Two major gains took place at the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP) in Glasgow, Scotland, which concluded on November 13: the first was that there would be another COP in 2022 in Egypt, and the second was that the world leaders expressed their aspiration to keep global temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius alive. These were, however, the only gains made at the end of COP26 to address the pressing issue of climate change.
After more than two weeks of intense discussions—and many evenings of corporate-funded cocktail parties—the most powerful countries in the world left the convention center pleased not to have altered the status quo.
The focus of the discussions and negotiations by world leaders during COP26 seemed to be on the change of a word in the Glasgow Climate Pact, the final document that will be adopted by nearly 200 nations. Initially, the countries had begun to agree to the “phase-out” of coal; the final version of the document, however, merely said that the countries would “phase down” coal. During the last hours of the COP26 summit on November 13, Swiss Environment Minister Simonetta Sommaruga took the microphone and expressed her “profound disappointment” with the change. “The language we had agreed on coal and fossil fuel subsidies has been further watered down as a result of an untransparent process,” she said.
Sommaruga is correct. The process has been “untransparent.” Only a handful of world leaders—from the most powerful countries—had the opportunity to put pen to paper on this pact; the majority of world leaders only saw a draft of the Glasgow Climate Pact and were then provided the final document. Civil society associations were barely allowed to enter the hall, let alone to have the opportunity to sit with the pact and give their input on it. As President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen put it bluntly, “never before has a responsibility so great been in the hands of so few.” Why this “responsibility” was, however, entrusted to the “hands of so few” goes unremarked in her speech.
Words and Meanings
During the COP26, thousands of documents appeared on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) website, which included reports, statements and proposals relating to COP26. It would take an army of lawyers to scour through the text of these documents and make sense of them. Most of them are submissions made by a range of governments, corporations and corporate-funded platforms as well as civil society organizations.
It was clear from the first day of COP26 that the focus of achieving “net-zero” carbon emissions by 2050 was going to be on coal and not on all fossil fuels. Right through the negotiations, this was the fault line, with the Western countries—which are largely non-coal reliant—putting the emphasis on coal—which is used mainly in the Global South, with India and China in the lead. To make the COP26 about coal allowed fossil fuel use in general (including oil and natural gas) to receive a breather. While pressure mounted to cut subsidies for fossil fuels, the Global North was able to gather consensus that only “inefficient” subsidies would be cut with no timetable provided for these cuts. Sommaruga, who spoke so forcefully against the phrase “phase down” when it came to coal, said nothing regarding the allowance for “efficient” subsidies to underwrite fossil fuel use. It is far easier to blame India and China for their reliance on coal than to agree to phase down all fossil fuels.
On November 15, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that China “attaches high importance to energy transition.” But he specified that there are some issues that need to be looked at before that. First, no energy transition can take place without awareness that “not everyone has access to electricity and energy supply is not adequate.” Cutting coal tomorrow will condemn billions of people to a life without electricity (about 1 billion people still have no electricity connection, with most of them living in the Global South). Second, Zhao said, “We encourage developed countries to take the lead in stopping using coal while providing ample funding, technological and capacity-building support for developing countries’ energy transition.” The developed countries had agreed to fund the Green Climate Fund to the tune of $100 billion per year by 2020, but the actual amounts disbursed have been far smaller. No agreement on finance was reached at the COP26. “We need concrete actions,” said Zhao, “more than slogans.”
Glasgow’s COP26 was filled with corporate executives. They swarmed the hotels and the restaurants, holding private meetings with government leaders and with Prince Charles. The International Chamber of Commerce told governments to “wake up,” while the U.S. Business Roundtable said that “the private sector cannot shoulder the burden alone.” The implication here is that the corporations are on the right side of the climate discussion, while the governments are being hesitant. But this is partly the work of the spin doctors. Most corporations that have made “net-zero” pledges have done so in a nonbinding way and without a timetable. At the conclusion of the conference, it seemed that neither the powerful governments nor their corporations were willing to tie their hands to a real agreement to mitigate the climate crisis.
Just some blocks down from the grand halls of the official summit, people’s movements, Indigenous organizations, trade unions, youth groups, migrant groups, environmentalist organizations, and many more met as part of the People’s Summit for Climate Justice from November 7 to November 10. Their message was simple: corporations and their pliant governments would not do the job, so people need to find a way to set the agenda “for system change.” The more than 200 events organized as part of the People’s Summit addressed a range of topics from the role of militarism in emissions, to building a global Green New Deal, and even holding a People’s Tribunal to put the ineffective UNFCCC on trial.
Emotions at the People’s Summit oscillated from excitement over being together in the streets after nearly two years of confinement due to COVID-19, to dread at the imminent disappearance of the low-lying island states. Participants from Tuvalu and Barbados talked about the impact of the inaction by the Global North as they see their islands disappear, their homes flood, and their present vanish. “Why are you asking us to compromise on our lives?” asked Mitzi Jonelle Tan, a climate activist from the Philippines and spokesperson for Fridays for Future.
The People’s Tribunal called for the disbanding of the UNFCCC and its reconstitution from the ground up as a Climate Forum that does not allow the polluters to make the decisions. This newly constituted Climate Forum would demand meaningful financing for a green transition as well as an end to the plunder of natural resources and to wars of aggression.
Asad Rehman of War on Want spoke to the presidency of COP26 with words that resonated far from Glasgow: “The rich have refused to do their fair share, more empty words on climate finance. You have turned your backs on the poorest who face a crisis of COVID, economic and climate apartheid because of the actions of the richest. It is immoral for the rich to talk about the future of their children and grandchildren when the children of the Global South are dying now.”
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.
This article was produced by Globetrotter.
I recently had a chance to teach anthropology for the first time, after a school career with two anthropology degrees. One student asked, "what does anthropology matter? what difference does it make?". Good , mature questions for a high school student.
One way that anthropology might help us in the here and now is to bring scientific and biological paleontological evidence, from the Stone Age 100,000's of years ago, to bear on the question of what is human nature today ? Is it human nature to be greedy and selfish like Wall Street billionaires ? Or is it human nature to share and "love thy neighbor as thyself" ?
Sapiens means "wise" In Latin.
Homo sapiens (Latin: "wise man"(sic) ) is the scientific name for the human species. Homo is the human genus, which also includes Neanderthals and many other extinct species of hominid; H. sapiens is the only surviving species of the genus Homo. Modern humans are the subspecies Homo sapiens, which differentiates us from what has been argued to be our direct ancestor, Homo sapiens idaltu.
What is humans' unique nature ? What is culture ?
For anthropology, culture is the unique species characteristic of homo sapiens. In a sense, "culture" is another word for "wisdom", from the notion that humans are the species _homo wise_. It is humans socially learned practices, customs, language, traditions, beliefs, religion, spirituality that make us "wise" in so many ways, certainly clever and winners as a species ( not just as a few "fit" Individuals) in the struggles and snuggles to survive as a species. Since the advent of civilization, sometimes it's not so clear how wise our culture makes us. Therein lies the central drama of the history of the human species. Nonetheless, clearly in the Stone Age, our having culture was a highly adaptive advantage over species that did not have culture , stone tools made through culture, etc., raising our species fitness. This is evidenced by homo sapiens expanding in population and therefore migrating to an expanded area of living space across the earth , out of what is now Africa to the other continents. Stone Age foraging and kinship organized societies were the mode of life for the vast majority of time of human species 'existence, 85% or more.
The first human societies had an extraordinarily high survival need to be able to rely on each other at levels of solidarity that we cannot even imagine. The intensity of the network of social connections of a band of 25 to 50 people living in the ecological food chain location would almost constitute a new level of organic organization and integrity above individual bodies; ancient kinship/culture systems as super-organic bodies; the human social group as harmonious multi-individual Body, organism. The Individual human bodies, all of the Some Bodies , were very frail and weak relative to the field of predators they were escaping. Up-right posture made them slower runners, too!
The dominance of the food chain that humans ultimately reached even in the Stone Age could be reached only by super-social , super internally-cooperative, super-intra-species harmony, because they had relatively-frail individual bodies, and needed each other's support. It is clear to me that natural selection picked hominid groups with policies of "love thy neighbor as thyself " and "charity" over those that might have derived principles of "selfishness and greed", if there were any in the Stone Age before Civilization. Institutionalized war would have been selected against through the whole Stone Age.
Original humans relied more than other species on each other , on kinship relations. Human individual bodies were relatively frail and weak, and bi-pedalism made them slow runners. So, humans were very interdependent and highly social by nature. Our species name should be homo socialis. Selfishness and greed would have been selected against in the Darwinian sense. So, the answer is not both, but social. Greed and selfishness arise with civilization, after hundreds of thousands of years of "love thy neighbor as thyself" as the central principle of human societies , and the key to our adaptive advantage and ticket to the top of the food chain. Love thy neighbor as THYSELF is not self-less. It is wise in that the best way to love yourself is to get along with others well.
Now individual mortal beings, animals, do have an instinct of self-preservation, to avoid death. But dangers of death or injury did not come from other individuals of the same species. War is against our individual instinct and our species’ original nature, which was peaceful toward other members of the species.
"The decisive battle between early culture and human nature must have been waged on the field of primate sexuality…. Among subhuman primates sex had organized society; the customs of hunters and gatherers testify eloquently that now society was to organize sex…. In selective adaptation to the perils of the Stone Age, human society overcame or subordinated such primate propensities as selfishness, indiscriminate sexuality, dominance and brute competition. It substituted kinship and co-operation for conflict, placed solidarity over sex, morality over might. In its earliest days it accomplished the greatest reform in history, the overthrow of human primate nature, and thereby secured the evolutionary future of the species."[ii]
[i] Adaptation from Charles’ blog here.
[ii] Sahlins, M. D. 1960. The origin of society. Scientific American 203(3): 76–87.
Charles Brown is a political activist in Detroit, Michigan. He has degrees in anthropology and is a member of the bar. He teaches anthropology at Community College. His favorite slogan is "What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
The Glasgow Climate Pact kicks the climate can down the road.
After more than two weeks of negotiations during the United Nations COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, diplomats from almost 200 nations finally agreed on two major points: ramp up the fight against climate change and help at-risk countries prepare. Specifically, governments agreed to meet again next in 2022 with more robust plans to slash carbon dioxide emissions by 45 percent by 2030, significantly reduce emissions of methane (which has even more global warming potential than CO2), and nearly double the aid to poor countries to help them mitigate the effects of climate change. Notably, nations agreed to initiate reductions in coal-fired power and to begin slashing government subsidies on other fossil fuels, representing the first time a COP text mentioned coal and fossil fuels.
Alok Sharma, COP26’s chief organizer, called the Glasgow Climate Pact “a fragile win.”
Acknowledging the deal is imperfect, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry registered his support. “You can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and this is good. This is a powerful statement,” he said. “We in the United States are really excited by the fact that this raises ambition on a global basis.”
And while the agreement represents a step forward, it has been roundly criticized by scientists, climate activists and representatives from small, poorer nations who will feel the brunt of the climate impacts much sooner than big, richer ones.
Shauna Aminath, environment minister of the Maldives, denounced the final COP26 deal as “not in line with the urgency and scale required.” The Maldives has supported life and human civilization for millennia, but 80 percent of the archipelago of low-lying islands in the Indian Ocean is poised to be uninhabitable by 2050 due to rising sea levels caused by global warming. “What looks balanced and pragmatic to other parties will not help the Maldives adapt in time,” Aminath said. “It will be too late for the Maldives.”
“COP26 has closed the gap, but it has not solved the problem,” said Niklas Hoehne, a climate policy expert from Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
Long before the annual climate chinwag, there was an air of futility about what has been described as our “last and best chance” at securing a livable environment for future generations. How could there not be? The leaders of more than 150 countries have been trying to lower humankind’s global warming emissions since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks started more than a quarter-century ago. And since the first summit was held in 1995, global emissions have, instead, skyrocketed.
The summit’s host, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson—who joined activists in invoking the mantra “keep 1.5 alive”—was unimpressed with his guests, saying during the G20 summit (held in Rome in the days leading up to COP26) that all the world leaders’ pledges without action were “starting to sound hollow” and criticizing their weak commitments as “drops in a rapidly warming ocean.”
Science has put a deadline on us. In order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels—a limit decided by the Paris agreement—humankind must achieve “net-zero” emissions (i.e., whatever amount we emit into the atmosphere, we must also remove) by 2050. But that target seems highly unlikely. Big polluting nations like the United States, China and Russia not only continue to burn fossil fuels at an alarming rate but also continue to drill for more oil. China—the world’s biggest emitter, responsible for more than a quarter of humanity’s total emissions—and Russia have pushed their own net-zero targets to 2060. India has pushed it to 2070. That is kicking the climate can down the field, to be dealt with by future leaders. (A quick glance at a graphic created by the Economist showing the quick and steep drop in emissions that China must undergo to achieve its own target underscores the magnitude, and perhaps folly, of winning the war against the climate crisis.)
In the United States, a divided nation has ossified a gridlocked legislature that hasn’t passed many game-changing climate laws. Much environmental protection has been exercised through executive actions, such as regulations imposed by federal agencies, which can be simply overturned by the next administration. When a Democrat is in the White House, environmental protection is higher on the priority list. When a Republican is in the White House, it’s more about protecting polluters. The country lacks the necessary strong federal and state climate legislation to protect people and the environment from toxic, global-warming pollution, protect fenceline communities (which are often poor communities of color and Indigenous communities) and hold polluters to account.
One of the bright spots of the summit was a landmark $19 billion agreement between more than 100 nations—together responsible for about 85 percent of the world’s forests—to end deforestation by 2030. Healthy, intact forests are critical in the climate fight as they prevent around one-third of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion.
But in a press statement, Dan Zarin, the executive director of forests and climate change at Wildlife Conservation Society, said that the Glasgow Climate Pact “does not mean that the world has solved the climate crisis.” He pointed out that even if all the participating nations’ pledges to reduce emissions (known as “nationally determined contributions” or “NDCs”) were achieved, the world would not hit the 45 percent reduction needed by 2030 to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. In the Glasgow Climate Pact, countries only agreed to strengthen their NDCs by the end of 2022.
President Joe Biden, who attended the summit, hailed the forest agreement, which aims to restore almost 500 million acres of ecosystems, including forests, by 2030. “We’re going to work to ensure markets recognize the true economic value of natural carbon sinks and motivate governments, landowners and stakeholders to prioritize conservation,” said Biden, adding that the plan will “help the world deliver on our shared goal of halting natural forest loss.”
But activists were less enthused. The forest agreement “is one of those oft repeated attempts to make us believe that deforestation can be stopped and forest can be conserved by pushing billions of dollars into the land and territories of the Indigenous Peoples,” said Souparna Lahiri of the Global Forest Coalition, an international coalition of NGOs and Indigenous Peoples’ organizations defending the rights of forest peoples.
“[R]eferences to the rights of Indigenous peoples are relatively weak” in the Glasgow text, said Jennifer Tauli Corpuz, a lawyer from the Igorot people in the Philippines and chief policy lead at Nia Tero, a nonprofit advocacy group for Indigenous peoples. Specifically, she said that “[w]e will have to watch closely the implementation of [COP26’s] new carbon scheme,” referring to the finalization of rules that will manage the creation of the international carbon market, and were part of the 2015 Paris climate accord.
In addition to the lack of Indigenous representation in the final text of the Glasgow Climate Pact, people from poorer island nations that are most susceptible to the impacts of sea level rise were also underrepresented at the talks, mainly due to COVID-19 restrictions. Just three out of 14 climate-vulnerable Pacific island states were able to send delegates to COP26, while the fossil fuel industry sent more than 500 delegates.
Ultimately, the climate pledges made by nations do not match the climate policies of those nations. And since the pledges are non-binding, there is no legal stimulus to ensure that actual policies line up with those pledges. “The NDCs are voluntary measures,” said Lakshman Guruswamy, an expert in international environmental law at the University of Colorado-Boulder. “There’s no way of implementing, imposing, or trying to enforce a non-binding agreement.”
No penalties, no legal ramifications, no climate court, no climate police. All people have is civil society. It’s up to us “regular people” to stand up, speak up and mobilize; to inspire care for the climate and the environment in young people; and to rethink and retool our own personal behaviors to be in line with the ultimate goals we have for the future. There can be no significant change without both the political will behind candidates who will fight against climate change and public pressure to hold elected officials to their word. What many engaged citizens in the U.S. don’t realize is that it’s not enough to participate only once every four years by voting in presidential elections. Real change happens when people take an active role in their local communities. It starts at home, with our families, our friends and our neighbors.
Make no mistake: Our personal decisions as consumers play a decisive role in the state of the global climate. “While large oil companies like ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, and Chevron are the biggest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions, we consumers are complicit,” writes Renee Cho, a staff writer for the Columbia Climate School. “We demand the products and energy made from the fossil fuels they provide. One scientist found that 90 percent of fossil fuel companies’ emissions are a result of the products made from fossil fuels.”
Sadly, according to a recent poll, even though a majority of people believe that climate change is a serious issue, few are actually willing to change their lifestyles to help save the environment. “Citizens are undeniably concerned by the state of the planet, but these findings raise doubts regarding their level of commitment to preserving it,” according to the survey of 10 countries, which included the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. “Rather than translating into a greater willingness to change their habits, citizens’ concerns are particularly focused on their negative assessment of governments’ efforts… The widespread awareness of the importance of the climate crisis illustrated in this study has yet to be coupled with a proportionate willingness to act.”
Even if consumers become more willing to adapt their behaviors to make them more climate-friendly, they are not necessarily knowledgeable as to how to make those changes. “[I]ndividual consumers are not capable of identifying the behavior changes that are really worth doing to help the climate,” writes John Thøgersen, an economic psychologist at Aarhus University, in the journal Behavioral Sciences.
Emmanuel Rivière, director of international polling at Kantar Public, which ran the 10-country survey to coincide with COP26, said the poll results contained “a double lesson for governments.”
First, they must “measure up to people’s expectations… [b]ut they also have to persuade people not of the reality of the climate crisis—that’s done—but of what the solutions are, and of how we can fairly share responsibility for them.”
Reynard Loki is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute, where he serves as the editor and chief correspondent for Earth | Food | Life. He previously served as the environment, food and animal rights editor at AlterNet and as a reporter for Justmeans/3BL Media covering sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He was named one of FilterBuy’s Top 50 Health & Environmental Journalists to Follow in 2016. His work has been published by Yes! Magazine, Salon, Truthout, BillMoyers.com, CounterPunch, EcoWatch and Truthdig, among others.
This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
Viewpoint: Beneath Striketober Fanfare, The Lower Frequencies of Class Struggle. By: Luis Feliz Leon & Maximillian AlvarezRead Now
Six months in, strikers continue to picket in a tough strike at United Metro Energy in Brooklyn. Photo: New York Teamsters
As the rich and comfortable stayed indoors and rode out the worst months of the pandemic on their Peloton bikes, workers around the country shifted into a different gear. Ten thousand farming equipment workers in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Colorado, and Georgia walked out of their jobs, joining 1,400 cereal workers at Kellogg’s plants in Nebraska, Michigan, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania, as well as 1,100 coal miners at Warrior Met Coal in Alabama and nurses in New York and Massachusetts. And thousands more are waiting in the wings—from workers in academia, to health care workers at Kaiser Permanente in Oregon, California, and Hawaii, to film and television workers in the entertainment industry who averted a strike after threatening to walk off the job and reached a tentative agreement, which will now be voted on.
That’s not all. New York City taxi drivers have idled their iconic mustard-yellow cars and camped outside City Hall for more than a month, holding a 24/7 protest vigil that escalated to a hunger strike last week. The hunger strike by members and supporters of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance is taking place before a fast-approaching quarterly budget modification deadline on Oct. 31. Before the deadline, if he so chooses, Mayor Bill de Blasio can add a loan guarantee to lower the monthly payments on the crushing debts that drivers have accrued (averaging half a million dollars per driver) as a result of predatory licensing schemes.
Whatever you want to call this marked uptick in worker militancy, one thing is clear: In general, and on an individual level, workers are more confident than they’ve been in a long time, and they are seizing the crisis in front of them to their advantage. Members of the vast “order-taking class” are deploying their newfound leverage to command better wages as employers struggle to fill vacancies in a tight labor market while the pandemic still rages across the nation. And it’s not just big, headline-grabbing strikes—the increasing boldness and assertiveness of workers is manifesting in other important ways.
“We are witnessing a unique opportunity for many workers who have been on the front lines of a global pandemic and recognize that employers are struggling to hire,” said Johnnie Kallas, project director of Cornell University’s Labor Action Tracker, an online database that documents labor actions and strikes no matter their size.
“For example, we have documented six separate strikes by bus drivers—union and nonunion—since late September involving anywhere between 20 and 200 workers,” Kallas added. “Nearly all these strikes include demands related to higher pay. Health and safety concerns have also been voiced by striking workers.”
THE GREAT RESIGNATION
Meanwhile, in what some are calling the “Great Resignation” and others have described as an “unofficial general strike,” some 30 million U.S. workers have quit their jobs from January to August, a stunning collective rebuke—expressed on an individual level—to the common degradations of low-paying, demeaning jobs.
Stephanie Luce, professor of labor studies at the City University of New York, notes that strikes extend beyond formal strike authorizations called by unions. “We may be seeing a lot more work stoppages that are not formal strikes called by unions, or formal strikes in smaller workplaces, and informal work actions.”
“We should consider the range of workplace actions workers engage in to protest their conditions of work, from formal strikes to work slowdowns, sick-outs and quitting. Workers have always employed a range of tactics that should be considered part of striking.”
And why not throw in the towel? The average worker is more productive now than ever but has seen their real wages stagnate for decades as the cost of living rises and the lion’s share of profits have been siphoned off by those at the top. (The fact that the wealth of the 1% has exploded over the course of the pandemic has only made it clearer that we are all playing a rigged game.) While workers struggle to keep their heads above water, they’ve seen CEO pay soar to stratospheric heights, ballooning by 19 percent in 2020, or $24.2 million on average, according to an August study by the Economic Policy Institute.
Some have channeled their discontent into the throes of collective bargaining and bustled about the perimeter of picket lines. However, while workers have, indeed, turned the heat on the bosses, the flame of worker militancy is not yet a blowtorch capable of setting off conflagrations of work stoppages across the country.
A LONG WAY TO GO
From January 2021 to today, there have been 258 strikes—39 of those strikes, involving approximately 24,000 workers, have occurred in October alone, according to the Labor Action Tracker. By contrast, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which only tracks work stoppages involving at least 1,000 workers, puts the figure of strikes at 12 since January 2021, based on data up to September 2021.
Here’s the sobering truth: The discontent fueling the current uptick in strikes and protests is incredibly important, but that uptick still pales in comparison to the 485,000 workers who went on strike in 2018 and the 425,000 in 2019 during a strike wave involving teachers in states from West Virginia to Arizona, as well as workers in auto plants and hotels. Go even further back to 1971, when more than 5,000 work stoppages involving over 3,000,000 workers occurred, and the comparison to today’s strike numbers puts the reality of labor’s situation in even starker relief. Tens of thousands of workers fighting back in 2021 is significant, but there are roughly 14 million union workers in the U.S. alone, according to the 2021 annual report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Basically, it’s a big country—and we still have a long way to go.
“I think the term ‘strike wave’ gets thrown around too much, because it depends on what you are comparing,” said Kallas. “We also know that changes in our economy have made striking much more difficult since the 1980s, making it important to contextualize these historical comparisons.”
We need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time; we need to identify and cultivate the passions among America’s rank and file that have made this a special moment, but we also need to be clear-eyed about the deep challenges preventing this moment from becoming a movement. For instance, while it’s become a routine journalistic genuflection to cite a September Gallup poll showing more than 68% of Americans approve of unions, the amount of new workplace organizing efforts doesn’t match up to these shifting trends in public opinion. At the very least, this should temper our feverish excitement about the potential of a new worker upsurge expanding to encompass millions of workers who can bring the bosses and our rigged economic system to their knees. We’re not there yet.
SOME STRIKES FAIL
Momentum building is crucial to movement building, and successful strikes are indeed contagious, emboldening workers elsewhere to take action in their own workplaces. But “a failed strike that ends with the strikers permanently replaced by scabs can spread fear and hopelessness across communities and industries,” Shaun Richman, program director of the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. School of Labor Studies at SUNY Empire State College, wrote for In These Times. Translation: as much as new strikes and public excitement about worker struggles can help lift the labor movement off its back, failed strikes and fizzling public commitment to those same struggles can push the movement farther in the wrong direction. Even if worker militancy is growing, workers have a deliberately narrowed path to navigate to victory, shaped by decades (even centuries) of anti-worker laws and anti-union culture. This is why, in the same piece for In These Times, Richman makes the case for labor law reform, including the right to return to work after a strike (remember that fateful day in 1981 when Scab-in-Chief Ronald Regan fired over ten thousand air traffic controllers). It is also why many workers, labor leaders, and labor advocates have pushed for the passage of the Protect the Right to Organize Act—doing so, they argue, would open up pathways for workers to take today’s militancy and turn it into forms of worker organization that have real teeth and muscles.
If such changes to U.S. labor law happened overnight, for example, it would have huge implications for miners in Alabama, who are going on eight months on strike and have seen scabs replace some workers (and hit picketers with their cars). Likewise, nurses in Massachusetts are approaching eight months on strike with their Texas-based employer Tenet Healthcare refusing to rehire striking workers while hauling in $448 million in profit in the third quarter.
“Leverage to win is obviously different in different industries and companies,” said Peter Olney, a former organizing director of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, pointing to the St. Vincent nurses and a national day of action he’s coordinating with the Democratic Socialists of America. “Tenet has over 450 facilities and just brought in $2.4 billion during COVID and they are gushing with cash. They are making a political statement to unions that dare to challenge them. The path to settlement would be labor solidarity, but only 30 facilities are union nationwide and SEIU has a national ‘organizing’ agreement with Tenet that forbids solidarity.”
While Olney welcomes the new militant attitude and workers’ desire for better jobs, he sounds a sober note about how that desire alone “cannot overcome pre-existing realities of union weakness and lethargy. Organizing the massive un-organized private sector remains key.”
Luce from City University of New York agreed. “As much talk as we hear about workers gaining power in a tight labor market, these long strikes show the tremendous power imbalance that still remains between the average employer and the average worker,” she said. “Employers have far more rights, resources, lawyers and political power than do workers, which means that despite their cries of helplessness, the average employer will be able to outlast the average union on a picket line.”
Since April, two dozen workers at the United Metro Energy Corporation fuel terminal in Brooklyn, New York, have been out on strike after more than two years of negotiations broke down between Teamsters Local 553 and billionaire John Catsimatidis. Six months into that strike, eight workers have received permanent replacement letters. The Teamsters had already filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board for the company’s alleged targeting of union activists, and filed new charges as the investigation unfolded.
The original two dozen workers on strike have dwindled to 14 today, as many took jobs elsewhere when faced with permanent replacement letters, according to striking worker Ivan Areizaga, 56, a terminal operator who has been working at United Metro Energy Corporation for nearly six years.
“I dedicated myself to the company. I’ve been working from 10PM to 7AM. They didn’t even have consideration that I have a family. I want to have a weekend with my kids,” he said. “The only time I took off was when my mother passed. Three days after, I came back to work, never missed a day, and did everything I was asked for.”
Beyond the long hours, Areizaga also discovered that he was earning $27 when the industry standard for the same job is $37 hourly. A father of three, he began thinking about retirement and a pension. So he joined up with his co-workers and formed a union, leaping at the prospect of financial stability.
“I’m 56 years old. How many years do I have to work in order for me to make a decent living and provide for my family?” he asked himself.
“As much as the Union has the right to strike, we have a right, under federal labor law, to permanently replace employees to enable us to service our customers,” Catsimatidis said in a statement to the local newspaper The City, making explicit that the dictatorship of employers is largely a legal offensive.
Shortly after going on strike, Areizaga said, the company cut his health benefits. He recounted the experience of his son, who has diabetes, calling from college in North Carolina panicked because he couldn’t access his medication. “Dad, what’s going on,” his son asked him. “I can’t get my medication.”
“What we’re asking for he got in his back pocket,” Areizaga said of billionaire Catsimatidis. We were there through the pandemic when everybody was home; we were there providing for New York.”
Areizaga and his co-workers supply New York with heating oil, diesel, and gasoline, which keeps New York City schools, hospitals, and the subway warm; they are also responsible for fueling local gas stations. They and their labor are nothing if not essential for the city and its residents. And yet, existing labor law makes it much easier than it should be for bosses to dissociate the work from the worker, allowing them to replace the latter with anyone willing to do the former while safely ignoring the needs and concerns expressed by employees like Areizaga.
John Catsimatidis of United Metro Energy Corporation didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“We’re not giving up. We have lost a lot already,” Areizaga concluded.
If we want Striketober to be more than just a short, bright moment in time, we cannot forget about workers like Areizaga (or the miners at Warrior Met Coal, or the nurses at St. Vincent Hospital). We must do what we can—all of us—to help them win their struggles, and we must have a concerted strategy for addressing or removing the systemic barriers that make winning so hard.
Striketober may very well be just a viral hashtag, but the growing worker militancy it invokes is unmistakably in the air, fanning like pixie dust down to the lowest number of workers banding together to form unions and strike. What remains to be seen are efforts to rebuild class organizations on an even more massive scale for a lasting rebalance of power in the struggle of the many against the rapacious few.
This piece first appeared at The Real News Network.
Luis Feliz Leon is a staff writer and organizer with Labor Notes. Follow him on Twitter @Lfelizleon.
This article was republished from Labor Notes.
Founding Anthropological Psychology: I'm criticizing Evolutionary Psychology as a social "darwinism ." Anthropological Psychology is a critique of Evolutionary Psychology based on Anthropology's long history of accumulating knowledge of human evolution, biological, anatomical, psychological and cultural, beginning with Darwin's Descent of Man and SELECTION BY SEX and Antoinette Blackwell's valid feminist critique of Darwin, right through all the fossil, genetic and ethnographic and physiological studies of the 20 and 21st Centuries.
Main point of the sub field would be human individual psyches are especially though not utterly shaped by language and culture.
All Animal individual's thoughts, including humans, are perception-sensations and memories ( imagination is recombined memories). Human individuals have especially memories of symbols and words language, as well as memories of direct sensations. Symbols are memories of especially dead generations, tradition . Other animal individuals have almost no memories of symbols or dead generations' experiences .
Other individual animals are rational. They pursue goals rationally as predators chasing prey or prey escaping predators; that's ultimately rational ! The difference between our thinking and theirs is we have such big symbol systems in our brains; the difference is not rational cognition.
We share the experiences of many , many dead ancestors in our individual brains. We stand on the shoulders of giants like Isaac Newton said he did. Culture is elementary and original science in accumulating experience across generations.
Every individual being of all animal species has an instinct for Self-preservation. A main way it is expressed is hunger for enough food to eat.
For the human species, many different species of plants and animals can fulfill this fundamental physiological , life and death need. All human cultures select only part of the universe of possible food species to eat and taboo other species.
Marshall Sahlins, one of my mentors in anthropology, recently mentioned Tomasello favorably (on a YouTube video ). So, I look at him favorably. However, I must say that I think chimps, monkeys, mammal individuals imitate each other's intentions. All animal individuals are rational, capable goal seekers, most especially as predators going after prey and prey escaping predators.
The difference ( viva la difference) is other species don't have a lot of projects dictated by tradition, history, custom, language and culture . Other species don't have utterly symbolic goals like becoming a football player or an actress. For humans, symbolic projects dominate our individual lives and values.
Why anthropological psychology? Anthropological psychology because psychology is study of the Individual, the Self, that idol of American culture and symbolic inheritance. So, learning about individuals is automatically more relevant to individual student's interests, which is of course, especially in themSELVES.
 Adaptation from Charles’ Blog here.
Charles Brown is a political activist in Detroit, Michigan. He has degrees in anthropology and is a member of the bar. He teaches anthropology at Community College. His favorite slogan is "What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
The QAnon phenomenon has become a well documented conspiracy theory movement that has garnered widespread support around the world. However, it is difficult to determine just how influential QAnon has been in the lives and minds of Americans. At its peak, some experts have suggested that as much as 14% of the United States population believed in QAnon (Shanahan, 2021). However, according to a recent poll conducted by Ipsos 46% were not sure if “a group of Satan worshipping elites who run a child sex ring are trying to control our politics and media” (Newall, 2020). This same poll revealed that those who subscribed to QAnon were largely male, non-college educated, Republican, and primarily from the South and Midwest regions. Our secondary analysis of their survey found that when controlled for by geographic region (N=184), those with beliefs in QAnon were largely from rural and suburban areas (70%).
Few have been quick to dissect the movement and ask “how it is that so many Americans could become attracted to the movement.” Even after many of the prophecies related to QAnon have been proven wrong, followers still flock to channels in the hundreds of thousands across social media platforms such as Telegram, and even more mainstream websites like Twitch.TV which platforms and partners with accounts that have thousands of subscribers on the Amazon owned site. Several known QAnon influencers rank among the top streamers on the website, which means they are potentially making several thousands of dollars a month spreading lies about the election, medical misinformation, and other conspiracy theories.
Those not familiar with subcultures, new religious movements, or other such groups might easily dismiss followers of the QAnon conspiracy movement as religious zealots, gullible fools, or as lacking the mental capacity to dissect these claims. However, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Based on our qualitative analysis of 500 hours of QAnon related content including live streams, videos on and about the movement, and media reports produced by followers and journalists, we have begun unpacking the important sociological elements that helped give rise to QAnon—the first of several of these papers from this research project has been accepted in an academic peer reviewed journal Critical Sociology.
One of the main underlying features that adherents to QAnon seem to share is their desire to be part of something bigger than themselves. Throughout the discipline of sociology scholars point to a concept known as “Anomie” as an important tool for understanding cultural phenomenon—everything from punk rock, chess clubs, and even Wednesday night church groups can be explain by “anomie.” Anomie, a French word meaning without norms, and discovered by the late Emile Durkheim in 1897, the concept refers to unstable social conditions in which people feel disconnected from each other. To solve this problem humans’ create social networks, groups, and other cultural manifestations that draw us together. Religious movements are great examples of this. People who feel isolated, or that they lack purpose, and are searching for meaning may find groups like QAnon attractive because it provides them with a community of like-minded individuals where they belong.
QAnon also draws upon the collective trauma that is experienced by many of these people drawn into it. Recall, that many of the adherents to QAnon come from the South and the Midwest. As has been argued extensively by Thomas Frank (2004, 2017, 2020) these areas have been the most impacted by globalization and the deindustrialization of America’s manufacturing centers. As Frank has shown this general sense of distrust can be traced back to the changes in production and neo-liberal policies which, from the point of view of those impacted, left working- and lower-class individuals in the Midwest and the South without good paying jobs necessary to maintain the middle class.
Moreover, recent work on the deaths of despair brought to light by Shannon Monnat and echoed by other scholars (Case and Deaton, 2020; Monnant and Brown, 2017; Quinones, 2015), reveal that the regions hit hardest by the opioid crisis correlates to where Trump received the most support. While not all Trump supporters believe in QAnon, a good deal of them do. Moreover, the Trump Campaign and QAnon overlap in their ability to tap into the psychic trauma by those living in those areas and offer them an exciting alternative—by voting for Trump and paying attention to the prophecies of QAnon you can join a movement which will right all that it wrong and return those living in rural parts of the United States to their former state of glory.
As if the structural conditions weren’t enough, cultural portrayals of those living in rural areas as “backwards,” racist, uneducated, or as unfortunate victims of geography have created a stark political divide between rural and urban residents. These reductionist cultural portrayals of individuals in rural and suburban settings as “deplorables” glosses over the issues that impact them and paints them as irrelevant (Conner and Okamura, 2021; Reilly, 2016). Many of these issues are reflected in the core beliefs of QAnon who have expressed continued disdain long for the Clinton family, due in part to Hillary Clinton’s use of “deplorables” to describe middle America, long after the 2016 election.
Even Marx understood that “Religion is the opium of the people. It is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of our soulless conditions.” Marx’s point is that religion is something humans turn to when their problems seem insurmountable, and later scholars in the 40s and 50s would note the role of the mass media to tap into these same social conditions and offer attractive alternatives. One group, the Frankfurt School, tried to understand the rise of fascism in Germany. Were they alive today they would point to QAnon as a symptom of underlying irrational fears and desires, and more importantly as something that gives followers, however misguided, an answer to their real and perceived suffering. While to followers QAnon appears to be a grass roots phenomenon, it is in fact the kind of administered culture that the Frankfurt School warned could sow the seeds of an authoritarian regime in the United States. We would do well to listen to the voice of history, and to address the underlying issues that adherents to QAnon seem to be responding to. While we will never completely irradicate conspiratorial thinking, we can change the underlying social conditions that give rise to them, and with any luck prevent their ability to harm our democracy.
Christopher T. Conner is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Missouri, Columbia. He is editor of Forgotten Founders and Other Social Theorists, The Gayborhood: From Sexual Liberation to Cosmopolitan Spectacle, and is preparing a special issue for Symbolic Interaction on Forgotten, Neglected, and Misrepresented Interactionists of Color. His book Electric Empires: From Deviant Subculture to Culture Industry, scheduled to be released in the Spring of 2022, examines historical shifts in Electronic Dance Music subculture—from its origins within the underground gay club scene of Chicago and Detroit, to its current status as a billion dollar culture industry.
To read a more exhaustive account of the arguments in this article, check out the Christopher's recent Critical Sociology publication on the topic.
The National Question: A Case Study of Canadian Residential Schools. By: Dominique Panko & Dyson PankoRead Now
The workers therefore combat and will continue to combat the policy of national oppression in all its forms, from the most subtle to the most crude - Joseph V Stalin
We acknowledge that we are settlers on Treaty Six Territory. This land is and has always been, the territory of the Cree Nation and the Homeland of the Metis people. We reaffirm our relationships with one another and hope to elevate the voices of indigenous leaders such as Cindy Blackstock and celebrate the leadership of the Cowesse First Nation in this article.
Language Warning: The term “Indian” is used sparingly in this article as a historical term.
A root concern of Marxists is national self-determination, as communists in the plains of Turtle Island (Saskatchewan), we must understand the national question in reference to the indigenous nations. The settler-colonial project of assimilation is to disrupt the national characteristics of the indigenous nations in order to prevent their national self-determination we as Marxist seek to uphold. We will explore the strategy of family disruption as a means of national oppression through the residential schools, 60s scoop, foster care, and child welfare system. And the contemporary struggle of the Cowesse First Nation to regain sovereignty over their community and assert their right and capacity for self-determination. The National Question, as articulated by Stalin, has special significance for those of us living on stolen lands in Turtle Island as Indigenous communities assert their sovereignty and reclaim their intrinsic right to raise their own children and kin.
In Marxism and the National Question Stalin defines for our purposes the nation "A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture " This definition can be broken into four essential parts: 1. Language; 2. Territory; 3. Economic cohesion; 4. Culture. These characteristics of the First Nations of Turtle Island have been under relentless attack by the Settler state, First, with the dispossession of the land stripping the traditional territory away from the Indigenous people, the elimination of the bison removing the traditional forms of self-reproduction of the Plains People's, in other words, their common economic life, the purposeful cultural genocide by removing children from the nation's care and prohibiting them from speaking their mother tongue and practicing their cultural
Canada has a long and shameful history of assimilation that reeks of genocidal intention, even if the Federal Government refuses to name its actions as “genocide”. Anthony Hall in “A National or International Crime? Canada's Indian Residential Schools and the Genocide Convention.” writes that the residential school system was an “assault on whole groups with the intent to eliminate them as distinct peoples within the human family” (Hall 73). Between the late 1800s and the mid-1990s, over 150,000 Indigenous children were kidnapped and placed in church-run, and Federally instituted boarding schools (Wilk et al. 2). While on paper these institutions were labeled “schools”, in practice they were tools of colonialism with the express intention to “kill the Indian in the child” (McDougall). By eradicating Indigenous culture, kin connections, and language, the Canadian Department of Indian Affairs hoped for a final solution: a complete disruption of National Sovereignty. The strategies used in Canada to oppress and murder Indigenous people are not unique, Hall called the style of colonization used by European settlers in Canada “the most pervasive, longstanding, and severe impetus to genocide” (73). Looking at Stalin’s four characteristics of a nation, we can see how closely tied the Federal Government of Canada’s removal, abuse, and state-sanctioned murder of Indigenous children is to the attempted elimination of First Nations. Wilk, Piotr, et al. in their article “Residential Schools and the Effects on Indigenous Health and Well-Being in Canada-a Scoping Review” write that “The residential school system was intended to eradicate the language, cultural traditions and spiritual beliefs of Indigenous children in order to assimilate them into the Canadian society” (2). Unfortunately, the barriers to Indigenous nation formation and maintenance implemented by the Canadian Federal Government did not stop with the closure of the last residential school in the late 1990s. Children, the most vulnerable in our society, continued to be and still are, themselves made into the frontline of Canada’s war against Indigenous Sovereignty.
As support for the residential school system began to wane after World War two, the child welfare system picked up the slack. In the 1960s the infamous “60’s scoop” disrupted First Nations families by removing children from their communities, and placing them with white settler families (Amir 104). By virtue of these foster care placements, Indigenous children had limited access to their families and kin relations. They also were prevented from learning their languages, religion, and cultural practices. Though the “scoop” should be considered a distinct event, it was ultimately the mere beginning of 60 more years of Indigenous children being apprehended disproportionately and further distanced from their nations. The move towards foster care gave a makeover to Canada’s genocidal practices, allowing a system, not all that different from residential schools to continue with the image of protecting so-called at-risk children. In 2007 there was a class-action lawsuit filed by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations alleging that the Federal Government of Canada was providing inadequate and inequitable child welfare services to Indigenous Children (Blackstock 285). In 2016, almost ten years after the complaint was filed and no less than eight attempts by the Canadian Government to have the case dismissed, “the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal substantiated the complaint and ordered the Canadian Government to cease its discriminatory conduct” (Blackstock 285). The importance of this determination should not be understated. This landmark case paved the way for future Indigenous nation rebuilding by drawing public attention to the need for culturally appropriate foster care placements. Children are the future of any nation, and in 2020 for the first time in modern Canadian history, children started being returned. The Saulteaux band of the Cowesse First Nation, located in what is routinely called southern Saskatchewan, in 2020 asserted their right to manage the care of children and families in need within their community (Dangerfield). The Cowesse First Nation relied on Bill C-92 to reclaim their jurisdiction over child welfare on their Nation (Dangerfield). What this means for the future of First Nations sovereignty is yet to be seen, however, we believe this is a historically significant step in the direction of decolonization which, if capitalized on, could spur the beginning of the land back movement.
Following a Marxist analysis, the First Nations of Turtle Island are oppressed nations. And thus their liberation, self-determination, and complete sovereignty are key areas for solidarity and the proletarian struggle. If we seek freedom for the international working class we must seek freedom for all nations. For us settlers and members of the Canadian nation Lenin asks and answers a pertinent question "Let us consider the position of an oppressor nation. Can a nation be free if it oppresses other nations? It cannot." And thus the settler nation of Canada cannot be considered free until all the oppressed Indigenous nations are freed!
Amir, Ruth. “Cultural Genocide in Canada? It Did Happen Here.” Aboriginal Policy Studies (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), vol. 7, no. 1, 2018, pp. Aboriginal policy studies (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), 2018–04-03, Vol.7 (1).
Dangerfield, Katie. “Cowessess First Nation Becomes 1st to Control Its Child Welfare System. Here's How It Works.” Global News, Global News, 7 July 2021, globalnews.ca/news/8005532/cowessess-first-nation-child-welfare-law/.
Hall, Anthony J. “A National or International Crime? Canada's Indian Residential Schools and the Genocide Convention.” Genocide Studies International, vol. 12, no. 1, 2018, pp. 72–91.
McDougall, Robert L. “Duncan Campbell Scott.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 11 Aug. 2008, www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/duncan-campbell-scott.
Stalin, Joseph Vissarionovich. “Marxism and the National Question.” Marxism and the National Question, www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1913/03a.htm.
Wilk, Piotr, et al. “Residential Schools and the Effects on Indigenous Health and Well-Being in Canada-a Scoping Review.” Public Health Reviews, vol. 38, no. 1, 2017, p. 8.
While the democratic petty bourgeois want to bring the revolution to an end as quickly as possible, achieving at most the aims already mentioned, it is our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent until all the more or less propertied classes have been driven from their ruling positions, until the proletariat has conquered state power and until the association of the proletarians has progressed sufficiently far – not only in one country but in all the leading countries of the world – that competition between the proletarians of these countries ceases and at least the decisive forces of production are concentrated in the hands of the workers. Our concern cannot simply be to modify private property, but to abolish it, not to hush up class antagonisms but to abolish classes, not to improve the existing society but to found a new one.
-Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League, 1850
The latest debacle for the Democrats in Virginia highlights the increasing hollowness of the Biden regime. Ushered in on the exuberant wave of anti-Trumpism, Biden has revealed himself to be just as spineless and reactionary as his detractors from both left and right prophesied.
And yet, there are supposed leftists that continue to cling to the hope that his regime can be ‘pushed to the left,’ or that a people’s movement can force the Democrats into conceding reforms they obviously would never pass of their own accord.
The left must cut through the illusions. It ought to remember its Marxist roots and rediscover its commitment to building an independent workers’ party. Nothing can be gained by supporting the Democrats. By calling the Republicans ‘fascist,’ the left seeks to justify any ‘united front’ no matter how devoid of any real class content. The left is content to abandon class struggle and become a grassroots lobby of the Democratic Party.
No more! Working people are fed up with it - which is why they voted for Youngkin. Until the left offers itself as a fierce and uncompromising alternative, workers’ desire to change the world will continue to manifest in reactionary ways.
A recent article urged the Democrats to put their ‘best’ foot forward and highlight their policy ‘successes’ in order to win voters back. But what successes? Biden continues the anti-immigrant policies left over from when he was the Vice President; there has been no substantive Coronavirus relief, and now rent is back to being enforced and federal student loans are about to be called in again; the U.S. continues its election-meddling in places like Nicaragua and Cuba; and despite the high-profile tokenization of a few people of color in high places, Biden will always be remembered for his support for the War on Drugs and his revealing gaffe that “if you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't black."
Working people rightly hate the Democrats. To shamelessly sell them the Democratic Party anyway in the enthusiastic language of ‘Marxism’ and ‘class struggle’ is nothing less than betrayal.
These are the same leftists who pronounce in one sentence that it’s all Manchin or Sinema’s fault and in the next claim that the Democrats and Republicans form but two wings of the same party of capital. This kind of inconsistency is why the left has been so marginal and incapable of influencing recent events. These two positions cannot be reconciled. Either we are for the complete political independence and maturity of the working class, or we abuse the revolutionary proletarian tradition to sell out to the Democrats. There is no third way. It is either revolution or liquidation.
But what of “reform?” The Democrats offer no reform. They rely on scapegoats like Manchin and Sinema to throw their hands up and distract from the fact that they literally profit from legislative gridlock. Even if a new New Deal passed, it wouldn’t achieve the same effect as reforms did back in the Gilded Age. Back then, reforms were concessions rendered to the all-powerful left. And they demonstrated to workers their own power and convinced them to keep fighting for more, to not merely be satisfied with the crumbs but to go for the whole feast. But now, if any reforms are forthcoming, they are not the result of the left. They are rather the condition for a new consolidation of capitalism. If the elites ‘reform’ anything they do so to shore up their own basis of power. Working people know that such maneuvers don’t owe themselves to their own intervention because politics has ceased to be contested ground. The left has ceded politics to the Democrats. There is no reform possible when the specter of revolution is not being actively raised.
Instead of bemoaning or softening the Democrats’ defeat in Virginia, New Jersey, and elsewhere, we ought to celebrate it. To hell with the Democrats! They offer nothing but disappointment for the working people of the world. We ought to remember Marx’s own words quoted above: we struggle “not to improve the existing society but to found a new one.” The future must be proletarian. It cannot be a united front, a lesser of two evils, an evolutionary and gradual road. It can only be won through revolutionary struggle against all class enemies, including every member of the Democratic Party. This does not make us Republicans, of course. It makes us rise above the pettiness of U.S. elections by offering the only real solution to this country’s polarization and economic stagnation.
If the left is unable or unwilling to recapture this, it should openly admit it. That way, the last of the wool can be ripped from our eyes, and we can see the task for what it truly is.
Wes Vanderburgh is a member of the Communist Party USA based in Washington, D.C. They strive to create the conditions for the reemergence of the revolutionary left in the United States and beyond.
Chilling testimony of the torture and abuses committed against Majid Khan, at the illegal U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo, was recently presented by the prisoner
Sensory assault, sleep deprivation, isolation, stress positioning, submersion in ice water are just some of the torture methods used at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo. Photo: Hispan TV
Chilling testimony of the torture and abuses committed against Majid Khan, held at the illegal Guantanamo Naval Base, after the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and at the Pentagon, was recently presented by the prisoner before a jury of eight U.S. military officers, members of the court trying him.
Khan, born in Saudi Arabia and raised in Pakistan, was sentenced, October 29, to 26 years in prison after pleading guilty to aiding the Islamic fundamentalist group Al Qaeda.
As part of the plea bargain reached with the court, he was allowed to testify about his experiences, in what was the first public description of abuse by a detainee following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S., according to The New York Times.
Sensory assault with intense light and sound, sleep deprivation, isolation, stress positioning, submersion in a tub of ice water, were among the "techniques" used by torturers to obtain information from the detainee.
After two days deprived of sleep and subjected to freezing temperatures, he lost his sense of reality and began hallucinating, seeing a cow, a gigantic lizard, Khan stated. In this situation, he "confessed" to his executioners whatever they wanted to hear in order to put an end to the torture.
Recently, Abu Zubaydah, a prisoner held on suspicion of being a "mastermind" of 9/11, submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court a document describing the torture he endured in a clandestine CIA prison in Poland two decades ago.
The prisoner recounts that he suffered 83 simulated drownings, the barbaric "specialists" pretended to bury him alive, keeping him locked in a narrow for coffin11 days.
Abu Zubaydah, Majid Khan and many other prisoners illegally held in secret CIA prisons were subjected to so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," as the CIA practices are known.
NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN
From its inception in 1947, the CIA devoted substantial resources to developing interrogation techniques to extract information.
In 1963, the agency translated the results of its studies into a secret counterinsurgency manual, entitled Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation, which was distributed for use around the world, particularly in Asia and Latin America.
"The right pain, at the right time, in the right amount, for the right effect," were the words used to describe the CIA’s torture by Dan Mitrione, an FBI agent who served as a U.S. security advisor in Latin America, under cover as a U.S. Agency for International Development official.
Considered one of the masters of torture, his experience in the "deterrence" of "adversaries" in Uruguay in 1969 was incorporated into the CIA manual.
In 1983 they wrote a new book entitled Human Resources Exploitation Training Manual, which was refined in 1996.
Several corrections were made to the manual based on Congressional investigations, arrangements of extraordinary cynicism, including a suggestion made by Donald Rumsfeld in a memo, referring to so-called "stress positioning," which was to be inflicted up to four hours. He commented: "I stand eight to ten hours a day. Why limit it to four hours?"
As Alfred McCoy explains in his book, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror, the techniques used at Abu Ghraib, Iraq and Guantánamo, denounced by Majid Khan and other victims, are the product of massive and secret CIA research on the coercion and malleability of human consciousness.
A May 2005 report by Physicians for Human Rights, entitled Break Them Down: Systematic Use of Psychological Torture by U.S. Forces, contains a wealth of information on the torture techniques used at Guantanamo and other imperialist detention centers.
What do these methods of detention, interrogation, imprisonment without trial, secret prisons where a person can disappear for years, say about respect for human rights, which the gentlemen in Washington boast rant about so much? Is there any evidence of due process or the most elementary norms of delivering justice in these cases in these cases, principles the U.S. government self-righteously claims to protect
The country that threatens Cuba, wielding the power of its weapons and its arrogance demanding that our besieged island allow its mercenaries to break the law and deny the rights of the majority, has no moral authority to demand anything from anyone. Do as I say and not as I do - a saying that seems fit the empire’s actions perfectly.
This article was produced by Granma.
On September 20, letters began to arrive at eight Cuban municipal or provincial government headquarters announcing the holding of “peaceful” marches on November 15 by a group called Archipiélago. The motivation for these marches was a call for change. The letter was not a formal request to occupy the busiest streets of some cities in Cuba, but rather a notification by the group that they would do so and they also demanded that the authorities provide them with security for these marches. By virtue of Cuban laws and obsessive American support for the marches, the Cuban government denied permission for holding the protests.
Almost two months have passed since these letters were sent, but there are few indications that the march will take place in Cuba. Florida’s propaganda machine assures the opposite and adds that similar marches will take place across more than a hundred cities in the world, a third of them in the United States.
On November 10, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez warned the diplomatic corps accredited in Havana that the Cuban government “will not tolerate an opposition march” and further said that “Cuba will never allow actions of a foreign government in our territory, trying to destabilize the country,” while referring to the U.S.’s support of these marches. The provocation follows the plot seen many times before. Meanwhile, this march, which has been scheduled for November 15, is not what many hope it will be: a movement for change in Cuba.
The March Is Not Autonomous
Two days after the delivery of the first letter to the authorities, a string of statements by the U.S. officials and members of Congress began pouring in on September 22. Until November 10, there had been several public interventions from Washington or Florida with all kinds of demands and threats to the island’s authorities. No other issue in the U.S. domestic politics, in recent weeks, has received so much attention or been the case of such obsession before these marches.
The spokesman for the U.S. State Department Ned Price issued a statement on October 16 condemning the denial of permission by the Cuban government to hold the march. Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) extended his support for these anti-government protests soon after the news about these marches began circulating, while a couple of top advisers from the Biden administration have threatened more sanctions on the Cuban government for denying permission to hold the march on November 15.
As if that were not enough, more money has been raining in for such efforts against the Cuban government. In September 2021, the Biden administration gave almost 7 million dollars to 12 organizations that almost daily publicize the “civic march for change” in Cuba. Many analysts see the hidden hand of the “color revolutions” in this, which were exported by the West to the Russian periphery.
In addition to “moral,” political and financial support, the U.S. diplomats offer support in many ways to the anti-government movement in Cuba and occasionally serve as chauffeurs to the opposition. The only thing missing in terms of interference is a show like that of the U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who distributed food to anti-government protesters in Independence Square, in the capital of Ukraine, Kiev, in 2013.
The March Is Not Disconnected From Other Processes
The march is just another episode in a more comprehensive strategy. The Biden administration has interpreted the combined effect of the pandemic, the global crisis and the economic blockade—plus the 243 additional measures imposed by the former U.S. President Donald Trump—as exceptional conditions that have hit Cuba even harder. No spies are required to realize that there are more queues, inflation and shortages in a country that has been managing shortages for 60 years, but it is also important to understand that the march does not have popular support within the country. Cuba is returning to normalcy with the opening of flights, families reuniting after being separated for two years, the return of students to schools and the revival of the national economy.
The Group Organizing the March Is Not Peaceful
The private Facebook group listed as the march organizer, Archipiélago, is anything but moderate. A large number of publications by the group support symbolic violence and political disqualification of those who defend the socialist project or celebrate some social achievements in Cuba. The debate in these spaces is not to modify opinions, but to stir up prejudices, instill hatred among Cubans as an exclusive source of legitimacy for a government that has led the country under very difficult conditions.
The repertoire is an unbridled McCarthyism and an inordinate impulse to indulge in stigmatization that are very common communicative practices in the current political climate of the United States, but alien to the political, cultural and idiosyncratic character of Cubans. Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez, on November 10, assured that Facebook could be sued for supporting the “dissident movement “ in Cuba, according to Reuters.
The Marches Are Not Synchronous
There is talk of the synchronization of the marches inside and outside of Cuba to promote change. But there is no such thing. In Cuba, there is definitely no atmosphere to support these marches, while the organizers of Florida speak of the participation of people from a hundred cities in the world on November 15, they have not specified the number of people who will do so.
In reality, those willing to participate in this type of anti-Castro chaos are usually few, but that does not matter. On April 30, 2020, an individual opened fire at the Cuban Embassy in Washington with an assault weapon, which led to the recalling of the foreign minister. On the night of July 27, two individuals threw a Molotov cocktail at the Cuban Embassy in Paris.
It’s Not What They Say
The conservative ghost of the far-right that travels the world and arrives in Cuba is not what it seems or what is visible to the naked eye. Behind the “non-violent march” mantra is the long shadow of the life-long reactionaries who now combine economic ultra-liberalism, conservative morality, empty concepts, and creative use of social media. They dream of ending the Cuban Revolution no later than November 15, while leaving a moral question unanswered: How is it possible to talk of a civil, peaceful and independent protest, if Washington is lubricating the route plan of the protest with threats and dollars?
Rosa Miriam Elizalde is a Cuban journalist and founder of the site Cubadebate. She is vice president of both the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC) and the Latin American Federation of Journalists (FELAP). She has written and co-written several books including Jineteros en la Habana and Our Chavez. She has received the Juan Gualberto Gómez National Prize for Journalism on multiple occasions for her outstanding work. She is currently a weekly columnist for La Jornada of Mexico City.
This article was produced by Globetrotter.
To understand the Cuban Embargo, one must understand that it is only one aspect in the broader goal of America to rule over Cuba. The US has long had an interest in colonizing Cuba. In 1823, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams wrote a letter to U.S Minister to Spain Hugh Nelson about the possibility of annexing Cuba within the next fifty years. The Cuban sugar industry at that time had been incredibly lucrative and drew the attention of American investors. Twenty five years later, in 1848, James Polk offered to buy Cuba from Spain for $100,000,000. This offer was rejected.
Though the US may have never formally colonized Cuba, its economic domination of the island could be comparable to that of any colonial power. By the 1870s, 75% of Cuba’s sugar was exported to the US. In 1895, US investments in Cuba were valued up to $95,000,000. Cuba’s industries and economy quickly became subordinated to US corporations. In 1894, 90% of Cuba’s exports went to the US and 38% of its imports were from the US. Cuba served as a valuable geopolitical outpost for the US. It would be valuable in defending Florida and New Orleans, along with serving as an outpost and springboard for further economic and political control of Latin America.
While Cuba might have technically gained independence from the US in 1902, the Platt Amendment, however, kept Cuba in a continual state of colonial subjugation. The Platt Amendment allowed the US to intervene in Cuba at any time. It also set up US control of Cuba’s foreign policy and its public finances. In addition, much of Cuba’s wealth remained in US hands. In essence, the Platt Amendment and the presence of US corporations reduced the notion of Cuban independence to a myth. By the 1920s two thirds of Cuba’s sugar production was controlled by US companies and in 1929, US investments in Cuba reached almost a billion dollars and 62% of it went into the sugar industry. By the 1950s Cuba was the largest recipient of US aid and the US controlled almost all the important industries in Cuba. By 1955, 90% of telecommunications and electric services, 40% of the sugar industry, and 50% of public service railways were in the hands of American investors. Four years later, the US controlled 90% of all the mines, 80% of the utilities, and almost all the cattle ranches and the entire oil industry.
However, this vast investment in Cuba did not benefit the majority of Cubans, instead much of this wealth was repatriated back to the US or consumed by the American and Cuban elites on the island. That’s not to forget of course that US investment in Cuba heavily favored multinationals, and many of these corporations didn’t have to pay taxes to the Cuban government and were allowed to keep their profits, thus doing very little to develop an independent Cuban economy or help the lives of everyday Cubans. In fact, life for everyday Cubans was quite miserable under Batista and American imperialism. In 1953, the average Cuban family made six dollars a week and 15-20% of the labor force was unemployed. The average salary of a rural Cuban was $91. Sugar companies also owned 75% of the arable land and only employed 25,000 people full time and 500,000 people as part time workers during the harvest season which only lasted for about two to four months, for the rest of the year these people were relegated to poverty and unemployment. Only 2% of people in Cuba had running water and 9% of people had electricity. The vast majority of people in the rural areas lived in huts. The life expectancy was 59 years and infant mortality was 60 out of 1000 live births.
The notions that Cuba prior to Castro was a ritzy tropical paradise couldn’t be further from the truth. The vast majority of the population lived in poverty and a system of racial segregation--as horrible as the one in the US if not worse--was institutionalized and barred Afro-Cubans from accessing any employment opportunities other than domestic or manual labor. The only people who truly benefited from Batista’s Cuba were white wealthy landowners, business elites, and the professional class. These were the people that fled immediately after the revolution, not common workers or campesinos. The Cuban revolution was a true revolution of independence. It freed Cuba from the neo-colonial clutches of the United States which subjected the Cuban economy to the whim of monopolistic expansion by American corporations. There is no political independence without economic independence. Castro’s land reform and nationalization of major industries allowed Cuba to buck the reins of US imperialism and chart its own path of development without the destructive interference of an imperialistic power.
The US sees an independent Cuba as a threat to its grasp over the rest of Latin America and its own status as a global hegemonic power. Therefore, it can’t let Cuba’s socialist development succeed. Though the US has attempted various methods to sabotage the development through means of terrorism and assasination, the Embargo, otherwise known as the blockade has been the most enduring inhibitor to a prosperous and socialist Cuba. The blockade is incredibly thorough and applies not only to U.S. nationals and businesses based in the United States but also to businesses and nationals outside of the US as well.
N.C. Cai is a Chinese American Marxist Feminist. She is interested in socialist feminism, Western imperialism, history, and domestic policy, specifically in regards to drug laws, reproductive justice, and healthcare.
Facebook’s announcement has implications about digital life and work—provided it can attract younger users and gamer skeptics and overcome the hate speech and disinformation problems that could still plague Zuckerberg’s vision.
On October 28, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg launched a new company brand, Meta, at the annual Facebook Connect event. According to Facebook, “Meta… brings together our apps and technologies under one new company brand. Meta’s focus will be to bring the metaverse to life and help people connect, find communities and grow businesses.”
Is the launch of Meta merely an attempt at rebranding Facebook after the considerable hit its image has taken with the revelations of Facebook whistleblowers Frances Haugen and Sophie Zhang? Is it to move away from its sullied past and present to an alternate universe, the metaverse that Facebook will create in the future? Does the company want its users to forget about its hate-filled Facebook pages, which fuel the company’s ad-driven business empire, by moving the focus away from the Facebook brand? Or is this move aimed at winning back the young viewers that it is “losing traction” with?
Facebook’s internal documents, made public by Haugen, reflect this desperation to win back the young users, and they even talk about focusing Facebook’s attention on preteens--children in the age group of 10 to 12—who are viewed as a “valuable but untapped audience.” More importantly, Facebook seems to follow the same logic as the cigarette companies do by targeting children and getting them hooked on smoking. Both Facebook and these cigarette companies seem to believe that once they hook these children onto their products, they stay hooked for life, providing these companies with captive, lifelong customers. Or, in the case of Facebook, this means selling the data of their users, those hooked on Facebook, to advertisers for the lifetime of these users.
The general reaction to Facebook’s Meta—or its metamorphosis to the metaverse, described as “a hybrid of today’s online social experiences, sometimes expanded into three dimensions or projected into the physical world”—has ranged from cold to bewildered. For most users of Facebook, their knowledge of science fiction is meager. So the universe as a metaverse that seamlessly transitions from the real world to the virtual world might be quite an alien concept for a majority of people. This is in spite of meeting during the pandemic on various platforms as boxed, talking heads.
Meanwhile, those with a serious bent of mind and knowledge of literature, who find Facebook’s existing world already a dystopian one, are more likely to connect Meta to the prefix in the title of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. In this dystopian novel, the protagonist wakes up one morning as a human-sized cockroach; seen another way, his avatar changes to a cockroach in his metaverse. This potentially Kafkaesque alternative reality has provided fodder for some of the many memes mocking Meta since Facebook announced its launch. This main selling point of the metaverse seems to be the creation of virtual spaces where users can “get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, create.” These experiences are made possible by using a variety of augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) devices. While Facebook’s messaging seems intent on proving Meta’s “cool” factor, it is the reception of the news that has been chilly.
Before we dismiss Facebook’s Meta, we need to also remember that it comes with a major cash flow that Facebook has accumulated, combined with Meta’s market capitalization of nearly $1 trillion. As a company, Meta is still a 1,000-pound gorilla in the metaverse of Wall Street. And Facebook alone has a user base of nearly 3 billion, with billions of users on other companies owned by Facebook, such as WhatsApp and Instagram. How many of them are unique users is a different question, but any company that captures the eyeballs of half the world’s population, and has a mountain of cash, cannot be written off.
There are two questions for Facebook, and yes, I am going to call it Facebook for now and not Meta. What is the metaverse that it is planning to build? And does it have a business model? In other words, will it get the young audience it has lost? And can Facebook sell either virtual “properties” or “commodities” in the metaverse for real money, apart from AR/VR devices like Oculus, which the company launched in August?
Let us look at the concept of the metaverse itself. As Zuckerberg himself explains, the difference between playing video games on a keyboard or a gaming console and the metaverse is the immersive experience. With the metaverse, users can use different devices, including special glasses, haptic gloves or suits, and can see or touch objects in the virtual world and “are able to immerse themselves in digital content rather than simply viewing it” by using these AR or VR devices. And yes, there have been enough books and films made on such futures. Those interested can read Isaac Asimov’s Robot series, which is focused on robots, but takes the metaverse of virtual/augmented reality for granted. The more recent iteration on this, and from where the concept of the metaverse as a virtual reality that is an expansion of the internet takes off, is Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash.
There are two possibilities of the metaverse: one is to see it as a version of the real world where people can meet, work or play in the real world but with the help of augmented reality/virtual reality created by using different devices. That is, people will be able to visit different places in the world with their friends, meet in their offices, and even visit their doctors, all while sitting at home. The second is that a person can live as an avatar in an online virtual universe that has similar or different rules to the real world, a superior version of Second Life, backed by Facebook’s huge earnings and market power.
Second Life, set up in 2003, had many of the same goals as Meta. It is still popular among a small set of users, numbering nearly a million. It is an immersive universe—which promotes interaction among its user avatars—that can have a number of worlds with their own different rules and subcultures. It even has a currency, called the Linden dollar, which can be used within this universe, but not outside it. There is still an ongoing debate about what the fundamental purpose of Second Life is: is it an immersive platform or a gaming world?
Both these possibilities exist in Facebook’s Meta. An obvious driver of Meta as an immersive platform is the possibility of working from home. All tech companies are discovering that working from home is an attractive option for their workers. But the company loses the creativity that is available in the collective and controlled environment that an office space provides where employees meet and talk about their work. Zuckerberg’s Meta could sell office property that allows people to “come into work,” but in a virtual space rented or owned by the company as an office in Meta. This will force people to be in the “same space” as their colleagues while providing them with the luxury of avoiding a long commute or relocating to where the company offices are. Zuckerberg could sell or even rent space in his Meta and make a business model out of it. Or people themselves can rent such spaces, choosing where the space is a customizable virtual lounge to meet their friends, the same way people rent Zoom rooms.
The other business model that Zuckerberg can explore with regard to Meta is to have properties, gadgets, tokens, and a host of props that can be sold for Meta cash, which would be used in the various versions of the universe and still have value in the real world in dollars (or Facebook’s money, Libra). This would be unlike the Linden dollar, which can be used only in Second Life.
Both spaces could fall prey to relentless advertising, Facebook’s fundamental business model. In which case, the metaverse will be an immersive space for bringing people in primarily for advertisements. Given the immersive nature of the metaverse, there is a real possibility of Facebook building an even more dystopian world filled with advertisements and fake news, so that people’s eyeballs can be captured and sold continuously to the advertisers.
The gaming world is more difficult for Zuckerberg to cash in on. The gaming industry has been decades in the making and has taken off during the pandemic in the same way that online platforms like Zoom and OTT platforms like Netflix have. There are more than 3 billion gamers in the world, who spend a huge amount of time on their gaming consoles. It is the gamers who have driven high-end PCs and laptops, which have then resulted in other technological evolution relating to high-end graphics, including video editing. This has driven Nvidia’s graphic processing units and a range of Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications. For the gamer generation, Zuckerberg and Facebook are again not seen as cool. They are unlikely to be attracted to Zuckerberg’s version of the metaverse.
Of course, with his bags of cash, it is possible for Zuckerberg to attract companies that can make these games for his brand. If Meta can attract a set of well-known gaming companies to the platform, will that power Zuckerberg’s version of the metaverse? Will such gaming companies give up their independence to Facebook? That is not an easy question, as, after all, cash has its allure: of more cash!
The short-term goal of Facebook was to get away from this image of a sleazy company promoting hate and fake news. But it is also focusing on the new era of connectivity and AI tools that we are entering, which can help power game-like alternate universes intersecting with the real one. But here is the Achilles heel of the U.S. companies: the U.S. is far behind China and South Korea in the 5G race and much poorer in its broadband penetration from many European countries. Can the U.S. overcome this deficit with the state spending on its digital infrastructure?
Can Facebook also overcome its image as a toxic social media company and build a second life for itself with Meta? Facebook can still wield a lot of power and influence, but with its aging user base, it may slowly dwindle in importance. Society may punish Facebook for selling hate and fake news, but of course, only after it has inflicted enormous damage to the world’s social fabric. The caution here is that virtual reality can also be a toxic space, as we know from the misogyny in a significant section of the gaming community. Will Facebook, with its history, add to that and build a dystopian Meta?
Prabir Purkayastha is the founding editor of Newsclick.in, a digital media platform. He is an activist for science and the free software movement.
I have elsewhere argued that at the core of Western Marxism’s[i] flawed analysis of socialist states lies a “purity fetish” which is grounded in a Parmenidean fixation of the ‘true’ as the one, pure, and unchanging. For this disorder, so I have contended, the only cure is dialectics. With the aid of Roland Boer’s prodigious new text Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, I wish to show how this purity fetish, or, in its negative formulation, how this lack of dialectical thinking, emerges in Western Marxists’ analysis of China’s usage of markets.
In V.I. Lenin’s ‘Conspectus to Hegel’s Science of logic’ he states that,
It is impossible completely to understand Marx’s Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel’s Logic. Consequently, half a century later none of the Marxists understood Marx![ii]
For anyone familiar with G.W.F. Hegel’s 700+ page arguably impenetrable monster this daunting task alone seems harder than making a revolution. However, the central message in Lenin’s audacious statement is this: without a proper understanding of the dialectical method, Marxism is bound to be misunderstood. A century later and still, Western Marxists struggle to understand Marx. The paradox is this: “Western Marxists, although claiming to be the ones who rekindle the spirit of Hegel into Marxism, are the least bit dialectical when it comes to analysis of the concrete world.” This is lucidly seen in their treatment of China’s usage of markets, where they dogmatically accept Ludwig von Mises’ stale binary which states – “the alternative is still either Socialism or a market economy.”[iii]
As Boer highlights, already in Capital Vol 3 (specifically chapter 36 on “Pre-Capitalist Relations”) Marx shows how markets existed in the slave economies of the ancient world, e.g., Rome and Greece, and in the feudal economies of the Middle Ages. Were the markets in each of these historical periods the same? Were they commensurable to how markets exist under capitalism? No, as Boer states “market economies may appear to be similar, but it is both the arrangement of the parts in relation to each other and the overall purpose or function of the market economy in question that indicates significant differences between them.”[iv] As Boer points out, Chinese scholars, following the analysis of Marx’s Capital Vol 3, understand that “market economies have existed throughout human history and constitute one of the significant creations by human societies.”[v][vi] If markets, then, predate the capitalist mode of production, why would a socialist mode of production not be able to utilize them?
Chinese Marxism, following upon the tradition of Eastern European socialism, was able to ‘de-link’ markets from capitalism and utilize them as a method (fangfa) and means (shouduan) to serve (fuwu) the ends of socialism, that is, to liberate the forces of production and guarantee collective flourishing.[vii] If the last four decades – wherein China has drastically raised its population’s living standards and lifted 800 million out of poverty – has taught us anything, it is that China’s usage of markets as a shouduan to fuwu socialism works.
Considering the plethora of advances China has been able to make for its population and the global movement for socialism, why have Western Marxist continuously insisted that China’s market reforms are a betrayal of socialism and a deviation down the ‘capitalist road’? Unlike some of the other Western misunderstandings of China, this one isn’t merely a case of yixi jiezhong, of “using Western frameworks or categories to understand China,”[viii] for, if the dialectical framework and categories the Marxist tradition inherits from Hegel were properly applied, there would be no misunderstanding here. Instead, it is precisely the absence of this dialectical framework which leads to the categorical mistakes.
In Hegel, but formulated clearer in Engels and Lenin, we come to know that universals are empty if not immanently negated by its particular (and individual) determinate form.[ix] Since markets have existed throughout various modes of production, within the dialectic of universal, particular, and singular, markets stand as the universal term. Markets, Boer argues, as a “specific building block or component of a larger system” are a “universal institutional form” (tizhi), which can only be brought into concrete existence via a particular socio-economic system (zhidu).[x] When the particular zhidu through which the universal institutional form of a market comes into existence is a “basic socialist system” (shehuizhuyi jiben zhidu), the fundamental nature of how the tizhi functions will be different to how that tizhi functioned under the particular zhidu of slave, feudal, and capitalist modes of production. In short, as Huang Nansen said, “there is no market economy institutional form that is independent of the basic economic system of society.”[xi]
As was the case with the planned institutional form in the first few decades of the revolution, the market institutional form has been able to play its part in liberating the productive forces and drastically raising the living standards of the Chinese people. However, because 1) China took this creative leap of grounding the market institutional form in socialism, and because 2) Western Marxists retain an anti-dialectical purity fetish for the planned institutional form, 3) the usage of markets in China is taken as a desecration of their Western Marxist pseudo-Platonic socialist ideal. It is ultimately a categorical mistake to see the usage of markets as ‘taking the capitalist road’ or as a ‘betrayal of the revolution.’ It is, in essence, a bemusing of the universal for the particular, of the institutional form for the socio-economic system. As Boer asserts, “to confuse a market economy with a capitalist system entails a confusion between commonality and particularity.”[xii]
At a time when US aggression against China is moving the world into a new cold war,[xiii] these theoretical lapses carry an existential weight. The world cannot afford any more categorical mistakes which set the ground for an imperialist centered ‘left-wing’ critique of China. These, as has been seen in the past, merely give the state department’s imperialist narrative a socialist gloss.
Instead, it is time for the global left, and specifically the hesitant western left, to get behind China and its efforts to promote peace and international cooperation. The western left must stop being duped by propaganda aimed at weaponizing their sentiments to manufacture consent for a war that will only bring havoc and an unaffordable delay to the ingenious forms of global collaboration necessary to deal with the environmental crisis. It is the duty of every peace-loving individual to counter the US’ and former western colonial countries’ increasingly pugnacious discourse and actions against China. We must not allow the defense of their imperialist unipolarity to bring about any more death and suffering than what it already has.
[i] By Western Marxism I am referring specifically to a broad current in Marxism that comes about a quarter into the last century as a rejection of the Soviet Union and Marxism-Leninism. It is today, the dominant form of ‘Marxism’ in western academia. It encapsulates everything from the Frankfurt school, the French Marxists of the 60s-70s, the New Left, and the forms of Marxism Humanism that arise alongside these. Often, they phrase their projects as a Marxism that ‘returns to its Hegelian roots’, centering the Marx of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 and reading the mature Marx only in light of the projects of the younger Marx. Some of the main theorists today include Jürgen Habermas, Slavoj Žižek, Alain Badiou, Kevin Anderson etc. Although it might be tempting to just refer to this block as ‘Non-Marxist-Leninist Marxists’, I would urge against doing so, for there are many Marxist currents in the global south which, although drinking from the fountain of Marxism-Leninism, do not explicitly consider themselves Marxist-Leninists and yet do not fall into the same “purity fetish” Western Marxists do. It is important to note that a critique of their “purity fetish” does not mean I think their work is useless and shouldn’t be read. On the contrary, they have been able to make great theoretical advancements in the Marxists tradition. However, their consistent failure to support socialist projects must be critiqued and rectified.
[ii] V.I. Lenin. Collected Works Vol 38. (Progress Publishers, 1976)., pp. 180.
[iii] Ludwig von Mises. Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis. (Jonathan Cape, 1936)., pp. 142.
[iv] Roland Boer. Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. (Springer, 2021)., pp. 119.
[vi] It is also important to note that this realization is common knowledge in economic anthropology since the 1944 publication of Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation, where, while holding that “there is hardly an anthropological or sociological assumption contained in the philosophy of economic liberalism that has not been refuted,” nonetheless argues markets have predated the capitalist mode of production, albeit usually existing inter, as opposed to intra, communally. Karl Polanyi. The Great Transformation. (Beacon Press, 1957)., pp. 269-277.
[vii] Boer. Socialism with Chinese Characteristics., pp. 118.
[viii] Ibid., pp. 13.
[ix] For Hegel the individual is also a determinate universal – “the particular, because it is only the determinate universal, is also an individual, and conversely the individual, because it is the determinate universal, is just as much a particular.” G.W.F. Hegel. The Science of Logic. § 1343.
[x] Boer. Socialism with Chinese Characteristics., pp. 122-3.
[xi] Ibid., pp. 124. Quoted from: Huang, Nansen. 1994. Shehuizhuyi shichang jingji lilun de zhexue jichu. Makesizhuyi yu xianshi 1994 (11): 1–6.
[xii] Ibid., pp. 124.
[xiii] Although with the emergence of AUKUS a warm one does not seem unlikely.
Carlos L. Garrido is a Cuban American graduate student and instructor in philosophy at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. His research focuses include Marxism, Hegel, and early 19th century American socialism. His academic work has appeared in Critical Sociology, The Journal of American Socialist Studies, and Peace, Land, and Bread. Along with various editors from The Journal of American Socialist Studies, Carlos is currently working on a serial anthology of American socialism. His popular theoretical and political work has appeared in Monthly Review Online, CovertAction Magazine, The International Magazine, The Marx-Engels Institute of Peru, Countercurrents, Janata Weekly, Hampton Institute, Orinoco Tribune, Workers Today, Delinking, and in Midwestern Marx, which he co-founded and where he serves as an editorial board member. As a political analyst with a focus on Latin America (esp. Cuba) he has been interviewed by Russia Today and has appeared in dozens of radio interviews in the US and around the world.
The Best of All Possible Pedagogies: Derek Ford’s Anti-Capitalism and Anti-Pedagogy. By: Calla WinchellRead Now
If we are meant to imagine new worlds to come, as anyone who believes a better one is possible does, it follows that the new cannot be achieved with the same tools which made the old world. Just as we seek to disengage with the more obvious structures of capital, so must we depart from a pedagogy that mechanizes and moderates learning in service of valorization. In his new book, Derek Ford offers a sharp account of the current knowledge economy. First offering a history of its development, then an analysis of its structures, Ford incisively critiques both the right and the left for the pedagogical orientation they’ve adopted. While offering significantly more criticism for the right, his analysis of the left as inadvertently adopting a value of learning only for productive purpose is remarkably incisive, a form of learning solely as a means to generate profit or generate value for collective development.
However, his account falls short in the final movement of the text, where he offers his diagnosis for the problems he deftly describes. Ford proposes, as an alternative to this knowledge-above-all-else orientation: stupidity. There is some vague gesturing towards a sort of theoretical understanding of stupidity, where it resists definition and organizes without thought. Much of that account is also interesting, the ways the stupidity allows marginalized groups to deny the legitimacy of the orthodox pedagogy they live under. Still, the fundamental mistake he makes is that Ford too seems to lose perspective of pedagogy. It seems he can only see learning as innately tied to capitalist production. So he rejects learning as such for an anti-pedagogy, that of stupidity. In doing so, he mistakes current pedagogy for all pedagogy, and argues for a total rejection of such form, despite the ahistoric nature of learning.
To begin, Ford defines the changes which took place in the post-Fordist era, moving from industrial capitalism to cognitive capitalism’s knowledge economy. The name refers to a new privileging of knowledge production, in contrast to more literal production, like manufacturing, which was declining among previously industrial countries in the post-war years. As Ford states, “the claim is rather that the role and status of knowledge—including the conditions and results of its production, distribution, and utilization—have increasingly taken on a determinant function in economic, social, and political development” (Ford 2). In other words, in a knowledge economy, profit was no longer primarily being produced in the factory, but the university, in the R&D lab, or the think tank (notably, even if such organizations receive public funding their innovations will likely find their way to private corporation’s control). “What matters above all else,” in cognitive capitalism, “is that knowledge and learning are measured or measurable,” (59). As a result of this shift, a valid pursuit of knowledge is one linked exclusively to that knowledge’s potential productive capability. This is not knowledge for its own sake but for the sake of the shareholder.
For Ford, “the primary problem turns on the private ownership and enclosure of knowledge and the goal is an elimination of both” (28). The resulting system, which is one of competition, is inefficient even in its stated goal to generate economically valuable knowledge. The current capitalist framework is one that encourages the binary of professional/amateur, expert/ignorant, and so forth. This limits who may participate still further. But a problem arises: despite how useful the knowledge economy has proven for capital, knowledge has an inherently destabilizing effect that opens up new possibility, due to: “the collective, nonrivalrous, easily duplicated, and immaterial nature of knowledge—as well as the collaboration and openness required for knowledge production— [which] makes it unwieldy for capital,” (31). And so, Ford moves on from discussing the right’s knowledge economy and turns towards its opposition.
In contrast with the primacy of the patent in the existent knowledge economy, Marxists value what Ford terms, “the commons”, particularly the notion that “knowledge production relies on common knowledge to cooperatively produce new knowledge” (30). And an environment of access and openness in a knowledge economy of the commons has obvious benefits. Is innovation encouraged by collaboration or secretive competition? Are paywalls good for the general education of the public? Ford observes the great inefficiency of a profit motivated system: “they redefine research and knowledge production in the service of capital accumulation, or, in the words of the development agencies, in the numbers of citations and patents they produce.” But is an economy of the commons possible? Ford suggests they are, even under existing material conditions, using projects like Wikipedia and the movement for Open Education Resources (OERs) to show the potential of collective intellectual organizations (33). Note that the distinction between professional/amateur or expert/amateur dissolves under these frameworks. Your Wikipedia contribution doesn’t require you to have a doctorate in the subject, just a proper citation. So, when information is commonly held and anti-hierarchical, knowledge production accelerates; thousands of minds are better than ten expert ones, no?
Yet there is an issue that arises. Ford makes his sympathy with Marxists evident because they’re receptive to less overtly profit motivated pedagogy. “The marxists want to win this struggle because they recognize the centrality of knowledge as an expression… of an immanent alternative world emerging in the present one,” Ford argues (3). Despite that wider openness to learning, Marxists have inadvertently absorbed that same tendency to admire knowledge for its utility. Though profit motive may not be directly present, the same mindset which treats knowledge as a commodity remains. In his view, “both [left and right] view knowledge as a raw material, means of production, product, and subject that is created, distributed, and consumed in a ceaseless demand to produce…” (Ford 9). Treating knowledge as a commodity makes little sense, not least because “knowledge doesn’t obey the same laws of scarcity or rivalry as physical commodities” (26). There is no limit to how many times a book may be read or an algorithm shared. Even this, however, misses the wider problem, which is that every side of the political spectrum believes, “that the knowledge economy is significant because knowledge is a productive force” (emphasis mine, 63). Specifically, the problem is that each side believes development of knowledge to be “an undeniable good” (65). This is a mistake, for it perpetuates “circuits of capitalist production” and “reinforces the systems of oppression and domination” that Marxists want rid of (Ibid.). What does Ford propose as an antidote?
He offers a theoretical form of resistance: stupidity. His positioning of stupidity can feel disorienting and vague; Ford acknowledges this but attributes that to the ineffable, elusive nature of resistant stupidity. Discussions of this kind, about abstract concepts and envisioned worlds-to-come will, by their very nature, bump into the limits of language, brush up against the edge of syntax. Much of Ford’s prescriptive section of the text exists in this realm. Many generative thoughts are here, and yet, I was left wondering if there wasn’t a better, more accurate word he could use. Language will always struggle to contain theory like this, but you must use the words that get you closest to that which is beyond description; it feels as if the concept’s relationship to the label of the stupid is imperfect and that makes any conclusion hard to reach. “Stupid” as a term is already laden with meaning and so, without more clear description of stupidity as something to pursue, I found myself working off the popular waning of the term. If that is the case, why pursue it, why not clarify the phrase until it can be parsed accurately?
Because it doesn’t fit with the normal definition of stupidity — but rather a kind of inverting of the hyper-knowledge present — so much of the description of this anti-pedagogy/pro-stupidity argument relies on negations of the current state instead. “Stupidity is not the opposite of knowledge, nor is it its absence or lack. Defining stupidity is, by its very nature, impossible (76). Note how this “impossible” definition is told in negation, in absence; by telling us what it is not we are meant to understand what it is. Ford even notes his concept’s definition via negation, calling it “an anti-value” (82). His more developed version still relies on antithesis, but with little gesture towards a praxis of stupidity:
Because stupidity can’t be educated, its unknowabilty, opacity, and muteness endure beyond measure by remaining inarticulable and incommunicable. No databanks can store stupidity, no technologies can quantify it, and no technologies can discern or articulate it (emphasis mine, 83)
Still, despite stupidity's sketchy nature, Ford argues it is necessary to pursue, as it provides “an alternative pedagogical motor for an exodus beyond” our current era (79). Ford qualifies these claims, writing that this wasn’t “an uncritical celebration of stupidity and a rejection of knowledge or knowledge production,” and yet that is how it can be read (15). There is no coexistence of revolutionary stupidity and pursuits of knowledge for the commons (which replicates capital logics and are thus tainted). And, more practically, what would adopting this anti-pedagogy look like? With a definition that primarily rests on negation and inversion there’s not much direction about how to develop stupidity. Ford writes, “stupidity is not a refusal of production but an inability to produce” (original emphasis, 82). How can you cultivate an inability? Even if the reader entirely accepts Ford’s solution, I did not conclude with a sense of how it would actually work, or what organized stupidity-as-resistance might look like.
It is also not clear why the very idea of pedagogy has been so sullied by capital as to demand its total rejection and an embrace of its antithesis. While Ford’s description of the left and right’s shared problem — thinking of knowledge as a commodity to be produced — is entirely accurate, he appears to make the same mistake those he critiques make: he cannot peer out of the superstructure and is blinded by current conditions. Ford has mistaken the specific conditions he lives in, which are objectionable, for something problematic about the nature of pedagogy itself; thus, his solution is the complete rejection of learning. That is quite an extreme position to take. If pedagogy has changed as eras changed (and it has) what makes the current position so inescapable? Pedagogy no doubt has changed as society has transformed, so why does this particular set of material conditions demand adopting an “anti-value”, instead of an adjustment? This is a mistake that Marxists need to be cautious of generally: mistaking the historically produced, material conditions we live in with an eternal state of being. While he is correct that the pedagogy adopted on the left can reproduce a similar emphasis on productivity as the ultimate good, he seemingly forgets that capital (and its accompanying logics) has existed for some few centuries, where learning has been an innate part of humanity since it has existed. Personally, I’d rather attempt to get away from this relatively new pedagogy of cognitive capitalism, change material conditions, and develop something different, rather than invert pedagogy and seek out stupidity as a form of resistance.
There are many strengths in the text which deserve comment: Ford deftly intertwines disability justice with anti-capitalism in an intuitive way, his analysis of the history of the knowledge economy is concise and informative, and his diagnosis of the problem on both left and right side feel very cogent. In a world where no one understands the zeitgeist, where the absurd becomes the real everyday, it is difficult to fault such a careful academic because he doesn’t have a fully developed answer to address the problems of the knowledge economy. Ford’s analysis is clear and serves as a strong introduction to understanding cognitive capitalism. It also offers fair critiques of right and left pedagogical practices. That he gestures vaguely for another way that remains undeveloped is a frustration but no reason to reject the text writ large. Hopefully, Ford will continue to develop this anti-value as a concept; I’m interested to see where else it might take him. Whether we pursue the commons and proletarian general intellect or embrace stupidity, a better world is possible and can be built on the backs of new pedagogical orientations.
Calla Winchell is trained as a writer, researcher and a reader having earned a BA in English from Johns Hopkins University and her Masters of Humanities from the University of Chicago. She currently lives in Denver on Arapahoe land. She is a committed Marxist with a deep interest in disability and racial justice, philosophy, literature and art.
To read Derek Ford's book click here.
We fight for Socialism – the police fight for extinction: Young communists respond to repression in Glasgow. By: Peoples DispatchRead Now
Section of the YCL contingent in Glasgow cordoned by police. (Photo: via YCL-Britain)
Braving police cordons, hundreds of members of the Young Communist League (YCL) of Britain protested in Glasgow on Saturday, November 6, raising the banner of ‘Socialism or Extinction’ and demanding concrete proposals from the COP26 summit to mitigate the impact of climate change. While many other environmental activists and youth organizations also marched, the police on Saturday tried to restrict the YCL contingent from taking part. Progressive sections in the UK, including the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and various trade unions, condemned the police aggression against YCL cadres.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties, or COP26, began in Glasgow, Scotland, on October 31 in the backdrop of alarming climate changes and the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Progressive sections across the world have expressed outrage at the vague commitments made by the G20 member states towards mitigating climate change in their recently concluded meeting in Rome. Many climate rights groups and progressive youth groups, including COMAC from Belgium and the Portuguese Communist Youth (PCP), among others, have held marches in Glasgow demanding concrete actions from COP26. Young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg denounced the climate conference in Glasgow as a failure which is “sort of turning into a greenwash campaign, a PR campaign, for business leaders and politicians.”
‘Socialism or Extinction’ (Photo: via YCL-Britain)
Following the protests on Saturday, YCL-Britain stated, “YCL was the only group to have been personally escorted by police officers on the demonstration, it is apparent that the YCL are perceived as a credible threat. This increased police monitoring is in wake of the YCL’s unmissable presence at both the DSEI Arms Fair and the Tory Party Conference. While we fight for Socialism – the police fight for extinction.”
“We would like to reiterate that we are neither intimidated nor surprised: as the state begins to see communist youth as a threat once again, as they see large numbers of young people actively confronting capitalism, we expect them to do everything they can to defend the wealth and privilege of the ruling class they serve,” YCL added.
(Photo: via YCL-Britain)
The CPB alleged that “over 150 young communists marching for ‘Socialism or Extinction’ have been attacked and kettled by police during the demonstration.”
The delegates at the 56th congress of the CPB also sent their solidarity to the YCL-Britain.
This article was produced by Peoples Dispatch.