Nina Simone was influenced by two actvists who were themselves influenced by Marxism and who she knew personally, Lorraine Hansberry and Langston Hughes. She was a fighter, who used her music as a weapon in struggle.
Nina Simone was influenced by two actvists who were themselves influenced by Marxism and who she knew personally, Lorraine Hansberry and Langston Hughes. She was a fighter, who used her music as a weapon in struggle.
I just wish the term ‘pseudo-left’ would be used instead of ‘Left’. Those who support the autocrats and fascists against the people struggling for democracy can never be regarded as on the left, no matter how they might self-identify.
The Left’s advocacy for ‘multipolarity’ against a US-led unipolar order has, in effect, defended authoritarianism across the world. The Left must reflect on how its language enables such regimes.
Multipolarity is the compass orienting the Left’s understanding of international relations. All streams of the Left in India and globally have for long advocated for a multipolar world as opposed to a unipolar one dominated by the imperialist USA.
At the same time, multipolarity has become the keystone of the shared language of global fascisms and authoritarianisms. It is a rallying cry for despots, that serves to dress up their war on democracy as a war on imperialism. The deployment of multipolarity to disguise and legitimise despotism is immeasurably enabled by the ringing endorsement by the global Left of multipolarity as a welcome expression of anti-imperialist democratisation of international relations.
By framing its response to political confrontations within or between nation states as a zero-sum option between endorsing multipolarity or unipolarity, the Left perpetuates a fiction that even at its best, was always misleading and inaccurate. But this fiction is positively dangerous today, serving solely as a narrative and dramatic device to cast fascists and authoritarians in flattering roles.
The unfortunate consequences of the Left’s commitment to a value-free multipolarity are illustrated very starkly in the case of its response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The global and the Indian Left have legitimised and amplified (to varying degrees) Russian fascist discourse, by defending the invasion as a multipolar challenge to US-led unipolar imperialism.
On 30 September, while announcing the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian provinces, Russian President Vladimir Putin spelt out what multipolarity and democracy meant in his ideological framework. He defined multipolarity as freedom from the attempts by Western elites to establish their own ‘degraded’ values of democracy and human rights as universal values; values ‘alien’ to the vast majority of people in the West and elsewhere.
Putin’s rhetorical ploy was to declare that the concepts of a rules-based order, democracy, and justice are nothing more than ideological and imperialist impositions by the West, serving merely as pretexts to violate the sovereignty of other nations.
As Putin played to the justifiable outrage at the long list of crimes by Western countries – including colonialism, imperialism, invasions, occupations, genocides, and coups – it was easy to forget that his was not a speech demanding justice and reparations and an end to these crimes. In fact, by asserting the self-evident fact that the Western governments did not have “any moral right to weigh in, or even utter a word about democracy,” Putin skilfully cut people out of the equation.
People of the colonised nations are the ones who fought and continue to fight for freedom. People of the imperialist nations come on the streets to demand democracy and justice, and protest racism, wars, invasions, occupations committed by their own governments. But Putin was not supporting these people.
…[B]y asserting the self-evident fact that the Western governments did not have “any moral right to weigh in, or even utter a word about democracy”, Putin skilfully cuts people out of the equation.
Rather, Putin has signalled “like-minded” forces all over the world — far-right, white-supremacist, racist, anti-feminist, homophobic and transphobic political movements — to support the invasion, as part of a project advantageous to them all: of overturning the “unipolar hegemony” of universal values of democracy and human rights and “to gain true freedom, a historical perspective.”
Putin uses a “historical perspective” of his own choice to support a supremacist version of a Russian “country-civilisation” where laws dehumanise LGBT persons and where references to historical events are criminalised in the name of “strengthening (Russia’s) sovereignty.” He asserts Russia’s freedom to deny and defy the democratic norms and international laws defined “universally” by bodies like the United Nations. The project of “Eurasian integration,” which Putin projects as a multipolar challenge to the “imperialist” EU and western unipolarity, can be properly understood only as a part of his explicitly anti-democratic ideological and political project. (It is another matter that the aspect of competition between the US and Russia as Big Powers, is complicated here by the shared political project represented by Trump in the US and Putin in Russia.
The language of ‘multipolarity’ and ‘anti-imperialism’ also finds resonance in Chinese hyper-nationalist totalitarianism.
A joint statement by Putin and Xi in February, shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine, stated their shared rejection of universally accepted standards of democracy and human rights, in favour of culturally relativist definitions of these terms: “A nation can choose such forms and methods of implementing democracy that would best suit its […] traditions and unique cultural characteristics […] It is only up to the people of the country to decide whether their State is a democratic one.” These ideas were explicitly credited by the statement to “the efforts taken by the Russian side to establish a just multipolar system of international relations.”
For Xi, the “’universal values’ of freedom, democracy, and human rights were used to cause the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the drastic changes in Eastern Europe, the ‘colour revolution,’ and the ‘Arab Springs’, all caused by the intervention of the US and the West.” Any people’s movement that demands widely accepted human rights and democracy, is treated as an inherently illegitimate imperialist colour revolution.
The demand for a democracy meeting universal standards, raised by protesters in the China-wide movement against repression in the name of “Zero-Covid”, is significant in light of the culturally relativist standards favoured by the government of China. A White Paper in 2021, on “China’s Approach to Democracy, Freedom and Human Rights” defined human rights as “happiness” thanks to welfare and benefits, not as protections from unbridled government power. It conspicuously omits the right to question the government, dissent, or organise freely.
Defining “China-specific” democracy as “good governance” and human rights as “happiness” allows Xi to justify the suppression of the Uyghur Muslims. His claim is that concentration camps to “re-educate” these minorities and remould their practice of Islam so that it is “Chinese in orientation”, has provided “good governance” and greater “happiness”.
Even amongst the Hindu-supremacist leadership in India, there are strong echoes of the fascist and authoritarian discourse of a “multipolar world” – where civilisational powers will rise again to reassert their old imperialist glory, and the hegemony of liberal democracy will give way for right-wing nationalism.
Mohan Bhagwat, head of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, said admiringly that “in a multipolar world” that challenges the US, “China has now risen. It is not bothered about what the world thinks about it. It is pursuing its goal… (returning to the) expansionism of its past emperors.” Likewise, “In the multipolar world now, Russia is also playing its game. It is trying to progress by suppressing the West.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi too has repeatedly attacked human rights defenders as anti-Indian even as he declares India is the “mother of democracy.” This is made possible by viewing India’s democracy not through a “western” lens but as part of its “civilisational ethos.”A note circulated by the government links India’s democracy with “Hindu culture and civilisation,” “Hindu political theory”, “Hindu state”, and traditional (and often regressive) caste councils that enforce caste and gender hierarchies.
Such ideas also reflect attempts to incorporate Hindu-supremacists into a global network of far-right and authoritarian forces. The Russian fascist ideologue Aleksandr Dugin (much like Putin) states that “Multipolarity […] advocates a return to the civilizational foundations of each non-western civilization (and a rejection of) liberal democracy and human rights ideology.”
Modi has repeatedly attacked human rights defenders as anti-Indian while declaring that India is the “mother of democracy”, and India’s democracy must been viewed not through a “western” lens but as part of its “civilisational ethos.”
The influence goes both ways. Dugin favours the caste hierarchy as a social model (Dugin 2012). Directly incorporating the brahminical Manusmriti’s values with international fascism, Dugin sees “the present order of things”, represented by “human rights, anti-hierarchy, and political correctness” as “Kali Yuga”: a calamity which brings with it the blending of castes (a miscegenation which in turn is brought about by women’s freedom, also a calamitous aspect of Kali Yuga) and the dismantling of hierarchy. He has described Modi’s electoral success as representing a victory for “multipolarity”, a welcome assertion of “Indian values,” and a defeat for the hegemony of “liberal democracy and human rights ideology.”
Yet the Left continues to use “multipolarity” without betraying the slightest awareness of how fascists and authoritarians couch their own aims in the same language.
Putin’s language of “multipolarity” is meant to resonate with the global Left. Its comforting familiarity seems to prevent the Left – which always did an excellent job laying bare the lies underpinning the “saving democracy” claims of US imperialist warmongers – from applying the same critical lens to Putin’s anti-colonial and anti-imperialist rhetoric.
It is odd that the Left has made the language of polarity its own. The discourse of polarity belongs to the Realist school in international relations. Realism sees the global order in terms of the competition between the foreign policy objectives, assumed to reflect objective ‘national interests’, of a handful of ‘poles’ – Big Powers or aspiring Big Powers. Realism is fundamentally incompatible with the Marxist view which is premised on the understanding that ‘national interest’, far from being an objective and value-neutral fact, is defined subjectively by the “political (and therefore moral) character of the leadership strata that shapes and makes foreign policy decisions” (Vanaik 2006).
The CPI [ML] welcomes the rise of non-western Big Powers even if they are internally fascist or authoritarian, because it believes that these powers offer a multipolar challenge to US unipolarity.
For instance, Vijay Prashad, one of the most prominent enthusiasts and advocates on the global Left for multipolarity, approvingly observes that “Russia and China are seeking sovereignty, not global power.” He does not mention how these powers interpret sovereignty as freedom from accountability to universal standards of democracy, human rights, and equality.
A recent essay by Communist Party of India Marxist-Leninist (CPI [ML]) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya presents similar problems as it explains the party’s decision to balance solidarity with Ukraine with its preference for multipolarity and its national priority of resisting fascism in India. (Disclosure: I had been a CPI [ML] activist for three decades and a member of its Politbureau till I left the party earlier this year, due to differences that came to a head in the wake of the party’s lukewarm solidarity for Ukraine.)
Bhattacharya’s formulation is that “Regardless of the internal character of competing global powers, a multipolar world is certainly more advantageous to progressive forces and movements worldwide in their quest for reversal of neoliberal policies, social transformation and political advance.” To restate, the CPI [ML] welcomes the rise of non-western Big Powers even if they are internally fascist or authoritarian, because it believes that these powers offer a multipolar challenge to US unipolarity.
Such a Left formulation offers no resistance at all to the fascist/authoritarian projects which describe themselves as champions of anti-imperialist “multipolarity”. In fact it offers them a cloak of legitimacy.
Bhattacharya perceives whole-hearted support for Ukrainian resistance as difficult to reconcile with the “national priority” of “fighting fascism in India.” The understanding that the Left’s duties of international solidarity must defer to its perceived ‘national priority’, is a case of Marxist internationalism being muddied by Realist ‘national interest’, applied this time not only to nation states but to the national Left parties themselves.
But how is unstinting solidarity with Ukraine against a fascist invasion at odds with fighting fascism in India? Bhattacharya’s reasoning is forced, roundabout, and oblique. He takes a puzzling detour into the need for communist movements to beware of the dangers of “prioritizing the international at the expense of the national situation.” Bhattacharya inaccurately 1 attributes the Communist Party of India’s 1942 mistake of remaining aloof from the Quit India movement to its having prioritised its international commitment to the defeat of fascism in World War II, over its national commitment to overthrowing colonialism by Britain, which was then an ally in the war against fascism.
The only plausible purpose of this detour seems to be to make an analogy with the Indian Left’s current predicament vis a vis the invasion of Ukraine. Since the Narendra Modi regime’s primary foreign policy alliance is with the US-led West, it is suggested, the fight against Modi’s fascism would be weakened if Russia, a ‘multipolar’ rival of the US, was routed by the Ukrainian resistance.
Tyrannical regimes construe support for people resisting them, as support for foreign/imperialist “interference” in the “sovereignty” of those regimes.
This convoluted calculus obscures the simple fact: a defeat for Putin’s fascist invasion in Ukraine would embolden those fighting to defeat Modi’s fascism in India. Likewise, a victory for people resisting Xi’s majoritarian tyranny would inspire those resisting Modi’s majoritarian tyranny in India.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We weaken our own democratic struggles when we choose to view the struggles of others through a distorting campist lens. Ours is not a zero-sum choice between unipolarity versus multipolarity. In every situation, our choices are clear: we can either support the resistance and survival of the oppressed – or we can worry about the survival of the oppressor.
When the Left takes upon itself a ‘duty’ to support the survival of ‘multipolar’ regimes (in Russia, China, and for some on the Left, even Iran), it fails in its actual duty to support people fighting to survive genocide by these regimes. Any benefit the US might get from its material or military support to such struggles, is outweighed by far by the benefit of survival for people who would otherwise face genocide. We would do well to recall that US material and military support to the USSR in World War II played a part in the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Tyrannical regimes construe support for people resisting them, as support for foreign or imperialist ‘interference’ in the ‘sovereignty’ of those regimes. When we on the Left do the same, we serve as enablers and apologists for those tyrannies. Those in life-or-death struggles need us to respect their autonomy and sovereignty to decide what kind of moral/material/military support to demand/accept/reject. The moral compass of the global and Indian Left needs an urgent reset, so that it can correct its disastrous course that finds it on speaking the same language as tyrants.
Kavita Krishnan is a Marxist feminist activist and author.
This article was last updated on December 23, 2022
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Dugin, Aleksandr. The Fourth Political Theory. London: Arktos 2012.
Vanaik, Achin. “National Interest: A Flawed Notion”. Economic and Political Weekly 41 (49). 9 Dec 2006.
This essay by Park Macdougal is reprinted from ‘Unherd’
“The most vulgar, simplistic view of the Left — that dissolves all the supposed distinctions between centrists, liberals, leftists, socialists, communists into one homogenous Democratic blob — happens to be correct.” So writes Benedict Cryptofash, an anonymous Twitter user and self-described “anti-leftist” whose other theoretical contributions include “the Left and Right are fake and gay” and “only libtards care about policy”.
Despite appearences, Cryptofash — his pseudonym mocks the tendency of online leftists to accuse their critics of “cryptofascism” — is not your typical Right-wing internet troll. He’s a Marxist who regards “leftism” as the ideology of bourgeois supremacy, the twenty-first-century equivalent of the classical liberalism that Karl Marx spent his mature years attempting to demolish. “My critique focuses on the Left,” Cryptofash writes in one of his periodic straight tweets, “not because they are worse than the Right, but because they are better than the right at precluding proletarian class consciousness.”
Cryptofash is one of the more visible members of a political tendency known as the “post-Left”, the latest in the endless stream of new and strange ideologies thrown up by social media. Although professing commitment to traditionally Left-wing goals such as anti-capitalism, the post-leftists are defined mostly by their aggressive hostility to both the Democratic Party and the radical Left — including the Democratic Socialists of America and the academic-literary Left of magazines such as Jacobin, n+1 and Dissent.
Aside from Cryptofash, other leading lights include What’s Left? co-hosts Aimee Terese and Oliver Bateman, editor of The Bellows Edwin Aponte, the Irish writer Angela Nagle and a coterie of pseudonymous Twitter accounts, such as @ghostofchristo1. Red Scare co-hosts Anna Khachiyan and Dasha Nekrasova might be considered fellow travellers.
The core assertion of the post-Left is relatively simple: The real ruling class in America is the progressive oligarchy represented politically by the Democratic Party. The Democrats are the party of Silicon Valley, Wall Street, the Ivy League, the media, the upper layers of the national security state and federal bureaucracy, and of highly educated professionals in general. The Republicans, however loathsome, are largely a distraction — a tenuous alliance between a minority faction of the ruling class and petit bourgeois.
Effectively incapable of governing outside the bounds set by the Democrats and Democrat-aligned media, corporations, NGOs and government bureaucracies, the GOP’s real function is to serve as a sort of ideological bogeyman. By positioning itself as the last line of defence against phantasmic threats of “fascism” and “white nationalism” coming from the Right, the ruling class is able to legitimise its own power and conceal the domination on which that power rests.
Leftists, in this telling — whether Ivy League professors or Antifa militants on the streets of Portland — are thus little more than the unwitting dupes of the ruling class. However much they profess to hate the Democratic Party, they are, in practice, its running-dog lackeys. They support the party electorally, harass and cancel its designated enemies and enforce pro-Democrat ideology in the media, academia and the workplace. Crucially, they also help maintain the permanent state of moral emergency that serves as a pretext for the expansion of ruling class power, whether in the form of the increasingly direct control that tech monopolies wield over political discourse or the pursuit of Covid policies that transfer wealth upward and subject workers to a dystopian regime of medical surveillance.
At the core of this diagnosis is the idea that “identity politics”, “antiracism”, “intersectionality” and other pillars of the progressive culture war are mystifications whose function is to demoralise and divide the proletariat.
Similar criticisms have been made by Left-wing writers such as Adolph Reed and Walter Benn Michaels, but whereas these “class-first” leftists tend to regard “identitarianism” as a liberal deviation from authentic leftism, the post-leftists regard the idea that there still is a radical Left meaningfully distinct from the Democrats as meaningless. And because post-leftists see the Democrats, and by extension the Left, as their primary enemy, they have no problem engaging and even entering into provisional alliances with the populist Right, especially on cultural issues. Hence the right-wing memes.
Of course, the post-leftists operate at varying levels of coherence and theoretical sophistication, and most of them have produced far more in the way of podcasts and tweets than sustained considerations of political theory. (Cynically, one might say they are less of a “tendency” than a Twitter clique centered around Aimee Terese.) But it would be a mistake to dismiss it altogether on those grounds — the Dirtbag Left’s Chapo Trap House podcast, after all, has played an outsized role in the revival of millennial socialism, and it is always difficult to predict which of today’s shitposters will be setting the tone of the culture five years from now.
For one thing, the post-Left channels powerful currents of Marxist and post-Marxist critique that have been downplayed or forgotten during the “Great Awokening” and the recent socialist renaissance: from Amadeo Bordiga’s communist hostility to “anti-fascist” collaboration with the bourgeoisie to Christopher Lasch’s early writings about the medical-therapeutic state as a tool of class domination.
But perhaps the most obvious spiritual predecessor to the post-Left is the Italian-American philosopher Paul Piccone, the founder and long-time editor of the critical theory journal Telos and another Marxist who eventually left the Left only to find himself in a strange alliance with the Right.
Piccone began his career as a disciple of Herbert Marcuse and proponent of his theory of “one-dimensionality”, which held that capitalism had advanced to such a degree in the West as to effectively abolish all opposition to itself. With the proletariat co-opted by consumerism, radicals, in Marcuse’s view, should instead look for resistance from racial minorities and other outcasts who had yet to be integrated into the system.
But by the late 1970s, Piccone, reacting to the failures of the New Left, had broken with Marcuse. He began to argue that the new social movements that Marcuse had perceived as expressions of anti-system negativity had in fact been forms of what Piccone dubbed “artificial negativity” — pseudo-radical protest movements generated by the system itself.
Piccone agreed with Marcuse that by the mid-20th century, capitalism had triumphed over all internal resistance. But he believed that because the system required such resistance in order to periodically restructure itself and avoid stagnation, it had begun to manufacture its own controlled opposition. He interpreted the initial Civil Rights movement, for instance, as a product of the system’s need to “rationalise” the segregated labour market of the South, after which it seamlessly transitioned to promoting black nationalism in an “attempt to artificially reconstitute an otherness which had long since been effectively destroyed”. The allegedly radical protest movement against the Vietnam War had, similarly, merely allowed an evolving US capitalist class to abandon an imperial quagmire that had become obsolete.
Indeed, Piccone grew so pessimistic about the “artificial” nature of Western leftism that he spent much of the rest of his career seeking out extant pockets of, and resources for cultivating, “organic negativity” — his term for social practices and political formations that genuinely stood outside the logic of the system. Some of these he found on the far-Right, in the regionalism of the Italian Lega Nord, the anti-liberal political theory of Carl Schmitt, the paleoconservatism of Paul Gottfried and Samuel Francis, and the right-wing “identitarianism” of Alain de Benoist. Such explorations, or flirtations, were justifiable because, in Piccone’s view, nearly all of what passed for radicalism in the mature societies of the West was pseudo-radicalism that ultimately served capitalist interests.
Although Piccone could be more than a bit conspiratorial, it is not hard to see how his “artificial negativity” thesis could be applied to a great deal of the officially sanctioned cultural radicalism of today, which may help to explain why ideas similar to his are beginning to resurface. One can also point to the experience of leftists during the Trump years who found themselves corralled into an anti-Trump popular front that had them allying with not only centrist Democrats but also Never-Trump Republicans, including many of the architects of the Iraq War.
Bordiga had famously argued against this sort of broad-based “anti-fascism”, which he warned would “breathe life into that great poisonous monster, a great bloc comprising every form of capitalist exploitation, along with all of its beneficiaries”, and this is indeed what happened — socialists such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, initially popular for their opposition to the “corporate” establishment of the Democrats, ultimately fell in line behind the party’s leadership and urged their followers to do the same.
The Trump years also revealed something about the nature of power in the United States that, once seen, is difficult to unsee. For all the warnings that Trump would turn out to be Hitler, he in practice turned out to be more like Berlusconi — a vulgar entertainer with a sordid personal life who in most respects ended up governing like a normal politician.
What happened on the other side of the aisle was more subtle but also, in the long run, more sinister. We saw the national media collaborating with shadowy intelligence agents and researchers to launder a conspiracy theory about Russian collusion and, later, employ the same playbook to block Trump’s planned withdrawal from Afghanistan. We saw constant media-generated and wealthy NGO-funded campaigns against racism and sexism welded to the electoral priorities of the Democrats. We saw “Critical Race Theory”, a crude ideological rationalisation of the Democrats’ coalitional logic, elevated to the level of quasi-official religion. We saw Twitter suspending The New York Post for publishing embarrassing information about Joe Biden’s son in the run-up to the election and payments processors such as PayPal partnering with progressive NGOs to monitor their customers and report “extremists” to law enforcement.
In short, we saw the consolidation of a near-unified ruling class bloc explicitly aligned with the Democratic Party against the potential disruption of Trump. This development has already created a host of strange new political alliances. If it holds, we should not be surprised if more than a few anti-capitalist radicals begin to reassess who their real enemies are.
This Thursday. Solidarity Hall, Victoria Trades Hall
54 Victoria St, Carlton VIC 3053.
Link for RSVP form above not clickable. Turn up anyway
Update: Just got RSVP link:
Here is report on Sydney launch at author Nadia Wheatley’s web site:
PS Sorry I haven’t been posting here.
100 days of Putin’s fault.
Been busy at this Ukraine thread in a discussion forum:
My posts can be found by clicking the Blue button for second most frequent poster ArthurD.
Only just got this flyer and thought I would not be able to post it. Sorry.
The late John Herouvim wrote a Master of Arts thesis at La Trobe University in 1983, drawing on wide and meticulous research and interviews with Communist Party of Australia (ML) members and former members. The former members included veterans of the working class struggle such as Clarrie O’Shea, Bill Wilson and Marj Broadbent. Most of the interviewees were still members and requested anonymity but they wanted to speak because of their growing disillusionment with that party.
I only recently came upon a copy of the completed thesis. It hasn’t previously been scanned, to the best of my knowledge.
I am yet to read it properly but recall having a few differences with John, such as his use of the term ‘ultra left’ too loosely. At the time he was researching it, there were a few social-fascist types who tried to stop his progress. John purchased a large steel safe, like a fridge, in which he kept his notes and drafts. He told me once that the safe would even survive a bomb blast. Thank heavens, it was never put to that test.
Ted Hill, the party chairman, wasn’t happy about John’s research and declined to cooperate with him but I remember John telling me that Hill offered him unrestricted access to the archives of a small trade union should he drop the project and focus on a history of that union instead. Presumably, the party had strong influence in that union, whose name I forget.
The thesis is now an historical document about a party and period that, in my view today, represented the decline of the left. I didn’t articulate my frustrations in that way at the time but quit organisationally in late 1980 or early 1981 and had no problems with being interviewed by John for his thesis. I was in the esteemed company of Clarrie O’Shea, after all.
Nearly four decades on, I have scanned the thesis and share it here (in four parts).
William Hinton (1919-2004) was an American Marxist who lived and worked in China before and after the revolution of 1949. In 1966, he wrote up his experiences and observations of daily life, class struggle, strategic planning and social transformation in Long Bow village. The book, ‘Fanshen‘, remains a classic. (‘Fanshen’ broadly means overturning something).
As a Marxist and ‘Maoist’, Hinton naturally rejected the ascendancy of the capitalist-roaders, such as Deng Xiaoping, and pulled no punches in his 1983 book, ‘Shenfan’ (meaning the opposite of Fanshen).
The account of what happened at Tiananmen Square in Hinton’s book is here.
I’m posting this because, incredibly, there are still people around who claim to be leftists but regard the rebellion as a foreign plot, its suppression as justified, and the massacre as fake news.
My only disagreement with this article is the author’s use of the word ‘leftists’ to describe those in alliance with the Iranian clericalist regime. She should use the term ‘pseudo-leftists’, as that is accurate…. B York
Iran: A New Wave of Mass Protests and Strikes
(written by Frieda Afary, reprinted from her blog ‘Iranian progressives in translation’)
Iran is experiencing another wave of mass protests and strikes as economic, social, political, environmental and health problems make it impossible for the large majority of the population to have the bare minimums needed to live.
Petrochemical Strikes, Protests Against Water Shortage
A new wave of mass protests over severe water shortage in the mainly ethnic Arab province of Khuseztan began on July 15. Protesters’ slogans have included: “Down with Dictatorship.”, “Down With Khamenei”, “We Don’t Want An Islamic Republic”, “The People Want the Regime to Fall.” Government security forces have shot and killed at least 8 protesters and injured and arrested many others. However, solidarity protests have started in Azarbaijan, Kurdistan, Isfahan, Sistan & Baluchistan and Tehran. Iranian filmmakers, teachers and writers’ groups have co-signed a joint statement in support of the protests. (https://iranwire.com/en/features/9985)
In the words of a statement of solidarity by the Tehran Bus Workers’ Syndicate: “The lack of water in Khuzestan today is rooted in the unprofessional, rapacious and profit-centered policies of the prior decades of capitalism in oil extraction and use of water for the steel industry, the income from which does not go to the people. These insatiable policies have deprived the people of Khuzestan of safe drinking water. Water is shut off for long hours and it is lacking for basic needs. Farmers and cattle growers have also been damaged and lost their livelihoods.” (https://www.akhbar-rooz.com/%d8%b3%d9%86%d8%af%db%8c%da%a9%d8%a7%db%8c-%d8%b4%d8%b1%da%a9%d8%aa-%d9%88%d8%a7%d8%ad%d8%af-%d8%b3%d8%b1%da%a9%d9%88%d8%a8-%d9%88-%da%a9%d8%b4%d8%aa%d8%a7%d8%b1-%d9%85%d8%b1%d8%af%d9%85-%d8%ac%d8%a7/)
The latest protests have followed a series of nationwide strikes of temporary contract workers in Iran’s oil and gas industry which is also heavily based in Khuzestan. The strikes which began on June 19 and have spread to a hundred production sites, are demanding permanent employment status, a $500 monthly wage, safe working conditions and the right to organize and be free of police surveillance. Haft Tapeh sugar cane workers on strike in Khuzestan are also asking for COVID vaccination and expressing solidarity with protests against the lack of water.
Economic Crisis and COVID Pandemic
Iran continues to suffer from a massive economic crisis brought about by the costs of its regional imperialist interventions in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, its nuclear and missile programs and the effects of U.S. economic sanctions. The official minimum wage is approximately $120 per month in a country where the cost of bare necessities for a family of 4 is $500 per month. Electricity is shut off for several hours on a daily basis. Access to the internet is becoming more limited or impossible for many because of the cost and government repression.
In this situation the COVID pandemic has been wreaking havoc on the population. The Delta variant of COVID continues to spread widely. Over 95% of the population is not vaccinated and has no access to any vaccines, much less safe ones. (https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/countries-and-territories/iran/) The official number of deaths is approximately 88,000, but the real numbers are much higher. (https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2020/health/coronavirus-maps-and-cases/ ) A large part of the population of 83 million has been infected. However, no accurate figures exist because of government repression.
COVID is spreading rapidly in Iran’s prisons, which have an official population of 190,000. Women prisoners are also suffering from and dying from COVID. They include journalists, teachers, feminist and labor activists, students, environmentalists, Kurdish and Arab civil right activists, as well as Baha’i and Sufi women.
Women Prisoners and Afghan Refugees
Nasrin Sotoudeh, imprisoned feminist human rights attorney and defender of the “Girls of Revolution Avenue” is suffering from a variety of health problems in addition to COVID. Narges Mohammadi, feminist activist against the death penalty who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, was released last year after a long prison sentence, only to receive another prison sentence which also includes 80 lashes for continuing to oppose the death penalty and “endangering national security.” She has been fighting this sentence, and has attended protests in solidarity with the people of Khuzestan, striking workers and the families of political prisoners. In a recent interview, she called Iranian women’s struggles “the Achilles heel of the Iranian regime”. (https://www.facebook.com/voicesofwomenforchange/videos/241864884051720) Sepideh Gholyan, feminist labor activist , imprisoned in Khuzestan, continues to write about the plight of ethnic Arab women prisoners. She has been savagely beaten in prison and is now on hunger strike.
Afghan migrants and refugees who number approximately 3 million in Iran continue to be expelled ( 450,000 expelled since 2020). The Iranian regime has been holding negotiations between Taliban and the Afghan government under the direction of Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif (https://www.radiozamaneh.com/676068/) and is helping the Taliban strengthen their power even though the Taliban have been killing members of the Shi’a Hazara population in Afghanistan. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/afghanistan-hazara-taliban/2021/06/30/fae16a60-d815-11eb-8c87-ad6f27918c78_story.html)
Iran’s Continuing Regional Ambitions and U.S. Imperialism’s “Solutions”
In the midst of all these crises and protests, the Iranian government maintains its regional imperialist interventions in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. It promotes its plots to kidnap and assassinate opposition activists in exile. (https://iranhumanrights.org/2021/07/foiled-kidnapping-of-dissident-part-of-irans-ramped-up-campaign-to-crush-dissent/) It continues to develop its nuclear and missile programs and has stopped its negotiation with the U.S. Biden administration on returning to the JCPOA nuclear agreement.
The “election” of Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s next president had the lowest rate of mass participation even by Iran’s standards which were very low to begin with. Raisi was previously the head of Iran’s judiciary and immediately prior to that, the head of GHORB, the construction conglomerate of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). He is infamously known as a member of the “Death Commission” which ordered the executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. Under his watch, approximately 1500 people were killed by government forces during the November 2019 uprising. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-protests-specialreport/special-report-irans-leader-ordered-crackdown-on-unrest-do-whatever-it-takes-to-end-it-idUSKBN1YR0QR) Amnesty International has condemned him for committing crimes against humanity (https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/06/iran-ebrahim-raisi-must-be-investigated-for-crimes-against-humanity/)
U.S. New York Times columnist, Thomas Freedman reveals imperialist inhumanity in his recent column on Iran where he offers a “solution” that is “the best anyone can hope for with Iran.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/15/opinion/iran-biden-nuclear-deal.html?searchResultPosition=1) He argues that the U.S. with the help of Gulf states should give more financial aid to the Assad regime to kick Iran out of Syria, maintain Russia and Turkey as dominant powers and assure the continuation of the Assad regime. This he says would reduce Iran’s danger and satisfy the U.S. and Israel. To him, the people of the region, the Syrian Arabs and Kurds and the Iranian population, are mere pawns on the U.S. and global Imperialist chessboard.
Needed Progressive Solidarity with Struggles inside Iran
No less cynical are those leftists and so-called socialists around the world who support the Iranian regime as “anti-imperialist” or refuse to criticize it.
Those who limit their solidarity to calling for the removal of U.S. sanctions, refuse to recognize the complexity of the problems in Iran. They do not address the fact that these problems are rooted both in the external imperialism of the U.S., Russia. China and internal capitalist militarism and religious fundamentalism.
Any effort to engage in solidarity with the struggles inside Iran begins not only with calling for the removal of U.S. sanctions and an end to Israel’s attacks, but also simultaneously holding the Iranian regime accountable for its repression and exploitation of the people and environment of the region. That recognition demands calling for the immediate release of political prisoners, expressing solidarity with striking workers, feminist and environmental struggles, oppressed ethnic, sexual and religious minorities, and demanding Iran’s withdrawal from Syria, Iraq and an end to its interventions in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Yemen.
July 25, 2021
A review of “Radicals” by Meredith Burgmann and Nadia Wheatley has been overdue since March but will remain overdue since notice of a panel discussion on “What is Capitalism” will be obsolete tomorrow, this Saturday. The direct connecting link is simply that there is chapter on “Albert Langer (Arthur Dent): Hardened Apparatchik” in the book and Arthur Dent is also on the panel at discussion this Saturday, tomorrow.
I have been too preoccupied catching up on mRNA vaccine manufacturing to write on anything else and have run out of time to mention both separately.
For now I will focus on tomorrow’s discussion, but first just quickly provide links for the book in case anyone turning up here from the discussion might be interested. It is well worth reading for anyone wanting background on the Sixties in Australia (not just because it has a very friendly treatment of me in the chapter by a fellow rebel, Nadia Wheatley).
As well as the chapter and short bio notes at pp 362-3 there are background links on pp 380-381 including:
“It is Right to Rebel” written by Monash student radicals to pass on lessons. The epub version is better than the pdf:
Other works by Nadia can be found at:
You can order the book here:
There will also be a Melbourne book launch on Thursday 24 June at Trades Hall 6pm to 8pm.
Q&A panel will have the Melbourne people described by chapters – Gary Foley, Margaret RoadKnight, Margaret Reynolds, Peter Bachelor and me. Links will eventually be at Nadia’s web pages above.
The cover highlights the flags of the National Liberation front of south Vietnam:
There is of course also a deeper connection between a panel discussion about Capitalism in the 2020s and a book about Radicals in the sixties – more than half a century ago.
That connection is the fact that Radicals were central to the existence of a broader Left in the sixties and the absence of Radicals is central to the absurdity of what gets passed off as the Left today. I’ll be speaking tomorrow putting forward some ideas on why Radicals fought the pseudoleft back then and why that must, and therefore will happen again.
So, first the panel discussion, this Saturday, tomorrow, 22 May, 3pm to 5pm at the rear lounge of the The Clyde Hotel
385 Cardigan St, Carlton, 3053. Postponed from original 1pm due to clash with Palestinian rally at 1pm, State Library:
It is organized by a new Melbourne reading group affiliated to the international Platypus:
Their slogan is “The Left is Dead! Long Live the Left!” so we have something in common.
Unfortunately the title of their article explaining that excellent slogan is preceded by:
“Vicissitudes of historical consciousness and possibilities for emancipatory social politics today” and has lots of similar language from the “Frankfurt school”.
The people who obscured clear and simple slogans with that sort of language were not theoreticians but mere onlookers when there actually was a Radical Left in the sixties. Combining such opposite approaches in a single title perhaps suits affiliates of an egg laying mammal. So we have some differences too. I never got interested enough in the Frankfurt school to actually study their stuff, except for their first publication by Henryk Grossman, who had a theory of capitalist breakdown or collapse and was actually closer to Communism than to the Frankfurt school (while still obviously wrong about “breakdown”).
There is one central point of unity between revolutionary democrats and academic democrats. The pseudoleft that the mainstream tries to pretend is its old enemy on the left is in fact virulently anti-democratic and hostile to debate as well as being virulently anti-communist. That has always been characeristic of the far right. The broad Left has always been a milieu that lives and grows through debating opposing ideas. The pseudoleft is in fact far right.
Below is the panel descriiption for “What is Capitalism, and why should we be against it”:
The present is characterized not only by a political crisis of the global neoliberal order but also by differing interpretations of the cause of this crisis: Capitalism. If we are to interpret capitalism, we must also know how to change it. We ask the panelists to consider the following questions:
What is capitalism?
Is capitalism contradictory? If so, what is this contradiction and how does it relate to Left politics?
How has capitalism changed over time, and what have these changes meant politically for the Left?
Does class struggle take place today? If so, how, and what role should it play for the Left?
Is capitalism in crisis? If so, how? And how should the Left respond?
If a new era of global capitalism is emerging, how do we envision the future of capitalism and what are the implications of this for the Left?
The 15′ presentations will be transcribed for publication so to help the transciber I will include notes with references on that, point by point. First the references because my Android Tablet is about to crash. I will try to update this evening.
In 1962 Mao Tsetung said:
“The next 50 to 100 years or so, beginning from now, will be a great era of radical change in the social system throughout
the world, an earth-shaking era without equal in any previous historica! period. Living in such an era, we must be pnepared to engage in great struggles which will have many features different in form from those of the past.”
That was said when the Soviet Union and its satellites had already gone revisionist and the split in the international communist movement was becoming open. Nearly 80 years later we still have another 20 years “or so” to go.
Although the left upsurge in the sixties did not last a decade, nor succeed in revolutionary overthrow of all existing social conditions, a major reason it subsided was that the it succeeded in compelling the ruling class to adapt to a faster rate of change in the social system than any previous historical period.
When Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto, England was the most advanced society, but still with less than half the population urban. Today more than half the global population is urban.
A characeristic feature of the pseudoleft is its continual moaning that things have got worse and worse. In fact this period has seen the most rapid rise in both the numbers, the cultural and political level and the standard of living of the global working class.
From a revolutionary communist perspective it is far too slow. But it was fast enough for the radical left to be eclipsed by a reactionary pseudoleft that openly wants to at least slow things down to live more “simply”. There was certainly a lot more room for the productive forces to continue developing within the capitalist mode of production than Marx and Engels had hoped.
In looking up that quote from the Ninth National Congress documents I actually found it in:
Peking Review #25, June 18, 1976. (Slightly abridged translation of an article in Red Flag #6, 1976)
Text 39: “Capitalist-Roaders Are the Bourgeoisie Inside the Party”, by Fang Kang PDF format [10 pages; 715 KB]
https://www.bannedthought.net/China/MaoEra/GPCR/Mao5/AndMaoMakes5-Lotta-1978-Text39.pdf [pp 358-367]
It is reprinted in a book with lots of other background on Maoism:
And Mao Makes 5: Mao Tsetung’s last great battle, edited with an Introduction by Raymond Lotta, (Chicago: Banner Press, September 1978), 539 pages. [Because of the very large file size of the entire book, each section and each included article is also being made available here separately.]
Entire volume in one big file: Searchable PDF format [21,605 KB]
That can be found among the long list at:
Material from the Red Eureka Movement is listed in a separate section along with other sections for other Australian groups at:
Click to access langer-maoism-after-mao.pdf
The 12 issues of the “Discussion Bulletin” there are far more relevant than “The Rebel”.
Number 11 with the first 6 parts of “Unemployment and Revolution” is available here at C21stLeft.com
Part 7 is also in DB12 and also at:
Basically we reached conclusions that the Sixties left had collapsed more than half a century ago and REM’s last publication was DB12 in September 1982.
More than a decade later, and nearly 3 decades ago “Red Politics” continued similar ideas:
I will be quoting from “Some Questions” by “Perplexed” in Number 1, September 1993.
Other classic works I will or may reference include:
“The Communist Manifesto”
“Socialism – Utopian and Scientific”
“The Capitalist Cycle” by Pavel Maksakovsky.
The latter, are available at Library Genesis as is pretty well anything you might want to read (see wikipedia and google for proxy links)
Hope to update this evening.
Ok, update below – leaving above unfixed.
“Below is the panel descriiption for “What is Capitalism, and why should we be against it”:”
The term anti-capitalism, along with anti-globalism and anti-imperialism was adopted by the pseudoleft to absorb the progressive leftist movement that fights to accelerate the transition from feudalism to capitalism and from capitalism to communism into a mush combined with reactionary opposition to capitalism from open Malthusians such as the Greens.
According to the Communist Manifesto:
The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising
the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of
production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed onesbecome antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products
chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.
The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries
whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every
quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the
productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal interdependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.
The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into
their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.
The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns.
It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban
population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a
considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilised ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.
The bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the
scattered state of the population, of the means of production, and of property. It has agglomerated population, centralised means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. Thenecessary consequence of this was political centralisation. Independent, or but loosely connected provinces with separate interests, laws, governments and systems of taxation, became lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code of laws, one national
class-interest, one frontier and one customs-tariff.
The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground—what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?
Clearly what is called “the left” these days is naturally and instinctively against all that. But Communists see it as a necessary and desirable move away from the past and towards the future. We are not part of the “anti-capitalist” mush.
“The present is characterized not only by a political crisis of the global neoliberal order but also by differing interpretations of the cause of this crisis: Capitalism.”
Neither the “global neoliberal order” nor it’s “political crisis” were concepts debated among sixties Radicals or our opponents. There were equally vague terms like “the system” and “the establishment”. But we were part of an explicitly globalist, internationalist movement that had a revolutionary communist and therefore also revolutionary democratic core.
The main opponents of Radicals within the broader “Left” were what we called “revisionists” and “social democrats”. They were more inclined to call themselves “Socialists”.
As Engels wrote in the preface to the English edition of 1888 of the Manifesto quoted above:
“… when it was written, we could not have called it a socialist manifesto. By Socialists, in 1847, were understood, on the one hand the … mere sects, …gradually dying out; on the other hand, the most multifarious social quacks who, by all manner of
tinkering, professed to redress, without any danger to capital and profit, all sorts of social grievances, in both cases men outside the working-class movement, and looking rather to the
“educated” classes for support… Thus, in 1847, socialism was a middle-class movement, communism a working-class movement.
Socialism was, on the Continent at least, “respectable”; communism was the very opposite. And as our notion, from the very beginning, was that “the emancipation of the workers must be the act of the working class itself,” there could be no doubt as to which of the two names we must take.
Moreover, we have, ever since, been far from repudiating it.”
There was no need to quibble with their adoption of the term “Socialist”.
As far as I can make out the term “neoliberal order” was adopted when social democracy abandoned any pretence of aiming to eventually reform their way out of capitalism and the remnants of the revisionist “communists” had to come up with an even more mealy mouthed phrase than “socialist” to describe their common opposition to the center right.
The center right, like the center left was both conservative and reformist. Both sides of mainstream politics had very similar policies for adapting capitalism and avoiding another upsurge from a Radical left. By mouthing off more “militantly” against the “neoliberal order” people who could no longer even claim to be “socialist” were able to unite around the Keynesian adaptation of capitalism while posturing. In fact of course, as US President Richard Nixon said: “We are all Keynesians now”.
I do think there is an ongoing collapse of mainstream politics that could be described as a slow moving crisis and will eventually become a sudden sharp crisis when it actually confronts a Radical opposition. But I won’t try to interpret that and will instead focus on the more important crisis on the Left that has enabled the mainstream to keep limping on without facing a Radical opposition.
“If we are to interpret capitalism, we must also know how to change it.”
On the contrary, if we are to change the world and move on from its capitalist past and present to a communist future we must also understand where we are, how we got here and how things actually work in the world we live in now.
I prefer Marx’s version:
“Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.
That was the final 11th point in a list of “Theses on Feuerbach”. Here for the benefit of those stuck with the Frankfurt School is the third:
“The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of changed circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men who change circumstances and that the educator must himself be educated. Hence this doctrine is bound to divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society. The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-change … can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.”
“We ask the panelists to consider the following questions:”
I prefer Lenin’s question “What is to be done?”. I prefer it precisely because I do not know the answer, whereas I can give glib replies to the questions posed to the panel.
“What is capitalism?”
Capitalism is generalized commodity production based on wage labour.
“Capital does not consist in the fact that accumulated labour serves living labour as a means for new production. It consists in the fact that living labour serves accumulated labour as the means of preserving and multiplying its exchange value.” (Marx “Wage Labour and Capital”, 1847)
For a deeper view it is necessary to study Marx’s 3 volumes of “Capital”, and fourth volume on “Theories of Surplus Value”. According to Lenin the theoreticians of the Second Internatinal could not understand the first chapters.
The first page of the preface to the first edition says:
“This work, … forms the continuation of my book [A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy]
published in 1859….”
I strongly recommend starting with that beginning before its continuation.
Also the whole “Grundrisse” as well as its “Introduction”.
Marx also said in that preface.
“With the exception of the section on the form of value, there
fore, this volume cannot stand accused on the score of difficulty. I assume, of course, a reader who is willing to learn something new and therefore to think for himself.”
As Hilferding remarked, that assumption was unsubstantiated.
Such readers are rare. Actual readers usually get lost at the first 3 chapters on the form of value. Partly because they ignore the preface and don’t read the “Contribution” before its “continuation”. But mainly because they don’t think for themselves – and therefore don’t think dialectically.
“Is capitalism contradictory? If so, what is this contradiction and how does it relate to Left politics?”
It is not necessary to acquire a deep understanding of “Capital” in order grasp the central contradictions of capitalism and how they relate to Left politics.
Engels short pamphlet “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific” was a popular exposition read and understood widely in both the second and third internationals. It should be the starting point for anybody interested in actual Marxism as opposed to the “Marxians” (from Mars).
Engels made it easily accessible. I will not attempt to compress it further and there is no point discussing that central question with anybody that is not willing to read what the workers did read when they joined mass based Marxist workers parties before such parties ceased to exist.
“How has capitalism changed over time, and what have these changes meant politically for the Left?”
Although written nearly one and a half centuries ago I think Engels pamphlet was remarkably prescient in Part 3 on Historical Materialism. Complete ignorance of that has gone together with political bankruptcy of the pseudoleft.
“Does class struggle take place today? If so, how, and what role should it play for the Left?”
The class struggle plays a role for the pseudoleft. It is a prop for militant posturing and recruitment.
When there is a Left again it will that Left will instead play a role in the class struggle – educating, agitating and organizing.
The class struggle is essentially a political struggle and the present situation makes theoretical struggle primary.
Three areas of theoretical struggle that I am interested in are:
“Is capitalism in crisis? If so, how? And how should the Left respond?”
The term “crisis” is widely misused. A Global Financial Crisis was aborted in 2007-9 by extraordinary measures that have not resolved the underlying disproportions but have also not been resolved by exploding into full scale crisis.
We have now reached an untenable situation with zero and even negative interest rates etc. It has gone on for some time but I still expect it to eventually result in a crisis much deeper than the 1930s Great Depression.
I don’t expect a Left capable of responding to develop until after the crisis has actually broken out.
Meanwhile I recommend preparing for theoretical struggle on crisis theory by serious study eg of Marx and Maksakovsky’s theory.
“If a new era of global capitalism is emerging, how do we envision the future of capitalism and what are the implications of this for the Left?”
Crises mark sudden phase shifts and leaps in development that make envisioning the results very speculative.
But I would expect the development of State Capital as the “National Capitalist” as described in Engels part 3 on “Historical Materialism” to be greatly accelerated. I would also expect it to be supported by the pseudoleft. I would also expect a revolutionary Left to again emerge at least in the aftermath.
Further update: Regardless of expectations we need to understand the basic mechanism of the 19th Century and early 20th Century business leading up to the Great Depression as a foundation for understanding what changed after that Great Depression and what is happening now. There should be some serious study of Maksakovsky in a reading group. Below is where I got to, before encountering Maksakovsky.
Unemployment and Revolution is about 4 decades old but was a serious attempt to get started on understanding the business cycle that should be followed up. Links below are still not included as DB11 in html at ERO, but should be. It deliberately avoids references to Marx to avoid distraction by polemics with inananities from Mars by “Marxians”.
Maksakovsky’s “The Capitalist Cycle” is nearly a century old but got much further on “overproduction” and the “cycle” than part 5 below. It clearly completes that part of the work done by Marx in volume 2, which Marx postponed to volume 3 but never completed.
Part 1. Emphasises that unemployment is specifically a problem connected with market economies. Then it gets slightly distracted to talk about science fiction and jellyfish.
Parts 2., and 3. Analyse the economic mechanisms that regulate “normal” unemployment, in order to explain the conservative arguments for “wage restraint” and why such arguments are wrong.
Part 4. Examines “technological” unemployment and shows that the increased unemployment now is not “technological”.
Part 5. Attempts an explanation of “overproduction” and “cyclical” unemployment (without great success).
Part 6.Considers various “solutions” from the labour movements, in the light of the earlier analysis, and rejects them all, but cheerfully, in view of part 7.
Part 7. Tries to give some concrete content to the idea that “the only solution is revolution”.
See also note on Thomas Sekine at:
I came across this poem, written by Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) in the 1930s, in an edited collection called ‘Student Power’ edited by Julian Nagel and published in 1969. The poem is attributed to Brecht’s ‘Svendborg poems’ collection. The poems were written by Brecht when he was in exile from Nazi Germany on the Danish island of Funen.
We need a revival of the spirit fueling the poem. Its truths remain valid – pretty much everywhere.
Originally published by byork at ‘Strange Times Last Superpower blog’ on December 9, 2009
Remember the Beatles’ reactionary song, ‘Revolution’? I liked them as a group, and still do, but, gee, it was disappointing to be a young revolutionist in the 1960s and hear them come out with lyrics against revolutionary change. Of course, the Beatles’ song was written from the perspective of the Establishment – lyrics about “minds that hate” and against “Chairman Mao” would not have made much sense to people who were struggling for survival and freedom in the Third World, not to mention in the ghettoes of the US.
Someone who, at that time, stood with the oppressed people was the great African American piano player, composer and singer, Nina Simone.
Poor Nina, she was not consistent later in life and her decline and end was a very sad one indeed. Her version of the Beatles’ song subverts it into an actual revolutionary song.
I’m sure she was addressing the Beatles with the lyrics:
“Some folks are gonna get the notion
I know they’ll say im preachin hate
But if i have to swim the ocean
Well i would just to communicate
Its not as simple as talkin jive
The daily struggle just to stay alive”.
And, hey, greenies, “It’s more than just air pollution”.
She recorded the song in 1969: “We’re in the middle of a revolution, coz I see the face of things to come”.
Enjoy! (And swim that ocean!)
Another great one by Nina Simone was her song about the desegregation struggle, and struggle for racial equality, in the US, called ‘Mississippi Goddam’. It was inspired by the murder of four girls in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church on 15 September 1963 by members of the Ku Klux Klan. The song was banned in some parts of the ‘Deep South’.
Lyrics below. Youtube clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAYVaHEMK0I
(1963) Nina Simone
The name of this tune is Mississippi Goddam
And I mean every word of it
Alabama’s gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam
Alabama’s gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam
Can’t you see it
Can’t you feel it
It’s all in the air
I can’t stand the pressure much longer
Somebody say a prayer
Alabama’s gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam
This is a show tune
But the show hasn’t been written for it, yet
Hound dogs on my trail
School children sitting in jail
Black cat cross my path
I think every day’s gonna be my last
Lord have mercy on this land of mine
We all gonna get it in due time
I don’t belong here
I don’t belong there
I’ve even stopped believing in prayer
Don’t tell me
I tell you
Me and my people just about due
I’ve been there so I know
They keep on saying “Go slow!”
But that’s just the trouble
“do it slow”
Washing the windows
“do it slow”
Picking the cotton
“do it slow”
You’re just plain rotten
“do it slow”
You’re too damn lazy
“do it slow”
The thinking’s crazy
“do it slow”
Where am I going
What am I doing
I don’t know
I don’t know
Just try to do your very best
Stand up be counted with all the rest
For everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam
I made you thought I was kiddin’ didn’t we
They try to say it’s a communist plot
All I want is equality
for my sister my brother my people and me
Yes you lied to me all these years
You told me to wash and clean my ears
And talk real fine just like a lady
And you’d stop calling me Sister Sadie
Oh but this whole country is full of lies
You’re all gonna die and die like flies
I don’t trust you any more
You keep on saying “Go slow!”
But that’s just the trouble
“do it slow”
“do it slow”
“do it slow”
“do it slow”
Do things gradually
“do it slow”
But bring more tragedy
“do it slow”
Why don’t you see it
Why don’t you feel it
I don’t know
I don’t know
You don’t have to live next to me
Just give me my equality
Everybody knows about Mississippi
Everybody knows about Alabama
Everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam
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