By NICK BAKER
We are seeing a renewed interest in socialism today. The campaign of Bernie Sanders, who claims to be a “democratic socialist” to mask his 98-percent Democratic Party-line voting record, has given much publicity to the word “socialist,” and many young Sanders supporters call themselves socialists. The Sanders candidacy is no accident. His “democratic socialist” and anti-establishment-sounding “political revolution” rhetoric is aimed at sheepherding the growing hatred of tens of millions back into the safe channels of capitalist elections and the rule of the one percent.
Due to this evidence of the possibilities available to socialists right now, Socialist Action has decided to run its own presidential candidate, Jeff Mackler, to build support for working-class, independent, socialist politics. I sat down with Jeff Mackler for an interview shortly after Socialist Action had announced his candidacy, to talk about the campaign, key issues in the election, and the increased interest in socialist ideas.
“The ruling elite and their think tanks often know well before we do,” Mackler began, “that their across-the-board austerity measures, their ingrained racist school-to-prison pipeline, their unprecedented mass incarceration of the oppressed, their for-profit, near-slave-labor prison-industrial complex, their wanton and judicially ‘justified’ police murders across the country have served to bring into question in the minds of millions the very legitimacy of capitalism itself.
“When poll after poll tell us, as with the recent New York Times result, that 56 percent of registered Democrats believe that ‘socialism is a more humane system than capitalism,’ we should take note that Sanders’ self-proclaimed socialism is no accident of a newcomer wandering onto center stage of U.S. politics. In days gone by, the socialist label was employed with impunity in the mass media to redbait and discredit. Today, it is a badge of honor with a 49 percent plurality of all youth under 30 and a 56 percent majority across the age spectrum of the Black community.
“The percentage of Democrats who prefer capitalism over socialism as a more humane system has shrunk to a low point of 23 percent. Today, registered Independents, at 43 percent, are the top voting bloc; registered Democrats stand at 32 percent and Republicans at 23 percent.
“This tells us more accurately why Bernie has been traveling the country for the past year campaigning for a ‘kinder and gentler’ capitalism, for a ‘kinder, gentler’ system of exploitation and minority rule, dressed, of course, in the garb of ‘democratic socialism.’ And now Sanders is preparing his long-anticipated shift to supporting the kind of cold-blooded racist, warmongering Hillary Clinton-style capitalism that his soon-to-be-bewildered supporters had hoped to flee from with his candidacy. As we anticipated, Sanders, along with Clinton, will now deploy the lesser evil ‘Trump’ card to once again frighten the unwary back into the Democratic Party, as the graveyard of social movements.”
Mackler added, “I was not at all surprised when Sanders announced: ‘The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated, and defeated badly. And I personally intend to begin my role in that process in a very short period of time.’”
I asked Mackler why he had entered the U.S. presidential race, despite having no chance of winning. “Elections in capitalist America are the billionaire’s game,” he responded. “Working people have no horse in this race. We have no billionaire candidates or corporate funders, or corporate media behind us. We don’t count the votes. We don’t control any aspect of the rigged electoral charade. But socialist election campaigns can win in another sense—in the end, a decisive sense. We can use the occasion when interest in politics is at a high point, to advance the struggles of the 99 percent, of the vast majority who today struggle against the inherent evils of capitalism.
“Socialist Action is a party of and for every struggle that aims to organize capitalist’s victims independently of and against the policies of the ruling rich. We are among the best builders of the freedom struggle on every front possible. We strive to be part of and help lead the independent, democratic, mass-action united-front mobilizations and all others that are aimed at increasing working-class self-organization, consciousness, confidence, cohesion, and unity.
“We aim to be an integral part of organizing the vast majority against the one percent—not only against the one percent in the abstract, but against all their institutions of power. Socialism, as opposed to its adulterated conception put forward by Sanders, is truly a revolutionary project as well as a necessity.
The real socialist revolution in the U.S., and everywhere else in the world, will usher in for the first time in human history a society in which the vast majority who create the nation’s and the world’s wealth will democratically rule in their own name, through their own institutions, and in their own interests, as opposed to the private profit corporate anti-human interests of the present ruling elite.”
I asked Mackler why he believed that the electoral system was rigged. “Again, capitalist elections are in the exclusive purview of the billionaire rich. Their twin parties—the Republicans and the Democrats—and their local, state, and national electoral and judicial institutions devise, interpret, and enforce their exclusionary election laws. Their corporate propaganda media effectively exclude coverage of all views but their own. At best, and at great cost, socialists are able to achieve ‘legal’ ballot status in but a handful of states—and even here, no matter the seriousness of our campaign efforts, we are consciously excluded from coverage.
“Even Democrat Bernie Sanders learned, as in the New York and California primaries, that the vast number of registered Independent voters were excluded from casting their votes for him. His party’s handpicked ‘superdelegate’ process, in which a significant percentage of Democratic Party convention delegates were essentially assigned to Clinton before the primary process began, tells us that even within the confines of the Democratic Party, the system is rigged.
“Having said this, however—and with full knowledge that the elections are rigged—Socialist Action’s campaign does intend to win in a very real sense. That is, we are asking our campaign supporters to check out our Facebook page, website (https://votesocialistaction.org), and other social media outlets, meet us in the streets where people unite to fight back, and add their name (or pseudonym if necessary) as campaign endorsers. We want to list these thousands of our socialist campaign supporters—not to mention win them to joining our revolutionary socialist party.”
I asked what Socialist Action’s key campaign objectives are. Mackler responded, “First and foremost, we want to educate and help organize radicalizing people to definitively break from the twin parties of capitalism and all of its candidates.
We believe that all of the evils that millions, if not billions, across the globe are becoming keenly aware of are inherent in the capitalist system itself. These include endless predatory wars; government-promoted racism, sexism, and homophobia in all their horrific manifestations; mass deportations, terrorization, and demonization of immigrants; all-pervasive government surveillance in the name of ‘national security’; multi-trillion-dollar government bailouts of corporations; the imposition of massive across-the-board austerity measures against the broad spectrum of working people and youth; the permanent and irreversible consequences of fossil fuel-induced global warming; and the deadly assaults on all aspects of our environment.
This system today threatens all life on earth. Its madness daily poses the existential threats of literally burning the planet until it becomes uninhabitable or nuclear wars that murder billions in almost an instant and reduce the planet to a state of radioactive oblivion.”
Mackler continued, “Today capitalism and its very intelligent purveyors, that is all those who consciously understand its horrors and yet organize to sustain it, have gone to great lengths to camouflage and disorient its growing numbers of critics. The Democratic Party, ever fostering the illusion that the system can be effectively reformed, has always been capitalism’s first line of defense. It is complimented by a host of others that are consciously deployed to assist in heading off mass social and political dissent and anti-capitalist working-class-based organization. These safety valves, or better, firewalls, against the emergence of independent expressions of working-class organization include the present parasitic pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy and the countless tens of thousands of corporate-funded NGOs [Non-Governmental Organizations] that operate in virtually all social movements.
We must add to this vast array of civil society’s sheepherding devices the Democratic Party’s organized corporate funding of the hierarchy of Black and Latino churches, along with the longtime corporate-dependent ‘civil rights’ organizations like the NAACP. And we must add into this mix of mind and social control the corporate ownership and control over the media as well as the fundamental ‘public’ educational system itself. Indeed, the vast political, legislative, and judicial system operates to lend an air of democracy, if not credibility, to capitalism’s ever sought-after all-pervasive hold on social life.”
“Selecting the least offensive of the millionaire and billionaire candidates that the ruling rich periodically offer us during the election season,” Mackler insisted, “is both a utopian pipedream and a critical impediment to principled working-class politics.”
“Socialist Action’s campaign is aimed at today’s new fighters against injustice: at the youth who have learned from experience that their prospects are bleak in the capitalist framework, at the demeaned and exploited immigrant workers, at those who are inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement’s wide-ranging rejection of U.S. racism and its institutionalized system of police murder, at the millions who are rapidly coming to understand that the fossil-fuel corporate magnates, like all others, subordinate the future of humanity to their private profits.
“Our campaign is aimed at working people who want to revitalize and democratize the trade unions and expand union power to the 90 percent of workers who are without unions today. It is aimed at fostering the construction of a class-struggle left wing in the unions, a militant fightback current that seeks to organize the majority to fight in the political and economic arenas to challenge the bosses’ parties on all fronts.
In this context we are advocates of independent working-class political action based on a reinvigorated, fighting, and democratic trade-union movement in alliance with all the oppressed and exploited—that is, for a labor party that compliments and enhances labor’s power in the economic arena with its own instrument in the political arena.”
Mackler concluded, “To be sure, socialists fight for all progressive reforms. We actively participate in and support all who fight for a better world on every front. Whenever working people independently organize to advance their own interests—in mass mobilizations in the streets, in trade-union struggles at the point of production, on picket lines, and at public meetings and rallies—we are part of the struggle.
But we harbor no illusions in the nature of the beast. It must be replaced in all its fundamentals by the massive and concerted actions of the vast majority. That’s the real meaning of the social and political revolution that serious socialists fight for every day and seek to bring into being in a new world, where the horrors of the present social order are forever ended.”
- Rapid conversion to 100% renewable energy to stop fossil-fuel-induced climate change
- For a just transition: Guaranteed jobs at top union wages for all workers displaced in the conversion to renewable energy
- Quality, universal government-paid health care and education
- Abolition of all racist, sexist, and homophobic laws and practices.
- Affordable housing and jobs for all at top union wages
- For $15 and a union now, as a short first step toward a minimum wage high enough to sustain quality living standards
- Abolition of the U.S. war machine
- Amnesty, legalization, and equal rights for all immigrants
- For a Labor Party based on a revitalized, democratic, and expanded labor movement that is allied with the oppressed and exploited
- For a workers’ government! Abolish capitalism! For socialism!
‘It stops today!’ — Eric Garner, NYPD victim
reposted from http://www.SocialistAction.org
By CLAY WADENA
“Every time you see me you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today! I’m minding my business, please just leave me alone.”
— Eric Garner, Rest In Power, killed by NYPD July 17, 2014.
Eric Garner’s last words ring with righteous anger, disgust, desperation, and fatigue. Garner spoke for generations of Black and Brown people who have been subjected to America’s constant surveillance, intimidation, harassment, and brutality.
Ramsey Orta, explaining why he recorded the video of Garner’s death at the hands of the NYPD, said at a recent rally: “I watched that man [Garner] get harassed by police for four years and I had to do something.” Now, a New York coroner has validated what any honest individual saw when they viewed the video: Garner was killed by a chokehold (an illegal technique for police to use since 1993 in New York). The Staten Island man, a father of six children, had been targeted by cops for allegedly selling untaxed single cigarettes on the street.
Garner’s family is understandably calling for charges to be filed against the officer who murdered him, Daniel Pantaleo, an officer with a history of abuse that includes strip-searching and assaulting people during illegal car stops in broad daylight (which led the city to settle out of court for $30,000).
Perhaps to make America’s judicial system seem just, mainstream headlines all prominently noted that Officer Pantaleo had his gun and badge “stripped” from him over his murder of Garner, as if that would be enough, or as if Pantaleo isn’t on paid administrative “desk duty” (he is).
In a further indictment of the horrible conditions faced by so many, it was revealed that emergency response personnel did not help Garner when they arrived. Instead, they stood by with police as he died. This has resulted in the suspension of four emergency response workers without pay (note that their punishment is worse than what Officer Pantaleo received).
In typical fashion, some articles attempted a smear job, noting Garner’s arrest history, or the criminal charges faced by Ramsey Orta. This is a common tactic of the mass incarceration era—to designate someone a criminal and then deny them their human rights.
Mayor Bill de Blasio jumped into damage control quickly, trying to back up his campaigning as a friend and ally of those harassed and brutalized by police. De Blasio postponed his Italy vacation for a day, issued statements that angered the police union, and in general was not such an openly rabid supporter of police brutality as former New York mayors Giuliani or Bloomberg.
Even the notorious chief of police, William Bratton, got into the act and stated that he anticipates that the entire 35,000-member police force will be retrained, and that when it is complete, New York City will have “state of the art” training. Problem solved, right?
Don’t be fooled. These hacks believe in a robust police and surveillance presence; they just prefer for it to appear a tad friendlier. When de Blasio appointed William Bratton as police chief, it was a clear indication that de Blasio had no intention of really changing the NYPD. Among other things, Bratton is fully committed to the “Broken Windows” style of policing, which focuses on small quality-of-life offenses to reduce crime overall.
“My neighborhood is like it’s under martial law,” said Angel Garcia, 34, of East Harlem (quoted in the New York Daily News, Aug. 4, 2014). Whatever the policing style is called—stop-and-frisk, Broken Windows, quality of life offenses—it all boils down to Garcia’s eloquent appraisal of the lived experience: “martial law.” It means constant harassment, assault, and even murder at the hands of NYPD, no matter what it’s called.
When the de Blasio administration was confronted by recent analysis by the Daily News that showed the racist nature of Broken Windows policing (81% of the 7.1 million people hit with petty infractions were African American or Latino), the mayor showed he has no intention of backing away. His spokeman, Phil Walzak ,responded that “Mayor de Blasio believes a number of the policing innovations created by the NYPD over the past two decades, including … a focus on quality-of-life offenses, have contributed to New York City becoming the safest big city in the nation.”
He added that de Blasio is “committed to employing strategies and making adjustments that build a spirit of cooperation and trust between the police and the communities they serve.” While ending Broken Windows policing, which de Blasio and Bratton are so committed to, would be a victory, it is highly likely that the policy would reappear in another form without a strong mass movement to enforce accountability.
On that note, a protest march has been announced by Garner’s family and the Rev. Al Sharpton for Aug. 23 across the Verrazano Bridge (as of press time, the details are not yet published). Any public expression of resistance to police brutality is worth attending, as it will take a broad mass movement in the streets to truly begin to change the debate and force meaningful change around police and the prison system.
We fight for important reforms in policing and prisons, while acknowledging that the tendency of current American capitalism, with its large number of surplus workers, will be towards brutal policing and mass incarceration. End police brutality! End mass incarceration! No justice, no peace!
Photo: July 22 march to 120th precinct police station in New York City demands justice for Eric Garner. John Minchillo / AP
What does Karl Marx have to do with Karl Lagerfeld
originally published in Socialist Action News and found at SocialistAction.org
By CHRISTINE MARIE
Tansey E. Hoskins clearly loves art, understands the impulse to body modification and sartorial statement, and can imagine a socialist society where the creativity of the vast majority will be unleashed to spectacular ends in clothing and many other spheres. She has also written the most devastating deconstruction of the fashion industry, as well as of the “ethical fashion movement,” to date. Her new book, “Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion” (London: Pluto Press, 2014), leaves no negative impact of the fashion industry unexamined. She expertly lays out the industry record regarding class differentiation, worker exploitation, imperialist underdevelopment, racial stereotyping, female self-loathing, environmental degradation, gender oppression, and artist cooptation.
What makes Hoskin’s book more than a very radical and comprehensive look at the world of haute couture, and its impact on the rest of us, is the fact that she can be enthralled by the collection of a sophisticated designer at the same time that she shows herself to be a revolutionary socialist who has absorbed the best that Marxism and feminism have to offer on this question and can argue persuasively that nothing short of a battle for socialism can right these wrongs.
To better arm her readers for that struggle, she explains Marxist concepts like commodity fetishism, alienation, ideology, use-value, surplus value, and the reserve army of labor, and interweaves the history of garment production from the beginning of the factory system to today. In short, she effectively answers her own question, “But what does Karl Marx have to do with Karl Lagerfeld?”
The fashion industry, Hoskin’s argues, “lays out in sharp relief all the ins and outs of capitalism—the drive for profit and its resulting exploitation, the power that comes from owning society’s means of production,” and its use of ideology to assert that “there is no alternative.” Fashion, like all art forms in capitalist society, is highly contradictory. Individual artists can create work that inspires dreams of a different kind of society, while, at the same time, the art system that abides that rebellion actually hides capitalism’s inherently destructive mode of functioning and its vulnerability to overthrow by the majority. Relentlessly examining the fashion world in its material context and refusing to let the endless contradictions resolve, Hoskins argues, is the kind of practice that makes historical agency, and ultimately liberation, possible.
Liberation from our own alienation, retail therapy, credit card debt, and body image issues, Hoskins explains, can only be won collectively and in solidarity with garment workers acting in their interest worldwide. While boycotts and consumer campaigns that accompanied the civil rights movement or farm worker organizing contributed to the morale and mobilization of many, there is no “ethical” fashion purchase that will materially reduce the evils of the fashion industry under capitalism.
No company that produces garments, no matter what their public relations or green-washing campaigns assert, can stay in business in this system unless it wins the costs of production war with its competitors. And these wars are carried out in the context of powerful militarized nation states negotiating trade rules in the interests of the ruling rich.
In the 1970s, the U.S., Europe, and Canada set self-serving quotas and tariffs under the auspices of the Multi Fibre Arrangement (MFA), an agreement whose terms determined where it was viable to produce garments and where it was not. Globally, countries like Bangladesh that were too poor to diversify their industry suddenly lost $7.3 billion a year. Others, like South Korea, were set up for profit-making. Still other locations, like Saipan, part of the U.S. Commonwealth, became a giant compound housing tens of thousands of young, female, Chinese workers.
In 2005, the MFA ended, and within a few years, Saipan’s industry vanished, and the young women without the means to return to China became the base of Saipan’s sex tourism industry. This volatility is endemic to an industry that due to competition overproduces in nearly unimaginable numbers and survives on the creation of false need.
After 2008, when the ending of the MFA coincided with the global capitalist economic crisis and production slowed, 10 million workers in China, a third of the 30 million textile and garment workers, lost their jobs. The figure in India was one million, and in Cambodia 20 percent of that workforce. The overwhelming majority of these workers were women under the age of 40 years working in frequently deadly conditions like the Rana Plaza, where over a thousand women lost their lives last year in a building collapse and where sexual abuse is rampant.
To keep a penny ahead of the competition, the industry carries out “global scanning,” ready to move a room full of sewing machines in an instant, leaving chaos and women forced into further degradation or exploitation. Hoskins demonstrates, as well, that any claim by any name in the industry that they were unaware of any of these conditions is simply impossible.
Particularly effective is Hoskin’s depiction of the special environmental destruction of the cotton, textile, and garment industries. She describes the Aral Sea, once a home to 24 species of fish and families dependent on them, today a diseased salt-rock desert plagued by winds blowing carcinogenic pesticide dust into villages. The sea was drained to irrigate Uzbekistan’s 1.47 million hectares of cotton, as well as those in Turkmenistan, grown in unsustainable ways to feed the insatiable cheap for-profit garment industry.
China’s textile industry, which supplies most Western name brands, is considered the third worst polluter out of the country’s 39 spheres of production, due to the huge amount of water used for dying and finishing. Aldicarb, the pesticide that poisoned up to 15,000 people in Bhopal in 1984, is primarily used for cotton and is still being manufactured in the U.S., though pressure may force the cessation of production by 2015.
All this human suffering and violence to the planet contributes to profit making only by the creation of false needs, resulting in the production of 80 million tons of textiles and “throwaway” garments that could clothe the world many, many times over if distributed based on need. Yet, of course, they are not, since fashion is a trend-based industry that relies on selling billions of short-life units every season at maximum profit.
The United Kingdom, she tells us, deposits 4 million tons of textiles in landfills each year. According to Hoskins, annually turning 80 million tons of textiles into short use garments every year requires 1074 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, 132 million tons of coal, up to 9 trillion liters of water, and an incalculable amount of pesticide, dye, and metallic fasteners. For every kilogram of textiles produced, an average of 10 kg of chemicals are used.
Hoskins concludes, “This spells disaster for the environment and led Marx to describe capital as having a vampiric relationship with nature, ‘a living death maintained by sucking the blood from the world.’”
While not denying the impact on nature of the current setup, the green fashion book “Eco Chic,” Hoskins tells us, urges women to “buy less, spend more,” i.e., choose more expensive but better-made clothes. As comforting as this might be to those who can afford haute couture, the author, explains, high priced garments with designer labels are made in the same polluting factories as cheaper garments.
There is no buying strategy that can subvert the laws of production and profit making under capitalism. Rather, Hoskins says, the labor movement, because of the strategic place of workers in the whole rotten setup, is the critical element in the journey towards a just society where human needs, which dovetail with environmental health, come first. She may be able to convince your friends and coworkers as well.
Socialist Action photo by MARTY GOODMAN: Fashionistas pose for photographers as they enter awards gala for Bill Clinton and Haitian President Martelly, June 26 in New York City.
Justice for Palestine, Free Gaza
Rally and March in Hartford! Thursday July 31
“No More Money for Israeli War Crimes”, Rally and Speakers, then a March in Hartford
5pm – 6:30pm
More to be announced!
FB event page