From the archive of struggle

First, a couple of quick links: Gene on the German radicals in nineteenth century America who helped liberate the slaves. Review of a new edition of Vasily Grossman writings.

From the archive of struggle

*POUM: The General Policy of the Workers Party of Marxist Unification, 3 September 1936
*Raya Dunayevskaya: New Turn To The “Popular Front” [1955]; International Women’s Day and Iran [1979/80]
*Paul MattickLa gestion ouvrière/La gestión obrera [1967]
*Victor SergeThe Old Man [SV] [ 1942]
*The Communist Party of France during the Resistance Archive: Join the Party of the Executed!, 25 August 1944
*The Workers World newspaper. The complete 1919 run of this Left-Wing Socialist pre-Communist Party journal had 35 issues, all of which have been digitized into PDF format by the Riazanov Library for placement on the MIA. Variously edited by both Earl Browder and James P. Cannon, The Workers World, published out of Kansas City, was one of the many left wing SP periodicals inspired by and firmly supporting the Russian Revolution, and (like many other such left wing SP periodicals) ended as those involved in it left the SP to organize the new Communist Party of America and Communist Labor Party, and develop new periodicals for those organizations.
*Natalia Sedova: 1940 – Bagaimana itu Terjadi [How it Happened, Indonesian]

Anarchist documents on Poland, 1980-82:
*Poland on the Edge: Revolution or reform? by Various Authors (Fifth Estate, December 31, 1980)
*Poland: Triumphs and Defeats (Fifth Estate, Vol. 15, No. 2, (Whole number 303), October 20, 1980)
*Two articles on Poland by Various Authors (Howard Besser and Terry Downs: Gdansk: an eye-witness account/The betrayal begins, Freedom, London, vol. 41 no. 18, September 13, 1980)
*It’s Us They’re Shooting In Warsaw / Under the Polish Volcano (December, 1981) (London, June 1982)
*El Salvador and Poland: Two Paths to Revolution (Strike! August/September 1981, page 11)
*Poland: Communique of the Emmanuel Goldstein Group (Warszawa, 16 June, 1983)
*The Summer Strikes in Poland, 1980 (Echanges et Mouvement, Number 23, November, 1980)
*Poland, 1982 (Collective Inventions, 1982)
*Address to the Proletarians of Poland by The Scoffer (1980, The Scoffer/Le Frondeur, France)
*Poland 1980: Won’t Get Fooled Again / Meet the New Boss by Joey Stalin (North American Anarchist, October-November, 1980)
*Who are the Workers in Polish Solidarity and what do they want? by Andrzej Tymowski (Commonwork Pamphlets, 1982)
*Poland: Return of the Anarchists by Brian Amesly (Strike!, February 25, 1983)

Unsung heroes of struggle:

*John Alan/Allen Willis: Marxist-humanist and fighter for black freedom (1916-2011)
*Vicki Scarlett; librarian, socialist, feminist, yoga teacher and campaigner for social justice (1934-2011)
*John Watson: soldier and decent man
*Ann Blair: tenant activist
*Alice Beer: Quaker, potter, poet
*Peter Owen: trade unionist

Poumovout

I’m running out of names for my posts in my occasional series which are simply links to other people’s posts I like. So, here goes.

Fist, some with a Bundist theme, in honour of Marek EdelmanDoikeyt or living here and now. Five years in the Warsaw Ghetto. Who will write our history?

Some relating to the European right and the politics of history: Euro-fascists in Manchester. Vukovar pride and solidarity. The Tories, Michal Kaminski And Jedwabne. Controversy around MEP Kaminski grows deeper. Excellent work on that dubious figure Kaminski.

And not related to either of those themes: Eugene Debs’ socialist circle. Jack Jones and the spooks.

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.

Jews versus Stalinists in the Spanish Civil War

In the last three decades, since the publication of Albert Prago’s Jews in the international brigades in Spain in 1979 by Jewish Currents, there has been considerable interest in the massive role of Jewish fighters in the Spanish civil war. Most of them were within the orbit of the official Communist movement, which controlled and dominated the International Brigades – and also the narration of its later history.  As Gerben Zaagsma and Martin Sugarman argue, the Stalinist version of that history obscured the specifically Jewish dimension to their motivations. This Jewish dimension was retrieved in the 1970s and 1980s by Jewish radical groups like Jewish Currents in the US and Jewish Socialist in the UK. However, their important commemorative work tends to focus on the Communists of the International Brigades. Lenni  Brenner’s polemic Zionism in the Age of Dictators approached the issue from a different angle: showing that the Zionist movement had no interest in anti-fascism in Spain. However, although he also provides some interesting exceptions, his emphasis confirms the Stalinist historiography in marginalising the specifically Jewish motivations and the non-Stalinist participants.

In this blog post, I want to simply mention some of the Jewish participants in the Spanish Civil War who were also part of the anti-Stalinist movement, and specifically participants who were associated with the “Three and a Half International”, the anti-Stalinist socialist international that also included the Spanish POUM and the British ILP. The information is taken from Martin Sugarman, of AJEX, Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women, and his booklet Against Fascism. I have added hyperlinks. Material in italics comes from other sources, as given at the end of the extracts. (more…)

European histories: 1934, 1959, etc

From The Commune:

The last week has seen much media coverage of the seventieth anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, largely devoted to nostalgia and a hefty chunk of British (and Polish) nationalism. What is rarely commented on is the dynamics of political struggle within the countries participating in the bloodbath, and less still the activity of the workers’ movement, which did not in fact purely and simply support the Allies, and had to resist authoritarian measures imposed to varying degrees by each state enforcing wartime control measures.

While some of the struggles that took place had an immediate and significant effect on the outcome of the war, others which totally failed are equally worth remembering. While popular culture venerates Nazis-turned-good, as in the 2008 Tom Cruise film Valkyrie which depicts the 20th July 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler by aristocratic militarists who had lost faith in their Führer, less well-known are the stories of those who fought Nazism from start to finish, from a position of far less power, severe privations and heavy repression. How many people know that the first action in defiance of the Holocaust was nothing to do with the Allies (who infamously refused to bomb the train tracks to Auschwitz and did little to stop it), but a two-day general strike started by communist dockworkers and tramdrivers in response to raids of Jewish homes in Amsterdam in February 1941? [READ THE REST]

From Eurozine:

The Hungarian Quarterly 195 (2009)

Two books dealing with the state security apparatus in communist Hungary emphasize the extent to which its members, from informants and their handlers up to high-ranking politicians in the Ministry of the Interior, were subordinate to the Communist Party hierarchy, writes historian and journalist Sándor Révész. This radically calls into question the common treatment of “informants” as scapegoats and shifts the focus to Party officials, many of whom became respected politicians after 1989.

“The sources show clearly that a much wider circle of people than the network of agents were responsible for the disadvantages, and even vilification, suffered by thousands of people”, writes Révész. “This makes it hardly surprising that researchers pushing for freedom of information on state surveillance find little support. The response to publications that do find their way to a wider readership is jittery, with researchers generally being accused of the very thing that is least true of them, i.e. that they are only interested in unmasking and pillorying those who were recruited into the informer network.”

After 1956, writes Révész, the covertly totalitarian Kádár regime strove for omniscience as opposed to omnipotence, which in turn entailed a new form of policing. “If a legitimate, constitutional opposition is not allowed to exist, then every activity, person and group represents a threat to national security should it carry the seeds of dissidence.” The lesson to be learned “is that no general conclusions can be drawn about the possibility of refusing to cooperate with the state security services”.

Also:

Slavenka Drakulic on Tito. Timothy Snyder on totalitarianism’s Baltic killing fields. Ben Peck on the Hitler-Stalin pact. Nada Prlja on the red bourgeoisie in Yugoslavia and the coming black communism

In other news: Lyndon LaRouche’s creeps peddle softcore Holocaust denialism – an Armenian Holocaust survivor is arrested for stopping them.

Leszek Kolakowski

First and second hand links to appreciations of Leszek Kolakowski, some for the first time, some the second time around.

Via Terry Glavin: “A free mind, no longer among us: Leszek Kolakowski. Nick Cohen remembers him here, and the other day, Christopher Hitchens eulogized him here. From the great Yank heartland, Stuart posts an essay from Kolakowski’s Modernity on Endless Trial, here.”

Via Martin in the Margins: Norm defends Marx against Oliver’s Kolakowski-inspired dismissal of his legacy. Michael Weiss gives his own take on the Polish philosopher’s spat with E.P.Thompson.”

[Here, by the way, is a pdf of Kolakowski’s reply to Thompson, via a post at History Today, which also mentions Ignacio Silone.]

Earlier, at the start of Martin’s own nice appreciation: “There’s a terrific guest post by Andrew Murphy over at Harry’s Place, about Leszek Kolakowski, who died last Friday. Andrew links to Christopher Hitchens’ thoughts on the great Polish thinker, which you can find here. I also recommend this post by The New Centrist, who in turn links to this fascinating conversation between Kolakowski and Danny Postel (whose work I recommended here).”

From Jonathan Todd: “Top stuff from Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian today, which alerted me to the death of a great man, Leszek Kolakowski, whose description of social democracy was one that Denis Healeymuch liked and which I do too:  “An obstinate will to erode by inches the conditions which produce avoidable suffering, oppression, hunger, wars, racial and national hatred, insatiable greed and vindictive envy”. It concisely presents social democracy as it is: a creed not just for our times but for all times.”

Reading the Maps: “Leszek Kolakowski liked to talk of Marxism and socialism as dogmatisms that had beem made obsolescent by the history of the late twentieth century. He was inclined to see anyone interested in Marx and in socialist politics as a quixotic anarchronism. In truth, though, it was Kolakowski who had become an anachronism with the end of the Cold War. Like the Stalinists he had so often condemned, he had adopted a worldview which relied upon an interpretation of Marx and Marxist history that was ballasted by the Cold War, rather than by facts. When the Cold War ended, and Marx was released from the rival simplifications of Stalinists and right-wingers, Kolakowski found himself with nothing interesting to say. Perhaps he should have listened more carefully to his old friend Thompson.” READ THE REST.

Ragbag: “Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski died on Friday. The Telegraph’s obit is good, capturing his influence as well as his attractively sceptical and mordant approach to life. I think he was one of the heroes of the twentieth century. I went to a seminar he gave in All Souls College once, on communism, about fifteen years ago. I left liking the man very much – as dry as talc but with a warm wit that revealed itself in asides made whilst sipping black coffee – but also with a feeling of disappointment: I hadn’t heard anything new or revelatory.” READ THE REST, including comment on Hitch and religion.

The Israeli water engineer: “In 1972 I had to spend a night in Posadas, Misiones, Argentina so I bought a bottle of red wine and a book in a second hand shop. The book was a collection of essays, among them “What are philosophers paid for?” which explored the issue why a Communist regime maintained philosophers and what he – Kolakowski – was being paid for. The Communist regime maintained that everyone had to do productive work – no parasitic intermediary luftgescheftn permited – and everyone had to produce something tangible for society. Why, then, were philosophers like himself being allowed to do “nothing”? His conclusion was that Marxist philosophers satisfied a basic necessity of the Communist regime: the theoretical, intellectual infrastructure (justification?) of the regime. READ THE REST.

Leiter Reports: “Rather than a younger version of Herbert Marcuse (who at the time used to raise his fist and intone “Power to the people!” when he lectured), Kolakowski was an urbane ironist of immense cultivation.” READ THE REST.

UD: “Leszek Kolakowski’s death reminds us that Terry Eagleton‘s recent attack on the atheism of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins is only the latest instance of a curious but now familiar trajectory, in which a left thinker in his or her latter days (think of Christopher Lasch among Americans, and, among the British, Gillian Rose) embraces, if not the truth of religion, the validity and endurance and even inescapability of its cultural power.” READ THE REST.

Steven Hayward: “In my forthcoming Reagan book I quote Kolakowski’s prescient prediction made in May 1983 (two years before Gorbachev and his wrecking crew arrived in the Kremlin): “We can imagine that the Soviet rulers, under the combined pressure of self-inflicted economic disasters and social tensions, will accept, however grudgingly, a genuine verifiable international disarmament plan and concentrate their efforts on a large-scale economic recovery, which they cannot achieve without a number of social and political reforms. This might conceivably usher in a process of gradual and non-explosive disintegration of the empire.” In that same article he anticipated the “velvet revolution” of 1989: “Certainly in Poland or Czechoslovakia (or in Hungary) Communism would fall apart within days without the Soviet threat.” ”

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Published in: on July 24, 2009 at 1:01 pm  Comments (3)  
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