We have had an extraordinary presidential primary in 2016: in addition to the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton, we have an authoritarian demagogue, Donald Trump, who has unleashed a reactionary rage which harkens back to fascism, and another, Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a democratic socialist.
America and the World in 2016 and Beyond
The world today is faced with crises on virtually every front, and any assessment of the foreign policy positions of the two major parties’ 2016 presidential candidates must measure how well they respond to these crises.
Surveying the political scene in America, we are now witnessing the shattering of the last remnants of the American ideology that has maintained itself—despite strains—for almost 70 years. The ideas that justified the American economic and political system in the minds of most of our citizens throughout that long period came under stress during earlier storms—from the 1950s to the 1970s in particular—and a few beams and joists cracked but did not give way. Today the manifold crises of capitalism mean that the entire existing intellectual structure of American capitalism is breaking up. And because of the role that the U.S. capitalist class plays in the world, this represents a crisis of world capitalist leadership and legitimacy. The question then arises: What will the country’s rulers attempt to put in its place, and what alternative explanation will we on the left and in the labor movement be able to offer to the country’s workers?
Like a spectral apparition from a Shakespeare play or an M. Night Shyamalan film, the dreaded ghost of welfare reform is making a ghoulish comeback on Capitol Hill just in time for its twentieth anniversary.
The Politics and Poetics of Mose Allison’s Blues
In October 1969, pianist/ singer/composer Mose Allison recorded “Monsters of the Id.” At a time when recent history had witnessed a police riot at the 1968 Democratic Party Convention, the police crackdown on protesters at Berkeley’s People’s Park, and popular backlash against anti-war, New Left, counter-culture, and Black Power sentiment, Allison began by warning that the title characters no longer remain hidden, but have come out in full view. To the accompaniment of a slightly discordant horn section, Allison—singing in his characteristic style, with its idiosyncratic pauses and accents—spins a variety of often ghoulish metaphors that remain just as timely in today’s era of Tea Party, torture reports, Stand Your Ground, and Donald Trump: “They’re sprouting through the cracks ... They’re deputizing maniacs / Creatures from the swamp rewrite their own Mein Kampf.”
The colonization of Latin America never ended, it merely changed forms. Today this conquest continues, with transnational companies driving neo-colonization grounded in the continued exploitation of natural resources. This is nowhere more true than in Central America. The force of neo-colonization is strengthened by free-trade agreements and development plans that guarantee a company’s right to investment above the rights of the citizenry. Meanwhile, the indigenous populations face renewed dispossession and eviction to make way for global capital’s conquest.
The month of May witnessed the second round of massive general strikes to hit Greece in 2016. Mobilizations on May Day were followed by four days of strikes in the lead-up to the Syriza government passing its austerity pension bill.
Rosa Luxemburg’s Critique of Bourgeois Democracy
Rosa Luxemburg’s defense of socialist democracy and her critique of the Bolsheviks in her pamphlet The Russian Revolution (1918) are well known. Less well known and often forgotten is her critique of bourgeois democracy, its limits, its contradictions, and its narrow and partial character. We propose to examine this critical line of thought in some of her political writings without any pretentions to completeness.
This essay was originally a talk at the conference held at the New School for Social Research on April 21-22, 2016.
I don’t need to tell you we face an existential threat. Scientists tell us we face a “climate emergency.” Last year was the hottest year ever recorded, beating 2014, which beat 2012. We break new records every year. The fourteen hottest years ever recorded have been recorded since 2000. January and February temperatures were torrid.
Can the U.S. Food Justice Movement Join the Global Movement?
In the United States today, there is a fresh opening for progressive alliances. The various movements—Black Lives Matter, the Fight for $15, climate change, immigrant rights, LGBT rights, Bernie—have different roots, structures, and foci, but they share a recognition that we are being crushed by the newest form of capitalism—as they call it in Latin America, “capitalismo salvaje”1 (savage capitalism)—and that we must stand up to it with all our might, with all our people.
Perhaps ironically, shortly after writing the following memorial for Arthur Lipow, longtime New Politics sponsor Bogdan Denitch died on March 28 at the age of 86.
The democratic left is poorer today for the loss of a longtime active comrade. Arthur Lipow, a former member of the editorial board of New Politics, died this year on January 6, aged 81, his wife Gretchen by his side. Arthur grew up in Southern California and attended high school in Pasadena. He received his BA in sociology from UCLA in 1955.
English anarchism has produced a number of fine cartoonists, including Clifford Harper, John Olday, Paul Petard, and, arguably, the artist Hunt Emerson and the writer Alan Moore.
Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign has rocketed across the political landscape in this most abnormal of election seasons—an independent, self-defined democratic socialist running in the Democratic primary contest.
Rather than start his book about climate change with a solitary man contemplating a streambed run dry or taking in the eternal wonders of an old-growth forest, Roy Scranton begins Learning to Die in the Anthropocene in occupied Iraq in 2003, where Scranton served as a private in the U.S. Army.
Designing Socialism is a complete reprint, as an e-book, of the special April 2012 issue of the American academic Marxist journal Science & Society. It continues that publication’s tradition of providing, as stated by its usual editor David Laibman, “a major worldwide pulse-taking of the state of play in theoretical socialism” every April of the years ending in “2” in every decade (Campbell, ed., 7).
Syria is the focus of the world’s attention. However, the closer the lens is focused, the more the picture seems obscured. Is what we are seeing a revolution? Is it a proxy war by international forces? Or, especially now with the emergence of the Islamic State, is this Islamic authoritarianism asserting itself? These questions are vital for anyone trying to piece together a picture of what is happening and especially for activists trying to understand what is at stake in Syria and what attitude to take toward events as they unfold.
The editors of these volumes have provided an invaluable service, bringing renewed attention to the highly original and enduringly contentious critique of Capital that arose from one of the most universally revered figures of the revolutionary movement.
This book is a fascinating incursion into the multiple oppositional uses of memory in world cinema. It shows, in a lively and insightful way, how movies bring the memory of past struggles forward into the present, to serve as an inspiration for the future.
Inez Hedges distinguishes eight types of cultural cinematographic memory, which correspond to the eight chapters of the book:
E.P. Thompson (1924–1993) wore several hats during his life. His magnum opus as a historian was The Making of the English Working Class, one of the greatest history books written in the twentieth century in any language. He fought tirelessly for nuclear disarmament in the 1980s, which almost surely took years off his life.
Temma Kaplan’s Democracy: A World History arrives at a timely moment. With presidential candidates and U.S. officials alike evoking the term “democracy” as a justification for political movements or a pretense for extraterritorial violence, Kaplan’s history of democracy offers a sorely needed study at an opportune time.
The American left is today confronted with a situation it has not dealt with in some time—something approaching broader political relevance. From the rise of Occupy to Black Lives Matter to the Bernie Sanders campaign, movements of the left are having a sustained impact on American politics that they have not had for decades.
China has the world’s largest population, about 1.4 billion people, with a working age population of about 950 million, hundreds of millions of them wage laborers. Most of us know little about the Chinese workers or the recent workers’ movement that has developed so rapidly, especially since the 1990s.
Blogs & On-Line Features
The night of the penultimate presidential debate I was at a screening of the Brazilian film Aquarius, which tells the story of a woman fighting a corrupt development company to remain in her apartment building. During the Q&A session with the director and force-of-nature actress Sonia Braga, a handful of demonstrators stood up, silently, holding “Fora Temer” signs to protest the government that has illegally installed itself in Brazil. Within sixty seconds Lincoln Center had the NYPD to escort them out, against Braga’s objections, and the Q&A continued with police watching from the edges of aisles.
The last terrible terrorist attack by the so-called “Islamic State” (also known as Daech) killed at least 300 people in Baghdad’s central shopping district of Karrada on July 2. It was the worst single car bomb attack in Iraq since U.S. and British led forces toppled the dictator Saddam Hussein 13 years ago and deepened the anger of many Iraqis over the weak performance of the security apparatus. This followed other terrorist attacks in the region and elsewhere. This put forward once more the question on how to answer and end the threat that represents Daech. The Western states led by the USA have shown that they consider Daech as the main enemy for the region of the Middle East and North Africa. Daech constitutes in the opinion of Western officials a source of regional and international instability, particularly with the terrorist attacks in West. However they propose to use the same elements that fueled the development of Daech to try to stop it militarily. This is therefore a recipe for defeat.
In general, analyses of Brazil’s current political and economic crisis emphasize the economic policy “errors” of the government, inherited by President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party (PT) from her predecessor, Luíz Inácio Lula da Silva. While it is true that certain federal policy decisions have interfered with the dynamics of the Brazilian distributive conflict, this focus on political regulation is far too narrow to illuminate the complexity of the current crisis. These explanations tend to obscure the changes in class structure that took place during the Lula era (2002-2010), and to overlook the impact of the international economic crisis. Indeed, such analyses fail to explain how the relationship between political regulation and economic accumulation not only failed to pacify class conflict but radicalized it.
For many years now Nicaraguans on both the right and the left have referred to Daniel Ortega, a leader of the Sandinista Revolution of 1979, as a “dictator.” Now it appears that when country votes on November 6, he may succeed in becoming the country’s virtual monarch. Dan La Botz, author of the new book What Went Wrong? The Nicaraguan Revolution: A Marxist Analysis, asks here how the Nicaraguan revolution was betrayed and what ideas and decisions of the Sandinistas themselves were responsible for the betrayal.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s bragging about his sexual assaults on women appears to be sparking a revival of the women’s movement.
Trump’s remark that he could “grab women by the pussy”—followed by more women coming forward to describe his sexual assault on them over many years—has led to social media protests and to demonstrations in New York City and Washington, D.C.
Trump’s outrageous remarks prompted women of all ages, races, and ethnicities who had been silent for years and even decades to speak out, sit-in, and protest. We seem to be at a “Women’s Lives Matter” moment and perhaps at the beginning of a new women’s movement.
Rachel Herzing lives and works in Oakland, CA, where she fights the violence of policing and imprisonment. She is a co-founder of Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization dedicated to abolishing the prison industrial complex and the Co-Director of the StoryTelling & Organizing Project, a community resource sharing stories of interventions to interpersonal harm that do not rely on policing, imprisonment, or traditional social services. The following interview was conducted by the True Leap Publishing Collective.
On July 29th, Sandinista President Daniel Ortega unseated 16 opposition members and 12 alternates from Nicaragua’s legislature, eliminating one of the few remaining obstacles to one-party rule. Days later, Ortega named his wife, Rosario Murillo, as his vice presidential running mate for the November elections. Political analysts inside and outside of the country see the move as an attempt to secure a line of family succession, as Ortega, 70, enters the final years of his political career.
On the 45th anniversary of the Attica Prison rebellion in 1971, Process speaks with seven scholars of the carceral state about prisoners’ organizing in the 1960s and 1970s and movements protesting mass incarceration today. This is the first of a three-part series, guest edited for Process by Jessie Kindig. Check out parts two and three.
Writer and labor organizer, Sara Jaffri, and left-wing political worker and the Punjab Deputy General Secretary of the Awami Workers Party, Alia Amirali talk organizing, feminism and class in Pakistan.
Oscar López Rivera is the longest-held Puerto Rican political prisoner in U.S. history. He has now served 35 years in U.S. federal prisons, including 12 in solitary confinement. The movement calling for his release has intensified, broadened and strengthened in the last few years.
They say that generals usually prepare for the last war. This has happened to the peace movement, too. The anti-war coalitions in the U.S. and UK are acting as if this was 2003 and everyone need to focus on Western imperial adventures. Instead circumstances are quite different. The main carnage right now has little to do with “the Empire”. A dictator from a family dynasty is using his entire military, every weapon the country owns, to bring a nation to heel. He’s assisted (and in some ways commanded) by foreign powers, one semi-fascist, the other a theocracy. The larger anti-war organizations and coalitions have nothing to say or bleat “Our main responsibility is to criticize our own government’s abuses” or airily call for all foreign forces to stop intervening. (There are also the unspeakable organizations licking the dictator’s boot in the name of “anti-imperialism”.)
Several left arguments on the U.S. election frankly leave me baffled.
Michel Eltchaninoff. Dans la tête de Vladimir Poutine. Arles: Solin/Actes Sud, 2015. 171pp.
Michel Eltchaninoff’s prize-winning Dans la tête de Vladimir Poutine—In the Head of Vladimir Putin—is a fascinating examination of the development of the Russian president’s ultra-conservative and nationalist ideology from assuming the presidency in 2000 until today. Eltchaninoff, the author of two books about Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky and many essays, might seem like an unlikely candidate to write an intellectual biography of the twenty-first century president Putin, but as it turns out, Eltchaninoff’s knowledge of nineteenth and twentieth century Russian philosophers makes him the ideal author, for that is where Putin’s ideas come from, Russia’s conservative, religious past.
On September 18, I wrote, and the New Politics website of which I am an editor, published an article titled “Mexico’s Teachers Movement; From Class War to Death Squads” that argued that three recent killing appeared to be the result of death squads targeting teachers. While the fact that the three killings took place is not in question, well informed readers in Mexico who have been involved in the teachers movement or in solidarity with it suggest these killings do not seem to be the result of death squads.
These readers argue that while the teacher who was killed may have been targeted for union activity, the other two killings may have had other motives having nothing to do with the union. These readers suggest that while some teachers have been murdered because of their involvement in the teachers movement, many killings that have taken place in Oaxaca, Chiapas, and in other states may have political motives, may be related to the drug cartel violence, or to other violence in the region. I have come to the conclusion that my readers are right and that this article should be corrected: death squads do not appear to be a trend at this time.
I welcome and appreciate your comments and criticisms on the original article, on this correction and the issues raised.
In solidarity, Dan La Botz