Contemporary capitalist society faces multiple crises: environmental catastrophe, proliferating wars, multiplying authoritarian governments, inequality, poverty, and failing health and education systems. Everywhere new democratic and progressive social movements continue to arise, from Ferguson, Missouri, to the Climate March in New York City, to the movement for democracy in Hong Kong. And yet, in most countries the democratic socialist left is small, weak, and divided.
Exemplars of America’s Racialized Capitalism
The killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, by police who were not indicted by grand juries in Missouri and New York, represent only the latest in a string of such police or vigilante killings—sometimes clearly murders—of African-American or Latino men.
We are living in times of great instability and crisis. Everywhere there are troubling signs of collapse: mass shootings, widespread unemployment, potentially irreversible ecological devastation, and the consolidation of wealth into fewer and fewer hands.
The fate of the socialist left is tied to that of the working class movement—and the last four decades of one-sided class war have had dire consequences for both. The thread linking today’s generation of young workers to U.S. labor’s proud history of class struggle has been effectively broken and must be developed anew. This is a daunting but necessary task for rebuilding the working-class movement.
Rebuilding a U.S. socialist left requires, first of all, coming to grips with the full magnitude of the social crisis and decline in this society.
The Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office
In the first days of August 2014, the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—New York Office brought together one hundred influential leftists from across the United States, Canada, and Europe for an “un-conference” on socialist strategies. The retreat was held at the Edith Macy Center, located in Westchester County about an hour north of New York City.
This article and its title are based on a presentation made at the Mapping Socialist Strategies Conference, hosted by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung–New York Office at the Edith Macy Conference Center, New York, August 1-4, 2014.
The Left Party is fighting for “a society in which no child has to grow up poor, in which all men and women can live a self-determined life in peace, dignity, and social security and can democratically shape social relations.” In order to achieve this, it demands “a different economic and social system: democratic socialism.”1 That is how the Lef
The origins of the Left Unity project came out of the common struggle across Europe against austerity. The specific moment was the first coordinated general strike across Europe on November 14, 2012. Many of us active on the left, already working with the anti-austerity movement across Europe, saw the need for British engagement too, and from that day onwards, Left Unity has been in development.
Historic Defeat of the Right or a Win for Post-Pinochet Neoliberalism?
“¿Qué Nueva, Qué Nueva, Qué Nueva Mayoría? ¡Si van a gobernar pa’ la misma minoría!” (“What New Majority? They’ll rule for the same old minority!”)
FEL student demonstrators
Dilma Rousseff of the Workers Party (PT) won Brazil’s presidential election on October 26, meaning that when her term ends her party will have held the nation’s top office for a remarkable 16 years, longer than any party in Brazilian history.
A View of National Electoral Politics from Brazil’s North and Northeast
Election day came lazily in Santarém, a mid-sized city and trading entrepôt at the junction of the Amazon and Tapajós rivers, the halfway point between Amazônia’s primary metropolises of Manaus and Belém. The internet was out of service in this sleepy Amazonian town, as were two out of the four major cellphone carriers, and the streets were nearly empty.
Joseph Daher is a member of the Revolutionary Left Current in Syria. He is the writer and editor of Syria Freedom Forever, syriafreedomforever.wordpress.com, a blog dedicated to the struggle of the Syrian people in their uprising to overthrow the Assad authoritarian regime and to build a democratic, secular, socialist, anti-imperialist, and pro-resistance Syria. A Ph.D. student in Development, he works as an assistant at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. He was interviewed in Geneva on October 22, 2014, by New Politics board member Riad Azar, with some email updates. For additional questions on Kobanê and Turkey, see the New Politics website here.
Statement by the Campaign for Peace and Democracy
As we write on Sunday, October 19, it appears that ISIS [Islamic State] forces have begun to retreat from their vicious assault on the Kurds in Kobanê. We hope that this is a resounding defeat for ISIS, and that it inspires a wave of grassroots resistance to ISIS throughout Syria and Iraq.
Yassin Al Haj Saleh is one of Syria’s leading political dissidents. He spent from 1980-1996 in Syrian prisons and became one of the key intellectual voices of the 2011 Syrian uprising. He spent 21 months in hiding within Syria, eventually escaping to Istanbul. He was interviewed via email by New Politics co-editor Stephen R. Shalom in early November 2014.
In 1994, Pamela Donovan and I wrote an article for the journal Social Justice called “A Mass Psychology of Punishment: Crime and the Futility of Rationally Based Approaches.” We argued that the crime issue had become in that decade—as mass incarceration grew exponentially, and while rates of violence were steadily and contradictorily declining—a key psychosocial mechanism that facilitated redirecting and displacing anger at broad inequalities felt by lower- and middle-class people, among others, onto “criminals” (who were more than likel
Those disturbed by the United States’ largest-in-the-world incarceration rate have some new reasons to be cautiously optimistic. President Obama nominated an opponent of the drug war to the Justice Department’s highest civil rights position, signaling the possibility that the costly and counterproductive imprisonment of drug users may be coming to an end.
Framing Abolitionism for the Twenty-first Century
Since the year 2000, victories claimed by death penalty abolitionists have seemed significant. In 1999, the United States executed 98 death-row inmates, the highest number since capital punishment’s reinstatement following the Gregg v. Georgia Supreme Court ruling in 1976. Subsequently, however, executions have been on the decline, with 39 inmates killed in 2013.
The editorial board of New Politics is saddened by the loss of one of our own: Betty Reid Mandell, who, with her husband Marvin Mandell, served as one of the journal’s co-editors for most of the past decade.
The most vivid and without a doubt, the most disliked (make that, hated) comic-artist critic of Jewish power plays, from Tel Aviv to Los Angeles, Eli Valley ranks high among the most Jewish comic artists anywhere in the world today.
Norman Finkelstein has made his career taking the nasty assignments. It’s been dirty work, but presumably someone had to do it: plowing through the works of Joan Peters, Daniel Goldhagen, Elie Wiesel, Alan Dershowitz, and a small army of official and unofficial Israeli state propagandists.
“My baby saw the future; she doesn’t want to live here anymore. It’s lousy science fiction, gets on your skin and seeps into your bones…”
David Byrne, Dance on Vaseline
In the mostly forgotten history of early twentieth-century movements for sexual freedom, Magnus Hirschfeld’s name is one of the most familiar—and one of the most contested. As a Jewish scientist who championed sexual deviants, he made a perfect target for the Nazis, who were tragically successful in extirpating much of his life’s work.
The idea of “voting with your pocketbook” is giving rise to a new global movement of ethical consumption. Industrial capitalism and its ills, it is thought, can be redeemed through personal consumer choices. “If only I bought the biodegradable bag of potato chips,” one may think to oneself watching a column of waste management vehicles pass on their way to the dump.
Three photographs in particular have come to define the decade-and-a-half-long U.S. military intervention in Vietnam. They show the self-immolation of a Buddhist monk, burnt children in tears as they flee an aerial napalm attack, and the Saigon police chief executing a captive in the street.
The “Russian question,” that is, the question of the nature of the Soviet Union, dominated much of Marxist debate throughout the twentieth century as first anarchists and Leninists, and later Trotskyists and Stalinists, and then Maoists argued about the economic, social, and political character of Soviet Russia (and then also of Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea).
The cartoonist Will Eisner used to say that there are two kinds of comics, entertaining and instructional. Over time, he speculated, instructional comics would become the more popular of the two, as teachers and everyone else finally figured out that comics convey information more efficiently than ordinary prose. Eisner passed away in 2005 but presumably would have regarded the past decade’s outpouring of graphic nonfiction as confirming his thesis.
Blogs & On-Line Features
The agreement signed between Greece and the EU after three weeks of negotiations is widely lamented on the left as a setback, if not a defeat, for Syriza. The two sides emerged from the agreement, if that is an accurate description, with different interpretations of the memorandum, signifying perhaps that no real deal was made after all. Greece obtained brief reprieve. Its banks will remain liquid for the next few months. The next phase will not be about what can be extracted from the troika, as much as what Greece can do despite and in defiance of the troika. That is what will be discussed here.
Jacob A. Zumoff. The Communist International and US Communism, 1919-1929. Leiden / Boston: Brill, 2014. 443 pages. Bibliography. Hard Cover $167.
Jacob A. Zumoff has written an impressive scholarly tome that is perfectly described by the title: The Communist International and US Communism, 1919-1929. He makes a reasonably convincing case for a novel thesis that attempts to reframe the major question: the relationship between the Soviet and American Communists. Yet, in my view, he fails to address the central question, the Soviet domination of the Communist International, including its domination of the American Communists in the 1920s.
The lion’s share of indebtedness in this world is invalid and immoral. Forgiveness is not what is called for; it’s liberation.
Talk of a “debt jubilee” leaves open whether the debts are valid or not, but talking about debt forgiveness raises the question of whether a debt is valid from a moral point of view.
Cafes bring memories of the unpleasantly bleak days of my undergraduate studies in which I sought my peace of mind in the rough and stormy sea of Jean-Paul Sartre’s world, his philosophy and his novels shining light on the notion of loneliness for me. And I lived inside his books and through the characters he created. However, the more I grew critical, the stranger I found Sartre’s intellectual legacy.
[Eds.: On Monday, March 2, 2015, in New York City a trial begins for eleven activists who are refusing to plead guilty to disorderly conduct and pay fines for taking part in a climate sit-in in Manhattan's Financial District last September. The Flood Wall Street Eleven plan instead to use their trial to illustrate that the bankers who finance climate change are the real harbingers of disorder. Below is a collective statement from the group. You can sign a petition in their support here.]
In order to solve a problem, you must first identify its’ source. . .
Militant protests by teachers, students, and others, some of them violent, continue in Guerrero on Mexico’s southern Pacific coast where the state government seems to have completely lost control. Since six students were killed, 25 wounded and 43 kidnapped in Iguala, Guerrero on September 26, 2014--with the 43 still remaining still not credibly accounted for—there have been nearly continuous protests. Teacher protests over other issues have also taken place in Mexico City and in other parts of the country and have been militant, but not violent.
Speech in Acceptance of the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters
To the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks, from the heart. My family, my agents, my editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as my own, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine.
Hugh Masakela, the great South African trumpet player was joined by Vusi Mahlasela, the guitarist and singer in a “Twenty Years of Freedom” concert at Queens College on February 19, 2015. They played many of Masakela’s classics of the 1960s and 70s such as the lovely 1968 hit “Grazin’ in the Grass,” the joyful and inspiring“Bring Back Nelson Mandela”, and the sad “Stimela – the Coal Train”, to an audience many of whom had been supporters of the freedom struggles against apartheid in South Africa until its overthrow in 1994.
A small group of Newark high school students Tuesday night seized the office of state-appointed superintendent Cami Anderson in a protest timed to coincide with her imminent re-appointment to another year, her fifth, as head of the state’s largest school district. The action, which is continuing through the night, stands in stark contrast to the failure of Anderson’s older–and, theoretically, more powerful–critics to do anything to dislodge her from her post.
With the left by and large failing to provide political leadership in the critical political situation that has developed in Mexico following the kidnapping of 43 students in Iguala, Guerrero and the “white house” scandal surrounding President Enrique Peña Nieto, Catholic priests have been attempting to fill the void. Several Catholic priests—Padre Gregorio (Goyo) López, Padre Alejandro Solalinde Guerra, and Archbishop Raúl Vera most prominent among them—have in different ways been playing the role of spokespersons for the oppressed. These priests have been speaking out against government corruption and the politicians’ links to the drug cartels, defending local armed self-defense organizations, demanding an investigation into the role of the Mexican Army, and even calling for a constituent assembly to refound the country on a new and more democratic basis.
I’m struck by how many of the skills and understandings good teachers acquire can also make them fine union activists. Though they may not realize it, teachers have already learned a great deal about organizing - through their work as teachers.
Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me. Chicago: Haymarket Press, 2014. 130pp.
The word “mansplaining” refers to the condescending tendency of men to lecture women, despite the man’s lack of knowledge—or even despite the woman’s own expertise—on the subject at hand. It entered into the popular feminist lexicon sometime around 2009, and although Rebecca Solnit didn’t coin it, her essay, “Men Explain Things to Me,” is largely cited as the inspiration.
Two years have passed since one of the great political and social thinkers of our time departed this world.
On 26 February 2013 Stephane Hessel died at the age of 95. Hessel enjoyed a long life, from his birth in Berlin to his final breath in Paris, where one of his last works Indignez-Vous! (Time For Outrage) was published.
Robert Joe Stout. Hidden Dangers: Mexico on the Brink of Disaster. Sunbury Press: Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, 2014. 209 pages. Notes. Bibliography.
Shannon K. O’Neil. Two Nations Indivisible: Mexico, the United States, and the Road Ahead. A council on Foreign Relations Book. Oxford University Press, 2014 . 239 page. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Map.
“Mexico is undergoing economic and political changes that lie like landmines ready to explode beneath the troubled and often discordant impulses of the two countries to satisfy their divergent social and political needs,” writes Robert Joe Stout in Hidden Dangers: Mexico on the Brink of Disaster.
Eric Toussaint, analyses Syriza’s first days at the head of the Greek government for Le Courrier. He was interviewed by Benito Pérez (of the daily Le Courrier, Geneva. 1]
Eric Toussaint is visibly exhausted at the end of a difficult week. But his mind is clear and his enthusiasm is intact: Syriza’s victory in the Greek legislative election has opened one of those parentheses within which History accelerates and is written as we watch. A political scientist who is experienced in economic matters, founder and spokesman of the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt (CADTM), Toussaint is a key observer of the battle now going on between Greece and its creditors—mainly the governments of Northern Europe. That is evident from the interest that was shown in his presentations Saturday, in Geneva, during a day of discussions on the economy organized by Le Courrier. A former adviser to the government of Ecuador and the president of Paraguay (Fernando Lugo), the Belgian native has also been approached by Syriza. Pending his possible involvement, Eric Toussaint is speaking out freely and observing the Greek experiment with a benevolent but critical eye.