April , 2019

People Aur Politics

A liberation zone for democratic rights, multiculturalism, international brotherhood and peace.

With wrenching tragedies only a few miles away, and still worse catastrophes perhaps not far ...
The scandal over the «scientific team from the USA» broke out, despite attempts by the ...
The United States Government is now treating Ukraine as if it were a NATO member, ...
Bennett Muraskin: I look at the world for many decades now and do not see evidence ...
The Abbottabad Commission was charged with ascertaining the facts of what happened on the night ...
Protestors march with placards reading 'Enough! Don't turn our schools into Imam Hatips' in Istanbul ...
Remembering the ‘Revolution Against Das Kapital’ BY ADITYA NIGAM ON 02/11/2017 • Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Marxist leader, ...
Kevin B Anderson, Marx at the Margins (University of Chicago Press, 2010), £15.00 Frederick Engels used ...
To mark the 80th Anniversary of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party — on the 18th ...
Marx and Freud in Latin America: Politics, Psychoanalysis, and Religion in Times of Terror Verso, London ...

Archive for April, 2013

Washington’s «Civil Society» and CIA Financing of Chechen and Other Caucasus Regional Terrorists-Wayne MADSEN

Posted by admin On April - 30 - 2013 Comments Off on Washington’s «Civil Society» and CIA Financing of Chechen and Other Caucasus Regional Terrorists-Wayne MADSEN


Through a myriad of «civil society» organizations, the United States has been financing Chechen groups inside the autonomous republic, in Russia, and abroad. However, large portions of U.S. assistance money has «bled» over to support Chechen and other North Caucasus terrorist groups, which the U.S. State Department and U.S. intelligence agencies insist on referring to as «separatist guerrillas», «nationalists», «insurgents», and «rebels», instead of terrorists.

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has continuously refused to refer to Chechen and Islamic Emirate terrorists operating in Russia as «terrorists». NSA analysis reports of signals intelligence (SIGINT) intercepts of Russian police, Federal Security Bureau (FSB), Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), and Russian military communications, including radio, landline and cellular telephone, fax, text message, and fax, have, since 2003, referred to Chechen and North Caucasus terrorists as «guerrillas». Prior to that year, TOP SECRET Codeword internal NSA directives stated that Chechen terrorists were to be called «rebels».

Imagine the surprise if the United States began referring to «Al Qaeda» as Islamist guerrillas and rebels instead of terrorists. Yet, that is exactly how the NSA and CIA have referred to terrorists in Russia that have launched deadly attacks on airports, trains, subway stations, schools, and movie theaters throughout the Russian Federation.

U.S. «humanitarian» and «civil society» assistance to radical Islamist groups has, for the past three decades, filtered into the coffers of terrorist groups celebrated as «freedom fighters» in Washington. This was the case with U.S. support for the Afghan Mujaheddin through such groups as the Committee for a Free Afghanistan during the Islamist insurgency against the People’s Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in the 1980s and the Bosnia Defense Fund in the 1990s. In the case of Afghanistan, U.S. and Saudi money ended up in the hands of insurgents who would later form «Al Qaeda» and in Bosnia U.S. funds were used by Al Qaeda elements fighting against Yugoslavia and the Bosnian Serb Republic and, later, Al Qaeda elements supporting the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in its war against Serbia.

After revelations that an entity called the Caucasus Fund was used by the CIA-linked Jamestown Foundation of Washington, DC to sponsor seminars on the North Caucasus in Tbilisi from January to July 2012, Georgian authorities moved to shut down the fund. The reason given by Georgia was that the organization had «fulfilled its stated mission». Caucasus Fund and Jamestown Foundation events were attended by accused Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a citizen of Kyrgyzstan born to parents from Dagestan. Jamestown had previously held a seminar in Tbilisi on «Hidden Nations» in the Caucasus, which, among other issues, promoted a «Greater Circassia» in the Caucasus.

U.S. «civil society» aid to groups fomenting terrorism, nationalism, separatism, and irredentism in the Caucasus is either direct through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) or covert through organizations funded by George Soros’s Open Society Institute.

Much can be learned about U.S. backing for terrorist groups operating in the North Caucasus from information gleaned from the tranche of a quarter million leaked classified State Department cables.

A November 12, 2009 Confidential cable from the U.S. embassy in Moscow implies that the Carnegie Center NGO in Moscow be engaged to stymie Russia’s political and economic goals in the North Caucasus, particularly by taking advantage of 50 percent unemployment in Ingushetiya and 30 percent in Chechnya. Areas of high unemployment in the Muslim world have served as prime recruiting grounds for Wahhabist and Salafist radical clerics financed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the emirates of Sharjah and Ras al Khaimah. Dagestan is cited in a June 8, 2009 embassy Moscow cable as Russia’s «weakest link» in the Caucasus region.

A Confidential September 16, 2009 cable from the U.S. embassy in Moscow indicates that Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon was urged to push the concept that the Ramzan Kadyrov government in Chechnya had «neither control nor stability». The NGO Caucasian Knot told Gordon at a meeting at the U.S. embassy that «foreign fighters» were joining a jihad in the region and that there was a «Hobson’s Choice» between «terrorists» and «corrupt local government». Apparently, the Obama administration decided, likely with the strong support of then deputy national security adviser and current CIA director John O. Brennan, a confirmed Saudiphile and a participant in the Hadj pilgrimage to Mecca, opted for the terrorists.

Other leaked Confidential cables provide in-depth details on U.S., British, and Norwegian support for exiled «Chechen-Ichkeria» leader Akhmed Zakayev, a close friend of the late exiled Russo-Israeli tycoon Boris Berezovsky. A July 29, 2009 Confidential cable from the U.S. embassy in Oslo quotes the head of the Russian section at the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, Odd Skagestad, as telling the American embassy there that Zakayev was the «legitimate representative of not just the Chechen exile community, but of Chechens in Chechnya», although he added that «Zakayev is on various INTERPOL lists» for suspected terrorist links. Skagestad stated the Norwegian PST, Norway’s FBI, ignored INTERPOL arrest warrants and permitted Zakayev to visit Norway from his place of exile in London. The Oslo embassy also stated that the Norwegian head of the «Chechnya Peace Forum», Ivar Amundsen, was very «tight lipped» about his activities and that he was a close friend of the late renegade ex-Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko. Zakayev has also received significant support from the governments of Denmark, Finland, and the Czech Republic, where there are active Chechen exile community. The Kavkaz Center, located in Helsinki, Finland, runs a pro-Caucasus Emirate website and provides an important public relations service for Emirate leader Doku Umarov’s terrorist cells in southern Russia…

Ruslan Zaindi Tsarnaev, the Maryland-based uncle of suspected bombers Tamerlan and Dzokhar Dudayev, established the Congress of Chechen International Organizations, Incorporated, in Maryland on August 17, 1995 and in the District of Columbia on September 22, 1995. The Maryland entity’s status was forfeited and is not in good standing, likely because of delinquency in filing required fees and forms. The District of Columbia corporate entity was active for 17 years and seven months. Interestingly, the DC corporate status was revoked at around the time of the Boston Marathon bombings. Ruslan Tsarnaev, also known as Ruslan Tsarni, a graduate of Duke University Law School in North Carolina, worked for USAID in Kazakhstan and other countries in preparing them for vulture capitalist enterprises such as derivative financing and hedge funds.

The Maryland address for the Congress of Chechen International Organizations is listed in Maryland corporate records as 11114 Whisperwood Lane, Rockville, Maryland 20852, which is the address for Graham E. Fuller.

Fuller is a former Russian-speaking CIA official, including station chief in Kabul and vice-chair of the National Intelligence Council during the 1980s Iran-contra scandal, with which Fuller was heavily involved. Fuller has been active in events sponsored by the Jamestown Foundation, including keynoting an October 29, 2008 conference titled «Turkey & the Caucasus after Georgia».

Fuller’s daughter, Samantha Ankara Fuller, is a UK and US dual national who is listed as a director of Insource Energy, Ltd. of the UK, a firm owned by Carbon Trust, a not-for-profit company «with the mission to accelerate the move to a low carbon economy». According to the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority’s Financial Services Register, Samantha Ankara Fuller’s previous name was Mrs. Samantha Ankara Tsarnaev. She was the wife of Ruslan Tsarnaev and ex-aunt of the two accused Boston Marathon bombers. At the time of her marriage to Ruslan Tsarnaev, Fuller was an investment adviser to Dresdner Bank, J P Morgan Ltd. in the UK, J P Morgan Securities, and J P Morgan Chase Bank, according to the UK Financial Services Register.

Ruslan Tsarnaev is the vice president for business development and corporate secretary for Big Sky Energy Corporation, headquartered in Calgary, Canada with the headquarters of its Big Sky Group holding company located in Little Rock, Arkansas.

North Carolina court records indicate that the Tsarnaevs were married in North Carolina in 1995, the year Ruslan established the Congress of Chechen International Organizations in Washington, DC and Maryland, and divorced in 1999. The divorce was granted in Orange County, North Carolina.

It is noteworthy that the Washington DC corporate registration agent for the Congress of Chechen International Organizations is Prentice-Hall.

Prentice-Hall is owned by Pearson, the publishing and educational firm based in London that owns the Financial Times and fifty percent of The Economist Group. In 1986, the Economist Group bought the New York-based Business International Corporation (BIC), the CIA front company for which Barack Obama, Jr. served as an employee from 1983 to 1984, and folded it into the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The other uncle of the alleged Boston bombers, Alvi S. Tsaranev of Silver Spring, Maryland, not far from his brother Ruslan’s home, is apparently affiliated with another Chechen exile organization, the United States-Chechen Republic Alliance Inc., with an address of 8920 Walden Road, Silver Spring, Maryland 20901-3823. The address is also that of Alvi S. Tsarnaev. The registered officer for the organization is listed U.S. Internal Revenue Service filings as Lyoma Usmanov. The organization is registered as a charitable organization engaged in «International Economic Development».

In the book, Power and Purpose: U.S. Policy Toward Russia after the Cold War, by James M. Goldgeier and Michael McFaul, the latter the present activist and neo-conservative U.S. ambassador to Russia who has directly intervened in Russian politics to seek the ouster of President Vladimir Putin from power and stir up secessionist, religious, and political extremists throughout the Russian Federation. According to this book, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski was Usmanov’s sponsor in the United States: «Brzezinski helped to establish and finance Chechen representation in the United States headed by Usmanov».

Another U.S.-based group that has championed the Chechen movement, regardless of the presence of terrorist entities, is the American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus (ACPC), formerly known as the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya. The ACPC was founded in 1999 by Freedom House, a Cold War right-wing group that has been financed by the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID-funded groups. The ACPC has defended the political asylum in the U.S. of former Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov, accused of past terrorist links. The ACPC and Freedom House work with the Jamestown Foundation, founded in 1984 by CIA director William Casey, along with high-ranking intelligence defectors from the Soviet Union, Romania, Poland, and Czechoslovakia.

An October 17, 2008 Sensitive cable from the U.S. embassy in Moscow outlines the priorities for USAID and NGOs in their operations in the North Caucasus. The cable states that the North Caucasus Program was active in North Ossetia and Kabardino-Balkaria and was working with local NGOs. The cable states explicitly that USAID’s mission in the North Caucasus was to «advance critical U.S. interests». USAID-specified «hot zones» included Chechnya, Ingushetia, and the Elbruz region of Kabardino-Balkaria. The USAID North Caucasus Program focused on four key regions: Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, and Dagestan, plus Krasnodarsky Krai, Adygea Republic, Karachay-Cherkessia, Stavropolsky Krai, and Kabardino-Balkarskaya Republic.

USAID’s network of NGOs in the region are identified in the cable. They are: International Rescue Committee (IRC), World Vision, Keystone, IREX, Children’s Fund of North Ossetia (CFNO), Russian Microfinance Center, UNICEF, ACDI/VOCA, Southern Regional Resource Center (SRAC), Center for Fiscal Policy (CFP), Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Institute for Urban Economics, «Faith, Hope and Love (FHL), International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), and the Fund for Sustainable Development (FSD). Many of these groups have close links with the CIA and/or Soros, particularly World Vision and IRC.

The interests who are linked to the Boston Marathon and terrorism in Russia run the gamut from Soros-funded NGOs, to CIA front companies and non-official cover (NOC) agents, foreign intelligence services, and Western energy companies.

Syria: the life cycle of civil war-Shelley Deane

Posted by admin On April - 30 - 2013 Comments Off on Syria: the life cycle of civil war-Shelley Deane


A comprehensive understanding of how, why and when opposition groups in civil war engage in civilian governance must have important policy implications for outsiders engaging or toying with engaging in Syria
In the two years since the Syrian ‘Arab Spring’ the international community has paid lip service to the Syrian predicament. Syria’s ‘stasis’, the Greek for civil strife or civil war defined first by Thucydides in the History of the Peloponnesian War, follows the unique chronology of an evolving revolution-to-civil-war-conflict transition and the uniform trajectory of political rhetoric, fighting over resources, sectarianism and strategic logic.

Syria’s stasis
From its inception, the life of Syria’s crisis since the uprising is characteristic of civil wars, defined as an internal war within state borders, often with the participation of external actors. Syria’s Arab Spring began with a challenge to the incumbent regime’s monopoly of violence and power. Syrian citizens protested, challenging the status quo, to create change from within. Initially, the Assad regime was met with anti-regime graffiti, and responded with the long arm of the state, arresting the perpetrators and punishing them without due process. A peaceful protest march against the arrests was subsequently met with military force. The protests escalated, and repression in turn was countered with revolt. The state ruptured. The regime proposed partial reform. Protagonists persevered; ideological positions became entrenched and readily articulated. At this stage, the state had a choice, to initiate substantive reform or to escalate state control. The regime sought to reassert control.

Defections in the security elite indicated a tipping point. In conventional civil war scenarios military defections in sufficient numbers would alter the symmetry of the conflict and the balance of power. Not so in Syria; territory has been lost and retrieved. The balance of capabilities between regime and opposition has continued to shift to and fro, as external actors or third parties engage in their own rivalries, addressing the security dilemma instability posed by support for factions.

Interested powers engaged in co-option, meddling and mending in equal measure. Diverse diasporas began to behave as diasporas often do, re-directing funds ‘home’ to help the uprising, funding factions in favour of the most appealing ‘cause’. The opposition, regime challengers, insurgents, rebels or partisans secured further advances, threatening the regime’s control of topography, the capital and pipelines. Protracted violence escalated the existing security threats and civilian suffering increased, with displaced and refugees (59% of registered refugees are under 18 years old) fleeing the conflict, thereby creating increasingly unstable state borders.

Currently, cross-border contagion undermines neighbouring states, particularly Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, compounding fears of irredentist threats. The opposition groupings have been afforded support, recognition and legitimacy from some external states and delegitimized and banned by others. Competing external support for the opposition groups renders the state and the region increasingly susceptible to prolonged conflict. The regime no longer has the monopoly of territorial control domestically nor the necessity of international legitimacy.

Competition for the monopoly of ideology, however, has become increasingly difficult. For the partisan opposition, new fractures and factions appear. Opposition groups compete with one another, seeking to demonstrate their credibility and outmanoeuvre rivals by exploiting fear. Some remain ferociously committed to the pursuit of absolutist goals (Jabhat Al-Nusra), outbidding rival opposition factions.

Economic insecurity
Economic recession compounds the disruption civil wars have on regional economies. But when conflict fatalities reach a civil war threshold, emphasis is put on violence rather than on the political character of the conflict. In Syria, neighbouring states have begun the hasty renewal of alliances to counter escalating economic insecurity. Addressing the role of Syria as an unpredictable oil and gas corridor, neighbouring states are securing resource access routes and, where possible, war ‘spoils’. Iraq and Jordan have agreed to build a double pipeline (avoiding the Basrah terminal and dependence on Saudi Arabia) to provide Jordan with natural gas. In February, Iran, Iraq and Syria signed a memorandum of understanding for the construction of pipelines through Iraqi territory, delivering Iranian gas from Assalouyeh to Syria. Levant basin gas from Israel’s Tamar field – 9.0 trillion cubic feet (tcf) – is on the verge of extraction, encouraging erstwhile rivals, Israel and Turkey, to collaborate.

States have co-ordinated efforts to counter the contagion effect of the Syrian conflict and the corresponding Hobbesian fears of their neighbours impeding access to the aptly named Leviathan gas field (17.0 tcf). These internal and containment patterns of the Syrian conflict are well-worn civil war mechanisms, charting the politico-religious preferences that polarize states seeking regional religious or other dominance.

Syria’s political instability has morphed from political revolt through predictable waves of systemic internal violence and at great human cost. External observers promptly assigned an exclusively ethno-sectarian label to the forms of civil war violence experienced in Syria. They might have learned something from Thucydides.

In Thucydides’ History fear, honour and profit framed the rationale for the Peloponnesian war. Today, commentators, political scientists and economists argue over whether existential threat, honour or greed is the primary motivator for civil war. Arbitrary distinctions between ‘old’ and ‘new’ civil wars are being made in order to navigate the realities of revolution and civil war, simplifying scenarios to semantics in order to better persuade policy makers.

‘Old’ Cold War-era-style civil wars are deemed to have been motivated by virtue, driven by grievance, politically inspired and shaped by well-defined articulated ideologies of social change, with popular support, often stemming from a breach of the social contract and revolt. ‘Old’ civil wars were usually fought in an organized fashion employing a conventional pattern of symmetric non-conventional systemic violence where protagonists impose unbearable costs on their opponents to ‘win by not losing’. ‘Old’ civil wars were conceived along clear fault lines often constitutional in origin along visible ideological battle frontlines. Conversely, ‘new’ post-Cold War, civil wars are considered to be motivated by vice. ‘New’ resource-based civil wars, are described as criminal enterprises, motivated by predation and profit and often facilitated by ethnic distinction; employing asymmetric non-conventional warfare with limited local support which is, more often than not, coerced. But the reality is different.

Strategic logic
What do we make of Syria’s robust local networks of civil resistance which have sprung up in the form of administrative councils from 2011, adapting an ability to out-administer the incumbent regime, by out-governing the government? Local councils are creating a counter state with a ‘robust’ opposition. A comprehensive understanding of how, why and when opposition groups in civil war engage in civilian governance must have important policy implications for outsiders engaging with Syria. One critical and often overlooked concern is the fate of civilians caught in or attempting to escape the struggle. The creation and institutionalisation of these rule-based administrative and governance arrangements provides valuable insights into the motives of the opposition factions.

Providing shadow governance structures, especially where local councils involve the encouragement of voluntary participation (rather than through recruitment or ‘conscription’) indicates a future capacity to out-administer the incumbent central government. A review of resilient Syrian opposition groups or shadow administrations suggests that the nature of governance as well as the nature of warfare and violence is shaping the strategic logic of civil war transitions as a means of significant social change in the Middle East and North Africa.


Britain: The 1970s and the movement for workers’ control-Andrew Coates

Posted by admin On April - 30 - 2013 Comments Off on Britain: The 1970s and the movement for workers’ control-Andrew Coates


Trade unions have historically bargained for better terms for the sale of labour power; they have not been able to challenge the existence of the labour market itself. Today, however, the relation between “political” and “economic” struggle have changed.” — Perry Anderson. “The Limits and Possibilities”, in The Incompatibles: Trade Union Militancy and the Consensus,1967.

Perry Anderson was writing about incomes policies. Attempts to impose, or reach by union consent, agreements about pay levels would be made by successive governments, Conservative Party or Labour Party, right until Margaret Thatcher’s victory in 1979. That is, pay disputes became political because the cabinet and the state were involved.

These, as is well-known, featured prominently during the decade. The unions’ efforts to defend and increase their members’ salaries, from the late sixties “wage drift” to the need to adjust to inflation, led to countless disputes. Some on the left thought that the resulting “profit squeeze” of the period was a sign of growing working-class strength. Others held them responsible for the country’s (relative) decline.

There is a library of literature on this subject. But Anderson could equally have referred to the way in which the authority of British capitalism was challenged from the inside. That is through demands and efforts to make real workers’ power within companies. This movement had an influential and coherent voice.

The Institute for Workers’ Control was formed in 1968, with the support of Hugh Scanlon of the Engineering union (AEU) and Jack Jones of the Transport and General Workers’ Union (T&G). It was influential (though never dominant) within the Labour Party and the wider left. The Institute’s conferences debated a broad range of proposals to introduce industrial democracy. Above all, management’s right to manage was disputed.

In the wake of Thatcher’s death her supporters have shouted loudly about the role of the trade unions in the 1970s. They state that organised labour had undue influence over the Harold Wilson and James Callaghan Labour cabinets (1974-1979), that they pressured them to shore up unprofitable industries, that they stifled enterprise. It was common to talk about “corporatism”, the way in which efforts were made to draw unions, employers and the state together formally through bodies such as the National Enterprise Board (NEB).

The media has given ample publicity to those who claim that Thatcher freed them from union-backed state regulation. That an open market enabled them to succeed. That they took responsibility for their own fate and succeeded. Everybody should be like me – look at my wad! – is the boast.

Perhaps instead of pointing to the delusions of those who think so highly of their own talents, or to the victims of the same market process, we should consider the forward-looking ideas of the 1970s left. Indeed, with its grassroots democratic hopes, it might be better to look at this not so distant past, before going further back to the 1945 Labour government.

An offensive movement

The Institute for Workers’ Control was not a defensive but an offensive movement. It asked the simple question: if democracy is such a good thing for politics, why is it not the rule at work? If individual responsibility is to be forced down people’s throats (as is now happening again under “welfare reform”), what is wrong with people taking responsibility for the companies that employ them? Karl Marx described the way in which in the market we are “free”, the “very Eden of the innate rights of man”? But at the same time, within production, factory, office or shop, there is a sign “No admittance except on business” (page 280. Capital Vol. 1, Penguin edition). In this respect have we not gone beyond the 19th century?

Workers’ Control: Another World is Possible by Ken Coates (2003) offers valuable material from the Institute for Workers’ Control (which dissolved in the 1980s). Ken Coates’ article, “Democracy and Workers’ Control” (published in Towards Socialism, eds Perry Anderson, Robin Blackburn, 1965) describes the “antithetical natures of private property and democracy”. He criticised “paternalistic Fabianism”, that is the nationalised industries run by civil servants.
Coates talked of “humanising labour” through democratically run enterprises, of “self-management” within a wider system of democratic planning. With an eye to the influence of bottom-up power through shop stewards, he outlines problems reconciling unions, producers, consumers and the general interest. These difficulties were themselves debated during the 1920s, between the Fabians and the forerunners of workers’ control, such as G.D.H. Cole. But Coates’ piece remains fundamentally optimistic about the future.

In 1971 there was the famous Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS) “work in”. For a while the industry was sustained with state support. Shipyards were nationalised when Harold Wilson came to power in 1974. Throughout the 1970s there were other occupations. Coates states that between July and March 1974 there were 102 occupations, largely in defence of employment. In 1974 Tony Benn became secretary of state of industry. The Norton Villiers Triumph factory at Meriden received assistance, as did others. Workers’ cooperatives were set up at Meridan and the Scottish Daily News. The reformed Kirkby Manufacturing and Engineering Company received aid directly from the state.

All these efforts were criticised on the extra-parliamentary left. Arthur Scargill advocated “collective bargaining” rather than control as the pivotal means for unions to exercise democratic power. Coates nevertheless defended not only plans for workers’ control in general but the co-ops in particular. For him they were something that could help political pluralism in a socialist society. Coates observed that, “unless autonomous groups are able to defend their interests against the wider collective if necessary, the democratic process becomes a purely ideal one, with no material foundation”.

Any hopes by the Institute of Workers’ Control that the Labour government would introduce other, more general, measures favourable to self-management were dashed with the Bullock Report (1976). This Inquiry into industrial democracy recommend creating company boards composed of equal numbers of worker-directors and shareholder representatives mediated by a third group of “mutually agreeable technical appointments”. It remained a dead letter.

Coates did however note that without a “wholesale breakthrough in the struggle for democracy” these experiments would remain isolated, ruled by normal market forces. It is, in retrospect, easy to say that promoting a restructured company in a market that has already squeezed them out was not a way to pick “winners”. The same would hold for legislation, even as weak as Bullock’s propositions. There were no widespread factory occupations, demonstrations or public agitation for industrial democracy.

No divine right to own

The movement for workers’ control caused great offence. It dared to say that there was no divine right to own and to manage, to hold onto companies and to order people about. Resistance was strong, not least from the Conservative Party and large parts of the media which were beside themselves with hatred and venom against “Bennery”. The prospect of a socialist left winning power, of genuine trade union power, was met by hysterical attacks on “militants”. Individuals were singled out and stalked by the press. This laid the template for later attacks on “loony left” municipal councils during he 1980s.

These attacks provided a useful pretext for the government to ignore any left-wing and radical trade union ideas, even if they were reflected in the Labour Party’s Manifesto. The Lucas Aerospace workers, who proposed to convert their company to “socially useful production”, received “passive resistance” from the Wilson government after 1975. The National Enterprise Board, which attempted to introduce planning agreements across the whole of industry, became a straight-forward prop for companies requiring aid, rather than a source of innovation, let alone workers’ control.

The report by Coventry, Liverpool, Newcastle and Tyneside Trades Council, State Intervention in Industry (1980), contains this balance sheet:

Workers in the newly nationalised shipyards and in the two co-operatives met a similar fate to workers in the NEB controlled companies: no control over the major decisions concerning their future, such control being blocked by the civil service, the government and/or the pressures of collapsing markets; no consideration of the social costs of job loss, other than in terms of financial compensation; and no questioning of the purpose of the product or to whom it is sold (a point raised very strongly by workers in Rolls-Royce, until recently an NEB controlled company.

The Alternative Economic Strategy (AES) emerged as the left’s energies were concentrated on recovering the Labour Party from the Wilson and Callaghan leaderships. This is not the place for a full discussion of the AES. But it is important to note that it focused on making the “planning agreements” real (compulsory if need be). Workers’ democracy (expanded over the years into the ‘community’) formed part of the strategy.

In 1979 there was an “explosive rebellion of low-paid workers”. “Strong inflationary pressures, combined with a rigorous freeze on all but minimum wage settlements, were reducing the standards of the poorest workers. Labour votes were thus being lost, first among the most, and them among the least skilled parts of the working population the best and worst paid employees.” Thatcher won the general election.

Workers’ Control describes the smaller-scale local government support for self-management and cooperative enterprises in the early 1980s. But these too went under in the “blizzard” that followed. By the mid-1990s the Labour Party had dropped Clause Four [the socialist objective], which for Ken Coates and many other socialists, was, among other things, a recognition of the importance of industrial democracy.

A legacy to revive

During the 1980s much of the British left lost interest in workers’ control. It preferred self-organisation in “civil society”. The AES, like its 1970s French counterpart, promoted by the Parti Socialiste current, CERES, relied on a combination of the state and grassroots activity. In France autogestion (self-management) could be interpreted in two different ways. Either as, for CERES of that time, a form of industrial democracy, helped by nationalisation or a collection of pluralist social initiatives outside the public administration, helped by regulation.In elaborating the latter Michel Rocard declared that the state had no role as a “producer”. (Les socialistes français et le Pouvoir, Alain Bergounioux, Gérard Grunberg, 2005). One could say that he cast doubt on any form of nationalisation or social ownership.

In 1981 the Socialist Party’s Projet Socialiste had contained the CERES ideas. The victorious left government introduced legislation giving workers increased rights in companies (Lois Auroux). But even during the period of alliance (1981-1984) with the Parti Communiste Français (Union de la Gauche) these were little more than a weaker version of Bullock. By the end of Mitterrand’s presidency the tide had shifted in favour of Rocard’s ideas. He himself became prime minister in May 1988 (until May 1991) to run up against the strong opposition of public employees, and his own party. This resistance, nevertheless, did not stem the tide. The Socialist Party has yet to return to a program for greater social ownership under workers’ self-management.

As the 1980s wore on it would become apparent that the Labour Party, in very different conditions, was drifting nevertheless in a similar doctrinal direction to Rocard. The way was prepared for the “Third Way”. The only remnant of the movement for workers’ control in the official Labour Party was a vague commitment to “social partnership’ – a dose of employee participation.

Today the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats intend to strip even the directly public funded sphere of democratic control. State functions are being hived off to private companies, only tenuously accountable to democratic control. In the expanded private sector fear and management control go together.

It is true that a major fight, over plans to punish the poor and put them under the responsibility of private companies and the (remaining) state, has changed the focus of the left. But we need something positive to aspire to, to combat the hatred and despair the Liberal-Conservative coalition government promotes. Perhaps the time has come to develop a new program of workers’ control, to challenge the idea that democracy ends the moment you enter the workplace.

Not perhaps… the time has come!


Memories of the Afro-Caribbean Left-Paul Buhle

Posted by admin On April - 30 - 2013 Comments Off on Memories of the Afro-Caribbean Left-Paul Buhle


Clairmont Chung, editor, Walter A. Rodney: A Promise of Revolution (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2012), 117 pages, $17.95, paperback.The name “Walter Rodney” has receded from public memory in the last few decades. Only yesterday, it seems to this reviewer, Rodney was the most promising young political scholar of Afro-Caribbean origin, influential from parts of Africa to Britain and North America, not to mention his home Guyana, as well as Jamaica, Trinidad, and other anglophone islands. He was revered: great things were expected of him, as great things were expected of the new phase of regional history in which independence had been achieved and masses mobilized for real change.

The promising youngster and student leader at the University College of the West Indies took a PhD in London in 1963 and joined a study group with C.L.R. James. These two events proved equally decisive. Teaching first in Africa and then Jamaica, he wrote a distinguished history of slavery while penning a powerful pamphlet setting black power in a Caribbean context. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, his most widely read work, answered the “Development” theory then popular with liberal anti-communist thinkers. Always controversial, he returned to his homeland to organize against the dictatorship of Forbes Burnham, and was assassinated in 1980, doubtless by Burnham’s forces and probably with the assistance of the CIA. The Working People’s Alliance, seeking democratic change by building solidarity among the East Indian and Afro-Caribbean populations, is in a sense a monument to his memory.

Rodney has been largely forgotten outside the region (and perhaps by the next generation inside it) because change, in any meaningful way, did not come. Instead, neocolonialism has so penetrated the region, exaggerated by global commerce in every sense, that the long hoped-for federation of islands seems almost to have been a mirage. They were mainly handed over from the British to the Americans, by way of overpowering influences, economics to culture, if not formal governance. The socialist parliamentarism of the Michael Manley government in Jamaica is as long gone as the reggae utopianism of Bob Marley. These societies have not thrived, and have only been saved from worse decay partly by tourism, but mainly by remissions—money sent home by emigrants moving to New York, Boston, Toronto, and elsewhere.

To observe this backward movement is painful and necessary. Hope is not absent because progressives continue to strive, reformers of a wide variety of types and agencies struggle for small improvements, and the centuries of folk life remain part memory, part living culture with a potential damaged but not eradicated. Recovering Walter Rodney is one of the tasks obligatory for clearheaded reconsiderations.

This book is an oral history, or rather a series of oral histories conducted by the editor, who was born in Guyana, arrived in New York in 1979, and since became a filmmaker, scholar, and teacher. Like any well-conducted oral history, it deals heavily in “orality,” that is, memories in the eyes of the beholders. These are highly subjective and they need to be taken with their own weight, not historical accounts so much as personal accounts of engagements, brief or extended, with Rodney. It would have been a better book, I think, with a more extended introduction, exploring the strengths and weaknesses of this orality as well as offering an assessment of scholarship about Rodney. Detailed footnotes do provide annotations of the major personalities and events that otherwise seem to go by rather too quickly for a full understanding.

Still, there are riches here. For instance, Dr. Brenda Do Harris, a Guyanese feminist, recalls her political life in Guyana, “riddled with guilt about leaving because there were others who stayed.” She claims no political intimacy with Walter. She knew him only as a teacher who explained politics in a way “always gentle and loving” to her as a young person. Now, so many years later, she fears that the grand visions of the days with Rodney may never return. Robert Hill, a political counterpart from Jamaica and comrade with Rodney, acutely describes encounters in the Caribbean and the United States. Other writers, not famous at all, recall Rodney’s intellect, influence, and aura, but mainly his political activities and his deep sincerity, his ability to bring people together from Tanzania to Guyana, and give them confidence in themselves to change history. In doing so, he gave them ways to understand that they could and would change themselves as well. Amiri Baraka and editor Clairmont Chung himself provide for us memories of Rodney’s influence within the United States. Issa G. Shivji recalls Rodney’s work in Tanzania and Rupert Roopnaraine observes in passing Rodney’s impact and efforts in Zimbabwe and Suriname, before going on to the Guyanese circumstances of Rodney’s return and his building of the WPA.

Could Pan-Africanism have gone further, achieved its aims, and protected itself from being swatted down by the forces of repression? Were savants like C.L.R. James and Rodney too optimistic in their assessment of the situation? These questions hang in the air, as they must. What we know is that after Rodney’s assassination and the U.S. invasion of Grenada, an era had truly come to an end.

Let me close, on a personal note, that no one would have been more pleased at this volume than the late Tim Hector. A disciple of C.L.R. James but from the same generation as Rodney, Hector (on his return from graduate education in Canada) was a homebody to his native Antigua in the late 1960s. There, he worked on a series of left-wing weekly newspapers culminating in Outlet, published until shortly after his death in 2002. Read from the anglophone islands to the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, Outlet might properly be called a “James-Rodney” journal because the two of them were quoted, pointed toward as regional exemplars, so often. Hector wrote on Rodney’s death that while James had warned the activist from returning to a dangerous Guyana, Hector himself had urged the return—and later felt extreme remorse at having done so. Arrested repeatedly, his printing press destroyed twice by the authorities, his wife Arah Hector murdered, Hector was no stranger to repression. But in his mind, Rodney had been the generational greatest, and could not be replaced.
Paul Buhle is the author of C.L.R. James: The Artist as Revolutionary and Tim Hector, Caribbean Radical.’

The story of Mark Zborowski: Stalin’s spy in the Fourth International

Posted by admin On April - 28 - 2013 Comments Off on The story of Mark Zborowski: Stalin’s spy in the Fourth International
By International Committee of the Fourth International
17 November 2011

Mark Zborowski was the most notorious and deadly agent of the Soviet secret police (the GPU) inside the Trotskyist movement in the 1930s. He played a central role in setting up leading members of the Fourth International, including Trotsky’s son, Leon Sedov, for assassination. Zborowski survived his victims by many decades. Arriving in the United States in 1941, he made the transition from Stalin’s leading anti-Trotskyist agent to a highly successful academic in prestigious American universities. Zborowski’s eventual exposure as a Stalinist agent in the 1950s only temporarily derailed his academic career. But in 1975, as a result of the International Committee of the Fourth International’s investigation into the events leading up to the assassination of Trotsky in 1940, Zborowski’s crimes were brought to public attention. The GPU assassin was photographed in August 1975 in San Francisco outside his home by David North, a leading member of the Workers League (predecessor of the Socialist Equality Party). During the decade that followed, the International Committee’s investigation into the crimes of the GPU against the Trotskyist movement—whose findings were published under the title “Security and the Fourth International”—produced a wealth of new information about Zborowski’s activities.

In June 1990, two months after Zborowski’s death, the International Committee published an obituary which reviewed the murderous career of this Stalinist agent. This obituary is republished below.

* * *

On April 30, 1990, the notorious Stalinist police agent Mark Zborowski, known as “Etienne,” died of heart disease in San Francisco’s Mount Zion Hospital at the age of 82. During the 1930s, the activities of Zborowski led directly to the murders of at least four leading figures in the Fourth International, including the eldest son of Leon Trotsky, Leon Sedov. The information provided by Zborowski to the GPU, as the Stalinist secret police was then known, contributed to the assassination of Leon Trotsky 50 years ago, on August 20, 1940.

Zborowski was never punished for his crimes against the working class. Even after his exposure as a GPU agent, the US government treated Zborowski with kid gloves. This was hardly surprising, for the victims of Zborowski’s crimes were the most irreconcilable enemies of capitalism. Thus, after Zborowski’s initial legal problems were ironed out, the US government provided Zborowski with a prestigious academic post from which he derived a comfortable income. He spent the final decades of his life in a fashionable section of San Francisco.

Nevertheless, even if Zborowski escaped physical retribution for his vile activities, his fate is a wretched one. He will be remembered only as an example of the dregs of humanity—the informer who served the counterrevolution for money.

Leon Sedov with Trotsky in Barbizon, France
in 1933

Zborowski was a key operative within the vast network of GPU agents which spearheaded the destruction of the leadership of the Marxist opposition to the totalitarian dictatorship of the Stalinist bureaucracy. When the Trotskyist movement was headquartered in Paris during the crucial years leading to the founding of the Fourth International in September 1938, Zborowski wormed his way into the confidence of Trotsky’s son and most important political collaborator, Leon Sedov. His reports were so important that Stalin reviewed them personally. Zborowski’s information and inside maneuvering were indispensable in setting up the GPU assassinations of leading Trotskyists, including Erwin Wolf and Rudolf Klement, GPU defector Ignace Reiss, Leon Sedov and, ultimately, Trotsky himself.

The brutal assassinations of the leaders of the Fourth International by the GPU in Europe and Mexico were the climax of the physical liquidation of all of Lenin’s and Trotsky’s closest collaborators during the infamous Moscow Trials and the purges which followed. Beginning in 1936, Old Bolsheviks such as Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, Radek, Sokolnikov and Rykov, to name but a few, were framed as fascist “spies and wreckers,” compelled to make false confessions that they had worked for decades as agents of imperialism, and then executed. The Moscow Trials and the assassination of Trotskyists by the GPU marked the culmination of the drive by the Stalinist bureaucracy to liquidate the Bolshevik Party and its leadership.

Mark Zborowski and Ramon Mercader, the assassin of Trotsky, were the embodiment of this murderous counterrevolutionary role of Stalinism: one the professional spy and informer, who arranged the murder of his closest associates; the other the cold-blooded assassin, who plunged an ice pick into the brain of the greatest revolutionary Marxist of the twentieth century.

At a time when the disintegration of the Stalinist bureaucracies in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and China is trumpeted by the world bourgeoisie as proof of the “failure of Marxism,” it is vital to recall the actual historical role of the parasitic bureaucracy which usurped power from the Soviet working class after the October Revolution. Stalinism is not Marxism, but its most vicious enemy. The Stalinist bureaucracy cemented its rule in the Soviet Union through the most massive extermination of Marxists and genuine communists ever carried out in history.

As the representatives of imperialism noted with satisfaction at the time, Stalin killed more communists than Hitler and Mussolini combined.

These crimes had a double significance for the international working class. The murder of millions of Old Bolsheviks, the entire revolutionary generation which had prepared and led the October Revolution and fought the Civil War, beheaded the Soviet working class and robbed the international proletariat of its most experienced and farsighted cadres. At the same time, the propaganda machine of the Kremlin incessantly proclaimed that the purges were carried out in the interests of socialism. This grotesque lie—equating Marxism with mass terror against the working class—defiled socialism and did enormous damage to the class consciousness of millions of workers.

The Stalinist chieftains of today—Gorbachev, Yeltsin and their equivalents throughout Eastern Europe, who are all the heirs of the bloody work of Stalin and the GPU—seek to complete the counterrevolutionary work which was begun by the parasitic bureaucracy in the 1920s and 1930s. They are smashing whatever remains of the conquests of the October Revolution and the extension of planned and nationalized economics into Eastern Europe, and restoring capitalist property relations and capitalist exploitation of the Soviet and East European working class.

Fifty years ago the bureaucracy defended its mass murder of Bolsheviks, culminating in the assassination of Trotsky, by claiming that its revolutionary opponents were undermining socialism. Now the bureaucracy has dropped any pretense of defending socialism, and comes forward openly as the spearhead of capitalist counterrevolution inside the USSR. It seeks to provide a secure anchor for its privileged position by transforming itself into a comprador capitalist class operating as the agency of world imperialism inside the Soviet Union.

The pressures of world imperialism on the first workers’ state—manifested in the encirclement of the USSR, the backwardness of the Soviet economy which had been devastated by three years of civil war, and the defeats of the working class in Europe during the early 1920s—created the material conditions for the growth of bureaucracy in the Soviet Union.

Despite the nationalization of the productive forces, the Soviet Union remained a land of “generalized want,” generating the growth of bureaucracy as the “policeman of inequality.” Stalin rose to power as the representative of the Thermidorian reaction against 1917 and the historical demands of the world revolution, which conflicted with the increasingly narrow caste interests of a bureaucracy preoccupied with assuring for itself the lion’s share of the national wealth. The slogan of “socialism in one country,” the ideological essence of Stalinism, expressed the growing recognition by the bureaucracy in the party and state apparatus that its material interests were distinct from and hostile to those of the Soviet and international working class. As Trotsky explained, gathered beneath the official Stalinist slogan of “socialism in one country” were all those who were thinking: “Not everything for the world revolution… why not something for me too?”

The Left Opposition was formed in 1923 under the leadership of Trotsky to counter the growth of bureaucratism within the party. As the huge bureaucratic state apparatus was the product of objective economic problems within the USSR created by world imperialism, it was through this apparatus that the pressures of world imperialism were transmitted into the Bolshevik Party. The degeneration of a large section of the leadership of the Bolshevik Party was the product of this pressure.

While fighting for a correct policy within the USSR to develop its industrial base and prepare the foundations for economic planning, Trotsky recognized that the objective conditions which had given rise to bureaucracy and the related problem of the political degeneration of the Bolshevik Party could only be successfully resolved at the level of the international class struggle. The prolonged isolation of the USSR, the often-frustrated hopes for direct material assistance from the workers of Western Europe, the terrible hardships endured for so many years: all these elements combined to produce a mood of discouragement which aided the bureaucracy as it usurped political power from the Soviet working class. Trotsky understood that it would require the victory of the working class in Asia and Western Europe to rekindle the smoldering fires of Bolshevism in the consciousness of the Russian proletariat.

But it was precisely against the international struggles of the working class and the oppressed masses that the Stalinist faction delivered the worst blows. Its policy of bureaucratic centrism produced defeats in Britain (1926) and China (1927). These defeats, in turn, accelerated the process of degeneration of the Bolshevik Party. The Left Opposition was proscribed and its leaders expelled from the Communist Party in 1927, after the defeat of the Chinese Revolution (due to Stalin’s policy of subordinating the Chinese Communist Party to the bourgeois Kuomintang) dashed the hopes of the Soviet working class in a new revolutionary dawn in the East. Trotsky was expelled from the party and banished to the steppes of Central Asia, where he spent more than a year in exile in Alma Ata, and then, in 1929, was exiled from the Soviet Union altogether. He lived in Turkey, France, Norway and, finally, Mexico, the only country on the planet which would grant him political asylum.

Trotsky in his study at Coyocan, Mexico

Despite unimaginable personal and political hardships, including the disappearances and murders of virtually all of his family and his political co-thinkers inside the USSR, Trotsky continued tirelessly to expose the counterrevolutionary Stalinist bureaucracy and to build the political and organizational foundations for its revolutionary overthrow by the working class.

In the first years of exile, Trotsky fought for the reform of the Communist Party and the Third International, maintaining that these could be regenerated if the Stalinist faction was defeated and driven out. At the center of this was the fight to mobilize the unified strength of the German working class in a revolutionary struggle to smash the growing threat of Hitlerite fascism and take power. Trotsky was convinced that the victory of the socialist revolution in Germany would transform the position of the proletariat on a world scale, not least of all because it would decisively end the isolation of the Soviet regime, provide vast material resources for the economic development of the USSR and create conditions for the rapid liquidation of the bureaucratic deformities. The combination of a triumphant proletarian revolution in Germany and a resurgent Soviet Union would, Trotsky believed, transform socialism into an irresistible force. Thus, he referred to Germany as “the key to the international situation.”

But the Kremlin bureaucracy’s policies systematically destroyed the prospects of a victory in Germany. The ultra-left line of the “Third Period” proclaimed by Stalin following the Sixth Congress of the Comintern in 1928 (initially with the support of Bukharin) repudiated the strategy and tactics developed by the first four congresses of the Communist International under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky.

As the Stalinists implemented the brutal and disastrous adventurism of the collectivization policy within the USSR, they imposed upon the sections of the Comintern a line which decreed that revolutionary policies were incompatible with any form of political collaboration with the mass social democratic parties, even in the interests of mutual defense against the bourgeois state and fascism. According to Stalin, social democracy was merely the left wing of the bourgeois state and therefore (!) the “twin” of fascism. In Germany, the impact of this line was catastrophic. Despite the ever-greater threat of fascism, the Stalinists opposed any form of united front action by the combined forces of the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party against Hitler. Rather, the Stalinists went so far as to claim that the victory of Hitler was a lesser evil than collaboration with the “social fascists,” because, according to the Kremlin theoreticians, a Nazi regime would quickly collapse and then the path would be clear for the victory of the Communist Party.

Trotsky fought with all his might against this insane and defeatist policy. From his exile in faraway Prinkipo, he analyzed the ruinous implications of the Stalinist line and appealed for the immediate formation of a united front of all working class organizations in Germany against the fascist threat. He explained that the Stalinist line played into the hands of the Social Democratic leaders, for it deprived the communist workers of a tactic which would demonstrate to the millions of workers who remained inside the reformist organizations that their leaders had no intention of fighting fascism. Works of unparalleled polemical brilliance flowed from Trotsky’s pen and his writings were widely circulated throughout Germany by the cadre of the Left Opposition. But it was not possible to change the line of the Communist Party. On January 30, 1933, Hitler came to power without a shot being fired and the international working class suffered the greatest defeat in its history.

The defeat of the German proletariat completed the transformation of the bureaucracy into a counterrevolutionary force within the USSR and international workers’ movement. After the Stalinized Comintern issued a statement proclaiming that the policies pursued by the German Communist Party had been entirely correct, Trotsky issued the call for the formation of a Fourth International. He explained that it was impossible to reform a party which congratulated itself on policies which had led to an unprecedented political disaster. For the next five years, Trotsky labored to organize and educate a new international revolutionary cadre.

In the wake of the German catastrophe, which had brought to power a regime which proclaimed as its chief goal the destruction of the USSR, the Stalinist bureaucracy concluded that the defense of its material interests within the Soviet Union required the formation of political alliances with the “democratic” imperialist powers. These alliances were to be secured by utilizing the labor movements outside the USSR as “bargaining chips” in reactionary Soviet diplomacy. The Stalinist parties were directed by the Kremlin to subordinate the interests of the working class within their countries to the needs of the Kremlin’s foreign policy. The Stalinist parties were not to mobilize the working class to overthrow the national bourgeoisie, but to ally themselves with those “democratic” bourgeois parties which were willing to sign treaties with the Soviet bureaucracy. This reactionary line, which betrayed every principle of Marxism, was concretized in the policy of “popular frontism.”

Stalin’s pursuit of diplomatic alliances with imperialism required the eradication of every surviving trace of Bolshevism within the Soviet Union. The Moscow Trials and the blood purges were carried out by the bureaucracy to terrorize the Russian proletariat, eradicate the revolutionary traditions of Lenin and Trotsky within the USSR, and assure world imperialism that Stalinism had broken all connections with Bolshevism and its program of international socialist revolution. The representatives of imperialist democracy, in their turn, hailed the Moscow Trials as models of judicial fairness: what could be more “democratic” than the systematic extermination of the flower of Bolshevism!

The foreign policy of the Soviet Union, determined by the objective interests of the bureaucracy as a privileged caste, was transformed by Stalinism into the defense of the international imperialist status quo. The immediate consequence of the popular front was the bloodbath in Spain, where the Stalinists suppressed the revolutionary uprising of the workers in Catalonia and GPU agents established prison camps and torture chambers to destroy all revolutionary working class leadership. Stalin delivered the Spanish proletariat to three decades of fascism in order to curry favor with British and French imperialism.

Trotsky’s analysis of the Soviet bureaucracy as, in essence, a counterrevolutionary agency of imperialism within the international workers’ movement, was the point of departure in his struggle against Stalinism. In his monumental work of Marxist analysis of the degeneration of the Soviet Union, The Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky warned that either the working class would overthrow the bureaucracy in a political revolution, returning the Soviet Union to the road of world socialist revolution, or the bureaucracy would overthrow the property relations and planned economy created by the October Revolution, restore capitalism and transform itself into a new possessing class.

The founding of the Fourth International in 1938 was the political expression of the irreconcilable social antagonism between the parasitic bureaucratic caste and the Soviet proletariat, between the needs of the planned Soviet economy and the corrupt privileges embezzled by the bureaucracy, between international “permanent revolution” and “socialism and one country.” Trotsky summoned the Soviet masses to political revolution as an essential component of the world socialist revolution.

World imperialism was not indifferent to the outcome of the struggle between Trotsky and Stalin. It unerringly identified Stalin as the representative of a conservative tendency within the USSR. In Trotsky and the Left Opposition, it recognized an implacable enemy. In the late 1920s, one leading British Tory—the political ancestor of Margaret Thatcher—publicly called upon Stalin to place Trotsky and other Left Opposition leaders in front of firing squads. It would not be long before Stalin would adopt this policy.

In December 1929, Jacob Blumkin, a former secretary of Trotsky who had helped edit his writings on the Civil War, How the Revolution Armed, was shot by the GPU. He had been the first Russian supporter of the Left Opposition to visit Trotsky in Turkey, in the summer of that year, and his execution was intended by Stalin as a warning against any contact with the exiled leader. This killing was a milestone in the degeneration of the party regime. For the first time, a Bolshevik had been murdered for opposing the leadership of the party. It was the precursor of the mass killings of 1936-38.

Blumkin was turned over to the GPU by Karl Radek, a former leader of the Left Opposition who capitulated and became an apologist for Stalin. Trotsky wrote bitterly: “The immediate reason for the death of this revolutionist—so exceptional for his devotion and courage—lies in two circumstances: his own idealistic confidence in people and the complete degeneration of the man to whom he turned. It is also possible that Radek himself did not sufficiently appreciate the consequences of his own actions because he, in his turn, idealized—Stalin” (Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1929, Pathfinder Press, p. 412).


In late 1931, the German Stalinist daily, Die Rote Fahne, published a report that an exiled White Guard officer was preparing a terrorist attack against Trotsky. Since this report was not carried in the Soviet press, Trotsky diagnosed it as an attempt by Stalin to escape responsibility before world public opinion for a crime which he had been planning for some time. In a letter to the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, on January 4,1932, he revealed that Stalin had discussed his assassination as long ago as 1924-25, a fact disclosed to him by Zinoviev and Kamenev, who were then Stalin’s allies in the ruling triumvirate. Trotsky wrote:

“Stalin has come to the conclusion that it was a mistake to have exiled Trotsky from the Soviet Union. He had hoped, as is known from his statement in the Politburo at that time—which is on record—that Trotsky, deprived of a ‘secretariat,’ and without resources, would become a helpless victim of the worldwide bureaucratic slander campaign. This apparatus man miscalculated. Contrary to his expectations it turned out that ideas have a power of their own, even without an apparatus and without resources. The Comintern is a grandiose structure that has been left a hollow shell both theoretically and politically. The future of revolutionary Marxism, which is to say of Leninism as well, is inseparably bound up from now on with the international cadres of the Left Opposition. No amount of falsification can change that” (Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1932, pp. 19-20).

At the heart of the preparation of the political revolution lay the struggle to expose the crimes of the GPU before the international workers’ movement. Its crimes were not aberrations of Stalinism, but the inevitable product of the social position of the bureaucracy within the USSR and its objective role as an agency of world imperialism within the working class. Trotsky was particularly vigilant over the attempts of the GPU to infiltrate the sections of the International Left Opposition.

Several GPU agents played prominent roles in the German section of the Left Opposition, where Sedov established international headquarters after Trotsky’s expulsion from the Soviet Union and exile to Prinkipo, Turkey. These included the Lithuanian-born brothers Sobolevicius, known by their party names “Senin” and “Well” and later by their “American” names, Jack Soble and Robert Soblen. Through Sedov, Soble met with Trotsky himself in Prinkipo and, later, Copenhagen. Soble and Soblen revealed themselves as agents when, on the eve of Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933, they broke with the line of the Left Opposition, which sought to forge a united front among all working class parties against the fascists, by publishing the Stalinist program equating the social democrats with fascism.

After the German debacle, Trotsky publicly identified Soble and Soblen as GPU plants. He wrote to the various sections of the Trotskyist movement: “It stands to reason that no agent can destroy a historically progressive tendency embodied in the tradition of revolutionary Marxism. But it would be an unpardonable frivolity to ignore the actions of the Stalinist agents for the introduction of confusion and disintegration as well as direct corruption. We must be attentive and watch out!” (Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1932-33, p. 94).

Trotsky (center) at the Dewey Commission inquiry

After Trotsky’s arrival in Mexico in January 1937, he energetically undertook his own defense against the slanders of the Moscow frame-up trials. A commission under the leadership of the American philosopher and educator John Dewey was convened in the villa of the famous muralist Diego Rivera to review the charges and evidence against Trotsky and his son, Leon Sedov. Rather than simply rest on his impeccable revolutionary credentials, Trotsky answered all the charges and allegations against him and subjected Stalin’s “proof” to a savage critique, exposing it publicly as a flimsy frame-up.

On November 2, 1937, Trotsky issued an open letter to all workers’ organizations. It began: “The world socialist movement is being consumed by a terrible disease. The source of contagion is the Comintern, or to put it more correctly, the GPU, for whom the apparatus of the Comintern serves only as a legal cover. The events of the last few months in Spain have shown what crimes the unbridled and completely degenerate Moscow bureaucracy and its hirelings from among the declassed international scum are capable of. It is not a case of ‘incidental’ murders or ‘incidental’ frame-ups. It is a case of a conspiracy against the world labor movement’’ (Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1937-38, p. 28).

Despite the smallness of its ranks, lack of material resources and isolation, the Trotskyist movement and the brilliant theoretical work of its leader terrified Stalin. The Bulletin of the Opposition maintained a significant clandestine circulation in the Soviet Union, and Trotsky’s views were carefully followed, even by those in Stalin’s entourage. Though incapable in the sphere of Marxist theory himself, Stalin, as a veteran of the pre-revolutionary Bolshevik Party, well understood the power of ideas and the ability of even a small revolutionary cadre to become a decisive force under the right conditions. He was determined to destroy any trace of Marxist opposition to his regime.

Trotsky issued repeated warnings about the murderous activities of the Stalinist GPU, which acted as nothing less than contract killers on behalf of world imperialism. He noted the parallel between the assassinations of Jean Jaurès, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht at the beginning and the end of the First World War and the murder of Rudolf Klement on the eve of the Second. He wrote:

“The work of exterminating the internationalists has already commenced on a world scale prior to the outbreak of the war. Imperialism no longer has to depend on a ‘happy accident.’ In the Stalinist mafia it has a ready-made international agency for the systematic extermination of revolutionists. Jaurès, Liebknecht, Luxemburg enjoyed world fame as socialist leaders. Rudolf Klement was a young and as yet little known revolutionist. Nevertheless, the assassination of Klement because he was the secretary of the Fourth International is of profound symbolic significance. Through its Stalinist gangsters imperialism indicates beforehand from what side mortal danger will threaten it in time of war” (Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1938- 39, pp. 76-77).

The GPU’s efforts to destroy the Marxist opposition to the Stalinist bureaucracy culminated on August 20, 1940, in Coyoacan, Mexico, when Mercader drove an ice pick into the top of Leon Trotsky’s head. This act was the political crime of the century because it deprived the working class of its greatest Marxist leader during the high point of Stalinist counterrevolution.

Trotsky’s assassination was prepared by a network of GPU agents planted in the main centers of the Fourth International. These included Mark Zborowski, working in Paris, where Sedov had moved the center of the International Left Opposition after the Nazi victory in 1933; Sylvia Caldwell, the personal secretary to US Socialist Workers Party leader James P. Cannon, working in the SWP center in New York City; and Joseph Hansen, a personal secretary to Trotsky in Mexico, who returned to the United States after the assassination and remained a prominent leader of the SWP until his death in 1979.

Zborowski was born January 21, 1908, in Uman, Russia, to petty-bourgeois parents. His family emigrated to Poland in 1921. Zborowski obtained a degree from the University of Paris in 1928, attended graduate classes in Rouen, France, studied philosophy at the University of Grenoble, and returned to the University of Paris in 1933, where he obtained his “Licencie es Lettres” in 1937 and “Diplome in Ethnology” in 1938.

The records presently available do not indicate exactly why or when Zborowski began regular GPU activities. There is no question, however, that sometime after his return to Paris in 1933, Zborowski began meeting his GPU contact on a weekly basis, exchanging 200 to 300 francs each time for information on the Parisian Trotskyists. He signed his receipts “Mark” or “Etienne.”

Leon Sedov

By 1935, Zborowski had established relations within the circle of European Trotskyists which included Jean van Heijenoort, a secretary to Trotsky, Henryk Sneevliet, a Dutch Trotskyist, French Trotskyists Raymond Molinier and Pierre Naville, and Jeanne Martin, Leon Sedov’s female companion. Through them, Zborowski eventually met Sedov, and he became one of Sedov’s closest confidants, making his considerable language skills available for the research and publication of the Russian Bulletin of the Left Opposition.

Zborowski worked closely with Lola Dallin, then known as Lola Estrine, a fellow Russian émigré who referred to Zborowski as her “Siamese twin.” Dallin, who died in 1980, has long been suspected of GPU activities, but definitive proof of her role has not yet emerged.

In 1936-37, Sedov saw all those he admired from his days as a youthful revolutionary in the Soviet Union framed up and murdered by the Stalinists. Both his sisters had died, one of tuberculosis, the other of suicide, and his politically inactive brother, an engineer who chose to remain in the USSR, had disappeared without a trace. His parents lived in exile, hounded from country to country, isolated, gagged, and hunted by the GPU. Nevertheless, Sedov worked tirelessly, providing his father with the information needed for The Revolution Betrayed and his other epic works on the crimes and political trajectory of Stalinism, while publishing the Russian Bulletin.

Zborowski kept stirring the pot around Sedov. By subtle actions, he kept factionalism brewing among the European comrades. His role aroused suspicions, and Molinier, Naville and Sneevliet openly began expressing concerns about him. Zborowski set up the theft on November 6, 1936 of a portion of Trotsky’s archives from an apartment on the Rue Michelet in Paris, the quarters of the Nicolaevsky Institute. That was only an omen of far more serious crimes to come.

During July 1937, Erwin Wolf, a leading Trotskyist secretary, was dispatched to Spain in the midst of the civil war to intervene against the popular front tactics of the Stalinists. Zborowski informed the GPU, which intercepted Wolf at the border and murdered him.

Two months later, Ignace Reiss, a high-level GPU agent who had joined the Communist Party when it was still a revolutionary organization, defected. In an open letter to the central committee of the Communist Party of the USSR, he stated: “The working class must defeat Stalin and Stalinism so that the USSR and the international workers’ movement do not succumb to fascism and counterrevolution. This mixture of the worst of opportunism, devoid of principles, and of lies and blood threatens to poison the world and the last forces of the working class.

“What is needed today is a fight without mercy against Stalinism! The class struggle and not the popular front… Down with the lie of socialism in one country! Return to Lenin’s international!” (Elizabeth Poretsky, Our Own People, University of Michigan Press, p. 2).

Reiss contacted the Dutch centrist Henryk Sneevliet, who at that time maintained political relations with the Trotskyist movement. Sneevliet arranged a meeting with Sedov in Reims, France. As a member of the inner circle, Zborowski was one of the few who knew Reiss’s movements. He informed the GPU. On September 4, 1937, Reiss was machine-gunned by GPU thugs outside a train depot near Lausanne, Switzerland, with a ticket to Reims in his pocket.

Elizabeth Poretsky, Reiss’s widow, escaped the GPU and joined the circle of exiles around Sedov, which included Zborowski. In her memoir, Our Own People, she describes how the man who organized her husband’s assassination would conduct himself, posing as Sedov’s devoted follower: “I rather liked Etienne as a person, and was glad to talk with him about events in the Soviet Union; he readily agreed with me about the dreadful things that were happening there. He was a devoted family man, and once or twice brought his child to my place. He obviously adored this little boy and would tell me, in his obsequious, flattering way, that he hoped he would grow up to be like my son” (Ibid., p. 263).

Suspicions of Zborowski mounted. Sneevliet told Elizabeth Poretsky, “There is an agent and it is that little Polish Jew, Etienne… I say and I repeat that this secretary and right-hand man of Sedov’s is a GPU agent.” Pierre Naville was so suspicious of Zborowski that he “made a point of fetching him in a car at the very last minute, so that Etienne never knew in advance where the meeting was being held,” according to Poretsky. Raymond Molinier followed Zborowski, but never caught him with his GPU controller.

In February 1938, Leon Sedov was stricken with intestinal pains. Zborowski made two calls, one for an ambulance, another to the GPU. Zborowski and Lola Estrine arranged for Sedov to be transported to the Clinic Mirabeau in Paris, a facility known as a haven for Russian émigrés and, therefore, GPU agents. Estrine’s sister-in-law, Dr. Fanny Ginsburg, assisted with the operation. After four days of apparent recovery, Sedov suddenly relapsed and died an agonizing death.

There is little doubt that this was a medical murder instigated by the GPU, which was informed of Sedov’s location by Zborowski. Both Jack Soble and Mercader, Trotsky’s assassin, admitted that the GPU murdered Sedov. After he was unmasked, Zborowski said that the death of Sedov “was the happiest day of my life.”

The following July, Rudolf Klement, a Trotskyist secretary who was preparing the founding conference of the Fourth International, disappeared in Paris. His decapitated corpse was retrieved from the Seine river weeks later. Rumors have persisted that Klement was gathering information to expose Zborowski when he disappeared.

Despite the butchering of its leading cadre, the founding conference of the Fourth International was held in Paris during September 1938. Zborowski attended, representing Trotsky and the Russian section in exile, and addressed the convention. It was during this conference that the GPU arranged for a peripheral young American Trotskyist, Sylvia Ageloff, to meet “Jacques Mornard,” one of several aliases used by Mercader, the son of a Spanish GPU agent, who used his relationship with Ageloff to infiltrate the group of Americans around Trotsky.

Zborowski himself was never able to penetrate the Trotsky household in Mexico, in part because further suspicions were raised about his role in an anonymous letter which Trotsky received on January 1, 1939, in Coyoacan. This letter, which gave precise details of the operations of the GPU agent but without giving his full name, was sent by Alexander Orlov, a high-level GPU official who had defected and sought to warn Trotsky about the plans of the Stalinist secret police to assassinate him.

Because of Orlov’s fears for his own security, he did not sign the letter with his real name and presented it as a message from a former sympathizer of Trotsky’s who had discovered the identity of the agent from his conversations with a defecting Red Army general, whom he gave the name Lushkov. Despite the complicated cover story, Orlov’s information was specific and damning. He wrote:

“This agent provocateur had for a long time assisted your son L. Sedov in editing your Russian Bulletin of Opposition, in Paris, and collaborated with him until the very death of Sedov. Lushkov is almost sure that the provocateur’s name is ‘Mark.’ He was literally the shadow of L. Sedov; he informed the Cheka about every step of Sedov, even his activities and personal correspondence with you which the provocateur read with the knowledge of L. Sedov.

“This provocateur wormed himself into the complete confidence of your son and knew as much about the activities of your organization as Sedov himself. Thanks to this provocateur several of the Cheka have received decorations…

“This agent provocateur is about 32-35 years old. He is a Jew, originally from the Russian part of Poland, writes well in Russian… This provocateur wears glasses. He is married and has a baby… Ask your trusted comrades in Paris… to check on his past and to see whom he meets. There is no doubt that before long your comrades will see him meet officers from the Soviet Embassy” (How the GPU Murdered Trotsky, New Park Publications, pp. 100-101).

Orlov concluded by proposing a procedure for confirming that his message had been received: “In order that I may know that you have received this letter I should like you to publish a notice in the newspaper Socialist Appeal in New York that the editorial office has received the letter from Stein; please, have the notice appear in the newspaper for January and February” (Ibid., p. 101).

Marc Zborowski under arrest in the
late 1950s

Trotsky’s response was immediate. He sent a letter to the SWP reading: “Extremely confidential, extremely important, and extremely urgent.—I have received extremely important information from a source that is unidentified but claims to be in contact with senior GPU agents, to the effect that a long-standing collaborator of the Biulleten Oppozitsii is allegedly an agent provocateur: Mark.”

Trotsky instructed the European comrades to form a commission “for the task of shadowing” Zborowski-Etienne. He declared, “If the information is confirmed, the opportunity must be arranged to denounce him to the French police as the robber of the archives under conditions that won’t permit his escape” (Writings of Leon Trotsky, Supplement (1934-1940), Pathfinder Press, 1979, p. 818).

The next day, Trotsky wrote to one of his most trusted comrades in the SWP, John G. Wright: “In the next issue of the Socialist Appeal it is absolutely necessary to publish an announcement on the following order… ‘Letter from STEIN received. We insist upon your meeting an absolutely trustworthy comrade. Address the Socialist Appeal ATTENTION MARTIN.’

“If such a letter is received then you personally should meet the man. The issue can become very important.”

Orlov described the events which followed the letter to Trotsky in his 1957 testimony to a United States congressional subcommittee: “Soon enough, a month later, I received his frantic ad: ‘I insist Mr. Stein, I insist that you go immediately to the editorial offices of the Socialist Appeal and talk to Comrade Martin.’

“I went there without disclosing my identity. I took just a side look at that Martin, and he did not inspire too much confidence in me, so that was all.”

If Orlov suspected that GPU agents were planted inside the headquarters of the SWP, he was correct. The principal office secretary was Sylvia Callen/Franklin/Caldwell (see [1]), who was later exposed as a GPU plant. The extremely cautious Orlov escaped the fate of a second top GPU official who had also defected at about the same time, General Walter Krivitsky. He was murdered in 1941 in his Washington hotel room, undoubtedly silenced by GPU assassins before he could reveal what he knew of Stalin’s crimes.

Trotsky, unaware at that time of the defection of Orlov, believed that Krivitsky was the author of the letter implicating “Etienne,” and he continued his efforts to make contact. The documentary record indicates that Trotsky gave one of his American secretaries, Joseph Hansen, a copy of the partially completed manuscript on the life of Stalin to take back to the United States for use as a credential with the anonymous writer. Despite Trotsky’s almost frantic hope for the success of this mission, Hansen failed to make contact. This probably saved Orlov’s life, since Hansen too was a GPU agent and would have made sure that Orlov suffered the fate of Krivitsky.

One person who jumped to Zborowski’s defense after Orlov’s letter was his coworker and self-styled “Siamese twin,” Lola Estrine. She referred to discussing the Orlov letter with Trotsky during her 1956 testimony before a congressional hearing on the activities of Soviet agents in the United States:

“The first rumor that I heard about it [that Zborowski was an agent], was in the summer of 1939, when I visited Mr. Leon Trotsky in Mexico. He had received an unsigned letter from a man who told him that the closest friend of his son, not mentioning his name, saying only ‘Mark,’ is an agent of the NKVD. The letter was rather unpleasant because it has too many details, and it was stated in the letter, as far as I remember, that, ‘You tell somebody of your friends in Paris to follow the man, and you will see where he reports, with whom he meets, what he is doing.’

“And when Mr. Trotsky showed me this letter and asked my opinion about him, I felt a little bit uncomfortable, because the details were very unpleasant. Too many of them were in the letter. And then I thought it over and I talked it over with him, and I said, ‘That is certainly a definitely dirty job of the NKVD, who wants to deprive you of your few collaborators that you have in France.’

“And, at the same time, he had another letter from another unnamed agent, telling him that a woman, meaning me, is coming to visit him, and will poison him.

“So we both decided, ‘See how they work? They want that you shall break with the only people that are left over in France, Russians, let us say, in France, in Paris.’ And we decided that it isn’t to be taken seriously, but it was a hoax of NKVD” (Scope of Soviet Activity in the United States, US Government Printing Office, 1956, p. 137).

Her interrogator then asked, “And you so advised him?”

Mrs. Dallin replied, “And when I came back to Paris, the first thing I did, I told Mr. Zborowski” (Ibid).

The second letter, to which Estrine refers, was not from another “unnamed agent,” but was again from Orlov, repeating his warning about Zborowski and including the new information that Lola Estrine herself was an agent of the GPU. The existence of the letter is known through various references to it, but its contents have been suppressed by the SWP, which possesses the original.

The growing suspicions, fueled by the Orlov letters, neutralized Zborowski’s activities within the Fourth International, at least while Trotsky was alive. But the main thrust of the GPU conspiracy, the preparation of the physical elimination of Trotsky, continued. On May 24, 1940, a group of Stalinist thugs under the leadership of the Mexican painter David Alfaro Siqueiros were let into the Trotsky compound by a young American guard, Robert Sheldon Harte. Although they blasted Trotsky’s bedroom with automatic weapons and threw incendiary devices, miraculously, Trotsky and his family emerged unscathed. Harte disappeared with the raiders. His body was found one month later.

Trotsky summed up the political lessons of this assassination attempt in his final finished article, the powerful statement published under the title “Stalin Seeks My Death.” He wrote:

“The movement to which I belong is a young movement which arose under unprecedented persecutions on the part of the Moscow oligarchy and its agencies in all countries of the world. Generally speaking, it is hardly possible to find in history another movement which has suffered so many victims in so short a time as has the movement of the Fourth International. My personal and profound conviction is that in our epoch of wars, seizures, rapine, destruction, and all sorts of bestialities, the Fourth International is destined to fulfill a great historical role. But this is the future. In the past it has known only blows and persecutions. No one could have hoped during the last twelve years to make a career with the help of the Fourth International. For this reason the movement was joined by people selfless, convinced, and ready to renounce not only material boons, but if necessary, to sacrifice their lives. Without any desire of falling into idealization, I shall nevertheless permit myself to say that it is hardly possible to find in any other organization such a selection of people devoted to their banner and alien to personal pretensions as in the Fourth International” (Stalin’s Gangsters, New Park Publications, pp. 8-9).

He concluded:

“To justify their persecution of me, and to cover up the assaults of the GPU, the agents of the Kremlin talk about my ‘counterrevolutionary’ tendency. It all depends on what one understands as revolution and counterrevolution. The most powerful force of the counterrevolution in our epoch is imperialism, both in its fascist form as well as in its quasi-democratic cover. Not one of the imperialist countries wishes to permit me inside its territories. As regards the oppressed and semi-independent countries, they refuse to accept me under the pressure of imperialist governments or of the Moscow bureaucracy, which now plays an extremely reactionary role in the entire world. Mexico extended hospitality to me because Mexico is not an imperialist country; and for this reason its government proved to be, as a rare exception, sufficiently independent of external pressure to guide itself in accordance with its own principles. I can therefore state that I live on this earth not in accordance with the rule but as an exception to the rule.

“In a reactionary epoch such as ours, a revolutionist is compelled to swim against the stream. I am doing this to the best of my ability. The pressure of world reaction has expressed itself perhaps most implacably in my personal fate and the fate of those close to me. I do not at all see in this any merit of mine: this is the result of the interlacing of historical circumstances” (Ibid., p. 12).

Trotsky knew that the GPU circle of death was pulling tighter around him, that it was only a matter of time before the conspiracy would achieve its objective. Only days before his death, he told a Mexican journalist, “I will be killed either by one of them in here or by one of my friends from outside, by someone who has access to the house. Because Stalin cannot spare my life.” Trotsky’s prognosis was tragically accurate. On August 20, 1940, Ramon Mercader was admitted to Trotsky’s study, where he plunged an ice pick deep into the great Bolshevik leader’s skull. Trotsky struggled with his assassin, preventing any escape, but soon lapsed into a coma. He died the next day.

Mercader was tried, convicted and served 20 years in a Mexican prison, without ever admitting his role as a GPU assassin. However, the noted Mexican criminologist, Dr. Quiroz-Cuaron, definitively established Mercader’s identity in 1949. As soon as he was released in 1960, Mercader traveled to Cuba, where he was warmly welcomed by Fidel Castro. He continued on to the Soviet Union, where the murderer of Trotsky was decorated as a hero by the Stalinist bureaucracy under Khrushchev. According to press reports, he died in 1978.

Mark Zborowski resumed his career as a GPU spy against the Trotskyist movement, this time in the United States. When the German fascists overran France in June 1940, Zborowski fled to the south of the country, winding up in a Vichy concentration camp. Lola Estrine came to his rescue, traveling to Vichy to arrange Zborowski’s release and his immigration to the United States through Lisbon, Portugal. He arrived in Philadelphia on December 29, 1941.

Zborowski moved to New York and resumed his GPU activities by spying on Trotskyists and other opponents of the Stalinist bureaucracy in New York City. Meetings of the leadership of the Fourth International—which had been forced to move to New York in order to maintain international communications under wartime conditions—were held in Zborowski’s living room, even though Joseph Hansen was familiar with the suspicions raised by the Orlov letter.

Zborowski in 1975 seeking to evade camera

Zborowski worked in the network of anti-Trotskyist agents under the direction of Jack Soble, who had immigrated to the United States, along with his brother Dr. Robert Soblen, to continue working for the GPU. He regularly passed along information gleaned from his discussions with leaders of the Fourth International and his contacts throughout the émigré community in New York City, no doubt aiding the GPU to locate and exterminate members of the Trotskyist underground in Europe.

The real political views of this GPU agent were revealed in one conversation related by the former correspondence secretary of the Fourth International, Jean van Heijenoort, which he recalled took place in 1943 or 1944.

“At the time, the extent of the Russian concentration camps had become known. There were about 20 million people in camps. That had been known for the first time in the whole extent and everybody was thinking seriously about that, and myself, I was revising my ideas about Russia. So I had a discussion with Zborowski about Russia, the Russian state, Stalinists and so forth, and we came to talk about the concentration camps, and the extent to which they are spread over Russia. I mentioned the extent of the concentration camps and what he said at that time was that there were always concentration camps in Russia, so what, it doesn’t change anything. At that time I got quite angry, I broke off the discussion, and that was about the last time I had a serious talk with him” (How the GPU Murdered Trotsky, p. 167).

Meanwhile, Zborowski built up his public career in anthropology at Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cornell Medical College and developed close professional associations with such leading anthropologists as Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead. He held staff positions with the Yiddish Scientific Institute in New York and the American-Jewish Committee and a teaching position at Harvard University. He published a book about growing up in Uman entitled Life Is With People.

Zborowski’s quiet life as a respected anthropologist exploded when Alexander Orlov surfaced, again, after the death of Stalin in 1953, and published his revelations about Stalin’s crimes. In December 1954, Orlov discovered that Zborowski was in the United States, and immediately turned him over to the United States Attorney and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who questioned him repeatedly over the next several years.

Orlov later described Zborowski’s importance in congressional testimony: “He was so highly valued that even Stalin knew about him. His value, as I understood then, was that he would become the organizer of the assassination of Trotsky or Trotsky’s son any time, because in view of the great trust Trotsky and Trotsky’s son had in him, that Mark could always recommend secretaries to Trotsky, guards to Trotsky, and in that way could help to infiltrate an assassin into Trotsky’s household in Mexico.” (Testimony of Alexander Orlov before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and other Internal Security Laws, of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, December 28, 1955, US Government Printing Office, 1962, p. 2).

Orlov’s revelation that Sedov’s right-hand man in Paris, the ever-present Etienne, was a GPU agent caused a far greater reaction from the FBI than the SWP. The FBI questioned Zborowski repeatedly and in 1956 he testified publicly before the Subcommittee on Internal Security of the Senate Judiciary Committee. During this same period, the FBI picked up Soble, the leader of the ring. Twice Zborowski testified before the 1957 United States Grand Jury for the Southern District of New York, which carried out an extensive investigation of GPU activities.

On April 21, 1958, the grand jury indicted Zborowski for perjury for denying under oath that he knew Soble. Zborowski’s arrest was reported on the front page of the New York Times the next day. Zborowski was tried, convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment, the maximum. Both his conviction and sentence were heavily publicized in the bourgeois press. His conviction was subsequently overturned by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, however. Zborowski was tried a second time, convicted again in 1962 and sentenced to three years and eleven months in federal prison. He served only a small portion of the sentence, however; upon his release in 1964, he was permitted to resume his career in anthropology in the San Francisco Bay area.

The fact that Zborowski was allowed to return to a comfortable life as an academic demonstrates how imperialism, despite its squabbles with the Kremlin bureaucracy, appreciated the contribution of GPU agents to its own maintenance of power. Certainly, while slapping Zborowski on the wrists for illegal espionage activity in the United States, the American bourgeoisie was not at all bothered by his role in murdering Trotskyists. Indeed, the liberal intelligentsia—which had in its vast majority endorsed the Moscow Trials and supported Stalin against Trotsky—treated Zborowski with special sympathy. Elizabeth Poretsky, the widow of Ignace Reiss and also an anthropologist who knew Zborowski, wrote about the trial: “Many of Etienne’s fellow anthropologists attended the trial and gathered round him during the recesses, ostentatiously demonstrating their friendship and faith in him. They knew nothing of agents or secret police, or of Soviet political matters; to them a Soviet agent and a perjurer was merely an innocent victim of political persecution. They were determined to apply their methodology of primitive cultures to modern terror, as I realized when a prominent American anthropologist said to me after the trial: ‘In this country we are against human sacrifice’” (Our Own People, p. 274).

Jack Soble pled guilty to espionage charges and spent four years in prison. Dr. Robert Soblen was arrested for espionage on November 29, 1960—by this time, Soble’s brother was a prominent New York psychiatrist. The SWP’s office secretary of the late 1930s and 1940s, Sylvia Franklin, was named on the indictment as one of his co-conspirators. [1] Soblen was convicted of espionage and given a life sentence. He committed suicide on September 6, 1962, in London’s Heathrow Airport while under heavy guard en route to the United States from Israel, where he had fled while on bail.

Though the revelations about Zborowski, Soble and Soblen and their legal travails were widely publicized by the capitalist press, the Socialist Workers Party, which was then in a condition of serious political decline and degeneration, remained strangely silent. Even though the trials of Zborowski and Soblen took place in the United States Courthouse in Foley Square—mere blocks from the SWP’s national headquarters—nothing at all appeared in the SWP’s press about the Soble trial, the Soblen trial or either of Zborowski’s two trials. The only article about Zborowski published at all was a superficial report under Joseph Hansen’s byline which appeared in the April 9, 1956 issue, largely plagiarized from two articles written by David Dallin, the husband of Lola Estrine, for the March 19 and 26, 1956 issues of the magazine The New Leader.

The silence of the SWP—duplicated by the revisionist International Secretariat, headed by Michel Pablo and Ernest Mandel—appeared all the more perplexing because others in the Trotskyist movement were demanding clarification. Most notable was Georges Vereeken, a Belgian revolutionary who knew Zborowski during his Paris days. In his book The GPU in the Trotskyist Movement, Vereeken described the interest aroused by the initial revelations from the congressional hearings.

The French Pabloite Pierre Frank commented, according to Vereeken, “Zborowski has been questioned by a subcommittee of the American Senate. We can’t expect much more about his activity in our ranks to come out from that direction. The American groups … ought to get together on it and try to make this Etienne speak. Unfortunately we get the impression that they are not very keen on the whole business” (Georges Vereeken, The GPU in the Trotskyist Movement, New Park Publications, pp. 4-5).

At a Pabloite congress during April 1964, Vereeken later wrote, he “explained the whole Zborowski affair in detail, as well as the ravages caused by the GPU in our movement. Three times Mandel tried to stop me reading out my statement. But another leading member who had been part of our tendency before and during the war intervened energetically to enable me to read it through to the end” (Ibid., p. 351).

Mandel and Pablo had very definite political considerations for their refusal to engage in the kind of systematic exposure of the crimes of the GPU on which Trotsky had always insisted. [2] They had developed, from 1949 on, a political perspective which held that the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union had demonstrated, through the overturn of capitalist property relations in Eastern Europe, that it could play a revolutionary role. They claimed that Stalin’s death in 1953 had opened the way to a process of “self-reform” of the bureaucracy which made Trotsky’s perspective of the violent overthrow of the Stalinist bureaucracy outdated. The exposure of the bloody work of the Stalinist secret police against the Trotskyist movement—a record covered up then by Khrushchev and still suppressed today by Gorbachev—was politically inconvenient.

Moreover, it is likely that GPU agents, including some of those involved in the GPU network which organized the assassination of Trotsky, were still on active service within the Fourth International. These agents certainly did not want an investigation into the role of Zborowski which could raise uncomfortable questions which might lead to their own exposure.

In 1961, Gerry Healy, the leader of the Socialist Labour League, the British section of the International Committee, wrote to Joseph Hansen about “Etienne,” after reading The Mind of an Assassin, a book on the Trotsky assassination by Isaac Don Levine which summarized part of the Zborowski story. After the Second World War, Healy had met a European Trotskyist who used the name “Etienne.” He wanted to know whether this “Etienne” was the Zborowski to whom the Levine book referred. Moreover, Healy stressed the importance of conducting a full investigation into the role of the GPU inside the Fourth International. Healy wrote, “I think, Joe, we need a full discussion on the whole matter and I will be glad of your observations. Is Levine right on the question of Etienne?

“If he is, then it is necessary for us in the not-too-distant future to have a very real examination of the whole international ramifications of the Trotskyist movement” (The Indictment Stands, Labor Publications, p. 10).

Hansen and his Pabloite allies were not interested in any “very real examination” of the GPU in the Trotskyist movement. Hansen did not explain to Healy that the “Etienne” with whom Healy had worked was an entirely different individual from Mark Zborowski.

Instead, after lamely claiming that the SWP could not cover “Etienne’s” hearings because of “our personnel problem,” Hansen wrote: “One of our primary concerns was not to give the slightest encouragement to the view Levine seeks to implant—that our organizations are loaded with spies. Such a view is deadly poisonous and can do incomparably greater harm than the occasional stool pigeon that turns up in any organization” (Ibid., p. 11).

At its Sixth World Congress in May 1975, the International Committee of the Fourth International launched Security and the Fourth International, the first systematic investigation into the GPU penetration of the Trotskyist movement. All available information on the machinations of the Sobolevicius brothers, Zborowski and Mercader, and the assassinations of Reiss, Wolf, Klement, Sedov and Trotsky was assembled and analyzed.

Mark Zborowski takes a swing at the camera when the
Workers League traced him to his home in San Francisco
in 1975

During August of that year, David North of the Workers League located Zborowski outside his home in the fashionable San Francisco neighborhood where he lived in comfortable semiretirement. North photographed Zborowski with his wife Regina. Zborowski attacked North while Regina threatened, “You can do nothing with these pictures if you know what’s good for you.” [3]

The International Committee published the photographs with documentation of the activities of Zborowski, Jack Soble, Robert Soblen and Mercader in How the GPU Murdered Trotsky and other works of Security and the Fourth International. As a result, cadre and politically advanced workers around the world were educated on the bloody, counterrevolutionary role of Stalinism and the burning necessity for security within the revolutionary movement. The ICFI also reviewed the overwhelming evidence that Cannon’s secretary, Sylvia Franklin, was an agent of the GPU.

The ICFI investigation uncovered documents which showed that Joseph Hansen had maintained previously secret relationships, first with the Stalinist GPU in the period before Trotsky’s assassination, then with the American FBI in the period afterward. [4] These relationships were entered into without the knowledge of the SWP leadership, and culminated in Hansen sending a letter to the State Department seeking the name of a government official “to whom confidential information can be imparted with impunity.” He was referred to the FBI bureau chief in New York City, B.E. Sackett. Just as Zborowski’s reports were reviewed by Stalin, Hansen’s relationship with the FBI received the personal attention of J. Edgar Hoover. Hansen himself labeled the International Committee’s work on Zborowski a “dry well” and defended Sylvia Franklin as an “exemplary comrade.” [5]

Zborowski’s wife warns the photographer, “You
can do nothing with these pictures if you know what’s
good for you!”

Aside from the International Committee, no organization in the world supported the work of Security and the Fourth International or published its findings. Instead, the investigation was denounced by the SWP and its Pabloite revisionist allies, such as Ernest Mandel, around the globe. [6] Their campaign of vilification reached a crescendo in January 1977, when Mandel, George Novack, Tariq Ali and Pierre Lambert joined forces at the notorious London meeting in defense of Hansen, which the ICFI aptly dubbed “The Platform of Shame.”

A statement issued by the International Committee at the time declared, “Those acquainted with the history of the struggle against revisionism will find difficulty in suppressing a spontaneous desire to retch at the temerity of the organizers who defend the criminal activities of the GPU and their accomplices under the banner of a bogus ‘workers democracy’… the exposure of Stalin’s crimes and complicity of the revisionists in the cover-up of these crimes is central to this preparation of a new cadre of revolutionaries. Those who oppose this task in whatever form are serving the interests of counterrevolutionary Stalinism. We have been warned.”

The campaign begun by the ICFI on Security and the Fourth International culminated in the charge that SWP leader Joseph Hansen had deliberately covered up for and protected Stalinist GPU agents. Within a few years, Hansen’s heirs in the SWP leadership would explicitly and publicly vindicate this charge in practice, as they joined forces with the GPU agent Zborowski to prevent him from being compelled to testify about his crimes against the Trotskyist movement.

The International Committee supported a lawsuit brought against the US government and the SWP by a member, Alan Gelfand, who had been expelled from the SWP for raising questions about the role of Sylvia Franklin and Joseph Hansen and demanding that the SWP leadership respond to the documents published by the ICFI. Gelfand charged in his lawsuit that his civil rights had been violated by government agents within the SWP leadership who engineered his expulsion in order to silence him and protect their controlling position in the party.

As part of the lawsuit, Gelfand’s attorneys were able to question various witnesses at sworn depositions. SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes, who had complained about the Workers League’s “harassment” of Franklin, was questioned about the SWP’s attitude to GPU agents:

Q: How do you know that the Workers League has harassed Sylvia Caldwell [Franklin]?

A: I know this movement sent agents to try to get to speak to her—under false pretenses. They tried to get her picture taken, with her hair up, out of her house, and they tried to embarrass her by publishing it in the paper. She is a person who has not been involved in our movement for 30 years or more. She has a right to a normal, private life, as an American citizen, without harassment. She has a right to her privacy. She has no right to have her neighbors and her husband, who have nothing to do with the socialist movement, harassed. Even the fact that she was a member, is her personal right, to not divulge this to the people. It is that type of thing.

Q: Would your opinion change if she was a GPU agent?

A: Even they have the right to individual rights.

Q: Is it your job to protect GPU agents?

A: It is my job to protect the rights of American citizens by fighting and by working through the movement and defending the rights of our party, when they come under attack.

Q: Are the rights of your party coming under attack when investigations are conducted, within the confines of the law, into the activities of the GPU within your movement?

A: When individuals are harassed by organizations whose sole purpose is to harass them, their rights are affected. You referred to Mr. Zborowski earlier. He is a person who stated, under oath, associations with agencies alien to our movement. Even Mr. Zborowski has the same rights as any other citizen in this country” (The Gelfand Case, Labor Publications, pp. 421-22).

The SWP’s defense of the murderer Zborowski took an even more explicit form after Gelfand, on February 18, 1982, served a subpoena on the GPU agent at his Manzanita Avenue home in San Francisco, to compel him to give sworn testimony at deposition. Attorneys for the SWP, who were themselves party members, sought a “protective order” from the court to stop the deposition from going forward. Gelfand successfully defeated the motion.

On April 15, 1982, Zborowski appeared for his deposition at a San Francisco law office accompanied by his attorney. When questioned by Gelfand’s attorneys, Zborowski refused to answer any questions, claiming that to do so would tend to incriminate him and violate his right to privacy. Subsequently, Gelfand’s lawyers brought a motion to compel Zborowski to testify. The SWP s attorneys collaborated with Zborowski, drafting court papers for him to use in resisting Gelfand’s motion to compel his testimony.

Both US Magistrate J. Steele Langford and US District Judge Mariana R. Pfaelzer upheld Zborowski’s refusal to testify, stating that otherwise he might be compelled to reveal the identity of agents within the SWP in violation of the just enacted Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. Thus the SWP helped block the last opportunity the Trotskyist movement would have to compel Zborowski to divulge what he knew about the murder apparatus that martyred its leaders.

This incident revealed the direct connection between the murderous conspiracies of the GPU in the 1930s and the present-day leadership of the SWP. The anti-Trotskyist spy apparatus of the GPU, in which Zborowski played such an important part, was in large part taken over by the intelligence agencies of US imperialism during the late 1940s and 1950s. After the end of World War II and the end of wartime cooperation between the Soviet bureaucracy and American imperialism, the position of the GPU agents operating inside the United States changed. During the war, the United States government did not object to the sabotage carried out by the Stalinists against the Trotskyist movement. After all, the US government had sent the entire leadership of the Trotskyist movement to jail on charges of sedition. However, with the onset of the cold war and the bourgeoisie’s fear that its “atom secrets” were being stolen by the Soviet Union, Washington decided to put the screws on GPU activities in the United States.

The most important GPU spymasters were arrested and their espionage rings were broken up. The lower level operatives were usually given the choice of collaborating with the FBI or going to jail or facing even more dreadful punishment. One of the aims of the Rosenberg frame-up and executions was to convince GPU operatives that they would be well-advised to collaborate. Thus, while the most prominent GPU controllers, such as Zborowski and his cohorts Soble and Soblen, were neutralized with criminal prosecutions and imprisonment, their agents, particularly Joseph Hansen, fell under the jurisdiction of new controllers from the FBI and CIA.

The decision by the capitalist courts to protect the old GPU spy from a subpoena—under terms of a law drafted to protect the identities of US intelligence agents!—serves as a concrete demonstration of the direct collaboration between imperialism and the Stalinist murder machine.

Zborowski was allowed to live out his days with the prestige of an important research position in an upper class section of San Francisco. His benefactors protected him even in his death, as his funeral was allowed to remain private while the capitalist press held up the announcement of his death almost two weeks. This was a man to whom both Stalinism and imperialism gave thanks.

In large part, the crimes of the Stalinist GPU and its agents against the international working class remain concealed and covered up. Gorbachev and the other heirs to Stalin’s murder machine have the evidence. Nothing exposes the political cynicism of Gorbachev’s glasnost more than the fact that the anti-Trotsky files of the GPU-KGB remain closed to this day. The names and methods of those who worked to destroy the international Marxist opposition to Stalinism have still not been exposed.


1. Sylvia Franklin (née Callen), who used the name Caldwell as an SWP member, was the principal secretarial worker in the SWP national office from 1938 to 1947. She left the SWP in 1947 after the party leadership was informed of her covert activities. In 1950 the former editor of the Daily Worker and GPU operative Louis Budenz publicly exposed Franklin’s role as in anti-Trotskyist spy in his book, Men Without Faces. Franklin turned over to the GPU minutes of the SWP’s leading committees, copies of correspondence with Trotsky and with other leaders of the Fourth International, records of party finances and personal gossip. She regularly waited a few blocks from the SWP national office to visit the apartment of a GPU accomplice, Lucy Booker, and type reports for Soble, Soblen, and her other GPU controllers.

In 1954, Franklin was called before a federal grand jury to testify on GPU operations in the United States. She claimed loss of memory dozens of times. Four years later, she was called before another grand jury, and her memory had improved. She confessed to working as an agent for the Stalinist police inside the Trotskyist movement, confirming every detail of the account given by Budenz. Jack Soble also testified about Franklin’s spy activities, which he monitored as a GPU controller for several years. Franklin’s grand jury confession was sealed for 25 years, only made public in 1983 as result of the lawsuit filed by Alan Gelfand against the government takeover of the Socialist Workers Party.

2. In his 1937 open letter, “It Is High Time to Launch a World Offensive against Stalinism,” Trotsky issued a call to arms against the GPU terror:

“It is necessary to institute in all labor organizations a regime of rigid mistrust of everyone directly or indirectly connected with the Stalinist apparatus. One must always expect any kind of perfidy on the part of the agents of the Comintern who are the spineless tools of the GPU.

“We must tirelessly gather printed material, documents, testimonials of witnesses concerning the criminal work of the GPU-Comintern. We must periodically publish in the press rigorously substantiated conclusions drawn from these materials” (Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1937-38, p. 33).

3. The Workers League and the International Committee ignored the Zborowskis’ warning, but the revisionist groups all took it to heart. Not one of these opportunist and fundamentally anti-Trotskyist organizations has ever published the photograph, nor did any of them report that the man who organized the assassination of Trotsky’s son had been located. None has yet reported or commented on his death.

4. The first incriminating document was an August 31, 1940 memorandum by Consul Robert E. McGregor, an intelligence officer at the US Embassy in Mexico City, reporting that Hansen had visited the embassy and revealed to the American government that he had been approached by the GPU in 1938 to spy on the Trotskyist movement. Hansen said that he had met with a GPU agent known only as “John” for a period of several months in New York City. Hansen later confirmed that he had met with the GPU, but claimed this was done at Trotsky’s suggestion, to gather information, although there is no record of this in Trotsky’s writings, and all surviving SWP leaders of that period denied knowledge of it. Hansen had to resort to the fantastic claim that he had communicated with Trotsky about his GPU contact using invisible ink. Given the conditions of the time, following the murders of Erwin Wolf, Ignace Reiss, Leon Sedov and Rudolf Klement, it is unthinkable that Trotsky would have authorized one of his secretaries to have meetings with the agency which was carrying out Stalin’s death warrants.

5. Later the reason for Hansen’s defense of Franklin came to light: the same former GPU official, Budenz, who had unmasked Sylvia Franklin, had privately accused Hansen of being a GPU operative as well. While Budenz had described Franklin’s spy role in his book, he did not publish his charges against Hansen. This was no doubt connected to the fact that Budenz himself had become an FBI stool pigeon, and the FBI was grooming Hansen for his eventual role as the principal leader of the SWP.

6. In 1976, following the first publication of documents by the International Committee, Hansen circulated a statement of support for himself which was signed by revisionists from throughout the world. The SWP published the document, declaring it an authoritative “verdict” that the charges against Hansen and Sylvia Franklin were a frame-up. It later emerged that most of those who had signed Hansen’s “verdict” had never studied any of the evidence uncovered by the ICFI, and that those who circulated the statement of support were not even aware who had drafted it.

Foucault: ‘What Could Be Otherwise’-Lynne Huffer

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A noteworthy conversation that took place in September 1971 between Michel Foucault and Dutch philosopher Fons Elders is to be published for the fi rst time later this year. It reiterates some of the best-known Foucauldian positions on the Enlightenment idea of reason, madness, foreign cultures, and sexuality, while reminding us what Foucault’s rare practice of knowing has to offer today.

Lynne Huffer (lhuffer@emory.edu) is at the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Emory University, and is the author of Mad for Foucault (2010).

1 The Vicious Circle

The following reflections were triggered by a remarkable conversation between Michel Foucault and Dutch philosopher Fons Elders. In this September 1971 interview, slated to be published for the first time later this year, Elders spoke with Foucault in preparation for his televised debate with Noam Chomsky in November the same year. Foucault participated in the conversation with Elders at the height of his anti-prison activism as a member of GIP (Groupe d’information sur les prisons, or the Prison Information Group), in the same month as the Attica revolt and the hostage crisis in the French Clairvaux prison.

Given Foucault’s lifelong interrogation of what he calls the “merciless” language of reason, it is fitting that the interview begins with madness. Like Foucault’s earlier book, History of Madness (1961), the 1971 interview brings into focus Foucault’s true target – the Enlightenment ideal of reason. Throughout the interview Foucault challenges a received assumption about the necessary relation between knowledge and freedom – the more we know, the more free we will be. Conversely, the more free we are, the more we will know. According to this assumption, reason finds its completion in universal knowledge and absolute freedom.

This is the “paradise”, as Elders puts it, of the Western Enlightenment dream. But Foucault uncovers “cruelty” lurking in paradise in the form of a chiasmus, a reversal in word order that can be marked with an x – If man frees himself, man will know everything; when man knows everything, he will be free. The logic here is as inescapable as it is definitive in the future it promises. The x of the chiasmus binds man to himself in the vice versa necessity of freedom-for-knowledge and knowledge-for-freedom. But the chiasmus also effaces, as an x-ing out, the cruelty of the exclusions that bind man to his necessity. Madness is the exclusion that exposes paradise as an illusion.

Elders asks Foucault if reason, in knowing madness, can find its completion in universal knowledge. Foucault’s response is consistent with his later critique, in the debate with Chomsky, of rational ideals such as justice. “Ideal justice”, Foucault will say later to Chomsky, “that’s my problem”. In the September interview, Foucault uses madness to demonstrate the stakes of this philosophical disagreement.

In order to know madness it first had to be excluded. … We suppressed madness, and as a result came to know it. … My hypothesis is this: the universality of our knowledge has been acquired at the cost of exclusions, bans, denials, rejections, at the price of a kind of cruelty with regard to any reality.

This is how cruelty enters paradise. Or better, this is how the idea of paradise produces cruelty. The chiastic binding of freedom to knowledge as an Enlightenment ideal both effaces and perpetuates, as “the secret of our knowledge”, a “viciousness” that excludes. Here Foucault names the edifice Friedrich Nietzsche tried to demolish by hammering away at those Enlightenment foundations. Foucault picks up the hammer where Nietzsche dropped it when, slinging his arms around the neck of a horse that had been beaten, he slumped into madness and silence.1

“If man frees himself, man will know everything; when man knows everything, he will be free.” Here we find Foucault redescribing the x as a circle, the “vicious circle” whose “viciousness” is the cruelty of knowledge. That cruelty authorises “the gesture of sovereign reason that locks up their neighbour,” the same cruelty that authorises locking up prisoners in the name of justice.2 And so, Foucault says, “we must reverse the terms” of the chiasmus – “We can’t know everything” and “to know everything” is to be unfree. The conclusion Foucault draws here is a radical one – we must “abandon” the chiastic, illusory necessity that binds freedom to knowledge. We must face the fact that we live in a time when we “will have to abandon knowledge if it wants to be truly free”.

This is not a call for stupidity, but rather an exposure of the limits of ourselves in relation to what we are not. The cost of the illusion that we can know it all – the exclusion of the other – is too high. Indeed, as the bloody dénouement of the Attica revolt on the same day as the interview attests, the stakes could not be higher.

The chiasmus marks with an x the tension of many Foucault interviews, where we find Foucault pulling in one direction and his interlocutor pulling in the other. Where Foucault’s interlocutor seeks the perfection of the Enlightenment ideal, Foucault insists that with the pursuit of absolutes we perpetuate cruelty. We imagine ourselves as tolerant when in fact we are merciless. We imagine ourselves as kind when in fact we are vicious. Bound by the chiasmus, we are trapped in our own heartlessness – a circle of viciousness, the vicious circle.

2 A Divided Ratio

Madness, the Attica riots, and the anti-prison militancy of Foucault and his friends constitute the immediate political context of the 1971 interview. But GIP and the larger movement of which Foucault was a part is connected to other late 20th century movements including, most saliently, anti-colonial struggles for independence from France and other European empires in Africa and Asia. The September interview also marks a moment of intense sexual activism – what Foucault will later call “the putting into discourse of sex” – in the name of women and sexual minorities.3

“In order to know madness it first had to be excluded”, Foucault tells Elders. But, he continues,

Could we also say that in order to know other cultures – non-Western cultures, so-called primitive cultures, or American, African, and Chinese cultures – in order to know these cultures, we must no doubt have had not only to marginalise them, not only to look down upon them, but also to exploit them, to conquer them and in some ways through violence to keep them silent? We suppressed madness, and as result came to know it. We suppressed foreign cultures, and as a result came to know them.

Here Foucault’s challenge to the despotism of Enlightenment reason is also a challenge to western knowledge’s complicity with colonial power. Further, the remark echoes Foucault’s earlier written reflections on universal knowledge as a function of a “colonising reason” (2006: xxx). In the 1961 Preface to the History of Madness, Foucault wrote,

In the universality of the Western ratio, there is this division which is the Orient: the Orient, thought of as the origin, dreamt of as the vertiginous point from which nostalgia and promises of return are born, the Orient offered to the colonising reason of the Occident, but indefinitely inaccessible, for it always remains the limit: the night of the beginning, in which the Occident was formed, but in which it traced a dividing line, the Orient is for the Occident everything that it is not, while remaining the place in which its primitive truth must be sought (2006: xxx).

In the 1961 Preface, as in the interview, Foucault clarifies what is at stake, ethically and politically, when he launches his critique of the vicious circle that binds absolute freedom to universal knowledge. In the logic that binds East to West, “the Orient is for the Occident everything it is not”. The Orient functions as the “indefinitely inaccessible” limit against which “the Occident [is] formed”. But it is the false “universality of the Western ratio” that is, in fact, the origin of its own divisions – between reason and unreason, West and East, coloniser and colony, itself and “everything that it is not”.

Foucault’s comments about his own life later in the interview bring home this point about the western ratio. On the heels of a discussion of Marxism, Elders asks Foucault about the impact of May 1968 on his life. Foucault reminds Elders that he was away during the events of May 1968. Following the success of The Order of Things in 1966, Foucault had moved to Sidi Bou Saïd, a village a few kilometres outside Tunis, and was living there when the student revolts in Paris occurred. But another student revolt was also taking place, this one by the National Union of Students against the authoritarian Habib Bourguiba government in Tunisia. Police responded by entering the university, attacking the students, and throwing them into jail. Foucault, who had been teaching these students as a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Tunisia, helped with the printing of anti-government leaflets and donated part of his salary to the defence fund for those who were arrested. As the events unfolded, Foucault became convinced that his telephone was being tapped; at one point Foucault was stopped in his car and beaten. By October 1968 he was forced to leave Tunisia. Later, Foucault said “there is no comparison between the barricades of the Latin Quarter and the real risk of doing 15 years in prison, as in Tunisia”.4

Three years later, in the 1971 interview, Foucault links these Tunisian events to the theme of universal knowledge and repression. “By living in Tunisia”, Foucault says, “that is to say in an African country that is culturally Muslim, rejected from our culture, from our cultural system in spite of many similarities, I felt with the young people I knew there the problem of exclusion and of universality.” Having lived in Sidi Bou Saïd, a Mediterranean village whose Arab cafés and Turkish-style minarets delighted the Europeans who flocked there, Foucault’s Tunisian experience was a dramatic lesson about very real cruelties in the postcolonial paradises of the western ratio.

Foucault also anticipates the arguments about sexuality he will develop in History of Sexuality, Volume One. Like madness and other cultures, sexuality is silenced by the western ratio. In modernity, that silencing of sexuality is paradoxical – the age of sexual repression also marks the birth of a garrulous science whose primum mobile is sex. As Foucault puts it,

We suppressed madness, and as result came to know it. We suppressed foreign cultures, and as a result came to know them. … And perhaps we might also say that it is not until the great Puritanism of the 19th century that sexuality was first suppressed and was then known finally in psychoanalysis or psychology or in psychopathology.

The experience of sexuality, like the experience of madness, disappears behind “the calm of a knowledge which”, as Foucault put it in History of Madness, “through knowing it too much, passes it over” (2006: xxxiv, emphasis added). Remembering the chiasmus, we might infer from these examples that the more we know about madness, about other cultures, or about sexuality the less free we will be. It is a reminder, once again, that “we can’t know everything” and that to try “to know everything” has a cost. It is a reminder that we must abandon the western ratio.

3 Raritas

The dialogue between Foucault and Elders unfolds in a syncopated rhythm that taps out the halting beat of disconnection, impasse, and transformation. In a separate commentary, Elders describes with humour how being out of sync with Foucault generated scenes we might characterise as uncomfortable moments of thinking otherwise.

Scene One: Annoyed with Elders for arriving five minutes late for his first meeting with him in 1970, Foucault greets Elders with a curt “you have 25 minutes left”. An hour later we find Foucault at the wheel of his white sports car, Elders by his side, driving him to Bordeaux.

Scene Two: Foucault is resistant to Elders’ proposal that he appear on TV with Chomsky. “I don’t like television”, Foucault says. Then Elders tells Foucault about the time he, Elders, appeared nude on Dutch TV. Or rather, he says he was almost nude, wearing only a pair of red boots. This detail changes Foucault’s mind. “Well,” says Foucault, “in that case, I want to be nude on television with you and Chomsky!”

We might read these moments, with humour, as parables of transformation, where awkwardness or irritation gives way to openings that had been previously blocked. By 1971 Foucault was a celebrity, and his resistance to Elders may well signal his desire for anonymity and his reluctance to being swept into the role of the grande vedette, the talking head, the public intellectual of his age. When Foucault changes his mind – when he gives in to Elders’ demands – it is not fame but rarity that draws him. Let me explain.

Scene Three: An Amsterdam café. Elders has told Foucault it is time to leave the café. In preparation for the televised debate with Chomsky, they must take a cab and then a plane to a private island where the filming of a biographical portrait of Foucault has been scheduled. Foucault makes it clear he is unhappy. Elders, falling silent, picks up his copy of History of Madness and begins to read. The result, Elders says, “was a Beckett play: two men sitting silently at a small table while one of them reads a book written by the other. Outside a cab and a plane are waiting.”

This moment, Elders says, is an “empty space”, a phrase he borrows from Foucault’s friend, the philosopher Paul Veyne. “Human phenomena are exceptional”, Veyne writes. “They are not ensconced in the plenitude of reason; there is empty space around them for other phenomena that we in our wisdom do not grasp; what is could be otherwise”.

After sitting in silence, one man reading a book about madness written by the other, the one who wrote the book suddenly gets up and leaves the café, turning to walk away from the cab that is waiting to take him to the plane and the film shoot. Abandoning professional protocol, and probably out of desperation, Elders hails Foucault with a grammar of intimacy he and Foucault had not used with each other before, “Michel, fais-le pour moi” (“Michel, do it for me”). And Foucault responds, echoing the tu of his interlocutor, “Je le fais seulement pour toi” (“I will do it only for you”).

In that agreement, wrested from a refusal, the rarity of the only in the intimacy of the tu marks the transformation of the “empty space” into an “otherwise”. It is the singularity of the intimate – something other than fame – that compels Foucault to give in to Elders and to turn towards the cab and the plane. Rarity: raritas. Rarity names the singularity of the intimate – that which is not widely known, used, or experienced. Rarity cannot be captured within the universally known – it is the something precious that Enlightenment knowledge can only reject, disavow, or exclude.

In “Lives of Infamous Men” (1977), Foucault writes that “it is rarity and not prolixity” that matters. 5 This is not the rarity of a precious object to be hoarded or consumed, but the rarity of an other who punctures him with “a light coming from elsewhere” and thereby transforms him. This 1971 interview, soon to be published four decades after its time, leaves us to reflect on what might be done with such singular lives and such rare practices of knowing. With raritas, Foucault offers us, today, an untimely, empty space for thinking and practising what could be otherwise.


1 In late 1888 or early 1889 Nietzsche went mad. An incident that occurred in January 1889 has achieved the status of a legend as one of the first signs of Nietzsche’s illness. After witnessing the whipping of a horse in a piazza in Turin, Nietzsche caused a public disturbance by running to the horse, throwing his arms around its neck, then collapsing to the ground. For reflections on Nietzsche’s madness in the context of his philosophy, see Ronald Hayman (1980), Nietzsche: A Critical Life (New York: Oxford University Press).

2 Michel Foucault (2006): History of Madness, trans Jonathan Murphy and Jean Khalfa (London: Routledge), xxvii.

3 Michel Foucault (1990): The History of Sexuality, Volume One: An Introduction (1990), trans Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage Books), 12.

4 In David Macey (1993): The Lives of Michel Foucault (London: Hutchinson), 205-6. For a more detailed account of Foucault’s political activities in Tunisia, see Didier Eribon (1991): Michel Foucault (Paris: Flammarion), 204-8.

5 Michel Foucault (2000): “Lives of Infamous Men,” in Essential Works of Foucault: 1954-1984, Volume Three (ed.), James Faubion (New York: New Press), 161.

Lynne Huffer (lhuffer@emory.edu) is at the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Emory University, and is the author of Mad for Foucault (2010).

Labour, the movement and the radical left -Reuben Bard-Rosenberg

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Labour activists are an important part of the anti-cuts movement in many areas. Reuben Bard-Rosenberg argues for a united anti-cuts movement involving those inside and outside the Labour Party
Like it or not, Labour has re-emerged as a force within the politics of the left. Any serious attempt to construct a united front against austerity must be capable of engaging activists inside and outside of the Labour Party. For this reason and others, the upcoming People’s Assembly will be crucial for building the kind of mass movement that we need.

Labour activists and the movement
“Join Labour to help fight the cuts”. So read the hastily printed sign-up sheets that were recently handed out at the Bread and Roses in Clapham. A good 70 people had squeezed into the back room to kick off a campaign, initiated by the local Labour Party, to save Clapham Fire Station.

One might well have wondered how these specially-customized membership forms could be reconciled with the pro-austerity politics that continues to be advanced by Labour’s front bench. Yet the fact that such material was being given out is nonetheless instructive. Labour’s official strategists may assert that, above all else, the party should appear “tough on the deficit”. Yet, at a local level – at least in some places – the party is increasingly being drawn to engage with growing popular outrage against the cuts.

The public meeting itself is worth remarking upon. During its thirteen years in office, the Labour Party was virtually non-existent in the extra-parliamentary sphere – and for obvious reasons. To campaign against that which was dissatisfactory with the status quo meant drawing attention to the inadequacies of the Labour government. Since the coalition came to power, the party has, with varying degrees of competence and clunkiness, re-emerged somewhat as a force outside Westminster.

On the one hand, we have cringed while David Miliband promoted his Movement for Change – an attempt to construct a “grassroots movement” from Labour Party HQ, inspired by Barack Obama’s rhetoric about community organizers, and just as politically vacuous. On the other hand, we have, in recent weeks, seen local Labour parties play an important role – in some places a leading role – in demonstrations across Britain against the bedroom tax.

Labourism is not at its lowest ebb
In his discussion of the strategic opportunities facing the left, Ed Rooksby argues that recent months have witnessed a “pronounced acceleration of a longer term process of disillusionment on the part of Labour’s core supporters and activist base”. Indeed he states that it now “must be obvious to all but the most blind that Labour is just a lost cause for the left” (emphasis added). If so I must confess to having spent a fair amount, of late, amongst the “most blind” – at activist meetings and local demonstrations.

Undoubtedly the picture across the country is uneven. In various parts of the country the Labour Party barely exists except as an electoral machine, while in others it seems to function primarily as a network for professionals and the ambitious. But the battles being waged across the country against austerity – in trade unions and in communities – typically depend upon a mixture of people inside and outside of Labour.

This should not entirely surprise us. In the very immediate aftermath of the May 2010 general election Labour experienced a minor surge of new recruits, as people looked for ways to kick back against the coalition – and did so at a moment when the radical left was relatively weak. Though opinion polls can be a rather blunt instrument for assessing the political landscape, Labour at the moment is perhaps more popular than it has been at virtually any moment in the past decade – and its support is concentrated amongst those who self-identify as working class.

Meanwhile, despite his lamentable failure to oppose the politics of austerity, Ed Miliband nonetheless continues to promise limited egalitarian reforms – the 50p tax rate and the 10p rate, and policies to “normalize” the living wage. This is not to suggest that Labour – whose front bench continues to collude with the coalition over austerity – will be the key vehicle for bringing about the changes that we as a society need.

But it is to recognise that, for not wholly illogical reasons, a fair number of those who are active against the cuts identify, officially or unofficially with Labour, and have more than a passing interest in Ed Miliband emerging victorious at the next election.

Britain is not Greece
This, of course, matters. Under the present circumstances, any serious attempt to construct a broad united front – one big enough to properly fight for an alternative to the cuts – must be able to win the enthusiastic support of activists inside and outside Labour.

Certainly, on the continent we have seen broad fronts against austerity built outside of, and in opposition to, official social democratic parties – most obviously SYRIZA, whose phenomenal success tends to loom large over any discussion of left wing strategy . Events over the next few years may well facilitate (and necessitate) the construction of a similar kind of coalition in the UK. Yet excitement over what SYRIZA has managed to achieve, should not obscure the huge gulf between the political conditions in which it emerged as a popular force, and those that currently pertain in Britain.

Most importantly, while the Greek Socialist Party (PASOK) presided over the most savage austerity programme to have taken place in Europe, the British Labour Party, has not (yet) presided over a programme of austerity itself. In its final period in office, Labour sought (albeit in a very limited way) to stimulate demand by cutting regressive taxation and modestly increase spending, against the backdrop of economic crisis.

Shifting Labour to the left, or forcing government to change course?
Historically, the idea of pulling Labour leftwards has motivated not only left-wing entryists – who have sought to alter Labour from the inside – but also some (though not all) of those who have supported left-of-Labour coalitions. The underlying problem with this approach to achieving progressive change is that it implicitly treats the state, and the process of government, as though it were politically neutral. In office, the Labour leadership is no longer simply the executive of a political party, but is also the executive of the state, charged with the task of governing a capitalist society.

The behaviour of any Labour government, therefore, is not simply determined at the level of party politics – whether that is pressure within Labour or electoral pressure from elsewhere. Its actions depend also upon the conditions under which it is able to govern.

From this perspective, our crucial task right now is to build the struggle within society at large. What matters is that the British government – whoever leads it, now and after 2015 – is faced with a united mass movement that is genuinely capable of stopping the traffic from moving and the wheels from turning.

In other words, a movement that can back up its demands for an alternative to austerity with the capacity to act, in a popular and co-ordinated fashion, across workplaces and communities. This in turn depends upon militancy but also upon breadth.

The radical left and the anti-cuts movement
The ongoing attacks on wages and living standards, the persistence of mass unemployment, and the seemingly endless rounds of cuts have drawn many into opposition to the current order. Certainly this has the potential to develop into a very serious challenge to the existing social and political order. Whether this happens will depend, partly, upon the ability of the radical left to play a leading role in the movement.

Those of us who know, from the outset, that austerity cannot be simply reversed at the ballot box, need to be actively involved in organising and developing the movement against the cuts – at least if it is to stand a chance of shifting Britain from its current economic and political course.

At the same time, what is needed is a deliberate political effort to construct a broad united front, capable of engaging the great majority of those who are actively opposed to austerity economics. Right now, it is unimaginable that any such movement can emerge except with the enthusiastic support of activists inside and outside of the Labour Party.

It is equally fantastical to imagine that those who are currently embedded within the Labour left will defect en masse to whichever more radical organisation shouts the most loudly about the treachery of the two Eds. The starting point for constructing a proper united front must be a realistic and respectful recognition of where our allies stand.

It is this, amongst many other things, that makes the upcoming People’s Assembly Against Austerity a particularly important instrument for building the kind of oppositional movement Britain needs. The conference has already won the support of an incredible number of union branches, campaign groups and community organisations. Yet one of its particular strengths is that it will bring together the best activists inside of and outside of Labour .

On the 22 June we will be together in one hall, deciding collectively how to move the anti-austerity movement forward. We hope that you will join us and help us to build the resistance.


Interview: Agriculture, class and capitalism-Henry Bernstein

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Henry Bernstein, a professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, has for decades been at the forefront of research into the class structure and political economy of agriculture. He spoke to Joseph Choonara about his work.

Can you start by telling me a little about your background and the formative experiences that shaped your approach to the study of agrarian questions?

I think the most important factor was the new development of agrarian political economy in the 1970s, which was spearheaded by Terry Byres at SOAS. There was a quite extraordinary Peasants Seminar, convened by Terry at the University of London, which ran from 1972 to 1989. All the top Marxists of the day spoke at it, along with many younger people—it was really cross-generational. It was also part of an international intellectual effort of the left.

This helped to rediscover and reinvent a political economy that could be applied to agrarian change. It was stimulated in part by developments in countries in Asia and Africa, partly too by what were regarded as peasant wars in Vietnam and some parts of Africa. It considered both the changes taking place in these societies and the relationship of peasants to revolutionary politics.

There was also great curiosity about China, because many on the European left looked to the communes in China as an alternative to both capitalist development in the countryside and Soviet-style Stalinist
collectivisation.1 Well, of course, that disappeared in time, but it was very much of the moment.

I think that for Marxists the single most important component in the revival of agrarian political economy was the rediscovery of Lenin’s The Development of Capitalism in Russia.2 Marx’s own writings were important, but Marx’s comments on agricultural issues are fairly scattered. In addition, in the 1970s and 1980s we had the first full English translation of Karl Kautsky on The Agrarian Question—earlier Jairus Banaji had done a translation of extracts.3 Another important work was the English translation of a book by Alexander Chayanov, the great Russian agricultural economist, and there was a lot of stuff from the heroic period of the Russian Revolution.4 All of that fed into the new developments in agrarian political economy.

And that led to the birth of the Journal of Peasant Studies?

It did. The journal came out of the seminars that Byres and others organised. In terms of my own biography, I came back from four years in Tanzania in 1978, during which time I had been working on agrarian questions. So I already knew Terry Byres and I connected very much with what he was doing.

Subsequently there was another journal, the Journal of Agrarian Change, which you have also been associated with. Is it fair to say that this journal carried on the tradition?

Absolutely. For various reasons, we continued and updated the mission of the Journal of Peasant Studies. Relations between the two journals are comradely. I would say that Agrarian Change is today more centred on political economy and Peasant Studies is more focused on political sociology, rural politics and so on.

One of your arguments is that the whole concept of a “peasantry” can be misleading. It can encourage us to think of them in the way we would think of feudal peasants. You talk instead about small-scale commodity producers who are integrated into the circuits of capitalism.

That is one of the key questions. I think it is misleading to talk about peasants in today’s world because our historical image of peasants was formed in the principal grain-growing areas of pre-capitalist civilisations, especially in Europe and Russia, but also in India, China and elsewhere. The term “peasant” is usually used today in association with populist positions.

Agrarian populism declares the virtues of peasant or family farmers and identifies with their struggles against those who threaten their reproduction and wellbeing, from merchants and banks, capitalist landed property, agrarian capital and agribusiness, to projects of state-led “national development” centered on industrialisation, in all their capitalist, nationalist and socialist variants, of which the Soviet collectivisation of agriculture in the 1930s was the most potent landmark. Modern versions of populism draw on the legacy of Chayanov, himself a victim of Stalin’s purges, whose vision of a future “peasant utopia” combined household farming with cooperation to achieve economies of scale. Agrarian populism today champions small farmers, including their ostensible ecological virtues, against large-scale mechanised capitalist agriculture and global agribusiness. Perhaps the best-known agrarian populist movement today is Via Campesina, which means “the peasant way”.

The agricultural petty commodity producer within capitalism is a social category that was formed first in transitions to capitalism in Europe and North America, then under colonialism, followed by independence in Asia and Africa, which obviously came earlier in Latin America. My own position is that small farmers today have to be seen and studied as petty commodity producers.

However, the rural masses in many countries, not least India, where they are estimated to be over 60 percent of the population, are not in fact reproducing themselves primarily through their own farming, because they are unable to do so. They are members of classes of labour; they reproduce themselves primarily through wage labour, with an element of subsistence coming from their own farming. So they are not petty commodity producers in the full sense.

Petty commodity producers in the Global South, allowing for all the differences in farming environments and social conditions, are not so different a category from so-called family farmers in the North. They are all in effect small capitalist enterprises, except that those in the North tend to have higher levels of investment and higher labour productivity.

Marx talks about the petty bourgeois under capitalism, for instance the small shopkeeper, being cut into two people: one a capitalist and the other a worker. Effectively they exploit themselves, and sometimes their family unit too. Those living on the land are in a similar position, with the added complication that they can sometimes be divided into three people, a landlord as well as a capitalist and worker if they own their own land. So this social category is obviously quite a complex one.

Indeed, in my little book Class Dynamics of Agrarian Change I use Lenin’s classic schema for the differentiation of the peasantry.5 In Capital Marx clearly had an enclosure model based on what had happened in England when he discusses primitive accumulation. One of the interesting things about Lenin, whose writings didn’t so much contradict as complement Marx’s, was that he argued that class differentiation of the peasantry could be another model through which capitalist agriculture could form, rather than enclosure of land by aristocratic landowners, who then, according to Marx, rented it out to capitalist farmers.

In Lenin’s scheme, rich peasants are those who accumulate enough land that they have to start employing wage labour beyond their household and they become capitalist farmers. The middle peasantry are those who don’t achieve this but who succeed more or less in simple reproduction as petty commodity producers. And the poor peasantry are those who become classes of labour. They become proletarianised in effect, even if not completely.

Marx is sometimes said to have predicted the disappearance of the peasantry, who are supposed to be squeezed out by capital and labour. It’s a bit of a myth. Nonetheless many people would expect the peasantry to be eliminated by capitalist development.

There’s the famous passage from Lenin’s Development of Capitalism in Russia where he expresses scepticism about the stereotype that capitalism always requires the free landless labourer. That is confirmed by what we find across large areas of the Global South today.

There has been a big debate within Marxism about why capitalist development has not eliminated small-scale farming, and various reasons have been given. One is that, all else being equal, it can be more difficult for capital to reap the same rate of profit, and to continue to do so through expanded reproduction, in farming compared to industry. In industry you can introduce technologies that raise the productivity of labour virtually indefinitely; it’s much more difficult in farming.

It is true of periods in the past and it is certainly true today with globalisation that big capital in agriculture is not primarily found in farming but in seed companies, chemical companies, machinery companies, and so on, upstream of farming; and also downstream of farming in corporate food processing, distribution and retail.

Another reason, connected to the first one, was put forward by Susan Mann and James Dickinson in the 1970s, in a famous article in the Journal of Peasant Studies, about the obstacles to capital in farming.6 One obstacle is that you have to allow for the natural material processes involved in the maturation of crops and livestock. Capital during that time is tied up, and capital can only appropriate surplus value from labour during the production process. In agriculture a gap, that may be bigger or smaller, opens up between labour time and production time, while crops are ripening or livestock is maturing.

One of the things that modern capitalist technology is trying to do in relation to this is to develop crops that mature ever quicker and livestock pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones. So capitalism aims to reduce the duration and uncertainty of natural processes.

A third argument, which becomes clear if you abolish the term peasant as anachronistic and accept that we still have many petty commodity producers in farming, is that, some political economists would say, these producers can produce commodities more cheaply. That is because they do not have to pay the various costs associated with the capitalist control and supervision of the labour process. If it is household labour that is used, they have other means of disciplining the workforce.

One more populist argument is that peasants persist because they resist the encroachment of capitalism and the market; they strive for autonomy. I think that’s a rather romantic argument. Nonetheless, sometimes there are political struggles against the establishment of large-scale capitalist production, for instance in parts of India where there are densely populated farming areas. Here there might be political barriers to dispossessing people on the land as happened historically in England before and during the time of the Enclosure Acts and even more dramatically in the Soviet Union in the 1930s.

This is beginning to be a big issue in relation to China. China and India still have the largest preponderance of small farmers, and, while it is possible they are being hammered in other ways, they are not generally being dispossessed en masse. When they are displaced it is usually to make the way for infrastructure projects, industry or mining, not to replace them with large-scale farmers.

So you have the resilience of small-scale producers, but most of them are linked to heavily commoditised markets in inputs and outputs.

Yes, because it is more profitable for capital to concentrate upstream or downstream from farming, and that’s where some of the new profit frontiers of capital are: genetically modified organisms (GMOs), biofuels, and so on. That’s another thing that’s common to the Global North and the South.

One of the factors in the generally poor performance of African agriculture since structural adjustment is that fertiliser use has gone right down.7 Previously it was subsidised by government rural development programmes; now it’s left to the market.

I want to come back to the contemporary developments in agriculture. But when people hear about agrarian change they often think about the rise in productivity during what’s called the Green Revolution roughly from the 1960s.

First, it is important not to confuse rising labour productivity with rising productivity of land or rising yields. One of the classic populist arguments is that yields are generally higher in small-scale agriculture, at the cost, Marxists point out, of massive drudgery and excessive hard work because labour productivity is much lower.

One reason it was called the Green Revolution was that it was seen as an alternative to “red revolution”, which was very much on the minds of the Americans because of Vietnam. But I think the Green Revolution was in some ways quite impressive, for example, allowing India to become self-sufficient in basic food grain production.

The idea was that it was scale neutral. If you have miracle seeds and fertiliser, plus water, then the idea was that it would have the same impact (growth potential) on a small farm as a big one, but there’s a lot of evidence that in India it was bigger farmers who benefited the most.

It has since been heavily criticised, and it seems that the rate of yield increases cannot be sustained in the long term using those technologies. That is perhaps why there has been a shift towards GMOs, because biochemically they are different entities. The Green Revolution revolved around high yielding varieties that were bred as hybrids; GMOs are genetically modified in laboratories.

To what extent did the Green Revolution extend beyond India?

You really need to distinguish it by grains. There are the big three global food grains: wheat, rice and maize. There were varying levels of success among the three grains in particular parts of India. In some regions like the Punjab, where you have good irrigation, both wheat and rice did very well, but that wasn’t necessarily true in other areas. There was success with rice in the Philippines and maize in Latin America. In this period maize became internationalised following the US pattern where it is grown mainly as an animal feed crop.

In fact, the original Green Revolution was in the US. There’s a wonderful Marxist account by Jack Kloppenburg of how big seed corporations appropriated the results of public research into improved seeds in the US, which led directly to the developments in the Global South, driven largely by the Rockefeller Foundation.8 There is again a connection between the North and South.

There have been other success stories. Africa has largely been left out, with the partial exception of South Africa and big farms in Zimbabwe, which were of course big settler farms comparable to those in North America or Argentina. According to recent figures I’ve seen, commercial farming in South Africa, which is still in everything but name white farming, has the highest rate of take-up of GM seeds in the world. There they have retained quite high levels of yields.

But Africa generally presented real material obstacles to the Green Revolution, because you have such a wide variety of microenvironments in sub-Saharan Africa, and very vulnerable farming ecologies in terms of rain and soils. The hopes that were invested at the time of the Green Revolution have not materialised. And of course, the social conditions of many farmers in Africa are completely screwed up by the impact of structural adjustment programmes.

Since the Green Revolution there have been further big changes in agriculture. One obvious change is the level of trade in agricultural products. Farming has been increasingly tightly bound up with global capitalism. One consequence seems to have been to make food security in regions of the Global South extremely fragile.

There are a number of different stories. Some of these loom large in agitprop literature, the positions of the green non-governmental organisations, and so on, so each of them has to be looked at more carefully.

But there is undoubtedly growing corporate concentration and power in agricultural inputs and technologies, and in processing, the supermarkets, the fast food industry and so on. Something that is very topical is the effort being made by the big supermarket chains to break into India. There is quite a lot of resistance for various reasons from Indian capital.

Some of the best land in some African countries has been given over to contract farming for Northern supermarkets, which use air freighting of so-called exotic fruit and vegetables so you can buy them all year round in North America and Europe, which can involve diverting resources from food production for domestic markets.

There is another aspect to the land-grab issue, which involves big agribusiness companies working with sovereign wealth funds, for instance from the oil producing countries of the Middle East and from China, acquiring large tracts of land. This takes place especially in Africa, but in other continents too. They set up large-scale production of biofuels, and basic food grains destined for the Gulf States and China, which are designed to help their food security. But it is not a simple story. I recently heard from a Ugandan woman who works for an NGO. She argued that in the area of Uganda where she works, which is a densely populated farming area, the worst land grabs are due to class and gender differentiation at a local level, rather than the work of some large global corporation.

Another important issue is the development of biofuels. Massive profits are being made out of these, partly with the help of subsidies provided by the US government, the EU and so on. Again it’s difficult to generalise but there is certainly a danger that land is being diverted from food production.

In addition, with the spike in food prices that took place around the time of the financial crisis of 2007-8, and another spike that seems to be happening now, there’s certainly a well-founded argument from the left that as hedge funds and other big financial institutions face problems in the pure money markets they start speculating on agricultural commodity futures. That has been a big part of the food price spikes, which affects people in the South a great deal.

Another interesting story is how countries such as Argentina and Brazil have become major players in agricultural exports on a global scale. China now imports most of its soya from these two countries. Historically, Brazil exported cocoa, coffee and so on, and now you have this really massive scale grain production for export, a lot of it to do with animal feeds or biofuels, with Brazil pioneering the production of sugar to make ethanol as a car fuel. Brazilian corporations are hand in glove with US corporations on this—there is a lot of global cooperation between multinationals.

An interesting point concerns the role of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Before the WTO was established, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which preceded it, generally ignored agricultural trade because the Americans did not want to include it. Since the late 19th century the US has been the biggest agricultural exporter, but we have seen the rise of competitors, such as the Cairns Group of big agricultural exporters: Australia, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa. They are constantly pushing against US and EU subsidies for agriculture. So there is a lot of uncertainty about how far the WTO has got in achieving its objective of free trade in agricultural commodities. Much agricultural trade still tends to take place within particular regional trading blocs such as the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Those are just some of the changes that have taken place recently.

You talk about a series of different factors leading to food insecurity, but you stress how complicated a picture it is. It seems that there is still a very strong regional dynamic and lots of diversity.

Regional differences must not be overlooked. One of the clear exceptions to the idea of globalisation creating similar societies the world over is that the two most populous countries, India and China, are still by and large self-sufficient in food production. And this is either on the basis of incredibly small-scale farming as in China or relatively small-scale farming in India. You might be a relatively strong capitalist farmer in India with five or ten hectares of land in an irrigated area. That is very different from Argentina or Brazil where you are talking about grain farms of tens of thousands of hectares.

So there is a lot of variation. Whether India and China can maintain their broad self-sufficiency in food production for over a third of the world’s population is an interesting question. For instance, in China people are eating more meat, so the soy it imports is increasingly destined to go into animal feed.

There are political factors that governments have to consider, even with the rapid pace of capitalist development in India and China generally. India was, for example, one of the first countries to put a ban on food exports when there was the big food price spike.

In your book Class Dynamics of Agrarian Change you give a picture of some of the varieties of struggle in agrarian areas. What are the main flashpoints for struggles today?

Again it is a complicated question. To take farm workers, they have generally been regarded by the left as harder to organise and therefore more quiescent than other workers. But even here, I’ve heard that there have been some eruptions of farm workers’ struggles in South Africa in the wake of the Marikana miners’ struggle.

Your question is important because the major struggles against corporate, industrialised agriculture today, with its high environmental and energy costs, are coming from movements with a strong populist flavour to them. The best known is the Via Campesina movement, which started in Central America and has spread far beyond that. Some of my Marxist colleagues would dismiss these populist movements out of hand, but I think it is more complex. In certain conditions populist movements can have progressive elements. The issue is that they are cross-class alliances centred on ideologies of an inclusive “people of the land”. These movements are an important reality of contemporary politics. They are often in the vanguard of struggles against land grabs and corporate agribusiness, so we have to engage with them, albeit critically.

They are not simply a rerun of peasant movements of a previous period, as people such as James Petras have pointed out in the case of Latin America. If they are successful in achieving alliances in the countryside and beyond against corporate capital, how should we position ourselves in relation to them? That is a problem for the left parties in India, for example, where you have very strong rural social movements.

My own feeling is that the politics are highly contradictory. One can identify more progressive tendencies that we can encourage. Some of the more progressive elements are collectivist ideas, in that they argue that there are forms of collectives and cooperatives that are part of the way forward. And then there are some really retrograde tendencies, which look to a myth of a golden past and romanticise the small autonomous producer, harmonious with nature.

One of the issues at stake concerns levels of production and productivity. The size of the world population today, compared to the time in world history when most production was by peasants, is massively expanded. More than 50 percent of the world’s population is now urban, so the notion that reconstituted small farmers are the future is one I find difficult to believe, especially if it is the romantic notion that they should use only the most simple tools and avoid modern technologies.

I have no problem with relatively small-scale farming as part of the future, but it would have to use advanced technologies, with high labour productivity, and it would have to be integrated in certain kinds of social arrangements and not simply take place as individualised petty production.

The kind of thing I am advocating would include trying to appropriate technologies developed by capitalism. I am not against GMOs in principle; the problem is that they are mostly developed and controlled by the big chemical corporations.

There are ways of developing the forces of production in agriculture on different scales, in a manner that is not destructive in the way that capitalist farming is today.

To go back to Lenin, part of his point in his identification of the different elements within the peasantry was to try to work out which of them the urban proletariat could ally itself with in revolutionary struggle. What are the prospects for urban-rural alliances? In many contexts, people have one foot in the countryside and one foot in the city.

I agree that one of the most important aspects of the reproduction of labour in the countryside is that it is combined with elements of wage labour and of migration, with strong urban-rural links developing. How you then move beyond that, as a given of existence, towards some kind of programmatic position, which could form the basis for organisation, is rather difficult. There are few recent powerful examples to draw on. All we can say is that almost everyone who is a worker, or part of the reserve army of labour or an informal labourer, does share a common interest. Even in the countryside many people are net buyers of food produced by others.

There are problems though. Organised urban workers will always push for lower food prices, which would probably be against the interest of small farmers and petty commodity producers who are producing food for the market.

People point to possible examples of unity between the classes of labour. Some would say that the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST, the Landless Labourers’ Movement) in Brazil was an example because it has a lot of support from the Workers’ Party and the radical wing of the Catholic church, which was involved in founding the MST. But we have to ask difficult questions. What would be the aims or demands of that kind of alliance? People have suggested things such as workers running urban food cooperatives, of the kind that existed under Salvador Allende in Chile in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in which there are direct links of supply between smaller farmers and urban working class consumers. It stimulates the imagination but it’s hard to think what it would look like scaled up to a society such as Brazil with a population of almost 200 million.

In India you have the Karnataka farmers’ movement, which the best informed sources tell me is really a rich farmers’ movement, yet it has a big international reputation on the left because they have opposed GM seeds, so they are seen as being the good guys. But one of their major campaigning issues is for bigger subsidies for fertilisers and I’m told some of their leading supporters are among the most vicious in how they treat their farm workers.

Lots of people think that the class differentiation in the countryside is less important than the fact that these populist movements are challenging globalisation and industrialisation. That position is problematic for Marxists who have to investigate and assess class formations and forces in the countryside, which includes their linkages with urban and industrial social dynamics.

For those interested in finding out more, can you recommend some reading on the themes you’ve discussed?

In general the Journal of Peasant Studies and Journal of Agrarian Change, and the other works we’ve discussed, are a useful starting point. A recent issue of the Journal of Agrarian Change contained a piece by Jason Moore, entitled “The End of the Road? Agricultural Revolutions in the Capitalist World-Ecology, 1450-2010”.9 Some recent collections on agrarian issues include Peasants and Globalisation, and Transnational Agrarian Movements Confronting Globalisations.10 There are also Weis’s The Global Food Economy and a collection that I helped edit entitled The Food Question.11


1: Agricultural communes, consisting of thousands of households, were formed in China at Mao Zedong’s initiative. They were envisaged as a part of Mao’s Great Leap Forward that began in 1958, which was supposed to lead to rapid industrialisation, allowing Chinese output to overtake that of Western countries such as Britain. The “leap” in fact ended in disaster, with millions dying in the resulting famines.

2: This book, published in 1899, helped establish Lenin’s reputation as a Marxist theoretician. It can be found on the Marxist Internet Archive and is available in various English translations, such as Lenin, 1987.

3: This work by Kautsky, then the leading German Marxist theoretician, was also originally published in 1899. The first full English translation, in two volumes, was by Zwan publications in 1987-Kautsky, 1987.

4: Chayanov was a Russian economist, executed under Stalin in 1937. His major work, Theory of Peasant Economy, was first published in German in 1923 and Russian in 1925. The earliest English translation was in 1966. It has been reprinted by Oxford University Press-Chayanov, 1987.

5: Bernstein, 2010. This short book forms an excellent introduction to Bernstein’s work.

6: Mann and Dickinson, 1978.

7: Structural adjustment refers to the policies imposed on the Global South by institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, especially in the 1980s and 1990s. They involved sweeping privatisation, the removal of state subsidies and the liberalisation of trade and capital flows.

8: Kloppenburg, 2004.

9: Moore, 2010.

10: Akram-Lodhi, Haroom and Kay, 2009; Borras, Edelman and Kay, 2008.

11: Weis, 2007; Bernstein, Crow, Mackintosh and Martin, 1990.


Akram-Lodhi, A Haroom and Cristóbal Kay (eds), 2009, Peasants and Globalisation, Political Economy, Rural Transformation and the Agrarian Question (Routledge).

Bernstein, Henry, 2010, Class Dynamics of Agrarian Change (Kumarian Press).

Bernstein, Henry, Ben Crow, Maureen Mackintosh and Charlotte Martin (eds), 1990, The Food Question: Profits Versus People? (Monthly Review Press).

Borras, Saturnino M, Marc Edelman and Cristóbal Kay (eds), 2008, Transnational Agrarian Movements Confronting Globalisation (Wiley-Blackwell).

Chayanov, Alexander, 1987 [1923], Theory of Peasant Economy (Oxford University).

Kautsky, Karl, 1987 [1899], The Agrarian Question, in two volumes (Zwan).

Kloppenburg, Jack, 2004, First the Seed: The Political Economy of Plant Biotechnology (University of Wisconsin).

Lenin, VI, 1987 [1899], The Development of Capitalism in Russia, in Collected Works, volume 3, (Lawrence and Wishart), www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1899/devel/index.htm

Mann, Susan, and James Dickinson, 1978, “Obstacles to the Development of a Capitalist Agriculture”, Journal of Peasant Studies, volume 5, number 4.

Moore, Jason W, 2010, “The End of the Road? Agricultural Revolutions in the Capitalist World-Ecology, 1450-2010”, Journal of Agrarian Change, volume 10, number 3.

Weis, Anthony, 2007, The Global Food Economy: The Battle for the Future of Farming (Zed).


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Marxism and women’s oppression today-Sheila McGregor

Posted by admin On April - 27 - 2013 Comments Off on Marxism and women’s oppression today-Sheila McGregor



We live in contradictory times: they reflect how much in society in relation to women has changed, but also how much appears to have stayed the same. Women make up almost half the workforce and just over half of trade union members.1 The level of unemployment among women has risen by 19.1 percent since 2009 and by only 0.32 percent among men, although more men are unemployed than women.2 Some £11.1 billion of George Osborne’s £14.9 billion savings since 2010 have come from women although women earn less than men.3 Small wonder that we saw the biggest strike of women workers in British history in response to the government’s attack on pensions on 30 November 2011, and that hundreds of women turned out to lobby parliament on 24 October 2012 in protest at the impact of austerity on women, chanting slogans such as “Hey, ho, patriarchy has to go.”

David Cameron has introduced a law to allow “gay” marriage but simultaneously wants to introduce tax changes to support marriage while being personally in favour of the tightening up of time limits for
abortion.4 Cameron wants to appear “modern” but blame the poorest in society for being poor and make women and the family subsitute for the cuts in the welfare state. Meanwhile the Church of England can’t even countenance women bishops. Raunch culture has become ever more pervasive, but there are also protest movements against overt sexism such as the SlutWalks in 2011 and 2012.5 The revelations about Jimmy Savile’s paedophile behaviour led to an outpouring of anger while exposing the continued disgraceful sexist culture of the BBC and other institutions. And mass popular demonstrations erupted across India in protest at the appalling gang rape of a 23 year old woman on a bus on 16 December 2012.

Revolutionary socialists take part in all struggles against exploitation and oppression, whether they are against austerity measures, sexual violence, the impact of war, police racism or the growth of fascist organisations, attempting to unite the maximum number of forces in any given struggle. At the same time, revolutionary socialists are concerned not only with combatting the particular effects of exploitation and oppression, but also with taking the struggle forward so as to break the very chains of exploitation, which give rise to all forms of oppression.

Thus involvement in struggle is both a practical question of how best to build a protest or strike and an ideological question of how to win those you are struggling alongside to an understanding that it is not enough to win over the particular struggle, but that what is required is a revolutionary transformation of society. When people embark on a struggle over an issue, they usually come with a mixture of ideas about the society they live in, what they are fighting for and how best to achieve their goal. Inherent in any struggle is a debate about how to take it forward. Struggles against sexism are no exception to this.

In 1975, in the first battle to defend the 1967 Abortion Act against the James White Bill, there was a debate in the National Abortion Campaign over whether to take the fight to defend abortion rights into the trade unions as a class issue that obviously affected working class women but also affected men. The success of socialist women in both winning and implementing this strategy led to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) leading the successful demonstration against John Corrie’s 1979 bill to restrict abortion rights.

Women not only raised the issue in mixed unions, but also in union branches with only male members such as among miners and boilermakers. Male trade unionists were faced with the argument that the right of women to control their own bodies was a trade union issue. The slogan “No return to backstreet abortion” encapsulated the fact that it was working class women who suffered most from the lack of free and legal abortions.6

Today, as women and men protest against sexism on SlutWalks, in defence of abortion rights, and against austerity measures with their specific impact on women, the “common sense” of many, if not most, is that “patriarchy” is to blame for what is happening to women. The concept of patriarchy is sufficiently elastic and imprecise as to appear to explain the behaviour of individual men, sexism, discrimination, the unions as well as the state. There is also a resurgence of interest in ideas about women’s oppression such as Wages for Housework, dating from the 1970s, as well as using Marx’s Capital to explain women’s oppression. However, Frederick Engels’s contribution to understanding women’s oppression is often rejected.7

The purpose of this article is to look at three things: first, the importance of Engels in understanding the roots of women’s oppression; second, the way in which the drive to accumulate at the heart of capitalism transforms the position of working class women inside society and the nature of the working class family; and third, the importance of being part of the waged workforce and working class struggle for women’s liberation.

Engels and the origins of women’s oppression
The relation between man and woman is the most fundamental, or as Marx puts it, “the immediate, natural and necessary relation of human being to human being is also the ‘relation of man to woman’”.8 Thus relations between men and women are a measure of the “humanness” and extent of equality of society. In addition, women’s oppression is the oldest oppression and will be the most difficult to overcome as the roots are located in an institution that shapes the most intimate sphere of human life, in relationships between men, women and children in the family.9 This leads many people to assume that all human societies have been based on unequal relationships between women and men and that it is inherent in “human nature” or if not in “human nature”, then in all forms of society. The commonsense view today, as in the time of Engels and Marx, is still that women’s oppression has always existed.

Marx and Engels, however, both insisted on tackling our evolution historically. Human beings emerged historically as social beings. And, as Heather Brown argues, “men and women always exist and interact within concrete circumstances mediated by definite social relations”.10 Both Marx and Engels were profoundly influenced by Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, and in 1876 Engels wrote his short pamphlet The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man, in which he presented the arguments for us emerging as “gregarious” beings with the use of tools driving our evolution.11 He then wrote a later text, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, to establish that the oppression of women arose historically and had not always existed.

Some writers are willing to look to Marx but not to Engels. For example, Heather Brown, in her excellent book Marx on Gender and the Family, rejects Engels’s contribution to understanding the family because she believes he suffers from economic determinism, linking women’s oppression to private property and failing to “challenge the distinction between the public and private spheres”.12 She argues that since women’s oppression existed in Greek and Roman times where private property was not fully developed and in societies such as the Soviet Union based on state property, Engels’s analysis must be fundamentally flawed.

On the first point, the development of the analysis of the Soviet Union as state capitalist by Tony Cliff involved rejecting the view that capitalism could only exist based on private ownership by individual capitalists. Furthermore, when the state owned and controlled the means of production, as in the case of the Soviet Union and similar societies, the state could function as a single capitalist in competition with other capitals on a global basis and the separation of workers from any control over the means of production meant they were exploited as a class in a similar way to workers in the West. That being the case, the reproduction of labour power in the Soviet Union could be analysed in a similar way to other capitalist societies.13

On the second point, where she objects to Engels’s argument that a communist society would “make the relations between the sexes a purely private affair, which concerns only the two people involved”, Brown concludes that this could lead to women remaining in the home, “or if the society was run more communally, a few women would remain to do the housework”.14 Elsewhere in the same text Engels talks about society being based on an association of all individuals who take decisions about the direction that society would go in and women and children no longer being economically dependent on men.15 It is true he does not spell out how the task of reproduction would be organised, but then he doesn’t give a blueprint for how production would be organised. In that light, it is surely better to interpret his comments about relations becoming a “private affair” as an indication that personal relationships would be based on personal choice.

Unfortunately, Lise Vogel in Marxism and Feminism dismisses Engels’s analysis of women’s oppression as “a defective formulation”.16 Some of her criticisms may be accurate, but she dismisses an important text for explaining women’s oppression historically. Engels’s arguments need to be taken more seriously.

The road to the emergence of homo sapiens sapiens is a long one going back three to seven million years.17 In 1994, Chris Harman undertook a review of Engels’s The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man and The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. Harman surveyed the existing knowledge of the behaviour of pygmy chimps and gorillas, our nearest relatives, pointing to a series of features, two of which are particularly salient to any discussion about the relations between males and females in our evolution: 1) the degree of social cooperation; and, 2) the role of the female in initiating sexual contacts. He also noted that “their cooperation is essential if males are to have special relationships with them”.18 Philippe Brenot and Pascal Picq, in a book which looks at the development of sexual relations in human evolution, observe that the sexual practices of orangutans, which are more distant from us in evolutionary terms than pygmy chimps, are quite remarkable in that they are about satisfying desire, not just reproduction: “Orangutans practise face to face copulation, and what may surprise us, amuse themselves with a variety of preliminaries: caresses, touching, reciprocal masturbation, oral sex, kissing of the genital areas and all that at tens of metres above the ground”.19 They argue, reasonably in my view, that practices that involve both seeking and giving pleasure presuppose a capacity to conceive of the needs and desires of the other.20

The task of trying to establish the transition of ape to man is complex and hampered by the scattered record of skeletons which can be used as a basis for analysing how our ancestors lived their lives. Nevertheless, there are certain features about human beings which have a bearing on understanding the evolution of human society and relations between human beings:

1) Walking upright and the attendant vulnerability.

2) Regular meat consumption.

3) Sophisticated tool making and use.

4) The separation of the sex act from ovulation and the oestrus cycle.21

5) The whole human body as an “erogenous” zone.

6) The length of gestation for a human baby.

7) The vulnerability of the human baby and the length of time and socialisation required to attain adulthood.

These features are strong indicators of human beings having evolved both as social beings and with a tendency towards forming couples. The fact that sexuality is not tied to reproduction is a clear indicator of the potential for same sex sexual practices. The emergence of desire and response to the needs of the other in other primates should also be a caution against automatic assumptions about male predatory sexual practices that have to be tamed.

In The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State Engels presents evidence from his day of the existence of egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies with non-hierarchical, non-oppressive relations between men and women. Contemporary evidence that groups of human beings have lived in this way until relatively recently has been thoroughly presented in the pages of this journal.22 There are several important points that we can draw from our knowledge about such societies. First, what underpins egalitarian relationships is the autonomous but essential contributions men and women make to the survival and well-being of the group regardless of the existence and extent of any sexual division of labour23 beyond the obvious one inherent in women’s childbearing capacity.24 Second, women’s childbearing role is not an impediment to their autonomy. Third, childcare is a shared responsibility of the band, not uniquely of the biological parents. Fourth, at least some hunter-gatherer societies have accepted a choice of “gender” role.25 Fifth, the public nature of such groups meant that interactions between people would be within sight or earshot of others, not hidden behind four walls as in today’s world of the nuclear family.

Equally important for Marxists is to be able to account for the rise of women’s oppression. Engels focused on the emergence of agriculture and on changes in ways of producing food, which over time led to societies creating a surplus sufficient to sustain a group or class not directly involved in food production. But why the change if many hunter-gatherer societies experienced a luxury of time as well as reasonable conditions for survival?26 And why should such changes lead to the emergence of male dominated ruling classes, with subordination of women in the family in every class?

Harman gives an extended account of the impact of accumulated changes in food production, use of metals, diversity of tasks, trade, rising population and warfare to illustrate the rise of class society in Mesopotamia around 3000 BC.27 He also depicts how changes in agricultural techniques linked to the male role in agriculture, such as harnessing oxen to the plough, improved productivity and shifted control away from women to men. Such changes, alongside the increasing importance of childbirth for a settled agricultural society, the emergence of systematic warfare to defend stored surpluses and trade, would lead to the loss of women’s autonomy. The rise of the family with women subordinate to men then secured control over the means of producing the surplus and the surplus itself.28

Once the transition to class society occurs, in which the surplus generated is sufficient to sustain a ruling class and a range of occupations such as warriors, priests, traders and the like, there is no way back to some “golden age” hunter-gatherer society. From that point the majority of men and women are subjected to exploitation and all women are oppressed, hence Engels’s linking of the rise of the family to the rise of class society and the state. But this too has to be grasped historically. In the chapter on the family Engels discusses the changing nature of love and desire in the Middle Ages compared with Antiquity while projecting forward to the potential for different ways of living inherent in the overthrow of capitalist society:

Thus what we can now conjecture about the way in which sexual relations will be ordered after the impending overthrow of capitalist production is mainly of a negative character, limited for the most part to what will disappear. But what will there be new? That will be answered when a new generation of men who never in their lives have known what it is to buy a woman’s surrender with money or any other social instrument of power; a generation of women who have never known what it is to give themselves to a man from any other considerations than real love, or to refuse to give themselves to their lover from fear of the economic consequences. When these people are in the world, they will care precious little what anybody today thinks they ought to do; they will make their own practice and their corresponding public opinion about the practice of each individual—and that will be the end of it.29

The family is not a static institution that transcends the mode of production, but a form of reproduction which is moulded by society and by class. Engels ends the chapter with a quotation from the great American anthropologist Lewis Morgan:

When the fact is accepted that the family has passed through four successive forms, and is now in a fifth, the question at once arises whether this form can be permanent in the future. The only answer that can be given is that it must advance as society advances, and change as society changes. It is the creature of the social system and will reflect its nature.30

Capitalism and the family
Capitalism is a highly dynamic system “constantly revolutionising” the way we live our lives. Marx and Engels’s writings are necessarily located in analyses based on early capitalism. Their observations of the impact this had on workers’ lives led them to conclude that the basis for the family in the working class had disappeared: “First, they said, private property and its associated property rights are irrelevant to the working class of the towns and the cities—who have no property. Second, the mass employment of women and children in the factories would abolish the dependence of women on men”.31

Moreover, Marx left a rather unhelpful formulation for future generations of Marxists: “The maintenance and reproduction of the working class remains a necessary condition for the reproduction of the working class. But the capitalist may safely leave this to the workers’ drives for self-propagation”.32 Although this is a somewhat terse statement, and some would argue, a trifle reductionist, there are three points which should be made about this: first, men, women and children do seek to eat, drink and find shelter in the most horrendous of circumstances such as war and famine. Men and women have sexual relationships leading to women continuing to give birth. Second, Marx and Engels were both personally horrified by and amply documented the devastating impact on the living and working conditions of the working class even if they failed to appreciate the impact industrialisation would have on the ability of the working class to reproduce itself.33 But neither of them looked at the way in which the capitalist class began to intervene in society, taking certain elements of the old patriarchal household and “recombining them into the new working class family”.34 Third, any reference to nature in Marx, such as “workers’ drives”, needs to be historicised and grasped in its social and historical context. Human beings do need to eat, drink, sleep and develop relationships with others, but how we do so is always shaped by society at particular times and in particular places.35

So Marx and Engels were wrong in the mid-19th century about the possibilities for the construction of a working class family. But they were right that the mass employment of women has had a crucial impact on relations between men and women since the latter part of the 20th century until today, and has significantly undermined the model of the working class family which finally emerged by the end of the 19th century.

The failure of Marx and Engels to provide an analysis of the working class family is one reason cited by socialist feminists and academic Marxists for criticising them. There are many others. Juliet Mitchell argued that “the problem of women becomes submerged in the analysis of the family”.36 Lise Vogel herself talks about both Marx and Engels being “imprisoned within the limited and sexist horizons of their period”, adding that Marx was a “Victorian husband and father with traditional attitudes in his own family life”.37 Indeed, Engels is often accused of an over emphasis on heterosexuality and homophobia because of his derogatory remark about homosexuality in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.38 Vogel also blames Engels for formulations that led socialist feminists to develop “dual systems” theories. The conclusion is very often that Marx and Engels could—or can—explain class and exploitation, but they couldn’t—or can’t—explain women’s oppression that requires other tools such as patriarchy theory. This is a pity, as the reasons that socialist feminists and Marxist feminists seized on a formulation in Engels,39 to justify a dual approach, lie in how those writers perceived the issue of women’s oppression, rather than in Engels’s formulation. Vogel herself does not go down this route although her own analysis is, in part, about establishing the potential for cross-class alliances among women.40

However, Marx and Engels provide a historical method and a theoretical understanding of capitalism that allows us to overcome the limitations in their analysis of the family. In Capital, volume one, Marx points to the central importance of the reproduction of labour power (the working class) for capital:

The capital given in return for labour power is converted into means of subsistence which have to be consumed to reproduce the muscles, nerves, bones and brains of existing workers, and to bring new workers into existence… It is the production and reproduction of the capitalist’s most indispensable means of production: the worker. The individual consumption of the worker, whether it occurs inside or outside the labour process, remains an aspect of the production and the reproduction of capital, just as the cleaning of machinery does, whether it is done during the labour process, or when intervals in the process permit.41

So the reproduction of workers is essential for capital accumulation. However, the form this takes is not predetermined by the drive to accumulate. Writers in the tradition of International Socialism have long argued that, for historical reasons in Britain and many other capitalist societies, this has been done by the working class family, defining the family as the privatised reproduction of labour power. However, this is not always the case. In West Germany (pre-1989 Germany was divided between West and East Germany) after the Second World War, Turkish and Italian Gastarbeiter (guest workers) were housed in hostels while any family they might have were forced to remain outside Germany. The apartheid system in South Africa also had similar arrangements. In addition, certain aspects of the process of the reproduction of labour power can be and have been undertaken by the state to varying degrees.

Kath Ennis, Irene Breugel, Chris Harman and Lindsey German all argued convincingly that while the reproduction of labour power is essential, this does not necessarily have to take the privatised form of the family.42 Ennis points out:

Housework could be eliminated if a small fraction of the technology which can send men to the moon was to be applied to the household. Cooking could be socialised instead of everyone doing their own. And new forms of social care for the young, the old and the sick, could leave women free to lead their own lives.43

However, Ennis also argues, rightly: “In theory, capitalism could do without the family”, but: “In practice, however, this would require such fundamental changes in society, it is hard to imagine them ever being carried out”.44 Not only would the level of investment be enormous, but it would also mean fundamentally attacking and challenging the ideas that underpin the family. This is unlikely outside of all-out war, where as many people as possible have to be drafted into fighting on the front line or on the production line. Equally, no individual employer in constant competition with other employers is going to go down that road. It is also fairly obvious that in current economic conditions the capitalist class is unlikely to see any need to socialise or take over the tasks of the family.45 A further point is that the family, all appearances to the contrary, serves the interests of capital in maintaining the reproduction of labour power.46

Domestic labour and women’s oppression
There was an attempt to argue that women’s work in the home should be seen as a direct contribution to surplus value and therefore be equated with the sale of labour power in work. In 1976 Irene Breugel, followed by Judith Hamilton and Elana Dallas, wrote a convincing critique of the demand for wages for housework, pointing out that housework is not unpaid wage labour: more importantly, a wage would trap women in the home whereas the focus should be on the power of women workers in social production and the fight for the tasks of the household to be socialised.47 To put it in Marxist terms, work in the home has a use value but no exchange value and therefore is not part of the process of the production of surplus value.

Perhaps inevitably, the focus on domestic labour leads to seeing husbands and male partners as the beneficiaries and thence to the conclusion that men are the enemy. In some cases it leads to the demand for wages for housework. Silvia Federici, a long-time proponent of wages for housework, argues in the preface to Ground Zero:

capitalism requires unwaged reproductive labour in order to contain the cost of labour power, and we believe that a successful campaign draining the source of this unpaid labour would break the process of capital accumulation, and confront capital and the state on a terrain common to most women.48

Federici argues that waged work is not a path to liberation.49 In a different variation, Pamela Odih, for example, argues that the exclusion by Marx of domestic labour as a category of capitalist accumulation “is part of the more general economic dominance and hegemony of men over women”.50 She fails to see that the oppression of women is nonetheless real for all that domestic labour does not generate surplus value, and that women workers are “equally” as exploited as male workers. The fact that domestic labour is mainly done by women does not place male workers in an alliance with capital.

Arguments around domestic labour as the cause of women’s oppression also suffer from being incoherent and ahistorical, failing to take account of the changes that have occurred over the last 50 years. Single men and single women have to do all their own housework.51 Does this mean that single women are not oppressed and that single men are not the enemy, but only male partners of women?

Housework and childcare are shared by couples. Overall men today are contributing more in terms of housework and childcare, even if women still do more. Where both work fulltime, housework and childcare are shared more equally, but men work longer hours and travel further to work than women. And men still do most of the DIY.52 Many fathers would like to spend more time with their children. This is not to say that men and women should not share equally both housework and childcare, but that the argument about who does what misses the obvious solution: as far as possible to socialise domestic labour. It also misses the devastating impact on everyone of the stressful long-hours culture in modern Britain.

Moreover, the logic of the arguments around domestic labour is to argue for two struggles: one against exploitation, the class struggle, and another against patriarchy, women against men. This is quite different from locating women’s oppression in the family as the privatised reproduction of labour power for capital, which traps men, women and children in hierarchical gender relations. The solution in the latter case is the socialisation of reproduction, with men and women workers combining together for social and economic change.

The rise of the working class family
The re-emergence of the working class family, despite Marx and Engels’s predictions that it would disappear, led to a key debate between Marxists and patriarchy theorists. Did male workers collaborate with the ruling class to exclude women from jobs and impose a family wage?

Heidi Hartmann, a leading patriarchy theorist, argues that: “the material base upon which patriarchy rests lies most fundamentally in men’s control over women’s labour power”.53 According to Hartmann, male workers, in alliance with capital, ensured women were excluded from economically productive resources and also controlled their sexuality. Male workers feared economic competition from women workers as well as the threat to their authority. She goes on to argue: “In the absence of patriarchy a unified working class might have confronted capitalism, but patriarchal social relations divided the working class, allowing one part (men) to be bought off at the expense of the other (women)”.54

Jane Humphries undertook a forensic examination of these arguments in “Protective Legislation, the Capitalist State, and Working Class Men: The Case of the 1842 Mines Regulation Act”. This was the first piece of protective legislation that specifically mentioned women. Essentially, Humphries analyses one type of mining where women were employed underground. She shows that the male miners preferred to recruit their own wives and children to work alongside them as this was both safer and also ensured the wage paid to them did not have to be shared with anyone outside the family. The male hewer’s or miner’s wage acted as a “family” wage. Members of the family tended to look out for one another more, were more dependable, honest about the amount of coal dug out, and parents were less harsh towards their own children. Male miners preferred employing their own daughters rather than other people’s sons.55

Humphries also shows that male miners did not appear to object to the independent attitudes of their wives and daughters, nor necessarily consider them “inferior homemakers” compared with other working class women.56 The degree of comfort of the family home appeared to relate more to income than to whether women worked or not.57 The organisation of the work as a “family” effort had an impact on personal relations between men and women in another way: it led to earlier marriage as men wanted wives to work with them rather than to have “to pay wages to their assistants which were a substantial drain on their wages”. It also led to large families. Humphries continues:
“Not only did women’s employment promote early marriage, it also allegedly affected the choice of a partner. Strength was the usual criterion, rather than ‘aptitude for domestic duties’ or ‘liking’.”58 Young women stood up for themselves with one witness to the commissioners who compiled the report for the 1842 legislation recounting: “If a man was to offer any insult to a girl in a pit she would take her fist and give him a blow in his face”.59

Life was extremely tough down the mines and took its toll on everyone, but particularly on nursing mothers and pregnant women, who often gave birth in the pit and returned to work within days of childbirth. Miscarriages and stillbirths were frequent.60 In contrast, the subcommissioners who compiled the report were less concerned about the level and nature of accidents, the impact on all miners’ health, never mind the impact on pregnant women and nursing mothers, than with the sexual mores of the women miners.61 This reflected their own bourgeois attitudes shaped by their experience of the bourgeois family, morals and sexuality. They were mortified by seeing half naked men and women together: “The youths of both sexes work often in a half naked state and their persons are excited before they arrive at puberty. Sexual intercourse frequently occurs in consequence…women brought up in this way lay aside all modesty, and scarcely know what it is by name”.62

In a more practical vein, the mine owners themselves believed that if women were no longer allowed to work underground it would discipline the men to turn up more regularly and be prepared to work for longer hours to compensate for the loss of their wives’ wages.63 In other words, protective legislation which banned women from working would help discipline male workers.

Humphries’s analysis points to the importance of careful historical research which investigates concretely the situation of male and female workers as well as the different class interests at play in the 1840s, both from the point of view of individual mine owners, the capitalist class and men and women workers themselves. Of all the forces which contributed to the introduction of the 1842 Act, it is clear that Hartmann’s theory of patriarchal structures uniting male miners, mine owners and the bourgoisie is a myth, which does not stand up to examination.

The same can also be said about other versions of patriarchy theory, whether they are based on ideology, arguments about a patriarchal state, biology and the like, which collapse very quickly when subject to serious historical class analysis. Historically, part of the purpose of patriarchy theory in all its forms has been precisely to replace a class analysis with one based on sex in order to further an argument for cross-class alliances of women to fight men.64

Other extensive accounts of how and why a working class family was created have been given by Tony Cliff and Lindsey German in particular.65 They both draw extensively on research done by historians of the working class and the family in the 19th century. They both show that although the driving force to constitute a working class family came from above, there was not huge resistance from either women or men:

So there was a coincidence of interests between the capitalist class and the working class. But this did not flow from a patriarchal convergence, as some feminists argue… For working class men and women it came from the wholehearted desire for a better life.66

Both Cliff and German assume, in my view rightly, that men and women do seek relationships with one another and very often do want to have children and bring them up in decent conditions. The conditions wrought by early capitalism were literally wrecking the lives of men, women and children and as German argues: “It was out of these conditions that the demand for protective legislation and the family wage came”.67

The consequences for women.
German asserts that the development of the family wage in mid-19th century Britain, with women supposedly becoming homemakers while men continued to go out to work, came at a price:

However, as a solution to the problems of the working class family it was an extremely narrow and backward looking approach. It implied that women had to be dependent on men for their livelihood, and that men had a greater right to work than women.68

More than that, it led to a development of gender roles allocated to women and men on the basis of a sexual division of labour: the male breadwinner going out to work and the female homemaker responsible for child rearing and work in the household, all because women can bear children. The nuclear family, man, woman and children, came to ossify gender roles and hierarchical relationships with children at the bottom of the hierarchy. It became a prison as well as a haven, a source of conflict as well as solidarity.

However, possibilities of forcing the ruling class to socialise the reproduction of labour power by providing 24-hour nurseries, cafes and restaurants and the like were totally unrealistic in the aftermath of the defeat of the Chartist movement in 1848.69 Instead:

the ruling class was concerned to secure the family as a means of reproducing labour power. The same period also saw serious attempts by the state to regulate sexuality. This was a ruling class offensive designed to impose bourgeois norms of family life on the working class. The Poor Law Amendment Act in 1834, by outlawing outdoor relief for unmarried mothers, helped break earlier patterns of premarital sex. Other laws in the 1880s raised the age of consent for girls, regulated obscenity, prostitution and homosexuality and were part of a drive to establish the marriage bed as the sole legitimate place for sexual relations, at least for women.70

Despite all this, the reality did not live up to the ideology about the working class family. Many working class women found they still had to work as their husbands did not get a family wage. Hilary Land argues:

Married women were not expected to make an economic contribution to the household and if they did it was often not perceived to be “productive work”. Men were assumed to earn a family wage. In practice not every man did earn a wage high enough to support a wife and children. Charles Booth’s and Seebohm Rowntree’s poverty surveys carried out at the turn of the century showed that irregular or inadequate wages accounted for a substantial proportion of poverty. Indeed, low wages were the largest single cause of poverty among working class families. Booth, for example, estimated that in London’s East End 30 percent of the population was unable to rely solely on the man’s wage. The economist Arthur Bowley estimated on the basis of the census of 1911 that only 41 percent of working class families were dependent on a man’s wage alone. On average the man’s wage comprised 70 percent of the family income.71

Unsurprisingly, in such circumstances: “Married women had to find some way of contributing to the family income and, not finding it in factory employment, they were forced to earn a little by taking in washing, going out charring, taking in lodgers and childminding—all extensions of women’s normal domestic work”.72

From the post-war boom to today
Marx and Engels write in the Communist Manifesto:

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned.73

The long period of capitalist expansion that started in the 1930s and continued into the early 1970s brought about enormous changes which have continued until now. In many ways, by 2000, the way of life for women, children and men was unrecognisable compared with a century earlier.

It is worth looking at the changes brought about, by looking first at the changing role of women going out to work, before looking at other important changes and the impact of working class struggle and social movements such as second wave feminism and the LGBT movement. It is also worth stressing that the impact of the long boom on women and the family has to be firmly embedded in the understanding that women bear the brunt of childcare and housework in the family. Women going out to work means women being both oppressed and exploited, with their working lives shaped by the fact of being women and the nature of the oppression being shaped by the question of exploitation.

The key change for women has been their entry into the labour market as wage workers. This started in the 1930s, accelerated with the impact of the Second World War (an aspect of the war made famous by the film Rosie the Riveter) and then slowed for a short time in the aftermath of the war. This trend then accelerated once more, continuing through the period of the long post-war boom and through the various economic crises from 1973 until now. Crises are “sex blind” in the way they work, in the sense that the choice of workplace to close is not decided primarily by whether women or men work there but by the sector undergoing the crisis. The closure of the mines, steel plants and docks in the 1980s, in the main, threw men onto the dole. The differential impact on women today is because of the high percentage of women working in the public sector and the decision by government to cut back the welfare state.

Women today are no longer part of the industrial reserve army of labour but a permanent part of the modern waged workforce. From 1971 to 2011 the economic activity rate among women rose from 59 percent to 74 percent while the female employment rate rose from 56 to 69 percent. In the same period the economic activity rate among men fell from 95 percent in 1971 to 83 percent in 2010 and the employment rate fell from 92 to 75 percent. The employment rate plateaued through the 1990s until today and is lower than in other OECD countries.74

At the same time, the fact that women still do the majority of housework and childcare means that their working lives are still shaped by their role as mothers and homemakers. Women do not leave their oppression inside the door when they go off to work. When they get to work they find they have taken it with them. This shapes women’s lives, regardless of whether they are single, married, cohabiting, divorced or lesbian. Women’s oppression is structured into the world in which we live. Women still do not get equal pay with men. The hourly rate for full-time women workers is still 14.9 percent less than that of men.75 This is a decline of 1.28 percent since 2011. Gaps in pay between men and women vary according to sector, rising to 55 percent in the finance sector and 33 percent in the banking sector.76

The gap between part-time women’s pay and men’s pay is much greater as part-time women’s rate of pay is lower than full-time women’s rate of pay. In 2005-6 it was 26 percent lower than full-time women’s pay. In 1975 the gap was only 10 percent. One of the reasons for this is the greater “part-time pay penalty” in the UK than in other parts of Europe. More women move jobs when they move from full-time to part-time work after having a child.77 This often leads them to taking less skilled and therefore less well-paid work than when they worked full-time. Part-time work is in any case more prevalent in less-skilled and less well-paid sectors:

Compared with women who work full-time, part-time women are more likely to have low levels of education, to be in a couple, to have dependent children that are bothyoung and numerous, to work in small establishments in distribution, hotels and restaurants and to be in low-level occupations. Almost 25 percent of part-time women are shop assistants, care assistants or cleaners. 15 percent of full-time women are managers but only 4.4 percent of part-time women.78

The reason the majority of women work part-time is connected to their role in childcare in the family.

Existing research reveals in broad terms why women work part-time. These reasons include: domestic circumstances; the lack of affordable childcare, access to qualifications; and labour market conditions and opportunities. These circumstances and conditions operate as constraints on women in the labour market. Part-time working is also associated with specific stages in the life cycle. In particular, many women with young children find that only by taking part-time employment can they balance the responsibilities and demands of family life and work.79

In 2010, 29 percent of overall jobs were part-time, of which 75 percent were women’s, with an increase in 10 percent of male part-timers compared with 3 percent of women part-timers.80 However, women’s attitudes also seem to be changing, possibly as a result of the impact of some of the government’s austerity measures.81 For example, an analysis by the TUC shows “that while the number of women who are working part-time but would like to be full-time is on the rise, the number of women working part-time who don’t want a full-time job, often because of family and caring responsibilities, has been falling”.82

One thing is certain, that men and women in the UK have higher childcare costs compared with other parts of Europe: 66 percent of mothers in the UK are in work, compared with 72 percent in France and 86 percent in Denmark.83 Some of the recent changes in childcare support implemented by the government since April 2011 are perverse. Single parents working over 16 hours a week and second earners are worse off. The overwhelming majority, of course, in those two categories are women.84 “By cutting the maximum level of support available through the child care element of Working Tax Credit from 80 percent of costs to 70 percent of costs, the average claim has fallen over £10 per week”.85 At the same time low to middle two-parent households are becoming more than ever dependent on the contribution of women’s pay. In 1968 women’s pay made up 11 percent of the household total, whereas by 2008-9 it had risen to 24 percent.86 If that were not enough, the government is intent on damaging childcare provision by permitting an increase in the ratio of child to carer in nurseries from 1:5 to 1:8.

The changing rate of employment of women has been driven by the needs of capital, even if the hours they work are determined by childcare. But the vast expansion of women’s role as wage-labourers has had enormous social consequences, extending their expectations and powering the rise of the women’s movement.

The working class came out of the Second World War expecting changes and sections of the ruling class fearing revolution. The net result was the development of the welfare state, a system comprising a National Health Service, universal benefits, the building of decent council housing, benefits paid for through national insurance, a safety net for the temporarily unemployed, pensions and maternity services. Thus some of the tasks of the reproduction of labour power were socialised.

Longer schooling and mass university education for young women and men transformed the lives of children and adolescents,87 providing not only some kind of education and training, but arenas for socialisation and experience away from the family. Increasingly, household tasks were mechanised. Washing, which previously took all day and involved heavy work, was transformed with the use of washing machines that washed, then spun clothes, sheets and babies’ nappies. The latter, in turn, have often been replaced by a disposable version. Cleaning was lightened through electrical appliances and different materials used for kitchens and bathrooms. Gradually coal fires came to be replaced by central heating. All these changes have led to a decline in the time spent on household chores, although women still do more than men.88

The same period also brought changes which facilitated a transformation in women’s ability to control their own lives, including their sexuality: the development of reliable forms of contraception, access to legal abortion, easier access to divorce, the right to take out loans, to name but a few: “The conservative mood of the 1950s, reinforced by the Cold War, gave way to a liberalisation of social attitudes”.89 British society continued to become more equal overall,90 with increasing levels of trust, better social relations and increased status of women.91 Working class adults formed couples on the basis of mutual desire or love rather than on the basis of supporting one another in work.

In the 1960s, as these changes were taking place, the level of working class confidence was rising in the key industries of car making, engineering and the mines. In the universities students were starting to agitate over issues such as Ban the Bomb, the Vietnam War and student grievances. The civil rights movement in the United States spilled over into the student movement. A mass student movement developed in Germany and then France culminating in the French general strike of May-June 1968.

All these struggles were mutually reinforcing, raising the confidence of all involved and opening vast numbers of people to new ideas. The ideas of the Women’s Liberation Movement or second wave feminism chimed with the experiences of women workers coming up against problems of unequal pay, job discrimination, problems of childcare and the like. The Ford women sewing machinists’ strike of 1968 forced Barbara Castle, Labour Minister of Employment, to introduce the Equal Pay Act. The ideas about gay and lesbian liberation, arising out of Stonewall, touched a chord with all those who felt unable to openly articulate their same sexual desire.92 Women demanded access to the pill outside of marriage and attitudes to women’s sexuality began to change with the demands of women for sexual satisfaction. Arguments about the appropriateness of wearing short skirts and the picketing of the Miss World competition in 1968 made the point forcibly that women were not sex objects. At the same time, women’s refuges and rape crisis centres were opened in the 1970s to address the very real problems of domestic and sexual violence that the development of the movement made more visible.93
The impact on the form of the family
Entry into work and the changes outlined brought about significant changes to women’s traditional role as mother and housewife. The Social Trends report in 2009 described what has occurred since 1971: a 20 percent decline in births to women under 25; a 51 percent drop in marriage of women by the age of 30. Adults living alone had increased from 6 percent to 12 percent. Single parent households had increased from 4 percent to 11 percent between 1971 and 2008.

The number of married couples in 2009 was the lowest since 1895. In the Second World War there were 471,000 marriages in England and Wales and by 2006 this had dropped to 237,000 marriages. The number of children living with an unmarried couple has risen from 1 million in 1999 to 1.66 million in 2009, while the numbers of children with married couples has dropped from 9.57 million to 8.32 million in the same decade.

Even though the majority of children appear to be born to couples David Wallop reports that 1.12 million children with married couples face a family break up by the age of five compared with 1.2 with cohabitees who face a family break up by the age of five.94

According to Gingerbread, 23 percent of households with dependent children are headed by single parents, 90 percent of whom are women. These households care for 3 million children. 57.2 percent of single parents are in work—an increase of 13 percent since 1997. The rate of employment of single parents varies according to the age of the youngest child but at 71 percent is similar to that of women in couples once the youngest child is 12 years old.

However, a report commissioned by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) concluded: “It does not appear that becoming a lone parent is a ‘decision’ taken easily, lightly or wantonly. The single and non-cohabiting lone mothers appear to have the least choice”.95 This lack of choice reflects the extent of damage caused by inequality in the UK. International comparisons of data on single parent families show: “There is no connection between the proportion of single parents and national standards of child well-being.” In Sweden only 6 percent of children with a single parent in work and 18 percent of those without were in relative poverty. In the UK the figures are 7 percent for single parents with jobs and 39 percent for those without.96 Equally, there is a strong connection between inequality in society and child well-being. They stand in inverse relationship to one another.97

Teenage mothers are often denounced as being “feckless”,98 even though they only make up 2 percent of single parents. Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett point out that “there is a strong tendency for more unequal countries and more unequal states to have higher teenage birth rates—much too strong to be attributable to chance”.99 They also argue there is a strong link between poverty and deprivation and teenage births.100

Women’s status as workers continues to underpin many of the advances that have been made, bearing out Marx’s prediction about the undermining of the traditional family and a tendency towards the equalising of relationships.101 Today men and women who enter relationships with one another can get married, cohabit, separate, remarry, cohabit with someone different in either heterosexual or same sex relationships or stay single. Those with children can do the same.

Marriage, cohabitation and single parenthood do not change the fact that couples or single women (and sometimes men) bear the burden of reproduction. Underneath the surface there are possibly class differences between those who marry and those who cohabit that are likely to be reinforced by the £20,000 now spent on the average wedding. What is certain is that single parenthood certainly goes hand in hand with poverty and poverty has the biggest bearing on educational and health outcomes for children.

Changes in sexual behaviour
A great deal is written, rightly, about the commodification of sexuality, but there are also indications that changed attitudes to sexuality have influenced people’s sexual behaviour. German writes:

When the pioneering gynaecologist Helena Wright asked her working class patients in the 1930s what they got out of making love, most of them blinked uncomprehendingly. Sex was much more likely to be something which men wanted, and women suffered… The difference from modern women was total. As Helena Wright says, today “the contrast is extraordinary. The girl’s face shines brilliantly and she says, ‘Oh Doctor, it’s glorious’.”102

There have been other particular changes: “Only 3 percent of women who started having sex in the 1950s had ten or more partners during their lifetime, while 10 percent of women starting intercourse in the 1970s claimed this figure.” “Being in love” is given less frequently as the reason for first intercourse. Based on a study from the 1990s, German continues: “In the age group 16-24, of those who had ever experienced vaginal intercourse, 85 percent had also experienced oral sex”.103

But the invisible hand of the market that pulls women into work intrudes everywhere, even into the most intimate sphere of people’s lives. Women’s bodies became central to advertising and women were encouraged to buy all sorts of products to make themselves look like the advertising images of their own bodies. Since the impact of the Women’s Liberation Movement ebbed away, there has been a resurgence of a new sexism. Sex itself has become yet another commodity to be bought and sold; women reshape their bodies into objects for male pleasure, including putting them under the surgeon’s knife. All this with the added twist that the more sexually alluring a women appears to be, supposedly, the more she is empowered. Judith Orr writes about these developments:

This is what marks the new sexism from the old. It reflects and has absorbed the history and language of women’s struggles to assert their sexual needs and desires, to be more than mere objects for the enjoyment of others, all the better to continue that very process. Raunch culture is sold to us as a liberated way to express our sexuality and so, paradoxically, it has persuaded us to accept being objectified in ever more crude and shocking ways.104

So entry into work has partially transformed women’s and men’s and children’s lives with important gains for both women’s autonomy and a degree of sexual freedom unheard of since the establishment of the working class family in the middle of the 19th century. Homophobia continues, but same sex relationships are acceptable. And transexuality is becoming more familiar to a wider number of people in society.

However, the family, regardless of the form it takes, still embodies the privatised reproduction of labour power. And whatever kind of relationship men and women happen to be in, none of us can escape the socialising force of the nuclear family. It is still based on the assumption that a woman should play a particular role as partner and mother because she is able to bear children while men cannot. Thus the gender roles for women and men and the normative view of heterosexuality continue. Commodified sexuality coexists with a prurience about teaching children and adolescents about sexuality. Since our species does not teach sexuality through observation of the sex act, unlike other species, everyone has to learn the best way he or she can, through trial and error, and pornography in a society where women are supposed to be eternally young and sexually alluring for men and patterns of long hours of work and stress make the real prospects of satisfying personal relationships more and more difficult.

Domestic and sexual violence
“No one walks down the aisle in a white dress thinking they are doing this for the benefit of capital or to reproduce the next generation of workers”.105 The family is the place women and men expect to be loved and cherished, perhaps to bring up children, whether their own or those of their partner. However, the stresses and strains of daily life can make that a nearly impossible task. The family creates expectations about hierarchy and gender roles for all men and women and children, which can be unbearable for individual family members. Often relationships creak under the strains they are expected to bear; sometimes the family is an unbearable place to be and at times it explodes.

The facts about domestic and sexual violence make this all too clear.106 Some 54 percent of UK rapes are committed by a woman’s current or former partner. On average, two women a week are killed by a male partner or a former partner. Serious sexual assault is most likely to be committed by someone known to both female and male victims. “Abused women are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms, eating problems and sexual dysfunction.” Children also suffer: “They are at increased risk of behavioural problems and emotional trauma, and mental health difficulties in adult life… In 75 percent to 90 percent of incidents of domestic violence, children are in the same or the next room.”

The almost constant stream of revelations about sexual harassment and worse in the public domain are a reminder, if one were needed, that women are not necessarily safe at work. The Jimmy Savile scandal is appalling, showing that a serial child abuser close to Margaret Thatcher and the political establishment was allowed to prey on young people for decades. This is appalling not just because it revealed the extent of the sexist culture within the BBC in Savile’s time, but what emerged about the BBC today. An article about the BBC in the Observer, written by an anonymous TV producer, recounts one incident after another of women having to listen to sexual innuendos (so-called “banter”), or being groped by “sleazy” men. She concluded: “In an industry with virtually no job security, with even the channels themselves turning a blind eye to sexual harassment, it’s little wonder that women are resigned to putting up and shutting up. It’s why you won’t find my name on this piece—and perhaps why the likes of Jimmy Savile got away with it for so long”.107

As explained at the beginning of this article, feminists and socialists combined in the 1970s to campaign successfully in defence of abortion rights. Today there is no reason why a similar campaign in unions and workplaces could not be equally successful in establishing that sexual harassment of any kind is unacceptable. The acceptance of sexist language in society should be challenged.108 Far from empowering women, it reflects the view that women are subordinate to men and reducible to their sexuality. The problem of sexual harassment is very often linked to the power of the employer and fears women have of losing their job or chance of career progression. Women, gay, lesbian and trans people need to be encouraged to join the relevant union and get the unions to take up their complaints.109 Indeed, in the Russian Reolution of 1917, women workers settled accounts with sexist foremen and employers. Equally, employers should be forced to combat sexual harassment in workplaces and to keep their hands and comments to themselves.110

The centrality of wage labour
Marx and Engels, Rosa Luxemburg and Clara Zetkin, Lenin and Trotsky were all insistent on the importance of women workers. The reason is, in part, what Rosa Luxemburg said so succinctly: “Where the chains are forged there they must be broken”.111 The only power that can contest the power of the ruling class and the state lies in the ability of the working class to take control over the whole of production and the functioning of society. Collectively, workers are powerful.

But there are also other reasons that are intrinsic to Marx’s theory of revolution. Being in work changes the individual from being a private citizen into a social citizen. Whatever the task, paid work makes an individual part of a collective with independent means—a wage or salary that belongs to him or her. It inserts the individual into a collective with contact with other workers, people you can talk to and socialise with.112

It also has an impact on gender roles. Engels wrote up his own observations of the impact of industrialisation on men and women in The Condition of the Working Class in England. He draws attention to the way in which older and younger women break out of their normal roles as wives and children, going to the pub straight after work, drinking away their wages and defying the authority of their husbands and fathers.113 Engels continues:

We must admit that so total a reversal of the position of the sexes can have come to pass only because the sexes have been placed in a false position from the beginning. If the reign of the wife over the husband brought about by the factory system, is inhuman, the pristine rule of the husband over the wife must have been inhuman too.114

These kinds of insights are borne out by the way in which modern women’s behaviour is becoming more like that of men in such matters as drinking, smoking and socialising. Similar effects have been identified in relation to women’s response to rape inside marriage: “A woman’s ability to leave marriages after being raped is also heavily conditioned by economic factors. Most women, some 87 percent in fact, tried to leave and 77 percent succeeded”.115

Being at work is also potentially a great leveller. When the employer attacks pay and conditions, brings disciplinary charges or wants to make changes, the only means of effective resistance is a collective one. And developing a collective response requires meetings, discussion and decisions. Frequently it is the younger workers who are most daring.116 A meeting in January of London National Union Teachers school representatives was dominated by women speakers articulating the anger of their members at government attacks and demanding the union lead a fight.
When votes are taken at workplace meetings, everyone, whether man or woman, gay, lesbian or straight, black or white, Christian, Muslim or atheist has only one vote and therefore finds themselves in a position of equal status with the other. Thus the process of class struggle itself sets up a dynamic which is both democratic and gives a voice to everyone. That is why Marx could talk about the potential transformation of relationships between men and women as a result of the creation of the modern working class.

The impact of austerity
In the UK today work is not a route out of poverty and single parent households are twice as likely to be poor as households with couples. The UK is already one of the most unequal societies. The wave after wave of austerity measures being implemented by the government can only make that inequality worse as support systems for the most vulnerable are whittled down and kicked away. But cuts to the public sector hit women doubly hard as they make up 65 percent of the public sector workforce. So women public sector workers find their pay is frozen and that they have to work longer for a reduced pension. The cuts in services are hitting women hardest, followed by pensioners.

The cuts are reaching to every corner of people’s lives from transport costs through education to housing. The cap in housing benefit due to come into force in April 2013 will set in train a form of class cleansing as “poor” families are forced out of areas where they can no longer pay the rent. The uprating of benefits by the Consumer Price Index rather than the Retail Price Index hits women more than men as 30 percent of women rely on state support compared with 15 percent of men. Some 50,000 jobs in health are set to go to achieve the £15 to 20 billion savings demanded by the government. Cuts in mental health provision will hit women who are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety and depression and from domestic and sexual violence. Social care budgets for the elderly are being cut on average by 8 percent. The majority of users of such services are women as the carers. The Sure Start budget, which provides services for 68 percent of parents with children under one year, is no longer being ring fenced; 3,000 posts for youth workers are being cut. Support provided by councils for rape crisis centres is disappearing.117 On every single measure, those who are already vulnerable will be hit hardest.

There is no way that women and existing family structures will be able to substitute for state provision as it disappears. Life at the bottom of society is going to get meaner and tougher as a direct result of government policy, with single women and single parents with their children among the worst affected.

We have seen how the aftermath of the Second World War led to a transformation in women’s lives with women being drawn into work and elements of the reproduction of labour power being taken over by the welfare state and mass education. This undermined the traditional nuclear family and opened up a space for a greater variety of more equal relationships giving greater freedom to women and men, bearing out one of Marx’s predictions about the impact of work on relations between men and women. However, these trends are limited by the realities of capitalist crisis and the continuation of the family as the key institution for the reproduction of labour power.

The current obsession of the ruling class with austerity measures will continue to hit women workers in the public sector but still leave them strategically placed both in the public sector and in the economy overall. Austerity will seriously undermine the very institution, the working class family, the government expect to take over the reins of the welfare state it is dismantling. Millions of people are going to suffer.

But there will be resistance. It will no doubt take many different forms as the student demonstrations over student fees, the SlutWalks, the Occupy movement, the marches over hospital closures and the one-day strikes over pensions, have shown. But women workers are now at the very heart of the working class movement, in unparalleled numbers and levels of union organisation. Women workers need to use their collective strength (alongside men) to fight over pensions, jobs, pay and services and against sexism. Revolutionary socialists have a key role to play in encouraging and participating in resistance whether it is to sexist comments, harassment, the government’s austerity measures or bosses’ attacks on wages and conditions. Equally, it is of fundamental importance to win the strategic argument with all those in struggle, students, workers and the unemployed alike, that women are both exploited and oppressed in capitalist society and that women must look to their collective strength as workers alongside male workers to bring down a society which both exploits and oppresses women.


1: X

2: Gold, 2012.

3: Quoted in Martinson, 2012.

4: www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/oct/24/suffragette-great-granddaughter-march-parliament. The recent death of a woman in the Republic of Ireland, as a result of being refused an abortion, is a reminder of the importance of the right to free, legal abortions.

5: The SlutWalk protest marches began on 3 April 2011, in Toronto, Canada, after Constable Michael Sanguinetti, a police officer, suggested that to remain safe, “women should avoid dressing like sluts.” Participants expressed their rage at trying to explain or excuse rape by referring to any aspect of a woman’s appearance. Similar marches were held across the world.

6: www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=3143. If my memory serves me correctly, it was the then national secretary of the International Socialists who suggested the slogan when I was women’s organiser and editor of Women’s Voice.

7: See Federici, 2012, and Vogel, 1983 (but about to be reprinted).

8: Quoted by Brown, 2012, p28.

9: This point will be further developed in later sections of the article.

10: Brown, 2012, p28.

11: Quoted in Harman, 1994, p85-86.

12: Brown, 2012, pp54-55.

13: Cliff, 1974.

14: Brown, 2012, p55.

15: “Above all, it [the new social order] will have to take the control of industry and of all branches of production out of the hands of mutually competing individuals, and instead institute a system in which all these branches of production are operated by society as a whole-that is, for the common account, according to a common plan, and with the participation of all members of society… It will, in other words, abolish competition and replace it with association”-Engels, 1847.

16: Vogel, 1983, chapter 6.

17: This depends on dating skeletons from the human line, Brenot and Picq, 2012, p85.

18: Harman, 1994, p89. In its narrowest sense, sexual reproduction does not change, how individuals make sexual approaches to one another, and what sexual practices are considered acceptable or otherwise are shaped socially and historically.

19: Brenot and Picq, 2012, p42.

20: Brenot and Picq, 2012, p43.

21: You can’t see whether a woman is ovulating by looking at her body, so a “desire” for sex has to be signalled in other ways.

22: See Harman, 1994. Harman draws heavily on the writings of anthropologists like Eleanor Leacock, Richard Lee and Colin Turnbull among many.

23: A survey of the accounts of hunter-gatherer societies shows a huge range of tasks undertaken by women. See Harman, 1994, and McGregor, 1989.

24: Marx sees this as essential for the reproduction of the species, a position with which I would hope most people would concur.

25: See Blackwood, 1985, pp27-42.

26: In fact, Marshall Sahlins coined the term “the original affluent society”: quoted in Harman, 1994, p118.

27: Harman draws heavily on the Marxist archaeologist V Gordon Childe and C K Maisels for this account-Harman, 1994.

28: Harman, 1994, pp134-139.

29: Engels, 1978.

30: Quoted in Engels, 1978, p97.

31: Cliff, 1984, p196. See also German, 1981, p37, and Harman, 1984, p5.

32: Marx, 1976, p718.

33: Marx, 1976, Engels, 1993.

34: Harman, 1984, p7.

35: See Brown, 2012, pp72-76.

36: Quoted in Vogel, 1983, p35.

37: Vogel, 1983, p34.

38: “They fell into the abominable practice of sodomy and degraded alike their gods and themselves with the myth of Ganymede”, in a discussion about the low status of women in Greek society-Engels, 1978, p74. There is a debate about the translation of the German, as the expression is “die Wiederwärtigkeit der Knabenliebe” , which could perhaps be better translated as “the unpleasant nature of sodomy”. Regardless of that, this is a case of condemning Engels for not rising above the prejudices of his day. He didn’t in this case, but his overall approach to understanding how society shapes men and women provides a sympathetic reader with necessary tools of analysis.

39: “According to the materialistic conception, the determining factor in history is, in the final instance, the production and reproduction of immediate life”-Engels, 1978, p4.

40: Vogel, 1983, p168.

41: Marx, 1976, pp717-718.

42: Breugel, 1976, German, 1981, Harman, 1984.

43: Ennis, 1974, p27.

44: Ennis, 1974, p27.

45: Ennis, 1974, p27.

46: Ennis, 1974, p26, German, 1981.

47: Breugel, 1976, p22, and Dallas Hamilton, 1976, p22.

48: Federici, 2012, p8.

49: Federici, 2012, p9.

50: Odih, 2007, p11.

51: Women spend on average ten hours a week and men seven-German, 2007, p112.

52: German, 2007, p111.

53: Quoted in German, 1981, p36.

54: Quoted in Humphries, 1981, p3.

55: Humphries, 1981, pp13-14.

56: Humphries, 1981, p17.

57: Humphries, 1981, p15.

58: Humphries, 1981, p14.

59: Humphries, 1981, p26.

60: Humphries, 1981, p22.

61: Humphries, 1981, p23.

62: Humphries, 1981, p25.

63: Humphries, 1981, p23. Too many miners celebrated Saint Monday!

64: See German, 1981, for a review of Juliet Mitchell and Heidi Hartmann in particular, Harman, 1984, for a review of the debate in International Socialism, and Molyneux, 1979, for a review of Christine Delphy.

65: Cliff, 1984, and German 1989, 2007.

66: German, 1989, p34.

67: German, 1981, p37.

68: German, 1989, p35.

69: Cliff, 1984, p202.

70: McGregor, 1989, p10.

71: Land, 1980, pp55-77.

72: Land, 1980, pp55-77.

73: Marx and Engels, 1848.

74: From “The Missing Million” report -www.resolutionfoundation.org/media/media/downloads/The_Missing_Million.pdf

75: www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=23

76: www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=321

77: In my school the head will not contemplate a head of faculty going part-time, so any woman who needs to go part-time has to give up her responsibilities and therefore take a substantial pay cut.

78: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/CP194.pdf

79: Grant, Yeandle, and Buckner, 2005.

80: www.flexibility.co.uk/flexwork/time/part-time-2010.htm

81: The interaction of the changes in the tax and benefit system for adults with young children needing childcare are complex. Each individual/couple has to look carefully at their income to see where and how the changes will impact on them. Very often a second earner will find she is working for nothing, such are the costs of childcare. See Alakeson and Hurrell, 2012.

82: Harris, 2012.

83: McVeigh, 2012.

84: Alakeson and Hurrell, 2012.

85: Daycare Trust, 2013.

86: www.resolutionfoundation.org/media/media/downloads/The_Missing_Million.pdf

87: “Between 1960 and 1965 there was a 57 percent increase in women gaining degrees (the equivalent rise for men was 25 percent)”-Orr, 2010, p 31.

88: German, 2007, p111.

89: McGregor, 1989, p12.

90: Danny Dorling dates the start of the process of becoming more equal in the UK and France to the 1930s lasting through until the 1970s-Dorling, 2012, p102.

91: Wilkinson and Pickett, 2010, p58.

92: For a comprehensive analysis of the period, see Harman, 1988.

93: The first one opened in London in 1976-Cochrane, 2012.

94: Wallop, 2009.

95: http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/rrep006.pdf

96: Wilkinson and Pickett, 2010, p187.

97: Wilkinson and Pickett, 2010, p23.

98: Wilkinson and Pickett, 2010, p119.

99: Wilkinson and Pickett, 2010, p125.

100: Wilkinson and Pickett, 2010, pp125 and 142. They present a case for teenagers becoming mothers in response to low self-esteem. The conception rate is similar across teenagers, but abortion is a way out.

101: “However terrible and disgusting the dissolution of the old family ties within the capitalist system may appear, large-scale industry, by assigning an important part in socially organised processes of production, outside the sphere of the domestic economy, to women, young persons and children of both sexes, does nevertheless create a new economic foundation for a higher form of the family and of relations between the sexes”-Marx, 1976, pp620-621.

102: German, 2007, p20.

103: All quotes from German, 2007, p43.

104: Orr, 2010, p36.

105: German, 2007, p58.

106: Statistics from www.womensaid.org.uk/core/core_picker/download.asp?id=1602

107: Anonymous, 2012.

108: The words “bitch” and “cunt” are often used by women and some people, like Laurie Penny, argue it is empowering.

109: Schools already have to provide “Child Protection Officers” so children and adults know who to report suspected child abuse to.

110: This is an adaption of a formula used in schools where children are in the habit of fighting and making nasty comments to themselves.

111: Luxemburg, 1918.

112: Over the last five months I have been struck by the way in which work has provided a form of community for a group of women who were all pregnant about the same time. Not only could they discuss among themselves how best to tackle everything, but other women, mothers, were on hand to pass on their advice. It also served to educate others, including fathers to be, about the different phases of pregnancy and what it entailed. There is also a tradition of informally introducing babies to the staff. So new fathers and mothers bring in their babies who get passed around the staff to hold, with a great many men showing their expertise when taking their turn.

113: Engels quotes Lord Ashley in the House of Commons on this: “A man berated his two daughters for going to the public house, and they answered that they were tired of being ordered about, saying ‘Damn you, we have to keep you!’ Determined to keep the proceeds of their work for themselves, they left the family dwelling, and abandoned their parents to their fate”-Engels, 1993, p15. Marx is also often ambiguous in his comments about the impact of the new factory conditions on women. See Brown, 2012, pp84-92, for a sympathetic analysis of Marx and morality.

114: Engels, 1993, p156.

115: McGregor, 1989, p18.

116: Where I work it is often, but not always, the young women who are most vociferous about fighting back.

117: All the figures are taken from Stephenson, 2011.


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Gold: Back to Money World (II)-Valentin KATASONOV

Posted by admin On April - 27 - 2013 Comments Off on Gold: Back to Money World (II)-Valentin KATASONOV


Lies about Muammar Gaddafi

The Muammar Gaddafi’s gold dinar is the best example of an attempt to make gold an instrument of payments in international trade. The Libyan leader led the efforts to maneuvering away from the dollar and the euro as the only means of international payments. He called upon the Arab-African world to switch over to a single currency – the gold dinar. According to the Colonel’s plans, the measure would constitute a basis for creating a unified state with mixed Arab-Black African population of 200 million. Many developing states supported the idea of Africa’s unification into a single federate state based on a single currency backed up by gold. It was met with repugnance by the United States and some Western nations. No matter how hard they tried to talk him out of it, Gaddafi was adamant. He continued to take new steps to create the unified Africa and introduce the gold dinar. There are two interpretations of the reasons behind the military intervention against Libya – the defense of human rights and the desire to grab the Gaddafi’s oil. Both are wrong. The real reason is the fact, that Colonel Gaddafi was brave enough to follow the example of General De Gaulle. He tried to bring into life the idea of getting away from paper money in favor of gold standard. By doing so he threatened the owners of printing press or, in other words, the major share owners of the private company under the name of the US Federal Reserve System…

Some states adopt gold for international payments on their own. Usually it is used for smuggling or dark operations. Nepal sets an example; it gets two thirds of its imports from the neighboring India. Gold is used for payments. Partially Nepalese vendors get it from local banks (around 15 kg per day). Another source of gold is the neighboring China. It’s cheaper there in comparison to what it costs in India (4.80 rupee per compared to 5.05 in India). In this case the use of gold is explained by the desire to get profit taking advantage of the difference in golf prices. There are also other reasons for cutting off some states from world trade. Iran is the best example; the West has imposed economic sanctions against it, including the ban on export-import banking transactions freezing the country out of world financial system. As a result, the neighboring Turkey shifted to gold payments for the natural gas imported from Iran. According to the Wall Street Journal Europe, the outflow of gold, measured in billions of dollars, from Turkey is a result of gas payments for Iranian gas… The shift of both countries to gold payments for gas is a result of the sanctions imposed by the United States, which threatens to get tough towards other states using dollar payments for trade with Iran. Gold payments will allow Ankara to avoid the «punishment» from Washington. During the first nine months of 2012 the outflow of gold from Turkey reached record high $10.7 billion, Iran received gold for the sum of $6.4 billion.

Secret war for gold, or the Rockefellers and the Rotshields

At first glance, some world events seem to be occasional and have nothing in common. In reality they always reflect the ongoing fight behind the scenes between different groups inside the world financial oligarchy. On the whole, they could be divided into two large camps: 1) those, who defend the existing status quo in the world, or the circulation of paper money, where the US dollar plays the leading part without any back-up; 2) the supporters of idea to get back to gold standards.

The first camp comprises the owners (major shareholders) of printing press – the United States Federal Reserve System and associated banks (which belong to the very same shareholders of the Federal Reserve System). They are the privileged recipients of paper production. Gold is seen as a dangerous competitor putting the dollar in jeopardy. Those, who belong to the group, will do their best to prolong the life of printing press, including provocation of a major war if need be. First of all, the group is represented by the clan of Rockefellers. There are also some clans of lesser fame. Aside from the Federal Reserve System’s printing press, they all exercise control over the world market of «black gold» and the US military-industrial complex.

The second camp of gold standard supporters is a motley crew of much broader representation. It includes part of world financial oligarchy, which is not so closely connected to the US Federal Reserve System. It has significant gold reserves at its disposal and exercises control over extraction and production of yellow metal. It is ready to eliminate the printing press in favor of gold standard. The group is mainly associated with the clan of Rotshields and some smaller clans, which to large extent are drawn to Europe. It should be noted, that the dollar system has discredited itself to the extent the world «gold» oligarchy sees no glitches on the way of recruiting supporters from all walks of life, so it enjoys a broad social base throughout the whole world. Suffice it to remember, the Occupy Wall Street movement, is, in essence, not targeted against the Wall Street banks only, but against the US Federal Reserve System as well, the agency which serves as the bulwark and rear base of the Rockefellers empire.

The Rotshields are behind numerous initiatives aimed at legalization of gold as currency metal. But any attack launched by the Rotshields is fought back by the Rockefellers. It’s kind of a seesaw battle at the «gold front», a ding-dong tug-of-war between the Rotshields and the Rockefellers. Now, let’s look more attentively at Switzerland. The battle started two years ago with no outcome in sight. There is no explanation as to why the «parallel» gold money was not launched into circulation in 2012 as previously planned. Swiss and world media stopped highlighting the issue as if upon a command. One can make a conjecture, that the process was stymied by the Rockefellers. Perhaps, the Rotshields and the Rockefellers held talks behind the curtain and managed to reach a compromise: for instance, the US government stops raiding the Swiss banks (for instance, using the accusation of involvement into money laundering for dictators or resorting to other reasons to justify the activities), while Switzerland freezes the process of bringing the «parallel» gold currency into circulation.

I have mentioned above the «gold» initiatives launched by 13 states of the USA. After Utah introduced gold currency, other twelve states started to hit snags on the way of doing the same thing. I’m sure, that the clan of Rockefellers saw it as a threat for the Federal Reserve System’s future, so it stepped on all economic and political «breaks» to slow it all down.

Probably, it’s not occasional that there are different limitations imposed on gold buying and selling operations introduced off and on in this or that country. Normally the limitations are explained by the need to fight money laundering (gold is ideally suited for laundering)), financing the fight against terrorism, corruption etc. For instance, in the summer of 2012 the tranquil and civilized Austria banned individual gold banking transactions exceeding $15000 at a time (back then it was no more than eleven ounces of gold). The government said the measure was aimed at supporting the United States in its fight against international terrorism and organized transnational crime. In September 2011 France followed the Austria’s example introducing curbs on individual purchases of gold sold by banks. It’s even tougher in the United States and some other countries. A lot of cities, like Houston, Texas, have made it obligatory to produce identification documents in case of gold buy or sell operations. The gold transactions are watched by banks as well as intelligence units of the Department of Treasure, The Federal Bureau of Investigations, and the Home Security Department. I think the campaign aimed at inflating the threat of international terrorism, is championed by the clan of Rockefellers. In particular, that’s the way they tackle the mission of curbing the use of gold as metal currency.

War as argument in «dollar against gold» dispute

To assess the prospects for world financial system‘s transition from the current dollar standard to gold standard one has to take into consideration the world military balance, the range of possibilities to use force by the clan of Rockefellers. It would be expedient to remember the events in and around Iraq and Libya. When the leaders of these countries took the bull by the horn and launched practical steps to refuse the dollar as the means of payment for oil and other commodities, the United States immediately launched wars against the «dictators». When Muammar Gaddafi tried to introduce the gold dinar, Libya was supported and cautiously «promoted» by the clan of Rotshields. Some little known facts provide testimony to the affirmation. For instance, Dominique Gaston André Strauss-Kahn, former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, was the protégé of the Rotshields. In 2011 he supported the idea of bringing the gold dinar into circulation. The clan of the Rockefellers hit back, it delivered a punch against Strauss-Kahn first, and then it struck Libya. The Strauss-Kahn story is a reflection of deep contradictions in the ranks of world oligarchy over the future of world financial system. Since 2009 Strauss-Kahn was firmly supporting the part of world financial oligarchy, which stood for elimination of the dollar as world currency. In particular, then head of the International Monetary Fund lashed out against the «Washington consensus» – a statement of principles aimed at US dollar’s global dominance.

Today military interventions against sovereign states appear to be United States responses to the threats posed to the interests of Rockefellers. The objective is to rebuff any attempts to refuse the production of the US Federal Reserve System’s printing press (the secondary goal is establishing control over the «black gold» reserves). But it’s a long time the world got fed up with the dollars forcibly imposed on it by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon and NATO. Washington declares to be «centers of terror» all those, who stand against receiving green pieces of paper of no value. They are subject to military interventions and economic blockades. The clan of Rotshields skillfully uses the world growing anti-US sentiments to promote its plan to make the world shift to gold standards.

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