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Daniel Bensaid

Daniel Bensaid

PAUL LE BLANC REVIEWS ‘An Impatient Life: A Memoir’ – BY DANIEL BENSAID

An Impatient Life: A Memoir
By Daniel Bensaïd, translated by David Fernbach, with an introduction by Tariq Ali,
Verso Books, 2014.

Readers of Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal are urged to order a copy HERE. You can download an excerpt HERE (PDF).

 

 

Review by Paul Le Blanc

May 11, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal –

Daniel Bensaïd (1946-2010) was one of the most respected theorists to emerge from the 1960s radicals of Western Europe. Always inclined to think “outside the box”, waving aside venerable dogmas and shrugging off standard formulations, he found fresh ways, energised with the aura of unorthodoxy, to express and apply truths from the revolutionary Marxist tradition.

Sometimes his creativity could provide insights that opened fruitful pathways of thought and action. “We were young people in a hurry, as is inevitably the case”, he writes near the start of his saga. “As if we had to make up for the wasted time of the ‘century of extremes,’ as if we were afraid of missing our appointments, in politics and in love.” In the end, “we had to learn ‘the art of waiting’”, he muses, yet the author remains an unbowed militant: “We have sometimes deceived ourselves, perhaps even often, and on many things. But at least we did not deceive ourselves about either the struggle or the choice of enemy.”

This substantial volume is a parting gift, sharing memories of what he had seen and done, offering a piece of his mind, exploring the meaning of it all – as befits the image, snapped a few years before his premature death, of the gaunt, frail man whose keen intelligence shines out from his now-bespectacled eyes.

Yet a photograph from 1948 reveals an adorable two-year old with long curly hair toddling toward us. We see a boy at ages five, nine and 14, with bright and impish eyes, destined to appear (in half a dozen photos from the 1970s) as a buoyant, handsome, charismatic activist of the famed “generation of 1968”. Daniel was centrally involved in the revolutionary student-worker upsurge that shook France and almost brought down the government of Charles De Gaulle. Out of this experience was born the militant Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) that powerfully impacted the global far left and became a central component of the Fourth International (a network of comparatively small revolutionary socialist parties and groups founded by Leon Trotsky and other dissident-communists over three decades before). In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Bensaïd and his comrades were intimately connected with currents in Latin America utilising the perspectives of Che Guevara and other revolutionary warriors, generating some of his most searching reflections.

The exciting years of upsurge gave way to disaster, disappointment, defeat. It was during this in-between period that I fleetingly met Bensaïd, at a 1990 World Congress and at a 1991meeting of the International Executive Committee of the Fourth International, as I represented the smallest one of three US Trotskyist fragments identifying with this “world party of socialist revolution”. It was obvious that his experience was incomparably richer than mine, and that he had earned profound respect from the other comrades who, with him, made up the inner circle of the Fourth International’s leadership.

A friend who read this book before I did warned that Bensaïd was quite a name dropper, and there are certainly scores of names that flow from these pages. But I came upon his description of the cluster of comrades from the 1980s whose labours maintained “the bonsai Comintern” that was the Fourth International: a dozen names of people – many now dead – whose strengths and weaknesses and life-energy had been essential to the world movement to which I was committed. I knew these people, they were important to me, and I felt grateful that their names with brief descriptions are shared with the readers of this book.

History is the lives of innumerable people, not abstractions, and the history of our revolutionary socialist movement is nothing without the amazing number of names (with all-too-brief descriptions) that Bensaïd weaves into his narrative. Distinctive features of this volume include (with a list of abbreviations) 12 pages of descriptions of left-wing organisations, plus extensive footnotes providing information on the dozens upon dozens of activists he mentions – together with the main narrative, making this an essential source on the international left and on world Trotskyism.

Youth radicalisation

Daniel was born into a working-class family that moved from Algeria to France shortly before his birth – the father a Sephardic Jew, the Gallic mother inclined to self-identify as Jewish. They saved enough money to start a bistro with a predominantly left-wing working-class clientele. Their clever and inquisitive son ascended into the ranks of university students while also, quite naturally, drifting into the youth group of the French Communist Party. But like many of his comrades of the time (influenced by Trotskyists doing “deep-entry” work in the group), partly under the impact of Algeria’s anti-colonial revolution and the tepid response to this by the French Communists, he came to the conclusion that it would be wrong to “confuse the revolutionary project with Stalinism”.

Rejecting the intellectual “ravages of a positivist and authoritarian Marxism” (almost in the same breath he characterises it as “a glacial Marxism without style or passion”), they turned to heretical texts – Herbert Marcuse, Wilhelm Reich, Lucien Goldmann, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Frantz Fanon, Che Guevara, Daniel Guerin, Henri Lefebvre, Ernest Mandel. Bensaïd adds that for him and many of the young radicals, too, “Lenin was all the rage”, but this was a Lenin having little in common with the immense leaden statues worshiped by older, disapproving Communist Party comrades. The intellectual rebellion quickly culminated in mass expulsions from the mainstream Communist movement, with many of the young rebels (the spirited Bensaïd no less than others) gradually recruiting themselves to a maverick variant of Trotskyism.

This historical moment was one of a youth radicalisation sweeping through Europe and other continents. In France, the young Trotskyists-in-the-making were caught up in the swirl – along with anarchists and Maoists and activists without clear labels – of students pushing for radical educational reforms and sexual freedom. The wondrous days of May 1968 saw huge demonstrations, endless meetings, student strikes and school occupations. Struggles for educational transformation blended into a more general anti-authoritarianism, opposition to imperialist wars, romantic identification with “Third World” insurgencies and the rights of the working class. This last element took on special meaning as many workers – to the horror of Stalinist and moderate-socialist trade union bureaucrats – threw their support to the “crazy” students and began organising militant strikes, matching the student barricades and street battles against brutal police repression. The question of power was being posed – the overturn of the old order seemed on the agenda.

It soon became apparent, however, that the May uprising had neither the strategic vision nor the organisational coherence nor sufficiently deep popular roots to bring on the thoroughgoing revolution that the young radicals dreamed of. This was, many agreed, simply a “dress rehearsal”.

Struggle, violence, principles

As the newly crystallised LCR grew, Bensaïd and its other leaders felt that “history was breathing down our necks”. If May 1968 was the dress rehearsal for revolution, these revolutionary militants had a responsibility to see that an actual revolution would, indeed, be produced. “We were in a hurry”, he writes, and with others he developed theoretical reference points of “an (ultra-) Leninism, dominated by the paroxysmic moment of the seizure of power”. But it had taken the Bolsheviks decades to develop experience and revolutionary seasoning in pre-revolutionary Russia that would be sufficient for the 1917 revolution. As Bensaïd describes it, the group and its young cadres were far from that. Nonetheless, their most respected revolutionary Marxist mentor, Ernest Mandel, was assuring them that “revolution is immanent”, and both in the LCR and the Fourth International they felt a responsibility to make it so. It was a time of “hasty Leninism”, whose “fearsome burden” he poignantly describes:

Our feverish impatience was inspired by a phrase from Trotsky that was often cited in our debates: “The crisis of humanity is summed up in the crisis of revolutionary leadership.” If this was indeed the case, nothing was more urgent than to resolve this crisis. The duty of each person was to contribute his or her little strength, as best they could, to settle this alternative between socialism and barbarism. It was in part up to them, therefore, whether the human species sank into a twilight future or blossomed into a society of abundance. This vision of history charged our frail shoulders with a crushing responsibility. In the face of this implacable logic, impoverished emotional life or professional ambition did not weigh very heavy. Each became personally responsible for the fate of humanity.

In North America, in Asia, and especially in Latin America there was also such “hasty Leninism”. A substantial minority in the Fourth International fiercely opposed the course that Bensaïd and others advocated – initially calling for a continent-wide strategy of rural guerilla warfare in Latin America (a perspective soon “modified” to include urban guerilla warfare as well), with similar impulses theorised for elsewhere. This led to a factional battle in the Fourth International, with a substantial minority projecting a more patient orientation grounded in classical Marxism. A prestigious former secretary of Trotsky’s, Joseph Hansen, labelled his 1971 oppositional polemic “In Defense of the Leninist Strategy of Party-Building” (which can be found on-line, as can some of Bensaïd’s writings, through the Marxist Internet Archive). After several years of experience, most of the “hasty Leninists” would more or less swing over to Hansen’s position.

But Bensaïd, a dedicated representative in Latin America from the Fourth International’s “center”, is compelled to share haunting memories: “Our comrades were young and intrepid, full of confidence in the socialist future of humanity. Three years later, half the people I met at these meetings had been arrested, tortured and murdered”. It becomes a poetry of horror:

We were running headlong into an open grave…

So many faces wiped out.

So many laughs extinguished.

So many hopes massacred.

He draws the lessons: “It was clear that we were on the wrong path… Armed struggle is not a strategy… The armed struggle we voted on at the 9th World Congress [1969] was an ill-timed generalization…”

Bensaïd emphasises that “weapons have their own logic”, elaborating:

Buying and storing and looking after weapons, renting safe-houses and supporting underground activists is an expensive business and needs money. To obtain this, you have to rob banks. And to rob banks, you need weapons. In this spiral, an increasing number of militants are socially uprooted and professionalised. Instead of melting into a social milieu like fish in water, their existence depends ever more on an expanding apparatus.

Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin and Trotsky had envisioned revolutionary cadres facilitating the self-organisation and self-activity and revolutionary consciousness of various working-class and oppressed sectors. Central to this was the building reform struggles for democratic rights and economic justice, creating a movement “of the great majority, for the great majority” that would culminate in “winning the battle of democracy” and bring a transition from capitalism to socialism. For revolutionaries – Bensaïd tells us – such a working-class implantation also provides “a reality principle” to counterbalance “leftist temptations”. He and others, including seasoned guerrilla fighters, “drew the conclusion of a necessary return to more classical forms of organisation and the primacy of politics over military action, without which the logic of violence gets carried away and risks becoming uncontrollable”.

A strength in Bensaïd’s searching exploration of violence, to which he devotes a full chapter, is his understanding that violence is at the very core of capitalism and all forms of class society, quoting poetAndré Suares: “Wealth is the sign of violence, at every level”. He shows that the violence of the status quo is intensifying: “the tendency to a privatization and dissemination of violence is accelerating. Ethnic cleansing and religious massacres are proliferating. The world is collapsing into the hyper-violence of armed globalization”. Yet he sees the contamination of violence manifesting itself again and again in struggles against oppression and exploitation – liberators can become criminals, in some cases devolving into common gangsters, in the worst cases bringing in their wake the gulag and the killing fields.

Surveying revolutionary experience for over a century, he concludes: “Violence and progress no longer marched together, at the same pace, in the supposed direction of history”. He insists on the need for a practical-ethical regulation of violence in the perspectives of revolutionaries. He finds it in Trotsky’s 1938 classic Their Morals and Ours:

The “great revolutionary end” thus necessarily spurns “those base means and ways which set one part of the working class against other parts, or attempt to make the masses happy without their participation; or lower the faith of the masses in themselves and their organization, replacing it by worship for the ‘leaders’”.

Exhaustion and affirmation

Exhaustion can afflict a revolution, a struggle, an activist, an idea. A variety of such things are traced for the 20th century’s final decades. His own intensely activist organisation, the LCR, was able to endure, weather more than one storm, making important contributions to liberation struggles. Yet, “we had worked wonders, exhausting ourselves in running faster than our own shadow”. He describes excellent comrades finally asking “what it’s all about” and falling away.

Amid all of this, there appears a fleeting pen-portrait of an important mentor to innumerable Fourth Internationalists, Ernest Mandel – “a tutor in theory and a passer between two generations … who set out during the 1950s to conceptualize the new features of the era, instead of piously watching over the political legacy of the past… This daily contact with Ernest was a wellspring of knowledge and a permanent initiation into the foundations of Marxism.”

As time went on, there was a partial exhaustion of the relationship between Mandel and “the generation of ‘68” – a relationship always inspiring “more in the way of respect than affection”, and “rarely reciprocal and egalitarian”. Bensaïd saw him as at least a partial prisoner of a belief in “the emancipating powers of science and the historical logic of progress”, elaborating: “Ernest was an exemplary case of stubborn optimism of the will tempered by an intermittent pessimism of reason: for him, permanent revolution would win the day over permanent catastrophe. And the socialist prophecy would (almost) always defeat barbarism”.

Yet for many of Mandel’s political children, this seemed increasingly inadequate for the realities they were facing.

This shifting mood went far beyond the ranks of the Fourth International. Wearying leftists with an ambitious bent began proclaiming a set a “farewells” – to Marxism, to the working class, to the passionate logic of revolutionary struggle. Sanctuary could be found, sometimes with considerable comfort and impressive careers, in the power structures that their younger selves had militantly confronted. Among “third worldists” and Maoists who had once enthusiastically proclaimed that “the wind is blowing from the East”, there was a growing conviction that “it was the west wind that now prevailed over the east”, blowing ever stronger thanks to the Reagan and Thatcher revolutions. Some activists migrated from revolution to reformist politics, and some (perhaps frightened by totalitarian impulses they discovered in themselves) veered more sharply to the right.

This reflected a deeper exhaustion – of Maoist China’s revolutionary élan, of the Central American revolutions, of many hopeful aspects of the Cuban Revolution and finally of the so-called “bureaucratised workers’ states” of the Communist Bloc and the USSR itself.

The collapse of Communism was soon accompanied by other exhaustions impacting on Bensaïd and his comrades. In the 1980s, the LCR had been joined by the large, growing, vibrant Mexican and the Brazilian sections as “the big three” in the Fourth International, seeming to promise much in the rebuilding of the global left. Yet the Mexican organisation, “with wind in its sails”, had insufficient theoretical grounding and organisational strength to prevent success from corrupting some of its most prominent militants – soon leading to betrayal, demoralisation and fragmentation.

The Brazilian comrades, with whom he worked closely for many years, had thrived as an integral part of the glorious and multifaceted working-class upsurge that finally pushed aside the military dictatorship. In the form of the massive Workers Party headed by the working-class militant Lula, the insurgents finally won the presidency of the country. But a majority of the comrades found themselves pulled along into the new reformist trajectory and even neoliberal policies of the Lula regime, with a dissident fragment expelled and others splitting away amid exhausted hopes. (There was, obviously, no time for Bensaïd to offer a balance sheet on the LCR’s 2009 decision to dissolve into a broader New Anti-Capitalist Party).

Many activists, not inclined to join the well-heeled legions of the status quo, sought more resources to help them endure the new realities. Those who were Jewish (as he was) felt a need to explore the meaning of that identity and its complex and often horrific history. In such explorations, while in no way turning away from this identity (and joining in “not in my name” protests against Israel’s oppression of Palestinians), Bensaïd affirmed his rejection of “the Chosen People” concept – having no desire “to feel chosen in this way, whether to share the blessings of this election or to bear the crushing responsibility according to which Jews are supposed to be better than common mortals”.

Some, in this troubling period, explored new pathways of spirituality and even mysticism (as he did), as a means to transcend the “instrumental rationality [that] has stubbornly set out to empty time of its messianic pregnancy, to dissolve the surprises of the event with the regularity of the clock”. There is need for transcendence, “when revolution becomes the name of the inconstant event that has refused to arrive, or –still worse – has appeared in the form of its own rebuttal”. Such transcendence of “practical” and “instrumental reality” can open the way “to a new representation of history”. He insists that “the ancient prophet was neither a divine, nor a sorcerer, nor a magician. He or she was someone who switched the points of the present into the unknown bifurcations of the future.”

Yet for Bensaïd revolutionary Marxism remained the essential ingredient in his identity as a political person. A remarkable chapter in the book – “Spectres in the Blue House” – focuses on the final Mexican years of Trotsky’s exile, eloquently tracing the revolutionary’s meaning for his time and for ours. “From Marx to Trotsky”, Bensaïd writes, “permanent revolution … welds together event and history, moment and duration, rupture and continuity”. Marx is primary. In some ways the most powerful chapter is “The Inaudible Thunder”, offering an elegant explication of the three volumes of Marx’s Capital —“inescapable, always uncompleted, constantly recommenced, it is an unending project”. The profound influence on Marx of the philosopher Hegel accounts for this chapter’s title: “the still inaudible thunder of Hegelian logic” challenges the “instrumental rationality” used to “explain” and justify the capitalist status quo.

Marx’s method shatters such ideological facades, providing an in-depth analysis of “generalized commodity production” revealing the exploitation and mutilation of human labour and creativity at the system’s very heart. His intricate exploration of the “capital accumulation process” reveals the impact of bending society and culture and the environment to the voracious and destructive need for maximising profits more and more and more, forever. “The important thing”, Bensaïd insists, is “not to bend, not to give in, not to submit to the proclaimed fatality [inevitability] of the commodity order”.

The very nature of this system is such that “the world still has to be changed, and still more profoundly and more urgently than we had imagined forty years ago. Any doubt bears on the possibility of succeeding, not on the necessity of trying.” Inaction in the face of doubt is not a choice. Given the dynamics of capitalism, the oppressed and exploited majority does not have the option of “not playing the game”, and for revolutionary activists “the only compass in this uncertain work is to take the part of the oppressed, even in defeat if need be”.

“Knowing oneself to be mortal – we all do, more or less – is one thing”, Bensaïd muses in the memoir’s penultimate chapter. “Something else is to experience this and really believe it.” Seeing his own impending death as the book comes to a close, and impelled to pass his torch to us, he conveys multiple insights:

Revolts against globalized injustice are multiplying. But the spiral of retreats and defeats has not been broken. Number and mass are not enough, without will and consciousness… A resistance without victories and perspectives of counter-attack ends up being worn out. There is no victory without strategy, and no strategy without a balance of forces… Is it possible to be truly democratic without being truly socialist?… Today’s political landscape is devastated by battles lost without even being fought …

Source: LINKS: International Journal of Social Renewal

See: http://links.org.au/node/3847

 

**END**

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Socialism and Hope

LEFT FORUM: HAYMARKET AND ISR PANELS

The Center for Economic Research and Social Change, www.cersc.org, and our projects Haymarket Books and the International Socialist Review are sponsoring and are featured in several panels at this year’s Left Forum: http://www.leftforum.org

The following panels are sponsored by the International Socialist Review or Haymarket Books or feature a Haymarket Book author.

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Also, check out Socialism 2011, July 1-4, Chicago, sponsored by CERSC.  More info at:  www.socialismconference.org.

An Eyewitness Report: The Revolution in Egypt
Sponsored by: International Socialist Review
Ahmed Shawki – International Socialist Review
Anand Gopal – independent journalist, reports for Christian Science Monitor, Wall Street Journal
Mostafa Omar – International Socialist Organization
Sharif Abdel Kouddous – Democracy Now!
Ayman Mohyeldin – Al Jazeera English Correspondent
Jennifer Roesch – International Socialist Review, Chair
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Capital’s War on Labor, Labor’s Civil Wars
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Ellen David Friedman – International Joint Center for Labor Research, Sun Yat-sen University, Labor Notes
Jon Flanders – IAM/RWU
Michael Yates – Monthly Review
Sal Rosselli – NUHW
Steve Early – Former Communications Workers of America organizer
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Capitalism and Education: A Marxist Discourse on What We’re Fighting Against and What We’re Fighting For
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Jeff Bale – Department of Teacher Education, Michigan State University
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Sarah Knopp – member of United Teachers of Los Angeles
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The Betrayal of Haiti
Sponsored by: Haiti Liberte and The International Socialist Review
Ashley Smith – International Socialist Review, UNAC
Edna Bonhomme – International Socialist Organization,
Kim Ives – Haiti Liberte
Ray Laforest – Union organizer
Roger Leduc – Haitian Coalition to Support the Struggle KAKOLA, University of London-Goldsmiths

The Left Challenge to the Democratic Party
Dan La Botz – Solidarity and the Socialist Party; Buckeye Socialist ] Network
David McReynolds – Socialist Party
Gloria Mattera – Gloria Mattera
Howie Hawkins – Green Party
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The Left Debates the Democratic Party

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Understanding and Responding to the Tea Party Threat
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Paul Street – Independent author and essayist
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Lenin’s Marxism
Chris Cutrone – The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Ian Morrison – Platypus Affiliated Society
Lars T Lih – Independent Researcher
Paul Le Blanc – LaRoche College
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Obama’s Imperial Policy in the Middle East and South Asia
Sponsored by: United National Antiwar Committee
Anand Gopal – and Reporter for Wall Street Journal
Ashley Smith – International Socialist Review, UNAC
Issam Aburaya – Seton Hall University
Michael Schwartz – Stony Brook University
* Saadia Toor-Action for a Progressive Pakistan, Pakistan Solidarity Network, Staten Island College
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Creating Leverage: Non-Electoral Strategies for Change in the Obama Era
Kevin Young-SUNY Stony Brook
Michael Schwartz – SUNY Stony Brook
Michael Zweig – Center for Study of Working Class Life – SUNY Stony Brook
Steve Early – Former Communications Workers of America organizer, Author, Embedded With Organized Labor
Tod Ensign – Citizen Soldier
**Michael Schwartz is the author of War Without End: The Iraq War in Context
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/War-Without-End-The-Iraq-War-in-Context
**Steve Early is the author of Civil Wars in US Labor
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/The-Civil-Wars-in-US-Labor

Taking Back The Teamsters & Telephone Worker Unions: Case Studies in Rank-and-file Insurgency – Then and Now
Sponsored by: Labor Notes; Verso
Dan La Botz – Solidarity and the Socialist Party, Buckeye Socialist Network
Pam Galpern – Labor Notes
Steve Early – Former Communications Workers of America organizer
**Steve Early is the author of Civil Wars in US Labor
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/The-Civil-Wars-in-US-Labor

What’s The Matter With Organized Labor Leaders?
Christian Parenti – CUNY
Mark Brenner – Director of Labor Notes, East Coast Office
Robert Fitch – Professor, LaGuardia Community College
Sheila Cohen – University of Hertfordshire, UK
Steve Early – author, Embedded With Organized Labor: Journalistic Reflections on the Class War at Home
**Steve Early is the author of Civil Wars in US Labor
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/The-Civil-Wars-in-US-Labor

Capitalism’s Terminal Crisis : Economic Causes, Ecological Consequences, Radical Responses Sponsored by: Praxis
Bertell Ollman – Department of Politics, New York University
Michael Lowy – New Anti-Capitalist Party, Paris
Richard Greeman – Victor Serge Foundation, Montpellier, France
Robert Fitch – New Politics
**Michael Lowy is the author of The Theory of Revolution in the Young Marx and The Politcs of Combined and Uneven Development: The Theory of Permanent Revolution
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/The-Theory-of-Revolution-in-Young-Marx
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/The-Politics-of-Combined-and-Uneven-Development

Developing Capitalist Countries and Sustainability
Michael Lowy – CNRS in Paris
Nancy Holmstrom – Left Forum and EIN Eco-socialist International Network
Pritam Singh – Oxford University
Richard Smith – Historian and Independent Scholar
**Michael Lowy is the author of The Theory of Revolution in the Young Marx and The Politcs of Combined and Uneven Development: The Theory of Permanent Revolution
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/The-Theory-of-Revolution-in-Young-Marx
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/The-Politics-of-Combined-and-Uneven-Development

Roundtable: The Anticapitalist Left in the World Today
Baris Karaagac – Praksis – Turkey, Fudan University, Gyeongsang National University, Jinju
Johanna Brenner – Solidarity; Sociology, Portland State University
Marcello Musto – York University, Toronto, Canada
Michael Krätke – Sozialistische Politik und Wirtschaft – Germany
Michael Löwy – Contretemps – France
Richard D. Wolff – New School, Rethinking Marxism
Seongjin Jeong – Marxism 21, South Korea
Shuangli Zhang – Contemporary Marxism Review, China
Teivo Teivainen – Globalizations, Finland, USA
**Michael Lowy is the author of The Theory of Revolution in the Young Marx and The Politcs of Combined and Uneven Development: The Theory of Permanent Revolution
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/The-Theory-of-Revolution-in-Young-Marx
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/The-Politics-of-Combined-and-Uneven-Development

Excluded Workers: Building a Labor Movement for the Twenty-First Century
Erica Smiley – Jobs with Justice
Frances Fox Piven – CUNY Graduate Center
Harmony Goldberg – CUNY Graduate Center
Linda Abad – Damayan Migrant Workers Association
Premilla Nadasen – Queens College
Saket Soni – New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice
**Frances Fox Piven wrote the introduction for The Lean Years and The Turbulent Years, A History of the American Worker
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/The-Lean-Years
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/The-Turbulent-Years

Howard Zinn: Toward a Politics of Solidarity Within the Academy and Among the Citizenry
Adam Silver – Boston University
Ambre Ivol – La Sorbonne Nouvelle
Christopher Robinson – Clarkson University
Frances Fox Piven – CUNY Graduate Center
Joshua C. Yesnowitz – Boston University
Stephen Bird – Clarkson University
**Frances Fox Piven wrote the introduction for The Lean Years and The Turbulent Years, A History of the American Worker
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/The-Lean-Years
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/The-Turbulent-Years

Leadership and The Limits of Demands: The 2010 Daniel Singer Millennium Prize
Frances Fox Piven – CUNY Graduate Center
Kim Moody – University of Hertfordshire, UK
Sheila Cohen – Work and Employment Research Unit, University of Hertfordshire
Suzi Weissman – Saint Mary’s College of California, Critique
**Frances Fox Piven wrote the introduction for The Lean Years and The Turbulent Years, A History of the American Worker
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/The-Lean-Years
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/The-Turbulent-Years

The Future of American Liberalism?

Sponsored by: Logos: A Journal of Modern Society and Culture
Benjamin Barber – Demos
Frances Fox Piven – Political Science and Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center
Gregory Smulewicz – Zucker
Stanley Aronowitz – Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center
**Frances Fox Piven wrote the introduction for The Lean Years and The Turbulent Years, A History of the American Worker
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/The-Lean-Years
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/The-Turbulent-Years

The Tea Party and the Media
Frances Fox Piven – CUNY Graduate Center
Glen Ford – Black Agenda Report
Laura Flanders – GritTV
Peter Dreier – Occidental College
Richard Kim – The Nation
**Frances Fox Piven wrote the introduction for The Lean Years and The Turbulent Years, A History of the American Worker
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/The-Lean-Years
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/The-Turbulent-Years

How to Achieve Solidarity in the Electoral Arena – A Debate
Howie Hawkins – Green Party
Margaret Kimberley – Black Agenda Report
Ralph Poynter – Lynne Stewart Defense Committee
Steve Cobble – Progressive Democrats of America
**Howie Hawkins is the editor of Independent Politics: The Green Party Strategy Debate
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/Independent-Politics-The-Green-Party-Strategy-Debate

Lessons From the Third-Party Campaign Taill: What’s It Like To Be A Green, WFP, or Vermont Progressive Party Candidate

Sponsored by: WorkingUSA
Howie Hawkins – Green Party
Martha Abbot – Vermont Progressive Party
Rand Wilson – Working Families Party–Massachusetts
**Howie Hawkins is the editor of Independent Politics: The Green Party Strategy Debate
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/Independent-Politics-The-Green-Party-Strategy-Debate

The Resistance Dilemma in Latin America: Relationships Between Social Movements and States
Sponsored by: Toward Freedom
Adrienne Pine – American University
April Howard – Upside Down World
Ben Dangl – Toward Freedom
Gabriela Uassouf – School of the Americas Watch
Marina Sitrin – Writer, Lawyer, Teacher
**Ben Dangl is the author of El Precio del Fuego: Las luchas porlos recursoo naturales y los moviemientos sociales en Bolivia
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/El-Precio-del-Fuego

Worker control and factory occupations, global South and North
Sponsored by: Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society
Dario Azzellini – Johann Kepler University
Immanuel Ness – Working USA: The Journal of Labor and Society
James Gray Pope – Rutgers University Law School
Kari Lydersen – Journalist and Author
Marina Sitrin – SUNY Old Westbury
Peter Knowlton – United Electrical Workers
**Immanuel Ness and Dario Azzellini are the authors of the forthcoming Ours to Master and to Own: Workers’ Control from the Commune to the Present
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/search?keys=Azzellini

Venezuela and the Chavez Government: Advances and Shortcomings
Dario Azzellini – Johannes Kepler Universität, Austria
Isabel Delgado – Ministry of Basic Industries and Mines, Venezuela
Mark Weisbrot – Center for Economic and Policy Research
Steve Ellner – Universidad del Oriente
**Dario Azzellini, along with Immanuel Ness, are the authors of the forthcoming Ours to Master and to Own: Workers’ Control from the Commune to the Present
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/search?keys=Azzellini

Left Strategies to Exit the Crisis?
Sponsored by: Rosa Luxemburg Foundation
Christina Kaindl – Rosa Luxemburg Foundation
Florian Moritz – Member of the German Bundestag
Gar Alperovitz – Democracy Collaborative
Immanuel Ness – Brooklyn College, CUNY
**Immanuel Ness, along with Dario Azzellini, are the authors of the forthcoming Ours to Master and to Own: Workers’ Control from the Commune to the Present
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/search?keys=Azzellini

An “Ethnography” of The US Congress
Sponsored by: The Brooklyn Rail
Arthur Delaney – Huffington Post
Glenn Thrush – Politico
Max Blumenthal – The Nation Institute
Ryan Grim – Huffington Post
**Max Blumenthal is a contributor to Midnight on the Mavi Maramara
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/Midnight-on-the-Mavi-Marmara

Capitalism, Climate Change and Social Conflicts
Brian Tokar – Director of the Vermont-based Institute for Social Ecology
Chris Williams – Pace University, Chemistry and Physical Science
Younes Abouyoub – Visiting researcher at Columbia University
**Chris Williams is the author of Ecology and Socialism
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/Ecology-and-Socialism

Learning from the Tea Party
Sponsored by: The Indypendent
Abby Scher – Independent Journalist and Sociologist
Arun Gupta – Founding Editor, The Indypendent
Peter Bratsis – University of Salford
**Arun Gupta is a contributor to Midnight on the Mavi Maramara
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/Midnight-on-the-Mavi-Marmara

The End of Whiteness: The History of an Idea
Anamaria Flores – Hostos Community College, CUNY
Arun Gupta – Founding Editor, The Indypendent
Nicholas Powers – SUNY Old Westbury, The Indypendent
**Arun Gutpa is a contributor to Midnight on the Mavi Maramara
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/Midnight-on-the-Mavi-Marmara

Jewish solidarity with the Palestinian struggle
Adam Horowitz – Mondoweiss
Donna Nevel – Community psychologist and educator, Jews Say No
Elyse Crystall – Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions-USA
Laurie Arbeiter – ART Activist Response Team, US to Gaza
Maya Wind – Shministim (Refusers)
Rebecca Vilkomerson – Jewish Voice for Peace
**Adam Horowitz is a contributor to Midnight on the Mavi Maramara
http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/Midnight-on-the-Mavi-Marmara

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

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Books

VERSO PARTY!

Verso Books, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, and John Nichols invite you to a party to celebrate Left Forum 2011 and publication of: The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg and John Nichols’ The “S” Word.

From 9pm, Friday March 18th

Verso’s Brooklyn Loft

20 Jay Street, Suite 1010

Brooklyn, NY, 11201

RSVPclara@versobooks.com / 718-246-8160

—————-

Also to note:

The Life, Letters & Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg

Co-sponsored by Verso Books, Haymarket, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, NYU’s Department of Sociology, and the German Book Office in New York. In support of The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg and to launch The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg.

With: Vivek Chibber, Paul Le Blanc, Peter Hudis, Annelies Laschitza, Helen C. Scott, and others …

Monday March 14th, 7–9pm

Tishman Auditorium, Vanderbilt Hall

NYU School of Law

40 Washington Sq. South
New York, NY 10012

This is a free event open to the public but RSVP is requested to clara@versobooks.com / 718-246-8160

Made possible by the support of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung.

Full details here: http://www.versobooks.com/events/105-the-life,-letters-and-legacy-of-rosa-luxemburg

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

MySpace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/glennrikowski

The Ockress: http://www.theockress.com

Rikowski Point: http://rikowskipoint.blogspot.com

Glenn Rikowski on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/glenn.rikowski

Volumizer: http://glennrikowski.blogspot.com

Rosa Luxemburg

THE LIFE, LETTERS AND LEGACY OF ROSA LUXEMBURG

Co-sponsored by Verso Books, Haymarket, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, NYU’s Department of Sociology, and the German Book Office in New York.

In support of The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg and to launch The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg.

With: Vivek Chibber, Paul Le Blanc, Peter Hudis, Annelies Laschitza, Helen C. Scott, and others …

Monday March 14th, 7–9pm

Tishman Auditorium, Vanderbilt Hall

NYU School of Law

40 Washington Sq. South

New York, NY 10012
This is a free event open to the public but RSVP is requested to clara@versobooks.com / 718-246-8160

Made possible by the support of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung.

www.versobooks.com

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

MySpace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/glennrikowski

The Ockress: http://www.theockress.com

Rikowski Point: http://rikowskipoint.blogspot.com

Glenn Rikowski on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/glenn.rikowski

Volumizer: http://glennrikowski.blogspot.com

Lenin

HISTORICAL MATERIALISM VOLUME 18 NUMBER 3 (2010)

Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory
Volume 18 Issue 3, 2010

http://www.brill.nl./hima

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/brill/hm

CONTENTS

Article
Gene Ray
Dialectical Realism and Radical Commitments: Brecht and Adorno on 
Representing Capitalism

Symposium on Lars Lih’s ‘Lenin Rediscovered’
Paul Blackledge
Editorial Introduction

Ronald Grigor Suny
Reconsidering Lenin: What Can Be Said about ‘What Is to Be Done?’

Robert Mayer
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: On Lars Lih’s Lenin

Chris Harman
Lenin Rediscovered?

Alan Shandro
Text and Context in the Argument of Lenin’s ‘What Is to Be Done?’

Paul Le Blanc
Rediscovering Lenin

Lars T. Lih
Lenin Disputed

Interventions
Matteo Mandarini
Critical Thoughts on the Politics of Immanence

Mario Tronti
Workerism and Politics

Review Articles
Paul Flenley
On Oktyabr’skaya Revolyutsiya i Fabzavkomy [The October Revolution and Factory-Committees] edited by Steve A. Smith, and Oktyabr’skaya  Revolyutsia i Fabzavkomy, Volume 3, Second Edition and Oktyabr’skaya  Revolyutsiya i Fabzavkomy: Materialy po istorii fabrichno-zavodskikh komitetov, Volume 4, edited by  Yoshimasa Tsuji

Jeffery R. Webber
on Fernando Ignacio Leiva’s Latin American Neostructuralism: The  Contradictions of Post-Neoliberal Development

David Parker
on Heide Gerstenberger’s Impersonal Power. History and Theory of the  Bourgeois State

Historical-Critical Dictionary of Marxism
Dick Boer
The Imaginary

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

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Volumizer: http://glennrikowski.blogspot.com

Socialism and Hope

INTERNATIONAL SOCIALIST REVIEW 72

ISSUE 72:
July-August 2010

¡Todos Somos Arizona!

Letter from the editors

http://www.isreview.org/index.shtml

ANALYSIS IN BRIEF

Sharon Smith
Laws that need breaking: It’s impossible to avoid comparing Arizona today to the South in the era of Jim Crow

PLUS: plus Nicole Colson on abortion rights in peril; Giles Ji Ungpakorn on the Red Shirt revolt in Thailand; John Pilger on the modern class war in Greece

COLUMN

Phil Gasper • Critical thinking

Economic crisis and class struggle: Are recessions better for the left or the right?

FEATURES

Orlando Sepúlveda
¡Todos somos Arizona!
The revival of the immigrant rights movement since the passage of SB1070

Noam Chomsky, interviewed by David Barsamian
The new imperialism

Tikva Honig-Parnass
Apartheid Israel and the contradictions of left Zionism

Dave Zirin
Women, gender, and sports

Eric Kerl
Contemporary anarchism

Chris Williams
Marxism and the environment
The real track record, from Marx and Engels to the Bolsheviks and beyond: An excerpt from the New Ecology and Socialism

Frances Fox Piven
The working class in the Great Depression
A celebrated left sociologist introduces new editions of Irving Bernstein’s The Lean Years and The Turbulent Years

BOOK REVIEWS

Michael Steven Smith and Paul Le Blanc
Learning from a revolutionary
Review of Peter Camejo’s memoir, North Star

Sherry Wolf
Are men really better athletes?
Review of Playing with the Boys: Why Separate is Not Equal

PLUS: Greg Love on the business of capturing and transporting Africans to be slaves; Ashley Smith on Dilip Hiro’s After Empire: Helen Redmond on why surgical errors are no accident; Paul D’Amato on Lenin’s Marxism

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

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Schools in Crisis

THE EDUCATION SHOCK DOCTRINE 

International Socialist Review

ISSUE 71: May-June 2010

http://www.isreview.org/


The education shock doctrine

Letter from the editors

ANALYSIS IN BRIEF

Lance Selfa 
The right on the defensive 
The passage of health care reform gives the Democrats new legs

PLUS: Helen Redmond on the health care bill—prescribing aspirin for cancer; Joel Geier on contradictions in the economic recovery

COLUMN

Phil Gasper • Critical thinking 
The imperial war in Afghanistan

FEATURES 

Gillian Russom 
Obama’s neoliberal agenda for education 

Gillian Russom 
The case against charter schools 

Adam Sanchez 
Disaster schooling: How the “shock doctrine” is playing out in New Orleans, Chicago, and Detroit 

Arundhati Roy 
Bhumkal: Walking with the Comrades 
The author of The God of Small Things travels with India’s rural rebels

HISTORY

Danny Lucia 
Bringing misery out of hiding: The unemployed movement of the 1930s

FEATURE REVIEW

Tom Twiss and Paul Le Blanc 
Revolutionary betrayed: Trotsky and his biographer 
Robert Service’s widely-acclaimed work is full of inflated assertions and shocking inaccuracies

BOOK REVIEWS 

Jeff Bale 
Defector from the school reform consensus 

Review of Diane Ravitch: The Death and Life of the Great American School System

PLUS: Sherry Wolf on the fight for civil rights up North; Petrino DiLeo on the next debt bubble; Martin Smith on Race and radicalism in the Civil War; Dennis Kosuth on the 1989 revolutions in the Eastern Bloc; Lee Wengraf on women in the American gulag; Matt Swagler on the myth of “heterosexual Africa”; Ragina Johnson on same-sex marriage in practice

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

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Strategies of Resistance

STRATEGIES OF RESISTANCE AND ‘WHO ARE THE TROTSKYISTS?’ – BY DANIEL BENSAID

A new book by Daniel Bensaid:

http://www.iire.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=186%3Astrategies-of-resistance-a-who-are-the-trotskyists&catid=18%3Anotebooks-for-study-and-research&lang=en

Strategies of Resistance & ‘Who Are the Trotskyists?’

IIRE/Socialist Resistance, Notebook for Study and Research no. 41/42 (182 pp.)

With shipping to: Europe €13,50 Rest of World €20,00 Pick up in Amsterdam €8,00

The IIRE has just published Strategies of Resistance & ‘Who Are the Trotskyists?’, a collection of works by IIRE Fellow Daniel Bensaïd, including his history of Trotskyism, newly translated into English by Nathan Rao. This 182-page book has been published in cooperation with Resistance Books. The introduction by Paul Le Blanc gives a flavour of the contents:

Daniel Bensaïd’s challenging survey comes at an appropriate moment. It is a gift to activists reaching for some historical perspective that may provide hints as to where we might go from here. Embracing and sharing the revolutionary socialist political tradition associated with Leon Trotsky, Bensaïd is not simply a thoughtful radical academic or perceptive left-wing intellectual – though he is certainly both – but also one of the foremost leaders of an impressive network of activists, many of them seasoned by innumerable struggles.

Daniel Bensaïd emerged decades ago as a leader of the French section of the Fourth International, the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR). Coming from the ‘generation of ‘68′ – the layer of young revolutionary activists of the 1960s – he blends an impressive intellectual sophistication with a refreshing inclination for revolutionary audacity, and with activist commitments which have not faded over the decades. In the tradition of Ernest Mandel, Bensaïd has reached for the continuing relevance of revolutionary Marxism not only in the battlegrounds of academe (as a professor of philosophy and author of such works as Marx for Our Times), but even more in the battlegrounds of social and political struggles against the oppressive and lethal realities of capitalist ‘globalization.’

In this particular work – succinct, crackling with insights and fruitful provocations – Bensaïd surveys the history of his own political tradition. We are not presented with a catechism, but with a set of informative and critical-minded reflections and notes. We don’t have to agree with all he says. I certainly question his taking issue with Trotsky over whether or not Lenin was essential for the triumph of the Russian Revolution (Trotsky says definitely yes, Bensaïd suggests maybe not). Nor am I satisfied when he gives more serious consideration to the dissident current in US Trotskyism of Max Shachtman and James Burnham (both of whom ended up supporting US imperialism in Vietnam) than to the tradition connected with James P. Cannon (which played a role in building a powerful movement that helped end the Vietnam war). On the other hand, Bensaïd makes no pretension of providing a rounded historical account of world Trotskyism, or even a scholarly account of the more limited issues that he does take up.

He emphasizes that ‘this essay is based on personal experience’ and is focused on what he views as ‘the major debates’ within the movement. And one is especially struck by the excellent point he makes in his Introduction regarding the necessity of understanding the varieties of Trotskyism around the world in their distinctive cultural and national specificities. Little sense can be made of Trotskyism if it is not related to the actual social movements and class struggles of various parts of the world, and to the left-wing labour sub-cultures, in which it has meaning.

The fact remains that Bensaïd offers us a thoughtful, stimulating, valuable political intervention which leaves the reader with a sense of Trotskyism’s history and ideas and diverse manifestations – and also a sense of their relevance for the struggles of today and tomorrow. For younger activists beginning to get their bearings, and for veterans of the struggle who are thinking through the questions of where we have been and where to go from here, this is an important contribution.

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

Revolution and Protest               

Yesterday and Tomorrow

 

Special Session at Left Forum (April 17-19),                           

Pace University (across from City Hall), New York City

 

Panel discussion flowing from the newly-published eight-volume International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest (Wiley-Blackwell):

 

Walden Bello

Kunal Chattopadhyay

Paul Le Blanc

Immanuel Ness

Frances Fox Piven

 

Exploring historical experience and patterns of relevance for left scholars and activists at the present political juncture, the discussion will survey:

 

*The purpose of the encyclopedia — as a tool for scholars and activists today and tomorrow

*Globalization and international revolution — historically and today

*Revolutionary traditions as resources for social change

*New (and not-so-new) realities of our time

*How progressive social change is brought about — lessons and challenges for today

 

For Registration, see: http://www.leftforum.org/

 

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

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