Marxism

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100 Years Since Livorno

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 23/01/2021 - 9:43am in

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Italy, Marxism

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In January 1921, more than three years after the October Revolution in Russia, some two years since the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in Berlin at the behest of the German Social Democratic Party, and in the aftermath of two wasted years of workers’ factory occupations in Italy itself, the intransigent revolutionaries in the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), led by Amadeo Bordiga, finally won the day and broke from the old party of compromise and accommodation with capital to form the Communist Party of Italy (PCd’I).

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Book on Utopias from the 17th Century to Today

Ruth Levitas, The Concept of Utopia (Oxford: Peter Lang Ltd 2011).

I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything for several days. Part of that is because the news doesn’t really inspire me. It’s not that it isn’t important, or that the Tories have stopped trying to strip working people of their rights and drive them further into poverty and degradation. Or that I’m unmoved by Trump trying to organise a coup to keep himself in the Oval Office like just about every other tin pot dictator throughout history. Or that Brexit isn’t threatening to destroy whatever remains of British industry and livelihoods, all for the benefit of the Tory superrich and investment bankers like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who have their money safely invested in firms right across the world. Or that I’m not outraged by even more people dying of Covid-19 every day, while the government has corruptly mismanaged their care by outsourcing vital medical supplies and their services to firms that are clearly incompetent to provide them, because those same firms are run by their chums. Ditto with the grossly inadequate food parcels, which are another vile example of Tory profiteering. It’s just that however disgusting and infuriating the news is, there is a certain sameness about it. Because all this is what the Tories have been doing for decades. It’s also partly because I can’t say anything more or better about these issues than has been already said by great bloggers like Mike, Zelo Street and the rest.

But I’ve also been kept busy reading some of the books I got for Christmas, like the above tome by Ruth Levitas, a sociology professor at Bristol Uni. The blurb for this runs

In this highly influential book, Ruth Levitas provides an excellent introduction to the meaning and importance of the concept of Utopia, and explores a wealth of material drawn from literature and social theory to illustrate its rich history and analytical versatility. Situating utopia within the dynamics of the modern imagination, she examines the ways in which it has been used by some of the leading thinkers of modernity: Marx, Engels, Karl Mannheim, Robert Owen, Georges Sorel, Ernst Bloch, William Morris and Herbert Marcuse. Utopia offers the most potent secular concept for imagining and producing a ‘better world’, and this classic text will be invaluable to students across a wide range of disciplines.

It has the following chapters

  1. Ideal Commonwealths: The Emerging Tradition
  2. Castles in the Air: Marx, Engels and Utopian Socialism
  3. Mobilising Myths: Utopia and Social Change in Georges Sorel and Karl Mannheim
  4. Utopian Hope: Ernst Bloch and Reclaiming the Future
  5. The Education of Desire: The Rediscovery of William Morris
  6. An American Dream: Herbert Marcuse and the Transformation of the Psyche
  7. A Hundred Flowers: Contemporary Utopian Studies
  8. Future Perfect: Retheorising Utopia.

I wanted to read the book because so many utopias have been socialist or socialistic, like the early 19th century thinkers Karl Marx described as utopian, Saint-Simon, Fourier and Robert Owen, and was interested in learning more about their ideas. In this sense, I’m slightly disappointed with the book. Although it tells you a little about the plans for the reformation of society, and the establishment of a perfect state or political system, the book’s not so much about these individual schemes as a more general discussion of the concept of utopia. What, exactly, is a utopia, and how has the concept been used, and changed and developed? Much of this debate has been within Marxism, beginning with the great thinker himself. He called his predecessors – Owen, Fourier and Owen ‘utopian’ because he didn’t believe their particular schemes were realistic. Indeed, he regarded them as unscientific, in contrast to his own theories. However, Marx did believe they had done a vital job in pointing out the failures of the capitalist system. Marxists themselves were split over the value of utopias. The dominant position rejected them, as it was pointless to try to describe the coming society before the revolution. Nevertheless, there were Marxists who believed in their value, as the description of a perfect future society served to inspire the workers with an ideal they could strive to achieve. This position has been obscured in favour of the view that Marx and his followers rejected them, and this book aims to restore their position in the history of Marxist thought. This idea of utopia as essentially inspirational received especial emphasis in the syndicalism of Georges Sorel. Syndicalism is a form of radical socialism in which the state and private industry are abolished and their functions carried out instead by the trade unions. Sorel himself was a French intellectual, who started out on the radical left, but move rightward until he ended up in extreme nationalist, royalist, anti-Semitic movements. His ideas were paradoxically influential not just in the Marxist socialism of the former Soviet Union, but also in Fascist Italy. Sorel doesn’t appear to have been particularly interested in the establishment of a real, syndicalist utopia. This was supposed to come after a general strike. In Sorel’s formulation of syndicalism, however, the general strike is just a myth to inspire the workers in their battle with the employers and capitalism, and he is more interested in the struggle than the workers’ final victory, if indeed that ever arrived.

The book also covers the debate over William Morris and his News from Nowhere. This describes an idyllic, anarchist, agrarian, pre-industrial society in which there are no leaders and everyone works happily performing all kinds of necessary work simply because they enjoy it and find it fulfilling following a workers’ revolution. Apart from criticisms of the book itself, there have also been debates over the depth of Morris’ own socialism. Morris was a member of one of the first British Marxist socialist parties, Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation, and the founder of another, the Socialist League, after he split from them. Critics have queried whether he was ever really a Marxist or even a socialist. One view holds that he was simply a middle class artist and entrepreneur, but not a socialist. The other sees him as a socialist, but not a Marxist. Levitas contends instead that Morris very definitely was a Marxist.

When it comes to the 20th century, the book points out that utopias have fallen out of fashion, no doubt due to the horrors committed by totalitarian regimes, both Fascist and Communist, which have claimed to be ideal states. However, the critic Tom Moylan has argued that utopias have still been produced in the SF novels of Joanna Russ, Ursula le Guin, Marge Piercy and Samuel Delaney. He describes these as ‘critical utopias’, a new literary genre. The heroes of this literature is not the dominant White, heterosexual male, but characters who are off-centre, female, gay, non-White, and who act collectively rather than individually. The book criticises some earlier utopias, like News from Nowhere, for their exclusive focus on the male viewpoint, comparing them with the Land of Cockayne, the medieval fantasy that similarly presents a perfect world in which everything is seemingly ordered for men’s pleasure. In contrast to these are the feminist utopias of the above writers, which began in the late 19th century with Harriet Gilman’s Herland. It also discusses the value of satires like Samuel Butler’s Erewhon, and dystopias like Eugene Zamyatin’s We, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984.

Levitas does not, however, consider utopianism to be merely confined to the left. She also considers Thatcherism a form of utopianism, discussing the late Roger Scruton’s Conservative Essays and citing Patrick Wright’s On Living in an Old Country. This last argued that the Conservative promotion of heritage was being used to reinforce old hierarchies in a markedly racist way. Some members of society were thus delineated as truly members of the nation, while others were excluded.

The book was first published in 1990, just before or when Communism was falling. It shows it’s age by discussing the issue whether the terrible state of the Soviet Union served to deter people dreaming and trying to create perfect, socialist societies. She argues that it doesn’t, only that the forms of this societies are different from the Marxist-Leninism of the USSR. This is a fair assessment. In Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy of books about the future colonisation of Mars, Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars, the colonists not only succeed in terraforming the planet, but also create socialist society in which authority is as decentralised as possible, women are fully equal and patriarchy has been overthrown and businesses run by their workers as cooperatives. At the same time, those wishing to return to a more primitive way of life have formed hunter-gatherer tribes, which are nevertheless also conversant with contemporary technology.

Further on, although the Fall of Communism has been claimed to have discredited not just Marxism but also socialism, recent history has shown the opposite is true. After forty years of Thatcherism, an increasing number of people are sick and tired of it, its economic failures, the glaring inequalities of wealth, the grinding poverty and degradation it is creating. This is why the Conservative establishment, including the Blairites in the Labour party, were so keen to smear Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-Semite, a Communist and Trotskyite, or whatever else they could throw at him. He gave working people hope, and as Servalan, the grim leader of the Terran Federation said on the Beeb’s classic SF show, Blake’s Seven, ‘Hope is very dangerous’. A proper socialist society continues to inspire women and men to dream and work towards a better world, and it is to stop this that the Blairites contrived to get Corbyn’s Labour to lose two elections and have him replaced by Keir Starmer, a neo-liberal vacuity who increasingly has nothing to say to Johnson and his team of crooks.

Back to the book, its discussion of the nature of utopia therefore tends to be rather abstract and theoretical as it attempts to describe the concept and the way it has changed and been used. I didn’t find this really particularly interesting, although there are nevertheless many valuable insights here. I would instead have been far more interested in learning more about the particular ideas, plans and descriptions of a new, perfect, or at least far better, society of the many thinkers, philosophers and authors mentioned.

Trump and the Spectre of Mussolini

The big news today has been last night’s attack on the Capitol by Trump’s supporters. They had been fired up to make the assault by Trump’s continued insistence that he is the real winner of the election, but it has been stolen from him by vote-rigging from the Democrats. As Mike himself has pointed out, Trump himself has not been averse to trying to do this himself. Earlier this week it was revealed that Trump had tried to persuade Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Secretary of State, to find one more vote for him in the state more than those cast for Joe Biden. And a week or so ago it was also reported that he had also been considering calling in the army in order to defend his presidency. If he had done so, it would have been a coup attempt.

Microsoft News in a piece they published today about the attack state that among the mob were members of various far right groups, such as the Proud Boys, the Nationalist Social Club and supporters of the Qanon conspiracy theory. This is the bizarre belief that Trump has been secretly fighting a war against an evil covert group determined to take over and subvert America. Last night there had been various messages posted on right-wing websites urging ‘Revolution’ and ‘Civil War’. World leaders have expressed their disgust and condemnation of the attack, though as Mike also points out, there has been no condemnation of Trump himself from Boris or Priti Patel. The attack is ominous, as it shows just how fragile American democracy is.

Indeed. Way back in the 1990s there were fears of a similar attack with the emergence of militia movement. These are right-wing paramilitary organisations founded by people, who really believe that America is in danger of being taken over by the extreme left, or the forces of globalism and the one world Satanic conspiracy or whatever. Many of them were explicitly racist with the connections to the neo-Nazi right. At one point a woman claiming to be a senior officer in the movement appeared online urging the various militias to unite and march on Washington. Her call was ignored, largely, I think, because the other militia leaders didn’t trust her and were extremely suspicious of her motives. I got the distinct impression that they suspected her of being an agent provocateur and that the march was some kind of trap by the federal government. There was no armed paramilitary march, and so America dodged a coup attempt, or whatever it was, that time.

But the attack is also reminiscent of an assault on government even further back, almost one hundred years ago. This was the infamous ‘March on Rome’ of Mussolini’s Fascists. This succeeded in getting him appointed as the new Prime Minister by the Italian king, Emmanuel II, and began the process which saw him overturning Italian democracy to forge the Fascist one-party state and his personal dictatorship. Of course, for such coups to be successful, the armed forces, capital and the civil service must be willing to collaborate with the insurgents. Mussolini had the support of Italian industry and the big landowners, as he offered to protect capitalism from the forces of revolutionary socialism. The Fascists also included a number of ex-servicemen, the squadristi, and they had considerable support within the regular Italian armed forces. However, the head of the Italian police had absolute contempt for the Fascists and offered to defend the Italian government from the Fascists. But the king turned him down, and caved in to the future Duce.

There are similarities to last night’s events. Many right-wing Americans do seem to fear that Communism and anarchy are somehow about to overrun America with the violence of some of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in America and the supposed ‘cultural Marxists’ that have allegedly taken over the American educational system. And the fears that there really is a secret conspiracy to overthrow American democracy and enslave its citizens has been around for decades. Bizarre conspiracy theories appeared in the 1970s about the Bilderberg group and the Trilateral Commission, claiming that these groups really ran the world. Then in the 1990s George Bush senior’s statement that he was going to create a ‘new world order’ prompted comparisons with the Nazis, as Hitler had also said the same about his regime. It was also linked to older conspiracy theories about the Freemasons because the Latin version of the phrase, ‘Novo Ordo Seculorum’, supposedly appears on American dollar bills along with various Masonic symbols. These theories claimed that America was being secretly run by a group of Masonic Satanists, who were planning turn America into a totalitarian, Communist state and send Christians to concentration camps. Even the collapse of Communism did not allay these fears. Many of those, who bought into these bizarre theories, thought that the collapse of the Soviet Union was all some kind of ruse. One variety of these myths claimed that the Russians had established secret military bases in Canada and Mexico, and at a given signal Soviet tanks would roll over the border into America. The 1990s were arguably the peak of such beliefs, as shown in the popularity of similar stories of covert government pacts with aliens from Zeta Reticuli and TV’s The X-Files. But such fears have certainly not gone away. There was a resurgence during Obama’s presidency, when America’s first Black president was accused by the bonkers elements on the American right of being a secret Muslim. or atheist. Or Communist. Or Nazi. Whatever, Obama was filled with rage against White Christians. One pair of pastors told the listeners of their church radio station that Obama was going to establish a dictatorship and would massacre even more people than Chairman Mao. Alex Jones was repeating and amplifying similar myths over on his internet radio and TV station. He claimed that Obama was going to invoke emergency legislation under the pretext of impending environmental disaster to force ordinary Americans into refugee camps. Militant feminists and gays were part of this conspiracy, in which humanity was to be transformed into a race of genderless cyborgs. Jones lost a considerable part of his audience when he was banned from various social media platforms thanks to his claims that a Boston pizza parlour was really a front for supplying children to be abused by members of the Democratic party and that several high school shootings had really been faked to provoke popular support for gun control laws. This caused real distress to the bereaved parents, who were accused of being ‘crisis actors’. Jones has nearly vanished from the public stage, though he still appears here and there. Even when he had an audience, many people still regarded him as a joke. But it looks like the conspiracy theories Jones promoted, and the underlying distrust of the government, still have a powerful hold on many Americans.

Fortunately, yesterday was different from 1920s Italy. America’s military has so far shown no interest in coming to Trump’s aid and overthrowing democracy. Black Lives Matter is extremely unpopular in certain areas, but the police, security forces and private industry aren’t backing armed paramilitary units to defend capitalism. American democracy is being shaken and tested, but so far it hasn’t cracked. The problem is, it’s not clear how long this will last. By calling for people to storm the capitol, Trump has struck a blow against democracy. He’s been unsuccessful, but this might inspire a future president with the same inclinations to try again. And they might be more successful.

And we’re not safe from such assaults over here. Mike in his article has warned that the Tories appear to be taking notes from Trump, while Zelo Street points out that the same people, who backed Trump also back the Tories and Brexit over here. He concludes with a warning of who the Brexiteers will blame when it all finally goes bad:

Many Brexiteers believe it’ll be someone else’s fault – Remainers, ethnic minorities, foreign nationals, multinational corporations, those of insufficiently patriotic intent – when it all goes bad. It won’t be Bozo, Ms Patel, Gove, or Nigel “Thirsty” Farage they will be going after.

There is a real danger of America becoming, if not a dictatorship, then a very authoritarian, Fascistic state. And Britain following.

See also: Four dead after Trump provokes US Capitol riot – and the UK Tories are taking notes | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Zelo Street: Trump Insurrection – Next Stop UK (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

An Introduction to the Work of the CWO and ICT

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/01/2021 - 9:13am in

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UK, Marxism

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The article which follows is a transcript of an introduction to an online meeting of CWO members and sympathisers on 21 November 2020.

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José Carlos Mariátegui: Pioneering Latin American Marxist

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/01/2021 - 8:38am in

By Marc Becker
Against the Current
No. 209, November/December 2020

WRITING IN THE 1920s, the Peruvian Marxist José Carlos Mariátegui introduced a uniquely Latin American perspective on revolutionary socialist movements and theories. He famously noted, “we certainly do not want socialism in America to be a copy. It has to be a heroic creation.”(1) This political dynamism is what made him into an intellectual force with lasting relevance.

Mariátegui’s voluminous and perceptive writings as well as extensive political activism left an unmistakable and lasting impression on the political, social, and intellectual landscape of his country. Nevertheless, even as he has retained central importance for revolutionary socialism in Latin America, in the United States few people are aware of his contributions.

When Mariátegui died in 1930, his funeral turned into one of the largest processions of workers ever seen in the streets of the capital city of Lima, but in the United States his death was hardly noticed.

Waldo Frank, a prominent left-wing U.S writer, the first chair of the League of American Writers and a close friend of Mariátegui, declared that Mariátegui’s death plunged “the intelligentsia of all of Hispano-America into sorrow; and nothing could be more eloquent of the cultural separation between the two halves of the new world than the fact that to most of us these words convey no meaning.”(2)

Despite this lack of attention in the United States and writing a century ago and on a different continent, Mariátegui’s thought remains relevant for the struggles we face today.

Early Life

José Carlos Mariátegui was born June 14, 1894 in the southern Peruvian coastal town of Moquegua and grew up on outskirts of Lima. He was raised by a poor and deeply religious mestiza (mixed race) single mother, Maráia Amalia LaChira. She had separated from her husband, Francisco Javier Mariátegui, because, when she discovered that he was the grandson of a liberal independence hero, she wanted to protect her children from that liberal influence.

This did not prevent her son from becoming the leading Marxist thinker in Latin America, but it did seem to temper his attitudes toward religion.

Mariátegui was a poor and sickly child. He suffered from tuberculous, and when he was eight years old he hurt his left leg, disabling him for life. Because of a lack of financial resources, he only managed to achieve an eighth-grade education. As a result, he was largely self-taught, which later led him to quip that he was an intellectual at odds with the intellectual world.

Rather than continue his education, Mariátegui was forced to find a job to help support his family. At the age of 15, he began to work as a copyboy for the newspaper La Prensa. He soon rose through the ranks in the newsroom as he began writing and editing as well.

These experiences introduced him to the field of journalism, which he subsequently used both for his financial livelihood and as a vehicle to express his political views. Almost all of his voluminous writings originated as relatively short pieces that he penned for popular magazines.

Drawing on this journalistic experience, Mariátegui launched two short-lived newspapers, Nuestra Epoca and La Razón, that assumed an explicitly pro-labor perspective. His vocal support for the revolutionary demands of the workers soon ran him afoul of the Peruvian dictator Augusto B. Leguía, who in October 1919 exiled him to Europe.

Mariátegui later calls this early period of his life his “stone age” and ignored the literary output that resulted from it. As a result, his early writings have received little attention.

Marxism and Amauta
It was during his three-and-a-half-year sojourn in Europe that Mariátegui developed into a Marxist intellectual. Through a series of experiences in France and Italy he saw the revolutionary potential of Marxism. This trajectory and orientation later led his critics to condemn him as a “Europeanizer,” a rather ironic criticism for someone who has come to be generally applauded for adopting Marxist theories to a Latin American reality.

Mariátegui later commented that in Europe he picked up some ideas and a woman, the Italian Anna Chiappe with whom he subsequently had four children — all boys.

In 1923, Mariátegui returned to Peru “a convinced and declared Marxist.” He presented a series of lectures on the “history of world crisis” at the González Prada Popular University in Lima that drew on his experiences and observations in Europe.

He was a popular lecturer, but because of his lack of an academic degree he could not get a regular teaching appointment at the main San Marcos University. Indeed, he was an intellectual at odds with the intellectual world.

In 1924, the police arrested Mariátegui because of his alleged subversive activity at the González Prada Popular University. A strong international reaction led to his release, perhaps reinforcing in his mind the importance of the international dimensions to a socialist struggle.

In 1924, Mariátegui lost his (good) right leg, and as a result spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Even as his health failed (or perhaps because of that), both his intellectual output and efforts to organize a social revolution intensified.

Among Mariátegui’s literary activity, the most significant was the founding in 1926 of the journal Amauta (which means “wise teacher” in Quechua) as a vanguard voice for an intellectual and spiritual revolution. The journal moved beyond politics to include philosophy, art, literature, and science.

Amauta was a relatively high-brow publication that gained international renown. Two years later, Mariátegui launched a short-lived biweekly newspaper appropriately titled Labor as an extension of Amauta to reach out to the working class.

In 1928, Mariátegui published his most famous book 7 ensayos de interpretación de la realidad peruana (Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality). The essays provide a broad sociological overview of key issues facing Latin America: economics, racial problems, land tenure, education, religion, regionalism and centralism, and literature (the last and by far the longest essay in the collection). This book quickly became a fundamental work on Latin American Marxism and established him as a founding light of Latin American Marxist theory.

In terms of his political activity, in 1928 Mariátegui founded the Peruvian Socialist Party (PSP), served as its secretary-general and brought it into alignment with the Communist International as a vanguardist party designed to lead the proletariat to revolution. With that goal in mind, the party organized communist cells all over country. In 1929, the PSP launched the General Confederation of Peruvian Workers (CGTP) as a Marxist-oriented trade union federation.

During this entire time, Mariátegui continued to run into political problems with the Leguía regime. Mariátegui attacked working conditions at the U.S.-owned Cerro de Pasco copper mine and Leguía feared that he was inciting workers.

In 1927, the police arrested and detained him for six days at a military hospital on charges of involvement in a communist plot. The police subsequently raided his house and shut down Labor.

Even as the labor and political organizations that Mariátegui helped found flourished, his health floundered. The person who came to be known as the Amauta died on April 16, 1930.

Mariátegui’s Ideology
Mariátegui was an integrative thinker who incorporated a broad range of factors into his political analyses and materialist conception of the world. Broadly, his intellectual contributions can be broken down along five lines: national Marxism, anti-imperialism, agrarian issues, racial matters, and religion.

Mariátegui is often seen as the first truly creative and original Latin American Marxist thinker who analyzed concrete historical realities in order to develop solutions to problems of non-European societies. Rather than a rigid and determi­nistic Marxism, he embraced an open and voluntarist revolutionary praxis that excelled in applying European doctrines to Latin American realities in new and creative ways.

From Mariátegui’s perspective, European forms of Marxism became dysfunctional when mechanically applied to Latin American realities. In part, this disconnect was due to the lack of an advanced capitalist economy that characterized the 19th-century European context in which Marx wrote. From that perspective, a social revolution should have been impossible in Latin America.

In contrast, Mariátegui contended that, given Latin America’s context, it was uniquely situated to move toward revolution.

Even though Mariátegui’s ideas were rooted in local realities, he was also interested in international aspects of a socialist struggle. In reviewing Mariátegui’s writings, his broad interest in topics such as the Mexican Revolution and Bolivian tin miners becomes readily apparent. He also maintained contacts with revolutionaries around the world including in China, France, and the United States.

An additional overwhelming factor that Latin America faced was U.S. imperialism. Mariátegui provided a critique of neo-colonial economic expansion of U.S. capital into Latin America and recognized the need for a unified socialist Latin America to halt that encroachment.

The Latin American revolution would be part of an international struggle. This was reflected, in part, by mobilizing international support for figures such as Augusto César Sandino’s fight against the U.S. marines in Nicaragua.

An “orthodox Marxist” understanding is that a socialist revolution must be based in an urban working-class vanguard, something that was largely missing from an overwhelmingly rural Latin American landscape. Furthermore, reflecting a mid-19th century French experience, Marx had been famously critical of peasants as an anachronistic and reactionary group who were only concerned with defending their traditional values and institutions and as such held back the flow of history (although Marx’s later thinking on Indigenous and peasant societies was considerably more nuanced).

Well into the 20th century, Latin America was an overwhelmingly rural society. Rather than seeing this as a weakness, Mariátegui saw it as a strength. Rather than a conservative and reactionary class, he looked to the rural peasant and Indigenous masses to lead a socialist revolution. Furthermore, he looked for a “Lenin” to emerge out of these masses to lead them to victory.

One mechanical interpretation of Marxist theory presents history as moving through a series of stages: from primitive communalism to slavery to feudalism to capitalism before finally progressing on to socialism and eventually the final stage of a communist utopia. From this perspective, Latin America was trapped into a feudalistic mode of production and needed to experience fully developed industrial capitalism before it could even think about proceeding on to socialism.

Mariátegui argued that while these stages might be present in Europe, his native Peru was simultaneously experiencing all of these modes of production, and hence could move from them directly on to socialism without the hundreds of years of delay to develop capitalism.

Racism and Indigenous Struggles
Related to Mariátegui’s belief in the potential for an agrarian revolution was his attention to racial issues. He championed the value of Indigenous societies as he sought to incorporate their heritage and population into the national culture. This included extolling the virtues of the ancient Inka civilization, emphasizing the socialist potential within their collectivist attributes, and embracing their gains and accomplishments.

As important or even more so than reclaiming a place for Indigenous peoples and the Inka empire in Peru’s national history and culture was advocating for a change in landholding patterns. Mariátegui wrote in his essay, “The Problem of the Indian,” that “Socialism has taught us how to present the problem of the Indian in new terms. We have ceased to consider it abstractly as an ethnic or moral problem and we now recognize it concretely as a social, economic, and political problem.”(3)

From Mariátegui’s perspective, a key issue that Peru faced was that Indigenous peoples and peasants, who comprised four-fifths of the country’s population, encompassed a large, impoverished and marginalized sector of society. For Peru to proceed forward, their situation needed to be addressed.

Their lot, according to Mariátegui, could not be improved or solved with humanitarian campaigns, administrative policies, legal reforms, moral appeals to conscious, religious conversions, or through education.

The situation Indigenous peoples faced was not one of powerless victims who needed outsiders to intervene on their behalf, of missionaries and others looking for a way to redeem a backwards race. Nor could people be educated out of their marginalized status, because those educational systems served the interests of the dominant culture.

Nor was the solution an ethnic one of inferior races that could be solved with an interbreeding with a European population. Mariátegui famously wrote, “To expect that the Indian will be emancipated through a steady crossing of the aboriginal race with white immigrants is an anti-sociological naiveté that could only occur to the primitive mentality of an importer of merino sheep.”(4)

Mariátegui instead made the materialistic claim that an understanding of the rural population’s exploited and oppressed status must be rooted in the land tenure system. The solution, however, could not be through individual, private ownership of land. Such a liberal strategy would not improve the lives of Indigenous peoples.

Rather, he advocated the need for fundamental economic change that would incorporate a land reform that was based on the ancient communal values of the Inka empire to alleviate land tenure problems and put power in hands of the people. It must be a local development that emerged out of local conditions, not a foreign import.

Mariátegui advocated what he saw as the highly developed and harmonious communistic system of the Inkas as a model for “Indo-American socialism” that grew out of Peruvian culture and language. In this way, Latin America could end its economic dependence on external capital.

Complexities of Religion
A final distinctive characteristic of Mariátegui’s Marxist approach was that he never saw the need to distance himself from his mother’s religious beliefs. He wrote, “The revolutionary critic no longer disputes with religion and the church the services that they have rendered to humanity or their place in history.”(5)

Some scholars have interpreted this as an act of respect for his devoutly Catholic mother. Others have pointed to “a personal, religious-like code of ethics that enabled him to endure physical pain and psychological anguish.”(6)

Mariátegui saw religion as an inherent component of human society. He did not consider a rejection of religion as necessary to engaging in the social struggle. Instead, he acknowledged the positive contributions that religion could make to a social revolution.

He did criticize priests who used religion to oppress Indigenous peoples, but for the most part considered anti-clericalism to be “a liberal bourgeois pastime” that ignored more fundamental and important issues.(7) He criticized liberals for their attempts to uproot religion without offering something in its place.

Michael Löwy challenges the conventional reading of the phrase “religion is the opium of the people,” as both not at all specifically Marxist (it had earlier roots in Hegel and others), as well as a more qualified and less one-sided statement than the soundbite usually indicates.(8)

Marx was critical of religion, but also recognized the dual character of the phenomenon. He wrote, “Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.”(9) Marx understood it as the alienation of the human essence, not a clerical conspiracy.

Mariátegui argued instead for a new and broader definition of religion. He termed this the “revolutionary myth” that would occupy people’s “conscience just as fully as the old religious myths.”(10) He wrote, “The soul of the Indian is not raised by the white man’s civilization or alphabet but by the myth, the idea, of the Socialist revolution.”(11)

Mariátegui’s “revolutionary myth” conception is related to his ideas of a subjective and voluntarist Marxism. He understood that objective economic conditions of an impoverished and exploited proletariat or peasantry was not enough to create class consciousness. For that reason, he emphasized the need for Marxist education and political organization to heighten class and racial awareness and to move the masses to action.

Myths are not passive, but lead to action. As the Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro famously observed, “the duty of every revolutionary is to make the revolution. . . it is not for revolutionaries to sit in the doorways of their houses waiting for the corpse of imperialism to pass by.”(12) Mariátegui was an intellectual, but also a political activist who worked hard to achieve the realization of his ideals.

Lessons for Our Realities
Although Mariátegui was active a century ago, he leaves us with many ideas and lessons that are still relevant. His ideas of a national Marxism underscore the necessity of adapting ideas and theories to local realities.

As the recent experiences of pink-tide governments in Latin America demonstrate, it is of utmost importance to break dependence on foreign capital in order to move toward socialism. A country’s production must be oriented toward internal development rather than benefiting external imperial powers, even as that goal has become only more difficult to realize.

International solidarity remains as important as ever before. The issues that Mariátegui faced in the early 20th century, much as those that we face today, transcend narrow political borders. We need an international movement to move us closer to the promises of a socialist revolution.

Over the last century, Latin America has experienced a dramatic shift from a primarily rural society to one that is overwhelmingly urban. As a result, the specific concepts of the social base for a revolution and the importance of agrarian issues have changed. What remains, however, is Mariátegui’s insistence on an open and creative analysis of contemporary realities.

Racial issues are as present if not even more so than they were a century ago, although the ways they are articulated and defined continually change.

For a period in the 1980s, Mariátegui’s ideas of a revolutionary myth had a particular resonance as ideas of Liberation Theology influenced Central American revolutionary movements. How best to engage people with revolutionary socialist ideas continues to be an open debate, particularly in terms of the relative importance of emotion and ideology in motivating people to action.

Among all these issues, Mariátegui still continues to provide us with a shining example of the intelligent and creative potential of rethinking these ideas that has emerged out of Latin America. We need to rethink theory and ideas continually. Socialist theories are only viable when they are creative and dynamic. Avoid dogmaticism; question everything.

Notes
1. José Carlos Mariátegui, “Aniversario y balance,” Amauta 3, no. 17 (September 1928): 3. Much has been written about Mariátegui, particularly in his native Peru. Less is available in English. The best treatments of his thought in English are Harry E. Vanden, National Marxism in Latin America: José Carlos Maríategui’s Thought and Politics (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1986) and Jesús Chavarría, José Carlos Mariátegui and the Rise of Modern Peru, 1890-1930 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1979). For his writings in English, see José Carlos Mariátegui, José Carlos Mariátegui: An Anthology, edited and translated by Harry E. Vanden and Marc Becker (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2011), as well as his most famous book José Carlos Mariátegui, Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971). A recent though problematic biography in English (see my review Marc Becker, “The Life of José Carlos Mariátegui,” Monthly Review 71, no. 9 [February 2020]: 57-63) is Mike Gonzalez, In the Red Corner: The Marxism of José Carlos Mariátegui (Chicago, Illinois: Haymarket Books, 2019).

2.Waldo Frank, “A Great American,” The Nation, June 18, 1930, 704.

3. José Carlos Mariátegui, Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971), 29.

4. Ibid., 34.

5. Ibid., 124.

6. John M. Baines, Revolution in Peru: Mariátegui and the Myth (University, Alabama: The University of Alabama Press, 1972), 112-13.

7. José Carlos Mariátegui, Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971), 151.

8. . Michael Löwy, “Friedrich Engels on Religion and Class Struggle,” Science & Society 62, no. 1 (Spring 1998): 79-87.

9. .Karl Marx, “The Introduction to Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right” in Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy, edited by Lewis Samuel Feuer (New York: Anchor Books, 1989), 304.

10. José Carlos Mariátegui, Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971), 152.
back to text
11. Ibid., 28-29.

12. Fidel Castro, “The Duty of a Revolutionary is to Make the Revolution,” Fidel Castro Speaks, edited by Martín Kenner and James  Petras (New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1969), 115.

November-December 2020, ATC 209

Operation Christmas (Updated).

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 26/12/2020 - 10:57am in

(source)
In June 2016 FARC (Spanish acronym for Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the long-running Marxist-Leninist guerrilla insurgency, signed a ceasefire with the Government of Juan Manuel Santos. A year later FARC handed over its weapons to the United Nations, in accordance with the ceasefire agreement.

After fighting on the losing side of a 50 odd year revolutionary war, the writing had been on the wall for FARC for a while. FARC’s surrender was an admission a strategy that had once looked so promising to then young, New Left-inspired, would-be revolutionaries all over Latin America, had failed.


That’s not to say FARC had lost all its spunk. Even by 2016 it still represented enough of a threat to the Colombian ruling classes – including those thriving on drug traffic – and their masters and puppeteers abroad, to earn FARC a worldwide demonisation campaign, depicting its members as murderers, terrorists, and – in a masterstroke of cynicism – drug traffickers.

Then President Àlvaro Uribe (centre) holds hands with presidential candidate Iván Duque and running mate Marta Lucía Ramírez, during an election event in 2018. Duque was elected President that year (Ramírez became Vice President). (source)

And that’s not to say, either, that FARC members were angels. War is as brutal as it is expensive and it only gets worse over decades of warfare. People are forced into outgrowing youthful illusions – or into corruption, depending on your perspective. That’s a recipe for making “bad hombres” and “mujeres”.

----------

Still, what makes the internal propaganda campaign against FARC particularly enlightening is that it was based on the realisation that not all FARC members were evil and that they had good reasons to revolt.

Colombian advertising guru José Miguel Sokoloff, one of its creators, as quoted by the ABC’s Erin Handley, put it thus:

“Our approach was that the people who fight, the guerrillas, do not get up one morning and say, ‘All right, now I’m going to be a bad man, or a bad woman’ … No, they get up one morning and say, ‘I’m surrounded by social injustice’.”

----------

It was a devilishly clever idea. To reach out to homesick and demoralised guerrillas holed up in some God-forsaken jungle, during Christmas time, as you see in the photo opening, with the promise of a direct-for-TV movie miracle.
----------

They called that “Operation Christmas” and, if you believe them, it worked a treat. Guerrilla fighters deserted in droves.
But once the advertising creatives went home and weapons were surrendered, reality hit hard those former combatants – now unarmed:

(source)“Around 2,000 former FARC guerrillas rallied in the Colombian capital Sunday to protest the murder of 236 ex-combatants since signing a 2016 peace agreement.”

Christmas miracles happen in movies only. Once taken, the path of armed insurgency affords no way back – unlike it happened to former Latin American Right wing dictators and their henchmen.
And it’s not just former combatants, either: hundreds of community and union leaders and environmentalists and human rights activists killed with impunity – against the Government’s promise – by drug traffickers, Right wing paramilitary gangs and big farmers and sometimes by former and active military, under Iván Duque’s Administration.

One could see that coming. Indeed, it’s been happening for a while now, largely away from the media’s gaze (January 2019, February 2020)

----------

It’s clear that – against prevailing narrative – FARC never had a monopoly on “bad hombres.” What remains to be seen is whether the lesser evil actually prevailed.

Another thing clear is that that was another defeat traceable to the New Left. Half-baked ideas, no matter how fashionable among the literati, have tragic real-life consequences. Update (28/12/2020). The mass murder of the opposition, using as pretext the murder of former armed insurgents (because, you know, it’s okay to murder unarmed former combatants), is not new in Latin America. Jacobin’s Branko Marcetic offers an account of Operation Condor, a campaign of extermination nominally directed against subversives and the far Left, but ultimately targeting anyone Latin American dictators deemed deserving of death.

The Illusion of State Intervention in the Economy: The Eternal Anti-Working Class Weapon of Reformism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 13/12/2020 - 12:38am in

Tags 

Economics, eu, Marxism

image/jpeg iconanti-capital.jpg

With each new jolt to the capitalist structure its crisis deepens. The disruption of production and distribution caused by the coronavirus pandemic has only added to the existing woes of the system. And, as ever, the working class is being fed illusions about the beneficial effect that state intervention would bring to their conditions and to the "community" in general, irrespective of class.

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This Is What Real Anti-Semites Look Like

I really don’t want to labour the point about the witch hunt and victimisation of decent, anti-racist members and supporters of the Labour Party under the pretext of purging it of anti-Semitism. But I wanted to show graphically how utterly pathetic and grotesque it was. Images that showed how far from reality the Blairites’ and British establishment’s idea of who anti-Semites are.

This photo below is of John Tyndall and Martin Webster, two of the fuhrers of the National Front at a demonstration. It’s from Richard Thurlow’s Fascism in Britain: A History, 1918-1985 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell 1987).

They were the face of British Fascism when I was growing up in the 1980s. The caption for the photo reads:

John Tyndall and Martin Webster at an NF demonstration. Tyndall’s imitation of Mosely’s style with the use of flags, megaphone and inter-war economic and political programmes is combined with a thinly disguised and cleaned-up version of Arnold Leese’s obsession with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and gutter racism. It is presented in the more acceptable language of the conservative fascist tradition with due homage to the influence of A.K. Chesterton.

And This Is What They Don’t!

This is Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, one of the two left-wing Jews recently suspended from the Labour Party. She’s the vice-chair of Chingford CLP and one of the leaders of Jewish Voice for Labour, and has been vocal in her support for Jeremy Corbyn. She is absolutely no kind of racist, anti-Semite or Fascist. Quite the opposite. I found this photo of her on the web. It’s from the Socialist Workers’ YouTube channel, SWP TV. And while I don’t agree with the Socialist Workers, the image does show her commitment to combating racism. The image is blurred, but behind her there are posters urging people to fight Fascism and racism, as well as the attacks on benefits and climate change.

She’s been targeted because, like Moshe Machover, Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein, Martin Odoni and many others, she’s the ‘wrong kind of Jew’. The British establishment wants the Jewish community to conform to an unswerving support for Israel. Any Jew that steps out of line, like the peeps above, is immediately accused and reviled as ‘self-hating’ and anti-Semitic. They suffer truly horrific abuse and death threats. Mira Bar Hillel, another Jewish journalist, has said that many Jews are afraid of speaking out about Israel because of this. But as these images show, there are very many Jews like Naomi and the others, who aren’t afraid to criticise Israel and attack its apartheid and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

This appears to be Naomi at another pro-Palestinian event, and as you can see from the slogans and the name of the organisation on the banner, it’s a Jewish event. The slogan reads ‘It’s Kosher to Boycott Israeli Goods’. And underneath the organisation’s monicker is Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods.

This is why Naomi and the others are being accused of anti-Semitism and self-hatred. Despite the fact that they are not ashamed of their Jewish identity. If they were, they’d try to hide it, and if they really were Nazis, you’d see them with real Nazis. They wouldn’t stand on the barricades fighting them, as the above do.

Here’s another, related pic showing a banner for the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.

I don’t know who this organisation is, but I would imagine they were another group of Jews outraged at Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. So, more of the ‘wrong kind of Jews’, the kind of Jews the establishment don’t want you see or even know exist.

I hope these images show very clearly the difference between the real and falsely accused anti-Semites. The real anti-Semites are Fascists thugs like Tyndall, Webster, and their successors, Nick Griffin, National Action and the rest. They aren’t respectable Jewish ladies or eminent Israeli mathematicians and philosophers, like Moshe Machover, or ordinary, Labour supporting Jews like Martin Odoni or Tony Greenstein. Real Nazis and anti-Semites tend not to speak to Marxist gatherings about anti-racism and the fight against fascism.

It’s a travesty that left-wing Jews like Naomi and the others are being smeared and purged simply for being left-wing and critical of Israel. Just as it is that decent, anti-racist non-Jews like Mike, Ken Livingstone, Marc Wadsworth and Jeremy Corbyn himself are being smeared.

This shameful farrago has to stop. Now. They should all be reinstated and their accusers instead suspended and tried for their sectarian anti-Semitism. It is they who are really bringing the Labour Party in disrepute!

The Paradox of the Two Knights

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/12/2020 - 12:01am in

By Carlos García Hernández

Article originally published in Spanish by RedMMT here

Two knights chess pieces on a chess boardPhoto by Hassan Pasha on Unsplash

Marx argues that any economic system based on private ownership of the means of production is doomed to disappear, in order to give rise to a superior system without private ownership of the means of production. The reason for this collapse of capitalist society and the subsequent emergence of socialism is to be found in the Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall. According to this law, the contradictions among social classes within the capitalist system can only tend to increase, because in order to be able to compete against each other, the capitalists have to increase their rate of profit permanently. This is only possible through increased exploitation of the workers, which results in ever lower wages and ever longer working hours. However, this impoverishment of wage-earning labour comes up against a limit, “capital itself”. Below this limit, a crisis of demand occurs after which workers cannot subsist, as they cannot buy enough of the goods they produce. Moreover, the few capitalists who exist at this stage go out of business. This is how the edifice of capitalism collapses and a better, sustainable system without private ownership of the means of production, called socialism, emerges, whose higher phase is called communism. “Development of the productive forces of social labour is the historical task and justification of capital. This is just the way in which it unconsciously creates the material requirements of a higher mode of production”.

No one took Marx’s work more seriously than John Maynard Keynes. That is why he realised that history was faced with a fundamental question: Is what Marx says true? In order to answer this question, we have to pay attention to the logical form of the Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall. The logical form that this law takes is the modus tollens ((P→Q) ʌ ¬Q) → ¬P, if private property exists (P) then the system collapses (Q); if the system does not collapse (¬Q) then private property does not imply the collapse of the system (¬P).

Certainly, during the decades between the publication of Marx’s Capital and the time of Keynes, there had been dramatic developments. While capitalism did not seem to be on the verge of collapse in many places on the planet, the communist revolution had triumphed in the Soviet Union, in 1929 the US economy had entered a major recession following the analyses of the demand crises set out by Marx and Germany was being torn between Nazism and communism. In the eyes of an anti-socialist like Keynes, the situation was highly worrying. However, to prove the falsity of the premise P→Q it is enough that this premise is false in one single case. This led Keynes to study what, in his eyes, was Marx’s main contribution, his analysis of the monetary circuit. If there was any contradiction in Marx’s approaches, it had to be there.

To get to the monetary circuit, Keynes had to go first through Marx’s theory of labour. In fact, he accepted it as true and wrote: “It is my belief that much unnecessary perplexity can be avoided if we limit ourselves strictly to the two units, money and labour, when we are dealing with the behaviour of the economic system as a whole”. From an anthropological point of view, Keynes has no problem accepting that human labour is the only source of value and that commodities receive the value from human labour, just as cold water receives the heat from a hot object when the object is immersed in it. The contradiction is found in the next step, when Marx analyses the monetary circuit in a monetary economy of production in which there is a shift from having producers who exchange their commodities for money in order to buy other commodities (c – m – c) to having capitalists who accumulate money in order to buy commodities which they then sell for a larger amount of money thanks to the surplus value extracted from the workers (m – c – M). This step is explained by Marx as an extension of barter, he mentions Robinson Crusoe and takes a metallist stance with regard to money, this is where Keynes finds the contradiction he was looking for, in the exogenous commodity money presented by Marx, and it is from here that he builds his work.

First, he denies exogenous money and defends the endogenous character of fiat money. Thus, in his “Treatise on Money,” he presents the creation of money as an endogenous part of the economic cycle and denies the loanable funds theory. The money is mostly created by banks lending to their customers regardless of their money reserves, as they can always turn to the Central Bank as a lender of last resort. The rest of the money is created directly by the states through the coordination of the Central Bank and the Treasury to carry out public spending. In both cases, the money is denominated in national currency and comes from the Central Bank, which does not depend on its gold or silver reserves, tax collection or debt issuance to issue national currency.

This raises a political question, again not analysed by Marx. If in the “Treatise on Money” the creation of money is presented as a decision made by banks when they are faced with an opportunity to make profits, in the “General Theory”, the creation of money is also presented as a political decision by governments to create aggregate demand through public spending via deficits. Without this ability of governments to create aggregate demand through public deficits, not only would Marx’s prophecy about the collapse of capitalism be fulfilled, but it would also be impossible to explain the very birth of the monetary economies of production. The monetary circuit is not born of barter, neither of gold nor of silver, but of credit granted by governments as sovereign issuers of national currency, which in today’s societies passes through the existence of central banks.

Keynes’ recipe is simple: to avoid the demand crises described by Marx, states must create aggregate demand through public expenditure in order to maintain levels of full employment and levels of welfare that do not lead to the collapse of capitalism. This is the recipe that Franklin Delano Roosevelt applied, in contact with Keynes himself, to set in motion the New Deal that brought the US out of the Great Recession of 1929, and it is also the recipe that was applied in the West after the Second World War to build up welfare and social protection systems. Here are two cases in which P→Q is not fulfilled and therefore the premise enunciated by Marx is refuted.

 

Chess board showing the two knights endgame

 

In my opinion, it is essential for the left to draw lessons from all this accumulated experience. I like to pose the question as the end of a chess game in which only the two kings and two knights of the same colour are on the board. In these cases, the game is considered a draw. However, a paradox occurs. Theoretically, it is still possible to reach a checkmate position as the one shown in the diagram. However, the game is considered a draw because a checkmate position like the one shown in the diagram is only obtained if the player who only has his king collaborates with the player who has both knights. If the player with only the king on the board does not cooperate, checkmate is impossible. The same applies to the question at hand. The states that allow the existence of private ownership of the means of production collapse if they are incompetently governed. States with private ownership of the means of production do not collapse if they create sufficient aggregate demand through their spending policies via public deficits and if they intervene in the economy through a strong public sector presence that guarantees high levels of welfare for their citizens. The collapse of capitalism in Russia and the rise of National Socialism in Germany were only possible because of the manifest incompetence of Tsar Nicholas II and Kaiser Wilhelm II respectively; likewise, the collapse of capitalism in the USA due to the Great Recession of 1929 was only prevented by public intervention through the New Deal. We are currently witnessing a similar event in the European Union. To combat the COVID pandemic, the EU has decided to suspend its absurd and reactionary deficit limits. It has done so because the pandemic threatened the existence of capitalism itself in the EU. As soon as the pandemic passes, the EU will re-impose its deficit limits so that its model of mercantilist capitalism continues to guarantee the privileges of the export elites and continues to condemn the working majority to suboptimal living standards.

Does this mean that we should renounce socialism, that the attempt at a socialist transformation of the economy and society as a whole is a waste of time? Not at all. To renounce socialism is to renounce a better life. Keynes himself writes: “it is an outstanding characteristic of the economic system in which we live that, whilst it is subject to severe fluctuations in respect of output and employment, it is not violently unstable. Indeed, it seems capable of remaining in a chronic condition of subnormal activity for a considerable period without any marked tendency either towards recovery or towards complete collapse. Moreover, the evidence indicates that full, or even approximately full, employment is of rare and short-lived occurrence. Fluctuations may start briskly but seem to wear themselves out before they have proceeded to great extremes, and an intermediate situation which is neither desperate nor satisfactory is our normal lot”. We socialists cannot resign ourselves to living under this order of things. To conclude this article I would like to present very succinctly a proposal, which I have elsewhere called fiat socialism, as an alternative path towards the socialist transformation of society and which I hope will soon take the form of a book so that it can be presented more widely.

To begin with, the two opponents must shake hands and accept that the game is a draw. Socialists have to accept that there are no historical laws and capitalists have to accept that the most they can offer are unsatisfactory solutions to major social problems. Then the pieces have to be put in place to start a new game.

We have to start asking ourselves, what does it mean that there are no historical laws? Historical laws like the one expounded by Marx conceive history as the development of a law towards whose essence (idea) humanity flows over time. Therefore, the essence (the idea) is placed at the end of a process towards which humanity tends inexorably. This scheme followed by Marx was adopted first by Aristotle and then by Hegel as opposed to Plato and Kant respectively and must be abandoned by the left. This means that we must return to Kant and abandon Hegel. There are no inexorable historical laws governing the destiny of humanity; the human being is not an actor whose mission is to hasten the birth pangs of a new society predetermined from the beginning of history. On the contrary, we must start from a primaeval idea from which our political activity is derived. This entails establishing our goals as the premises of our politics. We believe that these premises are correct, but we cannot be sure of this and we do not even know if they will become a reality. The truth or falsity of our premises will have to be corroborated by free and democratic elections. In the specific case of socialism, we have to start from a definition that does not reflect any inexorable historical law but the ends we defend. I propose that those ends should be those set out by the American economist Stuart Chase, who in his 1942 book “The Road We Are Traveling” says that all economic policy must meet five fundamental objectives:

  • guaranteed and permanent full employment
  • full and prudent use of natural resources
  • a guarantee of food, shelter, clothing, health services and education to every citizen
  • social security in the form of pensions and subsidies
  • a guarantee of decent labour standards.

If we look at all but the second point, which has to do with the preservation of nature, these have been fundamental axes of socialism in all its forms, from the socialism of the Soviet Constitution as the first binding legal document that included guaranteed work, to the socialism of the welfare systems, which both in the former socialist bloc and in the advanced societies of the West guaranteed access to the services set out by Chase. In fact, it was the defence of these five points that enabled the left to survive the demise of the Soviet Union, and in terms of environmental protection, the left has already incorporated the Green New Deal to its ideas. Furthermore, these five points were fundamental in non-Soviet socialist experiences of great importance that we cannot forget, such as that of Mohammad Mosaddeq in Iran, the Arab socialism of Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Ba’ath Party, the experience of Olof Palme in Sweden, of Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso, of Patrice Lumumba in Congo, of Salvador Allende in Chile, of Evo Morales in Bolivia, of Jaime Roldós Aguilera in Ecuador, of Maurice Bishop in Grenada or of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, among others. It is, therefore, these five points and their achievement that we must call socialism, not a system in which, regardless of the achievement of these five points, but in accordance with a historical law, there is no private ownership of the means of production or in which the surplus value is equal to zero. Both the size of the private sector and the levels of surplus value must be decided by the citizenry democratically. There will be places where, in accordance with the different cultural traditions of their constituents, socialist organizations will advocate the achievement of these five points through greater or lesser involvement of the private sector. Likewise, workers, in return for guaranteed work, good wages, adequate social benefits and not having to take the risks involved in private entrepreneurship, will tolerate a greater or lesser degree of surplus value. What is important is that they have in their hands the democratic mechanisms necessary to control these levels. In my view, the best mechanism for this are the job guarantees based on employment buffer stocks advocated by modern monetary theory.

This leads us to the last section of this article, the one devoted to the method. In my view, the best method to achieve the five goals of socialism outlined above without creating runaway inflation is modern monetary theory. As its founder, the Australian economist Bill Mitchell, says, this economic school is not a political regime, but a lens through which economic science can be focused in the right way. Modern monetary theory tells us the method for employing all the real resources of the economy while maintaining price stability. The full employment of these resources can be directed towards the objectives that are decided politically. My proposal is to direct the full employment of real resources to the five objectives set out above and to give this employment the name of socialism.

I am therefore of the opinion that a new definition of socialism should be put forward. Currently, the Spanish Royal Academy of Language defines socialism as: “Social and economic system based on collective or state ownership and administration of the means of production and of distribution of goods”. This definition is filled with notions from historical laws, whose existence we have previously denied. I, therefore, propose that a new definition of socialism be: Social and economic system which, through modern monetary theory, provides guaranteed and permanent full employment, full and prudent use of natural resources, a guarantee of food, shelter, clothing, health services and education to every citizen, social security in the form of pensions and subsidies, and a guarantee of decent labour standards.

As I have said, I have called this in the past fiat socialism, but it could also be called flexible socialism, as it frees socialism from the rigidities imposed by historical law. This socialism will take different forms in different places, it accepts that socialist organizations are not exempt from making mistakes, it will involve different levels of participation by the private sector, as well as different levels in the gross operating surpluses, and it is open to processes of improvement in order to mobilize real resources in the best possible way to achieve the five ends of socialism. Only one rigidity is established: monetary sovereignty. Modern monetary theory is only valid in monetary systems where the state is the sovereign issuer of its currency and where there is an appropriate coordination between the Central Bank and the Treasury. If Archimedes in ancient Greece said give me a point of support and I will move the world, a socialist Archimedes would say give me monetary sovereignty and I will build you socialism. Without the point of support of monetary sovereignty, the proposal of socialism as explained above is not possible. In most parts of the world, this is not a problem because monetary sovereignty is already in place, but in the European Union this is the main stumbling block to any socialist transformation of the economy. Therefore, in Spain, the first step towards socialism would be to abandon the European Union and the euro.

Euro delendus est.

Carlos García Hernández – editor of Lola Books publishing house.

 

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The post The Paradox of the Two Knights appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

More Selective Anti-Semitism as Blairites Persecute Left-Wing Jews

Starmer’s attempts to purge the Labour party of its left-wing members, who support Jeremy Corbyn, continues. All under the false pretext of fighting anti-Semitism, of course. This time the two victims are Moshe Machover and Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, and the very notion that either of these two are any kind of real anti-Semites is a grotesque joke. Machover is a highly respected Israeli mathematician and philosopher, as well as a Marxist philosopher. Which I would imagine already really winds up his Blairite enemies, as it shows he’s almost certainly more intelligent than they are. Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi is the leader, or one of the leaders, of Jewish Voice for Labour. You know, that terrible Jewish group that supported Jeremy Corbyn, which only admitted Jews as full members and actually had a membership in hundreds. As opposed to their opponents in the Jewish Labour Movement, who had a membership that was just barely over a hundred, and most of them were gentiles. And while you also had to be a member of the Labour Party to be part of Jewish Voice for Labour, you don’t in the Jewish Labour Movement. Everything about the Jewish Labour Movement is fake or a half-truth, but the British political and media establishment decided that they really represent the Jews in the Labour Party.

Machover and Wimborne-Idrissi have been targeted because they’re anti-Zionist activists. They’ve been gunning for Machover for several years now. They tried suspending him a few years ago for a piece he wrote in the magazine of the Labour Marxists group. However, the outcry from Labour members was such that they had to reinstate him. Clearly they were just biding their time until they could try it again. This time the reason is that he appeared on Resistance TV with Chris Williamson and Tony Greenstein. Greenstein’s another Jewish critic of Zionism, who was thrown of the Labour party after a kangaroo court trial. Like Machover and Wimborne-Idrissi, he’s no kind of anti-Semite. He’s a passionate opponent of all kinds of racism and Fascism, and while he’s a secular Jew, he is very definitely not ‘self-hating’. Apart from very detailed, and minutely historically-informed criticisms of Zionism and Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, he’s also attacked domestic Fascists like Oswald Mosley and the BUF. He’s published a book on the struggle against Fascism on the south coast, as well as several articles on his blog about how the good, left-wing peeps of his home town of Brighton gave Mosley and his storm troopers a dam’ good hiding when they tried recruiting there. Which is clearly a source of pride to him, as it should.

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi was, I feel, targeted this time because she dared to put her head above the barricades and made a video for Double Down News about how she and others like her, were ‘the wrong kind of Jew’. She was first called this when she was 19 at an exclusively Jewish meeting when she presented the case for the Palestinians. The Jewish Telegraph was there, and stuck her and that insult on their front page. Which shows just what a despicable rag it is. In the video for DDN, she talks about the other insults that are flung at Jewish critics of Israel – that they’re self-hating, or are ‘kapos’. The last is especially obnoxious, as the kapos were the collaborators with the Nazis in the extermination camps. It’s very clear from the DDN video that she is anything but self-hating. She says at one point that her people’s history contains much that is ‘wonderful and magical’ as well as horrendous persecution. Those, who hate themselves and their people generally don’t describe their people’s history in such positive terms, nor lament their persecution.

There are anti-Semites and self-hating Jews, though I’ve only read about the latter. From what I’ve seen, they’re deeply messed up individuals. One of them was the leader of a group of American Nazis, who shot himself when he was outed to his fellow storm troopers. He might be an extreme case, but he’s clearly poles apart from Machover, Greenstein, Wimborne-Idrissi and the many other Jews, who’ve been smeared as self-hating and purged by the Blairites. None of the above have ever tried to hide their Jewish identity, they’re not ashamed of it, and rather than join any kind of racist outfit, they’ve been active campaigners against racism.

They are only self-hating because, like so many other Jews, they dare to defy the demands of the self-proclaimed British Jewish establishment that Jews give their unqualified support to Israel. It’s ridiculous. Jews have been saying ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ as part of the Passover meal probably since the destruction of the Temple in AD 72 and then their forcible removal from the city by the Romans. But political Zionism was, as David Rosenberg and Tony Greenstein have both amply shown on their blogs, and Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi clearly shows in her video, a minority movement amongst modern Jews. The Jewish socialist party, the Bund, campaigned for Jews to be equal citizens of the countries in which they currently lived. American Jews were very comfortable with their lives over the other side of the Pond, though they had to work extremely hard to make their new lives there. As late as 1969 American Jewish Zionist magazines were lamenting the fact that there was no interest amongst them for returning to Israel. Wimborne-Idrissi’s video shows footage and photos from huge Jewish political meetings rejecting Zionism. But if adherence to Zionism is taken as the defining feature of Jewish identity, then according to the Board of Deputies, Chief Rabbinate and the rest, historically there have been an awful lot of self-hating Jews. Some of whom were obviously so self-hating that they actually fought against the Nazis, like Marek Edelman, one of the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto. Which clearly makes the accusation utter twaddle.

This is selective anti-Semitism. Left-wing Jews are being targeted for abuse and purging from the party because they’re Jews, and their idea of Jewish identity conflicts with the British establishment’s. I’ve said very many times that the British establishment supports Israel because its a locus of western imperial influence in the Middle East. Hence it ain’t just the Jewish establishment that is determined to smear as anti-Semitic Jewish critics of Israel. Which means that we’re now treated to the grotesque spectacle of gentiles smearing decent, self-respecting Jews as anti-Semites. When Corbyn was leader, there was much hoo-ha in the press about the supposed ‘hurt’ and ‘pain’ suffered by Zionist Jews in the party, and by its supposed anti-Semitism. Well, the level of anti-Semitism has been shown by the E.H.R.C. report and previous studies to be grossly over exaggerated. But what is never discussed is the immense pain and hurt suffered by left-wing Jews. Mira Bar Hillel, a Jewish journalist, has said that there are many Jews afraid to speak out because they’re afraid of the terrible vilification they’ll suffer. And you can see how vile that abuse is when you think of the abuse and threats another self-respecting Jew, Jackie Walker, has received. She’s received messages telling her that she should be lynched, her body burnt and dumped in bin bags, and that she can’t be a proper Jews because she’s a woman of colour. Tony Greenstein has had irate Zionist Jews telling him that they wish he and his family had died in the Holocaust. But the media ignores the suffering of Jewish critics of Israel. They don’t exist, according to the establishment.

They’re the wrong kind of Jews.

Mike in his article about these latest suspensions has tweets from members of the public naturally condemning them. The peeps making them including Jews, people of Jewish heritage and Jewish organisations like Just Jews, Glenn Greenwald, Shlomo and Tom London, as well as left-wing, anti-racist gentile allies like Chris Williamson, Rachel Swindon, Kerry-Ann Mendoza, James Foster, and Cornish Damo. These are the peeps the Blairites and the ultra-Zionists despise and wish to purge and silence, because they actively demonstrate what a politically motivated lie the fake accusations of anti-Semitism are.

And the fake accusations against decent, anti-racist, Israel-critical Jews are actively harming the fight against real anti-Semitism. Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi states this clearly in her video as others have said before her. These accusations cheapen the charge of anti-Semitism by reducing it to a piece of cynical rhetoric. But at the same time real anti-Semitism and racism is on the rise. But the organisations that pose as Jews protectors, like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, are largely uninterested. They were set up to attack Labour and left-wing criticism of Israel, not the real storm troopers like National Action, who scream anti-Semitic abuse and mouth stupid conspiracy theories about Jews plotting to destroy the White race. Nazis and anti-Semites, who hate Jews simply for being Jews, and mean them real harm.

These purges are an utter disgrace. They’re the product of sectarian anti-Semitism against left-wing Jews and their supporters. All of those smeared as anti-Semites, both gentile and Jewish, should be immediately reinstated with copious apologies.

And it should be their accusers instead who should be suspended and investigated for anti-Semitism and bringing Labour into disrepute. Even if that means suspending the General Secretary, David Evans, and the party leader himself, Keir Starmer.

See: Starmer’s purge of so-called Labour antisemites is now persecuting left-wing Jews | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

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