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Mitchell Abidor

 

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Mitchell Abidor is the principal French translator for the Marxists Internet Archive. PM Press's collections of his translations include Anarchists Never Surrender by Victor Serge, Voices of the Paris Commune, and Death to Bourgeois Society. His other published translations include The Great Anger: Ultra-Revolutionary Writing in France from the Atheist Priest to the Bonnot GangCommunards: The  Paris Commune of 1871 as Told by Those Who Fought for It; and A Socialist History of the French Revolution by Jean Jaurès.


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For a Libertarian Communism
Author: Daniel Guérin • Editor: David Berry • Translator: Mitchell Abidor
Publisher: PM Press/Revolutionary Pocketbooks
ISBN: 978-1-62963-236-0
Published: 10/2017
Format: Paperback
Size: 8x5
Page count: 160
Subjects: Political Theory
$14.95

In his foreword to an earlier collection of essays on libertarian communism, Daniel Guérin addressed himself to younger people “alienated from ideologies and ‘isms’ shorn of any meaning by an earlier generation” and particularly from “socialism, which has so often been betrayed by those who claimed to speak in its name, and which now provokes an understandable skepticism.”

In this collection of essays, written between the 1950s and 1980s and published here for the first time in English, Guérin not only provides a critique of the socialist and communist parties of his day, he analyzes some of the most fundamental and pressing questions with which all radicals must engage. He does this by revisiting and attempting to draw lessons from the history of the revolutionary movement from the French Revolution, through the conflicts between anarchists and Marxists in the International Workingmen’s Association and the Russian and Spanish revolutions, to the social revolution of 1968. These are not just abstract theoretical reflections, but are informed by the experiences of a lifetime of revolutionary commitments and by his constant willingness to challenge orthodoxies of all kinds: “Far from allowing ourselves to sink into doubt, inaction, and despair, the time has come for the left to begin again from zero, to rethink its problems from their very foundations. The failure of both reformism and Stalinism imposes on us the urgent duty to find a way of reconciling (proletarian) democracy with socialism, freedom with Revolution.”

Praise:

“Over six decades Daniel Guérin had a record of willingness to cooperate with any section of the French left that shared his fundamental goals of proletarian self-emancipation, colonial liberation, and sexual freedom. He was a vigorous polemicist but saw no fragment of the left, however obscure, as beneath his attention. He was also typically generous, never seeking to malign his opponents, however profoundly he disagreed with them. He was always willing to challenge orthodoxy, whether Marxist or anarchist. Yet behind the varying formulations one consistent principle remained: ‘The Revolution of our age will be made from below—or not at all.’”
—Ian Birchall, author of The Spectre of Babeuf, Sartre Against Stalinism, and A Rebel’s Guide to Lenin

“Guérin provides an eloquent history of libertarian socialist practice that is not just insightful but also an exemplary display of straightforward writing, passion, and balance. The book is highly valuable as a history of thought and action, to be sure, but, even more important, as an exploration of issues and ideas directly relevant to today’s world.”
—Michael Albert, author of Parecon: Life after Capitalism

“With the continual debasing of ‘libertarian’ to mean free-market capitalist, the publication in English of Daniel Guérin’s classic For a Libertarian Communism is very welcome. It shows why Guérin was one of France’s leading libertarian thinkers and activists, for it discusses what remain the key issues for socialists of all schools. His deep knowledge of both anarchism and Marxism makes this book essential reading for all radicals: Marxists will get their false notions of anarchism challenged while those interested in anarchism will see that it is libertarian socialism rather than some incoherent lifestyle choice.”
—Iain McKay, author of An Anarchist FAQ, Property Is Theft! A Pierre-Joseph Proudhon Reader, and Direct Struggle Against Capital: A Peter Kropotkin Anthology

“Daniel Guérin is the creator of a unique synthesis between Marxism and anarchism: libertarian communism. His reflections are more than ever relevant for the 21th century.”
—Michael Löwy, author of Ecosocialism: A Radical Alternative to Capitalist Catastrophe

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The Permanent Guillotine: Writings of the Sans-Culottes
Editor and translator: Mitchell Abidor
Publisher: PM Press/Revolutionary Pocketbooks
ISBN: 978-1-62963-388-6
Published: 08/2017
Format: Paperback
Size: 8x5
Page count: 160 pages
Subjects: History-France/Political Activism
$14.95

When the Bastille was stormed on July 14, 1789, it wasn’t a crowd of breeches-wearing professionals that attacked the prison, freed the internees, and killed its superintendent, carrying off his head on a pike. It was the working people of Paris, men who didn’t wear breeches, the sans-culottes, who carried this out.

In the course of the French Revolution the sans-culottes questioned the economic system, the nature of property, the role and even the existence of religion, and for the first time placed class relations at the heart of a revolutionary upheaval. They did so in an often inchoate fashion, but they were new players on the stage of history, and the French Revolution constituted their learning curve.

The Permanent Guillotine is an anthology of figures who expressed the will and wishes of this nascent revolutionary class, in all its rage, directness, and contradictoriness. Taken together, these documents provide a full portrait of the left of the left of the Revolution, of the men whose destruction by Robespierre allowed for Robespierre himself to be destroyed and for all the progressive measures they advocated and he implemented to be rolled back.

The revolution they made was ultimately stolen from them, but their attempt was a fertile one, as their ideas flourished in the actions of generations of French revolutionaries.

Praise:

“This valuable collection offers a glimpse of the radical edges of the French Revolution, and of the popular anger and resolve that alone made it possible.”
—Peter Hallward, professor of modern European philosophy, Kingston University

"The Great French Revolution was, as Peter Kropotkin put it, 'the source and origin of all the present communist, anarchist, and socialist conceptions,' and the sans culottes were the popular driving force behind all its most radical developments. Mitchell Abidor and PM Press are therefore to be congratulated for making available these inspiring texts in English translation."
—David Berry, author of A History of the French Anarchist Movement, 1917 to 1945

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Death to Bourgeois Society: The Propagandists of the Deed
Editor and translator: Mitchell Abidor
Publisher: PM Press/Revolutionary Pocketbooks
ISBN: 978-1-62963-112-7
Published: 02/2016 
Format: Paperback
Size: 8x5
Page count: 128
Subjects: Politics-Anarchism/History-Europe

$14.95

Perhaps no period has so marked, so deformed, or so defined the anarchist movement as the three years in France from 1892 to 1894, the years known as the Age of Attentats, the years dominated by the Propagandists of the Deed.

Death to Bourgeois Society tells the story of four young anarchists who were guillotined in France in the 1890s. Their courage was motivated by noble ideals whose realization they saw their bombs and assassinations as hastening. In a time of cynicism and political decay for many, they represented a purity lacking in society, and their actions when they were captured, their forthrightness, their defiance up to the guillotine only added to their luster.

 

The texts collected in Death to Bourgeois Society focus on the main avatars of this movement: the grave robber/murderer/terrorist Ravachol; Auguste Vaillant, who bombed the Chamber of Deputies; Emile Henry, who attacked both the bourgeois in their class function and their very existence; and the Italian immigrant Santo Caserio, who brought down the curtain on the age when he assassinated the French president Sadi Carnot.

 

The volume contains key first person narratives of the events, from Ravachol’s forbidden speech and his account of his life, to Henry’s questioning at his trial and his programmatic letter to the director of the prison in which he was held, to Vaillant’s confrontation with the investigators immediately after tossing his bomb, and Caserio’s description of the assassination and his defense at his trial.

Praise:

“It is quite wrong and anachronistic to call the practitioners of ‘propaganda by the deed’ at the end of the nineteenth century ‘lifestyle anarchists.’ They were part and product of a social movement which was consciously anarchist and socialist.”
—Peter Marshall, author of Demanding the Impossible

“Excellently edited collection of inspired and thoughtful reflections.”
—Andrej Grubacic, coauthor of Wobblies & Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism and Radical History

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Voices of the Paris Commune
Editor: Mitchell Abidor
Publisher: PM Press Revolutionary Pocketbooks
ISBN: 978-1-62963-100-4
Published: 10/01/2015
Format: Paperback
Size: 8x5
Page count: 128
Subjects: History-Europe / Politics

$14.95

The Paris Commune of 1871, the first instance of a working-class seizure of power, has been subject to countless interpretations; reviled by its enemies as a murderous bacchanalia of the unwashed while praised by supporters as an exemplar of proletarian anarchism in action. As both a successful model to be imitated and as a devastating failure to be avoided. All of the interpretations are tendentious. Historians view the working class’s three-month rule through their own prism, distant in time and space. Voices of the Paris Commune takes a different tack. In this book only those who were present in the spring of 1871, who lived through and participated in the Commune, are heard.

The Paris Commune had a vibrant press, and it is represented here by its most important newspaper, Le Cri du Peuple, edited by Jules Vallès, member of the First International. Like any legitimate government, the Paris Commune held parliamentary sessions and issued daily printed reports of the heated, contentious deliberations that belie any accusation of dictatorship. Included in this collection is the transcript of the debate in the Commune, just days before its final defeat, on the establishing of a Committee of Public Safety and on the fate of the hostages held by the Commune, hostages who would ultimately be killed.

Finally, Voices of the Paris Commune contains a selection from the inquiry carried out twenty years after the event by the intellectual review La Revue Blanche, asking participants to judge the successes and failures of the Paris Commune. This section provides a fascinating range of opinions of this epochal event.

Praise:

“The Paris Commune of 1871 has been the subject of much ideological debate, often far removed from the experiences of the participants themselves. If you really want to dig deep into what happened during those fateful weeks, reading these eyewitness accounts is mandatory.”
—Gabriel Kuhn, editor of All Power to the Councils! A Documentary History of the German Revolution of 1918–1919

“The Paris Commune holds a place of pride in the hearts of radicals—heroically created from the bottom up and tragically crushed by the forces of reaction. Yet, as this collection illustrates, the lessons of the Commune, as debated by the Communards themselves, are as enduring and vital as that briefly liberated society was inspiring.”
—Sasha Lilley, author of Capital and Its Discontents

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Anarchists Never Surrender: Essays, Polemics, and Correspondence on Anarchism, 1908–1938
Author: Victor Serge • Edited by Mitchell Abidor • Foreword: Richard Greeman
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-031-1
Published: 02/01/2015
Format: Paperback
Size: 8.5x5.5
Page count: 320
Subjects: Politics-Anarchism/History-Europe

$20.00

Anarchists Never Surrender provides a complete picture of Victor Serge's relationship to anarchism. The volume contains writings going back to his teenage years in Brussels, where he became influenced by the doctrine of individualist anarchism. At the heart of the anthology are key articles written soon after his arrival in Paris in 1909, when he became editor of the newspaper l'anarchie. In these articles Serge develops and debates his own radical thoughts, arguing the futility of mass action and embracing "illegalism." Serge's involvement with the notorious French group of anarchist armed robbers, the Bonnot Gang, landed him in prison for the first time in 1912. Anarchists Never Surrender includes both his prison correspondence with his anarchist comrade Émile Armand and articles written immediately after his release.

The book also includes several articles and letters written by Serge after he had left anarchism behind and joined the Russian Bolsheviks in 1919. Here Serge analyzed anarchism and the ways in which he hoped anarchism would leaven the harshness and dictatorial tendencies of Bolshevism. Included here are writings on anarchist theory and history, Bakunin, the Spanish revolution, and the Kronstadt uprising.

Anarchists Never Surrender anthologizes Victor Serge’s previously unavailable texts on anarchism and fleshes out the portrait of this brilliant writer and thinker, a man I.F. Stone called one of the “moral figures of our time."

Praise:

"One of the most compelling of twentieth-century ethical and literary heroes."
—Susan Sontag

“I can’t think of anyone else who has written about the revolutionary movement in this century with Serge’s combination of moral insight and intellectual richness.”
—Dwight Macdonald

“To me he has seemed a model of the independent intellectual in Europe between the wars: leftist but not dogmatic, political yet deeply involved with issues of cultural life, and a novelist of very considerable powers.”
—Irving Howe

“I believe indeed that to rescue the humanist tradition of the last decades is of the utmost importance, and that Victor Serge is one of the outstanding personalities representing the socialist aspect of humanism.”
—Erich Fromm

“Victor Serge died in exile and obscurity, apparently no more than a splinter of a splinter in the Marxist movement. But with the passage of the years, he looms up as one of the great moral figures of our time, an artist of such integrity and a revolutionary of such purity as to overshadow those who achieved fame and power. His failure was his success. I know of no participant in Russia’s revolution and Spain’s agonies who more deserves the attention of our concerned youth.”
—I.F. Stone

“I know of no other writer with whom Serge can be very usefully compared. The essence of the man and his books is to be found in his attitude toward the truth. . . . His life and its choices demonstrate an exemplary truth to which he was prophetically sensitive and which we should now accept as axiomatic. Institutions can be defended by lies, revolutions never.”
—John Berger, New Society

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What Others Are Saying...

 

ansAn Interview with Mitchell Abidor
By Corinna Cliff
Bookslut
January 2016

Are there social movements at the moment that carry the spirit of the Commune, or that you find otherwise inspiring?

I would say that Podemos in Spain, with its vision of a pluralist left and a more democratic country contains much of the spirit of the Commune. They reject social democracy, but also reject turning their backs on the daily reality, the quotidian sufferings of the people of Spain in the name of some kind of intellectual or doctrinal purity. The free debate within Podemos, its ability to take in all progressive points of view, is in the direct line of the Commune.

Why did you choose to end the book with a letter by General de Gallifet who says nothing but that he is unable to answer the questions about his role in the Commune and his opinions on it?

Gallifet was the man who completed the crushing of the Commune. I thought it was a dramatic way to close the discussion. Maybe I should have made that clearer. Maybe in a second edition...

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ansAnarchists Never Surrender: A Review
By Staughton Lynd
Counterpunch
August 24th, 2015

...“Anarchist Thought,” in Anarchists Never Surrender, pp. 202-228, is Serge’s own conclusion as to how anarchism and Marxism might be synthesized.   It was written at the end of the 1930s when he had left the Soviet Union but remained fully at the height of his powers.

Serge accepts Marxist economic analysis. He says of anarchism that it was “the ideology of small-scale artisans” and that as industrial development became more marked in southern Europe “anarchism surrendered its preeminence in the revolutionary movement to Marxist workers’ socialism.”

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ansAnarchists Never Surrender: A Review
By Ian Birchall
Review 31
May 2015

Victor Serge was witness to some of the most momentous events of the first half of the 20th century. He was an anarchist in Brussels and Paris, then, after a spell in jail, went to post-Revolutionary Russia. He supported the Revolution loyally for some years, then opposed the rise of Stalin, returned to the West and ended up in Mexico, escaping the Nazi occupation of France. Best known for his Memoirs of a Revolutionary (1951) and novels such as The Case of Comrade Tulayev (1967), he was also a prolific journalist. One of the main themes in his work is an ongoing dialogue with anarchism. Mitchell Abidor has assembled here a fascinating collection of his writings on the subject...

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