What history are you reading?

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Mike Harman
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Jul 11 2007 22:12
What history are you reading?

Should be pretty obvious what this thread is for. But in case it isn't, I thought it'd be good to have a dedicated thread in the history forum for things people are reading. This place is usually a good one to get recommendations, but I've not hardly read anything for nearly two years except shortish pamphlets, and the apartheid and slavery thread has reminded me there's all kinds of bits of history I know very little about. I'm going to put stuff I've recently read, as well as things I've got lined up, in the hope of getting additional recommendations if they're forthcoming.

Possibly optimistic, but it could end up supplementing Chris Wright's Revolutionary Reading Guide, and maybe inspire a few articles for history, you never know.

I won't do long reviews - but the idea is we can split this off into discussions about certain events/books especially if people happen to be reading around the same subjects.

__

Mike Harman
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Jul 11 2007 22:26

Just finished Rioters and Citizens: Mass Protest in Imperial Japan by Michael Lewis a little while back. It's about the rice riots (rural protests, urban riots and steel and miners strikes (with rioting and dynamite)) in 1918. Only book I've found on the subject, very good. A bit liberal, but very good. Going to write something up for history soonish about it.

I just found a few academic articles about these events as well, not read them yet, and some which deal with the strikes and riots in the ten years previous, and the more traditional ikki (yes they had a special word for rice riots) in the Meiji period, especially around 1868.

While looking for those, I also found a couple of articles about the rice riots in South India and Sierra Leone in 1918/1919 which look pretty interesting, neither of which I knew of. I'm planning to find out more of the lesser known events around 1916-1920, like Brazil. It'd be nice to do a "revolutionary wave" feature on here ready for October - linking to Russia and some of the others.

As well as that, I just got "Contending with Stalinism: Soviet Power and Popular Resistance in the 1930s" out of the library today. I covers the Vichuga uprising of 1932, the Pitelinskii Uprising, Riazan, 1930, and some others. Never heard about these, so looking forward to it.

edit: how's this for productivity?

Lined up on the shelf, I've got a couple of Hungary '56 books: "In the Name of the Working Class", and "Twelve Days" (new one out this year or last), I'm also going to re-read the Andy Anderson, and the things in the library I've not got to yet. edit: just found this PDF of an Aptheker book on it: http://www.kibristasosyalistgercek.net/misc/Aptheker-Truth_About_Hungary_1957.pdf

Once I've done that, I'm going to get some stuff on Czechoslovakia '68/Prague Spring. And France '68 as well.

Then after that, if I can find anything worth reading on it, East Germany '53 and the gulag uprisings and some others around then (maybe Poland '56, stuff like that).

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R.R. Berkman
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Jul 12 2007 01:02
Quote:
catch Said:

While looking for those, I also found a couple of articles about the rice riots in South India and Sierra Leone in 1918/1919 which look pretty interesting, neither of which I knew of. I'm planning to find out more of the lesser known events around 1916-1920, like Brazil. It'd be nice to do a "revolutionary wave" feature on here ready for October - linking to Russia and some of the others.

Interesting. I'm just finishing up my thesis on Edmonton's General Strike of 1919, and (among other things) how it fit into only the wider pattern(s) of national and international proletarian revolt. It is relatively boring reading, but I can post the abstract if you'd like. The global upswing in radicalism and revolt during 1918-1919 is really, really stunning/interesting. From the FORA leading hundreds of thousands in a general strike in Argentina, to the Bohemian councils and Hungary, to Brazil, to many countries in Asia and SE Asia, Africa, the period is probably the best example of a global proletarian revolt, with '68 a faint shadow. The period has received little attention though, unlike '68, which has/had some darn good cheerleaders. The question is...what led to this? The crude answer is the Great War and the Bolshevik revolution, but this seems woefully inadequate, as the revolt was truly global, and had amazing scope, well beyond what most histories evidence.

I just finished a book on Hungary, Gati's new one (Failed Illusions). If you want some crude liberalism, look no further then that wee tome; and if you want a real chuckle, check out Hobsbawm's review. As for non-academic/relaxing reading, in the last couple of weeks I've finished Peter Watson's Ideas, which I found absolutely delightful and The Other Hollywood by Legs McNeil, which is a wickedly entertaining and informative oral history of the porn industry.

Mike Harman
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Jul 12 2007 01:16
R.R. Berkman wrote:

Interesting. I'm just finishing up my thesis on Edmonton's General Strike of 1919, and (among other things) how it fit into only the wider pattern(s) of national and international proletarian revolt. It is relatively boring reading,

I don't believe you. Or I'm boring. Either way.

Quote:
but I can post the abstract if you'd like.

Yes please! Wouldn't mind having the whole thing if it's going. Although I can't guarantee to get to it quick.

Quote:
The period has received little attention though, unlike '68, which has/had some darn good cheerleaders. The question is...what led to this? The crude answer is the Great War and the Bolshevik revolution, but this seems woefully inadequate, as the revolt was truly global, and had amazing scope, well beyond what most histories evidence.

Well, I think that explains the lack of histiorography. It's really not had that much attention in terms of political literature either. OK new thread on this tomorrow.

Quote:
s for non-academic/relaxing reading, in the last couple of weeks I've finished Peter Watson's Ideas, which I found absolutely delightful and The Other Hollywood by Legs McNeil, which is a wickedly entertaining and informative oral history of the porn industry.

hand http://libcom.org/forums/culture/what-are-you-reading-at-the-moment

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Jul 12 2007 01:28

Whoa, those are history.

Popular history, but history. Historiographically, "cultural history," or in Watson's case, old school Whiggish history. The history of pornography is a very interesting/relevant topic, as is a subtle yet damning historical analytic of the Religious. Both very good histories I reckon, albeit tettering on the edge of "really good history."

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Jul 12 2007 01:55

Slowly reading Bruno Ramirez, When Worker Fight. It's a study of the history of industrial relations in the US before the Wagner Act and all that. (Leftist trainspotting bonus points: Ramirez used to connected to Midnight Notes or ZeroWork and quotes Mario Tronti in a few random bits.)

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Jul 12 2007 01:59

Reading 'My union my life' by Jean Claude Perot, former president of the CUPW, fairly interesting stuff, though a lot of boring stretches chronicalling the bureaucratic intrigue of Canadian postal unions in Canada in the 70's.

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Jul 12 2007 02:11

Actually revol you should check out the history of the postal workers there's some pretty good stuff. Overall I would say JC Perot wasn't bad as a union leader, they sent him off to jail for three months for refusing to break an illegal strike.

Feighnt
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Jul 12 2007 05:22

i just finished a book called "The Long March," by Sun Shuyun. guess what it's about?

i found it to be terribly interesting, though, as it's mostly an account - put together from interviews with actual participants - testifying to the, erm... less than ideal nature of the Communists during the Long March, before, and after (but before the final victory - doesnt deal with that at all). i know that most people here would take it for granted that the CP would've been scummy, even in its earlier history, but what i'd read or heard about it beforehand painted a relatively more idealistic, and decent picture of things. actually had a class on Chinese Communism in school once, and while we did a ton of discussion about how awful things were after the commies took over, my teacher really did fall for the more idealistic line of how they were beforehand - leaving a person to furrow their brow and scratch their head in confusion, that such wonderful fellows might rule so awfully (leading many, of course, to say that "communism just doesnt work" or "socialism just doesnt work" or "you cant have an equal society - look, they tried!" etc etc). people who were actually involved in the march (which was, nonetheless, an astounding feat) - no high-ranking people, mind you - discuss being kidnapped into the army, the ideological fights resulting in massive purge after massive purge, the less than idealistic reality of massive *desertion* at various points of the march, of taking food from peasants who had barely enough to feed themselves (particularly in the part about Tibet), of the strategic and tactical failures made by members of the party who are considered untouchable to this day, the (relative) rehabilitation of Otto Braun... etc.

really good book, if you're interested in chinese communist history.

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Jul 12 2007 05:47

I'm reading Intellectuals and Revolution: Socialism and the Experience of 1848.

Found it second hand for 50 cents, so figured it couldn't hurt. It's pretty interesting, the events of 1848 were something I only had a small knowledge of, so it's good to find out a bit more.

MalFunction
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Jul 12 2007 11:04

Recently read Clive Bloom "Terror Within: terrorism and the dream of a British republic" which was disappointing as it includes some irish, Scottish, Welsh nationalists who were also republicans, and English physical force class strugglers who were also republicans and he concentrates just on the "terrorism" - which seems to mean any form of political violence. no sign of islamic republicans and their terrorism! has some interesting stuff in there but lacks proper contextualisation - ie it's not a proper history of "British Republicanism". even includes irish republican invasions of Canada from USA.

Terry
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Jul 12 2007 11:31

'The Unquiet Woods: Ecological Change and Peasant Resistance in the Himalaya' by Ramachandra Guha. It is about the Chipko movement against commercial forestry in northern India in the 1970s, and contextualising that by situating it in a history of local peasant struggles against commercial forestry going back to the C19th.
That is the last thing I have been reading.

Probably the most interesting history to me though is of labourers' secret societies in Ireland circa 1750 to 1850 aka the Whiteboys. See 'Irish Peasants, Violence and Political Unrest' (Clark and Donnelly) - there is a really good chapter on it in that. There is some mention here and there of this being a feature of the diaspora as well (apart from the very famous Molly Macquires obviously), eg mentioned in passing in 'English Hunger and Industrial Disorders' (about late C18th) that army veterans and whiteboys "played a critical role in the riots by providing a disciplined core of militants able to defy the military, and by giving direction to the disorders."
In a nice little map the same book has Whiteboys predominante in Wapping and Shadwell in the 1768 London riots.
I should stress that this book only mentions them in passing and I'm not endorsing it as a major source on them, far from it.
'The Many Headed Hydra' briefly mentions whiteboys in colonial America as well.
There isn't really a massive ammount of material on this matter, quite the opposite in fact, well I guess Ireland is a small country and doesn't have the same tradition of 'history from below' as elsewhere. For instance only recent research has found food rioting in C18th Ireland.

As a shameless plug there is an article I wrote about them in Organise! issue 60 (http://www.afed.org.uk/org/). I know of most of the sources for this in the Irish context, but if anyone knows of sources for Whiteboy activities in the diaspora I'd appreciate hearing about it.

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Steven.
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Jul 12 2007 11:42
Terry wrote:
As a shameless plug there is an article I wrote about them in Organise! issue 60 (http://www.afed.org.uk/org/). I know of most of the sources for this in the Irish context, but if anyone knows of sources for Whiteboy activities in the diaspora I'd appreciate hearing about it.

We would love to have that article in our library terry, do you still have it in some text format? it'd be great if you could submit it. Depending on word count it could be possible to chop it up/down for our history section too.

Mike Harman
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Jul 12 2007 11:48

Terry, I just saw a book on "Italian workers of the world" - which traces industrial militancy in Italian workers internationally, only read the contents, but it seems to take the same approach as the source you'd like for the whiteboys. Sounds interesting.

Malfunction - "English physical force class strugglers" - Red Action right?

Terry
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Jul 12 2007 12:39

No I don't have it in text John, but it is possible to cut and paste from pdf, will do. An earlier version which was on the afed site in text isn't there anymore I think, but was stolen by a dissident republican site and is to be found here: http://irelandsown.net/midnight.html ..hmm I made the anti-nationalist argument a little more explicit in the later version.

While looking for that I came across a bit of a local history on early Whiteboys in Kilkenny here:
http://homepage.eircom.net/~duchas/steeples/SteepleVol1/whiteboys.htm

Yeah catch that is not so much akin to the sources I'm looking for, as the one I would like to see exist!, anything with even a small mention would be good to know about. One day I would like to do a proper study on them.

I take a dim view of putting history into a national (in the geographic sense) box....it means once you leave Tipperary for London you leave the narrative of "Irish history"..thereby removing the 1797 royal navy mutiny, the Chartists, the Eureka stockade etc... from "Irish history". From another point of view it is impossible to understand the history of a particular country without reference to the history of adjoining countries, especially but not exclusivly, when they are in the same state.

syndicalist
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Jul 12 2007 12:40

Anarchist Voices: An Oral History Of Anarchism In America by Paul Avrich

The Gentle General: Rose Pesotta Anarchist and Labor Organizer
by Elaine J. Leeder

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Jul 12 2007 22:02

You reading the abridged or unadbridged version of Anarchist Voices, syndicalist? I've read the abridged, was really interesting (Kropotkin's daughter is SO angry at everything!) smile

I ordered the unabridged version, but haven't got it yet unfortunately sad

Randy
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Jul 12 2007 23:44

I recently read Elbaum's Revolution in the Air about Leninist organizing in the USA during the 60's, after (I think it was) syndicalistcat mentioned it in this forum. Why read about Leninist organizing, you ask? Because I thought it worth knowing about the most recent round of large scale revolutionary organizing that take place in my locale. And Leninism, for good or ill, was the ideology du jour.

I have a tendency to dismiss Leninists as cynical power mongers. But i came away from this book with an impression of the author as a sincere revolutionary (albiet one with whom i have profound disagreements.) Oh, and the book was quite readable (although there were some slow spots halfway through).

syndicalist
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Jul 13 2007 12:24
Quote:
You reading the abridged or unadbridged version of Anarchist Voices, syndicalist? I've read the abridged, was really interesting (Kropotkin's daughter is SO angry at everything!)

Unabridged. I read the abridged and have found the unabridged to be well worth the dollars spent (for me at least). So if you thought the unabridged volume was good, you'll find this one even better---more extensive.

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Jul 14 2007 03:56

Excellent news, can't wait for it to arrive smile

petey
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Jul 14 2007 05:17

a few months ago i read 1919 and dynamite. many years ago i read sidney hook's autobiography, and the total picture of the US in the 1910s sounds horrible. a level of misery and jingo to match what's going on now.

terry, thanks for your references, that all sounds very interesting.

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Jul 14 2007 09:24
Randy wrote:
I recently read Elbaum's Revolution in the Air about Leninist organizing in the USA during the 60's, after (I think it was) syndicalistcat mentioned it in this forum. Why read about Leninist organizing, you ask? Because I thought it worth knowing about the most recent round of large scale revolutionary organizing that take place in my locale. And Leninism, for good or ill, was the ideology du jour.

Left-commie Loren Goldner tears shreds off Elbaum at: http://home.earthlink.net/~lrgoldner/elbaum.html

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Jul 14 2007 17:17

Two books I've read lately, both of which were written in Hebrew but one available in English:

  • Without Fear and Prejudice, by Nitza Erel: a history of Haolam Hazeh, a radical newspaper which was a platform for Uri Avnery's anti-establishment, leftist national liberation ideology. Turned out to be an interesting overview of the underside of Israeli politics during the first stage of the paper's life under Avnery's editorship (1950-1965), before he decided to try and get elected into the Knesset. I had previously read an account of his doings during his first term (a list of his speeches there), which clearly indicates the follies of electoral reformism, though I'm sure that that wasn't the intention.
  • Where are all Those Bourgeoisies? The History of the Israeli Bourgeoisie by Amir Ben-Porat: a history of the bourgeois in Palestine from the late 1800's to the present day. I'm reading this right now, and find it do be very interesting, though a lot less readable than the other one. It seems to have some kind of neo-Marxist analysis involving a new bourgeois of professionals, which I will have to look into later; the information is interesting in itself, though.
alibadani
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Jul 14 2007 20:50

I'm reading art history right now. The Social History of Art by Arnold Hauser is a materialist history of art. I just finished Volume 1 : Prehistory, Ancient-Oriental, Greece and Rome, Middle Ages. I'm now reading Volume 2: Renaissance, Mannerism, Baroque.

Art as a product of socio-economic reality. Great stuff.

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Jul 15 2007 21:43

Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes, on world history 1914-91

Very insightful on the overall pattern of this period:

- 1914- 1945; "the Age of Catastrophe"
- 1947-73: "the Golden Age"
- after 1973 - the "Crisis Decades" (ie, sliding back towards catastrophe....)

etc

Haven't finished it yet, but he doesn't think the prospects for the world social system are very rosy.
Very good early chapter on why war in this period is totally unlike the wars of the previous century and represents a clear tendency towards barbarism, and another one on why the economic crisis of the 1930s was qualitatively different from the cyclical crises of the previous century. I say this because quite a few people on these boards have trouble seeing this.

Shame he doesn't understand revolution or socialism. He's a 'soft' Stalinist in his actual politics. Which contradicts a lot of his insights. He shows for example that between World War One abd World War Two there was a real 'advance' in barbarism. But because of his rock solid committment to anti-fascism, he justifies the 1939-45 war.

yab
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Jul 16 2007 05:11

Seven Pillars of Wisdom
by T.E. Lawrence

ticking_fool
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Jul 16 2007 09:41
Alf wrote:
Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes, on world history 1914-91

I read these over the last year or so and wasn't that impressed and I've got a lot of time for Hobsbawm. They were useful for collecting references and I've got a list as long as my arm to chase, but I don't think they gelled very well at all. Hobsbawm's best is still Captain Swing for my money.

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Jul 16 2007 20:50

'Revolutionary Syndicalism - An International Perspective' - collection of academic essays on different countries of varying quality. Interesting one about Mexico - the early labour movement there was anarcho-syndicalist prior to & during the Revolution, and very large. Also insurrectional at times. Also seduced by collaboration with bourgeois statists who - surprise, surprise - used them to crush rural rebellion and then crushed syndicalism. Echoes of Spain somewhat. I'll put it in the library as part of catch's revolutionary wave project.

Terry
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Jul 16 2007 22:13

Ret Marut does that book have anything on this:

Quote:
Terry wrote in another thread:
"Just reading bits of Joan Martinez-Alier's 'The Environmentalism of the Poor'. This book mentions an 1888 strike by "syndicalist miners" in Rio Tinto in Andalusia, Spain, led by an anarchist Maximiliano Tornet, who also formed an alliance with 'Huelva Anti-Smoke League', which was an alliance of farmers in opposition to sulpher dioxide pollution from the copper mines, this pollution was also one of the greviances in the strike.
On the 4th of February 1888 a protest of miners and farmers was gunned down by the military, with between one hundred and two hundred persons killed. Anyone came across this in histories of Spanish anarchism? The company was the infamous Rio Tinto Zinc, actually their first mine."
Catch 22
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Jul 16 2007 22:28
Randy wrote:
I recently read Elbaum's Revolution in the Air about Leninist organizing in the USA during the 60's, after (I think it was) syndicalistcat mentioned it in this forum. Why read about Leninist organizing, you ask? Because I thought it worth knowing about the most recent round of large scale revolutionary organizing that take place in my locale. And Leninism, for good or ill, was the ideology du jour.

I have a tendency to dismiss Leninists as cynical power mongers. But i came away from this book with an impression of the author as a sincere revolutionary (albiet one with whom i have profound disagreements.) Oh, and the book was quite readable (although there were some slow spots halfway through).

If you liked it try reading Kirkpatrick Sale's "SDS: a Decade of Defiance." Its fucking long but I have it on pdf file for anyone that wants it.

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Jul 16 2007 22:30

No, sorry Terry - doesn't mention the strike or Tornet in the CNT article. It mentions the formation of the Federacion Regional Espanola in 1870 (the Spanish section of the 1st Int.) by anarchists, and the formation of the socialist UGT union in 1888. So possibly that strike was led by the FRE?

Edit; in fact FRE was "replaced in 1881 by a new federation, The Federacion de Trabajadores de la Region Espanola (federation of Workers of the Spanish region)." So coulda been the FTRE.