Since Donald Trump has taken up residence in the White House, the country has faced a series of political controversies, a barrage of right-wing legislative and regulatory initiatives, a growing far-right movement, but also a broadening resistance from various sectors of society.
Donald Trump’s first six months as president of the United States has been bad in so many ways that it is hard to know where to begin.
At a distance of one hundred years, the Russian Revolution, which truly shook the world, deserves to be remembered once more in terms of its emancipatory significance and its downfall and betrayal. This revolution would not have happened had it not been for the crucial role played by the Bolshevik party. It is true that the profound crisis affecting the Russian society, worsened by the country’s disastrous participation in World War I, could have sooner or later led to a massive upheaval. But it is questionable that a socialist revolution would have taken place without the organizational skills of the Bolshevik party and the political, strategic, and tactical genius of V.I. Lenin.
An Interview with Suzi Weissman
“Revolutions are the mad inspiration of history”
Leon Trotsky, My Life
[This is the second of three articles commemorating the Russian Revolution of 1917 and analyzing its fate under Stalin. The first part, “Glorious Harbinger of a New Society: the Bolshevik Revolution,” was published in the previous issue of New Politics, number 62, winter 2017. The text below is slightly expanded from what appeared in the print issue.]
Soon after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed on March 3, 1918, the Soviet republic was under siege. Various anti-Bolshevik forces, some supported by the Allies or the Central Powers, were gathering. If these forces succeeded in reversing the October Revolution, what would be the result?
Eighty years after his death, Antonio Gramsci is among the most influential Marxist intellectuals across the board. By the end of World War II, liberal intellectuals had already found in him “a Marxist you can take home to Mother.” The tone was set by Benedetto Croce, who allegedly gushed in 1947, upon reading Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks, “He’s one of us!”1 It reached the point that the Sardinian activist can be presented today as no less than the guarantor of “Italian Democracy.”2
JUNE 2017 IS THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY of the 1967 Middle East War—the June War or, as Israelis like to call it, the Six Day War.
Why should we care today about this historical event? For one, the war—with its resulting conquests, refugees, and shifting alliances—helped define the modern Middle East and make it one of the world’s great flash points for further conflict. But there are other reasons as well why this war bears re-examination.
From February 14 to March 13, 2016, 35,000 Palestinian teachers in the West Bank government-run school system were on strike. The teachers’ goal was to hold the Palestinian Authority to the terms of a 2013 agreement between the General Union of Palestinian Teachers (GUPT) and the Ministry of Education, an agreement the Palestinian Authority had reneged on for three years running. (Ma’an News, Feb. 16, 2016)
Bolivia received global attention for its anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist social movements in the twenty-first century. Best known perhaps were the Water Wars, against water privatization, in 2000 and the Gas Wars, demanding nationalization of the gas industry, in 2003. These rebellions entailed a radical rethinking of natural resource use and distribution.
“Puerto Rico will be in a death spiral!”
With this dramatic announcement, Governor Alejandro García Padilla transformed the island nation’s long-simmering debt overhang problem into an international spectacle. A financial mess that seemingly concerned only institutional investors, municipal bondholders, and some hedge fund managers exploded into a full-blown debt crisis with disquieting parallels to the situation in Greece.
A Marxist-Humanist Review
This article aims to show that dependency theory underlines vividly the problem of examining the logic of capital independent of Marx’s concept of value. It is impossible to completely understand the essence of Marx’s critique of political economy, especially a vision of an alternative to capitalism, without grasping value as distinct from exchange value. The distinction is of vital importance, since uprooting relations of exchange cannot itself eliminate the defining principle of capitalism: abstract labor, production for the sake of value.
The Pressures, the Changes, the Potential
Capitalism in the United States and across the world has gone through a series of mind-bending crises, spatial “fixes,” and continuous restructurings that have disoriented organized labor in most of the developed economies since the beginning of the neoliberal era in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Don’t be tricked into thinking that what is going on is a debate about “free trade”—the unhindered exchange of goods—because it is not.
If you’ve seen any of the documentaries that are critical of U.S. agriculture, then you’re most likely aware of the increase in some innovative and somewhat unconventional experiments in growing food—bee hives and gardens on hospital roof tops, abandoned warehouses turned into greenhouses, farms that double as a local community’s source of fresh produce and the pizzeria.
The most radical and militant union in American history was the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), colloquially known as the Wobblies. Its active years were from 1905 to 1919, or at best until mid-1920 when it led its last major struggles—a maritime workers strike in California and a miners strike in Colorado. Fierce government repression during and after World War I, along with vigilante violence and internal divisions, dealt the IWW blows from which it never recovered. The mass industrial union movement during the New Deal passed it by. Yet, the IWW continues to exist on a small scale to this day.
In “Militant Particularism and Global Ambition: The Conceptual Politics of Place, Space, and Environment in the Work of Raymond Williams” (1995), David Harvey discusses the challenges presented by moving from place out across time. In the midst of his involvement in a participatory research project within a high-stakes local struggle against the closure of an automotive plant, he was accused of being a “free-floating Marxist intellectual,” an outsider, and he was given the “evil eye” and asked to explain “where his loyalties lay.” (71) This is in an environment where people were losing jobs, and families and communities were being destroyed.
Reading, actually looking obsessively at the pages of, this volume and non-volume inevitably brings to mind an unpublished, uncompleted 1967 essay by Herbert Marcuse, “Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz,” translated and published after his death. Here Marcuse says, in part,
In Latin America we have a saying, “Poner el dedo en la llaga,” a phrase that means to call attention to a delicate or worrisome point. However, llaga means literally an open sore or ulcer. I believe that Cuban socialist and scholar Samuel Farber puts his finger indeed on a significant sore point in revolutionary history with his latest book, The Politics of Che Guevara: Theory and Practice. While recognizing the undeniable determination, egalitarianism, and selflessness of Che Guevara in his fight against imperialism, Farber meticulously exposes the contradictions of Che’s thought and the political, economic, and social detours that Guevara took in his honest quest for a better world.
At long last
Heather Ann Thompson has written a magnificent history of the Attica Prison uprising, the deadliest prison rebellion in U.S. history. It is a long book, nearly 600 pages of text and another 150 of notes and apparatus. It’s a timely book: Attica casts its uneasy shadow over our halting steps to unwind the social catastrophe that is mass incarceration.
In the foreword to Subversive Lives: A Family Memoir of the Marcos Years, the authors write it “was not intended to be about communists and communism”—still the book provides remarkable insights into the Philippine communist movement. The book is a collective memoir of the surviving Quimpo family, relating their lives during the years of the Marcos dictatorship from the early seventies to the mid-eighties. With many of the siblings involved in the revolutionary movement, their memories furnish stories of underground organizing, imprisonment and torture, repression and resistance.
In 1996, at the height of the culture wars, Marvin Mandell joined the battle, writing a long essay, “Canon on the Left,” in which he argued that the left should not allow conservatives to claim the literary canon. While he of course supported the expansion of the canon to include all of the writers of color, as well as the women and all of the others who had been neglected and excluded, he refused to allow the right to claim the great tradition of European literature. He concluded the essay with these words:
Blogs & On-Line Features
Congress was given a chance to stand up for basic humanity and the Constitution, but instead chose to lay an egg, a rotten one at that. It rejected a chance to use the War Powers Act to halt U.S. collaboration with Saudi Arabia’s ruthless war and siege tactics in Yemen. Instead it passed a resolution that could have been written by the Saudi kingdom’s lawyers and publicists.
On November 5, 2017, 26-year-old Devin Kelley killed 26 people and injured 20 others attending Sunday church services at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX. This small, unincorporated community is 30 miles southeast of San Antonio and, in 2000, its population was but 362 people. Sadly, Kelley is the latest, but not the last lone-wolf terrorist to engage in the mass killing of Americans.
When the decorated “Hero of the Republic of Cuba,” General Ramón Espinosa Martín, rallied his forces in the province of Camagüey in September, it was against an enemy far more dangerous than those he had faced in the Escambray mountains in 1958 during the Cuban Revolution or even in Angola in 1975 resisting US and South African intervention. This enemy was nature itself.
In Hannah Arendt’s pioneering book The Origins of Totalitarianism, she criticized the failure of many to understand the appeals of fascism to modern citizens. She wrote that many observers gave fairly rote justifications for its rise and appeal in an apparently advanced and enlightened country like Germany, the birthplaces of Goethe, Kant, and Beethoven. Some claimed that it was the depressed economy that was responsible. Others in the German context pointed to defeat and humiliation in the First World War. Some reactionary conservatives claimed it was declining moral standards and the collapse of religiosity. And Arendt accepted that many of these might have something to do with it. But her ultimate explanation was far simpler and yet strangely more acute. Modern Germans were lonely.
One of the issues that received much discussion after the elections last winter was the fact that an overwhelming number of women voted for Trump despite his misogynistic commentaries and vulgarity. Some analyses espouse that Trump's women voters are victims of sexist and misogynistic views ingrained in the American culture. They, according to the analyses, perceive sexual harassment or misogynistic remarks as an unfortunate behavior that men do and women can tolerate or ignore. While that explanation is truthful it does not highlight some deeper dimensions of the phenomenon. Obviously, Trump's misogynistic remarks were downplayed by his women voters beyond the description "unfortunate." Why were these remarks downplayed ? It seems that in the current media programming in the U.S such remarks are normalized and even exalted.
The Russian Revolution, the only—if only briefly—successful workers’ revolution took place in the era of photography and film, consequently thousands of hours of film footage from the revolutionary period existed. In the late 1920s, as the revolution’s red star was fading, a Russian-born man decided to collect as much as possible of the existing film—some of it shot by individuals, some by governments, some by new agencies, some by who-knows-who. Eventually, over 50 years this man collected some 271 motion picture film reels. He was a fanatic. Glad he was.
The Janus case before the Supreme Court will deny public employee unions the right to require non-union members to pay their share of the union’s costs to negotiate on behalf of everyone in the bargaining unit.
Jabari Brisport, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), made an extraordinarily strong showing in his first bid for the New York City Council. Running on both the Green Party and Socialist lines in Crown Heights, District 35 of Brooklyn where he grew up, Jabari won almost 30 percent of the vote, receiving 8,619 votes. He was defeated by Democrat Laurie Cumbo, who took 68 percent of the vote while the Republican Christine Parker got just 4 percent.
Jabari ran as a socialist in a diverse district with a mixed population of African Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, orthodox and Hassidic Jews, upper middle class white newcomers, and young hipsters. The district has a population of 124,170, larger than many cities. The 2017 election saw one of the lowest turnouts in years. Only about 22 percent of the 5,053,842 registered voters in New York City as a whole cast ballots in the election.
Dan La Botz, a co-editor of New Politics, interviewed Josep María Antentas, teacher of Sociology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and anticapitalist activist.
DL: The Catalan independence movement and its suppression by the Spanish state have garnered the attention of the world. What has been your attitude toward the question of Catalonia?
JMA: My traditional position is the defense of the right to self-determination, with the idea that when a group wises to exercise this right its position must be made specific. In the current situation and since the independence movement began in 2012, the defense of a “Yes” vote has a more democratic content than the “No” vote, which is associated exclusively with the reactionary defense of the Constitution and the political regime.
I look at the world for many decades now and do not see evidence that the class struggle is alive and well, except to the extent that workers are on the losing end. But even more than that, it does not appear that the class struggle is playing a key role anywhere in the world. All of the major conflicts are being fought on national, ethnic and/or religious grounds. In these conflicts, whether they are in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Niger or even Catalonia, workers line up with their tribe.
The exploding national debate about workplace harassment of women by powerful bosses or male co-workers is a great opening for unions to demonstrate their importance as one form of protection against such abuse.
Unfortunately, when unions are not pro-active on this front in their dealings with management or, worse yet, allow bullying or sexual harassment among staff or members, their credibility and appeal as a sword and shield for women (or anybody else) is greatly reduced.
Djuena Tikuna during her performance at the Teatro Amazonas. Image: screenshot, Jornalistas Livres (Youtube)
On 23 August, Djuena Tikuna  became the first indigenous singer to perform on the stage of the Teatro Amazonas  (“Amazonas Theatre”) — a bastion of European culture in the middle of the world’s largest tropical forest.
What to look out for, what to expect, and what it will mean for China’s future
This article was received before the official announcement of the new leadership. - DL
In a highly choreographed ritual, seven suited men will this Wednesday stride onto a stage in Beijing, hair dyed jet black, led, naturally, by Chinese President Xi Jinping. What to the casual observer appears to be a rigid, inconsequential ceremony is in fact the unveiling of the most powerful political body on earth.
At the southern tip of Europe, stretching out its two hands of Ceuta and Melilla to reach Africa, Spain usually goes unnoticed. Our news hardly ever makes world headlines; it’s simply not impactful enough. Over the past month, however, my adopted homeland has been enveloped in one of the most controversial events of the decade, and finally our dirty laundry is being hung out to dry on the international clothesline. The threat of Catalonia breaking away from Spain is juicy. It’s the political equivalent of a marriage gone wrong, complete with steepled-finger scheming, mutual resentment, and fittingly, bouts of domestic violence. But it also serves to show how the choices and actions of politicians turn a prominent issue in need of discussion into a roiling turmoil. The question of Catalonian secession is the result of the thoughtless, petty political practice that is ubiquitous in governments around the world, but that should have no place in the future of governance.