Not Just Orwell…

Having already reported on the visit to Ireland of Catalan POUM veteran Roma Marquez Santo [TOMORROW NIGHT IN DUBLIN], here are some more related links. Marquez Santo was also in Salford, at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford , for the launch of Not Just Orwell by Christopher Hall, telling the story of the ILP volunteers who fought in Spain against fascism. Not Just Orwell is published by Warren and Pell. A plaque to the ILP Contingent was also unveiled, and attended by Sidney Robinson, an Independent Labour Party activist in the 1930s who chaired the Newport Spanish Aid Committee. (Excellent report from Matthew Brown at the ILP. Good report at The Olive Press, including a wonderful YouTube of revolutionary Barcelona and George Orwell drinking tea [from George Orwell: A Life in Pictures]. Brief reports at SB News and Histomatist.)

Related material at Bataille Socialiste: a YouTube of the POUM cavalry in Barcelona.

More on the POUM from BS here, including just a couple of English texts:

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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“.

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…)

Workers’ democracy

The Commune has published two 1950s ILP pamphlets from the 1950s:

socialism and workers’ councils (1957) and nationalisation: a socialist analysis (1958) both counterpose industrial democracy to nationalisation by the bourgeois state, and pose the question of how the working class can rule both economically and politically.

More (via La Bataille Socialiste):

Voir aussi sur les nationalisations:

  • The Labour Government 1945-1951 vidéos
  • Le réformisme du “Programme commun” en France (1974)
  • Published in: on September 10, 2008 at 2:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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