Radio Derb Errata: POUM And The Boston Tea Party
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A couple from last Friday's Radio Derb.

(1) I said that:

The Republican faction George Orwell joined in Catalonia, fighting against the Francoists, was another anarchist group, the POUM, “the Workers Party of Marxist Unification."
That brought in an email from a libertarian listener:
POUM was a Marxist party, not anarchists. As Orwell wrote, "Had I known more when I arrived in Barcelona, I would probably have joined the anarchists instead." His experiences made him strongly supportive of the libertarian labor union the CNT.

Today the libertarian labor union the CGT represents about 1-1.5 million workers through the work councils in the country, and has about 100,000 members today — a far cry from the 1.5 million members of the 30s, but making CGT still one of the most influential anarchist organization in the world today.

I hope you will discover more amazing facts as you look deeper into the rich history of the libertarian movement.

Thank you, Sir. You are right: POUM were Trotskyites (i.e. anti-Stalin Marxists). The Anarchists were a different crowd.

Several crowds, in fact. Interested readers can consult Homage to Catalonia (there is a full text of the book here) where Orwell describes the anfractuosities of leftist politics in late-1930s Spain in painstaking detail.

Orwell does tell us, though (Chapter 5) that "From about February 1937 onwards the Anarchists and the P.O.U.M. could to some extent be lumped together"; so I'm not too vexed over this error.

And I was interested to see, scanning the text of Homage for relevant references, that the word "libertarian" occurs three times. Down there in the leftist pond life was something called Libertarian Youth. Orwell scolds a British journalist for saying that this faction was controlled by POUM.

There is a piece of very serious misrepresentation here. [That journalist] describes the Friends of Durruti and Libertarian Youth as "controlled organizations" of the P.O.U.M. Both were Anarchist organizations and had no connexion with the P.O.U.M. The Libertarian Youth was the youth league of the Anarchists.
It's a nice historical curiosity that Libertarians, who today are regarded as being on the eccentric Right, were a Left faction eighty years ago … Which brings to mind the editorial cited by Simon Leys from the ChiCom People's Daily during the Cultural Revolution years, explaining to the Party faithful that extreme leftism is a rightist deviation.

As my correspondent said, there's some rich history here.

(2) For saying that the Boston Tea Party got the American Revolution started, I had my knuckles e-rapped by Ann Coulter, who emailed in to tell me that:

The Boston Tea Party started nothing.  It was abhorred by half the founding fathers, nearly lost us our main ally in Britain (Burke) and was not celebrated or spoken of for at least another 50 years.

George Washington apologized for it. Its leaders were rebuked by Benjamin Franklin.

Nothing was broken on the ship (nothing that wasn’t fixed that night), so the only vandalism was tea being thrown into the ocean — and Ben Franklin forced the Americans to repay the tea company for that.

So it wasn't much "disorder" either, and still our founding fathers were horrified.

Our revolution began with a legal document, the Declaration of Independence. I believe the Boston Tea Party became a big thing only in the last 50 years.

Paul Revere's midnight run and the declaration were the true precipitating events. I tell the true story of the Boston Tea Party in "Demonic."

Thank you, Ma'am.  In defense, I plead my fault here as arising from the immigrant's excessive keenness to get an American reference into every historical generality.

The American Revolution was a different kind of thing from the French, Chinese, and Russian revolutions.

The Chinese Communist textbooks I was teaching from 34 years ago could barely contain their scorn at the phrase "American Revolution."  Our founding events were at best, they jeered, merely a "bourgeois revolution." The suffering proletariat of North America were still waiting for a real revolution.

Possibly they were right.

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