Poumiduous

Animal FarmOrwellia: In the news today, a rare first edition of Animal Farm, valued at close to a grand, was donated to an Oxfam bookshop, which is nice. The Orwell prize website has a very good Animal Farm page, with the proposed preface and some interesting video links relating to the animation.

Spain: Remembering Franco And José Antonio – Eamonn McD on the politics of memory and free speech in Spain.

Chomsky and left Zionism: There is an  interview with Noam Chomskyin the Tablet. Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic extracts an interesting bit, about when he was a Zionist youth:

what motivated you to live in Israel?

My wife and I were there in ’53. We lived in a kibbutz for a while and planned to stay, actually. I came back and had to finish my Ph.D. We thought we’d go back.

Was it the idea of the kibbutz, or was it the fact of speaking Hebrew, or what was it?

It was political. I was interested in Hebrew, but that wasn’t the driving force. I liked the kibbutz life and the kibbutz ideals. It has pretty much disappeared now, I should say. But that time was incredible in spirit. For one thing it was a poor country. The kibbutz I went to, and I picked it for this reason, was actually originally Buberite. It came from German refugees in the 1930s and had a kind of Buberite style. It was the center for Arab outreach activities in Mapam (a left-wing party, now deceased, affiliated with the kibbutz movement). There was plenty of racism, I should say. I lived with it. But mostly against Mizrahim (Jews from Arab countries).

When you think of the motivations of people like your parents or the people who founded those Mapam kibbutzim, you don’t think of those motivations as being inherently linked to some desire to oppress others?

By then I was old enough to separate from my parents. I’d been on my own intellectually since I was a teenager. I gravitated toward Zionist groups that were not in their milieu, like Hashomer Hatzair.

My father grew up in Hashomer.

I could never join Hashomer because in those days they were split between Stalinist and Trotskyite, and I was anti-Leninist. But I was in the neighborhood. It was a Hashomer kibbutz that we went to, Kibbutz Hazorea. It’s changed a lot. We would never have lasted. It was sort of a mixed story. They were binationalists. So up until 1948 they were anti-state. There were those who gravitated toward or who were involved in efforts of Arab-Jewish working-class cooperation and who were for socialist binationalist Palestine. Those ideas sound exotic today, but they didn’t at the time. It’s because the world has changed.

But there was an element of oppression I couldn’t get around. If you know the history, you know that most idealistic anti-nationalist settlers insisted on a closed Hebrew society, you can’t hire outside labor, that sort of thing. You could see the motivation. They didn’t want to become what the first settlers were: landowners who had cheap Arab labor. They wanted to work the land. Nevertheless, there’s an exclusionary character to it. Which then led into the policy of the state and became quite ugly later. So it was kind of an internal conflict that was never resolved.

More on the interview here.

Advertisements

Anarchism versus Leninism

I’ve still not followed this up, but Andy brings to our attention a whole spate of recent Leninist critiques of anarchism. The most sophisticated is Marxism and anarchism byPaul Blackledge in International Socialism Journal. Most of the others are by crude defenders of ortho-Marxism like Alan Woods. Slightly different, and worth reading, are Steven Strauss’ socialist indictment of Noam Chomsky (Freedom Road Socialist Party) and “The Historical Failure of Anarchism” [pdf] by Christopher Day, then of Love and Rage.

The question is, I suppose, why are Leninist so keen right now to take up arms against anarchism? Is it a sign that anarchism is ascendant, that anarchism has better expressed working class rage at the economic crisis at a time when the left should be growing but isn’t?

On the stupidity of intellectuals

Thomas Sowell, via neo-neocon:

Bertrand Russell, for example, was both a public intellectual and a leading authority within a rigorous field. But the Bertrand Russell who is relevant here is not the author of landmark treatises on mathematics but the Bertrand Russell who advocated “unilateral disarmament” for Britain in the 1930s while Hitler was re-arming Germany. Russell’s advocacy of disarmament extended all the way to “disbanding the army and navy and air force”—again, with Hitler re-arming not far away. The Noam Chomsky who is relevant here is not the linguistics scholar but the Noam Chomsky of similarly extravagant political announcements…

Visiting the United States in 1933, George Bernard Shaw said, “You Americans are so fearful of dictators. Dictatorship is the only way in which government can accomplish anything. See what a mess democracy has led to. Why are you afraid of dictatorship?” Leaving London for a vacation in South Africa in 1935, Shaw declared, “It is nice to go for a holiday and know that Hitler has settled everything so well in Europe.” While Hitler’s anti-Jewish actions eventually alienated Shaw, the famous playwright remained partial to the Soviet dictatorship. In 1939, after the Nazi-Soviet pact, Shaw said: “Herr Hitler is under the powerful thumb of Stalin, whose interest in peace is overwhelming. And every one except myself is frightened out of his or her wits!” A week later, the Second World War began, with Hitler invading Poland from the west, followed by Stalin invading from the east.

Talking of Stalin’s fellow travellers, read this review of a book about Arthur Ransome, British ruling class Stalinist useful idiot/spy.

The memory that will not die

From Slack Bastard, neat-o anarchist blogger, but with a couple of added links:

schalom libertad notes that “The title of this blog is lifted from Arno Lustiger’s book “Schalom Libertad!: Juden im spanischen Bürgerkrieg” (Hello Freedom! Jews in the Spanish Civil War).”

Speaking of Spain, the 73rd anniversary of the outbreak of civil war and social revolution in that country has been noted by some bloke from Boston called Julius Purcell. He writes (‘The Memory That Will Not Die: Exhuming the Spanish Civil War’, Boston Review, July/August 2009):

I live in Barcelona, whose leftist regional government is one of the few in Spain to have enthusiastically embraced historical memory. Payne’s warning note strikes a chord here, in a city with its own historical taboos. As Catalan separatism grows, and with it the tendency to lay all blame at the door of reactionary Spain, certain things are best not mentioned. The brutality of Barcelona’s anarchist mobs during the Republican era itself, for example, is rarely discussed in liberal dinner party conversations. Likewise, the violent anti-clericalism and church-burnings.

The ‘liberal’ account of those years was famously dissected by Uncle Noam in ‘Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship’, parts of which were originally “delivered as a lecture at New York University in March 1968 as part of the Albert Schweitzer Lecture Series”, and published in the collection American Power and the New Mandarins, Penguin, 1969.

With the crowd of commonplace chatterers, we are already past praying for: no reproach is too bitter for us, no epithet too insulting. Public speakers on social and political subjects find that abuse of anarchists is an unfailing passport to popular favour. Every conceivable crime is laid to our charge, and opinion, too indolent to learn the truth, is easily persuaded that anarchy is but another name for wickedness and chaos. Overwhelmed with opprobrium and held up to hatred, we are treated on the principle that the surest way of hanging a dog is to give it a bad name. ~ Élisée Reclus (March 15, 1830–July 4, 1905)

Published in: on July 23, 2009 at 4:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Two interesting people

Marie Syrkin:

Marie Syrkin’s life spanned ninety years of the twentieth century, 1899–1989. As a polemical journalist, socialist Zionist, poet, educator, literary critic, translator, and idiosyncratic feminist, she was eyewitness to and reporter on most of the major events in America, Israel, and Europe. Beautiful as well as brilliant, she had a rich personal life as lover, wife, mother, and friend. During her lifetime Syrkin’s name was widely recognized in the world of Jewish life and letters. Yet, inevitably, since her death, recognition of her name is no longer quite so immediate…

Syrkin was born in Switzerland, the only child of the theoretician of socialist Zionism Nachman Syrkin and Bassya Osnos Syrkin, a feminist socialist Zionist. Following short stints in several European countries, the family immigrated to the United States in 1909…After her first trip to Palestine in 1933, Syrkin joined the staff of the Jewish Frontier. This began her lifelong contribution to Zionism, Jewish life, and responsible journalism…

In the course of her life, Marie had many influential friends, such as Hayim Greenberg, Ben Gurion, and Irving Howe, and she served as inspiration to many younger intellectuals, including Martin Peretz, Michael Walzer, and Leon Wieseltier.

As poet and journalist, Zionist activist and public intellectual, Syrkin’s work and actions illuminate a wide range of twentieth-century literary, cultural, and political concerns. Her passions demonstrate, as Irving Howe said, “a life of commitment to values beyond the self.”

The young Noam Chomsky:

Deeply influenced by what he was reading and by the discussions he was having with a host of new acquaintances, Chomsky was moving more and more in the direction of anarchism and away from Marxism. Otero notes that since a number of his relatives were on the fringes of the Communist Party, the young Chomsky did develop interests related to Marxism, “but by the time he was twelve or thirteen he had already `worked out of that phase’” (”Chomsky and the Libertarian Tradition” 4). So, during his visits to New York, Chomsky also frequented the office of Freie Arbeiter Stimme, an anarchist journal with notable contributors, such as Rudolf Rocker…

Chomsky was reading other anarchist material by, for example, Diego Abad de Santillán, who, a few months before the onset of the Spanish Civil War (in March of 1936), wrote a book that was partially translated and republished as After the Revolution. During this period Chomsky also read works by left Marxists (non-Bolshevik Marxists), including Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, and Karl Korsch. Korsch’s work was an important source of inspiration for some of the more theoretically oriented Marxist thinkers who, in turn, exerted various degrees of influence upon Chomsky. In fact, Chomsky claims that Korsch was a Spanish-anarchosyndicalist-movement sympathizer, suggesting that a broad camp of left-thinking individuals found much that was worthwhile in the Spanish anarchist actions: “Marxism also covers a pretty broad spectrum and there is a point at which some varieties of anarchism and some varieties of Marxism come very close together, as for example, people like Karl Korsch, who was very sympathetic to the Spanish anarchist movement, though he himself was sort of an orthodox Marxist” (Language and Politics 168). [More here on his kibbutz experiences.]

Published in: on July 4, 2009 at 4:17 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , ,