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5 Ways To Build a Movement after Ferguson

The following is one in a series of posts dealing with the wave of protest sweeping the United States following the police murder of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. Other posts in this series include: Burn Down the Prison: Race, Property, and the Ferguson Rebellion,Turn Up Htown: Reflections on Nov 25 Day of Action,The Old Mole Breaks Concrete: The Ongoing Rupture in New York City, and Points for Discussion on Race in the United States from Noel Ignatiev.


5ways1

1. Work to abolish police and prisons, not to reform them. President Obama has passed legislation to put body cameras on police officers, but this won’t stop the cops from killing black folks. Eric Garner’s murder was caught on camera like many others, and it didn’t save his life. Even worse, this reform can be used against the people it’s supposed to protect: a recent study showed body cameras help police far more often than their victims.

Continue reading 5 Ways To Build a Movement after Ferguson

Points for Discussion on Race in the United States from Noel Ignatiev

After a recent discussion and debate with the NYC local, we asked Noel Ignatiev (formerly of Sojourner Truth Organization and the journal Race Traitor) to clarify some of his theses on the status of race in the US on the eve of the Ferguson grand jury decision. We hope Noel’s position can serve as a prompt for a reinvigorated and principled discussion, grounded in US history and our understanding of Marx.

While the present moment is unique, we hope to understand the activities of the class today as part of an unfolding of the broader history of struggles against white supremacy and capitalism. If you are interested in responding to this piece at length please get in touch with us.

Noel’s piece is also one in a series of posts dealing with the wave of protest sweeping the United States following the police murder of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. Other posts in this series include: 5 Way To Build a Movement after Ferguson, Burn Down the Prison: Race, Property, and the Ferguson Rebellion, Turn Up Htown: Reflections on Nov 25 Day of Action, and The Old Mole Breaks Concrete: The Ongoing Rupture in New York City, .


 

Noel Ignatiev: Capital is race-blind; the capitalist mode of production (cmp) tends to reduce all human beings to abstract, undifferentiated, homogenous labor power. However, the pure cmp exists nowhere; all existing societies, including those in which the cmp prevails, contain elements left over from the past as well as elements that are the product of the political intervention of various groups.

Racial oppression is not universal to capital. Four places developed historically on the basis of racial oppression: the U.S., South Africa, Ireland, and Palestine.

Continue reading Points for Discussion on Race in the United States from Noel Ignatiev

Some Remarks on Bloom and Contend: A Critique of Maoism

We received these remarks in response to Chino’s “Bloom and Contend”.  We feel the response is a useful contribution to the discussion and debate.  We welcome additional feedback, debate, and questions in the comments sections of both pieces.

by John Steele

There’s a lot in this essay to agree with, and I appreciate the attempt by the author to situate the discussion of Maoism within the concrete development of the Chinese revolution; as he notes, this was “one of the great world-historical revolutions of the 20th century.” But in carrying this out, some problems arise. Continue reading Some Remarks on Bloom and Contend: A Critique of Maoism

The Rise of the Fast Food Worker

The following post was written by U&S’s comrade, Will.

The following piece is predicated on a series of discussions which have already occurred‭:

1‭. ‬“Fast Food Workers Fight for $15 an Hour” – Vice

2‭. “Fast Food Workers Strike:  What Is and What Isn’t the Fight for Fifteen Campaign” – Machete 408

3‭.‬ “Fast Food Strikes to Massively Expand: ‘They’re Thinking Much Bigger'” – Salon

4‭. ‬“Who’s Strike?” – Kasama

5‭. ‬“Venture Syndicalism:  Can Reviving the Strike Revive Mass Unionism?” – Libcom

I am still thinking many things through so at times this piece will be fragmentary and move from place to place‭.  ‬I am trying to use the three volumes of Capital to think through what the fast food industry means in capitalism today‭. ‬I hope that does not distract from my fundamental point‭. ‬I argue that the role of the fast food industry is key in lowering the value of labor power and that revolutionaries should make fast food organizing a central part of their work‭.‬

In Capital‭, ‬Marx writes‭, “…‬the labour-time‭ [‬sic‭] ‬necessary for the production of labour-power‭ [‬sic‭] ‬is the same as that necessary for the production of those means of subsistence in other words‭, ‬the value of labour-power‭ [‬sic‭] ‬is the value of the means of subsistence necessary for the maintenance of its owner‭” (‬274‭).   ‬Furthermore‭, ‬the reproduction of the worker’s family must also be taken into account‭.  ‬Accordingly‭, ‬Marx writes‭, ” ‬The value of labour-power‭ [‬sic‭] ‬was determined‭, ‬not only by the labour-time‭ [‬sic‭] ‬necessary to maintain the individual adult worker‭, ‬but also by that necessary to maintain his family‭” (‬518‭). ‬This passage has three processes happening at the same time‭: ‬the reduction of the means of subsistence‭, ‬the reduction of the labor-time necessary for the production of labor power‭, ‬and the reduction necessary to feed‭, ‬clothe‭, ‬shelter and educate the worker’s family‭.  ‬One of the key means of subsistence in determining the value of labor power is the cost of food‭.  ‬This process did not occur overnight‭.  ‬Loren Goldner describes this process as‭, ‬

By the late 1960s‭, ‬the postwar boom had brought world capital to another‭ ‬moment in which the current cost of reproducing labor power could no‭ ‬ longer serve as the systemic numeraire,س‭ the common denominator‭, ‬for ‬commodity exchange‭. ‬Capital again‭, ‬as in 1914‭ ‬but more diffusely‭, ‬entered a‭ ‬new period in which physical destruction on a world scale was a necessary‭ ‬part of the movement of devalorization and potential revalorization‭.‬ ‭(‬Goldner‭). ‬

This meant the restructuring of capital and labor power‭.  ‬More efficient food production and distribution per calorie were central in the lowering of the value of labor power‭.  ‬As the graph shows‭, ‬there has been a clear and continuous decline in the percentage of food expenditure for U.S‭. ‬households‭. ‬

Continue reading The Rise of the Fast Food Worker

When do we SNAP?: Against Cuts, Low Wages, and Food Stamp Discipline by Florence Johnston Collective

The Florence Johnston Collective is a new group of both U&S and non U&S members in New York City struggling around “reproductive” work; or work that’s primary function is not to make things to be sold, but to take care of the lives of both workers and non-workers in society.  This includes nurses, CNAs, home health aids, teachers, social service workers, nannies, and more, plus custodians, kitchen workers, and other staff who work in healthcare and social services facilities. We are specifically interested in organizing both recipients and providers of care, as these two groups often appear to be in an antagonist relationship with one another, when really both are being destroyed by the same cuts, policies, and bosses.  U&S is happy to re-post the first in a series of longer written articles posted on FJC’s blog, and intended for mass distribution and agitation.  Please see http://florencejohnstoncollective.wordpress.com to find out more.

Introduction

As political campaigns to raise the minimum wage grab headlines, there is a decrease in the federal minimum wage on the horizon that nobody is talking about. The coming reduction in the wage for working class people in the United States, employed and unemployed, will come from a two pronged reduction in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, better known as food stamps. These cuts will affect the 50 million people struggling to feed themselves and their families in the current economic depression. Continue reading When do we SNAP?: Against Cuts, Low Wages, and Food Stamp Discipline by Florence Johnston Collective

Just Us: There Can be No Justice for Trayvon Martin in America

TrayvonOne night Trayvon Martin walked to the store. On the way back he was followed and harassed by racist vigilante George Zimmerman. The vigilante murdered him.

The police showed up, but they knew Zimmerman. His father was a judge. They took him to the station, questioned and let him go. Zimmerman became a hero for right wing, white supremacist forces. He told Sean Hannity it was God’s plan that he killed Trayvon and that he had no regrets. Only nation-wide protests forced the state’s hand to bring charges weeks later.

The facts of the case are well-known enough. No need to repeat them.

Over a year later Trayvon Martin was put on trial in front of a nearly all-white jury. Rachel Jeantel was put on trial. Black people were put on trial. A typical teenager, Trayvon was turned into his opposite: a black male preying on white America. No one should be surprised about the verdict, though liberals and progressive seem to be. The civil rights establishment is at a loss for words. They have nothing to say after no better an example of the fact that the law is not for black people, the oppressed, or the working class.

How could Trayvon, a typical teenager, and Zimmerman, a spiteful predator, be turned into opposites? Continue reading Just Us: There Can be No Justice for Trayvon Martin in America

La Teoría Comunista De Marx

Como siempre, si encuentras un error gramatical o en la traducción te agradeceríamos tu ayuda en corregirlo para mejorar nuestro trabajo. Puedes conseguir el artículo original en Ingles aquí.

Traducido por L Boogie y Parce

Las siguientes entradas representan una parte de un proyecto mayor sobre la teoría comunista y organización revolucionaria que se inició el verano pasado. Es un proyecto en curso que no sólo fue diseñado para proporcionar un esquema de referencia para nuestra propia agrupación. En términos más amplios, está destinado a ser una contribución a las discusiones en curso y debates sobre la teoría y práctica comunista, que, en nuestro momento histórico, no puede y no será el producto de cualquier grupo individual. Continue reading La Teoría Comunista De Marx

Debating Base and Superstructure

In the recent debate over the legacy of Marxist-Feminism, Eve and Tyler presented a critique of Nat Winn’s use of the infamous ‘base and superstructure’ meme. Despite its wide usage, this particular set of categories has lead to deterministic theorizing, often gutting the subjectivity of the working class and oppressed from communist praxis. Underlying this political consequence has been the method of isolating the objects of investigation — in this case the forms of activity of the class. As Eve and Tyler explained, the ‘base and superstructure’ meme establishes a duality between subject and object, rather than theoretically explaining their dialectical unity. Simply put, the working class, no longer the creators of the social world — in this case capital — become helplessly determined by it, and communists thus abandon the concept of “coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-changing” as central to any revolutionary process.

In an effort to deepen and expand this conversation, we offer Raymond Williams’ essay, “Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory” (pdf). In this essay (later expanded into a whole book) Williams takes up the common ways in which the categories of base and superstructure are used, and challenges his readers to, instead of considering isolated objects — in this case objects of art since Williams was a cultural critic — investigate the objective parameters and social relations of the activity behind the production of those objects. Part of this challenge requires us to consider the interrelation of all social practices (their “totality”) as opposed to considering one set, whether deemed “political” or “economic”, a part from another, and even more, to do so would require us to understand each of these particular sets as different forms of an active (or “moving”) social process.

This contribution to the discussion shares important features with Marx’s explanation of the fetish, which he begins in chapter one of the first volume of Capital. There, Marx demonstrates that modes of thought which treat objects in isolation of their historical development are a product of the organization of capitalist society. In this way, capitalist society understands itself to be timeless — a natural condition of the human race. One of the important contributions of Marx, then, is that he provided a critical theory that pierced through capital’s veneer of being natural, allowing us to understand the ways in which our activities and those of the rest of the working class can be equally critical, destroying capital in practice as well as in theory. As a new generation of communists, we must continue to wrestle with the difficult tasks of theory and method in order to play our part in creating a better world.

-Mazin

Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory

by Raymond Williams

Any modern approach to a Marxist theory of culture must begin by considering the proposition of a determining base and a determined superstructure. From a strictly theoretical point of view this is not, in fact, where we might choose to begin.[1] It would be in many ways preferable if we could begin from a proposition which originally was equally central, equally authentic: namely the proposition that social being determines consciousness. It is not that the two propositions necessarily deny each other or are in contradiction. But the proposition of base and superstructure, with its figurative element, with its suggestion of a definite and fixed spatial relationship, constitutes, at least in certain hands, a very specialized and at times unacceptable version of the other proposition. Yet in the transition from Marx to Marxism, and in the development of mainstream Marxism itself, the proposition of the determining base and the determined superstructure has been commonly held to be the key to Marxist cultural analysis.

Now it is important, as we try to analyse this proposition, to be aware that the term of relationship which is involved, that is to say ‘determines’, is of great linguistic and real complexity. The language of determination and even more of determinism was inherited from idealist and especially theological accounts of the world and man. It is significant that it is in one of his familiar inversions, his contradictions of received propositions, that Marx uses the word ‘determines’. He is opposing an ideology that had been insistent on the power of certain forces outside man, or, in its secular version, on an abstract determining consciousness. Marx’s own proposition explicitly denies this, and puts the origin of determination in men’s own activities. Nevertheless, the particular history and continuity of the term serves to remind us that there are, within ordinary use—–and this is true of most of the major European languages—–quite different possible meanings and implications of the word ‘determine’. There is, on the one hand, from its theological inheritance, the notion of an external cause which totally predicts or prefigures, indeed totally controls a subsequent activity. But there is also, from the experience of social practice, a notion of determination as setting limits, exerting pressures.

Now there is clearly a difference between a process of setting limits and exerting pressures, whether by some external force or by the internal laws of a particular development, and that other process in which a subsequent content is essentially prefigured, predicted and controlled by a pre-existing external force. Yet it is fair to say, looking at many applications of Marxist cultural analysis, that it is the second sense, the notion of prefiguration, prediction or control, which has often explicitly or implicitly been used.

Continue reading Debating Base and Superstructure

Comments on “The Rebellion Contained: The Empire Strikes Back” by Fire Next Time

by James Frey and Jocelyn Cohn

On March 15, Fire Next Time released a phenomenal statement on the role of city councilman Jumaane Williams and the non-profit group Fathers Alive in the Hood (FAITH) in repressing the activity of anti-cop black militants following the murder of Kimani Gray in the East Flatbush area of Brooklyn, NY.  The piece does not just address Williams and FAITH, but also tackles the role of the state and non-profits in general in suppressing revolutionary activity and fostering already present divisions in the class along racial lines. The piece also lays out some of the tasks ahead for the revolutionary left, particularly for the young black left in the poorest areas of the country’s cities. While we are in almost full agreement with FNT’s post, we wanted to draw out a few additional points, particularly around gender and patriarchy.  FNT’s post can be read here, and the following is best understood after reading “The Rebellion Contained: The Empire Strikes Back”.

This past Thursday in Flatbush Brooklyn we witnessed the events which Will describes in his excellent piece, and find his account to be consistent and the analysis superb. We have a few assorted thoughts to add and will try not to overlap Will’s account. Our piece assumes familiarity’s with Will’s, and the latter should be read first.

First, although this is absolutely implicit in Will’s piece, we wanted to point out that the activities of FAITH (Fathers Alive In The Hood) and Williams were the result of the loss of the ideological battle by Williams and by the peace-loving non-profits in general. Because Williams so clearly lost the ideological battle against anti-cop militancy, he had to resort to physical force, distraction, and intimidation to disrupt the activity–and still he was not successful in getting people to stop marching. Since they were defeated in the ideological battle, FAITH and Williams used their enormous bodies, bull horns, and aggression to literally drown out the voices of anti-cop militants, primarily women. FAITH aggressively tried to get people to stop the march to the precinct and literally commanded people to get into the church. Jumaane and FAITH were there to give the white media something to cling to, NOT to support the black militants and everyday people who are pursuing freedom.

This somewhat successful use of tactical force seems like a defeat for us but really it is a victory. Finally the non profits and politicians cannot hide their structural role and their relationship to the cops. Jumaane Williams had to resort to using physical force to try to stop people from fighting the cops. He has forever showed his role, and the hope is the antagonism between politicians/non profits and the working class has shown itself strongly enough to spread to other arenas of struggle. As Will so eloquently said, the enemy is bigger than the NYPD.

Continue reading Comments on “The Rebellion Contained: The Empire Strikes Back” by Fire Next Time