with summaries and quotes from articles recommended for study and discussion
May Day, Biden, crisis, surveillance, extended police powers
Seven texts and a comic on May Day
La Oveja Negra, 1-5-2021
“… The present
Today we can be sure of something that the comrades in 1886 could not be so sure of. The struggle for eight hours was a struggle for the reduction of the working day in a situation where the capitalist earned more by making his employees work longer. Technological and organizational advances made it possible to produce more and more in fewer and fewer hours. We are outraged by the situation of those who worked and still work more than eight hours, but we are not equally sensitized when someone works less than eight hours under modalities that destroy any human body.
While the basic categories of Capital remain – value, labor, wage, commodity, private property, State – much water has flowed under the bridge. Factories are no longer the center of capitalist sociability, the composition of the proletarian class is not the same as it once was, the dollar-gold standard no longer exists, and proletarian and bourgeois cultures are virtually undifferentiated.
The end of the “golden years” meant the transformation of the proletariat in general and a crisis of the workers’ movement in particular. The centrality of work in industry and the place of the factory was called into question and meant that the industrial worker was no longer seen as the main protagonist, much less as the vanguard of his class. This meant that all the experience accumulated on the basis of working conditions that made possible the proliferation of large strikes in the workplace, practices of sabotage, breaking of machines or tools, organizations of large contingents of men and women who shared the daily working life in the same space, sometimes even life in the same working-class neighborhood, could not be reproduced under the new conditions.
Evidently, these gave rise to new forms: road blockades to prevent the circulation of goods when thousands of unemployed could no longer prevent production, for example. On the other hand, and coincidentally, from that moment on, industry and capitalist progress made more evident than ever the devastation that they meant for the planet and for those of us who inhabit it. More and more movements against the harmful effects of production on health and the environment began to take shape. But the approach to new issues, or rather, the approach to historical issues as a novelty, does not necessarily lead to criticism and anti-capitalist struggle. Even though the demands are massively coming out of the sphere of labor to question different aspects of social reproduction as a whole, in most cases a perspective that starts from the levels of integration of yesteryear has been maintained.
A return to the beginnings of the labor movement or the welfare state is neither desirable nor possible. The struggles of the past inspire us with a view to the future, but we must remove the burden of progressive nostalgia.
Today Capital continues to impoverish our living conditions. The extension of informatics to more and more spheres of work and of sociability as a whole, together with the measures of isolation, deepen the difficult situation we proletarians have to face in our daily life, and which we must analyze at the time of organizing ourselves if we want to transform reality.
How to carry out resistance, even the slightest sabotage, when all the tools are ours and the workplace is where we live, when the levels of unemployment grow day by day, when we cannot meet our female colleagues except through a screen, when the hours of the day do not seem to have borders between work and non-work, when repression in the streets is legitimized by the discourse of “taking care of us”? These are some of the questions we ask ourselves this May 1st.
Capitalist restructuring produces the decline of workers’ identity and the explosion of multiple identities, some of them linked to new forms of proletarian struggle.
The revolts unleashed in different parts of the world in recent decades, as well as the “new social movements”, despite the interclassist and citizenist character that we observe on many occasions, make clear the persistence of the class struggle. At the same time they warn us of the diverse character that the proletariat has and has had. The centrality of social reproduction in the struggles reminds us that the revolution must imply much more than the certainty of having a roof and food. It must address, not only as a point of arrival but also as a point of departure, the so-called gender question, the racial, sexuality, the family, the nature of which we are a part.
In the revolts of our time, today crossed by the global declaration of pandemic, it is very clear that there is no perspective to manage the object of the protests. Only the progressive civilizers propose nationalization, workers’ management, referendum, changes in the capitalist administration. But there is not the same project that both proletariat and bourgeoisie should defend, managing it in different ways. It is not a war of one side against the other to administer and manage this society, but to fight against Capital as society, as social relation.
Capitalism, by its own internal contradictions, cannot improve our living conditions. On the other hand, this social conflict also tends to synchronize because austerity measures in times of crisis are global, because the increase of exploitation and the worsening of living conditions are not a national problem or a problem of neoliberal policies. Neither the bourgeoisie choose this scenario nor the proletarians in struggle choose ours. The blind forces of the economy have brought us here. Now it is important to know what we do, not with a view to the future, but what we are already doing!
Each context produces different conditions for revolution and generates particular contradictions (material, not moral; social, not individual). These can make important points to us about capitalist society and its overcoming, but the revolution will ultimately depend on what we can do as a class. The struggle is inevitable and necessary, it transforms us and we seek to transform it into a definitive one. Our concern is that the class struggle be capable of producing something more than its own continuation.
This is why we are confident that it is so important not only to participate but also to understand, study and debate the development of the struggles of the present. Because in the possibilities and conditions of these struggles, in their critiques and ruptures, the revolutionary horizon of the present is delineated.”
“A short comic about the history of May Day. Illustrated by Viro — a Vietnamese artist, with historical support from Working Class History…”
Urszula Wislanka, 4-5-2021
The May Day demonstrations in San Francisco Bay Area were many and varied. The largest were in San Francisco and Oakland. A couple thousand rallied and marched in San Jose. They chose a butterfly as the symbol to represent both change and free migration across borders. A butterfly fan, handed out to all participants, listed points of unity: Protect essential workers! Defund police, abolish prisons! Medicare and mental health care for All! A living wage for All! End wage theft! Safety net for All! Comprehensive immigration reform now! Abolish cages and deportations! End white supremacy! Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) unity! Housing for All! End evictions and foreclosures!
“Whenever May 1st draws near, the media tell us the story of the Chigago martyrs. The crackdown on a strike in the US would have stirred and organized European workers to the point of creating a worldwide day of celebration. The story implies a leadership of the US labor movement, something that is just the opposite of the reality of the moment. More importantly, it forgets the real context and purpose of the call, all too uncomfortable even today. May 1st is born in Paris, not in Chicago and not to pay tribute to anyone but to organize into a simultaneous struggle the universal working class. (…)”
Internationalist Communist Tendency
We are certain that humanity is capable of recovering from the many evils that afflict it today, but only through a radical change in the world’s economic and social order. Essentially, a global revolution is required to deal effectively with the many pressing problems on the agenda: from the oppression of women to the devastation of the environment, from widespread poverty and war to forced…
International Communist Party (Florence)
The vaccine trade war that has been unleashed between States prevents them from addressing the health crisis. This also shows that the regime of Capital, based on profit and the exploitation of wage labor, is the regime of a dying society that is now incapable of knowing and doing.
Instead of uniting the efforts of science and technology in the common goal of its containment, which is only possible in a society that has moved beyond commerce, the pandemic has, on the contrary, given further impetus to the antagonisms and confrontation between national bourgeoisies, above all blocs and alliances.
Not one state has hesitated to sacrifice its workers to defend the “national economy”, which only means national capital, in an attempt to use it to gain an advantage over its competitors.
Vaccines, which should be freely available to all humanity, have become a weapon of the rich bourgeoisie against the poor classes of the less industrialized countries, and an instrument of diplomatic or military pressure.
The economic crisis caused by the overproduction of goods, exacerbated by the pandemic, is causing unemployment across the globe. In this situation, the working class is seeing its conditions worsening everywhere.
In all countries the ruin of the small and medium bourgeoisie has accelerated; most of their commercial and small production activities are closed, while profits and revenues continue to grow for big business.
Pay below the living wage, working hours so prolonged that there is no room for any other human activity, the increasingly frenetic pace of work, unemployment, permanent precariousness and insecurity, the double exploitation of proletarian woman; these are the weapons of extortion imposed on the working class for the economic privilege of an inept bourgeoisie now condemned by history.
Faced with this attack on an international scale by the bourgeois regime, the response of the working class must be equally solid.
There are already scattered attempts at real class struggle around the planet. They appear in some categories, often those proletarians that are most oppressed. These struggles show that proletarian minorities know are being exploited and rebel against the yoke of capital even if they fail to fully unite and lead the vast majority of proletarians, who are often still dominated by the illusions of reformism.
The regime of Capital is becoming more and more despotic and militaristic, even in states that proclaim themselves to be democratic. Laws against strikes and class-based trade unions are being strengthened everywhere, and populist, racist, nationalist and religious-extremist movements are being bred, all ready to support the repressive apparatus of the state against any attempted proletarian rebellion.
But the proletariat has nothing to gain from the defense of bourgeois democracy, which is only a mask for its ruthless dictatorship.
The economic crisis, aggravated by the pandemic, has repercussions for states’ finances; the proceeds of taxation have collapsed, while interventions to come to the aid of the capitalists have inflated the public debt.
Whereas great efforts should be made to strengthen the world healthcare system, to drastically reduce the insane overproduction of useless goods, and to defend those natural resources that allow the harmonious reproduction of animal and plant species, it is clear that nothing is changing in the regime of Capital, nor can change, in the purpose and function of social forces and resources.
Meanwhile the growth of military expenditure is accelerating. The larger states are adopting aggressive attitudes to ensure control of regions and strategic hotspots, preparing for a new general war. In 2020, world military spending exceeded a whopping $ 1.83 trillion, up 3.9% on the previous year in real terms.
The economic crisis will not stop with the end of the pandemic. And it will have a violent impact on the working classes and the middle classes. But it will also overwhelm entire financial, industrial and commercial sectors. The tension between the major economies and imperialisms will increase further: the USA, China, Russia, Germany, Japan, Great Britain, France…
In this crucial situation, the proletariat – a class that has always been international, in fact and in its historical destiny – must look back and rediscover the great strength of its powerful economic and political organizations, those which, a century and a half ago, “stormed heaven” in the Paris Commune and, a century ago, made all the ruling classes of the world tremble, successfully taking power in Russia and establishing its own dictatorship.
The first proletarian state was destroyed from within by Stalinist betrayal; there is still a long way to recover from that defeat, but the time will come.
The proletariat will then reject any nationalist parochialism, any national solidarity with its own bourgeoisie. Rejecting the path of class collaboration onto which the social democratic parties and collaborationist trade unions invite it, the proletariat will strengthen its organizations against them: its real trade unions, which are necessary for the defense of its daily conditions, and its party, the indispensable organ for directing the struggle against bourgeois States for the world communist revolution.
International Communist Party (Le prolétaire)
The pandemic of the coronavirus has aggravated the feeling of resignation – nourished by decades of reformist and democratic illusions, of collaborationist policies on the part of the tricolored trade unions and the false workers’ parties – which for too long has weakened the proletarian energies of struggle.
Like all crises under capitalism, the health crisis, which is still raging, adding to an already present economic crisis, has hit the proletarian masses hardest.
Women, young people and older workers are the proletarian categories most affected, and they will increase the army of the unemployed, which was already particularly numerous before Covid-19.
To the economic catastrophe which has resulted in hundreds of millions of layoffs, hundreds of millions of young people who cannot find work, if not very precarious, hundreds of millions of workers and pensioners plunged into a poverty of which they see no end, has been added the bankruptcy of public health: total lack of means of prevention, hospital deficiencies, lack of insufficient hospital personnel, cruelly insufficient intensive care, patients abandoned at home, elderly people left to die in retirement institutions, unfunded territorial medicine, etc. For more than a year, governments have been preoccupied with limiting the damage that this crisis could cause to the capitalist economy. Workers were sent to work in unhealthy environments, without personal protections and under the blackmail of losing their jobs and having their wages reduced. Although frightened by a pandemic that was killing people like flies, in many countries proletarians revolted, fighting for at least the individual protections promised by the authorities. But the lack of confidence in their own forces and the unions was and still is too great to give the proletarians the capacity to face an enemy as powerful as the ruling bourgeois class.
The policy of class collaboration, permanently carried out by the collaborationist trade union and political forces who claim to be the “defenders” of the workers’ interests, while in reality they are saboteurs of these interests, is based precisely on the weakness of the working class; once bent to the needs of capital, the working class is caught in the net of alleged “common” interests with the bourgeois; it is convinced that it can only obtain a few extra crumbs if it sacrifices even more energy than it regularly gives to the capitalists. The collaborationists, real agents of the bourgeoisie in the ranks of the proletariat, have the task of making the proletarians work according to the needs of the companies in relation to their markets; insofar as they accomplish this dirty work successfully, they receive privileges, guarantees, better paid and less painful jobs. Even in countries like Italy, where the workers have been able to get rid of the institutions of class collaboration in the companies through direct struggle and have organized base committees by electing more trustworthy delegates, the general democratic social climate has prevented the break with class collaboration, not only at the general political level, but at all levels, down to the most elementary; proletarian interests have been handed over to the professionals of negotiation with the bosses and the state, always to the benefit of the ruling class. The class collaboration does not attenuate, and even less eliminates the competition between proletarians, but it increases it, organizes it, institutionalizes it!
On the shoulders of the proletarians weighs not only the daily action of the capitalists, of their state and all its political, administrative, social, cultural and military institutions, but also the daily action of the professionals of class collaboration. And this burden is so heavy that in order to free ourselves from it, we need a powerful social force which is lacking today: the social force given by class unity, by class solidarity, by the struggle carried out on the ground of the exclusive defense of fundamental class interests.
After the defeats of the 1920s and, above all, since the victory of imperialist democracy in the wake of the Second World War, the proletarians are in a situation where they have to reconstitute class-based trade union organizations as in the 19th and 20th centuries. This situation may seem impossible to overcome; a century later, how is it possible to defeat the bourgeoisie, which in the meantime has become much stronger? The imperialist bourgeoisie seems to be invincible today – this is the main argument of the supporters of class collaboration.
There is no doubt that in the last century capitalism has developed all over the world, and that the bourgeoisies have become much stronger and more powerful. But this power is based on the exploitation of wage labor, without which the capitalists cannot extract the surplus value indispensable to the life and growth of capital. The workers are indispensable to the capitalists; and they are so indispensable that all the capitalist development that has embraced the world has been possible only by constituting more and more armies of proletarians, of wage-labourers, wherever there were formerly only peasants or primitive populations.
Today even more than yesterday, the communist slogan: Proletarians of all countries unite! frightens the governments of the whole world because the nightmare of the bourgeoisie is that this immense army of wage slaves becomes aware of its strength under the leadership of its class party.
The economic and war crises that affect all continents will inevitably increase the anger and struggle of the proletarians and oppressed masses. Millions of migrants driven out by these crises are crowding the borders of the advanced capitalist countries, trying to survive in an abundant society which, on the one hand, rejects and marginalizes them and, on the other hand, uses them as a cheaper labor force and as a means to divide the working class through competition with the native proletarians. They are proletarians who bear the physical and psychological scars of the most appalling violence generated by imperialism and from which they try to escape, braving all dangers to go to countries where at least this violence does not exist. The borders of the U.S. and Europe are still being crossed, despite all the barriers and armed guards that defend them. Just as the capitalist means of production cannot be stopped by any border, no border can stop the human production force that capitalism creates throughout the world.
The proletarian unity is therefore not obliged to be constituted by links between continents and between countries: it can be created within the same country between proletarians of different nationalities and races. The basis of this unity, however, is the same: it is the common interest of all proletarians to defend their conditions as wage earners against bourgeois exploitation, no matter if they are from this or that company, this or that sector, this or that category, this or that country. But this common interest can only constitute a force if the competition between proletarians is fought; it is only by overcoming this competition that it is possible to unify the forces, and it is only by fighting for the same objectives, for the same interests, that this class solidarity is created, which is the real force of the proletariat.
In reality, it is capitalist development itself, with the inevitable class struggle in bourgeois society, which lays the foundation for the rebirth of the proletarian class movement. If the proletarians do not want to remain crushed by bourgeois exploitation, they have only one way to go: the class struggle against the main enemy, the capitalist bourgeoisie – without forgetting the most insidious enemies, the professionals of class collaboration.
Breaking the pact of collaboration with the capitalists and their leaders is therefore the first great objective of the proletarian class struggle. And this break is realized by the reorganization of the class organizations for the struggle of exclusive defense of the immediate interests of the proletariat. From there, and from the development of this struggle, the proletariat can realize that its struggle cannot be limited to these immediate objectives, but that it must go beyond them by rising to the general political level, that is to say revolutionary, including because the dominant class uses and will use its political power and its State to maintain the proletariat in its situation of wage-slave.
In this long and tormented path towards its emancipation, the proletariat will have to rely not only on its social strength, but also on its class party, because the latter constitutes and represents the class consciousness, the consciousness of the supreme objectives of the revolutionary struggle.
For the classist reorganization of the proletarian struggle!
For demands that unify proletarians across categories, sectors, nationalities, gender or age!
For the renewal of the class struggle!
For the international reconstitution of the class party!
L’Esecutivo Centrale di Rivoluzione Comunista, (Milano), 28-4-2021
“To the Italian, French, German and every other country proletarians
This May 1st 2021 falls in a historical coincidence of two extraordinary events but of opposite sign.
The birth of the Communist Party of Italy (on January 21, 1921 in Livorno) and immediately after of the French one, the German one was already born in 1918; which launched the communist challenge to industrial capitalism at the beginning of its monopolistic phase; frome the one side. And from the pandemic explosion of the Sars-Cov2 virus, the result of the disruption of eco-systems produced by putrescent capitalism, which in Italy alone has claimed 119,912 victims and infected 119,912 victims and infected 3,862,674 people; from the opposite side. This coincidence has a double meaning: it signals that the survival of capitalist formation has reached a universal catastrophe beyond control; and, conversely, that the revolutionary struggle for communism, which is its solution, does not have much time to get rid of it. It is therefore a warning to our camp, to the camp of the proletariat of every country; to close ranks and engage in the communist battle aimed at overthrowing the ruling class. (…)”
Month of May issue of Field Notes (The Brooklyn Rail)
Back to the Future?
By Paul Mattick
The various Biden plans represent only the latest form of the cleft in which American capitalism (and indeed global capitalism) has been stuck for some time.
The Pandemic and the Economy: An Uncertain Prospect
By José A. Tapia
The world is now again facing a global economic crisis. This one is, of course, a very specific one.
Pity the Poor Police: New Laws to Back the Blue
By Rona Lorimer
The French and British governments, along with American lawmakers, are currently passing laws intended, among other things, to extend police powers to contain and control protests.
Antonio Noviello, 3-5-2021
Abstract: In this short essay we will discuss the book The Capitalism of Surveillance by Professor Shoshana Zuboff, a researcher at Harvard Business School. The book features the subtitle: the future of humanity in the age of new powers. The writer aims to investigate in depth the scenario of the new economic order, resulting from the exploitation of data produced consciously and unconsciously by human practices associated with new technologies. Indeed, despite the emphasis in defining a new economic order of capitalism, we will observe how in the practices of production and massive exploitation of technology and data and the undoubted inequalities and concentrations of power, we will get nothing but the capitalism of all time, namely that of the exploitation of man on man, the atomization of the individual and the appropriation and maximum concentration of surplus value produced.
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