Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 31, 2015

Randy Martin 1957-2015: an appreciation

Filed under: obituary — louisproyect @ 7:41 pm

I was sad to learn that Randy Martin succumbed to brain cancer. He was a 57-year-old NYU professor with a long-standing commitment to Marxist scholarship and activist causes. I kept looking in vain for some personal recollections of Randy on the net but have seen none so far. Mostly what you get is résumés of his accomplishments, which are considerable. Duke University Press, for example, issued this statement:

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I didn’t know Randy well enough except to say hello to him as I passed him by at the Socialist Scholar Conference/Left Forum yearly events. But I know enough about him to acknowledge his contributions to the grass roots movement, which gets mentioned neither by Duke nor by NYU. I also want to say a word or two about what I learned from Randy on some important theoretical questions that have divided the left.

Like Frank Rosengarten, who also succumbed to cancer last year, Randy was an important figure in the Brecht Forum in New York. He gave classes there over the years and likely made substantial financial contributions as well. He was also on the advisory board of the Left Forum. Until its demise because of the hostile real estate market in NYC, the Brecht Forum was an important resource for the left where public intellectuals like Randy could speak on an informal but informed basis to a wide range of students. A search of “Randy Martin” and “Brecht Forum” yields over 3000 items, including this one that is fairly representative:

“All That Is Solid Melts Into Air – The Red Power Mixtape” – annual Intensive Introduction to Marxist Theory & Praxis. This year’s intensive features Matthew Birkhold, Jodi Dean, Harmony Goldberg, Richard Levins, Randy Martin, Liz Mestres, Donna Murch, Alondra Nelson, Eric Ribellarsi, Tim Schermerhorn, Shahid Stover, Astra Taylor, Ganesh Tricur, Rick Wolff et al.

“The Working Class has nothing to lose but their chains… They have a world to Win”

The call of Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto still echoes today in the streets of major cities around the world. While capital is on the offensive imposing austerity, the working class is coming into being with self activity in the streets.

The Brecht Forum’s annual Summer Intensive is designed as an introduction to the theoretical and practical traditions that trace their origins to the works of Karl Marx and Frederich Engels.

Unlike many professors on the left, Randy Martin always offered solidarity to Cuba and Nicaragua understanding that the revolutions that took place there faced insurmountable odds. In 1995 he and Michael Brown, a leftist professor who co-founded the journal Socialism and Democracy with Frank Rosengarten, co-authored an article for that magazine titled “Left Futures” that was a very astute commentary on how to relate to countries that were struggling to create a new society under the shadow of American imperialism. (Unfortunately it is behind a firewall but I would be happy to send you a copy.) It is pretty much the same thing I was trying to say in my post on “Against Manichaeism”:

One of the more dramatic casualties of seeing the history of the left undialectically, exclusively in terms of failures which reflect dispositions built into socialist and communist politics, was a weakening of support on the part of many democratic socialists for the Cuban and Nicaraguan Revolutions, on the grounds that neither government was “democratic.” The principle of this rejection was undefineable as typically stated, and in no case was it or could it have been generalized rationally to other more favored nations. The judgment was, in that form, anti-historical and inconsistent with any notion of politics as a self-reflective and complexly mediated development of organization, consciousness, direction, definition, and power.

When we refer to this as a casualty, then, we mean that it is a casualty for the North American left’s understanding of itself: In particular for attempts to reconcile prescriptions for reforming that left with descriptions and analyses of what is happening elsewhere in the world. We are not claiming that particular cases should never be evaluated and criticized, but only that being judgmental in so categorical a way is inconsistent with respecting the types of non-institutional political processes which are inevitable as such under conditions which generate a left (including the left attempting to reform itself). Such a categorical attitude assumes as well that referring to historical conditions of those instances of social/political action which make it necessary and possible to reflect on further prospects of action is merely incidental to such reflections and, indeed, can only be disruptive of them.

The efforts to generate socialism within and against the global dominance of capital are recognizable along two dimensions. The first includes attempts, however fitful, deformed, or immature, to struggle for a social economy, for which the production of social life in general has priority over production for profit. The second includes all organizations in which the forms of participation–and their mediations–are conceivably consistent with the interdependence and forms of association which Marx referred to as the society of the producers beyond the producers of society. It follows that socialism and democracy are two aspects of the same politics as they are of the same theoretical problematic even when their expressions are historically compromised. It also follows that any process by which the left can be said to develop will be one which is as internally critical as it is externally articulate. From this point of view, the left’s future is, as always, now; and “now” is a distinctly historical present, both in its need to incorporate a past it nevertheless must transcend and in its need to recognize the activist, ideological, and theoretical elements which continue to constitute it despite the momentary desire of so many to redefine it beyond recognition and, apparently, beyond hope.

But this “now” is also a process of self-reflection and learning. For whether part of a distant and glorious past or an as yet unachieved future, an idealized conception of socialism–negative or positive–makes the future utterly obscure if only because practice, infinitely mediated as it can only be, is never perfectible. Therefore the idealist prospect of practical perfection can never be a basis from which to cross the utopian divide into a perfectly progressive state of being. Indeed, it can only render all present efforts as in perfect error. It is, as we hope we have shown, just such an implicitly negative utopian perspective which yields the current self-defeating desire for a yet newer, true left.

Finally, I have to say that Randy Martin opened my eyes to a way of looking at Marx that was distinct from both the postmodernist critique of him as a “master narrative” peddler and those defenders who ironically accepted the postmodernist critique after a fashion. If Marx is nothing but a variation on the Enlightenment tradition, as Vivek Chibber alleges, then this misses how Marx was really offering a critique of the Enlightenment.

Just about twenty years ago I took a class with Randy at the Brecht Forum that forced me to reevaluate my tendency to buy into the Marx as Enlightenment thinker analysis as I commented on Marxmail:

I’m taking a seminar with Randy Martin at the Marxist School in NYC. Randy teaches at Pratt and is the author of “Performance as Political Act” and “Socialist Ensembles: Theater and State in Nicaragua and Cuba”. The seminar involves a re-reading of some basic works of Marx in the context of contemporary critiques by postmodernists, feminists and postcolonialists.

I came to the seminar expecting to pick up some ammunition to use against all those trendy “post” thinkers, but have discovered, much to my initial dismay, that Randy Martin has a more nuanced view of things. Since I am a rather crude fellow, both personally and intellectually, this has required me to alter my habits of thought. But it may pay off in the long run–who knows. In any case, I would like to submit a statement by Randy on some of the basic issues being discussed in the seminar for your consideration. As you will see immediately, they are the same issues that were discussed recently in the postmodernism thread in this list.

Randy Martin: A certain amount of mischief has been done under the sign of the prefix “post.” It is often inserted in front of a noun not as a modifier, but as a total break with what it is manifestly attached to. It seems to me more useful to inquire into the nature of this attachment, and to repose the “post” as a complication within rather than complete rupture from the subject in question. It is within this in mind that I would like to examine the relation between marxism, postmodernism, feminism and postcolonialism.

My interest is not in subsuming the last three terms into the first, but in exploring their mutual articulation. It is not uncommon to construct a rather brittle and straw figure of marxism in order to constitute a critical project that can strengthen an understanding of politics that have typically been difficult to perceive from a marxist optic. One risk in this procedure, however, is to reproduce internally the very features one is attempting to correct through the critique of marxism. An example of this can be found in certain treatments of postmodern politics, exemplified in the radical democracy of Laclau and Mouffe.

Their declaration of the end of master narratives has all the ring of a universalizing proclamation, and their newly decentered subjects may not be able to recognize what they share with the old ones. More specifically, the claim that Marx is the source of a master narrative of history ending with the victory of communism and the industrial proletariat as universal subject, rests on a reading of Marx that would greatly simplify any text. As noted by Foucault, Marx shares with Nietzsche and Freud a view of history as internally discontinuous, and therefore contributes to the very theory of decentering that contemporary theorists depend upon.

The notion that, for Marx, history can be apprehended as a narrative, has been greatly problematized by Althusser and others. Careful attention to the opening pages of the Manifesto bear out these assertions. There, as in the 18th Brumaire, as in Capital, Marx is vigilant in presenting the ambivalent and divided movement of history, not as an inexorable synthesis that is the same everywhere it appears, but as a contradictory process that destroys boundaries only to reconstitute new societal divisions, that depends upon a socialization of labor that it subsequently flees, that levels distinctions only to reinscribe them more extensively. This account of creative destruction is helpful in grasping the dynamics of the postcolonial condition.

But doing so assumes that is possible to extract what is analytic in Marx, rather than reading him descriptively and generalizing form a specific situation. To do so can only produce a eurocentric account of marxism. This is not to say that Marx’s (or anyone else’s work) could be transcribed in toto to account for contemporary situations of postcoloniality or other phenomena. The same would have to be said regarding the relation of marxism to feminism. Yet feminism’s success in showing that the separation between public and private is itself a political construct, is not at all inconsistent with Marx’s efforts to analyze how the disarticulation of production and reproduction (and of circulation) is generative of politics. Clearly this does not exhaust feminist analysis but makes a case for a certain supplementarity among critical endeavors that share a given epistemic context.

In doing some research to prepare this post, I discovered that Randy’s class was most likely based on the analysis he developed in “On Your Marx: Relinking Socialism and the Left” that can be read on Google books. It looks like chapter two titled “Fragmentation and Fetishism: The Postmodern in Marx” can be read in its entirety. It is very closely related to the discussion he led in his class at the Brecht Forum. This is an excerpt that I find particularly insightful:

Impatience reigns when the terms postmodernism and Marxism appear side by side in discussion. A justifiable part of the unease stems from the sense that, while arguing over words, a clarity of political focus has slipped from the Left’s grasp. With the destructive effects of corporate capital’s grip on the direction and details of society’s development receiving increasing attention in the conventional press and from quarters of the right, it would seem less controversial than it has in a long while that some version of a critique of the profit-driven market would have purchase on the public imagination. In this context, dwelling on the nuances of theoretical dispute might appear to be a deferral of politics altogether.

Like any disagreement, this one presents prospects and problems. Criticisms of Marx’s work have too often suffered from illiteracy, decontextualization, aphoristic reduction, or personal attack. Marxists are left in the uncomfortable position of having to redefine the alien ground to which they have been relegated. Ironically, the attacks on postmodernism have often suffered the same fate, in which the connections to and dependencies on Marx have been read out of postmodernist writings by Marxists themselves, at the expense of their own influence on current theoretical discussions. It should be acknowledged that clarity of thought can be a casualty in these interludes. There is an understandable resistance to specialized vocabulary and complex sentence structure that can seem unnecessarily obscure or elitist. But also, the term postmodern, as it is used polemically, overconsolidates a range of intellectual tendencies, political impulses, and social phenomena. Calling someone a postmodernist, if they accept particular features of contemporary culture, is a bit like calling Marx a capitalist because he begins his analysis by accepting the prevalence of the commodity. As Fredric Jameson (1996) has noted, Marxism has suffered the conflation between its identification as a philosophy, a social movement, and an historical project. Yet, so too have the distinctions between postmodernist (an advocate of certain critical principles), postmodernism (a cultural logic) and postmodernity (a formation of societal development), been lost or misplaced in the rough and tumble moniker, ‘‘pomo’’.

All of this has added poignancy in light of Randy Martin’s role in approving Alan Sokal’s spoof for Social Text in 1996, just around the time I was taking his class at the Brecht Forum. My initial tendency was to sell him short because I was still committed to the Marx as Enlightenment thinker analysis that was widespread on the left.

It was only after thinking more deeply about these questions that I began to see the wisdom of the Social Text editorial board in pulling together an extremely important issue even if Alan had conned one of its editors (I have over the years grown more tolerant of such indiscretions in light of understanding better through my submissions to Swans and CounterPunch what a job it is to publish a journal.)

That issue of Social Text was an enormous contribution to the debate about Marxism, science, postmodernism and “enlightenment values” that Randy could have been proud of despite the scandal. It was prompted in large part by a “Science Wars” conference in 1995 that Andrew Ross described as follows in the introduction to the issue:

The shrill tone of this backlash was set by Paul Gross and Norman Levitt’s book Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994). In spite of the authors’ claim that they are not “stalking horses for social conservatism,” Higher Superstition belongs fair and square to the tradition of Alan Bloom, William Bennett, Roger Kimball, Hilton Kramer, and Dinesh D’Souza. Presented as a wake-up call to unsuspecting scientists, it identifies and caricatures “science-bashers” in the same systematic fashion as those before had fingered the defilers of their Great Books tradition: “The relativism of the social constructionists, the sophomoric scepticism of the postmodernists, the incipient Lysenkoism of the feminist critics, the millenialism of the radical environmentalists, the racial chauvinism of the Afrocentrics” (252). Gross and Levitt’s effort generated its share of coverage in the scholarly media and began to draw cutting responses from the ranks of those who demolished The Bell Curve; this early attention was fol- lowed by a series of lavishly funded, high-publicity conferences intended to mobilize a broad coalition from the natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. The most well-publicized conference, “The Flight from Science and Reason,” hosted in June 1995 by the New York Academy of Sciences, clearly laid out the agenda of linking together a host of dangerous threats: scientific creationism, New Age alternatives and cults, astrology, UFO-ism, the radical science movement, postmodernism, and critical science studies, alongside the ready-made historical specters of Aryan-Nazi science and the Soviet error of Lysenkoism.

Although Andrew Ross does not mention it, the Olin Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation funded the conference alluded to above. You probably already know that the Olin Foundation was to the 1990s what the Koch brothers are to rightwing causes today, a bottomless piggy bank. Then there is the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation that is less known but deserving closer scrutiny. Sourcewatch.org advises:

Harry Bradley was one of the original charter members of the far right-wing John Birch Society, along with another Birch Society board member, Fred Koch, the father of Koch Industries’ billionaire brothers and owners, Charles and David Koch.[5]

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “from 2001 to 2009, it [Bradley] doled out nearly as much money as the seven Koch and Scaife foundations combined.”[6]

So was Norman Levitt, who by Alan Sokal’s admission gave him the idea to con Social Text, standing up for Enlightenment values when he went knocking at the door of the Olin and Bradley foundations? If so, then call me an enemy of the Enlightenment.

January 30, 2015

Separated at birth

Filed under: separated at birth? — louisproyect @ 11:26 pm

Screen shot 2015-01-30 at 6.21.41 PM

Jeff Daniels in “Dumb and Dumber”

London Mayor Boris Johnson: the dumbest

Against Manichaeism

Filed under: Greece — louisproyect @ 10:03 pm

Manichean art

UPDATE:

Now, it would seem that the geopolitical/chess game left is ready to throw Syriza under the bus. The battle against austerity matters less than how Tsipras stands on sanctions. Just look at MRZine that is festooned today with anti-Syriza tweets.

EU wins Greek backing to extend Russia sanctions, delays decision on new steps

—-

For the past few years, and largely as a result of the wars in the Middle East and the Ukraine, there has been a tendency to view everybody fighting as proxies of Washington or Moscow. For most of the left, this means taking a position on those fighting based on where they stand in relationship to the rival powers. Like a chess game in which the black pieces are pure evil and the white pure good, geopolitics matters much more than the individual pieces. If a pawn is forced to align itself with the West, it matters little whether its cause is just.

Ironically, Manichaeism was born in Persia, a country seen by most of the left as certainly pale in hue and pure as the driven snow. After all, how could a country be bad if it is hated so much by the USA? This, of course, is the same logic that drove so many new leftists into Maoist sects in the 60s and 70s. If Mao was such a universally despised figure, didn’t it make sense to follow Bob Avakian or Mike Klonsky? For some, Nixon’s trip to China complicated things to the point that these sects began to disintegrate in the 1980s.

Manicheanism got its name from its founder—Mani. Mani is not a name like Louis but an honorific like “Sri” or “Bey”. Scholars view the religion as an offshoot of Gnosticism, a religion that fascinated me when I was a religion major at Bard. For the Gnostics, the world was divided between good and evil. You tended to dwell in the evil until you learned the truth about the world’s dualism. You can easily understand how Gnosticism was traceable back to Neo-Platonism, a philosophical cult and semi-religion that was inspired by Plato’s notion that philosophical reflections by philosopher-kings was a precondition for understanding the world. If you trace back geopolitical/chess game thinking to its Platonic roots, you can see how little has changed. Instead of reading Plato’s Republic, the key to enlightenment is Robert Parry’s ConsortiumNews or WSWS.org

All this came to mind nearly hours after it was announced that Syriza had formed a government in a bloc with ANEL, a small ultraright party that disagreed on all issues with Syriza except the need to fight against austerity. Facebook lit up with revelations on its head guy who came across as a typical Alex Jones interviewee. Kevin Ovenden, a staunch supporter of Syriza and someone prone to geopolitical ways of thinking, was candid about ANEL’s leader:

Kammenos is a kooky conspiracy theorist (with added anti-semitism to boot). For example, he maintained that the vapour trails left by passenger jets were in fact chemtrails the kind left by low-lying crop-spraying and comprised a soporific drug which had made the Greek people go along with a new German occupation of their country.

The immediate reaction of those upset with such an alliance was to say, “ah-ha, this is what you could have expected all along—Syriza is moving to the right”. Only a day later, things quieted down about the ANEL bloc when Tsipras and his top cabinet appointees showed a flinty determination to tell Germany to take its austerity and shove it up its ass.

It was obvious to me at this point that some people were anxious to indict Syriza on the same basis as the Maidan activists or the FSA were condemned but from the opposite side of the coin. If Tsipras can unite with such a slug, that’s all you need to know. It was the same kind of logic that allows so many on the left to take Putin’s side because Victoria Nuland’s phone call to the American ambassador to Ukraine revealed Washington’s support for Maidan. What Maidan protesters were for hardly mattered. In fact, the whole mission of the Manichean left became one of dredging up every piece of evidence that would condemn Maidan after the fashion of a district attorney.

In the latest development, the same people ready to throw Maidan under the bus are now all the more ready to back Syriza because it appears to coincide with their own support for the Kremlin. Tsipras has declared that he opposes sanctions against Russia over its intervention in the Ukraine and his foreign minister Nikos Kotzias is apparently a colleague of Alexander Dugin, the ultranationalist philosopher of Novorossia, the Kremlin’s bid to reconstitute Katherine the Great’s Empire.

I have a totally different take on ANEL, Dugin and any other litmus test applied to Syriza outside of its stance on the all-important question of austerity. If Greece moves forward and successfully beats back the austerity regime imposed by Western European elites, it will encourage mass movements everywhere, including Russia. Russia, like Greece, is run by oligarchs who enjoy obscene incomes while ordinary people’s income stagnate. Furthermore, as oil revenues decline Russia’s social divide will become more acute. Putin was able to draw a “silent majority” to his side because incomes were rising. People put up with corruption because it did not necessarily affect them directly.

If you step back and look at all the protests and civil wars taking place around the world, they are driven by the same causes whether they line up on Washington or Moscow’s side of the ledger book. Crony capitalism is the target even if people marching in the streets don’t have an analysis of capitalism. Every successful hammer blow against a Bashar al-Assad or a Greek billionaire hiding his money in a Swiss bank will flow like streams into an ocean of resistance that will make the radical movement of the 1930s or 60s look pale by comparison. Our role as socialists is to encourage rebellion against the malefactors of great wealth, whether they are on the black or white side of the chessboard.

If any confirmation was necessary of the inadvisability of applying a litmus test to Syriza based on such considerations, I refer you to a column by James Bloodworth that appears in today’s Independent. Bloodworth, a long-time opponent of the Bolivarian revolution and Bashar al-Assad, likes to speak in the name of the left but is basically a liberal, not to speak of his shoddy journalism that plays fast and loose with Venezuelan statistics.

Never one for understatement, Bloodworth titles his hatchet job: “Syriza’s victory in Greece might not be the radical revolution you were hoping for. The party has got its head nestled in the lap of the Kremlin, but apparently that’s fine.”

He claims that Syriza and ANEL are “light years” apart based on questions such as immigration as if sheer opportunism rather than agreement on the need to resist austerity made their alliance possible. It would seem that Syriza falls short of Bloodworth’s lofty standards since its opposition to the EU bosses only looks leftist in a context of politics shifting so far to the right.

Put another way, it would be a mistake to assume that the people of Greece shifted decisively to the left in electing Syriza. In reality economic orthodoxy has moved so far to the right that an unwillingness to let a generation of young Greeks wither on the vine is now considered utopian.

This is a distinction without a difference. The election was not a referendum on the wisdom of the labor theory of value. It was not about ideology but about survival. With a suicide epidemic based on despair, people were voting for a party that offered an alternative to austerity. For our young pundit, this is not good enough apparently.

Applying a litmus test of Ukraine on Syriza, Bloodworth has a hissy fit over the fact that people on the left, including me, are not ready to cast it down to hell:

Enough to quicken the pulse of any far-right ideologue, you would think. Only this isn’t the far-right but the radical left, the living embodiment of the “hope” that is supposed to inspire Europe’s genuinely beleaguered poor.

He makes sure to get in a dig about Venezuela and the new pope:

This is why you will see left-wingers board charter flights to Caracas and laud the Venezuelan regime while journalists are locked up and student protesters watercannoned. It’s why the reactionary Vatican is praised as a vessel of progressive thought for mouthing platitudes about “the poor”.

What a cheap smear. The fact that the pope is going around the world blasting economic inequality leaves him cold. What else is the pope supposed to do except give speeches? Throw Molotov cocktails like the lilywhite Venezuelan student protesters?

The article concludes with a Hitchensesque anti-Communist rant that makes you wonder how the people running Jacobin would have ever given him a bully pulpit:

And it’s why the spectre of 20th century Communism still casts a long shadow over Syriza and their admirers in Britain. So long as you nationalise a few things and spout some anti-colonialist rhetoric, you’re a made man on the left. If you’re in the omelette making business there is after all no time to coddle the eggs.

Actually it is the specter of 21st century socialism that casts a shadow over Syriza. What it is doing in Greece is far more important than how it lines up on the Ukraine. Venezuela and Cuba are also on the right side of history despite their mistakes on Syria. They are to be judged on the stand they took on the class struggle within their borders. States often make foreign policy choices based on exigency, going back to the USSR’s decision to make deals with Mustafa Kemal at the very time he had the leaders of the Turkish CP assassinated. Politics is a messy business. For those who prefer Manichean simplicities, I recommend the legions of the simpleminded led by James Bloodworth on one hand and Robert Parry on the other. For the rest of us, it is useful to recall what Lenin said about the Easter Rebellion of 1916:

On May 9, 1916, there appeared, in Berner Tagwacht, the organ of the Zimmerwald group, including some of the Leftists, an article on the Irish rebellion entitled “Their Song is Over” and signed with the initials K.R. [Karl Radek]. It described the Irish rebellion as being nothing more nor less than a “putsch”, for, as the author argued, “the Irish question was an agrarian one”, the peasants had been pacified by reforms, and the nationalist movement remained only a “purely urban, petty-bourgeois movement, which, notwithstanding the sensation it caused, had not much social backing…”

To imagine that social revolution is conceivable without revolts by small nations in the colonies and in Europe, without revolutionary outbursts by a section of the petty bourgeoisie without all its prejudices, without a movement of the politically non-conscious proletarian and semi-proletarian masses against oppression by the landowners, the church, and the monarchy, against national oppression, etc.–to imagine all this is to repudiate social revolution. So one army lines up in one place and says, “We are for socialism”, and another, somewhere else and says, “We are for imperialism”, and that will be a social revolution! Only those who hold such a ridiculously pedantic view would vilify the Irish rebellion by calling it a “putsch”.

“White God,” “The Turin Horse” and “Au Hasard Balthazar”

Filed under: Counterpunch,Film — louisproyect @ 4:37 pm
“White God,” “The Turin Horse” and “Au Hasard Balthazar”

The Cinema of Cruelty

by LOUIS PROYECT

As the Academy Awards draw near, it seems appropriate to write about three films light years removed from the Hollywood film industry that are united by the theme of cruelty to animals and that wear their art film credentials proudly (even though one film subverts pulp genres).

One is “The Turin Horse”, the final film made by auteur extraordinaire Béla Tarr over a thirty-seven year career and that is inspired by an anecdote about Nietzsche coming to the aid of a horse being beaten by its livery cab owner. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, he was asked to name a film that had real quality. His answer was Aki Kaurismaki’s “Le Havre”, a film he “really loved”, as did I. ( When the Hollywood Reporter began mentioning that it might receive an Oscar for best foreign language film, Tarr interrupted him:

Who cares about this stupidity? You know what I mean. This kind of quality is not for the Academy Awards. This kind of quality and sensibility is for you and the other people – for personal use. The others are just part of a fucked-up business, which is not my business.

Béla Tarr came to mind after seeing “White God” at a press screening a while back. Directed by fellow Hungarian Kornél Mundruczó, it about the mistreatment of a teen girl’s beloved dog Hagen by various people and institutions. As such, I decided to write about the two films as well as about Robert Bresson’s “Au Hasard Balthazar”, a 1966 film about the abuse of a donkey—a work that I had somehow ignored despite Godard’s comment: “Everyone who sees this film will be absolutely astonished…because this film is really the world in an hour and a half.

full review

Trailers for films under review:

January 29, 2015

Greece: the end of austerity?

Filed under: Greece — louisproyect @ 10:33 pm

UKRAINE: THE OLIGARCHIC REBELLION IN THE DONBAS

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 2:04 pm

СОЛІДАРНІСТЬ УКРАЇНИ КАМПАНІЯ

Zbigniew Marcin Kowalewski

Zbigniew Kowalewski a prominent Polish socialist and former leader of Solidarnosc in Lodz in 1980-81, he has written widely on Ukrainian history and society.  Many of his writings on Ukraine can found online at: Zbigniew Kowalewski. This article was first published in Polish in Le Monde Diplomatique – Edycja polska, No. 12 (106), December 2014, and in English in International Viewpoint, January 27, 2015.

Donetsk People's Republic The flag of the ‘Donetsk Peoples Republic’ emblazoned with Tsarist eagle of former Russian Empire.

Seventy-five people were killed on the Maidan in Kiev on February 20, 2014. The following day, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski insists: “If you do not sign the agreement, you will have a state of war and the army in the streets. You will all be dead.” The foreign ministers of France and Germany echo his words. The trio ofUkrainian opposition leaders eventually fold under the pressure…

View original post 4,980 more words

January 27, 2015

Youth and Capitalism

Filed under: india — louisproyect @ 5:28 pm

Vijaya Kumar Marla

Youth and Capitalism

a guest post by Vijaya Kumar Marla

Paper submitted for the Workshop on ‘Hegemony, Civil Society and Democracy’ held at Chandigarh, 6th, 7th and 8th, February 2015.

Introduction

The world has come a long way in the last 3 decades. The Leftist movements worldwide were plunged in despair, with the disintegration of the socialist block. Capitalism and more specifically, Neo-liberal New World Order appeared triumphant. The Thatcher-Regan duo delared that ‘There Is No Alternative. (TINA)”. The only glimmer of hope was Cuba and Fidel Castro declaring that ‘I will be the last communist on this earth’. His vehement defense of Socialism and Marxism-Leninism had raised the spirits of communists worldwide.

In a few years, Venezuela had elected a leftist government, which declared its defiance of US domination. The slogan of TINA was met with SITA (Socialism Is The Alternative). Since then, more than half a dozen leftist governments have been elected in Latin America. The imperialist propaganda machine began propagating the message that in these countries which have elected leftist governments, will not last long and that these rogue states will be disciplined. But it had not happened. In the last 15 years, these leftist governments had embarked up on policies that are aimed at ending US hegemony in Latin America and also delinking themselves from the grip of neo-liberalism. Countries such as Venezuela and Bolivia had many successes on the Human Development front. They were experimenting with what they call, “Bolivarian Socialism” of the 21st Century, a clear break away from what was practiced as socialism in the 20th Century in Soviet Union and China (before their reforms). This new phenomenon was not confined to Latin America.

Rise of youth movements

Just 2 years ago, we thought that the younger generation is not interested in struggle against capitalism and that they don’t care about what is going on around them. At least, this is what the neo-liberal propaganda was about. It appeared as if the younger generation was happy and content with the gadgets provided by modern technology. But reality had bitten the youngsters on their backs. The neo-liberal restructuring of world’s economies in the last 3 decades had brought about high economic disparities, rising inflation, reduction of welfare and more importantly, rising unemployment in country after country. Realization dawned on the young people that they have no place in this world and all avenues for their survival are being closed.

Youth revolts had erupted in the Arab countries and in Brazil, Turkey and even in Iran. What was significant about the struggles in the Arab countries was that the demands were a clear break away from religious fundamentalism and were essentially about social and economic issues. More and more young Muslim women had taken center stage in these struggles. It is a welcome development. Another significant development is the leading participation of trade unions and the spirit of solidarity between the young agitators and the workers. Though ultimately, there was not much of success in the Arab struggles and the US was successful in diluting the impact of the struggles by fostering new lackey governments in Egypt and Libya, the very fact that such a movement had taken place is very significant and it will have a great impact on the future struggles in the Arab World.

The Occupy movement that erupted in USA was a rude and unpleasant surprise for the US oligarchs. What is more significant is that a new wave of radical movements have overtaken Europe. Youth struggles against unemployment, austerity and high cost of education had exploded in country after country in Europe. Where is today’s youth revolt heading? What are the key debates developing within the movements? What are the prospects for, and responsibilities of, the Left in this time of crisis and resistance?

Impact of neo-liberal restructuring on the younger generation

Perhaps more than any other section of society, young people around the world have been made to bear the brunt of the capitalist crisis. Throughout Europe, youth unemployment is at epidemic levels.

For one thing, the politics of popular protest emerged as the only possible way out of the crisis facing young people and workers. This in itself is a big advance. A radicalization rooted in a deep economic crisis suggests that today’s struggles will begin to challenge capitalism itself in a much more profound way.

Today’s students are more directly connected to the working class, and their grievances in relation to campus life are more oriented on questions of the political and economic priorities of society as a whole, rather than on questions specific to campus life. It is not difficult to understand why the new movements have consciously reached out to the organized working class. Every working class family feels the brunt of unemployment in their family. Having sacrificed their everything in the hope that their sons and daughters will grow up to a better off life, now they see no light at the end of the tunnel. The jobs simply are out of their reach.

Social media

As for social media, everyone agrees that these new technologies and means of communication certainly have made an impact. The very same toys that the youngsters could be content with, such as Smart phones, Face book, Twitter and Skype playing idle chit-chatting endlessly as was made to believe by the ruling elite, had been now turned by the youngsters into weapons for raising mass awareness and help mobilization of protestors. Police repression was instantly captured on cell phones and transmitted to networks, thus bringing international focus to the struggles. This is an entirely new phenomenon and will have wider repercussions on future struggles.

Many activists and commentators have placed a great emphasis on the role that social media can play in the new movements of today, creating horizontal networks of activists that bypass formal organizations and leadership. While the talk of online “horizontal networks” replacing the need for traditional organization sounds good, it’s simply not true. Any ongoing struggle requires painstaking organization, meetings, discussions, and debates over which way forward. Hence the General Assemblies and the working groups in the Occupy movement in every American city. Moreover, the basic cause of the discontent that produces social struggle is not social media. Each struggle has decades of conscious and painstaking effort by activists in organizing workers, peasants and youth. It is on this basic organizational infrastructure that the new popular movements were based. Why people back a cause is based on many factors and relates to what is happening in the offline world.

Political impact of the youth struggles

One distinguishing factor is that many of the protest movements of the past decade have been defined by the involvement of what is called “the modest middle class”, who have often been beneficiaries of the systems they are protesting against but whose positions have been eroded by neoliberal economic policies that have seen both distribution of wealth and opportunities captured by a tiny minority. As people have come to feel more distant from government and economic institutions, a large part of the new mass forms of dissent has come to be seen as an opportunity to demonstrate ideas of “citizenship”. Civil Society has come to mean something entirely different from what the bourgeoisie defines it.

Ideology and the organized left

Marxist theoretician Eric Hobsbawm said of the Occupy Movement, ‘if there is no party, then there’s no future.’ The struggles cannot remain spontaneous and unorganized. Naturally, an organizational form emerged, surprisingly quickly out of these youth protest movements such as SYRIZA in Greece and PODEMOS in Spain. These organizations had been founded by Leftist intellectuals with close links to the workers’ movements and they had captured the imagination of the masses in their respective countries. Now both these movements are on the threshold of power and we find similar awakening in Portugal, Italy, France, Slovenia and Holland. What is without doubt is that the very political picture of Europe is going to change for good. But at the same time, one should not underestimate the rise of neo-fascist parties in country after country in Europe. It clearly shows that the ruling class is desperate to cling to power and fascism is their last resort.

Though the forces of the organized left are weak, they must be ready to meet this challenge. Now, with the emergence of sustained mass struggles that are beginning to pose a concrete alternative to the status quo, left-wing political alternatives have the potential to grow to an extent unseen in decades.

A look at the developments in the Indian context

As Antonio Gramsci had said, “when the old system is in its death throes and a new alternative system fails to materialize, then, all kinds of grotesque deformations of Capitalism, such as fascism and religious fanatism will raise their head.” This is exactly what we are witnessing after the recent Parliamentary elections. The BJP and its Sangh Parivar want to turn this country in to a Hindu country. Plans are put in place to attack the minorities and Dalits and backward castes, in the name of “safeguarding Hinduism.” There is every danger that this dispensation holding power at the Center can rapidly deteriorate in to a fascist dictatorship. The pronouncements and actions of BJP, RSS, VHP and other Sangh organizations are increasingly turning offensive, undermining the very foundations of secularism and democracy.

Modi had come to power riding on the wave of euphoria created by big-biz media and the support of corporates. Added to this is the miserable failure of the UPA dispensation to stem the rising inflation, corruption and stagnation of industrial and agricultural sectors. The discontent over UPA worked to the advantage of BJP. Modi had promised to bring back black money and distribute Rs. 15 lakhs to each and every Indian, within 100 days of coming to power. Now it is proven that such a miracle is not going to materialize. Added to this is the propaganda that 10 crore jobs will be created by making India the manufacturing hub of the world. But the fact is that modern industry is no longer a job creator on mass scale and if you want to build up world class industrial infrastructure, you cannot create jobs on a mass scale. Morover, you require 90 crore crores to build up the industrial infrastructure and even that is going to create a meager 50 lakh jobs. Presently, India’s share of world’s FDI is a paltry 2%. If Modi wants to realize his promise of making India the world’s manufacturing hub, he has to attract about 900 times the present FDI inflows and 6 times the total FDI in the world for 7 years. He had opened his innings by attacking the rights of the working class and officialising land grabs in the name of development. To cover up their false promises, the BJP forces are trying to fan communal tensions and thus divert attention from their failures.

It is more than apparent that the youth of this country are simmering with anger and frustration. With almost 2/3 of the country’s working age youth facing some form of unemployment, underemployment or partial unemployment as well as seasonal unemployment, the young voters believed in the ‘acchhe din’ promise of BJP and voted them to power. But it will not be long before their hopes will be dashed. In fact, neither the party in power at the center nor any other party ruling in the states can escape the wrath of the youth. Neo-liberalism thrives on increasing exploitation of workers and armies of unemployed workers. Creating large scale employment is against the class interests of the ruling elite.

The Unemployment connundrum

It is estimated that to clear the backlog of unemployment, we have to create 2 crore jobs every year for the next 10 years. About 13 lakhs of youth are joining the ranks of unemployed every month. Heavy industry is no longer a large scale employment generator. It is only through the creation of high-tech rural employment that we can solve the large scale unemployment that is facing the youth. In India, today only 20% of professional graduates are able to get some sort of employment, that too at ridiculously low wages. The position of graduates is much worse. Only 10% among the can hope to get some job.

But the fact is that a developing country such as India has a very small formal sector. About 92% of the workforce is employed in the informal sector, with little or insignificant impact of modern technologies. The increased precariousness of their jobs, often as contract jobs, makes it ever harder for them to seek improvements in their pay and working conditions; it in fact degrades the living conditions day by day.

Agriculture in the developed economies is based on capitalist methods and it is increasingly unsustainable. Anyway, hardly 2% of the total workforce is engaged in agriculture in these countries and the profits are captured by multinational corporations. The ruling class in India wants to introduce similar capitalist agricultural practices and want to drive out 50% of India’s population away from agriculture and drive them to cities. Imagine what kind of a catastrophe awaits us if 50% of India’s population are deprived of their land and thrown into cities!

We have to evolve strategies to create Hi-Tech jobs in rural areas, by modernizing small scale industry and traditional craft based production. To sum up, India’s millions of technically trained youth have to be deployed for India’s development, not to earn profits for MNCs.

We are going to witness mass scale protests of youth for livelihoods in the coming days, with disenchantment setting in among the youth and workers. But the moot question is “is the Left in this country equipped to meet this challenge?”

The renewal of Indian Left – an urgent task

The Indian Left, mainly the mainstream parties (CPI (M), CPI, …) have to come out with alternatives (specific to India’s conditions) to the neo-liberal economic system. Unless they do that, they will surely sink into the quagmire of ideological confusion and class compromise.

Anyway, it not too late for the Indian Left to learn a few much needed lessons from the recent developments in West Bengal, Kerala and the rest of the country. This requires that we critically reconstruct an Indian path to socialism from below, abandon the reformist approach and understand that a revolutionary and democratic transformation of society can only be achieved by organized mass struggles of workers, agricultural labour, youth and other oppressed peoples. Can the Left ever manage to combine parliamentary practice with active mass struggles? This has always been asserted in successive National Conferences of both the CPI and CPI(M), but largely abandoned in practice.

The Left parties can reverse their decline and strengthen themselves only through candid self-criticism and by returning to mass work over the coming years. The Left can see any hope only if it enunciates a clear revolutionary vision of social transformation by going back to the basic tenets of Marxism, offers a radical alternative to neoliberal economic and destructive social policies to suit the present conditions, follow innovative and relevant political mobilisation strategies, and widens its appeal by participating in struggles on issues that deeply concern the toiling masses.

To do this, the Left needs to update its analysis of Indian society and evolve a contemporary vision of development and relate this to its political programmes and policies. This calls for a number of changes, including a shift away from a literal belief in the inevitable development of the productive forces and the idea of a “two-stage” revolution. Equally necessary is a rejection of the presumed inevitability and intrinsic desirability of industrialisation, especially along the classical Western pattern, which can lead to slippage into an “industrialisation at any cost” position.

As it was emphasized above, all is not lost. We can learn from the experiences and victories of the Left forces in Latin America and Europe and struggle for a revival of Left in India.

Conclusion

The necessity for a new kind of Left is all the more pertinent in the present situation, what with the reactionary and communal forces winning the reins of power. There will surely be an intensification of struggles against oppression and the tyranny of big capital. In most of the struggles that had taken place in the recent past, the Left was conspicuous by its absence. The possibility of the emergence of newer formations and coalitions in the coming days, need to be kept open. Those who have steered the Left so far failed to show any vision; now they have lost all credibility as well. If the present attitude of the Left leaders continues in the same fashion, there is every danger that the Left as a force will disappear from the Indian political scene. There is an urgent need to reinvent a new Left. This must be done on a firmly Marxist foundation.

I want to conclude with an oft cited quotation of Prof. Micheal Lebowitz:

In the famous book, ‘Alice in Wonderland’, the Cheshire Cat tells Alice, “If you don’t know where you have to go, any road will take you there.” But Lebowtz says, “in the case of Marxists, if you don’t know where you have to go, no road will take you there!”

The Left in India has to reinvent itself, shedding old outdated concepts and age-old biases and evolve a new culture of openness and active dialogue with the toiling masses. We have to have a vision about our goals and program. Otherwise, NO ROAD will take us to our goal.

(Vijaya Kumar Marla is the director of the All India Progressive Forum, an organization initiated by the Communist Party of India.)

January 26, 2015

Sol Dollinger interview — conclusion

Filed under: Cochranites — louisproyect @ 10:10 pm

In the conclusion to the Sol Dollinger interview, he speaks about:

–His youth, going from an orphanage to the WPA

–Genora’s family background

–Genora’s role in the trade union movement following the Flint strike

January 25, 2015

Reflections on Syriza

Filed under: Greece — louisproyect @ 5:57 pm

Alex Tsipras and Pablo Iglesias

Over the past several days I have read over twenty articles about Syriza to help me prepare this one. As is often the case when I write something, it is as much to help clarify my own thinking as it is to inform my readers. My main point in writing this is to emphasize the need to understand Syriza in its own terms rather than to see it through categories drawn from the past, particularly those that are part of the Trotskyist lexicon.

The obvious challenge is to understand Syriza’s role in the class struggle when its program falls short of the usual expectations of a socialist government. At the risk of making the World Socialist Website sound more important than it really is, it is worth citing them since it is very good at applying litmus tests to “fakes”, “opportunists”, and the like. In a January 6 article written by Robert Stevens, the leading economists of Syriza are portrayed as tools of finance capital:

John Milios, SYRIZA’s chief economist, is a graduate of Athens College, the most prestigious private school in Greece. In an interview with the Guardian, in which he is described as the son of parents “with distinctly non-leftist views,” Milios states, “I never had any affiliation with Soviet Marxism.”

Among those with whom Milios has met are Schäuble. Elaborating on his role, Milios said recently: “[I] will continue to be constantly present in the formulation of Greek and international public opinion… institutionally participating in crucial meetings with international bodies (IMF, government agencies of other countries, financial centres, etc.) as I have done to date…”

In an interview with a Greek newspaper, Milios said of “the international contacts” he meets regularly, “believe me, ‘out there’ a very delicate handling is required.”

For people like Robert Stevens, there is never any need for “delicate handling” since he is not involved with power relationships. When you are playing with toy soldiers, it is always easy to achieve a victory. For people who call cyberspace home, anything is possible including scenarios involving dual power, workers militias and insurrection with scenario being the operative word.

While the British SWP has lost a lot of its credibility in the past couple of years over its handling of a rape case, it is still an important anti-Syriza platform built on orthodox Trotskyist foundations. While not so nearly as strident as WSWS, it draws a contrast between Syriza’s “reformism” and its own “revolutionary” stance as well as that of Antarsya, the small left coalition in Greece that its co-thinkers belong to.

In a July 4 2013 article titled “Left reformism, the state and the problem of socialist politics today”, Paul Blackledge described Syriza’s goal as seeking “progressive reforms through parliamentary channels”, something that left him cold since “there is nothing particularly novel about this.”

The essential problem, no matter the best intentions of Syriza’s leaders who Blackledge at least accepts as being genuinely opposed to austerity, is that once you are put in the position of administering the capitalist state, everything turns to shit:

It is their parliamentary statism, however mediated, that tends to trap left reformist parties like Syriza within capitalist relations in ways that pressure them to come into conflict with and, unless successfully challenged from the left, eventually undermine the radicalism of their own base.

Blackledge takes about 5,000 words to keep making a point that could have been made in less than a dozen, namely that Marxists are only interested in revolution, not winning bourgeois elections. It is permissible to run candidates but only with the understanding that winning an election is out of the question, something analogous to the neighborhood dog that could not be cured of the habit of chasing cars. What would the poor dog do if he actually caught one?

The poor, benighted, left-reformist Syriza members have been thrust into the most unfortunate position of having caught the car. If Greece had simply been muddling along like most of northern Europe, its vote totals would have remained in the comfort zone of Antarsya, around one percent. But a jobless, hungry, and hopeless Greek population did the unthinkable. It voted to elect a radical party to create jobs, reduce hunger and offer some hope. Syriza has not promised to nationalize industry, institute planning and a monopoly on foreign trade but it has declared its intentions through the Thessalonica Program, part of which is specifically geared to the jobless, hungry and hopeless:

  • Free electricity to 300.000 households currently under the poverty line up to 300 kWh per month per family; that is, 3.600 kWh per year. Total cost: €59,4 million.
  • Programme of meal subsidies to 300.000 families without income. The implementation will take place via a public agency of coordination, in cooperation with the local authorities, the Church and solidarity organizations. Total cost: €756 million.
  • Programme of housing guarantee. The target is the provision of initially 30.000 apartments (30, 50, and 70 m²), by subsidizing rent at €3 per m². Total cost: €54 million.
  • Restitution of the Christmas bonus, as 13th pension, to 1.262.920 pensioners with a pension up to €700. Total cost: €543,06 million.
  • Free medical and pharmaceutical care for the uninsured unemployed. Total cost: €350 million.
  • Special public transport card for the long-term unemployed and those who are under the poverty line. Total cost: €120 million.
  • Repeal of the leveling of the special consumption tax on heating and automotive diesel. Bringing the starting price of heating fuel for households back to €0,90 per lt, instead of the current €1,20 per lt. Benefit is expected.

None of this lives up to Blackledge’s revolutionary expectations. Why bother with something as piddling as a housing guarantee when the goal is proletarian dictatorship? Maybe the fact that Blackledge is a professor at Leeds Beckett University with a good future ahead of him and a roof over his head leads him to dismiss such “reforms”.

Of course the real question is whether Syriza can deliver such reforms given the relationship of forces that exist. Germany, its main adversary, has a population of 80 million and a GDP of nearly 4 trillion dollars. Greece, by comparison, has a population of 11 million and a GDP of 242 billion dollars, just a bit more than Volkswagen’s revenues. Given this relationship of forces, it will be a struggle to achieve the aforementioned reforms. To make them possible, it will be necessary for the workers and poor of Greece to demonstrate to Europe that they will go all the way to win them. It will also be necessary for people across Europe to demonstrate their solidarity with Greece so as to put maximum pressure on Germany and its shitty confederates like François Hollande to back off. But if your main goal in politics is to lecture the Greeks about the need for workers councils, armed struggle and all the rest, you obviously have no need to waste your time on such measly reforms.

Part of the problem for much of the left is its inability to properly theorize the conditions of class struggle in a post-Soviet world. In Latin America and southern Europe, states are struggling to improve the lives of their citizens but without abolishing capitalism. In an interview with Stathis Kouvelakis for Jacobin magazine, Sebastian Budgen asked what Greece would look like if Syriza won the election, adding, “We all know that socialism in one country doesn’t work. To what extent would a left social democracy in a poor, backward European country with no access to international lending, excluded from the Eurozone be able to change things? What kind of society would that be like?”

Kouvelakis replied:

First of all, in the picture you gave of the situation, the summer of 2015, given the situation you have described, it will be the start of the Greek default. Because it is this summer that some big payments will have to be made concerning the Greek debt, and in a situation of Greek default and of a following exit or expulsion from the Eurozone, a whole series of difficulties will have to be faced.

But every experiment so far in the history of social transformation has happened in a hostile international environment. And here, the notion of time and temporality is absolutely crucial. Politics is essentially about intervening at a particular moment and displacing the dominant temporality and inventing a new one. Of course, strategically, socialism in one country is not viable. And social transformation in Europe will only happen if there is an expanding dynamic around this.

So my answer would be the following: it will certainly be tough for Greece, but still manageable if there is a strong level of social support for the objectives put forth by the government and political level.

Greece, with a left-wing government moving in that direction, will provoke an enormous wave of support by very large sectors of public opinion in Europe, and it will energize to an extent that we cannot imagine the radical left in countries where you have the potential for it to intervene strongly.

Spain is the most obvious candidate for an extension of a Greek type of scenario, but I think that, even if it seems at present unlikely, France is also a potentially weak link in the EU, if the wind from the south blows sufficiently strongly.

In conclusion I would offer these thoughts. The left internationally must become involved with solidarity on behalf of Syriza for two reasons. First, it will help give the government added leverage to carry out the reforms so necessary for a population so tormented by austerity that an epidemic of suicide has overtaken the country. If this is “reformism”, I am all for it.

Secondly, we are trying to build a worldwide anticapitalist movement on new foundations. The difference between “revolutionaries” like the British SWP and WSWS.org on one side and Syriza and Podemos on the other could not be clearer. We do not think that the term “reformist” does such mass, inclusive and nonsectarian formations justice. When left parties win elections in Venezuela or Greece, it makes a real difference in the lives of the people. For example, Venezuela’s poverty rate dropped from 48.6 percent in 2002 to 29.5 percent in 2011.

This obviously had a lot to do with the government’s use of oil sales revenue to fund social programs. With the decline of oil prices, it will be more difficult to sustain such programs but this is more a function of the dominance of capitalist property relations than government intent.

To some extent, the ortho-Trotskyist politics of the WSWS and the British SWP has some validity. As long as a nation is imbricated within a world system based on commodity exchange, it will not be able to transcend market relations. This is as true of Cuba as it has been of Venezuela as it will be of Greece.

However, to confront the capitalist system on a world scale, we need a new movement that reflects 21st century realities. New parties that combine street-level activism with bold electoral initiatives and that communicate electronically across borders without respect to narrow doctrinal questions on the USSR will become more and more the norm. As an auspicious recognition of the ties that will bind such new movements, we turn to Pablo Iglesias’s speech to Syriza:

We must finally work together – in Europe and for Europe. It’s not necessary to read Karl Marx to know that there are no definitive solutions within the framework of the nation-state. For that reason we must help each other and present ourselves as an alternative for all of Europe.

Winning the elections is far from winning power. That’s why we must bring everyone who is committed to change and decency together around our shared task, which is nothing more than turning the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into a manual for government. Our aim today, unfortunately, is not the withering away of the state, or the disappearance of prisons, or that Earth become a paradise. But we do aspire, as I said, to make it so that all children go to public schools clean and well-fed; that all the elderly receive a pension and be taken care of in the best hospitals; that any young person—independently of who their parents are—be able to go to college; that nobody have their heat turned off in the winter because they can’t pay their bill; that no bank be allowed to leave a family in the street without alternative housing; that everyone be able to work in decent conditions without having to accept shameful wages; that the production of information in newspapers and on television not be a privilege of multi-millionaires; that a country not have to kneel down before foreign speculators. In one word: that a society be able to provide the basic material conditions that make dignity and happiness possible.

These modest objectives that today seem so radical simply represent democracy. Tomorrow is ours, brothers and sisters!

Tariq Ali interviews Stathis Kouvelakis

Filed under: Greece — louisproyect @ 2:50 pm
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