You are browsing the archive for Socialism.

A-C Meetup: Part 2 on the Need for Anti-Capitalist Democratic Internationalism by Galtisalie

2:46 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Things are certainly going to crapola for many poor Central American children these days. But at least they are not having their lives ruined by elected socialists. Barbarism is so much better. Somalian freedom anyone? Where, oh where, have I read about this before? Some murdered democratic revolutionary internationalist perhaps.

The Political-Economic Basis For Anti-Capitalist Democratic Internationalism

We must refuse to separate morality from economics, to ignore the historical and political dimensions of economic justice, and to narrowly define “justice” as the head-in-the-sand enforcement of U.S. laws. (According to a good Jesuit who mourned for those dying in Central America, including his owns priests, justice should be in the service of love.) For instance, when we receive reports about Latin American children in flight to the U.S., we must be mindful that the U.S. has spent generations undermining Latin America efforts to achieve economic justice.

Every once in a while, the U.S. gets a stark example of international blowback. But what if the projectiles involved in this scenario are small defenseless human beings? Does the U.S. learn from its mistakes and attack the underlying problems? No. Instead, in the case of international blowback, as with domestic blowback, we simply blame and harass the victims.

In a detailed report, the UN High Commissioner on Refugees has explained the need for international protection for unaccompanied children from Central America and Mexico. (http://www.unhcrwashington.org/sites/default/files/UAC_UNHCR_Children%20on%20the%20Run_Full%20Report.pdf.) But coming from the UN, it is ignored by the U.S. government.

The politically-expedient way of dealing with blowback, if you are a supposedly compassionate U.S. president, is to look at legal minutia with a view to stepping up deportation, rather than seeing the big picture and your actual legal authority.

It is easy to see why a president concerned about mid-term elections might cower. After all, Cuban Canadian USian Senator Ted Cruz has our backs. Unfortunately, the helpless young human beings who are on the run and are receiving an unjust response to the blowback their fleeing constitutes only understand their own desperation. So, for a U.S. president to act compassionately using his legal authority risks losing mid-term elections, and that is just that. But what does that say about U.S. voters, particularly those on the likely winning side in mid-term elections?

It is a cruel sanctimonious voter, and hardly one who holds up to timeless standards of decency, who would be swayed to vote against helping the innocent and helpless. Many of these voters follow a religion that claims, if they will excuse the lack of the King James Version, “el señor protégé a los forasteros; sostiene al huérfano y a la viuda.” (Salmo 146.) But perhaps God only speaks English. (But wasn’t that Psalm written in Hebrew?)

The U.S. in its international relations discourages economic justice because it smacks of socialism. Socialism, of course, sounds good to me. However, the U.S. will not even ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights signed by President Carter. This unkind refusal to recognize standards of material decency does not sound good to me at all.

But there is much more to the story. A Latin American government going to the left risks being toppled by its U.S.-funded military. The U.S., under pressure from Republican Cuban Americans concerned about making leftist dominos fall, assuming it was not, as claimed by a Zelaya minister, directly responsible for the reactionary coup, will happily move on to the illegal replacement “president,” who ironically will have been put into power because the leftist was wanting the people to have greater control over their democracy and constitution. The UN General Assembly unanimously condemned the 2009 military coup of Honduras’s elected president.

Shame on the elected president of a Central American country for moving left and seeking some measure of economic justice. That, the U.S., or more importantly, U.S. transnational corporations, simply cannot abide.

The coup’s legacy is the very violence that is forcing children to flee for their lives, with an able assist from the failed U.S. drug war, which turns Central America into a drug transit zone. And then we complain about the foreign orphans who have no choice but to flee.

Ultimately, what can end this immigrant-bashing and “border pressure”? Anti-capitalist democratic internationalism of the type I think Luxemburg and Marx, not to mention Eugene V. Debs and Reinhold Niebuhr, could endorse.

I suggest that there are two principal political-economic reasons why truly compassionate USians must support anti-capitalist democratic internationalism. One is a “prophylactic” reason and the other is a “stimulative” reason. Both are interrelated, and the distinctions I draw are not absolute but illustrative.

The first/prophylactic reason is that, as the desperation of Central American children reflects: the U.S. is not isolated unto itself, as the border zeitgeist would indicate, but is instead the senior partner of global capitalist imperialism, creating destruction and exploitation of people and the environment all around the world.

The second/stimulative reason is that the workers of the U.S. themselves need socialism and are unlikely to get what they need from domestic, plutocrat-controlled political “democracy” alone, which will require outside stimulus. And, circling back to the first reason, if the U.S. does not itself become socialistic, it is unlikely that the cancer of capitalism will cease expanding and re-expanding around the planet until no more profits are to be made and the planet has been thoroughly cooked. Hence, outside stimulation of the U.S. to become socialistic is necessary both for the good of the U.S. and for the good of the rest of the planet, if one cares about it.

On the first reason, I will briefly turn to Rosa Luxemburg. On the second, I will briefly turn to Marx. I am no scholar of either, and many of the people who read this will be scholars of both. I look forward to their corrections and additions to the extent I misconstrue anything. I am not trying to win an academic, much less a dogma, fight but merely to suggest that these two thinkers gave good guidance worth considering on the topics to which I am assigning them. The “reasons” I am giving are ultimately my own interpretations of reality and potential reality, as opposed to the referenced works of the authors, so please do not blame anyone else, including Luxemburg or Marx, for any interpretative failings I am making.

Capitalists Gobbling Up Conditions of Accumulation

I am using as my reference Rosa Luxemburg’s The Accumulation of Capital, 1913. There is a reason that the U.S. supports free trade outside its borders and outside of any international social compact, and this is that capitalism requires this for its own continuation. Thus, capitalism ever seeks to control society and to resist society controlling capitalism. “[A]part from the observation of price fluctuations there is no social control – no social link exists between the individual producers other than the exchange of commodities.” (Ch. 1)

In contrast to every other form of society, including “a primitive communist agrarian community” and “an economic system based on slave labour or corvée,” with a capitalist society:

in certain periods all the ingredients of reproduction may be available, both labour and means of production, and yet some vital needs of society for consumer goods may be left unfulfilled. We find that in spite of these resources reproduction may in part be completely suspended and in part curtailed. Here it is no despotic interference with the economic plan that is responsible for the difficulties in the process of production. Quite apart from all technical conditions, reproduction here depends on purely social considerations: only those goods are produced which can with certainty he expected to sell, and not merely to sell, but to sell at the customary profit. Thus profit becomes an end in itself, the decisive factor which determines not only production but also reproduction. Not only does it decide in each case what work is to be undertaken, how it is to be carried out, and how the products are to be distributed; what is more, profit decides, also, at the end of every working period, whether the labour process is to be resumed, and, if so, to what extent and in what direction it should be made to operate.
(Id.)

And profit generation requires both ever-increasing markets and ever-increasing places to accumulate capital. This is a problem even larger than the problem of booms and busts: “cyclical movement of boom, slump, and crisis, does not represent the whole problem of capitalist reproduction, although it is an essential element of it.” (Id.) Other than squeezing the workers of the world, capitalists can only stay in business by expanding:

Expansion becomes in truth a coercive law, an economic condition of existence for the individual capitalist. Under the rule of competition, cheapness of commodities is the most important weapon of the individual capitalist in his struggle for a place in the market. Now all methods of reducing the cost of commodity production permanently amount in the end to an expansion of production; excepting those only which aim at a specific increase of the rate of surplus value by measures such as wage cutting or lengthening the hours of work.
(Id.)

Section Three of Luxemburg’s master work details “The Historical Conditions of Accumulation.” In contrast to most of Sections One and Two, it is readily understandable to the layperson. I would recommend that all anti-capitalists read it. It will tick you off. Luxemburg describes capitalist exploitation of humanity in clear terms sure to raise your blood pressure.

Simply put, capitalism, if it stays as the global economic system, is hard-wired to maximize exploitation of the workers of the world and the other physical and chemical resources of the world until profits can no longer be made. Honduras and the rest of the world are merely places for capitalists to make money. All of these varying places will be sought out, to varying degrees and in varying ways, and as much as possible any vestiges of decency eliminated, until every bit of profit can be soaked out or capitalism or human life itself ends.

Political Democracy’s Limitations and Potential in the U.S.

The U.S. is far from a perfect place, and that of course includes its political system. In my spare time, I operate a one-person volunteer website with a simple post on Reinhold Niebuhr’s Constructive Criticism of Democracy that is, as far as my obscure website goes, frequently read. I think that on some level religious people want to receive permission from a theologian like Niebuhr to express their doubts about democracy.

By the same token, I would like to use Karl Marx to “give” leftists permission to hold out some hope for U.S. democracy, but only under certain circumstances where it receives outside stimulation to be much deeper. If the democracy of the U.S. does not assert extensive control over the U.S. economy, its democracy will continue to be stagnant and the workers of the U.S. and the world will continue to suffer under the capitalist hegemony which the democratic communist Luxemburg so well documented.

In a short 1872 speech, Marx famously held out hope that the U.S. could undergo a non-violent revolution:

You know that the institutions, mores, and traditions of various countries must be taken into consideration, and we do not deny that there are countries — such as America, England, and if I were more familiar with your institutions, I would perhaps also add Holland — where the workers can attain their goal by peaceful means. This being the case, we must also recognize the fact that in most countries on the Continent the lever of our revolution must be force; it is force to which we must some day appeal in order to erect the rule of labor.

But later in the speech he made a qualification which applies to the U.S. and every nation:

Citizens, let us think of the basic principle of the International: Solidarity. Only when we have established this life-giving principle on a sound basis among the numerous workers of all countries will we attain the great final goal which we have set ourselves. The revolution must be carried out with solidarity; this is the great lesson of the French Commune, which fell because none of the other centres — Berlin, Madrid, etc. — developed great revolutionary movements comparable to the mighty uprising of the Paris proletariat.

So far as I am concerned, I will continue my work and constantly strive to strengthen among all workers this solidarity that is so fruitful for the future. No, I do not withdraw from the International, and all the rest of my life will be, as have been all my efforts of the past, dedicated to the triumph of the social ideas which — you may be assured! — will lead to the world domination by the proletariat.

Yesterday, I did a diary in Hellraisers Journal on Henry O. Morris’s Waiting for the Signal. Written 25 years after Marx’s speech, the novel suggests that by the end of the 19th century many U.S. socialists had given up hope of a non-violent revolution in the U.S.

How can Marx’s and Morris’s competing views be reconciled? The critical ingredient for the U.S. achieving a non-violent socialist revolution seems to me for the workers of the U.S. to be in solidarity with the other workers of the world. As long as we each view ourselves as competitors as opposed to brothers and sisters, we will be highly susceptible to divide-and-conquer. Yet, workers in the U.S. are in bad shape, having lost much of the manufacturing sector to China and other low-wage nations in the worldwide capitalist race to the bottom. To me, a central focal point of all workers of the world needs to be recognition of a global social compact. With such recognition, non-violent pressure from abroad, and not just blood pressure, might yet build for the U.S. to become an economically just nation for its own workers and those of the world.

A-C Meetup: Part 1 on the Need for Anti-Capitalist Democratic Internationalism by Galtisalie

2:54 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

[Note: This is my version of light summer reading (but my nickname's not "Buzzkill" for nothing). Hey, I'm even breaking this diary into two parts. It's not healthy to read while you eat but if you do, have a nice sandwich (better make that two), chew slowly, and by the time you're to the pickle, maybe you'll be done. I want to present in bite-size easily digestible pizzas my vision of a peaceful deep democratic revolution. I'm not there yet. I enjoy all the rabbit trails that make up the whole too much and mixing metaphors like a ... concrete mixer. (Do similes count?--see, I do know the difference.) Below all bad writing is my own and unintentional.]

No pressure, but in late 2012 Kyle Thompson at The Other Spiral wrote:

I think the most important thing at this point in time is for the left to reclaim three areas: 1) Internationalism 2) The vision of the future and 3) Economic legitimacy. Without internationalism each struggle feels isolated and localism will never be anything more than localism. … Similarly the left needs to reclaim the future. If all we can imagine for the future is dystopia we will never be motivated enough to build socialism. This is basically the work of artists, conjuring up an image of what might be …. Finally the left must fight to achieve at least a niche of respectability in economic discourse.

I’ll up the ante and say that together we must constantly work to combine all three into a new praxis, one that learns from the past but also is willing to modify or even Jetson imagery that unnecessarily divides us. But, we’ve caught a break: in case you haven’t noticed, a lot of capitalist imagery has worn thin. Ecology and unemployment are biting capitalism on the buttock, just as our side predicted. When I was a kid, I was counting on one of those glass-topped space sedans to zip me around town one day. I’m beginning to doubt that’s going to happen. The caution yellow Pinto with shag carpetting on the dash that zipped me to my first job has long since finished rusting to nothingness, and only the bondo I liberally applied during those bong-heady times remains at the bottom of some landfill.

The future is with us, and that’s scaring the bondo out of the oligarchy, but our side’s still dazed and confused, and the oligarchy wants to keep its party going until the polar ice cap has gone and every last carbon chain has been broken to fuel the Pintos of the 21st century we will purchase to drive to the jobs we won’t have. I’m no artist and have no credentials for economic discourse. That leaves me with a possible niche of utility if not respectability researching internationalism. But since I’m writing from the Deep South of the U.S., home of a widely-held theory about the U.N. involving the mark of the Beast, I’d better toss in some revolutionary ever-modern art to get things started, and, in Part 2, follow-up with Luxemburg, who gives the political-economic basis for anti-capitalist democratic internationalism. If Rosa’s not respectable and respectful enough for the dismal scientists they can kiss my grits.

When El Lissitzsky created “Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge” he made a conscious decision to use the forms of the unrepresentational feelings-based suprematist school he had helped found to focus on their artistic opposite: the material world as he perceived it. This professional betrayal was motivated by a higher duty: universal morality. As a Russian Jew who’d lived most of his life under the Czar’s antisemitism, he wanted to use the best tools that he could muster to help beat the reactionary White Army. Nothing could have been more literal in the minds of the populace who viewed the poster and others like it in the Russian Civil War. Yet the use of geometric shapes and a limited palette brings a discordant transcendence so that even now when one looks at the poster it appears relevant– or so would have said two kids I showed it to if they used big words. Subconsciously, it is up to the individual viewer to decide where he or she fits among the objects, while pining for something missing from this divided two-dimensional incomplete but sadly accurate plane.

What tools do we have to muster and for whose cause should we be mustering them? Key questions of the 20th century and always.

I write this on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, when humanity did not need national banners to know that Hitler’s eliminationist ethnic nationalism was so inhumane it had to be defeated. (But humane posters are always useful.) Capital “F” Fascism has a way of reemerging on our one planet, and we rarely on this day consider why that is in our justifiable remembrance of the lives that were lost on those bloodied shores of Normandy. I am sure that millions of D-Day-themed posts and comments in blogs and on Facebook pages will be published before this one comes out on Sunday night, June 8, 2014. Rather than add to the digital pile, I am instead going t
o focus on the war to end all wars that came one generation before WWII, the choices that are involved in warring, and the political-economic reasons we keep doing the wrong thing as a single human species.

Interesting, “national” banners. They pop up, as with the U.S. Civil War, before ethnic armies that are not even nations. Two passed me night before last as I was walking my dogs in the Deep South: the rebel flag flying proudly on the right of the back of an old imported pick-up truck with its windows down driven by a “white” man with the Libertarian “Don’t Tread on Me” flag on the left. The skinny bearded great American working class Confederate man calmly smiled and nodded at me inclusively, assuming I was part of his team, like we were about to go over together and kick the dead Yankee bodies at Bull Run just for grins, or perhaps attend a lynching and pass the bottle (not spin the bottle mind you, 100% virile straight man fun stuff). I was wondering if he heard my loud “Booooo,” particularly when he began to slow down about thirty yards past me. (At least I thought it was loud, but not so loud as to upset the dogs–but pretty darn loud people.) I thought he, likely packing, was turning around to come back and tread on me or worse, but he turned right, fittingly. Maybe he had second thoughts about murder or maybe it was his muffler problem that allows me to write these words. How do we get him out of the white circle and in the natural polychromatic sphere of life, not pictured here? I think he’s hopeless, so mostly I ignore him, but, if and when he waves his hateful flags in my neighborhood or yours, I propose confrontation, red wedge wielded. And somewhere, those flags are always waving. And innocent kids are being raised to be in the white circle.

Forward, MARCH. But how and when? Human solidarity is our journey and our destination. The capitalist interests that prevent humanity from recognizing the economic, social, and cultural rights of all human beings should not be deciding our individual and collective fates. To be sure an international cooperative needs to be established with the means to stop genocide. But that international cooperative also needs to be democratically-controlled by the citizens of the world as such.

Any assemblage of nationalist banners is highly suspect. Sometimes all the banners that are flown are evil. Other times, for a brief period of time, some of the banners can actually recruit humane cooperation. Better for humanity to reorganize itself to take down all of the banners, put them in museums, and democratically flesh out the details of justice in the service of love without wasting innocent flesh. That worldwide revolution to true democracy of, by, and for humanity is our war. If we open our individual minds to our rights as human beings we can begin to begin again, and the revolution can be as peaceful as possible.

100 years ago this month, Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were murdered by Serbian nationalists, and I don’t feel so good myself. The world is still gripped by capitalism and its junior partners imperialism and nationalism. It is safe to say that the great democratic international communist Rosa Luxemburg did not feel that the cruel act necessitated world war and the expenditure of the blood of the workers killing each other over the alliances of their respective nation states. Not their fight.

A few years later, after the world had fought that awful imperialist war, the red wedge beat the White Army. After that came a lot of awful things in the Soviet Union Luxemburg sadly predicted. The workers of the Soviet Union, under totalitarianism, were forced to forget their rights. Stalin led a “real” “socialism in one country” debacle of his own inhumanity, and mass injustice and coerced stupidity occurred. He forgot that socialism is the fight for worldwide justice in the service of love in his quest for industrial state capitalist supremacy over market capitalist supremacy.

These days the workers of the world are even less likely to know our fights. Meanwhile, our legally-recognized rights, if any, are more and more circumscribed to non-economic matters. Coping strategies abound.

If we are unemployed, we can still sometimes find temp jobs killing each other.
Fine-tuning misdirection, in the U.S., with its endless drug war, workers like my mom’s kin are also much more likely to kill each other or ourselves through self-prescribed medicines far less ennobling than the killer weed Maureen Dowd sampled in Colorado for journalistic integrity. If we are employed, we are more and more likely to be working two or more minimum wage part-time jobs, if we can find them. The “free” market for consumer goods, virtual or otherwise, also dictates that the workers break the tenth commandment, coveting our neighbor’s ox if not his or her ass. Thus (not to be the Southern Baptist prude I was raised to be), the collective consciousness is expected to be on the level of a Super Bowl halftime show, with revolutionary levels of sex mania.

I would not dare begrudge anyone their jollies, and I know many loins are tender, and who does not want a hunka hunka burning love, but please, when your singin’ group is named after a dead alliterative archduke and you borrow Lissitzsky’s imagery, light your fire for the whole worker and not just the private parts.

I can attest from my own family history that, a dozen years before the Ferdinand assassinations, many workers in the U.S., including the brown cigarmakers of Hillsborough County, Florida, were at least as manic about their economic rights and their grounding in the international socialist movement as they were about their libidos. Yes, I am particularly fixated on when my great-great-uncle Francisco had his own brush with death–enunciating these very rights and that very movement under the direction of the workers themselves:

The Milián Affair

On Saturday, November 1, 1902, West Tampa was rocked by an almost unbelievable story. Francisco Milián, popular mayor of West Tampa and lector at the Bustillo Brothers and Diaz factory, was adducted, beaten, and forced out of town by the Tampa police chief and an unidentified mob under a threat of death if he returned.

This episode was the culmination of a series of actions against Milián. The owners of the factory where he served as reader to the workers had earlier charged him with being a radical labor agitator because the selections he read represented Marxist and anti-capitalist viewpoints. Although Milián read what the workers had selected, he was held responsible for inciting the workers. …

Mendez, Armando, 1994. Ciudad De Cigars: West Tampa, pp. 93-94. (Florida Historical Society.) (emphasis added).

Critical about this is not the fact that this was my relative (but did I tell you that this was my relative?), or even that he was reading Marxist and anti-capitalist viewpoints, but that the frickin’ everyday workers in Florida over a century ago were asking to be read these frickin’ viewpoints.

I don’t want to leave you hanging in the middle of the story:

As he left West Tampa City Hall on November 1, Milián was approached by the Tampa police chief and another man, who asked him to accompany them to another location in order to identify someone. They left in a carriage, and made their way to Six Mile Creek. Milián was told that because he was a labor agitator and a dangerous character, he was going to be punished. He was kept under guard until a number of men arrived. Milián was then stripped and beaten. Warned that he must leave Tampa and never return, he protested that he could not leave his family in West Tampa. Despite his protests, Milián was taken to the Port of Tampa and put aboard a steamer bound for Cuba. With a final admonition that he faced death if he returned, the men watched as the steamer took Milián south.

When the steamer docked in Key West, Milián sought friendly workers and told them his tale. Workers in Tampa were notified, and they went to the Hillsborough County sheriff to demand protection for Milián when he returned. A delegation also went to Tampa and West Tampa City officials with a threat of a long general strike if Milián was harmed.

On November 12, the Olivette, the Plant Line steamer, arrived in Port Tampa with Milián on board. Two sheriff’s deputies and 200 supporters were on hand to protect him.

When he arrived in Tampa, another 400 greeted him. From Tampa, Milián was escorted to the International Cigarmakers Union Hall on 6th Avenue for a reception. More than 2,000 people queued up to shake his hand.

This display of support was enough to stay the hand of the owners, and Milián was allowed to return to West Tampa and take up his job as lector and mayor unmolested. …

No charges were ever filed nor any arrests made in this bizarre incident despite the testimony of Milián.

Did you see those two words, “general strike,” in a writing centered on the then leading industry in the state that most recently elected he-who-must-not-be-named as governor?

Could this happen again? Could workers in Florida and the other 49 U.S. “states,” including the Deep South, get back our mojo? Not IMHO if we’re only thinking about the microcosm of our own specific struggles, however valid and critical. Labor mojo is synonymous with solidarity, which is all about viewing each of ourselves as part of something bigger than ourselves. But that “bigger something” cannot and does not stop at national boundaries! Never did, and certainly does not now. We need general strikes, and the more general the better, Taft-Hartley Act and its foreign legal equivalents be damned. Let’s, for instance, feel justified to democratically violate en masse unjust labor laws until they are stricken down one way or another–because this is justified. Let’s love each other as workers of the world, and demonstrate this with all the tools we can muster.

Where do laws come from in the U.S.? What truly democratic institutions do we have? Laws are to be in the service of justice, with justice being in the service of love. When we begin to think deeply about our own rights–not those written up in constitutions given to us by the powerful but those that should be written in our hearts because they can be logically derived by our minds and certainly encompassing the meeting of our basic human needs–we begin to recognize how irrational it is to think that these rights should or even can stop at national boundaries.

So, I say, let’s set the goal that by the 100th anniversary of Rosa Luxemburg’s murder by German nationalists who would soon become known as “Nazis” (January 15, 1919) that an overwhelming majority of the workers of the world will once again at least know our full spectrum of deep democratic rights as citizens of the world. We each as workers have to know our rights to peacefully fight for them.

Wearing my buzzkill hat, although I am a mere “ethical” democratic socialist I have to concede to the “scientific” socialists that to fail to know our rights is to invite a perpetuation of capitalist economic crises and worldwide environmental collapse. I do not want that outcome. So (as if you aren’t doing plenty already), let’s roll up our sleeves and describe for ourselves the proactive, non-fatalistic tasks that taken together will bring about an acceptable level of international justice, beginning with teaching ourselves our international rights as human beings.

Right now I think I will be coming back to our shared rights as citizens of the world in more and more detail in future ACM diaries until I feel that I have exhausted the topic, group administrators willing. I expect that this series will be done this calendar year. I hope it will not get too boring. And there are plenty of great writers in this group if I am not your cup of tea, so read their diaries if not mine. As I look deeper at these issues, I will hopefully be able to pass on some coherent thoughts on the subject for you to criticize. I am not predicting utopia, and I do not expect you to always agree with me.

I’m on the quest to find the holy grail of a reasonably good and systematic view of how to actually bring about loving “system change” lovingly, including the likely benefits of every worker (including every ally of workers, however one technically defines “worker”), with all of our varying abilities and circumstances, having a recognized constructive and consciously-revolutionary role to play, however small it seems. Others are focusing on what the anti-capitalist alternative should look like and the specific battles in which we should be engaged in the ugly austerity-filled interim. I worship your work. It is vital. I am your comrade, and, if it weren’t un-socialistic to say so, your loyal servant. I want to see your vision come true and will do anything I can do to help. I think that I can best help by being focused on the art of winning as peacefully as possible, with justice ever being in the service of love.

Observed the editors of Monthly Review on its 65th Anniversary last month, after quoting the socialist William Morris’s Signs of Change (1888):

To advocate for revolution … not as a fear but as a hope, obviously does not mean a rejection altogether of the process of legal reform, but rather the abandonment of the usual limited, non-starting, counterproductive reforms, offered up by the system, which are meant to close off the future and to defend the existing order, making real change impossible: what in socialist theory is known as reformism. All actions initiated by popular forces today should rather be aimed at “a change in the basis of society.” Revolution, as Rosa Luxemburg observed, is distinguished from reform not so much in representing a different method of change, or in occurring over a different duration, but rather in its constituting a distinguishing moment of the struggle.

My working theory is that lots of small acts, including consciousness raising, may end up with workers in everyday places around the world, such as West Tampa, once again agitating in multiple ways to make our collective rights a reality! Let’s begin again and party like its 1914, with an unmistakably internationally-focused praxis that rejects capitalist warring! We have learned so much in the ensuing century, much of it unpleasant, which we must never forget–including the fact that while capitalism and its love of money is the root of all evil, divide-and-conquer nationalism has been its strategic mercenary.

We may be able to collectively lead ourselves to a better world if we learn not to be overly dependent on “leaders.” Leaders will come and go, but we should each learn how our efforts can best fit together locally, nationally, and internationally. We, including both leftists and left liberals, need to respect each other because we all have key contributions to make. We all need to know how “it all” fits together strategically in order to feel the comforting breeze of emerging solidarity. Hell, we may even find something realistic yet strategically important for religious leaders of good will like Pope Francis to do! Heaven can wait. I have one very important idea that I am going to spring on Francis hopefully by year’s end, as I’m sure he reads my posts–just kidding! (Whoa! Slow down Francisco, aka Galtisalie, too many exclamation points!)

In the meantime, the next time I post for ACM (possibly in July) in Part 2 of this two-part diary on the need for anti-capitalist democratic internationalism, I want to describe the political-economic need for looking at these rights not only from an anti-capitalist perspective but also from an international, as opposed to a national, perspective. For that I will heavily rely on the above-mentioned Rosa, with an assist from Karl (the influence not the colleague). I like to think that I am channeling some of those radical cigarmakers who gave their dimes and quarters to my namesake, Tio Francisco. Like MrJayTee said last Sunday in his wonderful diary, I am no scholar. A penny for your thoughts.

[One final note: You may say to yourself, "I wish Francisco would stop being so self-referential and personal in his diaries. What a weirdo." As some of you know, I came out of a fundamentalist Christian background where personal "testifying" was part of the subculture. I made the decision last year to begin personally "testifying" about democratic socialism, not out of some sick social pressure like I grew up with but because it is truly what I believe in as an independent-thinking species-being. In fact, when I started gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com (which is just a little volunteer website, and which does not collect a dime or a quarter by the way), my first act at the website was publishing a lengthy autobiographical political pamphlet that, beginning at page 20, includes 27 or so pages on the very topic "Support and Recruitment for Granma’s Next Voyage: Why I Write Personally and Plainly About Democratic Socialism." Here is the page at gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com that gives the link to the pamphlet. I don't expect you to read it. Hardly anyone has! But at least you know where to go to read my self-justification for self-revelation! (Darn exclamation point key stuck again!!!!)]

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Toward a Leftist Program for Working Class Consciousness by MrJayTee

3:05 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

The original title of this diary was to be “Toward a Leftist Program by the Working Class, for the Working Class”, an neat, academic-sounding title reflecting an admirable goal: how can we, whatever our class background or position on the left, understand the needs and goals of working people in the United States and help to catalyze the development of a political program that reflects those needs and goals, one ideally led by the working class itself?

Looking at the critical ingredients of such a program, the lack of one especially stands out to me: the paralyzing absence of any significant consciousness among American workers of themselves as a class apart, one locked in a harrowing and historic struggle with the ruling class for the control of their lives and futures. The purpose of this diary, then, is to consider this problem in general programmatic terms using the thoughts proffered below as a point of departure.

Before going further, I hasten to note that I am not an academic, theorist, or long-time activist, just a working class guy and ecumenical socialist who was lucky enough to get a broad education. I am intent on understanding how my own class, so numerous and possessing a proud history of action and achievement, can embrace and use its own enormous power and what, if anything, the serious left can do to catalyze revolutionary working class consciousness.

First, some basic definitions. By “working class”, I mean agricultural workers and people working for wages in industrial, manual, and service occupations. By “left” and “serious left”, I mean the anti-capitalist left, including, for example, left anarchists, democratic socialists, orthodox socialists, and communists. “Revolutionary” means tending to the significant disruption and subversion of capitalism and its structures with the aim of its replacement by a leftist order. Finally, I am explicitly proceeding on the assumption that working people’s collective self perception as an oppressed but potentially powerful class is an indispensable component of the machinery of radical change.

To be effective, it’s important to be realistic about the scale of the change we’re working for and the speed at which we can accomplish it. If our goal is to nurture working class power to the point of profound social change, we must understand that we are not starting a project, but continuing one. We represent the current generation of a struggle that has been going on at least since the beginning of Industrialization. Thus, our task is to gather the threads of the struggle so far and pull them forward. But while we’re taking care to be realistic about the long time line of our struggle, it’s also important to understand that we have advantages, too.

As labor history shows us, we need not win over the entire working class, or even a majority, to further working class power. Periods of revolutionary change, whether for better or worse, are often sparked by an activist minority surrounded by a discouraged or indolent majority. Victories by key worker organizations in key industries drove the Gilded Age into the Progressive Era and then, after WWI and the Depression, into the period of worker militancy that brought about the New Deal. To use this advantage, what we might call activist leverage, we must identify where worker consciousness is at its greatest today and encourage it, while identifying where it is weak and strengthening it.

Here we come to a profound divide, but also to another advantage. My statement above about the paralyzing lack of class consciousness is really only true of the white majority. Among People of Color, an ever increasing proportion of the population, there is both current militancy and a history of militancy. Today, Latinos and African Americans lead the most visible and successful elements of working class opposition to capital and its systems of oppression, from Moral Mondays in the South to the movement to raise the wages of Fast Food and service workers nationally. In terms of boots on the ground, these movements are overwhelmingly Latino and African American and are significantly so in their leadership.

The Working Class of Color is building on a preexisting, ethnicity-based consciousness of itself to achieve economic and political goals. This demographic is growing, unstoppably it seems, as the white population ages and dwindles. It is significant for the stability and strength of this movement that both African Americans and Latinos already understand, given their histories, that radical change is not achieved without overcoming state repression, including state violence. One of the great disappointments of the Occupy Movement was how little resistance from the state was needed to force it’s dormancy. Black and Latino Americans, on the other hand, long ago understood the nature of their adversary, and have been able despite state oppression to credit themselves with the victories of the Civil Rights and Farm Workers’ Rights movements.

What does the left do here? Where there are active worker-oriented movements, get in behind the workers of color leading the charge and beside the rank and file in the street. Speak, write, and donate, of course, but get out into the street and make it clear we offer not just our mouths and checkbooks, but our dedicated physical presence. Embrace a leftist perspective dedicated to listening and learning from workers of color and pursuing their goals with the secondary purpose of modestly offering a systematic leftist perspective when appropriate and possible.

And what of the contemporary white working class? Particularly since the neo-liberal backlash, this decreasingly organized bloc has functioned more as a self-policing organ of capital than as a class with its own critical interests, something the ruling class has exploited to the hilt. Still, the recent downturn has increased white consciousness of class inequality, even if it hasn’t sparked a movement. Nevertheless, I believe white workers are more open to our message now than they have been in decades, both for direct economic reasons but also because younger working class whites are more accustomed to diversity and less indoctrinated to form a identity based on being “white”, i.e., a certified part of the ruling class.

Here, the task of promoting class consciousness is harder because we must penetrate the ideology that positions the left as alien, or at best irrelevant, to the working class. As with workers of color, the core principles take precedence: listening, learning, and working beside in order to promote working class accomplishment and to build trust and understanding.

We must also reconnect present workers to the achievements of past workers who can serve as models for activism in the present day. Of course the history I speak of is ethnically diverse, but workers of color already have recent and compelling examples of how working people like themselves changed history. We need to reconnect the white working class to their history, to the mine workers of Appalachia and the West, and to the steel and auto workers of the Midwest, people whose sacrifice and bravery changed America radically.

This is not to say we should–or need to–shy away from theory or intersectionality, but that to be effective among working people in general, especially among those so strongly indoctrinated against us, we must break decisively the persistent perception of the left as cold, distant, impractical, and exclusive. We must connect the left and its ideas to issues of direct, here-and-now economic importance to working people. We cannot influence people who simply do not see us.

Many thanks to you all for your attention. I’m not much of an essayist, but I hope this modest piece will bring our some useful conversation.

AC Meetup: Mother’s Day and Humane Cat Herding–Know Our Rights and Fights! by Galtisalie

2:45 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

“Happy Mother’s Day” in many countries in the world. Hopefully you did not have to prepare a hormone-laden turkey dinner for eleven as in Rockwell’s “Freedom from Want” painting. I’m not an art critic, so no problem with his Thomas Kinkade style, but I never liked the composition of the painting, and now I pretty much hate it–it’s unchallenging paternalism, the grins, particularly of the younger men, the bourgeois crystal, linen, “silvah,” and china, unh-unh–it did not strike me as, shall we say, reflective of the seriousness of the challenge of resolving hunger in most of the world, or even of “coming out of” the Depression in the U.S. with a fledgling of a welfare state. What an incredible cultural missed opportunity to educate Amurrricans. On the other hand, we have to know our fights, and “our” rights will be met or unmet on tables both alike and unlike this one, and maybe we should suppose that those young men might indeed be overjoyed with the first feast they have had ever or in a long time. IMHO, best not to get too picky with our potential political allies in such matters. So, Norman, if you’re up there, hope you don’t mind my imaginative doctorin’; you did some good popularizing work on human decency, but in this case, thanks for nothing. I sort of love that, according to the most trusted name in news, in 1948 you voted for another Norman, Thomas, but you soon fell off that wagon (and by voting for him you in a tiny way almost helped throw the election to another Thomas, Dewey, and because I am a pragmatist on the left wing of the possible, I would not have liked to see that happen). I will not be holding any candles in your late afternoon-glow honor.

I will try to be at least a little more pro-system change in this diary than a Rockwell painting. This has turned into a socialized Mother’s Day wish directed equally to men and women–not to deprive mothers of deserved praise but in hope of one day achieving a world that will bring all women, and children and men too, freedom from want and fear, if not an occasional huge Butterball. If we want to achieve such a world we must first recognize the clear moral justification for it, something Rockwell completely missed, undoubtedly on purpose, and for that he is morally accountable in my accounting. This moral justification is the underpinning for “rights,” not hoped-for Thanksgiving Day bounty. However, “visualizing” our rights to freedom from want and fear, while incredibly important, is obviously not the same thing as “achieving” it. This diary is also about pursuing the most efficient and peaceful path to such a world. To be as efficient and peaceful as possible on the journey to a just and loving world, we need to know our fights as well as our rights. As many people as possible need to learn about humane “cat herding.”

I hesitated (not really) to raise this confusing cat-laden subject at a website that devotes a lot of cyberspace to cute kitty stories, and they are adorable, concerned that I would be rebutted with expertise about actual cat behavior, glorious traits, etc. In all seriousness, at the outset I do want to disclaim any intent to talk down to anyone, but especially the poor and their allies, by using this soon to be extremely tiresome cat herding motif, which will go on for several paragraphs and then abruptly end, I promise. It is just an illustrative tool. Please do not think that I think that any human beings, even the fat cats running our world, are actually less than full human beings and somehow lower forms of life, such as cats. That is not at all what I am trying to suggest. This diary will be clunky from start to finish, but it is with good intent, and not intended to disparage anyone by suggesting that I think any human beings are literally cats or “subhuman.”

Nor do I want to promote a “vanguard” approach to cat herding. I certainly do not mean to suggest that “the masses” are stupid, waiting around for a free turkey dinner, or even in need of external or hierarchical leadership. Rather, as I just stated in the above italicized sentence, “As many people as possible need to learn about humane ‘cat herding.’” Capital’s mercenaries, themselves the dominant cats in my illustration, are already herding us around with their sharp teeth and claws away from the world’s sustainable buffet table, which is derived from our rightful land. To defend ourselves and future humans justly and lovingly, we must learn to fight back efficiently while recognizing the inhumane but still all too human predilection for tribalism and susceptibility to the exploitative divisive tactics of the right.

I am endorsing and promoting the full democratization of cat herding. When we all become cat herders, the mercenaries will themselves be herded, if not declawed, and we will rise to our best non-Rockwellian expression of our inherent worth and beauty as human beings in full possession of HUMAN rights, not cat rights. And the only cats left will be the 1% or less, that’s right, the fat cats. All on the left have a role to play in deeply democratic cat herding. As much as possible, we all should become our leaders. We each, IMHO, have to figure out our most effective leadership role on one or more of the fronts against capital.

Women, whether they are mothers or not, often have been and still are forced to herd most of the cats. This typically reflects a desperate and unfair state of affairs antithetical to socialism, both in terms of the need for cat herding to begin with and in terms of the involuntary roles of women. Again, I am not advocating a vanguard of cat herders, whether composed of women or some secret society of enlightened cat herders. Certainly, if there is a need for cat herding, supplying this need should be equally done by men and women. However, I do believe that on the long journey to global deep democracy massive amounts of cat herding will be required and that when conscious united species beings arise with insistence to demand our HUMAN rights, most will naturally become cat herders wanting to make a positive difference in one way or another. In winning a global deep democratic revolution this special skill can at least partially be redeployed from internal nuclear family survival to external human family survival. Perhaps more women than men will in fact tend to lead the female and male “cats” of the world to “unite” and demand true freedom with full HUMAN rights.

Solidarity requires that beings formerly acting more like cats learn to cooperate in order that we may collectively lose our “chains” (Marx’s word). While “chains” is still an apt metaphor for the restraints on billions of women and other humans around the world, probably a better metaphor in many places is “the silver-inlaid concrete” of the paternalistic institutions imposed on us by the racist white males who have run our world for millennia, wrote the U.S. Constitution, and have since developed and imposed a system of global neoliberalism. So, let’s go with that. “Concrete,” as I use it, is something of a play on the word as used by Herbert Marcuse when he was giving a talk in 1966 about his late friend Paul Baran:

I would like to discuss the topic assigned to me by first dealing with Paul Baran’s critique of the social sciences. In his critique of the social sciences he emphasized the dialectical element in the Marxian method. The sentence he liked to quote again and again was “the truth is the whole.” To him it was a revolutionary principle of thought, because it broke with the fetishism and reification, with the fallacy of misplaced concreteness, prevalent in the social sciences, a pseudo-empiricism which in his view tended to make the objectivity of the social sciences a vehicle of apologetics and a defense of the status quo. Baran defined this dialectical principle negatively and I will read to you the definition, the short definition, he gives in “The Commitment of the Intellectual”: “The principle ‘the truth is the whole’—to use an expression of Hegel—carries with it, in turn, the inescapable necessity of refusing to accept as a datum or to treat as immune from analysis, any single part of the whole.”

I would like to supplement this negative definition by a positive one to the effect that in and for the social sciences every particular phenomenon, every particular condition, every particular trend, in a given society must be analyzed and evaluated in terms of its relations to the whole, i.e., to the established social order. Isolated from this whole the respective phenomenon, condition, or trend remains a false, at least incomplete, and inconclusive datum concealing rather than revealing its true place and function in the social order. The social order itself, the social order as a concrete whole, is determined and defined for Baran following Marx by the material process of social reproduction and by the hierarchy of functions and values established in this social process of production. But the concrete relation between any particular fact, datum, condition, or trend, on the one side, and the whole social order, on the other, is never a direct and immediate one. It is always established through various intermediate factors, agencies, and powers, among them psychological factors, the family as agent of society, the mass media, language, images prevalent in a society, and so forth.
(Footnote omitted.)

In politically but not economically “democratic” nation states, we are supposed to make-believe that the silver-inlaid concrete of the paternalistic institutions all around us are sufficiently malleable to be in our best interests; and that we can “participate” on an equal footing in national or sub-national elections, and maybe even national or sub-national court proceedings now and then, and these institutions can somehow be conformed to “our” satisfaction, consistent with free market supremacy of course. All this deception is intended to ensure that “the gold” of the world stays with the fat cats, and that the workplaces and fields of the world are producing that “gold” and not the gold of grains for hungry mouths to feed and other useful things.

No, “Brother Francisco,” aka Galtisalie, did not get into the bad acid again. I do tend to mix and match my metaphors like unto a tie-dye shirt. (“You think,” the generous manage to chuckle.) Again, I did not intend to make this a “Mother’s Day” message at all. I, a privileged male, have no qualifications to address women of the Deep South of the U.S., where I live, on Mother’s Day or any other day, much less the women of the world. But I am going to try anyway to address women as well as men, crummy metaphors and all. While I am hopeful that men in general will become truly free leaders deserving of the words in the revolutionary future, I know enough to doubt that men generally have the best stuff “to lead” our world any longer, and I am begging women of the left to error on the side of democratically taking over elective and other leadership positions before it is too late. I am not pandering, or giving up my own right to vote and otherwise participate in the forms available to me in these flawed institutions. I simply have the honesty to admit that men have messed up the world big time, so I reject on the basis of abundant evidence any paternalistic mindset as a qualification for leadership and look for leadership far outside of that paradigm. While I am not asking for a substitution of maternalism for paternalism, “far outside” of paternalism points me in the direction of the hearts and minds of women of the left.

I am definitely not trying to say I can tell women of the left what their priorities should be, as concerns for instance, the relative weight any or all should give to the class struggle versus “women’s” struggles. I know from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man that it is unfair for “white people,” even well-meaning white people of the left, to seek to impose a world view on African Americans. Similarly, it is unfair for me, a male, to seek to impose a world view on females–on this or any other day of the year. When I say, “know our rights and our fights,” I am not trying to pre-determine the rights and the fights that are most important to you. For one woman at any point in time, the most important right may be the right not to be attacked or beaten by an abusive person, for another it may be the right to reproductive freedom. But, whatever your most important of our rights, you and I must know how to build unity to assure that they and hence we are protected. So, I hope that this diary will, without seeming to dictate “rights and fights,” help to identify “fronts” where the rights and fights most important to you, whatever they are, may be vindicated.

I certainly did not intend to talk to my comrades about cats. I am not at all suggesting that cats disprove dialectical materialism. Rather, “they,” (i.e., the cats a narrow “we” in the “wealthy” pet-keeping and powerful, typically northern, portions of the world, such as the Deep South of the U.S., typically think of when “we” think of cats, i.e., puddy tats which are well-fed and domesticated), seem to have a lot of priorities that are not measurable in caloric intake. (They do not truly need to eat Tweety, if you will–head spinning, stay with cat motif and away from birds.) While greedy capital runs the human world, focusing on the emotion of fear, in the “they” cat world pride and aloofness seems to be dominant.

My cat-related thesis begins first with the observation that because humans who reach high levels of capitalist power, be it in the, now transnational, “business world” or in the silver-inlaid concrete institutions that serve capital, be they the true fat cats or merely their handsome mercenary cats, do not fear where their next meal is coming from, when they are not purely motivated by greed at the behest of capital at their best tend to behave like well-fed spoiled-rotten self-centered cats. They use the walls of the halls of the silver-inlaid concrete institutions as posts to scratch their claws. Second, billions of hungry cats around the world are in a severely weakened and fearful state, and perhaps a billion or two more are comparably just enough more comfortable to still be extremely fearful of losing the extra that is “theirs.” These combined billions are unlikely to depose the cat powers that be, at least without a “united” effort, which these institutions are designed to prevent; so they need to build their own new institutions as much as possible, both locally where they live and globally to unite and self-humanize, with full HUMAN rights, cats everywhere. IMHO, the world-wide cat-human revolution primarily needs to take place on the ground level, wherever we can put our paws on the actual earth, and at the international level, where the silver-inlaid concrete is not quite completely dried. Third, because even ideally “conscious” masses of cat-humans cannot have full access and control of the earth and its resources without deeply changing national and sub-national institutions which undercut deep local and global democracy, and because we have to survive during a long revolution for there to be a successful revolution, we must continue to participate and in fact try to take over the very institutions that are most rigid so that we can eventually, somehow, someway, fundamentally change them to the extent they deserve to continue in existence.

For humanity, penned in by oppressive and repressive capitalist institutions, to accomplish great things for itself by all appearances will require great skill at cat herding. Being herded is against the nature of cats. The most archetypal domesticated felines are the least cooperative. Some well-fed cats perhaps can be made to cooperate if they do not realize they are being herded and can instead receive particularly tasty warm milk or stroking, but generally speaking, well-fed cats could not give a flip about where a well-meaning human wants them to go. Once in a while, however, through enormous effort and skill, all the necessary herding takes place to present a quorum or win an election and thereby accomplish something for some of the rest of the cat-human world.

The temptation on the left has sometimes been simply to call all of this faux democratic quorum-seeking, electioneering, and judge-justice appointment-seeking out for all of the bullshit that it is, because out there, outside the halls of power, billions of cats are not well-fed, and we cannot wait on behalf of the hungry, that is not our right. While I understand this, I do not think that we (the broader and inclusive non-fat cat “we”) can avoid cat-herding. Thankfully, with anarcho-socialism at the base of my ideal world, and even today in some places, we can potentially say, “screw you fat cats” to a limited degree and build our own new truly democratic and non-autocratic institutions of cooperation. But the fat cats do not want these oases of freedom to exist. So, in order to get to build most of our cooperatives, etc., we are going to have to have a “revolution” by most of the non-fat cats. And, that revolution will involve all manner of cat herding, not only of the proletariat cat-humans but also of the fat cats themselves, as well as the robust cats who form the mercenaries protecting the fat cats, as well as the not currently starving but fearful cats who form the bulk of the population in the so-called developed world, where they have civil and political rights entitling them to vote on the mercenaries.

In 1948, an older version of the above good woman and cat herder par excellence [No more cat talk--Phew!], was instrumental in the adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration had arisen gradually as an outgrowth of the organizing of the UN at the 1945 San Francisco Conference (chaired by a U.S. diplomat, Alger Hiss). According to the U.S. State Department (which has purged Hiss’s involvement from its website, perhaps to deflect the rightwing charge that the UN is part of a festering communist conspiracy if not the work of the Anti-Christ), FDR’s goal was “preserving peace,” which in turn built upon the (KKK-supporting) Woodrow Wilson’s goal to do the same in the League of Nations, which isolationist Republicans would not allow the U.S. to join.

Ironically, many nation states in the “free world,” the U.S. included (whose 32nd president had given freedom a fuller voice eleven months before Pearl Harbor), did not want to agree that freedom from want and fear were human rights. Many others on both sides of the Cold War and unaligned did. the Eleanor Roosevelt papers project provides an excellent short synopsis of the back and forth, including this important acknowledgement of socialism:

The covenant’s provisions clearly reflect the socialist emphasis on economic rights, which is what the General Assembly had intended when it took the matter up in 1951. As a result, the United States and other western democracies remained unconvinced of the covenant’s merits and refused to ratify it. Despite a lack of support from these countries, however, the covenant entered into force on January 3, 1976 for those states that had approved it. As of 2002, the United States had still not ratified the covenant.

The end result is a Committee, whoopee, which I will describe in detail in a future diary, but which I will mostly link to at this point:

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) is the body of 18 independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by its States parties. The Committee was established under ECOSOC Resolution 1985/17 of 28 May 1985 to carry out the monitoring functions assigned to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in Part IV of the Covenant.

Dispute exists as to what authority the committee has (see, e.g., http://hrlr.oxfordjournals.org/content/11/1/1.abstract), but I think that it provides the left with its best focal point on the official international front, including by pointing out the committee’s many major institutional flaws and limitations.

In the end, we can each do what the balance sheet of each day we have allows. We morally can only be sacrificial with our own individual bellies and not those of other human beings. The capitalists use this, our morality of human compassion, against us through the principle of divide and conquer, to defeat solidarity. Some of us may have intentionally eschewed “family” or other small bound grouping of two or more people, sought one and been denied one by fate, or we may have a family or other small bound grouping, in which case it has to chew. Maybe our immediate family is us and a real cat. Maybe our small bound grouping is “traditional” nuclear, communal, or some other combination of mouths to feed, but no matter what, we don’t want to see it starve. Finite resources meet x number of mouths to feed around the table, however we define it, a number which we, with the varied influence of our bodies, societies, and subcultures, determine to varying degrees. But it is these mouths to feed that we probably care about most, in all honesty, because we have to look them in the eye when they are in hunger or fear. And to fear that we will not be able to feed them is our greatest fear.

Life is weird. In the midst of writing this diary, I have been reading about the Ludlow Massacre a lot in JayRaye’s incredible diaries at Hellraisers Journal. And the same week, an Irish socialist friend put on his Facebook page the unforgettable defiant picture of Stepjan Filopovic, the Yugoslavian Communist Martyr, whose last words were “Smrt fašizmu, sloboda narodu!” (“Death to fascism, freedom to the people!”)

We never know when we may be on our last day or our last diary. Most of us will not have to lose our lives in the cause like the Ludlow Martyrs or Mr. Filopovic. The striking workers of southern Colorado were not seeking a fight but merely the right to organize and seek a modicum of justice for their families. If we are part of a small bound grouping, we may like them stand up for our rights–or we may become risk averse, or we may suffer from the PTSD of living on a capitalist-dominated earth which makes us “shell” shocked. So we may not be able or willing to put our lives on the line like they did. But, even though the things most of us do will likely not get us killed for standing up for the powerless, maybe that is more of an indictment than we would like to admit. I hope I have many days, and even decades to go, and many diaries. I hope you do too. A doctor told me the other day that, as a left-handed male, my subpopulation is statistically non-existent at the age of 80 (so maybe I do have a ways to go, and if I stop driving at a sensible age, maybe I won’t hurt myself or someone else), primarily because it is so accident prone, a personal tendency I cannot deny. Whatever the future holds, I am glad to be able to write this diary and have you with me on this beautiful planet. I am so grateful to this group and to Hellraisers Journal for making me feel true solidarity in the cause in which we believe. Down heah in the Deep South of the U.S., we don’t get that feeling much, and in fact, the whole concept of “we” is suspect.

I hope that this diary synthesizes some important concepts in a simple and understandable manner. I intend to work with my comrades on the fronts that this diary raises to the best of my ability for the duration, whatever that is, unless I am reassigned by socialism “learnin’ me” something else that makes more sense. ¡Viva la Revolución!

The tension between political democracy’s “negative” rights and economic democracy’s “positive” rights has never been resolved and may never completely be. But “we” have to try. Whichever system best resolves it may win the hearts, minds, and stomachs of humanity. Repression is the natural domain of the powerful few, who purchase military might and mercenaries to get their way over the masses. Absent repression, the left has the overwhelming advantage in this greatest of all contests. Because of constant repression by the right, the left will have to fight in newfound human solidarity on multiple fronts for its reformed deeply democratic message to prevail. Our blood and resources should not be spent on capitalism’s wars, at home or abroad.

We need to keep our own house in order so that never again will committed leftists wonder which side of a “Cold War” they should be on. However, we must be realistic and realize that the capitalists exploit civil and political rights to divide and conquer. Solidarity is our friend and capitalism’s enemy. To live in solidarity, we must know our rights and our fights.

Republicanism, beginning with the U.S. Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights, came to be associated with civil and political rights. However, this paradigm has always been manipulated by the wealthy as a matter of their convenience, for whom true democracy of the polity and the economy has always been a grave threat to their privileges. Many who have been exploited and their allies–Native Peoples, African Americans, the poor of all ethnicities, women, GLBTs, labor martyrs and hellraisers, Mother Jones, Eugene Debs et al., countless victims of Eugene McCarthy, non-”Anglo” immigrants past, today’s undocumented workers, and the families and descendants of the victims of U.S. and U.S. puppet bombs, bullets, torture, murder, and dirty tricks the world over–readily can dispute the paradigm that the U.S. is a credible and virtuous purveyor of civil and political freedom. Meanwhile, through weak social welfare programs won by the left, some of the poor in the U.S. receive some state “charity,” but never under the rubric of “economic rights,” while “labor rights” to organize and use direct action against capital have been viciously denied and, when won in some regions, constantly undercut.

In a sad parallel, “real” socialism under Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s People’s Republic of China also did not practice what it preached. It was supposed to deliver economic rights while making “capitalist” civil and political rights obsolete. Stalin’s show trials, brutal repression of millions of his own people as well as the anarchists and Trotskyites in 1930s Spain, and immoral temporary alliance with Hitler himself put conscientious leftists in a questioning and compromised position for generations. We have never fully gotten over it. While the Soviet Union provided some economic justice, it allowed some piggish behavior by the guardians of economic equality (piggish behavior which has, of course, dramatically increased with the dispensing with “outdated” socialist concepts and the adoption of capitalism in these places–although even today, North Korea is a shining example of state monopoly capitalist totalitarianism at its worst, providing no civil and political freedom and mass exploitation on behalf of the elite, with special privileges to the military.) Moreover, through some monumentally stupid central planning decisions, Stalin and Mao managed to buttress Ronald Reagan’s now Lafferble voo doo notion that the poor might somehow be better off if they only got pissed on more–a notion that, while thoroughly disproved, now rules the world through global neoliberalism.

The powerful few are destroying our one beautiful world long before an asteroid or the life cycle of the sun do it for us. With global warming and endless human suffering, humanity has no time to dither. The good answers are on the left. But until the left is able to communicate a just and loving future for humanity, and focus and unite in pursuit of this future, it will be treated as an anachronism by all but the desperate and their morally-devoted allies.

It is my ultimate thesis that by sincerely espousing an updated and greatly expanded version of FDR’s “four” freedoms, and coupling this with a modified praxis recognizing four challenging but unavoidable fronts in the battle for true freedom, the left can do just that.

Here is a hopefully handy-dandy chart:

And here is a good tune:

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: For May Day … Capitalism, Charity, Food Banks and Workers’ Rights by NY Brit Expat

2:56 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Most probably people have heard of the bizarre investigative journalism by The Mail on Sunday in an article which appeared on Easter Sunday (of all days in the year). The Mail on Sunday sent in a reporter, a wannabe Jimmy Olsen, to investigate provision of food by food-banks in Britain and that reporter literally took food out of the mouths of the hungry in order to prove some point. This provoked a backlash on social media that demonstrated that the neoliberal agenda seems to not have sunk too deeply in the hearts and minds of the British people. That is a relief and quite honestly more than I expected, given the constant barrage in the newspapers and on the news on telly that has never questioned the logic (forget the morality) of welfare caps and cuts to welfare benefits.

 photo 11c403ab-c379-41dc-8ad6-33e6ee1e497c_zps6bff82ce.jpg

ht: my sister Mia for comments and editing on this piece

However, the issue goes far deeper than the attempted neoliberalisation of the provision of charity in the context of the capitalist economic system in a Britain living under austerity; it actually raises issues of wages and incomes ensuring social subsistence in the context of capitalism and hence the reproduction of the working class.

The issue impinges upon the basic rights of human beings to be ensured their subsistence irrespective of the ability to work; this relates both to:

  1. Being unable to find work as there are no jobs due to laws of motion of the capitalist economic system
  2. Being unable to work due to disabilities, illness, or having caring responsibilities and the capitalist economy’s unwillingness to create social policies guaranteeing full accessibility for people with disabilities that can work and the full socialisation of care for children, the disabled, the sick and the elderly which would free women from caring responsibilities.

This then raises the question what are the moral precepts underlying our society in terms of guarantees to all members of the rights to a basic subsistence ensuring housing, food, heating, clothing, clean water and electricity?

The Attempt to Neoliberalise Charity Provision

In many senses, the article is rather chilling in terms of what was attempted. It is also way over the top; charity is private and individual by nature. One would think that would be sufficient to fulfil Tory fantasies of assistance for the poor and unemployed no longer provided by the social welfare state, but guess again.

An “investigative reporter” (and that is using the term very generously) goes to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau (the go-to place when you need assistance to deal with an unfriendly and complex class society) and tells them that he is having trouble making ends meet due to rising fuel bills (this is a very common problem due to rising prices of energy, fuel and electricity). The Citizens Advice Bureau contacts the Trussell Trust who runs many food-banks in this country (along with community groups, other church groups and horribly enough the Red Cross who have been distributing food for the first time since World War II) and issue the “reporter” a voucher coupon).

As an aside, and, to add insult to injury, these vouchers to food-banks, appallingly, are also given by government Jobs Centres when clients come in and tell them that they have insufficient funds to purchase food. The provision of voucher coupons by the Job Centres is part of government policy … even worse, it is government policy to send the hungry and unemployed to food-banks instead of providing sufficient benefits income to those that come in for assistance which is also, disgustingly, government policy.

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau then sent our intrepid reporter to the food-bank where he tells the same story. Correctly, the food-bank provides food and basic goods to this investigative reporter. They did not search his house, ask him for proof of insufficient economic means, demand evidence of any sort; they are a charity and their role is to provide food when people need it. Their job is not to shame people or investigate people or means-test people – their role is to step in to ensure that those that say they have insufficient income to buy food are covered.

That brings us to the first issue: due to government cutbacks in benefits, people cannot limit their use of food-banks to a disastrous situation; which was their original and sole purpose. Sometimes even with the best planning people run out of money; there are unexpected expenses (e.g., dentists, new school uniforms, higher utility bills than usual), which can blow a budget especially in the absence of credit cards and unwillingness to take out a usurious loan (which is impossible to get if you are unemployed anyhow). Food-banks are supposed to be a last-gasp resort for people. As the Trussell Trust (and various clergy have pointed out), the government’s attacks on the social welfare state are literally forcing people to rely on food-banks on a regular basis rather than in desperate circumstances!

For his Easter message, David Cameron enjoyed talking about what a Christian nation Britain is; ironically, he clearly does not want to hear members of the Clergy that came to talk to him about poverty caused by government policy as his staff called the police! Let’s give Cameron a round of applause, as his party seems to be the only one in Parliament that called the police on the Clergy. While extolling the principles of Christianity on the abstract level or when they are useful for anti-immigrant bashing, in actual practice concrete Christianity and David Cameron seem to be at odds.

In many senses, this appalling policy is reminiscent of the “Thousand Points of Light” nonsense promulgated by George HW Bush (the father, not the son) in his inaugural address where voluntarism and charity donations were supposed to replace a modern social welfare state. Thanks again to the US for exporting yet another failed and reactionary policy overseas to justify the destruction of a real social welfare state (as opposed to the rather pallid and anaemic imitation in the US)! In fact, I would argue that this nonsensical speech by GHW Bush was the beginning of the identification of the social welfare state with charity, while these two things are separate and distinct and should never be conflated.

The Response to the Maul on Sunday article

The response to the article by The Mail on Sunday was swift and angry. It spread all over social media and this was chronicled by The Guardian.

 photo e2443e78-e178-4ca1-98f9-72e5739efd4c_zpsae4f65f8.jpg

According to the Trussell Trust:

Thousands of people took to social media to express their support for The Trussell Trust and its foodbanks. Well-known names like the author Mark Haddon, musician Billy Bragg, financial journalist Paul Lewis and comedian Jon Ronson donated to the Trussell Trust Easter appeal to show their support and encouraged others to do the same. Almost 5,000 people have donated to the Help Crack UK Hunger Justgiving page since the article was published, and donations to the appeal page rose from £2,000 before Sunday to over £60,000 to date.

Today The Trussell Trust says that since Sunday, donations to Help Crack UK Hunger, combined with donations to Trussell Trust’s general funds, have reached an incredible £97,673.57p. A large proportion of this amount can be attributed to reactions to the Mail on Sunday article and additional coverage.”

Trussell Trust Chief Executive David McAuley says:

“We have been moved, humbled and overwhelmed by the incredible generosity of the British public following the Mail on Sunday’s article. It’s been amazing to see thousands of people react in such a positive way, wanting to help people in crisis. I would like to thank everyone who got behind this campaign, not just for their donations, but also for the positive words of encouragement. It means a lot, and will make a big difference to lots of people who are struggling in the UK.”

The Trussell Trust team has been blown away by the generosity and support of so many people. All the funds raised will help The Trussell Trust to do more to help stop people going hungry in the UK (http://www.trusselltrust.org/latest-news#HCUKH).

As an understatement, I was extremely relieved that so many British people were so appalled by The Mail on Sunday piece and the attempted neoliberalisation of charity.

But, and this brings me to the main issue, I have been far more concerned about the acceptance of the argument that it is charity that needs to provide for those whose wages (whether wages or benefits; as there are working poor people in Britain that get help along with those that are unemployed) or whose benefits are now insufficient due to government economic policies.

 photo 9f221d69-178e-4334-ac57-08c6d4ab676a_zpscf820ade.jpg

The essential problem is two-fold:

  1. To address the economic crisis, the government suppressed wages to keep profits up under the ideological position/obfuscation that higher profits would ensure investment and get the economy growing again; this is known as Say’s Law for those that know mainstream economic theory (which maintains that all economic growth derives from income saved from profits which is then invested leading to economic growth). This specifically was the case for wages of public employees whose increases were frozen at 1% (way below the rate of inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index which they substituted for the Retail Price Index which covered housing increases), state and public worker pensions were re-pegged to the Consumer Price Index to decrease future increases;
  2. The government then proceeded to cut income for the working class by cutting benefits. The social welfare system in Britain is different from that of the US. It does not only cover the unemployed and poor. There are elements that are cross-class, like child tax credits, child-care benefits, winter heating allowance, disability living allowance and incapacity benefit (that independent worker’s personal contributions), and, of course, the NHS which is available to all. It has historically also been used to prop up incomes of those earning insufficient income to cover general living expenses thus freeing capitalists from having to pay higher wages (e.g., child-care benefit, child benefits, housing benefits, etc).

What is really going on?

What we are seeing is a contradiction of the capitalist economic system manifesting itself. On the one hand, we have the introduction of austerity, the manner in which neoliberalism is attempting to deal with an economic crisis, which is lowering wages to increase profits and profitability. On the other hand, there is the need in the capitalist economic system to ensure the reproduction of working class as these workers are needed to actually work and to produce goods and services over and above the value of their wages to ensure the creation of surplus value (value of the surplus product over and above reproduction of the economy at the same level) which forms the basis of interest, profits and rents.

Moreover, wages need to be of a sufficient level for workers to actually purchase the goods and services in order for realisation of profits to occur; in the absence of sale at a price over cost of production, there are no profits. So, undermining the social subsistence level (and remember this is throughout the advanced capitalist world) could actually interfere with realisation of surplus value in the form of profits.

 photo 59f6b9cd-0199-424c-8408-f462506c064e_zpse029169f.jpg

That is why there is so much babble about export-led growth; they are actually hoping to ensure the sale of goods and services overseas whilst undermining social subsistence levels. However, what happens when all countries in the advanced capitalist world are all lowering wages to prop up profits? That means that sale of goods is not increasing sufficiently to keep the wheels of the system greased. Guess what, that also means that investment by capitalists to increase output (and employment) is not happening.

That is why economic growth in the advanced capitalist world has not been spectacular. It is also why so much attention is being paid to China to increase wages and create a social welfare state so that the Chinese working class will save less and spend more.

There is an inherent contradiction between the needs of labour (to subsist and reproduce; i.e., to cover housing, food, clothing, heating, water and to have families) and the needs of capital (to have continuous growth and rising profits and profitability) in capitalism.

 photo 4da7c823-e0cc-4dbf-be62-a09354310302_zps10c43578.jpg

What is happening in this period (and this is the culmination of economic policy since the 1970s) is that the perceived needs of capital are increasingly in conflict with the needs of labour. As a result, not only is the recognised social subsistence level being eroded to prop up profits; the fact that the system (in the absence of a public or state sector to increase employment) cannot create full employment of labour is becoming more and more evident.

Essentially, under capitalism, the number of workers that are employed depends on the available technology that can be used to produce goods and services; and what is produced depends on expected profitability of these goods and services which depends upon the expected demand for these goods to be produced.

In capitalism, what is produced does not depend upon human need (it depends upon profitability and expected profitability); the manner in which these things (goods and services) are produced (i.e., technical choice: the use of labour, land and capital of varying types) does not depend upon ensuring jobs for all, but rather potential profitability.

Moreover, the needs of capital do not take into account the impact of economic growth on the planet itself; a planet that we all need to sustain life and not the needs of capital.

We need to understand that capitalism needs to be eliminated; it is sucking literally sucking the lifeblood out of the majority of people on the planet and the planet itself!

We deserve a world that does require the existence of food-banks, where everyone has what they need to lead a fulfilling life; this should not be a privilege granted solely to the members of the ruling class.

This means that we need to talk about what are our social responsibilities to each other as human beings. Yes, we can reform capitalism certainly; but those reforms will not change the basic nature of the system that depends upon wealth and income inequality and exploitation of the majority to fulfil the needs of the economic system of continual growth and profitability.

We also need to discuss how we can ensure that the basic needs of all human beings are covered and that we do not destroy the planet to ensure these things. We need to address how more than basic needs for humans to develop and create and advance themselves can be met. In order to do this, we need to understand that as human beings we have the right to what we need to lead fulfilling lives, irrespective of our ability to work. We also do not have the right to undermine others’ rights to the same fulfilling lives. To put it simply:

“From each according to their abilities; to each according to their needs.”

 photo b6c6460c-7bd0-458e-bacb-149ce3f86332_zps5123e249.jpg

Hoping everyone had a wonderful May Day! Please share photos (if you have them) of events where you live!

¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: A Letter to Leftist Mothers for Mother’s Day by Diane Gee

2:28 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Disclaimer – this is for all women:

You don’t have to have given birth to be a Mother, either. Those who have not, by circumstance or choice still know well of what I speak, having witnessed as a female the roles of their own Mothers, and their Sisters who may have had kids.

We act as caregivers, to our own and others. Its who we are, not who we have borne.

Dear Mothers,

Society has often put us in a second class position; the patriarchy on which it was formed limits our potentials in so many ways.

Perhaps it is because the know the truth: We hold immeasurable power.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

I have some questions for you my dear ones, on this Mother’s Day across the pond, and the US Mother’s Day to come.

What will you do with that power?

I know things are tough right now. You are working more than ever, while making do with far less than ever too. Its enough to try and punch the clock, shop, feed your family, perhaps make repairs on a home that is under water. And the news, oh the news! Its like a white out, bad news after horrific news, an onslaught impossible to see your way through. But as the calming center of your universe, sometimes you have to look away. Or perhaps chip away by attaching yourself to smaller causes of your choosing.

You and I know. Things just aren’t right.

Part of the power we hold are the words we use. No matter the gender or the nature of the little humans we raise or influence, by sheer volume how we see the world is how they will see the world. The men in our lives too, are always influenced by our wisdom. We shape far more than our male counterparts may imagine… at least the more sexist of them.

 photo Child-Poverty-In-America-Is-Absolut.jpgSo I want to ask you some questions. Say you have 5 children, and its dinner time; do you feed them all? Do you give more to the fastest, the brightest, or perhaps the one who grabs at it first, and lays claim before his siblings?

If you are short, do you abandoned the youngest because he is a drain on your family? An unproductive leech? Or perhaps the sickly one, why waste food on someone who might not make it anyway?

Only a monster would do that. I am sure, as fellow Mothers, that would never occur to you. But that is what Capitalism does. They are at the head of our economic family like you are at the head of your dinner table. They have convinced you to help them, by throwing out the most at risk, or blaming them for being a “drain” on your meal so you will push them away from the table, ensuring those who you choose will have more to eat.

Capitalism is a meritocracy for the greedy. It makes no differentiation to circumstance. Those born to money get the most food, those born without have their dinners taken from them. Those willing to grab more, faster, get to leave their siblings hungry. It rewards behaviours we would never promote in our own young.

We are the Mothers. We are the ones who have to realize, and use our voices to say “No more.”

Lets say you live in a town, and the Mayor has just announced they are sending a raiding party to the next town over. They aren’t calling it a raiding party, of course, they are calling it a “Preemptive Strike,” with some premise of “danger” to you and yours. Of course, you know better. Your sister and her family live there. They have coal, and your Mayor wants it.

Would you send your 16 year old as a volunteer to go slaughter that town? With your sister there? What if your sister didn’t live there, would it be ok then?

Thats what we are doing every time we let our children join our military. That is what the Capitalist system HAS to do. Steal resources to get richer.

You’re a Mother, and you wouldn’t send your child to go kill your own extended family, nor to be killed by them defending themselves.

We have to use our voices to say “No More” to that too. We have to quit treating those who have, for whatever reasons, joined such raiding parties as heroes. Victims, perhaps, but not heroes. No one to be emulated, worshiped, never telling our sons and daughters how noble they are. Wars cannot happen if we teach our young not to participate in them.

You see, if everyone isn’t our family, then really no one is. We aren’t killers, we are nurturers. We are bringers of life. We are the calm waters that soothe the cyclone.

We are all that…until we aren’t. Then we can be scary.

Remember the old saying, “If Momma ain’t happy, then nobody’s happy”? There is no wrath like a Mother protecting her young, in the animal kingdom – and humans may be the epitome of the spirit.

Men fight their battles, but no revolution has ever been won until the Mothers stand up. Until we say, “No more.” I am sure wiser, more learned Mothers than I can substantiate that fact. I am no historian, but I sure have heard the folklore… from strikes to rights, from revolutions to epic tales. When women stand up, the world quivers!

Until we put our bodies in front of the guns, and dare our fathers, husbands, brothers and sons to shoot us.

Are you really happy? Do you live in fear and stress, and wonder how the hell you can give your children a better life?

Is this living? Is this the Motherhood you had envisioned when you were a dreaming child?

I think not. And I think you all know its true. You have heard of the 1%, know about the banksters. I think you know that all of Washington has been coopted by the money of those shoving you and yours away from their food laden table. I think you know that we are making War on people who do not deserve it in the least; droning other Mothers and their children so the metaphorical Mayors can steal their stuff. You know whats wrong, and have been trying to make the peace at home, stay under the radar, perhaps wear blinders so reality isn’t so scary.

Dear, dear Mothers…. its well past time to say “No More!”

When we set a table, everyone eats. When we have neighbors, we share with them and help them, not steal from them. When someone is at risk, hurt or sickly, we heal them. That is what Socialism is, Socialism does.

When you open the overpriced cards on your Mother’s Day, think not of the sentiment held within it. Think what those same children would write to you 20 years from now… in whatever world you now choose to give them. A predatory Capitalist world eating them alive, or a Socialist world in which all are cared for.

Make this the year you are the Momma Bear Protecting your Cubs, dear Mothers.

Time is getting short.

When the Mothers stand up? Shit hits the proverbial fan. When Mothers join hands? Things change. When Mothers are determined? People stop dying needlessly.

I wish you the happiest of Mother’s Days; may you spend it pondering what you really want it to mean to you, and generations to come.

You DO hold immeasurable power. You are the strength of humanity. You are half the world’s population, and if the Mothers of the world stood together, no force on Earth could stop us.

Use your wisdom, feel with your heart, let your rage be channeled, and do what is right. Be a Mother.

Love – and I mean I truly love you,

Another Mother

Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today – Ya

Father, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what’s going on
What’s going on
Ya, what’s going on
Ah, what’s going on

In the mean time
Right on, baby
Right on
Right on

Father, father, everybody thinks we’re wrong
Oh, but who are they to judge us
Simply because our hair is long
Oh, you know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some understanding here today
Oh

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me
So you can see
What’s going on
Ya, what’s going on
Tell me what’s going on
I’ll tell you what’s going on – Uh
Right on baby
Right on baby

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Final Cuba Jeopardy Answer — “The Emergence of Marxist Holism” by Galtisalie

2:28 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Sven. Who is Chris Farley?
No, I am sorry that is not correct. Your wager, your guaranteed minimum Celebrity Jeopardy $1,000, takes you down to 0.

Pendejo. I’m a gay pirate from Cuba. I’m sorry, you once again failed to put your response in the form of a question, such as where do you come up with this stuff? With your wager of $1,000, you are also at 0.

Richard. Why to the capitalist overlords Cuba must fail and for the rest of us Cuba “must” succeed? Yes, you placed it in the form of question, with the correct question word at that. You succinctly hit themes of your obscure 2008 India-published book, Talking About Trees: Science, Ecology and Agriculture in Cuba . You even subtly changed prepositions to connote the not fully recognized nature of Cuba’s importance to humanity’s future and added appropriate quotation mark qualifiers recognizing the pivotal role that Cuba could play but implying the stubborn persistence of socialism even if Cuba goes the way of the Soviet Union or China. But don’t get fatheaded elitist. A portion of your winnings is being expropriated for Obamacare! And you’ll be coming back tomorrow to battle the SuperTeachers, beginning with “The Embargo” for $100 on an original reason for the embargo was when Castro declared Cuba a _________ state. If all this musical, graphical, and intellectual stimulation makes you nauseous, go back to Hahvard professor.

Nananana nanana, nananana Na nanananana, nananananananana, Na nanana, na, na, na, pum pum.

I hope I did not give you a flashback. I was more of a “Let’s Make a Deal” kid growing up and always got nervous watching Jeopardy. I never could get my reptilian brain around receiving information first and then finding questions that make sense of the information. Later, as a high school student forced to be a Wheel Watcher every weeknight, I reached an unhappy medium in the limbic region around the same time Pendejo was first bearing his chest to a national audience. Good times. I know, I should not joke about such things. Game shows, blockades, and Spandex are serious matters.

I particularly should not tease Sven up there. He dun gooo-ad by standing up to Pendejo. It passes for bravery these days for someone in the corporate media to stand up to a conservative gun nut who uses Nazi imagery (“subhuman mongrel”) for rhetorical purposes when referring to the nation’s first African-American president. He cannot help it that when Alan Gross called him on May 4, 2012 with his weekly phone call that he did not have time to prepare much less to consider notions like the possibility that laying off over 10 percent of a country’s work force might actually contribute to problems that the private sector in the U.S. and around the world is already quite expert at causing not curing:

BLITZER: If you could speak directly to the top leaders in Cuba, what would you say?

GROSS: I would say to Raul Castro that I think he’s trying to do some very courageous things. I think that he himself has been on national television before the national assembly. And he said that a major problem with the economy here is the low productivity. And that can’t be blamed on the United States. It cannot be blamed on the United States.

And I think it took a lot of courage to say that.

And I think that, you know, the – the – the million-and-a-half or so people who are being retrenched from government jobs have to find employment somewhere. And I think he’s a very pragmatic individual who recognizes the need for private sector growth and development here. And he has said that he’s hoping that the – the – the growth of the private sector will offset those newly unemployed.

I don’t know how – I don’t know what the employment j the unemployment rate is in Cuba. But if a million-and-a-half people are – are retrenched from their jobs and there’s only 11 million people in the country, that’s got to say something about a very high unemployment level.

And so I would say – I would say to President Castro that I think he’s – he’s – he’s – he’s courageous and I applaud his – his pragmatic approach to beginning to – to try to create a – a more positive business environment. …

BLITZER: And, Alan, what’s your message to the highest officials here in Washington, including the president and the secretary of State?

What a daunting follow-up question! It also might have been appropriate for Sven to query Mr. Gross about his connections to the U.S. government, including possibly the CIA, which had already been reported on by AP. As noted by The Jewish Daily Forward:

[O]fficial trip reports he filed for an American government agency, revealed by The Associated Press on February 12, paint a picture of a man who knew the risks he was taking. “Detection of satellite signals will be catastrophic,” Gross warned in a report that filtered back to the U.S. Agency for International Development, according to AP.

When he was arrested, Gross, a resident of suburban Washington, was carrying a high-tech cell phone chip more commonly used by the CIA or the Defense Department. …

In addition to using Jewish missions to Cuba as a cover, Gross even asked fellow American Jewish travelers to smuggle electronic equipment into Cuba and then give it back to him at his hotel, the AP said.

The cell phone chip found on Gross when he was arrested would have allowed a user to make satellite phone calls without being detected.

Such activity seems to go beyond the picture painted by Gross’s supporters of a man interested in only helping Cuba’s Jews.

So, I’m confused. Cuba poses an existential threat to my country? Let me try to enter the mind of Pendejo up there, to be followed up later with a strong digital germicidal spraying–

Like the War of the Worlds, we know how this ends PEOPLE. We’ve known it since the Reagan administration, and I’m not talking about Footloose people:

Infiltrators came up illegal from Mexico. Cubans mostly. They managed to infiltrate SAC bases in the Midwest, several down in Texas and wreaked a helluva lot of havoc, I’m here to tell you. They opened up the door down here, and the whole Cuban & Nicaraguan armies come walking right through, rolled right up here through the Great Plains.

An excerpt from IMDb’s 15th most popular feature film in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four of all years.

What more do we need to know????!!!!!????

Get the heck off this computer, duck, and cover yur Dynasty, and I don’t mean Ducky Dynasty, but the time when we had real serious teevee shows about wealthy oil tycoons.

But wait, are not all male Amurricans after all strangely compelled by “Cuba.” Is Cuba the kitty next door?

Well, I don’t know where they come from but they sure do come
I hope they comin’ for me
And I don’t know how they do it but they sure do it good
I hope they’re doin’ it for free

And do not all Cuban women secretly desire at least the younger version of a “gay pirate from Cuba”-joking, guitar hero capable of nimbly purring out a 3-tone minor-key melody harmonized in parallel fourths? Can’t we all be friends? Serious online places like the Hahvard Political Review assure us that Cuba is not after all an existential threat, at least “anymore”: “Does the Republic of Cuba pose a threat to U.S. national security and American interests around the world?” Heck no. It is that truly virulent oil state kitty further to the south:

Venezuela is more of a threat to U.S. interests than Cuba. Venezuela continues to challenge the United States in international relations through OPEC and most recently in the Edward Snowden asylum negotiations.

Ah yes. That is the enemy. Meanwhile in Cuba, a Hahvard “economics concentrator living in Grays” assures us they just need capitalism in Cuba, or maybe Putinism, because, after all, “The embargo is blamed for economic woes when in reality the communist model is likely responsible.”

Have the highly educated people who write this crap ever thought about living conditions on the island next door to the east, which the Spanish named Hispaniola, and which now contains the racist, exploiting of persons of Haitian descent, big sugar lands of the Cuban ex-patriot Fanjul brothers? Hispaniola is not such a nice “Tropical Retreat” for the masses. The DR (and in particular the transnational Fanjul brothers) knows quite a bit about dependency on the U.S. for sugar exports, just like it knows quite a bit about dependency upon the U.S. for grain imports, or as they call it down there, Harina Blanquita. I have seen with my own eyes that neocolonialism in the DR is a continuation of the colonialism of yore, which is to say, about “Conquista y explotación.”

I hate to tell you Grays livin’ man, but when Cuba lost most of its ability to export its primary crop to its largest trading partner, who now, over half a century later, will not allow a Jefferson nickel’s worth of the world’s third largest nickel reserves to be put in a nickel or even a third party country’s components, that might have a bit more to do with Cuban economic woes than Cuban national health care, free university education, the disbanding of the latifundia, the expropriating of corporate property, ecology, sustainable agriculture, public control of science, and other egalitarian “abuses” of its people. But breathe a sigh of relief Hahvard concentrator and “USAID,” “American style” love and austerity is coming to Cuba. Cuba’s austerity will no longer be imposed by the US from the outside but through some measure of coopting of the socialist project! Uu-um gooo-ad. More and more women can adopt capitalist coping strategies involving pleasuring gooo-ad ole’ Uncle Sam, just like women everywhere from the Deep South to the DR.

I am not going to turn this diary into a laundry listing of the amazingly broad and deep extent of the U.S. blockade of Cuba, which, by operation of U.S. law in violation of international law, effectively sabotages Cuba’s ability to have normal trade relations with any nation on the face of the earth, much less the U.S., not to mention directly results in the death of Cuban people unable to access patented U.S. medicines. (For a recent full account of the extent and impact of the Cuban blockade on Cuba, please see Salim Lamrani’s The Economic War Against Cuba (Monthly Review Press 2013).)

The question remains, why the heck does the U.S. go to so much trouble against Cuba? In a word, as the SuperTeachers recognize, “socialism.” It is not just about the preference of expats but about the coinciding of the preference of powerful expats with overall capitalist preferences. As I discussed in a comment in a Cuban-blockade-related diary I wrote last year on the occasion of the annual U.N. condemnation of U.S. treatment of Cuba:

Helms-Burton is replete with references to the requirement for a “market economy” to satisfy the U.S. After all this was among the great crimes of the Cuban government, in the eyes of Senator Helms at least. As per SEC. 2 “Findings”:

(3) The Castro regime has made it abundantly clear that it will not engage in any substantive political reforms that would lead to democracy, a market economy, or an economic recovery.

For Senator Helms types, and perhaps you, democracy is synonymous with a market economy:

SEC. 206. REQUIREMENTS FOR DETERMINING A DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED GOVERNMENT.
For purposes of this Act, a democratically elected government in Cuba, in addition to meeting the requirements of section 205(a), is a government which–
*
(3) is substantially moving toward a market-oriented economic system based on the right to own and enjoy property;

There is nothing mysterious about this. It is part of the modus operandi of U.S. trade relations with former socialist countries. Interestingly, even proponents of this market-based outcome are against the blockade: See the Washington University School of Law journal article entitled, “THE HELMS-BURTON ACT: A STEP IN THE WRONG DIRECTION FOR UNITED STATES POLICY TOWARD CUBA.” The reason the U.S. government, and the business interests that run it, promote “democracy”-lite, like we have in the U.S., is so that it can obtain investment treaties that accomplish the following:

The [Poland] BIT “established two foreign policy strategies: (1) to encourage the development of pro-investor international legal norms; and (2) to promote free-market economic reforms.”

(Id. at n. 120, p. 234.)

Yes, for my entire lifetime, the most powerful country in the history of the world has tried to crush “socialism” in a small island nation off its southern coast. The socialism of Cuba has not always been pretty or even socialism, which needs to be deeply democratic to be deserving of the name, but its flops often have eventually flipped, sometimes in part because of the very oppression of the U.S. However, Professor Levins demonstrates that patterns of positive living that need to be implemented around the world which first emerged in Cuba through its Marxist holism did not actually have its roots in the added pain imposed upon Cuba through the collapse of the Soviet Union, which led to the Special Period. For instance, while responsive to the continuing economic duress of the blockade, “[I]n 1987 Raul Castro called for the widespread introduction of organopónicos, raised beds of enriched and composted soils where crops could be grown in small areas with no dependence on outside resources.” (p. 150)

Looking even more closely, Cuba’s enormous contribution to demonstrating patterns of ecologically-sensitive, sustainable living developed, and hopefully will persist going forward, because of an evolving Cuban revolutionary commitment to a way of thinking, Marxist holism. (I find it to be completely consistent with my personal intuitive commitment to begin by “accepting life’s complexity,” so I guess that makes me a Marxist, although I have never consciously sought to be one.) The U.S. and by extension the world is stuck in the second corner of a “three-cornered struggle,” with considerable elements of its population, particularly in the rapture-fixated Deep South, keeping a toe or two in the first corner.

The struggles around the nature and value of science can be understood as a three-cornered struggle in which the contenders are (1) a pre-capitalist holism which is hierarchical, static or ahistoric, reactionary and mystical; (2) a capitalist-era liberal, rationalist, secular, reductionist, instrumental scientism; and (3) a post-capitalist, dynamic, anti-hierarchical materialist dialectical holism.
This tri-partite classification is, of course, an abstraction from a more complex reality. Individuals form their own belief system in the context of their society and location in that society but also from more idiosyncratic experiences. Schools of thought borrow and are influenced by each other. Post-colonial societies often combine modern globalized capitalist relations with pre-capitalist modes of power and join their willing subordination to the global corporate system with a petulant cultural nationalism.
(p. 84)

Scientists free to follow principles of Marxist holism sometimes can do “better” scientific work because not only are they not directly or indirectly working for capitalists and subservient to profit but also because they look at problems “better”:

Marxist holism starts from Hegel’s dictum that the truth is the whole. It is a warning that if problems are posed too narrowly they end up attributing explanation to external events. We further claim that many of the major failings of contemporary science have come about because problems have been posed too narrowly. …
A common theme to these failings is a systematic reductionism that posed problems too narrowly, bounded by unstated constraints, and as static. Hegel’s dictum is a warning that there is more out there. We must always ask in studying a particular problem “where is the rest of the world?” it is a further warning that what we have not taken into account can, and eventually will, overturn our theories.
Marxist holism does emphasize connection among phenomena. … Our emphasis on connections among phenomena does not mean that we can cast spells to get justice but that we must trace the connections even among phenomena that are not obviously related.

(pp. 88-89)

“As historical materialists we do claim that knowledge is a social product”:

But we do not stop with the naïve claim that received knowledge is false or that some knowledge is wiser than other because it comes from nicer people. Rather the claim of social embeddedness is a demand to study how that knowledge is produced. We claim that all knowledge comes from experience and reflection on that experience in the light of previous knowledge. Therefore we have to examine the domain of experience that gives rise to knowledge. Learning from the people does not mean that the less educated person wiser, or that “what the ancients say” is a proof of validity. We ask which ancients, why was what they said recorded and why millions of other ancients left no trace in the records. …
[I]n the end nature intrudes. …
“Epistemic charity” is not a blank cheque to the past but the acknowledgement that sometimes, old knowledge is profound where modern instrumentalism sacrifices the long run to immediate gain, and that the wholesale dismissal of traditional knowledge remains a part of colonialist arrogance.
(pp. 89-91)

Professor Levins is a cradle Marxist, key ecologist, and the John Rock Professor of Population Sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is, in my estimation, a really good species-being. We come from totally different immediate backgrounds, but I believe that he is sensitive to understand mine–and yours, whatever it is, and I appreciate that on multiple levels:

Philosophers have sought to understand the world. The point, however, is to change it.
Karl Marx (Theses on Feuerbach, 11th Thesis)

When I was a boy I always assumed that I would grow up to be both a scientist and a Red. Rather than face a problem of combining activism and scholarship, I would have had a very difficult time trying to separate them.
Before I could read, my grandfather read to me from Bad Bishop Brown’s Science and History for Girls and Boys. He believed that as a minimum every socialist worker should be familiar with cosmology, evolution, and history. I never separated history, in which we are active participants, from science, the finding out how things are. My family had broken with organized religion five generations back, but my father sat me down for Bible study every Friday evening because it was an important part of the surrounding culture and important to many people, a fascinating account of how ideas develop in changing conditions, and because every atheist should know it as well as believers do.
On my first day of primary school, my grandmother urged me to learn everything they could teach me–but not to believe it all.
(p. 11)

Society is made up of individuals ideally connected by solidarity. Solidarity can be born in the hearts and minds of individuals who were not always committed to the cause. Seeds of Red and Pink may have been planted decades prior to emergence. Secret unknowing agents for Marxism, like my dear hard core Republican dad, may wear capitalism on their sleeves. You and I don’t have to have been born Red or Pink to die Red or Pink and to bring others into the great cause. And when our journeys become our journey, the converging and converting power of Marxist holism also can emerge if we dedicate our hearts and minds to wise questioning and wise acting.

Leaving aside overarching issues of family and necessity, many of us are compelled to dedicate our hearts and minds to something other than capitalism, for capitalism, even if sufficiently profitable personally, leaves us unsatisfied in one way or another. Not everyone is seduced by the opportunity to sell something, including their souls. We may for a time fixate on one “mysterious” tradition or another, and we may for a time self-medicate with Wheel Watching or chemical remedies to suppress the urge. Friendship sometimes is prescient of getting stoned together watching ball games or aging rock stars strut their stuff and fire their guns, but it also can take off in unpredictable directions. Malcolm Little became Malcolm X who continued to grow and shake off dead skin until he was murdered.

If we are fortunate to be exposed to a humane and tolerant socialist consciousness, we may one day deeply challenge ourselves to be loving, thinking, acting species-beings. Or, in my case, we may find a convert zone with some traditional elements and a whole lot of Marxist holism which embraces literally getting my hands dirty in the gardens and compost piles of life. I do not know what works for you.

Levins believes that, whether it is rolling cigars, growing vegetables, or cutting sugar cane, the drudgeries of working and especially rural life can be at least somewhat alleviated through liberation and empowerment of the workers to be not only in creative control of their own environments but also as much as possible scientists themselves. Although Cuba, at least pre-layoffs, has led Latin America and much of the world in per capita dedicated “scientists,” it has also insisted that they be dedicated to the people and not in league with capital. Marxist holistic science does not support the commodification of anything, much less science itself. This has its genesis in principles of the founder of Cuba’s original liberation movement which merged naturally with socialist notions of science:

José Martí’s modernist value of learning was joined with the traditional socialist appreciation of science to encourage the young revolutionaries to give a high priority to science from the earliest days of the revolution. The traditional socialist view was that scientific knowledge had been produced out of the wealth created by working people but was monopolized by the rich to be used for profit and to build the instruments of power. Therefore the recapture of scientific knowledge for the people was a common goal of radicals throughout the world, and any scientific learning was considered a victory. Further, scientific literacy was seen as liberation from religious obscurantism and bigotry. Scientific news or controversies frequently appeared in the socialist and communist publications. Public lectures in England, the United States, and Russia contributed to this goal. My own grandfather, who had a third grade education, believed that every socialist worker should at least know cosmology, history and evolution. In pre-revolutionary Cuba the lectores (readers) in the tobacco factories were hired by the workers to read from world classics and scientific literature while they worked. [Shout out to my own great great uncle Francisco (whose photo and partial story is in this diary), who while a lector in West Tampa also read "Marxist and other anti-capitalist viewpoints" to the cigar workers"! He was a bad ass who would have recognized Pendejo from the model citizens in pointy hoods who kidnapped him at gun point, stripped and beat him.]
Thus it was natural for Cuban revolutionaries to look toward science for economic development and as part of the necessary culture for a free people.
(p. 128)

Primarily sticking with the words of “Hahvard men” (and Sven, Pendejo, and Alan Gross), it is noted that on March 7, 2014, the Harvard Business Review published an admirably revealing on-line column written by its executive editor entitled America’s Long and Productive History of Class Warfare. Despite the fact that the term is in one of my groups at Daily Kos, I do not like the term “class warfare,” and prefer the term “class struggle.” But I am not here to quibble. In any event, as Warren Buffett has acknowledged for almost a decade in a favorite talking point, the class waging the warfare in recent decades has been his class, through the tax code, not the poor. In fact, its been “a rout.”

Although I disagree with Justin Fox’s underlying assumptions and capitalist economic views (including the part about “our economic system has … largely thrived”), most of what the Executive Director of the Harvard Business Review Group wrote was accurate and keenly perceptive:

Fourteen years ago, with the dot-com bubble fizzling but the rest of corporate America seemingly still going like gangbusters, the great management journalist Geoff Colvin wrote a column in Fortune titled “Capitalists: Savor This Moment.” An excerpt:

The business culture is triumphant. Not just for those in authority but for most of society, business is at the center, and that’s pretty much okay with everybody. It doesn’t feel remarkable to us for the same reason fish don’t notice water; we live in it. But step outside the moment and look at commerce’s role in the culture. It’s unprecedented.

Colvin’s conclusion was that this just couldn’t last. He wasn’t sure what would replace it, and even now it’s not obvious what will. By the numbers it’s still a pretty awesome time to be a plutocrat, but clearly the mood has changed. It’s important to remember, though, that the anomaly is not the current mood of skepticism of business and the rich. It’s what preceded it.

(Emphasis added.)

And that to me is the continuing relevance of Cuba. Cuba helps to demonstrate what would replace capitalism. Cuba may fail, it may abandon socialism, which would be terribly sad. But socialism will always come back because Marxist holism will continue to liberate and empower each of us who chooses to be liberated and empowered by encouraging us to think deeply and freely, and to fight not just to understand the world but to change it.

Socialism for Cuba has made, and for all of us can make, “ecological choices more likely”:

In spite of the incentives and commitments to an ecological pathway, Cubans could have decided otherwise. In fact, they did so at the beginning when in the absence of ecological consciousness, the urgency to meet the needs of the people led to harmful decisions. But when the first, Green Revolution developmentalist approach turned out to be destructive of productive capacity and poisoned people and nature, this was sufficient reason to reexamine the strategy. There were no greedy institutions committed to defending the harmful course with lobbyists, public relations firms, lawyers and hired witnesses. [Cf. NYT 3/16/14, Billionaires With Big Ideas Are Privatizing American Science.] It meant that Cuban scientific and political leadership, which is strongly committed to a broad, dynamic and integral approach, was able to recognize the origins of the different developmental strategies in the world political economy and the implications of alternative choices. It meant that there were scientists prepared to argue the case for ecological development, receptive ears in the leadership and public to receive the arguments sympathetically, and a logic of decision-making that made an ecological pathway of development along with equity and collectivity an essential part of Cuban socialism. That’s how they are doing it.
(p. 154-55)

I very much appreciate Professor Levins’ humility combined with a conscious lifelong extending of the hand of solidarity:

We do not know what roles self-conscious Marxists or the religious left will play in the new movement, how much it will remember from the past or have to learn anew. …
We have to examine and invent new forms of struggle, all aimed basically a changing consciousness and building solidarity even when we are small and seemingly helpless. Revolutionary politics are not limited to storming the winter palaces. Any action that pushes back the boundaries of the permissible, that legitimizes thinking and questions the unquestionable, that strengthens our own capacity to analyze and organize and that tightens the ties that unite us for the long haul, that invents ways of broadening participation and that undermines the crippling burdens of racism and sexism and homophobia and hierarchical posturing within our own movements, is revolutionary practice. …
From the bottom of the trough we need to see the present moment in perspective, to know that it isn’t over, that even when exuberant capitalism wins big victories these do not solve its problems. The problems return even more sharply. Therefore the struggle will surge again, and we will add new pages to our songbook. I expect to see you there.

(pp. 160, 65). How interesting that he wrote this before Occupy Wall Street. And how apt for such groups as Anti-Capitalist Meetup: “Nor do I put down what is derisively called ‘preaching to the converted.’ We, the ‘converted,’ needs lot of ‘preaching,’ lots of analysis, education, encouragement.” (Id.)

Thank you Richard Levins for appearing on Cuba Jeopardy.

And thank you Fidel and Raúl for your dedication to our world. In the blogosphere, little ole’ I, an anti-totalitarian democratic socialist, have been both an active defender and an occasional critic. Free expression is not only a human right but also a good thing even under war conditions, as Debs stood for in WWI and Orwell demonstrated in WWII. If you go to my website’s blogroll you will find publications with “pro-Castro” points of view as well as a link to the critical Cuban left. I do not think any one anti-capitalist individual, party, or organization has all of the answers. International solidarity must be improved and that requires dialogue among all potential allies on the left and openness to the complicated issues relating to both economic and political democracy, particularly in an aggressively capitalist neoliberal world. With a commitment to the Socratic method, I have learned a lot even from engagement with some of your most ardent opponents in the Cuban American community (please see this example of an ongoing effort of mine resulting from dialogue at a popular Cuban dissident blog where the left and the right regularly meet to lash out at each other).

The ultimate goal should be an international social compact that brings together all people of good will. Some people, including the capitalist overlords, will not like this. The citizens of the world must through a creative sacrificial combination of direct actions build from below a deep international democracy while at the same time seizing control of power and property from the capitalist overlords. Democracy must include both civil freedoms and basic economic justice for all. Indirect, i.e., political, action at the nation state level is necessary but not adequate. We each are responsible for system change through cultural change of hearts and minds. I do not know if this can be done. I do know that we have to try. All of our voices count. (From time to time, out of the blue a person searching for ideas on the other side of our world takes notice of my small contribution to the effort.)

We realize the path to the future will not be easy or dogmatic. That is why we need and hopefully increasingly will appreciate the Cuban experiment. For the foreseeable future, Cuba is much more likely to become truly democratic than the US, which is as stuck as Pendejo’s arteries in a democracy-lite, aka capitalist democracy, and with Citizens United just keeps getting worse. (“Funny” how US corporations are people now, free to give money to US politicians but not free to ship junk food and misleading financial instruments to Cuba.) I am for equal human, not corporate, rights and against profiling and police oppression, whether under US, Russian, Chinese, Saudi, Israeli, Cuban or any other jurisdiction. You have acknowledged many “errors” and, under generations of enormous unethical pressure from the US, probably committed some “crimes” (using Levins’ definition, p. 163, which includes the use of force “to settle disagreements within the revolution,” whereas I expressly emphasize that even counter-revolutionaries should be able to participate fully in Cuban political processes–but not Cuban Americans who gave up their rights as Cuban citizens–just like in the US convicted felons who have served their time automatically should be restored their voting rights).

Your country will continue to change, just as mine will and our world will. I hope one day the world, including Cuba, will be far less militarized. The US should remove the plank from its own eye before picking at your country’s military speck, but the speck is not a good permanent state of affairs even if it does not disproportionately take economic resources from the non-militarized people. Guns are, as evidenced by Pendejo’s love for them, not the answer. The correct Jeopardy Question on point is “Why do humans allow the defense and gun industries to lead them around by the nose?” I am not a utopian. Hence, I am not focused on the impossible of ridding our planet of guns and bombs, but as a species we have to admit that guns and bombs are merely one more capitalist commodity seeking buyers, and a deadly one at that. Even if individuals are going to be able to keep and bear some arms useful in hunting and theoretically turning back the hordes, nation states should demilitarize as much as possible. Militarization and international trade in arms promotes death, land and resource grabs (see, e.g., Western Sahara), conflicts which interfere with farming and other peaceful pursuits, and steal from the mouths of hungry people.

Removing the blockade, giving up the notion that democracy is synonymous with capitalism, giving back stolen Guantanamo Bay, and disbanding the CIA, which, with all the self-control of Pendejo just cannot help itself from being capitalism’s evil enforcer, would help to achieve demilitarization of our world, which needs to come into balance, ecologically and economically, and reduce transnational corporate hegemony. Meanwhile, the best global demilitarization plan would be to eliminate corporations themselves, which are a legal experiment conducted on humanity and run amuck and the reason for a great deal of the violence inherent in both the national and international systems. Over time, all nation states should wither and global unity ascend, just like Simón Bolívar dreamed, but that is not going to occur with capitalism, for which the world must be kept “safe” through conflict-accentuating militarization.

I am concerned about authoritarianism in the future of Cuba even more than in the present because at least for now Cuba, unlike the US, is a country built on equity, collectivity, and ecology. Please do not abandon the quest for a true and humane “socialism” worthy of the name. Socialism should always be iterative, fight alienation, maintain “fierce honesty,” and never “debase[] Marxism to apologetics [or cover up] corruption.” (p. 163) Please make it deeply democratic so that long after you are gone citizens of the world will want to be part of a liberating global alternative to capitalism. Please defy history, and possibly your own desperate inclinations, and do the opposite of “most favored nation” China, which abandoned “equity and collectivity,” is a major factor in the global ecological crisis, and preserved authoritarianism. Please when and if the blockade is lifted continue to fight the revolution of “an ecological pathway of development,” (p. 155) which Cuba has pioneered.

You are welcome by me any time in my country, just like “we” welcomed those greedy exploiters. Although I do not so much believe in heaven anymore, I like to imagine tio Pancho, mi abuela, and countless other Hillsborough County cigar workers are smiling down on you, still glad that you prevailed and that they paid from their meager earnings to buy José Martí’s bullets and then yours. Nowadays in my country, by capitalist design it is Pendejo who is armed and dangerous, standing his ground against all manner of human beings with the wrong skin tone or political doctrine. He awaits you and your kind, which is to say my kind too and any other kind that is not his kind. If the cholesterol or Viagra-induced fever does not get him first, he will die serenading a Republican convention or red state county fair opening for Mannheim Steamroller with the world’s longest gray soul patch, so there’s that. But the planet will be boiling while most of the workers and lumpenproletariat are raging for more than kickass rock-n-roll.

Whichever “side” will “win” is a complex question. All we can do is try to ask the right underlying questions as well as possible, hope they are large enough, and act accordingly. There will be no camo outfits, assault rifles, or 24-hour pablum that can prepare us for what awaits. The Road Warrior was just another good times Reagan era movie. More than Cuba is in jeopardy. Which side are you on Sven and Hahvard men with your big sexy brains? Win the race to build the next widget or join the sluts and homos in Cuba to try to save the world?

My comrades and I know which side we are on. Levins’ Postface identifies “some of our tasks.”

First:

1. Assist in the revival and growing clarity of popular struggles, helping the new movements to broaden their vision, to understand the context of their immediate situations and the lessons of past struggles that they can draw on. The long view is vital in sustaining the short term and local struggles in the face of countless disappointment and frustrations, anticipating the pressures of our adversaries to divide and co-opt, and in discovering the common ground between different struggles for justice when they seem to conflict because each asks too little.

Second:

2. Combat despair. As against the retreat into nationalism we reaffirm our internationalism, maintain ties among revolutionaries across borders, pool our experiences and ideas, and work for joint strategies. We uphold special solidarities with Cuba and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico because as one of the last of the old colonies it may spearhead the resistance to the recolonizing of the Third World. Cuba because it is the one society which has retained a revolutionary commitment although having to make concessions to global capitalism. Even as it retreats in some spheres of life it leads the world in others, in the vision of an ecological society and the development of socialist democracy.
As against individualism we learn from left feminism to examine the much ignored areas of the personal in society, explaining how our individual miseries are not ours alone, how the commonly marketed solutions to personal fulfillment fail to address the root of the prevailing miseries and wasted talents. …

Third:

3. Faced with the dismissal of Marxism as obsolete even by some progressives, we reaffirm a militant Marxism. Rather than shrinking it down to merely a humane economics in order to gain respectability we broaden the scope of its engagement to confront all the ideologies of aggressive capital in all aspects of our existence. Only an honest, creative, and self-critical Marxism can survive to play a vital role in the coming struggles.
a) As a matter of theoretical coherence, practical necessity, and intellectual integrity we have to examine the history of our movement and understand the defeat it suffered. …
b) Openness to new ideas. Just as Marxism acknowledges its debts to English political economy, German philosophy, and French socialism so it must also welcome the insights of feminism, national liberation and anti-racist struggles, and ecology. …
c) Openness to new phenomena, to changes in our society and in the ways people confront that society, to new patterns of consciousness. …

(pp. 160-65)

US occupants did not always treat Cuban revolutionaries with contempt. One of the “new phenomena” we should be open to is actually an old one: the natural neighborliness among all oppressed people searching for answers, the right questions, and the right actions, regardless of nationality. Martí spoke in Spanish (translated here by Pablo Medina in A Century of Cuban Writers in Florida, p. 59 (Pineapple Press 1996).) on November 27, 1891 in Tampa, likely with some of my cigar worker ancestors in attendance, commemorating the deaths of eight martyred medical students summarily executed twenty years before in Havana on trumped up charges of scratching the tombstone of a Spanish newspaperman. The students were not granted weekly telegrams to the US but rather executed two days after their arrest.

Good thinkers who are also effective leaders, be they a founder of a world-changing socio-economic theory and movement, an oft-ostracized leftist Hahvard professor and path breaking ecologist, or a poet and future hero of anti-colonialism, have a way of making other folks sense their own potential significance to “changes in our society,” their own potential significance as species-beings. Sometimes they use emotional messages with holistic symbols from the earth that touch our hearts as well as our minds:

Today let us sing the hymn of life before the memorial of their graves. Yesterday I heard it coming from the earth itself, when we came to this gracious town. The landscape was damp and shadowy; the streams ran turbulent and muddy; the sugarcane, sparse and withered, did not move sorrowfully like the one far away that seeks redemption for those who nourished it with their death. Rather, its blades entered, rough and sharp, like daggers through the heart. In defiance of the storm and clouds, one pine stood with its top raised. Suddenly the sun broke through a clearing in the forest, and there in the midst of the shimmering light, I saw growing over the yellowed grass, next to the blackened trunks of fallen pines, bunches of new pines. That is what we are: The new pines!

Then it is up to each of us to ask the right questions AND to take appropriate action.

It is not just Cuba’s children who have skin in this game. Viva Cuba.

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Don’t Mourn, Organise! by NY Brit Expat

2:48 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

The slogan “Don’t Mourn, Organise!” was written in a telegram from Joe Hill to Bill Haywood before Hill’s execution on trumped up charges in Utah. Joe Hill wrote “Goodbye, Bill, I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize!”

This slogan is not a call for us to be beyond human and not grieve or mourn. What it is instead is a call not to get so caught up in grief and mourning that we give up the struggle out of despair; it is a call to remind us what we are fighting for and that the struggle continues irrespective of our losses. It takes the loss and puts it in the past (and of course part of our present) and brings to the forefront what those who have passed on have spent their lives fighting for! Presente Bob Crow and Tony Benn!

 photo 9845129e-02a0-49d2-83f7-83a3c9e785b9_zps9b9055c6.jpg

This week Britain’s left has seen the loss of two stalwarts, two great fighters for economic, political and social justice. Two men from different class backgrounds who spent their lives fighting in different arenas; one as a member of Parliament in the Labour Party and the other as a giant of the trade union movement, a militant trade union organiser. Both men were thorns in the sides of the ruling class and mainstream politicians … both men not only fought in their chosen arenas but were part and parcel of the general movement for socialism, for democracy, and worked alongside, not as an elevated leadership, those struggling against the not only the excesses of capitalism, but in favour of the creation of a better future for all.

Rather than speak for these men, I will let you have the pleasure of listening to them speak for themselves and am including speeches made by them. Both great orators in their own way, the comparison between Bob Crow’s east London working class accent and Tony Benn’s crisp Oxbridge accent in itself is a pleasure; what they are saying exemplifies their different approaches to the struggle for socialism.

Bob Crow (13/06/1961-11/03-2014)

Bob Crow was a working class hero in many senses. The son of a boxer, he was born in East London. He quit school at age 16 to go to work for London Transport and soon became involved in union politics. In 1983, he was elected a local representative to the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR) and in 1985, was elected to the national of the Union representing track workers.
 photo 08fdee4c-8cd5-4dac-aa5f-6b5091ba86af_zps98adf67a.jpg
The merger of the NUR with the National Union of Seamen led to the formation of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) in 1990. Crow was elected in 1991 to the national executive representing the London Underground and in 1992, became assistant general secretary of the union. In 2002, he was elected general secretary of the RMT and held this position until his death.

During his time as general secretary of RMT, membership increased by 20,000 to 80,000 members; wages and conditions of work were not only protected, but improved. As the head of a union in a strategic sector, he was able to use a shrewd combination of strikes and collective bargaining to fight for his members. Unlike most of the union movement following the failure of the Miner’s strike of 1984-5, Crow never fell into the argument that the trade union movement needed to give up hard won gains. He won wage increases and protected jobs in a period of intense attack and capitulation of much of the rest of the union movement.

Bob Crow faced down not only the Tories, but Labour as well. He took the RMT out of the Labour Party when they shifted to the right with his union stopping funding of the party. Crow and his union members heckled Tony Blair in 2006 at the Trade Union Conference (TUC) national meeting, and in 2010, they staged a walk out when the governor of the Bank of England, Mervin King, spoke at the national TUC meeting.

Here is Bob Crow speaking on question time on 7th of March 2013 explaining exactly what the purpose of austerity is (the man that the camera keeps panning towards is Ken Clark of the Tory Party):

Scathing in his defence of his members and of the working class as a whole, he was a life-long Marxist, first a member of the Communist Party Great Britain (then when it split, a member of the Communist Party Britain), he later joined Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party (SLP). He left the SLP, but supported the Socialist Alliance (an attempted federation or united front of left parties). The RMT was one of the founding organisations of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). In many senses, TUSC shares the same failings as earlier attempts to unite the left along a federation of hard-left political parties where they only come together for an electoral campaign and where membership in their party and hence having their party up front to run is a priority. TUSC has not done wonderfully well in elections, even in areas where there is a strong trade union and left presence.

Most recently, he was one of the founders of the No2EU campaign in preparation to run in the upcoming EU elections in May. The majority of the left is sceptical about running a left-based anti-EU campaign attempting to draw the same conclusions as the right but for different reasons concerned about the impact of labour immigration and anti-union laws and regulations coming from the EU along with austerity imposition in the rest of Europe; invariably it was felt that the xenophobia and racism of the right could not be overcome by a left wing argument that seemed to be a nationalist agenda and up-holding the idea of “socialism in one country.” This is the case although much of the hard left is divided between advocating leaving the EU (while supporting the creation of a socialist Europe) versus attempting its reformation.

Here is Bob Crow speaking to his union members at the RMT save our railways rally, October 25th 2011:

The RMT, joined by the TSSA (Transport Salaried Staff Association) went on strike this February. The London Underground management tried to sack 900 worker’s jobs by shutting down ticket booths in some stations. The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, had refused to speak to Bob Crow for about years. They shut down the London Underground for 48 hours. Boris actually argued that he would take a case to the EU about preventing strikes due to the loss of revenue. The strike was successful and beyond that, watching the BBC trying to get commuters to criticise the unions and complain about the inconvenience was extremely pleasurable. Invariably, people not only supported the right to strike, but argued in support of the right of unionisation. The BBC actually reduced the coverage of the story from the top-story lines, attempting to minimise reporting on a strike that shut down the largest transport system in Britain; once again they exposed the BBC’s pro-government and pro-business bias in reporting.
 photo a01ba798-7357-4838-9579-13f9aecefbc0_zps729ccc30.jpg

Here is Bob Crow’s speech on May 10th 2012 at a rally in Central Hall Westminster, London, on the day of a strike called by public sector workers unions. “Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union, RMT, addressing the rally of the striking public sector workers, welcomed suggestions that the TUC would call another demonstration in the autumn, and called on the TUC to organise a one day general strike.”

Tony Benn: Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn (3 April 1925 – 14 March 2014)

Unlike Bob Crow, Tony Benn was born to wealth and privilege. Both of his grandfathers were Liberal members of Parliament and having crossed from the Liberals to Labour, his father William Wedgewood Benn was later elevated to a heredity Labour peerage (Viscount Stansgate). His mother was a feminist, theologian, and a founder and President of the Congregational Federation. He went to public (aka private) school (Westminster School). After enlisting in the royal air force in 1943 (he served in South Africa and the then Rhodesia), he went to Oxford studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics and was elected president of the Oxford Union in 1947.

Elected to Parliament as a Labour MP in 1950, he was actually on the centre of the Labour Party. He actually became radicalised through his experiences as a Member of Parliament and serving in government; in that sense, he took the opposite route that so many others have taken. He remained in Parliament until 1960 when his father died and he inherited the title of Viscount Stansgate which prevented him from sitting in the House of Commons. He tried to renounce his title, a by-election was called and he ran even though he could not take his seat if he won; he won and the seat was given to the Tory runner up . He continued to campaign to be allowed to renounce his title and in 1963, the Peerage act was passed and Tony Benn renounced his title. He ran for Parliament in a by-election and won the seat in August 1963 for Bristol SE until 1983. He remained in Parliament serving as a Member of Parliament from Chesterfield until 2001. During that time, he held several government posts under Labour governments: Postmaster General (1964-6), Minister of Technology (1966-70), Secretary of State for Industry (1974-5) and Secretary of State for Energy (1975-9). He served as Chairman of the Labour Party in 1971-2. By the end of the 1970s, Benn had shifted to the hard left of the Labour party.

Tony Benn speaking in Parliament following the removal of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher by her own party discussing Thatcherism and the rotten ideology of the Tory government under Thatcher:

Whilst a very eloquent speech (he was an incredibly eloquent speaker), he was wrong in his conclusion about the abandonment of Thatcherism with her removal, not only did it survive in the Tory party, but it spread to his own Labour Party.
 photo e58d821b-250e-4236-bc24-a869cbd6eb2d_zpsd35501b0.jpg
Benn essentially lost the struggle for socialism in Labour Party. Benn was a founding member of the Socialist Campaign Group, Bennism was the far left of labour. Never a Marxist, he was a hard-left social democrat. Bennism, a movement of political and economic principles centred around a programme of nationalisation, strong support for militant trade unionism and a fervent belief in democracy and democratisation of the political system. Supporting radical democracy, supporting the rights of oppressed groups, they successfully created black and women’s section in the Labour Party. The loss of three struggles in the Labour Party destroyed Bennism: 1) his defeat in 1981 for Deputy Secretary of the Labour Party; 2) the 1983 election of Neil Kinnock as Labour Leader; and 3) the defeat of the Miner’s strike of 1984-5.

One question that many have asked over the years was why didn’t Bennism survive? Here is Dave Kellaway‘s response:

Why didn’t the Benn current evolve into something more permanent either inside or outside (or both) the Labour party? On the one hand you had the continued defeats of working people under Thatcher’s offensive coupled with her election victories – made easier by the Falklands War and the rightwing split from labour. On the other hand you had the rise of New Labour, started under Kinnock and consummated by Blair. New Labour meant rule changes and direct expulsion of the Militant, so it became very difficult for the left to organise inside the party. Conference used to be a real opportunity to put forward some sort of socialist opposition and actually win significant support for it.

The other weakness in the Bennite current was the way it replicated the traditional division in the British labour movement between the industrial and political wings. Benn and his allies never really organised a class struggle current inside the unions, relying on alliances with ‘left’ leaders. For these reasons despite having the potential for developing into a mass class struggle current, Bennism died with a whimper rather than a bang. In the end there was a need for the leadership of the current to break with Labourism and start to build a political alternative to Kinnock/Blair. Benn’s strong commitment to Labour never really wavered so this was not going to happen (http://leftunity.org/benn-and-bennism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=benn-and-bennism).”

The hard Labour left lost to Neil Kinnock and then the purge of the hard left that held an entryist position into the Labour Party began in 1983. The Labour Party moved from social democracy to liberalism to neoliberalism under Tony Blair. Benn never thought of leaving the Labour party, he was born into the Labour Party and died as a member of a party that abandoned the principles upon which it was founded.
 photo d2897a1f-70a6-4266-b72b-b7cf83412ab2_zps39114bf6.jpg

Upon retiring from Parliament, Tony Benn said that being a member of parliament interfered with his actually doing politics and devoted the rest of his life to chronicling his years in parliament and participating in movements, speaking at demonstrations and events. His work included Stop the War coalition (he was the President), the Coalition of Resistance and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. A welcome and regular figure at demos, rallies, at conferences, at events. In an interview, he said that he tried to do 4-5 meetings a week as his way of contributing.

Speaking at a demonstration in Manchester calling for Britain to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan as the President of the Stop the War Coalition:

In his final speech to the House of Commons as an MP, Tony Benn said the following:

In the course of my life I have developed five little democratic questions. If one meets a powerful person–Adolf Hitler, Joe Stalin or Bill Gates–ask them five questions: “What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?” If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system.”
Tony Benn speaks out against capitalism outside St. Paul’s cathedral as part of the Occupy London event. Saturday 9th November 2011.

Following Bob Crow’s death, a series of tributes were placed in the London Underground by RMT members, this is my favourite and it applies as much to the death of 52 year old Bob Crow as to that of 88 year old, Tony Benn:

 photo 04f3199c-375a-4be6-97db-0fb94616f387_zps50096863.jpg

It says “Fear of death follows fear of life. A man who lives life fully, is prepared to die at anytime” (Mark Twain) Rest in Peace Robert Crow (13/06/61-11/3/2014)

How Relevant Is International Women’s Day to the Current War on Women? by Geminijen

2:55 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Today’s diary, a co-production of NY Brit Expat and myself, reposts the historical documents we used last year quoting the words and actions of the “founding mothers” of International Women’s Day. Normally, such a historical tour de force on the anniversary of IWD is presented as a nostalgic commemoration of the struggles working class women waged to achieve the gains we have today. But it can also be used as a cautionary note for our current struggles in the renewed “war on women” and efforts to dismantle the social welfare state (austerity programs). For “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

Yesterday, millions of women marched in the streets from China to Mexico, to celebrate International Women’s Day. If you live in the United States, however, you may have never heard of IWD. IWD officially began in 1911. It was started by European Socialists in the Second International honoring the striking women textile workers in New York City. Due to its socialist origin , however, it was excised from the United States memory, much as Labor Day replaced May Day, except in small immigrant enclaves or radical union groups.

While in Europe and the of rest of the world it continues to be widely celebrated, it has been watered down over the years and tends to honour women in name only, by putting a woman’s face on a male socialist agenda or taking the radical roots out of the holiday by turning it into a facile celebration giving women flowers (yellow roses to symbolize women’s demand for “Bread and Roses” in the early textile strikes – only they’ve eliminated the demand for bread).

During the women’s movement in the United States in the 1970s and 80s, women resurrected the holiday and in 1975 it was given the blessing of the United Nations. When the women’s movement re-appropriated the holiday in the States, it focused on specific women’s rights (i.e., reproductive rights such as abortion) but often at the expense of focusing on issues that would traditionally be the domain of working class women or women of color (i.e., racism, women in sweatshops, etc). They were criticized rightly for being bourgeois.

This week in New York alone, there are any number of IWD events and acknowledgements, including three specifically designated IWD Marches organized by the radical left and socialist movements: the flyer for one mentions a laundry list of different anti-capitalist issues, a couple of women’s issues but does not mention abortion; the second focuses on Abortion on Demand and Pornography; the third focuses on violence against women ranging from domestic abuse to violence in the prison system (my favorite). Didn’t see one slogan re childcare. So the struggle continues.

IWD, in fact, was the culmination of a century of women working in the labor, feminist, socialist, and anti-slavery and segregation movements to bring together the common interests of the working class and women’s rights advocates. Four major trends led to the establishment of IWD:

The first was a revolutionary fervour in Europe and the United States toward socialism, democracy and the vote. In Europe it was exemplified by a movement for working class men without property seeking the vote to further a socialist government. This was paralleled by a movement for middle class women to get the vote. This situation was mirrored in the United States by the struggle to gain the vote for black men and white women. The contradictions between these two types of suffrage movements were evident (should we fight for non-propertied or black men to get the vote, even if women were excluded? Should we fight for women to get the vote even if this excludes people of color or persons who did not own property?). The solution, of course, was to get the vote for both groups. Clara Zetkin was among the early socialists to see working class women as the driving force towards universal suffrage (everyone gets the vote independent of property qualifications to which it had been historically tied) since they bridged the divide, yet retain the principle of a revolutionary socialist agenda.

It was Clara Zetkin who advocated for the merging of the working class socialist movement and women’s movement through the establishment of International Women’s Day as a way to forward the goals of both labour and women. The first clear victories in which the leadership of working class women following the establishment of IWD were the organization of the textile workers and women’s suffrage in the United States and the Russian Revolution in 1917 which began with a massive strike by women textile workers in Petrograde (St. Petersburg) on International Women’s Day against both the orders of the Unions and left-wing political parties. The strikes lit the match of a country on the verge; they doubled in size to 200,000 workers and over the next few days, 66,000 men of the local army garrison joined forces with the strikers. The February Russian revolution began and the Tsar was forced to abdicate (http://www.marxists.org/history/ussr/events/timeline/1917.htm).

The second important factor was the increased numbers of women in the labour movement, particularly in the textile industry, as more and more women were pulled into factories and out of homes with the rise of industrial capitalism. Their struggle to free themselves from the patriarchal home as Alexandra Kollantai noted in 1902 was critical:

“Among the numerous problems raised by contemporary reality there is probably none more important for mankind, none more vital and urgent than the problem of motherhood created by the large-scale capitalist economic system. The problem of protecting and providing for the mother and young child is one that faces social politicians, knocks relentlessly at the door of the statesman, engages the health and hygiene specialists, concerns the social statistician, haunts the representative of the working class and weighs down on the shoulders of tens of millions of mothers compelled to earn their own living [...] The demand that the social collective (the community) provide maternity insurance and child protection was born of the immediate and vital needs of the class of hired workers. Of all the strata of society, this class is the one which most requires that a solution be found to the painful conflict between compulsory professional labour by women and their duties as representatives of their sex, as mothers. Following a powerful class instinct rather than a clearly understood idea, the working class strove to find a way of resolving this conflict (Society and Motherhood, 1915).”

Women’s struggle to obtain decent work conditions in the marketplace, instead of being viewed as cheap labour, is exemplified in the call for both “bread and roses.” The textile strikes beginning in 1857 and the massive strikes between 1908 and 1915 were the activist expression of women’s struggle for power. This was especially true after the horror of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory strike where mostly women workers, but also children and a few men were killed in a sweatshop fire.

While initially the feminist movement focused on human rights issues for women such as suffrage, many of the women felt allied to working class struggles for decent wages and rights and took up the call that freedom and equality for one group meant freedom and equality for all although there were and continue to be disputes as to whether equality means equality or equal opportunity and upward mobility in the capitalist system.

While the anti-slavery movement seems distinct, the end of slavery pushed all workers, black and white into the same labor struggle as wage laborers. Once this occurred, it was up to anti-racist groups to fight for equality within the labour movement. This, of course, always raised the question of equality for the other major group excluded from equality in the labor force — women.

These movements, occurring in a short period between the end of the civil war and the end of WWI, provided the activist and theoretical base to try to unite diverse groups into the revolutionary struggle. The formation of IWD was an explicit effort to unite the interests and theories of women and male labor (including workers of color that was implied in the socialist agenda) under a Revolutionary Socialist agenda in support of universal suffrage and economic equality.

The socialist women during this period who led the fight for dignity for women’s new role in the workforce and the socialization of women’s unpaid labor in the home achieved many social gains in Europe and the United States including free public education, public healthcare and childcare in some places, regulation of working hours, wages and safety conditions and pensions for the elderly. Moreover, women’s struggle for universal suffrage helped achieve gains not only for women but for the working class as a whole, including gains for people of color in the United States.

Unfortunately, many of these struggles were ultimately couched in terms of individual reforms instead of a total change of the capitalist system. At least some of this was due, as becomes clear in the historical documents, to the white supremacy and male chauvinism in the socialist movement and the classism and white supremacy in the women’s movement. As capitalism continues to devour everything in its path – leading first to a Eurocentric Imperialism and finally to Global domination, we have seen these gains receding.

As the textile and garment industry is outsourced to third world countries, it is a bitter irony that the textile and garment workers of Haiti, Cambodia and Bangladesh live in almost the exact same conditions as the women textile workers did here one hundred years ago: 14 hour work days, 7 days a week, unsafe conditions. Only this time the repetition of the horror of the Triangle shirtwaist factory has increased in scale as can be seen in the 1,134 deaths in the collapse of the garment factory at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh.

Because of the mobility of capital under global capitalism, companies facing the threat of strikes can quickly relocate to other locations, leaving workers without a source of survival. For workers, this constant threat of replacement makes fighting for higher standards risky. The call of workers in almost all these countries, including the United States, has shifted from demands for full-time stable well paid union jobs, fought for factory by factory, to political demands that the nation states provide a minimum wage to all workers. There is currently a call for a global minimum wage.

In the United States, with the flight of the textile industry, women workers are now concentrated in the food service industry (another transfer of women’s work from home to the market) where jobs cannot be outsourced. Kollantai’s prediction of the demise of the patriarchal nuclear family under capitalism is coming true. Almost 50% of marriages end in divorce and many younger people are not marrying (marriage was always lower among the working class since there was little wealth to protect or inherit). However, since the socialized safety net protections that women fought for to replace the nuclear family and provide a modicum of protection are under attack through the imposition of austerity programs, there is an increase in the feminization of poverty and single mothers. Since the problem is that there is not enough work, women are working part-time in two or three jobs in addition to taking care of their children without benefit of social supports from either the institution of marriage or of the state. Two thirds of the workers in the fast food industry are single women of color, many of them mothers, living below the poverty lines.

Yet the struggle continues. Impoverished women garment workers in Haiti, Cambodia Bangladesh have gone on strike, fought pitched street battles with police and burned factories, demanding better wages and better working conditions. And there is the beginning of a vibrant movement among low waged workers at Walmart in in the fast food industry in the United States.

The following excerpts (which we hope you will read, view, sing-along- with, explore and enjoy) are just a sampling of some of the actions and words of some prominent working women and movements during the period leading up to International Women’s Day. As we celebrate IWD today,however, let’s keep in mind how our current struggles are the same, how they have changed and what we can learn from our fore-mothers.

STILL AIN’T SATISFIED
By the Red Star Singers (If you want to get the tune and sing along, hit the link:

https://myspace.com/theredstarsingers/music/song/still-ain-t-satisfied-2824180-2802206)

They got women on TV, but I still ain’t satisfied
Cause cooptation’s all I see and I still ain’t satisfied
They call me Ms., they sell me blue jeans
Call it Women’s Lib, make it sound obscene
Oh they lied, Oh they lied, Oh they lied and I still ain’t satisfied

They got women prison guards, but I still ain’t satisfied
With so many behind bars, I still ain’t satisfied
I won’t plead guilt, I don’t want no bum deal
I don’t want crumbs, I want the whole meal
Chorus: Oh they lied, Oh they lied, Oh they lied and I still ain’t satisfied

They legalized abortion, but I still ain’t satisfied
Cause it still costs a fortune and I still ain’t satisfied
I’m singing about control of my own womb
And no reform is gonna change my tune
Chorus: Oh they lied, oh they lied, oh they lied and I still ain’t satisfied

They give out pennies here and there but I still ain’t satisfied
To set up centers for childcare but I still ain’t satisfied
And while we work everyday at slave wages,
They brainwash our kids at tender ages
Oh they lied, oh they lied, oh they lied and I still ain’t satisfied

I got some pride, I won’t be lied to
I did decide that halfway won’t do
Chorus: oh they lied, oh they lied, oh they lied and I still ain’t satisfied

In the words of the women who brought you International Women’s Day:

We need to go back to the rise of the post-Civil War labour movement and the first wave of feminism to see the inevitable class contradictions that arose between women of the bourgeoisie and women of the working class. The differences in approach are obvious when we look at the issues. Bourgeois women advocating women’s suffrage linked it to property qualifications and argued that women as a group should be enfranchised without looking at how this left blacks and many propertyless workers without the vote (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAsuffrage.htm). The birth control movement also wound up linking to eugenics groups that were aligned to repugnant issues targeting the poor and people of colour.

To win equality for all people, women of the left argued that the economic and social exploitation endemic to the capitalist system be eliminated by the triumph of socialism. While suffrage and access to birth control were clearly important reform issues, they would not in and of itself enable all women’s, or for that matter, all people’s equality. . However when reformist men chose to limit their call for the vote to blacks and propertyless working men — forgetting that this still excluded women — the dynamics shifted and the call for socialists to specifically include women in their demand for the vote was born.

“Sojourner Truth” (1797-1883):

 photo soujournertruth1870.jpg

“Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/sojtruth-woman.asp).”

There has been some debate as to whether or not Sojourner Truth actually said the words “Ain’t I a woman” as the speech was reconstructed. Alice Walker prefers the original speech above and we are keeping it. Essentially, the controversy is over a resource written by a man in a newspaper that was one month after the event vs. an informal report by a woman who was at the event. Which resource is more legitimate? Since sources from the side of the oppressed are always both “stronger” — less polite — and de-legitimatized, we am opting for the female on the spot source vs. the male resource with (as the article shows) a specific agenda in terms of tone.

Harriot Stanton Blatch recalled how as a 10-year-old, she once read the morning papers to visiting SOJOURNA TRUTH as she smoked her pipe. Young Blatch asked,
“Sojourner, can’t you read?” To which Truth answered, “Oh no, honey, I can’t read little things like letters. I read big things like men.” Born a slave named Isabella, Sojourna bore at least 5 children, 2 girls sold from her, won her son back from an Alabama slaveholder, worked as a cook, maid and laundress in New York City, illiterate, preached against prostitution 1830, a mystic, chose name 1843, preached throughout Long Island and Connecticut, at abolitionist meetings, spoke at women’s rights meetings in 1850s, and is remembered for her dramatic “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech delivered at the Women’s convention in Akron, Ohio in 1851.

I. Labour and Organising:

Early 20th century US labour history and its relation to international women’s day:

MARY HARRIS “MOTHER” JONES(1837-1930)
 photo motherjones.jpg

“A lady is the last thing on earth I want to be. Capitalists side-track the women into clubs and make ladies of them.”
“No matter what the fight, don’t be ladylike! God almighty made women and the Rockefeller gang of thieves made the ladies.”

Labor organizer Mother Jones worked tirelessly for economic justice. While her opponents called her the “most dangerous woman in America,” fellow organizer Elizabeth Gurley Flynn called Jones “the greatest woman agitator of our times.” Jones combined dynamic speaking skills and radical organizing methods to mobilize thousands of laborers and working-class families. She said of herself,

“I’m not a humanitarian; I’m a hell-raiser.”

Mother Jones’ organizing methods were unique for her time. She welcomed African American workers and involved women and children in strikes. She organized miners’ wives into teams armed with mops and brooms to guard the mines against scabs. She staged parades with children carrying signs that read, “We Want to Go to School and Not to the Mines.”

Here is a short video on the life of Mother Jones:

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones was born in Cork, Ireland, moved to the United States in the 1840s, where her father worked in railroad construction. Mary became a teacher after trying her hand at dressmaking. In 1861 married a member of Iron Molders’ Union in Memphis. Six years later, she lost her husband and four young children to a yellow fever epidemic, and returned to Chicago to open a seamstress shop. After losing all her possessions in the great Chicago fire of 1871, Jones sought community in the Knights of Labor. She reconstructed herself as “Mother” Jones, radical organizer. Five-feet tall with snow-white hair, all black dress and confrontational style, Jones was indeed a fierce maternal presence.

From the late 1870s through the early 1920s, Jones participated in hundreds of strikes across the country. Living by the philosophy, “wherever there is a fight,” she supported workers in the railroad, steel, copper, brewing, textile, and mining industries. In 1903 she organized children textile workers to march on President Roosevelt’s home (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Harris_Jones).

Mary, like many working class women, saw the suffrage movement as an upper class women’s distraction, saying,

“the plutocrats have organized their women. They keep them busy with suffrage and prohibition and charity.”

Although she was suspicious of feminists, her courage and organizing were part of the struggle that informed International Women’s Day and deserves to be remembered on this day if for no other reason that the preceding cautionary quotes.

Lucy Parsons (born c. 1853 – March 7, 1942)
 photo lucyparsons.jpg

From her (1905) speech to the IWW:

“We, the women of this country, have no ballot even if we wished to use it, and the only way that we can be represented is to take a man to represent us. You men have made such a mess of it in representing us that we have not much confidence in asking you [.. .]

We [women] are the slaves of slaves. We are exploited more ruthlessly than men. Whenever wages are to be reduced the capitalist class use women to reduce them, and if there is anything that you men should do in the future it is to organize the women. [. . .]

Now, what do we mean when we say revolutionary Socialist?
We mean that the land shall belong to the landless, the tools to the toiler, and the products to the producers. [. . .] I believe that if every man and every woman who works, or who toils in the mines, mills, the workshops, the fields, the factories and the farms of our broad America should decide in their minds that they shall have that which of right belongs to them, and that no idler shall live upon their toil [. . .] then there is no army that is large enough to overcome you, for you yourselves constitute the army [. . .].
My conception of the strike of the future is not to strike and go out and starve, but to strike and remain in and take possession of the necessary property of production […].” (http://www.lucyparsonsproject.org/writings/speech_to_iww.html).

Lucy Parsons was a founding member of the IWW. She worked as an organizer for the IWW and anarchist activist who was a major organizer of the Haymarket Affair of 1886 in Chicago that led to the massacre of eight workers (her husband was executed in 1887 on charges of conspiring with the Haymarket Riot), addressed the founding convention of the IWW on two occasions. She was described by Chicago Police Department in the 1920s as “more dangerous than a thousand rioters (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_Parsons).” Her speeches touched on issues close to her heart: the oppression of women and how to develop radical new tactics to win strikes. Her ideas clearly were in advance of the time, presage the “sit-in” strikes of the 1930s, the anti-war movement of the 1960s, and her words resonate today. Delegate applause interrupted her speech several times and at the end.

The Uprising of the 20,000:

Interestingly enough while people may have heard the name of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, it is often mostly known due to the horrific fire in 1911. However, the Triangle Shirtwaist factory plays quite a role in the history of trade union struggles in NYC; it was in response to the horrific working conditions at the factory that workers staged a short-term strike which resulted in a lock-out by the company. This led to a 14 week strike known as the “Uprising of the 20,000″ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Ladies%27_Garment_Workers%27_Union).

 photo claralemlich.jpg
At that point a 19-year old girl named Clara Lemlich who was sitting in the crowd stood up and began walking towards the podium while shouting “I want to say a few words!”Once she got to the podium, she continued, “I have no further patience for talk as I am one of those who feels and suffers from the things pictured. I move that we go on a general strike…now!” The audience rose to their feet and cheered, then voted for a strike (http://www.economicpopulist.org/content/clara-lemlich-and-uprising-20000).

“The news of the strike spread quickly to all the New York garment workers. At a series of mass meetings, after the leading figures of the American labor movement spoke in general terms about the need for solidarity and preparedness, Clara Lemlich rose to speak about the conditions she and other women worked under and demanded an end to talk and the calling of a strike of the entire industry. The crowd responded enthusiastically and, after taking a traditional Yiddish oath, “If I turn traitor to the cause I now pledge, may this hand wither from the arm I now raise,” voted for a general strike. Approximately 20,000 out of the 32,000 workers in the shirtwaist trade walked out in the next two days.”

 photo maymyrighthandwither.jpg

Some music to enjoy (well without the music):
The Uprising of the Twenty Thousand
Dedicated to the Waistmakers of 1909

In the black of the winter of nineteen nine,
When we froze and bled on the picket line,
We showed the world that women could fight
And we rose and won with women’s might.
Chorus:
Hail the waistmakers of nineteen nine,
Making their stand on the picket line,
Breaking the power of those who reign,
Pointing the way, smashing the chain.
And we gave new courage to the men
Who carried on in nineteen ten
And shoulder to shoulder we’ll win through,
Led by the I.L.G.W.U.
(From: Let’s Sing! Educational Department, International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, New York City, n.d., http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/… ).”

The strike was not completely successful. While Union recognition was not achieved, conditions on working hours, health and safety standards and wages were agreed but many employers in the industry (including the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory owners) refused to sign. In 1910, the ILGWU led a strike of 60,000 cloakmakers called “The Great Revolt” that lasted several months and which led to higher wages, union recognition rudimentary health benefits, and an agreement of arbitration rather than strikes to settle disagreements between workers and employers. (http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/trianglefire/primary/songsPlays/UprisingTwentyThousand.html)
 photo onstrike.jpg
Following the strike of the 20,000, waves of strikes spread through the garment trade starting with Cleveland and Philadelphia and in 1910 and 19111, they hit Chicago. Beginning at Hart, Schaffner, and Marx in September 1910 when 16 women struck. While wages, working conditions and working hours were bad, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the imposition of a bonus system that allowed supervisors to play favourites with some workers, as well as a cut in the piece rate of 1/4 cent. By the end of the week, the original 16 were joined by 2,000 other women. When the United Garment Workers union (UGW) officially sanctioned the strike, 41,000 workers walked off the job. The UGW refused to call a general strike and only called out workers that were without contracts. Hart, Schaffner and Marx shifted work to non-union sub-contractors. As the fall progressed, the strike increasingly looked like a lost cause. In early November, the Chicago Federation of Labor and the Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) urged the strikers to settle, and the UGW withdrew support in December. Workers under Sidney Hillman’s leadership ratified a contract with HSM that went into effect on January 14. Other workers, the most radical of the strikers, held out until February, when the general strike was called off. As many workers as could returned to their shops, but many were refused re-employment (http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/ww/chicagostrike.html).

Hannah Shapiro Glick
 photo HannahShapiro.jpg

“It wasn’t because I wanted to work, but I could see that every little cent helped. …I went to work at Hart, Schaffner & Marx; I thought, “I have to better myself.” [...] There’s nothing like in a big place to work; ’cause they have a wonderful system to work.(4) [...] We got along nicely with every language, let me tell you, but I always minded my own business, but when it came to this, [the strike] I couldn’t stand this [...]. They were all afraid to say a word but I wasn’t [...]. People who are older than I am would stay in the house and not to budge. So I was the first one [...] If not for me, it seems they couldn’t move [...] I’m a strong girl; I never regretted it [...] I think if not for the strike, they would never have what they have now; we had to strike and I think we had the right to go [...] They stayed like glue; they felt they had to show we have to be recognized as people and, really, we struggled; it wasn’t easy [...]The workingman has to live too, that’s what it had to show and it did too (http://www.chicagohistoryjournal.com/2010/09/identifying-lost-leader.html).”


(excerpted from research by Rebecca Sive, (also see: http://www.chicagohistoryjournal.com/2010/09/identifying-lost-leader.html). In 1922, Hannah Shapiro was identified in the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Joint Board Report as the initiator of the 1910 Chicago strike. Although she never emerged as a political leader, Glick was one of the “girl strikers” Buhle’s Socialist thinkers admired.

On September 22, 1910, Hannah [a.k.a. "Annie"] Shapiro (later Glick), a seventeen-year-old Jewish immigrant born in the Ukraine, initiated the workers’ walkout in shop 5 of a major clothing manufacturer. Shapiro, complained to her foreman about a cut in the piecework rate from 4 cents to 3 & 3/4 cents for seaming a pair of pants. He replied that nothing could be done. Under Shapiro’s leadership, workers from shop 5 walked out. By Wednesday, workers in other company shops refused to do the work of Shapiro’s shop and, by the end of the week, workers in seven out of ten Hart, Schaffner & Marx shops were out. A month later, 40,000 Chicago garment workers were on strike.
By her own account, Glick was young, fearless, and responsive to the righteousness of the workers’ struggle. Her convictions gave her strength; she was a tireless picketer and a good speaker, though not a trained organizer. Although she remembered meeting Jane Addams, dancing with Clarence Darrow [who represented the workers during arbitration], organizing with Agnes Nestor and Mary Dreier Robins, and watching Bessie Abramovitch (Hillman) flirt, She had no memory of Clara Masilotti, the Italian strike leader. Furthermore, Glick does not appear “conferring” in any photographs, nor did she write any articles about the strike, or teach English to strikers She did not speak at meetings of the workers, as Abramovitch did. However, she was always her own woman. She did not participate in the selling of the “Special Girl Strikers’ Edition” of the Chicago Daily Socialist because she did not agree with Socialist organizing tactics. Of her own significance in the strike, Glick said

“The strike, I’ll tell you the truth for me, it was a joke, but for the married people…But I was the spokes [sic]… At first they said, ‘A young girl, what does she know, good from bad, couldn’t she make up 1/4 cent? [...] Women can’t stick to anything.’

In retrospect, she saw her importance as having been a model of steadfast courage.

The Creation of International Women’s Day
The declaration of a women’s day was called by the Socialist Party of America in 1909 and was celebrated across the US on February 28th. In fact, it was celebrated in the US on the last Sunday in February up until 1913 (http://www.un.org/ecosocdev/geninfo/women/womday97.htmhttp://www.un.org/ecosocdev/geninfo/women/womday97.htm).

In 1910, at the Socialist (second) International (second internationall) in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin suggested the creation of International Women’s day was established to honour women’s rights and to support the struggle for women’s suffrage.
In 1911, the first international women’s day was celebrated on March 19th by demonstrations in Austria (1918), Germany (1918), Denmark (1915) and Switzerland (1971) where over 1 million women and men attended the demonstrations. The dates in parentheses indicate when women achieved not only the right to vote, but the right to vote independently of property qualifications; in parentheses is the date that women’s suffrage was granted in these countries (women’s suffrage timeline). This most basic right of bourgeois democracies was denied to women and is still denied in many countries.

Some More US Labour History:

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

And this leads us once again to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and the fire on March 25th 1911. The death of 146 people (17 men, 129 women mostly young immigrants; 146 out of 500 people employed at the company) either burnt to death or who died after jumping from the building.
 photo bodiesfromtriangleshirtwaistfactoryfire.jpg
These deaths all happened in the space of 18 minutes when a rag caught on fire in the space housing the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory (they occupied the 8-10 floors of the Asch building); in order to prevent workers from leaving early or stealing from the firm, workers going off shift had to pass through doors where their bags would be searched. The exits of the 9th floor were simply impassable, some doors were locked, the fire escapes buckled due to the heat of the flames. The locked doors ensured that those trapped inside (those on the 10th floor were able to make it to the roof) had the choice of being burned to death or jumping out the windows to their deaths (the fireman’s safety nets could not hold the weight of people from those heights, the fire ladders were too short to reach these floors and the water hoses could not reach a fire that high). These unnecessary and horrific deaths became a unifying theme for international women’s day and its link to working class struggles for justice (Triangle_Shirtwaist_Factory_fire).
Cornell University’s International Labour Relations Department has a 100 year tribute to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. This is a fantastic resource and includes a history of the struggles for wages, better working conditions, limits to working hours of the early 20th century in the garment district, eyewitness accounts of survivors, photos of the fire, its aftermath and the funerals. There are also transcripts of the trial against the owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company (Blanck and Harris) that were found innocent of second-degree manslaughter as they denied knowledge that the doors were locked. In 1914, they finally settled a civil suit paying $75 per victim (cornell triangle fire)
 photo triangleshirtwaistfactoryfunerals.jpg
350,000 people participated in the funeral march a few days after the fire. At the memorial meeting, Rose Schneiderman gave a speech that has meaning even today.
 photo RoseSchneiderman.jpg

“I would be a traitor to these poor burned bodies if I came here to talk good fellowship. We have tried you good people of the public and we have found you wanting. The old Inquisition had its rack and its thumbscrews and its instruments of torture with iron teeth. We know what these things are today; the iron teeth are our necessities, the thumbscrews are the high-powered and swift machinery close to which we must work, and the rack is here in the firetrap structures that will destroy us the minute they catch on fire.
This is not the first time girls have been burned alive in the city. Every week I must learn of the untimely death of one of my sister workers. Every year thousands of us are maimed. The life of men and women is so cheap and property is so sacred. There are so many of us for one job it matters little if 146 of us are burned to death.
We have tried you citizens; we are trying you now, and you have a couple of dollars for the sorrowing mothers, brothers and sisters by way of a charity gift. But every time the workers come out in the only way they know to protest against conditions which are unbearable the strong hand of the law is allowed to press down heavily upon us.
Public officials have only words of warning to us – warning that we must be intensely peaceable, and they have the workhouse just back of all their warnings. The strong hand of the law beats us back, when we rise, into the conditions that make life unbearable.
I can’t talk fellowship to you who are gathered here. Too much blood has been spilled. I know from my experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. The only way they can save themselves is by a strong working-class movement (rose schneiderman).”

The Bread and Roses Strike (Lawrence MA, 1912)
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, along with Joseph Ettor was one of the major organisers for the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike, aka the “Bread and Roses Strike” derived from a sign carried by a woman worker.
Lawrence MA was a mill town; housing was “provided” for workers and was priced higher than elsewhere in New England. Other workers lived in cramped tenements. According to Jone Johnson Lewis (1912_lawrence), the average worker at Lawrence earned less than $9 per week; housing costs were $1 to $6 per week. Introduction of new machinery lead to a speed-up leading to increased productivity but lower wages and less hours available to work. The strike began on January 11th when a few Polish women workers went on strike as their pay was shorted. The next day, 10,000 workers went out; strike numbers rose to 25,000.

The IWW was the main organising force, after meeting with them, the workers demanded:
• 15% pay increase
• 54 hour work week
• overtime pay at double the normal rate of pay
• elimination of bonus pay, which rewarded only a few and encouraged all to work longer hours

Needless to say, the city responded rather badly to the strike.

“The city reacted with nightime militia patrols, turning fire hoses on strikers, and sending some of the strikers to jail. Groups elsewhere, often Socialists, organized strike relief, including soup kitchens, medical care, and funds paid to the striking families (1912 lawrence).

The death of a woman striker, Anna LoPizzo whom was killed as police broke up a picket line on January 29 increased tensions.

“Strikers accused the police of the shooting. Police arrested IWW organizer Joseph Ettor and Italian socialist, newpaper editor, and poet Arturo Giovannitti who were at a meeting three miles away at the time and charged them as accessories to murder in her death. After this arrest, martial law was enforced and all public meetings were declared illegal (http://womenshistory.about.com/od/worklaborunions/a/1912_lawrence.htm).”

Dynamite was planted around the town by people paid by the company owners to try and win public sympathy at the expense of the strikers and IWW. Children of the strikers were evacuated to NYC on trains where temporary foster care was provided for them (as an aside, Margaret Sanger was one of the nurses on the train). When the next attempt to relocate children happened; the city reacted violently, mothers and children were clubbed and beaten and children were taken from their parents. This led to a congressional investigation in which the workers actually testified; Helen Taft (the wife of President Taft) actually attended the congressional meetings in sympathy with the workers. This enabled the building of public sympathy as the IWW brought attention to the situation and held solidarity rallies in NY (led by Flynn) and Boston. The company gave in on March 12th to the original demands of the strikers and Ettor and Giovannitti were acquitted of murder on November 26th.
 photo 67e0e7ab-02e1-44bf-ab57-f6631643a4c3_zps134cde32.jpg
ELIZABETH GURLEY FLYNN (1890-1964)

The song, Rebel Girl, written in honour of Flynn by Joe Hill best expresses her life (elizabeth gurley flynn). The video below begins with Flynn reminiscing about her life, before the song begins:
l

Born in Concord, NH to a family of socialists and feminists that finally settled in the Bronx in 1900, Flynn attended public school in the Bronx in New York City. At the age of 16 she gave her first public address to the Harlem Socialist Club, where she spoke on “What Socialism Will Do for Women.” Upon her arrest for blocking traffic during one of her soapbox speeches she was expelled from high school, and in 1907 she began full-time organizing for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
 photo elizabethgurleyflynn.jpg
Flynn’s efforts for the IWW took her all over the United States, where she led organizing campaigns among garment workers in Minersville, Pennsylvania; silk weavers in Patterson, New Jersey; hotel and restaurant workers in New York City; miners in Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range; and textile workers in the famous Lawrence, Massachusetts, strike of 1912. She spoke in meeting halls, at factory gates, and on street corners in cities and towns across the country.

Many of the workers whom Flynn sought to organize were women and children, and Flynn combined her class-based politics with recognition of the particular oppression women experienced because of their sex. She criticized male chauvinism in the IWW and pressed the union to be more sensitive to the needs and interests of working class women.

With other Communist leaders, Flynn fell victim to the anti-Communist hysteria that suffused the United States after the war. After a nine-month trial in 1952, she was convicted under the Smith Act of conspiring to teach and advocate the overthrow of the United States government. During her prison term from January 1955 to May 1957 at the women’s federal penitentiary at Alderson, West Virginia, she wrote, took notes on prison life, and participated in the integration of a cottage composed of African-American women.

Flynn published two books about her life:
The Rebel Girl, An Autobiography: My First Life (1906-1926; revised edition, 1973) and The Alderson Story: My Life as a Political Prisoner (1955). The following books provide discussions of Flynn in the context of women activists and labor radicals: Melvyn Dubofsky, We Shall Be All: A History of the Industrial Workers of the World (1969); Meredith Tax, The Rising of the Women: Feminist Solidarity and Class Conflict, 1880-1917 (1980).

Women’s Suffrage, Race and Class Struggle:
The Women’s Suffrage movement split upon both race and class early in its history.

CLARA ZETKIN. (1857-1933).

“As far as the proletarian woman is concerned, it is capitalism’s need to exploit and to search incessantly for a cheap labor force that has created the women’s question. It is for this reason, too, that the proletarian woman has become enmeshed in the mechanism of the economic life of our period and has been driven into the workshop and to the machines. She went out into the economic life in order to aid her husband in making a living, but the capitalist mode of production transformed her into on unfair competitor. She wanted to bring prosperity to her family, but instead misery descended upon it. The proletarian woman obtained her own employment because she wanted to create a more sunny and pleasant life for her children, but instead she became almost entirely separated from them. She became an equal of the man as a worker; the machine rendered muscular force superfluous and everywhere women’s work showed the same results in production as men’s work. And since women constitute a cheap labor force and above all a submissive one that only in the rarest of cases dares to kick against the thorns of capitalist exploitation, the capitalists multiply the possibilities of women’s work in industry. As a result of all this, the proletarian woman has achieved her independence. But verily, the price was very high and for the moment they have gained very little. If during the Age of the Family, a man had the right (just think of the law of Electoral Bavaria!) to tame his wife occasionally with a whip, capitalism is now taming her with scorpions. In former times, the rule of a man over his wife was ameliorated by their personal relationship. Between an employer and his worker, however, exists only a cash nexus. The proletarian woman has gained her economic independence, but neither as a human being nor as a woman or wife has she had the possibility to develop her individuality. For her task as a wife and a mother, there remain only the breadcrumbs which the capitalist production drops from the table.

Therefore the liberation struggle of the proletarian woman cannot be similar to the struggle that the bourgeois woman wages against the male of her class. On the contrary, it must be a joint struggle with the male of her class against the entire class of capitalists. She does not need to fight against the men of her class in order to tear down the barriers which have been raised against her participation in the free competition of the market place. Capitalism’s need to exploit and the development of the modern mode of production totally relieves her of having to fight such a struggle. On the contrary, new barriers need to be erected against the exploitation of the proletarian woman. Her rights as wife and mother need to be restored and permanently secured. Her final aim is not the free competition with the man, but the achievement of the political rule of the proletariat. The proletarian woman fights hand in hand with the man of her class against capitalist society. To be sure, she also agrees with the demands of the bourgeois women’s movement, but she regards the fulfillment of these demands simply as a means to enable that movement to enter the battle, equipped with the same weapons, alongside the proletariat (http://www.marxists.org/archive/zetkin/1896/10/women.htm).”

Radical Socialist and feminist, Clara Zetkin joined the Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Germany in 1875. Zetkin belonged to the Radical wing of the Party along with Rosa Luxemburg. She married a Russian revolutionary living in exile (for a bibliography of Zetkin, see Clara Zetkin bibliography).
 photo clarazetkin.jpg
Clara Zetkin was influenced by Bebel’s position in Women and Socialism which argued that it was the goal of socialists “not only to achieve equality of men and women under the present social order, which constitutes the sole aim of the bourgeois women’s movement, but to go far beyond this and to remove all barriers that make one human being [economically]dependent upon another, which includes the dependence of one sex upon another.”

In 1889, Zetkin wrote:

“What made women’s labour particularly attractive to the capitalists was not only its lower price but also the greater submissiveness of women. The capitalists speculate on the two following factors: the female worker must be paid as poorly as possible and the competition of female labour must be employed to lower the wages of male workers as much as possible. In the same manner the capitalists use child labour to depress women’s wages and the work of machines to depress all human labour.”

In 1891 Zetkin became editor of the SPD’s journal, Die Gleichheit (Equality). An impressive journalist, Zetkin took the circulation from 11,000 in 1903 to 67,000 three years later. She was also active against militarism. At the time of WW1, Zetkin wrote in November, 1914:

“When the men kill, it is up to us women to fight for the preservation of life. When the men are silent, it is our duty to raise our voices in behalf of our ideals.”

A strong campaigner for women’s suffrage, Zetkin was elected secretary of the International Socialist Women. In 1907, she became the leader of the women’s office at the SPD (German Social Democratic Party) and organized the first international women’s conference (Clara Zetkin). She wrote:

“The socialist parties of all countries are duty bound to fight energetically for the implementation of universal women’s suffrage which is to be vigorously advocated both by agitation and by parliamentary means. When a battle for suffrage is conducted, it should only be conducted according to socialist principles, and therefore with the demand of universal suffrage for all men and women [irrespective of class and property ownership].”

In 1910 at the Second International, she advocated for the formation of International Women’s Day on March 8th (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/GERzetkin.htm).
 photo zetkin3.jpg
Video of Zetkin:

IDA BELL WELLS-BARNETT (Holy Springs, Mississippi) July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931)
 photo IdaBWells.jpg
The following story illustrates how Well’s long history of fighting for black rights influenced the suffrage movement:

On March 3, 1913, as 5,000 women prepared to parade through President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, demanding the right to vote, Ida B. Wells was standing to the side. A black journalist and civil-rights activist, she had taken time out from her anti-lynching campaign to lobby for woman suffrage in Chicago.
But a few days earlier, leaders of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) had insisted she not march with the Illinois delegation. Certain Southern women, they said, had threatened to pull out if a black woman marched alongside whites.

A constitutional amendment for woman suffrage, the object of the parade, would have to be ratified by two-thirds of the state legislatures after garnering two-thirds votes in both the House and Senate. In the Southern states, opposition to woman suffrage was intensified as legislators feared that granting women the vote would add even more black voters to the voting rolls.

So, the parade organizers reasoned, a compromise had to be struck: African American women could march in the suffrage parade, but in order to prevent raising even more opposition in the South, they would have to march at the back of the march. The organizers of the march asked that the African American women march at the back of the parade.

Mary Terrell accepted the decision. But Ida Wells-Barnett did not. She tried to get the white Illinois delegation to support her opposition of this segregation, but found few supporters. The Alpha Suffrage Club women either marched in the back, or, as did Ida Wells-Barnett herself, decided not to march in the parade at all.
But, as the parade progressed, Wells-Barnett emerged from the crowd and joined the (white) Illinois delegation, marching between two white supporters. She refused to comply with the segregation. This was neither the first nor the last time that African American women found their support of women’s rights received with less than enthusiasm.
Didn’t black women have as much right to vote as white women? Sixty-five years earlier, at the dawn of the woman’s suffrage movement, most suffragists would have said yes. In fact, early feminists were often anti-slavery activists before they started arguing for women’s rights. And the parallels between black slaves — who could not vote or hold property — and women — who could do neither in most states — couldn’t be ignored (Sources: http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=4945 and http://womenshistory.about.com/library/weekly/aa010118b.htm).

 photo IdaBWells3.jpg

Born of slave parents, Ida B. Wells became a teacher, refused to give up her seat to go to the “coloured section” and sued the railroad in the 1880s. She led the national campaign against lynching, and founded Alpha Suffrage Club of Chicago with Black suffragists.

But the rights of blacks and women did not always go hand in hand. In 1869, as America was about to give black men the right to vote, the woman’s movement split in two. Half the activists felt that any expansion of voting rights was a step in the right direction; the other half were angry that women were being left behind.

By 1900, most suffragists had lost their enthusiasm for civil rights, and actually used racism to push for the vote. Anna Howard Shaw, head of NAWSA, said it was “humiliating” that black men could vote while well-bred white women could not. Other suffragists scrambled to reassure white Southerners that white women outnumbered male blacks in the South. If women got the vote, they argued, they would help preserve “white supremacy. “But not all white suffragists shunned blacks, but Wells was never really embraced by the white suffrage movement. And though both white and black women won the vote in 1920, they did not do it by marching together.

The discussions on the left addressed Women’s Suffrage differently and from a critical perspective compared to those of bourgeois feminist movements. Questions were raised amongst the anarchists such as Emma Goldman asked whether the ballot was a priority, that it distracted women from true emancipation and tied our emancipation towards participating in elections rather than elimination of oppression and the state; Mother Jones argued that it was not a priority, we should be fighting class oppression. Amongst the Socialists and Communists, support for Women’s Suffrage was strong. However, their argument was strongly differentiated from the Bourgeois Women’s Suffrage movement and emphasised that while extension of bourgeois democracy was appropriate if nothing else on social grounds and economic grounds; simply getting women into political movements was important. However, it was always emphasised that true liberation and emancipation would only come through the struggle and creation of socialism.

Emma Goldman (June 27 [O.S. June 15] 1869 – May 14, 1940)
 photo emmagoldman.jpg

“The history of progress is written in the blood of men and women who have dared to espouse an unpopular cause, as, for instance, the black man’s right to his body, or woman’s right to her soul.”
“Needless to say, I am not opposed to woman suffrage on the conventional ground that she is not equal to it. I see neither physical, psychological, nor mental reasons why woman should not have the equal right to vote with man. But that can not possibly blind me to the absurd notion that woman will accomplish that wherein man has failed. If she would not make things worse, she certainly could not make them better. To assume, therefore, that she would succeed in purifying something which is not susceptible of purification, is to credit her with supernatural powers. Since woman’s greatest misfortune has been that she was looked upon as either angel or devil, her true salvation lies in being placed on earth; namely, in being considered human, and therefore subject to all human follies and mistakes. Are we, then, to believe that two errors will make a right? Are we to assume that the poison already inherent in politics will be decreased, if women were to enter the political arena? The most ardent suffragists would hardly maintain such a folly.

As a matter of fact, the most advanced students of universal suffrage have come to realize that all existing systems of political power are absurd, and are completely inadequate to meet the pressing issues of life (http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/goldman/works/1911/woman-suffrage).”

Born in Kovno in the Russian Empire to an orthodox Jewish family, Goldman emigrated to the US in 1885 and moved first to Rochester, NY before she moved and settled to live in NYC. An anarchist writer, theoretician and activist, Goldman wrote and worked extensively on women’s issues on birth control, marriage (she was an ardent supporter of “free love”), and freedom of speech, an opponent of homophobia, militarism and conscription. A believer in direct action and violence to support political ends, she was imprisoned several times for “incitement to riot.”

In 1892 she was involved in the Homestead strike by the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (against the Homestead PA steel plant owned by Andrew Carnegie and run by Henry Clay Frick a strong opponent of the union). Her lover, Alexander Birkman, tried unsuccessfully to kill Frick in an attempt to strike terror and raise political consciousness (he was sentenced to 22 years in prison for the attempt).
In 1901, Leon Czolgosz shot President McKinley (who died from his wounds). Czolgosz said that he was inspired after listening to one of Goldman’s speeches but said that she had no role in the assassination. He was executed for the crime, but she refused to condemn his actions and was vilified leading to a crackdown on anarchists under Teddy Roosevelt the succeeding president. Goldman founded the journal “Mother Earth” in 1906 and when Beckman was released he took over control of the journal while she toured the country advocating anarchism, birth control, free-love and freedom of speech for the next 10 years. Their relationship broke down and Goldman formed a relationship with Ben Reitman (her “hobo” doctor).
 photo 2000EMMA.jpg
Following the passage of conscription for WWI, Goldman became active in the anti-conscription movement and formed the No Conscription League with Beckman leading to her arrest in June 1917 and imprisonment until 1919.

Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer and J. Edgar Hoover, head of the U.S.
Department of Justice’s General Intelligence Division, were intent on using the Anarchist Exclusion Act of 1918 to deport any non-citizens they could identify as advocates of anarchy or revolution. “Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman,” Hoover wrote while they were in prison, “are, beyond doubt, two of the most dangerous anarchists in this country and return to the community will result in undue harm.” They (and 247 other people) were deported en masse to Russia. Initially supportive of the revolution, Goldman and Beckman became rapidly and strongly disenchanted and left the country in 1921.

She then lived in the UK after marrying to get British citizenship to provide her with some safety; she started writing her biography in 1928, travelled to Canada. She was allowed to return to the US for a lecture tour in 1933, as long as she did not speak of politics or current events. She visited Spain (she strongly support the anarcho-syndicalists during the Civil War and championed their cause) and her support for their struggle was formally recognised by the CNT-FAI. She died in 1940 in Toronto Canada (Emma Goldman).

Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919)

From Women’s Suffrage and Class Struggle (1912)

“Economically and socially, the women of the exploiting classes do not make up an independent stratum of the population. They perform a social function merely as instruments of natural reproduction for the ruling classes. The women of the proletariat, on the contrary, are independent economically; they are engaged in productive work for society just as the men are. Not in the sense that they help the men by their housework, scraping out a daily living and raising children for meagre compensation. This work is not productive within the meaning of the present economic system of capitalism, even though it entails an immense expenditure of energy and self-sacrifice in a thousand little tasks. This is only the private concern of the proletarians, their blessing and felicity, and precisely for this reason nothing but empty air as far as modem society is concerned. Only that work is productive which produces surplus value and yields capitalist profit – as long as the rule of capital and the wage system still exists. From this standpoint the dancer in a cafe, who makes a profit for her employer with her legs, is a productive working-woman, while all the toil of the woman and mothers of the proletariat within the four walls of the home is considered unproductive work. This sounds crude and crazy but it is an accurate expression of the crudeness and craziness of today’s capitalist economic order; and to understand this crude reality clearly and sharply is the first necessity for the proletarian woman (https://epress.anu.edu.au/archive/draper/1976/women/4-luxemburg.html)”

 photo 76281460-0784-437b-a38e-79137da5c4c3_zps9324f4eb.jpg
Rosa Luxemburg was born in Russian-controlled Poland. She was the 5th child of a Jewish Timber Merchant; a childhood illness left her with a permanent limp. Rosa Luxemburg was a leading Marxist theoretician and organiser whose writings were pertinent to many debates of the period and are still relevant to contemporary debates especially on Reform versus Revolution, Tactics and Strategy, Political Organisation, Political Economy and discussions of the National Question (http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/index.htm).
 photo rosaluxemburg.jpg
In 1886, Luxemburg joined the Polish Proletariat Party which organised a general strike leaving in 1887 resulting in 4 leaders killed and the party disbanded. Rosa fled to Switzerland in 1889, studying at Zurich University. She co-founded the Social Democratic party of the Kingdom of Poland (and later Lithuania joined the group) with Leo Jogiches. She wrote extensively on the national question, political economy, politics and history. In 1896, she married Gustav Lübeck, got German citizenship and moved to Berlin. She was active in the left-wing of the SPD leading the fight against Bernstein’s revisionist policies (See Social Reform or Revolution). A supporter of the use of direct action and the general strike, she ran into difficulties with the right of the SPD and also the government. She was imprisoned 3 times for her political activities between the periods of 1904-6. She finally broke with the SPD in 1914 when they voted to support the war and agreed to a truce with the Imperial Government. In 1914, Karl Liebknecht, Clara Zetkin, and Franz Mehring, founded the Die Internationale group; it became the Spartacus League in January 1916. The Spartacist League vehemently rejected the SPD’s support for the war, trying to lead Germany’s proletariat to an anti-war general strike. As a result, in June 1916 Luxemburg was imprisoned for two and a half years, as was Karl Liebknecht. During imprisonment, she was twice relocated, first to Posen (now Poznań), then to Breslau (now Wrocław). Freed from Prison in Breslau in 1918, Luxemburg and Liebknecht reorganised the Spartacist League which along with the Independent Socialists and the International Communists of Germany (IKD) united to form the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) on 1st January 1919 under her and Liebknecht’s leadership.

In January 1919 a second revolutionary wave took Berlin. The leader of the SPD (Friedrich Ebert, a former student of Luxemburg) ordered the destruction of the left-wing revolution. Luxemburg and Liebknecht were captured on the 15th of January in Berlin and were first questioned and then murdered by the Freikorps’ Garde-Kavallerie-Schützendivision. While Leibknecht body was delivered anonymously to a morgue; Rosa Luxemburg’s body was dumped in a river (see Rosa Luxemburg).

Alexandra Kollantai (1872-1953)

young kollantai:
 photo alexandraKollantai3.jpg

Today, for International Women’s Day 2013, we are including the words of Alexandra Kollantai, on the question of maternity insurance, motherhood and children. Many readers might ask why this topic? Isn’t the question surrounding reproductive rights the purview of bourgeois feminists? Shouldn’t we be focused on articles that pertain to women’s role in the workforce and IWD, especially when the writer is Kollantai, a leading advocate of IWD during the Russian Revolution, For those women, we refer you to the following link: To mark International Women’s Day 2010, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reproduces Alexandra Kollontai’s classic history and explanation of this important anniversary. Kollontai’s writings are available on line (see: Alexandra Kollantai bibliography).

However, we chose the article on maternity insurance because: 1) if you watch the news today, you will see the same problem of maternity insurance, motherhood and children (albeit an updated version) being argued in the halls of the U.S. Congress in 2013 just as it was argued by Russian society in 1902; and 2) as Kolantai, herself notes, it is the most vital and urgent problem created by the large-scale capitalist economic system. The article, although already significantly edited, is very long. We hope the opening will entice you enough to follow the link and read the entire argument. Then go discuss it with the women in your neighbourhood.

Kollantai in Sweden when she was a diplomat there:
 photo kollantai2.jpg
Society and Motherhood (Source: Alexandra Kollontai: Selected Articles and Speeches, Progress Publishers, 1984; First Published: Society and Motherhood, Petrograd, 1916, pp. 3-18, abridged; Transcribed: Sally Ryan for marxists.org, 2000)

“Among the numerous problems raised by contemporary reality there is probably none more important for mankind, none more vital and urgent than the problem of motherhood created by the large-scale capitalist economic system. The problem of protecting and providing for the mother and young child is one that faces social politicians, knocks relentlessly at the door of the statesman, engages the health and hygiene specialists, concerns the social statistician, haunts the representative of the working class and weighs down on the shoulders of tens of millions of mothers compelled to earn their own living.

Side by side with the problem of sex and marriage, enveloped in the poetical language of the psychological suffering, insoluble difficulties and unsatisfied needs of noble souls, there is always to be found the majestic and tragic figure of motherhood wearily carrying her heavy burden. Neo-Malthusians, social-reformers and philanthropists have all hastened to provide their own particular solution to this thorny problem, and all sing the praises of their own method of restoring paradise lost to mothers and babies.

The prosperity of national industry and the development of the national economy depend upon a constant supply of fresh labour […] the principle of state maternity insurance [is] a principle in sharp contradiction with the present social structure as [it] undermines the basis of marriage and violates the fundamental concepts of private-family rights and relationships. However, if, in the name of ‘higher’ considerations of state and under the pressure of necessity, the state authorities have been compelled to advance and implement a measure so at odds with the prevailing spirit of the representatives of the bourgeois world, at the other end of the social scale, among the working class, the principle of providing for and protecting mother and child is welcomed with enthusiasm and sympathy.

The demand that the social collective (the community) provide maternity insurance and child protection was born of the immediate and vital needs of the class of hired workers. Of all the strata of society, this class is the one which most requires that a solution be found to the painful conflict between compulsory professional labour by women and their duties as representatives of their sex, as mothers. Following a powerful class instinct rather than a clearly understood idea, the working class strove to find a way of resolving this conflict (Society and Motherhood 1915).

An ardent supporter of working class women, Kollantai, herself came from the bourgeois intelligentsia. Her father was a general and her mother came from a wealthy peasant family. Her mother’s divorce from her first husband and the long and unhappy struggle of her parents to be together helped develop her ideas on love, sex and marriage which became a critical part of her feminist theory. Her own early marriage ended because she felt “trapped.” She became increasingly involved with the populist ideas of the Peasant Commune in the 1890s which led her to the budding Marxist movement in St. Petersburg. In 1898 she left her child by her first marriage with her parents and went to study economics abroad in Europe. In 1899, she returned to Russia where she met Lenin who supported her feminist ideas. She was a witness of the popular uprising in 1905 known as Bloody Sunday, at Saint Petersburg in front of the Winter Palace. She went into exile to Germany in 1908. She left Germany when the SPD supported WWI which she adamantly opposed. She settled in Norway where her antiwar views were accepted. She finally returned to Russia after the Tsar abdicated in 1917. She became the most well-known advocate for women’s equality in Russia and the most prominent woman in the Soviet administration .She was best known for founding the Zhenotdel or “Women’s Department” (1919) where she worked to improve the conditions of women’s lives, fighting illiteracy and educating women about the new marriage, education, and working laws put in place by the Soviet Union (Alexandra Kollantai .

In the 1920s, she joined a left-wing faction of the Communist party that opposed Lenin and was effectively purged from any further meaningful role in the party. Because of her previously close relationship with Lenin, however, she was allowed to live out her days in various diplomatic positions abroad (Alexandra Kollantai ).

Kollontai raised eyebrows with her unflinching advocacy of free love. Kollontai’s views on the role of marriage and the family under Communism were arguably more influential on today’s society than her advocacy of “free love.” Kollontai believed that, like the state, the family unit would wither away. She viewed marriage and traditional families as legacies of the oppressive, property-rights-based, egoist past. Under Communism, both men and women would work for, and be supported by, society, not their families. Similarly, their children would be wards of, and reared basically by society. Kollontai admonished men and women to discard their nostalgia for traditional family life. “The worker-mother must learn not to differentiate between yours and mine; she must remember that there are only our children, the children of Russia’s communist workers.” However, she also praised maternal attachment: “Communist society will take upon itself all the duties involved in the education of the child, but the joys of parenthood will not be taken away from those who are capable of appreciating them.”Alexandra Kollantai
Zetkin and Kollantai (1921)at the International Women’s Conference:
 photo zetkinandkollantai.jpg
In solidarity with all women’s struggles:
 photo international-womens-day-womensstruggles.jpg

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Post Occupy Analysis by Diane Gee

3:55 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This essay is in part a reply to AoT’s “No, you don’t want another OWS”- I agree we don’t need another, but not entirely with the author’s reasoning why…)

People who were involved with Occupy Wall Street have an understandable emotional attachment to what they experienced within the movement. In fact, for many in this age of electronica and isolation, it was their first experience in ground level activism and social work. People cooperated, they exchanged food, medical services and felt unity. By sheer numbers, they managed to enter the concept of the one percent versus the rest of us into the National dialogue. That cannot be underrated.

In any discussion of what is next, we have to look with an unemotional, analytical eye at whether or not Occupy was or was not a success.

 photo ScreenShot2014-01-30at121317PM.png

AoT: “The problem is that the things that made OWS successful are exactly the things people are calling to change.”

Occupy Wall Street did come up with an official statement from its onset, a litany of valid complaints – with the disclaimer that the complaints were not all-inclusive.

What it did not do, is offer any solutions, any demands, any formula for what to prioritize and how to change it. You cannot change generic drugs, student debt and make everyone a vegan at the same time. Hell, you cannot even get people to agree on meat consumption in any group.

I will, for clarity’s sake provide the list and a comment on each, but if you are time constrained, scroll past it with the observation that not ONE of these complaints were addressed, and not ONE of things changed for the 99% in any way:

Read the rest of this entry →