06
Mar
10

We Will Sweep them Aside

Nearly 50 years after the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, we find ourselves in a world in which all the traces of a progressive society, every organ of resistance and every concession rested through years of struggle has been so emaciated by decades of reaction that the very thing against which they rebelled appears to us almost like a fantasy.

Whereas the radicals of the 1960’s were inspired to rebel against a process in which they were crafted and shaped into products for corporate america, we now find ourselves compelled to revolt against a world which no longer wants the product we’re mortgaging more and more of our lives to become.

Yet there is a unity to these two eras, both then and now the institution of the UC and it’s role within society has remained essentially the same. The UC was created not in any way to advance social justice or equality, but as instrument of corporate welfare. A so called “Knowledge factory” through which society as a whole would finance the training of workers for big business. The offices and laboratories constructed through Student Fees and State Funding host research advancing the interest of Corporate America.

What is happening now is that all the frills and fringe benefits are being stripped away leaving only the corporate core of exploitation.

What we are experiencing here at the UC is a structural adjustment, liquidation on a scale contingent with the closed factories of Michigan, the ruins of New Orleans and the slave conditions under which everything we consume is produced.

The slashing of worker’s wages and the exponential growth of student fees to pay for administrator salaries and construction contracts is part of the same program behind the bank bailout and the Health Insurance sellout, a program which constitutes nothing less then the relentless exploitation, taxation and immiseration of the Working Class to maintain a system in crisis. A system which has become so broken and so incapable of managing society that it has begun to turn on and devour every positive, human achievement it was made to spawn.

The Administration here say that our strike here is impeding learning, that we are destructive, that we are even violent. Their unbridled hypocrisy would be amusing if it were not believed by so many.

You say we are impeding learning? Who’s the one slashing majors, cutting classes and firing lecturers?

You say we are destructive? What’s a dirty carpet or broken table against the corrupt way the UC regents are appointed and the shattered dreams of students saddled with debt?

You say we are Violent? Who’s the one obliterating the wages and hours of workers, enforcing cuts that will rip food off working class tables and push families out of their homes?

The strikes and occupations which our movement advances are acts of self defense by the Students and Workers of this University against the systematic violence being perpetrated against us.

We are here shutting down this campus here rather then begging for crumbs in Sacramento because we do not merely seek the rejuvenation of this University, we seek its transformation. We seek a University which moves beyond a hollow facade of committment to social justice and which under Student and Worker control actively provides an emancipatory education to catalyze the construction of a human society.

We are a generation which woke up to find itself abandoned by the establishment. With every layoff, with every fee hike, with every liquidated job and every cut social service we are witnessing the thin veneer which has concealed a society of exploitation being stripped away and the naked emperor of the Market revealed in all it’s vile, disgusting mass.

Yet we have woken up to find each other. To find lieing next to us the unemployed, the workers, the oppressed and exploited of the world who have been suffering even more and for longer then we’ve been alive.

And we have found that together, united in solidarity, we can, we must Struggle.

And we will Struggle untill we compel their surrender.

We will struggle untill we force them to see that the growing discontent of world’s exploited in the face of their program of cutbacks and bailouts is the real crisis.

We will show them, that if they are unwilling or incapable of allowing us a decent existence, if they can’t find the money for education and food and healthcare while they still find all the money in the world for their executive bonuses, then we will sweep them aside and advance our own radical vision of a society without them as an accomplished fact.

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16
Jan
10

One Year of Obama: What Happened to Change?

January 20th, a little less then a week from today, will mark the first anniversary of Obama’s inauguration. Obama’s promises of change and reform, as well as the historic nature of electing the first African American President, was able to galvanize the hopes of millions, mobilizing students, workers and communities of color to help bring about an unprecedented Democratic majority in the House and Senate. Before I became a Socialist and a Marxist I was actually one of them, and I remember with a mix of nostalgia and embarrassment supporting him against Clinton in the Primaries even as I began to take left politics more seriously. Yet the campaign promises of Obama as he was elected, not to even mention those pushed in the primaries, seem like a wistful dream compared to the reality of a Democratic Administration.

Today, the list of issues progressive expected real action on reads like a mass funeral

Employee Free Choice Act, expected to reward Organized Labor for the immense support it lent Obama in the election, would have helped to combat the drastically undemocratic and illegal union busting practices of big business. It was eviscerated by Democratic Party controlled Committees before being sent off to die without a fight

Health Care Reform, after having the public option whittled down and finally cast away as “unrealistic” despite broad public support, is set to pass in a form that will drastically reduce access to Abortion for most women and which mandates that everyone purchase a broken product from Private Insurance Companies. It provides some government subsidies which will for all intents and purposes act as a massive financial donation to an industry which has betrayed the interests of Americans for decades. And as if the betrayal of Labor over Employee Free Choice Act was insufficient, the Democratic Party Health Care Plan with the support of Obama rubs sulfuric acid in the wounds with a plan to tax the few, hard won decent healthcare plans that Unions have struggled and sacrificed to maintain, in order to finance a tragically backward reform that stands as a firm rebuke to the popular will in the country and the dreams of so many.

Financial Reform has, despite Trillions of dollars being taken on in debt to cover the costs of a corrupt investment banking system, failed to materialize whatsoever. In fact quite ironically, it’s John McCain who’s proposing a bill for financial reform being opposed by President Obama that does precisely what Obama the candidate claimed was necessary by restoring the Glass-Steagul Banking Act that was repealed under Clinton.

In Foreign Policy despite formally dropping the term “War on Terror” Obama has practically maintained continuity with the Bush administration, from the initial disappointment around the maintenance of Robert Gates as Defense Secretary, to a new surge into Afghanistan, an expansion of bombing into Northern Pakistan and now, recently, the expansion of US Military operations to Yemen. Obama had the audaucity to accept the Nobel Peace Prize and use his platform their to justify a policy of continued militarization and occupation that has brought misery to millions.

Not that long ago in late December, according to a UN investigation, 8 Afghan school children, one as young as 11 years old, were executed by NATO forces, some of them being roused from their sleep and then handcuffed before they were murdered. Crimes like this put to rest claims among some liberals that although Bush waged the war badly, Obama will wage it in a just and humanitarian fashion that would be an exception to the whole history of US Foreign Policy.

Closely related to Foreign Policy is the administrations atrocious failure to make any significant improvement for Civil Liberties. Bush policies on indefinite detention in oversea prisons like Guantanamo, extraordinary rendition of prisoners to be tortured overseas, warrantless wiretapping, trial by military tribunals and protection for officials and corporations involved in violating civil rights have all been continued under Obama.

Much of this I’m sure many of you were aware of, and given your presence tonight I suspect most of you don’t need that much more convincing to be disappointed with the results of the Obama Administration’s first year. However the question in the air in the broader left is how did this come to be? How did the promise of the campaign turn into the reality of a compromised Presidency.

————————————–

The answer can be found on two closely related levels. First the nature of the state Obama leads, and the role of the Democratic Party within that State.

First, the big question, What is the State? The State as Marxists have traditionally defined it is the instrument through which one class maintains it’s dictatorship over another. Taken at face value this is an almost indefensible statement, we have a government made up of elected representatives, with near universal suffrage and free elections every two years. Taken in isolation, as frequently done in Political and Social Science classes, our governmental structure is an imperfect if democratic government for which it would be ridiculous to claim it was some sort of dictatorship under the rule of Capitalist Oligarchs, complete with top hats, monocles and cigars, sending out their dictates from a smoke filled back room.

In fact the Marxist view stands completely in opposition to this sort of caricatured view. We could actually even assume for the purpose of argument the most democratic imaginable government, the very ideal of liberal ideology unimpaired by the electoral system, campaign financing, etc.– and we could still claim it to be the instrument of Class Rule. This is because however democratic the government appears in isolation, it can only be understood in the real world as an entity part of and fundamentally shaped by the totality of Global Capitalism.

Everything in the world exists within the reality of Capitalism, a system predicated on the organization of everything that creates social wealth as Private Property, in which the Market will compel the concentration of private property in fewer and fewer hands, shaping a world like the one today, in which just the richest 2% of the world controls half the world’s wealth, in which the poorest 50% of the world controls just 1% of the wealth.*

It is a system driven by the process of accumulation, the search for profit which takes the immense circulation of commodities to a scale almost beyond our comprehension, with Trillions of dollars pouring into this or that region, this or that financial market or sector and rushing back out again in the course of moments of trading on the stock exchange. One which can liquidate factories and jobs, which can make or break lives and bury nations according to the whims of the Market. Under these conditions anything which threatens that process of accumulation, any social program maintained through higher taxes or reform aimed towards reigning in these forces, will be punished by the withdrawal of Capital.

(As a contemporary example, earlier today I was watching an episode of PBS’ Bill Moyer’s Journal, a liberal program, in which they pointed out that in the face of increased taxes and regulations the UK’s local branch of Goldman Sachs was threatening to move to Switzerland.)

In our theoretical ideal liberal democracy, the state is continuously forced to adapt to the whims and temper tantrums of the Market which determines people real livelihoods, how they eat and sleep, all things which constitute the real essence of power in society. Unless confronted with mass power and presented with a situation potentially dangerous enough to threaten Capitalism, as existed in the 1930’s and 1960’s, the Capitalist Class will not impose the kind of discipline upon itself that makes it allow significant reforms to preserve the system.

This explains why much of the more serious reform expected by people from Obama has failed to materialize, yet even with the role of Capital in mind, much more might be possible even under existing conditions and the parameters of what the Market considers acceptable. This is where the fact of our being a very, very imperfect democracy comes into play and the role of the Democratic Party becomes apparent.

The Democratic Party must be understood as something which is, above all else in the world, committed to electing Democratic Party Politicians. Leadership of movements for Social Justice has never come from Democratic Politicians, the New Deal was the result of concessions wrested by the organized Radicals of the Old Left, the Great Society and Civil Rights legislation was the product of the active struggle of what was and what became the New Left. Throughout the most tense moments of rising struggle, Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson, every politician in office would tell the movement “Dont hold this march” “Dont be too radical” “Let’s be reasonable and wait”. The movement only advanced when these warnings were defied.

The Democratic Party will adapt itself to whatever way seems the most comfortable way of maintaining power. In our Modern State, this means accommodating to the Corporate Lobbyists that make their election possible, the Democrats took more money in this last election then the Republicans, and keep in mind, it would actually be illegal for a corporation to make any investment it didn’t think would pay off for it’s shareholders. While Capital may be willing to make some concessions, it’s eager to prevent whatever it can and the Democrats are happy to accomodate them.

Lance Selfa in his book The Democrats: A Critical History[Haymarket 2008], highly recommended reading for understanding the present moment by the way, describes the Democrats as “History’s Second Most Enthusiastic Capitalist Party”. It is true that the Republicans are even more objectively the Party of Business, however the Democrats fulfill a very specific role by stepping in whenever people become fed up with blatantly being screwed over, they act effectively as the reserve contender in the Tag Team of one Business Party.

This is not to say Democrats have not implemented changes and very significant reforms, rather that the historical role they fulfill is primarily as the wing of the government which absorbs mass discontent and diffuses it, when they can through nothing but symbolic changes, when they must through the implementation of real reform. Today, the Democrats have not been forced by a large enough swell of popular upheaval to be made to implement real gains for the Working Class.

(Though here at the UC we may be beginning to see a change to this state of affairs, though Schwarzenegger’s proposal is fundamentally flawed and must be opposed, the acknowledgement that the protests were the reason for it shows we are starting to have an impact)

In Sum, there has not been Change because the balance of Class forces is not yet in our favor, the will of the Working Class which constitutes the vast majority of the population, has on the one hand been diffused into the Democrats and on the other has not adopted the depth of anger that can be directed towards more threatening, revolutionary acts. If we are to win reforms, from the Republicans, the Democrats, and who knows, maybe some Third Party soon, then we must focus on building the kind of independent infrastructure through Mass work like the fight against the Budget Cuts and through the strengthening of Revolutionary organizations like the ISO that can help direct discontent into rank and file militancy that can change the world.

Throughout history radical organizations have played an essential part in building and pushing forward meaningful protests. From the dawn of the labor movement and the struggle for an 8 hour day to the General Strikes and Unemployed Riots of the 1930’s, from the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s and the contemporary movement for LGBT Equality, the struggle against War and the fight to stop Budget Cuts, Organized Socialists have been the most consistent, dedicated activists most clearly able to understand theoretically and practically how to encourage and direct rank and file struggle. Socialists are the ones who helped bring you the weekend, decent working wages, public education, voting rights and welfare, and as we enter a new period of struggle to defend and advance those past gains, you can expect socialists to continue that leading role. But, if we are going to win real change, we’ll need a lot more socialists to do it. And that’s why we need you to join us and help us in the struggle for a better world.

*(((Source: UN report recorded at http://www.metrics2.com/blog/2006/12/05/richest_2_own_half_world_wealth_bottom_50_own_1_un.html)))

16
Dec
09

Purpose

Along with the wave of student occupations that has swept across California, beginning in Santa Cruz and expanding to threaten campuses as far away as CSU Stanislaus, a wave of anonymous blogs has emerged as the forum through which activists have most prominently expounded their demands, ideologies, critiques and ways forward for the movement. The dominant ideology is an amalgamation of self proclaimed “Ultraleftism” and Insurrectionary Anarchism, one which while providing many effective critiques of liberalism and conservative trends on the Marxist left will as an ideology inevitably run into the brick wall of it’s anti-organizational prejudices and the realities of the immense work it will take to truly end capital. The purpose of this blog is to provide a constructive critique of these and other trends, and to advance an analysis of past events and future steps for the movement as a whole from a revolutionary Marxist perspective.

To clarify this critique will not take the form of a another brand of textureless, unappetizing pessimism, what will rather be advanced is a form of vision complementary and yet in contradistinction to the direction other forces on the left seek to bring the movement towards. Escalation is an absolute goal, as is the reconstruction of revolutionary conciousness in this country and the supersession of Capital by Worker’s Power. Yet in light of a situation where, for example, at UC Santa Cruz the most prominent administrative building has already been occupied, the question emerges of what exactly escalation means, of what the victories or non-victories we achieved mean and most of all where we go next. This blog seeks to make a contribution to that discussion, and to do so in the Marxist tradition of the  “ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be.”

I expect the criticism may at time appear harsh, that is as it should be. In contrast to accusations of criticism and solidarity being somehow mutually exclusive,  criticism as applied to oneself and all others involved in the movement is the only real sign of true solidarity, the sign that one values the movement enough to vigorously debate every aspect of it. It is through conflict, intellectual debate and the review of idea’s practical implementation that theory is proven or discarded, only through conflict can revolutionary theory and practice be advanced. And in a new political period, at the edge of a new surge of resistance and anticapitalist struggle, the advance of new revolutionary theory and practice is the absolute imperative.

16
Dec
09

A Beginning

Let There Be Revolution




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