Orwell now. Extract:

If a new Orwell informs us that Israel, although it’s hideously cruel and wrong, isn’t the only evil enemy of freedom in Gaza, will anyone want to know?

א Tom Reimann: 7 Historical Figures Who Were Absurdly Hard To Kill. Extract:

#4: Leon Trotsky

Why He Had to Go

In 1917, Trotsky was Lenin’s right hand man when the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia. He created and commanded the Red Army and was a member of the Politburo, which oversaw all other branches of Soviet government and made all policy decisions. He also wore glasses and had a wicked goatee, so you know he read books and shit.

Quiet, I’m reading this shit.

After Lenin died, Trotsky was expelled from the Communist party and kicked out of Russia. In return, Trotsky attempted to enter the United States to testify before Congress that Stalin was a major douchebag. Upon hearing this, Stalin decided his next move would be to expel Trotsky from life.

How He Went Down

Trotsky was denied entry into the U.S. and eventually found his way to a home in Mexico City. It was there that he was attacked by Ramon Mercader, an assassin working for Stalin.

While Trotsky was home reading some shit, Mercader buried an ice axe into the back of his skull.

This just pissed Trotsky off.

He stood up from his desk, axe in head, and spit on Mercader. Then he went after the assassin, wrestling with him. Trotsky’s bodyguards heard the commotion (where the fuck were they a few minutes ago?) and came running in to subdue the assassin and get Trotsky to the hospital.

Trotsky made it to the hospital and underwent surgery before finally dying a day later from complications related to being brained with a goddamn ice axe. We’re hoping he lived long enough to fire those bodyguards.

א Also: Barcelona Photoblog, Political Chess – Alekhine vrs Trotsky – Apocryphal Account, Typically Spanish: The man who killed Leon Trotsky.