Contemporary capitalist society faces multiple crises: environmental catastrophe, proliferating wars, multiplying authoritarian governments, inequality, poverty, and failing health and education systems. Everywhere new democratic and progressive social movements continue to arise, from Ferguson, Missouri, to the Climate March in New York City, to the movement for democracy in Hong Kong. And yet, in most countries the democratic socialist left is small, weak, and divided.
Exemplars of America’s Racialized Capitalism
The killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, by police who were not indicted by grand juries in Missouri and New York, represent only the latest in a string of such police or vigilante killings—sometimes clearly murders—of African-American or Latino men.
We are living in times of great instability and crisis. Everywhere there are troubling signs of collapse: mass shootings, widespread unemployment, potentially irreversible ecological devastation, and the consolidation of wealth into fewer and fewer hands.
The fate of the socialist left is tied to that of the working class movement—and the last four decades of one-sided class war have had dire consequences for both. The thread linking today’s generation of young workers to U.S. labor’s proud history of class struggle has been effectively broken and must be developed anew. This is a daunting but necessary task for rebuilding the working-class movement.
Rebuilding a U.S. socialist left requires, first of all, coming to grips with the full magnitude of the social crisis and decline in this society.
The Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office
In the first days of August 2014, the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office brought together one hundred influential leftists from across the United States, Canada, and Europe for an “un-conference” on socialist strategies. The retreat was held at the Edith Macy Center, located in Westchester County about an hour north of New York City.
This article and its title are based on a presentation made at the Mapping Socialist Strategies Conference, hosted by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung–New York Office at the Edith Macy Conference Center, New York, August 1-4, 2014.
The Left Party is fighting for “a society in which no child has to grow up poor, in which all men and women can live a self-determined life in peace, dignity, and social security and can democratically shape social relations.” In order to achieve this, it demands “a different economic and social system: democratic socialism.”1 That is how the Lef
The origins of the Left Unity project came out of the common struggle across Europe against austerity. The specific moment was the first coordinated general strike across Europe on November 14, 2012. Many of us active on the left, already working with the anti-austerity movement across Europe, saw the need for British engagement too, and from that day onwards, Left Unity has been in development.
Historic Defeat of the Right or a Win for Post-Pinochet Neoliberalism?
“¿Qué Nueva, Qué Nueva, Qué Nueva Mayoría? ¡Si van a gobernar pa’ la misma minoría!” (“What New Majority? They’ll rule for the same old minority!”)
FEL student demonstrators
Dilma Rousseff of the Workers Party (PT) won Brazil’s presidential election on October 26, meaning that when her term ends her party will have held the nation’s top office for a remarkable 16 years, longer than any party in Brazilian history.
A View of National Electoral Politics from Brazil’s North and Northeast
Election day came lazily in Santarém, a mid-sized city and trading entrepôt at the junction of the Amazon and Tapajós rivers, the halfway point between Amazônia’s primary metropolises of Manaus and Belém. The internet was out of service in this sleepy Amazonian town, as were two out of the four major cellphone carriers, and the streets were nearly empty.
Joseph Daher is a member of the Revolutionary Left Current in Syria. He is the writer and editor of Syria Freedom Forever, syriafreedomforever.wordpress.com, a blog dedicated to the struggle of the Syrian people in their uprising to overthrow the Assad authoritarian regime and to build a democratic, secular, socialist, anti-imperialist, and pro-resistance Syria. A Ph.D. student in Development, he works as an assistant at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. He was interviewed in Geneva on October 22, 2014, by New Politics board member Riad Azar, with some email updates. For additional questions on Kobanê and Turkey, see the New Politics website here.
Statement by the Campaign for Peace and Democracy
As we write on Sunday, October 19, it appears that ISIS [Islamic State] forces have begun to retreat from their vicious assault on the Kurds in Kobanê. We hope that this is a resounding defeat for ISIS, and that it inspires a wave of grassroots resistance to ISIS throughout Syria and Iraq.
Yassin Al Haj Saleh is one of Syria’s leading political dissidents. He spent from 1980-1996 in Syrian prisons and became one of the key intellectual voices of the 2011 Syrian uprising. He spent 21 months in hiding within Syria, eventually escaping to Istanbul. He was interviewed via email by New Politics co-editor Stephen R. Shalom in early November 2014.
In 1994, Pamela Donovan and I wrote an article for the journal Social Justice called “A Mass Psychology of Punishment: Crime and the Futility of Rationally Based Approaches.” We argued that the crime issue had become in that decade—as mass incarceration grew exponentially, and while rates of violence were steadily and contradictorily declining—a key psychosocial mechanism that facilitated redirecting and displacing anger at broad inequalities felt by lower- and middle-class people, among others, onto “criminals” (who were more than likel
Those disturbed by the United States’ largest-in-the-world incarceration rate have some new reasons to be cautiously optimistic. President Obama nominated an opponent of the drug war to the Justice Department’s highest civil rights position, signaling the possibility that the costly and counterproductive imprisonment of drug users may be coming to an end.
Framing Abolitionism for the Twenty-first Century
Since the year 2000, victories claimed by death penalty abolitionists have seemed significant. In 1999, the United States executed 98 death-row inmates, the highest number since capital punishment’s reinstatement following the Gregg v. Georgia Supreme Court ruling in 1976. Subsequently, however, executions have been on the decline, with 39 inmates killed in 2013.
The editorial board of New Politics is saddened by the loss of one of our own: Betty Reid Mandell, who, with her husband Marvin Mandell, served as one of the journal’s co-editors for most of the past decade.
The most vivid and without a doubt, the most disliked (make that, hated) comic-artist critic of Jewish power plays, from Tel Aviv to Los Angeles, Eli Valley ranks high among the most Jewish comic artists anywhere in the world today.
Norman Finkelstein has made his career taking the nasty assignments. It’s been dirty work, but presumably someone had to do it: plowing through the works of Joan Peters, Daniel Goldhagen, Elie Wiesel, Alan Dershowitz, and a small army of official and unofficial Israeli state propagandists.
“My baby saw the future; she doesn’t want to live here anymore. It’s lousy science fiction, gets on your skin and seeps into your bones…”
David Byrne, Dance on Vaseline
In the mostly forgotten history of early twentieth-century movements for sexual freedom, Magnus Hirschfeld’s name is one of the most familiar—and one of the most contested. As a Jewish scientist who championed sexual deviants, he made a perfect target for the Nazis, who were tragically successful in extirpating much of his life’s work.
The idea of “voting with your pocketbook” is giving rise to a new global movement of ethical consumption. Industrial capitalism and its ills, it is thought, can be redeemed through personal consumer choices. “If only I bought the biodegradable bag of potato chips,” one may think to oneself watching a column of waste management vehicles pass on their way to the dump.
Three photographs in particular have come to define the decade-and-a-half-long U.S. military intervention in Vietnam. They show the self-immolation of a Buddhist monk, burnt children in tears as they flee an aerial napalm attack, and the Saigon police chief executing a captive in the street.
The “Russian question,” that is, the question of the nature of the Soviet Union, dominated much of Marxist debate throughout the twentieth century as first anarchists and Leninists, and later Trotskyists and Stalinists, and then Maoists argued about the economic, social, and political character of Soviet Russia (and then also of Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea).
The cartoonist Will Eisner used to say that there are two kinds of comics, entertaining and instructional. Over time, he speculated, instructional comics would become the more popular of the two, as teachers and everyone else finally figured out that comics convey information more efficiently than ordinary prose. Eisner passed away in 2005 but presumably would have regarded the past decade’s outpouring of graphic nonfiction as confirming his thesis.
Blogs & On-Line Features
Liam O’Flaherty is regarded as one of Ireland’s finest writers of the twentieth century, but before he rose to literary prominence, O’Flaherty led a little known and short lived occupation of the Rotunda Concert Hall in Dublin city just days after the formation of the Irish Free state in 1922.
Born off the coast of Galway on the Aran Island of Inis Mor in 1896, O’Flaherty served with the Irish Guards during World War I. After experiencing severe shellshock in Flanders he was discharged with a disability pension and led a somewhat nomadic life for the next few years.
The “See, we told you so!” reaction by socialists to Rahm Emmanuel's victory over Jesús "Chuy" García in the recent mayoral runoff was as predictable as it was hypocritical. Scott Jay's article in New Politics is but one example of this kind of reaction which combines self-vindication and bravado with an utter lack of awareness of Chicago's political terrain. This know-it-all know-nothingism becomes painfully obvious when Jay writes:
Eduardo Galeano, the world-renowned leftist Uruguayan journalist and writer made famous with the publication in 1971 of his book The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, died today at the age of 74 in Montevideo, Uruguay, where he lived. Long admired as a journalist, with his three-volume Memory of Fire in 1982, Galeano also became known as a writer of non-fiction prose who might be compared to writers of fiction such as Gabriel García Márquez, author of the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude or Isabel Allende who wrote House of the Spirits. Like their novels, his trilogy captures the real spirit of Latin America’s magical history.
NOTE: The original version of this article quoted a claim that no voter registration drive was conducted. Since we did not take the time to fact-check this claim before publication, the article has been altered to omit the claim. - Bruce A. Dixon
The results are in, and the truth hurts. Rahm Emanuel will sit in the mayor's office on the fifth floor of Chicago's City Hall four more years. Despite fudging police stats to make murders disappear, despite stonewalling on police torture and atrocities, despite deliberately shortening red light camera intervals to raise revenue for his buddies, despite closing and privatizing more than 50 public schools, almost exclusively in black and brown neighborhoods, than anywhere in the country, and despite his facing a solid progressive Democrat challenger, Rahm Emanuel carried every single ward in black Chicago, not by big margins, but by enough.
Chicago teachers now have one of their own on the city council. Susan Sadlowski Garza, school counselor and Chicago Teachers Union executive board member, declared victory this week over incumbent John Pope. Absentee ballots are still being counted, but signs indicate she will squeeze past by less than 100 votes.
Once again, a major election in the US has brought out the specter of lesser-evilism--the call to vote for the least bad option--and once again this strategy has been a complete failure, regardless of which candidate actually wins. Usually it is a Republican against a Democrat, although in Chicago in 2015 it was a neoliberal Democrat, Rahm Emanuel, against a slightly less neoliberal Democrat, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
The protestors marched through the streets of Los Angeles on April 7 carrying 617 coffins representing the death of 617 individuals killed by Los Angeles law enforcement since 2000. Participants convened on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors from the north, south, east, and west, staging die-ins at strategic locations along the way. Family members of those murdered along with individuals who have suffered at the hands of the LAPD delivered powerful messages of anger, hope, and sadness, urging the need for continued and escalated community response to LAPD oppression and brutality.
This article was originally written for the Swiss socialist newspaper solidaritéS for which I am a correspondent with the goal of giving activists there some sense of the recent fight for marriage equality in the United States. - DL
The U.S. gay rights movement won a tremendous victory in early April as governors and the state legislatures in Indiana and Arkansas were forced to back down and revise laws that would have discriminated against gay and lesbian couples.
A headline in a recent news story about Los Angeles teachers, calling the district’s teaching force “old and costly,” is a companion piece to the New York Times front page article about the Success Academy chain headed by Eva Moskowitz.
The strike by farmworkers in the San Quintín Valley of Baja California, which began on March 17 stopping production and shipments on 25 farms and costing the companies tens of millions of dollars, has been stalled as the Alliance of National, State, and Municipal Organizations for Social Justice (AONEMJS or Alliance) which leads the movement faces challenges from the state government, the employers, and corrupt labor unions.
Hilton Obinzenger is a poet and a long-time informed critic of Zionism and Israeli policy toward the Palestinians. His new poem, Treyf Pesach (Dirty Passover), is a blunt speaking and not unhumorous effort to ask fellow Jews how they can celebrate the slave insurrrection in Egypt millennia ago and yet be struck dumb by the Israeli government's dissembling and bloody practices toward "the stranger in our midst" today. You can read Obinzenger's smart, snappy work here, and visit his website here.
A reading list on the future of austerity in Greece, Europe and beyond
In the weeks following its historic victory in the Greek elections on January 25, 2015, Syriza has been engaged in a bitter struggle.
Dedicated to Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act
It’s encouraging that US unions are acknowledging the deep crisis facing labor and even the need for union democracy, as Labor Notes contributor Mark Brenner observes in his March 2015 column about the conference organized and hosted by the Albert Shanker Institute, an arm of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
Global Cities and Diasporic Networks in the aftermath of Syriza’s Victory
Since the pressures of international financial capital and its subservient political elites will continue with the same if not greater intensity, it is also certain that a new cycle of social mobilization in Greece and the rest of Europe will begin again.