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Marxist theory

Capitalism and the oceanic crisis: Turning the seas into a watery grave

By Brett Clark and Rebecca Clausen

The world ocean covers approximately 70 per cent of the Earth. It has been an integral part of human history, providing food and ecological services. Yet conservation efforts and concerns with environmental degradation have mostly focused on terrestrial issues. Marine scientists and oceanographers have recently made remarkable discoveries in regard to the intricacies of marine food webs and the richness of oceanic biodiversity. However, the excitement over these discoveries is dampened due to an awareness of the rapidly accelerating threat to the biological integrity of marine ecosystems.[1]

At the start of the twenty-first century marine scientists focused on the rapid depletion of marine fish, revealing that 75 per cent of major fisheries are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted. It is estimated “that the global ocean has lost more than 90% of large predatory fishes”. The depletion of ocean fish stock due to overfishing has disrupted metabolic relations within the oceanic ecosystem at multiple trophic and spatial scales.[2]

Download now! Links Dossier #3: Michael Lebowitz on Socialism for the 21st Century

A selection of thought-provoking articles by Michael A. Lebowitz from Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal. Lebowitz is professor emeritus of economics at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, and author of Beyond Capital: Marx’s Political Economy of the Working Class and Build it Now: Socialism for the 21st Century. He is a program coordinator with the Centro International Miranda, Caracas, Venezuela.

Links Dossiers are in easy-to-print PDF format and readers are encouraged to print and distribute them.

Contents

Socialism is the future: Build it now!

The spectre of socialism for the 21st century

Discussion on ‘The spectre of socialism for the
21st century’

The capitalist workday, the socialist workday

Without workers’ management, there is no socialism

If socialism fails: the spectre of 21st century barbarism

By Ian Angus

July 27, 2008 -- From the first day it appeared online, Climate and Capitalism’s masthead has carried the slogan “Ecosocialism or Barbarism: there is no third way.” We’ve been quite clear that ecosocialism is not a new theory or brand of socialism — it is socialism with Marx’s important insights on ecology restored, socialism committed to the fight against ecological destruction. But why do we say that the alternative to ecosocialism is barbarism?

Marxists have used the word “barbarism” in various ways, but most often to describe actions or social conditions that are grossly inhumane, brutal, and violent. It is not a word we use lightly, because it implies not just bad behaviour but violations of the most important norms of human solidarity and civilised life. [1]

The slogan “Socialism or Barbarism” originated with the great German revolutionary socialist leader Rosa Luxemburg, who repeatedly raised it during World War I. It was a profound concept, one that has become ever more relevant as the years have passed.

Who’s afraid of Liberation Theology?

By Barry Healy

[This is the text of a talk presented at the Marxism Summer School conducted by the Australian Democratic Socialist Perspective in January 2005. The pope referred to is the then-reigning Pope John-Paul II. The current Pope Benedict XVI is mentioned, being Cardinal Ratzinger at the time this talk was presented. See the appendices for more on Ratzinger and his background.]

I have an acquaintance who is a staunch supporter of the Liberal Party and a fundamentalist Christian, she occasionally gives me a lift to the railway station in the morning, which I appreciate. I didn’t know her religious bent until one morning she started regaling me with her opinion of Marxism, which was entirely based on the one sentence written by Marx that she knew: “Religion is the opium of the people.”

I don’t think she could even give a coherent explanation of the sentence, let alone an understanding of its context. She just knew that it was godless communism and that was enough for her.

Ecology: The moment of truth—an introduction

By John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark and Richard York

* * *

The July-August 2008 (Volume 60, Number 3) edition of the influential US socialist journal Monthly Review is a special issue on ``Ecology: The Moment of Truth”, edited by Brett Clark, John Bellamy Foster and Richard York. The issue is devoted to the planetary environmental emergency. It is essential reading for all socialists and environmentalists. With permission from Monthly Review, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal here posts the introduction by the editors, and urges Links' readers to purchase the issue and/or subscribe to Monthly Review.

* * *

`Is Cuba done with equality?' NOT!

By Fred Feldman

June 28, 2008 -- I am responding to ``Of Pay and Productivity: Is Cuba Done With Equality?'', an article by Moshe Adler, director of Public Interest Economics, which appeared in the June 20 Counterpunch (a radical monthly print and daily webzine based in the US.) The article deals with the latest modifications of the country's wage structure made public June 11.

I think it would be useful if I presented some general considerations, despite what I admit is a broad but rather too shallow knowledge of the Cuban Revolution. I have never been in the country, for example. My knowledge of Spanish has grown quite a bit in the recent period, so that I can plough through shorter Spanish-language articles with a dictionary in hand, but it is still in the poquito range.

Michael Lebowitz: The spectre of socialism for the 21st century

The following is the keynote address to the annual meeting of the Society for Socialist Studies, Vancouver, June 5, 2008. It was originally titled ``Building socialism for the 21st century''. To hear an audio recording of the speech, click HERE.

By Michael A. Lebowitz

A spectre is haunting capitalism. It is the spectre of socialism for the 21st century. Increasingly, the characteristics of this spectre are becoming clear, and we are able to see enough to understand what it is not. The only thing that is not clear at this point is whether the spectre is real – i.e., whether it is actually an earthly presence.

Friedrich Engels: the Che Guevara of his day

Review by Alex Miller

Engels: A Revolutionary Life

By John Green

Artery Publications

Paperback 2008

347 pages, £10

Most people know that Friedrich Engels (1820–1895) was the lifelong friend and collaborator of Karl Marx, and for most people the image of Engels that springs most readily to mind is of a heavily bearded, earnest old Victorian gentleman (most likely standing in the background of a group consisting of Marx and his family).

Bolivia's vice-president on the course of revolution

By Álvaro García Linera, vice-president of Bolivia

Translation, notes and introduction by Richard Fidler

The following article, based on a speech given in December 2007 but only recently transcribed and published in Spanish by Bolpress on May 12, 2008, is an important statement by a leading member of Bolivian President Evo Morales’ government on the political situation in that country in the wake of the Constituent Assembly’s vote on a draft political constitution. The draft constitution is to be put to a popular vote for adoption later this year.

Álvaro García Linera, Bolivia’s vice-president, is a former leader of the Tupac Katarí guerrilla army. He was subsequently employed as a university sociologist. He is also a prominent Latin American Marxist, strongly influenced by post-World War II European non-Stalinist Marxist currents inspired by the ideas of the Italian communist leader and political theorist Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci, who died in 1937, was an innovative Marxist thinker who wrote extensively on the concept of cultural hegemony and its role as an ideological mainstay of capitalist societies.

From Marx to Morales: Indigenous socialism and the Latin Americanisation of Marxism

By John Riddell

June 16, 2008 -- Over the past decade, a new rise of mass struggles in Latin America has sparked an encounter between revolutionists of that region and many of those based in the imperialist countries. In many of these struggles, as in Bolivia under the presidency of Evo Morales, Indigenous peoples are in the lead.

Latin American revolutionists are enriching Marxism in the field of theory as well as of action. This article offers some introductory comments indicating ways in which their ideas are linking up with and drawing attention to important but little-known aspects of Marxist thought.

Che Guevara's final verdict on the Soviet economy

By John Riddell

June 8, 2008 -- One of the most important developments in Cuban Marxism in recent years has been increased attention to the writings of Ernesto Che Guevara on the economics and politics of the transition to socialism.

A milestone in this process was the publication in 2006 by Ocean Press and Cuba's Centro de Estudios Che Guevara of Apuntes criticos a la economía política [Critical Notes on Political Economy], a collection of Che's writings from the years 1962 to 1965, many of them previously unpublished. The book includes a lengthy excerpt from a letter to Fidel Castro, entitled ``Some Thoughts on the Transition to Socialism''. In it, in extremely condensed comments, Che presented his views on economic development in the Soviet Union.[1]

In 1965, the Soviet economy stood at the end of a period of rapid growth that had brought improvements to the still very low living standards of working people. Soviet prestige had been enhanced by engineering successes in defence production and space exploration. Most Western observers then considered that it showed more dynamism than its US counterpart.

At that time, almost the entire Soviet productive economy was owned by the state. It was managed by a privileged bureaucracy that consolidated its control in the 1920s under the leadership of Joseph Stalin. Managers were rewarded on the basis of fulfilling production norms laid down from above; workers were commonly paid by the piece.

Some more comments on Peter Taaffe's Cuba book

[This article first appeared in the Democratic Socialist Party's internal discussion bulletin The Activist - Volume 10, Number 9, October 2000.]

 

By Doug Lorimer

Last year I wrote a letter to Farooq Tariq, general secretary of the Labour Party Pakistan, responding to his request for our leadership's disagreements with the Committee for a Workers' International's view of Cuba. The letter took the form of an extended polemic against Socialist Party of England and Wales (SPEW) general secretary Peter Taaffe's 1982 pamphlet Cuba: Analysis of the Revolution. The letter was subsequently printed in The Activist for the information of DSP members. In June this year [2000] the CWI published a book by Peter Taaffe replying to my letter to Comrade Tariq entitled Cuba: Socialism and Democracy.

The Cuban Revolution and its leadership: A criticism of Peter Taaffe's pamphlet 'Cuba: Analysis of the Revolution'

The following article was written at the request of Farooq Tariq, general secretary of the Labour Party Pakistan, as an initial contribution to a discussion between the LPP and the DSP on the character of the leadership of the Cuban socialist state and the Communist Party of Cuba. It was published in the Volume 9, Number 4, 1999, edition of The Activist, the Democratic Socialist Party's internal discussion bulletin.

By Doug Lorimer

Peter Taaffe's pamphlet on Cuba (first published in 1978 and reprinted in 1982) consists of three articles taken from the paper of the British Militant organisation (now called the Socialist Party), of which he was, and still is, general secretary. The first article presents an analysis of the revolutionary struggle in Cuba up to the expropriation of capitalist property and the establishment of a planned economy. The second article analyses the character of the group which led the Cuban socialist revolution, the central conclusion of which is indicated by the article's title: "Power in the Hands of [a] Bureaucratic Elite". The third article is an attempt to substantiate this view in the light of the foreign and domestic policies of this leadership group.

The basic conclusion of the pamphlet is set out at the end of the third article:

Michael A. Lebowitz: Socialism is the future -- Build it now

By Michael A. Lebowitz

Ideas become a material force when they grasp the minds of masses. This is true not only of ideas which can support revolutionary change. It is also true of those ideas which prevent change. An obvious example is the concept of TINA -- the idea that there is no alternative, no alternative to neoliberalism, no alternative to capitalism.

Certainly we know that there have been significant changes in the terrain upon which the working class must struggle -- changes which are a challenge because of a new international division of labour and because of the role of states in delivering a passive, docile working class to international capital. It is not only changing material circumstances which affects the working class, however. It is also the loss of confidence of the working class that makes these material changes a deadly blow. Even the Korean working class that has demonstrated so clearly in the past its militancy in the struggle against capital has been affected.

Three books on the life and thought of the `red terror doctor’

Reviews by Alex Miller

Karl Marx: A Biography
By David McLellan, Palgrave Macmillan
4th Edition 2006
487 pages, paperback

Individual versus social solutions to global warming

By Terry Townsend

A talk to the Climate Change Social Change Conference held in Sydney from April 11 to 13, 2008, organised by Green Left Weekly. For more articles, audio and video from the conference, click here.

April 13, 2008 -- I’m sure everybody here is aware of the basic facts of global warming and the likely consequences if rapid and serious action is not taken. There is virtually unanimous agreement among scientists and activists, and increasingly among millions of ordinary people, about the degree of the problem and the time frame we have to make fundamental changes to address it.

John Bellamy Foster on the global financial crisis

‘Nobody knows where the toxic debt is buried and how much there is’

John Bellamy Foster is editor of the Monthly Review, a prominent political journal established by the Marxist economist Paul Sweezy in the 1940s.

Foster is a professor of sociology at the University of Oregon in Eugene, USA. He has written widely on political economy and has established a reputation as an environmental socialist.

He has proven that Karl Marx was a radical ecologist in his book, Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature.

Foster is interviewed by Peter Boyle for Links - International Journal of Socialist Renewal and Green Left Weekly. It was conducted during the Climate Change Social Change conference in Sydney, April 11-13, 2008.

The written version of the interview is available at Green Left Weekly.

Orwell’s Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four: Critiques of Stalinism `from the left’?

Review by Alex Miller

This essay is the result of a re-reading of George Orwell’s two most famous novels. Both Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four have acquired the status of textbooks, and are routinely used in schools to demonstrate to children the inherent dangers of social revolution. It is time for a reappraisal.

The ``Centenary Edition’’ of George Orwell’s Animal Farm contains a preface written by Orwell for the first edition (Secker and Warburg, 1945) but never published, together with a preface that he wrote specially for a translation for displaced Ukrainians living under British and US administration after World War II.

* * *

Michael A. Lebowitz: La jornada laboral capitalista y la jornada laboral socialista

By Michael A. Lebowitz

[Translation by J. Duckworth]

A medida que el primero de mayo se acerca, vale la pena recordar cuatro aspectos sobre ese día:

1. Para l@s trabajador@s el primero de mayo no es la celebración de un día feriado estatal, ni un regalo de él, sino que conmemorara es la lucha —desde abajo— de l@s trabajador@s.

2. Inicialmente, el primero de mayo se centraba en la lucha por una jornada laboral mas corta.

3. La lucha para una jornada laboral mas corta no es una lucha aislada sino la lucha contra la explotación capitalista.

4. La lucha contra la explotación capitalista es una parte esencial pero no es la única parte de la lucha general contra el capitalismo.

Hoy quiero exponer algunas ideas que se refieren tanto a la jornada laboral capitalista como a la socialista y espero que ellas puedan ser útiles en la lucha actual en Venezuela y que sirvan, de manera más inmediata, a los debates de hoy.

Michael A. Lebowitz: May Day -- The capitalist workday, the socialist workday

By Michael A. Lebowitz

April 24, 2008 -- As May Day approaches, there are four things that are worth remembering:

1. For workers, May Day does not celebrate a state holiday or gifts from the state but commemorates the struggle of workers from below.

2. The initial focus of May Day was a struggle for the shorter workday.

3. The struggle for the shorter workday is not an isolated struggle but is the struggle against capitalist exploitation.

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