Archive for the ‘Internationalism’ Category

“The imperialists loot the world not out of sheer piggery but because they actually need the profits they extract. That ‘surplus’ is keeping their system alive, despite its deepening decay.”

The Imperialism Study group hosted by Redline is focused on Lenin’s Imperialism, John Smith’s Imperialism in the 21st century and Tony Norfield’s The City.  Perhaps inevitably, however, we have also discussed other theorists, most particularly David Harvey (who is, to put it kindly, highly confused about imperialism) and Paul Baran & Paul Sweezy, whose work on imperialism was influential in sections of the 1960s New Left, especially in the United States.  The piece below is a follow-up to comments made earlier by veteran US Marxist Walter Daum on Baran-Sweezy (see here).  Keep in mind that these are comment pieces which are part of a study group discussion; they don’t purport to be exhaustive articles on the subject.

by Walter Daum   (October 12, 2017)

With regard to the discussion of Baran and Sweezy in the study group, there is no question that they deserve attention by Marxists, especially given the widespread influence of the Monthly Review school. They also deserve recognition for emphasizing the importance of imperialism in sustaining capitalism for the past century or more – in contrast to David Harvey, the International Socialist Tendency and others who downplay its importance and distort its role. But I also think that Baran & Sweezy’s theoretical and political influence has been harmful.

First, on their political influence. I came into the radical and socialist left in the late 1960s, when Baran & Sweezy’s book Monopoly Capital was all the rage in the US New Left. Those of us trying to grasp Marxism and to apply it to the explosive world we were facing – above all the Black struggle in the US and the imperialist assaults on Cuba, Vietnam, etc. – were up against slews of young Baran-Sweezy fans who learned from their bible that a) the law of value, and therefore Marxist political economy overall, was useless for understanding the imperialist world; and b) that the working class in the imperialist countries was useless for challenging capitalism. The main alternative analysis was the book Marx and Keynes by Paul Mattick. But that was terribly difficult to read and never became popular.

B&S’s rejection of the First World working class soon came into conflict with the world-wide and world-shaking mass struggles of 1968, as the post-war boom drew to an end. French workers seized factories and almost overthrew Charles de Gaulle’s government. The international upsurge also included powerful movements in China, Mexico and Italy, and even in the U.S. with the proletarian-based ghetto uprisings. This was a refutation of theory by reality. But damage had been done.

Baran-Sweezy are not responsible for all the turns their followers took, but their outlook helped (more…)

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In the early 2000s, in response to capitalist austerity, especially workplace closures, a wave of factory takeovers by their workers occured in Argentina.  Factory occupations in that country have continued and provide useful and practical examples how to fight redundancies and closures.  In the article below, Sonja Krieger, of US-based Left Voice, writes about a factory she visited as part of a Left Voice delegation to Argentina.

by Sonja Krieger

Many are familiar with the story of Zanon, the ceramic tile factory in Neuquén Province in Southern Argentina that was taken over by the workers in 2001/2002. The reason why Zanon – now FaSinPat, Fábrica Sin Patrones (Factory Without Bosses) – has become well-known all over the world is because of the 2004 documentary The Take by Naomi Klein, a film about the “recovery” of closed or abandoned factories in Argentina in the context of the 2001 economic crisis and its aftermath. The film is about the fábricas recuperadas (recuperated factories) movement in Argentina and shows the struggles of workers to save their workplaces by occupying them and continuing production under workers’ control. Many of these cooperatives continue to run and to be self-managed by the people who work in them, and they represent a significant social phenomenon that proves that the working class can not only effectively respond to the attacks and the failures of capital, it can also organize work collectively, democratically, and without bosses and managers.

The Take tells the story of the workers’ struggles at Zanon, as well as those at the Forja auto parts factory outside of Buenos Aires and the textile factory Brukman in the city, but there are many more workplaces that have been under worker self-management for as much as a decade and longer. There are also hotels, restaurants, and other businesses that are run as cooperatives, including in areas like media and education, construction and transportation, and even health care and trash collection.

Madygraf takeover

A more recent example of the Argentinian workers’ fight to “reclaim” their workplaces is the print shop Madygraf, which our delegation had a chance to visit on its three-year anniversary in August. The experience of listening to the workers there talk about how they fought for better working conditions, for their jobs, and ultimately for their plant was a powerful one.

Now in its fourth year as a cooperative, the (more…)

by Phil Duncan

This coming Monday (October 9) marks the 50th anniversary of the execution of the legendary Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara.

Che, a leader of the Cuban revolution, was captured in Bolivia where he was leading a guerrilla struggle against the dictatorship; rather than put him on trial the Bolivian dictatorship, in cahoots with Washington, decided to execute him.

He was shot dead, his hands were cut off and his corpse was buried in an unmarked grave.  It wasn’t until 1997, thrity years later, that the Cuban government was able to retrieve his remains and take them back to Cuba, where Che is a national hero.

Che was hugely popular in his lifetime, inspiring radicals, especially the younger generation, all over the world.

One of the organisations marking the 50th anniversary of Che’s execution is An Post, the postal service of the southern Irish state.  On October 5 (more…)

Police violence against locked-out workers sparked the formation of a workers’ militia

Constance Markievicz, founder of first republican paramilitary organisation of 1900s and a founding leader of the workers’ militia

 

by Philip Ferguson*

Described by Lenin as the world’s first Red Army, the Irish Citizen Army was formed by members of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union and other trade unionists in Dublin in August 1913.  Socialist and therefore also republican, the ICA was not, however, the first working class paramilitary organisation to be formed in Ireland in Ireland in the early 1900s.  That honour goes to Fianna Eireann, a predominantly working class youth organisation founded by Constance, Countess Markievicz who would go on to be a key figure in the workers’ militia.

James Larkin and James Connolly

The Fianna

Markievicz, a militant left-wing republican, was moved to form the Fianna in August 1909 for two reasons.  One was that, while new to Irish republicanism – she had thrown herself into it just the year before – she had already decided that any serious political movement for Irish freedom would, sooner or later, have to confront Britain in arms.  Her reading of Irish history had taught her that if you built a serious political movement, at some point the British state would confront you with its military force.  Unless you were armed and prepared to fight, your movement would end in ignominy, confusion and demoralisation.

The other – and this was the immediate factor in the formation of the Fianna – was the arrival of Baden-Powell in Ireland to start an Irish wing of his boy scouts movement.  Markievicz noted that his aim was to get Irish youth to support the British empire and oppose the liberation of their own country and their own class, the working class.  Her and friends such as Helena Moloney went recruiting for na Fianna in working class areas of Dublin.

Having come from the aristocracy, Markievicz knew about shooting and had a great interest in things military.  She wrote the Fianna handbook, taught the boys to drill and to shoot and, later, how to blow things up.  The Fianna were also sent out to rough up the Boy Scouts.  This ‘ruffianism’ was guided by two ideas: (more…)

Masoud Barzani

by Yassamine Mather

The Kurdish regional government (KRG) in Iraq will be holding a referendum on the issue of independence on September 25. There have been appeals for it to be delayed and the date has changed a number of times, but at the moment it looks like the vote will go ahead.

In 2014, at the time when Islamic State was gaining ground in northern Kurdistan, Kurds accused the Iraqi army of abandoning the territory lost to the jihadists. Ironically it is the ‘liberation’ of Erbil, Mosul and other northern cities that has precipitated the referendum. Last week in an interview with BBC Persian, Masoud Barzani, the president of the KRG, indicated that it will draw up the borders of a future Kurdish state if Baghdad does not accept a vote in favour of independence. However, what was significant in the BBC interview was Barzani’s insistence that (more…)

Camilo Mones

Camilo Mones worked and organized for decades at the PepsiCo plant in Buenos Aires until this past June, when the corporation abruptly closed it and about 700 workers were fired. Today, he continues to fight alongside other dismissed workers for the factory’s reopening.

In the following, Camilo describes their struggle, the crisis of the CGT (General Confederation of Labour), politics and opposition within the national unions, and the need to fight for a class-struggle perspective within the labour movement.  

The interview was conducted by Left Voice and translated by Nicolas Daneri. 

Left Voice: The media is saying that, apart from the CGT, the PepsiCo workers were one of the main participants in the rally on August 22.

Camilo Mones: We managed to gather a broad range of organizations under the PepsiCo banner that represented the fight against the layoffs, the demand for the appearance of Santiago Maldonado (a political “desaparecido” during a repression against indigenous Mapuches in the south of the country) and the motto, “For a general strike.” There were people from other food factories, the tyre factories workers’ union, the Buenos Aires province teachers’ union, delegates and shop stewards from the subway, railroad workers, airport, left-wing parties, and a delegation of workers from MadyGraf–a printing company under workers’ control.

Although the bureaucracy did not want us to go to the rally, we decided to go in full force. There, we planted our banners with the demand for a general strike, which we chanted throughout the speech. This and our early morning demonstration that blocked 9 de Julio Avenida (one of the most important avenues in Buenos Aires City) led the media to highlight our participation.

LV: Did the CGT’s call to action and their speeches at the rally seem a bit soft?

CM: Completely. The rally–among the smallest in recent years–revealed the crisis within the federation and its leadership. Most of the unions did not take part and some of them only sent small delegations. This crisis is partly a result of 19 months of inaction, when unions had no policy to oppose the austerity measures of (more…)

by Walter Daum

Thanks to John Smith and Michael Yates for calling attention to David Harvey’s latest twists on the actuality of imperialism  (see here). John’s critique of Harvey’s assessment of imperialism today is devastating. I want to take up a related point.

Harvey’s work is often rich in detail and connections, but his intricate tapestry conceals the main threads of imperialism today. John notes that similar failures are common among Marxist theorists in the imperialist countries, many of whom insist that the most highly exploited workers are in the North. As to Harvey’s particular claim about the reversal of flows, one guess might be that he is impressed by the wealth being amassed especially in China. If so, what he overlooks is that China’s capitalists got rich by super-exploiting their own proletariat (sharing the profits with imperialist-country capitalists), not the workers of the West or North. Little of the Chinese ruling class’s wealth comes from any reverse transfer of surplus-value.

Harvey notes that the rise of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan etc, and then the growth of China among the still-poorer countries, “has altered (more…)