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MARXIST THEORY
& DISCUSSION
EDITION #28

THIS ISSUE:

CELEBRATING
MARX'S 200th! PAGES 5 - 20

QUÉBEC SOLIDAIRE: RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTEST— WHAT SHOULD SOCIALISTS


UNITING THE INDEPENDENTISTS THE PEACE MOVEMENT AND THE DO ABOUT THE INTERNET?
RATHER THAN THE LEFT CHALLENGE OF "R2P"

PAGE 21 PAGE 27 PAGE 37


ABOUT

Marx and Engels speaking with London dock workers. (1895) [Public Domain]

E D I T I O N T W E N T Y- E I G H T | S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 0 1 8
The Spark! is the theoretical and discussion journal of the COMMUNIST PARTY OF CANADA.
The views expressed in signed pieces are those of the authors.

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2
CONTENTS

ARTICLES
KARL MARX (1818-1883) 5
Danny Goldstick
Marx was born on May 5th, 1818; this year celebrates the
200th anniversary of his birth. Editor Danny Goldstick reflects
on what Marx gave us.

ON THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE


BIRTH OF KARL MARX 7
Liz Rowley
From the speech given on May 5th, 2018 in Edmonton.
Karl Marx's titanic stature in human history derives from
his monumental contributions to science, and to scientific
socialism, and the theory and organization of the revoultionary
working class movement, as well as the organization of the
Communist League, and the International Working Men's
Association.

KARL MARX REMEMBERED 15


Paul Lafargue
Married to Laura Marx in 1868, Cuban-born French and Creole
socialist Paul Lafargue reminisces about his father-in-law.
Originally written in 1890.

QUÉBEC SOLIDAIRE: UNITING THE


INDEPENDENTISTS RATHER THAN THE LEFT 21
Pierre Fontaine Tourists snap photos of the house Marx was born in. (2018) [Creative Commons]

Communist Party of Quebec leader Pierre Fontaine analyzes


the current political landscape in the wake of left party Québec
solidaire's merger with Parti québecois breakaway Option WHAT SHOULD SOCIALISTS DO ABOUT THE
nationale. INTERNET? 37
Daniel Joseph
RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTEST — THE PEACE Socialists need to seriously contend with the economic and
MOVEMENT AND THE CHALLENGE OF "R2P" 27 structural role the internet is playing today in our politics and
Dave McKee struggles, both here in Canada and around the world.
As the dangers of mass destruction through war grow, the
challenge to the peace and anti-imperialist movements involves WHY WE HAIL GREAT OCTOBER 43
exposing the real, imperialist reasons behind interventions Jeanne McGuire
cloaked in the humanitarian language of "responsibility to From the speech given on November 18th, 2017 at a banquet
protect". in Toronto celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Russian
Revolution.

BOOK REVIEWS

BOOKS ABOUT THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION 49


Roger Perkins
The explosive events of October 1917 still resonate strongly, if
not always consciously, in the political practices of the present
day. An excerpt of reviewer Roger Perkins' survey of some
contemporary literature about the Great October Socialist
Revolution in celebration of its hundredth anniversary, omitted
Detail from a poster celebrating the third anniversary of the October Revolution. (1920)
[Public Domain]
from our previous issue due to a printer's error.

3
GALLERY

Last known photograph of Karl Marx, taken by E. Dutertre in Algiers, on 28 April, 1882. [Public Domain]

4
EDITORIAL

KARL MARX
(1818-1883)
Danny Goldstick

M
arx was born on May 5, 1818. This year Works, Volume 39, pages 62-65)
his anniversary is being celebrated
around the world, on account of what Mass classes of the oppressed prior
he gave us. It wasn’t his “far-sighted vision”, to the Industrial Revolution were scattered
although he had that. He was far from the geographically and ignorant. By Marx’s day,
first to envisage a sharing society free from however, the class of toilers was coming to be,
capitalist domination. And it was not his turn to
the working class to achieve such an outcome. “disciplined, united, organised by the very
Numbers of communist workers had figured mechanism of the process of capitalist
that out before Marx did. He was able to learn production itself.”
from them. (Capital I, chapter 32, Marx and Engels
There was dialectical thought before Collected Works, Volume 35, page 750)
Marx, and there was materialism before Marx.
And others before him had identified class Workers’ daily experience on the job in modern
struggles in society, present and historical. industry prepares them with a collectivity and
In a letter of March 5, 1852 to Joseph discipline so as to act together effectively upon
Weydemeyer, Marx wrote, coming to see the need. And modern capitalism
is a teacher as well by unavoidably producing
“Now as for myself, I do not claim to have recurrent crises capable of shaking people out
discovered either the existence of classes of their normal conservative caution. That’s
in modern society or the struggle between what makes the workers’ eventual takeover
them. Long before me, bourgeois historians inevitable.
had described the historical development
As Marx’s brilliant co-worker Frederick
of this struggle between the classes, as
had bourgeois economists their economic Engels put it in 1880,
anatomy. My own contribution was 1. to
show that the existence of classes is merely “Hitherto, the owner of the instruments
bound up with certain historical phases in the of labour had himself appropriated the
development of production; 2. that the class product, because, as a rule, it was his own
struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship product and the assistance of others was the
of the proletariat; 3. that this dictatorship exception. Now the owner of the instruments
itself constitutes no more than a transition of labour always appropriated to himself
to the abolition of all classes and to a classless the product, although it was no longer his
society.” product but exclusively the product of the
labour of others. Thus, the products now
(Karl Marx and Frederick Engels Collected
produced socially were not appropriated
by those who had actually set in motion the
means of production and actually produced
Danny Goldstick is the editor of The Spark!

5
KARL MARX (1818-1883)

the commodities, but by the capitalists. The your job instills that in you is of course going
means of production, and production itself, to be a matter of degree. Miners’ capability for
had become in essence socialised. But they solidarity is famous, for example. Miners know
were subjected to a form of appropriation
they depend on each other every day for their
which presupposes the private production
of individuals, under which, therefore, lives. But different workers’ work can be less
every one owns his own product and brings or be more collectivizing. All workers, though,
it to market. [...] have an interest in acting together to resist the
“This contradiction, which gives to the boss class.
new mode of production its capitalistic Recurrently and unevenly, capitalism
character, contains the germ of the whole
smartens people up and forces them into
of the social antagonisms of to-day. The
greater the mastery obtained by the new action. Other class systems in history have had
mode of production over all important fields their day, and the eventual end of the capitalist
of production and in all manufacturing system is certain also, although the historical
countries, the more it reduced individual path to that result in different countries will
production to an insignificant residuum, necessarily depend on many particular causes
the more clearly was brought out the
hard to foresee. But we can know that our efforts
incompatibility of socialised production
with capitalistic appropriation.” too are an indispensable part of this process.
(Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, III, Marx
and Engels Collected Works, Volume 24, page Happy birthday, comrade Karl! n
310)
Of course, the crises capitalism produces
vary widely in severity. They hit much harder
in the Third World than in imperialist countries
like Canada. And not all workers get the
collectivity and discipline instilled in them on
the job that industrial workers do. How much

W H Y M A R X WR OT E CA P ITA L
(From a letter of Karl Marx to Sigfrid Meyer, dated April 30, 1867:)

“Why... did I not answer you? Because I was the whole time at death’s door. I thus
had to make use of every moment when I was capable of work to complete my book,
to which I have sacrificed my health, happiness and family. I hope this explanation
suffices. I laugh at the so-called ‘practical’ men and their wisdom. If one wanted to
be an ox, one could, of course, turn one’s back on the sufferings of humanity and
look after one’s own hide. But I would really have thought myself unpractical if I had
croaked without finally completing my book, at least in manuscript.”

(See Karl Marx and Frederick Engels Collected Works, Volume 42, page 366.)

6
FEATURE

People pose in front of bronze statue of Karl Marx created by Chinese artist Wu Weishan to mark the 200th anniversary of Marx's birth in his hometown of Trier. (5 May, 2018)
[Wolfgang Rattay | Reuters]

ON THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY


OF THE BIRTH OF
KARL MARX
Liz Rowley

[Based on a speech given in Edmonton on May 5, 2018]

L
et us begin this evening, by raising our contributions to science, and to scientific
glasses to Karl Marx, who was born on May socialism, and the theory and organization of
5th, 1818 – 200 years ago today. the revolutionary working class movement, the
As Frederick Engels said at his funeral, organization of the Communist League, and
a short lifetime later: “His name and his work the International Working Men’s Association –
will endure through the ages.” So it has, and so political organizations of the working class that
it will. could lead this revolutionary and world-wide
Karl Marx’s titanic stature in human struggle for socialism and for communism.
history derives from his monumental As Engels said at Marx’s funeral,

Liz Rowley is the leader of the COMMUNIST PARTY OF “Just as Darwin discovered the law of
CANADA. evolution in organic nature, so Marx

7
ON THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF KARL MARX

discovered the law of evolution in human “Happy the man to whom it is granted to
history; he discovered the simple fact make even one such discovery. But in every
[...] that mankind must first of all eat and single field which Marx investigated – and
drink, have shelter and clothing, before he investigated very many fields, none of
it can pursue politics, science, religion, them superficially – in every field, even in
art, etc; and that therefore the production that of mathematics, he made independent
of the immediate material means of life discoveries.
and consequently the degree of economic This was the man of science. But
development attained by a given people or this was not even half the man. Science
during a given epoch, form the foundation was for Marx a historically dynamic,
upon which the forms of government, the revolutionary force. However great the joy
legal conceptions, the art and even the with which he welcomed a new discovery
religious ideas of the people concerned in some theoretical science whose practical
have been evolved, and in the light of application perhaps it was as yet quite
which these things must there be explained, impossible to envisage, he experienced a
instead of vice versa as had hitherto been quite other kind of joy when the discovery
the case." involved immediate revolutionary changes
in industry and in the general course of
"Marx also discovered the special law of history. [...] For Marx was before all else a
motion governing the present-day capitalist revolutionary. His real mission in life was
method of production and the bourgeois to contribute in one way or another to the
society that this method of production has overthrow of capitalist society and of the
created”, forms of government which it had brought
into being, to contribute to the liberation
of the present-day proletariat which he
Engels continued.
was the first to make conscious of its own
position and its needs, of the conditions
“The discovery of surplus value suddenly under which it could win its freedom.
threw light on the problem [...] which all Fighting was his element. And he fought
previous investigators, both bourgeois with a passion, a tenacity, and a success
economists and socialist critics, had been such as few could rival.”
groping (for) in the dark."*

“Two such discoveries would be enough for


one life-time,” said Engels.

* This is a reference to Marx’s scientific insight that rent, interest and profit can all be considered together as the
proceeds of exploiting workers’ labour, though divided among different capitalists. In a letter to Engels written on
August 24, 1867, after sending the corrected proofs of Capital to the publisher, Marx wrote,

“The best points in my book are:


1. the two-fold character of labour according to whether it is expressed in use-value or exchange-value […]
2. the treatment of surplus-value regardless of its particular forms as profit, interest, ground rent, etc. […]
The treatment of the particular forms in classical political economy, where they are for ever being jumbled up
together with the general form, is an olla potrida [a hotchpotch].”

(Karl Marx and Frederick Engels Collected Works, Volume 42, page 407.)

8
ON THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF KARL MARX

M
arx started life as the son of German
Jews, his father a lawyer and his mother
of Dutch background. According to his
daughter, Eleanor, his favourite authors were
Racine and Voltaire, Shakespeare and Homer.
He was born in the small German town of Trier
and received his university education in Bonn
and Berlin, moving from law to philosophy
and receiving his PhD degree in 1841. Already
critical-minded, he began to write for various
liberal newspapers. At the age of 24 he was
offered the editorship of one of these – the
Rheinische Zeitung in Cologne. His incisive
criticism of governmental reaction in its pages
infuriated the official censors, until in 1843
the Rheinische Zeitung was closed down by the
government.
Marx’s observation two years later,
“Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted
the world; the point however is to change it,”
is universally recognized as a call to action Lithograph of Marx as a student in 1834. [Public Domain]
– as a call to link revolutionary theory to
revolutionary organization and action.
After a seven-year engagement, Marx Pierre Proudhon’s Philosophy of Poverty, and
married Jenny von Westphalen in 1843, and he joined a conspiratorial hole-in-the-wall
they moved to Paris, keeping just ahead of the organization which became the Communist
forces of the law. They had several children, League. He transformed this organization into
two of whom died at a young age, leaving three a revolutionary vanguard in the short space of
daughters. All of his daughters were named three years.
Jenny after their mother, and with the exception Marx paid the rent from writing articles
of the eldest daughter, who was known as Jenny, for various progressive journals, which was
the other two daughters were known by their generally insufficient, leaving the family in
second names or the affectionate nicknames poverty throughout this period of their lives.
given to them in the family. Marx’s third Marx’s closest friend and collaborator Frederick
daughter, Eleanor Marx was a Marxist writer Engels came to support the family financially,
and agitator in her own right. especially after his father’s death, when he was
It was after his marriage in 1843 that able to take his share out of the family textile
Marx began to write pro-communist theoretical business and retire from employment there.
works, the first of which was The Holy Family, Engels also left generous bequests to Marx’s
which he wrote with Engels. This was a satirical surviving children in his will.
critique of post-Hegelian idealism and his In January 1848 Marx and Engels
former mentor Bruno Bauer in particular. published the Communist Manifesto, which was
Shortly after, he moved (under duress) to the theoretical and political program of the
Brussels, where in 1847 he wrote the lectures Communist League, just prior to the 1848-
later published as Wage Labour and Capital and 49 wave of revolutions across Europe. The
also The Poverty of Philosophy, in response to Manifesto was written in German, but in the

9
ON THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF KARL MARX

Marx and Engels in the printing house of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, 1848. [E. Capiro | Public Domain]

170 years since then, it has been translated a revolutionary-democratic opponent of the
into just about every language in the world. monarchical government but not a socialist or
The Manifesto famously declares, in clear and communist publication, though on the day it
uncompromising words: was shut down in 1849 its final issue was printed
in red ink with an appeal to the workers of
“In place of the old bourgeois society, Cologne.
with its classes and class antagonisms, we As the liberal and democratic revolutions
shall have an association, in which the free were defeated across Europe, Marx moved to
development of each is the condition for London, where he lived in exile for the rest
the free development of all." of his life, spending much of his time writing
and communicating with the revolutionary
"Let the ruling classes tremble at a working class movements across Europe and
Communist revolution. The proletarians in the U.S.A.
have nothing to lose but their chains. The Communist League survived
They have a world to win. Workers of all until 1852, when the Berlin government, now
countries, unite.” firmly back in power, hunted down its Central
leadership, then located in Cologne, arresting
Marx was just 30 years old when the Manifesto and trying them in the Cologne Communist
was written. Trials. Seven of their leaders were imprisoned
With Europe in flames, Marx then went in a fortress with sentences of three and up to
back to Cologne and edited the New Rheinische seven years. The League was then dissolved
Zeitung (Neue Rheinische Zeitung – subtitled by its remaining members, terrorized by the
Organ of the Democracy). This newspaper was police.

10
ON THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF KARL MARX

Marx’s theoretical and popular writings, “The [Communist] Manifesto was written
pamphlets, meetings, and agitation in in German, but in the 170 years since
revolutionary circles in Cologne, Paris, Brussels
then, it has been translated into just
and London did not sit well with the bourgeois
governments and ruling classes of Europe about every language in the world.”
that he regularly identified as the source of
war, reaction, and social misery, and the main
obstacle to social progress and working class Publishers of New York.
advance. This was topped off, as far as Europe’s The Rules of the International Working
ruling class was concerned with the formation Men’s Association of 1864 set out the main
of the International Working Men’s Association tasks and objectives of today’s International
in 1864, as a new wave of working class struggle Communist Movement,
began to unfold.
Members of the French section of the “Considering:
I.W.A. – the First International – were active u That the emancipation of the working
classes must be conquered by the working
in the Paris Commune rising of 1871. This was
classes themselves; that the struggle for
the first time in history that the working class the emancipation of the working classes
held power anywhere – if only for a brief two means not a struggle for class privileges
months – before being destroyed and vilified and monopolies, but for equal rights and
by Europe’s ruling classes. The I.W.A.’s strong duties, and the abolition of all class rule;
defence of the Commune – The Civil War in u That the economical subjection of the
France, written by Marx – for the first time man of labour to the monopolizer of the
means of labour, that is, the sources of life,
brought it and him to wide public attention.
lies at the bottom of servitude in all of its
But the I.W.A. was reluctantly wound up in forms of social misery, mental degradation
1873, as the class struggle waned once more. and political dependence;
While studying at the British Museum, u That all efforts aiming at that great
Marx wrote many leaflets and pamphlets end have hitherto failed from the want of
attacking, for instance, Lord Palmerston’s solidarity between the manifold divisions
government in the U.K. Palmerston posed as of labour in each country, and from the
absence of a fraternal bond of union
a defender of the people internationally, but in
between the working classes of different
fact consistently backed the interests of British countries;
capitalism. u That the emancipation of labour is
It was in the British Museum library neither a local nor a national but a social
also that Marx developed his theory of surplus problem, embracing all countries in which
value first set out in his book, Contribution to the modern society exists, and depending for its
Critique of Political Economy, published in 1859. solution on the concurrence, practical and
theoretical of the most advanced countries;
In 1867 Marx published Volume I of Capital (Das
u That the present revival of the working
Kapital) in German in the city of Hamburg.
classes in the most industrious countries
The next two volumes were published after his of Europe, while it raises a new hope, gives
death by his close friend Frederick Engels and solemn warning against a relapse into the
have been translated into every major language old errors, and calls for the immediate
around the world since. combination of the still disconnected
The collected writings of Marx and movements;
Engels, comprising 50 volumes in English,
“For these reasons the International
were published, starting in 1975, by a three- Working Men’s Association has been
way collaboration, including International founded.”

11
ON THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF KARL MARX

“Marx’s laws of capitalist development with the aims and purposes of the Russian
and German socialist revolutions, and
are being exposed in horrendous full
colour and detail, as US imperialism "Be It Further Resolved that this convention
dictates how the world’s peoples, gives the incoming executive officers full
power to call a province-wide general
nations and states will live or strike should the allied powers persist
when and how they will die.” in their attempt to overthrow the Soviet
administration in Russia or Germany or
in any country in which a Soviet form of
government is or may be established.”

Heady stuff indeed! When Marx died

T
wo hundred years after Marx’s birth, and in 1883 there had been another massive
one hundred and thirty-five years after his outpouring of grief and tributes from all over
death, the international working class has the world. One of the biggest events was held in
passed through many trials, many struggles, New York at the Cooper Union Meeting, where
the most significant of which was the victory thousands were turned away because the hall
of the Great October Socialist Revolution couldn’t hold all those who came to offer their
in November 1917 under the leadership of respects and hear the tributes.
Lenin and the Bolshevik Party. The Russian Since the overthrow of socialism in the
Revolution sent shock waves through the USSR and a large part of the socialist system of
capitalist world, shaking the capitalist system states, imperialism has crowed – once again –
to its core. To the international working class that socialism is dead, that Marxism is dead –
movement, the red revolution sparked a that capitalism is eternal – that we have reached
grassfire of hope, energy and solidarity, and led the end of history.
to the creation of revolutionary Communist The people of Cuba would disagree –
Parties around the world. Revolution was in now in the 60th year of their socialist revolution
the air, and had to be stamped out in Russia, – just 90 miles away from US imperialism –
according to Winston Churchill, who famously from the Empire.
called for governments to “smash the Bolshevik The people of China would also
eggs in the nest and not wait until Bolshevik disagree – now in the 70th year of their socialist
chickens are hatched all over the world”. The revolution – with a quarter of the world’s
Canadian government accused Lenin of being population, a rapidly expanding economy,
a German agent, while the Catholic Church and holding more than $1.17 trillion of US
pronounced him to be a devil. government debt.
Working people around the world The people of Vietnam would disagree,
rallied in “Hands Off Russia” campaigns that 43 years after militarily defeating the U.S. –
in many countries, including Canada, involved the most powerful imperialist country in the
the trade unions and workers’ organizations of world.
the time. In Alberta, this included the Alberta The people of the DPRK of North
Federation of Labour which in February 1919 Korea would also disagree, as they reject US
unanimously passed a resolution in support of imperialism’s threats to “totally destroy” the
the Russian Revolution, which read, in part: Korean Peninsula – threats made by Trump at
the UN last winter as his campaign for “regime
“Resolved that that this convention of the change” went full-tilt.
Alberta Federation of Labour places itself on The people of Syria, Yemen, Iran,
record as being in full accord and sympathy Palestine, Libya, Venezuela, Brazil, and many

12
ON THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF KARL MARX

other countries seeking their own path of social


and economic development, independence,
and sovereignty, including some who choose
the socialist path, would also not agree. These
countries and peoples too are threatened with
regime change, or are already facing the US
war machine and US aggression.
And what about Canada? Working
people across Canada are also facing a foreign
policy of active involvement in US / NATO and
EU dirty wars. We are being told that military
spending will increase by 70% this decade,
along with more financial commitments to
NATO – imperialism’s global army. Workers
are facing real levels of unemployment that
are startling, and real wages that have fallen or
stagnated while prices and corporate profits
have skyrocketed. This is the reality in the
advanced capitalist countries today. This is
what is underneath workers’ growing anger
with capitalist governments, corporations, and Karl Marx, his wife Jenny Marx-Von Westphalen, daughter Jenny, and friend
Friedrich Engels. "Happy Holidays" (1982) [Ha Qiongwen | Public Domain]
institutions. Their anger is well-founded, and
has found outlets in the Occupy movement, in
Idle No More, in the Women’s march, in the their countries. In Europe, far-right and fascist
Quebec student strike, in the illegal US teachers’ parties are electing MPs and governments,
strikes, and in the rising of the Indigenous while right-wing populism and reaction –
peoples. It’s found a voice in widespread linked to far-right and fascist forces – are
support for Bernie Sanders in the U.S., and gaining ground in Canada and the U.S.
for Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K., people who For millions, including millions in the
call themselves socialists though they are not advanced capitalist countries, capitalism isn’t
scientific socialists, they are not Marxists, and working. Working people are desperately
they do not call for overthrowing the capitalist searching for an alternative, expressed in the
state and instituting social ownership of the idea that “another world is possible”. We can
economy. Yet they reflect the growing interest add – “and urgent.”
in socialism around the globe, and the growing Nuclear war and irreversible climate
demand for fundamental social change. change are new phenomena since Marx’s
In fact, Marx’s laws of capitalist time, which have objectively speeded up the
development are being exposed in horrendous necessity of revolutionary transformation.
full colour and detail, as US imperialism What is missing is the mass influence of the
dictates how the world’s peoples, nations and revolutionary movement and the consciousness
states will live or when and how they will die. on the part of the working class of its historic
The conditions of the working class, even in mission to overthrow capitalism, and to
the most developed capitalist countries, have establish working class power: socialism.
deteriorated to the point that force and war are This revolutionary movement has not
increasingly the tools capitalist governments died out as a result of the great loss of the USSR
reach for to maintain the rule of capital in and the other socialist states of the twentieth

13
ON THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF KARL MARX

century, but it has been ferociously attacked,


vilified, distorted and undermined by the
actions of imperialism globally and in each

W
country. The history of socialism has been hen Marx died, Engels said at his
distorted and perverted, the role of the world’s graveside, “Marx was the best hated
Communist and progressive movements has and most calumniated man of his
been distorted and perverted, as imperialism time.”
desperately seeks to extend its life, and The revolutionary Wilhelm Liebknecht
continuously expand its rate of profit. responded:
As Marx noted, there are waves in the
class struggle which count as setbacks and “True. He was the most hated, but he was
advances for the working class and its allies also the most loved. Most hated by the
through history. The current defensive position oppressors and exploiters of the people; best
of the working class is historically temporary loved by the oppressed and exploited, as far
because capitalism cannot survive its built-in as they are conscious of their situation.”
contradictions. It has produced its own grave-
diggers: the working class; it has outlived its Our job today is make the oppressed and
usefulness and is rotting. But it will not fall of exploited conscious of their situation, and
its own accord. It requires the active conscious armed with scientific socialism, to win socialism
revolutionary action of the working class to in Canada and around the globe.
finally topple it and to create a new society in Workers of the world unite! You have
which exploitation and oppression are assigned nothing to lose but your chains!
to the garbage bin of history. We have a world to win! n
The good news? Capitalism is already
pregnant with socialism!

Detail from the left panel of the "History of Mexico" mural by Diego Rivera on a stairway of the Palacio Nacional (National Palace) in México City. (2012) [Public Domain]

14
ARTICLE

Frederick Engels & Karl Marx; front: Marx daughters Laura, Eleanor and Jenny, before June 1864. Reproduced from a daguerreotype. [Public Domain]

KARL MARX REMEMBERED


Paul Lafargue

(Karl Marx and his wife Jenny had three children who lived to reach adulthood – daughters Jenny,
Laura and Eleanor. Paul Lafargue (1842-1911), who came to London in 1865 after being banned from
all French universities for student activism, married Laura Marx there in 1868 and, back in France
after 1882, was one of the founders of French Socialism (which was much later to split into the
Communist and Socialist parties). Lafargue served a term in the French Chamber of Deputies and
a couple of brief terms in jail as a political prisoner. His writings include The Right To Be Lazy (La
droit à la paresse, completed in prison in 1883), on the importance of reduced hours of work. The
nineteenth century had a Romantic image of what a “genius” should be like, but probably Lafargue
did not have to exaggerate very much to make his account of Marx fit. What we print here is
excerpted from his longer essay on Marx, written in 1890, as republished in Reminiscences of Marx
and Engels (Moscow, no date), pages 71-74.)

I
met Karl Marx for the first time in February in Saint Martin’s Hall, London, and I went to
1865. The First International had been London from Paris to give Marx news of the
founded on September 28, 1864 at a meeting development of the young organization there.
M. Tolain, now a senator in the bourgeois
Paul Lafargue was born in Cuba to French and Creole republic, gave me a letter of introduction.
parents and married Marx's second daughter, Laura.

15
KARL MARX REMEMBERED

“[Marx] knew Heine and Goethe by prejudices, must necessarily come to the same
heart and often quoted them in his conclusions.
Yet while studying the economic and
conversations; he was an assiduous
political development of human society
reader of poets in all European without any preconceived opinion, Marx wrote
languages. Every year he read with no other intention than to propagate the
Aschylus in the Greek original.” results of his research and with a determined
will to provide a scientific basis for the socialist
movement, which had so far been lost in the
I was then 24 years old. As long as I live clouds of utopianism. He gave publicity to
I shall remember the impression that first visit his views only to promote the triumph of the
made on me. Marx was not well at the time. working class, whose historic mission is to
He was working on the first book of Capital, establish communism as soon as it has achieved
which was not published until two years later, political and economic leadership of society.
in 1867. He feared he would not be able to finish [...]
his work and was therefore glad of visits from Marx did not confine his activity to the
young people. “I must train men to continue country he was born in. “I am a citizen of the
communist propaganda after me,” he used to world,” he used to say; “I am active wherever I
say. am.” And in fact, no matter what country events
Karl Marx was one of the rare men who and political persecution drove him to – France,
could be leaders in science and public life at the Belgium, England – he took a prominent
same time: these two aspects were so closely part in the revolutionary movements which
united in him that one can understand him developed there.
only by taking into account both the scholar However, it was not the untiring an
and the socialist fighter. incomparable socialist agitator but rather the
Marx held the view that science must be scientist that I first saw in his study in Maitland
pursued for itself, irrespective of the eventual Park Road. That study was the centre to which
results of research, but at the same time that a Party comrades came from all parts of the
scientist could only debase himself by giving civilized world to find out the opinion of the
up active participation in public life or shutting master of socialist thought. One must know
himself up in his study or laboratory like a that historic room before one can penetrate
maggot in cheese and holding aloof from the into the intimacy of Marx’s spiritual life.
life and political struggle of his contemporaries. It was on the first floor, flooded by light
“Science must not be a selfish pleasure,” he used from a broad window that looked out on to the
to say. “Those who have the good fortune to be park. Opposite the window and on either side of
able to devote themselves to scientific pursuits the fireplace the walls were lined with bookcases
must be the first to place their knowledge at filled with books and stacked up to the ceiling
the service of humanity.” One of his favourite with newspapers and manuscripts. Opposite
sayings was: “Work for humanity.” the fireplace on one side of the window were
Although Marx sympathized profoundly two tables piled up with papers, books and
with the sufferings of the working classes, it newspapers; in the middle of the room, well
was not sentimental considerations but the in the light, stood a small, plain desk (three
study of history and political economy that led foot by two) and a wooden armchair; between
him to communist views. He maintained that the armchair and the bookcase, opposite the
any unbiased man, free from the influence window, was a leather sofa on which Marx used
of private interests and not blinded by class to lie down for a rest from time to time. On the

16
KARL MARX REMEMBERED

mantelpiece were more books, cigars, matches,


tobacco boxes, paperweights and photographs
of Marx’s daughters and wife, Wilhelm Wolff
and Frederick Engels.
Marx was a heavy smoker. “Capital,” he
said to me once, “will not even pay for the cigars
I smoked writing it.” But he was still heavier on
matches. He so often forgot his pipe or cigar
that he emptied an incredible number of boxes
of matches in a short time to relight them.
He never allowed anybody to put
his books or papers in order – or rather in
disorder. The disorder in which they lay was
only apparent, everything was really in its
intended place so that it was easy for him to lay
his hand on the book or notebook he needed.
Even during conversations he often paused to
show in the book a quotation or figure he had
just mentioned. He and his study were one: the
books and papers in it were as much under his
control as his own limbs. Paul Lafargue in 1871. [Public Domain]
Marx had no use for formal symmetry
in the arrangement of his books: volumes of
different sizes and pamphlets stood next to quality of paper or type; he would turn down
one another. He arranged them according to the corners of the pages, make pencil marks
their contents, not their size. Books were tools in the margin and underline whole lines. He
for his mind, not articles of luxury. “They are never wrote on books, but sometimes he could
my slaves and they must serve me as I will,” he not refrain from an exclamation or question
used to say. He paid no heed to size or binding, mark when the author went too far. His system

M A R X ON P OP ULA R IT Y

“For popularity Marx entertained a sovereign contempt. What he especially praised


in Robert Owen [early nineteenth-century utopian socialist] was that whenever any
of his ideas became popular he would come forward with a new demand making him
unpopular.”

Wilhelm Liebknecht, quoted in David McLellan (ed.), Karl Marx, Interviews and Recollections (London,
1981), page 50.

17
KARL MARX REMEMBERED

of underlining made it easy for him to find


any passage he needed in any book. He had
the habit of going through his notebooks
and reading the passages underlined in the
books after intervals of many years in order
to keep them fresh in his memory. He had an
extraordinarily reliable memory which he had
cultivated from his youth according to Hegel’s
advice by learning by heart verse in a foreign
language he did not know.
He knew Heine and Goethe by heart
and often quoted them in his conversations;
he was an assiduous reader of poets in all
European languages. Every year he read
Aschylus in the Greek original. He considered
him and Shakespeare as the greatest dramatic
geniuses humanity ever gave birth to. His
respect for Shakespeare was boundless: he
made a detailed study of his works and knew
even the least important of his characters.
His whole family had a real cult for the great Jenny Laura Marx. (n.d.) [Public Domain]

English dramatist; his three daughters knew


many of his works by heart. When after 1848
he wanted to perfect his knowledge of English, high opinion. Dante and Robert Burns ranked
which he could already read, he sought out and among his favourite poets and he would listen
classified all Shakespeare’s original expressions. with great pleasure to his daughters reciting or
He did the same with part of the polemical singing the Scottish poet’s satires or ballads. n
works of William Cobbett, of whom he had a

TEST IMONY

Engels, in London, writing to Marx’s daughter Laura Lafargue, in France, Feb. 25, 1888:

"You will have heard that [Theodor] Reuss has sued [William] Morris for calling him a
[German] spy in the Commonweal. [...] I don’t think Reuss will venture going into the
witness box, perjury is only allowed to regular British police constables."

— Karl Marx and Frederick Engels Collected Works, Volume 48, pages 159-160.

18
EXCERPT

KARL MARX: “CONFESSIONS” (MID-1860S)


Marx’s daughter Laura had got a “Confessions Book” with a fun questionnaire for family and friends
to fill out on its different pages. Some of her father’s answers here seem less serious than others. For
instance, by the third-last answer Karl Marx was obviously starting to get bored with the exercise. In
spite of his (to us) outrageous third answer, in practice Marx’s wife Jenny and their daughters Jenny,
Laura and Eleanor were far from pushovers. Eleanor Marx was to be a major agitational speaker
spearheading the more militant and political “new unionism” of the 1890s in Britain.

Your favourite virtue Simplicity.


Your favourite virtue in man Strength.
Your favourite virtue in woman Weakness.
Your chief characteristic Singleness of purpose.
Your idea of happiness To fight.
Your idea of misery Submission.
The vice you excuse most Gullibility.
The vice you detest most Servility.
Your aversion Martin Tupper [popular Victorian versifier:
"Nature's own nobleman, honest and frank,
is a man with his heart in his hand", etc.].
Favourite occupation Book-worming.
Favourite poet Shakespeare, Aeschylus, Goethe.
Favourite prose-writer Diderot.
Favourite hero Spartacus, Kepler.
Favourite heroine Gretchen [character in Goethe's Faust].
Favourite flower Daphne.
Favourite colour Red.
Favourite name Laura, Jenny.
Favourite dish Fish.
Favourite maxim "Nihil humani a me alienum puto"
["I don't regard anything human as alien to
me"].
Favourite motto "De ombibus dubitandum"
["Exercise doubt about everything"].

(Reprinted from Reminiscences of Marx and Engels, Moscow, no date.)

19
GALLERY

An oil painting of Frederick Engels and Karl Marx at the National Museum of China. (n.d.) [Public Domain]

20
ARTICLE

Québec solidaire remains a left-wing and progressive organization, but the merger with Option nationale opens the door to a possible nationalist degeneration. [Québec Solidaire]

QUÉBEC SOLIDAIRE:
UNITING INDEPENDENTISTS
RATHER THAN THE LEFT
Pierre Fontaine

[Since 2006 the Quebec political scene has included a strongly left party, Québec solidaire, with significant
though unofficial ties to organized labour. QS was formed by combining the Union des forces progressistes
– Union of Progressive Forces – and Option citoyenne – Citizens’ Option. The UFP itself had been formed in
2002 by a federated coming-together of the Rassemblement pour l’alternative progressiste – Union for the
Progressive Alternative – the Parti de la démocratie socialiste – Party of Socialist Democracy (up to then the
Quebec wing of the NDP) – and the Parti communiste du Québec. Québec solidaire now has three members in
the Quebec National Assembly, all from Montreal.

[QS has stood up strongly for the interests of working people, for women, for peace, for indigenous rights, for
immigrants, and for most progressive causes, including opposition to imperialist “globalization”. It has been
pro-independence, but has allowed members to dissent on that issue, and even to run as QS candidates for
the National Assembly. It has called for the convening of a constituent assembly to decide Quebec’s future,
but up to now has said that whether or not to secede from Canada would be up to that Assembly to determine.
Now it has decided to merge with Option nationale, a breakaway from the Parti québecois sharply critical of
the PQ for not making independence an urgent enough issue.]

21
QUÉBEC SOLIDAIRE: UNITING THE INDEPENDENTISTS RATHER THAN THE LEF T

I
n early December 2017, Québec solidaire objective in its own right, even the party’s main
and Option nationale at their respective purpose.
conventions both adopted the terms of
an agreement in principle leading to their NATIONALISM AND REFORMISM
merger into a single organization. While
"Québec solidaire" will remain the name of the That QS is in favour of Quebec independence
merged organization, it is nevertheless Option is neither new nor surprising. This was already
nationale that has won the most with respect to the case with the UFP previously. QS explains
the contentious elements of the two programs. the reasons for this position as follows in its
Moreover, as soon as the agreement in program:
principle was made public by the QS and ON
leaders in March 2017, l’Aut’Journal, organ of "Québec's aspiration to be seen as something
the left of the PQ, declared with satisfaction that other than a province like the others has
been constantly opposed by the federal
the Option nationale leadership had "succeeded
government and the rest of Canada. Over
in significantly altering the direction of Québec the years, through constitutional battles,
solidaire". certain administrative agreements have
Although there was internal debate indeed been concluded in limited areas.
in both organizations, the understanding, in However, any further reform in depth
reality, was to take it or leave it as it stood. Since of Canadian federalism has proved to be
totally impossible.”
their respective conventions calling to approve
it took place within a few months of the next
In its program, the Communist Party (PCC-
provincial election, the pressure was extremely
PCQ, Communist Party of Canada-Communist
heavy on the delegates to adopt the agreement.
Party of Québec) makes the exact same
Leaders, particularly at QS, even intervened
statement:
directly to exert pressure against any dissent
that had arisen in the pre-convention period.
“The current constitution [of Canada]
One of the most important consequences perpetuates the injustices and inequities
is that QS accepts that the constituent assembly of the old BNA Act. 'Provincial rights' were
it proposes is now "closed", that is, the result is substituted for genuine national rights” [...]
predetermined to be in favor of an independent “At the heart of the crisis of confederation
state, although a few months earlier, its own is the refusal to recognize the right of every
nation to self-determination up to and
congress had expressly rejected such a proposal
including the right to separation; that is,
and confirmed the creation of an "open" the right to choose the form of sovereignty
constituent assembly as a fundamental part of which the majority of the people of that
its program. nation desire.” […] “The sharpest expression
As stated in the report of the last plenum of the constitutional crisis relates to
of the CPC Central Committee, on the occasion Québec’s national status and the failure of
the Canadian state to recognize Québec’s
of this merger with ON, QS seems to be making
right to national self-determination, up to
a significant qualitative change in its political and including secession.”
line by making Québec's independence an
From this observation, QS deduces that,
Pierre Fontaine is the leader of the PARTI COMMUNISTE
DU QUÉBEC, a distinct entity within the COMMUNIST “Canadian federalism is fundamentally
PARTY OF CANADA.

22
QUÉ BEC SOLIDAIRE: UNITING THE INDEPENDENTISTS RATHER THAN THE LEF T

Option nationale leader Sol Zanetti (centre) with Québec solidaire co-spokespersons Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois (left) and Manon Massé (right). (2017)
[Jacques Boissinot | The Canadian Press]

unreformable. It is impossible for Quebec between Quebec and English-speaking


to obtain all the powers it aspires to, not to Canada, guaranteeing the full participation
mention those that would be necessary for of Aboriginal peoples and protecting their
the profound changes proposed by Québec
ancestral national rights, including the right to
Solidaire [...]"
self-goverment, etc. The PCC-PCQ proposes
to make Canada a Confederal Republic of the
and that consequently,
different nations.
“[...] the entirety of its project for society So we could sum up the two points
can be realized only if Quebec has all of of view as follows: while QS proposes
the full range of political, economic and independence first, then to negotiate an equal
cultural powers.” relationship with Canada and other nations, the
PCC-PCQ proposes changing the constitution
Nevertheless, once independence has been of the whole country to establish from the
acquired, QS considers that, start an egalitarian relationship amongst the
nations, Québec, Canada and the other nations.
“for geographical as well as historical Finally, while the approaches to achieve
reasons, (Québec) should maintain and
this are a little different, there is, on the
develop its special ties with Canada, the
Acadian nation, the French-speaking other hand, no real difference in terms of the
Canadian minorities and the indigenous desired result with respect to the constitutional
nations of North America.” relationship to be established between nations,
which, in the end, could in both cases resemble
The PCC-PCQ, on the other hand, proposes for a kind of sovereignty-association. Moreover,
our part the development of a new constitution at the time of Sam Walsh’s leadership in 1967,
based on an equal and voluntary partnership the PCQ had adopted the position that Quebec

23
QUÉBEC SOLIDAIRE: UNITING THE INDEPENDENTISTS RATHER THAN THE LEF T

TA X ES: WHO PAYS?

Personal income tax as share of federal revenue – 1970s: 30%, Ç 2013: 50%.

Corporate income tax as share of federal revenue – 1970s: 20%, È 2013: 13.6%.

(Globe and Mail Report on Business Magazine, March 2018)

should have a constitution and become a socialism. It aims to unify the working class
national state to form a pact with Canada of the country beyond national divisions, so
on an equal footing. (Samuel Walsh, "This that it will be able to accomplish its historic
Tendency to Confuse Notions of Sovereignty mission. Its approach is revolutionary and
and Separation," Combat, April 11, 1969, vol. 4, internationalist.
page 2).
Nor is the difference that QS and PCC- INITIALLY, SOVEREIGNTY IN THE SERVICE
PCQ would make a different diagnosis of the OF THE CLASS STRUGGLE
possibility of reforming Canadian federalism,
since in both cases their proposals imply a Despite this essential difference, the PCC-
radical break with it. (As the latest events in PCQ has worked very hard for several decades
Catalonia demonstrate, the support of the to establish a united front with progressive
working class across the country for the right reformist organizations to fight against
to self-determination will be crucial in either capitalism. In particular, for almost twenty
case.) years now, the PCC-PCQ has put a lot into the
The difference in substance is that QS creation of the Union of Progressive Forces
and the PCC-PCQ do not represent quite the (UFP) and then QS.
same interests: what is of concern to QS is above Particularly after the defeat of the
all the nation, and therefore it limits its action sovereigntists in the 1995 referendum, the
exclusively to Québec, while what is of concern reformist left was eager to equip itself with
to the PCC-PCQ is the entire multinational its own political vehicle to free itself from the
working class across Canada. grip of the Parti québecois, to regain its own
Of course, QS is progressive and adopts voice and to assert its progressive positions of
trade-union and popular demands. But, it does social solidarity which, for decades under the
not really propose to abolish capitalism. Rather, banner of the PQ, had been downplayed so as
it proposes to control it, to limit neo-liberal to preserve the unity of the sovereigntist camp.
excesses, to "go beyond" it, as it claims, and to Various symposia to this effect seeking to bring
do this exclusively in Québec. Its approach is together the progressive sovereigntists were
essentially reformist and nationalist. organized at the end of the 90s.
The PCC-PCQ goes much further. The PCC-PCQ was involved in this
It proposes the overthrow of the Canadian process but proposed instead to bring together
bourgeoisie and the seizure of power by the the forces of the left despite differences of
Canadian working class, the establishment of views on the national question. First the UFP

24
QUÉBEC SOLIDAIRE: UNITING THE INDEPENDENTISTS RATHER THAN THE LEF T

and then QS were born precisely from the will precedence, the class struggle or the national
of the political left of Quebec to emancipate struggle, has continued despite everything
itself finally from the guardianship of the PQ, from the very beginning within QS (and even
particularly, though, by uniting various forces before that within the UFP). The rapid and
of the left despite their own differences about significant development of QS in particular,
the resolution of the national question. which went from a few dozen members in the
The UFP was created on the basis of the UFP at first, to a few hundred then and several
component groups’ electoral platforms, which thousand today with QS, inevitably ensured
themselves were based on the demands of the opportunity to continually put this debate
the workers' and popular movements against back on the table.
the neoliberal policies of the government. The elements within the QS leadership
The PCC-PCQ itself ran in elections with an that put the national struggle first, which they
election platform to the same effect. As for the believe transcends all other struggles, at least
national question, although putting forward the for now, were all too happy to take advantage of
independence of Québec, the UFP admitted, this opportunity. This explains why the debate
first, that there was no consensus in its ranks was continually brought back to conventions
and, secondly, that it conceived it solely as a on the pretext of making an alliance with the
useful tool for the realization of its program of other independentist forces, particularly with
progressive social reforms, and not as an end in the PQ. Up to the last convention, delegates
itself. The same thing continued with QS as we rejected this perspective on several occasions.
saw earlier. But, on the eve of the next election, the merger
with ON was the best pretext for a major coup
NOW, PRIORITY TO THE NATION to definitively impose the nationalist view as
predominant. If ON was able to impose its
This was the main criticism that Option views so easily during the negotiations with
nationale addressed to QS. In a document of QS, it was because it could actually find a lot of
one of its political commissions, ON declared support within the QS leadership.
that, The more nationalist tendency within
QS, which often idealizes the 1976 first
"the struggle for independence should election of the Parti québecois to government,
not be confused with the promotion of a would like to replace the PQ at the head of
particular divisive project for society".
the independence movement, because it
considers it to have become insufficiently or
Finally, by affirming the pragmatic approach of
falsely independentist, and, in a pinch, also
Option nationale, with respect to the economic
too close to capitalist interests. Now QS freely
model that QS advocates, it concluded that,
declares it wants to unite the (progressive) pro-
independence forces rather than the forces of
"our positions are less controversial and
we privilege the change of political regime the left.
rather than the change of economic and Michel David of le Devoir, insightfully
social system." wrote:

In other words, ON proposed, more or less, “It would be illusory to think that tripartite
negotiations can be relaunched before
that the social status quo be maintained in
the October 1, 2018 election. The brutal
order to ensure, first and foremost, the unity of rejection of the electoral alliance with the
the independentists. PQ by the last Congress of QS has caused
But the debate over what should take too much bitterness and, in any case, both

25
QUÉBEC SOLIDAIRE: UNITING THE INDEPENDENTISTS RATHER THAN THE LEF T

will be preoccupied with their electoral was not really a party of the left, something it
preparations. The acceptance of the itself denied, but a breakaway from the PQ on
principle of the 'closed' constituent assembly the basis of a more radical independentism.
nevertheless removes the main obstacle to
The national struggle by its nature
'convergence', which the reconfiguration of
the political chessboard in the aftermath of leads objectively to a collaboration, indeed an
the election could greatly favor.” alliance, between those that the class struggle
puts in antagonistic opposition. In fact, the
This was confirmed by Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois latter contradiction between the working class
in an interview with l’Aut’Journal: and the capitalist class is the most fundamental
of our world today.
“[...] if the convention decides in favor of a Of course, QS remains a left-wing and
constituent assembly with an independence progressive organization. But the merger with
mandate, as stipulated in the agreement ON opens the door to a possible nationalist
with Option nationale, it will bring us closer
degeneration. The future will tell.
to the 'Roadmap' and we can return to the
table of the OUI-Québec (Organizations The PCC-PCQ recommended that
United for Independence) with a renewed delegates at the QS convention reject the
and clear position.” agreement in principle and instead return to
the bargaining table. There would have been
The merger with ON is therefore an important no merger, but it would still have been possible
qualitative change for QS. Although QS had to propose an electoral agreement to ON on
for some time put forward more and more the basis of a progressive joint program clearly
strongly its position in favor of independence, highlighting measures to support the various
by proposing a so-called "open" constituent social struggles against austerity, degradation
assembly, it allowed non-independentist forces of the environment, exploitation and
to support it and even join its ranks on the basis oppression of all kinds rather than using the
of its left program. By closing the mandate of pretext of a merger to allow the QS leadership
the constituent assembly, it has just slammed to do an about-face not only on its founding
the door in their faces. principles, but on the mandate that it had
More than a step back, it is a negation made a commitment to respect in the course
of the conditions of its birth. It is no longer of various conventions. n
a question of uniting the left, but the
independentists, a mission assumed by the PQ.
On the other hand, it must be recalled that ON

P R I VATI ZI N G T HE " NAT IONA L DE B T "


Back in the mid-1990s Canada had a heavily indebted federal government and
relatively unencumbered citizens. Now we have a relatively unencumbered federal
government and heavily indebted citizens. See what economic policy can achieve?

— Ian McGuigan, Globe and Mail Report on Business, September 26, 2016

26
ARTICLE

Hands Off Syria rally in Toronto. (March 2018) [Toronto Association for Peace and Solidarity]

RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTEST
THE PEACE MOVEMENT AND THE CHALLENGE
OF "R2P"
Dave McKee

O
ver the past decade, a frequent topic of has been unable to mount a coherent and
debate in progressive circles has been meaningful opposition to imperialist wars and
the persistent weakness of the peace aggressions over the last 20 years. This includes
movement across Canada. With perhaps many examples in which Canada has actively
only two notable exceptions – the brief but participated: Yugoslavia in 1999, Afghanistan
impressive mobilizations against the US-led beginning in 2001, Haiti in 2004, Libya in 2011,
invasion of Iraq in early 2003, and consistent Syria from 2012 to the present, Ukraine and
activity in support of the Palestinian people’s Eastern Europe from 2014 to the present, and
struggle against aggression from Israel – the Venezuela from 2014 to the present.
peace and anti-war movement in this country There are a number of reasons for this
problem, but a key factor is an ideological
weapon that emerged in the twenty-first
Dave McKee is former of President of the Canadian Peace
century: the doctrine of the Responsibility to
Congress, and is currently chair of the COMMUNIST
PARTY's Peace and Disarmament Commission. Protect, or R2P.

27
RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTEST — THE PEACE MOVEMENT AND THE CHALLENGES OF "R2P"

interests”, to participate in operations beyond


alliance territory; and
u a reiterated and strengthened
commitment to expansion in Europe.

While these policy statements did not


fundamentally change the nature and character
of NATO as an aggressive, imperialist military
alliance, it is important to note that they
represented a dramatic and deliberate shift in
how the organization projected its role in the
world.
To understand why the NATO states
would commit to this sweeping reorientation,
it is useful to review the key events of the
time. In the early 1990's, most of the capitalist
world was struggling with a severe and lengthy
economic crisis that had begun around 1987
and continued into the mid-1990s. In Canada,
this developed into a long period of economic
The Trudeau Liberals plan on increasing annual military expenditures by $14 billion to recession that was exacerbated by corporate
over $32 billion a year within ten years. (2017) [Sean Kilpatrick | The Canadian Press]
trade deals with the United States. In general,
capitalist globalization (related, in part, to
The specific formulation, “Responsibility developments in technology) was on the rise
to Protect,” first appeared in early 2001 but and this resulted in huge changes to economies
many of its features were developed and tested around the world – the comprehensive
in the context of NATO’s 1999 aggression economic restructuring meant that, in some
against Yugoslavia. These same features can national economies, entire sectors were
be roughly encapsulated in NATO's 1999 decimated and some new sectors emerged and
New Strategic Concept document, which was grew. These developments sparked extensive
formally adopted in April of that year and discourse between corporate boardrooms and
included the following key policy formulations: imperialist governments about how to reorient
in order to safeguard their existing interests, as
u a shift in focus away from “collective well as how to identify and exploit new global
defense” of member states in the North Atlantic opportunities.
arena, toward explicit sanction of NATO Alongside the economic crisis, perhaps
out-of-area action on a range of security and the central development at this time was
politico-economic concerns; the sudden demise of the Soviet Union and
u a specific articulation of NATO actions socialist community of states, and the massive
as independent from the UN Security Council geopolitical changes that followed. Huge areas
deliberations, sanction and oversight; of the world were now viewed as “opened up”
the discarding of NATO's 1991 statement that to Western capitalism (whose members were
"none of its weapons will ever be used except in fighting amongst themselves for positions
self-defense;" of competitive advantage – for control of
u a commitment by NATO members, resources and markets at the expense of their
in their effort to defend “common security imperialist competitors).

28
RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTEST — THE PEACE MOVEMENT AND THE CHALLENGES OF "R2P"

At the same time, of course, the “end” of “By the time of NATO's 1999 war against
the Cold War meant the sudden loss of NATO's Yugoslavia, notions of moral outrage
pretext for existing, and it embarked on a long and humanitarian duty were so deeply
search for a new identity and role. embedded in the public discourse that
In Canada, a key moment in this opposition to the aggression was
ongoing discussion about changing foreign practically neutralized in many areas.”
policy in the “post-Soviet” era is represented
by the 1999 Symposium of the Conference of
Defence Associations (CDA). The CDA is an old Virtually all of the above concerns
and extremely influential Canadian advocacy were under discussion at the same time by
group, whose membership is made up of over other Western states. These preoccupations
50 military organizations. It is large, well- are reflective of two of the key concerns of
funded and well-connected. Part of its funding imperialism: the territorial division and
comes from the Department of National re-division of the world amongst the most
Defence, so it is clear that when CDA speaks the powerful states, and the military force required
government listens. to achieve, enforce and maintain such a
The 1999 symposium was focused on division.
changing strategic assessments within the As imperialist states discussed –
context of the massive geopolitical changes individually and collectively, in moments of
mentioned above. Specifically, the symposium collusion and moments of competition – how
identified the following strategic issues: to confront the twin challenges of the economic
crisis and the geopolitical shifts, Yugoslavia
u the pressing need for reorientation emerged as the immediate practical arena in
in Canadian foreign policy (military and which new policy directions were tested and
economic) in light of the demise of the Soviet clarified. This engagement was continued,
Union; in rapid succession, through the aggressions
u the rise of China as a political and against Afghanistan, Iraq and others.
economic world power, a rise characterized The loss of the socialist community
as “the most serious challenge to Western of states provided imperialism with a
interests in the Pacific”; conundrum. On the one hand, two important
u the importance of retaining and opportunities emerged. First, a massive region
developing NATO as a counter-balance to of the world was now deemed to be “opened
changing geopolitics that challenge Western up” to capitalism – resources, markets and
interests; trade routes were available for control and
u the destabilization of the central Asian plunder. Second, the absence of the Soviet
states as a strategic and economic opportunity, Union at the international table meant that the
and specific opportunities for Canada in the main obstruction to imperialist – especially US
vast energy reserves of the Caspian Sea Basin – expansion was removed.
and central Asian region; On the other hand, however, the end
u the necessity for Canada to integrate of the Cold War also meant that the “spectre
military and economic issues within foreign of communism” was lost as an justification for
policy discussions, in order to exert global huge military expenditures. The peoples of
influence and reap economic benefit; the NATO countries moved quickly, especially
u the government of Iraq – characterized as in the context of economic crisis, to demand
a “rogue state” – as a specific barrier to securing a “peace dividend” – large reductions in
Western interests in the central Asian region. military budgets and reinvestment in social

29
RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTEST — THE PEACE MOVEMENT AND THE CHALLENGES OF "R2P"

programs and infrastructure. Without the international customs, and the same rules of
endorsement, or at least passivity, of public international morality, can obtain between
opinion, imperialist states would have difficulty one civilized nation and another, and
between civilized nations and barbarians,
in securing the resources necessary for the
is a grave error...[Barbarians] have no rights
implementation and consolidation of their as a nation, except a right to such treatment
new plans. as may, at the earliest possible period, fit
Imperialism desperately needed to them for becoming one. The only moral
find a new pretext for continued militarism, laws for the relation between a civilized and
aggression and war. Part of the answer to this a barbarous government, are the universal
rules of morality between man and man."
search was provided by the “war on terror”. But
(“A Few Words on Non-Intervention”, 1859)
another part came in the form of the doctrine
of “Responsibility to Protect,” and this involved
Mill's remarks are notable in that they
a comprehensive rewriting of the foundations
reflect the ongoing dilemma of proponents
of international law.
of humanitarian intervention: how to justify
The roots of R2P lay in the broad notion
intervention in the face of the long-accepted
of “humanitarian intervention” (or “HI”). HI
legal principal of state sovereignty.
emerged as a theme in international relations in
Throughout the nineteenth century,
the early nineteenth century, in the context of
as humanitarian intervention was repeatedly
competition among the major European powers
used by each imperialist state to justify their
for influence and control over the territories of
drive to re-divide the world, it became deeply
the declining Ottoman Empire. Its use during
embedded in the dominant ideology and had
this period was characterized by depictions of
various cultural reflections. One of the most
Ottoman repression of minorities, coupled with
famous imperialist writers of this era was
extensive agitation for military intervention
the English poet, Rudyard Kipling. His 1899
to prevent atrocities. To be effective, HI had
poem, “The White Man's Burden”, celebrated
to be invoked in a sophisticated manner that
the seizure of the Philippines by the United
could grasp hold of public opinion. Part of this
States, from Spain. The poem portrayed such
involved highlighting the supposed virtue of
colonization as a noble enterprise that carried
the imperialist nation while demonizing the
out the moral responsibility of European
character of the target state, and positing a
and American imperialists (“whites”) to reign
war of “humanitarian intervention” as a moral
over the other peoples of the world. Kipling
duty.
offered the poem to US President Theodore
One of the most vocal advocates of HI,
Roosevelt, suggesting it could help solidify
John Stuart Mill, promoted the issue in skillful
American public support for the “rescue” of
– if quite hypocritical – terms:
the Philippines from Spanish oppression.
"To go to war for an idea, if the war is Of course, US seizure of the Philippines
aggressive, not defensive, is as criminal as did not yield Kipling's imagined goals of social,
to go to war for territory or revenue; for it economic and cultural development. Instead,
is as little justifiable to force our ideas on it resulted in the Filipino-American War,
other people, as to compel them to submit in which an estimated 1.4 million Filipinos
to our will in any other respect. But there
died, followed by decades of occupation
assuredly are cases in which it is allowable
to go to war, without having been ourselves and repression. Far from its noble pretext of
attacked, or threatened with attack; and humanitarianism, the American invasion of
it is very important that nations should the Philippines was clearly motivated by, and
make up their minds in time, as to what enormously important to, the drive by US
these cases are... To suppose that the same imperialism to establish and expand its control

30
RESPONSI BILITY TO PROTEST — THE PEACE MOVEMENT AND THE CHALLENGES OF "R2P"

Demonstration in Quebec City against Canadian military involvement in Afghanistan and the deployment of additional troops to Kandahar. (2007)
[Edgar Zessinthal | Creative Commons]

over foreign resources and markets. the territorial integrity of states was confirmed
In the course of the twentieth century, and codified by the League of Nations and, to a
imperialism continued to use “humanitarian greater extent, the United Nations. Article 2.4 of
intervention” as a pretext for expansion but the UN Charter, for example, compels member
was often held in check, to varying degrees, by states to “refrain in their international relations
a range of factors. These included: from the threat or use of force against the
territorial integrity or political independence
1. Public opinion: Despite comprehensive of any state.” Humanitarian intervention
and sustained ideological assaults, campaigns routinely violated this article.
against imperialist policies emerged early on 3. The Soviet Union: As suggested earlier,
and continued to grow. The American Anti- this was perhaps the single most significant
Imperialist League, for example, was formed obstacle to imperialist expansion. The October
in 1898 with the purpose of opposing US Revolution served as a powerful magnet for
seizure of the Philippines. Within a year, it had workers and progressives, and it inspired
organized over 100 local committees across the the birth of many powerful anti-imperialist
country and had a membership of over 25,000. movements all over the world. Furthermore,
The League was able to sustain its work against as the Soviet Union developed, it emerged
imperialist foreign policies for two decades as a powerful political-diplomatic force that
and is one example among several similar was capable, to some extent, of containing
movements, in countries all over the world. imperialism.
2. Institutionalization of state sovereignty By the late twentieth century, in the
in international law: While it is legally rooted wake of the end of the Cold War and in the
in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the concept context of deep economic crisis, imperialism

31
RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTEST — THE PEACE MOVEMENT AND THE CHALLENGES OF "R2P"

was presented with both the need and the several hundred year old Westphalian
opportunity to reorient. core principle of international relations
Nearly 100 years after Kipling wrote – that national sovereignty should be
respected – which if adhered to would
“The White Man's Burden”, the NATO states
protect smaller and weaker countries from
revisited the idea of humanitarian intervention Great Power cross-border attacks. This
and began updating it. As in the nineteenth rule was embodied in the UN Charter,
century, the competitive imperialist drive and could be said to be the fundamental
to re-divide the world was justified through feature of that document, described by
the moral imperative of humanitarian international law scholar Michael Mandel
as ”the world’s constitution.” Over-riding
intervention. However, the obstacle of the
this rule and Charter fundamental would
sovereignty of states remained. As Edward clear the ground for R2P and HI, but it
S. Herman has noted, imperialism sought to would also clear the ground for classic and
permanently overcome this problem: straightforward aggression in pursuit of
geopolitical interests, for which R2P and HI
"...this morality surge occurred at a moment might supply a useful cover."
in history when the Soviet constraint was (“Responsibility to Protect” (R2P): An
ended and the United States and its close Instrument of Aggression, 2013)
allies were celebrating their triumph,
when the socialist option had lost vitality,
Accomplishing such a sweeping change would
and when the West was thus freer to
intervene. This required over-riding the require a specific expression of the idea of

TH E D I S TOR T ION OF R USSIA


(From The American Conservative)

"[...] Both ordinary Russians and those who are journalists or teachers kept coming
around to the same issue: why does the United States hate Russia so much and
why does the American press seemingly have nothing good to say about them?
They were questions I could not answer in any coherent way. I answered somewhat
defensively that Russia under Vladimir Putin had become more authoritarian, that
the media had lost much of its freedom and that the old Yeltsin style gross systematic
corruption has reportedly been replaced by a newer, more subtle cronyism version
of something similar. And I mentioned both Crimea and Ukraine as sometimes
mishandled in the government’s undeniable agitprop while also conceding that the
Russian case was legitimate on many levels. I expressed my own view that the crisis
had been engineered by Washington in the first place, seeking to bring about regime
change in Kiev.”
– posted by Philip Giraldi, January 6, 2016
http://www.theamericanconservative.com

32
RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTEST — THE PEACE MOVEMENT AND THE CHALLENGES OF "R2P"

humanitarian intervention. In particular, the opposition to the aggression was practically


new formulation would have to: neutralized in many areas. In some countries,
whole sections of the peace movement not only
1. be carefully rooted in the existing failed to mobilize against NATO, but actually
institutions of international law, to cloak it with encouraged and justified its intervention. In
sufficient legitimacy that the undermining truth, anti-imperialist campaigns did respond,
of the principle of state sovereignty would but they were generally weak and ineffective.
appear to be an acceptable consequence of the Certainly, however, the peace and progressive
“evolution” of international law; forces within the countries of the imperialist
2. change the notion of sovereignty to camp were consumed by deep confusion and
focus more on the responsibilities of a sovereign bitter divisions that resulted from the states'
state, rather than its rights, in order to facilitate misinformation campaigns. Notably, these
the depiction of target states as failing their difficulties persist to the present day, and they
responsibilities and thereby forfeiting their continue to be obstacles to developing effective
rights; anti-war campaigns.
3. develop mechanisms for quickly Perhaps most interestingly, the bulk of
confirming the perpetration of atrocities the debate over NATO's 1999 actions focused
and assign responsibility for such acts to the on the completeness or veracity of the stated
government of the target state; pretext for intervention: preventing mass
4. situate the mechanism for intervention atrocities from being committed in Kosovo.
(the military force) outside of the United Whether it was supported or challenged,
Nations, in such a way that the mechanism is the pretext for war had become the central
both independent from, and deemed essential and singular question. Debate over the real
to, the UN. motivation for war – imperialist expansion –
was kept to a minimum.
In addition to these specific features, the Cathy Fischer of the Regina Peace
new HI framework would benefit from being Council described this:
presented as having emerged from a concrete,
successful application in an existing situation. "Protecting the rights of Albanians in
The specific points of departure were Kosovo was the excuse for intervention.
Before NATO began bombing, president
the Bosnian civil war and the Rwandan tragedy
Milosevic of Yugoslavia was given the option
in 1994. Both of these crises were presented of signing the Rambouillet Agreement.
as internal ethnic conflicts that resulted in This agreement meant NATO troops would
mass atrocities, which threatened to continue occupy the whole of Yugoslavia, not just
and expand, and to which the international Kosovo, and it provided for privatization
community had a moral duty to respond. The of their many state enterprises, including
takeover by foreign companies. Milosevic
role of foreign interference in the development
refused to sign, and with this came the call
of these conflicts was obscured and, in fact, the for immediate ‘humanitarian intervention’
lack of foreign intervention was identified as – the bombing of Yugoslavia. U.S.-NATO
a failure of the international community to planes spent 78 days, from March 24 to
prevent atrocities. June 10, dropping 20,000 bombs on the
This promotional campaign was people...
Along with military targets, the
hugely effective – by the time of NATO's
bombing destroyed utilities, roads, bridges,
1999 war against Yugoslavia, notions of moral hospitals, clinics, schools, TV stations and
outrage and humanitarian duty were so the Chinese embassy. There was no spring
deeply embedded in the public discourse that planting, countless wells were poisoned,

33
RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTEST — THE PEACE MOVEMENT AND THE CHALLENGES OF "R2P"

and the results would be used to justify the


rapid institutionalization of R2P by the United
Nations. Second, it concretely identified NATO
as the vehicle for implementing the “moral
duty” of the international community and
deeply embedded NATO into the role and
work of the UN. Responsibility to Protect is the
diplomatic and ideological tool, providing the
moral cover necessary for the implementation
of the New Strategic Concept.
Shortly after its application in
Yugoslavia, the doctrine of Responsibility
to Protect began to be codified. In 2000, the
Canadian government – who had participated
enthusiastically in the bombing campaign
in 1999 – sponsored the founding of the
International Commission on Intervention
and State Sovereignty (ICISS). This body was
responsible for crafting a legal justification for
imperialism's new framework of humanitarian
Belgrade burns during NATO's "humanitarian intervention". (24 March, 1999) intervention. In its report, it concretely
[Public Domain]
addressed some of the key requirements,
identified above, for accomplishing a sweeping
factories were destroyed putting thousands change in international law:
of people out of work. Many of the shells
used were coated with depleted uranium, Rooting Responsibility to Protect in the
spreading deadly radioactive dust. Almost existing, but evolving, institutions: Great care
a million refugees fled the bombing. All
was taken by the members of ICISS to situate
this ‘humanitarian intervention’ because
Yugoslavia had a domestically controlled R2P within the context of the UN Declaration
economy, a strong publicly-owned sector, a of Human Rights and a range of UN covenants,
good and free health care system and its own conventions, treaties and other mechanisms.
defence industry. Its population resisted the At the same time, the incompleteness, or
cuts to its social programs demanded by the immaturity, of the institutions of international
International Monetary Fund. It refused to
law was underscored. The commission's report
allow U.S. military bases on its soil, and did
not want to join NATO. So the country was notes, for example, that “even though in
bombed to smithereens." some cases imperfectly implemented, these
(“Today’s Trojan Horse: Humanitarian agreements and mechanisms have significantly
Intervention and the Responsibility to changed expectations at all levels about what
“Protect”) is and what is not acceptable conduct by states
and other actors,” and goes on to suggest that
The 1999 aggression against Yugoslavia “the universal jurisdiction of these instruments
was the first application of the ideas of [of international law] is starting to be taken
“Responsibility to Protect”, as well as NATO's very seriously.”
New Strategic Concept. This is important for Changing the notion of sovereignty: One of
two key reasons. First, the aggression provided the most formidable and enduring obstacles
a testing ground for the new policy orientation, to the pretext of humanitarian intervention is

34
RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTEST — THE PEACE MOVEMENT AND THE CHALLENGES OF "R2P"

the Westphalian concept of sovereignty. The “As the dangers of mass destruction
ICISS approached this cleverly, and depicted through war grow, the peoples of the
sovereignty not as a state's right to territorial world face an increasingly stark and
integrity, but rather as a state's responsibility urgent choice. The challenge to the
to protect its people. The key “obligations of peace and anti-imperialist movements
sovereignty” were then specifically equated to involves exposing the real, imperialist
the components of humanitarian and human reasons behind interventions.”
rights law. The ICISS then asserted that a state's
failure or inability to guarantee these obligations
meant the forfeiture of its sovereignty: “Where identified “multinational coalition operations”
a population is suffering serious harm, as a result as the appropriate vehicle for military action.
of internal war, insurgency, repression or state Furthermore, the commission notes that
failure, and the state in question is unwilling “given...the shrinking military budgets of most
or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of countries in the post-Cold War era, there are
non-intervention yields to the international real constraints on how much spare capacity
responsibility to protect.” exists to take on additional burdens.” It then
hints at the key role for NATO in the UN's work
Developing mechanisms for confirming on global security: “UN peacekeeping may have
atrocities: In order to generate the combination peaked in 1993 at 78,000 troops. But today, if
of a sense of urgency and a sufficient level of both NATO and UN missions are included,
public confidence, the proponents of R2P the number of soldiers in international peace
needed a reliable mechanism for investigating operations has soared by about 40 per cent to
alleged atrocities and ensure that blame was 108,000.”
clearly ascribed to the target state. The ICISS
report identifies specific bodies whose structure Largely on the basis of the ICISS
is ad hoc, thereby liberated from ongoing report, the R2P doctrine became an
scrutiny, and whose performance in the “international norm”, by which the institutions
service of imperialist expansion was reliable of international law would be interpreted and
and worthy of emulation. The report singles implemented. However, it was not introduced
out, for example, the International Criminal and implemented through anything close to
Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the international consensus – on the contrary, it
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was repeatedly denounced by a majority of
(ICTR), the International Criminal Court the governments of the world. In 1999 the 113
(ICC), as well as numerous Non-Government member states of the Non-Aligned Movement
Organizations whose work and structure lie rejected the “so-called ‘right of humanitarian
completely beyond the influence of the United intervention’ which has no legal basis in the
Nations. Interestingly, the applicability to this UN Charter or in the general principles of
work of the UN's own mechanisms – which international law.” A year later, the Group of 77
are much more transparent, democratic and issued a declaration to the same effect.
accountable – is downplayed. Responsibility to Protect is certainly
not the only pretext for justifying imperialist
Situate the mechanism for intervention aggression, but it is one that has proven to be
outside of the UN: Clearly, the question of how enormously effective, in a short period of time.
to guarantee legal sanction to the international It has been used – sometimes on its own and
activities of a military organization is a delicate sometimes in conjunction with other pretexts
one. In its report on this matter, the ICISS – to justify imperialist aggressions against

35
RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTEST — THE PEACE MOVEMENT AND THE CHALLENGES OF "R2P"

Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Mali and The challenge to the peace and anti-imperialist
Syria, as well as the current provocations against movements involves exposing the real,
Iran, Ukraine and the Democratic People’s imperialist reasons behind interventions. It
Republic of Korea. Part of its strength is that it requires a clear assessment of the main dangers
appeals to, and plays upon, basic humanitarian to peace at any particular moment, and the
concerns that people of all nations share. We projection of concrete bases of unity for building
do not like to see our fellow human beings mass opposition. It challenges us to strengthen,
suffer through tragedies like war, repression and perhaps update, our understanding of
and poverty, and we feel the need to assist in sovereignty, and be able to justify that principle
some way. Many people view humanitarian in the face of disinformation that is cloaked in
intervention as a concrete vehicle for providing “humanitarian” language.
that assistance, and so they become supportive The extent to which we can dismantle
of R2P. Melding imperialist foreign policy onto a social morality that justifies imperialist
the moral fabric of imperialist societies, it is aggression depends, to no small degree,
the modern “White Man's Burden”. on our ability to propagate a solidaristic
The logical outcome of such a situation and internationalist morality. We need to
is a lack of strong opposition to imperialist undermine the “Responsibility to Protect” and
expansion and aggression. At times, sectors replace it with a “Responsibility to Protest.”
of the progressive movements are actually We can find optimism in the fact that
co-opted and help to justify the pretext for among the most deeply held humanitarian
aggression. At other times, there is less active convictions of the peoples of the world is the
support but the ideological softening of public desire for peace. They will continue to demand
discourse results in neutralization of the anti- it, whatever the circumstances, and they will
imperialist message. In both cases, however, achieve it. Our survival depends on it! n
opposition is confused and fragmented and
the imperialist powers enjoy a high degree of
freedom to pursue their interventions, and
this, in turn, further emboldens them.
As the dangers of mass destruction
through war grow, the peoples of the world
face an increasingly stark and urgent choice.

N E TA N YA HU ON J UST IC E
“It doesn’t matter if justice is on your side. You have to depict your position as just.”

(Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as quoted in Max Blumenthal, Goliath: Life and Loathing
in Greater Israel, Nation Books, New York, 2013, page 29)

36
ARTICLE

Socialists need to seriously contend with the economic and structural role the internet is playing today in our politics and struggles. [The Spark!]

WHAT SHOULD SOCIALISTS


DO ABOUT THE INTERNET?
Daniel Joseph

I
n October 2016, Breitbart News Network, a The functioning of this store was made possible
far-right political website headed by eventual with tools provided to them by Shopify, a
for-one-year White House Chief Strategist, Canadian e-commerce company based in
Steve Bannon — with close (and publically Ottawa. Shopify provides the interface, the
verified - see Bernstein, [2017]) ties to the white point-of- sale system, inventory management,
supremacist “alt right” movement — opened and other tools for, typically, small-to-medium-
an online store to sell branded merchandise. sized businesses whose primary activity
On this store, Breitbart was to sell t-shirts with is conducted online. Essentially, Shopify
an assortment of racist dog-whistles and anti- functions as an intermediary or middleman
immigration rhetoric celebrating the soon-to- for the circulation of capital (which Marx [1893]
be President Elect’s border wall (Daro, 2016). discusses in detail in Capital, Volume II).
On February 2, 2017 it came to light
that behind the scenes at Shopify, numerous
Daniel Joseph is a political economist and freelance employees were “quietly urging” management
writer researching digital distribution platforms,
to end their business relationship with
games, and labour.

37
WHAT SHOULD SOCIALISTS DO ABOUT THE INTERNET?

“Our local media monopolies like and organize. It’s a powerful infrastructure
Rogers and Shaw own the physical that enables all kinds of communication in
infrastructure that allows us to tangible ways. This is especially apparent
access the internet, but in the end when considering the growth of progressive
most of us rely on Facebook, Google, movements around the world, including ours,
Microsoft, Netflix and dozens of other in the last 10 years. Because we rely on them
US-based platform owners to filter, it is incumbent upon us to understand the
organize, secure, and regulate our history and workings of the technologies we
communication.” use to build our movement.
The second reason we should
understand the internet is that it’s at the centre
Breitbart (Daro, 2016). Six days later, Shopify’s of today’s version of monopoly capitalism.
CEO, Tobias Lütke, published a defence of While resource extraction, commodity
Shopify’s official stance to continue supplying production, and agriculture undergird the
ecommerce tools for Breitbart. Lütke stated: majority of global capitalism’s ongoing
“products are speech and we are pro-free- operation and reproduction, the advanced
speech. This means protecting the right of capitalist countries have simultaneously put
organizations to use our platform even if they the internet at the centre of their economies,
are unpopular or if we disagree with their rhetorically and literally. It’s not that the
premise,” (Lütke, 2017). biggest companies by revenue will necessarily
Shopify, a company whose products be companies whose business exists only on the
usually keep them out of the spotlight, internet. In Canada, for example, the biggest
found itself at the centre of a public conflict: companies remain in the hands of our banks
employees and critics pointed out that by and mining corporations. Instead, it’s that
providing tools for Breitbart, they were every company, in pursuit of what Marx called
implicitly endorsing the hate that Breitbart “relative surplus value” can’t be competitive
used to peddle its clickbait articles like t-shirts. without relying heavily on the communication
Yet according to Lütke’s professed fidelity to an tools provided by internet-based platform
unsophisticated liberalism, a private company owners (such as Facebook, Shopify, Alphabet
had no right to restrict the speech — in this [formerly Google], etc). The internet is where
case, the buying and selling of products — of capitalists go to try to transcend space and time,
others. This public relations crisis surrounding because if they find the right tool, they will find
Spotify and Breitbart is just one example of the themselves at the cutting edge faster than their
increasing conflicts that are made apparent by global competitors. If they play their cards
the growth and increasing monopolistic status right, they will leverage that, gain advantage
of companies that have based their business and possibly even restructure the market.
model on and around the internet. In academia, one book that addresses
While this conflict was quickly forgotten this process, Nick Srnicek’s Platform Capitalism
in the churn of the news cycle and the eventual (2017), is an important (if limited) look at
election of Donald Trump, I think it illustrates the growing importance of platforms in the
that socialists need to seriously contend with global economy, written from an explicitly
the economic and structural role the internet is Marxist perspective. In it Srnicek describes
playing today in our politics and struggles, both how businesses on the internet function just
here in Canada and around the world. There are like any others: “we can learn a lot about major
two good reasons for this. The first is that we use tech companies by taking them to be economic
the internet to communicate, build solidarity, actors within a capitalist mode of production.”

38
WHAT SHOULD SOCIALISTS DO ABOUT THE INTERNET?

CANA DA'S TO P M E D I A , I NT E R NET & T ELEC OM C OMPA NIES


BY M A R KE T SHA R E ( 2016)
14

Bell (26.8%)

Rogers (16.5%)
26.8
0.2
Telus (15.5%)
0.3
0.7 Shaw (7.7%)

0.8 Quebecor (4.7%)


0.9
Google (3.3%)
1
1 CBC (2.2%)
1.1
Facebook (1.7%)
1.4
1.7 SaskTel (1.4%)
2.2
MTS (1.1%)

Cogeco (1.0%)
3.3
PostMedia (1.0%)

Torstar (0.9%)

4.7 Eastlink (0.8%)

Globe & Mail (0.3%)


16.5
Groupe Capitale Media (0.3%)
7.7 Power Corp (0.2%)

Other (14.0%)

15.5

(Source: Canadian Media Concentration Research Project)

The argument of the book rests on the decade. It also found its way into companies
economic history of capitalism that is laid out specializing in business on the internet, many
by Robert Brenner (2006) in The Economics of of them promising low fixed capital costs, room
Global Turbulence, which itself was a critique for expansion, and high margins.
of some of the core arguments in Sweezy Srnicek argues that this money-capital,
and Baran’s (1956) Monopoly Capital. Brenner’s sitting in bank accounts in desperate need of
argument is that competition from East Asia, investment is what explains the massive growth
Russia, and Brazil exacerbated the decline in of internet-based companies like Alphabet,
profits for manufacturing in the core capitalist Microsoft, and Facebook — all successful
countries. As a result, less and less capital was companies making money from a variety of
finding its way into manufacturing, and found sources. It also explains the recent growth of
itself in need of productive use. So, something other companies, what Srnicek calls “lean
we are now very familiar with, it found its way platforms”, like Uber or Airbnb: companies that
into finance. Part of this move towards finance specialize in making themselves the mandatory
resulted in the dot com-crash of the late go-between for the so-called “sharing economy”.
1990s, as well as the housing bubble of the last From these platforms, Srnicek argues that

39
WHAT SHOULD SOCIALISTS DO ABOUT THE INTERNET?

WAS TE UNDER CA P ITA LISM


Globe and Mail Report on Business, April 25, 2018:

Alphabet Inc. [parent company of Google] and Apple spent more acquiring patents
and litigating them than they did on research and development in 2011.

there are roughly four tendencies for the and policies. Platforms — the places where
future of platform capitalism: the expansion of goods and services are exchanged and where
extraction (the intensification of data mining, all kinds of communication takes place — can
which is productively sold to advertisers and and will be genuinely useful and important
marketing companies for a profit), a company technologies for the development of socialism.
positioning itself as a gatekeeper (gaining At the same time, we should also recognize
control over vital exchange points for capital that existing platforms are there to extract
and labour), convergence of markets (the data from us and exercise control over us.
tendency for companies in previously different Platforms shape how we consume, and they
markets to find themselves in competition), and function as a propaganda distribution system,
the enclosure of ecosystems (putting users into while also doubling as a surveillance system
walled, fully controlled “gardens”, like Apple’s for the repressive bourgeois state. It would be a
iOS). huge misstep to argue that the internet and the
It is in this vortex of capital that we technologies it enables are neutral in the class
currently find ourselves. All the time it feels struggle.
like platforms and corporations like Facebook, If I have an immediate pointed criticism
Google, or Apple are what the internet “is”, of Srnicek’s case for emancipatory platforms,
instead of the network being what provides it’s that there’s no historical discussion of
their infrastructure. There’s also the ever- past struggles concerning communication
present and depressing daily pressure on the technologies. Communication has been, and
working class, on our friends and family, to sell continues to be, an important consideration for
off their lives to companies like Uber or Airbnb any revolutionary program for a better world,
to cover the crisis of rising fixed living costs like especially in the multitude of struggles of the
rent. twentieth century. There’s a history of Marxist
Srnicek suggests that one possible political economy that took imperialism very
solution goes beyond state regulation of these seriously, and centred on the struggles of people
technologies: “Rather than just regulating under the thumb of imperialism who attempted
corporate platforms, efforts should be made to use communications technologies against it.
to create public platforms — platforms They didn’t hedge their bets by imagining a
owned and controlled by the people” (p. utopian society: instead they had to start with
128). I certainly think that’s a noble goal, and the state of communication technology at the
it could be something those advocating for moment of struggle, and to do what they could
socialism should incorporate into our analysis at that specific historical juncture.

40
WHAT SHOULD SOCIALISTS DO ABOUT THE INTERNET?

For example, take what Herbert Schiller “We need answers because in the
and Dallas Smythe wrote in a report titled Chile: meantime those advocating for a
An End to Cultural Colonialism while consulting socialist future are sadly tied to
with Armand Mattleart and Salvadore Allende’s media platforms with no meaningful
Popular Unity coalition in Chile in 1972: democratic accountability, despite being
considered by liberals as the guardians
“It seems clear that this gap [between the of a democratic discourse.”
nationalization of basic infrastructure and
the relative free market treatment of the
culture industries] will be a site of a coming Canadians, very few of these organizations
struggle – a battle for control of the mass
are based in Canada. Our local media
media, a battle which the left in Chile is
a long way from resolving in a strategy monopolies like Rogers and Shaw own the
for winning. First they must decide what physical infrastructure that allows us to access
policies a proto-socialist mass media the internet, but in the end most of us rely
structure would follow. The problem is on Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix and
incredibly more complex than, say, how to dozens of other US-based platform owners
nationalize copper. Among the reasons it is
to filter, organize, secure, and regulate our
difficult to analyze is that in concentrating
its attention on man as affected by his communication. I don’t have an answer to
production relations, Marxists have these problems. The only way we will get to
relatively neglected man as affected by his them, however is by our analysis taking them
consciousness, his leisure relationships, into account. It’s important to not put the cart
his cultural relations. It is in analyzing before the horse. Start with things as they are,
this problem and solving it that Chile has
and then go from there. If this is the case, it’s
the opportunity to make an historically
new contribution to the development of doubtful that any of the existing platforms
socialism.” (p. 61) could in practice be nationalized, much less
used to build socialism. Whatever comes
Clearly, the success of the fascist coup that came next will have to be built anew, conditions
soon after illustrated that this aspect of the permitting.
struggle was by no means solved conclusively. We need answers because in the
It could very well have been fatal. meantime those advocating for a socialist
Applying Schiller and Smythe’s future are sadly tied to media platforms with
concerns about the complexities of proto- no meaningful democratic accountability,
socialist communications systems in a time despite being considered by liberals as the
of struggle and revolution to the internet guardians of a democratic discourse. For
increases the complexity drastically. The example, there was Facebook’s January 2018
relative decline of broadcasting, the rise of change to its news feed towards personal
platform owners and software as service items, which was, by their account, designed to
companies, the proliferation of intermediaries encourage what they describe as “meaningful
and our dependence on social media mean interactions”. In other words, the one platform
that the question extends way beyond the (still that is most relied on for news is shifting its
very important) questioning of who owns this focus away from news. Facebook justified this
or that radio tower, TV station, or newspaper choice partly on psychological research they
chain. Instead, we have to think about what had conducted about what kind of posts they
companies, such as Shopify, maintain and thought people wanted to interact with. The
profit by maintaining the infrastructure place where the majority of people get their
of the internet. Complicating matters for news was fundamentally changed, with no

41
WHAT SHOULD SOCIALISTS DO ABOUT THE INTERNET?

democratic input, entirely on the basis of what and explicitly socialist outlets. Not long ago,
Facebook thought would increase their bottom Facebook sounded like Shopify’s Tobais Lutke,
line. professing a maximalist liberal conception of
Hanging over the corporation, and the neutrality of platforms towards content in
much discussed, was also the moral panic “the marketplace of ideas”. Now Facebook has
surrounding state-sponsored Russian “fake stated that they do, in fact, have an opinion
news” proliferating through Facebook, and about what qualifies as “real” journalism.
presumably swinging undecided voters Anybody who understands the history of how
towards Donald Trump. No doubt by shifting media monopolies function and what their
focus towards social interaction with no news actual goal is (to collect and sell audiences to
content, Facebook can safely tell their lobbyists advertisers and collect subscriptions) knows
to assuage the hypocritical liberal Russophobia that the kind of journalism they will protect
and paranoid concerns of their political will be that which stands up for, and protects
benefactors. Justin Trudeau’s meeting with the bourgeois state and order of things.
Sheryl Sandburg, Facebook’s Chief Operating It’s up to us as socialists to keep
Officer, was clearly related to such public challenging this narrative, and keep a critical
relations concerns about possible government eye on the internet in general. n
regulation of advertising and news distribution.
At the same time, we know from past efforts that
Facebook’s tackling the “fake news” problem is
likely to target both reactionary right-wing news
outlets, and also, though, critical, progressive

R E FE R ENC ES
Baran, P. A., & Sweezy, P. (1966). Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic and Social Order (1st Modern
reader paperback ed edition). New York: Monthly Review Press.

Bernstein, J. (n.d.). Here’s How Breitbart And Milo Smuggled Nazi and White Nationalist Ideas Into The Mainstream.
Retrieved October 14, 2017, from https://www.buzzfeed.com/josephbernstein/heres-how-breitbart-and-milo-
smuggled-white-nationalism

Brenner, R. (2006). The Economics of Global Turbulence (1st edition). London ; New York: Verso.

Daro, I. N. (2017, February 2). Shopify Employees Want The Company To Stop Doing Business With Breitbart. Retrieved
September 5, 2017, from https://www.buzzfeed.com/ishmaeldaro/shopify-breitbart-store

Farnsworth, M. (2018, February 9). Watch the interview: Facebook’s heads of News Feed and news partnerships.
Retrieved February 13, 2018, from https://www.recode.net/2018/2/9/16996696/how-to-watch-livestream-
facebook-head-of-news-feed-partnerships-campbell-brown-adam-mosseri

Marx, K. (1893). Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. (F. Engels, Ed.) (Vol. 2). Moscow: Progress Publishers.

Schiller, H., & Smythe, D. (1972). Chile: An End to Cultural Colonialism. Society, 9(5), 35–39. https://doi.org/10.1007/
BF02697609

42
SPEECH

Soldiers carrying a banner that reads “Communism” march toward the Kremlin Wall in Moscow in 1917. [Public Domain]

WHY WE HAIL GREAT


OCTOBER
Jeanne McGuire

(Speech given on November 18, 2017 at a banquet in Toronto celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.)

N
o one here this evening has any doubt that that called for the equality of all peoples, all
the October Revolution was a watershed, nations, for an end to inequality based on race,
that the history of the nineteenth and ethnicity, religion or sex.
twentieth centuries was fractured at that It was great in its aspirations as it enacted
moment. From then on there was before the laws designed to bring an end to – the inequality
Revolution and there was after the Revolution. of women, to poverty, to exploitation, to war.
And what was so GREAT about this October What other government of the day conceived
Revolution? of such a society?
Well, certainly its values were great It was great in that it was a revolution
– as it put forward a prospect for humanity like no other. Previous revolutions had only
replaced one class of property owners with
Jeanne McGuire is a progressive educator and past another class based on a different kind of
president of the Congress of Canadian Women, living in property – owners of land with owners of
Toronto.

43
WHY WE HAIL GREAT OCTOBER

to which you belong was more important than


the country in which you resided when those
other socialists were waving national flags and
paying the price for their collaboration by
wrapping the dead of war in that same flag.
Peace and Internationalism, right from the
start, and while peace was not always an option
– during the civil war, the invasions by foreign
troops, the invasion by the forces of fascism,
and then the Cold War - the internationalism
endured.
It’s a wonder that it happened at all
and you have to admire the audacity of those
who took the step – over the edge, into the
unknown, totally uncharted territory with few
navigational tools. If it had failed, we would
have called them fools for even thinking they
could pull it off.
And the Revolution was the easy part
–that it survived was truly remarkable. And
Lenin speaking in Red Square in celebration of the first anniversary of the Revolution. it survived not just a few months as was the
(1918) [Public Domain]
case of the Paris Commune – it survived the
chaos and confusion of the first heady months,
capital. And in those previous revolutions the it survived the onslaught of Civil War and the
old and the new ruling classes were able to invasion of foreign armies – Canadians and
come to an accommodation, a modus vivendi – Greeks, Americans and British, Estonian and
they mingled, they merged and they married. Chinese, Italians and Japanese, Australians and
In this revolution the old ruling class could not Punjabis fighting for Britain, Romanians and
be accommodated and could find no modus Czechs, all came in force to reinstate the old
vivendi. They and their entire international order.
class fought back, fought ferociously, fought And it was great in its achievements and
like cornered rats to retain their power, their accomplishments. In a country with over 125
profits and their privilege. And they fought million people, less than 15% of whom were
it from the day the Soviet Union was born to urbanized, they improved the living standards,
the day it died – unceasingly, unrelentingly. provided health care and housing, built schools
Indeed, they are still fighting it – the ghost of and universities, gave workers holidays and
that monumental event. women maternity leave. They funded sports
It was a revolution like no other in that, and culture. They industrialized. They defeated
not only did it sever the power of property fascism.
and challenge the very basis of capitalism, it Internationally they supported the anti-
challenged the very basis of what was called colonial aspirations of millions of people, many
socialism at that time, what today we would call of whom found inspiration in the victory of the
social democracy, for it was revolution built by revolution. People in India, China, Vietnam,
a movement for peace when all those other Cuba, Angola, South Africa and Palestine
socialists had answered the master’s bugle. And benefited from their voice in the United
it was a revolution which asserted that the class Nations, from their economic support, their

44
WHY WE HAIL GREAT OCTOBER

assistance in struggle. Many were educated in “In a country with over 125 million people,
the universities of the new Soviet Union at no less than 15% of whom were urbanized,
cost to themselves. Today the coffee shops of they improved the living standards,
North America boast when they serve coffee provided health care and housing, built
that is Fair Trade. The Fair Trade movement has schools and universities, gave workers
nothing on the trade deals made by the Soviet holidays and women maternity leave.
Union that were often more than advantageous They funded sports and culture. They
to those struggling ex-colonies. industrialized. They defeated facsism.”
We in the developed capitalist world
also gained by virtue of the success of that
revolution. It fueled our demands for the things And if they hadn’t – what would the critics of
they had achieved – free education, health Communism have said then? Not enough, too
care, pensions, maternity leave, daycares, late, too slow.
workers’ compensation, abortion rights and It is easy to criticize and offer advice –
paid holidays. The existence of these gains you should have done this, you shouldn’t have
in the ever-to-be-feared socialist alternative done that – but none of us have had to make
facilitated our victories. a decision with the kind of consequences that
So let us celebrate their achievements followed from the ones they made.
and acknowledge the debt of gratitude that so So let us look at some specifics that
many in the world owe to that revolution. most people think were problems. A common
And let us admit that there were errors. one is the forced collectivization of the
And if we are ready to admit that there were land. Harsh measures indeed. The primitive
errors, let us also admit that most of us don’t accumulation of capital to fund the process
really know what those errors were. Did they of industrialization; capitalism did it with the
do too much or too little? Did they go too fast enclosure acts and evictions and it was done
or too slow? Did they take steps too soon or too over decades, even centuries. In the Soviet
late? Were they too repressive or not repressive Union the industrialization was done in less
enough? than 1/10 of the time. Michael Hudson, who
To inherit a country with little industry, writes on economics, suggests that the same
a huge population with enormous needs, with accumulation of capital could have been
a recent rapid increase in urbanization adding achieved by giving the land to the peasants
a layer of difficulty to a country steeped in a and then using price controls to extract the
feudal tradition, backward, Church-ridden and surplus – in the manner of Cargill and other
hidebound, presented monumental challenges. grain companies, as he put it. But that would
Governing in such a situation with no allies have created a huge peasantry and I’m sure you
or support would not be difficult, it would be all know that poor peasants do not dream of
nearly impossible. becoming workers. They dream of becoming
In Afghanistan, some of the first rich peasants. As Zhou En Lai is reported to have
steps taken by the Democratic Republic said to Nikita Khrushchev when Khrushchev
of Afghanistan were agricultural reforms made the comment that the difference between
including the distribution of state and royal the Soviet Union and China was exemplified
lands and the granting of women’s rights. It was by the fact that he, Khrushchev came from
these measures which stirred the resentment the peasantry and Zhou En Lai came from a
amongst warlords and religious zealots that the privileged segment of Chinese society, Zhou
U.S. then funded to overthrow this progressive En Lai replied, “That’s true, but there is this
new government. Too much, too soon, too fast? similarity. Each of us is a traitor to his class.”

45
WHY WE HAIL GREAT OCTOBER

“For the Revolution that allowed our But if you are in fact surrounded, not just by
class, the working class, their first opposition but enemies – and the revolution
chance to run a victory lap, and for was surrounded by enemies– it might be hard
those that had the audacity to dare, the to distinguish between opposition hostile
capacity to win and the tenacity to to socialism and opposition supportive of
survive, let us give them our applause!” socialism.
It might also be hard to resist the
temptation to extend the areas of decisions
Turning peasants into workers is difficult no from those that are the proper concern of
matter who does it – but becoming workers in policy makers into those that are not – cultural,
the sweat shops of London or Dhaka, the mines social and personal behavioral issues. And
of Silesia or Bolivia, or homeless in the streets just because every mention of Shostakovich
of Bangkok or Madrid was a far less salubrious seems to require a reference to Stalin and the
transformation than the one that took place in fact that the Toronto Symphony Orchestra
the Soviet Union. dropped six players from their roster in 1951
Another criticism is the lavish privileges for being communist sympathizers isn’t even
of the upper echelons of the party and state. remembered, that doesn’t make it acceptable.
And those are the words the critics always use The invasions of Hungary and
– lavish and privilege and upper echelons. And Czechoslovakia are also cited as examples
yes – those petty privileges may have grated of unacceptable developments in the Soviet
and irritated. But to call them lavish is laughable Union. We are critical, suspicious of the
compared to the really lavish privileges of the reasons given, refer to the invasions as errors
upper echelons of capitalism. No one in the or mistakes. Canada led in bombing Libya,
Soviet Union bought themselves multi-million participated in the invasion of Afghanistan,
dollar estates, considered owning a private jet in sends advisors to Iraq – do the supporters of
case they wanted dinner in Rome this weekend, capitalism call that an error or a mistake? No,
bought a sports team to amuse themselves, was they rename the 401 the Highway of Heroes. The
paid in the millions of dollars. How lavish is it U.S. killed more than one million Vietnamese
when eight people own as much of the world’s – do the supporters of US imperialism call
wealth as the bottom 50% - about three and a half that an error or a mistake – no, they build a
billion people? If what those privileged Soviets monument to those that did the killing. We
had was so lavish, try offering it as an incentive debate the legitimacy of the actions of the
the next time the Blue Jays want a new pitcher Soviet Union. For the most part capitalism
– I doubt it would provide much attraction. claims all its actions from Hiroshima to Syria
The fact that it was seen as unseemly testifies to as not just legitimate, but glorious examples of
an underlying commitment to equality within their essential goodness.
the society. Capitalism doesn’t just tolerate And we know that, just because the
homelessness, poverty, massive inequality– it other side does it, that doesn’t make it right for
glorifies gigantic wage differentials as rewarding us to do it. We also know that, like everything
achievement, defends the removal of social else, the magnitude of the destruction matters.
security provisions as tax savings, insists that And we know that on a scale of horrors our
precarious work contracts are a necessary errors are miniscule compared to the entire
flexibility. history of capitalist plunder and brutality from
The harsh treatment of opposition is its very inception through the long ugliness
another criticism. And yes it probably happened of colonialism to the ravages of modern
and happened more often than is acceptable. imperialism.

46
WHY WE HAIL GREAT OCTOBER

October Revoluion 50th anniversary celebrations in Moscow. (1967) [Public Domain]

The writer Andre Vtlchek, whose father And while we have the right to make
was a professor, a member of the Communist judgements, perhaps an obligation to make
Party of Czechoslovakia and a supporter of judgements, we need as well to be conscious of
Alexander Dubcek, points out that when his the basis of our judgments. I’m sure that the
father tore up his membership card to protest overwhelming majority of humanity at the time
the invasion, nothing happened to him. Andre looked at the Soviet Union and saw a society
says that perhaps he didn’t get the promotions that provided so many of the things that they
he would have otherwise received but he did not have and wanted. But in the developed
continued to teach and nothing happened to West, and only after World War II, many of us
him. Compare that, he says, to what happened accepted that the world was divided between
to those professors who supported Allende communism and democracy. And of course it
when the generals decided he had to go, or, I was not – it was divided between communism
might add, to the Hollywood Ten, to the TSO and capitalism. And we so often ignored that,
six, to Paul Robeson, to Pete Seeger. when democracy would destroy capitalism,
We are sometimes more critical of our capitalism destroyed democracy – in Guyana,
errors than we are of the policy and practices in Chile, in Indonesia where up to three million
of capitalism. We hold ourselves to a higher people (many of them Communists) were
standard – to the defence of people’s rights, killed to prevent the Communists winning
the expansion of human rights and freedoms, the election, in Vietnam where General
and the implementation of working class Eisenhower admitted that the Communists
control over the means of production. We hold would win any election so an election could
ourselves to a higher standard and it is to our not be held. And many of us came to agree
credit that we do. that individual freedoms were more significant

47
WHY WE HAIL OCTOBER

than collective rights to employment, medical and Mozambique. But we’ve had even more
care, pensions and workers’ rights. And while defeats. Twice we lost in Germany; we were
we in the capitalist West did have those rights defeated in Spain; in Indonesia we didn’t lose,
(mostly – there were lots of exceptions) those in we were exterminated; in Guyana where the
the capitalist south did not – or had them only British overthrew the democratically elected
precariously. For Palestine is capitalist, and so Cheddi Jagan; in Chile where the socialists won
is Pakistan, Riyadh is in a capitalist country and the election and were unable to enjoy their
so is Attawapiskat, Haiti is capitalist and so is victory; in Grenada where American medical
Honduras, Germany under Hitler, Spain under students were the excuse to invade.
Franco, Chile under Pinochet, Iran under the And, as we celebrate this revolution,
Shah, Indonesia under Suharto, South Africa the October Revolution, the Great October
under Apartheid were all capitalist countries. Revolution, let us remember that it was our
And now so is Libya. And now so is Russia. And class, the working class that won that day. And
look at it now. 50% of its wealth held by 1% of its it was our class, the working class that made
population according to a recent report, – like whatever errors were made. That is was our
capitalism everywhere, a few are enriched and class, the working class, that held out its hand
many are impoverished. to the exploited and oppressed, which stood up
So the October Revolution was our first for equality and justice. For the Revolution that
real victory, the first one that survived – this one allowed our class, the working class, their first
for 74 years. An astounding achievement! We’ve chance to run a victory lap, and for those that
had a few more victories since then and each had the audacity to dare, the capacity to win
of them was made possible, or at least easier, and the tenacity to survive, let us give them our
by the first – China, Cuba, Vietnam, Angola applause! n

W E A LTH Y P OLIT ICA L DONOR S


"Just don’t let anyone tell you that the wishes of big, wealthy donors are not
acknowledged and respected by governing parties. They are. A specific government
policy does not always have a direct line to a particular supporter.
The advantage that a backer gets for his support may come in the form of
something a government does not do, as much as it does from a policy change it
institutes."
(Gary Mason in The Globe and Mail, October 29, 2016)

So much for small-time corporate influence on government. Moving up a step from


small-time, billionaire David Thompson, owner of The Globe and Mail, may or may not
make donations to the Conservative Party. But his newspaper’s general presentation
of the news, as well as its editorials, have always been predominantly pro-business,
and usually pro-Conservative Party. Don’t tell us lawmakers wouldn’t hesitate to
enact anything contrary to Thompson's interests – even if they wanted to.

IOU

48
BOOK REVIEWS

Detail from painting depicting the storming of the Winter Palace, 1917. [Public Domain]

BOOKS ABOUT THE RUSSIAN


REVOLUTION
Roger Perkins

We apologize to our readers. Through a printer's error, the text of Roger Perkins' review article in The Spark! #27
left out the following paragraphs between pages 71 and 74.

"Books About the Russian Revolution" in its entirety is available online at: https://bit.ly/2w8yGJ4

A
nother work very highly recommended if for the centennial, Nimtz convincingly refutes
it were not so expensive is the two volume the standard charges made against Lenin by
LENIN’S ELECTORAL STRATEGY by August H. “democratic” socialists, anarchists, and the
Nimtz (Palgrave MacMillan 2014 and 2016). But, plethora of anticommunist centenary books –
most unfortunately, with a price of over one Lenin was antidemocratic and totalitarian. To
hundred dollars for each volume the average the ears of a ruling class that has lost power,
activist or local library will not be able to afford these charges ring true. They no longer have
this book. Although not specifically writing the “democratic” right to exploit and enslave
workers and peasants:;They no longer have
Roger Perkins is a long-time activist and student of
the “democratic” right to launch wars of
global class struggle, living in Surrey, British Columbia.

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51
BOOKS ABOUT THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION

aggression in search of maximum profits and motherland must be defended against foreign
they no longer have the “democratic” right to invasion.
arrest and imprison – even kill – those who Monthly Review Press (USA) has been
oppose them. They have lost these “rights”. publishing Marxist books for over sixty years
But for millions the Russian Revolution was and still going strong. RECONSTRUCTING LENIN: AN
the most democratic event ever. "All power INTRODUCTORY BIOGRAPHY (2015) by Tamas Krausz
to the Soviets" was a vastly superior form of argues for Lenin’s continuing relevance today.
democracy. A great contribution by Lenin The Chicago-based Haymarket
was to take democracy to a higher level – the Books, established in 2001, has now become
new democracy of socialist revolution. As the largest radical publisher in the United
for today, just how “democratic” are money- States. It publishes a broad spectrum of
controlled parliaments, rigged elections with quite useful titles alongside, of course, its
voting machines designed to be compromised featured Trotskyist core. Haymarket is the
by the capitalists who manufactured them, publishing outlet for the suspect International
gerrymandered electoral constituencies based Socialist Organization (ISO), whose variety
on geographical areas only, restricted ballot of Trotskyism is nasty indeed. The ISO has
and TV access, and purged voter lists? Socialist been justly criticized as “State Department
democracy and capitalist “democracy” are Socialists” because they serve as cheerleaders
vastly different entities, not just quantitatively for “human rights” imperialism. Whether they
but especially qualitatively. are “useful idiots” or outright paid agents, the
We now come to the traditional result is the same – try to convince the left to
English language left publishing houses. back the imperialist removal of the “dictator of
The severely debilitated, but still afloat, the day”- Iraq, Libya, Ukraine and now Syria.
communist International Publishers (USA) They even criticized Obama from the right for
and the attenuated Trotskyist Pathfinder showing insufficient determination to remove
Press (USA) survive from their backlists. New Bashar Al Assad. Imperialism is not really
October or Lenin books are absent. Lawrence all that bad unless it happens to be “Russian
and Wishart, the publishing house of the now Imperialism” or “Chinese Imperialism”. The
defunct Communist Party of Great Britain, ISO runs interference for all US sponsored so-
totters on with a left lean that seldom ventures called “colour revolutions” and “human rights”
beyond Labour Party “moderates” and social campaigns. So one must be leery of some titles
democracy. Its contribution to the centenary published by Haymarket. As for October, one
is Menshevik, not Bolshevik. TWO YEARS OF can find more than a few centenary volumes.
WANDERING: A MENSHEVIK LEADER IN LENIN’S RUSSIA But it is Trotsky and not Lenin that is featured.
by Fedor Illich Dan (2016) – translated for the The expected reprint of Trotsky’s extremely
first time into English. Unlike Martov, Trotsky flawed HISTORY OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION is in
or Plekhanov, who occasionally pulled back hardcover. LESSONS OF OCTOBER by Trotsky is now
from the extremes of Menshevism, Dan was available again. But the 440 page TROTSKY ON
unrelenting. After 1917 and the ensuing Civil LENIN is dishonest. This is a reprint of the post-
War, his anti-Leninist views gaining little 1917 YOUNG LENIN and LENIN, NOTES FOR A BIOGRAPHER,
traction, he left Soviet Russia and moved to the together in one volume and given the new
United States, where he died in 1947. Ironically, title TROTSKY ON LENIN. An honest TROTSKY ON
during World War II Dan gave verbal support LENIN would include his writings and speeches
to the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany, not before 1917, which would reveal that Trotsky
through any newly-acquired sympathy for the was hostile to Lenin from day one. But, of
Soviet Union, but in the belief that the Russian course, Haymarket will not print these because

52
BOOKS ABOUT THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION

Trotsky must be made to appear as a comrade- 1983 Cambridge Univ. Press by S.A.Smith and
in-arms of Lenin. 100 YEARS SINCE THE RUSSIAN surprisingly REMINISCENCES OF LENIN by Nadezhda
REVOLUTION includes Trotsky’s 1932 speech in Krupskaya (wife of Lenin). The fact that there
defence of the Russian Revolution followed is no stand-alone collection of Lenin’s writings
by Ahmed Shawki’s (ISO) praise of Trotsky on October is telling by its absence.
and the attempt to fit him into our times. Leftword Books in India has two books.
EYEWITNESSES TO THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION edited by They have RED OCTOBER: THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION
Todd Chretien (ISO) includes contributions AND THE COMMUNIST HORIZON (1917), edited by
by Trotsky, Luxemburg, Lenin, John Reed, Vijay Prasad. The book provides us with the
Louise Bryant and others. OCTOBER SONG edited assurance that a workers and peasants state
by Paul Le Blanc is “history from below” can exist. And they have also published RANK-
animated by the lives, ideas and experiences AND-FILE BOLSHEVIK: A MEMOIR (1917) by Cecilia
of workers, peasants, intellectuals, artists and Bobrovskaya. The author (1873 – 1962) was an
revolutionaries of diverse persuasions. early Bolshevik activist, and a member of the
YEAR ONE OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION is Society of Old Bolsheviks. She worked tirelessly
written by the always-moving-on anarchist- helping build the Party for both the 1905 and
turned-Bolshevik Marxist-till-death, Victor 1917 Revolutions. This reprint consists of two
Serge. Today he is known more as a novelist texts by Bobrovskaya: her own memoirs and
than a political activist. YEAR ONE OF THE her short biography of Lenin. Bobrovskaya
RUSSIAN REVOLUTION is a good read and does describes what it took to make the Revolution
have something to say that merits attention. – not one push in 1917 but tens of thousands of
To conclude with Haymarket, other good pushes provided by people like herself, one of
books do get reprinted. THE BOLSHEVIKS CAME TO the many rank-and-file Bolsheviks. n
POWER: THE REVOLUTION OF 1917 IN PETROGRAD (1976)
BY Alexander Rabinowitch; RED PETROGRAD:
REVOLUTION IN THE FACTORIES 1917- 1918) originally

CO N CE N TR AT ION OF CA P ITA L
(From The Globe and Mail Report on Business, September 2, 2017:)

A recent report in the Economist on “superstar” companies noted that the share of
nominal gross domestic product generated by the Fortune 100 – the top American
companies – reached 46 per cent in 2013, up from 33 per cent in 1994. Their share
is probably higher today.
Over the same period, the share of revenues of those companies among the
Fortune 500 rose to 63 per cent from 57 per cent. The management consultancy
McKinsey calculated that the top 10 per cent of global companies generate 80 per
cent of all profits.

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EXCERPT

N AF TA & J OB S
(By Jeff Rubin, former chief economist at CIBC World Markets:)

Since Canada’s most important trade deal, the North American free-trade agreement
(NAFTA) came into effect in 1994, the economy has lost more than 400,000 jobs in
the goods industries, mainly from the manufacturing sector.
Of the more than five million net jobs created in the NAFTA era, all have been
in the service sector, where real wages have not grown in almost two decades. Not
only are wage rates lower in service-employment – about a quarter lower than those
found in the goods sector of the economy – but, perhaps even more significantly,
work hours are often much fewer. The sectoral shift in employment from goods
industries to service industries has been accompanied by a shift from full-time to
part-time employment.
That tandem has robbed the vast majority of Canadian households from
any real income gains in recent decades, with virtually all the economic gains from
globalization accruing to the top 20 percent of the population.

(Globe and Mail Report on Business, March 14, 2018)

"Noon in front of the factory", woodcut. (1927) [Gerd Arntz | Public Domain]

54
GALLERY

Sculptor Lev Kerbel works on a clay model for a monument to Karl Marx. [Public Domain]

55
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