Draft for Marxist-Humanist Perspectives, 2012-2013
Counter-revolution's rise shows need for a total philosophy
This special issue carries our Draft Perspectives Thesis, part of our preparation for the national gathering of News and Letters Committees. We publish it because our age is in such total crisis, facing a choice between absolute terror or absolute freedom, that a revolutionary organization can no longer allow any separation between theory and practice, philosophy and revolution, workers and intellectuals, "inside" and "outside." Join us in discussing these Perspectives.Contents:
Revolution, having forced its way to center stage over the last year and a half, cannot easily be bottled up.  That explains the viciousness of the counter-revolution, whether the violent police attacks on occupations from New York to Oakland or the Syrian state's torture and heavy weapons aimed at civilians. It is seen as well in the rulers' bringing to bear two of their most powerful anti-revolutionary tools: fascism and war.
The circumstances of Trayvon Martin's murder spotlighted not only the perniciousness of racism rotting the heart of American civilization, but the malignancy of private forces wearing the shield of vigilantism. It is no accident that this outrage elicited comparisons to Emmett Till as well as numerous hoodie-themed protests and school walkouts.
With Staff Sgt. Robert Bales's massacre of 17 Afghan civilians, including nine children, starkly exposing the meltdown of the Afghan war, the generals atop the military are hardly eager to embark on a war against Iran. The political chorus keeps beating the war drums in time with the Israeli government, but the brass are warning that an Israeli strike on Iran would drag the U.S. into a regional war with hundreds of deaths of U.S. troops. However, the forces driving to war must not be underestimated. The U.S., though weakened by both imperial overreach and economic crisis, is still the lone superpower and a bulwark of counter-revolution.
A. Syria as a test of world politics
The collision between counter-revolution and revolution is occurring most sharply in Syria.  The Syrian state's genocidal assault on its own people stirred such outrage across the world that governments from the U.S. to the European Union to the Arab League had to give up their efforts to stay neutral and thereby preserve the regional "stability" backed by Bashar al-Assad's regime.
Undaunted by their feckless rhetoric, Assad only intensified his bloody repression. After months of siege, intense shelling of Homs began on Feb. 3, hours before Russia and China vetoed a toothless UN Security Council resolution calling on Syria to accept the Arab League's peace plan. Rhetoric aside, the Obama administration is happier with Assad than with "instability," which is what Israel has been warning would result from Assad's fall.
The U.S. and its "Friends of Syria" have given little more than lip service to the Syrian people, while the Arab League's observer mission failed even at observing. Assad prepared for the April 12 "cease-fire," negotiated by Kofi Annan for the UN and the Arab League, by stepping up his assault, slaughtering hundreds in the days leading up to it. Afterwards, the bombardment only slowed. "What ceasefire? There's an explosion every five to six minutes,'' Yazan, a Homs-based activist, told the Associated Press. (See "Syrian cry for solidarity.")
The world's peoples watched in horror, but governments did little to stop the atrocities as Assad's forces bombarded Homs with artillery, tanks, helicopters, rockets and mortars. By Feb. 29, water, electricity and communications were cut off in the Baba Amr neighborhood, a rebel stronghold, as a ground assault began. Hundreds were killed, more of them civilians than fighters. Survivors who did not flee were rounded up, many executed. Government forces used hospitals as torture chambers. After Homs, troops moved on to attack Daraa, Idlib, Saraqeb and Hama--but new fighting erupted in Homs and other places, even in the capital, Damascus, dashing the regime's illusions that it could wipe out the revolution with military force.
In giving President Bashar al-Assad a green light to proceed with his assault, the rulers of Russia and China had above all their own restive masses in mind. On the other side of the same coin, the leaders of Al Qaeda announced their "support" for the uprising to cover up their antipathy to Arab Spring. Far from aiming for freedom, which is what the Syrian masses are telling the world they want, Al Qaeda and political Islamists thirst for state power. It is only in the fevered imagination of some "anti-imperialists" that the Syrian revolt could be a plot by the CIA in league with Islamic fundamentalism.
Within the Western Left, the crisis is manifested as ideological pollution when so many insist that enemy number one is U.S. imperialism and therefore Assad must not be opposed. This lays bare the fixation on first negation, or what one is against--and that opposition is not even directed at the capitalist system but rather at one of its manifestations. Where is Karl Marx's vantage point, the freedom of the masses? This is central to Marxist-Humanism, but is missing from the post-Marx Marxists who reduce Marx's ideas to economic theory alone, or to working out blueprints for the future, let alone to crude "anti-imperialism." Today's "anti-imperialists" recapitulate the attitude to theory identified by Raya Dunayevskaya:
"The New Left, born in the 1960s, so disdainful of theory (which it forever thinks it can pick up 'en route'), has a strange attitude toward imperialism. It is as if imperialism were not the natural outgrowth of monopoly capitalism, but was a conspiracy, organized by a single imaginary center, rather as the Nazis used to refer to the Judeo-Catholic-Masonic Alliance, or Communists under Stalin to the conspiracy of the Trotskyists and Rightists in league with the imperialist secret service...." 
What is needed instead is to center our analyses on the masses, not only as victims but as Subjects. Since the Tunisian Revolution opened 2011, the subjectivity of masses in motion has shaken the whole world. Arab Spring inspired the student/labor occupation of the Capitol in Madison, Wisc., and Occupy Wall Street. In turn, the people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Tunisia support the Syrian uprising. What is at stake in supporting the Syrian masses, as it is in the Arab Spring in general, is supporting the self-development of revolutionary new beginnings. As events have shown, this is a question of revolution in permanence, of continuing the development beyond first negation, overthrow of the old regimes, on to a second negation, releasing mass creativity to construct a new human society.
B. From Egypt to Bahrain, the struggle continues
Having achieved partial success by ousting the old dictators, the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen have all faced serious setbacks. At the same time, the struggles continue, and voices from below make clear that a thoroughgoing, radical transformation is what many of the participants are still fighting for.
Take Egypt, where the combination of labor strikes, public square occupations and neighborhood self-defense represented a high point that refused to disappear with the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak.
From the beginning of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, we have singled out the vast flowering of different forms of self-organization by masses from below, of workplace struggles and of women's challenge to sexism. The voices of people in Cairo's Tahrir Square showed that many were reaching for freedom.
One year later, the Muslim Brotherhood and the military council want to claim the mantle of revolution. Both came late to the revolution only in order to take it over. The Brotherhood and reactionary political Islamists known as Salafis dominated elections to Parliament, showing once again that bourgeois elections do not equal freedom. One year ago, the Brotherhood promised not to try to dominate the new government and not to impose Islamic values on the country. In office, they filled the panel to write a new constitution with political Islamists and virtually excluded women, youth, and the Christian minority.
Since Mubarak's fall, young activists have been attacked by the police and jailed by military tribunals. Workers are still fighting for better wages and conditions and full recognition for their independent unions. Women have been pushed aside and subjected to vilification, street beatings and sexual assault. Far from being fooled, masses in the streets are calling for both the military and the Muslim Brotherhood to be toppled.
Last year a youth in Tahrir Square declared, "Everything is now possible. Horizons have opened up. We must now care for the revolution we have made." This year, on Jan. 25, at a rally in the Square marking one year since the first day of revolution, unemployed worker Attiya Mohammed Attiya explained, "I am not here to celebrate. I am here for a second revolution." Others were chanting, "Revolution until victory, revolution in all of Egypt's streets!"
In short, calls for revolution in permanence are in the air. It is crucial to reexamine some of the dominant assumptions held by the youth movement during the heady days of occupation of the Square and the downfall of Hosni Mubarak.
First, too many held the illusion that the goal should stop at getting rid of the dictatorship and establishing conventional political democracy. The quest for democracy is indispensable, and at the same time represents a reach for freedom that goes much further.
As we pointed out one year ago: "We do not overlook the importance of bringing down a police state and the prospect of a real improvement in human rights. However, a far deeper democracy, a deeper freedom, was created in Cairo's Tahrir Square, and dissolving that is exactly what the rulers aim for." 
The revolutionary new beginnings in the multiple forms of mass self-organization and self-activity were pointing to a much deeper kind of freedom, but key activists in the April 6th Youth Movement were too ready to abandon those beginnings, viewing elections as the arena for competition of political currents. Foreseeing that the Muslim Brotherhood would take advantage of its long-established organization, they pushed for postponement of elections, but the Brotherhood had made a deal with the military to undercut revolution.
Against a backdrop of Saudi money funneled to Salafis, weariness of economic disruption, and large segments of the population that had not been drawn into the revolution, the Brotherhood and the military used bourgeois elections to take the initiative away--temporarily--from the masses' self-activity, which is the only basis for a true, revolutionary democracy.
We cannot overlook the contradictions in the wish to be "non-ideological." Ideas about what should happen after the revolution, beyond "democracy," took a back seat in the name of unity against the dictatorship. In Part IV we shall return to how ideology was still very much present. For now let us recall a vital point from our new Middle East pamphlet:
"It isn't that class is the sole characteristic of national liberation movements that revolutionaries can support. It is that the working class nature is its essence and it is that the revolutionaries and international impact emerges from masses in motion. . ..This does not mean that we give up the struggle for self-determination, Palestinian especially. It is that we do not narrow our vision of the revolutionary struggle for a totally different world, on truly new Humanist foundations, the first necessity of which is the unity of philosophy and revolution." 
Crucially, the struggle continues, as it does in the other countries that are part of Arab Spring:
While a superpower's involvement is for its own purposes and not to secure the freedom of the masses, it would be a mistake to ascribe all counter-revolution only to that. In our time, counter-revolution also keeps emerging from within revolutions. In each of the above cases, with or without U.S. military involvement, the masses are confronting a political structure friendly to international capital and hostile to workers, usually with Islamists at the fore, though they were not prominent in any of the uprisings. And in each case the struggle continues.
A. Occupy and anti-Occupy
The very new phenomenon of the Occupy Movement brought this moment of revolutionary new beginnings squarely to the U.S. Though not now a revolution, it nevertheless transformed the political atmosphere in the country and, even after most actual occupations were violently dismantled, revealed a new generation of youth engaged in breaking down barriers between different movements and aiming to overturn the economic and political dominance of a tiny elite dubbed the 1%.
Naturally, the movement contains conflicting ideas about how to overcome that domination. While some focus on campaign finance reform, taxing the rich, and prosecuting bankers, and a few even want to find common ground with the reactionary Tea Party, a deeper reach for freedom is there too. That is seen not only in what is explicitly voiced, but in the very form of taking public space from state-corporate control and making it truly public, and in the many-sided experiments at drawing participants into running the movement.
For the movement to release its deepest potential would entail making that fully explicit not only as negation of elite domination but as negation of that negation, construction of the new, a revolutionary reconstruction of society from the bottom up.
Thus, workplace takeovers such as the workers' occupation this February at Serious Energy--known to the world by its former name, Republic Windows and Doors, when the workers occupied it in 2008--are not just an extension of a tactic to another field, but a rejection of the capitalists' monopoly of the means of labor and a small preview of workers' reappropriation of their own activity. That advance is crucial if we are to break down the domination of society by an elite, which is built on the alienation of labor. As will be discussed in Part IV, freely associated labor is needed to overcome this domination and the ideology that makes it appear natural.
From the beginning of Occupy, a reach for new human relations was manifested in experimentation with new forms of self-organization. Now the movement has spread out into neighborhoods and is trying to deepen participation by people of color and by workers. It has breathed new life into a wide range of activist groups.
This includes new efforts to block evictions and take over unoccupied dwellings, at a time when, for instance, 3.5 million are homeless yet 18.5 million homes in the country are vacant. Occupy is looking ahead to big protests, including "Chicago Spring," which began April 7 and is leading up to the May Day labor/immigrant rally and actions against the NATO summit. One victory has already been won, with the specter of the protests chasing the G8 summit out of Chicago to secure and secluded Camp David.
The rulers and their police forces have made clear how seriously they take the threat Occupy poses to the status quo. Their repression did not end with the violent clearing of occupations last November and December. When the Occupy the Midwest conference brought hundreds of occupiers from several states to St. Louis, many set up camp in a park on March 15. Police ordered them to leave, but when they left cops jumped on them, pepper-spraying and beating several with batons and arresting 15. 
Two days later, when Liberty Plaza in New York City was reoccupied, police viciously attacked the occupiers, beating and stomping many and dragging young women by their hair. They handcuffed Cecily McMillan and then watched her having seizures on the concrete. Police punched an Occupy medic in the face and slammed him into a glass door, breaking it. While carrying another man onto a bus, they slammed his head against the door and several seats.
Occupiers responded by reinforcing their coalescence with New Yorkers of color who live with the NYPD's daily racial profiling, "stop and frisk," and brutality, even murder. Many voices--Black, Latino and white--came together in the March 20 demonstration against police terror, and again in New York's Million Hoodie March calling for justice for Trayvon Martin.
Brute force is not the only type of repression leveled against the movement. In preparation for the expected massive protests against the NATO summit in May, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed through his "Sit Down and Shut Up" anti-protest ordinance, followed by an attempt to deny a permit for the May 20 anti-NATO march--even though it had previously approved a permit for the day before, when the G8 was still planning to meet in Chicago.
An ominous precedent for what could happen before the summit, as well as during this summer's political party conventions, was set at the 2008 Republican Party convention in St. Paul, Minn. The FBI infiltrated protest groups. Police and sheriff's deputies raided five buildings, including the house hosting the I-Witness Video collective. During the convention, police repeatedly assaulted demonstrators, arresting nearly 800, including medics, legal observers and over 30 journalists. Eight people were charged with "conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism"--the first terrorism charges under the Minnesota version of the Patriot Act. 
The Obama administration has not only continued but intensified the Bush administration's clampdown on civil liberties. President Obama signed the "anti-Occupy" law March 8, which is actually a renewal and strengthening of existing legislation used, among other things, to keep protesters bottled up in "free speech zones" out of sight of major events like the summit, and away from news cameras. Obama also signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows indefinite military detention of citizens and non-citizens without trial.
It was under this administration that the FBI raided anti-war activists' homes in several cities in September 2010. And this administration has prosecuted more government whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined. It is trying to destroy Wikileaks and is prosecuting Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning for allegedly leaking a classified video that showed American troops shooting Iraqi civilians from an Apache helicopter in 2007, and thousands of other secret documents.
B. From Trayvon to Tulsa
The heating up of state repression is made infinitely more dangerous by the private forces of counter-revolution--not only corporations like Stratfor, known as the "shadow CIA," and mercenary Blackwater (renamed Academi), but also white supremacist private border patrols and self-appointed neighborhood watch vigilantes. When news spread of yet another Black youth gunned down for no reason, Trayvon Martin became the symbol of the violence and injustice of racist USA.
The fact that a vigilante in a Sanford, Fla., gated community could kill an unarmed 17-year-old--without even being arrested--spoke even louder than the thinly veiled racist rhetoric of Republican presidential candidates. Outrage broke out into protests coast to coast, "million hoodie marches," and walkouts by thousands of students at 50 Florida high schools.
Many protesters drew a comparison to the Mississippi lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 by two white men who went free. An African American in Chicago commented, "This is what they want to do to all of us." When it comes to organized vigilante groups, the mission is to search and destroy people of color. It cannot be separated from the politicians' rhetoric on one side and the racist workings of the criminal injustice system on the other. The random shootings of five Blacks in Tulsa brought home the message that it is open season on people of color--and it brought calls to end the "conspiracy of silence" about the too-little-remembered 1921 Tulsa race riot, one of the country's worst, in which 300 African Americans were killed and a whole section of town was burned to the ground.
The parallel that the ruling class is most worried about is what Emmett Till's murder helped set loose: the Freedom Now movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Closer to the present is the Los Angeles Rebellion of exactly 20 years ago, sparked by the outrageous April 29, 1992, acquittal of the police officers whose brutal beating of Rodney King was videotaped. That rebellion involved African Americans, Latinos and white youth.
The specter looming today is that of Black and Latino revolt coalescing with white youth and labor, facilitated by the Occupy Movement. That motivates the character assassination of Trayvon Martin, complete with fake photoshopped pictures, just as surely as it motivates the Tea Party rhetoric portraying healthcare reform, birth control, abortion and foreclosure protection as power grabs by an Other spearheaded by a Black President.
In truth, the ongoing struggles over prison, housing, public service cuts, closing of mental health centers, attacks on public employees, and voting rights affect people of color more, and they involve all races.
C. Against the war on women
What's rightfully being called the "War on Women" likewise affects poor and minority women most strongly, but also all races and genders. While much of the outrage has been directed at the fascistic attack on women's reproductive rights--ballooning from the assault against abortion rights to going after birth control--the war on women is much broader and deeper.
Look at the ramifications of the gutting of welfare under Clinton-Gingrich in 1996. A new report from the National Poverty Center released in February used the World Bank's measure of poverty to look at poor families in the U.S. The number of households in the U.S. trying to survive on $2 or less per day per person shot up by 130% from 1996 to reach 1.46 million households in 2011. The number of children living in extreme poverty doubled to 2.8 million. The study concludes that "the percentage growth in extreme poverty...was greatest among" households "headed by single mothers or disadvantaged minorities." Furthermore, "This growth has been concentrated among those groups that were most affected by the 1996 welfare reform." 
President Clinton's 1996 destruction of welfare is now taking a savage toll on poor women and their children. Women--and poor women in particular--are losing their right to control their own bodies, not just abortion, but birth control and healthcare. Last year alone, 80 new restrictions on abortion rights were enacted by state legislatures, up from 23 in 2010. The first attack on women's newly won right to abortion was the 1976 Hyde Amendment barring the use of federal money to pay for them. That set a precedent that it was somehow OK for the federal government, an old boys club if there ever was one, to legislate on what can or cannot happen to a woman's body. The debate around access to contraception--under the ruse of religious freedom--follows from the Hyde Amendment.
So successful have anti-abortion fanatics become that the only clinic where abortions are performed in Mississippi may close. Governor Phil Bryant bragged, "As governor, I will continue to work to make Mississippi abortion-free." Mississippi House Bill 1390 requires all doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and be board certified in obstetrics and gynecology--a requirement specifically designed to force the clinic to close. Hospitals can refuse admitting privileges to physicians, and Jackson's two church-affiliated hospitals may well do so. When abortion is illegal, women die from illegal back-alley butcher abortions, so Bryant was lying when he proclaimed: "This legislation is an important step in strengthening abortion regulations and protecting the health and safety of women." Meanwhile, anti-abortion violence continues, as in the April 1 firebombing of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Grand Chute, Wisc.
Women's renewed vigor for fighting back was heralded by the unanticipated reaction to Susan G. Komen for the Cure's decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood. The outcry that forced Komen to back down was soon followed by calls for a National Protest Against the War on Women.  Women in all 50 states quickly planned their own protests to complement the national protest in Washington, all on April 28.
So potent has been the outpouring of support that the mainstream national women's organizations eventually had to get on board too, despite their initial silence. Yet the Left by and large still has women's liberation on the back burner, and in some corners has even been penetrated by ambivalence about abortion rights. At the same time, women's demonstrations on a number of fronts have been proliferating as the inhumanity of the war on women rolls on like a blitzkrieg.
Fightbacks are emerging from many Subjects of revolt. The attacks on women, on immigrants, on workers, on the homeless, on Queers, on people of color, are all part of one counter-revolutionary onslaught:
Minds are the target as more and more laws mandate public schools be propaganda machines, from Arizona's prohibition of ethnic studies to Tennessee's new "monkey bill" encouraging teachers to disparage evolution and the science of climate change--just at the time when the toll taken by extreme weather around the planet is raising the alarm. 
The question is whether Subjects will unite with each other and unite theory and practice in so total a way as to unleash the power of a vision of building a revolutionary society on new human foundations.
A. From war to war to war
War is one of the rulers' most potent counter-revolutionary weapons when faced with economic crises and revolt. With a military stretched thin, one eye on China, and the failures of Iraq and Afghanistan hanging over their heads, the Pentagon is not pushing for war against Iran. But the Romney-Santorum-Gingrich chorus, joined by many members of Congress, keeps beating the war drums, and the Israeli government is pushing hard for war. While publicly trying to cool the heated pro-war tumult, the Obama administration reportedly offered Israel more powerful bunker-busting bombs if they agree to delay a strike on Iran until 2013. At the same time, the Pentagon is alarmed by a simulation they ran of an Israeli strike on Iran. It concluded that such a strike would most likely lead to a regional war, and the U.S. would be drawn into it regardless of its intentions, resulting in hundreds of troop deaths.
However irrational the path to war is, its siren song is compelling to rulers.  That is not alone because of the brinksmanship of leaders playing chicken with millions of lives. It is above all because of the pressure building up from the tectonic plates clashing beneath the surface of capitalism in deep economic crisis. At a time when globalized capitalist industry and trade are depleting natural resources and undermining the environmental conditions that sustain civilization, competition is aggravated by rising demand for energy and water. The workings of capitalism's law of motion drive rival powers toward conflict.
Therefore, truly opposing war entails opposing the social bases from which it comes. The urgent need is to struggle to stop war against Iran and at the same time "not narrow our vision of the revolutionary struggle for a totally different world, on truly new Humanist foundations, the first necessity of which is the unity of philosophy and revolution."  Taking the side of one set of rulers or another undermines opposition to war.
The distance of much of the Left from such a fully revolutionary perspective is measured in the choice to follow various state powers that claim to oppose U.S. hegemony--that is, to merge the anti-war struggle with acceptance of counter-revolutionary anti-imperialism, such as that of the rulers of Iran.  Some anti-war demonstrations have even excluded leftist Iranians who oppose the Islamic Republican regime of Iran; some have barred denunciations of Syria's Assad.
As yet, a majority in the U.S. opposes strikes on Iran by either the U.S. or Israel. One factor is the meltdown of the occupation of Afghanistan. The massacre of 17 Afghan civilians, including nine children, by Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was only the latest in a series of events that prove it is no aberration. The Koran burnings, the desecration of Afghan corpses, the everyday brutality with which NATO soldiers treat civilians,  the continuing night raids that terrorize civilians, all reveal the barbarism and hatred pervading the occupation.
Far from "winning hearts and minds," the protracted occupation has resurrected the fortunes of the misogynist, ethnocentric, counter-revolutionary Taliban--responsible for 80% of civilian killings. The corrupt, U.S.-allied Karzai government, under which the oppression of women almost matches that of the Taliban, is hardly a credible alternative.
One-third of all U.S. troop deaths in Afghanistan this year have been at the hands of Afghan troops. On top of all that, Pakistan has blocked military supply trucks from entering Afghanistan.
The occupation is so moribund that 69% of Americans chose "U.S. should not be involved in Afghanistan" in a survey. About half said Obama's withdrawal timetable is too slow. When Newt Gingrich referred to the occupation as "very likely. . .a mission that we're going to discover is not doable," his Republican competitors did not even bother accusing him of "cutting and running." As in the dying days of the Vietnam War, the leaders know they have lost but dare not admit it, so the slaughter drags on. That includes even President Obama, who secured the 2008 nomination on the basis of his supposed rejection of the Iraq war.
The U.S. significantly weakened itself with that war. A swift battlefield victory led to a nine-year violent occupation, together with widespread sectarian, "honor" and homophobic killings and degraded living conditions in much of the country. Contrary to the plan, Iranian influence in the region has been strengthened, especially in Iraq. The Iraqi government's refusal to grant legal impunity to U.S. troops forced their withdrawal, after which the U.S. had to scale back drastically its plans for a massive presence of embassies, spies and mercenaries.  The rulers had to face the limits of what the "greatest country in the world" can do--limits set not only by imperial overreach but by the deep global economic crisis. After all, the maintenance of the world's most colossal military machine--more than half of world military spending--places a huge burden on the economy, which cannot go on forever in the face of stagnation.
B. Economy and ecology
The Great Recession, officially declared over in 2009, lingers on in the impoverishment of millions, with Black America hardest hit, even as corporations rake in record profits. In March unemployment was officially 8.2%--for Blacks, 14.0%, double that of whites. Those figures would be higher if they included involuntary part-timers and "discouraged workers." Just 14.7% of Black teens had jobs. The national poverty rate had risen to 15.1%, and nearly twice that for Blacks and Hispanics.
The recession, and especially predatory loans followed by predatory foreclosures, destroyed decades of slow erosion of racial economic inequality. Net worth of Black households plummeted to less than what it was in 1984, leaving average wealth of Black households at just 5% of that of whites.
In the last four years, there have been nearly 13 million foreclosure filings, with many more projected for several years to come. State and local legislatures stepped up to the challenge of growing homelessness by further criminalizing homeless people. San Francisco passed an ordinance against sitting or lying on the sidewalk. Memphis gave official blessing to police harassment by creating "No-Panhandling Zones" in the downtown area. As always, capitalist democracy operates in the spirit articulated by Anatole France in 1894:
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."
Across the Atlantic, capitalism's decay is seen in Europe's barbaric austerity programs, especially in Greece--and in the revolts against these conditions. What Greeks are calling the dictatorship of European capital, with Germany in the lead, has forced on their country an austerity program that includes firing one-fifth of public employees, cutting the minimum wage by 22%, and slashing pensions. Those are only highlights of the latest round of austerity, imposed at a time when youth unemployment is near 50%, the suicide rate has shot up, stores are closing in droves, and many people who still have jobs have not been paid in months.
No economic recovery for Greece is envisioned by the European Union plan, but only a bailout of international financial capital and a desperate attempt to stop the crisis from enveloping all of Europe. Some European leaders are calling for debt repayment to be the absolute priority for Greece's treasury, even before such necessities as wages, healthcare, and food provision. Greeks have been fighting back with general strikes, huge demonstrations in cities all across the country, and occupations, which have moved from Syntagma Square in Athens to neighborhoods. (See "'We Are All Greeks,'" March-April 2012 N&L.) At the same time, the economic crisis and disintegrative forces in the European Union have created openings for outright fascism. Not only is the neo-Nazi "Golden Dawn" gaining popularity in Greece, the fascist LAOS party was briefly part of the government, and even the Socialist Party is scapegoating immigrants.
Revolt is Europe-wide. In Spain, where unemployment is even higher than in Greece, millions went on general strike on March 29 on the eve of a new round of austerity. Many strike participants have been involved in the activities of the indignados, whose occupation of Madrid's Puerta del Sol drew from Tahrir Square in Egypt and helped inspire Occupy Wall Street. Though the occupation ended last June, the movement continues. Spain, which has plunged back into recession, has experienced a surge of eviction blockades and protests over the past year, including a wave of solidarity protests after a high school walkout was attacked by police in February. 
Many left as well as mainstream economists point to "economic growth" rather than austerity as what is needed to address the crisis of joblessness. One of the extremely serious contradictions that entails is the environmental fallout from capitalist growth. The more the economy grows, the more it degrades the planet, through pollution, squandering of natural resources, or direct destruction of ecosystems that are turned into plantations, pastures, mines, roads or cities.
Consider how this plays out in ongoing climate change, or rather climate chaos. More than 42 million people in Asia have been displaced by climate-related disasters in the last two years.  All the big carbon-emitting countries have failed to rein in their greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, production keeps growing and, with it, so do energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. Europe's numbers look best, but that is a mirage because so much of its industrial production has been shifted to China, only to be shipped back to Europe, generating even more emissions. Much-touted biofuels are often produced by transforming forests into industrial plantations, displacing indigenous peoples and canceling out emission savings because of the destruction of trees.
In the U.S. politicians are afraid even to mouth the phrase "climate change," except to deny its reality. The substitute formulas touted by the administration--"investing in technology," "all of the above," and "energy independence"--resolve in practice to using more renewable energy and burning more fossil fuels.
In short, there is an insuperable contradiction between capitalist economy, whether in or out of crisis, and the environmental conditions necessary to sustain human civilization.
Even so mainstream a group as the intergovernmental Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned in March about "alarming" prospects of "irreversible changes that could endanger two centuries of rising living standards" due to climate change and other factors such as species extinctions and freshwater depletion. 
Last year's famine in the Horn of Africa reveals what it means in human terms. The starving children displayed on newscasts, the tens of thousands of deaths, and the flight of nearly one million Somalis to other countries, were not just products of climate change--let alone of just "nature"--but of the way the crumbling global capitalist order is responding to climate change.  Today, the UN warns that looming famine threatens 15 million people in West Africa.
Across the planet, and especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and small island states threatened by rising seas, the struggle to deal rationally with climate change is spreading--and it involves confronting what are the social foundations of its continued exacerbation. While a number of observers have connected food riots and rebellions in Africa to climate change, they cannot be reduced to one factor.
Asked about views of the Arab Spring in Sub-Saharan Africa, a Senegalese told N&L: "The revolutionary spirit is very much alive and all are wondering if they can make it happen in their own countries."
That is seen in what happened to 45 Zimbabweans. Just for watching and discussing a video on the Arab Spring in Feb. 2011, they were thrown in jail, tortured, and accused of treason, which allows a death sentence. International solidarity made the state drop charges on all but six, who were given suspended sentences. On the day of sentencing, hundreds of supporters of the defendants packed the courtroom or protested outside.
"The commodity form of the products of labor became a fetish because of the perverse relationship of subject to object--of living labor to dead capital. Relations between men appear as the relation between things because in our alienated society that is all 'they really are.' Dead capital is the master of living labor. The fetishism of commodities is the opiate that, to use a Hegelian expression, passes itself off as 'the very nature of the mind' to all except the proletariat who daily suffer from the domination of dead labor, the stranglehold of the machine. Therefore, concludes Marx, no one can strip the fetishism from the commodities except freely associated labor." -- Raya Dunayevskaya, "Marx's Humanism Today" 
The accelerating plunge to climate chaos, the never-ending unemployment and austerity, the domination of politics by a small elite, the worldwide struggles to reverse these conditions, all point to the urgent need to uproot capitalism.
While that task can only be accomplished by masses in motion, history shows that revolutions cannot succeed without being grounded in a philosophy of revolution. Even when the old regime has been overthrown, let alone when that has only been halfway achieved, the relations and ideas of the old order find ways of rearing their heads--not only through the economic and military power of the old, but from the contradictions within the revolution.
We saw earlier that tendencies in Egypt have been pushing in opposite directions. Will the move toward democracy be a stepping stone for mass self-activity toward greater freedom, or will it be confined, as the capitalists and their representatives wish, to a form without real content?
The latter tendency knows how to take advantage of the wish to be "non-ideological." Especially at the beginning of the struggle, given the pressing need for masses to unite in opposition to Mubarak's regime, ideas about what should happen after the revolution, beyond "democracy," took a back seat in the name of unity against the dictatorship. But ideology was still very much present. What was not banished was the ideology that does not seem like ideology because it flows from everyday life: what Karl Marx termed the fetishism of commodities. The most basic unfree relations seem natural and inescapable because, in capitalism, people are treated as things and things rule. The alienation of workers from their own activity--expressed as the value-form--appears to have no alternative. Liberty is confined to the political sphere, and the economy appears to have a will of its own that cannot be controlled.
Self-activity is at the heart of Karl Marx's philosophy, which opposes the fetishism of commodities and grasps its absolute opposite, freely associated labor, as what is needed to transcend it. At the same time, today's struggles demand recognizing that multiple subjects of revolution are confronting multiple dimensions of alienation. The full development of these concepts in Marx's philosophy of revolution in permanence is projected in our forthcoming book of selected writings by Raya Dunayevskaya on Karl Marx.
Her Marxist-Humanism saw in Marx's analysis of fetishism both the ideology and the reality of the value form as the domination of dead labor over living labor, and in addition its absolute opposite, the future in the present.
While the occupation of Tahrir Square did not match the Paris Commune of 1871 in transforming relationships in the workplace, what Marx wrote of the Commune applies: what was greatest was its own working existence. As Dunayevskaya wrote in "Marx's Humanism Today,"  the total reorganization of society embodied in the Commune shed light on the form of value and its impact on thought.
The value of a commodity is determined by the labor objectified in it. The fact that labor appears to be a characteristic of the commodity, a thing, reflects how the capitalist labor process turns the worker, living labor, into a thing, an appendage to the machine. This dehumanization is the expression of a system of production and social relationships where dead labor dominates living labor. Dunayevskaya shows how Marx's theory probes all of this as both alienated labor and as revealing what is needed to negate alienation and achieve a whole new human dimension through freely associated labor:
"Marx created special economic categories not only to expound his theory of value and surplus-value, but also to show how degraded human relations were at the point of production itself. By splitting the category of labor into labor as activity and labor power as a commodity--as if the laborer could indeed disjoint his hands from his body and have them retain their function--Marx was able to show that, since labor power cannot be so disembodied, it is the laborer himself who enters the factory. And in the factory, continues Marx, the laborer's ability becomes a mere appendage to a machine and his concrete labor is reduced to a mass of congealed, abstract labor." 
That reified reality is precisely why ideology appears non-ideological:
"Under capitalistic conditions of production, philosophy had been reduced to an ideology, i.e., false consciousness. The categories of thought proper to capitalistic production were uncritically accepted by all. . ..The fetishism of commodities is the opiate that, to use a Hegelian expression, passes itself off as 'the very nature of the mind' to all except the proletariat who daily suffer from the domination of dead labor, the stranglehold of the machine. Therefore, concludes Marx, no one can strip the fetishism from the commodities except freely associated labor." 
To truly cut through ideology requires, not putting off discussion of ideas about how deep social change needs to be, but actually getting to the root of the social relationships from which false consciousness emanates, and listening to the voices of the Subjects of revolution, the workers, the women, the youth, the national minorities. As Dunayevskaya shows in this essay, Marx transformed his economic theory, as well as his concept of what theory is, under the impact of the workers' movement for a shorter working day after the Civil War, and his theory of fetishism was deepened by the Paris Commune.
Crucially, Dunayevskaya's comprehension of fetishism goes beyond where most other theoreticians stop. The theory of fetishism encompasses not only first negation, what we must oppose, but second negation, what is needed to create the new--specifically, freely associated labor as what is needed to abrogate the law of value, strip the fetishism from labor's product, and establish freedom. This is one way the new book will illuminate the significance of grasping Marx's body of ideas as a philosophy of revolution in permanence.
The contradictions being suffered by the current revolutions and movements are again showing what an urgent practical matter it is to be armed with a philosophy of revolution in permanence--based on a vision of total uprooting, knowing that the overthrow of the old is only the first act of revolution. Such a vision is needed to continue revolution's self-development until a totally new social order is established.
We will prepare ourselves for the publication of the collection of Selected Writings by Raya Dunayevskaya on Marx. In all kinds of activities, we will work out concretely how it will be part of our participation in the freedom movements and today's battle of ideas.
We will bring the new pamphlet of Marxist-Humanist Writings on the Middle East into anti-war and solidarity actions, international correspondence and theoretical explorations, as an avenue for releasing the power of philosophy as a force of revolution.
We will continue News & Letters, the only Marxist-Humanist journal in the world, as a print publication and on our website. That work will involve creatively eliciting the new voices from movements like Occupy Wall Street and revolutions like those of the Arab Spring. Just as importantly, it will involve new theoretical-philosophical essays as part of concretely working out the previous two tasks.
We will develop new discoveries of Marxist-Humanism and the writings of Raya Dunayevskaya--through our redesigned website, our newspaper, our activity in meetings and protests, or other avenues--into new relationships with the Marxist-Humanist body of ideas and News and Letters Committees as the organization grounded in them.
Membership growth remains an urgent task to make possible carrying out our perspectives on the way to revolution and the creation of a new world on truly human foundations. Dialectics of Organization and Philosophy, which involves the integrality of organization of thought with organization of living revolutionaries, remains abstract if it becomes separated from organizational growth.
--The Resident Editorial Board, April 15, 2012
1. See "Revolution and counter-revolution take world stage," May-June 2011 News & Letters.
2. See "Syrian revolution fights Assad's genocide, world powers watch," March-April 2012 News & Letters.
3. Quoted from "Lebanon: The Test Not Only of the PLO but the Whole Left," by Raya Dunayevskaya, which is included in the new News and Letters pamphlet of Marxist-Humanist Writings on the Middle East.
5. "Lebanon: The Test Not Only of the PLO but the Whole Left."
6. See "Police Violence Against Occupy comes to the Midwest," Occupied Chicago Tribune, April 12, 2012, http://occupiedchicagotribune.org/2012/04/police-violence-against-occupy-comes-to-the-midwest/.
7. Public pressure forced the prosecutor to drop the flagrantly political "terrorism" charges against the activists.
8. "Extreme Poverty in the United States, 1996-2011," National Poverty Center Policy Brief #28, February 2012; http://npc.umich.edu/publications/policy_briefs/brief28/policybrief28.pdf.
10. See "Warehouse workers say abuses are systemic," by Lilly Fowler, March 5, 2012, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46597603/ns/business-us_business/#.T3damNXwCuO.
11. See "ALEC Climate Change Denial Model Bill Passes in Tennessee," by Steve Horn, http://www.desmogblog.com/alec-climate-change-denial-model-bill-passes-tennessee; and "Climate change denial: Attack on the minds of humanity," by Franklin Dmitryev, http://dmitryev.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/239/.
12. Fifty years ago in October 1962, in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy and Khrushchev took the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation. See "Marxist-Humanism vs. the U.S. Blockade of Cuba, the Russian Missile Bases There, Fidel Castro's 'Selective' Party, All Playing with Nuclear Holocaust," Oct. 25, 1962, Political Letter by Raya Dunayevskaya.
13. "Lebanon: The Test Not Only of the PLO but the Whole Left."
14. Our new pamphlet of Marxist-Humanist Writings on the Middle East roots its analysis of counter-revolutionary anti-imperialism in the actual dialectics of revolution and counter-revolution in Iran 1979. Its meaning is obscured today by the rewriting of history as if that had been an "Islamic Revolution," rather than a social revolution with many contradictions that led to its capture by counter-revolutionary Islamists.
15. See Neil Shea, "Afghanistan: A Gathering Menace: Traveling with U.S. Troops Gives Insights into the Recent Massacre," The American Scholar, Spring 2012, http://theamericanscholar.org/a-gathering-menace/.
16. Yet the Pentagon's 2013 budget request includes $2.9 billion for "Iraq activities."
17. See "Spain's general strike is also a day of action for the 99%," by Katharine Ainger, 3/27/2012 Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/mar/27/spain-general-strike-99-per-cent.
18. See the Asian Development Bank's report at http://www.adb.org/publications/addressing-climate-change-and-migration-asia-and-pacific?ref=themes/climate-change/publications.
21. "Marx's Humanism Today," originally published in Erich Fromm's 1965 symposium Socialist Humanism, is included in our forthcoming book of selected writings by Raya Dunayevskaya on Karl Marx.
22. "Marx's Humanism Today" was quoted at the beginning of Part IV. This is one of the pieces that will be in the forthcoming book.
23. Quoted from "Marx's Humanism Today."
24. Quoted from "Marx's Humanism Today."
* * *
* * *
* * *
Subscription for one year $5
Published by News and Letters Committees