From the July-August 2014 issue of News & Letters
RESPONSES TO MARXIST-HUMANIST PERSPECTIVES
The Marxist-Humanist Perspectives (N&L, May-June 2014) give a critical assessment of the polarization between the oppressive forces of capital’s social relations and humanity’s efforts to realize human dignity. It shows humans are not just passive victims of capital. First negation is present—what human beings are against—and second negation—what human beings are for. The mental sediments constitute an emergence of self-organization that bears the fruits of new social relations that can serve as the foundations of a new society. The political and economic degeneracy of capital has forced to the surface a broad-ranging discontent that cannot be assuaged by pompous rhetoric. As the late great Gil Scott-Heron used to sing, “…people are in the street looking for a brighter day.” Will the masses in motion reach a level of cognition that allows them to grasp the significance of Karl Marx’s concept of the permanence of revolution?
Pelican Bay, Calif.
This was my first Convention of News and Letters Committees. All the talks and discussions were clear, to the point, and serious about concretizing the philosophy of Hegel and Marx in the reality of revolution and counter-revolution. People are serious about participating in the struggles for freedom and the battle of ideas, from the Pelican Bay SHU to Syria to Ukraine, and are putting their bodies on the line. Growth is slow, but steady. People are finding in News and Letters and Marxism-Humanism a revolutionary alternative to the chaos of capitalist civilization and the ideological bankruptcy of much of the Left. News and Letters Committees is united on political, philosophical, and organizational matters.
Vladimir Putin’s watershed comment in 2005 was, “The breakup of the USSR was one of our greatest disasters.” The U.S. and NATO spoke of the “peace dividend” but behave in every other way like the cold warriors of yesteryear. Putin’s military foray into the Crimea is a display of aggression out of a position of weakness and decay. To drum up domestic support, Putin chooses to revive Stalin-era patriotic slogans and icons. He’s failed to recognize that the Russian youth may be more in tune with Tahrir Square and Pussy Riot.
The CIA-orchestrated overthrow of the elected representational government of Ukraine—a government no more or less corrupt than the occupation government elected here in America in an election that was no more or less corrupt than Ukraine’s—has succeeded in installing the fascist Svoboda and Right Sector in power. Like the soi-disant revolt in Venezuela, I think the “revolt” in Ukraine is essentially a CIA-orchestrated coup using neo-Nazi, right-wing forces in order to disrupt markets—in this case, the flow of Russian gas and oil to markets in Western Europe. Like in Iraq, it’s only necessary to disrupt the flow of oil in order to drive up the price, reap massive profits and open up access to new markets. It’s no surprise this is happening in Ukraine now, when the U.S. has such a glut of natural gas and oil that there is little or no return on Big Oil’s investment to be had from domestic sales. Thanks for an informative newspaper, albeit one I don’t always agree with.
A clear view of events in Ukraine requires focusing on the struggles from below that pushed out President Yanukovych. A great swath of the Left has terminally confused itself by taking Putin’s ground and subsuming those struggles under the new Kiev government, or even just the right-wing parties in it. Most European far right groups dropped their links with the far right Ukrainian nationalists and got in bed with the anti-Maidan, not to mention with Putin, who is also adored by the U.S. far right. Amazingly, the pro-Putin, Stalin-celebrating revolts in the east, under anti-Semitic leadership and collaborating with the repressive special police, have been declared representative of the working class, or even the seeds of socialist revolution. What the real revolutionary Left in both Ukraine and Russia points out is the need for revolutionary internationalist movements of the working class in both countries.
Gerry Emmett says that Bashar al-Assad was guilty of gassing Syrian civilians. The inspection team said that he was capable of so doing, but there is no sure evidence that it was his government’s action. The opposition forces could have been supplied with such weaponry by the CIA, MI6, or Saudi agencies, or it could have been Mossad’s doing. Would it not have been appropriate to convey that doubt? Assad is a vile despot, but by no means unique. The opposition is dominated by al-Qaeda, the allegedly democratic remnant is dependent on Western powers for its arms, and a sizable chunk of it looks to the Saudi monarchy for leadership. There are genuine rebels trying to survive between these monsters, but given that Western conservative politicians are eager to acclaim this particular revolution, one must assume that there is quite a lot wrong with it.
The voices of actual Syrian revolutionaries were a powerful part of the Perspectives. Presenting what you called “the absolute reality of the idea of freedom as it is born in the heart of struggle” gave a totally different ground from that section of the Left shackled to ideology so overwhelmed by opposition to U.S. imperialism as to lose sight of the actual human forces. When revolution shakes up the old categories of thought, we must not let petrified thinking trap us.
Regarding the Perspectives of 2014-2015, the dialectic, the theories, the idea, is something that we can read about time and again through the archives of N&L and today in Ukraine, Egypt, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria and in the U.S. We are seeing revolutions in practice that are definitive as to the theoretical promise that News and Letters Committees has defined for over half a century. The greatest revolutionary weapon is not a weapon in the traditional sense. Bullets can kill people; a prison can keep a person’s body confined; but neither of those things can destroy or negate “the idea,” “the belief,” “the commitment,” the meaning of our ideas, practices, theories, and the dialectic. As Marxist-Humanists, our goal is to capture the meaning of revolutionary permanence, not only here but throughout the world. Information is power, and power creates change.
Black River Falls, Wisc.
U.S. ISLAND COLONIES
We’ve recently launched a series of Public Service Announcements as part of our efforts to inform our community about the potential impacts of the proposed military buildup where approximately 4,000 acres of our land and sea are at risk of being taken for use as an enormous firing range complex. According to the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, at the selected site, more than 6.7 million bullets will be fired every year. These bullets will disturb pristine coastline, cultural sites and critical recovery habitat. We can’t stop this without your help. Watch the LITEKYAN video http://youtu.be/p9_fNHQKDYU; share the video via social networks; make a donation at http://www.weareguahan.com/your-support/ to help us purchase additional airtime on local channels.
We Are Guåhan
In Mid-Manhattan on Puerto Rican Day, symbols of Puerto Rican pride were everywhere. Clearly, there’s a great deal of cultural pride among the Puerto Ricans in the states. The tragedy is that this pride has not been transformed into a struggle for total freedom and self-determination. Puerto Rico is a nation in chains occupied by a foreign power, the U.S. From where I stand, it is no longer enough to say “Viva Puerto Rico.” The battle cry must be “Viva Puerto Rico Libre!” Independentista!
Supporter of Puerto Rican liberty
HUMANITY IN PRISON
We truly live in a different epoch when tortured prisoners reach out to the world by saying “keep your damn meal,” in order to assert their humanity in relation to each other and to their guards for whom they are not individuals or human, but only either gang members or snitches. This is a lot more profound than any in-depth exposé of the phenomenon of the prison industrial complex. Frontline’s recent “Solitary Nation,” on the routineness of our prison torture system, showed the prisoners as victims, many driven to madness and to do anything, to go to any extreme of self-harm, to get reconnected to another human being. All the more remarkable is the multi-racial group, many of whom I met at Pelican Bay, asserting their humanity against this whole system.
RACISM AND POLICE POWER
New York City just made a $40 million settlement with the five Black men who, as teenagers, were falsely convicted in the 1989 “Central Park Jogger” rape case. Mayor de Blasio pictured it as “righting this injustice.” But the fact that the five were exonerated does not negate the injustice. Not only did they collectively spend 40 years in prison, but the cops, prosecutors, and media went scot-free after faking this case and using it to whip up racist hysteria over “wilding” that helped put in place a generation of racist brutality, of which “stop and frisk” was only part. True justice requires tearing up the roots of this racist-to-the-core society.
Celia Otter died on 1 Jan. 2014. We remember Celia as a thoughtful, active woman who always spoke her mind. Throughout her life, graciously, intelligently, she insisted on speaking truth to power! She had been a lifelong peace activist, anarchist, anti-vivisectionist and humanitarian.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Celia Otter was active in the Ban the Bomb Movement in Britain, taking part in the civil disobedience campaigns against nuclear weapons. She was arrested at Holy Lock during the direct actions there and was also arrested and imprisoned during other protests and sit-downs of the Committee of 100. Indeed, Celia and her husband Laurens Otter spent their “honeymoon” in separate prisons.
Celia Otter was a founding member of the Committee of 100, the Anarchist Federation of Britain, and the Northern Anarchist Network. She was also a member of the Syndicalist Workers’ Federation. Celia was also one of the founders of the Animal Liberation Movement in Britain.
For many years Celia worked as head teacher for a school of maladjusted children. She was known throughout Shropshire as the only “head” who refused to exclude ANY child from the school.
For the anarcho-syndicalist Brian Bamford’s eulogy for Celia Otter and his description of the funeral, go to http://northernvoicesmag.blogspot.com/. For additional information, see the book Serious Politics Begins With The Bomb by Laurens Otter, published in 1985 by Wrekin Libertarians. Copies are available from us.
Syndicalist Action Network
323 Fourth Street, Cloquet, MN 55720-2051