Tings and tings

Killing and dying for “the old lie” – World War and the triumph of militarism over anti-fascism.

Spain is nice at this time of year – the BNP and Spanish fascism.

Beijing Coma – can the symbols of classic socialism still be symbols of emancipation, despite their blood stains?

Oscar Wilde on socialist songs – Up, ye People! or down into your graves!

The partisan poet – Adam Kirsch on Abba Kovner.

Ethel MacDonald and Bob Smillie – and Guy Aldred and Fenner Brockway. More Guy Aldred.

Carlo Tresca – The Dilemma of an Anti-Communist Radical.

The sweet and the cruel – Ian Buruma on Occupied Paris.

The Labour Party between the wars – ideological contours.

A postcard from Coyoacan – Trotsky’s last home in Mexico.

TROTSKY’s STUDY – WHERE HE WAS SITTING WHEN HE WAS MURDERED  WITH AN ICE PICK

Translated novels – including Victor Serge’s Unforgiving Years.

Stalin’s Terror – a review by Peter Taafe.

David North on Robert Service on Leon Trotksy (and on James Burnham on Isaac Duetscher on Leon Trotsky) – not sure if I’ve already posted this one.

Open letter to Havana – on Stalinist slurs against the Freedom Socialist Party.

The Black Marxist Tradition – an interview with Cedric J Robinson.

You don’t play with revolution, Alfie – Lady Poverty on CLR James on Marxism. (And here’s James from AK.)

The Search for the Tassili Frescoes – Afrocentrist history and CLR James at Federal College.

The John Hope Franklin File – the FBI, anti-communism and black history.

Stalin: Why and How – Boris Souvarine.

The myth of Mondragon – Louis Proyect debunks Spanish autogestion?

Poplarism – a review of Janine Booth’s book.

Half a century of Hausman’s – from the North East London radicals, from Permanent Revolution.

A Rebel’s dream – Ian Birchall on Ernest Mandel.

George Padmore – forgotten fighter.

Reasoning otherwise – Canadian radicalism 1890-1920.

More years of the locust – Permanent Revolution on Jim Higgins on the origins of the IS.

Decline – Scott McLemee on Cornel West. Plus more from Michael Tomasky.

New from AK: Italian anarchism 1864-92, French anarchism 1917-45, Zapatismo and the Panthers.

Flag Day in Lawrence, MA, 1912 – a slice of IWW history.

What is the CNT? Two from Christie Books:

Facts About the Spanish Resistance 2 – What is the CNT? by José Peirats

Anarchists in LondonThe Anarchists in London 1935-1955 by Albert Meltzer

Keeping up

No time for proper posting, but have a look at

My obsessions

Leon Trotsky:

A good review by Andrew Coates of Patenaude and Robert Service‘s books, and a rather plodding defence of Trotsky from Service by Peter Taafe.

Ignazio Silone:

Silone on liberty. An interview with Tim Parks that touches on the “Silone question” (via The Perfect Package, see last quote). Any Persian readers reading this? Here’s some Silone in Farsi.

Albert Camus:

Coates on Camus in the Pantheon.

The Spanish Civil War:

Wilebaldo Solano on the POUM (more on this later). Review of An Anarchist’s Story: The Life of Ethel MacDonald.

Bertolt Brecht:

Excellent post by The Fat Man on a Keyboard, contra Nick Cohen on The Good Soul of Szechuan.

Kronstadt:

Finally, I am sad that I missed the New York Queer Film Festival, where I could have seen this:

Closing Night: Maggots & Men
Seeing Cary Cronenwett’s Maggots and Men, you have nothing to lose but your perceptions of gender. This utopian re-visioning of the Kronstadt Uprising of 1921, featuring film history’s first cast of over 100 transgender actors, paints an idyllic portrait of formerly pro-Soviet sailors at the Kronstadt naval garrison who rebelled against the perceived failures of the new Bolshevik state.

From the archive of struggle, no.39: Trotsky in Glasgow special feature

This week’s feature archive is the University of Glasgow’s Special Collections. Specifically, I will focus on the Leon Trotsky Virtual Exhibition. To be honest, it is not a particularly good example of an on-line exhibition in terms of informativeness (although their is a chronology of the Old Man’s life) or zip, but it has some great examples of cover art, and certainly lots of stuff I’d like to look at. Here are some features. (All hyperlinks in the text below and all text in square brackets added by me – Poumista.)

Cours nouveau
Paris: 1924
Sp Coll Trotsky F73.12Edited and translated by Boris Souvarine, this is a French translation of Novyi kurs (New course), a work which grew out of a series of articles in Pravda in December 1923. An English translation of this work did not appear until 1943.

[In this text, Trotsky criticised the bureaucratisation of the Party, the violation of democracy and the failure to develop adequate economic planning. It marked the start of an open conflict with Stalin, prior to Lenin’s death. For his support for Trostky, Souvarine was removed from his official roles within the PCF in early 1924, and was expelled by the Comintern in July. I am not sure whether this publication was before his expulsion or afterwards, nor who published it.]

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Shoot them like partridges

I don’t care much for people who enjoy killing things, but I am willing to put up with hunters as long as they don’t carry their habits into private and public life. (Trotsky wired Zinoviev re the Kronstadt sailors, in revolt for the fulfillment of the promises of the Revolution, “Shoot them like partridges.” Bertrand Russell commented, “A hunter should never be allowed to lead a revolution.”)

—Kenneth Rexroth “Hemingway”, 1961

***

“You think perhaps I am a Royalist? No. If there was anybody in heaven or hell to pray to I would pray for a revolution — a red revolution everywhere.”

“You astonish me,” I said, just to say something.

“No! But there are half a dozen people in the world with whom I would like to settle accounts. One could shoot them like partridges and no questions asked. That’s what revolution would mean to me.”

“It’s a beautifully simple view,” I said.

—Joseph Conrad The Arrow of Gold, 1919

***

In a recent post, I quoted Michael Ezra thus:

In [Isaac Deutscher’s] account of the Kronstadt rebellion, there is no mention of Trotsky’s famous order, “shoot them like partridges.”

In a comment, Steve Parsons writes:

I might be wrong but I think it was Zinoviev who is associated with the phrase “shoot them like p[h]easants”.

For an extensive review – a political critique but also a partial listing of some of the numerous factual inacurracies – of Service’s biography on Trotsky see David North’s ´In the service of historical falsification’

I’ve always thought it was Trotsky, but wondered if it was one of those urban myths, so present here the fruits of some of my googling. It seems it was a committee that Zinoviev chaired, although Trotsky may have had a role in its distribution. However, I think it is fair to say that Trotsky shared the sentiment.

TrotskyParade01.JPG (60177 bytes)Quick background: in February 1921, the sailors of Kronstadt in Russia, a stronghold of the revolution, raised 15 demands for greater freedom for working class people and peasants. In March, the Red Army moved to suppress the sailors, killing over 1000. Leon Trotsky, as Commissar for War, played a key role in this suppression. As did Zinoviev, by 1921 head of the Petrograd party organization, chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, and a full member of the party’s Politburo.

1. From Israel Gertzler Kronstadt 1917-1921: The Fate of a Soviet Democracy (2002, p.220):

on 4 March 4 an ‘Appeal’ by Zinoviev‘s Defence Committee of Petrograd denounced ‘all those Petrichenkos and Tu[k]ins’, meaning Kronstadt’s Revolutionary Committee, as ‘puppets who dance at the behest of Tsarist general Kozlovsky’ and ‘other notorious White Guards’, and demanded the Kronstadters’ unconditional surrender, or else ‘you will be shot down like partridges‘.

2. From The Soviet image: a hundred years of photographs from inside the TASS archives by Peter Radetsky, p.59:

Trotsky ordered leaflets airdropped over the [Kronstadt] base, informing his former comrades that if they didn’t surrender within twenty-four hours, “I’ll shoot you like pheasants.”Downtown, Buenos Aires: Viva the Kronstadt rebellion by michaelramallah.

3. Ida Mett, from “The Kronstadt Commune” (1938):

On 5th. March, the Petrograd Defence Committee issued a call to the rebels.

‘You are being told fairy tales when they tell you that Petrograd is with you or that the Ukraine supports you. These are impertinent lies. The last sailor in Petrograd abandoned you when he learned that you were led by generals like Kozlovskv. Siberia and the Ukraine support the Soviet power. Red Petrograd laughs at the miserable efforts of a handful of White Guards and Socialist Revolutionaries. You are surrounded on all sides. A few hours more will lapse and then you will he compelled to surrender. Kronstadt has neither bread nor fuel. If you insist, we will shoot you like partridges.

‘At the last minute, all those generals, the Kozlovskvs, the Bourksers, and all that riff raff, the Petrichenkos, and the Tourins will flee to Finland, to the White guards. And you, rank and file soldiers and sailors, where will you go then? Don’t believe them when they promise to feed you in Finland. Haven’t you heard what happened to Wrangel’s supporters? They were transported to Constantinople. There they are dying like flies, in their thousands, of hunger and disease. This is the fate that awaits you, unless you immediately take a grip of yourselves. Surrender Immediately! Don’t waste a minute. Collect your weapons and come over to us. Disarm and arrest your criminal leaders, and in particular the Tsarist generals. Whoever surrenders immediately will be forgiven. Surrender now.

‘Signed: The Defence Committee’.

4. Alexander Berkman, from The Kronstadt Rebellion:

smp1Trotsky had been expected to address the Petro-Soviet, and his failure to appear was interpreted by some as indicating that the seriousness of the situation was exaggerated. But during the night he arrived in Petrograd and the following morning, March 5, he issued his ultimatum to Kronstadt:

The Workers and Peasants Government has decreed that the Kronstadt and the rebellious ships must immediately submit to the authority of the Soviet Republic. Therefore I command all who have raised their hand against the Socialist fatherland to lay down their arms at once. The obdurate are to be disarmed and turned over to the Soviet authorities. The arrested Commissars and other representatives of the Government are to be liberated at once. Only those surrendering unconditionally may count on the mercy of the Soviet Republic.

Simultaneously I am issuing orders to prepare to quell the mutiny and subdue the mutineers by force of arms. Responsibility for the harm that may be suffered by the peaceful population will fall entirely upon the heads of the counter-revolutionary mutineers. This warning is final.

TROTSKY
Chairman Revolutionary Military Soviet of the Republic

KAMENEV
Commander-in-Chief

The situation looked ominous. Great military forces continuously flowed into Petrograd and its environs. Trotsky’s ultimatum was followed by a prikaz which contained the historic threat, “I’ll shoot you like pheasants”.

[Note: The same text is in Voline’s The Unknown Revolution, bk.3, pt.1, ch.5, and in Berkman’s The Paris Commune and Kronstadt, which notes that the threat was distributed “by a military flying machine”].

5. Daniel Bell, from “First Love and Early Sorrows” (Partisan Review, 1981):

frontpiecesome anarchist relatives, cousins of my mother, a Russian Jewish couple who lived in Mohegan Colony… took me to see Rudolf Rocker, the venerable Anarchist leader, an imposing and portly man with a large square head and imposing brush of gray hair, who then lived in the Colony… In parting, he gave me a number of Anarchist pamphlets, by Malatesta, by Kropotkin (on the Paris Commune), and in particular two pamphlets by Alexander Berkman, The Russian Tragedy and The Kronstadt Rebellion, pamphlets in English but “set up and printed for Der Syndikalist,” Berlin 1922–pamphlets That I have before me as I write (one inscribed in a large round hand, “with fraternal greetings, A.B.. “)–and he suggested that I read Berkman’s The Bolshevik Myth, the diary of his years in Russia, 1920-1922, a copy of which I soon found, and still have.

Every radical generation, it is said, has its Kronstadt. For some it was the Moscow Trials, for others the Nazi-Soviet Pact, for still others Hungary (The Raik Trial or 1956), Czechoslovakia (the defenestration of Masaryk in 1948 or the Prague Spring of 1968), the Gulag, Cambodia, Poland (and there will be more to come). My Kronstadt was Kronstadt.

… I wish it were possible to reprint in full the twelve pages of Berkman’s diary in Petrograd, from the end of February through mid-March 1921, for no bare summary can convey the immediacy, tension and drama as the sailors from the First and Second squadrons of the Baltic Fleet at Kronstadt, the men from the naval base at Petrograd who had catalyzed the October days in 1917, now appealed, following the spontaneous strikes of workers in Petrograd and Moscow, for the establishment of freedom of speech and press “for workers and peasants, for Anarchist and Left Socialist parties,” for the liberation of “all political prisoners of Socialist parties,” to “equalize The rations of all who work,” etc.

For Trotsky, who was Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Soviet, This was mvatezh, or mutiny. He demanded That the sailors surrender or “I’ll shoot you like pheasants.” The last three entries of Berkman’s diaries tell of the sorry end:

March 7. –Distant mumbling reaches my ears as I cross the Nevsky. It sounds again, stronger and nearer, as if rolling towards me. All at once I realize that artillery is being fired. It is 6 A.M. Kronstadt has been attacked! ….

March 17.–Kronstadt has fallen today.

Thousands of sailors and workers lie dead in its streets. Summary execution of prisoners and hostages continues.

March 18.7-The victors are celebrating the anniversary of the Commune of 1871. Trotsky and Zinoviev denounce Thiers and Gallifet for The slaughter of the Paris rebels.

6. Victor Serge, from“Kronstadt ’21”, originally published in Dwight and Nancy MacDonald’s politics (1945):

The Political Bureau finally made up its mind to enter into negoiations with Kronstadt, lay down an ultimatum, and, as a last resort, attack the fortress and the ice-bound battleships. As it turned out, no negotiations ever took place. But an ultimatum, couched in revolting language, appeared on the billboards over the signature of Lenin and Trotsky: ‘Surrender or be shot like rabbits!’. Trotsky, limiting his activities to the Political Bureau, kept away from Petrograd.

7. John G Wright, of the American SWP, in New International (1938):

In his recent comments on Kronstadt, Victor Serge concedes that the Bolsheviks once confronted with the mutiny had no other recourse except to crush it. In this he demarcates himself from the assorted varieties of Anarcho-Menshevism. But the substance of his contribution to the discussion is to lament over the experiences of history instead of seeking to understand them as a Marxist. Serge insists that it would have been “easy” to forestall the mutiny – if only the Central Committee had not sent Kalinin to talk to the sailors! Once the mutiny flared, it would have been “easy” to avoid the worst – if only Berkman had talked to the sailors! To adopt such an approach to the Kronstadt events is to take the superficial viewpoint: “Ah, if history had only spared us Kronstadt!” It can and does lead only to eclecticism and to the loss of all political perspectives.

8. Emma Goldman, from “Trotsky Protests Too Much” (1938):

Victor Serge is now out of the hospitable shores of the workers’ “fatherland.” I therefore do not consider it a breach of faith when I say that if Victor Serge made this statement charged to him by John G. Wright, he is merely not telling the truth. Victor Serge was one of the French Communist Section who was as much distressed and horrified over the impending butchery decided upon by Leon Trotsky to “shoot the sailors as pheasants” as Alexander Berkman, myself and many other revolutionists. He used to spend every free hour in our room running up and down, tearing his hair, clenching his fists in indignation and repeating that “something must be done, something must be done, to stop the frightful massacre.” When he was asked why he, as a party member, did not raise his voice in protest in the party session, his reply was that that would not help the sailors and would mark him for the Cheka and even silent disappearance. The only excuse for Victor Serge at the time was a young wife and a small baby. But for him to state now, after seventeen years, that “the Bolsheviki once confronted with the mutiny had no other recourse except to crush it,” is, to say the least, inexcusable. Victor Serge knows as well as I do that there was no mutiny in Kronstadt, that the sailors actually did not use their arms in any shape or form until the bombardment of Kronstadt began. He also knows that neither the arrested Communist Commissars nor any other Communists were touched by the sailors. I therefore call upon Victor Serge to come out with the truth. That he was able to continue in Russia under the comradely régime of Lenin, Trotsky and all the other unfortunates who have been recently murdered, conscious of all the horrors that are going on, is his affair, but I cannot keep silent in the face of the charge against him as saying that the Bolsheviki were justified in crushing the sailors.

Leon Trotsky is sarcastic about the accusation that he had shot 1,500 sailors. No, he did not do the bloody job himself. He entrusted Tuchachevsky, his lieutenant, to shoot the sailors “like pheasants” as he had threatened. Tuchachevsky carried out the order to the last degree. The numbers ran into legions, and those who remained after the ceaseless attack of Bolshevist artillery, were placed under the care of Dibenko, famous for his humanity and his justice.

Tuchachevsky and Dibenko, the heroes and saviours of the dictatorship! History seems to have its own way of meting out justice. [Tukhachevsky and Dibenko were executed by Stalin in 1937.]

[serge]9. Gabriel and Dany Cohn-Bendit, from Obsolete Communism, the Left-Wing Alternative (1968):

Every attempt to settle matters peacefully was rejected out of hand by the government; Trotsky ordered his troops ‘to shoot the Kronstadt “rebels” down like partridges’, and entrusted the task to Toukhatchevsky, a military expert taken over from the Old Regime.

10. Ian Birchall, from “Victor Serge: Hero or Witness?” (1998):

Serge’s position on Kronstadt is fairly clear (see the extensive treatment in The Serge-Trotsky Papers). At the time, although profoundly unhappy, he decided to accept the suppression of the revolt as necessary. Later, in the 1930s, when he was trying to explain why the revolution had degenerated, he came to see Kronstadt as one of the key stages. This led to a sharp exchange of views with Trotsky, which became perhaps unnecessarily polarised.

11. Cajo Brendel, from “Kronstadt: Proletarian Spin-Off of the Russian Revolution” (1971):

The Kronstadt Rebellion destroyed a social myth: the myth that in the Bolshevik state, power lay in the hands of the workers. Because this myth was inseparably linked to the entire Bolshevik ideology (and still is today), because in Kronstadt a modest beginning of a true workers’ democracy was made, the Kronstadt Rebellion was a deadly danger for the Bolsheviks in their position of power. Not only the military strength of Kronstadt – that at the time of the rebellion was very much impaired by the frozen gulf – but also the demystifying effect of the rebellion threatened Bolshevik rule – a threat that was even stronger than any that could have been posed by the intervention armies of Deniken, Kolchak, Judenitch, or Wrangel.

For this reason the Bolshevik leaders were from their own perspective or better, as a consequence of their social position (which naturally influenced their perspective) – forced to destroy the Kronstadt Rebellion without hesitation. While the rebels were – as Trotsky had threatened being ‘shot like pheasants’, the Bolshevik leadership characterized the Rebellion in their own press as a counterrevolution. Since that time this swindle has been zealously promoted and stubbornly maintained by Trotskyists and Stalinists.

This is what a pheasant looks like. This is what a partridge looks like. This is what the Red Army looked like.

Related reading: Steve Parsons on Robert Service’s A History of Twentieth Century Russia; The Truth About Kronstadt.

Books

This new book, Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver looks interesting.

Kingsolver doesn’t appear to suffer from writer’s block and she certainly hasn’t been twiddling her thumbs. Her understanding of Mexico and Spanish in The Lacuna are exemplary, and she must have researched deeply into the lives of Kahlo, Rivera, and Leon “Lev” Trotsky during the time he was one of Kahlo’s lovers. She doesn’t distort them into flawless heroes. They’re iconic figures, but portrayed warts and all: love affairs and self-obsession and revolutionary contradictions on all sides.

I haven’t yet read this review by Tariq Ali of Patenaude’s Stalin’s Nemesis and Robert Service’s Trotsky: A Biography. If anyone reads it, tell me if I should bother.

In this 1934 Diego Rivera mural, "Man, Controller of the Universe," Leon Trotsky makes an appearance.
In this 1934 Diego Rivera mural, “Man, Controller of the Universe,” Leon Trotsky makes an appearance. (more…)

From the archive of struggle no.38: YIVO special feature

Today’s feature archive is YIVO. Founded in 1925 in Vilna as the Yiddish Scientific Institute, YIVO was the national research institute and archive of Yiddishland. Salvaged from the ruins of European Jewry in 1940, YIVO was re-founded in New York, where it now as an excellent archival collection, and some cool digital collections.

Here are some of the extraordinary materials you will find. Click on the objects to see them in their contexts.

When these streets heard Yiddish:


Bek, a Yiddish translation of The Call of the Wild by Jack London, published by the Kultur Lige (Jewish Workers Cultural Association) in Kiev, 1925.

Union of Jewish Writers and Journalists of Warsaw membership card of Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904–1991)

An appeal to vote for the Bund in the municipal elections (Vilna, date unknown)

May Day demonstration jointly organized by the Jewish Socialist Bund and Poalei-Zion Left (Warsaw, 1936).

Poster for the socialist organization Zionist Tseirei Zion: “The Land of Israel for the People of Israel!” (Vilna, date unknown).

“Join the Tsukunft” recruitment poster for the Bundist youth organization (Warsaw, 1936).
Yiddish music:
The Bundist song, Di Shvue sound (“The Oath”)… penned in 1902 by S. An-ski (Shlomo Zanvil Rapoport), the Russian Jewish writer. This Yiddish song, whose melody source also is unknown, exhorts Jews to unite, and to commit themselves body and soul to the defeat of the Russian Tsar and of capitalism… [The partisan song Zog nit keyn mol ] sound

In Love and In Struggle: The Musical Legacy Of The Labor Bund:

Text: David Edelshtat (1866-1892)
Sung by Adrienne Cooper

Edelshtadt’s Arbeter-froyen addresses women in its protest of the hardships of factory work. The song sounds a call to oppressed women workers to join the labor movement in its fight for justice and equality. Published in the New York newspaper Freie Arbeiter Stimme (Free Voice of Labor) in 1891, it was also sung by striking workers in Russia and Poland.

Text: Szmerke Kaczerginski (1908-1954)
Music: Basya Rubin (n.d.)~
h Children’s Chorus, The New Yiddish Chorale, and the Workmen’s Circle Chorus

Vilna poet and partisan Szmerke Kaczerginski wrote this stirring march song for the youth movement in the Vilna ghetto. Many of the young people who took part in the ghetto’s active resistance movement later also became combatants in the partisan units that fought the Nazis in the forests.

Here and Now: The Vision of the Jewish Labor Bund in Interwar Poland:

Members of the Tsukunft Self-Defense Group carry the Socialist flag on May Day, Warsaw. 1930s.

Kalman Reisen, socialist and Yiddishist:

Chicago 1912 – Outdoor portrait of the Jewish Socialist Self-Education Club — Includes Abraham Reisen
The Power of Persuasion: Jewish Posters from Prewar Poland:
“Jewish Woman‚ Vote for the Women’s Slate, Slate Number 3.”

***

From the archive of struggle no.38:

Tendance Coatesy:

* Chris Harman: extracts from “Party and Class” (1969), “The  Prophet and the Proletariat” (1994), “Spontaneity, Strategy, Politics” (2004) – makes the interesting case that Harman’s political legacy is the libertarian streak in the IS/SWP tradition, the element that is worth valuing and preserving. Chris Harman died last week. RIP.

World Socialist Website:

* Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter: “Overthrow the Stalinist bureaucracy! Build workers’ councils in East Germany!”, October 18, 1989 (Parts I, II, III).

International Communist League:

*Socialist Workers League: “War Is Here—What Now?” (September 1939)

The rest are via Entdinglichung, with some annotation.

Archive.org:

* Leon Trotsky: The Bolsheviki and world peace (1918). [For an authoritative text version of this, as The War and the International, go to MIA. The introduction is by Lincoln Steffens, a muckracking journalist associated with the Progressive Party who became a Communist fellow traveller after a visit to the Soviet Union in 1919 with the Swede Karl Kilbom. I believe he later embraced Mussolini. This book, published by a mainstream American publisher, shows the extent to which Trotsky was considered a great hero of the revolution world-wide; he was the object of cult-like reverence, a figure of great romance in the West.]

* Bertram Wolfe: Marx and America (1934). [Wolfe was a founder-member of the CPUSA and active in the Comintern. He was close to the majority faction of the CPUSA around CE Ruthenberg and Jay Lovestone, who fought against the Foster-Cannon faction, a leftist minority. By 1934, however, he was an oppositionist, part of Lovestone’s Independent Communist Labor League in America and the Communist Party Opposition internationally. Wolfe was the Lovestonite’s chief theorist, and argued for “American exceptionalism”. In this erudite pamphlet, he makes the argument by drawing on Marx’s scattered writings about the US, showing that America posed a special case for the communist movement.]

* International Communist Opposition (ICO): International Class Struggle, Spring 1937. [The ICO, often known as the “Right” Opposition, initially had a pretty robust organisation. Zinoviev, a “Rightist”, had been the chair of the Comintern from its founding until 1926, but Nikolai Bukharin, the chair until the end of the Second Period in 1928, was the real leader after Lenin’s death. Bukharin was the intellectual hero of most of the ICO leadership, and it was Bukharin’s fall from grace under Stalin that prompted the break of the ICO from the mainstream. ICO leaders were therefore already well networked internationally, and able to hit the ground running organisationally, in contrast to the much slower moving “Left” Opposition. However, the ICO tended to lack a mass base in the labour movement, although there were some exceptions to this (the Lovestone-Wolfe group had a strong base in the Yiddish sections of the ILGWU; Steffens’ erstwhile friend Kilbom’s Communist Party of Sweden was pretty big; in Spain the BOC (one of the POUM’s predecessors, was important). This, along with the right-ward drift of many of their key thinkers, was probably the main reason they atrophied by WWII.

This is the ICO’s American journal, vol. 1, no.3, and it includes a fraternally critical letter to the POUM from the bureau of the ICO; a piece on the CIO by George F Miles, the Lovestonites’ labour expert; “D. Swift” on proletarian novels, particularly contemptuous of James T Farrell; an account of the German CPO’s underground existence under Hitler; a critical account of Leon Blum’s Popular Front in France; and a cruel attack on Jean Juares as a prototype of the Popular Front policy. No. 1 and No. 2 are also on-line at archive.org, but I haven’t looked at them yet.]

* Leon Trotsky on labor party: stenographic report of discussion held in 1938 with leaders of the Socialist Workers Party (1968). [A long introduction by Fred Meuhler and Tim Wohlforth draws on Engels and Lenin to argue for an American Labor Party. Then a transcript of Trotsky’s conversation in Mexico with James Cannon, Max Shachtman and Vincent Dunne. By 1938, the Right Opposition were in decline globally, and the Left Opposition was on the rise. However, it is interesting that the American SWP, which was led precisely by James Cannon, Lovestone and Wolfe’s rival in the early CPUSA, had come around to a version of the “American exceptionalism” thesis, and were now calling for an American Labor Party.]

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Leon Trotsky drinking Mexican coffee

Robert Service on Trotsky again: Service was on the weekend’s The Forum on the BBC World Service. The Service bit starts at 27 minutes. I don’t like Service’s analysis, although he is partly right. Service is right about Trotsky’s personality: cold, prim, glacial, disdainful, arrogant, self-centred. But Service basically says Trotsky and Stalin are “blood brothers”, that Trotsky was as ruthless as Stalin, who in turn was as much a “man of ideas” as Trotsky. This is surely not right, despite Trotsky’s faults. However, Service is right that Trotsky would have suppressed the peasants to achieve industrialisation, less brutally than Stalin but nonetheless harshly.

One interesting point Service makes is that other Russian exiles were making similar analyses of Soviet Russia, and have been forgotten. (He doesn’t name names, but Victor Serge, Ante Ciliga, Boris Souvarine, Voline, the exiled Mensheviks André Liebich writes about in From the Other Shore, and so on.) Service suggests that it was because Trotsky was a great writer and subsequently a great martyr that he became so important. I think this is true, but the third factor, both Trotsky’s strength and his flaw, his hubris perhaps, was that he was a great factionalist, with a sense of himself as a leader of a movement, something that was untrue of the other, more modest key figures of the anti-Stalinist left. Anyway, I still prefer Hitchens’ version. Lots more here.

***

Heroes: Josef Frantisek. Marek Edelman, Steve Cohen and Mercedes Sosa. John Saville. Bongani Mkhungo.

Villains: Nat Hentoff.

George Orwell: His lessons for combating antisemitism today.

Histories: The Communist Party in the French resistance. New York elections: from honourable Jewish socialists to odious Marxoid cults. The end of the left’s Cuba romance? The state of Bund historiography [pdf]. The Labour Party and the Battle of Cable Street.

Book reviews: Platypus on Communist Chicago. Colin Waugh’s Plebs. Geoffrey Foote on Paul Flewers’ New Civilisation. Andrew Coates on Flewers and two other books on Communism.

Interviews: Nick Cohen in Black Flag.

The Kaminski affair: Bob has a good round-up (scroll to “Strange alliances”).

Marxist theory: Louis Proyect on John Molyneux on party democracy. Playtpus on Karl Korsch. David Black (Hobgoblin London) on philosophy and revolution.

Un-Marxist theory: Irving Howe “Class and sociology” 1957, plus replies by Lewis Coser and Dennis Wrong.

If sharks were people: From Brecht’s Tales from the Calendar.

Consumerism: Buy Zapatatista coffee! And buy the new edition of Zapata of Mexico. And buy The Workers’ Next Step. And The Insurrectionists by Bill Fishman.

Poumed

At the head of everything is God, the Lord of Heaven.
Everyone knows that.
Then comes Prince Torlonia, lord of the earth.
Then come Prince Torlonia’s guards.
Then come Prince Torlonia’s guards’ dogs.
Then, nothing at all.
Then, nothing at all.
Then, nothing at all.
Then come the peasants. And that’s all.

~ Ignazio Silone, Fontamara (1931). (via @ndy)

Debates and arguments: David Cesarani, Marek Edelman and Michal Kaminski – click the link from Engage, then return to read the comment thread.

From the magazine rack: 1989 Timothy Garton Ash (NYRB); What Is to Be Learned? Thinking about 1989 Mitchell Cohen (Dissent); The Memory That Will Not Die: Exhuming the Spanish Civil War Julius Purcell (Boston Review); 100 Years of Servitude: Gabriel García Márquez’s Infatuation With Castro and Other Dictators Enrique Krauze (New Republic); Terry Teachout on the Congress for Cultural Freedom (Commentary).

Book reviews: John Gray on Robert Service’s Trotsky; Jonathan Yardley on Kati Marton’s Enemies of the People; DG Myers on two Lionel Trilling biographies; Colm Toibin on Sheila Rowbotham’s Edward Carpenter.

Some Irving Kristol obits I missed: Christopher Hitchens, David Brooks, Myron MagnetEric Alterman , Michael Lind, Justin Vaïsse, Kevin Mattson, Seth Lipsky, John Guardiano, Christopher DeMuth, Mary Eberstadt, Joseph Epstein, Danny Finkelstein.

Archival: Walter Lacquer on Why the Shah fell (1979).

From the archive of struggle, no.36: radical America

Last week, I featured the Holt Labor Library. Today, I feature a few different American radical history archives with smaller on-line exhibitions. Other stuff below the fold. Browse the whole series here.

The George Meany Memorial Archives

“The American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) established the George Meany Memorial Archives in 1980 to honor the memory of George Meany, its first president, and to provide a program to preserve its historical records and make them available for research. In 1987 the archives moved from the AFL-CIO headquarters to the forty-seven acre campus of the George Meany Center for Labor Studies (now the National Labor College) in Silver Spring, Maryland, an educational institution for labor officers, representatives, and staff of AFL-CIO affiliates.”

On-line exhibit: A. Philip Randolph, 1889-1979.

Illinois Labor History Society

“The Illinois Labor History Society (ILHS) was formed on August 5, 1969 in the office of the late Joseph M. Jacobs, attorney for the Chicago Teachers Union, Meatcutters, and other labor organizations. The mission of the ILHS was set forth: It shall be the Purpose of the Illinois Labor History Society to encourage the preservation and study of labor history materials of the Illinois Region, and to arouse public interest in the profound significance of the past to the present.”

On-line exhibit: Labor Union Hall of Fame.

Indiana State University Debs Collection

The Debs Collection has an absolutely enormous amount of Eugene Debs material. The photos and videos are of particular interest. This is apparently the only known video of Debs.

Inkworks Press Archive

Inkworks is a leftie print co-op in the Bay area. Their poster archive includes many treasures dating from 1974 onwards. Earlier material includes cool posters for UFW salsa benefits, Chilean folk music gigs, Cinco de Mayo fiestas, Pablo Neruda woodcuts, and lots more. A little bit on a Stalinist/Second Campist/Third Worldist tip, but beautiful.

LARC

The Labor Archives and Research Center in San Francisco: “Few regions can rival the rich, lively labor history of the San Francisco Bay Area. This history is preserved in primary source and vintage history materials at the Labor Archives and Research Center (LARC). Founded in 1985 by trade union leaders, historians, labor activists and university administrators, the Labor Archives is a unit of the J. Paul Leonard Library at San Francisco State University.”

Two on-line exhibitions: Look for the Union Label: A Celebration of Union Logos and Emblems and Cultivating Creativity: The Arts and the Farm Workers’ Movement During the 1960s and 1970s. The first is just lots of labels, badges and such like. The second is awesome, with sections on the Farm Workers Logo, the Virgin of Guadalupe, Theater, Songs and Poems, El Malcriado (the UFW paper), Posters, Drawings and Murals, Photography and Cesar Chavez as Icon.

Brandeis Special Collections

The Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections house the gems of Brandeis University’s library. They have a blog with monthly spotlights on the collection. July featured the Radical Pamphlets collection, but unfortunately it seems totally dominated by the CPUSA and its fronts. June was the Léon Lipschutz collection of Dreyfusiana and French Judaica. The Hall-Hoag Collection of Extremist Literature in the United States includes far right material and also the likes of the Weather Underground. The Sacco and Venzetti collections are a highlight.

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The life of Trotsky

Excellent post by Michael Ezra a propos of Robert Service’s new biography of Trotsky, but mainly taking apart Isaac Deutscher’s hagiography of Trotsky. Extract:

In [Deutscher’s] account of the Kronstadt rebellion, there is no mention of Trotsky’s famous order, “shoot them like partridges.” He  was also not immune from errors of fact. For example, Deutscher claimed that the Kronstadt rebellion was “led by Anarchists.” In truth, as Robert Daniels had previously shown (American Slavic and East European Review, December 1951), it was “a strong opposition movement … in Communist Party organisations” that had been at the forefront of the rebellion. Despite the fact that thousands were killed by the Bolsheviks for this rebellion, Deutscher does not draw the logical conclusion that P.G. Maximoff had earlier drawn:

As in many other instances we have here a clear case of mass murder subject to criminal prosecution.

If anyone is any doubt as to the way Deutscher viewed Trotsky, his following sentence should give some clarification:

The passions of [Trotsky’s] intellect and heart, always uncommonly large and intense… swelled into a tragic energy as mighty and high as that which animates the prophets and the law-givers of Michelangelo’s vision.

Some interesting stuff too in the comments thread.

And from an opposite perspective, the Cedar Lounge Revolution on a review by Robert Harris of Service’s book. Also an interesting comment thread.

Or, for a totally different sort of Trotsky biog, check this out.

Bonus links: Trotsky on terrorism 1 & 2, Exile in Buyukada, Peter Taafe on Robert Service, Trotsky on factionalism, Sergei Essenin.

The image at the top comes from a wonderful photoset which goes with this nice post: The Trotsky Museum.

Click here for related posts, including Trotsky’s bad driving, Hitchens and Service chatting about Trotsky, Stalin’s nemesis, Trotsky’s ashes based into cookies.

Published in: on October 19, 2009 at 11:10 am  Comments (7)  
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Marxist theory 2

From The Commune:

From Workers Liberty:

Sketchy Thoughts:

Notes and Commentaries:

Links:

Marxist Theory 1 here.

Intellectuals

Leon Trotsky and the annihilation of classical Marxism. A Tomb for Boris Davidovich by Danilo Kiš. Generations – Partisans. The Twilight of the intellectuals. Pilgrim of doubt. Remembering Irving Kristol: Lexington Green, Robert Kagan, J Podheretz, Joe Leiberman, Alan Wolfe, and in his own words. [Added: more from TNC and But I Am.]  A nation of commentators. Frankfurt on the Hudson.

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Graphic Witness

This is wonderful: Karl Marx’s Capital in lithographs, by Hugo Gellert, from 1934, reached via Hak Mao. Gellert illustrated Max Eastman’s The Liberator too. File:Liberator-cover-1803.jpg

Below the fold, From the Archive of Struggle, no.31. I think this edition is almost completely stolen from Entdinglichung.

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Poumnik

Rosie on Orwell as Autumn and war advance. AWL’s Jim D on SWP’s Keith Flett on Derry 1969. Photography and memory. The posthumous life of Leon Trotsky. WWII and the socialist project today. Radical thinkers?

Published in: on September 5, 2009 at 2:07 pm  Comments (1)  
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Poumist ephemera

This blog has been around long enough to now be the number one google hit for the term “Poumista”, and people clearly are coming here to find out about the POUM. However, I realise that I don’t have much actually about the POUM on this site. This post is not an attempt at any kind of comprehensive account of the POUM, but rather a disorganised pointer towards various sources of information, including some pieces of ephemera that I have recently come across.

First, some introductory texts: Poum at Wikipedia, Poum at Spartacus.

Other key wikipedia pages: Anti-Stalinist left, ILP Contingent, International Revolutionary Marxist Centre (aka London Bureau, Three and a Half International).

Recent bloggery: Justice Triumphs at La Bataille Socialiste, Markin on Trotsky on the POUM, Markin on the ortho-Trot International Communist League on the POUM, Markin on Andy Durgan on the POUM, Liam on Pierre Broué and Emile Teminé on the Spanish Civil War. All POUM posts at La Bataille Socialiste.

From the journals: The Spanish Left in its own words, Andy Durgan on the POUM and the Trotskyites, A Brandlerite militant in the POUM militia on the Huesca front, Keith Hassell on Trotsky on the POUM, Don Bateman on Georges Kopp and the Poum militias, Richardson and Rogers on Schwartz and Alba (Revolutionary History); A Danish Trotskyist in the POUM militia (What Next); The Foreign Legion of the Revolution (Libcom); Land and Freedom, Martine Vidal, The Hidden Story of the Revolution, Andy Durgan, The Meaning of a Defeat, Pelai Pagès (New Politics).

From the Marxist Internet Archive: The Manifesto of the POUM; Walter Held on Stalinism and the POUM; Pietro Fancelli Letters from Barcelona; The Weisbord Archive.

Ephemera: A Poum militia uniform. The flag of the Lenin Barracks; The flags of the Poum; The Philosophy Football POUM T-shirt.

My Poum pages: Roma Marquez Santo 2, Vicente Ferrer, Not Just Orwell…, Roma Marquez Santo, May 1, Poumish (a bloggish miscellany), From the archive of struggle, no.26, From the archive of struggle, no.7, Benjamin Péret: songs of the eternal rebels, Ramón J. Sender, Stephen Suleyman Schwartz on POUM historiography.

From the archive of struggle, no.28

Acknowledgments, as always, to Comrade E. Mostly English above the fold, other languages below. Browse the whole series here.

La Bataille Socialiste:

* Socialist Party of the US “Justice Triumphs in Spain” (1938)

Norman Thomas at Archive.org:

*Why I am a socialist – Thomas, Norman, 1884-1968. A pamphlet from the leading American socialist in the midst of the Great Depression HX15.
*What’s the matter with New York; a national problem – Thomas, Norman, 1884-1968
*Justice triumphs in Spain! : a letter about the trial of the P.O.U.M. – Thomas, Norman, 1884-1968. Allen, Devere,; 1891-1955. The US socialist party weighs in on the trial of the POUM leaders in Republican Spain JN8395.O27
*Democracy and Japanese Americans [pdf]. New York: Post War World Council, 1942.

Irish Labour and Working Class History:

*Robert Jackson Alexander, ‘Ireland’, International Trotskyism, 1929-1985 (1991)

Tendance Coatesy:

* Ken Coates “A Note on Workers’ Control”

LibCom:

* The Red Menace: Review: Anti-Parliamentary Communism in Britain, 1917-1945 (1989)
* Nick Heath: Anarchists who turned to the Bolsheviks
* Nick Heath: Jacob Abrams, Jacob aka Jack Abrams (1883 – 1953)
* The Communist Left in Germany 1918-1921 (1976)
* Walter Benjamin: The life of students (1915)
* James Goldwasser: Ret Marut: The Early B. Traven (1993)

Workers Liberty:

* Julius Jacobson: Reflections on Fascism and Communism (1983)

Dublin Opinion:

* John Goodwillie: Family Tree of the Irish Left (1983)
* John Goodwillie: Glossary of the Left in Ireland, 1960 to 1983 (1983)

Marxist Internet Archive:

Added to the Maurice Brinton Internet Archive:
*For Workers’ Power, 1965
*Review: What is Class Consciousness?, 1972
*Review: Dialectical Materialism and Psychoanalysis, 1972
*The Bolsheviks and Workers’ Control, 1970
*Socialism Reaffirmed, 1960
*Factory Committees and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, 1975

Added to the Barta Archive:
*Letter From Bucharest to Trotsky, May 1936

Added to the Tony Cliff Archive:
*Trotsky: 3. Fighting the rising Stalinist bureaucracy 1923-1927 (1991) (Volume 3 of Cliff’s political biography of Trotsky)
*Trotsky: 4. The darker the night the brighter the star 1927-1940 (1993) (Fourth and final volume of Cliff’s political biography of Trotsky)

The Anarchist Library:

*“Life in Revolutionary Barcelona” by Manolo Gonzalez
*“Beer and Revolution: Some Aspects of German Anarchist Culture in New York, 1880-1900” by Tom Goyens (2009)
*“Chavistas open fire, injure eight protestors in Caracas” by Peter Gelderloos (2007)
*“Dreams, Demands, and the Pragmatic Pitfall: The Barcelona Bus Drivers Strike” by Peter Gelderloos (2009)
*“Anti-patriotism” by Han Ryner (1934)

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Christopher Hitchens and Robert Service talk Trotsky

From National Review Online’s Uncommon Knowledge TV show. Each episode is around 6 minutes. Pretty good from the superficial listen I’ve had.

Trotsky with Hitchens and Service 1: Christopher Hitchens and Robert Service introduce Leon Trotsky, “one of the half-dozen outstanding Marxist revolutionaries.”(Background stuff. Skip it if you are among the initiated.)

Trotsky with Hitchens and Service 2: the defeat and exile of Leon Trotsky.

Trotsky with Hitchens and Service 3: What if Trotsky, rather than Stalin, attained control of the Soviet Union?

Trotsky with Hitchens and Service 4: Christopher Hitchens and Robert Service talk about Trotsky’s “moral moments.” (On anti-fascism and the 1930s)

Trotsky with Hitchens and Service 5: Trotsky today – scrutinizing the modern romantic view of Leon Trotsky.

(Twitter version: The Hitchens/Service series: 1: http://ow.ly/jygc, 2: http://ow.ly/jygo, 3: http://ow.ly/jyhv, 4: http://ow.ly/jyhO, 5: http://ow.ly/jyhW. “Christopher Hitchens is a journalist and author. His most recent book is God Is Not Great. Robert Service is a historian who has published major biographies of Lenin and Stalin. His most recent book, Comrades!, is study of communism as a worldwide movement. His upcoming work, Trotsky, will be published in November 2009.”)

ADDED: Lesley Chamberlain “Twilight in Mexico” in WSJ on Trotsky: Downfall of a Revolutionary by Bertrand M. Patenaude (published in the UK as Stalin’s Nemesis, which I blogged about here, when it was Radio 4’s Book of the Week. More from Bookhugger, Ardmayle, The Tablet. More later today about the current Book of the Week, which also has a Trotskyist theme. ).

Blog notes

I don’t recommend Fatal Paradox often enough. This post is very, very interesting and very pertinent to the issues this blog covers. Extract:

Reading Mark Derby’s book Kiwi Compañeros (which compiles a wealth of primary source material detailing the involvement of New Zealanders in the Spanish Civil War) recently I was struck by the disjunction between the confused and often demoralising experiences of the some of the participants whose stories were reproduced in that volume and the traditional leftist narrative according to which the Spanish Civil War was the most glorious hour of the Popular Front and the struggle against Fascism.

I managed to miss this post at Boffy’s blog, introducing some of Comrade Bough’s favourite blogs, including, I am pleased to say, this one, and I find myself in fine company indeed. Not sure, though, I agree with Serge’s Fist’s analysis of the United Front and Popular Front, but need to read it more carefully. (And certainly I would endorse Trotsky’s excellent advice to the ILP. It is not unlike the advice I would give to the AWL in its foolishly positive response to the SWP’s sham unity letter, but that’s for another place.) Again, it’s a bit off the topic of this blog, but Arthur has some good posts about Iran.

I have other favours to acknowledge: Peter Storm for Vrije landen tegen Che en Obama, TNC for Friday round-up, Bob for Remembering Steve Cohen, Martin for Balancing beatitude and Loach, Garaudy and the reactionary left, Histomatist for In Defence of Leon Trotsky.

Talking of Ken Loach, here’s Norm on Loach’s strangebedfellows, the Chinese totalitarian regime. And, staying with Norm, on another topic I’ve covered here: Marx and politics, Kolakowski notwithstanding

And some other Histomatist posts of note: Sheila Rowbotham on the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Homage to John Saville and Hubert Harrison on how to review books. John Saville also got a lovely appreciation from Doreen Massey and Hilary Wainwright in the Gruaniad. Hubert Harrison features in this ISJ review.

Finally, also in ISJ, this is important: Luke Stobart’s review of Michael Eaude’s Triumph at Midnight of the Century: A Critical Biography of Arturo Barea. Barea is a vastly underrated person in the English-speaking world.

Arturo Barea

Arturo Barea: This drawing originally appeared with An Honest Man (March 6, 1975)

Alternative histories

Harry Barnes remembers his father (beautiful piece). Histomatist defends Trotsky. Martin remembers to remember Bastille Day (and Casablanca). Rosie is underwhelmed by Katyn. Dennis Healey remembers the Italian campaign but can’t remember who wrote Lili MarleneEd Walsh reviews Leo Panitch’s call for a renewal of socialism. Conor McCabe remembers the 1955 Irish/Yugoslav soccer international. The Irish Left Archive retrieves the Anarchist Worker of 1979. Bataille Socialiste remember Marceau Pivert with Orwell in Spain. Bataille Socialiste rescue the legacy of Charles Allegier. Entdinglichung archives The Left. Hillel Ticktin and Adam Buick debate Trotskyism.

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