Rehearsal for Genocide

Dennis Brasky

Three recent books conclude that the anti-Jewish pogroms following World War 1 help to explain what would take place a generation later.


Approaching the history of World War I and its aftermath from three different vantage points, Bemporad, Granick, and Veidlinger each conclude that the shocking anti-Jewish assaults of 1918–1921 help to explain what would take place a generation later. The “unprecedented” scale of destruction and “the performativity of violence against Jews” can now be seen, Granick argues, as a “bridge” to the Holocaust. According to Veidlinger, the pogroms and what they stood for became “an acceptable response to the excesses of Bolshevism,” leaving a heritage of social tolerance for killing Jews. In 1941, therefore, when the Nazis invaded the territories of what is today Ukraine, they were able to mobilize the local population to do their dirty work, since it “had become inured,” he says, “to bloodshed and primed to target Jews in ethnic violence.” Furthermore, the connection between Bolshevism and Jews, as well as the nexus of anti-Semitism and opposition to Soviet rule discussed by Bemporad, made the atrocities of World War II less shocking.


Veidlinger suggests that the pogroms were forgotten because of the overwhelming “horrors of the Holocaust.” But this answer is unsatisfying. Other instances of pre-Holocaust anti-Jewish violence in that region have been remembered, commemorated, and studied—the Khmelnytsky Uprising of 1648, the 1881 pogroms, the Kishinev pogrom of 1903, or the abuses of the 1905 revolution—even though none of them reached the scale of devastation of what took place in 1918–1921.

Far more convincing are explanations offered by Bemporad and Granick. Bemporad’s book, approaching the topic from within Soviet history, demonstrates that this amnesia is the result of the complex Soviet relationship with anti-Semitism—the early pogroms “made Jews Soviet” as the early pogroms forged a bond between Jews and the Soviet regime. But that bond frayed by the 1930s. After World War II, anti-Semitic attacks did not disappear. What did vanish were the decisive measures taken by the Soviet authorities against them. The memory of anti-Jewish violence became “universalized” not as motivated by anti-Semitism but as attacks against the Soviet state. The state itself began to target Jews, embracing the political power of anti-Semitism.


Re: Ukraine: Finally Got the News?

Dayne Goodwin

Imperialism’s role in the Ukraine war
by Erwin Freed and Florence Oppen, Socialist Resurgence, May 29

The war in Ukraine is the most obvious touchpoint to understand the acceleration of the disintegration of the old order of world imperialism. The fight for independence in Ukraine is threatened every day by the desires of imperialist powers to win control. The future of Ukraine is in the hands of the Ukrainian working class, which is massively resisting the occupation, and also in those of its also its real allies: workers all over the world who are opposing the Russian invasion and NATO’s aims in the war.
  .  .  .
Socialists should continue supporting the Ukrainian resistance and defend its right to ask and receive U.S. and NATO military aid. The use of U.S.-supplied  war materiel does not change the character of the war, which is a national liberation war against Russian imperialist aggression. We must, however, warn Ukrainians about the real goals of the aid and to not trust their imperialist “allies.” What we actively oppose is any subordination of Ukraine’s war for freedom to the strategy aims of U.S. imperialism and NATO in Ukraine and Eastern Europe. This is why we are against all the economic sanctions promoted by Biden, against U.S. rearmament, and against the deployment of NATO troops; we demand the dissolution of NATO. The only real solution to the present war lies in the mobilization of the material solidarity of true allies—working-class people all over the world.
  .  .  .
A central aspect of the Russian invasion of Ukraine for the international working class to understand is that the war is part of a larger process of increasing possibilities of a slide towards inter-imperialist world war. The campists and sections of the social democratic left see the invasion as a “rational” response by Russia to the growth of NATO since the fall of the Soviet Union and understand this war as an inter-imperialist one. Even though NATO has expanded for the last 30 years, however, this neither justifies nor explains the invasion of Ukraine. The blame for the invasion is entirely on Russia’s shoulders. The fundamental force driving the Russian invasion is the capitalist thirst for profits, and Russia is carrying out a war of imperialist aggression that must be stopped.
  .  .  .
The obstacles for expansion and capitalist accumulation facing Russia are not qualitatively different from those of all the imperialist countries. Before the invasion of Ukraine, the scramble to redivide control of the world economy was already taking place, periodically breaking out into outright violent conflict. After the invasion, the already-existing fissures in the imperialist world are deepening, and every day threaten to engulf more of the globe.
  .  .  .
A victory—even a partial one—in the war against Russia’s invasion would be a major blow to imperialism everywhere. It would show the capacity of subordinated nations to win the struggle against so-called “stronger” powers. However, as long as Zelensky or other compradors remain in control of the country’s political and productive forces, the situation for working people will remain one of exploitation, and real self-determination will remain elusive. This is why we believe that full liberation from imperialist domination can only succeed by means of revolutionary action, led by the working class. Let’s actively support the struggle of the Ukrainian working people from the United States!
  #  #  #

On Wed, Jun 22, 2022 at 10:19 PM Dayne Goodwin via <> wrote:
> the struggle continues (see June 4 video below), thanks Greg
> From Palestine to Ukraine: Internationalism, Anti-Imperialism and the U.S. Left
    Blanca Misse, Bill Mullen, Revolutionary Socialist Organizing Project, June 4

On Wed, Jun 22, 2022 at 10:19 PM Dayne Goodwin via <> wrote:
the struggle continues (see June 4 video below), thanks Greg

From Palestine to Ukraine: Internationalism, Anti-Imperialism and the U.S. Left

On Wed, Jun 22, 2022 at 6:01 AM Greg McDonald <gregmc59@...> wrote:
Worker’s Voice ran a solidarity campaign for Ukraine. I’m pretty sure it was a one shot deal. I made a contribution.

Re: Counterpunch: Slavoj Zizek Does His Christopher Hitchens Impression

Mark Baugher

On Jun 23, 2022, at 10:05 PM, sartesian@... wrote:

So much then for all your religious reverence for "tradition."

It seems to me that your attachment to "tradition" is highly conditional, and when the tradition doesn't support your current preferences you're able to find all sorts of changes in circumstances.
Didn't someone just write today that the list is less snarky these days? I wonder.


Should we raise unemployment to fight inflation? No, we need to protect jobs no matter what. | Michael Hiltzik | Los Angeles Times

Kevin Lindemann and Cathy Campo

Should we raise unemployment to fight inflation? No, we need to protect jobs no matter what.

Current events give us a perfect illustration. The U.S. is at or close to full employment with an unemployment rate of a historically low 3.6%, but inflation has been rising. So the argument that the remedy to higher prices is higher joblessness is being heard more and more often.

The most distilled iteration of this argument comes from former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, who put it this way in a June 20 speech in London, as reported by Bloomberg

Labor costs are dampening—not amplifying—price pressures.

— Josh Bivens, Economic Policy Institute

“We need five years of unemployment above 5% to contain inflation — in other words, we need two years of 7.5% unemployment or five years of 6% unemployment or one year of 10% unemployment.” 

Summers called these “numbers that are remarkably discouraging relative to the Fed Reserve view,” which is that tools in the Fed’s arsenal such as an increase in short-term interest rates might be enough to stage a “soft landing” for the economy — a reduction in inflation without provoking a recession.

Translating Summers’ statistics into hard figures is a little tricky, because the unemployment rate doesn’t only measure the number of people unemployed. The unemployment rate of 3.6% in May was the lowest since the late 1960s. 

But in June 2013, the last pre-pandemic month when the unemployment rate was 7.5%, some 11.8 million Americans were unemployed, 5.8 million more than last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 144 million were working, compared with 158.4 million last month. 

So Summers is talking about 5.8 million to 15 million Americans reduced to joblessness in order to bring down inflation. 

Summers’ words have been widely quoted not just because of his position as a former Obama appointee, but because he warned that fiscal policies early in the Biden administration would ignite higher inflation. 

He appears to have been prescient then, it’s felt, so perhaps he’s correct now. (Whether Summers was right or wrong or perhaps right for the wrong reasons is a topic of debate in the economist community.)

Yet there are significant flaws in the explicit equating of higher employment with higher inflation. 

Summers himself, during an appearance in May at Northwestern University, cautioned against overconfident generalizations about the economy. 

Asked, “Do we need to get out of the hot labor market completely in order to bring inflation down?” he replied, “One of the things that I’ve learned over time is it’s best to think in terms of what’s most likely and what seems probable to you. All absolute statements about these things are foolish.

A low unemployment rate correlates roughly with high inflation — and high unemployment with low inflation — but imperfectly

(Created with Datawrapper)

The unemployment rate settled between 4.7% and 3.9% from 1997 through 2000, while inflation ran between only 1.6% and 3.4%. In 1974, unemployment rose to 7.2%, yet inflation hit 12.3%. In 1978-1980 unemployment soared from 6% to 7.2%, while inflation rose as high as 13.3%. 

Those were the “stagflation” years, brought to an end by the bitter medicine of interest rates higher than 20% delivered by then-Fed Chairman Paul Volcker.

During the last decade, as unemployment drifted down from 9.3% in 2010 to 3.9% in 2018, inflation remained well under control, falling as low as 0.7% in 2015. 

It’s true that factors other than employment and wage gains affected prices during all those periods, but that merely underscores the variety of pressures that drive prices higher or lower.

Today’s inflation, as it happens, appears to derive less from excessive demand from consumers, as would be a reflection of full employment and its consequent upward pressure on wages, than from supply-chain blockages such as shortages of raw materials and merchandise. In economists’ jargon, it’s more “cost-push” than “demand-pull” inflation

Indeed, in an economic analysis published Tuesday, Adam Hale Shapiro of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco demonstrated that supply constraints, including “labor shortages, production constraints, and shipping delays,” as well as the war in Ukraine, account for more than half of the recent run-up in inflation, and higher demand only for about one-third.

Labor economists also question the narrative that higher wages are driving inflation, and consequently that bringing wages down through higher unemployment makes sense as a policy approach. Traditionally, wages grow about 1% a year faster than consumer prices — that’s an artifact of improving standards of living over time.

In the last year, however, “nominal wage growth...has lagged far behind inflation,” Josh Bivens, research director at the labor-supported Economic Policy Institute, wrote last month. That means “labor costs are dampening — not amplifying — price pressures.” 

Indeed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its most recent report stated that hourly earnings rose by 5.2% for all employees, and by 6.5% for production and nonsupervisory employees, during the year ended in May. Over the same period, the consumer price index rose by 8.6%, with the largest contribution coming from energy costs, including gasoline and fuel oil prices.

“In short, nonwage factors are clearly the main drivers of inflation,” Bivens observed. Taking steps to quell inflation by rolling back employment would cause unnecessary hardship for millions, with little gain to show for it.

Using job losses to manage inflation is arises from what economists know as the Sacrifice Ratio — ostensibly the relationship between unemployment and inflation. 

Tight supplies are contributing the most to inflation, implying that driving up unemployment won’t help much to bring inflation down.

(Federal Reserve Board)

By the reckoning of former Obama economic advisor Jason Furman, in recent decades the ratio has been 6 percentage points — a 6% rise in unemployment over a year tends to bring down inflation by a single percentage point, as would two years of 3% increases, etc., etc.

Summers’ calculation of the relationship was somewhat looser, though every bit as mechanistic as one would expect an economist’s tool to be. 

Among other issues, it places the entire burden of reducing inflation on unemployment, even though inflation is a multi-factoral phenomenon. It also treats the relationship between unemployment and inflation as an almost immutable constant.

This approach harks back to pre-Depression policy, when working men and women were regarded as just another economic input and downturns were valued as necessary medicine to preserve the financial wellbeing of the bondholding class. 

It was the era when the prescription for an economic downturn offered by Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, one of the richest men in America, was “liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate,” as Herbert Hoover described Mellon’s argument in his own memoirs.

Mellon held, as Hoover recounted, “that even a panic [that is, a depression] was not altogether a bad thing. He said: ‘It will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up the wrecks from less competent people.’” 

(Hoover, to his credit, was appalled by the “untold amount of suffering” that Mellon’s approach might cause.)

Signs are beginning to emerge, if slowly, that the factors pushing prices higher since late last year are beginning to ease. Crude oil prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell during Thursday’s trading to below $104 per barrel, down from their March 8 peak of $123.70; gasoline prices have begun to follow suit, albeit not at the same pace. 

Housing starts have slipped and wage gains have moderated. Retailers have reported slower sales and some, stuck with excess inventories of merchandise, have signaled that generous discounts are in the wings. 

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who has become the face of the Fed’s policy of raising interest rates sharply to cool the economy, has hinted that a second sharp interest rate increase of three-quarters of the percentage point may or may not be necessary next month. 

That view was echoed by Patrick Harker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, who said Wednesday that signs of moderation may warrant a smaller interest-rate boost in July and that conditions that will guide the Fed’s policies in September and beyond are even murkier. 

“Let’s see how the data turns out in the next few weeks,” Harker told Yahoo Finance.

History, in short, counsels caution in applying remedies for inflation. The limited tools available to the Federal Reserve are especially feeble when prices are driven by the external factors at work today. 

“Inflation is like an illness,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) lectured Powell during his appearance Wednesday before the Senate Banking Committee, “and medicine needs to be tailored to the specific problem.”

Under Warren’s questioning, Powell acknowledged that the Fed’s interest rate increase would do nothing to bring gasoline or food prices down. As Warren observed, however, “rate increases make it more likely that companies will fire people and slash hours to shrink wage costs.”

That’s doesn’t necessarily mean that the Fed should judiciously use the powers it has been granted to fight inflation. But it does mean that placing the livelihoods of working men and women at risk, as though they’re the people responsible for inflation, is exactly the wrong approach.

Re: Counterpunch: Slavoj Zizek Does His Christopher Hitchens Impression


So much then for all your religious reverence for "tradition."

It seems to me that your attachment to "tradition" is highly conditional,  and when the tradition doesn't support your current preferences you're able to find all sorts of changes in circumstances.

Labor Notes and the News Guild

Anthony Boynton

Mike Elk of Payday Report is one probably the best source on strikes, organizing, and internal union issues. Everyone on this list who wants to understand what is happening in the US working class should subscribe to Payday. Elk is now reporting on the scandalous behavior of Labor Notes in relation to the sexual abuse scandal in the Nes Guild. This is no small deal. Sexual abuse scandals have shaken the left in the UK and the USA, but have long been covered up in the labor movement. Elk's reporting does more than cover the current scandal, it looks into the long term drift of labor notes into the arms of a section of the US labor bureaucracy.


Re: Counterpunch: Slavoj Zizek Does His Christopher Hitchens Impression

Mark Baugher

Trotsky was writing when Ukraine was still part of the USSR and the concept an independent, socialist Ukraine was not the pipedream it appears to be today, That said, I very much doubt Trotsky, were he alive today, would have retreated from that dream to align himself with those "seeking to sell the Ukrainian people to one imperialism or another in return for a promise of fictitious independence”, with those who “continue to place hope in one of the fractions of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie as the leader of the national struggle for emancipation.” and
Thanks. What a mess of historical factors backdropped those writings you cite. There was a Greater Ukraine that spanned three countries occupied by related people and included Galacia and Carpathia Ukraine. Maybe others, I don't know. Greater Ukraine contained Ukrainians along with Jews, Poles, and Hungarians. Hitler had apparently just handed Carpathia-Ukraine over to Hungary, but I haven't gone back to review Trotsky's reference on that. Soviet Ukraine was smaller overall than today's Ukraine. Soviet Ukraine was suffering under Soviet policies and had undergone a cycle of land privatization, collectivization and re-privatization (to some extent) over the previous 17 years. The "Little Russians" in the Ukraine also suffered lower status. Moreover, things were changing fast and about to change completely: The articles were written months before Hitler and Stalin partitioned Poland with USSR taking Galacia for Ukraine.

Soviet Ukraine was post-capitalist, however, and I can't imagine that Trotsky would entertain the restitution of capitalism in Ukraine, right on the doorstep of the USSR. Particularly with the degenerated workers state facing a dangerous Germany. Near-term proletarian revolution was a realistic expectation, moreover, and certainly not something in the rear-view window as it is today.


Re: Counterpunch: Slavoj Zizek Does His Christopher Hitchens Impression

Marv Gandall

I’ve refrained from further comment on the Ukraine debate because it both sides are clearly talking past each other, but I can't let go unanswered Bradley Mayer’s sectarian attack on those opposing his unconditional support of the Ukrainian national movement as having "crossed a political Rubicon, a red line of treason to leftism, socialism, anti-imperialism, the proletariat, Marxism, and social revolution, period, tout court.” 
Since I assume Bradley is an admirer of Trotsky, as many on this list are, he and others might be surprised to learn that their political mentor was a lifelong sharp critic of the bourgeois-led Ukrainian movement for national independence, which then as now was predominantly concentrated in the west of the country outside the industrialized Donbas. 
When Trotsky proclaimed his support for Ukrainian self-determination, it was was conditional on that struggle being led by the socialist proletariat. This was consistent with the Bolshevik view that the bourgeoisie had exhausted its historic mission as an agent for change both in relation to its own absolutist monarchies and to the struggle for national independence from foreign imperialist powers. This understanding was encapsulated in his call a "united, free and independent workers’ and peasants’ Soviet Ukraine” (emphasis mine).

Trotsky took up the question in 1939 because he considered the centralizing policies of the Stalinist bureaucracy were leading the Ukrainian masses to dependence rather than independence from imperialism. A few quotes will illustrate:

"The worker and peasant masses in the Western Ukraine, in Bukovina, in the Carpatho-Ukraine are in a state of confusion: Where to turn? What to demand? This situation naturally shifts the leadership to the most reactionary Ukrainian cliques who express their “nationalism” by seeking to sell the Ukrainian people to one imperialism or another in return for a promise of fictitious independence."

"Only hopeless pacifist blockheads are capable of thinking that the emancipation and unification of the Ukraine can be achieved by peaceful diplomatic means, by referendums, by decisions of the League of Nations, etc. In no way superior to them of course are those “nationalists” who propose to solve the Ukrainian question by entering the service of one imperialism against another."

"Insofar as the issue depends upon the military strength of the imperialist states, the victory of one grouping or another can signify only a new dismemberment and a still more brutal subjugation of the Ukrainian people, The program of independence for the Ukraine in the epoch of imperialism is directly and indissolubly bound up with the program of the proletarian revolution. It would be criminal to entertain any illusions on this score.” 

"The Ukraine is especially rich and experienced in false paths of struggle for national emancipation. Here everything has been tried: the petty-bourgeois Rada, and Skoropadski, and Petlura, and “alliance” with the Hohenzollerns and combinations with the Entente. After all these experiments, only political cadavers can continue to place hope in one of the fractions of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie as the leader of the national struggle for emancipation.”

"At the beginning of the last imperialist war the Ukrainians, Melenevski (“Basok”) and Skoropis-Yeltukhovski, attempted to place the Ukrainian liberation movement under the wing of the Hohenzollern general, Ludendorff. They covered themselves in so doing with left phrases.”

"There is not the slightest basis for hoping that the comparatively impoverished and backward Ukraine will be able to establish and maintain a regime of democracy. Indeed the very independence of the Ukraine would not be long-lived in an imperialist environment.”

"A powerful and purely Ukrainian proletariat has been created there by the development of industry. It is they who are destined to be the leaders of the Ukrainian people in all their future struggles.”

"The slogan of a democratic Ukraine is historically belated. The only thing it is good for is perhaps to console bourgeois intellectuals. It will not unite the masses. And without the masses, the emancipation and unification of the Ukraine is impossible.”

Trotsky was writing when Ukraine was still part of the USSR and the concept an independent, socialist Ukraine was not the pipedream it appears to be today, That said, I very much doubt Trotsky, were he alive today, would have retreated from that dream to align himself with those "seeking to sell the Ukrainian people to one imperialism or another in return for a promise of fictitious independence”, with those who “continue to place hope in one of the fractions of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie as the leader of the national struggle for emancipation.” and

Haspel Personally Observed CIA Waterboarding, Witness Testifies

Dennis Brasky

Re: Ukrainian communists pictured alive but face pressure to admit to trumped-up charges | Steve Sweeney | The Morning Star

Mark Baugher

On Jun 23, 2022, at 7:51 AM, sartesian@... wrote:

I've already itemized the points of what I think are in the best tradition of Marxists confronting an intra-capitalist conflict, a tradition conspicuous in its absence among the Go Ukraine cheerleaders. You can look it up. Here's the link
I'll read it and leave any comments that I have on that page.

thanks, Mark

H-Net Review [H-LatAm]: Proenza-Coles on Alonso, 'The Last Abolition: The Brazilian Antislavery Movement, 1868-1888'

Andrew Stewart

Best regards,
Andrew Stewart

Begin forwarded message:

From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW <h-review@...>
Date: June 23, 2022 at 11:47:59 AM EDT
To: h-review@...
Cc: H-Net Staff <revhelp@...>
Subject: H-Net Review [H-LatAm]:  Proenza-Coles on Alonso, 'The Last Abolition: The Brazilian Antislavery Movement, 1868-1888'
Reply-To: h-review@...

Angela Alonso.  The Last Abolition: The Brazilian Antislavery
Movement, 1868-1888.  Cambridge  Cambridge University Press, 2021.  
468 pp.  $34.99 (paper), ISBN 978-1-108-43147-7.

Reviewed by Christina Proenza-Coles (Independent Scholar)
Published on H-LatAm (June, 2022)
Commissioned by Casey M. Lurtz

The Atlantic slave trade, the largest demographic shift in world
history, forced over ten million men, women, and children from one
continent to another; nearly half of these individuals went to
Brazil. Today Brazil is home to the largest African-descended
population in the Americas, which includes over fifty-five million
people. After the United States and Cuba, Brazil in 1888 became the
last nation in the hemisphere to abolish the institution of slavery.
In 2015, Brazilian sociologist Angela Alonso published a
comprehensive account of the politics of Brazil's abolitionist
movement during the two decades preceding the formal end of slavery,
_Flores, Votos e Balas: O Movimento Abolicionista Brasileiro
(1868-88),_ which garnered two of Brazil's most prestigious book
awards. Cambridge University Press has recently published an English
translation of Alonso's prize-winning book, retitled _The Last
Abolition: The Brazilian Antislavery Movement, 1868-1888_.

Alonso's rigorously researched study approaches Brazil's abolitionism
as a form of contentious politics embedded in a broader history of
social movements. She situates Brazil's struggle to end slavery in an
international context as she examines the structural aspects of
social movement formation associated with Charles Tilly's work in
historical and political sociology. As Alonso explains in her
introduction, movements form during political crisis, when the
coalition in command of the state divides, producing dissident elites
that seek alliances within society. Intra-elite division reduces the
state's capacity to repress protest, opening opportunities for
politically underrepresented groups to express their claims in the
public space (p. 16).

Alonso proceeds to document the dynamics of
movement/state/countermovement in Brazil between 1868 and 1888 by
focusing on shifting balances of power, modes of activism, and
political brokers who carve out spaces for mobilization. The chapters
center on these political brokers, and Alonso skillfully incorporates
details and research from newspapers, letters, speeches, and
parliamentary records (among many other sources) to give the reader a
vivid experience.

Among the most important leaders of the movement Alonso documents are
Andre Rebouças, José do Patrocínio, and Luís Gama. All three
identified as African-descended (unlike some of the proslavery
reactionaries who never acknowledged their possible African
ancestry). Gama was a lawyer, himself formerly enslaved (and the son
of a formerly enslaved African-born woman who played a central role
in the 1835 Malê revolt that was possibly the largest urban slave
revolt in the Americas). Gama facilitated a large number of freedom
suits that Alonso described as _Gama-style activism,_ a juridical
approach "stretching interpretations of legal slavery to their
elastic limit" (p. 101). He collaborated with José do Patrocínio,
a pharmacist-turned-influential journalist and grassroots political
mobilizer who coordinated a variety of abolitionist strategies in
public space. Andre Rebouças was an engineer, professor, and
businessman as well as an exceedingly adept lobbyist, coalition
builder, aristocratic insider, and "unsung hero" (p. 359) whose
constant, behind-the-scenes work was essential to the movement.

All three men experienced racial discrimination, and in the case of
Patrocínio and Gama, limited material resources, yet all three
successfully navigated social and political networks and had an
outsized impact on the movement that realized the end of
institutional slavery in Brazil. Alonso literally maps the multitude
of abolitionist demonstrations and organizations that formed between
1868 and 1888, yet this study of social movements often centers on
parliamentary politics and elite actors.

Among the most interesting aspects of Alonso's transnational framing
is her assertion that the kinds of racial and religious arguments
that took center stage in US and European abolitionism had little
truck in Brazil's political and cultural climate. While Alonso
documents the connections between Brazilian abolitionists and British
and American antislavery organizations (as well as with abolitionist
organizations in Spain and France), she asserts that in Brazil, the
arts took up the role of religion in creating a discourse and sites
for abolitionist mobilization. In the original Portuguese title of
this book, _Flowers, Votes, and Bullets_, "flowers" refers to the
blossoms that theater goers threw after concerts, plays and operas,
public events that were designed as de facto abolitionist
conferences. "Votes" points to the political machinations,
realpolitik, and electoral politics that shaped the movement. And
finally, "bullets" represent both the violent legal and extralegal
repression enforced by the counter movement after the 1884 election
put conservatives in power as well as the abolitionist call for civil
disobedience in its wake. When the army aligned with the
abolitionists in 1887, various elite factions came to consensus,
including the Catholic Church, the Crown, and the Conservative party,
and slavery was abolished in 1888.

In the late nineteenth century, Brazil's proslavery advocates,
according to Alonso, did not have a well-articulated rationale. They
did, however, generate a robust counter movement, establishing, for
example, the Commercial and Plantation Club to combat the Free Womb
Law. Resistance to the free womb laws that engendered a partial,
gradual, and very imperfect abolition in the Spanish Americas (and
which passed in Brazil in 1871 and splintered the conservative
faction) was couched in fears of social upheaval and economic
breakdown, not racial superiority. "Racialization, a cornerstone of
the US slave system, was mitigated in Brazil," Alonso writes (p. 58).
She goes on to argue that in a society based on class hierarchy like
Brazil "no racial angle was really required ... even if one was
nonetheless ingrained" (p. 58). Whereas historians of the United
States can point to a variety of manifestos of white supremacy as an
ideology intended to rationalize slavery (epitomized by Alexander
Stephens's 1861 "Cornerstone Speech"), Brazil's proslavery faction
recognized that slavery was an institution incompatible with
modernization. Despite the ignominy of being the last nation to
maintain slavery, these proslavery aristocrats sought to prolong its
denouement because they knew that enslaved Brazilians "were the
Atlases on whose shoulders rested the world" (p. 53), and that every
aspect of their economic and social luxury was made possible by the
work of the enslaved. Anti-Blackness manifested in Brazil not in
denigrating legislation targeting African descendants like the US's
infamous Black Codes but rather, as Alonso argues, in cultural
erasure. She points to operas in the wake of abolition that performed
origin stories centering Brazil's European and Native American
history and severing the African branches and roots of the nation's
founding. Public and literary narratives downplayed the abolitionist
movement, omitted the formerly enslaved, and excised Africans from
Brazil's "foundation myth [and] imagined community" (p. 351).

Alonso succeeds in making her case that the history of Brazil's
abolitionist movement is inextricable from the larger, global history
of modern social movements. She illuminates how Brazilians built
polycentric national networks of associations, established alliances
with and sought political pressure from transnational abolitionist
networks, and adapted and generated novel, portable strategies of
mobilization in the face of specific local and political
circumstances. In addition to the book's eleven chapters in which
Alonso details the relational dynamics and trajectory of the movement
over the course of two decades, her annex includes a detailed
chronology spanning from 1823 to 1888, as well as tables and
timelines naming hundreds of specific associations and
demonstrations. Alonso's painstaking work completely obliterates the
notion that Brazilian "abolition was the handiwork of the Crown" (p.
360), a mythology cultivated in the wake of abolition in part by key
players like Rebouças and Patrocínio whose public statements helped
transform Brazil's last emperor, Dom Pedro II, into the "patriarch of
the abolitionist family" (p. 349).

In her framing of abolition as Brazil's first social movement, Alonso
centers Black political actors like Rebouças, Patrocínio, and Gama
along with white Brazilians like Abílio Borges, Antônio Bento,
and Joaquim Nabuco (of whom Alonso has written a biography) as
protagonists in the story of Brazilian abolition, even as they
themselves sometimes publicly deflected that narrative. Her focus on
local and international social networks, public ritual, state power,
and civic associations reflects the larger themes of comparative
historical sociology. For an almost play-by-play examination of the
political antagonism and strategies of the leaders who shaped
Brazil's national movement and the counter movement, action and
reaction in changing political circumstances, Alonso's book is the
landmark study connecting political-institutional dynamics to public
mobilization. As Alonso recognizes, the ending of slavery in Brazil
was complex, and a wealth of scholarship examines the multifaceted
processes that shaped it. Celso Thomas Castilho's 2016 _Slave
Emancipation and Transformations in Brazilian Citizenship_ builds
upon Alonso's work in many regards, covering the same time frame, as
it brings attention to the abolitionist work of enslaved Brazilians.
Camillia Cowling's 2016 book _Conceiving Freedom_ centers the ways in
which enslaved women's court petitions in Rio de Janeiro and Havana
initiated paths to freedom and shaped the trajectory of abolitionism.
The breadth of scholarship in Brodwyn Fischer and Keila Grinberg's
2022 edited volume, _The Boundaries of Freedom: Slavery, Abolition,
and the Making of Modern Brazil_, frames Brazilian abolition as a
century long process that involved a broad range of contributors.
Despite various approaches to the subject, all of these scholars
would agree with Alonso that "the end of slavery was a watershed in
Brazilian history, but its aftershocks are still felt in the
country's current forms of inequality" (p. 23).

Citation: Christina Proenza-Coles. Review of Alonso, Angela, _The
Last Abolition: The Brazilian Antislavery Movement, 1868-1888_.
H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews. June, 2022.

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

Corporations Are Profiting From Inflation | Jim Stanford | Jacobin

Kevin Lindemann and Cathy Campo

Re: the good work of LABOR NOTES

Charles Keener

Re: Jacobinism and the labour theory of value | Paul Cockshott | Midwestern Marx


On Thu, Jun 23, 2022 at 09:46 AM, Michael Meeropol wrote:
Charlie, that doesn't work --- because labor time is in hours --- we still need a way to turn those hours into a "monetary equivalent" --- if we are using an LTV approach then "labor hours" includes living and "dead" labor (labor congealed in fixed capital and inventories) --- so what dollar figure do we use to multiply the number of labor hours by --- that was my original question ...

That is established in and by the process of exchange, in the conversion of value to price.  Money is the detached representation of value in exchange.  Price is value expressed in money terms; labor time becomes value when its appropriated, or "mediated" by the  wage relation. Value is made manifest as price in markets, in the process of exchange.   We can calculate wages (and benefits) exchanged for production hours.  Is it a bit circular?  Probably.

Re: Ukrainian communists pictured alive but face pressure to admit to trumped-up charges | Steve Sweeney | The Morning Star


I want the tradition that says no to class collaboration, that gives a shit about what governments are strengthened during and after a struggle, that insists on the independent program for proletarian power.  I want a program that doesn't stand aside, and adopt a "strategic" reverence for "democracy" and is not silent about joining the EU, maintaining IMF programs, and using weapons supplied by the bourgeoisie to further the interests of capitalists, under the duplicitous and dishonest "it's up to the people" pro-bourgeois baloney

Those doing that are the real abstentionists, the real pass-i-vists.  

You ask: "So, what would you have us do about Ukraine? Should we demand that Russia withdraw? That NATO be dismantled? "

Of course to both. The day before the invasion what would have been YOUR demands if not "No Invasion" "Dismantle NATO"?

Clearly those who aren't "sectarian" or "pristine" don't think NATO should be dismantled. This where their revolutionary non-sectarian "tradition" gets them-- sewn up tight in the trick bag of capitalist alliance. There's a tradition there, too. And rationalized with references to Marx and Engels.

I've already itemized the points of what I think are in the best tradition of Marxists confronting an intra-capitalist conflict, a tradition conspicuous in its absence among the Go Ukraine cheerleaders.  You can look it up.  Here's the link

Re: Ukrainian communists pictured alive but face pressure to admit to trumped-up charges | Steve Sweeney | The Morning Star

Mark Baugher

I could parse every one your statements, but in the end it all comes down to the appeal above, and that is your appeal to authority.
It's a start, not an end: Why do we bother to study tens of thousands of pages written by mostly dead people who were concerned about forgotten events? Those pages are the repository of past knowledge, experiences and lessons from people who helped shape events. In crises like a military invasion, it's valuable to start by examining how they approached similar circumstances, what's the same and what's different That's not an "appeal to authority" fallacy, particularly when the authorities are debating diametrically opposed views, like Luxemburg and Lenin on the "national question."

You provide not a shred of concrete analysis of the situation in Ukraine, the "macro" forces propelling this conflict, and ignore completely the critical issue which, since 1848 has been the independent program of the working class for social revolution.

Then why not apply that program of the working class for social revolution? My "concrete analysis" is that you misunderstand or just ignore the programmatic position on the national questions and nationalities. What do you think they got right and what do you think they got wrong? It's a place to start, not end. But you haven't started.

And please be respectful. It's not true what you say about me. I wrote yesterday that the forces propelling this conflict include expansion of NATO over three decades when the putative reasons for its existence no longer existed, and I said that Russia is trying to reconstruct the Czarist prison house of nations by reclaiming Ukraine as its crown jewel. Isn't that "macro" enough? Or is that not enough "concrete analysis."

We get none of that. We get the appeal to "tradition" of the "fathers"

I appealed to a mother as well.

Engels? Are we to moor ourselves to the tradition that has Engels endorsing the US war on behalf of its slaveholders against Mexico? Should we moor ourselves to the tradition of Engels in 1848 who applauded the French conquest of Algeria calling it "an important and fortunate fact for the progress of civilization"? Or should we moor ourselves to the position he took 9 years later, denouncing that conquest? Or the position he wanted Marx and the IWMA to take, uncritically endorsing Germany in the Franco-Prussian war as it would quicken the consolidation of the German working class? Fortunately the communards didn't give a rat's ass about Engels' arguments.

Lenin? Should we moor ourselves to the position that argued revolutionary defeatism, that warned against dissipating the programmatic independence of the proletariat within the eruption of "national liberation" in the colonies? Or do we moor ourselves in the tradition of the 3rd Intl, which with the approval of Lenin and Trotsky puts forth the Joffe-Sun manifesto declaring communism unsuited for China, and vice-versa, and uncritically support Sun and order the young communist party to adhere to the discipline of the GMT?

You forgot to mention that Marx used the n-word.

CLR James? That tradition? Would it be the tradition of the Johnson Forest Tendency? The Third Camp? of Pan-Africanism and Nkrumaisim? Which tradition do you want?

I want the tradition where activists engage in a struggle rather than stand aside carping that it's not proletarian-pristine enough for them - that's the hallmark of sectarianism.

So, what would you have us do about Ukraine? Should we demand that Russia withdraw? That NATO be dismantled?


Re: Moderators’ Statement

Michael Meeropol

thank you --- hope it's not redundant to thank the three who are carrying on Louis' tradition and --- I think this does not trash Louis to admit it --- improving on it!

Solidarity forever!!

On Wed, Jun 22, 2022 at 11:21 AM Anthony Boynton <anthony.boynton@...> wrote:

Moderators’ Statement

Let a thousand debates bloom!

Re: Jacobinism and the labour theory of value | Paul Cockshott | Midwestern Marx

Michael Meeropol

Charlie, that doesn't work --- because labor time is in hours --- we still need a way to turn those hours into a "monetary equivalent" --- if we are using an LTV approach then "labor hours" includes living and "dead" labor (labor congealed in fixed capital and inventories) --- so what dollar figure do we use to multiply the number of labor hours by --- that was my original question ...

the quote from Cockshott says you find the monetary equivalent of labor time by dividing labor hours into total output which BY DEFINITION "proves" the LTV by turning the "evidence" into a tautology --- that is what is confusing me ....that cannot be what Cockshott means ....

On Wed, Jun 22, 2022 at 10:24 PM Charlie <charles1848@...> wrote:
M. M. asks, "Where does the MONETARY EQUIVALENT OF LABOR come from?" Cockshott defined it: "...Marxist economists term the Monetary Equivalent of Labour Time. This parameter can be fixed by looking at the total monetary value of output in an economy versus the total labour used." That is, the total monetary value is the sum of final prices. The total labor used is, for Cockshott, the total hours put in.

Re: the good work of LABOR NOTES

Kevin Lindemann and Cathy Campo

There is also a nice write up in today's Jacobin:  The Beating Heart of the US Labor Movement Was at Labor Notes (

And here is Rand Wilson’s report  in *The Nation*. . . .

Labor’s Coachella

The 2022 Labor Notes Conference gathered thousands of unionists in Chicago, uniting worker-led reform movements.

Reading about an event you didn’t attend isn’t always fun. After all, now it’s over, and you missed it. And unless you were there and could feel the passion, why would you care who attended and what was said? 

That’s the challenge of reporting on the 2022 Labor Notes Conference that convened last weekend in Chicago. Yes, there were thousands of rank-and-file union members, and a growing cadre of not-yet-union workers from across the country. Yes, great speakers too: Senator Bernie Sanders, newly elected Teamsters President Sean O’Brien, and Stacy Davis Gates, president-elect of the Chicago Teachers Union

But the real question is what from the conference will be of lasting importance to the labor activists—and beyond that—to the progressive movement as a whole?

To answer that question, you’ve got to understand the role that Labor Notes has played over the last 40 years in “putting the movement back in the labor movement.” What started out in the late 1970s as a monthly magazine, soon began publishing books and holding national conferences. In the 2000s, it started holding local Troublemakers Schools organized by activists in their own cities. Labor Notes is an invaluable network that connects workers from different unions, worker centers, industries, communities, and countries to strengthen the movement from the bottom up.

Speaking at the Saturday banquet dinner, Jesse Sharkey, the current president of the militant Chicago Teachers Union, summed it up well, “Labor Notes is where we trained our activists, it’s where we recruited key staffers, and where we soaked up new skills, insights, and approaches.” And he pointed out that the magazine and biannual conferences is what has connected him and hundreds of others to the radical traditions of industrial unionism.

Labor Notes has been that sustaining connection for me. By the time I was a young radical organizer in the late ’70s and early ’80s, many of the left-leaning labor activists were long gone: expelled during the McCarthy period. Back then, I wasn’t exactly embraced by union leadership; in fact most were downright hostile. Subscribing to Labor Notes was a lifeline of practical organizing tips and inspiration that exposed me to other like-minded labor activists and created a community of fellow travelers.

That’s probably why I’ve attended every Labor Notes conference, except one, since its first meeting over 40 years ago.

There are two important reform currents in the labor movement. They aren’t at all contradictory, but activists tend to fall in one group or another. One side—call it the “rank and file strategy”—holds that to build a revived movement, we need to energize the rank and file and elect new, militant leaders. The other tendency says, change will more likely come from organizing the millions of unorganized workers into new or existing unions.

Labor Notes’ origins are rooted in the rank-and-file strategy. Our early conferences were largely a confab of pale, stale, and male dissident members from the auto, steel, coal, and trucking industries. These meetings provided opportunities to build internal reform caucuses and share our experiences with others seeking to change their unions. The most successful example being Teamsters for a Democratic Union, the reform caucus that was started in the 1970s to fight corruption and build rank-and-file power. After 20 plus years of complacent national leadership under James P. Hoffa, in 2021 TDU formed a coalition to oust his chosen successor and elect Sean O’Brien.

Over the years, as the economy and the labor movement changed, Labor Notes evolved, especially since the 2008 Great Recession. Without abandoning the existing rank and file, Labor Notes is now a significant resource for the uprising of new and nontraditional worker organizing. And our conferences have blossomed into what one member called “Labor’s Coachella,” a festival of over 200 workshops, panels, and meet-ups where thousands of activists—young and old—share their lessons of building a more democratic, militant, and inclusive labor movement. It’s hard to convey the excitement generated by having hundreds of Starbucks, Amazon, and other workers who are self-organizing and leading the formation of new unions.

And it’s a huge credit the magazine’s staff and volunteer policy committee that they have been able to transcend Labor Notes’ origins and keep pace with this “movement moment.”

This year I attended with my 32-year-old daughter Marlie, a food justice organizer. It was her first Labor Notes conference. When I caught up with her at the end of the first day, she marveled at the racial, gender, and age diversity of the participants. She was also impressed with how many workshops were relevant to her work outside of the labor movement.

At the beginning of the conference, we held a special meeting of rank-and-file organizers from the new Amazon Labor Union; the Bessemer, Alabama workers organizing with RWDSU; Teamster organizers; and members of a national grassroots network, Amazonians United. The meeting included Amazon workers from Poland and Germany as well as representatives from many of the workers centers and nonprofit advocacy organizations that are supporting the organizing at Amazon. Each of these groups have different strategies and philosophies toward building worker power at Amazon. Labor Notes was in the unique position to help us to get everyone into one room for the first time to share our experiences and begin creating a supportive community of organizers. 

Similar meetings of Starbucks workers, as well as workers in health care, education, auto, postal, media, building trades, railroad, trucking, and telecom industries also took place at the conference.

Throughout the weekend there was an emphasis on developing smart contract campaigns and powerful strike strategies. There were dozens of workshops on member-to-member communications, overcoming apathy, strike readiness, and techniques to identify employer vulnerabilities. And at every turn, there were celebrations of the many recent successful strikes including those at NabiscoJohn DeereSt. Vincent Hospital, and the Minneapolis Public Schools.

A workshop I co-facilitated, Get Strike Ready, was packed with Teamsters preparing for their national contract campaign and negotiations with UPS next year. They have high expectations for the next contract, spurred on by a rousing speech from International President O’Brien the previous evening.

In addition to Starbucks and Amazon workers meetings, the conference also hosted meetings of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, the United Caucuses of Rank-and-file Educators, and the Great Labor Arts Exchange (an annual gathering of musicians and artists). At the banquet dinner, Labor Notes gave its annual Troublemakers Awards to TDU, the UAW reform caucus Unite All Workers for Democracy, the gig-worker network Los Deliveristas, the social movement artist Ricardo Levins Morales, and the late author and labor strategist Mike Parker.

Over the last four decades of Labor Notes conferences, the idea that achieving labor’s objectives might also be tied to a political struggle for socialism has gone from a whisper to a shout. Judging by the number of Bernie T-shirts that attendees were wearing, there are plenty of activists who were energized by the 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns and are now active, like me, at some level inside the Democratic Party. Yet on the cusp of the 2022 mid-terms, it was surprising that there were no workshops addressing the political challenges of getting out the labor vote, dealing with corporate Democrats, or contending for power within the Democratic Party. It’s a blind spot that should be addressed in the future.

Without a doubt, the sharing of lessons and the networking between activists will bear fruit in the labor struggles and strikes that will unfold over the years to come. I’m already looking forward to our next meeting in 2024, confident that our numbers will increase, and that our experience in the class struggle will be deeper and more strategic. It’s a historic moment for workers and their unions, so bosses beware: A new labor movement is rising, and we’re building momentum for far more than a raise. We won’t settle for anything less than “a future we can believe in.”

Rand Wilson has worked as a union organizer and labor communicator for more than 40 years. He currently is a part-time organizer with Teamsters for a Democratic Union

Emmanuel Macron falters as Melenchon rises | Nick Wright |The Morning Star

Kevin Lindemann and Cathy Campo

Emmanuel Macron falters as Melenchon rises

For the first time in decades, France’s president will not command National Assembly majority — and the left-wing Nupes now makes up the second-largest bloc. But what next for this deeply divided progressive alliance, asks NICK WRIGHT

Jean-Luc Melenchon delivers his speech in his election night headquarters, Sunday, June 19, 2022 in Paris.

THE Sunday night takeaway from the French legislative elections was that the political creation of two times President Emmanuel Macron, running as Ensemble, had lost its parliamentary majority.

This was a big defeat for the EU establishment, the big-business and banker caste of neoliberals who dispose of political, social and economic power in the French Republic.

Nupes, the new electoral alliance of Jean-Luc Melenchon’s La France Insoumise (“France unbowed”), Greens, communists and socialists has arrived at second place — and on the far right Marie Le Pen’s Rassemblement National reaped the benefit of Macron’s maladroit strategy to come a strong third.

The new National Assembly contains 201 seats for Macron’s electoral vehicle Ensemble. Nupes is on 142, Les Republicaines — the rebranded traditional right-wing ruling Gaullist party has 64, while the Rassemblement National has broken through with 89 seats. There is another dozen or so leftwingers and regionalists, a couple of extreme right-wing independents and half-a-dozen local heroes.

The voting totals deliver a different picture, with the right-wing establishment parties over-represented, the extreme right slightly under-represented and the left very substantially under-represented. Ensemble won 38.7 per cent and gained 35 per cent of the seats, Nupes 31.6 per cent and 25 per cent of the seats, Rassemblement National 17.3 per cent and 15 per cent of the seats while the Union of the Right and Centre at 7.29 per cent harvested 11 per cent of the seats.

These are the bare figures but the politics is both more complex and more interesting.

l’Humanite described the results as “a stinging defeat for the newly re-elected president, whose second five-year term promises to be under very different auspices from 2017, when Macron’s vehicle alone won 308 seats.”

Several of the most reactionary ministers lost their seats, the social composition of the Palais Bourbon is now rather different, while — without a majority and with two substantial opposition blocs representing powerful social forces that do not fully subscribe to the neoliberal orthodoxy which Macron personifies — France’s presidential system will be tested.

The forces of the right, the liberals and neoliberals assembled around Macron include a very substantial part of the Parti Socialiste and Macron chose as his front runner a former PS figure.

The rump Parti Socialiste barely survived the losses of the last few years and overcame grandee objections to its participation in Nupes. It has thus has narrowly avoided extinction, and despite its presidential candidate receiving fewer votes than the French Communist Party’s Fabien Roussel, has finished up with substantially more deputies.

The Greens did well from the new alliance gaining 23 seats up from the single deputy in the previous Assembly.

If we compare this election with 10 years ago the establishment parties — the parties of government, of the state — i.e. the Parti Socialiste, Les Republicaines (then known as the Union of the Presidential Majority), and the middle of the road MoDem (now absorbed into in Macron’s coalition) — captured between them nearly two-thirds of the first-round vote. This model is now broken and these forces command barely four in 10 voters. Between them Nupes and the extreme right assemble an absolute majority of those who vote.

Put another way, orthodox neoliberal supporters of the system can mobilise barely one in four of those entitled to vote. This is an incipient crisis of legitimacy for Macron and for France’s capitalist order.

While the wide spectrum of social forces represented by Nupes now are better represented in the National Assembly there still remains an absolute majority of the French electorate unengaged in formal politics and in this majority there is a very large working-class component. The abstention rate was 54 per cent and this highlights both a crisis of legitimacy and a weakness in the Nupes strategy.

Traditionally the two-stage French electoral system is characterised by a first round with a very diverse range of political forces on the ballot paper. But in this first round Nupes candidates, now united in a formal alliance, faced no significant rivals on the left.

This maximised their initial vote but left little potential for gains in the second round.

The Nupes strategy — in theory — was then to mobilise the abstentionists with its programme — a monthly minimum wage of €1,500, wage increases, retirement at 60, the allowance of €1,063 for young people, plus a programme of ecological planning.

Melenchon’s approach was illuminated by a telling phrase in appealing to “faches pas fachos” — angry non-fascist voters. There seems to be little evidence of this working to any significant extent.

This enormous reservoir of voters, many of them veterans of the Gilets Jaunes protests, the artisans, rural traders and dispossessed whose hatred of Macron’s neoliberal economic agenda and its direct effect on the way they live was seen as a reserve.

This did not happen, and in addition, the expectation that in a second round contest where a Nupes candidate faced a fascist that centrist, Gaullist and “Macronie” voters would back the left to defeat the far right did not happen to any great extent either. Centre and right-wing voters, responsive to Macron’s presentation of the left as “extremist” equals to the Rassemblement National either abstained or voted with the extreme right.

Here is two kinds of abstentionism. An enormous pool of voters, overwhelmingly poor, marginalised and working class are unconvinced that voting offers them anything worth the effort and another group, more wealthy, older and comfortable with the system cannot bring themselves to vote for the heterogeneous “left” even when this means a fascist is elected.

Macron’s hypocrisy is there for all to see when you compare his red-baiting in this election with his appeal to the left to vote for his candidates when confronted with Le Pen in the presidential election.

Perhaps it was in a burst of Gramscian “optimism of the will” that l’Humanite suggested that overcoming the working-class abstentionists tendency “is the challenge for the years to come.”

“The performance of the Nupes on Sunday, unexpected a few weeks ago, is a first and promising step” wrote l’Humanite’s Maud Vergnol.

Against this optimistic vision there exists a strong “pessimism of the intellect” expressed in considerable disquiet among French Communists not only about the outcome for the party in these elections but also about the the whole strategy.

The PCF leadership naturally maintains a positive posture and stresses the unity of the forces assembled in Nupes but in early exchanges the leader of the La France Insoumise group in the National Assembly Tweeted Jean-Luc Melenchon’s proposal to create a single Nupes group in the Assembly. This was instantly rebuffed by the PCF, the PS and the Greens who reminded Melenchon’s mouthpiece that their original agreement specified the autonomy of the groups in the National Assembly.

The PCF contingent of 12 deputies is allied in a “technical group” with eight left-wing deputies from France’s overseas territories.

With social-democratic politics now substantially reconstituted around La France Insoumise and this itself a highly fluid, somewhat unstable and politically heterogeneous formation politics is likely to undergo big changes with the PCF compelled to take account of the new realities in which LFI contains a distinct hegemonic tendency and a certain hostility to the PCF.

The PCF fights hard to retain its strongholds — both where it can win a direct mandate with a majority and the places where it constitutes well-organised, mostly working-class and intransigent opposition.

It retains considerable influence and holds many positions in local government but in very many cases this has been in a mutually advantageous but often highly conflicted relationship with the Parti Socialiste.

Where in previous parliamentary elections the PCF ran well-organised and effective campaigns and had a highly visible presence in hundreds of circomstcriptions in this election its communist profile was muted, its distinctive working-class polices lost and could present candidates in only a small minority of places. There is some unhappiness where well established local figures were sidelined.

Especially in the North the PCF directly competes for working-class votes with Rassemblement National — winning some and losing others — where the notional “republican front” in which all parties unite to defeat the far right is largely abandoned when the PCF fights alone.

The regions in which Rassemblement National deputies were elected are set to become an intense battleground. The social base of the far right includes many reactionary groupings in French life from unrepentant fascists to catholic traditionalists; para military squads and reactionary empire nostalgics; Algerie Francaise veterans and disgruntled petty bourgeois as well as many workers where mining and manufacturing jobs have vanished.

The battle for working-class hegemony has as its foundation the battle to defeat every manifestation of ruling-class ideology among workers and this is impossible without a clear socialist vision grounded in an analysis of the problems of contemporary capitalism and practical proposals to resolve the problems workers face.

One analysis has it that Macron and his backer’s nurtured the bizarre anti-semite Eric Zemmour to weaken Marine Le Pen’s anticipated presidential second round challenge. If so this was an echo of earlier times when the Parti Socialiste president Mitterrand “manufactured” the Front National of Marine Le Pen’s father to split the right. This time the strategy failed, Marine Le Pen proved too adroit and rather than the RN being confined to a few marginal seats it now has a powerful group in the assembly.

This the consequence of Macron’s “two extremes” strategy which flows from the racist, anti-migrant and xenophobic positions taken by his increasingly socially iliberal and economically neoliberal government.

The sharp polarisation between Nupes, which has a slight lead in the first round, and a defensive and alarmed Ensemble meant that Rassemblement National had smoother second-round contest. Macron’s conspicuous failure to invoke “republican front rhetoric” to defeat Le Pen’s candidates means the far right has broken out of its regional bases and is now represented in over a third of the departments. Le Monde’s headline on June 22 made it clear: “The republican front no longer rules.”

Thus the left as a whole and the working-class-orientated left in particular has to contend with two adversaries on the right in circumstances where the electoral front in which it participates — although united on a raft of progressive policies — is deeply divided over strategic conceptions, the character of the EU and industrial and energy policy.

Nick Wright blogs at 21centurymanifesto.

1961 - 1980 of 19497