One of the purposes of this blog is to join the dots in a history of the anti-Stalinist left: transnational traditions of dissident Marxism, democratic and libertarian socialism and class struggle anarchism which have actively resisted totalitarianism in all its forms. I came across this at the blog Psychadelic Bolshevik, and I take the liberty of reproducing it here. I’ve covered a lot of this material before (click on the tags at the bottom for more), but this puts it all together well. After I pasted it in, I realised most of it is the text by Nick Heath published on libcom, to which I have added a hyperlink where the quotation starts. However, in re-reading that, I am a little confused on the different French Trotskyists twists and turns, so added a note on that. If anyone can check that and let me know if I’ve got it right, I’d be grateful.
In a recent post, I quoted Dorian Cope claiming that two million people were killed in Franco’s Spain. TNC made the comment below. I’m pretty innumerate myself, but I think TNC is most likely right and Cope wrong: the death toll was more like a million, it slowed down after Franco’s reign consolidated, and it should be seen alongside the (much smaller) “red terror” in which rightists were killed too, i.e. in a Civil War context and not just that of a dictatorship. I have started reading Giles Tremlett’s Ghosts of Spain, which addresses the legacy of these deaths, which I hope to post on when I’ve finished.
Where does the two million number come from? The reason I ask is the number I have read from a few secondary sources including Paul Preston and Stanley Payne that put it closer to one million killed by both sides in the conflict. Also, most of the mass killings stopped by the end of the 1940s. I know people were tortured and murdered in horrible ways, including the garrot, but the evidence suggests a slowing of the mass murder certainly by the early 1950s.
Paul Preston writes:
“The numbers of right-wingers killed in Republican Spain (after the military coup destroyed the structures of law and order and before the Republican government could rebuild them) is 37000. The number of people murdered in the Francoist zone is likely to be 150,000. The reason for doubt is that finding out is a painstaking business, village by village, and only 36 of Spain’s 50 provinces have been reasonably thoroughly investigated. Those thirty-six provinces have currently produced 98,000 known victims. However, even there it is very difficult to be sure that all the dead have been counted… (more…)
On 12 November 2011, Wembley Stadium hosted a friendly between the football teams of England and Spain. Amongst the usual pre-match shots of flags and anthem singing, the television cameras picked out one English fan in the crowd with a home-made placard commemorating the British volunteers of the International Brigade, who had fought for the Spanish Republic 75 years earlier. The incident was an example of how the Spanish Civil War has maintained its place in the British popular consciousness in a way that is perhaps only exceeded by the two world wars.
In recent years it has been the subject of popular history books and formed the backdrop to best-selling novels and an HBO made/Sky broadcast television series starring Nicole Kidman; meanwhile the often bitter debates between supporters of different Republican factions in 1936-39 continue to be played out on internet message boards. Despite this public and academic interest, only a small quantity of primary sources in English were freely available to researchers online – last year the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick, added over 13,000 pages more. (more…)
Michael Petrou, author of a book about the working-class Canadians who went to Spain to fight against Franco’s fascist uprising in the 1930s, makes a telling point about the parallels between that war and the current civil war in Syria. It has to do with what Petrou calls “the fallacy of non-intervention.”
That was the policy adopted by the democracies — including Canada — in 1936, when the Spanish general Francisco Franco, backed by his allies Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, launched a rebellion against Spain’s democratically elected government that eventually toppled it and enslaved the country.
We said it was a Spanish conflict, a civil war, and should be decided by the Spaniards. It wasn’t. The democracies might not have intervened, but other powers did. Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany picked one side; Stalinist Soviet Union picked the other.
When the war began, the Communists were a minor force within Spain’s republican coalition. Then Spain’s presumed democratic friends deserted it, while the Soviet Union sent weapons and men. Soviet and Spanish Communist power consequently grew. By 1937, the Soviet NKVD and its Spanish allies ran secret jails in Madrid where they murdered political opponents from amongst their supposed anti-fascist comrades.
And in Barcelona too. Those who have read George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” (and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?) will be familiar with that ugly chapter of the Spanish civil war.
Which brings us to Syria. It’s been two years, some 80,000 deaths, and hundreds of thousands of displaced. What began as a democratic uprising has become a civil war. Those against doing anything about it have cycled through various arguments, all of which miss a basic point. Non-intervention isn’t an option, because intervention is already happening. Saying you’re against intervention in Syria is like standing in the middle of a blizzard and saying you’re against snow.
- Does Spain’s History Provide a Lesson in Syria’s Civil War? (rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Syria: The Spanish Civil War All Over Again (pjmedia.com)
- Homage to Latakia: Comparing Syria and the Spanish Civil War (macleans.ca)
Last week, I published the first installment of Shaun Downey’s series on the great Red Cushing, as a tribute to Shaun who died last month. Parts 2 and 3 were taken from Ciaran Crossey’s Ireland and the Spanish Civil War website, so I will not reproduce it in full.
Part 2 deals with Cushing joining the International Brigade (after hearing in a New York bar about “General O’Duffy’s Blue Shirts”, Catholic Irish Republicans fighting in Spain on the fascist side), becoming platoon leader in Number One Company, the Lincoln Washington Battalion, and his scrapes with the Communist Party commissars who sought to discipline the Brigadiers.
We had no idea what the overall situation was. Any information about the general course of the war was carefully withheld from us by the Party leaders. Gradually it dawned on these political panjandrums that what they needed in Spain was less tub-thumping and more military know-how, so at last they decided to ship me back to the States with a view to recruiting some young men with initiative and leadership qualities.
Part 3 sees Red’s disillusionment tempting him to join the French Foreign Legion, but deciding that war with fascist Germany was the enemy he should be fighting, leading him to return to Britain to sign up there:
I travelled to England by way of Paris and Dieppe, disembarking at Newhaven and proceeding to Victoria… As I was leaving Victoria, with a view to catching a ‘bus to Paddington. a slimy-looking character tried to sell me The Daily Worker. His smug references to the Spanish Civil War so incensed me that I hauled off and belted him one. I derived a great deal of personal satisfaction out of that blow, throwing into it all the anger and disgust I felt about Communist mismanagement in Spain. It symbolised for me my complete repudiation of the Party line…
Jams concludes, tempting us on to the next intallment:
Make of this what you will. Cushing was a larger than life character but think he should be read with a pinch of salt. His later adventures as a POW-cum-potential German spy are a mixture of comedy and tragedy.
However, it is at this point we jump forward to Jams’ real story, which unfolds after Red has been taken prisoner by the Germans. As before, I have edited punctuation and format, but no text, and added some hyperlinks for reference.
It was my good fortune to wander into the bookshop in the departure lounge at Cork Airport. Otherwise I would not have picked up a copy of Terence O’Reilly’s Hitler’s Irishmen.Hitler’s Irishmen is mainly concerned with the fortunes of “James Brady” (a pseudonym – we do not know his true identity) and Frank Stringer, two soldiers who were imprisoned in Jersey at the time of the German occupation and who became the only Irishmen to join the Waffen SS. It also provides a detailed account of the farcical attempt to raise an “Irish Brigade” from the POW population. Roger Casement had tried the same thing during WWI with little success – his Irish Brigade numbered just over 50 men. This attempt attracted a mere handful; and some of them had no intention of serving the Reich. Brady and Stinger and the Friesack Camp are for another day though.
By 1942 the Germans realised that four of the recruits (William Murphy, Patrick O’Brien, Andrew Walsh and our old friend Thomas “Red” Cushing) were not quite as loyal to the Reich as originally thought. The four were sent to a segregation unit in Saschenhausen concentration camp.
Born in 1907 Yakov Iosifovich Dzhugashvili (I will use Stalin rather than Dzhugashvili) was Joseph Stalin’s oldest child. An artillery lieutenant, he was taken prisoner by the Wehrmacht at Smolensk in July 1941. By 1942 he too was in Saschenhausen sharing accommodation [wiuth] Vasili Korkorin, the nephew of Vyacheslav Molotov , Murphy, O’Brian, Walsh and Red Cushing.
Yakov Stalin died in Saschenhausen in April 1943. The general consensus seems to be that he effectively committed suicide either with or without the help of a German bullet. However, more than one reason has been put forward for his suicide.
Cause 1: Abandonment
According to a Time article from 1 March 1968 Yakov, devastated by his father’s refusal of a German offer to exchange him for Field Marshall Von Paulus (who had surrendered at Stalingrad in January), picked his way through a maze of trip wires to the camp fence. He then called to a nearby SS guard: “Don’t be a coward. Shoot, shoot.” When the prisoner made a grab for the fence, the guard obliged, firing a single bullet which killed him in instantly.
Cause 2: Shame over the Katyn massacres
In June 2001, however, the Daily Telegraph carried an article which purported to provide the definitive answer to Yakov’s end. Already dispirited by his father’s rejection of an exchange for Von Paulus, Stalin was so overcome by shame at the news of his father’s massacre of 15,000 Poles at Katyn in 1940 that he committed suicide by flinging himself on to the camp’s electric fence.
According to professor John Erickson (an authority on the Great Patriotic War who died in 2002), “It is clear that Yakov, who had become close friends with the Poles and had made two abortive escape attempts with them, was so distraught when goaded with the news of his father’s massacre of the Polish officers, which was revealed in German newspapers in 1943, that he took his life. Driven to despair by the horrific conditions in the camp – he was emaciated and on the point of starvation – and the strain of the propaganda campaign the Germans had involved him in, the news that his father had sanctioned the Poles’ murder was the final straw.”
To be continued
I know I’ve been a slow blogging here lately. Here are some of the things I’ve been reading in my absence, if you know what I mean. Beatrix Campbell and the “invisible” women of Wigan Pier. Hitchens’s introduction to Orwell’s Diaries. Algeria: Fifty Years of Independence. An evening with the SWP. Malatesta on Bakunin as “too marxist”. Book notes: Michael Staudenmaier on the Sojourner Truth Organization. Back to that first International? In what senses can we describe certain political, religious and social movements of the English Revolution (1640-1660) as radical?
Below the fold, some of the gems from Entdinglichung’s weekly workers series. (more…)
And loads of great material from entdinglichung:
* George Orwell: Mein Katalonien (Nemesis)
* Manifesto & Policy of the POUM during the Barcelona May Days (La Bataille Socialiste)
* Augustin Souchy: The Tragic Week in May (The Struggle Site)
* Grandizo Munis: The Spanish Left in its Own Words (Marxists Internet Archive)
* Hugo Oehler: Barricades in Barcelona (Revolutionary History)
* Waldemar Bolze: Where are the Real Saboteurs? (Revolutionary History)
* Andreu Nin: The May Days in Barcelona (Marxists Internet Archive)
* Katia Landau: Stalinism in Spain (Marxists Internet Archive)
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Karl Marx reviews Downton Abbey:
“His family history, the history of his house etc – all this individualises the estate for him and makes it literally his house, personalises it. Similarly those working on the estate have not the position of day-labourers; but they are in part themselves his property, as are serfs; and in part they are bound to him by ties of respect, allegiance and duty….It is necessary that this appearance be abolished.”
From “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844″.
Karl Marx will next be reviewing the programme “Who Do You Think Your Are?”.
Of all the anti-fascists to make a stand, perhaps the bravest are those who did so in Nazi Germany.
Jean Julich was one of the Edelweiss Pirates, teenagers who rebelled against Nazi society, and physically fought the Hitler Youth, at great cost to themselves. Jean died in October last year aged 82, but I have only just come across this excellent obituary from the Telegraph of 7 February 2012. It is a tremendous testament to the ability to resist.
The quote below is from today’s Telegraph Review, where amongst the book reviews Dan Jones considers Paul Preston’s work on the Spanish Civil War and its fascist butchery, The Spanish Holocaust.
“Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell and the rest sent back graphic dispatches from the front line, and their work has left the historical impression that Europe’s first open war between fascists and the combined forces of communism, socialism and social democracy was well covered and understood. Yet away from the eyes of the war reporters, argues Paul Preston, there was another Spanish Civil War, in which thousands of civilans were systematically murdered, and their deaths subsequently obscured”.
Whilst accepting his latter point, the former is a re-writing of history. In this analysis, all those Anarchists in Barcelona and much of southern Spain must have been a figment of the imagination. I do hope that Preston’s book is considerably better than Jones’ summary above!
But where Anarchist practice really triumphs is in the course of everyday life among common people who would not be able to endure their dreadful struggle for existence if they did not engage in spontaneous mutual aid, putting aside differences and conflicts of interest. When one of them falls ill, other poor people take in his children, feeding them, sharing the meagre sustenance of the week, seeking to make ends meet by doubling their hours of work. A sort of communism is instituted among neighbors through lending, in which there is a constant coming and going of household implements and provisions. Poverty unites the unfortunate in a fraternal league. Together they are hungry; together they are satisfied …
A miniscule society that is anarchistic and truly humane is thus created, even though everything in the larger world seems to be in league to prevent its being born – laws, regulations, bad examples, and public immorality.
Elisée Reclus (1894)
Papadopoulos, who spent 17 years abroad with MSF and returned to her native Greece three years ago, sees hope among the rubble. “What keeps me going is an increasingly strong sense of solidarity among the Greek people,” she said. “Donations to MSF, for example, have of course gone down with the crisis, but donors keep giving, they remain active.”
She sees a refreshing new phenomenon of self-organisation and social action. “In the past year of this crisis I have seen really encouraging, really exciting things happening – people are seeing the power of organising themselves. We have to support them.”
Here is just one example of why Greece is still a great place and why you should go there and spend your money, despite all the negativity in the press. But it is also a reminder that, whilst the financial markets are settling into the warm glow of complacency with the conclusion of the latest deal, the crisis is far from over and that none of the major economic contradictions have been addressed. Even though EU leaders think that they have successfully quarantined Greece (a policy that is the antithesis of solidarity), Portugal, Italy, Spain and Ireland are waiting in the shadows and even the Netherlands can’t meet the terms of the extraordinarily restrictive fiscal rules that they so assiduously helped to impose. There is no resolution, events are merely pausing for breath.
From the Shirazites:
- Camila Bassi on Tony Cliff’s inane politics (pdf/html)
- Alex Callinicos on Norman Finkelstein
- Judah Magnes and the tragedy of binationalism
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I’m really looking forward to reading this…
The Story of the Iron Column: Militant Anarchism in the Spanish Civil War
Paul Sharkey (Translator) and Abel Paz
Publisher: AK Press
Release Date: 2011-07-13
The members of the Iron Column were among the most notorious anarchists in the Spanish Civil War. They were intransigent in the face of the fascist revolt, but also in defence of the revolution’s gains.
We say to all workers, to all revolutionaries, to all anarchists: At the front or in the rearguard, wherever you may be, fight against the enemies of your liberty and demolish fascism. But also make sure that your exertions do not bring about the installation of a dictatorial regime that would represent the continuation, with all of its vices and defects, of the whole state of affairs that we are trying to obliterate. Now with weapons and later with the tools of labour, learn to live without tyrants and to develop for yourselves the only road to freedom. These are the feelings of the Iron Column, and they have been explained clearly and simply.
Comrades: Death to fascism! Long live the social revolution! Long live anarchy!
~ The Iron Column, 1 October 1936
Abel Paz (1921-2009) was a fifteen-year-old anarchist when the Spanish Revolution began. After the revolution’s defeat, he spent several years in exile, returning to Spain in 1942 as a guerrilla fighter against the Franco regime. He spent most of the subsequent eleven years in prison. Paz spent his later years authoring biographical and autobiographical works and delivering lectures celebrating the achievements of the Spanish anarchists. His book Durruti in the Spanish Revolution, was published by AK Press in 2006.
Paul Sharkey, an accomplished translator, has almost single-handedly made available a vast body of non-English language anarchist texts. His numerous translations include the works of Nestor Makhno, Osvaldo Bayer, Errico Malatesta, Daniel Guérin, José Peirats, and Antonio Téllez.
Iron Column Records is a distro and label spreading the anti-fascist message through no-nonsense music and merchandise. We are 100% non-profit – ALL proceeds from sales are given to antifa groups or anti-fascists in need.
We have a growing range of music from some of the finest anti-fascist bands and labels on the planet, and we plan to expand it as money allows. If you are in a band or involved with a label that is sympathetic to what we’re doing, please get in touch to see if we can work something out.
We’ve also produced a range of t-shirts with eye-catching anti-fascist designs and are planning to release our first album under our own imprint in the near future – watch this space!
We hope that you find something you like in our list and we look forwards to hearing from you.
Iron Column Records.
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The 75th anniversary of London’s Battle of Cable Street is fast approaching. here are some dates for your diary, if you live in that part of the world (plus one in Leeds).
On-going until 4th October
Friday 30 September
On our street there are artist studios, recording studios, social clubs and corner-shops. We bring you the best in Cable Street Talent – it’s 1936 and we are going to sing, drink, dance and laugh as if we don’t have a care in the world.
Manouche are an all-live, electrified, gypsy swing ensemble. Performing specially arranged works of Django Reinhardt and swing classics of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s, they fuse elements of Electro Swing dance beats and Surf Guitar into their own up-beat compositions.
There will also be a photo exhibition kindly donated by the International Brigade looking at those anti-fascists who then went on to fight in the Spanish Civil War. We also hope to welcome the Clarion Cycle Club as they arrive from Edinburgh.
Saturday 1 October
5.00pm Anti-fascist footprints: a walk through the East End, from Gardiners Corner to Cable Street Repeat walk, this time for Iniva Tickets: £6/£5 Info: http://www.iniva.org/events/what_s_on/anti_fascist_footprints_walking_tour
Dances and elegies at Wilton’s Music Hall. 730pm This concert provides a frame for the Cable Street events at Wilton’s – extraordinary music for extraordinary times. As the Spanish Civil war was starting, Benjamin Britten played his Suite Op 6 at a concert in Barcelona; the same evening, in the same city, the premiere of Berg’s ‘Violin Concerto’ was played by Louis Krasner, who later became Peter Sheppard Skaerved’s teacher. At the centre of the programme, a most English piece by a German composer – Paul Hindemith’s extraordinary ‘Trauermusik’-‘Music of Mourning’ for George Vth. This wonderful elegy for viola and strings ends with the chorale “Vor deinem Thron Tret ich hiermit”-better known here as ‘All people that on earth do dwell’-the ‘Old 100th’.
Jewdas: ¡No Pasaran! Cable Street – Party like it’s 1936! In a time of austerity, riots, and a rise in the price of beigels, Jewdas returns to Cable Street………. Live Bands, Film, Talks, Cabaret, Fascist Baiting and Revolutionary Borscht. Live Music from: Daniel Kahn & Merlin Shepherd – a mixture of Klezmer, radical Yiddish song, political cabaret and punk folk, accompanied by top UK Klezmer clarinettist; Klezmer Klub feat. David Rosenberg – songs of Yiddish London telling the story of the Jewish east end from 1900 to the 1930s; The Ruby Kid – Hip-hop and spoken-word poetry, influenced by the cinema of Woody Allen, the politics of Hal Draper and the music of Aesop Rock; The Electric Swing Circus – electro swing sensation.Big band swing. Gypsy jazz. Thundering drum beats. Phat bass lines; + Stephen Watts reciting poetry of the East End; + Full film programme of riots, resistance and rabbles; + Talks on Gandhian resistance, Spanish Civil War, Anti-fascist activism today as well as performance poetry. + Communist-Fascist Arm Wrestling, The Three Yentas, Live Guernica tribute painting, Cantorial Drag; + DJ Notorious spinning speeches, 30s swing and hard beats; +…more. Dress Code: 1930s chic. Fascist, Communist. Yiddish Musical Hall. Free entry for all who were there in 1936! For the rest of you its £7 on the door and £5 if you book in advance here.
Sunday 2nd October
75th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street. March from Braham Street Aldgate at 11.30am to a rally at the Cable Street mural at 1pm. Speakers; Max Levitas Battle of Cable Street Veteran; Frances O’Grady Deputy General Secretary TUC; Matthew Collins Searchlight; Robert Griffiths General Secretary Communist Party; Bob Crow General Secretary RMT; Kosru Uddin Labour Councillor; Julie Begum Swadhinata Trust; David Rosenberg Jewish Socialists’ Group; Gail Cartmail Assistant General Secretary UNITE; Diana Holland Assistant General Secretary UNITE; Akik Rahman Altab Ali Memorial Foundation. More info on UnionBook.
Noon-10pm: Exhibitions and events at Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Grace’s Alley E1 8JB. email@example.com 020 7375 0441 12-6 // 12-6 Stalls all along Graces Alley by campaigning groups, local organisations and supporters with street theatre and music by Spanish civil war re enactment group La Columna, The Lost Marbles, The Fairly Fresh Fish Co, Klezmania andThe Cockney Awkestra. Plus, inside, Protest and Survive photo exhibition, featuring Phil Maxwell etc. // Launch of Five Leaves’ five Cable Street books at 3.00pm with Bill Fishman and other Cable Street veterans as guests. // Five Leaves’ panel on “Rebel Writers of the 1930s” at 4.00pm, with Andy Croft, Ken Worpole and Mary Jouannou. // Continue into the evening with Billy Bragg, Shappi Khorsandi, Michael Rosen and The Men They Couldn’t Hang. // Produced by Alternative Arts for The Cable Street Group. // full programme here.
JEECS Walk: The Battle of Cable Street Clive Bettington discusses the events of the iconic battle and discusses some of the myths which have arisen. 2pm Tower Hill tube £10 (£8 Jeecs members) 07941 367 882. Booking recommended
Monday 3rd October
7.30 Crossing the Street, Wilton’s Music Hall. Video installation by Shiraz Bayjoo and Jessica Harrington. Curated by Carole Zeidman, Commissioned by Wiltons Music Hall. The battle of Cable Street 75 years ago reveals much about the character of and the sense solidarity between its residents. The area has historically housed a celebrated mix of people from varying backgrounds, cultures and with different economic circumstances. The riots of 1936 were emblematic of an attitude and belief that people could be brought together successfully to fight for a shared interest despite other differences. 75 years on and the memory of Cable Street has entered local mythology, but how does it resonate with local residents now and what significance does the area hold for them today?
8pm – David Rosenberg illustrated talk with readings to Leeds Jewish Historical Society at Shadwell Lane Synagogue
Tuesday 4th October:
Film: from Cable Street to Brick Lane, by Hazuan Hashim and Phil Maxwell. Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Grace’s Alley E1 8JB. From Cable Street to Brick Lane” is an independent documentary dealing with the fight against racism and fascism in the East End of London. The film will explore how different communities came together in the 1930’s, 1970’s and 1990’s to challenge racism and intolerance. Focusing on the two iconic East London streets of Cable Street and Brick Lane, the film will feature interviews with veterans of the battle of Cable St and of the more recent struggles around Brick Lane. Driven by these eyewitness accounts and observations Hashim and Maxwell examine the impact of these interrelated historic events and how they relate to contemporary issues in East London. See www.cablestreettobricklane.co.uk for inspiration. firstname.lastname@example.org 020 7375 0441.
The Battle of Cable Street at LJCC. 10.30am-3.30pm £35.00. This anniversary falls during the Ten Days – there could be no better way to reflect on the conflicts of the past and prepare for the challenges of the future. Speakers will include Ian Bloom and David Rosenberg.
Wednesday 5th October
7pm at Housman’s Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, N1. Readings and discussion with authors Roger Mills and David Rosenberg about their East End/Cable Street related books.
David Rosenberg (Jewish Socialist Group) author of Battle For The East End and Roger Mills (Cable Street Group) author of Everything Happens in Cable Street discuss their new books, just published by Five Leaves Publications, in the context of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street.
The Battle of Cable Street was a landmark event in British anti-facist struggles, when an estimated 300,000 demonstrators, including many Jewish, socialist, anarchist, Irish and communist groups, built roadblocks in an attempt to prevent a march by the British Union of Fascists, led by Oswald Mosley, through London’s East End. Ignoring the strong likelihood of violence, the government refused to ban the march and a large escort of police was provided in an attempt to prevent anti-fascist protestors disrupting the march. Despite the actions of the police and the government the anti-fascist’s motto of “They Shall Not Pass” won the day.
6th October 2011
Images of resistance 1936 in film: Films about Cable Street and the Spanish civil war
At the Jewish Museum NW1. An evening of films documenting and responding to the anti-fascist events of 1936. The launch of Yoav Segal’s two commissioned films, The Battle of Cable Street and No Pasaran, supported by the Pears Foundation. Followed by Eran Torbiner’s film Madrid before Hanita about volunteers from the Jewish community in British Mandate Palestine, who joined the International Brigades to fight fascism in Spain. Meet veterans after the screening and join the Q&A. £10 including free entry to museum galleries. http://www.jewishmuseum.org.uk/whats-on?item=340
Sunday 9th October
11am inter-generational walk: How the East was won with David Rosenberg, for the Jewish Museum. For children aged 10+ accompanied by an adult. £15 for child+adult. This is part of the museum’s 1936 Radical Roots season
Monday 10 October: 7.00pm
Fighting Together for a Better Past: the story of Cable Street. Panel discussion with David Rosenberg, Tony Kushner and Nadia Valman
Jewish Museum London, 129-131 Albert Street, London NW1 7NB. Free with museum admission Info: http://www.jewishmuseum.org.uk/whats-on?item=341
Tuesday 11th October
Everything happens in Cable Street. Talks, presentations and walk with Bernard Kops, Roger Mills and David Rosenberg at London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road EC1 in the morning and Cable Street Walk in the afternoon.Tickets: £15/£10
Info: email@example.com, 020 7332 3851
Wednesday 12th October
David Rosenberg Reading/discussion at England’s Lane Bookshop
Thursday 13 October
5.00pm David Rosenberg on The Battle of Cable Street Presentation with images and readings Small Hall Cinema, Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmith’s College, London SE14 6NW Info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bernard Kops: The Battle of Cable Street, London Jewish Museum. 3pm. £10 including free entry to the galleries. Kops, who grew up in the East End and was 10 at the time, witnessed the events as they unfolded. In conversation with publisher Ross Bardshaw (Five Leaves Publications) Kops will read from his short play about the day’s events as well as from his memoir and his other written work. The reading and conversation will be followed Q&A.
18th October 2011
7pm 75 years on: the British Far Right. Discussion led by journalists on the strategies employed by far-right groups in Britain today. Join journalists James Montague, Rebecca Taylor (Time Out) and Nick Lowles (Searchlight) for a debate about activism, nationalism and political memor. At the Jewish Museum. £10 including free entry to museum galleries. http://www.jewishmuseum.org.uk/whats-on?item=342
Thursday 20th October
6.30pm Brick Lane bookshop, 166 Brick Lane E1 David Rosenberg/Roger Mills reading/discussion
Saturday 22nd October
Anarchist Bookfair, from 10am-7pm at Queen Mary College, Mile End Road, E1, includes meeting on the Battle of Cable Street at 11am
Monday 24 October
10.30am-12.30pm for five weeks Jewish Responses to Fascism in the 1930s A course based on Battle for the East End. Includes a guided walk around the East End. Tutor: David Rosenberg. London Jewish Cultural Centre, Ivy House, London NW11 7SX
26th October 2011
7pm The rear-view mirror: art and remembering. An illustrated discussion with speakers including curator Corinna Till (Whitechapel Gallery, Reclaim the Mural) and art critic and writer Sacha Craddock, for an illustrated conversation chaired by Michael Keenan (curator, studio1.1 gallery), based on the exhibition Restoring the Past – the Cable Street Mural Today At studio1.1 gallery. £10 including free entry to museum galleries. http://www.jewishmuseum.org.uk/whats-on?item=344 7pm, tickets £10.
The rear-view mirror: art and remembering: Conversation with Paul Butler at the Whitechapel Gallery. 7pm.
NOW AVAILABLE! FACERÍAS — Urban Guerrilla Warfare (1939-1957). The Libertarian Movement’s Struggle against Francoism in Spain and in Exile by Antonio Téllez Solà (ISBN 978-1-873976-49-4), 413pp (indexed with 16 pp of photographs) £15.95 (+£3.50 p+p UK) (PDF) (ISSUU)
Anarchist urban guerrilla and member of the Iberian Federation of Libertarian Youth (FIJL) since 1936, José Lluis Facerías fought on the Aragón front during the Spanish Civil War, where he was taken prisoner and held until 1945. Following his release he rejoined the clandestine anarcho-syndicalist trade union, the CNT, and dedicated himself to the armed struggle against the Francoist dictatorship. From March 1946 until his death in a police ambush in 1957, Facerias was the driving force behind the anarchist defence groups operating in Barcelona.
BARCELONA, Friday, 30 August 1957, 10:45 am. In the deserted Sant Andreu district of Barcelona, a burst of automatic gunfire crackles and, as if pushed by some mighty hand, a man on the corner of the Paseo Verdún and the Calle del Doctor Pi i Molist slumps against a low wall. A pistol appears in his hand. His eyes scan the tree-lined boulevard leading off to his right towards the Santa Cruz mental clinic, but he sees no sign of life. Suddenly, he realises he has been betrayed. Unseen assailants are shooting at him from windows overlooking the junction of the Paseo Urrutia and Calle del Doctor Pi i Molist. The first burst of gunfire shatters the man’s ankle. Further rifle shots ring out and bullets ricochet around him . . .
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How shall we remember Jorge Semprún, the writer and political figure who died on June 7, just before the seventy-fifth anniversary of the event that, more than any other, including his imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp, would define his life? I refer to the approach of July 17, 2011, which will mark the date in 1936 when Francisco Franco and his cohort of military officers rose against the second Spanish Republic. The ensuing three-year “Spanish civil war,” as most refer to it, and the distinct but coterminous “Spanish Revolution,” in the idiom of others, affected numerous prominent intellectuals, as well as millions of ordinary people in the twentieth century, many of who were much younger than Semprún and shared few of his direct experiences. [READ THE REST]
Image: Jorge Semprún (2010) Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP
- June 7, 2011 – Jorge Semprun dies (memorycountermemory.wordpress.com)
- Jorge Semprún, Author Who Blurred Line Between Novel and Memoir, Is Dead at 87 (nytimes.com)
- Jorge Semprún, 87, Cultural Force in Spain, Dies (nytimes.com)
- Jorge Semprún Has Died (trenhoteleuropa.wordpress.com)
- Spanish writer, politician Semprun dies at 87 (sfgate.com)
- Spanish exile writer Semprun dies (bbc.co.uk)
- Old wounds (bbc.co.uk)
- The Final Hours of Federico García Lorca (3quarksdaily.com)
Eric Blair is better known as George Orwell, author and journalist. Orwell’s work includes 1984, Animal Farm and Homage to Catalonia, his personal account of his experiences during the Spanish Civil War. [At Poumista]
John Cornford was a Cambridge–educated poet. He fought initially with the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM) and saw action at Perdiguera and Aragon in 1936 before falling ill and returning to England. He quickly returned, having recruited several friends, to join the English Battalion of the International Brigades, and was badly wounded at the Battle of Madrid in November 1936. He was killed at the battle of Lopera on 27 December 1936, shortly after returning to the front. [At Poumista]
Bob Doyle was an Irish member of the International Brigades. He was captured in 1938 at Calaceite, near the Aragon front, along with Irish Brigade leader Frank Ryan. After spending 11 months in a concentration camp he was among those exchanged for Italian prisoners of war. He died at the age of 92 on 22 January 2009. [At Poumista]
Frank Ryan, a prominent member of the IRA, led a group of Irish volunteers to fight with the International Brigades in Spain. He fought at the Battle of Jarama and was seriously wounded in March 1937. He was later captured and imprisoned by Nationalist forces before being released to the Germans in 1940. [At Poumista]
Distant Spanish echoes
Michael Totten interviews Stephen Schwartz of the Centre for Islamic Pluralism. (Schwartz is the co-author of one of the most important books in English on the POUM, Spanish Marxism versus Soviet Communism with Victor Alba.)
The King’s Speech
Shiraz Socialist publish a couple of shameful articles from the vaults of News Line, the paper of Gerry Healey’s Trotskyist cult the Workers Revolutionary Party. The articles, from 1983, exhibit a particularly disgusting brand of anti-Zionist antisemitism, portraying a reactionary Zionist web that stretches from the “rich Jews” who colluded with Hitler right through to rival Trot group Socialist Organiser, a conspiracy that silences opposition by playing its “anti-Semitic trump card” – phrases that have become all too common on the left. Anyway, the articles are relevant now because they contain a defence of the tyrant Muammar Gaddafi as anti-imperialist: try and swallow the words “in support of the Libyan masses under their leader Muammar Gaddafi.” And it is relevant to the “Progressive London” post because it generously quotes Ken Livingstone defending the WRP. Ken claims News Line “gives you an objective presentation of the news and political developments and supports the base struggles of the working class in industry and the community” and describes his enemies in the Labour Party as “agents of the Begin government”. I had forgotten how far back Ken goes with this “anti-imperialist” swamp. More on this sort of thing from Andrew Coates, David Osler and Michael Ezra and (from the archive) Sean Matgamna and Paul Anderson.
The new Stalinism
Darren Redstar on the new Stalinist witch-hunting of anarchists at Socialist Unity.
Pacifism: objectively pro-fascist, or objetively pro-imperialist?
Some people suspect Mr. Sharp of being a closet peacenik and a lefty — in the 1950s, he wrote for a publication called “Peace News” and he once worked as personal secretary to A. J. Muste, a noted labor union activist and pacifist — but he insists that he outgrew his own early pacifism and describes himself as “trans-partisan.”
Louis continues, interestingly, about AJ Muste, which struck me as interesting, given a discussion here a while back. Not often, I imagine, that Proyect and Michael Ezra are in agreement.
The Muste connection is interesting. In the 1930s, Muste was the leader of a group called the Workers Party that spearheaded major labor struggles. In James P. Cannon’s “History of American Trotskyism” there is a useful discussion of Muste’s importance. When Cannon found his own Trotskyist group growing closer to Muste’s, he broached the subject of a fusion that Muste was agreeable to. The Trotskyists were at that time doing what is called “entryism” in Norman Thomas’s Socialist Party. When they were expelled, they united with Muste as the Socialist Workers Party, reflecting each group’s antecedents.
Eventually Muste abandoned Marxism and became a Christian pacifist. As a leader of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Muste became critical in the formation of the Vietnam antiwar coalitions that would challenge the imperialist war-makers. One crucial difference between Muste and Sharp was their chosen arena of struggle. Muste targeted his own government while Sharp saw his role as providing leadership to struggles elsewhere, particularly in the Soviet bloc countries. During the Korean War Sharp spent nine months in a federal prison in Danbury, Conn., as a conscientious objector. He also took part in some civil rights protests but from the 1960s onwards his emphasis has been on providing consultation to people in other countries.
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Left sectariana: Phoenix Class War post their “joke of the day”, on the Maoist wingnuts of the American RCP at Burning Man festival (note: not to be confused with the British ex-Trotskiyist party of the same name).
Memoires of a democratic socialist: on Michael Foot, Tony Benn and Roy Hattersley.
Tory Francophones: Tawfiq Chahboune posts a quotation from George Orwell on Tory MPs cheering as British ships taking aid to Republican Spain were sunk by the fascist Italian navy – Tawfiq asks if anyone can corroborate this. The resulting comment thread is of an exceptionally high standard, in particular the contributions of Michael Rosen.
Death of an anti-fascist: In this comment thread, Nick Wright also posts the Morning Star obit for its former correspondent Sam Lesser. It’s an odd piece of prose, which manages to smuggle in a good deal of petty and vulgar sectarianism for an obituary. It is also (in typical Morning Star fashion), oddly reticent about Stalinism. It notes that Lesser “was sent by the Daily Worker to cover the 1952 show-trial of Czechoslovakian Communist Party general secretary Rudolf Slansky and 13 other party leaders – an experience which left a deep scar”, but does not explain how he lived with this pain during the subsequent three decades he continued with the Morning Star, including coverage of Budapest in 1956 (where he replaced the great Peter Fryer) and Prague in 1968.
The Spanish cockpit: Darren points me in the direction of a long text I’m not sure if I’ve linked to before: “Spain Turns’ by Roberto, from the International Review, Vol.2 No.3, New York, April 1937. It’s long, and most certainly worth reading. The Socialist Standard adds these further reading recommendations: From the September 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard: The Civil War in Spain; From the May 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard: The SPGB and Spain; From Issue 18 of the journal Subversion (published 1996): Spain 1936, The End of Anarchist Syndicalism?; From the August 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard: For Whom The Bell Tolled.
Petain and the Jews: Modernity points us towards recent research on Vichy France and its shameful record.
This week’s dose of anti-communism: Roger Scruton from 1991.
Also from the archive: The Western Socialist on the Yom Kippur War (1973).
Finally, wearing badges is not enough.
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(José Castillo, left, and José Calvo Sotelo, right)
It was going to happen anyway, but the murder on the streets of Madrid of Lt. José Castillo on the evening of 12th July 1936 was to the Spanish Civil War what the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was to World War I … the final, crucial key which quickly set in motion a sequence of events that led to the ‘official’ beginning of what would be a savage three-year national conflict that ran the entire gamut of twentieth century political ideologies.
At approximately 9.30pm, the newly married Castillo – a lieutenant in the governing Republic’s special police Guardia de Asalto as well as a member of an anti-fascist organisation for military members (UMRA) – left his house for the last time to make the short walk to the police station where he was about to go on duty. But when he reached the corner, a gang of Falangists, Spain’s principal fascist movement, shot and killed him.
“Pacifism is objectively pro-fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side, you automatically help out that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me.” – George Orwell
George Orwell arrived in Spain in December 1936 to observe and write about the Spanish Civil War. Almost immediately, he traded in his pen for a gun to serve as a voluntary soldier against Franco’s Nationalist Fascists. Six months later, after a bullet in his neck nearly killed him, and another anti-Fascist faction that was supposed to be fighting on the same side as him became an even greater and dangerous enemy than the fascists, he and his wife Eileen were forced to flee for their lives. Seventy-[three] years ago today on 23rd June 1937, they crossed the border into France and safety.
I read this post from Rustbelt Radical last year, a few months after it was posted, and it moved me greatly. Rather than link to it then, I thought it would be good to save it for the anniversary this year. It is Victor Serge’s tribute to a great man and his indictment of Stalinism.
The memory of Stalinism in the collective mind is often focused on the gray tower bloc and the gulag, on the cult of personality and the official lie. Stalinism’s perfidy was not limited, however, to razor wire on the Siberian steppe or to the assassination chamber of a spattered Moscow basement. On this day in 1937 in the midst of the Spanish Civil War Andrès Nin, a leading member of the Workers Party of Marxist Unity (POUM), was murdered by Stalinists.
Stalinism’s raison d’être, like all bureaucracies, was the defense of itself and the greatest threat to it came from the working class it claimed to lead. Perhaps nowhere was that threat greater than in the Spain of the 1930s. Nin was a partisan of workers’ power, of workers’ democracy- ideas fatal to Stalinism. He was murdered along with thousands of others in the name of “anti-fascist unity”; that is unity between the Stalinists and the ghosts of the liberal Spanish bourgeoisie. The fascists won and ruled Spain for the next 40 years. Never forgive, never forget.