Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Friday, September 6, 2013
Lenin on the question of oppression, working class unity, and the process of engaging with the justified distrust that oppressed people feel towards those of the oppressor social group
I've been thinking a lot about the question of what it actually takes to build a truly united, multiracial, multigender, multi-all-forms-of-oppression, movement that is truly based in genuine solidarity and the collective striving toward mutual emancipation from exploitation and oppression.
It is of course an understatement to say that this is a very difficult task. This is precisely because capitalist society is so effective at dividing the working class and creating definite strata within the working class along the lines of various forms of social oppression. Black workers are invariably subjected to racist attitudes by white workers, and likewise between men and women, and so on. The distrust that exists within the minds of oppressed groups towards those of the oppressor social group -- regardless of class -- are quite real, and frankly understandable, in a strictly logical sense, because of the foregoing.
Thus, the task of establishing unity between oppressed groups as part of a larger united working class struggle for the abolition of capitalism presents very difficult challenges.
In particular, the question of building a revolutionary organization along these lines can be immensely confounding. Indeed, history is littered with social movements, revolutions, and even mass revolutionary parties which have foundered precisely on this contradiction; the contradiction between the needs of unity of the entire working class, and the immense enmity and suspicion which exists between them at present because of capitalist social relations.
Oftentimes, trust will breakdown between comrades within a group or social movement over this issue, with oppressed people feeling slighted, marginalized, or not taken sufficiently seriously.
First of all, I want to say that I actually don't think this is ultimately a matter of individuals being racist or sexist [though that certainly can and does happen on the left and even within revolutionary organizations].
I also don't think that racism or sexism or really, by definition, any form of oppression, in general -- as social constructions -- are the product of any one individual's attitudes. Rather, it is a product of the ensemble of social relations which obtain under capitalism.
Yet, the fact is that this oppression does exist, is real, and permeates virtually all of our relations within the system. Inequality exists between various strata of the working class due to this oppression -- in terms of their opportunity, livelihoods, well-beings -- which then in turn impacts oppressed people's sense of confidence and self-worth, etc., especially in relation to those strata of the working class which rest above them (not even to mention in relation to the upper classes of the dominant social group).
As I sometimes do, I decided to see what comrade V.I. Lenin may have to say on the matter. Now, I don't think that Lenin (or anyone for that matter), was an infallible genius or other such nonsense who always has the "correct" thing to say on every matter.
Nonetheless, I do think on this particular question he offers some important insights.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Well this is rather interesting. Though I have never seen it mentioned in any biography of Lucy Parsons anywhere, according to this article (see image and link below) from the Chicago Daily Tribune, dated 11 December 1888, Parsons had at least temporarily been engaged to marry Eduard Bernstein, the famous German socialist.
Though Parsons only mentions her "future husband's" last name in the article (" ... a gentleman named Bernstein ... "), everything else checks out. Parsons had gone on a speaking tour in London in 1888 alongside Peter Kropotkin, the Russian anarchist, and William Morris, the British Marxist and friend of Frederick Engels. Bernstein had coincidentally also arrived in London that year, having been exiled from Germany, by way of Zurich, Switzerland. At this time, Bernstein was indeed editor of the Social Democrat -- as indicated by Parsons in the article below -- which was the leading newspaper of the German Social Democratic Party.
It seems quite likely that Parsons would have met Bernstein through William Morris, as the two men shared a common close friendship with Frederick Engels.
Among other things, I think this historical relationship is interesting because it would appear to buttress a theory of mine regarding Lucy Parsons. Namely, that her anarchism was more or less synonymous with socialism of the revolutionary, Marxist, variety. Or rather, at the very least, that she did not see a rigid bifurcation between her vision of anarchism and that of revolutionary socialism or Marxism. (For more on this, see http://joanofmark.blogspot.com/2011/09/lucy-parsons-more-dangerous-than.html)
In 1888, Bernstein was a leading figure within the German Social Democratic Party, a close friend of Engels, and was internationally recognized as an unambiguous advocate of orthodox Marxism. [It was not until the mid-to-late 1890s that Bernstein would advance a "revisionist" (essentially reformist) version of Marxism, which he called "evolutionary socialism."]
Of course, I in no way want to advance the idea that any individual's politics can be judged exclusively by that of their spouse, partner, lover, etc. Parsons I'm sure disagreed with Bernstein on many issues regarding the politics of working class revolution. Nonetheless, it is a significant historical fact that only one year after the execution of her former husband, Albert Parsons, the internationally famous anarchist/socialist, she became engaged to one of the then-leading lights of international Marxism.
Indeed, one can see even from the very same article in question that there is no contradiction in Parsons' mind when she speaks of the revolutionary movement in England, in one breath, as advancing the "cause of Socialism", and in the next breath, as advancing "Anarchistic questions."
To read more about the life, politics, and legacy of Lucy Parsons, see http://joanofmark.blogspot.com/2011/09/lucy-parsons-more-dangerous-than.html
PDF of article available at https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B2Zdv5hwi_o6a2hJTWRvNnJaOEU
Saturday, July 27, 2013
"LUCY PARSONS, BLIND ANARCHIST, BURNED TO DEATH." (1942, Mar 08). Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/176687215?accountid=11311
Oh lord, what I would do to get my hands on all of those books!!!
"In the flat the police and firemen found a … library of 2,500 to 3,000 volumes, all devoted to anarchism, socialism, and sex. Assistant Corporation Counsel Earl Downes took charge of the books."As it turned out, all of these books were subsequently turned over to the FBI, never again to see the light of the day. Over the years, numerous Freedom of Information requests have been made to the FBI for this material, but to no avail.
Oh lord, what I would do to get my hands on all of those books!!!