Whatcha reading?

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Silent Majority » 27 Oct 2017, 10:51am

eumaas wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 10:56am
eumaas wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 10:27am
Currently rereading Sweezy's Theory of Capitalist Development. I think I recommended this to James in lieu of reading Capital (which I think is unnecessary for most radicals). Ever take me up on it?
I've been recommending this book to people for almost fifteen years and nobody has ever taken me up on it. A testament to either how intimidating economic theory is, or to how little sway I have. I am choosing to believe the former. :shifty:
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by eumaas » 01 Nov 2017, 8:53am

The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks): Short Course

For a short course, it's a long book! This was published in 1938 (English translation in '39). Edited by Stalin (who also contributed some writing to it). It's an interesting read because it's an attempt at a Leninist catechism. But as it's written in the 30s, it's clearly obsessed with the political struggles of that decade. Kulaks are mentioned repeatedly (& where a mention of them is unnecessary!), and the text highlights any time an opponent of Stalin's, such as Trotsky, sided with the Mensheviks against Lenin. Also overestimates the role of the Bolsheviks in 1905. What the text does is mention whenever a strike was led by the Bolsheviks, but for non-Bolshevik strikes, the leadership goes unmentioned.

I will likely follow it up with Ten Days That Shook the World and maybe Trotsky's History if I have the patience. I almost bought Mieville's October, but as I hear it's just rehashing Trotsky's classic.

I also picked up Krausz's intellectual biography of Lenin.
"The only thing that really occurs to me that I can say on this is to point out how fascinating it is that the Hassan-i-Sabbah archetype keeps turning up over and over again ... He disappears up into the mountains and is never seen again. Believe me, he'll never be seen again. He'll live forever because of that."

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Dr. Medulla » 01 Nov 2017, 9:10am

eumaas wrote:
01 Nov 2017, 8:53am
The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks): Short Course

For a short course, it's a long book! This was published in 1938 (English translation in '39). Edited by Stalin (who also contributed some writing to it). It's an interesting read because it's an attempt at a Leninist catechism. But as it's written in the 30s, it's clearly obsessed with the political struggles of that decade. Kulaks are mentioned repeatedly (& where a mention of them is unnecessary!), and the text highlights any time an opponent of Stalin's, such as Trotsky, sided with the Mensheviks against Lenin. Also overestimates the role of the Bolsheviks in 1905. What the text does is mention whenever a strike was led by the Bolsheviks, but for non-Bolshevik strikes, the leadership goes unmentioned.
I've never heard of it, let alone read it, but I wonder if Orwell did, as it sounds like a perfect example of constructing history to meet present political aims. Love that definitive article at the start of the title, lest anyone doubt that it's anything but gospel.
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by eumaas » 01 Nov 2017, 9:36am

Dr. Medulla wrote:
01 Nov 2017, 9:10am
eumaas wrote:
01 Nov 2017, 8:53am
The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks): Short Course

For a short course, it's a long book! This was published in 1938 (English translation in '39). Edited by Stalin (who also contributed some writing to it). It's an interesting read because it's an attempt at a Leninist catechism. But as it's written in the 30s, it's clearly obsessed with the political struggles of that decade. Kulaks are mentioned repeatedly (& where a mention of them is unnecessary!), and the text highlights any time an opponent of Stalin's, such as Trotsky, sided with the Mensheviks against Lenin. Also overestimates the role of the Bolsheviks in 1905. What the text does is mention whenever a strike was led by the Bolsheviks, but for non-Bolshevik strikes, the leadership goes unmentioned.
I've never heard of it, let alone read it, but I wonder if Orwell did, as it sounds like a perfect example of constructing history to meet present political aims. Love that definitive article at the start of the title, lest anyone doubt that it's anything but gospel.
I'm sure Orwell was familiar. It was a big part of political education for world CPs.

That definite article is my mistake. Russian doesn't have definite articles (or indefinite ones for that matter), and the English translation I'm reading doesn't include it. I wrote the above on my phone and copied the title from the wiki page in order to save time. Sorry.

Just came across this bit:
Tactical line of the Menshevik conference. Inasmuch as the revolution was a bourgeois revolution, only the liberal bourgeoisie could be its leader. The proletariat should not establish close relations with the peasantry, but with the liberal bourgeoisie. The chief thing was not to frighten off the liberal bourgeoisie by a display of revolutionary spirit and not to give it a pretext to recoil from the revolution, for if it were to recoil from the revolution, the revolution would be weakened.

It was possible that the uprising would prove victorious; but after the triumph of the uprising the Social-Democratic Party should step aside so as not to frighten away the liberal bourgeoisie. It was possible that as a result of the uprising a provisional revolutionary government would be set up; but the Social-Democratic Party should under no circumstances take part in it, because this government would not be Socialist in character, and because -- and this was the chief thing -- by its participation in this government and by its revolutionary spirit, the Social-Democratic Party might frighten off the liberal bourgeoisie and thus undermine the revolution.

This passage, summarizing the separate tactics of the Mensheviks during 1905, is pretty remarkable in that it resembles the Moscow line on the Spanish revolution. Moscow ordered Spanish communists to moderate the revolution (by force where necessary) because it might scare both the liberal national bourgeoisie and of course the international liberal bourgeoisie.

Now that I think of it, it's also pretty much the Moscow line on the Chinese revolution. Both Stalin and Trotsky ordered their representatives (Li Lisan and Chen Duxiu respectively) in the leadership of China's CP to submerge the urban party in the Kuomintang, a kind of entryist strategy. Of course the KMT (which had been admitted to the Comintern!) turned around and massacred the urban CPC, leaving Mao's rural faction, who had opposed the entryism, in control of what remained.
"The only thing that really occurs to me that I can say on this is to point out how fascinating it is that the Hassan-i-Sabbah archetype keeps turning up over and over again ... He disappears up into the mountains and is never seen again. Believe me, he'll never be seen again. He'll live forever because of that."

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Dr. Medulla » 01 Nov 2017, 9:46am

eumaas wrote:
01 Nov 2017, 9:36am
That definite article is my mistake. Russian doesn't have definite articles (or indefinite ones for that matter), and the English translation I'm reading doesn't include it. I wrote the above on my phone and copied the title from the wiki page in order to save time. Sorry.
Huh. That's kinda wild. Do you know how Russians make distinctions when using language?
This passage, summarizing the separate tactics of the Mensheviks during 1905, is pretty remarkable in that it resembles the Moscow line on the Spanish revolution. Moscow ordered Spanish communists to moderate the revolution (by force where necessary) because it might scare both the liberal national bourgeoisie and of course the international liberal bourgeoisie.

Now that I think of it, it's also pretty much the Moscow line on the Chinese revolution. Both Stalin and Trotsky ordered their representatives (Li Lisan and Chen Duxiu respectively) in the leadership of China's CP to submerge the urban party in the Kuomintang, a kind of entryist strategy. Of course the KMT (which had been admitted to the Comintern!) turned around and massacred the urban CPC, leaving Mao's rural faction, who had opposed the entryism, in control of what remained.
When you're a minority voice, that makes sense, to build the coalition. Gramsci wrote a lot about that, about how both resistant and dominant blocs are in a constant state of flux based on the demands and strengths of the various elements. It's pretty obvious to consider, really, but important to appreciate that dominance is never as dictatorial or all-encompassing as we fear it is, and that overcoming power depends on build alliances, which means creating shared worldviews, even if it can never be permanent.
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by eumaas » 01 Nov 2017, 9:51am

Dr. Medulla wrote:
01 Nov 2017, 9:46am
Huh. That's kinda wild. Do you know how Russians make distinctions when using language?
Latin doesn't have it either. It's not really all that essential. But also compare English's use of the definite article to French, where it's used much more (saying "the freedom" instead of just "freedom" for example). Do we feel we're missing out on something by not saying "the freedom"?
When you're a minority voice, that makes sense, to build the coalition. Gramsci wrote a lot about that, about how both resistant and dominant blocs are in a constant state of flux based on the demands and strengths of the various elements. It's pretty obvious to consider, really, but important to appreciate that dominance is never as dictatorial or all-encompassing as we fear it is, and that overcoming power depends on build alliances, which means creating shared worldviews, even if it can never be permanent.
I just think it's interesting that this book is indicting the Mensheviks, yet the Comintern was pursuing a Menshevik line. I think there can be merit to caution, but in China and Spain it didn't seem to work.
"The only thing that really occurs to me that I can say on this is to point out how fascinating it is that the Hassan-i-Sabbah archetype keeps turning up over and over again ... He disappears up into the mountains and is never seen again. Believe me, he'll never be seen again. He'll live forever because of that."

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Silent Majority » 01 Nov 2017, 9:56am

Once I wrap up Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution, I'm going to read Reed's Ten Days That Shook the World. Then the Sweezy Gene recommended. It's a Bolshevik kind of Winter. Delighted that I came to radicalism via anarchism as it gave me the right tools to deconstruct these powerfully well written Marxist accounts when necessary.
'But also: hey dude, you can just go looking for more glasses. They're all free now. '

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by eumaas » 01 Nov 2017, 10:04am

Silent Majority wrote:
01 Nov 2017, 9:56am
Once I wrap up Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution, I'm going to read Reed's Ten Days That Shook the World. Then the Sweezy Gene recommended. It's a Bolshevik kind of Winter. Delighted that I came to radicalism via anarchism as it gave me the right tools to deconstruct these powerfully well written Marxist accounts when necessary.
Ten Days That Shook the World & Zinoviev's History of the Bolshevik Party were my introductions to revolutionary socialism. I read Ten Days when I was aged in a single digit. I used to get it out from the library and reread it, trying to understand it.

I didn't notice that you were reading Trotsky's History. I've never read it. Sweezy said it was Trotsky's History that convinced him of Marxism, but he didn't become a Trotskyist.

I'm probably going to dive into Bettelheim's monumental Class Struggles in the USSR. I think it's the best analysis of the formation of the new class in the USSR. About half of Sweezy's superb Post-Revolutionary Society is dedicated to summarizing and discussing Bettelheim's study. Bettelheim avoids both the anarchist reduction (the problem is just that there was a state at all) and the Trotskyist interpretation (the problem is that Trotsky wasn't in charge). The Trotskyist analysis strikes me as entirely useless given its focus on personality. And anyway, I think Trotsky and Stalin resembled each other.
"The only thing that really occurs to me that I can say on this is to point out how fascinating it is that the Hassan-i-Sabbah archetype keeps turning up over and over again ... He disappears up into the mountains and is never seen again. Believe me, he'll never be seen again. He'll live forever because of that."

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by eumaas » 01 Nov 2017, 10:06am

I still don't understand the appeal of Trotskyism.
"The only thing that really occurs to me that I can say on this is to point out how fascinating it is that the Hassan-i-Sabbah archetype keeps turning up over and over again ... He disappears up into the mountains and is never seen again. Believe me, he'll never be seen again. He'll live forever because of that."

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Silent Majority » 01 Nov 2017, 10:11am

eumaas wrote:
01 Nov 2017, 10:04am

Ten Days That Shook the World & Zinoviev's History of the Bolshevik Party were my introductions to revolutionary socialism. I read Ten Days when I was aged in a single digit. I used to get it out from the library and reread it, trying to understand it.
That's cute as hell. I'm looking forward to reading it for the first time.
I didn't notice that you were reading Trotsky's History. I've never read it. Sweezy said it was Trotsky's History that convinced him of Marxism, but he didn't become a Trotskyist.

I'm probably going to dive into Bettelheim's monumental Class Struggles in the USSR. I think it's the best analysis of the formation of the new class in the USSR. About half of Sweezy's superb Post-Revolutionary Society is dedicated to summarizing and discussing Bettelheim's study. Bettelheim avoids both the anarchist reduction (the problem is just that there was a state at all) and the Trotskyist interpretation (the problem is that Trotsky wasn't in charge). The Trotskyist analysis strikes me as entirely useless given its focus on personality. And anyway, I think Trotsky and Stalin resembled each other.
I'm enjoying Trotksy's prose immensely, but I can't get on with any kind of authoritarianism at all. The Socialist group I've been meeting with is descended from Militant, who were entryists to the Labour party in the 1980s. I think there's potential there, but I find top-downism to be perverse and unworkable.
'But also: hey dude, you can just go looking for more glasses. They're all free now. '

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Dr. Medulla » 01 Nov 2017, 10:50am

eumaas wrote:
01 Nov 2017, 9:51am
Latin doesn't have it either. It's not really all that essential. But also compare English's use of the definite article to French, where it's used much more (saying "the freedom" instead of just "freedom" for example). Do we feel we're missing out on something by not saying "the freedom"?
Obviously people function, but our reliance on definite and indefinite in our speech makes it hard to conceive of their absence.
I just think it's interesting that this book is indicting the Mensheviks, yet the Comintern was pursuing a Menshevik line. I think there can be merit to caution, but in China and Spain it didn't seem to work.
Sometimes it may be a no-win situation, at least in the immediate term, but in most scenarios building alliances and modifying one's positions is essential for success. But, yes, amusing to the make the concession to the hated Menshies.
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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Silent Majority » 02 Nov 2017, 10:16am

29) The Spy Who Came In From the Cold - John Le Carre. Audiobook. Cold war spies, a very British setting, East Germany in the sixties, twists and bluffs. A very un-James Bond look at British Intelligence. Flawed, but a fun thriller which luxuriated in the technical details of administration and bureaucracy amongst character studies of damaged men.
'But also: hey dude, you can just go looking for more glasses. They're all free now. '

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by eumaas » 02 Nov 2017, 12:08pm

Silent Majority wrote:
02 Nov 2017, 10:16am
29) The Spy Who Came In From the Cold - John Le Carre. Audiobook. Cold war spies, a very British setting, East Germany in the sixties, twists and bluffs. A very un-James Bond look at British Intelligence. Flawed, but a fun thriller which luxuriated in the technical details of administration and bureaucracy amongst character studies of damaged men.
He's great. Best of the lot. Also, his politics aren't as awful as one might expect.
"The only thing that really occurs to me that I can say on this is to point out how fascinating it is that the Hassan-i-Sabbah archetype keeps turning up over and over again ... He disappears up into the mountains and is never seen again. Believe me, he'll never be seen again. He'll live forever because of that."

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by Silent Majority » 02 Nov 2017, 12:16pm

eumaas wrote:
02 Nov 2017, 12:08pm
Silent Majority wrote:
02 Nov 2017, 10:16am
29) The Spy Who Came In From the Cold - John Le Carre. Audiobook. Cold war spies, a very British setting, East Germany in the sixties, twists and bluffs. A very un-James Bond look at British Intelligence. Flawed, but a fun thriller which luxuriated in the technical details of administration and bureaucracy amongst character studies of damaged men.
He's great. Best of the lot. Also, his politics aren't as awful as one might expect.
He was kind of shitty to the young female communist.
'But also: hey dude, you can just go looking for more glasses. They're all free now. '

www.pexlives.libsyn.com/

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Re: Whatcha reading?

Post by eumaas » 02 Nov 2017, 12:31pm

Silent Majority wrote:
02 Nov 2017, 12:16pm
eumaas wrote:
02 Nov 2017, 12:08pm
Silent Majority wrote:
02 Nov 2017, 10:16am
29) The Spy Who Came In From the Cold - John Le Carre. Audiobook. Cold war spies, a very British setting, East Germany in the sixties, twists and bluffs. A very un-James Bond look at British Intelligence. Flawed, but a fun thriller which luxuriated in the technical details of administration and bureaucracy amongst character studies of damaged men.
He's great. Best of the lot. Also, his politics aren't as awful as one might expect.
He was kind of shitty to the young female communist.
I meant Le Carre
"The only thing that really occurs to me that I can say on this is to point out how fascinating it is that the Hassan-i-Sabbah archetype keeps turning up over and over again ... He disappears up into the mountains and is never seen again. Believe me, he'll never be seen again. He'll live forever because of that."

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