This 1954 painting, “Marxism Will Give Health to the Sick” was one of her last portraits and was never completed. The original title was: “Peace on Earth so the Marxist Science may Save the Sick and Those Oppressed by Criminal Yankee Capitalism”.
21st January 1962: Stripped to the waist, Argentine-born revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara (1928 - 1967), who waged guerrilla warfare with the Castro brothers, helps workers on a low cost housing project near Havana. At that time he was the head of the Cuban National Bank as well as Minister of Industries.
Anarchists and Libertarian Socialists who don’t recognize the state/anti-state division between socialists as the most important political issue facing the Left (far more important than revolutionary/reformist, or anarchist/marxist, or violent/non-violent) and co-operates over this line will repeat the same errors that every anarchist movement has done in the revolution thus far, and will (if a revolution happens) lead us all into the torture chambers, prison cells and firing squads of the Neo-Bolsheviks, just you fucking wait.
I woke up early this morning to get a bit of reading in before I made breakfast. I am really enjoying my current read, “The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg”. She was a German anti-war activist, revolutionary socialist and author. I enjoy her character, she is passionate and empathetic but demands respect from those who work beside her in the Socialist movement. I have even started to use sticky notes to keep track of notable parts of the text.
I hope you all are able to get some rest and maybe even get in some reading for enjoyment!
I’m not sure Jewish people are ever going to have an easy time in leftist spaces, since in general socialist discourse works on the assumption that classes are neatly stratified, and Jews have always had a complicated relationship with class. It’s always a mixture of being an underclass but accused of being an overclass, and that kind of idiosyncratic place in society doesn’t fit into dreams of rising up against the powers that be. We’ve been called the rulers many times, and have been subject to plenty of “revolutions” that somehow didn’t fix everyone’s problems.
There’s also the weird way that the Marxist view of history and antisemitic mythos are nearly identical. A small cabal of people who own all the wealth, who are behind all wars, who are beholden to no faction or ideology but will play factions against each other for personal gain, who help only themselves and have only your worst interests at heart, who are constitutionally incapable of altruism, are the root of all society’s inequalities and you only need to wake up to their machinations in order to overthrow them. If you’re a Jewish person who feels uncomfortable in leftist spaces, this is usually the reason why. You’ve heard it all before.
On this day: March 31 1872 - Aleksandra Mikhailovna Kollontai, Russian revolutionary communist and Marxist feminist, was born. Kollontai first became interested in Marxism in the 1890s, and joined Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik Party in 1915. After the October Revolution in 1917, Kollontai became People’s Commisar for Social Welfare, although her critical views of the Communist government meant she was politically sidelined, and spent her later political career working as a diplomat. In 1923, she became the first female ambassador in modern times. Kollontai was also known for her radical social views: she was an advocate of free love, and believed marriage and the traditional family to be legacies of an oppressive past. Kollontai was also one of the founders of the Zhenotdel, a department of the Russian Communist Party established in 1919 which was devoted to improving the lives of women throughout the Soviet Union. She died in 1952.
One hundred and forty-seven (147) years ago, on 22nd April (1870), a man was born into a bourgeois family in Simbirsk (Imperial Russia) that would change the lives of millions throughout the world, inspire the exploited workers and peasants into revolution, and set fear into the hearts of capitalists with the foundations of the world’s first workers state.
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, more commonly known as Lenin, driven by the teachings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and fuelled by the death of his older brother Aleksandr at the hands of the Tsarist regime, set a course in Marxist history that would leave the world stunned as one faction, theBolsheviks, and its charismatic leader, gained the full support of the workers and peasants, and led them against the Tsar of the Russian Empire through the Great October Socialist Revolution, ending Russia’s participation in the first world war, a costly conflict that resulted in the death of millions and the destruction of all infrastructures, ceasing the continued exploitation by nobility and clergy of the workers and peasants, and establishing the ideology that would serve as the foundation of the first workers state, the first socialist industrial nation in the world.
The success of Lenin’s leadership and of the struggle by the workers and peasants stood out as a beacon of hope for many other nations worldwide, and his teachings and the peoples’ experience would soon spread, further influencing and inspiring the oppressed, exploited masses to crack open their shackles and revolt against those who had kept them in perpetual darkness for long so.
Lenin may be no more, but his ideas, his thoughts, his teachings are immortal.
I’m all done with uni for the year! My grades qualified me for a master’s scholarship, so I’m going back next year to do my master’s writing a Marxist history of incarceration in New Zealand under the country’s leading prison scholar :)
Steve’s an artist, and he falls in with these bohemian types, these working class artists who like to argue about socialism and the rise of the proletariat and also anti-segregation and racism and the people starving across the country and entire states turn to dust. They talk about art and the meaning of it and how to find that meaning in the grim landscape they live in, the razor edge they all live their lives, where a few days bad luck or a chance encounter with the police could mean ruin and homelessness.
That’s how Steve’s lived his whole life, right on that edge, and he feels like he’s come home, to people who have had to fight as hard as he has all his life, or even harder. And if sometimes he stays too late to get back to Brooklyn, arguing about how to save the world, and one of his new friends takes him to bed and teaches him about how his body isn’t always only pain, something to hold him back - and if maybe it’s not always the same friend, or maybe it’s more than one, well - it’s a whole new era, with new morals. They’re making themselves here.
I mean, this is the art scene of the ‘30s, this is when Pollock was cutting his teeth and making enemies, this was when Rothko and de Kooning and everyone who eventually became the New York school were struggling and trying to make a name for themselves. This is the New York of Hopper and The Naked City, that creeping existential dread - the years where it seemed like a new skyscraper went up every other day, and down below people were starving on the streets.
This is the New York of Social Realism - the glory of industry and hard work, and the triumph of the common man over the capitalist enemy. I mean, Steve would be all over Social Realism. That shit is so up his alley it hurts to think about. If anyone he knows is working it’s as likely to be on a WPA project as anything, New York is full to the brim with Depression era WPA art, and you know that kind of wrought, expressionist, heavily allegorical shit would be just the kind of thing the dude who eventually became Captain America would paint.
And Steve’s art has a guest star, this dark haired young man who appears over and over, who shines with the sweat of honest labor, who gleams in the fire of a factory furnace, whose Byronic beauty is a contrast against the humble anonymity of the other figures. His friends laugh and ask him, “Who is this Young Turk? Who is this paragon of manhood? Isn’t it arrogant, to value to individual against the collective?”
And Steve can lie the whole day long but his ability to bullshit about art is unparalleled, so he says, well, this is labor distilled, this is the spirit of commonality and united purpose. No - it’s a saint of old or a - an angel, brought out of the sacristy and into the mire with the rest of us, whose beauty only grows as he learns about mankind and the struggle. How transgressive!
And it works until one night there’s a party at his friend’s dingy apartment one night, and he’s draped over a someone’s lap, halfway out onto the fire escape to escape the cigarette smoke and the reefer smoke and all the noise, and someone shouts his name.
And sure Bucky’s friends are teasing him about poetry and alabaster and everything, but Steve’s friends take one look over and recognize that angel in all his glory, come to life among them in Harlem.