Remembering women revolutionaries: Antoinette Konikow

This is the first in a new series of posts on under-remembered radical women. Today we focus on Antoinette F. Konikow. Konikow has a very good quality Wikipedia article, so I’ll start with that, although

Antoinette F. Buchholz Konikow (1869–1946) was an American physician, feminist, and radical political activist. Konikow is best remembered as one of the pioneers of the American birth control movement and as a founding member of the Communist Party of America, forerunner of the Communist Party, USA. Expelled from the Communist Party as a supporter of Leon Trotsky in the fall of 1928, Konikow went on to become a founder of the Communist League of America, the main Trotskyist organization in the United States. Konikow’s 1923 book, Voluntary Motherhood, is regarded as a seminal work in the history of 20th Century American feminism.

Antoinette F. Buchholz was born on November 11, 1869, in the Russian empire, the daughter of Theodor Buchholz and Rosa Kuhner Buchholz, both of whom were ethnic Jews.[1] She attended secondary school in Odessa in the Ukraine before emigrating to Zurich, Switzerland to attend the university there.[1]

She married a fellow student, Moses J. Konikow (pronounced KO-ni-koff), in Zurich in 1891.[2] While in Switzerland, Konikow joined the Emancipation of Labor group headed by Georgii Plekhanov.[3]

The Konikows subsequently came to America in 1893.[4] Antoinette attended Tufts University, near Boston, from which she graduated with honors in 1902 with a medical degree.[1] The couple had two children, Edith Rose Konikow (b. 1904) and William Morris Konikow (b. 1906) before divorcing in 1908.[1] She remained a practicing medical doctor in Boston up through the 1930s.

Political career

Antoinette Konikow was politically active from an early age, joining the Socialist Labor Party of America (SLP) in 1893 and writing and speaking on the organization’s behalf.[1] She was a delegate to the organization’s 1896 National Convention at which it determined to establish the dual union to the American Federation of Labor, the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance.[5]

Konikow also worked closely with the Boston Workman’s Circle (Yiddish: אַרבעטער־רינג, Arbeter Ring), a socialist Jewish social aid organization.[6] In order to participate in the organization, Konikow learned Yiddish, one of five languages which she learned in her lifetime.

She left the SLP in 1897 over what she believed to be the narrow and dogmatic policies of the organization.[7] Instead, Konikow cast her lot with the Social Democracy of America headed by Eugene V. Debs and Victor L. Berger, going so far as to sign a petition to the Massachusetts SLP convention inviting it to merge with the fledgling Chicago group.[8] For her trouble the May 1898 Massachusetts State Convention of the SLP saw fit to formally expel Konikow from the organization.[8]

Konikow followed Debs and Berger in an 1898 split which established the Social Democratic Party of America and in 1901 became a founding member the Socialist Party of America (SPA) when that organization was created through a merger of the Social Democratic Party and an Eastern organization by the same name composed of former SLP dissidents.

Konikow was a delegate to the SPA’s 1908 National Convention,[9] and was later instrumental in the establishment of several Socialist Sunday Schools, institutions designed to train working class children in socialist principles and ethics as an alternative to religious instruction.[1]

When the Socialist Party split at its 1919 Emergency National Convention, Konikow cast her lot with the Communist Party of America (CPA), in which the radical foreign language federations of the old SP played a large role. Konikow participated as a delegate to the founding convention of the CPA in Chicago in September 1919.[5]

Konikow was also active in the Communist Party’s “aboveground” activities in this period, serving as chair of the New England Division of the National Defense Committee, a party organization dedicated to raising funds to pay for its legal defense needs. Konikow was a delegate to the second convention of the Workers Party of America, successor to the underground Communist Party of America, held in New York City from December 24 to 26, 1922.[10] In 1924, Konikow stood as the Workers Party’s candidate for U.S. Senate from Massachusetts.[11]

Konikow was also deeply committed to the cause of birth control, a taboo topic in this era. She was a member of the Society of Sanitary and Moral Prophylaxis, one of the leading birth control organizations of the day.[1] In the mid-1920s, she and her son-in-law, Joseph Vanzler (a.k.a. John G. Wright), jointly developed an inexpensive spermicidal jelly, the formula of which she shared with officials in the Soviet Union when she visited there as a birth control specialist in 1926.[7]

An article by Sharon Smith on Marxist feminism discusses this period of her life:

Historians have focused much attention on the pioneering role in the early birth control movement of then-socialist Margaret Sanger, who later converted to a racist eugenics viewpoint.

But many other women radicals in the IWW and SP received far less acclaim yet maintained a lifetime commitment to fighting for the right of women to control their own reproductive lives. At a time when dispensing even information about contraception was illegal, these activists faced police raids and arrest as they continued their work among women.

Antoinette Konikow, a Russian revolutionary who migrated to the United States in 1893, dedicated herself to this project while remaining central to the US revolutionary socialist movement until her death in 1946. Konikow explicitly tied women’s right to control their fertility to the fight for women’s equality. As she wrote in her 1923 pamphlet, Voluntary Motherhood, “Women can never obtain real independence unless her functions of procreation are under her own control.”26 Konikow never veered from this approach, presaging themes that emerged in women’s liberation movements of the 1960s.

Konikow’s offices were raided regularly, so she kept her medical files in code to prevent police from prosecuting her patients. As socialist-feminist Diane Feeley commented, “Although the overwhelming majority of her patients were poor immigrant women, whenever Dr. Konikow was arrested, she found that bond was quickly posted by some wealthy woman, who, given Massachusetts’ repressive laws, may have had to turn to this revolutionary for help.”27

As a medical doctor, Konikow described how university training left doctors ignorant of birth control methods and therefore unable to help their women patients urgently seeking to control their fertility. In response, she authored The Physician’s Manual of Birth Control in 1931, which included not only a detailed discussion of the female anatomy but also information on what she considered the most reliable method of birth control at the time—the diaphragm and spermicidal jelly.28

Back to Wikipedia:

While in the USSR, Konikow was won over to the political ideas of Leon Trotsky, then embroiled in a bitter factional dispute with the leadership of the Russian Communist Partyheaded by Joseph Stalin and Nikolai Bukharin. From 1927, Konikow was open in her support with the program of the United Opposition of Trotsky with Grigorii Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev in the USSR.[12] This did not lead to her immediate removal from the party, however, only to the loss of her position as an instructor in the local party training school.[12]

Konikow was expelled from the Communist Party headed by Executive Secretary Jay Lovestone in November 1928 as a Trotskyist. Upon her expulsion, she formed a tiny group in Boston calling itself the Independent Communist League. This group later merged with the Communist League of America headed by James P. Cannon, Martin Abern, and Max Shachtman at the time of its formation later that same year.[13] She remained active in this movement until her death, contributing frequently to the party press on women’s issues. At the convention establishing the Socialist Workers Party in January 1938, Konikow was named an honorary member of its governing National Committee.[7]

The orthodox Trotskyists of the ICL (the Sparts), describe her expulsion from the CP:

After James P. Cannon’s faction in the CP was expelled in 1928 for supporting the Left Opposition, Konikow was summoned to appear before the CP’s Political Committee. She wrote a defiant letter to CP secretary Jay Lovestone.

This letter is published on the Marxist Internet Archive, for some reason in the archive of the SWP patriarch Cannon rather than her own rather meagre one:

Dear Comrade:

This sudden order to appear Friday noon in New York before the Political Committee is in line with your usual tricky policy. You know well that going to New York from Boston means quite an expense and that leaving my medical practice for several days involves a big financial loss. Why can’t a local committee consider my case? Because they fear the indignation of the local comrades? Or you are not sure that the local committee would act against me with the desired decision? All you want is to be able to tell the rank and file you offered me a hearing and I refused to avail myself of the opportunity. According to the latest decision of the Comintern we should have full inner party democracy and inner party criticism. Why does this not apply to the Trotsky Opposition? Because a few faked resolutions were forced through our party organization by misrepresentation and terrorism? I did work for Trotsky’s ideals and tried to arouse sentiment for the Opposition in our party, and I consider I have the full right to do so according to the party’s stand on inner party democracy. But it is useless to expect your committee to accept this viewpoint, for your leadership would not last long under rules of real democracy in our party. I consider that the party has taken an outrageously wrong standing on the Trotsky situation in Soviet Russia. This stand is a result of the servile submission to the Stalin faction.

It happens that I am one of these comrades of whom comrade Stalin in his answer to the American Trade Union Committee said, “Real Communists cannot be controlled from Moscow.” I am willing to submit to discipline if a proposition had been given free discussion where both sides were equally given a chance to express themselves. Otherwise I consider it my right and duty to oppose wrongly imposed discipline.

Your decision about me is already made up and my statement will never reach the comrades until I see to it myself. It is good that you have not the power to take away my livelihood as it is done in Soviet Russia. As to besmirching of my name before the comrades, this is to be expected.

A comrade of thirty-nine years services in the socialist cause.

Dr. A.F. Konikow


The Sparts again:

Lovestone in his uniquely nasty manner said after reading Konikow’s letter to the November 2 meeting of the Committee: “It is obvious from her letter that she is the worst kind of a Trotskyite, biologically as well as politically. The sooner we throw her out the better for the party.”

Due to feminists such as Konikow, the Trotskyists took up feminist positions that perhaps grated with the workerism that was their dominant tone. Her 1941 article, “Birth Control Is No Panacea, But It Deserves Labor’s Aid Against Reaction“, is on the Marxist Internet Archive. It was published in the SWP’s The Militant and shows how feminist birth control politics were articulated within and to some extent against orthodox Leninist analysis.

The Sparts also movingly write about the end of her political life:

In November 1938, there was a celebration of Konikow’s 50 years as a revolutionary Marxist. She was presented with a signed picture of Trotsky, who wrote: “We are proud, my dear Antoinette, to have you in our ranks. You are a beautiful example of energy and devotion for our youth. I embrace you with the wish: Long Live Antoinette Konikow. Yours fraternally, Leon Trotsky, Oct. 28, 1938, Coyoacán.”

I will end with two quotes from her speech at that meeting; the words still jump off the page today.

“In 1888, fifty years ago, I joined the Social Democratic Party of Russia. Life was as dark and hopeless as it may seem to many today. I was delighted to hear the words of Plekhanov at the first congress of the Second International: ‘Only the working class will lead the Russian revolution!’ But the working class of Russia was spiritually even further away from us than the workers of the United States today. If anyone had told us at that time that 15 years later a strike of one and a half million workers would almost overthrow Czarism, and that 15 years after that the Russian soldier would turn his gun not only against Czarism but against the Russian bourgeoisie, we would not have believed it. We would have laughed. But it happened—and it will happen again. Only this time it will not take 30 years.”

To the youth in the room that day, she said: “We place in your hands a banner unsoiled. Many times it was dragged into the mud. We lifted it up and lovingly cleansed it to give it to you. Under the red banner of Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky, you will conquer.”

Footnotes: (more…)

US SWP Zionist shock

From the Meretz USA blog. Note this is the American SWP not the British SWP, totally unrelated beasts.

Trotskyist Party Turns Pro-Zionist

Our colleague, Arieh Lebowitz, has learned over the weekend that the old Trotskyist political party, the Socialist Workers Party, has dropped its traditionally fierce anti-Zionism.  The following is a statement by an SWP candidate for the city council of Washington, D.C.  Note that it includes this explicitly pro-Zionist sentence: “We support the right of return for all Jews to move to Israel if they choose.”  It also condemns Hamas terrorism.

This calls to mind the fact that Isaac Deutscher, a follower and classic biographer of Leon Trotsky, had regretted his anti-Zionism when he reflected on what happened to Polish Jews he had advised against leaving for Palestine.  This also may remind us of the brief pro-Jewish phase of Soviet policy in its early years, and the brief pro-Zionist stance of the USSR at Israel’s birth.

Vol. 79/No. 4      February 9, 2015

DC socialist: ‘Workers
need to fight Jew-hatred!’

Recent murderous attacks on Jews in Argentina, in a kosher grocery store in France and on the street in Israel are a blow and a challenge to all working people. (more…)

Published in: on February 20, 2015 at 12:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Notes towards the recovery of the tradition of the British dissident left

Here are three completely (well, not completely) unrelated items from Dave Renton’s excellent “lives; running” blog.

1. What Engels’ supporters did next

This is a nice post on the dissidents in Henry Hyndman’s SDF who broke with the authoritarian social democratic cult (it’s hard not to read the SWP of the last decade or two into Renton’s description) to experiment with a more supple, democratic, libertarian socialism in the Socialist League, in particular Frederick Engels, William Morris, Tom Maguire and Eleanor Marx. The SL, for a while, included both Marxists and anarchists, and represents an important alternative possibility, a path not travelled, in the history of the left. It gave birth (along with Tom Mann, who left the SDF for the ILP) to both the centrist Independent Labour Party and the British anarchist movement.

Renton is harsh on the SL anarchists, over-emphasising their affinity for terror. He talks about the ex-SLers that went into “anarchism of the deed” without mentioning that many of them were actually crucially involved in mainstream anarchism’s turn from insurrectionist violence to syndicalism (again along with Tom Mann) and anarchist-communism. It is also interesting that the ILP, despite being to the right of the SL, maintained good contacts with anarchists on and off; Keir Hardie fought to keep anarchism within the newly formed Second International, for example, and Orwell’s connection with the anarchists represents the coming back together of the two main traditions of the Socialist League.

Finally, I think Renton is overplays the description of the ILP as bureaucratic, reformist and parliamentary. In fact, I think, the ILP kept alive the spirit of Morris – democratic, utopian, anti-parliamentary, critical – within the heart of a labour movement otherwise burdened by the twin curses of reformist social democracy and Stalinism that were the SDF’s bequest.

(If you  are interested in this, see also Frank Kitz’s Reflections, including recollections of Morris in the East End, and the late Terry Liddle on the heritage of William Morris.)

Hogsbjergcover2. A new life of CLR James

This is a notice about Christian Hogsbjerg’s new biography of Nello.

It is a compelling book, of the right length for its material (280 pages), which sheds significant light on three aspects of James’ development, first his debt to revolutionary Nelson, second the impact of cricket on his Marxism, third, his (re)discovery of Toussaint L’Ouverture.

James himself stated repeatedly that he learned his revolutionary politics among the Lancashire weavers, and in particular in the small town of Nelson, to which he travelled in 1932 as Learie Constantine’s ghost-writer. Hogsbjerg tracks down details of James’s career as a visiting member of Nelson’s second XI. He finds examples of Nelson being described as a Little Moscow in the 1920s. He locates the source of James’ copy of Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution – loaned by a fellow bibliophile Fred Cartmell. He vividly portrays the almost insurrectionary 1931-2 “More Looms” cotton strike, the immediate prelude to James’ arrival in the town. And he finds notes of James’ meetings for the ILP branch in Nelson.

The post-colonial version of James is often these days separated from the Trotskyist version of James, so it is good to see them brought together here. And the story of James encountering dissident Marxism within a milltown ILP branch belies the dismissive version of the ILP in Renton’s Engels post above.

3. Love is run on fascist lines


This is a poem by Peter Sedgwick, written in 1956, the year he made the same move as William Morris, leaving the Communist Party (the inheritor of the SDF tradition) to join Tony Cliff’s Socialist Review group, as Stalin’s tanks rolled into Budapest applauded by the CPGB’s loyalists. The SR group, which became the International Socialists (IS), for a while represented something of the same spirit as Morris’ Socialist League, heavily influenced by the late ILP (the term “Neither Washington nor Moscow” was actually coined by the ILP, although the IS/SWP would claim it as their own). Sedgwick left the IS in 1976 when it became the SWP, i.e. when it took on the role of the SDF (with Cliff as its Hyndman); hindsight shows how right he was.

Anyway, read the poem.

Mike Marqusee z”l

I was sad to hear that Mike Marqusee died before Christmas. I didn’t know him personally, but coincided with him in the Socialist Alliance and in the Social Forum movement, in both of which the democratic politics that he represented were stitched up by the Stalinist tactics of the Socialist Workers Party. I disagreed with him on lots of topics, but he was a fine writer and,  I believe, a person of integrity. The Guardian published an excellent obituary. Here’s a tribute from Pluto Press. My thoughts are with Liz, his partner.

Here are some of his articles: (more…)

Ted Grant, best or worst of a bad bunch?

Phil writes:

What can you say about the three key figures of British post-war Trotskyism? Gerry Healy was a hyperactive pseud with a penchant for thuggery, rape and doing dodgy deals with unsavoury Arab regimes. Tony Cliff was flighty, excitable and an inveterate bandwagon chaser – qualities he imparted to the Socialist Workers Party. And there is Ted Grant. Founder of the Militant Tendency and with a reputation for super seriousness, of all of Trotsky’s British progeny it was he who came closest to disturbing the sleep of the great and the good. But for all that, it’s the repulsive Healy and the Mercurial Cliff who are most often recalled and discussed among the tiny circles of people who care about such things. Poor old Ted, the longest lived and most successful of them all merits nary a mention. Perhaps not recruiting enough celebrities or future Guardian journalists has something to do with it.


Socialist Wanker

Digesting some of the material about the collapse of the British SWP. Here are some of the links that are relevant beyond UK sectariana but of interest to those interested in Marxist theory and Trotskyist history more broadly. For those interested in the gory details, go to Jim Jepps’ ever-growing link list, from which a couple of the items below are pilfered, or to Mikey’s tabloid version. Apologies this is so un-chronological, with stuff from January through to April.

Leninism, vanguardism, party democracy, activist culture:

Theorising Marxism and feminism:

Tony Cliff, founding figure of the British Int...

Tony Cliff, founding figure of the British International Socialists. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The “IS tradition”:

The radical movement in Britain

Historical Materialism journal:

Je suis marxiste

“Quote me as saying I was mis-quoted.” – Groucho Marx

Welcome to 2013 at Poumista. Here’s a taster of some stuff I’ve been reading lately.


Norman Geras: Long overdue justice for Victor Jara; War memory: what is it good for?

David Osler: Two Milibands on the monarchy.

Book reviews

David Osler: Maonomics by Loretta Napoleoni; Bash the Rich by Ian Bone.

From the archive of struggle


*Murray Bookchin: Anarchism vs Syndicalism (1992)
*Murray Bookchin: using x-rays for hair removal and fitting children’s shoes (1962)

Espace contre ciment:

*Rudolf Rocker: Seid aktive Nichtwähler! (1924)

At David Osler’s blog:

*Duncan Hallas: Cult Becomes a Cropper (1985) [on Healy’s WRP, but eerily relevant to the current enjoyable crisis of the British SWP]


[Some links via my usual source]

Against Martovism! Some fantastically po-faced Stalinism spotted in the Morning Star letters page.

When tweeting can get you hard labour: Against Socialist Unity’s support for the Chinese regime.

Obituary for an anarchist: John Brailey 1934-2012.

Edd Mustill: The Daily Herald is one hundred years old

Our operaismo: Extract from Mario Tronti’s memoirs. Not read it yet, but I like this from the NLR intro: it offers an illuminating contrast of the springtime of 56 and hot autumnn of 69, and draws a sharp distinction between classical operaismo and its distant echo, autonomism, which persisted on the counter-cultural margins of Europe’s cities from the late 70s, to emerge in more hygenic form in Hardt and Negri’s Empire at the turn of the century.

From the archive of struggle no.74

This material mostly comes from a bumper edition at Entdinglichung. This leads off with MIA’s pdfs of The Workers’ council. An organ for the Third International. For info on this, see here or here. This was from an overwhelmingly Jewish and New York based left faction in the Socialist Party, that merged in 1921 with the WPA, i.e. what became the CPUSA. (more…)

From the archive of struggle no.69: Emma Goldman, anti-fascism, etc

Most important link today is an apparently previously unpublished text by Emma Goldman on “The political Soviet grinding machine“, written in Barcelona in 1936.

I’ve only recently noticed the newish website Anti-Fascist Archive, which mainly has material from the history of British militant anti-fascism. Here’s a recent weekly update to give you an idea of what’s there:

Most relevant to this blog, I guess, is the pre-war stuff, so here’s a taster.

img074 img075 img076 img077img072 img073

The Two-Gun Mutualist site has been updating its translations. Among the updated are: “Nihilism” by Voline (ca.1929); Joseph Déjacque,Authority—Dictatorship (Down with the Bosses!) and Exchange; Henri Rochefort, letter on Louise Michel; Han Ryner, from “The Congress of Poets” and “The Revolt of the Machines“.

There’s lost more from the radical archive at Entdinglichungmainly in French but also including Rare texts by the Situationist International 1966-1972 and Nestor Machno’s The Anarchist Revolution (192?).

Below the fold, what’s new at the Marxist Internet Archive: (more…)

All this and more

From Criticism etc:

Raya Dunayevskaya’s Marxism and Freedom has been translated into Arabic and published in a small edition. The project was undertaken by the Victor Serge Foundation, based in Montpellier, France, and organized by the American expatriate and Serge translator Richard Greeman (New York Review Books has just published his translation of Serge’s novel Conquered City). A brief account of a book release event held in the Moroccan coastal town of Benslimane (“On Socialism and Freedom in Morocco“) appears in the new issue of News & Letters. A fuller account of Greeman’s visit to the country (“Violent Crackdown in Morocco Fails to Halt Movement“) can be found on his Z Space blog. A PDF version of the translation of Marxism and Freedom can be found on the web site of the U.S. Marxist-Humanists.


The new issue of Against the Current features a long essay by historian Alan Wald on the U.S. Socialist Workers Party (“A Winter’s Tale Told in Memoirs“), of which he was a member in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is safe to characterize the piece as largely an exercise in SWP nostalgia and nowhere near as interesting as his book The New York Intellectuals (1987), in which he discusses in penetrating depth the actual period of the disintegration of the SWP and Trotskyism as a whole (1939-1941). Wald, a sympathizer of the Cannonite tradition, instead places the decline in 1970s when the (in his account) semi-natural phenomenon of “radicalization” began to wane and the current leadership consolidated its position. Even though  this piece is disappointing, Criticism &c. looks forward to the third installment of Wald’s trilogy on American leftist writers (see Exiles from a Future Time and Trinity of Passion for the first two).


Brown University Library’s Center for Digital Initiatives hosts a collection of scanned images of two important U.S. New Left/post-New Left journals, Radical America and Cultural Correspondence. The two journals, closely connected with the prolific historian of the left and left culture Paul Buhle, were among the more interesting intellectual by-products of Students for a Democratic Society.

Also, elsewhere:

Platypus: Ian Morrison: Trotsky’s Marxism // Lars T. Lih: October 1921: Lenin looks back

Principia Dialectica: Putting Counterfire’s John ‘Bonzo’ Rees to bed

Anthony Painter: The phone-hacking crisis calls for Ed Miliband to prove his dad wrong

The Free Voice of Labor:

Check out this fab doco on the American Yiddish anarchist paper Freie Arbeiter Stimme. Here is the blurb that goes with the video:

The Free Voice of Labor: The Jewish Anarchists” traces the history of a Yiddish anarchist newspaper (Fraye Arbeter Shtime – The Free Voice of Labor) publishing its final issue after 87 years. Narrated by anarchist historian Paul Avrich, the story is mostly told by the newspaper’s now elderly, but decidedly unbowed staff. It’s the story of one of the largest radical movements among Jewish immigrant workers in the 19th and 20th centuries, the conditions that led them to band together, their fight to build trade unions, their huge differences with the communists, their attitudes towards violence, Yiddish culture, and their loyalty to one another.

It is a pretty great story. What I would have liked to have seen would be the sites where tensions in such a movement lied. Where did the characters in this story depart in their politics? Where did they think their activism “worked” and where, with all that time to look back on the production of the paper, did they think they could have focused their energies more? [READ THE REST]

Below the fold, lots of rich material from Signalfire: (more…)

Published in: on July 14, 2011 at 2:39 pm  Comments (6)  
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From the archive: special features

Recently discovered, via a Greek radical history website that made me wish I spoke Greek. Plus, at the bottom, some things from Histomatist and other bloggers.

Sidney Fournier: obituary

Download the article here.

— From the Evening Post, 8th July, 1913

Wyatt E. Jones: watchmaker and anarchist

Reason in Revolt


  • Cresciani, Gianfranco, ‘Italian anti-fascism in Australia, 1922-45’, in Wheelwright, E.L. & Buckley, K. (ed.), Essays in the political economy of Australian capitalism, volume three, 1978 edn, vol. 3, Australia & New Zealand Book Company, Brookvale, 1978, pp. 86-101. [  |  | Details… ]
  • Gibson, Ralph, ‘Struggle against war and fascism’, in My years in the Communist Party, International Bookshop, Melbourne, 1966. [  |  | Details… ]
  • Manton, Joyce, ‘War can be prevented’, in The centenary prepares war, Melbourne University Council Against War, Melbourne, 1934. [  |  | Details… ]
  • Smith, Bernard, ‘The realisms of war’, in Noel Counihan: artist and revolutionary, 1993 edn, Oxford University Press, Melbourne & New York, pp. 180-97. [ Details… ]
  • Smith, Bernard, ‘The fascist mentality in Australian art and criticism 1946’, in The critic as advocate selected essays 1941-1988, 1989 edn, Oxford University Press Australia, Melbourne, 1989, pp. 44-51. [ Details… ]

The Faber Fantin Research Project Site

This is a portrait of Francesco Giovanni Fantin [1901-42] pictured just before he left Italy as an antifascist emigre in 1924. Note the foulard which was an anarchist dress symbol. Since 1985 I have been researching the biography of Fantin, an important Italo Australian anarchist activist who was assassinated by fascist conspirators whilst interned as an enemy alien at Loveday in the SA Riverland, 16 November 1942. This website contains previously unpublished photographs, supplied by friends and relatives of Fantin, and interpretative argument by me about Fantin’s life and times. Fantin is presented as a significant figure in the history of political heterodoxy, emigration and multicultural diversification which were beginning to assume historical proportions in Italo-Australian relations during his lifetime. This then is the larger than life story of a grass roots activist who explored democratic notions of citizenship resolved `to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield’. It should be of interest to all interested in the history of democracy and Italo-Australian social and political history, whether they share Fantin’s anarchism, or, like myself, only his socialism.

From Histomatist

New work: Tony Cliff: A Marxist for his Time

Tony Cliff: A Marxist for his Time
by Ian Birchall

Hardback £25 9781905192793/Paperback £16.99 9781905192809
Tony Cliff came to political consciousness in the darkest period of the 20th century and spent his life developing revolutionary Marxism against Stalinism. From his early days as a revolutionary in British-occupied Palestine, through years of obscurity and isolation in London and Dublin to the high points of struggle in post-war Britain, Cliff worked to restore lost ideas and traditions, fan flames of resistance and develop our understanding of a system in constant change. Ian Birchall’s lovingly crafted book is the culmination of years of work, drawing on interviews with over 100 people who knew Cliff and painstaking research in archives around the country. It is a majestic example of political biography at its best.
Available direct from Bookmarks Bookshop from 30 June 2011, and nationwide from October – see here. Ian will be launching his biography at Marxism 2011, and describes some of his experience of researching Cliff’s life here.

New study of EP Thompson

I have just finished reading The Crisis of Theory: EP Thompson, the New Left, and Postwar British Politics a highly readable new study by Scott Hamilton of Reading the Maps fame. I can happily and heartily recommend it to readers of Histomat as a fine companion volume to Thompson’s The Poverty of Theory and Other Essays (1978). Hamilton’s work comes with what now reads as a rather poignant recommendation from the late socialist historian and EP Thompson’s partner, Dorothy Thompson, and overall I found it a fascinating introduction to Thompson the thinker and writer – someone who I didn’t know before now was given cricket lessons by Nehru while a boy. Personally would have liked a little more on Thompson the great Marxist historian, but I am aware that would have probably meant a different book – and in any case, myself and Hamilton had a little debate about Thompson and Marxist historiography about five years ago – a debate I am not sure either of us feel the compulsion to return to just now. Many congratulations anyway to Scott on the publication of his homageto EPT.

Owen Hatherley on Marx, Eagleton, Lenin and Lih

 As [Eagleton] acknowledges, our age of no-strings-attached state handouts to banks and punitive cuts to social services has embraced a form of capitalism so grotesque that it resembles the caricatures of the most leaden Soviet satirists. Eagleton presents his book as the fruit of “a single, striking thought: what if all the objections to Marx’s thought are mistaken?” In order to demonstrate this, each of the chapters of this erudite yet breezy (occasionally too breezy) tract begins with a series of assertions about Marx and Marxism, which Eagleton then proceeds to debunk, one by one.

From Hatherley’s review of Eagleton’s Why Marx was Right and Lih’s Lenin. Personally I disagree very slightly with Hatherley’s conclusion, at the end of his discussion of Lih’s biography of Lenin: Yet what really endures here is the sense that, for Lenin, a revolutionary leader has a duty to lead the working class into revolution, and all the theory in the world won’t help if the political and economic conditions are missing. Lenin believed that the first world war offered a real chance to destroy capitalism, and when – in 1919, as revolution briefly engulfed Europe – he seemed to be proved right, he felt vindicated, even relieved. He learned his mistake, and died deeply troubled by it.Yet Lenin was not ‘mistaken’ when the world revolution failed to triumph outside of Russia post First World War – the conditions did exist for the successful socialist revolution in Europe – not least in Germany which underwent two revolutionary situations in 1918 and then again in 1923. Lenin knew that making the revolution in Russia was a gamble, but, he wagered, it was right to make that gamble – a gamble after all that was critical to ending the bloodshed of the First World War and, everything taken into account did demonstrate the possibilities for socialist revolution in the 20th century.

As Rosa Luxemburg noted,‘Everything that a party could offer of courage, revolutionary farsightedness, and consistency in a historic hour, Lenin, Trotsky, and the other comrades have given in good measure. All the revolutionary honor and capacity which the Social Democracy of the West lacked were represented by the Bolsheviks. Their October uprising was not only the actual salvation of the Russian Revolution; it was also the salvation of the honour of international socialism.’

From Tendence Coatesy

Louise Michel

I recently saw the film Louise-Michel.

It’s a bit, soso (I went for the name- see below).

The film begins with a coffin being jammed in a Crematorium while the Internationale plays. A textile factory, in Picardy, is delocalised. The boss leaves the women workers in the lurch. Rather than go for a nude Calender, or take up stripping, they decide to hire a killer to bump him. Louise (Yolande Moreau),  finds one, a man transsexual. Louise turns out to be man.

The comedy, such as it is, takes place the surreal Picardy environment, a decaying Communist bastion, with co-ops and council housing falling apart. The only real laughs are in the search for the ultimate boss responsible for the closure. This takes the pair, Louise and her pro ((Bouli Lanners) to a posh gala dinner, Brussels ( with , nonantes and septantes  said every other sentence, and finally to Jersey where a much appreciated bloodbath of the bourgeoisie ensues.(Here.)

The only really good scene in Louise-Michel – and still a bit Little Britain in its humour – is when the duo pass by and visit the farm where Louise had shot a bank-manager out to forfeit her indebted property. It’s now an organic bed-and-breakfast heaven, with fair-trade coffee, bio bogs, hand-woven degradable carpets,  spring water showers, crystal therapy breakfasts, and recycled air -in the dull flat Picardy mud.

Anyway, apart from the chance of seeing Siné in the flesh – in a walk-on part –  I wouldn’t recommend the film.

But at the end there is a quote on the screen from the real-life Louise Michel.

Now she is someone the English-speaking left should get to know.

“Michel became highly admired by French workers and revolutionaries, particularly for her association with theParis Commune. From after her death until 1916, a demonstration was held every year at her tomb at Levallois-Perret.

A legendary figure of the labour movement, Michel had the ability to incite crowds to act. Frequently, the language used to describe her is that reserved for saints and heretics; she is often referred to as “Bonne Louise” (Good Louise) or the “Vierge rouge” (red Virgin). For better or worse, Michel seems to have fascinated her contemporaries. This woman, educated and cultured, intelligent without being shy and retiring, and lacking the beauty of certain demimondaines and other women of loose morals who populated the period before the Belle Epoque, was surrounded by many male celebrities. They were often her steadfast friends, until the end of her life, or more frequently to the end of theirs. For a period when women still had essentially no rights, she was in many respects an exception.”

L’œillet rouge.

If were to go to the black cemetery

Brothers, throw on your sister,
As a final hope,
Some red ‘carnations’ in bloom.
In the final days of Empire,
When the people were awakening,
It was your smile red carnation
which told us that all was being reborn.
Today, go blossom in the shadow of the black and sad prisons.
Go, bloom near the somber captive,
And tell him/her truly that we love him/her.
Tell that through fleeting time
Everything belongs to the future
That the livid-browed conqueror
can die more surely than the conquered.

The Paris Commune is not dead

There is a very well expressed article by Nick Rogers in the latest Weekly Worker on the 140th Anniversary of the Paris Commune – Here.

He concludes,

The historical experience of the Paris Commune teaches us a threefold lesson.

First, the key role of political leadership and programme. The Commune clearly lacked coherent political leadership. It did not even have a clear idea of what it sought to achieve. This was partly a question of political ideology, but it was also an expression of the lack of any working class party to speak of. In Paris (and in the other cities of France, where during this period several communes of only a few days’ duration were declared) there were political traditions, clubs and conspiratorial groupings. Lacking from the political firmament was any party seeking to democratically represent the interests of the whole class.

The International came closest and was subsequently blamed by the French government for the uprising. It banned the International in France and wrote to governments around Europe urging them to take the same action. But the Proudhonist majority in the French section held to a theoretical position that rejected political action (and trade unionism, for that matter). It was not ready to lead a workers’ revolution.

Second, the spontaneity of the working class is capable of great feats. What was achieved in Paris during April and May 1871 by the citizens of the city retains the capacity to inspire. Local initiatives proliferated. Right up to the last week a mood of festival prevailed. It is not the role of a political party to subsume or subdue such initiative, but to provide a focal point for directing the working class’s capacity for political and organisational creativity in an agreed direction.

Third, a workers’ revolution transforms the political and constitutional landscape or it is not a revolution. That is why communists raise democratic and republican demands. It is a lesson most of the present-day ‘revolutionary’ left has forgotten. The rediscovery of Kautsky “when he was a Marxist” can help hammer home that lesson.

This is a crystal-clear summary of the Commune’s enduring political meaning.

Also read:

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.)

Catching up belatedly

Welcome back to the sphere On A Raised Beach, whose un-explained departure caused some concern. La Brigada has been reading Vasily Grossman.

Thanks to Mikey E, my most devoted fan, for the huge amount of traffic I got from Harryistas when he re-posted my material on the Stalinist victims of the anti-Stalinist SWP’s Stalinist practices.

More Harryism: Armin Rosen on Ian Buruma comparing Christopher Hitchens to the Marxist supporters of Japan in WWII.

Left Harryism: Raincoat Optimism on Hugo Chavez.

Totally un-related: The State as a Social Relationship: Gustav Landauer Revived – Dov Neuman of Jewdas interviews Gabriel Kuhn. More on this some other time. Maybe.

Also totally un-related: Coatesy on Koestler and Coatesy on Vincere.

To add to the blogroll: In the hands of the many.

I need quite a bit of time to catch up with: Arthur Bough.

Published in: on August 6, 2010 at 11:50 am  Comments (4)  
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On Nye Bevan: a hatchet job from a Kinnockite in the Guardian, and an eloquent reply from Peter Taaffe, the current guru of what was Militant. Incidentally, for a glimpse of Aneurin Bevan’s grandeur, check this out. (See also Reuben on Marxism, social democracy and New Labour’s illiberalism.)

On Hugo Chavez: Judeosphere on his allies’ antisemitic conspirationist website (more from Modernity), and Obliged to Offend on his Stalinist drift.

On democratic socialism: More from Entdinglichung on Ken Coates. Related: the Blair Wilson project. Socialism restated. David Miliband’s Keir Hardie lecture.

On Lenin and Trotsky: a Cold Warrior attacks Trotsky’s defenders (see also on Lenin in Karkov and the myth of Trotsky as romantic hero). The first post is against the following, all of which I think I have linked to already: Peter Taafe, A Dis-Service to Trotsky The Socialist Party/Socialist; Paul Hampton, A Hatchet Job on Trotsky ( Worker’s Liberty ); David North, In the Service of Historical Falsification (WSWS); David North, Historians in the Service of the “Big Lie”: An Examination of Professor Robert Service’s Biography of Trotsky; Hillel Ticktin, In Defence of Leon Trotsky.

On the new left: Jeffrey Williams in Dissent on the New Left Review at 50. Meanwhile, C&S, in a post entitled “Capitalist Provides Rope“, writes: “Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal provides an excerpt from Richard Wolin’s book The Wind from the East.” The excerpt is very worth reading. It is about gauchisme, including Cornelius Castoriadis, the Arguments group and the background to Guy Debord.

On the SWP: 10 years since Tony Cliff died – what did he achieve?; Dave Osler replies to Alex Callinicos on Marxism. Plus critical views of Marxism 2010 from Eyes on Power, Red Star Commando, Viceland, James Turley and Claire Fisher.

On anarcho-syndicalism: A review of Vadim Damier’s ‘Anarcho-syndicalism in the 20th Century’. Tom Wetzel reviews the International Socialist Review‘s article on contemporary anarchism. (The ISR article, by Eric Kerl is here. I think I’ve already linked to this response to Eric Kerl’s review of Wobblies and Zappatistas, on which it builds.)

On Colin Ward: Ross Bradshaw on the Colin Ward memorial meeting, and with some lovely tangential reflections.

From the archives: Henri Rabasierre (1956) and Paul Lafargue (1883) in Dissent on the right to be lazy. Murray Bookchin on Marxism as bourgeois society (1979). George Orwell on a nice cup of tea (1946). Karl Marx on Chartism (1852). Engels on the siege of Lucknow (1858: “A critique of bourgeois marriage and the marriage market. A critique of colonial privilege. A critique of masculine self-righteous presumption regarding both. Conceptually connected. And funny.”)

Internationalism from below: Libertarian statement of solidarity with the comrades in Oaxaca, Mexico.

The opposite of internationalism from below: Monthly Review’s support for Stalinism and genocide.

Histories: The Anarchist and Maximalist uprising in Samara 1918Dare to be a Daniel! – Wilf McCartneyThe Petrenko incident: an opening shot in the attack by the Bolsheviks on the Revolution; East Germany and the 1984-85 UK miners strike; the US unemployed movement in the 1930s; Henryk Grossman for today; Was Churchill a hero?; Joseph Dietzgen’s Brain Work; The re-dedication of Nottingham’s International Brigade memorial; Edward Carpenter’s England Arise; working class resistance of the Tory austerity of 1918-22; two sides to Tolpuddle; a facelift for Orwell’s birthplace in Bihar, but not for British imperialism.

Below the fold, a poem.



I can’t believe I missed the death of the talented singer songwriter Llasa de Sela age just 37 at the start of 2010. See Roland/Jams.

And some late additions to my Colin Ward obituaries: from Peter Marshall, author of Demanding the Impossible, from Critical Chatting, and from Robert Graham.

And one more for Michael Foot – the JC with a Jewish angle.

And two more obituaries, via Histomatist: The new issue of Socialist Review has a short article on the founder of the International Socialist TendencyTony Cliff (1917-2000) by Ian Birchall – at work on a forthcoming biography of this critically important twentieth-century revolutionary Marxist thinker. See also Sabby Sagall on the British actor and revolutionary socialist [sic] Corin Redgrave (1939-2010).

Talking of mourning (not that we’re mourning Redgrave), the New Centrist: “Pray for the twenty-nine West Virginia miners who lost their lives and their families. Then get active. Amending Joe Hill’s famous phrase, don’t only mourn, organize.”

Max Dunbar: All shall have prizes. On the Orwell Prize, Stephen Mitchelmore, Nick Cohen, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and George Orwell’s anti-pacifism. Related, did Christopher Hitchens read the SWP’s John Molyneux and blogger Snowball after reading Animal Farm?

Principia D: Eric Hobsbawm: The Marxist who never read Marx. (“Not judging by this survey of Post-war Italy, anyway. “) More on this in a future post, maybe.

From January, Kathedar Blog with two very good interrelated posts: on Alex Callinicos on imperialism and on Marx and the dialectic.

AF: Steps towards re-emergence of anarchism in Cuba. See also here.

Jamie Bartlett: Politics and the English language 2.0.

Continuing our anarchism vs Marxism discussion, these lapidary posts from Lady Poverty are well worth your time: Marx and Foucault; A note about Marx and FoucaultThe point, as it relates to Holden Caulfield and Karl Marx; Marxism vs. identity anarchism. And here, very much less to my taste, is a contribution from a Maoist: Anarchism or revolutionary Marxism? by Arindam Sen of the CPI(ML).

Also chronically belated: New Statesman: Jonathan Derbyshire interviews Terry Eagleton on nostalgia for 1970s socialism.

And some considerable time after Michael Foot’s death, this from Brian Brivati: Foot and Nye Bevan.

Wobbling around the world: a socialist belatedly discovers the IWW.

On Maoism: Richard Wolin remembers the Maoist 1960s, and Apoorvanand analyses Maoism in India, as does Dilip Simeon.

Wolin and Brivati come from Arguing The World, the now not quite brand new trans-Atlantic blog at Dissent. Here is one more from that: Alan Johnson: Žižek or Bobbio? (The blog title is familiar to me from the PBS documentary about the New York intellectuals I link to over to the right – I ought to know whose being quoted: Irving Howe?)

I meant to link to this article on William Morris discovering socialism in Iceland when it came out, then forgot, but was prompted after noticing it at Histomatist – seems kind of timelier now, as Morris would no doubt be enjoying the effects of the volcano on the global tourism and agri-industries.

Finally, how can I post these days without mentioning Hugo Chavez? This is from the Venezuelan anarchist journal El Libertario: Venezuela: the myth of “Eco-socialism of the XXI Century” The author is Professor and Researcher at the Simon Bolivar University in Caracas. This contribution is the revised excerpt from a longer article appeared in Spanish in the Journal of Economics and Social Sciences (FACES-UCV) entitled “XXI Century Eco-socialism and Bolivarian Development Model: the myths of environmental sustainability and participatory democracy in Venezuela “, 2009, vol. 15, No. 1, pp.187-223 

From the archive of struggle no.47

Independent Labour Party

La Brigada with timely blast from the past: Mr Asquith versus Labourism 1895.

New Left Review

I’m not sure if I already linked to Stefan Collini’s piece in The Guardian on NLR at 50, an exceptional piece of writing in the noughties Grauniad. A piece with a similar slant, by Nikal Saval, appeared in n+1 magazine. Here’s our occasional contributor Michael Ezra reminding us of a less glorious moment in the NLR‘s history.


Comrade Ezra again, from David Horowitz’s old redoubt, Ramparts.

Class War

And here’s Michael again, with extracts from Bash The Rich: True-Life Confessions of an Anarchist in the UK.

Socialist Workers Party

Mark Perryman in 1995 on Tony Cliff and his cult. (Yes, Michael again.)


On a great anti-communist cartoonist. (Not Michael.)

Below the fold: selected highlights from the Marxists Internet Archive and Entdinglichung’s Sozialistika: (more…)

From the archive of struggle no.45

In my last post in this series, I did not include anything from the Marxist Internet Archive, which has had a huge amount of interesting material added to it since I last looked. You’ll find a selection below the fold, but first some other archival links.

Via Espace contre ciment, I have found a few sites I don’t think I’ve seen before, which I have or am adding to the blogroll.

Barataria: Situationism in French from Belgium. Recently added: some picture of the Mexican revolution: Exécution d’un officier fédéral; Barricade; Armes saisies aux troupes fédérales; American Insurrectos.

Patlotch! Free texts, regularly added to, mostly French.

Les Gimenologues: On some partisans of the Spanish war, mainly in French. Recent books include:

JPEG - 56.3 ko JPEG - 31.6 ko

If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger,There’d Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats: Extraordinary blog, trawling through the visual detritus of American modernity. Here are some fragments:

They Were Collaborators #634

Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin

Seminal Image #994

La Mort en ce jardin
(Death in the Garden)
(Luis Buñuel; 1956)

This Sporting Life #16

Jesse Owens lands the Gold Medal in the long jump at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Ofenschlot: A German language blog which excavates the web for texts which help to explode capitalism. For English-speaking readers, this post links through to a pdf of a 1980 Marxism Today review of the important but neglected marxist economic theorist Bob Rowthorn.

From the Marxist Internet Archive: (more…)


Colin Ward

From SlackBastard:

[…] UK anarchist Colin Ward has died. His Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2004) is both very short and quite good, and his appeal as a writer was widespread, his many, generally pithy writings emphasising the practical dimensions of Anarchy in Action. (Revolution by the Book has an extract from Anarchy in Action here; AK Press is also publishing Autonomy, Solidarity, Possibility: The Colin Ward Reader later this year.) In addition to being the author of numerous books and pamphlets, Ward edited Anarchy zine for its first 100 issues (1961–1970), criticised by some as being reflective of anarchism’s absorption by the middle class.

OBITUARIES – 20: COLIN WARD, Paul Anderson, GAUCHE, February 17, 2010 | Colin Ward, RIP, Jesse Walker, Reason, February 17, 2010 | Colin Ward: pioneer of mutualism, Next Left, February 14, 2010 | Colin Ward Presente!, Dan Cull Weblog, February 14, 2010 | Colin Ward, Rob Ray, libcom, February 13, 2010 | Colin Ward, Ross Bradshaw, Five Leaves Blog, February 12, 2010.

See also : Anarchism in Action: Methods, Tactics, Skills, and Ideas, Second Edition (draft), Complied and Edited by Shawn Ewald.

Marxism etc

Bob versus the Moonbats: marxism necessary but not sufficient.

Some items of interest from The Commune: Beyond the party-state, beyond the big bang; El Alto, bastion of social struggles in Bolivia; Readings on the Paris Commune from Marx, Bakunin, Kropotkin and the Situationists; The early Russian revolution: Laurat in wonderland (this is part 1 of a text on Lucien Laurat’s book L’Économie Soviétique: Sa Dynamique, son méchanisme, by  João Bernardo of Passa Palavra; the original in Portuguese is here, with part 2 here, presumably awaiting translation).

Half a century of the New Left Review: Coatesy has a long and fascinating critical elegy, and Entdinglichung reminds us of the 1960 edition. Michael Weiss has a different take.

Trottishness etc

The departure of Lindsey German from the British SWP is raising some interesting discussions of party democracy in the UK left blogosphere. Among the contributions are these: “When Zinoviev is in the majority he is for iron discipline, when he is in the minority he is against it“; “Once Tiberius is dead I, Sejanus, will rule as Emperor in Rome”; “It was the best times, it was the worst of times”….; United fronts or just fronts?; The examination of the conscience (or lack thereof). Odd how it brings out the erudition in bloggers with these titles.

Uncle Hugo

From SlackBastard:

And finally, um, for reasons best known to himself, but perhaps related to the recent departure of significant sections of the International Marxist Tendency, Uncle Hugo’s best mate Alan Woods has attacked Bakunin In Defence of Marxism.

The last link is worth clicking on, as it gets you an English translation of The Third Chavez by Demétrio Magnoli in O Estado de Sao Paulo, apparently “Brazil’s main bourgeois paper”. I found it quite perceptive, and Woods’ reply too tedious to bother with.

Karl Marx created the 1st International, Friedrich Engels participated in the founding of the 2nd, Lenin established the 3rd, Leon Trotsky founded the 4th and Hugo Chávez has just raised the banner of the 5th. “I take responsibility before the world, I think it is time to rally the 5th International and dare to make the call,” he said in a speech lasting five hours, at the opening session of the extraordinary congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) to the applause of 772 delegates in red shirts.

The congress was held in November. Then Chavez imposed energy rationing in the country, devalued the currency and introduced a dual exchange rate, nationalized a supermarket chain, suspended cable TV broadcasts and unleashed a bloody crackdown on student protests. […]

Chavez is living his third incarnation, which is also the last. The first Chavez emerged after the failed coup of 1992, in the guise of nationalist and anti-American warlord mesmerized by the image of an imaginary Simón Bolívar. Under the influence of Argentine sociologist Norberto Ceresole, that original Chavismo flirted with anti-Semitism and dreamed of the establishment of an authoritarian, fascist-style state, which would reunify Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador in a restored Great Colombia.

A second Chávez could be discerned in outline in the spring of the first term in 1999, after the break with Ceresole, when the Leader drew close to Heinz Dieterich, a German Professor of Sociology in Mexico who came out of obscurity to formulate the concept of “socialism of the 21st century.” Chavismo reinvented itself and acquired left-wing collaborators, formed an alliance with Cuba and engaged in the project of building a state capitalism that was presented as a long transition towards a kind of socialism untainted by the Soviet legacy.

Brandishing a copy of The State and Revolution by Lenin, the Chavez of the extraordinary congress of the PSUV announced his conversion to the programme of the destruction of the “bourgeois state” and the building of a “revolutionary state.” This third Chavez was already implied in 2004, when the Leader got to know the British Trotskyist Alan Woods, and was fully manifest by the time of his defeat in the referendum of December 2007, shortly after the break with Dieterich. The PSUV is a result of Chavismo of the third period, as is also the proclamation of the 5th International.

The uses and abuses of history cont.

Bob posts on the Holocaust against the Roma and Jewish partisans in Greece, with lovely music. Chris Ford responds to Red Maria on Stepan Bandera (which I linked to here, to Will’s consternation). Graeme writes on an overlapping topic here.

From the archive of struggle, no.41: Anarchist poster special

Today’s feature is the Just Seeds Visual Artsts’ Co-op.

18Pesadilla_170.jpgRafael Baca
Nuestro Mas Hermoso Sueño es tu Peor Pesadilla/Our Most Beautiful Dream is Your Worst Nightmare

ElMaizEsNuestro_170.jpg Favianna Rodriguez
El Maíz Es Nuestro

Dill170.jpg Brains, Brilliancy, Bohemia: Art & Politics in Jazz-Age Chicago.

rio170.jpg Favianna Rodriguez

16PINK_170.jpg Lapiztola
Emiliano Zapata silkscreen

Ben Rubin
Emma Goldman

From the archive, below the fold: (more…)

Trot notes

European Trotskyists respond to the anniversary of World War II: An interesting feature on the World Socialist Website, with contributions from Françoise Thull, Barbara Slaughter, Julie Hyland, and David North.

Obituaries for Chris Harman: Michael Rosen, Andrew Coates, Jim Denham, Histomatist. Histomatist rounds up other obituaries from SWPers, but these are the most interesting to my mind. Histomatist contrasts Harman’s erudition to his low status among academo-Marxists, a very important point, as the Marxism of the ivory tower becomes ever more divorced from Marxism as a movement. Coates suprised me by positioning Harman as important in the libertarian heritage of the IS within the SWP, which can be contrasted to Denham’s portrayal of Harman the greatest betrayer of the IS’s third campism. (Added: another from The Commune.)

In the tradition of Marceau Pivert and Tom Paine: Andrew Coates on laïcité.

Misusing the word Stalinism: Tory fool Graham Warner.

Published in: on November 13, 2009 at 11:28 am  Comments (1)  
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