The End of History?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Tue Aug 15 19:01:12 MDT 2000


Last night the LA cops fired rubber bullets at thousands of fleeing
peaceful demonstrators, whose right to protest in front of the Democratic
Party convention hall was being openly denied. This happens in the
aftermath of police violence in Philadelphia, where the Republican
convention was held. A pacifist leader of the Ruckus Society was held there
on one million dollars bail, while rank-and-file protesters were subjected
to extreme brutality--verging on torture--in the city jail.

Something has changed. During the 1980s when I was involved with Central
America solidarity, there was very little violence directed against
protesters, even those who sat in at government buildings. It would not be
unreasonable to conclude that the repressive forces are harsher today
because the social crisis in the United States necessitates it.

Although I misjudged the economic consequences of the stock market meltdown
of two years ago, I was not alone. George Soros has just published a new
book that essentially criticizes his own 'catastrophist' outlook from that
period. It was a mistake to assume that a stock market crash in East Asia
and Latin America would lead automatically to one in the USA. Instead the
American stock market has continued to perform well, although at not the
same rate of increase of two to five years past.

Despite the apparent economic boom in the United States, there are clear
signs that the working class has few illusions about who is doing well. The
UPS strike of two years ago showed that a new mood of militancy had taken
root. Another sign is the current CWA strike which pits 80,000 telephone
workers in the Northeast against the Verizon corporation, which just came
into existence through the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE. The stakes of
this strike are quite high as an 'old economy' workforce seeks to retain
union protection for the emerging 'new economy' sector employed by Verizon.
In New York City, sabotage against cables is a daily occurrence, while the
phone company is seeking to bring even more managers from outside the
district to help keep the company operating.

Third party candidate Ralph Nader has offered solidarity to the CWA and
proposes pro-labor measures as a central part of his campaign, including
abolition of the Taft-Hartley law. Since Nader enjoys significant support
in some states and is considered by most to be the candidate who expresses
the electoral side of the street protests in Seattle, Philadelphia and Los
Angeles, we can expect the counter-offensive directed against him in the
bourgeois and reformist press to intensify.

The rising class struggle in the United States is not an isolated
phenomenon. All across the world there are signs that the popular classes
are on the offensive.  Here are some notes on the situation in the rest of
the world.


LATIN AMERICA:

ARGENTINA just had a general strike. A section of the trade union
bureaucracy has shifted to the left, just as it did in the US during the
1930s and for the same reasons. Unless it offers some kind of resistance to
unemployment and worsening living conditions, it will be replaced by a
restive work force. Subscribers to the Marxism mailing list are in the
middle of this ferment and we just provided some urgently needed financial
support to help them sustain their infrastructure during a period of
economic collapse.

In BOLIVIA Indian peasants organized militant protests in the streets of
Cochambamba against a proposed water tax. The move to tax water is
symptomatic of a water crisis that is almost universal today. This crisis
will have an impact on the class struggle even more direct than the energy
crisis since without water one can not live. Without oil or gas, life is
more difficult but one can survive.

In ECUADOR Indian peasants, numbering only 10 percent of the country,
organized a massive protest that led to a military coup against an
unpopular government. Although the coup is supposedly populist in
character, there are few signs that the underlying cause of Indian
discontent will be ameliorated since they are rooted in land ownership
inequality and racism--both rooted in the capitalist system itself.

In PERU Indian peasants have protested the reelection of Fujimori who is
regarded widely by enemies and allies as having stolen the election. These
protests indicate that the Peruvian class struggle has superseded the
deadly impasse created by the Shining Path guerrillas who fought bravely
but without a clear strategy for winning over the urban masses.

VENEZUELA'S populist president has surrounded himself by Marxist advisers
and offers a hand in friendship to Fidel Castro. He is also working hard to
strengthen the more anti-imperialist wing of OPEC, including Iraq and
Libya. Since Venezuela is the US's main supplier of petroleum, there is
little doubt that it is on a collision course with Washington.

COLOMBIA'S military just received 1.3 billion dollars in US aid, 13 times
the amount of the greatest allocation to Nicaraguan contras during the
Reagan era. Meanwhile US helicopters are ferrying Colombian soldiers to
combat in zones that the NY Times describes as having nothing to do with
the war on drugs. The guerrillas control nearly half the country and are
ideologically oriented to the USSR and Cuba respectively.


AFRICA:

In a development that has been reported in the bourgeois press, the SOUTH
AFRICAN Communist Party has just expelled one of its best-known members, a
journalist named Dale McKinley. McKinley had openly criticized the SACP in
the pages of Green Left Weekly, a socialist publication based in Australia,
for caving in to capitalism. McKinley, who sends articles to the Marxism
list occasionally, made the SACP charges and his defense public. If you
want to read them, go to the archives section of marxmail.org.

ZIMBABWE, South Africa's neighbor to the north, is on the verge of civil
war as landless peasants are encouraged to seize the land of wealthy white
farmers by long-time (mis)leader Mugabe. The opposition to Mugabe draws
upon urban workers and these very same farmers. One can only hope that as
class lines are more sharply drawn in both South Africa and Zimbabwe that
the hostile classes--in a Marxist sense--will find themselves on the
opposite sides of the barricades, which is clearly not the case now.

NIGERIA, Africa's most populous country, is being wracked by devastating
fires and explosions on almost a daily basis in the Niger Delta where oil
multinationals are systematically draining the wealth of the country. This
is the result of sparks created when poor people tap into pipelines in
order to gather together a few gallons for resale or cooking. Poverty in
the midst of wealth will no doubt continue to deepen the political
stability of the country, which continues to be ruled by thieves in uniform
who are the pets of Washington and Wall Street.

In ETHIOPIA, CONGO, ANGOLA and the SIERRA LEONE, civil wars rage on with
horrible consequences. In every single case, the underlying causes are the
result of neocolonialism. For example, the United States, which just
announced that it is sending US troops to train the Sierra Leone army,
voices concern over the brutality of the irregular forces. One wonders if
it would go through this trouble if the country was involved in coffee or
grain production like in Rwanda, rather than diamonds.

All this takes place in the context of an AIDS epidemic that is leaving
entire villages depopulated. If the global capitalist system was like a
large bourgeois family with many children, one would say that Africa was
the child who was kept in the basement in rags, beaten regularly and
underfed. It WOULD NOT MATTER if every other child was well-fed and
clothed. The very institution that would allow such inequality to exist
would have no reason for existence. Unfortunately, many liberals and even
some leftists fail to see things in this perspective.


THE FORMER SOCIALIST WORLD:

In the 'peripheral' countries of this sector, communists are already being
elected or close to being elected, including MONGOLIA and ROMANIA.

Nato's war against Yugoslavia was designed to 'housebreak' the only country
in Eastern Europe that appeared less than willing to go along with
'privatization' schemes. In the course of this war, CHINA extended
solidarity to Yugoslavia, no doubt seeing itself as the next target of a
'humanitarian' imperialism. Since TAIWAN has openly defied plans to be
reunited with the mainland, one can understand why China might be reluctant
to defer to the western powers' sense of territorial fair play. What
complicates China's role in all this is the seeming willingness of the CCP
leaders to privatize state industry and integrate itself into the world
economy through WTO. I suspect that any moves to counteract this process
will come through the ranks of the CCP, however, and not through any
outside forces receiving aid from western NGO's or trade unions. Such is
the dialectically complex legacy of Maoism. For those uncomfortable with
complexity, look elsewhere.

CUBA continues to persevere through all sorts of difficulties. The return
of Elian Gonzalez--a victory for the Cuban people--is proof that a simple
working class father would prefer to live in materially poor but
spiritually wealthy Cuba than in the US where the two elements are
reversed. As long as there is a single Marxist alive in the world, Cuba
will continue to be an inspiration.


SOUTH PACIFIC AND OCEANIA

George Speight, the leader of an abortive coup leader in FIJI, now awaits
trial for treason. Despite his less than shining credentials, there is
little doubt that the underlying cause of the coup was indigenous
discontent with conditions inherited from its colonial past. This was a
revolt of Caliban. In all such cases in the Brave New World, those at the
bottom will always appear ungrateful and irrational to the 'civilized'
occupiers of the island paradises.

The revolt in Fiji can happen on almost any island in the South Pacific,
including Hawaii. These 'Edens' are anything but for the native Melanesian
or Polynesian populations who are victims of racism and outside control.
Meanwhile the Internet connected indigenous activists all through the South
Pacific with supporters in the western hemisphere who are also fighting for
the return of land and their place in the sun.

AUSTRALIA and NEW ZEALAND, two sub-imperialisms, were on the frontlines
attacking Speight. They traditionally have dominated the Fijian economy and
are probably nervous about the example such a coup sets for their own
indigenous population. Both countries seem intent on asserting their will
over the area, just as Israel does in the Middle East and South Africa used
to on the continent. Even when this will is manifested as being on behalf
of the 'humanitarian' interests of the East Timorese people, the underlying
goal is the same: to maintain control over strategic assets.


CONCLUSION:

Around six months ago the New Left Review announced that the era of
revolution was definitively over. In keeping with this leftish gloss on
"The End of History," the magazine would devote more attention to the
arcana of the left academy. It seems that even before the ink was dry on
Perry Anderson's baleful introduction, the class struggle had begun to pick
up.

On the Internet and in real space we see the same sort of division
continuously cropping up, between those of us who are disappointed or
skeptical and those of us who might view the situation as positive for
socialism.

In the past such discussions have had an abstract quality. Now that
objective reality is changing, it will be easier to change the subjective
factor. In the final analysis, it is the subjective factor itself that
makes revolution possible.


Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org/





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