Saturday, November 18, 2017

“Politically correct” liberal media act self-righteously as prosecutor, judge and executioner all at the same time.

Defend women’s rights! Protect right to presumption of innocence!



Widespread and disturbing revelations about sexual attacks and abuse, starting with Hollywood and reaching into the halls of Congress, have come out over recent weeks. Something that has been widely known but talked about only behind closed doors has suddenly exploded into the open. To anyone who’s worked under a boss determined to get his own way and has control over hiring, firing, job assignments, pay raises and conditions at work, all this has a familiar ring.

But the situation is nowhere close to what it was half a century ago, before the modern movement for women’s rights emerged. “Women continue to be integrated into the workforce, and barriers to women and men working alongside each other as equals, performing the same jobs, are progressively being breached in both imperialist and semicolonial countries,” the Socialist Workers Party explained in its 2005 resolution, “Their Transformation and Ours.”

I traveled to Bangladesh a couple years ago to talk to garment workers, and this was really brought home to me. Millions of women had left their villages and started working together in a fast-growing garment industry. For the first time, they were part of a collective workforce, fighting together. In addition to safer workplaces, higher wages and shorter hours, they stressed the important gains they were making against the bosses’ sexual harassment and threats. This was a central demand of their unions and labor federations.

The same thing happened in the U.S. earlier. As barriers to women’s employment in one job and industry after another were battered down, so too were sexist behavior and abuse beaten back.

This political fight for women’s rights and dignity needs to be on the banner of the unions, an issue for all working people.

Anyone who says they’ve faced such abuse must have their charges seriously considered. If convicted, the perpetrators should go to jail.

But just because the acts are so despicable, it’s important not to throw out the window political rights and protections the working class has won over decades of battle. What’s involved are key questions for the working class.

Today the “politically correct” liberal media act self-righteously as prosecutor, judge and executioner all at the same time. Actors have been fired, dropped from future productions and publicly pilloried without any chance to defend themselves. None of the accusations have so far led to charges, let alone indictments.

This liberal hysteria has totally thrown out any presumption of innocence.

“The presumption of innocence has taken hundreds of years for working people to win,” SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes told a September 1988 meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, on the eve of the opening of the frame-up trial of party member and packinghouse unionist Mark Curtis on charges of rape. It is “one of the most important milestones on the march to human solidarity.”

While the courts are not an arena where working people find justice, the presumption of innocence is one elementary protection from being railroaded to prison or executed at the whim of the ruling class and their anti-labor press.

“It’s not that you’re innocent until proven guilty. You are innocent. Innocent,” Barnes said. “This is a country where everything is the opposite. It’s the presumption of guilt that dominates in the ‘democratic’ United States.”

In addition to the presumption of innocence, other indispensable rights workers have won include the right to face and confront your accuser, not to be tried twice on the same charge and laws covering statutes of limitation.

Whenever the rulers want to frame up and victimize someone, they whip up a campaign in the media and move to undercut our rights. It helps them a lot if they’ve chipped away at those rights beforehand, using particularly vile incidents to do so.

When inroads are made into these protections, it comes down hardest on the working class, especially the most vulnerable among us. We will find no justice in the rulers’ “justice system” — their cops, prosecutors and courts, their crooked grand juries and “plea bargain” system. We shoot ourselves in the foot if we allow ourselves to be convinced to throw out the presumption of innocence in the name of fighting abuse.

Today workers face blows from the boss class’s drive to make us pay for the crisis of their capitalist system. We can expect bigger battles ahead over our rights and more frame-ups promoted by the employers and their government!

Defend women’s rights! Protect the hard-fought political rights we’ve won and need! 


Saturday, November 11, 2017

To conquer power, workers need to build communist parties


The war roused the working class to its feet in the revolutionary sense. Was the working class, because of its social weight, capable of carrying out the revolution before the war? What did it lack? It lacked the consciousness of its own strength. Its strength grew in Europe automatically, almost imperceptibly, with the growth of industry. The war shook up the working class. Because of this terrible and bloody upheaval, the entire working class in Europe was imbued with revolutionary moods on the very next day after the war ended. Consequently, one of the subjective factors, the desire to change this world, was at hand. What was lacking? The party was lacking, the party capable of leading the working class to victory. …

In 1917, in Russia we have: the February-March revolution; and within nine months — October. The revolutionary party guarantees victory to the working class and peasant poor. In 1918 — revolution in Germany, accompanied by changes at the top; the working class tries to forge ahead but is hurled back time and again. The proletarian revolution in Germany does not lead to victory. In 1919, the eruption of the Hungarian proletarian revolution: its base is too narrow and the party too weak. The revolution is crushed in a few months in 1919. …

In September 1920, we lived through the great movement in Italy. Precisely at that moment in the autumn of 1920 the Italian proletariat reached its highest point of ferment after the war. Mills, plants, railways, mines are seized. The state is disorganized, the bourgeoisie is virtually prostrate, its spine almost broken. It seems that only one more step forward is needed and the Italian working class will conquer power. But at this moment, its party, that same Socialist Party which had emerged from the previous epoch, although formally adhering to the Third International but with its spirit and roots still in the previous epoch, i.e., in the Second International — this party recoils in terror from the seizure of power, from the civil war, leaving the proletariat exposed. …

In Italy, in September, the working class was eager for battle. The party shied back in terror. In Germany the working class had been eager for battle. … But its efforts and sacrifices were not crowned by victory because it did not have at its head a sufficiently strong, experienced and cohesive party; instead there was another party at its head which saved the bourgeoisie for the second time, after saving it during the war. And now in 1921 the Communist Party of Germany, seeing how the bourgeoisie was consolidating its positions, wanted to make a heroic attempt to cut off the bourgeoisie’s road by an offensive, by a blow, and so it rushed ahead. But the working class did not support it. Why not? Because the working class had not yet learned to have confidence in the party. It did not yet fully know this party while its own experience in the civil war had brought it only defeats in the course of 1919–1920. …

The relations between the parties and the classes, between the Communist parties and the working classes in all countries of Europe are still not mature for an immediate offensive, for an immediate battle for the conquest of power. It is necessary to proceed with a painstaking education of the Communist ranks in a twofold sense: First, in the sense of fusing them together and tempering them; and second, in the sense of their conquering the confidence of the overwhelming majority of the working class. 

The Militant - November 20, 2017 -- To conquer power, workers need to build communist parties

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Constitutional right to the presumption of innocence

Revoked Obama directive had zero to do with 
women’s rights



Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued interim guidelines Sept. 22 to replace an executive order issued by the Barack Obama administration that gutted the constitutional right to the presumption of innocence in the name of fighting sexual harassment on college campuses....

Full story:

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Democrats, Republicans splinter

Political crisis of US rulers continues to unfold


President Donald Trump’s turn to collaboration with Democratic Party congressional leaders to pass a three-month extension of the U.S. government debt ceiling and $15 billion for hurricane and flooding victims took many liberal political pundits — and leaders of the Republican Party — by surprise.

Liberals and the middle-class left have called Trump a fascist, a racist, an arch-reactionary Republican. They want to drum him out of office by any means necessary. Some even applauded the attempted assassination of Republican congressmen at a June softball practice by Bernie Sanders supporter James Hodgkinson.

Donald Trump is none of these things. He is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, though he has been registered in both parties. He won the election by winning the backing of millions of working people, including millions who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. He condemned the “carnage” being visited on working people and castigated the Democratic and Republican “establishments” in Washington.

Trump’s election is a reflection of the coming apart of the two capitalist parties that have alternated in power for decades.

Millions of workers are fed up with the depression-like conditions ravaging cities and countryside alike because of the decline of capitalism, and with the leaders of the two capitalist parties who live in a different world than they do. Faced with the choice of Hillary Clinton or Trump, many stayed home.

Millions of workers voted for Trump because he said he would “drain the swamp.”

Trump’s election sent paroxysms of fear through the heart of the meritocracy — millions, even tens of millions, of well-paid staffers for so-called nonprofit foundations, charities, community organizations and nongovernmental organizations, as well as professors, opinion writers and apparatchiks for government regulatory agencies, who believe their “smarts,” sophistication and liberal ethos are essential for the smooth running of capitalism.

They’re useful to the ruling class. They bolster the illusion that if you are talented, there are no limits to how far you can go. But their livelihoods are unconnected to the production of goods, crops or anything of value to humanity. Their position is precarious and to the rulers they are ultimately expendable, especially in times of deepening economic crisis. They fear the working class today and what they sense are class battles to come.

A Sept. 11 opinion piece in the New York Times by columnist Charles Blow captures their hysteria and fear. Blow says the “vast majority of America” — that is, the people he knows — believe “this administration and this man are abominations and they will not sit silently by.”

“We are in hell,” he concludes.

Blow is not referring to the hell faced by working people — unaffordable health care, millions of workers without jobs, ongoing police brutality, the opioid epidemic, the workers in uniform sent to die in never-ending imperialist wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.

People like Blow are consumed by fear and disdain of those they view as the “deplorables” — the workers who voted for Trump or skipped the election entirely.

Blow says the biggest problem are those who refused to vote for Clinton. “The lesser-of-two-evils argument is poppycock,” he says, claiming that there is no comparison between Clinton and Trump.

His argument is aimed at anyone — like the Socialist Workers Party — who urges working people to break from capitalist “lesser evil” politics and to organize independent working-class political action.

“Progressive” Democrats like Charles Schumer in New York and Nancy Pelosi in California have outflanked Sanders’ efforts to build “resistance” to Trump.

In Berkeley, California, Pelosi encouraged and abetted antifa goons to attack those they called “fascists” who wanted to protest there Aug. 27. In fact, the Patriot Prayer group they targeted is composed mainly of supporters of Donald Trump who wanted to defend free speech and who denounce white supremacists and racists. The goons beat anyone they thought had the wrong demeanor.

So far, the only places these antifa forces have been able to carry out their attacks is where liberal Democrats have enabled them by instructing the cops to pull back.

Democrats, Republicans splinter
The fractures in the Democratic and Republican parties became clear during the 2016 campaign.

“Progressive” Democrats rail against those in the party — like Bernie Sanders and his “Revolution” movement — who they believe threaten the party establishment and its chances in 2018. In her new book What Happened, Hillary Clinton turns her guns on Sanders, saying he “didn’t get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House, he got in to disrupt the Democratic Party.”

A similar fracturing is taking place in the Republican Party. Trump won the nomination by defeating 16 of the party’s “best and brightest.” He has backed “insurgent” candidates for 2018, including the challenger to incumbent Sen. Jeffry Flake in Arizona. Trump charges that Republican Party congressional leaders are unable to deliver legislation he supports. They’re just another part of the swamp.

He says he’s open to more deals with Democrats to try and get some of his proposals adopted into law.

While Trump was not the favored candidate of the U.S. ruling families, they can live with him as president. Underneath all the demagogy and bluster, he’s a rich capitalist businessman like they are. The policies and actions he has taken in defense of U.S. imperialism at home and abroad — from prosecuting Washington’s wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East to stepping up deportations of immigrants convicted of crimes — are in continuity with previous administrations.  


Kurdish liberation struggle

‘The Kurdish people are one nation’

Baghdad’s 1988 Anfal extermination campaign and the 1991 
Kurdistan uprising



SULAYMANIYAH, Kurdistan Region, Iraq — “What happens in any part of Kurdistan has an impact on other parts. Because emotionally, historically, and linguistically, we’re one nation.”

Hazhar Majeed, owner of the Endese bookshop and publishing house in this southeastern Kurdistan city, was talking with us July 24 about the Kurdish people’s resistance to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s assaults between 1986 and 1991. The more than 40 million Kurds in the Middle East are the world’s largest people without a nation-state — something that was denied them at the end of World War I and ever since by the victors in that colossal slaughter. They remain carved up to this day by arbitrary borders, largely between Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria.

“The division that exists is a political division imposed on us,” Hazhar said. “Otherwise the Kurds would never have been separated. Even with the division, Kurds still have very close cultural, social and political ties.”

During our three-day stay in Sulaymaniyah, Hazhar arranged for us to visit the former regional headquarters, prison and torture chamber of Saddam’s secret police — the Amna Suraka (Red Security). Now a museum, it focuses on two chapters from that regime’s quarter-century-long reign of terror.

The first is Saddam’s 1988 Anfal Campaign of extermination and forced removal of Kurds, during the closing stages of Baghdad’s eight-year-long war against Iran. Visitors to the Amna Suraka enter through a corridor lined with a mosaic of 182,000 shards of shattered mirror, recalling the number of Kurds slaughtered in the most horrible ways during the Anfal. The passageway is dimly lit by 4,500 small bulbs marking Kurdish villages destroyed in the operation.

The second theme is the March 1991 uprising in Kurdistan against that hated regime, captured in part by the still bullet- and shell-pocked walls of the garrison, liberated by Kurds March 7 that year. The museum also recounts the subsequent mass exodus from cities, towns, and villages, as the regime’s helicopter gunships sought to drown the rebellion in blood.

The Anfal
Hazhar Majeed was born and raised in the Kurdistan region of Iran, before moving to Sulaymaniyah in Iraq as a young man in 1998. “Even though the border was tight during the Saddam years, and it was hard physically to move from one side to the other, there was still a lot of contact among Kurds,” Hazhar said. “In many families, the father might be Iraqi, the son Iranian. The same with uncles, aunts, cousins and so on. The political subdivisions weren’t able to separate Kurds from each other.”

That was already true “before mass media came into being,” he said. “Now, with so many means of communication, solidarity among Kurds in all four countries — Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria — has become even more cemented. Right now, Kurds from Iran and Iraq are fighting ISIS in Syria alongside Kurds from there. Solidarity is growing.”

As for Saddam’s Anfal atrocities, Hazhar said, “I was still in my early teens at that time, so I don’t remember a lot. But I’ll tell you what I do remember, as well as what I’ve read and heard from family members, friends and others.”

During Anfal, some 100,000 Kurds from Iraq took refuge in Iran, in addition to the same number or more driven from their homes by various Baghdad regimes over the previous decade or so. “Kurds in Iran considered them brothers and sisters, not refugees,” Hazhar said.

“When they came to Iran,” he said, “many just divided up among families in Kurdistan, or local mosques and schools.” Then came Baghdad’s shelling of the town of Halabja with chemical weapons on March 16, 1988, during which some 5,000 Kurdish men, women and children suffered horrifying deaths. This was the deadliest but far from the only use of weapons of mass destruction against Kurds, ordered by Saddam through his cousin Gen. Ali Hasan al-Majid, branded with the infamous nickname “Chemical Ali.”

“I remember very well that when refugees from Halabja came through our city in Iran, the government in Tehran said they were contaminated by chemicals and wouldn’t let them disembark, as it had done earlier,” Hazhar said. “But people from across the city lined the road — and I was there — with blankets, food, tents, whatever we had in our houses. We’d throw them on the government trucks that were transporting them. I still get emotional when I think about it.”

There were so many refugees that many couldn’t be housed simply by relying on people in Iran’s towns and cities. So the government authorized a couple of international agencies to establish camps.

Washington, which backed Baghdad’s war against Iran while professing “neutrality,” largely kept its mouth shut about the Anfal until the story of this human catastrophe became useful in 1990-91 to rationalize the U.S. war against Iraq. The major media followed the U.S. government’s lead.

1991 Kurdish uprising
In August 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, on Iraq’s southern border. Ever since 1979, when the shah of Iran had been toppled by a revolution, the U.S. government had been looking for a pretext to unleash its military might in the Middle East to defend its interests in the oil-rich and strategically important region. The Iraqi regime handed it the chance.

After Washington defeated Saddam’s forces in Kuwait and southern Iraq in early 1991, the U.S. rulers chose to sidestep the risks of pushing north to overturn the government in Baghdad. Instead, on the eve of the U.S. ground assault in late February, President George H.W. Bush publicly called on “the Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands to force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside.”

The Kurds revolted across Iraqi Kurdistan in early March, driving out Baghdad’s forces. The Shiite population across southern Iraq also took the streets. But Washington had lifted its air cover over Iraq, enabling Saddam’s regime to unleash its helicopter gunships and troops against the rebel population. Thousands were killed. By the end of March, there was another massive exodus of Kurds fleeing their homes in search of refuge in Iran or Turkey.

The U.S. government wanted to do nothing that would break up Iraq and begin undoing the borders and social relations imposed on the peoples of the region in the aftermath of two world wars. And the U.S. rulers had pledged to Turkey’s brutal regime — which itself oppresses millions of Kurds — that it would oppose an independent Kurdistan in Iraq.

Neither of the two main Kurdish liberation organizations — the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) or Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) — “initiated the Kurdish uprising in March 1991,” Hazhar said. Under the blows of the Anfal in 1988, these organizations “had unraveled, and most of their leaders were living in Tehran or elsewhere.”

So the Kurds who rose up weren’t under the command of any organization, he said. “The rebellion began on the fifth of March, in Ranya, a town about two hours north of Sulaymaniyah. Of course, fighters from the peshmerga” — the military units of the KDP and PUK — “are always in the cities, towns and villages, living undercover. So when the people rebelled, the peshmerga joined in with their rifles, handguns, whatever they had.

“And many other Kurds were armed, too, not only those in the peshmerga. Many Kurds had weapons at home and were using them to attack Saddam’s forces and defend themselves and their families,” Hazhar said. “More recently, you recall Kobani, don’t you? Old men and women, teenagers and others were armed and resisted the brutal occupation by Daesh, by the so-called Islamic State, of that Kurdish town in northern Syria. They helped fight off Daesh in Kirkuk too, right here in Iraq.

“That’s what began happening in Ranya on March 5, 1991. And in 16 days, all of Kurdistan had been liberated,” he said.

“Those we refer to here as the jash also took part in the rebellion,” he added. “That literally means ‘donkey’ in the Kurdish language. It’s the term we use for Kurds who joined armed units subservient to Saddam and earlier repressive regimes. They were mercenaries. They did much of the government’s dirty work, including during the Anfal and the gassing of Halabja and other towns.

“So as Saddam’s forces retreated in face of the uprising, the jash had to do something to try to exonerate themselves in the eyes of the people and the eyes of the Kurdish leaderships. So these armed units joined in the rebellion, too,” Hazhar said. “I should add that many of them have continued functioning as jash for the current Kurdistan Regional Government, for both the KDP and PUK leaderships, to this day.”

Kurdistan Regional Government
“Kurds on both sides of the border, in Iraq as well as in Iran, welcomed the blows to Saddam’s regime in 1991. We had nothing to lose,” Hazhar said. “It was the inevitable course of history unfolding, and we enjoyed it and took advantage of it. Baghdad’s defeat opened a wedge for our uprising, and then in 1992 for the establishment and survival of the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq.”

Washington, London, Paris and other powers sought to cover their own tracks regarding the Kurds’ unrelenting struggles for their national rights. These governments seesawed between tactically arming Kurdish organizations to a tiny degree, followed by cynical betrayals, depending on their shifting interests and relations with successive regimes in Iraq, Iran, Turkey and across the Middle East. Newspaper, radio, and television outlets largely taped shut their eyes and mouths in deference to the governments they serve and promote. The silence during and after Baghdad’s Anfal campaign was deafening.

“But there have been two events in the Middle East over the past quarter century that finally caused the world press to pay attention to the Kurdish question,” Hazhar said.

“One was the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the Kurdish uprising, and Baghdad’s initial repression of it, which caused the world to despise Saddam Hussein.

Full story here:

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Behind Attacks on workers rights 

Liberal attacks, ‘antifa’ thugs threaten rights 
workers need


The propertied rulers in the U.S. face an unprecedented political crisis today, precipitated by the changes in class reality that were reflected in the election of Donald Trump as president and the deepening crisis of their capitalist system that stand behind that vote. Both of their political parties — the Democrats and Republicans — are wracked by deep divisions.

A facet of this crisis is the relentless resistance of liberal Democrats and media, some Republicans and the middle-class left against Trump’s presidency. All tactics are fair game in their effort to get him indicted or impeached. And against those they label as racists and fascists they say have been unleashed by Trump.

As part of this effort, liberal Democratic politicians and self-proclaimed antifa thugs are mounting attacks on freedom of speech and assembly. Their attempts to shut down conservatives and alleged white supremacist speakers and rallies give a handle to the government to go after the working class and its political rights.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin — who calls himself a “real progressive” — is pushing the University of California there to cancel “Free Speech Week” Sept. 24-27, organized by the conservative student group Berkeley Patriot.

Arreguin said the presence of rightist Milo Yiannopoulos and conservative Ann Coulter, who the group has invited to participate, could provoke antifa thugs to “create mayhem” and cost “the city hundreds of thousands of dollars fixing the windows of businesses,” adding that “there is a line between freedom of speech and then posing a risk to public safety.”

The university administration is charging the College Republicans $15,000 for security costs for a Sept. 14 speech by Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart News editor. Speech is “free” — if you can pay for it.

House Democratic Party Leader Nancy Pelosi called on the National Park Service to deny a permit to a conservative “Liberty Weekend” in San Francisco Aug. 26, saying it was a “white-supremacist rally.”

Acting as enforcers for the liberal politicians, the next day antifa thugs beat up Trump supporters and others they claimed were white supremacists, as well as reporters, during an anti-racist protest in Berkeley.

An anonymous anarchist replied to criticism of antifa thuggery with a post on titled “Eternal Liberal Handwringing: Response to Antifa Smears.” The essay is marked by the group’s glorification of violence, its anarchistic elevation of small-group actions over politics, and its alienation from the working class — all features that point toward the transformation of its members from “anti-fascist” to fascist.

In the history of the workers’ movement, others have travelled this road, including left Socialist Benito Mussolini, who ended up leading the fascist forces to power in Italy in 1922.

Attacks on workers rights 
The New York Times published an opinion piece Aug. 29 calling on the Internal Revenue Service to take away the tax exemption of white supremacists and others with viewpoints that are “fundamentally untethered from American values.” The liberals believe those they disagree with should be “nudged” off the playing field — or knocked off, if antifa is at hand.

Calls for the IRS to decide who is eligible for tax exemption based on political criteria opens the door the rulers will gladly use to go after working-class organizations

The American Civil Liberties Union has come under attack for filing a suit supporting the right of organizers of “Unite the Right” to hold its Aug. 11 rally in a downtown park in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Within the week, the ACLU caved. ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero told the Wall Street Journal that “if a protest group insists, ‘No, we want to be able to carry loaded firearms,’ well we don’t have to represent them.”

I guess they don’t think the Black Panther Party should have gotten legal help from civil libertarians, or the Deacons for Defense and Justice in the fight for Black rights in the 1960s.

The biggest danger to the political rights of the working class today comes from the liberal Democratic politicians, radical groups and antifa-style forces that cut off political discussion and debate. Allegedly aimed at stopping racist and rightist groups, their thug attacks and efforts to restrict the rights of those they target will increasingly be turned against the working class as the class struggle heats up.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

George Novack on Jewish survival

What united Spinoza, Heine, Marx, Rosa Luxemberg, Trotsky, and Freud?

Belief in:

A. Lawfulness of the universe and history.
B. The unceasing changefulness of all things.
C. The relativity of good and evil.
D.  True and effective knowledge is inseparable from practice.
E. Ultimate solidarity of humanity.

How Can the Jews Survive?

A Socialist Answer to Zionism

By George Novack

Price: $5.00

List price: $5.00

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Updike and Faulkner: How to Read Fiction by Terry Eagleton

How to Read Fiction by Terry Eagleton.

….We may begin with a sentence from John Updike's novel Rabbit at Rest: ‘A shimmery model, skinny as a rail, dimpled and square-jawed like a taller Audrey Hepburn from the Breakfast at Tiffany days, steps out of the car, smiling slyly and wearing a racing driver's egg-helmet with her gown made up it seems of ropes of shimmering light.’ Apart from one rather careless near-repetition (‘shimmery’, ‘shimmering’), this is a highly accomplished piece of writing. Too accomplished, one might feel. It is too clever and calculated by half. Every word seems to have been meticulously chosen, polished, slotted neatly together with the other words and then smoothed over to give a glossy finish. There is not a hair out of place. The sentence is too voulu, too carefully arranged and displayed. It is trying too hard. There is nothing spontaneous about it. It has the air of being over-crafted, as every word is put fastidiously to work, with no loose ends or irregularities. As a result, the piece is artful but lifeless. The adjective ‘slick’ springs to mind. The passage is meant to be a bit of detailed description, but there is so much going on at the level of language, so many busy adjectives and piled-up clauses, that it is hard for us to concentrate on what is being portrayed. The language draws the reader's admiring attention to its own deftness. Perhaps we are particularly invited to admire the way it propels itself through so many sub-clauses, all draped around the main verb ‘steps’, without for a moment losing its balance.

There is a lot of such stuff in Updike's fiction. Take this portrait of a female character from the same novel:

Pru has broadened without growing heavy in that suety Pennsylvania way. As if invisible pry bars have slightly spread her bones and new calcium been wedged in and the flesh gently stretched to fit, she now presents more front. Her face, once narrow like Judy's, at moments looks like a flattened mask. Always tall, she has in the years of becoming a hardened wife and matron allowed her long straight hair to be cut and teased out into bushy wings a little like the hairdo of the Sphinx.

‘Like the hairdo of the Sphinx’ is a pleasing imaginative touch. Once again, however, the passage draws discreet attention to its own cleverness in the act of sketching Pru. This is ‘fine writing’ with a vengeance. The phrase ‘in that suety Pennsylvania way’ is rather too knowing, and the image of the pry bars is striking but too contrived. ‘Contrived’, in fact, is a suitable word for this style of writing as a whole, as Pru herself threatens to disappear beneath the density of detail with which she is overlaid. The passage has the effect of describing an object rather than a person. Its style freezes a living woman into a still life.

Contrast Updike's prose with this extract from Evelyn Waugh's short story ‘Tactical Exercise’:

They arrived on a gusty April afternoon after a train journey of normal discomfort. A taxi drove them eight miles from the station, through deep Cornish lanes, past granite cottages and disused, archaic tin-workings. They reached the village which gave the house its postal address, passed through it and out along a track which suddenly emerged from its high banks into open grazing land on the cliff's edge, high, swift clouds and sea-birds wheeling overhead, the turf at their feet alive with fluttering wild flowers, salt in the air, below them the roar of the Atlantic breaking on the rocks, a middle-distance of indigo and white tumbled waters and beyond it the serene arc of the horizon. Here was the house.

It is not a passage that leaps from the page. It has none of the self-conscious sculpturedness of the Updike piece, and is surely all the better for it. Waugh's prose is crisp, pure and economical. It is reticent and unshowy, as though unaware of the skill with which, for example, it manages to steer a single sentence from ‘They reached the village’ to ‘the serene arc of the horizon’ through so many sub-clauses with no sense of strain or artifice. This sense of expansiveness, of both syntax and landscape, is counterpointed by the terse ‘Here was the house’, which signals a halt both in the story and in the way it is being delivered. ‘A train journey of normal discomfort’ is a pleasantly sardonic touch. ‘Archaic’ might be an adjective too far, but the rhythmic balance of the lines is deeply admirable. There is an air of quiet efficiency about the whole extract. The landscape is portrayed in a set of quick, deft strokes which brings it alive without cluttering the text with too much detail.

Waugh's prose has an honesty and hard-edged realism about it which show up well in contrast to Updike. They also compare well in this respect with the following extract from William Faulkner's novel Absalom, Absalom!:

In the overcoat buttoned awry over the bathrobe he looked huge and shapeless like a dishevelled bear as he stared at Quentin (the Southerner, whose blood ran quick to cool, more supple to compensate for violent changes in temperature perhaps, perhaps merely nearer the surface) who sat hunched in his chair, his hands thrust into his pockets as if he were trying to hug himself warm between his arms, looking somehow fragile and even wan in the lamplight, the rosy glow which now had nothing of warmth, coziness, in it, while both their breathing vaporized faintly in the cold room where there was now not two of them but four, the two who breathed not individuals now yet something both more and less than twins, the heart and blood of youth. Shreve was nineteen, a few months younger than Quentin. He looked exactly nineteen; he was one of those people whose correct age you never know because they look exactly that and so you tell yourself that he or she cannot possibly be that because he or she looks too exactly that not to take advantage of the appearance: so you never believe implicitly that he or she is either that age which they claim or that which in sheer desperation they agree to or which someone else reports them to be.

This kind of prose, much favoured by some American creative writing courses, has an air of spontaneity about it which is almost entirely fabricated. Despite its casual way with order and convention, it is as artificial as a Petrarchan sonnet. There is something fussy and affected about the way it strives to sound natural. Its air of artlessness is too self-regarding. What is really a kind of clumsiness (‘where there was now not two of them’) is passed off as having the rough edge of real experience. An attempt at impressive intricacy in the final lines comes through as pedantic cleverness. The lines know nothing of tact and reticence. They sacrifice elegance, rhythm and economy to a kind of writing which (as someone once remarked of history) is just one damn thing after another. The passage is too garrulous by half. This is the kind of author whom it would be ferociously hard to shut up. And how on earth can one look exactly nineteen?

Excellence in fiction: How to Read Fiction by Terry Eagleton

How to Read Fiction by Terry Eagleton

....A literary classic, some critics consider, is not so much a work whose value is changeless as one that is able to generate new meanings over time. It is, so to speak, a slow-burning affair. It gathers different interpretations as it evolves. Like an ageing rock star, it can adapt itself to new audiences. Even so, we should not assume that such classics are up and running all the time. Like business enterprises, they can close down and start up again. Works may pass in and out of favour according to changing historical circumstances. which have fallen into near-oblivion may be jolted into fresh life by historical developments. In the crisis of Western civilisation that culminated in the First World War, metaphysical poets and Jacobean dramatists who had also lived through a time of social turmoil were suddenly back in favour. With the rise of modern feminism, Gothic novels with persecuted heroines ceased to be regarded as minor curios and acquired a new centrality.

....there are criteria for determining what counts as excellence in golf or fiction, as there are not for determining whether peaches taste better than pineapples. And these criteria are public, not just a question of what one happens privately to prefer. You have to learn how to handle them by sharing in certain social practices. In the case of literature, these social practices are known as literary criticism. This still leaves a lot of room for dissent and disagreement. Criteria are guides for how to go about making value judgements. They do not make them for you, any more than following the rules of chess will win the game for you. Chess is played not just according to rules, but by the creative application of such rules; and the rules themselves will not tell you how to apply them creatively. That is a matter of know-how, intelligence and experience. Knowing what counts as excellence in fiction is likely to decide the issue between Chekhov and Jackie Collins, but not between Chekhov and Turgenev.

Different cultures may have different criteria for deciding what counts as good or bad art. As a foreign onlooker, you might be present at some ceremony in a Himalayan village and say whether you found it boring or exhilarating, high-spirited or stiffly ritualised. What you could not say was whether it was well executed. To judge that would involve having access to the standards of excellence appropriate to that particular activity. The same goes for works of literature. Standards of excellence may also differ from one kind of literary art to another. What makes for a fine piece of pastoral is not what makes for a powerful piece of science fiction.

Works which are deep and complex would seem obvious candidates for literary merit. Yet complexity is not a value in itself. The fact that something is complex does not automatically earn it a place among the immortals. The muscles of the human leg are complex, but those with calf injuries might prefer them not to be. The plot of Lord of the Rings is complex, but this is not enough to endear Tolkien's work to those who dislike donnish escapism or medievalist whimsy. The point of some lyrics and ballads is not their complexity but their poignant simplicity. Lear's cry of ‘Never, never, never, never, never’ is not exactly complex, and is all the finer for it.

Nor is it true that all good literature is profound. There can be a superb art of the surface, such as Ben Jonson's comedies, Oscar Wilde's high-society dramas or Evelyn Waugh's satires. (We should beware, however, of the prejudice that comedy is always less deep an affair than tragedy. There are some searching comedies and some trite tragedies. Joyce's Ulysses is a profound piece of comedy, which is not the same as saying that it is profoundly funny, even though it is.) Surfaces are not always superficial. There are literary forms in which complexity would be out of place. Paradise Lost reveals little psychological depth or intricacy, and neither do Robert Burns's lyrics. Blake's ‘Tyger’ poem is deep and complex, but not psychologically so.

Plenty of critics, as we have seen, insist that good art is coherent art. The most accomplished works of literature are the most harmoniously unified. In an impressive economy of technique, every detail pulls its weight in the overall design. One problem with this claim is that ‘Little Bo Peep’ is coherent but banal. Besides, many an effective postmodern or avant-garde work is centreless and eclectic, made up of parts that do not slot neatly together. They are not necessarily any the worse for that. There is no virtue in harmony or cohesion as such, as I have suggested already. Some of the great artworks of the Futurists, Dadaists and Surrealists are deliberately dissonant. Fragmentation can be more fascinating than unity.

Perhaps what makes a work of literature exceptional is its action and narrative. Certainly Aristotle thought that a solid, well-wrought action was central to at least one species of literary writing (tragedy).Yet nothing much happens in one of the greatest plays of the twentieth century (Waiting for Godot), one of the finest novels (Ulysses) and one of the most masterly poems (The Waste Land). If a sturdy plot and a strong narrative are vital to literary status, Virginia Woolf sinks to a dismally low place in the league tables. We no longer rate a substantial plot as highly as Aristotle did. In fact, we no longer insist on a plot or narrative at all. Unless we are small children, we are less enamoured of stories than our ancestors. We also recognise that compelling art can be spun out of meagre materials.

What, then, of linguistic quality? Do all great literary works use language in resourceful and inventive ways? It is surely a virtue of literature that it restores human speech to its true abundance, and in doing so recovers something of our suppressed humanity. A good deal of literary language is copious and exuberant. As such, it can act as a critique of our everyday utterances. Its eloquence can issue a rebuke to a civilisation for which language has become for the most part crudely instrumental. Soundbites, text-speak, managerial jargon, tabloid prose, political cant and bureaucratese can be shown up for the bloodless forms of discourse they are. Hamlet's last words are

‘Absent thee from felicity awhile, / And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain, / To tell my story … the rest is silence.’

Steve Jobs's last words were ‘Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow.’ Some might feel that there has been a certain falling-off here. Literature is about the felt experience of language, not just the practical use of it. It can draw our attention to the opulence of a medium that we usually take for granted. Poetry is concerned not just with the meaning of experience, but with the experience of meaning.

Even so, not everything we call literary has a sumptuous way with words. There are literary works that do not use language in particularly eye-catching ways. A good deal of realist and naturalistic fiction employs a plain, sober speech. One would not describe the poetry of Philip Larkin or William Carlos Williams as lushly metaphorical. George Orwell's prose is not exactly luxuriant. There is not much burnished rhetoric in Ernest Hemingway. The eighteenth century valued a lucid, exact, serviceable prose. Works of literature should certainly be well written, but then so should all writing, including memos and menus. You do not have to sound like The Rainbow or Romeo and Juliet to qualify as a reputable piece of literature....


A Marxist's approach to Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies

How to Read Literature by Terry Eagleton

Here is Eagleton on Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies:

....There are various ways in which narratives can load the dice in their own favour. George Orwell's Animal Farm is about a group of animals who take over their farm and try to run it themselves, with disastrous results. As such, the novel is meant to be an allegory of the collapse of socialist democracy in the early Soviet Union. Yet the fact is that animals are incapable of running farms. It is hard to sign cheques or ring up your suppliers when you have hoofs rather than hands. It is true that this is not why the animals’ experiment fails, but it has an unconscious influence on the reader's response to it. So the story is slanted from the outset. The way it sets up its terms helps to prove its point. The allegory might also imply, no doubt against its leftist author's intentions, that working people are too stupid to manage their own affairs. The title of the book, incidentally, can be read as ironic. ‘Animal’ and ‘Farm’ go naturally together. But they do not go together here.

The cards are similarly stacked in William Golding's Lord of the Flies, which shows a bunch of schoolboys on a desert island gradually reverting to barbarism. Among other things, this is supposed to illustrate the case that civilisation is only skin-deep. As in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, we are all barbarians under the skin, a view which effectively puts paid to any hope of social progress. Scratch a schoolboy and you find a savage. Yet choosing children for your characters helps to make the point rather too conveniently. Children are only semi-socialised in any case. They are not yet capable of such complex operations as running their own communities. In fact, some of them are not much more advanced in this respect than Orwell's pigs. It is not surprising that the social order they try to build on the island rapidly breaks down. Lord of the Flies thus makes things rather too easy for itself. The way it sets up its case makes it more plausible than it might otherwise appear. It may be that men and women are fallen, corrupted creatures, as Golding himself believed; but you cannot prove the point by showing a group of frightened schoolchildren failing to evolve the equivalent of the United Nations....

A Marxist's approach to Jude the Obscure

How to Read Literature by Terry Eagleton is a rewarding book.

On Hardy's Jude the Obscure:

....We may now look at a particular literary character in rather more detail. Sue Bridehead of Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure ranks among the most stunningly original portraits of a woman in Victorian fiction. Yet the novel lays a trap for the unwary reader. It is as though it deliberately tempts him to write Sue off as perverse, flirtatious and exasperatingly fickle, and many a reader has obediently fallen for the bait. As one sternly judgemental critic of Sue writes,

there isn't, when one comes down to it, much to be said in her defence. Having speeded on the death of her first lover, Sue captivates Jude to enjoy the thrill of being loved, and then enters with dubious motives and curiously mechanical detachment into marriage with Phillotson, treating Jude with astounding callousness in the process. Having refused to sleep with Phillotson she abandons him for Jude, temporarily wrecking the schoolmaster's career, and refuses to sleep with Jude too. She then agrees to marry him out of jealousy of Arabella, changes her mind, and finally returns again to Phillotson, leaving Jude to die … The problem is how we come to feel that Sue is more than just a perverse hussy, full of petty stratagems and provocative pouts; for that this is at one level an accurate description of her seems undeniable.

It may have seemed undeniable to me when I wrote these words some forty years ago in the Preface to the New Wessex edition of the novel, but they strike me today as woefully off the mark. Sue is not full of provocative pouts. She pouts once in the novel, unprovocatively. Neither is she a schemer, as the phrase ‘full of petty stratagems’ would suggest. It is not at all clear that she ‘speeded on’ the death of her first lover. He claims that she broke his heart, but the charge is pretty preposterous. Not many people die of this particular ailment, not least when they are gravely ill in any case, as Sue's first lover seems to have been. Nor does she treat Jude with ‘astounding callousness’. It is not her fault that Phillotson is hounded out of his job. The passage is a tissue of untruths. If Sue were alive today, she could sue for defamation of character. She could, however, screw a lot more damages out of D.H. Lawrence, who brands her in his Study of Thomas Hardy as ‘almost male’, ‘an ‘old-woman type of witch’ who adheres to the ‘male principle’ and is ‘scarcely a woman at all’. Rather oddly, Lawrence also accuses her of being ‘physically impotent’. So Sue is really a man, but a man who is not a real man. It is hard to get more sexually confused than that.

It is true (to do my younger self a spot of justice) that I proposed this version of Sue as only one possible reading. It is also true that she can be jealous, capricious and exasperatingly inconsistent. These, however, are hardly hanging offences. Much of Sue's behaviour makes sense once one sees that it is driven by a deep fear of sexuality. This is not because she is a Victorian prude, but for exactly the opposite reason. She is an enlightened young woman with boldly progressive views about marriage and sexuality. She is also something of a sceptic when it comes to religious belief. The irony is that she is wary of sexuality precisely because of her emancipated views. She regards marriage and sexuality as snares which rob women of their independence, and the novel itself fully supports her in this opinion. ‘ “Is it,” [Jude] said, “that the women are to blame; or is it the artificial system of things, under which the normal sex-impulses are turned into devilish domestic gins and springes [that is, traps] to noose and hold back those who want to progress?” ‘ (Whether anyone ever spoke like this in real life is another question.) If she tries to disavow her love for Jude, with calamitous consequences for them both, it is not because she is heartless but because she recognises that love in these social conditions is inseparable from oppressive power. Sexuality is about subjugation. As Hardy writes in Far from the Madding Crowd, ‘it is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs’.

If Sue finds it hard to commit herself to Jude, it is not because she is a flirt but because she values her freedom. She grew up, so we are told, as something of a tomboy; and this epicene or sexless quality, which puts her beyond the pale of conventional sexual behaviour, makes it hard for her to understand men's sexual feelings for her. She can thus hurt them without intending to. She would prefer simply to be their friends. The novel sees with extraordinary insight that the sexual institutions of late Victorian society have destroyed the possibility of comradeship between men and women. Some of Sue's apparent perversity springs from the fact that her advanced sexual views are inevitably somewhat theoretical. Women's emancipation is still at an early stage. So her beliefs can easily succumb to social pressures. She is thrown out of college for unbecoming conduct, and then, alarmed by the public outcry this occasions, tries to set matters right with respectable opinion by marrying the mildly repulsive Phillotson. The result is predictably disastrous.

Throughout the book, Sue has a dismally low estimate of herself. She is a far more admirable woman than she imagines, and the novel allows us to see the discrepancy between what she is really like and her own self-loathing. When an adopted child of Jude and Sue hangs their other children and then kills himself, an event which the novel does not even try to make realistically convincing, Sue's poor opinion of herself is pressed to a pathological extreme. ‘I should like to prick myself all over with pins,’ she cries, ‘and bleed out the badness that's in me!’ Convulsed by guilt and self-disgust, she abandons Jude and returns to Phillotson, leaving Jude to die wretched and alone. I note this fact in my Preface, but fail to mention that Sue leaves her partner for the most understandable of reasons. It is hardly surprising that a woman who has just lost her children in this grotesque manner, and who is in any case the target of vicious public censure, should take the death of her children as divine punishment for her bohemian way of life, and finally submit to moral orthodoxy. It is understandable not least because Sue's sexual emancipation is still embryonic and uncertain. It is a work in progress rather than an achieved position. How could it be otherwise when she is forced to go it alone, with no support from society at large and a good deal of prejudice and hostility to face down?

The tragedy of the novel is that Sue and Jude try to live out a form of comradeship, but are thwarted in the end by the power of patriarchy. Even a love as deep and steadfast as theirs is bent out of true by the system. ‘Sexuality is blood-stained,’ as one commentator on the book remarks. This superbly courageous novel is about the impossibility of sexuality, not just its pitfalls and illusions. Yet it refuses to accept that the couple's failure was somehow fated. It has nothing to do with Nature, Providence or a malevolent God. It is just that the experiment was premature. History was not yet ready for it. The same is true of Jude's ill-starred attempt to enter Oxford University as a working man. This project, too, was not doomed but before its time, as he himself comes to acknowledge. Not long after his death, a college for working people was established in Oxford, and still exists today. In any case, the novel suggests with cold-eyed realism that for its hero to try to break into the benighted set-up known as Oxford University was not worth the effort. Repairing the walls of the very colleges which shut him out, which is one of Jude's jobs, is more useful in Hardy's eyes than most of the learning that goes on within them....

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

W.E.B. DuBois on Robert E. Lee

....The South cared only for State Rights as a weapon to defend slavery. If nationalism had been a stronger defense of the slave system than particularism, the South would have been as nationalistic in 1861 as it had been in 1812.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Lesson of Charlottesville: Antifa danger to working class

From the latest issue of The Militant:

On Aug. 11 a group of some 250 white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched with torches across the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, chanting “White lives matter;” “Blood and soil,” a slogan used by Adolf Hitler; “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us.”
The next day these ultra-rightist thugs joined the “Unite the Right” rally of some 500 people in Charlottesville, ostensibly organized to oppose the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Organizers had claimed the action would be the largest such gathering in decades. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency, but rightist thugs and dozens of so-called anti-fascist combatants — both armed — marched and engaged in a series of bloody clashes.

After the cops cancelled the rally, one of the neo-Nazis turned his car into a weapon and drove into a group of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

The Socialist Workers Party opposed the racist actions and stands with those who oppose their anti-working-class perspective.

The white supremacists were outnumbered at least two to one by counterprotesters. But prominent in the counterprotest were groups that promote the dangerous and false view that racism and fascism can be stopped by small groups confronting the rightists arms in hand.

At the same time, the liberal capitalist media, Democratic and some Republican party politicians, and the middle-class left used the ultrarightist actions and resulting deadly violence to blame President Donald Trump — and especially the workers who elected him — for what happened. They view everything in politics today through the lens of how to get Trump indicted or impeached.

They claimed that the white supremacists are Trump’s “base,” slandering the working class, particularly workers who are Caucasian, as backward, racist and reactionary.

Solidarity Cville, a Charlottesville-based coalition of clergy and radical activists, had demanded the City Council ban the racist rally. The Council cancelled their permit to rally in Emancipation Park where Lee’s statue stands, telling organizers to hold it a mile away. The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the move, saying it was unconstitutional, because it was based on opposition to the ideas of the organizers. The ACLU prevailed.

Solidarity Cville called for a counterprotest. They were joined by middle-class radicals from around the country, as well as others, including antifa, short for anti-fascist groups; Refuse Fascism!; and various anarchist groupings that advocated physical attacks to shut down or break up the rightist action.

There were groups on both sides of the street actions armed with semiautomatic weapons, pistols, chemical spray and other armaments.

By 10:30 a.m., fights were taking place. Then a couple dozen counterprotesters formed a line, using a large wooden barricade to try and block a group of white supremacists armed with shields and wooden clubs who were approaching the park. A melee began as the racists were met by organized and similarly armed groups.

Responding to criticism of police inaction, Gov. McAuliffe, a Democrat, said that protesters “had better equipment than our State Police.”

Counterprotesters chanted “Go the f--k home!” the rightists shouted back “Go the f--k back to Africa.”

University of Virginia student Isabella Ciambotti was one of the counterprotesters. “What I saw on Market Street didn’t feel like resistance,” she wrote in the New York Times. “It felt like every single person letting out his or her own well of fear and frustration on the crowd.”

Ciambotti says she watched “when a counterprotester ripped a newspaper stand off the sidewalk and threw it at alt-right protesters.”

One assault particularly disturbed her. “A much older man, also with the alt-right group, got pushed to the ground in the commotion. Someone raised a stick over his head and beat the man with it, and that’s when I screamed and ran over with several other strangers to help him to his feet.”

Later she joined a group shouting, “Get out of our town!” at the rightists as they marched by. “A woman from their line turned to me, looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘I hope you get raped by a n----r.’”

Shortly afterwards, neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. used his car to kill Heather Heyer, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, and wound 19 others. Fields was arrested and has been charged with murder.

Liberals blame workers who elected Trump
The meritocratic liberals and leftists lay the blame for what had happened on President Trump and workers who voted for him. An Aug. 12 column by Colbert King in the Washington Post was headlined, “These Are Your People, President Trump,” one of many variants in the liberal media that racist and rightist groups are his “base.”

“We have a bigoted billionaire-cum-president who has done precious little for the white working class whose resentment fueled his rise,” wrote Michael Dyson in the Aug. 12 New York Times. “The only remnant of this leadership they have to hold on to is the folklore of white nationalist sentiment, and xenophobic passion, that offer them psychic comfort if little financial stability.”

Workers World Party takes this distorted view to a further extreme.

“Media manipulation and financial maneuvering by a significant far-rightwing section of the billionaire class to get one of their own into the White House,” they said in a public statement, “has emboldened the most racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, misogynist, male supremacist, murderous scum of this decaying capitalist society.”

But it’s simply not true that there is a rise in racism or anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim sentiment among the working class in the U.S.

On the contrary, there is less racism, bigotry or sexism among workers in the U.S. today than at any time in U.S. history. The historic conquests of the Black rights movement of the 1950s, ’60s and early ’70s dealt a crushing blow to Jim Crow segregation, pushed back racism and changed the United States forever.

President Trump wasn’t elected by racist southern workers seething over statues of Robert E. Lee coming down. He was elected by workers in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan and other so-called Rust Belt regions who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, seeking change in the midst of social disaster raining down on them from the crisis of capitalism. In 2016, they rallied to Trump, his pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington, his disdain for the “politically correct,” and his promise to stand by the working class. Did those who backed Obama suddenly become racists?

The meritocratic pundits insist Trump gives succor to the ultraright. “Trump Gives White Supremacists an Unequivocal Boost,” ran one headline in the Aug. 15 Times.

After the armed clashes by some on both sides of the protests, Trump condemned “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.” The White House supplemented this shortly after, saying, “of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.”

Nonetheless, article after article, op-ed after op-ed, the Times, Post, anti-Trump politicians of both parties and others insist he’s hooked up with reactionaries of all stripes. When Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham in a news release said that Trump hadn’t been forthright enough in condemning the racists in Charlottesville, the president responded.

“Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Heyer,” Trump wrote on Twitter Aug. 17. “Such a disgusting lie.”

The relentless attacks on Trump are not because he is a threat to capitalist rule. He’s a billionaire capitalist real estate baron, who aims to defend the interests of his class. It’s because the meritocratic liberals see in the workers who elected him class battles to come.

Looking at things through the lens of bringing Trump down, the latest heroes of the left are the billionaire CEOs and investment bankers who stepped down from the White House business round table.

Antifa danger to working class
Some of the groups involved in the counterprotest presented a course of action that combines reckless bravado with scorn for the working class.

The New York Times ran a photo of a number of armed members of a group called Redneck Revolt at the counterprotest.

The group put out a “Call to Arms for Charlottesville” that concluded, “To the fascists and all who stand with them, we’ll be seeing you in Virginia.” They assert that “letting fascists organize publicly and without challenge is the same as standing guard while they build a bomb.”

The idea that small radical groups can smash racism and fascism in the egg by physically confronting them is not new. But it is dangerous to the fight against racist violence and to the working class.

The only way to confront their poison is to mobilize the working class. The strategy of antifa, Redneck Revolt and the like tries to substitute for the working class, a recipe for disaster. Not only does it turn working people into spectators instead of active participants in their own liberation, it gives the government and cops a handle for assaults on political rights crucial for the working class to discuss, debate and act.

Adventurism is a deadly trap for the workers movement. Maybe this time the cops were “outgunned,” but you can be sure they won’t be in the future.

In fact, the biggest danger to the political rights of the working class in the U.S. today is not from small groups of white supremacists or fascists. As Charlottesville shows, they were incapable of mobilizing more than a few hundred people. Their racist, anti-working-class views and thuggery have virtually no support among working people.

Instead, the danger to workers’ rights comes from liberals and middle-class radicals who call for armed combat with reactionaries today. And those whose efforts to shut down meetings on college campuses across the country — from Berkeley, California; to Olympia, Washington; to Burlington, Vermont — have given college administrations and cops a golden opportunity. They call for tossing rights won by the working class at great cost out the window.

In an Aug. 17 column in the Times, K-Sue Park, a Critical Race Studies fellow at the UCLA School of Law, excoriates the ACLU for challenging the ban on the rightist rally in Charlottesville.

‘We replaced you’
Thousands of people, including many students, upset with the white supremacist rallies, the killing of Heyer and the ultraleft forays, turned out for a candlelight vigil at the University of Virginia campus Aug. 16, organized by word of mouth. It was many times larger than any of the actions of the previous days.

They retraced the steps of the march where the white supremacists chanted “Jews will not replace us.” One participant posted a photo of the vigil with the caption: “We replaced you.”

The Militant - August 28, 2017 -- SWP protests rightist acts, killing in Virginia

Friday, August 18, 2017

Education on U.S. fascism

A comrade posted this on Facebook today:

If you think the pic on the left is what American fascism is going to look like, you'll be ill-equipped to fight the real thing.

Yes, these are violent thugs and should be met with bigger protests. But don't mistake German war paraphernalia from 75 years ago for a social movement of ruined and enraged middle classes.

Fascism will arise here, as the crisis of capitalism deepens and the working class resists. But not under swastikas.

A good start to understanding it, and learning how to fight it:

Fighting racism today

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Racist monuments are coming down

A comrade on FB:

The violent bigots who stormed Charlottesville yesterday, murdered a young woman, and beat others senseless are driven by a poisonous lie that ought to be held in the daylight and shriveled in the sun.

"Every other nation can have pride, can advocate for itself but ours" they assert. "Why is it heroic to be proud of one's blackness and villainous for us to be proud of our whiteness?"

Because there is no such thing as "white culture" or a "white nationality", and "White" is a racist fiction to begin with.

Whiteness is an ever-moving goalpost. Italian, Greek, Irish, Slavic immigrants, none were "white" when they arrived in North America. Each was brought into the fold to preserve a "majority" that has never really existed, meant to keep Black Americans oppressed and exploited, and to drive the deepest wedge possible through working people and our ability to recognize our common interests.

It doesn't help advance any struggle against racism or national oppression to think of yourself as "White". It doesn't help you orient yourself or guide how you should engage in the world. Feeling alienated and ashamed doesn't make you much of a fighter, and encouraging others to feel the same way throws fuel on the fire of a rotten myth.

There are clear battles to be fought, and clear demands to be made. If history is any indication, those fights will be disproportionately lead by Black Americans descended from slavery. But those battles belong to everyone who wants a better future for humanity, and increasingly the door is widening to bring all working people into their ranks.

The racist flags and monuments are coming down, and the reaction from the bigots is unsurprising. They're loud and dangerous, but they're losing. Remember that.

Fascism: scientific definition versus subjectivism

....Because of the decline in Marxist political culture in the world today, “fascist” is an epithet used by many on the left to mean any demagogic politician. They care little for seeking to learn the rich history of the revolutionary working-class movement’s writings on fascism from Germany and Italy to the U.S.

Fascism is the name given to reactionary mass movements that arose leading up to World War II — like those led by Benito Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany and with echoes in the U.S. and other imperialist countries — that were backed by the capitalist classes in those countries when the existing dictatorship of capital could no longer survive by normal “democratic” means.

Leon Trotsky, a leader of the Russian Revolution, who was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1929 by Joseph Stalin as part of a broader counterrevolution against the program of V.I. Lenin that led the workers and farmers of Russia to power in 1917, wrote extensively about fascism. His goal was to lay bare the class dynamics that led to its rise and to politically prepare revolutionary-minded workers to fight against it.

Through the fascist movement “capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie and the bands of declassed and demoralized lumpenproletariat — all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy,” Trotsky explained, and then uses them as thugs to smash the labor movement and its vanguard communist organizations.

The fascists “initially rail against ‘high finance’ and the bankers, lacing their nationalist demagogy with anticapitalist demagogy,” notes Socialist Workers Party National Secretary Jack Barnes in Capitalism’s World Disorder. In order to divert ruined petty-bourgeois elements and demoralized workers from seeing capitalism as the problem, the Nazis scapegoated the Jews as responsible for the growing economic and political crisis and whipped up calls for a “final” solution to the “Jewish question.” At the same time, the fascists “ape much of the language of currents in the workers movement. ‘Nazi’ was short for National Socialist German Workers Party.”

“Fascism is not a form of capitalist rule, but a way of maintaining capitalist rule,” Barnes said.

Fascist groups, which exist on the fringes at first, only get financial and political backing from a significant section of the bourgeoisie when the working class “puts up an increasingly serious challenge to capitalist rule itself,” Barnes said.

In Germany and Italy the working class was unable to unify and mobilize its allies to overthrow capitalism and take power because of the betrayal by the Stalinist Communist Party and the reformist Social Democrats.

In 1930 the Social Democratic Party received 8,577,700 votes and the Communist Party 4,592,100 votes compared to 6,409,600 for the Nazis. If the Social Democrats and Communist Party had formed a united front, if the trade unions they led had built workers defense guards, if they were on a political course to lead the working class to overthrow capitalist rule, they could have stopped fascism on the road to power. Instead, they did nothing to stand up to the fascist gangs and Hitler came to power without a fight.

Workers paid the price of the Stalinist and Social Democratic betrayal in blood. Millions of Jews and gypsies were sent to their deaths in concentration camps. The unions were destroyed. The working class was driven off the political stage.

Counterpunch’s Pollack says the election of Trump is “a forward space in what I term a pre-fascist configuration, i.e., analogous to Germany in 1938.” Hardly.

Trump surprised bourgeois politicians and pundits across the political spectrum. He convinced a layer of workers that he was the lesser evil compared to Clinton; not so hard to do given the anti-working-class record of Bill and Hillary Clinton when they occupied the White House. Hillary Clinton helped Trump win by calling workers who were considering a vote for him “deplorables” and “irredemables.”

That’s the same language many on the left still use today. Andrew Levine, says in Counterpunch Feb. 3, that “Trump’s supporters fall into three broad categories: dupes, deplorables, and opportunists.”

Levine says it’s “the lowlifes whose cages he [Trump] had rattled and whose passions he had inflamed” that are the problem, showing his scorn and fear of the working class.

In fact, Trump’s policies are a mix of steps designed to attract working-class support, like his disdain for the government’s fake unemployment figures and his call for infrastructure building and a repair program to provide jobs, with demagogic nationalist rhetoric that divides the working class. Like other bourgeois politicians he seeks to shore up capitalism.

Facts don’t matter to the ‘left’

To those crying “fascist,” however, the facts don’t matter.

Workers World Party leader Larry Holmes, to take just one example, said in a Jan. 29 speech, “Building the ‘Wall’ and this ban on Muslims are fascist acts.”

Holmes leaves out that about 650 miles of the “wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border has already been built, mostly by the administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Does Holmes think Clinton and Obama are fascists?

Labeling Trump a fascist, helps pave the way for resuscitating the Democrats, the rulers’ other party, as the answer.

There is another danger in mislabeling Trump and his administration as fascist. It disarms the working class politically for when fascism really does raise its ugly head once again — as it inevitably will when the ruling families see no other way to maintain capitalism.

Communist workers don’t care which bourgeois candidate any individual workers voted for — or didn’t — in the presidential election. What working people need is to organize independently of both capitalist parties.

Far from the political space for workers to discuss, debate and fight having been smashed by fascist gangs, the field is wide open. The Socialist Workers Party’s candidates take its revolutionary program and win support on workers’ doorsteps in cities, towns and the countryside, as well as on strike picket lines and social protest actions.

We say the Socialist Workers Party is your party. What we do now in building a revolutionary workers party will be decisive in the years ahead.

The Militant - February 20, 2017 -- Calling Trump a ‘fascist’ disorients the working class