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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!

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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:

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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)
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“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
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“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.
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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:
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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).
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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).
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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).
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Video of Zetkin:

IDA BELL WELLS-BARNETT (Holy Springs, Mississippi) July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931)
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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).

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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)
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“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).
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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)”

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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).
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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:
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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:
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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:
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In solidarity with all women’s struggles:
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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.

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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 →

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: What in Tarnation is “Prout” and Why Should We Care? by Galtisalie

3:31 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Introductory Note: As background for this diary, it might be helpful to read Geminijen’s excellent and balanced diary from a few weeks ago, Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Fagor Goes Bankrupt – Trouble in Camelot, which discusses one of the world’s most important cooperative movements, founded by a do-gooder Catholic priest. The subject of the instant diary also involves cooperatives, but as will be apparent, much more.

I am biased but to me, “Prout,” which stands for “Progressive Utilization Theory,” is a lovely theory of progressive socialism we all should study, learn from, and consider adopting as part of our praxis and our goals for humanity. Unfortunately, as a new student of Prout, I cannot nearly do it justice in this diary or anywhere else at this time. In addition, I am not in a position to report on the practical experiences of putting Prout into practice. As someone who grew up in irrational Christian fundamentalism (and still lives in the repressive Deep South, where I can see such “faith” put into practice on a daily basis in anti-”other” bigotry and legislation), I no longer like to make my decisions based on “enthusiasm” for what people, spiritual or otherwise, say as opposed to what they do. And I am HIGHLY skeptical about any religion’s ability to confront the harsh world of capitalism in an effective and objective manner (although, from what I understand, Prout’s associated spiritual movement claims not to be a religion).

But I do not want to let my skepticism itself turn into blinders or cynicism for what may have value in the critical work for justice down here on terra firma. All human endeavors are to some degree a mixed bag. I am, after all, a socialist, after a century of ultimate public humiliation of the cause I still dare to hold dear. Course correction is nothing to be embarrassed about but rather something to be celebrated. The work to save humanity is entitled to a mulligan every single day until we get it right.

The first part of my personal credo is to “accept[] life’s complexity.” To me that includes the challenge to evaluate honestly both the positives and the negatives of all things relating to “spirituality.” Prout is not only a system with many complex moving parts but also a holistic system whose whole is intended to vastly exceed the sum of its parts. I can only give my gut impressions of whether it could even theoretically help to accomplish the enormous task of like “saving the world” or something else “major” for humanity, but I am not qualified to explain much less critique all of its parts.

Fortunately, I have a lovely book to help me explain its details, Dada Maheshvarananda’s 2012 updated version of a book first published in 2003, and currently titled After Capitalism: Economic Democracy in Action (Innerworld Publications).

And, I have you, my comrades, to help me critique the parts and the whole within the context of various movements and sub-movements on the left, both historical and potential.

Dr. Marcos Arruda says of the book in the Foreword, “The nine years that have passed since Dada Maheshvarananda first published this precious book have proven its validity and relevance.” I could not agree more. One of the things I have greatly benefited from in the last couple of years are book recommendations from kindred spirits on the left with whom I have gratefully come into contact via the information superhighways and byways. I am still no socialist scholar (and do not make it a priority to become one), and often the people giving me book suggestions are, but if I had to make one book recommendation at this point in my fledgling socialization process, this would be it. Not because the book is perfect or because I agree with everything in it or in Prout more generally, but because Prout as explained in this book comes closest to announcing to the world the direction I think we should be heading than anything else I have yet read.

Plenty of us realize capitalism is a disaster. Marx got that quite right, and Prout, whose founder actually was a big fan of Marx, seconds the notion. Prout also does a really good job of telling us where we should be going to fix things. And this book is a compelling, reasonably detailed, and accessible explanation of Prout.

I only learned about Prout when I read Hans Despain’s helpful article It’s the System Stupid: Structural Crises and the Need for Alternatives to Capitalism in the November 2013 Monthly Review. Here Despain first succinctly surveys the playing field:

The conventional wisdom is “There Is No Alternative,” or TINA. For this reason most Americans simply acquiesce to capitalistic social relations and, like Sisyphus, are resigned to performing eternal tasks while enduring the “endless” quadruple crises generated by a pathological system.

The most extraordinary aspect concerning the absence of an alternative is that it is fallacious. The capitalistic system itself must be transformed. To put it into a slogan: Capitalism Is No Alternative, or CINA.

Despain describes Maheshvarananda’s book as outlining “the failures and pathologies of ‘multinational corporate’ capitalism. He argues that Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar’s PROgressive Utilization Theory, or PROUT economics, already exists as a well-developed alternative to both capitalism and state socialism. PROUT has important similarities with both Marxism and Participatory Economics, but its real philosophical basis is in Tantra Yoga, with influences from Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism (especially Zen). …”

Then Despain contrasts it to three other recent books outlining somewhat comparable approaches on the left:

Maheshvarananda, much like Wolff, Schweickart, and Alperovitz, believes that the activity needed for the democratization of the workplace and economy is already underway. Maheshvarananda offers many existing examples of Proutian enterprises. Most of these are the same discussed by Schweickart and Alperovitz, including the Mondragon cooperative in Spain and Evergreen in Cleveland. However, Maheshvarananda also offers extensive details of cooperatives in Venezuela, where he has founded a PROUT research institute.

In addition to mending the social pathologies of capitalism, he explains how Proutianism promotes leisure, spirituality, and a new humanistic ethic. He also insists that a transformation away from capitalism is urgently needed for environmental production and a new Agrarian Revolution to save the planet and human life. In this sense, Maheshvarananda is far more ambitious than Wolff, Schweickart, and Alperovitz, and is sure to be far more controversial for left-wing theorists and activists. …

Wolff, Schweickart, and Alperovitz … have given less thought toward the longer term goals. Maheshvarananda has in mind a very long-term alternative to capitalism. It requires not only transformation in the workplace, but transformations in the political dimension. On the one hand, it could be argued his vision is far more remote, while on the other hand, once the transformation within the workplace begins, the ripple effect could be massive and sudden. For this reason Maheshvarananda’s perspective can be understood in highly practical terms and can be seen as complementary to the works of the other three. …

From whence cometh Prout? A brilliant loving species-being who seemed particularly determined, while walking a blissful personal path, to eschew any selfish material benefits for himself from his insights, and whose most determined followers are described as monks and nuns, but seem remarkably well-connected to a place I and all on the left take quite seriously, namely the suffering-filled, harsh, and chaotic reality where the billions of marginalized poor and desperate live around our class-embattled world:

Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar was born in 1922[ 6] in Jamalpur, Bihar, India into a respected family that had its roots in regional leadership and ancient spiritual traditions. To support the family after his father’s death, Sarkar chose to discontinue his higher education in Calcutta, and in 1941 returned to Jamalpur to work as an accountant in the railways. About that time he began to teach the ancient science of Tantra meditation, insisting that every practitioner follow a strict code of moral conduct. In 1955, at the request of his followers, he founded the socio-spiritual organization Ananda Marga (“ The Path of Bliss”). In 1959 he introduced the Progressive Utilization Theory (Prout), a blueprint for how to reorganize society and the economy for the welfare of everyone.

The Ananda Marga and Prout movements spread quickly in India during the 1960s. Many of Sarkar’s followers – who held key positions in the Indian civil service – actively challenged the systemic corruption of the government as well as the Hindu caste system. Opposition therefore arose from nationalistic Hindu groups, eventually leading the government to declare Ananda Marga to be a politically subversive revolutionary organization, banning any civil servant from being a member. Perhaps surprisingly, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) – which for decades controlled the state government of West Bengal – also opposed Ananda Marga and Prout because Sarkar’s unique blend of spiritual and social ideals was attracting members away from the Party.
Maheshvarananda, Introduction.

Many, to my current view highly unfair, attacks on the group both in India and worldwide have been documented, which I will not go into here in any detail, including the framing for a 1978 bombing of a Hilton in Sydney, Australia that actually seems to have been the murderous plot of the self-justifying state security apparatus. The recent decades have been gradually more serene for the serene folk who make up the movement, but not because they avoid desperate situations. Rather, in a way that seems highly compatible with Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium (which I discussed in detail here from a combined socialized praxis and Jesuit history and scholarship perspective) the movement seems to want to make both tangible and intangible headway in, and to replace as soon as possible, a sick capitalist world. The emphasis of Prout on cooperatives is shared with the Catholic Church, on paper at least, going back to the late 19th century. But, unlike the Church at most times, Prout seems to be fixated on making cooperatives a “reality” on the nasty ground around the world rather than a pious talking point for criticizing those nasty commies without actually proposing and fighting for a suitable alternative. Further, Prout has an openness to spirituality that many Liberation Theology and leftist Dorothy Day-style Catholics have found to be perfectly compatible with their faith in action. Given that I am a leftist pro-choice “Anglo-Catholic,” I just want all us supposedly “spiritual” folk, what with the whole idea of communion and such, to get along while waging a kind but effective revolution, which means to keep our eye on the prize of rejecting capitalism and putting in a system that meets shared “Proutist” goals.

Please go below the fold for my generally favorable summary of the good monk’s omnibus Prout in a nutshell, as well as a few concerns that I have about Prout. Or, if you have no interest in spirituality and other “soft” topics which much of the world may now or in the future appreciate as complementary to economic justice, here’s Despain’s nice but barebones “materialist” list:

PROUT’s economic principles are that: (1) all citizens deserve the minimum requirements of life of food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and education; (2) employment is guaranteed; (3) the progressive use of science and technology and a federal institution geared toward research and development should be promoted; (4) the federal political system must include decentralized planning at the level of the local economy, with balanced development of what is needed by local citizens; (5) a three-tier economic system that supports privately owned small businesses, cooperatively owned medium and large businesses, and government-run large industries must be created; (6) “decentralized self-sufficient” local economies should be maximized; and, (7) crucial to PROUT, are the cooperatively owned businesses.

I like this list, as it initially sparked my interest in Prout. However, for brevity’s sake he also necessarily left off many materialist Proutist notions, including that little subject of “world government,” (a critical aspect of Prout’s long-range ideas for governance, Ch. 11) a dream many of us, Proutists or not, hold dear. Read the rest of this entry →

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Left Unity – The New Party that Could by NY Brit Expat

3:40 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

LEFT UNITY HAS BEEN CREATED! Yes, this is the new political party, not necessarily the reality of “Left Unity” itself. Like all births, it is never easy. But it has the possibility of actually changing electoral politics in Britain. And like all births, it should be recorded.

Tonight’s piece covers a piece of news, some coverage of the student occupations in Britain including two petitions in response to the actions of the universities to these occupations, and a short homage to Nelson Mandela and the endless hypocrisy of our mainstream politicians.

While, of course, the justifications for permanent austerity under the Tories and the pensionable age being shifted to 70 and tax breaks for married people whose earnings were over a certain level, while somehow continuing impoverishment of the majority were sort of glossed over (really if impoverishment of the majority is required for your system, wouldn’t you start to raise the obvious point that the system is NOT worth it?) were found all over the BBC following the Autumn Statement of Minister of the Exchequer, George Osborne, many things that should have been said never quite made it to the news of the BBC. Given that they have a 24-7 news channel; surely a few moments could have been spared from their extensive scheduling.
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I. The Founding Conference of Left Unity

You would not have known it if you did not listen to Radio 4 (beginning at 34:37) which was the only British mainstream news that covered the conference (there was a lot of coverage on Left sites and in Left-wing newspapers). Interestingly, the Russian channel RT did cover it … given I pay taxes in Britain for the BBC and not in Russia (thankfully), the lack of coverage was rather disconcerting; I also find that it surreal that such a reactionary country can cover it (it is not as though Russia is in anyway opposed to neoliberal capitalism), one wonders if it was too difficult for the BBC to actually come to the centre of London.

Had they been bothered to come they could have viewed an attempt to create a party to the left of Labour; yes, given how far to the right Labour is, I guess that is not really news that people may actually reject the neoliberalism and pro-austerity arguments of all 3 main parties and our special brand of British xenophobia in UKIP. Since the conference was not covered by the BBC and even in my wildest fantasies would never be covered in the US, here is a report of the founding conference of Left Unity!

Yes, we had our conference on November 30th. Our party name is Left Unity (yes, there was a vote on 4 different names: Left Unity, the Left Party, Left Unity Party, and Democratic Voice) as chosen by the majority of those present at the conference .

If you want to watch the live streaming of the whole conference, here is the link (I will be sharing some videos in the piece).

Participation at the Conference

Attendance on the day was 495, which is not bad for a group just starting out. There are over 1,200 registered as founding members of Left Unity (more have probably signed up since the conference; this was the figure at the start).

So, we have a campaigning party of the left to fight austerity and neoliberalism. It has a broad left, feminist, environmentalist, socialist and working class orientation with an internationalist perspective. There was strong representation of people with disabilities, women and not everyone was white, male and over a certain age; so this is a step forward. However, and this is a big however, participation of people of colour is insufficient, the numbers of women at the conference was still small, and we need more young people participating. It will participate in the electoral process; but it is not limited to this … much of its work will be to link up with the movement and campaign around political issues raised by the movement.

This conference was an attempt to build a campaigning party from the bottom up, not the top down. This has been successful (motions, platforms, constitution) were drafted by branches and large numbers of people and serious discussion and this was enshrined in the constitution of the new party. There was broad discussion in the branches on the various proposals, motions, and platforms; these were available to people well in advance of the conference enabling discussion and debate. The atmosphere of the conference itself was for the most extremely friendly and comradely; this is impressive given the differences of opinion expressed and the strength of people’s convictions on what they were arguing.

Given that the conference was creating a new campaigning political party, it was inevitable that it would be spent in discussing the aims, platforms, constitution and various motions and proposals from the various branches. That meant that much of the discussion was not directly linked to political discussions, but those political discussions were underlying much of the debate that occurred at the conference. I must say that I am extremely proud of what we achieved, but there were things with which I am less happy and I will discuss those below.

The Issue of Ensuring Accessibility

Importantly, accessibility issues from a social (not physical) context were strongly recognised and various attempts to address the specific needs relating to accessibility were planned (there were no steps into the conference, seats were saved for those with disabilities, a T-loop was arranged (this enables people with hearing aids to link directly into the microphone), large sized type in sans serif conference bulletins were provided, there was disabled registration, a disabled toilet (alas only 1) and a lift to those toilets. The conference was live-streamed for those that were not able to be there.

However, the best laid plans and all that … not all that was planned worked, unfortunately: for example, the seats saved for people with disabilities were taken by those that did not need to be in the first few rows, the T-loop for those with hearing aids did not extend after the first few rows (and neither of these were flagged by the stewards at the conference in the beginning to try and shift people who probably did not know these things when they sat down or assumed the name-tags on the seats were for the great and good rather than those with special access needs), people with neurological conditions and arthritis could not hold voting cards over their heads, there was insufficient space between seats and aisle seats were often taken by those that didn’t really need them.

The worst thing was the insufficient breaks in the conferences, specifically the lack of a break in the afternoon session. This does not only affect people with disabilities, people in general have difficulty concentrating for more than 30 minutes; by the end of the conference, it was clear that people were exhausted and unable to concentrate. For people with disabilities who need more time to use the toilet, who need breaks to shift positions, who may need to eat and take medicine at intervals, it was extremely unpleasant. In my case, I could not get a seat in the first few rows so the fact that there was a T-loop did not have an impact on my hearing comments from the floor; I also spent most of the conference standing as I could not climb over someone to get a seat inside the row.

Here is Bob Williams Findlay, a long-term disability rights activist, discussing problems that people with disabilities had at the conference (starting from 1.34):

There is a disability caucus and we will be meeting to discuss accessibility and to provide some guidelines … it is ok to make errors, but we need to learn from them and to avoid making the same mistakes.

Ensuring accessibility not only ensures the participation of people with disabilities, it applies to all those that need special assistance to be capable of full participation in our movement. It is essential and it is up to all of us to ensure that this is possible. We also need to recognise the obvious point that accessibility does not only relate to people with disabilities; we need to provide for childcare (there was not a crèche at the conference, but funds for private childcare were provided) and there was a subsidy for those that could not afford to attend the conference (to cover travel and costs). In spite of good intentions, things can be improved.

Conference Decisions

The Safe Spaces policy was remitted back to conveners to amend, but it was accepted that it would be part of the constitution. This is the call to move the Safe Spaces policy to the conference:

Caucuses were set up for women, people of colour, LGBT caucus, people with disabilities and youth. The latter 3 were guaranteed 2 people representing each caucus on the national organising body (the issue of women’s representation will be discussed below in detail).

The aims of the party were agreed to be voted upon separately from the platform debate. Ken Loach’s proposal to not have a vote on aims and platforms was defeated. There were 5 platforms and a motion submitted for vote (Left party platform, socialist platform, class struggle platform, communist platform, platform 9 and ¾ and the republican socialist platform. Since the aims were separated from the platform that meant that people could vote for more than one platform.

For voting information purposes only (this is not an endorsement of this group’s position):

“When it came to the vote, the IDC aims were declared clearly carried on a show of hands, while the Hackney and Tower Hamlets statement was agreed by 173 votes to 121, with 46 abstentions. The LPP received a huge total of 295 votes, with 101 people opposing and 12 abstaining, while the SP picked up 122 votes, with 216 against and 28 abstentions. The Republican and ‘9¾’ platforms were withdrawn, while those of the CP and Class Struggle were declared clearly defeated on a show of hands (http://www.cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/989/left-unity-making-a-safe-space-for-left-ideas).”

So, the Left Party Platform as amended by the Camden branch was accepted by the party (I will return to these below) by a 3:1 vote, along with the Hackney/Tower Hamlets branches statement.

There was a decision to support 50+% of women on all national and regional bodies of the conference and as speakers for the party (more on this below).

It was agreed that LU would not organise directly in Northern Ireland.

One member-one vote was reiterated, but it was recognised that there would be permanent political factions, but that they could not campaign against the party itself. This, I am certain will come back to bite us on the arse in the future!

Socialism and Feminism

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While there were substantial victories, there were also discussions and statements that made me realise that we have a long way to go to address sexism in the left. One problem that I have is that there seems to be (on the part of some members of the hard left) the opinion of an inconsistency between feminism and socialism. While overwhelmingly they recognise gender oppression under capitalism, they seem to believe that somehow advocating a socialist feminism argument threatens a class analysis. So while they will argue that women are oppressed under capitalism and argue that only socialism can eliminate women’s oppression, they seem to oppose any cross-class movements along a feminist perspective and in that sense they refuse to argue for reforms in the context of capitalism, arguing that the existence of socialism is necessary to eliminate women’s oppression.

While I agree that socialism is necessary to eliminate women’s oppression completely as it is tied into property and class; it is not sufficient. I strongly believe that we can struggle for reform even in the context of a cross-class movement. What is essential is that the movement not be led by the upper classes so that the interests of working class women and women of colour are heard. Inability to struggle against patriarchy now, implies that reforms cannot be undertaken. Patriarchal ideology is transhistorical from the beginnings of private property and class societies and it is deeply embedded in what are viewed as normal social interactions now, they will not simply disappear with the elimination of private property and class societies. We need education and reform now or we will be maintaining women’s oppression if socialism is ever achieved. Given sexism (and downright misogyny) among the hard left (it is no more immune to this than anything or anyone else as it exists in a sexist and misogynist society even though it is trying to change it), it is essential that not only do we recognise this, educate ourselves and begin the fight now or this will be carried over into any future systems that we create.

The day started for me in a worrying manner; the so-called “infamous” safe spaces policy (on page 8) was remitted (it was unable to be rejected — it could only be accepted or sent back to the convenors).

Soon after, the amendments to the Left Party Platform (LPP) from the Camden branch (all but 3 of these were already accepted by the LPP, see section 4.4 for LPP and Camden Amendments) were accepted by conference. There are specifically two major amendments that concerned me and the fact that they were justified on the basis of making the LPP more socialist is deeply concerning to me.

Paragraph 4 deletion:

Adopted by the conference:

4. “We are feminist because our vision of society is one without the gender oppression and exploitation which blights the lives of women and girls and makes full human emancipation impossible. We specify our feminism because historical experience shows that the full liberation of women does not automatically follow the nationalisation of productive forces or the reordering of the economy.”

What was deleted was the following, which was the last part of paragraph 4:

“We fight to advance this goal in the current political context, against the increasing divergence between men’s and women’s incomes, against the increasing poverty among women, against the “double burden” of waged work and unshared domestic labour, and against the increasing violence against women in society and in personal relationships, which is exacerbated by the economic crisis.”

Essentially what was deleted was a definition of women’s oppression from a socialist feminist perspective and I would love to know how this is inconsistent with socialism and why something that is easily factually demonstrated was deemed problematic.

Paragraph 8 deletion:

Adopted at the Conference:

8. Our political practice is democratic, diverse and inclusive, organizing amongst working class communities with no interests apart from theirs, committed to open dialogue and new ways of working. We will campaign, mobilise and support struggles on a day to day basis, recognising the need for self-organisation in working class communities. We recognise that support for our party and its electoral success will only advance to the extent that it is genuinely representative of working class communities, has no interests separate from theirs, and is an organic part of the campaigns and movements which they generate and support. We will engage in elections, offering voters a left alternative – where any elected representatives will take an average wage and be accountable to the party membership – while understanding that elections are not the only arena or even the most important arena in which political struggles are fought.

The original paragraph 8 in the Left Party Platform:

8. Our political practice is democratic, diverse and inclusive, organising amongst working class communities with no interests apart from theirs, committed to open dialogue and new ways of working; to the mutual respect and tolerance of differences of analysis; to the rejection of the corruption of conventional political structures and their reproduction of the gender domination of capitalist society. We recognise that economic transformation does not automatically bring an end to discrimination and injustice and that these sites of struggle must be developed and won, openly and together.

What was deleted was:

“To the mutual respect and tolerance for different s of analysis; to the rejection of the corruption of conventional political structures and their reproduction of the gender domination of capitalist society. We recognise that economic transformation does not automatically bring an end discrimination and injustice and these sites of struggle must be developed and won openly and together”

The vote for accepting the amendments to the Left Party Platform were 134 against, 137 in favour and 74 abstentions. So, that made two defeats essentially for women in the political platform of the party. And that followed after the remittance of the Safe Spaces policy.

The next discussion was far more successful from the point of view of gender representation. However, what was extremely disturbing was what was said in opposition to the demand on the part of both those presenting alternative motions and those speaking in opposition.

Here is the debate on the 50+% women on national and regional bodies. There were two other proposals which were defeated, one which called for 40-40% men and women and one which rejected quotas completely:

From 4.50 onward, here is the explanation of the 3 proposals and the stated motivations of those that moved them:

Here are the statements and comments in response to the proposals on gender representation. The link begins with a call for amendment of the constitution to allow for a women’s caucus (it already contained provision for a caucus for people of colour, people with disabilities and a youth caucus) by Kate Hudson. Following that come the statements:

I don’t know about you, but I am really quite tired of fighting the same battles over and over again!

So the state of things after the conference is that of a formalistic acceptance of 50+%, but the explanation of women’s oppression under capitalism was eliminated.

Quite happy about the quota, rather unhappy indeed in the manner in which opposition to it was expressed. Needless to say, it is evident that we have a lot of work to do.
So, yes, I am not perfectly happy, we still have a lot of work to do. But I am thrilled that we managed to get as far as we did. This was a major achievement, we managed to get a party established based on the notion of a broad Left party to the left of Labour. It is a one member-one vote (there are no organisational affiliations) and we actually successfully put in place guaranteed representation for oppressed minorities and women (we are not a minority, but we are not only exploited as workers, but we are oppressed in terms of our primary responsibility for social reproduction which is based on our unpaid labour). There is a policy commission conference coming up in the New Year and I know that both the disabled and women’s caucuses are up and moving.

This is the birth of a broad party of the left … let’s welcome it into the world, we have a lot of work to do to enable it to live up to its potential!

II. Student’s occupation of several universities and police brutality in Bloomsbury

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There have been a couple of occupations by University students this week in Britain. Students initially went out in strike support for the lecturers and university staff, but there was also another issue that has been raised several times and that has to do with the outsourcing of campus services. In the case of the University of London Union the union run by and for students was actually abolished to be replaced with management run services. So, at the moment 5 students have been suspended by Sussex University, students were assaulted and arrested at the University of London. 39 people are under arrest and the university of London has banned protests .

While this has been covered in several newspapers here, I was not certain that it was covered in the US, so I decided to share some information. For further clarification and discussion please see the report on the student occupations and the reaction from the powers that be from the Guardian by John Harris and another piece by Aaron Bastani ; Also from the International Socialist Network, and an excellent piece by Richard Seymour.

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Protest: police clash with students outside the University of London’s headquarters in Bloomsbury (picture by Oscar Webb) from the Standard

We actually have a political party now that defends students and activists and calls out the police:

Left Unity Press Statement defends student protesters

Left Unity – the recently-founded new party of the left – has condemned the growing crackdown on student protest, including police evictions of student occupations.

More than 100 police officers stormed a peaceful sit-in protest at the University of London yesterday, with videos and reports in today’s Guardian, Independent and Evening Standard of officers punching and dragging students. There are reports of further police provocations today.

Five students have also been suspended from the University of Sussex for their role in student protests there.

Andrew Burgin from Left Unity said: “The right to protest is a fundamental freedom, whether it is on the streets or on university campuses.

“Students should never face police evictions, arrest or disciplinary action from their universities for protesting against cuts to education.”

In a statement, the elected student officers of the University of London Union said: “Hundreds of police descended on the occupation at around 8.30pm and broke into the occupation. We are still investigating what happened inside, but initial reports indicate that protesters were assaulted by both police and security: thrown to the ground, kicked and punched, and dragged to the ground by their hair.”

There are several petitions supporting the students and the right to protest:

Sussex

http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/professor-michael-farthing-vice-chancellor-of-sussex-university-to-immediately-retract-the-suspension-of-five-sussex-students-which-began-on-the-4th-december?share_id=ccaqWGoUcJ&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition

University of London

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/defend-right-to-protest-uni-of-london/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=create_petition

III. The Crocodile Tears of David Cameron on hearing of Nelson Mandela’s death

“One of our brightest lights of our world has gone out”

Like the Queen, Cameron spoke of Nelson Mandela as a man of forgiveness, perhaps given the British government’s complicity with the Apartheid regime, Margaret Thatcher’s description of him and the ANC as terrorist and the poster of the Federation of Conservative students in the 1980s (of which Cameron was a leading member and his free pro-apartheid fact finding mission to South Africa) forgiveness was the quality that he desperately felt he needed from Nelson Mandela. Just so that you do not have the impression that all the Tories are hypocrites, here is Norman Tebbit arguing “Nelson Mandela was the leader of a movement that resorted to terrorism and the Tories were right to shun sanctions against South Africa at the height of the anti-apartheid struggle.”

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I want to end this piece by sharing the following on Nelson Mandela, addressing his legacy, and the struggle which still remains in South Africa and the rest of the world.

La Lucha Continua!

For videos that won’t post, see http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Anti%20Capitalist%20Meetup%20Group

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: From Detroit to Honduras and Back: Capitalists Immigrate To Usurp Rights. by Justina

2:56 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

From This in Michigan…

Capitalism's Old Marvels photo detroit_census_AP110322152791_620x350.jpg

To This in Honduras….
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In Michigan, Republican Governor Rick Snyder has appointed an “emergency manager” to take over the city of Detroit, with the powers to over-ride the votes of local citizens and the decisions and contracts made by their locally elected mayor and city council. The manager has the power to abrogate previously signed union contracts with city workers and sell city assets to pay off the city’s creditors. The new emergency manager has ordered the appraisal of the Detroit Art Institute’s world class art collection with a view to its sale.

In Honduras, its post-coup president and legislature has signed a law allowing the government to sell or lease vast tracks of lands in habited by Honduran’s indigenous tribes, to private owners to establish “charter cities”, feudal-like city states which are to establish their own laws and form of government, free of pre-existing state laws and regulations.

As a part of Honduras’s “public-private partnership”, law, capitalist business have been invited to create new business cities in the wilderness, profit paradises to be totally controlled by the businesses which own them. Thus the ese corporate vandals are pillaging the world, its land, art and culture by liquidating previously sovereign states in their favor.

Honduras will now allow consortia of private corporations to set up their own city-states, free of virtually all pre-existing law and regulation by the country’s government. The “public” component of this “public-private partnership”, the putatively democratically elected Honduran government (post the 2009 Zelaya-coup) have voted to sell (or long term lease) large tracks of their country to private corporations and their agents. Hondurans living in these feudal city-states will have no democratic control of their environment.

The rules will be set by private charters, written by the corporate agents who shall decide who shall live in their states and who shall be excluded and where they will live and work if they allowed in. (Never mind that the likely territories involved long have belonged to indigenous tribes, who have not been consulted in this massive give-away of their land, but actively oppose it.)

It’s really not much different in Michigan.

The Michigan Model: The Emergency Manager Law

Thus, in Detroit, Republic governor, Rick Snyder, using the “Emergency Manager” law passed by his Republican majority in Michigan’s legislature, has appointed his own man to take over the city of Detroit and run it. Over the past 30 years, Detroit’s tax base has disappeared as its manufacturing companies, once the pride of U.S. capitalism, has abandoned Detroit to move their factories to Third World countries where workers’ wages are so much lower, thus increasing the companies’ profit margin. Detroit and surrounding areas, once prosperous, have been turned into a new industrial wilderness, unable to pay its running expenses.

Snyder’s selected “emergency manager” is a corporate bankruptcy attorney experienced in acting in the interest of creditors not Detroit voters. Under the Emergency Manager law, Detroit’s voters simply don’t count at all.

Carrying out the same neo-liberal policy being employed in Greece, that of privatizing capital assets and services, the emergency manager law empowers empowered the manager to close down those public services, such as schools, utilities, and emergency services which he considers “wasteful”, selling or renting the assets to charter schools and private companies and the like, while setting aside all the city’s labor contracts with the workers previously providing those services. Thus teachers, emergency and service workers, find themselves divested of jobs and facing the loss of their post-employment benefits such as pensions for which their unions long fought.

The new manager now in charge of running Detroit is Washington, D.C. attorney, Kevyn Orr. One of Orr’s most provocative acts has been to demand that the Detroit Institute of Art, holder of one of the U.S.’s most respected art collections, including the irreplaceable Diego Rivera wall murals, must have all its artwork appraised with a view to selling the works on the open market for the benefit of Detroit’s creditors. (Even Republican Attorney General, Bill Schuette, has expressed his objection to this outrage.)

The Honduran Model: The “Public-Private Charter City”

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Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Liberalism is Dead, Now What?: Two Cheers for Bhaskar Sunkara by LeGauchiste

3:31 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Bhaskar Sunkara’s recent essay in The Nation, Letter to ‘The Nation’ From a Young Radical, argues persuasively that American liberalism is “practically ineffective and analytically inadequate” to the twin political tasks of mobilizing supporters and generating policy. Sunkara blames the crisis of liberalism on the fact that, “Liberalism’s original sin lies in its lack of a dynamic theory of power,” which leads liberals–Sunkara specifically cites Obama–to treat

politics as a salon discussion between polite people with competing ideas. . . [in which] the best program … is assumed to prevail in the end…[and] political action is disconnected … from the bloody entanglement of interests and passions that mark our lived existence.

Admitting that liberalism is “a slippery term” Sunkara defines it in terms of the two dominant species of Washington Democratic insiders, which he defines as follows:

to the extent that we can assign coherence to the ideology, two main camps of modern American liberalism are identifiable: welfare liberals and technocratic liberals. The former, without the radicals they so often attacked marching at their left, have not adequately moored their efforts to the working class, while the latter naïvely disconnect policy from politics, often with frightening results.

Both sorts of liberalism, Sunkara argues, have failed analytically and politically, though in different ways and for different reasons. Nevertheless, Sankara has the same prescription: “the solution to liberalism’s impasse lies in the re-emergence of American radicalism.”

What would that look like? The first task is that

Socialists must urgently show progressives how alien the technocratic liberal worldview is to the goals of welfare-state liberalism—goals held by the rank and file of the liberal movement. … Broad anti-austerity coalitions, particularly those centered at the state and municipal levels like last year’s Chicago Teachers Union strike, point the way toward new coalitions between leftists and liberals committed to defending social goods.

But anti-austerity is not, of course, the full program, but

just one example of the kind of class politics that has to be reconstituted in America today; surely there are many others. The Next Left’s anti-austerity struggles must be connected to the environmental movement, to the struggle of immigrants for labor and citizenship rights, and even, as unromantic as it sounds, to the needs of middle-class service recipients.

Although Sunkara’s essay, like his groundbreaking publication Jacobin Magazine, is an important attempt at creating bridges between liberals and radicals during a time of onslaught by the corporate Right, even as it demonstrates the analytical weakness of liberalism, it suffers from some of the very same analytical inadequacies of liberalism itself, especially its lack of a dynamic theory of power.

Specifically, Sunkara’s categories of analysis are rooted in politics and ideology, with no moorings in the social formation beyond a few statements about working class support for social welfare liberalism–statements which fail to recognize the accomplishments wrought via American working class and subaltern self-activity. In light of this, it is perhaps not surprising–though it ought to be–that a self-described “young radical” had no place in his analysis for a discussion of capitalism as an exploitative economic system whose nature is at the root of or contributes greatly to every one of the social problems liberals profess to care about.

American Liberalism and the American Working Class

American liberalism is difficult to understand, not just because the word came to mean the opposite of what it had meant the prior century, but also because the modern version is genetically incapable of analytical consistency or rigor because it is based on half-truths about capitalism, which are the only truths the system allows into discourse about itself.

Specifically, modern liberals understand that capitalism creates class and other forms of conflict, but rather than seeing that conflict as inherent to the system and an engine for change, they seek to defuse its oppositional energy and channel what remains into policy proposals that preserve the status quo of capitalist relations. Given that, how could liberals do anything other than become, if not the enemies, then the unwitting enabler of the enemies, of the working class?

To be radical is to get to the root (Latin: radix=root) of things, to understand not merely their appearance but their underlying structures and dynamics. To understand American liberalism, we need to understand its history from the past forward, not start with a bestiary of newspaper pundits and then work back.

American liberalism originated during the New Deal, but the energy underlying it came not from FDR and friends but from American working people, not from above but from below. FDR came into office on a conservative platform of cutting the federal budget, and the centerpiece of his First New Deal (1933-34) was the NRA, a corporatist scheme that allowed big corporations to collude on production and prices as a way to replace “ruinous competition” with rationality.

Even the liberal accomplishments of the Second New Deal (1935-36), which included Social Security, rural electrification, etc., came about not because of liberal leaders but because of pressure from below. Consider the case of labor law.

The NRA had a landmark provision granting workers in NRA Code industries the right to organize labor unions–which was inserted only because of pressure from Labor leaders and rank and file members. After the Supreme Court struck down the NRA, labor law reform took the form of the National Labor Relations Act, which the FDR administration supported only belatedly and under political pressure.

But the Wagner Act itself well illustrates the inherent conservatism of liberalism. New Deal liberal leaders, including bill sponsor Sen. Robert Wagner, were equally disturbed by the militancy of working class strikers (especially the Sit Down strikers) and the violence of anti-union goons hired by employers.

As a result, the purpose of the NLRA was to rein in both sides, as though both labor and capital were equally to blame for the violence of the era’s labor struggles. Most particularly, labor unions were reduced to contract negotiators and managers, limited to engaging in collective bargaining on behalf of their members at a particular employer and then enforcing that contract. Unions were even made responsible for strikes that take place outside of the bargaining context, thus making the unions into enforcers against their own members.

Because they subscribe to orthodox economics, which holds that equilibrium is the natural state of capitalist markets and thus capitalist social formations, liberals are and always have been unable to conceive of social conflict as anything other than a social malady to be cured, and thus always wind up on the side of establishment institutions against those seeking to change them.

The Collapse of Liberalism

During the Great Prosperity of the Pax Americana-Sovietica, American capitalism dominated the world, US manufacturing capital reaped huge profits, and American workers used their union power to share in the prosperity. As corporate profits began a long-term decline in the late 60s-early 70s, however, capital began the process of reneging on what Sunkara rightly terms the Fordist compromise of the Boom era.

The macro-economic side of liberalism–the aspect of the ideology that was supposed to use Keynesian tools to ensure continuously rising GDP, i.e., a bigger economic pie–began to fail in the 70s, and the emergence of stagnant growth with inflation gave the right the opening it needed to turn its anti-labor ideas into policy, and liberalism became a dirty word in American politics.

Reconstituting a Broad American Left

The solution is not for liberals to become socialists, nor for them to adopt a Marxist analysis of capitalism, although those would be great of course.

I suggest that liberals and radicals can come together by focusing on and actively supporting those elements of the US working class–including many working people who identify more strongly in racial or ethnic terms than in class terms–that are engaging in rights’ struggles. We should be looking to them for guidance on the issues, on emerging organizational forms of struggle, and much more.

Fast food workers, for example, are not simply demanding higher wages and better working conditions. Like Occupy, the fast food workers are pioneering new forms of worker organization, largely out of necessity imposed by the nature of the fast food industry. The collective bargaining model of the NLRA simply does not apply to fast food, with its very small units of production and high employee turnover, and workers are responding by making demands that do not fit within that paradigm. Consider also the struggles of the Immokalee, Florida, workers, whose innovative campaigns have succeeded in breaking the usual labor mold.

This means that liberals would need to reserve pre-judgment of worker demands as excessive or outside the box or too radical, and that radicals would need to likewise reserve pre-judgment of demands as too conservative or beside the point of class struggle. Mostly, for those of us who are writers and/or activists, it means listening to those who are most often ignored with open minds.

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Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Are CIA Mockingbirds Still Nesting in Nicaragua? by Justina

2:45 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega celebrating Sandinista election victory in 2006 in the Revolutionary Plaza, Managua.

“You could get a journalist cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a month.” – CIA operative discussing with Philip Graham, editor Washington Post, on the availability and prices of journalists willing to peddle CIA propaganda and cover stories. (from “Katherine The Great,” by Deborah Davis (New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1991)

Thus Davis chronicles the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) official campaign to turn American newspapers, into conduits for its anti-communist ideology which began after World War II. It was called “Operation Mockingbird”. Perhaps the operation would have been more accurately named “Operation Cuckoo” as the cuckoo will lay its egg in another bird’s nest and steal the original. With this propaganda operation and spying operation, the CIA effectively threw objectivity out of the nest of American journalism and put CIA denominated news in its place.

The CIA was successful in capturing the nests of the biggest newspapers in the U.S., including the the “Washington Post”, the “N.Y. Times” , and the “Los Angeles Times”, among many others. They all still seem to be on team. During the years of the Contra war against the lawful Sandinista government in the 1980′s, the CIA employed similar methods here in Nicaragua. Is it still going on here?

When I first investigated moving to Nicaragua in 2012, I asked a friend there about which newspapers I should read there. I was told “none of them”. She said that the two biggest national Spanish language dailies, “La Prensa” and “El Nuevo Diario” were both strongly opposed to the current Sandinista government. Of the two, “La Prensa”, was the most virulently anti-Sandinista, akin in tone to Fox News vicious attacks on Obama’s bone fides.

Thus when I moved to Nicaragua, I began reading the lessor evil, “El Nuevo Diario”, on a daily basis. About three months ago, that paper changed radically. From being something akin to a neighborhood shopping newspaper, El Nuevo Diario suddenly expanded into four sections, in color, one section totally devoted to economic news, along with a large variety of reprints of stories from the New York Times.

Many of El Dario’s international stories now routinely take pot-shots at left wing governments such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina, although largely avoiding La Prensa’s Fox-like screams against President Ortega.

“La Prensa”, likely the biggest national paper, is owned by Violeta Chamorro and her family. In the 1980‘s during the Contra war, her paper routinely attacked the Sandinistas and received U.S. funds for their efforts. She was, in 1990, the first of the three U.S. funded anti-socialist presidents. She ended the 11 year reign of the revolutionary socialist Sandinista party. Chamorro and her two U.S. approved and funded successors spent the next 16 years, allowing the U.S. government to once again call the shots in Nicaragua. Restored to power, the local capitalists’ representatives virtually demolished all the social welfare programs that the Sandinistas had put in place when they ousted Somoza family dictatorship in 1979.

In 1979, the Sandinista movement ( officially the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, or FSLN).) had come to power after years of a revolutionary war that successfully ended the Somoza regime.

The Sandinistas, begun as a small, clandestine, Marxist anti-Somoza guerrilla group in the early 1960’s, was named after Augusto César Sandino, a revered national hero for successfully evicting the U.S. Marines from Nicaragua in 1932. Sandino’s rebel forces had made the continuation of the U.S.’s 20 year military occupation untenable. The FSLN was so-named by one of its main theoreticians and founders, Carlos Fonseca. Dying in a firefight with Somoza’s National Guards in 1976, he didn’t live to see victory. The FSLN’s heroism against the hated dictatorship, however, earned it massive popular support which culminated in Somoza’s ouster and the FSLN attaining power, first under the auspices of a ruling unity junta and then with Daniel Ortega’s election as president in 1984.

Upon defeating Somoza in 1979, the Sandinista movement introduced a vast socialist program of nationalizing land, creating worker cooperatives, both agrarian and industrial, and combating the then massive illiteracy by sending thousands of teams of students into the countryside and barrios to teach reading and writing, reportedly reducing the iliteracy rate from 50.36% to 12.94% in some five months The Sandinistas also set up a huge network of free, community based health clinics, providing health care to millions who had never before had access to such services.

The U.S., in the person of then President, Jimmy Carter, was politely civil to the new Nicaraguan government. But, with his loss to Ronald Reagan in 1981, the U.S. attitude turned openly and actively belligerent. (For an excellent and detailed account of Reagan’s anti-Sandinista efforts, see Stephen Kinzer’s “Blood of Brothers — Life and War in Nicaragua” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, N.Y., 1991)

Thereafter, the Sandinista efforts to bring economic and social equality to the nation, were viciously obstructed by Reagan, who set about using the U.S.’s vast resources, both legal and illegal, to create and maintain the “ Contra” war against the Sandinista government, forcing the fledgling government to divert needed resources to its defense against the armed might of the U.S. which had created a proxy army, based in Honduras, to destabilize and destroy the new government.

Funding the Contra army against the Sandinista government was only one arm of the Reagan government’s attack. According to the Inventory of Conflict and Environment’s case study by Ellie Klerlein on “Environmental Effects of Nicaraguan Armed Conflicts”, the U.S. blocked World Bank and other foreign development loans, imposed restrictions on U.S. trade, including reducing Nicaragua’s sugar quota by 90%, and canceled its Overseas Private Investment Corporation insurance, needed to attract international loans and investment.

Reagan’s attempts to destabilize the Sandinista government were ultimately successful. By the time of the 1990 Nicaraguan election, after nine years of fighting to survive as an independent nation, the economy was in ruins. Kler in her case study cited above, puts the number of war-related deaths at 43,000. Thousands more were crippled by injuries. Food supplies were insufficient due to the Contra’s disruption of normal farming. As a result, the social fabric was in tatters.

Although the U.S.’s Contra army never succeeded in defeating the Sandinista movement militarily, the war so wrecked the economy that the U.S., by pouring a million of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars into the anti-sandinista opposition’s electoral efforts, were able to elect the U.S.’s approved unity candidate, Violeta Chamorro.

Virtually the first act of the Chamorro-led government was to grab back the land from the small farmers cooperatives that the Sandinista government had allocated to them from the nationalization of the Somoza family and friends ‘ holdings. The majority of the previously nationalized companies suffered the same fate.

Before their fall in 1979, two generations of the Somaza family dictatorship and its friends had acquired the majority of the assets of the whole country, including most of its arable land and virtually all its industries.

The first Somoza dictator, General Anastasio Somoza García, had taken presidential power in 1936. Formerly, he was head of the U.S. trained and equipped National Guards, which he employed to assassinate Augusto César Sandino in 1934. (See Kinzer, above,for details on General Somoza’s nasty history.)

General Anastasio Somoza ruled, officially and occasionally by proxy, until assassination 1956 by a young rebel poet. Thereafter Somoza’s eldest son took over until his own death, of natural causes, in 1956. Then the next eldest son, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, took over the presidency. The Somoza family ruled with an iron and greedy fist through the force of its personally controlled National Guard. After Somoza Debayle fled the country in 1979, remnants of his National Guard formed the nucleus of the U.S. created Contra force. (Kinzer, in “Blood of Brothers” gives a detailed account of Reagan’s military creation and maintenance of the Contras.)

Under the Somoza regime, the majority of the Nicaraguan population had owned nothing and lived in brutally poor conditions, without access to health care, education or land. Electoral votes were bought wholesale. It was a sham democracy controlled by the Somoza’s and their brutal and thoroughly corrupt National Guards. These were the conditions which gave rise to the Sandinista guerrilla group in the early 1960‘s and to the wide-spread hatred for the dictator.

During the 60’s and 70’s, even the upper class Chamorro family were vocal anti-Somoza opponents, even losing one activist publisher son, Pedro Chamorro, to assassination by the dictator in 1978. Perhaps that was one of Somoza’s most critical mis-steps. Thereafter even the U.S. withdrew their support.

By early 1979, virtually the whole country was supporting the Sandinista revolutionaries, who had taken control of most of the cities and towns. By July, even the National Guard had disintegrated. Somoza and his followers hurriedly left the country, taking millions from the national assets with them. The Sandinistas had won and would remain in government for next 11 years.

After the 1990 election, however, Pedro Chamorro ‘s widow, Violeta, was elected to office and she and her neo-liberal opposition supporters, set upon dismantling the vast community health care and free public education system that the Sandinistas had put into place. They simply diverted its funding.

In 2006, after 16 years of going backwards economically and socially, the FSLN’s Daniel Ortega, was again voted into the presidential office.

President Ortega immediately began re-building the shattered Sandinista social welfare programs, but he softened many of their previous socialist economic policies, successfully walking a fine line between cooperation with many of the U.S. controlled International Monetary fund and World Bank policies and those of Chavez’s Bolivarian socialist inspired programs of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) a progressive Latin American cooperation and development organization which has funded many large projects in Nicaragua.

Much to the distaste of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Ortega has been a strong ally of Venezuela’s Chavez government and now that of Nicholas Maduro, but he has also managed to juggle the World Bank and IMF investment demands with those of ALBA’s Bolivarian idealism to win re-election in 2011. He dances very well on thin ice.

During President Obama’s recent visit to Costa Rica, President Ortega joined other Central American leaders for a polite dinner meeting with Obama, but immediately left the group to fly to Venezuela to attend a memorial for his former close ally and friend, President Hugo Chavez. There he was outspoken in his support for the socialist Maduro and critical of U.S. meddling in Venezuela’s post-election politics. Unlike the most Latin American countries, the U.S. has refused to recognize Maduro’s victory.

The Sandinista government of today definitely pursues a “mixed economy” program, actively expanding social programs, such as health care, education, housing for the poor, micro-credits to small businesses, and job training, while encouraging foreign capitalist investment and providing sizable tax benefits to privately owned local and foreign industries.

President Ortega has seen, in the dead flesh of his own people, the dire effects of too openly flaunting U.S. capitalism’s economic hegemony. One suspects that Ortega will continue to quietly improve social conditions while courting more U.S. and foreign capitalist investment, thus hoping to avoid reawakening the active wrath of the North American colossus. If one is to judge by Nicaraguan national dailies, however, the U.S. is still maintaining its CIA funded propaganda war on the Sandinistas.

Perhaps Ortega is only waiting for his fellow Latin American countries in the Chavez-inspired CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) group (the U.S. and Canada were expressly excluded) to carry out their plans for a Latin American defensive military alliance. The U.S. and Canada were excluded from CELAC membership. Hopefully one day such an alliance might give socialist-minded countries like Nicaragua a better chance to thrive without U.S. interference. In the meantime, I expect President Ortega will keep on ice dancing, despite the fact that the the U.S.’s Operation Mockingbird may keep on singing its anti-socialist tunes in the Nicaraguan media.