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.

Poumaholic

Some alternative histories: The shipwrecked: anti-fascist refugees during WWII. Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia a century after his death. Rising East: London radical history day. Karl Pfeifer in Jerusalem.

Marek Edelman: Two more for the list: Terry Glavin’s post has a fascinating comment thread (I agree with The Plump), plus: This mandolin kills fascists.

La lucha continua: Venezuelan anarchism: Introducing El Libertario. Save Obtilia Eugenio Manuel. A visa for Principe Gabriel Gonzalez.

On old and new Stalinisms: Repelling Stalinoid attacks on Makhnovism. Happy Honecker! Nazi-Comintern collaboration and the DDR. A glorious leap backward. Socialist Unity: From Soviet Union to the GDR, and the People’s Republic of China. Stalin a mass murderer after all.

The democratic socialist tradition: The uncollected Michael Foot. Changing times: Minnie Lansbury and Poplarism. Reading about George Lansbury. Tom Paine for today.

Theory and praxis: Murdering the dead: on Amadeo Bordiga today. Castoriadis and magnanimity.

Politics and morality: The IMG and the morality of the Brighton bombing. The new McCarthyism and the BNP. A fitting tribute to Anna Politkovskaya.

See full size imageDurham Miners' Gala, Michael FootFrancisco Ferrer's PicturePolitkovskaya
Below the fold: Libcom’s most recent anarchist biographies. (more…)

Marek Edelman

I learn from Entdinglichung that Marek Edelman has passed away. Here is how wikipedia describes him:

During World War II, he was one of the founders of the Jewish Combat Organization. He took part in the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and became its leader following the death of Mordechaj Anielewicz. He also took part in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. When he died on the 2nd of October 2009 he was the last surviving leader of the Ghetto Uprising.[2][3]

After the war he remained in Poland and became a noted cardiologist. From the 1970s he collaborated with the Workers’ Defence Committee and other political groups opposing Poland’s Communist regime. As a member of Solidarity, he took part in the Polish Round Table Talks of 1989. Following the peaceful transformations of 1989, he was a member of various centrist parties. He also authored books documenting the history of wartime resistance against the German Nazi occupation.

I am gratified that, unlike the normal situation when one of my heroes dies, there are many obituaries of him already. Here are some: Moshe Arens, Nick Lowles, History is Made at Night, Tim Collard, MJ Rosenberg, the Tomb, Charlie Pottins, ZWord, Contested Terrain Jew on this, Rislu, Third Estate, Anne Frank’s Drumkit, Socialist Unity, the JC, Telegraph, Yossie Melman, NYT… and the US State Department.

Added: Read this comment by Michael Ezra, on Zionists and Bundists in resistance to the Nazis – kind of relevant to this post too.

Added 2: Another appreciation from David Rosenberg.

From the archive: Commentary debates Edelman in 1987 (via). Hannah Krall’s conversations with Edelman in 1977.