Sunday, November 25, 2018

Our Niche is Full!

“Socialist Revolution,” magazine of the International Marxist Tendency, 10/2018 Issue

May Day Books is the only place in the Twin Cities that carries a large selection of left-wing periodicals, magazines, journals and newspapers.  This is part of why our ‘niche’ bookstore can claim uniqueness, unlike the cookie-cutter liberal bookstores that dot the Twin-Cities which sell almost the same stock as each other. 

One of the publications May Day sells is “Socialist Revolution” – an agitational / propagandist periodical that ends nearly every article with, you guessed it, ‘fight for the world-wide socialist revolution.’  In case you missed the point.
A Sample of the Stock

The lead story in the October SR issue is an excellent deconstruction of the Working Families Party (WFP), which is mostly centered in New York.  The WFP is a third-party that basically launders votes for Democrats.  In this election the WFP was thrown into confusion because instead of endorsing the rightist Democrat Andrew Cuomo as they usually do, activists forced the WFP to endorse TV star and ostensible Sanderite Democrat Cynthia Nixon.  Cuomo then demanded that the unions that back the WFP remove their endorsement of Nixon, and some did. 

New York has what is called ‘fusion balloting.’   Any party that gets 50,000 votes can retain a ballot-line, even if they are running the SAME candidate as another party – in this case nearly always a Democrat.  Given Nixon lost in the primary, the WFP is evidently stuck with her name on the ballot line and now has a dilemma of trying to dump her (she has basically endorsed Cuomo) by using arcane methods and add Cuomo, or keeping her on the ballot line and losing the 50K vote threshold. 

This is what happens to a party that has never run an independent labor candidate in 20 years, while pretending to represent the working class.  The WFP is a political placebo, a sugar pill so far in its history.  It started as essentially a weapon against Mazzocchi's Labor Party in the 1990s, which could have charted a more independent path for labor.

SR has an article on the elections and Kavanaugh, pointing out that nationalist authoritarians like Trump and drunken frat boys like Kavanaugh are what is produced by a system in decay.  Unlike the slavish love of the U.S. Supreme Court by liberals and conservatives alike, the Court is actually a political body that has, time and time again, shown its reactionary stripes dressed up in ‘legal’ decisions.  Kavanaugh will not change that, though he may make it worse.

SR also looks at Trump’s trade war and how it affects agriculture – normally not a subject socialists take time with.  But food is foundational to human life and society, as we know.  The U.S. capitalist state provides many welfare programs for the increasingly large corporate farms – 58% of subsidies between 1995 and 2005 went to just 10% of farmers.  SR stands up for the ‘legal’ and undocumented farm-workers and small farmers crushed by low wages and poor working conditions, or debt and slave contracts to big agribusinesses like Cargill, ADM or Monsanto. 

The majority of exploited farm workers are probably undocumented according to sources, which is one reason why U.S. food is so ‘cheap.’  These workers were still toiling in the fields in California while breathing the toxic smoke that rolled over the countryside in the Central Valley and LA these last two weeks.  All the while 1/3rd of California firefighters are prisoners risking their lives for $1 a day fighting these same fires.  Wage slavery anyone?

Keeping current, SR has an article on Amazon that indirectly points out that the answer to Amazon is not an anti-trust breakup, but nationalizing Amazon.  Oligopoly and monopoly, to those not blind, are the end-points of capital, as ‘competition’ dies at the hand of normal market consolidation.  Instead of breaking up firms that will only reform later, the expropriation and nationalization of Amazon under workers control lays a basis for a socialized economy now. This is part of a transitional program, as is socialized medicine or a real 'medicare for all.'

SR, like many bourgeois economists, is aware that massive debt levels and the increasing value of the U.S. dollar are creating a situation that will result in another economic crash.  Countries like Turkey, Argentina, India, Brazil and South Africa are all experiencing currency issues.  Unmentioned is China, whose economy is probably contracting at this point due to the trade war, thus putting a squeeze on their hidden debt sector too.  Iran and Turkey are also targets of the trade war, not to mention Europe.  These all can trigger a debt crisis in each country.  The author, Hamid Alizadeh says:  “Total world debt today stands at an astronomical $217 trillion – 327% of world GDP – the highest in history.  But very little of this money has been invested in actual production.  In fact, investment rates are lower than the 1960s.”

What is significant here is that financial capital has slowed investing in the actual ‘productive economy’ and instead ‘invests’ in stock markets, real estate and bling.  The author makes the valuable point that 10% of all companies are ‘zombies’ – their interest on their debt is higher than their profits.  So when push comes to shove…

Other stories are about an evangelical joining the IMT after seeing poverty in Nicaragua; the reality of class-based ‘assortative mating’ where lawyers marry lawyers, doctors marry doctors, movie stars marry movies stars and rich people marry other rich people; the climate crisis; and an article on Lenin’s “What is To Be Done” that implies that party-building in Russia and in the present U.S. or Britain will follow almost exactly the same path. 

In the U.S. the last major event – the 2008 crash and Great Recession that followed – led to the rise of Bernie Sanders and a current of ‘democratic’ socialists that has found organizational expression in Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).  And through that, an invigoration of the Democratic Party, with DSA’ers like Ocasio-Cortez even getting elected. It did not flow to the small Marxist organizations, although it helped with some.  Another crash will no doubt ALSO not flow substantially to the small Marxist organizations, of which there are at least 10 in the U.S.  Without a present party-building strategy that is measurably successful and avoids a small group mentality, any rupture in capital can be ‘repaired’ in some way or another.  This includes by barbarism or fascism or increasing authoritarianism. It will not automatically lead to support for the most left organizations unless those organizations have some weight in the previous period. 

Other reviews of periodicals below:  'Monthly Review,' 'Jacobin,' 'Lapham's Quarterly' 'Labor Notes' and 'Granta.'   Also a report at May Day Books on 'Pakistan' by the SR's editor, John Peterson. Use blog search box, upper left.

And I bought it at May Day’s excellent periodicals section!
Red Frog
November 25, 2018

No comments: