Leon Trotsky drinking Mexican coffee

Robert Service on Trotsky again: Service was on the weekend’s The Forum on the BBC World Service. The Service bit starts at 27 minutes. I don’t like Service’s analysis, although he is partly right. Service is right about Trotsky’s personality: cold, prim, glacial, disdainful, arrogant, self-centred. But Service basically says Trotsky and Stalin are “blood brothers”, that Trotsky was as ruthless as Stalin, who in turn was as much a “man of ideas” as Trotsky. This is surely not right, despite Trotsky’s faults. However, Service is right that Trotsky would have suppressed the peasants to achieve industrialisation, less brutally than Stalin but nonetheless harshly.

One interesting point Service makes is that other Russian exiles were making similar analyses of Soviet Russia, and have been forgotten. (He doesn’t name names, but Victor Serge, Ante Ciliga, Boris Souvarine, Voline, the exiled Mensheviks André Liebich writes about in From the Other Shore, and so on.) Service suggests that it was because Trotsky was a great writer and subsequently a great martyr that he became so important. I think this is true, but the third factor, both Trotsky’s strength and his flaw, his hubris perhaps, was that he was a great factionalist, with a sense of himself as a leader of a movement, something that was untrue of the other, more modest key figures of the anti-Stalinist left. Anyway, I still prefer Hitchens’ version. Lots more here.

***

Heroes: Josef Frantisek. Marek Edelman, Steve Cohen and Mercedes Sosa. John Saville. Bongani Mkhungo.

Villains: Nat Hentoff.

George Orwell: His lessons for combating antisemitism today.

Histories: The Communist Party in the French resistance. New York elections: from honourable Jewish socialists to odious Marxoid cults. The end of the left’s Cuba romance? The state of Bund historiography [pdf]. The Labour Party and the Battle of Cable Street.

Book reviews: Platypus on Communist Chicago. Colin Waugh’s Plebs. Geoffrey Foote on Paul Flewers’ New Civilisation. Andrew Coates on Flewers and two other books on Communism.

Interviews: Nick Cohen in Black Flag.

The Kaminski affair: Bob has a good round-up (scroll to “Strange alliances”).

Marxist theory: Louis Proyect on John Molyneux on party democracy. Playtpus on Karl Korsch. David Black (Hobgoblin London) on philosophy and revolution.

Un-Marxist theory: Irving Howe “Class and sociology” 1957, plus replies by Lewis Coser and Dennis Wrong.

If sharks were people: From Brecht’s Tales from the Calendar.

Consumerism: Buy Zapatatista coffee! And buy the new edition of Zapata of Mexico. And buy The Workers’ Next Step. And The Insurrectionists by Bill Fishman.

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Archive special

From the archive of struggle, no.19. Non-anoraks, skip this post, and go to this one, on Obama’s taste in reading and an alternative to the Richard and Judy book club, or this one,  on early jazz and recent fado, or this one, on how blogging has re-invigorated radical history.

Steve Cohen

First of all, ArchivesHub last month highlighted the Greater Manchester Collection of Steve Cohen, lawyer and anti deportation campaigner, 1975-1996. Go here for the website, which includes links to selected websites and some excellent suggested reading.. For background on Steve Cohen, check Engage/Bob.
Image of a demo rally poster Image of a campaign poster Image of an anti deportation campaign poster

The rest

Marxist Internet Archive:

  • Added to the J. T. Murphy Archive: The Communist Party of Great Britain (1943) and The Last Great Split in World Communism (1948) [Poumista: Latter is particularly recommended. Murphy played a part in the 1926 expulsion of Trotsky from the Communist International, was expelled himself in 1932 for challenging its disasterous ultra-left Third Period politics, and reflects here on these two expulsions and on Tito’s. By the way,  Murphy’s wikipedia page badly needs editing!]
  • Added to the Rudolf Hilferding Archive: State Capitalism or Totalitarian State Economy 1940 [Poumista: This piece is also important, as a key intervention in the debate about the character of the Soviet Union. Hilferding wrote it as the Nazis boot was stamping on the face of France, not long before he was handed by the Vichy French to the Gestapo, who would murder him and take his wife Rose to Auschwitz, where she perished. His characterisation of the Stalinist system as totalitarian has considerable force.]
  • Added to the Brian Pearce Archive: Rank-and-file Movements of the Thirties, 15 November 1958 (Constant Reader) [Poumista: Pearce is another important, neglected character. Like EP Thompson, he was part of the Communist Party Historians Group, but re-thought Stalinism in the wake of Russia’s counter-revolution crushing of the Hungarian revolution 1956, getting himself expelled in 1957. A close associate of Peter Fryer, he passed with him through the orbit of Gerry Healey. This piece, I think, dates from his time with Healey’s Club, and is an important contribution to the 1950s’ revisioning of Anglo-Stalinist and labour history.]

[Beneath the fold: Spanish anarchist histories, and more besides] (more…)