The Trump administration’s fear of teenagers

Why is the Trump administration afraid of a teenager? Or, more accurately, afraid of a movement of mainly teenagers, started by Greta Thunberg when she was 15?

It’s clear they’re afraid of the effect the climate strike movement is having on the minds of humanity, since both Donald Trump and, today (Jan. 23), his sycophantic Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin attacked Thunberg at the World Economic Forum summit in Davos. Trump’s attack alone would not be conclusive evidence, since he can hardly keep from blurting out whatever gripe or self-adulation spews from his brain. But Mnuchin’s parroting Trump’s attack shows it’s on today’s agenda. The Davos crowd is no more likely to be the target of this propaganda than it is of Thunberg’s reality-based message. Rather, Davos is a stage for broadcasting to the world. And Mnuchin’s plaint shows the administration is running scared.

Mnuchin superciliously asked if Thunberg was the chief economist, and told her to go study economics in college, because apparently only economists can have a voice, despite their miserable track record. Similarly, Trump questioned her age, as if no one should listen to teenagers, and in his Davos speech he decried unnamed “prophets of doom” who had predicted various unrealized catastrophes in the past—obviously a list put together by speechwriters, since Trump knew nothing about these alleged predictions. And of course it suits him to hide the actual overwhelming consensus of climate scientists and their multiple alarming reports behind unnamed prophets of doom who never had such a scientific consensus behind them. Trump prattled, “This is not a time for pessimism,” perhaps forgetting that a large part of the climate denial crowd has switched to pessimism as their go-to message: okay, climate change is real, but it’s too late to do anything about it, so let’s not try; or it would be too disruptive to the economy, as if that won’t be disrupted far more by climate chaos.

Thunberg has ably slapped down this kind of criticism a dozen times in the past year. She points out that it is a diversion from responding to the actual science, and when the opponents start making personal attacks, it shows they can’t attack the actual argument and the facts.

Another telling fiction in Mnuchin’s speech was this: “President Trump absolutely believes in clean air and clean water and having a clean environment.” Of course, that’s a lie. Trump has rolled back an unprecedented number of environmental regulations, including today stripping protection from many streams and wetlands so that BP and other companies and farmers can dump pollutants into them, and he has slashed enforcement. Just as importantly, this reveals a deliberate red herring on Trump’s part. When asked about the climate crisis, Trump often replies (falsely) that the U.S. has “the cleanest air and crystal-clean water.” Reporters have sometimes assumed that Trump doesn’t know the difference between pollution and climate change. Wrong! It’s the old switcheroo, faking you out on purpose—as is clear from Mnuchin making the same maneuver.

What these ridiculous attacks reveal above all is that the polluters and their political representatives are well aware that they are losing the battle for the minds of humanity, as more and more people are waking up to the absolute urgency of confronting the climate crisis. And the youth climate strike movement is at the forefront of that battle.

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No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference, by Greta Thunberg–book review

No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference, by Greta Thunberg. Penguin Books, 2019.

No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference is a beautiful collection of speeches, and one facebook post, by the now 16-year-old Swedish trailblazer of climate school strikes. With clarity and bluntness, they express the attitudes of the youth movement. Millions of people were moved by video of Thunberg’s speech at the Sept. 23 UN Climate Action Summit during the week of the third Global Climate Strike. Coming after the book’s publication, that speech is not included here. This collection, touching on all Thunberg’s main themes, is worth reading.

She never lets go of the need to recognize the crisis and confront it now—that it means “Everything needs to change. And it has to start today.” Again and again, she declares that we need to change the system, with “permanent and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” that we need new politics, new economics, a whole new way of thinking. This flows from a better understanding of the science than most policymakers and business leaders have.

Thunberg bluntly tells economic and political leaders she does not believe they will rise to the challenge—but “change is coming, whether you like it or not.” She criticizes their dedication to economic growth, their selling the youth’s future “so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money….But it is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few.” She attacks the idea that everyone is to blame for the climate crisis.

No wonder she is the target of vicious, dishonest, anti-youth attacks! Thunberg turns it around simply enough, pointing out that the personal attacks reveal an inability to attack the movement and the science. She refuses to apologize for being young—“if everyone listened to the scientists and the facts that I constantly refer to then no one would have to listen to me or any of the other hundreds of thousands of school-children on strike for the climate across the world”—or for having Asperger’s.

Dialectics is here too—not the word but the spirit of Karl Marx’s “In our days, everything seems pregnant with its contrary”:

“We live in a strange world, where children must sacrifice their own education in order to protest against the destruction of their future.

“Where the people who have contributed the least to this crisis are the ones who are going to be affected the most.

“Where politicians say it’s too expensive to save the world, while spending trillions of euros subsidizing fossil fuels.

“We live in a strange world, where no one dares to look beyond our current political systems even though it’s clear that the answers we seek will not be found within the politics of today.”

These speeches are not theoretical texts. They are brilliant rhetoric that captures the passions of the youth movement. Nevertheless, the need for theory emerges because the book illuminates where the movement’s thought needs to be clarified.

Thunberg wisely says the youth do not have all the answers, but that turns into the demand for decision-makers to “unite behind the science.” It is a powerful political demand that undercuts claims that children don’t know enough to tell adults what to do. Science has been under blatant attack by oil companies and their allies and shills. However, asking the rulers to unite behind the science leaves the decisions in their hands and invites them to continue distorting scientific findings and pretending that policy and “the market” are in a separate realm. The insight that all aspects of society have to change needs to be carried through here too.

The call for politicians to “set your differences aside” recognizes conflicts between parties, between nations, and between “the sufferings of the many” and “the luxuries of the few.” Again, the system needs to change fundamentally, because those conflicts cannot just be set aside.

As this book makes clear, total change of the system is what the movement is reaching for, and Thunberg’s passionate, powerful speeches help articulate that.

–Franklin Dmitryev

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Climate strikes as resistance and revolutionary potential: the connection with Marcuse’s concept of the liberation of nature as determinant between socialism and fascism

A paper given at the International Herbert Marcuse Society Conference
Oct. 11, 2019, Santa Barbara

Climate strikes as resistance and revolutionary potential: the connection with Marcuse’s concept of the liberation of nature as determinant between socialism and fascism

By Franklin Dmitryev

Herbert Marcuse’s book Counterrevolution and Revolt viewed the world of 1972 as a period of preventive counterrevolution by a disintegrating capitalist system, which could potentially be preparing the soil for a subsequent fascist phase, as well as an undercurrent of revolt that puts the system’s future in question. Today that seems truer than ever. Rising fascism, racism, misogyny and militaristic nationalism cannot be separated from the capitalist system’s urge to self-preservation even at the cost of civilization’s destruction in climate catastrophe. The youth have a different idea.

We have just experienced the third Global Climate Strike by 6.7 million people in a week of thousands of events in most of the world’s countries, followed by this week and next week’s Extinction Rebellion actions. The climate strike was mainly driven by teenagers, with teenage women at the forefront. In the U.S. the strike leaders were mainly young women of color.

Hearing the chants dominated by children’s voices in Chicago, where I participated, was quite moving. So was seeing so many very young people coming out in all seriousness to call for a drastic social transformation to save their future and the future of humanity from the climate and extinction catastrophe.

The strikes reveal the resolve of a generation in the face of an existential emergency. It is stunning that the strikes have grown so massive in just 14 months since Swedish climate strike trailblazer Greta Thunberg began her solitary school strike. The growth has been compelled by the tsunami of climate-fueled disasters of the week and alarming scientific reports, but it has also grown from a variety of movements, from the women’s marches against Trump and the rallies of school shooting survivors to the pipeline resistance by Native American water protectors.

The movement at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline energized the already ongoing Indigenous opposition to colonialism worldwide and opposition to pipelines in the U.S. and Canada, and inspired many of the youth now expressing the urgency of fighting looming climate chaos.

Thunberg and seven other teenage girls wrote a manifesto declaring the “need to change the system” and “everyone…committing to radical transformations.”[1]

What remains crucial is the reaching for a revolutionary direction from within the movement. One part of that is the spike in questioning of capitalism and openness to socialism among the youth. However, the thought of the movement is unevenly reflected in discourse in and about it.

Thunberg bluntly tells economic and political leaders she does not believe they will rise to the challenge—but “change is coming, whether you like it or not.”[2] At the same time, she says we do not have all the answers and our demand is for you to unite behind the science. It is true that her speeches are not theoretical texts. They are brilliant rhetoric that captures the passions of the youth movement. But they do illuminate where the movement’s powerful negations have not fully torn themselves away from this society’s self-affirmation.

The movement wants radical change, of a type that would fundamentally transform the relationship of humanity with nature, but from Thunberg to Extinction Rebellion, they are asking governments to declare emergencies and act on the science. This leaves an opening for the kind of managerial technological fix Kyle Haines is critiquing. But the movement is partly shaped by environmental justice struggles, where Indigenous and people of color communities have sharply critiqued the uses of science and expertise to undermine subjectivity from below and reinforce the social division of mental and manual labor. The critique flows naturally from their struggles against colonialism and pervasively racist, exploitative societies.

These problems are not addressed in what the Sunrise Movement, echoing Bill McKibben, calls a “theory of change,” which aims to widen the given political system’s discourse, citing a scientific-sounding “Overton window,” but at the same time tacitly accepts the broader limits of its deformed democracy.

Extinction Rebellion, which sees itself as the most radical of climate groups and demands “radical system change,” echoes the same social science finding centered by Sunrise, that social change can be achieved by engaging 3.5% of the population.[3] That rings with apparent precision but underscores the lack of a truly critical element in this theory of change. Needed is an examination of how society’s relationship to nature needs to change if we are to succeed in transforming the intensifying destructiveness embedded in capitalism’s productiveness.

One Dimensional Man emphasized the domination of nature as a means to dominate human beings.  In the changed context of the 1970s, Counterrevolution and Revolt expanded on liberation of nature, which is an integral part of both end and means.

Marcuse specifies that “liberation of nature” is not a return “to a pre-technological stage, but advancing to the use of the achievements of technological civilization for freeing man and nature from the destructive abuse of science and technology in the service of exploitation.”[4]

Encompassed in this is that science too is transformed, as well as technology. He writes:

“The Marxian vision recaptures the ancient theory of knowledge as recollection: ‘science’ as the rediscovery of the true Forms of things, distorted and denied in the established reality, the perpetual materialistic core of idealism. The ‘idea,’ as the term for these Forms, is not a ‘mere’ idea…. Freedom thus becomes a ‘regulative concept of reason’ guiding the practice of changing reality in accordance with its ‘idea,’ i.e., its own potentialities–to make reality free for its truth.”[5]

Worth noting here is that Marcuse poses nature’s relation not alone to society, but to the idea of freedom. He not only sees the transformation of relations with nature as an integral part of human liberation, but sees that process as being guided by the idea of freedom, and recognizes that this “field of liberation” is central to Marx’s original statement of his philosophy.

He turns to Marx’s 1844 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, seeing “nature as a field of liberation” as one of its central themes.[6] Marcuse interprets it this way:

“…Marx speaks of the ‘complete emancipation of all human senses and qualities’ as the feature of socialism: only this emancipation is the ‘transcendence of private property.’…through the ‘human appropriation of nature,’ i.e., through the transformation of nature into an environment (medium) for the human being as ‘species being’; free to develop the specifically human faculties….

“In sharp contrast to the capitalist exploitation of nature, its ‘human appropriation’ would be nonviolent, nondestructive: oriented on the life-enhancing, sensuous, aesthetic qualities inherent in nature. Thus transformed, ‘humanized,’ nature would respond to man’s striving for fulfillment, nay, the latter would not be possible without the former….”[7]

There is an ecocentric objection to “the human appropriation of nature.” But all species transform nature and appropriate from it. The question is not whether such appropriation “should” exist but rather what form it will take. Marcuse registers his own ambivalence when he writes:

“Marx’s notion of a human appropriation of nature retains something of the hubris of domination….[N]ot appropriation but rather its negation would be the nonexploitative relation: surrender, ‘letting-be,’ acceptance . . . But such surrender meets with the impenetrable resistance of matter; nature is not a manifestation of ‘spirit,’ but rather its essential limit.”[8]

The phrase “human appropriation of nature” is from the Grundrisse, not 1844, where Marx’s focus is on the human reappropriation of one’s own alienated essence, of one’s humanity, and thereby the human relationship to nature. Similarly, his mature concept in Capital is of freely associated humans taking control, not of nature per se, but of their metabolism with nature and their relations with each other.

Marcuse’s wrong note here reflects the pessimism that lurks in his thought, posing a barrier between nature and spirit. I think this helps explain the book’s main flaws. One is its tacit tribute to Mao’s cultural revolution as if it were a real revolution and not exactly what he sees as characterizing the world scene: a preventive counterrevolution. Another is his substitution of the New Left, which he acknowledges as small and “essentially an intellectual movement,”[9] in place of masses as subject, especially the working class, while he dismisses recognition of workers’ revolutionary potential as “a fetishism of labor.”[10] And, finally, the chapter on “Nature and Revolution” concludes with a quite reductive view of women’s liberation that is not in touch with the actual movement.

By the same token, his correspondence with Raya Dunayevskaya dismissed Hegel’s Absolute Idea as tied to the pre-technological stage, while she sees it as a response to the French Revolution linking the self-determination of the idea of freedom to the self-developing subjectivity of masses in revolution. Thus, she wrote, “There is no trap in thought. Though it is finite, it breaks through the barriers of the given, reaches out, if not to infinity, surely beyond the historic moment.”[11]

That is the spirit in which I think we need to pose, like Marcuse, how the transformation of relations with nature is integral to human liberation, and human liberation is integral to a fundamental transformation of relations with nature—and to pose this co-integrality as a guiding principle already latent within the movement that needs to be made explicit and brought to the fore.



Dunayevskaya, Raya. 2002. The Power of Negativity: Selected Writings on the Dialectic in Hegel and Marx. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books.

Farrell, Clare, Alison Green, Sam Knights, and William Skeaping, editors. 2019. This Is Not a Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook. London: Penguin Books.

Marcuse, Herbert. 1972. Counterrevolution and Revolt. Boston: Beacon Press.

Thunberg, Greta. 2019. No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference. London: Penguin Books.

Thunberg, Greta, Anna Taylor, Luisa Neubauer, Kyra Gantois, Anuna De Wever, Adélaïde Charlier, Holly Gillibrand, and Alexandria Villasenor. 2019. “Think we should be at school? Today’s climate strike is the biggest lesson of all.” The Guardian, 15 March 2019,

[1] Thunberg et al 2019.

[2] Thunberg 2019, 18, 16.

[3] See for example Farrell et al 2019, p. 126.

[4] Marcuse 1972, 60.

[5] Marcuse 1972, 69-70.

[6] Marcuse 1972, 61, 63.

[7] Marcuse 1972, 64, 67.

[8] Marcuse 1972, 68-69.

[9] Marcuse 1972, 32.

[10] Marcuse 1972, 38, emphasis in the original.

[11] Dunayevskaya 2002, 184.

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Collapse of the Radical Left in Greece

Syriza, the “Radical Left” party in Greece, lost the July 7, 2019, election in a landslide. After four years in power, Syriza achieved…what? First, it administered austerity—that is, managed Greek capitalism in crisis—in a slightly more humane way than the right wing would have done. Second, it completed its transition to a non-revolutionary, not even radical, center-left party.

When Syriza won the January 2015 election that allowed Alexis Tsipras to become Prime Minister, many in the North American and European Left were euphoric. They were “intoxicated by the apparent path to power through broad, somewhat indiscriminate unity,” as News and Letters Committees wrote in “Greek Masses in Peril” later that year. It should have been clear, either from history or from logic, that parties that aim for revolutionary changes without a revolution end up going down this anti-revolutionary path and at best end up trying to prove that they can manage capitalism better than the capitalists. Now they seem to have developed amnesia about their euphoria. Those few who are not completely silent have issued unconvincing analyses that turn on the failure of Tsipras to follow their chosen path, even if chosen in hindsight.

As News and Letters Committees wrote at the time of the election (see also our editorial):

That Syriza attempts to embody a form of anti-capitalist politics makes it the necessary object of revolutionary criticism. Its victory has been made possible by a worldwide movement, begun and inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions. Coinciding with the Georgia prisoners’ strike in the U.S., this world movement is profoundly anti-racist, cross-cultural and international, as well as anti-capitalist. It is the reason why Syriza’s base is made up of workers, feminists, youth, environmentalists and LGBT people, the many voices that made themselves heard in the 2011 occupation of Syntagma Square in Athens. At such a time of ferment, revolutionary thought will either rise to the moment and develop further, or it will die.

The people who have carried on the spirit of Syntagma Square by organizing mutual support, by organizing against the Greek fascist party Golden Dawn, and by asserting their own voices as women, youth, workers, LGBT, immigrants, environmentalists and internationalists are those best-placed to move beyond the failings and blind spots of Tsipras and others who may fall short of asserting human liberation as the ultimate goal. It is they who command our deepest solidarity.

Syriza’s betrayal of the masses became totally clear in July 2015, when, as I wrote in News & Letters, “Greek voters overwhelmingly rejected a new austerity package in a July 5 referendum called by the Syriza government. After campaigning for a No vote, Syriza quickly turned No into Yes by agreeing to conditions very similar to those the voters rejected.” (See also “After the referendum: The ongoing Greek crisis.”)

Now Yanis Varoufakis, the Finance Minister for Tsipras until that betrayal, heads a new party that won a few seats in the Greek Parliament. Some of the Left are ready to hitch their wagon to his star, but his ground is also anti-revolutionary, as he made obvious when he joined the Syriza government four and a half years ago.

Podemos in Spain takes that same pragmatist-populist ground, which was laid out in postmodernist language by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. Once celebrated as on track to win Spanish elections, Podemos has been fizzling, while the right-wing Vox party is growing. Left populism has proved to be no answer to capitalism’s crisis and its festering right-wing populism.

In fact, the devolution of revolutionary to revolutionary-without-revolution to capitalist electoral party has a long and storied history. It goes back to the Social Democracy of the Second International, which promised to meet imperialist war with general strikes that would paralyze the warring capitalist states—until the day the actual first world war broke out, and most of the Second International parties backed their own belligerent governments and their demands for “labor peace,” that is, no strikes or opposition by the workers and their organizations. PASOK, the socialist party, picked up that legacy in Greece, and dutifully administered austerity for a period after the 2008 economic crisis. Now Syriza has moved from being PASOK’s radical critic to its imitator and replacement. That is the inevitable path for pragmatist-populists who are rudderless without a philosophy of revolution, and thus end up gravitating toward state power instead of the movement from practice, the actions and thoughts toward liberation by the masses from below.

–Franklin Dmitryev

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¿Qué es el socialismo? Socialismo y liberación de las mujeres

Este es el tercero de los cuatro ensayos sobre el tema: ¿Qué es el socialismo? “El socialismo y una filosofía de la revolución” por Gerry Emmett, se puede encontrar en y “Socialismo, trabajo y la dimensión negra” de Bob McGuire se puede encontrar en El último ensayo retomará “Socialismo y ecología”. Traducción del inglés al español por J.G.F. Héctor, Praxis en América Latina.

¿Qué es el socialismo?
Socialismo y liberación de las mujeres

Terry Moon (July-August 2019 News & Letters)


Un grupo de simpatizantes agradece a los proveedores de servicios de aborto en la “Casa Rosada”, la última clínica de abortos en Mississippi.

El violento ataque contra el derecho de las mujeres a controlar nuestros cuerpos, contra los inmigrantes, las personas de color, LGBTI+ (lesbianas, gais, bisexuales, transexuales, intersexuales y otr@s) y los pobres hace una discusión sobre “el socialismo y la liberación de las mujeres” más relevante que nunca. Esto es porque el capitalismo les ha fallado a las mujeres en términos económicos —lo que los simpatizantes del capitalismo presumen es lo que éste hace mejor— y en todas las formas posibles. Desde el pago desigual, que es peor para las mujeres de color que para las blancas; hasta cómo la tasa de mortalidad materna en Estados Unidos se ha más que duplicado hasta 21.5 por cada 100 mil nacimientos vivos de 2000 a 2014, con las mujeres de color siendo las más susceptibles a morir; hasta las aproximadamente tres mujeres en Estados Unidos que son asesinadas al día por hombres que dicen amarlas, y hasta la vergonzosa politización del cuidado a la salud, el capitalismo ha sido una causa, no una solución.


¿Es el “socialismo” de alguna forma mejor para las mujeres?

¿Cómo les va a las mujeres en el socialismo? Para responder esto, no podemos mirar a Rusia, China, Cuba, etc. Estos países no son y nunca fueron socialistas; no son “socialistas de Estado”, son sociedades capitalistas de Estado, en su mayoría totalitarias, y las necesidades del capital las gobiernan. A las mujeres en estos países no les va mejor que a las mujeres en Estados Unidos, y a menudo peor. Para ver la promesa del socialismo, debemos mirar a las pocas veces en que las mujeres han creado la libertad para forjar su visión de una sociedad libre. Estos momentos ocurren durante y después de las revoluciones, antes de que éstas se conviertan en su opuesto.

La Revolución rusa de 1917 reveló cuán ambiciosos eran los planes de las mujeres para una nueva sociedad. Mujeres líderes como Aleksandra Kollontai estaban tan ansiosas por construir un movimiento independiente de liberación de las mujeres que propusieron que el primer Congreso de Mujeres de Toda Rusia comenzara sólo cinco días después de cuando los bolcheviques planeaban tomar el poder. Las complicaciones de la revolución pospusieron ese encuentro hasta el año siguiente, cuando mil mujeres, en su mayoría trabajadoras y campesinas, se metieron a la fuerza a un salón donde sólo se esperaban 300. Para 1919, las mujeres habían formado el Jenotdel (sección o departamento de mujeres). Mientras que los hombres del partido, excepto por Lenin, querían limitar su rol a traer mujeres al partido, éstas querían hacer mucho más y hacerlo autónomamente.

La hostilidad al Jenotdel no estaba limitada a hombres fuera del partido cuyas esposas e hijas comenzaron a exigir libertad. Después de la muerte de Lenin, Stalin se movió tan rápido como pudo para destruirlo. La destrucción del Jenotdel no estuvo separada de la destrucción de la revolución en su conjunto. Para 1930 estaba disuelto; ese mismo año el eslogan oficial para el Día Internacional de la Mujer se volvió “100% colectivización[1]”.

Uno de los más grandes ejemplos de lo que las mujeres crearon en el proceso de la revolución es la Comuna de París de 1871. Allí, mujeres como Louise Michel transformaron completamente el sistema educativo, educando a niñas y niños juntos, tomando clases en el exterior de modo que los niños pudieran tener aire fresco, trayendo la naturaleza, la música y la poesía a los salones y echando al clero de la educación de modo que los niños pudieran aprender la verdad, no dogmas. Hombres y mujeres eran pagados por igual, trabajaban juntos, tomaban decisiones sobre lo que debía ser producido, cómo sería producido y cómo distribuido. Se reunían cada noche para tomar estas decisiones, y todo el tiempo las mujeres estaban luchando para ser iguales que los hombres en todas las tareas, incluyendo en las barricadas.

Mujeres egipcias se manifiestan contra Mubarak en febrero de 2011. Foto:

En nuestra época, las mujeres en la Primavera Árabe participaron en todas las luchas, y todavía lo hacen, como se ve en Sudán y Argelia hoy. En Egipto, las mujeres en la Plaza Tahrir en 2011 se hicieron notar a sí mismas como peleadoras revolucionarias, y muchas dijeron que por primera vez sentían que los hombres en la plaza las estaban tratando como seres humanos. El primer paso de la contrarrevolución fue atacar físicamente a las mujeres en la Plaza Tahrir en un intento por dividir al movimiento. (Vea “Arab Spring and women after revolution” en July-August 2011 N&L.)

Lo que las mujeres fueron capaces de crear en los breves espacios creados por las revoluciones nos muestran lo que es posible. ¿Es esto “socialismo”? Son los comienzos de una nueva sociedad llena de potencial, lo cual revela lo que Marx llamó “el afán de universalidad” y la alegría de estar “en el movimiento absoluto del devenir”.


¿En qué forma necesitamos a otro ser humano?

En sus Manuscritos económico-filosóficos de 1844, Marx dejó en claro que, para él, la relación del hombre con la mujer era la medida de cuán libre se ha vuelto una sociedad, o de cuán lejos necesitaba ir aún. Dijo que sabríamos que la sociedad ha avanzado a una nueva etapa “cuando otro ser humano sea necesitado como ser humano”. Raya Dunayevskaya profundizó esto diciendo que lo que esto implica también es cuán profunda y total tiene que ser la revolución.

Lo que ha enturbiado la cuestión del socialismo y la liberación de las mujeres es algo que Dunayevskaya señaló en Rosa Luxemburgo, la liberación femenina y la filosofía marxista de la revolución: “[…] el error más grave, no sólo de las feministas burguesas sino de las socialistas, es que […] sobre todo, han ayudado a aquellos hombres que han tratado de reducir a Marx a una sola disciplina, sea como economista, filósofo, antropólogo o ‘estratega político’”.

La mayoría de las teóricas feministas leen a Karl Marx no para descubrir lo que él desarrolló, sino para ver lo que dejó fuera. Marx es atacado por no ser feminista, por estar sólo interesado en los trabajadores —como si las mujeres no hubieran sido siempre trabajadores—, o bien insisten en que sólo se ocupó del capitalismo y no del patriarcado, por lo que debe ser complementado. A menudo, esa complementación tuerce o malinterpreta las categorías de Marx.

Alison M. Jaggar es un ejemplo de una teórica feminista que interpreta a Marx de forma estrecha. A pesar de que su libro Feminist Politics and Human Nature (Política feminista y naturaleza humana) fue escrito hace muchos años, es una de las discusiones feministas más serias sobre Marx y un ejemplo de la visión mutilada de Marx que todavía es presentada hoy.

Jaggar critica a los marxistas —y no hace distinción entre los marxistas post-Marx y Marx— por teorizar que, “una vez que las mujeres están plenamente integradas al trabajo asalariado, no hay base material para la específica opresión de género sobre las mujeres” (p. 223). Pero ésta no era la idea de Marx.

En un párrafo muy calumniado, Marx escribe: “la gran industria, al asignar a las mujeres, los adolescentes y los niños de uno u otro sexo, fuera de la esfera doméstica, un papel decisivo en los procesos socialmente organizados de la producción, crea el nuevo fundamento económico en que descansará una forma superior de la familia y de la relación entre ambos sexos” [El capital I. México: Siglo XXI, 24ª ed., 2008, 596].

Jaggar, como muchas otras, interpreta esto como si Marx pensara que “la participación de todos en la producción pública” acabará con “la opresión de un grupo por otro” (p. 225). Ella correctamente critica esto porque sabe que la opresión de las mujeres no está sólo vinculada al espacio de trabajo, y que la libertad para las mujeres “requiere de una transformación muchísimo más total de nuestra sociedad y de nosotros mismos […]” (p. 389).


Transformando las relaciones humanas

Lo que Jaggar pierde de vista es lo que Marx dice en el mismísimo párrafo siguiente: que “en su forma espontáneamente brutal, capitalista”, el ingreso de las mujeres a la fuerza laboral no puede ser otra cosa que “una fuente pestífera de corrupción y esclavitud”. Obviamente, Marx no estaba diciendo que todo lo que las mujeres tienen que hacer es trabajar; más bien, la sociedad entera debe ser transformada de modo que la forma en que producimos cosas se realice de una manera liberadora.

Marx no está diciendo que trabajar fuera del hogar equivalía al socialismo o al fin de la opresión a las mujeres. En cada tema que tocaba, ya fueran la producción, la antropología o la historia, Marx siempre estaba buscando cómo eran cambiadas las relaciones humanas. Éste fue su centro de atención, porque él siempre estaba tratando de desarrollar la creación de una nueva sociedad construida sobre relaciones nuevas, humanas, en vez de alienadas[2].

Una teórica feminista actualmente popular, Silvia Federici, trató de crear una teoría alternativa sobre la “reproducción social” argumentando que tener hijos y criarlos es un trabajo similar al trabajo productor de valor que Marx presentó como el sello distintivo del capitalismo. Federici propone que el rol de las mujeres en la reproducción es más importante que el trabajo fabril porque la mujer está creando y criando a la próxima generación de trabajadores, y está por tanto produciendo la mercancía más importante, la fuerza de trabajo.

Esto tuerce la categoría de Marx de “reproducción” en el sentido de cómo el capitalismo se reproduce a sí mismo, mientras que para Federici significa reproducción de niños.

Al especificar cómo funciona el capitalismo y qué tipo de trabajo valora éste, Marx no hace juicios de valor. No dice que lo que los obreros hacen es más importante que lo que hacen las mujeres. Lo que hace es mostrar cómo funciona el capitalismo y cómo se reproduce a sí mismo. El capital subordina la reproducción de los seres humanos a su propia reproducción y no viceversa.

La reproducción del capital consiste en la producción por la producción misma, la acumulación del capital, y al mismo tiempo en reproducir las relaciones sociales explotadoras que definen a la sociedad capitalista. Para comprender esto, uno tiene que entender cómo el capitalismo reproduce la enajenación —la cosificación de los seres humanos— en lugar de liberar a las personas.

Las relaciones capitalistas convierten al ser humano en una cosa y hacen a las cosas —las mercancías— el núcleo de la vida. Si bien no hay duda de que la opresión de las mujeres precedió al capitalismo, la objetificación de todos aquellos que trabajan y crean valores impacta tanto a las mujeres como a la gente de color y a otros. Terminar con ese tipo de objetificación tendrá consecuencias significativas en nuestra tarea de crear un nuevo mundo humano y de combatir la objetificación de las mujeres y otros, la cual parece permear a la sociedad.

Uno de los sellos distintivos del capitalismo es la ley del valor, en donde el valor está determinado por el tiempo de trabajo socialmente necesario. Una forma en que ésta se manifiesta es el impulso hacia la máxima producción por parte de la trabajadora y el mínimo pago para ella.

Esto también genera sublevación. Si vemos la dialéctica como un desarrollo a través de la contradicción, entonces reconoceremos que aquellas mujeres en Rusia que participaron en el Jenotdel, las mujeres en la Comuna de París y en la Primavera Árabe estaban luchando no sólo por sus derechos como trabajadoras, sino también por la libertad de las mujeres. El “afán de universalidad” que Marx señaló se revela en cómo las mujeres y otros luchan como seres humanos enteros. Una mujer trabajadora afro lucha por todos sus derechos al mismo tiempo: no es afro un día, trabajadora otro y mujer al tercero. Ésta es otra razón por la que la revolución debe ser total desde el inicio. Peleamos como quienes somos y como en quienes nos queremos convertir.

Esta rebeldía —suscitada por vivir en una sociedad sexista, racista, homofóbica y antiinmigrante— arroja una nueva luz sobre todo tipo de cuestiones, incluyendo el “trabajo reproductivo” y cuán profunda debe ser la transformación. No sólo todas las relaciones humanas tienen que ser transformadas y volverse realmente humanas, sino que también el trabajo tiene que ser algo totalmente diferente. En vez de la monotonía reductora de vida que es el trabajo hoy para muchos en todo el mundo, Marx planteó lo que éste podía ser en una nueva sociedad: “la primera necesidad vital”.


La revolución, total desde el inicio

En El capital, Marx no se extendió sobre lo que la nueva sociedad había de ser. Sí encontró al sujeto que derrocaría a la actual —trabajadores, hombres y mujeres— porque la conoce mejor, porque es quien experimenta su brutalidad y alienación de primera mano y porque está en un lugar clave, el punto de la producción. No sólo se enajena de los trabajadores lo que ellos producen, sino la mismísima forma en que producen: lo que hacen con sus propios cuerpos en el acto de crear mercancías también les es alienado. Para derrocar al capitalismo, entonces, los trabajadores son vitales, tal como las mujeres son vitales en ponerle un fin al sexismo y la gente de color en acabar con el racismo. Esto es parte de lo que Dunayevskaya quiso decir cuando afirmó que la opresión de las mujeres nos muestra cuán profunda y total se tiene que volver la revolución.

Evidentemente, para Marx y para la liberación de las mujeres el socialismo no puede ser un simple cambio en quién está dirigiendo un país o incluso en quién posee sus recursos. La meta de la revolución no puede detenerse al deshacerse de tiranos como Trump, Putin, Viktor Orbán, Rodrigo Duterte o Xi Jinping, todos los cuales, no por coincidencia, tratan de aplastar las luchas de las mujeres por romper con los roles tradicionales y liberarse a sí mismas. Éste es sólo el comienzo.

Ésta es la razón por la que el humanismo marxista ha estado enfatizando el concepto de Marx de “revolución en permanencia”, porque la historia ha mostrado la insuficiencia de que la revolución se detenga en el mero derrocamiento de un gobierno. La revolución debe volverse permanente para que todas las relaciones humanas sean transformadas en el proceso. No puede haber una receta para el socialismo. Será lo que nosotros hagamos de él.


[1] Terry Moon. “Women and the 1917 Russian Revolution”. News & Letters Nov. 1987.

[2] Terry Moon. “Is Marx’s Capital about women’s freedom?” News & Letters. May 1999.

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Women Bearing the Brunt of Reaction Lead the Resistance

Here is a presentation given by Terry Moon for International Women’s Day/Women’s History Month.

Women Bearing the Brunt of Reaction Lead the Resistance

Talk for the Chicago Local of News and Letters Committees

–Terry Moon
March 27, 2019


Part I: International Women’s Day Worldwide

This talk takes off from the lead in the March-April issue of News & Letters which went to the printers before International Women’s Day on March 8. It is important to see what women did that day and the reaction to it for it tells us a great deal about the world we’re living in now as well as how to transform it. Since the philosophy of Marxist-Humanism tells us that we must begin—but not end—with listening to the thoughts and actions of those struggling for freedom which we see as a form of theory, I’m going to go into some detail about the happenings on March 8.  As for all the state and national sponsored events, none of them catch the real spirit of the day, which is revolt, which is a time to reclaim women’s lost history and to fight for a freedom-filled future.

The insulting absurdity of the corporate response is seen in how the Samuel Adams brewery is releasing a beer dedicated to Ruth Bader Ginsburg titled “When There Are Nine.”  I’m sure Justice Ginsburg was not thrilled, and I’m also sure they didn’t ask her first.  The pronouncements from governments are at best self-serving and at worst a bunch of lies.  An example of the latter is the message supposedly from Donald Trump, but clearly not written by him, which ends with the sentence: “We remain vigilant in our pursuit of equality and opportunity so that all women may blaze new trails, pursue their dreams, and reach their full potential.”  Yes, as long as that doesn’t entail childcare, equal pay, reproductive rights, ending rape and abuse, and as long as you’re not an immigrant, a person of color, or poor—or a woman.

When we see what women really did on March 8, most in opposition to their governments, the real meaning of the day shines forth.  Some examples:

In Pristina, Kosovo, women shouted slogans during a rally for gender equality and against violence; in Indonesia, hundreds of activists marched to the presidential palace in Jakarta with banners and placards calling for more equality; in New Delhi, India, women shouted slogans during the march and carried signs reading: “Women Against War! Invest In Caring—Not Killing!” and “Struggle Against Casteism & Capitalism!”; in Nairobi, Kenya, women protested femicide; in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, women held a banner in a rally to mark International Women’s Day and were practically surrounded by cops; in Rome, Italy, women from the feminist movement “Non Una Meno” (Not One Less) staged a gathering in front of the Labor Ministry protesting male violence against women, gender discrimination, and harassment in the workplace. Some dressed as handmaidens. At a huge demonstration, hundreds of Salvadoran women protested in San Salvador demanding decriminalization of abortion, an end to violence against women and respect for their rights. A National Movement of Nurses staged a “White March” for better working conditions in Lisbon, Portugal.  Women in Sudan, as part of the movement there against Omar al-Bashir, went on a hunger strike in defiance and protest against arbitrary detention. They were teargassed, some were arrested, beaten and denied healthcare. Lastly, in defiance of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte—who revels in his sexism—over 4,000 demonstrators marched in Manila shouting slogans and chants against him. In the Philippines, where a woman or child is raped every hour, Duterte’s misogyny is not a joke but a provocation.

These are just some of the militant demonstrations that took place around the world on March 8.


Part II: Women’s Militancy and the Counter-revolutionary Reaction against It

There are three countries we need to look at closer as they exemplify what the lead brought out: “Women know that the world is becoming more dangerous for us as the first target of neo-fascists is often women.” Those countries are Turkey, Spain and Pakistan.

What becomes clear when you look at the last several years of what women in Turkey did on International Women’s Day, is that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continues to reveal his fascist ideology, now emboldened by the spread of neo-fascism worldwide and the growing opposition to him at home.

In 2016, Erdoğan banned IWD demonstrations on March 4, supposedly for women’s safety but no one believed it. Thousands of women marched anyway and in further defiance of Erdogan, who has been slaughtering Turkey’s Kurdish population and destroying their homes and cities, the women’s announcements in Ankara were in Kurdish and Arabic as well as Turkish. Chants included: “Woman, life, freedom!” In another direct affront to Erdoğan, the women yelled, “The bans are yours, March 8 is ours!” In addition, they called for the overthrow of his Justice and Development Party (AKP).

In 2017 Erdoğan did not ban the IWD marches.  If he had, it would not have stopped the tens of thousands of women who took to the street—over 10,000 in Istanbul alone.  They chanted, “End male-perpetrated violence,” and “Tayyip, Tayyip, run, run, we are coming!” Ending male violence is a yearly demand because hundreds of women are killed in Turkey each year by husbands and others who supposedly “love” them.

Last year thousands of women again took Erdoğan to task as they marched in Istanbul. They demanded, as always, an end to violence and chanted: “We won’t shut up, we are not afraid, we won’t obey” and signs read, “When women jump it’s a revolution.”  Erdoğan attacks women’s freedom and the very idea of feminism, pontificating that equality for women “is against human nature,” and that’s one of his milder statements.

But this year had a very different atmosphere as the stench of the police state Turkey is becoming permeated the air on March 8.

First, the IWD demonstrations were banned on March 8—purposefully making it impossible for all the women planning on going to know about it.  Second, the march site was jammed with police in riot gear.  As reported by AFP and, “Thousands of demonstrators were eventually allowed into a small part of the avenue to stage the protest.  They unfurled banners that read ‘feminist revolt against male violence and poverty,’ and “I was born free and I will live free.’…”[1]  Then as reported by al-Monitor: the police “attacked women with tear gas, plastic bullets, batons and police dogs.” A picture shows the police line was five rows thick in places.  A demonstrator said, “The police tried to beat us after the gas attack. They were directing the dogs to attack us as well, but [the gas was so thick that] the dogs had a hard time breathing and seeing.”

Third was the vilification and lies, clearly planned ahead of time. Because a Muslim call to prayer—called “azan”—was broadcast at the same time as the IWD march and not heard by the demonstrators who were blowing whistles, banging drums, chanting and singing, Erdoğan and his minions spread the lie that, to quote Erdoğan: the demonstrators, “under the guise of women’s day…whistled at our azan….They chanted slogans. Their only alliance is the enmity towards azan and the flag.”

Erdoğan wants to be reelected at a time when the economy is tanking and unemployment is rife. A longtime feminist activist who had participated in the last 17 IWD demonstrations said, “Muslim women are disillusioned by the AKP. A headscarf doesn’t protect us from police or male brutality.”  Indeed, hundreds of scarfed Muslim women were at the demonstration and gassed by the cops.  The outcry wrought by Erdoğan’s lies prompted the Diyanet-Sen (the syndicate for employees of the Religious Affairs Directorate) to demand the government officially investigate and that the marchers apologize to the Turkish population.[2]

The use of fundamentalist religion and “our culture,” to demonize feminists, while certainly not new, has never before been used to discredit IWD demonstration participants in such a well-orchestrated manner and coming from the highest levels of government. Yet women in Turkey are not alone in this experience.

The IWD demonstrations in Spain were huge, tens of thousands marched. Feminism is very popular in Spain, so popular, in fact, that the Right is determined to co-opt it and, in the process, destroy it.  While the government and Center-Right party are suggesting mild reforms, the far-Right party, Vox, claims that proposed legislation to fight violence against women, for equality, and for LGBTQ rights discriminates against men.  A Catholic organization, HazteOir (Make yourself heard) charted a bus which they drove around the country painted with the slogan #StopFeminazis and a picture of Hitler with pink lipstick.

There is a group started by Spanish right-wingers called “Women of the World Global Platform,” which aims to bring conservative groups and associations from around the world together. They called for a counterdemonstration in Madrid on March 10.  They claim that IWD is “a day for those who reject femininity as well as masculinity, complementarity [meaning males and females have different essences and have to stick to them for they complement each other and make humanity whole], maternity and dedication to the family. But we celebrate it, confirm it, and reclaim it.”[3]  Ah yes, that old trope: feminists hate men.

They actually managed to pull off a demonstration of about 200 where every one of their signs was printed.  A priest carried one reading “United families are the future of the nation”; other signs read “I am a woman and men are our allies,” “I am a woman: in society, in my family, in my work, in politics,” and one I found hilarious: “I don’t want a confrontational feminism.”  But most startling was the fact that a small group of Transgender people joined this demonstration carrying exactly the same signs everyone else carried that included: “In feminine yes, and in masculine also.” The only sense I could make of this was that this group was so wedded to stereotypical gender roles that they oppose a feminism that challenges them.

Because feminism in Spain has become popular, these actions by the Right are attempts to redefine it and create a “good feminism” and a bad feminism.  The good feminism wants to embed the status quo and the bad feminism wants women’s liberation. And while it is quite transparent, it is also insidious because it is an attempt to destroy a freedom movement while pretending to support it and a way to turn women against each other.

Lastly, we want to look at Pakistan.  The demonstrations in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad were described by a participant as “groundbreaking celebration[s] of women in a massive march comprised of women from all backgrounds, ages and ethnicity, coming together to raise the banner of women empowerment and making the world feel their presence on a colossal level.”  The range of issues was evidenced by the signs: “Grow a Pair!” “Paratha Rolls not Gender Roles,” “Girls just wanna have FUNdamental Rights,” “My Mind, My Body, My Power,” ‘Women have heads too!,” “End to violence,” “#IPledgeToStopAcidAttacks,” “#IPledgeToStopHonor Killings,” “Arrange marches, not marriages,” “A Woman’s Place Is in the Kitchen Resistance,” “Towards Social Services for Women,” “It’s Time to Organize,” “A Free Media is a Feminist Media.”[4] “Keep your dick to yourself,” “We are not punching bags,” “We need rights, not marriage proposals.”

In short, Pakistan experienced fantastic marches where the humanism of the tens of thousands of participants was clear, where women’s determination to create a more human world was made explicit. In a country where honor killings are rife, the Aurat (Woman) March issued a manifesto that “demand[ed] the right to autonomy and decision-making over our bodies; …equal access to quality reproductive and sexual health services for women, all genders and sexual minorities.” It demanded “economic justice, implementation of labor rights,” and end to sexual harassment in the workplace, “recognition of women’s unpaid labor, and the provision of maternity leave and daycare centers….[It] also focused on climate change…clean drinking water and air, protection of animals and wildlife…Other demands covered nearly every aspect of social justice.”[5]

The backlash has been brutal. What enraged people the most, besides the March itself, were signs that challenged deeply entrenched sexism and privilege and those about women’s control of our bodies. A well-known Islamic cleric’s video “is making the rounds on social media, in which he is visibly furious over a…sign, ‘My body, my choice.’ He threatened women with rape, saying that if they claim the right to their bodies, men can also claim the right to rape women.  [A week ago] This video ha[d] more than 67,000 views.”[6] The backlash is what you would expect: women have been vilified, planners received rape and death threats and there were calls to the government to investigate them; pictures on social media have been altered to make marchers look bad, to change the signs they were carrying; complaints were made to police; the Prime Minister was asked to investigate the march planners to discover their real agenda; and a group of men announced a Men’s March in Karachi for March 23.

None of this has stopped the forward move of Pakistani women for a different, freer reality.  One of the Aurat March planners , Shumaila Hussain Shahani, said, “I do not think such petty right-wing tactics will deter the marchers. Marches will continue, our struggle for a gender-just world will continue.”[7]

These attacks against IWD are new in their intensity and size.  They signal a recognition by the Right of the power of women’s thought and actions as well as their determination to crush women’s drive for liberation.  But the objective truth is that women’s struggle for freedom continues to grow globally both in size, in militancy, and in ideas.


Part III: Why We Celebrate International Women’s Day

It is important to remember that the reason we celebrate IWD as we do—worldwide—is because the Women’s Liberation Movement, beginning in the mid-1960s, rediscovered that day and made it our own and made it radical.  While it was started by U.S. garment workers and picked up by Clara Zetkin, who with the German working women declared an International Working Women’s Day, by the 1960s IWD in Russia, East Germany, everywhere it was acknowledged, was celebrated with flowers and candy and thanking women for staying in their place. This day is radical, not because of any leftist party, but because all of a sudden history became important to women in the Women’s Liberation Movement because we realized that we had been left out of it.  When we delved into women’s history, we realized what a loss that had been.

Holly Near’s then popular song, “Imagine My Surprise!” is not about love, it is about women’s history: “Imagine my surprise! I love that I have found you. But I ache all over wanting to know your every dream. Imagine my surprise! To find that I love you. Feeling warm all over knowing that you’ve been alive.”

When the Women’s Marches against the election of Donald Trump erupted worldwide in January of 2017, many on the Left joined the mainstream media in viewing—and dismissing—them as merely fodder for the Democratic Party.  Of course that does describe some of the March’s recognized organizers as well as some of the participants. 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.  IWD displays the same first negation and Reason implicit in the marches and manifestos.


Part IV: Marxist-Humanism and Women’s Liberation

When Marxist-Humanism looks at these marches, our first thought is not—is not—that all these women need is for us to lead them.  That what they need is us to bring them the consciousness of how important labor is and how we must rid ourselves of capitalism.  Let’s remember that when Russian women started the Russian Revolution by marching against the Tsar on IWD they did it against the advice of the Left parties of their time.

We start from two very different places.  One is making sure we actually find out what is in the movement itself which we comprehend as a form of theory.  This is why I spent so much time talking concretely about IWD.

We start with this movement from practice, listening to it to learn what is in it and then to make that explicit so that not only do we see it, but the participants see it themselves and recognize their own Reason, their own ideas about what needs to change and how, that they recognize their own agency.

The second place we start is with philosophy—a very specific philosophy—Karl Marx’s philosophy of revolution in permanence deepened and developed in our age by Marxist-Humanism.  Marxist-Humanism reveals a Marx who is far more profound and complex than most post-Marx Marxists have thought.  Raya Dunayevskaya is one of the few Marxist philosophers who demand that we see the whole of Marx.  In her work, Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution, she makes the point that “the most serious errors of not only bourgeois but of socialist feminists…[is that they] have helped those men who have tried to reduce Marx to a single discipline, be that as economist, philosopher, anthropologist, or ‘political strategist’” (p. 104).

People are taught that Marx was strictly about the proletariat. Of course the proletariat is crucial to Marx and central to his understanding of capitalism and how to abolish it.  If, however, you delve into 1844, the point where Marx broke from bourgeois society and decided to devote his life to revolutionary philosophy and activism, you will find that not only is he talking about alienated labor, but at one and the same time he is talking about the alienation of the relationship between men and women, between those who are supposed to love each other the most.

He says if you look at the relationship between men and women you can measure how free, or not, a society is.  Raya Dunayevskaya took this further and said that looking at that relationship can help you see how deep and total revolution has to be. Marx was specifically talking about what it means to be a human being, saying that we know we are getting to something new “when another human being is needed as a human being.”  Revolution to Marx was not just a question of economic transformation but as well a transformation of human relationships. You will see that is true because when you read Capital you see that even the economic relationships were, in the end, also human relationships and what was so perverse about capitalism is that it made people appear as things.

In telling us in exquisite detail exactly what capitalism is—historically, economically, ideologically, and philosophically—and at the same time tracing the human history of struggle (be that against slavery, the introduction of machines, factories, early automation, or the history of anthropology, “Marx took Hegel’s revolution in philosophy and created a philosophy of revolution.”  Marx took Hegel’s dialectic and saw that one could comprehend history as the history of class struggle, or workers struggling for a better life.  He saw the dialectic as self-development through contradiction, as human beings changing reality through the contradiction in their lives between what life was for them and what they saw it should be.  That is just as true of the slave as the worker or the women.

No one is saying that women, or the proletariat, or the Black dimension, or the youth movements, etc., can change this world by themselves.  The fact that they know it too is clear in how people involved in struggle look outside their own particular fight to find something that can answer their questions of how to move from a critique of what is to a better society.  But the answer can never be “Just follow us, we have the answer.”  That only reproduces the alienated human relations we have under capitalism, especially the division between mental and manual labor.  Rather there needs to be a new relationship between theory and practice, the movements from practice and those who have studied the history and philosophy of revolution and are also determined to change reality.  Without that new relationship, the counter-revolution from within the revolution that has been the bane of our era will win in the end.  Women’s freedom is not a question of singling out women workers, as if that can, alone, answer the question of women’s liberation—although women workers have a hugely important revolutionary contribution to make and, historically, have made.

Women, Blacks and other people of color, youth, and certainly workers are dialectical inseparable aspects of the human liberation that not only groups like us are working for but the movements themselves are working for too.  That is what we’re seeing in the issues raised at the Women’s Marches and at the International Women’s Day demonstrations worldwide.  They are so diverse, so deep-reaching that they can only be satisfied by a total revolution and that needs to be made explicit.

In our age of nuclear bombs increasingly in the hands of neo-fascists, we can’t keep making the same mistakes again and again.  As the Pakistani woman Shahani said, “Marches will continue, our struggle for a gender-just world will continue.”  The question is, will we be able to meet that challenge and help it develop further?

[1] “Istanbul police fire tear gas at banned women’s day rally,” by AFP,, March 8, 2019.

[2] “Has misogyny become the official state policy in Turkey?” by Pinar Tremblay,, March 20, 2019.

[3] “Feminism is the word in Spain’s electoral campaign,” by AFT, Arab News, March 6, 2019.

[4] “In Pakistan: Breaking the shackles of patriarchy at Aurat March 2019: In pictures,” by Bismah Mughal, The News (

[5] “Pakistan’s Women Marched for Their Rights. Then the Backlash Came.,” by Tehreem Azeem, The Diplomat, March 20, 2019.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

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A poem by Lea Díaz

Here follows an untitled poem by Lea Díaz that I liked so much I translated it into English.  The original is followed by the translation.

A mí me educaron:
la televisión, el asfalto,
la escuela y la iglesia,
ignorante y analfabeta.

Soy incapaz de entender
el lenguaje de las flores,
de las nubes o de las olas.

No comprendo palabra alguna
dicha por la lluvia, la tierra,
el fuego o el viento.

Ignoro lo que platican las arañas
por las esquinas, los pájaros
en el alambre o lo que intentan
decirme los mosquitos al oído.

Si los entendiera,
podría concertar con las arañas
lecciones de tejido,
con los pájaros de vuelo y
con los mosquitos de camuflaje
ante las amenazas.

Si los entendiera,
sabría ser fecunda como la tierra,
lloverme como las nubes
o ser elegante y agraciada
como las flores.

Si los entendiera,
le silbaría al mar
canciones de amor al oído
y danzaría con las barcas
y con las velas.

Si los entendiera,
sabría arder en llamas
y convertir en cenizas,
este dolor, este vacío,
esta impotencia
de no entender nada.

(Lea Díaz)




by the television, the asphalt,
the school and the church
left me
ignorant and illiterate.

Unable to understand
the language of the flowers,
the clouds or the waves.

Comprehending not a single word
spoken by the rain, the earth,
the fire or the wind.

Ignorant of what is being said by the spiders
in the corners, the birds
on the wire or what the mosquitos
are whispering in my ear.

If I could understand them
I would have been able to arrange lessons in spinning
by the spiders
in flight by the birds
and in camouflage in the face of danger
by the mosquitos.

If I could understand them,
I would know how to be fertile like the earth
to rain like the clouds
or to be elegant and graceful
like the flowers.

If I could understand them,
I would whistle love songs
to the sea
and dance with the ships
and the sails.

If I could understand them,
I would know how to ignite into flames
and reduce to ashes
this pain, this emptiness,
this impotence
of understanding nothing.

(Lea Díaz)
(translation by Franklin Dmitryev)


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‘Down to Earth’ by Bruno Latour: a diversionary political fiction lands in capitulation

Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime, by Bruno Latour (Polity Press, 2018).

Review by Franklin Dmitryev

Bruno Latour’s new book Down to Earth (touted in The New York Times as “a brilliantly mind-bending book”) is the latest example of what happens to radicals who give up on social revolution. At its heart is an ambivalent identification of Earth as the agent of change, instead of humanity or more precisely social groups who can act as subjects of revolution. Latour superciliously dismisses the actual history of revolution and counter-revolution along with all modern political history as a one-dimensional back-and-forth along what he calls a “vector” between the Local and the Global.

This abstraction serves to lump revolution together with counter-revolution that dialectically emerges from within it, so that socialism can implicitly be equated to state-capitalist “Communism” and social democracy. Naturally, such a gross oversimplification of history—“our simple-minded schema” (p. 47)—buries all heterodox tendencies that don’t neatly fit his binaries, including Marxist-Humanism, which for decades has challenged the dominant Left that deviated far from Marx’s Marxism in part by accepting state-capitalism as socialism.

Latour believes he has discovered the magic key to unlock history and escape this vector, by introducing a third “attractor” called the Terrestrial, which differs from the Global because the latter has no material reality, whereas the “stupefying originality” of the Terrestrial is that it is a “new political actor….an agent that participates fully in public life. The current disorientation derives entirely from the emergence of an actor that reacts and will continue to react to human actions” (pp. 40-41; all italics in this review’s quotations are in the original). Latour in his stupefying originality disregards all the Green theorists before him who posited Nature as Subject in place of humanity.

The concept of the Terrestrial is hazy and ambiguous because the author makes it perform a double duty. It is introduced as more or less James Lovelock’s Gaia (p. 40), or the earth as an active planetary ecological/geological system, but later it represents a certain political program and attitudes. It designates a kind of materialism, and an analysis that substitutes a “system of engendering” for “systems of production” and “dependence” for “freedom”:

“Dependency comes in first of all to limit, then to complicate, then to reconsider the project of emancipation, in order finally to amplify it. As if, through a new dialectical pirouette, one were inverting the Hegelian project once again” (p. 83).

In this way his philosophy, his politics, his “conception of ‘nature’” can be passed off as natural law inherent in the Earth as Terrestrial. And it is the limits on emancipation, not any amplification, that dominate his theory, just like every green theory that discards social revolution.

To Latour, history has dramatically entered “the New Climatic Regime.” He insists on the inseparability of climate denial with deregulation and rising inequality, which appeals to the reader because of course all three are symptoms of a failing social system. Yet without any serious argument Latour declares the denial of climate change to be the key to all, which happens to fit his substitution of Earth for the human Subject. All important political trends are “responses…to the powerful reaction of the Earth to what globalization has done to it” (p. 21).

Latour spares himself the difficulty of explaining the difference between agent and Subject by never mentioning the latter. A carbon dioxide molecule emitted from a smokestack, contributing to global warming by reflecting heat back to the earth’s surface, is an agent. But a conscious Subject transforming reality for the purpose of liberation is quite different. Because of this hole in his theory, Latour pictures non-human “terrestrials” as “protestors” and “sources of revolt” (p. 88).

Along the way he smugly contrasts his Terrestrial politics with earlier theories defined by “systems of production,” which supposedly cannot grasp non-human beings as agents. It’s no wonder that he does not identify his target, since Karl Marx made quite clear in Capital that labor is “a process between humanity and nature” and, for instance, took note of “the destructive power of natural processes.”

It pleases the author to lump Marx in with capitalist modernizers. Latour’s abstract Global-Local binary, not to mention his stupefying claim to originality, leaves no room to grasp Marx’s thought as breaking out of that binary, as “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” (Raya Dunayevskaya, Philosophy and Revolution, p. 65). But allow Latour to explain why such distortion is necessary:

“If the goal is to adopt a new orientation in politics, it is probably wise, in order to ensure continuity between past struggles and those to come, not to seek anything more complicated than an opposition between two terms” (p. 49).

This is in keeping with the book’s method, which is from the beginning described as a “political fiction” (pp. 1-2, 17-18, 21): he will invent a hypothesis and it is up to the reader to disprove it. Dates are finessed, facts are distorted, and straw men are set up to be knocked down, relieving Latour of the burden of ever quoting any of those he criticizes and for the most part does not even name.

Thus his thesis is rather slippery about when the New Climatic Regime came to be. Of course, the onset of a new historical period, if it exists, cannot be pinpointed to a certain date. But in Latour’s case, several dates are given in varying decades, which reflects his attempt to squeeze the facts into a theory that they fail to uphold. So this new development began either in the 1980s, the 1990s, in the last 50 years, or with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, depending on the page of the book. (Pages 1-2 have the advantage of pointing to all the first three dates.)

Vastly exaggerating the Paris Agreement’s importance serves his political fiction’s central myth of making Earth the agent. Dec. 12, 2015, was supposedly the day when “all the signatory countries…realized with alarm that, if they all went ahead according to the terms of their respective modernization plans, there would be no planet compatible with their hopes for development….What power then secured the signature of those 175 states, if not a form of sovereignty to which they consented to bow down and that propelled them to reach agreement? If it is not a power that dominates the heads of state…what should it be called?” (pp. 5, 84)

Making the signing of a treaty the decisive turning point shows that, as in past substitutions of nature for a revolutionary human Subject, the real Subject ends up being the rulers. Equally, the thesis dictates that all other political, economic and cultural factors be subordinated to the only real causal factor. So, implausibly, Trump’s withdrawal from Paris “defines the first government totally oriented toward the ecological question” (p. 37). Latour unwittingly discloses the stubborn reality his ruse is avoiding when he lists the three interconnected phenomena on p. 18:

“what since the 1980s has been called ‘deregulation’ or the ‘dismantling of the welfare state’; what since the 2000s is known as ‘climate-change denial’; and above all, what for the last 40 years has been a dizzying extension of inequalities.”

In fact, all three phenomena began in the 1970s, though they really blossomed in the Reagan-Thatcher 1980s. The real turning point, which Latour avoids recognizing since it implicates a “system of production,” was the world capitalist crisis of 1974-75, which the ruling classes responded to with a harsh economic, political, and ideological restructuring. But making that the key would not help Latour’s thesis that the true Subject is Earth and the root of crisis is not the internal contradictions of capitalism but “a certain conception of ‘nature’ [that] has allowed the Moderns to occupy the Earth in such a way that it forbids others to occupy their own territories differently” (p. 64).

All this bombast leads to a most pathetic program, which bears out the limitations placed on emancipation: “What to do? First of all, generate alternative descriptions.” Of what? “centimeter by centimeter, being by being, person by person, the stuff that makes up the Earth….The challenge obviously lies in drawing up such a list” (pp. 94-95).

Even worse, the book’s conclusion, a paean to Europe, reveals the author’s state of denial about its current political situation. In reality, the far right is making strides in the continent and has attained power in some countries. In “political fiction,” Europe has “definitively given up empire,” “knows the fragility of its tenure in global space,” and “is not rushing to impose its own prejudices on everyone else”—so that the European “vision” of “a common world…allows us to consider an initial framework that could enable the relaunching of a diplomatic endeavor….In spite of everything, it is still Europe’s task to redefine the sovereignty of the nation-states” (pp. 100-102).

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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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