A recent study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry sent shockwaves across the scientific community and popular outlets as it disproved the predominant “serotonin hypothesis” of depression. In just two weeks since its publication it has been accessed by nearly half a million people and the subject of dozens of subsequent articles. The researchers analyzed a total of seventeen systematic reviews, meta-analyses, and other large studies focused on the following six tenets pertinent to the “serotonin hypothesis” of depression:
“(1) Serotonin and the serotonin metabolite 5-HIAA—whether there are lower levels of serotonin and 5-HIAA in body fluids in depression; (2) Receptors—whether serotonin receptor levels are altered in people with depression; (3) The serotonin transporter (SERT)—whether there are higher levels of the serotonin transporter in people with depression (which would lower synaptic levels of serotonin); (4) Depletion studies—whether tryptophan depletion (which lowers available serotonin) can induce depression; (5) SERT gene—whether there are higher levels of the serotonin transporter gene in people with depression; (6) Whether there is an interaction between the SERT gene and stress in depression.”1
None of the studies were able to prove any significant link between serotonin levels and depression based on the above tenets, leading the researchers to conclude that “there is no convincing evidence that depression is associated with, or caused by, lower serotonin concentrations or activity.”2
The researchers further argue, “The idea that depression is the result of abnormalities in brain chemicals, particularly serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT), has been influential for decades,” such that today “80% or more of the general public now believe it is established that depression is caused by a ‘chemical imbalance.”3 In light of this finding, one must ask—how did a hypothesis which failed to substantially prove the connection it is based on achieve such general acceptance?
The serotonin hypothesis wasn’t always the dominant explanation for depression. Shortly after the Second World War, “the first antipsychotic, chlorpromazine, was synthesized when chlorine was added to the promethazine structure.”4 This synthesis formed “the basis of the development of the first antidepressants” which emerged following Roland Kuhn’s 1957 presentation in the World Psychiatric Association Meeting, where shortly after the first tricyclic antidepressant was released for clinical use in Switzerland.5
A decade later, in the mid-1960s, a series of studies introduced serotonin as the “molecule behind depression.” These studies culminated in the work of Lapin and Oxenkrug, who postulated in 1969 the ”serotonergic theory of depression, which was based on a deficit of serotonin at an inter-synaptic level in certain brain regions.”6 In the following years, the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly created a serotonin-depression study team, which found that fluoxetine hydrochloride was “the most powerful… selective inhibitor of serotonin uptake among all the compounds developed.”7 The results led to the 1987 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the clinical usage of Prozac (the brand name given to fluoxetine), the first major selective serotonin receptor inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant drug.8
The release of Prozac revolutionized the commodification of medicine, incorporating a new field of mass advertisement which has since become the norm. However, as the documentary, Prozac: A Revolution in a Capsule demonstrates, the drug obtained its prominence not only through advertisement—which, interestingly enough, first occurred through business and finance magazines—but through its incorporation into culture as an iconic symbol of the zeitgeist.9 From Woody Allen movies to The Sopranos to late night talks shows, Prozac became the drug of the age, a commodity which, like Brave New World’s soma, could provide direct, unmediated happiness. This quickly resulted in the “Prozac boom,” making it by 1990 the most prescribed drug in the United States, and within ten years of its 1988 release, visits to the doctor for depression doubled and the prescribing of antidepressants tripled.10
The association of depression with low levels of serotonin was an intentional result of institutionally supported (e.g., American Psychiatric Organization) marketing campaigns from the pharmaceutical industry. This has provided “an important justification for the use of antidepressants” and perpetuated an antidepressant drug market that was valued at almost $16 billion in 2020 (a number expected to rise to $21 billion by the end of the decade);11 in today’s antidepressant epidemic, one in six Americans are on antidepressants.12 This phenomenon cannot be understood separately from the general commodification and marketization of medicine. As Joanne Moncrieff has argued, “there are some obvious drivers of this trend, such as the pharmaceutical industry, whose marketing activities have been facilitated both by the arrival of the Internet, and political deregulation, including the repeal of the prohibition on advertising to consumers in the US and some other countries in the 1990s.”13
This is how and why the serotonin theory gained and sustained its hegemony since the 1990s. However, within the scientific community this hypothesis has been on the chopping block for almost two decades as individual studies have disconfirmed various parts of the hypothesis. The scientific community, in general, is much more skeptical of the “serotonin hypothesis” than the general public. This disconnection between the much more nuanced science on depression and the public perception of the issue has been the subject of various articles and speaks to both the separation of science from everyday life and to the effectiveness of medical marketization.14 Nonetheless, the explosion the recent study caused is a result of its comprehensive character as an “umbrella review” which examined all parts of the serotonin hypothesis at once—and in doing so, went well beyond the many studies which have focused on separate parts in the last couple of decades.
From Biochemical Determinism to Dialectical Materialism
There is a prevalent myth which holds that those who function in society as professional “intellectuals” are somehow “autonomous and independent” from the dominant social order and the interests of the ruling class.15 This myth predominates in the community of the “hard” sciences perhaps more than in any level of traditional intellectuals. Here it is taken as sensum communem that science is objective and disconnected from ideology and social factors. For these folks, as Marxist scientists Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin said, “nothing evokes as much hostility… as the suggestion that social forces influence or even dictate either the scientific method or the facts and theories of science.”16 But it is in this illusion of non-ideological objectivity where ideology can be seen to be the most entrenched, functioning as unknown knowns, that is, as unrecognized assumptions or inherent biases which mediate how scientists approach the world.
This does not mean, as the postmodernist disease17 which influences some of the philosophy of science holds, that we should maintain a “deep epistemological skepticism” which often, as Ellen Meiksins Wood notes, conflates “the forms of knowledge with its objects… as if they are saying not only that, for instance, the science of physics is a historical construct, which has varied over time and in different social contexts, but that the laws of nature are themselves ‘socially constructed’ and historically variable.”18
On the contrary, in Marxism, as Helena Sheehan argues, there is “no conflict between [stressing] the historical and contextual nature of science and [affirming] the rationality of science and the overall progressive character of its development.”19 In essence, the Marxist tradition’s understanding of the socially determined character of scientific production does not mean that scientific objectivity is rejected and that the object of scientific study itself is conceived of as relative. The form of abstract and unmediated objectivism which prevails in the sciences is rejected and what is affirmed is a necessarily socially mediated understanding of scientific objectivity. This overcomes, as Sheehan notes, the stale “objectivist/constructivist” binary which today structures the discourse about science and affirms instead a dialectical both/and attitude.20 This is important to clarify so that the forthcoming analysis of capitalism’s influence on science is not confused as an embracement of relativism and a rejection of science’s ability to produce objective knowledge of the world.
The serotonin hypothesis emerges from what Levins and Lewontin called “Cartesian reductionism” (the objectivist extreme), which they held to be the “dominant mode of analysis” in all spheres of today’s sciences. In psychiatry this shows up as genetic and biochemical determinism, an attempt to reduce the complexity of mental health issues to genetics or to biochemical mechanisms which, with respect to the latter, somehow the major pharmaceutical companies always have a pill for. But, as Moncrieff has argued, “mental health problems are not equivalent to physical, medical conditions and are more fruitfully viewed as problems of communities or societies.”21
For instance, studies have shown that “within a given location, those with the lowest incomes are typically 1.5 to 3 times more likely than the rich to experience depression or anxiety.”22 The plethora of factors that stem from and contribute to poverty has allowed researchers to establish “a bidirectional causal relationship between poverty and mental illness,” such that poverty both increases the likelihood of mental illness and is proliferated further by it.23 The fact that the poorest in any context are up to three times more likely to experience depression than the rich shows that any analysis of depression must necessarily take into account the socioeconomic context of the individual. This inequality induced dissatisfaction allows one to understand both poverty and depression relationally. As Marx had already noted in 1847,
Our desires and pleasures spring from society; we measure them, therefore, by society and not by the objects which serve for their satisfaction. Because they are of a social nature, they are of a relative nature… A house may be large or small; as long as the surrounding houses are equally small it satisfies all social demands for a dwelling. But let a palace arise beside the little house, and it shrinks from a little house to a hut… if the neighboring palace grows to an equal or even greater extent, the occupant of the relatively small house will feel more and more uncomfortable, dissatisfied and cramped within its four walls.24
The Cartesian reductive framework contains various methodological flaws which prevent the concrete understanding of the world. It treats, for instance, the interactions of parts and whole one-sidedly—as if parts are homogenous entities ontologically prior to the whole, and hence, as if the whole was simply the sum of its parts. In so doing, this outlook draws artificial hard and fast lines between causes and effects and fails to see how parts and wholes are reciprocally conditioning, i.e., how “their very interaction structures the way they are interrelated and interpenetrated, resulting in what is called a whole.”25 In short, how wholes are not simply the sum of their parts, but the totalities through which the parts themselves attain the functions which form the whole. It is, in essence, a methodological reflection in the sciences of bourgeois individualism and Robinsonade26 forms of thinking, which artificially divorce individuals from society and hold the latter to be simply the sum of the former.
However, biochemical determinism/reductionism does not necessarily have to reduce explanations to only one factor. For instance, the inconsistent success of SSRIs27 in treating depression has led some scientists to sustain ex juvantibus28 (from reasoning backwards) that serotonin’s role in depression is interactive and dependent on its relations with adrenaline, dopamine, and other chemical processes. Although this represents a more complex view of the serotonin hypothesis in particular, and of the often wrongly conflated “chemical imbalance” view of depression, it is nonetheless a form of biochemical determinism.29 This is because it fails to see how the “chemical imbalances” don’t arise out of a void but are produced by the concrete environment the individual is in. The point, again, is not to diminish the biochemical in order to elevate the role of the environment, but to see both the biochemical and the environment as dialectically interconnected, acting “upon each other through the medium of the [individual].”30 As Levins and Lewontin argue, the individual “cannot be regarded as simply the passive object of autonomous internal (biochemical composition/genes) and external (environment) forces;” instead, the individual functions as a subject-object which is both conditioned by these factors (as object) and reciprocally conditions them (as subject).31
The limitations of the prevalent serotonin hypothesis also helps to demonstrate what Friedrich Engels noted in his unfinished Dialectics of Nature: although “natural scientists believe that they free themselves from philosophy by ignoring it or abusing it… they are no less in bondage to philosophy but unfortunately in most cases to the worst philosophy.”32 This reductive, bio-determinist outlook straitjackets science within abstract thought, preventing it from seeing things in their movements and interconnections. It forces the reduction of larger problems to simple components—since these are seen as the ontological basis of wholes—and limits the possibility of observing issues like depression dynamically and comprehensively.
It is much easier to reduce depression to a biochemical phenomenon in the brain than to analyze how the social relations prevalent in the capitalist mode of life create the conditions for the emergence of depression. Similarly, once this reduction is established, it is much easier to treat the “solution” through individualized drug consumption than through socially organized revolutionary activity. As Moncrieff has argued, “by obscuring [the] political nature” of mental illness, certain “contentious social activities” are enabled, and attention is diverted “from the failings of the underlying economic system.”33
Tracing depression to the exploitative and alienating relations sustained between people and their work, their peers, and nature, is not only a much more laborious task, but one which would necessarily end in the realization of the systemic root of the problem. Given capitalism’s universal commodification, and the form this takes in what Levins and Lewontin call the “commoditization of science,” such a result is directly against the interests of the institutions that control scientific knowledge production.34 As one of many other fields in which the universalizing logic of commodity production has penetrated, the aim is, of course, profitability; the quest for truth and scientific discovery is subsumed under the quest for profit. This is especially true after four decades of neoliberalism, where, as Moncrieff notes, “more and more aspects of human feelings and behaviour” have been commodified and turned “into a source of profit for the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries.”35 “Investing in research,” as Levins and Lewontin argue, is but “one of several ways of investing in capital.”36
In the West, this reality was clear to the rich tradition of British Marxists scientists like J.B.S. Haldane, J.D. Bernal, Hyman Levy, and others which emerged following the 1931 Second International Congress of the History of Science and Technology. As J.D. Bernal stated in 1937, “production for profit can never develop the full potentialities of science except for destructive purposes,” only “the Marxist understanding of science puts it in practice at the service of the community and at the same time makes science itself part of the cultural heritage of the whole people and not of an artificially selected minority.”37
Towards Socialist Science and Medicine
The serotonin theory gained prominence because: 1) it fits within the one-factor, causally linear framework of the Cartesian reductionist outlook prevalent in mainstream science; 2) it was a diagnosis which facilitated the greatly profitable solution embodied in the tens of billions of dollars’ worth antidepressant drug industry; 3) it plays a hegemonic role in steering the diagnosis of the depression epidemic away from its real source—capitalist social relations which sustain the mass of people alienated from what they produce, from other people, and from nature—and, specifically with respect to the United States, in drowning debt for getting sick, pursuing an education, or attempting to own a home.
Socialism removes these material difficulties upon which many mental health issues are grounded and places the working class in control of the economy, state, and civil institutions, making them function in the service of human and planetary needs, not profit. By abolishing poverty and war; guaranteeing healthcare, housing, and education as a right for all; providing everyone with meaningful well-paying jobs; amongst other things, a socialist society creates the economic and social security which radically transforms the environment in which most cases of depression are rooted. If one seriously seeks to overcome the depression epidemic capitalism is hurling the mass of people into, socialism is the only real solution.
Likewise, only socialism can de-commodify science and provide the general social atmosphere for a move away from a hegemonic outlook dominated by static, reductive, abstract, individualist, irrationalist, deterministic, and binary thought, and towards a dialectical materialist one which emphasizes change, interconnection, reciprocity, sociality, emergence, and concrete investigation of the concrete.38 The extraordinary successes of Cuban science and medicine testify to what can be done when the profit motive is removed and comprehensive, preventative, and community-based care becomes the norm.
While enduring an internationally denounced blockade from the most formidable of empires, the Cuban revolution’s commitment to a science for the people has allowed it to construct what is internationally recognized as one of the best health care systems in the world.39 Cuba’s comprehensive social care emphasizes the impact of biological, social, cultural, economic and environmental factors on patients. Far from the United States’ drug-first approach of dealing with mental health issues, Cuba’s comprehensive social care allows all medical issues to be better understood at their source, treated, and prevented from occurring.40 In Cuba, mental health treatment emphasizes “individual and group psychotherapies” of various kinds,41 and when not hampered by the blockade, incorporates psychopharmacology in an integrated fashion with the former.42
Cuban scientists see mental health issues and treatment “within the context of the community,” not isolated individuals.43 As Alexis Lorenzo Ruiz, president of the Cuban Society of Psychology, said: “At all times, the community—like the family—are participants and necessary contributors in each action taken to move toward an improvement in the wellbeing of people with mental illness.”44 Additionally, unlike the disease-centered model of care which predominates in most capitalist countries, this human-centered approach promotes multidisciplinary and integrative relations between mental and medical care within the different fields of medicine—various forms of medical doctors, psychologists, nurses, and other health care professionals train side by side each other within the communities they serve in.45 This socialist model has afforded the Cuban people the conditions where, despite the enormous material difficulties created by the US blockade, depression in Cuba affects only 3.8 percent of the population, whereas in the United States 4.8 percent.46
In their 1985 book, The Dialectical Biologist, Levins and Lewontin reformulate Marx’s Eleventh Thesis and state that “dialectical philosophers have thus far only explained science. The problem, however, is to change it.”47 In the West, the seeds of such a change are emerging once again. As Nafis Hasan wrote in Science for the People, “recent developments in the fields of immunology, cancer, theoretical and evolutionary biology lend credence” to the view that “any non-reductionist approach (e.g., systems biology) to studying biology will advertently end up using a dialectical approach.”48 The fall of the reductive serotonin hypothesis in depression research is but one instance in many pointing to the fact that the dominant outlook presents a fetter for the development of the sciences. Just like a socialist revolution is needed to free humanity and the forces of production from the fetters of the capitalist system of waste, a revolution in outlook is needed to free the sciences from its archaic Cartesian reductionism and furnish it with “the most scientifically apt method for understanding the world”—dialectical materialism.49
Originally published in Science for the People.
Carlos L. Garrido is a Cuban American PhD student and instructor in philosophy at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (with an MA in philosophy from the same institution). His research focuses include Marxism, Hegel, early nineteenth century American socialism, and socialism with Chinese characteristics. He is an editor in the Marxist educational project Midwestern Marx and in the Journal of American Socialist Studies. His popular writings have appeared in dozens of socialist magazines in various languages.
Will powerful men be held accountable? Will links to "intelligence" be meaningfully investigated? If it was blackmail, what was the actual target?
Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison for conspiring with Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse minors on Tuesday. Her lawyers have stated they will appeal the sentence.
The timing of events often strikes me as notable. Surprise witness Cassidy Hutchinson testified at the Jan. 6 hearings just as Maxwell's sentence was announced on Tuesday.
This virtually assured minimal coverage for the Maxwell verdict.
A serious hypothesis needs to be on the table that there is a massive apparatus to distract and manage information and the public mind.
Also ironic is that rapper R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years on Wednesday for abusing young women and girls.
Meanwhile, all the other wealthy and establishment white men implicated in the Epstein/Maxwell scandal seem to have evaded any meaningful justice.
Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Chris Hedges wrote during Maxwell's trial that it will "not hold to account the powerful and wealthy men who are also complicit in the sexual assaults of girls as young as twelve Maxwell allegedly procured for billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.
"Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, hedge-fund billionaire Glenn Dubin, former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, former Secretary of the Treasury and former president of Harvard Larry Summers, Stephen Pinker, Prince Andrew, Alan Dershowitz, billionaire Victoria's Secret CEO Les Wexner, the J.P. Morgan banker Jes Staley, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barack, real estate mogul Mort Zuckerman, former Maine senator George Mitchell, Harvey Weinstein and many others who were at least present and most likely participated in Epstein's perpetual Bacchanalia, are not in court. ... Epstein’s death in a New York jail cell, while officially ruled a suicide, is in the eyes of many credible investigators a murder."
In February, the British Independent reported "Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre reach ‘£10m’ settlement over sexual abuse claim." Giuffre was one of the girls targeted by Maxwell.
New York magazine just published the piece: "How Leslie Wexner Helped Create Jeffrey Epstein" about how the billionaire Wexner, whose company at one point owned Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, Express, and Bath & Body Works, funded Esptein. "Epstein’s money, Upper East Side mansion, and even the Lolita Express -- originally a Boeing 727 owned by L Brands -- would all come from Wexner."
The investigative reporter Whitney Webb -- who now writes at UnlimitedHangout.com -- has been pointing to these connections for years. She has noted: “The fact the FBI won’t even touch or question Les Wexner (‘head of the snake’ of the whole op) tells you that any effort to go after Ghislaine is superficial.”
In her piece, “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Shocking Origins of the Jeffrey Epstein Case,” Webb reports that “Alex Acosta -- who arranged Epstein’s ‘sweetheart’ deal in 2008 and resigned as Donald Trump’s labor secretary following Epstein’s arrest -- claimed that the mysterious billionaire had worked for ‘intelligence.’"
Webb also wrote about Maxwell’s father, Robert, who worked with the Mossad “according to several books including Seymour Hersh’s The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy.” She adds: “In exchange for his services, the Mossad helped Maxwell satisfy his sexual appetite during his visits to Israel, providing him with prostitutes, [whom] ‘the service maintained for blackmail purposes.’” [Quoting the book Gideon’s Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad by Gordon Thomas.] Webb's book One Nation Under Blackmail: The Sordid Union Between Intelligence and Crime that Gave Rise to Jeffrey Epstein is scheduled to be released later this year.
It's truly remarkable how little attention this story has gotten.
The claim is often made that the media love sensationalism and sex.
The Epstein story was ignored for years and years.
And then when it finally broke, it was still limited in vital ways.
If -- as Webb charges -- the Epstein/Maxwell operation was part of a blackmail operation, the young females they targeted, used and abused would only be the most obvious victims.
It would be very different than a typical sexual abuser whose sole goal is the actual abuse.
If this was done for blackmail, with Epstein allegedly taping these powerful men having sex with underage girls, then the girls and young women would be almost a commodity used in a larger, even more heinous scheme.
The wider intended victims would then be all the people -- likely numbering millions if not billions -- on the receiving end of the policies that were enacted because of the leverage of the blackmail. The question then becomes, if it was blackmail, what was the actual goal of the operation?
This speech by Vladimir Putin presents the current Russian worldview which is diametrically opposed to the U.S. worldview and reflects a different reality than is found in the MSM and bourgeois intellectual discourse available to the majority of people in the West. It is not a socialist or Marxist worldview but that of newly evolved ruling Russian bourgeoisie. Is it progressive or reactionary? It is reactionary in relation to the worldview of the Soviet Union which it has replaced. The question of its progressiveness is debated. It claims that the Western bourgeoisie represents a failing model and a decadent culture. This is a theme adopted from the previous Communist worldview.
The Russian bourgeoisie claims its model represents the new economic reality of the world system, which is multi-polar, and that the unipolar U.S. dominance model is not sustainable and represents a no longer viable, and indeed dangerous, outlook based on old fashioned colonial and imperialist objectives. The Russian bourgeoisie has made common cause with the ruling class in the People’s Republic of China (an alliance of workers and peasants and “a patriotic national bourgeoisie.”) While there is a contradiction between the social systems of Russia and China, the Russian bourgeoisie and the Chinese do not see this (at present) as an antagonistic contradiction.
The U.S. led Western bourgeoisie, on the contrary, views China as its greatest existential enemy and believes there is an unresolvable antagonistic contradiction between U.S. capitalism and the Chinese road to socialism —the logical consequence of this view means either the Chinese system must change through internal reforms or change will be imposed by future military means. If it is the goal of the world progressive and socialist forces to try and prevent war and attempt to change the trajectory of U.S. imperialism, then the Russian bourgeoisie can claim to be considered as a progressive force on the world stage. The current fighting in Ukraine is the locus of the friction between these two bourgeois forces (US. and Russian.) Which narrative more accurately reflects the empirical reality of the world we live in today (simplistically reduced to Biden versus Putin) will decide the future course of the world progressive movement.
This speech is therefore well worth reading in order to fully understand the issues at stake as it is one of the only sources available of the Russian view that has not been contaminated by Western propaganda. The speech is very long, and I have edited it by about 50%—I have eliminated only the large sections dealing with production figures, etc., dealing with various aspects of the industrial and agricultural out-puts of the Russian economic system which would be of interest only to specialists, and have kept all of Putin’s more generalized reflections on the philosophical and ideological differences and the differences in praxis of two systems. The entire speech is available on the internet if anyone is inclined to read the material I have left out.
The President attended the plenary session of the 25th St Petersburg International Economic Forum. June 17, 2022
President of Russia Vladimir Putin:
I welcome all participants and guests of the 25th St Petersburg International Economic Forum.
It is taking place at a difficult time for the international community when the economy, markets and the very principles of the global economic system have taken a blow. Many trade, industrial and logistics chains, which were dislocated by the pandemic, have been subjected to new tests. Moreover, such fundamental business notions as business reputation, the inviolability of property and trust in global currencies have been seriously damaged. Regrettably, they have been undermined by our Western partners, who have done this deliberately, for the sake of their ambitions and in order to preserve obsolete geopolitical illusions.
Today, our – when I say “our,” I mean the Russian leadership – our own view of the global economic situation. I would like to speak in greater depth about the actions Russia is taking in these conditions and how it plans to develop in these dynamically changing circumstances.
When I spoke at the Davos Forum a year and a half ago, I also stressed that the era of a unipolar world order has come to an end. I want to start with this, as there is no way around it. This era has ended despite all the attempts to maintain and preserve it at all costs. Change is a natural process of history, as it is difficult to reconcile the diversity of civilisations and the richness of cultures on the planet with political, economic or other stereotypes – these do not work here, they are imposed by one centre in a rough and no-compromise manner.
The flaw is in the concept itself, as the concept says there is one, albeit strong, power with a limited circle of close allies, or, as they say, countries with granted access, and all business practices and international relations, when it is convenient, are interpreted solely in the interests of this power. They essentially work in one direction in a zero-sum game. A world built on a doctrine of this kind is definitely unstable.
After declaring victory in the Cold War, the United States proclaimed itself to be God’s messenger on Earth, without any obligations and only interests which were declared sacred. They seem to ignore the fact that in the past decades, new powerful and increasingly assertive centres have been formed. Each of them develops its own political system and public institutions according to its own model of economic growth and, naturally, has the right to protect them and to secure national sovereignty.
These are objective processes and genuinely revolutionary tectonic shifts in geopolitics, the global economy and technology, in the entire system of international relations, where the role of dynamic and potentially strong countries and regions is substantially growing. It is no longer possible to ignore their interests.
To reiterate, these changes are fundamental, groundbreaking and rigorous. It would be a mistake to assume that at a time of turbulent change, one can simply sit it out or wait it out until everything gets back on track and becomes what it was before. It will not.
However, the ruling elite of some Western states seem to be harbouring this kind of illusions. They refuse to notice obvious things, stubbornly clinging to the shadows of the past. For example, they seem to believe that the dominance of the West in global politics and the economy is an unchanging, eternal value. Nothing lasts forever.
Our colleagues are not just denying reality. More than that; they are trying to reverse the course of history. They seem to think in terms of the past century. They are still influenced by their own misconceptions about countries outside the so-called “golden billion”: they consider everything a backwater, or their backyard. They still treat them like colonies, and the people living there, like second-class people, because they consider themselves exceptional. If they are exceptional, that means everyone else is second rate.
Thereby, the irrepressible urge to punish, to economically crush anyone who does not fit with the mainstream, does not want to blindly obey. Moreover, they crudely and shamelessly impose their ethics, their views on culture and ideas about history, sometimes questioning the sovereignty and integrity of states, and threatening their very existence. Suffice it to recall what happened in Yugoslavia, Syria, Libya and Iraq.
If some “rebel” state cannot be suppressed or pacified, they try to isolate that state, or “cancel” it, to use their modern term. Everything goes, even sports, the Olympics, bans on culture and art masterpieces just because their creators come from the “wrong” country.
This is the nature of the current round of Russophobia in the West, and the insane sanctions against Russia. They are crazy and, I would say, thoughtless. They are unprecedented in the number of them or the pace the West churns them out at.
The idea was clear as day – they expected to suddenly and violently crush the Russian economy, to hit Russia’s industry, finance, and people’s living standards by destroying business chains, forcibly recalling Western companies from the Russian market, and freezing Russian assets.
This did not work. Obviously, it did not work out; it did not happen. Russian entrepreneurs and authorities have acted in a collected and professional manner, and Russians have shown solidarity and responsibility.
Step by step, we will normalise the economic situation. We have stabilised the financial markets, the banking system and the trade network. Now we are busy saturating the economy with liquidity and working capital to maintain the stable operation of enterprises and companies, employment and jobs.
The dire forecasts for the prospects of the Russian economy, which were made in early spring, have not materialised. It is clear why this propaganda campaign was fuelled and all the predictions of the dollar at 200 rubles and the collapse of our economy were made. This was and remains an instrument in an information struggle and a factor of psychological influence on Russian society and domestic business circles.
Incidentally, some of our analysts gave in to this external pressure and based their forecasts on the inevitable collapse of the Russian economy and a critical weakening of the national currency – the ruble.
Real life has belied these predictions. However, I would like to emphasise that to continue being successful, we must be explicitly honest and realistic in assessing the situation, be independent in reaching conclusions, and of course, have a can-do spirit, which is very important. We are strong people and can deal with any challenge. Like our predecessors, we can resolve any task. The entire thousand-year history of our country bears this out.
Within just three months of the massive package of sanctions, we have suppressed inflation rate spikes. As you know, after peaking at 17.8 percent, inflation now stands at 16.7 percent and continues dropping. This economic dynamic is being stabilised, and state finances are now sustainable. I will compare this to other regions further on. Yes, even this figure is too much for us – 16.7 percent is high inflation. We must and will work on this and, I am sure, we will achieve a positive result.
After the first five months of this year, the federal budget has a surplus of 1.5 trillion rubles and the consolidated budget – a surplus of 3.3 trillion rubles. In May alone, the federal budget surplus reached almost half a trillion rubles, surpassing the figure for May 2021 more than four times over.
Today, our job us to create conditions for building up production and increasing supply in the domestic market, as well as restoring demand and bank financing in the economy commensurately with the growth in supply.
I mentioned that we have taken measures to reestablish the floating assets of companies. In most sectors, businesses have received the right to suspend insurance premiums for the second quarter of the year. Industrial companies have even more opportunities – they will be able to delay them through the third quarter as well. In effect, this is like getting an interest-free loan from the state….
Once again, the economic blitzkrieg against Russia was doomed to fail from the beginning. Sanctions as a weapon have proved in recent years to be a double-edged sword damaging their advocates and architects just a much, if not more.
I am not talking about the repercussions we see clearly today. We know that European leaders informally, so to say, furtively, discuss the very concerning possibility of sanctions being levelled not at Russia, but at any undesirable nation, and ultimately anyone including the EU and European companies.
So far this is not the case, but European politicians have already dealt their economies a serious blow all by themselves. We see social and economic problems worsening in Europe, and in the US as well, food, electricity and fuel prices rising, with quality of life in Europe falling and companies losing their market edge.
According to experts, the EU’s direct, calculable losses from the sanctions fever could exceed $400 billion this year. This is the price of the decisions that are far removed from reality and contradict common sense.
These outlays fall directly on the shoulders of people and companies in the EU. The inflation rate in some Eurozone countries has exceeded 20 percent. I mentioned inflation in Russia, but the Eurozone countries are not conducting special military operations, yet the inflation rate in some of them has reached 20 percent. Inflation in the United States is also unacceptable, the highest in the past 40 years.
Of course, inflation in Russia is also in the double digits so far. However, we have adjusted social benefits and pensions to inflation, and increased the minimum and subsistence wages, thereby protecting the most vulnerable groups of the population. At the same time, high interest rates have helped people keep their savings in the Russian banking system.
Businesspeople know, of course, that a high key rate clearly slows economic development. But it is a boon for the people in most cases. They have reinvested a substantial amount of money in banks due to higher interest rates.
This is our main difference from the EU countries, where rising inflation is directly reducing the real incomes of the people and eating up their savings, and the current manifestations of the crisis are affecting, above all, low-income groups.
The growing outlays of European companies and the loss of the Russian market will have lasting negative effects. The obvious result of this will be the loss of global competitiveness and a system-wide decline in the European economies’ pace of growth for years to come.
Taken together, this will aggravate the deep-seated problems of European societies. Yes, we have many problems as well, yet I have to speak about Europe now because they are pointing the finger at us although they have enough of their own problems. I mentioned this at Davos. A direct result of the European politicians’ actions and events this year will be the further growth of inequality in these countries, which will, in turn, split their societies still more, and the point at issue is not only the well-being but also the value orientation of various groups in these societies.
Indeed, these differences are being suppressed and swept under the rug. Frankly, the democratic procedures and elections in Europe and the forces that come to power look like a front, because almost identical political parties come and go, while deep down things remain the same. The real interests of people and national businesses are being pushed further and further to the periphery.
Such a disconnect from reality and the demands of society will inevitably lead to a surge in populism and extremist and radical movements, major socioeconomic changes, degradation and a change of elites in the short term. As you can see, traditional parties lose all the time. New entities are coming to the surface, but they have little chance for survival if they are not much different from the existing ones.
The attempts to keep up appearances and the talk about allegedly acceptable costs in the name of pseudo-unity cannot hide the main thing: the European Union has lost its political sovereignty, and its bureaucratic elites are dancing to someone else’s tune, doing everything they are told from on high and hurting their own people, economies, and businesses.
There are other critically important matters here. The worsening of the global economic situation is not a recent development. I will now go over things that I believe are extremely important. What is happening now does not stem from what happened during recent months, of course not. Moreover, it is not the result of the special military operation carried out by Russia in Donbass. Saying so is an unconcealed, deliberate distortion of the facts.
Surging inflation in product and commodity markets had become a fact of life long before the events of this year. The world has been driven into this situation, little by little, by many years of irresponsible macroeconomic policies pursued by the G7 countries, including uncontrolled emission and accumulation of unsecured debt. These processes intensified with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, when supply and demand for goods and services drastically fell on a global scale.
This begs the question: what does our military operation in Donbass have to do with this? Nothing whatsoever.
Because they could not or would not devise any other recipes, the governments of the leading Western economies simply accelerated their money-printing machines. Such a simple way to make up for unprecedented budget deficits.
I have already cited this figure: over the past two years, the money supply in the United States has grown by more than 38 percent. Previously, a similar rise took decades, but now it grew by 38 percent or 5.9 trillion dollars in two years. By comparison, only a few countries have a bigger gross domestic product.
The EU’s money supply has also increased dramatically over this period. It grew by about 20 percent, or 2.5 trillion euros.
Lately, I have been hearing more and more about the so-called – please excuse me, I really would not like to do this here, even mention my own name in this regard, but I cannot help it – we all hear about the so-called ‘Putin inflation’ in the West. When I see this, I wonder who they expect would buy this nonsense – people who cannot read or write, maybe. Anyone literate enough to read would understand what is actually happening.
Russia, our actions to liberate Donbass have absolutely nothing to do with this. The rising prices, accelerating inflation, shortages of food and fuel, petrol, and problems in the energy sector are the result of system-wide errors the current US administration and European bureaucracy have made in their economic policies. That is where the reasons are, and only there.
I will mention our operation, too: yes, it could have contributed to the trend, but the root cause is precisely this – their erroneous economic policies. In fact, the operation we launched in Donbass is a lifeline they are grabbing at to be able to blame their own miscalculations on others, in this case, on Russia. But everyone who has at least completed primary school would understand the true reasons for today’s situation.
So, they printed more money, and then what? Where did all that money go? It was obviously used to pay for goods and services outside Western countries – this is where the newly-printed money flowed. They literally began to clean out, to wipe out global markets. Naturally, no one thought about the interests of other states, including the poorest ones. They were left with scraps, as they say, and even that at exorbitant prices.
While at the end of 2019, imports of goods to the United States amounted to about 250 billion dollars a month, by now, it has grown to 350 billion. It is noteworthy that the growth was 40 percent – exactly in proportion to the unsecured money supply printed in recent years. They printed and distributed money, and used it to wipe out goods from third countries’ markets.
This is what I would like to add. For a long time, the United States was a big food supplier in the world market. It was proud, and with good reason, of its achievements, its agriculture and farming traditions. By the way, this is an example for many of us, too. But today, America’s role has changed drastically. It has turned from a net exporter of food into a net importer. Loosely speaking, it is printing money and pulling commodity flows its way, buying food products all over the world.
The European Union is building up imports even faster. Obviously, such a sharp increase in demand that is not covered by the supply of goods has triggered a wave of shortages and global inflation. This is where this global inflation originates. In the past couple of years, practically everything – raw materials, consumer goods and particularly food products – has become more expensive all over the world.
Yes, of course, these countries, including the United States continue importing goods, but the balance between exports and imports has been reversed. I believe imports exceed exports by some 17 billion. This is the whole problem.
According to the UN, in February 2022, the food price index was 50 percent higher than in May 2020, while the composite raw materials index has doubled over this period.
Under the cloud of inflation, many developing nations are asking a good question: why exchange goods for dollars and euros that are losing value right before our eyes? The conclusion suggests itself: the economy of mythical entities is inevitably being replaced by the economy of real values and assets.
According to the IMF, global currency reserves are at $7.1 trillion and 2.5 trillion euros now. These reserves are devalued at an annual rate of about 8 percent. Moreover, they can be confiscated or stolen any time if the United States dislikes something in the policy of the states involved. I think this has become a very real threat for many countries that keep their gold and foreign exchange reserves in these currencies.
According to analyst estimates, and this is an objective analysis, a conversion of global reserves will begin just because there is no room for them with such shortages. They will be converted from weakening currencies into real resources like food, energy commodities and other raw materials. Other countries will be doing this, of course. Obviously, this process will further fuel global dollar inflation.
As for Europe, their failed energy policy, blindly staking everything on renewables and spot supplies of natural gas, which have caused energy price increases since the third quarter of last year – again, long before the operation in Donbass – have also exacerbated price hikes. We have absolutely nothing to do with this. It was due to their own actions that prices have gone through the roof, and now they are once again looking for somebody to blame.
Not only did the West’s miscalculations affect the net cost of goods and services but they also resulted in decreased fertiliser production, mainly nitrogen fertilisers made from natural gas. Overall, global fertiliser prices have jumped by over 70 percent from mid-2021 through February 2022.
Unfortunately, there are currently no conditions that can overcome these pricing trends. On the contrary, aggravated by obstacles to the operation of Russian and Belarusian fertiliser producers and disrupted supply logistics, this situation is approaching a deadlock.
It is not difficult to foresee coming developments. A shortage of fertiliser means a lower harvest and a higher risk of an undersupplied global food market. Prices will go even higher, which could lead to hunger in the poorest countries. And it will be fully on the conscience of the US administration and the European bureaucracy.
I want to emphasise once again: this problem did not arise today or in the past three or four months. And certainly, it is not Russia’s fault as some demagogues try to declare, shifting the responsibility for the current state of affairs in the world economy to our country.
Maybe it would even be nice to hear that we are so powerful and omnipotent that we can blow up inflation in the West, in the United States and Europe, or that we can do things to throw everything into disorder. Maybe it would be nice to feel this power, if only there were truth in it. This situation has been brewing for years, spurred by the short-sighted actions of those who are used to solving their problems at somebody else’s expense and who have relied and still rely on the mechanism of financial emission to outbid and draw trade flows, thus escalating deficits and provoking humanitarian disasters in certain regions of the world. I will add that this is essentially the same predatory colonial policy as in the past, but of course in a new iteration, a more subtle and sophisticated edition. You might not even recognise it at first.
The current priority of the international community is to increase food deliveries to the global market, notably, to satisfy the requirements of the countries that need food most of all.
While ensuring its domestic food security and supplying the domestic market, Russia is also able to scale up its food and fertiliser exports. For example, our grain exports in the next season can be increased to 50 million tonnes.
As a priority, we will supply the countries that need food most of all, where the number of starving people could increase, first of all, African countries and the Middle East….
Once again, the world is going through an era of drastic change. International institutions are breaking down and faltering. Security guarantees are being devalued. The West has made a point of refusing to honour its earlier commitments. It has simply been impossible to reach any new agreements with them.
Given these circumstances and against the backdrop of mounting risks and threats, Russia was forced to go ahead with the special military operation. It was a difficult but necessary decision, and we were forced to make it.
This was the decision of a sovereign country, which has еру unconditional right to uphold its security, which is based on the UN Charter. This decision was aimed at protecting our people and the residents of the people’s republics of Donbass who for eight long years were subjected to genocide by the Kiev regime and the neo-Nazis who enjoyed the full protection of the West.
The West not only sought to implement an “anti-Russia” scenario, but also engaged in the active military development of Ukrainian territory, flooding Ukraine with weapons and military advisers. And it continues to do so now. Frankly, no one is paying any attention to the economy or well-being of the people living there, they just do not care about it at all, but they have never spared money to create a NATO foothold in the east that is directed against Russia and to cultivate aggression, hatred and Russophobia.
Today, our soldiers and officers, as well as the Donbass militia, are fighting to protect their people. They are fighting for Russia’s future as a large, free and secure multiethnic country that makes its own decisions, determines its own future, relies on its history, culture and traditions, and rejects any and all outside attempts to impose pseudo-values steeped in dehumanisation and moral degradation.
No doubt, our special military operation goals will be fulfilled. The key to this is the courage and heroism of our soldiers, consolidated Russian society, whose support gives strength and confidence to the Russian Army and Navy and a deep understanding of the truth and historical justice of our cause which is to build and strengthen Russia as a strong sovereign power.
My point is that sovereignty cannot be segmented or fragmented in the 21st century. The components of sovereignty are equally important, and they reinvigorate and complement each other.
So, what matters to us is not only the defence of our political sovereignty and national identity, but also strengthening everything that determines our country’s economic, financial, professional and technological independence.
The very structure of Western sanctions rested on the false premise that economically Russia is not sovereign and is critically vulnerable. They got so carried away spreading the myth of Russia’s backwardness and its weak positions in the global economy and trade that apparently, they started believing it themselves.
While planning their economic blitzkrieg, they did not notice, simply ignored the real facts of how much our country had changed in the past few years.
These changes are the result of our planned efforts to create a sustainable macroeconomic structure, ensure food security, implement import substitution programmes and create our own payment system, to name a few.
Of course, sanction restrictions created many challenges for the country. Some companies continue having problems with spare parts. Our companies have lost access to many technological solutions. Logistics are in disarray.
But, on the other hand, all this opens up new opportunities for us – we often talk about this but it really is so. All this is an impetus to build an economy with full rather than partial technological, production, human and scientific potential and sovereignty.
Naturally, it is impossible to resolve such a comprehensive challenge instantly. It is necessary to continue working systematically with an eye to the future. This is exactly what Russia is doing by implementing its long-term plans for the development of branches of the economy and strengthening the social sphere. The current trials are merely resulting in adjustments and modifications of the plans without changing their strategic orientation….
The federal government and regional and municipal governments should focus on supporting individual business initiatives in small towns and remote rural communities….
It is also important to help small business employees, self-employed individuals and start-up entrepreneurs acquire additional skills and competencies. Please include corresponding measures tailored specifically to small towns and rural and remote areas as a separate line in the national project for promoting small and medium-sized businesses.
Today I would like to address our officials, owners of large companies, our business leaders and executives.
Real, stable success and a sense of dignity and self-respect only come when you link your future and the future of your children with your Fatherland. We have maintained ties with many people for a long time, and I am aware of the sentiments of many of the heads and owners of our companies. You have told me many times that business is much more than just making a profit, and I fully agree. It is about changing life around you, contributing to the development of your home cities, regions and the country as a whole, which is extremely important for self-fulfilment. There is nothing like serving the people and society. This is the meaning of your life and work.
Recent events have reaffirmed what I have always said: it is much better at home. Those who refused to hear that clear message have lost hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars in the West, in what looked like a safe haven for their assets.
I would like to once again say the following to our colleagues, those who are both in this audience and those who are not here: please, do not fall into the same trap again. Our country has huge potential, and there are more than enough tasks that need your contribution. Invest here, in the creation of new enterprises and jobs, in the development of the tourism infrastructure, support schools, universities, healthcare and the social sphere, culture and sport. I know that many of you are doing this. I know this, but I wanted to say it again….
There must be a powerful social dimension when it comes to promoting economic growth and business initiatives. This development model must reduce inequality instead of deepening it, unlike what is happening in other countries. To be honest, we have not been at the forefront when it comes to delivering on these objectives. We have yet to resolve many issues and problems in this regard.
Reducing poverty and inequality is all about creating demand for Russian-made products across the country, bridging the gap between regions in terms of their capabilities, and creating new jobs where they are needed the most. These are the core economic development drivers.
Let me emphasise that generating positive momentum in terms of household income growth and poverty reduction are the main performance indicators for government agencies and the state in general….
Again, we provide targeted support to the most vulnerable groups – pensioners, families with children, and people in difficult life situations.
Pensions are indexed annually at a rate higher than inflation. This year, they have been raised twice, including by another 10 percent on June 1.
The minimum wage was also increased by 10 percent at the same time, and so was the subsistence minimum – a reference figure used to calculate many social benefits and payments – accordingly, these benefits should also grow, increasing the incomes of about 15 million people.
In recent years, we have built a holistic system to support low-income families with children. Women are entitled to state support from the early stages of pregnancy and until the child reaches the age of 17….
Promoting comprehensive improvements and development for rural areas is a top priority for us. People who live there are feeding the country. We now see that they are also feeding a major part of the world, so they must live in comfort and dignity….
Overall, we will be developing clean technology to achieve the goals we set in the environmental modernisation of production facilities, and to reduce hazardous emissions, especially in large industrial centres. We will also continue working on closed-loop economy projects, green projects and climate preservation. I spoke about these issues in detail at this forum last year….
Changes in the global economy, finances and international relations are unfolding at an ever-growing pace and scale. There is an increasingly pronounced trend in favour of a multipolar growth model in lieu of globalisation. Of course, building and shaping a new world order is no easy task. We will have to confront many challenges, risks, and factors that we can hardly predict or anticipate today.
Still, it is obvious that it is up to the strong sovereign states, those that do not follow a trajectory imposed by others, to set the rules governing the new world order. Only powerful and sovereign states can have their say in this emerging world order. Otherwise, they are doomed to become or remain colonies devoid of any rights.
We need to move forward and change in keeping with the times, while demonstrating our national will and resolve. Russia enters this nascent era as a powerful sovereign nation. We will definitely use the new immense opportunities that are opening up for us in this day and age in order to become even stronger.
Thomas Riggins is a retired philosophy teacher (NYU, The New School of Social Research, among others) who received a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center (1983). He has been active in the civil rights and peace movements since the 1960s when he was chairman of the Young People's Socialist League at Florida State University and also worked for CORE in voter registration in north Florida (Leon County). He has written for many online publications such as People's World and Political Affairs where he was an associate editor. He also served on the board of the Bertrand Russell Society and was president of the Corliss Lamont chapter in New York City of the American Humanist Association. He is the author of Reading the Classical Texts of Marxism.
NOTE* subscript appears as _ and superscript as ^. Click HERE to read in PDF format with normal sub/super script
The US social democratic journal Jacobin recently published an article by Ben Burgis that was a half hearted defence of Marx’s theory of exploitation.
I say half hearted because, as a prelude to their article, they effectively repudiated the theory that Marx used to demonstrate exploitation: the labour theory of value. They write:
Like every other area of empirical inquiry, though, economics has changed a lot since Capital was published in 1867. Today, most economists — including many who are committed Marxists — reject the labor theory of value (LTV).
In this they are being far too generous to economics. Is contemporary economics really an area of empirical enquiry?
I think not. It is better to see it as primarily a field of ideological combat. It is a field in which different political and class interests fight to defend their economic interests. As such one has to ask why most economists reject the labour theory of value? Did empirical evidence come to light since 1867 which invalidated Marx, or was it all a matter of politics?
I would contend that it was the evident political threat of the socialist movement that motivated the rejection of the labour theory of value. If the labour theory of value is accepted, then Marx’s critique of capitalist exploitation becomes unavoidable. It would have been politically intolerable were colleges in capitalist countries to have continued to teach the labour theory of value after the working classes won the right to vote. Instead a new doctrine, ‘economics’ instead of ‘political economy’ had to be developed and introduced into the teaching curriculum.
The new ‘marginalist’ economics, pioneered by Jevons and Marshall in the English speaking world, appeared very scientific. Jevons explicitly called upon static mechanics as his model, making extensive use of differential calculus in his maths. But this was the form of science without the substance.
In actual empirical sciences, like physics, the replacement of one theory by another depends on the new theory being able to make either more accurate empirical predictions than the previous one, or on an ability to predict hithertoo unobserved phenomena. The replacement of Newton’s gravitational theory by General Relativity (1915) rested on correct new predictions.
Einstein’s theory predicted gravitational lensing: that massive bodies would deflect the path of photons. This was confirmed in 1919 when, during a solar eclipse the apparent position of stars near the sun was shifted as Einstein had predicted. Science calls such an observation a crucial experiment, one which tests the crux of a theory.
Photo from the 1919 solar eclipse. The photo is a superimposition of the negatives taken during the eclipse with one taken of the same section of sky on a night earlier in the year. Each star shows as a pair of dark spots. The outer spot is from the eclipse image, the inner one is from the earlier night. The apparent shift of the stars away from the Sun arose from the bending of starlight by the Sun’s mass.
Jevons published his theory of prices in 1871. But there was no crucial experiment undertaken to validate it. There was nothing like the 1919 solar eclipse observation. No systematic experimental observations comparing the predictions of Jevons with those of Ricardo and Marx. Instead the new theory gained acceptance by its ability to mimic the form of science.
Neoclassical price theory, like gravitational theory, takes a mathematical form. Many, many scientific theories are expressed in maths. But expressing something in maths, as a set of equations is not enough to make it scientific. To be scientific it must be testable.
If the theory contains formulae then the parameters in the formula must either be pre-specified mathematical constants like π or must be derivable from observation: for example c standing for the speed of light. Theories of this sort lend themselves to experimental verification.
A theory which has what are termed free variables, that is to say parameters that can not be tied down by observation even indirect observation, is untestable. Marginalist price theory is untestable for this very reason. Consider the classic supply and demand diagram taught in economics classes:
Here we have the quantity sold (q) and the price (p) at which it will be sold predicted as the intersection of two functions S(q), D(q).
It all looks very scientific, except that the textbooks do not give explicit formulae for S(q) or D(q). They do not even tell us what functional form the S and D take. Are they parabolic functions? Hyperbolic ones? Exponential ones?
If a physicist said that the orbit of stars around a galaxy was determined by the paths along which two functions were equal, but if they then neglected to give any formula for the functions then they would not be taken seriously. But since neoclassical price theory is not an empirical science, but instead a branch of bourgeois moral philosophy, issues of mathematical form or experimental testability are ignored.
The professors are teaching this to naive teenagers. They impress them with visually concrete curves intersecting. They don’t bother giving any explicit formulae for the curves they plot. But suppose we take them at their word. Suppose we look at the standard text of US introductory economics and try to find out what formula the author was using for his curves.
I have taken the curves, digitised points on them and determined that you cannot get an acceptable fit for anything less than a third degree polynomial. This means that the S(q) function must have the form
S(q)=a+bq+ cq^2 + dq^3
Note that this has 4 parameters, a,b,c,d, that need to be tied down by observation to make a testable theory.
Similarly the D(q) will also require at least another 4 free parameters to draw the curve that the textbook shows.
The price theory is supposed to be explaining two numbers p,q but in order to do this it invokes 8 unknown free variables. The textbook does not tell students how to derive these variables. Suppose we take some of the industries in the Standard Industrial Classification.
And we ask how to derive the S and D functions for these industries, there is no answer in the textbooks. Why?
Because the theory has been so defined as to make it systematically impossible to empirically parameterise. At any given time period you can only observe two numbers for each industry - tons of Grain Mill Products sold and the total price they were sold for. There is no way to work back to the free variables since, and this is the key gotcha, any change in price or quantity is explained by Samuelson as being the result of either S,D or both having changed. So it is in principle impossible to use observations to fix the free variables, because any change in price or quantity is attributed to the supply and demand functions having altered. We are left with a theory that is even in principle untestable.
In contrast to this the Labour theory of value specifies relations between empirical observables:
λ_i the number of person years of effort used up - directly and indirectly to produce the output of the ith industry in the industrial classification
V_i the monetary value of output of the ith industry in the industrial classification
The theory states that these are linearly related so that V_i=[(Mλ)]_i Where there is only one free variable M which Marxist economists term the Monetary Equivalent of Labour Time.
This parameter can be fixed by looking at the total monetary value of output in an economy versus the total labour used.
Every parameter is tied to observables as should be the case in a scientific theory. Because of this it is empirically verifiable, and it has indeed been empirically verified. There are multiple studies by Marxist economists verifying it. To take just one paper, Cottrell and Cockshott found that for 49 US industries in the Standard Industrial Classification, the correlation between λ and V was 98.3%. That is a very strong correlation indeed. It implies that the labour content of industrial output explains more than 98% of the variation in monetary values of those industries.
Science requires replicable results. The LTV produces them. Very similar correlations have been obtained for Germany for Sweden and for 12 other capitalist economies.
The work of Jevons, Marshall, Samuelson etc. on value theory does not stand up to even the most elementary scientific scrutiny. By the standards of rigour taught in the hard sciences their maths and curves would be a joke, falling somewhere below the standard of astrology. But since this nonsense is taught in all seriousness to young students in US universities it has a lasting effect even on those among them who wish to rebel against the existing order. That a socialist like Burgis still takes it seriously, is testimony to what brilliant exponents of the conjurors art Jevons and his followers were.
 It is worth reading Mirowski, More Heat than Light, for a history of the physics envy of the marginalist economists.
 It is presumably this textbook formulation that Burgis is referring to in his article when he says “As economist and Jacobin contributing editor Mike Beggs notes, economists today think in terms of supply and demand schedules rather than supply and demand as forces operating on commodities — which makes Marx’s argument that something must account for prices when these forces are in balance much less compelling.”
Paul Cockshott is an economist and computer scientist. His best known books on economics are Towards a New Socialism, and How The World Works. In computing he has worked on cellular automata machines, database machines, video encoding and 3D TV. In economics he works on Marxist value theory and the theory of socialist economy.
Juneteenth celebrated in Emancipation Park, Houston, Texas in 1880 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Juneteenth was a people's holiday with deep meaning for the descendants of enslaved people. But the declaration of an official federal holiday has turned it into an opportunity for corporate exploiters and cynical politicians to show pretend concern for Black people. At best Juneteenth provides a history lesson and an opportunity for much needed political education.
"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere." General Order Number 3, June 19, 1865
The fact that members of the United States Senate voted unanimously to make Juneteenth a federal holiday proved that the commemoration is of no political value. Turning what was a peoples’ celebration into an occasion for opportunism and window dressing has actually damaged the cause of Black liberation and the understanding of history.
On June 19, 1865 Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas and issued General Order Three, a declaration that slavery had ended. The fact that this event occurred two months after the Civil War ended took on an understandably mythic quality, including a belief that the news had been deliberately kept from enslaved people, or that the person carrying the message had been killed.
In reality, enslaved Texans were well aware that the war had ended. But they also knew that the absence of federal troops who could enforce the law made any legalities moot. They knew better than anyone else that the people who forced them to labor without compensation would not end their system unless they were forced to do so.
Juneteenth was widely celebrated in Texas and other southern states while the rest of the country was largely unaware of their special commemoration. Of course the day had meaning to those people descended from the enslaved in those regions and they gave the day significance in their own way. Unfortunately Juneteenth came to be more widely known and now the serious and the scoundrels alike lay claim to what should be an important occasion.
The governmental imprimatur has given way to foolishness, insult, and confused reactions. A children’s museum was condemned for serving a Juneteenth watermelon salad. The stereotypical connection of Black people with watermelon was lost on an institution committed to cultural education. Not to be outdone, Walmart sold Juneteenth ice cream which like the watermelon salad was quickly removed after protest. Then again, the business of America is business. No one should be surprised that what should be a solemn remembrance is now commodified.
But anger about ice cream and watermelon is misplaced. Corporations, avaricious banks, and cynical politicians are all claiming to be Juneteenth believers. Of course they all use Juneteenth to pretend they aren’t what they actually are, and that is a sign that Juneteenth itself is problematic.
What exactly is being celebrated on June 19? Juneteenth could be a history lesson which explained that Abraham Lincoln was not the great emancipator. Everyone should know that the Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved people only in states like Texas which were in rebellion against the federal government, but which were safely able to continue the peculiar institution until they were forced to end it. Lincoln tied emancipation to colonization, the plan to send Black people out of the country and he actually established one such colony in Haiti.
The Civil War is rarely taught properly. The well documented struggle for liberation is left out of the story. The enslaved people who fled to Union lines whenever they were able forced Lincoln to state that ending slavery was the object of the conflict. He only reluctantly agreed to establish the United States Colored Troops, who were more invested in victory than any other group in the country. Of course, he never gave up on his dream of an all white country. Shortly before his assassination he still expressed a desire to send Black people away and to compensate the Confederacy for its lost free labor.
Instead of pointing out these well documented facts, Juneteenth is an amorphous celebration of Black people. The best it can accomplish is to point out that freedom itself is ever amorphous in this country. Enslavement was soon followed by lynch law terrorism, the sharecropping system, and the convict leasing system. Mass Black incarceration at the end of the 20th century brought about a new system of free labor, as vicious as that in the Jim Crow south.
The General Order itself shows the illusory nature of freedom for Black people. It warned the newly freed not to "collect at military posts" and not to be idle. Of course, they were forced to work hard for nothing. An allowance for temporary idleness should have been permitted, but this directive is yet another reason for serious discussion and study.
It is not surprising that Black people want validation but that desire is all too often misplaced. Validation comes when the past is remembered correctly and when real victories are achieved. It was sad to witness people who thought Juneteenth ice cream would have been acceptable if it were sold by a Black owned business. Of course liberation won’t come from Black capitalism either. Perhaps that is something to focus on instead of getting a day off from work while wishing that white people didn’t get the same consideration.
Juneteenth won unanimous approval in the Senate and only a handful of objections from republicans in the House of Representatives. This widespread acceptance is actually proof that the effort was misguided. On the one hand, we are told to hate the likes of republican leaders like Mitch McConnell, but suddenly celebrate when they toss a bone. When Joe Biden signed the law which made Juneteenth a federal holiday his remarks were replete with platitudes about the sin of slavery, the redemption of American progress, the importance of HBCUs and home ownership, and just for good measure, a plea to be vaccinated against covid. The laundry list of topics was further proof that a people’s holiday has become meaningless.
Juneteenth’s only value is if it becomes a day of serious study and political education. That process can start with learning why “Jim Crow Joe” Biden received 90% of the Black vote or why the 2020 rebellions after George Floyd’s murder created a need for the state to placate Black people, if only symbolically. The Civil War is a perfect starting point for this practice. If there is a day off it should be used wisely and well. In the future, all people’s holidays should stay that way. Perhaps they should be kept secret so that commemorations aren’t used to give legitimacy to bad actors. It is too late for Juneteenth, but the hard lesson can be the beginning of something far more valuable.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in Black Agenda Report, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well at patreon.com/margaretkimberley and she regularly posts on Twitter @freedomrideblog. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.
This artice was originally published in Black Agenda Report.
Portrait of Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820
Like few other composers, Beethoven expresses the will for freedom, the democratic longing of the people. His music is the continuation of the French Revolution through the means of art; his Ninth Symphony is a hymn to the humanist utopia of the equality of all humankind.
Between 1905 and 1933 the “Ninth” was frequently performed in Germany to a large number of workers’ audiences with the participation of workers’ choirs including a “Peace and Freedom Celebration on New Year’s Eve 1918.” The beginning of this concert was scheduled so that at stroke of 12, the final movement began with Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode to Joy.” These concerts were stopped by the Nazis in 1933.
Beethoven’s Ninth symphony
The symphony was composed in 1823, but Beethoven had planned from youth to set Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” to music. Schiller’s poem, expressing the aspirations of the age of revolutions, was close to his thinking all his life.
The years since composing his eighth symphony had been times of bitter disappointment at the oppressive reactionary political developments after the Congress of Vienna, but also of personal suffering. They were also years of growing resistance to reaction, and the revival of the revolutionary ideals, betrayed by the upper middle classes. The Ninth Symphony symbolizes powerfully the struggle through night into light, of progress against reaction, to which Beethoven dedicated his whole life and work. It is often expressed in a struggle between a dark minor key and a brilliant affirmative major key. The finale of the Ninth anticipates and celebrates the victory of this ideal: a future society, in which freedom, equality, universal fellowship is fulfilled, in which Joy can reign.
The first movement portrays a great battle, heroic resistance against adverse conditions. Beethoven described the reactionary state of Metternich as the “chaos and despair in which we live.” This is enacted in the dark opening bars and theme 1 is in D minor, the key of despair. A world without joy. Downwards plummeting twitching motifs give rise to the increasingly vigorous theme of resistance.
This energetic battle cry is answered by a plaintive woodwind motif. Tutti chords express new, gathering forces that are extinguished in a downward-rushing gesture, as “despair” is brought back to mind. The heroic theme breaks through powerfully in B flat major, with a first anticipation of the Joy melody. This polarity between minor and major represents the symphony’s two protagonists.
The threatening mood returns, a recurring suggestion of suffering, of falling from a great height. An energetic tutti insists on resistance. The rhythmic struggle motif is the driving force of the development. Its contrast with a soothing motif is characteristic of Beethoven. Above the softly throbbing timpani rhythm of the struggle motif, grows a longing for peace and joy. In the movement’s climax, the heroic theme resounds over a mighty organ point with booming winds and swirling timpani. This concentration of strength, raging with pain and defiance, heralds a major change. Above the thundering organ point, the heroic theme once again appears majestically in D minor, contrasted with a painful, sinking motif. The movement’s final section evokes friendly images with the soft horn melody, intensified by further woodwinds.
The struggle has not been resolved. The state of “despair” is challenged, not eliminated. A solemn funeral march in D Minor moves the movement to a dark ending, yet it finishes with a gesture of defiance and belief in victory with the heroic motif played in unison.
The second movement opens in D minor but transitions into a joyful dance in F major. The entire orchestra plays a stomping dance theme; the woodwinds then cheer a joyful tune in C major. The recapitulation increases the sense of busy tumult; the coda follows with lively movement. Oboes and clarinets play a cheerful tune, reminiscent of Slavic folk music. This powerful folk melody, the joy of the people, has entered the first movement’s joyless world, with the movement ending brilliantly and optimistically in D major.
The third movement contrasts with the second movement’s active participation in life, with a wonderful adagio movement, a dreamlike vision of longed-for human happiness and peace. The first violins sing the soulful main theme, its variations make the movement increasingly fluid. Suddenly signal-like fanfares promise victory, sounding into the dream. The melody swings upwards, offering beautiful glimpses of that world of longed-for peace and joy.
The crowning final movement evokes life in community, in happiness and peace, a utopian vision. Beethoven merged the instrumental and the vocal for the first time in symphonic music, to express these revolutionary ideals, won through struggle, with the help of human singing.
At the start of the final movement, Beethoven surveys the ground that had to be traversed in order to reach this utopia, the hard-won realm of joy and freedom. The wild, dissonant outcry in thundering D minor, with which the wind groups begin the final section fortissimo over swirling timpani, seems to destroy all the hopes that the adagio had raised. This recalls the gloomy opening of the first movement. However, the C sharp in the bass pushes the motif into major. The recollected restless Scherzo theme is not yet a source of true joy, neither is the dreamy melody of the third movement’s adagio. Beethoven prepares the ground musically by having the low strings represent the hero who gradually rejects the main themes of the preceding three movements until finally, they embrace the “Ode to Joy” theme and with it the message of universal humankind.
The awakening of the Joy melody in the woodwinds is sounded in D major as from a distance. Beethoven notes, “Ha, this is it, it is found. Joy.” The bass recitative rejoices and picks up the melody to complete it.
This simple melody is in the manner of a folk tune. The joyful movement now moves into the formerly “joyless” space, a melody of a completely different kind than the wild turbulent one of the Scherzo: a noble folk melody. It is a tune expressing the human community, of people who have succeeded in the great feat, as Schiller’s poem says, and who are called to transform the world from a state of despair into a world of general peace, joy, and freedom. Beethoven now sings his high song to Joy. We are still in the realm of wordless music.
In a very lively orchestral movement, we hear the triumphal march of the Joy theme. At first, violas and cellos take over the melody, accompanied by the contrapuntal voices of double basses and bassoons. Then the Joy theme grows in the polyphonic choir of instruments to the triumphant march of the whole orchestra. A sudden pause, voices of doubt assert themselves. A cry of horror threatens to plunge everything into despair. Now the baritone singer, the voice of humanity enters.
The woodwinds play the theme. The solo baritone and the choir basses call out “Joy” to each other, with the soloist singing the Joy melody with Schiller’s words, accompanied by the interwoven sounds of the oboe and clarinet. The fully instrumented stream of the joy melody swells, reaching a climax at the words: “and the cherub stands before God!” repeated three times fortissimo, revealing reverence for the greatness of the universe. With a sudden turn to B flat major, Beethoven brings to light a new image: the triumphal march of joyful people, filled with the message of communal joy and a better world. From momentary silence emerges a march with the modified Joy melody, colored by piccolo flute and percussion. The march swells to a mighty storm. Even the joy of the human community can only be achieved through struggle. Both peace and joy are inseparable. This victory has been attained. The choir triumphs with the Joy melody in the splendor of the full orchestra in D major.
There follows the solemn proclamation of the universal human community: “Be embraced, Millions! This kiss to all the world!” These words are greatly enhanced by an extraordinarily vivid melody. Such a community of nations calls for a change in the social order. Beethoven combines with this his reverence for the cosmos, for the starry sky above. The composer’s fortissimo C major chord on “World” radiates splendor. The longed-for goal is presented as realized.
Thus begins the grandiose, crowning double fugue, in which the friendship of peoples and the joy of general human happiness are celebrated as an indissoluble unity. The polyphonically led choral multitudes are accompanied by undulating figures of the strings, by the brass groups with trombones and trumpets, and the enthusiastic shouts of “Joy! Joy!” of individual voices. The climax is reached on the long sustained high A on the word “world.”
Human community is emphasized. Beethoven sings of the “gentle wing” of peace and the understanding of all people. He lets the idea of peace shine once again in the great beauty of the solo quartet. A roaring orchestral epilogue with variations of the Joy melody concludes this powerful instrumental-vocal symphony.
Touring Syria in 2017, we visited a multi-denominational primary school in Homs. Suicide bombers had slaughtered 30 children and many parents. Here, young girls greeted us, movingly singing in Arabic the “Ode to Joy”: “Alle Menschen werden Brüder/All people are joined in common humanity.” The EU adopted “Ode to Joy” as its anthem in 1985, despite its stringent sanctions on Syria, making it more difficult for foodstuffs, fuel, and healthcare to reach the people. Such measures fly in the face of Beethoven’s humanist message.
Dr. Jenny Farrell was born in Berlin. She has lived in Ireland since 1985, working as a lecturer in Galway Mayo Institute of Technology. Her main fields of interest are Irish and English poetry and the work of William Shakespeare. She writes for Culture Matters and for Socialist Voice, the newspaper of the Communist party of Ireland.
Anti-Imperialist Solidarity Against US Sanctions: Iran and Venezuela Sign Twenty Year Cooperation Agreement. By: N.C. CaiRead Now
After being snubbed from attending the Summit of Americas, President Maduro of Venezuela signed a twenty year cooperation agreement with President Ebrahaim Raisi in Tehran. In a joint conference, the two leaders agreed to raise bilateral relations to a “strategic level” and would work to expand ties in energy, science, trade, and tourism.
Although the exact details of the cooperation agreement are unknown, the meeting focused mostly on economic issues and cooperation under US sanctions. In addition, Maduro recently announced that direct flights between Caracas and Tehran would be established beginning on July 18th. Both countries have had extensive sanctions forced upon them by the US due to their shared rejection of US hegemony and petro-nationalism. The sanctions have resulted in Venezuela’s government losing 99% of its revenue, meaning that the country is living on 1% of its pre-sanctions income. The sanctions have resulted in massive inflation and shortages of food, household goods, and medicine, which the West blamed on the Maduro government and socialism. Iran’s economy has also faced a similar spike in inflation and shortages of important goods such as life saving medicines and medical equipment. However, the shock that the sanctions delivered to these economies is wearing off and the economic situations in both countries are improving, in part due to extensive cooperation between the two countries and other anti-imperialist states.
The agreement is a continuation and advancement in the solidarity between the two countries against the tentacles of US imperialism. Iran has been active in helping to combat the damage of US sanctions in Venezuela. It has opened supermarkets with goods produced in both Venezuela and Iran. Goods that previously both countries would have otherwise imported from abroad. The items in the store are sold at similar prices if not cheaper compared to other stores in Caracas. Iran has also sent millions of barrels of oil to combat the damage US sanctions have done to Venezuela’s refineries. The US, however, has frequently intervened with these shipments sometimes by committing literal piracy, as it did on August 14, 2020, by seizing the shipments of oil from Iran and sending them to Houston.
Iran and Venezuela have had a strong relationship since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Venezuela was one of the first countries to recognize the Islamic Republic of Iran. The relationship grew particularly strong during the Chavez era. From 2001-2013, Iran and Venezuela signed about 300 agreements related to various projects such as creating low income housing developments, car factories, and cement plants. The two countries even created a joint development fund and a development bank under Iran’s Export Development Bank (EDBI). Iran’s investments in Venezuela were estimated to be around $15 billion, by 2012. However, these projects have been condemned by the US and its allies for being related to illicit activity, in particular development of Iran’s nuclear capabilities. In 2008, Turkish officials seized a shipment of Iranian containers headed for Venezuela, which they suspected to be materials for an explosives lab. Furthermore, the EDBI was sanctioned by both the United States and European Union for being allegedly related to Iran’s “nuclear weapons program.”
The cooperation agreement between Iran and Venezuela is not only an advancement in Iranian-Venezuelan relations but also a major step forward in the resistance of US hegemony and sanctions in the global south. Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine War, there has been a wave towards de-dollarization with Russia and India trading oil in rupees, despite the threat of US sanctions. China and Saudi Arabia also contemplated trading oil in yuan instead of dollars. Several countries in the European Union have agreed to pay for Russian gas in rubles.
In Latin America, upon hearing that the Troika of Resistance (Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua) had been rejected from attending the Summit of Americas several countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala, and Bolivia condemned the decision and declared that they wouldn’t attend or that they would only send minor representatives to the conference. Russia has also made important steps in weakening the Nazi presence in Ukraine and the ruble is at an all time high. While it might not look like it, the days of US imperialism are numbered. The shock of sanctions will wear off and be rendered useless.
If anything, sanctions have taught the global south a variety of important lessons: dedollarize, create an independent economy, bolster relations with other countries outside of the West, and do not rely on the United States. The relationship between Iran and Venezuela is only a microcosm of a greater phenomenon.
N.C. Cai is a Chinese American Marxist Feminist. She is interested in socialist feminism, Western imperialism, history, and domestic policy, specifically in regards to drug laws, reproductive justice, and healthcare.
Statement approved by RKUs national conference 27-28/5
On the 16th of May, the Swedish government decided that Sweden is to apply for membership in NATO. The official reason is that is the best way to “defend Swedish safety considering the change in regards to security since the Russian invasion of Ukraine”.
In reality, this is nothing but an excuse to complete an already long ongoing process. In 2016 Sweden and NATO signed the so-called ‘host country agreement’ which, among other things, gives NATO the right to hold military exercises on Swedish territory. The Swedish government at the time refused Swedish membership in NATO, stating “Military non-alignment is at the core of Swedish security policy” and “in a time of increasing tensions in Europe, Swedish neutrality helps to counteract military escalation and instability”. Now they have turned their coats: Sweden is to join the war alliance as quickly as possible, for the same reasons that once were used to avoid membership. The already hollow non-alignment is now finally dead with the Swedish NATO application.
The process has not been without issues. On the 13th of May, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, proclaimed that he would oppose Swedish membership in NATO, as he believes Sweden to take the Kurdish organisations PKK and YPJ too lightly. In order not to block the Swedish application, Turkey has, among other things, demanded: an end to the Swedish arms embargo against Turkey, an end to Swedish support of Kurdish groups in northern Syria, and that select Swedish citizens, whom Turkey consider terrorists, be expelled from Sweden to Turkey. Which of these demands will be met, and how, remains to be seen. But considering Swedish weapons exports in general, and the repatriation of Ahmed Agiza and Muhammad al-Zery in 2001, it seems likely that the Swedish state will once more trade human lives to get its way.
Human lives are not highly valued in regards to this issue. Imperialism and war are the main antagonists of humanity, and membership in NATO means increased involvement with the USA and their global politics of war, as well as a further surrender of sovereignty over our foreign policy. In the long term, this may also lead to the sacrifice of our population in a future war, and the placement of nuclear weapons on Swedish soil. The capitalists are the winners in imperialist wars and the working class the losers. The struggle against NATO and imperialism does not stop at a Swedish membership in NATO. It will on the contrary demand even greater effort from all friends of peace, to turn this catastrophic tide.
The RKU therefore says:
Down with imperialism!
No to Swedish membership in NATO!
Original RKU publication
The United States is hosting a Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California, on June 6 – 10 to “focus on ’Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Future’ for our hemisphere.” The irony of the US-hosted event could not be more in your face: in terms of sustainability, the US is the second largest CO2 emitter, with its pentagon alone ranking as the “world's 55th largest emitter;” in terms of inequality, in the US the “top 0.1 percent hold roughly the same share of our wealth as our bottom 90 percent;” and in terms of providing an ‘equitable future for the hemisphere,’ the US’s continued Monroe doctrine treatment of Latin America as “its own colonial territory,” where it has waged criminal regime change operations for over a century to protect its imperialist sphere of influence, would place it as the last country in the region with the right to talk about an equitable future for the hemisphere.
Nonetheless, the irony of the event is intensified by the US’s exclusion of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Apparently, besides blockades, covert terroristic campaigns, and the creation and funding of ‘dissident groups,’ part of the punishment nations face when they prevent US monopolies from owning their counties’ resources or superexploiting their people’s labor power, is also an expulsion from the geographical region their country is in. Like the British colonial ordinance surveys in Ireland, geography itself becomes a tool in the hands of imperialists; the US sees itself capable of determining who is, and who is not, American.
Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) threatened to personally boycott the event if Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua are excluded. He affirmed on May 10th that "If they exclude, if not all are invited, a representative of the Mexican government is going to go, but I would not."
Since AMLO’s statement was made, Bolivia, Honduras, and The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have joined in protest against the exclusion. Bolivian president Luis Arce said that “If the exclusion of our brother peoples persists, I will not participate in it.” Similarly, Honduras’ Xiomara Castro said that “If all our nations are not there, it’s not a summit of the Americas.”
As Fidel Castro once told Salvador Allende in their late 1971 meeting, "This continent has in its belly a creature called Revolution, which is on the way and that inexorably, by biological law, by social law, by the law of history has to be born. And it will be born one way or another." In the context of a returned socialist tide in the region, of the inclusion of various Latin American countries into China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and lastly, of the continued collective rejection of US imperialist narratives and exclusionary events, the grounds are being laid for a sovereign and united patria grande, a condition which is essential for the region’s birthing of the ‘creature called revolution.’
Midwestern Marx is a socialist project championing Marxist education and political analysis. It is the parent organization of the Journal of American Socialist Studies and the Midwestern Marx Publishing Press. Here are the links to Midwestern Marx's website, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Our original 400k follower Tiktok account was banned because of our coverage of the Ukraine war, however, the link to the recent account we have been using can be found here.
On Wednesday morning the Israeli Military killed Al Jazeera's renowned journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Video from the event showed the IDF firing at journalists who were clearly marked as "Press" in bright uniforms. The videos prompted Israel to retract their initial statement that Shireen had been killed by Palestinian militants. An obvious attempt to deflect blame on to the Palestinian Resistance for crimes committed by the occupying military force, which has been armed to the teeth by the United States Government.
Israel has consistently been found guilty of suppressing media which is critical of the occupation, and committing violence against journalists. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights compiled a 50 page report titled "Silencing the Press: Israeli Occupation Forces Attacks on Journalists" which details the systematic suppression of descent and criticism that has been carried out by the Israel for years. Shireen's murder was not random. She was another victim of a system of colonial occupation that uses violence to suppress those who expose its crimes to the public.
Of course those who criticize Israel's actions will be decried as Anti-Semitic, or lumped together with right wing conspiracy theorists. And let us be clear that the Occupation of Palestine and violence of the IDF is a product of capitalist imperialism. It is motivated by the material interests of transnational corporations and imperialist governments who seek to control markets, resources, and labour in West Asia. Israel serves as an economic and military ally to the U.S. in an oil rich region, where much of 21st century western imperialist aggression has been focused. Zionism has been allowed to thrive as an ideology because it is propped up by these forces of capitalist imperialism who find it useful for furthering their material interests.
There is no conspiracy here. And as Marxist analysis always reveals, there is no inherent quality in any race, religion, or ethnicity of people which causes them to act more aggressively, or be more likely to occupy another. Rather it is material class forces which drive colonialism and colonial violence. Ideology is born from these material forces, usually as a way to justify the interests and actions of a certain class. The occupation of Palestine is driven by the material interests of much of the capitalist class in the West and Middle East, and Zionism is the ideology produced in order to justify those interests. Anti-Semitic conspiracies should be rooted out from our thinking, and crushed with the hammer of Marxist class analysis.
R.I.P. Shireen Abu Akleh! Your courage will never be forgotten.
From the River to Sea Palestine will be Free.
Palestinian Center for Human Rights Report on Israeli Occupation Forces Systematic Supression of Press Freedom: https://reliefweb.int/.../prees-report-engliesh-2020.pdf
Midwestern Marx is a socialist project championing Marxist education and political analysis. It is the parent organization of the Journal of American Socialist Studies and the Midwestern Marx Publishing Press. Here are the links to Midwestern Marx's website, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Our original 400k follower Tiktok account was banned because of our coverage of the Ukraine war, however, the link to the recent account we have been using can be found here.
On May 4th, 2022, Midwestern Marx received an email from POLITICO asking for a statement from our Editor and TikTok handler, Edward Liger Smith, concerning his support for Nicolas Maduro and the Venezuelan socialist project in light of Maduro's and PSUV's so-called regressive "policies regarding polices brutality, feminism and LGBT rights." The article POLITICO published omitted Edward's comments, so we wish to include those here.
My name is Eddie Smith, but I usually use Eddie Liger as a pseudonym when producing online political content.
Here are three articles I have written on this subject of Venezuela.
This is my undergraduate senior thesis which focuses on US imperialism towards Venezuela and the US Media portrayal of the situation in Venezuela: https://www.midwesternmarx.com/articles/neo-colonialism-in-venezuela-and-its-coverage-in-western-media-by-edward-liger-smith
This is a critique of the Maduro Government I published after he was criticized by some Chavista socialists in Venezuela: https://www.midwesternmarx.com/articles/venezuelas-anti-blockade-law-a-critique-of-maduro-and-the-lies-of-western-media-by-edward-liger-smith
This is an article I co-authored with my co-editor Carlos Garrido about the recent wave of socialist Governments coming to power in Latin America and what it means for the future:
These articles should give you a good idea of my general positions on Venezuela, and why I criticize US foreign policy in Latin America. However, here's a statement responding to your question specifically.
Statement: Western Media outlets tend to focus their coverage of Venezuela on the Maduro Government and Nicolas Maduro Himself, usually portraying the former bus driver turned President as a dictator, and warning of human rights abuses he's committed against the Venezuelan people. However, Western media tends to omit information about US hostility towards Venezuela, particularly the 15 year long economic sanction regime. By ignoring the effects of US policy on the Venezuelan economy and people, US media largely ignores the historical context which led to Venezuela's current situation, and the context that Maduro is currently acting within. Most Western coverage simplifies the situation, portraying Maduro as a comic book style tyrant ruling over his people with an iron fist, which is simply not an accurate portrayal of the complexities existent in Venezuelan politics.
The Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, which brought Hugo Chavez to power in the late 1990s, was not a top down movement implementing a dictatorship. Rather, it was a grassroots movement organized by and for the Venezuelan people, and against the years of colonial expropriation and exploitation Venezuela had been subjected to by Western Oligarchs. It is the revolution that I support, not an individual man; I support the Venezuelan workers and Chavista Socialist Leaders, who often have criticisms of the Maduro Government in relation to police brutality, economic policy, social policy, etc. My support for Maduro extends as far as the Venezuelan people's. While he is not a perfect leader, he is the man who the Venezuelan's voted for despite millions in Western money being funneled to Juan Guaido and the US backed opposition. So, in the context of Venezuela's last elections, I do support him, because I support the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people and their struggle against US imperialism.
A recent report from the UN showed that US Sanctions have caused Venezuela's economy to implode with the State losing $31 billion in revenue between 2017 and 2020 alone. The UN investigation showed that US sanctions affect poor and vulnerable Venezuelans the most, and concluded they are being blockaded from vital medical supplies, despite US claims that the sanctions do not target medicine. The US claims these sanctions were supposed to create a "democratic transition" in Venezuela, but now admit it has only united the Venezuelan people together in a struggle against Western interventionism. It is these working class Venezuelans who I support in their struggle, and these violent actions from the US state Department which I criticize in almost any conversation about Venezuela.
As Americans, it is not our job to meddle in Venezuelan politics, it's our job to assess our own Government and improve it wherever we can. That is why I spend so much time advocating for the US to remove there 166 economic sanctions on Venezuela.
Edward Liger Smith is an American Political Scientist and specialist in anti-imperialist and socialist projects, especially Venezuela and China. He also has research interests in the role southern slavery played in the development of American and European capitalism. He is a co-founder and editor of Midwestern Marx and the Journal of American Socialist Studies. He is currently a health care administration graduate student and wrestling coach at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
As the news erupted on Monday evening of a leak in the Supreme Court’s draft opinion piece that ultimately may reverse the monumental 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized the right to abortion, left-wing organizations and parties immediately went to take the streets with working women against this travesty on our bodily autonomy. Since the 1973 controversial decision, the right wing and ultra religious Christian groups have long lobbied politicians to overturn or create legislation to ban this right for women, and it may appear that they have finally found grand success. The criticisms against the right wing’s “Pro-Life” movement are numerous and I will not address them here as that would be redundant. Instead, I will focus on the left’s attitudes of abortion and women’s healthcare and how in fact, the current trend among the left is detrimental to our relationship with proletarian women.
The Left and Womanhood
It is no secret that among the left, working women have been leaving our movement in droves whether through being pushed about by chauvinism, exploitation, or worse – violence. That has been the basis of the creation of anti-imperialist and left wing groups that are women-only such as CODEPINK and Af3irm. Patriarchy and its baggage have found its noose tightened among revolutionary women even in organizations claiming to fight for their liberation, and through the years we have seen revolutionary women become disillusioned with the capability of our movement for it. I do not blame them, we must not shame them but instead rip our movement free from patriarchy and become a movement women are protected in.
But whether through the remnants of liberal feminism, idealism, and the lack of Marxist feminist analysis in left organizations, the left is losing its legitimacy with working women. It’s almost as if the plights of women and our reproductive care are just a concept to the left and not a lived reality for millions of working women. There is an idealist view of abortion and even worse, lack of uproar about women’s access to healthcare and work – making it seem like the only time we speak about women are during defending abortion and #MeToo moments. This has given a revival to the radical feminist movement that many young working women are flocking to as they’ve yet to have their issues revealed among the left. In fact some argue the fight for abortion is simply a culture issue and to be fair, the way the left fights for it is cultural and less economic.
Prior to this SCOTUS leak regarding Roe v. Wade, when was the last time we spoke about the lack of comprehensive study on women’s health? When was the last time we argued for accessibility and affordability of emergency contraceptives? Have we en masse pushed for scientists to research an extension beyond the 72 hour period for Plan B, or even how ineffective it is for overweight women? In states like Texas and South Dakota, emergency contraceptive pills are extremely limited in access and quite expensive. Birth control too is expensive and as millions of women and girls are prohibited from accessing it whether by lack of healthcare or laws restricting the pill by age.
Comrades, this is our fault because this was our task. The capitalist class, the liberals and of course the right will never make it their priority to champion for comprehensive study and access to healthcare for women and girls nor would they be interested in critiquing what little options there are today. We waited so long and sat on our hands that now we have neither the healthcare nor the last-result options for women in this country. Of course we did not ask the right to lobby against us nor did we push the Supreme Court to make such a heinous decision, but likewise we let the issue go completely disregarded and we contributed to failing the women of our country. And worse, the few organizations like Af3irm and Women for Racial and Economic Equality (WREE) have been and continue to struggle for women’s rights, were instead attacked by the left and smeared as state agents.
While we have been struggling for unions and better workplace conditions, we must connect the woman’s relationship with abortion and motherhood as economic conditions. Women in this country have been placed with the double burden of unpaid domestic work and employment, being doubly exploited at home and at the office. This is unappealing to working women of our time and the brunt of capitalism has resulted in now seeing a decline in reproduction rates. According to the Statista Research Department’s report in May 2021, the fertility rate needed to maintain the population sits at 2.1 children per woman but we have fallen below that rate to 1.77 children per woman since 2017. The number of births in the US has also steadily declined. Some will attribute this to life expectancy increasing, thus prolonging the decision to have a child. But the truth is that in these economic conditions, having a child seems so inconceivable. Housing is expensive and in places like New York City, most adults live with roommates who certainly would be partial to a crying infant at 3am. The cost of living increases while wages remain stagnant. Healthcare and education continue to send thousands every year into bankruptcy. Less and less adults are able to afford their own homes and then we wonder why birth rates are declining. The root of the issue is capitalism.
We need to remember these realities when we fight for abortion, that when we fight for women’s rights we are not beginning and ending with the right to an abortion. In our fight to defend Roe v. Wade, it cannot be lost on us the multifaceted class warfare against women. Nor should we glamorize the procedure, as sadly, that is what we’re beginning to see.
The Romanticization of Abortion and the Left
Quickly, organizations mobilized thousands of people at a moment’s notice all over the country to show their outrage against possible overturning Roe v. Wade and demand that women’s right to an abortion be protected. It is exhilarating to see the growth of our movement following the devastation that we’ve seen after the counter revolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. While more people are joining our ranks, we still struggle to keep women for reasons aforementioned.
Writer and revolutionary feminist Lavy Shwan has long been vocal in her support for women’s liberation and critique of the sex trade which she personally lived through. She has shown her dedication and her prioritization to uplifting working women from the strife imposed on them by this capitalist regime. Yet in February of 2022, while on recovery from removing breast implants which are fed to women as a necessary component to achieving beauty, she wrote online about the political theater surrounding the fight for abortion is, citing that it lacks any depth to transforming and materially uplifting working women. She was immediately hailed as a chauvinist, accusations thrown against her as being right wing and moralistic, all because she critiqued the movement surrounding abortions. At no point did Shwan say that women should be banned from having the procedure nor should they be prosecuted for having one. She simply critiqued the political theater of the pro-choice movement that makes a departure from real Marxist feminism.
This is a point that one may have to sit with themselves before immediately reacting to — the political theater of the pro-choice movement. At the recent mobilizations in favor of Roe v. Wade, activists took to the streets with signs demonstrating their frustration against this decision with signs like “Defend Roe v. Wade” and “Abolish the Supreme Court”. These are objectively good and winning slogans. But aspects that were particularly troubling about these protests were the signs that read “We love abortions” “pro-woman, pro-choice, pro-abortion”. If these signs were held by liberal, this would not come as a shock. But these were signs made and written by Marxists and paraded as a testament to our movement. This is the most egregious error of the left’s relationship to women.
While lived experience must be limited in our political analysis, I’m starting to believe only those who have had an abortion understand the complexities of it all. The left treats abortions as though it is a simple procedure – easy peasey lemon squeezy. A last form of birth control is all. They cite the brevity of the procedure as evidence and parade women who have had abortions and support the right to abortion around as a political token. I have had an abortion. I support a woman’s right to have an abortion under any circumstance she feels necessary. But I do not support romanticizing the single hardest decision a woman may have to make in her life, a choice that could alter her life, her emotional and physical health.
While it is now rare that a woman will die or become infertile after having an abortion, thanks to medical development and the legality of abortion procedures, by no means is the procedure light on your reproductive system. The procedure lasts roughly ten minutes, but most women are left awake, feeling every excruciatingly painful tug and dig. In the decision to not follow through with the pregnancy, a woman also undergoes the surgery awake and sentient which can be psychologically damaging to those particularly emotional about the pregnancy. After the procedure ends and the painkillers wane off, she is sent home with a caretaker bleeding heavily through pad after pad, cramping everywhere a zygote or fetus once was. In the subsequent weeks, her menstrual cycle becomes completely thrown out of whack leading to possibly changing the nature a woman experiences her next period. An abortion is not the same as a root canal and while not all women experience the emotional trauma and depression that follows, they will undergo the same physical experience.
There’s this idea that women that decide to have abortions all go with the decision unscathed. This is to counter the right wing moralistic narrative that women who have abortions will have lifelong regret and suffering. Make no mistake, the decision to have an abortion is largely not done recklessly or impulsively. But two things can be true at once. Under capitalism, women are under much economic exploitation and strain as it is, and motherhood is not any easier. Many women choose to have an abortion because they cannot afford or take on motherhood at the moment. Many women who chose an abortion have children later on in life. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 6 in 10 women who have had abortions are now mothers. In the US, a mother is responsible for her child and her alone. She must pay and find childcare when she's at work, she must have the burden of housework and employment. The child is a representation of her upbringing. It is not an easy task under such an individualist society. So it should not be in the least bit controversial to raise that capitalism fuels the demand for abortions and the decline in rates of child birth. It should not be controversial to state as Marxists, we must strive for a society where abortion demands decline through expanding study of women’s health, through access to healthcare and emergency contraceptives, using abortion as a last case option. That does not mean to limit abortion under any circumstances, but when women’s health is a priority and when women have their basic needs met, when we finally break free from wage slavery, then we will see less and less demand for abortions.
Women Among Our Ranks
Lastly, another troubling aspect of our pro-choice movement among the left is our reluctance to cast this as a woman’s issue. Abortion rates have increased in 2019 from their previous steady decline, just as recessions and the COVID pandemic saw women losing work and facing housing insecurity. The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group, reported that 94% of those who have had abortions identify as women. Yet, among the left we are seeing a resistance to saying “women’s right to an abortion” instead calling them “vagina-havers” or “people with uteruses”. It is a double blow when through the struggle of losing our right to bodily autonomy, we then become dehumanized and unnamed by those who are fighting for our liberation.
How can we expect working women to join us, how can we expect to be the crusaders in defense of women’s rights when we refuse to even say the word ‘woman’? Among the left, there is always the desire to be inclusive and bring a collective together under a banner. As noble as this is, it obfuscates that 94% of those getting abortions identify as women, it is clear this is a woman’s issue. This does not mean it is solely a woman’s issue, but we must respect those affected.
In the struggle for Black liberation, it is often noted by the right wing that there are more white people murdered by the police than Black people. Of course this statistic does not account for the fact that proportionately, white people make a larger percentage of the population and if we took the rates of the population into account, Black people are the vast majority of victims of police and state sanctioned violence. Exceedingly. Police violence is an issue that harms and kills the Black people of this country, of course that is not denying other races and ethnic groups are victims too. But into the question of police harm, it is clear as day that the issue is one especially pertinent to Black people and we recognize that fact on the left. But why can’t we acknowledge this for women? Women’s issues are routinely ignored day to day, but when the moment comes to stand up and roar for women’s liberation, we won’t even say ‘woman’. How on Earth do we expect working women to join us when we won’t even name them.
The Left has become alienated from women, and women have become alienated from themselves in light of the lack of Marxists taking on the task to champion them. I cannot understate how much disservice we do to ourselves and women when we don’t take on the economic positions of women’s struggles and reduce them to political trends that dissipate. Whatever the result of this draft may be, until capitalism is abolished, until women are raised from the depths of their plunder, working women will still be doubly exploited by domestic work and employment, women will suffer from lack of healthcare. Until we begin to address this, women will not feel at home in any of our movements.
Kayla Popuchet is a Peruvian-American CUNY student studying Latin American and Eastern European History, analyzing these region's histories under a scientific socialist lens. She works as a NYC Housing Rights and Tenants Advocate, helping New York's most marginalized evade eviction. Kayla is also a member of the Party of Communists USA and the Progressive Center for a Pan-American Project.
Everyone is Forgotten and Nothing is Remembered: The war in Ukraine and Russia’s Reawakening. By: Marius TrotterRead Now
On May 2, 1945, the Red Army raised the banner of victory over Berlin’s Reichstag after the fall of the German capital. Adolf Hitler had committed suicide in his bunker less than 48 hours before. He had slaughtered 25 million of the Soviet Union’s people to wipe out the “Judeo Bolshevik menace” once and for all, yet failed to break them. After the most titanic, nightmarish war in modern history, after rivers of blood shed from Kiev to Moscow, from Stalingrad to Kursk, the workers and farmers of the Soviet Union had vanquished the most vile killing machine the world had yet seen.
Stalin was eager to exploit the symbolism of storming the Reichstag, the symbolic heart of German power, in time for May Day, and have the red banner waving from the top of the building as a great propaganda victory. The Red Army waged a ferocious battle with fanatical SS die-hards to seize the building.
The first Red Army soldier to scale the Reichstag and raise the flag on top of it was not a Russian but a Kazakh by the name of Rakhimzhan Koshkarbayev, who scaled the Reichstag on April 30. However, it was not suitable for a propaganda photograph because it was too late at night. In addition, the building had not been fully secured from the enemy and the flag was taken down by German soldiers the next day. The day after, the last Nazis had finally been cleared from the building, the flag was raised once again and photographed. Accounts differ, but according to the photographer himself the man who raised the flag was a 18 year old Russian soldier from Kazakhstan named Aleksey Kovalev. He was assisted by two other soldiers, a Muslim soldier named Abdulraham Ismailov from Dagestan in the Caucasus, and Leonid Gorychev, from Minsk in Belarus.
The photographer was Yevgeny Khaldei, a Ukrainian Jewish Soviet naval officer. His father and three of his sisters had been murdered by the Nazis during the war-only his mother survived the war. He was from Donetsk in the Donbass, the coal mining hub of eastern Ukraine, in many ways the West Virginia of the USSR. The young man who raised the red banner went on to live in Kiev for much of the rest of his life, where he served in the Kiev Fire Department, and is buried there.
They were Ukrainians. They were Russians. They were Soviets. They were all these things.
The iconic photograph became the symbol of the Red Army’s ultimate triumph over Nazism.
Exactly 69 years later, on that very exact day, the fascist enemy re-emerged on the soil of the former Soviet Union. War was declared on Russia, the peoples of the former Soviet Union, and on all socialists and trade unionists everywhere in the world. It happened on May 2, 2014.
On that date, in the Russian speaking majority city of Odessa in Ukraine, pro Russian demonstrators, socialists, Communists and trade unionists took to the streets demonstrating against the new Ukrainian ultranationalist government in Kiev, which had taken power in Euromaidan coup against the Ukrainian President Yanukovych a little over two months earlier.
They were rejecting moves to pass laws discriminating against the Russian language, criminalizing Ukraine’s Communist Party, and laws honoring Ukrainian fascists who had collaborated with the Nazis as national heroes. Chief amongst these “heroes” being Stepan Bandera, the aspiring little Ukrainian Hitler whose forces participated in the Babi Yar massacre and Lvov Pogrom against the Jews alongside the Nazi SS, and also committed genocide against 50-100,000 Poles in Galicia and Volhynia.
The demonstrators were viciously attacked by a mob of armed neo-Nazi thugs of Right Sector. They were driven into the old Soviet Trades Union building by the mob. The building was set on fire by Molotov cocktails wielded by the Nazis. People who attempted to flee the burning building were gunned down or clubbed to death. When the embers burned out, the fascists moved in and finished off those who may have still been alive, eliminating the survivors execution style. At least 46 were dead and hundreds wounded. The dead included a pregnant woman who was strangled to death with steel wire, and the youngest victim was a 17 year old boy who was a member of the Ukrainian Communist Party’s Youth League.
Ukraine’s then acting, later elected President Poroshenko appointed Ihor Palytsia, one of the ultra nationalists who had led the mob, acting governor of Odessa only four days after the massacre. The message was clear- in the new post 2014 Ukraine, Nazis could murder, torture, and rape with impunity. They would not be punished. They would be the law.
This massacre barely registered in the West. It was described blandly in the US and Western European media as the ‘Odessa clashes’ in which both sides were equally at fault. This despite the fact that neo Nazi Right Sector proudly took responsibility for the murders on its own website and praised the perpetrators of the killings as heroes.
In the 21st century, open unabashed Nazis spilled blood the day after May Day, in a house of the working class, in broad daylight. The lack of punishment, consequences or even condemnation for this outrage only made the vile monster hungrier. It had tasted blood now and from here on out, its appetite would only increase.
The lines of battle were drawn.
Just nine days after this atrocity, the people of Ukraine’s industrial coal country of the Donbass, centered around Donetsk(the photographer Yevgeny Khaldei’s hometown) voted to secede from the Ukrainian state. The miners, the working class backbone of eastern Ukraine, took a stand against the reemerging Nazi menace. The people of Donetsk and Luhansk wanted no part in a state where people would be burned alive by fascists for speaking Russian, for being Communists or taking pride in their Soviet past. Like their ancestors had, they took up arms against the swastika.
The fascists mobilized for their counterattack. For eight years- 2014 to 2022- the people of the Donbass were besieged by the Ukrainian military and neo Nazi paramilitaries. They were bombed, they were shelled, they were terrorized and yet they did not bend, they did not break, they did not give in. A popular front mobilized to defend the Donbass consisting of Slavic nationalists and Communists alike. Not only ethnic Russians but numerous other peoples- anti fascist Ukrainians, Cossacks, Ossetians, Abkhazians, Chechens, Georgians, Siberians, Spanish communist internationalist volunteers, even Afghans who had supported the pro Soviet communist Afghan government.
Thirteen to fourteen thousand people in the Donbass died in those eight years. Including hundreds of children. No marches. No petitions. No 24/7 trembling proclamations of incredulous outrage on CNN or MSNBC or the New York Times. Not a mumbling word from the ‘civilized’ liberal West, worse, Obama and Biden alike legitimized the Kiev government and armed the fascist killers. Even many Western ‘socialists’ essentially yawned.
Only when the Russian Army, at long last, came to the aid of the Donbass on February 24, 2022, was Western liberal and ‘leftist’ opinion awakened. Only then did we see volcanic indignation. The last to wake up, they will be the first to go back to sleep, when their tech oligarch masters and social media “thought leaders” instruct them to.
Today, this war continues. In the ruins of Mauripol, in the open Ukrainian plains, in the hills of the Donbass. Russian soldiers, Chechen auxiliaries, Ukrainian soldiers and civilians alike die by the thousands as we speak, and Ukrainians witness the destruction of their country as it becomes a battleground between Russia and NATO in the opening salvos of a new Great Power conflict. Russia and their allies in Ukraine have resolved that the Right Sector and Azov Battalion Nazis must be pounded into the dust. The lynchers of Roma, the torturers and rapists of Russian women and children, the architects of genocide and hatred who spent nearly a decade terrorizing the people of the Donbass like wild beasts, cannot be permitted to be their neighbors. And NATO is equally determined to arm these fascists to the teeth, to effectively use all of Ukraine as a human shield for its Great Game of advancing NATO’s eastern flank. This war will not end until one side or the other breaks.
As heinous as this war is, and whatever criticisms one can make of Russia’s conduct of it, it must be said- Russia did NOT start this conflict. No resolution of the war is possible without an honest reckoning with this fact.
One anticipates all the programmed responses- but Putin is bad. Putin is a monster, Putin is a war criminal, Putin is insane. Putin threatens democracy and freedom and European civilization.
No one wants to be seen as championing an invasion by a stronger country by a weaker one. Yet the history of the USSR reveals that barely more than 30 years ago it was all one country. Being a Russian or a Ukrainian, a Belarussian or a Kazakh, was akin to being a Texan or a Californian, a Michigander or a Virginian. What appears superficially as one nation invading another country is in fact more akin to a civil war- one side of Ukraine identifies as the descendants of those who fought in the Red Army against fascism, while another identifies with those who fought on the side of fascism. NATO is backing one side of this civil war, and Russia is backing the other. The miners of Donetsk represent one pole, and Bandera loving Nazis of Lvov represents the other. And most of Ukrainians are stuck in a hellish battleground between these two different poles. And it is telling which side the Western establishment has chosen.
This is not about this or that leader. It is not about Vladimir Putin’s mind or personal psychology. It is not about the admittedly many flaws, injustices and yes crimes of the current Russian state.
It’s about the Russian nation and the Russian people . And between two warring sides of the Ukrainian people. As well as numerous other countries of the former USSR which have been impacted by the same history(particularly Armenia, Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, etc). Virtually every family was impacted by the war. Every major city is full of monuments and memorials to the dead. The Great Patriotic War is more than merely another historical event. It is, quite literally, at the very core of the Russian and eastern Ukrainian people's identities. It was a war in which had they not prevailed, their nations would have literally ceased to exist- they would have either been dead, or slaves of the Fascists. China also has a similar collective memory of its brutal struggle against Japanese fascism in the same world war, with unknown millions giving their lives as well.
The broad masses of these countries know, in their bones, that fascism came within a hair's breadth of annihilating them as a people. Generation after generation has passed on the message- remember what your ancestors did. Never forget. Never. And never allow it to happen again. Russia and China are the two leading anti fascist powers in the world, since that struggle is foundational to their modern identity.
The West flatters itself too much, and tells fairy tales about how they slew the Axis on their own. Endless brainless and stupid films, video games and Netflix series reinforce this nonsense. The reality is, the Nazi and Imperial Japanese monsters were poised to devour the Earth, only to bash their brains out against the hard rocks of the great Eurasian fortress presented to them by the Soviet Union and China. Had the Axis captured Eurasia’s vast pools of hundreds of millions of people as slave labor, seized their oil, gas, agriculture, and wheat, seized their coal and iron and uranium, Hitler and Hirohito would have ruled the globe. Britain and yes, the United States would have been swallowed. It is insane how this elemental fact is ignored.
Had these people of the former USSR and China not made this sacrifice, we’d ALL be living under the swastika and the Rising Sun. It quite literally decided the fate of all humanity.
And yet neither country gets respect from Western governments and elites in the subsequent 80 years. What they got, and continue to get, is decades of Cold War, arms race, hostility, relentless demonization, and most insultingly- constant equations between their societies and Fascism in popular Western discourse, even by the so called intelligentsia.
Russia(and China) is tired of the insults. Tired of the ingratitude. Tired of the hypocrisy.
The fact is, for all the US/European liberal intelligentsia’s pontification about ‘totalitarianism’, of equating Communism with fascism, the reality is that since 1945, the real unholy alliance has been between liberal ‘democracies’ and fascism.
The greatest American President of the last century, Franklin D. Roosevelt, hoped to turn the wartime alliance with Stalin against the Axis into an enduring framework for a peaceful post war global order. There were even plans for the Soviet Union to be a recipient of Marshall Plan aid after the war to help them rebuild.
Alas, FDR died right before the hour of final victory. And a sinister shift occurred at the highest levels of the US government. Harry S Truman, representative of the more hardline, anti communist and pro business factions of the American elite, took over the Democratic Party. He and his allies decided on a course of confrontation instead of cooperation with the USSR. McCarthyism ushered in a new intolerant climate domestically, to purge American society of all elements that might have supported peace and cooperation with the USSR.
Due to the Cold War, an Iron Curtain descended not only over Europe, but the narrative about the Second World War. The Soviet and also Chinese contributions to the Allied victory could not be honored or acknowledged in the West in any way because that interfered with the consensus that these peoples were now “the enemy”. A revisionism prevailed whereby the Western Allies were the sole authors of the victory over the Axis, while Communism was simply another form of ‘totalitarianism’ equivalent to, and in some ways actually worse than the Nazis.
But even more ugly, the remnants of the defeated Nazi regime merged into the emerging CIA, beginning with the Gehlen Organization. In its global war to vanquish the Communist menace, the American intelligence apparatus recruited over 1,000 former Nazis from the Wermacht, SS, and Gestapo to assist with collecting information against the Soviet enemy and planning insurgency and counter insurgency operations. For these enlisted fascists, they were continuing the same war against the ‘Judeo Bolshevik’ menace that had started in 1941- they were simply working for a different boss.
A new war to contain and destroy the communist enemy began, directed from Langley, Virginia instead of Berlin. One of its first major operations in 1949 was the CIA arming and supplying Bandera’s Nazis in western Ukraine, who were still waging an insurgency against the Soviet state. Thousands of Soviet soldiers and police died up into the 1950’s, when Bandera finally fled to West Germany for refuge, only to be assassinated by the KGB. When the CIA failed to directly destabilize the USSR on its home turf, they began a campaign to choke off the Soviets from international allies in the Third World. Scorch the earth around it, and gradually starve the Bolshevik redoubt economically until it crumbled from within.
As documented by Vincent Bevins in ‘The Jakarta Method’, this was a systematic global campaign to wipe out communist and leftist movements worldwide to ensure the preeminence of the US dominated global capitalist system. In South Korea, Guatemala, El Salvador, Iraq, Vietnam, the Philippines, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia and most spectacularly Indonesia, fascist death squads armed, trained and directed by the CIA killed and tortured millions of communists to prevent the Third World from aligning with the Soviet Bloc and China. Over a million butchered in Indonesia alone, 200,000 in Guatemala, 200,000 in South Korea, 60,000 across South America in Operation Condor in the 1970’s and 80’s.
While much of the general population was ignorant of these crimes, the liberal elite, especially those in the educated upper classes were aware of them, and embraced it as necessary for the survival of their ideal society. When Suharto mass murdered the Indonesian Communist Party and its sympathizers out of existence, the New York Times proudly proclaimed that this event was “a gleam of light in Asia”. Liberalism is fine with breaking some eggs to build their omelet, as long as they can outsource the violence elsewhere. The rapists and the torturers can do their nasty work to the wretched of the Earth, and they can imagine their souls are pure.
And so it continues to this day, with the New York Times readers with their BLM flags and pronouns in their online profiles, cheering for the triumph of the Azov Nazis for ‘democracy’.
American liberalism has thus retained a double character since World War II- liberal freedoms, pluralism and tolerance in the imperial core, which it could afford due to a prosperous middle class satisfied with the status quo. Yet this prosperity was sustained by genocidal violence abroad that enabled the super profits to roll in that made this arrangement possible.
By contrast, the USSR and Eastern Bloc supported countless struggles against Western colonialism across the Third World. National liberation movements from India to Cuba, from Afghanistan to Nicaragua, from Vietnam to South Africa received invaluable economic and military aid from the Soviet bloc.
Much ink has been spilled about Soviet and Russian totalitarianism, yet if the words democracy are to mean anything real, the breaking of centuries of Western colonial rule over the darker nations must count as the greatest expansion of freedom and democracy across the globe in modern history. And it was the Soviet Union, not the Western liberal democracies, that made the great contribution to that new dawn of freedom.
This is why even now, so many African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian governments have refused to take sides in the war between Ukraine and Russia, and at the grassroots of much of the Global South there is widespread sympathy for the Russian narrative. The populations of these countries remember who stood for their freedom, and who wanted to keep their populations in chains. The New York Times and the Times of London express bewilderment at this fact. In Delhi and Mombasa, Beijing and Sao Paulo, it is the common sense perspective that liberal ‘democracy’ is little more than a Trojan Horse for Western domination, and that Russia, whatever its flaws, stands as a counterbalance to the dictatorship of New York, London and Paris over the non Western world.
The standard historical narrative of the entire 20th century is wrong. The struggle was not between liberal democracy and the totalitarian twins of Communism and Fascism, but rather between those who wished to preserve Western supremacy over the globe, and those who thought a re-division of the Earth’s spoils in favor of the billions in Asia, Africa and Latin America was more just. ‘Communism’ was just a convenient label to smear the latter camp, whether the antagonists in question were in fact communists or not. Russia had to not only be defeated but humiliated, so that the superprofits of the West were never more threatened. Everything that had been built since 1917 had to be demolished.
This was never more apparent with how American banks and multinationals treated the defeated Russians after the USSR finally capitulated in 1991. As in 1945, there was an opportunity to mend relations between the West and Moscow and have a fresh start. This did not happen.
That opportunity was lost. Instead of providing economic aid and favorable loans to Russia, as American corporations did to Germany and Japan after World War II, the IMF and American free market advisors imposed a brutal neoliberal austerity regime on the Russian working class. Millions died from poverty, alcoholism, disease and crime as the country's wealth was looted by rapacious oligarchs. The publicly owned economy was gutted so a tiny minority could become obscenely wealthy. The male life expectancy declined by 10 years in just five years. Women were enslaved in the sex trade. Millions of orphans lived on the cold streets, selling drugs and prostituting themselves to survive. It was the greatest demographic disaster Russia experienced since the Nazis invaded, and it was in peacetime.
The Clintonite liberals and the free marketeers tried to complete what Hitler failed to accomplish- the final and total destruction of Russia as a cohesive social, cultural and economic unit. In the 1990’s it looked very likely that Russia would permanently become a failed state, perhaps itself break up into even smaller and weaker entities akin to Yugoslavia. Mitterand’s derisive quip that Boris Yeltsin’s Russia was little more than “Upper Volta with nukes” wasn’t far from the truth.
In Russia’s moment of weakness, NATO advanced further and further towards Russia’s borders. Advancing 600 miles to the east and encircling Russia with US troops, bases and batteries. This humiliation was swallowed over and over again for 30 years by the Russians.
The rise of Vladimir Putin to power in Moscow halted this disintegration, and brought Russia back from the brink of total destruction. He reigned in the worst excesses of the oligarchs, stabilized the economy, and put some key parts of the nation's natural resources such as oil and gas under state control. He did not expropriate the oligarchs, but he diminished their political importance. A KGB veteran, he represented remnants of the old Soviet bureaucracy, particularly the intelligence agencies, who wanted to rebuild Russia into a great power. He presided over a regime with one foot in the Soviet past and another foot in the post Soviet kleptocracy, albeit in a more managed form than under Yelstin. For 20 years, this unstable, contradictory transitional state held together, barely.
Putin, representing this alliance between the former Soviet security state and Russia’s business class, wanted a good relationship with the West and did not wish to be an international arsonist. He even attempted to join NATO, but was rebuffed. He wanted to play ball with the West, but not at the cost of Russia’s sovereignty. The atrocities in the Donbass reawakened the Russian people from their post Soviet stupor, indifference and despair. The motherland was in danger again. The Russian bear roused itself from its slumber and roared.
In 2020-22, signs that NATO was preparing an all out push against Russia proliferated. One all sides, US backed color revolutions and military provocations popped up on Russia’s borders- first the war by Turkish backed Azeri forces against Russia’s ally Armenia in 2020, then protests against Russia’s ally Lukashenko in Belarus, then the protests/coup attempt against the Russian friendly government in Kazakhstan in January 2022, which Russia sent troops to quell.
Putin didn’t single handedly bring Russia into this war. Had he not acted, he would have lost his nationalist legitimacy with the Russian people. Russia’s oligarchs face the prospect of being permanently marginalized, as this war has led to their investments, properties and hedge funds in the West going up in flames due to US/EU sanctions. Putin’s place in the Kremlin stands on shaky ground- antagonizing the oligarchs whose support he has been so reliant on, cutting himself off from the West to go into the arms of Beijing, and riding a wave of Russian national fervor. It could either be a masterful strategic move, or a fatal blunder.
If Putin’s government fails to accomplish the objectives in Ukraine of de militarization and de Nazification, or achieves an unsatisfactory result after all the sacrifices his people have gone through, his government will be swept aside and someone even more hardline will take his place. The Communists, being the best organized opposition party, are the most likely to take the reins of state power in that situation.
Russia will have to patch things together with the other former Soviet republics to halt the NATO drive to the east- which means a break with narrow Russian nationalism. Closer economic and mutual military defense pacts are already in the process of being built between Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and other former SSR’s. And with China’s rise there is an increasingly favorable economic environment in Eurasia for such initiatives. The tribes of the USSR that were apart must come together once again. The alternative is eternal impoverishment, dismemberment, division and humiliation- a return to the 1990’s. It is no longer possible to fence sit or take half measures.
China, facing US military encirclement itself since Obama’s ‘Pivot to Asia’ and confronted with the alarming remilitarization and rearming of its old genocidal adversary Japan with US encouragement, needs Russia at its back just as much Russia needs Beijing at its back. Europe and the West consolidate into one fortress, and Eurasia consolidates into another.
Russian and Belarussian, Kazakh and Armenian, Caucasian and Siberian, Chinese and either all stand together, or they all fall.
In closing, the words of the Soviet poet Olga Bergholz, whose prose is engraved in stone at a memorial to the Siege of Leningrad, is appropriate: “Here Lie Leningraders- Here are City Dwellers- men, women and children. And next to them, Red Army soldiers. They defended you, Leningrad, the cradle of the Revolution with all their lives. We cannot list their noble names here, there are so many of them under the eternal protection of granite. But know this, those who regard those stones- no one is forgotten, and nothing is forgotten”.
Every May 9, not only in Russia but increasingly across most former Soviet republics, hundreds of thousands turn out for the “Immortal Regiment” celebrations. They carry with them the photographs of their relatives and ancestors who fought in the Red Army. Being Russian means honoring the memory of the dead of that war. Had those men and women not prevailed, their nation would not exist. They fight not because they are barbaric, or bloodthirsty, or brainwashed, but because the weight of their historical debt leaves them no choice. They remember.
And yet in the current political discourse in the West especially, everyone is forgotten, and nothing is remembered.
 ‘Council of Europe issues report on far right massacre in Odessa’
 Donbass: Documentary by Anne Laure-Bonnel, 2016:
 For independent journalism documenting Azov Battalions atrocities:
Patrick Lancaster- Youtube
 ‘Roosevelt and Stalin: Portrait of a Partnership’ by Susan Butler.
Vintage Press, 2016.
 “In Cold War, US Spy Agencies Used Over 1,000 Nazis’
 “Cold War Allies: The Origins of the CIA’s Relationship with Ukrainian Nationalists’
 Vincent Bevins, The Jakarta Method, Public Affairs Press, 2020.
 “Privatization ‘raised death rate’, BBC News
 ‘Ex NATO head says Putin wanted to join alliance early in his rule’ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/04/ex-nato-head-says-putin-wanted-to-join-alliance-early-on-in-his-rule
 ‘Russia, Belarus, Call on Former Soviet nations to help form USSR style union’
Happy Birthday to Karl Marx. Born on May 5, 1818, and the significance of his life. By: Carlito RoviraRead Now
On May 5, 1818 in the city of Trier, Prussia, a great historic figure was born who would eventually send shock waves towards every school of thinking. Karl Marx would impact all of society, including those who served to protect the insecure class of oppressors, tyrants and exploiters, during his time.
This gallant revolutionary eventually formulated ideas that would serve to provide oppressed and exploited people with a comprehensive revolutionary theory, based on the social and economic status of the working class. It was in collaboration with his most trusted comrade and friend, Friedrich Engels, that Marx was able to develop a scientific approach for examining capitalism — in order to expedite it’s overthrow.
One of the greatest achievements made by Marx was his analytical conclusions of how capitalist profits are created. The capitalist class were not the lords of society because they worked harder or were smarter than anyone else. Their position was thanks to their theft of surplus value — the value of commodities above and beyond what is socially necessary to produce them. This surplus value is the fruit of unpaid labor, which becomes the nucleus of the vast wealth stolen by the capitalists.
The rapidity of production that resulted meant that abundance tended to cause scarcity, when overproduction caused job layoffs thus making commodity goods unaffordable for workers, while capitalists were only interested in satisfying themselves with a lust to maximize the rate of surplus value.
Once these commodity goods circulated in the market and sold the already created surplus value would then be realized as profits.
And because capitalism collectivized commodity production with concentrations of workers organized for a distribution of labor, a socialization of production was introduced. The magnitude of production gradually reached levels never before seen in human history. The capability of the productive forces meeting the needs of everyone in this society several times over revealed why poverty and want are an absurdity that is inherited in this system. This is a phenomenon that shall inevitably compel working people to rebel.
In the words of Karl Marx: “The essential conditions for the existence and for the sway of the bourgeois class is the formation and augmentation of capital; the condition for capital is wage-labour. Wage-labour rests exclusively on competition between the labourers. The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the labourers, due to competition, by the revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own gravediggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.“
It was this analysis that led Marx and Engels to become adamant and unforgiving in their critiques of Political Economy, that is, the deceitful methods and hypocritical overtures used by the rulers to justify their parasitic behavior in the brutal exploitation of working people.
This analysis was also central in Marx’s world outlook that defined his conceptions in philosophy, ideology, politics, history, culture, but most important of all his attitude towards the antagonistic relationship between opposing social classes.
KARL MARX’S TREMENDOUS IMPACT ON THE WORLD
Marx’s ideas impacted progressive and revolutionary movements on every continent throughout the 20th Century, long after his death. Thanks to the political leadership of the Russian V.I. Lenin, Marx’s ideas guided the developments of the Soviet Union, the world’s first experiment in socialist planned economy.
Russian revolutionary leader, V.I. Lenin, at the Marx & Engels monument
in the Soviet Union, 1918.
For the most part Marx’s theories proved consistent with his expectations as workers in industrialized capitalist countries rose up in fierce rebellion while in the plundered and colonized regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America capitalist imperialism was challenged by the fury of national liberation struggles.
It is no wonder why revolutionary figures like Amilcar Cabral, Celia Sanchez, Ho Chi Minh, Claudia Jones, Madame Nguyễn Thị Định, Fidel Castro Ruz, Patrice Lumumba, Nguyễn Thị Bình, Ernesto Che Guevara, Mao Zedong, Steve Biko, Kim Il-Sung and many others, resorted to embrace Marxism and sought ways to apply it’s many lessons to their respective realities.
Contained in Marx and Engel’s earliest writings like the Philosophical & Economic Manuscript, The Communist Manifesto, The Origins of the Family, Private Property & the State, The Civil War in the United States, Utopia and Scientific Socialism, On Religion, Wage, Price and Profit, along with the rest of their vast collection of writings, are many valuable lessons which are indisputably applicable in our experiences today. That is why, to this day, 135 years after his death, Karl Marx continues to be despised and dreaded by the capitalist rulers.
The classic writing that continues to haunt the ruling class.
In the United States, African American figures like Cyril Briggs, Harry Haywood, W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, and many more, were able to see how the Black liberation struggle had natural affinities with the fundamental analysis of Marxism. By the 1960’s-70’s Marxism’s most notable writing “The Communist Manifesto” became one of several political education study requirements for members of the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords.
KARL MARX & THE CIVIL WAR IN THE UNITED STATES
One of the most notable of Marx’s political involvements was his intervention in the events of the Civil War in the United States. African chattel slavery in the U.S. was the most lucrative and most brutal in all of history. It was a system that served as the economic impetus for capitalism and allowed it to grow into the colossal wealth it comprises today.
Through his correspondence with President Abraham Lincoln and through his column in the New York Tribune Karl Marx sought to build pressure by being firmly insistent about the need for a decree that made slavery technically illegal.
On January 1, 1863 Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This monumental document became the legal precedent for recruiting and arming former slaves. Although Lincoln’s motives were of military consideration the Emancipation Proclamation hastened the outcome of the war and would eventually guarantee the defeat of the Southern Slavocracy.
Sectors of the British ruling class who had vested economic interest in the South’s slave economy had desired to militarily intervene in support of the Confederacy. Thanks to Karl Marx’s leadership in the powerful International Workingmen’s Association of England the British rulers were prevented from coming to the aid of the Southern slave owning class.
Karl Marx’s leading role mobilizing the English working class to prevent the prolongation of African chattel slavery in the United States was in every objective sense a profound act of solidarity to the African American people. Marx’s convictions were firm, it is why he stated, “Labor in the white skin can never free itself as long as labor in the black skin is branded.”
MARXISM MORE RELEVANT TODAY THAN EVER BEFORE
The revolutionary contributions of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels continue to be the target of bourgeois philosophers, economists and historians. Ruling class scholars demonstrate their contempt for working class people by falsely accusing Marxism of being “totalitarian” or by asserting that it is filled with nothing but “unrealizable fantasy,” etc.
Similarly, there are those even within the predominantly white socialist left of this country who claim, dripping with social arrogance, that Marxism and the nationalism of oppressed people are contradictory, and can never be reconciled to complement one another, in the fight against the capitalist rulers. Others in the more conservative sectors of the national movements, strictly concerned with the narrowest, cultural sentiments of nationalism, mistakenly assert that Marxism is a European or “white thing” and is therefore irrelevant to national liberation struggles.
Both of these views only serve to promote the reactionary notions of white supremacy and anti-communism. Objective material facts prove the opposite. Under the intense circumstances of imperialism today all oppressed entities have a definite class relationship to capitalism. It is a phenomenon which no one can escape.
People of color in the United States are the most exploited, persecuted communities. They are victims of police violence and imprisonment. If anyone is to have a greater stake and say in the downfall of this vile system and the establishment of a new society, it is those who have been historically on the bottom of social and economic disparity.
It is an absurdity and a reflection of how deeply embedded white privilege is in the culture to believe that mastering Marxism requires that people of color dismiss their self-identity as historically constituted national groupings within the broader population. This distortion of the meaning of Marxism dismisses the necessity of socialism coming about on equal terms and has resulted in preserving bourgeois traditions disguised under the mantle of upholding working class “unity.”
The teachings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels are today more relevant to the liberation struggles of Black, Latino, Asian, Arab and Indigenous people than ever before, especially because of the super-exploitation and increasing numbers of these national groups coming into the U.S. working class.
The capitalist ideological institutions like the church, the mass media, public education, etc., will implicitly and explicitly encourage us to accept what exist, that is, to be submissive to the racist injustices of the police state and the rule of wealthy exploiters. It was precisely the social class oppression, bringing so much suffering in our world that Karl Marx selflessly devoted his entire life to condemn and worked towards undoing.
If Karl Marx were alive today, he would have surely been part of the movements condemning the persecution of immigrant and undocumented families in the United States, the racist police killings of African Americans, the U.S.-backed Israeli occupation of Palestine as well as the U.S. colonization of Puerto Rico.
It is Marx’s uncompromising devotion to revolution on behalf of the workers and oppressed people of the world that explains the ruling class’s utter hatred for the conceptions he developed, including the relevance of Marxism to every question facing the world today. The rulers cannot bear the thought of a well-articulated analysis that calls for an end to capitalism and points towards the only direction for bringing about the complete emancipation of the human race.
Karl Marx tomb at Highgate Cemetery, London, England.
Carlos “Carlito” Rovira is a Young Lord for life who continues to fight for socialism.
Republished from Carlito's blog.
OUT OF THE LABORATORY AND INTO THE STREETS: HOW THE FAR RIGHT CO-OPTED SCIENCE AND THE NEED FOR SCIENTISTS TO COME OUT. By Christopher T. ConnerRead Now
Over the course of the pandemic conservatives and far right representatives have mobilized in a widespread assault on science as an institution. While this has been an ongoing phenomenon well before COVID, over the pandemic it has expanded into a variety of issues relevant that concern the LGBTQ+ community–especially in light of recent schools’ decision to remove safe space stickers or anything related to Pride, and the expected overturning of Roe V. Wade. At the center of the maelstrom are a group of individuals who call themselves the Intellectual Dark Web (IDW)—so named by New York Times reporter Barry Weiss, and a label they have also used to describe themselves. While to most people this conjures up images of websites where people can by illicit substances, the IDW is merely a loosely affiliated group of celebrity academics and pseudo-intellectuals. These include people like internet talk show hosts like Ben Shapiro and Joe Rogan; but also discredited academics like Jordan Peterson, Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying who use their scientific credentials to justify conservative positions on hot button “culture war” topics like the legislation targeting the existence of LGBTQ+ people, prohibitions on critical race theory, and anti-abortion legislation–creating a rift between some individuals aligned with the IDW. Although the IDW is not a formal organization, their mutual support has allowed their collective impact to be felt far and wide.
While each member of the IDW concerns themselves with a variety of different issues the central line trying their work together is the link between biology and human social behavior. While there are a variety of reputable scholars working in this area, they diverge from the IDW by noting the limitations of their work—and they don’t try to use their work to justify discriminatory policies. Figures in the IDW have even gone so far as to alleging that women, African Americans, and LGBTQ+ people are inferior. The work of the IDW resembles the kind of armchair theorizing that gave rise to a whole host of discredited scientific endeavors in the 1950s. We know today that such old theoretical stances are deeply rooted in the rampant racism and bigotry that existed in that age—perhaps why many of their fan base comes from far-right circles.
If the IDW remained contained to academic circles they would probably go unnoticed, and their harm could be contained. However, they have done well at cultivating rich benefactors that have allowed their voices to be amplified across the internet and beyond. So called establishment science operates under a process known as peer review in which other anonymous scholars critique their ideas. While biases of reviewers can sometimes taint this process, such internal debates make up a whole field of study known as the philosophy of science. However, in the case of the IDW the issues rest not in the partisan biases of other scientists, but rather rests squarely on a failure to meet the rigorous methodological standards of scientific investigation. Even mainstream outlets have begun to recognize the IDW’s devolving standards as a result of subverting peer review. One review of Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying’s best selling book was described by The Guardian as a book that "lazily repeat[s] false information from other pop-science books."
The IDW however is not entirely to blame for their ability to massively influence the public, the institution of science is also an accomplice to their success. Since the 1950s there have been calls for scholars to speak to the lived experiences of those they study and to make a greater connection with the public. This call has been answered mostly by scholars hailing from marginalized backgrounds including LGBTQIA2 persons, African Americans, and women who have had to fight hard to be recognized within science. Behind every scholar from a minority group is a story of struggle. WEB DuBois, one of the greatest public intellectuals of our time, lacked funding and faced significant opposition to his pioneering scholarship on the study of African American experience. Contrary to this the members of the IDW are backed by a range of conservative billionaires. Dave Rubin, for example, is funded by Learn Liberty which is supported by Charles G. Koch—the 20th richest person in the world who has contributed vast sums of money towards conservative and far right political figures, and anti LGBTQ+ legislation. Eric Weinstein (Bret Weinstein’s brother), is perhaps the most vocal person in the IDW, serves as the director of Thiel Capital founded by Peter Thiel who also owns paypal. This allows the voices of those in the IDW to be amplified over legitimate science, and the public mobilized against the very institutions which might guard against ideas like the consumption of bleach as a cure for COVID.
The IDW has exposed the shortcomings of institutional science, and has illustrated the important commitment that research institutions have to the public. This is due in large part to the lack of an incentive structure for those working in science to engage in this type of work. In fact, young scholars who are often best equipped to engage in public scholarship, risk placing their careers in jeopardy due to the political nature that comes from public scholarship. Tenured faculty, who are protected, lack the skills to reach audiences outside of academia—trapped in the preverbal ivory tower. This includes a multitude of individual scientists and other intellectuals taking to Twitch.TV and Youtube to lead the charge against misinformation. While to outsiders these platforms are more closely associated with gaming and watching than science communication, over the pandemic the two sites have been used in a variety of intellectual ways.
An overwhelming majority of science communicators on Twitch.TV have recognized the potential for harm to the LGBTQ+ and other minority communities posted by the IDW. This is due in part to the platforms large trans and non-binary population, and because many of the leading science communicators on the platform hail from the LGBTQ+ community. As my own research on LGBTQ+ life has shown, LGBTQ+ persons have always been good at using the internet as a mechanism to organize, find community, and ways to establish community–thus it is no wonder that they have applied these community organizing skills towards public outreach. Such science communicators include those in public health such as Marcus Weinman, Dr Neuroforieur, philosophers such as Dr. Bwinbwin, and independent science commentators such as Echoplex Media, and Gremloe.
However, LGBTQ+ allies on Twitch.TV, and other platforms, such as biologist The Peer Review, sociologist Professor EXP, and smaller professional journalists like LVELHEAD also explore these issues in their own outreach efforts–albeit from markedly different perspectives. Unlike the IDW the thing that unites these individuals is their dedication and passion to restoring public trust in science, but more importantly in promoting truth, equality, and understanding. As these figures show us, scientists and professionals of all backgrounds need to come out of the laboratory as we need them now more than ever! As rights for the minorities and the LGBTQ+ community continue to erode, this Pride may matter more than we all know.
Christopher T. Conner is Teaching Assistant Professor of Sociology at The University of Missouri, Columbia. He has published work on the Philosophy of Social Science, LGBTQ+ culture, Technology, and Misinformation/Disinformation. His work has been featured in a variety of outlets including YOUNG: Journal of Nordic Youth Culture, The Sociological Quarterly, Deviant Behavior, Symbolic Interaction, and Sexualities. He has also co-edited numerous anthologies including The Gayborhood: From Sexual Liberation to Cosmopolitan Spectacle, Forgotten Founders and Other Neglected Social Theorists, Studies in Symbolic Interaction: Subcultures.