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
Regardless of one's views on whether or not the socialist left should support Bernie Sanders in his race for the White House, the momentum behind the self-described “democratic socialist” has been impressive. Beginning at 2% in April, his popularity grew to 14% in May and at last check was 32% in New Hampshire.
How are we to assess the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign?
There are three reasons that one runs a candidate for president. One is the hope of winning, second is to influence other candidates to modify their views, and third is to use the campaign to build for the future, either educationally or organizationally.
Grassroots labor initiative urges Democratic primary support for Sanders by AFL-CIO and national unions.
Over 1,000 union activists from around the country today kicked off Labor for Bernie 2016.
In the weeks leading up to the June 7 parliamentary election in Turkey communities across the country were gripped with a mixture of excitement, anxiety, and fear. Though President Tayyip Recep Erdoğan was supposed to be above the fray of party politics, the former two-term prime minister and co-founder of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) made no secret of his hopes for an AKP victory, as he rallied and spoke continuously in the weeks and months before the election. 367 seats in the 550-member parliament would make possible Erdoğan’s desire to change the Turkish government from a parliamentary to a presidential system, thereby enhancing executive, and Erdoğan’s, grip on political power.
Werner Bonefeld, Critical Theory and the Critique of Political Economy: On Subversion and Negative Reason, New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014, 246 pp.
[Introduction by Todd Chretien: In the run-up to Argentina's national elections in October, a scramble for power has divided the incumbent Peronista party into warring factions. Founded by Juan Perón in 1946, the Partido Justicialista ruled through sometimes radical nationalism, state intervention in the economy, clientelist patronage and control over trade unions, and the loyalty of sections of the bourgeoisie and an elite political class of bureaucrats.
Despite widespread disillusionment with the political system, an organized attempt to prevent the election from taking place in a few states, and continuing economic doldrums, President Enrique Peña Nieto and his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) were the big winners in the Mexican election, followed by the conservative National Action Party (PAN).
Despite his relatively low poll numbers at the moment, Bernie Sanders’ bid for the Democratic presidential nomination is catching fire and will undoubtedly attract a great many more supporters in the months to come. For radicals, and especially for socialists in the “third camp” tradition (so called from the time of the Cold War, when our tendency stood for revolutionary opposition to both camps) this poses a challenge.
So why did things go so wrong under the leadership of President Barack Obama? David Bromwich has written an informative and important critical article on the Obama presidency, critical one might say from the progressive point of view, titled “What Went Wrong: Assessing Obama’s Legacy” which appears in the June issue of Harper’s. Fundamentally, Bromwich sees Obama as a weak president who has consistently pursued the “path of least resistance” rather than the “path of courageous resistance.” He was, says Bromwich, a president who mistook talk for action, who avoided political conflict and struggle, and who missed opportunities that presented themselves, moments when he might have advanced a progressive agenda.
A quarter century has passed since the June Fourth Massacre that took place in Beijing, China’s capital, near the end of the last century. But the truth of this tragedy has to this day not been laid bare to the world, and the massacre victims, who have still not received justice, cannot rest in peace. This is a disgrace for the whole Chinese people, and a disgrace for all of civilized humanity!
Mexico’s latest elections are threatened by drug cartel violence, social protests, and the mass resignation of election officials. The left, which in the past has succeeded in rallying a third or more of the nation’s voters for a single party, goes into this election deeply divided, prompting expectations of a win for the ruling party.
A hurricane is barreling down on Baja California threatening to interfere with Mexico’s June 7 elections on the peninsula, but the far greater storm is the combination of criminal violence and widespread social protests, which could disrupt and possibly prevent the election in several states.
I haven’‘t had a chance yet to write up my own view of the Bernie Sanders campaign, but I want to give some background, going back to 1980, on what I know about the man.
In 1980 I was in Vermont trying to get on the ballot for the Presidential campaign - seeking the line of Liberty Union, a minor party which had hoped to become a ‘‘second party” in Vermont.
Liberty Union’s own history goes back to the late 1960’s when there was an effort in several states, at the height of the Vietnam War, to get alternative radical views on the ballot. The main base for this effort was in California, with the Peace and Freedom Party which, in 1968, nominated Eldridge Cleaver for President. (I ran for Congress in Lower Manhattan on that ticket that year, picking up the endorsement of the Village Voice and getting nearly 5% of the vote).
The following introduction is by the editors of SocialistWorker.org where this FAQ was originally published.
Bernie Sanders kicked off his campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination with a large and enthusiastic rally in Burlington, Vermont, on May 26.
Sanders’ candidacy has prompted discussion and debate among a left shaped by recent struggles such as Occupy Wall Street, the Chicago teachers strike, Fight for 15, Black Lives Matter and the climate justice movement. Many radicals, publications and organizations either support Sanders’ Democratic Party run outright or believe his campaign can be used to build the infrastructure for a stronger left. By contrast, SocialistWorker.org has argued Sanders’ campaign will serve to corral and co-opt the emerging left into supporting the Democratic Party--and make it harder, not easier, to build an independent, left-wing alternative.
Here, Ashley Smith and Alan Maass respond to some of the questions and disagreements posed by SocialistWorker.org readers during the course of the discussion so far.
More than 800 migrants died on April 19 this year when their overcrowded boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast. The tragedy sent soaring this year's Mediterranean death toll which was by then around 1,500 – 10 times the deaths during the same period last year.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), between 23,000 and 24,000 migrants had tried to cross over to Italy since the beginning of the year, while just under 21,000 migrants made the same journey between January and April 2014. While the number of migrants rose to some extent, migrants perishing at sea have hit the roof.
I appreciate the nonsectarian tone of the piece on Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign by my longtime fellow New Politics editorial board member and friend Barry Finger. I think he has a better, more sophisticated understanding of the peculiarities of the Democratic Party (DP) and the U.S. electoral system than do many on the radical left that refuse to support any DP candidate regardless of that candidate’s personal political platform. However, I think that Barry still suffers from certain misunderstandings regarding just how different the big two U.S. political parties are from political parties that exist anywhere else in the world, and this means there are defects in his suggestions as to how left-wing socialists should relate to the Sanders campaign.