Talmud, or, if I could sing

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Tue Jul 8 08:33:26 MDT 2003

Hi Nestor,

Your posts are usually pertinent. However, Ernest's father Henri was not a
rabbi, he was a Polish Jew from the Cracow area who had hit upon the idea
that he would have a better life in Belgium, which was pretty intelligent,
escaping from the compulsion to military service. Henri was associated with
the leftwing communist in Germany for a while, he met Karl Radek and so on,
but after the failure of the German revolution he did not have so much
political involvement anymore, although he kept his contacts, and leftwing
German refugees would visit him in Antwerp and so on. Of course, he had
married Rosa and was a father to his kids Michel and Ernest (Michel became a
successful lecturer in Chemistry, I think at the university of Delft in the
Netherlands). He worked in the diamond trade, insurance and accounting I
think.  He was some sort of libertarian socialist and read extensively in
Marxist theory and other leftwing topics.

In the 1930s, Henri Mandel was involved in, or started, a protest campaign
against the Moscow Show Trials in which the leaders of the 1917 revolution
that remained alive were falsely accused of all sorts of crimes, Stalin
wanted to get rid of them because he felt they interfered with his forced
industrialisation project, and they interfered with his foreign policy, and
he wished to intimidate anybody that dared the question the authority of his
Central Committee in any way and discipline the cadres.

During the second world war, Henri Mandel published some illegal news-sheets
such as "Het Vrije Woord" (The free word, free speech). His son Ernest had
already started university, I think, but the university was closed down by
the Germans. Ernest said that he came to his convictions as a youth through
reading Victor Hugo and then through reading his father's literature, and of
course the Nazis helped things along as well, to the extent that they
radicalised elements of the labour movement. Ernest said Marx gave him an
"anchor" for his life. Abram Leon was a big influence on him.

It was in the 1940s that Ernest decided that in terms of personal career he
would like to be an economist, but this was not possible at the time, and he
earnt a living often as a journalist, he started out publishing illegally. I
think from memory that Henri Mandel died in 1953, and that Ernest then
shifted in, around that time, with his mother, named Rosa Mateles, but, he
was often all over the place in the 1950s, for example in Paris with Pierre
Frank, he went to Yugoslavia and also to Poland, I think also to India,  how
he managed to do all this, I do not really know, you have to wait for the
official biography to get the precise details. You have to understand that
before the early 1960s, he seldom published anything under his own name, and
he had to keep an eye on the bourgeois intelligence agencies and the
Stalinist ones (although when the cold war was at its zenith, he was already
debating Marxism publicly with the social democrats, including Dutch prime
minister-to-be Joop Den Uyl).

His first big book, Traite d'Economie Marxiste, was dedicated to the memory
of his father. But at this time, Ernest was not yet enrolled for economic
studies at a university, he was working as journalist and editor. He got his
university diploma from a Paris Ecole with a book called The Formation of
the Economic Thought of Karl Marx, which was mainly directed against
Althusserian PCF interpretations of Marx. Late Capitalism was his Phd, but,
because he was a persona non grata in West Germany, the professors of the
Free University of Berlin examined him at his home in Belgium.

When I worked for a Christchurch, NZ library in 1989-1990, Ernest sent me a
petition form addressed to Gorbachov's government, asking for the
repudiation of the charges and sentences against the accused in the Moscow
Show Trials, and the political rehabilitation of the accused. This was
signed by a number of Labour Party MP's and trade union leaders in New
Zealand. I had opted at that time to live with a woman with kids, but that
strategy did not work either.


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