Poumicated

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

libcom.org launches new working class history Facebook page

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

Rosie Bell: Flippant Nihilist

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

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

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

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

A Memoir and Reflection on Badass 
Boffo Revolutionary Feminist MusicImage

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

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

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

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

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

Ian Birchall: Lenin: Yes! Leninism: No?

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

Paul Le Blanc: Leninism, No?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jaures l'Humanite

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

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

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

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

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

Jean Juares

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

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

Archive ImageKate Redburn: Unite Queer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portales, Suceso (1904-1999)Suceso Portales

 Martin Oppenheimer: New Light on the KKK

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

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

Daniel BenSaid

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

Angiolillo’s vengeance

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

E. Haberkern: When the Red States Really Were Red

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

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

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

Mark Kosman: World War I and 100 years of counterrevolution

accuserJohn Maclean: the accuser of capitalism

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

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

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

Advertisements

Less than usual

Stefan Collini on Adam Kirsch on Lionel Trilling. HarpyMarx on Mandy Mudd. Dave Osler on Ian Birchall on Tony CliffChris Strafford on “21st century Marxism” the Morning Star-sponsored meeting of nationalists, anti-Semites, and homophobes. Ben Lewis on historical materialism. German material on Rudolf Rocker here and here.

Forcing people to fall in love with the colour of life

Principia Dialectica: Juan Miro: 

Still Life with Old Shoe by Juan Miro, 1937

The big show of Spanish Surrealist Juan Miro’s life’s work at London’s Tate Modern art gallery is such an exciting exhibition anyone visiting might need a stiff glass of fizzy wine in the ninth floor bar before they descend to soak up the energy on display. The exhibition is hugely popular – which leaves you with a sense of both frustration and exhileration as you walk around – too many people! But, at the same time – so many people! How exciting it is to be alive at a time when so many people are receptive to the ideas that Juan and his fellow Surrealists were engaged in helping to create and spread in the 1920s and 1930s. [READ THE REST]

Also from Principia Dialectica: A report on Marxism 2011; Doug Henwood on the irrelevance of Leninism.

The smallest mass party in the world: An interview with Ian Birchall on Tony Cliff. (And a footnote from Andrew Coates, on an appalling article on Puerto Rico.)

Music: from Super Sonido:

It’s kind of a sad thing that the Gypsy Kings had to put crossover gypsy rock on the global map. It’s not that their music is all that bad – but every time I go to a mediocre Italian restaurant, much to my chagrin, I’m subjected to their music playing in the background. I’ve even heard Bandolero blaring out of a lime green convertible Mustang once. Oh lord.

Before all that, there was a true king of this genre: Peret – the Spanish Romaní singer, guitarist and composer, who was pretty much the embassador of the Catalan Rumbasound. If you are interested in this music please do check out the articles Soul-Sides has about Peret and Los Amaya (O-dub always has the finger on the pulse). What I wanted to add was that I found this in the KRMX lot of 45′s I have. So even though Peretis Spanish, his music was still heard in Latin America, although I am not quite sure what impact it had, if any. Either way, two really solid tunes from El Rey de La Rumba Catalana. Enjoy!

1. Peret: A Mi Las Mujers, Ni Fu Ni Fa

2. Peret: Lo Mato

Published in: on July 7, 2011 at 2:01 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , ,

From the archive: special features

Recently discovered, via a Greek radical history website that made me wish I spoke Greek. Plus, at the bottom, some things from Histomatist and other bloggers.

Sidney Fournier: obituary

Download the article here.

— From the Evening Post, 8th July, 1913

Wyatt E. Jones: watchmaker and anarchist

Reason in Revolt

Sample:

  • Cresciani, Gianfranco, ‘Italian anti-fascism in Australia, 1922-45’, in Wheelwright, E.L. & Buckley, K. (ed.), Essays in the political economy of Australian capitalism, volume three, 1978 edn, vol. 3, Australia & New Zealand Book Company, Brookvale, 1978, pp. 86-101. [  |  | Details… ]
  • Gibson, Ralph, ‘Struggle against war and fascism’, in My years in the Communist Party, International Bookshop, Melbourne, 1966. [  |  | Details… ]
  • Manton, Joyce, ‘War can be prevented’, in The centenary prepares war, Melbourne University Council Against War, Melbourne, 1934. [  |  | Details… ]
  • Smith, Bernard, ‘The realisms of war’, in Noel Counihan: artist and revolutionary, 1993 edn, Oxford University Press, Melbourne & New York, pp. 180-97. [ Details… ]
  • Smith, Bernard, ‘The fascist mentality in Australian art and criticism 1946’, in The critic as advocate selected essays 1941-1988, 1989 edn, Oxford University Press Australia, Melbourne, 1989, pp. 44-51. [ Details… ]

The Faber Fantin Research Project Site

This is a portrait of Francesco Giovanni Fantin [1901-42] pictured just before he left Italy as an antifascist emigre in 1924. Note the foulard which was an anarchist dress symbol. Since 1985 I have been researching the biography of Fantin, an important Italo Australian anarchist activist who was assassinated by fascist conspirators whilst interned as an enemy alien at Loveday in the SA Riverland, 16 November 1942. This website contains previously unpublished photographs, supplied by friends and relatives of Fantin, and interpretative argument by me about Fantin’s life and times. Fantin is presented as a significant figure in the history of political heterodoxy, emigration and multicultural diversification which were beginning to assume historical proportions in Italo-Australian relations during his lifetime. This then is the larger than life story of a grass roots activist who explored democratic notions of citizenship resolved `to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield’. It should be of interest to all interested in the history of democracy and Italo-Australian social and political history, whether they share Fantin’s anarchism, or, like myself, only his socialism.

From Histomatist

New work: Tony Cliff: A Marxist for his Time

Tony Cliff: A Marxist for his Time
by Ian Birchall

Hardback £25 9781905192793/Paperback £16.99 9781905192809
Tony Cliff came to political consciousness in the darkest period of the 20th century and spent his life developing revolutionary Marxism against Stalinism. From his early days as a revolutionary in British-occupied Palestine, through years of obscurity and isolation in London and Dublin to the high points of struggle in post-war Britain, Cliff worked to restore lost ideas and traditions, fan flames of resistance and develop our understanding of a system in constant change. Ian Birchall’s lovingly crafted book is the culmination of years of work, drawing on interviews with over 100 people who knew Cliff and painstaking research in archives around the country. It is a majestic example of political biography at its best.
Available direct from Bookmarks Bookshop from 30 June 2011, and nationwide from October – see here. Ian will be launching his biography at Marxism 2011, and describes some of his experience of researching Cliff’s life here.

New study of EP Thompson

I have just finished reading The Crisis of Theory: EP Thompson, the New Left, and Postwar British Politics a highly readable new study by Scott Hamilton of Reading the Maps fame. I can happily and heartily recommend it to readers of Histomat as a fine companion volume to Thompson’s The Poverty of Theory and Other Essays (1978). Hamilton’s work comes with what now reads as a rather poignant recommendation from the late socialist historian and EP Thompson’s partner, Dorothy Thompson, and overall I found it a fascinating introduction to Thompson the thinker and writer – someone who I didn’t know before now was given cricket lessons by Nehru while a boy. Personally would have liked a little more on Thompson the great Marxist historian, but I am aware that would have probably meant a different book – and in any case, myself and Hamilton had a little debate about Thompson and Marxist historiography about five years ago – a debate I am not sure either of us feel the compulsion to return to just now. Many congratulations anyway to Scott on the publication of his homageto EPT.

Owen Hatherley on Marx, Eagleton, Lenin and Lih

 As [Eagleton] acknowledges, our age of no-strings-attached state handouts to banks and punitive cuts to social services has embraced a form of capitalism so grotesque that it resembles the caricatures of the most leaden Soviet satirists. Eagleton presents his book as the fruit of “a single, striking thought: what if all the objections to Marx’s thought are mistaken?” In order to demonstrate this, each of the chapters of this erudite yet breezy (occasionally too breezy) tract begins with a series of assertions about Marx and Marxism, which Eagleton then proceeds to debunk, one by one.

From Hatherley’s review of Eagleton’s Why Marx was Right and Lih’s Lenin. Personally I disagree very slightly with Hatherley’s conclusion, at the end of his discussion of Lih’s biography of Lenin: Yet what really endures here is the sense that, for Lenin, a revolutionary leader has a duty to lead the working class into revolution, and all the theory in the world won’t help if the political and economic conditions are missing. Lenin believed that the first world war offered a real chance to destroy capitalism, and when – in 1919, as revolution briefly engulfed Europe – he seemed to be proved right, he felt vindicated, even relieved. He learned his mistake, and died deeply troubled by it.Yet Lenin was not ‘mistaken’ when the world revolution failed to triumph outside of Russia post First World War – the conditions did exist for the successful socialist revolution in Europe – not least in Germany which underwent two revolutionary situations in 1918 and then again in 1923. Lenin knew that making the revolution in Russia was a gamble, but, he wagered, it was right to make that gamble – a gamble after all that was critical to ending the bloodshed of the First World War and, everything taken into account did demonstrate the possibilities for socialist revolution in the 20th century.

As Rosa Luxemburg noted,‘Everything that a party could offer of courage, revolutionary farsightedness, and consistency in a historic hour, Lenin, Trotsky, and the other comrades have given in good measure. All the revolutionary honor and capacity which the Social Democracy of the West lacked were represented by the Bolsheviks. Their October uprising was not only the actual salvation of the Russian Revolution; it was also the salvation of the honour of international socialism.’

From Tendence Coatesy

Louise Michel

I recently saw the film Louise-Michel.

It’s a bit, soso (I went for the name- see below).

The film begins with a coffin being jammed in a Crematorium while the Internationale plays. A textile factory, in Picardy, is delocalised. The boss leaves the women workers in the lurch. Rather than go for a nude Calender, or take up stripping, they decide to hire a killer to bump him. Louise (Yolande Moreau),  finds one, a man transsexual. Louise turns out to be man.

The comedy, such as it is, takes place the surreal Picardy environment, a decaying Communist bastion, with co-ops and council housing falling apart. The only real laughs are in the search for the ultimate boss responsible for the closure. This takes the pair, Louise and her pro ((Bouli Lanners) to a posh gala dinner, Brussels ( with , nonantes and septantes  said every other sentence, and finally to Jersey where a much appreciated bloodbath of the bourgeoisie ensues.(Here.)

The only really good scene in Louise-Michel – and still a bit Little Britain in its humour – is when the duo pass by and visit the farm where Louise had shot a bank-manager out to forfeit her indebted property. It’s now an organic bed-and-breakfast heaven, with fair-trade coffee, bio bogs, hand-woven degradable carpets,  spring water showers, crystal therapy breakfasts, and recycled air -in the dull flat Picardy mud.

Anyway, apart from the chance of seeing Siné in the flesh – in a walk-on part –  I wouldn’t recommend the film.

But at the end there is a quote on the screen from the real-life Louise Michel.

Now she is someone the English-speaking left should get to know.

“Michel became highly admired by French workers and revolutionaries, particularly for her association with theParis Commune. From after her death until 1916, a demonstration was held every year at her tomb at Levallois-Perret.

A legendary figure of the labour movement, Michel had the ability to incite crowds to act. Frequently, the language used to describe her is that reserved for saints and heretics; she is often referred to as “Bonne Louise” (Good Louise) or the “Vierge rouge” (red Virgin). For better or worse, Michel seems to have fascinated her contemporaries. This woman, educated and cultured, intelligent without being shy and retiring, and lacking the beauty of certain demimondaines and other women of loose morals who populated the period before the Belle Epoque, was surrounded by many male celebrities. They were often her steadfast friends, until the end of her life, or more frequently to the end of theirs. For a period when women still had essentially no rights, she was in many respects an exception.”

L’œillet rouge.

If were to go to the black cemetery

Brothers, throw on your sister,
As a final hope,
Some red ‘carnations’ in bloom.
In the final days of Empire,
When the people were awakening,
It was your smile red carnation
which told us that all was being reborn.
Today, go blossom in the shadow of the black and sad prisons.
Go, bloom near the somber captive,
And tell him/her truly that we love him/her.
Tell that through fleeting time
Everything belongs to the future
That the livid-browed conqueror
can die more surely than the conquered.

The Paris Commune is not dead

There is a very well expressed article by Nick Rogers in the latest Weekly Worker on the 140th Anniversary of the Paris Commune – Here.

He concludes,

The historical experience of the Paris Commune teaches us a threefold lesson.

First, the key role of political leadership and programme. The Commune clearly lacked coherent political leadership. It did not even have a clear idea of what it sought to achieve. This was partly a question of political ideology, but it was also an expression of the lack of any working class party to speak of. In Paris (and in the other cities of France, where during this period several communes of only a few days’ duration were declared) there were political traditions, clubs and conspiratorial groupings. Lacking from the political firmament was any party seeking to democratically represent the interests of the whole class.

The International came closest and was subsequently blamed by the French government for the uprising. It banned the International in France and wrote to governments around Europe urging them to take the same action. But the Proudhonist majority in the French section held to a theoretical position that rejected political action (and trade unionism, for that matter). It was not ready to lead a workers’ revolution.

Second, the spontaneity of the working class is capable of great feats. What was achieved in Paris during April and May 1871 by the citizens of the city retains the capacity to inspire. Local initiatives proliferated. Right up to the last week a mood of festival prevailed. It is not the role of a political party to subsume or subdue such initiative, but to provide a focal point for directing the working class’s capacity for political and organisational creativity in an agreed direction.

Third, a workers’ revolution transforms the political and constitutional landscape or it is not a revolution. That is why communists raise democratic and republican demands. It is a lesson most of the present-day ‘revolutionary’ left has forgotten. The rediscovery of Kautsky “when he was a Marxist” can help hammer home that lesson.

This is a crystal-clear summary of the Commune’s enduring political meaning.

Also read:

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.