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Marxist theory

Fourth International debates `ecosocialism'

By Michael Löwy

International Viewpoint -- October 10, 2009 -- Daniel Tanuro’s report on climate change [Report on climate change at the IC of the Fourth International] is one of the most important documents produced by our movement in recent years. It is an invaluable contribution to the political arming of revolutionary Marxists and to making them capable of facing up to the challenges of the 21st century.

`Monthly Review' at 60: Six decades of campaigning for `social and ecological revolution'

On September 17, 2009, Monthly Review celebrated its 60th anniversary at the New York Society for Ethical Culture in New York City. Five-hundred enthusiastic supporters gathered to hear remarks by Robert McChesney, Grace Lee Boggs, John Bellamy Foster, Fred Magdoff, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Michael Tigar, and hear music by Toshi Reagon.

More than six decades ago, Paul Sweezy and his good friend, the labour journalist Leo Huberman, had long dreamed of founding a magazine offering a forum for insightful comment and analysis of world and national events from a specifically socialist perspective. The two already had a history of activism in the radical cauldron spawned by the Great Depression, the rise of the labour movement, and the World War II. By 1948, with the accelerating crises of Cold War and domestic repression – and with seed money from Sweezy's good friend and Harvard colleague, the literary historian and critic F.O. Matthiessen – they pressed forward with their plan for what would become Monthly Review.

The Levellers and the 1640s English Revolution

The Putney debates. Graphic by Clare Melinsky, Rampart Lions Press.

By Graham Milner

In 1649, 360 years ago this year, an experiment in communal land holding and cultivation began on St. George's Hill in Surrey, England, as the principles of a communist society were put into practice by the Diggers -- followers of Gerrard Winstanley, a visionary and writer of radical political tracts. This experiment marked an important phase in the development of socialist tendencies in the struggle to defeat the Stuart monarchy in the 1640s. This essay attempts to analyse the dynamics of the revolutionary struggle in England during the 1640s civil war and its aftermath. It concentrates on the emergence and development of left-wing tendencies in the revolutionary movement, and attempts to provide an explanation for the defeat of the aspirations of those tendencies.

Gramsci and hegemony

Graphic from http://www.i-italy.org.

By Trent Brown

September 22, 2009 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Antonio Gramsci is an important figure in the history of Marxist theory. While Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels provided a rigorous analysis of capital at the social and economic levels – particularly showing how capital antagonises the working class and gives rise to crisis – Gramsci supplemented this with a sophisticated theory of the political realm and how it is organically/dialectically related to social and economic conditions. He provides us with a theory of how the proletariat must organise politically if it is to effectively respond to capital’s crises and failures, and bring about revolutionary change.

Incidentally, this innovation has proven to be of interest not only to Marxists, but also to those involved in other forms of progressive politics, from the civil rights movement, to gender politics, to contemporary ecological struggles. The reason why his approach has proven so popular and generally adaptable is because Gramsci was himself a man of action and his fundamental concern was with progressive strategy. Thus while in this article I plan to give a give a general outline of Gramsci’s theory of hegemony and the reasons behind its formulation, it’s important that we build on this by thinking about how we can use these concepts strategically in our own struggles.

John Bellamy Foster: Financial crisis, imperialism and environment -- `Socialism is humanity's best chance'

On September 17, 2009, John Bellamy Foster appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss the financial meltdown, social change and democracy. Click HERE to read the transcript.

* * *

A conversation with John Bellamy Foster, editor of the US-based socialist magazine Monthly Review, professor of sociology at the University of Oregon and co-author (with Fred Magdoff) of The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences (Monthly Review Press, 2009). He was interviewed by Farooque Chowdhury for the Bangladesh daily newspaper New Age. It was published on September 8, 2009.

* * *

Free pamphlet: `The Labour Aristocracy: The material basis of opportunism in the labour movement'

The free-market fallacies of Ayn Rand

By Phil Hearse

August 22, 2009 -- Marxsite -- Most people sympathetic to radical politics outside the United States have probably never heard of Ayn Rand, and a brief introduction to her ultra pro-free market views would doubtless be enough to convince them they haven’t missed anything. Yet 27 years after her death, Ayn Rand continues to be seriously debated in the US, her books sell hundreds of thousands each year, her views are propagated by right wing think tanks and foundations and – bizarrely – Charlize Theron is in discussions to turn Rand’s 1088-page magnus opus Atlas Shrugged into a TV mini-series.

The Times Educational Supplement claimed in July that the Ayn Rand revival is gathering pace on US campuses. According to the TES:

New books reveal Friedrich Engels’ revolutionary life

Engels: A Revolutionary Life, by John Green, Artery Publications, 2008.

Marx’s General: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels, by Tristram Hunt, Macmillan/Metropolitan, 2009. (First published in Britain as The Frock-Coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels.)

Reviewed by Ian Angus

August 24, 2009 -- Socialist Voice -- Most people on the left know that Friedrich Engels was co-author of the Communist Manifesto and Karl Marx’s lifelong collaborator. But few of today’s radicals know much more than that about the man who built barricades and fought a guerrilla war in Germany in the 1848-49 revolution, the indefatigable organiser who played a decisive role in building the Marxist current from a handful of exiles in the 1850s into the dominant trend in the international working-class movement by the time of his death in 1895.

They can scarcely be blamed for their lack of knowledge: it hasn’t been easy to learn about Engels’ life. In the 110 years after he died, only two substantial biographies were published in English – by Gustav Mayer in 1936 and by W.O. Henderson in 1967 – and both have long been out of print.

Sustainability: utopian and scientific

By Mark Burton

To make the move to a sustainable future where people are no longer threatened by an ecological catastrophe will require a number of things –- above all a strong and broad movement with effective and intelligent leadership and an accurate understanding of the current problems and how they can be overcome. Sadly, only some parts of this constellation of forces are in place today.

In particular the green movement is not an effective political and social movement and the left is still in disarray, largely concerned with defensive politics and harking back to a world long gone.

As for ideas and analysis of the situation and what needs to be done, some powerful critiques of the current economic orthodoxies have recently appeared that set out an alternative way in which the wellbeing and prosperity of the population can be achieved and maintained. However, these contributions are insufficient since they do not provide a sufficiently profound diagnosis of the causes of the problem. Without such a diagnosis there can be no convincing prescription for a remedy. But the situation is even worse than that. There is also no convincing approach to obtaining the necessary changes.

John Bellamy Foster: `The transition to socialism and the transition to an ecological society are one’

John Bellamy Foster's keynote address to the Climate Change, Social Change conference (organised by Green Left Weekly), Sydney, Australia, April 12, 2008. This talk is the basis of the last chapter of The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet.

Read an exclusive excerpt from Foster's The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet at http://links.org.au/node/1066.

Links readers are also encouraged to purchase a copy of this important new book HERE.

* * *

Class struggle and ecology: An ecosocialist approach

By Socialist Resistance (Britain)

…we with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and… all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage of all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly

— Friedrich Engels.

Ecology as crucial as imperialism

For socialists in the 20th century imperialism was the great dividing line between those who accepted the logic of capitalist society and those who were willing to challenge it. In the first decades of the 21st century it is apparent that imperialism and war will remain inherent features of late capitalism. To these threats we must add the genuine and serious risks of severe ecological degradation and climate change caused by the capitalist economic model as factors that will shape socialist politics in the coming decades.

The biosphere and us

Marta Harnecker: Popular power in Latin America -- Inventing in order to not make errors

A communal council meeting in the community of Andres Eloy Blanco, state of Zulia, Venezuela.

By Marta Harnecker, translated by Coral Wynter and Federico Fuentes
Closing lecture given at the XXVI Gallega Week of Philosophy, Pontevedra, April 17, 2009.

``Either we invent or we err''
--
Simon Rodriguez

Patrick Bond, Adam Hanieh: World slump and class struggles in the global South


Part 1: Adam Hanieh.

Toronto, June 28, 2009 - Left Streamed -- The political period that has opened up since the financial turbulence of 2007 began to grip the world market has led to both a crisis of neoliberalism and an attempt to reconstruct it. The overaccumulation of capital in key sectors in the US and Europe, particularly in real estate markets, auto production and financial services, has led to an economic contraction that has spread across global capitalism.

Marta Harnecker: Ideas for the struggle #12 -- Don’t confuse desires with reality

Marta Harnecker.

[This is the final article in a 12-part series of articles. Click HERE for other articles in the series.]

By Marta Harnecker, translated by Federico Fuentes for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

1. Unfortunately, there tends to be a lot of subjectivism in our analysis of the political situation. What tends to occur is that leaders, driven by their revolutionary passion, tend to confuse desires with reality. An objective evaluation of the situation is not carried out, the enemy tends to be underestimated and, on the other hand, one’s own potential is overestimated

Marta Harnecker: Ideas for the struggle #11 -- Popular consultations: spaces that allow for the convergence of different forces

Supporters of Uruguay's left coalition Frente Amplio.

[This is the eleventh in a series of regular articles. Click HERE for other articles in the series. Please return to Links regularly read the next articles in the series.]

By Marta Harnecker, translated by Federico Fuentes for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

1. I have previously argued the case for the need to create a large social bloc against neoliberalism that can unite all those affected by the system. To achieve this, it is fundamental that we create spaces that allow for the convergence of specific anti-neoliberal struggles where, safeguarding the specific characteristics of each political or social actor, common tasks can be taken up that aid in strengthening the struggle.

Marta Harnecker: Ideas for the struggle #10 -- A strategy for building unity

[This is the tenth in a series of regular articles. Click HERE for other articles in the series. Please return to Links regularly read the next articles in the series.]

By Marta Harnecker, translated by Federico Fuentes for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

1. I have previously referred to the necessity of building unity among all left forces and actors in order to be able to group a broad anti-neoliberal bloc around them. Nevertheless, I do not think that this objective can be achieved in a voluntarist manner, creating coordinating bodies from above that end up as simple sums of acronyms.

2. I believe that this unity can emerge through concrete struggles for common objectives. And that is why I think that we can help create better conditions for this unity if we put into practice a new strategy of anti-capitalist struggle.

Marta Harnecker: Ideas for the struggle #9 -- Respect differences and be flexible in regards to activism

[This is the ninth in a series of regular articles. Click HERE for other articles in the series. Please return to Links regularly read the next articles in the series.]

By Marta Harnecker, translated by Federico Fuentes for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

1. Among the left, there continues to be a difficulty to work together while respecting differences. In the past, the tendency of political organisations, especially parties that self-declare themselves as parties of the working class, was always towards homogenising the social base within which they carried out political work. If this attitude was once justified due to the past identity and homogeneity of the working class, today it is anachronistic when confronted with a working class that is quite differentiated, and with the emergence of a diversity of new social actors. Today, we increasingly have to deal with a unity based on diversity, on respect for ethnic and cultural differences, for gender and for the sense of belonging of specific collectives.

Adam Smith was closer to Karl Marx than those showering praise on Smith today

Adam Smith and Karl Marx agree that workers not bosses create value.

By Eric Toussaint, translated by Charles La Via in collaboration with Christine Pagnoulle.[1]

In the following citations, we discover that what Adam Smith wrote in the 1770s is not so distant from what Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels would write 70 years later in the famous Communist Manifesto.

Marta Harnecker: Ideas for the struggle #8 -- The left must attempt to set the agenda for struggle

[This is the eighth in a series of regular articles. Click HERE for other articles in the series. Please return to Links regularly read the next articles in the series.]

By Marta Harnecker, translated by Federico Fuentes for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

1. In the previous article, we stated that a large section of the party left has found it very difficult to work with social movements and develop ties with the new social forces in recent decades. This has been due to several factors.

Marta Harnecker: Ideas for the struggle #7 -- Reasons for popular scepticism concerning politics and politicians

[This is the seventh in a series of regular articles. Click HERE for other articles in the series. Please return to Links regularly read the next articles in the series.]

By Marta Harnecker, translated by Federico Fuentes for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

1. In one of my previous articles, I stated that in order to wage an effective struggle against neoliberalism, it is necessary to unite all those suffering its consequences, and to achieve this objective we must start with the left itself, which in our countries tends to be very dispersed. But, there are many obstacles that impede this task. The first step to overcoming them is to be aware of them and be prepared to face them.

2. One of these obstacles is the growing popular scepticism regarding politics and politicians.

3. This has to do, among other things, with the great constraints that exist today in our democratic systems, which are very different to those that existed prior to the military dictatorships.

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