A visit to the "Truth and Memory" exhibition of British war artists, currently showing at London’s Imperial War Museum, prompts some thought about the complex relationship between art, politics and propaganda.
On the 26th of September 2014, in the state of Guerrero in Mexico situated about 400 km south of Mexico City, a number of students from the teacher training college of Ayotzinapa went to Iguala, a town some 250 km away in order to prepare with others a demonstration taking place the following week on October 2; a demonstration in memory of the massacre of students on the “Three-Cultures” square in the capital (Tlatelolco) in 1968. This commemoration was taking place in parallel with a massive and spontaneous demonstration of students at the polytechnic school who were protesting against reforms of the education system which, among other things, particularly hit them by re-classifying their future professional qualifications, and thus their future wages, by reducing their grades from engineer to technician.
One hundred years ago, the war enters a new year of slaughter. It was supposed to have been "over by Christmas", but Christmas has been and gone and the war continues. The fraternisations of Christmas Eve pose the question: what would have happened if there had been a workers’ Party, and International, capable of giving them a broader vision, allowing them to bear fruit and become a conscious opposition not only to the war but to its causes?
Over and over, the 2nd International and its member parties had warned the workers of the coming war and threatened the ruling classes with their own overthrow should they dare launch Armageddon. And yet in August 1914, the International disintegrated, blown away like insubstantial dust, as one after the other its leaders and parliamentary deputies betrayed their most solemn promises, voted war credits and called the workers to the slaughter.
How could such a disaster happen?
Philippe Bourrinet has the misfortune of being peculiarly misunderstood. Among those who are interested in or claim to belong to the Communist Left, he passes for a serious and honest historian. Among historians, he passes for a defender of the Communist Left’s ideas (...) we desire to protest against this double error.
Cabu, Charb, Tignous, Wolinski, among the twenty killed in the attacks in Paris on 7 and 9 January, these four were a kind of symbol. They were the priority targets. And why? Because they stood for intelligence against stupidity, reason against fanaticism, revolt against submission, courage against cowardice, sympathy against hatred, and for that specifically human quality: humour and laughter against conformism and dull self-righteousness.
The press is turning the 1914 Christmas Truce into a harmless display of "humanity in the midst of barbarity", to the point where Sainsbury's can turn it into an advert for chocolate. But behind the Christmas Truce lay a real revolutionary potential...
The capitulation of anarcho-syndicalism, integrated into the Republican state in Spain 1936-37 did not go unopposed by proletarian currents inside and outside the CNT. To a greater or lesser extent all these groups were made up of working class militants who fought in the heroic struggles of July ‘36 and May ‘37.
Across the globe there is a ‘great debate’ about immigration. Mostly it consists of arguments about how to restrict it. Immigration is presented as having a harmful effect on vulnerable economies, as undermining a country’s culture, as making our lives worse.
A hundred years ago the world was plunged into the cataclysm of World War I, a vast inter-imperialist conflict in which 20 million died. During the war there were many workers’ struggles that went against the spirit of national defence. In Britain the Shop Stewards movement originally appeared as an expression of these struggles, but because they never broke from the trade union framework, they were subsequently integrated into the apparatus for controlling the working class. The article that follows was first published in WR 4 in August 1975. Written nearly forty years ago there are inevitably some formulations that we would now qualify, change or omit, but we are republishing it as it first appeared because its essential argument remains as valid as ever.