Category Archives: Uncategorized

Incarcerated Workers Take the Lead: Prison Struggles in the United States 2008-2016

Jesus Manuel Galindo, 11.29.1976 – 12.12.2008

The Houston Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (I.W.O.C.) would like to dedicate this pamphlet to the memory of Jesus Manuel Galindo, a detainee at the Reeves County Detention Complex in Pecos, Texas.  His death was not in vain.

Introduction

The following summary was completed on the heels of the Texas work stoppage, a mass strike taking place in April of this year, but the idea for it came out of discussions two years prior after a series of hunger and labor strikes spread across the US.  These strikes occurred in both private and public facilities – in prisons that housed primarily US-born workers and also detention centers responsible for the incarceration of undocumented workers and even families.

We are writing this for you–our fellow workers locked down and forgotten by mainstream society–and for us, since we know our own struggles against the bosses and the State on the outside are inseparably tied together with your struggles.  Living in the country with the largest prison population in the world, many of us have family, friends, and comrades who are already incarcerated.  We know that where you are is where we are all headed unless we organize and fight back.

Continue reading Incarcerated Workers Take the Lead: Prison Struggles in the United States 2008-2016

The 2015 Baltimore Uprising: A Book Review

One year has passed since the streets of Baltimore erupted in rebellion after the police murder of Freddie Gray. While people will recall the dramatic footage of a CVS on fire and rebellious youth dispersing police lines in the streets like leaves in the wind, we look deeper to understand the full significance of what occurred. What follows is a book review of the sharpest account of the Baltimore Uprising to date, and we invite readers to join the discussion and share their own reflections in the comments section.

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“Looking at a lot of shit different now”:
Research and Destroy’s The 2015 Baltimore Uprising

By Rosa DeLux and Chino Mayday

The story of a rebellion is usually told from the perspective of its opponents. Those who subdue the rebellion define the narrative, while the real movement of revolt––the sound of store windows breaking, the feelings of elation when cops break formation and run, the curious mix of self-doubt and bravado one encounters in the street––is lost to history. That is, until the rebels tell their story themselves. The 2015 Baltimore Uprising: A Teen Epistolary tells the story of last year’s Baltimore riots from the perspective of its participants, offering an exciting, humorous and deeply provocative snapshot of young rebels in motion.

Compiled by Research and Destroy New York City[1], Uprising collects hundreds of tweets from the teenagers who turned Baltimore on its head in April 2015, after police murdered Freddie Gray in the back of a patrol van. Uprising is filled with their outrage, their feelings of “west baltimore making history,” and their meditations on the value of black life, and this alone makes the book required reading for anyone trying to understand where the black movement in the United States may be headed. A few reviews hyped Uprising when it came out,[2] but this piece highlights a theme from the book that deserves more attention: how young people in Baltimore came to understand themselves as active subjects shaping the course of history. This theme challenges commentators––both right-wing and left-wing––who saw only nihilism in the riots, and it demands consideration by anyone who wants to abolish white supremacy. Yes, the rebels of Baltimore rejected our oppressive society. But they also made themselves anew in the process.

Continue reading The 2015 Baltimore Uprising: A Book Review

ALL LIVES MATTER: White Reaction in Austin, Texas

This guest piece focuses on the resurgence of white reactionary forces in Austin, Tx leading up to the Police Lives Matter rally taking place Saturday, Sept. 18, 2015. While U&S members may not agree with every point made below, we post it in hopes of sparking discussion.

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#PoliceLivesMatter march in Houston, Texas, September 12th 2015

ALL LIVES MATTER
White Reaction in Austin, Texas

By Scott Hoft

This was inevitable. Movements of Black people in this country have always been accompanied by an intense backlash of those who benefit from black oppression. Beginning in late spring 2015 we have seen the rise of a number of diverse right-wing formations: Alex Jones rallying his acolytes, renewed Ku Klux Klan activity, a nazi punk stabbing at a metal show, neo-confederates rallying against the removal of monuments of “southern heritage”, and a mass pro-police pushback called, of all things, “Police Lives Matter”.

The cycle of the post-Ferguson movement in Austin has been relatively tame. We never blocked a highway, no window has been broken, nor any store looted or burned. Those in the leadership of several post-Ferguson organizations have tended more and more to encourage cooperation with politicians and police.

The highest profile act of vandalism was the word “CHUMP” written in chalk on the base of a statue of Jefferson Davis. This, happening at the University of Texas, sparked a campus wide movement to “BUMP THE CHUMP”. The axiom alone propelled a satirical Student Government Campaign to the highest offices. Continue reading ALL LIVES MATTER: White Reaction in Austin, Texas

Communism is the Ascension of Humanity as the Subject of History: A Critique of Althusser and the Affirmation of Marx

(By Gussel Sprouts)

“Communism is the riddle of history solved, and it knows itself to be this solution.” (Marx)

If we are to affirm the ideology of Marx, and the Marxist understanding of not only communism, but its relationship to humanity, we can only begin so by understanding his thoughts on ideology and of his break with Feuerbach, and what this means for the relationships of subjects/objects. Louis Althusser, the philosopher who said “structures don’t take to the streets” as he turned his nose up at the students protesting in May ’68, disingenuously knew or cared little for the ideas of Marx and the ways they were distinct from the other thinkers of his time. At other times, he was willfully and honestly ignorant, but it is important to understand that Althusser’s thought is largely contradictory in a logistical sense (he was inconsistent in his breaks/agreements with Marx) but also in a sense that he produced thought which was fundamentally anti-Marxist.

Our critique of Althusser must go even further here than that of his misunderstanding of Marx, but what he builds on with such a conclusion, parallels can be seen in ideological apparatuses already in historical existence and the present moment, to which we can conclude that the ideological and cultural apparatus, the real movement to abolish the present state of things is not one of ideas, nor ideological “structures”. Capital has already reached an unprecedented level of totality, a certain subsumption of the Real by an irreconcilable “big Other” (1). Althusser would have all of this for what he calls “socialism”. We have seen this already in the history of existing socialisms, while originally hiding the ill-informed and possibly disingenuous veil of being “the first Left-wing critique of Stalinism”.

The first few sections are to provide contexts of Althusser (and therefore his thought) with that of Marx, revolutionaries of his time, and his politics in the Communist Party of France. After such, we will venture into Althusser’s ideas themselves. We will find that we do not require a deep understanding of Structuralism (or the sociological and Freudian undertones in his thought) to see that Althusser’s thought is irreconcilable with that of Marx.

Continue reading Communism is the Ascension of Humanity as the Subject of History: A Critique of Althusser and the Affirmation of Marx

Chicago’s SEIU Arrest and the Story of a Stock Photo

by JF

arrest1-320x320The arrest of Jose “Zé” Garcia, May Day 2014.

Details are still emerging from the apparently SEIU-assisted arrests on May Day in Chicago. According to IWW Chicago, marshals from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and staffers of Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) “singled out and physically restrained two activists, leading to their arrests. While the arrests occurred, the marshals attempted to surround and enclose members of the IWW’s Red and Black Brigade contingent of the march, blocking their freedom of movement. The marshals also directed other participants to move past the enclosed contingent, preventing the other marchers from showing solidarity with the arrestees.”

In tandem with this minor scandal, the US labor world is anticipating a series of demonstrations to be held on May 15th, the largest to date for the $15/hr minimum wage movement in the fast food industry, variously titled Fast Food Forward (FFF), and Fight For $15. Accompanying this story on high profile reformist outlets such as Salon is the following dramatic stock photo, credited to the AP, which has appeared more than a few times attached in FFF stories, with little context.

Continue reading Chicago’s SEIU Arrest and the Story of a Stock Photo

Loot Back: From Whom?

 A Response to “Why Riot?”
by JF

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 A response to Phil Neel’s recent piece “Why Riot?” on the ULTRA website. We hope to initiate healthy debate and engagement around this exciting and important project.

Phil Neel’s bold and exciting piece of agitational material “Why Riot?” raises too many points to engage with one response. It’s raw honesty, sophistication, and visceral appeal speak for themselves.  As an initial response I will focus only on its conception of “generations,” an error of the piece which unfortunately seems potentially central to Ultra, and the rectification of which will determine the project’s direction. Admittedly this is not the central focus of Neel’s piece, and while it may seem tangential, I plan to return to Neel’s more central theses once familiarizing myself with his source material, and thereby connect the dots. I will also attempt in the near future to concretize some of the recent history presented below, which is admittedly schematic.

Neel echoes Ultra’s appeal to so-called millennials, or “Generation Zero”: “Our future has been looted. Loot back.” Ultra aims to appeal to this particular “generation” of proletarians, and Neel’s “Why Riot?” is thus far Ultra’s most explicit statement to this effect. Citing Blaumachen’s “age of riots” thesis, the piece is geared those who are not finding political expression through rallying behind demands, or joining/building political groups, but through mass actions of refusal of discipline, illegality, and attack against the forms of appearance of capital, or sites of proletarian social reproduction (smashing windows, short-lived blockages of the points of capital circulation, etc.).

Continue reading Loot Back: From Whom?

Taking Back May Day! Statement from Florence Johnston Collective

Hi all, Florence Johnston Collective in New York has put out this statement for May Day.  Please feel free to share.  If you are in NYC you can find us at 5:30PM tomorrow at the Ghandi Statue in Union Square!  Look for our amazing new banner made by a FJC and No Nukes member.

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(Click here for the full flyer in PDF!)

Long before the Haymarket Massacre, the worldwide workers’ movement, and the very existence of a worldwide working class, May Day was a celebration of what we hold in common. Before modern capitalism, vast stretches of the world were held by communities, not individuals. Everyday people with no conception of wage labor shared expansive tracts of land for farming, grazing, hunting, fishing, and coming together to celebrate their communal bonds. May Day originated as a celebration of the fertility of the harvest season, which would provide the food necessary to subsist for the entire year, and of the commonly held land and communal social ties that made survival, merriment, and love possible.

From the fifteenth century continuing through the present day, the development of capitalism has violently enclosed the commons, placed the planet’s resources in private hands, and compelled most people to live in isolation from their neighbors, working for wages in jobs unrelated to their daily lives. This was and is a brutal process involving the theft of land, the massacre and torture of untold millions, and the institutionalization of racism, sexism, and homophobia on a worldwide scale, as capitalism has divided and hierarchized the worldwide working class it has created. This process of enclosure continues to the present day, and will never end so long as there is a free breath of air for the worldwide working class to take.

The communal resources we have lost are not simply land, food, and potable water. We have also forfeited our common knowledges of the body, and our abilities to care for each other regardless of income status. With the establishment of capitalist medicine, women especially were forced out positions of power, knowledge, and authority in matters of health. The power of women over their own reproductive lives, never mind communities’ control of their own social reproduction, has never been fully recaptured, despite many important battles.

Indeed, the relationship of our society to health and to the body itself has increasingly become one fitting the capitalist mode of production — compartmentalization, alienation, and commodification have taken the place of holism, communitarianism, and care based on need. Today, all the “progressive” politicians can talk about is making alienated health care more “affordable”, while still leaving room for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries to make a fortune, and not addressing the social causes of our society’s deadliest ailments: overwork, undernourishment, pollution, stress, and self-medication.

This May Day the ghosts of our lost past continue to haunt us. As hospitals servicing the poorest New Yorkers close their doors, care workers find their labor ever devalued, women’s reproductive rights are threatened all over the US, and low income people of the world are shut out of basic health services, we must remember the past, and recall that this does not have to be the fate of humanity. Another way of caring for each other is possible. We cannot return to the past, nor should we desire to, but we can fight for a future inspired by humanity’s greatest achievement: the commons.

May Day is not a day for politicians to give speeches about reforms and compromises. It is not about searching for a kinder gentler capitalism, or a more diverse ruling class. In a world without commons it is a day of loss. And this loss calls not for mourning, but for action. It is only through struggling together as a class that this loss can be redeemed, towards a future of the commons reborn.

The Florence Johnston Collective

Solidarity with Tacoma Hunger Strikers / Solidaridad con lxs huelguistas de hambre de Tacoma

This statement was originally issued by Florence Johnston Collective (FJC), a New York City collective of U&S members and other awesome folks.

Solidarity with Tacoma Hunger Strikers

The struggle against austerity connects the worldwide working class, at a time when borders seem to make no sense to anyone but the states who enforce draconian immigration laws. As global capital enters its fifth year of crisis, with the promised stabilization of “recession” never quite delivered, the brunt continues to fall on those perceived as least able to defend themselves: the poor, the sick, the aged, workers in unstable industries, workers with unions unwilling to fight, and the undocumented workers who make countries like the United States run.

Late last week a group of undocumented workers in Tacoma Washington staged a hunger strike and corresponding work stoppage, demanding better conditions and the basic consideration all human beings deserve. It remains ongoing. The strikers are held under harsh condition by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), for the crime of seeking low-waged work in the US after their home economies have been ravaged by trade agreements with the US and other world powers. As reproductive workers, circulation workers, and unemployed workers of New York City, we express a deep solidarity with this struggle and recognize it as part and parcel of our own.

The question of what it means to be considered a human being and treated like one is central to the struggle we share. Is a human being “illegal” when they seek to work and provide for their family? Is a human being “insubordinate” when, working as a nurse, they deem fifteen patients too many to care for in a compassionate way at one time, and tell their supervisor this fact? Is a human being entitled to the medicine and health care they need, for as long as needed to improve completely, regardless of their income, race, nationality, or citizenship status?

The hunger strikers have used the only weapon left to them in such a repressive environment as the ghastly ICE detention centers: their very lives. Their gesture is not histrionic, it is a sober assessment of the life or death stakes of the worldwide struggle against austerity. And by seeking to bully and brutalize the strikers into breaking their action, the state is revealing just how dangerous their statement can be, if it finds ears in those around the world who are increasingly left with nothing but their bodies, and nothing to lose in putting them before the powerful and saying “Enough!”

The Florence Johnston Collective expresses its unqualified solidarity with the Tacoma hunger strikers, and all prisoners of our inhuman immigration system, who stand alongside those without healthcare, those without homes, and those supposedly lucky ones whose jobs steal their lives and well-beings away, as living rebukes to the lie that things have to be the way they are and they can never change. To this they reply: “Enough!” We stand with the Tacoma strikers not as allies, but as comrades in the same struggle.

Tonight in NYC we will join a coalition of supporters for a noise demonstration outside of a detention facility, to tell those locked up that they are in our thoughts, that their struggles will not go unnoticed, and ultimately, that their struggles are our struggle.

In solidarity,

The Florence Johnston Collective

Solidaridad con lxs huelguistas de hambre de Tacoma

La lucha contra la austeridad conecta la clase trabajadora alrededor del mundo, en un momento cuando las fronteras parecen ya no tener sentido para nadie salvo para los estados que ejecutan leyes draconianas de migración. A medida que el capital global entra en su quinto año de crisis,   con una recesión y una incumplida promesa de estabilidad, la carga sigue cayendo sobre lxs que están percibidxs como menos capaces de defenderse a sí mismxs: lxs pobres, lxs enfermxs, personas de la tercera edad, trabajadorxs en industrias poco estables, trabajadorxs en sindicatos que no están dispuestos a luchar, y trabajadorxs no documentadxs que hacen funcionar a países como los Estados Unidos.

Hace un tiempo un grupo de trabajadorxs no documentadxs en Tacoma, Washington fueron detenidxs bajo condiciones severas por ICE por el crimen de buscar trabajo de bajo salario en los Estados Unidos cuando las economías de sus países han sido devastadas por acuerdos de comercio con ese país y otras potencias mundiales. Hace una semana organizaron una huelga de hambre haciendo un alto en sus trabajos, exigiendo mejores condiciones y la consideración básica que merecen todxs lxs seres humanos. Como trabajadorxs reproductivxs, trabajadorxs de circulación, y trabajadorxs desempleadxs de la ciudad de Nueva York, expresamos una solidaridad profunda con esta lucha y la reconocemos como parte fundamental de la nuestra.

En el centro de las luchas que compartimos está lo que significa considerarse ser humano y ser tratadx como tal. ¿Es un ser humano “ilegal” cuando busca trabajar y sostener a su familia? ¿Es un ser humano “insumiso” cuando, al como enfermerx, decide que quince pacientes son demasiadxs para cuidar apropiadamente? ¿Tiene un ser humano derecho a la medicina y al seguro de salud que necesita sin importar sus ingresos, raza, nacionalidad, o estatus de ciudadanía?

Lxs huelguistas de hambre han usado la única arma que les queda en un ambiente tan represivo como el que existe en los horrorosos centros de detención de ICE: sus propias vidas. Su gesto no es histriónico, es una apuesta sobria entre la vida o muerte como una lucha mundial en contra de la austeridad. En su esfuerzo por acosar y embrutecer a lxs huelguistas para que desistan de su acción, el estado revela lo peligroso de su acto. Si este acto encuentra oídos en lxs que en todas partes del mundo son dejadxs cada vez más en la miseria, estos no tienen nada que perder en pararse antes lxs poderosxs y decir “¡Basta!”.

El Colectivo Florence Johnston expresa su solidaridad con lxs huelguistas de hambre de Tacoma, y todxs lxs encarceladxs del sistema no humano de migración. Nos ponemos de pie al lado de lxs que están sin seguro de salud, lxs que no tienen trabajo, y lxs supuestxs afortunadxs cuyos trabajos roban sus vidas y su bienestar, mientras la lucha por vivir descalifica la mentira de que las cosas tienen que seguir como son y que nunca pueden cambiar. A esto responden: “¡Basta!”. Estamos con los huelguistas de Tacoma no como aliadxs, sino como camaradas en la misma lucha.

Hoy en la noche en la ciudad de Nueva York nos juntaremos con una coalición de personas que ofrecen su apoyo para realizar un cacerolazo afuera de un centro de detención, para decirles a lxs encarceladxs que están en nuestros pensamientos, que sus luchas no pasan desapercibidas y, que últimamente, sus luchas son nuestas luchas.

En solidaridad,

El Colectivo Florence Johnston

 

Contra a Transparência

Passa Palavra (meaning “Free the Word”), an impressive libertarian Marxist organization based in Brazil and Portugal with whom Unity and Struggle has a great deal of political affinity, recently translated a piece by Jocelyn and James that we posted earlier last year called “Against Transparency”. We feel very honored to be featured on their site, and encourage everyone to check out their prolific writing. In addition to putting out theory, Passa Palavra organizes in daily struggles, and have been intimately involved in the anti-fare hike movement, as well as far left peasant struggles against the left-leaning Brazillian state. We encourage you to read their writing on Brazil in English which was posted in Insurgent Notes.  

Contra a Transparência

2 de fevereiro de 2014
O trabalhador militante não deveria ter medo de fazer exigências que não cabem no orçamento na sua forma atual; uma exigência desse tipo é a essência do radicalismoPor James Frey e Jocelyn Cohn

A exigência por transparência surge inevitavelmente nas lutas no local de trabalho, especialmente quando estão envolvidas organizações liberais [*], sindicatos ou Organizações Não Governamentais (ONGs). “Abram os livros!”, exigem alguns, “e nos deixem ver de onde o dinheiro está vindo, para onde está indo e exatamente quanto pode ser gasto!” O imperativo de abrir os livros pode ser inspirado por intenções nobres, como o desejo por uma democracia radical no lugar de trabalho, e aparece em resposta ao mistério criado pela gerência sobre a fonte da riqueza da empresa. No entanto, a exigência de ver o orçamento dos patrões implica que os trabalhadores são um custo para o qual é necessário encontrar dinheiro, quando, na verdade, somos nós o componente mais necessário da produção, e a fonte de seja lá o que for encontrado no “orçamento”.

Então qual é a origem da exigência por um orçamento aberto? Exigir transparência parece conseguir uma prova irrefutável da desigualdade: se “seguirmos o dinheiro”, podemos mostrar que os patrões conseguem mais dele do que os trabalhadores e, armados desse conhecimento, nós, enquanto trabalhadores, podemos mostrar que muito dinheiro é “desperdiçado” nos salários dos gestores. Esse argumento é especialmente proeminente quando cortes salariais são apresentados sob o disfarce de “corte de custos” ou “austeridade”. “São os salários dos gestores que estão custando tanto, não os nossos! Corte no topo!” são os gritos por um orçamento aberto. Mas para aqueles trabalhadores que exigem uma igualdade desse tipo a fonte de riqueza da empresa continua sendo, como interessa à gerência, um mistério. Parece que essa riqueza vem de uma atividade externa ao trabalho, como compras feitas e lucros obtidos no mercado, juros adquiridos nos bancos, ou benemerência de doações generosas. A causa da má situação dos trabalhadores seria, assim, a subsequente má gestão desses fundos nas mãos dos patrões gananciosos. Desse ponto de vista, a pobreza do trabalhador pode ser facilmente corrigida – basta circular o dinheiro! Mas os trabalhadores em luta contra suas condições descobrem algo diferente. A desigualdade entre patrão e trabalhador não é acidental, causada apenas pela incompetência ou ganância; ela é fundamental ao trabalho na sociedade em que vivemos. A desigualdade é inerente às relações sociais entre a classe dos patrões, senhorios e políticos e a classe dos trabalhadores, inquilinos e a gente comum. Continue reading Contra a Transparência

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