Book ReviewsDatacide 13

2013 Reviews of some Magazines and Journals of the Radical Left

Strike! – Streitschrift für revolutionären Unionismus und Rätekommunismus
Ausgabe 1, January 2013.

A nicely produced 40 page magazine that situates itself in the tradition of the Unionen of the post-WWI years and of the Industrial Workers of the World. With articles addressing direct action, a manifesto of class autonomy, “notes on workers struggles”, a debate on the role of trade unions, and a first part of a history of revolutionary Unionism, the magazine makes a promising beginning. But it remains to be seen if it will keep up the good work with regular future issues and arrive at a convincing contemporary political form derived from Unionism and classical Council Communism. A historical publication on currents of the anti-authoritarian workers’ movement which will deal with various aspects of the Unionen-movement as well as some post-68 developments is announced for publication this autumn.
Contact: Strike! C/o Rotes Antiquariat, Rungestr. 20, 10179 Berlin

Fight Back #5 – Neonazis in Berlin & Brandenburg – eine Antifa-Recherche. April 2013
This is the 5th edition of Fight Back, and with 108 A4 pages the most detailed yet. It’s essentially a compendium of the far and extreme right in Berlin and surrounding Brandenburg, with the intention of providing material to anti-fascists. This includes both background info on organisations and structures as well as outing individual fascists. The whole spectrum from new rightists, to the NPD, to “Reichsbürger” to autonomous nationalists is covered. 12 years after the first version of Fight Back came out, this is by far the most comprehensive. Anti-fascists can pick up a free copy in left wing book and info shops in and around Berlin.

Controverses – Forum pour la Gauche Communiste Internationaliste
Controverses is a journal situated in the so called ultra-left but without being the mouth piece of a particular organisation. It was founded in 2009 and has since appeared with 4 issues in french and one in German (Kontroversen – Forum für die Internationalistische Kommunistische Linke). It set out to break with the dogmatism of the usual ultra-left periodicals, which are usually linked to the various grouposcules that make up the micro-universe of “organised” Left Communisim. Rather than peddling a particular line, Controverses works towards opening up debates encapsulating the whole of this milieu. While it could be argued that this is still somewhat self-limiting, it does mark a positive step away from hammering out the party-line to a necessary widening of the horizon. We have to wait to see how successful this will be ñ the paper editions of Controverse haven’t appeared for nearly three years, although the web site is still active.

Shift Magazine
The first issue of Shift – Magazine for Debate and Analysis appeared in the autumn of 2007, and the last one, issue 15, in September 2012. Shift was a welcome addition to the world of radical publishing in Britain. It distinguished itself positively with a certain focus on a critique of the regressive aspects of anti-capitalism, and was not afraid of debate and exchange. It situated itself firmly in the ‘activist’ milieu, and promptly faced “strong hostility”, as they mention in the editorial to the last issue. It appears that for Shift the idea of its audience was an important one (“in periods of stagnation or lesser coherence, the question of who we were addressing – and with what purpose – became more problematic”). They wanted to provide thought-provoking debate and then were disappointed at being seen as “aloof pseudo-academics that were not real ‘activists’”. They also felt they “lost potential political allies” by formulating certain critiques in an “overly polemical” manner. This is too bad, because we will not get a meaningful “regroupment of the left” (one of the themes of the last issue of Shift), without sharp critique and some polemic. If this goes along with the willingness to debate and discuss, we may get somewhere. With a “left” that is either following the line of one of the many sects, or merely sees being an activist as a pre-defined identity whose components mustn’t be challenged, this is not going to happen. Shift did go in the right direction, but neither did they go far enough, nor did they keep on. The archive of all issues can now be visited here:

Archiv für die Geschichte des Widerstandes und der Arbeit, No. 19, Germinal Verlag, 2011
The first volume of the Archiv was published in 1980, first as a kind of yearbook for the anarchist Karin Kramer Verlag, and since 1985 was printed by Germinal publishing. Over the years the frequency of publication has dropped, but on the other hand, each volumes seemed to grow over the last few years reaching a peak with nearly 900 pages with issue No.16 in 2001.

With 532 pages the latest edition is still pretty voluminous, and again is full of fascinating articles about topics relating to the revolutionary/worker’s movements of the (mainly) 20th century. This current issue starts off with an article “Between personal autonomy and Zion – the ‘national question’ in the jewish-russian worker’s movement at the beginning of the 20th century”, which is accompanied by translations of two texts by Chaim Zhitlowsky. This is followed by the short biography of Hilde Kramer-Fitzgerald, who as a young woman was involved with the Munich council republic. After the defeat, she moved to Berlin and delved into the milieu of “secret agents and professional revolutionaries” and soon started working for the Communist International. Like most revolutionaries, she was expelled from KPD and joined one of the smaller radical parties, in her case the SAPD (Sozialistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands = Socialist Workers Party of Germany, obviously having nothing to do with the British nor the American Parties of that name). Eventually she managed to emigrate to Britain. With a large number of footnotes with detailed background information and connections, this account of the life of one of the many militants that made up the revolutionary movement at the time makes for fascinating reading.

The next 50 page article is dedicated to the social and political engagement of the author Salomo Friedlaender, also known as Mynona, followed by a travelogue through anarchist Spain by Emil Szitta and a commentary on that text by Walter Fähnders and Rüdiger Reinecke.
Gerhard Hanloser is then offering a critique of Ernst Jünger’s (fascist) book Der Arbeiter, as well as contrasting two programmatic text of the council communist Heinz Langerhans. Langerhans, expelled from the KPD as a follower of Karl Korsch and later involved with Paul Mattick’s Living Marxism, wrote in 1934 Die nächste Weltkrise, der zweite Weltkrieg und die Weltrevolution (The next world crisis, the second world war, and world revolution), and in 1939 “Krieg und Faschismus” (published in english in Living Marxism as “The Historical Character of the War and the Task of the Working Class”). Hanloser shows that these texts are – to some degree a kind of “Anti-Jünger”.

The following article by Charles Jacquier details Simone Weil’s time as a militant of the extreme left in the late 20’s and throughout the 30’s. In this period she was writing extremely lucid analyses of the German situation for “La Revolution prolétarienne” and was allied to the “Cercle communiste démocratique” of Boris Souvarine and in contact with André Prudhommeaux and many others. She was also one of the driving forces attempting to unify the anti-Stalinist communist Left at a conference in April 1933. Such a unity unfortunately didn’t come to pass. Weil of course became more well known as the religious mystic that she became before her death in 1943 at age 34, but it is certainly worth rediscovering her work as a militant.

Two more excellent articles round off this edition of the Archiv. Second to last is Robert Holzer’s “Neue Linke zwischen Antisemitismus, Antizionismus und Kritik an Israel” (The New Left between anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel), which is an excellent, extremely well documented article on this topic that we shall return to. The final piece is a translation from French: Jacques Guigou/Jacques Wajnsztejn: Quelques précisions sur Capitalisme, capital, société capitalisée, printed as Einige Überlegungen zu Kapitalismus, Kapital, kapitalisierte Gesellschaft, originally from Temps Critiques, 2010. In contrast to the other more historical articles, this is a piece of Marxist theory.

As always the issue contains countless book reviews with about 150 pages of just about anything that appeared in German since the last issue on the topics of Anarchism, Left Communism, worker’s struggles, autonomy, crisis, history and anything else to do with the non-dogmatic left. All this makes the Archiv indispensable for anyone interested in these topics.

Sans Phrase, Zeitschrift für Ideologiekritik, Heft 2, Frühjahr 2013
Sans Phrase is a new journal based in Vienna and edited by Manfred Dahlmann and Gerhard Scheit. It is published by ça ira, the publishing house of Initiative Sozialistisches Forum (ISF) from Freiburg. Datacide readers may remember it from two book reviews that appeared in the last issue. Sans Phrase is following a similar line as the books ça ira publishes. It combines cultural and political critique from a left communist point of view which is strongly influenced by critical theory. Recently there has also been a critical appraisal of Jean Améry and also Jean-Paul Sartre. This is indirectly reflected in this issues articles about Claude Lanzmann (pro) and Jean-Luc Godard (contra). There is also a very interesting article on Luigi Nono, which also poses the question of political engagement. This is followed by articles about Günter Anders and critiques of Alain Badiou. The second half of the journal treats more current affairs, which makes equally engaging reading. Sans Phrase is a very welcome addition to the small number of interesting publications in German that would deserve a more in depth review, but for now I leave it at this short recommendation.

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