Few days ago, I read an interesting account by Afghan woman artist and photographer Fatimah Hossaini, who was rescued to Paris after Taliban took control over Afghanistan, her ordeal of leaving Afghanistan was quite painful yet thought provoking and raised a lot of questions about women’s rights under a Taliban regime. She writes, how women rights, democracy and over-all growth of Afghanistan went to square one after fall of Kabul in August’2021- Afghanistan was enjoying relative freedom of speech, respect for women rights and appreciation of art in the past two decades, furthermore, she was critical of Taliban’s policy of using religion as a tool to control women- she sees no hope for progressive Afghanistan under recent circumstances.
Debates on Afghan women’s rights is making headlines in the social and print media, especially Western media, a lot of women from West are concerned about the rights of women under Taliban’s regime. One instance is the statement from an infamous Hollywood celebrity Angelina Jolie- who became active on her Instagram handle all of a sudden and showed deep concerns about women’s rights under Taliban regime, she posted a letter from an Afghan teen age girl, and a picture depicting all Burqa clad women, some people criticize Ms Jolie’s stance and argue, where she was when indigenous Afghan women were suffering under US military occupation in Afghanistan?
On similar account, Pakistani Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, who is part of Malala Fund- educational fund for girl’s education, called on leaders around the world to defend Afghan girls’ rights to learn and plan a decisive action to get every Afghan girl back in school. All of them are building a case for Western intervention to save and free Muslim women from brown bearded Muslim men and their culture? There is another bigger elephant in the room to be addressed which on one questioned; none of these celebrities talked about the root cause of this mess created by Western imperialistic policies and their war crimes, and the complicity of the US, neither they talked about militarism nor prevailing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
This made me think to re-explore the work of Abu Lughod ‘Do Muslim women need saving?’ (2013). This essay is an attempt to make sense how Muslim woman identity is interpreted on internal level and how Western world sees it, it will try to address these overarching questions; What does this notion ‘Do Muslim women need saving?’ mean for native Muslim women? when we say Muslim women, do we assume piousness and submission for all? or there is more going on within the identity of Muslim women? something interesting is going on here which need further slicing through different frameworks.
Abu-Lughod’s work, ‘Do Muslim women need saving’ provided academic language and framework to explore this phenomenon of Western hypocrisy and their deep desire to liberate Muslim women and how it is used to authorize various forms of interventions including military interventions. As Miriam Cooke (2007) has called the Muslim women portrayal by West- ‘a homogenized creature oppressed by her religion, her culture , and her men’. They are often framed through debates such as honour, veil, freedom , violence , Islam etc,. Hostile view of Islam with the Muslim woman as linchpin - have a special hold on the US public, also, only certain feminist voices, those that blame Islam for misogyny in Muslim world get authorized in the mainstream public spheres in Europe and US.
Recently, after US military’s complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, one report by CIA surfaced- which suggest using feminism to reduce Western opposition of military occupation of Afghanistan in 2010. A series of contrasting discussions and narratives exist in Muslim world – one school of thought argue that West promote those women who blame Islam for patriarchal injustices in Muslim world and adhere to their idea of feminist politics. To counter this proposition, the native women argue, at-least West is ahead of Muslim world when it comes to women’s rights, contrary to what women have to face in their native country (male dominated public spaces and institutions), also, they believe Muslim world struggles to even create safe public spaces for women let alone giving them rights.
After Taliban took control in Afghanistan, many Afghan women who have been saved by the West and rescued to the safe places do believe in the idea of ‘Muslim women need saving’. I closely follow those social media handles who don’t see white saviour industrial complex as problematic, because they have benefitted from this complex, these native women won awards and recognition for their work in Western world and as they argue -how their native country did nothing to protect them and give them due acknowledgement. There are several Pakistani women activists who are awarded by US embassy or UK consulate for their outstanding work, their work is often neglected by the state itself.
For instance, Malala Yousafzai’s case is often a hotspot for such debates in Pakistan, those who are sceptical about her life often argue- there is a reason Malala is so much promoted in the Western world, she does feed into West’s agenda consciously and willingly, she is actually reiterating West’s picture of dangerous Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that her case is multi-layered and need to be analysed in depth. Abu-Lughod’s work is often criticized – ‘that how much support her book offered to internal critique : by this she meant critiques by authentic feminist voices who challenge the patriarchal injustices in their own societies, working to reform law, chains canons, and criticize conservative social practices, cultural ideologies and interpretations of religion’. Some also criticize diaspora writers for being oblivious to the real issues faced by native women.
This discussion needs further unpacking and academic attention since this notion ‘Do Muslim women need saving’ is multifaceted and not black and white anymore. It is quite relevant to discuss Mahmood’s (2004) work while exploring feminist politics in Muslim world- her work challenged the agency of Western secular feminists' politics. She proposed a critique of white liberal neo-imperialist feminists and anthropologists -who went to Middle Eastern Nations and analysed/studied Muslim women from a diverse geography within their white-liberal conceptual frameworks and slot them into an oppression/liberation -narrative.
The situation in Afghanistan is multifaceted and can be analysed through multiple frameworks but White photographers and journalists have chosen to join the bandwagon of analysing this situation through oppression/liberation lens freeing Muslim women from bearded brown Muslim men , thus building a case of intervention by the West to save Afghan women. This blurs and distracts the audience from the real questions, who invaded Afghanistan? who created and funded Mujahideen (1979) and then Taliban? why Taliban came in power again? To put things into perspective and find real solution to Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis, one need to understand Western imperialistic policies in this region and their political agendas.
The identity of Muslim women on internal level and how it is perceived by outside world is often intertwined: when we say, 'Muslim Women’, and un-consciously attach piousness and submission to their identity, this to my humble understanding is a false binary. Even on internal level, Muslim women isn’t a monolithic identity; there are practicing Muslim women who are full of liberal desires and then there are non-practicing Muslim women who are devoid of any liberal/secular desires. Also, there is another category, those women who are from practicing Muslim families and yet they don’t practice the core principles of Islam.
For some women, the identity of a Muslim woman is a form of empowerment and freedom, others reject this label. As Mahmood (2004) explored how for ‘Women Mosque Movement’ in Cairo, idea of freedom is submitting to authority- submission was a form of empowerment. There are many avenues for feminist anthropology in Muslim world, which need further exploration; why Muslim women are only framed through ‘religio-centrism’ when there is more to Muslim women apart from their religious identity. Perhaps one should try to explore Muslim women in particular contexts and in their heterogeneities for more nuance research work. East/West binary is very misleading; one needs to be more specific about cultures/countries/regions. Lastly, constraining framework and the way we understand situations, provide the form of solutions ,thus it is important to analyse situations in their diversity rather than false generalisations.
Abu-Lughod , Lila . 2002 . “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others .” American Anthropologist 104 ( 3 ): 783–90.
Abu‐Lughod, Lila. 2016. "The cross‐publics of ethnography: The case of “the Muslimwoman”. ” American Ethnologist 43.4 (2016): 595-608.
Bangstad, Sandre. 2011. “Saba Mahmood and Anthropological Feminism After Virtue.” Theory, Culture & Society 28(3):28-54.
Bayat, Asef. 2007. Making Islam Democratic: Social Movements and the Post-Islamist
Turn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Mahmood , Saba . 2004 . The Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press .
Sonia Gulzeb Abbasi is originally from a superb village of KPK Province in Pakistan, she was also born in a mountainous city known as Murree -which was a former British Administrated summer resort (1876). From Bioinformatics to International Relations to Anthropological research - the curiosity to find puzzled pieces of our colonial past and maybe add a wee bit of contribution from a native’s perspective. Sonia finds time in her busy schedule to climb mountains, nowadays she is in London, dismantling the white privilege at school with grace (literally).
The 2020s and Fascism: the Marxist view of Social Revolution, the Danger of Fascism, and the Danger of Liberal Distortions of Fascism. By: Noah KhrachvikRead Now
In 2022, we are entering a period of what’s often referred to in old Marxist texts as ‘social revolution’. Due to the developments in production, the old formations of society can no longer remain stable, and begin crumbling under the weight of their own contradictions. In Marx’s day, it was the advent of industrial capitalism; in Lenin’s, it was imperialism and finance capital. Our development in production was the computer revolution, the centralization of capital as and completion of its global dominance, and the debt economy. Because of the various economic crises, this causes debt bubbles and the upper limits of the falling rate of profit. The 2000’s in general, and the 2020’s in particular so far, seem to be marked by a widespread de-legitimacy of what’s often referred to as ‘the establishment’, or the ‘powers that be’ that make up our ruling class--finance capital and its various state machinery, the established economic order. The working class sees its conditions continually getting worse, and begins searching for answers and solutions to these problems.
Marxism Leninism shows us how to look beyond the surface appearance of such phenomenon in society, and de-mystify them, so to speak--to look into the history of what led to this moment using dialectical materialist methodology, allowing us a much deeper and more thorough understanding of where we’re at, what the current dangers are, and what the tasks of the working class and the Communist Party should be.
So where are we? What got us here?
Well, without going too deep into it and changing the entire subject of this essay, we can begin with the repression of the Communist Party. The McCarthyism era and second Red Scare allowed for a hitherto unexplored area of class struggle from the capitalist class: redirection of potential revolutionary energy. It was this period that saw the emergence of the “new left,” an apparently left wing movement, but liberalized and anti-Communist. The “new left” phenomenon arose partly in response to negative views of the USSR pushed by the capitalist class and a backlash that the first worker state had not created some liberal, individualist utopia where no one had to work anymore and everyone could do whatever they want, and partly due to the repression of the Communist Party here in the USA, leaving them to build new things on their own from scratch, without the guiding influence of those who had experience in class struggle. Because of this, their movement was detached from Marxism, devoid of a scientific understanding of society, with large and important sections of it directly funded and controlled by the establishment.
The new left led as many working class people as they could reach (with billions invested into the project in various ways, from various factions of the ruling class) away from the class analysis and methods of Marxism Leninism, which history had already taught us could be successful in overthrowing the capitalist class and putting the working class in power. The new left also attacked the “old left” (read: Marxist Leninist, or Communist) factions, which had the concrete result of aiding the capitalist class in class struggle, and in the main, to “culture war” narratives; the addressing of issues, sure, but from the bourgeois perspective, with class removed from the central role the Communist movement had discovered. Over time, this allowed the academy, a thoroughly bourgeois institution, to develop and maintain a hegemony over what America viewed as “the left.” For example, Theodor Adorno’s work The Authoritarian Personality and other similar works supported, funded, and published by the CIA’s operation: Congress for Cultural Freedom, would compare Communism, the USSR, and Communists with fascism. Similarly, there are progressive intellectuals, activists, and journalists who worked for the capitalist state who would play a similar role as that of capitalist academia. One such intellectual and activist was Gloria Steinem, who wrote glowingly about her time working for the CIA and gave us a version of women’s liberation that suspiciously lacked class analysis. The role of capitalist academia and the way its influence grew in this period are essential for us to recognize in order to understand how we got to where we are now. As Lenin said, in his Three Sources and Three Components of Marxism,
Throughout the civilized world the teachings of Marx evoke the utmost hostility and hatred of all bourgeois science (both official and liberal), which regards Marxism as a kind of “pernicious sect”. And no other attitude is to be expected, for there can be no “impartial” social science in a society based on class struggle. In one way or another, all official and liberal science defends wage-slavery, whereas Marxism has declared relentless war on that slavery. To expect science to be impartial in a wage-slave society is as foolishly naïve as to expect impartiality from manufacturers on the question of whether workers’ wages ought not to be increased by decreasing the profits of capital.
If we combine this important lesson with another Lenin teaches us, the white-washing and dishonest use of revolutionary figures by the capitalist class, in order to recuperate what they stood for and mislead the working class, we can begin to understand that there is not much real Marxism to the institutions of the capitalist class. Like they have done with important revolutionary and civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., they effectively put a sticker that says “Marxism” or “Communism” or “Revolutionary” on bourgeois ideology, attempting to mislead us.
This same phenomenon rears its head in our society today, as liberals influenced by bourgeois social science of the “new left” call themselves Marxists, but attack genuine Marxism from their ivory tower as ‘class reductionism’.
In 2021, how the American working class views “the left” is largely based on the distortions, liberalism, and anti-Communism of the “new left” era, and the academy, controlled as it is by capitalist class interests, with its inherent defense of wage-slavery. With this being the only thing people had access to, how could it not be? Today, we have an entire generation of people who have never heard of the Comintern, or seen the Marxist view of society itself, let alone the Marxist view of phenomena within capitalist society, such as fascism.
But let’s back up a step and discuss Adorno and “The Authoritarian Personality”, as this narrative regarding “fascism” is the widespread view on the modern left, and understanding that it is directly from the capitalist class is only step one in understanding the errors the liberal world outlook makes in its understanding of fascism, and the clarity the Marxist Leninist view can give us.
So what is this liberal view of fascism, and why is it wrong?
Well, like most things from the liberal perspective, its initial mistake is in how it views societal motion. From the liberal perspective, good ideas poof out of the ether and are put into practice and good things happen, or bad ideas do and bad things happen. There is an all-encompassing “blank slate,” which all things are built upon, and the conditions of the real world, which both inform how we view things and create our possible avenues of action, are only an after-thought, if they’re considered at all. (It individualizes this as well, but this is outside the scope of this essay.) For liberalism and Adorno, there is a set of bad traits and ideas that they deem “authoritarian” and “Fascist”. These ideas are inherent and make up its essential qualities from the liberal perspective, but they seem to be birthed entirely within each individual’s consciousness, and suddenly (maybe through magic? Or a few “bad apples”?), everyone in society is evil. Which is… er… insane.
Everyone who has ever Googled the word Fascism has been made aware of Umberto Eco’s 14 points that make something Fascism. This is a perfect view of the liberal outlook’s mistakes. They pre-define a thing, and then attempt to make society and reality fit this preordained definition, completely oblivious to the material reality, the real history, and the contradictions that give rise to such phenomenon. In this pre-ordaining, they make the common liberal mistake of confusing form for content. They are unable to separate the essential features that make Fascism what it is from the features it takes on within a given time and place it arises. The content of Fascism is, like all things, defined by its motion and interconnection for Marxism. It is capitalism in crisis mode. When liberal, bourgeois democracy can no longer sustain the system of wage slavery and begins breaking down (as we see happening in a period of social revolution), then fascism forms in order to do that job for it. The form this phenomenon takes in any given time and place are unique to the history of that time and place; however the capitalist class goes to extremes to defend itself.
Adorno and the “new left” and bourgeois academy would have us believe these things are immaterial. That, instead, fascism is when a lot of people all somehow develop similar psychological characteristics. (Some of his character traits that are supposedly fascist are a bit ridiculous, as well. They seem designed specifically to make everything outside petty bourgeois individualism somehow the equivalent of Mussolini or Hitler.) This would lead one to believe someone could be “mostly fascist”, or “a little bit fascist”, and other silly nonsense that distracts us away from the real content of what makes fascism dangerous.
In contrast, Marxism Leninism teaches us that, to quote the great beard his-own-self, “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.” For Marxism Leninism, it is the objective contradictions within society itself that govern its motion; that thought is only the most advanced form of matter itself. In Marxism Leninism, we see Fascism arise due to concrete and objective contradictions of capitalism during certain crises, its natural cycles of boom and bust, as it continues in its development and undevelopment over time. Ultimately, it is class struggle that is the driving factor of all societal motion, which is essential to the understanding of the unique crises economic revolution causes (the inability to live in the old way, for both the masses and the ruling class). Such unique crises essentially create the need for the capitalist class to historically resort to, as Dimitrov said, “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, and most imperialist elements of finance capital” and defend itself at all costs from both other competing capitalists and the rising working class.
With the upward limit of the phenomenon of profit rates falling in a given cycle, the capitalist class is faced with an utter inability to solve the crises and must defend wage slavery with new methods outside its old liberal order. This is what brings about the threat of fascism. And this is the same period we refer to as the “social revolution”. There is a relationship between the opportunities and dangers this presents to the Communist Party and the progressive forces of society.
During this period, with the working class becoming disillusioned with the system, we see a rise in all forms of radicalism, as the brilliant Gus Hall discussed in his 1970 essay “The Crisis of Petty Bourgeois Radicalism”. Petty bourgeois consciousness, a subject worthy of study in the USA of 2022 in its own right, creates a sector of petty bourgeois radicals, and when this sector runs up against its own impotence and inability to create the changes necessary in society, some of them give up the struggle, sliding into nihilism or anarchism, but others harden, become more determined. Like steel. This is only one of the reasons that we see the Communist Party rebuilding with such intensity now. The importance of the Communist Party and its Marxist Leninist analysis cannot be overstated, especially regarding the threat of fascism, which always comes at such times of intensified contradictions of capitalism, as the bourgeois side of the class struggle. The Communist Party’s role in this era is to rally this disillusioned working class, to spread class consciousness, and to make it a “class for itself”.
This is how Dimitrov viewed it when he spoke at the Comintern Convention in 1932 with his famous address entitled: “The Fascist Offensive and the Tasks of the Communist International in the Struggle of the Working Class against Fascism.”
The title of this address is interesting, as it marks the difference in the Marxist Leninist world outlook. Fascism is inherently a phenomenon of capitalism, and of the capitalist class. What creates a threat of fascism is the same thing that creates revolutionary potential: the crises of capitalism. Historically, fascists have been used like mercenaries by finance capital, in order to smash the growing workers’ movement. It is not anything so simplistic and liberal as “the revenge of the petty bourgeoisie,” which is ultimately nothing more than an anti-Communist distortion dressed in oldy timey revolutionary jargon to blame the contradictions of capitalism on the middle peasants, or its modern American equivalent in the rural American worker or newly disillusioned small business owner whose business was crushed and the property gobbled up by various banks and investment firms during the COVID crisis. It is not, as individualists and idealists believe, some collection of traits in individuals, most of which could be applied to anyone who isn’t a liberal. And I think we’ve gone over enough of the Marxist outlook by now to know that it does not find its genesis in the working class or different confused ideas the masses may have after a lifetime of bourgeois ideology being pushed on them. It is, instead, ultimately, the last defense of the capitalist class to protect itself from capitalism itself in a period of acute crises or social revolution, and the form it takes is always unique, according to the situation that capitalist class finds itself in.
So where does this leave us?
Well, how is our capitalist class made up? It seems as if the most reactionary and chauvinistic elements of capital are no longer at the tippy top of the pyramid, instead occupying a place slightly lower. The Koch Brothers and associated cartel could be considered part of this, for example, with the Proud Boys organization their loyal foot soldiers. The World Economic Forum, Davos, the old WASP network of Rockefellers, Morgans, and the like have been pushed into a sort of social liberalism by the advance of our class struggle over time. How will this affect the formation of an American fascism, and what does it say about our period of social revolution and the dangers we face?
The potential for socialism is here in the USA. And it is here like we haven’t seen since the great William Z Foster was at the helm. Our crumbling standard of living, de-legitimacy of the state, and inability for liberal democracy to continue functioning in the old way, attacked on all sides by the capitalist class in order to resolve the crises in one faction or another’s favor, has seen to that. But we cannot forget that the potential for fascism is also here. If we do not properly understand this phenomenon and rally the working class to work in its own interests, the capitalist class certainly will. Only it won’t be in its own interests. It will be in theirs. And we’ve seen this problem once already in history. I don’t think we can afford to let it happen again.
Noah Khrachvik is a proud working class member of the Communist Party USA. He is 40 years old, married to the most understanding and patient woman on planet Earth (who puts up with all his deep-theory rants when he wakes up at two in the morning and can't get back to sleep) and has a twelve-year-old son who is far too smart for his own good. When he isn't busy writing, organizing the working class, or fixing rich people's houses all day, he enjoys doing absolutely nothing on the couch, surrounded by his family and books by Gus Hall.
They Won’t Ever Find Us Because Our Love Is Bound to the Rocks: The Fiftieth Newsletter (2021). By: Vijay PrashadRead Now
Photographs by Victor Basterra (Argentina) / collage by Daniela Ruggeri, Unknown victims and prisoners at the Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA), 1976-1983.
Greetings from the desk of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.
At the US State Department’s Summit for Democracy (9–10 December), US President Joe Biden announced a range of initiatives to ‘bolster democracy and defend human rights globally’. These measures are to be funded by $424.4 million from the United States. This money will go towards the same institutions that have – for the past sixty years – intervened to undermine the sovereignty of democratic processes from Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954) to Honduras (2009) and Bolivia (2019). The US focuses on falsely portraying governments that are unwilling to accept US leadership as corrupt – as was with the case Brazil’s ‘soft coup’ against former Presidents Dilma Rousseff and Lula da Silva – all while shielding its allies who have documented evidence of corruption – such as the outgoing Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, whose political bloc was defeated by the left in the recently conducted presidential election. Washington’s measures amount to a ‘Plan to Destabilise the Planet’, a stark contrast with the ‘Plan to Save the Planet’ recently launched by twenty-six research institutes.
Biden’s attention is on countries such as Cuba and Venezuela, China and Russia, Iran, and Zimbabwe. Despite all the howls of despair during Donald Trump’s presidency, there seems to be less urgency amongst liberals regarding the global consolidation of far-right forces. If anyone went to the Summit for Democracy thinking that concerns would be raised about the consolidation of right-wing forces in Latin America or about the tight grip established by right-wing forces in Europe, they would have been disappointed. US liberalism fears attempts to build independent, sovereign political projects far more than it fears the terrible nightmare of fascistic governments.
Republican US Senator Marco Rubio effectively operates as Washington’s ambassador for the destabilisation of the left and the establishment of far-right governments around the world. Between meddling in the fortunes of the Cuban people and the people of the Solomon Islands, Rubio recently met with Chile’s far-right José Antonio Kast to discuss their common antipathy to the growth of the socialist forces in Latin America. Meanwhile, Santiago Abascal, the leader of the Spanish far-right party, Vox, went to the United States to meet with the Republican Party and the Heritage Foundation as part of their tour to create the right-wing think tank Dissent Foundation (Fundación Disenso) and the right-wing political network the Madrid Forum (Foro Madrid). The Vox-inspired Charter of Madrid: In Defence of Freedom and Democracy in the Iberosphere warns about the rise of the left in both Spain and Latin America, using exaggerated language about the ‘totalitarian yoke’ of left-led governments and warning how the ‘advance of communism poses a serious threat to the prosperity and development’. This framing projects its own authoritarian agenda onto the left, stoking fear amongst the public. The Madrid Forum has brought together the Brazilian far right (rallied by President Jair Bolsonaro) and the Portuguese far right (CHEGA), a development blessed by the right-wing political forces in Washington and in European capitals.
As an impetus for the creation of the Madrid Forum, Vox points to the role of the Communist Party in the Spanish government, to the growth of two formations in Latin America (the São Paulo Forum, established in 1990, and the Puebla Group, established in 2019), and to the electoral victories of the left from Bolivia to Nicaragua. For far-right forces like Vox, such electoral results and the defence of the revolutionary processes in Cuba and Venezuela must be fought by any means. The histories and legacies of destructive coups run through these men, whose commitment to democratic principles and institutions is limited. The Dissent Foundation and other similar endeavours are designed to delegitimise the governments and movements of the left, painting them in the worst light and then offering regional support for the US-driven hybrid war. No comparable gathering of the left (the São Paulo Forum or the Puebla Group) has ever asserted such politics. Instead, their goals centre around finding ways to strengthen co-operation and learn from each other about policy initiatives that undermine both imperialism and neoliberalism and further the interests of humankind. There are two sides to the developments in the Iberosphere: while the left is trying to drive a project of collaboration, the right is building armies of confrontation.
Similar moves by the right are afoot in Europe, although with limited results. Over the past few years, several meetings have taken place between Brussels and Warsaw, but, apart from the release of vague statements about unity, little actual political coordination has taken place. ‘Russia’ and the ‘European Union’ stand in for ‘Venezuela’ and ‘Cuba’, with hyperbolic language intended to mask the real dangers of the ruling parties of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Poland’s Jarosław Kaczyński. In the European Parliament, these right-wing groups compete in two formations: the European Conservatives and Reformists, dominated by Poland’s far right, and the Identity and Democracy group, dominated by France and Italy’s far right.
Our latest dossier, New Clothes, Old Threads: The Dangerous Right-Wing Offensive in Latin America (December 2021), offers a thoughtful journey through the emergence of the right wing across Latin America. The dossier explores different right-wing forces, assessing them in terms of their relationship to major capitalist interests and testing three hypotheses, each of which have much to offer to our assessment of the right wing:
These hypotheses allow us to take the reader on a journey through the current realities in Peru, El Salvador, Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil. The new discourses of the right continue to trouble our ability to generate a new commitment to a dignified, socialist future. No modernisation of capitalism is possible, neither by the harsh policies of the far right nor by the centre right. Such a modernisation programme puts at its centre the defence of capital accumulation and profit above the pressing needs of humanity and nature. This dubious programme has been able to provide trillions of dollars to prevent the collapse of the capitalist system during the COVID-19 pandemic but has failed to provide the resources needed to prevent the erosion of basic human needs around the planet. Amidst the million crises that have befallen humanity, the crisis of imagination is one of the foulest. We struggle to imagine a better world while allowing ourselves to pickle in the hatred of social hierarchies and xenophobia.
The art in this newsletter is from the dossier, mocking the monsters that emerge in the ‘interregnum’, in Antonio Gramsci’s words, in these clever tarot-like cards: The Libertarian, The Anarcho-Capitalist, The Anti-Scientist, The Techno-Feudal Lord, The Anti-Communist Saviour, The Pacifier, and The Interventionist. Hovering above these figures is a caricature of the right wing’s greatest fear – The Spectre – which for the rest of us is a symbol of hope and resistance that is ushering in a new world.
The history of the far right around the world is ugly; its monuments are the ruins of factories and torture chambers, ugliness that strips dignity from the vast mass of humanity. Five thousand student and trade union activists were tortured and killed between 1976 and 1983 in Argentina’s Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA) in Buenos Aires of the more than 30,000 people killed and disappeared by state terrorism during that time. Before the torture began, Victor Basterra, a prisoner at ESMA, was forced to photograph each of the other prisoners. Among these photographs is the image of a defiant woman which opens this newsletter. She could hear the screams of unknown militants in the basement where she was detained. She knew that was her fate. She guessed that she would not survive this experience, as thirty thousand others did not. This brave, unknown woman stood in front of the camera and raised her fist in a revolutionary salute. Her bravery is a signal across time to all of us. If you are resisting, you are not defeated.
In the dying days of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship, Raúl Zurita, a Chilean poet, reflected on the thousands of people who had been arrested, tortured, and killed in his country. They are the martyrs of the hideous old right. In his Canto a su amor desaparecido (1985), Zurita, like the anonymous woman detained at ESMA, rejects despair and holds fast to love as our necessary antidote:
But they won’t ever find us because our love is bound to the rocks, to the sea and the mountains.
Bound, bound to the rocks, to the sea and the mountains.
Bound, bound to the rocks, to the sea and the mountains.
My girl died, my boy died, they all disappeared.
Deserts of love.
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 tricontinental.
Italian working class mobilizes for worker-friendly budget, pension reforms and job security. By: Peoples DispatchRead Now
Workers’ mobilization at the Piazza del Popolo in Rome. (Photo: via CGIL Pistoia)
On Thursday, December 16, Italian workers observed a general strike and organized massive mobilizations in the cities of Rome, Milan, Bari, Cagliari and Palermo. The call for the general strike was given by national trade unions – Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL) and Italian Labour Union (UIL) – to protest the 2022 budget plan of the Mario Draghi government for not meeting the expectations of the working class, particularly on tax cuts, pension reforms and preventing the manufacturing sector from shifting abroad. Progressive political sections, including Potere al Popolo (Power to the People), Communist Refoundation Party (PRC) and Communist Youth Front (FGC), among others, supported the strike and participated in the mobilizations.
In Italy, a country which was severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, workers have been protesting for more than a year with continuous strikes and mobilizations across sectors against the neoliberal policies of the government led by Draghi and the attack on labor by employers. Trade unions are dissatisfied with the proposals in the 2022 budget and have called for protests demanding “an elaborate pension reforms by which pensions will accessible from the age of 62, a progressive tax reform in which high incomes pay more, as well as a national health service ‘that works’ and measures in the budget that reinforce social justice, distribute wealth and reduce the economic gap between the prosperous North and the impoverished South.”
While addressing the workers mobilization in Piazza del Popolo in Rome, CGIL general secretary Maurizio Landini said, “Today is not the end of a cycle of demonstrations: it is the beginning. We don’t give up on a real reform of pensions, taxes, overcoming precariousness, and job security. We’re not going to stop..”
Giuliano Granato from Potere al Popolo said that there should be a minimum wage of EUR 10 (11.24 USD) an hour and legislation to put a stop to relocations.
The FGC said that “the general strike has been an indispensable necessity for millions of workers for months, overwhelmed by the offensive of the master with layoffs, de-locations and cuts in wages and rights.”
This article was republished from Peoples dispatch.
Educational reformer and former politician Hoance Mann is credited with saying, “Education, then, beyond all other divides of human origin, is a great equalizer of conditions of men—the balance wheel of the social machinery.” In the U.S. we are taught that education is the amorphous key that is guaranteed to unlock the doors of opportunity, upward mobility, and societal respect. However, the more one looks at the American education system, how it is structured, what it teaches, and who it benefits, one must wrestle with the validity of Horance Mann’s statement: How can education be the “great equalizer” when public schools are habitually underfunded by the billions, school districts with majority minority (particularly Black and LantinX) populations receive less and lower-quality instructional materials than majority white districts, and rural schools suffer from poor transportation systems for students, a shortage of teachers, and a severe lack of access to everyday technology, like the internet ?
The term “state-sanctioned violence” refers to “terrorism that is carried out or sponsored by the government, which involves deliberate attacks on civilians, for the purpose of attaining a political or religous goal. It is often used to describe the type of physical violence seen in incidences of police brutality, or the inhumane treatment of incarcerated individuals, who are considered wards of the state. What is often hidden in plain sight, however, are the ways in which violence is woven throughout the tapestry of American society, from the lack of universal healthcare throwing millions of Americans into bankrupcy, to failing infrastructure that heightens the risk of fatal car accidents. These are undeniable instances of both economic and physical violence that are greenlit by the state in order to further disadvantage the poor and bring in more money to private entities. Since violence in America can be both overt and covert in its many institutions, it is worth looking into the ways in which public education in the United States can, or is even intended to, be used to perpetuate violence against its most vulnerable citizens.
Education as Hierarchy, Hierarchy as violence
Despite Horace Mann’s statement, education is, in many ways, the great diving line. Let us take a deeper look at how American schools are funded. Public schools in the United States are the most unequal in the “developed” world, despite spending 37% more per full time elementary and secondary student than the average of all OECD nations. The inequality in American schooling is in large part due to how schools are funded. Approximately 48% of a public school’s budget comes from state resources, including income taxes, sales taxes, and fees. The other 44% of funding is contributed locally, primarily through taxes paid by homeowners in the area. So, because nearly half of all public-school funding is provided through property taxes, the higher the property taxes in your area, the more money your public school district receives, and the more resources, both tangible (textbooks, computers, qualified teachers) and intangible (a sense of safety, access to AP courses, smaller teacher-student ratios for one-on-one learning) a school can provide for its students. Therefore, poor students are systemically barred from accessing resources that are available in wealthier, noticeably Whiter schools. Wealth is concentrated in the United States, and because of this, wealthy schools keep getting wealthier, and wealthy students, through no hard work or motivation of their own, benefit from being born in a zip code they have no control over. In the same way, poor school districts are habitually underfunded, continuing a cycle of burned out, underpaid teachers, underprepared students, and unsafe schools.
Second, let’s talk briefly about the curriculum. From the moment students start school, they are indoctrinated with the belief that America is the greatest country to ever exist and that all other nations, cultures, and people are naturally inferior. The controversy surrounding the teachings of Critical Race Theory in schools, the 1619 Project, and the removal of Confederate monuments highlight how disturbingly unwilling America is to admit to wrongdoings, no matter how obviously egregious. Capitalism is taught as not only the most efficient economic system, but as the most realistic and morally acceptable one for any properly civilized nation. Socialism, and communism, if taught at all, are villainized in McCarthy-era rhetoric, so much so that Florida governor Ron DeSantis recently issued House Bill 5, which adds a requirement to public high school government classes, that students receive instruction on “the evils of Communism and Totalitarian ideologies, even though an accurate studying of communism isn’t even taught in Florida high schools.
Students are taught that slavery (used in the US to increase capital) was a “necessary” evil in order to make this country the great City on the Hill. Some students are even taught that slaves enjoyed slavery: that they got to become Christians, they ate well, and they even preferred slavery to their primitive lives in Africa. They are taught that everything good and useful in the world was conceptualized or invented in Europe or in the Americas by those of European descent. They learn that the Civil Rights Movement ended racism, while also learning that America is not racist. Students are essentially indoctrinated into delusion, not only about their own country and economic system, but about everyone else’s.
Current educational practices exist to create and maintain hierarchies based on race and class in order to keep rich, White Americans on the top and poor, mainly non-white Americans at the bottom. Education in America is not meant to equalize, it is meant to stratify, and inflict economic, and sociopolitical violence onto poor children by leaving them underserved, underprepared, and indoctrinating them to be complicit in their own subjugation. Education is therefore used as a function of the state to strip students of intellectual and economic freedom and create generations of citizens who are only taught how to listen and labor under a delusion of freedom and intelligence for a state that does not require working minds, only working bodies.
Rebecca Elliott is a writer, a nd public health professional currently residing in the Boston area. A policy analyst by profession, Rebecca has been trained in public health research, policy, and law. She has a deep love of knowledge, and believes that education is and always should be inherently revolutionary. When she is not diving into the politics of education, she enjoys reading, cooking, and finding the best ice cream spots.
Capitalism is a form of life riddled with social antagonisms. Every Marxist knows this well. Most have been using the effects these antagonisms produce to predict the fall of capitalism for the last century and a half. However, like the weebles wobble toys from the early 2000s, these contradictions have wobbled capitalism, but have yet (in the West at least), made it fall. There are many causes which one could point at as the source of capitalism’s ability to pull its head out when its internal contradictions have sunk it the deepest. In the West, one of the central reasons one must point to is the efficiency with which the ideological apparatuses have been able to consistently reproduce mass acquiescence, even in the times when crisis have been the most intensified.
The film industry has been one of the key modes through which this acquiescence has been perpetuated. Throughout the last century Hollywood has been at the forefront of perpetuating the ideals, values, and beliefs of bourgeois society to the working masses. However, the form through which this ideological containment takes place isn’t always the same – not all movies are in-your-face about their support for imperialism, capitalism, consumerism, etc. Some take up the role of perpetuating bourgeois ideology through a critique of the blatant irrationalities encountered in our current form of life. These deceptive ones, which through criticism perpetuate in subtle and implicit ways the ideology of capital, play the most important role in the moments where capitalism is in crisis and discontent is assured to spread amongst the working masses.
In an age when American capitalism is facing an unprecedented crisis which combines the contradictions of capitalism at home (workers strikes and en masse quitting, barbaric income inequality, homelessness, child hunger, a large chunk of the population drowning in debts of various forms – medical, school, etc.), with an empire in decline (rising global influence of China, rise of new Latin American socialist wave, etc.), and a global pandemic (whose fumble has led to 900 thousand deaths in our country); it is not surprising that we now encounter numerous ‘anti-capitalist’ movies and shows. In light of this, we wish to discuss the limits of this emerging ‘anti-capitalist’ media and how they may, in various implicit and perhaps unconscious ways, perpetuate mass acquiescence to a moribund capitalism. To do this, we will focus on the Christmas Eve released film “Don’t Look Up”.
Synopsis of the Film
“Don’t Look Up”, a film co-written by the Bernie Sanders senior advisor and speech writer, David Sirota, brings together numerous household name A-listers like Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Matthew Perry, Ariana Grande and Tyler Perry to depict an existential comet crisis facing humanity within six months of its discovery. An astronomy professor (DiCaprio) and one of his PhD candidates (Lawrence) find a comet twice the size of the one that made the dinosaurs extinct heading right towards earth. Its impact, calculated on finding to be within six months and 14 days, is suggested to have the capacity to end all life on earth.
Upon taking this information to the president (Streep), the pair finds an administration skeptical and indifferent to their findings and concludes their day-delayed meeting by telling them they will “sit tight and assess.” The administration’s inactivity leads them to leak the finding to the media, an action which culminates in a TV appearance for a cable news network. The story, however, did not get any traction. The media pundits (Tyler Perry and Blanchett) leave the story for last and mock the seriousness with which the story is depicted; this leads Lawrence to blow up and quickly turn into a meme.
After the failed leak, which culminated in the Lawrence meme and the general public’s appreciation of DiCaprio as an AILF (Astronomer I’d Like to F), the crisis finally receives some attention by the administration when it becomes politically favorable for them to distract from a recent scandal which had been dropping the president’s polling numbers. In this apparently optimistic moment, the administration devices a plan to deviate the direction of the comet and save the planet.
As the plan was in play, and the shuttles en route, the whole thing gets shut down when the third richest man in the world (Mark Rylance), tech capitalist and prime funder for the president’s campaign, finds the comet contains hundreds of trillions of dollars in resources which are becoming limited on earth.
Under the banner of ending hunger and other noble claims, the focus shifts from rerouting the comet to mining it for profit. DiCaprio, who was the only one of the original discoverers who was allowed in the meeting concerning the change in strategy, is offered a position in the president’s administration to legitimize and promote the new plan as safe and beneficial for the public good. This leads to a splinter between Lawrence, who wanted to fight against this, and DiCaprio, who felt that him being inside could assure the necessary overwatch so that things wouldn’t get out of control. This splinter is removed when DiCaprio notices none of the plans are peer-reviewed and that every scientist who has questioned this has been removed from their position.
After privatizing decisions over the comet to include only the American tech capitalist and the American government, we find out that China, Russia, and India collaborated on their own project to deviate the route of the comet. This project, to the detriment of humanity, was sabotaged by a bombing of their station. Although not explicitly said, it is implied that this bombing was an action from the US to protect its risky, but profitable plans for dealing with the comet.
After a mass “Just Look Up” movement to counter comet skepticism and the profit-driven concerns of dealing with this planet-killing force ultimately fails, the mining options comes forth as the only plan available for dealing with the comet. As scientifically expected, this plan fails to control the comet in the ways it predicted doing so, and ultimately, all life on earth is lost. This excludes 2000 of the tech capitalist’s friends (including the president) who had a plan B of leaving the planet until a humanly habitable one was found. This quest took over 20 thousand years in which the passengers’ lives were artificially sustained until, as the movies’ epilogue shows, they were able to find a new planet and exit the shuttle, in an Adam and Eve manner, into their new garden.
The Film's Anti-Capitalism
“Don’t Look Up” does a great job at depicting how a profit driven system is incapable of dealing with existential crisis threatening human and planetary life. The movie, originally conceived as a metaphor for the incoming intensification of the climate crisis, depicts how politicians are bound to political games and scandal maneuvering to keep their poll numbers high and their donors happy. It depicts, further, how the media works as a sheer lapdog to those in power, whose central role is to keep the masses entertained in celebrity gossip and ignorant of the non-fun issues which concern human life. Additionally, it depicts how these conditions (which arise when the state and its institutions are merely the tools of the owners of capital) create fertile grounds for erroneous and dangerous forms of anti-science skepticism – such as the Don’t Look Up crowd in the movie, or the climate change (or covid) deniers in real life.
Besides its critique of the influence of money in politics and the media, “Don’t Look Up” also does a great job at depicting how actions which are profitable but endanger life (such as the mining of the comet), require an ethical gloss to conceal the real reasons for which the actions are taken. The public must be blinded from the profit-driven and capitalist-controlled reasons for the new plan to mine the comet. These actions are masked by the seemingly benevolent aims of curing hunger, poverty, and providing jobs, all which supposedly would come with the mining of the comet. The fact that all of these could be done with the existing resources, while preventing the highly risky (and ultimately failed) strategy of the comet mining plan, is also concealed.
This is an important critique of how profit driven policies are legitimized in the US, both at home and abroad. The public can never know the real reasons for the US’s involvement in the Middle East, Latin America, Africa, China, etc. The capitalist, corporate-profit driven nature of these expeditions must be concealed by a benevolent veil of ‘spreading democracy’ or ‘fighting human rights abuses’. Whatever fabrications and atrocity propaganda is needed to help manufacture consent for these actions will be duly provided. Actions which benefit a small percentage of people, namely – major capitalists, their media pundits, and political puppets, are necessarily sold as serving the ‘common good’. Those who would have benefited from the mining of the comet were not those (poor and working people) tokenized to formally justify a policy which led to the death of life on the planet.
The movie also shows how attempts to work within the existing structures of power are usually futile. DiCaprio’s position in the president’s administration gave him no power to change the course of events and the life-threating route of the administration’s plans. Ultimately, DiCaprio, along with Lawrence, find a beyond-institutional form of resisting as the best route to fight back. Instead of focusing on infiltrating individuals into the ruling circles, they realize only a mass movement (Just Look Up), can bring about change. This, ultimately, shifts the agent of progressive change from high profiled benevolent individuals, towards active masses as the protagonists of their own future.
Although this ultimate failure of the mass movement might lead socialists to claim that the movie, although critical of capitalism, in depicting the end of the world before the end of capitalism, ultimately enforces what Mark Fisher called ‘capitalist realism’, this examination would be superficial. It is true that the movie depicts an apocalyptic end of planetary life and not an end to the forms of social intercourse whose mismanagement of the crisis led to the dreadful apocalyptic end. However, in comparison to a movie like “The Platform” or a show like “Squid Game” – both of which are critical of capitalism while enforcing a form of ‘capitalist realism’ – “Don’t Look Up” is much closer to envisioning an alternative than either of the former two. This is not because it is able to draw up a post-capitalist world, but because it depicts a form of struggle which is aimed at a world in which the irrationalities of the existing order are eliminated.
It is in collective struggle in which a new world begins to be crafted. In “The Platform” and “Squid Game”, the struggles of the protagonists are not directed against the existing order, but against people who, like them, are just trying to survive. In “Don’t Look Up”, on the other hand, survival is not a matter of individuals sinking others to stay alive, but of individuals coming together to collectively struggle for a form of life which prioritizes people and planet over profit. In “Don’t Look Up” capitalist realism is transcended in a mass struggle which, although ultimately failing, aims at a world which resolves the antagonisms which allow the existing form of life to risk planetary death if it means the enrichment of a few. The film is not just critical, in the various scenes of the Just Look Up movement, shallow as some of them may be, the seeds of envisioning a new form of life are present. If anything, the film suggests that we ought not to delay these collective efforts by convincing ourselves that those in power will ‘fix’ or ‘manage’ things according to the common good. To survive we must take things into our own hands, and like the comet in the film, with climate change the clock is also ticking.
Limitations in the Film's Anti-Capitalism
However, there are certain limitations in the film’s anti-capitalism that ought to be noted. These center primarily around the usage of the comet as a metaphor for climate change. Although metaphors are not meant to be direct comparisons, the comparison effective in a metaphor should share the essence (nature or central characteristics) of that which it is a metaphor of. When we compare the comet crisis in the film to the climate crisis we face in the real world, we find the two crisis have fundamentally different natures - one is a result of an inevitable cosmic event humans had no control over (the comet), and the other is the result of the last 70 years of fossil capitalism (climate change).
The gap between the metaphor and a systematic understanding of climate change is far too wide; either 1) the comet is not a metaphor for climate change, 2) the movie writers do not have a systematic understanding of climate change, 3) the movie writers do have a systematic understanding of climate change but wish to limit their blame of capitalism to a question of management, and not blame it as the source of the climate crisis itself.
Option number 1) fails because the writers have been very explicit about the fact that the comet is a metaphor for climate change. The covid crisis and its effects, although much more aligned to the comet metaphor (in the sense that unlike climate change, there is a greater level of arbitrariness with covid’s emergence in relation to human activity), arises a year or so after the original planning for the movie. Therefore, it would be more honest to consider climate change the counterpart of the comet metaphor, and to thereby judge it on its ability to metaphorically express the depth and complexity of climate change as its counterpart.
Having established climate change as the comet metaphor’s counterpart, we must now ask the critical question - what is the condition for the possibility of the current climate crisis? That is, what does the climate crisis presuppose? The answer is simple, a system which prioritizes the expansion of capital, and specifically since WW2 fossil fuel-based capital, over human and non-human planetary life.
The capitalist form of life is at the root of the climate crisis; the climate crisis is not the consequence of a contingent cosmic event, but of the social relations the mass of humanity has been coerced and/or convinced to participate in over the last century. In the posing of the crisis there is a fundamental discrepancy between the film’s comet and climate change; the missing piece corresponding to the gulf between the comet metaphor and its counterpart is a critical and systematic understanding of capitalism as the source of climate change.
But is the movie not successful in critiquing capitalism and it’s failed management of the crisis? Yes, but when it fails to understand that the crisis capitalism fails to manage is a self-created crisis, the understanding of the issue, and subsequently, the critique of capitalism, is castrated - the root is ignored, the focus is limited to the stem and leaves.
We must not forget the social democratic positioning of the writers behind the film, for the shortcomings of the film are but the cinematic reflection of the shortcomings of social democracy. In both case the root is always ignored. In the movie, the comet metaphor necessarily limits the critique of the existing order to one of management, and in so doing, leaves the role the existing order played in creating the problem unexamined. In the case of social democrats, the focus is always on the realm of distribution, the relations of production which lay at the root of the problem of distribution (observed by them as a problem of income inequality) is also left unobserved. Therefore, it seems like option (2), grounded on an ignorance of the systematic nature of the issue at hand, applies more fittingly to the limitation in the comet metaphor since ignorance of the systemic root of issues is a staple of social democracy’s ‘anti-capitalism’.
However, the result of this is that the adjustment, the ‘fix’, always stems out of a realm whose ground is left unexamined. For instance, the social democrats’ solutions to the problems posed by the antagonisms in capitalism usually revolve around taxation and creating more equitable institutions for distributing the taxed loot accumulated by Western capitalists through their imperialist expropriation of foreign lands and their exploitation of foreign and national working masses.
The limitations of the movie’s anti-capitalism, then, are simply the reflected limitations of social democracy. The failure of the comet metaphor in accurately depicting the nature of its counterpart crisis (climate change), stems from the lack of a critical, dialectical materialist approach to examining the world. In this failure, the movie, like social democracy, leaves itself open to being the sort of anti-capitalism that is friendly to capitalism; an anti-capitalism which poses the problem of capitalism as one of management, and not as a problem grounded in the asymmetric and exploitative social relations at the core of the system.
The film is, in terms of critique, a step forward from the capitalist ‘realist’ anti-capitalist media we have seen over the last few years. However, it fails to go down deep enough to grasp the root of the issue, and this failure leaves it open to playing the historical role of social democracy – that is, a role which ultimately sides with, and serves in moments of crisis, capital and imperialism.
Under certain historical and geographical circumstances this ‘anti-capitalist’ limitation found in social democracy (and in the film), does not represent an antagonistic contradiction to those striving for socialism. Under these circumstances, alliances and coalitions can be made. At other times these limitations cut the legs of the socialist movement and breed factionalism and unhealthy forms of class collaborationism. In these circumstances, where an irreconcilable antagonism between the two exists, socialists should refrain from alliances and coalitions.
Today the socialist movement in the US finds itself somewhere in between. The film, as the cinematic expression of the ambiguity of social democracy, ought to be appreciated in its progressive and anti-capitalist aspects, but also critiqued in the limitations present in these.
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, Electronic Anarchy, Friends of Socialist China, 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.
Bolivian government creates trust for reparations to victims of 2019 state violence. By: Tanya WadhwaRead Now
The government of president Luis Arce and vice-president David Choquehuanca in Bolivia, on December 15, authorized, through Supreme Decree 4639, the creation of a trust of 8 million bolivianos (1.16 million USD) to make reparation to the victims of human rights violations, including the Sacaba and Senkata massacres, committed during the last trimester of 2019 under the de-facto rule of Jeanine Áñez. The trust will provide loans to the relatives of the deceased and living victims of the 2019 state violence to assist them.
The Justice and Institutional Transparency Minister, Ivan Lima, in a press conference, reported that the beneficiaries who must first be registered by the Justice and Health ministries, will be able to access loans with a 10-year repayment policy and an annual interest rate of 0.5%. He explained that the Productive Development Bank (BDP) will be the entity that allocates the resources.
“This policy is another effort to compensate these citizens for their sufferings,” said Lima. He recalled that president Arce’s administration has already distributed food vouchers, granted 1,500 educational scholarships, and a compensation of 100,000 Bolivianos (14,500 USD) to the deceased victims’ relatives. “The harm is done, and nothing that we do will revert this reality. However, we can compensate the victims and their relatives to achieve justice,” he added.
According to official data, between September 1 and December 31, 2019, at least 38 Bolivians were killed, 800 people were injured, and over 1,000 citizens were unjustly detained.
Tensions had been brewing in Bolivia before the general elections of October 20, 2019. MAS headquarters in several cities had fallen victim to right-wing attacks. After the victory of former president Evo Morales of the ruling progressive Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) in the elections, the country’s opposition refused to accept the results. They alleged that an electoral fraud had been committed, and began violent mobilizations demanding Morales’ resignation. The far-right paramilitary groups intensified their attacks on pro-MAS citizens. The escalation of violent protests and threats forced Morales to resign and leave the country to save his life.
Following Morales’ resignation and departure, on November 12, 2019, in a session of Congress that met without quorum, right-wing legislator Áñez declared herself interim president, and unleashed an unprecedented level of repression against those who took to the streets in rejection of the coup.
On November 15, 2019, in Sacaba city in the Cochabamba department, Bolivian security forces brutally repressed a peaceful anti-coup march with tear gas and live bullets, killing at least 11 and gravely injuring more than a hundred protesters. The same day, Áñez approved Decree 4078, which exempted police and military officials participating in repression operations from criminal responsibility.
Four days later, on November 19, 2019, protected by this impunity decree, heavily armed police officers and soldiers tear-gassed and shot firearms against the Indigenous residents of El Alto, who had blockaded the entry to the Senkata gas plant as a measure of protest, killing another dozen protesters and injuring another hundred.
The coup-supporting security forces carried out selective and violent house raids, and arrested numerous sympathizers of the MAS party. Young female detainees were sexually abused by police officers. Male Indigenous detainees were also brutally tortured and humiliated.
On August 17, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts of Bolivia (GIEI-Bolivia) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in its report that the coup-installed regime led by Áñez was responsible for massacres, torture, persecution, illegal detention, and summary executions of those rejected the coup. The report also confirmed that the violence was characterized by ethnic and racial discrimination.
President Arce’s government has been continuously working for the past one year to guarantee justice and reparation to the victims. It is working on laws to enable broader reparation, dismantle para-police organizations and irregular groups, and other aspects based on the GIEI’s recommendations. So far, the Bolivian Justice has detained 13 former military commanders, two former police officials and three civilians, including Áñez, in relation to the human rights violations.
This article was produced by Peoples Dispatch.
The goal of full employment and the highest quality of life for all is at the heart of our struggle to make human rights more sacred than property interests. To accomplish this goal in the United States will take a mass organized movement that through progressive stages and leaps reforms ultimately revolutionizes our relations of production. An important aspect of this movement will be the legal forms that come to crystallize and institutionalize the fundamental economic changes won by the people.
The tactics and strategy in the economic struggle always necessarily include political and legislative goals. As our efforts address the most fundamental political economic issues, it is important that we have goals, strategy and tactics concerning the most fundamental law of the land, the Constitution, no matter how much the ruling class is above even that authority for now.
Why a Right to a Job: A Historical Materialist Perspective
Historical materialists focus on the working class and class struggle as keys to revolutionary social change in this epoch. This is the perspective worked out by Engels and Marx which holds that social ideas, ideals and laws reflect and are ultimately determined, limited and changed by changes in the relations and forces of material production; and not quite equally so vice-versa. Thus, historical materialism sees constitutional changes, like all legal changes, as ultimately reflecting underlying class struggles. In our era of the bourgeoisie, we herald the rise of the working class to emancipate itself and all of the oppressed groups and despised classes.
This approach sees that the US, connected with most of the globe more closely than ever, has capitalist relations of production. We have wage-labor and private ownership of the basic means of production.
The institution of wage-labor makes the need for a job fundamental for the overwhelming majority of the population, for they must work for a living. This institution of wage-labor means most people must sell their labor power to obtain the basic necessities of life to avoid personal and social ills. It is not possible for most people to employ themselves in small self-sufficient economic units and survive as they did in earlier societies. The economic system is highly socialized. That is, it consists of a large number of interdependent economic enterprises of all sizes. This socialization of labor, or division of labor has reached a new qualitative level and is in some sense global today, for example with 'world cars' and other commodities assembled from geographically scattered points of production.
The right to a job is a mature universal human right now. This is already recognized in Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and indirectly in the United Nations Charter Articles 55 and 56 on promoting full employment and Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The right to a job, or to earn a living, in a world wide web of wage-labor is central in the struggle for economic and human rights and to ameliorate human suffering, for unemployment is a root cause of our most personal and social tribulations– poverty, hunger, homelessness, urban crisis, crime, suicide, alcoholism, drug addiction, physical and mental illness, wife abuse, child abuse and so on.
With the institution of wage-labor, the right to a job is also fundamental because the exercise of all other basic human rights and freedoms is dependent upon, first, fulfillment of the basic needs for material survival– food, shelter, health care, etc. A job is key to obtaining these. Modern citizens cannot speak, think, vote or travel freely if they cannot eat. They cannot obtain equality before the law or due process without legal counsel at costs. A job at a living wage is a prerequisite for a decent life and for the exercise of all other human rights and liberties. Institutionalized and continuous denial of work to millions of people, permanent mass unemployment (even four percent is mass unemployment) is a violation of a most critical human right undermining all of the human rights of those millions unemployed.
Unemployment is not a necessary part of an efficiently functioning modern industrial economy as many apologists for the American system claim. Rather unemployment is the result of an unplanned economy in which basic production is carried out with the goal of maximizing accumulation of profit for private corporations and individuals. Permanent mass unemployment is also a key tactic for keeping wages down by keeping the demand for jobs high in relation to the supply of jobs. If there were full employment, the bosses would have no scabs to hire to break strikes.
We Need a Mass Movement to do it
The masses of people have a basic and objective motivation and need to support establishing the general right to a job as part of the fundamental law, the Constitution. We will only have a movement if the great many become conscious that it is possible to win such a right, and only if the People wake up from their current Rip Van Winkle sleep.
Because of its place in production, the working class must lead any victorious struggle to institute progressive property laws, rights and the dependent other human rights. To lead, the working class must be class conscious and organized for struggle as a result of objective and subjective experience. That consciousness must include awareness of legal goals, the consciousness taking organizational form as elements of a political program. Because constitutional amendment requires 2/3 majority of the Congress or the state legislatures to propose an amendment and 3/4 majority of the states for ratification, it also requires building a mass movement to accomplish. It is a method for involving masses in making fundamental law as opposed to a few lawyers arguing before a few judges in courts. It is an inherently popular tendency in our jurisprudence. Without ignoring the slow pace of the left movement today and the somnolence of the People, we prepare this legal strategy for the day when again pro-working-class majorities reactive and conscious as in the 1930s.
Partial History of the Struggle for Full Employment
The famous people's struggles in the era of the Great Depression won a number of economic reforms. Symbolically, the success and highpoint of the historical political surge for full employment (the actualization of the right to a job) in the US can be measured by the fact that in 1944 President Franklin Roosevelt presented to Congress in his State of the Union address an Economic Bill of Rights and said among other things: We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity an be established for all – regardless of station, race or creed – the right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries of shops or farms or mines of the Nation – but also to education, housing and access to all forms of public facilities and services. According to writer Bertram Ross in 'Rethinking Full Employment' (The Nation, January 17, 1987) the result of Roosevelt's thrust was the introduction in Congress of a full-employment bill. But in 1946 a coalition of conservative lawmakers deleted the 'right to useful and remunerative job' from the original proposal. When finally passed in diluted form, the Employment Act of 1946 expressed a commitment not to full employment but to avoiding depression through the growth of a warfare-welfare state.'
In 1978 The Humphrey-Hawkins full employment act was passed which called for reducing unemployment to four percent. But these two laws are weaker than the goal that Roosevelt articulated in 1944. The movement for economic justice that had pushed Roosevelt so far has slowed down considerably in the decades since. Today one feels that the political pendulum has swung to the other extreme from the reforms of the New Deal era. Humphrey-Hawkins is not the household name it was at one time; in fact the full employment slogans and laws have been largely relegated to scofflaw scorn.
This year, in 2014, working class Congressman John Conyers, Democrat of Michigan, introduced H.R. 1000, the "Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act".
Conyers says of his bill:
Since 2000 more than 50,000 manufacturing facilities in the U.S. have closed and roughly 50,000 industrial jobs have been lost each month. Now service sector jobs, where the remaining two-thirds of all workers are currently employed, are disappearing. Because of, but not limited to technology advances, these middle-income jobs are not likely to come back, effectively hollowing out the America’s middle class and leaving millions of unemployed and underemployed workers with limited future prospects. The effect of these trends on American jobs were significantly aggravated by the “Great Recession.”
Meanwhile, in spite of the Great Recession, the wealthiest 1% of Americans has become even richer. The share of income taken by the top 1% has more than doubled by 2007, U.S. corporations became flush with record profits, and the stock market has rebounded to all-time highs. All while stagnate wages for the working poor and middle-class remained and, in some cases declined, over the same time period.
During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt’s New Deal put millions of Americans back to work building roads, dams, bridges, parks and electrification systems.
There is no reason why America cannot have a 21st century “New Deal,” where unemployed Americans can be gainfully employed rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and strengthening our communities.
It is my hope that with the reintroduction of my bill, the “Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act,” Congress will begin to seriously examine the idea that the federal government can, and must, play a major role in putting Americans back to work. H.R. 1000 is deficit neutral, because it is paid for by a modest tax on stock and bond transactions by Wall Street trading firms. Having already received a significant bailout by American taxpayers, it is only fair that Wall Street pay Main Street back by helping put America back to work.
John Conyers, Jr.
Yet even in this period of ebb for the movement, the Labor Party is holding up the banner for economic rights, including a proposal for a constitutional amendment for a right to a decent job as it's number one programmatic element. In my opinion, this is an important step forward in the labor movement's legal strategy for economic rights. If the movement had been able to use its large majorities from the 1930's to constitutionalize some of the fundamental elements of the New Deal, the rollback of the New Deal today might not have proceeded so far under Reagan and his successors.
Although, we should not delude ourselves that a right to a job and decent living can be fully guaranteed under capitalist relations of production, the proposal herein is reformist in form, while radical in content. I offer it as a reform pregnant with revolution.
In sum, you have to have a job to live. The right to a job is a radical reform, a fundamental human right and a common sense necessity concerning which political activists should be able to get people's attention, for it is in the interest of the overwhelming majority.
On the other hand, as we would expect in a society where the bourgeoisie is the ruling class, the Constitution already reflects, protects and reproduces the critical bourgeois interests in capitalist relations of production, the right to private ownership in the basic means of production which implies the right to seek maximum private profits and private accumulation of capital through exploitation of wage laborers. Of course, the Constitution doesn't come right out and say it this way. I would say that capitalist powers are codified in the two Fifth Amendment clauses, the Due Process Clause and the Takings Clause. The Due Process Clause provides that no person (including corporations) shall be deprived of property without due process. The Takings Clause provides that no private property shall be taken for public purpose without just compensation.
Our radical legal goal, stated briefly, must be to establish through amendment a Constitutional provision on a right to a job and also provide that it has priority over the right to ownership and control of private property in the basic means of production. So, for example, the rights of workers to jobs would take priority over the corporate prerogative of private property ownership to close a plant, mine, shop or office.
Why a constitutional amendment?
This proposal for a Constitutional Amendment to protect jobs occurred to me in the context of the fight against plant closings in the mid 1980's. As General Motors announced the shocking closing of its Fleetwood and Cadillac plants in Detroit. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich), drafted a bill for a moratorium on plant closings. Besides the fact that such a law had little chance of passing a Congress and President controlled by big business, if such a law did pass, I was sure that it would be challenged by General Motors as an unconstitutional taking of private property pursuant to the 5th Amendment. I undertook what seemed to me my duty as a people's lawyer to prepare a constitutional amendment that could be part of an effective program to protect jobs and win full employment.
The Constitution's Fifth Amendment’s Due Process and 'Taking' Clauses make imperative the constitutionalization of the job creation and protection rights that so many workers have fought for and believed were theirs for so long. There seems little question that legislation that challenges the monopolies' prerogatives in use of their capital, a necessary element to guarantee jobs and full employment, would be attacked as unconstitutional based on these Fifth Amendment provisions.
The clauses are consecutive in the Fifth Amendment as follows: No person shall... be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation. Throughout their legal history these clauses have been used as a shield for bourgeois private property. The clauses are used to prevent use of basic means of production for the general welfare, which today demands planned management and use of factories, mines, and offices in a way that everyone is assured an opportunity to do productive labor.
Remedy of this unjust interpretation of the two clauses is complicated by the fact that the Fifth Amendment clauses make no distinction between private property in general and personal property in the non-legal, lay sense. Personal property is appropriately protected by the wording of the Fifth Amendment. Personal property should not be taken without due process or just compensation.
The bourgeoisie and the monopoly media and education propaganda system exploit public confusion over the distinction between these two types of property. The capitalists, like wolves in sheeps' clothing, claim that socialists see individual, personal property (and freedom), and corporate/monopoly, private property (and 'free' enterprise) as equivalent lambs to be slaughtered in the communist revolution. Yet, on the contrary, socialists seek to abolish only private ownership in the basic means of production, not personal property in commodities for individual consumption, and in the process seek to establish the freer and fuller all-around development of the individual.
In fact, historically it is interesting to note that the bourgeoisie seemingly have from the time of the establishment of the Constitution played a game of hide and seek concerning private property rights. If as historian Herbert Aptheker argued there was unanimous agreement among the framers of the Constitution that the purpose of government was to protect private property then it is remarkable that provision for protection of private property does not appear in the Constitution before the Bill of Rights Amendments.
It would seem that protection of private property was thoroughly provided for in the judge, made common law, where it was hidden from mass consciousness, perhaps, and known mainly by the elite mandarin class of lawyers. For the framers of the Constitution, who overwhelmingly represented the propertied classes, to frankly and openly include it in the Constitution would have amounted to an unnecessary provocation of the masses, potentially exposing to the working classes a fundamental secret of the capitalist system of exploitation.
However, perhaps ironically, perhaps purposely, the private property protection was smuggled into the Constitution, Trojan horse style, by glossing over the difference between private and personal property, as described above, and by exploiting the masses' legitimate concern for protection of their personal property from unjust governmental seizure. The Fifth Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights, one of the most distinctive imprints of mass popular strength on the Constitution at the time of its creation.
The 'bottom line' is that the law has an hierarchical structure. Obviously, the Constitution prevails over congressional legislation when the two are in conflict. Thus, the right to a job must be elevated to a Constitutional status to avoid being trumped by the Taking Clause and the Due Process Clause. Otherwise the vast resources and great energy expended in winning jobs legislation will be wasted as it is struck down by a single stroke of Mr. Injustice Rehnquist's pen.
The Constitution's provision for Amendment (Article V) was truly revolutionary for the time that it was enacted and even for today. It essentially recognized for the first time in history that fundamental social and political change is inevitable, and that these changes must be represented in fundamental law. The Amendment provision has even been termed revolutionary. As Herbert Aptheker says in The Early Years of the Republic “The right of revolution is insisted upon in the writings of Madison and Jefferson and was stated at this time with particular clarity by James Wilson, a member of the (Constitutional) Convention, and later an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States: 'A revolution principle certainly is, and certainly should be taught as a principle of the United States, and of every State of the Union. This revolution principle that the sovereign power residing in the people, they may change their constitution or government whenever they please, is not a principle of discord, rancor or war. It is a principle of melioration, contentment and peace….' These means to amend the Constitution are to be handled by future generations as the generation of the (American) Revolution and the Constitution handled urgent problems before them. Happily, however, and this is one of the significant results of that Revolution and provisions of that Constitution, legality is to be on the side of those seeking such change, be it as fundamental as it may, so long as it reflects the will of the majority of the people. That is, so long as it does not violate the basic precept of the Republic, namely, popular sovereignty.”
This provision, used justly, makes the Constitution truly alive and revolution potentially legal. The Amendment provision is a time-tested, eminently lawful, patriotic American method which must be seriously considered and used as a good form for peaceful transition from reforms through democratic revolution. This is an important consideration when radicals, especially communists, have been falsely stereotyped as advocating violent and illegal overthrow of the government. An effort to make radical change through constitutional amendment is a fundamentally legal radical act.
This provision can be used to make law not a fixed and eternal 'truth', but an evolving developing system reflecting social development and collective mass action. Some of the most advanced aspects of US law came through this 'revolutionary' process, of course: the Bill of Rights, the 13th, 14th 15th and 19th Amendments, et al. All progressives have an interest in popularizing a dialectical/historical understanding of law and its specific manifestation in that form in the Amendment provision.
Isn't the right to a job already part of the law?
When I first undertook to investigate the right to a job, I thought it was well-settled in US law that there was none; it is even more well settled that monopoly corporations have a right to guarantee that a significant number of people will not have a job or decent income.
However, the former editor of The Guild Practitioner, Attorney Ann Fagan Ginger explained to me that the way to succeed in the fight to get full employment is to argue that full employment is not a new idea, that it is as old as the Constitution itself or at least as the concepts of the New Deal (as discussed above) which people desperately believed were establishing certain economic minimums forever. In other words, there is customary and legal precedent for a fundamental right to earn a living. Readers of The Guild Practitioner know that Ginger is also legendary for founding a new approach to progressive law which is to use international law especially the United Nations Charter, conventions, treaties and covenants in US domestic courts. Author Sam Rosenwein makes this argument based on extensive research into the precedential authority of US jurisprudence and history, as well as international treaties.
The current proposal for Constitutional Amendment must not be considered in contradiction to the approach of Ginger and Rosenwein. Their method gathers ammunition for progressive lawyers who are fighting continuing battles on behalf of economic victims right now. In those individual cases, nothing should be spared in trying to persuade individual judges that precedent and reason demand protection of a right to a living. Furthermore, as Ginger has often explained, claiming that a right exists in morality and justice, and has existed for a long time in history as an idea is an important method of political education and persuasion of the population. Arguing that racial or gender equality or trade union rights or the right to earn a living are the 'true' American tradition and spirit is important in many ways. It assures some that they are not doing something crazy or way out. It counters charges that we are importing a foreign ideology. It connects us with the majority in history as well as the present. It gives confidence that we can win.
There is a limitation to this approach, because in fact, racism/Jim Crow was the law of the land once, as were and are anti-union and anti-job right statutes and common law. Otherwise, why have we been struggling so hard all of these decades?
In considering the whole body and system of US law and the reality of the economic system which the law reflects, there is little question that the vast majority of courts do not recognize the right to earn a living (citation of General Motors Ypsilanti plant closing case) and the courts do recognize a private property right to deny earning a living. These legal principles are cornerstones of the capitalist system. To deny that these principles are part of our system of legal rules would be almost to deny that the US has a capitalist economic system.
But so what! In different circumstances we must emphasize different aspects of, even contradictory aspects of our legal ideology. As I say above, where arguing an individual case or even bolstering mass confidence in the morality and justness of the fight for a right to a job, it is important to emphasize those glimmerings of enlightened thinking that have appeared once in a while among judges and legislators in response to mass struggles. It is sometimes important to argue that the progressive provisions of the Constitution (including the Preamble) and Declaration of Independence logically imply although do not say directly and explicitly that there must be rights to earn a living and decent income (The draft amendment offered below specifically refers and relies on the Constitutional purposes, stated in the Preamble, to establish justice, promote the general Welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty). It is important to argue that the well settled international law in UN statutes is that there is such a right, and that these laws are part of US supreme law as treaties.
Yet in considering what must be done to bring mass popular support for statutory and constitutional change, we must emphasize that the overwhelming majority of US judges interpret the law as denying these rights, notwithstanding that this interpretation is contrary to the spirit of America's best traditions as Ginger and Rosenwein argue. In a word, we must not only reinterpret the law, but change it.
A Draft Amendment
Section 1. Every adult American able and willing to earn a living through paid work has the right to and shall have a free choice among opportunities for useful, productive and fulfilling paid employment at decent real wages or for self-employment.
Section 2. Every adult American unable to work for pay or find employment pursuant to Section 1 has the right to and shall be provided by the Federal and State governments an adequate standard of living that rises with increases in the wealth and productivity of society.
Section 3. Pursuant to the obligation to establish Justice, promote the general Welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty, the Federal and State governments shall serve as the employers of last resort in ensuring fulfillment of Section 1.
Section 4. In a case where Section 1 is in conflict with the Amendment V provision or Amendment XIV provision reading 'Nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation,” Section 1 of Amendment XVIII shall prevail
Section 5. In a case where Section 1 is in conflict with the Amendment V provision or Amendment XIV provision that no person shall be deprived of property, without due process of law, Section 1 of Amendment XXVIII shall prevail.
Section 6. The common law doctrine of employment-at-will is hereby abolished. All employment discharge shall be with just cause.
Section 7. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Time does not permit an extensive discussion of a number of issues and questions raised by this draft. I will do an abbreviated annotation of the proposed amendment.
The language in Sections 1 and 2 is based on The Income and Jobs Action Act, a bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers of Michigan and Charles Hayes of Illinois in the mid 1980's. Regarding that wording, Bertram Gross said in the second part of his two part article in The Nation on the Hayes-Conyers Bill ('Making an Issue of Full Employment) said
“...First, it replaces the old 'right to a job' with the 'right to earn a living', as suggested by Ann Fagan Ginger of the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute. Income rights for those unable to work for pay or find a suitable job are defined in terms of 'an adequate standard of living that rises with increases in the wealth and productivity of the society.' In uniting job rights and income rights, it strengthens each concept.”
I have merely proposed constitutionalizing the 'Fundamental Rights' section of the Hayes-Conyers bill (The Quality of Life Action Act or The Income and Jobs Action Act).
This draft Constitutional Amendment for a Right to Earn a Living, pursuant to its Section 7 envisions comprehensive implementation by Congressional Acts, such as the bills of Hayes and Conyers (HR 1398 of 1986 and HR 2870 of 1987 the Economic Bill of Rights Act'); or former Congressperson Ronald Dellums' A Living Wage, Jobs For All Act of 1997 (HR 1050); or the Jobs Bill by Rep. Matthew Martinez, D-Calif. The Living Wage Ordinances now sweeping the country could even play a role in fulfilling the broad Constitutional mandate.
This draft might be expanded to a full 2nd Constitutional Bill of Rights, an Economic Bill of Rights, as President Roosevelt anticipated in his State of the Union Messages in 1941 and 1944.
Employment law Attorney Larry Daves suggested the inclusion of the provision abolishing the employment-at-will doctrine.
This is truly a draft and I welcome comments, criticisms and suggestions from readers of this article.
The jobs movement's legal aims must be well chosen. The substance of the movement has been shaped by US social and economic reality – the history of struggle and the development of the relations and forces of production. We are ripe for a right to a job. But the legal form must be as profound as the substance. In the US rights are made legally most binding not only by statute, but by making them part of the Constitution. When the people rise the next time, let the people's lawyers be prepared with our writs.
Sources and Notes:
Sam Rosenwein, 'The Right to Earn a Living,' The Guild Practitioner, Vol. 49 number 1 1987; 'A Special Issue on New U.S. Human Rights Laws,' The Guild Practitioner, Vol. 51, number 3, summer 1994.
Victor Perlo, Superprofits and Crises, International, 1988.
Herbert Aptheker, Early Years of the Republic, International Publishers, 1989.
James Lawler, 'Freedom and the U.S. Constitution: Aspects of the Legal Theory of Mitchell Franklin,' The Guild Practitioner, Fall 1987.
Franklin Roosevelt, State of the Union Message of 1944.
Prof. William P. Quigley, 'The Right to Work and Earn a Living Wage: A Proposed Constitutional Amendment,' Director of Gillis Poverty Law Center, Loyola University School of Law. www.loyno.edu/~quigley/Articles/nyclawrev.pdf
"Jobs For All: Building the Movement for Full Employment."
"Jobs For All: Building the Movement for Full Employment."
"“A Human Right”www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfaqVIx6vaU
The rallying point is Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers’ Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act. The bill aims to provide a job to anyone who wants one through a variety of means, including direct federal job creation. The effort would be paid for through a financial transactions tax on stock trades. It builds upon the current Humphrey-Hawkins full employment law, which requires the Federal Reserve to report to Congress on its efforts to balance job growth with suppressing inflation.
“It’s past time for our government to make creating jobs and full employment a human right. That ought to be number one,” Conyers said.
He said that his legislation would help small and midsize businesses step up their hiring. His bill would also increase funding for job training programs, and aid state and local governments that cut their public employee rolls in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
Conyers has built a Full Employment Caucus in the House around the bill. He said that he hopes “President Obama will make this his legacy,” but he also pointed a finger at Congress – and by extension, progressives who should be pushing their representatives to embrace Conyers’ bill. “I am proud to say that we’ve got 57 members supporting H.R. 1000, but that’s what we had last week. We need to get some more members on board. I should be reporting every week that we picked up two or three or four members as this thing moves forward.”
Part of the challenge is to reverse the willingness of the Washington establishment to accept a “new normal” of permanently high unemployment. Philip Harvey, economics professor at Rutgers University, said the very definition of full employment has been “muddied” in ways that limit how policymakers respond to the problem. At a time when 6.1 percent unemployment – the rate announced Friday by the Labor Department – is praised as good progress and 5 percent unemployment is the standard for the absolute best the economy can do, Harvey said we should insist on a full employment definition based on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s enumeration of a right to a job for anyone who wants one.
“The problem is with unemployment in the 4 to 5 percent range, the economy does not come close to providing work to everyone who wants it,” Harvey said. What we should be shooting for instead, he said, is unemployment at 2 percent or lower. One reason is that when unemployment rates remain in the 5 percent range, there are still millions of workers who are suffering some form of disadvantage – due to race, age, education level or other factor – who are still left behind.
“It’s not enough to fight for equal employment opportunities. We have to close the economy’s job gap,” he said. The best way to do that, he said, was through direct job creation strategies like the Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps programs that emerged from the New Deal.
Opportunities For Congressional Action
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) told the group that she has sponsored legislation that would recreate the Civilian Conservation Corps. She also highlighted other opportunities for lawmakers and activists to advance a job-creation agenda, such as demanding funding to reduce the $60 billion backlog of Army Corps of Engineers projects, many of which would involve improving ports or addressing environmental problems. This year, the House is voting to approve less than $1 billion toward that backlog, Kaptur said.
“Imagine if we were to have amendments offered to the bill that dealt with employment. They won’t pass the House in this environment, but we would have an opportunity to point to the $60 billion of infrastructure backlog in that bill and talk about jobs and full employment,” she said.
“Right now, we’re not organized as a caucus to do that, but that’s the purpose of this caucus, to think about that,” she said.
A full-employment effort would also attack the drivers of our trade deficit, which Kaptur said cost the economy 5.8 million jobs just in 2013. It would embrace the imperative to shift to a green economy, including shifts to renewable energy, energy conservation and environmental cleanup and improvements. It would insist that we invest in both our physical infrastructure – our transportation systems and public assets – and our human infrastructure, through our public schools and adult learning programs.
Rev. Rodney S. Sadler, an associate Bible professor at Union Theological Seminary, reminded the group that building the movement for full employment is not just an economic imperative – it is a moral one.
He pointed people to the parable in Matthew 20 in which Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a landowner who hires day workers to work in his field. Late in the day, that landowner recruits more unemployed workers. At the end of the day, the workers who were hired at the end of the day were paid the same wages as those hired at the beginning of the day.
Sadler offered two lessons from this passage. First, he said, “the Kingdom of God is like a Jobs for All program.” Second, he said, while the rules would suggest that a person who works all day should be paid more than a person who were hired at the end of the day, “justice says everybody should get what they need to survive.”
“The full employment conversation begins with the recognition of the value of every human being,” Sadler said. “A job is not a privilege in this world. A job is a human right.”
Already, “Witness Wednesdays” have been taking place at the Capitol to bring the stories of unemployed people to lawmakers and their staff. Gertrude “Trudy” Goldberg, chair of the National Jobs for All Program, said that the organization hopes the strategy sessions will give birth to more public actions during the summer and fall that will elevate the need for true full employment as a national priority."
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.”
Special thanks to N.C. Cai for editing and alignment.
Holidays with Dickens and Marx: ‘A Christmas Carol’ and the ‘Communist Manifesto’. By: Nick MatthewsRead Now
Dickens and Marx paired with art from editions of 'A Christmas Carol' and 'The Communist Manifesto' | Collage: People's World
It has often been pointed out that Karl Marx and Charles Dickens inhabited the same London streets for over 20 years.
They were both appalled by the squalor the Industrial Revolution brought with it, particularly to the streets of Manchester and London. It was this, after all, that inspired their best-known works, published within five years of each other.
The way we celebrate Christmas today probably has more to do with Dickens than Christians would ever like to admit. His work defines what we think of as the Victorian Christmas, establishing many practices imported from the German bourgeoisie and popularized in England by Prince Albert.
A Christmas Carol was published in 1843, and by the end of 1844, at least 13 editions had been printed. It has not been out of print since, and goodness knows how many theatrical, radio, and film adaptations have been produced, including my favorite, Scrooge (1951)—the interplay between Alistair Sim as Scrooge and Kathleen Harris as Mrs. Dilber, his charwoman, is a delight.
There wasn’t long to wait for Marx’s bestseller, The Communist Manifesto, which was published a scant five years later, in 1848. It too has never been out of print. I think I have at least six different editions, although I’m still waiting for a decent film!
There is no doubt that Marx was a reader of Dickens, as there are numerous references from Dickens in his writings. He identifies Dickens’s characters with real individuals and social types of the time.
Mr. Pecksniff from Martin Chuzzlewit (1842-4) is the one most frequently invoked by Marx. He is the personification of the cant and humbug which conceals capitalist exploitation. Pecksniff’s long-winded pleasantries and moralizing about “virtue” and “truth,” his presenting himself to his employees and community as goodness personified, even naming his daughters Mercy and Charity, made him a recognizable type for Marx to utilize.
It would be nice to think, too, that Marx’s use of the metaphor of the spectre that begins The Communist Manifesto, “A spectre is haunting Europe…” so soon after those in A Christmas Carol, is more than coincidental.
It was Francis Wheen who first pointed out in his Karl Marx: A Life (1999)—at least to me—that Capital reads like a Victorian novel. Some critics find this demeans Marx’s masterwork by turning it into fiction. I take the opposite view: It turns it into literature.
Wheen identified what he called “a Dickensian texture” in Capital. Something I had noticed on reading it myself, a texture which can be partly traced to the fact that both Dickens and Marx present a society characterized by the “personification of things and the reification of persons” (Personificirung der Sache und Versachlichung der Personen)—a technique that brings tremendous clarity to what are sociological types.
Marx may have been in exile in England, but when it came to Christmas, he was a good bourgeois German, although his income did not always allow him to appear that way.
Thank goodness for Engels. On Dec. 24, 1866, Jenny Marx wrote to Engels:
“My dear Mr. Engels,
My most heartfelt thanks for the Christmas hamper. The champagne will be a tremendous help in tiding us over the otherwise gloomy holiday, and will ensure a merry Christmas Eve.
“The sparkling bubbles of the champagne will make the dear children forget the lack of a little Christmas tree this year, and be happy and jolly for all that.”
I’ve always found, as a champagne socialist who prefers his tipple from the Co-op, that the bubbly does help me to get through the gloomy season. Although it’s far too good for the children.
Reading the correspondence between the family and “the General”—old man Engels—it seems that it was indeed he who embraced the Christmas season with the greatest enthusiasm.
In his memoir of his time in exile in London, Eduard Bernstein records “an evening at Engels’” which preceded the Christmas celebrations.
“It was on the day when the dough, or rather paste, for the Christmas puddings was prepared. An enormous quantity was made, for there was not a single friend of the house who did not receive a Christmas pudding from 122 Regent’s Park Road … about a fortnight before Christmas, the lady friends of the house turned up early in the morning, and worked on until the evening, chopping great heaps of apples, nuts, almonds, candied peel, etc., into little bits, and stoning and chopping pounds upon pounds of raisins; and as may be supposed it was a thoroughly cheerful party: As the ingredients were prepared they were put into a huge tub.
“Later in the evening the male friends of the house arrived, and each of them was required to lay hold of a ladle that stood upright in the tub, and stir the paste three times round; a by no means easy task, which needed a good deal of muscular strength.
“But it had rather a symbolical meaning, and those whose strength was inadequate were mercifully exempted. The concluding touch was given by Engels himself, who descended into the wine-cellar and brought up champagne, in which we drank to a merry Christmas and many other things as well.”
There’s the champagne again, and everyone got Christmas pudding. That’s my kind of Christmas. However, looking at the TV schedule you may need a good book for the coming gloomy holiday, so if Dickens doesn’t appeal, you could do no worse than follow the example of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who from Dec. 23, 1949, to Jan. 2, 1950, spent his Christmas holiday reading and “carefully scrutinizing” the three-volume Victorian novel better known as Capital, together with The Communist Manifesto.
However you choose to spend the holidays, Happy Christmas, one and all.
Nick Matthews writes for Morning Star, the socialist daily newspaper published in Great Britain.
This article was republished from People's World.
Darwin’s natural laws, physiology laws, DNA-gene laws, and ecological laws are the central organizing principles of Modern Biology. The laws of symbolically constituted language and culture as the defining characteristics of humans are the central organizing principles of anthropology. Symbolic communication and behavior give humans a way of adapting (in the Darwinian sense) that is more efficient than adapting based on random genetic mutation, because cultural adaptations are caused by the adaptive problem (problems in the struggle for existence); the adaptive problem causes humans to invent in symbolic thought (imagination) a solution to the adaptive problem.
With language and culture, necessity is the mother of invention: which is a materialist philosophical, not idealist, explanation, because the material survival necessity changes the ideas of the human inventor, changes her culture. Culture allows non-random Darwinian adaptation. Unlike genetic adaptations, the adaptive solution does not arise only coincidentally with the problem it solves. For example, we might hypothesize that Homo Erectuses invented clothes or controlled fire in response to moving into colder regions North of Africa. The acts of invention were caused by the problem in the struggle for existence of cold body temperature. The adaptive problem caused its own solution. Relying on the adaptation by way of genetic changes (maybe growing fur) would mean waiting on a genetic mutation, a mutation not caused by the adaptive problem, but arising coincidentally with the problem it solves. In this hypothetical thought experiment, survival in the struggle for existence, material necessity, and changes the cultural ideas of the inventors, adds a custom of clothes, costumes to their customs, their traditions, their culture. Non-randomly arising solutions to adaptive problems are La Marckian.
In LaMarck’s famous thought experiment as to “how the giraffe got its long neck”, the adaptive problem of food only available high up causes the giraffe to solve the problem by stretching its neck (this is a fictional account). The solution does not arise randomly relative to the problem it solves. More adaptive problems are solved if the problem tends to cause its own solution than if the solutions just happen luckily to occur as with random genetic mutations solving adaptive problems. Thus, with culture and language (symbolic inheritance, symbolic imagination and symbolic communication) humans have a more efficient adaptive process than all other life forms. Humans have both cultural (non-random adaptation) and random genetic mutation adaptation. Whereas other life forms and species only have random genetic mutation adaptation. Thus cultural adaptation was selected for in that it caused the population to grow. Population growth is the Darwinian definition of fitness!
How does symbolic thinking allow humans to invent solutions to adaptive problems in response to the problem arising? Symbolic thinking allows imaginative thinking or imagination is a form of symbolic thinking and imagination empowers invention. Furthermore, symbolic thinking allows symbolic inheritance of adaptive inventions by future generations! Genes and culture/words are inherited in different ways. For example, almost all the words in the vocabulary of a living generation were invented by dead past generations.
The difference between humans and all other species is that through symbolic communication, words and culture, the dead generations have a certain immortality and are part of the society of living generations. Living generations share the experiences of dead generations through symbolic inheritance, thereby knowledge accumulates. All humans stand on the shoulders of giants, as the scientist Issac Newton put it. Accumulated knowledge gives a growing ability to adapt, in Darwin’s sense, to problems in the struggle for existence.
Symbolic Inheritance is the unique species characteristic of Homo Sapiens. In a sense, culture-language-Symbolic Inheritance 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 to survive as a species. Since the advent of so-called civilization, sometimes it's not so clear how wise our culture makes us. Greed, slavery, war, male supremacy, and egoism originate with Civilization (cities)! It is better termed “Savagery and Barbarism”. Therein lies the central drama of the history of the human species.
Nonetheless, clearly in the Stone Age, our having culture-language-Symbolic Inheritance was a highly adaptive advantage over species that did not have culture, stone tools, and scientific knowledge! Standing on the shoulders of dead generations, raised our species' fitness. This is evidenced by genus homo (starting with Homo Erectus and including 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, peaceful, and sharing societies were the mode of life for the vast majority of time of human species' existence. The Differentia specifica of human species is symbolic communication and behavior- language and culture.
I write here a critique of Engels’ essay “The Role of Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man” in part based on Marx’s claim that human labor is differentiated from all other species “labor by the role of imagination”! Otherwise, in his The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, Engels is profoundly correct on the difference between the Stone Age and Civilization and other issues!
My critique of Engels on this point is informed by the current biological and anthropological facts on the origin of tool use, stone tool use, and the nature of language and culture as symbolic communication and behavior. The origin of tool use, language, and culture is the issue Engels speculates concerning in “The Role of Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man”. My basic difference with him is that language and culture allowed the invention of labor (Darwinian struggle for existence) with stone tools created by imagination; not labor (practice in the struggle for existence/ struggle for self-preservation and snuggles for reproduction) created language and culture. I plead not guilty to the charge of philosophical idealism. I speculate culture and language were invented by mothers in the snuggles for reproduction, childcare, naming children to care for them more efficiently, singing to them, etc.
Engels never finished Dialectics of Nature. Haldane, in his preface to the 1939 publication of Dialectics of Nature, regrets that it remained unpublished for a long time, and writes, “Had his remarks on Darwinism been generally known, I for one would have been saved a certain amount of muddled thinking.” One of its unfinished fragments is on the role of labor in human evolution, more specifically the evolution of the hand. It is the evolution of the hand through the process of labor—creating tools—that distinguishes
The following is my blog item critiquing Engels‘ essay.
More leisure (than our ancestral primate species had) is our species’s essence. Foraging is a mode of direct appropriation from nature, not a mode of production. The origin of humans is the origin of language and culture, not the origin of bipedalism and hands freed from walking on all fours. It was not that bi-pedalism and the origin of hands originated a new labor that caused the invention of tradition, names, and words.
The invention of culture and language in childcare by mothers (I’m saying mothers invented names, words, symbolic communication to improve childcare, reproductive labor) was extended to making a living (the Darwinian struggle for existence).
Language and culture revolutionized the human struggle for existence by making it smarter and wiser, because of accumulation of knowledge over many generations. Language gives humans the capacity for dead generations to leave communications about their experiences to future living generations.
Symbolic communication allows ancestor veneration. The difference between humans and all other species is that through symbolic communication, words and culture, dead generations have a certain immortality and are part of the society of living generations. Living generations share the experiences of dead generations. Thereby knowledge accumulates.
All humans stand on the shoulders of giants, as the scientist Issac Newton put it concerning his scientific ancestors. Engels is wrong in "The Role of Labor in the Transition from Ape to Man" when he says "First labour, after it and then with it speech ...". First long childcare, then names and speech invented by mothers to care for children better, and then a transition to less toil in the struggle for existence, to smarter struggle for existence informed by ancestral experience, and more leisure as compared with primate species ancestral to homo habilis and the origin of the Stone Age.
Stone tools were invented to allow making a living less toilsome and more efficient. Perhaps the topic would be better named The Transition in the Struggle for Existence in the Transition From Ape to Man: The Origin of Imagination. Stone Age society is Societas beginning 2.5 million years ago; to circa 6,000 years ago with the beginning of Civitas private property, greed, slavery and heavy labor. Slavery is the origin of hard work and the work ethic. With so-called civilization, hard work ethic comes to dominate cultural ideas. So, hard labour is not our Stone Age species-being, but our civilization-being, which is a small fraction of the full time of our species history.
I think Engels anachronistically projects the determining role of labor on ideas (the historical materialist principle) back onto the Stone Age origins of language and culture. In fact the invention of language and culture revolutionized the bipedal primates’ struggle for existence by making it less of a struggle. Toilsome struggle was introduced with slave labor in so-called civilization where historical materialist determination originates.
Nonetheless, Marx and Engels do propose transition from the Kingdom of Necessity to the Kingdom of Freedom. Freedom is leisure and smart work through technology. Jobs lost to technological invention should be translated into more leisure time for the masses.
This essay uses "labor" in the sense that it is something that apes do; it is their struggle for existence, for survival in the Darwinian sense. So, it is not the same "labor" (or is it work?) that produces capitalist surplus value in Capital I, but the “labor “ is more general to all animals that Marx describes in Chapter Seven, where he says the difference between the labor of spiders and bees and that of man is imagining the project as a plan first (this implies that spiders and bees labor). “Labour is, in the first place, a process in which both man and Nature participate, and in which man of his own accord starts, regulates, and controls the material reactions between himself and Nature. He opposes himself to nature as one of her own forces, setting in motion arms and legs, head and hands, the natural forces of his body, in order to appropriate Nature’s productions in a form adapted to his own wants. By thus acting on the external world and changing it, he at the same time changes his own nature. He develops his slumbering powers and compels them to act in obedience to his sway. We are not now dealing with those primitive instinctive forms of labour that remind us of the mere animal. An immeasurable interval of time separates the state of things in which a man brings his labour-power to market for sale as a commodity, from that state in which human labour was still in its first instinctive stage. We presuppose labour in a form that stamps it as exclusively human. A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many architects in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality. At the end of every labour-process, we get a result that already existed in the imagination of the labourer at its commencement. He not only affects a change of form in the material on which he works, but he also realises a purpose of his own that gives the law to his modus operandi, and to which he must subordinate his will. And this subordination is no mere momentary act. Besides the exertion of the bodily organs, the process demands that, during the whole operation, the workman’s will be steadily in consonance with his purpose. This means close attention. The less he is attracted by the nature of the work, and the mode in which it is carried on, and the less, therefore, he enjoys it as something which gives play to his bodily and mental powers, the more close his attention is forced to be.”
So, Marx’s implication (contra Engels in “The Role of Labor “) is that in the transition from ape to man, labor transitioned in part by taking on more mental labor, imagination and planning, as a component. Imagination is a form of symbolic thinking. Symbolic thinking defines humans and differentiates humans from all other species despite the false and exaggerated claims for chimps and gorillas by some primatologists. In Engels’s The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man “The decisive step had been taken, the hand had become free and could henceforth attain ever greater dexterity; the greater flexibility thus acquired was inherited and increased from generation to generation.” How did the experience of repetition of the use of a hand by one individual get transferred to the brains of the next generation and the next, become the experience of the hand? If Matriarch/Patriarch uses her hands thousands of times his increasing dexterity is based on accumulated experience in that one individual's brain. The next generation's brains go back to "square one" at birth and childhood. The only way to accumulate knowledge across generations is by mediating the learning experience with language, imagination, and symbolic communication. The only way to "stand on the shoulders of giants" is to receive messages from them through a system of symbols, words. The hand is not the hand of an individual, but the hand, as a concept, an organ of the species.
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.”
Special thanks to N.C. Cai for editing and alignment.
Two hundred and one years ago, on a day much like today, the 28th of November of 1821, Fredrick Engels (Friedrich Engels in his native language) was born in Germany, the endearing partner of Karl Marx and co-founder of revolutionary Marxism. He was born into a bourgeois family, but because of his human quality, from a very young age he took a stand for the interests and destiny of the proletariat world; and at an early age he took part in the Chartist movement of England and the League of the Righteous, an organization of German workers exiled from England, from said involvement arose his criticism of capitalism in his “Outline of a Critique of Political Economy” and his excellent early piece “The Condition of the Working Class in England”, dedicated to the Working Class of Great Britain. Later, surpassing his early Hegelian philosophy, he commenced his studies on French socialism and political English economy looking to resolve the issue of the economy’s role in political and cultural events.
In 1945 he formed an exemplary friendship with Karl Marx; together they resolved the enigmas of philosophy and history that overwhelmed men. They demonstrated that man is as objective as nature, because man is also nature and they broke away from the idealist vision of the world in their co-authored book “ The Holy Family or Critique of Critical Critique” and together they set the pilers to the materialist conception of history in their oeuvre “The German Ideology”. Additionally, together they demonstrated to the world the validity of their materialist conception of history in their analysis content in the “The Communist Manifesto” later, Marx would present rigorously scientific evidence with his monumental work, “Capital”, unraveling the laws of the development of the capitalist mode of production.
If it wasn’t for the unconditional and selfless support of Fredrick Engels, Karl Marx would not have been able to create his book “Capital”. During this time, Marx had been deported from Germany and France and was residing in London, where the bourgeois denied him of any job which could be compatible with his investigation regarding the capitalist mode of production, due to this the few offers he obtained to work as a journalistic editor were not enough to maintain his family, because of this Engels had to help them until the publication of the first version of “Capital” in the year 1867. Nevertheless, his contribution to this work, was not only his altruistic work as a friend, but also in his theoretical and argumentative contribution, his comments, advice and recommendations and even, by giving him information which could not be found in the British Museum’s library. Thus, Marx asked Engels to write a piece to include it in his book so that it would be published with co-authorship, but because of his nobility and humility, Engels did not accept the offer.
Because of his contribution and rapport with “Capital”, Marx, before dying in 1883, asked Engels to be in charge of the preparation and printing of the following volumes, following the specified publication plan. The job was fulfilled until the third book, cancer betrayed Engels in 1895, transferring the task to Karl Kautsky, who would publish the fourth book on the history of capital gains. No doubt Fredrick Engels, who was self-taught, said that much more was expected from him “because he was a ‘traveling business philosopher’ who had not acquired the right to philosophize through a doctor’s degree” , is the coauthor of revolutionary Marxism. Historical circumstances have led to talk of Marxism-Leninism, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, or Marxism-Gramscian or Trotskyist Marxism or critical Marxism; but his legacy is only comparable to that of Marx.
Lenin at the death of Engels said:
“Marx and Engels were the first to demonstrate that the working class, with their demands, is the necessary result of the current economic system that, with the bourgeoise, inevitably creates and organizes the proletariat. They demonstrated that humanity will be liberated from the calamities that currently plague it, not by well-intentioned efforts from a few noble personalities, but from the class struggle of the organized proletariat. Marx and Engels were the first to clarify in their scientific works that socialism is not a dreamers invention, but the final goal and result of the inevitable development of the productive forces within contemporary society. All written history up till now has been the history of class struggle, of the successive change in dominance and in victory of one social class over another. And this will continue until the foundations of the class struggle and class rule disappear: the private property and the chaotic social production. The proletariat’s interests demand that said foundations be destroyed, so the conscious class struggle of organized workers must be directed against them. And any class struggle is a political struggle.” 
However, there are political currents that, calling themselves defenders of Marxism, oppose Engels and Marx. They argue that Engels’s own writings, lacking the wit of Marx, allowed for the development of deterministic or excessively deterministic positions which resulted in the “economistic” currents of the labor movement, which prioritize the economic struggle against politics. In this way, for example, Ernest Kohan, from the ranks of “critical Marxism” points out that in Engels’ book Anti Dühring: “…economy and violence, economic factor and political factor, market and class struggle, end up being conceived in this book as two separate spheres. If Dühring put the emphasis on the latter, Engels did so on the former, thus winning the controversy, but at the very high price of maintaining the` dichotomy between the two planes of social relations.” . Views of this type, which do not examine the overall work of Marx and Engels and take partial and unilateral references, have no other purpose than to support their own interpretations that distort the revolutionary thought of Marxism.
Other authors of the same line of reasoning, point out that because the early unpublished writings of Marx were not known, Marxists had serious interpretive problems, even “Capital” would have had another connotation. What they don’t say is, that these documents, in possession of the German Social Democratic Party, were published in 1932 and Marxists up to that time were nourished only by the oeuvres already published by Marx and Engels and with those writings, powerful Marxists parties were configured, which not all fell into “economism” or “excessive determinism”; and from those Marxists parties two triumphant revolutions arose: the Russian Revolution, led by the Bolshevik Party, and the Chinese Revolution, led by the Chinese Communist Party, all of which absolutely refute those who wish to attribute Marx and Engels with the misinterpretations made by others of Marxists concepts all of which only hides the true motives and limitations of the Marxists who, from the triumph of the Vietnamese revolution, haven’t been able to achieve another victorious revolution.
 Letter from Engels to Arnold Ruge, 26- 97-1842 taken from Heinrich Gemkow, Complete Biography, Cartago Editorial, Buenos Aires, 1976.
 Lenin, Fredrick Engles, of the compilation in the Rabótnik, numbers 1-2, Foreign Langages Editions, Beijing, 1980.
 Ernest Kohan, Our Marx, (pp.61-62), https://www.rebelion.org/98548,pdf
Carlos Alarcón Aliaga
This article was originally published in spanish by Instituto Marx Engel of Peru.
Patrick Stock, president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 105, wasn’t going to let anyone stop him from supporting the United Auto Workers’ strike against Deere & Co.
When a court issued an injunction limiting the number of picketers at a Deere facility in Davenport, Iowa, Stock gathered about 30 members of his local and other unions and organized a rally along a four-lane highway within sight of the plant gate.
He and the others gave up their afternoon—and risked injury from the vehicles whizzing past—because Deere’s attack on the Auto Workers was an attack on them, too.
Union contracts provide decent wages and benefits along with safe working conditions, retirement security and a means for workers to stand up for themselves.
One company’s efforts to gut a contract and trample on workers emboldens others to follow suit. That’s why workers from across the labor movement band together to protect one another.
They walk each other’s picket lines. They fire off letters of support to the local newspapers. They attend rallies and stick signs in their yards.
They also boycott offending employers and take up collections to ensure striking workers have food, diapers and other necessities.
Solidarity serves as a counterweight to corporate power and helps to preserve what’s left of the middle class.
“We see the big picture, and we support everybody,” Stock said, adding he’s certain other unions will back his members, who work at Arconic’s Davenport Works, during their next contract negotiations.
Workers throughout the country put their lives on the line and worked exhausting amounts of overtime to keep factories operating during the pandemic.
Despite those sacrifices, however, companies like Deere doubled down on greed. Even employers that made record profits during the pandemic want to further bloat their bottom lines on the backs of those who stepped up during the crisis.
That’s forced workers into a wave of strikes around the country and underscored the power of solidarity in holding employers accountable.
“They couldn’t thank us enough for the support. It meant a lot to them, especially after the injunction,” Stock said of the Deere workers in Iowa, among 10,000 Auto Workers nationwide who succeeded in winning a fair contract from Deere after a five-week strike this fall.
At the same time that they were helping the Auto Workers stand up to Deere’s avarice, members of the USW and other unions mobilized to demand justice for 1,400 members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union.
Those workers began a nationwide strike against Kellogg’s in October after rejecting the cereal maker’s demands that they give up quality health care and other hard-won benefits.
The company initially tried to bully workers by threatening to move jobs across the border if they refused to accept the cuts. Now, it’s threatening to hire permanent replacements for striking workers, a ploy sharply condemned by President Joe Biden and social justice activists around the nation.
“Harm to one is harm to all,” said Dave McLimans, vice president of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) Chapter 7-4, explaining why he’s twice driven to the bakery workers’ picket line in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to show support. “You have to fight the fight.”
“I’ve been on strike before. I know the feeling,” added the longtime USW member, recalling a 105-day strike in 1991 against the Lukens Steel Co.
McLimans still remembers the company’s refusal to give workers a fair share of its prosperity, the worries about paying bills as the strike wore on and the anxiety that rippled through his coworkers’ families and across the community. Also etched in his mind, however, is how members of other unions stepped forward to ensure he and his coworkers stayed the course.
“The support we got was tremendous,” he said.
Right now, the same kind of solidarity helps to buoy Chad Thompson and about 400 other members of USW Local 40 in their two-month-long unfair labor practice strike against Special Metals in Huntington, West Virginia.
Thompson, the local president, said the city’s unionized police and firefighters stop some mornings to provide striking workers with coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Members of USW locals from as far away as Virginia and Maryland, along with workers from other national and international unions, donated hundreds of hams and turkeys and a truckload of grocery items. Volunteers from unions and their retiree groups help to staff the union hall and walk the picket line, giving Thompson’s coworkers a boost even in the rain and cold.
And donations enabled the local to buy holiday gifts for members’ children and even throw a holiday party.
Over the years, Thompson and his coworkers often supported other unions during their tough times. Today, when he tries to thank supporters for their generosity, many remind him of his own members’ past kindnesses.
“We haven’t forgotten what Local 40 did for us,” one worker told him.
Employers like Deere, Kellogg’s and Special Metals try to sow uncertainty, foment hardship and divide workers against each other.
Unions do exactly the opposite. Solidarity brings working people together to fight for justice and better lives. It anchors workers in place during some of the darkest days they’ll ever face.
“It gives you the strength to do it again tomorrow,” Thompson observed. “That’s what it’s all about—one day longer. The support makes all the difference.”
This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.
Whales Will Save the World’s Climate—Unless the Military Destroys Them First. By: Koohan Paik-ManderRead Now
The U.S. military is famous for being the single largest consumer of petroleum products in the world and the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Its carbon emissions exceed those released by “more than 100 countries combined.”
Now, with the Biden administration’s mandate to slash carbon emissions “at least in half by the end of the decade,” the Pentagon has committed to using all-electric vehicles and transitioning to biofuels for all its trucks, ships and aircraft. But is only addressing emissions enough to mitigate the current climate crisis?
What does not figure into the climate calculus of the new emission-halving plan is that the Pentagon can still continue to destroy Earth’s natural systems that help sequester carbon and generate oxygen. For example, the plan ignores the Pentagon’s continuing role in the annihilation of whales, in spite of the miraculous role that large cetaceans have played in delaying climate catastrophe and “maintaining healthy marine ecosystems,” according to a report by Whale and Dolphin Conservation. This fact has mostly gone unnoticed until only recently.
There are countless ways in which the Pentagon hobbles Earth’s inherent abilities to regenerate itself. Yet, it has been the decimation of populations of whales and dolphins over the last decade—resulting from the year-round, full-spectrum military practices carried out in the oceans—that has fast-tracked us toward a cataclysmic environmental tipping point.
The other imminent danger that whales and dolphins face is from the installation of space-war infrastructure, which is taking place currently. This new infrastructure comprises the development of the so-called “smart ocean,” rocket launchpads, missile tracking stations and other components of satellite-based battle. If the billions of dollars being plowed into the 2022 defense budget for space-war technology are any indication of what’s in store, the destruction to marine life caused by the use of these technologies will only accelerate in the future, hurtling Earth’s creatures to an even quicker demise than already forecast.
Whale Health: The Easiest and Most Effective Way to Sequester Carbon
It’s first important to understand how whales are indispensable to mitigating climate catastrophe, and why reviving their numbers is crucial to slowing down damage and even repairing the marine ecosystem. The importance of whales in fighting the climate crisis has also been highlighted in an article that appeared in the International Monetary Fund’s Finance and Development magazine, which calls for the restoration of global whale populations. “Protecting whales could add significantly to carbon capture,” states the article, showing how the global financial institution also recognizes whale health to be one of the most economical and effective solutions to the climate crisis.
Throughout their lives, whales enable the oceans to sequester a whopping 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. That astonishing amount in a single year is nearly double the 1.2 billion metric tons of carbon that was emitted by the U.S. military in the entire 16-year span between 2001 and 2017, according to an article in Grist, which relied on a paper from the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute.
The profound role of whales in keeping the world alive is generally unrecognized. Much of how whales sequester carbon is due to their symbiotic relationship with phytoplankton, the organisms that are the base of all marine food chains.
The way the sequestering of carbon by whales works is through the piston-like movements of the marine mammals as they dive to the depths to feed and then come up to the surface to breathe. This “whale pump” propels their own feces in giant plumes up to the surface of the water. This helps bring essential nutrients from the ocean depths to the surface areas where sunlight enables phytoplankton to flourish and reproduce, and where photosynthesis promotes the sequestration of carbon and the generation of oxygen. More than half the oxygen in the atmosphere comes from phytoplankton. Because of these infinitesimal marine organisms, our oceans truly are the lungs of the planet.
More whales mean more phytoplankton, which means more oxygen and more carbon capture. According to the authors of the article in the IMF’s Finance and Development magazine—Ralph Chami and Sena Oztosun, from the IMF’s Institute for Capacity Development, and two professors, Thomas Cosimano from the University of Notre Dame and Connel Fullenkamp from Duke University—if the world could increase “phytoplankton productivity” via “whale activity” by only 1 percent, it “would capture hundreds of millions of tons of additional CO2 a year, equivalent to the sudden appearance of 2 billion mature trees.”
Even after death, whale carcasses function as carbon sinks. Every year, it is estimated that whale carcasses transport 190,000 tons of carbon, locked within their bodies, to the bottom of the sea. That’s the same amount of carbon produced by 80,000 cars per year, according to Sri Lankan marine biologist Asha de Vos, who appeared on TED Radio Hour on NPR. On the seafloor, this carbon supports deep-sea ecosystems and is integrated into marine sediments.
Vacuuming CO2 From the Sky--a False Solution
Meanwhile, giant concrete-and-metal “direct air carbon capture” plants are being planned by the private sector for construction in natural landscapes all over the world. The largest one began operation in 2021 in Iceland. The plant is named “Orca,” which not only happens to be a type of cetacean but is also derived from the Icelandic word for “energy” (orka).
Orca captures a mere 10 metric tons of CO2 per day—compared to about 5.5 million metric tons per day of that currently sequestered by our oceans, due, in large part, to whales. And yet, the minuscule comparative success by Orca is being celebrated, while the effectiveness of whales goes largely unnoticed. In fact, President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill contains $3.5 billion for building four gigantic direct air capture facilities around the country. Nothing was allocated to protect and regenerate the real orcas of the sea.
If ever there were “superheroes” who could save us from the climate crisis, they would be the whales and the phytoplankton, not the direct air capture plants, and certainly not the U.S. military. Clearly, a key path forward toward a livable planet is to make whale and ocean conservation a top priority.
‘We Have to Destroy the Village in Order to Save It'
Unfortunately, the U.S. budget priorities never fail to put the Pentagon above all else—even a breathable atmosphere. At a December 2021 hearing on “How Operational Energy Can Help Us Address Logistics Challenges” by the Readiness Subcommittee of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, Representative Austin Scott (R-GA) said, “I know we’re concerned about emissions and other things, and we should be. We can and should do a better job of taking care of the environment. But ultimately, when we’re in a fight, we have to win that fight.”
This logic that “we have to destroy the village in order to save it” prevails at the Pentagon. For example, hundreds of naval exercises conducted year-round in the Indo-Pacific region damage and kill tens of thousands of whales annually. And every year, the number of war games, encouraged by the U.S. Department of Defense, increases.
They’re called “war games,” but for creatures of the sea, it’s not a game at all.
Pentagon documents estimate that 13,744 whales and dolphins are legally allowed to be killed as “incidental takes” during any given year due to military exercises in the Gulf of Alaska.
In waters surrounding the Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean alone, the violence is more dire. More than 400,000 cetaceans comprising 26 species were allowed to have been sacrificed as “takes” during military practice between 2015 and 2020.
These are only two examples of a myriad of routine naval exercises. Needless to say, these ecocidal activities dramatically decrease the ocean’s abilities to mitigate climate catastrophe.
The Perils of Sonar
The most lethal component to whales is sonar, used to detect submarines. Whales will go to great lengths to get away from the deadly rolls of sonar waves. They “will swim hundreds of miles… and even beach themselves” in groups in order to escape sonar, according to an article in Scientific American. Necropsies have revealed bleeding from the eyes and ears, caused by too-rapid changes in depths as whales try to flee the sonar, revealed the article.
Low levels of sonar that may not directly damage whales could still harm them by triggering behavioral changes. According to an article in Nature, a 2006 UK military study used an array of hydrophones to listen for whale sounds during marine maneuvers. Over the period of the exercise, “the number of whale recordings dropped from over 200 to less than 50,” Nature reported.
“Beaked whale species… appear to cease vocalising and foraging for food in the area around active sonar transmissions,” concluded a 2007 unpublished UK report, which referred to the study.
The report further noted, “Since these animals feed at depth, this could have the effect of preventing a beaked whale from feeding over the course of the trial and could lead to second or third order effects on the animal and population as a whole.”
The report extrapolated that these second- and third-order effects could include starvation and then death.
The ‘Smart Ocean’ and the JADC2
Until now, sonar in the oceans has been exclusively used for military purposes. This is about to change. There is a “subsea data network” being developed that would use sonar as a component of undersea Wi-Fi for mixed civilian and military use. Scientists from member nations of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), including, but not limited to Australia, China, the UK, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, are creating what is called the “Internet of Underwater Things,” or IoUT. They are busy at the drawing board, designing data networks consisting of sonar and laser transmitters to be installed across vast undersea expanses. These transmitters would send sonar signals to a network of transponders on the ocean surface, which would then send 5G signals to satellites.
Utilized by both industry and military, the data network would saturate the ocean with sonar waves. This does not bode well for whale wellness or the climate. And yet, promoters are calling this development the “smart ocean.”
The military is orchestrating a similar overhaul on land and in space. Known as the Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2), it would interface with the subsea sonar data network. It would require a grid of satellites that could control every coordinate on the planet and in the atmosphere, rendering a real-life, 3D chessboard, ready for high-tech battle.
In service to the JADC2, thousands more satellites are being launched into space. Reefs are being dredged and forests are being razed throughout Asia and the Pacific as an ambitious system of “mini-bases” is being erected on as many islands as possible—missile deployment stations, satellite launch pads, radar tracking stations, aircraft carrier ports, live-fire training areas and other facilities—all for satellite-controlled war. The system of mini-bases, in communication with the satellites, and with aircraft, ships and undersea submarines (via sonar), will be replacing the bulky brick-and-mortar bases of the 20th century.
Its data-storage cloud, called JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure), will be co-developed at a cost of tens of billions of dollars. The Pentagon has requested bids on the herculean project from companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle and Google.
Save the Whales, Save Ourselves
Viewed from a climate perspective, the Department of Defense is flagrantly barreling away from its stated mission, to “ensure our nation’s security.” The ongoing atrocities of the U.S. military against whales and marine ecosystems make a mockery of any of its climate initiatives.
While the slogan “Save the Whales” has been bandied about for decades, they’re the ones actually saving us. In destroying them, we destroy ourselves.
Koohan Paik-Mander, who grew up in postwar Korea and in the U.S. colony of Guam, is a Hawaii-based journalist and media educator. She is a board member of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, a member of the CODEPINK working group China Is Not Our Enemy, and an advisory committee member for the Global Just Transition project at Foreign Policy in Focus. She formerly served as campaign director of the Asia-Pacific program at the International Forum on Globalization. She is the co-author of The Superferry Chronicles: Hawaii’s Uprising Against Militarism, Commercialism and the Desecration of the Earth and has written on militarism in the Asia-Pacific for the Nation, the Progressive, Foreign Policy in Focus and other publications.
This article was produced by Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
Meditations on the transition to socialism 72nd anniversary of the triumph of the Chinese revolution. By: Carlos Alarcón Aliaga- Translated By: Valeria BacaRead Now
We have read Domenico Losurdo’s article “Has China turned to capitalism? Reflections on the transition from capitalism to socialism” published in Horizontes del Sur and it has raised the following ideas that we believe are important to share because we hold the opinion that there is a feeling of defeat among Marxist socialists when they refer to the socialist experiences of the 20th century. At the most opportune time because of October 1, which is the anniversary of the triumph of the Chinese Revolution, celebrating 72 years of struggle to build socialism, and those who have set themselves the goal of achieving it on the centenary of their revolution.
Capitalism and imperialism had a great victory with the collapse of the Soviet Union, but, they also had another great victory with the ideological defeat of the Marxist socialists that live in the capitalist bloc. Defeat self-inflicted largely by the misunderstanding of the socialist processes and by a dogmatic appreciation of the communist ideals that should be imposed or “applied” at any time or place with the sole purpose of taking power.
In this way, the proletariat and the peoples of the world have been politically and ideologically disarmed and thus had to resist, in their own way, the bourgeois aggressions as a result of the economic crisis of 2007-2008, and now they must do the same in the face of a new crisis aggravated by the global health crisis of the coronavirus, more due to the responsibility of the governments that prefer to protect capitalist business before the lives of the people. The proletariat and the people, can still expect to face greater suffering with unpredictable consequences, and very few today consider alternatives that seek to overcome capitalism.
In this context, Losurdo encourages us to reflect on the socialist experiences of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, without having previously condemned them as "bourgeois," "bureaucracies," "state capitalists" or "revisionists."
“Real socialism” or “socialist construction"
100 year anniversary of the PPCH
First, Losurdo begins by raising the problem of the so-called “real socialism.” Strictly, they are not capitalist, but neither are they socialist, they are processes of transition from capitalism to socialism. A heroic stage in which the proletariat, with their leaders at the head, dare to transform the world in very difficult conditions, much more in countries of backward and “dependent” capitalism such as the cases of Russia and China, then Cuba, Vietnam and, lately, Venezuela, for which there was no past experience or manual that outlines how to do it.
In this way, Losurdo does not want to use the term "real socialism." In fact, the term leads to consider that these processes are actually socialism; real socialism is like that and not as it was outlined in its generality by Marx, Engels and Lenin and other revolutionary communist thinkers.
In this transition process and under such conditions mistakes were made and will continue to be made; but that does not induce Losurdo to condemn the revolutions in Russia and China as revisionists and begins by recognizing the existence of a will to build a socialist society. This consideration is extremely important to study these experiences, because it places us in the intentionality of their actors, of what they want to achieve.
All revolutionary experiences have a clear direction: socialism and communism. The problem they have to solve is how to achieve these ends. Only in this sense are they socialist countries.
Socialism is not the collectivization of poverty
The author rightly considers that socialism is not the collectivization of poverty. Socialism for Marx is completely feasible because the development of the productive forces within capitalism have made it attainable. For Marx, the suppression of social inequality, the differentiation of manual and intellectual work, of the countryside and city, etc. is possible on condition of a high degree of development of the productive forces and of abundance, that allow the integral development of people.
The Bolshevik Party never set out to make communism in poverty, therein its great initial hope of a worldwide revolution and that the advanced countries would support them in developing their productive forces and technological capacities. However, when the revolution in Germany failed, socialist construction had to start under the most adverse conditions. What is important about this situation, is that they did not collapse or abandon their socialist objective.
It was a question, now, of overcoming Russia's backwardness and the famine generated by the world war and the civil war with its own means. This explains the New Economic Policy (NEP) and then the five-year plans, but from the perspective of the idealist left they saw in this process, a reversal; towards capitalism.
On the other hand, we do not like the qualifier of "populist" that Losurdo uses in his analysis, because it is confused with the "bourgeois populism" used to gain a foothold in government, and because the position in the Bolshevik party was not to pretend to flatter the masses, rather, they placed the communist ideal before concrete reality. Likewise, Pierre Pascal uses this term in reference to the people and from his Catholic logic sympathetic to socialism. His socialism is one of the original Christian communities in which the rich stripped themselves of all their wealth to live in a community of poor people and make themselves worthy of the kingdom of God.
The staggering economic development of the Soviet Union in Stalin's time is economically comparable to that of China, but they are two different ways of making the transition. The common thing in both is the socialist objective, the leadership of the communist parties and the planning in all these processes. The welfare of the workers and the real recognition of rights in the Soviet Union are incomparable to any other capitalist country.
The heroic role of the proletariat in the construction of the socialist homeland
In the soviet experience, from the time of Stalin, a key element for its development was the ideological conviction of the Russian proletariat and of the entire people that they were building a new society, a new world. This primordial fact in the Soviet experience almost no one considers. Without it, it would have been impossible to win the civil war and overcome the famine in the first decade of the Bolshevik revolution and undoubtedly, Russia would not have gone from being a backward country to being the second world economic power, let alone having defeated the Nazi army during WWII. All this is achieved with an iron consciousness of class and confidence in their leaders, which endows men with the spirit of struggle and sacrifice to knock down all obstacles. This heroic deed has marked Russian society and now capitalism is powerless to remove it from history. But, also, this story is part of the story of the world socialist revolution.
Losurdo explains the fall of the Soviet Union due to the anarchy of production within Soviet companies, but that contrasts with the tight political control of society. It is a phenomenon that has not yet been clarified and it should be studied further. On the same line, the reading reminded us of a trip we made to Finland where we had the opportunity to talk with some Uruguayan students who were returning to their homeland before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and agreeing with Losurdo, they commented on the reluctance and the laziness of the workers in their daily work and they explained it by saying: “since they have everything and they know that if they are fired they have unemployment insurance, and they don't even worry about looking for another job because they know that the State, will do it for them.”
None the less, we believe that there are other factors that contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union. It is hypothesized that an underground bourgeoisie not seen or underestimated by the Soviet Union developed. This bourgeoisie, initially small due to its numbers and managing of capital, was tolerated and later ignored, but over the years its power grew, obtaining favors from the State, corrupting officials and also the directors of the kolkhoz for the illegal acquisition of seeds, fertilizers, use of machinery, etc., as well as with factories to have privileges, such as, for example, to become suppliers. This situation proliferated in the last decades and it was not so much the differentiation of salaries that corrupted and gentrified the bureaucracy, emerging bourgeois interests to restore private property and be able to do their business freely.
A second element is the relaxation of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), which abandoned the control and surveillance of the bourgeois ideological penetration and the fight against corruption, which, practically, they considered non-existent. The ideological struggle and the Marxist formation took a backseat, and apparently it would be an effect of the campaign against Stalin's "totalitarianism."
A third element is the action of imperialism, which never accepted the existence of a socialist country, nor will it allow it in the future, and will use all means to overthrow them inside and outside of it. The Soviet Union only emphasized the possibility of an armed invasion and neglected the political and ideological invasion that ended up penetrating the CPSU itself. The quick and easy way in which the USSR collapsed corroborates this; here it was not the popular masses who rebelled against Soviet power.
China, the construction of the popular power and the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)
Losurdo comments on the organization of the popular power, before the seizure of power in 1949, which included the organization of the economy in liberated territories, in which various productive systems were combined, including capitalist relations. In contrast, the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso (SL), which raised the thought of Mao Zedong in Peru, never understood it that way, for them the popular war was only a military action and not a means of building the popular power. In each liberated zone, the CCP assumed the task of directing and organizing the peasant economy, and was even in charge of trading its products outside the liberated zones. On the contrary, SL hampered the peasant economy and prohibited the commercialization of its products as a strategy to supply shortages to the cities.
Another central aspect is the understanding that capital settles where it has the conditions to make profits, that is, it invests its capital in the places and at times that ensure high profitability, it does not aim to reduce poverty or social inequalities, nor regional and local development or the protection of nature; hence the social inequalities and backwardness in many regions with peoples that have been forgotten. The spontaneity of the market does not guarantee decentralization or the elimination of poverty and it deepens social inequalities; hence the importance of planning and directing the communist parties in production and the national economy. Losurdo does not comment on these elements, without which it would be impossible to induce the bourgeoisie to contribute to the development of a country, and less to socialism. This is the only way to understand the quote he makes about Mao: “total political expropriation of the bourgeoisie, does not equal total economic expropriation.”
In the Soviet Union a bourgeoisie developed that neither the CPSU nor the State saw or gave its due importance and never set out to ally or lead them. However, they developed in the shadows and infected the state, the economy and the CPSU. On the other hand, in China the bourgeoisie is recognized as such and their property and profits are guaranteed in exchange for developing the productive forces, and thus they are politically “neutralized.” This is possible due to the leading role of the State and the CCP and the bourgeoisie that has been playing a role to achieve the goals of each five-year plan. Under such conditions, it is extremely difficult for the bourgeoisie to constitute itself as a class and assault power. But let us not forget that, in the absence of this, imperialism more than makes up for it.
In the socialist construction, the workers and all the people cannot lose the historical meaning of their struggle.
The 100th anniversary of the Communist Party (Photo by Kevin Frayer)
Finally, we must disagree with the following statement by Losurdo: “The policy adopted by Deng Xiaoping, on the other hand, leaves behind a clear historic toll: experience has shown that the totally collectivist economy erases all material incentives and motives for competition, paving the way (as previously seen) for mass disaffection and absenteeism.”
First, this sentence, in clear allusion to the Soviet Union, is not so true, because it takes the behavior of the Soviet workers in their last stage and ignores all their glorious history of dedication, of sacrificed work and heroism to face hunger, building the socialist homeland from a backward and war-ravaged country, emerge victorious by defeating the Nazi army in WWII and rebuild the socialist homeland after the war without any help. And the incentives were not lacking, but they were fundamentally of a collective nature, that is why the workers and the Russian people achieved unprecedented well-being, which forced the European bourgeoisie to imitate them to prevent the fall of capitalism.
President Xi Jinping by proposing to the Chinese workers to achieve socialism on the centenary of the triumph of the Chinese Revolution, he is giving them direction, a goal to achieve, which is at the base of all their successes despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the world economic crisis.
If the workers lose the historical sense of their struggle, they do not see clear the socialist and communist future to build, material incentives are useless because, likewise, they will work reluctantly, they will reduce production, because there will not be incentives for everyone. This is what the Soviet Union wanted to do in the final periods of its life; competition between companies and between workers was encouraged and, despite this, production continued to fall and corruption became uncontrollable. And it is that the economic crisis of the Soviet Union was interpreted to be the same as any capitalist crisis and the measures that were implemented did nothing but bring down the system. The economic crisis of Soviet Russia was different from the capitalist economic crises; in these, there is a lack of money in the pockets of the people to buy all the great bourgeois production, on the contrary, in the Soviet crisis, products were lacking because production continued to decline despite incentives, there was a lack of wheat, a lack of fuel, etc. that the United States consciously refused to sell to deepen the crisis.
There is no socialist construction model, it is the heroic creation of the people.
As we said, there is no manual on how to organize a socialist society. Marx and Engels envisioned in general terms what a communist society would configure, but they also understood that this society could not be reached immediately, so there would still be a previous stage, socialism, also thought in its general lines. All this is complicated when in reality the socialist construction begins in countries with backward productive forces and with a fierce resistance from capitalism that does not want to succumb; hence, currents arose that proclaim, in an ahistorical voluntarism, that it would have been better not to start it, forgetting that it is precisely the backward peoples who can no longer bear the anguish and suffering that capitalism causes and incites them to rebel. That is why there is no path of socialist construction already laid out.
All that has been said leads us to the fact that we should not transform an experience into a dogma, valid for any historical time and place. Socialist construction must remain open to the realities of each country and the historical conditions in which it must develop, while taking into account the lessons that each historical experience of socialist construction leaves behind.
Carlos Alarcón Aliaga
This article was originally published in spanish by Instituto Marx Engel of Peru.
Boric of the progressive coalition Approve Dignity has clinched a victory over far-right José Antonio Kast with 55% of the votes
Gabriel Boric addresses his closing campaign event. Photo: Twitter/ Gabriel Boric
This Sunday December 19 over eight million Chileans voted to decide who will be the next president of Chile. According to Chile’s electoral service SERVEL, with 96.75% of the votes processed, Gabriel Boric of the left-wing Approve Dignity coalition won with 55.8% of the votes over far-right José Antonio Kast of the Christian Social Front who received 44.19% of the votes.
At around 7:20pm (Chilean time) when the first electoral bulletins were being released, Kast accepted his defeat in a message on Twitter: “I just spoke to Gabriel Boric and I congratulated him on his big victory. As of today he is the elected president of Chile and deserves all of our respect and constructive collaboration. Chile always comes first.”
The news has been celebrated by progressive leaders in the region such as Alberto Fernández and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, president and vice president of Argentina, Bolivian president Luis Arce, and others. Former Brazilian president and future presidential candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wrote “I congratulate comrade Gabriel Boric for his election as president of Chile. I am very happy for yet another victory of a democratic and progressive candidate in Our America, for the construction of a better future for all.” Lula had expressed his support for Boric before the elections in the congress of the youth of the Workers’ Party of Brazil.
For many in Chile, Boric represents the possibility to bring the demands of the protesters from the 2019 uprising to the halls of government. In his campaign platform, Boric promised to deliver on key demands raised during the protests such as an increase on state spending on social services, progressive taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals, and to replace the country’s insufficient, privately-run pension system with a public alternative. He has also committed to reforming the infamous Carabinero police force due to their participation in grave human rights violations in their repression of social protest.
Kast on the other hand threatened to be a serious setback from the demands expressed by protesters. He had expressed complete support to the police and even pledged to remove Chile from the UN Human Rights Council, due to their reports on the human rights violations committed by the Carabineros. He also had pledged to uphold the neoliberal economic order and praised the 1980 Pinochet-era constitution, which is currently being rewritten due to demands from protesters.
While the electoral process by and large proceeded without major incidents, many denounced throughout the day the lack of public transportation. According to sources on the ground, several dozen buses were impounded during the voting process in what many alleged to be a deliberate effort to curtail participation. The hashtag #SueltenLasMicros or Release the Buses began trending throughout the afternoon.
The campaign of Boric had even denounced a reduction of at least 50% of buses in the city as well as a marked reduction in other cities such as Valparaíso, Rancagua, and Viña del Mar.
In response to the reduction of buses, a counter campaign was launched to call on citizens to share their private vehicles to help people get to their voting stations. Even some taxi associations offered special discounts for voters.
The current Minister of Transport and Telecommunications rejected the accusations and said that it corresponded to the regular circulation of buses on a Sunday.
This article was produced by Peoples Dispatch.