Author: Dan La Botz

Vivek Chibber’s "Road to Power" Is Not

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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.

On the One Hundredth Anniversary of Two Revolutions: Russia and Georgia, Bolshevism or Menshevism

Book Review

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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.

Walter Benjamin and the Political Practices of the Alt-right

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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.

Why should we care about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?

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In the early hours of November 27th, employees at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) woke up to a world of contested allegiances. Advocated by Senator Elizabeth Warren and set up by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, CFPB was created in 2011 as an independent Federal agency tasked with protecting consumers in the financial sector. Since it was this sector’s predatory exploitation of low-income racialized communities that triggered the subprime mortgage crisis, this agency was intended to regulate finance across consumer services like mortgages, student loans, and credit cards. As such, the founding of the agency received large support from consumer groups and their Democratic allies in the Federal administration. Republicans, for their part, dutifully (and unsurprisingly) rendered the agency as another burden on the “free” market.[i] Such conflicts are hardly news and government employees are in this sense always in the precarious position that their jobs might be discarded with every new administration. Rarely, however, do these conflicts take the absurd character we could witness the following few days.

John E. Chiaradia, 1926 – 2017: Political Activist

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John E. Chiaradia was a longtime reader and sometime contributor to New Politics.

How does one come to political activism? Are we influenced by the times, by our personal experiences, by some innate quality within us, or are each of these just the necessary ingredients of activism? John (Giovanni) Emilio Chiaradia left Italy as a child, a political refugee from mid-20th-century Italian fascism. His family escaped the turmoil engulfing their country for the welcoming haven of the United States, landing in New York City and eventually settling in central California. There they were once again confronted by nationalist politics and uprooted from their home. They were compelled to leave California following the bombing of Pearl Harbor as John’s mother, Antoinette, was not yet a naturalized citizen. In the wake of the war, the US government deemed all non-naturalized people from Axis countries, and even citizens in the case of Japanese Americans, to be potential threats to national security. They were commanded to vacate a 100-mile exclusion zone from the west coast. The family was forced to leave what few possessions they had and return to the Bronx.

Is Change Possible in Mexico?

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Mexicans, worse off than at any time in the last 100 years, are asking themselves as the July 2018 elections approach: Can Mexico change? Can an election change Mexico?

Mexico is a disaster. It has become increasingly violent, the economy grows too slowly to absorb the ever-expanding workforce, and wages are below those of China, though costs are more like those in the United States.

Post-Modern Trumpism and Loneliness: The Rise of Vulgar Authoritarianism

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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.

Comfort With Misogyny? Neoliberal Feminism, Reality TV Shows and Politics

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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.

Whither Catalonia? An interview with Josep María Antentas

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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.

Leftist Candidate Jabari Brisport of DSA Makes Strong Showing in Brooklyn

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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.

Weinsteins in the Workplace: Will Unions Be Part of the Solution Or the Problem?

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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.

The Complete Guide to China’s Leadership Re-shuffle

What to look out for, what to expect, and what it will mean for China’s future

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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.

Game Tape Analysis: Why Catalonia Represents All of Us

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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.

Open Letter to the People of the United States – from Puerto Rico, a Month after Hurricane María

ImageDear Friends:

By now you have surely heard about the catastrophic impact of Hurricane María in Puerto Rico, as well as the slow and still inadequate response by U.S. federal agencies, such as FEMA.

A month after María, dozens of communities are still inaccessible by car or truck. Close to 90 percent of all homes lack electricity. Half lack running water. Many of Puerto Rico’s 3.2 million residents have difficulties obtaining drinking water. The death toll continues to rise due to lack of medical attention or materials (oxygen, dialysis) or from poisoning caused by unsafe water.

The Misrule of Global Capitalism: Book Review

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Dale L. Johnson. Social Inequality, Economic Decline, and Plutocracy: An American Crisis. Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. 240 pp. Index, Appendix. $159

Social Inequality is not for the faint-hearted. It covers the major political-economic issues of our time, from the structural changes in the economics of capitalism, to class structure, the imperialist state, and the distortions of capitalist culture. The author, a veteran scholar-activist of the New Left generation who now lives in Costa Rica[1], ends with a plea for resistance to our oligarchic “hegemon” and suggests a series of tactics to help us on the road.

Some Lessons of the Hurricane

Image(Normally my writing, especially when facing new situations,is the result of discussions with my comrades. But these days we are practically incommunicado. That’s why even more than in other cases, this article is entirely my responsibility. And, at the same time, I write with incomplete informatioin, the result of the same lack of communication, and therefore everything that I write is, even more than usual, subject to future correction. – RB)

Crises raise new, sharp problems that unveil and accentuate both the admirable and the negative aspects of the societies they affect. They also pose new tasks and offer new perspectives on already established plans. The case of Puerto Rico and the effect and response to the strike by Hurricane María is no exception.

Zapatistas Put Forward Indigenous Woman for President

ImageThe Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), which led an armed uprising in Mexico’s southern-most state of Chiapas in 1994, and which has since then spent its time organizing autonomous communities in that state, is now putting forward an indigenous woman candidate for president in the 2018 elections. The Zapatistas hold the Mexican government and the country’s political parties in utter disdain, both for their corruption and for their disregard for the people they supposedly represent. The Zapatistas also reject elections and voting on principle. So, while they are putting forward health worker María de Jesús Partricio for president, they are not actually trying to elect her. 

Puerto Rico: Belonging To, But Not Part Of

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“We’re American citizens. How can Trump turn his back on us?” This is one of the pleas I’m hearing over and over again about the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Maria. While it is a distasteful display of colonialist racism that the Trump administration takes its time to decide how much help Puerto Rico deserves, after pulling out the stops for Miami and Houston, ostensibly because there’s not “a really big ocean” separating them from Washington, it’s kind of par for the course. Our citizenship has always been second-class.

No Trump, No War, No Way!

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From the Steering Committee of Solidarity

If it weren’t frightening, it would be funny: “Big Twit Calls Out Rocket Man,” as Donald Trump ramps up his insults and threats of war against North Korea. Let’s look at some of the issues behind the antics and escalating rhetoric.

It’s really impossible to assess the chances of an actual war on the Korean peninsula, but while it may be a low-probability event its consequences would be utterly catastrophic. All the establishment media, of course, breathlessly consider whether the North Korean regime and its “beloved leader” Kim Jong-un are a direct threat to the United States — as if U.S. imperialism didn’t threaten North Korea and a whole bunch of other countries. It’s simply taken as given that rich and powerful states have an inherent right to self-defense and security, and others don’t.

Social Democracy Is Good. But Not Good Enough.

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We need a socialism that goes beyond capitalism. And not just for moral reasons.

John Judis has all the right intentions. He’s looking at the resurgence of openly democratic socialist currents in the United States with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Excitement, because he knows how desperately the country’s workers need social reforms. Trepidation, because he worries that the new left might fall into the familiar traps of insularity and sectarianism.

Book Review

A Tale Of Many Cities: Potholes in the Road To Municipal Reform

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Juan Gonzalez. Reclaiming Gotham: Bill de Blasio and The Movement to End America’s Tale of Two Cities.  New York: New Press, 2017.

There is no better role model for aspiring radical scribes than Juan Gonzalez. The country’s leading Latino journalist is cohost of Democracy Now!, a former columnist for the New York Daily News, and twice winner of the Polk Award for his investigative reporting. Not many veterans of campus and community struggles in the Sixties and workplace organizing in the 1970s later moved into mainstream journalism with such distinction, Gonzalez has managed to combine daily newspapering with continued dedication to the cause of labor and minority communities.

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