Here is an interview produced for KPFT radio station in Houston which will be aired on April 12, 2013 at 9:30am Central Time. The interview is with Gerrard Sables of the Communist Party of Britain:
– from Zoltan Zigedy is available at:
Seventy-five years ago, Christopher Caudwell’s Studies in a Dying Culture was published posthumously. Caudwell, a brilliant young British Communist writer and poet volunteered to fight for the Spanish Republic and was killed in 1937. If Caudwell’s assessment of capitalist culture was appropriate to the mid-twentieth century, that culture has reached a terminal phase in the second decade of the twenty-first century.
The artistic and personal liberties unleashed by the escape from the repressive, conformist 1950s and the energy and optimism accompanying the civil rights and anti-war movements were methodically and overwhelmingly suffocated by corporate cooption. Any and every new spring of creative originality—whether it be a new popular musical form or an original film director—has been damned and channeled by the monopoly entertainment industry. As a result, cultural products with any claim to broad popularity are reduced to either formulaic, safe entertainments or vapid, lifeless expressions of “high” culture.
This is not to demean the tens of thousands of talented cultural workers who struggle at minimum wage jobs while studying and exercising their craft for the few willing to step away from the corporately constructed temples of culture. They labor even more heroically than their predecessors who were occasionally able to hew some measure of independence from the grasp of cultural moguls and business accountants. That is less possible today when only unrestrained vulgarity and violence or unchallenging distraction and fantasy offer the keys to entering the cultural big stage.
In an age where the promise of hip hop has been reduced to a grinding pulse of swagger, violence, and selfishness and the freedom of independent commercial film predictably delivers time-released, regular spasms of ultra-violence, nudity, and sex, relief from the tedium is especially delicious. More and more that relief is coming from documentary film.
I have in mind two documentaries that expose the worst and best of the US.
The Queen of Versailles
The best documentaries often rise to great heights on sheer dumb luck; the Irish film makers who, by happenstance, captured close-up the coup against Hugo Chavez and its aftermath were extraordinary examples of the film gods in action (The Revolution Will Not Be Televised). Similarly, Lauren Greenfield’s 2012 documentary, The Queen of Versailles draws its drama from the impact of the economic crisis upon one of the richest families in the US. What begins as the capture of the excesses and embarrassing vulgarity of the nouveau riche devolves to a tale of blame, self-pity, and neglect, thanks to the impact of the unforeseen crisis.
On the way up, a fortune built around the hustle and shrewd entrapment of the time-share industry allows an orgy of self-indulgence, senseless consumerism, and smugness. David Siegel, the ruler of the empire, brags about his clandestine role in getting Bush elected President; he creates a glitzy tower in Las Vegas to signal his success, and he aspires to build the largest private home in the US to flaunt that success. Siegel embodies Marx’s infamous iconic capitalist: “… The less you eat, drink, and buy books; the less you go to the theater, the dance hall, the public house; the less you think, love, theorize, sing, paint, fence, etc, the more you save—the greater becomes your treasure which neither moths nor dust will devour—your capital.” But as Marx acknowledges, your abstinence and single-minded greed is rewarded, for your accumulated wealth can “appropriate art, learning, the treasures of the past, political power…” And Siegel does all of this.
But the 2008 economic collapse brings the Siegel family to its knees. Dead, unattended pets; dog feces on carpets; fast food; cranky, spoiled children; and sullenness and self-pity replace the former swagger. “It’s the banks, the rotten, greedy banks,” the Siegels exclaim. They angrily protest that “ordinary” people like themselves are victimized by selfish bankers.
As the empire totters, the Siegels scramble to adjust. On a visit to her childhood friends, wife Jackie must subject her children to their first flight on a commercial airline. “Why are these other people on our plane?” they wonder. Jackie asks the rental car agent for the name of the driver; he responds with a puzzled look. The rich are not like the rest of us.
Through their “ordeal,” David Siegel sulks, whines, and wallows in self-pity. While Jackie’s untamed consumerism remains pathological, she shows more character and resilience, serving as both the family’s anchor and morale-booster. This snap shot of the very wealthy in full bloom and under duress shows the shallowness of that life choice and the ugliness of conspicuous self-aggrandizement. It is hard to feel sympathy for the Siegels.
Searching for Sugarman
If the Siegels conjure contempt, even disgust, Sixto Rodriguez—the focus of the documentary, Searching for Sugarman—counts as a glorious expression of the best of us. Rodriguez, a discarded cultural worker, exudes nobility, humility, warmth, and intelligence, whether working in small, marginal clubs, laboring on excavation or demolition sites, raising his children, or enjoying a belated celebrity.
Others have written of his strange, magical journey from a quickly emerging and falling talent forty years ago to the re-discovered celebrity of today. In between, Rodriguez worked and raised his children like millions of others, but with uncommon dignity and strength. The film, Sugarman, attests to the man’s resilience, but also celebrates his incredible impact upon others.
Unmistakably, Rodriguez, himself a former autoworker and the son of an immigrant Mexican autoworker, is a legacy of the US multi-national working class—a living example of the best of working class values. He, like his co-workers interviewed in the film, has an unassuming intellect and unqualified respect for others.
And he and his music are consummately “political.” Not in any clumsy or preachy sense, but in a way that speaks to and for the disadvantaged, that resonates with those who seek change. Early in his career he associated in Detroit with John Sinclair, the political commissar of the proto-proletarian-punk group, the MC5. Later, when his music arrived in Australia, he opened in live performances for Australia’s most widely known politically outspoken rock group, Midnight Oil.
But the greatest testament to his strong politics is the curious and bizarre impact on South African youth. After Angolan independence at the end of 1975, South Africa intensified its military interventions in that country and Namibia. Over the next decade, conscription of white South Africans into the military met further and further resistance. For reasons that remain obscure, the music of Rodriguez, commercially a flop in the US, found a following in South Africa. Rodriguez became the voice of resistance and change for many young, white South Africans. His music created the sound track for the anti-conscription movement. And by the mid-eighties he inspired other musical groups to propel the End Conscription Campaign. The Kalahari Surfers, Cherry Faced Lurchers, and other alternative musical groups gave expression to disenchanted white youth (see Forces Favourites, Rounder Records, 1986). The resounding defeat of the South African military by the Angolan military and its Cuban internationalist ally, the growing militancy of the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party, and the disenchantment of white South Africans brought apartheid to its knees and paved the way to South African liberation.
In a real way, this modest worker in Detroit helped rock the foundations of the racist, repressive apartheid system in South Africa– quite an accomplishment for an artist without recognition in his homeland. Quite an achievement for a talent initially crushed by the gears of an industry driven by immediacy and profit.
Where The Queen of Versailles drains the spirit with its celebration of accumulation and ostentation, Searching for Sugarman brings joy and inspiration. Both are revealing. Watch them both, one after the other. Hang your head in embarrassment with the decadence that the unbridled capitalist system has wrought. Raise your head with hope for the nobility that people like Rodriguez bring to us.
By A. Shaw
Two recent opinion polls show Nicolas Maduro, the proletarian candidate, ahead of Henrique Capriles, the capitalist candidate, in the race for president of Venezuela. The election will be on April 14 this year. Hinterlaces, a Venezuelan polling firm with a conservative middle class outlook, recently found Maduro leads Capriles by 18 points. Another survey by the International Consulting Services (ICS), a Venezuela polling firm with liberal middle class tendencies, shows Maduro leading Capriles by 17.7 points .
The election will pick a successor for the late Pres. Hugo Chavez who died of cancer on March 5.
Most likely, the principal cause — but not the only cause — of Maduro’s lead over Capriles in the two opinion polls is the categorical endorsement of Maduro from Hugo Chavez, a month before his death. The revolutionary sector of the working class feels and believes a vote for Maduro is tantamount to a vote for the late and glorious Hugo Chavez. It is hard to say how much of a lead Maduro would have over Capriles absent the Chavez’ endorsement or whether Maduro would even have a lead at all.
By disclosing his preference for his successor, Chavez rendered his last great service to the Venezuelan people and to their glorious revolution.
Three weeks before the presidential election last Oct. 7, Hugo Chavez led Capriles by about 18 points in most opinion polls. Chavez won on Oct. 7 with an 11-point margin. The results for April 14 this year may repeat the results for Oct. 7. In other words, Maduro wins with an 11-point margin.
In the October 2012 presidential race against Chavez and in the December 2012 governor’s race for the state of Miranda against Elias Jaua, Capriles showed himself to be something of “closer” — that is, a candidate who can take or protect a lead in the last inning or two of the game. Again, Capriles lost in October by 11 points and won in December by 5 points. It’s unclear whether Capriles will have time to show his stuff as a “closer” in the current race against Maduro because the campaign is only a month long. It closes right after it opens and opens right before it closes. But Capriles is trying to show his stuff. “Closers” take and hold the offense and that is exactly what Capriles is trying to do.
ICS research coordinator Lorenzo Martinez says Maduro’s 18-point lead over Capriles is “irreversible.” Some people in Maduro’s campaign agree.
The irreversibility of an 18-point lead over Capriles with three weeks left in the campaign is illusory. If Capriles could chop Chavez’s lead in Oct. 2012 from about 18 points to 11 points in the last three weeks of the campaign, Capriles surely can chop Maduro’s lead from 18 points to a tie in the same period of time, if Maduro any mistakes.
One such mistake is Maduro’s under use of his ministers to refute and to attack Capriles and Capiles lies about poor performance in specific areas of the Chavez’s administration.
Maduro should tell his under-used ministers “When Capriles lies about you, go get him.”
It was impossible to beat Chavez. Chavez was an electoral phenomenon or, in other words, a highly peculiar political presence. Maduro isn’t this kind of candidate. So, talk about the “irreversibility” of Maduro’s current lead in opinion polls before April 14 is crazy talk.
Maduro and his campaign should forget about this apparent “lead” in opinion polls and make the Maduro campaign 10 times more intense in terms of candidate and staff activity, GOTV, media operations, opposition research and publication, and volunteers.
Check out this website for news from the Greek labor struggle
On February 25, 2013, the Executive Board of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO
unanimously endorsed HR 676, Expanded and Improved Medicare for All, the
national single payer legislation recently reintroduced into Congress by
Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D. MI).
George Nee, President of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO stated, “Year after
year America continues to spend more and get less in return for our broken
health care system, something must be done. The Rhode Island AFL-CIO
strongly supports single-payer national health care as a way to insure all
Americans, cut wasteful spending out of our health care system, and
contain costs in a system where prices are spinning out of control. All
Americans should have access to high quality affordable health care, that
does not jeopardize the financial or physical well-being of themselves,
their families, or the companies they work for.”
The vote followed a presentation on single payer health care by J. Mark
Ryan, MD, FACP, President of the state chapter of Physicians for a
National Health Program (PNHP). Dr. Ryan is an internist in Providence
where he provides primary care at the University Medicine Foundation. “I
was very impressed at how knowledgeable the Executive Board members were
about HR 676 and the benefits of single payer national health care,” Dr.
Ryan told the All Unions Committee.
The Rhode Island AFL-CIO is the umbrella organization for more than 250
local unions which represent over 80,000 working men and women across the
state. The story on the RI AFL-CIO website is here:
HR 676 would institute a single payer health care system by expanding a
greatly improved Medicare to everyone residing in the U. S.
HR 676 would cover every person for all necessary medical care including
prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and
preventive care, emergency services, dental (including oral surgery,
periodontics, endodontics), mental health, home health, physical therapy,
rehabilitation (including for substance abuse), vision care and
correction, hearing services including hearing aids, chiropractic, durable
medical equipment, palliative care, podiatric care, and long term care.
HR 676 ends deductibles and co-payments. HR 676 would save hundreds of
billions annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the
private health insurance industry and HMOs.
In the current 113th Congress, HR 676 has 41 co-sponsors in addition to
HR 676 has been endorsed by 598 union organizations including 144 Central
Labor Councils/Area Labor Federations and 41 state AFL-CIO’s (KY, PA, CT,
OH, DE, ND, WA, SC, WY, VT, FL, WI, WV, SD, NC, MO, MN, ME, AR, MD-DC, TX,
IA, AZ, TN, OR, GA, OK, KS, CO, IN, AL, CA, AK, MI, MT, NE, NJ, NY, NV,
MA, & RI).
For further information, a list of union endorsers, or a sample
endorsement resolution, contact:
All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care–HR 676
c/o Nurses Professional Organization (NPO)
1169 Eastern Parkway, Suite 2218
Louisville, KY 40217
(502) 636 1551
by A. Shaw
The bourgeoisie and the bourgeois media argue that that the current Venezuelan Government is not a democracy because the government doesn’t respect the principle of rule of law, a principle that is fundamental to all democracies. The capitalist forces point to Article 233 of the Constitution as an instance of proletarian and revolutionary disregard for the rule of law.
The bourgeois media in Venezuela as well as abroad argue that, under Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution, the chair of the National Assembly, not the vice president of the country, becomes acting president for the 30-day period that precede the election of a new president to replace the old president who is permanently unavailable to serve as president.
Since D.Cabello chairs the National Assembly, reactionaries insist that Cabello, not former vice president N. Maduro, should be the acting president of Venezuela until a new president is elected in 30 days.
There is no question that the second paragraph of Article 233 says something like this. Here’s how the second paragraph of 233 puts it “When an elected President becomes permanently unavailable to serve prior to his inauguration, a new election by universal suffrage and direct ballot shall be held within 30 consecutive days. Pending election and inauguration of the new President, the President of the National Assembly shall take charge of the Presidency of the Republic.”
Unquestionably, the death of a president is a permanent unavailability to serve. Hugo Chavez died on March 5 before his inauguration. Indeed, Chavez was never inaugurated for the current constitutional term of office — Jan. 2013 to Jan 2019. So, it seems that the second paragraph of Article 233 supplies some support for the view of the bourgeoisie.
The revolutionary proletariat and the mass of the proletarian media that has addressed the question point to the third paragraph of Art. 233 which says “When the President of the Republic becomes permanently unavailable to serve during the first four years of this constitutional term of office, a new election by universal suffrage and direct ballot shall be held within 30 consecutive days. Pending election and inauguration of the new President, the Executive-Vice President shall take charge of the Presidency of the Republic.”
So, the second paragraph of the article says the chair of the National Assembly becomes acting president when the the president-elect becomes permanently disabled before inauguration. The third paragraph of the article says, on the other hand, that the vice president becomes acting president if the president becomes permanently unavailable during the first four years of his constitutional term.
In another article, the Constitution mentions Jan. 10 of the first year of the constitutional term of president as BOTH a possible date for an presidential inauguration and as the date on which the first year of the constitutional term begins whether or not an inauguration occurs..
This suggests a reason for some of the confusion over Article 233. Hugo Chavez became permanently unavailable to serve BOTH before his inauguration and during the first four years of his constitutional term of office. So, both the second and third paragraphs of 233 are applicable to Chavez’s succession.
This situation can’t require the appointment of two acting presidents — that is, the appointment of the chair of the National Assembly due the absence of an inauguration and the appointment of the vice president due to the presence of the first four years of the constitutional term. The idea of appointing two acting presidents for a period of 30 days is ridiculous. Since both second and third paragraphs are applicable.
Thus, either paragraph can be applied.
The National Assembly and supreme court had to choose between the second and third paragraphs of 233. Both the Assembly and the Court chose the third paragraph and picked the vice president for acting president.
By Arthur Shaw
Article 229 of the Venezuelan Constitution says “A person holding the office of Executive Vice-President, Minister or Governor, or Mayor as of the date he announces his candidacy or at any time between such date and that of the Presidential election shall not be eligible for election to the office of President of the Republic.”
So, the Constitution disqualifies the holders of four offices — e.g., VP, minister, governor, and mayor — as presidential candidates.
The two major candidates are Nicolas Maduro, the socialist candidate, and Henrique Capriles, the capitalist candidate. There will be six other candidates on the ballot. But the other six candidates don’t have a ghost of a chance of winning on April 14.
Maduro, the proletarian candidate, holds the office of acting president since March 8th this year. He was sworn in as acting president three days after the death of President Hugo Chavez. Earlier Maduro served as executive vice president, one of the four offices that Art. 229 prohibits. Clearly, as a sitting VP, Maduro would have been disqualified under Art. 229 to run for president unless he stepped down before he announced.
Capriles, the bourgeois candidate, holds the office of governor of the state of Miranda. During the race between Capriles and Hugo Chavez for the office of president in 2012, Capriles, who was then governor of Miranda, temporarily stepped down and reassumed the office of governor of Miranda after his defeat by Hugo Chavez on Oct. 7, 2012.
Now, Capriles is hinting and acting as if he will refuse to step down as governor of the state of Miranda before the period beginning with the announcement of his candidacy for president and the April 14 presidential election. April 1 and 2 have been set for the dates of announcement for Capriles and Maduro respectively. So, Capriles may announce his candidacy as a deliberately unqualified candidate, provoking a constitutional crisis designed to de-legitimise succession.
A number of outlets of the bourgeois media in Venezuela and abroad argue that Maduro is disqualified because he is still the VP, a prohibited office under Art. 229. and because he will remain VP until another president is elected on April 14. This is of course the kind of crackpot argument that excites and attracts the bourgeois media.
Most of the opinion polls show Capriles presently about 13 points behind Maduro. The opinion polls have credibility because they correctly picked who would win the Oct. 7 presidential race between Capriles and Chavez and these polls correctly guessed the margin by which Capriles would lose to Chavez. In addition, these polls largely foresaw the outcome of the Dec. 2012 regional elections of 23 governor seats.
So, Capriles may figure he has nothing to lose by contriving his own disqualification as a candidate.
Neither the world bourgeoisie nor the mass of the bourgeois media abroad supported the 2005 lunatic idea of the Venezuelan capitalists demanding the boycotting of the 2005 legislative elections in order to de-legitimise Venezuelan democracy. Almost everybody, including the international bourgeoisie and its media, thought in 2005 that the boycotting Venezuelan capitalists were a bunch of fools after they adopted lunatic tactics.
Some observers believe Capriles is only playing around with self-disqualification in order to appease the kooks in the bourgeois-led coalition which supports Capriles. If this is the case, the kooks may be very upset if Capriles steps down as governor before he announces for president on April 1.