Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Palestine Solidarity protest this friday

From the Palestine Solidarity Campaign:

Protest outside the Israeli embassy this friday

Our next protest outside the Israeli embassy in London will be on Friday 1st August, from 5.30pm to 7.30pm.
Please be there if you can.
Nearest tube: High Street Kensington (turn right out of the tube and walk for three minutes to the protest)
For events around the country, please check the events section on the PSC website: http://www.palestinecampaign.org/events/ 


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

David Rovics on tunnels, past and present

Over 1,100 Palestinians killed, overwhelmingly women, children and the elderly. Several dozen Israelis killed, almost all of them soldiers. Killed by people coming out of tunnels. Tunnels that the soldiers are bombing and blowing up…

In my mind I keep coming back to the tunnels. Tunnels are such a powerful image, with so much history. The Vietnamese won the war against the US invaders partially through the widespread use of tunnels. Of course Kissinger would complain incessantly of Soviet aid to the Vietnamese guerrillas being the problem. That sounds much better than admitting that you're facing a very poorly-armed enemy that's beating you through sheer determination, ingenuity and courage, despite all your weapons of mass destruction.

The public line was the Vietminh was a small part of the population that needed to be dealt with. That if they could just destroy their infrastructure, the invaders would win. Secretly the American leadership knew this wasn't true. They knew their enemy was the people of Vietnam, and they prosecuted their war with this in mind, targeting broadly all of the civilians of that poor country, and their neighbors as well.

But destroy the infrastructure – they did that, too. And what was that infrastructure? Planes, helicopters, tanks? No. Rocket launchers? A few. Antiquated rifles? A few more.

Tunnels. Mostly tunnels. And courageous, desperate refugees. Refugees living in a walled-off ghetto, subject to an almost complete embargo, with no electricity, overflowing sewers, very little food, who are being incessantly bombed.

When facing a determined opponent, “infrastructure” or the “infrastructure of terror” has a very different meaning than how the term is usually understood.

The infrastructure, the Israelis now admit, is not the ineffective, home-made rockets. Not the paltry collection of guns. The infrastructure are the homes that people live in. Especially the ones around Gaza's inland perimeter, which the IDF is now annexing with tanks and bulldozers. The infrastructure is the homes, and the tunnels beneath them.

The thing about fighting a determined enemy in an urban setting is you can only make the best use of your superior firepower if there aren't any buildings in the way. People can hide behind buildings. So you have to destroy them all, which is what the Israelis are doing. Which is what the US did in Fallujah, and in Hue, and is what the Nazis did in Warsaw.

I'm no military expert or anything, but I am a history buff, and I believe the main difference between Fallujah, Hue and the Warsaw Ghetto is in Fallujah the resistance didn't build tunnels prior to the battle. In all those cases, though, the only way to win the battle was to completely demolish the cities, one building at a time.

In Warsaw, after the buildings were all burned to the ground and the ghetto was nothing but rubble, the resistance continued, albeit on a small scale due in part to a complete lack of food or firearms. The reason any resistance was able to continue was down to the tunnels.

Tunnels are a bit like buildings that way. You can hide behind a building, and if you're really lucky, you can ambush soldiers when they come around the corner. If you're really, really lucky as well as very skillful, you might get close enough for hand-to-hand combat. Which is necessary when the other side has all the firepower.

You can also hide in tunnels, before you come out and engage in your mission to attack the enemy before the enemy inevitably kills you in return. It's almost always a suicide mission. You show yourself, you die, but maybe you kill first, if you're ready to die, and very lucky and very skilled.

In Warsaw, the tunnels were how some of the ancestors of some of those IDF soldiers survived the Nazi Holocaust. The tunnels were how they managed to get some food into the ghetto from outside the ghetto walls. And even a few guns, and very home-made bombs. Beneath any well-stocked kitchen sink are the explosives necessary to have your own little “infrastructure of terror,” after all. Even in Warsaw, 1943. If you went outside the ghetto, where such chemicals could be purchased.

So, destroy the buildings, destroy the tunnels, and face the conundrum that as long as people are able to buy food, fertilizer, gasoline, and Draino, they'll be able to make explosives. As long as there are people there will be terrorists.

So “gas the Arabs” becomes the natural conclusion. It's the only way to have security. If you don't want to give them sovereignty, you have to kill them all. How close to “kill them all” are the Israelis willing to go?

Full essay here, while for more analysis of Israel's barbarism and how to fight it, see here

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Monday, July 21, 2014

National Demonstration: Stop the massacre in Gaza - free Palestine!

As if the people of Gaza have not suffered enough, Israel has escalated its brutal assault on Gaza.
Solidarity with Palestine

National demonstration: Stop the Massacre in Gaza - Free Palestine!

Last Saturday a fantastic 100,000 marched to the Israeli embassy - this Saturday's demonstration is even more important.

Check for details as they emerge on the Stop the War web site. We will email further details later in the week.

National Demonstration: Saturday 26th July. 
Meet 12 noon at Israeli Embassy. Nearest tube: High Street Kensington. March to Parliament.
Organised by Stop the War, PSC, Friends of Al-Aqsa, CND, BMI, MAB and Palestine Forum in Britain.

Edited to add:
Read Israel: The Hijack State: America's Watchdog in the Middle East by John Rose for historical background on contemporary Israeli military aggression


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tens of thousands in London say no to Israeli barbarism

Some of my photos from this magnificent demo - up to 100,000 rallied A Cry for Gaza fills the streets of London


Friday, July 18, 2014

On Victor Serge

Richard Greeman and Ian Birchall reflect on the life and work of a great revolutionary writer

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Palestine Solidarity national demonstration

National Demonstration for Gaza: 
Stop the Bombing  Free Palestine!

Saturday 19 July 2014 • Assemble 12 Noon
Downing Street • London
March to Israeli Embassy

Demonstration called by: Stop the War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, CND, Friends of Al Aqsa, British Muslim Initiative, Muslim Association of Britain. Supported by War on Want, Islamic Forum of Europe and Palestinian Forum in Britain.

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Saturday, July 05, 2014

Remembering Paul Foot - writer and revolutionary

Ten years after his death, investigative journalist Paul Foot will be remembered at a special memorial meeting next Saturday.
Foot was a tireless fighter against injustice, winning several awards for his campaigning journalism on behalf of people who had been wrongly jailed.
A lifelong socialist, as well as editing Socialist Worker for a period, Foot spent 14 years writing an investigative column at the Daily Mirror, enjoyed three lengthy stints at Private Eye and in the final years of his life also wrote a column for The Guardian.
He died in July 2004 of a heart attack, aged 66, and is buried in London's Highgate cemetery, quite close to the tomb of Karl Marx and next to Chris Harman.
The speakers at the memorial meeting will be four people he admired and who admired him in turn. They are journalist John Pilger, civil liberties campaigner Darcus Howe, lawyer Gareth Pierce and Matt Foot, one of Paul's sons, who is also a lawyer.
The meeting is part of the five-day Marxism Festival organised by the Socialist Workers Party. It takes place on Saturday 12 July at Logan Hall, Institute of Education, starting at 3.45pm.
Tickets are £10 (£5 if unwaged), and should be booked in advance here: marxismfestival.org.uk/booking/details


International Socialism # 143 out now

Cover of issue 143
The latest issue of the Socialist Workers Party's quarterly journal International Socialism is now available.

 Issue 143 appears as the official celebrations of the outbreak of the First World War reach their peak. Megan Trudell traces the process through which, in both the academy and the larger political establishment, class antagonism has been written out of the history of this slaughter. Paul Blackledge shows how the differences over political strategy that had been developing in the international socialist movement before 1914 crystallised thanks to the war into the great division between revolutionaries and reformists.

Andy Jones analyses UKIP's breakthrough in the European elections against the background of an increasingly toxic mainstream debate on immigration. Alex Callinicos discusses the complexities of the radical left, Donny Gluckstein looks at classical Marxism's response to reformism and John Rose recalls the tangled political struggles in Ukraine in the aftermath of the October Revolution.

Analysis examines the situation in Iraq, the political upheaval in Scotland with the forthcoming independence referendum and the complexities of Venezuela a year after the death of Hugo Chávez.

Anne Alexander reviews two important Marxist studies of the Arab revolutions and Tomáš Tengely-Evans takes on Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Other books reviewed this quarter concern George Orwell, genocide, women and war, anti-fascism, early learning, education in China, social media and the redoubtable black activist Darcus Howe.

 If you don't subscribe to the journal and would like to you can do so at www.isj.org.uk or contact us at isj@swp.org.uk or 0207 819 1177. You can also get the latest issue plus various back issues at the Marxism 2014 festival www.marxismfestival.org.uk

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The first strike in space

Marxist sci-fi fans might be interested in SF Forward,  an attractively designed blog which has varied and erudite discussions of all manner of material relating to science fiction and utopianism - recent posts for example include discussions of JG Ballard and William Gibson, 'Structures of Soviet Science Fiction', 'Red Star Gazing and the Inevitability of Full Space Communism' and even a discussion of the first strike in space

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