Work in Progress
Historical Studies Websites
SOME interesting websites are available for those interested in the history of the left. The first is a recent Canadian site called ‘The Socialist History Project’, which aims to make available key documents, manifestos, reminiscences and essays by and about the revolutionary socialist movement in Canada and Québec in the twentieth century. This was launched in June 2004 by Ian Angus, author of Canadian Bolsheviks: The Early Years of the Communist Party of Canada. It is not affiliated to any political organisation or tendency.
I’ve been assembling edited machine-readable primary documents of the American Radical movement, thus far concentrating on the period 1899 to 1928, although my formal periodisation runs from the formation of the International in 1864 to the establishment of the postwar regime in the CPUSA in 1946. The Early American Marxism website has been going on in some systematic form since 2003, when it was called ‘Red Archive’.
During 2005, I was affiliated with the Marxists Internet Archive, but I have recently departed to my own server with fewer cows milling around the paddock. I will continue to work in conjunction with several other people from the MIA, and most of my documents will also appear on their server. It goes without saying that I am always looking for additional help in the arduous process of typing up or scanning material, which includes archival documents, newspapers, magazines, and pamphlets.
Proper histories for much of the American radical movement remain to be written — there is no good general history of the American Communist Party for the years after 1929, for example, and the material published for the 1919-29 period is distorted by Cold War ideology and misses great chunks of the story for the ‘underground period’ of 1920-22. Therefore, even though I’m dealing with the reproduction of primary documents, much of my work is really cutting edge in terms of dealing with untold stories and unexplored topics in the historiography of early twentieth century American radicalism.
I am trying to treat the organisations of American Marxism in parallel: the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, and other smaller organisations. Secondary histories of each are being compiled in conjunction with the steady output of documents, which appear on the site at the rate of approximately one per day. I am making an effort to avoid tendentious ‘spin’ in the writing of the secondary histories and document footnotes, treating the followers of De Leon, Trotsky, Stalin, Debs, Lovestone, and the ever-popular ‘None of the Above’ with an even hand. In short, I am striving for scholarly accuracy and fairness rather than trying to make an attempt to push one line over another, making history a tool of contemporary politics.
There has been plenty of guano spread by little birds of all sizes and colours; the historian’s task is to chip it away to restore the statues beneath — misshapen and grotesque though they may be. There’s also good art there, if you know what I mean, and no organisation or tendency holds a monopoly position on that.
In the coming year, I hope to work with others around the world to flesh out the history of the Comintern. I realise that there is outstanding work being done in that realm already, and my main goal is to tie that vast effort into my own work on the web to make that really important material more easily accessible to scholars around the world. I have no idea how that effort will pan out, but I hope for the best.
Anyone who is interested in the history of American radicalism in the first half of the twentieth century should by all means get in touch. I’ll put you to work!
Very similar Tim Davenport’s attitude is that in Australia of ‘Reason in Revolt. Source Documents of Australian Radicalism’ at http://www. reasoninrevolt. net.au/ by Matthew Ryan and Simon Booth at Monash University, which the Marxist Internet Archive is also seeking to mirror but which is at a less advanced stage of development.
Other material of interest to readers has appeared on the Marxist Internet Archive in the ETOL section (Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line) where indexes of articles from New International from 1940 to 1957, Workers International News from 1938 to 1957, and Fourth International from 1940 onwards have been done. In addition, a fair number of articles from these have been added which are now available in searchable form. Other material is daily appearing in this area.
Pete Glatter tells us of a new book, Sovershenno sekretno (Top Secret), being published in Russian by the University of Helsinki which is essentially composed of archived police reports to Stalin from 1922 until 1934. Of course, police and intelligence reports may simply reflect what the ruler wants to be told, as we all know well, but this will still be enormously useful. It has been used by the scholar Kevin Murphy as an external check on the state archives for his recent book entitled Class Struggle in a Moscow Metal Factory, published by Berghahn Books, which won the 2005 Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Memorial Prize. Kevin has given a most enthusiastic review to our last issue, The Russian Revolution of 1905: Change Through Struggle Revolutionary History, Volume 9, no 1, 2005 in the International Socialist Review, no 45, January–February 2006 which can be viewed at http://www.isreview.org/issues/45/firstrev.shtml.