It’s a tale from another century – when most people who situated themselves on the radical left also felt they were part of a world civil war. It was a war between good and evil, the oppressed vs. the oppressors, the proletariat vs. the capitalists, the countries of the periphery vs. the centre. Support for anti-colonial struggles and for the Vietcong as well as the various Latin American guerillas was based on a wide consensus, and was in many cases the starting point of individual and collective politicisations. This consensus seemed to override the knowledge and assessments of the crimes of Stalin and Mao, and many other ‘details’. Apparently the way towards socialism was not a straight road, it could be a zig-zag at times. The more the Western proletariat seemed uninterested in revolution, and the Eastern Bloc seemed a bureaucratic aberration, the more the national liberation movements in the ‘backwards’ countries became the global hope of Western middle class ‘revolutionaries’.
The root of this idea goes back to the Conference of Baku in 1920 and the second congress of the Communist International in the same year.
This is when Lenin revised the Marxist slogan ‘Workers of all countries unite!’ and changed it to: ‘Workers and oppressed peoples and nations of the world, unite!’
This slogan significantly changed the direction of the ‘official’ communist movement. Workers are members of a class and at the same time individual human beings. In oppressed peoples and nations the individuals are absent.
In point 11 of his Preliminary Draft of Theses on the National and Colonial Questions, Lenin proclaimed that Communist parties in ‘backward states and nations, in which feudal or patriarchal and patriarchal-peasant relations predominate (…) must assist the bourgeois-democratic liberation movement’. But at least he recognised some of the dangers, and stressed ‘the need for struggle against the clergy and other influential reactionary and medieval elements’ as well as the ‘need to combat the Pan-Islamic and similar trends which strive to combine the liberation movement against European and American imperialism with an attempt to strengthen the positions of the khans, landowners, mullahs, etc.’
This advice was heeded less and less as the Soviet Union degenerated – and in fact even less so by those who accused the SU of ‘social imperialism’ and supported a Maoist alternative to the Russian line, supporting shameless nationalist dictatorships with a ‘communist’ cloak in Albania, Kampuchea or North Korea. [Read more →]
What strikes me when I look back at the first issue of datacide is that there is no editorial, no statement of intent — something remarkable for a new marginal publication launching itself.
Instead, the zine jumps right in with a reprinted update on the then proposed new police bill. This is followed by news items about a record company trying to copyright the term ‘Teknival’. We perceived these events as a two-pronged assault by the state and by commerce on what we saw as an emerging underground movement connected to hard electronic dance music. Indeed the following news about ‘new networks of distribution and communication’ were trying to counteract this with the optimistic proposal of a mode of autonomous organisation that would function in an ‘entirely decentralized manner that allows the specific identity of its “members” maximum freedom, a rhizome-like structure that is invisible and everywhere at the same time’. This is then illustrated with news about current activities of record labels and soundsystem crews, reviews of parties and interspersed with some experimental fiction pieces. The mixture of artist interviews, record reviews, technology critique, counter-cultural angles as well as programmatic texts set the tone for the following issues. In datacide one it was left to the London Psychogeographical Association to make an explicit call for communism, while it was Flint Michigan who provided a programmatic text titled BREAK/FLOW versus DATACIDE.
Due to the political climate at the time the first issue went to print, datacide didn’t need explanations or an explicit statement of intent to be understood by its audience. [Read more →]
Kommunisten gegen Hitler und Stalin
Die linke Opposition der KPD in der Weimarer Republik – Eine Gesamtdarstellung
Klartext Verlag, Essen 2014
With this 600 page strong book Marcel Bois offers the first comprehensive overall presentation of the history and sociology of the left opposition of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in the 1920s and early 1930s. The emphasis is on a very detailed and scientifically documented depiction of those groups who left the KPD from the mid-20s onwards in the course of its Stalinisation. These were on the one hand the groups around the former leaders of the party such as Ruth Fischer, Arkadij Maslow and Werner Scholem, who with Hugo Urbahns and others, founded the Leninbund (Lenin-League). On the other hand there were the Entschiedene Linke (Decisive Left) and the Gruppe Kommunistische Politik around Ernst Schwarz and Karl Korsch respectively, as well as The Wedding Opposition and smaller groups like Bolschewistische Einheit (Bolshevik Unity). A bit later, the organisational roots of Trotskyism in Germany also emerged. The Spartakusbund linkskommunistischer Organisationen around Franz Pfemfert had a special position in the milieu of the left oppposition.
The founding conference of the KPD took place at the turn of the year 1918/1919 within two months of the end of World War I. Less than two weeks later, two of its most important leaders, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, were murdered. There were several attempts from this time through 1923 to make the revolution in Germany happen, which all failed. Already in 1919 a back-and-forth started between more ‘left’ or ‘right’ leaning leaderships, and as early as October 1919 a large section of the party’s left were expelled. The issues at stake were the rejection of elections to parliament and the Leninist party concept by the left. In April 1920 this left constituted the Communist Workers Party (Kommunistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands, KAPD), and took with them a large part of the membership of the KPD. This marked a decisive historical break in the international communist movement that was echoed in similar processes of regroupment in other countries. Lenin famously targeted the left with his nasty pamphlet “Left-Wing” Communism, An Infantile Disorder, denouncing its ‘opinion, declamations and angry ejaculations’ as ‘childish’, ‘particularly stupid’, ‘fundamentally wrong’ and amounting ‘to no more than empty phrase-mongering’. In the process he defended participation in parliamentary elections and reactionary unions, and effectively the dictatorship of the party over the dictatorship of the proletariat. The KPD in the meantime ditched the ‘right’ leadership under Paul Levi, who was appalled by the fact that the party had been dragged into the ‘putschist’ adventure of the ‘March Action’ in 1921. Levi then printed the previously unavailable – now famous – text by Rosa Luxemburg in which she severely criticised the Bolsheviks. [Read more →]
Psycho Politics – Laing, Foucault, Goffman, Szasz and the Future of Mass Psychiatry
Foreword by Helen Spandler, Robert Dellar, Alastair Kemp
Unkant Publishers, London 2015
Peter Sedgwick was born in 1934, joined the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) in 1954, left it in the aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution two years later, then joined the Socialist Review Group. This small organization, headed by Tony Cliff, later became the International Socialists (IS). Sedgwick became a frequent contributor to their journal, International Socialism. When the organisation took a turn towards Leninist party-building and renamed itself Socialist Workers Party in 1977, Sedgwick left the group. He fiercely opposed this step, calling it a ‘propaganda-act’, a ‘silly fling’ and a fraud.
Sedgwick worked as a psychologist and school teacher before lecturing on politics at the universities of York and Leeds for the last 15 years of his life. He was the eminent translator of the works of communist dissident Victor Serge.
Besides dozens of articles in the press of the IS, Sedgwick’s main work is Psycho Politics – Laing, Foucault, Goffman, Szasz and the Future of Mass Psychiatry. This book was originally published by Pluto Press in 1982 and was an assault on the ideology of the anti-psychiatry movement of the 60s and 70s and its relative hegemony concerning positions towards mental health issues in the radical left at the time.
He sets out to show how these ideas, originally devised in the interest of the ‘mentally ill’, provided ammunition to those on the right with the agenda of dismantling the welfare state, giving them arguments to withhold adequate funding from the mental health institutions and ultimately shifting the responsibility of taking care of the mentally ill back to ‘the community’ or the family. [Read more →]
Things That Were
[Vinyl on Demand, VOD117]
The first self-titled Lustmord LP appeared originally on Nocturnal Emissions’ Sterile Records in 1981. It is one of the classic releases of a particular phase in British industrial music whose sound is defined by outfits such as S.P.K., Nocturnal Emissions, Bourbonese Qualk and others. It could be said that these and other bands/projects represented a “second wave” after the trailblazers of Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, continuing a grim sound, reflective of the hostile environment of Britain in the late 70s and early 80s.
In 1983 the Sounds-journalist Dave Henderson compiled a nice overview of this scene in the form of The Elephant Table Album, creating a snapshot of that scene as it was already drifting in different directions, be it more dance-oriented strategies or a more dark, ambient noise vein.
Things That Were, released in 2013 by Vinyl on Demand as triple LP box set, collects Lustmord’s material from before that date. The first of the three LPs is a remastered version of the aforementioned first LP, the other two records collect bits from various compilations (including the Elephant Table) as well as several live- or studio-versions and unreleased tracks. This is long before he became well known for his soundtrack-like dark ambient style, with the one exception of the last track of the third record, which anticipates his departure from the rawer and harsher sound of the early years.
The Burial/Jah Jah Dub
A two-tracker on a stamped white label 10” shows FFF with Champa B in a more quiet, reggae-influenced mode somewhere between Jungle and early Drum’n’Bass. On both sides the beat remains rather steady and there are no surprises or ravetastic elements as you might expect, but it’s not too cheesy either.
Stage Invader/Tek Hater
Deathchant reaches number 75 with the man Hellfish battling it out on two 45rpm tracks in his familiar style combining some breaks, start-and-stop techniques and EQ-tweaking with the trademark fierce 4 to the floor pounding. Since number 70 all Deathchant releases have been by Hellfish. Perhaps he figured he might as well just put out his own tunes if he can churn them out at this speed to keep the pressing plants busy (and still find time to make releases for PRSPCT). Now none of them provide new revelations, but I don’t think that’s what they’re made for, they seem to be happy to be just solid kicking Deathchant releases.
Liza N’Eliaz/Laurent Hô
S.O.D.O.M. stands for Slaves Of Devil Our Master and was a label run by Armaguet Nad in the late 90s. It never completely stopped, and after some long gaps there were two releases again in recent years, most recently – January 2016 – the number 001. [Read more →]