We have had an extraordinary presidential primary in 2016: in addition to the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton, we have an authoritarian demagogue, Donald Trump, who has unleashed a reactionary rage which harkens back to fascism, and another, Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a democratic socialist.
America and the World in 2016 and Beyond
The world today is faced with crises on virtually every front, and any assessment of the foreign policy positions of the two major parties’ 2016 presidential candidates must measure how well they respond to these crises.
Surveying the political scene in America, we are now witnessing the shattering of the last remnants of the American ideology that has maintained itself—despite strains—for almost 70 years. The ideas that justified the American economic and political system in the minds of most of our citizens throughout that long period came under stress during earlier storms—from the 1950s to the 1970s in particular—and a few beams and joists cracked but did not give way. Today the manifold crises of capitalism mean that the entire existing intellectual structure of American capitalism is breaking up. And because of the role that the U.S. capitalist class plays in the world, this represents a crisis of world capitalist leadership and legitimacy. The question then arises: What will the country’s rulers attempt to put in its place, and what alternative explanation will we on the left and in the labor movement be able to offer to the country’s workers?
Like a spectral apparition from a Shakespeare play or an M. Night Shyamalan film, the dreaded ghost of welfare reform is making a ghoulish comeback on Capitol Hill just in time for its twentieth anniversary.
The Politics and Poetics of Mose Allison’s Blues
In October 1969, pianist/ singer/composer Mose Allison recorded “Monsters of the Id.” At a time when recent history had witnessed a police riot at the 1968 Democratic Party Convention, the police crackdown on protesters at Berkeley’s People’s Park, and popular backlash against anti-war, New Left, counter-culture, and Black Power sentiment, Allison began by warning that the title characters no longer remain hidden, but have come out in full view. To the accompaniment of a slightly discordant horn section, Allison—singing in his characteristic style, with its idiosyncratic pauses and accents—spins a variety of often ghoulish metaphors that remain just as timely in today’s era of Tea Party, torture reports, Stand Your Ground, and Donald Trump: “They’re sprouting through the cracks ... They’re deputizing maniacs / Creatures from the swamp rewrite their own Mein Kampf.”
The colonization of Latin America never ended, it merely changed forms. Today this conquest continues, with transnational companies driving neo-colonization grounded in the continued exploitation of natural resources. This is nowhere more true than in Central America. The force of neo-colonization is strengthened by free-trade agreements and development plans that guarantee a company’s right to investment above the rights of the citizenry. Meanwhile, the indigenous populations face renewed dispossession and eviction to make way for global capital’s conquest.
The month of May witnessed the second round of massive general strikes to hit Greece in 2016. Mobilizations on May Day were followed by four days of strikes in the lead-up to the Syriza government passing its austerity pension bill.
Rosa Luxemburg’s Critique of Bourgeois Democracy
Rosa Luxemburg’s defense of socialist democracy and her critique of the Bolsheviks in her pamphlet The Russian Revolution (1918) are well known. Less well known and often forgotten is her critique of bourgeois democracy, its limits, its contradictions, and its narrow and partial character. We propose to examine this critical line of thought in some of her political writings without any pretentions to completeness.
This essay was originally a talk at the conference held at the New School for Social Research on April 21-22, 2016.
I don’t need to tell you we face an existential threat. Scientists tell us we face a “climate emergency.” Last year was the hottest year ever recorded, beating 2014, which beat 2012. We break new records every year. The fourteen hottest years ever recorded have been recorded since 2000. January and February temperatures were torrid.
Can the U.S. Food Justice Movement Join the Global Movement?
In the United States today, there is a fresh opening for progressive alliances. The various movements—Black Lives Matter, the Fight for $15, climate change, immigrant rights, LGBT rights, Bernie—have different roots, structures, and foci, but they share a recognition that we are being crushed by the newest form of capitalism—as they call it in Latin America, “capitalismo salvaje”1 (savage capitalism)—and that we must stand up to it with all our might, with all our people.
Perhaps ironically, shortly after writing the following memorial for Arthur Lipow, longtime New Politics sponsor Bogdan Denitch died on March 28 at the age of 86.
The democratic left is poorer today for the loss of a longtime active comrade. Arthur Lipow, a former member of the editorial board of New Politics, died this year on January 6, aged 81, his wife Gretchen by his side. Arthur grew up in Southern California and attended high school in Pasadena. He received his BA in sociology from UCLA in 1955.
English anarchism has produced a number of fine cartoonists, including Clifford Harper, John Olday, Paul Petard, and, arguably, the artist Hunt Emerson and the writer Alan Moore.
Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign has rocketed across the political landscape in this most abnormal of election seasons—an independent, self-defined democratic socialist running in the Democratic primary contest.
Rather than start his book about climate change with a solitary man contemplating a streambed run dry or taking in the eternal wonders of an old-growth forest, Roy Scranton begins Learning to Die in the Anthropocene in occupied Iraq in 2003, where Scranton served as a private in the U.S. Army.
Designing Socialism is a complete reprint, as an e-book, of the special April 2012 issue of the American academic Marxist journal Science & Society. It continues that publication’s tradition of providing, as stated by its usual editor David Laibman, “a major worldwide pulse-taking of the state of play in theoretical socialism” every April of the years ending in “2” in every decade (Campbell, ed., 7).
Syria is the focus of the world’s attention. However, the closer the lens is focused, the more the picture seems obscured. Is what we are seeing a revolution? Is it a proxy war by international forces? Or, especially now with the emergence of the Islamic State, is this Islamic authoritarianism asserting itself? These questions are vital for anyone trying to piece together a picture of what is happening and especially for activists trying to understand what is at stake in Syria and what attitude to take toward events as they unfold.
The editors of these volumes have provided an invaluable service, bringing renewed attention to the highly original and enduringly contentious critique of Capital that arose from one of the most universally revered figures of the revolutionary movement.
This book is a fascinating incursion into the multiple oppositional uses of memory in world cinema. It shows, in a lively and insightful way, how movies bring the memory of past struggles forward into the present, to serve as an inspiration for the future.
Inez Hedges distinguishes eight types of cultural cinematographic memory, which correspond to the eight chapters of the book:
E.P. Thompson (1924–1993) wore several hats during his life. His magnum opus as a historian was The Making of the English Working Class, one of the greatest history books written in the twentieth century in any language. He fought tirelessly for nuclear disarmament in the 1980s, which almost surely took years off his life.
Temma Kaplan’s Democracy: A World History arrives at a timely moment. With presidential candidates and U.S. officials alike evoking the term “democracy” as a justification for political movements or a pretense for extraterritorial violence, Kaplan’s history of democracy offers a sorely needed study at an opportune time.
The American left is today confronted with a situation it has not dealt with in some time—something approaching broader political relevance. From the rise of Occupy to Black Lives Matter to the Bernie Sanders campaign, movements of the left are having a sustained impact on American politics that they have not had for decades.
China has the world’s largest population, about 1.4 billion people, with a working age population of about 950 million, hundreds of millions of them wage laborers. Most of us know little about the Chinese workers or the recent workers’ movement that has developed so rapidly, especially since the 1990s.
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For three days the wounded and defeated soldiers of Bernie Sanders’ army, tired and disappointed but still idealistic and hopeful, marched and picketed around the convention center in Philadelphia, while inside many of Sanders’ delegates booed Hillary Clinton’s name every time it was mentioned.
A serious and wide-ranging debate has been taking place among Sandernistas in the two weeks since Bernie endorsed Hillary. And now with the Democratic Convention underway, the unresolved questions become more pressing by the day.
For the many people who have engaged in the struggle for Puerto Rico’s independence, July 25 has a special significance. On that date in 1898, U.S. troops invaded Puerto Rico, beginning a period of U.S. colonial domination on the island that continues to this day. The United States invaded Puerto Rico, along with the Philippines, Guam and Cuba, in the setting of the Spanish-American War. That war was the opening of what would be the menacing role and predatory nature of the U.S. capitalist class in the Caribbean, Latin America and the entire world.
Bernie Sanders’ campaign for a “political revolution” lit up the 2016 primary election season like a meteor across the sky. Contrary to conventional wisdom that he’d peak and fade early, Sanders’ challenge to the Democratic party machine lasted throughout the primaries. Surpassing all expectations, he won 23 primary and caucus contests, raised an astonishing $222 million almost exclusively in small donations, and gathered over 1800 pledged delegates.
On 18 July 1936, part of the Spanish army, backed by the upper classes and the Catholic church, rose up with the intention of ending the country’s experiment in democracy and social reform (the Second Republic 1931-6). The resulting civil war would be one of the pivotal events of the 20th century. For some it was the rehearsal for the Second World War, for others the “last great cause”.
As the US primary season closes we are faced with a bitter choice between an uninspiring Democrat and a shockingly popular racist demagogue. As such, writers on the Left are bracing for the general election and lining up behind one of two supposed “strategies”: Fight the Right and Bernie or Bust.
Activists affiliated with the Movement for Black Lives and Black Lives Matter staged a sit-in Wednesday at police union headquarters in Washington, D.C., and New York City, as part of an action to demand police accountability in excessive force cases.
People in Turkey are no strangers to military coups. Following more than twenty-five years of single-party rule after the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923, a coup in 1960 toppled the government of the Democratic Party. In 1971, 1980, and 1997 the military either overthrew or deposed sitting governments.
At this moment I find myself swinging between optimism fueled by the previously unimaginable appeal of Bernie Sanders’ “socialism,” the energized base of young people attracted to his campaign, this evidence that the neoliberal consensus is dead, and despair about the HUGE gap between this political opening and the organizational capacity of the revolutionary socialist left. Like many others, I’m asking: can anything be done?
True democracy can arise only from the people’s own power!
On the night of July 15, the Turkish society watched a military coup attempt, live on TV. For some it was so difficult to make sense of it that they chose to interpret the whole event as “staged”, being a member of a society inclined towards conspiracy theories. How could one call this a real military coup?
What an embarrassment for Bernie Sanders and those, myself included, who thought he would not descend so cravenly into the swamp of political sellout.
Gilbert Achcar, Morbid Symptoms: Relapse in the Arab Uprising. Stanford: Stanford Univeristy Press, 2016. 240 pp. $21.95.
The title of Gilbert Achcar’s latest book is derived from Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born, in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear”.
Challenging the Policing Paradigm Rooted in Right-Wing "Folk Wisdom"
When protesters developed a platform to end police violence in the wake of the 2014 police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the first of their 10 demands was to end “broken windows” policing, the law enforcement paradigm marked by aggressive policing of minor offenses and heavy police presence in low-income Black communities.1
Jules Alford and Andy Wilson (eds.) Khiyana. Daesh, the Left and the Unmaking of the Syrian Revolution. Essays by Muhhamad Idrees Ahmad, Javaad Alipoor, Leila Al-Shami, Mark Boothroyd, Joseph Daher and Shiar Neyo, Sam Charles Hamad, Bodour Hassan, Michael Karadjis, Louis Proyect, Eyal Zisser. London: Unkant, 2016. 278 pp.
Statement of the Steering Committee of Solidarity, July 8, 2016
Last night, during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas called in response to the killings of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile, one or more snipers shot at least a dozen police officers. As of now, five are dead, as is at least one suspect in the shooting. Before his death in a standoff with police, the suspect indicated that he was upset with police shootings and with Black Lives Matter, and that he wanted to kill white people. He said he was working alone, and has no connection to Black Lives Matter or any other organized group. Our comrades in Dallas report that protesters were just as surprised and frightened as the police when the shooting started, and at least one protester was shot.