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Archive for May, 2018

The Lasting Legacy of the Revolt that Shook France in 1968-Mitch Abidor’s New Oral History

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The Merry Month of May
Mitch Abidor’s New Oral History Explores the Lasting Legacy of the Revolt that Shook France in 1968-Richard Greeman
Where Are the Riots of Yesteryear?

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the wave of radical revolts and revolutionary uprisings that startled the world in 1968 and which,  although ultimately crushed by the forces of reaction that dominate the world to this day, left in its wake rights so fundamental that we tend to take them for granted — sexual freedom, civil rights, women’s’ equality. Yet a half-century later these hard-won rights are under attack and people are once again rising to defend them.

Today in France, where in 1968 the student-worker rebellion led to a weeks-long of general strike, the students have once again occupied the universities, while the railroad workers, airline, and public service workers are striking against the counter-reforms being imposed by the autocratic, neoliberal President Macron. Following the example of May ’68, these diverse groups are hoping to unite and force the government to cease their attacks on public services and working peoples’ standard of living.

In the United States as well, a wave of spontaneous strikes by underpaid, overworked, idealistic “Red State” teachers backed by public opinion is making sweeping gains, and movements like #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter and other post-Occupy Wall Street anti-capitalist struggles are on the rise. Is there hope for real change?

For more read https://indypendent.org/2018/05/the-merry-month-of-may-a-firsthand-history-of-68-france/.

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New Eugene Debs Film Does the Socialist Proud-Michael Hirsch

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A charismatic and militant labor leader, five-time Socialist Party presidential candidate, class-war prisoner jailed by the ostensibly liberal Woodrow Wilson administration for opposing U.S entry into World War I and a fiery, moral force in a corrupted era — Eugene Victor Debs was among the greatest orators this nation ever produced, yet no recording of his voice survives. And what a speaker he was! John Swinton, the late 19th century New York labor writer who as a young man heard Lincoln speak, likened Debs to Lincoln not just in intellect but in character. And unlike Lincoln, Debs could speak cogently to crowds for hours without notes.

Even foreign-language speakers were won over, with many testifying that Debs’ mannerisms alone were magnetic, his fist smacking his palm as he offered such injunctions as “Progress is born out of agitation. It is agitation or stagnation.”

To know Debs and his impact on American working-class politics as it emerged to confront the mammon of industrial and finance capital, we are ably served by his voluminous writings and by a series of fine, highly readable biographies by such writers as Ray Ginger, Nick Salvatore and Ernest Freeberg, the latter author focusing on Debs’ later years as “democracy’s prisoner.” Add to those a plethora of histories of the old Socialist Party. Ira Kipnis’s The American Socialist Movement: 1897-1912 is likely the best, though it ends prematurely with a massive vote for Debs in the presidential race and party membership peaking at 118,000 — all before the government’s full-bore assault on the left and Debs’ jailing.

Fortunately two strong movies are also available that help underscore  Debs’ impact, including a 1979 documentary by Bernie Sanders and a new feature: American Socialist: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs, by filmmaker Yale Strom, currently artist-in-residence and professor in the Jewish Studies Program at San Diego State University, and narrated by actor Amy Madigan. Debs’ legacy is especially well served by the new production, which takes advantage not only of scholarly accounts of Debs’ life and American socialist movement he rose out of but judiciously utilized the extensive Debs archives at Michigan State University-Lansing, the Debs Foundation collection in Terra Haute, Indiana and others.

So Who was Debs?

Born in 1855 and named by his immigrant parents after the French novelists Eugene Sue and Victor Hugo, Debs was slow to embrace radical politics in his hometown of Terra Haute, where the capitalists were still of the small, local variety and social mobility was not impossible for working people. The metastasizing of monopoly capital in the area through the intrusion and consolidation of finance and industry would come soon enough. The future socialist even married a rich man’s daughter and was a Democratic state office holder, if briefly.

The film makes clear that Debs, a strong railroad worker-unionist, didn’t start out as a socialist; that transposition came after the Democratic administration of Grover Cleveland broke the American Railway Union strike under the mendacious claim that strikers were sabotaging mail delivery. Debs, it’s president, went into prison a militant trade unionist and, courtesy of the federal evisceration of his union and a prison reading of Marx’s Capital, came out six months later a committed revolutionary, though of a discernible American type. He would, for example, define socialism as “Christianity in action.” For Debs’ religiously inclined listeners, greed and the pursuit of personal wealth were presented as sin, the riches of capitalists balefully gained.

That appeal to traditional religion as a bulwark of cooperation — the essence of socialism — sparked interest in Debs’ “Red Special” whistle-stop electoral campaign in areas such as Oklahoma, where, the film argues, small-farmer militancy combined with ingrained Evangelical Christianity. The strategy was less successful in the South, where we can intuit that racial division was a prime factor mitigating unified class action.

But whether addressing farmers, workers or urban intellectuals at such venues as New York’s Cooper Union, Debs was in his element.

It was the Socialist Party’s opposition to World War I that led to its undoing and to a five-year prison sentence for Debs. His crime: violating a Sedition Act provision against urging young men to dodge the draft.

On July 16, 1918, a year after the act’s passage, Debs was in Canton, Ohio to address the Ohio Socialist Party’s state convention and visit comrades jailed for speaking out against the war. He knew he was at risk of arrest himself. “I must be exceedingly careful,” he told the convention delegates, “prudent as to what I say. I may not be able to say all I think, but I am not going to say anything that I do not think. I would rather a thousand times be a free soul in prison than to be a sycophant and coward in the streets. They may put those boys in jail — and some of the rest of us in jail — but they cannot put the Socialist movement in jail.”

True to form, government stenographers in the crowd noted his comments selectively. Prison followed, based on the alleged danger that his remarks, those of a known “agitator,” posed to troop recruitment — this just months before the Treaty of Versailles was signed.

A red scare followed the war. Foreign radicals were rounded up and deported. Native-born leftists of any stripe were imprisoned.

Running for president on the Socialist ticket in 1920 while incarcerated, Debs garnered just under 1 million votes. Even as late as 1921, on the eve of his leaving office, Wilson still refused to pardon Debs. It was the GOP’s Harding who granted Debs and 23 others a Christmas commutation.

The Irony of a Humble Man Lionized

It seems odd that a movement valorizing collective action and the social context of everyday life over invidious egotism and careerist grasping would also need to anoint leaders and elevate heroes. As Debs himself put it 1906 to an audience of workers in Detroit: “I would not be a Moses to lead you into the Promised Land, because if I could lead you into it, someone else could lead you out of it. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition.”

Even allowing for the early glint of its religious trappings, his was an American variant of Marx’s insistence on working-class self-activity, that the emancipation of working people was not the provenance of elites no matter how well-intentioned but a task largely of the workers alone. Debs’ often quoted statement to his trial judge at his conviction for violating the Sedition Act makes much the same point.

“Years ago, I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class I am in it; while there is a criminal class I am of it; while there is a soul in prison I am not free.”

Debs’ heroes were not great men and women but ordinary people who showed uncommon bravery and solidarity with one another.

A story Debs told, though not included in the film, concerns a black-balled former railroad worker in desperate straits who proudly tells Debs that he never scabbed, knowing the principled stance meant exorcism from a decent-paying job. “If I’d have been like some of them, I’d had a passenger train years ago and been saved lots of grief,” he tells Debs. “But I’d rather be a broken-down old umbrella fixer without a friend than to be a scab and worth a million…. And when I cross the big divide, I can walk up to the bar of judgment and look God in the face without a flicker.”

Debs’ cited the man as the epitome of working-class solidarity.

“There was something peculiarly grand about the scarred old veteran of the industrial battlefield,” Debs wrote in 1913. “His shabbiness was all on the outside, and he seemed transfigured to me and clad in garments of glory. He loomed before me like a forest monarch the tempests had riven and denuded of its foliage but could not lay low. He had kept the faith and had never scabbed.”

Neither did Debs. See the film.

American Socialist: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs is scheduled to be shown in Hudson, NY (April 26-May 13); Los Angeles and Pasadena, (May 4-10); San Diego (May 11-16), Washington, D.C., (May 22), and the Cleveland Museum of Art (June 12-15.)

Originally posted at The Indypendent.

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Appeal of the 22 : “To Members of the International Conference of the Communist International”

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Copy to the CC RCP(b)

Dear comrades!

From our newspapers we have learned that the Executive Committee of the Communist International is discussing the “united workers’ front,” and we consider it our communist duty to inform you that in our country the “united front” is in bad shape not only in the broad sense of this term, but even in its application toward the ranks of our party.

As the forces of the bourgeoisie press on us from all sides, as they even infiltrate our party, the social composition of which (40% worker and 60% non-proletarian) favor this, our leading centers wage a relentless, corrupting struggle against all, especially proletarians, having their own opinions, and they apply all kinds of repressive measures against the expression of these opinions within the party.

The attempt to bring the proletarian masses closer to the government is declared to be “anarcho-syndicalism,” and its advocates are persecuted and discredited.

In the trade union movement, there is the same picture — suppression of worker spontaneity and initiative, struggle using all means against heterodoxy. The unified forces of the party and trade union bureaucracy, taking advantage of their position and authority, ignore our congresses’ decisions about laying the foundations of worker democracy. Our union communist fractions, even the fractions of entire congresses are deprived of the right to manifest their will in the election of their own leaders. Bureaucracy’s tutelage and pressure has gone so far, that party members are threatened with exclusion and other repressive measures if they elect whom they want instead of those whom the higher-ups want. Such methods of work lead to careerism, intrigues, and servility, and workers respond to this by leaving the party.

Sharing the idea of the united workers’ front as it is interpreted in point 23 of the theses, we appeal to you, with the sincere wish to end all these abnormalities, which stand in the way of the unity of this front, first of all within our RCP(b).

The situation within our party is so difficult, that it impels us to turn to you for help and in this way to eliminate the impending threat of a split in our party.

With communist greetings, members of the RCP(b):

M. Lobanov party member since 1904
N. Kuznetsov ” 1904
A. Polosatov ” 1912
A. Medvedev ” 1912
G. Miasnikov ” 1906
V. Plashkov ” 1918
G. Shokhanov ” 1912
S. Medvedev ” 1900
G. Bruno ” 1906
A. Pravdin ” 1899
I. Ivanov ” 1899
F. Mitin ” 1902
P. Borisov ” 1913
M. Kopylov ” 1912
Zhilin ” 1915
Chelyshev ” 1910
Tolokontsev ” 1914
A. Shliapnikov ” 1901
M. Borulin ” 1917
V. Bekrenev ” 1917
A. Pavlov ” 1917
A. Tashkin ” 1917
I support [this appeal]. A. Kollontai party member since 1898
I support the declaration of the 22 comrades.
Zoya Shadurskaia.[*]
* Shadurskaia was also a party member, but the year she joined was mistakenly omitted from the document.
–This is a translation of the appeal as it was printed in the stenographic report of the Eleventh Russian Communist Party Congress (Odinnadtsatyi s”ezd RKP(b), mart-aprel’ 1922 goda: stenograficheskii otchet, Moscow, 1961, pp. 749-50). Translated by Barbara C. Allen.
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Theses of the Workers Opposition.

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General Tenets

1. The role and tasks of trade unions in the transitional period have been precisely and clearly defined by recommendations of the All-Russian congresses of trade unions. The first All-Russian congress of trade unions in January 1918 defined the tasks of trade unions thus: “the center of gravity of unions’ work at the present time must be in the area of economic organization. [Trade unions] must assume the main work of the organization of production and reformation of the undermined productive forces of the country.”

The second congress in February 1919: “…trade unions have passed from control over production to the organization of it, participating in the administration of separate enterprises, as in the entire economic life of the country. …trade unions must prepare their organizations as well as the broad working masses not only for management of production, but also of the entire state apparatus.”

The third congress, April 1920: confirmed the basic decisions of the earlier two.

The eighth congress of the Russian Communist Party in March 1919 decided: the apparatus of socialized industry must rest upon the trade unions first of all.

2. the transition from military tasks to economic construction and from militarized methods of work to democratic methods, revealed a crisis in professional workers organizations, expressing itself in the inconsistency of the content of their everyday work with those tasks, which were defined in the congress resolutions and reinforced in the party program. The practices of party congresses and state organs for the past two years have systematically narrowed the scope of the work of trade unions and brought almost to zero the influence of workers’ unions in the Soviet government. The role of trade unions in the organization and administration of production in fact has been reduced to the role of an office of inquiry and recommendation, placing staff in administrative posts, between state organs and unions there is no agreement and conflicts overload party organizations. The unions still have neither a printing press nor paper. Journals of even the largest unions come out with a delay of several months. The state printing press gives lowest priority to work on behalf of unions.

3. This decline of the role and significance of the trade unions occurs at a time, when the experience of three years of the Russian revolution shows, that the unions wholly and faithfully carried out a communist line, led behind them wide circles of nonparty working masses; when to all and each it is clear that the realization of the RKP program in our country, where the majority of the population is petty commodity producers, demands a strong authoritative mass worker organization, accessible to the broad masses of the peasantry. The belittling of the significance and actual role of the trade unions in Soviet Russia signifies the manifestation of bourgeois, class hostility toward the proletariat and must be quickly overcome.

Immediate tasks and activity of the trade unions

4. The first real possibility of a respite from bloody armed struggle makes it possible to concentrate all forces and resources of the country on struggle with economic ruin and on the utmost elevation of productive forces of our republic. Past experience teaches that the realization of tasks put forth was successful only insofar as broad layers of the working masses took part in the realization of them. Now we must construct our activity so that it is directed toward involving the working masses directly in the work of building the national economy.

5. Victory over ruin … is possible and achievable only through radical change of the existing system and of the methods of organization and management of the economy of the republic, now resting on an enormous bureaucratic machine, excluding the creative initiative and independent action of producers organized into unions. The system of building economic policy by a bureaucratic path, over the heads of organized producers, by means of functionaries, appointees, dubious specialists, has given birth to duality in management of the economy, involving constant conflicts between factory committees and the management of enterprises, between unions and economic organs. The entire sum of conditions given birth to by this system delays the appearance of an enthusiasm for production among the working masses and their involvement and systematic participation in overcoming economic ruin.

6. The effort observed at present to evade putting into practice decisions of the party congress on the role and tasks of the trade unions in the soviet government attest to the direct distrust of the strength of the working class. The conscious leading elements of the working class, organized communists, must direct all their energy to overcoming this distrust and the bureaucratic stagnation existing in the party. The necessity of the annihilation of this existing system is dictated by those circumstances, that the huge masses of producers are educated and ideologically prepared by the trade unions so that the real defense of class interests of the producers, in the times in which we are living, consists in the victory over economic ruin, in the renewal and elevation of productive forces of the republic; the very existence of the working class of our country depend on the success of the fulfillment of these tasks. The existing bureaucratic approach to economic construction places obstacles in the way of the achievement of the maximum of production results, which introduces discord, distrust and demoralization into the ranks of the workers.

7. The difficult economic situation of our country demands the quickest heroic measures, able to put a stop to the approaching catastrophe. The chief measure capable of raising production, is the execution of economic policy of workers organizations through professional and production unions, the presentation to them of decisive influence in the state economic organs, which collect and distribute all types of material resources of the country. Management of the national economy is simultaneously management by the workers. The introduction of a system of organization and management of the national economy by means of production unions creates a unified leadership, destroys contraposition of working masses to specialists and in this way creates a wide scope of organizational and administrative activity for people of science, theory and practice.

8. Professional and production unions are to be built on the basis of workers democracy, the elective principle and accountability of all organs from the bottom to the top.

Entire branches of our industry are managed by worker-administrators. Many hundreds of complex industrial enterprises are led by collegia or individual worker-managers. As representatives of unions and economic organs they are not responsible nor obligated by accountability to the organizations which appointed them, but answer only to the economic organ. The unification of leadership of industry in the unions destroys this harmful phenomenon.

9. It is necessary to begin the transition from the existing bureaucratic system by strengthening the lowest cells of professional and production unions, putting in place the goal of preparation of them for direct management of the economy, in order to ensure the success of the transition of workers unions from the contemporary passive cooperation with the organs of national economy to active, conscious, initiating and creative participation in the management of the entire economy of the country and in the goals of accelerating this transition, the implementation of the following measures is necessary:

a. create boundaries between separate unions according to characteristic of production

b. quickly begin the reinforcement of the unions with workers, technical and other material resources in the goals of adapting them to new tasks

c. conduct a selection of the staff of the union and workers committees from the standpoint of their fitness, to realize the tasks standing before the unions. This selection must proceed from the lowest levels and under the control of the unions.

d. All areas where there is currently parity between VSNKh and VTsSPS on the management and organization of the economy must be shifted toward increasing the rights and advantages of workers organizations

e. Not one person must be assigned to an economic administrative post bypassing the union

f. All proposed candidates cannot be rejected and must be considered obligatory for VSNKh and its organs.

g. All staff put in place by or nominated by unions are to be responsible to the unions and can be replaced by the unions at any time.

h. Unions recognized by VTsSPS as sufficiently strong for the organization of direct management of entire branches of industry, are to realize this right, not waiting for others to become ready for this.

10. development of activity and consciousness of the worker in the process of his activity — in this must consist the role of the unions, as schools of communism.

The Management of the National Economy

General Theses

11. emphasizes that the unions must concentrate in their hands all management of the economy as a unified economic whole.

12. This concentration of management will be achieved in the center as well as on the local level, by election of representatives of organized producers. In this way unity of will will be created, necessary in the organization of the economy, and likewise the real possibility of an initiative influence from the wide masses on the organization and development of our economy.

13. The organization of management of the entire economy will belong to an All-Russian congress of producers, unified in professional production unions, which elects a central organ, governing the entire economy of the republic

a. All-Russian congresses of production unions of separate branches of the economy elect organs, managing production economic branches and departments.

b. Oblast, guberniia, uezd, regional and similar organs of administration to be instituted by corresponding local congresses of professional and production unions. In this way there will be achieved a combination of production centralism with local initiative and spontaneous activity.

14. Enterprises, related according to production feature, to be unified into groups (clusters, boards) in the aims of the best use of technical means and materials Related enterprises located in the same city or village to b e united under a common management, created by the union. The management of unified enterprises, territorially separate, to be created by congresses of workers committees of the given enterprises, convoked by the union.

Organization of workers committees, managing enterprises

15. All workers and employees, who are members of professional and production unions should actively and in an organized manner participate in management of the economy.

16. All workers and employees, without distinction to position and profession, occupied in separate economic units, such as: factories, mines, transport services and in connection with all types of agriculture, are direct managers of property located within them, are answerable for its preservation and the expedient use of it before all laborers of the republic.

17. workers and employees … are to elect a leading organ, called a workers committee for each of their own enterprises.

18. The workers committee is the primary organizational cell of the union of the given production and is formed under the leadership and control of the corresponding union.

19. among the tasks of the workers committee is included the management of the given factory or economic unit, including:

a. leadership of production activity of all workers and employees of the given economic unit

b. care of all needs of the producers

Members of the committee are to distribute among themselves their work on the management of the economy in accord with the statutes and instructions of the union, so along with collective responsibility, first of all resting with the chairman, there should be defined precisely the personal responsibility of each.

20. All activity of the enterprise is to be elaborated and approved by the laborers employed in the given enterprise under the responsibility and leadership of the workers committee and unions.

Organization of workers’ everyday life

21. One of the indispensable conditions of the elevation of our national economy is the systematic implementation of the naturalization of wages, as a measure, ensuring the heightening of the productivity of labor and the betterment of the producers’ lives. All examples below must be connected with the tariff system and enter into the general sum of natural wages.

1. Abolition of payment of rations and household articles, issued to workers by ration cards and orders of state produce organs

2. Abolition of payment of lunches for workers and their families.

3. Abolition of payment of baths, trams, theaters and so on.

4. Abolition of payment for apartments, heat and electricity.

5. In places, where the housing question is severe, to conduct consolidation of soviet and military institutions in the aims of presenting apartments to workers.

6. To organize repairs of workers’ living quarters by means of the resources of the enterprise, under the conditions of the guarantee of fulfillment by the enterprise of its basic production tasks.

7. to recognize as a matter of first-degree importance the construction of workers’ villages and workers communal homes and to include in the program of the State Committee for Construction for the approaching construction period maximum construction of workers’ housing.

8. To organize special workers’ trams and trains, timing their movement from and to work in the enterprises

9. To give precedence to supply of workers with items of widespread use.

10. to simplify and speed up the order of receiving work-clothes, also the order of fixed and bonus payments

11. to attach to the factories or specially organize shoe and clothing repair shops for servicing workers’ needs, to which the enterprises must lend assistance, as organizations of equipment, as well as much as possible supply them with equipment.

12. to supply communal economic units with technical inventory and means for tending to communal gardens at the cost of the enterprise.

13. Enterprises, located in close proximity to the countryside, should organize the repair of agricultural machinery.

14. In drawing up financial and production estimates for factories, the necessity of implementing the measures enumerated above must be taken into account.

22. All the measures indicated above must be carried out first of all in nationalized enterprises. In private and handicrafts enterprises they can be carried out with the permission in each case of the trade union.

The measures of a collective nature should be carried out in the factories depending on the success of their work. Measures having a purely personal meaning for the individual worker should be carried out in the form of incentives, starting with the more advanced workers.

[signed by]

All-Russian Union of Metalworkers. Chairman of Central Committee A. Shliapnikov, assistant chairman M. Vladimirov, secretary S. Sliznev, members: I. Kariakin, V. Pleshkov, S. Medvedev.

Central Board of Artillery Factories. Member of Central Committee and chairman A. Tolokontsev, members: P. Borisov, G. Bruno, Ia. Kubyshkin.

Assistant chairman of the soviet of military industry K. Orlov.

Chief of Board of Aviation Factories Mikhailov.

Director of State Machine-building factories (Gomza) A. Vasil’ev.

Chairman of Central Board of Heavy Industry I. Kotliakov.

Chairman of chief administration of unified medium-sized machine building factories I. Barulin.

Chairman of board of Sormovo factory Chernov-Greshnev.

Member of the committee of Moscow section of the All-Russian Union of Metalworkers N. Ivanov.

Chief of section for production propaganda of the All-Russian union of metalworkers N. Kopylov.

All-Russian Miners’ Union. Chairman of Central Committee A. Kiselev, members: M. Mikov, S. Losev, V. Sigert, S. Arutiuniants, A. Gorbachev, A. Storozhenko.

Member of the central committee of the Miners’ Union and member of the collegium of the mining council of VSNKh V. Voronin.

Chairman of the Usol’sk. subregion of miners’ administration V. Sorokin.

Kizelovskii regional committee of miners’ union. Chairman I. Ialunin, members: S. Rychkov, A. Mironov, I. Lagunov, P. Fedurin, A. Zaburdaev.

Chairman of the central committee of the textileworkers’ union I. Kutuzov.

Chairman of the central committee of the Farm and Forest Workers’ Trade Union N. Kubiak, member Khitrov.

Chairman of Kursk gubernia commission on supply of workers Izvorin.

Member of the party control commission under the party central committee Chelyshev.

Signed December 18 1919
—-Source: “Tasks of Trade Unions.” Pravda January 25, 1921;

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“On the relations between the Russian Communist Party, the soviets, and production unions.”-Alexander Shliapnikov 1920 Theses to the Ninth Party Congress

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1. The three-year experience of the Russian Revolution shows that the single force consciously fighting for the organization of society on communist foundations is the Proletariat.

2. The rural commodity producer, likewise the poor peasants and middle peasants, and also the urban artisan have supported the proletariat in its struggle against the landowner and the large capitalist, but since according to their position they are property owners their support has been found, and is found now in a state of constant fluctuation. Only the direct threat of a relapse to the past has restrained and is restraining these masses from direct betrayal of the cause of the Proletarian Revolution.

3. As a privileged estate in Russia in relation to the repressed worker and peasant masses, the intelligentsia, throughout imbued with the ideas and system of the ruling exploiter class, has met the emancipatory struggle of the Proletariat in an openly hostile manner, has refused any cooperation with it and in a significant part went over to the side of the counterrevolution. Only thanks to long and tenacious struggle has the Proletariat succeeded in attracting part of it to participation in construction.

4. In the process of armed struggle and creative construction the Working class has been defined as the only class, capable of managing industry and the state, and likewise to defend its homeland in an organized manner from class enemies.

5. In its struggle the Proletariat has created three forms of political and economic associations:

1) the Russian Communist Party,

2) Soviets of Workers and Peasants,

3) Production Workers Trade unions

The Russian Communist Party

6. The Russian Communist Party (RKP), as the history of the preceding years indicates, is the only revolutionary party of the Working Class, leading class war and civil war in the name of Communism.

7. The R.K.P. unifying the more conscious and decisive part of the Proletariat around the Revolutionary Communist Program of action and drawing to the Communist banner the more leading elements of the rural poor, must concentrate all higher leadership of communist construction and the general direction of policy of the country.

8. The RKP, being in power, must realize its superior leadership through its local committees and cells, but by no means over their heads. All decisions in the area of management of the country and the national economy the party must realize and put into practice through mass organs created in the process of revolution: The Congresses of Soviets, the All-Russian Central Executive Commission of the Soviet (VTsIK), local councils of the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions, production associations and local councils of unions

The Soviets

9. The Soviets of Workers and Peasants, and likewise their congresses, created by the revolution, have turned out to be the only form of political union of the urban proletariat with the poor of the countryside. As organs of political power, the soviets serve as guides of the dictatorship of the Proletariat and realize it in practice.

10. Soviets, as organs of centralized system of power manage the country by a path of direct participation of all laborers, with direct responsibility and accountability of all organs of power before the elected representatives of the workers and peasants.

The Unions

11. In the process of struggles for the seizure of industry and management of it, the Russian proletariat created numerous associations of workers in the form of production unions, unifying all workers occupied in production without exception.

12. Production associations, in the countenance of all their unions, central committees and the All Russian Central Council of Trade Unions recognize for the RKP political and economic leadership, reject the independence of the Trade union movement from the political party, under whichever slogan this would be carried out (equality, self-sufficiency, anti-stateness, and so forth).

13. The program of the RKP in part concerning the emancipation of the trade unions from a narrow guild mentality has been fulfilled. The whole Trade Union Movement is included in the production framework. All workers, independent of their professions, are members of the unions.


14. For 2 1/2 years of the existence of the dictatorship of the proletariat the following interrelations have been traced between the above indicated mass organizations of all laborers: 1. The RKP is the sole responsible political leader of the revolutionary struggle in construction of the worker and peasant masses. 2. The soviets have become the sole form of political power in the country. 3. The unions — are the sole responsible organizers of the national economy and are a school for the workers in the management of the state economy.

15. In the process of common work, these basic lines, defining the borders of activity and responsibility of each organization, have been demolished. The decrees of the organizations have become intertwined, have hampered and disorganized work and harmfully reflected on the success of the common cause. These circumstances urgently demand the definition of the boundaries, of character and order of work of all organizations numbered above.

16. This order will be to a significant degree resolved by a path of establishment of rights, obligations and order of work ofthe Central Committee of our party.

Central Committee of the Party

17. In accord with the 20th point of the charter of the RKP, the supreme organ of the RKP is the Congress, and in the periods between congresses, although this is not indicated in the regulations, these rights must belong to the Central Committee. In the epoch of the communist revolution that we are living through the Central Committee of the RKP is realizing the dictatorship of the organized Proletariat.

18. In accord with the meaning of the 24th point of the regulations of the RKP the CC must realize the leadershp of the central soviet and social organizations by means of the fractions of the latter. In such a way the leadership of external and internal policy, the CC of the RKP realizes through the VTsIK and its organs.

19. In the economic area the CC of the RKP must firmly and decisively carry out the program of the party, especially in part, demanding the transfer of the management of the entire national economy of the republic to the production associations.

20. The CC RKP must carry out the program of industrial construction through the production worker asssociations or their All-russian center. In the area of worker policy the CC takes decisions with the direct complicity of the leading center of the Trade Union Movement.

21. All mass organizations and organs of power, created by the revolution, the CC must support with all its strength its authority and must not assume their functions. Work of the VTsIK, as the supreme organ of the mass managment of the republic, must be placed at its proper importance. The same in relations of local soviets and executive committees.

22. The CC is obligated to lead the work of local organizations, encouraging at the same time all kinds useful party initiative, as in the Center, as on the local level. The leadership must be produced by a route of giving clear, definite directives and instructions and must not descend to petty intrusion into the life and activity of the organizations.

23. The CC must carry through directives of the Congress and conferences about the workerization of organs of state management not only according to form by a path of inclusion of individual workers in collegiums, but also in essence, bringing into the organs of management mass worker organizations, in the spirit of the program of the RKP.

In the first place these measures must be carried out in the area of management of the economy of the Republic – Industry, Transport, Provisions, agriculture and so on.

24. At the given moment the distribution of party forces has especially important significance. The CC must especially carefully relate to this matter, conduct a registration and characterization of all workers, accept into the system a systematic distribution of them in all branches of work.

Candidates, proving by their activity dedication to the revolution must be nominated to responsible political posts. Elements hostile to the working class in the past may be merely clerical staff, but by no means responsible leaders of government institutions.

25. Under the carrying-out of the program of the party on the question of use of the cultural inheritance of the bourgeoisie, in the form of specialists of various brances of science, technology and art, the CC must carry out this utilization through the corresponding associations of workers. Only by the path of direct cooperation with the workers, specialists, people of science can be completely and expediently utilized. The detachment of them into a privileged ruling caste, in spite of and against the will of the workers unions is capable of developing, patronage, adventurism and a striving to use such a position in interests alien to the workers revolution. The government must place this layer of workers in material conditions, promoting the manifestation of full efficiency and initiative.

26. The inefficiency of the central governing organs , the flourishing of bureaucracy and sabotage there witness to the incapacity of the organizational part of the CC to cope with the tasks of direction of activity of these institutions. The CC penetrating into trifles, as for example: the distribution of apartments, rooms, payment on the accounts of the suppliers, assignation of superintendents of buildings and so forth, could not master the more important apparatuses of power, as for example: Narkomprod, Narkompros, Narkomput’, Goskontrol’, Narkomvoen and others, located practically in hands alien to the interests of the working class.

27. The history of party work of the last year has proven, that the present staff of the CC are not capable of conducting complex party government work. Therefore before party comrades stands the task: at the approaching Congress of the RKP to put together a more efficient CC. In the interests of realization of the policy of workerization of the organs of state management, this workerization must begin with the Central Committee of the RKP.

28. In the aims of protection of the party from the rush into it of alien careerist elements and so forth, and likewise in the interests of straightening out the revolutionary line in the provinces, it is necessary to set up contacts between all workers, old party figures. At the ninth congress it is necessary to put forward a maximum of party workers.
–Note: Iurii Lutovinov presented these theses to the congress, as Shliapnikov was not in attendance.

Note: This article is for educational purposes. Its reproduction, in any form, can be had with the permission of the author/publisher whose original link ,from where it is reprodced, is given above.

‘Audacious movements have to start’-Interview with Samir Amin

Posted by admin On May - 10 - 2018 Comments Off on ‘Audacious movements have to start’-Interview with Samir Amin


Interview with Samir Amin. By JIPSON JOHN and JITHEESH P.M.
THE following is the second part of the interview with Samir Amin. The first part was published in the Frontline issue dated May 11, 2018.

Along with the emergence and growth of neofascist forces, there are glimpses of a growing popular support for Left politics across the world. Even in metropolitan countries, which have been lulled into consensus politics for many years, Left politics attracts a considerable following. The popularity Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders achieved in the British and the American elections respectively is a well-known example. What are the prospects and challenges for the Left in the contemporary political scenario?

In my book Ending the Crisis of Capitalism or Ending Capitalism?, I say that we cannot move out of this pattern of crisis without starting to move out of the system itself. It’s a gigantic challenge. The solution will not be found in a few years anywhere, neither in the North nor in the South. It will take decades and decades. But the future starts today. We cannot wait until the system has led to a gigantic war and ecological catastrophe to react. We have to react now.

This requires that the Left, the radical Left—or, I would say, the potential radical Left, which is much broader than the actual small number of heirs of the Third International, the communist parties and their milieu, much broader than that—acquires audacity. At present, there are resistance movements everywhere in the world, in some cases quite strong resistance movements. Working people are fighting perfectly legitimate struggles, but they are on the defensive. That is, they are trying to defend whatever they have gained in the past, which has gradually been eroded by the so-called neoliberalism. That is legitimate, but it is not enough. It is a defensive strategy which allows the power system of monopoly capital to maintain the initiative. But we have to move from there to a positive strategy, that is to an offensive strategy, and reverse the relation of power. Compel the enemy—the power systems—to respond to you instead of you responding to them. And take the initiative away from them. I am not arrogant. I have no blueprint in my pocket for what a communist in Austria should do, for what communists in China or those in Egypt, my country, should do.

But we have to discuss it frankly, openly. We have to suggest strategies, discuss them, test them and correct them. This is life and struggle. We cannot stop. I want to say that what we all need in the first place is audacity!
Now, it can start to change if the popular movements move from resistance to an aggressive alternative. That could happen in some countries. It has started happening, but only in some countries of Europe: Greece, Spain and Portugal. In Greece, we have seen that the European system defeated that first attempt. And the European people, even those who are very sympathetic to the Greek movement, have been unable to mobilise an opinion strong enough to change the attitude of Europe. That is a lesson. Audacious movements have to start, and I think they will start in different countries. I discussed this with, for instance, people from “La France Insoumise”.

I did not propose blueprints, but I generally pointed to strategies starting with the renationalisation of big monopolies and specifically financial and banking institutions. But I’m saying that renationalisation is only the first step. It is the precondition for eventually being able to move to the socialisation of the management of the economic system. If it stops at the level of just nationalisation, well then you have state capitalism, which is not very different from private capitalism. That would deceive the people. But if conceived as a first step, it opens the road.

Capitalism has reached a level of concentration of power, economic and therefore also political power, that is not comparable to 50 years ago. A handful, a few tens of thousands, of enormously large companies and a smaller handful, less than 20, of major banking institutions alone decide on everything. Francois Morin, a top financial expert who knows this field, has said that less than 20 financial groups control 90 per cent of the operations of the global integrated monetary and financial system. If you add to this some 15 other banks, you go from 90 per cent to some 98 per cent. It is a mere handful of banks. That is centralisation, concentration of power, not of property, which remains disseminated, but that’s of less importance; the point is how property is controlled. This has also led to control of political life. We are now far from what the bourgeois democracy of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century was.

We have now a one-party system. With the social democrats having become social liberals, there is absolutely no difference between the conventional Right and the conventional Left. That means we are living in a one-party system, as is the case in the United States where Democrats and Republicans have always been one party. This was not the case in Europe, and therefore, capitalism in the past could be reformed. The social democratic welfare reforms after the Second World War were big reforms. In my view, they were progressive reforms even if they were associated with the maintenance of an imperialist attitude vis-a-vis the countries of the South. Now this is becoming impossible, and you can see it in the one-party system, which is losing legitimacy. But this also opens up a drift to fascism, to neofascism, which is on the rise everywhere, in the North and the South. This is one of the reasons why we have to dismantle this system before reconstructing it.

A Fifth International
Can these isolated struggles in different countries pose any challenge to generalised monopoly capital, which is truly international in character? What about the need for some kind of international cooperation or for the spirit of internationalism of the struggling masses?

I think that we need a Fifth International. We not only need a revival of internationalism as a fundamental part of the ideology of the future, but we also must organise it, that is, try to interconnect the struggles in different countries. Now, this international cannot be a reproduction of the Third. Because the Third International came after the victory of the October Revolution and a strong new state, the Soviet Union, and therefore survived, for better or worse, as a model for the others. We are not in such a position now, and therefore, we must imagine another pattern for the new international. If we look at the Second and Third Internationals—the Second up to the First World War, not after—they shared the idea of “one country, one party”—the correct party, all the others being “deviationists” or even “traitors”.

Moreover, when we look at the Second International, we discover that there was indeed one party in Germany, but this party was half-Marxian and half-Lasallean. There was one party in France, but it [was] really associated [with] three currents. There was one party in Britain, but it was a mix of trade unionism and Fabianism. So they were different from one another, but they all had in common their pro-imperialist colonialist attitudes, and as was proven in 1914, they worked with their bourgeoisies against one another. The Third International recognised only “one country one party”—the 21 conditions [for membership to Comintern]—all the others being traitors and revisionists.

Today, we are in a different situation. We have potentially radical, pro-socialist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist forces, different in each country. We have to bring them together. We have to understand that what we share in common is more important than the differences among us. We have to discuss the differences and discuss them freely without arrogance and proclaiming: “I am right and you are wrong.” What we have in common is more important, and that should be the basis for reconstructing internationalism. I am saying that for the North and the South as well. Each has its specific conditions, and conditions are different from one country to another. The general view is similar but conditions are different. At any rate, this is my vision on how to start the process.

There are these ambiguities and we cannot avoid them. We shall have broad alliances with people who have never thought that socialism should be the answer to the crisis of capitalism. They will still think that capitalism can be reformed. So what? If we can work together against this capitalism as it is today, it will be a first step.
But we have to think ahead about how to create a Fifth International. I don’t have a blueprint for this. It is not about establishing a secretariat or organisational leadership bodies. First, the comrades have to be convinced of the idea, which is not always the case. Second, Europeans have abandoned anti-imperialist solidarity and internationalism in favour of accepting the so-called aid and humanitarian interventions, including bombing people. That is not internationalism. I think that national policies—we use this word because there is no other word—are still the result of struggles within the borders of countries. Whether these countries are indeed nation states or rather multinational states, they struggle within defined borders.

But the existing problems do not refute the idea that change has to start from the base and not from the top. And the base is the nation. Don’t expect a United Nations conference with all the governments of this world deciding anything good and effective. That will never happen. Don’t expect that even with respect to the European Union. It has to start from below. It is [about] changing the balance of forces within countries, which then starts changing the balance of forces at the international level. Therefore, the task for internationalist solidarity, that of a Fifth International, should be to minimise the conflictual aspects of these changes and make them complementary to one another. This is true internationalism.

Along with popular movements and class mobilisation, there are civil society movements and NGO (non-governmental organisation) movements going on all over the world. Different identity movements are also there. Are you in agreement with these civil society movements?

The protest against capitalism cannot just be a protest of movements against the consequence of neoliberal frontal attacks against their social interests. It must reach the level of getting politically conscious of the types of new wide social alliances which can replace the comprador alliances ruling our countries and the pro-imperialist alliances ruling the Western countries.

What is the relevance of Lenin’s idea of democratic centralism and the Communist Party as the vanguard of the proletariat? What are your thoughts on the form, content and shape of the revolutionary struggles of the present?

Probably, in Lenin’s time a one-party system was the only possible alternative to the old pattern of ruling. This is no more the case today. We have to rebuild a new international, an international of the working people and others. That means a number of peasants and segments of the society that go far beyond the proletariat. In India, you can see that if you do not have an alliance between the urban proletariat and the urban poor, who have no proletariat consciousness, and the vast majority of Indian rural society or peasants, then you cannot build resistance. These are different social forces and they can be represented by different political voices.
But we have to know what we share in common. The interests we share are more important than the differences. We need a wide political alliance that can mobilise people belonging to different classes but who are all victims of the imperialism of today.

China has achieved significant economic growth recently. Although it is still a communist state, its economic achievement is generally attributed to the success of its market-friendly approach since 1978. What is your take on the Chinese model of economic development?

We have to start from the Chinese Revolution. We had in China what I call a great revolution. There have been three great revolutions in modern history—the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution—along with some in other countries like Vietnam and Cuba. But let’s take the three major ones.

What I mean is that the project target of great revolutions looks far ahead of the agenda of what is immediately possible. The French Revolution said liberty and equality. The so-called American Revolution did not project this target. The word “democracy” does not appear in the U.S. Constitution. And democracy was considered a danger. The system was invented to avoid this danger. The system did not change the relations of production. Slavery remained a decisive part of the system; George Washington was an owner of slaves. The French Revolution tried to connect conflicting values of liberty and equality. In the U.S., it was liberty and competition, that is, liberty under the condition of inequality. The Russian Revolution proclaimed: “Proletarians of all countries unite.” As Lenin said, “The revolution started in the weak link but should expand quickly”, that is, in a short historic time. He expected it would happen in Germany. History proved that he was wrong. It could have happened but it didn’t. Internationalism was not on the agenda of real history.

The Chinese Revolution invented the slogan “Oppressed peoples unite”, which means internationalism at a global level, including the peasant nations of the South, which is a step ahead. Widening internationalism! This also was not on the agenda of what could be achieved immediately. Bandung in 1955, which was an echo of the Chinese Revolution, was very timid. It didn’t achieve much. It was watered down by nationalistic forces and to a large extent remained in the frame of a bourgeois national project.

Precisely because the great revolutions were ahead of their time, they have been followed by Thermidors and restorations. Thermidor is not restoration; it means a step back in order to keep the long-term target but manage it in time with concessions. When was Thermidor in the Soviet Union? Maybe it was the year 1924 with the NEP [New Economic Policy], although [Leon] Trotsky said it was 1927. The Chinese say it happened with [Nikita] Khrushchev. There are good arguments for this, but other people think it occurred later with [Leonid] Brezhnev. However, the restoration of capitalism really came with [Boris] Yeltsin and [Mikhail] Gorbachev. At that point, the target of socialism was abandoned.
In China, we had a Thermidor from the start, from 1950. When Mao Zedong was asked “Is China socialist?”, he said: “No, China is a People’s Republic”, and building socialism is a long road; he used the Chinese expression “a thousand years”. So Thermidor was there from the start. There were two attempts to go beyond that Thermidor. The first one was the Great Leap Forward.

Then we had a second Thermidor with Deng Xiaoping. We still don’t have a restoration even now. Not just because formally the Communist Party has a monopoly on political power, but because some basic aspects of what has been achieved by the Chinese revolutionary process has been maintained. And this is very fundamental. I refer here specifically to the state ownership of land and its use by families in the frame of the revival of peasant agriculture, associated with the construction of a modern industrial system. These are the two legs on which China stands and moves. It defines a kind of state capitalism. Simultaneously, the Chinese project does not reject the idea of its participating in globalisation, which is dominated by capitalist/imperialist major powers. For sure, globalisation comes into conflict with the “two legs” Chinese strategy. They are not complementary; they are in conflict. China has entered into the globalisation of trade, and the globalisation of investments, but with state control, at least to a certain effective extent.

In addition, China is not operating within globalisation like those countries that accept the conditionality imposed through free trade, free investment and financial globalisation. China has not moved into financial globalisation. It has maintained its independent financial system, which is operated by the state, not only in form but in substance. My qualification is that China is not socialist, but it is also not capitalist. It contains conflicting tendencies. Moving towards socialism or capitalism? Most of the reforms that have been introduced, particularly after Deng Xiaoping, have been rightist, making room, and expanding room, for the capitalist mode of production and the emergence of a bourgeois class. But, so far, the other dynamic, identified by the “two legs” strategy”, has been maintained, and this conflicts with the logics of capitalism. That is how I situate China today.

The most important weaknesses of the Soviet Union were bureaucratic centralism, lack of inner-party democracy, not dictatorship of the proletariat but one-party dictatorship for the proletariat, etc. Prabhat Patnaik says that the option of multiple parties for the working class would help prevent one-party dictatorship. How do you analyse the desired and needed political structure of a socialist state against the background of the experience of the Soviet Union?
I have the highest appraisal and appreciation for Prabhat Patnaik. His arguments are most interesting, and usually correct. I think his criticism of the bureaucratic tendencies in the Soviet Union is fully correct. His criticism of the bureaucratisation of working parties in India is also a valuable contribution. We should see those problems case by case. It is different in India and different in Egypt and elsewhere.

You have written a lot about the emergence of political Islam, its ideology and nature. Although Islamists often utter rhetoric against Western culture, you have analysed how these forces are in close alliance with the imperialist forces. How would you explain the contemporary political landscape of the Arab world?

The U.S. was surprised by the explosion [anti-government uprising in 2011] in Tunisia and Egypt. They did not expect it. The CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] thought that [President Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali [of Tunisia] and [President Hosni] Mubarak [of Egypt] were strong, like their police forces. The French also believed this with respect to Tunisia. But these gigantic, chaotic movements in Tunisia and Egypt lacked a strategy, and that allowed them to be contained in the old structures and decapitated. But then, just immediately after these two explosions, the Western governments understood that similar movements could also happen elsewhere in the Arab countries for the same reasons.

They decided to “pre-empt” the “revolutions” by organising “coloured” movements controlled by them. They selected to that effect, supporting Islamist reactionary movements financed and controlled by their allies, the Gulf countries. The Western strategy was successful in Libya but failed in Syria.

In Libya, there was no “popular” mass protest against the regime. Those who started the movement were small Islamist armed groups who immediately attacked the army and the police and, the next day, called NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organisation], the French and the British, to rescue them! And indeed NATO responded and moved in. Finally, the Western powers have reached their goal, which was destroying Libya. Today Libya is much worse off than it was then. But that was the target. It was not a surprise. The target was to destroy the country.
The same is with Syria. In Syria, there was a growing civilian democratic popular movement against the regime because the regime had moved towards accepting neoliberalism in order to remain in power. But the West, the U.S. in particular, did not wait. The next day, they had the Islamist movements moving in and, with the same scenario, attacking the army and the police and calling the West in to help. But the regime was able to defend itself. The dissolution of the army expected by the U.S. did not happen. The so-called Syrian Free Army is a bluff. These were only a small number of people who were immediately absorbed by the Islamists. And now the Western powers, including the U.S., have to recognise that they have lost the war, which does not mean that the Syrian people have won it. But it means that the target to destroy the country through civil war and intervention failed. The imperialist powers have not been able to destroy the unity or the potential unity of the country. That is what they wanted to do with, of course, the approval of Israel—to repeat what happened in Yugoslavia. And they failed.

In Egypt, the U.S.—backed by the Europeans, who simply follow the U.S.—chose the Muslim Brotherhood as the alternative. Initially, on 25th January 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood, lined up with Mubarak against the movement. Only one week later, they changed sides and joined the revolution. That was an order from Washington. On the other side, the radical Left was surprised by the popular movement and unprepared; the youth was divided into many organisations, resulting in a lot of illusions and the lack of analytical and strategic capacity. Finally, the movement resulted in what the U.S. wanted: elections. In those elections, Hamdeen Sabahi, supported by the Left, got as many votes as [Mohamed] Morsi, that is around five million votes. It was the U.S. embassy, not the Egyptian electoral commission, that declared Morsi the winner!

The mistake of the Muslim Brotherhood was to think that they had achieved a final and total victory and that they could exercise their power alone. So they entered into conflict with everybody, including the army. If they had been smarter and had found an agreement with the army, they would still be in office and sharing power with the army. They wanted all the power for themselves and used it in such an ugly and stupid way that just a few weeks after their victory, they turned everybody against them.

This led to the 30th of June 2013: 30 million people demonstrating in the streets across the country against the Muslim Brotherhood! At that point in time, the U.S. embassy asked the leadership of the army to support the Muslim Brotherhood despite the people. The army decided instead to arrest Morsi and disband the so-called parliament, a non-elected body made up exclusively of people chosen by the Muslim Brotherhood! But the new regime is simply continuing the same neoliberal policy.
The book “Orientalism” published in 1978 by Edward Said was a path-breaking and widely debated postcolonial critique of the Eurocentric world view. However, it was your book “Eurocentrism” that brought the capitalist critique into the larger project of criticising the Eurocentric world view. What are your agreements and disagreements with postcolonialism and varieties of postmodernism, which are critical of modernity? Is there any notable change in the Eurocentric world view at present?

Orientalism is a cultural critique of imperialism. It is not a political and economic critique of imperialism. But the thing is that imperialism is not only cultural. It is basically a form of political domination and economic exploitation which leads to a cultural domination. And Orientalism looks only at the cultural aspect of the problem. And here Edward Said missed the most important aspects: political and economic.

Marx famously said that capitalism produces wealth at one pole and poverty at the other pole. This is also the case with the relationship between capitalism and workers and the relationship between core countries of the North and peripheral countries of the South. The dependency theory championed by scholars like you narrated the magnitude of this contradiction of capitalist development. How does it work in this era of neoliberal globalisation?

Capitalism has created massive pauperisation, particularly for 85 per cent of the people of the planet. And I think India is an example of that. Whatever high growth you have in India, perhaps only 15 to 20 per cent of the people benefit from it and 85 per cent of the people are pauperised. They not only benefit from it but suffer from it.

What is the legacy and relevance of Marxism today? Many people feel that though Marx’s analysis of capitalism is true, its political project is unviable. What do you have to say to these critiques? What sustains your belief in socialism?

I think Marxism is more important and relevant today than ever. Look back to The Communist Manifesto, published in 1848: no text published in the middle of the 19th century is as relevant as this to the present world. It describes many features of the capitalism of that time which are relevant to present conditions. We need Marx today. Of course, we should not just repeat what Marx said at his time, but we should continue his mode, that is giving Marxist answers to present challenges.

Third World Forum

Could you speak about the Third World Forum (TWF) of which you have been the director for around 40 years? What is its mission and priority?
The Third World Forum is an international independent association, recognised as such by the host country where it has its headquarters [Dakar, Senegal]. Founded in 1975, it is one of the oldest international, independent organisations of its type. It has been successful in adjusting to a changing world and seemingly has also succeeded in having a growing impact.

The TWF assembles concerned intellectuals committed not only to the pursuance and expansion of the debate on various possible development alternatives (itself considered in all its economic, social, political and cultural dimensions) but also to making a real impact on the society concerned through debates.

The TWF mobilises throughout the continents of Africa, Asia and Latin America about 1,000 personalities whose well-known names are usually associated with creative thinking and capable of exhaustive probing and analysis of issues as well as with men and women who proved their worth through their contributions in the formulation of policies, either as experts and/or top civil servants or as leaders of thought and social movements.

The TWF has been active for 25 years, during which time it has been functioning as a network for intellectuals of three continents engaged in debates on various aspects of the “challenge to the development” of the peoples concerned. Since this “development” is in turn defined on the basis of the exigencies of a progressive social context (“development for the benefit of the masses”), that could foster enhanced democratisation of society in all of its dimensions (progress of political democracy, social rights, gender issues, etc.) in view of the mutual relationship between the internal social changes peculiar to the peoples and nations concerned and the prevailing trends in the global system. These debates concern macroeconomic strategies, the forms of microeconomic management, analysis of economic forces’ vision of society and sociopolitical movements, in other words, all aspects of social life, as they include all the major issues concerning the world system (the world economy, North-South relations, problems of the environment and those relating to national and regional security and geostrategy).

Positively, the objective of the TWF is to identify concrete alternatives and formulate policy recommendations in the various areas in which it conducts research. Those alternatives and policy recommendations should not be the product of teams of researchers studying the problems in isolation. The product must be the result of interactions between “theory and practice”, between the scientific analysis of the problems and challenges on the one hand, strategies of action and targets of actual social movements, on the other hand. In that spirit, the TWF operates as a “network” associating, on the one hand, organisations of what is usually called civil society and, on the other hand, centres of reflection where scientifically equipped thinkers pursue their research in response to the demands formulated explicitly (or implicitly, in some cases) by the movements.
That choice is fundamental for the TWF. It stems from the idea that the real world is not changed through pure “academic” reflections but basically through the activities of social actors. But, simultaneously, it considers that the more those actors are intellectually equipped to analyse the challenges, the more feasible, possible, efficient from the point of view of advancing towards required alternatives their formulation of targets for action and policy recommendations will be.

Jipson John and Jitheesh P.M. are associated with the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) and contribute to various national and international publications, including The Wire, The Indian Express and Monthly Review. They can be reached at jipsonjohn10@gmail.com and jitheeshpm91@gmail.com
Note: This article is for educational purposes. Its reproduction, in any form, can be had with the permission of the author/publisher whose original link ,from where it is reprodced, is given above.

Karl Marx, 200 years later-Ramin Jahanbegloo

Posted by admin On May - 5 - 2018 Comments Off on Karl Marx, 200 years later-Ramin Jahanbegloo


To ignore Marx the philosopher is to remain impoverished in a market-driven world

Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, the author of Das Kapital and the leading spirit of the International Workingmen’s Association (known as the First International). In the words of Oscar Wilde, the Irish playwright and writer, “An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.” If this statement is true in the case of only one thinker in the history of ideas, that person would certainly be Marx.

If Marx had not decided to change the world, he would have been remembered today only as a name on a gravestone in Highgate cemetery in London. Thus, there is no question why a thinker like Marx was at the same time a great influence on the most important thinkers of the twentieth century and a victim of a terrible misunderstanding for all those who made a revolutionary prophet out of him.

Not of gulags, killing fields

For over a century the fate of Marx’s thought was tied to that of Marxism. Even today, three decades after the fall of the Soviet empire, many still blame Marx for the cruel atrocities that happened around the world in the name of Marxism.


Karl Marx in five core ideas

However, to think and to repeat that Marx is responsible for the Stalinist gulags or the killing fields of Pol Pot in Cambodia would be nothing but pure nonsense. No doubt, he would have been one of the first victims of Stalin, Pol Pot or any communist dictator. As such, the responsibility for the horrors of communist totalitarianism would be on the shoulders of no other ideology than Marxism-Leninism, which turned the materialist and historicist philosophy of Marx into a revolutionary eschatology and in many cases into a thermodynamics of terror. As Voltaire says majestically, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

Despite what happened in the past hundred years in the communist countries, Marx remains an important thinker and a central figure of the modern canon around the world. In other words, he should be read closely, with precision and patience. As such, any loosely philosophical approach or iconic view of Marx would turn the critical edge of his analysis of modernity and capitalism into wrong principles of a wrong struggle.

This is not to say that Marx provides us with all the answers to all our problems. Marx knew it himself and that is, most probably, one of the reasons why his writings were so complex and so antithetical. On the one hand, Marx is a philosopher who believes in the autonomy of human beings, since he affirms that human beings make their own history, that the emancipation of the workers will be the work of the workers themselves. On the other hand, he is obsessed by the Hegelian idea of making a total system, dominated by the universal law of social transformations in history. It was precisely this second Marx, the theorist of historical materialism, who was elevated by Engels, Lenin, Stalin and many others as a prophet of a secular religion called socialism. But, the great mistake of several generations of Marxists was to consider Marx’s philosophy of history as a readymade revolutionary recipe for action.


Must-read Marx

Raymond Aron, the French sociologist of the 20th century, once said: “It is really no more difficult to present Marx’s leading ideas than those of Montesquieu or Comte; if only there were not so many millions of Marxists, there would be no question at all about what Marx’s leading ideas are or what is central to his thought.”

As a matter of fact, Marx’s critical attitude in regard to the economic, social and political realities of his time was far from being just a medical prescription for future revolutions.

On the contrary, for Marx thinking rigorously and critically was an important matter. Marx walked almost daily to the British Museum to study the works of classical philosophers and economists rather than spending his time with the masses on the streets of London or Paris. The British Museum was the place where he was able to get away from the everyday debates of revolutionaries and ideologues and find a sanctuary where he could examine the social and economic causes of human misery.

Marx and Marxists

“I am not a Marxist,” Marx is said to have said, and it’s appropriate to distinguish Marx the philosopher and the economist from Marx the ideologue. Marx would have certainly never approved the statement of the Russian revolutionary, Georgi Valentinovich Plekhanov, that “Marxism is an integral world outlook”. The truth is that Marxist revolutionaries such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, etc. adapted those ideas of Marx which suited best the needs of their revolutions and bureaucratic powers.

After 1917, the mythological charisma of Lenin followed by Stalinism inflicted on the communist parties around the world prevented any objective assessment of Marxian philosophy. For more than seven decades, in the Soviet Union and its satellite countries, any allusion to Marx the philosopher and the author of the Manuscripts of 1844 would had provoked indifference or for the most only a bitter laughter.

When Soviet communism fell apart towards the end of the 20th century, nobody could say what would be the destiny of Marx beyond the demise of Marxist regimes. For a long period of time Marx was read and practised as the founder of a new faith. For some his church continues living on the ruins of the political and economic system he inspired. For others who suffered the communist regimes or simply believed in an anti-communist crusade, Marx continues to be a dangerous mind who should be banned from our schools and universities.

But now that the statues of Marx were torn down bitterly and indistinctively as those of Lenin and Stalin, what really remains of him for future generations of readers? The answer could be: a critical mind with the great intellectual courage of a Socratic gadfly who continues to defy our way of thinking and living in a market-driven world. If that is the case, then we should celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of a major thinker of human history who has found his place in the pantheon of great philosophers next to Kant, Schelling, Fichte and Hegel.

Ramin Jahanbegloo is Director, Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Peace, Jindal Global University, Sonipat
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