Drawing clear lines

Today’s battles

1. The Popular Front has been one of the great dead ends of the socialist movement. Today, a terrible version of it has emerged in the NO2EU electoral front in the UK, an alliance of Stalinists and Stalinoid trade union hacks with the most reactionary Little Englanders, with a smattering of anorak left groupuscules to give it some hard left legitimacy. Reminiscent of some of the dangerous alliances created by the Communist Party of Great Britain in the 1930s, when they allied with reactionary war-mongerers simply because they were anti-Nazi.  Yourfriendinthenorth neatly analyzes No2Eu here.

2. Historically, the flipside to the “anti-Nazi” Popular Front was (objectively pro-Nazi) pacifism. The argument for pacifism has recently been made by Nicholson Baker in Human Smoke. As mentioned already, Max Dunbar has been taking up the metaphorical cudgels against Baker (here, then here and then here). Terry Glavin has taken note:

I’m happy to see that Max Dunbar has now joined Anne Applebaum, William Grimes, Adam Kirsch and others in helpfully rubbishing Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke for being an ahistorical apologia for pacifism. Baker’s efforts at redeeming pacifism’s ill-deserved reputation in the context of the Second World War appear to follow exactly the same lines as Mark Kurlansky’s Nonviolence: Twenty-Five Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea, which I was happy to rubbish a while back.

George Orwell was there, of course, long before us, when he noticed that pacifism is “a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security.” Will I still be able to refer approvingly to Orwell’s many expressions of contempt for the bourgeoisie if the Liberal Party proceeds with granting the CHRC its greater powers?

You have to read the whole post for that last sentence to make sense, so please do.

3. The pacifist tradition that Baker and Kurlansky inherit is not an ignoble tradition. In the UK, its home was, for many decades, the Independent Labour Party. I have a lot of respect for the ILP and its heritage. Ken Coates is the contemporary figure who probably most represents the political tradition of the ILP. Over the years I’ve been influenced considerably by Ken Coates, his humanist socialism, his advocacy for workers’ control, his sense of industrial democracy as an extension of the republican liberties fought for by the likes of Tom Paine. However, in his little magazine, The Spokesman, I have long noted an unpleasant drift towards sloppy conspirationist thought, anti-American hysteria, a “New World Order” mentality. Habibi at Harry’s Place nails this trend, and shows how it spills over into very unpleasant antisemitic territory.

After the fold: Historical Notes, From the Archive of Struggle, Book notes, Blog notes. (more…)

Poumable

Blog notes

Max Dunbar: Human Smoke, pacifism, fascism and just aggression. Not just Orwell: Christopher Hall on the stories of the ILP volunteers in Spain. WSWS: A Trotskyist view of the Spanish Civil War.

Obituaries

Luis Andrés Edo, a Barcelona syndicalist who resisted Franco. More Franklin Rosemont: on mods, rockers and Wobblies.

Book notes

From Bob Helms on the Research on Anarchism list:

I’m writing to announce with delight that my book, which has been in the works for about 15 years, has just been released, and I received copies in the mail today.  I’m so happy right now that I want to tell the world about it without delay.  The book is:

Forty Years In The Struggle: The Memoirs of a Jewish Anarchist
by Chaim Leib Weinberg
Translated by Naomi Cohen
Edited and Annotated by Robert P. Helms
Published by Litwin Books (Duluth, Minnesota, 2009)
[Sponsored in part by Wooden Shoe Books]

Chaim Weinberg (1861-1939) was an anarchist of Philadelphia who wrote his memoirs in 1930.  The book was published in Yiddish in 1952 and remained quite obscure ever since.  Today old Chaim’s have been released from the chains of time, with his funny stories of his public speeches to working people, his grandfatherly way of remembering the distant past, his qualities and his forgivable flaws. Weinberg would arrive in an auditorium to give a speech to Jewish strikers, and the audience would giggle as he approached the podium, and the organizers would cringe –because the man was funny-looking. Then, as he began to speak, he would hold their hearts in the palm of his hand, giving them tears or wild laughter at will.

The only regret that I have regarding this book is that I did not dedicate it to my mentor and friend Paul Avrich (nor anyone), who passed away in 2006.  Without Paul, none of these things could possibly have happened.

[MORE DETAILS HERE]

From the archive of struggle. no.11

1. Back to the 1980s:

Arthur Bough of Boffy’s Blog publishes some long internal documents from the Workers Socialist League of 1984/5. For non-trainspotters, the background is that a couple of years earlier the International Communist League – of which Bough had been a member – and the Workers Socialist League of Alan Thornett had merged (under the WSL name), but would soon split again. The split was over the Falklands War: the ICL argue (rightly) for a plague on both the houses, while the WSL called for victory for Galtieri’s Argentine dictatorship. The ICL mutated via Socialist Organiser into the Alliance for Workers Liberty. Here are the texts:

Imperialism, Industrialisation, Trade and Sub-Imperialism
Imperialism and The New International Division of Labour
Imperialism and War
Palestine – Nationalism v Socialist Internationalism

The key argument, absolutely valid today, is that we should not talk about “oppressed nations” versus “imperialist nations”, but, rather, about exploited classes who can be oppressed by capitalists of all sorts of colours and creeds.

And here is Bough on the lessons of the Spanish Civil War.

2. More from the archive (after the fold) (more…)