Month: February, 2011
Massive demonstrations and strikes in Greece
| February 24, 2011 | 9:02 pm | Action | No comments

Here is a video of the recent strikes and demonstrations in Greece.

Tremendous, mass, successful strike demonstrations of PAME in Greece

Here is the link to the video:

http://www.youtube.com/user/kkemedia#p/u/0/Z30rYri6cM0

Protest links Afghanistan war, city budget cuts
| February 24, 2011 | 8:56 pm | Action | No comments

Here is the link to an article on a protest against the wars in New Haven organized by the New Haven Peace Council

http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/protest_targets_war_spending/

A draft Marxist-Leninist curriculum
| February 23, 2011 | 8:52 pm | Action | No comments

by Gary Hicks

==================================================================

SECTION 1 WHAT IS MARXISM? WHAT IS LENINISM?

Suggested readings:

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party

V.I. Lenin, The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism

Frederick Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific

Joseph Stalin, Foundations of Leninism

SECTION TWO MARXIST PHILOSOPICAL FOUNDATIONS

Suggested readings:

Dialego, Introduction to Marxist Philosophy

Frederick Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach………..

Mao Zedong, On Practice

Mao Zedong, On Contradiction

Additional reading:

Angela Davis talk on art and theory, 1985 http://politicalaffairs.net/article/articleview/9443/

Georges Politzer, Introduction to Philosophy. Politzer was a French communist, murdered by the Nazis during World War 2. His book will have to be tracked down via Amazon, etc. as it’s long out of print.

SECTION 3 A BASIC INTRODUCTION TO POLITICAL ECONOMY

Suggested readinga:

Karl Marx, Wage-Labour and Capital[WLC] and Wages, Price, and Profit [WPP],

Suggest reading these in the following order:

>> Introduction to WLC by Frederick Engels, where Engels explained the distinction between labour-power and labour. This difference was not accounted for by Marx in WLC but is employed in WPP , coincident with the differentiation made in Capital.

>>WPP, entirety

>>WLC, entirety, again keeping in mind Engels’ caveat

>> And finally a must-read: Part 8, in Volume 1 of Capital. It was once published by Progress Publishers under the title “The Genesis of Capital”.

Additional readings. Remember that this is an introductory course. There will be time later for more advanced stuff:

>> John Eaton , Political Economy. Probably the best English basic text, after all these decades. This book should be used selectively in this section, with close attention to the chapter on agriculture and rent, as well as those chapters on the falling rate of profit and the crises of capitalism as a system.

>> Any work, in whole or in part, by Victor Perlo. Again, selective reading. PLEASE NOTE: much of Eaton’s and Perlo’s material will be more appropriate for use in the section on Imperialism.

SECTION 4 IMPERIALISM, WAR, AND THE CRISES OF CAPITALISM

Suggested reading:

>>V.I. Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism

>> WEB DuBois, The African Roots of War

>>William K. Tabb, Four Crises of the Contemporary World Capitalist System

>>Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

SECTION FIVE POLITICAL STRATEGY 1

Suggested reading:

>>V.I. Lenin, Where to Begin?

What Is To Be Done?

>>Rosa Luxemburg, Reform or Revolution

The first Lenin reading is a short article that discusses the role of the party press, the need for one, it’s role as both collective agitator and collective organizer, and it’s central role/importance in buildng a party.

The second Lenin reading is a long pamphlet that was going to be an enlargrement of the above reading, but it became necessary to devote the work to discuss a trend in Russian social-democracy [communism, as it was called at that time] known as Economism. Economism belittled the importance of developing a working class that would be able to speak and act for itself. The class therefore should leave methods of political struggle to other, more “expert” forces who would look out for the class’s interests.

The book also addresses the importance of having a tight, combative party that supported professional revolutionaries who had skills of organizing workers and their allies and combatting the enemy, especially the state repressive agencies.

The Rosa Luxemburg pamphlet was the first work to take up the arguments of Eduard Bernstein, the leading “expert’ of intenational Social-Democracy [communism] at the end of the 19th Century. It was Bernstein that argued that new technologies, means of prduction, along with the legalization of several parties in Europe, made Marxist class struggle and certain Marxist theories, a thing of the past.

SECTION 6 POLITICAL STRATEGY 2

>>V.I. Lenin, The State

The State and Revolution

The Impending Catastrophe[Crisis] And How To Combat It

The first of these works by Lenin is a speech given to students at a Komsomol [Young Communist League] school in 1920, three years into the October 1917 Revolution. It’s the kind of work that should be kept around to be read over and over again since, as Lenin makes clear in his pamphlet, the nature of the state always raises new questions in new conditions.

The second work here, a pamphlet, is basically a message to the Bolsheviks on the eve of the October Revolution. The message: you are about to seize state power and you need t tighten up on your understanding of the state. All of these years of fighting the Tsar’s army and police have been mere dress rehearsal. You now have to understand the concept of the state in conditions of running one! A brilliant exposition of the history of Marxist understanding of the state, mixed in with in-your-face, on the ground considerations.

The third pamphlet is an exposition by name of the screwups in society as a result of theTsar’s rule and foreign capital’s dominance of the major industrial and financial institutions.

SECTION 7 POLITICAL STRATEGY 3

>>V.I,. Lenin, “Left Wing” Communism. An Infantile Disorder.

>>Mao Zedong, On Correcting Mistaken Ideas In The Party.

“Left Wing communism” is often used by comrades for arguing against tendencies to forsake participation in elections/taking seats, and also against those would forego participation in the official/traditional trade

unions. Often missed is the point that these left-wing tendencies are the response to rightist opportunism in word, thought and deed………in both parliament and trade union struggles. The pamphlet while criticising left wing tendecies is fundamentally a handbook for combat within parliament [congress] and the dominant parties of capitalist collaboration………..and within the trade unions ruled by class collaboratinist leadership and bureaucratic organization.

Mao’s pamphlet, while written in 1929 and addressing problems within the People’s Liberation Army, is surprising light-shedding upon today’s problems of building disciplined organizations.

SECTION 8 MARXISM AND SOME HISTORICAL POLEMICS

Suggested readings:

>>J.V.Stalin, Anarchism or Socialism?

>>Carl Davidson, Left in Form, Right in Essence. A Critique of Contemporary Trotskyism.

.>>[ModernRevisionism] KKE/Greek CP: Thoughts about the factors that determined the reversal of the socialist system in Europe.

Historically, the International Communist Movement has had to respond to political forces, some of them calling themselves Marxist, that have misunderstood the relationship of reform to the revolutionary process. The above three articles are introductions to those political forces historically called Anarchism, Trotskyism, and Modern Revisionism.

The Stalin article on Anarchism should be seen as an extension of the readings in SECTION 7. The KKE/Greek CP article should be seen as a supplementary reading to Rosa Luxemburg’s Reform or Revolution, in SECTION 5.

SECTION 9 THE UNITED FRONT AGAINST REPRESSION, RACISM,AND WAR……………..THE TRANSITION TO SOCIALISM

Suggested reading:

>>Georgi Dimitrov, 1935: The Fascist Offensive and the Tasks of the Communist International in the Struggle of the Working Class against Fascism.

>>Joe Slovo, 1988:The South African Working Class and the National Democratic Revolution

>>Sam Webb, [2005 ?] Socialism Revisited, Parts 1 and 2

SUMMATION/WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

This is a discussion without any assigned readings, at least in this first draft. Propose that the following be addressed:

>>What were the goals of the study? This may vary from location to location, but it will be interesting to see if there are any common red threads wich run through all of these efforts.

>>What readings were actually used? Were they useful, and why? What power of explanation did these readings have in our further understanding of Marxism?

>>Were young people involved? Persons of color? Women? LGBTQ? How did it go in relating the special questions of these people to the class politics that we’re trying to get a handle on?

>>Was the group composed of both party and non-party people? What were the dynamics that took place?

>>Overall, what are the positive things/lessons that happened in the course of this study? What are things, dynamics, readings, etc. to be avoided in future studty groups?

>>Participants might want to cnsider themselves the core of a wider study process. In that sense, how should we network across the country?

The document is called Marxist Leninist Education Project 2. Mlep2 is so called to distinguish it from the original Mlep, a project of the pre-party formation called Line of March Political Organization, which flourished in the 1980s. It was a project that originated from a process of study organized by the Union of Democratic Filipinos [the KDP], and joined in on by the Northern California Alliance, the Racism Research Project, and others.

After a first run of the 39 week study group, the Mlep was tried out in a number of different cities: Los Angeles, Boston, New York City, DC-Baltimore area, Madison WI, and SF Bay Area, among others.

The 39-week Mlep Long Course, as it came to be called [there was also added on an 8-9 week Short Course, and in some areas Seminars on US History, Political Economy, and Party Building] typically consisted of 10-15 participants, including two co-facilitators. Participants were divided into groups of three, which each had a chair [ in some places rotated over a period of time]. The original study consisted of the following topics:

1. Introduction to Marxism Leninism

2. Philosophy………..dialectical and historical materialism, the theory of knowledge

3. Political economy of capitalism

4. Imperialism

5. Underdevelopment in less-developed countries

6. Political strategy: What is to be done?

7. Political understanding of the state: The state and revolution

8. More political strategy: “Left wing” communism

9. The international communist movement and other trends: anarchism, terrorism, Trotskyism, Revisionism, Maoism

10.The united front against war and racism

11. Summation process

As mentioned above, the 39 week course was later offered as a 9 week course. Typically, a locality might offer one or both in a given year. But to get back to the 3 person study groups: each weekly session, which was usually held on a Saturday or Sunday and lasted 3-4 hours, was a session where a particular topic was addressed by 3 or 4 study teams who had each prepared a 5-10 minute presentation on one of several discussion questons which had been assigned to the teams the previous week. The co-facilitators kept in touch with the teams during the week, in order to identify what questions were causing problems in understanding. So the co-facilitators knew in advance where they might have to intervene and try and add some clarity to the matter at hand.

The two biggest objections to study was, first, that it was too theoretical; and second, there was a mass struggle going on. The first question had to do with the fact that most of us were raised in the United States were the victims of a bad education, and an environment of anti-intellectualism in our culture. We, and ultimately the masses of our people, had to be convinced that political theory and training were a legitimate form of political struggle. The academy, as well as the community and the workplace were battlefields, and in all locales the question was [and remains] what kinds of thinking and politics will hold sway: bourgeois or proletarian?

As to the raging struggle going on , and which we should not abandon for theory, there were two points of response. First, that we had to engage with and become good at using…theory. If we didn’t, then we would not know how to think adequately, and we would all go into battle without strategy or tactics………….and botch it. Second, the struggle is long and protracted………..consequently, we could promise our participants that there would be plenty of it awaiting them upon the completion of Mlep!

All of this activity was, in that time, based upon the assumption that a communist party had to be built that was not reformist and revisionist at its core, but rather a combative party armed with theory and approaches to engaging in good practice. For a whole host of reasons, Line of March failed to bring that party into being, despite its best efforts and human talent at hand. But the struggle to build that party still remains, preferably inside the one party in our country which, despite itself, remains “the mind, the will, the honor of the working class ” [Lenin].

Many of the readings below can be located online. Sometimes, study questions are also available. I would suggest that this be started as an 8-10 week study, once a week………or as two weekends with a full week sandwiched in between.

Class solidarity: The road to unity
| February 23, 2011 | 8:11 pm | Action | No comments

by Zoltan Zigedy

Some see the description “Marxist” as an anachronism. Certainly much has changed in the world since the times of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Indeed, capitalism – the object of their study – has evolved strikingly from the socio-economic order they sought to understand in the nineteenth century. Yet we are constantly reminded of the fruitfulness of their key analytical tools: class, exploitation and profits.

We find these tools useful in some of the most unlikely places, as demonstrated by a recent article in The Wall Street Journal. Writing on the Journal’s refreshingly eccentric sports page, author Matthew Futterman tackles the political economy of the National Football League (The NFL’s $1 Billion Game of Chicken (2-17-11). Futterman states: “The League has run out of new ways new ways to make another quick $1 billion, so its turning its focus to the biggest piggy bank of all: its own players.” Within the next two weeks, the player contract expires and NFL management will likely lock out – call a management strike on – the players and their union.

Futterman adds that behind this threatened lockout is “a notion that’s familiar to investors, but that represents a radical notion in professional sports: the idea that a sports league, like a giant company, must show steady growth over time. And more radically, a slowdown in the rate of growth, even without actual losses, is sufficient grounds to ask labor to make concessions.” In other words, professional football is a giant monopoly business with its own unique expressions of class, labor exploitation and profit accumulation.

Of course this backdrop of social confrontation and the drive for greater profits is not readily apparent to the average fan. Professional football occupies a special place in US culture. On one hand, it postures as a “pure” sport with great athletes – athletes bred, trained and motivated for most of their young lives – competing in a brutally violent game. On the other hand, it is presented as capturing the US ethos: overwhelming power, domination, confident cockiness, as well as respect for authority and unquestioning patriotism. Unmistakably, this representation is a profoundly conservative ethos.

But as Futterman’s candor shows, the NFL is far more than this popular image. From tickets to television, from media noise to gear, from advertising to fantasy football, the NFL both occupies a huge chunk of US cultural life and stands as a profit-generating behemoth.

It is this last aspect that draws little attention. Even less attention is given to the conflict between owners and workers, especially the players.

Between 2000 and the 2010 season, revenues have grown from about $4 billion to $9 billon. While every NFL team is highly profitable, owners view their protected franchises – their teams – as their major source of wealth. Just as stock market investors have come to place equity value over dividend return, team owners are most interested in seeing their team’s worth grow. For example, the NY Jets were purchased in 2000 for $635 million. Ten years later, another comparable franchise – the Miami Dolphins – sold for $1.1 billion.

The explosion of revenue in the NFL has come from several inter-connected sources. From 1993 to 2005 NFL owners extorted massive public funding for new stadiums. By threatening to move franchises, team owners and compliant city and regional officials have contrived a massive public welfare program for the benefit of the wealthy owners; the WSJ estimates that public subsidies averaged $500 million per year over the 13-year span.

Thanks to brand new stadiums with not-too-subtle class divisions (end-zone seats vs. luxury sky boxes), ticket revenues exploded, doubling between 1997 and 2007. Today, the average ticket costs $76 per game. It’s an unspoken truth that most season ticket holders are far removed from the working class who largely follow their team from in front of their television sets.

But competing media conglomerates have been the most kind to the NFL owners. Media rights to NFL broadcasts and properties have jumped from $2.6 billion annually in 2005 to $3.8 billion in 2010.

One might think that the NFL team owners would be quite satisfied with their lofty financial achievements, but like all capitalists they have an unquenchable thirst to accumulate. But as Futterman cogently puts it, they are looking for new ways to “make a quick $1 billion…” With new stadiums built and steadfast resistance to further subsidies on the part of the public, the team owners have turned away from the public troughs. With ticket prices sky high, they are afraid of squeezing fans further. And media contracts will increase only modestly over the next three years.

Therefore, owners are turning to the tried-and-true, centuries-old capitalist tactic: increase labor productivity by reducing wages and increasing the workload. They hope to add two more games per season to increase revenue. Thus, players will work 1/8th more for the same salaries. Standing in the way of this intensification of the owners’ exploitation of the players is their union’s resistance. Consequently, the lockout threatens to cancel the next season and pressure the players’ ability to earn a living.

As much as fans admire NFL players, they show little sympathy for their economic plight. Attention to the mega-salaries of superstars blinds them to the facts of an NFL career. The average median salary of an NFL player in 2009 was $770,000. But the average career lasts only 3 years, giving the average player a lifetime earning of $2 million plus from the NFL. Most players come from modest backgrounds and, unlike autoworkers or plumbers, have devoted fully 10 previous years of intense, competitive training without compensation beyond athletic scholarships. Thus, a 24-year-old average NFL retiree has earned well under $200,000 a year over his career, leaving his job often with debilitating injuries and little skill for any later opportunities. The media-hyped splendor of the super-star masks the far less glamorous status of the NFL’s ordinary player. Clearly, a lost season for players who only average three productive years is a powerful economic blow.

So, yes, players are workers, though unusually well paid for a brief time, and workers with their own unique advantages and difficulties. Players, like most fans, have drunk the cultural kool-aid that elevates all NFL players to elite status. The players don’t want to be seen as workers, but neither do many other well paid professionals or craftsmen for that matter.

For those of us who are consumers of the players’ product – fans – we need to take sides in a struggle between admittedly well-off players and the handful of mega-rich owners who seek to get more for less from their employees. In the end, that is the central question of Marxist and scientific socialist theory: exploitation. Exploitation defines class position as well as the distribution of the surplus, in this case NFL earnings. Unfortunately, the market determines the consumer’s place in this arguably decadent and politically numbing exercise in primitivism and violence – we lose a bit of our souls every Sunday in the fall. And our dollars combine to generate the $9 billion that the owners are so greedily striving to stuff into their pockets. But behind our shared football mania is an exploitative socio-economic system, just as ancient slavery stood behind the entertainments of the Roman circuses and the encounters of gladiators.

The lesson here is not that we should drop all activities to organize huge rallies in support of the small number of NFL professionals who are exploited by their employees, though there is much that we can easily do to show our solidarity with them. We certainly have more urgent priorities in supporting the public employees in the class war now raging in Wisconsin and breaking out in numerous other states. The living standards of all government employees –federal, state and local – as well as their union rights are under assault from many quarters, an assault that presages further attacks upon all workers. Instead, we must recognize that the Marxist notion of class – employees versus employers – trumps all other notions that divide workers by strata, job description, race, gender or nationality. It is “class,” as Marxists understand it, which serves as a basis for unity, and not some bogus unity forged from artificial ties with fickle friends in bourgeois politics or opportunistic, tenuous common interests. Those loose ties maybe be useful and even tactically desirable, but not at the expense of class partisanship.

A healthy sign of this class solidarity is the recent open letter from several current and former members of the Green Bay Packers professional football team urging support for Wisconsin’s embattled public workers. Is it an accident that they played for the only publicly owned team in the National Football League?

Zoltan Zigedy
zoltanzigedy@gmail.com

NATO’s plan is to occupy Libya
| February 23, 2011 | 7:56 pm | Action | No comments

Havana. February 21, 2011

REFLECTIONS OF FIDEL

(Taken from CubaDebate)

OIL became the principal wealth in the hands of the large yankee transnationals; with that source of energy, they had at their disposal an instrument that considerably increased their political power in the world. It was their principal weapon when they decided to simply liquidate the Cuban Revolution as soon as the first, just and sovereign laws were enacted in our homeland: by depriving it of oil.

Current civilization was developed on the basis of this source of energy. Of the nations in this hemisphere it was Venezuela which paid the highest price. The United States made itself the owner of the vast oilfields which nature endowed upon that sister nation.

At the end of the last World War it began to extract large volumes from oilfields in Iran, as well as those of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the Arab countries located around them. These came to be the principal suppliers. World consumption rose progressively to the fabulous figure of approximately 80 million barrels per day, including those pumped in U.S. territory, to which gas, hydraulic and nuclear energy were subsequently added. Up until the beginning of the 20th century coal was the fundamental source of energy that made possible industrial development, before billions of automobiles and engines consuming combustible liquid were produced.

The squandering of oil and gas is associated with one of the greatest tragedies, totally unresolved, being endured by humanity: climate change.

When our Revolution arose, Algeria, Libya and Egypt were not as yet oil producers and a large part of the substantial reserves of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and the United Arab Emirates were still to be discovered.

In December of 1951, Libya became the first African country to attain its independence after World War II, during which its territory was the scene of significant battles between German and British troops, bringing fame to Generals Erwin Rommel and Bernard. L. Montgomery.

Total desert covers 95% of its territory. Technology made it possible to find significant fields of excellent quality light oil, currently providing 800 billion barrels per day, and abundant natural gas deposits. Such wealth allowed it to achieve a life expectancy rate of close to 75 years and the highest per capita income in Africa. Its harsh desert is located above an enormous lake of fossil water, equivalent to more than three times the land surface of Cuba, which has made it possible to construct a broad network of fresh water pipes which extends throughout the country.

Libya, which had one million inhabitants upon attaining its independence, now has a population of more than six million.

The Libyan Revolution took place in September 1969. Its principal leader was Muammar al-Gaddafi, a soldier of Bedouin origin who was inspired in his early youth by the ideas of the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. Without any doubt, many of his decisions are associated with the changes that came about when, as in Egypt, a weak and corrupt monarchy was overthrown in Libya.

The inhabitants of that country have age-old warrior traditions. It is said that the ancient Libyans formed part of Hannibal’s army when he was at the point of liquidating Ancient Rome with the force that crossed the Alps.

One can be in agreement with Gaddafi or not. The world has been invaded with all kind of news, especially through the mass media. We shall have to wait the time needed to discover precisely how much is truth or lies, or a mix of the events, of all kinds, which, in the midst of chaos, have been taking place in Libya. What is absolutely evident to me is that the government of the United States is totally unconcerned about peace in Libya and will not hesitate to give NATO the order to invade that rich country, possibly in a matter of hours or a few days.

Those who, with perfidious intentions, invented the lie that Gaddafi was headed for Venezuela, as they did yesterday afternoon Sunday, February 20, today received a worthy response from Nicolás Maduro, Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs, when he stated textually that he was “voting for the Libyan people, in the exercise of their sovereignty, to find a peaceful solution to their difficulties which will preserve the integrity of the Libyan people and nation, without the interference of imperialism…”

For my part, I cannot imagine the Libyan leader abandoning the country, eluding the responsibilities attributed to him, whether or not this news is partly or totally false.

An honest person will always be against any injustice committed against any nation of the world, and the worst injustice, at this moment, would be to remain silent in the face of the crime that NATO is preparing to commit against the Libyan people.

The chief of that military organization is being urged to do so. This must be condemned!

Fidel Castro Ruz
February 21, 2011
10:14 p.m.

What the Right-wing Assault on Women, Unions, the Environment, Health Care and PBS Is All About
| February 23, 2011 | 7:16 am | Analysis | No comments

The central issue in our political life is not being discussed. At stake is the moral basis of American democracy.

The individual issues are all too real: assaults on unions, public employees, women’s rights, immigrants, the environment, health care, voting rights, food safety, pensions, prenatal care, science, public broadcasting, and on and on.

Budget deficits are a ruse, as we’ve seen in Wisconsin, where the Governor turned a surplus into a deficit by providing corporate tax breaks, and then used the deficit as a ploy to break the unions, not just in Wisconsin, but seeking to be the first domino in a nationwide conservative movement. Deficits can be addressed by raising revenue, plugging tax loopholes, putting people to work, and developing the economy long-term in all the ways the President has discussed. But deficits are not what really matters to conservatives.

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Fighting Cuts in the Midwest: “Ohio Is At War”
| February 22, 2011 | 8:44 am | Economy | No comments

From the vantage point of the pancaked fields of Illinois, it is easy to wax nostalgic about Ohio’s rolling hills. I spent four years there as an undergraduate and for many years thereafter I returned for several months each year. But my decades of AAUP activism have added a new and more telling element to my fondness for the state: respect for Ohio’s brand of faculty activism and union solidarity.

All this was first brought home to me when I spoke at the 25th anniversary of the AAUP collective bargaining chapter at the University of Cincinnati years ago. The chapter’s history, celebrated and retold, included the distinctive respect and affection across departments that faculty members forged during their union job actions. Ordinarily isolated in their individual programs, faculty members in a union can be brought together to find common cause and define a common mission. That is why unions can bring more faculty members into dialogue with one another until they form a genuine democratic community for the first time.

I saw the same phenomenon over the last year when faculty members at Bowling Green were joined by colleagues from Akron and throughout Ohio to win the right to bargain over their working conditions. No one had to ask my AAUP colleagues to work hand-in-hand with their Bowling Green comrades. The effort was stunningly spontaneous. They couldn’t resist. They just got in their cars and drove over to join the campaign.

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