A socialist moment has sprouted up on the American landscape and is beginning to take firm root, as most recently evidenced by India Walton’s stunning victory in working-class Buffalo. While not yet a trend, Walton’s election continues the spate of left candidates’ victories in Congress, state legislatures, and city councils across the country, reflecting a deep discontent in the body politic.
In a word, America is growing more radical. But what is the meaning of this word that falls so easily from our lips? Radicalization is an objective process born out of the class struggle and capitalist crisis. Yet, like all objective processes, it has subjective ripples. These eddies, while influenced by basic class conflicts, are not limited to them. As a result, different people are radicalized for different reasons. The environment, police violence, sexism, and other forms of gender discrimination, the treatment of animals, in addition to poverty, racism, immigrant rights, voter suppression, unemployment, and discrimination on the job can lead to folks seeking deeper, more radical solutions.
In general, the communist movement welcomes the growing radicalization of the broad public, particularly its working-class majority. It means people are waking up. But after getting out of bed, do folks step to the right or to the left? This is an issue often dismissed as a “war over words,” since the word “radical” literally means “to the root.”
But the roots, indeed, the entire tree of radicalization has many branches. And the winds of change blow them in myriad directions. Today, in bourgeois discourse, anything to the left or right of the political or religious center is often labeled “radical” by the ruling-class hegemony. This war of words should not be dismissed — it’s an important part of the ideological struggle.
For example, in the mainstream media, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is often referred to as “radical,” along with the right-wing “radicals” who attacked the Capitol earlier this year. On the other hand, the Republicans in Congress attack Medicare for All for being a “radical socialist demand” while condemning Black Lives Matter marches as the product of “radical anarchism.”
Here a class analysis is helpful in determining what’s really radical, that is, what actually goes to the root, and what doesn’t.
For us, policies that get to the root of solving the problem of working-class exploitation and promote greater equality and democracy are radical. Simply put, those that don’t are not.
Suppressing the vote isn’t radical — it’s deeply conservative. Neither is opposing marriage equality. On the other hand, proportional representation, a voting method that could greatly expand democracy for minority parties, is a positive, radical democratic demand.
Historically, as capitalism became a world system and grew into imperialism, the radicalization of the broad working-class public led to the creation of what’s called the world revolutionary process. Frustrated and angered by inequality and exploitation, middle- and working-class forces formed unions and political parties to press forward their just demands and interests. The October Revolution was born out of this struggle and brought with it a new stage in the process, the period of the transition from capitalism to socialism.
There is also a worldwide counter-revolutionary process at work that has led to world wars, as well as regional and local armed conflicts. It has promoted repression and the growth of fascism. U.S. imperialism is one of the leading, if not the leading sponsors. The Trump movement and its international counterparts are contemporary examples of these efforts. Notwithstanding important differences on domestic policy, the Biden administration’s policy toward China and Venezuela continues the anti-socialist drive.
Today’s radicalization process is drawing millions . . . some toward revolutionary Marxism.
On the other side of the class and democratic ledger, a deep and thoroughgoing radicalization process is at work today in the U.S. Beginning first with Occupy Wall Street, followed by the movements for Black lives and the mass protests led by women in the initial days of the Trump administration, today’s radicalization process is drawing millions into its various orbits, some of whom are, as if by the very force of gravity itself, drawn toward the working-class and revolutionary Marxism. It has crystallized in what we’ve called the socialist moment.
Communists highly value the growth of these radical democratic trends. Their contributions, new ideas, and victories are very important.
Those trends that gravitate toward the working class and Marxism are adding fresh forces along with new opportunities and challenges. One of the challenges is the growth in the influence of what might be termed “middle-class” or “petty bourgeois radicalism.”
By middle-class radicalism is meant a rather eclectic set of ideas and practices that historically have their origins in this strata’s frustration and primitive rebellion. Pressed on all sides and stuck between capitalism’s two main classes, the petite bourgeoisie’s class aspirations are crushed time and again. Viewing the world from a frog’s perspective — always looking up — they are ever being pushed down into the ranks of the working class.
Their political practices and outlook are largely shaped by these conflicted conditions of life. Absent the experience of working in large groups and being forced to collectively bargain, they tend to seek basic change along narrow, individual paths as opposed to seeing the need for moving masses in struggle, an outlook that lends itself to anarchism, individual acts of terrorism, and an unfounded confidence in the actions of small groups and self-styled “vanguards.” Some tend to be anti-corporate but not yet anti-capitalist, “anti-establishment” but out of touch with working-class needs, modalities, and political imperatives.
Middle-class radicalism is a mass concept and political trend.
As a result, these trends run up against and counter to the realities of struggle, a reality that is framed today by the broad democratic fight against the fascist danger. Mass electoral movements of both right and left are defining characteristics of these days and times, but the need to build political majorities for real change, particularly in the electoral arena, is largely lost on this trend, disdained in favor of allegedly more militant, revolutionary action such as abstract calls for general strikes regardless of whether or not the conditions for such important actions exist.
Middle-class radicalism should be treated not so much as the expression of this or that individual or organization but rather as a mass concept and political trend, one that rises and falls in tempo with the class, democratic, and anti-imperialist struggles both domestically and worldwide. Needless to say, each episode brings with it the unique features of the political terrain on which it’s born.
For example, after the defeat of the McCarthy period in the 1960s, the labor left was confronted with the growing influence of radical middle-class strata who were approaching but had not yet reached consistent working-class positions. These forces viewed Marxism-Leninism as old hat, the communist parties as outmoded, the working class as no longer revolutionary, unity an unrealistic watchword, and the class struggle a pipe dream. Inspired by the likes of Régis Debray, Herbert Marcuse, and others, they sought to forge a New Left, with new sources of revolutionary activity.
Regarding their class backgrounds, CPUSA leader James E. Jackson wrote, “They have come to the party out of the non-proletarian classes … from the poor workers in agriculture and the urban petite-bourgeoisie — the students, the intellectuals, the professionals.”
Applauding this development, Jackson also warned of potential conflicts:
It is a welcome sign of the times that the petty-bourgeois militants — from the cities or countryside — enroll in movements of mass actions and the best among them come to the party. At the same time, they generate mass pressure and constitute the primary source for the current attacks upon vital features of the Communist Party’s policies in the spheres of ideology, organization and tactics.
Today a new wave of radicalism is presenting itself in a climate quite different from the one that was confronted by Jackson and his comrades. Importantly, a new, New Left is once again emerging. The difference is that its roots now are closer to the working class and people’s movements. This is due, in part, to the class’s changing composition. Sections of the population once considered middle class have become “proletarianized,” that is, pushed into the working class. At the same time, a wider section of the working class have access to higher education and have become politically literate. Add to this the increase in women, people of color, and of course the growth in the service sector, and you have a very different situation indeed.
Thus the problem today is not so much the influx of middle-class elements but the remaining influence, that is, the residue of petty-bourgeois ideology, a problem exacerbated by the relative weakness of the Marxist left and the growth of the internet.
The impact of this residue should not be underestimated. With respect to ideological trends it reflects the ongoing impact of remnants of Maoism, Trotskyism, and to varying degrees strands of anarchism.
What, then, are the main challenges presented by middle-class radicalism?
It’s inevitable that each generation’s initial imbibing of Marxism not only is shaped by the conditions and influences of the times but also is necessarily incomplete due to newness itself. During the wave of radicalization that swept Russia at the beginning of the 20th century, for example, Lenin complained of Marx and Engels’ doctrine being learned in an “extremely one-sided and mutilated form.” In the U.S. during the radical ’60s, one-sided interpretations repeated themselves, this time influenced not only by the New Left but also by a middle-class radicalism of a special type in the form practiced by the Mao leadership in China.
On the other hand, the problem is exacerbated by the relative state of the communist movement itself. After the collapse of what was called “really existing socialism” due to right pressures, a serious ideological crisis and disintegration occurred within the communist movement. In response, there were manifest tendencies to over-correct to the left. These right and left opportunist swings exist to this day, in response to conditions on the ground and the communist’s relative maturity in addressing them. As Gus Hall pointed out, middle-class radical leftist errors cannot be effectively addressed unless right mistakes are corrected as well.
In this regard, slowness in recognizing and responding to new circumstances contributes to the problem. One of the criticisms of the Communist Party from emerging young revolutionary forces is its approach to united front policy, electoral politics, and fighting the extreme right. Here, an understanding of the party’s correct policy with respect to fighting the fascist danger was somewhat confounded by its not taking initiative and fielding its own candidates. As a result, the CPUSA was accused of tailing the Democratic Party. In this regard, a long overdue decision to run communist candidates for office was taken recently by the CPUSA National Committee.
With respect to tactics, it is vitally important to have an accurate assessment of where the struggle is at any given point in time. Tactics, as Gus Hall used to say, is timing. Take for example the issue of prison abolition and defunding the police, two important slogans that emerged in the fight against racist police murder. The key question is when and how these end goals can be obtained.
Communists understand that the prison-industrial complex and the police force are institutions of the capitalist state. Our long-term vision anticipates the “withering away,” to use Marx’s phrase, of the state. This includes the socialist state as well. That’s what communism is all about: human freedom.
How, then, is it possible to build a mass movement powerful enough to bring this about? The end goal has been established — are there way stations along the route, radical reforms that will take us, a quarter or one-half the way there?
Of course there are.
An approach advanced by ourselves and others, most notably the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, believes that the election of civilian control boards is one such step. We believe that the fight for such institutions is an important part of the fight for democracy and working-class empowerment. Think about it: These community boards would control hiring, firing, funding, the whole nine yards. They would help create conditions where alternatives to policing could be enacted, including the allocation of money to do so.
This approach was often attacked by those who do not believe defunding the police is a “radical” enough step at this point in time. But why pit one goal against a step in the direction of achieving it?
This relationship between means and ends is an ongoing tension in almost every arena. Maximum goals are placed over and against partial means for achieving them. In the fight for health care, a national health service is prioritized over Medicare for All; in the fight to end the Afghan war the demand to “Bring the troops home now” is placed against setting a date; and in the battle to end racist policing, abolition is posed as more revolutionary than the “reformist” position of community control.
Mastering the relationship between reform and revolution.
At bottom, what’s at stake here is mastering the relationship between reform and revolution. The issue is always how does the working-class and people’s movement marshal the forces necessary to achieve its goals. The promised land is over there on the hill, right across that river. How do we build a bridge to get there? Today the struggle for advanced democracy, that is, advanced democratic reforms, is that bridge.
This raises the issue of what Marxist-Leninists regard as the fight for “consistent democracy” — the need to take consistent working-class positions with respect to the interests of the class as a whole. Because our working class is multi-racial and multi-gendered, a revolutionary party must champion the special measures necessary to address the demands of each section of the class, the racially and sexually oppressed in particular, including advanced democratic ones, like community control. A failure to do so weakens the fight for class unity with potentially devastating consequences.
The middle-class radical chafing at community control steps away from taking consistent working-class positions. Objectively, it weakens the ability of people of color to have control over their lives.
Another example of the failure to take consistent democratic positions is the Trotskyist critique of the 1619 Project, which locates racism at the very founding of colonial America. They claim 1619 is a disunifying Democratic Party capitulation to “identity politics.” But disunifying to whom? What kind of unity can be built on denying the slave trade and the genocide against Native Americans and their presence in the very DNA of the colonial republic? To paraphrase Marx here, labor in white skin cannot be free while labor in the black skin is bound and branded by historical cover-ups and lies.
These questions over and again raise the issue of what it’s going to take to bring about “radical” change to this country. Where and when will the tipping point be reached? As dialectical materialists, we cannot be too speculative about how deep the capitalist crisis can get. We do know that it’s going to take a broad working-class and people’s unity to bring about real change.
“Unity, united front” as Gus Hall writes, “are class-mass concepts.” In the past, middle-class radicals did not, he argued, “see themselves as being exploited or oppressed as a class. They do not react to oppression as a class.”
The good news as we’ve argued above is that this is changing. Today there’s a greater recognition of common class and democratic interests. And on the slopes of that momentous change lives hope. Let’s build bridges to the future together, keeping ever present our cherished goals while collectively exploring how to get there. While doing so, the role of our revolutionary party is to help drive the radicalization process towards unity and socialist consciousness, that is, towards the working class and working-class power.
Joe Sims is co-chair of the Communist Party USA (2019-). He is also a senior editor of People's World and loves biking.
This article was republished from CPUSA.
"Revolution is, unfortunately, not made with fastings. Revolutionaries from all parts of the world must choose between being the victims of violence or using it. If one does not wish to see one's spirit and one's intelligence serving brute force, one must forcibly resolve to put brute force under the subservience of intelligence and the spirit." The author of this passage, written more than forty years ago, was Jose Carlos Mariátegui, founder of the Peruvian Communist Party, a physically feeble man of unstable health who combined a powerful, cold and lucid intelligence with an exquisite artistic sensitiveness and an incorruptible revolutionary morale. His short life, ended before he was thirty-five, elapsed between long periods of hospitalization and poverty. Jail and the continuous humiliations he suffered, did not deter him from accomplishing his life's work, which, given the circumstances he had to cope with, does not cease to stimulate today more and more amazement, as well as the increased attention and admiration of revolutionaries the world over. Suffering from the time he was seven years old from an incipient physical disability which denied him a normal childhood, and when called upon, helping his mother out by working as proofreader in a publishing house, his career as a revolutionary writer began when an army man cowardly attacked him for the ideas he expressed in a newspaper article.
The sum total of Mariátegui's work constitutes an ideological struggle against reformism, first and foremost. His work Defense of Marxism is imbued with this spirit, and the very founding of the Peruvian Communist Party denounces "domesticated socialism": "The ideology we adopt," states Mariátegui in his thesis of affiliation with the Third Internationale, "is that of militant revolutionary Marxism-Leninism, a doctrine which we wholly and unreservedly adhere to in its philosophical, political and socio-economic aspects. The methods we uphold are those of orthodox revolutionary socialism. We not only rebuke in all their forms the methods and tendencies of the Second Internationale, but oppose them actively." In this document he did no more than ratify before the world what he had previously made known in a magazine: "The political sector with which I can never come to terms is the other one: that of mediocre reformism, of domesticated socialism, of Pharisaical democracy. Moreover, if the revolution demands violence, authority, discipline, I am all for violence, authority, discipline. I accept them in block form, with all their horrors, without any cowardly reserves."
Between 1919 and 1923 Mariátegui made a tour of Europe. It was in Italy where his thought ripened and became richer. In addition to his admiration for the theorist of violence, the revolutionary trade-unionist George Sorel, there was his passion for Gobetti, Labriola, and he found in Croce a friend with whom he could enter into controversy. Mariategui was an eyewitness to the great social upheavals which foreshadowed the triumph of Nazism and the reformist preachings of class collaborationism. On his return to Peru, in a work on the world crisis and on the role that the Peruvian proletariat ought to play in it, he wrote: "..The proletarian forces are divided in two great groupings: reformists and revolutionaries.
"There is the faction of those who want to bring about socialism by collaborating politically with the bourgeoisie; and the faction of those who want to bring about socialism by conquering for the proletariat in its entirety political power." To this global crisis, Mariátegui answered in a vein both aggressive and critical: "I am of the same opinion as those who believe that humanity is going through a revolutionary period. And I am convinced of the imminent decline of all the social-democratic theses, of all the reformist theses and of all the evolutionist theses." In another article, he denounced the impotence of reformism to avoid war: "The thought of Lasallean social-democracy guided the Second Internationale; that is why it proved itself impotent before war. Its leaders and sectional corps had become accustomed to a reformist and democratic attitude and resistance to war demanded a revolutionary attitude."
Defense of Marxism (a work from which we publish here one of its most interesting chapters) constitutes a rebuttal of Beyond Marxism by the Belgian revisionist Henri de Man, and of other social-democratic theorists, such as Vandervelde, a rebuttal which arises from revolutionary tenets and from practical positions. Mariátegui, who is brought to task in a controversy over principles, is equally removed from all sectarian and dogmatic standpoints, because he understood that Marxism was never "a set of principles embodying rigid consequences, similar in all historical climes and all social latitudes." "We must strip ourselves radically of all the old dogmatisms," he wrote, "of all the discredited prejudices and archaic superstitions." It is the correct interpretation of Marxist theory that makes him state directly: "Marx is not present in spirit in all his so-called disciples and heirs. Those who have carried on his ideas are not the pedantic German professors of the Marxist theory of value and surplus value, incapable themselves of making any contribution to the doctrine, devoted only to fixing limitations and labels to it; it has rather been the revolutionaries, slandered as heretics..." A deplorable article by Mirochevsky, published in Dialéctica, in which Mariátegui is grossly characterized as a petty bourgeois populist,was later impugned by the articles on Mariátegui of Semionov and Shulgovski, both of whom see the great Peruvian Marxist in a totally different light. But even today there are people interested in misrepresenting his political thoughts and actions to the point of belittling his significance from the Liberation Army spokesman he is to that of a sort of moralizing Salvation Army sermonizer. With each passing day, though, this task grows more difficult.
In this chapter, "Ethics and Socialism," transcribed from his work Defense of Marxism, Mariétegui comes to grips with revolutionary ethics, with the ethics of socialism. For the great Peruvian, Marxist revolutionary ethics "does not emerge mechanically from economic interests; it is formed in the class struggle, carried on in a heroic frame of mind, with passionate willpower." And further on, he adds: "The worker who is indifferent to the class struggle, who derives satisfaction from his material well-being and, generally speaking, from his lot in life, will be able to attain a mediocre bourgeois moral standard, but will never be able to raise himself to the level of socialist ethics."
The charges that have been brought to bear against Marxism for its attributed unethicality, for its materialistic motives, for the sarcasm with which Marx and Engels deal with bourgeois ethics in their pages, are not new. Neo-revisionist critique does not say, as regards this matter, one single thing which socialist Utopians and all the run of the mill Pharisaical socialists have not said beforehand. But Marx's reinstatement, from the standpoint of ethics, has also been effected by Benedetto Croce — being one of the most fully recognized representatives of idealist philosophy, his judgments will seem to all concerned to carry more weight than any Jesuitic regret over the petty bourgeois mentality. In one of his first essays on historical materialism, confusing the thesis of the lack of ethics inherent in Marxism, Croce wrote the following:
"This current has been principally determined by the necessity in which Marx and Engels found themselves, before the various strains of socialist Utopians, of stating that the so-called social question is not a moral question (i. e., according to how it should be interpreted, this question will not be solved by preachings or by moral means), as well as by their severe criticism of class hypocrisy and ideology. It has also been nurtured, as far as I can see, by the Hegelian origin of the thoughts of Marx and Engels for it is known that in Hegelian philosophy ethics loses the rigidity which Kant gave it and which Herbart was later to lend support to. And, finally, the term "materialism" does not surrender in this connection a shred of efficacy, seeing that the mere term brings immediately to mind the full implications of what is meant by "interest" and "pleasure." But it is evident that the ideality and absoluteness of ethics, in the philosophical sense of such words, are necessary assumptions of socialism. Isn't the interest that drives us to create the concept of surplus value a moral or social interest, or whatever term might be used for defining it? In the sphere of pure economic science can one speak of the theory of surplus value? Doesn't the proletariat sell its productive capacity for what it's worth, given its situation in present day society? And, without this moral assumption, how can the tone of violent indignation and bitter sarcasm, along with Marx's political actions, contained in every page of Das Kapital, be accounted for?" (Materialismo Storico ed Economia Marxistica).
I have previously had occasion to set forth this passage from Croce, which led me, in turn, to quote some phrases by Unamuno, in his work entitled The Agony of Christianity (La agonía del cristianismo) and which consequently made me the recipient of a letter by Unamuno himself, who wrote me therein that Marx was more truly a prophet than a professor.
On more than one occasion Croce has quoted verbatim the passage referred to above. One of his critical conclusions on this subject la precisely "the negation of the intrinsic amorality or of the anti-ethicality of Marxism." And, In this same text, he wonders why no one "has thought of calling Marx, in the way of extending him a further honor, the Machiavelli of the proletariat," a fact which can be thoroughly and amply explained in the light of the conceptions he formulates in his defense of the author of The Prince, who was no less persecuted by regrets of which posterity made him the victim. On the subject of Machiavelli, Croce has on that he "discloses the necessity and autonomy of politics, which is beyond moral good and and the laws which it would be of no consequence at all to rebel against, which are immune to sort of exorcism and which cannot be made to take leave of the world with the aid of holy water."
In Croce's opinion Machiavelli gives evidence of being of "a divided mind and spirit on politics, of the autonomy of which he has become aware, and he now thinks of it as a corrupting influence for compelling him to sully his hands in dealing with basely ignorant people, and now as a sublime art with which to found and uphold that great institution, the State" (Elementi di politica). The similarity between these two cases has been clearly pointed out by Croce in the following terms:
"A case, in some respects analogous to that around which the discussions on Marxian ethics have centered, is the one having to do with the traditional critique on the ethics of Machiavelli; a critique which was brought to fruition by De Sanctis (in the chapter concerning Machiavelli in his Storia della litteratura), but a critique which nevertheless recurs quite systematically, and in a work by Professor Villari, one reads that Machiavelli's great imperfection is to be found in the fact that he did not propound the moral question. And I have often asked myself if Machiavelli was bound by contract or in any way obliged to deal with every sort of question, including those in which he took no interest and on which he had nothing to say. It would be tantamount to reproof of those who study chemistry for not delving into the metaphysical principles of matter."
The ethical function of socialism —in regard to which the hurried and summary extravaganzas of Marxists such as Lafargue, no doubt make for error— should be sought out, not in highfalutin decalogues nor in philosophical speculations, which in no way constitute a necessity in the formulation of Marxian theory, but in creating a morale for the producers by the same process of the anti-capitalist struggle.
"Vainly," Kautsky has said "have the English workers been made the object of moral preachings, of a loftier conception of life, of feelings underlying nobler deeds. The ethics of the proletariat derives from its revolutionary aspirations; from them will it be endowed with more strength and elevation of purpose. That which has saved the proletariat from debasement is the idea of revolution."
Sorel adds that for Kautsky ethics is always subordinated to the idea of the sublime, and though he disagrees with many official Marxists, who carried to extremes their paradoxes and jokes on the moralists, he nonetheless, concurs in that "Marxists had particular reasons for showing lack of confidence on all that which touched upon ethics; the propagandists of social reforms, the Utopians and the democrats had so repeatedly and misleadingly recurred to the concept of Justice that no one could be denied the right of looking upon all dissertations to this effect as a rhetorical exercise or as a sophistry, destined to lead astray those who were involved in the labor movement."
One can ascribe to the influence of Sorel's thought Edward Berth's apologia on this ethical function of socialism.
"Daniel Halevy," states Bert "seems to believe that the exaltation of the producer is bound to harm the man; he attributes to me a completely American enthusiasm for an industrial civilization But it will not be thus; the life of the free spirit is as dear to me as it is to him, and I am far from believing that in the world there is nothing else save production. It is always, in the end, the old charge levelled against the Marxists, who are held responsible for being both morally and metaphysically, materialists. Nothing could be more false; historical materialism does not impede in any way whatsoever the highest development of what Hegel calls the free or absolute spirit; quite the contrary, it is its preliminary condition. And our hope is, precisely, that in a society which rests on an ample economic base, made up by a federation of shops where free workers would be inspired by a spirited enthusiasm for production, art, religion and philosophy would in turn be given a prodigious impulse and the frantic and ardent rhythm resulting from it would simply skyrocket."
Luc Dartin's sagacity, sharpened by a finely wrought characteristically French irony, throws light on this religious-like ascendancy pervading Marxism, a phenomenon which conforms to principles inherent in the constitution of the first socialist country in the world. Historically it had already been proven by the socialist struggles of the West, that the sublime, such as the proletariat conceives of it, is not an intellectual utopia nor a propagandistic hypothesis.
When Henri de Man, demanding from socialism an ethical content, tries to demonstrate that class interest can not of itself become a sufficiently potent motor of the new order, he does not in any way go "beyond Marxism," nor does he make amends for things which have not already been pointed out by revolutionary criticism. His revisionism attacks revisionistic trade-unionism, in the practice of which class interest is content with the satisfaction of limited material aspirations. An ethics of producers, as is conceived by Sorel and Kautsky, does not emerge mechanically from economic interest, it is formed in the class struggle, engaged in with heroic disposition, with passionate will power. It is absurd to look for the ethical sentiments of socialism in those trade-unions which have fallen under the influence of the bourgeoisie — in which a domesticated bureaucracy has become enervated in its class consciousness — or in the parliamentary groups, spiritually assimilated by the class enemy, regardless of the fact of their combative stand before it as witnessed by their speeches and motions. Henri de Man expresses something which is perfectly superfluous and beside the point when he states: "The class interest doesn't explain everything. It does not create ethical motives." These avowals may impress a certain breed of nineteenth century intellectuals, whom, glaringly ignoring Marxist thought, glaringly ignoring the history of the class struggle, facilely imagine, as does Henri de Man, that they can surmount the limits of the Marxian school of thought. The ethics of socialism is formed in the class struggle. If the proletariat is to comply in its moral progress with its historical mission it becomes necessary for it to acquire beforehand a conscienciousness of its class interests; but in itself, class interest does not suffice. Long before Henri de Man, the Marxists have understood and felt this perfectly. Therein, precisely, arise their stalwart criticisms against lubberly reformism. "Without revolutionary theory, there is no revolutionary action," Lenin used to repeat, referring to the yellow-streaked tendency to forget historical finality in order to pay attention only to hourly circumstances.
The struggle for socialism instills in workers which take part in it extreme energy and absolute conviction along with an asceticism that forcibly cancels and makes utterly ridiculous any charge levelled against them having to do with their materialistic creed, and formulated on behalf of a theorizing and philosophical ethics. Luc Durtain, after visiting a Soviet school, asked whether he couldn't find in Russia a lay school, to such an extent did he regard of a religious tenor Marxist education. The materialist, if it be one who practices and is religiously devoted to his convictions, can only be distinguished from the idealist by a convention of language (Unamuno, touching upon another aspect of the opposition between idealism and materialism, states that "since what is matter to us is no more than an idea, materialism is idealism").
The worker who is indifferent to the class struggle, who derives satisfaction from his material well-being and generally speaking, from his lot in life, will be able to attain a mediocre bourgeois moral standard, but will never be able to raise himself to the level of socialist ethics. And it is preposterous to think that Marx ever advocated, or ever wanted to separate the worker from his source of livelihood, or ever wanted to deprive him of all that which binds him to his work, so that the class struggle might take hold of him more firmly, more completely. This conjecture is only conceivable in those who abide by far-fetched Marxist speculations, as Lafargue, the apologist of the right, as the individual to idleness was wont to do.
The mill, the factory, act on the worker's mind and soul. The union, the class struggle, continue and complete the worker's educational process.
"The factory," Gobetti points out, "offers the precise vision of the coexistence of the social interests: the solidarity of labor. The individual grows accustomed to feeling himself part of the productive process, an indispensable as well as an insufficient part. Here we have the most perfect school of pride and humility. I will never forget the first impression the workers gave me, when I undertook a visit to the Fiat furnaces, one of the few English-like modern capitalistic enterprises in Italy. I felt in those workers a self-possessed attitude, an unassuming assertiveness, a contempt for every manner of dilettantism. Whomever lives in a factory possesses the dignity of work, the willingness for making sacrifices and the habit of resisting fatigue. A way of life severely founded on a sense of tolerance and interdependence which induces punctuality, strictness and perseverance in the worker. These virtues of capitalism are offset by an almost bleak asceticism; whereas, on the other hand, selfrestrained suffering nourishes, when exasperation sets in, the courage to fight and the instinct for taking a defensive stand politically. English adultness, the capacity for believing in precise ideologies, of undergoing perils in order to make them prevail, the unbending will power of carrying forward with dignity the political struggle, are born of this apprenticeship, the significant implications of which are ushering in the greatest revolution since the rise of Christianity."
In this severe environment of persistency, of effort, of tenacity, the energies of European socialism have been forged, which, even in those countries where parliamentary reformism holds a big sway over the masses, offer Latin Americans an admirable example of continuity and duration. In different Latin American countries the socialist parties and the trade-union members have suffered a hundred defeats. However, each new year the elections, protest movements, any rally whatever, either of an ordinary or extraordinary character, will always find these masses greater in number and more obstinate. Renan recognized that which was mystical and religious in such a social creed. Quite justifiably Labriola praised German socialism:
"This truly new and imposing case of social pedagogy, i.e., that in such great numbers of workers and middle class sectors a new conscience should take shape, in which equally coincide a guiding perception of the economic circumstance — a stimulant conducive to stepping up the struggle — and socialist propaganda, understood as the goal and arriving point."
If socialism should not be achieved as a social order, this formidable edifying and educational accomplishment would prove more than enough to justify it in history. The previously quoted passage from de Man admits this postulation when he states, though with a different intention, that "the essential thing in socialism is the struggle in its behalf," a phrase which is very much reminiscent of those in which Bernstein advised the socialists to busy themselves primarily with the movement and not with the movement's results, by which, according to Sorel, the revisionist leader expressed a much more philosophical meaning than what he himself might have suspected. De Man does not ignore the pedagogical and spiritual function of the trade-union, though his own experience was inherently and mediocrely social-democratic.
"The trade-union organizations," he observes, "contribute in a much greater measure than the majority of the workers suppose, and almost all of the employers, to binding together more vigorously the ties between the workers and their regular chores. They obtain this result almost without their knowing it, by trying to keep up qualification and efficiency and by developing industrial education, by organizing the right the workers have to union inspection and applying democratic norms to shop discipline by the system of delegates and sections, etc. In so doing, the union renders the worker a service a great deal less problematical, considering him a citizen of a future city, rather than seeking the remedy in the disappearance of all the psychological relations between the worker and the environment of the shop."
But the Belgian neo-revisionist, notwithstanding his idealistic protestations, discovers the advantage and merit of all this in the increasing attachment of the worker to his material well-being and in the measure in which the latter factor makes a Philistine of him. Paradoxes of petit-bourgeois idealism!
Juan Carlos Mariategui
This article was republished from Marxists.org.
Afghanistan’s Socialist Years: The Promising Future Killed Off by U.S. Imperialism. By: Marilyn BechtelRead Now
Women attend a rally in Kabul in the late 1970s. | Imgur via Pinterest
In the mid-1970s and early ’80s, People’s World correspondent Marilyn Bechtel was editor of the bimonthly magazine, New World Review. She visited Afghanistan twice, in 1980 and 1981. The article below first appeared in our pages on Oct. 6, 2001—the day before the U.S. launched its war in Afghanistan—under the headline, “Afghanistan: Some overlooked history.” With the Biden administration now withdrawing all troops from the country, we present this article as a reminder that the U.S.’ longest war had roots that went beyond the terrorist attacks of 9/11, stretching back to Cold War anti-communism.
Since the horrific events of Sept. 11, much has been said about the desperate situation of the Afghani people now crushed under the heel of the theocratic, dictatorial Taliban, and about the role of the Northern Alliance and other Taliban opponents who now figure in Washington’s plans for the region.
Kabul street scene, 1979. | TASS
There has been talk, most of it distorted, about the role of the Soviet Union in the years from 1978 to 1989. There has been talk, most of it understated, about the role of the U.S. in building up the Mujahideen forces, including the Taliban.
But almost no one talks about the effort the Afghan people made in the late 1970s and ’80s to pull free of the legacy of incessantly warring tribes and feudal fiefdoms and start to build a modern democratic state. Or about the Soviet Union’s role long before 1978.
Some background helps shed light on the current crisis. Afghanistan was a geopolitical prize for 19th-century empire builders, contested by both czarist Russia and the British Empire. It was finally forced by the British into semi-dependency.
When he came to power in 1921, Amanullah Khan—sometimes referred to as Afghanistan’s Kemal Ataturk—sought to reassert his country’s sovereignty and move it toward the modern world. As part of this effort, he approached the new revolutionary government in Moscow, which responded by recognizing Afghanistan’s independence and concluding the first Afghan-Soviet friendship treaty.
From 1921 until 1929—when reactionary elements, aided by the British, forced Amanullah to abdicate—the Soviets helped launch the beginnings of economic infrastructure projects, such as power plants, water resources, transport, and communications. Thousands of Afghani students attended Soviet technical schools and universities.
After Amanullah’s forced departure, the projects languished, but the relationship between the Soviets and the Afghans would later re-emerge.
The Center for Science and Culture was built in Kabul as a gift from the people of the Soviet Union. Once U.S.-backed Mujahideen forces took power, the facility was destroyed. | TASS
In the 1960s, a resurgence of joint Afghan-Soviet projects included the Kabul Polytechnic Institute—the country’s prime educational resource for engineers, geologists, and other specialists.
Nor was Afghanistan immune from the political and social ferment that characterized the developing world in the last century. From the 1920s on, many progressive currents of struggle took note of the experiences of the USSR, where a new, more equitable society was emerging on the lands of the former Russian empire. Afghanistan was no exception. By the mid-’60s, national democratic revolutionary currents had coalesced to form the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Modern apartment buildings constructed in Kabul in the 1980s with Soviet assistance. | TASS
In 1973, local bourgeois forces, aided by some PDP elements, overthrew the 40-year reign of Mohammad Zahir Shah—the man who now, at age 86, is being promoted by U.S. right-wing Republicans as the personage around which Afghanis can unite.
When the PDP assumed power in 1978, they started to work for a more equitable distribution of economic and social resources. Among their goals were the continuing emancipation of women and girls from the age-old tribal bondage (a process begun under Zahir Shah), equal rights for minority nationalities, including the country’s most oppressed group, the Hazara, and increasing access for ordinary people to education, medical care, decent housing, and sanitation.
A Mujahideen Islamist fighter aims a U.S.-made Stinger missile supplied by the CIA near Gardez, Afghanistan, December 1991. | Mir Wais / AP
During two visits in 1980-81, I saw the beginnings of progress: women working together in handicraft co-ops, where for the first time they could be paid decently for their work and control the money they earned. Adults, both women and men, learning to read. Women working as professionals and holding leading government positions, including Minister of Education. Poor working families able to afford a doctor, and to send their children—girls and boys—to school. The cancellation of peasant debt and the start of land reform. Fledgling peasant cooperatives. Price controls and price reductions on some key foods. Aid to nomads interested in a settled life.
I also saw the bitter results of Mujahideen attacks by the same groups that now make up the Northern Alliance—in those years aimed especially at schools and teachers in rural areas.
The post-1978 developments also included Soviet aid to economic and social projects on a much larger scale, with a new Afghan-Soviet Friendship Treaty and a variety of new projects, including infrastructure, resource prospecting, and mining, health services, education, and agricultural demonstration projects. After December 1978 that role also came to include the introduction of Soviet troops, at the request of a PDP government increasingly beset by the displaced feudal and tribal warlords who were aided and organized by the U.S. and Pakistan.
The rest, as they say, is history. But it is significant that after Soviet troops were withdrawn in 1989, the PDP government continued to function, though increasingly beleaguered, for nearly three more years.
Somewhere, beneath the ruins of today’s torn and bloodied Afghanistan, are the seeds that remain even in the direst times within the hearts of people who know there is a better future for humanity. In a world struggling for economic and social justice—not revenge—those seeds will sprout again.
Marilyn Bechtel writes for People’s World from the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined the PW staff in 1986, and currently participates as a volunteer.
This article was first published by People's World.
Ecuador's leftist candidate Andrés Arauz has won the first round of the country's presidential elections held on 7 February, 2021, garnering 31.5% of the vote. An economist and former minister in socialist president Rafael Correa’s government, he has led the ticket for the Union for Hope coalition - what was Alianza País headed by Correa before the party split in 2017.
However, it appears that Arauz did not win by enough of a margin to avoid a second runoff, provisionally scheduled for April 11, 2021. The election has been marred by allegations of voter suppression, as Ecuadorians were forced to wait for hours in uncharacteristically long polling lines, especially in areas known to support Arauz.
Arauz faced two politicians - Guillermo Lasso and Yaku Pérez Guartambel. According to a quick count by the National Electoral Council (CNE), Pérez and Lasso took 20.04% and 19.97% of the votes, respectively.
Lasso is the candidate for the conservative alliance “Creating Opportunities” (CREO). He is also a member of Opus Dei, banker and businessman. A true representative of the Ecuadorian oligarchy, he served as a minister of economy in the Jamil Mahuad government in 1999, which fell in the winter of 2000 at the hands of 2 million peasants and poor workers who took over the streets in protest against dollarization.
Pérez is the candidate of the indigenous Pachakutik Party. While he portrays himself as an “eco-socialist”, many from the Correa camp have questioned his commitment to defend indigenous communities and remember that some factions of the Pachakutik Party have, in the past, opportunistically aligned with the right against Correa’s government. Moreover, he is also known for supporting US-backed right-wing coups in Latin America and wholeheartedly backing imperialism.
Arauz’s electoral hegemony is explained by the strength of Correismo - the ideology based on the policies of Correa’s government. Between 2007 and 2017, Correa undertook a series of post-neoliberal counter-reforms, strengthening the state, increasing its regulatory and economic planning power, and broadening its social influence.
Correa re-constructed Ecuador by way of a Constituent Assembly convened in 2007. In his inauguration speech on January 15 of the same year, he stated: “This historic moment for the country and the entire continent demands a new Constitution for the 21st century, to overcome neoliberal dogma and the plasticine democracies that subject people, lives, and societies to the exigencies of the market. The fundamental instrument for such change is the National Constituent Assembly”.
The Constitution set out a social agenda whose essential axes are: (1) social protection aimed at reducing economic, social and territorial inequalities, with special attention to more vulnerable populations (children, youth, elderly); (2) the economic and social inclusion of groups at risk of poverty; (3) access to production assets; (4) universalization of education and health. To this end, inter-sectoral cooperation was initiated among the Ministries of Education, Economic and Social Inclusion (MIES), Agriculture, Health and Migration.
The 2008 Constitution established the need to build a health system oriented toward comprehensive health care for the population, called the “Sectoral Health Transformation of Ecuador”, and created the “Model of Comprehensive Health Care”, which provided communal underpinnings to the approach toward healthcare. It is characterized by free health services for users, the deployment of sanitary infrastructure (hospitals and primary care centers) and training for health personnel.
The construction of the Ecuadorian State was based on “good living” (El Buen Vivir) - a conception which places life at the center of all social practices and includes the strengthening of the welfare state in order to guarantee it. Correa acolyte René Ramírez argues that buen vivir means: “free time for contemplation and emancipation, and the broadening or flourishing of real liberties, opportunities, capacities, and potentialities of individuals/collectives to bring that which society, territories, diverse collective identities, and everyone - as a human being or collective, universal or individual - values as key to a desirable life.”
An essential part of buen vivir is communal action. While there were many gaps in the achievement of this aim, the Corriesta administration did try to start the “citizenization of political control” - the election of institutional and control authorities not by the legislature, but by an ad hoc organizational structure called the “Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control”. These measures were intended to establish a framework for participatory governance.
Lenin Moreno assumed presidency in 2017, riding on the back of Correa’s support. Having served as vice president (2007-13) in Correa’s government, he was expected to continue the progressive agenda of a strong welfare state. Instead, Moreno chose to comprehensively break away from the previous paradigm of anti-neoliberalism, persecuting Correa and his supporters.
Moreno used a February 2018 referendum to destroy the CNE, the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Judiciary Council, the attorney general, the comptroller general, and others. With the assistance of the CNE, Moreno divided and took control of Correa’s party. When the Correistas tried to re-organize themselves in a new party, the state blocked them. They said that the proposed names were misleading or that the signatures collected were invalid. By 2019, the Correistas used the “Social Commitment Strength” platform to run for local elections in 2019. This platform was then banned in 2020.
The suppression of Correistas has occurred against a backdrop of a neoliberal onslaught. Moreno has followed laissez-faire economic policies, privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade and state reduction promoted by the Washington Consensus. His initial actions aimed to incentivize private economic activity, including the elimination of advances on income taxes for firms and a move toward labor market flexibility. Further, Moreno introduced tax exonerations for firms that repatriated funds within the next twelve months.
In August of 2018, the National Assembly approved the “Organic Law for Productive Development, Attraction of Investment, Employment Generation, and Fiscal Stability and Equilibrium”. This law included amnesty for any outstanding interest, fines, or surcharges owed to a number of government agencies.
A 10-year income tax exemption was introduced for new investments in the industrial sector. Along the same lines, a 15-year exemption for investment in basic industries, and a 20-year exemption for investments located near the country’s border, were also specified in the bill. Exemptions were introduced to the tax on capital outflows for productive investments. These measures reduced the high-tax burden that private companies earlier faced.
Moreno has announced many austerity adjustments: reduction in the salaries of many government functionaries, elimination of bonus payments for state employees, overall reduction in the number of public sector workers, and the sale of state-owned companies. All this resulted in the “October 2019 uprising”.
Hope for Socialism
It is likely that Arauz’s socialist leanings will help him succeed in re-gaining presidential power. He is committed to rolling back Moreno’s neoliberal measures, standing firm against the ruthless demands of international capital, increasing public spending on education and healthcare, and imposing restrictions on capital flight. Arauz has conceived of a state model oriented towards selective economic interventionism for the benefit of the poor.
This model argues that the people-centric acceleration of economies is not a spontaneous phenomenon that results exclusively from market forces, but is the result of vigorous state involvement in strategic sectors through planning and structural reforms in the context of a mixed economic system. Considering the fact that absolute poverty has tripled during Moreno’s 4-year presidency, Ecuadorians will elect a leader who promises to provide them with dignified lives.
About the Author:
Yanis Iqbal is an independent researcher and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India and can be contacted at email@example.com. His articles have been published in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and several countries of Latin America.
Photo source: Andres Arauz' Instagram - @ecuarauz
This is the season to remind all our Christian friends of the relationship between Christianity and Marxism-Leninism and the working class movement. Engels (“On the History of Early Christianity”) tells us that there are “notable points of resemblance” between the early working class movement and Christianity.
First, both movements were made up of oppressed poor people from the lower ranks of society. Christianity was a religion of slaves and people without rights subjugated by the state and very similar to the types of poor oppressed working people that founded the earliest socialist and worker’s organizations in modern times.
Second, both movements held out the hope of salvation and liberation from tyranny and oppression: one in the world to come, the other in this world.
Third, both movements were (and in some places still are) attacked by the powers that be and were discriminated against, their members killed or imprisoned, despised, and treated as enemies of the status quo.
Fourth, despite fierce persecution both movements grew and became more powerful. After three hundred years of struggle Christians took control of the Roman Empire and became a world religion. The worker’s movement is still struggling. After its first modern revolutionary appearance as a fully self conscious movement (1848) it achieved a major impetus in the later part of the nineteenth century with the growth of the First and Second Internationals, and the German Social Democratic movement. It too is now a world wide movement with Socialist, Social Democratic and Communist parties spread around the world. [The rise and fall of the USSR was a bump in the road the consequences of which have yet to be determined.]
The Book of Acts reveals that the early Christians were primitive communists sharing their goods in common and leading a collective life style. This original form of Christianity was wiped out when the Roman Empire under Constantine imposed Christianity as the official religion of the state and set up the Catholic Church in order to make sure that the religious teachings of Jesus and the early followers of his movement would be perverted to protect the interests of the wealthy and the power of the state.
With few exceptions, all forms of modern day Christianity are descended from this faux version, based on a mixture of Jewish religious elements and the practices of Greco-Roman paganism, and only the modern working class and progressive movements (basically secular) carry on in the spirit of egalitarianism and socialism of the founder of Christianity.
Engels points out that there were many attempts in history (especially from the Middle Ages up to modern times) to reestablish the original communistic Christianity of Jesus and his early followers.
These attempts manifested themselves as peasant uprisings through the middle ages which tried to overthrow feudal oppression and create a world based on the teaching of Jesus and his Apostles.
These movements failed giving rise to the state sanctioned Christianity of modern times. Engels mentions some of these movements– i.e., the Bohemian Taborites led by Jan Zizka (“of glorious memory”) and the German Peasant War. These movements are now represented, Engels points out, by the working men communists since the 1830s.
Engels reveals that misleadership is also a problem in these early movements (and still today I would add) due to the low levels of education found amongst the poor and oppressed. He quotes a contemporary witness, Lucian of Samosata (“the Voltaire of classic antiquity”). The Christians “despise all material goods without distinction and own them in common– doctrines which they have accepted in good faith, without demonstration or proof. And when a skillful impostor who knows how to make clever use of circumstances comes to them he can manage to get rich in a short time and laugh up his sleeve over these simpletons.” The Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwell types have been around for a long time. I am sure readers can add a long list of names.
Engels views on early Christianity were formed from his reading of what he considered “the only scientific basis” for such study, namely the new critical works by German scholars of religion.
First were the works of the Tubingen School, including David Strauss (The Life of Jesus). This school has shown that 1) the Gospels are late writings based on now lost original sources from the time of Jesus and his followers; 2) only four of Paul’s letters are by him; 3) all miracles must be left out of account if you want a scientific view; 4) all contradictory presentations of the same events must also be rejected. This school then wants to preserve what it can of the history of early Christianity. By the way, this is essentially what Thomas Jefferson tried to do when he made his own version of the New Testament.
A second school was based on the writings of Bruno Bauer. What Bauer did was to show that Christianity would have remained a Jewish sect if it had not, in the years after the death of its founder, mutated by contact with Greco-Roman paganism, into a new religion capable of becoming a world wide force. Bauer showed that Christianity, as we know it, did not come into the Roman world from the outside (“from Judea”) but that it was “that world’s own product.” Christianity owes as much to Zeus as to Yahweh.
Engels maintains that The Book of Revelations is the only book in the New Testament that can be properly dated by means of its internal evidence. It can be dated to around 67-68 AD since the famous number 666, as the mark of the beast or the Antichrist, represents the name of the Emperor Nero according to the rules of numerology. Nero was overthrown in 68. This book, Engels says, is the best source of the views of the early Christians since it is much earlier than any of the Gospels, and may actually have been the work the apostle John (which the Gospel and letters bearing his name were not).
In this book we will not find any of the views that characterize official Christianity as we have it from the time of the Emperor Constantine to the present day. It is purely a Jewish phenomenon in Revelations. There is no trinity as God has seven spirits (so the Holy Ghost is impossible Engels remarks). Jesus Christ is not God but his son, he is not even equal in status to his father. Nevertheless he has pretty high status, his followers are called his “slaves” by John. Jesus is “an emanation of God, existing from all eternity but subordinate to God” just as the seven spirits are. Moses is more or less “on an equal footing” with Jesus in the eyes of God. There is no mention of the later belief in original sin. John still thought of himself as a Jew, there is no idea at this time of “Christianity” as a new religion.
In this period there were many end of times revelations in circulation both in the Semitic and in the Greco-Roman world. They all proclaimed that God was (or the Gods were) pissed off at humanity and had to be appeased by sacrifices. John’s revelation was unique because it proclaimed “by one great voluntary sacrifice of a mediator the sins of all times and all men were atoned for once and for all– in respect of the faithful.”
Since all peoples and races could be saved this is what, according to Engels, “enabled Christianity to develop into a universal religion.” [Just as the concept of the workers of the world uniting to break their chains and build a world wide communist future makes Marxism-Leninism a universal philosophy.]
In Heaven before the throne of God are 144,000 Jews (12,000 from each tribe). In the second rank of the saved are the non Jewish converts to John’s sect. Engels points out that neither the “dogma nor the morals” of later Christianity are to be found in this earliest of Christian expressions.
Some Muslims would presumably not like this Heaven, not only are there no (female) virgins in it, there are no women whatsoever. In fact, the 144,000 Jews have never been “defiled” by contact with women! This is a men’s only club.
Engels says that the book shows a spirit of “struggle”, of having to fight against the entire world and a willingness to do so. He says the Christians of today lack that spirit but that it survives in the working class movement. We must remember he was writing this in 1894.
There were other sects of Christianity springing up at this time too. John’s sect eventually died out and the Christianity that won out was an amalgam of different groups who finally came together around the Council of Nicaea (325 AD). Those who did not sign on were themselves persecuted out of existence by the new Christian state.
We can see the analogy to the early sects of socialists and communists, says Engels. We can also see what happened after the Russian Revolution (Leninists, Stalinists, Trotskyists, Bukharinites, Maoists, etc., etc.). Here in the US today we have the CPUSA, the SWP, Worker’s World, Revolutionary CP, Socialist Party, Sparticists, and etc., etc.).
Engels thought that sectarianism was a thing of the past in the Socialist movement because the movement had matured and outgrown it. This, we now know, was a temporary state of affairs at the end of the 19th Century with the consolidation of the German SPD. The wide spread sectarianism of today suggests the worker’s movement is still in its infancy.
Engels says this sectarianism is due to the confusion and backwardness of the thinking of the masses and the preponderate role that leaders play due to this backwardness. The Russian masses of 1917 and the Chinese of 1949 were a far different base than the German working class of the 1890s.
“This confusion,” Engels writes,”is to be seen in the formation of numerous sects which fight against each other with at least the same zeal as against the common external enemy [China vs USSR, Stalin and Trotsky, Stalin and Tito, Vietnam vs China border war, Albania vs China and USSR. ad nauseam]. So it was with early Christianity, so it was in the beginning of the socialist movement [and still is, peace Engels!], no matter how much that worried the well-meaning worthies who preached unity where no unity was possible.”
Finally, for those fans of the 60s sexual revolution, Engels says that many of the sects of early Christianity took the opposite view of John and actually promoted sexual freedom and free love as part of the new dispensation. They lost out. Engels says this sexual liberation was also found in the early socialist movement. He would not, I think, have approved of the excessive prudery of the Soviets.
“Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number IS Six hundred threescore AND six.”– Revelation 13:18
In the last part of his essay Engels explains that the purpose of the Book of Revelations (by John of Patmos) was to communicate its religious vision to the seven churches of Asia Minor and to the larger sect of Jewish Christians that they represented.
At this time, circa 69 AD, the entire Mediterranean world much of the of Near East and Western Europe were under the control of the Roman Empire. This was a multicultural empire made of hundreds of tribes, groups, cities and peoples. Within the empire was a vast underclass of workers, freedmen, slaves and peasants whose exploited labor was lived off of by a ruling class of landed aristocrats and merchants. In 69 AD the empire was in essence a military dictatorship controlled by the army and led by the Emperor (from the Latin word for “general”– imperator).
At this time there were peoples but no nations in our sense of the word. “Nations became possible,” Engels says, “only through the downfall of Roman world domination.” The effects of which are still being felt in the Middle East and parts of Europe, especially eastern Europe.
For the exploited masses of the Empire it was basically impossible to resist the military power of Rome. There were uprisings and slave revolts but they were always put down by the legions. This was the background for what became a great revolutionary movement of the poor and the exploited, a movement that became Christianity. The purpose of the movement was to escape from persecution, enslavement and exploitation.
A solution was offered. “But” Engels remarks, “not in this world.”
Another feature of the work is that it is a symbolical representation of contemporary first century politics and John thinks that Jesus’s second coming is near at hand. Jesus tells John, “Behold, I come quickly” three times (22:7, 22:12, 22:20). His failure to show up by now doesn’t seem to pose a problem for Christians.
As far as the later Christian religion of love is concerned, Engels reports that you won’t find it in Revelation, at least as it regards the enemies of the Christians. There is no cheek turning going on here: it’s all fire and brimstone for the foes of Jesus. Engels says “undiluted revenge is preached.” God is even going to completely blot out Rome from the face of the earth. He changed his mind evidently as it is still a popular tourist destination and the pope has even set up shop there.
As was pointed out earlier the God of John is Yahweh, there is no Trinity, it is He, not Christ, who will judge mankind and they will judged according to their works (no justification by faith here, sorry Luther), no doctrine of original sin, no baptism, and no Eucharist or Mass. Almost everyone of these later developments came from Roman and Greek, as well as Egyptian mystery religions. Zoroastrian elements from the Zend – Avesta are also present. These are the idea of Satan and the Devil as an evil force opposed to Yahweh, a great battle at the end of time between good and evil, [the final conflict] and the idea of a second coming. All these ideas were picked up by the Jews during their contact with the Persians before their return after the Babylonian captivity and transmitted to the early Christians.
Once we realize all this we can also see why Islam was able to rise to the status of a world religion as well. Those areas of the world that were not the home land of Greco-Roman paganism were open to Islam which spread in areas of Semitic settlement and where Christianity had been imposed by force, so could Islam be.
We will give Engels the last word, the Book of Revelation “shows without any dilution what Judaism, strongly influenced by Alexandria, contributed to Christianity. All that comes later is Western , Greco-Roman addition.”
About the Author:
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.
Venezuela’s Anti-Blockade Law - A Critique of Maduro and the Lies of Western Media: By. Edward Liger SmithRead Now
Nicolas Maduro and the Venezuelan Constituent Assembly have passed an anti-blockade law in an effort to circumvent crippling sanctions from the United States, and jump start the Venezuelan economy. The law will look to increase foreign trade in Venezuela, which many Venezuelan Socialists now fear will lead to an increase in privatizations, particularly in the oil industry, as well as an increase of foreign capital moving into Venezuela. Voices from the revolutionary left in Venezuela have also expressed concern that the law will lead to less government transparency in business dealings. Hashtag #NoApruebo (I don’t approve) was seen trending on Twitter in Venezuela at one point, as Venezuelans voiced their concerns that the law is a betrayal of Bolivarian Socialist values. President Maduro has argued that the law is necessary in the face of the US economic blockade.
The past four years have seen the Trump Administration ramp up sanctions, which began in the 2000s with George Bush, and were escalated further under Obama. The Anti-Blockade law shows how many struggles in Venezuela stem from US sanctions. While the US media portrays Maduro as an evil dictator, destroying his own countries’ economy, and oppressing his own people. In reality, the primary critique of Maduro from the working masses of Venezuela themselves, is his inability to combat US sanctions with the same success as his predecessor Hugo Chavez. The anti-blockade law, and subsequent public response, can reveal much about the current situation in Venezuela. A situation which Western corporate media has consistently lied about, in an effort to manufacture public support for regime change in Venezuela.
The public outcry against the anti-blockade law on Venezuelan Twitter reveals that many of the Western media narratives about Venezuela are inaccurate. The nonprofit outlet Human Rights Watch (HWR) claims Venezuela “imposes prison sentences of up to 20 years on those who publish messages of intolerance and hatred in media or social media.” HRW says that the Government aggressively targets those who speak negatively about them. The public outcry against the Anti-Blockade law provides an example of how censorship in Venezuela is largely overblown by Western Media. Valid accusations of police brutality, and Government violence in Venezuela, are always met with loud public outcry from the masses in opposition. There are of course valid critiques of Maduro and the Venezuelan Government, however the reality in Venezuela is far from the totalitarian dictatorship it’s made out to be by outlets like HRW.
Many Western Media outlets cite HRW as a source when discussing Venezuela, despite the fact that HRW has faced criticism for having former CIA members, and multinational business executives on their board of directors. Rather than sending journalists to investigate Venezuela, HRW publishes reports from members of the US backed Venezuelan Opposition, who are the minority party in terms of public support. This gives us a glimpse into how lies can be perpetrated on a mass scale in order to sway public opinion in favor of regime change. Even the name Human Rights Watch, gives readers the impression of a non-biased organization reporting on human rights abuses out of concern, when in reality the organization is controlled by corporate executives, and former CIA officials. And most of the so called reporting, is from far right members of the US backed Venezuelan opposition. HRW is just one of many NGOs who feign concern for human rights, while spreading lies, or exaggerations to manufacture support for regime change.
The work of HRW is frequently cited by Western media outlets when discussing Venezuela. A survey conducted by Fair.org found that “Zero Percent of Elite Commentators Oppose Regime Change in Venezuela.”  This is in the US, who claim the Venezuelan media is one sided and controlled by the Government. It is hard not to see the irony of a country whose media offers no scrutiny to the idea of overthrowing another countries’ leader in favor of a far right alternative, accusing another country of having a corrupt media apparatus. In reality Venezuela has a mixture of state and opposition media, with the privately owned Venivision dominating the Venezuelan TV and News Market. A far cry from the hegemonic US media, who loudly beat the war drums for the US Empire at every turn.
While the anti-blockade law provides an opportunity for us to critique Maduro and the PSUV Government, the critique stems from the President’s inability to combat US Imperialism. The people of Venezuela are not calling for their President to be ousted, but rather they are demanding he remain faithful to the ideals of the Bolivarian Revolution. A 2017 poll found that 75% of Venezuelan’s still support Socialism. While Venezuelans have their critiques of Maduro, they ultimately recognize that their economic hardships are mostly being caused by the United States, and the economic blockade.
The ultimate irony of the US Venezuela situation is the fact that Venezuela is used in the US as a talking point to argue that “socialism fails every time it’s tried.” Meanwhile, within Venezuela, the masses are critiquing Maduro for not being socialist enough. Arguing Maduro should nationalize more industry, and allow for less privatization of the economy. The economy needs to be diversified, and sectors outside of the oil industry need to be strengthened. Outside of those in the Venezuelan Opposition Party, the people of Venezuela largely want more Socialism, not less. In a recent interview concerning the anti-blockade law Venezuelan Chavista leader Telémaco Figueroa said “Socialism will not happen if we join hands with the bourgeoisie. It is we, the working people, who are called upon to carry out the task of saving humanity” It is clear the working masses of Venezuela remain committed to building socialism, and recognize the enemy in their fight is the imperialist US blockade, and the bourgeois opportunists within their own country.
It is vitally important for US leftists to understand the situation in Venezuela. Many who speak out against the blockade within the US are labeled as “dictator defenders,” even by those who see themselves as leftists. However, it is not Nicolas Maduro who those like me are defending. It is folks like Telémaco Figueroa, and the working masses of Venezuela who I choose to defend. Working masses who will loudly critique Maduro when necessary, but who also realize that their struggles originate from the US economic blockade, which is itself a product of capitalism and neoliberalism. I choose to stand with the working masses of Venezuela, and against the criminal economic blockade being imposed by my own country. Those Western leftists calling for regime change should reflect on what it truly means to be anti-imperialist. It is not Maduro who we must stand behind, but rather the working masses of Venezuela. A revolutionary people who remain committed to building socialism while facing pure economic warfare from the US. I stand with the people of Venezuela, and the Bolivarian Revolution as a whole.
VIVA LA REVOLUCION!!!
 “World Report 2019: Rights Trends in Venezuela.” Human Rights Watch, January 17, 2019. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/venezuela.
 Bhatt, Keane. “The Hypocrisy of Human Rights Watch.” NACLA, 2013. https://nacla.org/article/hypocrisy-human-rights-watch.
 Teddy Ostrow, Helga I. Fellay, Ian, Gpcus, Doug Tarnopol, John Wheat Gibson, Wondering Woman, et al. “Zero Percent of Elite Commentators Oppose Regime Change in Venezuela.” FAIR, April 30, 2019. https://fair.org/home/zero-percent-of-elite-commentators-oppose-regime-change-in-venezuela/.
 Lucas Koerner., Ricardo Vaz Ricardo Vaz is a political analyst and editor at Venezuelanalysis., Doug Latimer, Janice Olson, EL Comandante, Kc, Wondering Woman, , Arkan, and Michel St-Laurent. “There's Far More Diversity in Venezuela's 'Muzzled' Media Than in US Corporate Press.” FAIR, May 20, 2019. https://fair.org/home/theres-far-more-diversity-in-venezuelas-muzzled-media-than-in-us-corporate-press/.
 Mallett-Outtrim, Ryan. “75% Of Venezuelans Support Socialism: Poll.” Venezuelanalysis.com, August 2, 2019. https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/13251.
 Venezuelanalysis.com, Cira Pascual Marquina –. “The Controversial Anti-Blockade Law: A Conversation with Telémaco Figueroa.” Venezuelanalysis.com, October 27, 2020. https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/15029.
About the Author:
My name is Edward and I am from Sauk City, Wisconsin. I received my B.A. in Political Science from Loras College, where I was a former NCAA wrestling All-American, and active wrestling coach. My main interest are in Geopolitics and the role of American imperialism with relation to socialist states, specifically China and Venezuela. I also worked for Bernie Sanders' campaign in 2020.
After a year or so since the CIA backed coup that ousted Morales, today we rejoice with the news that Movimiento al Socialismo is back in power in Bolivia. This event represents the first appearance of hope in a year plagued by a deadly virus and an even deadlier dealing of the virus by capitalist countries like the US, where more than 200,000 people have died. Some in the American left have used this victory in Bolivia as an inspiration towards organizing against Trump, stating that like Bolivia, we can vote fascism out of power. Communist Party USA (CPUSA) is pushing a campaign called Vote Against Fascism, which tries to inspire its members to vote for the lesser of two evils. With the victory of Arce, the message has been “Bolivia did it so can we”. In this way, they partially equate a vote for Biden in the US with a vote for Arce in Bolivia. In both cases we have the removal of a proto fascist government; this can be stated as “in both cases we have the electoral negation of fascism.” Although the American left agrees that in the affirmative end, Biden and Arce are nothing alike, their similitude comes from their position as a negation to fascism.
The thing about negation, is that it is always the mere initial face of affirmation. A similitude in negation, cannot itself meaningfully exist without a similitude in the affirmation upon which the negation opens the door for. Similarity in the space of removing fascism can only really stand as similarity if in the affirmative afterward of the fascist negation it stands as a similitude as well. If two rock climbers are slipping into an abyss and one jumps and catches on to a sturdy rock, while the other jumps and catches on to a fragile stick, both equally jump, yet we must be delusional to talk about such a minute similarity when the results in each case are so gradually different. The jumping in this case is the negation of the fall, and the grabbing is the affirmation of a possible climb. As in the electoral struggle against fascism, in the rock example, we have a life or death situation. In both cases jumping is the only thing that will bring the possibility of life.
Bolivia is the jumper that landed on the rock. It is, at least for now, safe to keep climbing. The US is the climber that is about to jump to the stick. Since it has not jumped yet, I wish to present a couple points about possibly jumping for the farther rock, given that if we miss the far rock or grab on to the close fragile stick, in both cases we will still fall. The stick, as in the case of Biden, is the most reachable out of the alternatives. The problem is that, as in the case of a vote for Biden, the stick is not going to prevent the eventual fall. This is clear, especially as one sees that the reason the rock climber is falling in the first place is because of his continual attempt to merely climb through sticks. Thus, the similitude a Biden win would have with the win in Bolivia is as minute as the example of the rock climbers. Arce and MAS combine their negation of fascism with a socialist affirmation. They negate fascism with the hope of the continual progress socialism has brought in Bolivia. Along with this, in the last year the major unionized industries in Bolivia have been tremendously active in fighting against the fascist coup; uniting worker and indigenous groups in striking and calling for the resignation of Áñez. With Biden this is not the case. A Biden negation has no truly hopeful affirmation behind it.
It is obvious to anyone who is halfway conscious about the class struggle in the US, that Trump is not some anomaly. The rise of fascism did not appear from a supernatural void that opened in 2016. This rise has its roots in the natural decay of a capitalism where a socialist revolutionary movement is absent. When socialist do not work on the subjective conditions of the working class when their objective conditions are revolutionary, it is bound that they will fall into reactionary circles. Concretely, Trump is a result of 8 years of an Obama administration that accelerated a neoliberal agenda even quicker than Bush had before him. On this, most communist agree, Trump is not an anomaly, but a symptom of the system and the last 4 decades of neoliberal governments.
From this perspective, we can see that a Biden administration is a return to the conditions that gave us Trump in the first place. I do not think there is much disagreement here. CPUSA and the American left do not conceive of Biden as potentially any better than Obama. The question they are asking is the following. “We accept Biden is not a panacea of the ills of our society. We accept that Biden is a return to the condition which gave us Trump in the first place. But is government that can potentially lead to fascism again better than a fascist government?” Their answer is a big YES. The American communist who disagrees with CPUSA’s informal agitation for Biden gets told that “a candidate who maintains the capitalist status quo and imperialism is better than a candidate who maintains the status quo and imperialism but who also agitates his militarized white nationalist base to kill communist and people of color”. When posed like this, it is quite obvious that the answer is correct. Anyone would prefer this lesser of two evils approach, given that the lesser is obvious in this case.
What we have here in their reasonings is a central assumption which I hope to pick out, in order to then more objectively analyze the scenario. The central assumption can be presented in both its philosophical and material formulations. Philosophically it is a question of potentiality and actuality. Do you want potential fascism or actual fascism? When proposed like this, potential fascism is the better route, given that it buys us time to potentially depotentialize that potential. The assumption here is that one can revert to repotentializing something which is already actual. The assumption is that a Biden win does not just negate a Trump presidency but negates the historical effects of that Trump presidency. The problem is that, once the oak tree is there, there is no reverting it to an acorn. All one can do, besides radically tearing the tree apart, is replant the new acorn the oak tree gives. That oak tree itself will never be an acorn, it will only give you new acorns, but even then a replanting of a new acorn does not remove the existence of the oak tree, but expands the possibility of that oak tree making a new oak tree friend. Their assumption is that this potential negates the actual. Where in reality, this potential will do no more than re-establish itself as the bearer of the potential to duplicate the actuality.
In its material formulation, their assumption centers around the conception that with Trump out of office, and with Biden in, the fascist militancy of the Trump fanatics somehow disappears, or at least begins to dissipate. But how much more guarantee do we have that Trump’s militant base will be less potent with a Biden presidency? Is the man who says that police should shoot black folks in the leg instead of killing them really going to take the steps necessary to face the militancy of white nationalism? Especially considering his involvement in the crime bill, his continual denial to decriminalize marijuana, and his old segregationist stances, all which are lethal for black communities. This is the guy you think will help lower the threat of the militant white supremacists Trump empowered? They might respond that since Biden does not provide the legitimation for these groups that Trump does, that this will be the source of the disempowerment of those groups Trump gave a voice to. But this assumes to easily that those shouting the loudest will be quite just because they were removed of their official microphone. Not only does it assume this, but it ignores the plethora of Trump supporters claiming outright civil war if Trump loses. In any case, I do not think that communist or people of color are much safer from the militancy of white supremacy just because Trump is out of office. On the contrary, if the current status of things tells us anything is that replanting that acorn will quickly result in a new oak tree. By this I mean a Biden win, from what we can infer, can only but exacerbate the militancy of white supremist.
So, what then? Do we not vote? Do we just allow Trump to win because we are scared of the civil war threats from his militant white supremacist circles? No, this is of course not the correct answer. We must vote. But as all communist should be aware, voting is perhaps the smallest and last part of a revolutionary struggle. Before any true victory can come from the electoral arena, we must have already had a strong level of economic organization. As Haywood states in Industrial Socialism “Our fight is, first of all a shop fight. It takes place at the point of production where the workers are at present enslaved. Until this is understood there can be no real understanding of Socialism.” The American left focuses the majority of its efforts in pursuit of electoral victories without the prior existence of organization among class lines. Until the irrational divisions of socialist parties and organizations in the US unite and focus their energies on workplace organization as the necessary predecessor to the electoral struggle, we will continue to face futility in the political sphere.
Although I have argued here that Biden is not the knight that will smash the rise of fascism Trump allowed, that does not mean in other social and welfare positions a Biden presidency will seem to make it easier for us to organize our revolutionary struggle. Regardless of how we decide to vote this election, the result will likely be very similar; American will continue to face the brutalities of a capitalism in decay. A day like today 94 years ago the most popular American socialist of the 20th century, Eugene V. Debs, died. Whether we step into the ballot box with his famous dictum “I rather vote for something I want and not get it, then vote for something I don’t want and get it” in mind and vote for a La Riva or Hawkins ticket, or whether we take the more pragmatic approach of voting for Biden; the reality of the revolutionary futility of this election is present. The only way to eliminate this endless condition of revolutionary futility the American socialists have had for a century is to dedicate the next four years to combining all of our forces together and begin, under one umbrella, a process of economic organizing. Only if we are able to do this will a serious revolutionary party impact in the political sphere be possible. The inspiration of the victory of socialism in Bolivia should not be spent on motivation for a futile election, but on organization to make the presently impossible possible. We are facing a capitalism challenged by its natural cycles of crisis and by the surplus crisis brought about by a pandemic. As millions of American lose their jobs and their employer-tied healthcare plans in the middle of a pandemic, the wealth of the 643 billionaires in the US grew by $845 billion. The time is now for communist and socialist to take advantage of these objectively revolutionary conditions and add the subjective element necessary to blow this whole thing open.
“[We] may be dreamers, but dreamers are necessary to make facts!”
 Peoples Dispatch, “National Strike Continues Across Bolivia, Demands Grow For Áñez To Step Down,” last modified August 7, 2020, https://peoplesdispatch.org/2020/08/07/national-strike-continues-across-bolivia-demands-grow-for-anez-to-step-down/.
 Haywood, William, and Frank Bohn. Industrial Socialism (Charles H. Kerr & Company Cooperative, 1911), p. 45.
 Saloni Sardana, “US Billionaires’ Wealth Grew By $845 Billion During the First Six Months of the Pandemic,” Markets Insider, last modified September 17, 2020, https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/us-billionaires-wealth-net-worth-pandemic-covid-billion-2020-9-1029599756
 Hellen Keller, “Why I Became an IWW,” New York Tribune, January 1916. https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/keller-helen/works/1910s/16_01_16.htm
About the Author:
My name is Carlos and I am a Cuban-American Marxist. I graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Loras College and am currently a graduate student and Teachers Assistant in Philosophy at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. My area of specialization is Marxist Philosophy. My current research interest is in the history of American radical thought, and examining how philosophy can play a revolutionary role . I also run the philosophy YouTube channel Tu Esquina Filosofica and organized for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and 2020.