July 27, 2015
In this guest post, ANTI-WAR points to the history of radical intellectuals embracing “revolutionary” regimes, and cautions against repeating those mistakes today
In the second year of the Great Leap Forward famine – in which perhaps 30 million died – Herbert
Read visited China on an official delegation. Read’s acceptance of a knighthood for his literary achievements had already discredited him amongst many anarchists. But, at the time of his visit in 1959, he was still the most prominent anarchist in Britain and his published writings had considerable influence on, amongst others, Murray Bookchin.
Read’s “Letters from China” show how easy it is for a radical intellectual to get it completely wrong. The nearest comparable episode was in 1967 when Noam Chomsky used phrases such as ‘mutual aid’, ‘popular control’ and ‘nonviolence’ while referring to Mao’s collectivisation policies. (Later, in 1977-79, Chomsky was also reluctant to acknowledge the full horror of Pol Pot’s version of these policies. See “Chomsky on Cambodia” and here and here.)
These extracts are a timely reminder to be sceptical of any account that claims that the new Read the rest of this entry »
July 9, 2015
People in Moscow may soon get a chance to vote to return a statue of Feliks Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Soviet secret police, to the plinth in Lubyanka square from which it was toppled in 1991.
The ballot – which will go ahead if an initiative group, sanctioned by the city council, collects 140,000-odd signatures supporting it – comes at a time when Soviet symbols, especially second world war symbols, are being
This is not about him. Feliks Dzerzhinsky (centre) with a group of officers from the Cheka security service during the Russian civil war
called into service to justify Russian aggression against Ukraine. History is being mobilised to buttress the image of a strong Russian state, which president Vladimir Putin’s propagandists claim is a crucial bastion against western, above all American, geopolitical domination.
Dzerzhinsky, a Polish socialist freed from Moscow’s Butyrka prison during the 1917 revolution before taking charge of the Soviet state’s rudimentary security service, would be horrified; he despised all nationalisms great and small. But this is not about him. It’s about a statue that stood outside the security service’s headquarters where oppositionists and dissidents were detained from Dzerzhinsky’s time. After his death in 1926, and especially in the mid and late 1930s, the number of detainees swelled tens and hundreds of times over; they were interrogated, tortured and then shot or deported to the Gulag.
In August 1991, a crowd of demonstrators tried to topple the giant monument. They were celebrating the defeat of the state committee of emergency, a bunch of security services and army chiefs who had detained the last Read the rest of this entry »
June 18, 2015
A response to Ned Ludd by GABRIEL LEVY
Ned Ludd’s article on socialism and ecology raises important questions. What would a “real fusion” of socialism and ecology look like? How should socialist
A can factory, 1909. Source: resourcesforhistoryteachers.wikispaces.com
movements look at industrialism? Is “technocracy” a concept that helps us get to grips with this?
The left “needs to abandon its mythology of the ‘liberation of the productive forces’”, Ned argues. “Instead of that narrative of progress, we need to realise that industrialism is a 200-year-old bubble that is beginning to burst.”
Much of the organised left accepts uncritically assumptions about the benefits of industrial progress, and Ned’s warnings about this are justified, to my mind. The view of technology as something that marches forward outside of its social context, and will ultimately serve progressive causes in changing that social context, needs to be challenged.
The best place I can think of to start a serious critique of the “mythology of the ‘liberation of the productive forces’”, as Ned proposes, is with Karl Marx. After all, Read the rest of this entry »