IF we are talking of full-length books, German scholarship leads the field. Apart from works by Ernest Mandel and Enzo Traverso, which are easily obtainable in English, ISP Verlag has recently brought out Karl Radek in der ‘Russischen Korrespondenz’ and Clara Zetkin’s Erinnerungen an Lenin (available for 15 and 20 Deutschmarks respectively from Neuer ISP Verlag, Marienstrasse 15, 76137 Karlsruhe, Germany). In Revolutionary History, Volume 6, no 2/3, Summer 1996, we referred to the new material published in the German quarterly dedicated to labour movement history, the Internationale wissenschaftliche Korrespondenz zur Geschichte der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung (IWK), on Leo Jogiches and Rosa Luxemburg, in particular by the Polish Luxemburg scholar Feliks Tych, and some recently discovered letters were included in translation in New Interventions, Volume 9, no 2, Spring 1999, together with a translation of a draft by Rosa Luxemburg on the International that had only recently been published. Mike Jones appended a postscript on Mathilde Jacob, a remarkable woman whose rôle, not just as Luxemburg’s secretary and friend but in keeping the Spartacus group functioning, was only becoming known in the 1990s, due to the research of scholars like Ottokar Luban, whose findings were published particularly in the IWK, not forgetting the outstanding book by Heinz Knobloch, Meine liebste Mathilde (Frankfurt/Main, 1997), which builds up a picture of the woman, her rôle and subsequent fate, each edition adding to the picture, and which brought her out of obscurity. The references for the relevant issues of IWK were included, followed by a translation of a newly-discovered letter by Leo Jogiches which, apart from his own problems in jail, presented his misgivings about the course being taken by the Soviet government. It, too, comes from the IWK and had been preceded by an essay by Feliks Tych and Ottokar Luban.
Further research by Ottokar Luban on Rosa Luxemburg and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) leadership during the January 1919 uprising in Berlin is in ‘Demokratische Sozialistin oder “Blutige Rosa”? Rosa Luxemburg und die KPD-Führung im Berliner Januaraufstand 1919’, IWK, Volume 35, no 2, June 1999. But this has now been superseded by a further essay on the same subject entitled ‘Die ratlose Rosa. Die KPD-Führung and der Berliner Januaraufstand 1919 — Legende und Wirklichkeit’, published as a supplement to the January 2001 edition of the Hamburg monthly Sozialismus, in which Luban examines both the attitude of Rosa Luxemburg and other KPD leaders towards the attempt, led mainly by leading figures from the Berlin Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD), in particular the revolutionary shop stewards from the Berlin factories, and the mythology created after the murders of Liebknecht and Luxemburg not only by the apologists for the status quo, but also by the KPD.
Luban makes use of newly-accessible source materials, such as a manuscript written in the spring of 1920 by Wilhelm Pieck — who together with Liebknecht represented the KPD in the uprising leadership — that was only ever published in a suitably censored form in the past, unpublished minutes of the USPD’s factory council representatives’ meetings, previously unpublished parts of the trial of Ledebour — Georg Ledebour was one of the triumvirate who was supposed to take over the government — and a letter from Karl Radek only published in Russia in 1998, as well as analysing the revolutionary press and leaflets of the time. Luban shows that, contrary to the myth, Luxemburg and the KPD leadership pressed for an uprising when they believed it had the support of the majority of the Berlin workers, plus the troops and sailors based in the city, but were opposed once that majority support was clearly absent. The essay combines the one in IWK, Volume 35, no 2, June 1999, and one in IWK, Volume 36, no 3/4, 2000, dealing with Radek’s activity in Berlin from December 1918 to February 1919, in a slightly shorted form and shorn of most of the notes which, for ease of reading and probably considerations of length, are cut to a minimum. Needless to say, the picture presented is a more differentiated and wholly different one than hitherto, and presents a series of new problems to consider, particularly regarding the pressure for unity of the labour movement coming from the rank and file in a situation where the revolution is not headed by the revolutionaries, who are really quite marginal, but by so-called centrist-swamp elements. A translation of the essay exists.
The solidarity with the October Revolution from workers all around the world, along with the Soviet government’s call for workers to move to the Soviet republic, began a process whereby particularly skilled workers moved there, often whole families, starting in the mid-1920s, but reaching a high point in the late 1920s and early 1930s, as both the world economic crisis left many unemployed, maybe even blacklisted, and Stalin’s Five Year Plans industrialised the Soviet Union. In Russlandfahrer. Aus dem Wald in die Welt (WAGE Verlag, Tessin, 2000), Gerhard Kaiser has assembled a study of those skilled workers from the towns and villages of the Thuringian Forest who, full of idealism, heeded the call and left for Russia. Factories and even industries were often built from scratch, like the thermometer factory set up by Otto Möller and his comrades. Möller had been chairman of the thermometer-makers’ cooperative in Elgersburg. The author describes the lives of these pioneers, their sufferings in the Great Terror, the experiences of those who went to fight in Spain and later in the French resistance, the ones handed over to the Gestapo when the purges began up until the time of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, those who ended up in the Gulag or were shot, and those who survived, and sometimes succeeding in returning home to Thuringia and the GDR. The book contains many photos, a list of those from the Thuringian Forest whose fate could be established, the places of work, and various documents: one from Stalin pointing out that the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee in 1937 had agreed to sanction violence against detainees by the NKVD, another says how enquiries into the fates of victims were to be obscured, while one claims no knowledge of the fate of Ewald Ripperger, whose family is one of those dealt with in depth, appended also is a list of the 20 765 NKVD victims shot at Butovo from August 1937 to October 1938 — Moscow’s graveyards couldn’t cope, so secret execution sites were established, 11 in Moscow alone — detailed sources are included. Gerhard Kaiser’s book illuminates a piece of history not told elsewhere, and is a tribute to both its protagonists and victims.
Ulla Plener’s article ‘Was in der SU vorgeht, ist ungeheuerlich… Deutsche Arbeiter in Moskau als “Brandleristen” verhaftet. Aus den Akten des NKWD’, Utopie kreativ, no 119, 2000 (a journal close to the Party of Democratic Socialism) reconstructs the case against Otto Möller and his comrades from NKVD files. They were accused of receiving material from Brandler and failing to report it, etc.
Jochen Czerny, Monika Rank and Beate Roch (eds), Republik im Niemandsland. Ein Schwarzenberg-Lesebuch (Schkeuditz, 1997), is another fascinating historical study of the part of South Saxony, just south of Zwickau and Chemnitz and reaching to the Czechoslovak border, that remained unoccupied by either the US or the Red Army at the end of the Second World War. This ‘Republic in no-man’s-land’, or ‘Schwarzenberg Republic’, as Stefan Heym called it in a ‘factional’ novel based on the episode (Schwarzenberg, Roman, Frankfurt/Main, 1987), was left to its own devices for two months or so until its status was determined as being in the Soviet zone. The book is composed of contributions to a colloquium celebrating the episode, plus some extra ones written especially for the book. It has three main sections: reminiscences, research and considerations, along with numerous documents and maps, annotation and indexing. The first section includes, among others, an account by Paul Korb, at the time 91 years old and the last surviving member of the Anti-Fascist Action Committee in Schwarzenberg, who relates how it was set up and then functioned. Faced with the task of ending the chaos, setting up an administration, finding food, repatriating the forced labourers, looking after refugees, dealing with Nazis and marauders, and even printing money, the members of the workers’ parties present joined together under their own steam and set about the tasks. An Anti-Fascist Movement was established, under the leadership of Alfred Feldgenhäuer, before 1933 a member of the KPD(O), encompassing about 6000 members, 600 of which were in Schwarzenberg itself. Korb relates that prior to 1933, the two main workers’ parties together only had between 200 and 250 members in the town — which illustrates the attraction of there being just one workers’ mass organisation. The second part contains a chapter of interviews with ordinary people on how they remember the time — in Saxon dialect, but with a German explanation where necessary. Some complain that such and such a thing in Heym’s novel never took place, thereby misunderstanding its nature. Two chapters examine Heym’s novel in different ways. Among other subjects, the press and the money produced are examined. In the third section, there are extensive essays by Jochen Czerny, on historical writing in the GDR about the Schwarzenberg Anti-Fascist Regime, and by Günter Benser on the KPD Central Committee and the Anti-Fascist Committees. One must remember that while the workers were setting about their tasks in a united manner, the KPD CC was still in Moscow. This minor problem had to be explained later in historical works. In all, the book contains 19 contributions aside from the documents, and as well as being an informative historical work, I found it inspiring to read how Communist and Socialist militants of varying tendencies, after 12 years of Nazi oppression, came forward to do their duty as they saw it according to their political outlook, and without any central committee handing down its orders. It deserves to be known further afield. More extensive reviews of both these fascinating books will appear in the future.
Few recent publications can approach the interest value of Ngo Van’s memoirs in French, Au pays de la cloche fêlée (obtainable from L’Insomniac, 63 rue de Sainte-Mandé, 93100, Montreuil), which not only gives a full account of his life, but also has a final chapter summarising the careers of his contemporaries as leaders of the Vietnamese revolutionary movement, such as Ta Thu Thâu, Phan Van Hum, Lu Sanh Hanh, Ho Huu Tuong, Trân van Thach and others. For books published over here, on the libertarian side we have two essays on the Spanish Civil War by Murray Bookchin dating from 1973 and 1986, in To Remember Spain (available from AK Press, 22 Lutton Place, Edinburgh EH8 9PE, for £4.50 plus postage). Those who have Sam Dolgoff’s The Anarchist Collectives will already have the first of these, which served as a preface to it, but it is well worth the money for the second essay alone. Al Richardson’s collection, Alfred Rosmer on Trotsky and Trotskyism, is due to come out before the end of this year.
France continues to lead the field for the number of magazines dealing with our subject. The latest of the Cahiers Léon Trotsky (nos 71 and 72, September and December 2000) contain Tico Jossifort’s account of the first Trotskyist group in Bulgaria, Augustin Guillamón’s analysis of the politics of Josep Rebull, the leader of the Barcelona left of the POUM in the Spanish Civil War, Pierre Broué’s survey of the memoirs of Yvan Craipeau and Fred Zeller, Trotsky’s letter to Bordiga about the German events of October 1923, Alexei Gusev’s account of the Left Opposition in the early 1930s and Erwin Ackernecht’s reminiscences of Trotsky when he was International Secretary of the ICL, along with a French version of some of Gary Tennant’s work on the Cuban oppositionists first published in Revolutionary History, Volume 7, no 3. Each issue of this magazine costs 90 francs plus postage from Luc Aujaume, 477 chemin du Puits, 69210 Fleurieux sur l’Arbresle, France. The Cahiers Rosa Luxemburg dossier in the latest issue of Prométhée (no 20, Autumn 2000) reprints a number of useful articles contributed by Boris Souvarine and Amédée Dunois to the Bulletin communiste between August 1920 and April 1923 marking the early stages in the formation of the French Communist Party. It provides necessary background documentation to an article about the formation of the PCF by Emile Fabrol published in the previous issue. A year’s subscription to this excellent quarterly can be obtained by sending 75 francs to Prométhée, BP Bobigny Cedex, France. The actual split in the French Socialist Party at the Congress of Tours that led to the formation of the Communist Party is the subject of an interesting dossier in the latest issue of Critique Communiste (no 161, Winter 2000-01, pp43-70), with an analysis of how the differences developed within the party during the First World War by Eric Lafon, a symposium collected together by him to place the split in its historic context, and further articles on its long-term significance by Francis Sitel and François Ollivier. A year’s subscription from abroad to this magazine costs 580 francs from Editions le Brèche, 2 rue Richard-Lenoir, 93100, Montreuil, France.
A treasury of materials relating to Rosa Luxemburg herself appears as ‘Rosa Luxemburg aujourd’hui’ in no 18 of the journal Commune (May 2000) including articles by Romain Rolland, Michael Löwy, Max Gallo and Jean-Jacques Karman, among others. Each issue of this quarterly publication costs 60 francs plus postage, obtainable from La Revue Commune, 6 avenue Édouard Vaillant, 93500 Pantin, France. And for those who really appreciate Rosa Luxemburg’s work, we now have Mathilde Jacob’s very fine reminiscences, Rosa Luxemburg: An Intimate Portrait, translated by David Fernbach from the Internationale wissenschaftliche Korrespondenz der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung (Volume 24, no 4, 1988) and published last year by Lawrence and Wishart.
CERMTRI continues to expand its output. The Cahiers du Mouvement Ouvrier is now appearing at regular quarterly intervals, costing 50 francs per issue plus postage. No 11 (September 2000) is mostly devoted to the USSR, with materials on the Unitary Opposition, Rykov, Muralov, the June 1937 Purge of the Generals, and Afanassiev’s report to Beria of 31 May 1939 on NKVD espionage within the Fourth International. But it also includes an extract from Wilebaldo Solano’s El POUM en la Historia dealing with the 1937 May Days in Barcelona, and another from Ngo Van’s Viet-nam, 1920-1945 on the Indo-Chinese Trotskyists and Stalinists on the eve of the Second World War. No 12 (December 2000-January 2001) contains, among others, an essay by the late John Archer on the British working-class movement at the beginning of the 1930s, another on the Radomir army mutiny of 1918 in Bulgaria, Shliapnikov’s reminiscences of France in 1925, and first hand accounts of the Ukrainian famine caused by Stalin’s collectivisation. Two more of CERMTRI’s documentary Cahiers have also come out since our last survey. No 98 (December 2000) deals with the Fourth International and the revolutionary movement in India, consisting mainly of material that appeared in Fourth International magazine by Philip, the BLPI and the manifesto of September 1942, but also including a short survey of the situation in India in a letter from Fyodor Dingelstedt to Trotsky written on 8 July 1928 (reprinted from Contre le Courant, nos 29-30, 6 May 1929) and an article on Comintern policy in India by Jean-Jacques (from Lutte de Classes, no 27, January 1931). No 99 (December 2000) returns to the well-worn theme of Trotsky’s assassination. Along with the now familiar accounts by Sudoplatov, Joe Hansen, and Esteban Volkov, there is a collection of contemporary Stalinist materials: some extracts from the transcripts of the Moscow Trials, the Short Course History of the CPSU (Bolshevik) and Pravda’s article of 20 August 1940. More interesting is the account of Ramon Mercader by his brother that first appeared in the Moscow News (no 12, 19 March 1999). Each of CERMTRI’s Cahiers costs 30 francs plus postage from 28 rue des Petites-Ecuries, 75010, Paris, France, which is also the address for obtaining the Cahiers du Mouvement Ouvrier.
The output of Paolo Casciola still puts us all to shame, much of it of the highest quality. The two series of ‘Archives of Bolshevism’ and ‘Studies and Researches’, having reached a total of 67 in all, were discontinued in September 1996, to be replaced by the Quaderni Pietro Tresso, which notched up its twenty-sixth issue at the end of last year. The latest numbers include an Italian translation of Panaït Istrati’s novel The Thistles of Baragan, on the Romanian peasant uprising of 1907 (no 24, July-August 2000), and a bulletin put out by Nicola di Bartolomeo in May 1936 advocating unity with the official Italian Trotskyist group of the time led by Tresso (no 26, September-October 2000). For the new year he promises a reprint of Albert Mathiez’ Le Bolchévisme et le Jacobinisme, first put out by the French Socialist party in 1920 (no 28), and a collection of the leaflets, letters and discussion documents distributed by Barta’s Groupe communiste during the Second World War (no 29). English readers, whose laziness in tackling foreign languages is proverbial, will appreciate the translations of Arturo Peregalli’s ‘Simone Weil and Stalinism’ (Studi e Ricerche series no 37, November 1995), and his and Sandro Saggioro’s, ‘Amadeo Bordiga: The Dark Years (1926-1945)’ (Quaderni no 3, January 1997), by far the best treatment of its subject. Since the publications of the Centro vary so much in length and price, interested parties should write for a full list to Paolo Casciola, CP154-50100, Firenze, Italy.
The Marxists Internet Archive continues to expand. It is now averaging over 100 000 hits a day and 56 000 pages a day down-loaded by visitors to the site. All this information can be gathered from the statistics on the site which are automatically updated. More is being added and much is going on in the non-English language area. In the English language, as well as more Lenin and Luxemburg, Einde O’Callaghan has recently added a vast amount of James Connolly’s material, mostly short articles from left-wing papers, but not easily accessible except in dusty libraries or obscure journals by Irish radical groups. Reading this, it turns out that Connolly did not really have Leninist positions on the war, but was quite pro-German. John Newsinger has also pointed this out in an article in Irish Sword, a military history journal devoted to the exploits of Irishmen in the service of French and Spanish imperialism rather than the British variety. There have been no further developments and no further communications from the American Socialist Workers Party in their attempt to prevent the publication of some of Trotsky’s works (the correspondence on this matter can be found on the site).
Einde has also set up his own bilingual English and German website, ‘Reds’ or ‘Die Roten’, at www.marxists.de, much of which is material on the International Socialist Tendency, including a number of articles from the second series of International Socialism. He is also starting an archive on Palestine and Zionism from a Marxist perspective which includes both Lenni Brenner’s Zionism in the Age of Dictators and an early article by Tony Cliff from the Fourth International in 1945, as well as a number of useful links to sites dealing with this theme. He hopes to expand this Middle East section considerably in the future. Apart from its historical perspective, this is much needed at present, and I am sure he would appreciate help in both finding and preparing useful texts in digital form.
Our own Revolutionary History site www.revolutionary-history.co.uk has not had much new material on it since the last issue, but we hope to make big changes to it after the general election.
Dimitrov’s Diary and American Academe
We have been contacted by Stephen Schwarz who writes to us about a struggle in American academe on the history of the USSR and Stalinism. He tells us that Dimitrov’s diary is scheduled for publication in the same Yale series as Radosh’s Spanish Civil War volume and the four volumes by Klehr and Haynes on the Communist Party of the USA and the Venona affair, of which three have appeared. Dimitrov’s diary is being translated for the same series by the Yale South Slavicist Ivo Banac with whom Schwarz formerly had a very close relationship, but with whom he fell out. Banač especially wanted Schwarz to help him identify Spanish Communist Party figures, which he was glad to do. But Schwarz doubts if Dimitrov’s diary will be out before about 2003. He says too that Banac is also very jealous of the text, and will not release excerpts. Schwarz says his break with Banac involved disagreement over the alliance of the Western authorities in Bosnia with the ex-CP bureaucracy and US funding for the so-called Bosnian opposition press. Banac was for all that, but he was against. That is, in Schwarz’s words: ‘Banac was for Washington and I was for Iran, to put it crudely.’
Schwarz believes that Banac is the greatest South Slavic scholar alive today, but notes that he never passed through our common experience, that of Trotskyism. He went from Titoism to Hoxhaism, that is, from a relaxed to a rigid form of Stalinism, then to Tudjmanism and now back to Titoism. His documentation on the anti-Stalinist tendencies in the Yugoslav CP during the 1930s is a classic and quite indispensable, but he never learned to apply any of that to his own life. Schwarz feels, even if it is amazingly naive to say so, that what distinguishes Trotskyists from the rest of the radical left is that, no matter how bad people become, there is some attempt to learn from history and to follow a course of historical consistency, no matter how screwed up it gets.
Reiner Tosstorff has an amusing line on the Yale series: he calls it the Stalin-Hitler Pact in scholarship. This is because the Yale people made a conscious decision to split the publication list, with alternating volumes going to so-called ‘cold warriors’ and ‘revisionists.’ There is firstly a volume edited by a ‘coldie’, and then one by a ‘revi’. In reality, the cold warriors are anti-Stalinists and the revisionists are Stalinist apologists, but this is hard for Americans to grasp. Since the most important volumes have to do with the 1920s and 1940s, Schwarz judges the cold warriors as excellent. Banac’s volume using Dimitrov will be neither, and so is misunderstood — ‘neither fish, flesh, fowl nor good red herring’.
Schwarz adds that there has been a whole series of scandals about the Yale series. To begin with, Robert Conquest absolutely refused to serve on the Yale committee, because it includes the chief of the revisionists, J Archibald Getty, author in chief of the theory that ‘that bastard Stalin killed hundreds of people’. Conquest and Schwarz hate Getty to a point of violence.
Secondly, the Yale series has already published two outrageous revisionist volumes, one of which attempted to whitewash Stalin’s rôle in the aftermath of the German attack of 1941 — quite nauseous — and the other of which represented an attempt to relieve Fr Josef Vissarionovich of the Georgian Orthodox Church of responsibility for the death of Kirov. The biggest scandal of all at Yale involved their refusal to employ a ‘controversial’ Russian historian, Vladimir Brovkin, on the grounds that he was an extreme cold warrior who had unacceptably described the Stalinists in negative ways. Actually the man is the leading historian of the Mensheviks inside Russia and the ultra-left and Workers Opposition after 1918, and his controversial work was a pretty neutral and factual description of workers’ strikes against the Bolsheviks in 1918-20. This idea of workers v Bolsheviks hit the American academics pretty hard, though it is a bit old hat for European Trotskyists, who read about Kronstadt when these American academics were still having their nappies changed. The academics’ reaction to Brovkin was a bit like describing Victor Serge as a CIA mercenary, but who knows, perhaps someone has done it. After all, we now have a volume accusing Bolloten of being a CIA agent because of his association with Gorkin. Conquest asked Schwarz to write something about the Menshevik scandal at Yale, but he refused. Paraphrasing Nelson Algren describing his reaction to Hollywood’s filmed version of his Walk On The Wild Side, he said he was tired of writing daily news copy about gruesome auto wrecks on the freeways, and this is about the same to him. He knew it was a mess. He did not need to go and look at it, or write about it.
Finally, he comments:
I must say, kind souls, that as the process of revelation of the Moscow archives proceeds I am constantly shocked by things I never thought should shock me, after all I have been through. Even I was shocked at reading in Venona that the NKVD was more interested in Natalia Trotsky’s state of health in 1945 than in the situation inside the Truman White House. But this excerpt from Dimitrov floors me, especially the description of his explanation of the so-called backwardness of the Social Democratic masses in Europe: ‘The basic reason is the historic links the European masses have with bourgeois democracy. That is particularly the situation in Europe. The European countries rely on their colonies. Without them they could not exist. The workers know it and fear to lose their colonies. And in every respect they are ready to march with their own bourgeoisie. Internally, they do not agree with our anti-imperialist policy… And masses of men in millions also have a herd instinct. They only operate with their elected leaders. When they lose confidence in their leaders, they feel powerless and lost. They fear to lose their leaders, and that is why the Social Democratic workers follow their leaders, even if they are unhappy with them. They will not abandon their leaders until they find others who are good.’ The impression here is of an extremely ignorant and obtuse old Balkan komitadji raised to the level of statesmanship. So the Western European workers were more tied to their bourgeoisie than, say, the Bulgarian, Greek or Romanian workers? How extraordinary, considering that the workers of Western Europe produced vast anti-militarist movements such as never existed in Bulgaria, Romania or Greece (though they did in Serbia and Croatia). Were the Spanish workers prepared to march for their own bourgeoisie and to pursue colonial adventures? Not at all. The Tragic Week of 1909 resulted because of an attempt to send troops from Catalonia to Morocco. The German workers? Not in the 1920s and early 1930s. Was the French working class ready to march to defend the colonies? Not between 1918 and the present. As far as gregariousness, refusal to abandon their leaders, etc, this idiotic comment is far more accurate when discussing the peasants of Bulgaria than any of the Social Democratic milieux in Europe, to say nothing of the Spanish Anarchists. I suppose the Italian working class, with its anti-war tradition, its high level of intellect and its production of leaders like Bordiga must be considered quite inferior in comparison with the radicalism of Balkan and Caucasian bandits such as represented by Dimitrov and Vissarionovich. The idea of these primitive figures from the Orthodox world assuming control of the international workers’ movement is nightmarish. No wonder they hated Trotsky.
Ted Crawford, Mike Jones, Al Richardson