From the March-April 2015 issue of News & Letters
REVOLT AND COUNTER-REVOLUTION, FROM GREECE TO SYRIA
Your online statement “On Greece and Syriza: Against the inhumanity of austerity, we pose the fullness of human liberation!” makes clear how political parties should root political actions not just in tactics and strategies but in a humanist philosophy of liberation. Without that, although they speak “anti-imperialist” language, they are nothing. But as the statement says, the rank-and-file (workers, youth, women, national minorities), whose demands made possible the electoral triumph of Syriza, “are those best-placed to move beyond the failings and blind spots of Tsipras and others who may fall short of asserting human liberation as the ultimate goal. It is they who command our deepest solidarity.”
Your statement on Greece poses serious questions about the revolutionary character of Syriza. I agree with the basic premise that revolutionary forces cannot build a revolutionary movement in alliance with fascists. We should be declaring war on all fascists, driving them out of the political realm forever. Narrow nationalism of whatever sort is the counter-revolution in theory and practice. It is no wonder that the Stalinists and fascists find common ground in Russia today. Ultimately true revolutionary change is impossible via the electoral path. It will be the masses in arms, liquidating the entire bourgeois structure, abolishing the standing army and police, that will carry the revolution to its ultimate victory.
Syriza doesn’t claim to be anti-capitalist. It has a clear mandate to fix capitalism. I am convinced that Tsipras has read Gramsci and Laclau. He is not going to go for unpopular left-wing reforms before he establishes a hegemony and a clear social consensus. That is why the priorities of his government are the renegotiation of the debt and the “social salvation” plan. Nevertheless, the government’s program is the most socially progressive the country has ever seen. Given the circumstances, a coalition with Independent Greeks was the most sensible choice. IG are conservative and nationalist, but they look like progressives compared to Golden Dawn or even New Democracy. They favor reverting unjust reforms, raising the minimum wage, taxing the oligarchy, etc. A real revolutionary change would not rely just on political change, but on a wider shift in consciousness and praxis. What catapulted it to power was the support of the middle classes. Syriza is in this sense conditioned by the individualistic and consumerist expectations of its electoral base. The important thing is that the social movements make use of the opportunities afforded by Syriza’s win, and also avoid the pitfalls. The hot issue right now is demobilization, since all the desire for social change is channeled towards state power. While many of the social struggles of the last few years were about reinstating the “public,” a lot of them were about the “commons.” We should find a space for the latter in the public agenda and find a way to open a dialogue between Syriza’s “return to growth,” top-down, capital-driven program of economic reforms on the one hand, and the commons-based, peer-to-peer, cooperative, autonomous alternatives on the other.
“On Greece and Syriza” is an excellent article. It takes up the inhumanity of austerity programs, which means poor people get poorer, those above poverty sink into it—women, especially single mothers, are hit hardest of all. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany could care less, while the new government in Greece is siding with the people and fighting against European imposition of austerity.
Where do you get legitimate confirmation that President Assad’s government used chemical weapons on civilians in Syria and that Hamas representatives claimed responsibility for Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar (“Israel decimates Gaza as world faces global counter-revolutions,” Sept.-Oct. 2014 N&L)? I do not comprehend how you report that Hamas, a resistance movement to occupation, does not represent the Palestinian people. If you have a direct poll consensus of Palestinian people or a list of statements and signatures of the masses of Palestinians, it would be supportive but in its absence it appears to be speaking for a people that does not seem to be fighting Hamas but rather colonial powers of the Zionist state! Who else is defending Palestinian people to the best of their ability with their lives, not comments? I’m a U.S. New Afrikan prisoner and it’s confusing reading leftist papers in the U.S. while knowing the history of U.S. “intelligence forces” connections and controlling of “media outlets.” Your view is that Hamas is doing more harm than good? I will conclude respectfully for the stance you do take against capitalism and imperialism with your supportive paper. I am grateful for your free solidarity to prisoners.
Editor’s note: Hamas official Salah al-Aruri’s Aug. 20, 2014, claim that the Qassam Brigades of Hamas were responsible for the “heroic operation” of kidnapping the three youths was widely reported. If we went by a poll, we could not say the U.S. government does not represent the masses. Revolutionaries need a deeper, dialectical view, which does not settle for the lesser of two evils. Let’s not ignore the evidence reported in the article you criticize showing how the masses understand that neither Hamas nor the Palestinian Authority is capable of representing their demands, and the meaning of the criticism from the youth often reported in N&L. Why deny reality in order to defend any and every entity claiming to oppose U.S. imperialism? Even Hamas broke with Syria’s Assad, overseer of one of the most brutal prison/torture/genocide systems in the world. The article’s point is that the vision of revolutionary possibility embodied in the actions of masses in motion in the Arab Spring remains a revolutionary force in the world.
“The Syrian Revolution and its philosophy” (Nov.-Dec. 2014 N&L) is a brilliant article. Thank you for the perspective and the aims with which you write.
Workers are under attack in the “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk carved out of East Ukraine with Russia’s help. The Luhansk authorities banned independent unions, first of all the Independent Union of Miners. They threatened the life of its leader, Mykola Koziuberda, who had to flee. Mass media are forbidden even to mention banned organizations. In Donetsk, Ivan Reznichenko of the Independent Miners Trade Union of Ukraine was murdered—by pro-Russian separatists, according to a report. Support the independent unions of Ukraine, in both East and West! Find out more at http://ukrainesolidaritycampaign.org/.
HERE COME THE REFORMERS!
“Chicago teachers’ strike reviewed” (Jan.-Feb. N&L) noted how “reformers” were conducting a relentless battle against fair and equitable education. Every time you hear the word “reform” in a political context, you always know that the poor and disenfranchised are going to suffer the brunt of those “reforms.”
The unprecedented budget cuts that Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to make in human services are nothing but a thinly disguised, calculated attack against the poor, including children, seniors and the disabled. His Republican cronies call him “courageous” for his new budget, but he is a coward of the worst kind. He attacks the most vulnerable while leaving the rich untouched. It is crucially important that we fight back against these cuts, as for some people it is a matter of life or death.
Disability rights activist
What is so transparent, so abhorrent, are folks who are fascinated by saving fetuses. I used to think they all just hate women (and yeah, many of them do, including the women anti’s). But now I think a large chunk of them are just on another planet and so inhuman in general that they delude themselves into believing they are good, that they themselves are humane because they care so much for a not-yet-human. What compassion! While they focus their attention on fetuses, they can easily be pro-war (death), pro-death penalty, anti-welfare, anti-public-education, anti-environment, pro-patriarchy (man as head of household) and still tell themselves they love people and god and are good and moral. Guilt-free. They are really wacked and I wish they’d just stay out of women’s vaginas and lives.
Time and again, women are made the scapegoats for an economy that provides fewer and fewer jobs. Ethel Dunbar wrote in N&L about the women who worked in factories during World War II, when the men were in the armed forces overseas. Those factory jobs empowered the women, despite the racism and alienating capitalist mode of production. As Karl Marx had written nearly a century earlier, factory work brought people together in new ways with a potential for cooperation, a socialization which fueled the growth of workplace unions. But as Dunbar wrote, “as soon as the war ended, all the women were laid off.” Their newly discovered ideas of freedom were not erased, but lay dormant until the Women’s Liberation Movement exploded in the 1960s.
Marissa Alexander (see “Stopping violence,” Nov.-Dec. 2014 N&L) is out of jail on two years’ house arrest in a plea deal. Judge James Daniels overturned her first conviction, citing that the instructions the jury had been given were wrong. For a few moments in November it looked like she might have to return to prison because she violated her detention by running some errands. Her correctional service counselor erroneously thought the errands—for buying clothes and going to the bank—were within the scope of her detention. Judge Daniels ruled that Alexander committed no willful violation.
On a windy night, 28 degrees, 100+ students at Rhodes, a small college in Memphis, Tenn., held a candlelight vigil for the young Muslims murdered in Chapel Hill, N.C.: Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammed Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. The media coverage has been disappointing, double standards glaring, but the words of the students and the attendance that night were heartening.