Posts Tagged ‘socialism’

HEN.00.A2-156 Picket line. Protesting Jim Crow Admissions policy

Protesting Jim Crow admission policy at Ford’s Theatre (Paul Robeson second from left)
Paul S. Henderson (Baltimore, March 1948)

Those of us of a certain age have wondered, since the Fall of the Wall, if and when we would finally move beyond the Cold War.

According to Malcolm Harris, we’re there—or at least we’re moved a long way in that direction. What this means is that the anti-Communist sentiments that were whipped up during that period no longer hold sway (at least outside Hillary Clinton’s campaign), and the historical realities that were occluded by the Red Scare can now be rediscovered.

I’m thinking, in particular, of the important role Communists played in the struggles against fascism and segregation.

I imagine that if you asked the average young American what army liberated Auschwitz, they would say ours. Which is wrong, but it’s hard to blame them: Capitalism won, and we’ve moved on to new bogeymen. If you don’t need to warn innocent children away from Soviet seduction, there isn’t much need to tell them about communism at all. We can fill the gaps in the history books with patriotism.

Ignoring history, however, won’t make it go away. Without the Soviet threat, the anti-communist barricades are a little understaffed. And with faulty censors, who will stop the culture industry from making communism seem cool? The two most famous Soviets right now are probably Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, the KGB spy stars of the critically acclaimed F/X show The Americans. Despite having been created by a former CIA agent and set in the 1980s, Elizabeth and Philip aren’t the bad guys. They’re the good ones. In Nicaragua, in El Salvador, in South Africa, in Afghanistan, the American government’s policies are portrayed as worth fighting against by any means necessary. It’s a more honest description of the history than Clinton’s, in her memoir. “In the past,” she writes of the Cold War in the Western Hemisphere, “American policy in the region led to the funneling of foreign aid to military juntas that opposed communism and socialism but sometimes repressed their own citizens.” . . .

You might not know it from the history books, but American communism has always been racialized. When Jim Crow laws banned interracial organization, the Communist Party was the only group that dared to flout the rule. In 1932, when the Birmingham, Alabama police went to shut down a Party meeting, a present national guardsman wrote his superior: “The police played their only trump by enforcing a city ordinance for segregation which, of course, is contrary to Communist principles.” Now we tell the story of the Civil Rights Movement within liberal parameters, but everyone who fought for black liberation was called a communist at one time or another, and not always inaccurately.

KKK poster Birmingham, AL 1933

And, of course, there are many other historical events involving American communists, socialists, and other “reds” to be uncovered now that we’re moving past the “shoddy but common” recollections of the Cold War: their role in the anti-war movements, women’s suffrage, organizing labor unions, international solidarity—in addition to the arts, literature, the social sciences, the history and philosophy of science. . .and the list goes on.

As Harris sees it,

The story of communism’s struggle against fascism and white supremacy has been repressed for generations, but this grip on our collective memory is slipping fast. David Simon is planning a series about the Abraham Lincoln Brigade—American leftists who fought against fascism in Spain. Steve McQueen is doing a Paul Robeson biopic, whose 1956 testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee is already the most cinematic thing I’ve ever heard. When asked about his membership in the Party, he invoked the Fifth Amendment (“Loudly”), at great personal cost. “Wherever I’ve been in the world,” he told them, “the first to die in the struggle against fascism were the communists.”


Special mention

Tom Toles Editorial Cartoon - tt_c_c160427.tif


We already knew that Millenials are “generation screwed.” Now we know, thanks to the latest Harvard Public Opinion Project survey, that the majority (51 percent) does not support capitalism—and even fewer (just 19 percent) identify as capitalists.*

It also seems the members of Generation Y don’t see socialism as the preferred alternative (only 33 percent support it)—but at least those who have participated in Democratic primaries have been voting overwhelmingly for the democratic socialist candidate.


*A subsequent survey that included people of all ages found that somewhat older Americans also are skeptical of capitalism. Only among respondents at least 50 years old was the majority in support of capitalism.


This week marks the 100th anniversary of the world-historic Easter Rising in Ireland. And, here in the United States, we’re getting quite an education—first, with 1916 The Irish Rebellion, a big, lavishly produced slab of prestige television (with none other than Liam Neeson as the narrator), available on 120 television stations in the United States and on the BBC; then, on Sundance, with Rebellion, a soap-operaish version of the same events; and, finally,  A Full Life: James Connolly the Irish Rebel, a graphic remembrance of socialist agitator, editor, and author Connolly illustrated by artist Tom Keough.*

I’ve only seen the two television series, so I can’t comment on Keough’s book.

In my view, 1916 The Irish Rebellion does an excellent job of providing the necessary background (at least for those of us lacking the basic, Irish secondary-school-book knowledge of the events—although it tends to exaggerate the U.S. connection (highlighted in the trailer) and to downplay the egalitarian and socialist impulses in the Rising’s anti-imperialism (which, I presume, the Connolly book serves to correct). And while Rebellion is more an intimate recreation than a documentary (and does take historical liberties and shortcuts in dramatizing, I would say melodramatizing, the events), it does highlight the role of women among the forces for and against Irish independence.

Still, both television series serve to shine a spotlight on the short-lived and ultimately failed rebellion that showed to the rest of Ireland (beyond Dublin), the British Empire (for which this was the beginning of the end), and the rest of the world (in a wide variety of socialist, communist, and national-liberation movements) that the dream of making and changing history was embodied by and yet could not be contained within the “terrible beauty” of 1916.**


*Here’s the appropriate disclaimer: while 1916 The Irish Rebellion was largely financed by the University of Notre Dame and written by Notre Dame professor Bríona Nic Dhiarmada, I played no role in the creation or dissemination of the documentary.

**It is precisely that terrible beauty that is taken up in Ken Loach’s film, Jimmy’s Hall, which takes place in 1932 and focuses on the post-1916 political tensions among the Catholic church, the state, the landowners, and the republican movement.

Cartoon of the day

Posted: 22 March 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,


I haven’t seen “Boom Bust Boom,” the recently released Monty Pythonesque documentary about capitalism’s periodic crises and the failures of mainstream economics.

However, I have read Andrew O’Heir’s [ht: ja] piece in which he argues the film “finds itself a little behind reality.”

It’s a curious development, and an index of how fast public perception and imagination have shifted. To most regular people in most parts of the world, the thesis that unfettered capitalism is unstable, empowers predatory behavior and worsens inequality is not merely uncontroversial but empirically obvious. We appear to be entering an era of political history when socialist or social-democratic reforms are once again in play. . .

it took more than 20 years after the Clinton-Blair rebranding of the electoral left (as, in effect, the squishier, friendlier right) for large swaths of the public to realize how thoroughly they’d been conned. Now Hillary and payday-lender BFF Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the rest of the compromised Democratic Party apparatus find themselves in a tough spot. . .

Of course Clinton is now walking back her decades-long support for heartless neoliberal policies of austerity, privatization and free trade. At least in the Democratic campaign, she has slid right past the friendly, center-left Keynesianism of “Boom Bust Boom” to position herself as the decaf Bernie, with more hardheaded practicality but only 20 percent less passion. I understand why she thinks that’s the right strategy; I don’t know whether she expects anyone to believe it.

O’Heir also notes the curious omissions in Terry Jones and Theo Kocken’s whimsical documentary:

I honestly can’t tell you why John Maynard Keynes, the father of interventionist macroeconomics and the intellectual avatar of the entire tradition embodied in “Boom Bust Boom,” is never mentioned by name. Have the right-wing attacks on Keynesianism since the Reagan-Thatcher years really rendered him untouchable? I do understand, more or less, why Karl Marx is not mentioned — although it’s time to get over that, for God’s sake.


Millennials—those born between 1980 and the end of 1994—regularly take a beating in the media. They’re accused of being lazy, self-absorbed, politically apathetic narcissists, who aren’t able to function without a smartphone and who live in a state of perpetual adolescence, incapable of commitment.

The members of Generation Y also hold a much more favorable view of socialism than any other generation (according to this YouGov [pdf] poll).*

What’s going on?

According to a new study by the Guardian, it’s clear that economically Millennials are falling further and further behind previous generations.


For example, in the United States, a person age 20 to 24 is much poorer than the national average (by over 30 percent) compared to people of that age in the past (10 percent in 1979). So, are those 25-29 (7 percent less than the average, compared to the same as the average in 1979), while the difference for those 30-34 are basically the same as in the past (more or less equal to the average).


There’s also a growing gap between their incomes and those of older generations. For example, the incomes of the 60-64 age group are now almost 30 percent higher than the national average (compared to only 15 percent higher in 1979), while those of Millennials are 32 percent lower than the national average.


As you can see, Millennials are worse off than all other age groups, except for those over 70—and even their incomes have improved in recent years compared to those of Generation Y.


And this is not just a problem in the United States. Generation Y is falling further and further behind in lots of other countries—the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Canada—except Australia.

To be clear, this is not some matter of generational warfare. Generation Y is not being left behind and preyed upon by other generations. Those who are currently retiring deserve their Social Security and Medicare programs. No, Millennials are being left behind by the current economic system that has saddled it with high debt and low-paying jobs and is cancelling their dreams.

As pseudonym76 recent explained,**

Generation Screwed has been getting screwed over by the American plutocracy all of our lives. We have not had a five year stretch in adulthood without an economic catastrophe, at least not if we lived outside of certain boom cities, and Generation Screwed is completely fucking feed up. Generation Screwed is going to vote for Bernie because what he is proposing is the only thing that might, just might put this country back on track to give the next generation a chance at a life better than the one we have all had. Of course what he is proposing is just a starting point to setting things right. We all know that. We know it in our marrow.  What Bernie is proposing doesn’t go nearly far enough! Yeah, that’s right, I said it, what he is proposing doesn’t go nearly far enough. Bernie is our half-measure, our opening salvo at fixing the fucking mess that the Boomer’s post-Watergate apathy, post-Kennedy and King assassination apathy gave us. That’s right, I get it, I know why you folks didn’t continue the struggle, your leaders were slaughtered. Guess what, it happens, you pick up where they left off and you keep pushing. You have to pick up where they left off and keep pushing. Bernie did that, and its why we respect him. The man kept up the fight. While you fuckers gave up and went home, he kept up the fight.


*The survey, taken at the end of January, found that 43 percent of Americans under 30 had a favorable view of socialism. Less than a third of millennials had a favorable view of capitalism. No other age or ethnic demographic preferred socialism over capitalism.

It’s also interesting that even younger people seem to be following the Millennials’ lead. First-year college students are more politically engaged than they’ve been in decades. And, at the University of Kentucky, no hot bed of radical thinking or activity, Bernie Sanders won the Democratic support in a landslide (85.2 percent to Hillary Clinton’s 14.8 percent).

**Technically, pseudonym76 is not a Millennial: “I am part of Generation Screwed, its the much larger generation of Americans whose future was stolen away from them by Boomers who didn’t get involved and didn’t prevent the dismantling of the American middle class. Generation Screwed includes Generation Kevin Arnold. It includes Generation X. To a degree it includes President Obama’s micro generation of Jonesers. It definitely includes the Millennials, and it even includes Generation 9/11, some of whom are going to be eligible to vote this year—you know those kids born at the tail end of the Clinton Administration and the beginning of the second Bush Administration.”