Recently there has been a controversy in the Cuban press over the murder of the General Secretary of the Cuban Federation of Sugar Workers in 1947. The journal of the Catholic diocese of Havana, Espacio Laical, published an article by Newton Briones Montoto arguing that he was not murdered by an army officer but was killed in self defence as he fired on the officer first while resisting arrest. Given that the Socialist History Society has recently published an Occasional Paper, Killing Communists in Havana, at the urging of comrades from the Institute of Cuban History and the history commission of the CTC trade union confederation, we wrote a reply based on the research for the SHS Occasional Publication and, to our surprise, the Espacio Laical published it. For those who read Spanish, the article can be found here…
by David Parker
The eloquent and powerful letters that make up this volume tell the extraordinary story of how two men who never met or spoke to each other became the closest of friends. It was all the more extraordinary given that Leslie Parker was a veteran member of the British Communist Party while Paul Zalud was a disillusioned former communist struggling to cope under the Stalinist regime imposed on his native Czechoslovakia after the Soviet invasion in August 1968. The relationship began inauspiciously when Leslie saw a letter from Paul in The Times and wrote to berate him for it. The unexpected result was an epistolary journey, conducted in defiance of the censors and concluded only by Leslie’s death, through which in Paul’s words they ‘became friends by wrestling with each other’.
This remarkable collection presents two very different yet complementary minds. Paul’s letters offer an incomparable insight into the processes of ‘normalisation’ whereby an entire country was disciplined; Leslie’s reveal his efforts to sustain his friend’s morale with humour and domestic reportage as well as incisive political commentary. Both men had an instinctive flair for juxtaposing the personal and political, blending the mundane and the philosophical in a literary discourse as moving as it is instructive.
Published by Bacquier Books
Socialist History Occasional Publication 40
Noah Ablett has been described as the ultimate organic intellectual. An accomplished autodidact, scholar, polemicist, orator and teacher; he was one of the most outstanding, but controversial labour activists to emerge from the period of unprecedented industrial, political and social turmoil which convulsed the South Wales coalfield in the years preceding the First World War. One of the authors of The Miners’ Next Step, Ablett’s premature death robbed the labour movement of one of its ablest advocates.
About the author
Robert Turnbull is a writer and historian. He is a graduate of Ruskin College, Oxford, and the University of Northumbria. He has written for the TLS and BBC History Magazine. He is married with three sons and lives in the North East of England. Rob has a longstanding interest in the history of the South Wales coalfield, where he lived for many years.
He is also the author of Left for the Rising Sun, Right for Swan Hunter: The Plebs League in the North East of England 1908-1926, Five Leaves Publications, 2014
The Start of the Cold War in Latin America
by Steve Cushion
Socialist History Society Occasional Publication
The Cold War started early in Cuba, with anti-communist purges of the trade unions already under way by 1947. Corruption and government intervention succeeded in removing the left-wing leaders of many unions but, in those sectors where this approach failed, gunmen linked to the ruling party shot and killed a dozen leading trade union militants, including the General Secretary of the Cuban Sugar Workers’ Federation.
Based on material from the Cuban archives and confidential US State Department files, this SHS Occasional Publication examines the activities of the US government, the Mafia and the American Federation of Labor, as well as corrupt Cuban politicians and local gangsters, in this early episode of the Cold War.
This is a joint publication of the “Socialist History Society” and “Caribbean Labour Solidarity”
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Steve Cushion is Secretary of Caribbean Labour Solidarity and author of
“A HIDDEN HISTORY OF THE CUBAN REVOLUTION How the Working Class Shaped the Guerilla Victory” published by Monthly Review (2016)
“In O’Connell Street and along Eden Quay the dust was still thick upon the ground, the air was heavy with burning, and dense clouds of smoke obscured the ruins. Even when the rain came, and after three days of it, they were still smouldering.”
Woman’s Dreadnought, 13 May 1916
On Easter Monday 1916, a small group of committed Irish Republicans occupied buildings in central Dublin and declared their country’s independence from Britain. The tragic outcome of the Irish uprising was anxiously observed by members of the political left around the world. The execution of James Connolly, ‘carried out on a stretcher and strapped in position to be shot’, commented the feminist and revolutionary socialist, Sylvia Pankhurst: ‘I remembered him as one who had lived laborious days in the service of human welfare; a man of pity and tenderness, driven to violent means, from belief that they alone would serve to win through to a better life for the people’, she wrote. Although ‘he had thrown in his lot with the Sinn Fein patriots, he remained an internationalist’ and was the man best fitted ‘to take a substantial share in developing Ireland’s part in the world-wide social changes which…are advancing to transform the face of human society’.
This publication from the Socialist History Society is a contribution to this still controversial event whose legacy remains much contested even today as we mark its 100th anniversary.
About the Author
John Newsinger, who is Professor of History, Bath Spa University, takes a particularly close interest in the history of the labour movement, the British Empire and Ireland. A prolific author, John’s publications include: British Counterinsurgency: from Palestine to Northern Ireland (2002); Rebel City: Larkin, Connolly and the Dublin Labour Movement (2004); The Blood Never Dried: A People’s History of the British Empire (2006); Fighting Back – the American Working Class in the 1930s (2012); Jim Larkin and the Great Dublin Lockout of 1913 (2013); Them and Us: Fighting the Class War 1910-1939 (2015) and British Counterinsurgency (2nd revised edition, 2015). John is a member of the Socialist History Society.
Radicalism and Socialism in the First International
by Deborah Lavin
Socialist History Society, London 2011, 86 pages paperback, £4.
Apart from Charles Bradlaugh’s joint trial with Annie Besant for publishing a birth control pamphlet in 1877, Bradlaugh’s name has been lost to history. Yet in the 1860s through to the 1880s, he was head of the largest non-trade union radical-reformist organisation in the country.
Bradlaugh loathed socialism and argued that strikes were a useless attempt to buck the market, but as he was such a terrific speaker he attracted vast audiences of working people to his regular Sunday lectures cum harangues
Marx kept Bradlaugh and his organisation (the National Secular Society) , out of the International Working Men’s Association, but as Bradlaugh was allied to practically every opponent Marx ever had on the General Council, Bradlaugh still made his presence felt.
Marx called Bradlaugh the “Pope of Atheism” and derided him as a cheap jack tub-thumper, yet the conflict between them was not personal, but political conflict. It came to head over the Commune of Paris in 1871 when in print and on the platform Bradlaugh endlessly and effectively attacked Marx and his IWMA backed pamphlet Civil War in France, where Marx defended the Commune and the Communards.
Marx’s international conflict with Miguel Bakunin has over-shadowed Marx’s domestic conflict with Charles Bradlaugh. This OS brings that conflict out of the shadows and reveals its importance not only to the history of the IWMA, but to the Socialist Revival, which followed, as after Bradlaugh’s death, many of Bradlaugh’s anti socialist. radical-reformist followers found a new home with the Fabians or even with the Independent Labour Party, and they took their radical reformist, anti socialism with them.