Socialism and Ecology

Socialism and Ecology

A presentation given by Franklin Dmitryev, Chicago, December 5, 2018, as part of a series on “What Is Socialism?”

“Capital…allows its actual movement to be determined as much and as little by the sight of the coming degradation and final depopulation of the human race, as by the probable fall of the earth into the sun….‘After me the flood!’ is the watchword of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation.”   –Karl Marx

“Experts point out that our [coal] supplies run for another 200 years, and it would be hard not to use them.”   –Polish President Andrzej Duda, in his opening remarks two days ago at the UN’s 24th annual climate change conference

No doubt we’ve all heard the latest reports from large bodies of scientists, one from the UN and one from within the Trump administration, which is twisting and turning every way to try to deny its own report. Unable to derail the report, Trump lackeys tried to bury it by releasing it the day after Thanksgiving when we would all presumably be too stupefied from an orgy of consumerism to notice. When this stratagem backfired, they settled on a line that the report reflected an “extreme” scenario. They did not realize that they were telling the truth for once, to the extent that the reality of the matter is an extreme scenario. As the Lead in the Sept.-Oct. 2018 N&L points out:

“Even many scientists shy away from confronting the extremity of risk faced by humanity, while the extreme risks are unthinkable to leaders of governments, corporations, media, and educational institutions. But unthinkable events keep happening, just as the 2008 economic crisis was unthinkable to most economists, politicians and business leaders.”

Both reports concluded that climate change is already wreaking havoc; that it will get worse and be very damaging to human health and the economy; that we can stop it from reaching a catastrophic level but that will take urgent, drastic action, far more than what governments and companies are taking now.

By the way, the N&L article specifically mentions how the administration of the sainted George H.W. Bush in 1989 sabotaged an international conference that had been intended to come up with a treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Over the last three decades, N&L has covered how, at one international conference after another, from the 1992 Earth Summit to the 2015 Paris Agreement, “key corporations and governments, with the U.S. at their head, downplayed information about a looming catastrophe and blocked any binding action as greenhouse gas emissions keep climbing.”

As the article details, “the current political and economic systems dominating planet earth—all of which are founded on capitalist production—have utterly failed….Over the last 40 years capitalism has again and again shown itself incapable of adequately, or even rationally, confronting climate change.”

This is not just an accident caused by the Supreme Court ordering an end to the recount in Florida in 2000, inconveniently preventing Al Gore from claiming the White House. Rather, real action on the climate has been blocked by the very nature of capitalism, a system of production for production’s sake, accumulation of capital for its own sake, as Marx showed. As our article takes up, this has been manifested in a number of interlinked ways, all of which have been exacerbated by the systemic crisis world capitalism plunged into in the mid-1970s, which has strongly shaped events since then.

Some of those ways include:

  1. Economic and political enslavement to economic growth, without which capitalism falls into recessions, job losses, impoverishment, wars and political instability.
  2. The exigency of focusing on short-term problems, enforced by competition in markets; domestic politics such as elections; wars and international relations.
  3. The overwhelming influence of the fossil fuel industries on politics, and not only of one major party.
  4. The untouchable status of the military, which by some accounts is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.
  5. The cult of climate denial, which, as our Lead article showed, well-funded and politically connected organizations and media entities have been cultivating for decades, and which forms an important part of the sabotaging of truth and the push toward fascism in the U.S., Brazil, Russia, and Europe.

The influence of the right wing comes from both ideology and the political might flowing from economic power, and the ideology flows from not only the class structure of society but the alienation inherent in capitalism, in which the machine and the economy are masters of humanity and not the other way around.

It is not only the particular ideology of the Right that poses a barrier. It is the general ideology that flows from the very nature of capitalist society, compounded by the failures and transformation into opposite of so many revolutions. The hopelessness of the many, the reticence of scientists, the denialism of economists and other ideologues—none of this can be separated from the underlying toxic ideology that there is no alternative to capitalism.

Capitalism’s abject failure to confront climate change makes urgent the sense that another world is possible. A world where workers’ control of production halts the built-in destructive direction of capitalism—and overthrows its seemingly unbreakable law of value—can in fact be built by transformative movements from below. Now we see only the tip of that transformative iceberg but its potential to erupt is fermenting. Only that sense can merge with the inevitable eruptions from below and set the stage for a unity of philosophy and revolution that can set afoot a whole new society with a new direction away from the self-destruction of humanity and toward total liberation.

What kind of socialism could set that new direction? Clearly, it must be based on the self-activity of the individuals, including the workers, Black masses and other people of color, women, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities. And that can truly happen only on the basis of a revolutionary change in which that very self-activity is the driving force, and in its very nature drives to break down the division between mental and manual labor. Only that can halt the direction toward ever more accumulation of capital, ever more alienation, ever more destruction of the environment and people, and endless manipulation of policies and misinformation by vested interests.

The history of so-called Communist or socialist or social-democratic states shows clearly that that cannot be accomplished by means of market strategies, state planning, or nationalization, including “public ownership” or “democratic control” of corporations. There is scope within the existing system to shift toward renewable energy and environmentally sound land use and away from greenhouse gas emissions. And those kinds of steps are urgent and necessary. But none of that can reverse the fundamental direction of capitalism’s production for production’s sake.

Let’s dig into this more by looking at Marx’s analysis, as comprehended by Marxist-Humanism. (See the analysis in Marxism and Freedom by Raya Dunayevskaya.) The character of the labor process is crucial. In the capitalist factory, the machine dominates the worker, and the worker acts as an appendage to the mechanism. Marx calls it the dialectical inversion of subject and object, where the object dominates the subject.

This dialectical inversion is inscribed in a hidden form in the phenomenon of value. We are not talking about value in a moral or psychological sense but in the capitalist economic sense. Under capitalism, the driving motive of decisions about production, its speed, its technology, even its location, is maximizing production of value–or, to be more precise, maximizing the procurement of surplus value.

Marx shows that value is the form of appearance of objectified labor under the capitalist mode of production. It is the objectification of alienated abstract labor, pounded down to one quantitative dimension of socially necessary labor time, and abstracted from all other aspects, including material aspects. It is not a theoretical construct but rather the actual basis of capitalism’s functioning. Value takes on a life of its own as the driving force of society and stands in opposition to workers, the subjects of labor.

Industry’s output of waste, including greenhouse gases, is determined by its process of production, where the needs of the subject, the worker, are subsumed by the drive of value to expand itself. The trajectory of this historical period is determined, not by humanity’s growing productive powers as such, but rather by human power in an alienated form that stifles human development as much as it creates the potential for development by expanding productivity.

The “Communist” USSR of the past and China even today have had some of the worst environmental records and by no accident subordinated themselves to the law of value. Social-democratic Norway has long been a major oil exporter. The “21st century socialism” of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador never turned away from reliance on extraction and export of fossil fuels as a path to capitalist development, as a substitute for real human development.

The fact that these countries, especially the USSR, were passed off and widely accepted as “socialist” economies led to serious illusions and deformations of theory. Green theory in general proceeds from the assumption that socialism is just as guilty as capitalism and therefore the blame lies with “industrialism,” which is abstracted from the social relations of production. In the same move it abstracts from the counter-revolution that came from within the revolution, and its transformation into opposite into state-capitalism.

Contemporary radical theory is shaped by an overwhelming consciousness of defeat, and a loss of confidence in the human power of transformation of society. That theory is grounded in the actual history of revolutions that have failed or transformed into opposite, as in Russia, China, Iran, Egypt, and so forth. However, those failures are theorized as the universal essence of human nature, so that the radical agenda becomes defined less by the need for human development than by the need to limit human activity. This retreat from revolution is developed in theory as the impossibility of any transformation that results in true liberation.

This departure from Marx is the basis of attempts like the theoretician Ted Benton’s to “green” Marxism as well as the current trend that calls itself degrowth. Whether this view is held in green theory or in ecosocialism, it is based on an uncritical identification of human power with the alienated, capitalist form of human power, as manifested in capitalist industry–and again that is reinforced by the fetishism of industry and science promulgated by official Soviet theory and echoed by theoreticians like Louis Althusser.

From this vantage point, Ted Benton argues that Marx’s philosophy adequately theorizes natural limits to human powers but that his economic theory does not. Benton is correct in seeing “transformative, productive powers of associated human beings” as central to Marx. But why pose them as the cause, rather than the solution, of social ecological problems? To Marx, the reappropriation of human powers is “the true solution of the strife between humanity and nature,” but to Benton it is just another form of “domination of nature.”

Radical theory thus places itself in stark opposition to Marx’s concept of “the development of human power as an end in itself” as the very definition of “the true realm of freedom.”

The fallacy at the heart of Benton’s concept of human powers–a concept shared by many activists and theorists–is the recognition of those powers only in an alienated shape, that is, as powers embodied in capital, as a “hostile force.” Such a theoretical concept skips over the contradiction within human power itself: human beings struggling against their domination by their own products and by the process of making these products.

Therefore, the domination of object over subject is posited as natural and eternal, rather than a social form of a specific historical stage, capitalism. What Benton has achieved is the articulation of that theoretic principle. That makes his theory represent far more than just one individual’s misinterpretation of Marx.

Paradoxically, the reaction against the destructive effects of human power out of control would only doom us to be unable to halt that destructive trajectory. That is so because the only way to take control of the consequences of human production is to wrest it from its subordination to the drive of value to reproduce itself in the rampage of production for production’s sake. That can only be accomplished by the most daring and thorough act of social revolution and abolition of capital. In this society, we do not freely control our actions, and renouncing the expansiveness of human power in its unalienated development would block the way for achieving such control. So we need to recapture Marx’s philosophy of revolution with its focus on freedom as the opposite of today’s social reality.

Crucially, as Raya Dunayevskaya pointed out, Marx had “…a conception of a new society based on expanding human forces, during a century in which the whole cultivated world thought of expanding material forces as the condition, activity, and purpose of all liberation.” (Philosophy and Revolution, p. 65.)

All this must be kept in mind when we look at the “green new deal” that has been talked about for over a decade. Now the self-described democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is its standard-bearer in Congress and Naomi Klein is one of its biggest cheerleaders. More and more people, especially young people looking at a possible nightmare future in their own lifetimes, understand the urgent need for radical action both to mitigate emissions and to adapt to climate change in a human way that is not oriented toward sacrificing many people’s well-being in favor of the rich and powerful. Their demands are reflected in the fact that the green new deal project can now get a hearing.

On the other hand, let’s recall what the original New Deal really was: an alternative to revolution. Just when the system was threatened by the unrest of workers and their disbelief in the rationality of the system, the New Deal was put forward to ameliorate the people’s suffering through state intervention and planning without changing the relations in production. The green new deal represents exactly that kind of diversion from the needed revolution.

The ideology of “no alternative to capitalism” can trap even some who intend to reject it, such as Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. Many of today’s socialists reject revolution and put forward a “democratic socialism” that is really a wish to democratize capitalism. Klein writes with an ambiguity that appears to oppose capitalism but in reality opposes neoliberalism, as if that had been a contingent political choice, and accepts the fundamental relationships of capitalism.

Just look at her Nov. 27 article in The Intercept titled, “The Game-Changing Promise of a Green New Deal.” It is a paean to the “leadership” of newly elected members of Congress, “a critical mass of politicians in power” who have supposedly created a “clear and credible political pathway that could get us to safety” based on the proposal for a Congressional committee to put out draft legislation in early 2020 to influence that year’s elections.

Similarly, this week The Nation posted an article touting the green new deal as the way to capture the youth vote. It was written by one of the young organizers of the Sunrise Movement, which held the Nov. 13 sit-in at Nancy Pelosi’s office demanding that Democratic Party leadership back the green new deal committee and pledge not to accept campaign contributions from fossil fuel industries. The piece makes very clear how much Sunrise has tied its hopes to the Democratic Party’s elected officials.

As long as we are stuck trying to tinker with the capitalist system from within, we will always run up against problems like its need for never-ending economic growth, and the way capitalists use threats to jobs to blackmail workers and communities who would try to organize against them or even regulate them. Look at how Trump exploited coal miners’ unemployment. Never mind that automation and competition from cheaper energy sources like natural gas, wind, and solar are the main reasons for the slashing of coal jobs, and environmental regulation is a relatively small factor.

Obviously Trump does not have the power to bring back coal jobs. He only has the power, amplified by the media and the social network of reactionary lies, to pretend that he will and to fool some of the miners. The absolute opposite to this manipulation is seen in the elicitation of the profoundest thoughts of coal miners in revolt against automation, in the events in West Virginia that led to the birth of Marxist-Humanism.

When automation in the form of the continuous miner was introduced in coal mines in 1949, it became one of the central issues for miners in their 1949-50 strike. (You can read all about it in The Coal Miners’ General Strike of 1949-50 and the Birth of Marxist-Humanism in the U.S. Dunayevskaya’s essay in this pamphlet is included in the new book, Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution in Permanence for Our Day.)

In that battle, the miners themselves raised the totally new question: “What kind of labor should a human being do?” With that question, according to Dunayevskaya, a new stage of cognition appeared in the economic sphere. She writes in the new book:

“…by being concerned not just with the unemployment that is always caused by new machinery, but with the unbridgeable gulf between manual and mental labor, which the continuous miner widened, they were pointing to new directions. I had for some years been developing the theory of state-capitalism, and to me the Miners’ General Strike seemed to touch, at one and the same time, a concept Marx had designated as alienated labor and the absolute opposite to it, which Marx had spelled out as the end of the division between mental and manual labor.”

What is needed today is that kind of elicitation from and listening to the workers, not just selling them a green agenda. The movement needs activity in both theory and practice that recognizes the movement from practice that is itself a form of theory and that has the vision of a totally new human society in view at all times.

The fact is that the normal functioning of capitalism involves what its ideologues call “creative destruction,” or today’s self-promoting Silicon Valley moguls call “disruption.” Jobs are destroyed as a matter of course; whole industries and communities, even regions, are devastated. Scapegoats are targeted: immigrants, other countries, unions, environmentalists. But that is how capitalism normally works, and if we allow it, its destructiveness will be turned, not against capitalism, but against those who aim to overcome it, against those who raise the question of what kind of labor human beings should do.

Consider the “gilets jaunes” or yellow vest movement in France. It was sparked by the way France’s inadequate efforts to combat climate change are basically on the backs of working people—in the first instance by raising the gasoline tax, which hurts most the people who live in rural areas or who have been forced out of the cities by high housing prices and have to commute in from the exurbs. That is, it’s being done the usual way.

There is no path to a new society or away from climate chaos as long as countering climate change is planned at the expense of working people, instead of posing the liberation of working people from capitalist exploitation and the release of full human development as the way to break the anti-environmental direction of modern society. And more than “not at the expense” of workers but, as with the coal miners’ general strike and the birth of Marxist-Humanism, with workers as thinking and acting subjects of revolt, with the full recognition of the movement from practice that is itself a form of theory and on that basis a totally new relationship of theory and practice.

Nothing less can solve the problem, and nothing less should satisfy us. We need a vision of liberation and climate justice that grasps human development and real unalienated wealth as the absolute opposite of the inhuman law of motion of capitalist accumulation. Or, as Marx put it:

“[In] the modern world…production appears as the aim of humanity and wealth as the aim of production. In fact, however, when the limited bourgeois form is stripped away, what is wealth other than the universality of individual needs, capacities, pleasures, productive forces, etc., created through universal exchange?…the development of all human powers as such the end in itself, not as measured on a predetermined yardstick?….[Where the human being] Strives not to remain something he has become, but is in the absolute movement of becoming?”

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The Green New Deal

After living through a year of climate disasters and redoubled scientific alarms, more and more people, especially young people looking at a possible nightmare future in their own lifetimes, understand the urgent need for radical action. The deadly Camp Fire that destroyed Paradise, Calif., and killed 86 people dramatically illustrated the new year-round California wildfire season. Hurricane Michael not only caused flooding in Central America and devastated part of Florida, it highlighted how Puerto Rico and Texas are far from full recovery from the previous year’s hurricanes.

The IPCC, the world’s leading body of climate scientists, stressed in its October 2018 report the need for “rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems….unprecedented in terms of scale.”

What is clearer than ever is the urgent need both to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to climate change in a human way that is not oriented toward sacrificing many people’s well-being in favor of the rich and powerful. These demands are reflected in the fact that the green new deal project can now get a hearing.

And so the phrase “green new deal” has become a litmus test for “progressive” politicians. It centers on creating a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” combined with forceful state intervention into the economy to drive a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. At the same time it is marketed as a jobs program, including extensive infrastructure redevelopment, job training and maybe even a “job guarantee program.” It also became a convenient umbrella to enfold long-sought reforms like universal healthcare and guaranteed basic income.

That sounds a lot better than what we’re suffering under now, doesn’t it? Better than the cruel doubling down on exploitation of workers and attacks on social benefits for the working poor and unemployed, denying healthcare to women, and abandoning the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria while threatening to shift funds from those real emergency situations to the manufactured “emergency” of building a wall to stop immigrants partly driven by climate change.

But the green new deal is the kind of program that co-opts movements into the state bureaucracy and waters them down. The original New Deal was supposed to be socially transformative, according to its Left supporters, but ended up de-radicalizing and bureaucratizing labor unions, throwing African Americans under the bus, and ushering in American state-capitalism. (See pp. 74-75 of Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement, by Robert Gottlieb, Island Press, 1993, for more.) The Tennessee Valley Authority displaced thousands of families, mainly poor ones, to build dams, hitting Blacks hardest. It ended up as one of the biggest boosters of nuclear energy and poisoned communities with coal-burning power plants, including the biggest coal ash slurry spill in U.S. history.

What will be left of the green new deal by the time the political process gets through with it? And how much transformative energy from below will have been diverted into something far from adequate for averting catastrophic climate change, while allowing the social system at its root, capitalism, another extension at the very time it is turning increasingly to fascism to continue its deathly grip on society?

The pivotal idea goes back decades, at least to capitalism’s crisis of the mid-1970s. The resulting mass unemployment handed capital the weapon of jobs blackmail to attack the provisional coalition between labor and environmentalists, which had formed around the harm polluting industries do to their own workers. In response, activists advocated the job-creation potential of industries like solar power and pollution control.

The same idea emerges spontaneously, over and over, from the environmentalism of the poor. In the mid-1990s, I heard an environmental justice activist from the Black Chicago neighborhood of Altgeld Gardens question the idea that there aren’t enough jobs. All he had to do was look outside his door to see all kinds of work that needed to be done, from stripping toxic lead paint to fixing up deteriorating housing.

But the idea also keeps getting appropriated by people with an administrative mentality. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, a habitual booster of neoliberal globalization, reminded the world in January that he had called for a “Green New Deal” in a 2007 column. He presents it as a technological revolution driven by government regulation, taxes and “the market,” adding, “I am a green capitalist….I wanted to recast green as geostrategic, capitalistic, economical, innovative and patriotic.”

The phrase was quickly picked up by Barack Obama’s presidential campaign as well as the 2008 book The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones, who later became President Obama’s Special Advisor for Green Jobs. Like Friedman, Jones conceived it as a government initiative in partnership with “the market.”

While the idea went nowhere in the Obama administration, the state-capitalist treatment did not kill it forever. Hundreds of young people with the Sunrise Movement held sit-ins at about-to-be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office in November and December calling for a green new deal. Many of them were high school students. Self-described democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stopped by to support the sit-ins and maintain her position as the green new deal’s standard-bearer in Congress. The age-old illusion that the Democratic Party can be pulled toward socialism once again gave that capitalist party the opportunity to co-opt it.

Consider Naomi Klein’s Nov. 27 article in The Intercept titled, “The Game-Changing Promise of a Green New Deal.” It is a paean to the “leadership” of newly elected members of Congress, “a critical mass of politicians in power” who have supposedly created a “clear and credible political pathway that could get us to safety” based on the proposal for a Congressional committee to put out draft legislation in early 2020 to influence that year’s elections. That’s right: a committee! Draft legislation that won’t be passed! To provide a campaign issue!

Even that was too much for the party, led by Pelosi. She substituted a revived committee to “study” climate change instead of a green new deal, with reduced powers. And she rejected the demand by the movement, echoed by Ocasio-Cortez, to exclude members who had received donations from the fossil fuel industry. Having received $73,000 in such donations, the new committee head, Kathy Castor, parroted the industry line that such exclusion would violate “free speech,” meaning the freedom of corporations to buy the government.

However, posing the transition to a new economy as a green new deal already contains the seeds of co-optation. Whether touted by a capitalist booster (Friedman), a social democrat (Ocasio-Cortez and Klein), or a former “revolutionary” (Van Jones had earlier belonged to the Maoist-tinged group Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement), the idea remains a state-driven revolution from above that substitutes for true social revolution from below.

Van Jones’s call for a green new deal centered on “eco-capitalism” and class collaboration. His book relies on the state as the only force that can bring in a “green New Deal.” What remained from his Maoist past was the vanguardist attitude. His view of the Subject was not the masses in motion but “the movement” as he knows it, a small group of Maoists and anarchists, or foundation-funded “social justice” and environmental groups plus entrepreneurs. That easily leads to the “eco-populist” illusion that it is possible to reconcile “green capital and ordinary people” so that “the new, green economy has the principles of diversity and inclusion baked in from the beginning” and thus reforming capitalism could “resolve the economic, ecological and social crises.”

It is no accident that the model chosen was the 1930s New Deal. (Other state-directed technology-based models have also been used: the Apollo program or moon shot, the nuclear-weapons-centered Manhattan Project; and the 1940s U.S. war economy.) Let’s correct the rewriting of history about what the original New Deal really was: an alternative to revolution. Just when the system was threatened by the unrest of workers and their disbelief in the rationality of the system, the New Deal was put forward to ameliorate the people’s suffering through state intervention and planning without changing the relations in production.

The green new deal represents exactly that kind of diversion from the needed social revolution. Instead of trying to unleash the revolutionary potential latent in revolts and movements from labor to environmental justice, those movements are channeled into collaborating with a state-capitalist project.

Consider what its proponents say. Ocasio-Cortez: “This is going to be the Great Society, the moon shot, the Civil Rights Movement of our generation.”

Evan Weber of the Sunrise Movement: “It’s also changing our conception of what government is and who it’s for.”

Liberal economist Joseph Stiglitz: “The grassroots movement behind the Green New Deal offers a ray of hope to the badly battered establishment: they should embrace it, flesh it out, and make it part of the progressive agenda.”

Labor historian Jeremy Brecher: “A Green New Deal can become a common program unifying the environmental and labor constituencies of the Democratic Party.”

Or consider how Democratic Socialists of America member Richard Smith wants to appropriate it for “ecosocialism.” In “An Ecosocialist Path to Limiting Global Temperature Rise to 1.5°,” published by System Change Not Climate Change, he proposes “a monumental mobilization around this Green New Deal and around fossil fuel nationalization” to carry out

“a strategy of rationally planned, democratically managed, wind-down and phase-out of fossil fuels and a coordinated transition to renewable energy that avoids economic collapse and guarantees reemployment for the affected workers….The only way to effect the phase-out of fossil fuels without precipitating economic collapse is for the government to nationalize the companies so we can dismantle them and redeploy their capital and labor with as little economic pain as possible….We do not call for expropriation. We propose a government buyout at fair value….”

The points on employment, economic collapse, and redeploying capital indicate that the vision remains within capitalism. If that’s not clear enough, he continues by calling for “a state-directed crash program.” What he keeps coming back to is State Plan, State Plan, State Plan, plus nationalization, as if that is what socialism means. As if we have learned nothing from the never-mentioned state-capitalist regimes calling themselves Communist, other than adding the phrase “democratically managed” to “planning.” And that democracy is so feeble that he touts the existing U.S. “regulation of public utilities” as “a working prototype”!

The fetishism of planning reaches such a fevered pitch that Smith makes a mishmash of history, putting revolutions from below and capitalist state projects on the same level as examples of plans:

“We have plenty of examples from the Paris Commune to Polish Solidarity in 1980. We have the example of FDR’s National Resources Planning Board—established by an elected president and congress.”

Just as the green new deal’s proponents glide over the history of the New Deal as a diversion from revolution, they fail to ask why the New Deal, and the whole Keynesian project, were tossed out by capitalism after its global economic crisis of the mid-1970s. They mention neoliberalism, or Reagan and Thatcher, as if they were simply an ideology that mysteriously took over by some sort of battle of wills. There is no thought that capitalism turned to this restructuring because it became mired in a deep, prolonged crisis from which Keynesianism could not rescue it.

And here we are again today, with fascism on the rise because post-Keynesian economic interventions also failed to rescue capitalism. It’s time to learn history’s actual lesson, that capitalism will throw all of humanity down into the pit of war, fascism and climate chaos if we don’t abolish it instead of trying to revitalize it with new deals and plans.

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#MeToo, Women’s Marches, International Women’s Day: Where do we go from here?

Here is a presentation given by Terry Moon to the Chicago Local of News and Letters Committees on March 19, 2018.

#MeToo, Women’s Marches, International Women’s Day:
Where do we go from here?

Terry Moon, Chicago Local of News and Letters Committees

PART I. INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2018

Women of action marching in Washington, D.C., at the Women’s March on Jan. 20, 2018. Photo: Victoria Pickering, victoriapickering.com/2018/01/womens-march-d-c/.

In the lead article in the latest issue, we wrote that during this “International Women’s Day (IWD)…women will, no doubt…increase their demands and their movement.” That was an easy prediction to make since every year since the mid-1960s—when women rediscovered their revolutionary past in that time of extraordinary confidence in the possibility of a new, truly human world—women have done exactly that every IWD since.

This year women marched the world over, in India, Pakistan, South Africa, Mexico, everywhere. In many of these marches, abortion rights were a demand, for example as in Italy, where “As thousands of students marched in Milan…one group broke off to chant slogans in front of a hospital, protesting the majority of Italian doctors who refuse to preform abortions, even though it is legal” (NYT March 8, 2018). Tonight there is only time to single out a few examples, because, in reality, we could spend the evening discussing what women did just on March 8.

In Spain over 5.3 million women joined a 24-hour strike, with hundreds of thousand joining in protests in the streets in 200 locations across the country, including blocking main roads in Barcelona and bringing traffic to a standstill. The feminist group Huelga Feminista’s manifesto, released for IWD, proclaimed: “Today we claim a society free of oppression, exploitation and sexual violence. We call for rebellion and the struggle against the alliance between patriarchy and capitalism that wants us to be docile, submissive and silent.”

Women in Turkey have for several years used the day to rage against the reactionary policies of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. This year was no exception as thousands marched in Istanbul. They were demanding an end to violence and chanted: “We won’t shut up, we are not afraid, we won’t obey” and their signs read, “When women jump it’s a revolution.” Since Erdoğan took power he has attacked women’s freedom and the very idea of feminism, pontificating that equality for women “is against human nature,” and that’s only one of his milder statements.

Philippine women came out for their rights and against President Rodrigo Duterte, making clear they consider him a fascist and a sexist. Thousands marched with signs reading “#NeverAgain to a fascist dictatorship.”

In China women students at Tsinghua University celebrated IWD with banners making fun of President Xi Jinping’s proposed constitutional amendment to scrap term limits to allow him to stay in power indefinitely. Their banners, which they did manage to get on social media sites, were quickly removed.

Women in Afghanistan rallied in Kabul, where Sima Samar spoke, saying, “Your safety represents the safety of all Afghan women,” while women in Saudi Arabia and Iraq went jogging through the streets making the point that the streets also belong to women.

In Colombia, where at least three cases of sexual abuse happen every hour, and few of the victims report it, Afro-Colombian women decided to make IWD their own. They are demanding to be recognized for their role in making peace. In Tumaco, where Afro-Colombian women marched for justice, Charo Mina-Rojas of Proceso de Comunidades Negras put it this way: “Black women in Colombia have been at the center of the struggle for Black people’s self-determination and they are today significantly leading this process. That is why Black women have been directly targeted in the last decade by violent forces looking to take or maintain control of their territories and bodies, to halt the resistance and the power that comes from that leadership.”

Poland had IWD demonstrations in several cities. The largest, over 2,000, was in Warsaw, where women distinguished themselves from their fascist-leaning government. They erected a temporary monument to Polish women fighters as a symbol of women who fought for “independence, solidarity and sisterhood.” A speaker said: “We dedicate it to Polish women, Ukrainian women, American women, Syrian women, Iranian women, refugee women, migrant women, and all women fighters.” She read from their manifesto, which demanded the right to abortion, sexual education for children, government-subsidized contraception, a ban on doctors and pharmacists denying services due to their personal beliefs, for pay equality, and for measures against domestic violence. (“Demonstrators protest in Poland on Women’s Day,” Radio Poland, March 9, 2018. http://thenews.pl/1/9/Artykul/353041,Demonstrators-protest-in-Poland-on-Womens-Day)

Lastly, the UN treats the Catholic Church as a country and Catholic women were basically expelled from it when the IWD conference of Catholic Women was thrown out of Vatican City because former Irish President May McAleese would be speaking. And speak she did: “The Catholic Church has long since been a primary global carrier of the toxic virus of misogyny. Its leadership has never sought a cure for that virus, though the cure is freely available: Its name is equality.”

 

PART II. THE BEST OF TIMES AND THE WORST OF TIMES

Just this brief look at IWD reveals the greatness of what women have done in profoundly changing the world through an incredible and sustained activism based on a humanism that runs like a revolutionary red thread through an amazing array of actions, demonstrations and statements. New this IWD was the explicitness of demonstrations challenging several countries’ leaders’ move to fascism, as in Poland, Turkey, China, Philippines and other countries including calling out the Catholic Church hierarchy. That is also what we have seen in the Women’s Marches, which were not limited to the U.S. but spread across the entire world.

The Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017, was the launch of the “resistance” to racist, sexist, heterosexist, ableist, and xenophobic fascism made so much worse by the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency. One year later, the January 20, 2018, Women’s Marches proved that the struggle continues undiminished.

The Women’s Marches, the #MeToo movement as well, and women’s creative demonstrations on IWD show how these are, in some respects, the best of recent times. The best because they show a rising, militant and multi-dimensional movement from practice that is itself a form of theory—a movement that is still growing, gaining strength and confidence. But, as we know, the dialectic can be described as self-development through contradiction, and we are seeing that self-development and we are certainly feeling and comprehending the contradictions.

In trying to figure out how to discuss those contradictions, it is clear that anyone who came to a meeting like this is aware of what is going on in this world that needs to be fought. Rather than go into depth on several of the pressing issues facing us, simply reading a few of the many, many headlines from papers and articles from just the last month, should make clear the kind of world we are facing and what women in particular are fighting against.

I’m starting with abortion, because so many of the IWD demonstrations were explicitly for women’s right to control our own bodies and because the attacks on that right are so fast and furious and completely out of control. These headlines do not take up all the attacks against women, just a selection of a little that has happened over the last month:

“Mississippi Lawmakers pass the nation’s most restrictive abortion law,” which turns out to be prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, no exception for rape or incest. “Arizona GOP ‘Trying to Make It impossible’ to Provide Abortion Care With New Rules” (TRAP rules), “Arizona Law Would Require Women to Disclose Why They Want an Abortion,” “Kentucky lawmakers want to ban a common type of abortion after 11 weeks” (D&C), “HHS Secretary Backs Trump Official Who Tried to Block Immigrant Teens From Abortion Care,” “Man Crashes Truck Into New Jersey Planned Parenthood, Injuring 3, Police Say,” “Anti-Choice Clinics Claim Their Deceptive Business Practices Are Free Speech. Will Justice Kennedy Agree?” From abortion we move to birth control: “The Trump Administration’s Backward Attitude Toward Birth Control,” “Four Big Threats To The Title X Family Planning Program: Examining The Administration’s New Funding Opportunity Announcement,” “Abstinence [only] advocate gets final say on family planning dollars.” And here are some other headlines to give a range of what is happening to women in one month’s time: “The Silence of Abused Women in Colombia,” “In Yemen, women bear the brunt of a merciless war,” “Outspoken Rio councilwoman who fought for the marginalized is shot to death; thousands mourn,” “Thousands of women, men, children raped in Syria’s war: U.N. report,” “Education Department, DeVos says false reports of sexual assault are rare.” This last one needs some explanation. She actually said that she didn’t know which was greater—the number of false accusations of sexual assault on campus or the number of campus rapes. The outrage of such ignorance from the Education Secretary is what caused her to admit the truth—which I’m sure she still does not believe despite numerous studies—that false reports of rape on campuses (and off for that matter) are rare.

 

III. CRITICS OF WOMEN’S RECENT MOVES TOWARDS FREEDOM

Many on the Left join the mainstream media in viewing—and dismissing—the Women’s Marches as merely fodder for the Democratic Party, and that does describe some of the March’s recognized organizers. But even if one stopped with bourgeois elections, what the marches represent to so many is not admiration for the Democratic Party, but a first negation of the horrific vision of the world the Republicans are determined to impose on everyone. The lead went into what those marches and the #MeToo movement actually represented. Here we want to linger at the critiques and what they reveal, not about the women in the resistance, but about those who consider themselves revolutionaries.

I’m starting, however, not with the self-identified revolutionaries, but with the French brouhaha stirred up by Catherine Deneuve. That was hardly a serious critique of either the Women’s Marches or the MeToo movement. Rather it was more of an ignorant swipe at what some French feminists perceived to be “victim feminism,” which they see as rampant in the U.S. They charged that #MeToo “serves the interests of ‘the enemies of sexual freedom, of religious extremists, of the worst reactionaries,’ and of those who believe that women are ‘separate beings, children with the appearance of adults, demanding to be protected.’” (“Catherine Deneuve and Others Denounce the #MeToo Movement,” by Valeriya Safronova, The New York Times, Jan. 9, 2018.) All anyone really needs to know what nonsense this is, is that anti-feminist-posing-as-feminist Christina Hoff Sommers—who coined the term “victim feminism”—loved the French pseudo-feminist critique. They were taken care of by women in France who are creating their own #MeToo movement there.

The American version was an opinion piece by Daphne Merkin in The New York Times of Jan. 5, who also fell into whining about “victim feminism,” writing: “even more troubling is that we seem to be returning to a victimology paradigm for young women in particular, in which they are perceived to be—and perceive themselves to be—as frail as Victorian housewives.” It seems to have passed her notice that these young women are the ones who created the #MeToo movement—especially young Black women—and who, on college campuses, created a decades-long movement that finally lighted a fire bright enough to reach the Obama presidency. Obama’s few efforts to give some backbone to Title IX are now being destroyed by Trump’s appointees, Betsy DeVos and others. But no movement is waged by women who perceive themselves as frail. Merkin’s real gripe is that some of her favorite liberal men friends turned out to be sexual harassers or worse. It is fair to make sure that those accused have some “due process,” but exactly where was the due process for women who were harassed, abused and raped? Even in court it is the woman who was raped who is put on trial.

But these critics are hardly revolutionary. How about the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), who have elevated Bob Avakian to god status? Their contribution, “The #MeToo Movement: Keeping Our Eyes on the Prize,” begins hopefully: “A very righteous mass upsurge has broke out around a key fault-line issue of this, and all prior, class societies. Sexual harassment and sexual assault is a problem going back millennia, and a problem which is totally pervasive, including on a global scale.” Like me, are you waiting for the “but”?

Perhaps not surprisingly, the RCP sounds like the liberals. They are very worried that there are “few distinctions being drawn between different kinds of instances of sexual harassment and assault”; and that it’s not understood that those who engage in “Al Franken-like sexist pranks or even drunken groping at a party in front of other people are not on the same level as the behavior of someone who uses his position of power over livelihoods and careers…” They make the widespread claim that “any and all allegations and accusations (are) being automatically treated as proven fact…” This is, of course, not true. What is being treated as fact—at least by some and except, it seems, when it comes to Trump—is when two, three, four and more women are coming forward with claims of sexual harassment or worse against the same man. That many men are immediately leaving jobs, sometimes even before they are named, is because the truth is finally being articulated and actually heard. But again, one has to ask, where was all this concern for truth, for due process, for women? You know, those who had to sign non-disclosure agreements, etc.? The RCP asks along with the bourgeoisie: “Then there are all the questions of due process and protecting the rights of the individuals who may be falsely accused.” Then here comes the “buts”: after saying that in any “righteous mass upsurge…there will be excesses and wrong things on the part of the masses…But that doesn’t mean that ‘excesses’ and wrong persecutions or denials of individual rights are somehow OK. It’s not OK…” And even though the RCP admits that “a mass upsurge and mass revulsion against all this is much needed…But,” they must say, “this should be done correctly, with the right standards and the right methods and the right epistemology.”

They never quite spell that out except to say in Maoist language: “This contradiction (sexual harassment and sexual assault)—which truly stems from the workings of this system—nevertheless often, or even typically, manifests as a contradiction among the people.” So we’re back to the usual leftist task for women. Don’t fight sexism, don’t fight men. No matter how “righteous” that may appear. The real righteousness is against the “system,” that is capitalism.

Another pontificating leftist is Amir Khafagy, who published his piece in Counterpunch, but also publishes in The Socialist, the official publication of the Socialist Party USA. He “self-describes” himself as an “Arab-Rican… activist… writer…[and] spoken word artist.” He wrote a piece titled, “Marching into the Arms of the Democrats” (Counterpunch.org, Jan. 23, 2018). He too has to start out admitting that the Women’s March “was unprecedented and incredible…that amounted to the largest single day of protest in American history.”

And here we only have to wait until the second paragraph for the “But.” “Yet for all its admirable achievements this year’s women’s march, like last years, will probably end up, at best, selling us a bag full of hollow symbolism and at worst selling us out to the Democratic Party.” Mimicking the bourgeois critique of the Occupy movement and other mass outpourings, Khafagy whines of the 2017 Marches that “there was little in the way of providing concrete demands or even long term coordinated actions.” But he doesn’t like the plans made this year for “initiating a national voter registration drive.” It is too “vague and symbolic. Actually,” he opines, “it’s downright passive and inept.” Why? Because, “Nowhere on their website do they mention any criticism of the role of the two-party system in maintaining a capitalist economic and political system that thrives from oppression and exploitation.” In other words, they don’t take our position. They didn’t let us lead them. He goes on a tear against the leaders of the March for ignoring class and almost ignoring race while he can’t be bothered in his three-page article to mention sex or sexism or any of the issues that the leaders of the March have mentioned—not to mention the fantastic issues raised by the marchers themselves.

His elitism is throughout and his vanguard party politics becomes even more explicit in the middle of page two: “Voting itself is not powerless. It can be an effective revolutionary tool, if radical and progressive minded people were to unite and form a revolutionary peoples party or even just back third parties that already exist like the Green Party, it would radically upend the statues quo” [Sic]. The whole rest of his tirade is an attempt to tar not only the leaders but the entire March by bringing up a few real mistakes—and here I agree it was a mistake—like having anti-Palestinian speakers at two venues, which caused the Palestinian American Women’s Association to pull out of the Los Angeles March; to the ridiculous: critiquing the mammoth marches for coordinating with police, which somehow means—according to a local Philadelphia activist Khafagy approvingly quotes: March organizers “are ignoring local struggles against police terrorism, and choosing to center the bourgeoisie aspirations of white feminism.”

While marchers were majority white, those who blather that the Women’s Marches are a “white women’s march,” erase the strong and vibrant participation by women of color, disabled women, and Gay, Lesbian and Trans women. Those who participated in the marches, who talked to people there, who read the signs and who experienced the solidarity, anger and determination of those there, know firsthand the power of this movement. They are the best answer to those who aim to limit it, who disregard it or belittle it. (By the way, Khafagy lets on that he didn’t even bother to go to the 2017 March, but just watched it with his Bernie Bro while wondering “out loud to a friend that if Clinton would have won would be seeing a Woman’s March?”)

These are only two examples, but there are plenty more. If one wants to make themselves ill, read Trotskyist William Kaufman’s disgusting piece in Counterpunch titled, “The Great American Sex Panic of 2017.”

 

PART IV: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

It’s not that these critiques of the Women’s Marches and the #MeToo movement don’t have grains of truth within them—sometimes really tiny grains—but they mostly reveal what is wrong with many in the Left. They learned nothing from their ridiculous idea that voting for Clinton was the same as voting for Trump, or that it makes no difference who is elected. They simply do not comprehend what is great about these marches and the movement. All they see is that the marches are large, the movement is vibrant, and the marchers are not following them. They take no responsibility, have no self-critique, for what is a fact—much of the March, and particularly the leaders of the March, want to channel all that energy into Democratic Party politics. Despite that truth, what should not be missed, but too often is, is the vision of a new society implicit in what marchers express in words, chants and signs. An important task is to make that vision explicit. The same holds true of the #MeToo movement.

I cannot see condemning people who want to get involved in Democratic politics because they see that as an opening to stop the horrifying and deadly direction that Trump et al are moving the most powerful country in the world. What is incumbent on us is to project a different vision of the future, not one that comes out of the heads of Leftists, but begins from what is expressed by the marchers themselves and those involved in the #MeToo movement as well.

The lead ended by saying: “When something so profound as the Women’s March and the #MeToo movement emerge from below, from the movement from practice, it is incumbent on those whose vision is to create a new human world to actually hear—and make explicit—the theory, the Reason implicit in that mass outpouring. What is clear is that the demands women are making are for a very different world than the one we now inhabit. It is one where human beings are valued as human beings and that is a world it will take a revolution in permanence to create.”

Why a revolution in permanence? Partly, at least, because capitalism is not only an economic system, it generates as well a set of ideas and a vision of the world that the richest people on the globe are doing their best to make everyone’s future. Within that capitalist vision of the future is an inhuman view of what it means to be human. Dunayevskaya made explicit that Marx’s deep critique of capitalism was as well an equally deep critique of the human relationships that capitalism has wrought, of people reduced to their labor power, of an incredible alienation from the everyday acts of living and creating our world that has penetrated every aspect of life.

The Left has reduced itself to telling women to vote for the Green Party and Jill Stein, or for their Party if they want a different world; or to make sure that what they do “should be done correctly, with the right standards and the right methods and the right epistemology.” How is that a vision of the future one can get behind? Vanguardism and elitism simply recreate the alienated human relationships that exist now. Dunayevskaya made explicit Marx’s vision of becoming and recreated it for our age:

“This reality is stifling. The transformation of reality has a dialectic all its own. It demands a unity of the struggles for freedom with a philosophy of liberation. Only then does the elemental revolt release new sensibilities, new passions, and new forces—a whole new human dimension.

“Ours is the age that can meet the challenge of the times when we work out so new a relationship of theory to practice that the proof of the unity is in the Subject’s own self-development. Philosophy and revolution will first then liberate the innate talents of men and women who will become whole. Whether or not we recognize that this is the task history has ‘assigned’ to our epoch, it is a task that remains to be done.”

The Women’s Marches and the #MeToo movement have shown the world the maturity of the movement from practice. It remains for us to work out that unity of the struggle for freedom with a philosophy of liberation. We do not offer those involved in struggle the option to vote for us, to make someone our leader, or to give them the “right epistemology.” What we offer, what a philosophy of revolution offers, is a continuation of that self-development that they have already begun to experience in the throes of the movement. For what else is freedom than the experience of self-development and the movement of becoming whole human beings?

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The 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution

The 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution
Talk for the Chicago Local of News and Letters Committees
By Franklin Dmitryev, November 13, 2017

Rewriting history is one of the rulers’ most potent weapons. That rewriting goes on constantly, every day, to fit our experience into the ruling ideology—above all, that there is no alternative to capitalism.

The Russian Revolution has been subject to the most strenuous rewriting, both by the ideologues attached to the ruling class and by various tendencies on the Left, both reformist and revolutionary.

From the proof that revolution can succeed and the working class can attain power, the magnificent events of 1917 have been turned into a fable of a straight line from Lenin to Stalin. The fable’s moral is that revolution must fail, that any attempt to overthrow capitalism necessarily ends in tyranny, that a class dictatorship of the proletariat necessarily turns into the dictatorship of one party or one person against the working masses.

I want to highlight as prime determinants of the revolution the self-activity of the masses, revolutionary organization, and Marx’s philosophy of revolution, and to highlight the transformation into opposite with the dialectic of counter-revolution coming from within the revolution.

We need to understand that the February revolution (I’m using the old Julian calendar dates; to much of the world the opening date of the revolution was March 8, International Women’s Day) was made solely by the historic initiative of the masses, first of all by the women workers on International Women’s Day. As Megan Trudell put it in “The Women of 1917”:

“Women workers were firmly in the forefront of the February Revolution that culminated in the destruction of tsarism. They were not merely its ‘spark,’ but the motor that drove it forward — despite the initial misgivings of many male workers and revolutionaries….

“In the dual power situation following the February Revolution, women’s protests did not disappear but became part of the process that saw workers’ support flow from the government to the Soviet and, within the Soviet, from the moderate socialist Menshevik-Social Revolutionary leadership to the Bolsheviks by September….

“By May, antiwar protests had forced the dissolution of the first Provisional Government and Menshevik-SR Soviet leaders had formed a coalition government with liberals — still dedicated to the war. Workers’ disillusionment led to further strikes, again led by women. Some forty thousand women laundry workers, members of a union led by the Bolshevik Sofia Goncharskaia, struck for more pay, an eight-hour day, and improved working conditions: better hygiene at work, maternity benefits (it was common for women workers to hide pregnancies until they gave birth on the factory floor), and an end to sexual harassment….

“In August, faced with General Kornilov’s attempts to crush the revolution, women rallied to the defense of Petrograd, building barricades and organizing medical aid; in October, women in the Bolshevik party were involved in the provision of medical aid and crucial communications between localities, some had responsibility for coordinating the rising in different areas of Petrograd, and there were women members of the Red Guard. Jane McDermid and Anna Hillyer describe another Bolshevik woman’s involvement in October:

“ ‘The tram conductor, A.E. Rodionova, had hidden 42 rifles and other weapons in her depot when the Provisional government had tried to disarm the workers after the July days. In October, she was responsible for making sure that two trams with machine guns left the depot for the storming of the Winter Palace. She had to ensure that the tram service operated during the night of 25 to 26 October, to assist the seizure of power, and to check the Red Guard posts throughout the city.’ ”

In the midst of the February Revolution, the soviets began to form. They became an organizational expression of the masses in revolutionary motion. They countermanded orders from the provisional government, and thus a situation of dual power arose. At the same time, a number of other forms of organization like factory committees arose from below.

The October revolution (again, that is old style, corresponding to Nov. 7-8 by our calendar) was not spontaneous. It was spearheaded by the Military Revolutionary Committee, really guided by a party, and led by Trotsky. However, the insurrection was made possible by the self-activity of the masses, supported by masses, participated in by masses, and carried out with the explicit aim of transferring power to the soviets, which were democratic organizations spontaneously created by and controlled by the masses of workers, peasants, soldiers, and sailors.

What is crucial to understand is that, nevertheless, the way was paved for the success of the October revolution by Lenin’s return to Hegel’s dialectic and his break with the Second International, the international grouping of socialists, not only politically but philosophically. The most serious analysis of this is in the work of Raya Dunayevskaya, as seen in Russia: From Proletarian Revolution to State-Capitalist Counter-Revolution and in Marxism and Freedom and Philosophy and Revolution.

At the same time we need to understand what happened to that moment of liberation, the dialectic of transformation into opposite through the counter-revolution coming from within revolution. This too is most seriously dealt with in Dunayevskaya’s works, including those just mentioned and Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution. The soviets and other mass organizations were taken over and turned into organs of the state from above, first partially due to the exigencies of the civil war started by the old ruling classes and the imperialist countries, but with Stalin’s rise after Lenin’s death they were permanently and totally statified. The direction of economic development was turned around, away from improvement of the conditions of life and labor and the involvement of the toiling masses in the management of production and the state, and toward capitalist industrialization and forced collectivization of the peasants, with no freedom and no real voice for the workers and peasants. The workers’ state was transformed into a state-capitalist society.

It is not only the rulers who bury this transformation into opposite. The rulers and reformists want to discredit revolution altogether. But they have been helped by Stalinists who portrayed the resulting totalitarian state-capitalist system as if it were socialism, as if that monstrosity were the goal we should aim for. And no solution to that rewriting could be found in the Trotskyist formula that the USSR remained a workers’ state because of nationalized property and state planning. In truth, that approach evades confronting the dialectic of counter-revolution coming from within revolution. So does the doctrine of some anarchists and council communists that Russia was immediately state-capitalist the day after the October revolution, and so does the doctrine of council communists like Pannekoek that echoes the Mensheviks by claiming that Russia at that stage could only accomplish a bourgeois revolution.

Let’s take a closer look at what the October revolution was. The point was to get rid of the provisional government and put state power in the hands of the soviets. The provisional government was inhibiting the revolution, it had enabled Kornilov’s August military coup, and if left in place it would certainly have gone down the road toward outright counter-revolution. The October action was necessary to prevent a bloody counter-revolution. The provisional government’s overthrow was not proclaimed in the name of the Bolsheviks but in the name of the Military Revolutionary Committee on behalf of the Petrograd Soviet and the Congress of Soviets that was opening on that very day. In subsequent years, the soviet government became more and more entangled with the Bolshevik Party, later renamed the Communist Party, and that became problematic. It raises the thorny question of the relationship between party, workers’ state, masses, theory, and philosophy, which to this day has not been answered satisfactorily. I’ll return to this briefly later. But I want to make the point right now that the aim of the October insurrection was to put state power in the hands of the soviets, not of a party.

Much rewriting of history portrays it instead as a party coup behind the backs of the masses. To see through this falsification, it helps to keep in mind that very often Lenin and/or the Bolsheviks and/or the October revolution are stand-ins for social revolution itself. That is, to portray it as a coup is a way to discredit the very idea of revolution, or at least of social revolution that aims at a fundamental transformation of society, as against a merely political revolution. We are supposed to think revolution is illegitimate unless it is strictly self-limited, as if the sham freedoms of bourgeois republican institutions are the best we could hope for. Lenin must be criticized seriously, but only on a historically and philosophically accurate basis, and certainly not as a way to reinforce the ideology that there is no alternative to capitalism.

The failure to confront the dialectic of transformation into opposite, that fundamental contradiction—and together with it, the failure to confront the vital question of what happens after the conquest of power—has undermined Left attempts to grasp the full meaning of the revolution, and so has the disregard of the role of philosophy.

What is needed is to recover that legacy as ground for revolution today—as ground for revolution succeeding as a fundamental transformation of all social relations, establishing new relations between the sexes, breaking down racism, sexism, and heterosexism, and putting the working class in power so as to begin breaking down all class divisions, and immediately beginning to break down the division between mental and manual labor, between thinking and decision-making by part of society and doing by another part. But also as ground for what happens after revolution so that it is not transformed into opposite with a new bureaucracy taking power out of the hands of the masses and reinforcing the division between mental and manual labor.

Recovering that legacy requires fighting the rewriting of history. That is not only a question of correcting the facts, as we should understand from the past two years. It is not only to establish that I’m right and someone else is wrong, but to establish a new human society. It requires setting the truly revolutionary ground of liberation as the ground for thought and activity, and that entails being grounded in a total view, that is, philosophy.

Since we need philosophy not in an academic sense but as a guide to action in changing the world, we need a philosophy of revolution.

Recovering that legacy for today crucially includes the role of philosophy, and not just in general. You cannot understand the Russian Revolution without grappling in detail with Lenin’s philosophical preparation for it, his rethinking and break with his own philosophical past through his return to Marx’s roots in Hegel. Here again, the most serious work on this is by Dunayevskaya.

When World War I broke out, the Second International collapsed because most of its member parties supported the war, siding with their ruling classes. Lenin was so shocked that he thought it was fake news at first. But then, while the war was raging, and while he was struggling from exile in Switzerland to rally real revolutionaries around implacable opposition to the socialist betrayers and around his call to “turn the imperialist war into civil war,” at that very moment he spent days on end, for months, in the library studying Hegel. He found the revolutionary dialectic in Hegel, the transformation of reality as well as thought. It set the stage for a new approach in both theory and practice, which is seen in his subsequent major works such as Imperialism and State and Revolution and in his very approach to revolution from April 1917 onward.

Lenin’s “April Theses” revealed a fundamental clash about how to proceed. In April 1917 even most of the Bolsheviks wanted to take part in the provisional government formed after the Tsar was ousted in the year’s first revolution. That provisional government was in reality an organ of bourgeois rule continuing oppression and even the war. Lenin, in contrast, urged the party to demand all power to the soviets as a “commune state,” a new revolutionary socialist International and an end to World War I. Otherwise he threatened to quit and “go to the sailors.” Note that he acknowledged that the Bolsheviks were a minority in the soviets, but he had confidence that if the masses had power then they would learn through experience and come around to a fully revolutionary approach.

This was more than a repetition of the old split shown before the 1905 revolution between those socialists who claimed that Russia could have only a bourgeois democratic revolution, although the working class would have to carry it out, and those who viewed any such upheaval as only the first phase of what could immediately go on to socialist revolution. Before we return to 1917, I want to point out that, as against post-Marx Marxist doctrines tying revolutionary possibilities tightly to the material conditions in a society, Marx himself had a multilinear approach that rejected that kind of stagifying. One place he made that very clear is in the Preface by Marx and Engels to the 1882 Russian edition of the Communist Manifesto, which indicated that the revolution could come first in Russia, and could arise on the basis of the communal peasant social forms there, but would need to be complemented by proletarian revolution in the West.

In April 1917, on one side was Lenin, with the Bolsheviks he could persuade, demanding all power to the soviets as rule of the masses from below, vs. the rest of the Bolsheviks and other parties looking to the provisional government’s rule from above. This was immediately made very concrete as the Bolshevik slogan of “Land, Bread, and Peace” articulated the urgent demands from the masses, and the provisional government was stalling those demands. Immediately upon the October revolution, the new soviet government took concrete steps to make “Land, Bread, and Peace” real.

And yet it was only as late as August 1917, during a counter-revolutionary phase when Lenin was forced to hide, that he theoretically elaborated the thoughts in his April Theses in his State and Revolution, as guide for smashing the state and taking power.

Lenin never worked out his philosophical break as a rethinking of the vanguard party concept he inherited from the Second International, which was Lassallean rather than Marxian. And he never worked out his new findings in State and Revolution as a new concept of the party. This theoretical lacuna plus the fact that the rest of the party, including its leadership, never absorbed Lenin’s philosophical reorganization set the stage for the Trade Union Debate of 1920-21, which we can grasp in retrospect as a manifestation of the problem of what happens after the revolutionary conquest of power. This is taken up in Marxism and Freedom and in Russia: From Proletarian Revolution to State-Capitalist Counter-Revolution. We can get into it more in discussion if anyone wants to, but for now let me point out that Lenin had to bring up the concrete nature of the workers’ state as one with bureaucratic distortions, and functioning in a country with a peasant majority. He had to bring up this concreteness in battling undialectical abstractions about the workers’ state from opposite sides—Trotsky and Bukharin not recognizing why workers would need strikes and unions to protect themselves from their own workers’ state, and Shlyapnikov, Kollontai, and the Workers Opposition wanting to turn everything over to a “producers’ congress” with no substantive role for the revolutionary party. It seems to me that an additional complication is that among all strains in the party, even among the Workers Opposition, there was a tendency to assume that the party was really the organ of the proletariat, and was really the vanguard of the class. There are times in revolution when that is true of a certain form of organization, but one cannot make a fixed particular out of it and assume that it remains so. That makes it impossible to catch the transformation into opposite as it is happening.

One major obstacle to comprehending the legacy of Lenin 1917 and after is what Dunayevskaya called his “philosophic ambivalence.” Lenin’s philosophical reorganization was crucial to his leadership in the revolution, and yet his projection of the centrality of philosophy was muted at best and did not reveal the depth of his break with his own past.

What he did not rethink was the vanguard party concept, so that it remained a doctrine for all who called themselves Leninists and even became a fetish that is nothing but a barrier to revolution today. Supposedly its necessity is proved by the fact that October could not have happened without the action of the Bolshevik Party. But does that really prove the indispensability of philosophy as well as organization?

And it is today that demands our attention and action, to make real the potentiality of revolution as an act of the self-activity of the masses in motion from below and at the same time demanding the intervention of philosophy of revolution as what gives action its direction. The point is to abolish the capitalist system that is suicidally driving us toward climate chaos, nuclear war, fascism, and economic depression.

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From Trump’s trashing of women to #MeToo: Which way forward for women’s liberation?

Here is a presentation given by Terry Moon to the Chicago Local of News and Letters Committees on Dec. 11, 2017.

From Trump’s trashing of women to #MeToo:
Which way forward for women’s liberation?

–Terry Moon

INTRODUCTION

The story in The New York Times (“‘The Silence Breakers’ Named Time’s Person of the Year for 2017,” Dec. 6. 2017) about how Time magazine’s person of the year is who they dub “the silence breakers” begins by saying “First it was a story. Then a moment. Now, two months after women began to come forward in droves to accuse powerful men of sexual harassment and assault, it is a movement.” Well, no, Jonah Engel (that is the name of the man who wrote the article). First there was a movement, then there was decades of retrogression and reaction topped off by the election of the Abuser in Chief, then there was a moment—it was called the Women’s March and it was almost a year ago on Jan. 21. As part of that revitalized movement, given impetus by the Women’s March, women started speaking up and men began to fall.

When that movement first began in the mid-1960s, the Marxist-Humanist revolutionary philosopher Raya Dunayevskaya caught its essence in the category she created then: “The Women’s Liberation Movement as revolutionary force and Reason.” In her works that followed she made explicit that force and Reason in different periods, always also making explicit its relationship to Marx’s revolution in permanence. She caught the humanism that runs through over 50 years of the movement—a red thread of a different kind of revolution than had been articulated by the Left. In “The New Voices” section of Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution,” in showing how what was then the new Women’s Liberation Movement had transcended even the great organizing of the German Socialist Women’s Movement, she wrote that Clara Zetkin’s “superiority in organizing women on class lines left hidden many aspects of the ‘Woman Question,’ most of all how very deep the uprooting of the old must be” (p. 100).

The latest length of that revolutionary red thread, #MeToo, shows this truth in a different visceral way again, that revolution must deepen at every point in order to finally make the relationships we have with each other actually human relationships. Because if #MeToo shows us anything, it is that men are certainly not treating women as if they are human beings.

There is no doubt that in some ways the explosion of women coming forward with their reports of rape, sexual abuse and harassment has made an impact—first of all in the U.S., and now spreading worldwide. The clamor has exposed how many powerful men—concentrated in high-end businesses, government, and the entertainment industry—are rapists and abusers. It has revealed how so many of these men who have power over women view women and abuse that power.

But we need to keep in mind that who this information is revelatory to is not so much women—that is after all what #MeToo means—but men. That certainly includes many of those powerful men who run the media, who have kept women underrepresented as reporters, underrepresented as those who are interviewed, as those considered experts, as those whose voices have a right to be heard, as those who actually have a viewpoint that is important, an expertise that can throw light on objective events.

These media men have always been part of the problem, so much so that women staffers sat in at the so-called “radical paper” Rat in 1970 and took it over. That same year in March, over 50 women sat in at the Ladies Home Journal for 11 hours, forcing the editor to give them a section in the next issue. Our WL group in Detroit refused to talk to male reporters, forcing news stations to find a woman to interview us—often a woman who had been confined to reporting the weather. (I think of this often when watching those horrible anti-women racists women anchors on Fox News who have no idea that they owe their jobs to the Women’s Liberation Movement.) Then women began starting our own papers so we could finally have a voice. Remember: then there were no women anchors; Helen Thomas was the only woman reporter people knew; if you heard a woman’s voice on the news, she was talking about the weather.

And by the way, Time is so out of line by calling the women on the cover “the silence breakers.” Women have always been speaking out, struggling to break the silence! We have fought; we have gone to the police, who for decades treated domestic violence as nuisance calls, taking the abuser for a walk around the block to “cool off.” We have reported rapes, put up with the invasive procedure needed to collect evidence from our battered bodies and then had those rape kits pile up by the tens of thousands in police basements and storage rooms, forgotten, leaving serial rapists free to strike again and again. Women have spoken up at work against their abusers and been demoted and fired. Women in non-traditional jobs spoke out against brutal harassment by their co-workers, often to no avail. There certainly has been a “silence,” but it is not because we’ve had to wait for women to speak out.

Everything about this Time front cover pisses me off. First, they leave off the cover a picture of Tarana Burke, the founder of #MeToo. Then Time’s editor in chief, Edward Felsenthal, claims, according to The New York Times, that “the #MeToo movement represented the ‘fastest-moving social change we’ve seen in decades…’” That is only true, of course, if you ignore Black Lives Matter—another movement begun by women; or the Arab Spring for that matter.

I. From the Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017, to #MeToo

Let’s remember for a moment that fantastic march on Jan. 21 as the country faced a future ruled by the inhuman insanity that is Trumpism. We wrote then:

It meant something that the women’s marches caught fire. It wasn’t explicit that it was a humanism that brought people out, but it was implicit in all the signs calling out Trump for hate, in the insistence that we were there because we welcome immigrants and refugees, that we know in our bones that Black Lives Matter and police killings must stop and that we want justice for LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and others.

It was a beautiful day and not only because of the weather, but because of the comradeship. The march projected the kind of America Trump aims to destroy—multi-racial; multi-ethnic; tens of thousands of spirited feminists, immigrants, LGBTQ people being who they are and proud. We were united because we oppose Trump’s inhuman plans for the U.S., but also in what we were fighting for—and the “for” was also what the demonstration itself embodied: the desire for a country that is committed to the well-being of its citizens, the world’s citizens and the planet. (“Democracy in the streets votes Trump out! In Chicago,” Jan.-Feb. 2017 News & Letters)

The Women’s March was not explicitly revolutionary, but we saw that red thread within it and tried to make it explicit. Those who are misleading this country saw it too, which is why we could write in the editorial in the current issue that what “we are faced with [is] a blatant attempt to not just control women’s bodies and lives, but to crush a movement” (“Abuser-in-chief trashes women,” Editorial, Nov.-Dec. 2017 News & Letters).

While it is certainly not just the women’s movement that is under attack but all freedom movements—and especially the movement for Black liberation as seen in the demonization of the Black Lives Matter coalition—almost all of Trump’s anti-human actions affect women more and Black, poor, and minority women more than white women: from the attack on immigrants—most whom are now women and children, especially if they are from Mexico or South and Central America—to the gutting of the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act, the crippling of ACA, the elimination of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), to the planned cutting of Medicaid and Medicare, both of which serve more women than men. There is as well the appointing of rabidly racist anti-gay and anti-abortion fanatics to positions of power in agencies that have been transformed into their opposites—from entities meant to better the lives of the poor, women, people of color, LGBTQ people, children and the disabled, into agencies now dedicated to destroying any rights these people have fought for in the last 200 years and, in the process, destroying the people themselves. Furthermore, Trump et al are making sure their people-destroying polices will last for decades with the ramped up installing of dozens of Right-wing judges—some woefully unqualified but all Right-Wing fanatics of one stripe or another. To show the lengths Trump will go in order to kowtow to every whim of his racist, sexist, capitalistic base, one of his latest outrages is that his (anti-)Labor Department proposed rescinding another Obama-era rule mandating that tips belong to the servers and the owners of the restaurants cannot steal them. Of course most servers are women, many who make less than $10/hr—partly because the rationale has always been that they get tips! But since the National Restaurant Association lobbied for this takeaway from the poor, Trump wants to deliver.

It is the outrageousness of the current objective situation that has given impetus to the movement, pulling in women from several walks of life. Thus in the last few weeks we’ve heard from:

  • Women lobbyists who are in a bind because they are being raped and harassed by those who they are trying to convince to vote in a certain way and who, if they alienate, will not vote their way, and the women will also lose their jobs. As one lobbyist for NARAL said, who would care that a NARAL lobbyist had been sexually attacked?
  • In 24 hours more than 125 women artists signed an open letter condemning the publisher of an important art journal for harassment and misuse of power. When the letter was published, over 1,800 had signed, including Trans women and gender-nonconforming artists from around the world.
  • Close to 200 California women who work in local government signed a letter “denouncing a culture of rampant sexual misconduct in and around the state government…in Sacramento.” The letter complained “of male lawmakers groping them, of male staff members threatening them and of a human resources system so broken that it is unable to give serious grievances a fair hearing” (“Sexual Misconduct in California’s Capitol is Difficult to Escape,” The New York Times, Oct. 29, 2017).
  • The president of Emily’s List “said that in the 10 months before the election in 2016, about 1,000 women contacted her organization about running for office or getting involved in other ways. Since the election, she said, the number has exploded to more than 22,000.”   (“Women Line Up to Run for Office, Harnessing Their Outrage at Trump,” The New York Times, Dec. 4, 2017.)

As the movement expands, it is clear that sexual abuse is not limited to what happens on the job. #MeToo has given new life to the movements to stop childhood sexual assault. For example those struggling for 11 years to pass the Child Victims Act in New York—a Bill which would lengthen the time victims of childhood sexual assault would have to sue their attackers as well as the institution where the abuse happened, has taken on new life and urgency. As one of the Bill’s advocates, who herself had been abused as a child, said, “The people who are speaking up are famous people, with fortunes and legal teams and PR teams.” And yet for years “They were too scared to talk. So how do you expect a child to do it?” (“A New Push to Expand New York’s Childhood Sexual Assault Law,” The New York Times, Dec. 6, 2017.) Soon #MeToo will include people speaking out about incest.

#MeToo is just getting started, which is a good thing because it needs to continue to deepen.

II. #MeToo needs to also be #YesAllWomen

There is a reason that so far most of the men who have had to leave their jobs or positions of authority are clustered in the entertainment industry, politics or the academic world. It is at least partly because the women accusing them can afford lawyers. Another reason may be that, like the women artists, women who’ve been able to for once actually be heard have a network so that they can more easily organize and speak out loudly in one voice.

But what we’ve seen and read is just the tip of a huge iceberg. #MeToo has to also be for waitresses or women who work in kitchens, for house cleaners and those who work in people’s homes, migrant women jailed—for that’s what it is—in detention centers as well as women in recognized jails and prisons; and for any number of low-paid, low-status jobs that put women or men too in contact with those who have power over them.

The jobs of women who work in the fields is dependent on the overseer. If he rapes or harasses them, fighting back means you get fired or worse. Living this reality, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, an organization of women farmworkers and women from farmworker families who represent 700,000 women field workers, wrote an open letter to their “Dear Sisters,” “actors, models and other individuals” “who have come forward to speak out about the gender based violence they’ve experienced.” They wrote in part:

Sadly, we’re not surprised because it’s a reality we know far too well. Countless farmworker women across our country suffer in silence because of the widespread sexual harassment and assault that they face at work. We do not work under bright stage lights or on the big screen. We work in the shadows of society in isolated fields and packinghouses that are out of sight and out of mind for most people in this country….

Even though we work in very different environments, we share a common experience of being preyed upon by individuals who have the power to hire, fire, blacklist and otherwise threaten our economic, physical and emotional security. Like you, there are few positions available to us and reporting any kind of harm or injustice committed against us doesn’t seem like a viable option. Complaining about anything—even sexual harassment—seems unthinkable because too much is at risk, including the ability to feed our families and preserve our reputations” (“700,000 Female Farmworkers Say They Stand With Hollywood Actors Against Sexual Assault,” Time, Time Staff, Nov. 10, 2017).

They are saying that in many ways, as hard as it was for the women attacked by Harvey Weinstein and so many others like him to speak out, these women have a harder row to hoe.

Tarana Burke spoke directly to the problem the day Time announced their “Silence Breakers” cover:

Today’s announcement should be an opportunity to ask ourselves: are we really committed to the hard work of ending sexual violence.

What about young people having to break bread with their abuser at a family gathering year after year, in silence and solitude? What about women of color and transgender people, who struggle to be believed by friends, families, and those in power? What about those regularly assaulted by officers of the law, on our streets and in our jails—do they get to say #MeToo as well? Will we listen when they do?”

Burke calls for “a complete cultural transformation…build our families differently, engage our communities and confront some of our long-held assumptions about ourselves,” and actress Alyssa Milano, who brought Burke’s #MeToo to the world’s attention when she confronted her harasser, said, “I want companies to take on a code of conduct, I want companies to hire more women, I want to teach our children better. These are all things that we have to set in motion, and as women we have to support each other and stand together and say that’s it, we’re done, no more” (“‘The Silence Breakers’ Named Time’s Person of the Year for 2017,” The New York Times, Dec. 6. 2017).

But what that red thread we’ve been tracing, which is the dialectic of revolution, tells us is that we need something more total for women and others to be free. One reason that is so is because rape and sexual abuse and harassment are institutionalized, just as racism is, so it will never be enough to raise our children differently or have companies hire more women. And with Trump in office it is getting worse by the minute.

III. The institutionalization of rape, sexual abuse, harassment and so much more

There is so much that can be said here, but we can’t talk all night, so let’s just pick three things. First and briefly, is what Harvey Weinstein was able to do. The facts by now are pretty well known. He had power and money, could make or break people’s careers, and he did that whenever he felt like it. When there was actually a chance to at least bring his despicable, criminal behavior to light, the system protected him.

Despite what police who worked on the case that actress Ambra Battilana brought said, including: “We brought them a very good case,” nothing was done. Knowing that Weinstein was a serial harasser, he could have at least been arrested on third-degree sexual abuse. That might have cramped his style. But Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. would not press charges. Some prosecutors thought Vance should have prosecuted as, “‘The idea that Weinstein’s criminal intent was unprovable because of his stated “professional need” to personally inspect [Battilana’s] breasts doesn’t pass the laugh test.’” Supposedly his “professional need” to see if she wore breast implants made it OK for him to lunge forward and grab her breasts and when she protested and pushed his hands away, to persistently put his hand up her skirt and ask to kiss her, according to the police report. (“For Weinstein, a Brush With the Police, Then No Charges,” The New York Times, Oct. 15, 2017.)

Weinstein was not only protected by his money but also by his aides and his contacts, who enabled him to savage woman after woman, ruining careers and lives, changing women in ways that no one should be changed, creating events they could never forget or forgive—unfortunately often including themselves—for the rest of their lives. He is an example of someone using the institutionalization of sexism for his own ends.

The second example is different. Trump reversed an Obama order that “forbade federal contractors from keeping secret, sexual harassment and discrimination cases.” The “rule prohibited these companies, which employ about 26 million people, from forcing workers to resolve complaints through arbitration…” (“Trump Is Quietly Making It Even Harder To Report Sexual Harassement And Discrimination,” Portside, Nov. 26, 2017).

Lastly this institutionalization of rape culture, of abuse and harassment of women is clearly seen in what Trump, et al, are doing to Title IX, specifically the gutting of protection for women who have been raped and/or sexually harassed on college campuses.

The white nationalist Candice Jackson, who now heads the Education Department Office for Civil Rights, blurted out her true belief to The New York Times “that in most sexual assault investigations, there’s ‘not even an accusation that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman. Rather, the accusations—90% of them—fall into the category of “we were both drunk,” “we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right”’” (“Education Dept. Civil Rights Head: 90% of Campus Sexual Assaults Amount to ‘We Were Both Drunk,’” Time, July 12, 2017). The truth is that women don’t lie about this, false reports of rape and assault are between 2% and 10%.

The greater truth is that the Obama 2011 Dear Colleague letter was only issued because women’s decades-long battle on campuses grew large and militant enough to force some changes. Without going into details—which we can take up in the discussion—moving from a “preponderance of evidence” criterion, which the Obama letter called for, to a “clear and convincing” criterion, which is what De Vos will do, means that once again, men who rape on campus get a free pass. When women accuse a man of rape, it is often, but not always, a she said he said, and if you believe, as De Vos and Jackson do, that he is telling the truth and she is 90% of the time lying, then he gets off at least 90% of the time.

Remember the Brock Turner case? This was not a case of she said he said because two students caught Turner raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. He got a slap on the wrist sentence of six months in jail and three years’ probation. He could have been sentenced to 14 years in prison. Now—long out of jail—he’s appealing his conviction claiming he did not get a fair trial because character witnesses who would have talked of his swimming career, his school performance and honesty were excluded. Most telling is that over a third of his 172-page brief is devoted to raking his victim over the coals; concentrating on how drunk she was on the night he raped her. You would think that should give a man pause, if a woman is falling down drunk perhaps he shouldn’t try to have sex with her, but in our rape culture he is freed of responsibility while she is condemned. (“Brock Turner Is Appealing His Sexual Assault Conviction,” The New York Times, Dec. 2, 2017.)

After decades of struggle by young women—because no one else was doing a damn thing to help them—and after Obama’s Dear Colleagues letter, here is what women are still facing on some campuses.

Six women are suing Howard University for ignoring their own policy of following a 60-day timeline to address sexual assault. (The reason Howard is having so much trouble is they lack funds. That is part of why the blowback: enforcing Title IX cost money.) Jane Doe 2 first reported her rape in October 2015 and was concerned because her rapist was a resident assistant in her dormitory who had keys to her room and had stalked her for months. Howard’s Title IX coordinator, Candi N. Smiley, informed her that nothing could be done until the investigation was finished. At that time Doe 2 had sent Smiley email and text messages that backed up her claim of harassment and rape. She heard nothing from Smiley until December when Smiley asked her to resend her the emails and texts. At the end of the fall 2015 semester, after hearing nothing, she tried to drop out; was on the brink of losing her scholarship, depressed and afraid. She moved out of her dormitory to get away from her rapist, but was charged for it when the administration had told her she would not be. They also removed her Pell grant and need-based scholarship from her transcript and charged her for it, sending “her multiple notices threatening to send her to collections.” She heard nothing from them until March 2016, which was not until Doe 2 contacted Doe 1, “who had gone on a ‘storm’ on Twitter [about] how the university had similarly botched her report of rape—against the same man.” And get this, “He had transferred from the University of California…after being accused of sexual misconduct there…” It was then that the idiot Smiley asked for the third time that Doe 2 resend the text and email messages!

Finally, in April 2016, Smiley told Doe 2 that Howard had suspended her rapist for two years but, unbelievably, they didn’t tell this to Doe 1. She had reported her rape in February 2016, but didn’t hear anything from Smiley until the end of March “except for Smiley contacting Doe 1 to ask if she had been discussing the rape in text messages with her friends… Doe 1 called Smiley four times during that period with no response. Doe 1 ended up being fired from her resident assistant position “based on a report her [rapist] gave to residence life. No one ever told Doe 1 that her rapist was kicked off campus” (“Lawsuit alleges Howard University kept serial rapists on campus,” Insidehighered.com, Dec. 7, 2017.) This is what life can be like for women who are raped on campus. Who is being punished here? And remember, the worst thing that a university or college can do to a rapist is expel them. And when they do, they do what Doe’s 1 and 2’s rapist did, go to another school. That is rape culture; that is what it means to say that sexism is institutionalized. At least in part. While this sounds fantastically horrible, before women started the campus movement against rape and abuse, this kind of thing was actually very common.

IV. Where do we go from here?

The red thread we saw in the Women’s March in January has certainly not been obscured by Trumpism, only strengthened. That can be seen by the over 4,000 who found their way to Detroit to attend the Women’s Convention. That strength was seen, not so much in the leaders, or the women politicians who spoke from the dais, but in the issues women insisted on taking up, issues that reflected those addressed in the Women’s March: healthcare, global warming and environmental justice, mass incarceration, Black Lives Matter meaning police gunning down unarmed Black people, women’s right to control our own bodies, discrimination in work and in life, children and childcare, immigrants’ rights and the rights of LGBTQ people, and of course, sexual assault and harassment. Every time Betsy De Vos’ name was mentioned, everyone booed.

So on the one hand you have this red thread of humanism emerging again at the Women’s Conference; and on the other hand there is the same impulse coming from the leaders, coming from the press and also, in a way, coming from the Left, to tie this thread into a knot that is either electoral politics or vanguard partyism. The New York Times reported in a gush of wishful thinking, “Yet for all the disparate topics at this meeting, one thread ran through them all: opposition to the Trump administration and a pointed focus on elections next year” (“At Women’s Convention in Detroit, a Test of Momentum and Focus,” The New York Times, Oct. 28, 2017).

No one can be blamed for hoping that elections will throw the racist, sexist, money-hungry, anti-human Republicans out the door. Elections got us into this, so the hope is that elections may get us out. But what else is evident by leaders of the March and Convention and certainly by the elected officials who spoke at both is their drive to narrow the scope of this movement into electoral politics. What they fear is revolution. The Trump administration fears it too, thus their unrelenting attack on forces fighting for a better world, especially women.

So where we go from here, as we have done so many times before, is to fight against the narrowing of this passionate movement for a more human world, including making that fight explicit to those engaged in it. I can write this in one sentence, but it takes a philosophy of freedom and an organization of people willing to take responsibility for the idea of freedom, to make it a reality.

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Censorship: China and Facebook

China extended its pervasive state censorship, which already blocks numerous websites of foreign news organizations, social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and Google’s search engine. It ordered Cambridge University Press to sanitize its academic journal China Quarterly by excising 300 articles on issues like the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and ongoing revolts in Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong. The Press complied in mid-August but reversed course after an international outcry from anti-censorship academics, including a threatened boycott.

Capitalist corporations have great difficulty resisting China’s market of over 1.3 billion people. Many tech companies have bowed to government demands to help suppress dissent. Apple removed apps from its App Store in China that help people evade censors and monitoring. Facebook, still blocked in China, is wooing the government and has created a tool to allow a third party to block specific Facebook posts in a given country.

Facebook may itself have become the world’s biggest censor. A ProPublica report (https://www.propublica.org/article/facebook-hate-speech-censorship-internal-documents-algorithms) concluded that “at least in some instances, the company’s hate-speech rules tend to favor elites and governments over grassroots activists and racial minorities.”

While the corporate press reported with much fanfare the banning of some far right accounts from Facebook, Twitter and certain other platforms, none mentioned the years-long history of post deletions and account suspensions of left-wingers.

A Congressman posted “Kill them all” on Facebook about “radicalized” Muslims—no action taken. The neo-Nazi “Alt-Reich Nation,” one of whose members murdered Black college student Richard Collins III, is not banned.

But people who post criticisms of racism and police brutality are frequently blocked.

When journalism professor Stacey Patton asked on Facebook why “it’s not a crime when White freelance vigilantes and agents of ‘the state’ are serial killers of unarmed Black people, but when Black people kill each other then we are ‘animals’ or ‘criminals,’” the post was deleted and her account disabled for three days. When Leslie Mac posted, “White folks. When racism happens in public—YOUR SILENCE IS VIOLENCE,” her account was disabled until she got publicity.

Despite thousands of accurate complaints that user Donald Trump’s posts on Twitter and Facebook violate their policies, no action is forthcoming.

But Ukrainians, Western Saharans, and Kashmiris protesting occupations by Russia, Morocco, and India, respectively, have found themselves blocked. Palestinian groups created the hashtag #FbCensorsPalestine to show how routinely they are blocked—not only in the Middle East but in the U.S.

Despite such heavy-handed censorship, tech companies have utterly failed in their highly publicized efforts to rein in sexist, racist cyberbullying, which has excluded women and people of color from many corners of the web that by no coincidence have incubated the far right culture that expressed itself so clearly in Charlottesville, Va.

Like all technology, the web, hailed 25 years ago by some on the Left as the tool that would democratize culture and bring liberation, is a product of the society in which it was created. What happened in the Arab Spring was no “Twitter revolution” but the creativity of the masses seizing on whatever means were available to aid revolt. What gives voice to liberation is not technology but the self-activity of masses in motion and organizations based not on profit but on the philosophy of liberation.

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After the election: How do we oppose Trump’s fascism and move forward?

 

This is a talk I gave last week at the 12/7/2016 meeting of Chicago Local of News and Letters Committees

“It is the totality of the present world crisis which compels us to turn to Hegel and his Absolutes….Today we live in an age of absolutes, that is to say, in an age where the contradictions are so total that the counter-revolution is in the very innards of the revolution. In seeking to overcome this total, this absolute contradiction, we are on the threshold of true freedom and therefore can understand better than any previous age Hegel’s most abstract concepts.”

– Raya Dunayevskaya

 

I hope everyone has read or will soon read the Lead-Editorial in the new issue of N&L. I don’t want to repeat too much of it since most here have read it. It begins with the protests that began immediately after Trump’s victory in an election where his opponent got 2.5 million votes more than he did. The protests broke out all over the U.S. and in several other countries. And the resistance continues. Last Saturday, hundreds of people came from across North and South Carolina to defeat a Trump victory rally called by the KKK in Pelham, N.C. The Klan had to cancel the rally and slink home.

At the same time, the hate crimes that have spiked since the election continue to expose what Trump’s ascent is really about. Trump supporters keep painting “Make America white again,” swastikas, etc. on walls and sidewalks. Many mosques have received hate mail with exactly the same line in the hate message N&L received on our website: “Trump is going to do to the Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews.”

Internationally, what Bob McGuire called a grand world coalition of reactionaries continues to gather, with Trump and Putin vying to lead it even as they embrace each other and both lend their support to far right groups in multiple countries. Meanwhile, Francois Fillon positioned his establishment right-wing party in France to outflank the National Front by spouting just as much hate and threats toward immigrants and Muslims, and being anti-LGBTQ and pro-Putin while claiming to stand up to American imperialism.

Trump signaled his opposition to allowing human rights to have any influence on foreign policy by viewing Syria as nothing more than a platform for fighting “terrorists” hand in hand with Putin and Assad, who is busy carrying out genocide with Putin’s help. Trump reinforced this stance on human rights by warmly giving his blessing to kindred spirit President Duterte of the Philippines and his thousands of assassinations outside of the law.

We meet under the whip of counter-revolution. As the Lead says, “This election deepened counter-revolution at home and globally. There can be no doubt that it is a very serious setback for all the oppressed and for all freedom movements. What Trump represents above all is counter-revolution, and, more specifically, fascism, which is the excrescence of capitalism under threat. His rise is the index of this system’s crisis and bankruptcy of thought, which the Left has hardly met with a truly revolutionary perspective.”

Because this counter-revolution threatens the very future of humanity—and the dangers of climate chaos should be enough to make that point clear—and because its very depth and the way it has metastasized into the entire political system show that nothing short of revolution abolishing this system can break us free from this descent, Dunayevskaya’s dictum that the Absolute determines all perspectives gains new urgency.

The Lead takes up how fascism is the excrescence of capitalism under threat. The strengthening of the state is a sign of the weakness of the system, both from its internal crisis, which began in 2007 and still afflicts it; and from the unrest running the gamut from people uncertain of what kind of future their children will have economically to people gathered to block the Dakota Access Pipeline. It is no coincidence that fascism is rising at the very time that more and more people have been coming out against capitalism and speaking of socialism.

What I want to stress tonight is that fascism is a transformation into opposite of liberal democracy—a transformation coming from within its very being. It happened in Germany with the Nazis, who started out as the German Workers Party and tried to co-opt socialist workers in their rise to power. It happened in Italy with Mussolini, who started out as a socialist but turned to nationalism.

Most of the Left and liberals are so steeped in empiricism that they tend to get lost in the continuity between this administration and the next. Any Leftist who before the election was saying there was no difference between Democrats and Republicans, can say that Obama opened the door for all that Trump is going to do. They can point to many facts that show it is so, but they lose sight of how extreme the change can be. I’ve seen some confirmation bias, where those who said before that Hillary Clinton was just as bad as Trump, today point to his appointments of Wall Street fat cats and smugly say she would have done the same. Or take Chris Cutrone of the Platypus Society, in his article titled, “Why Not Trump?” He wrote:

“Trump promises to govern ‘for everyone’….There is no reason not to believe him. Everything Trump calls for exists already….Finding Trump acceptable is not outrageous. But the outrageous anti-Trump-ism — the relentless spinning and lying of the status quo defending itself — is actually not acceptable….Why not Trump? For which the only answer is: To preserve the status quo. Not against ‘worse’ — that might be beyond any U.S. President’s control anyway — but simply for things as they already are. We should not accept that.”

Besides that, some of the criticism of Clinton from the Left reveals a bizarre attitude: she is tarred with the imperialist policies of the Obama administration, as if imperialism is merely a personal attribute or a policy choice. It reminds me of what Dunayevskaya wrote in her Political-Philosophic Letter on “Lebanon: The Test not only of the PLO but the Whole Left”:

“…the New Left, born in the 1960s, so disdainful of theory (which it forever thinks it can pick up ‘en route’), has a strange attitude toward imperialism. It is as if imperialism were not the natural outgrowth of monopoly capitalism, but was a conspiracy, organized by a single imaginary center, rather as the Nazis used to refer to the Judeo-Catholic-Masonic Alliance, or Communists under Stalin to the conspiracy of the Trotskyists and Rightists in league with the imperialist secret service.

“It is such an attitude to imperialism, along with the theoretic void that has pervaded the Movement since the death of Lenin, that has led revolutionaries to collude with narrow nationalism on the ground that it is ‘anti-imperialist’ though purely nationalist. Evidently nationalism of the so-called Third World is of itself revolutionary even when it is under the banner of a king, a shah, or the emirates. Thereby they canonize nationalism, even when it is void of working class character, as national liberation.”

Today that seems to have degenerated to the point of supporting the genocidal dictator Assad, baptized a legitimately elected anti-imperialist. That viewpoint is shared by much of the Left and the far Right, as they swap conspiracy theories and erase the subjectivity of the masses whose revolts created the Arab Spring. Instead these converging elements of the Left and Right cherish the myth that the CIA started Arab Spring in order to depose Assad.

All that shows is that a portion of the Left has succumbed to this decaying system’s deterioration of thought. The system’s mental rot has led to the appointment of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as Trump’s National Security Adviser—that is, the person who is supposed to make sense of intelligence reports is a hysterical believer and spreader of absurd conspiracy theories and fake news stories. That includes the claim that chemical weapons attacks conducted by the Assad regime were actually “false flag” operations by the opposition. He claims that the Obama administration “willfully” allowed ISIS to form in order to overthrow Assad, and he claims that jihadists drive the opposition in Syria. He opposes Assad’s downfall and advocates “constructive cooperation” with Putin, whose propaganda outlet RT Flynn has worked for. This is not just about foreign policy. It is about subordinating objective facts and conditions to ideology in all spheres.

In relation to Trump, who also spreads many lies and has a tenuous relationship to reality, consider what Dunayevskaya wrote about Charles De Gaulle in March 1963: “If this is madness, as it is, it is not, however, the madness of an individual egomaniac. It is the madness of the state-capitalist age that has exuded a Mussolini and a Hitler….”

The Lead describes how the KKK-endorsed billionaire took over what used to be called “anti-globalization” by the Left, how he exploited fears of white middle-class and working-class voters that were partly about economic prospects threatened by capitalism’s unending crisis, but he played up fear and hatred of the Other—immigrants, Muslims, Latinos, Blacks, women, anybody but the straight white male.

The rural-urban divide has been exacerbated by the economic deterioration of many rural areas, but it has to do as well with the fact that they are whiter, and it’s not all about rural areas because we can’t overlook the role of the white suburban vote in pushing Trump over the top in states like Pennsylvania.

The Lead mentions how Clinton failed in challenging this. She “adopted some of Bernie Sanders’s specific proposals but remained a neoliberal ‘New Democrat,’ like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama before her. Her message that the economic crisis is past and things are getting better rang hollow for too many people, some of whom fell for Trump’s siren song on trade.

“What neither Clinton, nor Trump, nor even the socialist Sanders acknowledged is that capitalism itself, by its very nature, is always decimating existing jobs, businesses, industries, and even regions. Boosters tout this as ‘creative destruction.’ Today, parts of the middle class are falling into the working class, and previously better off workers are ending up in low-paid service jobs, the ‘gig economy,’ or unemployment.

“Being in that situation can spur someone to look to the future, to a new human society beyond capitalism, or to the past. If the power of the idea of freedom is muted, and an emancipatory vision of the future is not being articulated and heard, then a void is opened for a con man like Donald Trump to fill with a fabricated mythic past.

…Too many were willing to overlook, or were positively attracted to, a vision of the past that rolls back all the gains made by people of color, women and workers in the last century and a half—as long as its stench was perfumed by Trump’s fake promises of prosperity, such as bringing back the jobs lost in the coal and steel regions of the ‘Rust Belt’ and Appalachia.”

The Carrier deal speaks volumes. While most workers will certainly not get even this amount of attention, it’s astonishing that Trump admitted in a speech that he had forgotten about his promise to prevent Carrier from moving 2,000 jobs to Mexico until he saw on TV a recording of himself making the promise! He had also said that any company that moves jobs abroad would have to pay. After the deal, Carrier is still moving 1,000 jobs to Mexico and not paying but getting $7 million in tax breaks. The other 1,000 jobs can be moved at a later date when Trump has forgotten again. [Since I wrote this, it has become clear that Trump was lying when he claimed the deal would save 1,100 jobs in Indiana.] When it comes to coal and steel jobs, just forget it altogether.

What he will do for workers is to try to dismantle or sabotage Obamacare, Medicare, and Social Security, gut labor laws and regulations, cut taxes for the rich and social services for everyone else, and wipe out access to reproductive health services. Some wishful thinkers believe that Trump voters will automatically become disillusioned when they realize he lied to them. In contrast, the Lead argues that he will try to distract them “by attacking scapegoats, in the first instance with more mass deportations and giving the police a free hand under the cry of ‘law and order.’”

The Lead takes up how the opposite to this bankruptcy of thought can be seen in movements like Black Lives Matter—where most recently the outcry forced the Sheriff of Jefferson Parish in Louisiana to charge the killer of Joe McKnight—and the largest national prison strike in U.S. history, women’s struggles for new human relations, and Indigenous resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Though only a partial victory, it was an important victory when the movement forced the Obama administration to deny permission to build that pipeline under the Missouri River near the Standing Rock reservation—which apparently the company is still doing illegally. This is not over. The ideas underlying this movement have been powerful enough to inspire thousands of veterans to head to the Standing Rock area to protect the water protectors from the police forces who serve and protect the exploiters. Some of those veterans are planning to head to Flint to revive attention to the poisoning of the largely Black population there.

And now the Fight for 15 movement has just held protests nationwide calling for a living wage. Internationally, there is mass opposition to Trump, who scares people around the world.

Trump’s accession to power has been hailed as the end of neoliberalism. Let’s consider it more closely. The mid-1970s economic crisis, as analyzed by Dunayevskaya, was a structural change brought about by the fall in the rate of profit. The crisis led the ruling class to turn away from the Keynesian form of state-capitalism and replace it with the economic, political, and ideological restructuring that people now generally call neoliberalism, headed by Reagan-Thatcher. By the way, Pat Buchanan, an important racist demagogic precursor of Trump and rehabilitator of Nazism, was in the Reagan administration. Far from being the end of the era of state-capitalism, neoliberalism partially destroyed the welfare state, labor unions, and taxes and regulations on corporations in a successful effort to shore up the rate of profit. But large-scale state intervention in the economy never ended, as seen for example in gargantuan military spending, massive subsidies for industries such as fossil fuel, nuclear power, and agribusiness, and the vast expansion of the prison industrial complex, followed in 2008 by the bailout of Wall Street, auto companies, etc.

Trump comes in the wake of the end of neoliberalism’s temporary bolstering of the profit rate. It plunged again in 2007 and remains low historically. He represents very little change in any of the features of neoliberalism I just mentioned, except a turn toward protectionism and away from free trade. By the way, the trade agreements of the neoliberal era were about a lot more than free trade, and there is little evidence that Trump opposes the empowerment of corporations involved in them.

Just as ideology was central to Reagan-Thatcher, who famously tried to chain the masses’ minds with the dogma that “there is no alternative” to capitalism, so for Trump a never-ending priority is pushing his inchoate ideology, which he does not understand in any reasoned way but only understands in his gut. What the bourgeois press and its fact-checkers don’t get is that fascism doesn’t care about facts, science, history, reasoned arguments. What matters is the manipulative appeal to irrationality, emotions and prejudice. The Republican Party has been acting that out for years. Not only have they deliberately defunded areas of research ranging from global warming (and now Trump wants to defund NASA’s climate research) to tracking right-wing domestic terrorism, at the state and local level, most prominently the Texas Board of Education, they have mandated the teaching of lies in school to whitewash the history of racism and erase freedom movements, and they have dictated lies that doctors must tell women seeking abortion. Now Trump is going to exploit the hell out of the bully pulpit of the White House as a platform for ideology.

A little example of how he knows how to manipulate is the spectacle of reporters debating how they should report on his tweets. They are missing the point: He doesn’t care. He is bypassing the press. Twitter is his direct line to the people, as you can see from his followers repeating his lie that millions of people illegally voted for Clinton. They won’t be reading the reports debunking that lie.

The stress on ideology underscores our role in responding. I’m heartened to see people who have dropped out of politics for several years coming back because they are not going to stand for this. But ideas, philosophy, are the crucial element that would help activism achieve historic continuity, coalesce into a transformative movement, coming face to face with that enemy ideology and not just with the political moves.

In the process, we have to see how much of what the “alt-right” does is copied from the Left, as well as the decades of work that the Right has put into ideology with billions of dollars behind it and its think tanks, which were expressly founded to battle the Left in ideas, not just to lobby for corporate economic interests.

There is a tremendous temptation to get lost in first negation, opposing the terrible new reality. Part of our analysis of this situation and how it came to be is how the Left, Marxist and otherwise has, in Dunayevskaya’s words, “let the movement from practice suffocate for lack of any comprehensive revolutionary theory with which to combat” the new fascist Right.

The most prominent example of how far the movement has drifted from serious theory is a supposedly Left critique of the Democratic Party that they got caught up in “identity” rather than inequality. Bernie Sanders has articulated a version of this. Why counterpose class or economy against race, gender, sexuality? But in fact that counterposition has been around for a long time, as so much of the Left has given up on the working class in favor of “new social movements,” or stuck to a Debsian position that class is everything, while none of them actually conceive of workers as potentially self-developing Subject. Rather, the idea that the masses are backward is a dogma that is still being clung to. Only Marxist-Humanism has a concept of four forces of revolution, forces as Reason interacting in a dialectic of revolution, even if the people who make up those forces are not at every moment revolutionary. Counterposing “identity” with “inequality” is a capitulation to ideological pollution.

The fact that so many people voted for Trump is chilling, yet let’s not forget that he failed to get a majority. Even if you disregard the fact that nearly half of eligible voters did not vote, the millions of people denied the vote because of past felony convictions, the racially biased procedures used to eliminate registrations and make it harder for certain groups of people to vote, Trump still only won because of the Electoral College, which dilutes the urban vote and was invented by the Founding Fathers to inhibit democracy and protect the institution of slavery.

The reality is that Trump lost by 2.5 million votes [2.84 million votes at latest count]. Total votes for Republican candidates for the House of Representatives are perennially millions less than those for Democrats. If Senate seats were apportioned by population, Republicans would have only 45% of them after this election. And yet, once Trump’s Supreme Court pick is rubber-stamped, the minority party will have single-party control of the federal government and about half the states. That is exactly what they have been aiming for since the Tea Party wave of 2010, including their gambit of slamming the door in Merrick Garland’s face and their government shutdowns. Now that they have succeeded, they will work to cement that single-party rule by attacking voting rights, among other measures.

One aspect of it is how the power of the state can be expected to be brought to bear to repress dissent. Trump and some of his key appointments favor mass surveillance, and more powers and impunity for the police. Outside the state, the wave of hate crimes is a taste of the extralegal means that will be used.

The Lead took up some of Trump’s nominees, but New York Times columnist Charles Blow captured it with his label, “a team of billionaires and bigots.” By far the richest cabinet in history, they are Wall Street friendly and anti-Gay; anti-woman and Islamophobic; pro-racist, anti-labor and anti-immigrant. To top it off, Trump’s family and business interests will be intertwined with government like a tapeworm, heralding a new era of corruption and plutocracy, which he claimed to be campaigning against, and was described by all too many observers as a “populist.”

The shining example of Populism in U.S. history is the movement that took on the industrialists and plantation owners in the 1880s and 1890s, as described in American Civilization on Trial: Black Masses as Vanguard. It brought together workers and farmers, Black and white, in what one of its leaders described this way:

“This is not a political fight and politicians cannot lead or direct it. It is a movement of the masses, an uprising of the people, and they, and not the politicians, will direct it. The people need spokesmen, not leaders, men in the front who will obey, not command.”

Since that movement’s defeat, only fake populism gets that label, that is, demagoguery. One of the greatest examples aside from Trump is his so-called chief strategist and self-styled populist Steve Bannon. Deeply racist and sexist, he panders to white supremacists, homophobes and misogynists and has pushed many lying stories as head of Breitbart News Network. Though he is working for the biggest crony capitalist of all, this former Goldman Sachs banker believes in a dual crusade, both against crony capitalism and in what he calls “a global war against Islamic fascism.”

He claims to be leading a “revolution” for the middle class against “crony capitalism,” by which he means both state-capitalism and monopoly capitalism. (To that end, he touts “economic nationalism,” and grandiosely speaks of a “trillion-dollar infrastructure plan.” But the actual plan proposed by Trump is not a New Deal-type spending plan. Instead it would give deregulation and tax breaks to businesses to privatize infrastructure and allow them to levy fees for toll roads, water and sewage service, etc., without addressing the country’s real infrastructure needs.)

His grand illusion is that capitalism can be returned to some mythic entrepreneurial capitalism from before the Fall, when the capitalists in charge were “enlightened…Judeo-Christians.” (Without the religious element, the same delusion is held by Green reformers from the Left like Paul Hawkin.)

In order to get to that imaginary goal, any lie, any manipulation, any alliance with racists or other fanatics, is acceptable. I don’t know how he reconciles in his head that the new administration-in-waiting is filling up with corporate fat cats that he supposedly opposes as a “populist” who denounces the 2008 bailout of Wall Street. In addition to actual Wall Street tycoons, those fat cats include a number of associates of the billionaire Koch brothers, who have fought feverishly against labor unions and laws regulating wages and working conditions, against any regulation of corporations, against any action on climate change, against any restrictions on campaign funding, and so forth. (Check out George Monbiot’s Nov. 30 column, “Frightened by Donald Trump? You don’t know the half of it.”) It appears that, once again, ideology trumps facts. And no doubt Bannon and Trump share the feeling that their own grasp of power is the most important thing of all.

You can see why the Lead ends with these four paragraphs:

This must be stopped. To wait four years for another election would be to give up. That nothing short of revolution can suffice is clearer than ever, as unprecedented reaction is entrenching itself in all three branches of the government with a fascist at its head, doubling down on climate change denial and nuclear-armed militarism. Civilization’s survival is called into question unless this rotten political and economic system and its ideology are abolished.

We must fight this backward movement here and now and in doing so not disarm ourselves by failing to project the need for social transformation fundamental enough to pull out fascism’s roots in capitalism, which is intertwined with racism, sexism, heterosexism and imperialism. Let us not limit ourselves to being against this new form of fascism, or even against capitalism, but release the power of the freedom movements by aiding their unity with the philosophy of freedom for the reconstruction of society on totally new beginnings.

What Raya Dunayevskaya declared has never been more urgent: “The totality of the world crisis today, and the need for a total change, compels philosophy, a total outlook.” This is the missing link for projecting a truly revolutionary perspective.

Many in various movements are stating their resolve to keep fighting. Confidence in the power of the idea, which is at the same time confidence in the masses, is what will allow us not only to keep fighting, but to keep working at the needed rethinking, the unity of theory and practice, so that revolution can succeed and bring forth a new human society.

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