From the January-February issue of News & Letters:
Readers’ Views (part 1)
THE STATE OF THE WORLD AS WE BEGIN 2012
I’m deeply enamored of the contents of every issue of N&L. This is because the articulation of the various issues addressing the multitude of socioeconomic crises, brought on by economic contraction affecting capital relations, points to how deep the revolution must go. In addition, one is given a very clear and concrete perspective that all those issues combining to make our lives so miserable are related to one direct source: capitalism. But the most crucial element of N&L has to do with its advocacy for the unity of theory and practice, and its evolving into a philosophy of liberation.
Pelican Bay, Calif.
Here are some plain facts. We live in a carnival of mirrors. The images that we, the 99%, take to be representations of ourselves are, in unreality, images of beasts of burden, or conforming puppets. We shake off the nightmare, exit the circus carnival and claim ourselves: Spontaneous combustion: the igniting of substances through the body of our own Subjectivity.
New York City
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which President Obama signed into law on New Year’s Eve gives an alarming warning about what 2012 holds in store for us. It contains a sweeping worldwide indefinite detention provision. It has no time or geographic limits. It can be used by our current and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield.
Obama signed this despite having earlier declared that he would veto this outrageous bill. Now he will become known in history as the president who signed into law indefinite detention without charge or trial. Happy new year.
After the ejection of the disastrous Socialist government of Zapatero from the government, the rightist Partida Popular (PP) of Rajoy won a majority. Its remedy for Spain’s failing economy is an attack on the workers by freezing the minimum wages at 641 Euros/month ($932), which is almost nothing to live on with the high cost of food, energy and rent; and increasing local taxes. Rent has increased 66% over the last ten years. Many youth are going to other countries for work, and 77% of the remaining population believe that the economic crisis will get even worse.
The only glimpse of hope for the country is the voice of the Indignados who raised the banner of “No Home, No Job, No Pension, No Fear.” They are questioning the root cause of the chaos brought by free market thinkers and leaders who only pay lip service to the masses and follow the rules of the rich and corporations’ demands. It depends on the masses to tear up these horrific conditions of free enterprise for the haves over the enslaved workers.
I want to tell my Egyptian brothers: Do not give up your revolution! The same thing happened in my country. The military generals claimed they were here only as a “caretaker” government, until elections. They haven’t left for more than 50 years! We are still under a military dictatorship. Field Marshall Tantawi is Mubarak’s dog, just like President Thein Sein is General Than Shwe’s pet dog. He is our Burmese Tantawi. President Obama, call off your dogs in Egypt and Burma!
In a recent visit to Iran, it was evident in the faces of people of Tehran that the bad economy, the political repression, unemployment and the Western embargo against Iran are taking their toll. Many people are dispirited trying to make a living under a regime that in the name of religion has taken happiness out of the spirit of the nation. There is hardly anyone who reads the newspapers since they are so insulting to the intelligence of the average man that in protest no one wants to read the lies of the government of Iran, such as comparing their jail to best-rated hotels!
Resistance is growing among students, educators, and AARP members against an extreme effort to cut access to community colleges in California. The “California Community College Student Success Task Force,” financed by private interests with deep links to big business, propose to scrap non-credit courses, adding restrictive placement tests, incapacitating local college boards, and sharply raising fees for students seeking second degrees and those not transferring to four-year colleges.
An estimated 200,000 California students will be excluded from higher education if the recommended legislation passes. To sign a petition against the Task Force, go to: http://tinyurl.com/c3aj4kc and email both Governor Jerry Brown and California Community College Chancellor Jack Scott. Save higher education for those who aren’t rich!
An elderly friend of mine was talking about how much difference there is now in how people look at the police compared to when he was a kid. Back then, he said, police were looked at as good people trying to help you out if you got into a bad situation. He referred to friendly advice a police officer gave him when he had gotten into trouble as a youngster. That is completely different now, he noted, referring specifically to the extreme police power in the Patriot Act that can throw people in jail for going on strike if that strike is declared to be a national emergency, and also noted the increasing amount of surveillance and invasion of privacy that permeates the whole of society.
I hope nobody misses the importance of the graphic printed in the last issue with the Readers’ Views on “Voices from the Inside.” While hard to read, its words, printed with a picture of the Statue of Liberty, are a powerful indictment of U.S. reality today: “Welcome to America, home to 5% of the world’s people & 25% of the world’s prisoners.”
Through the N&L class series I’ve attended (“Dialectics of organization and philosophy in today’s freedom struggles, Karl Marx, and Marxist-Humanism”), I am beginning to get a better understanding of the misinterpretations of Marx and Hegel that abound and that I think may be deliberate. How the classes related to Occupy Wall Street (OWS) helped me begin to understand some of the terms we use.
The occupy movements are one locale to work out the dialectic. It is only one locale and a lot of people will try to hijack it. Occupy Oakland is attracting a lot of people who don’t go to demonstrations. It is proof that people can get together and make things happen. It will have consequences in a lot of lives.
The “archives column” in the Nov.-Dec. 2012 issue on “Spontaneity and new beginnings,” written by Dunayevksya in 1977, illuminates what is going on in the world right now, giving crucial meaning to the front-page article on the Occupy movement by Gerry Emmett and Susan Van Gelder.
On Nov. 15 we witnessed a 21st century capitalist counter-revolution in New York. The weapon of choice for mayors from here to Oakland is “concern for public health and safety.” Yet visit any neighborhood of working people and people of color and you’ll have to look hard for this concern. Although OWS up to now has self-organized on the basis of its principles, it will surely face internal pulls to disregard philosophy in favor of practical matters as it defends itself against external threats. This is the kind of discussion to which those in News and Letters Committees can contribute a Marxist-Humanist concept.
New York City
How have all the world’s developments come to the historic stage we have reached today? OWS has had a huge effect on the entire country. It has affected everyone’s thinking. I can’t remember when tension was this high, including during the 1960s. Today’s intensity seems to be a new kind.
In following a chat room, I see revulsion at the whole system, but every conceivable idea is floating around from Rand Paul to left liberalism. There is a critique of capitalism but no consistent philosophy. Many OWS participants are unemployed but the real power resides in the working people. They have tremendous power which is held in check by “false consciousness.” This country would shut down if every worker stopped working.
There are many approaches to OWS, not all helpful. I see my old Trotskyist friends out there trying to take over OWS. I see SEIU out there offering fried chicken, as they did when we had an independent strike. My friends from ILWU and others are out there trying to spread the general strikes.
East Bay, Calif.
The strengths of OWS—its diversity, participatory direct democracy, connection to all social justice issues and movements, and the support of thousands outside the camp in marches, teach-ins, donations, and discussions—will not allow the movement to knuckle under to the class interests represented by the “1%.” But we should entertain no illusions that the capitalist system will give up easily. Despite its power, we, too, have power: numbers, experience, principles and ideas about what kind of world we want to create. Let the discussions continue!
Northern New Jersey
WOMEN CONFRONT REPRESSION
“It is not acceptable that little girls must pass through a gauntlet of angry men who are armed with bags of excrement…” But until an Israeli TV broadcast the story of an eight-year-old girl afraid to attend her Modern Orthodox girls’ school, near-total silence prevailed.
In a Dec. 30 editorial titled “Shame on us all,” the Teaneck, N.J., newspaper Jewish Standard reported that it had received NO responses to its Oct. 13 editorial denouncing the violence. After the broadcast, leaders of Israel and “those who claim leadership of American Jewry” proclaimed their horror, demanding an end to Haredi violence. In late December, 2,000 secular and Modern Orthodox defenders of the girls rallied at the school against attempts to exclude women from public spaces. Signs read: “Free Israel from religious conversion,” “Stop Israel from becoming Iran.” In Israel, ultra-orthodox men have shunted women onto separate sidewalks and created gender-segregated buses and health clinics.
U.S. support for the Israeli fightback against ultra-right repression of women is an important development. Hopefully all involved will also see the need to support the human rights of non-Jewish Israelis, thus strengthening both freedom movements.
Susan Van Gelder
I really liked the article “To Yemenis ‘rape is worse than death'” (Nov.-Dec. 2011 N&L). Coming from the Mexican culture, I feel that it needs to be widely read. It was not so long ago that this sort of sentiment would have been common in “Western” countries as well. And such attitudes are similar to the “well, she really wanted it” justification for rape, or that AIDS is a punishment from God, and so on. Such articles expose how truly reactionary some “Western” attitudes towards sex remain.