Sep 16 2020

JOHN MANSON – SOCIALIST, LITERARY CRITIC, TRANSLATOR AND POET (1933-2020)

 

Allan Armstrong writes about John Manson, socialist, literary critic, translator and poet who died on August 3rd.  

 

JOHN MANSON – SOCIALIST, LITERARY CRITIC, TRANSLATOR AND POET (1933-2020)

It was with considerable sadness that I learned of John Manson’s death a month after it occurred on August 3rd. John had been a “a non-party Socialist since the dissolution of the CPGB”[1] and a significant literary critic, translator and poet. I first met John in 2006 and last met him 2012. Those who want to know more about John’s life and legacy should read the fine obituary written by Alan Riach in The Herald on 28.8.20[2] Continue reading “JOHN MANSON – SOCIALIST, LITERARY CRITIC, TRANSLATOR AND POET (1933-2020)”

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Aug 15 2020

THE CASE FOR A  REPUBLICAN INTERNATIONALIST COALITION FOR  SCOTLAND’S INDEPENDENCE

THE CASE FOR A  REPUBLICAN INTERNATIONALIST COALITION FOR  SCOTLAND’S INDEPENDENCE

 

Banner made when Edinburgh RIC hosted the the national RIC contingent on the ‘All Under One Banner’ demonstration on 6.10.18

 

 

a. The Radical Independence Campaign

An examination of the wording of the initials and principles of the Radical Independence Campaign is instructive.

R = Radical, I = Independence, C = Campaign

Each one of these terms is ambiguous. Continue reading “THE CASE FOR A  REPUBLICAN INTERNATIONALIST COALITION FOR  SCOTLAND’S INDEPENDENCE”

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Jul 12 2020

THE UK STATE, RIGHT POPULISM AND REACTIONARY UNIONISM IN 2020 – rUK IT or fUK IT?

Allan Armstrong has produced his third online pamphlet, following The Continuing Shift from Neo-Liberalism to Right Populism. This follows the last update which looked at the impact of Right Populism and reactionary unionism on the politics of the these islands after the December 12th UK and February 8th Irish general elections. The contents  of the latest  pamphlet (https://allanarmstrong831930095.files.wordpress. com/2020/ 08/ dec12th-covid-19-and-blm-scotland2-2.pdf) are shown below. This is followed by two sections from the pamphlet specifically relating to the recent and current situation in Scotland, which form the basis for Allan’s talk on the Campaign for a European Republican Socialist Republican Party Zoom meeting.

 

THE UK STATE, RIGHT POPULISM AND  

REACTIONARY UNIONISM IN 2020

rUK it or fUK it?

 A republican communist analysis in the aftermath of December 12th general election, Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter 

Allan Armstrong. 6.7.20

 

 

Contents

A. FROM THE DECEMBER 12TH WESTMINSTER GENERAL ELECTION THROUGH THE COVID-19 CRISIS

Continue reading “THE UK STATE, RIGHT POPULISM AND REACTIONARY UNIONISM IN 2020 – rUK IT or fUK IT?”

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Jul 02 2020

In memory of Neil Davidson: The West – No Better Than All the Rest

 Allan Armstrong was reading  How the West Came to Rule – The geopolitical origins of capitalism, by How the West Came to Rule – The geopolitical origins of capitalism by Alexander Anievas and Kerem Nisancioglum, as he learned of the tragic death of Neil Davidson. This book was influenced by Neil’s work on Uneven and Combined Development at a world scale.

Allan has engaged in several debates with Neil about how Socialists can address Scottish history. He decided to write a review of Anievas and Nisancioglum’s book, and look at  aspects of British and Scottish history, through the lens they provide.

Allan  sent this review to Conter. He thought that the second  issue of the magazine would be well served if it had a number of articles  in Neil’s memory. However, the Covid-19 crisis has delayed this issue.

 

THE WEST – NO BETTER THAN ALL THE REST

 

Challenging Eurocentric views of the world

I was reading How the West Came to Rule (HtWctR) when I learned of the death of Neil Davidson. Neil is acknowledged by the book’s authors, Alexander Anievas and Kerem Nisancioglu, as one of their inspirers.[1] HtWctR places the Uneven and Combined Development Theory (UCDT) at the centre of its analysis, referencing Neil in doing so.[2] Neil had been making a major contribution to reviving and applying this theory to global history. This led to the conference entitled ‘Uneven and Combined Development for the 21st Century’ held in Glasgow between the 5-7th September 2019. Anievas addressed this conference, albeit on another topic than HtWctR.[3] Although this conference placed historical development in Scotland under the UCDT spotlight, its contributors also examined historical developments over a far wider arena. HtWctR addresses these developments at the global level and represents the most ambitious attempt I have read to utilise UCDT both historically and geographically, whilst also drawing upon other theories. Continue reading “In memory of Neil Davidson: The West – No Better Than All the Rest”

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May 11 2020

INTERNATIONALISM FROM BELOW, Volume 4, part A

Allan Armstrong is in the process of writing Volume Four of the Internationalism from Below series. This volume is entitled, Communists, nation-states and nationalism during the 1916-21/3 International Revolutionary Wave’.

Due to the Coronavirus lockdown, Allan has not been able to complete the research to finish this. However, the part which deals with the situation in Latvia, Finland and Ukraine, between the February 1917 Revolution and the Treaty of Brest Litovsk in March in 1918, has been finished.  This begins with an examination of the role of Social Democrats, including the Leninist wing of the Bolsheviks and the Radical Left in addressing the ‘National Question’. It also outlines the beginnings of a renewed ‘Internationalism from Below’ approach, which was later to develop in Ukraine.

This part of Book Four can be accessed at:-

https://allanarmstrong831930095.files.wordpress.com/2020/05/internationalism-from-below-book-4a-3.pdf

This E&L website will give notice when the full book is available. Continue reading “INTERNATIONALISM FROM BELOW, Volume 4, part A”

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May 03 2020

PAULINE BRADLEY SINGS ABOUT HELEN MACFARLANE ON MAY DAY

May Day Greetings Comrades and Friends. I sent this to the on line #VirtualMayDay PSI event and it was aired, Thank you. It’s from the play Rare Birds about revolutionary Scottish woman Helen MacFarlane from Barrhead, the original translator of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. However she was published under the male pseudonym of Howard Morton.

 

____________

This is a review, written by Allan Armstrong in Emancipation & Liberation, no. 10  of Helen Macfarlane: A Feminist, Revolutionary Journalist and Philosopher in mid-nineteenth century England by David Black

Tribute to Helen Macfarlane— That the Parliament notes the forthcoming launch of the book, Helen Macfarlane: A Feminist, Revolutionary Journalist and Philosopher in mid-nineteenth century England; welcomes the fact that this radical Scotswoman will at last be rescued from obscurity and given her place of importance in 19th century politics and political movements, including the Chartists and the Vienna uprising of 1848; further notes that it was Helen Macfarlane, under the alias Howard Morton, who first translated the seminal pamphlet, The Communist Manifesto, into English for the magazine, The Red Republican, and that she played an active role in promoting the politics of revolution and equality throughout her life, and believes that the Scottish Parliament Information Centre should order several copies of her book and that libraries across Scotland should be encouraged to do likewise.

Moved by Tommy Sheridan, supported by: Mark Ballard, Rosie Kane, Rosemary Byrne, Frances Curran, Colin Fox, Alex Neil, Elaine Smith, Ms Sandra White

 

Few people probably noticed this motion tabled before the Scottish Parliament on February 18th this year. However, our parliamentary representatives are to be congratulated for their attempts to bring Helen Macfarlane, a remarkable woman, to the public’s attention. The inspiration for the motion was provided by the publication of Helen Macfarlane: A Feminist, Revolutionary Journalist and Philosopher in mid-nineteenth century England; written by David Black, editor of the marxist-humanist journal, Hobgoblin (see our Republic of Letters page).

The motion itself gives a brief outline of Helen Macfarlane’s wider significance. Dave’s book is not the usual biography. Too little is known about Helen Macfarlane. We do not know when she was born – only that Macfarlane was of that generation of post-Napoleonic War ‘baby-boomers’, which included other original and radical women writers such as George Eliot and the Bronte sisters. (p.2)

Dave’s enquiries locate Helen Macfarlane’s upbringing in Scotland. However, she later moved to London and Burnley. She was in Vienna during the 1848 Revolution. This profoundly affected her thinking. She joined the Fraternal Democrats, the most politically advanced section of the Chartist Movement. Between April and December of 1850, she wrote a number of articles for the Democratic Review, the Red Republican and Friend of the People. She also made the first English-language translation of The Communist Manifesto. Where later translators wrote of the Communist spectre haunting Europe, Helen Macfarlane wrote of the hobgoblin, which stalked the Europe of the Pope and the Czar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police agents. (p. 138)

Given the all-prevalent, male chauvinist, anti-woman feeling in mid-nineteenth century Britain, Helen Macfarlane, usually wrote under the nom-de-plume of Howard Morton. In her own words, British society condemned itself in ‘the position of women, who are regarded by law, not as persons, but as things’. (p.3) And in confirmation of women’s tenuous position in bourgeois society, all trace of Helen Macfarlane disappears from history, after 1851.

Not surprisingly then, Dave’s book is necessarily and unashamedly a Biography of an Idea (p.3) and that idea is Freedom. Dave identifies Helen Macfarlane’s concern with Hegel’s Idea of Freedom and with its ‘externalisation’. (p.4) She was the first person, born in Britain, to study, translate and utilise Hegel’s thought. However, she took Hegel’s thought further. Macfarlane’s ‘narrative of history’ saw a ‘pure democracy’ emerging from class struggles.(p.4)

Like the great French revolutionary, August Blanqui, Helen Macfarlane saw democracy as a historical process leading towards a ‘Republic without Helots’ – and end to exploitation and oppression through emancipation and liberation, where freedom and equality will be the acknowledged birthright of every human being… without poor, without classes… A society… not only of free men, but of free women. (p.4)

Dave demonstrates that Helen Macfarlane already anticipated the clear distinction between the ‘forms’ that the movement took in the twentieth century (Social Democracy, Stalinism, etc) {which} were based on economic determinism rather than a concept of Freedom (p.132). Therefore, she retains a contemporary relevance.

The other of Helen Macfarlane’s concerns, was the economic and political development of England. (p.4) The Britain of the day was the most economically advanced area in the world. Helen Macfarlane lived in Burnley, at the very centre of the cotton manufacturing industry, which was then the pacesetter for capitalist development in the world. Engels also had lived in nearby Manchester, prompting him to write The Condition of the Working Classes.

Helen Macfarlane polemicised against three political tendencies involved in the Industrial Revolution. The first of these included the Manchester Liberals, who fought against ‘Old Corruption’ under the banner of Free Trade. (p.4) The leading spokesmen for these humbug manufacturers were Richard Cobden and John Bright. Many of their arguments are being recycled today by such neo-liberal advocates of global corporatism as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. However, one difference is they are also the political leaders of the ‘New Corruption’, ripping off workers, consumers and the finances of the state for the benefit of the global corporations.

Helen Macfarlane also polemicised against such rosewater sentimentalists as Charles Dickens. He advocated charity to deal with the problems of the day. Again we have contemporaries in such figures as Sir Bob Geldof, the G8’s licensed court jester. Geldof’s interventions around the current G8 summit have been designed to promote musical ‘alternatives’ to the events organised by the ‘Make Capitalism History’ wing of the G8 protests. His proposed million person march in Edinburgh, white-clad and pleading, resembles Father Gapon’s St. Petersburg supplicatory march to petition the Tsar, a century ago. The ‘sentimental’ Dickens could also show his real political feelings, when writing of the Chartist Movement – Bastards of the Mountain, draggled fringe on the Red Cap, Panders to the basest passions of the lowest natures! (p. 53)

However, Helen Macfarlane’s opposition to Thomas Carlyle, the famous Scottish writer and opinion-former of Victorian Britain, was perhaps her most important polemical contribution. Carlyle opposed the rise of industrial capitalism. Because of this stance, he won many adherents, including a whole generation of Radical and early Labour figures. He opposed the new sham aristocracy of mill owners. However, he was even more vociferous in his opposition to Chartism, and indeed any movement of the oppressed. He was especially contemptuous of Black West Indians and our own White Ireland… these two extremes of lazy refusal to workl! (p. 80) In 1849, Carlyle published an essay attacking American abolitionists in an essay, Occasional Discourse on the Nigger Question!

Helen Macfarlane was extremely prescient in her attack on Carlyle. The idea… which, I think, pervades all Mr. Carlyle’s works, is that of hero-worship, (p. 82) When Carlyle looked for a force to counter the Chartist Movement, he sought a precedent in the Norman conquerors, an immense volunteer police force, stationed everywhere, united disciplined, feudally regimented, ready for action; strong Teutonic men. (p. 80) He clearly anticipated the rise of the later fascist paramilitaries.

It is always important to remember the dark appeal of fascism, which today opposes globalisation. Fascism seeks to divert the current worldwide mass movement into narrow chauvinist, racist and sexist channels, to create more hatred, division and conflict. Helen Macfarlane upheld revolution as the best antidote to the reactionaries of her day. I am free to confess that, for me the most joyful of all spectacles possible in these times is the one which Mr. Carlyle laments; one which I enjoyed extremely in Vienna, in March 1848 – i.e. ‘an universal tumbling of impostors’…. Ca ira! – or, if she had been writing today., ‘Y Basta’!

 

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Apr 18 2020

INTERNATIONALISM FROM BELOW – Volume 3

Allan Armstrong has completed the third volume of his book – Internationalism from Below: Reclaiming a communist tradition to challenge the nation-state and capitalist empire. This volume is titled, Revolutionary Social Democracy, Nation-States and Nationalism in the Age of High Imperialism and the Second International (1889-1916). It can be read online at:-

https://allanarmstrong831930095.files.wordpress.com/2020/05/internationalism-from-below-book-3doc-1.pdf

Most of the theories the Left uses today to address the ‘National Question’ have their origins in the period of High Imperialism leading up to the First World War and the outbreak of the 1916-21/3 International Revolutionary Wave. These theories are linked to the names of Kaul Kautsky, Otto Bauer, Rosa Luxemburg, Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin. All emerged in the context of a Second International struggling with the impact of High Imperialism and the growing threats of war.  The authors  of these theories sometimes competed over their claims to provide  an orthodox Marxist underpinning for their approach to the ‘National Question’. However, during this period an ‘Internationalism from Below’ trend also emerged. It was less concerned with being orthodox, but analysed the latest developments in the formation of nations and nation-states from the perspective of revolutionary Social Democrats living in oppressed nations. These writers and activists included James Connolly in Ireland, Kazimierz Kelles-Kreuz in Poland and Lev Iurkevich in Ukraine. Their theories were to be tested in the 1916-21/3 International Revolutionary Wave, which forms the subject of Volume 4. Continue reading “INTERNATIONALISM FROM BELOW – Volume 3”

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Feb 27 2020

COMPETING STRATEGIES IN THE FACE OF THE BREAK-UP OF THE UK AND THE CASE FOR A SOCIALIST REPUBLICAN ‘INTERNATIONALISM FROM BELOW’ ALLIANCE

Allan Armstrong has added an addendum to his book From Pre-Brit to Ex-Brit   (https://allanarmstrong831930095.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/socialists-and-december-12th-election.pdffollowing the December 12th UK and February 8th Irish general elections.

 

COMPETING STRATEGIES IN THE FACE OF THE BREAK-UP OF THE UK AND THE CASE FOR A SOCIALIST REPUBLICAN ‘INTERNATIONALISM FROM BELOW’ ALLIANCE

 

 

 

 

Although Johnson gained an overall Right Populist electoral victory in the UK on December 12th, this disguises the fact that in Scotland the constitutional nationalist SNP emerged as the electoral victor, pushing the Tories and Scottish Labour into retreat. In Wales, the still largely liberal unionist, Welsh Labour and the constitutional nationalist, Plaid Cymru retained an overall majority, but the Tories made substantial gains. In Northern Ireland, the reactionary unionist DUP lost its overall majority, giving a tentative constitutional nationalist (Sinn Fein and SDLP) and liberal unionist (APNI) alliance a majority. Furthermore, there are wider national democratic movements in Scotland, Wales and Ireland/Northern Ireland, which will be prepared to challenge Johnson’s reactionary unionist clampdown. This is a recipe for continued constitutional crisis, with Scotland in the front line at present. Continue reading “COMPETING STRATEGIES IN THE FACE OF THE BREAK-UP OF THE UK AND THE CASE FOR A SOCIALIST REPUBLICAN ‘INTERNATIONALISM FROM BELOW’ ALLIANCE”

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Feb 09 2020

PEAT AND DIESEL AT THE BARROWLANDS

Allan Armstrong reviews Peat and Diesel playing at Glasgow’s Barrowlands on 25.1.20

 

PEAT AND DIESEL AT THE BARROWLANDS

 

 

As a fan of traditional and folk rock music since the 1960s, I have had some great nights out. But straight into my top 5 would be Peat and Diesel performing at Glasgow’s Barrowlands on 25th January. Peat and Diesel is a three-piece band from Stornoway. They feature fisherman, Callum ‘Boydie’ MacLeod, guitarist and vocalist; electrician, Innes Scott, accordion player; and delivery driver, Uilleam ‘Uilly’ MacLeod on drums. They produce a very full sound for a three-piece band – think Runrig meets the Pogues!

With my partner, Myra, we only first heard of the group, seeing them perform on BBC Alba this Hogmanay. It reminded us of a similar experience, when we saw the Pogues on TV in the 1980s. Our friend, Calum, described the Pogues at the time as the Dubliners meets the Sex Pistols. Myra immediately began googling to see if Peat and Diesel were performing anywhere. As it turned out they had a whole series of gigs, starting with the Barrowlands (part of Celtic Connections), covering Scotland, Ireland and England, before finishing there again here on November 27th. But both the Barrowlands and many other events were already sold out! Continue reading “PEAT AND DIESEL AT THE BARROWLANDS”

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Feb 04 2020

FROM ILLUSIONS IN A LEXIT BREXIT TO A DISILLUSIONED LEXIT FROM BREXIT POLITICS – THE DECEMBER 12th GENERAL ELECTION AND INDEPENDENT SOCIALISTS ACROSS THESE ISLANDS

Allan Armstrong has published an article entitled From Illusions in a Lexit Brexit to a Disillusioned Lexit from Brexit Politics (https://allanarmstrong831930095.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/socialists-and-december-12th-election.pdf)  The contents of this book are shown below, followed by the last two chapters and conclusion. This  article follows The Impact of the December 12th General Election across the Constituent Parts of the UK. (http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2020/01/24/the-impact-of-the-december-12th-general-election-across-the-constituent-parts-of-the-uk/)

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FROM ILLUSIONS IN A LEXIT BREXIT TO A DISILLUSIONED LEXIT FROM BREXIT POLITICS 

 

 

Telegraph backs Lexiters’ ‘revolution’ and ‘Peoples Brexit!

 

Contents

a)  The 2015 general election provided a warning

b)  After 2015 – an increasingly floundering Left

c)  Northern Ireland – a different pattern

d)  Reactionary unionism and Europhobic opposition to the EU

e)  The largest independent Socialist parties walk into the Brexit trap

f)  The official Remain and Leave campaigns – two wings of the British ruling class

g)  The Lexiters’ false arguments

h)  The political options open in the run-up to the 2016 EU referendum

i)  From 23rd May, 2016 to 8th June, 2017 – A victory for the Left or the Right?

j)  ‘Independent’ Socialists and ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’!

k)  Corbyn and the ‘independent’ Socialists unwittingly help Boris Johnson to victory

l)  Independent socialists after the December 12th general election

m) Independent socialists in Scotland and Northern Ireland/Ireland

n) Conclusion

______________________

 

THE DECEMBER 12th GENERAL ELECTION AND INDEPENDENT SOCIALISTS ACROSS THESE ISLANDS

 

1. Independent socialists after the December 12th general election

On December 12th, Labour’s vote share fell by 7.8% and its number of MPs decreased from 262 to 202. The Tories’ vote share rose 1.2%, but its number of MPs increased from 317 to 365. The gap in the vote share was 11.4%, 32.2% for Labour and 43.6% for the Tories.[1] Not surprisingly a shattered Jeremy Corbyn offered his resignation, opening up the prospect of a new leadership campaign. Continue reading “FROM ILLUSIONS IN A LEXIT BREXIT TO A DISILLUSIONED LEXIT FROM BREXIT POLITICS – THE DECEMBER 12th GENERAL ELECTION AND INDEPENDENT SOCIALISTS ACROSS THESE ISLANDS”

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