Courtesy of United Farm Workers
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The United Farm Workers Union (UFW) and their supporters assembled at Southside Community Park two miles from the California State Capital. Thousands of supporters came to support the UFW unionization protection bill. They chanted and marched to the State Capitol to show support for Assembly Bill 2183.
AB 2183 would amend the Agricultural Labor Relations Act to make it easier for farmworkers to vote for or against unionization free from intimidation and threats. Governor Gavin Newson doesn’t support the bill in its present form. Negotiations are still ongoing between the UFW and the Governor’s office.
Opponents of the bill, the Chamber of Commerce, big business and agricultural grower associations, as well as wealthy independent ranchers, all oppose the bill, claiming it is nothing more than an attempt by the UFW to force agricultural workers to unionize.
Those attending the rally on Friday, August 26, included labor leaders, community groups, religious groups and clergy, students, seniors, activists, Latino organizations, and many others. They had a clear message for the governor: We stand with the farmworkers in support of unionization and this pro-labor bill. Sign the bill!
Lorena Gonzalez, the first woman and person of color to lead the California Federation of Labor said, “For too long the farmworkers have been on the outside. This bill must be approved and signed by the Governor. If not, we will be back. Stronger, bigger, and more determined. We will not stop. Sign the bill.”
Dolores Huerta, the 92-year-old labor icon who helped found the UFW, said, Today we march in support of this important bill. We will let Gov. Newson know our desire and courage to stand up for what is right for farmworkers and the labor movement. Let me say this: March today, but go back to your communities and march to get out the vote.”
Sonia Salinas, a student from Berkeley, said she was inspired by the energy and commitment of the community, young and old, to come out and support the UFW. “It’s 102 degrees and no one complained, because the issue, signing the bill, is so important. Can you believe Dolores Huerta? She inspires all women and activists.”
Charley, a biker riding a Harley Davidson along with other bikers, circled the State Capitol with large red UFW flags flying in the wind as they rode their bikes. Aztec dancers marched alongside various labor union members (Teamsters, SEIW, UAW, teacher unions, National Writers Union, UNITE, Longshoremen, San Francisco Labor Council, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement), and many others. The crowd, estimated, at over 5000, chanted the traditional farmworker slogan “Si Se Puede.”
California State Senator Maria Elena Durazo reflected on her childhood growing up working in the fields. Her message is it’s time to respect the Latino community for everything it has done. “The Governor has made this day California Farmworkers Appreciation Day,” she said. “Well, then, sign the bill.”
Decades ago Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta held their UFW historic pilgrimage— peregrinación--from their headquarters in Delano to Sacramento for farmworker rights and unionization. Community supporters and Chicano activists from around the Southwest participated and supported the pilgrimage.
They carried their red farmworker flags chanting “Si Se Puede” as they walked the 300 or so miles in the sweltering heat to the State Capitol in Sacramento. Hundreds joined the UFW during the march.
The peregrinación was a historic march and a significant push for labor rights, especially for farm workers. Many Latino activists became involved in community and political organizing because of the power of the peregrinación to engage on the grassroots level—schools, communities, workplaces—and confront institutions in order to make positive changes for many.
Just like decades ago, hundreds of people joined the UFW members and their supporters as they walked the 335 miles from Delano in Kern County to Sacramento. Community people along the way provided housing, food, water, medical support, and joined in the march—some only for a few miles, while others walked many more.
The march started on August 6 and ended on the 26th with a huge rally outside the California State Capitol. Many in the crowd remembered the earlier peregrinación, some even had participated. Others in the crowd this year were motivated to join up with their first march and rally ever.
By early evening the streets of Sacramento were silent. The barricades in front of the Capitol were taken down. The last of the supporters walked back to their buses and cars to head back to wherever they were from. Going home, everyone knew that they had participated in a historic march and rally—the pilgrimage, the peregrinación.
The struggle to get the bill signed is not over. UFW President Teresa Romero said, “We’re not going anywhere. We’ll be here today and organize for tomorrow, if necessary. Be assured. We will push on. We aren’t going to give up. We’re not going to stop.”
Si Se Puede!
David Trujillo is a member of the National Writers Union, a playwright, writer, and community activist. David Trujillo es miembro de la Unión Nacional de Escritores, dramaturgo, escritor y activista comunitario.
Hybrid War: Reactive Mismeasures: The New Yorker and the "New" Cold War Propaganda (Part 4)
This is the fourth part (of 5 ) of a paragraph by paragraph commentary on a recent article posing as journalism in the March 6, 2017 issue of The New Yorker. I hope to demonstrate that this article is basically a totally mendacious concoction of cold war US propaganda constructed out of unsubstantiated opinions expressed by US government officials and various journalists and others who are hostile to the current Russian government. I hold that no self respecting journalist would write an article such as this New Yorker piece and palm it off on the public. My commentary is also an object lesson on how to distinguish between reportage that at least attempts to be unbiased and obvious nonobjective propaganda. You will know more about Trump, Putin and the New Cold War from the commentary than you will ever know from the original article.
Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War - The New Yorker
Active measures were used by both sides throughout the Cold War. In the nineteen-sixties, ... Evan Osnos joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2008, ...
Section Four: “Hybrid War” 37 Paragraphs
1. Russia wasn’t very advanced in computer technology. It didn’t get on the world wide web until 1990. However, it caught up and by 1996 it had expert hackers and now “cyber tactics have become an essential component of Russia’s efforts to exert influence over its neighbors.” [The US of course does exactly the same: no great revelation here].
2. Spring 2007, somebody cyber attacks Estonia: news, banks and government sites go down.
3. Russia and Estonia were at odds over Estonia’s decision to move a Soviet WWII war memorial (a statue of a soldier) out of the capital’s (Tallinn) center.
4. April 27, 2007 the statue was removed. Soon Estonia’s sites were flooded with DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) disabling them for two weeks. [Who did it? Angry Russians living in Estonia? The Russian government? Private Russian computer trolls? Political enemies of the current Estonian president?] “Investigators never pinpointed” who did it. In other words, nobody knows who did it so let’s blame the Russian government. [This is very analogous to the current blame laid at the feet of Putin for the “hacking” of the DNC and the US elections. The Russians could have done it therefore the Russians did it.] The then Estonian President Toomas Ilves, who left office in 2016, was not content to just blame the Russians but believed it was the Russian government + “mafiosos”: and why not? Without evidence you can cast blame wherever you feel like.
5. What did the author of the New Yorker article conclude? Well, he didn’t know exactly what happened but he did know what the ex-president thought happened, or rather believed happened, therefore “it was a landmark event: a state-backed cyber-attack for political purposes.” And to reinforce this conclusion he quoted a Pentagon official who didn’t know anymore about who did it than he did. A shining example of first rate investigative journalism.
6. 2008 Russian tanks crossed over into South Ossetia in the former Soviet Georgia [he doesn’t mention until later that the Georgians opened fire first ] and at the same time hackers disabled the Georgian internet. In “defense” circles the Russians were becoming well known for their “ambition, technical acumen, and speed.’’
7. The Georgia operation showed that the Russians knew how to coordinate cyber activity and ground operations [could walk and chew gum at the same time].
8. The Russians were, however, upset over the propaganda side of the Georgia operation. Although they released the films proving the Georgians attacked first when these films were presented in the Western media they were made to look as if the Russians attacked the Georgians. The author remarks that “Russian generals took this lesson to heart.” As a result they made a study of “information war” and how to use the media more effectively, putting what they learned to use in Ukraine and Syria. I wonder if the author is aware of the meaning of his own paragraph? The Russians give the proof of who started the fighting in Georgia to the Western “free press” and media and the information is altered to conform to a US disinformation campaign at the time which alleged that the Russians started the fighting. One of the points the author is trying to make in his article is that the Russian press is obedient to Putin while the Western press tells the truth. It reminds me of the German newsreels in 1939 that showed Poland invading Germany and starting the war. The author’s own words imply the Russians just recently learned “disinformation” from the Western press. [What? All those years under Communism “Pravda” was telling the truth!]
9. The author reports that the US was also successful in waging a cyber attack around this time. In 2008 the US and Israel teamed up and placed a “worm” into an Iranian network to make their “centrifuges to spin out of control” to slow Iran's “nuclear development.” [The US is proud of this achievement yet voices in Congress say it’s a casus belli if the Russians spied on the DNC and told WikiLeaks what they found out.]
10. A meaningless paragraph about our so-called “reset policy” with Russia and a quote from the hawkish Evelyn Farkas about “big Russian spies” [they do eat a lot of carbohydrates] and our attempts to work out an “arms control for” cyber activities with the Russians.
11. This paragraph gives the gist of the US’s counter cyber policies which basically target Russia, China and Iran. Robert Kanke, NSA director of cyber security policy, summed it up in this quote: “As long as we think we’re getting more value from this set of rules than we’re losing, then this is the set of rules we want to promote.”[So the answer to any question about our counter security policies must be, “Because we think this works better value wise.”]
12. A confusing paragraph in which we are told that Russia was developing a “new” doctrine which consisted of “an amalgam that states have used for generations.” This calls for a strategy that says an enemy should be destabilized “at minimum cost” by a combination of tactics: “military, technological, political, and intelligence.” [This seems like common sense rather than some cunning new doctrine.] This has become known as “hybrid war” and because these rather common place observations were written about in an article by the Russian army’s chief of staff (Valery Gerasimov) they have become known as “the Gerasimov doctrine” and although the article was only written four years ago, we are told this generations old amalgam has become “a legend.”
13. We are told Gerasimov is 61, looks stiff in photos and frowns a lot. He thinks future wars will have a four to one ratio of non military (“subversion, espionage, propaganda, and cyberattacks”) to military actions. He writes that the cases of Libya and Syria point out that a basically stable and functioning state can be reduced to “a web of chaos, humanitarian catastrophe, and civil war” in just a few days by a well planned intervention by a hostile state using the tactics listed above. [Although the US has been successful using these tactics in Syria and Libya, it has basically been practicing the Gerasimov Doctrine avant la lettre against Cuba for over 50 years without success so there must be some sort or hamartia ( χαμαρτια ) within the targeted state for this Doctrine to actually work.)
14. Gerasimov maintains that in the 21st Century the nonmilitary means can often be more effective than the military.
15. By studying primarily the US the Russians concluded that it is very effective to manipulate information technology. Cyber techniques are superior to handing out leaflets or trying to manipulate radio and television.
16. The authors maintain the Russians used these methods in annexing the Crimea and in “pulling off” a “stage managed referendum.” [Other reportage indicates the referendum fairly reflected the views of the vast majority of people living in the Crimea but this article only presents one side of the story].
17. In this paragraph the author does recognize you can’t use these hybrid war techniques unless there is some basic underlying social contradiction at work. “They are less a way to conjure up something out of nothing than to stir a pot that is already bubbling.” Knowing that, he could have been more objective with regard to who put the pot on the fire in the first place. A weakened regional power such as Russia, in a qualitatively inferior economic and military position vís a vís the US since the Soviet Union, a super power, collapsed, is more likely to be trying to turn down the heat to keep the pot from boiling over, a pot others have overheated. If you went to England to stir up mass dislike of the Queen you wouldn’t get very far as the precondition for such discontent doesn’t exist. This according to Alexander Sharavin, a member of the Academy of Military Sciences in Moscow. But the preconditions to stir up trouble against the political order in the US do pre-exist. [As, perhaps, they also do in Russia].
18. Tensions were rising between the US and Russia over Ukraine and Syria .[it is taken for granted that the US has the sole right to decide the future of both.] The Russians “stung” the US with a “common Moscow tactic” called “weaponized leak” [apparently revealing the truth of an action to the press which the actor would rather not have known.] What dastardly deed did the Russians do? It seems the US was planning to replace the pro-Russian president of Ukraine with their own puppet behind the backs of the EU and everyone else and the Russians were listening in to a phone conversation between American officials about this plan [the NSA isn’t the only one tapping private phone conversations]. During the conversation it was pointed out the EU wouldn’t like the US forcing its choice for the next leader into office and the response, from Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, was a very diplomatic “Fuck the EU.” The author tells us the Russians knew releasing the conversation would cause trouble between the US and EU but did it anyway and, horrors!, no “form of penalty was extracted from Russia” for revealing the truth. [Of course the real issue wasn’t the release of the profanity. It was catching the US plotting the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Ukraine and putting in a new leader of its choice. That’s what Putin does, not us!] The “special military operation” (AKA “invasion” depending on whose propaganda you prefer) in Ukraine has its root in this US intervention.
19. It was the kicking out of the elected President of Ukraine that commenced for real the new Cold War but a much more serious kind of Cold War than before. [The US and EU had plans for Ukraine which included eventual membership in the EU and NATO, the removal of the Russian naval bases in Crimea and the downplaying of Russian influence in Ukraine in general. The Russians responded by asserting their rights and interests and supporting the rights of Russian speaking Ukrainians whose status was being threatened by ultra right Ukrainian nationalists in the replacement government.] How did the US respond to Russia’s not accepting the US plans for the future? Here are the quotes from Benjamin Rhodes, one of Obama’s top advisors who saw the push back as “Russia’s aggressiveness,” according to the author, and said. “Putin’s unwillingness to abide by any norms [i.e., US norms] began at that point [the forcing out of the elected President]. It went from provocative to disrespectful of any international boundary.” [This respect is not required from American allies such as Israel or from the US itself in its invasions of other countries and bombings across international boundaries. The stench of hypocrisy is overwhelming.]
20. This paragraph reveals two things. First there is a group of hackers called “The Dukes” also known as “Cozy Bear.” Nobody seems to know exactly who Cozy Bear is but “In security circles” it is a belief [but not a known fact] that Cozy Bear is “directed by the Russian government." Second, the Russian government is building up its cyber defense forces. But, “Very little is known about the size and composition of Russia’s team of state cyberwarriors.” There is then a lot of filler about Russia’s cyber program.
21. Interesting information about how many may be working in Russia’s cyber program. [It seems that many countries are building up their cyber abilities, Russia included.]
22. Cozy Bear [suspected of connections with the Russian government] has tapped into unclassified State Departments computers, unclassified computers in the office of the President and by 2015 “Russian intrusions” into political targets has roused national intelligence director Clapper to tell the Senate the “Russian cyberthreat is more severe than we have previously assessed.” [This is all based on actions by Cozy Bear and neither Clapper nor anyone else seems to know who Cozy Bear really is but the language has shifted from a “belief” to sound like it’s a “fact” that the “Russians” i.e., the government] is doing this spying. This now becomes the main theme in the same mass media that faked the war films from Georgia —that the “belief’ has become a “fact” — it actually hasn’t but it will be drummed into us day and night by the NSA, our politicians, and the mass media that it is a fact, fact, fact, that the Russians are, were and maybe are still inside our internet and websites and our computer systems, etc., that they hacked the DNC and tampered with our elections. Once conjured up this genie of hysteria will be impossible to put back in its bottle or lamp. It will do its job: give us an external enemy upon whom to blame all our woes and to justify even more military spending.]
23. The head of the French spy agency is “reportedly worried’’ that Russian agents are working to help Marine Le Pen. [Well he either is or isn’t worried.] Russian state media [?] have attacked one of Le Pen’s opponents [there are four main people, including Le Pen, running for French president]. A Russian Bank [the author doesn’t say it’s a private bank] has loaned Le Pen money. Le Pen also supports the return of Crimea to Russia. [Russia actually has a fairly good case for taking back the Crimea but the New Yorker article isn’t really interested in presenting the Russian side in an objective manner. This info on France is somehow supposed to make Clapper’s beliefs more like facts but they have nothing to do with Cozy Bear.]
24. Bruno Kahl, the head of German foreign intelligence is concerned “that Russian hackers are also trying” to interfere in German politics. He uses as evidence “Russian interference in the American elections.” [ This is assuming what is to be proved. The belief that Cozy Bear is directed by Russia and hacked the Americans is used as a fact to provide evidence that the Russians want to hack the Germans. The head of German domestic intelligence says hackers are at work in their elections. [Who is behind it all. He doesn’t say].
25. A familiar story. September 2015 FBI warns the DNC that Cozy Bear is cozying up to their computer system. The DNC fails “to mount a full-scale defense.”
26. 2016 a “second group of Russian hackers” [remember it has not been factually established that Cozy Bear is a Russian government operation] called Fancy Bear is messing around in DNC leadership’s emails — esp. those of John Podesta. Both Bears have left their cyber footprints around the globe. These footprints are unusual as most change their M.O.s once they are spotted so they are harder to recognize.
27. It is revealed that getting into the email at the DNC and stealing it “didn’t require an enormous amount of expertise”. The “hacking” [it wasn’t really hard core hacking which is entering a system to muck it up not just to swipe info] of the DNC was “mediocre”; it wasn’t done by sophisticated cyber experts. [This would seem to upset the theory that the well trained cyber warriors of the Russian government were behind the DNC email theft. It is perhaps more likely, as some independent experts have suggested, that it was done by a lone wolf (or bear), unaffiliated with any government, who wanted to expose how the supposedly “neutral” DNC was really working for HRC and trying to see that Sanders didn’t get the nomination. But the Democratic Leadership and the Obama Administration has decided to pin it on Putin and on Putin it will remain pinned in popular culture and the mass media; at least for now.]
28. WikiLeaks gets copies of the emails and releases them three days before the Democratic Convention. The fix for Clinton is exposed and the DNC chair, one of the masterminds of this anti-democratic authoritarian maneuver [the type of thing Putin is accused of with regard to Russian elections] Debbie Wasserman Schultz is forced to resign. [The FBI is blamed, even though it warned the DNC in advance, by the Democrats for not doing more to prevent the American people from finding out how dishonest the HRC supporters on the DNC were, by investigating and preventing the theft. The revelations soured millions and may have prepared the way for Trump’s surprise victory. You can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Now it’s Trump’s turn.]
29. Donna Brazile becomes interim chair of the DNC but still engages in pro-Clinton activity instead of neutrality. She is fired from her CNN position for giving copies of the questions CNN might be asking at an upcoming debate to the HRC campaign. She doesn’t understand why all the underhanded activity has caused so much resentment against the DNC.
30. A “torrent of fake news’’ about HRC begins to appear on social media. It’s being generated in several different countries (the article implies it’s all from Russia). It seems to be originating from individuals trying to make money from ads on their Facebook and web sites by generating large numbers of “hits” so their revenue will increase. Despite the evidence pointing to this explanation, no one knows exactly who is doing what except for a few culprits who gave interviews to the press, Obama Administration officials who blame all the fake news reports as due to “the Russians” [there is no proof of this] are quoted in the article in a one-sided way. [This in itself is a characteristic of “fake news.”]
31. Some one, or some group, put fake pro-Sanders pages on social media with made up stories about HRC and her campaign. [These were fake news sites created to garner ad revenue due to the many hits they would receive from web surfing] The Sanders campaign said it was being “played” and had nothing to do with the phony sites.
32. More information on the “fake” news phenomena. Automated twitter accounts, known as “bots” and fake news in general ended up producing four times as many pro-Trump as pro-Clinton stories. [This was market driven as Trump generated more hits and ad revenue.] The author concludes with: “Internet researchers and political operatives believe that a substantial number of these bots were aligned with individuals and organizations supported, and sometimes funded, by the Kremlin.” [Such generalized speculation based on what some people believe is worthless as far as any real knowledge of what happened is concerned. It is just a standard propaganda ploy to plant in reader’s minds that they learned something, when they learned nothing, about the Kremlin. It all boils down to “some people believe the Kremlin did X and some people believe the Kremlin didn’t do X. Readers learned something about some people’s beliefs but learned nothing about what the Kremlin did or didn’t do.]
33. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has released 50,000 emails from Podesta’s account and has exposed many underhanded and embarrassing activities of the US government. He once hosted a show on Russian TV. [Fat chance that he will get a show on American TV.] He said about HRC she “will push the United States into endless, stupid wars which spread terrorism.”[ Bush, Obama, and HRC as Secretary of State seem to have already done that. And Trump is on his way.] Assange is in prison today in England (ever obedient to US orders )awaiting extradition to the US as a spy(!) for letting the American people know what their lying government didn’t want them to know. Neither the left nor the MSM seem much concerned over this US threat to the free press.
34. As more and more HRC campaign emails were released by WikiLeaks, the “Clinton campaign tried to shift focus from the details in the e-mails to the fact that they had been hacked.” [Again, they were not “hacked” in the hard sense; they were not properly secured and were swiped and revealed.] That ploy failed, as people were more interested in what the emails revealed about HRC and her people than in how the information fell into the hands of WikiLeaks.
35. Roger Stone, an erstwhile supporter of Trump, is suspected by some Clinton aides of advising WikiLeaks on the timing of the disclosures. [More speculation, the entire article is basically one big speculation and one wonders what was the point in writing it.] There were contacts between Stone and Wikileaks but Assange denied he was the source of the Podesta emails. Stone also denies he has had anything to do with any Russians contrary to any news reports. The FBI never contacted him and he said “If they have evidence of a crime, indict somebody.” [No one will be indicted as a result of this article. Stone’s statement is reminiscent of Putin’s statement that the US, instead of making all these accusations about Russia, should put up the proof for the world to see or shut up. The US has done neither.]
UPDATE: “On January 25, 2019, Stone was arrested at his Fort Lauderdale, Florida, home in connection with Robert Mueller's Special Counsel investigation and charged in an indictment with witness tampering, obstructing an official proceeding, and five counts of making false statements.In November 2019, a jury convicted him on all seven felony counts.He was sentenced to 40 months in prison. On July 10, 2020, days before Stone was scheduled to report to prison, Trump commuted his sentence. On August 17, 2020, he dropped the appeal of his convictions. Trump pardoned Stone on December 23, 2020.”--Wikipedia. No charges of spying were involved.
36. The author points out that the HRC campaign was committing a lot of “tactical errors without foreign assistance.” They also note that Trump was getting more support “than the media recognized” especially from the white-working class [HRC was taking them for granted — her undoing]. Podesta thinks the emails did a lot of damage. [Actually it was the information in the emails that did the damage. An honest and honorable campaign would have had nothing to worry about].
37. More opining by Podesta who thinks in the end, re the election result, “it’s hard to say if any one thing made the difference.” [That includes the last minute FBI announcement about new Clinton emails turning up, the WikiLeaks revelations, the unsubstantiated charges of Russian hacking, the tactical errors of the Clinton campaign, the unpopularity of the candidate, and Trump’s surprise appeal in the swing states virtually ignored by HRC. It was HRC’s election to lose.]
This is the end of part four. From reading part four of The New Yorker Article you will not have learned anything at all about whether or not the Russian government or Putin had anything to do with the "hacking" of the DNC or if they interfered with our elections. Maybe we will learn something in part five.
Thomas Riggins is a retired philosophy teacher (NYU, The New School of Social Research, among others) who received a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center (1983). He has been active in the civil rights and peace movements since the 1960s when he was chairman of the Young People's Socialist League at Florida State University and also worked for CORE in voter registration in north Florida (Leon County). He has written for many online publications such as People's World and Political Affairs where he was an associate editor. He also served on the board of the Bertrand Russell Society and was president of the Corliss Lamont chapter in New York City of the American Humanist Association. He is the author of Reading the Classical Texts of Marxism.
You can't understand the CPC without comprehending Mao's understanding of Marxism-Leninism. The Chinese have said that Mao, Like Stalin, was 70% good and 30% bad (not as a moral judgement but in terms of PC correct and incorrect actions). Both, while living, were the subject of personality cults and were treated as if they were 100% "good." Both were fierce enemies of capitalism and sought to lay the foundations for the future communist society free of all human exploitation but found themselves in historical circumstances that overwhelmed them at times, and in the case of Stalin eventually led to the destruction of the socialist state he created, preserved from Nazism (along with the rest of Europe) and tried to defend in the cold war to which his successors succumbed.
Mao too faced Incomprehensible historical contradictions that Marxist theory was unprepared to answer at the time ( a split with the USSR and an internal CPC civil war expressed as a cultural "revolution"). So for us to understand just what and why the 30% was and came about is vitally important. But also we must study the 70% as well as it was the basis of all the past successes of the world communist movement and is the foundation of its future possibilities of victory. That 70% was based on a correct understanding and application as a guide to action of the theoretically sound foundations laid by Marx and Engels and creatively developed by V.I. Lenin and which our task today is to further develop and adapt to historical conditions in which we find ourselves.
We must, of course, study other progressive thinkers within and without the Marxist tradition, but the works of the founders and their flawed great continuers in the past century will be important weapons for the communist and workers party to wield to attain victories over the capitalists and imperialists who dominate the world today and for us in the USA to bury the forces represented by both Donald Trump and Joe Biden and their enablers (conscious and unconscious) in the Republican and Democratic parties.
The correct understanding of Mao will allow us to better comprehend the current policies of China and the revolutionary significance of Xi Jinping thought.
Thomas Riggins is a retired philosophy teacher (NYU, The New School of Social Research, among others) who received a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center (1983). He has been active in the civil rights and peace movements since the 1960s when he was chairman of the Young People's Socialist League at Florida State University and also worked for CORE in voter registration in north Florida (Leon County). He has written for many online publications such as People's World and Political Affairs where he was an associate editor. He also served on the board of the Bertrand Russell Society and was president of the Corliss Lamont chapter in New York City of the American Humanist Association. He is the author of Reading the Classical Texts of Marxism.
The president’s loan forgiveness plan is narrow and paltry—and his administration’s preparation to fend off outraged criticism from both sides of the aisle speaks volumes.
President Joe Biden has just launched a plan to forgive a portion of federal college loan debt for millions of Americans. In a speech from the White House, he explained that the Department of Education would “forgive $10,000 in outstanding federal student loans” and that Pell Grant recipients would “have their debt reduced [by] $20,000.” Only those making less than $125,000 a year would qualify for the relief. Given that the average student debt is nearly $30,000, this certainly does not erase the burden that millions of Americans carry with them—some doing so for life, from graduation to past retirement.
There is a predictable pattern to Democratic leaders taking progressive economic measures. First, make bold promises. Then, delay keeping the promise and eventually land on a weakened version of the promise. Congratulate oneself on taking such a bold stand. And, finally, face a massive outpouring of criticism from conservative and even liberal pundits, and from some Democrats and all Republicans, that would have come no matter what version of the promise was kept. Biden’s journey on student loan forgiveness follows this depressing pattern.
When campaigning for president, Biden promised that he would “eliminate your student debt if you come from a family [making less] than $125,000 and went to a public university,” and that everyone would get “$10,000 knocked off of their student debt.”
It took Biden more than two years to land on a plan that forgives only $10,000 to $20,000 of debt, and that too, for a narrowly defined group of borrowers. During those two years, he resorted to delaying tactics such as punting responsibility back to Congress, questioning his own authority to take the step, and claiming to be reviewing his options.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi played her part in discouraging Biden by claiming a year ago that he did not have the presidential authority to cancel student debt. She said, “The president can’t do it—so that’s not even a discussion,” and added, “Not everybody realizes that, but the president can only postpone, delay but not forgive” student loans.
Still, according to Politico, the White House regularly received so many letters from people demanding student debt relief that staff were eventually asked to stop passing them on to the president for review as he agonized over keeping even a small part of his campaign promise.
When he finally landed on his paltry plan, Biden announced it to great fanfare in a 20-minute speech that began with a meandering dive into his own family background and the story of his father’s shame at trying and failing to obtain a loan so he could fund his son’s college education. Biden reminded Americans that as a presidential candidate, he “made a commitment that we’d provide student debt relief,” but failed to mention that his original promise had extended far beyond what he took two years to deliver. As if acknowledging that his plan is hardly radical, Biden said, “Some think it’s too little,” and added, “But I believe my plan is responsible and fair.”
Cue the outrage from politicians and pundits. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called Biden’s plan “student loan socialism” and “a slap in the face to working Americans,” while extremist Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene told Newsmax, “taxpayers that never took out a student loan… shouldn’t have to pay off the great big student loan debt for some college student that piled up massive debt going to some Ivy League school.”
Former Republican lawmaker-turned-pundit Charlie Dent denounced the plan in an op-ed on CNN.com as “unfair and unwise,” while the Washington Post’s liberal commentator Catherine Rampell took a creative approach in claiming it was a “Democratic version of ‘trickle-down’ economics,” because “plenty of other, less-strapped people will enjoy a windfall, too.”
The Biden administration, to its credit, immediately began identifying Republican criticism on Twitter and tagging it with the exact amounts of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans that those critics received and were forgiven.
This implies that the president was expecting the outrage. It also means that if he was going to pay a political price for such a small measure of relief, he could have, and should have, gone so much further than he did.
Biden’s plan does deserve criticism, but not because it goes too far—on the contrary, it does far too little, especially for people of color.
Academic, activist, and former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner put Biden’s debt relief program into context succinctly on Twitter, saying, “Canceling $10,000 in student debt when the average white borrower is $12,000 in debt, while Black women hold on average over $52,000 isn’t just unacceptable, it’s structural racism.”
She’s right. A 2021 ACLU analysis pointed out that “Black families have far less wealth to draw on to pay for college,” and therefore, “Black families are more likely to borrow, to borrow more, and to have trouble in repayment.” Such analysis of the loan forgiveness plan appears to be entirely missing from the mainstream debate.
Establishment critics are also failing to point out that the reason so many Americans are burdened with so much college debt to begin with is that there has been a concerted effort over several decades by both liberal and conservative politicians to allow student debt to expand to unsustainable levels.
Chief among this was Ronald Reagan’s push to lower government spending in the 1980s. Black studies professor Devin Fergus explained how “No federal program suffered deeper cuts than student aid,” and that “these changes shifted the federal government’s focus from providing students higher education grants to providing loans.” Fergus’s analysis—so relevant to the current debate over Biden’s debt forgiveness plan—was part of an op-ed that the Washington Post published back in 2014.
Additionally, Democrats are not innocent in creating the problem. The Intercept pointed out in January 2020 how Biden “played a central role” in supporting legislation during his tenure as senator that allowed college debt to balloon. Specifically, “Biden was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the disastrous 2005 bankruptcy bill that made it nearly impossible for borrowers to reduce their student loan debt.”
Today, with college loan debt at an all-time high, and a majority of Americans supporting the erasure of some or all student debt, the supposedly liberal party cannot even coalesce around its own president’s far-too-modest debt forgiveness program, with so-called centrists like Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio claiming it goes too far.
Those who are invested in the upward mobility of wealth will always express outrage against economic justice. Responding to his critics, the president tweeted, “I will never apologize for helping America’s middle class—especially not to the same folks who voted for a $2 trillion tax cut for the wealthy and giant corporations that racked up the deficit.”
Biden could have doubled or tripled the extent of his debt forgiveness plan and made the exact same retort.
Sonali Kolhatkar is the founder, host and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute.
This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
Karl Marx’s view of the productive forces and its development today By: Kien Thi-Pham & Dung Bui-XuanRead Now
Republished under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 creative commons license. Photo: Robert Scarth via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0).
When studying human society, Karl Marx affirmed that all changes in social life, in the end, originate from the transformation of the productive forces. The development of productive forces is expressed through the conquest of the nature of men.
Productive forces reflect the actual capability of men in the process of creating wealth for society and ensuring human development. In any society, in order to create wealth, both workers and means of production are needed. Without instruments for the labor process, men cannot create wealth. That development provides us with more convincing practical evidence to continue affirming Karl Marx’s precise view of the productive forces, and at the same time requires us to supplement and develop his view on this issue inconsistent with reality. In the current context of globalization and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is essential to clarify all the practical capabilities used in the production process of the society over the world’s development periods to promote social development. Therefore, this article clarifies the basic arguments to analyze Karl Marx’s view on the productive forces and see the need to refresh and supplement Karl Marx’s theory in the current situation.
In order to survive and develop, men must work to create material wealth. It is this process that makes the difference in each era. As an expression of the relationship between men and nature, productive forces are constantly moving and developing in the production of material wealth. Today, the modern science and technology revolution with dramatic strides is having comprehensive impacts on the economy of each country as well as the world. The world economy has been profoundly and strongly changing in terms of structure, function and direction of operation. Therefore, in their development process, productive forces have also changed(Kien; 2020a). G A Cohen in Karl Marx’s Theory of History: A Defense pointed out the values of Karl Marx’s philosophy of historical materialism with his contributions to the productive forces. According to him, the new productive force manifests its existence through the new relations of production in which salaried workers use the capital created (Cohen, 2020). The article clarifies mistakes in perceiving and refuting the Marxist theory. The values left behind by Marxist theory about the change of social modes in each era are due to the decisive role of productive forces(Shimp, 2009).
In this article, the authors clarify Karl Marx’s view of productive forces as a central concept of historical materialism. A study on the connotation of this concept is the basis for understanding the entire movement and development in the production of the material wealth of human society. The article has systematically studied Karl Marx’s works on productive forces. Karl Marx, by explaining arguments of historical materialism, pointed out the connotations of productive forces in his works, including “The German Ideology”, “The poverty of philosophy”, “Wage Labor and Capital”, “Value, Price and Profit”. Especially, in “Capital”, the connotation of productive forces is further elucidated by Karl Marx and F. Engels with more insights. It is also the scientific basis for understanding the nature and dynamics of socio-historical development through the labor of men(Marx Karl and Friedrich Engels, 1998). The quantity of production is expressed through the bourgeois economic system in the following order: capital, rent, wage – labor; State, foreign trade, world market(Marx, 2010).
The starting point in Karl Marx’s study on history and society is the production of material life by men’s practical activities. According to him, men began to be distinguished from animals when they produced the means of subsistence to serve their essential needs. He wrote: “Men must be in a position to live in order to be able to ‘make history.’ But life involves before everything else eating and drinking, a habitation, clothing and many other things. The first historical act is thus the production of the means to satisfy these needs, the production of material life itself”(Karl Marx to Friedrich Engels, 2002b; Vygodskii, 2002). So, the first premise for human existence is the production of the means to satisfy needs. It is the very production of material life. Simultaneously with that process, men also create aspects of social life. Karl Marx wrote: “The production of the direct means of subsistence and each certain stage of economic development of a nation or an epoch create a base for the development of institutions, rule-of-law viewpoints, art, and even religious notions of men”(Karl Marx to Friedrich Engels, 2002a). Friedrich Engels wrote that Marx “discovered the law of development of human history” in much the same way that Darwin discovered the law of development of organic natures, with the argument of productive forces in the production of material life, Karl Marx affirmed his complete materialist conception(Marx Karl, 1983).
However, the movement and development of productive forces will not be as pointed out by Karl Marx, because the development of science and technology will change the subjects and means of labor. It also requires workers to change in all aspects. However, within the limited scale of research, this article cannot fully cover the development of science and technology from the time of Karl Marx to date, nor does it discuss the relationship between productive forces and relations of production or clarify influencing conditions such as environment, geography, population or production methods. The above factors still interact and directly affect the development of productive forces(Shaw, 2020).
The highlight of this article is that through the development of the production of material wealth, the productive forces in the time of Karl Marx and today are clearly understood and systematically presented. At the same time, after the death of Karl Marx, up to now, productive forces have changed and transformed in the development process of human history.
In this article, the authors clarify the arguments about productive forces from Karl Marx’s point of view to prove the values pointed out by him in the movement and development of society. On that basis, the article clarifies the structure of productive forces with their constituents, i.e. workers and means of production. To clarify the development of productive forces, the article explains the arguments about productive forces mentioned by Karl Marx’s theory from his time to the present, i.e. from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 21st century.
To shed light on the development of the productive forces, the article deploys methodology of dialectic materialism, which are a system of viewpoints and principles that determine the scope and applicability of requirements and methods in a reasonable and effective manner to explain the relationships between productive forces in the development of their constituents and in the movement and development of society. These methods are the basis for understanding the development of human history, first of all the history of production development, as well as the process of human development in different historical periods. Specifically, with the principle of comprehensiveness, the study must identify productive forces in the production of material wealth, demonstrate the objectivity and inseparable attachments of the constituents of productive forces in their organic relations with each other. Moreover, those relations are extremely rich, diverse and complex, including both essential and non-essential, natural and accidental, primary and secondary relations between productive forces. Also, the article uses the principle of development to point out that in this process, the movement of each subject always goes from low to high, from simple to complicated, and from imperfect to perfect.
The historical principle is specifically understood as productive forces in the process of existence, movement and development under specific space and time conditions from the time of Karl Marx to the present, with direct influences on the properties and characteristics of the subject. If the same object exists under specifically different conditions of time and space, its properties and characteristics will be different, and its nature can even be changed completely.
From the methodology, the article uses a mixed research method combining qualitative ones with the understanding of historical methods to find out the origin, process of development and transformation of productive forces in order to discover their nature and laws. This method of research is used to analyze existing theoretical documents in order to detect trends and schools of research, thereby clarifying the history of researching productive forces. Analyzing means dividing the whole into simple parts, aspects and constituents in order to study and discover each attribute and nature of each factor, i.e. workers and means of production, thereby understand the subject of the study more coherently, systematically, richly and diversely.
Results & Discussion
The view on productive forcesThe concept of productive forces has been proposed by many scholars before Karl Marx but interpreted in an idealistic way. This concept was only scientifically explained for the first time in March 1845, when Karl Marx wrote the “Draft of an article on Friedrich List’s book: System of Political Economy”. Here, Karl Marx pointed out the idealistic thought in List’s theory and exposed its bourgeois characteristics. Karl Marx pointed out that productive forces are not some “spiritual essence” as thought by List, but material forces. He wrote: “In order to destroy the mystical radiance which transfigures ‘productive force”, one has only to consult any book of statistics. There one reads about water-power, steam-power, manpower, horse-power. All these are “productive forces”(Karl Marx to Friedrich Engels, 2002 -a). Thus, from the point of view of Marx, it can be understood that productive forces are a concept used to refer to the combination of workers and means of production to create a certain productive force.
The constituents of productive forces in Karl Marx’s point of view
When discussing productive forces, Karl Marx also pointed out the basic elements that constitute them, namely workers and means of production. And when analyzing the elements of productive forces, he used many different ways of classification, such as classifying into means of production and labor power according to the uses of productive forces. Means of production also includes: means of labor, instruments of labor and subjects of labor. Productive forces can also be classified into natural forces and human forces based on their creators. Karl Marx emphasized: “Men, as a productive force, not only create material wealth, but together with natural productive forces become a revolutionary force that promotes the development of society.”(Karl Marx to Friedrich Engels, 2002 -b)
With the two ways of classification stated above, Karl Marx wanted to clarify the relationship and development of productive forces as well as their constituents. Within the scope of this article, the authors follow the first way of classification to clarify the factors constituting productive forces. On that basis, the article explains the following points:
Regarding workers: Workers participate in the productive forces as a commodity of labor power. Karl Marx said: “Labor power or labor capacity is the totality of physical and mental capabilities existing in the body, in a living person, and used by that person when producing a use value”(Karl Marx to Friedrich Engels, 2002 -c).
Regarding means of production, this was clarified by Karl Marx with their constituents being subjects, means and instruments of labor. In which, subjects of labor are material forms capable of being created into items according to purposes and requirements to meet certain needs of men, and only when being impacted, exploited and improved by men do they become subjects of labor. Karl Marx said: “While all raw materials are subjects of labor, it cannot be said that all subjects of labor are raw materials. Subjects of labor are only to be understood as raw materials if they have already passed through the labor process”(Karl Marx, 2002a, 2002b)
Instruments of labor are objects used by men to directly impact subjects of labor to produce material wealth. This proves the practical capabilities of men in the process of transforming the natural world. Men use labor instruments to influence the natural world and create material wealth to serve their essential needs. Also in that process, men grasp the laws of nature and turn nature from a wild and simple place into a “second world” with the participation of their hands and brains. Material production is always changing, so productive forces are a dynamic factor and a process that is constantly being innovated and developed. It is also the basic criterion to assess social progress in a given historical period. Therefore, in “The German Ideology”, Karl Marx asserted: “History is nothing but the succession of the separate generations, each of which exploits the materials, the capital funds, the productive forces handed down to it by all preceding generations, and thus, on the one hand, continues the traditional activity in completely changed circumstances and, on the other, modifies the old circumstances with a completely changed activity”(Karl Marx, 2002c)
Regarding the relationship between the subject of labor, the instrument of labor and workers, according to Marx, in order to transform the natural world to create material wealth, workers need to have a synergy. First of all, it is the strength of the body and the mind – the factors that make up men’s ability to work. He wrote: “In order to possess natural things in a form useful to his own life, man makes use of the forces of nature in him: the arms and legs, the head and hands”(Karl Marx, 2002d). However, if it just stops there, the process of material production cannot take place. In addition to himself, man also uses other factors, such as “using the mechanical, physical and chemical properties of objects to act on other objects according to his purposes”(Karl Marx, 2002d). These objects are called “instruments” by Karl Marx, which helps workers to extend their hands and make the process of affecting nature more effective. If the means of production are a necessary condition for material production, then the workers are the subjects who play a decisive role in the development of production. Thus, according to Karl Marx, without men to build and use instruments of labor to affect the natural world, there will be no production of material wealth.
Regarding means of labor, these do not directly create products but have a great influence on production. Means of production affect social production efficiency, because these factors contribute to increasing or reducing transaction costs and costs for transporting materials and preserving products, which are also taken from the value of products.
In the production process, productive forces in the relationship with workers and means of production will change the production of the society; the workers have a crucial role in making contributions to the production process through their productiveness. According to K. Marx, productiveness is the production capacity of specific productive labor. It reflects the results of men’s purposeful production in a certain unit of time.
Therefore, according to Karl Marx: “Apart from the social form of production, the productiveness of labor depends on the natural conditions under which the labor is performed … The external natural conditions, from the economic point of view, split up into two great classes: natural wealth in means of subsistence—i.e., a fertile soil, waters well stocked with fish, etc.; and natural wealth in the instruments of labor, such as waterfalls, navigable rivers, wood, metal, coal, etc. In the beginnings of civilization, it is the first class which is decisive; later on, in a more advanced society, it is the second”(Karl Marx, 2002e).
However, Karl Marx emphasized that natural productiveness does not play a decisive role in progressive development (i.e. development by increasing social productivity); on the contrary, “Too generous nature will hold the hands of man and walk him like a toddler. It does not make human development naturally inevitable”(Karl Marx, 2002e). Thus, Karl Marx appreciated men’s productiveness. He wrote: “It is the need for social control over a certain force of nature to use it economically, the very need to take it or to master it with large-scale works built by human hands, – it is that necessity that has plays a very decisive role in industrial history”(Karl Marx, 2002e). Productive forces in the relationship with workers and means of production, with the highlight on the role of means of production, are manifested through the development of science and technology in the production process, which Karl Marx thought as immediate productive forces.
Karl Marx highly appreciated the role of science and technology in the process of material production in general and the development of productive forces in particular. Through scientific research, he made the judgment that: “The development of constant capital is an indication of the extent to which general social knowledge is transformed into an immediate productive force, thus it is also an indication of the extent to which conditions of the life process have been submissive to the control of popular wisdom and improved to suit that process; to which productive forces are created not only in the form of knowledge, but also as direct social practice agencies of the real life process”(Karl Marx, 2002f). According to the above argument of Karl Marx, scientific knowledge transformed constant capital such as factories and machinery used in production, and to a certain extent they become an immediate productive force.
In other words, scientific knowledge is applied and materialized into machinery and instruments of production, which are used by workers in the production process, thus becoming an immediate productive force. The conditions for scientific knowledge to become an immediate productive force have been determined by Karl Marx as follows: “The development of machinery system on that path only begins when the great industry has achieved a higher level of development and all sciences serve as capital, while the existing machinery system itself has tremendous resources. Thus, invention becomes a special profession, and for that profession, the application of science to immediate production itself becomes one of the decisive and simulating factors”(Karl Marx, 2002g).
Thus, standing on the historical materialist point of view, Karl Marx affirmed that productive forces represent the practical capability of men in impacting the natural world to create material wealth. Therefore, productive forces also measure the development of the material production of men in each certain socioeconomic form.
By clarifying the factors that make up productive forces, Karl Marx believed that, when considering the process of labor abstractly without depending on its historical form and as a process between men and nature: “In terms of results, i.e. using products to assess the whole process, both means of labor and subjects of labor are means of production, while labor itself is productive labor… This definition of productive labor is from the point of view of a simple labor process”(Karl Marx, 2002h).
The development of productive forces in the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Today, our living conditions have many new and different things compared to the era of Karl Marx. Science and technology have made great advances, contributing to the creation of a productive force that humanity has never seen before. General social knowledge is becoming an immediate productive force, just as Karl Marx predicted; and productivity, as a result, increases rapidly. Productivity is measured by the number of products made in a unit of time, or by the amount of time spent to produce a unit of product. Through that, productivity reflects the effectiveness of the use of labor. In essence, it measures the output value generated by a worker over a certain period of time, or the amount of time it takes to produce a unit of output. Thus, productivity reflects the relationship between the output (product) and the input (labor) measured by working time.
Currently, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterized by the combined use of hardware, robots and information technology software. It is the combination of advanced technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), social networks, cloud computing, mobility, big data analysis (SMAC), etc. to transform the entire real world into a digital world at a very fast pace and very large scale, integrating many fields with multi-dimensional interaction(Kien; 2020b).
Productive forces today have far exceeded those in the time of Karl Marx. Karl Marx developed his doctrine during the second industrial revolution (the first revolution was marked by the advent of the steam engine, the second one by electricity). Meanwhile, humanity is near the end of the third industrial revolution with digital instruments (computers) and is entering the fourth revolution to open up the era of artificial intelligence.
The achievements of modern science and technology have directly impacted the development of all constituents of productive forces: means of production and workers. Especially, in the fourth industrial revolution, men mainly use means of production being natural resources and machinery to create products. The fourth industrial revolution is changing the way of production and manufacturing, and is strongly influential on all factors of productive forces. Therefore, Marxist socioeconomic theory in general and view on productive forces in particular, despite having many sustainable values, are not without room for development. V.I.Lenin, who relentlessly defended and developed Marxism, also emphasized: “We do never consider Karl Marx’s theory as something that is complete and untouchable; on the contrary, we believe that the theory only lays the foundation for the science that socialists need to further develop in all aspects if they do not want to become obsolete”(Vladimir Lenin, 1978).
Regarding workers today, when it comes to the development of productive forces in the capitalist period, he argued that the main workforce of a capitalist society is the workers, the proletariats. They are “a social class that only earn their living by selling their labor”, “a class of people who do not own any means” and “forced to sell their labor under capitalism in exchange for necessary means of subsistence(Karl Marx, 2002i).
Today, the Fourth Industrial Revolution affects the number of jobs created through the replacement of labor power with machines, robots, artificial intelligence and the application of information technology to a number of industries and professions that are rapidly penetrating the workplace in the labor market. The trend of employment will shift from labor-intensive production to one that requires more knowledge and technology. The fourth industrial revolution also changes the function of humans in production: human gradually ceases to directly operate technical systems, and turn to mainly create and adjust that process.
Therefore, the working class includes not only purely manual workers but also intellectual ones. Moreover, in the current period, workers themselves have also changed significantly. In the time of Karl Marx, the workforce was mainly mechanical workers, mostly manual ones; but today, the achievements of the fourth industrial revolution have increasingly improved labor instruments; human labor is liberated, and the level of knowledge, skills and techniques of workers is constantly improved. Therefore, in many factories, the number of scientific and technological human resources directly involved in the production process accounts for an increasing proportion, which is much higher than the number of regular manual workers. The number of intellectual workers tends to increase in both quantity and quality, which has gradually changed the proportion of unskilled and highly-skilled workers. Workers need to meet the requirements of technical skills (at a medium and high level) including specialized knowledge and skills to perform specific jobs, and also need to have core, soft working skills including: the ability to think creatively and be proactive at work; skills in using a computer and the internet; foreign language skills, teamwork skills, safety skills and compliance with labor discipline, problem-solving skills, time management skills, concentration skills, etc.
Digital technologies that integrate all information regarding technology, processes, production methods, needs of industries, professions and skills, etc. and especially the ability to connect and share information around the world through technological devices will change the supply and demand structure in the labor market, eliminate the hard border between countries in the region, make the regional labor market more vibrant and promote job creation for each member country. The improvement of qualifications of human resources by applying automation to production will offer the chance to transfer workers to different active positions and train them to quickly adapt to the technology. Instead of having to do their job manually, now workers will be able to improve their skills to control machines to do those jobs for them.
Therefore, this helps workers to be more specialized and have the fastest access to modern technology. Workers are now liberated not only in terms of manual labor but also in terms of mental labor. Machines – the instruments of labor in the era of the fourth industrial revolution are not only an extension of the worker’s arm, but that arm is also “smart”. The communication between workers – high-end robots – intelligent machines… affects the introduction of new raw materials and fuels to create products according to human needs, even meeting the increasing needs for personalization of each consumer.
Instruments of labor are increasingly improved. The fourth industrial revolution frees up human labor; and the level of knowledge, skills and techniques of workers is constantly improved. In that context, production needs to be supplemented with the aspect of “man living in harmony with nature”. Instruments of labor are now represented by automation in production. Automation in production means how workers use advanced technologies in the production process to transfer a large part or all of the production activities done by human labor to machines and equipment. Thus, automated processes will not need too much human intervention, but will use different control systems to help machines operate faster and more accurately, with some processes are even fully automated. Automation in production now will become a thriving field that is shaped by the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and analytics services relating to sweeping digital changes in the production process. Thanks to this, machines operate 24/7 without having to rest or take time off between shifts like workers. Moreover, the operating speed of automated production lines is many times faster than human manual operations. Therefore, it will help factories improve productivity significantly. At that time, the development of productive forces is promoted.
The workforce today is more diverse thanks to the application of technology in the fourth industrial revolution. Resources, fuels and raw materials have become more diverse, including many with increasing knowledge content. In an industrial economy using natural resources as inputs, these resources are becoming scarcer and exhausted due to the overexploitation of men. However, the rapid development of science and technology has helped humans discover many new properties of natural resources. Many materials that were previously thought to be useless have become those of great utility, and their useful properties are multiplied with the establishment of many new industries which create new, more diverse and richer subjects of labor. New materials are, in general, lighter, more durable, recyclable and adaptable. They can be smart, self-repairing or self-cleaning materials; metals that have the ability to restore their original shapes; ceramics and crystals that can turn pressure into energy. Especially, many products are made not from traditional materials, but from nanomaterials, molecules or even atoms… In the field of digitization, a prominent feature of digital technology is the birth of the Internet of Things (IOT). This refers to the relationship between things and humans through connection technologies on different platforms (iPhone, 3G, 4G, 5G; and when the quantum Internet comes to life, it can be nG(M Skilton, 2018; Mark Skilton & Hovsepian, 2018).
Means of labor today include self-driving vehicles (airplanes, cars, ships, etc.) which have made an important step forward to reach the civil and commercial scale and level, rapidly develop and gradually popularize in countries around the world…. 3D printing technology creates a product by printing its layers according to a pre-made 3D model. All products for humans use (tools, cars, airplanes, houses and even parts of the humans body like prosthetic ears, arms, legs, etc.) can be produced by 3D printing, fundamentally changing the way of production. High-end robots, i.e. robots with artificial intelligence are being used more and more widely, making the interaction between human and smart machines a reality.
Productive forces today have many new features that far exceed those in the time of Karl Marx. Especially, industrial revolutions have pushed science and technology to the role of a new productive force, with the high level of workers and modern means of production. Thus, we cannot deny the great role of productive forces in mankind’s conquest of the natural world. Also, the development of productive forces has led to the process of globalization and is the driving force for the development of the fourth industrial revolution. That development is the basis for continuing to affirm the precise and sustainable values of Marxism about productive forces; at the same time, it sets forth new requirements to increase the vitality of that doctrine to be suitable for the conditions and circumstances of the current period. That is why even today people still want to learn about the theory of Karl Marx.
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This article was republished from Arkansas Worker.
Saint Domingue, the territory that is today known as Haiti, was a French colony from 1659 to 1804. Known as the “Pearl of the Antilles”, this colony was a source of enormous wealth, producing 40% of all the sugar and 60% of all the coffee consumed in Europe. These riches were produced on the backs of brutally exploited African slaves.
The colonial society of Saint Domingue had four different class strata:
(a) The “grand blancs”(Big Whites), the wealthy white plantation owners
(b) The “petit blancs”(Small Whites), smaller white landowners, merchants and artisans
(c ) The “coloreds”, mixed race, many of whom were plantation owners themselves
(d) On the bottom, the masses of African slaves
By 1789, the total white population was around 50,000, while the black slaves numbered half a million, outnumbering whites by a factor of ten to one.
Such a system could only be held together through extreme violence and terror. Many slaves were literally worked to death. Conditions were so brutal that roughly every 20 years, nearly the entire black population was replaced, it being cheaper to import new slaves directly from Africa than to keep the current ones alive. The colony was essentially an open air concentration camp.
In 1789, the French Revolution upended the aristocratic order in France, and eventually, all of Europe. The shock waves rolled outward across the Atlantic and upset the rigid racial colonial hierarchy. The proclamations of Liberty, Equality and the Brotherhood of all mankind were picked up by the colonies’ subjects and interpreted to mean that it applied to them too.
The first to make a move were the so called ‘Coloreds’. A number of them had been educated in France itself, had been exposed to the Enlightenment ideas of Rousseau and Voltaire and others preaching natural rights of men, and were also men of wealth. They came to believe that they were entitled to the new rights the white Frenchmen had won for themselves. Vincent Oge, a mixed race aristocrat and himself a slave owner, was in Paris on business when the French Revolution broke out. He unsuccessfully petitioned the new government to give mixed race men full citizenship rights, but was stonewalled. The gains of the revolution were for whites only.
In frustration, Oge returned to Saint Domingue and began an armed rebellion against the white planters in 1790. He and his followers were quickly defeated, and he was brutally tortured to death in public.
The plantation owners extinguished a small fire, yet a volcanic eruption was coming.
One August 14, 1791, thousands of slaves gathered in secret at Bois Caman for a voodoo religious ceremony. This mass meeting, headed by a shaman known as Dutty Boukman, was used as a cover for planning a revolt.
A week later on August 22, the revolution began. The northern plains of Saint Domingue, around the port of Le Cap, exploded in a cataclysm of violence. Using fires to give the signal to revolt, tens of thousands of slaves rose up. Avenging centuries of oppression, the Africans killed every white person they could find. In just the first two months of the rebellion 4,000 whites were killed and 180 sugar plantations were destroyed. Eyewitness accounts said that you could read your letters at night from the light of the burning plantations.
Initially, the rebelling slaves were not fighting for independence from France. They believed (falsely) that the French King Louis XVI had issued a proclamation abolishing slavery, which the colonial governor had suppressed. Nonetheless, the French government recognized the seriousness of the situation, fearing losing their most valuable colony. In 1792, they passed a law giving full citizenship rights to free blacks and mixed race people. They also dispatched Léger-Félicité Sonthonax, a Girondin and an abolitionist, to be the colony’s new governor and enforce the new policies.
Meanwhile, a new leader of the rebellion was emerging to prominence- Toussaint L’Ouverture. Boukman, the original instigator of the rebellion, was captured and beheaded by the French. Into the leadership vacuum stepped Toussaint, who unlike the other slaves was literate and educated. He had had an unusually enlightened master who encouraged him to learn to read and write. He had read all the great Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the military tactics of Julius Caesar.
Toussaint approached the Spanish, who controlled the other two thirds of the same island Saint Domingue was on, to make a tactical alliance. Spain wanted to take advantage of the chaos to seize the French colony for themselves. With Spanish weapons and supplies, Toussaint turned the rowdy mobs of rebelling slaves into a disciplined army capable of waging regular battles.
With Toussaint’s forces making steady gains and one third of the colony already in rebel hands, Sonthonax realized he had to take more radical measures to save the colony for France. In August 1793 he declared slavery abolished in the northern part of the colony.
This blew up in his face. The French plantation owners, overwhelmingly monarchists who hated Sonthonax for his republican views anyway, exploded with rage. They welcomed and assisted a British invasion of Saint Domingue, in September 1793. British troops put the slaves back in chains everywhere they went.
Toussaint’s forces kept advancing from the east, while British troops closed in from the west. France, fighting its enemies on all sides back in Europe, did not have sufficient troops available in Saint Domingue to both repel the British and suppress the slave revolt at the same time. Toussaint presented Paris with an offer- he would switch his allegiance to France, but only in exchange for the emancipation of all the slaves, no exceptions.
In February 1794, the French National Assembly passed a law declaring all one million of the slaves in France’s colonies free.
Now that the cause of France and the cause of liberty were one and the same, Toussaint turned his back on the Spanish and allied with the French in May 1794. His forces fought alongside regular French troops to push the British off the island.
After four years of protracted, brutal fighting, the British were completely defeated. Toussaint entered the colonial capital of Port Au Prince in triumph in 1798. The British lost a total of 100,000 soldiers in Saint Domingue- both from the fighting and yellow fever.
Almost as soon as the British were expelled, a civil war broke out in the colony. Two mixed race generals, Rigaud and Petion, challenged Toussaint’s authority. They rebelled in the south of Saint Domingue, alarmed that the emancipation of black people would threaten their (relative) privileges. They massacred both blacks and whites. Toussaint crushed this revolt in the so-called “War of the Knives”. By 1800 he was completely in control, although still officially running things on behalf of France.
Toussaint declared to the Directory, the ruling body of France: “We have known how to face dangers to achieve our liberty, we shall know how to brave death to attain it”. Slave owners throughout the Caribbean quaked in terror.
In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte took power in France in a military coup. His rise represented the consolidation of the bourgeois state in France and thus, the curtailing of its more radical egalitarianism. The displaced plantation owners petitioned Napoleon in Paris to restore their properties and wealth in Saint Domingue, and he heeded their advice.
In 1802, Napoleon assembled a massive invasion force of 30,000 soldiers aboard 60 warships to reconquer the colony. He put his brother in law, Charles Leclerc, in charge of the expedition. Officially the purpose of the expedition was only to oust Toussaint, who was accused of overstepping his bounds as the governor of Saint Domingue and illegally usurping power. But the secret instructions were also to restore slavery.
Outnumbered and outgunned by the invaders when they made landfall, Toussaint retreated from the coast into the interior. He intended to wear the French down in the forests and mountains. A major battle unfolded in La Crete a Pierrot in March 1802, a fortress guarding a strategic mountain pass into the center of the island. The black forces holding the fort, numbering 2,000 men and women, repelled successive attacks by 15,000 of Napoleon's best troops for almost a month. The French prevailed but with heavy losses- over 1,500 dead and wounded. They massacred the black prisoners after they surrendered.
Two of Toussaint’s key commanders, Henri Cristophe and Jean Jacques Dessalines, concluded that the rebel cause was doomed. They switched sides to the French after they were told they could keep their military commands. Toussaint agreed to negotiations with the French. In May 1802, he was betrayed and taken prisoner at the site of the peace conference. Toussaint’s wife and children were sold back into slavery. The proud leader was shackled and put on a ship back to Europe, where he was imprisoned in a fortress in the Swiss Alps. He died in prison a year later.
Toussaint told his captors: “In overthrowing me you have cut down only the trunk of the tree of liberty; it will spring up again from its roots, for they are many and they are deep”
Shortly after Toussaint’s capture, word reached Saint Domingue that slavery had been restored in the French colony of Guadeloupe. Fearing (accurately) that Saint Domingue was next, armed resistance to the French spread like wildfire everywhere. The French were no longer fighting only rebels but an entire population- men, women and children.
General Leclerc died of yellow fever in November 1802 and his succeeding commander General Rochambeau used unprecedented terror to put down the revolt. Man eating dogs were brought in from Cuba to maul black prisoners. Prisoners were packed into the hulls of French ships and were mass murdered with burning sulfur. But all these barbarities failed.
Leading the rebels in this final phase of the war was Jean Jacques Dessalines, who had once again turned against the French. Dessalines was not in any way sentimental. He knew that this was a war of annihilation- one that would either result in the extermination of the whites or the re enslavement of the blacks. He fought fire with fire, answering Rochambeau’s massacres with his own.
Napoleon had brought over regiments of Poles to fight in Saint Domingue, dubbed the Polish Legion. Once there, the Poles realized they sympathized with the black rebels, who were fighting for their independence just like their compatriots back in Poland were struggling for independence from Tsarist Russia. In an inspiring display of internationalism, the Poles switched sides and fought with the slave revolution. Dessalines praised these men as the “white Negroes of Haiti”.
Dying like flies from incessant rebel attacks and yellow fever, the French position in Saint Domingue was increasingly hopeless. The final great battle was at Vertieres in November 1803, where Dessalines military forces overwhelmed a major French stronghold.
In December 1803 the last regular French military units left the island. The only successful slave rebellion in human history had occurred. The French had lost somewhere around 75,000 of their soldiers in total, and the black rebellion had sacrificed 200,000 of their people-nearly half of the entire population- for their freedom.
In January 1804, Dessalines officially declared the independence of the Republic of Haiti, after the indigenous Arawak name for the island. All the remaining white French plantation owners and their families were massacred- three to five thousand people. The white of the French flag was ripped out so that only the red and blue remained in the flag of the new republic.
Dessalines declared “I have avenged America”
Unfortunately, Dessalines was less able as a ruler than he was as a war leader. He abandoned republicanism quickly and turned to monarchy, crowning himself Emperor. He ordered the black population back to the plantations to get sugar exports back up and running, making people feel little had changed since slavery.
Resentment of his autocratic rule grew and he was assassinated by his own soldiers in 1806. This began a long, sad tradition of military dictatorships and coups in Haiti, one which continues to the present day.
Dessaline's successor, Henri Cristophe, ordered the construction of a massive mountain fortress to deter any possible future French invasion, which became known as the Citadelle Laferriere. It took 20,000 laborers 15 years to build, and was completed in 1820. On top of a 3,000 foot mountain, this fortress had over 300 cannons and enough provisions to feed 5,000 soldiers for over a year. This fortress still stands to this day, surviving Haiti’s numerous earthquakes.
The independent black state was economically strangled. It had no allies. None of the white colonial powers would recognize the government or trade with them. Haiti was subjected to international isolation and a harsh trade embargo for 20 years.
Facing starvation, Haiti entered into a humiliating agreement with France in 1825 where they were agreed to pay reparations for the lost property of the French slave owners. For over a century, Haiti paid France the equivalent of 21 billion dollars in today’s currency. They didn’t fully pay off the last of this debt until 1947- 120 years later. At times, 80% of Haiti’s entire budget was consumed with paying this debt. One of the main creditors of this debt was the National City Bank of New York, which later became Citibank.
This permanently crippled Haiti’s ability to develop economically, and played a decisive role in making Haiti the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere to this day. Imperialism has a long and vindictive memory, and will make a harsh example out of any people who dares to resist them.
May the world never forget the heroes of Haiti who struck a blow for liberty that reverberates across centuries, terrifying tyrants, slavers and imperialists everywhere.
CLR James, The Black Jacobins (Vintage Press, 1989).
Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Beacon Press, 1995).
Book Review: Robert Lekachman & Borin Van Loon – Capitalism for Beginners (1981)Reviewed By: Jymee CRead Now
One of the most crucial tasks in the movement for socialism and the general liberation of the proletariat is to hold a proper understanding of capitalism. How the system functions, its history, the arguments in its favor perpetuated by the ruling class, a strong grasp on these concepts works to ensure that we as socialists and communists are duly prepared to fight against the reactionary, hegemonic forces of capitalism on a global scale. Without such knowledge, without a solid understanding of the theoretical and historical foundations of capitalism, our fight is faulty and ultimately incomplete.
The writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and numerous others throughout history have provided integral analyses of capitalism, imperialism, and similar reactionary isms that stand in the way of constructing socialism. These are essential for all of us within the socialist movement to study, however, there do exist some challenges that may make studying these texts more difficult for someone. The density of the work (especially some of Marx’s writings), the lack of historical context, or even something such as having a learning disability can make studying these works a more difficult task for several people. Socialist economist Robert Lekachman’s 1981 book Capitalism for Beginners, with illustrations from Borin Van Loon, serves as a potential secondary tool in strengthening how capitalism is understood and what can be done to address the inherent issues within the system.
Capitalism for Beginners provides a critical lens in the pursuit of educating readers on the ins and outs of capitalism from its historical foundation onward. The first third of this book is used as a platform to discuss, how capitalism has managed to maintain such a stranglehold on American economics, politics, and culture as it developed within the United States. In providing a brief overview of capitalism, Lekachman utilizes this brief description as a segway into addressing why socialism had not been able to muster a strong position within the US. Comparing the conditions of the United States and Europe, the myth of class mobility was born into the US, with the myth in question alongside the lack of a peasantry and other similar class positions being listed as some of the factors for the entrenching of capitalism into the roots of American society. The so-called “Invisible Hand” of capitalism is also touched upon.
Lekachman continues with a more robust historical recap of capitalism’s formation within the USA. Beginning with an explanation of the mercantile system that capitalism sprouted from, moving on to the concept of the “free labor movement” along with the free market in general and acknowledging the influence of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, Lekachman continues by providing some poignant critiques of the free-market structure and practices. Though figures are dated given the time of publication, with many of these numbers coming from the late 1970s, the statistics provided regarding the various forms of inequality under capitalism provide a historical lens into the perpetual, inherent contradictions of the system. When speaking on the issue of income, Lekachman writes;
“There are two ways of looking at the inequality of economic reward. The capitalist says that unequal income is essential to an efficient economy. Self-interest is an important impetus to effort, saving and investment. Besides, some people are brighter, more imaginative or energetic than others, so it’s only fair that their rewards should be higher. A socialist would argue that inequality reflects the power relationships of capitalism. Either way, inequality under capitalism is taken as necessary and inevitable.”
Other contradictions addressed by Lekachman include the problem of inheritance, in addition to the reactionary gendered and racially driven inequalities promoted and perpetuated by the capitalist apparatus. The self-destructive nature of capitalism is further analyzed within this book, leading into further analysis of the development of 20th century capitalism surrounding the emergence of the theories of one John Maynard Keynes in the 1930s following the advent of Great Depression. Detailing the limited successes of Keynesianism, in addition to the goal of Keynesian economics of countering the influence of Marxism, Lekachman highlights that amid World War II and in its aftermath, Keynesian theory would introduce an economic boom period, especially in the first decades following the end of WWII.
This boom, for both the US and much of Western Europe, proved to have limitations, though these limitations were on display more so in the United States. Keynesian theory and practice, in addition to western efforts such as the Marshall Plan and the establishing of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, allowed for countries such as Britain to enact an economic and governmental shift into a form of social democracy. The US, enjoying similar economic developments, lagged and continues to lag behind other developed countries in the construction a legitimate safety net in regarding to healthcare, social services, and other infrastructural aspects associated with the welfare-state of social democracy. Likewise, the instability of capitalism in all its forms became more apparent as economic growth remained uneven, and the strains of the illegal war in Vietnam allowed for the cracks in Keynesian to emerge.
As contradictions became more and more apparent, Lekachman’s focus shifts from the rise of the Keynesian model to its fall, subsequently moving into the rise of neoliberalism, monetarism, and the mass privatization and austerity measures that came with it in the US, the UK, and elsewhere as a result of the recession of the early 1970s. Highlighting the era of Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher, we see a brief explanation of monetarism, shedding light on the vastly more prominent negatives of the system, particularly the promotion of austerity measures that lead to the privatization of necessary services and industries. In addition, we see the issue of people conflating something that has even the slightest resemblance to a welfare state with full on Soviet style socialism, using the monetarist, anti-Labour Party crusade in Britain after Thatcher’s election as an example. Other negative effects and falsehoods perpetuated by the system are likewise touched upon.
Lekachman, although a socialist in his own right, provides a weak conclusion in addressing the neoliberal age of capitalism. At the end of this book, he states that the way to properly defeat capitalism is by replacing with a form of democratic socialism. While this is by no means an attack on those who consider themselves democratic socialists, the lack of adherence to historical conditions and contexts in his conclusion is not sufficient in truly addressing what needs to be done in successfully overthrowing the capitalist state apparatus. Gains can be made through the ballot box even if only incremental, but history and even modern conditions have proven that working solely or at least primarily through the electoral process as a means of building socialism will be likely met with more difficulties, setbacks, and unfortunately, failures in the attempt of socialist construction.
Additionally, Lekachman inadvertently points out one of the flaws in his own goal. Prior to proclaiming the need for democratic socialism, Lekachman acknowledges the very possibility of corporations and other agents of capitalism turning to means in line with that of fascism and other more aggressive forms of the dictatorship of capital as a means of safeguarding their economic interests and swiftly curtailing the influence of unions, socialists, and other such demographics. That the capitalists would have such power in their inherent collaboration with the bourgeois state only shows that the difficulties of building socialism only or even primarily through the bourgeois democratic process are more apparent, with the strategy of democratic socialism having no real preparation for when the capitalist class triples down on the oppression of those fed up with the cycle of capitalism.
Despite the faulty conclusion in how to counter the mechanisms of capitalism, Capitalism for Beginners does ultimately serve a good purpose in educating people on the history and inner workings of capitalism and its agents. Lekachman’s explanations of the various stages and aspects of capitalism from its rise out of mercantilism to the era of neoliberalism are informative while not being dense or explained in an overly complicated fashion. The visuals in this book also serve a multipronged purpose of being informative, driving a point forward with additional comments, and even just being mildly humorous. For instance, there’s an illustration of Milton Friedman as a scarecrow, a tongue-in-cheek way of calling Friedman a literal strawman. We also F.A. Hayek portrayed as a 1920s style gangster, a way of displaying how the monetarist, neoliberal system works in tandem with criminal or near-criminal acts committed often in line with the workings of the bourgeois government.
Faulty conclusions and some dated figures aside, Capitalism for Beginners is a very thorough but easy to understand book that may serve as both an introductory piece and a refresher course for those aiming to garner a solid comprehension of capitalism.
Jymee C is an aspiring Marxist historian and teacher with a BA in history from Utica College, hoping to begin working towards his Master's degree in the near future. He's been studying Marxism-Leninism for the past five years and uses his knowledge and understanding of theory to strengthen and expand his historical analyses. His primary interests regarding Marxism-Leninism and history include the Soviet Union, China, the DPRK, and the various struggles throughout US history among other subjects. He is currently conducting research for a book on the Korean War and US-DPRK relations. In addition, he is a 3rd Degree black belt in karate and runs the YouTube channel "Jymee" where he releases videos regarding history, theory, self-defense, and the occasional jump into comedy https://www.youtube.com/c/Jymee
Karl Marx knew a thing or two about politics.
Writing over a century-and-a-half ago, he studied the aftermath of the 1848 revolutions that sought to drive a stake in the vitals of the European monarchies and consolidate the rule of the emerging bourgeois classes.
Contrary to his critics– especially the dismissive scholars– he applied his critical historical theories with great nuance and subtlety, surveying the class forces, their actions, and their influence on the outcomes. While Marx conceded that the revolutions were suppressed in the short run, he was able to show how they importantly shaped the future.
Many would argue that Marx’s account of the aftermath of the rising in France, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, is the finest example of the application of the Marxist method– historical materialism – to actual events.
It is said that Hugh Trevor-Roper, the British author, who was a colleague in British intelligence of Soviet spy Kim Philby and a notorious windbag, was once asked if he ever suspected Philby, if Philby left any clues to his loyalties. After a pause, Trevor-Roper said that Philby had on an occasion insisted that The Eighteenth Brumaire was the greatest work of history ever written.
More than a clue, and Philby may have been right.
The Eighteenth Brumaire sought to explain a great mystery: How a country undergoing a profound historic transition from one socio-politico-economic order (feudalism) to another (capitalism), could go from the popular overthrow of a monarch to a constituent republic and back again to the establishment of an emperor, Louis Bonaparte, in a few short years.
Marx couldn’t help but find a bitter irony in the fact that the coup installing Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew as emperor mirrored the uncle’s ascension to emperor after the French Revolution. With equally bitter sarcasm, Marx amended the old saw about history repeating itself with the phrase “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” Where Napoleon I tragically hijacked the revolutionary process, Napoleon III brought the farcical maneuvers of a dysfunctional bourgeois parliament to a farcical end by creating a farcical empire.
At a time when our own political processes– executive, legislative, and judicial– resemble a crude farce, at a time when opinion polls confirm the popular disdain for these institutions, we may well find Marx’s analysis to be of some use.
Consider ex-President Trump, for example. He, like Napoleon III, represents a mediocrity, only known for his pretensions and his rank opportunism. Trump likes to portray himself as a great president who arose as a savior, an agent for the restoration of US greatness.
Based on nostalgia for his uncle, Napoleon I, the nephew ruled France with the promise of an expanding empire to be feared and admired for its spreading of enlightened ideas; Louis Bonaparte promised to restore the unity of France, lead it towards greatness, and stability.
But are Trump and Bonaparte unique individuals who pushed themselves onto the stage of history? Are they historical accidents? Larger-than-life personalities?
Marx would argue that, in fact, Bonaparte succeeded because he enjoyed the support of a class, specifically the conservative peasantry, “the peasant who wants to consolidate his holdings… those who, in stupefied seclusion within this old order, want to see themselves and their small holdings saved and favored by the ghost of the empire.” Bonaparte’s supporters seek to save what they have and relive an earlier moment. In short, they want to make France [the Empire] great again. He answered the moment.
In so far as there is merely a local interconnection among these small-holding peasants, and the identity of their interests begets no community, no national bond and no political organization among them, they do not form a class. They are consequently incapable of enforcing their class interests in their own name, whether through a parliament or through a convention. They cannot represent themselves, they must be represented. Their representative must at the same time appear as their master, as an authority over them, as an unlimited governmental power that protects them from other classes and sends them rain and sunshine from above… Historical tradition gave rise to the belief of the French peasants in the miracle that a man named Napoleon would bring all the glory back to them.
It must be noted that Marx is neither mocking nor condemning the conservative French peasantry for its support of the election of Louis Bonaparte (1849) or his coup (1851). Instead, he is explaining how and why Bonaparte could manage to rule, both legitimately and illegitimately, even after France had declared its second republic. The peasantry was, by far, the largest class. The peasantry had not yet recognized its existence as a class; it could not yet express its grievances, its interests, or its latent power in class terms; it could not produce its own class leaders. And it turned instead to a caricature, a small man with big aspirations, a toy Napoleon.
Like Napoleon III, Trump enjoyed class-based support: segments of both the petty bourgeoisie and the working class. The professionals and small-business people who saw “elites” — typically urban elites– as threatening their way of life, culturally and economically, were drawn to Trump over the conventional corporate Republican leaders. Similarly, working-class voters victimized by deindustrialization, twenty-first-century economic crises, insecurity, rising costs of healthcare, etc., looked for someone “as an authority over them,” to send “them rain and shine from above,” that is, a modern-day Napoleon. They could not find that with the Democrats. They thought that they found it in Donald Trump.
Workers in the US have lost what the French peasant had yet to achieve in 1851: “…no community, no national bond and no political organization among them…They are consequently incapable of enforcing their class interests in their own name.” Nearly eighty years of red-baiting, business unionism, and Democratic Party supplication after a rich history of class struggle have left the US working class with little class consciousness, with little ability “to form a class.” It is no wonder that Make America Great Again resonated with so many.
Both Louis Napoleon and Trump have their camp followers and thugs. Marx designated Louis Napoleon’s lumpen proletariat group of mischief-makers the Society of December 10 for the role they played in stirring the pot after his election. Trump has his ultra-nationalist, racist trouble-makers as well.
Marx saves his derision for the “so-called social-democratic party,” founded as a coalition of the petty-bourgeoisie and the workers. With the militant revolutionary workers killed, imprisoned, or exiled after the June 1848 rising waged to establish a social and democratic republic, the workers accepted compromise and the parliamentary road. In Marx’s words:
A joint programme was drafted, joint election committees were set up and joint candidates put forward. From the social demands of the proletariat the revolutionary point was broken off and a democratic turn given to them; from the democratic claims of the petty bourgeoisie the purely political form was stripped off and their socialist point thrust forward. Thus arose the Social-Democracy… The peculiar character of the Social-Democracy is epitomised in the fact that democratic-republican institutions are demanded as a means, not with doing away with two extremes, capital and wage labour, but of weakening their antagonism and transforming it into harmony… This content is the transformation of society in a democratic way, but a transformation within the bounds of the petty bourgeoisie.
“…within the bounds of the petty bourgeoisie.” This description of the limits of an incipient social democratic party in 1849 could be applied fairly to the aspirations of the small left wing of the US Democratic Party today. A little more than one hundred fifty years later, workers are still being herded into a party that seeks, at best, the weakening of the antagonism between capital and labor and transforming it into harmony [paraphrasing Marx]. The Democrats assume the votes of the working class and the most oppressed, while intensely courting the support of the urban and suburban upper strata super-voters and super-donors. This has been their strategy since the loss of the reactionary South to the Republicans. In nineteenth-century France, the proletariat/petty bourgeoisie alliance was short-lived. Faced with a blatant violation of the constitutional limits of presidential action, the alliance allowed its threats of militant action to melt away when Bonaparte called its bluff, revealing a paper tiger.
Marx identified the folly of workers uniting with the petty bourgeoisie:
…instead of gaining an accession of strength from it, the democratic party had infected the proletariat with its own weakness and, as is usual with the great deeds of democrats, the leaders had the satisfaction of being able to charge their “people” with desertion, and the people with the satisfaction of being able to charge its leaders with humbugging it… No party exaggerates its means more than the democratic, none deludes itself more light-mindedly over the situation.
Not to be taken lightly for its defeat at the hands of Bonaparte and the bourgeois party, the petty-bourgeois took consolation with “the profound utterance: But if they dare to attack universal suffrage, well then– then, we’ll show them what we are made of!” If this sounds eerily like the empty threats of the Democratic Party before the brazen actions of Trump, his friends, and the Supreme Court, then lesson learned!
If we see parallels with the politics of nineteenth-century France and the twenty-first-century US, then we surely are reminded of Marx’s quip that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. Surely, only an allergy to history, a blindness to past tragedies, can account for the continuing allegiance of workers and their leaders to a spineless Democratic Party that continually betrays the interests of working people.
Surely, we can do better. Marx thought so…
 These reflections were inspired by a recent encounter with Jonathan White’s excellent 2021 book, Making Our Own History, A User’s Guide to Marx’s Historical Materialism, especially chapter 6.
This article was republished from Marxism-Leninism Today.
It’s a momentous day! Not for the world—for which it’s nothing special. But for me! Just seventy years ago, in nervous panic, I took off my U.S. Army jacket, shoes and sleeve insignia and stepped into the swift Danube River which, at Linz in still-occupied Austria, divided the USA Zone from the USSR Zone. Although very wet at this short sector, it was part of the long Iron Curtain. And I was swimming across it in what most Americans would consider a very wrong direction!
It was not really my free choice! In 1950 the McCarran Act ruled that all members of a long list of “Communist Front” organizations must immediately register as foreign agents. I had been in a dozen; American Youth for Democracy, the Anti-Fascist Spanish Refugee Committee, the Southern Negro Youth Congress (I gave them a dollar in solidarity), the Sam Adams School, the American Labor Party, Young Progressives and—most heinous of all, the Communist Party. The maximum penalty for not registering could be $10,000 and—PER DAY!—5 years in prison!! Neither I nor anyone else bowed to this monstrosity!
But in January 1951, during the Korean War, I was drafted—and required to sign that I was never in any of those on that long, long list. Should I risk years in prison by admitting my infamy? Or sign and, by staying mum, hope to survive two army years with no one checking up? I signed.
However, they did check up! Decades later, thanks to the FOIA, 1100 pages (!) of FBI files aboutme (at 10c/page) revealed that J. Edgar Hoover’s boys had watched me closely, as a leftist Harvard student (the names of seven informants were redacted) and as a worker in Buffalo, where I had hoped to help in saving the fighting 1930s character of the CIO unions.
In August 1952 a Pentagon letter listed seven of my memberships and ordered me to “report on Monday to HQ”. The threatened penalty for my perjury: up to 5 years, perhaps in Leavenworth. By then dozens of Communists had been indicted; many were sent to prison. I had luckily been sent not to Korea but to Bavaria, next to Austria. With no-one to advise me, I chose the Danube.
Across the river, in a surprisingly quiet landscape, in no way like an Iron Curtain, the Soviets kept me two weeks in a barred but polite lock-up, then sent me north to the German Democratic Republic, East Germany. I was lucky again; the GDR was the most successful, most untroubled of all in the “East Bloc.” For the next 38 years, as an American, raised with a broad, varied education (six public schools, Bronx Science, Dalton, Fieldston, Harvard), I watched, with left-leaning but not dogmatically limited eyes, the rise, then fall of this western outpost of socialism (or Communism, “state socialism”, “totalitarianism,” or whatever).
I found neither Utopia nor, back then or ever, the hunger, poverty and general misery the American media might have led me to expect. Even in the crucial, difficult year 1952-1953, less than eight years after the war, while shop offerings were limited, lacking variety, style, and often just that very item you were looking for, they were stocked well enough with the basics. East Germany was much smaller and in terms of industry and natural resources far poorer than West Germany. It had borne over 90% of the war reparations burden; the heavily-destroyed USSR did not drop these until 1953. The GDR lacked the huge investment possibilities of war criminal monopolies like Krupp, Siemens, Bayer or BASF, whose factories it nationalized, as well as the politically-aimed assistance of the Marshall Plan. Large numbers of its scientific, management and academic staffs, mostly pro-Nazi, had fled from the occupying Red Army and the leftist, mostly Communist administrators who came with it—and got jobs with their former bosses who were soon prospering again along the Rhine and Ruhr. This seriously weakened the economic revival, but I felt happy that the war criminals were gone.
As an ardent (and Jewish) anti-fascist, I rejoiced to find that the entire atmosphere was anti-Nazi! Unlike West Germany, the schools, universities, courts, police departments, all were cleansed of the swastika crowd, even when at first this meant new, barely-trained replacements, like my father-in-law, a pro-union carpenter, as village mayor or my two brothers-in-law as teachers. My wife trembled when she was reminded of her brutal teachers before 1945. Then, in the altered East German schools, corporal punishment was immediately forbidden.
Of course there were countless problems in a country ruled by Hitler & Co. for twelve years, where cynicism was widespread and Stalin’s cultural views and anti-Semitism exerted undue influence until his death in 1953. Luckily, the aged Communist leader Wilhelm Pieck was able to shield the GDR to a large degree in this regard. And from the start anti-Nazi leftists, often returned Jewish exiles, became leaders in the entire cultural scene; theater, music, opera, literature, journalism and film, where true masterpieces were created, often against fascism, but boycotted and hence unknown in West Germany and the USA. In the all-powerful Politburo of the ruling party Hermann Axen had barely survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald (his brother and parents did not). Albert Norden had escaped to the USA; the Nazis killed his father, a rabbi, in Theresienstadt. In the GDR, except for 3 or 4 mild word-clichés, I met no anti-Semitism in all those 38 years. Those still infected with fascist ideology were careful, except with family or buddies, to keep their mouths shut. Which was OK with me!
Step by step our living standard—of my very dear wife, who saved me from homesickness, our two sons, and myself, kept improving, like that of nearly everyone in the GDR, as it pulled itself up by its own thin bootstraps. Impressing me most as an American: no layoffs, no unemployment; there were jobs for everyone. Rents averaged less than 10% of most incomes; evictions were forbidden by law. In the early years large apartments were divided up when needed; no-one slept in the streets or went begging. Food pantries were unneeded, even the word was unknown. So was student debt. All education was free and monthly stipends covered basic costs, making all jobbing while at college unnecessary.
A monthly medical tax on wages or fees (max. 10%) covered everything: in my case, nine (free) hospital weeks with hepatitis plus four weeks at a health spa to recuperate and four more a year later in Karlsbad. My wife had three rheumatism cures, four weeks each, in the Polish and Harz mountains. All costs were covered and we also got 90% of our salaries. Prescribed drugs were fully covered, also dental care, glasses, hearing aids; I had no need of my wallet or checkbook to pay for my daily insulin shots or my ten-year active pace-maker. Nor for my wife’s two maternal leaves (six months paid, the rest, if wanted, with guaranteed job ). No charge for full child care, participation in sports, summer camps, not for contraception aid nor for free abortions after a new law was passed in 1982. So many fears were gone—so many were totally unknown!
I participated fully in the generally very normal life. First as a factory worker, an apprentice lathe operator, then a student, editor, director of a new Paul/Eslanda Robeson archive, finally as a free lance journalist, lecturer and author. I was not treated as a privileged “American,” as some assume, but my last three occupations meant that—in my series of four little two-stroke Trabant cars I really “got around”—to nearly all areas, with all age levels, in all possible milieus.
A monthly tax (max. 10%) on wages or fees covered everything: my nine hospital weeks with hepatitis, four weeks in a curative spa and four more a year later in Karlsbad, plus my wife’s four-week rheumatism spa cures in the Polish and Harz mountains, again all expenses covered plus 90% of our salaries. All prescribed drugs were covered 100%, so were dental care, glasses, hearing aids—nor did I need wallet, purse or checkbook for my daily insulin shots or my later pace-maker. A year’s maternal leave (six months paid, the rest, if wanted, with guaranteed job) could be followed by full cost-free child care, sports participation, summer camps, free contraception aid or (if neglected)—ever since the breakthrough in 1982—free abortions. So many fears were gone—in fact unknown!
This may really seem almost Utopian. Then why did some risk their lives to leave? Why was a wall built to keep them in? Why did they vote to join West Germany—and ditch the GDR? Why did it fail?
There were all too many reasons. East Germany was occupied by a country it had been taught to hate, whose soldiers had fought it hardest, were often violent in the first weeks, and were poorer and more difficult to love than prosperous, hence generous, gum-chewing GI’s, who came from a wealthy, undamaged homeland. Many but certainly not all East Germans appreciated the Soviets’ major role in defeating the Nazis and their pressure and guidance in confiscating major industry and breaking the power of those worst enemies of the world and theGermans, the Krupps, Siemens and IG Farbens, and the ousting of giant Prussian landowners, the Junkers, who so often officered Germany into mass bloodshed and disaster.
The Russians offered lots of good culture, such as Tolstoy and Dostoevski, top quality dancing, to “Peter and the Wolf” and “The Cranes Are Flying”. But these could rarely compete in mass popularity with the Beatles and Stones, Elvin Presley and suspense-laden Hollywood B-films.
Such enticements, which included some of high quality, based on an unusual American mix of Anglo-Scot, Irish, Jewish, Italian and especially Black cultures, were cleverly misused to increase political and economic influence and power in the world, especially in the East Bloc. They were paired, above all in Germany, with clever propaganda adapted from both Goebbels and that master peddler-publicist of anything from toothpaste to capitalism, Edward L. Bernays. They threaten the great old cultures of France, Italy, India, even China. While GDR leaders, in full power, did aim at noble goals, how could such elderly men, hardened by years of life-and-death struggle against Nazi murderers but usually trained with Stalinist clichés, grow flexible enough to find rapport in printed or spoken word with the average, changeable citizen? There were indeed successes—but too few and far between.
In the 1980s difficulties increased, upward trends slowed and slipped downward. The USSR, with its own problems, offered no assistance. Such problems were difficult but, in a changing world, hardly rare or insurmountable—except that here every problem was utilized in the unceasing attempts to retake East Germany, use its skilled but exploitable working class and move eastwards from there. The State Security or “Stasi,” created to oppose such doings, was crude enough to make the situation worse.
And yet the GDR had probably come closer than any country in the world to achieving that legendary goal of abolishing poverty, while sharply decreasing the frightful, growing rich-poor gap based on an obscene profit system. But it could not afford the immense assortment of goods—foods, apparel, appliances, electronics, vehicles and travel which the West offered, above all the USA and West Germany. The GDR citizenry took all its amazing social advantages for granted and dreamt of scarce bananas and unavailable VWs, of Golden Arch and Golden Gate—without realizing that these are largely available and affordable due to the poverty of children in West Africa or Brazil, of exploited pickers in Andalusian or Californian fields and orchards. Some are just now beginning to realize that those billionaire giants, after cheating so many people of color, wrecking world climate and wielding ever deadlier weapons of annihilation, may soon feel impelled to squeeze and break the comfortable middle classes in their own countries. The start is already felt by many families.
I look back at my seventy years as an ex-pat, and still consider myself a patriotic American—never for the USA of Morgan or Rockefeller but for that of John Brown, Harriet Tubman, Eugene Debs and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, DuBois, Robeson, Malcolm and Martin.
I also love and admire great Germans: Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Karl Liebknecht, the great Polish-German Rosa Luxemburg—or great writers: Lessing, Goethe, Heinrich Heine, Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht. And I respect and empathize with people from all lands, my brothers and sisters, from Guam to Guatemala—and Gaza.
I can only hope that new generations learn from the GDR, and not only from its blunders, nasty habits and limitations, born of its history and all too realistic fears of being overthrown.
It was finally overthrown and stands no longer as a barrier to renewed billionaire expansion—economic, political and military—to the south and east. It is still being belittled or maligned—largely out of fear that it has not yet been sufficiently erased and forgotten. Despite my sometime feelings in those years of despair, even anger at mistaken paths or missed opportunities, I still look back with a mixture of nostalgia, regret and also pride at its many hard-won achievements, in culture, in living together, in partly overcoming the cult of greed and rivalry, in unflinching GDR support for the Mandelas, the Allendes and Ho Chi Minhs, for Angela Davis, too—and not, like its ultimately stronger and victorious opponents in Bonn, for the Pinochets, Francos, racists and apartheid tyrants. I recall our achievements in avoiding war and striving for lives without fear or hatred. By and large they were good years. I am glad I lived through them.
Victor Grossman, born in NYC, fled McCarthy-era menaces as a young draftee, landed in East Germany where he observed the rise and fall of its German Democratic Republic (GDR). He has described his own life in his autobiography Crossing the River: A Memoir of the American Left, the Cold War, and Life in East Germany (University of Massachusetts Press, 2003), and analyzed the GDR and questions of capitalism and socialism in Germany and the USA, with his provocative conclusions, along with humor, irony and occasional sarcasm in all directions, in A Socialist Defector: From Harvard to Karl-Marx-Allee (New York: Monthly Review Press). His address is wechsler_grossman [at] yahoo.de (also for a free sub to the Berlin Bulletins sent out by MR Online).
This article was republished from Monthly Review.
Nearly half a millennium ago Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince described three options for how a conquering power might treat states that it defeated in war but that “have been accustomed to live under their own laws and in freedom: … the first is to ruin them, the next is to reside there in person, the third is to permit them to live under their own laws, drawing a tribute, and establishing within it an oligarchy which will keep it friendly to you.”
Machiavelli preferred the first option, citing Rome’s destruction of Carthage. That is what the United States did to Iraq and Libya after 2001. But in today’s New Cold War the mode of destruction is largely economic, via trade and financial sanctions such as the United States has imposed on China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela and other designated adversaries. The idea is to deny them key inputs, above all in essential technology and information processing, raw materials, and access to bank and financial connections, such as U.S. threats to expel Russia from the SWIFT bank-clearing system.
The second option is to occupy rivals. This is done only partially by the troops in America’s 800 military bases abroad. But the usual, more efficient occupation is by U.S. corporate takeovers of their basic infrastructure, owning their most lucrative assets and remitting their revenue back to the imperial core.
President Trump said that he wanted to seize Iraq’s and Syria’s oil as reparations for the cost of destroying their society. His successor, Joe Biden, sought in 2021 to appoint Hillary Clinton’s loyalist Neera Tanden to head the government’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB). She had urged that America should make Libya turn over its vast oil reserves as reparations for the cost of destroying its society. “We have a giant deficit. They have a lot of oil. Most Americans would choose not to engage in the world because of that deficit. If we want to continue to engage in the world, gestures like having oil rich countries partially pay us back doesn’t seem crazy to me.”
U.S. strategists have preferred Machiavelli’s third option: To leave the defeated adversary nominally independent but to rule via client oligarchies. President Jimmy Carter’s national-security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski referred to them as “vassals,” in the classical medieval meaning of demanding loyalty to their American patrons, with a common interest in seeing the subject economy privatized, financialized, taxed and passed on to the United States for its patronage and support, based on a mutuality of interest against local democratic assertion of nationalistic self-reliance and keeping the economic surplus at home to promote domestic prosperity instead of being sent abroad.
That policy of privatization by a client oligarchy with its own source of wealth based on the U.S. orbit is what American neoliberal diplomacy accomplished in the former Soviet economies after 1991 to secure its Cold War victory over Soviet Communism. The way in which client oligarchies were created was a grabitization that utterly disrupted the economic interconnections integrating the economies. “To put it in a terminology that harkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires,” Brzezinski explained, “the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected and to keep the barbarians from coming together.”
After reducing Germany and Japan to vassalage after defeating them in World War II, U.S. diplomacy quickly reduced the Britain and its imperial sterling area to vassalage by 1946, followed in due course by the rest of Western Europe and its former colonies. The next step was to isolate Russia and China, while keeping “the barbarians from coming together.” If they were to join up, warned Mr. Brzezinski, “the United States may have to determine how to cope with regional coalitions that seek to push America out of Eurasia, thereby threatening America’s status as a global power.”
By 2016, Brzezinski saw Pax Americana unravelling from its failure to achieve these aims. He acknowledged that the United States “is no longer the globally imperial power.” That is what has motivated its increasing antagonism toward China and Russia, along with Iran and Venezuela.
The problem was not Russia, whose Communist nomenklatura let their country be ruled by a Western-oriented kleptocracy, but China. The U.S.-China confrontation is not simply a national rivalry, but a conflict of economic and social systems. The reason why today’s world is being plunged into an economic and near-military Cold War 2.0 is to be found in the prospect of socialist control of what Western economies since classical antiquity have treated as privately owned rent-yielding assets: money and banking (along with the rules governing debt and foreclosure), land and natural resources, and infrastructure monopolies.
This contrast in whether money and credit, land and natural monopolies will be privatized and duly concentrated in the hands of a rentier oligarchy or used to promote general prosperity and growth has basically become one of finance capitalism and socialism. Yet in its broadest terms this conflict existed already 2500 years ago in the contrast between Near Eastern kingship and the Greek and Roman oligarchies. These oligarchies, ostensibly democratic in superficial political form and sanctimonious ideology, fought against the concept of kingship. The source of that opposition was that royal power – or that of domestic “tyrants” – might sponsor what Greek and Roman democratic reformers were advocating: cancellation of debts to save populations from being reduced to debt bondage and dependency (and ultimately to serfdom), and redistribution of lands to prevent its ownership from becoming polarized and concentrated in the hands of creditors and-landlords.
From today’s U.S. vantage point, that polarization is the basic dynamic of today’s U.S.-sponsored neoliberalism. China and Russia are existential threats to the global expansion of financialized rentier wealth. Today’s Cold War 2.0 aims to deter China and potentially other counties from socializing their financial systems, land and natural resources, and keeping infrastructure utilities public to prevent their being monopolized in private hands to siphon off economic rents at the expense of productive investment in economic growth.
The United States hoped that China might be as gullible as the Soviet Union and adopt neoliberal policy permitting its wealth to be privatized and turned into rent-extracting privileges, to be sold off to Americans. “What the free world expected when it welcomed China into the free trade body [the World Trade Organization] in 2001,” explained Clyde V. Prestowitz Jr, trade advisor in the Reagan administration, was that, “from the time of Deng Xiaoping’s adoption of some market methods in 1979 and especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992 … increased trade with and investment in China would inevitably lead to the marketization of its economy, the demise of its state-owned enterprises.”
But instead of adopting market-based neoliberalism, Mr. Prestowitz complained, China’s government supported industrial investment and kept money and debt control in its own hands. This government control was “at odds with the liberal, rules-based global system” along the neoliberal lines that had been imposed on the former Soviet economies after 1991. “More fundamentally,” Prestowitz summed up:
China’s economy is incompatible with the main premises of the global economic system embodied today in the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and a long list of other free trade agreements. These pacts assume economies that are primarily market based with the role of the state circumscribed and micro-economic decisions largely left to private interests operating under a rule of law. This system never anticipated an economy like China’s in which state-owned enterprises account for one-third of production; the fusion of the civilian economy with the strategic-military economy is a government necessity; five year economic plans guide investment to targeted sectors; an eternally dominant political party names the CEOs of a third or more of major corporations and has established party cells in every significant company; the value of the currency is managed, corporate and personal data are minutely collected by the government to be used for economic and political control; and international trade is subject to being weaponized at any moment for strategic ends.
Why U.S. finance capitalism treats China’s socialist economy as an existential treat
Financialized industrial capital wants a strong state to serve itself, but not to serve labor, consumers, the environment or long-term social progress at the cost of eroding profits and rents.
 Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince (1532), Chapter 5: “Concerning the way to govern cities or principalities which lived under their own laws before they were annexed.”
 Neera Tanden, “Should Libya pay us back?” memo to Faiz Shakir, Peter Juul, Benjamin Armbruster and NSIP Core, October 21, 2011. Mr. Shakir, to his credit, wrote back: “If we think we can make money off an incursion, we’ll do it? That’s a serious policy/messaging/moral problem for our foreign policy I think.” As president of the Center for American Progress, Tanden backed a 2010 proposal to cut Social Security benefits, reflecting the long-term Obama-Clinton objective of fiscal austerity at home as well as abroad.
 Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives (New York: 1997), p. 40. See the discussion by Pepe Escobar, “For Leviathan, It’s So Cold in Alaska,” Unz.com, March 18, 2021.
 Brzezinski, ibid., p. 55.
 Brzezinski, “Towards a Global Realignment,” The American Interest (April 17, 2016) For a discussion see Mike Whitney, “The Broken Checkboard: Brzezinski Gives Up on Empire,” Counterpunch, August 25, 2016.
 Clyde Prestowitz, “Blow Up the Global Trading System, Washington Monthly, March 24, 2021..
 Clyde Prestowitz, ibid.,
Photo by Chris Brignola on Unsplash
Since the end of the Second World War, the bourgeois historiography has tried to distort various incidents in order to vilify Socialism and the USSR. One of these incidents- which has been a "banner" of imperialism's apologists and other anticommunists- is the so-called “Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact” which was signed in 1939. In it's unscientific, unhistorical effort to equate Communism with Nazism, the bourgeois propaganda presents the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact as a medium of expansive policy by the USSR and Hitler's Germany. The distortion of historical events, the amalgamation of lies and the half-truths by the Imperialists and their collaborators aim in defaming the huge role of the Soviet Union in the anti-fascist struggle of WW2.
However, the reality is different than the one presented by the bourgeois historiography. Here, we will examine the circumstances and the events which led to the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact, in an effort to debunk the anti-communist propaganda on this matter.
Having the financial and technical support of US and European monopolies, Hitler's Germany began to strengthen its armed forces in the mid-1930s. In 1936, the Nazis proceeded to the militarization of Rhineland, helped Mussolini in capturing Abyssinia (Ethiopia) while they played a crucial role in the imposition of Franco's fascist dictatorship in Spain. The strengthening of Nazi Germany and the beginning of fascism's expansion in Europe took place under the tolerance of the then powerful “democratic” imperialist powers; Britain, France and the US.
After the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in March 1938, the Allies (Britain, France) proceed to the Munich Agreement (30 September 1938). The apologists of Imperialism usually try to downgrade the importance of this agreement between Britain, France, Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany. However, the impact of the Munich agreement- an act of appeasement towards the Nazis- was definitely significant. With the signatures of the then British and French Prime Ministers, Neville Chamberlain and Édouard Daladier, the Nazis annexed Czechoslovakia and intensified their expansionist aggressiveness towards Eastern Europe.
A few months later, on April 7, 1939 the fascist regime of Italy invaded and captured Albania. On March 31, 1939, the governments of Britain and France guaranteed the protection of Poland in case of a Nazi attack- Both London and Paris signed bilateral agreements of mutual aid with Poland. When Germany invaded Poland on September 1st, 1939, Britain and France declared war against Hitler but without taking any military action until next year! From their side, the United States declared their neutrality.
The participants of Munich Conference, 1938. From left to right:
Neville Chamberlain, Eduard Daladier, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini.
Before the invasion of the Nazi army in Poland, the government in Warsaw had tried to negotiate with Hitler a possible joint attack against the Soviet Union. The negotiations failed, as long as the Polish bourgeoisie preferred instead to sign defense agreements with Britain and France. What is important here is that Poland had rejected an agreement of mutual defense (against Nazis) offered by the Soviet Union.
The Imperialist propaganda tries to obfuscate Britain and France's stance of appeasement towards the Nazis and hides the reasons behind the US “neutrality”. The words of US Senator Robert A. Taft are characteristic: “A victory of communism would be much more dangerous for the United States than a victory for fascism” (CBS, 25 June 1941). According to historian John Snell, the western powers regarded the Third Reich as a “barrier” against the Soviet Union in central Europe. The strategic aim of the “democratic” imperialist states was to turn Hitler against the Soviet Union; in a few words, to use the Nazis as a weapon against the construction of Socialism in the USSR. That was the initial aim of the so-called “allies”.
On that point, we must remind that, before the war and while Hitler's regime was building a powerful military, the Soviet Union took numerous initiatives in order to deal a defensive agreement with the European capitalist states. Despite the Soviet calls for the preparation of a common front against the Nazis, the western European “allies” declined such a perspective. For example, before the 1938 Munich Agreement, when Hitler annexed Austria, the Soviet Union proposed an International conference (March 1938) which would deal with the confrontation of Nazi aggressiveness.
On July 23, 1939, the Soviet Union proposed to Britain and French the beginning of negotiations for the formation of a defense plan in case of a German attack. However, the British government had other priorities: to secretly negotiate a non-aggression pact with Hitler's representatives in London. Indeed, while the Soviet Union was proposing to the capitalist states an anti-fascist front, the British government was secretly negotiating with the Nazis the “spheres of influence” in Europe!
What the bourgeois historiography deliberately hides is the fact that the Soviet Union was the only state that had not an aggressive, expansionist policy. Both the two sides of international imperialism (the “democratic” capitalist allies and, on the other hand, the Nazi-fascist Axis) were aiming at the elimination of the Soviet Union. The real enemy of both sides was the Socialist construction in the USSR and for that they didn't hesitate to use each other against Moscow.
The temporary non-aggression pact between the Soviet Union and Germany came after numerous efforts by the Soviets to deal a defense agreement with Britain and France. Therefore, being under the continuous threat of the expanding Nazi army and in order to prepare itself for an extensive war, the Soviet state forced to sign the non-aggression pact with Berlin. What bourgeois historians and apologists of Imperialism call an “alliance between Hitler and Stalin” was in fact a necessary diplomatic maneuver by the Soviet Union in order to gain time and prepare effectively for a full-scale war. Even bourgeois historians admit that the Soviet policy was complete realistic, given the then circumstances and the danger of a German attack (F.Dulles, The road to Tehran, New York, 1944, p.203-207).
According to the imperialist propaganda, the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact led to the Soviet “capture” of a part of Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. Such arguments- about the supposed “Soviet occupation”- have fostered the rise of fascist, neo-Nazi groups in these countries after the counter-revolution in the USSR. However, the truth is also quite different. Poland had participated actively in the allied imperialist attack which was launched against the newly-founded Soviet state in 1918. With the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (3 March 1918) the Bolshevik leadership had renounced Tsarist claims to Poland. The Polish government kept under it's control a number of areas in the Baltic region, including western Belarus, western Ukraine and a part of Lithuania). After the Nazi invasion in Poland in 1939, the Red Army moved towards the Soviet-Polish borders and liberated the above-mentioned areas.
The imperialist propaganda regarding the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact consists one of the numerous cases of blatant anticommunist lies. Through bourgeois historiography, Imperialism tries to equate communism and fascism, to vilify Socialism and the Soviet Union. In order to do this, Imperialism's apologists distort history and invent the most hideous slanders against the Soviet Union and the socialist states; from the “Moscow trials” and the “gulags” to the supposed “Stalin-Hitler alliance” and the “Soviet invasion” in Afghanistan. What the Imperialists want to hide is the fact that fascism is just another kind of bourgeois authority- the simple fact that, as Bertolt Brecht said, fascism is the “most naked, brazen, oppressive and deceitful form of capitalism”.
*The Soviet-German non-Aggression Pact took it's name from the surnames of the two Ministers of Foreign Affairs who signed it: Soviet diplomat Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov (1891-1986) and Nazi Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop (1893-1946).
Nikos Mottas is the Editor-in-Chief of In Defense of Communism.
This article was republished from In Defense of Communism.
When government won’t provide housing, India’s Communists organize people to build it themselves By: Vijay PrashadRead Now
Sagar, the CPI(M) secretary of Ragasaipeta and a leader of the Jakkaloddi Struggle Committee, addresses members at a general body meeting of the Jakkaloddi campaign on June 18, 2022. | Jagadish Kumar / CPI(M)
It all started with a survey. In April 2022, members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M), went door to door in the town of Warangal in Telangana state. The party was already aware of challenges in the community but wanted to collect data before working on a plan of action.
Thirty-five teams of three to four CPI(M) members and supporters went to 45,000 homes and learned how people were suffering from a range of issues, such as the lack of pensions and subsidized food.
Many expressed anxieties around the absence of permanent housing, with a third saying that they were not homeowners and could not pay their rents. The government had promised to build two-bedroom apartments for the poor, but these promises evaporated. With inflation eating into their meager incomes and serious unemployment due to the collapse of the local bidi (cigarette) industry, desperation marked the people the communists met.
Many in the community expressed their willingness to fight for better living conditions, especially for more huts (gudisela poratam) to be built. In the words of one of the residents, “Whatever the consequences, even if we are beaten or killed, we will join this struggle.”
On May 25, 2022, 8,000 people marched to the Warangal Municipal Corporation and handed in 10,000 state housing applications. When they moved to occupy the vacant land, the police told them to stay away and prevented them from entering.
Despite this, the Jakkaloddi Struggle Committee, made up of those who had occupied the land, managed to organize the construction of 3,000 huts on the land. At 3 a.m. on June 20, the police arrived, set many of the huts alight while people slept, and beat the occupants as they emerged from their temporary homes. Over 400 people were arrested. The next day, local officials placed a sign outside the area: “This site is for the construction of a court complex.”
Neither this sign nor the brutality of the police could stop the people, who returned and continued to camp there for 60 days, G. Nagaiah, a state secretariat member of the CPI(M), told P. Ambedkar of Tricontinental Research Services (India). On June 26, they began to build 2,000 new huts. The police tried to stop them with more acts of violence, but the people fought back and forced them to retreat. Now, there are 4,600 huts in total.
The CPI(M)-led action was prompted by the state government’s failure to alleviate desperate land hunger in the region. The most recent government data shows that, between 2012 and 2017, there was a shortage of 18.8 million houses in urban India alone. Even this figure is inaccurate because it counts low-quality houses in highly congested city neighborhoods as adequate housing.
The AHI looked at data from 64 of the poorer nations and found a housing deficit of 268 million units across these countries, which impacts 1.26 billion people. Furthermore, a quarter of the housing stock in the poorer nations is plainly inadequate.
With billions of people around the world unhoused or living in poor quality housing, and with no real plan to address this problem, it is unlikely that any poorer nation will meet the eleventh Sustainable Development Goal to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.”
Land struggles in places such as Jakkaloddi resemble those led by Abahlali baseMjondolo, South Africa’s shack dweller movement, and Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement (MST). The crackdown and eviction of poor people from land occupations has become a regular occurrence across the globe. Similar attacks have been replicated in Guernica, Argentina, where 1,900 families were evicted on Oct. 29, 2020, and in Otodo-Gbame, Nigeria, where over 30,000 people were evicted between November 2016 and April 2017.
Such struggles are led by people who want to establish the material basis of living with dignity. In a recent dossier, South African researcher Yvonne Phyllis uses a isiXhosa saying to refer to the land: umhlaba wookhokho bethu, “the land of our ancestors.” This phrase, so common in most cultures, demands that land be seen as a shared inheritance, not as the property of one person. This expression also invokes, as Phyllis describes it, a recognition of the “unresolved question of injustice” inherited from “process[es] of colonial dispossession and deception that advanced the development of capitalism.”
These struggles throughout the Global South mirror those in Warangal, where the CPI(M) is leading thousands of people in the fight for housing, successfully securing a total of 50,000 homes in 2008 and continuing to the fight for adequate housing to this day.
This—along with the growing confidence of people occupying vacant land and building their own homes—illustrates a new mood in the global movement for the right to housing. There is an increased understanding that housing must not be a financial asset used by the billionaire class for speculation or to shield their wealth from taxation. This sensibility is clear among organizations that fight for the right to housing such as Despejo Zero (Brazil) and Ndifuna Ukwazi (South Africa), among mass movements such as the MST and Abahlali, and among political parties such as the CPI(M) that organize people to transcend the housing crisis by occupying land.
These land occupations are filled with tension and joy, the perils of being beaten by the police alongside the promise of collective life. Part of this collective life is represented in songs, often written in groups and released anonymously.
We end with one such song by a state committee member of the people’s cultural group Praja Natya Madali, who goes by the pseudonym Sphoorti (meaning Inspiration) from a small book called Sphoorti Patalu (Inspiration Songs):
Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including "The Darker Nations" and "The Poorer Nations." His latest book is "Washington Bullets," with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.
Putin's World: Reactive Mismeasures: The New Yorker and the "New" Cold War Propaganda (Part 3)
This is the third part (of 5) of a paragraph by paragraph commentary on an article posing as journalism in the March 6, 2017 issue of The New Yorker. I hope to demonstrate that this article is basically a totally mendacious concoction of cold war US propaganda constructed out of unsubstantiated opinions expressed by US government officials and various journalists and others who are hostile to the current Russian government. There are a few paragraphs exempt from this characterization and they are duly noted. I hold that no self respecting journalist would write an article such as this New Yorker piece and palm it off on the public. My commentary is also an object lesson on how to distinguish between reportage that at least attempts to be unbiased and obvious nonobjective propaganda. You will know more about Clinton, Obama, Bush, Trump, Biden, and Putin and the New Cold War from the commentary than you will ever know from the original article.
Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War - The New Yorker
Active measures were used by both sides throughout the Cold War. Evan Osnos joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2008, ...
Section 3 “Putin’s World” — This section has thirty-one paragraphs:
‘Preface’ I am basically going to list the known facts in each paragraph and mostly ignore blatant speculation, value judgments , and ridiculous reportage (such as Putin’s inner mental states) except to point them out.
1. Putin was born in Leningrad in 1952. In WWII the Nazis besieged the city for 900 days and mass starvation occurred. His father was wounded during the war. He joined the KGB when he was 23 in 1975 and ended up in the German Democratic Republic.
2. When the Wall came down in 1989 Putin was in Dresden burning documents in a Soviet compound. Russia did not intervene to save the Wall.
3. Putin went back to Russia and the Soviet Union dissolved and the eastern European socialist countries “went their own way.”
4. In August 1991 Communists loyal to the USSR attempted a coup to preserve the Soviet Union — it failed.
5. The fall of the USSR brought new rights to masses of people, but also tens of millions of Russian Soviet citizens now found themselves outside of Russia in newly independent former Soviet republics — many were anxious about the future.
6. Putin’s speeches, etc., recall the 1990s as a period of social anarchy in which the Western powers tried to take advantage of Russia. The author states that Putin overlooks some “stubborn facts” but only provides one, if any, and that is that Russia was allowed into the G7 which became the G8. What he doesn’t mention is that the US had promised not to expand NATO or try to include former Soviet allies in a new bigger NATO pressed up on the borders of Russia. The US then did just the opposite. The US and the West also connived to break up Yugoslavia and militarily attack Serbia, a friend of Russia. Having incited violence in the Balkans the US then used the violence to justify Western intervention. The author states that the expansion of NATO to the countries the US had promised not to was due to the fact that they “wanted protection.” But no one was threatening them!
7. Strobe Talbott, President Clinton’s top advisor on Russia, justified not keeping the promise to Russia re NATO expansion on the grounds that it felt “unfair” to him not to let the former Soviet allies into NATO. Not to do so because Russia might be “frightened” by having the US push NATO right up to its borders “didn’t hold water.”
8. In 1996 while visiting Russia Clinton told Talbott that he doesn’t regret expanding NATO and intervening in the Balkans even though it was putting Yeltsin on the spot.
9. Frank talk from Clinton to Talbot (a direct quote): “We keep telling ol’ Boris [Yeltsin] ‘O.K. now here’s what you’ve got to do next — here’s some more shit for your face.” It appears that the problems we have with Putin is that he won’t take our shit in his face.
10. Earlier Yeltsin had complained to Talbott about the US’s superior attitude towards Russia. The counter-revolutionary transition from a socialist to a capitalist economy had disrupted Russian society but Yeltsin told Talbott “Russia will rise again” and he wanted “equal treatment” from the US. [Russia has nuclear weapons but as an economic power it just isn’t equal to the US. The US has caused a lot of unnecessary problems for all concerned by rubbing Russia’s nose in this fact.]
11. The 1996 presidential election in Russia. The US imposed “shock therapy” caused millions of people economic hardships. It looked like the Communist Party would win the election. The author writes that with the help of the newly created oligarchs [Kremlin insiders who hijacked state property during the transition and became millionaires and billionaires almost overnight] and the IMF (International Money Fund i.e., the US) Yeltsin was able “to eke out a victory.” [The author does not mention that during the vote count the trend was indicating the Communists were winning and the count was stopped for 24 hours due to a computer “malfunction.” When the count resumed Yeltsin was ahead. This was the Russian introduction to “democracy American style.”] I wonder if Trump thought if we did it for Yeltsin, why not for him?
12. New Years 1996. Yeltsin resigns and apologizes for the mess the transition to capitalism has caused.
13. Yeltsin then appointed Vladimir Putin “his successor.” The people running the Russian government had decided Putin was the most capable person to handle the problems they were encountering or, in the neutral terminology of objective New Yorker journalism, he had proved himself “loyal to his bosses.”
14. Putin, as did Ford with Nixon, arranged that Yeltsin would not be prosecuted in the future for any crimes committed while he was in office. Off to good start. Andrei Kozyrev, a representative of the kleptocracy and oligarchic takeover of the Soviet economy under Yeltsin, he was foreign minister 1990-96, says Putin finalized a reconsolidation of the “old order.” This is nonsense as that would entail the resocialization of the economy and the Communist Party’s return to power, which was prevented by the rigging of the 1996 election. Kozyrev said “the inability to complete the economic and political reforms” caused Russia to slip back “into confrontation with the West and NATO.” In other words, the breaking of the promise not to expand NATO to the Russian border wasn’t the cause of the confrontation but Putin’s stopping the virtual giveaway of the the economy to the oligarchs and his making economic reforms that benefited the majority of the Russian people instead of the Yeltsin clique that allied itself with the West and US “shock therapy” was the cause. It’s all Putin’s fault.
15. When Putin took over he found a “barely functional state.” He replaced Yeltsin loyalists with his own people and brought “every aspect of the country’s political life, including the media” under “the ‘Vertical of power’ that he constructed.” This is a ridiculous overstatement as there is a large and active Communist Party in Russia with its own press and there are still independent papers and journalists at work in the Russian Federation even if television has been brought under state supervision. Putin has many authoritarian tendencies but they pale in comparison with those of some US NATO allies such as Turkey.
16. When first in office, Putin tried to be friendly with the West.
17. Bush then invaded Iraq [on trumped up charges revealing an aggressive warlike US]. In 2007 Putin stated the US has “overstepped its national borders in every area.” He also claimed the expansion of NATO was directed at Russia. Robert Gates reported, re Putin’s claim, “people were inclined to pass it off as a one-off.” [Ignoring Russia’s concerns and not taking them seriously was bound to have negative reactions; it was the typical behavior of big power arrogance.]
18. Many speculations on Putin’s inner mental states, intentions, etc. but the facts are: In 2012 he became president for the third time. Marxism-Leninism was no longer the state doctrine. Putin began appealing to Russian nationalism, traditional patriotism, and long standing Russian moral and ethical customs some of which predated the Communists. [The author fails to mention his promotion of the reactionary Russian Orthodox church, the seat of some horrible, backward disgusting “values” such as misogyny, intolerance, and sexual phobias]. His restrictions on gay rights was a ploy for popular support from the unenlightened masses [sadly, it was supported by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation which displayed inexcusable backwardness on this issue.]
19. Putin has rejected as official policy the atheism of the Soviet State. He supports what he calls “Christian” values which form the basis of Western Civilization. [Whether supporting “Christian” values, Christians can’t seem to agree on what they are, is the same as being a “Christian” is questionable.]
20. A very long paragraph full of all kinds of absurd postulations, mostly about what was going on in Putin’s mind in relation to Obama’s “embrace” of the “uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.” In fact the US was a long time supporter of both dictators and was lukewarm at best when confronted with their overthrow. Putin condemned the failure of “his protégé” President Medvedev (Putin was PM at the time after two terms, as president, sitting out a term so he would be eligible to run for a third term) for not vetoing a US UN resolution authorizing military intervention in Libya. [It does not appear that Putin was the all powerful authoritarian this article tries to portray: he can’t even get his “protégé” to follow his script!] The author then quotes an independent Russian journalist, Mikhail Zygar who amazingly knows what Putin “absorbed” regarding the violent end of Qaddafi. The lesson he learned was that when Qaddafi was a “pariah” (i.e., seen as anti Western) he was “safe”, but when he tried to be more accommodating to the US and its allies he was killed like a dog by a mob. We have gone from bad journalism to low fiction. Putin is not a middle eastern dictator nor is the Russian Federation Libya. Putin is not standing up to the US and NATO because he fears a howling mob of Muscovites will drag him out of the Kremlin and summarily dispatch him. Neither Zygar nor the author have any idea what Putin “absorbed” beyond a possible contempt for Western diplomatic hypocrisy which he probably had learned anyway many years ago.
21. Another long paragraph about Putin’s reservations concerning US policies( labeled by the author as “grievances against the West” — he often uses the term “West” when he refers to US government policies. As usual the assessments of Putin’s inner mental states are provided by either anti-Putin Russians or US government officials. In this paragraph we get the opinions of Obama’s former national security advisor, Tom Donilon. He tells us Putin thought the anti-government demonstrations of 2011 were a prelude supported by foreigners to weaken or get rid of him. In Donilon’s opinion Putin became more actively hostile against the US and the West. This is illustrated by the fact that Obama cancelled a summit meeting with Putin because Russia, which has no mutual extradition treaty with the US, refused to hand over Edward Snowden to the tender mercies of the US “justice” system. In other words, if you don’t follow American demands you are “hostile.” Donilon also remarks that Putin “works with” a small group of advisors who are former intelligence officials. So what?
22. We are told that in Russia dissent is “marginalized,” opposition candidates are not treated fairly, and so called human-rights groups funded “from abroad” have to be registered as “foreign agents.” Russian television media [like our own] tends to reflect official government views.
23. In Putin’s Russia we find out prison camps are not filled with his enemies, but he has made a few “chilling” examples [as has the US]. Russian TV, as described in the article, looks a lot like American TV. Comparing the description of the Russian mass media to that given by Bernie Sanders in his book “Our Revolution” one doesn’t see much difference. The ruling elites in both countries pretty much dominate what the masses watch but there are outlets for critical views on Facebook and Web sites, and oppositional magazines and books are available. The author points out that “even” in the internet age more that 80% of Russians get their news from TV [the corresponding number of Americans is 90% according to Sanders]. The authors also assert that Putin’s popularity ratings are the result of “manipulation” of TV coverage (it’s a “crucial factor”). [Didn’t American TV go out of the way to give coverage to Trump to boost their ratings and profits while basically ignoring Bernie Sanders — no manipulation of coverage there!] I’m beginning to think Rupert Murdoch is a secret partner of The New Yorker’s parent company (Condé Nast a subsidiary of Advance Publications).
24. On Putin’s 60th birthday (2012) Russian TV ran a flattering documentary about him and a TV commentator favorably compared him to Stalin. [For reasons non-Russians in the West don’t understand, Stalin is still fairly popular with many Russians and others in the former Soviet Union and many millions of peasants and working people in the Third World]. The author also repeats, without any evidence, the allegations made by some “well-informed critics” that Putin is worth “tens of billions of dollars.” It seems that any comment by Putin’s critics, as long as it is negative, has its place in this article.
25. Masha Lipman, editor of Counterpoint criticizes Russian TV’s coverage of Putin as, in her bitter opinion,“not just the ultimate boss but the embodiment of Russian statehood.”
26. We get a few sentences from a 2015 Russian documentary about Putin where he opines sentiments similar to Mao’s political power grows from the barrel of a gun or TR’s walk softly but carry a big stick. The host of the documentary then says Putin is the leader of “the conservative part of both European and American society.” [This really is Russian over reach as Putin represents conservative Russian nationalism; the Europeans have their own nationalisms and he certainly isn’t a leader of any group of American conservatives as both Liberals and Conservatives in the US are anti-Russian and pro Western and don’t see Russia as basically “Western.”]
27. Putin says the elites of foreign countries only like Russia when it is weak and don’t like it when “we start talking about our interests.” They don’t like feeling there is competition.
28. In February 2014 a Western supported coup drove the elected president of the Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych, from office. The author follows the CIA line in explaining what happened next (he quotes the former deputy director Michael Morell.) The CIA is famous for wiretapping, but Morell can do better. He can tap Putin’s brain and tell us what he was thinking when Yanukovych was driven from office. Putin was thinking “Yikes, this could happen to me! I have to crush these upstart Ukrainians.”
29. The road to Kiev lies through Damascus. This is an unimaginable paragraph once it is deconstructed. It maintains that Russia intervened in Syria not because it intended to defend its national interests (its alliance with Syria and its Mediterranean naval bases, but because Putin wanted to prevent the overthrow of “dictators.” The Russians wanted “to halt a trend which started with the invasion of Iraq and continued through the downfall of dictators in Egypt and Libya.” This is a completely imaginary trend. Iraq wasn’t invaded to get rid of a dictator but to try and get control of its oil and to assert American imperial interests in the region and lies about its WMDs and nuclear intentions were offered as the excuse. The country was virtually destroyed and has been in a state of war and turmoil ever since due to the incompetence of the US military’s handling of the situation created by the Bush and Obama administrations. The same goes for Libya and Afghanistan. The trend is one of the US overthrowing governments and leaving anarchy and mayhem behind (the excuse in Libya was a fictional plot to massacre civilians). Egypt was an entirely different situation. A non violent uprising by the Egyptians themselves, without outside intervention, to get rid of an American supported dictator. The US did not approve and only grudgingly supported the movement after the fact. Egypt is now run by a fully supported dictator who has reimposed the previous military regime. In another case of mind reading an anonymous US official reveals that Putin thought the US was behind all the governmental changes “right through Libya” and was determined to stop this trend in Syria. Sergey Shoigu, the Russian Defense Minister is quoted as saying the Russian intervention put an end to the US backing of “color revolutions.” There is no room here to go over the history of “color revolutions” but suffice it to say unlike genuine popular “revolutions” such as in Tunisia and Egypt, or wars of aggression as in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, “color revolutions” are uprisings whose success depends on outside funding and support by US imperialist interests. The paragraph ends with some hypocritical musings about the battle to rid Aleppo of jihadists, a battle supported by the Russians, with no mention of the similar abuses of the US sponsored attempt to rid Mosul of its jihadists. One thing both battles have in common is that they are the result, in the last analysis, of US policies and interventions in the Middle East.
30. This paragraph deals with “contentions” between the Pentagon and the White House over “what to do about Russia.” Since we are not supposed to be a military dictatorship and the President is the commander in chief, there shouldn’t be any “contentions” over in the Pentagon about how the “White House” decides to deal with Russia. The generals wanted to send “advanced weaponry” to Ukraine and the President didn’t. Somewhere in this discussion the issue may have been what were the risks of turning the Ukraine into another Syria since Russia would certainly see to it that the Russian speaking population in the Ukraine, fighting for autonomy and the preservations of its rights that the new nationalist government in Kiev threatened, would not be out weaponed by US intervention. The issue, however, was not the well-being of Ukraine but the maintenance of US control of the “international order” and the unwritten principle that only the US and its surrogates had the right to militarily interfere in other countries. Here is a the quote from Evelyn Farkas, the Pentagon’s “most senior policy officer for Russia,” to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: she wanted more American force in Ukraine because Russia’s behavior was “an affront to the international order that we and our allies have worked to build since the end of the Cold War.” The fact that this order is an American creation that does not benefit the vast majority of humanity [endless wars, destruction of the climate and environment, increases in military expenditures, relief and preventions of famines and plagues as well as the aftermaths of natural disasters not adequately planned for and funded] is beside the point. Any country that resists this American order must be militarily confronted if diplomacy fails to ensure compliance. The “White House” was not necessarily questioning this doctrine, only that the timeline had not reached this point yet and that sanctions might still induce the Russians to cooperate.
31. Obama thinks, “with considerable justification,” that escalating the military conflict in Ukraine won’t make the Russians back down and will ultimately hurt Ukraine. Farkas doesn’t agree, can’t change Obama’s mind, and resigns and joins the Clinton campaign as “a policy advisor.” Clinton, as clueless as Farkas with regard to the likely hood of a disastrous military confrontation with Russia, “sometimes favored the use of military force when Obama did not.” [Fresh from her success in getting a military intervention in Libya, HRC was now advocating a no-fly zone in Syria and potential conflict with the Russian air force. Happy days are here again]. Farkas liked HRC because “she got it on Russia.” [Whatever domestic disasters we may have to endure, Clinton's defeat in November may well have saved the world a major and unthinkable war: our election was really a choice between a rock and a hard place!] The Clintonites won out, it seems, as under Biden Russia was pushed to the breaking point and lashed back by the invasion of Ukraine, a US cat’s paw.
This is the end of part three. From reading part three of The New Yorker Article you will not have learned anything at all about whether or not the Russian government or Putin had anything to do with the "hacking" of the DNC or if they interfered with our elections. Maybe we will learn something in part four.
Thomas Riggins is a retired philosophy teacher (NYU, The New School of Social Research, among others) who received a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center (1983). He has been active in the civil rights and peace movements since the 1960s when he was chairman of the Young People's Socialist League at Florida State University and also worked for CORE in voter registration in north Florida (Leon County). He has written for many online publications such as People's World and Political Affairs where he was an associate editor. He also served on the board of the Bertrand Russell Society and was president of the Corliss Lamont chapter in New York City of the American Humanist Association. He is the author of Reading the Classical Texts of Marxism.
International Brigade Against Apartheid: Veterans of South Africa struggle share lessons By: Stephane DoucetRead Now
A banner is held aloft by students in Johannesburg, South Africa, in the township of Soweto, Oct. 18, 1976. | AP
Thirty years after the fall of apartheid in South Africa, a couple of generations have now grown up without first-hand knowledge of the expansive and united movement which helped put an end to the racist regime. The recently published book International Brigade Against Apartheid: Secrets of the People’s War That Liberated South Africa takes a closer look at the international solidarity which helped shoulder the burden of overthrowing apartheid.
This collection, edited by the indefatigable Ronnie Kasrils—former cadre of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC), and former government minister post-apartheid—is composed of contributions from comrades who were themselves members of the struggle. Contributors hail from other Southern African states as well as Europe, North America, Palestine, Oceania, Asia, and quite crucially the former socialist bloc. The tome is split into two parts: first, accounts from the underground struggle (mostly MK); then from the broad, above-ground Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM).
Contributors include several average people who chose to enlist in MK and participate in crucial ways to support the armed struggle: smuggling weapons across borders, building weapons caches, maintaining safe houses, and so on. Others describe the struggle in other nations to raise awareness about the crimes of apartheid and mobilize resources towards the struggle.
Of particular importance was the fight to get the labor movement on board. Writing from Canada, for instance, Domenic Bellissimo shines a very informative light on this issue, highlighting the timid approach taken by unions affiliated to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. Despite this damper placed on the solidarity of Canadian unions, rank and file activists soon found ways to challenge the leadership and put together strike funds for SA unions, participate in information campaigns, and much more. Some unions also respected the boycott, refusing to move South African goods, and generally stood up to the red-baiting which was the go-to smear against anti-apartheid activists.
It would be wrong to overlook the support of the socialist bloc, in particular the German Democratic Republic and the Soviet Union, who offered support that simply couldn’t be found elsewhere. Training in military strategy, counter-surveillance, underground work, and so on, was never on offer from even the most progressive governments of Scandinavia, who themselves offered generous funding to the ANC. Soviet and other socialist specialists took on the bulk of the advanced training which MK and the ANC required to be successful in their task of militarily challenging white supremacy.
The back cover states the volume “reads like a war-time thriller” and it’s not wrong! But it’s more than that: It’s an education in international solidarity, in building unity, in working as a unit, in what you need to take on a monster and win. Though many contributors express disappointment regarding the current situation in South Africa, this hardly takes away from their courage and dedication to a worthy ideal.
International Brigade Against Apartheid: Secrets of the People’s War That Liberated South Africa
Edited by Ronnie Kasrils with Muff Andersson and Oscar Marleyn, foreword by Pallo Jordan.
First published by Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd in 2021;
Daraja Press edition (April 2022) available in North America.
Stéphane Doucet contributing writer for Socialist Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper.
“Market mechanisms” and “market solutions”: politicians, bureaucrats, media pundits, and academics like to refer to them as if they were somehow politically and ideologically neutral, above partisanship. They are not. Or as if they were uniquely fair and optimally efficient, which they are not either. The market is just another human institution invented and reinvented periodically across human history. Just like other institutions, markets were strictly regulated or altogether excluded when human communities rejected their outcomes as socially unacceptable. Philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle shared profound criticisms of markets and debated over efforts to exclude or regulate them. Many more critics and debaters followed, thereby enriching the tradition of market criticism.
Markets are one way of distributing goods and services from producers to consumers. They are established when divisions of labor occur in communities rather than having each person or family produce all that it consumes. Markets involve quid pro quo exchanges between those seeking to sell and those seeking to buy goods and services. Alternatives to markets always existed and also do now. Councils of elders, chiefs, local governmental authorities, religious authorities, and various cultural traditions, separately or together, have distributed products from producers to consumers, deciding who gets how much. Within households or families, kinship rules, including patriarchy and matriarchy, have organized the distribution of products from producers to consumers.
The market mechanism is very simple: People with wants or demands engage with people who own the goods and services. Owners enjoy the right to sell what they own if those who want it—prospective buyers—offer in exchange something the seller seeks to acquire. The two owners, one on each side of the exchange, bargain or negotiate over the precise terms of the exchange: what quantity of one item equals the quantity of the other item being traded. If and when a ratio of exchange (a price) is reached that both sides accept, the exchange is made. The market is thus “cleared.” It has successfully distributed the products to consumers.
The problems with the market system of distribution arise immediately once one asks how the market manages distribution when sellers and buyers arrive with very different plans for what they have to sell and what they wish to buy. If—for any reason—buyers seek to acquire 100 of any item while the sellers have only 50, the markets will respond in a very specific way.
Word spreads that a “shortage” of the item in question exists; demand for the item exceeds its supply in the market. Buyers immediately compete for the item in short supply by bidding up the prices that they can offer for it. As prices rise, the poorest buyers drop from the bidding as they cannot afford the higher prices. If, nonetheless, prices keep getting bid up, the buyers who have slightly more purchasing power than the poorest also drop out because they too cannot afford the higher prices. Eventually, the number of buyers is down to 50, the shortage is declared over, and the price stabilizes at whatever higher level was needed to equate the demand to the supply. Exactly the reverse happens when demand is lesser than supply.
The market mechanism thus distributes any item in relatively short supply (short relative to demand) in a manner that discriminates against those with little or no wealth relative to the rich. Markets are in no way neutral to or “above” conflicts between the rich and the poor. Of course, the seller in this case might have chosen not to raise prices and instead to have produced or ordered more products to sell. Free enterprise capitalism leaves in the hands of employers (under 1 percent of the population) the decision of whether to respond to supply shortages by raising prices (causing inflation) or raising production. Employers make their decision based on what profits they thereby gain or protect. The rest of us live with the consequences of their decision. These days employers seem to be profiting from inflation.
Defenders of markets retort that the rising price is how the market “signals” to producers to manufacture more so that they can tap into the high profits generated by high product prices. However, this “signaling” feature is well-known to all employers. They know that if they were to respond to the signals by producing or ordering more, the high prices and profits they are enjoying would quickly disappear. So the employers often exhibit no rush to produce more. And as high prices proliferate through the market system, more and more sellers begin to explain and excuse raising their prices because their “costs have risen.” The rest of us watch this spectacle of employers profitably using one another as an excuse for the rising prices even as they collectively impose inflation on the rest of us.
Capitalists long ago learned that they could profit by manipulating both supply and demand to create or sustain “shortages” that would enable them to get higher prices. Capitalism created the advertising industry to boost demand above what it might otherwise be. At the same time, each industry organized to control supply (via informal agreements among producers, mergers, oligopolies, monopolies, and cartels). Social conditions and changes beyond the control of capitalists require them to constantly adjust their manipulations of demand and supply. In reality, markets are useful institutions for capitalists to manipulate for profit. In ideology, markets are useful institutions for capitalists to celebrate as somehow ideal-for-everyone pathways to optimal efficiency.
Looking for, finding, and taking a job offer is also handled by markets in modern capitalism. If working-class people looking for jobs outnumber the available jobs, employers can lower wages knowing that desperate people will often take lower wages than risk going without wages. That process repeatedly went so far that it provoked a backlash. Workers demanded and won a legally enforced minimum wage. Employers mostly fought and opposed minimum wage laws and, once such laws were implemented, most employers resisted raising the minimum wage, often successfully. The U.S. federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour was last raised in 2009. Employers also encourage automation (replacing jobs with machines), relocating jobs abroad, and bringing in immigrant workers. These steps involve several levels of manipulations of the job market’s supplies and demands to the end of slowing, stopping, or reversing wage increases. Employers manipulate labor markets, like product markets, for profit.
Another market handles loans. Lenders and borrowers negotiate an interest rate they can agree on to enable the credit to be given and the corresponding debt to be incurred. These days the central bank of the United States, the Federal Reserve or the Fed, is raising interest rates to slow or reverse the inflation it failed to prevent or slow over the last year. That raises the cost of all borrowing (for mortgages, car loans, credit cards, and more). Once again, the poorest among us feel the pain the most, followed by the middle class. Higher interest rates are likely to bother the rich less. Also, the rich, who are themselves lenders in many cases, tend to benefit from higher interest rates.
The Fed could have pressed President Joe Biden to follow former President Richard Nixon, who in 1971 imposed a wage-price freeze to stop inflation then. He decreed and enforced that the market would not be able to influence and set prices for a while. Doing that again now would at least discriminate less against the poor and middle class, instead of protecting the rich. One might have expected that from the Biden regime, which controls both houses of Congress, but market-fetishizing and neoliberalist thinking and policy seem to rule both, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
The employer class itself often suspends and displaces markets. When the profitable manipulation of markets becomes too costly, capitalists often merge with or acquire one another. The external (to each enterprise) market relations between them then disappear. In their place, directly planned internal (to the enterprise) production and distribution of goods and services occur without exchanges.
Markets existed long before capitalism, but capitalism, as Karl Marx noted, made them ubiquitous, almost universal. Capitalism also raised and praised markets—and their prices—to give them an ideological importance, which leaned toward the absurd. As R.H. Tawney so brilliantly showed in his Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, early European capitalism had to fight hard to displace the notion of a “just” price inherited from the medieval Catholic Church. The “just” price—consistent with God’s laws and Christ’s teachings as interpreted by the church—differed often from the “market price” that equilibrated supply and demand. To win in that fight, defenders of capitalism found it useful to build a kind of secular religion around markets and their equilibrium prices, attributing God-like qualities of efficiency, fairness, and other similar attributes to them. However, as capitalism sinks into ever deeper trouble, it is time to topple false Gods as part of the process of finding our way to better institutions, and indeed to a better system.
Richard D. Wolff is professor of economics emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a visiting professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, in New York. Wolff’s weekly show, “Economic Update,” is syndicated by more than 100 radio stations and goes to 55 million TV receivers via Free Speech TV. His three recent books with Democracy at Work are The Sickness Is the System: When Capitalism Fails to Save Us From Pandemics or Itself, Understanding Marxism, and Understanding Socialism.
This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.