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
The victory of Democrat Phil Murphy in the New Jersey gubernatorial election this past November makes it quite likely that recreational marijuana will be legalized in the Garden State. Public opinion in the state has clearly been ready for a change in the drug war model of prohibition – with even Murphy’s Republican opponent having called for decriminalization.
We, the Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists, support the popular protests in Iran and call on progressives in the region and throughout the world to stand in solidarity with them as well. We believe it is an absolute necessity to build regional and global solidarity with anti-authoritarian struggles for democracy, social justice and equality, and to oppose patriarchy, racism, sectarian or homophobic discrimination and prejudice. We hope that the current protests in Iran will force the Iranian regime to withdraw its military and financial support for the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and to end its reactionary interventions in the region. We also hope that the efforts by some elements to inject anti-Arab chauvinism into the movement will be rejected in order to reach out to grassroots struggles across the region.
An Alternative to the Politics of “National Security” Emerges
Days of protests in Iran have caught statesmen, analysts and observers by surprise, even though the anti-austerity and anti-establishment sentiments behind this primarily working-class revolt have been brewing for years. All the same, surprise is not a common reaction across the media.
The author himself lets you know at the start that this book is going to be very harsh. After the end of the chapter titles, Stan Goff writes, “Warning to readers who have experienced violent trauma or sexual assault. This book contains portrayals of extreme violence, including combat, murder, and rape.” His purpose is not to titillate, but to reveal. There are some brief loving sexual passages, but the descriptions of sexual violence and killings are there to repel you.
Vivek Chibber’s “Our Road to Power” published recently in Jacobin—oddly enough written as a commemoration of the Russian Revolution of October 1917—codifies a strategy for what is one of the dominant tendencies in the American left today: social democracy. The principal argument of “Our Road to Power” (a title chosen by Jacobin’s editors, perhaps alluding to German Social Democrat Karl Kautsky’s The Road to Power) is that a “ruptural strategy” is off the agenda. By “ruptural strategy” Chibber means one that is predicated upon a crisis of the economic and political system leading to the breakdown or to the overthrow of the state. Chibber believes that since the power of the state is so great today—because of its legitimacy, its coercive power, and its power of surveillance—a revolutionary strategy is ruled out. It would be, he says, “hallucinatory” to think otherwise.
The Future Historians’ International Study Group and Collaborative Writing Project has obtained the following excerpts from the 2117 high school history book “Then, Now and How.” The title of this chapter is “#MeToo and the origins of today’s egalitarian society.”
For more information, go to http://futurehistorians.org/
Over the New Year, a wave of protests has erupted in Iran, as people in towns all over the country took to the streets to air their grievances.
Many protests were about basic economics – unemployment or low pay, high prices for basic foodstuffs like eggs – but there have also been reports about political aspects to the protests.
Since Thursday December 28 the Iranian people have engaged in extensive protests against the government of religious despotism in Iran. These protests have continued in full force in tens of Iranian cities, from north to south and from east to west of the country. The protests started with slogans against poverty, rising prices and unemployment, and in no time attacked the entire Islamic Republic as the prime destroyer of people’s lives.
Eric Lee. The Experiment: Georgia’s Forgotten Revolution, 1918-1921. London: Zed Books, 2017. 259 pages. Timeline. Notes. Index. (For further information see: http://www.ericlee.info/theexperiment/)
In his new book The Experiment: Georgia’s Forgtten Revolution, 1918-1921 the journalist and historian Eric Lee does two things. First, he tells the little known and complicated story of the Georgian Revolution and the short-lived independent state that it created.
On a gray Saturday afternoon in Lima, Peru, this past April, I received a phone call from Hugo Blanco, veteran guerilla and survivor of multiple death sentences. “You wanted to talk?” he asked. “Come over now.” An hour later, after a ride through the city’s torturous streets, I was in the plaza in front of his house, an unpretentious single-level in a middle-class neighborhood north of the colonial center. I knocked and collected myself; I hadn’t actually expected him to respond to my request.
An interview with Steve Early
Mohsen Abdelmoumen: You have written a book about the city of Richmond, California, where you live, prefaced by Senator Bernie Sanders: Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City. This book shows us the experience of this city that has won struggles such as raise the local minimum wage, defeat a casino development project, challenge home foreclosures and evictions, and seek fair taxation of Big Oil and Big Soda. Can we say that the Richmond experience should inspire progressive activists in other cities around the world?
The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Walter Benjamin was one of the great analysts of liberal capitalism during a time when its days seemed numbered and fascism was ascendant across Europe. Much of his work is taken up with looking at how the cultural products and processes characteristic of a civilization are reflective of the inner psychic and spiritual tensions roiling beneath the surface of hegemonic ideologies.
David Neiwart, Alt-Right: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump. Verso Books, 2017.
Think of this book as a basket of deplorables. It’s thick on illuminating descriptions of renascent white nationalists, gun-enamored militia poseurs, conspiracy-theory mongers, Ku Klux Klansmen and women, Christian Identitarians and proto-Nazis benefitting from and legitimized by the sordid presidency of Donald Trump. It’s thin on explaining why such phenomena persist or have arisen as political thuggery in 21st-century America.
We are an alliance of Middle Eastern socialists opposed to all the international and Middle Eastern regional imperialist powers and their wars, whether the U.S., Russia and China or Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. We also oppose other authoritarian regimes such as Assad’s in Syria and El Sisi’s in Egypt as well as religious fundamentalism whether of ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah or the Muslim Brotherhood. Although the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah consider themselves gradualists and oppose the Jihadism of Al Qaeda and ISIS, all of these organizations share the goal of establishing a state based on Shari’a Law and preserving the current capitalist order.
The greatest flaw of Mitchell Cohen’s “What Lenin’s Critics Got Right” in the most recent Dissent is that it repeats what Lars T. Lih, independent researcher and author of Lenin Rediscovered:‘What Is To Be Done’ In Context (Haymarket, 2008) and a biography of Lenin (Reaktion Books, 2011), calls the “standard textbook interpretation” of Lenin’s thought and, by extension, Bolshevism as a movement.