Archive | Commentary

  • Democracy, Hypocrisy, and President Gauck

    In the USA Republicans are jubilant.  Jubilation here in Germany is about an event twenty-five years ago: “We beat those red SOBs!”  But is there not, hidden behind the confetti, helium balloons, and crowing of the victors in both Germany and the USA, an occasional jarring note of anxiety? A man with good reason for […]

  • Dead Labor on a Dead Planet: The Inconvenient Truth of Workers’ Bladders

      “Once labor has been embodied in instruments of production and enters the further process of labor to play its role there, it may be called, following Marx, dead labor [. . .].  The ideal toward which capitalism strives is the domination of dead labor over living labor.” — Harry Braverman1 “[T]here are no jobs […]

  • The Kagame-Power Lobby’s Dishonest Attack on the BBC 2’s Documentary on Rwanda

    On October 1, 2014, a remarkable event occurred in Britain.  The British Broadcasting Corporation’s BBC 2’s This World telecast Rwanda’s Untold Story, a documentary produced by Jane Corbin and John Conroy that offered a critical view of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and of his and the British and U.S. roles in the 1994 mass killings […]

  • Hawaiian Workers Fight Kaiser Pension Takeaway

    Mary Ann Barnes, the newly arrived president of healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente in Hawaii, recently informed hospital workers that the world figure she most admires is the late Mother Teresa — because of “her humanity and selflessness.”  Pictured wearing a lei around her neck, Barnes explained in KP’s employee newsletter that her top management priority […]

  • The Light Brigade: Cuban Doctors Fight Ebola

    The Ebola epidemic . . . whereas most of the world tightens frontier control and essentially flees from the problem, Cuba opens a new chapter of solidarity and faces the danger.  By sending 255 doctors and nurses to West Africa to deal with the latest Ebola outbreak, the heroic island — with few resources except […]

  • 1918

    Looking back at the years of fury and carnage, Colonel Angelo Gatti, staff officer of the Italian Army (Austrian front), wrote in his diary: “This whole war has been a pile of lies.  We came into war because a few men in authority, the dreamers, flung us into it.” No, Gatti, caro mio, those few […]

  • On Taking Risks and Eating Crow

    A long, warm, coatless autumn made some wonder whether climate change might cancel winter this year in a reverse of the canceled summer two centuries ago in a year called “Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death.”  But no, I now read that the weather will change after all.  Northern blasts may soon be here. Perhaps […]

  • The Origin of Rosa Luxemburg’s Slogan “Socialism or Barbarism”

    I think I have solved a small puzzle in socialist history. Climate & Capitalism‘s tagline, “Ecosocialism or barbarism: There is no third way,” is based on the slogan, “Socialism or Barbarism,” which Rosa Luxemburg raised to such great effect during World War I and the subsequent German revolution, and which has been adopted by many […]

  • Capitalism, Inequality and Globalization: Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-first Century

    I. The Piketty Argument Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-first Century embodies an immense amount of empirical research into the distribution of wealth and income across the population for a number of advanced capitalist countries going back for over two centuries.  In particular Piketty has made extensive use of tax data for the first […]

  • PFLP Calls for Unified Revolutionary Front of Solidarity with the Struggle of People of Kobane against ISIS

    The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine expresses its solidarity with the Kurdish resistance in Kobane struggling to defend themselves and their community from the reactionary armed group, ISIS, whose entry into our region has been facilitated and supported by imperialist powers and their lackeys. Comrade Khaled Barakat said that “All Palestinian and Arab […]

  • Call for Solidarity with Kobanê

      On Monday, October 6th, ISIS forces entered the autonomous Kurdish canton of Kobanê in Western Kurdistan (North Syria) following a siege which began on September 15th.  Defending Kobanê are the skilled but ill-equipped People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), who are up against The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), […]

  • Humpty-Dumpty and the Fall of Berlin’s Wall

    “Humpty-Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall.” The children’s rhyme and its words Wall and Fall came to mind in connection with commemorations of the fall of the Berlin Wall — actually its opening up.  Is such an allusion frivolous?  Maybe.  For millions, that event twenty-five years ago was marked by genuine, […]

  • Richard Linklater’s Boyhood: A Review

      It is difficult to put into words the effect of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (2014).  But, I suspect that the power of this spell-binding film lies in its ability to mirror for us both the cinematic experience and a certain truth about life in the first decade and half of the new century, i.e., the […]

  • The Problem Is Capitalism

    NYC Climate Convergence, September 20, 2014 A. The Environmental Crisis The “environmental crisis” is actually a number of crises, including the following: climate change; acidification of the oceans (related to elevated atmospheric CO2 levels); pollution of air, water, soil, and organisms with harmful substances; degradation of agricultural soils; destruction of wetlands and tropical forests; and […]

  • Socialism and Workers’ Self-Directed Enterprises

    ​Global capitalism has huge problems coping with the second worst collapse in its history. Its extreme and deepening inequalities have provoked millions to question and challenge capitalism. Yet socialists of all sorts now find it more difficult than ever to make effective criticisms and offer alternatives that inspire. Part of the problem lies with classic […]

  • Massa Tom

    One of my cherished historical role models growing up in rural Virginia during the 1950s and 60s was the tall, red-haired intellectual and revolutionary, Thomas Jefferson.  The vast majority of those I grew up with and went to school with were far from being intellectuals (who were commonly put down as “eggheads” or worse) and […]

  • Who Can Stop the “Islamic State”?

    The most severe crisis in the Middle East to date, the coming to power of the “Islamic State” in Iraq and Syria, has entered an extremely absurd phase.  The European states are about to follow the lead of the U.S. by exporting arms to the Kurdistan Regional Government under the command of Mustafa Barzani.  This […]

  • Losing Heads and Sending Arms

    Two famous heads got lost in Berlin.  Neither loss, I hasten to add, was connected with brutality.  From the past or near future, they caused melancholy or rejoicing, depending on your viewpoint. One loss really occurred twenty-two years ago, when the 62-foot red granite statue of Lenin on East Berlin’s Lenin Square and Lenin Allee […]

  • Who Governs Cuba? Exploring the Social Composition of the Cuban Leadership

    Not least among achievements of Cuba’s socialist revolution is expanded political participation, even exercise of power, among formerly disadvantaged groups.  Rafael Hernández, editor of the Cuban journal Temas, details this story.  He studied participation and entry into leadership positions in terms of age, gender, race, and profession.  He mentions one consequence of inclusion that may […]

  • Open Shop Trend Makes Organizing the “Organized” Top Union Priority

    For many years, American unions have been trying to “organize the unorganized” to offset and, where possible, reverse their steady loss of dues-paying members.  In union circles, a distinction was often made between this “external organizing” — to recruit workers who currently lack collective bargaining rights — and “internal organizing,” which involves engaging more members […]