Monday, 30 October 2017

Iranian Regime Kills Labour Activists - Bread and Roses TV

Afshin Osanlu; a Labour activist targeted by the Iranian government





The "Anti-Imperialist" regime of Iran has for many years targeted Labour activists and trade unions in the country.

From 2007

 Like many supposedly revolutionary governments, this regime has been particularly harsh to workers and their representatives who have dared to protest the injustices that pervade the present system in Iran.    On April 9 this year, Iranian agents arrested Mahmoud Salehi, the founder of an independent bakery workers association. And then on three separate occasions since 2005, this same Iranian regime has arrested and imprisoned Mansour Osanloo, the president of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, an independent labor association of transportation workers.
   Most recently then, on July 10, 2007, reports indicate that plainclothes Iranian agents kidnapped, assaulted and imprisoned Mr. Osanloo.
   When transport workers have attempted to strike in order to protest their lack of rights and the arrest of their representatives, the Iranian regime has beaten them and compelled them to return to work. Iran's deplorable behavior violates its own legal obligations under its own Constitution.
And it hasn't gotten any better in recent years.

From 2015


April 29, 2015—On the eve of International Workers’ Day on May 1, Iranian authorities have arrested at least five labor leaders. The arrests have taken place in the context of intensifying labor protests, strikes, and arrests of individuals organizing or participating in labor protests.
“The Government views any labor mobilization as a national security threat,” said Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director of the Campaign. “Workers should be allowed to peacefully defend their common interests, without risking years behind bars.”
“Rouhani needs to turn his attention to the people of Iran. Workers are suffering and their demands need to be heard,” added Ghaemi.
Tehran Security Police arrested two members of the Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, Ebrahim Maddadi and Davood Razavi, in their homes on April 29, and two other labor activists, Mahmoud Salehi and Osman Ismaili, were arrested in the city of Saqez in the Kurdistan Province on April 28. On April 25, plainclothes security agents in Sanandaj, Kurdistan, arrested the labor activist Reza Amjadi.
On April 20, four days after thousands of teachers protested against low wages, Alireza Hashemi, head of the Iran Teachers Organization, was detained and transferred to Evin Prison to serve a five-year sentence originally handed out to him in 2013.
Independent labor unions are banned in Iran, strikers are often fired and risk being detained, and labor leaders face long prison sentences on trumped up national security charges.
Despite this, a growing wave of strikes and worker protests have roiled many sectors in Iran over the past year, as a combination of international sanctions and economic mismanagement has taken a heavy toll on the economy, with workers bearing the brunt of the economic pain.
Some 70% of workers’ wages are now under the official poverty line in Iran, and approximately 90% of all contracts are temporary, affording workers no insurance or protections.
Over the past year, workers in dozens of factories have experienced more than 6 months of unpaid wages. For example, 900 workers in the Ahvaz City Metro Construction project haven’t received their wages for more than four months.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Mother Night - Kurt Vonnegut

"You should be careful about what you pretend to be, because in the end you are what you pretend to be"

Some stories don't age well, some are timeless, and a few like Mother Night get better and more important with age. Mother Night is about an American émigré who grew up in Germany between the wars. When the Nazi's come to power he stays on the country and is recruited as a spy for the American intelligence service. He is called Howard W. Campbell, Jr, a well respected playwright who is taken into the Propaganda ministry. 

The rub and the point of the story is that in order for Howard W. Campbell, Jr to rise and get close the Nazi party leadership he not only has to convince them he's a believer in Aryan supremacy and German victory he has to prove himself as a master propagandist. And he passes with flying colours, he develops a radio show addressing English speaking audiences as the `last free American`. He also forms a volunteer army for American prisoners, he appeared in Slaughter House Five to recruit in Dresden.

He does not believe a word of the horrible Nazi things he says in his role, but he's so good at what he does even the deranged and ridiculous anti-Semitic rants he delivers are received very, very well by his audience. He may not believe that "Rosenfeld" is a Jewish agent corrupting America from within, but many who listened to his radio broadcasts did. Even after the war he becomes a celebrity amongst the sad fringe of neo-fascists who diligently reprint and re-record his propaganda to inspire themselves. 

This is the issue, we are never given any reason to doubt Howard W. Campbell, Jr's sincerity when he refutes and ridicules his own Nazi lies, but the question of whether it matters is not quite as clear. Several characters point out to him that he served the Nazi regime so well in his endeavours that a true believer couldn't have done better. And we do see the effects of his poison seeping into a new generation. He may of made up all that nonsense about Jewish Bolshevism, but hundreds of angry and confused people the world over still believe in it, and are using it to support and strengthen their movement. 

The story is about the relationship between intentions and actual effects. And its for this reason that I think Mother Night has become more important than ever in the internet age. The internet has lead to the growth of subcultures and bubbles, one drawback to this is that it has stimulated the rise of "Irony culture". Irony is now basically a shield for any toxic nonsense you want to publicise, just adopt a flippant tone, and assure people you're joking if and when you get a backlash and there you go. Racism, sexism anti-Semitism, the use of slurs and threats is suddenly ok now, its being "Ironic".

Mother Night in a hundred and sixteen pages explains pretty clearly why even if that were true -I'm going to leave aside the possibility of lying for the moment- it doesn't in anyway change the fact that often what's being passed off as Ironic memes, is just bigotry toxic ideas with a wink. If you post a meme to Facebook using racial stereotypes, your still pushing racial stereotypes, and encouraging others to do so too. If you respond to other users on a forum using slurs in a jokey we're all in this together way you're still using slurs and encouraging others to do the same. If your joking amongst friends on a public platform you're still saying its ok to insult minorities to a wider audience.

Irony used in this way (and to be honest a lot of it doesn't even qualify as Irony) is no different from sincerity. You and your close circle of friends might not have a bigoted bone in their bodies, but their are plenty who do. And you'd be amazed at just what some of them can latch onto for encouragement. Quite a few people think one way to enjoy Irony without actively offending by going to extreme outlandishness, but that was what Howard W. Campbell, Jr did. Its also showing a complete lack of understanding of how the reactionary subculture works.

Actual racist talking points can be shockingly daft and wacky. It would be funny to hear how car parts breaking down often is part of a Jewish conspiracy to say wreck a nations economic efficiency via traffic jams[1] if they weren't deadly serious and act upon these fears. You cannot come up with a racist theory so ludicrous that a segment of the far right won't accept and make use of. I'll give a personal example, I make a lot of pdfs and I write a lot of blogs, I've discovered online archives of Fascist texts with pdfs I've made and posts I've written. One that stood out also had a lot of Kropotkin and Bordiga and Marx nestled between Mosley and Evola.

And none of those were jokes they were rather dry even boring texts about economics and social history.

I think a big example of this lack of understanding the targets of ridicule was the Nazbol/Anfash meme that was popular on Twitter a few months back. There was a spate of jokes and parody accounts for members of the "National Bolsheviks" and "Anarcho-Fascism". The problem being that these are actual ideologies with real members and activists. Nazbol is an undercurrent of Russian Fascism but it has a presence in several other Eastern European nations. All the ones I've encountered have been Germans.

I can assure you from experience they're just as loopy as the joke posts. But that's the trouble, if you can't tell a joke from a real threat aren't you just making it easier for the threats to move around in public? If you can use the "just a joke excuse" to diffuse criticism and backlash why can't they? Everyone's free to do what they want and I can't stop anyone who wants to meme ironic bigotry, but you should ask yourselves are you ok with people taking your jokes and using them in sincere campaigns of bigotry?





____________________________________________________

1: That was in Four Lions, but I have seen Fash types seriously suggest this



Friday, 27 October 2017

Giuseppe Pinelli - Death of an Anarchist


The 1970's were a dangerous time to be politically active in Italy. Neo Fascist paramilitaries were mounting a prolonged bombing campaign killing many. As an extra sting the fascists often posed as left wing guerrilla's in an attempt to provoke and justify an authoritarian crackdown. There were leftist paramilitaries most well known were the Rosa brigades, but they tended to focus on kidnappings and assassinations instead of bombing public buildings and train stations.

After one such bombing Giuseppe Pinelli a local railroad worker and Anarchist activist was arrested in a dragnet. Whilst in police custody he went through a fourth floor window. The police maintained that he accidentally went through the window of his own accord, but the official story was so full of holes an entire play was written debunking it.

In 2001 a new investigation found three members of a Neo Fascist group responsible for the bombing that Giuseppe Pinelli had been detained for. So in addition to being killed by police he was innocent of the charges too. The interview below gives details of his life and death, including interviews with his family. There is also a discussion of this period of Italian politics, often dubbed the Strategy of Tension period, after the plans of the Fascist groups to increase tensions to breaking point.



I'd just like to make one critical comment, in the discussion afterwards the existence of the Strategy of Tension is dismissed and likened to a conspiracy theory. This is incorrect but appears to be based on a misunderstanding. The expert refers to the Strategy of Tension as being directed by the Italian state as a sort of evil block, and that's not really what the allegation is based on.

Its often described as a state within a state because it concerned the actions of networks of Neo-Fascists and members of the security services. Charges were on occasion brought up against members of Italian right wing groups and some state officials were investigated over this period. It was less a plot by a governmental monolith and more an attempt by a faction within the government to enforce its platform. For example in 1974 Vito Micelli the former head of the S.I.D (Italian secret service) stood and won a parliamentary seat as a member of the MSI. The MSI was the party that was founded by surviving members of Mussolini's defunct Fascist regime.

He had to stand down from his S.I.D job because he was connected to a coup attempt in 1970. But he was just one example, in order for the framing of leftists and anarchists to work it required the involvement of many within the intelligence and policing services. Most arrests in the aftermath of bombings were done by tip offs from the S.I.D, arrests which were often overturned and found to be spurious once an inquest was mounted.

The strategy of Tension was a conspiracy but it wasn't a conspiracy theory, because like MK Ultra it was exposed pretty conclusively. It can only be denied if like the expert you take it at its most extreme interpretation. At one point the expert claims the strategy of tension was fictitious because its aim of turning Italy into an authoritarian dictatorship didn't happen. Well he's right, but it wasn't for like of trying, in 1970 the Fascists were so frustrated with the liberal government they attempted to overthrow it with a coup. But even when that failed senior plotters were still able to stay in their powerful positions for years afterward.


Added transcript:

Program Announcer:

But first we’re going back to Italy in the late 1960’s when the country was riven by political violence from both left and right. Economic tensions and increasingly militant trade unions were tearing apart the fabric of Italian society. Acts of terror would be routinely blamed on extremists from either political wing, Anarchists or Neo-Fascists.

The government was also accused of running a strategy of tension indirectly carrying out attacks on its own people through proxy right-wing activists. Anna O’Neil has been to Milan to hear about the true story behind one incident which inspired one of the playwright Dario Fo’s most popular works, Accidental Death of an Anarchist. The incident in question was the tragic death of Italian railway worker and Anarchist Giuseppe Pinelli, who fell to his death while in police custody.

[Extract from the play Accidental Death of an Anarchist]

Actor 1:

Now superintendent think carefully, the report quotes you as having said “they are heavy suspicions pointing in his direction” did you say that?

Actor 2:

Yes, in the beginning later-

Actor 1:

The beginning, a good place to start don’t you agree?

Actor 2:
Certainly.

Actor1:
Thank you. Now towards midnight the Anarchist seized by a rapturous -your words- threw himself out of the window thus ending his life on the pavement below.

Actor 2:
Right

Actor 3:
EXACTLY RIGHT!

Actor 4:
Correct to the last detail.



Anna O’Neil:
The play may have been a comedy, at least on the face of it, but it was based on a tragedy. The arrest and death of an innocent man for a crime he didn’t commit. In Italy the time between the 1960s and the 1980s was a period of social and political turmoil marked by a wave of both left wing and right wing political violence.

Radio excerpt:
The Berlin bank bomb of 1969, a typical act of random terror; sixteen people were killed and dozens injured. Responsibility was immediately pinned upon an extreme left-wing group but after years of judicial wrangling it became clear that Neo-Fascists were really to blame.

Anna O’Neil:
It was on the 12th of December 1969 that a bomb went off in a bank in Milan’s Piazza Fontana. A local member of the Black Cross Anarchist group Giuseppe Pinelli known as Pino was one of a number of suspects rounded up and taken for questioning to the city’s police headquarters. His daugther’s Claudia and Silvia remember the evening their father was arrested.

Silvia:
That night we came back, me and Claudia, the door was completely wide open, the police were there and they were searching the apartment. There were papers all over the floor, the cupboards were open, the Christmas presents were open and on the floor. Claudia ran right in and wanted to chat to them, because it was so normal that people were round at the house. But my mum stopped her saying “no they are policemen”. That was when my mother told us Daddy had been stopped, but that he would be home soon. But we never saw him again.

Anna O’Neil:
Silvia and Claudia were 9 and 8 years old in 1969, the only children of Licia and Pino.

Claudia:
We had a house, a little council house in the San Siro area, but because Licia worked from home typing up letters for students on her typewriter there were lots of people coming and going. My father was always ready to talk to anyone, he’d actually bought a wooden sign on which “I’m an Anarchist” was written so that he could bring it up in conversation with people who came round.

There weren’t many other Anarchists who came to our house, friends of my father, these were university professors or students, also dissenting Catholics who my father met, because he was a conscientious objector to military service. And in those days only Anarchists were conscientious objectors, and then Catholics also started objecting.

Silvia:
They got together over common themes such as non-violence, being anti-military, being conscientious objectors to military service. Consider that being a conscientious objector carried a prison sentence, it was illegal. It was a battle, because those were the people at the time who organised hunger strikes or peace marches with Pino. War had been over for twenty years and there was a real hope that a different kind of society was possible.

Anna O’Neil:
But what does being an Anarchist mean? I asked the Pinelli sisters what it meant to their father.



Silvia:

For our father Anarchy was a sort of responsibility, towards other people. My father before he was brought into the police station for questioning on the 12th of December, he wrote a letter where he says “Anarchy isn’t violence, we reject it and we don’t want to be subjected to it, Anarchy is reason and responsibility”.

Claudia:
When it all happened, that was what I asked my mother, she said to us “Your father has been stopped by the police”
“Why did they stop him?”
“Because he’s an Anarchist”.

It was the first time we’d ever heard this word. And we asked her “what does being an Anarchist mean?” and she said “to love freedom”. And maybe for me, this is an answer. It’s the one that stays with me.

Anna O’Neil:
In 1969 the authorities needed someone to blame for the Piazza Fontana bombing, and they chose Milan’s Anarchists. Eventually in 2001 three Neo-Fascists were convicted of the bombing and Pinelli’s name was cleared. But what has never been established is exactly what happened on the 15th of December 1969, when Pino Pinelli was seen to fly out of the fourth floor window of the police headquarters. And no one has ever been brought to justice for his death.

Silvia:
Our life was never the same. Before our house was always full of people, now suddenly it was empty.

Claudia:
Our mother who had always been there was now never there. She was out working, seeing lawyers and in the evening she was cutting out articles from the newspapers.

Silvia:
She kept everything single article from the newspapers right up until now. Even the letters that arrived, both the anonymous ones and the letters of solidarity. Even the threats. When Pino died we were sent to stay with friends, then Licia’s brother our uncle, then we came back to Milan and stayed with Pino’s sister. We came back home after a long time away, Christmas had been and gone, but outside our door there were parcels. There were people who had come right up to our door and left presents for us, and letters, and even nasty letters and out of all this I remember a letter from a girl in primary school. She had sent me a drawing of Mickey Mouse.

The fact that Licia saved everything means that we’ve got everything documented, and that’s important because we are carrying forward an historic truth in place of any legal truth.



Anna O’Neil:

In the play Daria Fo set out to demolish the official version that Pinelli had somehow managed accidentally thrown himself from the fourth floor window.

Claudia:
The death was recorded as an accidental death, and this rapid closing of the case was what pushed Dario Fo to write Accidental Death of an Anarchist. He had collected all the contradictions or the lies; the clerk’s reports, the newspaper articles, the official police interviews. This is what made both Dario Fo and his wife Franca Rame write this play, and for the play they were taken to court themselves, more than 40 times.

Anna O’Neil:
I’m here now in Piazza Fontana just at the back of the Duomo di Milano, the Cathedral. And this is where the bomb that killed 17 people went off and was the event that led to Giuseppe Pinelli losing his life at the police station three days later. And there are two memorials here to Pinelli, both of them look very similar with very similar wording. There’s a slight difference, one of them has been laid by the Comune di Milano or the local council, and it says “to Giuseppe Pinelli, railway worker, Anarchist and innocent who died tragically in the grounds of the police station in Milan on the 15th of December 1969”.

And the other memorial plaque has been laid by students and Milanese democrats, and it says “To Giuseppe Pinelli, railway worker, Anarchist, and innocent killed in the grounds of the police station in Milan on the 15th of December 1969.” And that difference is telling because there’s still a debate about how Pinelli died, and that’s why Pinelli’s daughters are still fighting for the truth about what happened to their father.

Program Annoncer:
Anna O’Neil in Milan, and you can see a photo of the Pinelli family in happier times before his death, including his daughters Silvia and Claudia on our website. Just search for BBC Witness.




Thursday, 26 October 2017

The 43 Group



In the immediate aftermath of World War II Mosley and the British Union of Fascists members were released from prison as the threat of a pro Nazi fifth column subsided. Unfortunately the defeat of their patrons Mussolini and Hitler, and the revelations of the Concentration camp system and the Holocaust didn't lead to much repenting.

Mosley and a core group of Fascists became active again in the East End hoping to rebuild their movement. Understandably this attempted resurrection was bitterly opposed by the Jewish community. The main source of opposition was the 43 Group, its backbone was Jewish ex servicemen but the group did include civilian men and women and some non Jewish members.


Here is an interview with a member of the group followed by a discussion with Professor Nigel Copsey of Teesside University about the post war resurgence of Fascism and the effectiveness of the 43 Group.





Transcript of the above video


Max Pierson Program Editor:

We begin on the streets of London in the years after the end of the Second World War, Britain and the Allies had spent six long years and an enormous amount of blood and treasure in the defeat of Fascism in Europe. The horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, and the extermination camps were fresh in the memory and yet even in this environment a strand of British Fascism re-emerged as a political movement in the late 1940s.

But this time with the experience of what Europe had just been through these British fascists were confronted by a group of predominantly Jewish ex-servicemen and volunteers. Alex Last has been speaking to one of them.

Jules Konopinski:

Anti-Semitism was vitriolic, people standing on a platform shouting out the same abuse you heard before the war. The only way to beat them was go to them before they came for us, and so we did. We didn’t look away, we didn’t bow we went for them.

Alex Last:

Jules Konopinski was born into a Jewish family in Breslau a town in Germany in 1930. Persecuted by the Nazis his family managed to escape Germany just before the Second World War began. They made it to Britain and settled in the East End of London, a relatively deprived area which since the late 19th century had become home to a large Jewish immigrant community. But there was a lot of anti-Semitism there too, as Jules discovered when he went to school.

Jules Konopinski:

School was in Bethnal Green, the whole area was a hotbed of anti-Semitism. Racial abuse, verbal abuse in fact in order to get to school a friend of mine we had to go into Victoria park which was next to the school and we used to take on all comers, back-to-back and fight the world.

Alex Last:

In the 1930s British fascist movement led by Sir Oswald Mosely had grown in popularity, they styled themselves on the Nazis and the Italian Fascists, and called themselves Blackshirts because of their uniform. They claimed to have tens of thousands of members, they had prominent aristocratic support and they were even praised in the popular newspapers the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror, by the right wing press baron Viscount Rothermere. They would hold rallies and marches, often targeting East London.

[Audio from Balckshirt rally, the group are singing while their leader gives a speech]

Let who dare follow us in this hour, that is the power of the mighty mood of Britain. And I claim that in the ranks of our Blackshirt legions march for mighty God!

Alex Last:

During the Second World War Mosley and hundreds of his Fascist supporters were finally detained, but as the war came to an end they were released and unrepentant Fascist groups re-emerged holding rallies in London and around the country.

Jules Konopinski:

From then on openly in the streets you had public meetings shouting out the same antagonism and the same falseness from before the war. And now even worse, they’d say 2the gas chambers weren’t enough, we didn’t kill enough.” And all my family had been wiped out, it was very disturbing. And I for one I could not stand by, I would not allow this thing to happen, no way.

So with other people we got together, and decided that if the authorities would do nothing then we must do it ourselves.

Alex Last:

So British Jewish ex-servicemen got together to form an organisation known as the 43 Group, to expose the Fascist threat and battled them on the streets. There are various stories about the origins of the name, among them that 43 people were present at the first meeting. But the group included former commandos, paratroopers, airmen and naval personnel, decorated war heroes. As well as civilian volunteers, men and women and it had non-Jewish members too.

Jules Konopinski was one of the young tough East End lads who joined up.

Jules Konopinski:

I was a strong young lad, didn’t know any fear and never gave ground. There was no membership card but the actual members at one time reached well over a thousand in London.

Alex Last:

And there was training too, for the recruits.

Jules Konopinski:

There were boxing gymnasiums, private trainers, karate trainers, don’t forget the people who came out of the army were highly trained, they trained us how to defend ourselves. And also how to hurt, I know it’s a sad reflection now, but we felt it was something that had to be done.

Alex Last:

The 43 Group would try to gain intelligence on where the Fascist meetings were taking place. To do this some even went undercover inside the Fascist movement.

Jules Konopinski:

We had three aims, One is to gain information, Two is to expose them and Three we had to counter their publications. Because they were selling their newspapers on street corners.

Alex Last:

The 43 Group would organise themselves to disrupt Fascist meetings, overturn the speakers platform, disperse their followers, and if that meant punch ups -which it usually did- that was fine too.

Jules Konopinski:

We knew where they were going to be and we were there waiting for them. In order to dissuade them from coming again they were sometimes physically molested and told don’t come back. Sometimes there was a rush forward to turn the platform over. Eventually they, they brought along their strong arm people, that led to fighting.

Alex Last:

Did you get into many scrapes yourself?

Jules Konopinski:

Yes, very much so, I ended up at the Old Bailey in 1948 on a charge of Affray and conspiracy, of which I was found not guilty. I’m not ashamed to say that I received many a good hiding myself it wasn’t all one sided because these people were highly trained as well.

Alex Last:

In post war Britain fascists seized upon events in British controlled Palestine, where Zionist seeking the creation of a Jewish state carried out deadly attacks on British security forces.

Jules Konopinski:

A lot of people were hurt on both sides but it caused a great deal of stress over here. Because now the people who didn’t like us had a reason, “you killed our sergeant, you killed our soldiers, you’ve done this.”

Alex Last:

Jules himself sneaked out of the country to fight for newly established Israel, he then came back to London to battle the fascists on the streets again.

[Newscaster report]

London’s black Sunday begins as Mosley’s Union movement rallies in Ridley road Dalston. Holding in check angry crowds four hundred police handle a tough job with restraint but firmly, arresting thirty-four.

Jules Konopinski:

There was demonstrations, there was public riots on the streets. The three or four thousand police that were on duty, -police horses- it became a daily routine for problems.

Alex Last:

Did you see Mosley yourself in person?

Jules Konopinski:

I’ve seen him speaking, I would say, I mean he was a most charismatic person. He always stood with his hands on his hips, and I must say that as far as I can see he’s never mentioned the word Jew, he was a very clever orator. “The aliens” that was his expression, these aliens, these aliens. Obviously the aliens he was addressing was us.

Alex Last:

The impact of the 43 Group can be debated, not everyone in the Jewish community agreed with its tactics. But it would become more sophisticated and certainly the physical threat of the 43 Group worried the Fascist leaders and their followers. It was demonstrated most clearly in the town of Brighton, where the local police decided to give the Fascist marchers only token police protection.

Jules Konopinski:

Mosley decided to march in Brighton and took down a very hard contingent, the police superintendent sent out three policemen and one on a bicycle. And when Mosely protested about it he said that that is the legal requirements. And he decided to march, they hadn’t gotten very far when the world descended upon them.

There was fighting going on all over Brighton, it was a bad day for them, they had a very bad day.

Alex Last:

As the years went by Mosley and his friends failed to establish themselves as a political force, the numbers at their meetings dwindled, and as the threat diminished in 1952 the 43 Group was persuaded to disband, though it would become a model for future Anti-Fascist groups when Mosley rallied again a decade later, this time targeting Caribbean immigrants.  As for Jules Konopinski, he went on to start a family and run a successful retail business. He has no regrets on his decision to take up the battle on the streets of London.

Jules Konopinski:

None of us wanted notoriety, none of us did it for gain, we all had a lot to lose. I think that what we did had to be done, if we hadn’t done it things could have been a lot worse, history might have changed.



Max Pierson:

The Anti-Fascist veteran Jules Konopinski speaking to Alex Last. So how was it possible that British fascists immediately reappear after a war against the Nazis, and still apparently be taken seriously by some? I’m joined now by Nigel Copsey of Teesside University who is a historian and specialist in Fascism and Anti-fascism in Britain.

It does almost beggar belief that the Fascists sort of taken hold in even a small way in Britain, how so?

Nigel Copsey:

Well the interesting thing here is that the British fascists never really went away. During the war over 8oo of the leading fascist activists were interred and during this period of internment they continued to follow their pre-war leader Sir Oswald Mosely with absolute, utter devotion. So, they kept the sacred flame alive, so internment was like a kind of martyrdom you know, so whereby on release fascists felt purified, they felt reborn. So, it’s kind of paradoxical but many felt that they’d not lost the war but won it.

So many interred fascists in Britain -internment served to reinvigorate them- intensified their ideological faith, it became a badge of honour. So, for British fascists despite everything fascism hadn’t died in 1945. It may have for the rest of us you know it may well have been or absolutely was discredited and disgraced. But for them the idea was still alive and it could be revived.

Max Pierson:

So in a sense the fact that they were interred acts almost as a as an incubator for the ideals, even though as you say the rest of the world saw the horrors of what emerged from Nazi Germany?

Nigel Copsey:

That’s right that’s exactly right yeah.

Max Pierson:

What did they want though? I mean clearly they had seen fascism defeated in Europe, what did the British fascists after the second world war think that they were going to get?

Nigel Copsey:

Well the fascists were motivated by different things, I mean for some it gave vent to their anti-Semitic prejudices and in many cases, you know this was a real deep pathological hatred of Jews. Others saw in fascism the possibility of saving the British Empire from decline, and then you had Mosley himself. Mosley attempted to distance himself from his pre-war fascism, so he made repeated pledges to democracy, developed a new program that was called “Europe a nation” so he called for Europeans to unite under a common government, a common market but the problem for him was that his supporters and let’s be you know let’s be honest here there were not that many of them, a few thousand at most, they harked back to the Britain first fascism of the 30s, and found the shift in Mosley’s thinking very difficult to stomach.

Max Pierson:

But, but the anti-Semitism remains sort of at the heart of the er ideology if you like of the fascists and how was that complicated by events after the second world war in the Middle East with the move to establish the Jewish state Israel?

Nigel Copsey:

Well what, I mean what fuelled the anti-Semitic agitation of the Mosleyite’s in erm in 1947 I think, were certainly you had the events in Palestine where two British soldiers had been murdered by Zionists. Which provided a spark really, for popular anti-Semitic rioting in various places in Manchester, in Liverpool in Glasgow as well in the July of 47.

But the fascist agitation itself, I mean there’s no real evidence to suggest that the fascists themselves were behind this rioting. Their agitation was directed towards East London towards places like Ridley Road in Dalston, and yeah so I mean that I think that what we need to bear in mind that yes the anti-Semitism was certainly fuelled by events in the Middle East but that anti-Semitism was a long standing  phenomenon in Britain.

Max Pierson:

And we heard from Jules Konopinski and about the 43 Group just now, and how effective were they, was it the fact that Jews and their fellows were prepared to stand up to the post-war fascists in Britain, was that what stopped fascism in post-war Britain from taking further hold?

Nigel Copsey:

Well I think, I think its important to er put it into its historical context I mean given the widespread hostility that ordinary – the most by far the majority- people felt in this country after the war, you know absolute disgust towards fascism. That even without militant Anti-fascism you know British fascism would have struggled to attract any wider public support.

That said I think you know the 43 Group was undoubtedly effective in being able to physically confront and attack and I think did ultimately kill off the fascist movement which had emerged following the second world war. But we also have to bear in mind that the reality is that the 43 Group was only ever partially effective because they also had another aim, and that aim was to impose a ban on Fascism. And they wanted the Labour government -the post war Labour government- to impose a ban and to make incitement to racial hatred illegal.

And they were singularly unsuccessful in those efforts, I mean the government felt that there was no real reason to amend the law, they could deal with the situation the fascists really didn’t pose that much of a threat so the Labour government just didn’t stray from its position. And it refused to introduce legislation to suppress fascism. So, the pictures a bit mixed, depends on how you measure its effectiveness.

I think in terms of in terms of the war of attrition on the streets they’d certainly worn down the fascists by early 49. But on the other hand, in terms of bringing about government action against fascism, I think they were largely unsuccessful in that respect.

Max Pierson:

And we have to remember of course that the far-right ideology, is an ideology that doesn’t go away. It re-emerges in various forms and in various parts of Europe.

Nigel Copsey:

That’s right, I mean if you if you look at the far-right today, today’s far-right has become far more sophisticated and it’s softened its extremism. You know the Swastika and leather boots have been traded for suits, you know er very few openly talk about the Jews, the new target is Islam. Fewer still talk about white racial superiority.

But  I think that the old ideas are still there, they still remain firmly embedded within the Far-right psyche. I mean the best analogy is that of Seaside Rock, now listeners may or may not be familiar with the hard stick shaped confectionary that we Brits eat at seaside resorts but within this Seaside Rock there are brightly coloured that run through it, as well as the name of the resort where the rock is sold, and the playwright David Edgar once remarked that “anti-Semitic Jewish conspiracy theory, runs through British fascism like Blackpool runs through Seaside Rock.” And he wasn’t wrong and so for all the differences, for all their difference Britain’s fascists still have much in common with those fascists of yesteryear, that were out agitating in the streets of just after Second World War.

Max Pierson:

Professor Nigel Copsey of Teesside University many thanks.




Sunday, 22 October 2017

From the Fatherland With Love - Ryu Murakami

From the Fatherland is a bit like the Japanese response to that weird pop cultural trend in America about North Korea suddenly becoming a dominant military power and somehow occupying them. That Red Dawn remake, the Homefront series of games etc. Its a lot more coherent, believable and smart than those though.

For a start North Korea has no interest in conquering Japan, they just plan to occupy Fukuoka city, and they want to do that to knock Japan and the world off balance and weaken a regional rival. Japan hasn't been doing too well at this point, its looking quite a bit like Weimar Germany. The economy is stagnant, unemployment is extreme, the government is weak and only still functioning thanks to a coalition government of moderates from the main parties. Both the political right and left are polarising society and looks like re-armament and militarisation might be a possibility. The JDF has been guying a lot of equipment, most of which doesn't really make sense unless they go on a war footing.

Meanwhile in North Korea things are (relatively) on the up. Tensions with the US have declined (wouldn't that be nice) and their economy is staggering back onto its feet. So now's the best time to strike. The plan is simple, smuggle some Special Operations Forces (SOF) into the country and start taking hostages. For their plans to work they're relying on the fact the Japanese state has no experience with situations of this sort and will probably be paralysed. Then wait for reinforcements to move into secure the territory as an exclave.

There's a ton of research that's been put into the novel and the work shows. There's an explanation for every question, how they get the first teams in, how they cover for this internationally (a fake rebellion) and how they're going to pay for the massive costs of occupation, how so few soldiers can have such tight control of so large a population etc. It wouldn't work in reality but for a novel it grounds everything really well.

But despite the premise this isn't a military pulp novel, there are some shoot outs and skirmishing but the focus is mainly on culture clash. It does this in two ways, the first is contemporary Japanese culture and North Korean military culture. Its quite funny, most of the Koreans have to drink unsweetened tea at first because they couldn't find any sugar jars, they didn't know about the little packets of sugar. Another time a sergeant discovers a porno mag and can't understand what the captions under the pictures mean. He can read Japanese fairly well its just the slang talk in the magazine about Double D's and ballistics confuses him.

The other case is with a group of delinquent youths who live in a sort of runaway commune of outcasts on the outskirts of the city. They don't fit into either world, and soon come into conflict with the commandos. By delinquents I don't mean anime nerds, these boys are so distant from other people several have assaulted or killed people already, and they weird and dangerous obsessions. One collects venomous insects, another has a sort of sawblade boomerang, another knows so much about buildings they've collected explosives and cutting torches etc.

Its a very interesting conflict, and one that's kinda depressing in its conclusions. Japanese society, its governance and values don't come out of it unscathed, and its hard to call the outcast boys heroic.  



Friday, 13 October 2017

Les Miserables - Victor Hugo





The brief June insurrection in Paris 1832 was basically a footnote in the history of revolutions. It lasted two days and was crushed fairly conclusively. And yet thanks to Victor Hugo its prominence dwarves nearly every other example with the exceptions of the Russian Revolution in October 1917, the American Revolution and the Great French Revolution (that's the first one that started in 1789). Its cultural footprint is extreme. Though many are more familiar with its film and musical adaptations, unless you're Japanese in which case the 52 episode anime Shoujo Cossette would be what you think of.

Indeed the mainstream romanticism of the story has become so great, that there's been a bit of a backlash against amongst serious revolutionary types. Which I think is a shame in addition to a very engrossing-if incredibly bleak- story packed with memorable characters, it also still contains much value for those favouring a drier more practical work on revolt and repression.




Let's get this out of the way, Les Miserables is public domain so can be bought cheap or gotten for free online. Its also very easy to read, the text hasn't dated much and favours plain speaking. It is however very long, about Five full Volumes, but those volumes are broken down into separate books (48 in total) and those are broken up into chapters. So while's it quite lengthy it is very easy to break up the reading, with a bookmark. I read it over a period of three weeks, Monday to Friday while at work. If your not certain just try reading the first chapter, about the life of the Bishop, Jean Val Jean doesn't appear until later. You'll get a feel for the prose and the length is mostly equivalent.

If you do stick with it you'll be in for a treat. The musicals are in broadstrokes faithful they just cut a lot out and combine characters, but the core cast Jean Val Jean, Fantine Cossette, Javert, Marius, the Thénardiers etc make an appearance and are usually faithful. Well except in the 1990's film version where Jean Val Jean is very violent and Marius has all the character traits of the Revolutionaries dumped into him.

But the stuff that's cut out is done so for time and pace, much of what gets ripped out is some of the best parts of the story. Unfortunately the part of the story that gets mangled the most is the revolt itself. In most retellings its a tragedy about the dangers of romantic idealistic students biting off more then they can chew. They're aren't wrong in their ends, just in their means. That isn't really how it plays out in the novel. They still lose of course, but Hugo goes to great pains to establish that they republicans were a lot more serious minded about it, and the insurrection had more potential than is usually shown.



The Friends of the ABC, while they are idealistic and have romantic notions about the coming fight, are a bit more grounded.They've been preparing for months, stock piling weapons, agitating and networking. Interestingly most of their links and contacts are with secret societies of workers, mostly artisans, like stonemasons. When the revolt kicks off at General Lamarque's funeral its much more widespread, with several working class districts rising up and building barricades. The Friends of the ABC built one of the more formidable ones, they're one of the last to be breached. And many of the fighters are local workers. It still comes across as rather naïve, hoping the rest of Paris would rise once the fighting was underway, though Hugo does describe a number of incidents of spontaneous clashes with the troops occupying Paris.

The Society of the Friends of the A B C affiliated to the Mutualists of Angers, and to the Cougourde of Aix, met, as we have seen, in the Café Musain. These same young men assembled also, as we have stated already, in a restaurant wine-shop of the Rue Mondétour which was called Corinthe. These meetings were secret. Others were as public as possible, and the reader can judge of their boldness from these fragments of an interrogatory undergone in one of the ulterior prosecutions: “Where was this meeting held?” “In the Rue de la Paix.” “At whose house?” “In the street.” “What sections were there?” “Only one.” “Which?” “The Manuel section.” “Who was its leader?” “I.” “You are too young to have decided alone upon the bold course of attacking the government. Where did your instructions come from?” “From the central committee.”

That's how they fought, lets tackle why they thought. The main thrust of the uprising was to topple the Orleans Monarchy and replace it with a Republic. A republic inspired by the Republic established in 1792. However it was also strongly motivated by desires to improve the lot of the working class. If you've seen the musical or film you'll know that Post Napoleon France wasn't a great place to be poor, employed or not. Pay was low, laws very strict, both bosses, local government and police could control their fates. The prisons were cruel, (I mean even more so than now) the courts corrupt, that trial Jean Val Jean exposes himself at, wasn't an exaggeration. This is why most of the fighting was in the working class areas.

They weren't completely homogenous though, Hugo mentions Socialists, of varying types, and Mutualists. It even contains a passage about Communism. Though he's critical of it and Land reformers, he does so in a unique way. He believed their plans would kill production, and that's really the crux of the disagreement.
Communism and agrarian law think that they solve the second problem. They are mistaken. Their division kills production. Equal partition abolishes emulation; and consequently labor. It is a partition made by the butcher, which kills that which it divides. It is therefore impossible to pause over these pretended solutions. Slaying wealth is not the same thing as dividing it.
Even the Friends of the ABC aren't uniform. One is obsessed with the occupation of Poland, (it was a 19th century Palestine ) they're uniformly republicans, with the exception of Marius who isn't really a member just a friend, and Grantaire whose a drunk pessimist who hangs around because he likes Enjolras the groups leader.
I suppose its time to cover the authors politics. Victor Hugo's political ideas changed quite a bit over time, though generally of the Left. At the time of publishing Les Miserables, he could be broadly placed as a liberal Republican with Social Democratic ideals. He believed in a politically equal Republic, but one that also helped the poor while not molesting the rich so long as they were honest. He also despite being a Catholic (he would lose his faith later) believed in a secular society and bitterly attacked the church for its hypocrisy and destructive role in French society. One entire book is dedicated to listing the crimes of the Monastic orders and the Nunneries, and argues for their abolishment.

The leprosy of monasticism has gnawed nearly to a skeleton two wonderful nations, Italy and Spain; the one the light, the other the splendor of Europe for centuries; and, at the present day, these two illustrious peoples are but just beginning to convalesce, thanks to the healthy and vigorous hygiene of 1789 alone.

 And when Jean Val Jean and Cossette escape to a Nunnery, its depicted as a torturous place for the young girls in their isolated care.

Hugo is also highly contemptuous of the prison and police system. Javert is the main antagonist, and he's tormenting Jean Val Jean. the spirit of human redemption (literally) because Val Jean was on the wrong side of the law. His crime was stealing one loaf of bread to feed his sister and her children. When he went to prison for the crime they starved to death without his meagre earnings. That's the tip of the iceberg, the use of convict labour, torture and the death penalty are all bitterly condemned at length. As is the corruption of the law. Through Fantine we see that the law is weighted in favour of the well to do. Javert interferes in a street fight between Fantine and an idle rich man, he sides with the latter on the basis that they are a good law abiding citizen and Fantine is a street prostitute. She ends up dying as a result of her attack from pneumonia.

The treatment of women was very surprising considering the date of publication. Its very positive and hostile to prevailing social customs at the time of the setting and publication. Fantine's life is destroyed figuratively and then physically, because she doesn't live up to the expectations put on women. Her crime was falling in love with a young man, said young man leaves her for another, but now she's pregnant. The shame attached to this forces her far from home, she has to put her daughter Cossette in the care of strangers, and work in another town, keeping it a secret. In the musical and the latest film they make a small but important and in my view flawed change to the scene where she's discovered. In the musical/film her overseer is male and quite clearly fancies her and keeps harassing her. When he discovers she's had a child and another lover he reacts with disgust and fires her.

As an indictment of scummy bosses and the powerlessness line workers can be its a good example, but that wasn't what the passage was about originally. In the novel her overseer is also a woman, and she is not sexually harassing Fantine. She does however still fire Fantine in disgust when she learns of the out of wedlock child. Destitute Fantine has to keep sending money to her poor child, Fantine is desperate. First she sells her hair and teeth, and only then sells herself sexually. All the while wasting away and freezing to death. Her ex-boss saw her in this state and instead of remorse she feels proud and vindicated. Fantine has proven herself morally suspect so in the eyes of her ex employer she did the right and moral thing firing her. Its an accusation against the social roles for women at the time.

It was with this full power, and the conviction that she was doing right, that the superintendent had instituted the suit, judged, condemned, and executed Fantine.

 Madame Victurnien sometimes saw her passing, from her window, noticed the distress of “that creature” who, “thanks to her,” had been “put back in her proper place,” and congratulated herself. The happiness of the evil-minded is black.

In addition the story manages to cram in a lot of information about the Great French Revolution, the Revolution of 1830, the Revolution of 1848 and street fighting in 1831 and 1839. Its packed with historical information.

I could go on forever singing the novels praises but I'll stop now.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

How I Killed Margaret Thatcher- Anthony Cartwright


I'll admit it, the title alone sold me.


How I Killed Margaret Thatcher is the history of Neoliberalism in Britain seen through the eyes of a working class child. Set mostly during the 80's in Dudley in the West Midlands, its a grim story of how economic restructuring can lead to the drawn out collapse of communities and the breakdown of previously happy families.

Its also eerily close to my own childhood in a northern town on the East Coast in the 90's. The policies brought in after 1979 took a long time to complete, the pain was staggered and drawn out so even ten years on much of what it depicts was still doing its work. I can remember my parents arguing in the kitchen over money and where the next jobs coming from, the town centre crumbled before my eyes, closed down shops boarded up houses etc. The only real difference is the slang used in Dudley. I don't think I've ever heard anyone pronounce soft with an r before.

Sean Bull also grew up in this and the effects on his family are heartbreaking. Neoliberal policies destroyed their community strained their relationships and even managed to get a few people killed trying to make ends meet. Unsurprisingly Sean finds comfort in the stories of assassins who kill or tried to kill political tyrants. In particular the attempted assassins of Queen Victoria (quite a long list). Its not hard to see why, an ordinary person sometimes just a boy filled with righteousness and a gun slays the source of the rot.

But of course killing old Queen Vic wouldn't have slowed down the Empire or any of its atrocities and killing Thatcher wouldn't have stopped the Neoliberal project. Assassination only works when there's a movement ready to take advantage of the disruption caused by the hit. Of course Sean doesn't know that he's only a schoolboy, and its a dream that keeps him sane. Yeah, life under in "Thatcher's Britain" could be so bleak and cold that even a fantasy about shooting someone in the head could be aspirational and uplifting. They don't like to bring that up much when discussing "her legacy" in documentaries.

Usually the official telling of this period never goes beyond a few comments on divisiveness and snickering at the Tories pledging to end unemployment in their 79 election manifesto. Indeed the book covers a lot of really important things left out or barely namechecked in the narratives. There is some handwringing about the increased use of police violence, but the increase in homelessness and collapse of communities in the industrial and manufacturing sectors don't get much of a mention. On the contrary housing is the one area where Thatcher is universally praised for breaking the back of council housing.

I've never understood this, my family bought a house in 1990, and the mortgage repayments nearly made us homeless, because the council housing in the area had shrunk to less than 10% of what it once was, so if we lost the house we would of been completely screwed. We survived, but curiously enough many houses in my area are now owned by a social housing company. So basically we went from a society with a large housing sector under municipal control and limited homelessness, to a society with a large housing sector under corporate control and very high and increasing homelessness. And this is the policy that everyone applauds the government of 1979-1990 on.

The book does a good job of exposing the hollow rhetoric of the period by contrasting it with how it occurred on the ground. Economic reorganisation to increase British competiveness, leads to mass lay offs with no replacement industry to take in even some of the now jobless. Law and Order, crime rates are increasing and the only noticeable difference is an increase in police power and violence.

Character wise they all come across as real people with flaws and quirks. The Granddad is well meaning with his heart in the right place, but he has some outdated views, the uncle a lefty activist whose extremely shy and awkward, is very familiar, I've encountered him several times in my life. The dad whose a work horse and willing to bend the rules to provide for his family and thinks it'll all come out good in the end if he can keep grafting* is also very familiar to me. The mum who tries her best to care for everyone but occasionally oversteps the mark into overbearing and projects her fears onto others also rings true.

Also refreshingly the author resisted the temptation to have a central baddie. Thatcher dominates the story, but she does so from a television and through speeches, all of which is taken from transcripts. Its all cold, systemic and impersonal. And thankfully there's no local stand in for her. The pain and dangers are all systematic and imposed from without and part of the threat is the lose of personality these policies force on people. Its also the main act of resistance, trying to keep grounded and authentic and true to yourself in the face of unrelenting market forces.




*I'm told grafting is a euphemism for corruption in the USA. In the UK it means hard working, my step dad used to joke that `grafter` was a bad word in the States because they must all be lazy.

Monday, 2 October 2017

The Kaiser Goes- The Generals Remain

The Kaiser Goes is one of my favourite novels of all time. A user on libcom (http://libcom.org/history/kaiser-goes-generals-remain-theodor-plivier-1932) scanned a copy of it and added an interesting write up on the life of its author Theodor Plivier. Theodor seems to have been a little of everything, from mutinous sailor, to sandals wearing hippy, to a commissar in the Soviet Union, and then finally a staunch anti-communist in West Germany.

The Kaiser Goes is a novel about the end of the First World War and the start of the German revolution in 1918. Its based largely on his own experiences, he was one of the mutinying sailors that started the collapse of the Kaiserreich. As such its very authentic, the events happened largely as they do in the novel and what liberties are taken is mainly in characterisation or clandestine meetings that were never recorded for obvious reasons.

The novels structure handles the growing escalation of tensions and fighting very well, the narrative moves between several groups of actors, Sailors in Kiel, small groups of dissident socialists in Berlin, including Liebknecht, and the Berlin workers. It also spends time with the SPD leadership especially Ebert and Noske, and the German officer corps detailing their plots and backstabbing. And of course the Kaiser's divering and desperate attempts to remain relevant when even the Aristocratic Generals have written him off.

Its a little disjointed but it serves well to show just how spontaneous the revolt was. For example the government has taken steps to limit the spread of the revolt by garrisoning the rail lines that go through ports, this works at the start. Sailors keep getting arrested, but this just means the sailors talk to their guards and convince them to arrest their officers and dismantle the prisons. So now the rail lines are back in the sailors hands and now parts of the army are joining in.

They reach Celle without misadventure. But there a large body of troops is drawn up on the platform. As the train enters the station the soldiers board the train and search the compartments. The parties of sailors scattered throughout the length of the train are immediately surrounded. “Show passes.” “Where have you come from?” “Kiel.” “We’re going to Berlin.” “Get out – you must come along with us.” “Shake a leg – To the OC station.” “That’s no good to us – we’re not getting out.” “We are not taking orders from you. We take our orders from the Soldiers’ Council at Kiel and from nobody else.” The infantryman looks surprised: “Soldiers’ Council, eh? Don’t you let our S.M. hear you mention that – he’d go stark staring mad.” The platform is bristling with rifles. An officer runs down the train. “Step along, there! Step along!” growls an NCO. “Hurry up!”
The wooden enclosure is now too small to contain them. The first plank is loosed, and the rest is easy – the wooden walls simply fall asunder. The soldiers permit themselves to be disarmed. The Sergeant Major, who comes storming up at the sound of the tumult, is placed under arrest; and the officer in charge of the railway station also, a first-lieutenant, who just sits at his table in amazement. The station is now in the hands of the sailors. A little fellow, a boatswain, quick and nimble as a cat, is issuing orders and organizing the revolutionary guard over the station. A machine-gun is mounted. The telephone rings in the guard-room. “GOC Hanover speaking,” growls a voice. “Soldiers’ Council, Celle, speaking,” replies the boatswain. There is a sharp click in the receiver. GOC Hanover has replaced the receiver. The sailors lose no time. They have rifles once more, and a machine-gun, and abundance of ammunition. They form up in column of squads and march off through Celle in close formation, singing as they go out toward the prison beyond the tower. Bonczyk’s only regret is that they have lined up according to size, so that he cannot march at the head of the column with Raumschuh. “It’s just as well we did leave Hamburg, after all,” says he to the fellow beside him. “There is something to do here anyway.”
 

In another section and one of my favourite passages, the government has decided to let the outer working class districts of Berlin fall to the revolting workers for now. And they're just going to build a defensive line around the centre with loyal Jaeger units. But someone thinks its a good idea to have the SPD explain the situation to the Jaeger troops. Unfortunately the deal between the Generals and the SPD only involves the main leaders, so the speakers selected aren't in on the plot. One of them believes that this was the party was waiting for and so gives them a speech that attacks the Kaiser, the Generals and the war and urges the Jaegers to join the rebellion. It's such a good speech it works and that leads to a domino effect when all the supposedly loyal units defect, because they refused to shoot on their fellow comrades.

He speaks again as he used to speak; he still believes that it is not for a handful of politicians, but for the people in revolt to make the final decision. He tells of the mutiny of the sailors, of the workers in Hamburg, Hanover, Munich, who have already joined the revolution... And none of the soldiers doubts but that this “Revolution” and Social Democracy are one and the same thing. In swift sentences Wels presses to a conclusion: “...under no circumstances then can the present system continue. The revolution is not to betrayed. It is our duty at all costs to prevent civil war. It does not matter to me to which party you belong if you are resolved to see that in the future the people shall decide its own destiny, then put yourselves at the disposal of the Social Democratic Party! “Show your consent by giving three cheers for Peace!” The soldiers, accustomed to respond only to the word of command, still stand rigidly at attention. But others, strangers to the barracks, who have been standing at the gate during the speech, now advance across the square and in scattered groups swarm among the ranks. “Peace!” shouts Wels again; “Peace!” comes back the cry. “Three cheers for Government by the People!” “Hurrah!” join in the Jäger. Wels has won. The soldiers break ranks, surge around the waggon and lift Wels down. The officers, who have listened to it all in silence, retire. A committee of the soldiers announces that the Battalion places itself at the disposal of the Social Democratic Party.

Another interesting part of the novel is the ongoing tension between the SDP and its Trade Union leadership against their own members and supporters. The general strike that brings down Berlin was opposed by both, the SPD leaders elected to the new councils like Noske do everything they can to convince the revolutionaries to back down and compromise. The German Revolution was fundamentally a mass revolt of the German workers, soldiers and sailors. The party of the working class the SDP is fracturing with its main group actively trying to stop the revolution, and the small socialist splinters while enthusiastic are two small to have any real effect, and some of them attempted to replace the SPD or engaging in premature street fighting.

Its a beautiful book full of enthusiasm for building a better world, a world without war, without repression or exploitation, and the defeat of the revolt in life as in the book is a great tragedy.



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