Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

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

Sunday, November 02, 2014

1640: The First English Revolution



John Lilburne - calling for a spiritual revolution in England about 350 years before Russell Brand...

Russell Brand may have played his part in helping the word 'revolution' return to a degree of fashionability recently, but even in sleepy England revolutionary ideas have not simply been widely circulated long before him, but have actually been put into practice.   That Norah Carlin's pamphlet on 1640, The First English Revolution (1983) is now online is therefore most timely - for those wanting more on the historiography of revolution in England, see her earlier analysis of Marxism and the English Civil War.

Edited to add: The John Lilburne 400 anniversary conference

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The Bassem Chit Internet Archive

Friends of the late Lebanese Marxist Bassem Chit (1979-2014) might be interested to know that his selected writings are slowly being compiled online at the Marxists Internet Archive - here: http://marxists.org/history/etol/writers/chit/index.htm

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Saturday, November 01, 2014

How poppies and patriotism muffle the truth about the First World War

The only point which matters about the First World War and its sequels is that they must not be allowed to happen again. Honouring and worshipping those who died in them, praising them for their patriotic sacrifice and wearing poppies as symbols of their blood on the ground where they fell serves only to glamorise the atrocity and pave the way to the next one.
Paul Foot, Galmorising an atrocity, 1989.  

It does not matter now, a century after it started, how sad we are about those the first world war killed. Our soulfulness won’t bring back a single slaughtered soldier. What can make a difference is our historical understanding of the Great War, its causes and consequence. History is worth far more than the illusion of memory, when none of us today actually have a memory of being soldiers in 1914-18...
 Out of the millions who died, this installation is very specific about who it mourns. It does not include the French, who lost a tenth of their young men, or Russia, where the war precipitated revolution, civil war and famine. And of course it does not include a single German. Instead it is accumulating 888,246 ceramic poppies each of which – explains the Tower of London website – “represents a British military fatality during the war.”
If we can only picture the Great War as a British tragedy we have not learned very much about it. Yet some historians today glibly encourage that blinkered vision. It sells books. Popular history has been invaded by revisionists who tell us that far from being lions led by donkeys in a futile bloodbath, the British soldiers who fought from 1914-18 were fighting, as the propaganda at the time claimed, to defend democracy from militarist authoritarian Germany...In so explicitly recording only the British dead of world war one, this work of art in its tasteful way confirms the illusion that we are an island of heroes with no debt to anyone else, no fraternity for anyone else...
Jonathan JonesHistory and all its grisly facts are worth more than the illusion of memory, 2014.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

How Capitalism Survives: Historical Materialism Conference 2014 in London

Conference Poster
How Capitalism Survives - Eleventh Annual Historical Materialism London Conference - 6-9 November 2014 - Vernon Square, Central London provisional programme available and registration open.

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In Our Time - The Haitian Revolution

Discussion of the Haitian Revolution on BBC Radio 4

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Copycat Crime - A UKIP Calypso response by Alexander D Great

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Friday, October 17, 2014

International Socialism # 144 out now

Cover of issue 144

The latest issue of International Socialism journal, a quarterly journal of Marxist theory, is out now - highlights include critical discussions of Lahs Lih's work on Lenin, Lise Vogel's work on women's liberation, Vivek Chibber's work on the Subaltern Studies school, plus articles on Scotland, South Africa, Ukraine, imperialism and global warming.  There is also an online only article on 'The birth of a new generation under tear gas: the umbrella movement in Hong Kong' by Vincent Sung, which is most timely and brings out the tensions and how that movement is at something of a crossroads.  To subscribe to the ISJ, see here.



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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Book: Deciphering Capital

Book Launch and Discussion
Deciphering Capital: Marx’s Capital and its Destiny
By Alex Callinicos
Discussants: Christopher Arthur and Michael Roberts
Chair: Gilbert Achcar 

Monday, 10 November 2014, 7pm, Khalili Lecture Theatre (KLT) at SOAS

Alex Callinicos’s new book deals extensively with the question of Marx’s method and its relationship to Hegel’s Science of Logic. It emphasizes Marx’s understanding of capital as a set of relations constituted by two separations – that of workers from the means of production, giving rise to the exploitation of wage labour, and that between capitals, from which arises their competitive struggle. This understanding also informs the book’s presentation of Marx’s multi-dimensional conception of crises. Marx strove to make Capital a study of capitalism as a global system, and not merely a portrait of the mid-Victorian British economy: the cycle of financial bubble and panic that he investigated has come in the neoliberal era to regulate the world economy, with the devastating effects witnessed in the 2007-8 crash.

Alex Callinicos is Professor of European Studies at King’s College London and editor of International Socialism. His recent books include Imperialism and Global Political Economy, Bonfire of Illusions, and most recently Deciphering Capital (Bookmarks, 2014)*.

Christopher Arthur taught philosophy at the University of Sussex. His books include Dialectics of Labour and Marx’s Capital and the New Dialectic.

 Michael Roberts is a Marxist economist who blogs at: http://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/

 * £14.99 - £10 special offer for book launch

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March against Tory Austerity this Saturday

Support the strikes over pay this week in the NHS and Civil Service and join the National TUC demonstration against Tory Austerity and low pay this Saturday 18 October in London and Glasgow - show that there is a different Britain to that represented by the narrow and backward looking racist populism of UKIP - one about the values of solidarity, trade unionism, workers' unity, social justice, people not profit, welcoming migrant workers and defending the NHS - a politics of hope over the politics of despair #18Oct

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Marxism in Scotland

After the Referendum - which way forward for the Left?
Saturday 11 October - Glasgow

On the 18th September, 1.6 million people (45% of voters) in Scotland voted yes to independence. It was a truly historic referendum result with 97% of eligable voters registered and an 85% turnout, breaking all existing voting records in British history.

Although the referendum result narrowly rejected independence by 55 percent to 45 percent. Scottish voters gave the British ruling class the fright of its life—and politics in Scotland will never be the same again.

The genie is out of the bottle! There is a new movement that has emerged from the independence campaign. A movement with a positive vision for the future and the ideas, the creativity and the potential to transform Scotland.

Last year over 250 socialists, campaigners and activists attended Marxism in Scotland.

This year's event takes place just 3 weeks after the independence referendum result and one week before the major anti-austerity demonstrations in both Glasgow and London.

Come along and be part of a fantastic day for sharing experiences, political discussions, debates, strategy and tactics with local, national and international speakers on how we can take the struggle for a better world forward.

Speaking at Marxism in Scotland...

Kevin McKenna, Observer Scottish columnist

Bob Thomson, former Scottish Labour Party Chairman and leading supporter of Labour for Independence

Cheryl Gedling PCS Union NEC member, President Scottish Government Group (personal capacity)

Professor Greg Philo, research director of Glasgow University Media Unit. Co-author of Bad News from Israel (2004), More Bad News from Israel (2011) and Bad News For Refugees, written with Emma Briant and Pauline Donald

Amal Azzudin, community worker and one of the Glasgow Girls whose struggle against the deportations of asylum seekers from Glasgow has since been turned into a play and television drama/documentary.

Ian Hodson, president, Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union)

Alex Callincos, author of Imperialism and the World Economy

Weyman Bennet, Unite against Fascism National Joint Secretary, recently returned from Ferguson, Missouri

Keir McKecknie. author of top selling 'Independence Yes, Nationalism No' pamphlet

Full programme coming soon with speaker details of the opening rally, the closing plenary and workshops on...

How can Palestine be Free?
Understanding Imperialism Today - Iraq, Syria and Ukraine
The Struggle for Womens Liberation
Fighting Racism and Fascism Today
The Assault on Welfare
Fighting Austerity in the Workplace.

Registration: 10 - 11am
Tickets: £5 waged, £3 unwaged (£10 solidarity price).

There is a free creche for Marxism in Scotland. Please private message or email swpscotland@gmail.com before 2pm Friday 10th to book places.

Book online: https://www.swp.org.uk/event/marxism-scotland (at bottom of page)

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Monday, October 06, 2014

Alex Callinicos on the multiple crises of imperialism

If the United States remains the command centre of global capitalism, a multiplicity of crises has been flashing up on its screens in the past few months. Let’s consider them in ascending order of importance from the perspective of US decision makers. First, there was Israel’s latest war on Gaza—not a crisis for Washington, more the kind of violent outburst through which a kind of equilibrium is re-established, but for growing numbers of people around the world an outrage and a crime. Secondly, there was the war—now halted by an uneasy ceasefire—between the pro-Western government in Kiev and Russian-backed forces in south eastern Ukraine. Thirdly, there is the US bombing campaign to halt the advance of the jihadi group that calls itself the Islamic State, but which we will continue to call ISIS, in Iraq and Syria. And, finally—not yet a crisis, but potentially the most serious conflict—there’s the increasingly intense interstate competition in East Asia in response to China’s growing power...
For revolutionaries, opposing Obama’s bombing campaign—and whatever other military actions follow—should be straightforward. (We should also, of course, oppose NATO expansion in Central and Eastern Europe.) But this opposition needs to be informed by an understanding that the latest US intervention in the Middle East takes place against the background of a renewal of inter-imperialist rivalries on a scale not seen since the end of the Cold War. Anti-imperialism during that era required, not simply opposing our “own” imperialism, but also refusing to prettify the actions of its rival and acknowledging that it too operates according to an imperialist logic. The same stance is required today, with the complication that today we are seeing multi-polar interstate competition. This is clearest in East Asia. On a global scale, the US remains the only world power, but it faces serious regional challenges from Russia and China, and within the Western bloc Germany and Japan are newly assertive.
Grasping this complexity is not an academic exercise. If we assign a “progressive” role to America’s rivals, we lose hold of the thread of class struggle. The main antagonism in the world becomes that between states rather than classes. But, beyond their real conflicts of interest, all the leading capitalist states are united by their common dependence on the exploitation of wage labour. As Lenin and Luxemburg understood so well in 1914, the critique of the imperialist system is an essential political tool in uniting workers against capital.

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New Book: Bread, Freedom, Social Justice


Bread, Freedom, Social Justice: Workers and the Egyptian Revolution
By Anne Alexander and Mostafa Bassiouny
Published on 9 October by Zed books.

Accounts of the Arab Spring often focus on the role of youth coalitions, the use of social media, and the tactics of the Tahrir Square occupation. This authoritative and original book argues that collective action by organised workers played a fundamental role in the Egyptian revolution, which erupted after years of strikes and social protests. 
Drawing on the authors' decade-long experience of reporting on and researching the Egyptian labour movement, the book provides the first in-depth account of the emergence of independent trade unions and workers' militancy during Mubarak's last years in power, and and their destabilising impact on the post-revolutionary regimes.

Table of Contents

Introduction: From the Republic of Tahrir to the Republic of Fear? Theorising revolution and counter-revolution in Egypt 2011-2014
1.From Nasserism to Neoliberalism: a new amalgam of state and private capital
2.The changing structure of the Egyptian working class in the neoliberal era
3.Strikes, protests and the development of a revolutionary crisis
4. Organisation in the workplace before the revolution: the Nasserist model in crisis
5. From strike committee to independent union
6.The revolution’s social soul: workers and the January Revolution
7. Workers’ organisations since the revolution
8.The crisis of representation: workers and elections
9. Tathir: the struggle to cleanse the state
Conclusion: Beyond ‘the Republic of Dreams’: revolutionary organisation, democracy and the question of the state

Book Launch: 28 October @ Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS, Russell Square, WC1HOXG
With Gilbert Achcar, Alain Gresh, Mostafa Bassiouny and Anne Alexander

There will be a collection held at this book launch for Bassem Chit, the Lebanese revolutionary socialist who tragically passed away a few days ago.  This is from one of Chit's last articles, How did the sectarian nightmare come true in Iraq and Syria?, discussing the likely consequences of Obama and Cameron's new war:

The US is on the defensive and trying to protect its own interests in Iraq. An intervention will inflame the situation and prolong the conflict.  The Islamic State exists because of a lack of revolutionary politics. A movement from below which fends off the regime and fills the vacuum the Islamic State is currently filling could win people away from it. You can point to Isis as being part of the counter-revolutionary forces which criminalise revolution. The line of struggle against both the regime and against these reactionaries becomes clearer. But when imperialists intervene it gives structures like Isis more favourable conditions.It galvanises regional rivalries which allows the further spreading of factional conflicts. This fragments the masses and besieges the working class in a war-driven economy. And it limits the possibility of building political movements and mass mobilisations which offer the only real alternative against these sectarian forces.


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