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About That Bizarre Tsarist Wedding in St. Petersburg - Washington Babylon

Ken Hiebert
 

I don’t suppose Russia has a monopoly on garish and ridiculous weddings, but they do have a few. This one from Moscow in February of 2012.
ken h

About 2 minutes in you will see the wealthy couple arrive. You may notice the overhead crane they rented.
https://www.youtube.com/embed/KgoapkOo4vg?rel=0


The Communist International, A Critical Analysis - Part IV

Richard Fidler
 


Peru: government crisis reveals Castillo’s rightward shift/the tasks of Marxists

Cort Greene
 


Peru: the tasks of Marxists under the government of Pedro Castillo

Image: fair use


This article was written on 14 September, before the shift in events detailed in today’s main article. However, the essential points about the background to and dynamics of the political struggle in Peru today remain valid, and help to place the latest developments in their proper context.

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Peru: government crisis reveals Castillo’s rightward shift

Image: Presidencia Perú, Flickr

On Wednesday, 6 October, Guido Bellido resigned from the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and President Pedro Castillo announced a new cabinet that represents a clear shift to the right. Those ministers that the bourgeois press described as “radicals” and “senderistas” [Shining Path supporters] were turfed out. In their place came businessmen, the “moderates", and the so-called “caviar left” committed to the stability of the bourgeois regime. Finance Minister Francke, the fifth column of CONFIEP business federation in the government, remains in his post. The Peru Libre parliamentary group has declared it will not support the new government.

The fall of Bellido is the culmination of an incessant, 69-day-long campaign of harassment and demolition directed against Castillo and his government by the capitalist oligarchy of Peru and the multinationals, and the resultant tensions and disagreements that this caused between the government of Bellido and President Castillo.

The campaign of the capitalist oligarchy against the Castillo government

As early as the second round of the presidential elections, which culminated in the victory of teacher trade unionist Castillo, we saw the candidate of Peru Libre sending clear messages to the bourgeoisie and the multinationals, re-assuring them that their interests would not be touched. The appointment of Pedro Francke, first as campaign advisor and then as Minister of Economy and Finance, was the clearest of those messages. A World Bank economist, Francke promised CONFIEP “a responsible fiscal and monetary policy” and “protection of private property” – a far cry from Castillo’s original programme of nationalisation.

On 29 July, the very night that Castillo appointed Bellido's cabinet, the contradictions at the heart of his government were already coming to light. Francke threatened not to join the government if Bellido, seen as a “radical”, was the premier. Eventually the conflict was resolved with a public statement by Bellido in support of Francke's pro-capitalist economic programme.

The next major conflict led to the dismissal/resignation of Foreign Minister Héctor Béjar. A former guerrilla and agrarian reform activist during the Velasco Alvarado government, Béjar was the first minister against whom the capitalist oligarchy opened fire. Just two weeks after his swearing in, the capitalist press brought to light statements by Béjar from November 2020 in which he had demanded an investigation into the role that the Navy and the Army had played in terrorist acts during the conflict with the Shining Path.

This was a direct questioning of the state apparatus, something that could not be allowed. There was a concerted campaign on the part of the state apparatus, particularly high-ranking officials of the Navy, and the ruling class in a joint offensive against a minister of a democratically elected government. They wanted his head on a platter. Faced with this onslaught, both president Castillo and premier Bellido relented, which led to the departure of Béjar from the government.

As is often the case, giving in to the pressure of the ruling class and its public opinion did not have the effect of increasing the stability of the government, but on the contrary, it emboldened the oligarchy to continue and increase its offensive.

Next in the firing line was the Minister of Labour, Iber Maraví, a teacher unionist and former leader of the SUTE union in Ayacucho. Mysteriously, police reports were leaked to the El Comercio media group dating back to 1980 – more than 40 years ago – allegedly implicating Maraví in a terrorist bomb attack, which was published alongside all kinds of other accusations. We already know the line of argument: “the minister is a senderista, a terrorist and therefore he must be sacked. The objective was clear and twofold: on the one hand, to get rid of a minister close to the trade union movement and as such a nuisance for big business, and at the same time to undermine the authority of Castillo himself. In this whole affair, the national leadership of the SUTEP teachers’ union played a despicable role, joining in the chorus of the bourgeoisie against the Minister of Labour.

At the same time, while the right-wing concentrated their fire on Maraví, the capitalist state apparatus continued the offensive in other directions, with state prosecutors filing accusations of corruption and terrorism (!!) against Prime Minister Bellido, the leader of Peru Libre Vladimir Cerrón and dozens of prominent members of his party.

In the case of Maraví there was a lot of toing and froing. Under pressure from the capitalist media and opposition members of parliament, he was forced to appear before congress. He later submitted his resignation, which the president did not accept. The CGTP union confederation mobilised, albeit timidly, in his defense. The right-wing opposition did not give up its efforts and collected signatures for a motion of no confidence. The Peru Libre parliamentary group and Bellido himself threatened to bring a muerte cruzada motion. That is, if Congress voted no confidence in the President, the powers of Congress would automatically also cease, thus forcing new congressional and presidential elections.

On 6 October, the judiciary issued preventive detention orders against several leaders of Peru Libre investigated for money laundering, including the party’s national organisation secretary, Arturo Cárdenas.

The fall of Bellido

Finally, the constitutional conflict between Congress and the president over the Maraví case was resolved with the resignation of Bellido (forced by Castillo) and the appointment of a new cabinet by Castillo, of which Iber Maraví is not a part. Clearly, this is a further concession to the capitalists and multinationals by Castillo. Moreover, this is a fairly important concession that represents a qualitative change in the political situation.

After the resignation of Bellido, the leader of Peru Libre, Vladimir Cerrón, made some quite harsh statements in which he stated that “the President will have to choose and is faced with the options of what is conservative or what is revolutionary,” and added: “[the] cabinet reshuffle must exclude right-wingers, caviar [leftists] and traitors. It is time for Peru Libre to demand its rightful share of power, guaranteeing its real presence or else the parliamentary group will have to take a firm position.”

Betssy Chávez Chino - the only member of Peru Libre in the new government - came out publicly in opposition to the convention of a constituent assembly / Image: Presidencia Perú, Flickr

However, President Castillo did just the opposite. Presiding over the new government is Mirtha Vásquez, a moderate left-wing deputy from the Frente Amplio, who briefly served as president of the congress during the November 2020 unrest, playing the role of a “reasonable” left-wing figure who could guarantee bourgeois governance at a time of social convulsion.

Not only has Minister of Labour Maraví been removed, but in the new government there are no members of Peru Libre, the party for which Castillo ran. The only exception, significantly, is Betssy Chávez Chino, a Peru Libre congresswoman who came out publicly in opposition to the convention of a constituent assembly who has been described as a traitor by the rest of her parliamentary group. The new minister of energy and mines is businessman Eduardo González Toro. Francke, the man whose presence guarantees to the capitalists that the government is not going to get out of control, remains as Economy and Finance Minister.

In case we are left in any doubt as to the nature of this change of government, let's see what the imperialists think. The most serious newspaper of the British bourgeoisie, the Financial Times, celebrated these developments with this headline: “Peru’s president reshuffles cabinet in shift towards centre” and in the subtitle adds: “Pedro Castillo makes seven changes and ousts Marxist prime minister” [all our emphasis].

The article continues, in the same jubilant tone: “a significant cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, ousting his divisive prime minister Guido Bellido and distancing himself from the Marxist party that helped to put him into power.” And it continues along the same lines: “In his boldest move since he took office in late July, Castillo replaced Bellido with Mirtha Vásquez, a young former congresswoman and moderate leftist who does not belong to the Marxist Free Perú party.” [Financial Times, 6 October, emphasis added.]

In reality, neither Peru Libre nor Bellido are Marxists, although they define themselves as such. However, what the Financial Times wants to highlight is that Castillo is breaking with these “Marxists”.

The substantive issues: multinationals and the constituent assembly

It is clear that the change of government is not simply a change of names, but rather reflects a substantive political conflict on two central issues. The first is the question of multinationals, mining and gas. In his programme, and in the first part of his presidential campaign, Castillo clearly proposed the nationalisation of the Camisea gas field – operated by a consortium of multinational companies (Argentine, US, Korean, and Spanish) – if it did not agree to renegotiate the contract on more favourable terms for Peru. The same threat (renegotiation on better terms or else nationalisation), were also left hanging over the country’s mining operations.

This threat was all but dropped in the second round of the elections. Francke, on behalf of Castillo, produced a blunt statement in which he spoke of the “legal security” for foreign investment. His message was clear: “There will be no nationalisations, no expropriations.” During President Castillo's recent trip to Mexico (to the CELAC summit) and to the United States (to attend the meeting of the OAS and the UN General Assembly), the Peruvian president reiterated the message in an attempt to convince multinationals to invest in the country.

In a meeting with capitalists hosted by the American Peruvian Chamber of Commerce, the president stated “the commitment of his government to guarantee the economic stability and legal security of the country, to promote an adequate investment climate.” Later, at the OAS meeting, he was even clearer: “We are not communists, we have not come to expropriate anyone, we have not come to scare away investments, on the contrary we call on large investors, businessmen to go to Peru.” (RPP Notícias). The message was clear, although it was accompanied by well meaning platitudes – “creating jobs", “fighting poverty", “ending corruption” – all of which are incompatible with the interests of multinationals and with the capitalist regime in crisis in general.

The problem was that while Castillo and Francke courted the multinationals in the US, Prime Minister Bellido was insisting on his threats towards the Camisea Consortium: “We summoned the Camisea gas exploitation and commercialisation company to renegotiate the distribution of profits in favor of the State, otherwise, we will opt for the recovery or nationalisation of our gas field,” he declared on Twitter on 26 September.

Castillo was quick to rebut his premier:

“We have a clearer conception of what private business is after we have gone abroad and we have seen many commitments from private companies and many businessmen from whom we have taken their commitment to come to Peru to invest. They should be at ease and if there have been some outbursts by the premier or another person we have corrected him.” (RPP Notícias)

The other underlying issue was the question of the Constituent Assembly. Bellido had promoted the collection of signatures for a referendum on convening a constituent assembly. The change from one bourgeois constitution to another would not really solve the serious problems faced by workers and peasants in Peru. However, the truth is that, in their eyes, this slogan represents the desire for a profound change – to sweep away the whole regime based on Fujimori's constitution.

The ruling class, which now has Castillo under its control through the mechanisms of parliamentary arithmetic, fears that the turmoil around the constituent assembly could open a gap through which the masses might express their aspirations to take their destiny into their own hands. All the Peru Libre ministers have therefore been eliminated from the government as the only ones consistently pushing forward this electoral promise. Meanwhile, Betssy Chávez, the PL congresswoman who broke with the PL parliamentary group precisely over this question, has been awarded a ministry.

One cannot serve two masters

In reality, there was an insoluble contradiction in the heart of the government between a policy in favour of the majority of workers and peasants, which inevitably would involve confronting the interests of the multinationals and the capitalists (represented, albeit timidly, by PM Bellido); and a policy of protecting the interests of the mining companies and CONFIEP, imagining that doing so would benefit the people (a policy represented by President Castillo, and above all by Francke and the “moderate” or caviar left). Such a contradiction could not last long.

The capitalist oligarchy launched a relentless campaign to destroy the Bellido cabinet, using all the means at its disposal: the state apparatus (including the secret services, the Army,Navy, and the judiciary), the monopoly capitalist media, bourgeois public opinion, etc. In this campaign, a broad spectrum of forces, ranging from Keiko Fujimori to the parties of the “moderate” (read: bourgeois) left and sectors of the union bureaucracy, acted in a united front.

The capitalists will not be satisfied with having twisted Castillo's arm and having changed the character of the government. Their victory in this round will only embolden them / Image: Presidencia Perú, Flickr

In his resignation speech, the president of the Council of Ministers, Bellido, explained it clearly, and it is worth quoting him at length:

“The people are a witness that above the Executive Power there are forces and de facto powers that govern, pressure, coerce and persecute... starting from not wanting to recognise the electoral triumph of Peru Libre to opposition to the formation of the government itself. These financial, business and economic powers have captured the judicial bodies that, protected by the euphemism of the ‘separation of powers’, do not submit to elections and want to govern by criminalising all political opponents. The renegotiation of the Contract with the Camisea Consortium marks the breaking point between a surrendering, privatising and individualist State and a new one, which should rescue [natural resources] and is supportive, humanistic and sovereign.”

The question that we must ask is, if this is the case then why did Bellido accept the demands of the powers-that-be without putting up a fight?

This onslaught could only be resisted effectively with the mobilisation of workers and peasants in the streets. Peru Libre has just 37 of the 130 deputies in congress, far from a majority, and therefore governs with the permission of the parties of the moderate left, but above all of the centre and the centre-right bourgeoisie parties.

Bellido's threat to close down congress if a vote of no confidence was passed against the president was correct. The people voted for Castillo, if the congress does not want to accept the popular will, let's go to new elections and let the people decide. That is something that the bourgeoisie did not want in any way, because a new electoral campaign, in which PL would present itself with a radical programme, would further polarise the situation and could give rise to a left-wing majority.

However, no strategy for the defence of the Bellido government could rely solely, nor primarily, on parliamentary manoeuvres. The mobilisation of the worker and peasant masses in the streets would have been the only way. During the vote count in the second round of the presidential election, workers and peasants took to the streets, organised demonstrations and vigils to defend their victory at the polls. The CGTP, although mildly, called for the defence of the labour minister. But there was never – on the part of Bellido, and much less on the part of Castillo – any serious attempt to confront the offensive of the capitalists and the multinationals with revolutionary methods of struggle. Bellido resigned instead of fighting, just as Béjar had done before.

It should also be noted that neither Bellido himself, nor Peru Libre, nor Vladimir Cerrón, at any time advanced a socialist and anti-capitalist strategy, but rather clung to the idea that a “popular economy with markets” is possible, in which, supposedly, multinational mining companies are going to donate part of their wealth for the development of the country. That's like imagining that you can convince a tiger to become a vegetarian! In fact, the utopian character of this idea has been demonstrated in practice. At the first timid attempt by the government to renegotiate the Camisea gas contract... the bourgeoisie and the multinationals have overthrown the democratically elected government!

We must further warn that the capitalists will not be satisfied with having twisted Castillo's arm and having changed the character of the government. Their victory in this round will only embolden them. They have tasted blood and now they will want more. An editorial of El Comercio (the most representative organ of the bourgeois campaign against the government) with the title “Cerrón is still present”, celebrates that “finally, after 69 days, Guido Bellido fell yesterday afternoon. This was a person who should never have reached the Presidency of the Council of Ministers (PCM) and who debased such an important position.” But then it goes on to demand the heads of three other ministers! We ask ourselves, who should appoint the government: the president or the editorial board of El Comercio? It is obvious that the capitalists know that, in a bourgeois democracy, they are the ones who rule, regardless of parliamentary facades.

It is possible that the ruling class will want to use a domesticated Castillo to apply the policy they need without causing a social explosion. If the break with the Peru Libre parliamentary group is confirmed, Castillo is now a prisoner of the bourgeois parties (the “moderate” left is insignificant in parliament). But deep down they don't trust him – he's not one of them. At most they will squeeze him like a lime and then throw him away when he is spent.

When we celebrated Castillo's election we wrote:

“Castillo will now be faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, he can rule for the masses of workers and peasants who have elected him, which would mean a radical break with the capitalists and the multinationals. That can only be done by relying upon extra-parliamentary mass mobilisation. Or he can give in, water down his programme and accommodate to the interests of the ruling class, meaning he will be discredited among those who have voted for him, preparing his own downfall. If he attempts to serve two masters (the workers and the capitalists) at the same time he will please neither. “ (Peru: Castillo's election, a major political earthquake, 9 June)

And we added:

“The struggle has only begun. Every step forward which Castillo takes should be supported. His vacillations or retreats should be criticised. The workers and peasants can only trust in their own forces and these should be mobilised to strike blows against the oligarchy.

The dilemma seems to have been resolved fairly quickly, in just 69 days.

Lessons needed to be learned

It may take time for the broad masses who voted for Castillo to draw all the conclusions from these events. The political-emotional bond that has been established between the oppressed of Peru and Castillo is strong, but inevitably practical experience will prevail. It is crucial that the most advanced sectors of the working class and the youth draw the necessary conclusions from this episode. We must speak clearly. The fall of the Bellido government and the entry of the Vásquez government represent the culmination of Castillo's turn to the right and the betrayal of the hopes raised by his campaign.

It is necessary to re-group the vanguard around a clear revolutionary socialist programme. It is not possible to negotiate a mutually beneficial pact with multinationals and businessmen, especially not in the context of the global crisis of capitalism. Only the revolutionary expropriation of mining and energy resources and large Peruvian companies under the democratic control of the working class can lay the foundations so that there are “no poor people in a rich country.” The revolutionary transformation of Peru would become an example for the workers and peasants of the continent, a continent in which the class struggle is in full swing.


Re: Afghanistan

Stephen Gosch
 

Thanks for your very helpful comments. I continue to read and ponder.


On Thu, Oct 7, 2021 at 9:07 PM <fkalosar101@...> wrote:
I don't think the Taliban constitute a ruling class--they are a ruling party backed by enough military force and religious authority to consolidate political power for (apparently) a  very long time.  In the past, the motive for the great powers to control Afghanistan were strategic and military; the country itself was hardly a prize from the standpoint of wealth extraction.  Now, with significant proven and as yet mostly unexploited mineral resources, that has changed to a considerable extent.  The population of the country is nearly twice what it was in 2001, but AFAIK this power is not concentrated primarily in the cities but also in the countryside  The majority of Afghans today are too young to remember former Taliban rule.  How it will affect them is difficult for a foreigner to say.

The briefly revived Northern Alliance seem to have lost or to be on the verge of losing their stronghold in the Panjsheer Valley, so the Taliban seem to be accomplishing their gleichschaltung from the military perspective.  

Throughout its modern history, Afghanistan seems to have been dependent on foreign aid of one sort or another for its economic survival.  I suppose China may  try to take up the slack.  What they will require in exchange for their support and how far the Taliban will be willing to go in making the concessions they will desire--and whether Russia, short of another invasion, will try to compete in a renewed version of the Great Game, remain unknowable.  Likewise, the willingness of the youthful Afghan population to comply with Taliban rule as vs. their willingness and ability to rebel all are questions.  

My impression is that the class dynamic of Afghanistan is far from static--that the social structures which we in the West are used to caricaturing with a few glib references to a clan system and warlords are more fluid and adaptable--and contemporary in their objective form--than we know--but perhaps the country is on the verge of developing new class structures, to what end and with what consequences we can only guess.  

I spent a few months in Afghanistan during the famine year of 1971 and followed the events of the so-called Saur Revolution with interest and dismay The country then had fewer than thirteen million inhabitants in a geographical extent the size of Texas.  How different are things now?  Is there any m.o.p. that could sustain Afghanistan without foreign assistance?  Will the eventual development of mineral wealth come by virtue of a de facto foreign invasion and extractive orgy?  Will the Taliban prove capable of actually ruling a sizable modernizing nation, as the shi'a clergy did in Iran, or will they rule by corruption and thuggery as they seem to have done in the past?

Perhaps the economists on the list will have a clearer view of this enigma than I and maybe some others do.  The one certainty seems to be that the peoples of Afghanistan will go on suffering indefinitely under any plausible scenario short of the coming of world socialism.
 
I think your question and challenge are both  pertinent and worthwhile, and I hope that others will be stimulated to comment constructively. It's my opinion that nostalgia for the allegedly peaceful and popular PDP government are as offensively false and half-bake--as well as irrelevant--as the equally counter-factual pro-China slant that is bound to crop up will probably prove to be.


Pandora Papers: dirty financial dealings of ruling class exposed – again!

Cort Greene
 

Suspect foreign money flows into booming American tax havens on promise of eternal secrecy

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As a poisoned town sought justice, top chemical giant executive moved millions to tax havens

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Offshore havens and hidden riches of world leaders and billionaires exposed in unprecedented leak
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Pandora Papers: dirty financial dealings of ruling class exposed – again!

Image: public domain

A data leak containing millions of documents amounting to 2.94 terabytes of information has partially lifted the curtain on the offshore deals and assets of more than 100 billionaires, world leaders and public officials. This leak has exposed the tremendous parasitism of the ruling class, totalling anywhere from US$5.6 trillion to US$32 trillion in offshore wealth.

Russian oligarchs are especially well represented in the leaks, with no fewer than 52 appearing in the documents, whose concealed wealth amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars. This includes oil tycoon Leonid Lebedev, who fled Russia in 2016 following accusations of embezzlement. Also named is American private equity magnate Robert F. Smith, who last year copped a $139 million settlement regarding a tax probe.

One of the biggest hoards belongs to Jordan’s King Abdullah II, whose $100m property empire was revealed in the documents. Alongside these tycoons and despots, a number of leading politicians are identified in the leaks. This goes to show that the so-called democratically elected representatives of capitalism eat from the same trough as the rest of the ruling class.

For instance, the Czech Republic’s prime minister, Andrej Babis, came to power after promising to crack down on tax evasion and economic fraud, supposedly to create a country where “entrepreneurs will be happy to pay taxes''. But it seems that Mr Babis must crack down on himself, as this latest leak reveals that he funneled $22 million through shell companies to buy a chateau in the French Riviera.

Meanwhile, Uhuru Kenyatta – President of Kenya, a country with a total poverty rate of 36 percent, and extreme poverty rate of over 25 percent – has been exposed as a beneficiary of a secret foundation in Panama, while his family own five offshore companies with assets worth over $30 million.

The so-called Pandora Papers (named for opening a veritable ‘Pandora’s Box’ of shameless wealth hoarding) reveal what we already know; that those who hold the most wealth and power are also the most corrupt. The lengths they will go to in order to protect ‘their’ money and privileges have been exposed countless times, most recently in the Panama Papers in 2016, followed by the Paradise Papers in 2017.

This rotten capitalist society certainly does constitute a ‘paradise’ for the rich, as they hide their wealth and avoid paying tax, using a combination of exclusive bank accounts, trusts and foundations in offshore financial centres. Notably, many of these measures are perfectly ‘legal’ in the formal sense. The system itself is rigged in favour of the rich, who seek to enrich themselves further still.

In short: these are not isolated examples. The entire upper strata of capitalist society is riddled with obscene wealth and dodgy financial dealings. These revelations come at a time where capitalism has never had anything less to offer with workers and youth being hit with the brunt of the crisis, whilst the rich relax in one of their many multi-million pound homes.

Britain

The UK represents a nexus point in this web of secret wealth accumulation. For instance, the leaks detail the sale of 1,500 British properties through offshore firms. Through this mechanism, super-rich investors have been able to hide their wealth, anonymously speculate on property and build up their real estate portfolios. For the rich, the property market in London represents a haven to stash their spare cash. As the leaks demonstrate, the capital city is a playground for oligarchs, money laundering criminals and corrupt politicians.

These include high-profile figures such as members of the Qatari ruling family, who purchased two of the world’s most expensive homes in London through offshore companies, and, of course, saving millions in tax.

city Image Tristan Surtel Wikimedia CommonThe UK represents a nexus point in this web of secret wealth accumulation / Image: Tristan Surtel, Wikimedia Common

Many of these parasites are the very same people funding the ruling Conservative Party. Take Mohammed Amersi: a prominent Tory donor with a mansion in the Cotswolds and a townhouse in affluent Mayfair, London, both acquired through offshore companies. Similarly, Lubov Chernukhin – ex-banker and wife of the former Russian deputy minister of finance – cosied up to the Tories with over £1.8 million in donations since 2012, whilst owning both a house in London and mansion in the countryside.

These donations are not mere generosity, but a quid pro quo arrangement in which the Tories reward their compatriots with policies that assist them in maintaining their ill-gotten gains, such as favourable tax rates and lax financial oversight. Not to mention the opportunity to score lucrative government contracts for their business interests. The capitalist class and their representatives in government are bound by a thousand threads.

Several leading figures in British business appear in the leaks, whose gross mismanagement of their companies has little bearing on their opulent lifestyles. For instance, the Pandora Papers reveal that retail tycoon Philip Green and his wife splashed out on a luxury property, just as their BHS retail chain went bust under the pressure of huge debts and a massive hole in its pension fund. While they arranged furniture in their swanky new pad, 11,000 BHS employees were pushed into unemployment and precarity.

Of course, they made this purchase anonymously through an offshore fund, which the papers trace back directly to the respectable ‘Lady’ and ‘Sir’ Green. A year later, they generously bought their daughter a £10.6 million home around the corner, while the Arcadia group (which owned major retail outlets, including Topshop) was driven into liquidation in November 2020, again due to huge debts and a giant pensions deficit.

The super-rich seem to live in a different universe to the rest of us. Even when their companies collapse – condemning thousands of workers to destitution in the process – these bloated leeches continue to enjoy the lap of luxury.

But it is not only rich Tory donors and decadent business people named in the leaks. Living up to his reputation as a corrupt figurehead of the capitalist class, former Labour Party leader Tony Blair also features in the Pandora Papers.

He and his wife Cherie have stressed they had purchased a multi-million pound property in a “normal way”, and have “never used offshore schemes either to hide transactions or avoid tax”. Yet the papers reveal the Blairs made savings of £312,000 by avoiding stamp duty on their lavish townhouse in Marylebone. They did this by acquiring the holding company of the property, rather than the building directly. To any ordinary working-class person, it is plain that there is nothing ‘normal’ about schemes like this.

The list goes on and on. The scale of this avarice and greed ultimately reflects the deep crisis of capitalism. The bourgeois class are not capable of carrying society forwards. They have become a fetter on human development through their parasitic tendencies: sitting on huge piles of money rather than investing it back into developing production for the betterment of mankind.

Pandora’s box

Lawyers, judges and so-called ‘respectable’ politicians (i.e., those not directly named in these leaks) all play their part in this economic scandal. The state is not a neutral arbiter above society striving for justice and equality, but bound hand and foot to interests of the capitalist class.

They conceal this with faux outrage. US president Joe Biden, for instance, ‘graciously’ pledged to bring transparency to the global financial system. Unfortunately for him, the US emerged in the Pandora Papers as a leading tax haven, greatly helping the capitalist class by offering them a way to secretly and safely invest their wealth. The state of South Dakota, for instance, allows people to avoid tax by putting their wealth into trust funds, leading to over $367 billion in stashed assets as of the end of 2020.

Tony Blair Image Public DomainFormer Labour party leader, Tony Blair, and his wife, Cherie, avoided paying £312,000 of stamp duties on their lavish townhouse in Marylebone / Image: Public Domain

The rule of bourgeois law conveniently makes this process easier by offering a multitude of legal loopholes for what, to any reasonable observer, is clearly economic fraud. Baker McKenzie, America’s biggest law firm, is a major player in driving wealth into tax havens, helping the rich dodge taxes and scrutiny, and even defending them if they happen to be challenged by any authorities.

The capitalist state is certainly a pandora’s box full of corruption and scandal. This is no accident. It is a very conscious decision on the part of capitalists to use all the tricks at their disposal to maximise their privileges. It is clear that no matter what rules and reforms are put into place against offshore tax havens and the like, the rich will always find a way to escape the net.

The hypocrisy on display here is staggering. The capitalist class and its political representatives will continue to attack the poor and working class through cuts, austerity and privatisations, whilst at the same time bending over backwards to protect their own wealth and privilege.

In the UK for instance, the Tory Party Conference is currently underway, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing a £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit coming, and stating it is “only responsible” to raise taxes to fund healthcare. No doubt, the Tories will shy away from discussing the list of their biggest donors revealed as tax dodgers in these papers.

The parasitic rich have egg on their face today, but just like in 2016 and 2017, they will wait for the furore to pass and then carry on as before. This cannot be allowed to stand. This mountain of wealth – the product of workers’ labour, which is drained by the bourgeoisie through exploitation, and accumulated or gambled through speculation – must be expropriated and put to productive use in a society run under workers’ control.

Only by overthrowing capitalism can we do away with the immense corruption and greed of the tiny minority, which goes on alongside the impoverishment and suffering of the majority of humanity.


H-Net Review [H-LatAm]: Sierra Becerra on Harms, 'Ladina Social Activism in Guatemala City, 1871-1954'

Andrew Stewart
 



Best regards,
Andrew Stewart

Begin forwarded message:

From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW <h-review@...>
Date: October 8, 2021 at 10:53:47 AM EDT
To: h-review@...
Cc: H-Net Staff <revhelp@...>
Subject: H-Net Review [H-LatAm]:  Sierra Becerra on Harms, 'Ladina Social Activism in Guatemala City, 1871-1954'
Reply-To: h-review@...

Patricia Harms.  Ladina Social Activism in Guatemala City, 1871-1954.
Albuquerque  University of New Mexico Press, 2020.  Illustrations.
422 pp.  $75.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8263-6145-5.

Reviewed by Diana Sierra Becerra (Smith College)
Published on H-LatAm (October, 2021)
Commissioned by Casey M. Lurtz

Historian Patricia Harms traces the maternal feminist politics of
mainly middle-class ladina women in Guatemala City during three major
periods: the rise of liberalism beginning in 1871, a period of
moderate reform following the 1920 revolution, and the October
Revolution of 1944, which lasted until the US-backed coup in 1954.
While the interests of upper-class women dominated earlier ladina
movements, the later periods gave rise to a socialist feminism that
centered the needs of working-class women and their children. Harms
resists the historical erasure of ladina feminist politics and,
perhaps most importantly, demonstrates the significant role of
ladinas within the October Revolution.

Harms traces how in the late 1880s, two sisters, Vicenta Laparra de
la Cerda and Jesús Laparra, established literary circles to claim
legal rights as their own. Originally of humble rural origins, they
founded two short-lived magazines, _La Voz de la Mujer_ and _El
Ideal_, whose readership drew from labor unions, Catholic reform
societies, and a small yet growing number of teachers. The sisters
strongly critiqued liberal politicians who identified motherhood as
foundational to society yet simultaneously denied women legal and
civic rights. Laparra de la Cerda identified mothers and women "as
the moral gauge for Guatemalan politics" and urged politicians not to
ignore poor and disabled people with their reforms (p. 34). The state
eventually banned _La Voz de la Mujer_ in 1885. As Harms argues, the
journals "created the first published discourse over the rights of
women and the state in the capital city" (p. 39). The Laparra sisters
also founded schools for middle-class girls, which, according to
Harms, created an "ideological and literary legacy for another
generation of women who resurfaced during the 1920s" (p. 43).

Harms then illuminates the political stakes of suffragist politics.
In 1925, a small group of writers from the coffee elite formed the
Sociedad Gabriela Mistral (SGM), which lasted until 1926. In contrast
to labor unions that demanded universal suffrage, SGM did not even
support suffrage for literate women, seeing women as politically
unprepared to assume such a role. In a country in which 87 percent of
people could not read or write, SGM campaigned to open a library and
the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala to upper-class women. In
contrast to the Laparra sisters, SGM founder Rosa Rodríguez López
openly expressed disdain toward domestic workers, claiming that elite
mothers abandoned their children to the "stupid servant for a life of
frivolity or laziness" (p. 54). These racist and classist views
echoed other bourgeois feminist groups, like the Unión Cívica
Guatemalteca, which in the 1940s, rejected universal suffrage and
argued that literate white and ladina women deserved to vote more
than illiterate indigenous men. Harms reveals how these politics
undermined possibilities for interethnic and class solidarity,
resulting in suffrage only for literate women in 1945, which meant
the exclusion of nearly all indigenous women and roughly 70 percent
of ladinas from the vote. The Catholic Church then recruited elite
women to strengthen anti-revolutionary movements in the capital city.

The class politics of bourgeois ladina feminists are unsurprising
given their power over working-class ladinas and indigenous women,
but here the analysis could have gone further. The book does not
interrogate the structural relationship of ladinas to whiteness,
leaving the reader to wonder if Guatemalan society treated these
upper-class ladinas as white and how these women racially identified.
Based on the photos presented in the book, some of these women appear
physically indistinguishable from white European women. Harms also
argues that early movements did in fact have a consciousness about
the subordinate position of women, which fulfills her definition of
feminism. But she uses the term "proto-feminist" to describe those
movements, which undermines her main argument. The term is also
limiting since it suggests a linear development of feminism. It
assumes that bourgeois feminists had undeveloped class politics, when
it may be more helpful to emphasize how class interests informed
their feminism. In other words, bourgeois feminism was_ fully
developed_ to advance the interests of upper-class women.

From SGM emerged Luz Valle and Gloria Menéndez Mina, who launched
two journals, _Nosotras_ and _Azul_, during the Jorge Ubico
dictatorship (1931-44). While _Azul _was more conservative, the major
contribution of _Nosotras _rested in its ability to reach nearly half
of Guatemala's teachers, the majority of whom were women. The
magazine denounced Ubico's defunding and militarization of the
public-school system and the dire conditions that prevented
indigenous children from accessing education. Harms details how it
"maintained a feminist consciousness among a critical cadre of
readers" who emerged as a strong political opposition to Ubico's
dictatorship (p. 104).

The book's most fascinating chapters document how, beginning in the
1940s, socialist feminism became a critical force in ladina
movements. The 1947 Inter-American Congress of Women, held in
Guatemala City, produced a split between anti-communist women and
progressive and socialist women. Women from the latter camp founded
the Alianza Femenina Guatemalteca in October 1947, drawing women from
all the revolutionary parties and firmly declaring themselves not to
be an "organization of bourgeois women who crocheted things" (p.
223). The Alianza critiqued the mono-agricultural economy and foreign
monopoly on transportation and land as being key forces that created
misery for working-class women and their children. Harms traces how
working-class labor organizers like Ester de Urrutia strongly
believed that the participation of rural and indigenous women was
necessary to deepen the revolutionary process to confront structural
inequalities. The Alianza organized thousands of working-class women
into committees, demanding suffrage for illiterate Guatemalans, labor
protections for domestic workers and pieceworkers, equal wages
between women and men, and women's right to land ownership under the
1952 Agrarian reform. Its membership was mainly rooted in
agricultural areas dominated by the United Fruit Company. First lady
María Vilanova de Árbenz also played a key role in the Alianza. In
addition to pushing president Jacobo Árbenz to read radical
literature, she supported the unionization of childcare workers in
state-run daycare centers and helped expand medical, social, and
recreational services to working-class women. As a coup became
imminent, the Alianza called on women to form armed brigades to
defend the revolution, while bourgeois feminists joined the literary
circles of fascist women. Ester de Urrutia's position as secretary
general of the Alianza made her an enemy of the state. Together with
her husband, she found refuge in the Argentine embassy where she met
a young medical student with an asthma condition, Ernesto Guevara.
His experience in Guatemala would be formative for his thinking on
the necessity of anti-imperialist armed struggle.

Harms demonstrates how Cold War-era frameworks do not allow us to
understand women's organizations on their own terms. Although the
Alianza was the largest women's organization during the period, some
scholars have dismissed it as a "communist front" or a recruitment
wing for male-led revolutionary parties. These false
characterizations present women as mindless, politically
inexperienced followers who had little to say about sexism within
their own movements, when in fact groups like the Alianza advanced
radical positions on gender relations. Harms also challenges the
North Atlantic "wave" model used to periodize feminist history,
demonstrating the richness of feminist politics during the 1940s and
1950s--decades normally considered to be lulls in feminist
organizing. Furthermore, the book offers an important political
lesson: the price that revolutionary movements have paid when leftist
men have excluded working-class women from their leadership and base.
Those men not only undermined the growth of their revolutionary
movements but also enabled fascist opponents to mobilize
working-class women in support of anti-revolutionary campaigns. In
short, an analysis of gender is key for understanding the internal
factors that enabled the revolution's demise in Guatemala.

Citation: Diana Sierra Becerra. Review of Harms, Patricia, _Ladina
Social Activism in Guatemala City, 1871-1954_. H-LatAm, H-Net
Reviews. October, 2021.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=56477

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
License.



About That Bizarre Tsarist Wedding in St. Petersburg - Washington Babylon

Andrew Stewart
 


Populista. The Rise of Latin America’s 21st Century Strongmen, Will Grant. Review.

Andrew Coates
 

Populista. The Rise of Latin America's 21st Century Strongmen, Will Grant. In the new millenium new ways forward for the radical left in Latin America seemed open. "For a decade and a half, populist left-wing presidents were in power from the Amazon to the Andes, The leaders of the Pink tide were democratically elected and…
tendancecoatesy.wordpress.com


Andrew Coates

--
Andrew Coates


Re: Do machines add value?

Michael Meeropol
 

I was going to keep mum but GIl's last post I think gave us a way through the argument with Kitching ---

Over time, competition will compete the price of any commodity down to its cost of production --- This is the kernel of the LTV that Marx took from the classics.  The rationale for this is that the "modern" demand and supply analysis of price formation does not reckon with the idea that ANY price above cost of production will be subject to this kind of competition.   (Luigi Passinetti in his lectures at Cambridge called these goods "reproduction" goods --- and noted that only goods with a kind of permanent scarcity [old Masters' paintings for example] had their prices stuck at the one created by supply and demand).  Thus, the exchange value of the means of production settles at its value --- THE SAME is true for the product ultimately produced.

NOW --- why is living labor different?   Answer:   the competition among workers for jobs forces the wage down to the SNLT necessary to "sustain" the working class (by the way, the reason for all that information from factory inspectors in Vol I of Capital was to show that capitalists left to their own devices might force wages too low leading to LACK of sustenance for the working class --- killing the goose that lays the capitalists' "eggs".   

Why doesn't the competition among capitalists for workers force the wage up to the "cost of production" of the product?  Because of the permanent surplus of labor in a well functioning capitalist economy --- the wage will definitely be above biological subsistence (hence the "historical and moral element" line) but below the cost of production except at extraordinary times which often heralds a "crisis" at the top of the business cycle.

(sorry for repetitiveness --- I need to do this for myself)

It is that "imbalance" at the point where the "price" of labor power is determined that is the source of surplus value.'

There is no permanent imbalance in the market for means of production --- when there is, it signals an interruption in the accumulation process --- the reason is that unlike human beings who reproduce themselves it is the CAPITALIST who DECIDES to create means of production 

Thanks, Gil, for the quote from Kitching

On Fri, Oct 8, 2021 at 12:26 AM <gilschaeffer82@...> wrote:

Kitching answers: "But this reply is no reply at all, because it is not true. Machines can do this too. Indeed, if a capitalist could not run machines productively (i.e. at average or above average levels of productivity) for a time well exceeding the labor time embodied in them, it is doubtful whether he or she would want to install such machines at all."

I said in a reply to Tom Walker that a stick in Marx's tensegrity model was broken. This is that stick. Either neither machines or labor add value or both do. I think both do, but not value in Marx's sense; only value in the use value sense.
_._,_._,_
ME:  and yes they both add USE VALUE _-- but only labor adds EXCHANGE VALUE ...which is the source of surplus value 


In Hollywood and America, the Strike Is Back | Harold Meyerson | The American Prospect

Kevin Lindemann and Cathy Campo
 


Re: Do machines add value?

gilschaeffer82@...
 

I see this discussion is still going on, so let me ask for a little help. I've had time to go back and reread the book with the critique of Marx's value theory that I tried to defend and want someone to show me where the flaw is. The book is Gavin Kitching, Karl Marx and the Philosophy of Praxis. After summarizing Marx's representation of production as a physical process in which machines and labor are combined to produce commodities and then Marx's explanation of the relations of price and value in these commodities, Kitching quotes Marx: "Therefore the means of production can never add more value to the product than they themselves possess independently of the process which they assist. However useful a given kind of raw material, or a machine, or other means of production may be, though it cost 150 Pounds, or say, 500 days' labour, yet it cannot, under any circumstances, add to the product more than 150 Pounds." p. 205, Capital I, Progress Publishers

Kitching then quotes Marx on labor: "The action of labour power, therefore, not only reproduces its own value, but produces value over and above it. This surplus value is the difference between the value of the product and the value of the products consumed in the formation of the product, in other words of the means of production and the labor power." p. 208

Kitching's claim is that Marx just asserts this difference between machines and labor and can only sustain it as a proposition because he doesn't apply the same accounting procedure to labor as he does to machinery. Taking the 500 days SNL in the machine and spread it over 500,000 commodities and you get 1,24 minutes of SNL per commodity. Now let's say that the SNL for the sustenance of a laborer is also 500 days of SNL and over their working life they produce 500,000 commodities. Presented like this, we can say the laborer simply transferred 1.24 minutes of SNL to each commodity but added no new value. Marx's reply is that only living labor power can work in excess of the SNL required for its production.

Kitching answers: "But this reply is no reply at all, because it is not true. Machines can do this too. Indeed, if a capitalist could not run machines productively (i.e. at average or above average levels of productivity) for a time well exceeding the labor time embodied in them, it is doubtful whether he or she would want to install such machines at all."

I said in a reply to Tom Walker that a stick in Marx's tensegrity model was broken. This is that stick. Either neither machines or labor add value or both do. I think both do, but not value in Marx's sense; only value in the use value sense.


Re: Afghanistan

Farans Kalosar
 

I don't think the Taliban constitute a ruling class--they are a ruling party backed by enough military force and religious authority to consolidate political power for (apparently) a  very long time.  In the past, the motive for the great powers to control Afghanistan were strategic and military; the country itself was hardly a prize from the standpoint of wealth extraction.  Now, with significant proven and as yet mostly unexploited mineral resources, that has changed to a considerable extent.  The population of the country is nearly twice what it was in 2001, but AFAIK this power is not concentrated primarily in the cities but also in the countryside  The majority of Afghans today are too young to remember former Taliban rule.  How it will affect them is difficult for a foreigner to say.

The briefly revived Northern Alliance seem to have lost or to be on the verge of losing their stronghold in the Panjsheer Valley, so the Taliban seem to be accomplishing their gleichschaltung from the military perspective.  

Throughout its modern history, Afghanistan seems to have been dependent on foreign aid of one sort or another for its economic survival.  I suppose China may  try to take up the slack.  What they will require in exchange for their support and how far the Taliban will be willing to go in making the concessions they will desire--and whether Russia, short of another invasion, will try to compete in a renewed version of the Great Game, remain unknowable.  Likewise, the willingness of the youthful Afghan population to comply with Taliban rule as vs. their willingness and ability to rebel all are questions.  

My impression is that the class dynamic of Afghanistan is far from static--that the social structures which we in the West are used to caricaturing with a few glib references to a clan system and warlords are more fluid and adaptable--and contemporary in their objective form--than we know--but perhaps the country is on the verge of developing new class structures, to what end and with what consequences we can only guess.  

I spent a few months in Afghanistan during the famine year of 1971 and followed the events of the so-called Saur Revolution with interest and dismay The country then had fewer than thirteen million inhabitants in a geographical extent the size of Texas.  How different are things now?  Is there any m.o.p. that could sustain Afghanistan without foreign assistance?  Will the eventual development of mineral wealth come by virtue of a de facto foreign invasion and extractive orgy?  Will the Taliban prove capable of actually ruling a sizable modernizing nation, as the shi'a clergy did in Iran, or will they rule by corruption and thuggery as they seem to have done in the past?

Perhaps the economists on the list will have a clearer view of this enigma than I and maybe some others do.  The one certainty seems to be that the peoples of Afghanistan will go on suffering indefinitely under any plausible scenario short of the coming of world socialism.
 
I think your question and challenge are both  pertinent and worthwhile, and I hope that others will be stimulated to comment constructively. It's my opinion that nostalgia for the allegedly peaceful and popular PDP government are as offensively false and half-bake--as well as irrelevant--as the equally counter-factual pro-China slant that is bound to crop up will probably prove to be.


Western Washington Carpenters can Make History

John Reimann
 

"It’s no exaggeration: Western Washington carpenters can make history. That’s because the situation they face is not that very different from that faced by all union members in the US; if rank and file carpenters can overcome their own leadership, this can be a signal for union members throughout the labor movement.

"The carpenters union leadership has made it clear that they don’t want the members to get too high of a raise. “Recapturing market share” is their mantra. What it means in reality is helping the unionized contractors compete with the non-union contractors by keeping union wages as close to non-union wages as possible. This strategy has been a disastrous failure for the entire union, but that doesn’t stop them from trying." See more: https://oaklandsocialist.com/2021/10/08/western-washington-carpenters-can-make-history/

--
“Science and socialism go hand-in-hand.” Felicity Dowling
Check out:https:http://oaklandsocialist.com also on Facebook


Afghanistan and Iraq - No US apologies offered

Dennis Brasky
 

Just ask yourself: When have any of the public officials who ensured the excesses of the war on terror reflected publicly on their mistakes or expressed the least sense of regret about them (no less offering actual apologies for them)? Where are the generals whose reflections could help forestall future failed attempts at “nation-building” in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, or Somalia? Where are the military contractors whose remorse led them to forsake profits for humanity?  Where are any voices of reflection or apology from the military-industrial complex including from the CEOs of the giant weapons makers who raked in fortunes off those two decades of war? Have any of them joined the small chorus of voices reflecting on the wrongs that we’ve done to ourselves as a nation and to others globally? Not on the recent 9/11 anniversary, that’s for sure.  

https://tomdispatch.com/never-having-to-say-youre-sorry/



Israel has a ‘hands-off’ approach with illegal Israeli squatters, but not with the Palestinians

Dennis Brasky
 


H-Net Review [H-War]: Buchleiter on MacDonald and Parent, 'Twilight of the Titans: Great Power Decline and Retrenchment'

Andrew Stewart
 



Best regards,
Andrew Stewart

Begin forwarded message:

From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW <h-review@...>
Date: October 7, 2021 at 11:50:37 AM EDT
To: h-review@...
Cc: H-Net Staff <revhelp@...>
Subject: H-Net Review [H-War]:  Buchleiter on MacDonald and  Parent, 'Twilight of the Titans: Great Power Decline and Retrenchment'
Reply-To: h-review@...

Paul K. MacDonald, Joseph M. Parent.  Twilight of the Titans: Great
Power Decline and Retrenchment.  Ithaca  Cornell University Press,
2018.  276 pp.  $42.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-5017-1709-3.

Reviewed by Jon Buchleiter (University of Texas at Austin)
Published on H-War (October, 2021)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey

In _Twilight of the Titans: Great Power Decline and Retrenchment_,
Paul MacDonald and Joseph Parent take aim at prevailing theories of
preventative war and domestic dysfunction used to explain strategic
behavior when great powers confront relative decline. The book
employs a mixed-methods approach to examine sixteen cases of great
power decline since 1870. The authors find that rather than turning
to preventative war or experiencing strategic paralysis, states
frequently seek to retrench with an eye toward future recovery. They
define retrenchment as an "intentional reduction in the overall cost
of a state's foreign policy" (p. 8). Crucially, they view
retrenchment as a temporary, incremental adjustment to a state's
grand strategy. Accordingly, states can retrench--or even
expand--without abandoning their existing strategic paradigm.

The first chapter concisely summarizes the existing preventative war
and domestic dysfunction theories of great power decline. Although
MacDonald and Parent offer pointed critiques of these explanations of
great power behavior, they nevertheless capably detail both schools
of thought and their underlying logics. MacDonald and Parent assert
that these theories ultimately fail to explain great power behavior
during periods of decline. Therefore, they argue, even the
well-trodden ground of great power politics requires further study.

The following two chapters enumerate the appeal of retrenchment for
great powers and describe the authors' dataset. MacDonald and Parent
convincingly show that retrenchment is valuable for declining powers,
offering states their best hope of regaining their previous stature.
Furthermore, the authors, to their credit, are transparent in
disclosing their assumptions and criteria for selecting cases.
Critical readers, however, may well raise their eyebrows at several
assumptions and case selections.

MacDonald and Parent's dataset suffers from the same Eurocentrism
that plagues most studies of great power transition. Their reliance
on European cases suggests limitations in applying lessons from these
transitions to relationships involving rising powers in the Global
South. Although the authors ably defend their measures of national
power and decline, these cases do not seem to offer a representative
sample of power transitions. Thirteen of sixteen cases occur within a
roughly sixty-year window, from 1872 to 1935. Deriving several cases
from the same country over the span of just a few years raises
questions about the appropriate time window necessary to observe
changes in strategic behavior. Several country-year data points that
are treated as distinct in this study may more appropriately be
considered a single case. Furthermore, only three countries--France,
Russia, and the United Kingdom--constitute thirteen of the
country-year data points. Finally, Germany represents the rising
power in exactly half of the cases. These limitations suggest that
the authors may have fallen afoul of the streetlight effect. Rather
than examining retrenchment by analyzing a broad range of diverse
cases--which could yield fresh insights into states' behavior--they
resigned themselves to only a small set of readily available cases.

The ensuing chapters delve deeper into six cases with particular
attention to those conforming to or diverging from expected
retrenchment behaviors. In these sections, the authors demonstrate an
impressive cross-disciplinary familiarity with literature on grand
strategy and great power politics. Additionally, their use of pithy
quotations from policymakers to frame subsections shows the work's
firm grounding in primary sources. These cases are full of
fascinating insights into European powers' strategic calculations in
the late nineteenth century. Furthermore, they help to illuminate the
dynamics of retrenchment anticipated by MacDonald and Parent's model.
Unfortunately, the authors' choice of case studies underscores their
work's temporal and geographic limitations. In the later chapters,
they profile only France, Russia, and the United Kingdom in depth.

Notwithstanding these methodological limitations, MacDonald and
Parent have crafted a thought-provoking contribution to the canon on
great power behavior. Their challenge to existing theories is
compelling and shows how uncertain great power transitions can be.
The book's conclusion identifies implications for the ostensibly
ongoing Sino-American transition. To this end, the authors'
incrementalist and transitory understanding of retrenchment
represents an important insight for policymakers. Great powers' grand
strategies can be retrenched (or expanded) through marginal changes.
For instance, while rhetorically rejecting any suggestion of American
decline, the Obama administration's defense budget cuts and force
structure changes were "drawn from the retrenchment playbook" (p.
192). However, such measures do not necessarily augur an inexorable
decline nor a sweeping shift toward isolationism. MacDonald and
Parent close by convincingly characterizing retrenchment as a way of
"reloading" that offers states the best prospects for reversing
relative declines and maintaining global influence.

Citation: Jon Buchleiter. Review of MacDonald, Paul K.; Parent,
Joseph M., _Twilight of the Titans: Great Power Decline and
Retrenchment_. H-War, H-Net Reviews. October, 2021.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=56050

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
License.



H-Net Review [H-War]: Sandy on Wadle, 'Selling Sea Power: Public Relations and the U.S. Navy, 1917-1941'

Andrew Stewart
 



Best regards,
Andrew Stewart

Begin forwarded message:

From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW <h-review@...>
Date: October 7, 2021 at 11:50:51 AM EDT
To: h-review@...
Cc: H-Net Staff <revhelp@...>
Subject: H-Net Review [H-War]:  Sandy on Wadle, 'Selling Sea Power: Public Relations and the U.S. Navy, 1917-1941'
Reply-To: h-review@...

Ryan D. Wadle.  Selling Sea Power: Public Relations and the U.S.
Navy, 1917-1941.  Norman  University of Oklahoma Press, 2019.  316
pp.  $24.94 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8061-6420-5.

Reviewed by James Sandy (University of Texas Arlington)
Published on H-War (October, 2021)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey

From the Battle of Manila to the submarine hunters of the First World
War, the American navy experienced an unprecedented level of
importance, support, and growth during the first decade and half of
the twentieth century. In 1916, Congress cemented this expansion with
a mammoth ship-building agreement. How quickly things can change. The
end of the "War to End All Wars," the prospect of a lasting peace,
evolving military ideals, and the shift in American politics
threatened to return the navy to the dark and underfunded days of the
nineteenth century. As naval commanders and planners faced the
challenges of disarmament talks, technological innovation, and
attacks by the likes of Billy Mitchell, the branch had little
organizational capability or cultural foundation to control public
discourse or disseminate information. Ryan Wadle's Selling Sea Power
is an important work on the history of early-twentieth-century naval
public relations, focusing on the story of the American navy's
struggles to both control and disseminate publicity and information
during the challenging interwar years.

Covering the years 1917 to 1941, this book provides the first
complete chronological narrative of American naval public relations
efforts and apparatus leading into the Second World War. Wadle argues
that at the end of World War I and the peace that followed, the
"silent culture" of the US Navy along with the lack of internally
functional capabilities prohibited the branch from effectively
"selling" itself as the nation's first line of defense going forward.
Naval culture dating back to the Civil War, according to Wadle and
other naval historians, emphasized a "silent" approach toward sharing
information with the American people and therefore the navy could not
defend itself or its ambitious construction programs and the costs of
the 1916 ship-building program. The struggles of multiple naval
attempts to rectify this gap, first the Navy News Bureau, then the
Information Section of the Office of Naval Intelligence, and finally
the Public Relations Branch, highlight the complete dearth of naval
institutional and cultural capability to sell itself.

Organized into two basic sections, Wadle first covers the
chronological narrative of the period and the various offices and
institutions. Taking the reader from 1917 to 1939, this book covers
all the stumbles and setbacks the navy endured as it attempted to
wrest control of its image and more importantly its position as
America's first line of defense in a new century. The second half is
organized more thematically and discusses the various social and
cultural implications and influences the navy exerted during the
period. Of particular interest in this second half, Wadle outlines
the relationship between the navy and the burgeoning American film
industry. The Navy Department's Motion Picture Board made decisions
on whether to advise and cooperate with film directors and producers
in the name of or publicizing the navy itself. As Wadle shows, this
process was never made clear. Some films, like 1930's _Men Without
Women_ and 1933's _Pigboat, _were given navy advisors and assistance.
But as the situation in Europe changed over the course of the 1930s,
the navy became ever-weary of maintaining its secrecy. A once useful
tool in naval public image creation, films and newsreels received
much less assistance from navy officials as the decade came to an
end.

In one of the most effective chapters, Wadle examines the
presentation of manhood and masculinity within naval recruiting
materials. In print pamphlets, recruiting posters, and film
newsreels, the navy tried to present itself as a place for morally
sound and upstanding young men. Combating decades-old stereotypes of
drunken sailors riddled with venereal disease, navy officials like
Secretary Josephus Daniels sought any avenue available to present a
new image of the navy and boost recruiting efforts during the early
1920s drawdown. While the navy found limited success in changing the
public perception of sailors and naval stations, the Great Depression
itself solved its recruiting issues, as the navy remained a steady
source of income for desperate Americans. This section is
particularly representative of Wadle's work as the concerted attempts
to shift public perception, regardless of effectiveness, highlight
the ongoing transformation of naval public relations efforts.

Wadle contributes to a rich historiography of the interwar navy and
its transition from a battleship-centric force to one prepared to
fight on the "three planes" of the ocean: the skies above, the
surface, and the depths beneath. More specifically, this book joins a
series of works discussing the history of American naval public
relations, offering the first attempt to cover the entire interwar
period and its implications. While it is unclear whether these naval
organizations ever reached their institutional goals, Wadle provides
a complete and exhaustively researched picture of American naval
public relations efforts from World War I to eve of Pearl Harbor.

_James Sandy is an assistant professor at the University of Texas
Arlington, where he teaches military and cultural courses. His
current research projects include a history of the Army Rangers, the
representation of warfare in American comic books, and the LRRP
program during the Vietnam War._

Citation: James Sandy. Review of Wadle, Ryan D., _Selling Sea Power:
Public Relations and the U.S. Navy, 1917-1941_. H-War, H-Net Reviews.
October, 2021.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=56000

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
License.



Re: Do machines add value?

Michael Meeropol
 

And Noel's story in a nutshell is a fantastic anecdotal validation of Harry Braverman's work --

FIRST the capitalist hires the worker's "labor power" and THEN the capitalist has to figure out a way to translate that POTENTIAL into ACTUAL labor --- This insight is the key to "class struggle at the point of production" and is WHY capitalism requires layer after layer of "management"!!! ---- 

(By the way, that is one of the reasons why the economists' supply and demand curves do not work in the "labor market."   The mainstream economists even have figured this out and have come up with an idea called "efficiency wages" which is a wage above the so-called "equilibrium" wage because workers actually have to be BRIBED to work harder than they want to (the key to Henry Ford's so-called revolutionary idea to pay workers $5 a day) --- hence there is no such thing as an "equiplibrium" wage in the labor market --- 

(this may by the way be another reason why Marx's idea that the wage "settles" at "subsistence" is devoid of empirical content --- capitalists have to pay through the nose to get workers to work harder than they want to which circles back to the idea that the amount of work actually done (some lefty economists have distinguished INTENSITY of work from PRODUCTIVITY due to different technology) is based on the balance of forces at the point of production.)

Thanks for sharing this Andrew ...

On Thu, Oct 7, 2021 at 8:13 AM Andrew Stewart <hasc.warrior.stew@...> wrote:
In the Introduction to Modern Politics by CLR James, Noel Ignatiev put forward a fascinating episode of how machinery functions in the modern factory system < https://blog.pmpress.org/2019/09/02/introduction-to-clr-james-modern-politics/ >:



Re: Do machines add value?

Andrew Stewart
 

Thirty-five years ago, production of an audio compact disc cost thousands of dollars. Now I can burn a CD at home for pennies. You have to include the variables of mass proliferation of a technology and production innovations into your thinking.


The Communist International, A Critical Analysis - Part III

Richard Fidler
 

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