Chronicling the Crisis of the Working Class

Last Build Date: Sun, 01 Jan 2017 12:03:01 EST


Yoshie Furuhashi, "After MRZine"

Sun, 1 Jan 2017 11:55:00 EST

(image) Today MRZine comes to an end, after over a decade's run. Thank you for your past support. . . . My next project is to establish Movement Translation Service (MTS), inspired by People's Translation Service and similar efforts before and after it. There exists a glaring communication gap between English speakers in the imperialist countries and peoples in the rest of the world. Just to have a glimpse of the gap, consider this: On one hand, "only about 3% of all books published in the United States are works in translation," and the figure is similar for the United Kingdom -- "embarrassingly low" compared to the percentages in other countries, in the words of Literature Across Frontiers (2015). On the other hand, as an earlier LAF study (2010) pointed out, the collapse of the Eastern Bloc led to "an increasing dominance of English … as a source for literature translations" in Europe, and globally too English is by far the most common source language for them according to UNESCO. In non-fiction, the exchange is even more asymmetrical. Communication on the left is no exception to this pattern. Through MTS, I hope to play a little larger part in filling this communication gap than I could in MRZine, endeavoring to translate into English a variety of voices of the left that would remain untranslated if left only to market forces, publishing oligopolies, and capitalist states. MTS is currently scheduled to launch in May 2017.

Louis Allday, "Controlling the Narrative on Syria"

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 20:48:00 EST

(image) Arguably, no war has been more mediated by misunderstanding than the conflict currently taking place in Syria. This article will seek to correct some of the major fallacies in circulation, illuminate how dissenting voices are forced out of the mainstream debate through smears and intimidation, and unmask the ostensibly neutral stances of a number of prominent voices on the conflict. One of the many fallacies that predominate in this prevailing narrative is that the West has not intervened in the conflict in Syria. For instance, Amnesty International has recently described the UK as "sit[ting] on the sidelines" of the conflict. This fundamentally false position ignores several years of the West and its regional allies (primarily Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar) arming, funding and training rebel groups, the crippling economic sanctions imposed against the Syrian Government, ongoing airstrikes, special forces operations, and a host of other diplomatic, military and economic measures that have been taken. Not only has the West (primarily the US) intervened, it has done so on a very large scale. For instance, in June 2015, it was revealed that the CIA's involvement in Syria had become "one of the agency's largest covert operations" in which it was spending roughly $1bn a year (about $1 for every $15 in the CIA's announced budget). At that time, this operation based out of Jordan had already "trained and equipped nearly 10,000 fighters sent into Syria over the past several years". As Patrick Higgins has remarked, "[i]n other words, the United States launched a full-scale war against Syria, and few Americans actually noticed". It is vital to place this aggression in the context of long-standing US animosity to the Syrian Government. As diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks have revealed, since at least 2006, the US has consistently sought to undermine it "by any available means", utilising a variety of techniques including an effort -- in co-ordination with Saudi Arabia -- to encourage Islamic fundamentalism and sectarianism in the country by playing on fears of Iranian influence. Indeed, although it is rarely mentioned, a senior US intelligence official is on record in a televised interview with Mehdi Hasan confirming that facilitating the rise of ISIS and other Islamic extremist groups in Syria and Iraq was a "wilful decision" on behalf of the Obama administration. The BBC has recently reported that ISIS use ammunition bought legally in Eastern Europe by the US and Saudi Governments that is then transported via Turkey into Syria and Iraq, "sometimes only two months from leaving the factory". When US intervention in Syria is acknowledged, it is regularly portrayed as having been small-scale and insufficient. Professor Gilbert Achcar of SOAS has remarked that "Washington's support to the opposition is more the stuff of jokes than anything serious". Given that Achcar made this observation six months after the revelations concerning the enormous scale of the CIA's Syria operation, it is hard to imagine exactly what level of military support would be required in order to be considered more than a 'joke'. This misleading narrative of non-existent or inadequate US intervention, coupled with a propensity to defend it with insults, is extremely common, including among commentators who write for ostensibly left-leaning publications. Some pundits such as Murtaza Hussain of The Intercept have recently even gone so far as to claim that the US is in fact intervening in Syria, but "in favor of Assad", an absurd argument that Glenn Greenwald has also expressed.

Marta Harnecker, "Fidel, Today and Forever"

Sat, 10 Dec 2016 19:48:00 EST

(image) You insisted that the revolution had to come before anything that each of the organizations had done in the past, that what mattered was for all forces to work together for the future, and that is why you did not attempt to claim all the credit for yourself. Despite the fact that the 26th of July Movement was recognized by the immense majority of the people as the architect of the victory, you put aside the flag of your organization in order to raise the flag of the revolution. How different would Latin America be today if we had taken your advice on board!

Prabhat Patnaik, "Developing 'Infrastructure'"

Thu, 08 Dec 2016 19:20:00 EST

(image) Since the concept of what constitutes infrastructure is very significantly specific to a development trajectory, and since any development trajectory entails a particular pattern of changing balance of class-strengths, the concept of infrastructure has a class dimension. . . . Growing inequality therefore puts continuous pressure on the infrastructure available for use by the well-to-do. As a result, the kind of "infrastructure" demanded by the well-to-do sucks resources away from other uses; and, no matter how much of resources it sucks away, "infrastructure" for their use still remains insufficient. . . . The fact that the country finds resources for building swanky airports but not for old-age pensions or school education is symptomatic of the development trajectory of neo-liberal capitalism. But this does not mean that one simply criticises this development trajectory and waits for the day when one can change it. Nor does it mean that one only demands changes in income distribution in an egalitarian direction on the grounds that the allocation of resources, whether more should go towards building airports or building good government schools, is ultimately dependent upon the distribution of income; ie, on the grounds that since the allocation of resources ultimately depends upon the pattern of demand that is determined by income distribution, this should be the point of intervention. One also has to say, like Karl Marx, that a good deal of what is spent as "infrastructure" investment is "useless" from the point of view of the people, that such investment should be restrained and the "infrastructure" in question should be rationed. . . . Just as rationing of foodgrain distribution at low prices is a way of intervening in income distribution in an egalitarian direction, likewise enforcing rationing of the "infrastructure" demanded by the well-to-do, instead of diverting resources towards meeting this demand at the expense of other socially-pressing needs, is also a way of intervening in income distribution.

Susie Day, "Forward Ever, Normal Never: Taking Down Donald Trump"

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 19:00:00 EST

(image) Here and now, mainstream pundits talk about how we should never take for granted, or "normalize," the Trump regime. But the Trump phenomenon grows from the fact that Americans have already normalized too much: steadily eroding unions and labor laws; the devastation of welfare; prison expansion; the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq; millions of immigrants already deported -- all of which rests on an implicit White-über-alles that allows most of us to conduct business as usual, as Black citizens are regularly gunned down by cops. Face it: this Trump thing has been coming on for years. In the activist communities I inhabit, normalizing will be less a problem than figuring out new ways to fight Trump. The old ways -- demonstrations, petition signing, sit-ins -- may connect us and make us feel better, but will they work?

Samir Amin, "The Election of Donald Trump"

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 22:00:00 EST

(image) The recent election of Donald Trump after Brexit, the rise of fascist votes in Europe, but also and much better, the electoral victory of SYRIZA and the rise of Podemos are all manifestations of the depth of the crisis of the system of globalized neoliberalism. This system, which I have always considered unsustainable, is imploding before our eyes at its very heart. All attempts to save the system -- to avoid the worst -- by minor adjustments are doomed to failure. The implosion of the system is not synonymous with advances on the path to building a truly better alternative for people: the autumn of capitalism does not coincide automatically with the spring of the peoples. A caesura separates them, which gives our epoch a dramatic tone conveying the gravest dangers. Nonetheless, the implosion -- because it is inevitable -- should be grasped precisely as the historic opportunity offered to people. It paves the way for possible advances toward the construction of the alternative, which comprises two indissociable components: (i) at the national level, the abandonment of the fundamental rules of liberal economic management for the benefit of popular-sovereign projects giving rise to social progress; (ii) at the international level, the construction of a system of negotiated polycentric globalization. Parallel advances on these two levels will become possible only if the political forces of the radical left conceive the strategy for them and succeed in mobilizing the popular classes to make progress toward their attainment. That is not the case now, as demonstrated by SYRIZA's retreats, the ambiguities and confusions of the British and US votes, and the extreme timidity of the heirs of euro-communism.

João Pedro Stédile, "Fidel Castro -- Beyond Words"

Sat, 26 Nov 2016 22:00:00 EST

(image) We lost Fidel. We gained a history of examples and wisdom. The story of Fidel is beyond words -- we cannot describe it with words alone. So I would like to just give a testimony.

Michael E. Tigar, "Taking Action: Understanding History, Reaching Out"

Sat, 19 Nov 2016 22:00:00 EST

(image) Don't be lulled. As John Oliver says: This is not normal. The most dispiriting media clip of the day is from the New York Times: "Democrats May Try Surprising Strategy: Align With Trump." I only wish it were surprising that the same folks who brought us to this crisis are now ready to practice the politics of temporizing and acquiescence.

Michael E. Tigar, "How Employers Limit Worker Rights, Using the Power of Government and Market Forces"

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 22:00:00 EST

(image) Employers -- and their allies in government that they can influence with unlimited campaign cash -- have successfully limited worker rights. Federal and state labor laws exclude entire categories of workers from full protection, including agricultural workers, home workers, and public employees. The workers nominally under the protection of labor laws are hobbled with great and increasing barriers to effective organization. Not content with exploiting the limits placed by law, employers exploit market forces to drive down wages and erode working conditions.