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Monday, December 31, 2012


For a student of Marxist political economy, one of the last year’s highlights was the seven-part discussion of the global economic crisis, its causes, and consequences which was featured in Socialist Voice, the excellent monthly publication of the Communist Party of Ireland. Beginning in January with the review of a book on the crisis, two interlocutors—identified as NC and NL-- surveyed the landscape of radical and Marxist explanations of economic crises and their meaning for the working class movement.

Several features of the discussion were remarkable.

First, the discussion was conducted in a comradely and respectful manner. Much of the academic “Marxist” dialogue is about scoring points and splitting hairs. The SV exchange, on the other hand, sought to construct and unify.

Second, the articles were free of jargon and pretension. Too often self-styled Marxist economists feel compelled to package their views in fashionable or “sophisticated” language to create an aura of profundity.

Third, the dialogue owes little to bourgeois economics. Outside of a few distinguished Marxists like Maurice Dobb, Ronald Meek, and Victor Perlo, in the English-speaking world, training in mainstream bourgeois economics has been more of a hindrance than a help in grasping and advancing Marxism. Likewise, formalism—the fetish of mathematical and logical constructs-- has elevated issues like the so-called transformation problem or the “Okishio Theorem” to center stage at the expense of pursuing and elaborating the insights of Marx, Engels, and their successors. In most cases, the formalists and academicians would be well advised to return to a study of the opening chapters of Capital, an exercise that would render much of their exercises pettifoggery.

The Socialist Voice contributions cover briefly, but clearly and seriously, the theories of crisis ranging from the tendency-of-the-falling-rate-of-profit through underconsumptionism, stagnation, long cycles, and the general crisis of capitalism. They draw on a diverse group of theorists from Andrew Kliman and the Monthly Review adherents through Nikolai Kondratiev and Hans Heinz Holz.

The articles are to be found in the January, April, May, June, October, November, and December issues of Socialist Voice or online at:

I urge everyone interested in Marxist political economy to read them. Hopefully, this discussion will generate further research and debate over the many issues addressed. Developing a clear and full Marxist account of the current crisis is a work in progress. My own thoughts, offered in the same comradely spirit, are below:

1. Capitalist economic crises are of two types: cyclical and systemic. In the course of capitalist economic activity, imbalances occur between various departments of production, between suppliers and producers, between production and consumption, etc. These imbalances result in slumps or slowdowns in productive activity. Bourgeois economists refer to these as “business cycle” events, meaning that they are cyclical or self-correcting; recovery is on the horizon, perhaps the distant horizon, but on the horizon. Generally, bourgeois politicians apply conventional nostrums—interest rate adjustments, state spending, incentives or inducements—to adjust these cycles to their political ends. Even though these are episodic events, the ensuing damage generally falls on the backs of working people.

2. Systemic crises, on the other hand, are reflective of deep contradictions inherent in the capitalist system. As such, they are not subject to either patience or the usual menu of remedies. Capitalism, like a perpetual motion machine, violates the laws of nature. A system cannot continue forever that depends upon increasing complex social interactions while awarding the riches produced by those interactions to a few who are dissociated from the same social processes. In the long run, the accumulation of private, concentrated wealth tends to choke off the further accumulation of that wealth.

3. Systemic crises do not pass, but are temporarily suppressed or resolved through transformative change. That is, policy makers may blunt or postpone the harshest consequences of systemic crises, but eventually systemic changes are necessitated to exit the crisis. For example, despite New Deal boasts about resolving the Great Depression in the US, the Depression’s demise only came with the vast systemic changes that accompanied a world war— socialist-like economic planning, organization, investment, and production in war supplies and the massive destruction of material assets. In our time, the full impact of the 2001 technology crisis was suppressed only to exacerbate the 2008 crisis. The underlying dynamics of capitalist crisis remained, and still remain. 

4. Systemic crises are, in the final analysis, crises of accumulation. What cripples the mechanism of capitalism most decisively is the inability to generate sufficient profit. Conversely, those factors which restrain the growth of accumulation-- retard the rate of profit-- largely account for systemic crises. Thus, broadly speaking, crises are caused by a tendency within the system for the rate of profit to fall.

5. Basing systemic crisis on failing accumulation and not imbalances or unrealized consumption has the following political consequence: it cannot be overcome with liberal or social democratic panaceas. Wealth redistribution, public sector jobs programs, social insurance etc. will not directly restore profitability unless these programs are actually subterfuges for surplus transfer. Only the restoration of profit growth will stabilize the economy. We saw this in the US after mid-2009 when profits rebounded sharply (generated by intensified exploitation!). But even then earnings began to recede again by mid-2012. Thus, for the working class, the choice is really only between helping the capitalists restore profit or working to eliminate the capitalist system!

6. Paradoxically, the crisis exists because the accumulation process is overwhelmed by the huge pool of surplus in the hands of the few, the owners of the means of production, distribution, service, and finance. Just as before the Great Depression, investment opportunities in productive activities are outstripped by the sheer weight of accumulated surplus. The rate, as well as the expected rate, of profit sinks against the aggregate capital held by corporations, banks, and the rich.  They turn to speculation in scarce resources, property and financial schemes, the ever-active “hunt for yield.” And they take on debt which amplifies the folly of this ceaseless search for a return on available capital.

7. The systemic crisis should not be understood as foretelling an ultimate breakdown of the system. Henryk Grossmann’s pioneering work on Marx’s tendency of the falling rate of profit—because of its strict logical exposition—mistakenly led some to believe that capitalism would implode by its own logic. Similarly, academic Marxists divorced from the working class movement lean heavily on projected stagnation to force the departure of capitalism from the world stage. But capitalism always has extreme measures to fall back on for its self-preservation: a re-shuffling of the cards through war, forced-march capitalism through fascism, and many forms of direct and indirect enslavement. The only escape from capitalism is through the efforts of the most advanced, organized elements of the working class armed with an understanding of capitalism. 


1. The theorists at Monthly Review are correct to persistently point to the never-ending concentration of capital into fewer and fewer hands as evidence for the rise of monopoly capital. Mergers and acquisitions, bankruptcies, and integration ensure that leading corporations grow stronger and fewer. At the same time, they understate the resiliency of capitalism to create and re-create new arenas of competition. Frederick Engels stated it well in the very first Marxist tract on political economy (Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy): “Competition is based on self-interest, and self-interest in turn breeds monopoly. In short, competition passes over into monopoly. On the other hand, monopoly cannot stem the tide of competition—indeed, it itself breeds competition…” It is this seemingly small point that eludes the “Monopoly Capital” (MC) school associated with Monthly Review.

2. Even in a hugely capital-intensive industry and a paragon of monopoly like automobile production, competition persists with new producers entering the industry through new technologies (e.g., electric cars) or national initiatives (Japan, Korea, and today China and India). While price competition persists (contrary to the MC school), competition is also expressed through technological features, fuel consumption, performance, warranty protection, and a host of other differences. Moreover, these differences are based in the techniques of production and costs of production and not merely sloughed away as “the sales effort” as Sweezy and Baran do in Monopoly Capital. They equally sidestep the competition between old and new, mainstream and alternate industries.

3. Despite the persistent concentration of capital, competition among capitalists and the thirst for a return on capital stocks will always steer the system towards systemic crisis.

4. Of greater use to the working class movement is the theory of state-monopoly-capitalism. While monopolization may bend, but not break the logic of capitalism, enormous monopoly corporations have succeeded in merging their interests with the functions of the state. The enormous power and reach of monopoly enterprises have commandeered all organs of the state and harnessed the state’s actions to the promoting of capital accumulation. While the theory of state-monopoly-capitalism has been dismissed in left circles since the demise of European socialism, the priority by the state given to the US/European bank bailouts surely underscores its validity and makes the critics pause to reconsider. The theory is an essential tool for understanding the behavior of EU and US policy-makers through the course of the crisis.


1. “Financialization” is an unfortunate term—fashionable, but adding little light to our understanding. The growing role of finance has been noted since before the time of Lenin. The process culminated in finance accounting for over 40% of corporate profits in the US by the early twenty-first century—in part by its increasing absorption of stampeding surplus and in part by the decline and departure of manufacturing that formerly accounted for a far greater share of US profits.

2. Unquestionably finance took on a leading role in the US, the UK, and a few other advanced capitalist countries with the creation of a vast new pool of low-wage workers available to manufacturing after the destruction of Eastern European socialism, its socialist-oriented allies and the PRC’s opening to global markets. This reflected the new national division of labor in the global economy— manufacturing and export in the East and South and finance, management, and services in the West and North.

3. As the leading financial center, the US became the Mecca for those with pockets overflowing with cash and fewer investment opportunities in an era of low interest rates and cheap money.

4. Unlike in the world of commodity production where value is produced in real time, finance offers opportunities to appropriate future value through contractual instruments like mortgages, bonds, futures, and, in our era, even more exotic creations. These instruments trade in future value, hence challenging capitalism to find even more marginal investment opportunities to absorb surplus and potential surplus.

5. Debt—the offspring of easy credit and low interest rates—serves as an amplifier of financial investment, the critical bridge to ever-more reckless speculation. Thus, finance served up its many “innovations” designed to absorb the ocean of surplus accumulated over decades and in search of another round of accumulation in an environment of diminishing returns. In this manner, the tendency for accumulation to retard its own re-production found its expression in the financial crisis that broke out in the US in 2007-2008.      


1. Wave theory-- the notion that economic activity exhibits a wave-like trajectory from boom to bust and back to boom again—enjoys an almost mystical, spiritual attraction for many. Associated with the views of Nikolai Kondratiev in Marxist circles, the theory of a regular, periodic wave—long or short—is flawed for two distinct, but fatal reasons.

2. From an empirical perspective, it is impossible to settle on those features of economic history that are decisive in expressing the upturns and downturns of regular cycles. That is to say, the dependent variables are illusive and hazy. Moreover, when they are clearly stipulated—GDP, labor productivity, profits, etc—no incontrovertible pattern is revealed. Instead, only intuitive patterns are seen by those already disposed to see them.

3. From a theoretical point of view, there is no candidate for an independent variable that demonstrates a consistent and regular wave-like behavior throughout economic history (or the history of capitalism). Neither technological innovation, cultural or demographic change, nor any other candidate for the cause of cycles exhibits the kind of wave-like nature that would account for regular, periodic waves in the historic record. And where we find wave-like motion in nature (eg. Lunar cycles), there is no obvious causal connection with economic life.

4. In short, long cycles are impossible to discern without appealing to Rorschach-like impressionism and impossible to explain without assuming what it sets out to illustrate. When you want to see a face on the moon, you’ll see one.

5. We owe a great debt to Hans Heinz Holz, the late German Marxist philosopher, who brought new life to the long-standing Communist concept of the General Crisis of Capitalism (GCC). As Holz points out, Soviet social science mechanically and empirically attached the GCC to the historical stages ushered in by the Bolshevik revolution and the Second World War. This was a misleading interpretation dissolved by the setbacks to socialism.

6. Holz is correct in rehabilitating the GCC as a truly general crisis generated by capitalism’s internal mechanisms independently of important, but external events. He is correct to conceive of the GCC as a total crisis, not limited to the economic sphere but including social life, culture, ideology, and all other human relations.

7. Thus the GCC is not a theory of economic crisis. Instead, the systemic crisis of capitalism is one element—one causal element-- in the General Crisis of Capitalism.

8. Much more work needs to be done in developing a full theory of the GCC with its consequences in every aspect of everyday life.

Zoltan Zigedy

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It’s Back!!!

Red-baiting lives!

Actually it never waned. Like most evils, it lurks in the shadows and under rocks until it is called on again to serve the rich and powerful. Like racism, red-baiting is a tool of division and distraction. It is designed to separate those who are weak or wavering from those determined to change a malignant political and social system. Red-baiting harnesses fear to tarnish those seeking social justice. Red-baiters sow cynicism, dampen ardor, nurture doubts and dissolve unity.

A renewed and virulent strain of anti-Communism has surfaced in the US, stretching from the imbecilic film Red Dawn to the rabid media bashing of Oliver Stone’s ten-part television series, The Untold History of the United States.

Red Dawn, currently showing in hundreds of theaters, has grossed over $31 million in revenue through December 2. Based on a moronic plot of an invasion of the Pacific Northwest by troops of the Peoples’ Democratic Republic of Korea, the movie postures young patriots as forging a resistance movement against their Asian aggressors. Only in Hollywood could writers craft a plot that features a relatively poor country of twenty-five million people mounting a naked, distant aggression against the most economically powerful country in history with well over ten times the population. What next, an invasion of the Southwest from Nicaragua?

Oh, sorry, that movie was made in 1984! Actually, the current Red Dawn, found its dubious inspiration in the Reagan-era movie with the same title and an equally virulent commitment to red-baiting. We have John Milius, and his equally demented Hollywood colleagues, to thank for the fear-mongering of Red Dawn I.  Screenwriter/Director Milius bears responsibility for such stupid --though less politically dishonest – movies like Magnum Force and Conan, the Barbarian. But where those movies only enshrined ugly politics and employed right-wing icons, Red Dawn I advanced the political agenda of US imperialism and crudely served to prod domestic reaction. At a time when the struggle for international peace and détente was at a critical juncture, the film was heartily welcomed by opponents of rapprochement.

Today, Red Dawn II emerges not as a counterforce to the left, but as a pre-emption of a feared rising of the left. Even with most of the US left’s leaders chained to the Democratic Party or mired in opportunism, the rich, the powerful, and their minions recognize that the profoundly wounded economy and the dysfunctional political system provide both the seeds and fertile soil for a powerful peoples’ movement. And they hope to pollute it with red-baiting before any sprouts arise. Even with its crude, wildly implausible plot, Red Dawn II is meant to discredit any “red” or even “pink” movement before it matures.

Likewise, Oliver Stone’s new TV series on Showtime has been met with furious bashing on the part of the professional anti-Communist toadies of the mainstream media. Setting out to correct the “official” high school civics class histories of the Cold War period, Stone and his historian collaborator, Peter Kuznick, produced a ten-part serial that challenges knee-jerk anti-Communism and seeks to balance the slanders of Cold Warriors. The Untold History of the United States proposes a counter history, an account built around a number of “what ifs…” that chart a different historical trajectory absent a rapacious and predatory military-industrial complex and a destructive CIA.

Of course this does not set well with the rabid guardians of the anti-red canon. As Peter Kuznick chronicles in a recent appeal to Historians Against the War, the red-baiters are out in force.

Ronald Radosh – famous for crafting a career from equating Reds or “fellow travelers” with NKVD or MVD agents—makes an astonishing leap to connect Stone and Kuznick to the long-departed Soviet security agencies. He claims to detect similarities just short of plagiarism (leaving his claim just short of libelous) between The Untold History and a book by the late Carl Marzani, We Can Be Friends. To square his circle, Radosh proffers that Marzani “…told this very story in We Can Be Friends. A secret member of the American Communist party who had worked during the war in the OSS, Marzani later was proved by evidence from Soviet archives and Venona decryptions to have been a KGB (then the NKVD) operative. His book was published privately by his own Soviet-subsidized firm. It was the first example of what came to be called “Cold War revisionism.”

Thus, by association—a favorite tactic of red-baiters—Stone/Kuznick becomes linked to the KGB through the alleged operative, Carl Marzani. Others have shown how fast and loose Radosh has toyed with the charges of “operative” or “agent” based on the thin evidence of “association.” But Marzani’s “secret” or open identification with Communism in 1952 is of no relevance to the truth conveyed by We Can Be Friends or The Untold History. Marzani argues for the following:

The next step to peace is to sit down around a conference table and negotiate. Negotiations, it should be emphasized, do not require friendship. Negotiators can sit down unsmiling and bargain grimly, yet both sides are aware that a settlement must be reached. (p.369)
If Marzani’s simple, but sane formula for improving US/Soviet relations was inspired by the NKVD, then credit to the NKVD!

We Can Be Friends was published by Topical Book Publishers. For those Reds with something to say in 1952, self-publication was often the only route. In the teeth of McCarthyite repression, leftists could not get mainstream publishers to even consider their manuscripts. Outside of the exceptional renegade publishers like Cameron and Associates, left-wing authors were forced to turn to funding a few hundred copies, as did Howard Fast with his now celebrated historical novel, Spartacus. The dark ages of the 1950s were certainly made brighter, if it was necessary for the NKVD to subsidize these fine books!

The quality of Radosh’s scholarship can be judged by his emphatic claim that We Can Be Friends “…was the first example of what came to be called ‘Cold War revisionism.’” A casual glance at my tattered old copy reveals a bibliography that cites earlier writers like Frederick L. Schuman and I. F. Stone who decisively rejected the Cold War canon well before Marzani’s book arrived on the scene.

Following Radosh’s lead, other rabid anti-Communists like Michael Moynihan joined the fray in attacking Stone and Kuznick. And to its shame, The New York Times unleashed its slime merchant hireling, Andrew Goldman, to mount a bizarre ad hominem against Oliver Stone. Goldman had just served his four-week suspension for publicly inquiring of two female interlocutors whether they had slept their way to the top of their professions. Sadly, this attack well represented the level of integrity shown by most of these ruling class courtiers.

To these professional red-baiters must be added the host of professors who peddle lurid books on the “Evil Empire.” Most active is Anne Applebaum, journalist turned academic, who authors books portraying the Soviet and socialist Eastern European experience as wholly oppressive and thoroughly unpopular. Her current book, Iron Curtain, enjoys wide circulation and copious publicity from the corporate media. Applebaum’s ideological bias (her husband is Minister of Foreign Affairs in the ultra-nationalist Polish government) and selective scholarship are seldom challenged by her colleagues.

Applebaum’s work indirectly suggests that Soviet “evil” is on a par with Nazi evil or, as she and her ilk crudely put it, “Stalin’s crimes were the same or worse than Hitler’s crimes.” Yale professor, Timothy Snyder, shares no such hesitation. His popular book, Badlands, boldly embraces the equation of Hitler and Stalin. Indeed, his current career seems based upon his widely speculative, broadly calculated, and poorly evidenced victim calculation. For Snyder, there would seem to be no natural deaths in the Soviet Union or socialist Eastern Europe. In his energetic counting, victims of the Warsaw insurrection in 1944, urged by the Polish government-in-exile to rise, arguably belong on the Soviet side of the ledger since the Red Army didn’t rescue them. Of course the victims of natural famines are also laid at the Soviet doorstep. Snyder pursues his head counting with an almost perverse determination and a theological certainty.

The revival of open and widespread red-baiting is ignored by liberals at their own peril. Like the inquisitions of old, the immediate object may be the dissidents, the ideological deviants, but the real design is to terrorize the majority into submission and conformity. In the US, anti-Communism and its counterpart, racism, directly target ideological and ethnic minorities, but prove to be of even greater use in fracturing, distracting, and deluding the majority. Rampant racism and rabid anti-Communism serve the rich and powerful well by closing avenues to unity and social justice. Surely the red-baiting charges of “socialism” leveled at right-centrist Obama underline this point and send a clear message to liberals of the dangers lurking in accommodating the alarm of “Reds!” 

Zoltan Zigedy

Monday, November 19, 2012

Human Rights or Imperial Partnership?

Amnesty International has a bee under its bonnet.

A human rights advocate, educator, and labor attorney, Dan Kovalik, mustered the audacity to challenge the world’s most prominent and highly regarded rights-based advocacy group. Claiming over three million members since its birth in 1961, AI is the poster child for modern “non-governmental organizations” or NGOs, the hundreds of thousands of hazy entities that play an ever-growing, influential role in international affairs.

Despite AI’s sterling reputation among middle class liberals in the English-speaking world, Kovalik was troubled by AI’s stance on the war in Libya and its role in cheer leading US and NATO involvement. After his October 23 Counterpunch article “Libya and the West’s Human Rights Hypocrisy” appeared, AI launched a counter attack authored by AI official, Sunjeev Bery. Bery’s response circulated widely among the AI-friendly internet community as an example of “getting it wrong” on AI’s principles and goals.

Kovalik demonstrates that he is more than capable of answering Bery in a November 8 Counterpunch response. He shows with even greater clarity how AI helped crack open the door for outside intervention in Libya and, knowingly or unknowingly (it’s hard to imagine how anyone could not know), offered dubious but influential justification for that intervention.

AI and other advocates for a similarly narrow and myopic interpretation of human rights have a long and discreditable history of service to those on the wrong side of the struggle for justice. By ignoring material inequities, power imbalances, and class and ethnic oppressions, they dilute the question of justice to matters of individual conscience and a conservative set of negative rights. That is not to say that these concerns are wrong, but that they touch on only a corner of the concerns of the vast majority of the world’s people. In fact, they loom largest for those least touched by the ravages of predatory capitalism and its military enforcers—those in the most developed countries and those most privileged within its middle and upper strata.

When AI was founded in 1961, much of the world was engaged in an intense struggle for independence from imperialism and neo-colonialism. From Algeria to Vietnam, from the Republic of the Congo to Cuba, from the segregated deep south of the US to South Africa and the Portuguese African colonies, millions of people were committed to resolute battles for self-determination. Under the yoke of the rich and powerful, the peoples of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the ghettos and barrios of the First World were rising against their oppressors. The UN recognized this powerful movement, certified its authenticity, and attested to its legitimacy with the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples that declared the following:  

1. The subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations and is an impediment to the promotion of world peace and co-operation.
2. All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
3. Inadequacy of political, economic, social or educational preparedness should never serve as a pretext for delaying independence.
 4. All armed action or repressive measures of all kinds directed against dependent peoples shall cease in order to enable them to exercise peacefully and freely their right to complete independence, and the integrity of their national territory shall be respected.

Perhaps it was a coincidence, but just as these struggles took center stage, AI chose to take human rights questions in a different direction, away from the rights of subjugated people to the rights of individuals, vetted and dubbed “prisoners of conscience” by the AI establishment. By the mid-sixties, internationally recognized leaders of anti-colonial independence movements like imprisoned Nelson Mandela were ruled out as “prisoners of conscience” because they advocated armed resistance against their oppressors. At the same time, artists, writers, and other dissident intellectuals in the socialist and less developed countries seemed to be the most common candidates for AI’s attention, especially by its US and Western European affiliates.

Whether by collaboration or happenstance, the wrongs targeted by the AI leadership were readily embraced by the major capitalist media and fully congruent with the foreign policy positions of the US and its European Cold War allies. The few reports on alleged Western human rights violations gained no traction, while claims against governments in the East or South played a greater and greater role in Western diplomacy and intervention. Even AI’s founder, Peter Benenson, expressed concerns in the mid-sixties that the organization was unduly influenced by British intelligence.

In the Cold War battle of ideas, AI proved to be a great asset to the US and its allies, crafting issues that became pillars of policy and levers of negotiation. The narrow interpretation of the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference of 1975—an interpretation that elevated Article Seven over the other nine Articles and all other provisions—marked the most important collaborative victory of Western human rights organizations and Western governments in the Cold War. Most rights and social justice activists in Amnesty International’s areas of influence would be hard pressed to identify any other provision beyond the endorsement of an indistinct freedom of conscience.

Especially Article Six, the principle of non-intervention in the affairs of other governments, was neither acknowledged nor respected by Western rights groups or governments. Constructing their efforts around Article Seven, capitalist governments mounted a massive human rights offensive against socialist and anti-imperialist countries, overshadowing the national liberation, anti-nuclear, and anti-war movements of gravest concern to most of the less affluent world at that moment. Much of the credit for shaping this agenda can be laid at the doorstep of the human rights organizations. Their narrow, facile approach to social justice baited them into a calculated campaign against the tide of socialism so apparent in the mid-seventies.

Of course the positive rights of equality, education, leisure, shelter, peace, etc. were swept aside as well before the celebration of individuality and self-expression—what Marx called “…the rights of egoistic man, of man separated from other men and from the community.”

After the Cold War

With the demise of the European socialist community and the establishment of a new balance of power favorable to Western capitalist powers, imperialism further co-opted the human rights cause, contorting it into a justification for wars of aggression. With no one to advocate or enforce the rights of nations to self-determination, the US and its NATO allies cynically crafted a predatory foreign policy around protecting or promoting human rights and democracy, a policy used to justify overt armed intervention in the Balkans and the Middle East and covertly in dozens of other countries. And the Western human rights community said nothing.

Emboldened by the efficacy of the human rights cover, the US and its allies sponsored hundreds of “human rights” and “democracy” NGOs claiming to promote higher values while subverting governments hostile to US and NATO goals. Funded by USAID and other government agencies and carrying innocuous names like “Republican” and “Democratic” Institutes, they meddle in elections, foment coups, and manipulate oppositions in countries like Ukraine, Lebanon, Venezuela, and many others. Slipping into the human rights tent, these organizations exploited the Western regard for individual human rights against the rights guaranteed by the 1960 UN Declaration and other Declarations affirming the right of self-determination. And the Western human rights community said nothing.

If the leading lights in human rights circles—organizations like AI and Human Rights Watch— are to claim any moral legitimacy, they must resolutely dissociate their campaigns from those seeking to use them for predation and aggression. But they have not.

Kovalik and other critics of “humanitarian intervention” and the duplicity of human rights organizations are correct in perceiving an odor of hypocrisy. As Kovalik points out, the “even handedness” espoused by AI in regard to belligerent forces completely obscures ever-present power inequities.

Within the insular bubble of rights-based moral calculation, asymmetries of power, wealth, or development count for nothing. The rural guerrilla in sandals and armed with a rifle must respect the same etiquette of war as the foreign interloper astride a 70-ton tank. In the strange universe of the human rights industry, it doesn’t matter whether a regime’s opponents are paid by the CIA or patriotically motivated; their rights to dissent have equal legitimacy.

And the same respect for human rights is expected of a popular regime (for example, Cuba or Venezuela) under overt and covert threat from powerful foes as is expected of a country (like the US) devoid of any serious external or internal peril. One would think that a serious “human rights” organization would hail the direction of civil rights in countries like Cuba and Venezuela that have improved the health and well being of the disadvantaged in order to fully enjoy rights while condemning a country like the US that has moved dramatically toward a police state. But that is not the case. 

Nor does history extenuate the force of human rights standards as held by Western human rights organizations. Countries emerging from the civil distortions of colonial occupation, suffering the legacy of feudal social and economic relations, or holding to non-Western traditions are held to the same human rights standards by AI as the Euro-American countries that forged those standards over two centuries ago. This lack of understanding and tolerance too often reveals gross cultural and ethnic chauvinism. 

With the US and its NATO allies hijacking its principles, human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have to answer for a lot. While millions of their members honestly want to help those deserving solace, they can no longer ignore the harm that comes from the coalescence of the institutional human rights agenda and the malignant foreign policy of the US and its allies. And the naïve notion that the sins of the victim are no less grave than the sins of the bully is untenable and morally cynical.   

Zoltan Zigedy

Friday, October 26, 2012

Where have All the Profits Gone?

Mid September marked the fourth anniversary of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, widely viewed as the final trigger of the global economic collapse, a shock that remains the dominant factor in global economic life. Friday, October 19 brought a dramatic drop in US equity values, caused, commentators speculate, by dismal reports of US corporate earnings. The most observant of these commentators did not fail to point out that Friday was also the twenty-fifth anniversary of the largest US one-day percentage drop in stock values. The fact that such an anniversary came to mind reflects a general and widespread fear that more economic turbulence is forthcoming.

The growing gloom overshadows the glowing September report of retail sales released earlier in the week. Despite stagnant or slipping incomes, the US consumer turned to the credit card to boost purchases at retail stores, online, and in restaurants. Signs of an improving housing market also fueled optimism.

Opinions change quickly. A week earlier---Tuesday, October 9---the International Monetary Fund released its World Economic Report. While raising fears of a global downturn, the report cut the probability of a US recession by nearly a quarter from its April forecast!

Taken together, the sentiments of the last two weeks demonstrate widespread confusion and uncertainty.

Big Problems, Little Ideas

Most of the conversation about the global economy, about capitalism, is shaped by ideological bias, academic dogma, distorted history and wishful thinking.

The global economy has never “recovered” from the shock of 2008. Nor does it teeter on the edge of another recession. In fact, it is fully in the grip of a profound systemic crisis, a crisis that has no certain conclusion. In this regard, the crisis is very much like its antecedent in the 1930s. The popular picture of The Great Depression as a massive collapse followed by the New Deal recovery is myth. Instead, like our current economic fortunes, it was like climbing a metaphorical grease pole— repeatedly advancing a few feet and then slipping down. Serious students of the Great Depression understand that its “solution” was World War II, with its state-driven, planned, military “socialism.”

Of course war itself is no solution, but the organized, collective, and social effort that capitalism only countenances for violence and aggression is a solution. Similarly, the success of the People’s Republic of China in sidestepping the harsh edges of the 2008 collapse is due to the remaining features of socialism—public ownership of banks, state enterprises, and economic planning. Never mind that much of the PRC leadership hopes to jettison these features, the advantages are there for all to see. Yet few see.

Distorted history begets foolish theory. The two ideological poles that dominate economic discussion—classical liberalism and Keynesianism—both owe their claimed legitimacy to favored, but mistaken views of the source and solution to the Great Depression. While expressions of these poles are found across the political policy spectrum, classical liberalism—often called neo-liberalism—is generally associated with the political right. 

Political liberals and the left, on the other hand, often advocate for the analyses and prescriptions of the school associated with the views of John Maynard Keynes.

Since classical liberalism has been the dominant economic philosophy governing the global economy for many decades, common sense would dictate that, after four years of economic chaos and general immiseration, neo-liberalism would be in disrepute. But thanks to the tenacity of ruling elites and the profound dogmatism of their intellectual lackeys, the market fetish of neo-liberalism still reigns outside of Latin America and a few other outliers. 

But Keynesianism—broadly understood as central government intervention in markets—enjoys a growing advocacy, particularly with liberals, leftists, and, sadly, “Marxists.” Centrist Keynesians advocate intervention in markets from the supply side, most often through credit mechanisms and tax cuts that encourage investment and corporate confidence. Liberal and left interventionists argue for stimulating economic recovery and stability by generating consumption and expanding demand from government-funded projects or government-funded jobs.

The panic of 2008 turned most policy makers toward flirtation with supply-side intervention and generally meager demand-based stimulus, a fact that liberal Keynesians like Paul Krugman are fond of pointing out. Only China adopted a full-blown demand-oriented stimulus program. Yet that tact also brought a host of new contradictions in its wake.

Austerity versus Growth

Pundits like Krugman and politicians like Francois Hollande posture the theoretical divide as one between austerity and growth, a choice between rational growth stimulation and the irrationality of shrinking government spending to reduce debt. In an idealized classless world, this point would be well taken—austerity is an enemy of growth. However, it is naïve and misleading to fantasize such a world.

In our era of global capitalism, the idea of cutting government spending and lowering taxes makes all the sense in the world to the ownership class. The resultant transfer of value counts as a significant element in restoring profit growth and expanding accumulation. In a real sense, the popular and apt anti-austerity slogan-- “we will not pay for your crisis”-- tells only half the story. The other half should be “we will not pay for your recovery.”

In the end, it is profit that determines the success and failure of the capitalist system. Accumulation of economic surplus—the value remaining after the bills are paid--is the engine of capitalism, necessary for its motion and its trajectory. The dramatic drop in the Dow Jones industrial stock averages resulting from poor earnings this past Friday only underscores this point. Those who see consumption as the critical element in growth and recovery should recognize that this loss of momentum is independent of, as well as more decisive than, the September report of strong retail demand. 

The Tendency of the Falling Rate of Profit

The central role of profit, its growth and momentum in understanding capitalism and its recurrent structural crises has been overshadowed, even among most Marxists, by the infection of left thought with Keynes’ crisis theory. Theories of crisis that rest on underconsumption, overproduction, or imbalances reflect this infection and reduce political economy to the study of business cycles and avoidable and terminable economic hiccups—consumption can be expanded, production can be regulated, and balance can be restored. These are the assumptions of social democratic theory and what divides it from revolutionary Marxism.

Marx saw crisis as fundamentally embedded in capitalism’s structure. Processes in the capitalist mode of production unerringly bring on crises. And he locates the most basic of these processes is the mechanism of accumulation, a process that tends to restrain the growth of the rate of profit.

While it is good to see a rebirth of interest in and advocacy of Marx's law of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall, most of its worthy supporters remain needlessly confined to Marx’s expository formulae that serve well in revealing the anatomy of capitalism, but less so in exposing its disorders.

Yet the intuition behind Marx’s law is easily grasped. When unmediated by the encroachment of working class forces, the capitalists’ accumulation of surplus results in the extreme concentration of wealth, a concentration that reduces the opportunities to gather the expected return in the next and each successive cycle. Whether restrained by the physical limitations of workers, the potential length of the work day, diminished return on physical investment, rapacious competition, super-inflated investment reserves, or the myriad other possible forces or factors, the rate of profit is under constant and persistent duress.

Leading up to the 2007 economic slowdown that presaged the 2008 collapse, the enormous pool of capital available for profitable investment was acknowledged by all reporters. Its sheer volume alone depressed interest and profit rates in the face of limited productive investment opportunities. The desperate search for a rate of return drove investors toward riskier and riskier ventures that generated the financial collapse which has been well documented. It was the pressure on profits—an expression of the tendency—that drove the investor class to a lemming-like indulgence in arcane financial wizardry.

The neglect of Marx’s tendential law since the popularity of Keynes and underconsumption/overproduction crisis theories has retarded Marxist and Communist understanding of capitalist crisis while bolstering reformist policies within the Communist movement. Happily, there is a renewed interest in Marx’s law, though a full and satisfactory understanding of its application to and operation within contemporary capitalism is yet to be given.

At any rate, the decline of earnings now emerging in the latest financial news indicates that counter-crisis and counter-tendency measures are now exhausted in the US. Despite the euphoria of rising consumption spending and housing sales, the profit-driven engine of US capitalism is slowing, likely allowing the US economy to drift closer to the whirlpool already drowning the European economies.

Tough times are ahead, but a fertile period to plant the seeds of socialism. 

Zoltan Zigedy   

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hypocrisy, Cynicism, Corruption and the Persecution of the Cuban Five

Toronto, Canada in late September was the setting for a Peoples’ Tribunal established to secure justice for the five Cuban patriots victimized by the US criminal justice system. Appropriately dubbed “Breaking the Silence,” the tribunal sought to bring attention to a gross injustice largely ignored or distorted by the North American media.

Held over the September 21-23 weekend, the tribunal drew several hundred participants to a review of the bogus case brought against five Cuban agents planted in the midst of the virulently anti-Communist, Miami-based Cuban defector community. As instruments of Cuban State Security, the Cuban Five were charged with ferreting out violent plots concocted to overthrow the Cuban government and harm the Cuban people and their friends. Necessarily operating clandestinely, they were essential counterweights to the US government's long established and deep engagement with organized criminal elements freely operating out of South Florida with CIA support.

To not employ all available means, including infiltration, would have been tantamount to abandoning the Cuban revolution. No honest person could but see the intervention of the five Cubans in the Miami cesspool of reaction and crime as anything other than an act of national defense and internationalist vigilance.

The Peoples’ Tribunal drove these points home. Speakers developed a detailed case supporting the existence of a dangerous nest of violent, reactionary ex-Cubans organizing in the Miami area with the knowledge and support of US security agencies. Reports to the tribunal established a long history of subversion and assassination on the part of Miami-based paramilitary organizations with the complicity of US officials. Testimony left little doubt of both the reasonableness and urgency of infiltrating these organizations. Nothing underscored the unchecked violence of the Miami murderers more movingly than the testimony of Livio Di Celmo, the brother of Italian tourist, Fabio Di Celmo, who was killed in a brutal bombing of a Havana hotel. The attack was orchestrated by the US government agent and career assassin, Luis Posades Carriles. Carriles bragged openly to the media that “The Italian was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” 

Further, tribunal witnesses exposed the hand of the US government in railroading these patriots with exaggerated charges, a polluted political atmosphere, extra-judicial pressure, and corrupted evidence. A clear picture emerged that nothing even approaching a fair trial landed the Five in Federal penal facilities, an unjust incarceration that has taken 14 years of freedom from them.

Speaker after speaker stressed the necessity of building an international campaign for their freedom. As Elizabeth Labañino, wife of imprisoned Ramón Labañino, stated so eloquently, “We don’t trust in this system, we trust in solidarity.”

Serving on a panel of “magistrates of conscience”-- de facto jurors-- in the proceedings were fourteen distinguished figures including leading US anti-war activist, Cindy Sheehan, and noted US filmmaker, Saul Landau. Adding gravity to the panel were leaders of the Canadian labor movement: Marie Clarke Walker (Vice-President of the Canadian Labor Congress), Denis Lemelin (National President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers), Ken Neumann (National Director for Canada of the United Steelworkers), and Naveen Mehta (General Council of United Food and Commercial Workers Canada). Joining the panel from the UK was Tony Woodley (Former Joint General Secretary and current Head of Organizing of the 1.5 million members of UNITE the UNION). 

The panel asserted that “…this Peoples’ Tribunal concludes that the Cuban Five were unjustly detained, unjustly prosecuted, and unjustly sentenced, all contrary to international and U.S. domestic law including the U.S. Constitution.  This Peoples’ Tribunal proposes the convictions be quashed, and that Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González Llort and René González be set free immediately, without any restrictions on their liberty.”

But the tribunal served as more than an urgent call for solidarity with the Cuban Five; it also exposed the corruption, hypocrisy and cynicism of the US government.

Judicial Corruption: The collusion of the highest levels of government with the judicial frame-up demonstrated what should be in no need of demonstration, namely, that the US judicial system answers to the needs of the rich and powerful. There are no broad interests of the US people served by maintaining a nest of violent anti-Communist thugs in Southern Florida. Nor do the US people support them anymore than they support an internationally abhorred, legally unsanctioned blockade of Cuba. Judicial rulings are fitted to conform to the interests of the US ruling class, just as they were in the Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision.

The Hypocrisy of “Terrorism”: The term “terrorism” has been appropriated by colonial and imperial powers to demonize the resistance of subjugated or weaker peoples. Whenever the oppressed rise up, they are labeled “terrorists.” Whether it was the anti-colonial Mau Mau movement, the Algerian National Liberation Front, or the African National Congress in South Africa, those audacious enough to defy British or French imperialism or colonial settlers were tagged as agents of terror. Perhaps the original “terrorists” were the aboriginal peoples of the New World who refused to acquiesce to those stealing their lands.

It is deemed “unsporting” of the weak to use extreme or unorthodox methods in the face of the powerful, overwhelming killing machines of bullies. Hence, they are guilty of terror!

It is another story when powerful states or their agents slaughter defenseless civilians or political adversaries. The North American and European media never saw terrorism when the Indonesian military killed over a million civilian Communists and their supporters. Nor do they see terrorism in the daily violence against Palestinian civilians by the Israeli Defense Force. And, of course, the capitalist media is incapable of finding terrorism in the acts of the Miami mafia and their bombings, assassinations, and intimidation at the behest of US security agencies. It was left to the Cuban Five to expose these dangers and work to prevent their realization. Every day the fear-mongering of a hypocritical “War on Terror” justifies another act of terror inflicted on innocent civilians in some far-away country by the US military.

The Cynicism of Human Rights: One of the most inviolable of rights is the right of self-defense, a right that applies equally to a person or a state. Through most of the twentieth century, aggression against another country, regardless of how illegitimate the government or how odious the country's internal policies, was recognized as a violation of the country’s sovereign rights. Conversely, any victim of aggression had a right to respond in self-defense. While Western “democracies” often fell short in aiding those exercising this right against aggression (Abyssinia, Spain, etc), they enshrined the doctrine as an essential condition of peace in both the League of Nations and the United Nations. Recently—especially since the demise of the Socialist bloc as a counter force—the US and its NATO allies have openly and often violated the right under the cynical and illegal excuse of “humanitarian intervention.” At the same time, the US shamelessly embraces its own right of self-defense with its global and perpetual “War on Terror,” a war that has brought death and destruction throughout Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

But the violations of sovereignty in the former Yugoslavia, Libya, and Syria and other victims of Western “humanitarianism” are preceded by the example of Cuba. Since the revolution, the US and its Cuban-renegade mercenaries have used invasion, infiltration, bombings, assassinations, sabotage, and other forms of aggression to undermine and destroy the revolutionary government. The US and its allies have trampled Cuba’s right of self-defense, but the revolution has persevered. The judicial persecution of the Cuban Five is another instance of the denial of Cuba’s right to self-defense against outside aggression.

There is no excuse for the North American media silence or popular hesitation in defense of the Cuban Five. These brave, selfless and principled fighters have suffered 14 years of imprisonment for values that any fair-minded person would acknowledge. Their honor is secure, standing up to the corruption, hypocrisy, and cynicism of a ruthless imperial power.

Zoltan Zigedy

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

An Electoral-Season Note to My Liberal Friends

Well into the silly season, the heat is turned up on the Left to fall in line and support the Democratic Party. On one hand, the independent Left is diminished by not being “in the game.” On the other hand, the Left is still excoriated for having been “in the game” with Nader during the Gore-Bush Presidential race of 2000.

Specious arguments pile on top of specious arguments for why the spurned progressive, liberal, and labor voter should reward those who have disregarded their interests and broken their campaign promises. The arguments come in every size and shape, but always from self-described “friends” and “committed leftists.” Oddly enough, they feel no compunction to explain why their past admonitions or their previous enthusiasms produced no real change in the political landscape when Democrats took power.

They smugly ask if independent-thinking leftists actually believe that there are no differences between the two parties. Only an idiot would respond defensively to this deceptive, distracting tact. Of course there are differences, just as there are differences between Pepsi and Coke. But the relevant question is: Are there any differences that matter, any differences that -- in the dynamics of two-party governing-- will effectively alter the plight of the majority of the US population for the better?

If the Democrats hold the Presidency, there is every reason to believe that they will do no more than they did when they had the rare dominance of all three governing branches. Indeed there is every reason to believe that Obama would relish compromising with the Republican agenda, an approach that he previously embraced even when he had no reason to do so.

On the other hand, should the Republicans gain the Presidency, the Democrats will, as they have in the past, show much more eagerness to demonstrate differences with Republicans and more vigorously attack Republican initiatives. They will offer a more leftward agenda since there is no danger of having to implement progressive policies. And they will embrace the Left insofar as it will mount the sharpest and most coherent attack on Republican policies, while doing so in a loud and demonstrative way.

A Democratic Party out of power is a belligerent, feisty party that will even spread some cash around to support left and progressive causes. Of course, that financial link secures a certain loyalty that perhaps explains the 
enthusiasm shown for the Democrats by many of our progressive brothers and sisters in every election cycle.

For decades, we have been warned of the dangers wrought by Republican victories: an unfriendly supreme court, an attack on welfare, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, war mongering and aggression, etc. Yet despite the handing of power back and forth for nearly forty years, the dangers have continued to deepen—the US has suffered a constant rightward drift since the middle of the Carter administration. Apparently, the “Vote Democratic” argument is only an argument about the pace of that drift.

But the greatest victims of the Democratic Party love-fest are truth and honesty. Take Paul Krugman, for example. His soap box in The New York Times has served to excoriate the Obama administration for doing far too little to bring the US economy back from the grip of crisis. On many occasions, he has warned of the dangers of closing the stimulus program and embracing austerity, policies that he acknowledges Obama has endorsed. Reviewers of his new book note the dominant theme of political inaction and the dangers that ensue.

Yet Krugman holds his nose and delivers a ringing endorsement of Obama’s economic policies in a recent column: “But is the mess really getting cleaned up [by the Administration]? The answer, I would argue, is yes… So, as I said, the odds are that barring major mistakes, the next four years will be much better than the past four years… So Bill Clinton basically had it right: For all the pain America has suffered on his watch, Barack Obama can fairly claim to have helped the country get through a very bad patch, from which it is starting to emerge.”

Following the lead of the old huckster, Bill Clinton, Krugman dutifully salutes the President with approval of the Administration’s economic program contrary to his often-voiced disparagement. Krugman gets kudos for loyalty to the Party, but shame for despoiling honesty. If the next four years “will be much better” under Obama’s stewardship, then why should we take Krugman’s constant dire warnings at all seriously?

Democratic partisans will cry foul. For them, criticizing Krugman’s waffling is another example of left “purity.” But truth and honesty do not allow for shadings or gradations. The people deserve better. And they want better, as opinion polls consistently show.

The corruption of politics in the US is neither an aberration nor an accident. Instead it is the logical evolution of a political system in the era of state-monopoly capitalism operating freely and without the counter force of a strong, independent working class movement. The process of that evolution is revealing.

Looking Back

It is easy to forget that not so long ago there were currents and trends in the Democratic Party that represented more than the authority of markets, the interests of corporations, and the enthusiastic approval of military adventure. That is not to say that the Democratic Party was not a bourgeois party, a party of capitalism. It is and always has been. But there was a time when the party’s course was disputed terrain; a variety of interests wrestled for its direction.

The Democratic Party’s defeat in the 1980 election was presaged by an enormous fund-raising advantage by the Republicans. The Republican Party as a whole raised $130.3 million in the 1979-80 period over the Democrats' meager $23 million. Perhaps more than any other factor in the Reagan victory, this glaring inequity cast the mold for the future Democratic course. In addition, organized labor’s decline and the falling electoral participation of poor and working people spurred new rightist trends in the Party.

Going into the 1984 election, the Democratic Party found itself torn between three ideological currents. While all agreed that an answer to the successful extreme right victory in 1980 was critical, factions differed on how to respond. These differences were fought out in the primaries.

Walter Mondale represented old-school Cold War liberalism. While drifting to the right to accommodate Reaganism, Mondale claimed to uphold New Deal values, though without offering any new social programs. He drew support from the entrenched leadership of the New Deal coalition: labor, minorities and liberals.

A new trend emerged around the candidacy of Gary Hart. Appealing to the well-off middle strata that moved into the Democratic Party in large numbers after the Nixon debacle, Hart proposed a “third way” (prescient of the Blair/Clinton developments to come) between traditional liberalism and the Reagan/Thatcher rightist turn. Hart and his ilk saw themselves as social liberals and fiscal conservatives, combining lifestyle tolerance with corporate friendliness and market-based policies. This third way promised to retain the cultural veneer of liberalism while gutting its Keynesian, welfare-state directed policies that supported and bolstered the well-being of workers and the poor. A not inconsequential bonus was that business-friendly policies would draw greater campaign contributions from corporations and the wealthy.

Some in the Party recognized the rightward drift of the old guard and viewed the launching of the new Reagan-lite model with alarm. Jesse Jackson, in a letter to former progressive flag-bearer, George McGovern, wrote: “Too many Democrats have gone along with Republicans on every Reagan policy.” In response, Jackson launched a national primary campaign to win the Democrats away from the right turn that he correctly anticipated. With a base in the long-neglected African-American community, Jackson reached out to labor and other progressive constituencies.

Despite deeply embedded racism and Democratic Party sabotage, Jackson waged an impressive campaign garnering almost 20% of the vote and winning 5 primaries, all without substantial funding and Party support.

Nonetheless, Mondale won the nomination and went on to lose overwhelmingly to Ronald Reagan.

Ignoring  the strong showing of the progressive Left, the Democratic leadership moved forward with what The Nation magazine previously dubbed “Reaganism with a human face” (6-26-1982).

The new direction for the Democratic Party was sealed with the creation of a wide-ranging policy statement in August of 1986. Entitled “New Choices in a Changing America,” the slick, comprehensive document gave the imprimatur of the Party leadership to the path of economic conservatism, market-based policies, and limited government action. The Democratic leadership had heard the gospel of Reagan and found a way to call it their own. The answer to unemployment, poverty, and declining living standards was partnership with the private sector, rising worker productivity, and clearing the regulatory barriers to growth. While conceding that the working class and the poor had seen their living standards devastated since 1970 (including six years of Reaganism), the Democrats chose to march hand-in-hand with the Reaganauts.

Writing in September of 1986 (People’s Daily World), Si Gerson, the Communist Party’s long respected and experienced electoral expert, wrote:

Certain right-wing factions, supported largely by big money people, are particularly unhappy about the results [progressive wins in Senatorial primaries] and, above all, by the rising popular movement for peace and the increasing militancy of labor and its allies… They want the Democratic Party leadership’s rightward drift to be set in concrete… They have… codified it in a 71-page statement released last week by the Democratic Policy Commission. Entitled “New Choices in a Changing America,” the statement on basic questions simply parrots Reagan—even on points he has begun to mute somewhat… The underlying theory of the document is that the country has gone to the right and if the Democratic Party is to win the Senate in 1986 and the White House in 1988 it too must go to the right.
Gerson was correct to recognize this effort by the Democratic Party leadership to turn their party into a carbon-copy of Reagan’s party. He recalled a previous warning by a venerated figure among Democrats:

Perhaps the clearest answer to this manifesto was delivered months ago by someone who can hardly be called a left-wing Democrat. Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the historian who was a fixture in the Roosevelt New Deal, branded as “Reaganite fellow-travelers” those who say “me-too” to Reagan policies. Writing in the New York Times of July 6, Schlesinger said: “Today me-tooism is an infection within the Democratic Party. It finds expression in quasi-Reaganite formations like the Democratic Leadership Council and the Coalition for a Democratic Majority… One can only add that for the Democrats' me-tooism is a recipe for disaster,” 

Unfortunately, ”Me-tooism,” the strategy of shadowing the Republican Party and maintaining a position ever-so-slightly closer to the center, won the day and remains the approach of Democratic Party leaders to this day.

Notably, the Left mounted a noble effort in 1988, again behind the primary candidacy of Jesse Jackson. The campaign charged ahead, winning primaries and caucuses and surprising the old guard. But when the campaign began to draw significant and militant labor support, a stealth campaign of slander and racial fear diminished the outcome. Nonetheless, Jackson and the Left captured nearly seven million votes.

Like the quixotic Progressive Party campaign of 1948, the Jackson campaign was smothered by the effort of a Democratic Party resolute in following a path blazed by the extreme right and scandalizing the opposition with red- and race-baiting. Through fear and intimidation, Democratic leaders denied the emergence of a viable left bloc, a counter force to the domination of monopoly capital.


With the victory of corporate Democrats—fiscally conservative, socially liberal—the problem of fund-raising has been solved. In the 2008 election, corporate Democrats actually raised more than their corporate Republican counterparts. In this election cycle, they may well fall behind the Republicans. But they will never know again the vast inequity of 1980. Their fealty to monopoly capital ensures some measure of campaign-fund parity.

At the same time, the dominance of corporate Democrats and the Democratic Party leadership’s comfort with this relationship, denies any insurgency within the Party, not that rebellion would be countenanced in any case. Those who continue to argue for “inside/outside” strategies will continue to find themselves outside—neither “in the game” nor with a coherent political strategy.

The only viable force capable of changing this regular exercise in futility is the labor movement or some subset of it. Organized labor has the resources and apparatus to launch a new, independent political vehicle that would neither be beholden to corporate power nor restrained by false friends. Necessarily, labor must stop throwing these resources at the feet of the Democratic Party; labor leaders must reject their current vassalage to Democratic Party officials. It’s a tough challenge to work for these changes, but one far more worthy than hustling for political swindlers.

In the mean time, don’t bother asking, I’m enthusiastically voting for Jill Stein of the Green Party. She was arrested recently trying to stop home foreclosures in Philadelphia. And your candidate? 

Zoltan Zigedy