Readers’ Views, Part 1
CAPITALIST CRISIS AND REVOLT
I appreciated Franklin Dmitryev’s Lead article in the July-August N&L, on “Spain, Greece, Europe: Capitalist crisis and revolt,” for showing how the so-called “radical Left” is not really so radical. They think they can solve things through managing the economy and redistributing wealth, and channel energy into politics.
The boldfaced paragraph in the section on “the rate of profit,” however, is hard to get if you are new to Marxist-Humanist ideas. What is the “dialectical inversion”? The heart of the explanation is to show how what everyone calls independent, the economy, is actually a particular way of looking at our lives. It is a particular approach to reality that gives the “economy” this independence. What does it mean for an economy to be “weak”?
Bay Area, Calif.
The article on “Spain, Greece, Europe: Capitalist crisis and revolt” has good information! I love to read in other languages about what happens in Spain and in Asturias.
I have been feeling for a long time that the politicals and bankers are kidding us and it seems that we are unable to stop it. They do not listen to us. How to do it? With violence? They are getting richer thanks to the little money of each normal family in Spain. They tell us there is no money to pay doctors, teachers, scientists. But there is. They want this money for themselves and their friends, for the big bosses of companies and banks, for the Catholic Church, for the royal family. No budget cuts for them.
I am ashamed of having to be represented by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and ashamed that people voted for him as they did. But I’m proud of the Asturian miners. I have hope that they will move the people to change something.
In the July-August N&L, Franklin Dmitryev writes about the housing situation in Spain with families still owing on the mortgage even after being kicked out. Li Congjun—the president of Xinhua News Agency, the official press agency of the People’s Republic of China—wrote in the Op-Ed section of The New York Times (7/18/2012), about a joke popular in China in recent years, which tells of an old Chinese woman and an old American woman who meet in heaven. “Just before I died, I could finally afford to buy a house,” the Chinese lady says. The American responds, “Just before I died, I finally paid off my mortgage.”
Did this mean freedom only comes with death? I’d like to think we can do better.
TO VOTE OR NOT TO VOTE
You cannot vote modern capitalism out of power. A social and economic revolution will be necessary for that to happen. What participation in the farce of the elections amounts to is upholding the lies and deceptions of the ruling class. Mobilizing people to become involved in electoral politics is to mobilize them to become “pawns in their game,” as Bob Dylan sang, and simply diverts people from the serious task of building a revolutionary movement from the base of society, a movement that demands, not just reforms, but a revolution in permanence.
Many argue that we should not bother to vote in the presidential election. But you have to argue on the grounds of what is happening objectively. If you are concrete, you know that if Romney/Ryan win the presidency, many more women will die. Even if we just look at the question of abortion and forget about the gutting of Medicaid and Medicare, the slashing of food stamps and the savaging of healthcare, that is no exaggeration. Romney/Ryan will immediately reinstate the global gag rule, which will lead to thousands more women dying in other countries. They will make abortion harder to obtain here and they will have the opportunity to appoint several more judges to the U.S. Supreme Court, ensuring the demise of Roe vs. Wade. Obama losing the presidency is a nightmare for women and the poor. But Obama is not our savior. Our support for him has to be to keep kicking his ass.
We are in the midst of an unprecedented nationwide assault on the fundamental right to vote! The flyer the NAACP has been distributing, as the November elections grow closer, makes it known that “Five million Americans could be disenfranchised this year by restrictive voting laws passed since the 2008 presidential election.”
What was most startling of all was the map, showing in different colors, not only how many states (9) already require voters to show a photo ID; how many (7) request it; but how many (19) are considering proposed legislation to require it. It did, indeed, look like what the flyer was titled: “The return of Jim Crow.”
Obama being president is not a product of bourgeois politics but of decades of struggles from below. That’s why burning voter cards is culturally insensitive. Middle East people have been saying that it’s an insane idea when people in the Middle East are dying for that right to vote right now. The demonization of Obama comes from the Right because he’s a Black president, and, therefore, is not considered a legitimate president. A lot of these people don’t consider Black people legitimate citizens. This is what the hard core of the Right today wants to go back to.
During the summer I taught English as a Second Language at Columbia University. When my students expressed a desire to read more in class to improve their English, I used the Editorial in the July-August issue of N&L. The students were interested in the discussion of elections in the U.S. and a number understood why workers need unions, how elections can be bought and sold, etc. Several related experience with sham “democratic” elections in their native countries. The discussions energized the class and, hopefully, aided their understanding of the true nature of American “democracy”: bought and sold to the highest bidder.
New York City
I’m part of the far Left and have found that issues related to women are not considered as important as other issues such as workers’ rights. I’ve had so-called revolutionaries tell me I’m a worker first, then a woman, and I don’t appreciate someone defining me. At Occupy, women’s issues are not really being brought up. I recently started an Occupy Patriarchy in Chicago. Some other cities already have one. Women in it are activists. We’ve been talking about different events we want to plan, including Pussy Riot solidarity.
I’m so glad N&L has a wonderful writer, Adele, who brought up the need to bring back radical feminism in her article in the July-August N&L. “Radical Feminism Redux” is exactly what is needed today.
RACISM, SEXISM, AND THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT
The first meeting we had on race in Occupy brought some people back who left Occupy because of sexism. One told of how women were put in the clerical position, while men had the megaphones. A lot of young women in Occupy don’t know the history of how the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1960s emerged from the sexism of the Left. I thought it was important that it was at a meeting on race where this critique of sexism came out. She came back the next week to the General Assembly and initiated an Occupy Patriarchy group which is not open to men.
Occupier supporting the sisters
I’m struck by the incongruities between social elements. We have a Black president but Black issues are off the national agenda. There really isn’t an anti-war movement, at least not my definition of one. The labor movement has been minimized. There are objective economic changes that make getting real traction on these aspects very difficult. We need theoretical discussions of what these objective barriers are that I would call being at an impasse. There is a lot of energy, but no forward movement I can determine.
The Occupy Movement has a lot of potential and yet contradictions. It’s a question of how to work them out. From the beginning much of the Left ignored the sense in the movement of trying to actually work out democracy. At the early General Assemblies it was clear people were looking for new forms of organization and new relationships. A form of organization by itself—even this one, which is deliberately anti-hierarchical— doesn’t solve the problem and can be transformed into its opposite. The biggest obstacles are not just racism and sexism, but the downplaying of theory and raising up action over everything else. We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of that attitude of activism, activism, activism.
KILLING THE POSTAL SERVICE
The Post Office has to make advance payments on future retiree health benefits. This is what is driving it towards bankruptcy. It sounds like funny government accounting, and our clown Congress is treating it as a hot potato that they do not want to touch as they try to get re-elected.
All military veterans who take the Post Office civil service exam get extra points added to their exam score. Therefore veterans make up a higher percentage of the postal population than they do the general population. The ruling class did not want all of these people that it had trained to kill to be wandering the streets, so they made sure they could get a job in the Post Office. Now the short-sightedness of our bourgeois legislators has them abandoning this policy and in the process planting the seeds of destruction of the corrupt capitalist system. If the politicians manage to finally kill, i.e., privatize the postal service, it will certainly prove to be a gold mine for whatever vulture venture capitalist firm takes it over. It will also mean the end of universal service—the glue that bound this country together.
Battle Creek, Mich.
HUMANISM AS CORE OF MARXISM
Re-reading Marx’s “Paris Manuscripts” and “On the Jewish Question” has rekindled my interest in the supposedly “early” humanism of Marx. Then reading additional works on Marxism and ethics like James Daly’s Marx: Justice and Dialectic, alongside reading Raya Dunayevskaya, I began to appreciate the humanist core of Marxism—all the more to the extent that I have distanced myself a great deal from orthodox Trotskyism.
Although the Degenerate Workers’ State theory never sat well with me, the focus on the actual human subject intertwined with the social relations inherent in the productive process led me to further distance myself from the Trotskyist obsession with distribution, nationalization and other superficialities. There was some excellent material on the website of the International Communist Current deriding the notion that there is a “break” between the young and mature Marx on alienation/ abstract labor etc, which further pushed me in a Marxist Humanist direction. I still believe in the necessity of a workers’ political party, however, although that does not involve the assumption that it will constitute the sole leadership of the class simply because it wishes it.
ISRAEL/PALESTINE/USA FREEDOM FIGHTERS
I just got home from the Rachel Corrie trial. It was disgraceful. The judge ruled that the Israeli Defense Force behaved impeccably, and that Rachel had deliberately put herself in harm’s way. “Any reasonable person would have moved out of the path of the bulldozer,” wrote the judge, completely misconstruing the point of nonviolent protest and the protections afforded human rights activists by international law.
The judge never uttered a word of sympathy to the family facing him in the front row, never used the word “victim” in his description, never said “tragedy” or “tragic”—it was as if the state of Israel had written the verdict, and the judge read it out loud.
The photo of three determined Israeli youths holding signs demanding “NO WAR!” was a welcome surprise in the Aug. 24 Chicago Tribune. Its caption described “Israelis at the coastal city of Tel Aviv protest against a possible Israeli attack on Iran. Israel is thought to be contemplating a military strike to thwart Iran’s nuclear capabilities.” The picture looked exactly like the numerous U.S. youth protests during the Vietnam War.
My great surprise was not to see such a protest going on in Israel today, but to see it finally being reported in the Chicago Tribune. The existence of such protests has otherwise been kept very quiet, to say the least, in all the media! Youth keep the anti-war movement alive everywhere in the world.
Octogenarian Anti-war protestor