Since Donald Trump has taken up residence in the White House, the country has faced a series of political controversies, a barrage of right-wing legislative and regulatory initiatives, a growing far-right movement, but also a broadening resistance from various sectors of society.
Donald Trump’s first six months as president of the United States has been bad in so many ways that it is hard to know where to begin.
At a distance of one hundred years, the Russian Revolution, which truly shook the world, deserves to be remembered once more in terms of its emancipatory significance and its downfall and betrayal. This revolution would not have happened had it not been for the crucial role played by the Bolshevik party. It is true that the profound crisis affecting the Russian society, worsened by the country’s disastrous participation in World War I, could have sooner or later led to a massive upheaval. But it is questionable that a socialist revolution would have taken place without the organizational skills of the Bolshevik party and the political, strategic, and tactical genius of V.I. Lenin.
An Interview with Suzi Weissman
“Revolutions are the mad inspiration of history”
Leon Trotsky, My Life
[This is the second 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 the previous issue of New Politics, number 62, winter 2017. The text below is slightly expanded from what appeared in the print issue.]
Soon after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed on March 3, 1918, the Soviet republic was under siege. Various anti-Bolshevik forces, some supported by the Allies or the Central Powers, were gathering. If these forces succeeded in reversing the October Revolution, what would be the result?
Eighty years after his death, Antonio Gramsci is among the most influential Marxist intellectuals across the board. By the end of World War II, liberal intellectuals had already found in him “a Marxist you can take home to Mother.” The tone was set by Benedetto Croce, who allegedly gushed in 1947, upon reading Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks, “He’s one of us!”1 It reached the point that the Sardinian activist can be presented today as no less than the guarantor of “Italian Democracy.”2
JUNE 2017 IS THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY of the 1967 Middle East War—the June War or, as Israelis like to call it, the Six Day War.
Why should we care today about this historical event? For one, the war—with its resulting conquests, refugees, and shifting alliances—helped define the modern Middle East and make it one of the world’s great flash points for further conflict. But there are other reasons as well why this war bears re-examination.
From February 14 to March 13, 2016, 35,000 Palestinian teachers in the West Bank government-run school system were on strike. The teachers’ goal was to hold the Palestinian Authority to the terms of a 2013 agreement between the General Union of Palestinian Teachers (GUPT) and the Ministry of Education, an agreement the Palestinian Authority had reneged on for three years running. (Ma’an News, Feb. 16, 2016)
Bolivia received global attention for its anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist social movements in the twenty-first century. Best known perhaps were the Water Wars, against water privatization, in 2000 and the Gas Wars, demanding nationalization of the gas industry, in 2003. These rebellions entailed a radical rethinking of natural resource use and distribution.
“Puerto Rico will be in a death spiral!”
With this dramatic announcement, Governor Alejandro García Padilla transformed the island nation’s long-simmering debt overhang problem into an international spectacle. A financial mess that seemingly concerned only institutional investors, municipal bondholders, and some hedge fund managers exploded into a full-blown debt crisis with disquieting parallels to the situation in Greece.
A Marxist-Humanist Review
This article aims to show that dependency theory underlines vividly the problem of examining the logic of capital independent of Marx’s concept of value. It is impossible to completely understand the essence of Marx’s critique of political economy, especially a vision of an alternative to capitalism, without grasping value as distinct from exchange value. The distinction is of vital importance, since uprooting relations of exchange cannot itself eliminate the defining principle of capitalism: abstract labor, production for the sake of value.
The Pressures, the Changes, the Potential
Capitalism in the United States and across the world has gone through a series of mind-bending crises, spatial “fixes,” and continuous restructurings that have disoriented organized labor in most of the developed economies since the beginning of the neoliberal era in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Don’t be tricked into thinking that what is going on is a debate about “free trade”—the unhindered exchange of goods—because it is not.
If you’ve seen any of the documentaries that are critical of U.S. agriculture, then you’re most likely aware of the increase in some innovative and somewhat unconventional experiments in growing food—bee hives and gardens on hospital roof tops, abandoned warehouses turned into greenhouses, farms that double as a local community’s source of fresh produce and the pizzeria.
The most radical and militant union in American history was the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), colloquially known as the Wobblies. Its active years were from 1905 to 1919, or at best until mid-1920 when it led its last major struggles—a maritime workers strike in California and a miners strike in Colorado. Fierce government repression during and after World War I, along with vigilante violence and internal divisions, dealt the IWW blows from which it never recovered. The mass industrial union movement during the New Deal passed it by. Yet, the IWW continues to exist on a small scale to this day.
In “Militant Particularism and Global Ambition: The Conceptual Politics of Place, Space, and Environment in the Work of Raymond Williams” (1995), David Harvey discusses the challenges presented by moving from place out across time. In the midst of his involvement in a participatory research project within a high-stakes local struggle against the closure of an automotive plant, he was accused of being a “free-floating Marxist intellectual,” an outsider, and he was given the “evil eye” and asked to explain “where his loyalties lay.” (71) This is in an environment where people were losing jobs, and families and communities were being destroyed.
Reading, actually looking obsessively at the pages of, this volume and non-volume inevitably brings to mind an unpublished, uncompleted 1967 essay by Herbert Marcuse, “Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz,” translated and published after his death. Here Marcuse says, in part,
In Latin America we have a saying, “Poner el dedo en la llaga,” a phrase that means to call attention to a delicate or worrisome point. However, llaga means literally an open sore or ulcer. I believe that Cuban socialist and scholar Samuel Farber puts his finger indeed on a significant sore point in revolutionary history with his latest book, The Politics of Che Guevara: Theory and Practice. While recognizing the undeniable determination, egalitarianism, and selflessness of Che Guevara in his fight against imperialism, Farber meticulously exposes the contradictions of Che’s thought and the political, economic, and social detours that Guevara took in his honest quest for a better world.
At long last
Heather Ann Thompson has written a magnificent history of the Attica Prison uprising, the deadliest prison rebellion in U.S. history. It is a long book, nearly 600 pages of text and another 150 of notes and apparatus. It’s a timely book: Attica casts its uneasy shadow over our halting steps to unwind the social catastrophe that is mass incarceration.
In the foreword to Subversive Lives: A Family Memoir of the Marcos Years, the authors write it “was not intended to be about communists and communism”—still the book provides remarkable insights into the Philippine communist movement. The book is a collective memoir of the surviving Quimpo family, relating their lives during the years of the Marcos dictatorship from the early seventies to the mid-eighties. With many of the siblings involved in the revolutionary movement, their memories furnish stories of underground organizing, imprisonment and torture, repression and resistance.
In 1996, at the height of the culture wars, Marvin Mandell joined the battle, writing a long essay, “Canon on the Left,” in which he argued that the left should not allow conservatives to claim the literary canon. While he of course supported the expansion of the canon to include all of the writers of color, as well as the women and all of the others who had been neglected and excluded, he refused to allow the right to claim the great tradition of European literature. He concluded the essay with these words:
Blogs & On-Line Features
For the third time in eight years, public sector workers in Connecticut have voted for concessions. State employees have sacrificed a total of $7 billion to close budget deficits in 2009, 2011, and now 2017.
And Appreciating My Black Body for What It Is
This work is a creative nonfiction work which highlights the imperialist white supremacist capitalist colonial gaze of the Black male body, conventional beauty standards, systemic weightism, and instances of subversion against these oppressive norms in appreciating my body for the way it is.
We need a socialism that goes beyond capitalism. And not just for moral reasons.
John Judis has all the right intentions. He’s looking at the resurgence of openly democratic socialist currents in the United States with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Excitement, because he knows how desperately the country’s workers need social reforms. Trepidation, because he worries that the new left might fall into the familiar traps of insularity and sectarianism.
Labor Day 2017 is a sobering moment for people who care about human dignity, social justice, peace, and a life-sustaining environment. While powerful elites who control government so as to safeguard capitalism are driving civilization towards barbarism and the planet to extinction, Trump’s election has spurred widespread protests. Vigorous social movements are challenging Trump’s and the GOP’s retrograde policies and politics: corrupt, xenophobic, racist, misogynist, malevolent. Sparked by Bernie Sanders’ campaign, we’re seeing a new embrace of socialism, especially among younger activists.
Juan Gonzalez. Reclaiming Gotham: Bill de Blasio and The Movement to End America’s Tale of Two Cities. New York: New Press, 2017.
There is no better role model for aspiring radical scribes than Juan Gonzalez. The country’s leading Latino journalist is cohost of Democracy Now!, a former columnist for the New York Daily News, and twice winner of the Polk Award for his investigative reporting. Not many veterans of campus and community struggles in the Sixties and workplace organizing in the 1970s later moved into mainstream journalism with such distinction, Gonzalez has managed to combine daily newspapering with continued dedication to the cause of labor and minority communities.
Let’s set the scene.
You just had dinner with your family and argued about the viability of the creation of socialism in the United States while fighting off their tired and false rebuttals of human nature as your uncle Steve got broccoli stuck in his teeth. Exhausted from the argument in a way that only your family can cause, you head to your home and get ready for bed. A notification appears on your phone that a new article from Jacobin.
In a recent article from Politico, a new poll was discussed that suggests that nearly half, 49 percent, of Trump supporters believe that he won the popular vote in the 2016 election. (He didn’t; he lost by nearly three million votes.) Spurred on by Trump’s claims that millions (!) of people voted illegally in the election, this portion of Trump’s base have been lied to and misled by a politician they think they can trust. What are we to make of this?
Just before Christmas, on December 21, 1917, a strange freighter pulled into Elliott Bay in Seattle. This vessel bore an unfamiliar flag—a red flag. This was a Russian ship, the Shilka, out of Vladivostok, Russia. Only a few weeks before, on November 7, the Bolshevik Revolution had taken place in Russia and its leader, Vladimir Lenin, proclaimed a workers' and farmers' state.
Theodore W. “Ted” Allen (1919-2005) was an anti-white supremacist, working class intellectual and activist. He developed his pioneering class struggle-based analysis of “white skin privilege” beginning in the mid-1960s; authored the seminal two-volume The Invention of the White Race in the 1990s; and consistently maintained that the struggle against white supremacy was central to efforts at radical social change in the United States. Born on August 23, 1919, in Indianapolis, Indiana, he grew up in Paintsville, Kentucky and Huntington, West Virginia and, after moving to New York City, lived his last fifty-plus years in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.
Cihan Tuğal, The Fall of the Turkish Model: How the Arab Uprisings Brought Down Islamic Liberalism (Verso, 2016).
In the short time since the 2016 publication of Cihan Tuğal’s The Fall of the Turkish Model: How the Arab Uprisings Brought Down Islamic Liberalism, Turkey has endured an attempted coup, nearly a year of rule under a state of emergency, the widespread repression of dissent through imprisonment and mass firings of teachers and civil servants, and a (likely fraudulent) referendum that has institutionalized the autocratic rule of President Tayyip Recep Erdoǧan. Yet, unbelievable as it may seem, these developments are part of a continuum rather than a rupture, and Tuğal’s book is essential—if not unproblematic—reading for understanding contemporary politics in Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa.
A well-researched article by John Eligan in the Aug. 18 N.Y. Times goes beyond denouncing the symbolic racism of Charlotteville’s Confederate statues to expose the more pernicious structural racism embedded in the separate-but-unequal physical segregation of the city. (See “In Charlottesville, Some Say Statue Debate Obscures a Deep Racial Split.”) 
Ironically, this segregation was imposed, not during the rise of the KKK in the 1920s, but during the 1960s under the progressive guise of ‘urban renewal.” It was then that the vibrant, relatively prosperous, historical black neighborhoods like Charlotteville’s Vinegar Hill were deliberately razed, left long vacant, and ultimately replaced by soulless public housing and institutional projects.
Amidst so much to read and digest about events in Charlottesville and Trump’s response to them, and what seems (but is not) a new, highly violent emergence of neo-Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacist organizations, this blog by Adam Shatz on the website of the London Review of Books seems to me one of the more eloquent, insightful analyses.
President for a Year?
President Donald Trump’s failure for two days to condemn the violent Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and "alt-right" white supremacists, one of whom murdered a woman in Charlottesville, has led to a major development as sections of the capitalist class have begun to abandon him. While some top Republican leaders have taken a stronger stand against Trump in recent days, several major corporate leaders have deserted him. They have done in part because of his flirtation with fascism, but also because Trump and his administration—his embarrassing tweets, the constant circus, the Korea war scare, the Russian imbroglio—makes it impossible for the Republicans to advance their pro-business agenda. If the relationship between Trump and corporate leaders continues to unravel, this could lead to a more rapid collapse of the Trump presidency than had previously seemed possible.
How Did We Go from the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement to the Destruction of the Syrian Revolution and the Global Rise of Racist Authoritarianism?
Comments presented at the July 14 launch of the Coalition for Peace, Revolution and Social Justice at a public meeting at the Westside Peace Center, Culver City.