Notes on Third Campism and liberal interventionism

1. Read the series of posts on Libya at Lady Poverty: 1234.

2. Read Kellie on Eammon McCann’s reminiscences in Socialist Worker of his meeting with Gaddafi in 1987.

3. An extract from Boffy’s comments at Though Cowards Flinch:

However, the problem I still have is that if you argue that workers intervnetion is alright up to a point, but given our weaknesses at the moment, there is a limit to what they can achieve, you still end up with the “Something Must Be Done” argument. The point is that sometimes doing nothing other than what you can do, which might simply be saying what should be done if workers had the power to do it, is better than doing something, which is a lesser evil.

For example, a while ago, I wrote some blogs about the AWL’s position taken from Albert Glotzer about the establishment of the state of Israel. Glotzer & ImmigrationGlotzer & The Jews As Special, and Glotzer, anti-Semitism and the degenerated workers state. Glotzer argued that the socialist position argued up to that time that nationalist struggles were reactionary and divisive of the working class could no longer hold for the Jews after the Holocaust. Jews could not wait for the working-class to come together and resolve the problem. Only the Zionist idea of creeating a separate Jewish State could address the immediate concerns of Jews. Something had to be done. It was a moral not a Marxist argument. (more…)

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War, and class war

Photo from my current favourite blog, Bertram Online.

Libya

An individual, a group, a party, or a class that “objectively” picks its nose while it watches men drunk with blood massacring defenceless people is condemned by history to rot and become worm-eaten while it is still alive. – Leon Trotsky The Balkan Wars 1912-1913 (Sydney: Pathfinder Press, 1980), pp.292-293.

So starts Sean Matgamna, in his recent intervention on intervention.

David Osler is also very interesting on Libya and the ortho-left, responding to Eamonn McCann  in Socialist Worker.

More surprisingly, Gilbert Achcar agrees with Matgamna. Jim writes:

Gilbert Achcar, a member of the mainstream (“Pabloite“) Fourth International, refuses to scab on the Libyan revolutionaries… other “revolutionaries” aren’t happy

Here’s what Gilbert says […] writing in International Viewpoint

Barry Finger comments on Achcar and “anti-imperialism”, here.

The Orwell Prize

I have no doubt George Orwell would have taken the same line as Matgamna and Achcar. I have little doubt he would not have been pleased with many of the recent Orwell Prize for blogging long listees. I suspect he would agree with HarpyMarx‘s assessment that “Orwell Prize blogger longlist, with 1 or 2 exceptions, is just full of media privileged luvvies or journos who should b in journo section!”

I think Orwell would not have been upset about Sunder Katwaler‘s or Cath Elliot’s longlistings (he would have liked Katwala on cricket I think, and taken up cudgels for Cath against the Morning Star). He would have been pleased about David Osler’s (second?) longlisting.

And he would have been OK with Paul Mason’s (second?) longlisting. Mason writes:

Getting myself longlisted yet again for the Orwell Prize (and good luck to all the real bloggers who don’t have a mainstream media pension, salary and self-censorship training to fall back on)… made me ask: what single bit of Orwell’s writing I would recommend to somebody starting a blog, or studying journalism?

Actually it’s Inside The Whale, where Orwell takes apart the literary industry of the late 1930s, concluding that of 5,000 novels published, 4,999 were “tripe”. He does this sandwiched between two lengthy eulogies to a book that, at the time of writing, was banned – and banned in the 1930s meant impounded at Dover and burned, to be found only in the secret cupboards of anarchists and wierdos.

The book in question is Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller – a strange choice of book to praise for a man who’d just come back from the Spanish Civil War and who, with the Dunkirk fiasco, believed Britain was entering a “revolutionary period”.

Musing on this very point, Orwell concluded that Miller had probably founded a new school of writing with this one book, and its successor Black Spring:

“In Miller’s case it is not so much a question of exploring the mechanisms of the mind as of owning up to everyday facts and everyday emotions. For the truth is that many ordinary people, perhaps an actual majority, do speak and behave in just the way that is recorded here. […]

Orwell sensed that at some point people would start writing about ordinary life in ordinary language, dramatising the ordinary, peeling back layer upon layer of literary finesse, pretension, writing-school prose, irony etc.

The blog is the logical outcome.

And like the novels of 1940, the vast majority of blogs are mediocre, “tripe” as Orwell might have said. But they are mostly attempts at honesty – whether literary or non-fictional.

I give you two excerpts, both from fellow longlisters, writing about the same recent event: (more…)

Libya: Spanish echoes II

raggle-taggle army

Image via Wikipedia

The commentariat:

Tony Karon: Echoes of Spain?
Robert Zaretsky: What would Orwell do?
Sebastiaan Faber: The Libya crisis and the Spanish Civil War

The politicians:

Kevin Rudd: We shall never forget Guernica.
Ed Miliband: Libya, like Spain, will revolt the conscience of the world).

Previous: Spanish echoes I; Practice in arms; ibn-Poum; Distant echoes; Orwell in Tahrir Square.

Published in: on March 26, 2011 at 10:21 am  Comments (2)  
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The Arab spring/Spanish echoes

703577_photo_1.jpgDave Osler writes:

True, Gaddafi has not won yet. But it is starting to look as if superior military hardware is a telling that advantage that will deliver victory to the Libyan strongman sooner or later.

Analogies have already been drawn with the Spanish civil war [here and here, for instance], which seems to me to stretch the historical parallels somewhat.

Although I haven’t had a chance to think the question through yet, my gut instinct would be to support calls for western governments to arm the rebels. But as far as I am aware, no prominent political figure in the US or Europe has publicly backed such a plan.

Jim Denham has some more compelling analogies: The Morning Star: those wonderful folks who brought you the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact / From Jack London to the scabs of the Morning Star, Socialist Worker and Counterfire. Dale Street also notes George Galloway’s Stalinism:

In his semi-autobiographical work “I’m Not the Only One”, Galloway wrote: “”Just as Stalin industrialized the Soviet Union, so on a different scale Saddam plotted Iraq’s own Great Leap Forward. … He is likely to have been the leader in history who came closest to creating a truly Iraqi national identity, and he developed Iraq and the living, health, social and education standards of his own people.”

And in the comments thread at BobFromBrockley:

Clearly, the SWP are taking a much better line than the reactionary hardcore anti-imp position (the scab position, as Jim Denham rightly puts it) taken by Noah and Calvin Tucker, Andy Newman and John Wight. It would be good to see the SWP revert to Third Camp form, having swayed so long to a Second Camp position. (Interesting that John Wight attributes the SWP’s wrongness to their state capitalist analysis: Tucker, Wight, Newman and co are essentially Stalinists, whose very un-21st century idea of “socialism” always involves a strong state and a strongman at the helm.)

ibn-Poum

My new favourite blog: Journeyman. See for example:

Via the Journeyman, On This Deity. Some recent samples:

In a related vein, a great post from Rustbelt Radical: Egypt, the Commune and Coriolanus; Marx and Shakespeare in Historic Times

And a soundtrack to this post: Nina Simone.

Below the fold, from the archive of struggle, via Entdinglichung: (more…)

Poumastic

Distant Spanish echoes

Michael Totten interviews Stephen Schwartz of the Centre for Islamic Pluralism. (Schwartz is the co-author of one of the most important books in English on the POUM, Spanish Marxism versus Soviet Communism with Victor Alba.)

Your Friend in the North on the Battle for Spain.

The King’s Speech

Is a pack of lies, says Isaac Chotiner, and Christopher Hitchens, and Hitchens again.

“Progressive” [sic] politics

At BobFromBrockley:

Shiraz Socialist publish a couple of shameful articles from the vaults of News Line, the paper of Gerry Healey’s Trotskyist cult the Workers Revolutionary Party. The articles, from 1983, exhibit a particularly disgusting brand of anti-Zionist antisemitism, portraying a reactionary Zionist web that stretches from the “rich Jews” who colluded with Hitler right through to rival Trot group Socialist Organiser, a conspiracy that silences opposition by playing its “anti-Semitic trump card” – phrases that have become all too common on the left. Anyway, the articles are relevant now because they contain a defence of the tyrant Muammar Gaddafi as anti-imperialist: try and swallow the words “in support of the Libyan masses under their leader Muammar Gaddafi.” And it is relevant to the “Progressive London” post because it generously quotes Ken Livingstone defending the WRP. Ken claims News Line “gives you an objective presentation of the news and political developments and supports the base struggles of the working class in industry and the community” and describes his enemies in the Labour Party as “agents of the Begin government”. I had forgotten how far back Ken goes with this “anti-imperialist” swamp. More on this sort of thing from Andrew Coates, David Osler and Michael Ezra and (from the archive) Sean Matgamna and Paul Anderson.

Also these two posts by Louis Proyect: “Qaddafi and the Left” and “Qaddafi and the Monthly Review” (re-posted at Kasama).

The new Stalinism

Darren Redstar on the new Stalinist witch-hunting of anarchists at Socialist Unity.

Pacifism: objectively pro-fascist, or objetively pro-imperialist?

Louis Proyect has a long piece attacking Gene Sharp (who I don’t know enough about to defend, although I find many of Louis’ accusations questionable). He includes this quote from the NYT:

Some people suspect Mr. Sharp of being a closet peacenik and a lefty — in the 1950s, he wrote for a publication called “Peace News” and he once worked as personal secretary to A. J. Muste, a noted labor union activist and pacifist — but he insists that he outgrew his own early pacifism and describes himself as “trans-partisan.”

Louis continues, interestingly, about AJ Muste, which struck me as interesting, given a discussion here a while back. Not often, I imagine, that Proyect and Michael Ezra are in agreement.

The Muste connection is interesting. In the 1930s, Muste was the leader of a group called the Workers Party that spearheaded major labor struggles. In James P. Cannon’s “History of American Trotskyism” there is a useful discussion of Muste’s importance. When Cannon found his own Trotskyist group growing closer to Muste’s, he broached the subject of a fusion that Muste was agreeable to. The Trotskyists were at that time doing what is called “entryism” in Norman Thomas’s Socialist Party. When they were expelled, they united with Muste as the Socialist Workers Party, reflecting each group’s antecedents.

Eventually Muste abandoned Marxism and became a Christian pacifist. As a leader of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Muste became critical in the formation of the Vietnam antiwar coalitions that would challenge the imperialist war-makers. One crucial difference between Muste and Sharp was their chosen arena of struggle. Muste targeted his own government while Sharp saw his role as providing leadership to struggles elsewhere, particularly in the Soviet bloc countries. During the Korean War Sharp spent nine months in a federal prison in Danbury, Conn., as a conscientious objector. He also took part in some civil rights protests but from the 1960s onwards his emphasis has been on providing consultation to people in other countries.

Histories

From the blogs:

From Lawrence and Wishart, the ex-Stalinist publishing company:

From the archive of struggle:

Features:

Also:

Credits: Entdinglichung (1, 2, 3)