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In the Era of Wars and Revolutions. American socialist cartoons of the mid-twentieth century.

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http://lawcha.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/02-April-1945-Labor-Action-Carlo.jpg

 In the era of Wars and Revolutions. American Socialist Cartoons of the mid-twentieth century. Edited by Sean Matgamma. 

“Although in some places, notably in the Untied States, Trotskyism is able to attract a fairly large number of adherents, and develop into an organised movement with a petty Fuehrer of its own, its inspiration is essentially negative. The Trotskyist is against Stalin just as the Communist is for him, and, like the majority of Communists, he wants not so much to alter the external world as to feel that the battle for prestige is gaining in his own favour.”

George Orwell. Notes on Nationalism. 1945. ( Orwell and Politics. Page 355. Penguin 2001.)

In the Era of War and Revolutions publishes American left-wing cartoons for the most part long unavailable (even on the Web). They are largely from the papers of what became the Trotskyist American Socialist Workers’ Party, and their publications, such as Labor Action, the Militant, Socialist Appeal and New Militant, although there are some from the Communist Party (US), Daily Worker.

It is immediately striking that capitalists wear top-hats, and are corpulent. while workers are muscle-bound titans. No punches are pulled. Stalinism is a horror, American capitalism is embodied in Jim Crow and Lynching, As Sean Matgamma says in the Introduction, this is “clear and stark class-struggle politics, counterposed to both capitalism and Stalinism.”.

Orwell was simply wrong to say that Trotskyists were single-minded opponents of Stalin and Orthodox Communism. There  is an equal focus on capitalism, the 1930s struggles of the US labour movement, Fascism, and, as World War 2 approached, and was fought, imperialism.

It would have been useful to have outlined the political evolution of the SWP (US) and the publications in which the cartoons appeared.

Its opposition to American participation in the World War – the subject, or sub-text,  of many of the designs -  takes some explaining.

The SWP’s own supporters claim that (2008),

The Socialist Workers Party…… maintained the Marxist view that in the modern epoch there is no progressive wing of the capitalist class. The major industrialized capitalist rivals, dominated by finance capital—what Marxists term imperialism—are constantly driven to wars of conquest in which they try to redivide the world’s territories. The working-class vanguard, the party held, needs to explain the imperialist character of the war and why workers and farmers must oppose it, fighting instead for their own class interests worldwide.

Vanguard workers in the United States came under increasing attack as Washington sought to drum up a patriotic campaign in support of its war drive. The Smith “Gag” Act was passed in 1940, prohibiting the advocacy of “overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States.” Under this thought-control law, 18 leaders of the Socialist Workers Party and Teamsters Local 544 in Minneapolis were railroaded to prison for their class-struggle course in the labor movement, including opposition to the imperialist war. They spent between 12 and 16 months behind bars.

Not everybody, one suspects, will have much sympathy with that stand. Apart from the wider problems it raises it stood uncomfortably close to the US ‘isolationists’ of the period.

Yet Stalinism, for all Orwell’s cavils, is something that was rightly a major issue for the American Trotskyists. In the Era reminds us that there were people on the left prepared to speak their opposition, and dramatically illustrate it in their publications. That some of the SWP became so obsessed with the Soviet Union that they became what would be later be called ‘neoconservatives’ perhaps shows the difficulty of maintaining a Thrid Camp position.

The SWP itself still exists, a small group of property developers who continue to publish Trotksy and use their other resources to back Cuba.

The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty are to be congratulated for publishing this material. It deserves a place on every socialists’ bookshelf. For this Blogger, who has only a passing familarity with the American left, it is a useful reminder of its rich past.

In an era of wars and revolutions, by Carlo and others, edited by Sean Matgamna. 312 pages, £8.99. To order by post, pay £8.99 plus £1.60 postage here.

More information from the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

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Note on some of the cartoonists -  Laura Gray (Slobe),

 From Labor Action.

Labor Action regularly published cartoons and caricatures penned by Jesse Cohen, who worked under the name Carlo, while the Militant ran graphics by Laura Slobe, whose party name was Laura Gray. Despite the new wave of public and scholarly interest in the history of comics and cartoons, neither Carlo nor Laura Gray has attracted much attention from historians of the graphic arts. Readers of this magazine might recognize Carlo’s work from the short profile we published in issue 37 (Summer 2004); now it’s Laura Gray’s turn.

Like Jesse Cohen, Laura Slobe attended high school in the 1920s, came of political age during the 1930s, and remained active on the far left after World War II. She was born in Pittsburgh, but grew up in Chicago, where she studied at the Art Institute of Chicago before working for the Works Progress Administration Art Project. As a young, avant-garde artist she concentrated her efforts on painting and sculpture, which remained her lifelong passions. She joined the SWP in 1942, and her first cartoon appeared in the Militant two years later. The labor journalist Art Preis later remembered that, “From the first, her work added such a fresh, bright, satirical note to the paper that it was enthusiastically hailed by our readers everywhere.” According to another SWP writer, “The cartoon’s subject matter was on the agenda of the Militant’s staff meetings. After the staff discussed and decided what the topic would be, Gray would go home and start to draw.” In addition to serving on the staff of the Militant, Gray “worked at a series of jobs to support herself, including painting store mannequins and creating window displays for some of New York’s big department stores.” She remained the SWP’s in-house artist from 1944 until her death in 1958. Tragically, she had contracted tuberculosis in her early twenties, and had a lung removed in 1947. She died after a brief bout with pneumonia.

Stalin 5

Written by Andrew Coates

April 9, 2014 at 11:35 am

Music for the Comrades on this Beautiful Day.

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With love to all those at Left Unity in Manchester today, and for all the comrades of the People’s Assembly: two songs for a beautiful day.

 

 

 

 

Live Stream from Conference.

Update: There are already splits about this Live Stream, ads, to start with.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 29, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Posted in Capitalism, Culture, Cuts, European Left, Left

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Unite Against Fascism Goes Russia Today

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Goes on Putin Telly. 

The Tendance refuses to ‘take sides‘ on the Ukraine.

As me sister pointed out on the phone, the Crimean War is not going to take place.

But yesterday  a “spokesperson” for Unite Against Fascism was on Russia Today (news around late).

She appeared to support the Russian line.

Indeed more than endorse – actively back it.

It does strike one as highly inappropriate.

Could I remind UAF of Pussy Riot, to name but one case.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 23, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Political Police Infiltration: From Women Activists, Blacklisting to Bob Lambert.

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Police Spy Lambert in Happier Days.

More fall-out from the Lawrence Cases.

Scotland Yard in new undercover police row.

Observer today.

Force accused over attempts to block claims by women allegedly deceived into sexual relationships.

Scotland Yard stands accused of covering up “institutionalised sexism” within the police in trying to block civil claims launched by women allegedly deceived into sexual relationships with undercover officers.

Police lawyers are applying to strike out, on secrecy grounds, the claims of five women who say they were duped into intimate long-term relationships with four undercover police officers working within the special demonstration squad (SDS), a Metropolitan police unit set up to infiltrate protest groups.

The legal bid, funded by the taxpayer, is being fought despite widespread outrage and promises of future transparency by Scotland Yard, following official confirmation last week that an undercover officer was deployed 21 years ago to spy on the grieving family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.

The Observer understands that police lawyers are asking the high court to reject claims against the Metropolitan police on the grounds that the force cannot deviate from its policy of neither confirming nor denying issues regarding undercover policing.

It is understood that Scotland Yard will say in a hearing, scheduled to be held on 18 March, that it is not in a position to respond to claims and therefore cannot defend it.

Last week an independent inquiry revealed that an officer identified only as N81 was deployed in a group “positioned close to the Lawrence family campaign”. The spy gathered “some personal details relating to” the murdered teenager’s parents. It was also disclosed that undercover officers had given false evidence in the courts and acted as if they were exempt from the normal rules of evidence disclosure.

Blacklist campaigners have called for the Public Inquiry into undercover police spying on the the Lawrence family to be given a wide enough remit to investigate police collusion with blacklisting. Despite documentary evidence proving beyond doubt that undercover police officers were linked to blacklisting there was no mention of this in the statement made by Theresa May to MPs.

On the very same day that the Home Secretary announced a public inquiry into the activity of Special Demonstration Squad officers spying on the Lawrence family, Operation Herne has published its 2nd report into the actions of undercover police officers.  Blacklist victims condemned as a whitewash the non-findings of the police report into police collusion in the blacklist conspiracy, which describes police discussions with blacklisting organisations as driven by “civic duty”

Blacklist Support Group statement:

“The Operation Herne report demonstrates exactly why victims of undercover police surveillance have no faith in the police investigating themselves.  There is already irrefutable evidence in the public domain that officers from undercover police units actually attended secret Consulting Association blacklist meetings, yet this is not even mentioned by Herne. Undercover Special Demonstration Squad officers are known to have posed as construction workers and infiltrated picket lines and union meetings. Information on some blacklist files could only have come from the police or the security services.  In relation to police collusion in blacklisting, the Operation Herne 2nd Report is a complete whitewash.

Only a fully independent public inquiry into the full extent of police links with corporate spying will expose the undemocratic shady practices. Any public inquiry should not be narrowly focused on the Lawrence case but should encompass the sexual relationships with female activists, Hillsborough, environmental and anti-racist campaigners, blacklisting and police collusion with big business.

There are secret political police in the UK – they are called Special Branch, MI5 and GCHQ. They spy on their own citizens who are involved in perfectly lawful political campaigning. We will continue to fight until we achieve justice”.

www.derbyshire.police.uk/Documents/About-Us/Herne/Operation-Herne—Report-2—Allegations-of-Peter-Francis.pdf

Blacklist Support Group Facebook.

We are also interested in the career on one Bob Lambert.

Latest news.

Lawyers for the two campaigners announced on Friday that they were seeking to overturn their convictions, alleging that the role of the undercover spy Bob Lambert was hidden from their original trial.

The pair, Andrew Clarke and Geoff Sheppard, were convicted of setting fire to three Debenhams stores in the 1980s to protest against the sale of fur and jailed for three and four years respectively.

They only discovered more than two decades later that the long-haired protester they knew as “Bob Robinson” was actually Lambert, an SDS spy.

After he was exposed in 2011, Lambert admitted he had worked undercover in the 1980s to “identify and prosecute members of the Animal Liberation Front who were then engaged in widespread incendiary and explosive device campaigns against vivisectors, the meat and fur trades.” He said he succeeded in getting Clarke and Sheppard arrested and imprisoned.


Detective Inspector Robert Lambert receiving award by the Islamic Human Rights Commission

“The Islamic Human Rights Commission is proud to present this award to Inspector Robert Lambert (Head of Muslim contact Unit), upon his retirement from the Metropolitan Police Service. In appreciation for his integrity and commitment to promoting a fair, just and secure society for all, which, is a rarity and will be greatly missed.”

 Inspector Robert Lambert receiving an award from the Islamic Human Rights Commission in 2007.

At this event, there was a panel, “Challenging Islamophobia”.

Its first speakers was Dr Saied Ameli. He spoke on islamophobia from a sociological perspective and commended IHRCs role in combating it. Imam Al-Asi talked of the zionist factor in islamophobia, something which is often overlooked.

Imam Muhammad Al-Asi the elected Imam of Washington DC Islamic Center, “spoke about zionist influence on university campuses.

Sister Yvonne Ridley and  George Galloway spoke.

Dr Abdul Wahid the leader of the National Executive Committee of Hizb ut Tahrir Britain,  criticized western countries selective talk of human rights, and praised the IHRC.

More on Bob Lambert, “During the IHRC’s dealing with the Metropolitan Police, in all the lies, insincerity and deception there was one person the IHRC encountered who genuinely “fought the cause of justice within the police force to try and not demonize the Muslim community” – that was Detective Inspector Robert Lambert. Detective Inspector Robert Lambert is the head of the Muslim Contact Unit at New Scotland Yard. On his retirement from the police force the Islamic Human Rights Commission invited him to join them in the struggle for justice.”

By contrast this what happened in October 2011 when Lambert was a star speaker at the Celebrate Diversity, Defend Multiculturalism, Oppose Islamophobia and Racism conference.

Campaigners today outed the most-senior-yet police spy responsible for infiltrating environmental and social justice campaigns.

Former Detective Inspector Bob Lambert MBE had just spoken at a “One Society, Many Cultures” anti-racist conference attended by 300 delegates at the Trades Union Congress HQ in Central London. He was then challenged by 5 members of London Greenpeace who called on him to apologise for the undercover police infiltration of London Greenpeace, Reclaim The Streets and other campaign groups – an operation he took part in or supervised over two decades, whilst rising to the rank of Detective Inspector.

At present apparently this is what he is doing,

Robert Lambert 

Senior Lecturer (PT) – John Grieve Policing Centre

Dr. Lambert divides his time between two part-time teaching posts: here at the John Grieve Policing Centre and at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV) at the University of St. Andrews. At both centres he teaches postgraduate and undergraduate modules based on his research and published work on terrorism, counter-terrorism, far right political violence and anti-Muslim hate crimes.

 

British Communist Party Talks Sense on Labour Party Reforms (!)

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Talks Sense on Future of Left.

The Labour Representation Committee (the largest grouping of the grass-roots Labour left) stated before yesterday’s conference,

As Labour’s special conference looks set to vote through the Collins reforms at the behest of Ed Miliband, critics on the left of the party have warned that the proposals set in train a process which could radically undermine the party’s link to the trade unions.

Although the unions have forced Miliband to back down from plans which would have seen an immediate breaking of the link, the transition over five-years to a situation where individual union levy payers will be required to ‘opt in’ as affiliated supporters represents a clear step away from the collective basis of union affiliation. Right wing elements around Progress have already made it clear that they want to re-open the question of the percentage of votes the unions hold at Conference, and their representation on the National Executive Committee in another five years.

Today we learn,

Ed Miliband secured the significant backing – and a cash donation – from former SDP leader David Owen as the Labour leader won his party’s support for reforming its links with the trade unions. Independent.

In the Morning Star on Saturday Robert Griffiths (General Secretary of the Communist Party of Britain) makes these very relevant points,

The Communist Party, on the other hand, is clear that the labour movement – and in particular the trade unions – must have its own mass electoral party which is capable of winning general elections, forming a government and enacting reforms in the interests of the working-class majority of the people.

He asks,

Is tomorrow’s Labour Party, in which the trade unions are no longer able or willing to exercise decisive collective influence, likely to perform such a role? That prospect will recede significantly when the Collins proposals are passed at this year’s Labour Party conferences.

From his perspective,

Britain’s Road to Socialism explains that it has been that party’s affiliated federal structure and its trade union and working-class composition that have ensured the existence of a significant socialist trend within it. It is this structure and composition which is now being put in mortal jeopardy.

It should be added that far from creating “one member one vote” the “reforms” will further increase the power of MPs and the circle around the Party leader.

Conferences, already reduced to impotence, a decision-making system worthy of the most Byzantine  Stalinist organisation (with powerless  members’ forms at the base and the wheeler-dealers at the  top) make claims about the changes increasing democracy and participation hollow.

In these conditions,

……the fragmentation of the labour movement’s political unity is likely to continue. New left parties and electoral alliances will proliferate, falter and reappear in new guises. More trade unionists and even some unions will withdraw from active participation in the Labour Party.

What is the alternative?

Clearly not, “Britain hosting a replay of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, or Scotland taking a separate Cuban-style road to socialism.”

Instead, we need trade union bodies at every level – up to and including the Trades Union Congress – to organise discussions, meetings and conferences to consider how many more workers and their families can be drawn into political activity and representation.

Hand in hand with this effort must go the drive to popularise the ideas and concept of socialism. Tony Benn has often pointed out that our problem in Britain is not a shortage of socialist parties but of socialists.

Many are unlikely to respond to the call for a “stronger Communist Party”, preferring a more general wish for a “stronger Left” .

But  forums like the People’s Assembly should be considering these ideas.

Perhaps the Morning Star could open wider, beyond its existing favoured circles, to debate them.