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The Socialist Party of CA will have a presence at the May 1st Southern California Immigration Coalition march downtown. Join the Socialist Party of CA chapter in the march for full legalization and worker’s rights for all!
When: May 1st, 4pm
Where: Olympic and Broadway, Los Angeles
Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/436522823097630/?ref=3
RSVP by email (email@example.com) for meet-up details. Let’s rock!
Then, on Saturday, May 4th, the Socialist Party Los Angeles Local will be holding the third session of the Organizing Workshop series. During this session, we will be strategizing the plan around our chosen issues.
When: May 4th, 12pm
Where: 2617 Hauser Blvd., Los Angeles
Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/436522823097630/?ref=3#!/events/122902851237830/?fref=ts
Hope to see everyone there!
by Nick Svoboda
I just recently attended my college’s political debate. I had seen an article in the college paper a few hours beforehand. It was titled “Let’s Talk Politics.” It would be a debate between the three unsurprisingly right-wing contenders: The College Democrats, College Republicans, and College Libertarians. “Yes, let’s talk politics,” I thought, and spontaneously decided to go.
I walked in and sat within the audience, primed with a question for the audience Q&A after the debate. I would soon find myself tapping my foot, wanting to ask that question, and many more throughout the debate, as all three candidates would argue over government, guns and civil liberties, but had no disagreement on economics whatsoever. The two moderators were behind a Young American’s for Liberty banner, the group which hosted the debate. It was held under the notion of providing alternatives to the two-party system, but, of course, there was no voice for those who want to provide an alternative to the capitalist system.
When questioned on the PATRIOT act, the Republican debate representative said he thought it was “some kinda mix of bad-good.” He said that he was conflated, but that it was there to protect us. When asked the same question about civil liberties and defense, the Democrat praised the CIA’s clandestine activities for saving us from nuclear war (not that they almost brought us to a nuclear war with the Bay of Pigs, of course). He said that our 1984-like security was “too extreme” in Bush’s era, but that it has “come to moderation” in Obama’s. Really? I wonder if the prisoners currently on a hunger strike in Guantanamo are feeling that moderation?
I got a chance to ask the Libertarian a question, which was “Where is the left in this debate? How do you believe the US Libertarian party is different from the original left-wing libertarians?” He responded that the main difference was “They’re communalists and we’re propertarians.” The representative added that “I think they just don’t understand evolution,” playing the “capitalism is emergent behaviour” argument. An audience member, who later self-identified as a liberal to me, asked about Michigan’s recent Right to Work laws. All of the candidates, even the Democrat, thought that Right to Work was a good thing. The Republican stated “unions are a thing of the past.”
In the mingling afterwards I ran into some voluntarists/an-caps, who seemed to outnumber the College Libertarians themselves. One of them, who was from the school paper and recording the event, told me he was confused what I meant by anarchists not being right-wing. He literally thought that anarchism is and was always a right-wing philosophy. He even later wrote in an article about the event that “No real fireworks erupted between the debaters, as both Dalton [Republican] and Paynter [Democrat] were fairly centrist in their politics, making common-ground between them and Buell [Libertarian] an easy spot to find.” The other voluntarist I got to talk to believed, although he never read Marx, or even Smith for that matter, that the Labour Theory of Value is “bullshit.”
Since you’re reading this, you’re likely already a socialist and you see what’s going on here. Even if you’re not though, you should be concerned by the fact debate is being confined within a one-sided view of capitalism with no question of the alternatives. It is time to stand up and take back the word socialism from those who seek to set the debate by misusing the definition of it to their advantages, or by leaving it off the table entirely. It is time to take advantage of any platform we can to bring an accurate reality to what socialism actually means. We must also show the working-class what the US Libertarian version of “libertarianism” means for them by debating Libertarians openly. Go to your local public debate, attempt to ask questions, and represent the left by making your voice heard for socialism. Perhaps even try to start a college group or organize the local left. Even something as small as wheat-pasting can spark things, but just do something! As Eugene Deb’s said “You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition.”
The horrific gang rape of a minor in Steubenville, Ohio, and the subsequent show-trial and “slap on the wrist” punishment of a fraction of those responsible has done more to cement the reality of rape culture, victim-blaming and slut-shaming than years of feminist thought and activism could ever accomplish.
Agitate by confronting sexism and discrimination around you, refuse to be pigeonholed by gender stereotypes, and ask the important questions about rape and violence against women even if they are not considered proper or polite conversation. Let others know that rape is not a joke and that silence is part of the problem. Without activists like Anonymous, occupy Steubenville, and the contributors to local leaks, many of the details of this crime may have been left uncovered.
Organize by connecting with women’s groups in your area to help victims of abuse, and work locally to change draconian rape and domestic violence laws. The three charged and convicted in the Steubenville rape case stated that they do not believe any of their conduct was illegal, and throughout the trial many commentators speculated on how the victim could have acted differently to avoid being raped. Misconceptions like this are still rampant in our society, and until this changes, there will be many more Jane Does. Support programs that educate young people about sexual assault, its true causes, and how to prevent it. We can turn anger into action, and together we can stand up and say NEVER AGAIN.
Written by SPUSA Co-Chair, Stephanie Cholensky, and passed by the National Action Committee on March 26, 2013.
About IWD History
1909: The Woman’s National Committee of the Socialist Party calls for a national day of protest on the last Sunday of February to support women’s suffrage in the context of the broader movement for women’s rights, workers’ rights, and social justice.
1910: The Women’s Congress of the Socialist International meets in August in Copenhagen and approves the call for an international day of protest. The specific date is left open to the participants in each country.
1913: Russian socialists begin celebrating International Women’s Day. Their intention is to organize rallies for the same day as that set in the United States, but since the Julian calendar lags several days behind the Western calendar, the events take place in early March by our reckoning.
1917: The date of March 8 for International Women’s Day gets established when tens of thousands of women, demonstrating on that day in Petrograd, the capital of Russia, spark a revolution that topples three centuries of czarist autocracy.
1979: In Tehran, women’s rights activists celebrate International Women’s Day by taking to the streets to demand equality for women and to protest the reactionary order of the Ayatollah Khomeini calling for all Iranian women to wear the veil.
About IWD and Peace
In August 1914, World War I erupted, leading to the slaughter of millions. International Women’s Day became a focal point for those calling for an immediate end to the war.
On February 23, 1917, (March 8 on the new calendar), tens of thousands of Russian women celebrated International Women’s Day by surging onto the streets of Petrograd demanding peace. These militant protests led to the downfall of the czar and, soon afterward, Russia’s decision to leave the war. Senseless war continues. Once again we are told that military action in Iraq and Afghanistan is intended to promote freedom and peace, and once again we know the real reasons are about power and wealth.
As we demonstrate our opposition to war and occupation this and every International Women’s Day, we commemorate the heroic actions of the women in Petrograd in 1917 and the women in Tehran in 1979. In doing so, we maintain an unbroken link in the struggle for peace, justice, and equality.
About IWD and Power
International Women’s Day is about power: theirs and ours.
Their power puts courts and legislatures in charge of whether or not a woman can have an abortion. Our power leaves this decision where it belongs: with the woman herself.
Their power dictates a profit-driven “managed care” health care system, at the service of the health insurance industry and transnational pharmaceutical companies. Our power lies in grassroots organizing, for a national system of universal health care under community control.
Their power rests in greedy corporations owned by an ultra-wealthy few that deplete the world’s resources and exploit its people. Our power depends on building a mass movement for a new society rooted in cooperation, equality, and workers’ control.
Their power dumps toxic waste sites in our poorest communities-of-color, and builds dams that destroy the livelihoods of countless farmers in our poorest countries. Our power demands environmental justice.
Their power busts unions. Our power is at our work sites, talking with our co-workers about the connections between workers’ rights, human rights, and women’s rights.
Their power is “welfare reform” that pushes women into low-paid, dead-end jobs, and their children into inadequate child care. Our power is the fight for the creation of good jobs with pay equity and benefits, and the full funding of quality child care, education, and social services.
Their power dupes young men and women into signing away their rights and often their lives for the sake of U.S. imperialism. Our power gets the word out on alternatives to “jobs” in the military and calls for huge cuts in the military budget.
Their power blames hunger and poverty on over-population. Our power blames hunger and poverty on policies and practices consciously designed to protect and enrich the global capitalist class, in particular the agribusiness of the most developed countries.
Their power gets channeled through politicians whose primary allegiance is to the economic requirements of global capitalism. Our power gets exerted through political action completely independent of both mainstream, capitalist parties.
Their power resides in exploitation, inequality, domination, violence, and deception. Our power resides in cooperation, compassion, respectful communication, justice, and collective action.
March 8th — International Women’s Day — is our day. It’s our opportunity to come together to speak out for a world where democratic socialist feminist values and programs enable people to live lives in ways they never will be able to under capitalism and patriarchy. That’s the truth. That’s our power.
On one hand we complain about the influence of money, and on the other we measure the viability of a candidate by how much money they raise.
I am not taking any money from anyone because money doesn’t win elections, people do. I am the independent candidate that will bring an unprecedented level of transparency to City Hall. We should know where our tax dollars are and how they are being spent, and that is exactly what I would do as City Controller.”
How Some Hate Mail Lead Me Down the Socialist Musician Wormhole
by Eric Spitznagel
A few weeks ago, I received an incredible piece of hate mail. It was in response to a column I’d written back in November about the election and why it was probably a good idea to vote for Obama because Ted Nugent and Dave Mustaine are so blatantly bat-shit crazy.
Here’s the letter, which I’ve reproduced below without any editing or grammatical revisions:
I just wandered into your blog and read your stupid musicians article interestingly you did NOT mention all of the stupid remarks by socialist musicians, I wonder why? Could it be that as a so called writer you are ill-suited and incapable of unbiased critical analysis of ALL stupid musicians remarks? Your Agenda is clear and poignant, may god strike me down if I ever became like YOU! One day you will see more of my work and when you have become the speck in a roosters terd my work will live in infamy! My wish to you is to enjoy the view of your colon.
My brain just about exploded with joy.
So many questions spring to mind. Why was “Agenda” capitalized but not “god”? Why would I be enjoying a view of my own colon? (Was he suggesting that the shame of never producing work that’d live in infamy would cause me to eat my own eyeballs, which would in turn provide me with a guided tour of my own digestive system?) And most troubling, who were these socialist musicians that I somehow failed to mock?
I immediately responded:
Thank you for the letter. Although on most counts we may have to agree to disagree, you are correct that I didn’t mention any stupid remarks by socialist musicians. This is mostly because I am unaware of any socialist musicians. Would you be kind enough to point me in the Right direction? Just a few names would suffice. Who do you consider a socialist musician?
Personally, I thought it was a gift. I was giving him an opportunity to create his own McCarthy list. Isn’t that what every radical conservative dreams of? “Tell me who’s wronged you and your values? Who hates America?” But he never responded. Not a peep. I was disappointed. Not because I wanted to become email pen pals with a crazy person, but because, for all my snarkiness, I was legitimately curious. Is there such a thing as socialist musicians? I always assumed that when somebody called a person they disagreed with a socialist, it was like when I called conservatives “Nazis.” Obviously they’re not Nazis. It’s hyperbole. I’m not seriously suggesting they’re fascist xenophobes who want to send their enemies to death camps and are failed artists/closeted homosexuals with rage issues who blame the rest of the world for their personal failures.
I mean … mostly I don’t believe that.
I made a political audit of my music collection, trying to identify the artists who might’ve been whispering socialist messages into my earbuds without me realizing it. Rage Against the Machine, everybody knows they’re huge commies. And MC5 I’m pretty sure were into Maoism, but I’ve never paid enough attention to their lyrics to know for sure. R.E.M. and Pearl Jam were and are pro-Noam Chomsky, but I don’t know if that’s enough to make you a socialist. Billy Bragg, he’s definitely a socialist. Ditto Pete Seeger. Steve Earle is so socialist he practically wants a percentage of your paycheck.
Was this the best that socialism had to offer? Surely I had to be missing a few names. Since my pen pal refused to write back, I tried contacting other socialist-identifying watchdogs. I sent imploring emails to Vision To America, a division of Christian Worldview Communications (whose website featured the recent headline “Obama Crushing Media as the Soviet Union Did”), and Gulag Bound, a blog devoted to “expos(ing) the Marxist, fascist, and globalist ideologies and ideologues that would destroy the authentic, constitutional America of its Sovereign Citizens.” All I asked for was a short enemies list of the most dangerous, lie-spewing, socialist pop artists of the new millennium. None of them responded.
Since I had no luck starting a dialogue with the people who hate socialists, I went for the next best thing. An actual socialist.
I called Mimi Soltysik, the Vice-Chair of the Socialist Party USA and the State Chair for the Socialist Party of California. Also, did I mention that his name is Mimi Soltysik? Mimi Soltysik! It sounds like a Russian spy character that Severn Darden would’ve played in the ’60s. Soltysik said exactly what you’d think a socialist would say about right-wing nutjobs throwing around words like socialist. “The two party system and corporate America has such a strong stranglehold over the media that it’s largely Democrats and Republicans who are framing this conversation about socialists and socialism. As more socialists get an opportunity to speak for themselves, then I think we might be able to see the tenor change a little bit.”
You read it here first (or second if you watch a lot of Fox News.) The Red Menace is trying to infiltrate the media!
Soltysik was more than happy to name names. He told me exactly where to find the most notorious, unapologetic, freedom-hating, card-carrying socialists working in music today. “Steve Walker is in a punk rock band called Stay Alert,” he said. “He’s a socialist. We also have a guy in Memphis, his name is Bennett Foster and he’s in a band called the Magic Kids. Actually, the National Secretary of the Socialist Party, Greg Pason, works for a club in New York City called ABC No Rio. They put on a lot of punk and indie shows.”
He just laughed. “I wouldn’t describe any of them as socialists.”
Soltysik knows the inner workings of the socialist music cartel because he was once a member. For 15 years, he toured with bands like Pill Shovel and Chach, who were shockingly … not in any way obviously socialist. Having never heard of either band before, I did some online fact-checking and found a 1999 story about Pill Shovel published in the Pennsylvania paper Reading Eagle. In it, a young Soltysik, already a socialist double agent assigned to infiltrate youth culture (I’m just going to assume), described his band’s aesthetic as “like old Van Halen or something. We’re into partying, having a lot of fun — just craziness.”
I asked Soltysik to explain. Where was the socialist dogma? Why wasn’t he yammering about class warfare and Karl Marx and “Freedom is Slavery” and “Ignorance is Strength” or whatever it is that socialists believe? Where, for the love of everything he stands for, were the Che Guevara t-shirts?
“Being a socialist band doesn’t necessarily mean singing about socialist issues,” he said. “It’s about how they operate as a band. Who walks the walk? Do they practice genuine socialism?” Which, according to Soltysik, meant splitting all profits equally, and making sure that no one member is superior to any other. “It’s just about treating people decently and with respect.”
“What about Bruce Springsteen?” I asked, changing the subject before he could confuse me with more of his socialist rhetoric. “He’s a socialist, right? Doesn’t he only write songs now about how bankers are corrupt?”
“I don’t think so,” Soltysik said. “He’s a rock star who on occasion sings about issues that are worth people’s time. I guess the way things are right now in the political climate, if you have a conscious that means you’re socialist.”
The three volumes of Marx’s Capital run well over two thousand pages. We know we have at least one life on earth, and we do not know if we pass to any other state of being we might recognize as a common world. Millions of workers have been active in labor unions and in class struggles without reading a single page by Marx. So what is the good of tackling Marx’s Capital? Is our time (always running out) well spent with this book? Yes, and I recommend the Penguin edition, with a translation by Ben Fowkes of the first volume, and a translation by David Fernbach of volumes two and three.
If we entrusted the history of class struggles only to fragmentary human memory, we would have many wonderful stories. The telling of stories needs no defense, but any comprehensive history of human labor under both capitalist and socialist regimes would have to be both a labor of love and a work of scholarship. At this stage of history, that would also require a degree of collective labor. Marx lived and died before the world wars and social revolutions of the twentieth century, so his survey of labor and capital may seem even further removed from our concerns in the twenty-first century. Nevertheless, Marx’s Capital is a foundational work in both economics and in the critique of class rule.
Indeed, Marx chose this subtitle for his work: “A Critique of Political Economy.” The division of labor is foundational in the creation of any complex human community, and every class divided society also establishes the ruling ideas of ruling classes. In some respects, the work of Marx resembles an ideological steam engine. For example, in his Hegelian habits of mind. That is not to my taste, but the grounding of “dialectical” thought in material production and class struggles was a useful point of departure. No one else ventured so far on that path, and no one else in his time had his set of surveyor’s tools. When Marx wrote of the working day, he was both a poet and a prophet. If economics has a reputation as the “dismal science,” Marx also makes us reconsider the material conditions of knowledge. We have not yet exhausted the lessons he may teach us, even if the furnaces and factories of the nineteenth century seem like distant scenery.
Marx was not an occultist and could not foresee the stream of events we recall every time we wake up or listen to the daily news. To judge him by that measure only shows how backward and obscurantist his critics can be. In powers of observation and analysis, Marx still has more to teach us than all the op-ed columnists who pretend to patronize him.
There are, to be sure, new things under the sun. A recent mutation in the rule of capital is the sheer volatility and mobility of financial instruments in the past twenty years. That includes the shell-game of derivatives, and all the more arcane tinker-toys of finance. The most up to date forms of class rule are grounded in precedents, of course, but the rate of change is stunning, and coincided with drastic and deepening class divisions in the United States. The banking crisis in this country had a rapid rebound effect in Europe, and the current class struggles against austerity regimes in Europe are also worrying bankers and corporate boards round the world. We are witnessing the slow collision of imperial spheres of interest, and we cannot know if we will also endure a new era of world wars.
It’s worth noting that it was a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who signed away the Glass – Steagall Act, even as he signed away the last remnants of real protection for single mothers and dependent children under the old New Deal.
Here’s an excerpt (with link to full text) from an article by James Rickards first published in U.S. News in August of 2012:
“In 1999, Democrats led by President Bill Clinton and Republicans led by Sen. Phil Gramm joined forces to repeal Glass-Steagall at the behest of the big banks. What happened over the next eight years was an almost exact replay of the Roaring Twenties. Once again, banks originated fraudulent loans and once again they sold them to their customers in the form of securities. The bubble peaked in 2007 and collapsed in 2008. The hard-earned knowledge of 1933 had been lost in the arrogance of 1999.”
The fact that such a view appeared in U.S. News indicates the fractures opening even in official ideology. Bill Clinton claims that scrapping Glass-Steagall actually gave the country a softer landing after the worst perils of the banking crisis. Clinton is an advocate of the Social Darwinism he learned in the Ivy League, and he can triangulate all of his public policy decisions in just that manner. The Clintonistas always take the view from the managerial heights, and what counts with them is that big banks still had some moves left on the chessboard of global capital, long after millions of ordinary people had been bumped out of the game as pawns.
In the Los Angeles chapter of the Socialist Party, the plain question has been raised: Why socialism? Many answers may come to mind, but the recent history of the Democratic Party suggests a strong reason to choose democratic socialism: Because the “progressive” career Democrats cannot be trusted with basic democracy, and they proved to be such effective managers of state sponsored social regression. We need to fight the corporate parties fair and square with an independent and class-conscious program. A fair fight is a better way to live.
Years ago, a conservative journalist found out I had given a talk at the New York Marxist School, and he tagged me as “that Marxist.” Well, it’s not that simple, or not in my own mind. Why not ask why some Ivy League graduates are willing to read Aristotle but not Marx? As though Marx is “demonic.” The philosopher and psychologist Karl Jaspers used that very word to describe Marx in one of his letters to Hannah Arendt. Her view of Marx was more worldly and pointed. She was reading Marx again in the course of writing The Origins of Totalitarianism, and when she wrote to Jaspers in return, she said that Marx had not paid enough attention to political liberty.
Arendt did not think a republic could ever be well founded unless the pluralism of the public sphere was also given forethought and preserved with courage. (We do not need to idolize Founding Fathers in order to value the First Amendment, and indeed Arendt had more sympathy with the American revolutionaries of the eighteenth century than with their French counterparts.) In Arendt’s fine essay on Rosa Luxemburg (included in Men In Dark Times), Arendt praised Luxemburg precisely as a revolutionary republican. Arendt was among the few scholars to note that “the republican question” brought Luxemburg into conflict with both Lenin and Kautsky, in short, with both revolutionaries and reformists.
If we read Luxemburg carefully, we will also find that she claimed the authority of Marx and Engels in demanding a class-conscious struggle for a republic. Luxemburg was quite right to do so, and in my own essay on her life and work I quote “chapter and verse” from Friedrich Engels: “If anything is certain, it is this: that our party and the working class can only come to power under the form of a democratic republic. This is even the specific form for the dictatorship of the proletariat, as the great French Revolution has already shown.” (See “Rosa Luxemburg and the Libertarian Left”: http://www.truthdig.com/report/page3/rosa_luxemburg_and_the_libertarian_left_20110114/ ).
To the first statement I consent, and I dissent from the second statement. The “specific form” of dictatorship in the French Revolution passed from Robespierre to bourgeois rule, and later to the enlightened imperialism of Napoleon. (Enlightened, that is to say, if compared to the other contending forms of European empire. Beethoven famously dedicated his Third Symphony to Napoleon, and then blotted out the dedication when Napoleon declared himself Emperor.) The “specific form” of proletarian dictatorship during the French Revolution was no more than a small conspiracy, and the conspirators (notably Babeuf) were promptly guillotined when the plot was discovered. Marx was both more precise and polemical than Engels in such matters, and for these reasons we can still enjoy The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, which is both a well-spun story and a satire on later Napoleonic delusions of grandeur.
Probably Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill should be read together. Because there really are authoritarian streaks in Marx, and because Mill never really understood the depth of class rule inherent in the very foundation of the “free market.”
Democratic socialists regard socialism as an extension of democracy into the realm of the economy, which is certainly part of the unfinished business of the Enlightenment. But we don’t think the culture of socialism is compatible with any form of dictatorship. Even Luxemburg tried to preserve the very phrase “the dictatorship of the proletariat” as though it was an essential doctrine in a creed, but she did so by pointing to the specific form of a republic founded upon councils of workers.
What I reject root and branch is the notion that “Leninism” — whatever one thinks of Lenin— is the scientific laboratory of Marxism in the realm of practical action. On the contrary, the ground of common struggle is the practical fight for greater democracy, and not just in the realm of the economy nor only on election days. Much better to have political pluralism than a Central Committee that claims to carry out the judgment of history. In that sense, the practice of democracy must make a clean break with the practice of placing state power in the service of any clique of technocrats, however enlightened they claim to be.
Marx’s Capital was not a positive blueprint for socialism. On the contrary, it was a study of the conditions under which capital is extracted from our common world and from human brains and muscles. In this sense, the whole work demonstrated the power of negative thinking. Even (or especially) when Marx underscores the world-transforming power of capital. The “simple” substance of the first volume of Capital is summarized in Marx’s own words: “The simple elements of the labour process are (1) purposeful activity, that is work itself, (2) the object on which that work is performed, and (3) the instruments of that work.” Of course, the reader does not find this “simple” statement until well over 200 pages have passed.
Marx, however, begins Capital with “the analysis of the commodity,” namely, of any useful thing made to satisfy human needs. “The nature of these needs,” writes Marx, “whether they arise, for example, from the stomach, or the imagination, makes no difference.” Marx knows very well that such differences do, in fact, make a difference depending on conditions of bare survival or conditions of luxury. But such distinctions already tend in the direction of the analysis of class divisions. Instead, he presents the reader with a stark premise: the thing-like “nature” of a useful product, a thing valued for use. From the very start, Marx has laid the foundation for his critique of the alienation of labor, and the reduction of human brains and bodies to wage labor and the needs of capital. This premise is a stepping-stone given by Marx so the reader can cross the later streams of his larger argument with some security underfoot.
The style of Marx is usually quite clear, and often vivid. Only in the last volume is the texture denser. I was never a math prodigy, so I had trouble in my youth cracking his more algebraic propositions. But they are not really “higher math.” He gives you the key to each symbol (as does Luxemburg in The Accumulation of Capital), so those passages just take more patience. That’s pretty standard in any economic text. Besides, my first exposure to this book was a streamlined edition that stripped away the more complex formulas, and stuck to the bedrock arguments. A book of this kind is a building, and readers will find many doors and floors over the years.
Marx is best read in open collision with other thinkers. Many of the so-called “libertarians” today are reading von Hayek or (at a much baser level) Ayn Rand. But they can’t be bothered to read Marx with what used to be called “disinterested intelligence.” In my view, Marx had a much more grounded understanding of the price workers pay for the “free market” than von Hayek, and anything von Hayek has to say on liberty was already better said by Mill.
The bloody stain of twentieth century totalitarianism was on von Hayek’s mind, and his chiming theme is that the “free market” is the only secure republic of liberty. When reading von Hayek’s book The Road to Serfdom, it is worth noting what he does and does not say about the function of national borders in a global market. No more than Marx, von Hayek could not imagine the hypermobility of capital over all borders, to such a degree that Western nation states may once again become tools of outright barbarism.
Is such barbarism incompatible with some degree of liberty? Not if we recall that an imperial power can remain a guarantor of constitutional liberties for sectors of the public. Today, even those sectors are served notice that liberty is given as a kind of credit card to citizens in good standing, and possibly only to people who “have nothing to hide” under a creeping regime of state surveillance. The forms of war (through long distance drone strikes, for example) and of domestic counterinsurgency (through the national police crackdown on the Occupy movement, for example) show real signs of change in state power. The “Great Game” of imperial spheres of interest, likewise, continues through the use of mercenary forces (a form of wage labor) and proxy wars.
John Maynard Keynes is also crucial reading for any democratic socialist, because of his practical influence on any number of social democratic governments, including the administration of Franklin Roosevelt. The New Deal was a Keynesian managerial response to a historic tide of open class struggles, including some strikes that advanced rapidly to workplace occupations. The economist Paul Krugman, who writes regular op-ed columns for The New York Times, never tires of proposing a Keynesian program to Obama and his inner circle of economic advisers. If Obama were interested, he would have hired Krugman. Instead, Obama is testing what kind of austerity regime will be tolerated by the working majority of this country without open class revolt.
When we defend the rights of workers, we don’t expect everyone to be coming home from jobs and union meetings to read hundreds of pages of Marx. But in every generation since the Industrial Revolution, some workers made great sacrifices to join study circles and read books in earnest. Some of them even paid that price with their lives. Their stories also belong within the dialectic of enlightenment. Marx helps us to consider how capital is extracted from the earth and human labor, and in this sense his book Capital is a long preface to the ongoing global story of how workers forge bonds within and across national borders. Marx and Engels proudly distinguished between “scientific socialism,” namely, their own brand, and all other kinds of utopian socialism. What remains of such a “science” today can only be our decision to pay attention to reality.
As for utopia, Oscar Wilde wrote in The Soul of Man Under Socialism, “A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realization of utopias.” For workers of all countries, “the dignity of labor” now includes an open class struggle against austerity regimes. Democratic socialists dare to hope that the day will come when even the ruling class learns to earn an honest living.
Postscript: Here is a link to Haymarket Books, and to the work of David Fernbach:
“David Fernbach studied at London School of Economics. He is a freelance writer, editor and translator. Publications include the three-volume edition of Karl Marx’s Political Writings (Penguin 1973-4, reissued Verso 2010), and The Spiral Path: a gay contribution to human survival (1981). Translations include Marx’s Capital Volumes Two and Three, and works by Georg Lukacs, Rudolf Bahro, Boris Groys, Nicos Poulantzas, Pierre Bourdieu, Alain Badiou and Jacques Rancière.”