We wish our readers a Happy New Year, though we know that you take little joy in it, politically speaking. If we take no joy, we do sometimes find humor in President Donald J. Trump’s proclamations by Twitter, such as his claim that he is a “stable genius.” The current debate revolves around which of those two words is more ridiculous.
The question of the socialist left’s relationship to the Democratic Party has been a controversial
issue for decades, in truth, for as long as we have had the modern two-party system. At various
times the issue has been whether or not to break with the Democratic Party and construct a
socialist party or a labor party instead.
Some New Politics readers will recognize the title of this article as a paraphrase of Hal Draper’s “Two Souls of Socialism,” which appeared in New Politics in 1966. The first version, however, appeared in the socialist student magazine Anvil in 1960, just as a new generation of youthful activists was emerging, inspired to a large extent by the civil rights movement.
A Response to Kim Moody
After a huge bump in membership thanks to Bernie Sanders, and an even bigger one thanks to Donald Trump, the DSA continues to grow. Since its national convention in August, membership has increased from 25,000 to 30,000. We have known since 2011 that millennials have a more positive association with the word “socialism” than the word “capitalism”;1 Sanders gave this demographic shift from the cold war era a political expression, and DSA has given it an organizational expression. Now thousands on the left are scrambling to answer the question, “What do we do with this newfound energy?”
I first met Kim Moody some 50 years ago. He was then organizing chapters of the California-based Peace and Freedom Party as an alternative to the Democratic war machine. If memory serves, he came to Park Slope, Brooklyn, then a predominantly Irish and Italian working-class neighborhood—not the gentrified picture from House Beautiful it has since morphed into—but also inhabited by a smattering of déclassé radicals. Moody wanted to interest a few of us in taking up the electoral mantle.
Reply to Dornbush, Elliott-Negri, and Lewis
Dornbush, Elliott-Negri, and Lewis are right that ideology is not enough and an analysis of “the actual, material terrain” is necessary. Simply repeating the well-known realities of the first-past-the-post U.S. electoral system that favors the two-party duality is not such an analysis. It’s old news. Not altogether wrong, but still yesterday’s political science.
A Look Beyond the Immediate Damage
We working people live in darkening times. When the Trump presidency ends in four years—if it does—we may no longer have an organized labor movement. As one of my colleagues, Ed Ott of the Murphy Institute, the City University of New York’s labor school, said to me, “We are at the beginning of the end of the U.S. labor movement based on a partnership with capital.” We are at the twilight of an era. Labor unions and collective bargaining stand to be swept away, and with them the institutions that have sheltered us in the workplace and provided us with a modicum of job security, living wages, health insurance, and pension benefits.
United Workers Take on the Multiple Crises of Capitalism
In an era when the federal government is increasingly dominated by fossil-fuel interests that limit regulation of oil rigs and pipelines, the environmental justice movement seems to have diminished significantly.
Its Present Panorama
A civil society emerges, mainly, due to citizens’ need to actively involve themselves in the public sphere in order to address processes that impact their daily lives and affect their interests. At the heart of civil society, various social actors, with sometimes remarkable differences, group themselves around common issues that affect or interest all of them. Therefore, civil society is plural, characterized by the spontaneous organization of citizens and based on logics of autonomy, solidarity, and representation of specific identities; it is aimed at addressing collective demands, exploring solutions to issues that affect a given community, and having an impact in the public sphere.
This is the last of three articles commemorating the Russian Revolution of 1917 and analyzing its fate under Stalin. The first part, “Glorious Harbinger of a New Society: The Bolshevik Revolution,” was published in New Politics, number 62, winter 2017, and the second part, “The Tragic Fate of Workers’ Russia,” in New Politics, number 63, summer 2017.
"The socialists consider it their principal, perhaps even their only, duty to promote the growth of this consciousness among the proletariat, which for short they call its class consciousness. The whole success of the socialist movement is measured for them in terms of the growth in class consciousness of the proletariat. Everything that helps this growth they see as useful to their cause; everything that slows it down as harmful."
In June 2017, the New Politics editorial board organized an event to honor Joanne Landy. She had been diagnosed almost a year before with stage 4 lung cancer. We all knew her prognosis was very grim and thought it would be a fine thing to show Joanne, while she was still with us, how much she was loved and admired by so many, many people.
The death of Joanne Landy last October is a profound loss to the socialist and internationalist movements.
Joanne died less than a day shy of her 76th birthday, and for her entire adult life, she retained a commitment to the fight for a more democratic and more humane world, and to the politics of socialism from below.
In her award-winning book Red Rosa (2015), Kate Evans combined feminist biography, intellectual history, and appealing visuals to tell the remarkable story of Rosa Luxemburg. While much of the narrative focused on friendships, relationships, and personal struggles, Evans also conveyed a sense of Luxemburg as a theorist of capitalism, imperialism, and war.
The closing of the era when comic art specialists, not people with PhDs, wrote the outstanding and recognized works on individual artists and genres may have arrived as recently as only a few years ago. Careful biographies of artistic giants, household names (in their own eras, at least) or famed only within the field, Al Capp or Will Elder, have continued to be written by people who could rightly be called “fans”—if the title did not seem insulting. Rather than university presses, Fantagraphics or the comics series at Abrams would be a typical outlet. With each year that passes and with each swelling enrollment in a college course, the scene shifts.
The mode-of-production concept that Marx develops in Capital (although the idea is present earlier) is the essential methodological tool for understanding history, different societies, and the possibilities for social change.
Social Inequality is not for the faint-hearted. It covers the major political-economic issues of our time, from the structural changes in the economics of capitalism, to class structure, the imperialist state, and the distortions of capitalist culture. The author, a veteran scholar-activist of the New Left generation who now lives in Costa Rica,1 ends with a plea for resistance to our oligarchic “hegemon” and suggests a series of tactics to help us on the road.
IN 1942 British economist John Maynard Keynes got an advance preview of Lord William Beveridge’s report, Social Insurance and Allied Services. In it, Beveridge proposed a comprehensive system of social security that ran the gamut from full employment to national health care so as to eliminate “Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor, and Idleness” from the United Kingdom.
Ecosocialism: A Radical Alternative to Capitalist Catastrophe, while excellent and valuable in its own right, isn’t quite the introduction to “green Marxism” that one might have expected. Michael Löwy is a veteran for decades of the democratic revolutionary left in France and a frequent contributor to New Politics.
Blogs & On-Line Features
Collapsing wages, food shortages, and rampant inflation have led to growing hunger and desperation in Venezuela. Recent videos illustrate just how desperate the situation has become, as hungry people chase down livestock in the fields to butcher it for its meat, or skin dogs and cats on the streets of Caracas. Violent food-related protests have erupted in various cities around the country, and the looting of grocery stores is becoming more and more widespread. Meanwhile, thousands of Venezuelans are flooding across the borders into neighboring countries.
Looks to me that the ANSWER-IAC-UNAC rallies this weekend were a huge flop. The biggest was in NYC on April 15. The only article I could find that mentioned it was on a Chinese news service that said there was a protest of "hundreds." I saw one video of what I think was the whole crowd and it looked like 400 people. Hell, in 2003 we had hundreds of thousands.
On the return of a Marxist political economy
The path taken by political life around the globe since the end of the Cold War appears as if designed to crush the liberal optimism with which this period excitedly began. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism manifestly disturbs a concept of peace understood in terms of sovereign states. Economic disquiet persists nearly a decade after a financial crisis highlighted the epochal decline that had occurred in the world economy after the post-Second World War growth boom. American populism has seized the allegiance of vast masses, led to a spontaneous storming of Wall Street, emboldened proud neo-Nazis to take to the streets, and wracked the nerves of liberals at home and abroad as it saw Donald Trump descend an ill-advisedly gaudy escalator to the White House.
My Life in the LGBT and Labor Movements
Looking back on nearly 25 years of involvement in the LGBT movement, and 45+ years in the labor movement, I am struck by the way those paths have crossed, intertwined and separated over the long term. This arc took me into unexpected territory, where queer identities, once deeply hidden and guarded, have achieved wide mainstream acceptance and support, while organized labor, once powerful and self-confident, now struggles to maintain its existence.
On March 19th, 2018, Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi signed into law the earliest abortion ban in the United States, restricting abortions after 15 weeks in the entire state. The day after, the Supreme Court housed debate on the legality of a California law regulating speech at anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, which required that they present information about affordable abortion, contraception, and prenatal care, and to display signs saying that they are not a licensed medical clinic, in cases where they are not. This has re-ignited debate over the appropriate stance for the left to take on abortion, and whether there is space on the left for anti-abortion views.
On March 30, over 30,000 Palestinians – children, women, and men – gathered near the Gaza border with Israel. As they assembled several hundred yards away from the border fence, 18 peaceful demonstrators were gunned down by Israeli military snipers using live ammunition, with over a thousand reportedly suffering bullet wounds. Many of the demonstrators had come as whole families, with picnic supplies.
An analysis - and homage - to the work of teachers
When I write for New Politics, I tag my blogs with key words. I wonder how many other Left publications include "teachers unions" under "labor" or include "education" as a separate topic and run critical analyses—as we do?
Conservatives today have been deeply critical of what is often called postmodernism. They have associated it with identity politics, political correctness, social justice warriors, relativistic “cultural Marxism” and a host of other evils. For some conservatives, post-modernism is signifies everything that is wrong with contemporary society. University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson has characterized it as “dangerous” and “radical” and dismissed important authors like Derrida as “charlatans.” The National Security Council has claimed that “postmodern cultural Marxism” (whatever that means) mobilizes opposition to Donald Trump. And right wing commentator Ben Shapiro has characterized Barack Obama the first “postmodern” President.
Review: Winning Richmond: How a Progressive Alliance Won City Hall by Gayle McLaughlin. Hardball Press, 2018.
Well before the Trump era, U.S. presidents from both major parties failed to address urban problems or made them worse. Congress, state legislatures, and governors weren't much better. The job of fighting poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation shifted to the municipal level, where activist mayors have tried to mobilize the limited resources of local government on behalf of neglected constituents and causes.
“An Orwellian destruction of meaning and words — so many absurdities; absurdities stacked on absurdities,” Alexander Reid Ross told me. Fox News had just declared him the leader of a nasty smear campaign, aided by the “far-left Southern Poverty Law Center,” that aimed to make television personality Tucker Carlson and his guests out to be “fascists.” So far, so normal, but it was the specific charge that shocked and awed the communist author who once lived in Russia: “McCarthyism,” with white nationalists’ favorite host, and those who come on his show to agree with him, the victims.
Teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky massed in their respective state capitols on April 2, to demand GOP legislatures revoke bills damaging to education passed in virtual stealth. The spark plug in Kentucky is a group of activist parents with teachers, #SaveOurSchools Kentucky. In both states the movement has been organized outside the official teachers unions, using social media as well as traditional organizing techniques of talking with colleagues and neighbors about the issues. Another struggle of teachers is simmering, near boil, in Arizona.
Teenagers in this country are under constant attack.
Whether it is their taste in music, fashion, or, it seems, simply wanting to attend classes without the fear of meeting their sudden death in a hail of bullets, there are always commentators who are willing to wag their fingers in disapproval. The demands placed on kids, when you think about it, are outrageous.
Not an April Fool’s joke. Here are the facts: Four days ago (March 29) the ultra-conservative Dean of the Montpellier University Law School was summoned to police headquarters, interrogated, hauled into court, and held over in jail for arraignment by the Chief Prosecutor – all on the complaint of nine student strikers, who claim to have been brutally assaulted with Dean Philippe Pétel’s active complicity while ‘occupying’ a school auditorium.
Well before the Trump era, U.S. presidents from both major parties failed to address urban problems or made them worse. Governors, members of Congress, and state legislators didn’t perform much better. So the difficult job of fighting poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation shifted to the municipal level, where activist mayors have tried to mobilize the limited resources of local government on behalf of neglected causes and constituents.
An unforgettable five-day Freedom Fast culminates with 2,000-strong Time's Up Wendy's March through the Heart of Manhattan!
A fast, when done in protest, is a call to arms. While eminently non-violent, it is a battle cry, issued in a whisper.