Friday, October 24, 2014

Canada: Ottawa killings. Was it Sudden Jihadist Syndrome?

ILWU Local 6, strikes Waste Management. AFL-CIO leaders tell their members to scab.

by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

(I apologize for the quality of the video. Camera malfunction but it's all I have)

The ILWU Local 6 represents sorters and other workers at the Waste Management recycling center (we used to call them dumps) at the end of Davis Street in San Leandro CA. The workers have not had a raise in four years.

Most of the workers are Latino's, many of them immigrants and they complained to me about disrespect and discriminatory treatment on the job. Workers told Facts For Working People that management is refusing to budge on wage increases and workers don't trust the management to comply with the Oakland City Council's meager wage increase provisions which would raise wages from round $12 an hour now to around $21 an hour by 2019. This is the only possible increase on the table so far. It is a sorry state of affairs when the only chance of making any headway albeit an inadequate one, is relying on a municipal body run by politicians in one of the two Wall Street Parties.

As I walked the picket line, drivers for Waste Management, members of Teamsters Local 70,  drove through the picket lines as the strike does not have sanction from the Alameda Labor Council.  I called the Labor Council to find out why and was told that the ILWU local 6 is no longer affiliated to the AFL-CIO.  The source said that she hoped the strike is successful.  Unfortunately hope doesn't pay the rent and it doesn't win strikes.

We have a situation I would say where disputes between sections of the trade union bureaucracy are harming workers yet again. I explained to the Labor Council spokesperson that one way to build solidarity and perhaps get the ILWU back in to the AFL-CIO would be to pull the Teamsters off the job which would be a first step in winning the dispute.   Teamster Local 70, the union that represents the drivers should pull their members off the job regardless of AFL-CIO sanction. Picket lines mean don't cross, bureaucratic obstacles should be breached.

Seven years ago Waste Management locked the Teamster drivers out. The sorters, despite being overwhelmingly lower paid immigrant workers walked out in solidarity with them. They lost almost two months pay.  I watched as drivers scabbed on these workers and I could see by the looks on their faces that they knew in their gut it is the wrong thing to do; we all know that.

Drivers honked their horns in support but this doesn't win strikes. There was anger and feelings of frustration among some of the striking workers at these very same people who they supported before crossing their lines. For the worker, these bureaucratic disputes mean little; it's a bread and butter issue. Teamster officials were down on the picket line in the morning waving their members through the picket line, they are acting as scab directors, it's disgusting really and not how the Labor movement was built.

As I write I am becoming more angry each moment. Here are workers on very low pay doing a socially important job and who stuck by their co-workers before and because of disputes between the labor hierarchy their lives are about to made more miserable and difficult.

The Teamster rank and file should organize to violate the non sanction crap and join their brothers and sisters on the picket lines.  It is not easy to confront the leadership but it has to be done and the way it can be done with success is through building militant rank and file opposition caucuses that can openly challenge the concessionary policies and bureaucratic methods that are the tools of the entire AFL-CIO hierarchy. If we want to change the direction of our unions, if we want to mage gains, we cannot avoid a confrontation with the present leadership whose policies stem from their worldview, their worship of the market, profits, and an zealous respect for the bosses' rights.

If you are local, especially in San Leandro, head down to the end of Davis Street and join the picket lines. There's also a little more information here:

Ebola Crisis. Vaccine existed for ten years. Profits stood in the way.

By Sean O'Torrain.

The authors of this blog have always made clear that it believes that the profit motive should be taken out of health care. The correctness of this has been underlined by the recent events around the Ebola crisis in Western Africa. A vaccine was developed ten years ago which was 100% effective in protecting monkeys. The researchers said tests on humans could start in 2 years. But these never happened. Why? Let the New York Times explain. In its October 24th edition it writes: "It (the testing on humans) never happened. The vaccine sat on a shelf. .....experts acknowledge that the lack of follow up on such a promising candidate reflects a broader failure to produce medicines and vaccines for diseases that afflict poorer countries. Most drug companies have resisted spending the enormous sums useful mostly to countries with little ability to pay." The article goes on to quote Dr. James E. Crowe the director of a research center at Vanderbilt University. He said that "researchers who develop a prototype drug or vaccine that worked in animals often encountered a 'biotech valley of death' in which no drug company would help them cross the finish line." Tests on humans would cost much more than tests on animals and Crowe asked: "Who is going to pay for that? People invest in order to get money back." Well there it is. Laid out clear and simple. It is a question of profit.

Then when you look further it gets even worse. Much of the initial research for medicines and vaccines is done in publicly owned facilities and universities. In other words not paid for by the profit addicted so-called health care and pharmaceutical companies. It is only when these businesses of death see the possibility of making big profits that they will move in. Otherwise medicines and vaccines that could save lives just as this article sit on the shelf. Meanwhile out there where they are needed, in this case West Africa, poor people are dying in their thousands. These profit addicted so-called health industry owners are mass murderers.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

CNN: Canadian shooter had Sudden Jihad Syndrome

From the Daily Banter

Well now we know what it's all about.  The shooter in Canada was suffering from "Sudden Jihad Syndrome" according to CNN  No mention of Canada's involvement in the US led slaughter and carnage in the Muslim world.  No mention of the destruction of Iraq and its impending fracture in to three states. No political analysis at all.  This is not new. I recall when a young US vet returning from Iraq shot his pregnant wife, his three year old daughter his three dogs and himself.  The usual psychoanalysis followed.  Was there infidelity? Financial problems? No mention of what he was forced to do while there or what he saw, like running over kids in the Humvee or seeing your mates blown to bits.  We have a new syndrome folks, not excessive shyness syndrome, restless leg syndrome, premature hair loss syndrome.  Nope, Sudden Jihad Syndrome.

Quick, send some money Pfizer's way we need the pill.

Protests throughout Mexico today. Students fight back

Not speaking Spanish I hope some of this does not appear confusing. There is some video below sent to us from Mexico and some comments.  First, from the protests at the university of Sonora, a beautiful and powerful statement:   "They wanted to bury us but they did not know we were seeds."

Here is the first video:
Here's what one reader sent us in English about the previous piece he sent last night.

"I think the only problem with the article that I sent you yesterday is that the state has not accepted that the students are dead. However, priest Solalinde who is an honest personality is saying that the he has witnesses who can say that the students positively are dead. The protest today were very big. Many schools are closed including post graduate colleges like mine (PhD in anthropology at UNAM). The governor of Guerrero has quit and people are asking for the "disappearing the powers in Guerrero" I don´t really know why. President and congress are shaking because people are talking about salaries and other problems in society, off course, students killed are important but people are realising they have been abused for a long time..."

Here is some text and the posters I assume are announcing protests and also commenting on the murdered students.

En la Ciudad de México, así como al menos en una decena de estados -entre ellos Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Veracruz, Jalisco…- han confirmado diferentes protestas este miércoles, en repudio por el ataque y desaparición de estudiantes normalistas de Ayotzinapa.
Unas 70 instituciones de educación media y superior realizan desde hoy un paro de labores,  en demanda por la aparición de los 43 desaparecidos desde el pasado 26 de septiembre, tras hechos violentos en Iguala, Guerrero.
En la UNAM no habrá labores, pero marcharán por la tarde estudiantes de las facultades de Psicología, de Filosofía y Letras; de Economía, de Trabajo Social, de Arquitectura, de Ciencias Políticas, de Ciencias, de Arte y Diseño.
También se unieron las facultades de Estudios Superiores de Acatlán, Aragón, el campo de Cuautitlán, Zaragoza y las Preparatorias del número al nueve; además de los Colegios de Ciencias y Humanidades de Azcapotzalco y Sur.
También participará la Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM) Azcapotzalco, Iztapalapa y Xochimilco; así como planteles de la Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México del Valle, Cuautepec, Centro Histórico y San Lorenzo.
Hoy protesta también la Universidad Pedagógica Nacional; la Universidad Autónoma de Chapingo (campus de Texcoco, Oaxaca y Tabasco), la Escuela Nacional de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado “La Esmeralda” y la Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas. A su vez, la Universidad Iberoamericana convocó a una misa. Mientras que estudiantes del IPN se suman a la marcha de esta tarde en la Ciudad de México.
También protestará la comunidad de la Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, en Atizapán. En el Tecnológico de Monterrey Campus Estado de México realizarán el jueves una cadena por la paz.
En tanto en Iguala, Guerrero, se espera una gran concentración y marcha de maestros y normalistas.
A través de redes sociales le han llamado Día de Acción Global por Ayotzinapa; aquí algunos mensajes y videos en redes: 

I assume the following are announcements of marches and protests

Another video:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

“Están muertos”: Mexican students dead and burned alive reports state. Student protests planned for tomorrow

Facts For Working People has received this from a reader in Mexico:

This is breaking news. It seems that all the kidnapped students by the police in Guerrero are dead and were killed by police and by thugs of the cartel Guerreros Unidos. According to Solalinde a catholic priest that fights for human rights in the south of México there are witnesses that saw how the students were killed and burned alive. There are students protest tomorrow all over México in the main universities of the country.

Here is a report in Spanish. Unfortunately I cannot read Spanish but our reader there is pretty reliable.

“Están muertos”

Familiares de normalistas desaparecidos llegan a la Basílica. Foto: Miguel Dimayuga
Familiares de normalistas desaparecidos llegan a la Basílica.
Foto: Miguel Dimayuga

MEXICO, D.F. (apro).- “Todos están muertos”, afirmó el sacerdote Alejandro Solalinde, el viernes 17, y desnudó la estrategia del gobierno de Enrique Peña Nieto para pagar el menor costo político por los 43 normalistas de Ayotzinapa que siguen oficialmente desaparecidos desde el viernes 26 de septiembre.

Si de por sí tiene poca valía la palabra del gobierno federal, que tardó diez días en intervenir pese a la magnitud de la tragedia en Iguala –y sólo ante el escándalo mundial–, el macabro manejo de ésta para paliar los costos políticos, aun con el sufrimiento de las familias, corresponde a seres miserables.
El jueves 9, a 13 días de la desaparición de los normalistas a manos presuntamente de policías que los entregaron a sicarios de la banda criminal Guerreros Unidos, el propio Peña dejó entrever que estaban muertos, en un discurso en Irapuato, Guanajuato:

“Tenemos que ir a profundidad y, tope donde tope, llegar a los responsables, a aquellos que por negligencia o por actuación permitieron o solaparon que esto hubiese ocurrido en Iguala y que, lamentablemente, de confirmarse, jóvenes estudiantes hubiesen perdido la vida”.

Ese mismo día, el procurador Jesús Murillo Karam anunció la captura de cuatro implicados en la desaparición de los 43 estudiantes y la ubicación de otras cuatro fosas clandestinas, además de las halladas el sábado previo, donde presuntamente también fueron incinerados los cadáveres de personas no identificadas.

Desde entonces se hizo más ostensible en esa zona de Guerrero el despliegue del gobierno federal para, supuestamente, dar con el paradero de los “desaparecidos”: Más de mil 200 elementos de la Policía Federal, de la Procuraduría General de la República (PGR), el Ejército y la Marina buscaban por todas partes.

La propaganda gubernamental, difundida con gran despliegue en los medios televisivos, ha incluido que los elementos policiacos y militares están siendo auxiliados por helicópteros Black-Hawk y que, provistos de mapas de la geografía local, buscan también a los desaparecidos en ríos y presas de la sierra guerrerense.

Es un gran despliegue operativo, acompañado de una vasta estrategia mediática que comenzó cuando estaba ya en entredicho la imagen internacional de Peña.
Y es que tras la desaparición de los normalistas, el 26 de septiembre, Peña fue desdeñoso y su primera intervención al respecto se produjo hasta el 30 cuando, en una gira por el Estado de México, dijo que la responsabilidad era sólo del gobierno de Guerrero.

“Es muy claro que el gobierno federal no puede sustituir las responsabilidades que tienen los propios gobiernos estatales”, dijo ese martes, pero la condena internacional escaló, sumada al fusilamiento de algunos de los 22 jóvenes muertos en Tlatlaya, en el estado que él gobernó.

Otro elemento que obligó a su intervención, y que lo obligó a emitir un mensaje desde Palacio Nacional, el lunes 6, se produjo el sábado 4, cuando el perredista René Bejarano aseguró haber informado al procurador Jesús Murillo Karam y al secretario de Gobernación, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, de los nexos con el crimen organizado del entonces alcalde de Iguala, José Luis Abarca, involucrado en la desaparición.

En el Consejo Nacional del PRD, que eligió a Carlos Navarrete como presidente, Bejarano aseguró haber presentado pruebas de que Abarca asesinó al perredista Arturo Hernández Cardona y que enteró de esos hechos a los dos funcionarios federales y a la dirigencia de su partido.
El gobierno de Peña trató de neutralizar lo afirmado por Bejarano a través de las opiniones de dos periodistas: El miércoles 8, la Secretaría de Gobernación emitió, como un comunicado oficial, “fragmento de mesa de análisis en el noticiero de Joaquín López Dóriga en Radio Fórmula”.
Estas opiniones de López Dóriga y José Fonseca, difundidas como comunicado oficial por la Secretaría de Gobernación, tenían una clara intención: Desacreditar la información de René Bejarano y encomiar a Osorio Chong y a Murillo Karam:
“José Fonseca: René Bejarano no aportó, ni ha aportado, pruebas que sustenten sus acusaciones contra el alcalde de Iguala, José Luis Abarca.
“Joaquín López-Dóriga: Lo dijo el procurador (Murillo Karam) que nunca presentó la denuncia en la PGR como dijo.
“Y como me dijo el secretario de Gobernación, Osorio Chong: ‘A mí René Bejarano jamás me trató el tema de Iguala’. O sea, el secretario Osorio Chong está desmintiendo el señalamiento de Bejarano, que también está jalando agua para su corriente”.

Pero toda esta estrategia de arropamiento a Peña y a los más altos funcionarios de su gobierno, exhibidos como cómplices al menos por omisión del gobernador y del alcalde fugitivo, se está viniendo abajo con la afirmación del padre Solalinde de que los 43 normalistas ya no viven.
“Desde el domingo a la fecha he tenido varios encuentros con testigos, algunos testigos presenciales, que sufrieron el primero y segundo ataque, estudiantes, pero hay otras fuentes, que no son estudiantes, que nos hablan de otro momento. Hablan de que algunos estaban heridos, y así como estaban heridos, los quemaron vivos, les pusieron diesel. Eso se va a saber, dicen que hasta les pusieron madera, algunos de ellos estaban vivos, otros muertos”.

Quizá por eso al sacerdote, a quien no se tiene por mentiroso, nadie lo quiso recibir en la PGR, este lunes, para presentar una denuncia.

El teatro macabro de Peña ya empezó a derrumbarse…

The Marikana Massacre: An Interview with Filmaker Rehad Desai

Here is a January 2014 interview with Rehad Desai, the director of Miners Shot Down, the story of the Marikana Massacre of 16th August 2012 at the British owned Lonmin Mine in Marikana South Africa. It was earlier this year and Desai makes it clear, as does his movie, the collusion between the state, the ANC, the Cosatu leadership (or some of them) and the corporation (Lonmin). It is what they have in store for us more and more in the future.  Strikes will be an act of terrorism. You can order a copy of the film by contacting Julie Machin at 

‘socialism or barbarism’

This article is reprinted from Climate and Capitalism by permission of the author.
The origin of Rosa Luxemburg’s slogan ‘socialism or barbarism’
by Ian Angus

Rosa Luxemburg
Rosa Luxemburg

Historians have offered various explanations, none of which really work. Tracing an important socialist slogan to its unexpected source.

I think I have solved a small puzzle in socialist history.
Climate & Capitalism’s tagline, “Ecosocialism or barbarism: There is no third way,” is based on the slogan, “Socialism or Barbarism,” which Rosa Luxemburg raised to such great effect during World War I and the subsequent German revolution, and which has been adopted by many socialists since then.

The puzzle is: where did the concept come from? Luxemburg’s own account doesn’t hold water, and neither do the attempts of left-wing scholars to explain (or explain away) the confusion in her explanation.

Luxemburg first raised the idea that humanity faced a choice between the victory of socialism and the end of civilization in a powerful antiwar pamphlet she wrote in prison in 1915. The Crisis in German Social Democracy – better known as The Junius Pamphlet, after the pen name she used to avoid prosecution – played a key role in educating and organizing a revolutionary left opposition to the pro-war leadership of the German Social Democratic Party.

Luxemburg attributed the concept to one of the founders of modern socialism:

“Friedrich Engels once said: ‘Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.’ … Until now, we have all probably read and repeated these words thoughtlessly, without suspecting their fearsome seriousness. … Today, we face the choice exactly as Friedrich Engels foresaw it a generation ago: either the triumph of imperialism and the collapse of all civilization as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration – a great cemetery. Or the victory of socialism, that means the conscious active struggle of the international proletariat against imperialism and its method of war.”
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels

Here’s the problem: Despite many careful searches through his published and unpublished works, no one has found the words that Friedrich Engels supposedly said. So what’s going on?

First, we should note that the English translation incorrectly puts quotation marks around the sentence Luxemburg attributed to Engels. Those marks do not appear in her German text, which indicates that she wasn’t offering a direct quote, and we shouldn’t expect to find those exact words in Engels. That’s even more the case because she was writing in prison, with limited access to socialist books, so we must make allowances for memory errors.

With that in mind, let’s look at the suggestions three scholars have made for passages that Luxemburg might have had in mind when she attributed the sentence “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism,” to Engels.

Three explanations

In The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, editors Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson write: “Luxemburg probably has in mind a passage in the Communist Manifesto where Marx and Engels speak of class struggles resulting in ‘either a revolutionary constitution of society at large or the common ruin of the contending classes.’”

Although that passage expresses a related idea, there are three serious objections to it as Luxemburg’s source. First, her wording is so different from the Manifesto’s that it’s hard to imagine her getting it so wrong, even quoting from memory. Second, it’s unlikely that she would attribute a passage from Marx & Engels’ best-known collaboration to Engels alone. And third, the standard English translation I’ve quoted above, which Hudis and Anderson also use, omits three important words that appear after “as Friedrich Engels foresaw it a generation ago” in the original German: vor vierzig Jahren. Surely no one writing in 1915 would refer to 1848, when the Manifesto was published, as forty years ago.

Forty years would go back to the mid-1870s, which directs our attention to Anti-Dühring, which Engels published in serial form in 1877-78, and as a book in 1879. Since it was the most comprehensive statement of the Marxist worldview written by either of the movement’s founders, it’s a reasonable place to look for quotes similar to the one Luxemburg attributed to Engels – and two scholars have done just that.

In The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg, Norman Geras suggests that she was “probably” referring to a passage in which Engels disputes Dühring’s claim that force, not economic development, is the dominant factor in history. Engels argues that attempts to use force to turn back economic progress have almost always failed, except in a few “isolated cases of conquest, in which the more barbarian conquerors exterminated or drove out the population of a country and laid waste or allowed to go to ruin productive forces which they did not know how to use.” As an example, he cites the Christian invaders who let advanced irrigation systems decay after they overthrew Muslim rule in Spain.
That passage does discuss a disastrous conflict between civilization (Muslims) and barbarians (Christians) which the latter won, but it says nothing about capitalism or socialism, nor did Engels draw the general conclusion Luxemburg attributes to him. Nice try, but it doesn’t work.
In a recent essay, Michael Löwy suggests that Luxemburg may have been referring to this passage in Anti-Dühring:
“both the productive forces created by the modern capitalist mode of production and the system of distribution of goods established by it have come into crying contradiction with that mode of production itself, and in fact to such a degree that, if the whole of modern society is not to perish, a revolution in the mode of production and distribution must take place.”
Again, this  expresses a related concept, but as Löwy firmly points out, the passage is “quite different,” in both words and meaning, from the quote Luxemburg attributes to Engels. Löwy concludes that the search for a source for Luxemburg’s slogan is bound to fail, because:
“In fact, it is Rosa Luxemburg who invented, in the strong sense of the word, the expression ‘socialism or barbarism,’ which was to have such a great impact in the course of the twentieth century. If she refers to Engels, it is perhaps to try to give more legitimacy to a fairly heterodox thesis.”
That’s a reasonable conclusion, but I think it’s wrong. For one thing, the idea that Luxemburg invented the expression in 1915 is contradicted by her assertion that “we have all probably read and repeated these words thoughtlessly.” It is clear that she expected her readers to be familiar with the phrase: it wasn’t something new and strange. And that means there was a third-party source.
Drum roll, please ….

The source

The search for Luxemburg’s quotation in Engels’ works is bound to fail, because he didn’t say it. The problem isn’t misquotation, it is misattribution.

The author of the sentence Luxemburg quotes, and of the “socialism or barbarism” concept more generally, was not Engels, but the man who was widely viewed as the most authoritative Marxist theoretician after Marx and Engels – Karl Kautsky.
Karl Kautsky's widely-read 1892 commentary on the Erfurt Program
Karl Kautsky’s 1892 commentary on the Erfurt Program

The German Social Democratic Party (SPD) was founded in 1875 as a merger between Marxists and followers of Ferdinand Lasalle, with a program that was broadly socialist but not Marxist. In 1891 Karl Kautsky and Eduard Bernstein drafted a Marxist program that Kautsky rewrote after public discussion: it was adopted at a party congress in Erfurt that year. The Erfurt Program, as it was known, remained the SPD’s official program until after World War I, and was widely used by socialist parties in other countries as a model: Lenin, for example, based his 1896 draft program for Russian socialists on it.

The program itself was deliberately brief – just over 1300 words in English translation – with little in the way of explanation or argument, so Kautsky then wrote a book-length popular commentary on it, explaining the program and arguing the case for socialism. Das Erfurter Programm in seinem grundsätzlichen Teil erläutert (The Erfurt Program: A Discussion of Fundamentals) was published in 1892. Historian Donald Sassoon writes that the program “became one of the most widely read texts of socialist activists throughout Europe” and Kautsky’s commentary “was translated into sixteen languages before 1914 and became the accepted popular summa of Marxism” around the world.

Rosa Luxemburg, who became active in the Polish and German socialist movements in the 1880s, undoubtedly read Kautsky’s book, and would have heard its ideas discussed many times. Chapter 4 includes this passage:
“If indeed the socialist commonwealth were an impossibility, then mankind would be cut off from all further economic development. In that event modern society would decay, as did the Roman empire nearly two thousand years ago, and finally relapse into barbarism.
“As things stand today capitalist civilization cannot continue; we must either move forward into socialism or fall back into barbarism.”
The similarities between this passage and the one quoted above from The Junius Pamphlet are obvious. The crucial final clause in Kautsky is virtually identical to its counterpart in Luxemburg’s “Engels quote” –
  • Kautsky 1892: we must either move forward into socialism or fall back into barbarism (es heißt entweder vorwärts zum Sozialismus oder rückwärts in die Barbarei)
  • Luxemburg 1915: either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism (entweder Übergang zum Sozialismus oder Rückfall in die Barbarei)
Luxemburg has used nouns instead of verbs, but otherwise the two are the same.
Further confirmation that Luxemburg’s words had their origins in Kautsky’s book is found in the fact that both refer to the fall of the Roman Empire as an example of a society that regressed because it failed to move forward, a subject Löwy unfortunately dismisses as “not very relevant.”
So why did Rosa attribute the “socialism or barbarism” idea to Engels instead of Kautsky? It’s impossible to know for sure, but it seems likely that after two decades of wide use as the popular explanation of socialism, many of the concepts and forms of expression in Kautsky’s book had become common currency in socialist circles, to the point where the words were detached from their specific origin. Think of the many quotations that are wrongly attributed to Albert Einstein, and you’ll have an idea of how Kautsky’s phrase could be credited to Engels. When she quoted it from memory in prison in 1915, Rosa Luxemburg made an informed (but wrong) guess that the most likely place to find it would be Anti-Dühring, so she added the “40 years ago” reference. Her pamphlet then had to be printed in Switzerland and circulated illegally in Germany, so detailed source-checking wasn’t on the agenda.

Kautsky’s authorship of “socialism or barbarism” wasn’t identified before this, I suspect, because after he condemned the Bolshevik revolution, socialists stopped reading Kautsky. As someone has joked, thanks to Lenin’s polemic many people think that Kautsky’s given name was Renegade. Most of his works are now out of print or available only in German in expensive academic editions. As this case shows, that neglect has made it more difficult to understand Luxemburg.

If I’m correct, then Michael Löwy is wrong to suggest that Luxemburg “invented, in the strong sense of the word, the expression ‘socialism or barbarism.’” Rather, she wrote “we have all probably read and repeated these words” because that was the simple truth – as a result of Kautsky’s widely-read book, the idea that humanity must move forward into socialism or fall back to barbarism was already well-known among socialists in Germany.

Her great contribution was to give “socialism or barbarism” a more immediate and profound revolutionary meaning than the original author intended. The words came from Karl Kautsky, but Rosa Luxemburg gave them wings.

This article was first published in John Riddell’s Marxist Essays and Commentary.

Related reading
  • Rosa Luxemburg’s The Junius Pamphlet – The Crisis in German Social Democracy is posted in the Marxist Internet Archive in English and German, and is available in many printed anthologies. Every English version that I’ve seen includes the errors and omissions described above.
  • Karl Kautsky’s Das Erfurter Programm in seinem grundsätzlichen Teil erläutert is also posted in German in the Marxist Internet Archive, and in English under the title The Class Struggle. (Note: in Lenin Rediscovered, historian Lars Lih describes the English translation as “a bowdlerised abridgement.”)
  • Some examples of quotations that are inaccurately attributed to Einstein are here.
Other works cited
  • Friedrich Engels. Herr Eugen Dühring’s Revolution in Science (Anti-Dühring). Progress Publishers, 1969. Also in Marx Engels Collected Works, Volume 25, and in the Marxist Internet Archive.
  • Norman Geras. The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg. NLB Books, 1976, and Verso Books, 1983
  • Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson, editors. The Rosa Luxemburg Reader. Monthly Review Press, 2004.
  • Michael Löwy. “The spark ignites in the action – the philosophy of praxis in the thought of Rosa Luxemburg.” International Viewpoint, May 2011.
  • Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. In the Marxist Internet Archive and very many printed editions
  • Donald Sassoon. One Hundred Years of Socialism. New Press, 1996.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

De-industrialisation and socialism

by Michael Roberts

Last week I spoke on a panel that debated De-industrialisation and socialism.  The panel was organised by Spring, a Manchester-based group in England that has become a forum for the discussion of developments in capitalism and their implications for the prospects for socialism (

The main theme for this panel discussion was the evident fact that the industrial sector (manufacturing, mining, energy etc) has declined sharply as share of the output and employment in the mature capitalist economies during the 20th century.  The question for debate  was: does this mean that the working class has also declined and is no longer the main force of change in capitalism; and also that a socialist or post-capitalist society will be a world without industry or employment of industrial workers?

The first point I made in the discussion was that the world is not de-industrialising.  Globally, there were 2.2bn people at work and producing value back in 1991.  Now there are 3.2bn.  The global workforce has risen by 1bn in the last 20 years.  But there has been no de-industrialisation globally.  De-industrialisation is a phenomenon of the mature capitalist economies.  It is not one of the ‘emerging’ less developed capitalist economies.

Using the figures provided by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) we can see what is happening globally, with the caveat that there is a serious underestimate of industrial workers in these figures and such transport, communication and many hi-tech workers are put in the services sector.

Globally, the industrial workforce has risen by 46% since 1991 from 490m to 715m in 2012 and will reach well over 800m before the end of the decade.  Indeed, the industrial workforce has grown by 1.8% a year since 1991 and since 2004 by 2.7% a year (up to 2012), which is now a faster rate of growth than the services sector (2.6% a year)!  Globally, the share of industrial workers in the total workforce has risen slightly from 22% to 23%.  It is in the so-called mature developed capitalist economies where there has been de-industrialisation.  The industrial workforce there has fallen from 130m in 1991 by 18% to 107m in 2012.
Global workforce
The big fall has not been in industrial workers globally but in agricultural workers.  The process of capitalism sucking up peasants and agro labourers from the rural areas and turning them into industrial workers in the cities is not over.  The share of agricultural labour force in the total global workforce has fallen from 44% to 32%.  So should we not really talk about de-ruralisation, as Marx did in the mid-1800s?  That is the great global phenemonon of the last 150 years.

Of course, most workers globally work in the services sector.  This sector is badly defined, as I say, and is really anybody not clearly an industrial or agricultural worker.  This sector was smaller than agriculture in 1991 (34% to 44%) but now it is biggest at 45% compared to 32% for agriculture.

As I was speaking in Manchester, the centre of the industrial revolution in Britain in the early 19th century, I was reminded of the work of Friedrich Engels, Marx’s partner in crime, who was managing his uncle’s German firm in the city at the time.  As a young man (29 years), Engels wrote The condition of the working-class in England in 1844
and described the horrendous conditions of squalor, disease, sweat shop conditions, injury and poverty that rural men, women and children were subjected to as they came to work in the fast industrialising and urbanising cities of northern England.  It’s the same story now in the likes of India, China, south-east Asia and Latin America.  Engels concentrated on the conditions for labour, but in a preface to a new edition of his book in 1892, he commented that Britain was fast being replaced as the major industrial capitalist power by France, Germany and the US.  “Their manufactures are young as compared with those of England, but increasing at a far more rapid rate than the latter.  They have reached the same phase of development as English manufacture in 1844”.  And so it is now for the so-called emerging economies of Asia, Latin America and Africa compared to the mature capitalist economies of Europe, Japan and North America.

But it’s true that the share of industrial workers in the mature economies has fallen from 31% in 1991 to 22% now.  Indeed, according to McKinsey, manufacturing employment fell 24% in the advanced economies between 1995 and 2005.
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So does this mean that the future of capitalism without an industrial proletariat capable of being an agency for change and, for that matter, ‘post-capitalism’ will a society without industry, where people can expect to reduce their hours of work for a living and have increased periods of ‘leisure’?

This was the theme that my fellow panellist Nick Srnicek posed.  Nick is a Fellow in Globalisation and Geopolitics at UCL. He is the author with Alex Williams of Inventing the Future (Verso, 2015) and the editor with Levi Bryant and Graham Harman of The Speculative Turn (, 2010) – see
Nick explained that, while new economies were being industrialised, their peak of industrialisation came earlier than for economies like Britain in the 19th century.  Indeed, no economy had achieved more than a 45% share for industrial employment.  So the future is not industry and an industrial working-class.  And it was no good advocating a return to manufacturing and industry as the way forward for a better society.

I am sure that Nick is right in these points. Where I differed was that he was not clear if a post-capitalist, non-industrial society would be achieved gradually as capitalism expanded globally and technology replaced heavy industrial work and people worked less hours and could use their time for themselves.  The idea of a steady move to a post-industrial, leisure society was the concept of Keynes back in the 1930s, arguing for capitalism as the way forward to his students at the height of the Great Depression in the 1930s, when many of his students had started to look to Marxism as the explanation for crises and the alternative of socialism (see my post, ).

Keynes reckoned the capitalist world would achieve huge per capita GDP growth and enter a ‘post-capitalist’ leisure economy without poverty.  Well, this blog has regularly revealed data that show poverty remains a terrible spectre over the globe, an inherent feature of capitalism, and that far from moving to a leisure society, working hours have hardly fallen much in the mature economies and remain very high in industrial sectors of the emerging economies.  We are all still ‘toiling’ for a living (apart from the 1%), in increasingly precarious jobs.

I don’t think we can get a ‘post-capitalist’ leisure society through gradual change.  It will require a revolutionary upsurge to change the mode of production and social relations globally, even if the potential productivity of labour through new technology and robots etc  is already there globally to deliver such a transition to freedom from toil.  Capitalism remains in the way as a fetter on production, with capitalists as a class force opposed to freedom.

The reason that the mature capitalist economies have lost their industrial base is that it was no longer profitable for capital to invest in British industry in the late 19th century or OECD industry in the late 20th century. So capital counteracted this falling profitability by ‘globalising’ and searching for more labour to exploit.

And profitability fell because capitalist accumulation is labour-shedding.  Capitalists compete against each other to get more profit.  Those capitalists with better technology can steal a march on others by boosting labour productivity and reducing labour costs by cutting the workforce.  So the drive is always for reducing the amount of labour power to boost profits.  The central contradiction here, as explained by Marx’s law of profitability, is that the reduction in labour power relative to mechanisation leads to an eventual fall in profitability.  This reduces the industrial workforce in the mature economies and leads to expansion of industry globally. Capitalism is a mode of production for mechanisation, but mechanisation will also lead to its demise as it is a mode of production for profit not social need and more mechanisation eventually means less profitability.  That shows that as we move towards a robot economy: profit for capital and meeting social needs will become more incompatible.  And the leisure society just an impossible dream.

Employment growth is falling in the advanced capitalist economies. Employment growth is way less than 1% a year in the 21st century.
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Computer engineer and Silicon Valley software entrepreneur, Martin Ford puts it this way: “over time, as technology advances, industries become more capital intensive and less labour intensive.  And technology can create new industries and these are nearly always capital intensive”.  The struggle between capital and labour is thus intensified.

It does depend on the class struggle between labour and capital over the appropriation of the value created by the productivity of labour.  And clearly labour has been losing that battle, particularly in recent decades, under the pressure of anti-trade union laws, ending of employment protection and tenure, the reduction of benefits, a growing reserve army of unemployed and underemployed and through the globalisation of manufacturing.

According to the ILO report, in 16 developed economies, labour took a 75% share of national income in the mid-1970s, but this dropped to 65% in the years just before the economic crisis. It rose in 2008 and 2009 – but only because national income itself shrank in those years – before resuming its downward course. Even in China, where wages have tripled over the past decade, workers’ share of the national income has gone down. Indeed, this is exactly what Marx meant by the ‘immiseration of the working class’.

Will it be different with robots? Marxist economics would say no: for two key reasons.  First, Marxist economic theory starts from the undeniable fact that only when human beings do any work or perform labour is anything or service produced, apart from that provided by natural resources (and even then that has to be found and used).  So, crucially, only labour can create value under capitalism.  And value is specific to capitalism.  Sure, living labour can create things and do services (what Marx called use values).  But value is the substance of the capitalist mode of producing things.  Capital (the owners) controls the means of production created by labour and will only put them to use in order to appropriate value created by labour.  Capital does not create value itself.

Now if the whole world of technology, consumer products and services could reproduce itself without living labour going to work and could do so through robots, then things and services would be produced, but the creation of value (in particular, profit or surplus value) would not.  As Martin Ford puts it: the more machines begin to run themselves, the value that the average worker adds begins to decline.” So accumulation under capitalism would cease well before that robots took over fully, because profitability would disappear under the weight of ‘capital-bias’. This contradiction cannot be resolved under capitalism.

We would never get to a robotic society; we would never get to a workless leisure society – not under capitalism.  Crises and social explosions would intervene well before that.

UK: Thousands march in London against austerity

 by Richard Mellor

Huge protests in London last weekend against austerity. As I watched this, (the folks in black with the masks are not nurses, and are engaging in their usual self indulgent activity divorced from the working class) I also thought about the anti-immigrant blame game that seems to have gained traction since I left the country.  We have it here in the US too.  I noticed all the immigrant workers in this crowd, I also know that so many immigrant workers make the NHS function.  What would an anti-immigrant slogan do in a movement like this? It would split it, weaken it, serve the interests of the bankers, hedge fund managers and other parasites who are destroying workers' living standards.

When I was young, for a brief moment the views a racist politician, Enoch Powell got a bit of an echo with me.  He never used overt racist language but talked about threats to "our" culture etc., he was educated, a real intellectual.  It made sense for a brief moment in time. If immigrants left wouldn't we have more jobs for us? Wouldn't social services be less strained? This is what the right wing mouthpieces of British imperialism like the Daily Express or the Mail used to say.  My parents got the Daily Express.

I was fortunately rescued once when the issues were explained to me from a worker's point of view and how the unity we needed to raise all our living standards was threatened by this nationalist, xenophobic and ultimately racist position. I would not have thought myself a racist and didn't have racial motives and I came to understand that the threats to my livelihood didn't come from people who originated from a colonial country and have brown or black faces.  Those threatening my livelihood  looked like me, spoke very good English, and drank tea most likely.  The similarity ended there.

Let's not fall prey to the immigrant blame game no matter where we are?