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Socialism from Below, Women’s Emancipation, and New Politics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 14/05/2022 - 7:51am in

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We don't win against oppression by being nice. We win by proudly violating the patriarchal, xenophobic, racist, sexist, classist norms of capitalism.

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The post Socialism from Below, Women’s Emancipation, and New Politics appeared first on New Politics.

When should we stop excusing the Russian invasion?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/05/2022 - 6:52am in

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Clarifying left views on national self-determination and the war in Ukraine

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The post When should we stop excusing the Russian invasion? appeared first on New Politics.

The Socialism of the Jewish Labor Bund

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/04/2022 - 4:35am in

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The Jewish Labor Bund, from its beginning, described itself as a Marxist, revolutionary party, wanting thus to place itself in the camp of those opposed to the reformist tendencies in the world socialist movement.

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The post The Socialism of the Jewish Labor Bund appeared first on New Politics.

For a Cuba with Democracy and Solidarity

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/03/2022 - 4:18am in

Sam Farber provides a critical perspective on the economic policies of the Cuban government and of some of its critics, and offers an alternative to both.

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The post For a Cuba with Democracy and Solidarity appeared first on New Politics.

Alexander Herzen's radical liberalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 06/03/2022 - 8:52am in

image: Meissonier, Massacre during June Days, 1848, Paris

Alexander Herzen's From the Other Shore (1850) is an exceptionally important example of an intelligent observer trying to make sense of the social, economic, and political changes of the nineteenth century. And Isaiah Berlin's introduction is profound. (Here is an online version of the book; link.)

Herzen's writings represented an almost unique combination of political perspectives. He was sympathetic to revolutionary activism by anarchists like Bakunin and Kropotkin, as well as revolutionary socialists in London and Paris and the radical workers of Paris in 1848. He was fervently opposed to the old oppressive order of Europe, whether the rule of the Czar and landed aristocracy in Russia or the dominant bourgeois order of wealth and poverty in France and Germany. And he was passionately committed to the principle of individual liberty. We might say that he was a revolutionary anti-Czarist liberal republican -- which sounds like a very contradictory bundle of political ideas. But the contradiction may be only apparent; it is the contradiction between revolution and liberty. As the revolutions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have unfolded, they have generally sacrificed liberty for the collectivist goals of revolution. But is a post-authoritarian, post-bourgeois regime in Europe necessarily indifferent to individual liberties? Or is it possible to imagine a genuinely egalitarian liberal social democracy, with strong constitutional protections of individual rights and liberties? If so, that seems to be the political idea that fits best with Herzen's political writings.

Here is Herzen's liberal principle:

The liberty of the individual is the greatest thing of all, it is on this and on this alone that the true will of the people can develop. Man must respect liberty in himself, and he must esteem it in himself no less than in his neighbour, than in the entire nation. (From the Other Shore, author's introduction, 12)

Here is his revolutionary anti-authoritarian commitment:

The state forms of France and other European countries are in their essence compatible with neither liberty, equality nor fraternity. If any of these ideas were realized, it would be the repudiation of contemporary European life; it would be its death. No constitution, no government is in a position to give feudal and monarchical countries true freedom and equality without annihilating everything feudal and monarchical in them. European life, Christian and aristocratic, has moulded our civilization, our notions, our ways of life. It cannot exist without a Christian and aristocratic environment. (From the Other Shore, Year LVII of the Republic, 62)

Here is a passage on the June days of Paris 1848 that captures his sympathy for the workers:

I listened to the thunder and the tocsin and gazed avidly at this panorama of Paris; it was as though I was taking my leave of it. At that moment I loved Paris passionately. It was my last tribute to the great town; after the June days it grew hateful to me. On the other side of the river barricades were being raised in all the streets and alleys. I can still see the gloomy faces of the men dragging stones; women and children were helping them. A young student from the Polytechnic climbed up on to an apparently completed barricade, planted the banner and started singing the Marseillaise in a soft, sad, solemn voice; all the workers joined in and the chorus of this great song, resounding from behind the stones of the barricades, gripped one's soul. . . . The tocsin was still tolling. Meanwhile, the artillery clattered across the bridge and General Bedeau standing there raised his field-glasses to inspect the enemy positions. . . . (From the Other Shore, After the Storm, 46)

And here is an alternative vision of work without wage labor -- cooperatives -- based on his understanding of the peasant commune in Russia:

There are a number of such artels—builders, carpenters and other sorts of artisans—each consisting of several hundred people drawn from different communes, who come together for a given period of time, for a year for instance, and so form a group. When the year is up, the workers share out the produce on the basis of the work they have done, in each case abiding by the general decision. The police have not so far had the satisfaction of being able to interfere in these arrangements. The association, I must emphasize, generally holds itself responsible for all the workers who comprise it. (From the Other Shore, The Russian People and Socialism, 184)

Finally, Herzen has a healthy distrust of "ideology", or purely philosophical theories of an ideal future for which all present human wellbeing must be sacrificed. Against Trotsky, Lenin, and Mao, Herzen mistrusted grand ideological goals and favored a process of social change that permitted ordinary human beings to exercise their freedoms as society changed. Berlin emphasizes this point in his introduction.

It is, in the main, a frontal attack upon the doctrine at that time preached by almost every left-wing orator in Europe (with the notable exception of Proudhon and a handful of anarchists to whom no one listened), about the sacred human duty of offering up oneself—or others—upon the altar of some great moral or political cause—some absolute principle or ‘collective noun’ capable of stirring strong emotion, like Nationality, or Democracy, or Equality, or Humanity, or Progress. For Herzen these are merely modern versions of ancient religions which demanded human sacrifice, faiths which spring from some irrational belief (rooted in theology or metaphysics) in the existence of vast and menacing powers, once the objects of blind religious worship, then, with the decay of primitive faith, degraded to becoming terms of political rhetoric. The dogmas of such religions declare that mere invocation of certain formulae, certain symbols, render what would normally be regarded as crimes or lunacies—murder, torture, the humiliation of defenceless human bodies—not only permissible, but often laudable. (From the Other Shore, Berlin introduction, xv)

Here is Herzen on "progress" in "Before the Storm":

‘You are quite right when you speak of nature, but it seems to me that you have forgotten that throughout all the changes and confusions of history there runs a single red thread binding it into one aim. This thread—is progress, or perhaps you do not acknowledge progress?’

‘Progress is the inalienable quality of uninterrupted conscious development: it consists in a retentive memory and the physiological perfection of man through social life.’

‘Is it possible that in all this you do not see a goal?’

‘Quite the opposite, I see here only a consequence. If progress is the end, for whom are we working? Who is this Moloch who, as the toilers approach him, instead of rewarding them, only recedes, and as a consolation to the exhausted, doomed multitudes crying “morituri te salutant”, can give back only the mocking answer that after their death all will be beautiful on earth. Do you truly wish to condemn all human beings alive to-day to the sad role of caryatids supporting a floor for others some day to dance on. . . or of wretched galley slaves, up to their knees in mud, dragging a barge filled with some mysterious treasure and with the humble words “progress in the future” inscribed on its bows? Those who are exhausted fall in their tracks; others, with fresh forces take up the ropes; but there remains, as you said yourself, as much ahead as there was at the beginning, because progress is infinite. This alone should serve as a warning to people: an end that is infinitely remote is not an end, but, if you like, a trap; an end must be nearer—it ought to be, at the very least, the labourer's wage, or pleasure in the work done. (From the Other Shore, Before the Storm, 36-37)

The new society, if it is to conform to these disparate values, must accomplish several different social goods:

  • respect liberty and equal dignity of all individuals;
  • secure the human needs of everyone -- workers, engineers, poets, and owners of property;
  • be democratic, not autocratic.

Was there any place on the planet in 1850 that satisfied these different structural features? There certainly was not -- not Britain, not Switzerland, not the United States. Is there a society on the planet today that satisfies them? Perhaps there is; it is called Finland.

Why you should be a socialist

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 21/02/2022 - 7:23pm in

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Rory Larkins explains why socialism is the solution to the interlocking crises that dominate our world

The world is facing catastrophes from a global pandemic to the threat of climate collapse and war. Inequality is getting worse as a super-rich minority continually increase their wealth at the expense of everyone else.

Last year, the official Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the planet was now reaching “code red”, after decades of warnings on which governments have failed to act.

We are expected to hurtle well beyond the maximum safe limit of 1.5C that was previously internationally agreed in the near future.

The world is already seeing the impact of climate change through record heat and bushfires, from the Black Summer fires here in 2020 to fires in Canada and the US and even the Siberian Arctic. Wild weather including floods and cyclones is also increasing.

Yet global climate talks at the COP26 summit in December again ended in failure, as governments put the interests of the fossil fuel companies ahead of the future of the planet.

At the same time, the world is entering its third year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Millions have died due to the failure to prepare public health systems capable of containing the virus, as governments putting business profits above public health.

New variants keep emerging due to the failure to vaccinate the world. Vaccines have been hoarded by wealthy countries—going out of date sitting in warehouses—while they are still desperately needed in underdeveloped countries.

All the while, the world seems poised for ongoing conflict and war. NATO expansion into Eastern Europe has seen Putin place over 100,000 troops on the border of Ukraine. The Australian government is beating the “drums of war” against China, solidifying military alliances like AUKUS and the Quad, and devoting at least $100 billion to new nuclear submarines for deployment in the South China Sea.

Yet we desperately need funding for 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030, and our hospitals are short-staffed and overwhelmed.

Although we are told we live in a democratic society, the decisions of the majority are overruled by the interests of wealthy corporations and profit.

Santos, a massive fossil fuel corporation, wants to construct a gas field near Narrabri in northern NSW. The Liberals are subsidising them as part of their “gas-fired recovery.”

This is despite the opposition of economists, who argue it will actually increase energy prices, climate scientists, who argue that moving to gas will only make transitioning to renewables harder, local Indigenous people and the broader public, who submitted 18,000 submissions opposing the project with only 300 in favour.

All this is the inevitable result of capitalism—an economic system which creates immense inequality alongside environmental catastrophe, and is based on the wealthy few exploiting the many, all in order to maximise profits.

Under capitalism, wealth means power. A tiny section of the population controls the bulk of the economy, carrying huge influence.

Australia alone has 47 billionaires with a combined total of $255 billion between them.

They control the major corporations and can pay off politicians or offer them seats in their boardrooms, or they can threaten to move their business overseas, or close their doors—crashing the economy.

The ultra-rich are able to use their wealth to ensure that their interests are the top priority.

And how did they get their wealth? Billionaire Gina Rinehart has never mined a crumb of anything in her entire life. She spends an initial amount of money on machines, land, and equipment. She then pays workers to run the mines, and then sells the products for a profit.

Since Gina Rinehart is not the only mining baron in Australia, she must always look to make sure her mines are competitive and operate at a profit, which means investing more and more capital into new machinery and new mines, or she will be run out of business by competitors.

The ultimate source of all value is human labour—which produces the machines, constructs and runs the mines. Her profits come from selling the commodities produced for more than the wages she pays to those that produce them.

This means capitalism runs on exploitation. Workers have no option but to work for wages because if they don’t, they can’t afford to live.

This means that, under capitalism, there are two main economic classes—workers, who sell their labour for a wage, and capitalists, who use the labour of workers to get wealthier.

These two classes have opposed economic interests—the capitalist wants to extract more and more profit from each worker through holding down wages and increasing hours of work, while the worker wants increased pay, shorter working hours and an end to short-staffing and stressful conditions.

Capitalists also see protecting the environment as an extra cost they want to avoid.

Fossil fuel capitalists would be put out of business by a serious climate policy that stopped new mining developments and began the phase out of coal, oil and gas. All of them are determined to keep making profits even if it leads to environmental catastrophe.

Is change possible?

If we want any chance at living in a sustainable and equal world, we need to get rid of capitalism.

Over the past few years, there has been a resurgence of support for left-wing figures promising to bring radical change through parliament. Bernie Sanders gained millions of votes in the Democratic primaries in the US, and Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the British Labour Party.

Last year in Chile, Gabriel Boric came to power on the back of massive street demonstrations of over a million against increasing austerity and inequality. He has promised to reform Chile’s economy, saying, “Neo-liberalism was born in Chile, and here it will die!”

But efforts to reform capitalism through parliament has failed again and again.

In the early 1970s, the socialist Salvador Allende was elected in Chile. He nationalised copper mining, stripping it from foreign investors. But as his policies further and further impeded the interests of capitalists, and as the working class became more and more emboldened, the Chilean military decided to step in.

Led by Pinochet, a brutal coup overthrew Allende, killing thousands, privatising and deregulating the Chilean economy, stripping funding from public services, suppressing trade unions, and massively heightening inequality.

Neo-liberalism was born in Chile because reformism can’t deliver serious change. While we elect politicians to parliament every few years, the military, the police, judges, and all of the state’s bureaucrats, are completely unelected, and can have their jobs for life.

The state serves the interests of the capitalists and the rich because it is part of the same system. This means that when people elect a government that poses a major challenge to the capitalists, they will work to get rid of them.

Change has to come through mass struggles and ultimately a revolution which smashes the state and replaces it with something completely new: a workers’ state, based on democratic control of the economy, where society is run according to the interests of the majority.

How do we get there?

If a single worker storms out in protest at the boss pushing through another wage cut, this worker becomes unemployed. If the entire workplace goes on strike, the boss stops making money, and can force him to increase wages.

This requires unity. Racism and sexism are not only wrong and harmful ideas, they undermine our ability to fight for our collective interests.

On many occasions, struggles against one particular issue have developed into broader movements that have brought down governments and challenged the system. The protests which preceded Boric’s victory in Chile began because of a 30 peso increase (~80 cents) to the Santiago train fare.

Workers run every aspect of society and keep the economy going—they drive the trains, operate the factories and the mines, the hospitals, universities and schools. This means workers have the power to shut down the economy and halt the flow of profits through collective strike action.

Such action shows the immense potential power of the working class. It forces workers themselves to deal with fundamental problems of running society such as: How are people fed, clothed, sheltered? How is the transport run? How do we keep the lights on?

Under capitalism, these decisions are made according to the rule of profit. With the working class in the saddle, an entirely new way of running society according to democratic co-operation would become possible—a socialist society.

On a number of occasions, periods of sustained mass strikes have seen workers form new democratic institutions to take control of their workplaces. These emerged for example in Hungary in 1956, Chile in 1973, Iran in 1979, Poland in 1980.

But they reached their most highly developed form in Russia in 1917. Here a situation of dual power developed between the Soviets, councils of delegates elected from workplaces, and the capitalist “provisional government.”

In October the Soviets took power in a socialist revolution. Sadly, in a poor and economically backward country, they couldn’t withstand alone in the face of foreign invasion, sanctions, and civil war. Stalin eventually established a dictatorship by destroying the last elements of what the revolution had stood for.

But the possibility of revolution and a genuinely democratic society has been posed again and again. Success in the future relies on building an organisation committed to deepening the struggle and winning socialism.

Doing so means throwing ourselves into every fight against capitalism and fanning every struggle, whether it workers striking for better wages and conditions, the climate strikes, or campaigns against racism or sexism. Every successful struggle builds workers’ confidence to go further. Together, we have a world to win.

The post Why you should be a socialist appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Reply to Eric Blanc’s “Can Leninists Explain the Russian Revolution?: A Reply to Sam Farber”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 06/02/2022 - 12:24am in

If the main strategic task for the American Left is to change the existing relation of forces in society, Congress cannot be the main arena of struggle.

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The post Reply to Eric Blanc’s “Can Leninists Explain the Russian Revolution?: A Reply to Sam Farber” appeared first on New Politics.

Can Leninists Explain the Russian Revolution?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 06/02/2022 - 12:21am in

Learning the right lessons from the Russian Revolution is one way socialists today can start to more critically, and more effectively, develop strategies and tactics appropriate to the actual contexts in which we find ourselves.

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The post Can Leninists Explain the Russian Revolution? appeared first on New Politics.

Mike Parker: Socialist, Labor Educator, Political Activist – 1940-2022

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 23/01/2022 - 11:18pm in

Mike Parker spent his entire adult life engaged in movements and organizations that he believed would advance the struggle for the creation of a democratic socialist society.

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The post Mike Parker: Socialist, Labor Educator, Political Activist – 1940-2022 appeared first on New Politics.

Was there a Revolutionary Social Democracy?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 31/12/2021 - 2:53pm in

Samuel Farber reviews Eric Blanc’s Revolutionary Social Democracy. Working Class Politics Across the Russian Empire (1882-1917), a book that is likely to become the focus of important debate on the left.

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The post Was there a Revolutionary Social Democracy? appeared first on New Politics.

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