Archive for the ‘Human history’ Category

The piece below appeared as one of the editorials in the latest round of workplace bulletins produced and distributed by The Spark organisation in the United States; we’ve slightly changed the title but left the American-English spelling of the original.

by The Spark

The words are bad enough, but they are symbols of something much worse: the vicious ideas that Trump and others like him try to peddle.

The countries Trump denigrated are all poor. So let’s talk about why they are poor – the truth which demagogues like Trump trample on.

U.S., Spanish and French capitalists stole the wealth produced by labor in Haiti and El Salvador. That’s what impoverishes them.

Let’s talk about the European and American slave traders who stole 20 million human beings and their labor power from Africa. Let’s talk about the colonial system which drained Africa’s mineral wealth to enrich European industry. Let’s talk about (more…)

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Here we repost an article on May Day by Colin Clarke, 2013

The celebration of the 1st of May as workers day has a strong and proud tradition all around the world since the nineteenth century. It was the one day of the year when workers could stand up and say ‘we are many, they are few’. Alexander Shliapnikov, in On the Eve of 1917, tells how, when he lived and worked in London before the Russian revolution, he would always take May Day off and the next day be asked by his fellow workers if he was ill. He would then explain the significance of workers’ day to them.

The best May Day march I have been on was the first May Day during the 1984-1985 British miners’ strike. You could feel the power of the working class as it marched in solidarity with them. At the time, there was every chance they could win the strike and there was a real mood of optimism amongst the marchers. The event encapsulated the true meaning of the day as a celebration of the power of the working class, especially as there were other marches around the country, equally strong.

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A meeting of the Petrograd Soviet in 1917

This year marks the 100th anniversaries of the Russian revolutions of 1917.  The piece below is taken from the April 3-17 issue of the US Marxist workers’fortnightly, The Spark.

In April 1917, a little more than a month after the victory of the revolution in Petrograd and the abdication of Nicholas II, the workers organized themselves more and more independently from the Provisional Government, and they did so certainly against its wishes. Workers elected committees on the level of the workshops, the factories, the working class neighborhoods, and the cities. These were sites of debate where everyone could express themselves and learn, but these committees also made decisions that affirmed the power and consciousness of the working class.

A worker reports how the soviet was built and gained its influence in Saratov, a city 500 miles southwest of Moscow: “It’s been five days since the soviet of workers and soldiers deputies was organized here. But it seems like several years have passed here. Everything has changed. The masses are organized with a remarkable spirit of (more…)

imagesby Michael Roberts

I have written many posts on the level and changes in inequality of wealth and incomes,1 both globally and within countries. There has been a ‘wealth’ of empirical studies showing rising inequality in incomes and wealth in most capitalist economies in the last century.2

There have also been various theoretical explanations provided for this change. The most famous is by Thomas Piketty in his magisterial book, Capital in the 21st century (Harvard 2014). This book won the award for the ‘most bought, least read’ book in 2014, surpassing A brief history of time by scientist Stephen Hawking (London 1989).

I and others have discussed the merits and faults of Piketty’s work extensively.3 Suffice it to say that, although Piketty repeats the title of Marx’s book, published exactly 150 years ago, he dismisses Marx’s analysis of capitalism based on the law of value and the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, and adopts the mainstream theories of marginal productivity and/or market ‘imperfections’ like ‘rent-seeking’. This leads to the view that capitalism could be ‘reformed’ and inequality reduced by such measures as a global financial tax or progressive inheritance taxes – or more recently a universal basic income (Piketty is now advising French socialist presidential candidate Benoît Hamon on this).

Inequality remains the buzz word of liberal and leftist debate and analysis,4 not (more…)

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by O’Shay Muir                                    

In Adam Curtis’ new documentary film, Hypernormalisation, he describes the spirit of our time as one in which people have lost faith in the political status-quo. Due to this loss of faith, popular demagogues like newly-elected US president Donald Trump have come to fill the void (Curtis, 2016). Curtis argues that political figures like Trump are the creation of the cultural logic of modern consumer societies (2016). Deformed chimeras that have escaped the control of the sorcerers who created them.

Curtis argues that from the 1970s onwards, the worsening economic and political conditions of many western nations resulted in a retreat into fantasy for both the right and the left (2016). Not wanting to, or unable to, comprehend the social complexities of the time, the right opted for the fantasy that the logic of the market could solve the crisis (Curtis, 2016). This faith in the market was combined with the belief that technological progress in the field of information and communications was giving rise to a new form of capitalism. This new capitalism was believed to be free from the limitations of material production and able to avoid speculative risk through the advance of information technologies.

Illusions on left and right

The hope that the right placed in their economic models and the advances in information and communication technologies led to the fantasy that the world was entering a stage of capitalism freed from the periodic crises of the past (Curtis, 2016). The left on the other hand, disheartened by their inability to create revolutionary social change during the upheavals of the late 1960s and 1970s, retreated into self-made fantasies of creating revolutionary social change from outside economic and universal political struggle (Curtis, 2016). Instead they increasingly turned to creating new communities and identities outside the cultural and political mainstream (Curtis, 2016). Militant political agitation was replaced with artistic expression and universal emancipatory politics was replaced with supporting the isolated struggles of marginalised groups while fetishizing the alienation of such groups from one another in a positive light.

For both the right and the left this created a bizarre fantasy world, where both sides could convince themselves that what they were doing was (more…)

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by Andrew Welch

Xmas.

Quite revolting really.

We really are well and truly sucked into a quite revolting and alienating dubious tradition.

What is draining is seeing a mall full of people desperately fulfilling the implicit expectations of an officially-dictated happy season when same system doesn’t give the steam off a turd about suffering for the rest of the year.

Our fake traditions are retail or war mongering or sycophantic celebrity worship.  This is all symptomatic of abdicating control elsewhere.

Our culture is sanitised of worthy traditions and drowned in mindless consumerism.

Fake politics and fake democracy wrapped up in Xmas cheer.

The stress and loneliness and awful expectations of a hollow retail existence made even worse by the end of a year with no other certainty for many than a (more…)

james-connolly-starry-ploughA wonderful extract from the great Irish marxist, mass workers’ leader and insurrectionary James Connolly, executed by British firing squad in 1916:

“. . . This will be the rule of the people at last realised. But, says Father Kane, at last showing the cloven foot, ‘the will of the people would be nothing more than the whim of the tyrant mob, the most blind and ruthless tyrant of all, because blindly led by blind leaders’. Spoken like a good Tory and staunch friend of despotism!

“What is the political and social record of the mob in history as against the record of the other classes? There was a time, stretching for more than a thousand years, when the mob was without power or influence, when the entire power of the governments of the world was concentrated in the hands of the kings, the nobles and the hierarchy. That was the blackest period in human history. It was the period during which human life was not regarded as being of as much value as the lives of (more…)