A Brill publication @ the Central: Revolutionary Marxism in Spain, 1930-37 by Alan Sennett.

Alan Sennett 

The following excerpt is taken from Chapter 7, ‘Defending the Revolution’, pages 267-9 of Revolutionary Marxism in Spain, 1930-1937, published by Brill. I have omitted the footnotes and altered the tense of the first sentence to address the present reader.  This snippet is taken from the concluding section to the chapter and offers a brief assessment of the POUM, its key thinkers and leaders, their role in Spain’s revolution and relationship with both the political thought and personality of Leon Trotsky.  It follows the main body of the chapter that deals with the attacks upon the POUM and what amounted to the rolling back of revolutionary gains (especially collectivisation) in which the party had played a role alongside the much larger and more powerful Anarcho-Syndicalist CNT.  The party and its leadership were subjected to a campaign of vilification and slander – accused, among other things of being ‘Trotsky-fascists’ and part of a ‘fifth column’.  This position was put forward by the official communists, the Comintern and other national Communist parties and their press organs.  May 1937 had seen the playing out of a mini civil war in Barcelona triggered by attacks upon revolutionary gains. Defeat for the revolutionary Left was quickly followed by the Republican government outlawing the POUM, Nin’s disappearance and murder and the arrest of many militants, some of whom were later tried by the Republican government. The chapter assesses historians’ explanations for the propaganda assault and the nature of the May events and Nin’s murder, all of which are matters of some controversy. There is also major historical disagreement over the roles played by the official Communists, Soviet agents and other forces; the culpability or otherwise of the POUM leaders; and whether or not the vilification campaign was connected to Soviet foreign policy, whose logic – it has been argued – dictated terminating Spain’s social revolution and the forces supporting it.  While sympathetic to the POUM in many ways, the emphasis is upon presenting a historical analysis which will, I suspect, find little favour with any sectarian political positions.  Read more of this post

There is nothing new under the Broiling Sun (Ken Burns)

Johnny Sunshine  

Looking on the bright side is not always easy, even for me, though the words of Daniel Berrigan encourage buoyancy; as faith always starts with oneself. It means an overriding sense of responsibility for the universe, making sure that the universe is left in good hands and the belief that things will finally turn out all right if we remain faithful. That said, it`s worth remembering that the natural optimism of the spirit must contend with the equally innate pessimism of the intellect.  Especially, when looking at the political landscape from a left-wing position. In these circumstances, it’s necessary to conclude that the fight has been completely fixed, against the many by the very few.  Such sentiment only amplified when one considers the more articulate commentary emanating from the USA today. Such as Chris Hedges suggesting that the political system has undergone a corporate coup d’état. Resulting in an inverted totalitarianism, not discernible through an individual demagogue but instead expressed via the anonymity of the corporate state.  This shadowy leviathan has made a servant of the contemporary Democratic Party an organization dominated by fake liberals, masquerading as the social democrats of the past, uttering political clichés favouring the poor, while serving the interest of monopoly and capital.   The USA today resembles Pottersville rather than Bedford Falls but a progressive government tradition does exist, which was shaped both by the right as well as the left.  Read more of this post

The Greatest Speech Ever Made by Chris Hedges: Promotions@LeftCentral

Promotions@LeftCentral

Image © Jankaka

The greatest speech ever made by Chris Hedges is an in-depth examination of USA domestic and foreign policy.  This is a comprehensive and powerful analysis.  Hedges employs a wealth of sources both contemporary and classical in this 55 minute talk.

The speech is at times both depressing and inspiring but it`s always thought provoking and hugely reflective.

No commentary here can convey the incredible majesty of the words employed by Hedges.  The greatest speech ever made? Well possibly Cicero could give Hedges a run for his money.

Revolutionary Marxism in Spain, 1930-1937: Promotions@LeftCentral

Book Promotions@LeftCentral

Revolutionary Marxism in Spain, 1930-1937 examines the impact of Trotsky’s political thought upon those Spanish communists who dissented from the ‘general line’ laid down by Moscow. It explores the political ideas of leading POUM figures, Andreu Nin and Joaquín Maurín, and their complex relationship with Trotsky. The contention is that the POUM owed far more to Trotsky than many of the party’s historians care to admit. Drawing heavily upon Spanish sources, the book seeks to present and explain the POUM’s political ideas in order to understand why the party adopted the positions it did. The author engages with broader scholarly debates around the role of the POUM in the Spanish Civil War and Revolution, especially those surrounding the Popular Front.

BRILL Publication  written by Dr Alan Sennett

Book Review: Linda Palfreeman, Aristocrats, Adventurers and Ambulances.

Alan Sennett

Image © Bas de Jong

Linda Palfreeman’s new book, Aristocrats, Adventurers and Ambulances. British Medical Units in the Spanish Civil War, makes an important contribution to the historiography of Spain’s bitter civil war. Building upon her earlier ¡Salud! British Volunteers in the Republican Medical Services During the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 (2012), the author offers a well-documented account of two hitherto neglected British humanitarian initiatives. While British relief efforts for Republican Spain have been well documented and analysed, there remain notable silences in the historical record. Read more of this post

Sybil Oldfield ‘Thinking Against the Current’: Literature and Political Resistance – Book Review

Lincoln Green

Image © Adam Jones, Ph D

Sybil Oldfield’s collection of twenty one essays is wide-ranging in scope.  She discusses the work and activities of such diverse figures as Thomas Paine, Charles Dickens, Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, Simone Weil, Virginia Woolf, Sophie Scholl and Helen Keller.  What ties these figures together is their concern for emancipation – social, economic and political.  In their different ways and times they all acted to liberate human potential from the control of a dominant state or a socially endemic mind-set which inhibited the development of what we might be as people and as a society.  Another theme which runs through these essays is the kindness which her subjects demonstrate to others, to those dispossessed from those conditions which promote well-being.  The word ‘kindness’ has perhaps rather meek and passive associations, but Oldfield’s subjects often worked in terrifying circumstances, facing terror and a horrendous death whilst they sought to apply such gentle concerns to their dealings with fellow human beings.   Read more of this post

The Tories – From Winston Churchill to David Cameron by Timothy Heppell book review

LeftCentral Book Review 

It’s true; progressives should never judge a book by its cover because this is an outstanding in-depth analysis of the Tories by Timothy Heppell. Napoleon said luck was the attribute all Generals should have; a useful trait in politics too.  And for the majority of the time good luck is a strong feature of the post-war Tories. The transformed party took power with a slim majority in 1951; just as a world economic upturn was emerging, which helped reconcile the party in government to the Attlee Consensus.  The 1951 election providing another lucky break for the Tories in a bizarre anomaly, more votes were cast for the defeated Labour Party.  Read more of this post

The Lost World of Rhodes by Nathan Shachar book review

Mike Guilfoyle

Image © Mstyslav Chernov

I was immediately drawn towards Nathan Shachar’s evocative and moving book on the formative historic influences that have he notes contributed so much to the diverse and richly textured socio -cultural inheritance of the Greek Island of Rhodes, the largest of the twelve Dodecanese islands situated near to South-Eastern Turkey (remarkably it only became a part of Greece in 1948!).  An Island that has been so memorably shaped and contoured by the confluence of epochal storied events ably detailed in this deeply humane and insightful narrative.   Read more of this post

In Search of the City on a Hill book promotion@LeftCentral

In Search of the City on a Hill 

In Search of the City on a Hill reconstructs the complete story of ‘the city on a hill’ from its Puritan origins to the present day for the first time. From John Winthrop’s 1630 ‘Model of Christian Charity’ and the history books of the nineteenth century to the metaphor’s sudden prominence in the 1960s and Reagan’s skilful incorporation of it into his rhetoric in the 80s, ‘the city on a hill’ has had a complex history: this history reveals much about received notions of American exceptionalism, America’s identity as a Christian nation, and the impact of America’s civil religion. Through this history, the book challenges the widespread assumption that Americans have always used this potent metaphor to define their national identity. It demonstrates that America’s ‘redeemer myth’ owes more to nineteenth- and twentieth-century reinventions of the Puritans than to the colonists’ own conceptions of divine election. The conclusion considers the current status of ‘the city on a hill’ and summarizes what this story of national myth eclipsing biblical metaphor teaches us about the evolution of America’s identity.

Published by Bloomsbury Academic

Author: Richard M. Gamble

This book will be reviewed at the Central soon.

Madrid’s Forgotten Avante-Garde book promotion@LeftCentral

Madrid’s Forgotten Avante-Garde 

Madrid’s Forgotten Avante-Garde explores the role played by artists and intellectuals who constructed and disseminated various competing images of national identity which polarised Spanish society prior to the Civil War. The convergence of modern and essentialist discourses and practices, especially in literature and poetry, in what is conventionally called in Spanish letters “The Generation of ’27”, created fissures between competing views of aesthetics and ideology that cut across political affiliation. Silvina Schammah exposes the paradoxes facing Madrid’s cultural vanguards, as they were torn by their ambition for universality, cosmopolitanism and transcendence on the one hand and by the centripetal forces of nationalistic ideologies on the other. Taking upon themselves roles to become the disseminators and populisers of radical positions and world-views first elaborated and conducted by the young urban intelligentsia, their proposed aim of incorporating diverse identities embedded in different cultural constructions and discourse was to have very real and tragic consequences as political and intellectual lines polarised in the years prior to the Spanish Civil War.

Sussex Academic Press (UK) – December   2013 Author: Silvina Schammah Gesser

We are pleased to announce that this book will be reviewed for LeftCentral by Dr Alan Sennett

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