• The Swedish Left Failed the Vulnerable During the Pandemic

    Sweden’s “hands-off” COVID-19 response was hailed by libertarians abroad but also by most left-wingers at home. Far from enlightened, the Swedish left’s approach combined deference to authority with a disturbing faith in national exceptionalism.

    #in_retrospect #suède

  • South Africa Is Right To Invoke the Genocide Convention Against Israel’s War on Gaza

    South Africa has asked the International Court of Justice to rule that Israel is guilty of “genocidal acts” in Gaza. The architects of the Genocide Convention intended it to be used to stop the mass killing of civilians before it is too late.

  • To Crush Left-Wing Organizing, Canada Embraced Ukrainian Nazi Collaborators

    Pourquoi la diaspora ukrainienne au Canada et une bonne partie de l’Ukraine de l’Ouest sont majoritairement fascistes. Et non, ce n’est pas de la propagande poutiniste. Nous sommes confrontés au résultat de la collaboration des vainquers anglophones de la deuxième guerre mondiale et de leurs employés allemands (Organisation Gehlen etc.) avec les nazis ukrainiens. C’est une histoire qui a commencé avant 1945 et continue à se développer aujourd’hui.

    C’est assez inquiétant car on a affaire à des structures nazies et leurs soutiens pragmatiques au sein des états. Cet article sur le Canada annonce l’augmentation du poids politique de l’extrême droite en Allemagne suite à la naturalisation d’un million de réfugiés ukrainiens.

    Ce n’est pas encore fait mais il n’y a aucune raison pour ne pas naturaliser cette « main d’oeuvre de qualité ». Du point de vue des ukrainiens d’Allemagne il n’y a pas beaucoup d ’arguments pour rentrer dans un pays en ruines alors qu’on peut construire son avenir en Allemagne.

    Chiffre officiel : 1.125.850 de réfugiés ukrainiens au mois de novembre 2023
    Quelques informations plus détaillées

    Le texte de jacobin.com

    21.12.2023 by William Gillies - In September, Canada’s parliament ignited controversy when it celebrated Yaroslav Hunka, a ninety-eight-year-old World War II Nazi collaborator. The incident has brought renewed focus to the issue of war criminals who immigrated to the country after 1945. The primary source of outrage has rightly centered on how someone like Hunka, who voluntarily served in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician), gained entry into Canada, and why the government never deported or prosecuted suspected war criminals. Even a desultory 1980s investigation into the matter of Nazi immigrants is still mostly sealed from the public, despite identifying dozens of suspected war criminals living freely in Canada — most of whom are now likely all dead.

    However, media coverage has largely failed to engage with the question of why Canada let people like Hunka immigrate, resulting in the current political controversy lacking essential historical context. There have been some exceptions, such as pieces in these pages that have pointed out that there is a troubling history that Canada must reckon with, and correctly suggested that this immigration of war criminals was tied to anti-communism. It is important to delve further into this history, as it reveals a deliberate effort by the Canadian state to dismantle political radicalism and tame labor militancy in the postwar period.

    Immigrants like Hunka were granted entry specifically because their collaborationist pasts made them useful in crushing left-wing organizing in Ukrainian Canadian communities. Collaborators assumed control of community organizations, some of which were transferred to them by the federal government, having seized them from socialist groups during the war. The process was often quite violent, with mob violence intimidating leftists, fascists serving as strikebreakers in mining towns, and a Ukrainian labor temple being attacked with a bomb during a concert. All of these actions were condoned by the Canadian state in the name of anti-communism.
    Ukrainian Labor Temples and “Hall Socialism”

    Contrary to the present existence of Ukrainian Nazi collaborator monuments in Canada, there was once a robust Ukrainian Canadian left. Organized around the Ukrainian Labour Farmer Temple Association (ULFTA), it played a pivotal role in various chapters of Canadian labor history, often adopting radical stances. The ULFTA operated hundreds of “labor temples” across the country that nurtured a political movement often called “hall socialism.” Labor temples hosted political rallies, contained lending libraries, published newspapers, supported Ukrainian immigrants, sponsored cultural activities, and provided a venue for collective socialization. In Winnipeg, Manitoba, the finest still-existing labor temple was completed in 1919, just in time to serve as the headquarters of the city’s general strike that same year.

    Between the world wars, the Canadian government feared Ukrainian Canadian radicalism and its connections to communist agitation. Ukrainians were enormously overrepresented in the Communist Party of Canada, which even had a Ukrainian language section. The ULFTA was formally affiliated with the party and helped organize Winnipeg’s large Ukrainian Canadian working class to elect communists like Bill Kardash from the 1930s to the 1950s. In contrast, Ukrainian nationalists in Canada were marginal. They expressed admiration for Hitler and denounced communist politicians as the triumph of the “Bolshevik-Jewish clique.” In 1934, they published a Ukrainian edition of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

    When Canada declared war on Germany in September 1939, the Communist Party opposed the war, following the Soviet political line after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Subsequently, the party and its many affiliated organizations were outlawed. On June 4, 1940, the ULFTA was banned, and the government seized all of the organization’s assets and interned many of its members. Over 180 halls were confiscated, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) took control of all archives, meticulously reviewing them to augment their already extensive knowledge of the movement. A recent purge of members with nationalist sympathies caught the attention of the Mounties, prompting them to contact these individuals as informants.

    Following the banning of the ULFTA, the federal government took further action to force a unification of the Ukrainian nationalist groups in Canada in November 1940. Inviting the various groups’ leaders to a meeting, government officials presented a stack of police intelligence reports documenting their awareness of fascist political connections and recommendations that they be outlawed. The ultimatum was clear: unless these groups unified according to the government’s preferences, they would face prohibition. Responding to this pressure, the Ukrainian Canadian Committee (later Congress) (UCC) was promptly formed and remains in existence today. The UCC was expected to support the war effort and act as an intermediary between the government and the Ukrainian Canadian community. In return the government would lend support to the claim that the nationalists represented Ukrainian-Canadians.

    After the Soviet Union joined the Allies in 1941, the Canadian government was slow to reverse the ban on the now very pro-war Communist Party and its affiliates. Internees were released in the fall of 1942, and the ban on the ULFTA was lifted in October 1943. Property still in government possession was returned starting in 1944. In many cases the halls had been sold, often to rival Ukrainian groups, with their contents dispersed or discarded. Halls that were taken over by nationalists had their libraries stripped of any subversive material.

    In 1940, in Edmonton, a display of anti-communist fervor saw five hundred books publicly burned in the street. In Winnipeg, nationalists were given a print shop, and with RCMP help, they revised the editorial line of a socialist newspaper. However, readers responded by returning their copies wrapped around bricks, leading to bankruptcy through postal charges.

    This period had a devastating effect on the Ukrainian Canadian left, as the halls and their contents, crucial to the movement and carefully built up over decades, suffered significant losses. Government interference in Ukrainian Canadian politics tipped the scales in the nationalists’ favor, empowering the conservative UCC to dominate the community after 1945.
    Displaced War Criminals

    In 1945, the surrendered 14th SS Division was held at a POW camp in Rimini, Italy, while the Western Allies decided what to do with them. The Soviets wanted them repatriated to face consequences for collaboration, but the onset of the Cold War altered the political landscape. Former enemy collaborators, such as Ukrainians who had served in the 14th SS Division, were reconsidered as potential allies against Soviet communism.

    By June 1947, displaced persons registered as ethnic Ukrainian totaled 106,549. Initially, the Canadian government showed limited interest in admitting more Ukrainians, reflecting a long-standing bias against non-Western European immigrants. Furthermore, Canadian law prohibited the acceptance of former combatants who had voluntarily served in the German armed forces. However, much of the screening was conducted by British major Denis Hills, a self-described fascist who instructed collaborators on how to avoid investigation. The British exonerated the Galicia Division and transferred many of them to Britain to fill labor shortages in agriculture.

    The UCC lobbied the Canadian government to accept Ukrainian displaced persons and emphasized their anti-communist potential. Against the backdrop of a booming labor market in Canada, these Ukrainians were portrayed as disciplined workers opposed to any sort of union radicalism. They were positively characterized as capable of filling vacancies in mining and forestry, where they could break up left-wing Ukrainian Canadian organizations.

    Starting in 1947, this lobbying began to yield results, especially as the British government pressured Canada to accept them. In 1950, the immigration ban on Ukrainians who served in the SS was lifted, thanks to UCC advocacy that claimed they were simply soldiers who had fought against communism.

    Many Ukrainian Canadians and Jewish groups opposed the admission of Nazi collaborators. The Association of United Ukrainian Canadians (AUUC), created in 1946 as the successor to the ULFTA, lobbied against the move. While supporting the immigration of Ukrainian refugees to Canada, they argued for thorough screening of their wartime activities. They were largely ignored.

    By January 1952, official figures indicated that twenty-six thousand Ukrainian displaced persons had been accepted. However, later historical research suggests that official figures undercounted, and that the actual number could have been as high as fifty thousand, with half originating from western Ukraine, the heartland of the nationalist movement. Approximately 3 percent were veterans of the 14th SS Division, about 1,500 people, although some sources cite figures as high as two thousand. Additionally, there were other nationalists who collaborated in less formal ways than joining the SS, but were still active participants in the Holocaust.

    Canada’s admittance of Ukrainian collaborators after 1945 was not a failure to properly screen immigrants, but an intentional policy decision. Canada did not care what many of these people were accused of doing in eastern Europe. The primary consideration was their usefulness in domestic anti-communism.
    Expunging the Reds

    On October 8, 1950, a bomb went off during a concert at the Central Ukrainian Labor Temple on Bathurst Street in Toronto. Eleven people were injured, and the explosion leveled part of the building. Authorities offered a $1,500 reward for information, but no one was ever caught. The long-standing suspicion is that Ukrainian nationalists were responsible, as this attack aligned with a pattern of violence directed against the Ukrainian Canadian left during the 1950s. Ukrainian labor temples and the broader labor movement were central to the postwar struggle between Ukrainian fascist emigres and the Ukrainian Canadian Left.

    Soon after arriving in Canada in the late 1940s, Ukrainian nationalist immigrants organized to target labor temples and disrupt meetings. In December 1948 in Val-d’or, Quebec, a group of them attacked a temple hosting a speaker discussing the Soviet Union. Armed with sticks, stones, and bottles they invaded the event to attack the speaker but were repulsed and thrown out. Unable to kidnap the speaker, they split up into smaller groups to stake out the homes of suspected communists.

    In the immediate postwar years, it became clear that an independent Ukraine was unlikely. Consequently, attacking leftists in the Ukrainian Canadian community became a sort of consolation prize. The Canadian state was to some extent pleased with this change of focus by the nationalists, and tacitly approved of such attacks.

    Official anti-communist sentiment was coupled with the need for more workers in Canada’s booming postwar economy. Ukrainian displaced persons, as a condition for immigration, often entered into work contracts binding them to an employer, typically in resource extraction towns in the north of Ontario or Quebec. Mining company agents visited refugee camps in Europe, screening prospective employees for anti-communist beliefs, and then recruited them to relocate to Canada. They often arrived in places that had a preexisting Ukrainian Canadian left.

    Initially the AUUC tried to organize the new immigrants, but this was ineffective. In December 1947, several dozen Ukrainian displaced persons took a train to Timmins, Ontario, to start work in a gold mine. Stopping in North Bay, Ontario (where Hunka currently resides), they were greeted by communist organizers at the station who sought to explain the importance of unionization. In response, the organizers were severely beaten and thrown off the train — an event celebrated by the local press.

    As the work contracts for the first wave of nationalist emigres expired, they moved into urban areas, leading to an escalation in attacks on the AUUC. Simultaneously, a fresh wave of Ukrainian displaced persons were admitted into Canada in the early 1950s after the removal of the ban on the immigration of collaborators. In Winnipeg, Toronto, and Edmonton, nationalists would attend labor temple events with the intention of disrupting and attacking. This ranged from heckling to shut down a speaker to physical assaults on attendees and organizers, property vandalism, and even following attendees home.

    Police investigations into the attacks were largely lackluster, often attributing blame to the AUUC for somehow instigating them. In Dec 1949, a crowd of two hundred nationalists surrounded a labor temple event in Timmins, Ontario. They were denied entry, but refused to leave, shouting and banging on the door. When the police arrived, they concluded that nothing criminal had occurred, and then drove off. Emboldened, the nationalists broke inside and started beating men, women, and children, sending several people to hospital in serious condition. The local police returned but simply stood and watched. Eventually, one nationalist was charged with assault, but the prosecution and the defense colluded to acquit him.

    The October 1950 bombing of a Toronto labor temple brought broader public attention to the conflict within the Ukrainian Canadian community. The AUUC accused Galicia Division veterans of the attack and blamed the Canadian government for failing to screen them during immigration. The RCMP investigation into the bombing swiftly eliminated nationalists as suspects, even when lacking alibis and possessing obvious motive. Law enforcement also entertained nationalist claims that the bombing was a false-flag operation carried out by the communists to garner public sympathy.

    The investigation failed to pursue many significant leads, and by early 1951, the case was closed without ever identifying a potential suspect. Instead, the RCMP invested its effort into creating lists of anyone who wrote to the government about the bombing and conducted surveillance on victims of the attack. While it is likely that the bombing was perpetrated by Ukrainian nationalists, the intentionally poor investigation by the RCMP renders it impossible to establish with certainty.

    Following the bombing, overt violence against Ukrainian Canadian leftists declined by the mid-1950s. This decline was, in large part, due to its effectiveness in intimidating AUUC supporters from attending events and organizing. Additionally, the far-right nationalists had become increasingly integrated into mainstream Ukrainian Canadian organizations by this point, affording them the legal means to expunge the reds in the community. This alignment with the broader Red Scare, which squashed left radicalism in Canada, further contributed to the decline of the AUUC.

    In 1945 the AUUC welcomed 2,579 new members, but by 1969 that figure dwindled to eighty-four annually. The number of temples collapsed to forty-three by 1973. By the late 1960s, both the membership and leadership was aging, while young recruits were scarce.
    Enduring Historical Revisionism

    By the 1970s the nationalists had established domination over the Ukrainian Canadian experience. This framework excluded diverse points of view, such as labor radicalism, and replaced it with a monolithic identity built on a conservative nationalism. This era coincided with the fashioning of Canada’s official multiculturalism, in which both the federal and provincial governments aimed to celebrate diverse ethnic communities.

    Under the fig leaf of celebrating ethnic heritage, statues of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators, such as Roman Shukhevych in Edmonton, began to be erected at this time, often with government money. Having extensively researched postwar violence in the Ukrainian Canadian community, the historian Kassandra Luciuk argues that this was a deliberate project of the Canadian state, intended to marginalize leftists. It left no room for other ideas of “Ukrainianness” other than one tightly wound with anti-communist nationalism.

    The presence of Nazi monuments in Canada is symptomatic of this hegemony, visibly illustrating the historical revisionism the Ukrainian nationalists have successfully imposed. These monuments not only celebrate individuals and organizations that took part in war crimes during World War II, but also represent a triumph over left-wing opposition in the Ukrainian Canadian community. This historical revisionism has become so prevalent that even a mainstream politician, such as federal finance minister Chrystia Freeland, regularly extols her Ukrainian grandfather, who happened to run a Nazi collaborationist newspaper recruiting for the 14th SS Division — the same division that Hunka joined.

    This revisionism owes its existence to the Canadian state, which used the many tools at its disposal — from the immigration system to the police — to ensure an outcome that has persisted well after its anti-communist purpose faded. Ukrainian Canadian nationalists of course have been active in constructing this revisionism, but they flatter themselves if they believe they could have accomplished it alone.

    Understanding the political context of the Hunka affair requires delving into this chapter of Canadian history. It sheds light on how a small minority of far-right immigrants, with state backing, gained substantial influence in Ukrainian Canadian communities, and shaped Canadian policy toward Ukraine. Hunka’s celebration was not a result of historical ignorance, but rather stemmed from active historical revisionism that has sought to recast collaborators as heroes and render invisible Ukrainian Canadian socialist movements.

    #Canada #Ukraine #mouvement_ouvrier #fascisme #nazis

  • Celebrate Christmas With the Gilded Age’s Forgotten Christian Socialists

    Leçon d’histoire : tu fais confiance aux chrétiens professionnels, tu te fais systématiquement trahir. Comment le mouvement socialiste chrétien aux États Unis a été récupéré et vidé de sa qualité progressiste par les prêtres au solde du capital.

    24.12.2023 by Tadhg Larabee - Christmas wasn’t always an apolitical holiday. During the Gilded Age, working-class Americans organized around a radical vision of Christ — until the Protestant establishment co-opted their energy.

    Christmas came bitterly in 1894, amid the gloom of an exceptionally harsh winter and the nation’s worst-ever economic depression. That year, crops froze across the South, President Grover Cleveland suppressed the Pullman Strike, and, as unemployment rose to nearly 20 percent, an Ohio man named Jacob Coxey led the jobless in a massive march on Washington. A Harper’s Weekly cartoon channeled the nation’s discontent, depicting Andrew Carnegie storming the capitol with his own version of Coxey’s Army: a crowd of Gilded Age industrialists demanding bailouts.

    In an article for Ladies’ Home Journal, the left-wing writer Edward Bellamy imagined that a time traveler from the year 2000 would be aghast to see the America of 1894 celebrating Christmas at all. Bellamy’s visitor wakes on Christmas day to the familiar sounds of pealing bells and jubilant crowds. Yet when he ventures outside, he is perplexed to find “on every hand the contrast of pomp and poverty, the full and the hungry, the clothed and the naked — the picture that broke Christ’s heart.” If nineteenth-century Americans were to recognize Christmas as the people’s “great emancipation day,” he concludes, it would lead “to the instantaneous overthrow of the whole order of things, and the breaking into fragments of every human yoke.”

    Consider, for a moment, the opposite scenario: Bellamy transported to Christmas Day, 2023. He’d likely be horrified to arrive in what many have termed a “Second Gilded Age,” with figures like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk standing in for the Carnegies and the Rockefellers. He’d see Americans celebrating an apolitical Christmas, rooted in a set of traditions popularized by nineteenth-century advertisers. He might even be eager to return to his own time, where — as the historian Janine Giordano Drake shows in her new book, The Gospel of Church — far more people shared his revolutionary vision for the holiday.
    Come All Ye Faithful

    Only 46 percent of Americans belonged to a church in 2022, and the numbers have been in decline for decades. The Right often identifies that drop as a malignant trend — but if dwindling church attendance represents a crisis of faith, this crisis was far more acute over a century ago. In 1890, a Congressional census revealed that just 22.5 percent of Americans were registered with a Christian church, and that a plurality of churchgoers were Catholics. “Few appreciate how we have become a non-churchgoing-people,” lamented the Protestant clergyman Josiah Strong.

    Today, rich Americans are the least likely to attend church. During the Gilded Age, Drake points out, the opposite was true. The old Protestant denominations were the icy, exclusive domains of upper- and middle-class WASPs; they had scant contact with the working class aside from charitable giving, which Andrew Carnegie’s popular “Gospel of Wealth” cast as the divine justification for the existence of the rich. When those born outside the traditional elite gained entry into these churches, it was a mark of social advancement. Drake quotes a Southern adage: “A Methodist is a Baptist who wears shoes; a Presbyterian is a Methodist who has gone to college; an Episcopalian is a Presbyterian who lives off his investments.”

    Yet the non-churchgoing working class was anything but secular. The nineteenth century had reshaped the country’s geography, and many poor Americans found themselves living on the frontier and in the slums of industrial cities — places where there were few established churches to join. In these vacuums of religious authority, an alternative faith flourished. This faith found one vessel in revivalist sects such as the Pentecostals, whose itinerant preachers empowered working-class Christians to channel the divine by healing each other, making prophecies, and speaking in tongues. It found another, Drake argues, in a subversive understanding of Jesus, one that reimagined him as “a poor carpenter, a labor organizer, and advocate of anti-imperial working class revolution.”

    The only church for this Jesus was the socialist movement. Political groups like the Knights of Labor and left-wing periodicals like Appeal to Reason already invoked a working-class Christ, quoting his Sermon on the Mount as a condemnation of greed and a cry of solidarity. Protestant ministers such as W. D. P. Bliss and Herbert Casson sympathized, and in the 1890s they began establishing “Labor churches” across the country. These were not ordinary churches: Bliss’s Boston congregation lived together, studied scripture together, ran a business together, and marched for workers together. Their goal was to model a new society, a shining Christian commonwealth — and to universalize that society through socialist politics.

    This was an implicitly millenarian project, gazing past the charitable acts of “Churchianity” and toward the grand arrival of God’s kingdom. Yet crucially, it was a postmillennial one, in that it enjoined the faithful to build a just world as a precondition for Christ’s return. Radical Christians were to engage in politics, not withdraw from it. “It is utter nonsense to preach the gospel of individual conversation without adding the gospel of social regeneration,” as Casson wrote.

    Drake documents the many ways America’s religious and political radicals collaborated during the 1890s and the 1900s. Eugene V. Debs’s Socialist Party relied on groups like the Christian Socialist Fellowship, hiring hundreds of ministers as organizers; by 1908, the Fellowship had moved its offices to the Party’s headquarters, where it published a paper that reached 500,000 readers. One of Debs’s evangelists, the former Catholic priest Thomas Hagerty, went on to cofound the Industrial Workers of the World. “IWW locals,” Drake writes, carried forward the mission of the labor churches, serving “as yet another set of cultural centers for discussion and debate on the principles of Christian justice.”

    The partnership wasn’t completely beatific. Religious radicals sometimes clashed with orthodox Marxists in the unions and the Socialist Party, whose national officials endorsed an absolute separation of church and state in 1912. Nevertheless, Drake argues, Christian socialists proved themselves by expanding the groups’ rank and file, particularly among black workers in the South and Mexican immigrants in the West. Around the turn of the century, their influence was unmissable: Debs won hundreds of thousands of votes for president while calling his party a “holy alliance.”
    The Social Gospel as the Grinch

    Mainline Protestant churches couldn’t afford to ignore the working class any longer. “Socialism has become to thousands of men a substitute for the Church,” wrote the Presbyterian minister Charles Stelzle in 1907. Socialists were entering city halls and state legislatures across the country, and support for the party had risen sevenfold in just a few years. Given eight more years to rally voters, Stelzle predicted, “the Socialists will elect a President of the United States.”

    Yet Drake shows that the old Protestant denominations didn’t just see Christian socialists as a threat — their most progressive clergymen realized that the radicals’ success was also a blueprint. An immigrant and former union machinist, Stelzle sensed more clearly than most that blending religion and politics could help repair Mainline Protestants’ relations with the working class. “Imagine,” he said, what would happen if “three hundred Christian men pledged to get up every Sunday morning at five o’clock … for the purpose of putting Christian literature into the Sunday morning newspaper or under the doorstep of working people,” as he had seen socialists do in the German American neighborhoods where he preached.

    In 1908, Stelzle partnered with Josiah Strong to form the Federal Council of Churches (FCC), which aimed to unite thirty-three Protestant denominations around the mission of “social service.” The FCC ministers soon began to refer to their vision of social service as the “Social Gospel” — a term, Drake points out, they borrowed from Christian socialists. At first glance, the FCC seemed to have also adopted many of the Christian socialists’ priorities, from strengthening unions to combating racism and eliminating poverty. “Unstated,” however, “was their goal to create a mirage of American, Christian authority to counteract the growing public authority of socialists and Roman Catholics.”

    The Social Gospel as counterrevolution: this is the contentious interpretation with which Drake makes her intervention. These days, most people think of the Social Gospel as a voice of conscience, the credo of figures like Martin Luther King Jr. For two historians writing in 1971, the movement “speaks of a social consciousness and mission that is being renewed in every succeeding generation.” For the religious scholar Heath W. Carter, it was “union made,” more a creation of labor than of high-ranking clergymen like Strong and Stelzle. Drake does not dispute that workers and unions advanced the Social Gospel. Instead, she asks: Which unions, and which workers?

    Two years before the FCC got started, Stelzle was tapped to represent the ministry on the American Federation of Labor (AFL) Executive council. The AFL, headed by the conservative Samuel Gompers, mainly represented skilled, white, native-born craft workers; it was a fervent opponent of the IWW, whose strongest base was among the groups the AFL excluded.

    The FCC’s first major project was an AFL-funded effort to dispatch missionaries to hundreds of the country’s workplaces. At lunchtime, on the shop floor, the group’s representatives would sing hymns, hand out trade union pamphlets, and encourage church membership. The message, as Drake summarizes it, reproduced the premise of Christian socialism but denied the conclusion: “Jesus was a humble carpenter who very well knew that socialism would never work.” Stelzle also copied the institution of the labor church, again with a subtle twist. He called it the New York Labor Temple, and he opened it in 1910 on the Lower East Side, in one of the nation’s most radical neighborhoods.

    To Stelzle’s credit, the Labor Temple hosted famous socialists and welcomed an ideologically, ethnically, and religiously diverse community of working-class New Yorkers. Yet when radicals like Emma Goldman arrived to speak, the heavily moderated discussions always seemed to conclude that Christians should reject what the FCC’s first president, Frank Mason North, called the “class gospel.” And when the IWW organized the unemployed to take shelter in churches during the winter of 1914–1915, Stelzle accused them of “disregarding all … courtesy and decency” and “defiling” the sanctuary. In 1920, the Labor Temple’s fed-up Presbyterian landlords reorganized it to operate more like a normal church.

    While the Labor Temple declined, the FCC consolidated its national standing, gradually reshaping the Social Gospel into a theology of welfare capitalism. Drake identifies the election of President Woodrow Wilson in 1912 as an important turning point. With a Presbyterian reformer in the White House, the FCC leaders gained the ear of the government and the donations of ultrarich Americans like John D. Rockefeller.

    During World War I, their pulpits thundered with patriotic rhetoric and fell silent when the government began arresting IWW activists for sedition; after the war, the group even distanced itself from the AFL, supporting US Steel’s anti-labor “open shop” policy as the union tried to organize it. “The Church,” FCC minister Worth Tippy finally declared in 1919, should “use its vast educational force . . . uncompromisingly against the class struggle.”
    A Fallen Kingdom

    Though Drake’s narrative can sometimes make it feel like the FCC was always sinister and the Christian socialists always noble, she is careful to muddle the binary at key moments. No, promoting theocracy would not have benefited the Socialist Party in the long run, even if religious appeals bolstered its popularity in the late nineteenth century. And yes, the Social Gospel ministers genuinely wanted to help the poor, at least at first. The Protestant establishment wasn’t what ultimately beat back the advancing Left in the early twentieth century; that was the state crackdowns of World War I and the First Red Scare, which sent thousands of labor organizers and socialists to jail under criminal syndicalism, espionage, and sedition statutes.

    Where Christian socialists once filled a vacuum of organized religion with politics, Social Gospel ministers inserted their creed into the space once occupied by the militant left. Church attendance was up sixfold by 1916, and “Social Gospel ministers represented themselves as the nation’s prophets of public service,” Drake writes. Their star turn would be brief, for right-wing Christian fundamentalists were already waiting in the wings.

    Yet their ascendence nevertheless marked the defeat of the dream of the Christian commonwealth, which was but a particularly compelling instantiation of a broader ideal: that the people can morally reorganize society from top to bottom, ensuring that no one is deprived in service of another’s profit. Partly because the Social Gospel ministers replaced this vision with a “heroic narrative of Christian social services” administered by churches and charities, Drake argues, “most of our nation’s essential services to the poor remain privatized.”

    We can appreciate this contrast through a final Christmas story. In December 1919, when the AFL was on strike against US Steel, an FCC-affiliated organization staged a massive Christmas pageant at Madison Square Garden, hiring 1,500 actors, 1,000 singers, and 75 musicians. Like Bellamy’s story, the play centered on time travel. Its protagonist was “the Wayfarer” — a downtrodden industrial worker, tempted by socialism, who is transported to the age of Christ. The playbill reads:

    Revolution has shaken the industrial and social fabric to its very foundation. . . . Not a few question the ability of the Church to solve the problems of this new era. The Wayfarer represents this discouraged element. He is guided from despair to faith and service by Understanding, who interprets the presence of the living Christ in every age, triumphant over doubt and adversity.

    “It was a Christmas pageant with a union-busting message,” Drake writes. Stranger still, it was a play about a transformative event that seemed to argue against the possibility of future transformation. Gone was Bellamy’s vision of “the instantaneous overthrow of the whole order of things.” Along with many early twentieth-century Americans, the Wayfarer learned not to remake his era in accordance with his personal understanding of Christ’s words; visiting with Jesus only taught him to trust in the wisdom of the Church.

  • Tesla Has Bitten Off More Than It Can Chew by Picking a Fight With Swedish Unions

    Since the end of October, mechanics at Tesla workshops in Sweden have been striking in an attempt to pressure the firm to agree to collective bargaining with the Swedish Metalworkers’ Union.

    Tesla does not manufacture cars in Sweden, so the strike covers only 130 workers. Despite the small number of affected workers, this has become a very prominent strike in the region because it pits two powerful parties against one another.

    On one side is Tesla, by far the world’s most valued automaker, currently valued higher than the next nine car companies combined. It boasts 130,000 workers and the top two best-selling EV models. On the other side is the Swedish Metalworkers’ Union, a union with 230,000 members organizing 80 percent of all workers in its sectors. With a large membership that has not taken party in many strikes, the union has amassed a war chest of about $1 billion. It is able to pay the striking workers 130 percent of their salaries.

    #syndicalisme #Tesla #Elon_Musk #Suède

  • Direct Elections for Labor Leaders Make for More Militant Unions
    Voilà comment rendre les syndicats plus démocratiques et efficaces

    12.5.2023 by Chris Bohner - From the UAW to the Writers Guild, this year’s biggest contract victories have been won by unions in which members directly elect their leaders. That’s a right denied to most US union members — but it may be the key to unleashing broader labor militancy.

    The labor movement is rightfully celebrating recent contract victories by the United Auto Workers, Teamsters, SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America, which together cover nearly 650,000 workers. An essential thread uniting the campaigns is that the top union officers were all directly elected by the members, a basic democratic right denied to many union members in the United States. As other unions seek to learn lessons from these historic contract fights, a key takeaway is that a vibrant democratic process — “one member, one vote” — is crucial to a revitalized labor movement.

    A robust democratic process certainly played a major role in the United Auto Workers (UAW) contract fight with the Big Three automakers and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) campaign against UPS. Leading up to their contract expirations, both the UAW and Teamsters had highly competitive and contested elections for their top leadership positions, directly engaging the membership in debates about the union’s negotiation strategy with employers and concessionary contracts, improvements in strike benefits, and the removal of antidemocratic obstacles. For example, at the Teamsters’ convention, delegates removed a constitutional provision that previously allowed union officers to impose a contract even if a majority of members voted against it. Injected with the energy of a contested election, the recent UAW and Teamster conventions were marked by spirited debates about union strategy, engaging members for the upcoming contract fights.

    But a review of the constitutions of the twenty largest unions in the United States shows that “one member, one vote” is a right denied to most union members. Of the top twenty unions — representing approximately 13.3 million members and 83 percent of all US union workers — only six have direct elections. Only 20 percent of all union members, or 2.7 million, have the right to directly elect their top officers. In contrast, 80 percent of members, or 10.6 million workers, have no such right.

    Apart from the Teamsters and UAW, the only other large unions with a form of direct elections are the Steelworkers, Machinists, SAG-AFTRA, and the National Association of Letter Carriers. Some smaller unions, like the Writers Guild and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), also have direct elections.

    The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) used to have direct elections as part of a consent decree with the Department of Justice, but the union’s executive board eliminated the practice in 2010. The Operating Engineers (IUOE) and Carpenters also had direct elections, but they moved to a delegate system in the 1960s.

    Maybe it’s a fluke of the calendar, but the majority of strikes in 2023 (through October) were led by unions with “one member, one vote” policies, even though they represent a minority of unions. According to the Department of Labor, 448,000 workers have been on strike this year, and approximately 250,000 workers (by my count), or 56 percent of strikers, are affiliated with unions that have direct elections. Perhaps a more democratic union is a more militant union.
    “One Member, One Vote” vs. the Delegate Convention System

    As opposed to direct elections, most unions chose their top officers indirectly, electing delegates to a regularly scheduled convention at the local level through a membership vote. Those elected delegates then nominate and elect the top officers.

    While formally democratic, the flaws of the delegate convention system have been widely documented. Rather than promoting worker participation and vigorous democratic debate, the delegate system tends to entrench incumbents who can deploy the union’s vast legal, financial, political, and organizational resources to maintain power and stifle reform challenges. As a result, many unions are effectively run by a semipermanent officer and staff strata insulated from member control and accountability, leading to weakened organizations and a ground ripe for corruption.

    Under the delegate convention system, the rise of new leadership at a union is typically triggered by the retirement or death of a labor official rather than a challenger winning a contested election. Union conventions, a huge opportunity to involve the membership in organizing and contract campaigns, instead often resemble a choreographed beauty pageant thrown by the ruling party in a one-party state. With few substantive issues debated and without contested leadership fights, it’s not surprising that labor reporters don’t bother covering most union conventions.

    Despite the long-term decline in union membership and urgent debates about the strategic direction of labor, few of the top leaders of large unions even faced a challenger at their last convention, as the table below shows. Of the fourteen unions without direct elections, only five had a challenger for the top position. In contrast, of the six large unions with direct elections, four had contested elections.

    For over forty years, union reform movements — led by groups like Labor Notes and the Association for Union Democracy — have challenged this system, arguing for a broad array of democratic reforms to rebuild the labor movement. As Mike Parker and Martha Gruelle argue in their classic book Democracy Is Power:

    Some unions do, and many could, operate democratically with a convention system. But for most major U.S. unions, changing to a direct election for international officers would provide an opportunity to rebuild the union on the basis of member control.

    Opponents of direct elections argue that contested elections and direct democracy could promote unnecessary conflict and fuel internecine civil wars, weakening a union’s ability to challenge vastly more powerful corporations in contract and organizing fights.

    But the UAW’s recent history tells a different story. While the strike at the Big Three automakers has been hailed by many as one of the most consequential strikes in decades, it is also the direct result of a highly democratic process. Since 2021, the UAW has held multiple elections and membership votes, including approving a referendum for direct elections of officers; electing delegates to the convention; holding two general membership elections for top officers (including the runoff); approving a strike vote at the Big Three; and, most recently, holding ratification votes for the auto contracts. While many of these votes have been contentious and close-fought, the end result has been a more engaged membership and a revitalized union.
    Democracy, Finance Unionism, and Reform Caucuses

    One impact of labor’s flawed governance system is the perpetuation of “finance unionism,” a practice in which union leadership focuses on the continual accumulation of financial assets rather than using those resources for mass organizing and militant strike activity. According to Department of Labor data, since 2010, organized labor has lost nearly half a million members — yet labor’s net assets (assets minus debt) have increased from $14 billion to $33 billion in 2022, a 127 percent increase. A union leadership class insulated from real democratic control helps make finance unionism possible.

    However, as the UAW demonstrates, when a union moves to direct elections of leadership, it is more apt to use its financial assets for strikes and growth. For example, rather than continuing to invest the UAW’s massive strike fund in Wall Street hedge funds and private equity, the directly elected officers used those assets to fund a militant and successful strike, likely costing the union close to $100 million in strike benefits. And on the heels of the contract victory, the union has announced an ambitious campaign goal of organizing 150,000 nonunion autoworkers at thirteen companies.

    The lack of direct elections of officers also makes the task of internal union caucuses pushing for democratic reform — i.e., internal opposition parties like the Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) or the UAW’s Unite All Workers for Democracy (UAWD) — much more difficult to achieve.

    This was on vivid display this year at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) convention. Led by one of the largest UFCW locals, the Essential Workers For Democracy reform caucus proposed a raft of commonsense resolutions, including requiring only a majority vote to authorize strikes (scrapping the two-thirds requirement), strike benefits beginning on day one, capping salaries for international local staff and officers to $250,000, and devoting at least 20 percent of the union’s budget to organizing new workers.

    Yet these basic reforms were overwhelmingly defeated at the convention, with only a handful of locals supporting the resolutions. If the general membership of the UFCW had direct elections, these resolutions would have likely received widespread support (just as UAW and Teamster members supported similar measures at their conventions). Essential Workers For Democracy is building toward the 2028 UFCW convention for another crack at direct elections, but the labor movement needs these reforms now.
    Reform From the Right or the Left?

    No large union in the past forty years has voluntarily adopted “one member, one vote.” While reform caucuses at the Teamsters and UAW had pushed for direct elections for years, it did not become a reality until the Department of Justice (DoJ) filed criminal complaints at both unions and imposed democratic reforms as a remedy to rampant corruption and criminality facilitated by the delegate election system.

    In the case of the Teamsters, the union reached a settlement with George W. Bush’s administration to implement direct elections after the filing of a wide-ranging racketeering lawsuit by the DoJ (and lobbying by TDU). The UAW reached a settlement with the Donald Trump DoJ to hold a referendum on direct elections (64 percent of UAW members voted yes) after the filing of a broad criminal complaint.

    Ironically, anti-union Republican administrations were an important component of democratic reform at the UAW and Teamsters. But the history of labor reform is filled with strange bedfellows.

    For example, in 1959, Congress passed the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). Broadly seen as an attack on unions by business groups seeking to roll back new organizing, the law tightened restrictions on secondary boycotts, restricted pickets for union recognition, and banned Communists from holding union office. But the law also provided crucial reforms, including a bill of rights for union members, secret ballot elections for union officers, the right of members to see their union contracts, and the public disclosure of union annual financial reports.

    Even the Trump administration’s Department of Labor proposed meaningful reforms, including requiring unions to disclose their totals spent on organizing versus collective bargaining (very difficult data for members to obtain from most unions), the size of strike funds, and whether union officers are receiving multiple salaries from different labor bodies (“double dipping”). In addition, the Department of Labor proposed requiring more public unions to file financial reports, as many are currently exempt from the LMRDA. These reforms were widely opposed by organized labor and were shelved after Joe Biden assumed power.

    Unfortunately, if labor continues its long resistance to democratic initiatives like direct elections and greater transparency, these reforms may be imposed by hostile political forces like the George H. W. Bush administration’s takeover of the Teamsters in 1989, or the 1959 LMRDA reforms that were paired with a rollback of important labor rights like secondary boycotts. No one in the labor movement should desire a scenario where the state steps in to control a free and autonomous labor movement. But with freedom comes the responsibility to engage in democratic self-reform.

    Such democratic reform — as the UAW and Teamster contract fights illustrate — strengthens the power of the labor movement by mobilizing the membership in big fights and developing consensus on labor strategies through open debate. While “one member, one vote” threatens the power of the semipermanent strata of labor leaders and staff, sometimes the greatest act of leadership is to voluntarily devolve that power.

    Rather than fighting democratic reform initiatives, it is high time for organized labor to let the members decide by holding referenda on direct elections for officers. While the delegate convention system can be democratic, it has too often been the ally of corruption and passivity. If this system is worth defending, then it should be put up to a vote by the membership. Ultimately, as Labor Notes pointed out twenty-five years ago, “Union democracy — defined as rank-and-file power — is the essential ingredient for restoring the power of the labor movement.”

    #USA #syndicalisme #démocratie

  • Evgeny Morozov : We Need a Nonmarket Modernist Project
    An interview with Evgeny Morozov

    Cybersyn et les leçons à tirer pour atteindre l’indépendance technologique

    12.6.2023 Interview by Simón Vázquez

    Evgeny Morozov has spent more than a decade studying the transformations unleashed by the internet. He became famous with two internationally awarded books, The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom (2012) and To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism (2013), before turning to study the connection between technology, political economy, and philosophy.

    Founder of the knowledge curation platform The Syllabus, his most recent work is The Santiago Boys, a nine-episode podcast focused on the experimental Chilean model in socialism led by Salvador Allende’s Unidad Popular from 1970–73. It tells of radical engineers’ strivings to achieve technological sovereignty, the development of the Cybersyn project to manage the nationalization of the economy, and the country’s fight against ITT, the great technological multinational of the time.

    Morozov has presented his work in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, ending his tour in New York, in a joint event with Jacobin. Simon Vázquez spoke to him about what it has to tell us about creating socialism today.

    Simón Vázquez

    In several interviews you have argued that it is necessary to involve workers in decisions on technological development, instead of betting on technocratic solutions. Could you explain the problems of imposing technical visions that do not have popular support?

    Evgeny Morozov

    The technocratic solution in the case of today’s digital economy usually comes from the neoliberal right (or center) and insists on the need to police the platforms and what they do in order to improve competition and make it easier for consumers to move across platforms. Such solutions have traditionally been more prevalent in Europe than in the United States, partly for ideological reasons (under the influence of the Chicago School, Americans have been quite lenient in enforcing antitrust rules) and partly for geopolitical reasons (Washington doesn’t want to overregulate its own companies, fearing that their place might be taken by Chinese rivals).

    So, it’s Europe that thinks that it can resolve the problems of the digital economy through more regulation. Some of it might, of course, be useful and necessary, but I think that such a technocratic approach has often been underpinned by a certain blindness toward geopolitics and industrial strategy and even the crisis of democracy that we can observe across the globe. It’s fine for the neoliberal technocrats to fake this blindness, but this would be a mistake for the more progressive and democratic forces to rally behind such calls. The problems of the digital economy won’t be resolved by regulation alone — not least because the digital economy, in both its Chinese and American versions, wasn’t created by regulation alone.

    Simón Vázquez

    On the Left, and more specifically among socialists, there is a debate on planning and technology that in recent years has given rise to the emergence of a current known as cybercommunism. Do you identify with it, and what criticisms would you raise against it?

    Evgeny Morozov

    My main critique of their project is that it’s both too narrow and too broad in its ambitions. The way I see it, it’s an effort to deploy mathematical modeling and computation in order to administer what Karl Marx called the “realm of necessity.” I don’t doubt that for some basic basket of goods necessary for a good life — e.g. housing, clothing, food — an approach like this might be necessary. But I think we also have to be critical of the strict distinction that Marx draws between the realm of necessity and the realm of freedom; the latter he mostly leaves undefined. But that’s precisely where creativity and innovation happen, while the realm of necessity is mostly the realm of social reproduction. Cybercommunism, like Marx, leaves the realm of freedom undertheorized, and, as a result, it doesn’t seem to have a sharp vision for what computers can do when it comes to enabling these more creative pursuits.

    Contrast this to neoliberalism. It starts by refusing a strict distinction between the two realms, arguing that the market is both a system for satisfying our basic needs and demands — and an infrastructure for managing and taming complexity, i.e. the source of the new, the creative, and the unexpected. If you look at the digital economy, you see this fusionist logic playing out in full force: when we play, we also “work,” as it generates value for the platforms. And as we “work,” we also play, as work has become something very different from the Fordist times.

    The Left has traditionally rejected such fusion of the two realms, complaining of the biopolitical turn in modern capitalism, etc. But what if such a fusion is something the Left should embrace? And if so, how could the traditional answer to the neoliberal market as the central feature of the alternative system — i.e. the mathematical plan — be sufficient, given that it doesn’t seek to accomplish anything in the realm of freedom?

    To put it at a higher level of abstraction, neoliberalism is market civilization, as it merges the progressive logic of society becoming ever-more complex and different with the market as the main instrument for achieving it. A better name for it would be “market modernism.” To counter this civilization, we need a “nonmarket modernism” of some kind. Cybercommunism does okay on the “nonmarket” part, but I’m not at all sure it even understands the challenge and the need to solve the “modernist” part of the equation.

    Simón Vázquez

    Why turn back now to the experience of Cybersyn, a proto-internet project to use telex and computers to organize the economy? What is the political purpose of bringing up “what ifs” of the paths not taken? And what does “postutopia” mean, in this context?

    Evgeny Morozov

    Well, the most obvious reason for doing this is to sensitize the global public to the fact that the digital economy and society we have today are not the result of some natural tendencies of internet protocols but, rather, the result of geopolitical struggles, with winners and losers. I don’t think it’s correct to see Cybersyn as an alternative technological infrastructure, because, at the end of the day, there was nothing unique or revolutionary in its telex network or the software that it used or its Operations Room.

    A better lens on it is as a contribution to an alternative economic system, whereby computers could have been used to better aid in the management of enterprises in the public sector. Similar management systems existed in the private sector for a long time — Stafford Beer, the brains behind Cybersyn, was already preaching them in the steel industry a decade before Cybersyn.

    The uniqueness of Cybersyn is that it came out of Allende’s broader efforts to nationalize companies deemed strategic to the economic and social development of Chile, all of it informed by an interesting blend of structural economics from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) and dependency theory. It’s the end of that project — not just of Cybersyn — that we should be mourning. That’s why in my public interventions after the publication of the podcast, I’ve been so keen to stress the existence of what I call the “Santiago School of technology” (as counterpart to the Chicago School of economics). I think that once we realize that Allende and many of the economists and diplomats around him did have a vision for a very different world order, Cybersyn — as the software that was supposed to help bring that vision about in the domestic context — acquires a very different meaning.

    Simón Vázquez

    In addition to offering a counterhistory of the Chicago Boys, one of the most interesting arguments you offer is that they were not the true innovators of the time, but that their work was limited to thwarting, in the hands of the dictator Augusto Pinochet, Chile’s technological development and the Santiago Boys’s alternative to the incipient neoliberal model. Could you reflect on the contribution you make to the intellectual history of economic thought?

    Evgeny Morozov

    Well, throughout the presidency of Eduardo Frei Montalva, who preceded Allende, and then, of course, during Allende’s own rule, the Chilean economists that we know as the “Chicago Boys” had several kinds of critique to advance. One was of the corrupt and rentierist nature of the Chilean state; here the critique was that various interest groups leveraged their connection to the state to get favorable treatment and shield themselves from competition.

    The other critique was that of policy prescriptions that came out of CEPAL and dependency theory; most of those policies went against the idea that economic development should be left to the market (instead, they defended, first, the idea of industrialization through import substitution, and, then, the need to protect national technological autonomy and sovereignty).

    So, some of the Chicago Boys saw the Allende period as a consequence rather than the cause of a deeper crisis inside the Chilean society and economy; they really saw the workers and the peasants who elected Unidad Popular as just one of the many interest groups fighting to defend their interests inside a state system perceived to be corrupt and sectarian.

    Whatever the substance of the Chicago critique, I think we err in seeing them as some kind of perceptive and pioneering economists who stepped in to save Chile with a heavy dose of neoliberalism. While Unidad Popular did make some errors in running the economy, it did have a coherent — and far more relevant — political vision of what Chile should do to be an independent, autonomous, and well-developed state in the global economy. Some might say that Chile, for all its inequality, got there. I think it didn’t get at all where it may have been — and where it may have been had it only followed the prescriptions of Allende’s Santiago Boys would have been today’s South Korea or Taiwan, countries that punch far above their weight technologically.

    Simón Vázquez

    Another contribution you make in the podcast is to recover the tradition of dependency theory. In the last answer you imply that if Allende’s project had been allowed to prosper, today Latin America would be more just, as well as richer, and Chile, an alternative technological power, with a technological development model different from that of Silicon Valley. But what does dependency theory tell us about contemporary debates in the digital economy?

    Evgeny Morozov

    Dependency theory is a radicalization of CEPAL’s structural economics, which traditionally preached the importance of industrialization. It’s not very different from today’s digital gurus preaching the importance of digitalization. Dependency theorists, however, saw that industrialization in itself cannot be the main objective; economic and social development is. And, as they found out, the relationship between industrialization and development is not linear.

    Sometimes, more industrialization (which often worked as a euphemism for foreign direct investment) means more development; but sometimes it can mean no development or even underdevelopment. It was a debate rife with all sorts of intermediate concepts like Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s “associated development” or “dependent development,” which sought to show that countries can still develop even if industrialization is led primarily by foreign capital. The more radical theorists like Ruy Mauro Marini, Theotonio dos Santos, and Andre Gunder Frank argued that technological autonomy — the development of the country’s own technological base — is a prerequisite to the kind of industrialization that could lead to meaningful development.

    In today’s terms, it would mean that digitalization conducted without a prior commitment to digital sovereignty is likely to create new dependencies and obstacles to development, especially as countries now have to swallow giant bills for cloud computing, artificial intelligence, microchips, etc. The dependencies are, of course, not just economic but also geopolitical, which explains why the United States has been so keen to block China’s efforts to achieve technological sovereignty in areas like 5G and microchips.

    Simón Vázquez

    From this idea of subverting unequal relations, there is the question of industrial planning and state direction of the development process. What do you think was the contribution of Stafford Beer and the Chilean radical engineers in understanding, if not planning, the politics of cybernetic management?

    Evgeny Morozov

    Beer didn’t come to these questions from the more conventional questions of allocation and distribution that would normally be present in debates about national planning. Rather, he came to this agenda from the corporate environment, where it was much more important to think about how to adapt to a future that is always changing. In this sense, corporations tend to be humbler than nation states; they take future as it is, instead of thinking that they can bend it to their own national objectives. One of the consequences of this epistemic humility practiced by Beer was his insistence that while the world was getting even more complex, complexity was a good thing — at least as long as we have the right tools to survive its effects. That’s where computers and real-time networks came into play.

    That’s one part that I still find extremely relevant about Cybersyn, as I made it clear in my remarks about cybercommunism. If we accept that the world is going to become even more complex, we need to develop tools of management — and not just tools of allocation and planning. I find this humility about one’s ability to predict the future and then bend it to one’s will rather useful, not least because it goes against the usual modernist temptation to act like an omniscient and omnipotent god.

    Simón Vázquez

    Stafford Beer talked in his books about designing freedom; you talk about “planning freedom” and governing complexity. Can you elaborate on how this agenda would fit in, within what you pointed out earlier, the importance of talking about the “sphere of freedoms”?

    Evgeny Morozov

    As I explained above, the contribution of Beer to the traditional socialist agenda (with its statist focus on satisfying the most immediate needs of the population) has been to show that there’s much that computers can do in the realm of freedom as well; they are not just tools to be used in the realm of necessity. Beer’s thought closes the door to the kind of technophobic attitude that is still common among some on the Left; he thought — on my view correctly — that just ignoring the question of technology and organization would result in undesirable, highly inefficient outcomes.

    We kind of know it intuitively, which is why we use simple technologies — from traffic lights to timetables — to enhance social coordination without bringing in chaos. But what if such technologies do not have to be so simple? Can’t they be more advanced and digital? Why trust the neoliberal account that the only way to coordinate social action at scale is via the market? That’s where, I think, Beer’s approach is very useful. If start with a very flexible, plastic account of human beings as always evolving and becoming, then we probably want to give them the tools by which they can push themselves (and the collectives they form) in new, completely unexpected, and untried directions and dimensions.

    What’s happened these past two decades is that Silicon Valley has gotten there before the leftists did. That’s why we have tools like WhatsApp and Google Calendar facilitating the coordination of millions of people, with a nontrivial impact on the overall productivity. In this case, social coordination occurs, more complexity is produced, and society moves forward. But it doesn’t happen — contrary to the neoliberal narrative — by means of the price system, but, rather, by means of technology and language.

    This Silicon Valley model, as we discovered more recently, is not without its costs, including politically and economically (just look at the proliferation of disinformation online or the concentration of artificial intelligence [AI] capabilities — the consequence of all this data being produced and gathered — in the hands of a number of corporate giants). So, this neoliberal nonmarket complexity comes at a huge price. What the Left should be thinking about are alternative non-neoliberal ways to deliver similar — and, perhaps, even better — infrastructure for social coordination.

    Simón Vázquez

    Why do you think socialists have given up on some of these concepts? Does it have something to do with the intellectual defeat of Marxism in the Cold War? Or with not having paid enough attention to the debates in the Global South?

    Evgeny Morozov

    I think the answers have to do primarily with the overall intellectual dead end reached both by Western Marxism and its more radicalized versions. The more moderate camp bought into the neoliberal dichotomy between the market and the plan, accepting the former as a superior form of social coordination, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Someone like Jürgen Habermas is a good illustration of this attitude: he accepts the increasing complexity of social systems, but he simply cannot see any alternative to reducing complexity by means of the market or law, with technology being nothing more than applied science.

    The more radical strands — the ones that culminated in cybercommunism — didn’t fully engage with critiques of Soviet planning and its incongruence with liberal democracy that came from the Soviet bloc during the Cold War. I am thinking of people like György Márkus, who, without renouncing Marxism, did write many profound critiques of what Marxists get wrong about — to cite Engels — the shift to the “administration of things” under communism.

    There’s also a certain naive view of technology propelling the broader Marxist project, with its insistence on maximizing the productive forces (something that only the abolition of class relations under communism can achieve). This seems to ignore the highly political nature of striving for efficiency: what might be efficient for some might be inefficient for others. So, to proclaim that, objectively speaking, every technology would have some kind of objectively stated optimum toward which we must aim seems to be misguided. It’s just not what we know from science and technology studies.

    This is not to say that such value conflicts are best resolved in the market — they aren’t — but I see no point in Marxists denying that they do exist. And once we acknowledge that they exist, then one may want to optimize for something other than efficiency — perhaps, what we want as a result of public policy is to maximize the emergence of polyvalent interpretations of a given technology, so that new interpretations of it and its uses can emerge in the communities using it.

    That said, some Marxist thinkers — Raymond Williams, for example — have thought about complexity as a value that the Left should go after. Simplicity, as an overarching goal, just doesn’t easily square with progressivism as an ideology of the new and the different. And I think that Williams got it right: the answer to greater complexity lies in culture, broadly conceived.

    So, instead of trying to answer to the neoliberals by claiming that the right counterpart to the market is the plan, perhaps the Left should be arguing that the right counterpart to the economy — as an organizing goal and method of this market modernism I’ve already mentioned — is culture, conceived not just as high culture but also the mundane culture of the everyday. After all, it’s as productive of innovations as the “economy” — we just don’t have the right system of incentives and feedback loops to scale them up and have them propagated through other parts of society (this is what capitalism excels at when it comes to innovations by individual entrepreneurs).

    Simón Vázquez

    There are many debates in the European Union, the United States, and China about technological sovereignty. In many cases, they are capitalist visions, trying to protect national industries and escape what we could call free markets. You have used this same concept on several occasions in your interviews in Brazil. How does this type of digital autonomy differ and what dimensions does it comprise?

    Evgeny Morozov

    Well, there’s a pragmatic element to it and a utopian element. Pragmatically, I don’t think that technological sovereignty in the near term is achievable without reliance on some kind of domestic counterparts to the American and Chinese providers of the same services, be they in the sphere of cloud computing, 5G, or AI. On a more utopian plane, we are talking about a policy agenda that would harvest these services not in order to preach the gospel of start-ups and incubators — as often happens when the likes of Emmanuel Macron talk about it — but would actually push for a more sophisticated industrial agenda. In the Global South’s case, it would mean shifting away from a development model tied to exporting raw materials, as these economies (especially in Latin America) have done traditionally. But both on utopian and pragmatic grounds, it’s important to keep this discussion tethered to a discussion about economics — and not just about innovation or national security. Without economics, the agenda of technological sovereignty will always be flat and somewhat one-dimensional.

    Simón Vázquez

    Given the current geopolitical correlation of forces, the existence of progressive governments in Latin America, and the consolidation of the BRICS as an active nonaligned movement in the ongoing “Cold War 2.0” between the United States and China, do you think that the Global South can be a kind of global outpost, an inclusive vanguard in terms of technology? What forms do you think a digital internationalism would take in this context?

    Evgeny Morozov

    I don’t quite see where else this opposition to the hegemony of Silicon Valley can come from. It has to rely on regional and international partnerships and alliances, for the simple reason that the costs involved are too huge. But the extra factor is to avoid getting into individual negotiations with the likes of Google and Amazon. While I don’t believe in the techno-feudal thesis that preaches that these companies are not as powerful as nation-states, they do have the American state behind them — and often that state is, in fact, more powerful than the states in the Global South. That’s why it’s important to reexamine past efforts at such cooperation that had technological sovereignty as their goal, the Andean Pact being the foremost example.

    Signed by five nations in Peru, this pact’s main objective was to overcome external trade barriers and promote regional cooperation to foster industrialization and economic development. Orlando Letelier, Chile’s foreign minister under Allende, led the negotiations, highlighting the need to address the exploitation derived from technological property and dependence on foreign companies. Letelier proposed the creation of something like a technological equivalent of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Andean Pact, to facilitate developing countries’ access to technological advances and patents. These are the kind of ideas at the international level that we need today.

    Andean Community

    The Andean Community (Spanish: Comunidad Andina, CAN) is a free trade area with the objective of creating a customs union comprising the South American countries of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. The trade bloc was called the Andean Pact until 1996 and came into existence when the Cartagena Agreement was signed in 1969. Its headquarters are in Lima, Peru.

    #Chili #Andean_Pact #cybersyn #technologie #cybernétique #Weltraumkommumismus #histoire #socialisme #marxisme #impérialisme #tiers_monde #développement

    • Je vois, c’est le vieux principe du diable qui chie toujours sur le plus gros tas de merde. Tu élabores un truc et quelqu’un de très connu vend mille fois mieux sa paraphrase que ton travail original. Il faut avoir une mission à accomplir pour s’aventurer dans la cour des grands, n’est-ce pas?

      Il y a encore d’autres sources

      Stafford Beer and the legacy of Cybersyn: seeing around corners 🔍
      Emerald Group Publishing Limited; Emerald (MCB UP ); Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.; Emerald (ISSN 0368-492X), Kybernetes, #6/7, 44, pages 926-934, 2015 jun
      Raul Espejo, Dr; Leonard, Allenna

      Black Box / Steuerungsdispositiv: Cybersyn oder das Design des Gestells
      De Gruyter, pages 21-40, 2020 sep 21

      Cloud computing: views on Cybersyn
      Emerald Group Publishing Limited; Emerald (MCB UP ); Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.; Emerald (ISSN 0368-492X), Kybernetes, #9, 41, pages 1396-1399, 2012 oct 12
      Lin, Yi; Andrew, Alex M.

      Big Data, Algorithmic Regulation, and the History of the Cybersyn Project in Chile, 1971–1973
      Publishing House Technologija; MDPI AG; Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI); Basel: MDPI AG, 2012- (ISSN 2076-0760), Social Sciences, #4, 7, pages 65-, 2018 apr 13
      Loeber, Katharina

      Performance management, the nature of regulation and the CyberSyn project
      Emerald Group Publishing Limited; Emerald (MCB UP ); Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.; Emerald (ISSN 0368-492X), Kybernetes, #1/2, 38, pages 65-82, 2009 feb 13
      Espejo, R.

      #cybersyn #Chili

  • Jacobin mag à propos de Henry Kissinger - The Good Die Young

    Lê Đức Thọ
    Son nom résonne dans mes souvenirs d’enfance comme celui du stratège germano-étatsunien.

    ... le comité Nobel a souhaité lui décerner le prix Nobel de la paix, conjointement avec Henry Kissinger, prix qu’il a refusé.

    Dans mes souvenirs Henry Kissinger est comme ce camarade de classe de mon père qu’on est venu chercher au milieu d’un cours qui n’est revenu qu’en 1945 en uniforme « américaine ». A Berlin-Ouest on considérait les juifs allemands devenus citoyens des États Unis comme garants de notre liberté malgré les persécutions qu’ils avaient subi par nos grand parents.

    Comment veux-tu que le commun des gens d’ici sois critique de l’OTAN ou d"Israël.

    puis ...
    Henry Kissinger : To Die at the Right Time

    Kissinger and the South American Revolutions

    Kissinger in Angola

    Kissinger in Central America

    Kissinger in the Gulf

    Kissinger in Cambodia

    Kissinger in Argentina

    Cette chanson parle de lui sans le mentionner.


    Bob Marley - WAR

    C’est le mérite de Bob Marley d’avoir informé une génération entière d’Allemands de l’Ouest sur la lutte anticoloniale et antiimpérialiste. Sans lui ce sujet n’aurait intéressé que les intellectuels de gauche notoires. Malheureusement l’écoute de sa musique se passait généralement dans les nuages de canbabis, ce qui a sans doute inhibé la prise de conscience politique de son public.

    #guerre #racisme #impérialisme #colinialisme #USA

  • The Grim Reality of Israel’s Corpse Politics

    Samara’s body is one of hundreds currently held by Israel, part of a decades-long policy that researchers and rights groups describe as an attempt to control and punish Palestinian families by withholding the corpses of their slain loved ones. Some are buried in nameless graves and others are frozen in refrigerators.

    Israeli officials claim this controversial practice is necessary to avoid incitement during funerals of Palestinians killed by Israelis. Israel also withholds the remains of slain Palestinians who are suspected of having carried out attacks against Israelis, using their corpses as bargaining chips for future negotiations with Palestinian leaders.

    However, Palestinians, some of whom have waited for months, years, and in some cases decades for the return of their slain loved ones’ bodies, argue that this policy aims to punish them, condemning their lives to perpetual mourning.

    Israel is the only country in the world that has a policy of confiscating and withholding human remains, which is a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law.


    They were buried in what are known as “cemeteries of numbers”, which are sites inside Israel, mostly located in closed military zones. These graves, devoid of names, are identified only by a number corresponding to a file for each deceased individual. According to Aruri, it is estimated that at least 254 Palestinians and other Arabs are believed to have been buried at these locations.

    Throughout the following decades, the Israeli army continued to bury the bodies of slain Palestinians at these sites or withheld the bodies until the families accepted various restrictions for the respective funerals. Israeli authorities argued that these funerals sparked large demonstrations that posed a threat to the state’s security.


    Since 2015, the bodies of these slain Palestinians have been held in refrigerators at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute near Tel Aviv. The total now stands at 135, and the bodies that have been returned to families were subject to strict conditions. According to Aruri, twelve of the bodies remaining are of children under the age of eighteen.

    In negotiating the return of their dead, families have been forced to provide monetary deposits to Israeli authorities as financial guarantees that they will adhere to posthumous restrictions. These restrictions have included commitments not to conduct an autopsy or admit the returned corpses to hospitals. Aruri says these stipulations are aimed at “preventing investigations on the circumstances of the assassinations.”


    The Israeli army’s mix-up of dead Palestinian bodies is not unique to Samara’s case. Israel has transferred the wrong body to Palestinian families on multiple other occasions and has a history of neglecting Palestinian corpses.

    In response to a rare legal case which sought to locate the remains of two Palestinian missing persons, the Israeli military released a special report in 1999. This report revealed that corpses of Palestinians were handled negligently, buried in shallow graves, described as “a single ‘trench’ without a layer of dirt separating the tombs.” Wahbe notes that this phrasing refers to mass graves.


    The absence of these bodies supports long-standing reports that Palestinian corpses may have been used for organ harvesting or donated to Israeli medical schools for students to train on the bodies, Aruri says. In the early aughts, the Israeli military acknowledged the existence of such a program after Dr. Yehuda Hiss, former head of the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute, admitted that the army had harvested skin, corneas, heart valves, and bones from the bodies of Israeli soldiers, Israeli citizens, Palestinians, and foreign workers during the 1990s. The practice often occurred without the consent of the deceased’s relatives.

    “This would explain why there are bodies that the army admits they once had, but now claims to have lost track of,” Aruri says. Palestinians have also claimed that the bodies of young men who were seized from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip were returned to their families with missing organs.

    However, even for families who manage to locate and repatriate their slain loved ones, the corpses are often returned in a dismal state.


    Families of the deceased also grapple with a range of legal complexities. Without a death certificate, widows are unable to move on with their lives and marry again. If their slain husbands managed the family’s bank account, it becomes frozen, leaving widows without access to funds, while inheritance rights are also denied.

    According to Wahbe, the withholding of Palestinian bodies plays an “important role in allowing the Zionist colonial state to demonstrate its power.” The “denial of dignity to the dead” is a way that Israel “asserts control over the living family.”


    Israel, in addition to denying Palestinians the rights of burial, has desecrated historic Palestinian cemeteries. This includes the bulldozing of the centuries-old Mamilla Cemetery in Jerusalem, which held the remains of companions of the Prophet Muhammad and thousands of Christians from the pre-Islamic era and the crusader period.

    Starting in 2008, excavation crews removed about one thousand skeletal remains from the cemetery, replacing it with a Museum of Tolerance. This museum commemorates the Jewish Shoah, meaning “catastrophe,” referring to the Holocaust, where nearly six million Jews in Europe were killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators.

    This process, according to Wahbe, reflects the state’s “insistence on not only altering the identity of the space and claiming sovereignty over it in the present, but also enacting an erasure of any non-Israeli past.” She adds, “The construction of the Museum of Tolerance over desecrated tombs is an attempt to transform the identity and meaning of the land from Palestinian to Jewish.”

    “Violently destroying sacred sites and replacing them with national markers is a loud pronouncement that Palestinian bodies, even in death, are not allowed on this land,” Wahbe asserts. She explains that disappearing Palestinian bodies or withholding them from their families is an extension of this erasure of Palestinians and their “indigenous presence and right to existence.”

  • Otto Bauer’s Theory of Nationalism Is One of Marxism’s Lost Treasures

    26.11.2023 by Ronaldo Munck - If we look around the world today, we can see the critical importance of nationalism, whether ethnic or cultural, from Spain to Nagorno-Karabakh, the Uyghur question in China, or the unwinding of the formerly United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

    One might have expected Marxism, as the self-proclaimed “science of history,” to play a major role in analyzing — if not intervening in — such situations, which are bound to multiply as globalization unravels and its contradictions increase. Yet Marxists seem to be torn between Eric Hobsbawm’s admonition not to “paint nationalism red” and the somewhat wooden and not exactly operational Leninist principle of “the right of nations to self-determination.”

    Could Otto Bauer’s forgotten work The Question of Nationalities and Social Democracy — written in German in 1907, translated into English in 2000, and then promptly ignored — help us develop a theory of nationalism?

    Bauer’s understanding of nationalism was subtle and sophisticated, and fully deserves to be rescued from obscurity. But we can only make sense of Bauer’s contribution by setting it within its complex historical context, instead of seeing it as disembodied political theory.

    Otto Bauer was born in Vienna, in 1881, to a wealthy Jewish factory-owning merchant family in a rapidly industrializing Austria. This was a multicultural and multiethnic environment with a thriving labor and socialist movement, made famous in the Red Vienna period of 1918–34. Bauer became active in the framework of that movement, representing the Social Democratic Workers’ Party (SDAP) in the imperial parliament and editing its monthly magazine, The Struggle.

    When the Habsburg empire joined the Central Powers during World War I, Bauer served as an Austrian army officer and became a prisoner of war in Russia before he was allowed to return home in 1917. Before and after the war, he was a leading figure in the political current known as Austro-Marxism. In the wake of the October Revolution, the Austro-Marxists sought to develop a “third way” between the Communist International launched by the Bolsheviks and social democracy.

    Bauer’s stint as Austria’s foreign minister in 1918–19 after the collapse of the Habsburg Empire, with his SDAP colleague Karl Renner as chancellor, was followed by a period of futile compromise with the rising forces of reaction. His life ended in political defeat. The rise of Austro-Fascism and the outbreak of civil war in 1933–34 prompted him to leave Austria, and he died in Parisian exile in 1938.

    While the counterrevolution won out in Austria in the 1930s, Bauer’s theory and practice is a fragment of the history of Marxism that should not be ignored. It remains a fundamental part of the Marxist legacy that warrants attention today.

    Although it is sometimes compared to the Frankfurt School, Austro-Marxism was a philosophy of practice, not one of contemplation. It included major figures in Marxist economics (Rudolf Hilferding), philosophy (Max Adler), and law (Karl Renner), as well as Bauer himself. Bauer’s own definition of Austro-Marxism saw it as a synthesis between day-to-day realpolitik and the revolutionary will to attain the ultimate goal: the seizure of power by the working class.
    The National Question

    The context in which Bauer wrote The Question of Nationalities and Social Democracy, which was originally his PhD thesis, was the outbreak of national questions and conflicts throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the development of capitalism had generated great social turmoil. The population of Vienna quadrupled due to internal migration in the fifty years leading up to 1917, with a multinational working class emerging.

    The burgeoning SDAP and the trade unions affiliated to it were in danger of being torn apart between their dominant German-speaking core and members from the peripheral nations. We should recall that before its breakup after 1918, the empire contained fifteen nationalities in a territory the size of the Iberian Peninsula.

    Faced with this situation, Bauer sought to develop a complex and sophisticated theory of nationalism — one that was not at all colored by sympathy towards his subject, we might add. For Bauer, modern nations can be understood as communities of character (Charakter gemeinschaften) that have emerged out of communities of fate (Schicksals gemeinschaften).

    This is a much more subtle and nonreductionist approach when compared to the orthodox Marxist theory of nationalism, as codified by Joseph Stalin and propagated throughout the world by the pro-Soviet communist movement. Stalin defined a nation as “a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.” This does not help us in a multinational context.

    Bauer saw the main strength of his work as being its description of the derivation of nationalism from the process of economic development, changes in the social structure, and the articulation of classes in society. However, much of his work and the debates to which it gave rise centered on his definition of a “nation” as the totality of human beings bound together through a common destiny into a community of character.

    Bauer viewed the nation as a “community of fate” whose character resulted from the long history of the conditions under which people labored to survive and divided the products of their work through the social division of labor. Before dismissing this conception of the nation as merely a form of idealism, as many critics have, we should note that Bauer repeatedly criticized forms of “national spiritualism” that depicted the nation as “a mysterious spirit of the people.” He also explicitly rejected psychological theories of the nation.
    A Product of History

    Bauer’s working definition of the nation was a methodological postulate that posed “the task of understanding the phenomenon of the nation” as

    explaining on the basis of the uniqueness of its history all that constitutes the peculiarity, the individuality of each nation, and which differentiates it from other nations, that is, showing the nationality of each individual as the historical with respect to him, and the historical within him.

    For Bauer, it was only by pursuing this task of uncovering the national components that we could dissolve the false appearance of the nation’s substantiality, to which nationalist conceptions of history always succumb.

    In Bauer’s perspective, the nation is above all a product of history. This is true in two respects: firstly, “in terms of its material content it is a historical phenomenon, since the living national character which operates in every one of its members is the residue of a historical development.” Secondly, “from the point of view of its formal structure it is a historical phenomenon, because diverse broad circles are bound together in a nation by different means and in different ways at the various stages of historical development.”

    In short, the ways in which the “community of character” is engendered are historically conditioned. It follows that this “community of character” is not a timeless abstraction but is continually modified over time. For Bauer, the different forms of “national character” are specific to a particular period and thus cannot be traced back to the origins of time, as nationalist mythology might suggest.

    He does not see national character as an explanation in itself, but rather as something that needs to be explained. In this framework, we cannot simply take internationalism for granted as a given, nor can we ignore national characteristics in the name of such internationalism. We must rather show how those characteristics are the result of historical processes.

    While Bauer’s theory of nationalism suffers from almost total oblivion today, even — or perhaps especially — amongst Marxists, in its day it was the subject of intense polemics. His thinking was rejected by both the Second (social-democratic) and the Third (communist) Internationals between which the Austro-Marxists fell.
    The End of Non-History

    One of Bauer’s major innovations was to openly reject the view of Frederick Engels that Slavic nations like the Czechs were “non-historic,” in contrast with what he saw as the great “historic” nations such as Germany, Poland, and France. For Engels, the “non-historic” nations were incapable of forming a state of their own and could only serve as tools of counterrevolution if they attempted to do so.

    Bauer agreed that there were peoples in Central and Eastern Europe who one might refer to as “non-historic,” but he disagreed with Engels on the question of their future prospects:

    The nations without history are revolutionary, they also struggle for constitutional rights and for their independence, for peasant emancipation: the revolution of 1848 is also their revolution.

    For Bauer, the category of “nations without history” did not refer to a structural incapacity of the nation to develop. Rather, it referred to a particular situation in which a people that had lost its ruling class in a previous phase had therefore not experienced its own cultural and historical development.

    He showed in detail how the “awakening of the nations without history” was one of the major revolutionary changes at the turn of the century. According to Bauer, it was one of the progressive features of capitalist development to have reawakened the national self-consciousness of these peoples and confronted the state with the “national question.”

    At the beginning of the twentieth century, he saw peoples such as the Czechs going through a process of capitalist and state development, which in turn led to the emergence of a cultural community, in which the ties of a once omnipotent traditional society were broken. The masses were thus being called on to collaborate in the transformation of the national culture.

    Bauer also carried out a detailed consideration of the relationship between class struggle and nationalism. In a striking phrase, he wrote that “nationalist hatred is a transformed class hatred.” He was referring specifically in this context to the reactions of the petty bourgeoisie in an oppressed nation as it was affected by shifts in population and other convulsions engendered by capitalist development. But the point is a more general one, and Bauer shows clearly how class and national struggles are intertwined.

    He gave the following example in the case of the Czech worker:

    The state which enslaved him [or her] was German; German too were the courts which protected property owners and threw the dispossessed into jail; each death sentence was written in German; and orders in the army sent against each strike of the hungry and defenceless workers were given in German.

    According to Bauer, the workers of the “non-historic” nations adopted in the first instance a “naive nationalism” to match the “naive cosmopolitanism” of the proletariat of larger nations. Only gradually in such cases does a genuinely internationalist policy develop that overcomes both “deviations” and recognizes the particularity of the proletarians of all nations.

    Although Bauer preached the need for working-class autonomy in the struggle for socialism as the best means for seizing power, he argued that “within capitalist society, national autonomy is the necessary demand of a working class that is compelled to carry out its class struggle within a multinational state.” This was not merely a “state-preserving” response, he argued, but rather a necessary aim for a proletariat that sought to make the whole people into a nation.
    Bauer in Our Time

    Bauer’s work represents a major break with economic determinism. In his interpretation, politics and ideology no longer appear as mere “reflections” of rigid economic processes. The very context in which Austrian social democracy operated made it particularly sensitive to cultural diversity and to the complex social processes of economic development.

    Bauer’s treatise on the national question implicitly rejected the economic determinism and basic evolutionism of Second International Marxism. In terms of its substantial contribution, Bauer advanced a concept of the nation as historical process, in pages of rich and subtle historical analysis. The nation was no longer seen as a natural phenomenon, but as a relative and historical one.

    This allowed Bauer to break decisively with the Engels position on “non-historic” nations. As with Antonio Gramsci’s much more influential work on the national-popular, we can find in Bauer’s work a welcome move beyond the (mis)understanding of the nation and of nationalism as “problems” — and not just an integral element of social organization — that has characterized so much Marxist theorizing on the subject.

    A modern-day reader of Bauer’s book might find some of its case studies obscure and its language archaic. However, critical engagement with Bauer can help us develop a more adequate Marxist theoretical practice with regard to nationalism. Can we really sustain the idea, as many Marxists did in Bauer’s time, that the advent of socialism will resolve the national question?

    Does Bauer’s rejection of the Bolshevik path to power make him simply a failed reformist or does it situate him, like Gramsci, as a theorist of revolution in the Western democracies? Can his “constructivist” theory of the nation provide us with a starting point for understanding the national question in the era of late globalization?

    Today, Bauer’s work is immediately relevant to our thinking on multiculturalism, of which it can be seen as a precursor. To be clear, Bauer’s central argument is to reject any essentialist principle in the conceptualization of the national question. For Bauer, we cannot think of modern nations in terms of “metaphysical theories” (such as notions of national spiritualism) or “voluntaristic theories” (as in Ernest Renan’s theory of the nation as a “daily plebiscite”). National identities are not “naturally given” and invariable but are rather culturally changeable.

    However, Bauer’s approach to the nation-state is very different from the dominant liberal one today. In the liberal nation-state, it is the cultural practice of the dominant national group that prevails. Multiculturalism is thus always limited by this hegemony and multicultural states cannot easily be constructed. Any commitment to cultural pluralism can amount to little more than a token commitment to diversity within overwhelmingly assimilationist structures.

    Bauer criticized the attitude of the early 1900s “German Austrian” workers’ movement as a “naïve cosmopolitanism” which rejected national struggles as diversionary and advocated a humanistic world citizenship as its alternative. There were clear echoes of this attitude in the promotion of “global cosmopolitanism” during the early 2000s. In that sense, we very much need a Bauer 2.0 to move beyond such naïve and complacent indifference to the national question today.

    Bauer fundamentally disagreed with the idea that the national movements were simply an obstacle for the class struggle and that internationalism was the only way forward. He was convinced that it was only the working class that could create the conditions for the development of a nation, proclaiming that “the international struggle is the means that we must use to realize our national ideal.”

    In his view, it was socialism that would consolidate a national culture for the benefit of all. In brief — and I realize this is a controversial statement — working-class consciousness has a class character but also, at the same time, a national character.


    Otto Bauer, Die Nationalitätenfrage und die Sozialdemokratie (1907)

    Verlag der Wiener Volksbuchhandlung Ignaz Brand, Wien 1907.
    Sonderausgabe aus dem II. Bande der Marx-Studien – herausgegeben von Dr. Max Adler und Dr. Rudolf Hilferding.
    Die Rechtschreibung wurde weitgehend der neuen Orthografie angepasst.
    Transkription u. HTML-Markierung: Einde O’Callaghan für das Marxists’ Internet Archive.

    #austromarxisme #socialdémocratie #Autriche #histoire #socialisme

  • US Weapons Shipments to Israel Are Enabling War Crimes | #Stephen_Semler

    A recently leaked internal document from the Pentagon reveals the weapons the Biden administration is fast-tracking to Israel in support of its military offensive in Gaza. Based on my review of forensic investigations published by human rights and news organizations, these same types of weapons have been used repeatedly by the Israeli military to attack and kill civilians during the last fifteen years alone.

  • Why the Eurocommunists Lost

    5.11.2023 by Marzia Maccaferri - In the 1970s, a reform trend in Europe’s Communist parties promised a radically democratic socialism. “Eurocommunism” sought an alternative to the exhausted Soviet model — but it was unable to answer the profound social upheavals taking place in the West.

    In April 1980, the sociologist and political theorist Göran Therborn declared in the British journal Marxism Today that Eurocommunism was the legitimate heir of the social rebellion of the 1960s and the genuine answer to the crisis of Western advanced capitalism. Yet today, Eurocommunism has completely disappeared from the Left’s vocabulary. It is consigned, like other old-fashioned expressions such as “entryism” or “maximum program,” to the ideological fracas of the twentieth century, whose legacy — if there is one — seems impossible to determine. Not even Communist nostalgia, which has taken such a place in bookshops recently, has recovered the lexicon or ideas from this theoretical and political experiment.

    Yet, in a short period in the 1970s and early 1980s, Eurocommunism did bear real sway on the Left’s imagination. It provided a significant moment for envisioning a different relationship with the state and a radical-democratic opposition to “inhumane and exploitative” capitalism.

    Albeit imprecise, and for most of its critics naïf, the term “Eurocommunism” nonetheless embodied the aspiration for an adaptable version of socialism in which freedom of expression and pluralism complemented the “humanist” potential of class solidarity. It reclaimed an “open” and “Western” Marxism in which the road(s) to socialism could not be separate from the historical struggles to enlarge traditional (read: liberal) European parliamentary democracy and — in the words of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) leader Enrico Berlinguer — build a “progressive and substantial democracy.”

    Important names such as Antonio Gramsci and Nicos Poulantzas were associated with it, while the great tradition of anti-fascism represented by the French and Italian Communist Parties was strengthened by the involvement of the Spanish Communist Party (PCE) and its charismatic leader Santiago Carrillo, who during the transition to democracy after the death of Francisco Franco enthusiastically embraced the notion of a “flexible” communism.

    Perhaps he even took up this cause too enthusiastically, given the abrasive reaction of the Kremlin to Carrillo’s condemnation of the bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet one-party system in his 1977 work Eurocomunismo y Estado. According to historian Christopher Andrew, who had worked with KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin, the Soviet intelligence agency tried repeatedly to discredit Berlinguer and the PCI, who put most weight behind Eurocommunist ambitions.

    The novelty of Eurocommunism — although stuttering and incomplete — was the vision of forging socialism through democracy, by integrating the struggles and injustices that took place outside the sphere of strictly economic relations and proposing a conception of socialism principally as a source of moral emancipation and cultural liberation, not only material progress.

    Why then has Eurocommunism been “canceled” from the Western left imaginary? And, more critically, should we leave it to the history books — or do those debates and analyses still resonate with our times?
    The “Cancellation” of Eurocommunism

    Clearly, 1989 and Mikhail Gorbachev’s unsuccessful attempt to “reform” the Soviet model is to be blamed. The failure of Soviet reformers left the impression that Communism could never have been corrected at all. But not just that. Eurocommunism has been also obscured by — or was incapable of coping with — the clamorous arrival of neoliberalism in the 1980s and the reorganization of social relations around a sterile conception of individualism.

    The renewed tensions between the United States and the USSR and the worsening of the Cold War definitely represented a major challenge, eclipsing the optimism embedded in Eurocommunism: surpassing bloc politics and building a new (truly socialist) Europe upon the achievements of the welfare state.

    Through these geopolitical lenses, Eurocommunism has thus been largely projected as an unsophisticated response to the Cold War, nothing more than an earlier version of Gorbachev’s failure and an equally abortive attempt by the then major Western European communist parties (typically the Italian, frequently the Spanish, less often the French) to promote themselves as a credible option for government.

    The term was coined in 1975 by Frane Barbieri, an anti-Communist Croat/Yugoslav journalist; he teased the Italian Communists because “they aspired to arrive in power,” which he dismissed as the same old project for the “Stalinization” of Europe. Overcoming the Manichean Cold War logic at a national as well as international level was, therefore, paramount for the Eurocommunist project.

    But a further ideological tenet should not be underestimated. Eurocommunism first emerged to defend the legacy of Czechoslovak reformer Alexander Dubček, whose socialist-humanist political liberalization was embraced enthusiastically across Western Europe, especially by those parties that had expressed disapproval over the Soviet invasion of Prague in 1968.

    It also emerged during a relaxed phase in the Cold War, marked by détente and Ostpolitik, as West Germany’s opening of relations with the East was then known. Eurocommunism focused on human rights and political freedom as elements of socialist ideals, aspiring to propose “socialism with a human face” for post-Fordist (Western and Eastern) Europe.

    The connection with Gramsci’s ideas about the complexity of the socialist revolution in the West, and the successful practices of hegemony achieved by the Italian Communists in the so-called “red cities” such as Bologna or Modena, gave Eurocommunism a solid historical and intellectual legitimacy.

    Nurtured in the long tradition of unconventional Italian Marxism, Eurocommunism’s premises are also to be found in the politics of the “popular fronts” and in PCI leader Palmiro Togliatti’s post–World War II idea of “polycentrism” and the party’s autonomy in the search for a socialism suited to “national” realities. A legacy that his Spanish counterpart Carrillo had located “already in the 1950s [when] the British Communists laid down a programme in which it was envisaged that the transition to socialism would take place in condition of democracy.”

    To a certain extent, it was the final step of a slow, indeed an all too slow, journey that the European Communist parties could not make in 1956 upon the Soviet crushing of the Hungarian Revolution, which they largely defended. It is not by chance that one of the most fervent supporters of Eurocommunism was the historian Eric Hobsbawm: he had remained in the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) watching most of his colleagues leaving to give birth to the New Left on grounds very much similar to what the Spanish historian Fernando Claudín was writing in 1977.

    The anti-communist repertoire insisted that Eurocommunist proposals were merely a cosmetic exercise. Traditionalist communists, especially in Britain, denounced them as a further betrayal, seeking to finally “social-democratize” the labor movement and succumb to capitalism. But in either case, the word “failure” still connotes Eurocommunism.
    The Limits of Eurocommunism

    Eurocommunism had an unquestionable strategic and ideological appeal. It placed democracy and pluralism at the center of a reformed politics, able to leverage these ideas as a means of transition and as the political form of a new reality: “Democracy is today,” Berlinguer stated in 1977, “not only the terrain upon which the class enemy is forced to retreat, but also the historically universal value upon which a new socialist society is to be founded.”

    But at the same time, Eurocommunism maintained unresolved political and theoretical limitations, especially about the irreducible tension between the state and the society, as well as a language permeated with anachronistic references, which clashed with the aggressive neoliberal turn that Western democracies were experiencing.

    By envisioning a “third way” between traditional social democracy and the Soviet model, Eurocommunism had sought to overcome both marginality and national political insignificance and, equally, the risk of normalization, as it insisted on maintaining the “revolutionary” aspirations of meaningful transformative politics. The search for a different way to achieve a “democratic socialism” was not meant to embrace and dissolve into social democracy but, according to Berlinguer and Carrillo, to preserve and modernize the “revolutionary intellectual tradition” inherited from the history of European communism.

    Still, in the context of the post-Fordist crisis of the mass party and class politics, the political and strategic limits were more penetrating than the intellectual and theoretical strengths. Eurocommunism did not recognize that the state was going to “occupy the space of individuality,” whose democratic institutions, in Poulantzas’s brilliant analysis, would be characterized by friction between the reduction of pluralism internally and the dispersion of political authority externally.

    In this context, power would remain managed but no longer monopolized by a new form of “autocratic statism,” with the form but not the substance of representative democracy. Profound distrust of mass initiative and the emergence of a new technocratic culture, as in Socialist president François Mitterand’s France or the taking in hand of the state machine by parties seeking to distribute favors to their own bases, as in 1980s Italy, completely eclipsed the Eurocommunist attempt to combine the expansion of representative democracy with the demand for social and class justice.
    The Failures of Eurocommunism

    In the first instance, Eurocommunism was not a coherent transnational project in its approaches and organization: all its documents and pronouncements were a result of difficult compromises in terms of analysis and theory, mirroring more domestic issues than ambitions for a shared future.

    PCI, French Communist Party (PCF), and PCE leaders met regularly in the 1970s but this produced no real synthesis except symbolic declarations of good intentions. The main test was the European conference of Communist parties in Berlin in 1976. After more than one year of discussion there was no agreement on a common document, and when Berlinguer introduced the term Eurocommunism, Georges Marchais and the PCF refused to follow him, opting for the more traditional approach of the autonomy of the individual national parties.

    National fragmentations soon rematerialized. The French communists were the first to return to their previous orthodox positions, followed by the Greek and British parties. The emblematic case of involution and of the reemergence of previously surpassed rigid commitments was, undoubtedly, the fate of the British communists.

    Engulfed in a series of intestinal and ever-intensified splits and conflicts, which de facto paralyzed the party until its final collapse in 1991, British communism lost what probably could have been its last chance since the 1930s to intervene in public discourse.

    Ironically, when, after a long period of insignificance, the party’s journal Marxism Today gained greatest influence thanks to the combination of Gramscian analysis and opening to European experiences, it coincided with the period of the definitive decline of the British intellectual communist tradition. How reactionary and far removed from reality this phase was, it is palpable still today in the fact that Eurocommunism and Gramscianism are used as synonyms in certain leftist circles.

    Moreover, by overestimating the potential for reform in the Communist world and remaining stuck in the domestic projection of the two-bloc system, Eurocommunism itself undercut its potential for transformative politics, ultimately jamming the project “into the past.” That was an analytical as well as a theoretical mistake, quickly picked up by critics like Ernest Mandel or Perry Anderson, albeit for the latter from a very orthodox perspective.

    By the mid-1980s, Eurocommunism had ceased to be that significant political force that had tried to shake up the Western left. By the time PCI leader Berlinguer died suddenly in 1984, the term itself had totally fallen by the wayside. And in the end, Eurocommunism was erased from the Left’s counterreactions of the 1990s.

    Most relevant to understanding the Eurocommunist trajectory, whose consequences I believe are still with us, were the different parties’ unreconcilably different stances toward European integration. While for the Italians and the Spanish the opportunities offered by the architecture of European integration could play a role in the Eurocommunist project, the British were consistently opposed to European Economic Community (EEC) membership, perpetuating a prosaic interpretation of European institutions as the apex of capitalism.
    Eurocommunism as an “Interrupted” Democratic Socialism’?

    In 1979, in one of the last interviews before his death, Poulantzas discussed the crisis of the workers’ parties dealing with the Eurocommunist project. Their struggle to construct a dialogue with the new social subjects on the one hand, and the “cartelization” of the workers’ movement within the state apparatus on the other, were the twofold challenges that Eurocommunism was unable to understand.

    It is about understanding — Poulantzas concluded — that no class by itself, by its very nature, is destined to be a guarantor of freedom. It is necessary to know how to look into the stratifications, the divisions, the internal complexities. It needs democracy and democratic institutions not only to defend itself against its enemies, but also to “defend itself” at the moment it takes on political power. Understanding this is important in order not to underestimate the immense work of invention necessary for the elaboration of a democratic political theory of the transition to socialism.

    However partial and contradictory, the Eurocommunist phase had genuinely searched for an alternative path capable of overcoming the historical reversals and fractures of the Left. Some of those indications can still be a useful starting point.

  • Thousands of Palestinian Workers Have Gone Missing in Israel

    Thousands of Palestinian day laborers from Gaza are stranded in Israel amid the explosion in #violence. Israel has revoked their work permits, and their families fear they may be imprisoned — or worse.

    There are few groups in history who have suffered as many waves of dispossession and displacement in such a short period as the Palestinian people. On May 15, 1948, over 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homeland and over 500 Palestinian villages were destroyed in what is known as the Nakba or “catastrophe.”

    The Nakba isn’t a fixed historical event but an ongoing phenomenon characterized by seventy-five years of occupation, colonial violence, and displacement. The Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated places on earth, is home to many of these refugees — some still have the keys to their former homes. The past three weeks have been particularly difficult; over 8,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli bombardments on mosques, schools, hospitals, and residential buildings.

    Since 2007, Gaza has been economically suffocated by a siege that stops food, medicine, and construction materials from getting in. The unemployment rate stands at 47 percent. It’s why so many have jumped at the opportunity since October 2021 to access work permits to earn a living as day laborers in Israel. The process of applying for a work permit is arduous and unpredictable. Israel issues these permits through a quota system, and many applicants are denied. Those who secure permits face daily challenges, including long waits at border crossings, strict security checks, and grueling commutes. There are 19,000 Palestinians from Gaza in this position.

    Yasmin, a Palestinian trade union organizer, says these workers work the most undesirable, dangerous, and physically demanding jobs. “You go in, give your labor and go out. You are not considered part of the country. Permits are conditional on Palestinians working in specific industries where there is a lack of an Israeli workforce.”

    Those industries include construction, agriculture, and manufacturing. Serious injury rates are much higher than average, but the desperation to provide for your family means there is no luxury of choice.

    “It is intensive labor with high levels of precarity. There are many deaths in the construction sector. And there is an internal division of labor and power dynamic at play with Palestinian workers the lowest paid and most exploited.”
    Disappeared Workers

    When the latest wave of violence began three weeks ago, the Erez crossing into Gaza was completely closed off. Thousands of Palestinian laborers were stranded on the Israeli side, far from their families and with no source of income. Their work permits were revoked, leaving their lives in flux. It is a familiar pattern for Palestinians: displacement, dispossession, and uncertainty.

    “Some are missing, some are stranded, some have been arrested, and others have been deported to the West Bank,” explains Shaher Saed, general secretary of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU). Saed and his colleagues in Ramallah have been attempting to support Palestinians from Gaza who have been estranged from their families, made homeless, and internally displaced yet again.

    Muhammad Aruri, head of legal affairs for the General Union of Palestinian Workers, tells us that Palestinian families are particularly worried about the condition of their loved ones who have gone missing. “There’s 5,000 that we don’t have any information about. We don’t know if they are dead or alive.”

    Locating these workers isn’t difficult for the Israeli state. As Yasmin explains, “The whole permit system is a surveillance system done in a specific kind of way to help the state locate people in these kinds of scenarios. The last report I heard is that there are 4,000 workers at the moment detained and being interrogated. The state is not letting these workers go back to their families. They are being detained and interrogated or are in the West Bank having to fend for themselves.”

    It is impossible to know how many Palestinian workers are in Israel and how many are detained, as Israeli authorities have failed to respond to enquiries by NGOs. It is estimated that at least 4,000 Palestinian workers from Gaza are currently held by Israeli authorities in undetermined locations, with little to no information about their condition, unclear legal status, and denied their right to legal representation.

    “In the middle of this horrible situation, the Israeli occupation army did not hesitate in inflicting all kinds of harm against the workers, especially those from Gaza who work in Israel,” says Saeed. “They were prevented from returning to their homes, expelled from their workplaces, and transferred to the West Bank without any shelters. This was done after they had been physically assaulted and had their personal belongings confiscated, such as their money, identity cards, and entry permits to Israel.”

    Saeed says the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions has received thousands of calls from concerned family members who have lost contact with relatives. “We were informed that many of the workers are under detention in Anatout military camp in northern occupied Jerusalem, under degrading and inhumane conditions. The PGFTU demands to release our workers and take steps to guarantee their safe return to their families. We appeal and call our colleagues and partners in the international trade unions for support and solidarity with the workers to eliminate injustice against them. We demand the Red Cross international make an immediate visit to Anatout detention to check on our workers’ conditions.”

    Some workers were allegedly dumped at West Bank checkpoints, went into nearby cities, and took shelter there. Many workers in Israel fled and sought to make their way to the West Bank, fearing for their safety.

    The detention of Palestinian workers could be unlawful, and Israeli human rights organizations such as Gisha have petitioned for further information on their location and condition.
    Economic Dependency

    In 2017, the Israeli government declassified thousands of pages of meeting transcripts from 1967. In the aftermath of the six-day war, where Israel captured the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, the Sinai Peninsula, and the West Bank, a great deal of discussion went on about what to do with these new territories. Using these documents, Dr Omri Shafer Raviv drew attention to how Israeli leaders sought to expand their control over newly occupied populations by bringing Palestinian workers into Israel.

    While the work permit system may provide temporary economic relief to Palestinians, it has created a cycle of dependency with which Israel can access a cheap supply of labor and exercise greater control over Palestinians. Coupled with a siege that prevents sustainable economic development, access to resources, and trade, Palestinians in Gaza are economically subjugated.

    The mobility of Palestinian workers is often restricted at checkpoints where they face frequent interrogation and are often late or miss shifts altogether, incurring significant financial loss. All Palestinian trade passes through Israeli borders and checkpoints. It means much higher logistics costs — crippling Palestinian businesses and forcing many to close.

    The small proportion of workers who are granted work permits have no legal recourse or medical cover and work in industries with a high risk of accidents. They are frequently mistreated by employers who are well aware that Palestinian workers are without the most basic rights and protections.

    The plight of these workers is emblematic of the broader challenges Palestinians face. The economic hardships, insecurity, and exploitation they endure serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need to end the siege on Gaza and the occupation more broadly.


    #disparus #travailleurs_palestiniens #Palestine #Israël #disparitions #7_octobre_2023 #travail #permis_de_travail

  • Joe Biden Is Engaging in Atrocity Denialism for Israel. It Has a Long History.

    I’m a historian of US foreign policy. The Biden administration’s effort to muddy the waters about the staggering human toll of Israel’s assault on Gaza is in keeping with Washington’s long history of atrocity denialism on behalf of allies.


    The Biden administration’s determination to downplay the extent of Israeli killings of civilians in Gaza, to amplify Israeli military propaganda, and to deny the credibility of Palestinian casualty figures should be seen in this light. As Israel’s relentless war continues — despite growing protests and significant public support in the United States for a cease-fire — we should not expect White House spokespeople or Biden himself to acknowledge the chilling number of Palestinian deaths as confirmed by journalists, human rights organizations, and others. We should instead expect the US government — as it has been doing for years, under Democratic and Republican administrations alike — to minimize the massacres carried out by a close ally like Israel and use its diplomatic and media influence to this end.

    As the atrocities pile up, the atrocity denialism will almost certainly deepen.

  • EXCLUSIVE : In the ’80s, Joe Biden Speculated to Israel’s PM About Wiping Out Canadians

    Les USA et Israël partagent le même exceptionnalisme qui les place au dessus de toute autre nation et leur donne le droit de tuer n’importe qui sans raison particulière. Je connais d’autres exemples de cette attitude envers les peuples étrangers.

    Elle n’e fut pas étrangère aux seigneurs de la période des Royaumes combattants (战国 ; pinyin : zhànguó), les croisés du moyen age la mirent en pratique et mes ancêtres nazis en furent un système juridique et une politique à hauteur de leur époque. Depuis la dynastie des Qin (秦朝 ; pinyin : Qín Cháo) la politique chinoise a développé une tradition pragmatique qui préfère l’échange commercial aux affrontements militaires et l’Allemagne poursuit désormais une politique impérialiste hypocrite qui se veut morale et non belliqueuse.

    La politique de l’extrême violence n’a jamais donné de résultat durable. A la différence avec les époques précédentes les forces élémentaires du capitalisme vont à l"encontre d’un dénouement équilibré mais poussent les protagonistes des affrontements dans une suite sans fin de crises économiques et militaires. Il me semble que ce soit le pari sur l’avenir choisi par les États Unis et Israël.

    Bienvenue dans l’époque dystopique des super-vilains.

    22.19.2023 by Ben Burgis - In 1982, Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin visited Washington, DC. Israel had invaded Lebanon, where various Palestinian factions were then headquartered, and the world was watching bloodshed in the Middle East.

    Normally, Israeli prime ministers can expect a warm greeting when they visit the United States. As with Israel’s war in Gaza now, though, some American politicians were angry at the belligerence of Israel’s actions and wanted de-escalation.

    Some reports at the time (and since) suggested that one of the angry doves in 1982 was Senator Joseph Biden. The truth seems to be more complicated.

    Begin met with Biden, and vague reports described some sort of angry exchange. Begin’s recollections of that meeting were reported at the time in a mainstream Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Aharonot. Some of the details of what Begin recalls Biden telling him are genuinely shocking, but they seem to now be largely forgotten in Israel — especially a hypothetical Biden floated about the United States bombing cities in Canada. “If attacks were launched from Canada into the US,” Biden remarked, “everyone here would have said, ‘Attack all the cities of Canada, and we don’t care if all the civilians get killed.’”

    As far as I can tell, these details have never been reported in the English-language press — until now.
    When Biden Clashed With Begin

    Writing in the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks after the 2020 presidential election, presidential historian Tevi Troy recounts the meeting between Biden and Begin. Troy doesn’t quote Biden’s side of the conversation, although he vaguely talks about the future president “lectur[ing] the 68-year-old Begin about the settlements” Israel was building in occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank and warning Begin that Israel might be in danger of losing support in the United States. Instead of giving us any real details about Senator Biden’s perspective, he talks a lot about the theatrics of the meeting — fingers jabbed, fists pounded on the table — and quotes Begin taking umbrage at the senator challenging him in any way. “I am not,” Begin told Biden, “a Jew with trembling knees.”

    Without quoting any of his specific comments, Troy says that Biden warned Begin that “eroding support for Israel” might endanger future US aid. Begin seems to have taken this as a threat to cut off aid if Israeli policy didn’t change, and Troy quotes him railing that Israel would “stand by” its “principles . . . with or without your aid.”

    Honestly, though, everything we know about the way Senator Biden positioned himself on the issue at the time makes it more likely that he was speaking as a supporter of US aid worried that he and his friends wouldn’t be able to deliver it in the future. But what exactly was his concern?

    A more helpful description that appeared at the time in the Sydney Morning Herald makes Biden’s position clearer. Other senators, according to the report in the Herald, were angry about Israeli belligerence in Lebanon. It’s not hard to see why. Many thousands of civilians were killed in Lebanon by the time that war was over. The specific Israeli attack that those other senators were confronting Begin about had, even according to the Israeli army, killed 460 to 470 civilians and made another twenty thousand homeless. Palestinian sources had those numbers at ten thousand civilians dead and another sixty thousand made homeless.

    Senator Biden, though, was splitting the difference between Begin and the angry doves. Biden “said he was not critical of the Lebanon operation, but felt that Israel had to halt the policy of establishing new Jewish settlements in the West Bank.” Biden “said Israel was losing support in this country because of the settlement policy.”

    Predictably, this argument fell on deaf ears. The ultraconservative prime minister “rejected the appeals, saying that Jews had a right to settle in the area he called Judea and Samaria.” And ultimately the pushback from Biden and the other senators was little more than annoyance. “Despite the criticisms,” the Herald reported, “Mr. Begin left Washington pleased at having his basic approach to the Lebanese crisis endorsed by Mr. Reagan.”
    Hypothetically, What If We Had to Kill All the Canadians?

    But what exactly did Senator Biden say about the Lebanese crisis? The report in the Sydney Morning Herald doesn’t say. It doesn’t look like either Biden or Begin described that part of the conversation in any sort of detail to any reporters for the English-language press at the time. Maybe nobody cared much about the opinions of a senator from Delaware.

    Begin did recount the conversation in considerable detail, though, to Yedioth Aharonot. One comment of Biden’s in particular seems to have pleased Begin (the following translation comes from consultation with several Hebrew speakers):

    Biden’s comments were offensive, Begin said. Suddenly he [Biden] said: “What did you do in Lebanon? You annihilated what you annihilated.”

    I was certain, recounted Begin, that this was a continuation of his attack against us, but Biden continued: “It was great! It had to be done! If attacks were launched from Canada into the United States, everyone here would have said, ‘Attack all the cities of Canada, and we don’t care if all the civilians get killed.’”

    If so, Begin told us, I wondered what all the shouting was about. It turned out Biden wasn’t shouting about the operation in Lebanon at all, he was angry about what Israel was doing in Judea and Samaria . . .

    As a matter of fact, Israel’s invasion of Lebanon came after a long cease-fire during which very few attacks on Israeli targets were launched from Lebanon, but Israel frequently hit Palestinian targets there, killing hundreds of people. The immediate justification for the invasion was an assassination attempt against Israeli ambassador Shlomo Argov rather than some sort of massive terrorist attack.

    These inconvenient details notwithstanding, Senator Biden’s moral calculus seemed clear enough. So are the disturbing parallels to his support as president for Israel’s indiscriminately murderous bombing campaign in Gaza. Whatever objections Biden might have had to Begin’s settlement policy in the West Bank, he clearly considered Israel, like the United States, to be a special nation with a right to spill oceans of blood in conflicts with lesser adversaries.

    I do wonder, though, what Canadian officials think about the president of the United States saying that any hypothetical attacks from terrorist groups operating in Canada would justify what sounds like an outright genocidal American response. He thought, remember, that it would be a “phenomenal” thing in such a scenario if the United States attacked “all” the cities in Canada, even if “all” the civilians there died. If Biden really said that, it suggests that not only does he consider Lebanese and Palestinian life to be very cheap — a depressing fact, but not a particularly surprising one — but that Canadian lives are in the same category.

    Someone should ask President Biden about these comments now. And while they’re at it, they should see if they can get a comment from Justin Trudeau.

    Ben Burgis is a Jacobin columnist, an adjunct philosophy professor at Rutgers University, and the host of the YouTube show and podcast Give Them An Argument. He’s the author of several books, most recently Christopher Hitchens: What He Got Right, How He Went Wrong, and Why He Still Matters.

    #dystopie #USA #Israël #crise #impérialisme #histoire #Chine

  • Cory Doctorow’s Vision for a Just Tech Revolution

    La critique du capitalisme actuel passe à travers de nouveaux protagonistes qui ne correspondent plus à l’image du prolétaire et son parti qui représente toute sa classe. L’écrivain Cory Doctorow nous propose son idée d’action techno-critique et les populistes entourant Sahra Wagenknecht apportent leur grain de réformisme peit bourgeois en incluant les idées syndicalistes. L’innovation politique redémarre à partir de zéro avec les enquêtes de Dickens et Goethe.

    In effect, your boss hands you your paycheck at the end of the month, and he says, well, I’ve docked your pay, but I’m not going to tell you why I docked your pay because you’re not allowed to know those rules. If I told you the rules, you’d figure out how to cheat. This contemporary form of Taylorism exceeds the schemes even Robert Blincoe could have imagined. Blincoe was the ten-year-old who was indentured to work in a Manchester factory and wrote a bestselling memoir about it when he finally escaped ten years later, and it became the basis for Oliver Twist, which is basically Luddite fanfic. His boss could not have dreamt up the app boss system.

    Doctorow découvte le sort du clickworker dans le récit qui a inspiré Charles Dickens.


    #capitalisme #luddites #plateformes

  • Emmanuel Macron’s Government Is Using the War in Gaza to Stifle Dissent at Home

    Beyond protest bans, Darmanin also hopes to enlist the justice system for his own political ends. On October 15, the interior minister announced that he was submitting to prosecutors eleven complaints for “apologias for terrorism,” a possible prelude to court-ordered dissolution of groups like Palestine Vaincra and the anticolonialists of Les indigènes de la République — long a controversial organization but one that has no violent record.

    He likewise appealed to prosecutors to file charges against Danièle Obono, a France Insoumise MP in northeastern Paris who referred to Hamas as a “resistance movement” during an October 17 radio interview. Early in the morning on October 20, two members of the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) trade union, including a regional-level secretary, were arrested at their homes for having distributed leaflets similarly alleged to have made excuses for terrorism.

    Besides Le Monde and Mediapart, French media have largely turned a blind eye to the increasingly aggressive maneuvers coming from the interior minister. Darmanin this week made another strange conflation when speaking to Jewish community leaders in Créteil, claiming that “hatred of Jews and hatred of cops are linked,” before qualifying “not by conviction but by electoral calculation.” In all probability, this was a jibe aimed at France Insoumise and its alleged “communalist” appeal to France’s Muslims. Beyond their apparent revisionism, his comments disingenuously present the current conflict along the lines demanded by his own political project: painting himself as an avatar state authority, versus creeping disorder.

    In reality, it is Darmanin himself who is making electoral calculations over the conflict in Israel-Palestine, as he jockeys to become France’s possible next prime minister.

  • Emmanuel Macron’s Government Is Using Evictions as a Tool of Control

    C’est la guerre du Gaza par les offices du HLM ?

    A single mother was recently evicted on a noise complaint over the sound of her young kids playing. “For these people,” Briand says of the alliance between housing managers and local authorities, “an accusation of verbal aggression would equal delinquency.”

    “People are being hounded out of their apartments. The only way for public authorities to fulfill obligations of reducing waiting lists for public housing is to evict tenants or to force them out through grave insalubrity and rising tenant fees,” she continues, noting an underlying tendency toward privatization. “We are really dealing with the harassment of a precarious population in order to facilitate private land grabs on the housing stock.”

    The tough-on-crime attack on public housing has proved, in Nice, to be an effective cover for the dispossession of people from their communities and neighborhoods. In Paris, where the Left’s longtime control over the mayor’s office has precluded more strong-armed tactics like Estrosi’s, activists have in recent years warned of the weaponized use of fines for low-level offenses and infractions.

    “The goal is to chase these people from public space and even drive their families out of their neighborhoods,” says Tehio, pointing to the serial fines handed out over (frequently dubious) cases of petty criminality. These have landed the families of young and often underage men of color with thousands of euros in debt and, she claims, have a role in gentrifying areas like the 10th, 19th, and 20th arrondissements of Paris.

    “We’re creating the conditions for a disintegration of social ties in these communities,” says Tehio. “And every now and then it explodes.”

    #France #logement #exclusion_sociale

  • Keynes and the Marxists

    11.10.2023 by Nathan Tankus
    The “Keynesian Revolution” did not conquer the United States; at best it conquered the Boston area (for a limited time). It’s no coincidence, in fact, that dynastic scion John F. Kennedy was the high-water mark for anything approaching “Keynesianism” in government.

    #USA #économie #marxisme #keynésianisme

  • Sahra Wagenknecht Can’t Unite Germany’s Working Class

    Si vous vous êtes toujours demandés qui est Sarah Wagenknecht, cet article vour fournira quelques informations et points de repère intéressants. Visiblement l’auteur Nachtwey fait partie de la gauche institutionnelle allemande qui déteste Sahra Wagenknecht. Cette position rend anecdotique son analyse mais nous amuse par quelques détails juteux comme l’allusion à son ex-mari qui s’est mué et Reichsbürger conspirationniste. Il est vrai que Sarah Wagenknecht est un personnage unique jaimais vu en Allemagne. Vouloir conclure qu’elle contribue à la montée de la droite est une prophétie dépourvue d’éléments solides. Très amusant.

    12.10.2023 by Oliver Nachtwey - “Soon she’ll be limping too.” Legend has it that Lothar Bisky, chair of the 1990s-era German Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), uttered this sardonic remark about Sahra Wagenknecht back in the days when she was making waves both inside and outside the party as an open communist. Bisky’s comment was a reference to Rosa Luxemburg, who famously walked with a limp due to a disability. At the time, Wagenknecht’s haircut and clothing style, characterized by a penchant for lace blouses, bore a striking resemblance to textbook images of the most famous woman in the history of German socialism.

    Like Luxemburg, Wagenknecht was eloquent and sharp — and ever at odds with her party’s leadership. Yet Bisky’s allusion took aim not only at Wagenknecht’s political position but also her sense for showmanship and the aesthetic side of politics. From the very beginning, Wagenknecht has been a brand, and a profitable one at that: as far back as 2002, she demanded a fee from the PDS for her appearances at campaign events in the run-up to that year’s federal election.

    Sahra Wagenknecht is a contrarian by nature. Born in East Germany in 1969, she joined the ruling Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) — the PDS’s predecessor — in 1989, just as a democratic revolution was breaking out in her country. Against the prevailing mood, Wagenknecht saw little to celebrate in the antiauthoritarian uprising, describing it as a “counterrevolution.” In the following years, she criticized capitalist West Germany’s destruction of East German industry, careers, and living conditions more incisively than just about anyone else. At the same time, as the most high-profile member of the PDS’s Communist Platform, she also relished playing the role of the unapologetic Stalinist, marveling at Stalin’s “impressive modernization policy” and referring to East Germany as the “most humane commonwealth” in German history. In 2002, when the PDS issued a declaration that there had been “no justification” for the killings of East German citizens who tried to cross to the other side of the Berlin Wall, Wagenknecht was the sole dissenting vote on the party executive.

    In the 1990s, Wagenknecht was an admirer of the New Economic System, the centrally planned economy introduced by Walter Ulbricht, first secretary of the SED in the 1950s and 1960s. Yet after the 2008 financial crisis, her economic politics underwent a metamorphosis. As she gained notoriety well beyond her own party as an astute critic of contemporary capitalism, her nostalgia for the former East successively gave way to a nostalgia for the West during the so-called golden age of capitalism. In her 2012 book Freiheit statt Kapitalismus (Freedom instead of capitalism), she positioned herself as a proponent of a progressive “social market economy.” Though she still paid lip service to a “creative socialism,” the social vision she outlined borrowed from Walter Eucken, Alfred Müller-Armack, and Ludwig Erhard — that is, the theorists of German ordoliberalism. Whereas once she praised Ulbricht’s economic policy for guaranteeing “a highly productive economy by stimulating efficiency while also providing social security,” she was now lauding ordoliberalism in essentially the same terms.

    In her 2016 book Prosperity Without Greed, Wagenknecht dropped the word “socialism” entirely. Limiting her critique of capitalism to the semifeudal domination of major corporations, which she claimed hinder efficiency, innovation, and (genuine) competition, she adopted a line that was closer to Joseph Schumpeter than Karl Marx. Now she was writing not primarily for workers and trade unionists but rather for entrepreneurs, managers, and the self-employed — in other words, people who can afford to buy a book at the airport that tells them their economic superiors are making a mess of things while also flattering the reader’s intellect.
    Made for the Spotlight

    Once a curiosity, Wagenknecht has become a political star thanks to her books and talk show appearances. A naturally charismatic daughter of the working class and the first in her family to go to university, she has made a name for herself by using her expansive knowledge of the issues and quick wit to talk circles around her debate opponents. Reveling in both her upward mobility and conservative sensibility, she has fashioned herself as a heterodox left-wing intellectual who reveres bourgeois culture — as someone who has read all of Marx and knows Goethe’s Faust by heart, a communist who understands Weimar classicism better than the doyens of the bourgeoisie. All this has made her an ideal object of projection from above and from below: an outsider in the establishment who champions the interests of normal people. When she appears on television, people stay tuned. She makes for interesting viewing because she talks about political alternatives in a way that hardly anyone else in Germany does.

    Doubtless, Wagenknecht has always had followers in the PDS and its successor party, Die Linke. She has held many important positions in both, and she even served as a co-chair of Die Linke’s parliamentary group along with Dietmar Bartsch in 2015–19. Though she has little in common politically with Bartsch — a longtime moderate with little fondness for East Germany nostalgia — the two infamously struck a Machiavellian power-sharing agreement in opposition to Katja Kipping and Bernd Riexinger, the party cochairs at the time. Nevertheless, Wagenknecht has remained an outsider within the party — partly because she has never had the patience for the daily grind of a parliamentary representative. She used to routinely show up late to appearances at party functions both to be the main attraction and also to avoid having to talk to anyone. Ultimately, her standing among the general public has proven inversely related to her reputation within her party, where she commands the loyalty of only a small circle of dedicated acolytes.

    Wagenknecht has positioned herself as an intraparty opposition figure against the “left-liberal” Die Linke leadership, which she has accused of abandoning bread-and-butter economic issues. While it is true that Die Linke has increasingly taken up demands of the climate movement and that many of its activists prioritize fighting discrimination, the notion that the party has abandoned economics is a grotesque distortion. Yet this hasn’t stopped Wagenknecht from repeating the claim in major newspapers with working-class readerships. During the 2021 Bundestag electoral campaign, Wagenknecht was the most prominent voice of Die Linke — which she accused of having made itself unelectable. All this notwithstanding, Wagenknecht herself is more culturally distant from the German working class than your average local politician from the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), who is typically a member of not only the chamber of commerce but also the volunteer fire brigade. And in contrast to the current Die Linke chairwoman Janine Wissler and her predecessor, Riexinger, Wagenknecht has never been particularly close to the trade unions either.
    Left-Wing Bonapartism Backfires

    Already during Angela Merkel’s tenure, the media often treated Wagenknecht as chancellor material. Yet Wagenknecht knew that to make this a reality in any foreseeable future, she would have to free herself from Die Linke, then polling between 5 and 10 percent. This led her to found Aufstehen (Stand Up), a nonparty left-wing movement aiming to channel the antiestablishment sentiment that Die Linke had failed to mobilize — in part due to Wagenknecht’s own actions.

    Aufstehen was Wagenknecht’s trial run for founding a new party. It backfired spectacularly, not least due to Wagenknecht’s lack of talent for or even interest in political organizing. Meetings, compromises, and mediocre opponents are anathema to her. After attracting a handful of intellectuals and (ex-)politicians from other parties, Aufstehen quickly fell apart. Wagenknecht then resigned as the cochair of Die Linke’s parliamentary group, citing burnout.

    The Wagenknecht phenomenon is the expression of a wider crisis of representation. After Die Linke was founded through a 2007 merger between the PDS and the Labor and Social Justice Electoral Alternative (WASG), a left-wing breakaway from the Social Democrats (SPD), the party enjoyed considerable prominence as a leading oppositional force against Agenda 2010, a neoliberal restructuring of Germany’s welfare system implemented by the SPD and the Greens in the 2000s. Yet this initial momentum proved fleeting. The Agenda 2010 reforms have now themselves been reformed and had their sharp edge sanded down, and the labor market has considerably improved (although the low-wage sector has continued to grow). Nevertheless, a generalized sense of vulnerability going far beyond economic insecurity has remained, permeating well into Germany’s middle classes.
    The Helpless Middle Class

    As Agenda 2010 provided an answer to the question of competitiveness in an increasingly globalized economy, capitalism after the financial crisis slid into a polycrisis of wars, refugee flows, the pandemic, and climate change. With the political establishment proving helpless to address these circumstances, the German middle class has come to perceive its way of life as under threat.

    In 2015, Wagenknecht spoke out against the unchecked acceptance of refugees, which she argued would only further worsen the precarious circumstances of low-wage workers. This was a half-truth: competition was relatively low on the labor market, and housing market competition was mostly attributable to problems of public policy. Yet Wagenknecht’s comments exposed the authoritarianism at the heart of austerity: If it was possible to bail out the banks in 2008 and to house refugees in 2015, why is there supposedly never enough money for the welfare state?

    Wagenknecht has given a voice to those who have become alienated from politics as the traditional major parties have converged on both economic and social issues. These parties are now all bunched somewhere in the political mainstream, leaving those on the edges without representation. In contrast to the Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has increasingly catered to the (extreme) right wing of the political spectrum, this is where Wagenknecht’s brand has its greatest resonance — simultaneously on the mainstream’s left and right edges.

    Wagenknecht’s approach, which she refers to as “left conservatism,” blends social conservatism with economic progressivism. Its common thread is an opposition to left liberalism, a tendency that for Wagenknecht includes CDU politicians, such as Angela Merkel, who express openness toward refugees. Effectively, this object of scorn it the same phenomenon that Nancy Fraser has termed “progressive neoliberalism,” a corporate-friendly diversity culture that turns a blind eye toward material inequality. While neoliberalism celebrates diversity, Wagenknecht opts for a simple negation, championing all that is ostensibly average and normal. Yet as her opposition to progressive neoliberalism has deepened, her critique of capitalism has receded further into the background.
    Mainstream Outsiders

    Left-wing parties have always sought to organize what Vladimir Lenin described as the vanguard of the proletariat, or the most progressive workers. In contrast, Wagenknecht has set her sights on the anti-vanguard, or conservative workers who have managed some upward mobility and now fear backsliding. Politically speaking, this strategy is far from baseless. Although other German parties are also trying to win over this group, no one offers them the same cultural validation as Wagenknecht. No one is better at giving voice to their dark emotions — the emotions of those who consider themselves mainstream but feel like outsiders.

    Wagenknecht has benefitted from liberalism’s helplessness in the face of the global polycrisis by posturing as an alternative to the moralism of liberal elites. Yet while liberals’ sense of their own moral superiority is hardly a fabrication, Wagenknecht laces legitimate critique with her own version of moralistic cultural resentment. This often leads to grotesque projections not all too different from those of right-wing culture warriors, which is what makes her brand so interesting to authoritarian personalities.

    Wagenknecht is attempting to link milieus that are alienated from democracy for different reasons. In addition to conservative workers and elements of the middle class, she is also tailoring her appeals to what we call “libertarian authoritarians” and anti-immigrant welfare chauvinists. Yet, although she has been quite successful in smearing Die Linke for supposedly abandoning its focus on economics, her own narrative of people at the top versus people at the bottom is growing ever more threadbare and vacuous. She has little of value to say anymore about the fragmentation of the working class, the low-wage sector, or precarious employment; the image of the working class she projects has far more to do with her own biases than the class as it really exists. Although poorer Germans are more critical of migration than their middle-class counterparts, they are still far more heterogenous and open than Wagenknecht insinuates.

    Wagenknecht is a populist in the classical sense, posing as a champion of the people against a corrupt and incompetent establishment. But in spite of what her followers believe, her politics have zero to do with left-wing populism, which seeks to counter elite usurpation of democracy by expanding political participation. Wagenknecht’s strategy of stoking resentments against the left-liberal establishment can be easily applied to emerging political issues. During the coronavirus pandemic, she became a prominent vaccine skeptic, and she does not shy away from spreading half-truths or alluding to the conspiracy theories popular within the milieus she is trying to win over. Based on a model of personalized opposition, her populism paradoxically functions because she now belongs to the media establishment. Her supporters identify with her in her nonidentity with them: she represents them precisely because she is not like them. This is why it doesn’t matter that Wagenknecht looks about as out of place wearing a strike vest at demonstrations as an actress who has just stumbled into the wrong play.
    Unnatural Allies?

    Wagenknecht is one of the most prominent opponents of Germany’s military support for Ukraine against Russia’s war of aggression. She has given voice to some of the central concerns of the peace movement, speaking out against weapons shipments and militarism. Yet just as she dismissed the “counterrevolution” in East Germany, she’s expressed little sympathy toward the victims in Ukraine. In her statements, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky appears as the real warmonger because he refuses to surrender.

    In Wagenknecht’s geopolitical coordinate system, Russia’s war of aggression is a defensive reaction to NATO expansion, and Putin is a rational power player simply trying to keep the West in check. This line has its roots in the West German peace movement and the SED/PDS, and Wagenknecht has been able to garner support with it in the former East, where it still enjoys considerable purchase. At the same time, it has also made her a star among internet conspiracy theorists.

    Wagenknecht now stands for a kind of West Germany noir. Her economic policies follow in the footsteps of postwar social democracy’s turn toward ordoliberalism, which saw the SPD reject socialism in favor of capitalist markets guided by welfare spending and Keynesianism. She has also completely jettisoned left-wing internationalism, adopting the nationally regulated welfare state as her model while criticizing cosmopolitan elites and European integration.

    An electoral formation around Wagenknecht would result in a party the likes of which have never existed in Germany — a party that positions itself simultaneously as both left and right. It would compete for votes not only with the AfD but also with the more economically progressive wing of the CDU and the right wing of the SPD. In this sense, it would in fact represent something like a Querfront, or a “transversal” formation: whereas the Left has historically sought to win over alienated workers to international socialism, Wagenknecht’s project performs the reverse, trying to conform and adapt to the New Right in the hopes of stopping the rightward shift. Wagenknecht is neither a racist nor a right-winger, but this just makes matters worse: by legitimizing the discourse of the Right, her instrumental use of affective politics ultimately promises to further normalize and even strengthen the AfD.

    By this point, it is almost certain that there will, indeed, be a Wagenknecht party. The demand is there, and many people have been working to make it a reality. At any rate, Wagenknecht has already achieved something remarkable: she has created a fictional politics that protects her from the risk of failures like Aufstehen.
    Little Support

    Still, the Aufstehen debacle has left its mark. Too many opportunists hopped on the bandwagon, and there were not enough cadres to carry the project forward.

    Wagenknecht also proved incapable as an organizer, which is why her new attempt has been so long in the making. She lacks a political milieu that could support her productively. Among her supporters are WASG founder Klaus Ernst and Amira Mohamed Ali, Wagenknecht’s successor as cochair of Die Linke’s parliamentary group. After that, however, the list grows noticeably thin. Her most vocal followers in Die Linke are not necessarily the party’s greatest political talents. Of course, her husband, Oskar Lafontaine, a legendary former SPD and Die Linke politician, is an important pillar. But Lafontaine is now eighty years old, his most recent book is titled “American, it’s time to go!,” and he gained notoriety a few years back for his mutterings about an “invisible world government.”

    Wagenknecht has various questionable figures in her orbit. They aren’t direct partners, but she exerts a tremendous pull on them. One of them is Diether Dehm, a former Die Linke representative in the Bundestag who is closely linked to the conspiracy theorist Ken Jebsen, who claims 9/11 was orchestrated by the US government and has compared COVID-19 lockdown measures to the Nazi seizure of power. Another is her ex-husband, Ralph T. Niemeyer. A failed Bundestag candidate, Niemeyer has become a member of the Reichsbürger, Germany’s own sovereign citizens movement, on whose behalf he maintains contact with Russia as a self-proclaimed representative of a German “government-in-exile.”

    Wagenknecht is also an important point of reference for various other prominent German-speaking conspiracy theorists, such as Daniele Ganser, who has a huge YouTube audience and regularly fills large auditoriums with his appearances, and Ulrike Guérot, a publicist who has appeared regularly on talk shows. Both share, among other things, her vaccine skepticism and views on Russia. To be fair, Wagenknecht doesn’t cooperate with them any more than she does with Jürgen Elsässer, a former ultraleft journalist who now serves as the editor-in-chief of the far-right magazine Compact and has already declared her Germany’s next chancellor. That being said, Elsässer is an old acquaintance; the two even copublished a book on the actuality of communism in 1996.

    Would a Wagenknecht party work? It would probably attract AfD voters and others whom sociological research classifies as “left authoritarian” — in favor of economic distribution but culturally right-wing, critical of immigration, and dissatisfied with democracy. At the same time, major question marks remain, for it is by no means clear that the hypothetical party’s strong polling data will translate into strong election results. Wagenknecht may enjoy national notoriety as a ubiquitous media presence, but a party built around one figurehead will come up against limits.

    German parliamentary democracy functions differently than the presidential systems of France or the United States. Parties must be built, which is no small undertaking. Among other tasks, Wagenknecht will have to organize lists of candidates to run in state elections. Only in the EU elections scheduled for June 2024 will Wagenknecht be able to achieve the kind of massive breakthrough she needs as a lead candidate. Unlike in a German federal election, in which separate electoral lists have to be drawn up by party associations in each federal state, a central list of candidates is sufficient. Moreover, the 5 percent threshold for entry into parliament does not apply in these European elections. Wagenknecht could celebrate quick and easy successes and retain a high degree of control over the candidate lists. Should she succeed at earning enough votes and generating enough resources in this EU contest, she will have a chance to build a party.
    A Limited Circle of Functionaries

    Establishing a party not only in the polls but in the political system requires defectors from other parties. WASG was only able to emerge to the left of the SPD in the 2000s because experienced trade union functionaries who knew how to run meetings built up local chapters. Wagenknecht’s party won’t be able to count on an influx of social movement activists, as her brand is toxic to them.

    In its early days, the AfD was also able to draw on a network of professors and local notables. Yet already during Aufstehen, it became clear that the circle of potential functionaries for a Wagenknecht party is and will remain limited. However, if it leans into its anti-migration and anti-diversity stances, it can be sure to attract numerous right-wing activists on the local level. Those who hope that a Wagenknecht party might serve as a bulwark against the AfD would do well to bear in mind that in the worst-case scenario, it will end in a strengthened right-wing bloc.

    P.S. J’avoue que j’aime bien Dieter Dehm. Je l’ai connu comme quelqu’un de charmant qui poursuit quelques projets que j’apprécie. Sur la plan politique il est déconseillé de lui suivre sans mettre en question ses actions et positions comme on le ferait avec chaque acteur politique. Malheureusement c’est aussi quelqu’un qui attire les fidèles en quête de leader. Il faut du charisme pour réussir dans les arts et en politique.

    #Allemagne #politique #gauche