In our last post, we located the Trump regime within a global right wing resurgence enabled by capitalist crisis and the failures of social democracy. Now we can examine how this resurgence developed in the U.S. context. In this piece, we will explore how conservative hegemony emerged from the crisis of the 1970s, developed through the Reagan years and exhausted itself in the Obama era. We will then trace how Trump builds on the history of conservative hegemony even as he rends it in two, and outline the degree to which the incoming Trump regime stands to deepen authoritarianism. Continue reading Morbid Symptoms: The Downward Spiral
The following series attempts to understand the rise of Donald Trump, particularly in the context of capitalist crisis and the emerging power of the populist and far right. Part one is below. Part two is here. Part three is here.
The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.
– Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks
The election of Donald Trump––despite his losing the popular vote––has come as a shock to many Americans. While most recognized that the campaign had tightened after the intervention of the FBI, it was assumed that Clinton would edge out Trump on election day. But even if the Democratic Party had narrowly won the presidential election, it would have told us nothing about the development of mass rightwing populism and white nationalism in the U.S. This force represents both an immediate threat and a long-term strategic challenge to those of us seeking liberation. How can we understand what has happened? And what can be done? Continue reading Morbid Symptoms: The Rise of Trump
He who is reluctant to recognize me is against me
– Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks
We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary
— Malcolm X, Speech at the Founding of the OAAU Continue reading Fanon and the Theory of Race
The following post is the third installment in an ongoing series on some of the key ideas in Marx’s thought. Part one can be found here. The second part is linked here. The last two parts will follow as they are completed: “What is Capital?” and, lastly, “Communism”.
Capitalist Society and the Value Form
Marx begins Capital by raising the question of wealth: “The wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails appears as an ‘immense collection of commodities’; the individual commodity appears as its elementary form” (125). In putting forward the contradiction between increased productivity of labor and the division of labor, Marx was able to show that as wealth grows so does exploitation and misery. Continue reading Capitalism and the Value Form
Let the economists fret over the $27 million lost, and the city planners sigh over one of their most beautiful supermarkets gone up in smoke, and McIntyre blubber over his slain deputy sheriff. Let the sociologists bemoan the absurdity and intoxication of this rebellion. The role of a revolutionary publication is not only to justify the Los Angeles insurgents, but to help elucidate their perspectives, to explain theoretically the truth for which such practical action expresses the search.
– The Situationist International, on the 1965 Watts Rebellion
Things have unfolded rapidly in Ferguson, Missouri. On Thursday and Friday, we have seen reports of “festive” conditions, as locals hug the state highway patrol officers tapped by the Governor to replace the St. Louis County police force, and Captain Ronald Johnson marching alongside protesters. Continue reading Hands Up Turn Up: Ferguson Jailbreaks out of History
As detainees escalate their struggle at Joe Corley Detention Center north of Houston with a full blackout (work stoppage, no leaving cells), and we await word any minute now about the strikes spreading to other facilities, all out in solidarity with the hunger strikers on April 5th for the National Day of Action Against Deportations!
While Washington D.C. has arguably been experiencing a slow-moving constitutional crisis in the last few years, unknown in recent U.S. history, there has been something like a “counter-revolutionary” surge at the state level in which the rightwing of the Republican party has passed dozens, if not hundreds of laws targeting nearly every sector of the working class and the oppressed. Some of the most important laws have targeted reproductive and voting rights, as well as unions.
In order to advance our understanding of these critical developments, we are reposting a piece from our comrade over at Dirt Road Revolutionary.
ON SHUTDOWNS AND PARTY POLITICS
by Dirt Road Revolutionary
Most “Millenials” today are a little too young to remember the last two shutdowns under Clinton, so the events that have unfolded over the last week are really a new experience for a group that has been much discussed and often maligned in recent weeks. What is absolutely, frustratingly familiar, however, is the wading pool shallow discussions parading themselves around as serious journalism and analysis. Professional loudmouths and hand wringers dance and shuffle around on cable news, the best print journalism maps only the surface technicalities and the worst tries to split the difference between cowardice and insanity. Of course, no one has anything approaching a serious practical – or even “impractical” by today’s bankrupt “pragmatism” – suggestion on what to do whatsoever to escape this trajectory of self-destruction.
The first, most obvious, most undeniable point to be made is this: the current shutdown in the Federal government today is a direct result of the rise of a new Tea Party faction in American politics. While the mainstream media has largely been obsessed with the theatrics of the debacle, the U.S. Left has failed to provide even a glimmer of an analysis that is compelling or practical in any way whatsoever.
The phrase that the two parties are “two wings of capital” has been repeated by fellow activists by rote so many times that it has become completely bankrupt. The Socialist Worker has largely hopped on this same trope in recent days:
So it will be all the more important for those who want an alternative to the status quo in Washington to remind themselves and others of a hidden-in-plain-sight truth about American politics–that the Democrats and Republicans agree about much more than they disagree.
The key problem with this kind of sloganeering is that it actually tells us nothing. It simply freezes capital into a seemingly eternal thing, with two wings also frozen in loyal opposition, only superficially different but ultimately homogenous and unchanging. This is cheap nonsense masquerading as analysis and needs to be recognized as such.
Continue reading Dirt Road Revolutionary: On Shutdowns and Party Politics
The following essay was written awhile ago and sat around waiting to be fixed up. It can be read as a follow up to notes on Lars Lih’s important book, Lenin Rediscovered: What Is To Be Done? in Context. Only recently the essay was finally fixed up enough to post here.
It is important to deal with Lenin’s concept of organization in WITBD. The point is not to elevate WITBD into a set of principles that can be abstractly and universally applied. Like any work, WITBD is a product of history. As Lih noted in the beginning of his book such an approach has been an evident enough problem in the history of “Leninism”. However, despite Lih’s attempt to downplay the importance of WITBD in subsequent bolshevik thinking about organization, Lenin’s work—including WITBD—continues to be a necessary reference point for rethinking the role of revolutionary groups and organizations in our own day. Continue reading What is to be Done? and the Need for Organization
The following is the first part of some notes on chapter one of Capital. The second part will follow in the upcoming months.
The Dual Character of the Commodity is the Dual Character of Labor
Marx begins chapter one of Capital by describing the dual character of the commodity. One side of the commodity is defined by how it is used. Marx calls this “use-value.” He defines use by how the commodity “satisfies human needs of whatever kind” (125). The idea of “human needs” plays an important role in Marx’s thought and takes on a number of interrelated meanings. In the German Ideology he argues “The first historical act is thus the production of the means to satisfy these needs, the production of material life itself. And indeed this is an historical act, a fundamental condition of all history” (47). Throughout history human beings have produced things, or “uses,” to address their basic and expanded needs, which gives rise to particular forms of society, specific kinds of social relations and subjectivities. Continue reading Notes on chapter one of Marx’s Capital, Part One