Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Dawn of the Dead Again in America

It's dawn of the dead again in America.  It's not, however, because hard-pressed Americans en masse rejected "socialism," voting for austerity, against bread and peace, as the Right would have us believe.  As is usually the case with mid-term elections, the turnout was low: just "42 percent of registered voters" voted.  Which means this re-run of the dawn of the dead is brought to you by a minority, upper-class America mobilized by corporate America, voting against the working-class American majority, just as capitalist democracy American-style is designed to work.

Which Democrats ended up becoming zombie meals?  Not the bread and peace wing of the Democratic Party: progressives in progressive districts by and large survived.  Take Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur of Ohio: they even voted against the 2008 bank bailout and lived to tell about it.  Who got eaten up by zombies, then?  "23 of the 46 Blue Dogs up for re-election went down."   In other words, the very people who fed working-class meat to living dead capitalists to reanimate them in the aftermath of the financial crisis.  The lesson is clear: Don't feed the zombies -- they'll come back for more and bite your ass.

This, however, is not a moment for Marxists to indulge in schadenfreude.  The rest of America has not even noticed the existence of American socialists, who have been saying: "Obama Ain't No Socialist -- We Are!"  Hard as it may be to admit, we have failed to build an organized Left, under Bush or Obama, despite two shooting wars and now a nearly 10% unemployment rate.

And hard luck for the Left in hard times isn't a story of "Only in America."  Whether we look at a country whose working class is powerful (France) or a country whose ruling class is weak (Greece), 20th-century socialism (Cuba) or 21st-century socialism (Venezuela), the crisis has made left-wing lives more difficult, not less.

How can American socialists help build an organized Left here, in the decades of slow growth and high unemployment ahead of us?  Can we at least help squash the most voracious zombies who would like nothing better than making Americans work till death while killing Iranians to boost the economy?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Monopoly Capital Blocks Rational Policy of Wage-led Growth

What lesson might the working classes of the global North take from what's happening in China? Canadian journalist Paul Jay spells it out in plain English.

Paul Jay:
So we've been talking about macroeconomic policy, the G-20, austerity. And there was one little line in the G-20 document I thought was interesting, and it's sort of buried in amongst everything. It said countries could facilitate wages going up proportional to productivity, which is rather interesting, 'cause it's the only time I've ever heard it even mentioned by these guys. There's quite a big section about how wages need to go up in China. There they understand the need for increasing demand. And we've heard President Obama say, we can't be the consumer engine of the world anymore, you guys have to do it, looking at China. And they talk about increasing the social safety net in China. They even talk about allowing strike struggles in China so wages can go up, but they sure don't talk about it when it comes to their own places. . . . So the problem is -- and this is where it becomes a political problem. I mean, it's not that difficult to sit down and kind of envision a rational solution to all of this -- you just can't pass it anywhere. The way that the politics is controlled and the small gang of people that actually own the commanding heights of the economy, starting with the banks, they don't allow any of this to actually get passed, so you get to an impasse. You can talk rational visions, but you can't execute on it.
The lesson given by Jay is a Kaleckian one, one of the most important lessons, especially today, as we struggle against the drive to austerity in the North. First of all, make clear what obstacle needs to be removed if the rational alternative is to be implemented.

To that Kaleckian lesson, however, we want to add a Gorzian one, especially in the United States: take productivity gains more in the form of gains in disposable time than in the form of more consumption. That's our socialist ticket out of crisis, economic and environmental.

Minimum transitional demands: retirement at 50 with full benefits; free education and social wages for students (all the way up to doctoral degrees for those who want them); paid parental leaves (six years for each new child); two months of paid vacations per year at minimum; indefinite unemployment benefits (to last till the ruling classes come up with worthy jobs at worthy wages for the unemployed).

Monday, July 05, 2010

Separation of Religion and Science: US behind Iran

"Teach Evolution, Learn Science: We're ahead of Turkey, But behind Iran," according to Gerald Weissmann. Mollas are a dime a dozen in the world today, but Iran's mollas aren't just any mollas -- they are animal-cloning, robot-building, satellite-launching, stem-cell-researching, uranium-enriching mollas.

That is why there is no quick military solution for the empire comparable to Israel's attack on the Osirak reactor in Iraq and Israel's bombing of what is said to be a nuclear facility in Syria. Iran has succeeded in the tasks of both mass education and higher education, building a deeper and broader base of scientific and technological human capital than in any other country in the region except Israel. That means that Iran can rebuild what gets destroyed.

Given its rate of scientific production, as reported in NewScientist, Iran may eventually catch up with Israel, too:
Scientific output has grown 11 times faster in Iran than the world average, faster than any other country. A survey of the number of scientific publications listed in the Web of Science database shows that growth in the Middle East -- mostly in Turkey and Iran -- is nearly four times faster than the world average.

Science-Metrix, a data-analysis company in Montreal, Canada, has published a detailed report (PDF) on "geopolitical shifts in knowledge creation" since 1980.
Is that a "threat" to Israel or the United States? Not if these two countries aren't run by people who are given to seeing the world as if it were the stage for a zero-sum game of power struggle. The question is if they are.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Two, Three, Many 1960s

Check out this beautiful article by an American woman: Chelsea Szendi Schieder, "Two, Three, Many 1960s" (MRZine, 15 June 2010). This is a very fair assessment, and moving commemoration, of the New Left in Japan and the global Sixties (maybe only a gaizin-san can be this fair to both the J New Left and the JCP -- the only thing missing in the article is a mention of Kanba Michiko's own writings, so I added links to those). This is 200% better than most of the articles about May 68 in France that came out in 2008. Anyhow, as you can see from the article, it's not easy establishing a republican state, is it, even -- or perhaps especially -- in the North? All sides of the Iranian nation and their leadership sometimes sound nutty, but, still and all, they are "people to be reckoned with," so very unlike the people running the show, and people who let them run it, in Japan, who are not even as interesting as the AKP!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Chickengate: The Left and Science and Technology

By now you've probably heard of the Chickengate in Bolivia.

There is a chance that the president of Bolivia was joking about hormones in chickens causing premature baldness, reproductive developmental disorders, and other disorders due to sex hormone imbalances. ABI reports that the president was speaking "at times in a joking tone" ("a momentos en tono de guasa").

But if it was a joke, it in any case completely overshadowed what little coverage of the Summit on Climate Change in Bolivia there was in the corporate media. Seeking to counter the media coup, a gay indigenous man on the Left bravely put out a video statement: "I am a proud indigenous man, and I am a proud gay man, and I'd like to thank President Evo Morales for his leadership . . . in behalf of all humanity . . . in behalf of protection of our Mother Earth."

Evo can't be a homophobe -- especially given the new Bolivian constitution promulgated by his government specifically prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time in the history of Bolivia -- and the corporate media are wrong to try to pass him off as one.

However, the Chickengate in Bolivia does remind us that there is a tendency in considerable parts of the Left today to be too alarmist about science and technology, especially when it comes to food and energy. That basically leaves the people hanging in the scientific and political vacuum between the Apocalypticist Left and the Panglossian Right.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fiscal Crisis of States

In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, what next?  In the United States,1 a "fiscal crisis" of states and municipalities, both real (masses of public-sector workers are getting laid off even now2) and imagined (bogus public pension liabilities stats used in right-wing propaganda to attack unions3).

Money is out there, though, if only we had a powerful coalition to tax the rich!

There's a very good pro-labor, anti-racist, Green rationale to prioritize this fight above all, since one of the sectors under attack is urban mass transportation, whose workers are often unionized and, as in many other sectors of civil service, are often non-white.  Needless to say, state and municipal public service is the most feminist thing in the United States, in terms of profiles of both workers and beneficiaries.

Leftists can't win everywhere pursuing this battle to tax the rich, but we can win here and there,4 which would help build more durable bases for future actions than anything else.  There's nothing like victories to build a Left!

Taxing the rich is also better financial reform than any "oversight" of finance that the Democrats come up with at the federal level.  The less money the rich have, the less money for their gambles.  The financial reform PR message here is to tax the rich and spend their money here, so they won't spend it to bid up, say, real estate prices in China or something like that.

1  In the eurozone, the fiscal crisis expresses itself as the euro core of Germany versus the euro periphery of PIIGS.  See Jayati Ghosh, Heiner Flassbeck, Joseph Halevi, Costas Lapavitsas, and Mark Weisbrot.

2  Dean Baker, "State and Local Governments Have Shed 72,000 Jobs since December," MRZine, 2 April 2010).

3  Nathan Newman, "No Crisis in Public Retirement Systems: Debunking the Hype and the Attacks on Employee Benefits" (MRZine, 17 April 2010).

4  Rick Wolff, "Oregon Counters Massachusetts" (MRZine, 27 January 2010).

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Taliban and the Rights of Women

The dispute between Gita Sahgal and the "Human Rights for All" campaign on one hand and Moazzam Begg and Amnesty International on the other hand is a red herring, which is the reason why it has been "taken up with relish by Britain's self-styled 'decent left' of journalists and commentators, whose superior moral compasses led them to support the invasion of Iraq." All parties directly involved in the dispute profess that they are in favor of women's rights, though they may differ here and there on what exactly the said rights consist of.

But the thing is that women's rights, or lack thereof, in Afghanistan cannot decide the most important questions that Westerners have to ask themselves: will the NATO quit Afghanistan, and, if yes, when?

Under NATO, women's rights will be protected only to the extent that they don't conflict with the military logics of the parties in combat. After NATO's withdrawal, women's rights will be protected only to the extent that the parties governing post-NATO Afghan territories respect them. That probably means that Afghan women will enjoy only such rights as granted by allies of Iran-Russia-India in one part of Afghanistan and Taliban-Pakistan in another part of Afghanistan -- for decades to come.

In either case, with or without NATO, it is not possible for Sahgals, Beggs, or human rights organizations of the West to make the level of women's rights higher than it is given the prevailing objective and subjective conditions of Afghan society. It would help speed up the NATO departure once Western activists admit their inability to make a difference for Afghan women for such a realistic admission would help the Western public concentrate on the only questions on which they have at least some say.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Jacobinism with Islamic Characteristics

The best way to understand the Islamic Republic of Iran is to see it not as "theocracy" but as "Jacobinism with Islamic Characteristics."

The power elite of Iran don't care about Islam as such (Islam, after all, is diverse, and some varieties of it, as conceived by Nader Hashemi, Mohsen Kadivar, Ahmad Sadri, and the like, are perfectly compatible with liberal democracy). What they care about is their revolution and their republic and their ideology (in which Islam does play a part but an increasingly smaller one). As IRGC General Mohammad Ali Jafari reportedly said:

حفظ نظام جمهوری اسلامی ایران از ادای نماز واجب‌تر است

They love their politico-economic order much more than prayers.

Unlike the USSR and the Eastern Bloc, whose legitimating ideology came from outside (Western Europe) and was instilled from above (the Marxist-Leninist Party), though, their ideology is one that has organically grown out of Iranian history, which is what is going for them.

My back-of-the-napkin calculation, however, says that about 20% of the Iranian population, largely of economically upper strata, are liberals who are tired of this politico-economic order and its legitimating ideology. Give Iran a couple of decades in which its social dialectic can unfold without foreign intervention, and liberals are likely to grow more numerous in the country as it undergoes its capitalist development; and liberals inside Iran might eventually transform the country in a way that liberals outside it would like, through passive revolution (much as the AKP has done in Turkey, which too was once ruled by men of the Jacobin mentalité).

Meanwhile, the duty of Iranian patriots, even liberals in exile, is not to let imperialists bomb Iran.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sex, Drugs, Islam, Communism, and Terrorism

How does the ruling class destroy liberty, often in the name of liberalism, today? By exploiting fear, especially specters of Sex, Drugs, Islam, Communism, and Terrorism. The ruling class defines each of these categories in such a way that each becomes a mixed bag of defensible and indefensible. To take just one example, in the category of terrorism, class justice and propaganda of the Western powers insidiously merges together national liberation movements such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (defensible) and Al Qaeda (indefensible).

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Iranian Diaspora after the Green Wave

So, what is the new preoccupation of the Iranian diaspora after the Green Wave? Having received 170 comments (and counting), this item posted on International Working Women's Day is the most popular thing today at

Thursday, March 04, 2010

IRIB in Japanese

A funny thing about the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) is that, of all its numerous foreign-language versions, it provides Iranian food recipes, tourist information, a detailed introduction to master musicians of Iran, elementary Persian-language lessons, etc. only on its Japanese-language site. They know my people, whose main interests generally run toward good food, sightseeing, and cultural sampling (usually in that order)!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Iran: The Islamic Revolution Defeats Western Hopes for Regime Change

. . . and Hashemi's hopes for a palace coup.

Iran Celebrates the 31st Anniversary of
the Islamic Revolution
Green Wave* Ebbs

Having defeated the Western hopes for regime change and the endogenous upper-class hopes for a palace coup, Salomes of Iran will have a better chance to fight for freedom.

سبز شدیم در این خاک از سالومه

*   For the social and political character of the Green Wave, consult Iran's Last Marxist Nasser Zarafshan: Setareh Derakhshesh, "Interview with Dr. Nasser Zarafshan and Farrokh Negahdar" (VOA Persian, 6 January 2010).

Friday, January 29, 2010

Alistair Hulett

Scottish singer and socialist Alistair Hulett died yesterday. He was only 59 years old.