Monday, February 20, 2006

Paul Avrich: Historian of Anarchism

Paul Avrich was an outstanding historian who specialized in anarchism. I read several of his books on Russian anarchism years ago and recommend them highly. Just this last year, I was lucky enough to find his history of Haymarket at a used bookstore. It is essential--and enjoyable--reading for anyone interested in American labor and radical history.

Infoshop News has an obituary. Paul Avrich, radical historian, 1931-2006

Radical historian, Paul Avrich, died last week. He was 74. Paul Avrich was born in New York City on August 4, 1931. He was a noted historian and professor who authored many books on anarchist history, including books on the Haymarket Riot, the Modern School Movement, the Russian Revolution and a collection of oral interviews with American anarchists titled Anarchist Voices. Avrich was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize several times and in 1984 he won the Philip Taft Labor History Award.

Avrich received his B.A. from Cornell University in 1952 and his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1961. Avrich taught at Queens College of the City University of New York and at Columbia University. He was a Guggenheim fellow at Columbia University in 1967-68 and a National Endowment for the Humanities senior fellow in 1972-73.

Avrich published his dissertation on "The Russian Revolution and the Factory Committees" at Columbia University in 1961. In 1967 Avrich published his first book on the history of anarchism, "The Russian Anarchists." He went on to publish many more books on anarchist history, including "The Haymarket Tragedy" in 1984 and "Sacco and Vanzetti" in 1991. Writing about Avrich's book "Kronstadt 1921" for the New York Review of Books, Alasdair MacIntyre observed that "[Avrich] gives us the closest examination of all the available evidence that we are likely to have for some time and he uses his evidence to construct a narrative that, in its most brilliant passages, matches the power of Deutscher's The Prophet Armed and Moshe Lewin's Lenin's Last Struggle."

The Library of Congress houses the Paul Avrich Collection, a collection of over twenty thousand manuscripts and publications on American and European anarchism that Avrich donated to the library.

Ronald Creagh remembered Avrich this weekend: ".I know that Paul's friendliness will remain in the minds of all who have known him, just as his scholarship will be remembered by all who have read his remarkable books. He offers his readers very extraordinary information. Perhaps
his most thought-provoking testimony is contained in his work Anarchist Voices, which is based on his careful, time-consuming interviews with hundreds of people."

AK Press ( recently re-published Anarchist Voices.

Avrich Collection at the Library of Congress

Selected Bibliography

* The Russian Anarchists, Princeton University Press, 1967.

* Kronstadt 1921, Princeton University Press, 1970.

* Russian Rebels, 1600-1800, Schocken, 1972.

* (Editor and author of introduction) Peter Kropotkin The Conquest
of Bread, Allen Lane, 1972.

* (Editor and author of introduction) Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid, a Factor of Evolution, Allen Lane, 1972.

* (Editor) The Anarchists in the Russian Revolution, Cornell University Press, 1973.

* An American Anarchist: The Life of Voltairine de Cleyre, Princeton University Press, 1978.

* The Modern School Movement: Anarchism and Education in the United States, Princeton University Press, 1980.

* (Author of introduction) Voltairine De Cleyre, The First Mayday: The Haymarket Speeches, 1895-1910, Libertarian Book Club, 1980.

* The Haymarket Tragedy, Princeton University, 1984.

* Bakunin & Nechaev, Freedom Press, 1987.

* Anarchist Portraits, Princeton University, 1988.

* Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background, Princeton University, 1991.

* Anarchist Voices: An Oral History Of Anarchism in Amreica, Princeton University, 1996.

Sources: Includes information from Contemporary Authors Online and research assistance from Radical Reference.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Ignorance from FAIR

If you believe the Federation for American Immigration Reform and American Family Radio, then you would think that the Mexican PRI, the long-time ruling party until Vincente Fox, is a "Communist" party.

Some days I listen to one or two radio news broadcasts of American Family Radio. They're the folks that got all apogoleptic about "The Book of Daniel." A far right, Christian fundamentalist operation. Lately, they been flirting with Reconstructionism, an even more dangerous and openly theocratic right-wing strain. And, they've jumped on the anti-immigrant bandwagon. Luckily Agape Press, a far-right, Christian conservative news service, has transcription of the broadcasts. Otherwise, I might have had a hard time believing I heard things correctly.

This is pretty much the substance of news reports carried on the American Family Radio on Feb. 14.

Susan Tully, national field director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), says she is not optimistic that Mexico's national elections this summer will do anything to change the corrupt and arrogant attitude of Mexico with regard to illegal immigration. In July 2006, Mexicans will decide whether to stick with President Vicente Fox or turn the presidency over once again to the left-wing PRI. That group, Tully notes, is actually a communist party that "has been in control of the major politics of Mexico for 80 years." Fox, on the other hand, came out of the party PAN, which Tully describes as "a more conservative, non-communist party." Unfortunately for Fox, the immigration reform activist says, the PRI still controls Mexico's Chamber of Deputies and that party has thwarted the current president's efforts to accomplish many of his aims. Tully believes when Fox leaves office after completing his six-year term -- re-election is not possible under the Mexican constitution -- little will change as far as the U.S. is concerned. "It will not matter in terms of illegal immigration which party is in charge," she asserts. Mexico's leaders "are corrupt," Tully says. "They're elitist in their thinking. They are promoting and will continue to promote illegal aliens from Mexico [coming] into the United States." [Chad Groening]

It's one thing when you denounce (or praise) Hugo Chavez as a new Lenin, but when you label the corporatist and corrupt PRI as Communist, you've gone off the deep end.

There is actually a third major party in Mexico, the Party of the Democratic Revolution. Virtually every informed observer rank the PDR's Presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador as a front runner in the 2006 election. The PDR is a leftist, social democratic, or populist party. And, several left-wing parties, including the old Communist Party, were involved in its formation. It is not a Leninist or democratic centralist party, but if one were to smear a Mexican party as "Communist," the PRD would a far better candidate.

The American right has a long record of looniness about Mexico. As far back as 1918, there was a panic that Lenin had placed a revolutionary Russian army on the Mexican border. (see Theodore Draper's The Roots of American Communism). And, in the 1960s, Billy James Hargis and the ilk.

FAIR likes to protray itself as a responsible, mainstream organization and the media, unfortunately, too often buys it. But the informed observers like Center for New Community have dug out its extreme right-wing and racist ties. See this report for example. (PDF)

Valetine's Day

Johan Hari Romantic Love invented by 18th Century British Aristocrats

romantic love – our religion, our purpose, our first thought when our lives are threatened – was invented in the eighteenth century by a generation of aristocratic Englishwomen, just as surely as the Manhattan Project invented the A-bomb. Now their children were starting to have a better survival rate, these women were no longer under constant pressure to breed – so, as the sociologist and expert on the history of love Anthony Giddens says, “They began both to idealize the object of their love, and then tell stories to themselves about how their lives can be fulfilled by a lasting relationship with that person. It had never happened before.” All the love-story staples we live out in our lives – the electric first meeting, the wooing, the settling-down-together-in-bliss – were created there and then. They were popularised – and spread further down the social chain – in the next century by novelists like Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. (One of the reasons they still seem so vivid to us now is that they really were feeling those emotions – not just love, but love-leading-to-marriage – for the first time in history.)
Malaysian Muslims Warned Not to Celebate Valentine's Day

KUALA TERENGGANU, Feb 13 (Bernama) -- Muslims in the country, especially lovers, have been advised not to celebrate Valentine's Day tomorrow.

State Islam Hadhari Development Committee Deputy Chairman, Muhammad Ramli Nuh said celebrating the Day could be regarded as recognising the enemies of Islam because Valentine or Valentinus took part in planning and attacking Cordoba, once a well-known centre of Islam in Spain, causing its downfall....

Muhammad Ramli said although not many couples celebrate Valentine's Day in the state, the state government wished to remind that the celebration should not be held including in hotels.

Scott McLemee recommends some revolutionary Valentine's Day slogans

Hereabouts, we celebrate Valentine's Day by recalling the epochal struggle, almost thirty years ago, between that segment of the the Revolutionary Communist Party that boldly upheld Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, Chairman Bob Thought and the clique of renegade Menshevik revisionists who failed boldly to uphold Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, Chairman Bob Thought.

For it was the latter group -- now known as the Freedom Road Socialist Organization -- that puts out the awesome Valentine's Day Slogans each year.

Expose, defy and combat sinister bourgeois schemes to transform Comrade Valentine's Day into a festival of commodities, a reinforcer of mandatory heterosexuality and a celebration of oppressive patriarchal gender norms!

Well, hell yeah. Let's just ignore for the moment the vicious conditions for anyone outside said norms of sexuality and gender in Mao's China -- so utterly unlike the situation under the Bolsheviks, by the way. But it's good to see the new slogan in any case. Better to live and learn than never to learn at all.

Unite with all who draw strength from personal relationships in carrying on the struggle to crush oppression and exploitation and to build a better world!

Rhino Records Love Sucks

It stinks, it hurts, it tears us apart. Not really the stuff of candy and flowers, huh? If you or someone you know has gotten nothing but heartache this Valentine's Day (or any other occasion involving that malevolent blood-pumping organ), this 12-song collection offers the perfect antidote. Includes the J. Geils Band's immortal "Love Stinks," Gram Parsons' defining version of "Love Hurts," Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart," and more.

Foreign Policy: Who Do You Love

In a special Valentine’s Day Web exclusive, FP takes a look at who loves whom in the world community, with the help of a 33-country poll conducted for the BBC World Service by GlobeScan and the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA).

Friday, February 03, 2006

Bush a Saint?

A great joke via Eric Alterman via Todd Gittlin via who knows

President Bush was scheduled to worship at a small Methodist Church outside Washington, D.C. as part of Karl Rove's campaign to reverse Bush's rapidly deteriorating approval ratings. A week before the visit, Rove called on the Methodist Bishop who was scheduled to preach on the chosen Sunday. "As you know, Bishop," began Rove, "we've been getting a lot of bad publicity among Methodists because of the president's position on stem cell research and the like. We'd gladly arrange for Jack Abramoff's friends to make a contribution of $100,000 to the church if during your sermon you would say that President Bush is a saint."

The Bishop thought about it for a few minutes, and finally said, "This parish is in rather desperate need of funds ... I'll agree to do it."

The following Sunday, Bush pompously showed up for the photo op, looking especially smug even while attempting to appear pious.

After making a few announcements, the Bishop began his homily: "George W. Bush is a petty, vindictive, sanctimonious hypocrite and a nitwit. He is a liar, a cheat, and a low-intelligence weasel with the world's largest chip on his shoulder. He used every dirty election trick in the book and still lost, but his toadies in the Supreme Court appointed him. He lied about his military record in which he used special privilege to avoid combat, and then had the gall to dress up and pose on an aircraft carrier before a banner stating "Mission Accomplished." He invaded a sovereign country for oil and war profiteering, turning Iraq into a training ground for terrorists who would destroy our country. He continues to confuse the American people by insisting on a nonexistent connection between the horrors of 9/11 and the reason he started his war in Iraq. He routinely appoints incompetent and unqualified cronies to high-level federal government positions and as a result, hundreds and hundreds of Americans died tragically in New Orleans. He lets corporate polluters despoil God's creation and doom our planet. He uses fear-mongering to justify warrantless spying on American citizens, in clear violation of our Constitution. He is so psychotic and megalomaniacal that he believes that he was chosen by God. He is the worst example of a Methodist I have ever personally known. But compared to Dick Cheney and Karl Rove and the rest of the evil fascist bastards in this administration, George W. Bush is a saint.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Upton Sinclair Defended

In Editor and Publisher Greg Mitchell tackles issues raised by a recent LA Times article about an previously unknown letter by Upton Sinclair. In the letter Sinclair writes to his lawyer that Fred Moore, a radical lawyer, had told him that Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty. Some right-wing columnists have used the story to attack Sinclair and the left.

Last Thursday, a Reuters article by Arthur Spiegelman appeared. He took the trouble to consider Sinclair's entire letter-which, it turns out, was three pages long, typed. Pasco either didn't see the whole thing, or looked at it and chose to ignore key parts of it (or her editor deleted it). Spiegelman, also unlike Pasco and Goldberg, explored how Sinclair actually portrayed the Sacco and Vanzetti case in "Boston." Did he indeed "lie" about what Moore told him, or make proper use of it in a popular novel?

Spiegelman wrote that Goldberg "might have been better served if he had read the entire letter instead of the excerpts printed in the Times." In a copy of the full letter made available to Reuters, Sinclair explains that soon after he talked to Moore he began to have doubts about him: "I realized certain facts about Fred Moore. I had heard that he was using drugs. I knew that he had parted from the defense committee after the bitterest of quarrels. ... Moore admitted to me that the men themselves had never admitted their guilt to him; and I began to wonder whether his present attitude and conclusions might not be the result ofhis brooding on his wrongs."

Sinclair had even questioned Moore's former wife, who worked with the lawyer on the case, and she "expressed the greatest surprise" saying he had not expressed thoughts that the men were guilty before. All left out of the Pasco, and Goldberg, articles.

In the letter, he also vowed his novel "Boston" would tell all sides, focusing not on the question of innocence but the lack of a fair trial-putting him on very firm ground in that pursuit, most historians agree. The two anarchists may, indeed, have beenguilty-- but the trial was an outrage.

Further, Anthony Arthur, whose new biography ofSinclair will be published this June, provided excerpts from the book to Spiegelman. They show that in other letters, Sinclair quotes Moore as not even being sure both men were guilty. "Moore said neither man ever admitted it to him," Arthur writes.

In other words, it was only Moore's opinion: hardlythe "unvarnished truth," as {right-wing National Review columnist Jonah]Goldberg presents it. Yet Goldberg charged that Sinclair "knew" that the pair were guilty and "quite simply, lied."

And, finally, what about the charge that Sinclair ignored Moore's insights to save his lefty cred? In fact, "Boston" is a nuanced novel (rare for Sinclair) that introduces many reasons to question the defendant's innocence, and focuses on the question of the trial itself and the evils of the death penalty. In the same letter to Robert Minor, Sinclair explained that despite the troubling views expressed by Moore-and other debunkers--he could still write the novel "on the basis of certainty that they did not have a fair trial."

In the end, the heroine of his novel was patterned on himself: believing in the pair's innocence at the beginning and ending not knowing quite what to believe.

Arthur, the biographer, told Spiegelman that Sinclair's decision to end "Boston" on a note of ambiguity concerning Sacco and Vanzetti's guilt subjected him to "a torrent of abuse from the left." It came from Communists, anarchists and others on the
left-in other words, the kind of people Jonah Goldberg loves to target. Robert Minor called Sinclair "a hired liar, a coward and a traitor."

Once blasted by the left for his handling of the case, Spiegelman concludes, "Now he is being hit from theright." In each case, unjustly.