Sunday, 31 May 2020

Interview with Merilyn Moos & Steve Cushion On Anti Nazi Germans


Authors Merilyn Moos and Steve Cushion kindly agreed to be interviewed for A Trumpet of Sedition blog about their new book Anti Nazi Germans which came out in 2020.

Q.Tell me a bit about how you and Merilyn came to write the book. Why did you decide to write it?

Merilyn:

Both of us were involved in writing articles for a Socialist History publication: Treason: Rebel Warriors and Internationalist Traitors, but I kept complaining to Steve I needed more words. So he suggested we write a book! This is a topic which also grew out of my family history: my father was an active and socialist German anti-Nazi who fled and lived. But many of his comrades did not, and I wanted to draw attention to the reality of grass-roots German resistance to Nazism.

Steve:

On a cycling holiday in France, 20 years ago, I visited the Resistance Museum in Tulle in the Coreze. There I saw a picture of a young German communist who had fought in the local maquis. The more I looked into it, the more German antifascists in the French resistance I came across. They do not fit the standard nationalist received wisdom and I felt their story needed to be told, particularly today when we are seeing an upsurge of very nasty nationalism. I think we need to big up those courageous militants who put socialist politics before the nation of their birth.

Q.The book completely cuts across current historiography regarding Fascism and the Holocaust could you elaborate your opinion on current historiography. I am thinking about books like Hilter's willing executioners- by Daniel Goldhagen.
Merilyn:

The historiography of the Nazi period has shifted many times since 1945. But the Eichmann trial and the increasing domination by Israel overt the Middle East legitimated a new take on Nazism: that it was the Jews who were the Nazis' main target and moreover, that most Germans, if not perpetrators, were 'bystanders'. But even superficial research into the early years of the Nazi Party reveals that from the very beginning their main target was the organised working class.

Moreover, Steve and I unearthed a myriad of stories of what can loosely be called the 'resistance', almost all of whom were killed, Their stories were rarely told because the West German historians got sucked into a Cold War narrative and the East German historians needed to follow a line which did not always support the level of local autonomy of the anti-Nazi KPD members.

There has been a further shift towards seeing Jews as 'victims' which justified any crimes that Israel committed. In fact, with minute exceptions, the many 'historical Jews' who were involved in the struggle against Nazism did so as part of, generally, a Communist movement, and sometimes, as anarchists etc, not primarily as Jews. The old adage that Jews went like sheep to the slaughter is as false as that most Germans were bystanders.

Steve:

Nationalism and an assumption of patriotism have always dominated historical writing, but it seems to have got worse lately. This has led to an irritating, sloppy style of writing that conflates the country, the state and the population as one entity. Thus "Germany invaded Poland", rather than "The German army invaded Poland on the instructions of the Nazi government". I would argue for the need to reassert the division of any country into classes with separate economic and political interests.

Modern mainstream historical writing, when it is not just old wine in new, post-modernist bottles, is still very much concerned with the doings of great men; the only recent change has been to include a few great women. I am much influenced by Howard Zinn's concept of People's History. Most historians use the study of history to reinforce the status quo, Zinn's approach is aimed at undermining the system by promoting the activities of ordinary people who have chosen to resist the rich and powerful as well as fighting for their rights.

Zinn warned of "attempts, through politics and culture, to ensnare ordinary people in a giant web of nationhood pretending to a common interest". Looking at those who opposed their own nation-state in times of war seemed a good way to undermine the pernicious effects of nationalism and patriotism. Such is the ideological power of nationalism that most people feel uncomfortable with such treason, even when the country they betrayed was Nazi Germany. My section of the book chronicles how German refugees contributed to fighting the Nazis in France.  From  spreading  anti-Nazi  propaganda  in  the  German  Army  and  attempting  to organise mutiny and desertion, through to extensive involvement in urban terrorism and the rural guerrilla struggle. This is history from below that primarily looks at active resistance originating within the workers' movement, looking at the actual activities of the rank and file anti-Nazi militants and in the process rescuing the memory of some heroic fighters who otherwise risk being lost from history. An important part of people's history is the history of ordinary people.

For example, Mendel Langer, a Roumanian immigrant worker, was the leader of the 35th Brigade of a communist resistance organisation, the FTP-MOI, which operated in the area around Toulouse in the South of France. He was captured in February 1943. At his trial, the prosecutor, Pierre Lespinasse said: "You are a Jew, a foreigner and a communist, three reasons for you to be executed". Langer was guillotined in July 1943 but, on 10 October, as avocat-général Pierre Lespinasse was on his way to Mass, he was gunned down in the street by Enzo Lorenzi, one of Langer's comrades. The Vichy government had set up special anti-terrorism courts in 1941, but Norbert Kugler, a German communist exile of Jewish heritage, who commanded all the foreign fighters in Southern France, developed the tactic of shooting the magistrates who condemned their comrades to death, which had the effect of making it much more difficult to find lawyers willing to serve on these sections spéciales. Such people are an inspiration to me.

Q.The collaboration between the KPD and SA I knew a little about it but could you expand a bit more on this?

Merilyn:

One has to be very careful here. Some rightish historians use this 'collaboration' to suggest that there was little difference between the Nazi Party and the KPD, a position we reject.. This is not an area I specialise in but there are two levels  at which there was some sort of collaboration: at the level of the Party leadership and at a membership level. Remember that both organisations were in general drawing from the same pool of people, especially the unemployed (though the SA drew from the petty-bourgeoisie more than did the KPD). The KPD leadership became frightened of their members or those close to them being attracted by the Nazis and adopted policies to try to collaborate with them eg over the Berlin transport strike. But it went right down to the level of the membership and community organisations where, occasionally, pre-1933, Nazi and KPD members would be working together. members of the KPD would join the Nazi party just to be on the safe side (not against Party rules) and would pull out the relevant party card depending on circumstance. In practice, this allowed a slow slide towards the victorious, SA/Nazi side. As my father would remind me: 'Always remember Nazism stands for National Socialism', a perspective which is proving rather too relevant presently. Even after the Nazi take-over in 1933, the KPD line was to enter the Nazi trade-unions. Needless to say, this line of cooperation was bitterly opposed by many KPD members.

Steve:

If we write off workers who are currently attracted to nationalist ideas as lost to us, we are ourselves lost. We have to find a way of winning these workers to adopt a class-first position. To me, collaborating with right-wing nationalist, racist and fascist organisations is a road to disaster. The attitude of the German Communist Party to the SA was a very serious error, but the problem still remains - How do we win patriotic workers to a socialist, internationalist position? By writing about the errors of the past, we can hopefully not make the same mistake again. We shall obviously make new mistakes, but let us not repeat the old ones.

As you write at the end of the book, we are once again confronted with the rise of fascism in Germany today. Please tell me about your analysis.

Merilyn:

Two years ago, I was invited to speak at a commemoration at Brandenburg for the victims of euthanasia (T4) who were gassed there in 1940 (including my aunt). It was held on a patch of ground next to where the gassing had taken place before an invited and very respectable gathering and I could not make out why it was quite so subdued. Then I gathered that there were two members of Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) present, who had been invited because they were on the local council.

The organisers were however upset with three uninvited people who were standing on the edge of the gathering with their banner which read something like 'Down with the AfD' and called over the local police to move them away. So the two people I was staying with and I walked up to the demonstrators. I had been the main speaker, so carried some 'weight' and the police,  observing me walking up and standing right next to them, swerved away. I then confronted the organiser as to why the AfD had been invited. The organiser shrugged and said something like: 'All councillors were invited. What was I supposed to do?'

I tell this story because of what it reveals: it is not just that the AfD were elected councillors, able to pose as 'mourners (and yes, they did lay a wreath though it was their political predecessors who had murdered the people we were commemorating) but that the organisers saw them as legitimate, unlike the antifascists. Now, what period of twentieth-century German history does this remind me of?
Steve:

The rise of PEGIDA and the Alternative für Deutschland is very worrying. It is part of a worldwide pattern whereby authoritarian politicians use racism, nationalism and islamophobia to secure their position. These are often mass-movements, although, at present, they differ from the classic fascism of the 30s and 40s by, generally speaking, not relying on organised gangs of thugs, at least not to the extent of the Nazis or the Italian Fascists. But this is only because the working-class movement is relatively weaker and the bourgeoisie have not been thoroughly scared by something like the Russian revolution.

Of course, when they feel threatened they do not hesitate, witness Narendra Modi's use of the fascist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to smash up Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi in January of this year.

In Germany, a combination of anti-refugee, anti-immigrant and Islamophobic politics has given a considerable boost to the extreme right, while the hand wringing of the social democrats has done little to turn the tide.

Q.I know the book was published this year have you had much feedback or reviews. Has there been any response in academia?

Merilyn:

This was a book written by socialists for socialists. We need to remind comrades that even struggling against Nazism was possible and that we must stop anything like Nazism ever happening again. We've had lots of reviews in a variety of leftish publications, almost all glowing.

Steve:

Yes, the left press has been very kind. Given that the bookshops are shut, this has been very useful to us. We had a series of meetings planned, some of them organised by radical history groups, others in higher or further education institutions. The virus has put a stop to these, but we shall go for a relaunch when the current public health emergency is over. Meanwhile, we are most grateful for the publicity provided by comrades writing blogs and recommending it on social media.

Moreover, when the public health situation allows, it is my intention to write to as many German and French university departments as I can find to see if they are interested in the book and offering to speak at their institutions. We are interested in taking the debate into the academic community, let us see if there is a response.

Q.What are you working on next? Also, could you tell me a bit about your political background?

Merilyn:

I am doing a short book on the anti-Nazis who got out of Germany and came to the UK. My focus is on rank and file activists not left bureaucrats. And not on the people who became famous. They have enough publicity. But rank and file anti-Nazis who lived here have almost all been ignored. I have started to put a series of short biographies on the website of our book "Anti-Nazi Germans". http://community-languages.org.uk/?cat=3.

My parents never talked of their pasts, and I had to piece it together for myself but I knew my father had been an anti-Nazi activist and I was very proud of that. I joined IS soon after university and stayed in for about 20 years.I also was very active in the further and higher education union: Branch Secretary for ages, plus on varying committees up to national level. I was almost thrown out for running an anti-racist campaign for a victimised black lecturer. Since retirement, I've been free-floating, though, insofar as health allows, active in the UCU Retired Members Branch and around anti-racism.

Steve:

I am currently writing a pamphlet on the miners' strikes in Northern France and Belgium in 1941. French historiography spills a lot of ink asking is these strikes count as "resistance". This is not my perspective. I am looking at the class struggle in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais from the perspective of the miners, engineers and textile workers of the region, the history of their militancy in the face of German army occupation, French fascist collaborators and skinflint, greedy employers. This is working-class resistance.

I joined the International Socialists in 1971 but managed to get myself expelled by 1975. Since then, I have been a trade union militant, for 20 years on the London buses and for 10 in NATFHE. I am currently Branch Secretary of UCU London Retired Members and delegate to Waltham Forest Trades Union Council. I am on the executive of Caribbean Labour Solidarity and on the committee of the Socialist History Society. I am a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Unite against Fascism.

Copies of the book can be purchased post-free from the authors. £10 – more details from s.cushion23@gmail.com


Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Review: A People's History of the Russian Revolution-Neil Faulkner-Pluto Press-£11.50-2017.


Neil Faulkner's book was one of many books released in time for the celebration the centenary of the Russian revolution in 2017. A large number of new books broke no new ground and contained little new research. Unfortunately, Faulkner's book was one of these.

The book gives the reader only a basic account of the Russian revolution. Faulkner, a former member of the Psuedo Left, group SWP(Socialist Workers Party), maintains the SWP's viewpoint that after the first workers' state succumbed to Stalinism a state capitalist regime appeared.

This viewpoint is not an orthodox Marxist one. Leon Trotsky wrote extensively on the betrayal of the Russian revolution by Stalin. In his most famous of works on Stalinism he wrote :

"We often seek salvation from unfamiliar phenomena in familiar terms. An attempt has been made to conceal the enigma of the Soviet regime by calling it "state capitalism." This term has the advantage that nobody knows exactly what it means. The term "state capitalism" originally arose to designate all the phenomena which arise when a bourgeois state takes direct charge of the means of transport or industrial enterprises. The very necessity of such measures is one of the signs that the productive forces have outgrown capitalism and are bringing it to a partial self-negation in practice. But the outworn system, along with its elements of self-negation, continues to exist as a capitalist system.

But if a socialist government is still necessary for the preservation and development of the planned economy, the question is all the more important, upon whom the present Soviet government relies, and in what measure the socialist character of its policy is guaranteed. At the 11th Party Congress in March 1922, Lenin, in practically bidding farewell to the party, addressed these words to the commanding group: History knows transformations of all sorts. To rely upon conviction, devotion and other excellent spiritual qualities – that is not to be taken seriously in politics." Being determines consciousness. During the last fifteen years, the government has changed its social composition even more deeply than its ideas. Since of all the strata of Soviet society, the bureaucracy has best solved its own social problem and is fully content with the existing situation, it has ceased to offer any subjective guarantee whatever of the socialist direction of its policy. It continues to preserve state property only to the extent that it fears the proletariat. This saving fear is nourished and supported by the illegal party of Bolshevik-Leninists, which is the most conscious expression of the socialist tendencies opposing that bourgeois reaction with which the Thermidorian bureaucracy is completely saturated. 

As a conscious political force, the bureaucracy has betrayed the revolution. But a victorious revolution is fortunately not only a program and a banner, not only political institutions but also a system of social relations. To betray it is not enough. You have to overthrow it. The October revolution has been betrayed by the ruling stratum, but not yet overthrown. It has a great power of resistance, coinciding with the established property relations, with the living force of the proletariat, the consciousness of its best elements, the impasse of world capitalism, and the inevitability of world revolution.[1]

While he debunks several myths and outright lies surrounding Vladimir Lenin, he opposes one of Lenin's most important contribution to the success of the revolution that is the development of a revolutionary party. Like many radicals, Faulkner is hostile to the conception of such a party.

It was one of the reasons he broke with the SWP in 2010. He describes the revolutionary party as "small organisation run by a self-appointed 'vanguard' that seeks to insert itself into a mass movement in order to grow parasitically like a tic".[2]

He then talks about when he left the SWP, since 2010, I have formed many new and rewarding political friendships, and these have contributed, I believe, to a richer, more nuanced understanding of the Russian Revolution. Not least, the degeneration of the British Left over the last two or three decades- which is a generic process, not something restricted to the SWP-has given me a clearer understanding that the masses build revolutionary parties themselves in a struggle; that is, they do not arise from voluntarism, from acts of will by self-appointed revolutionary 'vanguards'; they do not arise from what has sometimes has been called 'the primitive accumulation of cadre. Revolutionaries should organise, but they should never proclaim themselves to be the party".[3] I might add that the SWP only pays lip service to the concept of the revolutionary party and exhibits similar economism that Lenin fought against.[4]

As mentioned earlier, there is no original research in Faulkner's book. It does not offer any new significant interpretation of the revolution as it developed. Relying on Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution is not enough for an established historian. Given the size of the subject, it is extraordinary that the bibliography is only two and one-half pages, and most of that consists of books by and about Lenin and Trotsky. No letters, newspapers or interviews or personal accounts are cited. For a people's history, it is light on people.

Perhaps the most damning indictment of the book is that it contains no analysis of the rise of the Post-Soviet School of Historical Falsification. Contained within this school is a sub-genre which seeks to bury the great Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky under a new set of lies and calumny.

The representatives of the Post-Soviet School of Historical Falsification—from the Stalinist military historian Dmitry Volkogonov to the British historians Ian Thatcher, Geoffrey Swain and Robert Service have through their books sought to lie, distort and produce the same Stalinist lies from previous anti-Marxist historiography. The purpose of these attacks are to deny the younger generation access to the views, analyses and perspectives of Leon Trotsky.

One of the leading proponents of the Post-Soviet School of Historical Falsification is Robert Service. Service in 2009 said, “There is life in the old boy Trotsky yet—but if the ice pick did not quite do its job-killing him off, I hope I have managed it.”  Robert Service London, October 2009.

Service has not accomplished his job, which is no thanks to Faulkner. Outside of the Marxists of the World Socialist Website, not a single political tendency calling itself Trotskyist has presented a consistent body of work that attacks Service and his friends in the Post Soviet School of Falsification. Given the crude political level of this “school”, it is not a difficult thing to do as the Marxist writer David North said of Service’s biogeography of Trotsky it “is a crude and offensive book, produced without respect for the most minimal standards of scholarship. Service’s “research,” if one wishes to call it that, has been conducted in bad faith. His Trotsky is not history, but, rather, an exercise in character assassination. Service is not content to distort and falsify Trotsky’s political deeds and ideas. Frequently descending to the level of a grocery store tabloid, Service attempts to splatter filth on Trotsky’s personal life. Among his favourite devices is to refer to “rumours” about Trotsky’s intimate relations, without even bothering to identify the rumour’s source, let alone substantiate its credibility.[5]

To conclude, as I said before, Faulkner's book is a basic history of the Russian revolution and contains nothing in it that would merit a recommendation. It is hoped that Faulkner’s next book on the Russian revolution is a better one that takes on the Post Soviet School of Falsification. I will not hold my breath.










[1] The Revolution Betrayed-Chapter 9-Social Relations-in the Soviet Union-https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/revbet/ch09.htm#ch09-1
[2] http://socialistreview.org.uk/425/peoples-history-russian-revolution
[3] A Peoples History of the Russian Revolution. Neil Faulkner. Pluto 2017
[4] See-What Is To Be Done?Burning Questions of Our Movement-https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1901/witbd/iv.htm
[5] In The Service of Historical Falsification: A Review of Robert Service's Trotsky
By David North-11 November 2009- https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2009/11/serv-n11.html

Saturday, 9 May 2020

A review of Raquel Varela, A People's History of the Portuguese Revolution (Pluto Press, 2019), £19.99

 On April 25 1974, a coup by lower-ranked army officers overthrew Portugal's fascist Estado Novo government. The coup opened the way for a massive mobilisation of the working class the likes of which had not been seen in Portugal before.Raquel Cardeira Varela's book examines what would later be called the Carnation Revolution. One of the most important revolutions since the Second World War and one which caught the international bourgeoisie completely by surprise.

It would take nearly two years to defeat the revolution. With relatively little violence or bloodshed, the Portuguese bourgeoisie was able to take back power art the expense of a few limited reforms. The popular front government established by the revolution which contained a significant Communist Party presence under the leadership of  Álvaro Cunhal handed over power without a murmur from the numerous Pseudo lefts groups.

The coup was started by young military captains in the national armed forces. Varela goes out of her way to emphasise that these were only captains as if this made them unconscious socialists.

Rank and file soldiers did indeed come over to the revolution as experienced by Bob Light who saw at first-hand soldiers' giving the clenched fist salute and waving red carnations' (p.48). Slogans such as " the soldiers are sons of the workers", "down with capitalist exploitation" were also heard on the streets.[1] But despite these sections of the rank and file soldiers won to the revolution the army would still be controlled by the Portuguese bourgeoisie.

Varela’s position regarding this revolution is essentially Pabloite. Pabloism was a tendency that came out of the post-war period, as this document explains "The complexities of the postwar period found expression in the form of a revisionist tendency within the Trotskyist movement that adapted to the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois organisations. The revisionists came to see the Stalinist and Social-Democratic tendencies, as well as petty-bourgeois nationalist and radical movements, not as political obstacles to the independent mobilisation of the working class, but, rather, as alternative instruments for realising socialism. It was not, therefore, a matter of opposing to these organisations the independent perspective of the Fourth International, but rather of transforming the Fourth International into a pressure group on the existing leadership of the working class and national movements. The revisionists endowed the Stalinists and bourgeois nationalists with a historically progressive role, rejecting Trotsky's insistence on their counter-revolutionary character. This revision of the perspective upon which the founding of the Fourth International had been based was advanced initially by two leading figures in the post-war Trotskyist movement in Europe, Michel Pablo and Ernest Mandel."[2]

As Varela describes in the book, The Portuguese Revolution became a pole of attraction for Pabloite and Pseudo Left organisations throughout Europe. Ten thousand foreign pseudo lefts and Stalinists visited Portugal during and after the revolution.

The Carnation Revolution was the latest of a line of revolutionary movements that were betrayed by Stalinism and Pabloism. Beginning in May 1968 in Paris,  the 1969 'hot autumn' in Italy, strike waves in Germany and Britain in the early 1970s and the struggle in Greece against military rule in 1973-4. International Socialist leader Tony Cliff argued that 'Portugal, the weakest link in the capitalist chain in Europe can become the launching pad for the socialist revolution in the whole of the continent' (p.220). 

Cliff's remarks were pure bravado as his International Socialist movement made sure this did not happen. Instead of being 'the launching pad of the socialist revolution', the defeat of the Portuguese revolution paved the way for various neoliberalism regimes. Varela’s book is a political amnesty for the betrayals of the Stalinist's and radical groups such as the IS. Varela also a member of the IS is reticent, to say the least about pointing out important lessons from the defeat.

Revolution’s Origin

Although the revolution's origin was in Africa the 1974 revolution was ultimately shaped by Portugal's belated historical development.  As Paul Mitchell describes in his 2004 essay "By 1973, there were some 42,000 companies in Portugal—one-third of them employing fewer than ten workers—but about 150 companies dominated the entire economy. Most were related to foreign capital but headed by a few very wealthy Portuguese families (Espirito Santo, de Melo, de Brito, Champalimaud). The de Melos' monopoly company Companhia União Fabril (CUF), for example, owned large parts of Guinea-Bissau and produced 10 per cent of the gross national product.   Despite this industrialisation, a third of the population still worked as agricultural labourers, many in large estates or latifundia. An estimated 150,000 people were living in shantytowns concentrated around the capital, Lisbon. Food shortages and economic hardship—wages were the lowest in Europe at US$10 a week in the 1960s—led to the mass emigration of nearly 1 million people to other European countries, Brazil and the colonies.   The 1960s also saw the emergence of liberation movements in the Portuguese African colonies of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau. Fighting three guerrilla movements for more than a decade drained the Portuguese economy and labour force. Nearly half the budget was spent on maintaining more than 150,000 troops in Africa.

He continues “Compulsory military service lasting for four years, combined with poor military pay and conditions, laid the basis for grievances and the development of oppositional movements amongst the troops. These conscripts became the basis for the emergence of an underground movement known as the "Movement of the Captains." The continuing economic drain caused by the military campaigns in Africa was exacerbated by the world economic crisis that developed in the late 1960s.[3]

In the 1970s, the Portuguese ruling elite confronted a massive strike wave at home and uprisings in the colonies. Nearly one half of the national budget was spent keeping 150,000 troops abroad fighting the national liberation movements in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea Bissau. Compulsory military service combined with low pay to intensify grievances in the army and stimulated an oppositional movement amongst the troops known as the "Movement of the Captains," which later developed into the Armed Forces Movement (MFA).

The Armed Forces Movement (MFA) or "movement of the Captains" so glorified by Varela became an important bulwark against revolution once it was in power alongside the PCP. To stop the revolutionary mobilisation of the working class, the MFA invited the Communist Party (PCP) into government.
The Communist Party was invited to take part in the First Provisional Government in May 1974 and took part in all the six provisional governments. These governments were popular fronts containing trade unions, the Socialist Party, the Church, and the upper hierarchy of the armed forces.

The Socialist Party and the Church initially did not want the Communists in the government, but sections of the military knew the PCP would be useful in controlling rank and file soldiers and the working class.  As Varela, herself points out “'The Portuguese Communist Party was prepared to abandon its radical army supporters (and a great many others) in exchange for a continued stake in government. The military left had become a burden on the Communist Party because its performance undermined the balance of power with the Nine and peaceful coexistence agreements between the USA, Western Europe and the USSR. Some 200 soldiers and officers, plus a handful of building workers, were arrested' (p.246).

Cunhal and the Early Days of the PCP

Varela has political amnesia regarding the early history of the PCP and its leader Alvaro Cunhal. Economic instability and an insurgent working class had produced a right-wing coup in 1926, and by 1933, influenced by Mussolini's fascism in Italy, the formal declaration of an authoritarian "New State" by Prime Minister Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. The fascist National Union (UN) party was made the only legal party, and independent trade unions and strikes were outlawed. Salazar established strict censorship and created a vicious secret police force.

The PCP was outlawed and its leadership imprisoned or driven into exile. The party had been purged in 1929, following the Sixth Congress of the Comintern, and Bento Gonçalves, who had only joined the organisation the previous year, installed as General Secretary.

Cunhal joined the PCP in 1931 whilst studying law at university and left for the Soviet Union to attend a congress of Communist youth in September 1935. It was at this time that the Stalinist bureaucracy began to advance its policy of building "popular fronts" with "democratic" bourgeois governments and liberal-reformist elements worldwide supposedly to combat fascism and defend the USSR. Cunhal, who came to epitomise the policy of popular frontism in Portugal, became the leader of the youth organisation and joined the Central Committee of the PCP in 1936 at the age of 22.

MFA

One of the most important questions of the revolution concerned the political nature of the MFA and its "armed intervention" unit, the Continental Operations Command (COPCON—Comando Operacional do Continente)

COPCON  was composed of 5,000 elite troops. Its leader was Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho. In order to cover over its real intentions, the MFA said it was in favour of an "alliance of the MFA and the people."
The PSP, PCP and Pseudo left groups never challenged this blatant lie. Instead, the PCP declared the MFA was a "guarantor of democracy" and developed close relations with Carvalho, General Vasco Goncalves and other members of the Junta.

SWP and the Popular Front

The fact that the various popular front governments could operate with impunity is down to the role played by Psuedo Lefts like the IS. Readers need to know the history of the IS as Mitchell points out “International Socialist (IS) organisation (today's Socialist Workers Party in Britain) was represented by the Revolutionary Party of the Proletariat (PRP—Partido Revolucionário do Proletariado). The founders of the International Socialists had broken from the Fourth International in the 1940s, claiming that the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union and its satellites was a new class in a new social system (state capitalism). This not only granted the Stalinist bureaucracy a certain legitimacy, not due to its parasitic character, but expressed a prostration before the post-war stabilisation of imperialism. The IS' radical phraseology, its glorification of trade union syndicalism combined with a semi-anarchist stance, served only to conceal its refusal to challenge the political domination of the working class by the social democratic and Stalinist bureaucracies.[4]

The promotion of the popular front by the IS had nothing in common with orthodox Marxism. The following is its analysis of the popular front  “Poder Popular (popular power), underpinned by the Aliança Povo-MFA (an alliance of the people and the MFA), emerged as the ideology for the MFA. It set out to unite the military with workers, land workers, tenants and slum-dwellers. The military made use of their prestige acquired through carrying out the coup against the regime. Popular power was perceived as the living alternative to the bourgeois focus on parliamentary democracy. This is not to say that army and workers were always united, but the impact of the people's movement on the armed forces, and vice versa, came to be an integral part of the Portuguese story. But the slogan "Unity of the people and the MFA" was double-edged: not only did the people influence the army, but also the revolutionary movement's reliance upon the radicals in the army was to be part of its undoing. [5].

The reader should compare the statement above with the way Leon Trotsky described and evaluated the Popular Front:: "The question of questions at the moment is the Popular Front. The left centrists seek to present this question as a tactical or even as a technical manoeuvre, so as to be able to peddle their wares in the shadow of the Popular Front. In reality, the Popular Front is the main question of proletarian class strategy for this epoch. It also offers the best criterion for the difference between Bolshevism and Menshevism. For it is often forgotten that the greatest historical example of the Popular Front is the February 1917 revolution. From February to October the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries, who represent a very good parallel to the ‘Communists' [i.e., Stalinists] and the Social Democrats, were in the closest alliance and were in a permanent coalition with the bourgeois party of the Cadets, together with whom they formed a series of coalition governments. Under the sign of this Popular Front stood the whole mass of the people, including the workers', peasants' and soldiers' councils. To be sure, the Bolsheviks participated in the councils. But they did not make the slightest concession to the Popular Front. They demanded to break this Popular Front, to destroy the alliance with the Cadets, and to create a genuine workers' and peasants' government."

To conclude, the fact that after 45 years of the revolution, its “memory” is still in dispute is down to the treacherous role by the various Pabloite and Pseudo Left groups. Varela’s book continues the collective amnesia regarding the role of these groups. This book airbrushes them from the historical record.

Varela’s final analysis of the defeat of the Portuguese is as lame as her pollical amnesia over the radical groups apparently at her book launch Varela  was heard to say that the Portuguese ruling class was forced to give up its rings risk losing its fingers.

That the Portuguese bourgeoisie was able to keep its still vast collection of rings and fingers was down to the betrayal by the PCP and its radical hangers-on who tied the working class to the bourgeois parties, the state machine and the MFA.

It is only fitting to leave the last word to the one organisation that fought for the success of the Portuguese Revolution which in the words of Paul Mitchell “would have been a mighty blow to international capital and inspired the movements developing throughout the world in the 1970s. Only the International Committee of the Fourth International and its Portuguese supporters, the League for the Construction of the Revolutionary Party (LCRP), called for the PCP and PSP to break from the bourgeois parties, the state machine and MFA. It demanded the dissolution of the army and the creation of workers', peasants' and soldiers' soviets in opposition to the MFA and its proposals for a Constituent Assembly.”




[1] https://isj.org.uk/so-much-freedom/
[2] The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party—Part 6- https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2008/10/hist-o04.html
[3] Thirty years since the Portuguese Revolution Part 1
By Paul Mitchell 15 July 2004- wsws.org 
[4] Thirty years since the Portuguese Revolution—Part 3
  Paul Mitchell-17 July 2004
[5] https://isj.org.uk/so-much-freedom/

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Killing Beauties by Pete Langman- Unbound Digital (23 Jan. 2020)400 pages


KILLING BEAUTIES is a well-written semi-interesting piece of historical fiction. Langman sets his novel during the Protectorate of the 1650s. The novel focusses on the extremely dangerous world of the Royalist spies.

Having read the book from cover to cover, I find the premise a little implausible. Without spilling too much of the plot, I find it hard to believe that Cromwell's foremost spy catcher John Thurloe would fall for a sister of a leading Royal Royalist Edward Hyde, the Earl of Clarendon writer of a History of the rebellion.

The book seems to be well researched and has a degree of erudition you would expect from a PhD holder whose subject was Francis Bacon.

In terms of historiography Langman's book joins a growing army of such like publications that promote the Royalist cause against the nasty parliamentarians who cut the head off a beloved king. Langman was influenced by his partner Dr Nadine Ackerman's research for her book invisible agents[1]

As Langman explains "I was introduced to Susan and Diana by my partner, Dr Nadine Akkerman, as she was researching her (bloody splendid) book Invisible Agents: Women and espionage in seventeenth-century Britain. She was not that far into the task before it seemed as if Nadine was operating more as Spycatcher than a researcher, and it was only in the face of her relentless work that the she-intelligencers slowly gave up their secrets. As Nadine put ever more flesh on their archival bones, we began to realise that they were the perfect protagonists to star in a work of historical fiction. What was so promising about this pair was partially the fact that they were operating in the same circles at the same time, and yet don’t appear to have met, and partially the fact that their lack of excitement about the idea of being caught led to their tracks being pretty well covered over.[2]

While I found Langman's book, a moderately interesting read, I found his method even more fascinating. As he explains in this interview"There are two approaches available to the historical novelist: to fictionalise history or historicise fiction. A fictionalised history is one in which a story is woven around actual events, while historicised fiction is one in which historical detail is inserted into a story. I would say I chose the former, but it would be more accurate to say that the former chose me.

Archives do not tell us everything. There are always gaps. Sometimes you can fill them in by using other sources (though this needs to be approached with care), but sometimes they simply insist on remaining as gaps. The primary site of divergence between the historian and the novelist is in the way they approach these gaps: for the former, they are traps; the latter, portals. I could make the gaps work with me rather than against me.”

To conclude, I have read better historical fiction books, and I have read worse. My overriding feeling that a PhD holder of Langman's calibre should be writing academic books, not historical fiction. Maybe his next book will prove me wrong.

Postscript

The book is published by Unbound it was the first crowdfunding publisher founded in 2011. A list of people who pledged support for the book to be published is in the back and front of the book. A brave new world


[1] https://keith-perspective.blogspot.com/search?q=nadine
[2] https://thewritingcoach.co.uk/category/thewritingcoach/

Monday, 27 April 2020

History Today Continues its Love Affair with Eric Hobsbawm


Jesus Casquete's recent article in the May edition of History's Today continues the magazines love affair with Eric Hobsbawm. Given the stature of Hobsbawm, there is nothing wrong in examing a historian that made a significant contribution to the study of history.

However, like many articles before there are substantial problems with the content of this article. It is written from the standpoint of airbrushing any criticism of Hobsbawm's  Stalinism from left to be more precise from an orthodox Marxist viewpoint.

There are several issues worth examining in this article. Casquetes is correct that Hobsbawm was obedient to the "guidelines established by Moscow". This is a very strange formulation, almost casual and non-descript. Hobsbawm was not just obedient, he agreed with the political line that came from Moscow and implemented it when he was a member of the British Communist Party. It is not hard to figure; he was after all a Stalinist to his dying day

Casquete is also correct to praise Hobsbawm's "literary quality", and Judt's description of him as "master of English prose" is very accurate. The problem occurred for Hobbawm when he wrote anything that took place in the 20th Century and especially on the Russian Revolution.

As the Marxist writer David North states "his writing suggests that he has failed to subject to any critical review the political conceptions that allowed him to remain a member of the British Communist Party for many decades: "The terrible paradox of the Soviet era," Hobsbawm tells us with a straight face, "is that the Stalin experienced by the Soviet peoples and the Stalin seen as a liberating force outside were the same. Moreover, he was the liberator for the ones at least in part because he was the tyrant for the others."North said that it would have been no great loss if Hobsbawm had stuck to writing history before the 20th Century.

The subject of the rise of Fascism is a legitimate topic. My two issues of concern are that the article airbrushes from the historical record Stalinism's part in the coming to power of the Fascists. The other concern is the consistent airbrushing out the history of the opposition to both Stalinism and Fascism by Leon Trotsky. Whether you agree with Trotsky or not the readers of history Today should be allowed to make up their mind. Trotsky was not just some innocent bystander and wrote extraordinarily perceptive articles as this one shows

What is Fascism? The name originated in Italy. Were all the forms of counter-revolutionary dictatorship fascist or not (That is to say, prior to the advent of Fascism in Italy)?. The former dictatorship in Spain of Primo de Rivera, 1923-30, is called a fascist dictatorship by the Comintern. Is this correct or not? We believe that it is incorrect. The fascist movement in Italy was a spontaneous movement of large masses, with new leaders from the rank and file. It is a plebian movement in origin, directed and financed by big capitalist powers. It issued forth from the petty bourgeoisie, the slum proletariat, and even to a certain extent from the proletarian masses; Mussolini, a former socialist, is a "self-made" man arising from this movement.[1]

To conclude it must be said that Casquete's last remarks on Hobsbawm are a little generous. He continues the political line that Hobsbawm was a willing dupe of Stalinism's "Poisonous legacy". This is not only wrong but gives a false picture as to what Hobsbawm represented.







[1] FAascism What it is Extracts from a letter to an English comrade, November 15 1931;printed in The Militant, January 16, 1932-https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/1944/1944-fas.htm#p1

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Gerald Aylmer and the Discussion Group on the State


By Chris Thompson

I have just spent part of my time searching for material on the response of Robert Brenner to the works of Immanuel Wallerstein and thinking about whether I should buy the first volume of the latter’s series of works on the World System. During the course of these searches, I found an on-line copy of Spencer Dimmock's defence of Brenner's work on the rise of capitalism and also a reference to Gerald Aylmer's participation in the work of the Discussion Group on the State until his death.

I had been aware of the existence of this group, partly through the book by Corrigan and Sayer entitled The Great Arch and partly as a result of a conversation many years ago with John Morrill, who had known Aylmer much better than I ever did. I then found a tribute by Derek Sayer to Gerald Aylmer in the Journal of Historical Sociology for March 2002.

Sayer's account began with a description of his initial meeting with Aylmer, then newly installed as Master of St Peter's College, Oxford, and the evolution of the plans for an informal conference to be held there each year on the evolution of the English State (although that restriction to England was never fully enforced). Approximately twenty scholars, sometimes a few more, sometimes a few less, were invited to discuss short papers that were circulated in advance and to elaborate on their contents for about ten minutes or so before wider discussions began amongst those present. There were sessions on Thursday evenings, two the following morning and evening and one or two on the final Saturday morning.

Interestingly enough, there were no formal ‘discussants’ nominated to reply to the papers and no plans for publication. Gerald Aylmer evidently thought that participants would be bolder in the discussion if they did not expect their papers to be dissected or their remarks to be published shortly thereafter. They could be and often were drawn out of their periods of expertise with fruitful results. Of course, some sacrifices had to be made - Aylmer like Sayer and Patrick Wormald had to give up smoking in the DGOS’s sessions – and some papers did, in due course, make it into print once their authors had reflected on the responses they had received from those present.

All in all, Sayer paid a gracious tribute to Gerald Aylmer and his role in this informal group. But there may be a wider point to be made here. I am certainly interested in what people in other disciplines have to say.  As a historian, however, I personally find it very difficult to listen to or read the observations of scholars in other disciplines, whether historical sociologists or political scientists or philosophers, advancing arguments or making comments about subjects in which I am interested without having consulted the sources for the period. All too often they base these observations on the secondary works they have consulted without any direct knowledge of the records at all. Frequently, these arguments are made in the service of ideological causes that I find unconvincing.

Nonetheless, it is pointless to complain about sociologists or political scientists or anyone else going to the past to find ammunition. That process cannot be stopped. But their arguments and conclusions remain subject to historical examination, a point Gerald Aylmer understood as well as anyone.



A Letter to Penny Weiss


Dear Penny,

While working on an article for my blog, I came across a book you edited called Feminist Manifestos: A Global Documentary Reader-edited by Penny A. Weiss.

At the beginning of chapter 2 The humble petition of divers well-affected women you cite a blog belonging to Alison Stuart-the article you quote is not by her but by me, and appeared on my blog A trumpet of Sedition-http://keith-perspective.blogspot.com/ under the title Leveller women and the English revolution. It is too late to ask for a correction, but it would be nice for you to credit my blog instead of hers.

Regards

Keith


Monday, 20 April 2020

No Newes Is Good Newes


Audio

The first episode of a new series! Every Friday, Alan Woods (editor of marxist.com) will be discussing the English Revolution: a colossal event in world history that dealt an irreparable blow to feudal absolutism. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYofvwHvNZM


Media

Christopher Thompson Article Kingdoms Come Apart appeared in the April Issue of History Today- The path to Britain's Civil Wars of the 17th century was paved in the three very different realms of England, Scotland and Ireland. But it was in the richest and most populous of these that crisis escalated into conflict. 


American Historical Review publishes a letter on 1619 Project by Tom Mackaman and David North-

The text of a letter written by Tom Mackaman, World Socialist Web Site writer and historian, and David North, the chairman of the World Socialist Web Site International Editorial Board. It was published in the April issue of the American Historical Review, the leading US journal of academic historians. The letter responded to a column by AHR Editor Alex Lichtenstein, published in the February issue of the AHR, defending the New York Times’ 1619 Project and attacking the WSWS and the historians it had interviewed for their criticism of the project's racialist reframing of American history.


Brendan McGeever's Antisemitism and the Russian Revolution: Distorting history in the service of identity politics-part one and Part two by Clara Weiss-

New books

1.    Conservative Revolutionary: The Lives of Lewis Namier by David Hayton-Manchester University Press (27 Aug. 2019)

2.    The Decline of Magic: Britain in the Enlightenment Hardcover – 14 Jan. 2020-by Michael Hunter-Yale

3.    James Harrington: An Intellectual Biography Hardcover – 10 Oct. 2019-by Rachel Hammersley

4.    Charles I's Killers in America: The Lives & Afterlives of Edward Whalley & William Goffe-By Matthew Jenkinson-Oxford University Press 255pp £20






Saturday, 18 April 2020

The Decline of Magic. Britain in the Enlightenment, by Michael Hunter -London: Yale University Press, 2020


"I am a lumper, not a splitter. I admire those who write tightly focused micro-studies of episodes or individuals, and am impressed by the kind of quantitative history, usually on demographic or economic topics, which aspires to the purity of physics or mathematics. But I am content to be numbered among the many historians whose books remain literary constructions, shaped by their author's moral values and intellectual assumptions."[1]

Keith Thomas

There never was a merry world since the fairies left off dancing and the parson left conjuring.

—John Selden (1584–1654)

Michael Hunter is an Emeritus Professor of History at Birkbeck and is the author of various essays and books. A world-renowned expert on Robert Boyle (1627-1691). His book Boyle: Between God and Science (2009) won the Roy G. Neville Prize. He has produced a catalogue of Boyle's vast archive and was given the task of editing Boyle's Works (14 vols., 1999-2000).

Given this level of expertise and knowledge, you would have thought he would have been more careful in the opening pages of his new book in describing the 17th-century scientific revolution as "so-called". In a 2001book review [2], Hunter again cast doubt on there being a scientific revolution by putting quotation marks around the term.
We should be thankful for small mercies when he correctly surmises the problem some historians have in using the term scientific revolution; he writes "The concept of a 'Scientific Revolution' — a radical transformation of ideas about the natural world that occurred in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries — seems to have survived the attacks on it in recent years by revisionists who stress the continuity between old and new ideas in the period. On the other hand, it has become more rather than less difficult to write about the topic. This is partly due to the accumulation of research and partly to the proliferation of different approaches to the subject.

The Marxist view of science as being moulded by social forces still exerts a strong influence on ideas about developments in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This period saw the emergence not only of modern science but also of modern capitalism, raising questions about how the two are related. There was a powerful intellectualist reaction against this view in the postwar years, associated particularly with the historian of science Alexandre Koyré, which stressed the internal dynamics underlying the evolution of scientific ideas. This tradition, too, remains very much alive. More recently, we have seen the rise of cultural history, which looks for subtler social and institutional links between ideas and their context".

Given Hunter's well-known aversion to anything Marxist maybe it was the word revolution that Hunter objected to and not the term scientific. His reticence over the term scientific revolution is not surprising since Hunter is part of a group of historians of early modern science and medicine, according to Andreas Sommer who "have challenged simplistic popular accounts, according to which the 'decline of magic' in western culture was due to progress in the sciences or open-minded empirical approaches to 'occult' phenomena".[3]

Hunter's aversion to science's role in the decline of magic is a significant departure from the previous historiography. His book has been compared to Keith Thomas's Religion and the decline of magic. Thomas correctly had science playing the lead role in the decline of both religion and science.

As Roger L. Emerson correctly points out "Keith Thomas ended Religion and the Decline of Magic by claiming that the works of Isaac Casaubon, Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, John Ray, and other like-minded men in the Royal Society, along with a host of continental philosophers, had made it possible for magical thinking to be overthrown among the elite intellectuals and for religious claims to be chastened by "rationalism." Beliefs in things like second sight and communion with witches and fairies were being relegated to the lower orders. He noted the role in this process of social developments, such as the wider and quicker dissemination of news by more presses and better roads, the optimism which came with the increased ability to predict and control events in one's life, and of the emergence of attitudes that gave the new sciences and medicine more purchase on a world which seemed less magical and spirit-haunted. He so saw these developments as being based in the "methods of the scientists," which he characterised as "controlled experiment and innovation," methods which were not those of the religious or the magicians.[4]

Thomas's viewpoint has since the 1970s been consistently under attack. Hunter has been one of many historians that have sought to undermine some of Thomas's historiography, and in particular his insistence on science playing the most prominent role in the decline of religion and magic.

The central premise of Hunter's new book is that it was not scientists that were predominantly responsible for the decline of both magic and religion but freethinkers. Hunter states 'Insofar as there was a political dimension to this, it was arguably not in the struggles of Whigs and Tories but in the inexorable growth of the state and the establishment in this period of what J.H. Plumb aptly described as "political stability." And this went with an increasing emphasis on the pursuit of an essentially civil religion which Deists like John Toland had pioneered.' (175).

Hunter is careful enough not to rubbish too much the part science played in the decline of magic but downplays its role citing the fact that many leading scientists of the day defended the "reality of supernatural phenomena."

Hunter's book has been widely reviewed and widely praised with very few if any hostile reviews. The book is well written and well researched which does not come as a surprise given Hunter's stature. It is beautifully produced by Yale containing many varied illustrations and photographs. Some of the reviews have been a little over the top, such as "Hunter's book deserves to become another classic."— "This is an important and remarkable book" "Definitely a book to think with, and Hunter brings new figures to scrutiny".

The majority of reviews skate over Hunter's very dangerous downplaying of science's preeminent role in the decline of magic and religion. As Jeremy Black points out "The scholarly move away from an emphasis on science leads to the observation that assertion, rather than proof, was important to the dismantling of belief in magic. Particular case- studies take up much of the relatively short text (there are valuable notes and interesting appendices), before the conclusion, which offers a pulling together of the case-studies and themes, including a review of other literature."[5]

The elevating of "freethinkers" above both scientists and politicians for being responsible for the decline of both religion and magic is one dimensional. Hunter's attitude towards science is replicated by an attitude towards politics in which he downplays the role of politics in the decline of religion and magic As this paragraph from the book shows "'Scepticism about witchcraft had escaped from its dangerous affiliations with freethinking to become an acceptable viewpoint for orthodox thinkers of various houses. The truth is that party politics were tangential to the major attitudinal change towards magic that was now coming about: one is here reminded of the rather fruitless debate over the party-political affiliations of Newtonianism in the same period that occurred some years ago, which ended in an almost total stalemate.' (174)

Hunter's chapter on the Englightenment and the rejection of magic is both small and disappointing. Given that the subtitle of the book is Britain in the Enlightenment you get a lot of Britain but very little Enlightenment.

Hunter should be applauded for his work on the "freethinkers" of the period covered in the book such as John Toland. But his assertion that these "freethinkers" were leading the struggle against religion and magic is contentious. As the Marxist writer David North correctly states it was the scientist who led the way "Until the early seventeenth century, even educated people still generally accepted that the ultimate answers to all the mysteries of the universe and the problems of life were to be found in the Old Testament. But its unchallengeable authority had been slowly eroding, especially since the publication of Copernicus's De Revolutionibus in the year of his death in 1543, which dealt a death blow to the Ptolemaic conception of the universe and provided the essential point of departure for the future conquests of Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), Johann Kepler (1571-1630) and, of course, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). Intellectually, if not yet socially, the liberation of man from the fetters of Medieval superstition and the political structures that rested upon it, was well underway.

The discoveries in astronomy profoundly changed the general intellectual environment. Above all, there was a new sense of the power of thought and what it could achieve if allowed to operate without the artificial restraints of untested and unverifiable dogmas. Religion began to encounter the type of disrespect it deserved, and the gradual decline of its authority introduced a new optimism. All human misery, the Bible had taught for centuries, was the inescapable product of the Fall of Man. But the invigorating scepticism encouraged by science in the absolute validity of the Book of Genesis led thinking people to wonder whether it was not possible for man to change the conditions of his existence and enjoy a better world. The prestige of thought was raised to new heights by the extraordinary achievements of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) who, while by no means seeking to undermine the authority of God, certainly demonstrated that the Almighty could not have accomplished his aims without the aid of extraordinarily complex mathematics."[6]

Britain and the Englightenment

Perhaps one of the most disappointing aspects of the book is that it only concentrates on Britain's place in the Englightenment. While a historian is free to choose the subject, putting the decline of religion and magic in a European context would have given the book a much more multi-dimensional outlook.

British enlightenment thinking could be perhaps best summed up as a more pragmatic approach summed up by John Locke who said "our business here is not to know all things, but those, which concern our conduct. It has been argued that the enlightenment "baby's first words were spoken in English".

Enlightenment figures in Britain had a profound effect on thinking around the world as Voltaire wrote, "without the English reason and philosophy we would still be in the most despicable infancy in France". Diderot translated into French the works of people such as Shaftesbury, and the idea of the Encyclopedia came from a scheme to translate Ephains chamber Encyclopaedia.

Having said that there was a dialectical relationship between the English Enlightenment and Europe. The Scottish economist Adam Smith absorbed much of what the physiocrats were saying in France. The philosophy Jeremy Bentham derived his utilitarianism partly from a study of Helvetius.

The American declaration of independence was heavily influenced by the thinking of John Locke, whose idea that there were no innate principles in mind reflected much of the thinking on the continent of Europe. Diderot summed the universal friendship fostered by enlightened thinkers when he said of David Hume "my dear David, you belong to all nations, and you will never ask an unhappy man for his passport".[7]

Perhaps the hardest thing for these Enlightenment figures to do was to define what was the Enlightenment. According to Norman Hampson, who is one of the leading authority on the subject defined it as "less a body of doctrines than a shared premise from which men from different temperaments placed in different situations drew quite radically different conclusions". Maybe they held  a common language but talked with different accents.

John Gray in his book The Great Philosophers: Voltaire: said of Giovanni Battista Vice  (23 June 1668 – 23 January 1744) "that historical epochs may be so different that their values cannot be recaptured without the tremendous effort of imagination. Herder's claim that different cultures may honour goods that cannot be combined and which are sometimes incommensurable. Pascal's distinction between l'espirit de teometrie and le espirit de finese and its collollary that truth cannot be contained within the confines of any system or discovered by applying any one method- such ideas are alien to the humanist spirit of the Enlightenment. They limit too narrowly what can be known by human beings and what can reasonably be hoped for them to be acceptable to any enlightened thinker".

To conclude, readers should approach this book in the spirit of the Enlightenment, which was "Sapere Aude" dare to know". Hunter's revisionist outlook should also be approached with caution. I would urge the reader to read around the subject before judging this book as another classic.









[1] The Magic of Keith Thomas-Hilary Mantel- www.nybooks.com/articles/2012/06/07/magic-keith-thomas/
[2] How the old became new Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and its Ambitions,1500–1700 by Peter Dear Palgrave: 2001. 208 pp. £45 (hbk), £14.99 (pbk)
[3] https://www.forbiddenhistories.com/hunter-decline-of-magic/
[4] https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=5397
[5] https://thecritic.co.uk/discussing-magic/
[6] Equality, the Rights of Man and the Birth of Socialism
By David North-24 October 1996- https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/1996/10/lect-o24.html
[7] The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments – 1 Aug. 2004-by Gertrude Himmelfarb