Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Coatesy’s Hall of Leftist Fame (and Honour).

with 15 comments

Within its Shade We’ll Live…..

The Morning Star (see below) has published a list of 10 Leftists who never sold out.

There are surely better candidates than many of theirs.

We accept that they should be twentieth and twenty-first century figures (otherwise we could go back to Ur).

 However, the rules should be a bit laxer than the Star’s. They  concentrate exclusively on Office Holders. Having a degree of political or social power and influence should be the major criterion. In any kind of politics (from Cabinets to movements). This would mean no pure academics or theorists. But would embrace a wide swathe of those who’ve helped shaped the world for the better. Without them necessarily having been in charge of government.

Here are some suggestions.

  • Rosa Luxemberg. Three things stand out. Her utterly uncompromising defence of democratic freedom – against all comers. Her activism on behalf of  the power and ability of ordinary people to organise and decide for themselves.  And Rosa’s brilliant contribution to Marxist theory. Murdered by Fascist Freikörps backed by German Social Democrats. Our greatest Martyr.
  • Jean Jaurès. A founding democratic socialist Jaurès combined ethical idealism, French republicanism, internationalism, and undogmatic Marxism. In 1914 shot by nationalist. Paid for his anti-war campaigning with his life.
  • Andrés Nin. Leading figure in the Spanish POUM. Independent  Marxist  and anti-Fascist fighter, defender of  the Republican cause.  Tortured to death under the supervision of Stalin’s NKVD.
  • Antonio Gramsci. Leader of young Italian Communist Party. Imprisoned by Mussolini until his death. Active supporter of workers’ councils, and theorist of hegemony.
  • Emma Goldman. For her love of life, her free spirit, and her contribution to the cause of liberation. Loathed by bullies:  from the USA’s plutocrats  to the bureaucrats of Soviet Russia.

Now for some more recent people.

  • Michalis N. Raptis (‘Pablo’). Innovative Marxist who developed out of Trotskyism into a backer of self-management. participated actively in the Algerian Revolution, and backed Thrid World Causes before this became fashionable.
  • Alain Krivine. The living embodiment of the best in European Marxist activism.
  • Evo Morales. A real Latin American leftist leader. From his work in the Indian communities of Bolivia to the mines and urban centres, Morales is a democrat and a socialist who’s got his feet on the ground. Not his head wrapped  in self-promotion and glorious deeds.
  • Aimé Césaire. Poets are the ‘unacknowledged legislatures of the world’. One of the greatest, he helped bring ”Third-world’ culture to the World at large.

Any ideas for a tenth?

Written by Andrew Coates

September 27, 2009 at 11:02 am

15 Responses

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  1. Henk Sneevliet or José Carlos Mariátegui?


    September 27, 2009 at 11:25 am

  2. I’ve always had a soft spot for Amilcar Cabral


    September 27, 2009 at 11:33 am

  3. The late Irish socialist Tony Gregory TD (1947-2009). Always stood by his constituents, a champion of inner city Dublin, he famously refused to wear a tie during his time in Ireland’s Parliament (Dail Eireann).

    Weston Bay

    September 27, 2009 at 12:37 pm

  4. Jim Larkin.


    September 27, 2009 at 3:46 pm

  5. Bernadette Devlin McAliskey

    Lobby Ludd

    September 27, 2009 at 6:33 pm

  6. Interesting people, good people (re. Cabral, I used to have a badge for him, though Guinea-Bissau ended badly..). The Irish ones: me Sister’s claim to fame is that Bernadette once stayed round her house in Brighton.

    Had to look up Sneevliet. Memory was just that Trotsky said soemthing nasty about him (or so I think). Reading Wikipedia it looks very worth finding out more. José Carlos Mariátegui is a bit too rhetorical to read, but I suppose the actions count for more.

    Andrew Coates

    September 28, 2009 at 12:03 pm

  7. I’m willing to admit that Cabral might fall into the ‘died before he had a chance to fuck things up category’


    September 28, 2009 at 10:18 pm

  8. John Maclean


    September 29, 2009 at 2:49 pm

  9. I’ve been thinking about my list since you posted Clarky’s Stalinoid list. What I came up with overlaps with yours quite a bit.

    Died prematurely, but not too young to have turned down the chance to sell out:
    * Rosa Luxembourg
    * Andreu Nin
    * Jean Juares

    Lived plenty long enough for us to be sure about them:
    * CLR James
    * William Morris
    * Rudolf Rocker and Millie Witkop
    * Daniel Guerin
    * Emma Goldman (actually got much better with age)
    * Pierre Bourdieu

    Might be too early to tell:
    * Evo Morales

    I had Sylvia Pankhurst on my original list, but decided that she actually did sell out, as Haile Selassie’s regime was not the most emancipatory, however cool.

    I like the Sneevliet suggestion. He’s very little known in the English-speaking world, and I don’t know enough about him to have him on my list.

    I’ve always been anti-Pablo, so you’ve inspired me to go back to school on him Andrew.


    October 1, 2009 at 12:53 pm

  10. Jim Larkin and John Maclean are good suggestions too.


    October 1, 2009 at 12:54 pm

  11. John McLean backed an independent Scottish Socialist Republic: was he an internationalist? Discuss.

    Bourdieu wrote a lot of very boring semi-functionalist (concept of habitus etc) sociology before he discovered his leftist roots.

    Morris wrote a lot of unreadable fake medievalist poetry for which I and the international proletariat shall never forgive him.

    Syliva Pankhurst: rather like Bob Pitt, an ultra-leftist (he was you know, a long time before he joined the Labour Party) who went weak at the knees at ‘anti-imperialist’ medievalism (her, Selassie, him Islamicism).

    Must learn more about Rudolf Rocker and Millie Witkop. Sounds interesting. Very little known in the Coatesite speaking world.

    Andrew Coates

    October 2, 2009 at 11:08 am

  12. Mclean’s position was as internationalist as, say, Lenin’s or Fanon’s. Only if you say that national self-determination in general is incompatible with internationalism can you dismiss it. But I am more with Luxumburg than Lenin, and suspicious of all claims to national self-determination, so I’m happy for Mclean to get kicked off the list.

    Bourdieu: his leftist roots were pretty deep, and his early book on Algeria was important in the anti-colonial struggle, as well as strongly supporting Guerin’s version of autogestion. I don’t find his stuff semi-functionalist at all, but that’s a different story. More relevant is the way that when most of his generation were turning to the right (the nouveaux philosophes) or towards various forms of neo-Leninist mysticism (e.g. Badiou), Bourdieu returned to politics with a decisive anti-capitalist agenda, and one, like Morales’ rooted in popular everyday reality.

    I like the Pankhurst/Pitt analogy, even if it’s excessively flattering to Pitt. I think that her motivations for getting entangled with the Ethiopian monarchy were good (anti-imperialism, anti-fascism), and Lenin’s cruelty to her disillusioned her with the communist movement.

    Morris: fair enough. But I included him because, like Bourdieu, he bucked the trend of growing out of socialism: he was nearly 50 when he became active in the socialist movement. If he’d been able to unseat the horrific national socialist Hyndman from the leadership of the SDF, history might have been different…


    October 2, 2009 at 1:39 pm

  13. Erm, George Orwell?

    sackcloth and ashes

    October 6, 2009 at 1:16 pm

  14. As for Sylvia Pankhurst, did she not become a supporter of Haile Selassie after Ethiopia was invaded by Fascist Italy?

    sackcloth and ashes

    October 6, 2009 at 1:18 pm

  15. Pankhurst’s lover, Silvio Corio, was an Italian anarchist, a stateless refugee who had left Italy after a term in prison at the turn of the century. He was involved in Italian refugee circles in London, as well as in anti-war and anti-colonial campaigns, and so was very early to see the rise of fascism in Italy as a serious danger.

    It was partly through him that Pankhurst was involved in the PSI after WWI, and therefore spent time with both Gramsci and Bordiga, and it is likely that there was some cross-fertilisation of ideas, with both Gramsci’s version of autogestion and Bordiga’s anti-parliamentarism resonating with Pankhurst’s form of communism.

    After withdrawing from politics for a while, bruised by her clashes with Lenin and taking the time to have a baby at age 45, she returned to politics in the early 1930s in response to the rise of Mosley, but Corio’s awareness of Italian fascism surely informed her anti-fascism. For them, solidarity with Mussolini’s victims and defence of Mosley’s victims were closely connected, and support for Abyssinia, when Italy invaded it in 1934, was very much part of the same struggle.


    October 7, 2009 at 10:03 am

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