Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

International Socialism 131 online

Includes Richard Seymour on the Tories, Anne Alexander on Egypt and an interview with Ian Birchall on writing his biography of Tony Cliff, whose very first book, The Problem of the Middle East (1946) is now online.

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The Case for Socialism

The case for ordinary people taking collective democratic control of the world's wealth and using it to solve people's needs has rarely been better made

Victory to the J30 Strikes

"If you fight in life, you're not guaranteed to win. But if you never fight, you lose every time."
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union in an interview on the June 30 mass strikes

Guest post: Some Thoughts on Energy in the US

[Comrade Jeremy has got in touch with a guest post on 'Some Thoughts on Energy' which I am belatedly getting around to putting on my blog - profuse apologies for the delay]

Energy is at the heart of all that we do. In developed countries at least, the routine is pretty quotidian: wake up, take a shower, brush your teeth, cook up a few eggs for breakfast, drive to work—you get the idea. Everything from cooking a meal to generating hot water for your shower requires energy, and often people take this fact for granted. The electricity to charge your cell phone or keep your laptop running isn't cheap—it comes from coal and you pay a fee for it that ultimately contributes to your monthly utility bill. Even if you have the luxury of owning a cellphone and a laptop, and of having hot, clean water, then you have a standard of living that is already higher than many places in the world, so congratulations.
It is a pursuit for this type of prototypical living standard that is driving up the global demand for energy. Within industrializing countries people are beginning to see the dream of a constant supply of electricity and hot water; they're beginning to buy SUVs that they can drive to work. They're purchasing cell phones and laptops and enormous flat-screen TVs, and all of these technologies demand energy. Ph.D. programs everywhere are shifting in how they think about the web of anthropology, climate, sustainability and energy policy, especially since the world's population seems to be increasing almost continuously.
The United States is a paragon example of a highly industrialized country with a similarly high standard of living. Notwithstanding portents about climate change and the effect of greenhouse gases, Americans continue to ravenously consume energy because in many ways, this consumptive nature is actually finely embedded into the culture. Who are you in America if you don't own a fancy car or a large home that proudly demonstrates your achievements? While this might be a gross generalization, buildings do consume more energy than any other part of the United States economy. This isn't surprising, there's a lot of energy-intensive processes that go into creating anything from a garage to a giant museum, not to mention the continuous amount of energy needed to keep those buildings running. China has recently taken the world's number one spot as the largest producer of carbon dioxide because they are rapidly industrializing. In China, like in many other places on the globe, people want flashy cars, nice homes and material possessions. So perhaps the pursuit of luxury isn't just an American interest after all—but we already knew that, didn't we?
Energy policy is roughly defined as the sum total of a nation's legislative and international “opinion” when it comes it comes to energy. This includes things like government subsidies, energy taxes, emissions guidelines and the creation of reformative programs to essentially affect energy change on a mass scale. In the United States more than 30 major energy acts have been passed since 1920, spanning the breadth of opinions on everything from the regulation of natural gas, to nuclear waste legislation to tax credits that incentivize the use of alternative fuels. The most recent of these energy acts, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, has essentially restructured the way the United States (from a legislative standpoint, at least) thinks about energy. Analyzing a nation's views on energy, which is so deeply ingrained into everything it does, provides a very strong insight into its general conscience on its own lifestyle.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, in addition to expanding social welfare policy and driving funds towards and education and health care was monumental in its investment in the clean energy economy. While we have yet to see massive, physical implementation of this investment, lots of great things are already happening. On June 8 the Department of Energy announced up to $70 million to further boost geothermal energy development, which according to the U.S. Geological Survey could produce upwards of 30 gigawatts of energy for the U.S. Similarly, at the beginning of June it was also announced that $27 million would be driven to research channels to help reduce the prohibitively high costs of solar energy systems, and millions are being invested in energy-efficient lighting. So while the average layperson might not see the benefits of renewable energy immediately, the industries that are developing this technology are starting to flourish more than ever before.
Obama's plans for a clean energy economy also include infrastructural changes and the development of more efficient transportation, which at the end of the day will ultimately make life easier and more environmentally friendly for Americans. Achieving a nearly-renewable energy economy, however, doesn't just depend on investment in research and development. It depends on an investment in the people. Without a culture that promotes sustainable lifestyles and that recognizes the importance of living green, how do you expect clean energy technology to have maximum impact? It is one thing to have a system of solar panels on your home, and it's another thing to have an entire community promoting the benefits of solar power to the point where everyone in town wants a solar system. If America is going to attempt to push its clean energy ideals on other developing countries, the nation must be practicing what it preaches. It will certainly be interesting to see how the international cards play out in the future.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Marxism final timetable online

Austerity, resistance, alternatives…

Marxism 2011
30 June – 4 July, Central London

A five day political festival hosted by the SWP

The final timetable for Marxism 2011 is now online. It includes all the practical information you will need to make the most out of the event. Extra meetings and speakers not in the original timetable include:

· Kamal Abu Aita, leading Egyptian trade unionist, speaking at the opening rally.

· Panos Garganas, from Socialist Workers Party (Greece) on Greece and the Eurozone crisis, plus leading activists from Spain on their revolt against austerity.

· Mokhtar Ben Hafsa, Tunisian revolutionary trade unionist on the Tunisian revolution.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Vasily Grossman T-shirt

War correspondent for the Red Star newspaper, Vasily Grossman became Russia's greatest chronicler of both the horrors of the 1941 Nazi invasion and the eventual victory over Nazism. Never afraid to upset the Soviet authorities his classic account of the USSR's resistance to the Nazi invasion Life and Fate was not only heroic but also told the story of the Ukraine famine, the Gulags and purges, the instances of collaboration between Russian citizens and the Nazis. As a result it was banned by Stalin, though the book was eventually published under Glasnost in 1988 - and now in 2011 Life and Fate is honoured in a special Philosophy Football T-shirt.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Topical Pieces of ''Red Labour'' History

If the Arab Spring has been described as an 'Arab 1848', it is worth reminding ourselves of events in Britain in that 'year of revolutions' - and where better to do so than to revisit the late great socialist historian and activist Ray Challinor's 1981 article on Peter Murray McDouall - a 'physical force Chartist'. Murray, being both a doctor and a revolutionary was a little bit like the Che Guevara of his day. Another topical piece of 'Red Labour' history is Ray's article tracing 'the origins of "the tension between the leadership and the rank-and-file"' in trade unionism, though a discussion of 19th century miners' leader Alexander MacDonald, written in 1967. As Ray - whose life and work are being marked at a London Socialist Historians Group meeting later this month - concluded:

Yet, at least in studying the coalminers, the tension between the leadership and the rank-and-file is one of the most vital factors in reaching an understanding of how the movement develops. MacDonald and the militants – the lap-dog or the lion? Did one get a lump of sugar through begging like a well-trained poodle or a hunk of meat by showing the lion’s fangs and being prepared for bloody struggles? That was the question.

It is a question that remains all too relevant for trade unionists today in the context of austerity measures taken by government's trying to force working class people to pay for the crisis and reshape society as a whole in the interests of capital... Later this month, on June 30th, it looks as though 700,000 teachers, lecturers and civil servants will strike back in defence of pensions - everyone who wants a society where people come before profit should support those on strike that day, and socialists will need to help build and encourage much more coordinated strike action like this in future...

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Leon Trotsky on Frederick Nietzsche

...We obviously make no claim to an exhaustive critique of the fantastic creations of Frederick Nietzsche, philosopher in poetry and poet in philosophy. This is impossible within the framework of a few newspaper articles. We only wanted to describe in broad strokes the social base which has shown itself to be capable of giving birth to Nietzscheism, not as a philosophical system contained in a certain number of volumes and for the most part explicable by the individual particularities of its author, but rather as a social current attracting particular attention because we are dealing with a current of the present time. It seemed to us to be all the more indispensable to bring Nietzscheism down from the literary and philosophical heights to the purely earthly basis of social relations because a strictly ideological attitude, conditioned by subjective reactions of sympathy or antipathy for the moral and other theses of Nietzsche, results in nothing good...
Leon Trotsky,'On the Philosophy of the Superman' (1900)

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

New issue of Revolutionary History

The latest issue of Revolutionary History is now available. This issue, the second volume on the history of the Left in Iran, covers the period from 1941 to 1957, focusing on the Tudeh Party, the only substantial left-wing organisation in Iran in these times.

Episodes investigated include:
* The foundation of the Tudeh Party of Iran in 1941.
* Moscow’s attempt to set up a pro-Soviet autonomous republic in Iranian Azerbaijan in 1945.
* The fake assassination attempt on the Shah and the ensuing banning of the Tudeh Party in 1949.
* The mass campaign to nationalise the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.
* The Tudeh Party’s hostility to Mohammad Mosaddeq and the national- democratic movement.
* The Tudeh Party’s failure to prevent the Anglo-American coup against Mosaddeq in 1953.
* The SAKA, an attempt to build a communist organisation based upon workers’ councils.
* The ideas of Mostafa Sho‘a‘iyan, a maverick Iranian Marxist.
* The continued influence of Stalinism upon the historiography of the Iranian left.
* The course of the Iranian left as reported in documents from the British, Soviet and US official archives.

It has been compiled under the editorship of Cosroe Chaqueri, who has produced a number of pioneering studies on Iran and its left-wing movements, in particular the sole major work on the ill-fated soviet republic on the Caspian coast of Iran, The Soviet Socialist Republic of Iran, 1920-1921: Birth of the Trauma (Pittsburgh University Press, 1995). He is currently preparing two major studies on the Iranian communist movement of the interwar period. He has also compiled over 30 volumes of documents from the labour and left-wing movements of Iran, thus enabling students of Iranian history to read material which might otherwise be forgotten. The first instalment, The Left in Iran, 1905-1940, is still available. A further instalment, covering the period of 1958-1985, is currently being assembled.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Unite the Resistance Rally

Unite the Resistance meeting in London
Speakers include Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary
Tony Benn,
Kevin Courtney, NUT deputy general secretary
Wednesday 22 June, 6.30pm,
Friends Meeting House,
Euston Road (opposite Euston station).
If your organisation/union branch would like to back the meeting please email unitetheresistance2011@hotmail.co.uk

John Molyneux on the rising tide of revolution

An examination of this year’s revolutions, their significance and how they compare to patterns of revolt through history...

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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

New work: Tony Cliff: A Marxist for his Time

Tony Cliff: A Marxist for his Time
by Ian Birchall

Hardback £25 9781905192793
Paperback £16.99 9781905192809
Tony Cliff came to political consciousness in the darkest period of the 20th century and spent his life developing revolutionary Marxism against Stalinism. From his early days as a revolutionary in British-occupied Palestine, through years of obscurity and isolation in London and Dublin to the high points of struggle in post-war Britain, Cliff worked to restore lost ideas and traditions, fan flames of resistance and develop our understanding of a system in constant change. Ian Birchall's lovingly crafted book is the culmination of years of work, drawing on interviews with over 100 people who knew Cliff and painstaking research in archives around the country. It is a majestic example of political biography at its best.
Available direct from Bookmarks Bookshop from 30 June 2011, and nationwide from October - see here. Ian will be launching his biography at Marxism 2011, and describes some of his experience of researching Cliff's life here.

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