History

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The Haymarket Martyrs
Lucy Parsons

[A 1926 article from The Labor Defender]

Does this rising generation know that those who inaugurated the eight-hour day were put to death at the command of capital?

Until forty years ago men, women, and children toiled ten and often twelve hours a day in factories for a mere pittance and children from eight to nine years of age had to work to help to keep up the family.

The Knights of Labor, a powerful organization, claiming 500,000 members, had never agitated for a reduction of the hours of labor. Then who were the pioneers of the eight-hour movement?

Those martyrs who were strung from the gallows in Chicago on November 11, 1887, the much lied about and abused Anarchists.

The Big Ideas of 2012:
Situating Occupy Lessons From the Revolutionary Past
David Graeber

Perhaps the greatest world historian alive today, Immanuel Wallerstein,
has argued that since 1789 all major revolutions have really been world
revolutions.

The French revolution might have appeared to only take place in one
country, but really it quickly transformed the entire North Atlantic
world so profoundly that a mere 20 years later, ideas that had
previously been considered lunatic fringe – that social change was good,
that governments existed to manage social change, that governments drew
their legitimacy from an entity known as the people – had been propelled
so deeply into common sense that even the stodgiest conservative had to
at least pay lip service to them. In 1848 revolutions broke out almost
simultaneously in 50 different countries from Wallachia to Brazil. In no
country did the revolutionaries succeed in taking power, but afterwards,
institutions inspired by the French revolution – universal education
systems, for instance – were created pretty much everywhere.

The Anarchist Stuart Christie and His Very Peculiar Literary Bedfellow,
The Neo-Conservative War Propagandist Stephen Schwartz

Part One: The Anarchists and Spain: "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda…"
Kevin Keating

In 1964, a courageous young Scottish anarchist named Stuart Christie was arrested in Spain for taking part in an effort to assasinate dictator Francisco Franco. If the attempt on Franco's life had succeeded it would have been one of the most emotionally satisfying political killings of the 20th century. But alas, like many earlier efforts against the Generalissmo this attempt failed, and Christie's role in this failure had several aspects. First, shortly before going to Spain, Christie participated in a television inteview where he made it clear he thought killing Franco would be desirable. Along with the obvious lack of discretion demonstrated by Christie, it later turned out the journalist interviewing Christie, Malcolm Muggeridge, had been involved with British intelligence services during World War Two. This compounded the fact that it was neither the time nor the place for Christie to voice his fiery sentiments.

Bolshevik Opposition to Lenin:
G. T. Miasnikov and the Workers' Group
Paul Avrich

During Lenin's years in power, from October 1917 until his death in January 1924, a number of groups took shape within the Russian Communist Party-the Democratic Centralists and the Workers' Opposition are the best known-which criticized the Bolshevik leadership for abandoning the principles of the revolution.

The revolution, as sketched by Lenin in The State and Revolution and other works had promised the destruction of the centralized bureaucratic state and its replacement with a new social order, modeled on the Paris Commune of 1871, in which the direct democracy of the workers would be realized. The cardinal feature of this "commune state," as Lenin called it, was to be its repudiation of bureaucratic authority. The workers themselves would administer the government through grass-roots organizations, of which the soviets were the foremost example. Workers' control, through factory committees and trade unions, would function similarly in economic life, replacing private ownership and management with a system of industrial democracy and self-administration in which the rank and file would shape their own destiny. Mistakes would be made, Lenin conceded, but the workers would learn by experience. "The most important thing," he declared, "is to instill in the oppressed and laboring masses confidence in their own power."' Such was Lenin's vision before October.

Once in power, however, he saw things from a different perspective. Overnight, as it were, the Bolsheviks were transformed from a revolutionary into a governing party, from an organization that encouraged spontaneous action against existing institutions into one that sought to contain it.

Largest Mass Execution in US History: 150 Years Ago Today
Jon Wiener

December 26, 1862: thirty-eight Dakota Indians were hung in Mankato, Minnesota, in the largest mass execution in US history–on orders of President Abraham Lincoln. Their crime: killing 490 white settlers, including women and children, in the Santee Sioux uprising the previous August.

The execution took place on a giant square scaffold in the center of town, in front of an audience of hundreds of white people. The thirty-eight Dakota men “wailed and danced atop the gallows,” according to Robert K. Elder of The New York Times, “waiting for the trapdoors to drop beneath them.” A witness reported that, “as the last moment rapidly approached, they each called out their name and shouted in their native language: ‘I’m here! I’m here!’ ”

The Tribe of Moles
Sergio Bologna

[Translated by Ed Emery. This is Bologna's seminal investigation of class composition in Italy in the 1960s and 1970s. A Note on Terminology: The categories of class analysis used by the sociology of the traditional working-class movement and by bourgeois sociology (petty bourgeoisie, middle class, lumpen- or sub-proletariat, lumpen-bourgeoisie etc) are used here only in their conventional historical usage. We consider the scientific value of these classifications - in present conditions, and given the assumptions underlying them - to be doubtful to say the least. They have only a conventional value, inasmuch as the concepts of capital and class composition are far better suited to define the dynamic of class relations today as relations of power, which is what concerns us.

The same applies to the category of income. It is used first in its conventional and distributionist sense, derived from bourgeois political economy and largely accepted by the official labour movement; and secondly in its scientific Marxist sense, as revenue - ie income immediately spendable in the sphere of circulation, money as money, which is not exchanged as capital.

But even this latter concept is not entirely satisfactory or adequate for contemporary analysis, insofar as it carries with it a precise historical connotation: it refers to a particular separation between productive labour (exchanged with capital and producing surplus value) and unproductive labour (which, even if it takes a waged form, does not produce surplus value). This separation becomes merely a formal distinction, of little value in analysis of present-day conditions of a fully socialised capitalism.

These contradictions of language are an expression of the contemporary crisis of the traditional Marxist conceptual apparatus. They underline the need for a creative and political re-evaluation of analytical categories, a "rediscovery" of Marxism in the light of the contemporary class struggle. We can then overcome them in a positive way, confronting them dynamically, rather than allowing them to paralyse political analysis. This is why we have preferred a certain polyvalence of meaning (at the risk of confusion) to silence - let alone a biblical and literal exegesis of Marx!]

The Tribe of Moles
This article is a provisional attempt to trace the internal development of the autonomous class movement in Italy, which led to the explosive confrontation around the University occupations in Spring 1977. Such an analysis is only meaningful if it allows us to uncover the new class composition underlying these struggles, and to indicate the first elements of a programme to advance and further generalise the movement.

Reflections on the Cult of Stalin
Georg Lukacs

[First published: as “Brief an Alberto Carocci” in the special issues of Nuovi Argomenti, Nos. 57-58, 1962, devoted to the discussion of the Twenty-second Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union; it was subsequently published as “Privatbrief über Stalinismus, Brief an Alberto Carocci” in Forum, Nos. 115-117, 1693; abridged English translation, published 1963; Transcribed: by André Nj.]

Dear Senor Carocci,

I am very tempted to reply at length to the problems which you raise in your “eight questions”: for practically everything that has occupied the minds of many of us for years – past is concentrated in them. Unfortunately, the circumstances in which I find myself compel me to renounce this intention. But since I do not wish to keep from you completely the ideas in my mind, I am writing just a simple private letter, which, of course, does not pretend at all to deal systematically with all the essential questions.

I begin with the expression “cult of the personality.” Of course I regard it as absurd to reduce the substance and the problems of such an important period in the history of the world to the particular character of an individual. ...

My first reaction to the Twentieth Congress concerned not only the personality but the organization: the apparatus which had produced the cult of the personality and which had fixed it in a sort of endless enlarged reproduction. I pictured Stalin to myself as the apex of a pyramid which widened gradually toward the base and was composed of many ‘little Stalins”: they, seen from above, were the objects and, seen from below, the creators and guardians of the “cult of the personality.” Without the regular and unchallenged functioning of this mechanism the “cult of the personality” would have remained a subjective dream, a pathological fact, and would not have attained the social effectiveness which it exercised for decades.

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