Sunday, June 27, 2010

*From The "SteveLendmanBlog"- An Update On The Class-War Prisoner Lynne Stewart's Case- Free Lynne Stewart- She Must Not Die In Jail

Click on the headline to link to the "SteveLendmanBlog" entry- "Updating Lynne Stewart's "Love Struggle:" Part II."

Markin comment:

The headline says it all- Lynne Stewart's "Love Struggle:" Part II and Free Lynne Stewart (and he co-workers). Lynne Stewart must not die in jail.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

*From “The Rag Blog”- “Bob Feldman 68” Blog- A People’s History Of Afghanistan, Part Eleven

Click on the headline to link to a “The Rag Blog” entry from the “Bob Feldman 68” blog on the history of Afghanistan

Markin comment:

This is a great series for those who are not familiar with the critical role of Afghanistan in world politics, if not directly then as part of the history of world imperialism. Thanks, Bob Feldman.

And, speaking of world imperialism, let us keep our eyes on the prize- Obama- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./ Allied Troops And Mercenaries From Afghanistan!

*The Latest From The "Transport Workers Solidarity Committee" Website- "Actions In Defense of The Palestinian People On The West Coast Docks"

Click on the headline to link to the latest from the "Transport Workers Solidarity Committee" Website- "Actions In Defense of The Palestinian People On The West Coast Docks."

Markin comment:

Every action by the international working class, including unionized dock workers who have a militant history on the American West Coast docks, to slow down the Israeli war machine, even if only symbolically, is a step in the right direction. Totally End The Blockade of Gaza! All Honor To The Flotilla Blockade Breakers! Down With U.S Aid To Israel! Defend The Palestinian People!

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-"From Weimar to Hitler:Feminism and Fascism"- A Guest Commentary

Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Spring 1981 issue of "Women and Revolution" that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during Women's History Month and periodically throughout the year.


From Weimar to Hitler: Feminism and Fascism

Among the proliferation of tracts excoriating the evils of pornography which have dominated feminist writing recently, another theme has made a modest splash. An off our backs (December 1980) article by Carol Anne Douglas, titled "german feminists and the right: can it happen here? “worried:

"With recession, inflation and unemployment growing and Ronald Reagan running for president (of course, he couldn't win), the Moral Majority bellowing in the land and the ERA dying a lingering death, it seemed like a good time to read about German history.... What signs were there of impending fascism? Did feminists see the signs? How did they act as fascism drew near? Why did some women become Nazis?" Douglas' article reviewed four recent books on German feminism and fascism. Ms. magazine has also published a two-part series by Gloria Steinem on the same theme, "The Nazi Connection," which however does not mention a single feminist organization or individual by name.

Weimar Germany—A "Fortress of Feminism"

For feminists the struggle against patriarchy is theoretically the highest imperative; and Nazi Germany was, in the words of feminist Adrienne Rich, "patriarchy in its purest, most elemental form." There is undoubtedly an inherent contradiction between feminism as a variant of bourgeois liberalism, committed to the quest for more individual liberties for women within the confines of capitalist society, and fascism; but at certain conjunctures it has been subordinated. It is beyond doubt, for example, that the Third Reich enjoyed broad support among German feminists.

Why? Certainly no one can argue that they were duped. Hitler was even more forthright about his program for women than Mussolini had been. Whereas Mussolini had conciliated feminists in 1923 by granting the vote to women in local elections, the original Nazi program called for the abolition of women's suffrage, and Hitler stated in Mein Kampf: "The message of women's emancipation is a message discovered solely by the Jewish intellect and its content is stamped by the same spirit." Equal rights for women, said Hitler, actually meant a deprivation of rights, since it involved women in areas where they would necessarily be inferior, i.e., public life. Gottfried Feder, one of the Nazi Party's founding "theoreticians," wrote:

"The Jew has stolen woman from us through the forms of sex democracy. We, the youth, must march out to kill the dragon so that we may again attain the most holy thing in the world, the woman as maid and servant."

—quoted in Kate Millett's Sexual Politics

Nor can it be argued that Hitler triumphed because the organized feminist •movement was weak. In the words of Kate Millett, by 1925 in Germany "feminism was in fact a fortress." She points out that in that year Gertrud Baumer, the most authoritative spokesman of middle-class German feminism, was a member of the Reichstag and a high official in the Ministry of the Interior.

Millett's explanation of feminist support to Hitler is that between 1925 and 1933, when Hitler came to power, the feminist movement was gutted and perverted by Nazi infiltration. In fact, though, the German feminism of 1933 evolved inevitably and organically from what it had been even prior to World War I.

The overwhelmingly predominant German feminist coalition, the Bund Deutscner frauenverene (BDF— Federation of German Women's Associations), which had almost a million members in 1925, had grown increasingly conservative since 1908. Faced with the possibility that its membership would endorse the legalization of abortion, the right wing of the BDF persuaded the large and extremely reactionary German-Evangelical Women's League (Deutsch-evangelischer Frauenbund) to join and use its voting power to defeat the proposal. This maneuver was followed by the ousting of president Marie Stritt in 1910 and her replacement by the far more conservative Baumer and the expulsion of two "left-wing" tendencies, the Bund fur Mutterschutz (League for the Protection of Motherhood) in 1910 and a small pacifist faction in 1915 (which went on to help found the liberal pacifist Women's International League for Peace and Freedom).

Lest feminists be tempted to overstate the importance of the loss of these "radicals," it should be noted that the Bund fir Mutterschutz, which was strongly influenced by sexual libertarian Helene Stocker and whose manifesto advocated an end to "the capitalist rule of man" and the establishment of a matriarchy, sought to create colonies in the countryside for unmarried mothers and their children as a way of promoting "German racial health." Racially "unhealthy" mothers were not admitted. "It is indeed disturbing/' complains Carol Anne Douglas, "that the first women to endorse sexual freedom were racists." The explanation for the BDF's early conservatism lies not in the departure of these small dissident elements but in the fact that it existed from its inception in a highly politically class-differentiated society with a mass working-class party—the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), which had, moreover, developed a strong socialist women's movement. Left-leaning and working-class women who wanted to fight their oppression joined the SPD, not the BDF.

The Socialist Women's Movement versus the BDF

The SPD's women's movement was founded in the 1890s by Clara Zetkin, and was based on the Marxist understanding that women must be organized as part of the revolutionary proletarian movement, given the indissoluble connection between women's oppression, the family and the private ownership of property. It was from the beginning counterposed to bourgeois feminism. By 1914 the SPD women's organizations had a membership of 175,000, while Zetkin's journal Die Gleichheit (Equality) had a circulation of 124,000.
It was Zetkin who addressed the Third World Congress of the Communist International with the powerful statement:
"There is only one movement; there is only one organization of women communists within the Communist Party, together with male communists. The tasks and goals of the communists are our tasks, our goals. No autonomous organization, no doing your own thing which in any way lends itself to splitting the revolutionary forces and diverting them from their great goals of the conquest of political power by the proletariat and the construction of communist society."

—Protokolle des IV. Weltkongresses der Kommunistischen Internationale, p. 725

While the SPD's record on women's rights was far from spotless (it sometimes dropped the demand for female suffrage in local elections, and in the name of "modesty" discouraged the open discussion of abortion and contraception), it was the staunchest fighter for the advancement of German women in the early 20th century. In 1895 the party introduced a female suffrage motion into the Reichstag and in 1896 stood almost alone in opposing the male supremacist Civil Code. The SPD campaigned for the protection of working women and for equality of women in education and jobs. It supported equal pay for equal work and daycare centers for working mothers. The SPD also criticized Germany's abortion laws, favored the availability of contraceptives and ran educational courses to train and promote women as leaders of the proletarian movement.

In contrast, during the same period, the middle-class feminist BDF held the position that only a minority of women had either the ability or the need to enter politics or pursue a career, and it was taken for granted that those who did so would remain unmarried. Thus the BDF supported the law requiring women schoolteachers to resign if they married (just as later in 1930 it did not oppose the measure introduced into the Reichstag—supported by all major political parties except the German Communist Party [KPD]— providing for the dismissal of married women from public service).

World War I exposed the internal rottenness of the SPD, which supported the imperialist German war effort (as of course the BDF did). Many left-wing cadres of the SPD's women's work left with the anti-war minority, some joining the large Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD), others the much smaller group of revolutionary socialists who formed the Spartakusbund in 1916 and later the KPD. Despite heroic efforts and personal courage, these socialists were unable to properly take advantage of the revolutionary crises sweeping Germany after the war. The Weimar Republic was consolidated with the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht and the bloody defeat of the Spartacists.

Puffed up with self-importance, the petty-bourgeois and reformist caretakers of the Kaiser's shattered state indulged in grandiose illusions in their historic role. In 1919 the program of the BDF proclaimed its aim to "unite German women of every party and world-view, in order to express their national solidarity and to effect the common idea of the cultural mission of women." This program declared housekeeping and childbearing women's proper destiny, rejecting the idea that men and women were equal. It advocated "eugenic" policies and the sterilization of "anti-social" elements and actively campaigned for higher birth rates. BDF member Adele Schreiber advocated the sterilization of "drinkers"; Elsie Luders fought for the elimination of interracial marriages; and the German Colonial Women’s League, whose sole reason for existence was to oppose the marriage of German men living in the colonies to non-Caucasian native women, joined the BDF.

The BDF vehemently supported the reconquest of territory lost by Germany in the war. While claiming all political parties were divisive and supporting the ideal of an organic national community (Voksgemen-schaft), it was in reality anti-communist, and largely associated with small bourgeois parties such as the Deutsche Demokratische Partei. Throughout the Weimar years it expended most of its .energy in the same endeavor that consumes contemporary middle-class feminists like Susan- Brownmiller and Robin Morgan—campaigning against pornography. The BDF also worked for stricter censorship of films, books and plays and against contraception and "licentiousness."

Fascism: Capitalism Takes a Different Form

The post-war chaos in Weimar Germany and the world depression of 1929, and above all the perceived inability of the workers movement to break through the impasse, threw masses of frustrated and impoverished petty bourgeois into the arms of the Nazis. Yet Hitler and his radical-lumpen street gangs would never have attained state power had not the bourgeoisie thrown its support to him, seeing in the Nazi movement a tool to crush once and for all the workers movement and open the road again for unimpeded German imperialism.

As Trotsky explained in his brilliant analysis of fascism, fascism is the continuation of capitalism in another form. Understanding this helps explain why masses of German bourgeois feminists who had loyally supported the Kaiser and/or the Weimar Republic did not find it so difficult to accept the Third Reich as well. In his 1932 article, "What Next? Vital Questions for the German Proletariat," Trotsky pointed out the
essence of fascism:

"At the moment that the 'normal' police and military resources of the bourgeois dictatorship, together with their parliamentary screens, no longer suffice to hold society in a state of equilibrium—the turn of the fascist 'regime arrives. Through the fascist agency, capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie, and bands of the declassed and demoralized lumpen-proletariat; all the countless "human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy— When a state turns means, primarily and above all, that the workers' organizations are annihilated; that the proletariat is reduced to an amorphous state; and that a system of administration is created which penetrates deeply into the masses and which serves to frustrate the independent crystallization of the proletariat. Therein precisely is the gist of fascism."

In Germany, the bourgeoisie had the opportunity to resort to this system only because the proletariat, paralyzed by the treachery of its political leadership— the reformist SPD and the Stalinized KPD— did not accomplish the socialist revolution instead.

Feminists Go With Hitler

By 1930 the BDF—that "fortress" of feminism-opposed contraception, sexual libertarianism and abortion on demand, defended the family and reaffirmed that woman's proper destiny lay in marriage and motherhood. By 1932 the feminists joined in the general attack then being made on the parliamentary system and urged the establishment of a corporate state on the Italian model but with the exception that one of the "corporations" would consist of women.

The feminists of the BDF, like their husbands and brothers hit by the chaos and depression, were disillusioned with impotent Weimar parliamentarian-ism, and thus welcomed the "national revolution" promised by Hitler, seeking promise even in his statement that "equal rights for women means that they experience the esteem that they deserve in the areas for which nature has intended them." BDF president Agnes von Zahn-Harnack proclaimed that feminists could "do nothing but approve a nationalist government and stand by it" and that the BDF would "do all it can to help us work together, and will certainly take up personal contacts with the best women in National Socialism."

In the last elections of the thirties in which Germans exercised any freedom of choice—those of March 1933—the BDF gave considerable support to the Nazis and expressed the hope that Hitler would soon introduce a "biological policy" to preserve the German family and a "Law of Preservation" to protect it from "asocial persons." ^Bourgeois feminists in other advanced capitalist countries would not have found BDF racism so shocking; conventional bourgeois sociology at the time took for granted that "asocial" types and "lesser races" were genetically inferior.)

The key point about the BDF's accommodation to Hitler is that it followed at every crucial point the class interests of the bourgeoisie, of its husbands and brothers—and was willing to subordinate to that end even its very conservative, upper-class goals of giving bourgeois women more access to the privileges of upper-class men. Accepting the bourgeois mystique of the sacred nuclear family, and imbued with the nationalist aspirations of its class, the BDF was unable to argue against Hitler's mystical, racist, zoological view of human society.

Hitler came to power, and proceeded to ruthlessly crush the workers movement. The most powerful proletariat in Western Europe was smashed, its organizations ripped apart, its spirit broken for a generation, all without striking a blow in its own defense. And in this triumphant wave of reactionary terror the bourgeois feminist BDF too was simply swept aside.

In April the Nazi government ordered the BDF to expel its Jewish affiliate, the Judischer Frauenbund (JFB—League of Jewish Women), its largest single organizational member, and join the Nazi mass women's organizations being formed. BDF leader Gertrud Bamumer publicly supported this move, stating that she believed the Nazi women's organizations were merely larger versions of the BDF—"a new, spiritually different phase of the women's movement"—and advised her followers to accommodate themselves to the new order. In June 1933 the BDF was formally dissolved by its membership.

Contemporary feminists are outraged by this forced dissolution of the BDF, characterizing it as a manifestation of naked fascist .tyranny. But if there was a voice raised against it at the time, it was the voice of president von Zahn-Harnack, who argued that the BDF should not be dissolved—because its aims were thoroughly compatible with those of National Socialism! She cited the organization's support for "eugenic" policies and the sterilization of "anti-social elements/' its condemnation of the Revolution of 1918 and the Versailles Treaty and its recognition of men's and women's "different spheres." To no avail—the vote for dissolution carried and this was the end of the "fortress of feminism."

The fate of the Judisher Frauenbund, which had shared all the illusions of the BDF in an educational, respectable, middle-class orientation and loyalty to German society, was perhaps the most tragic. Retreating into the Jewish community, where it had always carried on social work (like teaching young women to become maids and servants), the JFB urged its members to "lie low," not to act loud or ostentatious and to be • "good Germans." After Crystal Night, November 10, 1938, when the Nazis burned their orphanages and dissolved the organization, Jewish feminists ended up at railroad stations, making up food packets for Jews being deported to concentration camps. At the bitter end in 1942 there were only eight women carrying on at the Berlin train station, until they too were shipped away to die.

As for Gertrud Baumer, she continued to publish the BDF's Die Frau throughout the Nazi regime, later claiming that its Christian mystical emphasis was a form of resistance to Nazism. But as off our backs noted, "Considering that they allowed her to continue undisturbed, they weren't too threatened."

And Mussolini, Too

The German feminist movement was of course stamped with the particular experience of German bourgeois society, but it should not be thought that the BDF's response to fascism represented a particular, German idiosyncrasy. In Italy, too, every major feminist organization voluntarily supported fascism during the early years of Mussolini's premiership on the basis that it was stamping out socialism, which was seen as the greatest danger.

After Mussolini's march on Rome both the Consiglio nazionale delle Donne italiane (CNDI—National Council of Italian Women) and the Glornale della donna (Journal of Woman) openly offered their help m the work of "national reconstruction." And they did help. Feminists played an important role in several major fascist propaganda campaigns, including those for a ruralization policy, an increased birth rate and against strikes. The task of organizing urban women to resist strikes was carried out largely by the journals Voce Nuova (New Voice) and Glornale de//a donna, while in the countryside La donna nei camp/ (The Woman in the Fields) urged women to refuse to participate in strikes and persuade their men to do the same.

Nonetheless, by the late '20s the contradictions inherent in a "feminist-fascist" ideology became pronounced. The Genoese feminist newspaper, La Chiosa (The Comment), for example, ran an editorial in 1927 which complained:

"... we wish to ask our good Fascist camerada what you have done recently for women's rights, to educate and elevate women? In Fascism there seems to be a spirit of inexplicable, yet ferocious, anti-feminism."

—quoted in Alexander De Grand, "Women Under Italian Fascism," Historical Journal, Vol. 19, No. 4, 1976

Too late. After supporting Mussolini, even capitulating to the fascists' insistence on the primacy of the patriarchial family, such feminists' uncomprehending complaints met their inevitable response. The government simply transformed La Chiosa into a fashion and movie magazine.

What Does "Consistent Feminism" Lead To?

We have expressed contempt over the years for the reformist Socialist Workers Party's idiotic slogan "consistent feminism leads to socialism." While mass movements of oppressed women have been a motor force of revolution in the backward societies of the "countries of the East," bourgeois feminism in the advanced countries has led to many things—the doctrine of war between the sexes, reformist schemes like "affirmative action," recently to a moralistic campaign against pornography—but never to socialism.

Indeed, if the experience of the BDF and Italian feminism proves anything, it is that there is in fact no such thing as "consistent feminism." The specific program and character of various feminist groups in various historical periods, while all in some sense a response to the special oppression of women, is determined essentially by class considerations. The accommodation of the BDF to fascism- reflected the broader failure of bourgeois liberalism in a period of intense capitalist crisis, as well as the fundamental hostility of the bourgeois class to proletarian revolution, the only way out for the exploited and oppressed.

For today's petty-bourgeois feminists, mired in the myth of the "sisterhood" of all women, the accommodation of their "fortress of feminism" to Hitler must remain forever a source of confusion and mystery. But for us revolutionary Marxists, it is only one more striking confirmation of our position that women's liberation is above all a question of class struggle.

Much of the current rad-lib worry about "Nazism now?" in the face of the Reagan years in fact reflects only liberal illusions that the ousted Democrats were somehow qualitatively better, even though both capitalist parties are equally war-mongering enforcers of austerity on the working class. Reagan's no fascist, but he is certainly the most right-wing politician to run the American state in the last 50 years and is riding a backlash of conservatism at all levels of society. In this atmosphere of reaction, of course Nazi and fascist terror groups feel emboldened. Fascists run openly for election on both Democratic and Republican tickets; communists, labor organizers, blacks and women are slaughtered and their KKK/Nazi killers get off scot free in Greensboro, North Carolina, while Klan crosses flare in victory across the nation. Where has been the feminist response to this immediate upsurge of tiny race-hate, terror groups?

It has been the "consistent socialists" of the Spartacist League who have called for the mobilization of labor to smash this Nazi terror in the egg. Feminist Kate Millett, who has agonized at some length in print about the vicissitudes of being a woman in Nazi Germany, refused to endorse a demonstration to stop the fascist scum from "celebrating" Hitler's birthday in downtown San Francisco last April 19. Like the Socialist Workers Party, which actually champions "free speech" for fascists, Ms. Millett was more concerned about the safety of these thugs than about those whom they would murder. The rally, which was supported and heavily built by the Spartacist League, turned Out 1,200 people to let the Nazis know San Francisco is a labor town, not a Nazi town—and they didn't dare show their faces. No thanks to Millett, or those bourgeois feminists who tell women to pin their hopes on the capitalist system of "law and order."

The experience of German feminism only confirms the fact that no matter how large or powerful a feminist movement is created, the fate of women is the fate of the working class. The fight to smash fascism today— like the fight to stop Hitler in Germany— is above all the fight to forge a revolutionary proletarian party which can, as the "tribune of the people," lead the working class and all the oppressed to victory over capitalism, and end forever its inevitable, periodic crises and poisonous ideologies.

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"- In Defense Of Historical Materialism-In The Matter Of Stephen Jay Gould

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for the American scientist Stephen Jay Gould.

Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Spring 1992 issue of "Women and Revolution" that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during Women's History Month and periodically throughout the year.


Punctured Equilibrium

Stephen Jay Gould and the Mismeasure of Marx

The following article is reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 563, 73 November 1992.

Stephen Jay Could describes himself as a teacher of biology, geology and the history of science. He is a rare commodity in the contemporary scientific world: one who is both an original thinker in his field and a facile communicator of science to the general public. He brings to mind another great popularizer of science, the late Isaac Asimov, who combined an academic career as a biochemist with a prodigious literary output (nearly 500 books), especially of science fiction, which attracted an entire generation of future scientists. Gould has dealt with science fact rather than fiction. His writings on natural history, which we Spartacists have found thought-provoking, are perhaps best known in his collections of essays (e.g., Ever Since Darwin, The Panda's Thumb) and books including The Mismeasure of Man and Wonderful Life.

Gould is also quite unusual in contemporary American science for forthrightly acknowledging that Marx and Engels had prescient insights on human biological and sociological evolution—a question which fascinates both Gould and ourselves. We were struck, therefore, by how far Gould strays from a scientific approach in his October 1992 column in Natural History, where he writes that the "Soviet collapse" signifies that "Marx's economics has failed spectacularly, at least in the largest and longest experiment ever carried out in its name."

Gould's column, "Life in a Punctuation," extensively quotes from an article by David Warsh, "Redeeming Karl Marx" (Boston Globe, 3 May 1992). Warsh begins with the statement, "So much for communism, Russian-style." But then he asks, "what has happened to Karl Marx?... Does that mean that Marx will be consigned to the intellectual scrap heap? Probably not. As a symbol, he'll be around as long as people hunger for justice—a tarnished but evocative figure, in whose name great crimes have been committed, not unlike other great religious figures, Jesus and Mohammed." It's hardly "redemption" to reduce Marx, the dialectical materialist and revolutionary, to the role of a religious figure. But Warsh acknowledges the enduring power of Marx's ideas, adding that "you don't need even a smattering of recondite economics to understand Marx's enduring place in the modern world. His memorial is the word revolution...."

Warsh in his article cites Marx as the father of the "idea of punctuated equilibrium," which was developed by Gould and his associate Miles Eldredge in the early 1970s in the field of evolutionary biology. This is an application in the field of natural science of Marx's refutation of gradualism and his understanding that the development of history proceeds through revolutionary leaps. Gould describes the counterrevolutionary transformation taking place in the former Soviet Union also as a "punctuation." Drawing on observations gleaned during a brief trip to Moscow and Leningrad last summer, he arrives at his conclusion about the "failed experiment" of Marxist economics. Gould's wrongheaded conclusion is based on a misunderstanding of what Marxism represents, and ignores the whole historical development which led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The 1917 October Revolution and its subsequent development was no isolated lab test in a Petri dish! Any evaluation of what happened in the former USSR that leaves out the historic context, the tremendous external pressures upon it and its impact on the rest of the world, cannot be scientific, and will certainly be wrong.

Gould does not pretend to be a political theorist per se, but when he addresses such questions, we can ask that he do so with the rigor that he would apply in his own field. We doubt that he would make such sweeping statements about scientific opponents without a careful study of their works. Gould's view of the Soviet collapse reminds us a bit of a would-be biologist coming upon a mass of drowned caribou at a river crossing and, upon viewing the evidence before his eyes, pronouncing the species not viable. Gould has trenchantly pointed to the influence of political bias in shaping scientific views. In a 1978 workshop on dialectics at Harvard, he remarked that "it's not irrelevant that my daddy raised me a Marxist" (Science and Nature No. 2, 1979). But what did he learn as Marxism?

And why does Gould, a member of the advisory board of the journal Rethinking Marxism, lend credence to the current bourgeois brouhaha over the "death of communism"? Let us put forward our own hypothesis: that Gould confuses Marxism with its falsification, Stalinism, which has indeed been struck a mortal blow. We find it remarkable that in his remarks on the Soviet Union he never mentions the name Leon Trotsky. Even conservative bourgeois historians recognize the need to address Trotsky's analysis of the degeneration of the Russian Revolution, if only in an attempt to refute it. And in a broader methodological sense, Gould accepts the Stalinist caricature of Marxism as a kind of mechanistic determinism. "He was still a child of his mechanistic age," writes Gould, and "embodied a related conviction that directions of change are progressive, predictable and well-nigh inevitable." Marx "hoped for a predictive theory of history, with progressive stages proceeding in a punctuational manner from primitive communism to slavery to feudalism to capitalism and finally to true communism."

This comes not from Marx but from Stalin's primer on Dialectical and Historical Materialism, 1938 edition, or one of those unreadable Soviet "diamat" manuals that present a mechanical and deterministic distortion of dialectical materialism. Marx, in his 1857-58 manuscripts on pre-capitalist economic formations, the Grundrisse, also wrote of an "Asiatic mode of production" in ancient Mesopotamia, India, China and elsewhere. Yet these writings were suppressed by the Kremlin for decades, because
they didn't fit into Stalin's simplistic schema, which reduced Marxism to a pseudo-materialist catechism. In contrast, Trotsky wrote, in his speech on "Radio, Science, Technology, and Society" (March 1926):

"Liberal scholars—now they are no more—commonly used to depict the whole of the history of mankind as a continuous line of progress. This was wrong. The line of progress is curved, broken, zigzagging. Culture now advances, now declines. There was the culture of ancient Asia, there was the culture of antiquity, of Greece and Rome, then European culture began to develop, and now American culture is rising in skyscrapers."

Or consider Rosa Luxemburg's poignant phrase from World War I, that mankind faces the stark alternatives: socialism or barbarism.

In fact, even in the first lines of the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels noted that class struggles ended "either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes." This is a theme which echoes throughout their later writings. Engels' 1891 introduction to Marx's The Civil War in France warned of the dangers of a European war involving tens of millions of men at arms. This was written over two decades before the cataclysm of World War I. Marx and Engels' dialectical outlook showed how existing and developing economic forces pave the way for social change but don't automatically "determine" that this or that political leadership will accomplish a particular historically possible task.

Gould acknowledges his intellectual debt to Marx—and to Engels—whose dialectical and materialist analysis unlocked an understanding of historical forces, and has been clearly shown to apply equally well to the natural sciences. Lenin, in his 1913 biographical sketch of Marx, quoted from Engels, with his own bracketed notes:

"Marx and I were pretty well the only people to rescue conscious dialectics [from the destruction of idealism, including Hegelianism] and apply it in the materialist conception of Nature....

"Nature is the proof of dialectics, and it must be said for modern natural science that it has furnished extremely rich [this was written before the discovery of radium, electrons, the transmutation of elements, etc.!] and daily increasing materials for this test, and has thus proved that in the last analysis Nature's process is dialectical and not metaphysical."

This has been proved in virtually every field of science, from quantum mechanics to mathematics to recent developments in the understanding of how consciousness and perception occur in the human brain, and to Gould's own area of biology.

Consciousness and Contingency

The basic premise of Gould's theory of "punctuated equilibrium" is that species are stable for long periods, on the multimillion-year scale of geological time, until some geographical isolation separates a formerly genetically "homogeneous" population, or some climatic change or catastrophic event opens up new niches into which new species rapidly evolve. This "punctuation" is then followed by a new stasis. The nature of the changes during the "punctuation" are governed by what Gould calls "contingency"—i.e., along the rocky road of evolution, genetic change is essentially random and nature's path unpredictable, subject to the impact of powerful environmental events.

This is fine, so far as natural history is concerned. But when Gould considers a complex social question such as the USSR, his concept of "punctuation" guts Marxism of its key factor: the "contingent" factor is not nature's random choice but rather the presence or absence of conscious leadership. Take the work Gould cites, Marx's The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. Marx describes in great detail how at many key points in the period 1848-51, the faction-ridden French bourgeoisie could have moved to prevent Bonaparte's coup d'etat. Marx lays bare that the fundamental question was a clash of class forces: the proletariat lacked the strength and leadership to take power in its own name, while the bourgeoisie, in fear of the ghosts of 1789 (and the proletarian masses of 1848), dawdled and surrendered political power to Bonaparte in order to preserve its economic class interests. And the bourgeoisie's response was no accidental fluke of "contingency"—the big financiers made a conscious choice that their sacred property was better defended by the empire than by the republic.

One might ask Gould, if Marx and Engels were such mechanical determinists, convinced that communism inevitably follows from capitalism as night from day, why then did they devote so much time to organizing a revolutionary political party, from the Communist League to the First and Second Internationals?

What does it mean, as Gould claims, that "Marx's economics has failed"? The economic system which issued out of the October Revolution proved the power of centralized planning. In describing his visit to Russia, Gould describes the Moscow subway system as "the world's best," and applauds "the wonderful paleontological museum in of the world's best both in content and display." How does Gould account for these achievements? Is it "Marx's economics" or capitalist market forces that are responsible for the fact that the museum is now closed indefinitely? Central planning performed wonders in transforming the Soviet Union from a backward peasant country to a modern industrial and military power that was capable of defeating the Nazi juggernaut
in World War II and was the first to launch satellites into space. As American Trotskyist leader James R Cannon said in 1939:

"The Russian revolution showed in practice, by example, how the workers' revolution is to be made.... By its victory, and its reorganization of the social system, the Russian revolution has proved for all time the superiority of nationalized property and planned economy over capitalist private property, and planless competition and anarchy in production."

—The Struggle for a Proletarian Party

So what did happen in the USSR? Where Gould claims that the Soviet collapse proved Marxism wrong, Trotsky long ago predicted that the continued domination of the Stalinist bureaucracy would necessarily lead to capitalist restoration. In his article, "The Class Nature of the Soviet State" (October 1933), he wrote: "The further unhindered development of bureaucratism must lead inevitably to the cessation of economic and cultural growth, to a terrible social crisis and to the downward plunge of the entire society. But this would imply not only the collapse of the proletarian dictatorship but also the end of bureaucratic domination. In place of the workers' state would come not 'social bureaucratic' but capitalist relations."
Trotsky pounded away at this theme, warning in his article "The Workers' State, Thermidor, and Bonapartism" (February 1935) that: "The inevitable collapse of the Stalinist political regime will lead to the establishment of Soviet democracy only in the event that the removal of Bonapartism comes as the conscious act of the proletarian vanguard. In all other cases, in place of Stalinism there could only come the fascist-capitalist counterrevolution." And again in his comprehensive analysis of the Stalinist degeneration, The Revolution Betrayed (1937), he sharply posed the two alternatives: "Will the bureaucrat devour the workers' state, or will the working class clean up the bureaucrat?" How Gould missed this and other writings by Trotsky is a mystery to us, particularly since Trotsky's archives are located in Harvard's Houghton Library, just a short walk from the buildings in which Could works.

Stalinism vs. Marxism

The program of Marxism is world proletarian revolution. Marx insisted that the construction of socialism would occur on the basis of an international division of labor and on the highest level of development of the productive forces, "because without it only want is made general, and with destitution the struggle for necessities begins again and all the old crap must revive" (The German Ideology [1846]). Only with the "universal development of productive forces is a universal intercourse between men established," he wrote, for without this "each extension of intercourse would abolish local communism." Lenin and Trotsky stood for this internationalist perspective; they looked on the Russian Revolution as the first step in a European-wide revolution. In fact, none of the Bolshevik cadres thought that the Russian Revolution could survive without international extension, above all to Germany.

The idea that "socialism" could be built in a single country (and a backward one at that), surrounded by imperialist enemies, is a nationalist perversion of Marxism. One of the early exponents of such a "theory" was the revisionist German Social Democrat Georg Vollmar; at least he was honest about his revision of Marxism and sought to apply it to advanced capitalist Germany, not backward Russia. Even Stalin himself repudiated the very idea in his pamphlet "Foundations of Leninism" issued in the spring of 1924:
"The principal task of socialism—the organization of socialist production—has still to be fulfilled. Can this task be fulfilled, can the final victory of socialism be achieved in one country, without the joint efforts of the proletarians in several advanced countries? No, it cannot. To overthrow the bourgeoisie the efforts of one country are sufficient; this is proved by the history of our revolution. For the final victory of socialism, for the organization of socialist production, the efforts of one country, particularly of a peasant country like Russia, are insufficient; for that the efforts of the proletarians of several advanced countries are required."

Several months later, Stalin reversed himself and the first edition of his pamphlet was withdrawn. Now Stalin declared that the Soviet Union "can and must build a socialist society" within the confines of a single country.

Stalin's dogma of "socialism in one country" was the ideological afterbirth of a political counterrevolution which defeated Leninist internationalism and brought to power a nationalist bureaucratic caste. The failure of the German Revolution of 1923 greatly assisted the consolidation of this conservative stratum. The fact that Stalin had to ruthlessly purge and murder all the Bolshevik cadres who had led the October Revolution should be sufficiently sanguinary evidence of the gulf between the bureaucracy and Marxism. Trotsky characterized the Soviet Union under Stalinist rule as a degenerated workers state and called for a proletarian political revolution to restore soviet democracy.

The October Revolution was an enormous leap forward for mankind—the first time that the proletariat took state power in its own name. Such a conquest had to be defended; Trotsky and the Left Opposition fought the degeneration of the revolution, and they fought to unconditionally defend the Soviet Union against counterrevolution, despite and against Stalin. The Soviet system hardly developed in a bell jar. The Civil War of 1918-20, in which 14 foreign armies invaded the young Soviet republic, devastated the country. A generation later the Nazi invaders killed 27 million Soviet citizens and turned much of Russia into scorched earth. Twice the economy was rebuilt on socialized property forms, despite the constant capitalist economic pressure, most recently manifested in a colossal arms race designed to bankrupt the Soviet economy.

In the absence of soviet workers democracy, the planned economy could only go so far. As Trotsky predicted, when the period of extensive growth under Stalin gave way to the need for intensive development, for qualitative improvements in productivity, the bureaucratic "command" economy began to founder. Congenitally hostile to promoting the spread of revolution internationally, the Stalinist bureaucracy finally saw no way out but the introduction of market relations. Under Gorbachev the bureaucracy scuttled central planning as a conscious choice. The result of abandoning planning in a planned economy, however bureaucratically distorted, was economic chaos that spurred the drive for power by emerging capitalist forces. Compounding that problem are the consequences of the fragmenting of the USSR: the economy had been organized on an all-Union basis.

Today various Stalinist remnants are arguing that the Soviet Union was a "failed model of socialism," the result of the proletariat seizing power in backward Russia. This completely abstracts the question from its historical context. Amid the carnage of the First World War, the imperialist chain broke at its "weakest link," in Lenin's words. The key to the Russian Revolution was the conscious factor: the Bolshevik Party, rooted in the working class and with a program for proletarian power. In contrast, that very "contingent" factor was lacking in Germany—the Communist Party there was only constituted in December 1918, and it proved inadequate in the 1923 revolutionary crisis. Had the German proletariat made its October, subsequent history would have been very different. The isolation of the Soviet Union would have been broken and the way opened for socialist revolutions throughout Europe, cutting off the consolidation of the Stalinist bureaucracy. And a certain Austrian-born corporal would have spent the rest of his days hanging out in Munich beer halls.

But that's not the way it worked out, and mankind has suffered greatly with the outcome. Gould's essay cites Marx's aphorism from The Eighteenth Brumaire that "Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please." He might also have included the rest of the sentence: "they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past."

"Punctuating to a Better Place"

Gould astutely observes that "Russia is presently in the midst of a punctuation that must soon resolve itself in one way or another—into some form of promise or prosperity, or some species of chaos and dissolution." In his own way, Gould sees something that we have insisted on since Yeltsinite counterrevolution gained the ascendancy in August 1991: that this ushered in an unstable interregnum. From our statement then that Moscow workers should have torn down Yeltsin's barricades, to our call for workers committees to seize control over food supplies last winter, we have called for workers political revolution to sweep away the capitalist-restorationist regimes and place the proletariat in power.

Gould reports on the economic and social disintegration in the rush to capitalist counterrevolution; this is apparent even in his anecdotal observations from July 1992. Institutes and museums are closed for lack of rubles to pay the staff; people meet in impromptu market areas desperately seeking otherwise unobtainable items. The cataclysmic descent into the "free market" has already provided such capitalist virtues as homelessness, unemployment, street crime and the collapse of medical care. The New York Times (4 October 1992) reports that 60 percent of Soviet children now have rickets. According to the bourgeois sages, these and other ills are related to the previous Communist (Stalinist) regime's environmental crimes, but rickets is not due to mercury or PCBs— it is due to malnutrition: the lack of vitamin D.

Gould has done great service in his voluminous writings debunking wrongheaded and outright racist ideas found in the scientific literature, noting that scientists are influenced by the dominant ideologies of the societies in which they live. In The Mismeasure of Man he states:

"Scientists needn't become explicit apologists for their class or culture in order to reflect these pervasive aspects of life.... I believe that science must be understood as a social phenomenon, a gutsy, human enterprise, not the work of robots programmed to collect pure information."

Yet when considering the situation in Russia, Gould himself is held in thrall by the triumphalism of bourgeois anti-communism. He takes the "pure information" of the Soviet collapse to assert the failure of Marxism.

Gould applies contingency to human society in a mechanistic fashion, downplaying the role of consciousness, historically and materially conditioned. Human beings are not snails. In the October Revolution, accident played its role, yet it was the greatest achievement of human consciousness playing itself out on the stage of history. We Trotskyists seek the revival of the liberating goals of the October Revolution, not only in the former USSR, but across the planet. Socialism will make modern technique, science, culture and education available to all, with a corresponding explosion in creative human achievement.

In the end, Gould offers what amounts to a pious hope, "Perhaps we will punctuate to a better place." Or maybe not. Rejecting the mechanistic determinism which he falsely ascribes to Marx, Gould opts for what is essentially a religious outlook, hoping that "accident" will be beneficial. But the "punctuation" could be very negative: instead of evolution, there could be involution, or a cataclysmic descent into barbarism. It is upon the resolution of the crisis of proletarian leadership that the future of humanity depends.

We have enjoyed Gould's articles in the past and we look forward to more. Regarding Marx and the Soviet developments, his conclusions are impressionistic. Can he apply to those questions the scientific approach he applies in his own field? As Plekhanov said of the misconceptions of Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Labriola: "We should be very glad if it were so; it is pleasant to have intelligent people agree with you. And if he did not agree with us, regretfully we would repeat that this intelligent man is mistaken."

Friday, June 25, 2010

*From The "Green Left Global News" Blog- American West Coast Dock Actions In Defense Of The Palestinian People

Click on the headline to link a"Green Left Global News" Blog entry on- American West Coast Dock Actions In Defense Of The Palestinian People.

Markin comment:

Every action by the international working class, including unionized dock workers who have a militant history on the American West Coast docks, to slow down the Israeli war machine, even if only symbolically, is a step in the right direction. Totally End The Blockade of Gaza! All Honor To The Flotilla Blockade Breakers! Down With U.S Aid To Israel! Defend The Palestinian People!

*Another Look At The Underside Of The English Revolution-Professor Underdown’s View- “Revel, Riot, And Rebellion”

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for the late Marxist historian, Professor Christopher Hill.

Book Review

Revel, Riot, And Rebellion, David Underdown, Oxford University Press, New York, 1985

No question, to my mind at least, that the late Professor Christopher Hill did yeoman’s, no, more than yeoman’s work in opening up the subject of the English revolution of the mid-1600s beyond the disputes between the various upper classes who defended and opposed the rule of Charles I. Professor Hill brought to life all sorts of information about the plebeians masses, their religious (and irreligious) seekings, their support to new political ideas and their attempts to eke out a space for themselves in the upheavals of those times. Of course Hill’s long-lived ground-breaking work was just that, a start.

Naturally the vast amount of material on the English revolution that Professor Hill wrote about in his long career from the religious and literary interpretations of the Bible, the infant democratic political struggles by the Levellers and Diggers, the embryonic emergence of primitive communist doctrine around the figure of Gerrard Winstanley, the unraveling of the myriad religious sects and quasi-sects from Quakers to Shakers, the reaction against the plebeian masses in the post-Restoration period under the guidance of Charles II, and above all, the place of poet and revolutionary propagandist, John Milton, in the scheme of Commonwealth politics and the literature of defeat begged for more work. And Professor Underdown’s work here reflects one aspect of that scheme. Here the good professor looks at popular politics at a level below the surface and in more localized detail that Professor Hill only got a chance to sketch out.

Revolutions, as a rule, produce more varied and exotic ideas in a short period than are produced in decades during less turbulent times. Some of the more outlandish ones never even see the light of day during peaceful times. Thus, Professor Underdown’s task would have been rather daunting if he hadn’t limited his investigation to a few counties, and those in a particular geographic area that permits both a close analysis of why one side or the other went with Parliament or the crown and of the thinking of the plebeian masses. Moreover, he has grounded his work in an understanding of the way inhabitants of different locales (forest lands, arable land, urban clothing-producing areas, etc.) created there own political traditions from church-ales, to “skimmingtons”, to all manner of local customs, church-based or secular, including popular sports. This work is not for a reader who is not already somewhat familiar with the period of the English revolution. If you are not go read a little of Professor Hill then come back here for an in-depth view of what the fuss was all about.

From The New America Foundation- "The Year Of The Drone"

Click on the headline to link to a "The New America Foundation" study on the use of drones by the American government.

Markin comment:

Usually, I do not, directly at least, post academic or private foundation-related materials on this site, although I certainly use such materials in my comments. This report, however, is worthy of inclusion as the use of "drones" and other hi-tech, non-human (and even more non-humane, as well)killing machines come to the forefront in modern warfare.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

*Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-Bruce Springsteen's "The Ghost Of Tom Joad"

Click on the title to link a "YouTube" film clip of Bruce Springsteen performing "The Ghost Of Tom Joad." Tom Joad is a central figure in John Steinbeck's classic Great Depression novel, "The Grapes Of Wrath."

In this series, presented under the headline “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here. Markin.

*Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-Pete Seeger's "Bring Them Home"

Click on the title to link a "YouTube" film clip of Pete Seeger performing his anti-Vietnam war song, "Bring Them Home."

In this series, presented under the headline “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here. Markin.


Markin comment:

This one was, and is, just way too social-patriotic for my tastes but it was, and is, a crowd-pleaser at anti-war rallies. Better to be more direct (and less tolerant)- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S.Troops and Mercenaries From Afghanistan and Iraq! Harder to sing-but more to the point.

Pete Seeger Lyrics

Bring 'Em Home Lyrics

If you love your Uncle Sam,
Bring them home, bring them home.
Support our boys in Vietnam,
Bring them home, bring them home.

It'll make our generals sad, I know,
Bring them home, bring them home.
They want to tangle with the foe,
Bring them home, bring them home.

They want to test their weaponry,
Bring them home, bring them home.
But here is their big fallacy,
Bring them home, bring them home.

I may be right, I may be wrong,
Bring them home, bring them home.
But I got a right to sing this song,
Bring them home, bring them home.

There's one thing I must confess,
Bring them home, bring them home.
I'm not really a pacifist,
Bring them home, bring them home.

If an army invaded this land of mine,
Bring them home, bring them home.
You'd find me out on the firing line,
Bring them home, bring them home.

Even if they brought their planes to bomb,
Bring them home, bring them home.
Even if they brought helicopters and napalm,
Bring them home, bring them home.

Show those generals their fallacy:
Bring them home, bring them home.
They don't have the right weaponry,
Bring them home, bring them home.

For defense you need common sense,
Bring them home, bring them home.
They don't have the right armaments,
Bring them home, bring them home.

The world needs teachers, books and schools,
Bring them home, bring them home.
And learning a few universal rules,
Bring them home, bring them home.

So if you love your Uncle Sam,
Bring them home, bring them home.
Support our boys in Vietnam,
Bring them home, bring them home.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

*General McChrystal Must Not Stand Alone- All U.S. Troops Out Of Afghanistan Now!

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for old time Marine Corps General Smedley Butler mentioned in the entry below.

Markin comment:

In the normal course of events the question of who, that is which military figure, is running an American imperial war, like that of the question of who is running the American imperial state is strictly a secondary question for anti-war activists. However, with the “Rolling Stone” magazine expose around the antics of now ex- Afghan commander, General Stanley McChrystal and his senior staff, I get a “teachable” moment. (By the way what the heck are generals and their buddies doing talking to “Rolling Stone” any way? I know that the magazine is not as of old, back in the halcyon 1960s, but still it is not exactly “Time” or “Newsweek”.) Moreover, I get a chance to once again make a fervent pitch for American (and international) withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

Although the American bourgeois republic was founded on the principle of civilian control of the military, and that principle represented an important accretion in the chain of human progress at the time, it has always been a near thing. The annals of American history are filled with leaders who became president via some military prowess, earned or otherwise. At one point it was virtually impossible to obtain presidential (or other) election if one did not have some military service under his belt, even a “desk jockey” job like ex-president Ronald Reagan.

Still there has always been a great deal of pressure, many times behind the scene, to put forward a military candidate for the role of Bonaparte, a “national savior” in times of crisis, and sometimes with far less reason than that. The case of famed Marine Corps General Smedley Butler (see link above) in the 1930s comes readily to mind. He turned the “conspirators” down flat. But there has always been a subterranean current in the military that has “pined for” a military dictatorship to solve the problems of the country. With the enormous American military budget and bloated military bureaucracy it would be bizarre if that were not the case.

That said, it brings up an important point for militant leftists and anti-war activists. Yes, we want a socialist, and eventually a communist society, but we are not blind to the practical virtues of working for our goals in a bourgeois republic rather than a military dictatorship. Thus, if an attempted military coup, or other type action, took place to threaten that status we would fight, and be front line fighters at that, in military defense of the republic. While fighting politically, and fighting hard to show that our path is better. I take the case of the Spanish revolution in the 1930s as an exemplar of that position.

Since this latest “dust-up” between the American civilian and military elites has not reached that point we are left with this. In the words of a fighting soldier, a "grunt", so eloquently quoted as having asked, after losing a buddy in a firefight in Afghanistan, the now deposed General McChrystal this question- “What are we doing here?" Here is my answer; here is the ground that I will fight on. General McChrystal must not stand alone- Obama, Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S/Allied Troops And Mercenaries From Afghanistan!

*Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-Paul Robeson's "Let My People Go"

Click on the title to link a "YouTube" film clip of singer/communist activist Paul Robeson performing "Let My People Go."

In this series, presented under the headline “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here. Markin.

Let My People Go-Lyrics

When Israel was in Egypt’s land,
Let My people go!
Oppressed so hard they could not stand,
Let My people go!


Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt’s land;
Tell old Pharaoh
To let My people go!

No more shall they in bondage toil,
Let My people go!
Let them come out with Egypt’s spoil,
Let My people go!

Oh, let us all from bondage flee,
Let My people go!
And let us all in Christ be free,
Let My people go!

You need not always weep and mourn,
Let My people go!
And wear these slav’ry chains forlorn,
Let My people go!

Your foes shall not before you stand,
Let My people go!
And you’ll possess fair Canaan’s land,
Let My people go!

*Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-Paul Robeson's "Joe Hill"

Click on the title to link a "YouTube" film clip of singer/communist activist Paul Robeson performing the labor classic, "Joe Hill."

In this series, presented under the headline “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here. Markin.


Joe Hill Lyrics-Joan Baez

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
alive as you and me.
Says I "But Joe, you're ten years dead"
"I never died" said he,
"I never died" said he.

"The Copper Bosses killed you Joe,
they shot you Joe" says I.
"Takes more than guns to kill a man"
Says Joe "I didn't die"
Says Joe "I didn't die"

"In Salt Lake City, Joe," says I,
Him standing by my bed,
"They framed you on a murder charge,"
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead,"
Says Joe, "But I ain't dead."

And standing there as big as life
and smiling with his eyes.
Says Joe "What they can never kill
went on to organize,
went on to organize"

From San Diego up to Maine,
in every mine and mill,
Where working men defend their rights,
it's there you'll find Joe Hill,
it's there you'll find Joe Hill!

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
alive as you and me.
Says I "But Joe, you're ten years dead"
"I never died" said he,
"I never died" said he.

*Paul Robeson On The Peekskill Events Of 1949

Click on the headline to link to a "YouTube" film clip of singer/communist activist Paul Robeson (and others) on the anti-communist riots at Peekskill (a place he was suppose to sing at) in 1949 during the heart of the anti-Soviet Cold War hysteria in America.

Monday, June 21, 2010

*Films to While Away The Class Struggle By-"This Is What Democracy Looks Like"- The 1999 Seattle WTO Protests

Click on the title to link to a "YouTube" film clip of the movie trailer for "This Is What Democracy Looks Like."

Recently I have begun to post entries under the headline- “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”-that will include progressive and labor-oriented songs that might be of general interest to the radical public. I have decided to do the same for some films that may perk that same interest under the title in this entry’s headline. In the future I expect to do the same for books under a similar heading.-Markin

DVD Review

This is What Democracy Looks Like, various anti-globalization demonstrators, A Big Noise Film, 2000

At one time, and maybe, as it turned out, it was just this one time in 1999 in Seattle at a WTO meeting the militant mass demonstrations organized by various components of the anti-globalization movement looked like the ‘new wave’ on the world-wide social reform curve. As this short but energetically-paced film footage (from many camera sources) makes clear an alliance between American organized labor (mainly through the middle and lower levels of some of the AFL-CIO bureaucracy but with plenty of enthusiastic rank and file worker support) and more overtly leftist environmentally-concerned organizations (in short, mainly students and their hangers-on) with a fringe of anarcho-lifestyle activists was in the making. While this film, composed of street footage of the action and released very shortly after the event, does not go into much detail about the long term prospects the footage itself does provide some of the reasons, if only accidentally, that this movement has been spinning its wheels since that time.

Look, not every movement has to start out with an explicitly socialist agenda and tactics and strategy to match. Waiting for such an occurrence, or more succinctly, waiting for such a full-blown movement to be hatched fully-formed from the embryo is not how social movements gather steam and become important in history. That said though, such social movements better end with a socialist agenda or they are doomed to that wheel-spinning mentioned above. And that is the nut of the matter here. That and the extreme provocations by the police of basically nothing more than militant (and creative) mass demonstrations. Those police reactions then, and the virtual para-military state that has been erected at subsequent sites for international capitalist economic conferences of various hues, certainly have a chilling effect on mass organizing for them. In the end only the most committed have stayed the course, as the last event in Pittsburgh in 2009 has demonstrated.

Now there is not much that we can do, currently, about the relationship of forces with that police state para-military operation so the last part of this commentary centers on what we can do, the political organizing part. What became clear throughout this film was that what looked like a conventional united front action was more a convenient convergence of a loose coalition of ultimately conflicting forces. In short, the various components had competing political agendas. The labor bureaucracy was talking jobs, protectionism, and, frankly, China-bashing as a way to deal with the crisis of the decline of the American working class’ continually eroding standard of living. The other components spoke to such issues as the downsizing of the industrial state, better protection of the environment, and living more simply, to put it simply. The anarchist fringe I never did get a sense of, as much as I like the young anarchists that I have run into. Militancy, complete with Zapata-like protective handkerchiefs over face, for its own sake has no independent virtue.

All this mixture is not mutually exclusive but what comes out glaringly is that the basic premise expressed explicitly in the title of this thing that more democracy, somewhat ill-undefined, will cure the ills of this sorry old world. Well, as much as we socialist respect the historic achievements of the bourgeois democratic revolutions that have brought humankind this far this is simply not enough. Those movements long ago ran out of steam. And at the end of the day that is what was missing in this film, that idea that we have to go beyond some merely enhanced democratic process. There was plenty of feel-good talk about community, and community-building and very little about the need to not just take over the current nation-state apparatuses and do a little tweaking to right things but to change the institutions, change them utterly. Think about that my friends, as you watch these well-meaning, courageous fighters go through their paces.

*From “The Rag Blog”- “Bob Feldman 68” Blog- A People’s History Of Afghanistan, Part Ten

Click on the headline to link to a “The Rag Blog” entry from the “Bob Feldman 68” blog on the history of Afghanistan

Markin comment:

This is a great series for those who are not familiar with the critical role of Afghanistan in world politics, if not directly then as part of the history of world imperialism. Thanks, Bob Feldman.

And, speaking of world imperialism, let us keep our eyes on the prize- Obama- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./ Allied Troops And Mercenaries From Afghanistan!

*From "The Rag Blog"- Rereading John Steinbeck's "Grapes Of Wrath"

Click on the headline to link to a "The Rag Blog" entry- "Rereading John Steinbeck's "Grapes Of Wrath."

Markin comment:

Every militant should read this Steinbeck classic, and be outraged today as well. There are plenty of Joad stories out there, except the names now include Gomez, Lopez, and Sanchez as well.

*From The "International Marxist Tendency" Website- "Where Is The Iranian Revolution Going?"-A Guest Commentray

Click on the headline to link to the "International Marxist Tendency" Website- "Where Is The Iranian Revolution Going?"

Markin comment:

No sooner had I posted a resignation statement (posted from the "Workers' Press" blog), complete with a blow-by-blow international analysis of the failings of the organization, including the split in the Iran section and here is a polemic by IMT honcho Alan Wood directed at those "former" Iranian comrades. With a classic amorphous "ebb and flow of the class struggle" defense of why his analysis of last year's upheavals as the start of the Iranian revolution was a tad bit off. More later, as I have to start paying more attention to this organization.

*From The "Workers' Press" Blog- Resignation (With Analysis) From The International Marxist Tendency (IMT)

Click on the headline to link to a "Workers' Press" Blog- "Resignation (With Analysis) From The International Marxist Tendency (IMT)."

Markin comment:

This is an interesting document from a former member of the American section of the International Marxist Tendency. Frankly, I don't know much about this organization other than of their adoration for Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, his scheme for some kind of Fifth International, and various, admittedly, interesting historical articles from their site, that IMT supporter "Renegade Eye" puts on his blog. For the IMT position on the allegations in this document, if any, click on links to that site at the right.