Part I is here.
Given that rule by capital began during the post WWII Cold War, and has been since that time on a trajectory to Inverted Totalitarianism (Sheldon Wolin’s term for government being subservient to corporate capital), increasing numbers of the rabble class around the world are catching on to that fact. Inside the EU, that realization seems to have led to Leftists being elected in some nations, and to the rise of the more hidden neo-nationalists, Brexit, a possible Grexit if their creditors won’t write down a hella lot of their debt. Those stories are still in the making, of course.
To my mind, the Women’s March was far too parochial to affect any meaningful movement against either capitalism or Imperialism, including democratic socialist Kashama Sawant who’s penned: ‘A Socialist Strategy to Defeat Trump’. She’s quite bullish on the Women’s Marcher’s calls for Work Strikes on March 8 and May Day, knowing that all of the working class needs to be included, but offers this gate-keeping Jacobin piece as the cautionary tale of the hazards of a general strike. And yet, democratic socialists are by way of ‘reform capitalism, and certainly not anti-Imperialist, as in Bernie-hearts-drones and wants the yuuugest military force on the planet!
Partially because I admire the Zapatistas, I’d like to feature a ‘Talk by John Holloway presented to the Zapatista Seminar on “Critical Thought against the Hydra of Capitalism,” San Cristóbal de las Casas, May 7, 2015, Roar Magazine
A few excerpts:
“By critical thought I understand not thought of catastrophe but the thought that seeks hope in a world where it seems that it no longer exists. Critical thought is the thought that opens that which is closed, that shakes that which is fixed. Critical thought is the attempt to understand the storm and more than that: it is understanding that at the center of the storm is something that opens paths towards other worlds.
The storm is coming, or rather it is already here. It is already here and it is very probable that it will get worse. We have a name for this storm that is already here: Ayotzinapa. Ayotzinapa as horror, and as symbol of so many other horrors. Ayotzinapa as the concentrated expression of the Fourth World War.” [snip]
“Capital is in itself a constant aggression. It is an aggression that tells us every day “you have to shape what you do in a certain way, the only activity that has validity in this society is activity that contributes to the expansion of capitalist profit.”
The aggression that is capital has a dynamic. In order to survive, capital has to subordinate our activity more intensely to the logic of profit each day: “today you have to work harder than yesterday; today you have to bow lower than yesterday.”
With that, we can already see the weakness of capital.
It searches for all possible ways of imposing the subordination that it requires: authoritarianism, violence, labor reform, educational reform. It also introduces a game, a fiction: if we cannot extract the profit we need, then we shall pretend that it exists, we shall create a monetary representation for value that has not been produced, we are going to expand debt in order to survive and also try to use it to impose the discipline that is necessary. This expansion of debt is at the same time the expansion of finance capital, expression of the violent weakness of capital as a social relation.”
“The other possibility is to say “Goodbye, capital, time for you to go, we are going to create other ways of living, other ways of relating to one another, both among humans and between humans and other forms of life, ways of living that are not determined by money and the pursuit of profit, but by our own collective decisions.”
“It sounds easy, we know that it is not. How do we advance, then, how do we walk? Asking we walk, asking and hugging and organizing.”
The rest is here. The home page of the Zapatistas is here ; most essays and communiqués have English translations. They’ve created a bottom-up democracy and are continuously in the process of creating their own sustainable village lives separate from capital. Their over-arching motto is to the effect that: “If we try something and it doesn’t work…we try something else.” The ‘Chiapas little schools’ page has a lot of information for the…curious.
Recently a friend introduced me to Bob Avakian’s RevCom.Us, pointing to a video in which the Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill as a speaker at one of their conferences. Admittedly, I didn’t listen for long, but I was curious about their #J20 events and printable posters of ‘NoFascistTrump’ and the like. Meh. But I did peek into the table of contents of Avakian’s new book, The New Communism, and was none the wiser about its contents, although excerpts are available now. Down in the left-hand corner of the home page is ‘How we can win, how we can really make revolution, and ‘To do this we need to know: Why we need an actual revolution, what we need to do now, and how we could defeat them’.
I suppose I’d characterize the ‘How to win’ bullet points as: get equipped, fight only on favorable terms, avoiding direct confrontation, operate in surprise given asymmetrical disadvantages, capture and seize the old order’s arms, etc. Yes, they admit it will take millions fighting an armed revolution. The better route, imo, would be when the military would refuse to participate to quash the rebellion, as happened a number of times during the attempted putsches against Hugo Chavez.
Of all the several dozen links to essays for this series, this is my absolute favorite. Note: there may not be a part III. ‘Build and Fight: Beyond Trump and the Limitations of the United Front’, Kali Akuno and Doug Norberg, blackagendareport.com
You may remember that Kali Akuno was one of the authors of the report ‘Operation Ghetto Storm: 313 Extrajudicial Killings of Blacks in 2012, averaging one every 28 hours’. I haven’t discovered anything about Doug Norberg. As all BAR work is labeled CC, I’ll borrow liberally from their essay.
“On Inauguration Day, we note the considerable range of the opposition to Trump, from traditional activists to very mainstream folks. In many respects the opposition mounted was unprecedented, on a day where patriotic and jingoistic hyperbole is typically concentrated and loudly broadcast more than at any other time, and when, traditionally, new Presidents make appeals to the heart and to democratic unity while all who know how false the claims are, bite their lips, party, and hope for the best. The opposition struggling to find expression is broad and deep. But, nearly all expressions of opposition are resorting to traditional methods of reformist oriented protest while millions of people throughout the United States and the world are discussing and debating how they are going to survive and resist the emerging Presidential regime of Donald Trump and the rise of right-wing populism and a resurgent “America first” white nationalism.
Given the nature of Trump’s politics and how he came to power, comparisons abound between him and Hitler. Some of these comparisons are compelling; several are strategically and tactically instructive for our present predicament. But, while most activists focus on how and why Trump captured the Presidency, or the nature of an ascending neo-Confederacy, most do not address the crisis itself. Nor what the crisis practically implies, and when, where, and how the Left and the people’s movements can and must intervene to produce desired outcomes.
The crisis in question is the crisis of the capitalist world-system, which has entered a profound state of economic and ecological imbalance, social instability, inter-imperialist infighting, mass displacement, increased suffering and rampant carnage not experienced on this scale at a global level since the 1930’s. The crisis is rooted in the inherent contradictions of the capitalist system, such as the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, the need for constant expansion, uneven development within and between socio-political units, and ecological externalization, to name a few. The “Great Depression” of the 1930’s led to the second great inter-imperialist war, more commonly known as World War II, which lasted from1936 through 1945. The process of “creative destruction,” which war under capitalism facilities, ended the depression and ushered in a new era in the imperialist system, the era U.S. hegemony.
The first 20 years of U.S. global domination was perhaps the greatest period of sustained capital realization in the 400-plus year history of the inhumane capitalist system. This exceptional period, from the mid-1940’s through the mid-1960’s, was the product of successfully implementing world-system regulating instruments crafted by U.S. imperialism to structure the process of capital accumulation on a global scale, mediate inter-imperialist rivalry, suppress and corrupt the national liberation and communist movements, and contain the Socialist countries within the Cold War framework. The primary instruments crafted by U.S. imperialism on the economic side were the Bretton Woods institutions, consisting of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the General Agreement on Tariff’s and Trade (GATT), and its successor the World Trade Organization (WTO). And grand recapitalization initiatives like the Marshall Plan (which rebuilt the economies of Western Europe after second Inter-Imperialist War). On the political side the primary instruments crafted by U.S. imperialism were the United Nations (UN), the European Union, and a host of regional instruments like the Organization of American States (OAS), and all enforced by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).”
Then a section on the advent of neoliberalism under Pinochet, advance by Reaganomics, and the ‘structural adjustments’ of the IMF and World Bank during the 1980s and beyond, and one citing US Imperial over-stretch tipping the scales eventually to ever-increasing global and national financial cannibalization of banking institutions, etc. If I understand what they’ve written, I’’m not sure I entirely agree with their formulation, but…I digress.
“The [2007-08] housing bubble burst caught the U.S. government and the forces of trans-national capital flatfooted, resulting in the so-called “Great Recession” and the fictitious recovery we are living through now.
By every measure the world-system is set for another major global calamity, but with even higher stakes, given the depth of the climate and ecological crisis produced by the exploit and plunder, expand-or-die capitalist mode of production. The result? Given the present balance of forces throughout the world, we are either facing another great inter-imperialist war that will result in massive destruction and the likely creation of a new “pecking order” of the capitalist world system as occurred in the 1940’s. Or the global war will produce no imperialist winners, but only result in dystopian barbarism, the collapse of “civilization,” and the likely fulfillment of the 6th great extinction event that many are coming to see as virtually inevitable.
We have to ask ourselves, are there other options? Other possibilities? And if there are, what must we do to bring these into being?
We have to start with a clear understanding that the “liberal” center of the world-system is exhausted, bankrupt, and cannot hold. Resistance is growing and is just beginning to develop a revolutionary imagination, and address the imperative need for revolutionary organization and strategic focus. The relatively spontaneous, reactive, and largely reform-minded movements we see in North America and Europe, from the center-left (liberals and social democrats) and the right, against the predominant neo-liberal order reveals that there is tremendous potential for change. However, the change will only be substantive and beneficial to humanity if what replaces our present unethical and inequitable world is truly emancipatory. Spontaneity will not get us there, nor will the liberals, centrists, or the resurgent forces of the right. A revolutionary force is needed, one that is not yet born.
We argue, that the salvation of the human family is up to us – the revolutionary left and the people’s movements. We must find a way to align and unite our fragmented forces, and form a revolutionary, counter-hegemonic force.
Some of the fundamental questions confronting emergent revolutionary forces are how will the developing anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggle be unified? How will the revolutionary political forces develop and struggle? And where should and will they aim their strategic focus? As these forces develop and struggle for political and strategic clarity, they will have to confront and overcome the demons that have weakened revolutionary forces over the last several hundred years – internal democracy, hierarchy, sexism, patriarchy, heterosexism, Eurocentrism and settler-colonialism, white supremacy, xenophobia, the mental/manual division of labor, electoral fixations, economism, revisionism, and reformism. While all of these issues are of equal weight, the last three issues are of particular short-term concern in the U.S. context, because if the struggle against them is mishandled, it will result in the emerging resistance movement being subject to the forces and agenda of liberal faction of U.S. imperialism, the Democratic Party.” [snip]
“At best, “united fronts” are instruments for restoring the status quo ante, which in our case is the neo-liberal capitalist-imperialist order that has dominated U.S. political economy since the 1980’s. The failure of this order created the political vacuum that produced Trump and the resurgence of white nationalism and neo-fascism. Restoring the failed neo-liberal order is no solution. Nor is the attempt to campaign for the restoration of the welfare or social democratic state a solution, as it was (and is) a strategy to maximize profits and pacify and disempower the working class, not social liberation.” [snip]
After a longish bit on Democrat thinking, pendulums and such, this:
“This argument appeals to the reform left who, long accustomed to playing the single-issue reformist game a la “NGOism,” who will fit right in and help throw radicals and all manner of anti-system activists – like those struggling against the police, prisons, poor education, inadequate health and childcare, substandard and unaffordable housing, gentrification, domestic violence, anti-surveillance, whistleblower, animal rights, transphobia, climate justice, Islamophobia, BDS, anti-fascism, etc. – under the bus for “the greater good,” so as not to spoil the “strategic deal” of a projected pendulum reversal.
But the views of the millions “thrown under the bus” historically and today are not unknown, though routinely denied, dismissed, deemed divisive, and often outright criminalized. Many activists are easily swayed by such arguments, in part because of decades of single-issue reformism, and also the utility of commonplace appeals to “united fronts” historically, which have not been critically examined. In times of great capitalist crisis, severe systemic repressions combined with age-old oppressions throw many people on the defensive, and often move many to be dismissive of attempts at revolutionary challenges to the system. In such a time it’s crucial to examine these illusory “pragmatic” maneuvers (surrenders) against the reality, from the perspective of those who have been, and will be, thrown under the bus – the unmentionables and untouchables throughout the US political arenas.
We have to counter the narrowness of the standard “united front” approach and build a political force and a social movement that aims for social and economic emancipation, and not just a restoration of the “good ole bad days” of the Obama era or the 1950’s and 60’s. This force must be built by the broad totality of the working class in all of its (ethnic, racial, national, spiritual, and gender) diversity, serve its broad interests, and be self-organized and self-directed. By working class, we do not mean a narrow, monolithic subject of the AFL-CIO trade union ideal–the old, idealized, white, heterosexual, male-bodied, industrial worker. The working class encompasses all those who are structurally dispossessed from owning and controlling the means of production, and whom are dependent upon selling their labor, labor power, or their bodies and reproductive capacity in order to survive. This includes everyone from computer programmers to sex workers, from teachers and waged-slaved doctors (both traditional and alternative) to farm workers, from prisoners to the structurally unemployed, and to the vast numbers of unrecognized “gray market” workers in household, care-giving, home and auto maintenance, food preparers, and others. Given the increasing automation of production, this force must call for and organize a liberatory program based on the decolonization of land and knowledge systems, the democratization of the productive forces, the full automation of the productive forces, the decarbonization of the economy, the full democratization of markets and the processes value exchange, and a regenerative social order based on zero-waste the restoration of the biosphere.” [snip]
“The key to understanding and acting in a revolutionary manner in a period of profound social instability and upheaval is to recognize and rally forces to the strategic emancipatory opportunity, even while uniting broadly for defense against the serious threats and attacks. The fragmentation of power, of social hegemony, means that there is space for revolutionary interjection, intervention, and innovation from subaltern class forces. What we lack is the organization, resources, and initiative to intervene in sustained and determined manner. But, these are not normal times, and the opportunities to create the means of seizing the initiative can be found and created. Capitalism is driving humanity and all complex life on earth to the brink of extinction. Trump, the Tea-Party neo-Confederates, and the rising neo-Fascist forces throughout the world are just a reflection of this dynamic of collapse. The situation demands that we, the Left and the People’s Movements, rise to the occasion. Although profoundly difficult, history says we can. Let us make this era the most luminous period in human history.
You can read here about Kali Akuno’s work with Cooperation Jackson: ‘Building a solidarity economy in Jackson, Mississippi, anchored by a network of cooperatives and other worker-owned, democratically self-managed enterprises.’
This is from 2016, but it showcases a collective 160 organizations that have come together under the banner of alternative economic systems: ‘Can the ‘new economy’ and labor movements come together again? wagingnonviolence.org
“This includes cooperatives and credit unions, community land trusts, municipal participatory budgeting, local renewable energy and various community organizing initiatives to build local power, all within a grassroots, intersectional and anti-oppression political framework. This kind of work is often referred to as the “new economy” or “solidarity economy.” [snip]
“We can think of the economy as operating in five spheres, as Emily Kawano of the Solidarity Economy Network has suggested, and new economy projects offer alternatives for each, including: worker cooperatives for production; time banking, fair trade and basic income for distribution; housing and food cooperatives, and community land trusts for consumption; credit unions, public banking and alternative currencies for finance; and participatory budgeting, commons ownership and restorative justice for governance.
The overall goal would be to build and link together projects like these that strengthen our collective capacity to engage in these areas in a democratic, participatory way for a post-capitalist future. If we want to eventually have social ownership and democratic planning of the economy, we need to engage in these practices and create more institutions that enable them.” (again, the rest is here.)
Of major note: ‘Forty-three percent of US children live in low-income families’, wsws.org
‘New York City schools overwhelmed by student homelessness’, wsws.org
Last year, almost 63,000 homeless children on ‘skid row’ were enrolled in LA schools, latimes.com