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…)

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Monday music: 11 September

…not even the dead will be safe from the enemy, if he is victorious. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious. (Walter Benjamin, died Catulunya, September 1940)

So we set out, with cameras at the ready, for New York, another city of my dreams assaulted on another September 11, again a Tuesday morning when fire fell from the sky. Though by 2001 very few people in the world recalled the existence of that remote Chilean date, I was besieged by the need to extract some hidden meaning behind the juxtaposition and coincidence of those twinned episodes bequeathed to me by the malignant gods of random history. There was something horribly familiar in that experience of disaster, confirmed during my visit to the ruins where the twin towers had once reached for the sky… every citizen of the United States forced to look into the chasm of what it means to be desaparecido, with no certainty or funeral possible for those who are missing. The photographs were still there in 2006, pinned on the wires separating the ogling spectators from the abyss… (Ariel Dorfman, 2 September, 2011)

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the horrific attacks on New York and Washington, carried out by far right Islamists. Below, Bruce Springsteen’s “My city of ruins fanfare for the common men and women killed that day, and his hope for a new, better tomorrow. 9/11 is of course also the anniversary of the 1973 military coup in Chile, which replaced Allende’s elected government with one of the most brutal dictatorships of our time, a dictatorship supported by the American and British governments.

In the first months after the coup d’état, the military killed thousands of Chilean Leftists, both real and suspected, or forced their “disappearance“. The military imprisoned 40,000 political enemies in the National Stadium of Chile… In October 1973, the Chilean song-writerVíctor Jara, and 70 other political killings were perpetrated by the death squad, Caravan of Death (Caravana de la Muerte). The government arrested some 130,000 people in a three-year period; the dead and disappeared numbered thousands in the first months of the military government.

Below, for all the victims of Pinochet’s regime, Victor Jara‘s “Preguntitas sobre Dios” (Little Questions About God), written by Atahualpa Yupanqui.

One day I asked grandfather ¿where is God? My grandfather was sad and gave me no answer. My grandfather died in the field without prayers or confessions, and was buried with the Indian bamboo flute and drum. When I asked ¿father where is God?  my father got serious and gave me no answer. My father died in the mine without doctor or confession, sweating the miner’s blood for the boss’s gold, and was buried with the Indian bamboo flute and drum… I sing when I am free and when I’m in prison I feel the voices of the people who sing better than me… God watches over the poor, maybe yes or maybe not but he surely lunches at the table of the boss.

September 11 is also the Catalan national day. Being an anti-nationalist, I will not play the turgid Catalan national anthem, “Els Segadors“, but rather “El Cant dels Ocell” (The Song of the Birds), a Catalan folk song which Pau Casals always played at the end of his concerts, looking forward to the moment when Catalonia would be free of fascism, and when humanity as a whole would be free.

From Ariel Dorfman’s Open Letter to America:

How could I not wish you well? You gave me, an americano from the Latino South, this language of love that I return to you. You gave me the hot summer afternoons of my childhood in Queens when my starkest choice was whether to buy a Popsicle from the Good Humor Man or the fat driver of the Bungalow Bar truck. And then back to calculating Jackie Robinson’s batting average. How could I not wish you well? You gave me refuge when I was barely a toddler, my family fleeing the fascist thugs in Argentina in the mid-Forties. One of you then. Still one of you now. How could I not wish you well? Years later, again it was to America I came with my own family, an exile from the Chile of Pinochet you helped to spawn into existence on precisely an 11 September, another Tuesday of doom. And yet, still wishing you well, America: you offered me the freedom to speak out that I did not have in Santiago, you gave me the opportunity to write and teach, you gave me a gringa grand-daughter, how could I not love the house she lives in?

Where is that America of mine? Where is that other America? Where is the America of ‘as I would not be a slave so would I not be a master’, the America of this ‘land is our land this land was meant for you and me’, the America of all men, and all women, everyone of us on this ravaged, glorious earth of ours, all of us, created equal? Created equal: one baby in Afghanistan or Iraq as sacred as one baby in Minneapolis. Where is my America? The America that taught me tolerance of every race and every religion, that filled me with pioneer energy, that is generous to a fault when catastrophes strike?

Poumly

Bella ciao, Iran: a song of freedom.

“Revolutionary syndicalism serves the proletariat, whereas anarchism is one brand of humanism”: Juan García Oliver interviewed.

The Politics of Saint-Making: Jacopedia on the Catholic Church and the Spanish civil war.

The Neoconservative Père et Fils: Michael Signer on Bill Kristol Sr and Jr.

Baudelaire, Benjamin, Gramsci: Blackdaffodil on three dead men.

Dirty rotten commies: the Slackster continues his tour of the “Marxist-Leninist” swamp.

The Death of Anna LoPizzo: the subversive historian on America’s hidden labour histories.

Debunking Ramparts: Ron Radosh on 60s New Left neo-Stalinism.

Flame On The Snow: Victor Serge on the Russian revolution.

Zinn’s legacy: David Adler on a leftist icon.

Endless blues: Stanley Crouch on Ralph Ellison.

Not a hero: Red Maria on Stepan Bandera.

Strange days indeed: Andrew Coates reviews Francis Wheen.

Tristes tropiques

Levi Strauss

Claude Lévi-Strauss has died, aged 101.

Lévi-Strauss fled Vichy France in 1940, having been dismissed from his job due to Vichy racial laws. The New School for Social Research in New York, a reconstituted version of the Frankfurt school set up to rescue German refugee intellectuals, found a job for him, and the Rockefeller Foundation had a programme to rescue European scientists and thinkers. He made his way to Marseilles, and set sail for freedom in March 1941.

Other passengers on the boat, the Captain Paul-Lemerle, were Victor Serge, Andre Breton and Anna Seghers. The three of them were among the anti-fascists rescued by the great Varian Fry, a story told in his colleague Mary Jayne Gold’s Crossroads Marseilles 1940 (1980, now out of print) and more recently Rosemary Sullivan’s Villa Air-Bel (2006 HarperCollins).

Seghers was a German Communist writer. She had fled Nazi Germany for France, and was active in the exiled German writers union, which met at the Cafe Mephisto on Boulevarde St-Germain. Seghers had slipped across the line from German-occupied France to Vichy France the same month that Walter Benjamin took his life after being turned back from Spain in his bid to get to New York.

She had played a major role in the Congress for the Defence of Culture, held in Paris in 1935. At the Congress, Henri Poulaille, a French anarchist writer and editor, Magdelana Pa, a French Trotskyist, and Gaetano Salvemini, an Italian socialist, raised the question of Victor Serge’s incarceration in the Soviet gulag. (Serge was exiled in Orenberg at that time, the subject of his book Midnight in the Century.) Seghers, disgracefully, said this was a distraction: “When a house is burning, you can’t stop to help someone with a splinter in their finger.” It is not recorded, as far as I know, what conversation they had on the Captain Paul-Lemerle.

The Captain Paul-Lemerle, which had been built in 1921, landed in Martinique and then in Puerto Rico. At the latter, Lévi-Strauss had document trouble, and the Americans almost stopped him from proceeding. The fortunage intervention of another anthropologist, Jacques Soustelle, who happened to be PR in the service of De Gaulle’s Free French, rescued him. Levi Strauss went on to New York, where he was known as Claude L. Strauss, to avoid confusion with the popular jeans. Once the war was over, he worked as cultural counsellor of the French Embassy in Washington, before moving back to France in 1948. The first, very short, version of his wonderful memoir, Tristes Tropiques, was published in Encounter, the CIA-sponsored journal of the anti-Stalinist left.

Serge’s journey was not straightforward. He went to

Mexico (on a visa granted by President Cardenas hiniself), via Martinique (where he was detained in a camp for a month), Ciudad Trujillo and Havana. He reached Mexico in September 1941, and was immediately the object of violent articles, threats (to his life) from local and refugee Stalinists. (Jean Riére)

Seghors also went on to Mexico. Her anti-fascist novel, The Seventh Cross, which she had written in France, was published in English in New York and in German in Mexico. It has been serialised by a Soviet journal, International Literature, but the serialisation abrubtly halted with the Hitler-Stalin pact, when anti-fascism was no longer a Stalinist cause. Her Transit Visa, published in 1944, was a fictionalised account of the escape from France of the anti-fascist intellectuals, and the complex choreography of accidedents, lucky breaks and dishonesties by which they were able to obtain visas – “The Battle of the Visas” was Serge’s phrase for this.

Breton spent time in Martinique, then went on to New York.  He returned to France in 1946, and was active in radical politics until his death.

Added: Pierre Bourdieu on Levi-Strauss.

From the archive of struggle, no.28

Acknowledgments, as always, to Comrade E. Mostly English above the fold, other languages below. Browse the whole series here.

La Bataille Socialiste:

* Socialist Party of the US “Justice Triumphs in Spain” (1938)

Norman Thomas at Archive.org:

*Why I am a socialist – Thomas, Norman, 1884-1968. A pamphlet from the leading American socialist in the midst of the Great Depression HX15.
*What’s the matter with New York; a national problem – Thomas, Norman, 1884-1968
*Justice triumphs in Spain! : a letter about the trial of the P.O.U.M. – Thomas, Norman, 1884-1968. Allen, Devere,; 1891-1955. The US socialist party weighs in on the trial of the POUM leaders in Republican Spain JN8395.O27
*Democracy and Japanese Americans [pdf]. New York: Post War World Council, 1942.

Irish Labour and Working Class History:

*Robert Jackson Alexander, ‘Ireland’, International Trotskyism, 1929-1985 (1991)

Tendance Coatesy:

* Ken Coates “A Note on Workers’ Control”

LibCom:

* The Red Menace: Review: Anti-Parliamentary Communism in Britain, 1917-1945 (1989)
* Nick Heath: Anarchists who turned to the Bolsheviks
* Nick Heath: Jacob Abrams, Jacob aka Jack Abrams (1883 – 1953)
* The Communist Left in Germany 1918-1921 (1976)
* Walter Benjamin: The life of students (1915)
* James Goldwasser: Ret Marut: The Early B. Traven (1993)

Workers Liberty:

* Julius Jacobson: Reflections on Fascism and Communism (1983)

Dublin Opinion:

* John Goodwillie: Family Tree of the Irish Left (1983)
* John Goodwillie: Glossary of the Left in Ireland, 1960 to 1983 (1983)

Marxist Internet Archive:

Added to the Maurice Brinton Internet Archive:
*For Workers’ Power, 1965
*Review: What is Class Consciousness?, 1972
*Review: Dialectical Materialism and Psychoanalysis, 1972
*The Bolsheviks and Workers’ Control, 1970
*Socialism Reaffirmed, 1960
*Factory Committees and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, 1975

Added to the Barta Archive:
*Letter From Bucharest to Trotsky, May 1936

Added to the Tony Cliff Archive:
*Trotsky: 3. Fighting the rising Stalinist bureaucracy 1923-1927 (1991) (Volume 3 of Cliff’s political biography of Trotsky)
*Trotsky: 4. The darker the night the brighter the star 1927-1940 (1993) (Fourth and final volume of Cliff’s political biography of Trotsky)

The Anarchist Library:

*“Life in Revolutionary Barcelona” by Manolo Gonzalez
*“Beer and Revolution: Some Aspects of German Anarchist Culture in New York, 1880-1900” by Tom Goyens (2009)
*“Chavistas open fire, injure eight protestors in Caracas” by Peter Gelderloos (2007)
*“Dreams, Demands, and the Pragmatic Pitfall: The Barcelona Bus Drivers Strike” by Peter Gelderloos (2009)
*“Anti-patriotism” by Han Ryner (1934)

(more…)