Weekend Edition

July 1st, 2022

Dangerous Party & Deceiving Party control US

July 1st, 2022


IMAGE/AAUW (American Association of University Women)/Duck Duk Go
IMAGE/The Political War Zone/Duck Duck Go

in April 2017, Noam Chomsky said:

“The United States is the wrecking machine that’s threatening destruction [of the planet earth], in – with all three branches of government in the hands of the most dangerous organization [Republican Party] in human history.”

so true

five years later, not much has changed – except

the Dangerous ones are out of power; they are now the official opposition

the then official opposition, the Deceiving ones (Democrats), are in power

in power but powerless becuase the Deceivers don’t want to exert power

the Deceiving leadership is busy bleeding Russia with Ukranian lives

while the Dangerous ones are dragging the country to the stone age

abortion was legalied in the United States in 1973

in June 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned the ruling by a vote of 6-3

(imagine: 6 judges can fuck up the life of half of the population)

7 weeks after a leaked draft (May 2) revealed the majority opinion

(3 of the 9 judges were appointed by Trump)

there was no stirring among the Deceiving leadership to fight back

one of the congressperson, AOC, on NBC’s Meet the Press, urged Biden

“The president and the Democratic Party needs to come to terms with is that this is not just a crisis of Roe, this is a crisis of our democracy.” “This is a crisis of legitimacy and President Biden must address that.”

but Biden was busy making deal with McConnell, a repulsives character

House Speaker Pelosi led Deceivers and sang “God Bless America”

to celebrate the passage of a new gun safety law

so out of touch? no. it’s intentional. to avoid rousing people

if the agitated people are out on the streets, they’ll damage property

both Dangerous and Deceiving ones love property & propertied class

just across the street, protestors had thronged the Supreme Court building

a strategist summed up the contradiction very well

“The Titanic is sinking, and the band is still playing.”

the opponents of abortion talk about the sanctity of life – the unborn one

isn’t it ironic that US has killed most people in the world

through genocied of Indians, enslavement of blacks, and foreign wars

police kill members of minorities, blacks and Latinos, on a daily basis

48 million people in the US go hungry

the prison population in the US is over 1.2 million people

have the anti-abortionists ever thought about the living ones?

about people already in this world

no. because then you’ll have to do something for them

fight for their rights, get them released from jail, provide them food/shelter

save them from police torture and bullets, stop US government from wars

and so much more

the anti-abortionists are hypocrites par excellence

it fell to Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar to stand up against the Court ruling, defend abortion in an articulate manner

“[I will defend my daughters’ rights] to do what they feel is right with their own bodies.” “As their dad, I have no control over their adult bodies.” “As their sheriff, it is absolutely none of my business. I will not persecute Texas women or anyone else pursuing those same rights.” “Shame on the Supreme Court and the bureaucrats in Washington D.C. and Austin who are attempting to impose their own supposed morals on others.” “They will not use my badge or the color of my office to do so. My job is chasing predators, rapists, and human traffickers, not someone exercising a right.”

Tens of of elected prosecutors, Gonzalez among them, all over US signed a pledge Friday. Gonzalez gave the reason

“As an elected prosecutor, I took an oath to protect all in my community in the pursuit of justice. Using limited resources to prosecute personal healthcare decisions would be a violation of that promise.” “Outlawing abortion will not end abortion; it will simply end safe abortions and prevent people from seeking the care and help they need for fear of criminal prosecution. I refuse to subject members of my community to that risk.”

B. R. Gowani can be reached at brgowani@hotmail.com

Noam Chomsky: In Ukraine, diplomacy has been ruled out

July 1st, 2022


US President Harry Truman (left & USSR’s Joseph Stalin PHOTO/Duck Duck Go

Renowned political dissident, linguist and author Noam Chomsky recently spoke with Alternative Radio’s David Barsamian about the war in Ukraine, in an interview entitled “Chronicles of Dissent”.

Let’s start with President George HW Bush’s assurance to then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not move “one inch to the east” — and that pledge has been verified. My question to you is, why didn’t Gorbachev get that in writing?

He accepted a gentleman’s agreement, which is not that uncommon in diplomacy. Shake-of-the-hand. Furthermore, having it on paper would have made no difference whatsoever. Treaties that are on paper are torn up all the time. What matters is good faith. And in fact, HW Bush, the first Bush, did honour the agreement explicitly. He even moved toward instituting a partnership in peace, which would accommodate the countries of Eurasia. NATO wouldn’t be disbanded but would be marginalised. Countries like Tajikistan, for example, could join without formally being part of NATO. And Gorbachev approved of that. It would have been a step toward creating what he called a commonEuropean home with no military alliances.

[Bill] Clinton in his first couple of years also adhered to it. What the specialists say is that by about 1994, Clinton started to, as they put it, talk from both sides of his mouth. To the Russians he was saying: “Yes, we’re going to adhere to the agreement.” To the Polish community in the United States and other ethnic minorities, he was saying: “Don’t worry, we’ll incorporate you within NATO.” By about 1996?97, Clinton said this pretty explicitly to his friend Russian President Boris Yeltsin, whom he had helped win the 1996 election. He told Yeltsin: Don’t push too hard on this NATO business. We’re going to expand but I need it because of the ethnic vote in the United States.

In 1997, Clinton invited the so-called Visegrad countries — Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania — to join NATO. The Russians didn’t like it but didn’t make much of a fuss. Then the Baltic nations joined, again the same thing. In 2008, the second Bush, who was quite different from the first, invited Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. Every US diplomat understood very well that Georgia and Ukraine were red lines for Russia. They’ll tolerate the expansion elsewhere, but these are in their geostrategic heartland and they’re not going to tolerate expansion there. To continue with the story, the Maidan uprising took place in 2014, expelling the pro-Russian president and Ukraine moved toward the West.

From 2014, the US and NATO began to pour arms into Ukraine — advanced weapons, military training, joint military exercises, moves to integrate Ukraine into the NATO military command. There’s no secret about this. It was quite open. Recently, the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, bragged about it. He said: “This is what we were doing since 2014.” Well, of course, this is very consciously, highly provocative. They knew that they were encroaching on what every Russian leader regarded as an intolerable move. France and Germany vetoed it in 2008, but under US pressure, it was kept on the agenda. And NATO, meaning the United States, moved to accelerate the de facto integration of Ukraine into the NATO military command.

In 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky was elected with an overwhelming majority — I think about 70% of the vote — on a peace platform, a plan to implement peace with Eastern Ukraine and Russia, to settle the problem. He began to move forward on it and, in fact, tried to go to the Donbas, the Russian-oriented eastern region, to implement what’s called the Minsk II agreement. It would have meant a kind of federalisation of Ukraine with a degree of autonomy for the Donbas, which is what they wanted. Something like Switzerland or Belgium. He was blocked by right-wing militias which threatened to murder him if he persisted with his effort.

Well, he’s a courageous man. He could have gone forward if he had had any backing from the United States. The US refused. No backing, nothing, which meant he was left to hang out to dry and had to back off. The US was intent on this policy of integrating Ukraine step by step into the NATO military command. That accelerated further when President [Joe] Biden was elected. In September 2021, you could read it on the White House website. It wasn’t reported but, of course, the Russians knew it. Biden announced a program, a joint statement to accelerate the process of military training, military exercises, more weapons as part of what his administration called an “enhanced program” of preparation for NATO membership.

It accelerated further in November. This was all before the invasion. Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed what was called a charter, which essentially formalised and extended this arrangement. A spokesman for the State Department conceded that before the invasion, the US refused to discuss any Russian security concerns. All of this is part of the background.

On February 24, Putin invaded, a criminal invasion. These serious provocations provide no justification for it. If Putin had been a statesman, what he would have done is something quite different. He would have gone back to French President Emmanuel Macron, grasped his tentative proposals, and moved to try to reach an accommodation with Europe, to take steps toward a European common home.

The US, of course, has always been opposed to that. This goes way back in Cold War history to French President de Gaulle’s initiatives to establish an independent Europe. In his phrase “from the Atlantic to the Urals”, integrating Russia with the West, which was a very natural accommodation for trade reasons and, obviously, security reasons as well. So, had there been any statesmen within Putin’s narrow circle, they would have grasped Macron’s initiatives and experimented to see whether, in fact, they could integrate with Europe and avert the crisis. Instead, what he chose was a policy which, from the Russian point of view, was total imbecility. Apart from the criminality of the invasion, he chose a policy that drove Europe deep into the pocket of the United States. In fact, it is even inducing Sweden and Finland to join NATO — the worst possible outcome from the Russian point of view, quite apart from the criminality of the invasion and the very serious losses that Russia is suffering because of that.

So, criminality and stupidity on the Kremlin side, severe provocation on the US side. That’s the background that has led to this. Can we try to bring this horror to an end? Or should we try to perpetuate it? Those are the choices.

There’s only one way to bring it to an end. That’s diplomacy. Now, diplomacy, by definition, means both sides accept it. They don’t like it, but they accept it as the least bad option. It would offer Putin some kind of escape hatch. That’s one possibility. The other is just to drag it out and see how much everybody will suffer, how many Ukrainians will die, how much Russia will suffer, how many millions of people will starve to death in Asia and Africa, how much we’ll proceed toward heating the environment to the point where there will be no possibility for a livable human existence. Those are the options. Well, with near 100% unanimity, the United States and most of Europe want to pick the no-diplomacy option. It’s explicit. We have to keep going to hurt Russia.

You can read columns in the New York Times, the London Financial Times, all over Europe. A common refrain is: we’ve got to make sure that Russia suffers. It doesn’t matter what happens to Ukraine or anyone else. Of course, this gamble assumes that if Putin is pushed to the limit, with no escape, forced to admit defeat, he’ll accept that and not use the weapons he has to devastate Ukraine.

There are a lot of things that Russia hasn’t done. Western analysts are rather surprised by it. Namely, they’ve not attacked the supply lines from Poland that are pouring weapons into Ukraine. They certainly could do it. That would very soon bring them into direct confrontation with NATO, meaning the US. Where it goes from there, you can guess. Anyone who’s ever looked at war games knows where it’ll go — up the escalatory ladder toward terminal nuclear war.

So, those are the games we’re playing with the lives of Ukrainians, Asians and Africans, the future of civilisation, in order to weaken Russia, to make sure that they suffer enough. Well, if you want to play that game, be honest about it. There’s no moral basis for it. In fact, it’s morally horrendous. And the people who are standing on a high horse about how we’re upholding principle are moral imbeciles when you think about what’s involved.

In the media, and among the political class in the United States, and probably in Europe, there’s much moral outrage about Russian barbarity, war crimes, and atrocities. No doubt they are occurring as they do in every war. Don’t you find that moral outrage a bit selective though?

Green Left for more

Unaafordable rent: A system stacked against tenants

July 1st, 2022
VIDEO/Last Week Tonight/Youtube.com

John Oliver discusses why rent has become increasingly unaffordable, what we can do to combat a system that is stacked against tenants, and, of course, Dakota Johnson’s complex relationship to limes.

India is becoming a Hindu-fascist enterprise

June 30th, 2022


VIDEO/Al Jazeera/Youtube

Over the last few months, authorities in Indian states governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have started bulldozing the homes, shops, and places of business that belong to Muslims merely suspected of participating in anti-government protests. The Chief Ministers of these states have proudly flaunted this policy in their election campaigns.

To my mind, this marks the moment when a deeply flawed, fragile democracy has transitioned – openly and brazenly – into a criminal, Hindu-fascist enterprise with tremendous popular support. We now appear to be ruled by gangsters fitted out as Hindu godmen. In their book, Muslims are public enemy number one.

In the past, Muslims have been punished with pogroms, lynchings, targeted murders, custodial killings, fake police “encounters” and imprisonment under false pretexts. Bulldozing their homes and businesses is only a new – and highly effective – weapon added to this list.

In the ways in which this phenomenon is being reported and written about, the bulldozer has been invested with a sort of divine, avenging power. This menacing machine with its huge metal claw that is used to “crush the enemy”, is being portrayed as a mechanical, comic-strip version of a mythical God slaying demons. It has become the talisman of the new, avenging, Hindu nation. Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson posed next to one during his recent visit to India – it is hard to believe that he did not know exactly what he was doing and who he was endorsing. Why else would a head of state do something as bizarre as posing with a bulldozer during a state visit?

For their part, government authorities insist they are not targeting Muslims and are merely demolishing illegally constructed properties. A sort of municipal clean-up mission. That reasoning, of course, is not even meant to be convincing. It is meant as mockery, and to instil terror. The authorities and most Indians know that most of the construction in every Indian town and city is either illegal or quasi-legal.

Bulldozing Muslim homes and businesses for purely punitive reasons without notice, without a chance of an appeal or a hearing achieves several things all at once.

Before the bulldozer era, punishment for Muslims was meted out by vigilante mobs and the police – which either participated in the punishment or chose to look away. The bulldozing of properties, however, involves not just the police, but the municipal authorities, the media – who must be present to amplify and broadcast the spectacle of demon-slaying – and the courts who must look away and not intervene. It is meant to tell Muslims, “You are on your own. No help will come. You have no court of appeal. Every institution that used to be part of the checks and balances of this old democracy is now a weapon that can be used against you.”

The properties of anti-government protesters from other communities are almost never targeted in this way.

On June 16, for example, tens of thousands of young men furious with the BJP government’s new army recruitment policy went on a violent rampage across North India. They burned trains and vehicles, blocked roads, and in one town they even burned the BJP office. But most of them are not Muslim. So their homes and families will remain safe.

In the two general elections of 2014 and 2019, the BJP has shown convincingly that it does not need the vote of India’s 200 million-strong Muslim population to win a majority in Parliament in the national elections. So, in effect, we are looking at a sort of disenfranchisement. That will have dangerous corollaries. Because once you are disenfranchised, you don’t matter. You become inconsequential. You can be used and abused. This is what we are witnessing now.

Al Jazeera for more

(Thanks to Razi Azmi)

The 1959 Pan Africanist Manifesto

June 30th, 2022


Robert Sobukwe, first President of the Pan African Congress of Azania

The Pan African Congress of Azania’s 1959 Manifesto provides a radical blueprint for African self-determination.

In thinking about the South African peoples’ fight against the apartheid, the history of the Pan African Congress (PAC) gets short shrift. In fact, it is probable that many people, especially the younger generation, do not know the history and significance of the PAC. The Pan African Congress of South Africa – later, the Pan African Congress of Azania – was formed on April 6, 1959 with a leadership that included Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe as President, and Potlake Kitchener Leballo as Secretary. The PAC consisted of a group of younger activists who broke away from the African National Congress (ANC) over stark ideological differences. These activists, known as “Africanists,” rejected collaboration with the white oppressors and agitated for an African-led Black liberation movement. They argued a new society had to be based on African self-determination as Africans were (and are) the majority of the population and the laboring base of the nation.

The PAC felt betrayed by the ANC leadership. They called the ANC elite a “captured black leadership.” This was clear in the ANC’s adoption of a conciliatory “Freedom Charter” which the PAC argued was premised on the principle of “multiculturalism,” the principle that South Africa belongs equally to all those who live in it. PAC members were adamant that there could be no equality between the oppressed and the oppressor, the slave and the master, the dispossessor and the dispossessed. Moreover, they argued that  “multiracialism” was a mechanism to privilege white minority rights.

The PAC’s position was also explicitly Pan-Africanist. It pushed against South African exceptionalism and, echoing Marcus Garvey and George Padmore, advocated instead for a “United States of Africa…as an effective bulwark against the forces of imperialism, colonialism,…and tribalism.” The PAC’s specific objectives were: uniting African people across the continent; fighting to overthrow white domination and implement self-determination; and  striving for the establishment of “African Socialist Democracy” based on African peoples’ material conditions. In Sobukwe’s words, “We aim, politically, at government of the Africans by the Africans, for the Africans, with everybody who owes his only loyalty to Africa and who is prepared to accept the democratic rule of an African majority being regarded as an African.” At the center of the praxis of liberation, the PAC argued, was land. Land was the inalienable right of the indigenous African people. Africa was for Africans.

The PAC suffered for its radical position. In its first and most successful campaign on March 21, 1960, the PAC organized a large protest against the pass laws. This protest was a significant turning point in the fight against apartheid. The apartheid regime responded with brute force. In what became known as the Sharpeville Massacre, police in Sharpeville opened fire on the protestors ,killing 69 and injuring 180. Another massacre occurred in Langa, near Capetown. The apartheid regime declared a state of emergency and unleashed a progrom against PAC activists. It banned both the PAC and the ANC, forcing many dissidents into exile. The PAC regrouped while in exile, developing an armed wing (the Poqo, later renamed the Azanian People Liberation Army (APLA)), and continued to struggle for self-determination. But thousands of its members were arrested, detained, imprisoned, and tortured by the apartheid regime. Sobukwe was incarcerated on Robben Island until 1969, and held under house arrest until his death in 1978. Between the repression and the group’s own internal contradictions, the PAC lost force.

Meanwhile, the ANC was invited to the negotiating table with the apartheid regime. It is important to contrast here the position of the celebrated Nelson Mandela with that of Robert Sobukwe on the issue of land. While Sobukwe and the PAC centered land as the basis of African liberation, for South Africa’s ANC president, Mandela, declared, “In our economic policies, there is not a single reference to things like nationalization, and this is not accidental: There is not a single slogan that will connect us with any Marxist ideology.” It is no wonder that, in this “post-apartheid” moment, whites still own 80% of the land.

The PAC is mostly forgotten today, and its radical vision of African self-determination – African people’s control of African land and resources – remains a distant dream. But we are hopeful that one day their vision outlined in their 1959 Pan African Manifesto, adopted at the PAC’s inaugural conference, will be realized.

The 1959 Pan Africanist Manifesto

(Adopted by the Pan African Congress at the inaugural conference, April 5, 1959 at the Orlando Communal Hall, Soweto, South Africa)


A. A Chain of Reaction

The significant portion of our social milieu begins with the expansion of the markets founded by the rising commercial capital of Western Europe at the turn of the fifteenth century. Succeeding years witnessed the “discovery” of new lands by the Europeans, the Papal award of the whole of Africa to the Portuguese, increased European slave raids on Africa, denuded Africa of Africans and led to the establishment in the Americas of the greatest mass chattel slavery that the world had ever known. Africa had been successfully robbed of Africans. It was this chattel slavery that contributed substantially to the initiation of the European industrial revolution which in turn resulted in the unleashing of a chain of reaction which culminated in the rape of Africa and the close of the last century.

B. Land Robbery and Political Subjugation

Early European settlement of Africa, especially of its southern tip, was a direct result of the rise of European commercial capital. Wave upon wave of European settlers came to Africa and their penetration of the interior involved the loss of sovereignty by the indigenous peoples and the alienation of more and more portions of their land. With the rise of the industrial capital of Europe and its increased search for raw materials and more markets, the partition of Africa went apace and the doctrine of “effective occupation” was enunciated, a theory calculated to “sugar coat” the bitter pills of land robbery and political subjugation. More and more settlers came into the country, until today there are 5,000,000 Europeans who up to the dawn of African liberation had constituted themselves as a ruling class over the 250,000,000 indigenous peoples. Africans had been successfully robbed of Africa.

C. Established by the Sword

The advent of European imperialism and colonialism to Africa brought in its wake the phenomenon of white domination, whether visible or invisible, which is characterized by the political oppression, economic exploitation and social degradation of the indigenous African masses. Throughout this historical epoch, the age of white domination, whenever the spokesmen or representatives of white domination have sprouted a conscience, they have referred to the phenomenon as the “spread of Western civilization” or “the extension of Christian trusteeship.” The undisguised truth is that White domination has grounded down the status of man and stunted THE NORMAL GROWTH OF THE HUMAN PERSONALITY ON A SCALE UNPRECEDENTED IN HUMAN HISTORY. White domination was established by the sword and is maintained by the sword.

D. Expulsion of Imperialist Exploiters

Black Agenda Report for more

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara: A rebel against Soviet Political Economy

June 30th, 2022


Che Guevara PHOTO/Russia Today

In January 1962 Guevara told colleagues in Cuba’s Ministry of Industries (MININD): ‘In no way am I saying that financial autonomy of the enterprise with moral incentives, as it is established in the socialist countries, is a formula which will impede progress to socialism’.[1] He was referring to the economic management system applied in the Soviet bloc, known in Cuba as the Auto-Financing System (AFS). By 1966, in his critique of the Soviet Manual of Political Economy, he concluded that the USSR: ‘is returning to capitalism.'[2] This paper will demonstrate that Guevara’s analysis developed in the period between these two statements as a result of three lines of enquiry: the study of Marx’s analysis of the capitalist system, engagement in socialist political economy debates and recourse to the technological advances of capitalist corporations.[3] At the same time Guevara was engaged in the practical experience of developing the Budgetary Finance System (BFS); an alternative apparatus for economic management in MININD.

Guevara was head of the Department of Industrialisation and President of the National Bank in 1960 when all financial institutions and 84% of industry in Cuba were nationalised. His BFS emerged as a practical solution to problems thrown up by the transition from private to state ownership of industrial production. Cuba had an unbalanced, trade dependent economy dominated by foreign interests, principally from the United States. The production units which passed under the Department’s jurisdiction ranged from artisan workshops to sophisticated energy plants. Many faced bankruptcy while others were highly profitable. Guevara’s solution was twofold: first, to group entities of similar lines of production into centralised administrative bodies called Consolidated Enterprises. This allowed the Department to control the allocation of scarce administrative and technical personnel following the exodus of 65-75% of managers, technicians and engineers after 1959; and second, to centralise the finances of all production units into one bank account for the payment of salaries, to control investment and sustain production in essential industries which lacked financial resources. With the establishment of MININD in February 1961, the BFS evolved into a comprehensive apparatus which embedded these organisational structures in a Marxist theoretical framework, to foster Cuba’s industrialisation, increase productivity and institutionalise collective management.

Advanced technology

Guevara set up the BFS with compañeros who understood the internal accounting practices, administrative centralisation and productive concentration of US corporations and their subsidiaries in Cuba. Guevara examined the documentation from these companies as they fell into state hands. He was impressed with their management structures, the use of centralised bank accounts and budgets, determinate levels of responsibility and decision-making, and departments for organisation and inspection.[4] He told colleagues that the BFS had an accounting system similar to the pre-1959 monopolies operating in Cuba, with their efficient control systems: ‘it’s not important who invented the system. The accounting system that they apply in the Soviet Union was also invented under capitalism.'[5]  

Guevara first travelled to the USSR in 1960. His deputy Orlando Borrego recalled that they visited an electronics factory which did accounts by abacus. Having studied the US-owned Cuban Electricity Company, Shell, Texaco and other corporations which used the latest IBM accounting machines, Guevara was struck by the backwardness of Soviet techniques. He believed that advances achieved by humanity should be adopted without fear of ideological contamination.

With the imposition of the US blockade, Cuba was forced to buy factories from the socialist countries, especially the USSR. This assistance was essential, but the relative backwardness of the equipment clashed with Guevara’s desire for advanced technology transfers. He did not criticise the Soviets for this backwardness per se. Rather, he complained about the contradiction between the high level of research and development in military technology and low investment applied to civilian production. He objected to their ideological resistance to appropriating advances made in the capitalist world. This was a costly mistake in terms of development and international competitiveness.[6] For example: ‘For a long time cybernetics was considered a reactionary science or pseudo-science…

it is a branch of science that exists and should be used’.[7] He added that in the US the application of cybernetics in industry had resulted in automation – an important productive development.

Basing a management system for socialist transition on capitalist technology was consistent with Marx’s stages theory of history, which predicted that communism would emerge from the fully developed capitalist mode of production. Marx showed how the tendency to concentration of capital, that is, to monopoly, was inherent in the system. Therefore, the monopoly form of capitalism was more advanced than ‘perfect competition’. The Soviet system originated from predominantly underdeveloped, pre-monopoly capitalism. A socialist economic management system emerging from monopoly capitalism could be more advanced, efficient and productive. The origin of the BFS was the multinational corporations of pre-1959 Cuba and it was therefore more progressive than the AFS which was adapted from pre-monopoly Russian capitalism.

Marx’s analysis of the law of value

While Guevara argued for the adoption of advanced technology he opposed the use of capitalist mechanisms to determine production and consumption. He challenged the Soviet’s reliance on capitalist categories to organise the socialist economy, particularly the operation of the law of value. The dispute about the law of value in transition economies is central to the question about the feasibility of constructing socialism in a country without a fully developed capitalist mode of production. It is integral to problems of accumulation, production, distribution and social relations. Communism implies a highly productive society in which conditions exist for distribution of the social product based on need, not surplus-generating labour time. However, the countries which have experimented with socialism have been underdeveloped, lacking the productive base for the material abundance implied by communism. The Soviet solution was to rely on the operation of the law of value to hasten the development of the productive forces, applying the profit motive, interest, credit, individual material incentives and elements of competition to promote efficiency and innovations. Guevara argued that these were not the only levers for fostering development. The BFS was the expression of his search for an apparatus to increase productive capacity and labour productivity without relying on capitalist mechanisms which undermine the formation of new consciousness and social relations integral to communism.

Between 1963 and 1965 these questions were examined in Cuba during the Great Debate on socialist transition. To the extent that commodity production and exchange through a market mechanism continued to exist after the Revolution in Cuba, it was clear to all participants in the Great Debate that the law of value continued to operate. The social product continued to be distributed on the basis of work done. However, the disagreements were about the conditions explaining the law’s survival, its sphere of operation, the extent to which it regulated production, how it related to the ‘plan’ and whether the law of value should be utilised or undermined, and if so, how. This discussion was linked to practical questions such as how enterprises should be organised, how workers should be paid and whether goods should be exchanged between state enterprises as commodities.

Guevara agreed that the law of value remained under socialism but argued that measures taken by the Revolution to undermine the capitalist market meant that the law could not serve as the dynamic catalyst to productivity and efficiency in the same way as it did under capitalism.[8] Socialisation of the means of production and distribution had ‘blunted’ the tools of capitalism.[9] Marx described a commodity as a good which changes ownership, from the producer to the consumer. Consistent with this definition, Guevara insisted that products transferred between state-owned enterprises did not constitute commodities because when they were transferred from one state factory to another there was no change in ownership. The state itself should be considered as one big enterprise.[10] For Guevara commodity-exchange relations between factories threatened transition, via ‘market socialism’, to capitalism. He stressed central planning and state regulation as substitutes to such mechanisms.

The Soviet’s argued that commodity production, the law of value, and money would disappear only when communism was achieved, but that to reach that stage it was necessary to use and develop the law of value as well as monetary and mercantile relationships. Guevara disagreed:

‘Why develop? We understand that the capitalist categories are retained for a time and that the length of this period cannot be predetermined, but the characteristics of the period of transition are those of a society that is throwing off its old bonds in order to move quickly into the new stage. The tendency should be, in our opinion, to eliminate as fast as possible the old categories, including the market, money, and, therefore, material interest – or, better, to eliminate the conditions for their existence.'[11]

Marxists for more

Armchair science

June 29th, 2022


Frontispiece and title page of the Dialogue, 1632 IMAGE/Wikipedia

Thought experiments played a crucial role in the history of science. But do they tell us anything about the real world?

In Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632), three Italian gentlemen – one philosopher and two laymen – debate the structure of the Universe. The philosopher, Salviati, argues in support of the Copernican theory, even though it requires a moving Earth – something that strikes his interlocutors as problematic, if not absurd. After all, we don’t feel the ground moving beneath our feet; clouds and birds are not swept backwards as the planet whooshes through space; a ball dropped from a tower does not land far away from the base of that tower.

But Salviati, standing in for Galileo, asks his companions, Sagredo and Simplicio, to reconsider their intuitions. Suppose one were to drop an object from the mast of a tall ship. Does it make any difference if the ship is moving? No, Salviati insists; it lands at the base of the mast regardless, and therefore one cannot conclude anything at all about the ship’s motion from such an experiment. If the ship can be in motion, then why not the whole planet? Simplicio objects: Salviati has not actually carried out this shipboard experiment, so how can he be sure of the result?

‘Without experiment, I am sure that the effect will happen as I tell you,’ he replies. After some further cajoling, Simplicio is won over.

Today, most scientists and philosophers believe that there is only one reliable way to learn about the world, namely, to poke and prod at it – the view that philosophers call empiricism. When a child does the poking and prodding, the activity is called play. When a scientist does it, it’s called observation and experiment. In either case, though, we learn by seeing and doing.

But as Galileo has shown, there seem to be exceptions to this rule. There are – allegedly – occasions when we come to understand something about the world via a peculiar kind of experiment that takes place only in the mind. Thought experiments, as they’re known, are an exercise of pure imagination. We think about some particular arrangement of things in the world, and then work out what the consequences would be. In doing so, we seem to learn something about the laws of nature.

Thought experiments have played a crucial role in the history of physics. Galileo was the first great master of the thought experiment; Albert Einstein was another. In one of his most celebrated thought experiments, Galileo shows that heavy objects and small objects must fall at the same rate. On another occasion – building on the ship’s mast argument – he deduces the equivalence of reference frames moving at a constant speed with respect to one another (what we now call Galilean relativity), a cornerstone of classical physics.

Einstein, too, was adept at performing such imaginative feats in his head. As a young man, he imagined what it would be like to run alongside a beam of light, and it led him to special relativity. Later, he imagined a falling man, and realised that in freefall one doesn’t feel one’s own weight; from this insight, he concluded that acceleration was indistinguishable from the tug of gravity. This second breakthrough became known as the ‘principle of equivalence’, and led Einstein to his greatest triumph, the general theory of relativity.

What these examples have in common is that knowledge seems to arise from within the mind, rather than from some external source. They require no laboratory, no grant proposal, no actual doing of … anything. When we perform a thought experiment, we learn, it would seem, by pure introspection. ‘Seem’ is perhaps the key word. Whether thought experiments actually do present a challenge to empiricism is hotly contested.

Aeon for more

Get up, walk the dog – my life is mundane, but because I’m gay Texas Republicans think I’m abnormal

June 29th, 2022


Demonstrators at the Texas state capitol protest against anti-trans bills in May 2021. PHOTO/Eric Gay/AP

The state party has unveiled a truly frightening official platform that rejects the result of the 2020 election, seeks to make racial discrimination legal and demonises LGBTQ+ people

This morning, I woke up earlier than I wanted to, fed the baby, walked the dog, chatted with my wife and procrastinated over some work. Yawningly mundane, right?

Wrong. According to the Texas Republican party, my same-sex marriage is an “abnormal lifestyle choice”. What’s more, “abnormal” people like me should not have any “special legal entitlements” related to being LGBTQ+. That position is spelled out in section 143 of a far-right platform officially adopted at the Texas Republican party’s recent convention in Houston.

Delegates didn’t stop there. The new platform oozes hatred and is riddled with conspiracy theories. It is vehemently anti-transgender, asserts that Joe Biden was not legitimately elected and demands that the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which banned racial discrimination in elections, be “repealed and not reauthorized”. The mask hasn’t slipped – it has been ripped right off.

While this platform doesn’t carry any legal weight, it signposts the direction in which the Republican party is going. “The platform is largely symbolic, but important as a measure of ideological drift,” a political scientist told the Texas Tribune. It is the latest evidence that the lunatic far-right fringe in the US is getting a lot more loony and a lot less fringe. It is very frightening.

The Guardian for more

Climate disasters trigger mental health crisis in Pakistan’s mountains

June 29th, 2022


Aftermath of the glacial lake outburst flood at Badswat, with rocks pulverised by the force of the rushing water PHOTO/Haya Fatima Iqbal

In Gilgit-Baltistan, communities hit by climate change-induced disasters suffer depression and insomnia

“Even after three years, the villagers remain heartbroken,” said Hajida Parveen, referring to a flood that washed away more than half of Badswat village in the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) region of northern Pakistan. 

Parveen is a social mobiliser with the NGO Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP). Since the glacial outburst flood in 2018, “nothing seems to cheer [the villagers] anymore”, she says. “A common refrain is ‘give us back our land’.”

The flood caused a huge lake to form. It blocked the road to 10 villages from the rest of Immit valley, in G-B’s Ghizer district. Thirty homes, a school and more than 65 acres of productive land were submerged. No life was lost, but around 1,000 people had to be evacuated. Most have now returned to the village but are still living in temporary shelters as their former homes have been wrecked by floodwater.

Across the Hindu Kush Himalayas, communities have been suffering the impacts of climate change, especially in the last two decades. In Ghizer alone, thousands of residents have experienced flash floods and landslides that destroy roads, farms, homes and other buildings. This is leading to mental health issues, something residents do not speak about in public for fear of social stigma. 

A 2021 study in the northern mountains of Pakistan found that communities in the region have “insufficient or no alternatives to cope and to reduce the adverse impacts posed by natural stresses”. The study looked at 10 G-B districts with a long history of climate-induced hazards. It placed Ghizer among the three most vulnerable. 

The Third Pole for more