Weekend Roundup 02/23/13

by Ben Campbell on February 23, 2013

Proletarians of the world, enjoy your weekend (while you still can):


  • An estimated 50,000 people descended on Washington in a demonstration against the Keystone XL pipeline. RedPleb has a first-hand account of the ecosocialist contingent. Jill Stein spoke on a panel also featuring Chris Williams from the International Socialist Organization, Nick Davenport from Solidarity (edit: full video). The photo above is taken from Jenna Pope’s photo diary.



  • What does Marxism have to say about all this? At Climate & Capitalism Chris Gilbert critically examines the relation between Marxism & nature:


Of course, the larger and very urgent question is to recuperate the double perspective on labor and the earth that Marx affirms in the Critique of the Gotha Program and other texts. Marx’s authentic view is based on the recognition that the production of material wealth by human beings requires the control and preservation of the natural conditions for this metabolic relation.


  • Meanwhile, Thomas Mulcair, the neoliberal opportunist posing as Canada’s left-wing opposition, assures the Calgary Chamber of Commerce that they have “similar views” on resource development. Richard Fidler has a thorough overview of Canada’s NDP.



  • Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens UnitedMcCutcheon? The upcoming case in which SCOTUS could end all limits to campaign financing.



  • Dog whistling to the ruling class: Shamus Cooke looks back at Obama’s State of the Union from the perspective of the corporate class.



  • MSNBC is about to become even more sycophantic, hiring Robert Gibbs… and David Axelrod! Glenn Greenwald:


Impressively, David Axelrod left the White House and actually managed to find the only place on earth arguably more devoted to Barack Obama… MSNBC is far from aberrational. The overriding attribute defining the relationship of the US media to those in power is servitude.


  • Meanwhile, as Obama’s approval ratings continue to soar, the living standards of black Americans continue to plummet.





  • At Jacobin, Kenzo Shibata on the attack on public schools in Chicago. Meanwhile, a Green Party candidate won a small victory in Wisconsin in defense of public schools. Also, Rustbelt Radical: “only thing standing between the United States and full on barbarism is the public library.”



  • Remember that time those traders conspired to fix interest rates to defraud pension funds? Costas Lapavitsas updates on the LIBOR scandal: “This is one of the biggest scandals, as I said before, in the history of finance. It’s about time the public realized what’s happening and demanded intervention.”



  • Andrew Kliman looks at what talk of “the 99%” obscures: “the disproportionate concern over inequality largely reflects—and encourages—a distorted understanding of the causes of the Great Recession and the economic malaise that persists long after the recession ended.”



  • And you thought Thomas Edison was the greatest inventor-capitalist from New Jersey? Meet Levy Maybaum, born in 1853, inventor of the credit-default swap:


A few contemporary observers worried about the dangers of rating-based credit insurance… William Y. Chinn, claimed in 1896 that, “A false device begets false schemes, the latter subjecting to its purpose the other, which has brought into subjection its own objects, when the people in the end pay the whole very dearly.”


  • On her radio show, The Hour of Power, Nina Power looks at the enclosure of the commons, past and present:




  • The quant-shills at The Atlantic have some sobering statistics about the dismal prospects for precarious Ph.D.’s.



  • The latest hotspot of global resistance to austerity is in Bulgaria, where protests against rising energy costs have caused Prime Minister Boiko Borisov to resign. Counterfire:


On the other side, leading figures within the protest movement have vowed that demonstrations will continue, with a national protest schedule for 24 February. The demand for an Iceland-style “Grand National Assembly” to provide changes to the Bulgarian constitution has been raised.

Meanwhile, there have been “general” strikes in Greece and India.


  • One of those charged in the Seattle May Day protests speaks out.



  • The war over sex workers: Zoe Schlanger interviews Melissa Gira Grant.


Our feelings alone don’t change what happens with the police, what happens in jail, what happens when someone tries to go to the welfare office, the unemployment office, or any kind of state agency where a criminal record comes up for prostitution. How we feel about the commodification of sexuality and violence doesn’t actually translate to those people’s lives. A lot of the debate is really academic and a waste of time.

While Feminist Current argues:

rather than challenge an unequal and oppressive system that offers marginalized women few viable options outside the sex industry and then criminalizes them for doing what they have to in order to survive (essentially criminalizing poverty) and a porn culture that positions stripping and pornography as empowering professions for women, Grant blames feminists.




  • The discovery of the long-lost manuscript of C.L.R. James’ play Toussaint Louverture:


In the introduction, Høgsbjerg recounts how he discovered the script in 2005, while going through the papers of Jock Haston, one of James’s comrades from British Trotskyist circles in the 1930s. While working in the archives at the University of Hull, he noticed that the finding aid listed a file titled “Toussaint Louverture,” but, thinking that it probably contained reviews or a playbill, concentrated instead on other folders containing memoranda and correspondence from factional disputes of long ago. At the end of his trip to the archive, Høgsbjerg opened the Toussaint file to find, with astonishment, “a yellowing mass of thin oilskin paper” containing the typescript of James’s play.



If there’s one thing that gets me about the revolutionary left, it’s this: in year five of this protracted capitalist crisis, as austerity strikes blow after blow, our methods, strategies and tactics clearly aren’t working – yet attempting to question and rethink them is often met with something between suspicion and horror. We’ve been doing it this way all these years, us young upstarts are told, and we’re damned if we’re going to revise our ‘distilled’ wisdom now. How many revolutionary parties have you built, anyway?

On a similar note see this contribution by Nick Wrack (video), while also in Weekly Worker Jack Conrad “argues in favour of a mass working class party and the kind of principles and politics outlined in the Communist manifesto, the Erfurt programme and the programme of the Parti Ouvrier.”

Owen Jones looks at what George Galloway does well, while Ed Rooksby offers this scathing take on Labourism. See also this discussion of SWP rank and fileism with the unions, while Philip Kane looks at the challenges of building a new party on the British left.


  • Confused? The Commune offers a brief history of British Left groups. Speaking of which, the new issue of the Commune is well worth checking out.



  • After releasing his translation of the proceedings of the Comintern (video of book launch), John Riddell looks at party democracy in Lenin’s Comintern, while Mike Macnair questions of the value of considering the Comintern a “school of socialist strategy.”



  • At Advance the Struggle, there’s an ongoing debate about the role of revolutionary socialists in and around unions. Starting here, with responses here, here, here, here, and here.




Few people on the left are looking forward with much hope at the Italian elections this Sunday and Monday. The centre-left alliance, led by Bersani, might be preferable to outgoing Monti government. But, faced with a surprisingly resilient Berlusconi, it looks as if any future Italian ‘centre-left’ government would be a coalition between the PD-SEL and Monti’s allies. This would mean a programme of further austerity, though not, it has to be said, the less than appealing sight of a bunga-bunga Prime Minister.


  • The Anticapitalist Initiative has an interview with Jairus Banaji:




  • Jehu argues that a decade after Change the World Without Taking Power John Holloway’s challenge to Marxist left remains unmet.



  • Finally, I’ll sign off with this classic interview with the Marxian economist Ernest Mandel:




{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Andrew Gorman February 25, 2013 at 11:55 pm

Also had a great student power union conference in north carolina. http://studentpowernc.org/


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