To celebrate 5 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, we're offering 40% OFF of Naomi Klein's new book, No Is Not Enough. Each paperback purchase also includes a free bundled e-book.
If you've been waiting to read it, now is the time! If you've already read it, pick up a copy for a friend, a relative, a comrade, or a co-worker. Please also help us spread the word by writing a short review on Goodreads and Amazon.
"Klein moves beyond mere outrage and hand-wringing to offer a practical manifesto for opposition.”
"A blueprint for combating Trumpism and the corporatist policies of his predecessors that made his rise possible. With a genuine sense of hope, Naomi Klein illuminates paths to collectively forge an ecologically sound, anticapitalist order.”
–Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"In No Is Not Enough, Naomi Klein anatomises the roots of Trump in the already dystopian world of corporate-ruled America and predicts the “end run around democracy”. A clear and readable guide to action, if it is action you are contemplating.”
–Paul Mason, The Guardian
Also Available: The Stop Trump Reading List from Haymarket Books
In a speech to the plenary session of the Socialism Conference in Chicago in July, Sharon Smith, Haymarket author of Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States and Women and Socialism: Class, Race and Capital, urged a new generation of radicals and socialists to rediscover the radical history of the U.S. working class.
"The history of the socialist movement and the class struggle in the U.S. is barely mentioned in history classes at school--not because the teachers refuse to teach it, but because their lesson plans are scripted from on high by those who have an interest in maintaining the capitalist system. They don't want us to know about it in case it gives us any ideas about doing something similar.
In reality, the U.S. working class possesses a tradition that has, at certain key points, led the world working class in its heroism and combativity."
"The socialist history they hide from us"
Our mission at Haymarket Books is to keep alive that radical history. Here we present a short list of Haymarket Books on the labor and socialist movements in the United States, including biographies of radicals like Lucy Parsons and Eugene V. Debs, historic strikes by Latin@ and Black workers, and contemporary accounts of low-wage and domestic worker organizing:
Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States by Sharon Smith
Rank & File: Personal Histories by Working-Class Organizers by Alice Lynd and Staughton Lynd
The Labor Wars: From the Molly Maguires to the Sit Downs by Sidney Lens
The Bending Cross: A Biography of Eugene V. Debs by Ray Ginger
Detroit: I Do Mind Dying by Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin
Lucy Parsons: An American Revolutionary by Carolyn Ashbaugh
In Solidarity: Essays on Working-Class Organization and Strategy in the United States by Kim Moody
The Letters of Joe Hill, edited by Philip S. Foner with Alexis Buss
A Short History of the U.S. Working Class by Paul Le Blanc
Disposable Domestics: Immigrant Women Workers in the Global Economy by Grace Chang
Poor Workers' Unions: Rebuilding Labor from Below by Vanessa Tait
Song of the Stubborn One Thousand: The Watsonville Canning Strike, 1985-87 by Peter Shapiro
Revolution in Seattle by Harvey O'Connor
The American Socialist Movement: 1897-1912 by Ira Kipnis
No One Is Illegal: Fighting Racism and State Violence at the U.S.-Mexico Border by Justin Akers Chacón and Mike Davis
For Young People: 101 Changemakers: The Rebels and Radicals Who Changed U.S. History, edited by Michele Bollinger and Dao X. Tran
Join internationally acclaimed journalist and bestselling author Naomi Klein and special guests for a discussion of resistance and transformation in the Trump era, as she launches her new book No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need.
Schedule of Events:
Saturday, June 10th / Get Tickets
With Amy Goodman, Danny Glover, Jane Sanders, and Katrina Vanden Heuvel at The People's Summit
New York, NY
Monday, June 12th / Get Tickets
With Eve Ensler and Hari Kondabolu at Cooper Union
Wednesday, June 14th / Get Tickets
With Pramila Jayapal at Sidwell Friends School
Monday, June 19th / Get Tickets
With Jo Ann Hardesty at Powell's Books at Cedar Hills Crossing
Tuesday, June 20th / Get Tickets
With Alicia Garza at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley
Los Angeles, CA
Wednesday, June 21st / Get Tickets
With Brit Marling at Wilshire Ebell Theatre
Thursday, June 22nd / Get Tickets
With Jesse Hagopian at Neptune Theatre
The No Is Not Enough tour is presented by The Leap, Haymarket Books, The Intercept, and the Nation.
You can watch the embedded video below.
(Photo by Sarah-Ji, Love & Struggle Photos)
(Photo by Sarah-Ji, Love & Struggle Photos)
April 5, 2017 | Chicago, IL — Haymarket Books, the Chicago-based independent nonprofit publisher, announced today its acquisition of US rights to No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need by internationally acclaimed journalist, activist, and bestselling author Naomi Klein. The book, which is being described as a road map to resistance in the Trump era, will publish in the United States on June 13, 2017, with an announced first print run of 100,000 copies.
Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist, and author of the international bestsellers No Logo, The Shock Doctrine, and most recently This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. In 2017 she joined The Intercept as senior correspondent. For the past twenty years, Klein has been researching and writing about the forces that gave us Trump and Trumpism — in her books, documentary films, and investigative journalism.
No Is Not Enough reveals, among other things, how Trump’s election was not a peaceful transition but a corporate takeover, one using deliberate shock tactics to generate crises and force through radical policies that will destroy people, the environment, the economy, and national security. The book also lays out a concrete plan for how to defeat these strategies, not only with resistance but with a clear alternative program, one bold enough to compete directly with the savage allure of narrow nationalism and rising xenophobia.
“Trump is extreme, but he’s not a Martian,” writes Klein. “On the contrary, he is the logical conclusion to many of the most dangerous trends of the past half century. He is the personification of the merger of humans and corporations — a one-man megabrand, with wife and children as spin-off brands.”
In No Is Not Enough, Klein exposes the malignant forces behind Trump’s rise and puts forward a bold vision for a mass movement to counter increasing militarism, racism, and corporatism in the United States and around the world.
Klein had this to say of Haymarket’s acquisition: “I am thrilled to be publishing in the United States with a feisty independent like Haymarket, which is already embedded in those movements and fully committed to supporting them with the best of radical writing, from Angela Davis to Rebecca Solnit to Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. I feel right at home.”
Haymarket editor Julie Fain adds: “We are beyond thrilled that Naomi Klein has chosen to publish with Haymarket Books. In these challenging times, her radical, independent voice has never been more critical.”
#NoIsNotEnough // www.noisnotenough.org/
With both the Labour Party and the Conservatives having launched their manifestos in recent days, Britain’s snap general election is gathering momentum. Jeremy Corbyn’s program has been widely described as Labour’s most radical and left-wing for decades; meanwhile, the Tories continue their sharp shift to the right under Theresa May. Added to this, Brexit and renewed calls for Scottish independence mean that the election is taking place in a context of profound change and uncertainty. Haymarket Books' Duncan Thomas interviewed Neil Davidson, British socialist and author of How Revolutionary Were the Bourgeois Revolutions?, to glean some meaning from the madness.
Credit: Loz Pycock
Duncan Thomas: To start off, let’s give some background for readers outside the UK. Theresa May insisted that she wouldn’t call an election before 2020, which is when her parliamentary term was set to end. Her change of heart has been widely hailed as demonstrating a ruthless political savvy. What does she hope to achieve with a snap election, and do you think she’ll be as successful as many people assume?
Neil Davidson: First and most clearly, May wants an endorsement in advance for whatever happens with Brexit—for whatever deal there might be with Brussels, or indeed if there’s no deal at all. However, she must know that Brexit is going to be a disaster for a lot of the people who voted for it. By calling an early election, she hopes to win a strong majority before those effects begin to kick in or negotiations unravel.
All of this is happening in a context in which Labour is seen to be in deep disarray. Despite making some gains, they are still far behind in the polls, which also show very low approval ratings for Jeremy Corbyn as a leader. This is why people think that it’s an advantageous time for the Tories to call an election.
Most importantly though is what May herself said about strengthening her hand in Brexit negotiations. Everyone thought that meant this in relation to facing down the EU, but I think it’s actually intended to bolster her against the Brexit ultras in her own party. The EU doesn’t care about the size of her mandate—there’s no need for them to be generous, or make concessions, or anything like that.
I think she’s probably hoping to pad out the number of MPs and gain enough popular support to increase her room for maneuver against the extreme Tory Brexiteers. However, that seems quite futile—if she does get the huge majority predicted, it’s likely to produce a parliament more extreme on Brexit. And of course, if she doesn’t get that huge majority, it will be seen as a failure—a disaster even, given all the talk of her matching Thatcher’s landslide in 1983.
So the Tories have real problems, and the left has to understand that. In some ways, the election is a desperate move from them. Far from having a coherent plan, they haven’t a clue what they’re doing. They’re deeply divided, and they’re carrying out a policy which is opposed by the majority of the class they are supposed to represent.
That’s not a good situation for a party to be in, even one as historically successful as the Conservatives. This should be our starting point: not our own weakness, but theirs.
I want to come back to some of these bigger themes later, but staying with the two main parties for now, I don’t think I’ve ever seen two more contrasting approaches to electoral campaigning. Labour’s only hope is surely to have an unprecedented ground game, while the Tories seem to be doing and saying as little as possible.
There are two sides to the Tory campaign. The first is Lynton Crosby’s [the Conservatives’ chief campaign manager] strategy of shutting up, saying “strong and stable” over and over again, and avoiding the public as much as possible to reduce their chances of making a mistake. That isn’t a strategy of a strong party that knows exactly what it’s doing. Notably, a lot of the hardcore Brexiteers have been kind of hidden away. Boris Johnson is nowhere to be seen, and for good reason.
The other side is their attempt to appeal to working-class voters, with their proposal for a years’ (unpaid) leave from work to care for a sick relative, or the pledge to have workers on company boards. Of course, it’s a sham, but their need to appear to be acting in favor of workers indicates that they recognized that this constituency won’t be won over exclusively through banging on about leaving the EU.
So while the Conservatives are picking up right-wing support from UKIP [the right-populist United Kingdom Independence Party, whose major purpose is to take Britain out of the EU] voters—with UKIP looking dead electorally as a result—their recent announcements are signs that Labour is making an impression on the terms of the election.
Regarding Labour itself, a lot of the liberal media—never mind the right-wing media—is extremely hostile to Corbyn and his project. You can almost hear the sniggering of Guardian journalists as they talk about the impossibility of Corbyn winning.
But they do have hundreds of thousands of new activists, making them the biggest social-democratic party in Europe. That this is still a recent influx probably makes it more likely that these people will actually go around knocking on doors and handing out leaflets. And as we’ve seen from the huge meetings across the country, Corbyn does have considerable support.
And then there’s the manifesto. Taxing the rich, renationalizing the railways. . . these are all very popular policies. I don’t think they’ve got enough momentum for Corbyn to become prime minister, but the campaign has certainly energized left-wing politics in England.
In Scotland, things are very different. Labour is in a perilous condition there, and probably won’t take any seats from the Scottish National Party (SNP). They’ve also lost sections of the working class who support the (British) union to the Tories. But certainly in England, there is a revival of left politics and a genuine argument over the politics of austerity, nationalization of key industries, and so on, which hasn’t really been heard since Blair’s New Labour became dominant.
There’s a mountain to climb for Labour, as everyone knows, but I don’t think the picture is as bleak for them as parts of the media would have you believe, or as rosy for the Tories.
Something you touched on then was the degree to which both of the main parties are undergoing quite serious political realignments. That these tensions are playing out within existing institutions is in large part due to Britain’s electoral system, which makes it far harder for new political formations to emerge, as we’ve seen elsewhere. How much instability does that create within the major parties and in the overall political context?
The first thing to say about the party situation in Britain is that currently no single party can represent capital across the whole country. In Northern Ireland now the DUP [Democratic Unionist Party] and Sinn Féin have pretty equal support; in Scotland the SNP is totally dominant; in England we’re told that the Conservatives are in control, but I’m not sure that’s necessarily true; and in Wales, Labour [traditionally the major party] is being challenged by the Tories and Plaid Cymru [the Welsh nationalist party]. So there isn’t one party that can govern the whole of Britain and easily represent capital on that scale.
In terms of Labour, there is a deep antagonism between the parliamentary wing and the mass membership, which has existed more or less acutely throughout the party’s history. However, we are not simply seeing a repeat of that—due, as you say, to the difficulty in creating a new political formation. Many of the people in Labour’s recent influx would otherwise have been attracted to a new party like Podemos. As such, this support base is not really like the old Labour left, which makes the dynamic at play now quite different from the 1980s, for example, when Corbyn himself was part of the Bennite wing of the party.
Transforming Labour remains a big challenge. And while we are seeing something unprecedented, there have been endless attempts by the left to turn Labour into a proper socialist party, and the structural blocks in the way of that have not disappeared.
But as I’ve said, this doesn’t mean the Tories’ rightward shift is stable either. The fact that the main party of capital is falling into positions (primarily their support of Brexit) associated with the petit bourgeoisie or very small sections of capital creates great tension, especially with the City of London which, alas, is central to the British economy.
I think there are people in the Tory Party who are genuinely deluded about Brexit. It’s quite clear that the likes of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Minister for Brexit David Davis haven’t got a clue what they’re doing, as they stumble from one blunder to another. They are totally incompetent, and it’s a serious problem for British capital that these are the people meant to be negotiating on its behalf. The Conservatives might be able to pick up working-class and petit-bourgeois votes with a very right-wing program, but that’s in tension with the overall interests they represent.
Just as it’s hard to create a new party of the left, it’s difficult to imagine a new party of big capital forming in the British context. So these tensions will continue to play out in the party, and managing them will be difficult now that the Tories are ideologically wedded to leaving the EU.
Let’s talk more in-depth about Scotland. The SNP, as you’ve said, is very dominant today, and they’re broadly seen as quite progressive. Yet they used to be known as the “Tartan Tories.” How would you account for their transformation?
The SNP, as you say, has changed their politics quite significantly. The “Tartan Tory” label was once pretty much accurate. It was quite a right-wing, heavily Presbyterian, small-town party with a petit-bourgeois base, rather hostile to Irish Catholic workers in Scotland, and very hostile to the EU. Gradually, it became a much more mainstream, centrist nationalist organization.
The peculiarities of Scottish politics explain its transformation. When Scotland voted massively against Thatcher, the Labour Party was the first to benefit, and enjoyed a long period of dominance. But this split with the rest of the country also gave rise to the idea that if Scotland votes differently, it should be represented differently and follow different policies. Clearly, this logic leads pretty directly to demands for a separate parliament, and ultimately for many people to independence.
Labour accepted the premise of this logic by granting devolution just as it moved into its Blairite phase. The SNP quite cleverly repositioned itself as the inheritors of some of the social-democratic traditions that Labour was distancing itself from under Blair.
But it’s important to understand that it didn’t do so in a way that really broke with neoliberalism. Alex Salmond [the former leader of the SNP] used to say that he agreed with Thatcher's economic policies, for example, but disagreed with her social policies. As such, the SNP should be seen as one of the classic parties of social neoliberalism—not that far, in fact, from Blair’s Labour, but with a more effective left patina over a fundamentally neoliberal framework. This explains why the SNP is now so thoroughly attached to the EU, as the latter embodies a similar kind of social neoliberalism.
While the SNP has passed some positive policies, the impression of its progressive credentials is enhanced as long as it is able to counterpose itself to a right-wing Westminster government. This image was also boosted during the 2014 independence referendum campaign, when the SNP was quite adept in associating itself with some of the more radical grassroots campaigns without actually concretely adopting much of their ideas.
All this means that the SNP is an odd formation. Many socialists are members, and they see it as a social-democratic party and the best vehicle currently available, but its policies remain very moderate and are certainly not anticapitalist. The party is something of a battleground, and whatever else we might say about, it can’t be ignored. It has to be taken on in a way that is not simply denunciatory, but that recognizes its influence in Scottish society and talks about its actual politics.
This election, and the decision to leave the EU, has spurred talk of another Scottish independence referendum. If this happened, do you think the radical, grassroots politics we saw last time would be able to exert the same influence?
The last referendum ran for about two years before any of the grassroots stuff around the Radical Independence Campaign got going. The left often denigrates itself as a failure, but this was an undoubted success, as the entire debate shifted in a way that the SNP certainly did not intend.
That obviously can’t be sustained without an actual campaign, and currently we’re nowhere near the level of engagement we saw then. We’d have to re-create a lot of the structures and groups that we had before, and that would take time. It’s possible, but I don’t think we should obsess over immediately having another independence referendum.
Interestingly, the SNP has also rowed back a bit on claims that this election is a proxy vote for another referendum. While there may be a small majority in favor of holding another referendum, this doesn’t tell us how those people would actually vote. In addition, Brexit is not as clear cut an issue as was first assumed. The SNP initially pushed back very strongly against the Brexit vote. Scotland of course largely voted in favor of staying in the EU, but it has since transpired that quite a large minority of SNP supporters, around 30 percent, voted to leave the EU, as did some of their own MSPs [Members of the Scottish Parliament].
This has meant they haven’t been so vocal about calling another independence referendum, which I think is probably a good thing. It would have been an absolute disaster if another campaign was called on the basis of rejoining the EU. It’s an enormously divisive issue. Recent polling by John Curtice at Strathclyde University suggests that 25 percent of people in Scotland want to leave the EU, and another 40 percent or so are very suspicious of it and think it should be less powerful, so the situation is not as clear cut as we’re led to believe. Making EU membership the basis of a campaign would be counterproductive and might actually see it lose, which is why I think it's essential for the left to separate these issues out into two questions: “Should Scotland be independent?” and “should Scotland be part of the EU?”
The leadership of the SNP are fairly sharp, and they probably realized that this might not be the most opportune moment to hold a referendum after all, despite what was initially thought.
The fact that no single party can represent capital across the territory of Britain, as you mentioned, indicates that the 2008 crash is finally having major repercussions in the field of politics. Of course, Britain is not unique in this regard. Do you think, as some do, that we’re seeing an “end of neoliberalism?” If so, what might come next? If not, how might a still fundamentally neoliberal order adapt itself to new circumstances?
This is a very interesting question. I spent many years trying to convince people that neoliberalism even existed; now people seem to think it will go on forever.
But every major crisis of capitalism has led to a new phase of development. After 1873, we saw imperialism and the rise of finance capital; after 1929, state capitalism and embedded liberalism; after 1973, neoliberalism. So you would expect the 2007–2008 crash to herald another major transformation, allowing for an inevitable period of lag.
That this hasn’t really happened yet might indicate that capitalism is running out of tricks to overcome what David Harvey calls its “limits,” and so the countervailing tendencies to the falling rate of profit seem rather weak. There are still populations around the world who can be sucked into capitalist labor processes, but there’s no reserve on the scale of China, and I think returns from this will be diminishing. The other major option for restoring profitability would be the writing off of large sections of capital, which for various political, social, and economic reasons is not going to happen.
In the absence of a new paradigm, people are going back to older ones, with talk of protectionism, tariffs, industrial strategies and so on. People like Martin Wolf in the Financial Times, who was a big cheerleader of globalization for many years, has moved with apparent ease into arguing for developmental strategies carried out by the state. This is significant: if people like Martin Wolf are saying it, then there are probably some people within the capitalist class who support this turn as well. Perhaps there’s a recognition that, although neoliberalism has massively enriched members of the ruling class, as an actual strategy of accumulation it’s becoming less effective.
Another retrograde development has been the return of the racist discourse characteristic of the earlier “vanguard” phase of neoliberalism under Thatcher and Reagan. This has fed into the rise of alt-right or far-right figures like Trump and Le Pen, and given force to their supposed alternatives to neoliberalism. Of course, such politicians are dangerous for workers and migrants, but also to a degree to the capitalist class itself due to the instability and unpredictability they bring. The rational strategy for the trusted representatives of capital would be to work out a post-neoliberal strategy that didn’t depend on such right-wing mavericks. I don’t know what that alternative would be though, or who would be capable of formulating it.
In any case, while we shouldn’t predict some kind of inevitable “end of capitalism,” capitalism obviously ages. With this, there is a diminishing effectiveness and range to the various countervailing tendencies to the falling rate of profit. As capitalism has aged, it has become more difficult for it to find a new regime of accumulation to overcome crises, and it may be that it is not able to overcome certain features of the present crisis.
This all underlines how the British elections are taking place in a wider context of instability and flux. Concretely though, what do you think socialists should be doing in the run-up to the election, and what should we prepare to be doing afterwards?
Well, answering this question in full would bring us back to the old question of organization. As everyone knows, it’s the one hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution. We urgently need to think through what we should keep and what we have to abandon from our own historical tradition.
In the short term, people in England should work for the biggest Labour vote with, as we say, “no illusions.” It's possible to do that now in a way that it wasn’t, say, under Blair. Clearly, Corbyn is a socialist standing on a left-wing program that we would all support, and we need to do everything to minimize the Tory vote.
In Scotland, it’s more complex. I don’t think you can call for a vote for the SNP in the same way that you can for Labour, but RISE is arguing for an anti-Tory vote to keep them out of as many seats as possible. Practically, this means working with people both in the SNP and the Labour Party.
But as I said, there is longer-term organizational work to be done. We need to create forms of organization that are habitable for people and don’t simply reproduce the old Trotskyist models of one sort or another, despite the contributions these made. We need to think of how we can relate to large groups of people in a way that is principled, that has a program—dare I say it, a “transitional program,” not of purposefully impossible demands formulated to “expose” the true nature of the system, but of demands that if implemented would strengthen the working class and therefore the possibility of socialism.
By Remi Kanazi
she was scared
seven months pregnant
guns pointed at temples
falling over each other
packing into small spaces
sat on hills
on April 10
shells and bombs
bursting in air
prayed for the dead
with priests and imams
prayed for the living
looking over shoulders
for the Irgun and Haganah
cared for the road
as if it was her garden
till final breath
never knew essence
until she found
48 ways to flee
and she found Beirut
bullet holes in buildings
reminder of home
but not home
on hills in the South
dreaming of breaking
water never touched
thinking of their mother
how battles still
raged here and abroad
not from here
plant flags, call it home
rename cities and villages
memory that this
is not theirs
August 22, 2009
frail hands shook
didn’t want to die
but suffered decades
she spoke in Arabic
her eyes closed
but every so often
they blinked brilliance
memories that could not
be erased, uprooted
she had not forgotten
we have not forgotten
we will not forget
veins like roots
of olive trees
we will return
that is not a threat
not a wish
or a dream
but a promise
From the collection Before the Next Bomb Drops: Rising Up From Brooklyn to Palestine.
This event will be LIVE-STREAMED via Haymarket Books on Facebook Live! Beginning at 7:00 PM CDT from Chicago's Auditorium Theatre.
Use #RESIST to join the conversation via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
$6 GA tickets purchased through the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University's box office are required for entry. Pre-sale tickets are sold out, but there will be some tickets available at the door starting at 6:00 PM.
Stream live via Haymarket Books on Facebook!
Moderated by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor.
Join Michelle Alexander and Naomi Klein for a wide-ranging conversation about the connections between ecological and economic crisis, racism, mass incarceration, deportation and police violence, and the potential power of mass movements of ordinary people to articulate and fight for an alternative.
Presented by Haymarket Books and Lannan Foundation.
Michelle Alexander is a highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar. Her bestselling book The New Jim Crow won numerous awards, including the NAACP Image Award for Best Nonfiction Book. She is currently a visiting professor at the Union Theological Seminary in New York.
Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist, and author of the international bestsellers No Logo, The Shock Doctrine, and This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. In 2017 she joined The Intercept as Senior Correspondent.
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is assistant professor in the department of African American Studies at Princeton University and the author of From#BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation.
Haymarket Books is proud to be partnering with our friends at Verso Books to bring acclaimed weird-fiction author China Miéville to Chicago on May 27th to discuss his latest book, October: The Story of the Russian Revolution.
In addition to penning novels that have won just about every accolade in the world of SF/Fantasy literature, and being the subject of some of the best fanfic on the internet, China is also a long time Socialist. He co-founded (and frequently contributes to) the journal Salvage, wrote a book on Marxism and International Law, and even stood for office in London.
China will be joined by Anton Ford, an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Chicago, for a conversation about the Russian Revolution, its legacy, and what lessons we can take from it in today’s struggles for a better world.
Co-sponsored by Jacobin Magazine, the Chicago International Socialist Organization, and the Chicago Democratic Socialists Of America.
Saturday, May 27th 2017, 7PM
University Church Chicago (5655 S. University Ave, Chicago 60637)
Following the results of the first round of France’s presidential election, executive power will be contested by Marine Le Pen, (ex)leader of the fascist National Front, and Emmanuel Macron, a vacuous neoliberal technocrat who represents precisely the kind of politics that have facilitated the growth of the far right in recent years. Haymarket Books’ John McDonald interviewed Clément Petitjean, a contributor to the recently published Europe in Revolt, for a critical perspective on the election the New York Times calls the most consequential in recent French history.
(image credit: radiowood/flikr)
John McDonald: I’m hoping that you can start by giving a little bit of context. What were the driving forces of this election, what were people thinking about, and what led people to support the candidates they did?
Clément Petitjean: I would say what’s most striking about the election is that nothing happened the way it should have. The first sign of something strange was in December when the incumbent, François Hollande, who was elected in 2012 against Sarkozy, decided to step aside and not run for reelection. This is unprecedented since the foundation of the Fifth Republic in 1958.
From that point, basically nothing happened as expected. The Socialist Party (PS) had an open primary and everyone thought that the candidate would be former Prime Minister Manuel Valls. But he was defeated by a much more left-wing candidate, Benoît Hamon, which meant you had the president stepping down, and the prime minister being defeated in the primaries.
Then essentially a similar process happened on the right. Sarkozy was defeated in the primary (he received only 20 percent of the vote), and one of the favored candidates, Alain Juppé—himself a former prime minister—was also defeated. The winner, François Fillon, was much farther to the right than Juppé, much closer to the Catholic Conservative, anti–gay marriage, anti-abortion factions of the French right.
When Fillon was selected, he had a reputation as a very clean candidate. He had no record of embezzlement—something that is a very common feature in French politics. Whether you’re looking at the Socialist Party or the right-wing parties, there has been rampant corruption for decades. These politicians are never convicted and are rarely even indicted, so his reputation in this regard was very important.
By the time Hamon became the official candidate of the Socialist Party, in late January, things already looked completely different than originally predicted. Then scandals about Fillon began to emerge and made everything even more unstable. There was a scandal about him employing his wife as a parliamentary assistant for years (and his children for some time, too) when she didn’t do any actual work, and another surrounding his acceptance of extremely expensive suits from a famous and influential lawyer. Following these charges of corruption, he started declining in the polls—but never stepped down. At around the same time, leading Socialist Party functionaries started defecting to Emmanuel Macron, who they saw as a more reasonable, less “utopian” choice; as a result, Hamon’s campaign lost its initial impetus. When the calls for unity with Jean-Luc Mélenchon petered out, Hamon started plummeting in the polls.
Can you say a bit about Macron? Who is he? Where does he come from?
Macron was Hollande’s Minster of Finance, between August 2014 and August 2016. Before that, he was a private economic advisor, a “behind-the-scenes” guy who was a very close aide to Hollande. He stepped down in August 2016 to work on his own movement called En Marche! ["Forward!"], which he launched a couple of months earlier, claiming that he wanted to go beyond the right vs. left cleavage and to replace that divide with something more inclusive.
This is all total bullshit—he is a former investment banker and the absolute embodiment of neoliberal politics. I cannot think of anyone more vacuous and technocratic. He is the smirking face of austerity, privatization, poverty…He is despicable. But because Fillon’s campaign was floundering and the SP was in shambles, a lot of people coalesced around Macron. The representatives of the extreme center, but also people who felt alienated by the current state of French politics.
And then of course you have the whole Marine Le Pen situation. It had been on everyone’s minds that Le Pen would make it to the second round. For the entirety of Hollande’s term, the question hadn’t been whether Le Pen would be in the second round, but who would face her.
So, in a way, even though no one actually predicted the exact outcome, or how the campaigns would go, what happened in the first round was foreseeable, particularly that Marine Le Pen would get to the second round. The National Front has spent years doing the groundwork of building a base, and they have capitalized a lot on people’s resentment, pushing it in very reactionary, nationalistic, xenophobic, directions. There is this anxiety and anger that you find in a lot of advanced countries, and she managed to tap into and channel that. On the other hand, because Macron is so empty, my sense is that people coming from different social and political backgrounds could project onto him whatever hopes they have.
Say a little more about the issues that Le Pen mobilized people around. Why has support for her increased? How important has the fear mongering against Arabs and Muslims been for her campaign? And how has she used her posturing in defense of “French liberal cultural values” to justify the scapegoating?
Le Pen’s campaign is interesting in that it was fairly low key. She didn’t manage to focus the debates on immigration, on terrorism, on Islam. Part of this is because there was so much attention on the scandals and questions of corruption.
The one time in the past few weeks where this did become an issue—a negative issue—for her was when she mentioned the rounding up of some 10,000 Jews in July 1942 in France by the Vichy regime and claimed “this was not France,” meaning that this was not done by France. In saying this, she sounded like she was appealing to the old antisemitic, fascist, nostalgic roots of the party, but it didn’t really harm her too much. Lots of people used this to say, “Oh my god, the Front is still racist, and still extremely xenophobic,” but I don’t think it played a big role in refocusing the conversation in any major way.
One of the reasons she didn’t mention most of those issues very much was because of the state of the other campaigns. They were floundering, so she didn’t need to. But the most important reason, which is a much more worrying one in my opinion, is that a lot of what she says has been rehabilitated by the right and by segments of the Socialist Party. For example, it is taken for granted by many politicians that there is a line to be drawn from terrorism to “Radical Islam,” to Islam in general, that “Muslims” constitute a homogeneous category and that they are intrinsically foreign to “French Republican Culture.” This extreme Islamophobia has spread in France over the past ten to fifteen years, and it has been pushed by Le Pen, but also by other forces. She capitalized on this.
To be clear, when you read her whole platform, it is xenophobic, it is anti-immigrant, but it also has elements about the need to defend workers, to build stronger social policies. She’s a master at confusionism, at blurring the lines between left-wing and right-wing rhetoric. The way she frames things, in terms of protecting French workers, allows her to push all of the racism under the carpet. Of course it’s still there, but for many reasons a lot of people now don’t see the bumps of dirt under the carpet—or don’t care about them either.
It seems to me that she’s essentially learned from American racism the difference between outright bigotry and what we refer to as dog-whistling. She seems quite practiced at relying on innuendo to fill in the gaps. But the difference between the people using this tactic on this side of the Atlantic and Le Pen is that she is also building an organization that is connected to people building groups on the ground to intimidate and harass the victims of her scapegoating. Can you say a bit about what this looks like, and who makes up the base of the Front?
Looking at the map of election results, you can see that the Front has strongholds in the North of France, the Northeast and the Southeast. Historically, the Southeast is where the Front was most powerful, because that’s where you have lots of former French colonizers from Algeria who fled in 1962 after Algeria became independent. I’m not sure how to say it in English, but they’re called the “pied noir” [black feet] in France. These people often had traditionally very right-wing, almost fascist politics. Geographically and socially, this is where the Front first sunk its roots most deeply.
The North and the Northeast, on the other hand, were industrial strongholds where there were coal mines and steel mills, and those have been destroyed by financialization, capitalism, and the shifts in the global economy since the ’80s and ’90s. Historically, those regions were Communist Party-voting districts.
As the CP disappeared, or strongly declined in the polls, the National Front was able not so much to grab their voters, but to attract those who traditionally voted right. When you look at the electoral sociology of those places, it’s not so much that left-wing voters shifted to the Front, it’s that the workers on the right or center-right were gradually attracted by the nationalistic, chauvinistic, militant rhetoric of the Front.
So their electoral success depended on these newer bases of voters, but they still have roots in the traditional sectors of the far right: Catholic fundamentalist, neo-nazi, “Identitarian,” street-fighting groups. Marine Le Pen has been very good at downplaying those ties—in very sharp contrast to her father. Since taking over from him, in 2011, she has been very skilled at saying that the National Front is a “legitimate organization,” a “respectable organization.” She has been quite successful at polishing their image and relying more on dog-whistling, without completely severing her ties to that old base.
Although, I think it’s necessary to remember that the FN is not a mass organization, with hundreds of thousands of dedicated cadre and members ready to fight the Commies in the streets. These hardcore neo-nazi groups exist, but they’re fairly small. There are no mass parties in France today, and the FN is no exception.
I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. I don’t know whether this election is going to be a real boost for the Front or not … As soon as the results were announced Sunday, most of the left and center jumped onboard the line that “we need to uncritically support Macron.” This included the Socialist Party, who, by the way, only got 6.3 percent of the vote—the lowest result they’ve had in 50 years. A total disaster for them.
Meanwhile, supporters of the Front have maintained a view that there is no difference between the mainstream right and the left—both of them want to support globalization, instead of the "French People" and "French Values." So the calls to unify behind Macron feed into the Front’s narrative, which says that “the parties pretend to disagree, but really they don’t, they're part of the same oligarchy.”
The day after the results, Marine Le Pen announced she would temporarily step down as leader of the Front. It’s only a symbolic maneuver, no one can seriously believe she won’t come back. But in doing so, I think she’s trying to further personalize her campaign, to persuade people to vote for her, not for the Front. So this is in direct keeping with her communications strategy over the past five years and during the campaign: on the campaign posters, where you have Le Pen’s smiling portrait and the slogan “La France apaisée” (An Appeased France), the logo of the FN is nowhere to be seen.
That touches on the next thing I wanted to ask you about. What does it mean that the Socialist Party not only barley got 6 percent of the vote, but also that huge sections of the party were openly supporting Macron? How is that going to play out? Will the political center continue to collapse?
I think we will only be able to tell once the legislative elections happen. The second round of the presidential election is May 7. Then on June 11 and June 18, legislative elections will take place. Honestly I have no clue how things will go. What’s clear, looking at Sunday's results, is that we have four blocks of equal size vying for power. We have Macron who has 24 percent, with 8.6 million votes. Le Pen posted almost 21 percent and 7.7 million votes. Fillon, a proven liar and embezzler, had 20 percent and 7.2 million votes, which is very worrying. It’s clear that this guy is a cheat, a fraud . . . and yet 7 million people voted for him. I don’t know how this is going to play out, but it’s crazy that he came third when most of the campaign was about how corrupt he was. Then fourth is the left-wing candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, whose support was very close to Fillon, with 19.6 percent and 7 million voters.
So the question is how those four separate blocks will develop together. This is unprecedented in the history of the Fifth Republic. Up until Sunday you had, traditionally, the Socialist Party as the repository of the mainstream left and various right-wing parties that changed names over time, and those were the two main players. Then you had the National Front, which, while it grew in the ’90s and early 2000s, was always quite small. You also had a small but resilient radical left. Now there are four blocks of basically equal size.
I don’t see the Mélenchon block making any alliances with Macron. Maybe people will vote for him because they’re scared of Le Pen—and rightfully so.
But what’s likely is that if Macron is elected president, there is very little possibility of agreement between these blocks. What’s possible is that the right-wing cadre of the PS joins En Marche, leaving the left of the Party (Hamon and others) stranded: will they go leftward and join whatever will come out of Mélenchon’s campaign? I don’t see how Hamon could join forces with Valls, given how he has been so blatantly backstabbing him for the past six months.
Valls, the current prime minister, enthusiastically endorsed Macron, correct?
Yeah, Valls, and a good section of the top old white dudes in the Socialist Party readily abandoned ship. And on the right, a lot of the cadre came out against Fillon just after the results were announced. Top right-wing officials blamed him personally for the loss. People are jumping over the sides and swimming for safety everywhere, hoping to save themselves from the sinking parties.
At the same time, Macron ran on an “anti-system” campaign—probably the most ironic platform for this guy to run on—saying he wouldn’t keep any of the old-guard politicians . . . So, will people like Valls strong-arm him into giving them positions? Or will he have enough arrogance to say, “Enough, I want new people”? We'll see.
I saw that you and some other folks in Paris shared graffiti that read “Macron 2017: Le Pen 2022.” I think this is striking because it almost doesn’t seem to matter whether Le Pen wins the run-off, since her profile will grow out of this, she will continue to build in the legislative districts and on the ground.
What I think the graffiti means is that Le Pen grew because of the neoliberal policies implemented by Sarkozy and then Hollande. And because Macron is the essence of Hollande’s policies, even if with a smiling face, he will go about business as usual. Keep privatizing, keep downsizing social policies, keep pushing austerity, not renegotiate the European treaties in any way, and this will keep fueling the National Front, allowing them to sink their roots deeper into the despair they feed on.
And Le Pen will likely benefit from this?
Yes, most likely, but to what extent exactly can't be determined in advance . . . How many seats they will get remains unknown. Given the way the system works, it’s hard to say . . . I’m not even sure how many candidates the Front will run. Everyone has been so focused on the presidential election that they forgot to write about what’s likely to happen in the legislative elections, so I don’t know.
I do think that if the people supporting Macron try to reconstruct what is often called “the republican front” against Le Pen, it is very likely that this will be great, great news for her. In a way, there is this toxic dialectic between the extreme center and the Front. On the one hand, the National Front keeps growing because of its attacks on the system and because of the actual policies being implemented in France. Conversely, the extreme center benefits from a strong National Front because whenever someone wants to criticize Macron, for insistence, people will instantly jump on you and say, “How can you speak like that? If you don’t vote for Macron you are supporting Le Pen!” But, in the end, this relationship can’t go on forever. There is a point where it has to break.
This is one of the places where the analogy to the American election seems strongest. Lots of people talk about understanding Le Pen as a Trump figure, but that doesn’t really hold up. What does seem to hold up is the lesser-evilist notion that We Must Unite Behind the Center to Defeat Fascism, but where the alternative put forward by the center is literally the only possible candidate who could fail to defeat the fascist boogeyman. It seems exceedingly unlikely, but in some respects Macron is a sort of Hillary Clinton figure who might just be able to lose.
Yes . . . except that he has one thing he that Clinton didn’t have. I don’t think many people voted for Clinton with gusto, or because they liked her. But because Macron is new and young at 39, he’s never held elected office before, so in a very limited way, he’s not a professional politician compared to the other candidates.
This has allowed him by some weird social alchemy to turn himself into an anti-system candidate—despite the fact that he is a pure product of the system and of Hollande’s policies. I think that a lot of people, because they’re so disillusioned with French politics, really want to believe that. Macron is not exactly the same type of representative of “the system” as Clinton is, for instance. The chances are much higher he will win than the Clinton comparison suggests. For one thing, because the National Front was built on its isolation from the rest of the political system, it’s less likely that center-right voters would vote for her. At most levels of government they don’t, or can’t, make electoral deals with anyone. Le Pen has not taken over the main right-wing party apparatus, as Trump did for example. However much she tries to deny it, the party she runs is on the far right.
The other difference with the U.S. situation is what happened on the left, where there was a complete and total collapse of the Socialist Party, followed by Mélenchon’s rise to almost 20 percent of the vote. This is extremely significant—probably the most significant outcome of the first round. He went from around four million votes in 2012 to nearly seven million this time. He ran on a platform criticizing both Hollande and the right. And while the rest of the candidates rushed to endorse Macron, Mélenchon first said that he would have to consult with his base.
What this means is that Mélenchon has no ties to the floundering social-liberal party in the way that Sanders has with the Democratic Party. And Mélenchon polled best among young voters and the unemployed: in both categories, he’s around 30%. This is an extremely positive sign for the future.
So maybe we could wrap up with what Mélenchon means for rebuilding the left in France. The flip side of him not being in a major party is that he doesn’t have an organization that’s been built up over years. He projects himself individually. What does that mean on the ground moving forward? Is he going to run candidates for the legislature?
Yes, he is going to run candidates. La France insoumise (France Unbowed, Mélenchon’s platform) was created last year out of the ashes of the Left Front, which ran Mélenchon as a joint candidate in 2012. After its promising 2012 rise was stopped around 2014, he gradually moved away from that kind of organization and became more inspired by Podemos and that kind of “anti-party,” "post-party" rhetoric. In La France insoumise, there are no intermediate elected layers, and it’s not really clear how you become a member. There are just various “supporters groups” and then Mélenchon at the top, so it’s quite an amorphous structure of supporters and leader.
On the ground, they can be quite dogmatic and sectarian. They see people who vote for the PS, people in the left of the PS, or even people who just criticize them, as “the enemy.” It’s a very paranoid style of politics. I don’t know how that might become institutionalized or be the start of something bigger. It’s not even certain that he will stick around or run next time. Because of the sectarian attitudes I mentioned, it’s not even certain that he can bring the left together. I think someone with a more strategic mind would see the opportunities in the PS’s collapse and try to take advantage of that. Some of the voters who went to Hamon were very close to Mélenchon, but hesitated to take that step. Someone who had more skills in maneuvering in this situation might be able to bring those segments over. It’s worth saying that Mélenchon could realistically have gone to the second round. He was less than 700,000 votes away from getting through, so this could have made a big difference.
Another problem is that, while Mélenchon has improved on a couple of issues, he’s still very chauvinistic, with a left-wing nationalistic bend. For a while he had terrible positions on refugees, he opposed freedom of movement for instance, and he has very objectionable positions on Syria, saying we should support Assad as a lesser evil and has refused to condemn Russian imperialism. He got better during the campaign, but these are important fault-lines that we can’t ignore. When he doesn’t talk about them, he’s good, but as soon as he starts to tackle those issues, he stumbles.
One last word about the second round. On the night of the election, I thought I would not vote on May 7. And I thought the graffiti “Macron 2017 = Le Pen 2022” most pointedly summed up the effects of neoliberal politics on the growth of the Front. Since then, there have been very bitter debates on the Left about what to do: should we vote Macron to defeat Le Pen? Should we abstain? In the midst of this shitstorm, I read some very convincing arguments on social media and in outlets like Jacobin – I’m thinking of an excellent piece by Mathieu Bonzom, for instance. There aren’t many options: either we don’t vote, we vote “null”, or we vote Macron. The problem is, because there are only two candidates, if we don’t have Macron 2017, we have Le Pen 2017…That’s an impossible dilemma, of course, but we can’t wish it away.
Of course, we can, and should, start building the opposition to Le Pen “in the streets” right now—and in that regard we can hope that May 1 rallies and protests will be a huge success and a first step in rebuilding a broad antifascist movement. But no matter how much I despise and hate Macron and everything he stands for, it seems that our most strategic course of action right now is to defeat Le Pen on May 7, and then oppose Macron right away.
There’s a good slogan that I’ve seen circulate among comrades which sums up my position today: Defeat Le Pen on May 7, Fight Macron from May 8 onwards!
Haymarket Books is proud to be a co-sponsor of this year’s Historical Materialism New York conference, “Resurgent Radicalism In a Polarizing World,” happening at NYU April 21-23.
Drawing together hundreds of activists and radical-academics from across the world, the annual HM conference in London has become one of the most important sites of intellectual debate and exchange on the left, and its satellite conferences in New York, Toronto, Athens, Berlin, and other sites have built on this reputation.
This year’s conference in New York will include a number of important panels and discussions that feature Haymarket authors. The event will open with a plenary titled ‘Class Composition and Strategy Today’ that includes Beverly Silver, Aaron Benanav, and Kim Moody, author of In Solidarity and the forthcoming On New Terrain, and will conclude with a plenary on the International Women’s Strike and Socialist Feminist Movements featuring several organizers of this year’s historic Women’s Strike.
Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is a grassroots activist organization campaigning for justice in Palestine and against Islamophobia, antisemitism, and other forms of racism. Haymarket spoke to JVP representatives about their work and their forthcoming book, On Antisemitism - available here with a 40% discount.
Thanks for joining us. First of all, could you say a little about Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and what you set out to achieve?
Jewish Voice for Peace started in 1994 as a campus-based group at UC–Berkeley. Over the years, we’ve grown into a national organization that primarily aims to challenge US policy and public support for the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, and also campaigns for a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law and stands for peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East. We’ve grown enormously over the past decade—in 2007, our National Member Meeting had only around seventy-five attendees. We are about to have our fifth National Member Meeting and we expect over a thousand attendees.
Haymarket Books is really excited to be publishing a book put together by JVP, On Antisemitism. Why do you think it’s particularly important to publish something on this topic now, and how does the book contribute to our understanding of antisemitism?
We started working on the book well before the current [Trump] administration, because much of our base and many of our allies were really looking for resources on antisemitism that didn’t equate it with criticism of Israel but did take it seriously as a form of bigotry.
It felt important to produce the book as an anthology, because so much of our work is coalitional, and we didn’t want one authoritative voice dictating what antisemitism is and how it works. It was also crucial to us that we include those who have been completely marginalized by mainstream discussions of antisemitism: for example, Jews of color and Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews, and activists who are unfairly smeared as antisemites because of their advocacy for Palestinian liberation.
Of course, the election of Trump and the rise of the alt-right to mainstream politics made the topic feel even more urgent. It’s been a strange experience, to say the least, seeing some mainstream Jewish organizations excuse or justify the antisemitism of people like Steve Bannon and others emboldened by Trump.
How do you account for the convergence between traditionally highly antisemitic groups on the Western far right or alt-right with contemporary Zionism as represented by the Israeli state and its advocates?
Several essays in the book highlight that it is unhelpful to think of antisemitism as a kind of eternal, ahistorical form of discrimination and oppression. Like racism and sexism, it manifests itself differently in different historical periods. Of course, antisemitism is expressed differently today than in the 1930s, and it is expressed differently in the United States than in Europe or elsewhere.
The alt-right represents a backlash to a certain kind of progressive inclusivity. They are the most extreme confluence of those who ask, “What about white history month,” “what about men’s rights,” “why don’t we have straight pride?” Sometimes the people asking those questions genuinely don’t know the history, or don’t understand how power works, but some see the enfranchisement of women, queer and trans people, and people of color as threatening to whiteness, heterosexuality, cis people, and men.
The way antisemitism is expressed in the alt-right fits into this, because so much of the alt-right’s antisemitism is cloaked in a kind of ironic humor, making it hard to tell whether the person is joking or not. And that allows them to get away with so much more.
One of the major lessons of this current era, which seems to be playing out publicly, is that you can be antisemitic and Zionist. For too long, a “love of Israel” was used as a barometer to gauge whether someone was antisemitic. But there are antisemitic groups who see Israel as either a great example of ethno-nationalism, or as a way to rid the United States of Jews, or as a step towards the Second Coming.
Equally, love and respect for Jewish people is not in contradiction with vehement objections to the repressive policies of the State of Israel. A “love of Israel” is not and has never been a good way to measure antisemitism.
As you mentioned before, false charges of antisemitism are often used to close down debate on Israel and Palestine. Does this make it more difficult to identify and fight genuine incidents of antisemitism?
Zionism is a political ideology. Anti-Zionism can mean many things, but overall, it’s opposition to that political ideology. Antisemitism is a hatred of or bigotry toward Jewish people.
Absolutely, politically motivated charges of antisemitism make it much harder to combat the real thing. If criticizing the Israeli occupation, the apartheid wall, checkpoints, and the sanctions against Gaza are all antisemitic, then what is antisemitism?
In our activism, we must always be vigilant for cases of real antisemitism, just as we need to do more to make sure our movements are free from all forms of bigotry and oppression.
How do you see the next few years developing politically with regards to the issues JVP are concerned with, both in the United States and in Israel/Palestine?
We are about to go into three days of our biennial National Member Meeting with over a thousand members coming from across the United States. Despite the state of our country, I feel a tremendous excitement brewing. It seems clearer than ever that the governments of the United States and of Israel are not working democratically for all of their residents, and there’s a true opportunity to build a large, grassroots movement for a better future.
Finally, how can people find out more about you or get involved?
Our website — jewishvoiceforpeace.org — is an excellent place to start! We have over seventy chapters across the United States, and various councils for academics, rabbis, artists, medical workers, and people in the labor movement. Our work is grounded in grassroots, local relationships, and we bring our values of justice and equality for all people to our organizing work both on- and off–line.
In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, we put together a digital training series called “Ready to Fight,” which went over some of the nuts and bolts of organizing, and we had a fantastic response—hundreds of people got to hear experienced activists explain how to de-escalate, how to put on creative and engaging actions, and how to combat Islamophobia, among other topics.
We are also growing our national legislative organizing, which includes training chapters in how to communicate effectively with their representatives and continue to participate in BDS campaigns on the local and national level. This year, one of our key priorities is deepening our work against Islamophobia. This includes working through our Network Against Islamophobia to produce a free community education curriculum, posters for canvassing, and local campaigns targeting Jewish institutions that fund anti-Muslim hate groups.
On Antisemitism is available directly from our website with a 40% discount, for a limited time only. Purchase the book here.
JVP's annual National Member Meeting takes place this weekend, 31 March to 2 April, in Chicago. Click here for details.
Don Lash, author of "When the Welfare People Come": Race and Class in the US Child Protection System, looks at what child welfare can expect from Trump's presidency.
Like everyone I know, I’ve been experiencing a mix of outrage and amusement in response to the menace and buffoonery of the early days of the Trump administration. Having my book about the child welfare system come out soon after the inauguration at first seemed disconnected from everything happening around me. Child welfare policy was not discussed on the campaign trail, as is usually the case, and I’m unaware of any evidence that Trump has shown any knowledge of or interest in the topic.
Besides, there are other threats to the families and communities in which the child welfare system has an impact—threats to Medicaid, housing, education, reproductive freedom, immigrants’ rights, the safety and welfare of LBGTQ youth, and on and on. It’s worth taking some time, however, to think about how Trumpism may affect the system and the vulnerable and traumatized children and families who populate it.
Trump’s secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), former Georgia Rep. Tom Price, oversees the Administration of Children and Families (ACF), which among other things regulates the financing and administration of a great deal of the system’s operation. Price has obviously been preoccupied by the stumbling effort to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something even more odious. And the so-called “landing team” the Trump transition operation placed in HHS to plan for the takeover included only one member with a focus on ACF and its issues. That individual, Patrick Lawler, is CEO of Youth Villages, an NGO providing services to children and youth involved with the foster care and juvenile justice systems. And reportedly, he didn’t actually show up for his landing team assignment, but instead said he would be available by phone and e-mail.
Lawler is a fairly typical NGO entrepreneur, having built a small nonprofit operating in a single city into an empire operating in twelve states. As far as I can tell, however, everything he’s had to say about child welfare and juvenile justice policy is within the mainstream of professional thought about reform and system change. He talks a lot about community-based alternatives to custodial care in congregate settings. Nothing to object to there, and given that Trump has given featured roles to shady figures whom past administrations would have hidden in the basement, ACF no doubt considered itself lucky, and career civil servants probably hope to fly under the radar for as long as possible. It may take a year or so for Price to fill the political appointments within ACF, which will delay changes focused specifically on the system.
Nevertheless, we should be prepared to respond to what is likely to come. Price, when he was in Congress, cosponsored the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which, if enacted, would have given individuals, corporations, and nonprofits, including those spending public funds, sweeping rights to discriminate based on religious belief. Because oppression of LBGTQ individuals is often manifested within families, many LBGTQ adolescents become homeless or otherwise come into contact with the child welfare system. Measures like FADA could be expected to have a devastating impact on them. In some areas, a single organization has a monopoly on the resources that should be available to guarantee safety and dignity to youth. FADA would allow the organization, or individuals associated with the organization, to turn them out into the streets with no recourse. While FADA has not yet passed, one of its promoters is now in charge of regulating the child welfare system. We need to be prepared for back-door attempts to privilege the right to discriminate over the well being of the youth the system is supposed to serve.
We should also be concerned about an acceleration of the trend of privatization in child welfare functions once thought to be the responsibility of the state. In “When the Welfare People Come” I talked about how some states have begun to experiment with privatization, including for-profit foster care and have ignored or concealed failures because of ideology. I also talked about the most chilling manifestation of this trend—the “auction model for adoption.” Under Obama, the federal government was pretty much silent on privatization and allowed states to proceed with ill-conceived experiments. We should be prepared for the likelihood that under Trump, the Feds will actively promote privatization.
Of course, the most immediate threat from Trumpism is to immigrant children and youth. Many “unaccompanied youth,” typically teens who have fled danger, become the responsibility of the system. How they will be treated by ICE and local authorities is extremely uncertain. On the other hand, we have the threat of the new secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly to separate children and parents who migrate together and place the children in foster care while deporting their parents. He apparently believes this appropriate to deter other families from attempting to enter the United States. Kelly said:
"We have tremendous experience in dealing with unaccompanied minors. We turn them over to HHS, and they do a very, very good job of either putting them in kind of foster care or linking them up with parents or family members in the United States."
So we might see teenagers deported to certain danger while younger children are placed into foster care and ultimately, the adoption market.
Right now, the threats of Trumpism may seem generalized and removed from the struggles within the child welfare system. Sooner or later, however, those struggles will have to join the wider resistance to the Trump regime.
In the first in a series of articles commemorating the centenary of the Russian Revolution, the New York Times tremulously wondered whether today’s economic anxieties might lead to a resurgence of interest in communism. We at Haymarket Books have often wondered this ourselves, but for altogether different reasons than the good folks at the Times.
As the year goes on, many more articles will be written in the proud American tradition of diligently explaining why all revolutions inevitably lead to tyranny, five-year plans, forced labor camps, and an enthusiasm for drab color palettes. As a corrective, we offer a list of books that showcase the promise, highlight the potential, and analyze the shortcomings and ultimate downfall of the first successful workers’ revolution in history.
Take 50% OFF all of the Haymarket books on this list by following this link to activate your coupon code.
General Histories of the Revolution:
History of the Russian Revolution — Leon Trotsky’s towering retelling of the year’s events remains among the most gripping works of history ever written by anyone about any subject. The benchmark for all later histories of the revolution.
Year One of the Russian Revolution — Of all the chroniclers of the Russian Revolution, few besides the anarchist-turned-Bolshevik Victor Serge combine an unswerving commitment to the truth with an unwavering belief in the justness of the revolution’s cause. Year One is his account of the revolution’s turbulent first year.
The Bolsheviks Come to Power — Alexander Rabinowitch’s now classic account is the definitive scholarly rebuke to those who continue to see the revolution as a coup carried out by an elitist Bolshevik Party against the wishes of the Russian masses.
October — Arguably the best place for those newly acquainted with the revolution to begin, this gripping narrative history by acclaimed weird-fiction author China Miéville is replete with madcap flotillas, monarchs in thrall to mystic wanderers, and numerous other happenings that would seem at home in a work of fiction, but are drawn from the actual historic record of the revolution.
Lenin and the Bolshevik Party
Leninism Under Lenin — Marcel Liebman captures Lenin’s thought in all its complexity, fallibility, and strategic genius. Focusing in particular on the democratic dimension to Lenin’s socialism, this award-winning account is a great way to get acquainted with the twentieth-century’s best-known revolutionary.
Lenin and the Revolutionary Party — Paul Le Blanc’s treatment of Lenin is notable for its attention to how his understanding of the theory and practice of revolutionary politics existed in a dynamic relationship with the movement around him. What emerges is not only an insightful portrait of Lenin himself, but a vibrant engagement with the mass struggle for socialist democracy.
On Lenin — Trotsky and Lenin shared a complex, often fraught relationship. Nonetheless, these two biographies of Lenin, published together for the first time, show Trotsky’s respect for a fellow revolutionary whom he admired, but certainly never worshipped.
The State and Revolution — This is an indisputable classic, despite being written beside a Finnish swamp while Lenin was on the run between the February and October revolutions. The State and Revolution lays out the fundamentals of Lenin’s strategy for seizing power and building socialism.
Women in the Revolution
Alexandra Kollontai — A key figure in the 1917 revolution and the last surviving member of the Central Committee of that year, Kollontai’s contribution to the socialist movement was unparalleled. Cathy Porter’s biography is not only an unparalleled biography of a dynamic revolutionary, but an engaging retelling of the course of the revolution and counterrevolution in Russia.
Midwives of Revolution — Women’s role in the Russian Revolution was not limited to leading a mass strike on International Women’s Day. On the contrary, they were constant agents in struggle, often on the front ranks.
The Revolution in the Factories
Revolution and Counterrevolution in a Moscow Metal Factory — Kevin Murphy’s shop-floor level portrait of vibrant working-class democracy provides a much-needed antidote to revisionist accounts of the revolution as inevitably leading to Stalinist dictatorship.
Alexander Shlyapnikov 1885–1937: Life of an Old Bolshevik — From his involvement in the 1905 revolution to his execution under Stalin, Alexander Shlyapnikov was an irrepressible force for workers’ power, whether under tsarism or a degenerating Soviet bureaucracy.
Red Petrograd — A deeply engaging study, unmatched in its depth, of factory life in Petrograd over the course of Russia’s revolutionary year.
Memoir / Firsthand Accounts
Ten Days that Shook the World — A masterpiece of political reportage, Ten Days has become the essential firsthand account of the revolution in action.
Reminiscences of Lenin — As both Lenin’s closest political collaborator and personal confidant, Nadezhda Krupskaya offers invaluable insights into the life and thought of the most important leader of the Russian Revolution.
Lenin’s Moscow — Alfred Rosmer’s memoir of early revolutionary Russia is both highly readable and historically indispensable. From its opening chapters recounting the author’s journey across war-torn Europe’s hostile borders, to the death of Lenin on its closing pages, this is a gripping and unique eyewitness account.
Leon Trotsky: An Illustrated Introduction — Amusing, well-researched, and accessible, this is the perfect primer on the life and thought of the great leader and chronicler of the Russian Revolution.
The Life and Death of Leon Trotsky — Written by celebrated author Victor Serge and Trotsky’s wife Natalia Sedova, this is a unique presentation of Leon Trotsky. Covering Trotsky’s early activism until his assassination by one of Stalin’s agents, this book provides an invaluable picture of a great revolutionary and the world-historic events in which he was a leading actor.
The Stalinist Legacy — Featuring contributions from Tariq Ali, Isaac Deutscher, and Ernest Mandel, this volume deepens our understanding of the origins, impacts, and enduring prominence of Stalinism, so as to help exorcise these ghosts of the past.
From Lenin to Stalin — Another entry by Victor Serge, From Lenin to Stalin is a brief yet sharp analysis of the revolution’s degeneration.
Russia: From Workers State to State Capitalism — To millions throughout the world, the Russian workers’ state offered new hope. This book charts the demise of that liberatory project, while hailing the inspiration it continues to provide.
For a full list of Haymarket titles on the Russian Revolution, click here.
Tsar Nicholas II of Russia abdicated a hundred years ago today, bringing to an end three centuries of Romanov rule. In this extract from his History of the Russian Revolution, Trotsky describes the final days of Imperial Russia. Incompetent, vain, and almost comically ignorant of the historic events unfolding around it, the Tsarist regime fell, in Trotsky's words, "like rotten fruit."
Skobelev Square during the February Revolution, by A.M. Gerasimov. Open Source.
The dynasty fell by shaking, like rotten fruit, before the revolution even had time to approach its first problems. Our portrayal of the old ruling class would remain incomplete if we did not try to show how the monarchy met the hour of its fall.
The tsar was at headquarters at Moghilev [a city in present-day Belarus, around 600km from Moscow], having gone there not because he was needed, but in flight from the Petrograd disorders. The court chronicler, General Dubensky, with the tsar at headquarters, noted in his diary: “A quiet life begins here. Everything will remain as before. Nothing will come of his (the tsar’s) presence. Only accidental external causes will change anything.” On February 24, the tsarina wrote Nicholas at headquarters, in English as always: “I hope that Duma man Kedrinsky (she means Kerensky) will be hung for his horrible speeches—it is necessary (wartime law) and it will be an example. All are thirsting and beseeching that you show your firmness.” On February 25, a telegram came from the minister of war that strikes were occurring in the capital, disorders beginning among the workers, but measures had been taken and there was nothing serious. In a word: “It isn’t the first time, and won’t be the last!”
The tsarina, who had always taught the tsar not to yield, here too tried to remain firm. On the 26th, with an obvious desire to hold up the shaky courage of Nicholas, she telegraphs him: “It is calm in the city.” But in her evening telegram she has to confess: “Things are not going at all well in the city.” In a letter she says: “You must say to the workers that they must not declare strikes, if they do, they will be sent to the front as a punishment. There is no need at all of shooting. Only order is needed, and not to let them cross the bridges.” Yes, only a little thing is needed, only order! But the chief thing is not to admit the workers into the city— let them choke in the raging impotence of their suburbs.
On the morning of the 27th, General Ivanov moves from the front with the Battalion of St. George, entrusted with dictatorial powers—which he is to make public, however, only upon occupying Tsarskoe Selo [a former imperial residence, 24km outside of St. Petersburg] . “It would be hard to imagine a more unsuitable person,” General Denikin will recall later, himself having taken a turn at military dictatorship, “a flabby old man, meagerly grasping the political situation, possessing neither strength, nor energy, nor will, nor austerity.” The choice fell upon Ivanov through memories of the first revolution. Eleven years before that he had subdued Kronstadt. But those years had left their traces; the subduers had grown flabby, the subdued, strong. The northern and western fronts were ordered to get ready troops for the march on Petrograd; evidently everybody thought there was plenty of time ahead. Ivanov himself assumed that the affair would be ended soon and successfully; he even remembered to send out an adjutant to buy provisions in Moghilev for his friends in Petrograd.
On the morning of February 27, Rodzianko [Chairman of the Duma and, for a few days, Prime Minister following the February Revolution] sent the tsar a new telegram, which ended with the words: “The last hour has come when the fate of the fatherland and the dynasty is being decided.” The tsar said to his minister of the court, Frederiks: “Again that fat-bellied Rodzianko has written me a lot of nonsense, which I won’t even bother to answer.” But no. It was not nonsense. He will have to answer.
About noon of the 27th, headquarters received a report from Khabalov of the mutiny of the Pavlovsky, Volynsky, Litovsky, and Preobrazhensky regiments, and the necessity of sending reliable troops from the front. An hour later from the war ministry came a most reassuring telegram: “The disorders which began this morning in certain military units are being firmly and energetically put down by companies and battalions loyal to their duty.... I am firmly convinced of an early restoration of tranquility.” However, a little after seven in the evening, the same minister, Belyaev, is reporting that “We are not succeeding in putting down the military rebellion with the few detachments that remain loyal to their duty,” and requesting a speedy dispatch of really reliable troops—and that too in sufficient numbers “for simultaneous activity in different parts of the city.”
The council of ministers deemed this a suitable day to remove from their midst the presumed cause of all misfortunes—the half-crazy minister of the interior Protopopov. At the same time General Khabalov issued an edict—prepared in secrecy from the government—declaring Petrograd, on His Majesty’s orders, under martial law. So here too was an attempt to mix hot with cold—hardly intentional, however, and anyway of no use. They did not even succeed in pasting up the declaration of martial law through the city: the burgomaster, Balka, could find neither paste nor brushes. Nothing would stick together for those functionaries any longer; they already belonged to the kingdom of shades.
The principal shade of the last tsarist ministry was the seventy-year-old Prince Golytsin, who had formerly conducted some sort of eleemosynary institutions of the tsarina, and had been advanced by her to the post of head of the government in a period of war and revolution. When friends asked this “good-natured Russian squire, this old weakling”—as the liberal Baron Nolde described him—why he accepted such a troublesome position, Golytsin answered: “So as to have one more pleasant recollection.” This aim, at any rate, he did not achieve.
How the last tsarist government felt in those hours is attested by Rodzianko in the following tale: With the first news of the movement of a crowd toward the Mariinsky Palace, where the ministry was in session, all the lights in the building were immediately put out. (The government wanted only one thing—that the revolution should not notice it.) The rumor, however, proved false; the attack did not take place; and when the lights were turned on, one of the members of the tsarist government was found “to his own surprise” under the table. What kind of recollections he was accumulating there has not been established.
But Rodzianko’s own feelings apparently were not at their highest point. After a long but vain hunt for the government by telephone, the president of the Duma tries again to ring up Prince Golytsin. The latter answers him: “I beg you not to come to me with anything further, I have resigned.” Hearing this news, Rodzianko, according to his loyal secretary, sank heavily in an armchair and covered his face with both hands. “My God, how horrible!... Without a government...Anarchy...Blood,” and softly wept. At the expiring of the senile ghost of the tsarist power, Rodzianko felt unhappy, desolate, orphaned. How far he was at that moment from the thought that tomorrow he would have to “head” a revolution!
The telephone answer of Golytsin is explained by the fact that on the evening of the 27th the council of ministers had definitely acknowledged itself incapable of handling the situation, and proposed to the tsar to place at the head of the government a man enjoying general confidence. The tsar answered Golytsin: “In regard to changes in the personal staff in the present circumstances, I consider that inadmissible. Nicholas.” Just what circumstances was he waiting for? At the same time the tsar demanded that they adopt “the most decisive measures” for putting down the rebellion. That was easier said than done.
On the next day, the 28th, even the untamable tsarina at last loses heart. “Concessions are necessary,” she telegraphs Nicholas. “The strikes continue; many troops have gone over to the side of the revolution. Alix.”
It required an insurrection of the whole guard, the entire garrison, to compel this Hessian zealot of autocracy to agree that “concessions are necessary.” Now the tsar also begins to suspect that the “fat-bellied Rodzianko” had not telegraphed nonsense. Nicholas decides to join his family. It is possible that he is a little gently pushed from behind by the generals of the staff, too, who are not feeling quite comfortable.
The tsar’s train traveled at first without mishap. Local chiefs and governors came out as usual to meet him. Far from the revolutionary whirlpool, in his accustomed royal car, surrounded by the usual suite, the tsar apparently again lost a sense of the close coming crisis. At three o’clock on the 28th, when the events had already settled his fate, he sent a telegram to the tsarina from Vyazma: “Wonderful weather. Hope you are well and calm. Many troops sent from the front. With tender love. Niki.” Instead of the concessions, upon which even the tsarina is insisting, the tenderly loving tsar is sending troops from the front. But in spite of that “wonderful weather,” in just a few hours the tsar will stand face to face with the revolutionary storm. His train went as far as the Visher station. The railroad workers would not let it go farther: “The bridge is damaged.” Most likely this pretext was invented by the courtiers themselves in order to soften the situation. Nicholas tried to make his way, or they tried to get him through, by way of Bologoe [a town halfway between Moscow and St. Petersburg] on the Nikolaevsk railroad; but here too the workers would not let the train pass. This was far more palpable than all the Petrograd telegrams. The tsar had broken away from headquarters, and could not make his way to the capital. With its simple railroad “pawns,” the revolution had cried “check” to the king!
The court historian Dubensky, who accompanied the tsar in his train, writes in his diary: “Everybody realizes that this midnight turn at Visher is a historical night.... To me it is perfectly clear that the question of a constitution is settled; it will surely be introduced.... Everybody is saying that it is only necessary to strike a bargain with them, with the members of the Provisional Government.” Facing a lowered semaphore, behind which mortal danger is thickening, Count Frederiks, Prince Dolgoruky, Count Leuchtenberg, all of them, all those high lords, are now for a constitution. They no longer think of struggling. It is only necessary to strike a bargain, that is, try to fool them again as in 1905.
While the train was wandering and finding no road, the tsarina was sending the tsar telegram after telegram, appealing to him to return as soon as possible. But her telegrams came back to her from the office with the inscription in blue pencil: “Whereabouts of the addressee unknown.” The telegraph clerks were unable to locate the Russian tsar.
The regiments marched with music and banners to the Tauride Palace. A company of the Guards marched under the command of Cyril Vladimirovich, who had quite suddenly, according to Countess Kleinmichel, developed a revolutionary streak. The sentries disappeared. The intimates were abandoning the palace. “Everybody was saving himself who could,” relates Vyrubova. Bands of revolutionary soldiers wandered about the palace and with eager curiosity looked over everything. Before they had decided up above what should be done, the lower ranks were converting the palace of the tsar into a museum.
The tsar—his location unknown—turns back to Pskov, to the headquarters of the northern front, commanded by the old General Ruszky. In the tsar’s suite one suggestion follows another. The tsar procrastinates. He is still reckoning in days and weeks, while the revolution is keeping its count in minutes.
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation and an author of the US call for a Women's Strike on March 8th told Sarah Jaffe:
"At a very basic level, there is an understanding that the problems experienced by women in our societies today are rooted in an economic system that privileges the 1 percent over the 99 percent and that sometimes we think of women’s issues unto themselves, but really these are issues that arise out of an inherently unequal economic arrangement in this country. The fact that women make less, that women don’t have access to childcare provisions, that women don’t have access to reproductive healthcare. They are not just economic questions, but they are related to an economic arrangement that relies on the free labor of women to, in fact, reproduce itself as a political system."
In solidarity with the Women's Strike and beyond, Haymarket Books offers a reading guide for those looking for the history, politics, and inspiration, to learn from past struggles for women's liberation, and to participate in the many struggles to come.
Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement
By Angela Y. Davis
Women and Socialism: Class, Race, and Capital
By Sharon Smith
Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organizing for Reproductive Justice
By Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried, Loretta Ross, and Elena R. Gutiérrez
Disposable Domestics: Immigrant Women Workers in the Global Economy
By Grace Chang
Men Explain Things to Me
By Rebecca Solnit
Los hombres me explican cosas
By Rebecca Solnit
Poor Workers' Unions: Rebuilding Labor from Below
By Vanessa Tait
Song of the Stubborn One Thousand: The Watsonville Canning Strike 1985-1987
By Peter Shapiro
Reproductive Rights and Wrongs
By Betsy Hartmann
"When the Welfare People Come": Race and Class in the US Child Protection System
By Don Lash
All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life
By Winona LaDuke
Bananeras: Women Transforming the Banana Unions of Latin America
By Dana Frank
Lucy Parsons: An American Revolutionary
By Carolyn Ashbaugh
Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States
A Truthout Collection edited by Maya Schenwar, Alana Yu-lan Price, and Joe Macaré
The Women Incendiaries
By Edith Thomas
Myths of Male Dominance
By Eleanor Burke Leacock
Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics, and Theory of LGBT Liberation
By Sherry Wolf
IraqiGirl: Diary of a Teenage Girl in Iraq
Clara Zetkin: Selected Writings
Edited by Philip S. Foner, Foreword by Angela Davis
Donald Trump’s first weeks in office have seen the birth of what might become a mass opposition movement. Yet some continue to see his ostensible rejection of aspects of neoliberalism as offering a way forward for workers in the United States. Michael Roberts, author of The Long Depression, shows “Trumponomics” for what it is: a barely coherent attempt to boost the profitability of capital at the expense of the working class, and an economic program more likely to trigger a new slump than end the current one.
The election of Donald Trump as US president has shocked the world’s elites. The “most powerful person in the world” is a bigoted, misogynist, super-egoist who appears to take no sensible advice and reacts like a spoiled child. His first four weeks in the presidency have seen bans on Muslim immigrants (reversed and then revised), appointments (and resignations) of wacky advisers, wild tweets, and attacks on the capitalist media for not backing him 100 percent in his fake news and alternative facts.
But what has been the reaction of the world’s financial markets, of the investors, big banks, hedge funds, and asset managers? The stock markets have been booming, reaching all-time highs. Why is this? Well, as it was once said, “It’s the economy, stupid!”
The strategists and owners of capital are turning a blind eye to Trump’s antics and instead hoping that he will successfully implement his economic promises. These are designed precisely to boost the profitability of capital, specifically American capital, cruelly at the expense of the very people who voted for him and deliberately at the expense of America’s economic rivals, namely China, Europe, and Latin America.
Optimism rules in financial markets. What does Trump offer capital? He says that he is going to make “phenomenal” cuts in corporate taxes on profits, lower taxes for the top 10 percent of income earners, deregulate the banks and finance sector that caused the global financial crash in the first place, and introduce a program to build bridges, roads, airports, and other infrastructure projects.
None of this helps the majority of people who voted for Trump, supposedly against the big business, Wall Street candidate Hillary Clinton. But it sounds great to the 1 percent, particularly financial investors.
Breaking with Neoliberalism?
Amazingly, it also sounds promising to some supposedly on the left. British Keynesian historian and economist Robert Skidelsky tellsus that “Trump has also promised an $800bn–$1tn program of infrastructure investment, to be financed by bonds, as well as a massive corporation tax cut, both aimed at creating twenty-five million new jobs and boosting growth. This, together with a pledge to maintain welfare entitlements, amounts to a modern form of Keynesian fiscal policy.” Skidelsky goes on: “As Trump moves from populism to policy, liberals should not turn away in disgust and despair, but rather engage with Trumpism’s positive potential. His proposals need to be interrogated and refined, not dismissed as ignorant ravings.”
Trump’s supposed stimulus measures are music to the ears of Keynesian economists, despite the general distaste that the top Keynesian gurus have for the attitudes and rants of “the Donald.” Indeed, if these policies are implemented over the next year or so, Trumponomics will be the next test of the Keynesian solution for getting the world economy out of this Long Depression. Abenomics in Japan, following similar policies of public spending, tax cuts, and monetary easing, has miserably failed. Japan’s GDP growth has hardly moved, while wage incomes and prices remain transfixed.
Skidelksy thinks that cutting taxes on corporations will create new jobs and increase growth. Corporate tax rates were slashed during the neoliberal period. Officially, the United States has a 35 percent marginal tax rate on corporations, but after various exemptions, it is effectively only 23 percent—among the lowest in the world. Yet economic growth has floundered; instead, there has been a rise in the share of profits going to capital at labor’s expense and a rise in unproductive financial speculation.
Sure, an infrastructure plan is badly needed. According to the 2013 report card by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the United States has serious infrastructure needs of more than $3.4 trillion through 2020, including $1.7 trillion for roads, bridges and transit; $736 billion for electricity and power grids; $391 billion for schools; $134 billion for airports; and $131 billion for waterways and related projects. But federal investment in infrastructure has dropped by half during the past three decades, from 1 percent to 0.5 percent of GDP.
As I explain in my book The Long Depression, what really drives investment in modern capitalist economies, where private capital investment dominates, is the profitability of projects. Private investment has failed to deliver because the profitability is too low.
Trump’s plan will do nothing to resolve this. As Keynesian economics guru Paul Krugman has pointed out himself, any project will be privately owned and run and just be subsidized by the taxpayer. As Krugman explains,
imagine a private consortium building a toll road for $1 billion. Under the Trump plan, the consortium might borrow $800 million while putting up $200 million in equity—but it would get a tax credit of 82 percent of that sum, so that its actual outlays would only be $36 million. And any future revenue from tolls would go to the people who put up that $36 million. Crucially, it’s not a plan to borrow $1 trillion and spend it on much-needed projects—which would be the straightforward, obvious thing to do. In that case we haven’t promoted investment at all, we’ve just in effect privatized a public asset—and given the buyers 82 percent of the purchase price in the form of a tax credit.
Perhaps most significantly, and confounding the views of the Keynesian dreamers, the Trump plans will not raise US economic growth from its current depressed pace. JPMorgan reckons US economic growth will hardly pick up at all from its current 2 percent a year average and will be nowhere near the 4 percent annual rate that Trump claims he can get.
In fact, there is little evidence that Keynesian stimulus programs work to deliver jobs and growth. Skidelsky talks about the Roosevelt era of the 1930s, but actually, very few permanent or new jobs were created in this period. The unemployment rate stayed high right up to the start of the war. As Krugman himself pointed out in his book End This Depression Now!, it took the war to deliver full employment and economic recovery.
Like Abenomics in Japan, Trumponomics is really a combination of Keynesianism and neoliberalism. The new spending and tax cuts are to be paid for, apparently, by more deregulation of markets and labor conditions to boost profits. This is supposed to boost the growth rate in a “dynamic model,” or what used to be called “trickle-down economics,” where the rich get tax cuts and spend it on goods and services so that the rest of us get some more income and jobs. The main incentive, according to Trump’s own economic expert, is not from reductions in the personal or corporate tax rate, but from allowing businesses to write off their investments immediately instead of over time.
What Skidelsky further ignores in his paean of praise for Trump’s policies is the hallmark of Trumponomics: trade protectionism and restrictions on immigration.These policies are much more likely to be imposed than his Keynesian-style stimulus.
Trump plans to drop the TPP (the regional trade deal with Japan and Asia) and the TTIP (with Europe) and “renegotiate” NAFTA, the regional trade pact with Mexico and Canada. The aim is to “protect” American jobs and end cheap Mexican labor.
As the Donald said last March: “I’m going to get Apple to start making their computers and their iPhones on our land, not in China.” And he wants to impose a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports. But even if Apple finds enough workers to assemble in the United States, the cost of making an Apple iPhone 7 could increase by $30 to $40, estimates Jason Dedrick, a professor at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. Since labor accounts for only a small part of an electronic device’s overall costs, most of these higher expenses would come from shipping parts to the United States. If the iPhone components were also made in the country, the device’s costs could climb up by $90. In short, if Apple chose to pass along all these costs to consumers, the device’s retail price could climb by about 14 percent. So Trump’s trade policies would mean a sharp rise in the prices of goods in the United States, even assuming there is no retaliation by China.
Trump screams that the cause of the losses in manufacturing jobs over the last thirty years has been the rigging of trade terms by low labor-cost manufacturing in China and Mexico. According to this thinking, it is trade and the shifting of production locations overseas by US multinationals—in other words, globalization. But the evidence shows that very few US manufacturing jobs would have been saved with different trade policies or by not agreeing to NAFTA, for example.
It’s true, of course, that manufacturing employment in the United States fell from around a quarter of the workforce in 1970 to 9 percent in 2015. Absent the US trade deficit, manufacturing may be a fifth bigger than it is, while competition from China led to the loss of 985,000 manufacturing jobs between 1999 and 2011. Yet that’s less than a fifth of the absolute loss of manufacturing jobs over that period and quite a small share of the long-term manufacturing decline, the reasons for which must be sought elsewhere.
What these studies reveal is what Marxist economics (and my book!) has argued many times before. Under capitalism, increased productivity of labor comes through mechanization and labor shedding, that is, reducing labor costs. Marx explained in Capital that investment under capitalism takes place for profit only, not to raise output or productivity as such. If profit cannot be sufficiently raised through more labor hours (more workers and longer hours) or by intensifying efforts (speed and efficiency—time and motion), then the productivity of labor can only be increased by better technology. So, in Marxist terms, the organic composition of capital (the amount of machinery and plant relative to the number of workers) will rise secularly.
This “capital bias” in technology can explain the fall in labor share’s of annual value in the last thirty years and the growing inequalities. Workers can fight to keep as much of the new value as possible that they have created as part of their “compensation,” but capitalism will only invest for growth if that share does not rise so much that it causes profitability to decline. Capitalist accumulation therefore implies a falling share of value to labor over time, or what Marx would call a rising rate of exploitation (or surplus value).
Profitability thus depends on the class struggle between labor and capital over the appropriation of the value created by the productivity of labor. Clearly, labor has been losing that battle, particularly in recent decades, under the pressure of anti-trade union laws, the ending of employment protection and tenure, the reduction of benefits, a growing reserve army of underemployed, and the globalization of manufacturing.
This is the real reason for American workers falling behind in wages relative to increased productivity and investment in new technology that sheds jobs. The falling share going to labor in national income began at just the point when US corporate profitability was at an all-time low in the deep recession of the early 1980s. Capitalism had to restore profitability. It did so partly by raising the rate of surplus value through sacking workers, stopping wage increases and phasing out benefits and pensions—and by the introduction of new technology to replace labor after a major slump in production.
The resultant weakened bargaining power of unions and higher unemployment, combined with a marked decrease in redistribution through taxes and transfers, is the main explanation for why Americans have fallen behind in income since the 1980s.
Indeed, the bottom half of income earners in the United States has been completely shut off from economic growth since the 1970s. From 1980 to 2014, average national income per adult grew by 61 percent, yet the average pre-tax income of the bottom 50 percent of individual income earners stagnated at about $16,000 per adult after adjusting for inflation. In contrast, income skyrocketed for high earners, rising 121 percent for the top 10 percent, 205 percent for the top 1 percent, and 636 percent for the top 0.001 percent! The result, of course, is skyrocketing inequality. In 1980, adults in the top 1 percent earned on average twenty-seven times more than the bottom 50 percent of adults. Today, they earn eighty-one times more. Furthermore, this increase in income concentration at the top of the scale in the United States over the past fifteen years is due to a boom in capital income—that is, income from existing wealth in the form of dividends, interest, and rents, not higher wages for top earners.
It’s a tale of two countries. For the 117 million Americans in the bottom half of the income distribution, growth has been nonexistent for a generation, while at the top of the ladder it has been extraordinarily strong. Because progressive income taxation has been eroded and social benefits cut back, government taxation and transfers have had little redistributive effect on the inequality caused by the market.
Capitalism’s Next Crisis?
The loss of US manufacturing jobs, as in other advanced capitalist economies, is not due to nasty foreigners fixing trade deals. It is due to the inexorable attempt of American capital to reduce its labor costs through mechanization or through finding new cheap labor areas overseas to produce.
As I also explain in The Long Depression, globalization—the cross-border expansion of world trade and capital flows and the development of value-added chains internationally—has been an important counteracting factor to the falling rate of profit, experienced after the mid-1960s up to the early 1980s, in the major advanced economies. Deregulating labor rights, crushing trade union power, and privatizing public sector assets domestically went with global expansion by multinationals.
The irony (and the worry for capital) is that the Great Recession and the ensuing Long Depression seem to be ending globalization anyway. This was already in trouble before Trump and Brexit. Similar to that of the 1930s, since 2009 the global financial crash, the Great Recession, and consequent Long Depression had brought the expansion of world trade to a grinding halt. Sure, information flows (Internet traffic and telephone calls, mainly) have exploded, but trade and capital flows are still below their pre-recession peaks. Global foreign direct investment as a share of GDP is now falling, and capital flows to the so-called emerging economies have plummeted.
Emerging economies thus risk being driven into a slump as trade falls further and capital inflows dry up. Emerging economies have been building up large amounts of debt (credit), raised from US and European banks to invest, not always in productive sectors. Global debt relative to productive investment has been sharply increasing. And emerging economies’ corporate sector debt-to-capital ratio has also risen sharply.
Low and slowing economic growth globally, along with a rising cost of borrowing and stagnant trade—both now threatened by Trumponomics—will increase the risk of a global slump, not avoid it.
International Women’s Day in 2017 is the most politicized in years, with marches and strikes organized around the world. Haymarket’s Dana Blanchard looks back to when, a century ago today, such action set off a chain of events that would culminate in the world’s first proletarian revolution.
One of the greatest lessons the Russian state learned on March 8, 1917 was never to underestimate the women of Petrograd. On that fateful morning, International Women’s Day, women workers threw down their tools and walked out of the factories and into the streets. They were met by thousands more women, many of them soldiers’ wives tired of watching their children slowly starve, who were protesting the endless war and the long bread lines that had been a feature of the city since the war began in 1914. This was a powerful economic and political statement—women workers were 47 percent of the workforce in Petrograd at the time—and inspired male workers to walk off the job too, effectively shutting down the city’s economy and putting the government of Tsar Nicholas II on notice that the women and the workers wanted fundamental change.
While the actions of women on March 8 seemed to many to be spontaneous, they were actually part of a rich tradition of women workers organizing in the textile industries, combined with the struggle of women demanding equal rights and greater access to social services. Case in point, this was not the first International Women’s Day protest that had occurred in Russia. Women first recognized the day in 1913 by leading mass marches in cities across the country demanding the right for women to vote.
Beginning in the late 1800s, women had been consistently organizing not only for suffrage, but also for access to education and an end to the oppressive system of passports that required women to be accompanied by a male relative any time they traveled or changed jobs. Women workers, in particular, also frequently resisted on the job, as Alexandra Kollontai noted in her 1926 book Autobiography of a Sexually Emancipated Communist Woman:
“At the end of the 1890s and the beginning of the 20th century there were a number of disturbances and strikes at factories employing mainly women: at tobacco-processing factories (Shanshai), at spinning and weaving mills (Maxwell) in Petrograd, etc. The working-class movement in Russia is gaining strength, organizing itself, taking shape. So also is class resistance among the female proletariat.”
The severe lack of food available to the poor was an additional catalyst for the actions on March 8. As the social crisis deepened during WWI, shortages of food led to riots. In more than one instance, women broke the windows of bakeries, took the bread inside and delivered it to the crowds in the streets. During the war years, women in Petrograd could spend up to ten hours a day roaming the city, waiting in lines for bread only to be given enough to last a family a day or two. The tsarist secret police had in a way predicted this would one day explode, warning that it was women—mothers of families, exhausted from the long lines at shops and suffering at the sight of their half-starved, ill children—that formed a “mass of flammable material which needs only a spark for it to burst into flames.”
While the actions of women on March 8 were not totally unexpected, what was perhaps surprising was the way in which the women’s strike, bread riots and antiwar demonstrations exploded into a cohesive mass strike across Petrograd that lasted several days and ended up forcing the Tsar to abdicate.
As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the end of tsarism in Russia, let us not forget that it was women who led the charge, and who will be the backbone of movements for economic and political justice in the struggles of today as well.
Our slogan at Haymarket Books is "Books for Changing the World." But books alone can't change the world; ideas become a material force only through the people who organize and fight for change.In a sense our entire catalog is made up of "books to stop Trump and the grotesque system that spawned him;" we publish books of radical politics, theory, and history intended to arm those looking to understand the world in order to change it.
In that spirit, we've put together this short list for all of you who are looking for resources to understand Trump's election, how we got to this point, and how we can organize to fight for a better world:
Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit
Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis
Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire by Deepa Kumar
The Democrats: A Critical History by Lance Selfa
No One Is Illegal: Fighting Racism and State Violence at the U.S.-Mexico Border by Justin Akers Chacón and Mike Davis
For Young People: 101 Changemakers: The Rebels and Radicals Who Changed U.S. History, edited by Michele Bollinger and Dao X. Tran
Splinterlands by John Feffer
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
Things that Can and Cannot Be Said by Arundhati Roy and John Cusack
The United States of Fear by Tom Engelhardt
Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States by Sharon Smith
Howard Zinn Speaks, edited by Anthony Arnove
The Nazis, Capitalism, and the Working Class by Donnie Gluckstein
The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan by Dahr Jamail
Rich People Things by Chris Lehmann
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Each speaker at the Anti-Inauguration stressed the need for broad movements to emerge, in solidarity across lines of gender, race, and national origin. Since then, women's marches drew historic numbers in cities across the country and the world. Airports have been mobbed with emergency protests in defense of immigrants detained and denied entry to the country. Any movement, especially one in its infancy, needs ideas. And politics. This was the very reason we came together to make The Anti-Inauguration.