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 bit.ly/leftunity1

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: https://organizingupgrade.com/the-left-we-want/

Comradely,

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

14.05.2018

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.   

16.05.2018

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.

1. THE CONCENTRATION AND CENTRALIZATION OF CAPITAL

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.

2. THE INSTABILITY OF CAPITALISM AND CYCLICAL CRISES

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.

3. CLASS STRUGGLE

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%.

4. THE INDUSTRIAL RESERVE ARMY

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. (https://www.economist.com/node/8554819)

5. THE NEGATIVE ROLE OF FINANCIAL CAPITAL

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.

6. THE CREATION OF FALSE NEEDS

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.

7. GLOBALIZATION

“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.

8. THE PROMINENCE OF MONOPOLIES

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.

9. THE SUICIDAL TENDENCY OF CAPITALISM

“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.

10. THE REVOLUTIONARY POTENTIAL OF THE WORKING CLASS

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.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

"As capitalism breeds and results in greater inequality, it loses sources of demand to provide stimulus for accumulation, and it also generates greater public resentment against the system."


Jayati Ghosh on May Day and working-class struggles:

Ever since the eruption of workers' struggles on May 1, 1886, commemorating May Day each year reminds us of what organized workers' movements can achieve. Over more than a century, these struggles progressively won better conditions for labor in many countries. But such victories -- and even such struggles -- have now become much harder than they were. Globalization of trade, capital mobility and financial deregulation have weakened dramatically the bargaining power of labor vis-à-vis capital. Perversely, this very success of global capitalism has weakened its ability to provide more rapid or widespread income expansion. As capitalism breeds and results in greater inequality, it loses sources of demand to provide stimulus for accumulation, and it also generates greater public resentment against the system.

The trouble is that, instead of workers everywhere uniting against the common enemy/oppressor, they are turned against one another. Workers are told that mobilizing and organizing for better conditions will simply reduce jobs because capital will move elsewhere; local residents are led to resent migrants; people are persuaded that their problems are not the result of the unjust system but are because of the "other" -- defined by nationality, race, gender, religion, ethnic or linguistic identity. So this is a particularly challenging time for workers everywhere in the world. Confronting this challenge requires more than marches to commemorate May Day; it requires a complete reimagining of the idea of workers unity and reinvention of forms of struggle.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Marx Now - Panel: Marx and Political Identity---And we add some comments, questions, and a mention of Margaret Stevens' new book


This is not the best forum or panel discussion on Marxism and political identity ever held. And at some crucial point in the video there are technical difficulties which intervene. No surprise, but Kali Akuno is again the brilliant thinker and speaker. Some long-lasting (and incorrect) prejudices against Marxism and Marxism-Leninism reemerge here, and some of the criticisms made show a trend to the right and towards pragmatism. On the other hand, the excellent points are made that the book Black Reconstruction in America by W. E. B. Du Bois is absolutely necessary reading and that politics needs to go beyond electoral action---not counterposing electoral action to other forms of action, but seeing their dialectical unity and contradictions---and that the left does not look carefully enough at program and the masses of people who do not vote and that we do not organize on the basis of coming to grips with the changing structures and content of world capitalism. The section on how we move between the universal and the particular and understand the terrain of our struggles is important and deserves greater discussion. Are we content with being subject to changes, or do we work for making changes? Are we building a movement, or are we structuring and restructuring criticism of one another and mistaking that for politics and organizing?

One of the speakers expresses her opposition to building a third party, or even talking about it, in very subjective terms and puts forward an impossible and too-pragmatic measuring stick for approaching the question of whether or not we can build a third party. Whether we support building a new third-party now or not, we do not have think about building a third-party in 50 states simultaneously and spontaneously. Approaching the question of building a third-party in this way is at least unhelpful. We do have to think of timelines, political organizing, relations with movements and with labor, leadership, and what breaking with the Democrats really means. We have to ask why existing left parties in the U.S. don't appeal to more people. What are the limits and possibilities of electoral action now? How do we shift from a context in which the attention is on ballot lines and on politicians to a context in which program matters? How we answer these questions takes how whether we come to the matter of building a party as opportunists or as radicals and revolutionaries. Part of our history in the U.S. has involved fusion politics and alliances. Our left today is terrible at alliances, but forming alliances has been part of our DNA. The questions should be formed in part around how we recapture that part of our past.

One of the weaknesses of this panel is that we get nearly all of the way through the discussion before anyone mentions the teacher's strikes. The panel discussion on the teacher's strikes is insufficient and misdirected. There is no mention of events in Puerto Rico and Mexico, both of which have more bearing on our situation in the U.S. then do issues in Germany, India, or Greece. Kali Akuno correctly references events in Jackson, Mississippi when he speaks, but much of the conversation takes place without any recognition of the moment we're in here in the U.S. We're seeing increases in the quantity and quality of class conflict and the continuation of struggles by nationally oppressed peoples and some recent electoral victories for some forces on the left as we come to midterm elections. Trump's presidency is in crisis, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the people in its orbit do not seem focused on winning, at least not by building capacity among workers, people of color, and women. We are coming to the midterms without enough discussion of coalition politics and a united front. 

The point that we need to hold on to is that we need to understand and describe politics here as they are, not as we want politics and the U.S. to be. Until we get to that point we're coming up with answers that don't answer and conclusions which don't conclude. Kali Akuno hits this point hard at the end of the panel. Even if we disagree over how he got to that point, we need to take up his challenge and take him and his work seriously.

The panel would have benefited greatly from engaging with the ideas presented by Margaret Stevens in her new book Red International and Black Caribbean.


 

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Frank Chapman on Karl Marx, Scientific Socialism and Black Liberation


The following article by Frank Chapman appears in Fight Back! News. It is a good starting point for discussions which I hear almost daily. What I would add here is that Marxism's roots grow as as deep or more deeply in Asia, Africa, and Latin America then they do in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. This was true in the 19th century just as it was true in the 20th century. I would also add that principled working-class unity is always the imperative and that building real unity within the working-class means rejecting racism, sexism, ableism, and all of the phobias and -isms which characterize capitalist society. We should appeal to everyone in society who has an interest in a revolutionary program and build unity around radical demands, but that alliance or political front needs to be led by the working-class. That said, we can't wait for people to become fully consistent revolutionaries: it is right to rebel, only political and social struggles will resolve disagreements and end the isolation of the left, and almost any radical starting point (however imperfect it is or we are) will do if we use critical thinking and take concerted action. White workers will not be transformed into anti-racists because we take a class or read a book; we are transformed through lived struggle taking up almost any contradiction in our lives, living out the maxim that "the revolutionary essence of Marxism is that it sees the necessity of all workers of all races and nations being united in the fight for democracy and socialism. There is no path to socialism without this multi-racial, multi-national, working class unity," and experiencing multiracial and multigenerational unity first-hand. If you're waiting for your movement or union or workplace or neighborhood to "get it" then you're part of the problem. Take leadership!


Chicago, IL - Karl Marx was born May 5, 1818 in the town of Trier, Prussia. He was not born into a revolutionary family but he was born in revolutionary times, in the wake of the French Revolution and the decline of the Prussian Empire. The French Revolution came to Trier during the Napoleonic wars. It tore the city out of the Holy Roman Empire and for two decades before the birth of Marx, it replaced the feudal society, with its chartered privileges, with a government in which all citizens were equal under the law. It was a turbulent period in which all the old, feudal orders of Europe were trembling in the face of bourgeois led popular revolutions.

As we begin to celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of Karl Marx, we can anticipate that much will be written about the personal life and times of this great revolutionary scientist, who history has proven to be one of the greatest revolutionary strategists and tacticians ever.

What I want to do in this brief essay commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx is lift up Marx’s scientific contribution to the working-class movement in general and the Black Liberation movement in particular.

Marx’s scientific contribution

Marx was born right at the time when the Industrial Revolution (initiated by the invention of the steam engine) was blossoming but not yet in full bloom. The Age of Reason was in full bloom, however, particularly in France, where, as Engels points out, “They recognized no external authority of any kind whatever. Religion, natural science, society, political institutions, everything was subjected to the most unsparing criticism; everything must justify its existence before the judgement-seat of reason or give up existence….” This kingdom of reason was nothing other than the idealized kingdom of the bourgeoisie where superstition, injustice, privilege and oppression were to be superseded by eternal Truth, eternal Rights based on Nature and the inalienable Rights of Man.

Marx realized even at a young age that the industrial revolution had ushered in a new era with the creation of a new class of workers, the proletariat. And that the very class, the capitalists, who claimed to represent the whole of suffering humanity were also the ones responsible for the enslavement and exploitation of the working class and the slaves and toilers in the colonies. Marx realized that his mission was to give the working class the theoretical tools and scientific understanding of their oppression that would enable them to emancipate themselves. So, he proceeded to critically study bourgeois political economy in order to develop the foundations of scientific socialism.

In studying political economy Marx did not concern himself with the laws of nature - to investigate them is the business of physics, chemistry, geology and biology. Also, Marx was not preoccupied with investigating the modes of production which are common to all peoples, as such an investigation could, for the most part, only result in acknowledging such obvious things as man always needs tools, land and food in order to be able to produce at all. At best arriving at general laws of social development common to all historical periods, Marx investigated the laws of movement of capitalism as a definite form of social production peculiar to a definite historical period and to particular European nations.

Capitalism, slavery and Black liberation

Karl Marx was also the first to show how modern capitalism as a system of political economy was a consequence of the phenomenal growth of merchant capital during that period when direct slavery in European colonies and African slavery became the basis for worldwide commerce based on the commoditization of labor and the exportation of commodities. During this period of commercial warfare between the colonial powers, slavery played a key role in bringing about the advent of the industrial capitalist, i.e., slavery provided the financial basis for the industrial revolution.

Long before he wrote Capital, Marx had, as early as 1847, come to an understanding of how capitalism and slavery were fundamentally related. He sets forth these propositions with remarkable clarity in his polemic against Pierre Proudhon in the Poverty of Philosophy. Here is how Marx stated it:

“Slavery is an economic category like any other…Needless to say we are dealing only with direct slavery, with Negro slavery in Surinam, in Brazil, in the Southern States of North America.

Direct slavery is the pivot of our industrialism today as much as machinery, credit, etc. Without slavery you have no cotton, without cotton you have no modern industry. It is slavery that has given value to the colonies; it is the colonies that created world trade; it is world trade that is the necessary condition for large-scale machine industry. Thus slavery is an economic category of the greatest importance.

“Without slavery, North America, the most progressive of countries, would be transformed into a patriarchal country. Wipe North America off the map of the world, and you will have anarchy - the complete decay of modern commerce and civilization. Cause slavery to disappear and you will have wiped America off the map of nations.” (See Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels The Civil War in the United States, International Publishers, p.3).


We believe that from the very beginning Marx saw that the proletarian class movement was inextricably linked to the struggle for Black liberation. In the words of Marx, labor in a white skin could not be free so long as labor was branded and sold in a black skin. Marx understood the necessity of capitalism abolishing chattel slavery (i.e. slavery pure and simple) but he also understood how this slavery became a pedestal for what he called wage-slavery. He saw that Black people were that part of the working class which did not have the freedom to sell itself into slavery.

Hellish conditions of capitalist exploitation during the height of the industrial revolution sometimes made wage-slavery and chattel slavery look like a distinction without a difference. In fact, some of the early pre-Marxian socialists and trade unionists in the U.S. argued that white workers were more ruthlessly exploited because they were not property and were therefore left to fend for themselves with respect to food and shelter.

Marx understood the special, super-exploitation character of Black labor and the need for socialists to address this in order to build a united working- class struggle against the capitalist bosses.

The revolutionary essence of Marxism is that it sees the necessity of all workers of all races and nations being united in the fight for democracy and socialism. There is no path to socialism without this multi-racial, multi-national, working class unity.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Garen Chiloyan & The Armenian Weekly Get It Right

The following letter appears in the current issue of The Armenian Weekly. The letter captures exactly what I try to communicate every April as we take up commemorations of the Armenian Genocide (April 24), and in January and April when we take up the Yom HaShoah and Holocaust Memorial days, and Nakba Day on May 15, and the several other genocide commemorations. And still we do not mark the atrocities commited in the so-called "Congo Free State" or deal seriously with the decimination of Africa and the related decimation of the Caribbean and American indigenous populations. This year Trump essentially outsourced recognition of the Armenian Genocide and is building a record of anti-semitism, and he will not acknowledge Nakba Day or the "Congo Free State" atrocities, much less what has occurred in the Americas. An editorial piece representing the views of the Armenian National Committee of America appearing in The Armenian Weekly has explained this quite well. The problem goes deeper than Trump, of course, and the author of the letter below expresses that succinctly. I do not always agree with everything in The Armenian Weekly, but there is no better source in the United States than this paper for news on Armenian politics and a careful liberal analysis of what the criminal regime in Turkey is up to. Readers are encouraged to visit the Weekly's site and subscribe.  

Dear Editor,

After reading headlines about another year without “official U.S. recognition” of the Armenian Genocide, it is time Armenians realize that we will never get recognition and just reparations by appealing to the morality of bourgeois states. Their own histories are plagued with genocide and colonization.

And if they refuse to acknowledge their own pasts, they will never acknowledge our own.

Talk to any poor or oppressed person, tell them our history of immeasurable pain, and they will not be surprised as they face the same pain themselves.

The Arabs know what we went through. The Kurds know what we went through.

Tell it to any Indigenous person in the United States or Canada or Mexico and they will tell you our histories are the same.

Tell it to the Irish, whose ancestors suffered famine and exodus while the British government forced them to export food to sustain their empire.

Tell it to any person in East Asia, who still remembers the pain that colonialism has caused to their countries.

Tell it to any Indigenous Mexican, whose home was destroyed to make way for sugarcane farms and was forced to work there under appalling conditions. See if they will not easily call what we went through “genocide.”

Tell it to any Palestinian who is living through genocide today.

You will find countless friends among people whose histories match our own. With them, we can force every state in the world to acknowledge what happened to our people.

Sadly, all we care about is suits and ties and wining and dining politicians in lavish banquets. We left the streets for desk jobs and called it “hard work” instead of what it really is: Compromise.

The moment the oppressed and working masses across the globe realize the injustices they have all experienced—and more importantly, realize their collective strength—see if we don’t get genocide recognition and reparations the following day.

Garen Chiloyan,
Watertown, Mass.