All posts by uands

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.


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.

The police and the prison system can’t be reformed, because their basic role is to maintain a racist, unjust, unequal capitalist society–and this requires violence. As Kristian Williams documented in Our Enemies in Blue, police forces developed in the U.S. to capture runaway slaves, crush strikes, and prevent hungry mobs from taking what they needed to live. The system isn’t “broken” when it kills someone like Mike Brown, it’s working just as intended.

Instead of chasing reforms, we should work to abolish police and prisons. It won’t happen all at once, but we can guide our efforts with the catchphrase: disempower, disarm, and disband. We can disempower the police on the streets, by building neighborhood groups that respond to police abuse, and deter them from terrorizing us. We can demand the police be disarmed, taking away their military gear and firearms. And we can work to disband police units one-by-one, starting with the most vicious.

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.

Overall, in Chino’s approach and in the basic “lesson” he strives to draw, there is a merging of two different questions:

Maoism as the ideology of the Chinese revolution, and

Maoism as a present-day theoretical or ideological basis for revolutionary analysis and action

The author strives to argue and move from a critique of the former to a critique of the latter, and this second critique (of present-day Maoism) seems to be the chief aim of the essay, even though the first occupies far more space. A major problem I see in this approach is that the historical examination is made the servant, to large extent, of a polemic or argument against a present-day political tendency or tendencies. But it would be perfectly possible to make good arguments and polemical points against Maoism as a basis for contemporary revolutionary politics, without drawing this out of Maoism in the Chinese revolution. And it would be, I believe, far better to do so, for under this approach historical analysis tends to be conducted through the terms of contemporary political polemic, thus pulling away from examining Maoism (in this case) within its historical context. (I think how we view the great revolutions of the 20th century is an important question today, and one that’s almost never answered in a very fruitful way.)

The problem often boils down to the use of very insufficiently developed categories as if they were transparent terms of analysis. The chief culprits here are ‘Stalinist’ and ‘state capitalist’, two adjectives which are subject to a great deal of ambiguity and polemical superficiality.As far as I can see, the only explanation that the former term receives is a brief polemical characterization on page 6: “What we call ‘Stalinism’ today is essentially a distorted version of Marxist theory, taken up and reworked for use as the ideology of a new ruling class.” In the case of ‘state capitalism’ there is a bit more discussion:

I use the term “state capitalist” to refer to any system in which the exploitation and capital accumulation described by Marx occurs in a system in which the vast majority of the means of production have been nationalized, or otherwise placed under the control of a state apparatus. In such a system, the fundamental aspects of capitalist social relations remain. A proletariat, defined by its lack of access to and control over the means of production and subsistence, is forced to alienate its labor to a separate social group and attendant institutions, which to an ever greater degree comes to resemble a distinct ruling class. As ongoing exploitation yields capital accumulation, this becoming-class continually expands its control over wealth and political power through its position in the relations of production, and determines the trajectory of the reproduction of society. 

…as long as the conditions described above exist, “value” in the capitalist sense continues to exist as well. This “value” in the capitalist sense will provide the metric through which use-values are equated, production is conceptualized and coordinated, and foreign trade is conducted. The resulting “law of value” will tend to impose seemingly objective limits and presuppositions on those living under its auspices, including those in positions of state power—no matter their subjective intentions or political pedigree. (2, 3)

Fine so far, but I think the question is more subtle, in the context of both USSR and China, than this general characterization can get at. (I hope to show what I mean in saying this, in a forthcoming piece on 20th century socialism as a “mode of production.”) Chino implies, in the sentence which begins the next-but-one paragraph (“to explore the implications of this concept further, we must examine the broad path of the Chinese revolutionary experience”) that the bulk of the rest of the essay – which does look at the course of the Chinese revolution – will be in service of clarifying this concept in these historical circumstances. Instead, however, state capitalism is simply used through the rest of the essay as if it is already a basic category which is clear and transparent.
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 to find out more.


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. And these nationwide cuts, effecting every recipient, just may provide workers with the broad basis for action against the system that keeps them broke, overworked, and dependent on their boss and the state just to survive.

The state calls food stamps “benefits” and “entitlements”, and tells people they are a privilege, not a right. Some politicians talk about food stamps like they are state sponsored charity. But SNAP benefits are a part of the wage for the lowest strata of the working class. They are the piece of the paycheck necessary to buy food, a piece that the capitalists refuses to pay.

SNAP cuts must be recognized as wage cuts, and fought against by the cooperation of all working class people, no matter whether they receive benefits, and especially by the working class people who work in food stamp and other benefit centers. We need to help build this movement by facilitating these connections, and agitating beyond the reformist lines.

Accordingly we can’t simply defend the program or demand more benefits. The SNAP program itself must be understood as a tool used to discipline the working class. No matter how high they are, these benefits hold a small amount of working class peoples’ wages over their heads to make them dependent, subject them to humiliating privacy violations like drug tests and endless bureaucratic hurdles, and provide a cheap compensation for the loss of real jobs, the ever-diminishing standard of living, and the mass incarceration of tens of millions of Americans. This is why we don’t simply need more food stamps, but the end of the system that makes food stamps necessary to survive



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.

La totalidad del proyecto está dividida en tres partes principales 1) Una síntesis parcial de Marx 2) Una crítica de la historia de la organización revolucionaria 3) Pensamientos provisionales sobre la necesidad de organización hoy en día. Estamos actualmente en el proceso de escribir el borrador de la segunda parte, pero queríamos empezar a publicar la primera parte ahora, que será serializado durante los próximos meses.

El borrador sobre Marx no pretende ser un folleto introductorio popular. En cambio, está destinado para un público con un conocimiento básico de Marx. En nuestra propia práctica lo usamos como un complemento a los grupos de estudio y discusión en curso sobre Marx, así como la teoría revolucionaria en general.

Es importante decir algo acerca del concepto de comunismo que destaca esta serie. Nosotros entendemos comunismo en el sentido que Marx escribió en La Ideología Alemana:

Para nosotros, el comunismo no es un estado que debe implantarse, un ideal al que ha de sujetarse la realidad. Nosotros llamamos comunismo al movimiento real que anula y supera al estado de cosas actual. Las condiciones de este movimiento se desprenden de la premisa actualmente existente.

Este pasaje contiene todo un mundo de pensamiento y experiencia histórica que debe ser desenredado y recompuesto de nuevo. Sin embargo, lo que es importante acerca de la obra de Marx, incluyendo, crucialmente, El Capital, es que lo coloca la viviente actividad humana en el centro del concepto de comunismo. Comunismo es la lucha necesaria y permanente de la humanidad para lograr libertad – para liberarse de su propia existencia enajenada.

Hay un gran número de pensadores y tendencias políticas que han tomado el manto y han influido el desarrollo de nuestro propio pensamiento. Sin embargo, no reclamamos ninguna adherencia específica a ellos. Mientras que pueden haber hecho contribuciones importantes, no somos obligados por sus limitaciones que surgieron de sus experiencias históricas particulares. En cambio, necesitamos una  nueva síntesis que surge de las realidades sociales de hoy.



La historia de organización comunista no puede ser separada de la historia del marxismo como una crítica de su propia historia. Dado que la crisis de la izquierda revolucionaria es, en parte, una crisis de la teoría revolucionaria nos debemos, hasta un cierto punto, empezar de nuevo volviendo a Marx. La historia de la teoría revolucionaria en sí está marcada por tales retornos en que los revolucionarios intentaron de entender su sociedad estudiando las ideas y luchas del pasado. Esto ha sido una parte fundamental y necesaria de la teoría y la práctica comunista históricamente.

Dado que hoy nos enfrentamos de nuevo a un impasse definido por una falta del conocimiento categórico y análisis nos debemos luchar de nuevo para encontrar un terreno sobre el cual pararnos. Sólo con claridad podemos llegar a una fundación más sólida para el trabajo revolucionario.

El entendimiento de la organización revolucionaria debe tener sus raíces en un enfoque categórico y es por esta razón que intentamos a sintetizar unas de las premisas fundamentales del pensamiento de Marx. El objetivo en este caso es un poco limitado. En el momento no tenemos el espacio ni el tiempo para repasar la suma del pensamiento de Marx. Esto incluye su crítica de la totalidad de la sociedad capitalista, incluyendo los volúmenes críticos dos y tres de El Capital. En cambio, esperamos concentrar en el esquema básico de su punto de vista sobre la humanidad y sus relaciones en la sociedad capitalista.

Lo que sigue es una presentación un poco abstracto. Está destinado a funcionar como una fundación para el desarrollo posterior de la teoría, investigación, estrategia y tácticas. El logro del conocimiento categórico y metodología es absolutamente necesario para evitar los perspectivos empíricos, pragmáticos y economicistas que ronda la izquierda Estadounidense – síntomas de su propio decaimiento. Lo que sigue está destinado proporcionar la base para la investigación concreta de lo actual real, y moviendo sociedad. Sin categorías y metodología claras, estrategia y tácticas se vuelven cada vez más desligadas de nada concreto, y por lo tanto reificadas en su abstracción.
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.


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