Lucy Hutchinson and the English Revolution-Gender, Genre, and History Writing-by Claire Gheeraert-Graffeuille-Hardback-Published:10 October 2022-368 Pages

Yet after all this he is gone hence, and I remain, an airy phantasm walking about his sepulchre and waiting for the harbinger of day to summon me out of these midnight shades to my desired rest — Lucy Hutchinson, Final Meditation’

“I write not for the presse to boast my own weakness to the world” — Lucy Hutchinson.

Lucy Hutchinson and the English Revolution by Claire Gheeraert-Graffeuille is an extremely important and long overdue evaluation of Lucy Hutchinson’s historical writings and her Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson. The memoirs, although written between 1664 and 1667, were not published until 1806, and the Memoirs were largely forgotten in the twentieth century. It could be said that Claire Gheeraert-Graffeuille rescues Lucy Hutchinson from the condescension of history.

Gheeraert-Graffeuille has had a little help in this rescue mission. The early 1980s saw more historians and literary scholars interested in Hutchinson and other female writers. Hutchinson’s book challenges the assumption that early modern women could not write the history of the English Revolution. Gheeraert-Graffeuille shows that Lucy Hutchinson was a reader of ancient history and a gifted historian of the English Revolution. She should be ranked alongside Richard Baxter, Edmund Ludlow, and Edward Hyde.

The 17th-century philosopher and historian Lucy Hutchinson was the wife of Colonel Hutchinson, a regicide who sent Charles I to his execution in 1649. Without his wife’s memoirs, this significant figure of the English Revolution would have been lost to history.

Lucy Hutchinson was born in 1620 to a class of landowning merchants. She had a comfortable childhood, and her father was a lieutenant of the Tower of London. Hutchinson was part of a  growing gentry, later among the most dominant class forces during the English Revolution. From a political standpoint, she dominated the marriage. She was able to pursue a significant political involvement that was not available to most women. However, she could not publish under her name using her husbands or remaining anonymous.

At the beginning of the English Revolution, the Hutchinson family rejected the Royalist cause and became firm Republicans. Her book Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson is an extremely important documentation of the English Revolution. While an intimate account of her husband’s actions during the revolution, it is a highly lucid political and sociological analysis of British history’s only successful social revolution.

Gheeraert-Graffeuille seeks to restore Hutchinson to the pantheon of writers of the 17th-century English Revolution. Figures like Thomas Hobbes, one of the most important early materialist thinkers, tend to dominate mainstream accounts of the English Revolution.

Hobbes wrote at a time of war And revolution in Europe. Particularly endemic was the Thirty Years War. This war shaped Hobbes’s world view leading him to write his world-famous view of the state of nature expressed in chapter 13 of Leviathan, in which he describes the life of man in a state of nature as “solitary, poore, nasty, brutish and short.” The state of nature was how human society fell when civil society broke down. Ann Talbot said, “For Hobbes, the state of nature was not an abstract, theoretical construct. It was something that existed in large parts of Europe. Hobbes’s response to these very real causes of fear was to attempt to construct a scientific and materialist theory of politics that was revolutionary in its implications and was to reverberate through the Enlightenment.

Hutchinson was a different type of thinker than Hobbes. As Chris Dite writes, “Hutchinson diverges from Hobbes. “Disorder” is not some wild state of nature but the corrupt existence of man-made hierarchies. “Order” is their destruction and replacement with something natural, good and just. Think of her order-and-disorder schema as a kind of “socialism or barbarism” for the first revolutionary movement of early capitalism.”[1]

Hutchinson, according to Dite, sought to steer a middle course. He writes, “Two disastrous poles emerge in Hutchinson’s account. The first is Oliver Cromwell and his Grandees, who successfully vie for a republican oligarchy. Hutchinson is too proudly independent to support their brutal centralisation, and she condemns them as corrupt slaves to their ambition. The second is the Diggers — proto-communists who “endeavoured the levelling of all estates and qualities.” This is no less disturbing to Hutchinson, who viewed private estates — overseen by good-hearted landlords committed to justice for the poor and the mighty — as the model community. So this victorious Hutchinson — so attuned to the power dynamics of revolutionary change — finds herself too “virtuous” to further usher in any new world. As Cromwell’s dictatorship fell apart upon his death, the monarchy returned to power in 1660. John was arrested on suspicion of plotting against King Charles II and died in prison.”

Despite the woeful lack of media coverage, this is an important book. It rightfully restores Lucy Hutchinson’s place amongst the great figures of the 17th century, such as Hobbes, Harrington, Baxter, Edmund Ludlow, and Edward Hyde.


Review: Prophet Against Slavery: Benjamin Lay, A Graphic Novel by David Lester, with Marcus Rediker and Paul Buhle- £8.99-Verso Publications.

“The barbarities and desperate outrages of the so-called Christian race, throughout every region of the world, and upon every people they have been able to subdue, are not to be paralleled by those of any other race, however fierce, however untaught, and however reckless of mercy and of shame, in any age of the earth”.

William Howitt: “Colonisation and Christianity: A Popular History of the Treatment of the Natives by the Europeans in all their Colonies.” London, 1838,

“If money, according to Augier, “comes into the world with a congenital blood-stain on one cheek,” capital comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt”.

Karl Marx

It should be as given that this graphic novel about the early Quaker abolitionist Benjamin Lay will resonate with today’s struggles against oppression and modern-day wage slavery.

The story of Benjamin Lay’s life is long and complex. Still, it is to illustrator Daniel Lester and historians Markus Rediker and Paul Buhle credit that this graphic novel does justice to Lay’s life and brings his remarkable story to a wider and younger audience.

Benjamin Lay was born to a Quaker family in Copford, Essex, in the late part of the 17th Century. He was born a dwarf and ran away to sea from an early age. It would not be an overstatement to say that Lay led a diverse life. He worked as a shepherd, glove maker, sailor, and bookseller. His worldview was a complex mixture of  Quakerism, vegetarianism, animal rights, opposition to the death penalty, and abolitionism. Lay, while being anti-slavery, was not anti-capitalist. He did shun the trappings of wealth that his business acumen brought him. While in America, he lived in a cave with a library of two hundred books. His 12 years at sea were a seminal period for him as he experienced the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade in the West Indies.

Lay saw slavery as an abomination and would dedicate his life to its abolition. His campaign was unorthodox, and his radical movement included what can only be called “guerrilla theatre” against the Quaker capitalist ruling elite who owned slaves. In a  Burlington Friends Meeting House in New Jersey, he enacted one of his guerilla actions at a prayer meeting denouncing the slave owners in the room. One of his more famous actions was soaking slave owner Quakers in fake blood. Lay said, “All slave-keepers that keep the innocent in bondage, pretending to lay claim to the pure and holy Christian religion, commit a notorious sin. Thus shall God shed the blood of those persons who enslave their fellow creatures.” Such was the class hatred of the ruling Quaker elite. Lay was only “reinstated to the fold” in 2017. The Abington Quakers of Pennsylvania recognized him as “a Friend of the Truth”. London Quakers followed suit by declaring “unity” with Lay’s spirit.

As Sabrina Jones points out, “Arriving in Philadelphia, the Lays were dismayed to find the “City of Brotherly Love” was also rife with the buying and selling of “fellow creatures” by members of their faith community. For his dogged denunciation of Quaker slaveholders, Lay was thrown out of four Quaker meetings, including Abington Friends, near Philadelphia, where he eventually settled in a cave with Sarah and his library of hundreds of books. Though largely self-taught, Lay wrote a fierce polemic of a book. All Slave-Keepers that Keep the Innocent in Bondage, Apostates was printed by Benjamin Franklin, who discretely left his name off it to avoid offending his Quaker clients. It was published without the approval of the Quaker leaders, who bought ads in the newspaper to disavow the book and its author.”[1]

As Markus Rediker states in his book Lay despite heavily influencing 19th-century U.S. abolitionists, was lost to history. You might say Rediker rescued Lay from the condescension of history. For most of his life, Lay led almost a single-handed campaign against the Quaker elite, who made handsome profits from slavery. His initial campaign took place in America. In Prophet Against Slavery, Rediker explains the importance of Lay. “David Lester, Paul Buhle and I created this graphic novel to recover his inspiring life for our tumultuous times,” He was a revolutionary, attacking rich men who “poison the earth for gain”. He believed that human beings and animals were “fellow creatures” within the natural world.

Honestly, I have never been a great fan of graphic novels, but artist David Lester’s book, while not an easy read, turns out to be a stunning visual experience. He keeps his storyline simple and lets his drawings give the reader a deeper insight. This graphic novel is adapted from the superb biography The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist by Marcus Rediker. Rediker did an essay for this book.

As Rediker highlights in his book Lay’s significance was that he was one of the first radicals to call an end to all slavery in whatever form it took. He refused to consume anything produced by slave labour. Lay was opposed by a significant section of Quakers, who had grown fat on slavery. As Rediker points out, these Quakers played a massive part in the bloody rise of American capitalism. The New England Puritans and Quakers became some of America’s most significant industrial leaders.

As Karl Marx wrote, “The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement, and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black skins, signalised the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of primitive accumulation.[2]

Although only touched upon in Lester’s book is Lay’s acknowledgement of the importance of the English Revolution to his struggle against slavery. Lay had a  deep connection to the radicals of the English Revolution. Rediker said, “I’ve identified five major influences, and the first and the most important of these was a specifically radical variant of Quakerism. Now Quakerism goes back, actually, to the English Revolution. It began as one of many radical Protestant groups.

The others were the Levellers, the Diggers, the Seekers, and the Ranters. The Quakers are all part of this. Those groups arose during the English Revolution when royal censorship broke down as the king, King Charles I, and Royalists did battle with Oliver Cromwell and the Parliamentary side. These radical groups burst into print in that situation, offering from below their solutions to the day’s problems. Quakers were part of this, and there was a man named James Naylor, who was an especially radical Quaker. I basically argued in my book that Benjamin Lay channelled this early generation of Quakers. They were very activist. They performed at street theatre. They were very confrontational. He managed a couple of generations later to reach back to them in order to revive that spirit of Quakerism.”

It would appear that Benjamin Lay is many things to many people. Lester writes, “I think of this book as being an activist book. It’s meant to propel activism, and Benjamin Lay’s story is pointing activists to the importance of having a long-term view of social revolution. For Lay to do what he did for 27 years dedicatedly is inspiring. He had the integrity, fortitude and stamina needed to work in a situation where you might not live to see the results of your activism. In some cases, revolutions occur overnight. But we know that revolutions can backslide and can be full of problematic areas. So, you must be in for the long haul and know it’s a long, messy road to social progress.”

I can understand why Lay is attractive to elements within the Psuedo Left. Despite his seemingly revolutionary activism, Lay was no anti-capitalist, let alone an early Marxist. However, Lay’s life and struggle contain lessons for today’s workers in struggle and is an important introduction to students in schools and colleges and the wider public.


The return of Benjamin Lay-by Naomi Wallace and Marcus Rediker-Tuesday, 13 June – Saturday, 8 July 2023-Finborough Theatre-


[2] Karl Marx. Capital Volume One-Chapter Thirty-One: Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist-

The Revolutionary Politics of Angela Davis-Naima Omar.Bookmarks Publication-£3.00-2020

This pamphlet is based on a series of articles written by Naima Omar. It includes a speech by Angela Davis after her release from prison in 1972 and an interview from June 2020 on the Black Lives Matter uprising. From a political standpoint, the Socialist Workers Party member Omar largely whitewashes the reactionary Stalinist politics of Angela Davis.

Davis was a political activist and writer from an early age, joining the Communist Party USA when she was fifteen. Her writings ranged from the struggle against racism and for prison abolition, for women’s liberation to campaigning against imperialist war, and in support of Palestinian rights.

According to an article by Helen Halyard “ Davis has joined with other academics, such as Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, to promote the theory that blacks in America remain the victims of a caste system epitomized by the disproportionate number of African Americans in the US prison system. Davis and a section of the pseudo-left have latched on to the massive growth of America’s prisons as a rationale for promoting racial politics to divert attention away from the more fundamental class issues. While referring to the capitalist economic system, Davis described the prisons largely in racial terms, at one point saying, “it was a way to manage black bodies in the aftermath of slavery.”[1]

Her most famous work was: Women, Race, and Class, published in 1981. While useful from the standpoint of a historical study of female oppression, its heavy concentration on race over class stemmed from her philosophical outlook. Davis’s central premise is that race, not class, is the fundamental division in American society.

From an early age, she was influenced by philosophers such as Herbert Marcuse and Michel Foucault. Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) was a leading representative of the Frankfurt School. After fleeing the Nazis, Marcuse came to the United States, where he became a university professor and wrote several books, including One Dimensional Man, that influenced the 1960s student movement. Marcuse, as is well known, worked for the OSS, the predecessor of the CIA, during World War II.

Marcuse’s anti-working-class politics led him to believe a “proto-fascist syndrome in the working class” existed. He thought the “revolution” would not be made by the working class but by the young intelligentsia, small fringe groups or guerrilla movements. Its driving force was not the class contradictions of capitalist society but critical thinking and the actions of an enlightened elite. Davis’s promotion of racial politics has absolutely nothing to do with Marxism. Her racial politics are the product of a strain of anti-Marxist thought going back decades, including postmodernism and neo-anarchism.

Suffice it to say the SWP mentions nothing of her reactionary political evolution. The pamphlet presents her as a radical activist still on the side of the oppressed. While mistakenly still seen as a figure of the left, she smoothly transitioned from left icon to “left” academia, securing a position at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has recently retired.

[1] At University of Michigan symposium Angela Davis offers political cover for Obama-

Blue-eyed Child of Fortune: Civil War Letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw: Russell Duncan-Paperback – Illustrated, November 30 1999

“Any negro taken in arms against the Confederacy will immediately be returned to a state of slavery. Any negro taken in Federal uniform will be summarily put to death. Any white officer taken in command of negro troops shall be deemed as inciting servile insurrection and shall likewise be put to death.”

Proclamation by the Confederate President

“Fondly do we hope—and fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, ‘the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.'”

Abraham Lincoln

“There they march, warm-blooded champions of a better day for man. On horseback among them, in the very habit as he lived, sits the blue-eyed child of fortune.”

William James

“We fight for men and women whose poetry is not yet written.”

Robert Gould Shaw

Like most people, I came to learn about the life of Robert Gould Shaw through the excellent film Glory.[1] The movie provides the viewer with a good introduction to the life of Robert Gould Shaw. It is the first feature film to show the role of black soldiers in the American Civil War. It has a degree of accuracy and historical worth that many other history-based films lack. It portrays black soldiers as courageous, along with their white officers.

Thanks to films like “Glory,” people are becoming far more aware of the role played by black soldiers in the American Civil War. Close to 180,000 black soldiers served in the Union Army, and black soldiers fought bravely and knew what they were fighting for. Blue-eyed Child of Fortune: Civil War Letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw is valuable in understanding why men fought and what ideals animated their actions.

In the introduction to the book, Duncan describes Shaw’s letters as showing “the change wrought by battlefield casualties, camp life, commitment, and homesickness upon the sensibilities of youth. His soldiering experience was as common as it was distinctive. His prose is often eloquent, always articulate, intensely informative, amusing, heart-wrenching, and provocative more than a century after he described himself in letters to his family and friends. As interlopers to words never meant for us to ponder, we can enjoy him and gain insight into his times and ours.”

During his military career, Shaw was a prolific letter writer. The letters in this book are intimate and give a deep insight into Shaw’s thinking. Writing to his mother, Shaw laments, “It is very hard to go off without bidding you goodbye, and the only thing that upsets me, in the least, is the thought of how you will feel when you find me so unexpectedly gone. But I know, dearest Mother, that you wouldn’t have me stay when it is so clearly my duty to go.… We all feel that if we can get into Washington before Virginia begins to make trouble, we shall not have much fighting…May God bless you all. When we are all at home together again, may peace & happiness be restored to the Country. The war has already done us good in making the North so united.”[2]

He wrote over two hundred letters, and they revealed a deeply divided and complex man. Despite being the pampered son of wealthy Boston abolitionists, Shaw was not a complete abolitionist at the beginning of the war. However, he later wrote, “We fight for men and women whose poetry is not yet written.” Despite this sentiment, Shaw never fully reconciled his prejudices about black inferiority. Still, he respected his soldiers’ spirit and fighting ability, and as the war proceeded, he stated, “There is not the least doubt that we shall leave the state, with as good a regiment, as any that has marched.”

As Duncan writes, “One of the great pleasures of reading a collection of letters such as this is to witness the writer’s development through a telescoping of time and events. The callow Rob Shaw who goes off to war is far different from the bloodied Colonel Robert Shaw, who prepares to lead his men into a desperate and doomed attack on Fort Wagner. The reader’s foreknowledge that all of Shaw’s choices and chances over three years will ultimately converge into this final massacre lends a true poignancy, but also a real irony, to the letters. For example, his life is saved in May 1862, when a bullet hits his pocket watch; later, he is hit in the neck by a bullet that already has passed through another soldier and fails to penetrate his own body.”[3]

In the same article, Duncan writes about the paradox of Shaw, saying, “ These letters challenge modern sensibility in a number of ways. Shaw was a true patriot, but he also was a victim of his—and his family’s—patriotism. He never totally shared their abolitionist beliefs, and his attitude toward the black race could be as condescending as his initial feelings toward Southerners. When Sarah Shaw first published his letters, she removed the more offensive of her son’s remarks on black people. Duncan, to his credit, has restored these lines and honestly examines Shaw’s sometimes contradictory thoughts on the question of race. When offered the command of the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth, Shaw, who was not the first choice, turned it down, preferring to stay with his friends and fellow soldiers in Second Massachusetts. He wrote his fiancée, Annie Haggerty, “If I had taken it, it would only have been from a sense of duty; for it would have been anything but an agreeable task.… I am afraid Mother will think I am shirking my duty, but I had some good practical reasons for it.” Within days, however, he had changed his mind.[4]

The war radicalised Shaw. His visit to the place where the radical preacher John Brown[5] fought his battles against slavery is significant. So too, was his meeting with Abraham Lincoln. He campaigned for his soldiers to have equal pay, as depicted in the film Glory. It is hard not to believe that Shaw would have been greatly inspired by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, correctly described as ‘the greatest social and political revolution of the age.’ The greatest authority on revolutions, Karl Marx, said ‘Never has such a gigantic transformation taken place so rapidly.'”

While books such as Duncan’s are important in the sense they reestablish the role of black soldiers in their emancipation but is also important to place the struggle against slavery in the wider social and political context. This was done in an essay by the distinguished historian James M Macpherson who wrote, “If we were to go out on the streets of almost any town in America and ask the question posed by the title of this essay, probably nine out of ten respondents would answer unhesitatingly, “Lincoln.” In recent years, though, this answer has been challenged as another example of elitist history, focusing only on the actions of great white males and ignoring the actions of the overwhelming majority of the people who also make history. If we were to ask our question of professional historians, the reply would be quite different. They would speak of ambivalence, ambiguity, nuances, paradox, and irony. They would point to Lincoln’s gradualism, his slow and apparently reluctant decision for emancipation, his revocation of emancipation orders by Generals John C. Frémont and David Hunter, his exemption of border states and parts of the Confederacy from the Emancipation Proclamation, his statements seemingly endorsing white supremacy. They would say that the whole issue is more complex than it appears—in other words, many historians, as is their wont, would not give a straight answer to the question”.[6]

The serious historian plays an objectively significant role in social life as the embodiment of historical memory. One has to congratulate the historian Russell Duncan for this impressive job of bringing together the letters of Robert Gould Shaw for the wider general public.


[2] North Shore S.I. [Staten Island]Thursday, April 18, 1861

[3] Blue-Eyed Child of Fortune-

[4] Blue-Eyed Child of Fortune-


[6] James McPherson,

“Who Freed the Slaves?” (1997

CWU Bureaucrats attack the SEP’s Postal Workers Rank and File Committee

The formation of the postal workers’ rank and file committee marks a qualitative turning point in the relationship between the UK Socialist Equality Party(SEP) and rank-and-file postal workers.

This is publically recognised by even the most boneheaded and reactionary CWU bureaucrat. The right-wing attack on the World Socialist Website(see article Communication Workers Union attack on WSWS and UK Postal Workers Rank-and-File Committee backfires) is a backhanded compliment. It acknowledges that the CWU leadership has a viable and resolute opposition to its current betrayal of postal workers’ struggle.

Postal workers are fed up with the open betrayal of the CWU bureaucracy and are looking for alternatives, as a recent WSWS article pointed out. It quotes one worker: “Is it time we started looking at alternatives?”

This threw the CWU into a frenzy. Its media attacked the World Socialist Web Site and the newly formed Postal Workers Rank and File Committee. The CWU said, “That website is ran by absolute cranks that have zero interest in the welfare of postal workers (or any other workers). Stick with the union. It’s your voice. Solidarity.”

As Robert Stevens replied for the WSWS, “This piece of red-baiting would not have been out of place in right-wing Tory rags such as the Daily Mail or Daily Telegraph. The CWU is attacking not only socialist opposition to its betrayals but the many CWU members who have written to the WSWS over the last month. The WSWS’s interest in the welfare of postal workers” is clear over eight articles, from March 16-26, containing over 10,500 words directly from posties. In their comments, they explain in detail the atrocious situation they face, with many denouncing the CWU leadership for allowing such backbreaking conditions and the unachievable targets set by Royal Mail. The slander on the WSWS and Postal Workers Rank-and-File Committee backfired on the CWU, with tens of thousands of postal workers reading the Twitter threads, with most comments posted pulling no punches in denouncing the CWU apparatus.”[1]

The WSWS does not need to apologise over its stance, and its “interest in the welfare of postal workers” is clear over eight articles, from March 16-26, containing over 10,500 words directly from postal workers.

Postal workers, send a message to to contact and join the Postal Workers Rank-and-File Committee.

Postal Workers at UK’s Royal Mail establish a rank-and-file committee

The decision by postal workers, with the support of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), to found a rank-and-file committee is, by any stretch of the imagination, a truly historical event.

It is a welcome development despite taking 36 years (the anniversary of my last set to with the CWU bureaucracy). It now offers postal workers a way to fight against the CWU Bureaucracy without one hand tied behind their backs.

I urge all postal workers to join it and prevent what will be a huge betrayal by the current CWU leadership. As was said in an article posted on the World Socialist Website, “The committee will aim to mobilise workers against Royal Mail’s attacks and lead a fight for an inflation-busting pay rise, a defence of terms and conditions, an end to all job cuts and the overturning of victimisations.”

The betrayal being organised by the CWU bureaucracy marks a new stage in its development into an arm of corporate management. How long before Messrs Furey and Ward become members of the board? Their betrayal is not down to being bad people or weak this is the nature of the trade union bureaucracy worldwide.

Workers are trapped inside “trade union” organisations, which have assumed the character of corporatist entities controlled by petty-bourgeois functionaries like (Ward and Furey) whose own interests are in no way connected to even a residual defence of the rank and file’s share of the national income. The union leadership and apparatus act as an industrial police force for Royal Mail management.

The article Growing support for UK Postal Workers Rank-and-File Committee, states “The formation of the Postal Workers Rank-and-File Committee shows that Royal Mail workers can break out of the confines of the CWU’s pro-company agenda and mount a direct challenge to the profits diktats of the company. It is an example others must follow. As the Committee’s founding resolution states, “Millions of workers in the UK are waging the same fight in a strike wave ongoing since last summer. This is part of an international struggle against global corporations and governments seeking to impose the immense cost of pandemic corporate bailouts and rampant inflation on the working class.”

Email to contact and join the Postal Workers Rank-and-File Committee.

Becoming Frida Kahlo March 10- BBC2 and BBC iPlayer

“Most of my friends grew up slowly. I grew up in an instant,”

Frida Kahlo

“A ribbon around a bomb.”

Andre Breton on Kahlo’s art

“I have suffered two big accidents in my life, one in which a streetcar ran over me. The other was Diego,”

Frida Kahlo

“Do you wish to see with your own eyes the hidden springs of the social revolution? Look at the frescoes of Rivera. Do you wish to know what revolutionary art is like? Look at the frescoes of Rivera. Come a little closer, and you will see clearly enough gashes and spots made by vandals: Catholics and other reactionaries, including, of course, Stalinists. These cuts and gashes give even greater life to the frescoes. You have before you not simply a ‘painting,’ an object of passive aesthetic contemplation, but a living part of the class struggle. And it is at the same time a masterpiece!”

Leon Trotsky

There is a lot to commend in this visually stunning and serious three-part series on the life and politics of Frida Kahlo. I say serious because previous documentaries or books about Kahlo have been pretentious and flippant. The complex nature of Kahlo’s life deserves a serious approach. But having said that, there are several serious political weaknesses in the programs.

The first of a three-part series on the legendary Mexican painter, The Making and Breaking, manages to squeeze so much information into one episode that it nearly ruins the next two parts. Despite much being known about Kahlo and her work selling for obscene amounts( (Her 1949 painting Diego Y Yo sold for almost $35m in 2021), the program still manages to inform and enlighten.

There is no single narrator. There are interviews with biographers, art historians from Mexico and the US, and miraculously surviving family members. Kahlo’s great-niece Cristina Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s grandson.

Like programs two and three, the first program is divided into mini-chapters, each with its heading. “Everything goes wrong” details graphically the bus crash that almost killed Kahlo, causing her terrible injuries and ending her plan of becoming a doctor. She turned to art instead. “Most of my friends grew up slowly. I grew up in an instant.” She was helped by her mother, who built her an adapted easel. Her first self-portrait and one of my favourite paintings was the stunning Self-Portrait in a Velvet Dress.

She was an exceptional child born in 1907. Kahlo contracted polio in 1912. She later told people she was born in 1910 to ally herself with the new, post-revolution Mexico. She was born at The Blue House in Coyoacán on the outskirts of Mexico City. Kahlo was a fervent socialist at an early age, and in 1927, she joined the Mexican Communist Party, where she met Diego Rivera.

Rivera supported the Mexican Revolution, the Russian Revolution and the Trotskyist Fourth International for some time. You would not have known the latter watching this program. Also, when historical figures such as Tina Modotti are mentioned, they are treated largely superficially. The Italian photographer Tina Modotti was a fellow radical along with Kahlo. Her lover was the notorious GPU assassin Vittorio Vidali, alias Carlos Contreras. Another lover was the Mexican painter David Siqueiros. Both had connections to Stalinism, and their murderous gangsterism was never mentioned. The BBC film ignores that Siqueiros played a central role in the unsuccessful attempt on Trotsky’s life in May 1940.

Jesse Olsen points out in his article, “Modotti is an example of how the Mexican and Russian revolutions inspired young artists. However, she is also a tragic example of the many artists who came under the sway of Stalinism and paid a terrible price. Modotti worked for Stalin’s KGB (the Soviet secret service) from the mid-1930s and was associated with the Italian Stalinist functionary Vittorio Vidali, who, as early as 1927, had been a Stalinist operative in the Mexican party. Together with the muralist Siqueiros, he tried to murder Trotsky in 1940. Siqueiros, the former communist, and artist—like the Communist Party of Mexico itself—had become part of Stalin’s apparatus.”[1]

While Kahlo is the program’s central figure, her long-time lover and fellow artist Diego Rivera looms large in the films(no pun intended). Their relationship was stormy, but they both understood the beauty and importance of their artistic work. Kahlo described Rivera as “an architect in his paintings, in his thinking process, and in his passionate desire to build a functional, solid and harmonious society… He fights at every moment to overcome mankind’s fear and stupidity.” Rivera spoke highly and perceptively of Kahlo, saying, “It is not tragedy that rules Frida’s work… The darkness of her pain is just a velvet background for the marvellous light of her physical strength, her delicate sensibility, her bright intelligence, and her invincible strength as she struggles to live and show her fellow humans how to resist hostile forces and come out triumphant.”

As mentioned in the film Rivera came under sustained attack(primarily from the Stalinists) for taking commissions from American capitalists. The Communist Party smeared Rivera as an “agent of North American imperialism and the millionaire, Morrow”.

Rivera was expelled from the Mexican Communist Party after receiving several commissions from the government and accepting an assignment from the US ambassador to Mexico, Dwight W. Morrow, to paint a mural in the former Cortéz Palace of Cuernavaca. In 1933 Rivera was commissioned to paint a mural entitled Man at the Crossroads by John D. Rockefeller. Rockefeller objected when Rivera added the great Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin to the mural, and Rockefeller had the mural destroyed.[2]

Rivera defended the mural saying the portrait of Lenin was “the only correct painting to be made in the building [as] an exact and concrete expression of the situation of society under capitalism at present, and an indication of the road that man must follow to liquidate hunger, oppression, disorder and war.”

Kahlo and Rivera came around the Trotskyist movement and briefly had a close relationship with Trotsky. In 1938, Rivera collaborated with Trotsky and Andre Breton in writing the Manifesto: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art[3] , which called  for “a complete and radical reconstruction of society.”

For a while Trotsky held Rivera in very high regard, saying, “Do you wish to see with your own eyes the hidden springs of the social revolution? Look at the frescoes of Rivera. Do you wish to know what revolutionary art is like? Look at the frescoes of Rivera. Come a little closer, and you will see clearly enough gashes and spots made by vandals: Catholics and other reactionaries, including, of course, Stalinists. These cuts and gashes give even greater life to the frescoes. You have before you not simply a ‘painting,’ an object of passive aesthetic contemplation, but a living part of the class struggle. And it is, at the same time, a masterpiece! In the field of painting, the October Revolution has found her greatest interpreter not in the USSR but in faraway Mexico… Nurtured in the artistic cultures of all peoples, all epochs, Diego Rivera has remained Mexican in the most profound fibres of his genius. But that which inspired him in these magnificent frescoes, which lifted him up above the artistic tradition, above contemporary art, in a certain sense, above himself, is the mighty blast of the proletarian revolution. Without October, his power of creative penetration into the epic of work, oppression and insurrection would never have attained such breadth and profundity.”[4]

Despite Trotsky’s glowing tribute, he was aware of the political inadequacies of both Kahlo and Rivera. As Joanne Laurier perceptively writes, “It seems safe to suggest that neither Rivera nor Kahlo—remarkable artists and not first and foremost political thinkers—ever understood the essence of Trotsky’s struggle with the Stalinist bureaucracy, including the theory of permanent revolution, and remained to one extent or another under the influence of Mexican nationalism and  that primarily accounts for both of them ending up, chastened and demoralized, in the camp of Stalinism.”[5]

While this three-part documentary has much to like and commend, there are some serious political flaws. For instance, trying to cram the last and most important fifteen years of Kahlo’s life into 15 minutes is madness and politically unforgivable. There is also a tendency to concentrate on Kahlo’s feelings without putting them in a wider political context. That context is the world-historical struggle between Stalinism and Trotskyism. The fact that this struggle was at the center of Kahlo’s and Rivera’s lives is deliberately missing from the film.

The film is too preoccupied with Rivera’s infidelities and Kahlo’s “bisexuality”, which is an adaptation to the current intellectual environment. The #MeToo movement has adopted Kahlo as one of their own. These layers of the so-called intelligentsia have become affluent and have moved far to the right. They ignore Kahlo’s revolutionary politics and are hostile to the working class. Despite this, the films are worth seeing.

Further reading

My Art, My Life: An Autobiography by Diego Rivera (Author)

[1] Frida Kahlo retrospective in Berlin—Part 2: Frida Kahlo and communism-



[4] Art and Politics in Our Epoch-

[5] What made Frida Kahlo remarkable?-

The Tinder Swindler – Netflix- 2 February 2022

“I have the right to choose whatever name I want, I never presented myself as the son of anyone, but people use their imaginations. Maybe their hearts were broken during the process… I never took a dime from them; these women enjoyed themselves in my company. They traveled and got to see the world on my dime,”

Simon Leviev

“Any Swipe Can Change Your Life

Tinder Slogan

“How can you give trust to a man like that, who escaped from Israel twice? A man that deceived and swindled women in Europe for hundreds of thousands of euros. Where is the justice?”

Pernilla Sjöholm

The Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler is a British true crime documentary film directed by Felicity Morris and was released on Netflix on 2 February 2022. It is about how convicted fraudster Simon Leviev (sentenced in Finland and Israel), an internet dating scammer, cheated hundreds of women out of 10 million dollars. Leviev ran a basic Ponzi scheme, using new women’s money to fund his fake billionaire lifestyle. It derives its name from the Italian Charles Ponzi, who ran a system in the early 1920s that extorted almost $200 million dollars (in 2022 currency). Ponzi schemes have only become more popular over the past century.

While it is a basic human trait to feel for the underdog or, in this case, the scammed women, I find it hard to muster sympathy for several women who fell for such an obvious confidence trick. It beggars belief that these women fell in “love” with this cold-blooded con artist with a reptilian worldview. The Tinder Swindler trod a fine line when it romanticised the exploits and fabrications of this con artist. The documentary does not condemn his criminal behaviour despite the devastating personal and financial harm he caused.  

The first woman we meet is Cecilie Fjellhoy, who talks about falling for a man she met on the Tinder dating app. He called himself Simon Leviev. Despite her friends warning her that this could be a scam, she boarded his private jet and was fed at a five-star hotel. It did not yet dawn on her that this lavish lifestyle was paid for by a long line of women that had been conned before her. Her scammer claimed to be the son of a billionaire diamond dealer but was a convicted conman named Shimon Hayut. Fjellhoy was fleeced to the tune of 250,000 dollars

The second woman interviewed was Pernilla Sjoholm. Like her friend Cecillie she does not exactly cover herself in glory in this documentary. She does not fall in love with Leviev but becomes his friend, and when she is invited to spend a summer travelling with him, she jumps at the chance. The only problem is that Simon’s then-girlfriend will accompany them. Her story ends the same way as Cecillie’s. However, she did not lose as much.

The story only gets really interesting when the story finally becomes public after an in-investigation by the Norwegian newspaper VG. While you must admire the bravery of the women involved to go public, they faced several rather accurate charges of being in love with money. The newspaper story went viral and showed the huge extent of his deception.

Netflix’s true-crime documentaries are usually strong on visuals and excitement and can be sensationalist but largely unsatisfying. At no stage did the Netflix documentary examine the personal psychology of a con artist like Leviev. While The Tinder Swindler is  fun and good to look at, as one reviewer said, “Despite the great yarn at its centre, [the film] sometimes lapses into the self-indulgence common to so many modern documentaries, with endless shadowy reconstructions and a heart-tugging soundtrack.” It leaves a lot of unanswered questions and barely scratches the surface of what is a billion-dollar business.

Why did it take Tinder so long to ban him, given they are not slow in banning the ordinary Joe public without recourse to an appeal? The writer of this article was also banned, and maybe they got wind of my writing this article. Currently 31 years old, Simon Leviev lives as a free man in Israel and is dating Israeli model Kate Konlin. He has an Instagram account.

The Tinder Swindler unwittingly exposes the connection between middle-class aspirations and the fake identities constructed on dating platforms such as Tinder. But as Christopher McMichael states, “this technology exists against the backdrop of neoliberalism, with its Darwinian ideology of competition and wealth accumulation at all costs. In this culture, dishonourable or dishonest practices are now called “hustling” or “grinding” – the ends of more money and power are seen to justify the means.”

Leviev’s Tinder profile shows an image of material wealth, and the women attracted to this wealth were hooked before Leviev even opened his mouth. As the journalist Christopher McMichael again explains, “Historically, con artists have also been known as grifters or snake oil salesmen, referring to the selling of fraudulent products. Capitalism has long produced criminal entrepreneurs prepared to tell lies for a quick buck. In the early 19th century, Scottish adventurer Gregor MacGregor convinced European investors that he had exclusive control of a territory in South America called Poyais. But instead of a bustling settlement, Poyias did not exist, and many of his victims who came to live in the promised utopia died in the jungle.”[1]

It is perhaps a little perverse that The Tinder Swindler’s portrayal of the con artist reveals the true nature of the capitalist system. The way to make millions is not through the American dream but “subterfuge, class power, and exploitation”.

To conclude, Leviev’s crimes are many and varied but are not the product of just a bad individual but are part of a broader process that has been going on for decades. Leviev’s criminality is not an aberration but shows the true face of capitalism in the 21st century. The accumulation of wealth and assets has completely detached itself from the real economy for a long time. The result is unprecedented social polarisation and the criminalization of all sectors of the capitalist economy. Levievs’s criminality is but one bizarre expression of the criminality of capitalism.


Love, Janessa (BBC World Service) | BBC Sounds

 Love, Janessa is a BBC World Service and the CBC seven-part podcast investigating probably the biggest romance scam ever. At its height, over 100,000 people were being scammed out of millions of Pounds.

Journalist Hannah Ajala hosts the podcast. The podcast tells the story of a porn star, Janessa Brazil, whose photos have repeatedly been used to scam people. Ajala talks to numerous victims who have been conned out of hundreds of thousands of pounds/dollars. Many of these victims maintain they spoke to the real porn star

As the program states, there was not just a handful of scammers using Janessa’s picture but hundreds. Janessa’s images were readily available on the internet and on her private porn site. At no time did the people scammed out of large amounts of money do an image search that would have immediately told them they were being taken for a ride.

During the podcast, it becomes apparent that this is not a very sophisticated scam. There’s a bit of sweet talk, everyday flirtation followed by demands for money, mainly car repairs, to mend a broken phone or hospital costs. As the con develops, the amount of money demanded grows larger. To be fooled by this deception, you must be either stupid, gullible, or both. Unfortunately, thousands of men have been fooled by this low-brow scam.

Apart from the real Janessa, (see left) the show’s star is Roberto, an eco-entrepreneur from Sardinia who reportedly handed over $250,000 to various scammers in Ghana. He is treated with utmost sympathy by the show’s host. Not once was his staggering level of stupidity challenged. Not content with handing over large amounts of money to scammers, he traveled the world waiting at airports hoping to meet the real Janessa, who would never turn up. Again at no point was this high-level delusion challenged, let alone condemned. Roberto was not the only person scammed to hop on a plane to look for the love of his life. A Nova Scotian divorcee got on a plane to Ghana to meet the  man of her dreams,

Most scams connected to the porn star Janessa were based in either Nigeria or Ghana. The British journalist Hannah Ajala, currently based in Ghana, met and interviewed one of the many romance scammers, known locally as “Sakawa boys”.These scammers are professional criminals and are a major part of a billion-dollar industry. These Sakawa boys have multiple scams on the go at once, and they keep a spreadsheet to keep track of the lies he tells their victims. His wife and children know nothing of his work. Ajala treats these criminals with a courtesy they don’t deserve as if they were some kind of celebrity. The podcast’s conclusion is a bit of anti-climax as everybody lives happily ever after.  

Sweetheart Scams: Online Dating’s Billion-Dollar Swindle- by Clarence Jones Paperback – Oct. 15 2020

This is useful if a limited, guide to the massive growth of “romance scams”. They say love is blind, and scammers are cashing in on people’s stupidity and gullibility. According to data published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2016, scammers stole more than a billion dollars in the United States alone, which is a conservative estimate.

Clarence Jones’s book is a step-by-step guide on how scammers work and how to avoid getting caught. Jones is an investigative reporter and seems to be a one-man publishing industry. Jones spent years investigating online dating services. Much of what Jones found is not new. Online dating websites, since their inception, have been a haven for scammers and a clever way for escorts or prostitutes to ply their trade without prosecution. Specialized websites are helping husbands and wives cheat on their spouses. These websites are an online version of a pimp who manages escorts and prostitutes.

Most hookup sites are nothing more than a license to print money, and most sites are interactive pornography. Most, if not all, profiles are fake, and in reality, you are probably talking to another computer in the form of  “bots”, which generates massive profits for its owners.

In 2020 I wrote a series of articles on one aspect of this nasty scam which has conned many people out of millions. After two years of research, certain things can be said to warn others. The first job of a scammer who proliferates the various online dating sites is to get their prey off the original dating website and onto sites such as Gmail and WhatsApp. Gmail is a favorite hunting ground for your African scammers, and it is a simple scam.

They send you a picture of a gorgeous voluptuous woman, usually lifted from a porn site. Most men think, yum, I am in here. They don’t ask why this beautiful 25-year-old woman would have anything to do with a balding middle-aged man. Unperturbed most men would want to see this hot girl on video chat. This is the first part of the scam. To see this beautiful woman, you need to purchase an Amazon card or other such items for them to get an internet connection for the video call.

When they finally agree to your demand to see them in the flesh, you do not see the beautiful young thing in the flesh, but a rather clumsy video these amateurs have somehow managed to upload onto Gmail. On one occasion, I could see the real person behind the scam as his hand slipped, revealing his real identity, and he was not a gorgeous blonde woman.

Jones looks into Facebook’s role in allowing scammers to operate with impunity. Facebook launched their dating app in 2019. This free dating app was a means by which Facebook sought to promote the launch of its digital currency Meta. Facebook is riddled with fake profiles. In the first quarter of 2022, Facebook removed 1.6 billion fake accounts, down from 1.7 billion in the previous quarter. In 2019, 2.2 billion counterfeit accounts were removed in one quarter alone.

These gorgeous-looking Asian women were not interested in dating. They used Facebook to lure punters into a Cryptocurrency scam. They would take your money, saying they will invest it in Cryptocurrency. The reality is that they take the money and run along with their uncles. It was amazing that all these girls had fantastic relatives willing to help others get rich. When yours truly threatened to report these scammers, he received some very nasty death threats and one ugly video threatening DECAPITATION. Facebook turned a blind eye to the whole scam. After all, many of these Asian scammers were promoting Facebook’s digital currency, Meta.

The levels of criminality surrounding dating websites, an industry worth billions of dollars, are not separate from the criminality of the capitalist system itself. Scammers are not just a collection of random criminals; as Jones points out, they are well-organized and systematic, and it is big business.