Tuesday, August 29, 2017

George Novack on Jewish survival

What united Spinoza, Heine, Marx, Rosa Luxemberg, Trotsky, and Freud?

Belief in:

A. Lawfulness of the universe and history.
B. The unceasing changefulness of all things.
C. The relativity of good and evil.
D.  True and effective knowledge is inseparable from practice.
E. Ultimate solidarity of humanity.


***
How Can the Jews Survive?

A Socialist Answer to Zionism

By George Novack

Price: $5.00

List price: $5.00

http://www.pathfinderpress.com/s.nl/it.A/id.60/.f?sc=8&category=141

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Updike and Faulkner: How to Read Fiction by Terry Eagleton

How to Read Fiction by Terry Eagleton.

….We may begin with a sentence from John Updike's novel Rabbit at Rest: ‘A shimmery model, skinny as a rail, dimpled and square-jawed like a taller Audrey Hepburn from the Breakfast at Tiffany days, steps out of the car, smiling slyly and wearing a racing driver's egg-helmet with her gown made up it seems of ropes of shimmering light.’ Apart from one rather careless near-repetition (‘shimmery’, ‘shimmering’), this is a highly accomplished piece of writing. Too accomplished, one might feel. It is too clever and calculated by half. Every word seems to have been meticulously chosen, polished, slotted neatly together with the other words and then smoothed over to give a glossy finish. There is not a hair out of place. The sentence is too voulu, too carefully arranged and displayed. It is trying too hard. There is nothing spontaneous about it. It has the air of being over-crafted, as every word is put fastidiously to work, with no loose ends or irregularities. As a result, the piece is artful but lifeless. The adjective ‘slick’ springs to mind. The passage is meant to be a bit of detailed description, but there is so much going on at the level of language, so many busy adjectives and piled-up clauses, that it is hard for us to concentrate on what is being portrayed. The language draws the reader's admiring attention to its own deftness. Perhaps we are particularly invited to admire the way it propels itself through so many sub-clauses, all draped around the main verb ‘steps’, without for a moment losing its balance.

There is a lot of such stuff in Updike's fiction. Take this portrait of a female character from the same novel:

Pru has broadened without growing heavy in that suety Pennsylvania way. As if invisible pry bars have slightly spread her bones and new calcium been wedged in and the flesh gently stretched to fit, she now presents more front. Her face, once narrow like Judy's, at moments looks like a flattened mask. Always tall, she has in the years of becoming a hardened wife and matron allowed her long straight hair to be cut and teased out into bushy wings a little like the hairdo of the Sphinx.

‘Like the hairdo of the Sphinx’ is a pleasing imaginative touch. Once again, however, the passage draws discreet attention to its own cleverness in the act of sketching Pru. This is ‘fine writing’ with a vengeance. The phrase ‘in that suety Pennsylvania way’ is rather too knowing, and the image of the pry bars is striking but too contrived. ‘Contrived’, in fact, is a suitable word for this style of writing as a whole, as Pru herself threatens to disappear beneath the density of detail with which she is overlaid. The passage has the effect of describing an object rather than a person. Its style freezes a living woman into a still life.

Contrast Updike's prose with this extract from Evelyn Waugh's short story ‘Tactical Exercise’:

They arrived on a gusty April afternoon after a train journey of normal discomfort. A taxi drove them eight miles from the station, through deep Cornish lanes, past granite cottages and disused, archaic tin-workings. They reached the village which gave the house its postal address, passed through it and out along a track which suddenly emerged from its high banks into open grazing land on the cliff's edge, high, swift clouds and sea-birds wheeling overhead, the turf at their feet alive with fluttering wild flowers, salt in the air, below them the roar of the Atlantic breaking on the rocks, a middle-distance of indigo and white tumbled waters and beyond it the serene arc of the horizon. Here was the house.

It is not a passage that leaps from the page. It has none of the self-conscious sculpturedness of the Updike piece, and is surely all the better for it. Waugh's prose is crisp, pure and economical. It is reticent and unshowy, as though unaware of the skill with which, for example, it manages to steer a single sentence from ‘They reached the village’ to ‘the serene arc of the horizon’ through so many sub-clauses with no sense of strain or artifice. This sense of expansiveness, of both syntax and landscape, is counterpointed by the terse ‘Here was the house’, which signals a halt both in the story and in the way it is being delivered. ‘A train journey of normal discomfort’ is a pleasantly sardonic touch. ‘Archaic’ might be an adjective too far, but the rhythmic balance of the lines is deeply admirable. There is an air of quiet efficiency about the whole extract. The landscape is portrayed in a set of quick, deft strokes which brings it alive without cluttering the text with too much detail.

Waugh's prose has an honesty and hard-edged realism about it which show up well in contrast to Updike. They also compare well in this respect with the following extract from William Faulkner's novel Absalom, Absalom!:

In the overcoat buttoned awry over the bathrobe he looked huge and shapeless like a dishevelled bear as he stared at Quentin (the Southerner, whose blood ran quick to cool, more supple to compensate for violent changes in temperature perhaps, perhaps merely nearer the surface) who sat hunched in his chair, his hands thrust into his pockets as if he were trying to hug himself warm between his arms, looking somehow fragile and even wan in the lamplight, the rosy glow which now had nothing of warmth, coziness, in it, while both their breathing vaporized faintly in the cold room where there was now not two of them but four, the two who breathed not individuals now yet something both more and less than twins, the heart and blood of youth. Shreve was nineteen, a few months younger than Quentin. He looked exactly nineteen; he was one of those people whose correct age you never know because they look exactly that and so you tell yourself that he or she cannot possibly be that because he or she looks too exactly that not to take advantage of the appearance: so you never believe implicitly that he or she is either that age which they claim or that which in sheer desperation they agree to or which someone else reports them to be.

This kind of prose, much favoured by some American creative writing courses, has an air of spontaneity about it which is almost entirely fabricated. Despite its casual way with order and convention, it is as artificial as a Petrarchan sonnet. There is something fussy and affected about the way it strives to sound natural. Its air of artlessness is too self-regarding. What is really a kind of clumsiness (‘where there was now not two of them’) is passed off as having the rough edge of real experience. An attempt at impressive intricacy in the final lines comes through as pedantic cleverness. The lines know nothing of tact and reticence. They sacrifice elegance, rhythm and economy to a kind of writing which (as someone once remarked of history) is just one damn thing after another. The passage is too garrulous by half. This is the kind of author whom it would be ferociously hard to shut up. And how on earth can one look exactly nineteen?

Excellence in fiction: How to Read Fiction by Terry Eagleton

How to Read Fiction by Terry Eagleton

....A literary classic, some critics consider, is not so much a work whose value is changeless as one that is able to generate new meanings over time. It is, so to speak, a slow-burning affair. It gathers different interpretations as it evolves. Like an ageing rock star, it can adapt itself to new audiences. Even so, we should not assume that such classics are up and running all the time. Like business enterprises, they can close down and start up again. Works may pass in and out of favour according to changing historical circumstances.

....works which have fallen into near-oblivion may be jolted into fresh life by historical developments. In the crisis of Western civilisation that culminated in the First World War, metaphysical poets and Jacobean dramatists who had also lived through a time of social turmoil were suddenly back in favour. With the rise of modern feminism, Gothic novels with persecuted heroines ceased to be regarded as minor curios and acquired a new centrality.

....there are criteria for determining what counts as excellence in golf or fiction, as there are not for determining whether peaches taste better than pineapples. And these criteria are public, not just a question of what one happens privately to prefer. You have to learn how to handle them by sharing in certain social practices. In the case of literature, these social practices are known as literary criticism. This still leaves a lot of room for dissent and disagreement. Criteria are guides for how to go about making value judgements. They do not make them for you, any more than following the rules of chess will win the game for you. Chess is played not just according to rules, but by the creative application of such rules; and the rules themselves will not tell you how to apply them creatively. That is a matter of know-how, intelligence and experience. Knowing what counts as excellence in fiction is likely to decide the issue between Chekhov and Jackie Collins, but not between Chekhov and Turgenev.

Different cultures may have different criteria for deciding what counts as good or bad art. As a foreign onlooker, you might be present at some ceremony in a Himalayan village and say whether you found it boring or exhilarating, high-spirited or stiffly ritualised. What you could not say was whether it was well executed. To judge that would involve having access to the standards of excellence appropriate to that particular activity. The same goes for works of literature. Standards of excellence may also differ from one kind of literary art to another. What makes for a fine piece of pastoral is not what makes for a powerful piece of science fiction.

Works which are deep and complex would seem obvious candidates for literary merit. Yet complexity is not a value in itself. The fact that something is complex does not automatically earn it a place among the immortals. The muscles of the human leg are complex, but those with calf injuries might prefer them not to be. The plot of Lord of the Rings is complex, but this is not enough to endear Tolkien's work to those who dislike donnish escapism or medievalist whimsy. The point of some lyrics and ballads is not their complexity but their poignant simplicity. Lear's cry of ‘Never, never, never, never, never’ is not exactly complex, and is all the finer for it.

Nor is it true that all good literature is profound. There can be a superb art of the surface, such as Ben Jonson's comedies, Oscar Wilde's high-society dramas or Evelyn Waugh's satires. (We should beware, however, of the prejudice that comedy is always less deep an affair than tragedy. There are some searching comedies and some trite tragedies. Joyce's Ulysses is a profound piece of comedy, which is not the same as saying that it is profoundly funny, even though it is.) Surfaces are not always superficial. There are literary forms in which complexity would be out of place. Paradise Lost reveals little psychological depth or intricacy, and neither do Robert Burns's lyrics. Blake's ‘Tyger’ poem is deep and complex, but not psychologically so.

Plenty of critics, as we have seen, insist that good art is coherent art. The most accomplished works of literature are the most harmoniously unified. In an impressive economy of technique, every detail pulls its weight in the overall design. One problem with this claim is that ‘Little Bo Peep’ is coherent but banal. Besides, many an effective postmodern or avant-garde work is centreless and eclectic, made up of parts that do not slot neatly together. They are not necessarily any the worse for that. There is no virtue in harmony or cohesion as such, as I have suggested already. Some of the great artworks of the Futurists, Dadaists and Surrealists are deliberately dissonant. Fragmentation can be more fascinating than unity.

Perhaps what makes a work of literature exceptional is its action and narrative. Certainly Aristotle thought that a solid, well-wrought action was central to at least one species of literary writing (tragedy).Yet nothing much happens in one of the greatest plays of the twentieth century (Waiting for Godot), one of the finest novels (Ulysses) and one of the most masterly poems (The Waste Land). If a sturdy plot and a strong narrative are vital to literary status, Virginia Woolf sinks to a dismally low place in the league tables. We no longer rate a substantial plot as highly as Aristotle did. In fact, we no longer insist on a plot or narrative at all. Unless we are small children, we are less enamoured of stories than our ancestors. We also recognise that compelling art can be spun out of meagre materials.

What, then, of linguistic quality? Do all great literary works use language in resourceful and inventive ways? It is surely a virtue of literature that it restores human speech to its true abundance, and in doing so recovers something of our suppressed humanity. A good deal of literary language is copious and exuberant. As such, it can act as a critique of our everyday utterances. Its eloquence can issue a rebuke to a civilisation for which language has become for the most part crudely instrumental. Soundbites, text-speak, managerial jargon, tabloid prose, political cant and bureaucratese can be shown up for the bloodless forms of discourse they are. Hamlet's last words are


‘Absent thee from felicity awhile, / And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain, / To tell my story … the rest is silence.’


Steve Jobs's last words were ‘Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow.’ Some might feel that there has been a certain falling-off here. Literature is about the felt experience of language, not just the practical use of it. It can draw our attention to the opulence of a medium that we usually take for granted. Poetry is concerned not just with the meaning of experience, but with the experience of meaning.

Even so, not everything we call literary has a sumptuous way with words. There are literary works that do not use language in particularly eye-catching ways. A good deal of realist and naturalistic fiction employs a plain, sober speech. One would not describe the poetry of Philip Larkin or William Carlos Williams as lushly metaphorical. George Orwell's prose is not exactly luxuriant. There is not much burnished rhetoric in Ernest Hemingway. The eighteenth century valued a lucid, exact, serviceable prose. Works of literature should certainly be well written, but then so should all writing, including memos and menus. You do not have to sound like The Rainbow or Romeo and Juliet to qualify as a reputable piece of literature....

.

A Marxist's approach to Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies

How to Read Literature by Terry Eagleton

Here is Eagleton on Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies:

....There are various ways in which narratives can load the dice in their own favour. George Orwell's Animal Farm is about a group of animals who take over their farm and try to run it themselves, with disastrous results. As such, the novel is meant to be an allegory of the collapse of socialist democracy in the early Soviet Union. Yet the fact is that animals are incapable of running farms. It is hard to sign cheques or ring up your suppliers when you have hoofs rather than hands. It is true that this is not why the animals’ experiment fails, but it has an unconscious influence on the reader's response to it. So the story is slanted from the outset. The way it sets up its terms helps to prove its point. The allegory might also imply, no doubt against its leftist author's intentions, that working people are too stupid to manage their own affairs. The title of the book, incidentally, can be read as ironic. ‘Animal’ and ‘Farm’ go naturally together. But they do not go together here.

The cards are similarly stacked in William Golding's Lord of the Flies, which shows a bunch of schoolboys on a desert island gradually reverting to barbarism. Among other things, this is supposed to illustrate the case that civilisation is only skin-deep. As in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, we are all barbarians under the skin, a view which effectively puts paid to any hope of social progress. Scratch a schoolboy and you find a savage. Yet choosing children for your characters helps to make the point rather too conveniently. Children are only semi-socialised in any case. They are not yet capable of such complex operations as running their own communities. In fact, some of them are not much more advanced in this respect than Orwell's pigs. It is not surprising that the social order they try to build on the island rapidly breaks down. Lord of the Flies thus makes things rather too easy for itself. The way it sets up its case makes it more plausible than it might otherwise appear. It may be that men and women are fallen, corrupted creatures, as Golding himself believed; but you cannot prove the point by showing a group of frightened schoolchildren failing to evolve the equivalent of the United Nations....

A Marxist's approach to Jude the Obscure

How to Read Literature by Terry Eagleton is a rewarding book.

On Hardy's Jude the Obscure:

....We may now look at a particular literary character in rather more detail. Sue Bridehead of Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure ranks among the most stunningly original portraits of a woman in Victorian fiction. Yet the novel lays a trap for the unwary reader. It is as though it deliberately tempts him to write Sue off as perverse, flirtatious and exasperatingly fickle, and many a reader has obediently fallen for the bait. As one sternly judgemental critic of Sue writes,

there isn't, when one comes down to it, much to be said in her defence. Having speeded on the death of her first lover, Sue captivates Jude to enjoy the thrill of being loved, and then enters with dubious motives and curiously mechanical detachment into marriage with Phillotson, treating Jude with astounding callousness in the process. Having refused to sleep with Phillotson she abandons him for Jude, temporarily wrecking the schoolmaster's career, and refuses to sleep with Jude too. She then agrees to marry him out of jealousy of Arabella, changes her mind, and finally returns again to Phillotson, leaving Jude to die … The problem is how we come to feel that Sue is more than just a perverse hussy, full of petty stratagems and provocative pouts; for that this is at one level an accurate description of her seems undeniable.

It may have seemed undeniable to me when I wrote these words some forty years ago in the Preface to the New Wessex edition of the novel, but they strike me today as woefully off the mark. Sue is not full of provocative pouts. She pouts once in the novel, unprovocatively. Neither is she a schemer, as the phrase ‘full of petty stratagems’ would suggest. It is not at all clear that she ‘speeded on’ the death of her first lover. He claims that she broke his heart, but the charge is pretty preposterous. Not many people die of this particular ailment, not least when they are gravely ill in any case, as Sue's first lover seems to have been. Nor does she treat Jude with ‘astounding callousness’. It is not her fault that Phillotson is hounded out of his job. The passage is a tissue of untruths. If Sue were alive today, she could sue for defamation of character. She could, however, screw a lot more damages out of D.H. Lawrence, who brands her in his Study of Thomas Hardy as ‘almost male’, ‘an ‘old-woman type of witch’ who adheres to the ‘male principle’ and is ‘scarcely a woman at all’. Rather oddly, Lawrence also accuses her of being ‘physically impotent’. So Sue is really a man, but a man who is not a real man. It is hard to get more sexually confused than that.

It is true (to do my younger self a spot of justice) that I proposed this version of Sue as only one possible reading. It is also true that she can be jealous, capricious and exasperatingly inconsistent. These, however, are hardly hanging offences. Much of Sue's behaviour makes sense once one sees that it is driven by a deep fear of sexuality. This is not because she is a Victorian prude, but for exactly the opposite reason. She is an enlightened young woman with boldly progressive views about marriage and sexuality. She is also something of a sceptic when it comes to religious belief. The irony is that she is wary of sexuality precisely because of her emancipated views. She regards marriage and sexuality as snares which rob women of their independence, and the novel itself fully supports her in this opinion. ‘ “Is it,” [Jude] said, “that the women are to blame; or is it the artificial system of things, under which the normal sex-impulses are turned into devilish domestic gins and springes [that is, traps] to noose and hold back those who want to progress?” ‘ (Whether anyone ever spoke like this in real life is another question.) If she tries to disavow her love for Jude, with calamitous consequences for them both, it is not because she is heartless but because she recognises that love in these social conditions is inseparable from oppressive power. Sexuality is about subjugation. As Hardy writes in Far from the Madding Crowd, ‘it is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs’.

If Sue finds it hard to commit herself to Jude, it is not because she is a flirt but because she values her freedom. She grew up, so we are told, as something of a tomboy; and this epicene or sexless quality, which puts her beyond the pale of conventional sexual behaviour, makes it hard for her to understand men's sexual feelings for her. She can thus hurt them without intending to. She would prefer simply to be their friends. The novel sees with extraordinary insight that the sexual institutions of late Victorian society have destroyed the possibility of comradeship between men and women. Some of Sue's apparent perversity springs from the fact that her advanced sexual views are inevitably somewhat theoretical. Women's emancipation is still at an early stage. So her beliefs can easily succumb to social pressures. She is thrown out of college for unbecoming conduct, and then, alarmed by the public outcry this occasions, tries to set matters right with respectable opinion by marrying the mildly repulsive Phillotson. The result is predictably disastrous.

Throughout the book, Sue has a dismally low estimate of herself. She is a far more admirable woman than she imagines, and the novel allows us to see the discrepancy between what she is really like and her own self-loathing. When an adopted child of Jude and Sue hangs their other children and then kills himself, an event which the novel does not even try to make realistically convincing, Sue's poor opinion of herself is pressed to a pathological extreme. ‘I should like to prick myself all over with pins,’ she cries, ‘and bleed out the badness that's in me!’ Convulsed by guilt and self-disgust, she abandons Jude and returns to Phillotson, leaving Jude to die wretched and alone. I note this fact in my Preface, but fail to mention that Sue leaves her partner for the most understandable of reasons. It is hardly surprising that a woman who has just lost her children in this grotesque manner, and who is in any case the target of vicious public censure, should take the death of her children as divine punishment for her bohemian way of life, and finally submit to moral orthodoxy. It is understandable not least because Sue's sexual emancipation is still embryonic and uncertain. It is a work in progress rather than an achieved position. How could it be otherwise when she is forced to go it alone, with no support from society at large and a good deal of prejudice and hostility to face down?

The tragedy of the novel is that Sue and Jude try to live out a form of comradeship, but are thwarted in the end by the power of patriarchy. Even a love as deep and steadfast as theirs is bent out of true by the system. ‘Sexuality is blood-stained,’ as one commentator on the book remarks. This superbly courageous novel is about the impossibility of sexuality, not just its pitfalls and illusions. Yet it refuses to accept that the couple's failure was somehow fated. It has nothing to do with Nature, Providence or a malevolent God. It is just that the experiment was premature. History was not yet ready for it. The same is true of Jude's ill-starred attempt to enter Oxford University as a working man. This project, too, was not doomed but before its time, as he himself comes to acknowledge. Not long after his death, a college for working people was established in Oxford, and still exists today. In any case, the novel suggests with cold-eyed realism that for its hero to try to break into the benighted set-up known as Oxford University was not worth the effort. Repairing the walls of the very colleges which shut him out, which is one of Jude's jobs, is more useful in Hardy's eyes than most of the learning that goes on within them....

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

W.E.B. DuBois on Robert E. Lee

....The South cared only for State Rights as a weapon to defend slavery. If nationalism had been a stronger defense of the slave system than particularism, the South would have been as nationalistic in 1861 as it had been in 1812.

http://cwmemory.com/2017/05/30/w-e-b-dubois-on-robert-e-lee/

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Lesson of Charlottesville: Antifa danger to working class


From the latest issue of The Militant:

On Aug. 11 a group of some 250 white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched with torches across the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, chanting “White lives matter;” “Blood and soil,” a slogan used by Adolf Hitler; “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us.”
The next day these ultra-rightist thugs joined the “Unite the Right” rally of some 500 people in Charlottesville, ostensibly organized to oppose the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Organizers had claimed the action would be the largest such gathering in decades. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency, but rightist thugs and dozens of so-called anti-fascist combatants — both armed — marched and engaged in a series of bloody clashes.

After the cops cancelled the rally, one of the neo-Nazis turned his car into a weapon and drove into a group of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

The Socialist Workers Party opposed the racist actions and stands with those who oppose their anti-working-class perspective.

The white supremacists were outnumbered at least two to one by counterprotesters. But prominent in the counterprotest were groups that promote the dangerous and false view that racism and fascism can be stopped by small groups confronting the rightists arms in hand.

At the same time, the liberal capitalist media, Democratic and some Republican party politicians, and the middle-class left used the ultrarightist actions and resulting deadly violence to blame President Donald Trump — and especially the workers who elected him — for what happened. They view everything in politics today through the lens of how to get Trump indicted or impeached.

They claimed that the white supremacists are Trump’s “base,” slandering the working class, particularly workers who are Caucasian, as backward, racist and reactionary.

Solidarity Cville, a Charlottesville-based coalition of clergy and radical activists, had demanded the City Council ban the racist rally. The Council cancelled their permit to rally in Emancipation Park where Lee’s statue stands, telling organizers to hold it a mile away. The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the move, saying it was unconstitutional, because it was based on opposition to the ideas of the organizers. The ACLU prevailed.

Solidarity Cville called for a counterprotest. They were joined by middle-class radicals from around the country, as well as others, including antifa, short for anti-fascist groups; Refuse Fascism!; and various anarchist groupings that advocated physical attacks to shut down or break up the rightist action.

There were groups on both sides of the street actions armed with semiautomatic weapons, pistols, chemical spray and other armaments.

By 10:30 a.m., fights were taking place. Then a couple dozen counterprotesters formed a line, using a large wooden barricade to try and block a group of white supremacists armed with shields and wooden clubs who were approaching the park. A melee began as the racists were met by organized and similarly armed groups.

Responding to criticism of police inaction, Gov. McAuliffe, a Democrat, said that protesters “had better equipment than our State Police.”

Counterprotesters chanted “Go the f--k home!” the rightists shouted back “Go the f--k back to Africa.”

University of Virginia student Isabella Ciambotti was one of the counterprotesters. “What I saw on Market Street didn’t feel like resistance,” she wrote in the New York Times. “It felt like every single person letting out his or her own well of fear and frustration on the crowd.”

Ciambotti says she watched “when a counterprotester ripped a newspaper stand off the sidewalk and threw it at alt-right protesters.”

One assault particularly disturbed her. “A much older man, also with the alt-right group, got pushed to the ground in the commotion. Someone raised a stick over his head and beat the man with it, and that’s when I screamed and ran over with several other strangers to help him to his feet.”

Later she joined a group shouting, “Get out of our town!” at the rightists as they marched by. “A woman from their line turned to me, looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘I hope you get raped by a n----r.’”

Shortly afterwards, neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. used his car to kill Heather Heyer, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, and wound 19 others. Fields was arrested and has been charged with murder.

Liberals blame workers who elected Trump
The meritocratic liberals and leftists lay the blame for what had happened on President Trump and workers who voted for him. An Aug. 12 column by Colbert King in the Washington Post was headlined, “These Are Your People, President Trump,” one of many variants in the liberal media that racist and rightist groups are his “base.”

“We have a bigoted billionaire-cum-president who has done precious little for the white working class whose resentment fueled his rise,” wrote Michael Dyson in the Aug. 12 New York Times. “The only remnant of this leadership they have to hold on to is the folklore of white nationalist sentiment, and xenophobic passion, that offer them psychic comfort if little financial stability.”

Workers World Party takes this distorted view to a further extreme.

“Media manipulation and financial maneuvering by a significant far-rightwing section of the billionaire class to get one of their own into the White House,” they said in a public statement, “has emboldened the most racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, misogynist, male supremacist, murderous scum of this decaying capitalist society.”

But it’s simply not true that there is a rise in racism or anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim sentiment among the working class in the U.S.

On the contrary, there is less racism, bigotry or sexism among workers in the U.S. today than at any time in U.S. history. The historic conquests of the Black rights movement of the 1950s, ’60s and early ’70s dealt a crushing blow to Jim Crow segregation, pushed back racism and changed the United States forever.

President Trump wasn’t elected by racist southern workers seething over statues of Robert E. Lee coming down. He was elected by workers in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan and other so-called Rust Belt regions who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, seeking change in the midst of social disaster raining down on them from the crisis of capitalism. In 2016, they rallied to Trump, his pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington, his disdain for the “politically correct,” and his promise to stand by the working class. Did those who backed Obama suddenly become racists?

The meritocratic pundits insist Trump gives succor to the ultraright. “Trump Gives White Supremacists an Unequivocal Boost,” ran one headline in the Aug. 15 Times.

After the armed clashes by some on both sides of the protests, Trump condemned “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.” The White House supplemented this shortly after, saying, “of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.”

Nonetheless, article after article, op-ed after op-ed, the Times, Post, anti-Trump politicians of both parties and others insist he’s hooked up with reactionaries of all stripes. When Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham in a news release said that Trump hadn’t been forthright enough in condemning the racists in Charlottesville, the president responded.

“Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Heyer,” Trump wrote on Twitter Aug. 17. “Such a disgusting lie.”

The relentless attacks on Trump are not because he is a threat to capitalist rule. He’s a billionaire capitalist real estate baron, who aims to defend the interests of his class. It’s because the meritocratic liberals see in the workers who elected him class battles to come.

Looking at things through the lens of bringing Trump down, the latest heroes of the left are the billionaire CEOs and investment bankers who stepped down from the White House business round table.

Antifa danger to working class
Some of the groups involved in the counterprotest presented a course of action that combines reckless bravado with scorn for the working class.

The New York Times ran a photo of a number of armed members of a group called Redneck Revolt at the counterprotest.

The group put out a “Call to Arms for Charlottesville” that concluded, “To the fascists and all who stand with them, we’ll be seeing you in Virginia.” They assert that “letting fascists organize publicly and without challenge is the same as standing guard while they build a bomb.”

The idea that small radical groups can smash racism and fascism in the egg by physically confronting them is not new. But it is dangerous to the fight against racist violence and to the working class.

The only way to confront their poison is to mobilize the working class. The strategy of antifa, Redneck Revolt and the like tries to substitute for the working class, a recipe for disaster. Not only does it turn working people into spectators instead of active participants in their own liberation, it gives the government and cops a handle for assaults on political rights crucial for the working class to discuss, debate and act.

Adventurism is a deadly trap for the workers movement. Maybe this time the cops were “outgunned,” but you can be sure they won’t be in the future.

In fact, the biggest danger to the political rights of the working class in the U.S. today is not from small groups of white supremacists or fascists. As Charlottesville shows, they were incapable of mobilizing more than a few hundred people. Their racist, anti-working-class views and thuggery have virtually no support among working people.

Instead, the danger to workers’ rights comes from liberals and middle-class radicals who call for armed combat with reactionaries today. And those whose efforts to shut down meetings on college campuses across the country — from Berkeley, California; to Olympia, Washington; to Burlington, Vermont — have given college administrations and cops a golden opportunity. They call for tossing rights won by the working class at great cost out the window.

In an Aug. 17 column in the Times, K-Sue Park, a Critical Race Studies fellow at the UCLA School of Law, excoriates the ACLU for challenging the ban on the rightist rally in Charlottesville.

‘We replaced you’
Thousands of people, including many students, upset with the white supremacist rallies, the killing of Heyer and the ultraleft forays, turned out for a candlelight vigil at the University of Virginia campus Aug. 16, organized by word of mouth. It was many times larger than any of the actions of the previous days.

They retraced the steps of the march where the white supremacists chanted “Jews will not replace us.” One participant posted a photo of the vigil with the caption: “We replaced you.”

The Militant - August 28, 2017 -- SWP protests rightist acts, killing in Virginia
http://themilitant.com/2017/8132/813201.html

Friday, August 18, 2017

Education on U.S. fascism

A comrade posted this on Facebook today:

If you think the pic on the left is what American fascism is going to look like, you'll be ill-equipped to fight the real thing.

Yes, these are violent thugs and should be met with bigger protests. But don't mistake German war paraphernalia from 75 years ago for a social movement of ruined and enraged middle classes.

Fascism will arise here, as the crisis of capitalism deepens and the working class resists. But not under swastikas.

A good start to understanding it, and learning how to fight it:

http://www.pathfinderpress.com/s.nl/it.A/id.401/.f

Fighting racism today

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Racist monuments are coming down

A comrade on FB:

The violent bigots who stormed Charlottesville yesterday, murdered a young woman, and beat others senseless are driven by a poisonous lie that ought to be held in the daylight and shriveled in the sun.

"Every other nation can have pride, can advocate for itself but ours" they assert. "Why is it heroic to be proud of one's blackness and villainous for us to be proud of our whiteness?"

Because there is no such thing as "white culture" or a "white nationality", and "White" is a racist fiction to begin with.

Whiteness is an ever-moving goalpost. Italian, Greek, Irish, Slavic immigrants, none were "white" when they arrived in North America. Each was brought into the fold to preserve a "majority" that has never really existed, meant to keep Black Americans oppressed and exploited, and to drive the deepest wedge possible through working people and our ability to recognize our common interests.

It doesn't help advance any struggle against racism or national oppression to think of yourself as "White". It doesn't help you orient yourself or guide how you should engage in the world. Feeling alienated and ashamed doesn't make you much of a fighter, and encouraging others to feel the same way throws fuel on the fire of a rotten myth.

There are clear battles to be fought, and clear demands to be made. If history is any indication, those fights will be disproportionately lead by Black Americans descended from slavery. But those battles belong to everyone who wants a better future for humanity, and increasingly the door is widening to bring all working people into their ranks.

The racist flags and monuments are coming down, and the reaction from the bigots is unsurprising. They're loud and dangerous, but they're losing. Remember that.

Fascism: scientific definition versus subjectivism

....Because of the decline in Marxist political culture in the world today, “fascist” is an epithet used by many on the left to mean any demagogic politician. They care little for seeking to learn the rich history of the revolutionary working-class movement’s writings on fascism from Germany and Italy to the U.S.

Fascism is the name given to reactionary mass movements that arose leading up to World War II — like those led by Benito Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany and with echoes in the U.S. and other imperialist countries — that were backed by the capitalist classes in those countries when the existing dictatorship of capital could no longer survive by normal “democratic” means.

Leon Trotsky, a leader of the Russian Revolution, who was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1929 by Joseph Stalin as part of a broader counterrevolution against the program of V.I. Lenin that led the workers and farmers of Russia to power in 1917, wrote extensively about fascism. His goal was to lay bare the class dynamics that led to its rise and to politically prepare revolutionary-minded workers to fight against it.

Through the fascist movement “capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie and the bands of declassed and demoralized lumpenproletariat — all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy,” Trotsky explained, and then uses them as thugs to smash the labor movement and its vanguard communist organizations.

The fascists “initially rail against ‘high finance’ and the bankers, lacing their nationalist demagogy with anticapitalist demagogy,” notes Socialist Workers Party National Secretary Jack Barnes in Capitalism’s World Disorder. In order to divert ruined petty-bourgeois elements and demoralized workers from seeing capitalism as the problem, the Nazis scapegoated the Jews as responsible for the growing economic and political crisis and whipped up calls for a “final” solution to the “Jewish question.” At the same time, the fascists “ape much of the language of currents in the workers movement. ‘Nazi’ was short for National Socialist German Workers Party.”

“Fascism is not a form of capitalist rule, but a way of maintaining capitalist rule,” Barnes said.

Fascist groups, which exist on the fringes at first, only get financial and political backing from a significant section of the bourgeoisie when the working class “puts up an increasingly serious challenge to capitalist rule itself,” Barnes said.

In Germany and Italy the working class was unable to unify and mobilize its allies to overthrow capitalism and take power because of the betrayal by the Stalinist Communist Party and the reformist Social Democrats.

In 1930 the Social Democratic Party received 8,577,700 votes and the Communist Party 4,592,100 votes compared to 6,409,600 for the Nazis. If the Social Democrats and Communist Party had formed a united front, if the trade unions they led had built workers defense guards, if they were on a political course to lead the working class to overthrow capitalist rule, they could have stopped fascism on the road to power. Instead, they did nothing to stand up to the fascist gangs and Hitler came to power without a fight.

Workers paid the price of the Stalinist and Social Democratic betrayal in blood. Millions of Jews and gypsies were sent to their deaths in concentration camps. The unions were destroyed. The working class was driven off the political stage.

Counterpunch’s Pollack says the election of Trump is “a forward space in what I term a pre-fascist configuration, i.e., analogous to Germany in 1938.” Hardly.

Trump surprised bourgeois politicians and pundits across the political spectrum. He convinced a layer of workers that he was the lesser evil compared to Clinton; not so hard to do given the anti-working-class record of Bill and Hillary Clinton when they occupied the White House. Hillary Clinton helped Trump win by calling workers who were considering a vote for him “deplorables” and “irredemables.”

That’s the same language many on the left still use today. Andrew Levine, says in Counterpunch Feb. 3, that “Trump’s supporters fall into three broad categories: dupes, deplorables, and opportunists.”

Levine says it’s “the lowlifes whose cages he [Trump] had rattled and whose passions he had inflamed” that are the problem, showing his scorn and fear of the working class.

In fact, Trump’s policies are a mix of steps designed to attract working-class support, like his disdain for the government’s fake unemployment figures and his call for infrastructure building and a repair program to provide jobs, with demagogic nationalist rhetoric that divides the working class. Like other bourgeois politicians he seeks to shore up capitalism.

Facts don’t matter to the ‘left’

To those crying “fascist,” however, the facts don’t matter.

Workers World Party leader Larry Holmes, to take just one example, said in a Jan. 29 speech, “Building the ‘Wall’ and this ban on Muslims are fascist acts.”

Holmes leaves out that about 650 miles of the “wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border has already been built, mostly by the administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Does Holmes think Clinton and Obama are fascists?

Labeling Trump a fascist, helps pave the way for resuscitating the Democrats, the rulers’ other party, as the answer.

There is another danger in mislabeling Trump and his administration as fascist. It disarms the working class politically for when fascism really does raise its ugly head once again — as it inevitably will when the ruling families see no other way to maintain capitalism.

Communist workers don’t care which bourgeois candidate any individual workers voted for — or didn’t — in the presidential election. What working people need is to organize independently of both capitalist parties.

Far from the political space for workers to discuss, debate and fight having been smashed by fascist gangs, the field is wide open. The Socialist Workers Party’s candidates take its revolutionary program and win support on workers’ doorsteps in cities, towns and the countryside, as well as on strike picket lines and social protest actions.

We say the Socialist Workers Party is your party. What we do now in building a revolutionary workers party will be decisive in the years ahead.

The Militant - February 20, 2017 -- Calling Trump a ‘fascist’ disorients the working class
http://www.themilitant.com/2017/8107/810702.html

Trotsky defines the F word

Fascism rises when capital must crush working class

This excerpt from the article “Whither France?” written by Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky in October 1934 offers a concise explanation of fascism. The full article is published in Leon Trotsky on France. Copyright © 1979 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

BY LEON TROTSKY

In all countries the same historical laws operate, the laws of capitalist decline. If the means of production remain in the hands of a small number of capitalists, there is no way out for society. It is condemned to go from crisis to crisis, from need to misery, from bad to worse. In the various countries the decrepitude and disintegration of capitalism are expressed in diverse forms and at unequal rhythms. But the basic features of the process are the same everywhere. The bourgeoisie is leading its society to complete bankruptcy. It is capable of assuring the people neither bread nor peace. This is precisely why it cannot any longer tolerate the democratic order. It is forced to smash the workers by the use of physical violence. The discontent of the workers and peasants, however, cannot be brought to an end by the police alone. Moreover, it is often impossible to make the army march against the people.

It begins by disintegrating and ends with the passage of a large section of the soldiers over to the people’s side. That is why finance capital is obliged to create special armed bands trained to fight the workers, just as certain breeds of dogs are trained to hunt game. The historic function of fascism is to smash the working class, destroy its organizations, and stifle political liberties when the capitalists find themselves unable to govern and dominate with the help of democratic machinery.

The fascists find their human material mainly in the petty bourgeoisie. The latter has been entirely ruined by big capital. There is no way out for it in the present social order, but it knows of no other. Its dissatisfaction, indignation, and despair are diverted by the fascists away from big capital and against the workers. It may be said that fascism is the act of placing the petty bourgeoisie at the disposal of its most bitter enemies. In this way big capital ruins the middle classes and then with the help of hired fascist demagogues incites the despairing petty bourgeois against the worker. The bourgeois regime can be preserved only by such murderous means as these. For how long? Until it is overthrown by proletarian revolution.

The Militant - February 20, 2017 --Fascism rises when capital must crush working class
http://www.themilitant.com/2017/8107/810757.html

The great political and moral crisis of our time

Workers should never present today’s crisis of the propertied classes and their social system as primarily an economic crisis. No, it is the great political and moral crisis of our time. It is proof that only the working class has a chance to resolve this crisis and begin transforming society in a truly human way. Because only the working class, the propertyless class, has no interest in turning like dogs on any of the victims of the crisis-ridden capitalist system.

That is why the battle for jobs, the battle for solidarity, the battle against racism and the oppression of women, the battle against immigrant-bashing, the battle for social protection — why all these are a battle for the life and death of the labor movement. They are the battle for the time and space to prepare a socialist revolution! That is what is at stake in pulling the working class together.

Working-class leaders, not utopians

The biggest lie supporters of capitalism tell about socialists is that we are trying to create a utopia, mess with people’s lives, and engineer a massive social experiment. You want to play God with the lives of other human beings, they charge. Big governments and bureaucracy are proven enemies of common people — why can’t you socialists ever learn? That is the opposite of the truth. In fact, communists are less inclined in that direction than any group of people on the face of the earth. As Marx put it, when writing about the Paris Commune of 1871, revolutionary-minded workers “have no ready-made utopias to introduce…. They know that in order to work out their own emancipation, and along with it that higher form to which present society is irresistibly tending by its own economic workings, they will have to pass through long struggles, through a series of historic processes, transforming circumstances and men.”

Communists are materialists, dialectical materialists. We start with facts, with social realities, and how they develop and change over history — how they are shaped by shifting productive relations, social labor, and revolutionary activity. We know that our class and its toiling allies, who make up the majority of humanity, cannot organize the world on new foundations as we are. And a state bureaucracy cannot do it for us, either. We must change ourselves. On this, we are “Guevarists” to the core.

“To build communism it is necessary, simultaneous with the new material foundations, to build the new man,” Che Guevara wrote in his 1965 article “Socialism and Man in Cuba.” We agree. Workers can and will change ourselves as we go about changing the material foundations of our relations to each other. But this cannot be done without tearing down the brutal class divisions that underlie all social relations today and that will lead through war and fascism to a culmination too horrible to even imagine — unless our class organizes to take power out of the hands of the capitalists.

There is only one real equality possible in today’s class-divided world — political equality. And it only becomes possible in the revolutionary workers movement. It only becomes possible as those who make up a fighting workers vanguard collectively prepare ourselves for the battles to rid society of every vestige of exploitation, oppression, and discrimination.

The socialist revolution is not the end of recorded history, as Stalinist ideologues have tended to present it in order to rationalize the counterrevolutionary course of the parasitic caste and its claim to have established socialism in a single country. No, the workers revolution is the beginning of truly human history.

What is most important about the workers revolution is not the particular property changes that will sweep society directly in its wake — although without them, nothing further would be possible — but the fact that its victory opens other revolutions, such as the historic revolution for women’s emancipation. That will not be settled just by overthrowing the capitalist state and declaring the class struggle over. The new possibilities opened by a revolutionary victory, however, will lay the material foundations on which women’s liberation can be achieved and precipitate an explosion in the fight for real economic and social equality by the millennia-long oppressed sex. Similarly, all the manifold forms of class oppression bequeathed by thousands of years of property systems will for the first time be open to being vanquished. 

Excerpts from Capitalism’s World Disorder: Working-Class Politics at the Millennium by Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party. It is one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for August. Written in the midst of fast-breaking events that marked the opening of the 21st century, the bulk of the book is comprised of four talks by Barnes that discuss the economic, social and political underpinnings of the significant changes that swept world politics between the 1987 near meltdown of the world’s stock markets, and the so-called Mexican “peso crisis” that hit in December 1994. The selection is from “Capitalism’s Deadly World Disorder,” presented in April 1993 to participants in a regional socialist educational conference in Greensboro, North Carolina. Copyright © 1999 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

The Militant - August 21, 2017 -- ‘Only the working class can resolve crisis of capitalism’

Friday, August 11, 2017

Democrat politicians and their media shills see workers — especially workers who are Caucasian — as a big, dangerous mob of racists and reactionaries

....For Blow and his ilk, workers seeking a solution to this state of affairs are just the “waning power of whiteness, privilege, patriarchy,” and a desire to go back to the “good old days” when women “got back-alley abortions and worked for partial wages” and “coal was king.”

He and his ilk see workers — especially workers who are Caucasian — as a big, dangerous mob of racists and reactionaries.

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson Aug. 3 tells workers who back Trump they don’t much matter. “The voice of a laid-off West Virginia coal miner is no more authentic than that of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur,” Robinson says, “or — and this may be shocking — an opinion writer for a mainstream news outlet.”

“Frustrated with a political system that seems incapable of getting much of anything accomplished,” he says, “they decided to lob in a grenade, blow it to smithereens and start over.”

That’s true.

Facts that don’t match their assumptions don’t matter to the liberal media. After months of articles with the wildest insinuations of Trump administration collusion with Moscow, they have little to point to that makes the case, but that doesn’t stop them.

And they lionize Special Prosecutor William Mueller, former boss of the FBI, the rulers’ political police, who’s been tasked with bringing Trump down.

Mueller impaneled a grand jury at the end of July with power to subpoena documents, grill witnesses and make indictments. He has assembled a gang of FBI agents, prosecutors and hot-shot lawyers to do the job.

Workers have seen this type of operation before. The rulers pick a target, then turn special prosecutors and grand juries loose until they find something to pin on them. They spin off leaks and do everything possible to make the victim look like a criminal.

Mueller decided he wanted some papers from former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Instead of asking for them, he got the FBI to carry out a predawn raid on his home to seize them. Then he got the raid leaked to the Washington Post, which made it the lead story on its website Aug. 9.

It turns out that Manafort had already turned over many of them to a congressional committee also “investigating” Trump.

Big Trump rallies

Despite wishful thinking by liberals that support for the president “is collapsing,” Trump has called out supporters in the face of this witch hunt in big rallies in working-class cities like Youngstown, Ohio, and Huntington, West Virginia.

“Are there any Russians here tonight?” Trump asked to laughter from a crowd of thousands Aug. 3 in Huntington, in the heart of coal country. “We don’t’ need advice from the Washington swamp,” he said to cheers. “We need to drain the swamp.”

“The reason the Democrats only talk about the totally made up Russia story is because they have no message, no agenda and no vision,” the president said. Under his leadership, Trump promised, “American workers will build the future and American energy and American clean coal will power this future.”  

Full article:

http://themilitant.com/2017/8131/813106.html

U.S. Socialist Workers Party visits Sulaimani, Kurdistan Region, Iray


SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region, Iraq —

“If you read these two books, you’ll have a better understanding of the deepening crisis in capitalist politics in the U.S. today I’m sure you’re hearing about,” said Steve Clark, editorial director of Pathfinder Press, at a meeting at the Endese bookstore here July 20. “You’ll find out why the wealthy rulers were taken by surprise by the outcome of the presidential election last November.”

Clark was holding up The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record: Why Washington Fears Working People and Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? Class, Privilege, and Learning Under Capitalism — two new books by Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party in the United States. At the invitation of Endese owner and manager Hazhar Majeed, who chaired the program, Clark was speaking at a book-signing event to introduce some 100 of Pathfinder’s Marxist titles the store in downtown Sulaimani has recently begun selling. The books are displayed on a large bookshelf in the store....


Full article:

http://themilitant.com/2017/8131/813150.html

We start with facts, with social realities....

....The biggest lie supporters of capitalism tell about socialists is that we are trying to create a utopia, mess with people’s lives, and engineer a massive social experiment. You want to play God with the lives of other human beings, they charge. Big governments and bureaucracy are proven enemies of common people — why can’t you socialists ever learn? That is the opposite of the truth. In fact, communists are less inclined in that direction than any group of people on the face of the earth. As Marx put it, when writing about the Paris Commune of 1871, revolutionary-minded workers “have no ready-made utopias to introduce…. They know that in order to work out their own emancipation, and along with it that higher form to which present society is irresistibly tending by its own economic workings, they will have to pass through long struggles, through a series of historic processes, transforming circumstances and men.”

Communists are materialists, dialectical materialists. We start with facts, with social realities, and how they develop and change over history — how they are shaped by shifting productive relations, social labor, and revolutionary activity. We know that our class and its toiling allies, who make up the majority of humanity, cannot organize the world on new foundations as we are. And a state bureaucracy cannot do it for us, either. We must change ourselves. On this, we are “Guevarists” to the core.

“To build communism it is necessary, simultaneous with the new material foundations, to build the new man,” Che Guevara wrote in his 1965 article “Socialism and Man in Cuba.” We agree. Workers can and will change ourselves as we go about changing the material foundations of our relations to each other. But this cannot be done without tearing down the brutal class divisions that underlie all social relations today and that will lead through war and fascism to a culmination too horrible to even imagine — unless our class organizes to take power out of the hands of the capitalists.

There is only one real equality possible in today’s class-divided world — political equality. And it only becomes possible in the revolutionary workers movement. It only becomes possible as those who make up a fighting workers vanguard collectively prepare ourselves for the battles to rid society of every vestige of exploitation, oppression, and discrimination.

The socialist revolution is not the end of recorded history, as Stalinist ideologues have tended to present it in order to rationalize the counterrevolutionary course of the parasitic caste and its claim to have established socialism in a single country. No, the workers revolution is the beginning of truly human history.

What is most important about the workers revolution is not the particular property changes that will sweep society directly in its wake — although without them, nothing further would be possible — but the fact that its victory opens other revolutions, such as the historic revolution for women’s emancipation. That will not be settled just by overthrowing the capitalist state and declaring the class struggle over. The new possibilities opened by a revolutionary victory, however, will lay the material foundations on which women’s liberation can be achieved and precipitate an explosion in the fight for real economic and social equality by the millennia-long oppressed sex. Similarly, all the manifold forms of class oppression bequeathed by thousands of years of property systems will for the first time be open to being vanquished.  
 



Full article:

http://themilitant.com/2017/8131/813149.html