The two sides in the Cold War, finding each other irresistible, ended up in a contrapuntal relationship where, as George Urban put it, ‘they marched in negative step, but in step all the same.’ They had their spies, we had ours. They had their files, we had ours. True, we didn’t have gulags. But what kind of democracy is it that congratulates itself on not having gulags? Never mind the dragnet surveillance, the burglaries, the smearing of reputations, the bugging of public telephone boxes, cafés, hotels, banks, trade unions, private homes, all this legitimised by the thesis that everyone is a potential subversive until proven otherwise – the problem is that the defenders of the realm took on the symptoms of the disease they were meant to cure.– In the essay Stuck on the Flypaper historian and journalist Frances Stonor Saunders goes through the recently released MI5 file on Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm [previously] to explain how the British secret service surveilled and interfered with the lives of British citizens during World War II and the early part of the Cold War.
Marx Madness: The ultimate war of all against all. We start with 64 Marxists competing one-on-one in 32 match-ups. These elimination rounds continue every week throughout March until only one thinker is left.
For much of the tenth century, the Qarmatians enjoyed supreme power in northeastern Arabia, exacting tribute even from the caliphs in Baghdad and Cairo. They were an esoteric Isma'ili Shi'ite sect from the oases of the desert fringe and the islands of the Persian Gulf, where they built themselves an egalitarian utopia—"probably the only communist society to control a large territory, and to endure for more than a generation, before the twentieth century." Utopia, however, depended on the agricultural labor of thirty thousand Ethiopian slaves and the proceeds from constant raiding and pillaging. In 930, the Qarmatians stormed Mecca, killed thousands of pilgrims at the foot of the Kaaba, and removed the Black Stone to Bahrayn. A year later, they identified the Mahdi, their prophesied redeemer, in the form of a young Persian prisoner. They believed that once he assumed control of the Qarmatian state, he would lead them to even greater triumphs... [more inside]
Religion in China: Cracks in the atheist edifice - "Yang Fenggang of Purdue University, in Indiana, says the Christian church in China has grown by an average of 10% a year since 1980. He reckons that on current trends there will be 250m Christians by around 2030, making China's Christian population the largest in the world. Mr Yang says this speed of growth is similar to that seen in fourth-century Rome just before the conversion of Constantine, which paved the way for Christianity to become the religion of his empire." [more inside]
Greece’s anti-austerity party of the left, Syriza, has stretched its election lead to six points, putting it on course for a historic victory in Sunday’s crucial elections. Barely four weeks after the failure of parliament to elect a president, triggering the ballot, Greece’s fate now lies in the hands of 9.8 million voters. All the polls show, with growing conviction, that victory will go to Syriza. A poll released by GPO for Mega TV late on Thursday gave the far leftists a six-percentage-point lead over Samaras’s centre-right New Democracy, the dominant force in a coalition government that has held power since June 2012. A week earlier, GPO had the lead at four percentage points. [more inside]
The Partisan Review, a critical magazine founded by William Phillips and Philip Rahv (and Kenneth Fearing) and originally created as an arm of the American Communist Party was 'more a literary event than a literary magazine,' that lost its purpose after perestroika: The Death of a Literary Magazine. But even in death, the archives are not 'down the memory hole', but rather digitized and available online. [more inside]
So, what is the balance-sheet of transition? Only three or at most five or six countries could be said to be on the road to becoming a part of the rich and (relatively) stable capitalist world. Many are falling behind, and some are so far behind that they cannot aspire to go back to the point where they were when the Wall fell for several decades. Despite philosophers of “universal harmonies” such as Francis Fukuyama, Timothy Garton Ash, Vaclav Havel, Bernard Henry Lévy, and scores of international “economic advisors” to Boris Yeltsin, who all phantasized about democracy and prosperity, neither really arrived for most people in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The Wall fell only for some.On the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall Branko Milanovic looks at how the transition to capitalism worked out for the ex-communist countries of the USSR and Eastern Europe.
The UK's National Archives has today released the formerly secret files detailing MI5's monitoring of the British Marxist historians Eric Hobsbawm and Christopher Hill [PDF downloads available]. The Guardian reports. An official historian explains. [more inside]
Some of the worst brutality of Communist Czechoslovakia happened in a place most people have never heard of. By the 1970s and 1980s torture and murder were not routine tools of the Czechoslovak regime. Except in one place, about which even to this day not much is known. No one knows its victims, and the perpetrators live quietly among us. We decided to revive the forgotten story and to bring back to the map of Czech history a place that shows what great power does to people and how difficult it is to find earthly justice: the Third Department in Valdice. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.
Boots Riley, (previously,) explain’s his band’s communist philosophy to a happy local Fox News host. Fox station reacts.
How Iowa Flattened Literature
The Iowa Writers’ Workshop emerged in the 1930s and powerfully influenced the creative-writing programs that followed. More than half of the second-wave programs, about 50 of which appeared by 1970, were founded by Iowa graduates. Third- and fourth- and fifth-wave programs, also Iowa scions, have kept coming ever since. So the conventional wisdom that Iowa kicked off the boom in M.F.A. programs is true enough. [...] Over the past 40 years, creative writing’s small-is-beautiful approach has served it well, as measured by the discipline’s explosive growth while most of its humanities counterparts shrink and cower. The reasons for this could fill many essays. For one thing, creative writing has successfully embedded itself in the university by imitating other disciplines without treading on their ground. A pyramid resembles a pedagogy—it’s fungible, and easy to draw on the board. Introductory math and physics professors like to draw diagrams too, a welcome analogy for a discipline wishing both to establish itself as teachable and to lengthen its reach into the undergraduate curriculum, where a claim of pure writerly exceptionalism won’t cut it.
This is The Big Picture, an official television report of the United States Army, produced for the armed forces and the American people. Now to show you part of The Big Picture here is Master Sargent Stuart Queen
The series consists of ~822 documentaries produced by the United States Army Signal Corps Army Pictorial Service from 1951 to 1971 to educate both soldiers in uniform and the American public about military concerns as well as things like historical battles, world geography, famous soldiers, the latest weapons, space exploration, strategic objectives, peaceful initiatives, and the life of a soldier. Being a product of the Federal Government it belongs to the the American people, and is thus freely available to all to copy and distribute. Most can now be viewed on archive.org[more inside]
The FBI files on being and nothingness. "From 1945 onwards, J Edgar Hoover’s FBI spied on Camus and Sartre. The investigation soon turned into a philosophical inquiry…" [Via]
On Graduate School and 'Love' is yet another commentary on the economics of academic work. A younger student chimes in on the role of education in life: "much of education is oriented, for better or worse, toward making a living, rather than making a life." [more inside]
A Generation of Intellectuals Shaped by 2008 Crash Rescues Marx From History’s Dustbin [more inside]
The anti-Communist Captain America was ret-conned into being a crazed history graduate student named William Burnside who had himself surgically altered and then dosed with a flawed version of the Super-Serum, which drove him insane to the point where he saw communist sympathizers everywhere. The subtext isn’t particularly thick here: the “Commie-Smasher” was a paranoid wannabe, whereas the real Captain America is the “living legend of WWII” waiting in suspended animation during the Second Red Scare, who emerges back onto the scene with the arrival of the New Frontier and the Great Society. - Why Captain America Is the Progressive-Era Superhero We Need.
Tadeusz Mazowiecki has died. The first prime minister after the fall of communist regime in Poland was later an UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Bosnia and resigned this post in protest over the failure of international community to prevent the Srebrenica massacre. [more inside]
Warning! The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased, entry for the United States of America
Cosmarxpolitan! Karl in the bedroom: "From each according to his ability, to each according to her needs."
On May 16, 1934, the Teamsters local 574 of Minneapolis, Minnesota called for a strike to stop all truck deliveries in the city not run by union workers. This 1981 documentary tells the story in the workers' own words. Part 1, part 2.
Political Identification: communist"Dear Bloody Red Heart, Always remember that information is power, and functions as such." [more inside]
Your problem: I have recently started seeing a communist woman, and I really like her, but my problem is that I still have overwhelmingly strong feelings for the communist woman I had a thing with in the summer, and who has gone to fight the good fight in other lands. Should I tell the comrade I’m currently seeing about my divided affections? As we are not yet in full communism, I fear I may not have enough to go round… From: Bloody Red Heart"
The Forces Of The Next 30 Years - SF author and Mefi's Own Charles Stross talks to students at Olin College about sci-fi, fiction, speculation, the limits of computation, thermodynamics, Moore's Law, the history of travel, employment, automation, free trade, demographics, the developing world, privacy, and climate change in trying to answer the question What Does The World Of 2043 Look Like? (Youtube 56:43)
Leaving the Witness. "In one of the most restrictive, totalitarian countries in the world, for the first time in my life, I had the freedom to think." [more inside]
Generation Gap: "The parents of China’s post-1980 generation [the bā líng hòu (八零後)] (themselves born between 1950 and 1965) grew up in a rural, Maoist world utterly different from that of their children. In their adolescence, there was one phone per village, the universities were closed and jobs were assigned from above. If you imagine the disorientation and confusion of many parents in the West when it comes to the internet and its role in their children’s lives, and then add to that dating, university life and career choices, you come close to the generational dilemma. Parents who spent their own early twenties labouring on remote farms have to deal with children who measure their world in malls, iPhones and casual dates." [more inside]
The Homosexual Atom Bomb
Such absurd equations show how homosexuality became a floating signifier, associated with whatever political tendency one most disliked. Rather than representing a certain group of people, it represented everything that was wrong—whatever that meant. America’s Red Scare bled into its Lavender Scare; the Soviets associated homosexuality with capitalism and fascism. But empty as it was, the political use of the trope of homosexuality had a devastating effect on real people from both countries."Homosexuality Is Stalin's Atom Bomb to Destroy America" is on display at the Winkleman Gallery in NYC. [more inside]
The first thing we learned about war re-enactment is that it's fucking terrifying having guns fired at you, even ones loaded with blanks. The second thing we learned is a common re-enactor's dilemma called "The G.I. Effect", which is basically that people playing Americans don't like to die. So sometimes they just don't.It's Like Vietnam All Over Again, pt 1. Part 2
After 65 Years The Hollywood Reporter addresses its role in the hollywood blacklist, including an apology from W.R. Wilkerson III, son of THR founder Billy Wilkerson whose "A Vote For Joe Stalin" editorial named writers such as Dalton Trumbo, Lester Cole, Howard Koch and John Howard Lawson as communist sympathisers.
From the mid 40s to the mid 50s Coronet Instructional Films were always ready to provide social guidance for teenagers on subjects as diverse as dating, popularity, preparing for being drafted, and shyness, as well as to children on following the law, the value of quietness in school, and appreciating our parents. They also provided education on topics such as the connection between attitudes and health, what kind of people live in America, how to keep a job, supervising women workers, the nature of capitalism, and the plantation System in Southern life. Inside is an annotated collection of all 86 of the complete Coronet films in the Prelinger Archives as well as a few more. Its not like you had work to do or anything right? [more inside]
This NYT slideshow of Cuba photographs does an excellent job of portraying Cuba's mood: "like the most beautiful slum ever." [more inside]
Director and/or star of many of the greatest films ever made including The Great Dictator (2:05:16) [Globe scene and the eternally goosebump providing Final speech], The Immigrant (20:01), The Gold Rush (1:11:49), City Lights (1:22:40), Modern Times (1:27:01), and Monsieur Verdoux (1:59:03), Charlie Chaplin's movies have entered the public domain in most countries. Below the fold is an annotated list of all 82 of his official short and feature films in chronological order, as well as several more, with links to where you can watch them; it's not like you had work to do right? [more inside]
Propaganda - A film alledged to be from North Korea about the excess of Western decadance and public relations propaganda - hits Youtube (1:35:52)
English Russia often chooses odd subjects but the ladies in this article have lived sadly sweet lives through some of the most intense and difficult years in an intense and difficult place. It was originally published in Russian Esquire if you prefer the Russian language version
♫ As young as 18, I'd already written the application to join the party, but I was too embarrassed to turn it in to the party branch. I've studiously read the party constitution countless times - always felt I wasn't worthy of the party's requirements. ♫ Applying to Join the Chinese Communist Party : a music video (w/ English subtitles)
In 1990, right after the Berlin Wall fell, Stephen Koppelkamm ventured into East Berlin and photographed what he found. Ten years on, he revisited the same locations.
Most of us reading on the blue lived through at least a portion of it. Forty-plus years of tension between the world's two superpowers and their allies. That's right: The Cold War. Then, they made a documentary. Aired on CNN in 1998, and never released on DVD, the 24 episode, 20 hour series features tons of archival footage, along with many interviews with individuals directly involved at some of the highest levels. You might not be able to see it on DVD, but you can watch the full series on Youtube, starting with Part 1: Comrades (1917-1945).
" Thus in today’s China one confronts the paradox of a communist regime that is at ideological loggerheads with left-leaning intellectuals, but which finds pro-Western, liberal intellectuals on the whole quite congenial." Richard Wolin is Dreaming In Chinese...
We're All State Capitalists Now 'No, according to some commentators, the contest between the two Asian superpowers is also fundamentally a contest between economic models: market capitalism vs. state capitalism.' [more inside]
Are you encourages in your place of work by the use of gamification? Congratulations, comrade, you are treading in the footsteps of Soviet Russia!
One thing we can be certain of is that capitalism will end. Maybe not soon, but probably before too long; humanity has never before managed to craft an eternal social system, after all, and capitalism is a notably more precarious and volatile order than most of those that preceded it. The question, then, is what will come next.
On December 13, 1981, Poland awoke to an announcement by Premier Wojciech Jaruzelski declaring a "state of war" (stan wojenny). Martial law would last until July 22, 1983. [more inside]
Ereese-a yuoo preesuners ooff sterfeshun. Ereese-a yuoo vretched ooff zee iert. Fur joosteece-a thoonders cundemneshun. A better vurld's in burt. It is zee feenel cunffleect. Let iech stund in hees plece-a. Zee Interneshunele-a shell be-a zee hoomun rece-a.
BORK BORK BORK!
BORK BORK BORK!
Atlas Obscura provides a Guide to Communist Mummies, and there's plenty more online. Visit Lenin's Mausoleum, where he has been kept since 1924, defying his wishes to be buried next to his mother in St. Petersburg. He wasn't alone forever, as Stalin's body was kept in the mausoleum after his death in 1953, until his body was quietly removed in October, 1961. Just under eight years later, Hồ Chí Minh died, and against his wishes to be cremated, a very large state funeral was held and Uncle Ho's embalmed remains were placed in a mausoleum. Chairman Mao Zedong made A Proposal that all Central Leaders be Cremated after Death in 1956, but his wishes were overlooked when he died in 1976, and he joined the growing ranks of the preserved communist leaders in his own crystal casket, housed in a grand mausoleum. [more inside]