Thursday, February 27, 2014

Venezuela: contradictions of the "third road" sharpen

[2013 article]
Venezuelan election highlights deepening
social crisis of capitalism, US intervention

Two things above all were laid bare with the April 14 election of Nicolás Maduro as president of Venezuela. Washington remains determined to undermine a government whose policies have run crosswise with those of U.S. imperialism since the election of former President Hugo Chávez in 1998. At the same time, the March 5 death of Chávez has accelerated the weakening influence of his party — the United Socialist Party of Venezuela — a process rooted in the deepening crisis of capitalism and the economic and social consequences it has wrought on working people there.
Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles demanded a recount after the announcement that Maduro won by a margin of less than 2 percent. Washington chimed in on cue: “A 100 percent audit of the results” is “important, prudent and necessary,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney April 15.
Capriles called for protests in the streets, including a mass march in Caracas April 17, but called it off after Maduro accused Capriles of planning a coup.
Venezuela’s National Electoral Council announced April 18 that it would conduct a full audit.
Chávez, a former army commander, was elected president in 1998, amid mobilizations by working people against government austerity and repression. His platform promised a “third road” between socialism and capitalism. He was reelected in 2000, in 2006 and then again against Capriles in 2012.
In a move that earned the enmity of Washington and a substantial section of capitalists in Venezuela, Chávez reorganized the country’s oil industry into a state capitalist enterprise and used a part of oil profits to subsidize food and fuel costs and to fund social programs. He hired construction companies to build housing in poorer neighborhoods. Some 160,000 peasants received titles to fallow land during his terms as president — though more than 80 percent of agricultural land remains in capitalist hands.
Chávez denounced the U.S. war in Afghanistan; developed friendly relations with the governments of Iran, Libya and other nations in conflict with Washington; and worst of all in the eyes of U.S. imperialism maintained close ties with revolutionary Cuba.
On April 11, 2002, Venezuelan capitalists and generals with the backing of Washington, arrested Chávez. In response, tens of thousands of working people took to the streets. The military command split, the coup collapsed and the democratically elected government was restored, giving workers confidence and providing impetus for struggles of workers and farmers.
The Venezuelan government further infuriated Washington by accepting Havana’s aid to establish missions staffed by tens of thousands of Cuban volunteers. The most prominent are Barrio Adentro, where some 20,000 Cuban doctors provide free medical care, and Misión Robinson, a literacy program that has taught more than 1.5 million Venezuelans.
As part of an agreement of mutual cooperation, the Chávez government has been sending more than 100,000 barrels of subsidized oil a day to Cuba, an enormous help to that country’s ability to weather the crippling effects of the U.S. economic embargo.
Contradictions of third road sharpen
But expansion of government social programs, price and currency controls, and nationalizations did not make Venezuela less vulnerable to the impact of the worldwide economic crisis that is bearing down especially hard on semicolonial countries. As the crisis sharpened, so too have the contradictions of a third road, later coined “socialism of the 21st century.”
Venezuelan oil production has declined 25 percent since 2001. Inflation, between 20 and 30 percent annually, has hit working people especially hard. And crime has become a rampant social problem.
In February this year, the Chávez government implemented an 80 percent currency devaluation aimed at lowering the ballooning government budget deficit. This meant a sharp price hike for imported goods on top of the already high inflation.
During the elections, Capriles tried to recast his image as a “progressive” politician who would attack the “corruption” of Maduro and the chavistas.
Capriles promised to raise wages 40 percent and told his followers they should reach out to the “red shirts” (followers of Chávez) to fight crime. He toned down his criticism of the late Chávez himself and disingenuously sought to capitalize on Chávez’s popularity and his opponent’s weaknesses, telling Maduro, “You’re no Chávez.”
Capriles claimed he would “strengthen the missions,” while in the same breath announced he would kick Cuban advisers out of the Venezuelan army and that “not a drop of oil will go toward financing the government of the Castros.”
But as capitalist exploiters from the U.S. to Venezuela fret about the outcome of an election, their biggest problem lies outside their shortsighted view: the class struggle that is beginning to simmer underneath the surface and the revolutionary battles for workers power that lay ahead, not behind.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

World World Party defends Great Russian chauvinism in Ukraine

Workers World Party's unconditional defense of Great Russian chauvinism against the oppressed Ukrainian nation continues. Again they liquidate the national question of the Ukrainians. Not even lip service is paid.

Can anyone imagine this party talking about the class struggle in the United States and not mentioning the oppressed Black nationality?

But for Workers World Party politics begin with support for any regime that for whatever temporary or episodic reason finds itself opposed to  Washington's policies. They do not follow the class lines on these questions. Instead they promote a pragmatic geopolitics of "great powers."

This is not an academic question.  Rather, it is the kind of unprincipled politics that led to workers and peasants to defeat in Indonesia in 1965. [Not to mention Germany in the early 1930s.] Workers, farmers and oppressed nationalities must rely on our own class forces, whatever the level of their leadership or consciousness.  The Putins of the world will not defend us any more than the Assads, Obamas, or DeBlasios. 

The Ukrainian national question was never "solved" for all time during the lifespan of the USSR.  No wonder there are people in Ukraine willing to die for their oppressed nation and fight (with whatever illusions and whatever caliber of leadership) for its liberation,  just like Kurds and Palestinians.

[Previous generations' communist leaders understood the social weight of the Ukrainian national question very well, as can be seen here and here.]

Friday, February 21, 2014

166 years of the Communist Manifesto

‘Communist Manifesto’ speaks to workers today

(Books of the Month column)
Below is an excerpt from a 1937 introduction to the Communist Manifesto by Leon Trotsky. The introduction by the Bolshevik leader noted then, as remains the case today, the freshness and relevance of the Manifesto’s most important sections. Pathfinder’s Spanish-language edition of this founding programmatic document of the modern communist movement is one of its Books of the Month for August. Copyright © 1992 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.


It is hard to believe that the centennial of the Manifesto of the Communist Party is only ten years away! This pamphlet, displaying greater genius than any other in world literature, astounds us even today by its freshness. Its most important sections appear to have been written yesterday. Assuredly the young authors (Marx was twenty-nine, Engels twenty-seven) were able to look further into the future than anyone before them, and perhaps than anyone since them.

Already in their joint preface to the edition of 1872, Marx and Engels declared that despite the fact that certain secondary passages in the Manifesto were antiquated, they felt that they no longer had any right to alter the original text inasmuch as the Manifesto had already become a historical document, during the intervening period of twenty-five years. Sixty-five additional years have elapsed since that time. Isolated passages in the Manifesto have receded still further into the past. We shall try to establish succinctly in this preface both those ideas in the Manifesto which retain their full force today and those which require important alteration or amplification.

1. The materialist conception of history discovered by Marx only a short while before and applied with consummate skill in the Manifesto, has completely withstood the test of events and the blows of hostile criticism. It constitutes today one of the most precious instruments of human thought. All other interpretations of the historical process have lost all scientific meaning. We can state with certainty that it is impossible in our time to be not only a revolutionary militant but even a literate observer in politics without assimilating the materialist interpretation of history.

2. The first chapter of the Manifesto opens with the following words: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” This postulate, the most important conclusion drawn from the materialist interpretation of history, immediately became an issue in the class struggle. Especially venomous attacks were directed by reactionary hypocrites, liberal doctrinaires, and idealistic democrats against the theory which replaced “common welfare,” “national unity” and “eternal moral truths” as the driving force by the struggle of material interests. They were later joined by recruits from the ranks of the labor movement itself, by the so-called revisionists, i.e., the proponents of reviewing (“revising”) Marxism in the spirit of class collaboration and class conciliation. Finally in our own time, the same path has been followed in practice by the contemptible epigones of the Communist International (the “Stalinists”): the policy of the so-called People's Front flows wholly from the denial of the laws of the class struggle. Meanwhile, it is precisely the epoch of imperialism, bringing all social contradictions to the point of highest tension, which gives to the Communist Manifesto its supreme theoretical triumph.

3. The anatomy of capitalism, as a specific stage in the economic development of society, was given by Marx in its finished form in Capital (1867). But already in the Communist Manifesto the main lines of the future analysis are firmly sketched: the payment for labor power as equivalent to the cost of its reproduction; the appropriation of surplus value by the capitalists; competition as the basic law of social relations; the ruination of intermediate classes, i.e., the urban petty bourgeoisie and the peasantry; the concentration of wealth in the hands of an ever diminishing number of property owners at the one pole, and the numerical growth of the proletariat at the other; the preparation of the material and political preconditions for the socialist regime.

4. The proposition in the Manifesto condemning the tendency of capitalism to lower the living standards of the workers, and even to transform them into paupers, had been subjected to a heavy barrage. Parsons, professors, ministers, journalists, social democratic theoreticians, and trade union leaders came to the front against the so-called theory of impoverishment. They invariably discovered signs of growing prosperity among the toilers, palming off the labor aristocracy as the proletariat or taking a fleeting tendency as permanent. Meanwhile, even the development of the mightiest capitalism in the world, namely U.S. capitalism, has transformed millions of workers into paupers who are maintained at the expense of federal, municipal, or private charity.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Behind Chattanooga UAW defeat

Facing crisis, AFL-CIO tops
turn further from struggle


Marking a further retreat by the current labor officialdom from any perspective of actively organizing workers into unions and bringing union power to bear, delegates to the Sept. 8-11 AFL-CIO convention overwhelmingly approved a resolution to begin incorporating nonlabor political organizations into the federation and shoring up its dues base with “workers centers.”

The labor movement can’t be “limited to workplaces where a majority of employees votes ‘Yes,” said the resolution.

The AFL-CIO will encourage “worker centers” like “OUR Walmart” and “Fight for 15” to affiliate. These union-initiated groups, which also involve students, social service organization staffers and others, have organized protests around the country calling for higher pay and better working conditions for retail, fast-food and other workers, but without organizing the ranks themselves to establish actual unions.

Liberal political organizations that share the labor federation’s orientation to the Democratic Party, including the NAACP, National Organization for Women, National Council of La Raza and the Sierra Club, are invited to join the labor federation as well.

“The crisis for labor has deepened,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told the New York Times Sept. 6. “We really have to experiment.” Nonunion affiliated workers can help lobby state legislatures for a higher minimum wage, push Congress to raise taxes on the wealthy and help press employers to improve safety conditions, Trumka said.

U.S. union membership stood at 14.4 million workers in 2012, representing 11.3 percent of the U.S. workforce, a 97-year low. In the last two decades, under the capitalists’ unrelenting assaults, union membership has declined from 20.1 percent to its current level.

In a related move, United Auto Workers President Bob King announced Sept. 6 that the union was cooperating with Volkswagen to create a German-style “works council” at the company’s Chattanooga, Tenn., assembly plant, which employs some 2,400 workers. “Volkswagen is a great company and they really believe worker representation is part of their success,” said King, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Under this proposal, workers at the Chattanooga plant would join the UAW, which would then represent them on the company-union “works council,” which would include representatives of management, salaried employees and plant workers.

To date, none of the many auto assembly plants in the South owned by German, Japanese and South Korean manufacturers has been organized by the UAW or any other union.

Meanwhile, membership in the UAW stands at 390,000, down from 1.5 million in 1979. Promoting collaboration with car manufacturers and the government to “save the U.S. auto industry,” UAW officials have promoted concession contracts, establishing divisive wage tiers. Efforts by the union tops to increase the AFL-CIO’s size by including nonunion workers and groups is not aimed at strengthening unions, but rather at stemming the loss of the officials’ dues base and regaining a measure of influence in capitalist politics, above all in the Democratic Party.

By promoting class collaboration with the bosses and election of “friendly” capitalist politicians as the unions’ main purpose, the officialdom’s decades-long class-collaborationist course has hamstrung the union movement. It has been key to the union’s continued bleeding of membership and inability to recruit new forces, at a time of capitalist crisis when workers are starting to look for a way to fight back.

Unions strong, not weak

Supporters of the Militant who distribute the paper door to door in working-class areas around the country each week are meeting workers who want to discuss what is happening in the labor movement and how the unions can be strengthened.
In these discussions, communist workers explain that the unions are not “weak,” as many labor officials claim, pointing to declining numbers. This is simply an excuse for their refusal to organize workers and use union power — instead of subordinating workers and their organizations to the bosses, their government and the capitalist Democratic and Republican parties.

The unions are not a “thing,” but an activity, a movement — a “we” of all its members. Even today the unions encompass millions of workers with enormous potential to deal major blows to the bosses.

Our unions can and will become powerful instruments to fight back against attacks by the bosses and their government when workers start to take hold of them. During a recovery in hiring after a long period of high unemployment in the 1930s, “men and women from nowhere” started to gain confidence and waged mighty battles in the plants and on the streets that built the industrial unions.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Is Moscow defending Ukraine from EU and U.S. imperialism?

A friend on Facebook recently wrote:

Now both Ukraine and Russia are oppressed countries. Russia is led by an anti-imperialist capitalist regime. Because Russia is part of the global anti-imperialist bloc, the US and EU imperialists are trying to lock down Ukraine as a base in their camp. This requires forcing Ukraine to join EU. The majority of Ukrainians oppose it. Why would anyone want to join EU? Workers in Britain, France, and other countries are trying to escape it. EU is an anti-worker imperialist trap.

To me reliance on Putin's regime as "anti-imperialist" recalls a previous disaster for workers who were led to believe their "anti-imperialist" capitalist government had their interests at heart:  Indonesia in 1965.  Such illusions, fostered at the time by Peking as well as the leadership of the Indonesian Communist Party, led to disaster.  Putting reliance on Moscow today as caretaker for the aspirations of Ukraine's workers and farmers, and Russia's, promotes similar illusions. 

Workers need their own leadership and their own party.  Reliance on the class enemy is not even a short-term solution.  It is a deadly trap.  Especially when it also means ignoring three hundred years of national oppression and liquidating the struggle of an oppressed nationality [the Ukrainians], whatever their current level of consciousness and leadership.

More on Indonesia in 1965:

‘Maoism vs. Bolshevism’: Lessons from Indonesia
(In Review column)

Maoism vs. Bolshevism by Joseph Hansen, 90 pages. Pathfinder Press, 1998. Education for Socialists bulletin, Documents of the Socialist Workers Party. $12.

Maoism vs. Bolshevism deals with the social and political roots and the international repercussions of the “most devastating defeat for the working class since the fascist victory in Germany in 1933”—the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of members and supporters of the Communist Party and other working people in Indonesia in 1965. The Indonesian Communist Party, the biggest in the capitalist world, along with unions and other organizations were wiped out in just a few months.

The massacre was directed by Gen. Suharto, who subsequently led a coup that brought him to power. The reactionary U.S.-backed Suharto tyranny endured for some three decades.

Maoism vs. Bolshevism is a collection of Socialist Workers Party documents between 1966 and 1974 by Joseph Hansen, then a leader of the party.

Hansen poses the question: How could a political force like the Indonesian Communist Party, claiming 3 million members, another 3 million in the youth group and 20 million in mass organizations, undergo a mauling at the hands of armed forces totaling 350,000?

Workers and farmers in Indonesia were inspired by the 1949 Chinese Revolution. The Chinese Communist Party—which came to power on the crest of that mighty social upheaval carried through by millions of Chinese toilers—had enormous prestige and was looked to for leadership and guidance. The defeat in Indonesia cannot be understood, Hansen says, without understanding the role played by the CCP led by Mao Zedong. He compares it to the role the Soviet Communist Party under Joseph Stalin played in Germany in the 1920s and ’30s and in the Spanish Revolution in the 30s.

“In relation to Indonesia, Mao played a role comparable to that of Stalin in the German events,” wrote Hansen. “Just as Stalin … blocked the German Communist Party from developing a revolutionary policy that could have stopped Hitler and put the German working class in power, so Mao out of similar passing diplomatic needs (an alliance with Sukarno and the Indonesian bourgeoisie) blocked the Indonesian Communist party from developing a revolutionary policy that could have stopped the reactionary generals and put the Indonesian working class in power.”

Sukarno became Indonesia’s first president after a powerful national movement forced the Dutch colonialists to cede independence in 1949. He ceded power to Suharto in 1967.

The leadership of the Indonesian Communist Party, with Chairman D.N. Aidit at the helm, put the brakes on the mass movement and subordinated it to the Indonesian bourgeoisie, at the urging of Beijing.

Hansen points to the international repercussions of the defeat in Indonesia. “The most spectacular immediate result … is to be seen in China. The evidence strongly indicates that it was the precipitating cause for the ‘cultural revolution,’” a brutal and culturally repressive campaign launched by the Chinese Communist Party in August 1966.

Maoism vs. Bolshevism documents the discussion in the Fourth International, at the time an international organization of revolutionary parties, going into its 1969 and 1974 World Congresses on the assessment of the Cultural Revolution. The main dividing line is the characterization of the Maoist leadership.

Hansen and others saw the Maoist policy as expressing the interests of a “crystallized bureaucratic caste” that could not be reformed, but had to be overthrown. They characterized this privileged social layer in China as “Stalinist, because of its essential similarity to the counterrevolutionary bureaucracy consolidated in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s.”

It’s this commonality, in fact, that drove at that time the deep rivalry between the Soviet and Chinese governments, the booklet explains.

“Mao’s policy on the international plane was fundamentally opportunist, aimed at reaching an accommodation with American imperialism and at practicing class collaboration with the bourgeoisie in the colonial and semicolonial countries,” Hansen explained. This “generalized policy of peaceful coexistence is dictated by the material interests of the bureaucratic caste, which fears the spread of revolution and the effect it might have on the masses in its own country.”

The opposing position held by Ernest Mandel, Pierre Frank and Livio Maitan, leaders of sections of the Fourth International in Europe, saw the Maoist leadership as “bureaucratic centrist,” sensitive to mass pressure for reforms and that significant concessions to the masses would be a forthcoming result of the Cultural Revolution.

In an assessment of the Cultural Revolution presented to the 1974 World Congress, Hansen points to the effects of the Maoist foreign policy in relation to Vietnam during the U.S. war to roll back the revolution in that country. “The bankruptcy of this [Mao’s] foreign policy became glaringly clear when … Mao offered ‘peaceful coexistence’ to the [U.S. Richard] Nixon administration.

“The real stake for Nixon was Vietnam. Mao paid off by inviting Nixon to Peking in February 1972. So that the Vietnamese should be certain not to miss the point, Nixon timed his visit to Peking to coincide with a savage escalation of the bombing of Indochina.”

The documents point to a number of other examples in which narrow nationalists interests of the Chinese bureaucracy clash irreconcilably with the interests of the working class on the international plane and reveal its counterrevolutionary character. Beijing was the first to recognize the reactionary Boumedienne regime that came to power with the overthrow of the Algerian Revolution in 1965, and among the first to recognize the bloody fascist-like dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile. It backed, and in some cases aided, capitalist military dictatorships around the world—from Gen. Francisco Franco’s Spain, to Greece, Ceylon, Sudan, East Bengal and Peru. It opposed reductions in NATO forces aimed against the Soviet Union and gave only lip service to selected workers’ struggles that didn’t impinge on these alliances.

The introduction to Maoism vs. Bolshevism was written by Steve Clark on behalf of the Political Committee of the SWP in 1998, just weeks after Suharto’s resignation.

“Responsibility for the defeat [in Indonesia] lay not with bad ideas, but with a self-serving class-collaborationist course of the privileged bureaucratic caste in Peking and its subservient followers in the leadership of the Indonesian Communist Party,” writes Clark. “Only by clearly understanding the accountability of Stalinism for the 1965 catastrophe in Indonesia can we accurately appreciate the historic significance of the fact … that the Indonesian workers, peasants, and youth who are today beginning to return to political life no longer confront this massive counterrevolutionary obstacle that repeatedly stood in their path to victory throughout much of this century.”

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ukraine today

.... After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine declared its formal independence, but still remained a political and economic vassal of Russia. While Ukrainian is the principal language for two-thirds of the country, Russian predominates in large parts of the eastern and southern parts, which are also the more industrially developed regions.

Former Soviet bureaucrats used their positions to assemble fortunes for themselves and their cronies as chunks of the Russian economy were privatized. Former KGB political police lieutenant-colonel Putin took the presidency on behalf of these new capitalist layers. His regime is the true heir of the Stalinist police apparatus and murder machine.

Moscow still has close ties to Ukraine’s police apparatus and the armies of both countries have held joint exercises since Yanukovich took office.

Yanukovich attempted to quell the demonstrations with police violence and pushed through a law restricting the right to protest. The move backfired. The protests widened, including to the southern and eastern parts of the country, which have been Yanukovich’s main base of support.

As the protests spread, Yanukovich offered concessions, while his police forces continued to selectively go after leading activists in the opposition. His prime minister and cabinet resigned Jan. 28, and Yanukovich invited opposition leaders to join the government. He signed a repeal of the anti-protest law Jan. 31 and approved an amnesty for jailed protesters, on condition they evacuate government buildings they have occupied in Kiev and other cities.

The main opposition parties rejected the concessions. They demanded the immediate release of more than 100 people arrested in recent weeks. At least six people have been killed by cops and pro-government thugs and many others kidnapped and beaten since the protests began.

The protests in Ukraine have begun to win support from other opponents of Putin’s autocratic rule, including in Russia itself. At a Feb. 1 protest of several thousand in Moscow calling for freeing 20 people arrested at an anti-Putin demonstration in May 2012, some participants carried Ukrainian flags in solidarity with the protests there.

In addition to suffering under Russian tyranny, Ukraine has been especially hard hit by the worldwide capitalist economic crisis. Its economy contracted by nearly 15 percent in 2009, among the biggest declines in the world.

The Ukraine government owes $5.5 billion in loans due in 2014, $3 billion of it to the International Monetary Fund, but its foreign currency reserves have dropped by about one-third over the past year. Another $10 billion is due next year.

The IMF, prior to the latest crisis, has been urging Kiev to cut fuel subsidies and other government spending as a condition for more loans, steps that would fall heavily on working people.

President Putin has sought to take advantage of Ukraine’s precarious economic crisis to strengthen Moscow’s hand and to press Yanukovich to take a harder line on the protests...

Age of devaluation

Workers face ruin as capitalists pull
billions from semicolonial countries

(front page)

Recent currency devaluations in Argentina, Turkey and elsewhere in the world are among the latest manifestations of a deepening world capitalist crisis. They will mean declining real wages and rising prices for basic goods, devastating the lives of working people.
Finding it harder to maximize profits through investing in expanded productive capacity, capitalists have turned to other avenues for the highest returns. This includes financial speculation in stocks, bonds and currency markets and other financial paper in so-called emerging markets, a term used to refer to less developed colonial and semicolonial nations.

Since 2008, U.S. capitalists have poured $1.1 trillion into these countries, inflating a giant and increasingly unstable debt balloon.

Now the propertied holders of this debt are acting on fears over the growing risks, rapidly dialing back these “investments,” not just in Argentina and Turkey, but Hungary, Brazil, India, South Africa, Indonesia and other places.

This fear, according to the prevailing view among financial commentators, was stoked by two developments. One, growing signs of a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing, which many capitalists hoped would drive a world economic recovery. And two, the decision of the Federal Reserve Bank to begin tapering back its money printing schemes, which, according to its proponents, help buoy capital investment.

The Argentine government devalued the peso Jan. 23, as international currency traders started dumping it. The peso’s value against the dollar slid 15 percent in two hours until the central bank stepped in and sold $1.25 billion of its dwindling foreign currency reserves over the next few days to stem the tide. Argentina’s reserves have fallen to $28.3 billion from a peak of $52.6 billion in January 2011.

The credit rating agency Moody’s is betting the peso will lose another 50 percent of its value this year, reported the Financial Times, as Argentina’s inflation rate, an estimated 28 percent in 2013, continues to rise.

The Turkish lira fell 20 percent against the dollar over the past month. In response, the country’s central bank raised interest rates Jan. 28, starting with the seven-day repurchase rate, which it more than doubled from 4.5 to 10 percent. While this slowed the lira’s slide, it “arrived too late to convince foreign investors to treat Turkey as the promising investment it was for them until recently,” said a Marketwatch opinion column. The move is, however, expected to bring an end to a construction boom fueled by massive real estate speculation.

Not one of the countries that capitalists refer to as “emerging” or “developing” nations has ever emerged or developed into an advanced capitalist power, or ever will. This has been true since the rise of imperialism in the early 1900s, a scientific conclusion explained by Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin nearly 100 years ago in Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism.

Workers and peasants in the colonial and semicolonial world are exploited by domestic and foreign capitalists while at the same time held in debt bondage to international finance capital through the agencies of the national bourgeoisies in their countries. Vast quantities of wealth produced by the toilers are siphoned into banks in the U.S. and other imperialist centers to cover interest payments on the debt. Turkey’s foreign debt is $373 billion; Argentina’s, $141 billion.

“Since the consolidation of imperialism,” wrote Jack Barnes, Socialist Workers Party national secretary, in Capitalism’s World Disorder, “every action by finance capital in relation to the more economically backward countries ends up further warping the economies of the colonial or semicolonial countries. That is the effect of every bank loan to their ruling classes; every investment in landed, industrial, and commercial capital; every purchase of bonds issued by a semicolonial administration; every trade pact; every scheme to peg the value of weaker currencies to stronger ones.”

Friday, February 7, 2014

Ukraine: Putin, imperialists vie for influence

.... The unfolding events in Ukraine have historical roots in the anti-working-class course of the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc governments following the usurpation of political power by privileged bureaucratic social layers in the 1920s — a course which led to their collapse in the early 1990s. Since then, the remnants of the ruling bureaucracies in Ukraine and the rest of the Soviet bloc have moved to reimpose capitalist exploitation on the working class. The social crisis resulting from this course is today exacerbated by the deepening crisis of capitalism on a world scale..

With roots in different industries and other sources of capital, some emerging capitalists have gravitated toward traditional ties with Moscow, while others look to new opportunities in closer economic integration with western Europe.

Conflicts between different factions of the new capitalist layers exploded around the 2004 presidential election. Yanukovich, who emerged from the government-run eastern coal industry and had strong ties to Russia, claimed victory. His opponent, Viktor Yushchenko, came out of the state banking apparatus and oriented towards Washington and capitalist governments in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets, backing Yushchenko and a break with Russia. But his rule ended six years later amid growing disdain for the thievery and corruption of his government, laying the basis for Yanukovich and his clique to take the elections.

The forces leading the opposition are capitalist parties with seats in Ukraine’s parliament. One of the main groups organizing the protests is the Fatherland party of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, prime minister in Yushchenko’s cabinet, representing oligarchs on the outs.

UDAR — punch in Ukrainian — is led by Vitali Klitschko, a former heavyweight world boxing champion who gained his wealth outside of any ties to Ukrainian politics and presents himself as a savior, a fighter against corruption.

The third party in Independence Square is Svoboda. The party was founded in the early 1990s, but traces its roots to the Ukrainian partisan army in World War II, which was loosely allied with Nazi Germany. Party leader Oleg Tyagnibok says “Nationalism is love of the land” and has come out against a supposed “Jewish-Russian mafia” running Ukraine. Members of Svoboda make up a large part of the muscle defending the square against the cops.

The oligarchs competing allegiances with either side are based on pragmatic interests, not ideological views on “democracy,” as is often presented in the big-business press of Europe and the U.S.

The Eastern Partnership, which Yanukovich said no to Nov. 21, was set up in 2007, aiming to integrate Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Ukraine into the EU with removal of tariffs on imports and exports.

Yanukovich said he couldn’t sign the deal because of steep cuts to government expenditures and state enterprises demanded by the International Monetary Fund to grant a loan on one hand and threats of trade sanctions from Moscow on the other. On Dec. 15, the European Union suspended talks with Ukraine, saying that Yanukovich’s words and deeds were increasingly diverging.

Ukraine, like many other countries in the region, is going through an acute economic and financial crisis. The government needs $18 billion by March 2014 to roll over debt and pay Russia for outstanding bills of oil and gas. In addition to the bailout and lower gas prices, Moscow has also pledged to resume oil supplies to a refinery after a three-year break.

Ukraine relies on Russia for about 60 percent of its gas consumption and the Russian government has turned the gas off twice in the last seven years. Since July Moscow had imposed trade restrictions that cost Ukraine $2 billion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the deal “is not tied to any conditions” and the issue of Ukraine joining the 2010 customs and trade agreement between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan “was not discussed.”

Ukraine is Russia’s traditional breadbasket and a key source of steel, coal and access to warm-water ports on the Black Sea.

The entire eastern industrialized part of the country — Yanukovich’s traditional support base — has seen very little participation in the demonstrations. The eastern Donbass region accounts for one-fifth of Ukraine’s industrial production and export revenues. Russia imports machinery and manufactured goods. EU imports metals and light industrial products.

The cultural ties are also stronger. Speakers of the Russian language make up 17 percent of Ukraine’s population, in Donbass it’s nearly 40 percent.

Local industries are hugely dependent on Russian supplies and markets. The prospect of joining the EU is not very popular here. “Before joining any international organizations, Ukraine should first develop our own economy,” a housewife in Donetsk told BBC Dec. 3. “Look at our poor pensioners surviving on the breadline. I am against joining the EU.”

Leon Trotsky on defeatism and anti-imperialist struggle

.... Let us assume that rebellion breaks out tomorrow in the French colony of Algeria under the banner of national independence and that the Italian government, motivated by its own imperialist interests, prepares to send weapons to the rebels. What should the attitude of the Italian workers be in this case? I have purposely taken an example of rebellion against a democratic imperialism with intervention on the side of the rebels from a fascist imperialism. Should the Italian workers prevent the shipping of arms to the Algerians? Let any ultra-leftists dare answer this question in the affirmative. Every revolutionist, together with the Italian workers and the rebellious Algerians, would spurn such an answer with indignation. Even if a general maritime strike broke out in fascist Italy at the same time, even in this case the strikers should make an exception in favor of those ships carrying aid to the colonial slaves in revolt; otherwise they would be no more than wretched trade unionists – not proletarian revolutionists.

At the same time, the French maritime workers, even though not faced with any strike whatsoever, would be compelled to exert every effort to block the shipment of ammunition intended for use against the rebels. Only such a policy on the part of the Italian and French workers constitutes the policy of revolutionary internationalism.

Does this not signify, however, that the Italian workers moderate their struggle in this case against the fascist regime? Not in the slightest. Fascism renders “aid” to the Algerians only in order to weaken its enemy, France, and to lay its rapacious hand on her colonies. The revolutionary Italian workers do not forget this for a single moment. They call upon the Algerians not to trust their treacherous “ally” and at the same time continue their own irreconcilable struggle against fascism, “the main enemy in their own country”. Only in this way can they gain the confidence of the rebels, help the rebellion and strengthen their own revolutionary position.

If the above is correct in peace-time, why does it become false in war-time? Everyone knows the postulate of the famous German military theoretician, Clausewitz, that war is the continuation of politics by other means. This profound thought leads naturally to the conclusion that the struggle against war is but the continuation of the general proletarian struggle during peace-time. Does the proletariat in peace-time reject and sabotage all the acts and measures of the bourgeois government? Even during a strike which embraces an entire city, the workers take measures to insure the delivery of food to their own districts, make sure that they have water, that the hospitals do not suffer, etc. Such measures are dictated not by opportunism in relation to the bourgeoisie but by concern for the interests of the strike itself, by concern for the sympathy of the submerged city masses, etc. These elementary rules of proletarian strategy in peace-time retain full force in time of war as well.

An irreconcilable attitude against bourgeois militarism does not signify at all that the proletariat in all cases enters into a struggle against its own “national” army. At least the workers would not interfere with soldiers who are extinguishing a fire or rescuing drowning people during a flood; on the contrary, they would help side by side with the soldiers and fraternize with them. And the question is not exhausted merely by cases of elemental calamities. If the French fascists should make an attempt today at a coup d’etat and the Daladier government found itself forced to move troops against the fascists, the revolutionary workers, while maintaining their complete political independence, would fight against the fascists alongside of these troops. Thus in a number of cases the workers are forced not only to permit and tolerate, but actively to support the practical measures of the bourgeois government.

In ninety cases out of a hundred the workers actually place a minus sign where the bourgeoisie places a plus sign. In ten cases however they are forced to fix the same sign as the bourgeoisie but with their own seal, in which is expressed their mistrust of the bourgeoisie. The policy of the proletariat is not at all automatically derived from the policy of the bourgeoisie, bearing only the opposite sign – this would make every sectarian a master strategist; no, the revolutionary party must each time orient itself independently in the internal as well as the external situation, arriving at those decisions which correspond best to the interests of the proletariat. This rule applies just as much to the war period as to the period of peace.

Let us imagine that in the next European war the Belgian proletariat conquers power sooner than the proletariat of France. Undoubtedly Hitler will try to crush the proletarian Belgium. In order to cover up its own flank, the French bourgeois government might find itself compelled to help the Belgian workers’ government with arms. The Belgian Soviets of course reach for these arms with both hands. But actuated by the principle of defeatism, perhaps the French workers ought to block their bourgeoisie from shipping arms to proletarian Belgium? Only direct traitors or out-and-out idiots can reason thus.

The French bourgeoisie could send arms to proletarian Belgium only out of fear of the greatest military danger and only in expectation of later crushing the proletarian revolution with their own weapons. To the French workers, on the contrary, proletarian Belgium is the greatest support in the struggle against their own bourgeoisie. The outcome of the struggle would be decided, in the final analysis, by the relationship of forces, into which correct policies enter as a very important factor. The revolutionary party’s first task is to utilize the contradiction between two imperialist countries, France and Germany, in order to save proletarian Belgium.

Ultra-left scholastics think not in concrete terms but in empty abstractions. They have transformed the idea of defeatism into such a vacuum. They can see vividly neither the process of war nor the process of revolution. They seek a hermetically sealed formula which excludes fresh air. But a formula of this kind can offer no orientation for the proletarian vanguard.

To carry the class struggle to its highest form – civil war – this is the task of defeatism. But this task can be solved only through the revolutionary mobilization of the masses, that is, by widening, deepening, and sharpening those revolutionary methods which constitute the content of class struggle in “peace”-time. The proletarian party does not resort to artificial methods, such as burning warehouses, setting off bombs, wrecking trains, etc., in order to bring about the defeat of its own government. Even if it were successful on this road, the military defeat would not at all lead to revolutionary success, a success which can be assured only by the independent movement of the proletariat. Revolutionary defeatism signifies only that in its class struggle the proletarian party does not stop at any “patriotic” considerations, since defeat of its own imperialist government, brought about, or hastened by the revolutionary movement of the masses is an incomparably lesser evil than victory gained at the price of national unity, that is, the political prostration of the proletariat. Therein lies the complete meaning of defeatism and this meaning is entirely sufficient.

The methods of struggle change, of course, when the struggle enters the openly revolutionary phase. Civil war is a war, and in this aspect has its particular laws. In civil war, bombing of warehouses, wrecking of trains and all other forms of military “sabotage” are inevitable. Their appropriateness is decided by purely military considerations – civil war continues revolutionary politics but by other, precisely, military means.

However during an imperialist war there may be cases where a revolutionary party will be forced to resort to military-technical means, though they do not as yet follow directly from the revolutionary movement in their own country. Thus, if it is a question of sending arms or troops against a workers’ government or a rebellious colony, not only such methods as boycott and strike, but direct military sabotage may become entirely practical and obligatory. Resorting or not resorting to such measures will be a matter of practical possibilities. If the Belgian workers, conquering power in war-time, have their own military agents on German soil, it would be the duty of these agents not to hesitate at any technical means in order to stop Hitler’s troops. It is absolutely clear that the revolutionary German workers also are duty-bound (if they are able) to perform this task in the interests of the Belgian revolution, irrespective of the general course of the revolutionary movement in Germany itself.

Defeatist policy, that is, the policy of irreconcilable class struggle in war-time cannot consequently be “the same” in all countries, just as the policy of the proletariat cannot be the same in peacetime. Only the Comintern of the epigones has established a regime in which the parties of all countries break into march simultaneously with the left foot. In struggle against this bureaucratic cretinism we have attempted more than once to prove that the general principles and tasks must be realized in each country in accordance with its internal and external conditions. This principle retains its complete force for war-time as well.

Those ultra-leftists who do not want to think as Marxists, that is, concretely, will be caught unawares by war. Their policy in time of war will be a fatal crowning of their policy in peace-time. The first artillery shots will either blow the ultra-leftists into political non-existence, or else drive them into the camp of social-patriotism, exactly like the Spanish anarchists, who, absolute “deniers” of the state, found themselves from the same causes bourgeois ministers when war came. In order to carry on a correct policy in war-time one must learn to think correctly in tune of peace.

Workers World Party supports Great Russian chauvinism against workers of Ukraine

Read the article by Workers World Party leader John Catalinotto here:


Workers World Party leaves out one vital point of historical context in this article on protests in the Ukraine: centuries Great Russian chauvinism against the Ukrainian people, whose only respite occurred during the period 1917 to 1923.

The author also lends credence to statements by Stalinist and Eurocommunist parties opposing and fascist- baiting Ukrainian peoples' protests.

Branding national aspirations of the oppressed Ukrainian nationality as of a piece with collaboration with German imperialism during the period of Nazi occupation during World War 2 is an attempt to let Putin's Russia off the hook.

Workers World Party prides itself on its sensitivity to the national question and to LGBT rights in every country except Russia. There it supports seemingly without reservation Putin's regime as an example of what Workers World Party founder Sam Marcy called "the class war camp" in world politics. This was Marcy's adulteration of Leninist politics with petty bourgeois geopolitics.

An excellent article from last week's Militant newspaper can be found here:

A Militant article on Ukrainian protests can also be found here:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Marxism Vs. Creationism

Workers have stake in defending science

(As I See It column)

The campaign to undermine the teaching of science in schools—under the cover of promoting “intelligent design,” a “balanced view” of evolution, or other repackaged versions of creationism—has suffered repeated setbacks. At the same time, working people need to take seriously this reactionary campaign, which is used to defend the capitalist status quo, and answer it wherever and whenever it is raised.
Workers and farmers have a stake in defending a scientific, materialist approach to nature as well as to society. This is necessary to understand the world and be able to fight effectively to change it in the interests of the vast majority.

For decades, forces seeking to push back the teaching of science and promote biblical myths about the origins of life have been waging this reactionary campaign in various forms. This is part of the effort by rightists to foster irrational ideas and obscurantism in order to promote anti-working-class solutions to the sharpening social crisis caused by capitalism. They play on the insecurity and fears of middle-class and other layers, decrying the “decadence” of society and “loss of moral values.” Those who benefit from these ideological campaigns are the wealthy capitalist rulers.

While reactionary forces have been forced to concede many of the advances of science, their target remains the materialist approach. Materialism maintains that nature alone, based on matter in motion, has a self-sufficient existence. Everything in human life is derived from and dependent on the objective world.

The opposite view is idealism, which denies that nature is primary, making it subordinate to mind or spirit.

Religious and other idealistic—that is, antiscientific—notions obfuscate an understanding of the development of human society and the modern class struggle. They are used to try to convince working people that we are the objects, not the subjects, of history; that there must be a “plan,” a supernatural creator, to whose goals we should submit rather than rely on our own actions to take control of our destiny.

First explained by Charles Darwin in the book On the Origin of Species in 1859, the evolution of animals and plants by natural selection has been amply confirmed since then by scientific investigation of the fossil record, anatomy, and genetic evidence.

The battle to advance this scientific understanding of nature has made great strides over the past decades. It’s worth recalling that until the late 1960s, several states still had laws on their books forbidding the teaching of evolution.

But the mass movement for Black rights in the 1950s and ’60s led to important gains for the working class as a whole. Under the impact of those gains, the Supreme Court in 1968 issued a ruling that struck down an Arkansas statute banning the teaching of evolution in the schools.

Placed increasingly on the defensive, rightist forces pitched their case as demanding equal time to present their challenge to the study of evolution. Packaged as “creation science,” they campaigned to include this assault on science in the public schools.

However, these forces suffered a further blow when the Supreme Court in 1987 struck down Louisiana’s “Creation Act,” ruling that teaching creationism in public schools is unconstitutional.

This led rightists such as those from the Seattle-based Discovery Institute to peddle “intelligent design”—what Leonard Krishtalka, director of the Natural History Museum at the University of Kansas, aptly called “creationism in a cheap tuxedo.” Unable to make much headway, these forces have adjusted their arguments once again. Rather than openly advocate the teaching of “intelligent design,” they are pushing to introduce “questions” about evolution into school syllabuses under the banner of “Teach the controversy.” This issue is being fought out today in the school systems in 20 states.

Forcing creationism into the curriculum makes a mockery of scientific study. As the late Stephen Jay Gould, a leading defender of Darwinian evolution, put it, teaching biology without evolution is “like teaching English but making grammar optional.”

The political limits on how far these right-wing forces can push today is a registration of long-term trends that have strengthened the working class. An article in New International no. 12 titled, “Their Transformation and Ours,” explains that the trend toward the separation of religion and religious institutions from politics and the state “continues to advance hand in hand with the worldwide spread of capitalism and the consequent expansion of the proletariat. The hold of religious beliefs on the political behavior of the toilers also continues to decline. Whatever the religious affiliations of hundreds of millions of toilers worldwide, it is not religious bigotry but the proletarian habits of mutual trust, tolerance, and class solidarity that working people learn in the course of common struggles.”

It’s working people, not the representatives of capitalism, who are the bearers of culture and science in the march forward of humanity.

Monday, February 3, 2014

George Novack: Against the adulteration of Marxist theory

George Novack: in defense of materialism

(Books of the Month column)
Below is an excerpt from Polemics in Marxist Philosophy, one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for March. It is a collection of articles written between 1960 and 1977 by Socialist Workers Party leader George Novack. He defends scientific socialism, the generalization of the historic line of march of the working class, as explained by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. He answers those who, parading as the true interpreters of Marx, have provided a “philosophical” veneer for the anti-working-class course of Stalinist and social democratic misleaderships worldwide.
The article excerpted below pays tribute to the philosophical contributions in defense of materialism made by Italian Marxist Sebastiano Timpanaro (1923-2000).

The excerpt refers to Noam Chomsky, a U.S. linguist and anarchist known for his theory that the underlying logical structure of language stems from innate biological patterns of perception. It also refers to Antonio Gramsci, a founder of the Italian Communist Party who wrote extensively while in the jails of Mussolini’s fascist regime until his death in 1937. He developed an interpretation of Marxism emphasizing “praxis”—which implies an ability of revolutionary will to substitute for a lack of propitious objective opportunities—as well as changing mass consciousness through training “proletarian intellectuals” and the creation of “proletarian culture” to contend with bourgeois culture. The reference to structuralism concerns the view that in social analysis the question of historical evolution is greatly subordinate to the examination of existing interrelationships between various institutions and social structures. Copyright © 1978 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.


The essays in his book are a sustained polemic against the more prominent antimaterialists who profess allegiance to Marxism but sacrifice some of its principles in their writings. These include such figures as Louis Althusser; the early Georg Lukács; Karl Korsch; Herbert Marcuse, Alfred Schmidt, and other luminaries of the Frankfurt school, and Jean-Paul Sartre. In connection with them [Timpanaro] takes up the positions of Claude Lévi-Strauss and Noam Chomsky.

Timpanaro sets his criticism of the current adulterators of Marxist theory in the broad historical context of intellectual development over the past century. Marxism, as the scientific outlook of the revolutionary working class, has had to make its way through a cultural and political terrain occupied by bourgeois and petty-bourgeois forces and ideas that have exerted unremitting pressures upon its adherents. Consequently, from one generation to the next, the propagators and defenders of dialectical materialism have been obliged to counter attempts to introduce incongruous ideas, derived from alien class sources, into its structure.

The deviators have been most strongly influenced by two opposing trends of bourgeois thought. One has been neoidealism; the other neopositivism. Despite their very different standpoints and methods, they have in common a hostility to modern materialism as elucidated by the creators of Marxism and their most qualified disciples. Most of the Western Marxists have gone astray by succumbing to certain attractive tenets of one or the other of these types of thought.

Just as Lenin took up the cudgels against empiriocriticism in 1908, so his true followers must nowadays ward off the encroachments of a comparable eclecticism. They have to conduct a two-front campaign: against a relapse into semi-Hegelianism by exponents of the praxis school on one side, and against the formalistic structuralists on the other. Timpanaro subjects both of these fashionable currents of thought to searching examination.

Their three-sided controversy revolves around the question: How is the relation between objective reality and social life to be conceived? The mechanical materialists who espouse behaviorism or biologism try to slur over or obliterate the qualitative distinction between animal and human behavior. The praxologists, on the other hand, assert or imply that the “second nature,” the artificial environment created by humanity in the historical development of social life, has entirely absorbed primordial nature into itself. They thereby head toward some form of a voluntaristic spiritualism….

The praxis theoreticians, from the Lukács of History and Class Consciousness to Antonio Gramsci and Sartre, commit the unpardonable transgression of shuffling away the existence of nature independent of humanity by insisting that the object is inseparable from the subject. However, humanity’s action and effect upon nature does not eliminate the priority of nature’s action and effect upon humanity. For all materialists, pre-Marxist and Marxist alike, the objective world antedates humanity and underlies its history. Any indecisiveness on this cardinal proposition inexorably pulls the wobblers toward antimaterialist conclusions of one sort or another.

Such a breakaway from the first premise of materialism is the impetus behind the attacks upon the philosophical traditions upheld by Frederick Engels, George Plekhanov, and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. The negative evaluations made of Engels by various thinkers from Lukács to Colletti have a logical outcome. It is no matter of chance, Timpanaro says that “those who have embarked on a ‘Marxism without Engels’ have arrived, coherently enough, at a ‘Marxism without Marx.’” The theoretical views of the cocreators of dialectical materialism are so firmly welded together that the positions of the one cannot be disavowed without discarding those of the other….

Timpanaro praises the noted linguist Noam Chomsky for his courageous anti-imperialist stands and crusades for civil liberties at home and abroad. And he acknowledges the worth of his researches in transformational grammar. At the same time he censures the MIT professor for reverting to the device of “innate ideas” (inherent structures of the mind) as the source of language. This kind of explanation was long ago discredited by empiricism and is by now too antiquated even for bourgeois thought, he says. Its Cartesian philosophy is antiempirical, antimaterialistic, and nonevolutionary. Its dualism introduces a hiatus between the human and other animals that no intermediate steps can bridge. Chomsky’s effort to overcome this gap by turning innate ideas into hereditary predispositions “wavers between an antediluvian spiritualism and a genuinely ‘vulgar’ materialism.”

In any case, Chomsky does not claim to be a Marxist; he is a libertarian. Timpanaro draws a clear line between the scientific gains made by the leading structural linguists in their specialty, from de Saussure to Chomsky, and their French extralinguistic imitators, who have extrapolated their conceptions in an illegitimate manner.  


Socialism: Utopian and Scientific

Pathfinder Press is running a discount on "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific" by Engels this month.  It contains the excellent introduction by George Novack.


Revolutions are rooted in changing social relations
(Books of the Month column)
Printed below are excerpts from Socialism: Utopian and Scientific by Frederick Engels, one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for March. This short work, written in the 1870s by the cofounder along with Karl Marx of the modern communist movement, describes how utopian socialism emerged in the early 19th century as a response to the horrors of capitalism. It explains how socialism was put on a scientific basis by Marx and Engels as the theoretical expression of the working-class movement in its revolutionary fight to overthrow the rule of capital and conquer state power. Copyright © 1972 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.


The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought not in men’s brains, not in man’s better insight into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange. They are to be sought not in the philosophy, but in the economics of each particular epoch. The growing perception that existing social institutions are unreasonable and unjust, that reason has become unreason, and right wrong, is only proof that in the modes of production and exchange changes have silently taken place with which the social order, adapted to earlier economic conditions, is no longer in keeping. From this it also follows that the means of getting rid of the incongruities that have been brought to light must also be present, in a more or less developed condition, within the changed modes of production and exchange themselves. These means are not to be invented by deduction from fundamental principles, but are to be discovered in the stubborn facts of the existing system of production.

What is, then, the position of modern socialism in this connection?

The present structure of society—this is now pretty generally conceded—is the creation of the ruling class of today, of the bourgeoisie. The mode of production peculiar to the bourgeoisie, known, since Marx, as the capitalist mode of production, was incompatible with the feudal system, with the privileges it conferred upon individuals, entire social ranks, and local corporations, as well as with the hereditary ties of subordination which constituted the framework of its social organization. The bourgeoisie broke up the feudal system and built upon its ruins the capitalist order of society, the kingdom of free competition, of personal liberty, of the equality before the law of all commodity owners, of all the rest of the capitalist blessings. Thenceforward the capitalist mode of production could develop in freedom. Since steam, machinery, and the making of machines by machinery transformed the older manufacture into modern industry, the productive forces that evolved under the guidance of the bourgeoisie developed with a rapidity and in a degree unheard of before. But just as the older manufacture, in its time, and handicraft, becoming more developed under its influence, had come into collision with the feudal trammels of the guilds, so now modern industry, in its more complete development, comes into collision with the bounds within which the capitalistic mode of production holds it confined. The new productive forces have already outgrown the capitalistic mode of using them. And this conflict between productive forces and modes of production is not a conflict engendered in the mind of man, like that between original sin and divine justice. It exists in fact, objectively, outside us, independently of the will and actions even of the men that have brought it on. Modern socialism is nothing but the reflex, in thought, of this conflict in fact; its ideal reflection in the minds, first, of the class directly suffering under it, the working class.

Now, in what does this conflict consist?

Before capitalistic production, i.e., in the Middle Ages, the system of petty industry obtained generally, based upon the private property of the laborers in their means of production; in the country, the agriculture of the small peasant, freeman or serf; in the towns, the handicrafts organized in guilds. The instruments of labor—land, agricultural implements, the workshop, the tool—were the instruments of labor of single individuals, adapted for the use of one worker and therefore, of necessity, small, dwarfish, circumscribed. But for this very reason they belonged, as a rule, to the producer himself. To concentrate these scattered, limited means of production, to enlarge them, to turn them into the powerful levers of production of the present day—this was precisely the historic role of capitalist production and of its upholder, the bourgeoisie. In the fourth section of Capital, Marx has explained in detail how since the fifteenth century this has been historically worked out through the three phases of simple cooperation, manufacture, and modern industry. But the bourgeoisie, as is also shown there, could not transform these puny means of production into mighty productive forces without transforming them, at the same time, from means of production of the individual into social means of production workable only by a collectivity of men. The spinning wheel, the hand loom, the blacksmith’s hammer, were replaced by the spinning machine, the power loom, the steam hammer; the individual workshop, by the factory implying the cooperation of hundreds and thousands of workmen. In like manner, production itself changed from a series of individual into a series of social acts, and the products from individual to social products. The yarn, the cloth, the metal articles that now came out of the factory were the joint product of many workers, through whose hands they had successively to pass before they were ready. No one person could say of them: “I made that; this is my product.”  


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Defending the Socialist Workers Party on capitalist restoration in Russia

A week ago I posted an article from the 3 February issue of The Militant on the Facebook Group for the Discussion of the Revolutionary Science of Marxism-Leninism.  The article: "18th World Youth Festival hosted in Quito, Ecuador."

The Facebook post motivated these comments, initiated by Workers World Party leader [and World Youth Festival attendee] Caleb Maupin:

Caleb Maupin: The SWP sold many books.... and was hostile to the Bolivarian countries... wow... wow...

Jay Rothermel: Hostile at the event to people from those countries? Or hostile to the government's capitalist policies?

Caleb Maupin: Watching a group of white people from the United States lecture the Cubans about why "your revolution is different from what Chavez is doing that, you need explain that people!" is something I will never forget. -

Caleb Maupin: The SWP is a bizarre, bizarre animal. The USSR is still a "worker's state", the Tea Party is more progressive than Occupy Wall Street, the Assad regime is the biggest threat to the "workers and farmers of Syria".... These people are from the Planet Saturn.

Caleb Maupin: These folks are like an episode of Star Trek... where on some far off planet, Farrell Dobbs and James P. Cannon are deities, the policies of the fourth international in the 1930s are permanent reality.

Caleb Maupin: Did you see my talk on the festival?

Jay Rothermel: Where did the party say the tea party was more progressive than OWS? I prepared a doc two years ago of everything the party wrote about OWS and I never read that.

Caleb Maupin: I was told by an SWPer that OWS were "petty bourgeois radicals", but the Tea Party was a movement of "actual workers" with "real demands and grievances."

[Comments by another group member at this point have been removed for privacy purposes].

Caleb Maupin: They insist "the working class lost nothing in 1991".... oh boy!

Jay Rothermel: On the tea party: you and I discussed three years ago that workers with grievances were attracted its rhetoric, and in early 2011 we were discussing ways to intervene in that process. The SWP I suspect has seen the same process, and has found among workers attracted to the tea party an openness for political discussion.

Jay Rothermel: On Russia: your library and mine are full of books and documents written by people who wanted to tell the world that capitalism has been restored in Russia. Some called it state capitalism. Mao and our friends Hoxha and Avakian said it happened a few hours after Stalin died. Your party seems to think it happened with the advent of Yeltsin. But these are all impressionistic and subjective assumptions based on staffing changes at the higher levels of state apparatus and their subsequent ideological rationalizations. Who among those claiming capitalism has been restored in Russia has done the hard sociological work to make that case? Who has shown how the commanding heights of the economy and the state monopoly of foreign trade have been ended?

I am not suggesting this is an academic question exclusively. But claiming capitalism has been restored because you don't like the fate of the Stalinist caste you used to identify AS the socialized property relations speaks only to historical impatience and exasperation.

Jay Rothermel: Some notes on SWP and OWS I made in 2012:
Did The Militant and the U.S. SWP publish anti-OWS screeds? A look at the documentary record
Caleb Maupin: When the means of production are privatized, capitalism overthrown [sic - I think he meant "restored" - JR], statues of Lenin torn down, the Communist Party driven from power, and a new constitution written, and the natural resources sold to the highest bidder... capitalism has been restored.

Caleb Maupin: China today is a mix of contradictions but all the former Soviet republics except Belarus are capitalist.

Caleb Maupin: Russia is taking a nationalist anti imperialist world position. But it is capitalism. It calls itself capitalism. Openly talks of how "socialism was overturned" in 1991

Caleb Maupin: In 1991 there were big changes in property relations. The other restoration theories you listed are only about political line.

The Facebook discussion ended there.  

I posted a few articles on my blog at the beginning of the week from The Militant that dealt with the question of restoration.  But I was contacted offline by a fellow supporter of the SWP's line, who had some very useful comments on the question of capitalist restoration in Russia.  The real purpose of this post is to preserve his thoughts.

He wrote:

Great initiative Jay in posting different articles on the Workers state!

You may want to take a closer look at the report of Jack Barnes to the 1992 fusion congress of the Communist league in the UK - "Youth and the Communist Movement".  Its included as the last chapter in the Pathfinder book Capitalism's World Disorder.

There are some sections in that report - given in 1992, shortly after the crumbling of the Stalinist apparatuses - that give a concrete flavor of the development of the Marxist position on the Workers state.

"... Second, we stand on the analysis of "What the 1987 Stock Market Crash Foretold," the political resolution adopted in 1988 at an international conference held in the United States.... At the time we adopted that resolution, of course, nobody could have predicted the concrete timing of events that would further complicate the shape of the capitalists' crisis: the rapid collapse of the Stalinist apparatuses in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union; the price the German imperialist rulers would pay for formal reunification of the country and its impact on capitalist Europe and the world; the Iraq war and its consequences; and the results of the worst destabilization of the international monetary system since the 1930s..."

To point out the inaccuracy of the arguments advanced by Caleb Maupin and the whole school of petty-bourgeois revisionists that the SWP didn't recognize the "negative" consequences of the further degeneration of the workers states:

"...If we look at the unfolding slaughter in Yugoslavia, we will see many elements of the world we are describing. The most difficult things to come to grips with in discussing Yugoslavia are not the theoretical questions...The slaughter in Yugoslavia is the product of the breakdown of the capitalist world order; it is the product of intensifying conflicts among rival capitalist classes in the imperialist countries and would-be capitalists in the deformed workers states. These conflicts, in which exploiting layers demagogically don national garb to defend their narrow class interests, will increasingly mark world politics..."

On Yugoslavia at the beginning of the 90s concerning the importance of the correct revolutionary attitude towards the national question; inter-imperialist rivalries; the political characteristics of Stalinist petty-bourgeois leadership:

"What is happening in Yugoslavia also bloodily demonstrates the fact that Stalinist leaderships cannot unite toilers from different national origins on a lasting basis to open up a broadening federation of soviet republics working together to build socialism."

"The federated Yugoslav workers state that the imperialists and rival Stalinist gangs are now trying to tear apart was a gigantic accomplishment of the Yugoslav revolution of 1942-46. Workers and peasants who were Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, and from other nationalities forged unity to oust the Nazi occupation forces and their local collaborators, carry out a radical land reform, and expropriate the capitalist exploiters. It was truly one of the great revolutions of this century, a proletarian socialist revolution."

"The war in Yugoslavia sharpens inter-imperialist conflicts. It sharpens the divisions between the United States and Europe, as well as divisions within Europe itself."
On the concrete developments in the Chinese workers state and its relationship to the growing world disorder of capitalism (not the solution to its problems) and the potentialities of a growing world proletariat:
"We should never underestimate how attractive the Chinese revolution remains to hundreds of millions of toilers, especially to peoples of color long oppressed and exploited by imperialism. Despite the crimes of its Stalinist misleadership, China stands as an example of a people... who carried out a powerful revolution, swept aside the landlord and capitalist exploiters, and restored their national sovereignty and dignity."

"Today, more and more toilers in China are being drawn out of the countryside and into factories, mines, and mills owned by the state and increasingly also by foreign and domestic capital. As this process unfolds, the breakdown of Stalinist apparatuses that we have seen in Europe and the former USSR will inevitably shake the deformed Chinese workers state as well. It will take time, but class tensions and conflicts are already growing in China's cities and workplaces, as well as in the countryside."

"What is really going on is not simply that the People's Republic of China is about to gobble up Hong Kong. What is happening instead is the "Hong Kong-ization" of southern China. What is developing in China today is an accelerated expansion of capitalist methods and penetration by international finance capital - the growing sway of the law of value in southern China especially, as well as Shanghai and other coastal areas....

"Ever since then, the biggest problem confronting revolutionists within the working-class movement has not been that weak people, political cowards, or corrupt individuals have been attracted to Stalinist organizations. The problem has been that revolutionary-minded workers, peasants, and youth looking for communist answers - the best and most self-sacrificing representatives of their generations - ended up joining Stalinist organizations. They ended up internalizing ways of carrying out politics that are the counterrevolutionary opposite of communism. That was what happened to the overwhelming majority of such fighters; only small numbers somehow found their way to the communist movement."

"But today that obstacle has crumbled. The Stalinists still exist and have political influence, of course. But they are no longer a force with state power in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, with the attendant massive resources. They find it more difficult to misrepresent themselves as the continuity of the Bolshevik-led Russian revolution and mislead fighters on the basis of that spurious political authority. As a result, the Stalinist lie that there is a way of building national socialism has also begun to crumble. The lie that socialism can be built by bureaucrats, social engineers, and a massive police apparatus has been weakened. And the lie of both the Stalinists and social democrats that socialism can be advanced in alliance with one or another wing of the bourgeoisie has been undermined."

Reading this report with both feet firmly planted in Today - doesn't it give an accurate and objective evaluation of some world-historic happenings in a very concrete way? Compare this scientific way of proceeding with the rumblings of a Caleb Maupin: "When the means of production are privatized, capitalism overthrown, statues of Lenin torn down, the Communist Party driven from power, and a new constitution written, and the natural resources sold to the highest bidder... capitalism has been restored." "China today is a mix of contradictions but all the former Soviet republics except Belarus are capitalist." "Russia is taking a nationalist anti imperialist world position. But it is capitalism. It calls itself capitalism. Openly talks of how 'socialism was overturned' in 1991"

[Continuing quotation from the Barnes article]. "Youth must also be offered a tradition. Without a political tradition, there is no chance whatsoever of building a working- class movement. Moreover, young people have to find living carriers of that tradition, fighters whose experience draws from more than one generation of working-class struggle. Youth have to find others like themselves from previous generations whom they can join with in building a common movement." "Just being a radical, just being against the bourgeoisie, just negating bourgeois values is no more likely to lead somebody to communism than to fascism. We should think about the political implications of this fact. It is only finding the working-class movement, and finding the human beings who carry its tradition, that leads rebel youth in the direction of communism."

No one will find that tradition in the WWP, nor the other petty-bourgeois currents inside the labor aristocracy, labor bureaucracy or the well-meaning middle-class-with-bourgeois-appetites-meritocracy who call themselves "socialists".
"Moreover, what disintegrated in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union was not socialism; these Stalinist regimes were the transmission belts within the workers movement of capitalist values and pressures against the toilers in those horribly deformed workers states and worldwide."

Note the importance of making a distinction between "regimes" (governments) and the character of the state. (Without the dialectical understanding of the dynamics of workers and farmers governments in our time, would have been impossible for the SWP and communist movement world-wide to scientifically understand this question)

"What happened during the subsequent sixty-four years is certainly no revelation to the communist movement. We know that history very well. After the first levies of revolutionists who came to our movement in 1928 and 1929 out of the Communist parties in the United States and other countries as they were becoming Stalinized, we never once broke off a significant current, even a small one, from the Stalinist movement."

"Not only was a massive murder machine consolidated in the Soviet Union based on a broad, petty-bourgeois social layer, but it also laid claim to the legacy of Marxism, its literature, history, and traditions. This Stalinist apparatus turned the overwhelming majority of potential communists in the working- class and national liberation movements into pseudo-communists who believed they were communists, and who believed one of their duties to be the physical marginalization, if not the murder, of apostate communists."

"The strength of Stalinism gave social democracy a new lease on life as well. The Stalinists and social democrats always claim to hate each other. On one level, they do; they ultimately served different masters - the parasitic regime in Moscow, on the one hand, and the imperialist ruling classes, on the other. For a few years in the late 1920s and early 1930s the Stalinists called the social democrats "social fascists." The social democrats decried "totalitarian communism." Notwithstanding, the Stalinists and social democrats have come together many times in "popular fronts" to make sure the working class stays under the thumb of the capitalist state and does not threaten the international status quo."

"The qualitative enormity of the Stalinist obstacle to the influence of the communist movement and our ideas is now behind us, however. That is what has changed. Yes, the Stalinists are still around in large numbers, and will continue to be. But shorn of any linkage to state power falsely endowed with historical authority, the material basis of Stalinist organizations, the trough from which they fed, has now substantially dried up. They have been irreversibly weakened. And this decline of Stalinism weakens social democracy and a number of ultraleft and centrist currents in the workers movement as well."

"What the communist movement can accomplish, even at our current size and strength, cannot be predetermined in some absolute terms. What we can accomplish is always relative to our leverage within the vanguard of the working class, and the size and activity of that vanguard. It is always relative to the strength or weakness of historic obstacles that make it difficult to get communist ideas to the working class. Being right on all the fundamental questions of world politics is not enough, in and of itself; we have been right since 1928 and before. Nor is there any guarantee of success for communists just because the working class and its allies are in a fighting mood. Stalinism has dealt many of its biggest blows during big class battles and in the midst of historic revolutionary developments."

"It took the events of the last several years, however, for our movement to fully absorb the consequences of the fact that communist continuity in the working class of these workers states had been completely broken at least by the 1960s if not earlier. The communist vanguard had been physically liquidated in the purge trials, labor camps, and post-World War II witch- hunts. The working class in these countries had been pushed out of independent political life for decades, and blocked off from struggles by workers in other parts of the world." "Given this vacuum of proletarian leadership, the breakup of the political apparatus of these Stalinist regimes necessarily had to come before the possibility of political revolution would again be on the agenda. That, in turn, meant the objective opening up of these workers states to greater dangers of capitalist restoration. But the belatedness of the political revolution because of the limits of the extension of the world revolution determined that this was the only way the working class in these countries could begin going through the kinds of experiences once again that can and will give rise to revolutionary currents and a new openness to communist ideas."

Sorry for the sheer number of paragraphs Jay, but I think they are helpful in giving concrete meaning to any scientific and not teleological "definition" of the history of what constitutes a workers state and its prospects for communists Today.
Very helpful.

Jay Rothermel
2 February 2014

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Capitalism today

Production, jobs stagnate
as capitalists sit on cash

Every day the big-business papers bring us commentary pointing to one trend or another as evidence of economic recovery. But more than five years after the 2007-2009 recession there is yet to be any indication of expanded productive capacity or employment, the only basis on which the worldwide crisis of capitalism could begin to be reversed.

Despite headline unemployment rate of 6.7 percent, the percentage of the population without a job has hovered around the same low level of 58.5 percent for the last four years.

Manufacturing production has only recently reached 2007 levels, while the U.S. population has increased by 5 percent. Even more striking is the fact that today the same amount of production is being done by many fewer workers.

Capitalists call this “productivity” and consider it a positive trend. Workers know it as speedup, increasing disregard for job safety and a “there’s the door” approach to any complaints. There are 12.5 percent fewer manufacturing jobs today than when the recession began in December 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The United States has gained just 568,000 manufacturing positions since January 2010 — a small fraction of the nearly six million lost between 2000 and 2009,” said a Jan. 26 New York Times article titled, “The Myth of Industrial Rebound.”

Hand in hand with their productivity drive, bosses have been going after wages and benefits won in past struggles, an assault on the working class that has yet to be met by the kind of resistance that could push it back.

Since the recession ended in June 2009 average real wages for auto workers have declined 10 percent; for all manufacturing workers they’ve dropped 2.4 percent.

One rough indication of the increasing rate of exploitation can be seen in the proportion of gross domestic product that represents wages. Between 1950 and 2000 compensation to workers ran between 61 and 65 percent of GDP in the U.S., according to the Financial Times. “Then, something happened. From 2000, it plummeted and currently rests at an all-time low of 57 percent.”

Bosses are not expanding productive capacity or hiring because they don’t think they can turn their greatest profit that way today. This is part of a long-term trend rooted in the lawful workings of capitalism, not bad government policies or behavior by capitalists that can be redirected with proper regulation.

“The capitalists are not refraining from major new capacity-expanding investment because they are choosing to divert too much capital into securities markets, real estate speculation, loan sharking, and speeding up production in outmoded factories,” said a resolution adopted by the 1988 Socialist Workers Party convention, titled “What the 1987 Stock Market Crash Foretold,” which is available in New International no. 10. “The cause and effect are the other way around. The exploiters are sinking their capital into ‘labor-saving’ retooling and speculative paper claims on values because they can get a better rate of return there than from investments in building new factories, installing major new technologies, and hiring on large amounts of additional labor power.”

This is more true today than it was a quarter century ago. Government monetary and fiscal schemes that have maintained interest rates near 0 percent to make borrowing for capitalists as cheap as possible have made no difference. One symptom of the crisis is the massive hoarding of cash by large corporations and increasing concentration of capital among fewer and larger banks.

At the end of 2012, the 975 largest nonfinancial companies worldwide were holding onto $3.2 trillion of cash, up 36 percent from four years earlier, reported the Financial Times. In the U.S., corporate cash hoarding is $1.5 trillion. Combined profits at the six largest U.S. banks — Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo — jumped 21 percent in 2013 to $74.1 billion, the highest level since 2006.

These banks also redistribute profits squeezed from the labor of working people through buying up commercial paper, from derivatives to credit default swaps and other financial “instruments.” In the second-quarter of 2013, such investments generated over 60 percent of Citigroup’s profits and 40 percent for JPMorgan Chase, according to The New Yorker.