Saturday, November 2, 2019

Understanding Hong Kong

Imagine that Japan occupied San Francisco in the 1880s, forcing the US government to sign a 100 year 'lease' for the territory. Imagine that the Japanese abolished all democratic rights in the city, and ruled through a colonial government appointed directly by Tokyo. Non-Japanese residents of San Francisco became second class citizens and are forced to live in overcrowded slums to make room for upscale Japanese businesses; these businesses display notices saying "No Whites or dogs". The Japanese colonial administration imposes Japanese culture, language, and economic institutions by fiat. Anything non-Japanese is deemed inferior, and Japanese chauvinism is reflected at every level of society, including education.

After a century of occupation, the Japanese finally agree to return San Francisco to the United States. However, they stipulate that the colonial administration must remain intact; there will be no elections, the economy will continue to be dominated by Japanese businesses, and colonial-era Japanese laws and values will remain in place. This compromise is called 'one country, two systems'.

After a few years, San Francisco begins to lag behind the rest of the US economically, causing discontent among the working population who continue to labor under colonial conditions despite the end of formal Japanese rule. Pro-Japanese demonstrators demand that the Emperor 'free' them from the US; they wave the Japanese colonial flag, and fly to Tokyo to meet with representatives of the Japanese government. The Japanese media paints the demonstrators as 'pro-democracy', ignoring their government's obvious role in the unrest; the US government is, meanwhile, denounced as 'oppressive' for attempting to exercise sovereignty over its territory.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

On Socialist Work and Working Class Trump Voters, Briefly

We hear a great deal of late about the so-called 'Trumpenleft' or 'Red-Brown alliance'. The terms were first coined by writers at Counterpunch, and refer to a segment of the left that is allegedly supportive of, or at least sympathetic to, Donald Trump. Tellingly, the label is typically flung at anyone who is deemed too critical of the Democratic Party, not critical enough of Trump, or who points out that Trump's populist-sounding campaign rhetoric resonated with certain segments of the working class- particularly when juxtaposed with Hillary Clinton's snide elitism. Polling data is marshaled by the anti-Trumpenleftists that supposedly shows that Trump voters are irredeemably racist and sexist and therefore not worth engaging with; furthermore, they are predominantly well-off members of the petty bourgeoisie. Leaving aside the many issues with over reliance on polling data, anyone who has done a shred of real-world socialist political work should know two very important facts: that the views of working class people, especially white working class people, are often contradictory, and that socialist work is by its nature transformative in a way that ordinary bourgeois politics is not.

A complex history of settler-colonialism, racism, class struggle, regional economic differences, and national-cultural chauvinism (both as recipient and victim), and oppression fueled apathy has left white workers with a hodgepodge of political views, some of which border on the absurd. We find anti-Arab racism and militarism coexisting with anti-war sentiments; 'social libertarians' who support social programs but oppose state regulation of industry; anti-tax/anti-corporate combinations (ironically, this is very close to a recognition of the class nature of the state). The lesson we ought to draw from this is that we must never 'write off' any section of the working class, no matter how backward or contradictory their views. The very contradictions we observe in workers' politics are indicative of how little value the bourgeoisie places on their support, not even bothering to propagandize to them properly (in contrast to careful cultivation of the petty bourgeois worldview). We should not join the bourgeoisie in its malign neglect, but do precisely the opposite: respectfully engage and educate wherever and whenever we can.

For the purposes of liberals and social democrats, who are primarily concerned with electioneering (i.e., marketing) on behalf of this or that candidate, broad demographic categories are useful. We see arguments put forward that the number of working class Trump voters who 'matter' amounts to less than two percent of the population, and so they may be safely ignored. From a marketing perspective, this may be true. However, in terms of the number of working people who are socialists with some grasp of socialist theory, this is a huge number. More to the point, the needs of our political work, particularly when we are politically weak as we are now, is by nature more focused, more concerned with ideological struggle, and directed toward building durable organizations with theoretically literate and highly motivated members. This is why we must make lived experience the guiding principle of our day to day political work and eschew shallow pollsterism.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The question of the law of value

The following short essay represents a comrade's contribution to discussions we are having about value, abstract labor, and basic Marxist economics. Does this seem complicated or over your head? It isn't! Start with Rius' Marx For Beginners, as we're doing, and think through your own work experience with others.)

A central problem of socialist development is the question of the law of value. Stalin famously argued in his last work, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR that commodity production and the law of value continue to operate under socialism and that this is "not a bad thing", that it leads enterprises to become more efficient, managers to be more cost conscious, and generally improves the performance of the socialist economy. In taking this position, Stalin argued against those in the Communist Party of the Soviet Uunion who believed that the development of the socialist economy could be accomplished by decree alone, that prices could be set without regard to the cost of production, and generally that Marx's correct observation that economic law is social in character meant that therefore economic law must not exist at all.

In the context of the struggle against bureaucratic revisionism in USSR of the 1950s, a struggle that was subsequently lost to Khrushchev, Stalin was no doubt correct. However, the history of the application of the law of value in the USSR can only lead us to conclude that it led to the development of a nascent capitalist class that eventually grew to the point that it could abolish socialism. This was not merely a 'managerial' or 'technocratic' class as some idealist critics would have it, nor simply a clique of corrupt 'Khrushchevite revisionists' or second economy bandits (though no doubt these existed), but a class with real, material interests whose chief concern was the efficient operation of the law of value and the profitability of its enterprises; its origin lay in the very foundation of the postwar Soviet economy.

Shall we, then, simply stop there and declare that true socialism must abolish the law of value instantly and completely? By no menas. We must instead, as any competent scientist might, go back to first principles and reexamine the law of value and its potential application under socialism.

The law of value states that the value of a commodity is twofold, containing both a use value and an exchange value. Use value, based on specific labor, determines a commodity's usefulness in itself; exchange value determines its value relative to other commodities. The magnitude of the exchange value is dependent upon the average, or abstract, socially necessary labor time needed to produce that particular commodity. Note that value is distinct from price.

Particularly under monopoly conditions, capitalists seek always to get 'something for nothing', to 'cheat' the system of exchange so to speak and thereby receive a greater sum of value than they give in their transactions. In doing so, they do not create value from thin air; they extract it from the other party in the transaction. Modern bourgeois economics attempt to cover this up by conflating price with value: Pubilius Syrus' old saw, "everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it", is elevated to divine writ in the annals of marginal utility theory (the subjective theory of value which states that the purchaser determines a commodity’s value via the ‘margin of utility’ gained by purchasing it).

At any given moment, there exists some number n of like commodities c that will satisfy the need for their particular use values. This is the demand. However, capitalism obscures the actual demand as the production of these commodities is determined not by the use value, but the exchange value; commodities under capitalism do not have value in themselves but only insofar as they can be exchanged for other commodities. Thus, the capitalists' natural response to the inevitable fall in price as demand is met is to produce more while selling for less, and when these measures fail, to cut staff, raise quotas, and resort to all the various tricks and gyrations that the bourgeoisie uses in its vain attempts to preserve the exchange value of its products. The use value of these products is immaterial in all this. Under capitalism, use value is subordinated to exchange value.

Under socialism, on the other hand, commodities ought to have value in themselves; they should exist primarily as use values. In other words, rather than abolishing the law of value, its application under socialism should be inverted: exchange value should be subordinate to use value. This means that all exchange must be conducted on the basis of value for value, never value for value+ or value for nothing (as we see in the markets for real estate and certain digital goods, for instance). The goal of production, meanwhile, must be to maximize the number of use values produced per unit of average labor time, allowing exchange value per commodity to fall and thus indicate a potential need to reallocate or restructure the means of production. This does not preclude the existence of market mechanisms per se, though the operation of these would be along lines very different from markets under capitalism.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

ABCs of Socialism, Part 2: Getting There from Here

For those who may have missed it, Part 1 is here.

Now that we understand, in very general terms, what socialism is, the most obvious question is how to get there. How do we set ourselves free?

It may be tempting to prescribe simple answers to this question: “Build an independent labor party!” “Organize inside the Democratic Party!” “Support labor unions!” are commonly heard slogans. The reality is that taking and holding power to affect major changes in the way economic life is organized, what socialists call the relations of production, is not so easy. Although these slogans may have their uses, they are not enough by themselves. The changes needed to establish worker sovereignty and bring about socialism are of a vast scope, requiring the organization of millions of people with focus and discipline while also maintaining flexibility and accountability via democratic principles, what socialists call democratic centralism. The old political parties, the Democratic Party, the various labor parties, etc., are not up to the task. Building socialism requires a party of a new type, a cadre party.

A cadre party is not like the parties we are used to in the US, which are almost exclusively voluntary, oligarchic organizations. Cadre parties are made up of the most dedicated and knowledgeable socialists, those that recognize the level of discipline and ‘blood, sweat, and tears’ needed to build a new society. It is not something you could fill out an online form to join! Cadre parties are not organized this way out of some misplaced sense of elitism, but from the enormity of the task they undertake.

By design, cadre parties are relatively small. Historically, some have had founding congresses of fewer than twenty people. However, successful cadre parties form deep connections with other organizations that can offer mutual support and a mass base, such as labor unions. A properly operating cadre party is focused and disciplined, while also being flexible, democratic, and above all connected to its base, the working class. It takes a great deal of knowledge and skill to strike the right balance between discipline and flexibility; too much discipline, and the party risks becoming ultra-left and isolated from the working class; too much flexibility, and the party loses focus on its final goal of winning worker sovereignty and socialism, becoming politically opportunist. Needless to say, the right mix depends on the overall political situation a cadre party is operating under, sometimes called the historical conditions or balance of forces. These can change, sometimes quickly. Successful cadres (the organizational units that make up a cadre party) must learn to anticipate and adapt to these changes and adjust their work accordingly.

How does a cadre party undertake its work? What kinds of political tasks does it focus on? The answer to these questions depends on the aforementioned historical conditions. Generally speaking, party work is divided into two components: strategy and tactics.

Strategy refers to the overall plan, in broad terms, a party adopts in order to achieve socialism. Usually this involves building up popular support for socialism and encouraging workers to adopt socialist thinking, or ideology; that is, the set of ideas on which we build our understanding of the world.

Tactics are the particular means used to achieve strategic goals. For example, a solid strategic goal for a socialist cadre party in the US would be to extend Constitutional rights into the workplace. To achieve that goal, the party might promote this idea among workers belonging to a labor union deemed potentially receptive to it, trying to get the union to adopt the struggle for Constitutional rights officially. Success means not only the full realization of Constitutional rights, but also a change in workers’ thinking, from ‘worker=servant’ to ‘worker=citizen’. Put another way, a quantitative change, the extension of existing Constitutional rights into the workplace, leads to a qualitative change in the relations of production.

Quantitative and qualitative changes lie at the heart of socialist thinking. Together, they form a mechanism called the dialectic, which governs how changes occur in society and the wider world. The simplest example of a dialectical process is a phase change in matter: add enough heat to water (quantitative change), and eventually the water will turn to steam (qualitative change). In society, the abolition of slavery in the US is another example of a dialectical process: Wage labor grew in quantity to challenge slave labor, leading to a contradiction between the interests of industrial capitalists (the beneficiaries of the wage labor system) and slaveholders. This contradiction was resolved in the Civil War, which meant the end of the slave system and the extension of industrial capitalism to the entire United States. One set of relations of production was replaced by another.

Why does understanding dialectics matter? Because socialists approach political problems the same way engineers approach physical ones; socialists apply known principles to understand the problem and craft a solution in a scientific way, then evaluate the real-world outcomes of the solution and adjust it as needed. It is this method which makes socialism, or, more precisely, scientific socialism, a new type of political thinking. Rather than base its political actions on vague appeals to an undefined and subjective ‘rightness’, scientific socialism interacts with the political world systematically to achieve defined goals.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Spain has a "Socialist" Prime Minister---The Left Responds

Socialist Party politician Pedro Sánchez has been sworn in as the country's new prime minister by King Felipe after the ousting of conservative Mariano Rajoy. The Socialist (Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, or PSOE) advance came as Sánchez won the support of six other parties to remove Rajoy in the wake of a corruption scandal. Sanchez has said that he plans to serve the remaining two years of the parlimentary term, an optimistic forecast or plan. The Socialists will have to lean left and cooperate with Basque parties if they are going to hold a government together; the reactionary Popular Party (PP), which is Rajoy's main base, holds 134 seats in Parliament as a majority party, while the Socialists have 84 seats and are the largest opposition party in Parliament. The Socialist's parliamentary strength is bookended between right-wing parties and holding a government together under these conditions is not the same as making progress.

Liberal forces in Europe have been quick to support Sánchez, arguing that the Socialists can provide stability and manage the economy in much the same way that the current Portugese government is doing. These liberal forces also want a counterweight to the right-wing parties trying to form a government in Italy and evidently stumbling as they do so, causing some economic and political upsets. There is also a feeling that a united European response to Trump and to his trade and military threats is needed. The Socialists are unlikely to live up to these liberal goals, but continued governing by the right-wing in untenable and the liberals are seeking to contain class and national struggles.   

Sánchez has so far not disappointed his liberal backers. The Socialists have apparently accepted the present state budget without much dissent and have sent calming signals to the European Union. This is an interim government, but one capable of making changes if the Socialists break with their past and lean left and do the right thing in relation to Catalonia and to the Basque struggle for independence. One Basque politician put it well when he said to the Socialists that “Your government will be very complicated, weak and difficult.”

Sánchez did shake things up when he took the oath to protect Spain's constitution without a bible or crucifix. This was a first in Spain's history.

Some socialists in the U.S. will celebrate the Socialist advance in Spain and not look deeper. We want to urge our comrades to study the situation in Spain carefully and not not jump on the liberal bandwagon. To that end we are offering the following statement from the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) regarding the current situation there. The tone and content of the PCE's statement provides us with some guidelines on unity against the far-right which we would be wise to adopt in the U.S.

On the election of Pedro Sanchez as Prime Minister of Spain

The PCE has supported the vote of no confidence that has expelled the PP from the government of Spain after 7 years of budget cuts and corruption and has elected the PSOE's secretary general, Pedro Sánchez, as Prime Minister. We have done it for reasons that we think, are shared and understood by the majority of Spanish society: the need to expel the party of corruption and looting from the government.

The vote of no confidence has ended the situation we tried to avoid after the last general elections, working then to constitute a government of progress that prevented the PP to continue ruling Spain and ensure respect for democracy. Then it was not possible then, and Spain has paid a very high price: the increase in neoliberal measures that have worsened the living conditions of workers, a territorial crisis out of control and the backward step in fundamental freedoms and the increase in repression. We salute that now we have the opportunity to reverse the tragic consequences of the PP government, although Spain has lost two years ruled by the most corrupt party in Europe.

In the years of government of the PP corruption has been usual and structural - Gürtel, Punica, Barcenas, etc -, the looting of public funds to finance the party and to profit of its leaders, the manipulation of judges and prosecutors - to protect themselves and try to guarantee the impunity of the corrupt - and the manipulation of the public media to cover and distract attention, fortunately without fully achieving it.

It was necessary to expel the PP for all these corruptions and we have obtained them thanks to the work of denunciation and investigation of journalists, peoples’ prosecution, of many prosecutors and judges, of Police and Civil Guard officers. Thanks to his work, the truth is known, and we move forward so that justice is made for the crimes committed by the political elites of the country, causing damages that are now essential to repair.

The PP had to be expelled for its economic policies of budget cuts and dismantling of the Welfare State with tragic consequences for the working class and for its cuts and constant attack on democratic freedoms.

We have achieved it those who fill the streets and squares to fight against cutbacks in public services and labour and social rights, against precariousness and corruption, against sexist violence, in defence of public pensions, against evictions and for the right to the housing, who said "no" to this government on the streets, showing that society had said: enough is enough. Today we have achieved a victory, we must celebrate it.

We have succeeded thanks to the 67 seats of Unidos Podemos, largely the result of all these popular struggles, as are also the municipalities taken from the bipartisanship, the new institutions created from popular mobilization and since the confluence.

The deputies of Unidos Podemos have been key to the success of the vote of no confidence and are the guarantee that the new government undertakes the tasks that make it possible to call general elections in a climate of democratic normality.

We believe that the essential tasks that the new government must address are:

- Close this stage of corruption: end corrupt practices from the public powers, guarantee the conditions and means for justice to act impartially and guarantee that there is no impunity for crimes of corruption.

- Regenerate justice and guarantee the full enjoyment of civil and political rights. End limitations on freedom of expression and demonstration and ensure the impartiality of public media.

- Repeal PP reactionary measures such as the labour reform, the education reform, the pension reform and the gag law, guarantee access to housing and modify the mortgage legislation and implement emergency measures against unemployment and exploitation and increasing precariousness to recover part of the rights taken.

- Normalize the situation in Catalonia by initiating a broad dialogue to reach political agreements that reconstruct the coexistence in which we will defend a model of republican and federal state.

This government can be worth to repair what was destroyed by the PP. But we do not believe that a PSOE government is in any position to implement the new policies of change to build a fairer society, neither for its limited parliamentary support nor for its political program. It is a provisional government, perhaps useful to address the most urgent tasks that we have pointed out, but which can hardly address the great transformations that our country needs in the political, economic and social fields. Our support for PM Sánchez will depend on the adoption by his Government of the urgent measures we have outlined to regenerate the democracy and to improve substantially the living conditions of our people.

Pedro Sanchez must not forget, he is PM two years after the general elections, for his mistake in trusting Ciudadanos, a party that considers "terrible" to expel the corrupt government. "Terrible" comes from terror and it seems that Albert Rivera lets out through his mouth, unconsciously, the terror that democracy causes to the bankers and rich of our country, whom he represents so well; the terror of losing the status that these have fabricated him; the terror to follow the path that Rajoy has already taken. The fear over which fascism grows, which also develops from the ignorance promoted by the media behind which the bankers and employers hide.

Fear, in fact, is changing sides and with his words, Rivera shows fear of those "Spaniards" of whom he speaks so much. Citizens are afraid because they know that their Falangist and patriarchal speech, xenophobic and exclusive, their unconditional support for the most corrupt party in Europe, the PP, is becoming clearer. It is becoming clear that Ciudadanos is the same as the People’s Party, with a greater dose of opportunism if possible, a danger for Spain.

Likewise, we note that while the majority of the Spanish people celebrate the expulsion of the PP or in any case, accept it as a democratic act, the media, behind which the banks hide, speak of "chaos" and "catastrophe”. Others who are afraid of "the Spanish and the Spanish". In this new situation, we reaffirm ourselves in the need to strengthen the popular unity and the confluence of the forces of the left, to strengthen the organization people’s and of the working class to continue in the struggle, as the only guarantee to achieve the changes we aspire, that should open the constituent process towards the Third Republic of the workers of all the Peoples of Spain. Our imminent challenge will be the upcoming municipal and regional elections and especially the upcoming legislative elections that the PCE understands should be held as soon as possible, once decontaminated institutions of the immense damage caused by the Popular Party.

Today we celebrate having expelled the PP with the struggle and with the votes.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Left unity in the 2018 elections---Participate on May 23

The Communist Party (CPUSA) is collaborating with several left groups and progressive activists to promote unity and coalition building in the electoral arena. The Left Inside/Outside Project began shortly after the 2016 elections in response to some on the left who sat out the elections or encouraged building a 3rd party at the time.

The groups agree that defeating the extreme right domination of government and the courts is a strategic imperative and building electoral coalitions with every force possible including with the Democratic Party is key.

The next collaboration is an online webinar Wed. May 23 featuring a panel of representatives from the CPUSA, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Freedom Road Socialists Organization (FRSO), Left Roots, and others followed by small group discussion.

Rossana Cambron, chair of the Membership Engagement and Organizing Committee will represent the CPUSA.

This event is aimed at encouraging participation and interaction of members of all the groups. The CPUSA urges its members and supporters to participate.

Here's the official announcement:

The Left Inside/Outside Project invites you to a cross-organizational discussion of left political strategy. This video conference will feature speakers from different organizations in the Left Inside/Outside Project providing their perspective on the key questions facing leftists that are trying to build electoral power alongside social movements, all while navigating the complicated terrain of Democratic party politics. We will also have small group discussions and describe opportunities for collaboration across organizational lines.

Date/Time: May 23rd, at 5 pm Pacific / 8 pm Eastern

Register at

In solidarity,

Calvin Cheung-Miaw on behalf of the Left Inside/Outside Project

Here's the document outlining the basic principals of the Left Inside/Outside Project:


John Bachtell

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Our Internationalism---Post 4 of 4

We conclude this brief series on internationalism with an important ideological piece framing an crucial part of the revolutionary experience in Europe of the past 50 years. Why is this important? I think that the views expressed in this interview help us understand something of the advances and backward steps taken by the left internationally over the past 50 years and help us with criticism and self-criticism which should lead us towards being better internationalists and understanding our struggles in a new and better light. Note the interplay between events in parts of the Third World and in Europe mentioned in the following piece and the helpful attempt to reconcile what appeared as hostile contradictions between socialist countries 40 or 50 years ago. This is taken from the International Communist Press.

The Communist Youth Union of the Czech Republic reviews the ‘Prague Spring’

The Communist Youth of Turkey (TKG) made a special interview with the Communist Youth Union (KSM), the youth wing of the CP of Bohemia and Moravia, on the anniversary of the so-called Prague Spring of May 1968. KSM discussed the experience of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia during the events, the heritage of socialist Czechoslovakia and the revolutionary stance of today’s communist youth.

1) Firstly, how do you consider the socialist experience in your country? What are the ideological gains and political lessons that this history provides you while you carry out your current struggles?
The socialist construction in our country was an important experience for our peoples. For the first time in our country, the working class ruled, the surplus product belonged to those who created it. In the new society, there was a rapid economic development, the rise of collective cultivation in the countryside.

Despite this, the particular character of the epoch, as well as the mistakes of the revolutionary subject contributed to the solutions which were not enough thoroughgoing.

We have to take into consideration the specific situation which was different from that of the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917. The socialist construction was opened after the peoples’ victory over Nazism and fascism with the greatest contribution and sacrifices of the USSR as the first state of the working class. In the same time, this defeat weakened the domestic bourgeoisie which in its great part collaborated with the Nazi occupation forces. Therefore, despite the national-democratic character of the 1945 revolution, the anti-fascist victory made the development towards the socialist revolution simpler. Particularly, all the parties had the socialism in their program. Also, the level of industrial development and the working class organization (especially in the Czech countries) was relatively advanced. The February victory 1948 remained formally in the parliamentary field – even when there were shifts in the working class and peasant organizations and power. This development left marks in the following development and struggles. One of these marks was the national issue solution. The socialist system states had state-boundaries, basically inherited from the Versailles system which had arisen after the 1st world war and which were also aimed against the spreading of the proletarian revolution in Europe. The socialist transformation also left relics in the form of bourgeois-democratic “Masarykist” views inside of the working class and the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. (Masaryk – 1st president of the bourgeois Czechoslovak Republic between 1918-35)

Similar specificities were present also in other new people’s democracies and socialist countries in Europe.

2) 50 years ago, how was the Communist Party's leading role in Socialist Czechoslovakia?

After the counterrevolution in Hungary, the imperialism learned that the direct violent confrontation was not leading to the aimed results and it is necessary to attack the socialism from inside of the ruling Communist Party. Therefore it changed its tactics in the effort to restore capitalism. The reaction recommended the discontented people to become members of the party and official organizations. The membership of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) covered the 13% of the whole adult population of Czechoslovakia and many members often did not meet the requirements of the socialist construction. We have to add the loss of alertness after the XX. congress of the CPSU and utopian conceptions about the development towards communism without contradictions and about the end of the class struggle. The declaration of the achievement of socialism in the 1960 constitution under the leadership of the First Secretary of the KSČ and the President of the Republic Antonín Novotný which meant the formal end of the class struggle inside of the socialist republic was one manifestation of these processes.

However, the contradictions and struggles in the society remained. In 1963 the increased 3rdfive-year plan collapsed and the economy had to be directed by short-term plans. Among the reasons of this failures, there were the subjectivist overestimations of possibilities, the escalation of the conflict with imperialism (in the case of the direct military attack of imperialism, the Czechoslovak army was obliged to intercept the first attack – the Red Army was not present in Czechoslovakia). The split between the People’s Republic of China and other socialist countries was also of great importance because the great part of the Czechoslovak industry export intended for China development was not realized. The economic problems sharpened other contradictions demanding solutions.

The unsolved national problems in the issue of Slovakia quickly emerged on the surface. In addition, the rehabilitation processes which happened under the influence of the policy after the XX. congress of CPSU, canceling the judgments from the sharpened struggles of the 1950s, resulted in adoption to the leadership of the KSČ of individuals which started to split from the movement. The petit bourgeois moods increased, the priority was laid to the opinions of the intelligentsia, and the leading role of the working class diminished.

3) Who was Alexander Dubček and what was his political agenda? What is this so-called Prague Spring? What actually happened in 1968?

The unsolved contradictions culminated in the January plenum of the CC of KSČ in 1968, in the removal of Antonín Novotný from the post of the First Secretary. In this plenum, several currents in the party joined. The great role was played by the discontent of the Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS - part of KSČ) about the influence in the decision process and the effort of its leaders to federalize Czechoslovakia. From the joining of various interests, the compromise had arisen and as a First Secretary, the weak politician, former leader of KSS Alexander Dubček was elected. With him, the whole group of politicians came to power with the program of the petit bourgeois socialism, which they called “socialism with a human face” or “democratic socialism”. We can highlight market-socialist Ota Šik, who exploited criticisms of real economic problems and pressed for a weakening of the relations inside The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and weakening of the central planning. He strived for a foreign loan not in order to invest in the means of production but in order to buy the consumer goods. Similarly to the epoch of restored capitalism after 1989, there was the tendency of the use of price differences to the exportation of undervalued commodities to the capitalist countries for foreign currencies instead of mutual exchange between socialist countries. The proposition to dissolve the agricultural cooperatives (which did not meet with the expected positive response in the countryside), even to leave the Warsaw Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance appeared. It was dangerous for the socialist system especially in the time of imperialist escalation.

New organizations, e.g. club K231, which associated people imprisoned for a fight against socialist construction, were established. In the leadership of the mentioned club, direct agents of foreign secret services appeared. The unified organization of the youth was broken.

New phenomena were not spontaneous. The right-wing forces in the party and outside of it skillfully used the mass media to manipulate the public opinions. The anti-Sovietism appeared in the official media more and more often. In July 1968, 99 workers of the Prague industrial plant wrote a letter to the Soviet newspaper “Pravda” which expressed their protest against the anti-Sovietism in Czechoslovakia. The communists which did not agree with the development were designated as “conservatives”, against so-called “progressivists”. There was even the plan for the internment of the dissentient communists (under the guise of command against counterrevolution) – which approached to the development in Hungary in 1956.

4) And what about the military intervention of the Warsaw Pact?

Despite the fact, that in the beginning Dubček probably had the support of the Soviet side, during the year 1968, the leadership of other socialist countries apprehensively observed danger of the perturbation of the socialist system and the rise of counterrevolutionary forces. There were several meetings of the allies, where the development was discussed in an open way and Dubček always promised to act accordingly. The last meeting was in August 3rd, 1968 in Bratislava (Slovakia) between the party representatives of Czechoslovakia, Soviet Union, GDR, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Poland – where the parties declared the will to struggle against imperialism and defend socialist achievements together. However, the leadership of the KSČ did not do anything against counterrevolution and reactionary organizations.

In a certain moment, the decision to help the internationalist forces which were afraid of reactionary development in Czechoslovakia was made. 21. August 1968, 5 allies of the Warsaw Treaty entered to the Czechoslovak territory. In contradiction to the often cited version, the soldiers did not violently overthrow the government. Unfortunately, the right-wing in the Presidium of the CC of KSČ, with knowledge of the development in advance, took the initiative and issued a statement which appealed to Czechoslovak people to obstruct the allied force. This statement escalated the situation. The left inside and outside of the party was not well prepared and organized. The opponents of the “Prague spring” were terrorized; they were warned of revenge for alleged collaboration. The mass media operated in a similar way. “Progressivists” met on an illegitimate meeting, which they called an extraordinary congress of KSČ (apart from other things, the relevant representatives from Slovakia were not present).

In the meantime, the Presidium of the KSČ and the president of the Republic Ludvík Svoboda went to Moscow in order to discuss how to settle the situation. There was an agreement made between Soviet and Czechoslovak leadership about a normalization of the situation. The agreement was signed with one exception by all involved, including Alexander Dubček. Nevertheless, after the return, Dubček remained under influence of the right-wing forces and new anti-Soviet and anti-socialist events appeared and were supported.

The western, capitalist institutions exploited the confusion of the first months for the choice for emigration and work of the qualified workers in science and art. The Trotskyist organization Movement of the Revolutionary Youth prepared terrorist attacks. Another peak was the self-burning of the group of manipulated students. The authentic internationalist forces formed slowly, e.g. among the youth – the Leninist Youth League, in culture the Left Front. In the KSČ itself, the pragmatic approach advanced, and Slovak representative Gustav Husák became the leader of the party.

The leaders of the so-called “Prague Spring” did not manage to fully implement their program of the “democratic socialism”. The real content of the program was shown at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s when the great part of them participated in the restoration of capitalism in Czechoslovakia and after the counterrevolution occupied important positions. E.g. Alexander Dubček became the leader of the Federal Parliament.

5) Do you think that there is a correlation between the events of May '68 in other countries and the incidents happened in your country the same year?

As the balance of forces was changing, in the 1960s the new perspectives for the struggles of the socialism against imperialism were surely opened. We can recall the declaration of the socialist character of the Cuban Revolution, the liberation struggle of the Vietnamese people, anti-imperialist and anti-colonial struggles and revolutions in other countries, the liberation of the African continent. There were also colossal achievements of the socialism in science, in space exploration. There was also the new escalation with Zionism in 1967. However, there were also the mentioned consequences of the XX. congress of the CPSU and the split of the People’s Republic of China from the socialist system. In this situation, the imperialism apparently strived for new ways of confrontation of the world socialism, to which the communist movement adapted poorly. Above all the alliance of the working class on one hand, and the still broad strata of the petit bourgeoisie and the petit bourgeois intelligentsia on the second hand was not renewed. These strata were indeed conscious of the consequences of imperialism. However, their search for independent policy ended often under the capitalist hegemony – which invested heavily in the cultural activities. The upheaval of the protest and anti-imperialist movement in other countries therefore often fell flat, as a part of the ruling class and imperialist strategies.

6) From a Marxist perspective, what is your approach towards youth struggle? What is the role of the youth in a socialist revolution?

We are of the view expressed by Lenin - that there is a necessity of the youth organization - in which the young people learn themselves the collective and organized work, struggles, and which provides alternatives to the capitalist glitz. The communist organization creates new morality which is subsumed under the interests of proletariat and socialism. The past experience of the socialist construction showed the importance of innovative-revolutionary stance, the constant inclusion of workers and students to struggles and construction. Every loss of revolutionary initiative had catastrophic consequences for the working-class power, for the cause of the building of a society without exploitation of man by man - socialism and communism.

For this reason, we build and form our youth organization Communist Youth Union (KSM), the Czech Republic which takes the heritage of the progressive and communist youth in the country. KSM organizes young students, workers and unemployed and contributes to the anti-imperialist and social struggles. We also struggle against the historical revisionism and anticommunism in the Czech Republic with information and education work. KSM in this work faced many times slandering and anticommunist attacks, including attempts to dissolute the organization by the ruling power.

Our Internationalism---Post 3 of 4

Our third post in this series on internationalism also comes from the IndustriALL website and concerns struggles taking place in Mexico. We again refer readers to the Regeneracion website for important news on the political campaigns underway in Mexico and to the website of the Partido Comunista de Mexico. Readers should study news of a recent meeting of Communists in Latin America. We again draw out the point that unions in the U.S. have much to learn about class struggle and international solidarity. The unions mentioned here are limited in their effectiveness by being almost depoliticized and by not being affiliated with the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) or cooperating with the WFTU. Still, the article illustrates that workers can find and build common cause and solidarity through their own experiences and common sense. What is needed to make this more fully effective and meaningful is a strong working-class political consciousness and organization.

A tale of two factories: union representation in Mexico’s tyre industry


Two factories in San Luis de Potosi, one of Mexico’s main industrial centres, produce tyres for major multinational companies, Continental Tire and Goodyear. Only a few kilometres separate the two plants, but the way they operate couldn’t be further apart. Much of that comes down to a question of union representation.

Currently, workers at Goodyear are ‘represented’ by infamous Senator Tereso Medina, a CTM union leader known for signing ‘protection contracts’ with employers behind workers’ backs.

Says a young operator at the plant, Francisco Javier Cuestas:

We’ve never seen these so-called representatives. They don’t know the first thing about us. Because we have nobody to speak for us, the company gets away with paying very low wages - less than a dollar and a half per hour - for what is very dangerous and difficult work.
Conditions are so bad that the entrance has become a revolving door. Says Pablo Reyes Medina Hernández, who also works at the plant:

It just doesn’t make any sense. The company invests heavily in training, but within weeks new recruits have already quit because the job is so bad. It’s not like Goodyear can’t afford to provide decent wages and conditions. It does elsewhere, so why not here?

After reading a newsapaper article about how independent unions at Audi, Bombardier, Bridgestone, General Tire, Nissan, Volkswagen have come together as part of an IndustriALL-driven initiative to protect workers' rights in the auto sector, the young workers decided it was time for change. When the company refused to listen, they stopped work to demand the right to genuine union representation.

A short distance away, at the Continental Tire plant, things are very different. Says Federico González, general secretary of the independent union at the plant, SNTGTM, an IndustriALL affiliate:

We do the same job, using the same technology. We have a democratic union that engages in negotiation, and as a result, we have much better wages and working conditions, as well as a stable and committed workforce. We all work for world class companies, and there is no reason they should earn so much less than we do. That’s why we’re supporting them in their struggle.

IndustriALL and some of its affiliates with members in Goodyear or its supply chain, including USW in the US and Canada and CNM-CUT in Brazil, as well as other independent unions in Mexico, have written to the company demanding that it respect the fundamental right of its workers to form the union of their own choosing and that it honour its pledge of non retaliation against the striking workers.

Our Internationalism---Post 2 of 4

This our second of four posts on internationalism. Our first post, taken from Cuba's Granma, gave a theoretical or ideological map of our Marxist legacy as it applies to the worldwide class struggle. This post and the next post illustrate current struggles which unite workers across borders. The unions mentioned in this post, which is taken from the IndustriALL website, show that even relatively weak and depoliticized unions can locate the necessity of taking action and unioting workers across borders. Unions in the U.S. have much to learn about internationalism and class struggle. As the struggle mentioned here is taking place, Turkey is experiencing mass repression and conditions approaching civil war once more and France is experiencing a militant strike wave and radical student activism. Readers who are interested in radical world trade unionism should study the website of the World Federation of Trade Unions and the international solidarity page of the United Electrical Workers.   


After joining IndustriALL affiliate Petrol-Is, 85 workers at the Turkish subsidiary of French cosmetics company Yves Rocher, Kosan Kozmetik Pazarlama ve Ticaret AS, were dismissed.

Following an intensive recruitment campaign by Petrol-Is Chemical and Rubber Workers’ Union of Turkey, in March, a sufficient number of workers at Yves Rocher’s subsidiary in Turkey, Kosan Kozmetik, exercised their free choice of being of part of a union. Once the proof of the majority was obtained, Petrol-Is leadership attempted to build a constructive social dialogue and approached the company with an offer to discuss collective bargaining. The company rejected the offer and challenged the union certificate issued by the Ministry of Labour in court, using unfounded arguments and loopholes in the national legislation to hinder collective bargaining.

In April, local management dismissed 14 members of Petrol-Is due to their union membership. In addition, management continued to pressure and intimidate workers, undermining their legitimate rights to join a union at the plant. As the workers refused to give up their affiliation with Petrol-Is, management dismissed six more union members on 11 May. On 15 May, Kosan Kozmetik sacked 65 workers over their involvement in trade union work, bringing the total number of dismissed workers to 85.

In a letter to the company, IndustriALL Global Union called on management to respect trade union rights, reinstate the dismissed union members and enter into dialogue with Petrol-İş. Valter Sanches, IndustriALL general secretary said:

“Kosan Kozmetik’s behaviour constitutes a blatant violation of Turkish labour law, as well as fundamental international labour standards, including Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, and Convention 98 on the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining of the International Labour Organization (ILO).”

IndustriALL’s French affiliate FCE-CFDT has approached the central company management in Paris to urgently intervene.

Petrol-Is and its members picketed in front of the plant with a large support from other workplaces and society.

“It is completely unacceptable for such well-known global brand not to respect fundamental rights in its subsidiaries,” says Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary.

“We expect Yves Rocher to open the channels to address the situation in Gebze. Otherwise we will take it to different platforms through extensive campaign.”

Based in Rennes, France, Yves Rocher is a worldwide cosmetics and beauty brand. The company is present in 88 countries and employs 13,500 people, not including more than 215,000 people employed through indirect jobs. Kosan Kozmetik employs 400 workers, and produces the brand Flormar, the number one make-up brand in Turkey with a 21 per cent market share. The plant also exports products to the markets of 104 countries, primarily in developing countries.

Our Internationalism---Post 1 of 4

We do not speak enough about internationalism, the idea for us that the struggle for socialism is necessarily an international struggle and that wehave comrades and friends across all borders and in the working classes of all countries. Today we will have a short four-part series demonstrating the power and necessity of inyternationalism. We will begin and end with theoretical pieces which will bookend news of two important working-class struggles.

Apart from these posts, we want to draw our reader's attention to the important Regeneracion website and the need for radicals in the United States to pay more attention to current events in Mexico.

Kemal Okuyan of the Communist Party of Turkey recently stated that "A communist party which does not respond to the specificities of a country, which does not belong to the land on which it fights, would simply become a caricature. The struggles being waged in individual countries are tied to the process of world revolution after all, but parties contribute to that process by waging their struggles under specific conditions. Marxism-Leninism is a theory that leaves room to such specificities while maintaining its international character despite them. There is no such thing as 'local Marxism'; as there are no 'models of socialism'. Marxism-Leninism relies on fundamental premises and a strong goal discipline based on the quest for revolution, not on ready-made blueprints. It is obvious that the conditions of struggle in Germany and Turkey, in the United States and India, or in Spain and Mexico are different, which render different priorities, toolkits, tactics current. But the real strength of Marxism-Leninism is in its ability to put such variety into the perspective of a holistic, universal theory." I agree with Okuyan in the main, but perhaps disagree with him about models and "local Marxism," and the theory and practice of his Party is another matter entirely. Okuyan at least gives us a good point of departure for talking about internationalism today. 

Our first post in this series comes from 

Ten Marxist ideas that define the 21st century

No matter how hard the propaganda machine has tried to refute Marx’s analysis, his ideas have stood the test of time

Every time the alarms sound announcing another economic crisis, sales of Karl Marx’s books skyrocket. Few understood how capitalism works and its consequences for humanity like this 19th-century German thinker.

No matter how hard the hegemonic propaganda machine has tried to refute his analysis and decree the death of the ideas to which he dedicated his life, Marxism resists the test of time and its validity - not only as a method to understand the world, - but as a tool to transform it, is proven.

Two centuries after his birth, Granma International shares ten of Marx’s predictions that set the pace of the 21st century.


In his masterpiece Capital, Marx defined economic reproduction in capitalism and predicted the tendency to concentrate and centralize capital.

While the first aspect refers to the accumulation of surplus value - the value created over and above the labor power of workers (surplus labor), appropriated by the capitalist as profit - the second term consists of the increase in capital as a result of the combination of several individual capitals, almost always as a result of bankruptcies or economic crises.

The implications of this analysis are devastating for the defenders of the ability of the “blind hand of the market” to distribute wealth.

As Marx predicted, one of the characteristics of capitalism in the 21st century is the growing gap between rich and poor. According to Oxfam’s latest report, 82% of the wealth generated worldwide in 2017 went into the pockets of the richest 1% of the global population, while 3.7 billion people, the poorest half of the world, saw no increase in their wealth.


The German philosopher was one of the first to understand that economic crises were not an error of the capitalist system, but one of its intrinsic characteristics.

Even today attempts are made to peddle a different idea.

However, from the Stock Market Crash of 1929, to the crisis of 2007- 2008, there is a clear course that follows the patterns as outlined by Marx. Hence, even Wall Street magnates end up turning to the pages of Capital to find some answers.


Perhaps one of the most revolutionary Marxist ideas was the understanding that “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles,” as we read in the Communist Manifesto written by Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848.

That thesis threw liberal thought into crisis. For Marx, the capitalist state is one more tool of the hegemonic class to dominate the rest, while reproducing its values and its own class.

A century and a half later, social struggles are fought between the 1% that dominates and the other 99%.


The capitalist, according to Marx, needs to keep wages low in order to maximize profitability. This can be achieved as long as there is another worker waiting to take the place of one who refuses to accept the conditions. That’s who he called the “reserve industrial army.”

Although the social and trade union struggles from the 19th century to the present day have changed elements of this situation, especially in developed nations, the quest for low wages continues to be a constant in the business sector.

During the twentieth century, large manufacturing companies in Europe and the United States relocated to Asia in search of a skilled workforce they could pay less.

Although recent governments point to a loss of jobs through this process, as the Donald Trump administration in the United States has, the fact is that these companies managed to maintain their high growth rates thanks to the exploitation of cheap labor.

Regarding wages, current studies show that workers’ purchasing power, in terms of what can be bought and not their nominal value, has been decreasing in western countries for nearly 30 years.

And the gap is even greater between executives and low-level employees.

According to an article in The Economist, while in the last two decades workers’ pay in countries like the United States has stagnated, the salary of top executives has increased significantly: they have gone from earning 40 times the average pay to pocketing 110 times more. (


While Marx details the mechanisms of exploitation inherent in the process of capital accumulation, he is especially critical of financial capital, which does not have a direct material role in the economy, but is created in a “fictitious” way, such as a promissory note or a bond.

In his day, one couldn’t imagine the modern development of this sector of the economy, thanks to the use of computers to carry out financial transactions at the speed of light.

Speculation and the elaboration of complex financial mechanisms – such as the so-called “subprime,” which triggered the crisis of 2007-2008 – are currently solid confirmation of Marx’s concerns.


The 19th century had not yet seen the boom of commercial advertising on radio and television, much less modern mechanisms to personalize advertising messages on the Internet, but Marx already warned of the ability of the capitalist system to generate alienation and false needs among people.

“The extension of products and needs becomes a contriving and ever-calculating subservience to inhuman, sophisticated, unnatural, and imaginary appetites,” he predicted over 150 years ago.

In today’s world, cell phones become outdated in just a few months, and advertising is responsible for convincing users to buy the latest model. Meanwhile, household appliances are built with planned obsolescence to ensure they stop working after a few years, and thus create the need to replace them.


“The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere,” Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto.

Their portrait of the globalization of markets, accompanied by the imposition of a culture determined by consumption, could not be more accurate.


At the same time, this trend is accompanied by the creation of transnational monopolies. While classical liberal economic theory assumed that competition would maintain multiplicity of ownership, Marx went a step further and identified the market’s tendency to amalgamate based on the law of the strongest.

Large media, telephone, and oil conglomerates are some of the current examples of the process described by Marx.


“All that is solid melts into air,” is one of the most enlightened reflections on capitalism in the Communist Manifesto.

Marx and Engels understood the creative and at the same time self-destructive nature of capitalism, in which the pursuit of productivity at any price imposes an inhuman rhythm of production and unsustainable consumption.

It is precisely this trend that currently has our planet on the edge of collapse.

The impact of human beings on the rise in global temperature is scientifically proven, although certain presidents, such as that of the United States, continue to deny it.


Marx’s greatest impact on history was not his profound analysis of the contradictions of capitalism, but his call to build a new kind of society: based on communism.

His message that the proletariat has the potential to free itself from oppression and inequality forever changed the twentieth century and inspired revolutions in Russia, China, Vietnam, and Cuba, among other countries. His call to working class unity remains fully valid in the 21st century.