Socialism Art Nature

SINCE THE latter months of 2013, liberals have been feeling better about themselves and the prospects for progressive change at the ballot box.

Look at the evidence, they say: Objections from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other liberals kiboshed President Obama’s plan to appoint Wall Street’s man, ex-Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, as chair of the Federal Reserve. Bill de Blasio, running a populist campaign against growing inequality and racist police abuse, won a landslide victory to become mayor of New York City. Even Obama is shifting, we’re told—he’s at least made talking about income inequality a centerpiece of his administration’s message.

The Daily Beast's Peter Beinart provided perhaps the most articulate statement for the case that DeBlasio’s election and Summers’ defeat represent “an omen of what may become the defining story of America’s next political era: the challenge, to both parties, from the left.” To Beinart, these recent political developments are harbingers of “the rise of the new new left,” as the Millennial Generation of young adults—the most multiracial and politically liberal age cohort in the U.S. population—comes to dominate the electorate.

But just as liberals were starting to feel good about their chances again, along comes Adolph Reed Jr. His lengthy cover story for the March issue of Harper’s magazine, "Nothing Left: The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals," arrived as the proverbial downpour to rain on the liberal parade.

Reed’s message to liberals—especially those who invest their hopes in the Democratic Party—is stark.

Since the 1980s, he writes, liberals, activists and social movement organizations (the combination of which Reed labels “the left”) have been on the defensive. Instead of determining how to advance a broadly popular and egalitarian vision, this left has narrowed its “social vision” and its time horizon, keying actions to the next election cycle.

"Each election now becomes a moment of life-or-death urgency that precludes dissent or even reflection," Reed writes. "For liberals, there is only one option in an election year, and that is to elect, at whatever cost, whichever Democrat is running." According to Reed, this has increasingly locked the left into a downward spiral, hitching its wagon to a more and more conservative Democratic Party.

To counter the tendency of some liberals today to see the 1990s Clinton administration “as a halcyon time of progressive success,” Reed reminds us with a quick recap of his policies that the Clinton record “demonstrates, if anything, the extent of Reaganism’s victory in defining the terms of political debate and the limits of political practice.”

When he turns to the Obama administration, Reed is even more scathing. He portrays Obama as something of an empty suit, who managed to gull liberals and leftists into supporting him while faithfully carrying forward the neoliberal agenda. While Reed chides Obama for his “reflexive disposition to cater first to his right,” he also points out that “Obama could not have sold his signature ‘bipartisan’ transcendence” to leftists “if Clinton had not already moved the boundaries of liberalism far enough rightward.” As he concludes:

[I]f the left is tied to a Democratic strategy that, at least since the Clinton Administration, tries to win elections by absorbing much of the right’s social vision and agenda, before long, the notion of a political left will have no meaning. For all intents and purposes, that is what has occurred…Because only the right proceeds from a practical utopian vision, “left” has come to mean little more than “not right.”


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http://www.socialismconference.org/about-s14/https://www.facebook.com/events/760286517322678/
Save the date • June 26–29
Four days of radical politics, debate, and entertainment
Crowne Plaza Hotel O’Hare | Chicago
Independent journalist Glenn Greenwald speaking out on the crimes of the national security state.
Teacher, parent, and student activists on the fight for education justice.
Discussions on violence against women and Black feminism and intersectionality.
Environmental activists strategizing about the movement’s next steps.
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor on the political economy of racism.
Discussions and debates about Marxist theory today.
Socialists from Greece, Egypt, Canada, Britain, Australia, and elsewhere describing the challenges for the revolutionary left.
LGBT activists highlighting the struggle for transgender rights.
A roundtable discussion on the history and politics of disability.
Idle No More activists linking historic First Nation and Native American struggles with those today.
Electronic Intifada’a Ali Abunimah on the struggle for Palestine and the BDS movement.

These are a few of the many highlights from last year’s Socialism 2013. This annual summer conference brings out hundreds of socialists and radical activists from around the country to take part in important discussions about Marxism, working-class history, and the debates and strategies for organizing today—from the fight against the racist criminal justice system to the struggle of low-wage workers.
In 2014, we’re planning something different—we’re adding another day, which means more meetings and more opportunities to take part in discussions and hear important voices from the struggle.
So please save the dates and plan to join us next summer at Socialism 2014: Thursday June 26 (registration will begin at 11 a.m. for a full day of sessions) through Sunday June 29.
RSVP on Facebook

http://www.socialismconference.org/about-s14/
https://www.facebook.com/events/760286517322678/

Save the date • June 26–29

Four days of radical politics, debate, and entertainment

Crowne Plaza Hotel O’Hare | Chicago

  • Independent journalist Glenn Greenwald speaking out on the crimes of the national security state.
  • Teacher, parent, and student activists on the fight for education justice.
  • Discussions on violence against women and Black feminism and intersectionality.
  • Environmental activists strategizing about the movement’s next steps.
  • Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor on the political economy of racism.
  • Discussions and debates about Marxist theory today.
  • Socialists from Greece, Egypt, Canada, Britain, Australia, and elsewhere describing the challenges for the revolutionary left.
  • LGBT activists highlighting the struggle for transgender rights.
  • A roundtable discussion on the history and politics of disability.
  • Idle No More activists linking historic First Nation and Native American struggles with those today.
  • Electronic Intifada’a Ali Abunimah on the struggle for Palestine and the BDS movement.

These are a few of the many highlights from last year’s Socialism 2013. This annual summer conference brings out hundreds of socialists and radical activists from around the country to take part in important discussions about Marxism, working-class history, and the debates and strategies for organizing today—from the fight against the racist criminal justice system to the struggle of low-wage workers.

In 2014, we’re planning something different—we’re adding another day, which means more meetings and more opportunities to take part in discussions and hear important voices from the struggle.

So please save the dates and plan to join us next summer at Socialism 2014:
Thursday June 26 (registration will begin at 11 a.m. for a full day of sessions) through Sunday June 29.

RSVP on Facebook


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It’s Official: One Koch Brother Equals 515,000 Union Members 

Morning Read: “Using the same basic math, that works out to about $850,000 of influence per Koch brother and $1.65 per union member. At that level of donation, it would take about 515,000 union members to have the same influence as just one Koch brother or affiliate.”

It’s Official: One Koch Brother Equals 515,000 Union Members

Morning Read: “Using the same basic math, that works out to about $850,000 of influence per Koch brother and $1.65 per union member. At that level of donation, it would take about 515,000 union members to have the same influence as just one Koch brother or affiliate.”

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Very sober perspective on Venezuela. The real question is: whither the Bolivarian revolution? Right now the Chavista regime is caught between reform and revolution, capitalism and socialism. Will the right-wing and ruling classes be able to exploit the current economic problems and political uncertainty in order to turn back the progressive gains of Chavismo; or will the working classes respond by rising up and independently forcing the ‘revolutionary process’ to proceed well beyond that which the present government is either willing or able to engage in?

Either the large capitalists must be finally and decisively taken over and placed under the control of worker-consumer cooperatives — thus solving the problem of shortages and industrial stand-still, or the capitalists will continue to exercise their vast power in collaboration with Western interests until a situation of utter crisis prevails and they (or their right-wing political representatives) can step into the breach.

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Shortages, inflation and corruption are fueling frustrations with the government in Venezuela—and the hopes of the right.

Many on the left are convinced that the strategy they [the right-wing] are pursuing is the Media Luna option. The wealthy eastern states of Eastern Bolivia, the so-called Media Luna or Half Moon, attempted a strategy of secession a few years ago to undermine the government of Evo Morales.

They, too, mobilized around racism and pursued strategies of civil disorder, advised in that case by the U.S. ambassador at the time. The strategy failed, but at a cost. Had it succeeded, Bolivia would have been plunged into a civil war between a largely white Media Luna and an indigenous Highland Bolivia. A similar logic may be at work in Venezuela; all the leaders of the right-wing parties are white.

 … [Yet] the Chavista process is run from above by a bureaucracy that is building a state capitalist project in the name of revolution. The anti-imperialist rhetoric is reserved for Washington. The Chinese and the Russians, whose purposes in investing in Venezuela have nothing to do with socialism and a great deal to do with profit, are the new partners in the Venezuelan economy.

Chinese money is funding the house-building program, for example. Quite clearly neither of these allies is acting out of proletarian solidarity, and there is no reason why a private sector sharing government with the bureaucracy should have any difficulties with them. Business, after all, is business.

 … There is an overwhelming feeling in Venezuela, shared by many, of aimlessness, of decisions made on the spur of the moment. Thus, for example, the creation of new agencies to deal with the allocation of foreign currency has produced more confusion and a continuing outflow of dollars.

The reason for that becomes clear on a stroll around the city. The Venezuelan production system is at a standstill, and the gap has been filled by a rising tide of imports, paid for in dollars. The exchange rate reflects the fact that the Bolívar has nothing to sustain it—no production and shrinking reserves.

Venezuela is even importing oil in order to fulfill its international obligations. Yet it was oil revenues that were to fund and sustain the often very exciting social programs that did, undoubtedly, transform the lives of Venezuela’s poor in the early part of Chávez’s government. Those programs are now failing because oil finances are shrinking, or at least being diverted to sustain other areas of the national economy.

The result is the very real day-to-day difficulties. The fact that the opposition complains about shortages and price inflation that affect it less than the majority of the population does not detract from the realities.

 … the underlying frustrations and discontents that affect every sector of the society, and not just the middle class, are the consequences of shortages, inflation and centrally about corruption. There is a widely accepted figure that $2 billion has “disappeared” over the last year or so. And it is well known that speculation and black marketeering is common within both the private and the public sector.

 … Whatever the immediate future, these are the only forces that will carry the revolution forward. That is what people are proclaiming when they wear the fashionable caps bearing Chávez’s eyes, looking out into the future.

The alternative is one they already know, because the people leading the opposition have demonstrated where they want to take Venezuela—back to the poverty, the inequality, the corruption and the violence of the past. This was what they offered when they last attempted to seize power, and that is still the vision that drives them.

The issue is: What are the leaders of the Chavista process offering? There have been campaigns against corruption, speculation and violence in the past, which have produced very few results; the few government members who took their role seriously and took on the speculators were soon removed. It is a moment to address, without rhetoric, the real problems that the majority of Venezuelans are facing, their causes and radical solutions.


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noice.

===

As the commentary around the recent deaths of Nelson Mandela, Amiri Baraka and Pete Seeger made abundantly clear, most of what Americans think they know about capitalism and communism is arrant nonsense. This is not surprising, given our country’s history of Red Scares designed to impress that anti-capitalism is tantamount to treason. In 2014, though, we are too far removed from the Cold War-era threat of thermonuclear annihilation to continue without taking stock of the hype we’ve been made.

 … Capitalists are compelled to support oppressive regimes and wreck the planet, as a matter of business, even as they protest good personal intentions.

And that’s just the principle of the system. The US’s particular brand of capitalism required exterminating a continent’s worth of indigenous people and enslaving millions of kidnapped Africans. And all the capitalist industry was only possible because white women, considered the property of their fathers and husbands, were performing the invisible tasks of child-rearing and housework, without remuneration. Three cheers for free exchange.


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I've considered myself a socialist for years now, but I don't know of a lot of socialist of even leftist literature, have any suggestions

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Do not allow yourselves to be deluded by the abstract word ‘freedom’. Whose freedom? It is not the freedom of one individual in relation to another, but the freedom of capital to crush the worker.
Karl Marx on “free trade”, 1848

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I love your blog. How do you feel about social-democracy?

that’s a bit more complicated. i think it’s GOOD in so far as it is an attempt at reforming capitalism and overcoming the most oppressive features of a free-market economy. however, it can only go so far within the limits of capitalist property relations, and oftentimes even ends up becoming awfully corrupted in its attempt to coexist with said relations.

if you are up for listening to a brief audio clip on the subject, here are a couple presentations that my friend Jonah Birch has given recently. i generally agree with his analysis of the past, present, and future of social democracy.

http://wearemany.org/a/2013/06/is-there-future-for-social-democracy

http://wearemany.org/a/2013/04/social-democracy-and-horizons-of-left-politics

cheers!


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ISR #92 is on the way! Featuring: Paul D’Amato, “Marx, Lenin, and Luxemburg: Party, organization, and revolution” Megan Behrent, “The personal and the political: Literature and feminism” Benoít Renaud, “A new party in Canada” Samuel Farber, “Reflections on ‘prefigurative politics’” Charlie Post, “The debate on Marxism and history: What’s at stake?” Pranav Jani reviews Vivek Chibber’s “Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital” Ashley Smith reviews Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin’s “The Making of Global Capitalism” Ian Angus reviews Max Koch’s “Capitalism and Climate Change” and Daniel Tanuro’s “Green Capitalism” Sherry Wolf reviews Henry A. Giroux’s “Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education” Leia Petty reviews Daniel Bergner’s “What Do Women Want?” and  Bridget Broderick reviews Kim E. Nielsen’s “A Disability History of the United States”

ISR #92 is on the way!

Featuring:
Paul D’Amato, “Marx, Lenin, and Luxemburg: Party,
organization, and revolution”

Megan Behrent, “The personal and the political: Literature and feminism”

Benoít Renaud, “A new party in Canada”

Samuel Farber, “Reflections on ‘prefigurative politics’”

Charlie Post, “The debate on Marxism and history: What’s at stake?”

Pranav Jani reviews Vivek Chibber’s “Postcolonial Theory and
the Specter of Capital”

Ashley Smith reviews Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin’s “The Making of Global Capitalism”

Ian Angus reviews Max Koch’s “Capitalism and Climate Change” and Daniel Tanuro’s “Green Capitalism”

Sherry Wolf reviews Henry A. Giroux’s “Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education”

Leia Petty reviews Daniel Bergner’s “What Do Women Want?”

and

Bridget Broderick reviews Kim E. Nielsen’s “A Disability History of the United States”


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On “democracy” and “communism” in the U.S. and former U.S.S.R.

I refuse to refer to the former USSR or China as “communist” without the qualifying quotation marks, just as vehemently as I refuse to refer to the U.S. as “democratic” without the same. Otherwise, both of those precious words are rendered completely meaningless.

(See https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch01.htm)


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Why the “Cold War” between US and Russia did not end in 1989

Among other things, Ukraine proves that the “Cold War” isn’t over, in the sense that it was never about the struggle between “democracy” and “communism”, but rather about the imperialist competition between the two powers [U.S. and U.S.S.R.] which had emerged as the preeminent global forces within the new order established at the end of WWII.

In that sense, the struggle between Russia and the U.S. over control of strategic world positioning, resources, economic zones, and political alliances, is the function of the very same global capitalist system — i.e., a world economy based on national competition between various exploitative ruling classes — which has existed for the last 300 years, and, yes, includes the period between 1945 to 1989 and 1989 to the present.

Ever since before WWI, Eastern Europe and the Caucuses were the site of constant wrangling between the various capitalist powers of Europe and increasingly the U.S., with the independent will of the Eastern European peoples constantly trampled underfoot. This also served as the immediate precipitating factors of both of the World Wars.

The simple fact is that for all the changes that have taken place in the world since the turn of the 19th century, the overarching system remains the same. And so it will in perpetuity as long as we live on a planet riven by a few powerful nations, seeking to assert their dominance over less powerful nations, in a mutual war of all against all in pursuit of wealth and control.

The names of the prevailing major powers may change from century to century, as one empire supplants another (now Spain, now Britain, now the U.S., etc.); but until we have fought for and attained a world premised upon the genuine collective and democratic cooperation of all peoples everywhere — unburdened by the profit motive, repressive state apparatuses, national chauvinism, vast inequality, and market competition — we will never see the lasting emancipation of the human species, let alone an isolated ethnic or national portion of the species.


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[SPOILER]

omg, i love the fact that the villain in The Lego Movie is called “Lord Business”, an evil businessman who owns the the government and the monopoly corporation which produces everything in society from dairy products to voting machines, and controls a brutal police force to repress the population and maintain his rule. [in other words, an almost perfect allegory for our actual society].

even with an ending that veers more in the direction of reform, rather than revolution, it was cool to see the masses of ordinary LEGO citizens rise up together in rebellion against Lord Business’ tyranny, which forced him to undergo a change of heart in the end …


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Info on Tito & Yugoslavia?

Anyone have any recommendations for a good book or article on Tito & Yugoslavia? I’m particularly interested in the period leading up to, during, and through the end of WWII.


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