Interest In Forming An Online Study Group-US Communists

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devoration1's picture
devoration1
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Dec 30 2010 00:00
Interest In Forming An Online Study Group-US Communists

I've been working on a long account of the American revolutionary workers during the post-October Revolution period and the embryonic worker's councils that sprang up all over the US, which has opened several related avenues of study:

-The relation of the IWW to the Comintern, Bolshevism, the SPA-CLP-CPA-CPUSA, the expats who participated in the 'Socialist Cities' and Autonomous Industrial Colonies.

-The development of a 'left', later an anti-Stalinist, ex or 'post' Trotskyist body of work, such as the Musteite Worker's Party, Communist Leagues, Proletarian Party, Proletarian University, etc. which later influenced or birthed the Johnson-Forest Tendency, 'Marxism-Humanism' of News & Letters, and so on.

-The playing out of intra-RCP/CPSU battles, with the left and right oppositions in the US, as well as German left communists who fled Europe after the revolutionary wave receded or after Fascism came to power, such as Mattick and others who would found the US Council Communists and develop a large body of work (including groups like Root & Branch, which would participate in the renewal of working class political activity after 1968).

There's a large body of work and a very big, largely unknown social history of American communist politics- a large volume of theoretical work and debates, personal histories, which deserve a thorough look. I think the legacy of American communism from 1917-1970 and the history of working class militancy in the US needs to be unearthed and sifted through, discussed and debated, looking for a heritage to add to that of the European communist movement.

Are there American communists interested in engaging in a project like this? Practically I'd imagine it would act like a book club, internet discussion forum or e-mail listserve, study group and political discussion society combined, with the purpose of clarification and theoretical work to be published online in the form of articles, essays, etc. Not linked to any political group or ideology, only a mutually agreed interest in processing, discussing, debating and clarifying the [little known] history of American communist tendencies and working class events.

Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
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Dec 30 2010 00:35

I don't know how much I'd be able to help, but this is relevent to my interests. I've been doing a fair amount of research into radical or working class history, mostly Iowa or midwest centered, but outside of that, too such as the postal strikes of the 70s.

petey
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Dec 30 2010 00:41

dunno that i'm a communist* but this is a valuable idea. there's a thread on here about US workers' councils that i think needs much expanding, and that's the sort of thing you've been working on? there's information also here about the second of the three categories you've mentioned, for a start.

*tho' there have been so many definitions of that word that i might fit into one of them

Android
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Dec 30 2010 00:50

devoration1,

This sounds like a really interesting project you're proposing, hope some of the other US posters on here commit to it and help you get it started..

Also, just to say I followed your threads on the history of the working class in the US which I found very interesting and informative - just brought home once again the extent of the struggles of that period. Anyway, hope this initiative gets off the ground and hopefully we can see some fruits of your research.

Keep us posted on your progress.

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devoration1
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Dec 30 2010 01:30
Juan Conatz wrote:
I don't know how much I'd be able to help, but this is relevent to my interests. I've been doing a fair amount of research into radical or working class history, mostly Iowa or midwest centered, but outside of that, too such as the postal strikes of the 70s.

That's exactly the kind of thing I mean. The Midwestern socialist parties and foreign language federations, as well as the locals of the IWW, SLP/WIIU, AFL, KoL, etc were a big part of the political landscape of the first half of the 20th century. I know there were a few soviets in the region in the time around 1919.

I think having particular or very specific interests within the context of revolutionary American working class politics and history is important for getting both the interest and the follow through to get a project like this going. Plus it seems that many of us have a general interest in learning about and contributing something to the overall political discussion; maybe a minimally structured discussion list-reading list-study group can give an outlet for participating in that discussion in a different way, without the kinds of obligations on time and resources joining a political group with an angle on theoretical work (like Internationalist Perspective for example).

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gram negative
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Dec 30 2010 02:57

While I do not have anything to contribute, I would very much like to participate in the readings and discussions.

fnbrill's picture
fnbrill
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Dec 30 2010 04:19

I've been working on similar projects. Would love to participate.

Tarwater's picture
Tarwater
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Dec 30 2010 04:40
naughtonomist wrote:
While I do not have anything to contribute, I would very much like to participate in the readings and discussions.
radek's picture
radek
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Dec 30 2010 06:39

I would like to participate as well, this sounds like something worthwhile.

syndicalist
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Dec 30 2010 16:46

While I am not a "communist" as defined herein and am not very interested in promoting those views, I do have an interest in a number of the topics for possible discussion. So add me to the reading list.

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Tojiah
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Dec 30 2010 17:00

I'd love to take part in this. Wonderful idea.

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smg
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Dec 30 2010 17:53

Sounds interesting. I'd be interested in participating.

soyonstout
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Dec 31 2010 00:06

I'd be very interested in this as well. It sounds like a fantastic idea. Especially in light of a recent discussion on the Seattle Gen. Strike and the strike movement in France this fall. It seems there are hundreds, if not thousands, of things to learn from the U.S. working class that have been buried, ignored, etc.

prec@riat's picture
prec@riat
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Dec 31 2010 06:42
devoration1 wrote:
Are there American communists interested in engaging in a project like this?

yes

klas batalo's picture
klas batalo
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Dec 31 2010 08:23

sign me up! (pm for my email)

Jared
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Dec 31 2010 09:54

I'd love to read Jeremy Brecher's book Strike! Is that relevant to this discussion at all? Have folks read it? There's a review of it here: http://nefac.net/node/1255

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Dec 31 2010 22:20

I'd be interested too, especially regarding working class self-activity on the West Coast of North America where the ports allowed for lots of cross-fertilization of revolutionary ideas. But also the cross-border influences of radicals like the Magon brothers, who inspired many gringo Wobblies in 1910-1911 to participate in the insurrection in Baja California as part of the Mexican Revolution, resulting in the victorious Battle of Tijuana on May 9, 1911 and the flying of a red flag bearing the slogan "Land and Liberty" (in Spanish, of course) over occupied government buildings (see The Desert Revolution, Baja, California, 1911, by Lowell L. Blaisdell for an excellent account of this).

The influence of these actions reappeared again in the 1919 Seattle General Strike, and directly resonated again 3 months later in the 6-week Winnipeg General Strike in Canada (the former heavily influence by the IWW, the latter by the breakaway group OBU). And many of the migratory workers, whether on ships, in the fields, mines or timber camps, carried on these traditions and the lessons they left affected events like the 83-day West Coast Maritime Strike that exploded into the 4-day San Francisco General Strike (that crossed the Bay and completely shut down Oakland too) in July of 1934 (see Stan Weir's account of how he learned many lesson from '34 Men on merchant ships in World War II, which informed his own participation in the 1946 Oakland General Strike).

Brecher's excellent Strike!, especially the more council communist interpretation in the first editions, tells this story well.

So count me in, I'm very interested.

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Dec 31 2010 22:16

Another comment: you can't really talk about the American revolutionary tradition without seeing it's birth in the Haymarket Affair, along with the events that led up to it's tragic conclusion with the execution of the martyrs in 1886. Which in turn shows that many of the influences were indigenous, but others came from Europe with the many refugees of the Revolutions of 1848 who emigrated to North America.

But thinking about that, you can't talk about radical movements on this continent without talking about the earliest outbreaks of class war, like Bacon's Rebellion (1676) and Shays' Rebellion (1786), which had decisive influences on how race and class would play out in American history up to and including the present.

Just some more thoughts to chew on.

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klas batalo
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Jan 1 2011 00:35

I have an early edition of Strike! and it is awesome. I've been meaning to read Dynamite: The Story of Class Violence in America too.

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Jan 1 2011 01:53

I have a copy of Strike! waiting to be read, and have recently read Dynamite. I'm glad so many others think its a worthwhile project- maybe to start with we can establish someplace we can all participate with one another and decide on something to start with. I'd be open to starting things off with a 'book club' angle where all read the same book and discuss its relevance to either the development of working class struggle or revolutionary organization and theory in the US (or both)- Brecher's Strike! fits the bill (as would Dynamite or a number of other books). Not as an establishment of an unofficial 'book club', just as an introductory excersize to get things off the ground and moving. I think in the course of engaging on the topic we'd all naturally come to a consensus on what best to do next and where to go from there.

syndicalist
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Jan 1 2011 15:08

BTW, let me recomend folks check this piece out by Sam Dologoff. It's part of a larger pamphlet ("The Americna Labor Movement: A New Beginning")

Scroll down to :

REVOLUTIONARY TENDENCIES IN AMERICAN LABOR

http://www.fondation-besnard.org/article.php3?id_article=103

ajjohnstone
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Jan 1 2011 16:15

You may find this post about John Keracher of the Proletarian Party of interest. The intro was written by Isaac Rab , late member of the WSPUS , who knew Keracher personally, ( as well as Pannekoek and Paul Mattick, whose son Jnr was given digs at his house by Rab)

A e-book PDF biography by his grand daughter with much source material is available here

http://www.lulu.com/product/file-download/role-modeling-socialist-behavior-the-life-and-letters-of-isaac-rab/13378952?productTrackingContext=search_results/search_shelf/center/2

ajjohnstone
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Jan 1 2011 16:21

Silly hungover me, the blog link to Keracher is

http://socialismoryourmoneyback.blogspot.com/2010/12/introduction-to-john-keracher.html

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Jan 1 2011 18:02

Just to second Strike! as a great starting point for something like this.

Jared
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Jan 1 2011 19:04

How many editions is there of Strike! Is the first one the best. I ask because a) I'm interested in the reading the best version, and b) if a group was to read it then it would help to know the differences in editions.

Maybe it would be good to start a LibCom community thread especially for this idea/group. That way you could have sticky's for particular books, and more topical discussion rather than one super long thread here.

Just a thought...

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Jan 2 2011 00:57

I'd also be interested in this.

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fnbrill
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Jan 2 2011 01:55

I think some sort of wiki, or shared location for readings, texts, links, etc would be helpful for us all to share what we have or come across. I have a couple huge files on the One Big Union, WIIU, IWW splits, and smaller libertarian marxist materials. I also have Martin Glaberman's library and some papers, so have allot of internal materials of the Forrest-Johnson Tendency, etc.

syndicalist
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Jan 2 2011 03:22

Question: Why do so many left libertarians seem find interest in the "Johnson-Forrest Tendency"?

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devoration1
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Jan 2 2011 03:34
syndicalist wrote:
Question: Why do so many left libertarians seem find interest in the "Johnson-Forrest Tendency"?

My interest (as a left communist) is mainly that the possibility there are pearls of usable wisdom in the mountain of text produced by them (and related ex or post Trots) exists; that and I'd really like to find out if they came to their positions independantly or on the back of the communist left and anarchism (who, depending on the exact point, came to the same or similar conclusions a couple decades or several decades earlier). I'm not interested in the Raya personality cult that has become Humanist-Marxism, but I would like to explore their origins and development through their work and information about their trajectory and material conditions. That and important figures in the American post-war workers movement, such as Glaberman and Stan Weir were influenced by the J-F-Tendency; and both are promoted by the IWW and I believe other anarchist and syndicalist (if not also libertarian socialist/etc) groups today.

A related topic I'd like to explore is the movement of Trots like Burnham from Trotskyism to neo-conservatism and pro-imperialism; I've been assuming that people like Burnham (and Kristol and Wolfowitz etc) simply took the positions of Trotskyism to their logical, practical application conclusions.

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devoration1
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Jan 2 2011 03:36
Quote:
I think some sort of wiki, or shared location for readings, texts, links, etc would be helpful for us all to share what we have or come across.

Yes. I'm still unsure of the best way to do this- I'm not an HTML and web design aficianado, and don't really have the background to recommend one form of web-based organization over another (i.e. e-mail lists, public forums, private forums, a wiki type website we all have access to to post and review uploaded material communally, etc).

petey
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Jan 2 2011 04:16
devoration1 wrote:
A related topic I'd like to explore is the movement of Trots like Burnham from Trotskyism to neo-conservatism and pro-imperialism; I've been assuming that people like Burnham (and Kristol and Wolfowitz etc) simply took the positions of Trotskyism to their logical, practical application conclusions.

i wouldn't mix burnham too quickly with kristol and wolfowitz. he's of a different generation and travelled a somewhat different political route.