Communist playing a leading role in Spain’s governing coalition / by W.T. Whitney, Jr.

Yolanda Diaz, the popular Communist Minister of Labor in Spain, a nationally admired figure in the country | Press pool photo

Spanish Communist Yolanda Díaz presently serves as minister of labor and social economy in the coalition government headed by Pablo Sanchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE). It includes the United Podemos (UP) formation, with which Díaz’s own Communist Party of Spain (PCE) is associated. (Podemos is “Yes, we can!)

UP leader Pablo Iglesias in early 2021 resigned from his post as the government’s second deputy prime minister – also referred to as “second vice-president.” Díaz replaced him there and also as leader of the UP.  Polling suggests that Díaz now is “Spain’s most highly regarded politician.”

Yolanda Díaz is in the news.  She recently criticized the strong-arm tactics of government security forces in confronting an eventually successful strike in Cadiz involving 20,000 metalworkers. “The key role of the UP in the government in blocking repression and confronting liberal sectors of the PSOE” was clear, according to the PCE’s Mundo Obrero news service.

Díaz on November 13 joined four other political leaders, all women, before an audience in Valencia. They were exploring what they called “Other Politics.” She told listeners that, “We are you,” [and we] … “know that my country wants to move, advance and guarantee equality.” Her appearance prompted enthusiastic applause and, in reference to her political future, shouts of “President! President!”

As labor minister, Díaz has gained recognition for leading negotiations aimed at repealing or reforming anti-worker labor laws. She has worked with unions and business groups to secure furloughs and monetary support for workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

She resists Iglesias’s preference for early national elections, an idea opposed by Prime Minister Pablo Sanchez.  She states that, rather than deal with elections, she wants “to govern, to govern, to govern.”  She is angling for an electoral coalition, a broad front, that would eventually include the PSOE.

Díaz speaks out. Pablo Casado currently heads the rightwing People’s Party (PP), which has long served as the main conservative force opposing the PSOE in national elections. On November 20, Pablo Casado attended a mass celebrated at Granada’s Cathedral for dictator Francisco Franco, who died on that day 46 years ago.

Responding, Díaz told reporters that “Casado must immediately provide explanations  and rectify what he has done,” adding that, “Catholics and believers in this country do not understand this type of performance.”

Conservatives have castigated Díaz since the publication in mid-September of a new edition of The Communist Manifesto that contains a prologue she authored. (It appears below in English translation). The PCE republished the Manifesto as part of its centennial celebrations.

The People’s Party bench in the Chamber of Delegates called upon the PSOE government to take responsibility for Díaz’s prologue.  PP spokesperson Edurne Uriarte denounced Díaz’s portrayal of the Manifesto, pointing to her reference to a “magical and timeless book” and her praise for its “impassioned defense of democracy and freedom.”

Defending Díaz, former Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias noted that “the PP was founded by seven ministers of the dictatorship.”  He suggested that “the PCE and [the workers movement] have a lot more democratic credentials than does the Spanish right.” The socialist government of Pablo Sanchez has evaded the issue.

After her legal education, Díaz studied urban planning, labor relations, and human resources. She worked as a labor lawyer, was a municipal councilor, and served in Galicia’s parliament. Since 2016, voters have repeatedly returned her to Spain’s Chamber of Deputies. From 2005 to 2017, she coordinated the Galician federation of the United Left. She served as an advisor for Pablo Iglesias when he formed Podemos in 2012.

Díaz’s current role as tribune of Spain’s radical left is no accident. At age one, she was held in the arms of her imprisoned father Suso Díaz. As a Communist Party member necessarily working underground, he had resisted measures of the Franco dictatorship. Suso Díaz and his brother Xosé were prominent Galician labor leaders, and Suso has remained such. Suso Díaz remarked recently that people used to refer to Yolanda as “the daughter of Suso.” Now he is “the father of Yolanda.”

Yolanda Díaz’s prologue accompanying The Communist Manifesto:

Diego Rivera’s 1935 mural ‘Mexico: Today and Tomorrow’ features a depiction of Karl Marx and a quote from the Manifesto. (Credit: Palacio Nacional)

The thinking of Karl Marx appears to have been written, in indelible ink, on the wind of history. It always resurfaces in a context of social and economic crisis, with all of its clarity and its capacity for stimulating reflection. His look at the mechanisms of capitalist production still illuminates and helps us understand the major problems of our world and our time.

There are many Marxisms in Marx, many dissenting views, many rescues. There are post-colonialist viewpoints and orthodox views, condemnations of his patriarchal leanings, and celebrations of his affinity with nature and the environment. Whatever the case, as social theorist Marx disrupted the ideologic framework of the bourgeoisie, of capitalism. He pulled apart the seams and pitfalls of their language and, at the same time, their capability for dominating.

In Galicia, we use the expression “moving the boundaries” in referring to how we get angry, as if it were treason, at the practice of, in the dead of night, changing boundary lines and physical markers that enclose tracts of land or an agricultural section. Sometimes these markers no longer physically exist – the stone, the tree, the little stream bordering the property that dried up. But this ancestral knowledge of boundaries survives in memories of the spoken word, almost in our collective consciousness.

Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto have shifted the invisible boundaries of western thought, doing so in broad daylight, with the world watching. Together they began a new conversation that, with an optimistic and revolutionary spirit, shook up conventions and denounced prehistoric injustices.

Marx has been caricatured and over-simplified innumerable times. The very language he used for dismantling things played a big trick on him. The translations from the original German carried out over many years, for example, have introduced phrases and clichés – “dictatorship of the proletariat being one of them – that don’t correspond to the real core of his thesis. The metaphors of Marx and Engels also, on occasion, obscure the categories they are referring to.

The Communist Manifesto, we must not forget, is a political text, is propaganda. And yet its literary soul, clear and assertive, is surprising. It’s brilliant that way; the four hands of the two friends intertwine their judgments and their preferences. It’s a text for brotherhood, not only for its accessible style but also for its essence as an open letter to humanity, to people at the grassroots level.

Marx, who was a scholar speaking several languages, regularly read Homer, Shakespeare, and Cervantes. Dante also. He could recite entire passages of The Divine Comedy, a passion for which he shared with Engels, who paid homage to that poet in the prologue of the Italian edition of the Communist Manifesto in February 1893. There, Engels asks, “Are we offering Italy a new Dante who is announcing the birth of the proletarian era?”  And Marx certainly admired Balzac’s capacity for exploring the depth of the human soul and the social transformations of his time.

Marx’s son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, author of that visionary essay “The Right to Laziness,” once mentioned old Karl’s predilection for Balzac’s The Unknown Masterpiece, a story where the philosopher of Trier miraculously finds reflections of himself. Lafargue says: “In this work, a brilliant painter is so tormented by his determination to reproduce things exactly as they appear in his mind that he continually works on his paintings and retouches them to the point that he ends up with a formless mass of colors. Nevertheless, with his blurred vision, it represents a most perfect rendition of reality.”

Perhaps from this same viewpoint, that of a work perpetually growing and being transformed, it may be quite appropriate today for us to approach our reading of Marx and Engel’s Communist Manifesto this way: not as static, impassive, and monochromatic dogma, anchored in its own frame of reference, but as a key for interpretation, as sketchy as it is exact, allowing us over and over again to sharpen and tinker with our visions of the world and its affairs.

In this sense, The Communist Manifesto is one of those magical and limitless books, born to last, that succeeds in portraying reality and, at the same time, transfiguring it. I believe that Marx and Engels themselves were conscious of the transformational nature of their work, or at least of the unforeseeable variability of the equation presented there which, in the name of communism and of a revolutionary ideal, gets resolved through invalidating eternal truths and achieving true democracy. This process is also reflected in the different prologues of the international editions of the book. Taken together, they are like a set of Russian dolls that, inside, hide the sub-texts and the para-texts making up its content.

To approach this genealogy of different interpretations with my own prologue is both a responsibility and a source of pride stemming from my profound respect and admiration for the voices and contributions of those responsible for the edition and the translation: Marta Sanz, Wendy Lynne Lee, José Saramago, Santiago Alba Rico, Iván de la Nuez and José Ovejero.

In 1872, José Mesa y Leompart, editor of La Emancipación — a weekly magazine in Madrid with which Pablo Iglesias de Ferrol, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party founder, was involved— translated the first version of The Communist Manifesto to be published in Spain. This was a translation not from the original German but instead entered our language by way of the English and French versions of The Communist Manifesto.

The editorial offices of El Socialista on Calle Hernán Cortés in Madrid, #8, was where in 1886 another of the early editions of The Communist Manifesto was published. That building no longer exists. And nothing exists on this narrow street, perpendicular to Calle Fuencarral, that commemorates Marx and Engels’s declaration of worker solidarity. Reclaiming such memory is a political task, something apparently unthinkable in a capital troubled by amnesia. Its municipal authorities didn’t think twice about removing plaques in a public space honoring the socialist Francisco Largo Caballero [Prime Minister of the Second Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War].

There’s poignance in thinking about those first copies: sheets of paper moving from hand to hand. They are there hidden in rows, like gold over cloth, under someone’s work clothes, or in the folds of a skirt.  These are words imprinted for a lifetime in a student’s mind, and in the hearts of those men and women whose hopes we must respond to today. After all, their hopes are, first and foremost, our hopes too.

The “now-moment,” declared Walter Benjamin, is that specific moment in which the past collides with the present. It reappears there — like a great wave taking shape far from the shore, where we cannot see it, in the middle of the sea, and then breaking on the rocks under our feet. Now.

In this sense, the new installment of the Manifesto is an act of memory and redemption that, happily, joins the celebration this year of the centennial of the Communist Party of Spain. The PCE, founded in 1921, has suffered wars, repression, exile, and underground existence throughout its troubled life.

The programmatic character of the Communist Manifesto has continued to develop according to the rhythm of a century full of global economic crises and great revolutions. Capitalism has always been in charge in all of the century’s diverse and voracious mutations, ready to swallow up, corrupt, and disintegrate the very reality on which it was built. But it has never been able to escape the theories of Marx and the transforming power of this text. This is a book that speaks to us of utopias coded into our present existence, our being, in which pulses, today and yesterday, a vital and impassioned defense of democracy and freedom.


W.T. Whitney Jr. translated.

Author: W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine.

Source: People’s World, November 29, 2021,

Anti-communism, anti-Blackness, and imperialism / by Charisse Burden Stelly

Image: Bob Fitch photograph from a Stanford University exhibit of his work (Martin Luther King at Communist Training School) as the headline; The Bob Fitch Photography Archive at Stanford


Good afternoon, everybody. My name is Charisse Burden Stelly and I am a professor of Africana studies in political science and also a member of The Black Alliance For Peace. I’m so sorry that I couldn’t be there in-person today, but I do want to offer just a few remarks on anti-communism, especially as it relates to imperialism, to give some sort of broader context for what you all will be discussing today. And so the first thing I’ll say is that anti-communism is more than a political culture or a set of foreign policy concerns or even a brief period of hysteria. But more accurately, especially the context of the United States, it’s a durable mode of governance. And as my work attests to, it’s also rooted in what I call The Black Scare and The Red Scare and how those two enunciate a counter-subversive political tradition that constitutes U.S racial capitalism.

So just briefly, The Black Scare can be understood as historically and contextually situated debasement, distortion, criminalization, and subjection of Blackness rooted in fear-mongering about Black social equality, political domination, and economic parity on the one hand, and with displacement, devalorization, and devaluation of whiteness on the other hand. It’s also the characterization of Black agitation protests, unrest, or descent as dangerous, as antithetical to the interests of the United States, and/ or as spurred by or susceptible to foreign or outside influence or agitation. So The Black Scare has historically been a means of maintaining what we might call the “badge of slavery”, that has legitimated the economic, social, and ideological denigration of Blackness. And this is particularly important because, especially in the context of the United States really irrespective of ideology, Black assertion is considered to be a form of radicalism because it is a fundamental challenge to the white supremacy that is foundational to and constitutive of the United States.

Anti-Communism, Anti-Blackness, and Imperialism – Dr. Charisse Burden-Stelley /

In terms of The Red Scare, I understand this as a criminalization and condemnation of anti-capitalist ideas, politics and/or practices through discourses of radical takeover, of infiltration, and disruption of the American way of life as a means of maintaining a society organized along class and race lines and dominated by a majority white capitalist elite. After 1917, The Red Scare was prominently articulated through the specter of the communist or the Bolshevist and the fellow traveler (so one who didn’t necessarily belong to a party, but who espoused those ideas). The Red Scare is a process by which a fear, hatred and obsession with communism and with radicalism writ large help to mold the United States into what it became throughout the 20th century (and even extending into 21st century) and whereby militant challenges to the status quo came to represent a danger to the nation attributed to agitators or plotters or traders or conspirators.

And so governance aimed at managing and criminalizing racial and political others who threatened to upend or transform the racialized class order actually stoked white supremacy and cross-class collaboration among white folks that has obfuscated economic exploitation in the interests of the ruling class. So this is the basis of the anti-communist mode of governance which includes all three branches of government (also state and local governments) and has been maintained through repressive action, intentional inaction, and also stifling reaction. So anti-communism as a mode of governance uses public authority and societal self-regulation to diffuse throughout society penalty for (and the marginalization regulation and criminalization of) ideas and beliefs that because they challenge racial capitalism and its foundations (not least racial hierarchy, economic inequality and class antagonism) are rendered communist and therefore antithetical to, or threatening or dangerous to “true Americanism.”

Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and Political Science at Carleton College
Charisse Burden Stelly, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and Political Science at Carleton College

So a public authority is manifested in legislation, federal and supreme court decisions, surveillance by government agencies, presidential executive orders, and also ubiquitous federal and state congressional investigative committees. And so these were especially prominent during the era of what we might call the first cold war, at this point, because we’re probably barreling toward another, if not already firmly in one. So anti-communist governance is facilitated through an anti-radical state apparatus that encompasses all three branches of government. And then of course, public authorities aimed to eject, punish, and neutralize communists and their fellow travelers and sympathizers. And those were broad designations that included anybody who criticized or sought to transform a racial capitalist society. And this includes peace activists, civil rights leaders, dissident artists, and progressive labor organizers of all types.

So that is to say that anti-communism is not just about communists, it’s about people who are challenging some aspect of the status quo, who could then be red-baited as communist to protect racial capitalism against the threat of radical transformation. In effect, anti-communist governance as a product of two world wars and numerous revolutions that reflected a failure of the United States to adjust to power, political or revolutionary ramifications that confronted the 20th century world (and now the 21st century). In other words, anti-communist governance is a backlash to these phenomenons. As such, anti-communism imposes a uniformity on communism and all that is said to be linked to it, positioning them as a preeminent threat to U.S. national security and societal organization. And that then encourages an international strategy of military containment and rollback. Domestically, rigid and repressive opposition to change an imposition of adherence to the status quo allows for the vehement attack and discrediting of even reformist ideas and policies (historically, this is like The New Deal) and the eraser of any distinction between act, intention, and ideas. And importantly, through this regime, property becomes conflated with sort of life or human life such that an attack on a property takes on an enormous challenge to the state.

Disloyalty, danger, and subversion also become these mutually reinforcing charges that uphold the discipline and punishment that emanates from anti-communist governance. In addition to public authority, anti-communist governance is practiced through societal self-regulation or soft power insofar as the mere existence of anti-radical laws or restraints cast a shadow far beyond the literal reach. So hundreds of thousands of individuals live in fear and hold their thoughts and opinions to themselves because the atmosphere of freedom is poisoned by the fact that repressive laws are passed.

So for example, people might not want to join a March or protest or might feel that they need to speak out against something that is characterized as communist or radical like Black Lives Matter, for example, simply because laws and policies exist that repress them. So the soft power of anti-communist governance means that racially, politically minoritized people are forced to genuflect to the status quo less they’d be marginalized, excluded, criminalized, physically attacked or worse. Likewise, ordinary citizens under the influence of anti-communist governance are conditioned to be hostile to and prejudice against communities and other communists, and other political militants, and to enact private anti-communist actions. These individuals include landlords, private employers, book publishers, those working in mass media, teachers, all around people espouse this rhetoric about communism or socialism that they know nothing about, but this is because they’re conditioned by the extent society.

And of course the persecution of communists (and those deemed communists or red-baited) and their right to free speech has especially dire consequences for Black people for whom the right to dissent and disagree is essential to challenging white supremacy and specific annunciations of anti-Black racism. And so while the cold war atmosphere (assisted by ways of repressive laws and congressional investigative committees) victimized hundreds, if not thousands, of people who are communist and anti-communist alike, it was actually entry into world war one that sacralized anti-radicalism and the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, that incited radicalism to become increasingly identified with communism.

So the counter-subversive political tradition, that I mentioned earlier, after that moment became governed through anti-communism and then bolshevism became the sort of preeminent boogeyman and so far as, at that moment, the United States found itself confronting a large potentially powerful nation governed by communist committed to an ideological position hostile to bedrock American values. And that fear of an ideologically alien foreign power linked with a subversive domestic movement suddenly seemed grounded in reality. So in other words, 1917 is sort of this takeoff moment for the ubiquity and entrenchment of anti-communism.

And though some laws are indeed addressed exclusively toward communism, the long history of U.S. anti-radicalism means that the anti-communist mode of governance also targets a wide spectrum of political beliefs in association, especially those committed to racial and economic justice and internationalism. Anti-communist governance therefore exceeds the so-called imperative of managing a small minority of communists from attempting to ostensibly overthrow the U.S. government by force or violence and from eroding the American way of life.

In reality, what anti-communism does is transform anything counter-hegemonic or nonconforming into subversion, foreignness, or disloyalty by punishing it as communist, communist inspired, or communist infiltrated and therefore illegal, illicit or criminal. As such, U.S. racial capitalism in the society that engenders is one of the most repressive of all western countries. It has adopted legislation and practices that actually represses democratic liberties more so than any other country in the west. It has refused to accommodate not only communism, but dissenting thoughts and actions of all kinds. And this is relatively— it’s not that it’s only the United States, but it’s relatively unique to the United States. And the United States actually has imported those policies abroad through its practices of imperialism. So, the United States government legitimates repressive domestic and interventionist foreign policy through aggressive rhetoric, coercion of loyalty, grilling people on whether or not they are communists. And if they are considered to be communist or have been communist or socialist or whatever, they’re sort of hampered from holding leadership positions. And then there’s also widespread prosecution and persecution.

So anti-communist governance means that those who are accused, inicted, or found guilty of violating the wide array of anti-communist legislation, policy, and practice, are subjected to severe restriction and enormous penalty not least harassment, ostracism, loss of work and livelihood as well as income. It also calls into question who is deserving of and who can be denied rights and liberties based on beliefs. And that’s provided a path— anti-communism just provided a powerful check on the ostensible freedoms we’re supposed to hold like freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, due process and protection against self-incrimination. So this red scare logic, which informs and is informed by The Black Scare, is foundational to the passage of repressive legislation that helps the U.S. to sweep racial militancy, worker agitation, and progressive policy into a sort of dragnet of repression or condemnation. And we see this, for example, with Critical Race Theory.

And just to wrap it up, anti-communist governance is especially, though not exclusively, top-down in its character. In other words, it’s popular, but not populous and emanates from the upper echelons of society (namely the federal government) and is dispersed downward. And so support for anti-communist governance is garnered through the harnessing of anti-reform and sentiment to concerns about national security. Federal anti-communism in turn gives rise to derivative anti-communist politics at the state and local levels not least because organizations that lobby for and support federal anti-communism writ large are also active at those other levels. Likewise, state and even some municipal legislators respond very closely to the force of the federal law to implement new or reinvigorate old anti-radical legislation that has been molded from federal legislation or that which is in use in other states, as well. For example, we see this with these anti-protest laws that are popping up in places like Florida.

And so what we need to understand is that this legislation is very much in place, which is why I emphasize that anti-communism as a mode of governance, it’s not just about communism. We still see these logics operating very much today in targeting Black Lives Matter, which is by no means a communist organization. And we see this happening internationally with attacks on Venezuela, attacks on Cuba, attacks on North Korea. And so anti-communism as a mode of governance as a way of sort of implementing rule over society both domestically and internationally is very strong and very ubiquitous. It has a very long history and it still continues into the present. And so I hope these kind of brief remarks have helped to provide some framing to your overall panel and I thank you all for listening to me today.

Author: Professor Charisse Burden Stelly is a critical Black Studies scholar of political theory, political economy, intellectual history, and historical sociology. I pursue a research program that encompasses two complementary lines of inquiry. The first interrogates the transnational entanglements of U.S. racial capitalism, anticommunism, and antiblack structural racism.

Source: MRonline, November, 23, 2021, Originally published: Hood Communist (November 21, 2021,

Bates’ latest union-busting hire has long record of being ‘not neutral’ / by Dan Neumann

Photo: Bates College campus | David Gale

Bates College administration continues to dig in against the ongoing staff unionization effort. In recent weeks, the school has brought in a series of anti-union consultants, the latest hire a high-priced Boston lawyer who has drawn the ire of Massachusetts labor advocates and who once admitted in a meeting with workers attempting to organize that she is “not neutral.”

The administration has been enlisting consultants to host meetings for staff since adjunct faculty and non-managerial staff announced in October that they had filed for a union election. The meetings are presented as unbiased informational forums about the pros and cons of unions.

Beacon has learned that some of those meetings are now being led by labor attorney Katie Lev, who runs her own so-called “union avoidance” consulting firm, Lev Labor LLC.

The Bates meetings have so far been voluntary, unlike what are often called captive audience meetings. Routine for decades, such meetings are tactics used by employers to erode possible union support by requiring workers to attend anti-union briefings. While the Bates meetings aren’t compulsory, union supporters at the school say Lev is far from a neutral source of information.  

Picture of labor attorney Katie Lev from her profile at Boston College where she is adjunct faculty in employment law.

Picture of labor attorney Katie Lev from her profile at Boston College where she is adjunct faculty in employment law.

‘Make no mistake about it. I am biased.’

Huffpost reported that during a 2016 union drive by journalists at the subscription legal news service Law360, Lev was recorded telling staff during a meeting, “Make no mistake about it. I am biased. I am not neutral.”

In the recording, Lev insisted that she was however “neutral” in her role as a board member of the Commonwealth Employee Relations Board, a Massachusetts state agency that adjudicates disputes involving the state’s public sector unions. 

Lev was appointed to the board in 2015 by Massachusetts’ Republican governor, Charlie Baker. In 2018, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, the Massachusetts Teachers Association and Service Employees International Union Local 509 joined together to call on Baker to remove Lev from the board, saying she could not be a neutral arbitrator while also running a union-avoidance firm. 

“A zebra’s stripes don’t change,” Massachusetts AFL-CIO president Steven Tolman wrote in a letter to Baker.

The following year, the unions picketed Whittier Street Health Center in Roxbury, Massachusetts after 20 health workers were fired for what labor leaders alleged was retaliation for attempting to unionize. The labor leaders called on the health center to cancel its contract with Lev and another anti-union consultant.

Lev is the latest anti-union consultant that Bates has brought in since staff announced their plan last month to join the Maine Service Employees Association-SEIU Local 1989, which also represents Beacon staff. Adjunct instructors, dining and facilities workers and other professional staff are attempting to organize the college wall-to-wall by forming the Bates Educators and Staff Organization, citing low pay, poor working conditions and declining staff retention.

As Beacon previously reported, the administration has also consulted with Nicholas DiGiovanni, a Boston-based employment lawyer with experience countering higher education union drives, and Carol Holland, a human resource consultant with experience “assessing and mitigating labor risk.”

Staff have confirmed that, as of Nov. 19, Holland continues to lead so-called informational meetings. The administration would not confirm whether they are still retaining DiGiovanni’s services or if they were concerned about Lev’s neutrality.

A look inside an anti-union meeting

Prior to her anti-union consulting career, Lev was the senior director of labor relations for CVS Pharmacy. She has since been contracted by several employers through the Labor Relations Institute, a leading anti-union consulting firm. According to a 2019 disclosure with the U.S. Department of Labor, Walgreens paid Lev a day rate of $2,500 for her services.

According to Bates staff, Lev has led four meetings with workers so far, leading students who support the union to raise alarm at how much the administration may be spending on consultants.

“I think students are angry, asking, ‘Why are our tuition dollars getting put to work for these really expensive anti-union consultants in a way that disagrees with the mission of the college?’” said Wilder Geier, a student organizer rallying support for the union. 

Beacon obtained a recording of one of the meetings facilitated by Lev on Nov. 5.  During a question and answer session with professional staff, Lev does not tell employees how to vote, but delves deep into SEIU bylaws to paint a negative picture of the union. 

Union supporters that shared the recording of the meeting disagreed with several of the answers Lev gave to staff.

In the recording, Lev said that she had never seen “open shop” SEIU unions in the private sector, meaning a union where membership is not a condition for being hired or for continued employment. 

“I will say in my 20 years of experience, I have never seen an SEIU contract that doesn’t require employees to pay dues as a condition of employment where that is lawful,” she said, referring to states like Maine without so-called “right-to-work” laws that essentially require that every unionized workplace be an open shop.

“There’s a lot of misinformation going around, like, ‘Oh, no, don’t worry, you don’t have to pay dues,’” she told Bates staff. “I would get that in writing from someone telling you that. Get their commitment that they’ll pay [your dues] for you. Otherwise, it’s likely to be a condition of employment.”

Union supporters disputed that claim, citing Maine organizations like Preble Street and the Maine People’s Alliance (of which Beacon is a project) which have open-shop unions.

Consultant meetings are intended to intimidate workers, says longtime union rep

Todd Ricker is the lead labor representative with the Maine State Nurses Association. Before that, he had 20-year career as a union organizer. He explained that there are a number of common tactics consultants like Lev use in these meetings.

A majority of nurses at Maine Medical Center voted last April to join the Maine State Nurses Association after facing an aggressive anti-union campaign that involved captive audience meetings. The campaign was orchestrated by the firm Reliant Labor Consultants. A U.S. Labor Department disclosure shows that Lev worked with Reliant in 2020.

One tactic Ricker has seen by consultants is compelling undecided workers to vote in the union election.

Lev told Bates employees at the recorded meeting, “If you have one takeaway from this session today, it is really important to cast your vote for or against … If you’re not sure, I would encourage you to ask more questions, but every single person should be voting.”

Ricker explained, “They know that there will be the highest turnout of ‘no’ votes if everybody votes, so that’s their get-out-the-vote strategy.” 

He said that another common tactic is convincing workers that management has heard their concerns and a union vote can be deferred.

“If Bates staff haven’t heard it already, next they’ll say, ‘Give us another chance. Give us a year. We can just go back to being a happy family and work out our problems with each other without these outside third parties getting involved,’” Ricker said. “The whole point is to undercut somebody’s instincts to vote on their own behalf, to vote to have a real voice at work.”

Ricker further warned against fact checking anti-union consultants at the expense of understanding the power dynamics in play during in union elections. 

“The most important thing about captive audience meetings is that the employer can force employees into these meetings, to make it clear that the people who sign their paychecks are against them having a union. Just the fact that they exist is more important than what any union busters says or doesn’t say. It makes very clear the imbalance of power,” he said. 

He added, “Yes. They want to give people misinformation. Yes. They want to confuse people. But a lot of times, people on the pro-union side want to seize on what’s true and what’s not true. The point is that the meetings happen.”

Author: Dan Neumann studied journalism at Colorado State University before beginning his career as a community newspaper reporter in Denver. He reported on the Global North’s interventions in Africa, including documentaries on climate change, international asylum policy and U.S. militarization on the continent before returning to his home state of Illinois to teach community journalism on Chicago’s West Side. He now lives in Portland. Dan can be reached at dan(at)

Source: Maine Beacon, November 22, 2021,

Opinion: Jared’s reason for opposing Build Back Better is bullshit / by Ethan Strimling

Photo: Rep. Jared Golden’s constituents protest outside his Lewiston office, asking for the Second District congressman to support the Build Back Better package, including provisions to fund health, home and child care; climate change mitigation and adaptation; and immigration reform. | Beacon

Don’t believe Rep. Jared Golden. 

His claim that his vote against Build Back Better was a vote against a tax give-away to millionaires is, to be blunt, total bullshit. 

The tax provision he dislikes is barely 15% of the bill, and when you take into account the other tax increases on the rich and powerful, it is likely to be less than 10%. Do we honestly think every other Democrat in the House would have voted for this bill, including AOC, Ilhan, Cori, Jamaal, Rashida, Ayanna, and everyone else who caucuses with the Squad, if this provision was really so egregious? 

No, his vote against this historic investment in working families was made for one of only two reasons. Either he really is as conservative as Republicans, or he is simply putting his re-election ahead of his constituents. 

If the first, he should just level with us. If the second, he has grievously miscalculated. Sixty percent of his constituents support this measure, and Democrats, the overwhelming majority of his base, are becoming more and more likely to skip his name on the ballot.

But just so we are clear on what he did vote against, here is a taste of what is actually in the bill:

  • Affordable child care, including higher wages for teachers
  • Four weeks of paid family and medical leave
  • Free Universal Pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds
  • Free school and summer meals for children
  • Funding for clean air and water
  • Funding for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure
  • Funding for forest restoration
  • Funding to build, repair, and replace public housing
  • Vouchers for rental assistance and funds for low-income home-buyers
  • A ban on new offshore oil and gas leases along the Atlantic coast 
  • Repeal of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge oil and gas leasing program
  • Housing for Native American communities
  • Funds to expand access to home health aides
  • Extends health care subsidies for middle class families
  • Provides hearing benefits for our elderly
  • Expanded health care access for pregnant and postpartum women
  • Funding to prevent maternal mortality
  • Funds to stop the abuse, neglect and exploitation of older adults
  • Permanently funds the insurance program for children
  • Caps Medicare Part D out-of-pocket costs to $2,000
  • Allows the government to negotiate Rx prices and limits price increases
  • Increases penalties for worker safety and worker protection agencies
  • Aids workers screwed by deals like NAFTA
  • Funds historically Black, tribal DACA, and minority-serving schools.
  • Increases the size and eligibility of Pell Grants
  • Protects undocumented immigrants from deportation 
  • Funds high-speed rail
  • Converts government vehicles to electric
  • Funds Veterans’ Affairs infrastructure
  • Community violence prevention
  • Cracks down on wealthy tax cheats
  • Discourages youth and adult vaping
  • Increases taxes on corporations
  • Increases taxes on corporate stockholders
  • Increases taxes on millionaires and billionaires

So, enough with the distractions. I have had to vote on hundreds of compromises in my life as an elected official. If I ever had one that gave me 90% of this much good, in exchange for 10% of waste, it would have been one of the best bills I had ever voted for.

Here is the primary source I used for the above list.

Ethan Strimling served ten years as Mayor and State Senator for Portland, Maine.

Source: Maine Beacon, November 19, 2021,

Overcoming House GOP leader’s filibuster, House passes Biden’s Build Back Better bill / by Mark Gruenberg and John Wojcik

Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state, the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is credited with being the powerhouse leader of the movement to get the BBB measure as far as it has come with passage in the House this morning | Elaine Thompson/AP

WASHINGTON—After an 8-hour-32-minute filibuster/rant against it by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Calif. the U.S. House finally passed Democratic President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan early on Nov. 19.

At times garbling his words, and at other times coming unhinged, McCarthy railed against anything and everything in Biden’s 10-year $175-billion-yearly expansion of the frayed U.S. social safety net.

At one point in his talkathon, a record for the House, McCarthy compared passage of the measure to what he termed spending sprees that caused the fall of the Roman Empire. “One-party rule wants to control every element of our lives,” he yelled.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, is seen as the prime mover of BBB in the Senate. He has voted against the military budget, condemning it as bloated and not needed at a time when the people of the country need so many other things. | AP

That didn’t stop the bill from going through on a virtual party-line vote, 220-213. Supporters cheered.

But the measure still must clear hurdles in the evenly split Senate: GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky mandating all Republicans oppose it, and dubious Democrats Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia questioning its price tag (Manchin) and tax hikes on corporations and the rich (Sinema).

In addition, original BBB crafter Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., questions why the nation is spending so much on the military-industrial complex–$778 billion in the coming year alone—while giving the social needs short shrift by opposing the BBB Act.

“This bill is one of the most transformative investments in our country’s history. We know that for too long the status quo has benefited the wealthy few and left the majority without access to basic necessities, including a high-quality, affordable child and elder care, health care, and housing,” AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said, pledging unionists would now lobby senators to follow suit.

“This legislation will knock down the barriers that have prevented so many workers, especially women and people of color, from finding high-quality sustainable jobs. The Build Back Better Act will remake and redefine our economy, and it is the largest-ever investment in clean energy, with domestic content and high labor standards required across the board. This is how we fight climate change the Biden way—with good union jobs,” she added.

McCarthy went on so long, in the session that began Nov. 18, that the House finally quit just after 5 am the next day, returning at 8 am as Democratic leaders called a vote to push the BBB measure through. It passed just before 9:30 am.

Sanders didn’t speak as long as McCarthy, but the senator’s 32-minute address spoke volumes and made far more sense than did McCarthy. “It’s a question of changing our priorities to put people before arms, the senator declared,  after voting against the 750 billion dollar plus military budget to which Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had previously agreed.

Sanders blasted lawmakers, implicitly including Democratic Sens. Manchin and Sinema, for being willing to back a military budget without asking any questions but on BBB demanding detailed information on every fine point of the plan.

“When it comes to the needs of the military-industrial complex: No problem! When it comes to the needs of working people: Too expensive. We need to get our priorities right…The national debt seems to melt away under the influence of the military-industrial complex,” he declared.

“I believe in a strong military, but I do not believe we can throw more money into the Pentagon at a time when working families all across this country are struggling to put food on the table for their kids, and when 140 million Americans can’t afford the basic necessities of life without going into debt,” Sanders told his colleagues.

“Unbelievably, this bill would provide and authorize some $10 billion in taxpayer money to Jeff Bezos, the second-wealthiest person in America, for his space race with Elon Musk, the wealthiest person in America. Frankly, it is not acceptable.

Musk responded to a related tweet by Sanders with an outrageous insult exposing, once again, how tough it is for many multi-billionaires to behave like human beings.

Sanders declared: “If there was ever a moment in American history when we need to fundamentally review our national priorities, this is that moment.

“Whether it’s transforming our economy away from fossil fuels, whether it’s providing paid family and medical leave and whether it’s providing health care to all of our people as a human right as virtually every other major country does, whether it is taking on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry, which charges us, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, whether it is addressing our crisis in affordable housing, or providing child care and pre-K to the little kids, now is the time to reassess our priorities.

“Now is the time to fight for real change,” he declared. But Sanders’s colleagues didn’t heed him, much less agree, approving the military’s money bill—plus, he said, a $52 billion “competition act” added on, to subsidize U.S. microchip makers.

As soon as the House approved the BBB plan, however, various groups applauded the vote, took credit for lobbying for it, or both.

“IBEW members are celebrating,” said union President Lonnie Stephenson. “Should this become law, for the first time in the history of our nation, all working people would have access to affordable childcare, early childhood education programs, tax fairness, and critical homecare services for the oldest among us.”

“This legislation would also hold accountable employers who create unsafe and hazardous work environments or refuse to pay their workers what they are owed.

“The Build Back Better Act would also bring us closer to achieving President Biden’s climate goals while creating more good jobs in the renewable energy and transportation sectors” and keeping nuclear power plants open, too, the IBEW leader said. Those jobs “will come with strong labor protections that ensure working people earn living wages and are safe on the job. Finally, strong Buy America provisions in this legislation ensure U.S. taxpayer dollars will be maximized to create good jobs on American soil and boost our domestic manufacturing sector.”

Stephenson’s “should,” however, indicates the battle isn’t over. Now the BBB bill moves to the evenly split Senate, where some of its provisions must run a parliamentary gauntlet and all of it faces hate from the corporate class—because it would raise their taxes—the radical right and their puppets in the Senate GOP, obeying McConnell’s dictates.

“By passing Build Back Better, we are within reach of billions in additional investments for transportation infrastructure and services, as well as key labor-supported provisions that will help provide stronger labor standards and enforcement, further tie federal investments to the creation of good union jobs, lower health care costs, make childcare more affordable, and expand affordable housing,” added Greg Regan, president of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department.

“To be sure, we still have our work cut out for us. The Build Back Better Act now moves to the Senate, where some Senators, who seek nothing more than to score cheap political points at the expense of working families and the health of our economy, will undoubtedly attempt to load it up with poison-pill amendments,” he warned.

Biden’s BBB bill would “close the Medicaid coverage gap, which would expand health care to more than 800,000 women of reproductive age,” Planned Parenthood said. It also “includes mandatory, permanent extension of Medicaid coverage for 12 months postpartum, improves the affordability of health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act; provides paid family leave for four weeks and provides deportation protection and work permits for immigrants.”

Biden’s BBB bill is “a jobs and human infrastructure plan that lifts the burden on working people, lowers the costs of prescription drugs, child care, and senior care, expands healthcare access, and helps put college in reach for millions of families,” the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) said.

“For too many families in America, life has been an endless cycle of barely making ends meet and gut-wrenching decisions—piecing together jobs, child and elder care, school, housing, prescription costs, healthcare, and transportation while living with the constant fear of a medical emergency or other unplanned expense. And the pandemic has only exacerbated these fears,” union President Randi Weingarten explained.

“We hear this all the time from our members—nurses, bus drivers, public employees, teachers—many of whom are parents and had hoped their jobs would land them in the middle class. The truth is, our economy has very few systems to address these kitchen-table issues to help systemically advantage regular working people, and the Trump administration only made it worse.

“This bill begins to change that, with historic down payments on the very things working families rely on most: Pre-kindergarten, so kids can access learning at a young age, which we know leads to long-lasting economic benefits, child tax credits, and child and elder care, so parents can afford to work or go to college and families aren’t bankrupted when a parent falls ill or needs long-term care,” she added.

Weingarten also lauded its “investments” to make postsecondary education “more affordable and accessible, paid family leave, so millions of workers have the ability to care for a new child or an ill family member without losing a paycheck and affordable healthcare,” tax hikes on the rich and money to combat climate change, plus rental aid for families hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Source: People’s World, November 19, 2021,

Mark Gruenberg / Award winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

John Wojcik / John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People’s World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union’s campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and ’80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper’s predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

Who is the communist shaking up Spanish politics?

Spain’s Minister of Labor, Yolanda Diaz, (

Yolanda Diaz currently serves as Spain’s Labour Minister. Now one of the most popular politicians in the country, she appears to building a new political movement in a bid to take power at the next general election.

Spain’s rising political star is Communist Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz, who has won over employers and voters and is now trying to carve out a new space on the far left before the next general election.

Little known two years ago, polls show the 50-year-old labour lawyer is Spain’s most highly regarded politician, ahead of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the leaders of conservative parties.

Conservative daily newspaper ABC has called her Spain’s “most powerful female politician” and on Facebook fan pages her supporters dream she will become the nation’s first woman PM.

A card-carrying member of the Spanish Communist Party, Diaz entered Sanchez’s coalition government with far-left party Podemos in January 2020.

Her profile rose further in May this year after the charismatic but polarising leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, passed the reins of the far left to her after he decided to quit politics.

Spain's Minister of Labor, Yolanda Diaz, takes the oath of office.
Spain’s Minister of Labor, Yolanda Diaz, takes the oath of office. Could she be the country’s next leader? (Photo by Emilio NARANJO / POOL / AFP)

She was appointed to the post of second deputy prime minister in July.

With her permanent smile, she cultivates a friendly and conciliatory image that contrasts with Iglesias’ often angry tone which has been welcomed by business leaders.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit Spain, Diaz negotiated with unions and business associations the terms of the country’s furlough scheme, which offered financial aid for hundreds of thousands of workers whose jobs were hit by the health crisis.

She is also responsible for a law protecting delivery workers and is now in talks to reform the country’s labour laws which has led her to clash with Socialist cabinet members.

With her popularity surging, Diaz was one of the main drivers of a meeting on November 13 of leftist activists dubbed “Other Politics” in the eastern city of Valencia.

The gathering was widely seen as a first step towards creating a new far-left platform that will stand in the next general election due in two years time.

“This is the start of something that is going to be wonderful,” she said as she was surrounded by leftist women politicians.

Cristina Monge, a political scientist at the University of Zaragoza, said Diaz “does not talk of parties” but instead of a “different organisational model” that puts the emphasis on civil society.

The strategy aims to “expand the space” occupied by the left with a focus on “feminism, environmentalism and social justice” at a time when Podemos has slumped in the polls.

“Diaz is aware that Podemos is no longer in its moment of glory,” Monge told AFP.

Madrid, Nov 19 (Prensa Latina) The Second Vice President and Minister of Labor and Social Economy of Spain, Yolanda Diaz, on Friday praised Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as a reference of social justice and world democracy.

Diaz was born into a family of trade unionists in the same region of Galicia in northwestern Spain where former right-wing dictator Francisco Franco hailed from.

Her father was a member of the Communist Party during the dictatorship when the formation was illegal and she entered municipal politics in Galicia in 2003.

Her pride in her political affiliation led her to get married decked out in red, and she likes to tell of how when she was aged four she received a kiss on her hand from the historic leader of the Spanish Communist Party, Santiago Carrillo.

As her profile has risen, Diaz has changed her style, dyeing her hair from brown to blonde and dressing more elegantly, a change that analysts say makes her more appealing to more centrist voters.

Podemos, however, will seek to position itself clearly on the far left and ensure it continues to lead this part of the political spectrum, said Monge.

Most polls currently put the main opposition conservative Popular Party on top in voting intentions, slightly ahead of the Socialists.

The Socialists are “watching closely” to see what Diaz does as they are aware that they will need the support of the far left again to continue to govern after the next election, Monge added.

Source: AFP, 20 November 2021,

Fox News pushes racist, and anti-communist lies

Image: CPUSA

The following statement was issued by the African American Equality Commission, CPUSA

On November 1, 2021, Fox News’ Emma Colton published a story headlined “Former NY Gov. Says Dems Afraid to Stand Up to ‘Communists’ Who Never Deliver for Black Americans.” The article continues Fox’s commitment to racist and anti-communist rhetoric, pushed on the viewers with no concern for truth or justice.

Colton quotes former New York Governor David Paterson, an African American, as expressing “disappointment that his own party has not stood up to communism and socialism, especially in Black communities.” She adds that Paterson noted, “Socialists and communists have been working on the African American community going back to the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. They almost wrecked the civil rights campaign of Dr. Martin Luther King.”

There is no clearer evidence of the wisdom in the old adage that “there are none so blind as those who will not see.”

According to Eric Brooks, co-convener of the African American Equality Commission of the Communist Party, “We reject all efforts to sever the historic, close relationship between the African American community, the struggle to end systemic racism, and the Communist Party USA.”

There are libraries full of historical documentation of the contributions of U.S. communists (African American, white, Asian, and Latino) to the struggle for full and complete equality. African American communists (including such well-known people as Paul Robeson, William Patterson, Benjamin Davis, W. E. B. Du Bois, Henry Winston, and Angela Davis, to name a few) have founded organizations and led militant struggles for the equal rights of the African American people.

Communists (African American and white) organized African American sharecroppers in Alabama and throughout the South during the 1930s to demand social, political, and economic equality. Many communists gave their lives in these struggles, while Paterson’s vaunted Democratic Party supported murderous, white lynch mobs.

As for communists “wrecking the civil rights movement,” the opposite is true: communists were active participants in the Civil Rights Movement. It was J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and the U.S. government that tried to wreck the movement.

From the Scottsboro Nine to the murder of George Floyd, the Communist Party USA has been standing with and among the African American community against systemic racism and racist police crimes.

Brooks added, “Communists lost their lives in the 1964 Freedom Summer voter registration drives in the southern U.S. states. We worked tirelessly to end apartheid in South Africa, and to end similar polices when they were proposed or implemented here. Unfortunately, Governor Paterson doesn’t know his history, and Fox News is using him to continue their racist attacks on Black people, and people’s movements, trying to tar them as communist, as if that were a bad thing.”

Source: Communist Party USA, November 12, 2021,

In search of luxurious communism / by Frédéric Lordon

Félix Vallotton, ‘Landscape at Sunset’ (1919)

Reclaiming colour, light and life itself

The communist idea would have little chance of succeeding if it was concerned only with needs and reductions. We also need to remember that the goal of politics is to improve life. Certainly, a ‘salary for life’ (1) (offering protection against the uncertainties of life and material distress), the sovereignty of associated producers (abolishing relations of pure subordination) and the right to leisure time (as part of disarming the productivity imperative) are all gains that would make life incomparably better than under capitalism.

But perhaps more should be said to remove the negative associations with which abandoning capitalism, and the word ‘communism’ itself, have been saddled — collective housing, a diet of potatoes and sausages, grey cars, grey coffee grinders, grey clothes, grey walls, grey cities.

In our imaginations, capitalism has a monopoly on colour, light, and even life itself. That must change, as it is destroying absolutely everything: the planet, homes (of all but the rich), physical health (except that of the rich), mental health (that of the rich too, though in a different way). If communism is ever to be viable, conceptually and politically, it must reclaim all this. It even needs to stake a claim to luxury — since lux is light. And that is what it’s all about: light in our lives.

In one of the many grotesque and shameful acts of which advertisers are guilty, after ‘concept’ and ‘creativity’ (to the chagrin of ‘creatives’ everywhere), they have set their sights on ‘the city’, its ‘lights’ and its ‘colours’. The idea that ads make the city more beautiful is the kind of moronic rubbish those bearded ad-folk in flip-flops and thick glasses are happy to peddle. Remove advertising, and you go back to Tirana, or East Berlin before the Wall came down.

Read also Philippe Pataud Célérier, “Bringing some magic to vulgar reality”, Le Monde diplomatique, October 2016.

The reality is rather different: if we take down the JC Decaux signs and hand our cities back to graphic designers, street artists and indeed everyone else, we’ll see an explosion of shapes, colours, ideas and slogans. we can hold competitions to decorate those gigantic tarpaulins that cover buildings under construction, sure of seeing something other than photos of watches, perfumes or mobile phones blown up to 20x10m. But perhaps we should not blame the advertisers: as zombies themselves, lost in a false world of commercial images, how could they spot the difference between the living and the dead? We know, in any case, that they’d be prevented from causing harm: obviously, advertising would come very high on the list of things to be abolished. Shutting down the advertising industry would set an example of new priorities in the division of labour.

Human beings want to make things

Advertising’s mistakes are a concentrated version of capitalism’s: to have confused a desire for material goods with desire itself, then to have concluded that, without those goods, desire would vanish from the world — and colour and light with it. With a little hindsight, it’s a scam of shocking magnitude. Everything today, especially street photography, contradicts this big lie, and speaks to a surge in our desire to make, paint, design, write, build, create — but this time for real. That is to say, outside the concept of currency values?? and demands of capital. One could even say that the premise of Friot’s well-founded, almost anthropological proposition is exactly that: human beings want to use their abilities. It may sound silly, but it is still true, and profound: human beings want to make things.

Capitalist luxury reserves the most beautiful things for the rich, while communist luxury can emerge from conditions totally other than purchasing power

The configuration of social structures at a given time forces this urge to fit pre-established forms, and humans to use their abilities in a certain way — most often one that corresponds with the aims of those in charge and serves their interests. But release individual abilities from this trap, and they’ll be used more. This is the ultimate justification for Friot’s salary for life: people will make things, and those things will contribute to social life.

Of course, people ‘making things’ in and of itself does not automatically constitute a division of labour that will meet all the needs of collective material life. Some part will still be subject to coercion. But which part? Many employees know how, and like, to make things that fit perfectly into the division of labour, but are forced to make them in conditions that are degraded by capitalism and its demands of competition and shareholders. Yet these degradations are exactly what the system of a salary for life frees workers from, leaving intact a fully functional division of labour and the possibility of making things well.

The beginning of luxury

The desire to make things means a desire to make them well, and even the best we can, because when we are making them for ourselves, we put all of ourselves into them. For certain things, to make them well is ipso facto to make them beautiful. This is the beginning of luxury.

We may already see a little more clearly what ‘luxury’ will be about, and especially what it will not be about: certainly not the solid gold bidets of those who have got rich on neoliberalism or the accumulation of stuff: as well as exploiting human beings, the logic of quantity — that of capitalist value — is wrecking the planet. It is strange — in fact, absurd — that the word ‘communism’ is embedded in Aaron Bastani’s Fully Automated Luxury Communism, a sort of technologist prophecy based on 3D printers, ubiquitous photovoltaic cells and the conquest of space, promising solutions to the climate and energy crises and ‘abundance’ for all. That is more or less the prospectus of a barely reconstructed capitalist vision.

Well, no; the numbers of objects that surround us and their rate of renewal will fall — they must. The idea of luxurious communism, then, must mean rejecting the idea that this reduction would mean a loss of beauty in our material life — because we will still have one. And, to be more precise, the aim will be to maximise the beauty of the minimal number of objects that we will keep.

The beauty of objects, beyond quantity and hype, is the first difference between communist and capitalist luxury. The second is the way they are accessed. Capitalist luxury reserves the most beautiful things for the rich, while communist luxury can emerge from conditions totally other than purchasing power: the freedom of producers to make things according to their desires, which will most often be to make them well and beautifully. In other words, freedom from all the constraints of capitalist production, which cause producers to make things badly.

Read also Razmig Keucheyan, “Make do and mend”, Le Monde diplomatique, September 2019.

These constraints express an overarching logic: capital always tries to remunerate work as little as possible, thereby creating demand among those with little money, who need goods at a low enough price; that means they will be made under conditions that doom them to be badly made by mistreated and poorly paid employees, so completing the cycle. Only the richest of the rich escape this junk loop. The few who hold most of the wealth then find a supply that substitutes the ‘poor quality/productivity’ blend of the mass markets for a ‘good quality/high price’ formula.

The system of salaries for life breaks the inevitable junk loop by uncoupling activities from remuneration. When people are protected by a salary for life and can devote themselves to an activity and make things without this having the slightest impact on their remuneration, they do so under completely different conditions: according to their desire, which is to say well. Here again, we must overturn the capitalist axiom that, left to their own devices and freed from the ‘healthy spur of having to earn a living’, people do nothing — that they are essentially lazy. The opposite is true: ‘left to their own devices’, that is to say freed from the violence of being made to work under capitalism, people make things, they never stop making things, and they even make them better and better, for they are beings of desire and activity.

For example, a farmer can produce for the satisfaction of producing well, supplying healthy and good quality products, when he is no longer held back by the straightjacket of supermarkets and their requirements on price, and therefore on productivity, which mean using chemicals. Or when he ceases to be held back by the debt incurred by investing in mechanisation, imposed by the logic of high yields and low prices — all things he can break with under a salary for life. He will probably produce them in smaller quantities, but many more people will want to go into agriculture if it is satisfying, uncoupled from capitalist demands and released from economic uncertainty.

In a capitalist system, it is manufacturers outside the mass market who provide gourmet dining, at very high prices. This is, in turn, caught in a similar debt trap when it comes to its facilities and, by the same logic, quality suppliers (of furniture, crockery etc), which means high prices. According to the capitalist adage, ‘you have to pay for quality’. But this is not true. Quality doesn’t have to ‘come at a price’. Capitalism has put the idea in our heads that quality is always linked to a quantity of money, otherwise we would only have access to junk. This is a lie. Quality comes from conditions that allow people to produce as they wish, that is, without depending on it for their survival. It’s obvious straightaway that quality is the immediate corollary of this freedom, and always for the same reason: people do something well, the best they can even, when they do it for themselves, to present their labours for social recognition, provided that this does not take the form of a monetary price to which their material reproduction will be attached. The conditions are then met to ensure that, without piles of money being exchanged, the best standards of production spread as far as possible, and becomes the rule rather than the exception.

The aesthetic vocation of communism

If communism is a grey idea, it will not capture imaginations. But it doesn’t have to be — quite the opposite. There is no contradiction in arguing that it can, and should, be luxurious. That is to say, it can shine the light of beautiful, well-made things all around, because everyone will have been placed in conditions in which they can make them beautifully and well — receiving a salary for life. Here we see how critically important it is to maintaining the greatest possible freedom of expression for private creators. Division of labour is necessary in some cases, and enough has been said about that, though it is not a subject that can be ignored. But division of labour in no way contradicts the idea that the necessary objects that come out of it are beautiful and good. But for that to happen, their production must be freed from the tyranny of capitalist value, and not regimented by top-down planning.

‘Remember East Germany and the Soviet Union, how ugly they were, and how beautiful and classy things are here? Well, that’s capitalism.’

Then, the sovereign associated producers will give their best, because they will be doing what they love. In this communist form, private initiatives will offer us good food and beautiful furniture, perfumes and clothes, in short, beautiful things, which make for an aesthetic life. Design will no longer be capitalism’s capture of aesthetics, as today — because, from the skylines of metropolises to the metallic shine of cell phones to the styling of cars, everything is currently calculated to invite us to contemplate the material power of capitalism. To plant in our heads, most often unconsciously, this unbreakable link between the ‘beauty’ of objects and the capitalist system of objects, and make us think, ‘Remember East Germany and the Soviet Union, how ugly they were, and how beautiful and classy things are here? Well, that’s capitalism.’

Communism will lose the battle for imaginations, then the political battle, if it locks itself in the austerity and ostentatious disinterest of critical intellectuals, and their contempt for objects and for the life of the senses, especially for domestic life. ‘Let us think above all of developing our minds’, ‘let’s be pure of mind’, ‘we are indifferent to objects’, ‘we are above material needs, ‘these things are unimportant’. What a mistake. They have considerable importance.

In a surprising, though perfectly logical ‘dietetic’ scholium, Spinoza, who in matters of intellectual development was hardly a small player, recommends surrounding oneself ‘with pleasant food and drink, with scents, with the beauty of plants, with decoration, music, sports, the theatre, and other such things , which anyone can use without injury to another’ (2). Aesthetics must be applied everywhere in life, from its etymological meaning (of an appeal to our senses) to those elevated practices where stimulating the senses can lead to the deepest meditative states — as discussed by Pierre Gagnaire and Ryoko Sekiguchi in a conversation on the culinary arts, or in the arts of perfumes and flower arranging, or the Japanese tea ceremony.

Naturally, the highest achievements are also the rarest, so only a limited number of people will have access to them. The capitalist criterion for selection is well known: money. A visit to Pierre Gagnaire’s website lifts the spell he casts by displaying the reality of his prices: dinner for two in his restaurant costs a month’s minimum wage… We had assumed the criterion of money would no longer apply. Yet we will need another in its place, since the promise of having ‘the rarest things within everyone’s reach’ is flawed logic — at least when it comes to the kind of goods economists call ‘rival’. Some kind of lottery? Why not?

In reality, the most important thing is not to be found in these very exceptional experiences. It is now clear that that by ‘luxury’, we should understand not so much the absolute rarest things reserved for the few, but beautiful, well-made things that are universalised and put within reach of the many. Luxury is also the presence of fewer but more beautiful things in everyday life, both as a habit and an education, which eventually prepares us for the most elevated experiences. And it is the desires of free producers that will make communism luxurious.

(1) A ‘salary for life’ is a proposal made by Bernard Friot as an alternative to Universal Basic Income in his book Émanciper le travail, La Dispute, Paris, 2014.

(2) Baruch Spinoza, Ethics IV, Proposition 45 (scholia).

Author: Frédéric Lordon is an economist and author of Et la vertu sauvera le monde… Après la débâcle financière, le salut par l’éthique? (Raisons d’agir, Paris, 2003)

Source: Le Monde diplomatique, 8 November 2021,

The World’s Best Mayor Is a French Communist / An Interview with Philippe Rio

Philippe Rio, Communist mayor of Grigny, France, was voted the world’s best mayor. (J. Paquier / Flickr)

Philippe Rio from Grigny, south of Paris, has been voted the world’s best mayor. He told Jacobin about the local social programs that have made his Communist administration a global success story.

Grigny isn’t often in the news for good reasons. The poorest city in France, this banlieue south of Paris is marked by massive unemployment and abandoned housing estates. For much of French media, Grigny is the very image of a “no-go zone”: one of its sons, Amedy Coulibaly, murdered four people at a Kosher supermarket in the 2015 terrorist attacks.

Yet there is also a fight to save the city from its plight — led by local mayor Philippe Rio, a member of the French Communist Party. In 2017, he organized the “Appeal from Grigny,” signed by hundreds of other mayors calling for investment in the banlieues. His innovative social programs and a COVID response based on locally issued emergency food vouchers this year saw him handed the biennial “best mayor in the world” award.

The prize given by the World Mayor Foundation hadn’t gone to a Communist before (and even this time around it was co-awarded to Rotterdam’s mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb, a member of the Dutch Labour Party). But Philippe Rio’s administration has also had a wider impact in his homeland, especially through its lifelong education programs and its success in geothermal energy production, which has slashed residents’ bills.

Jacobin’s David Broder spoke to the mayor about life in Grigny, his political engagement, and the lessons of French municipal communism.

You’ve been named the world’s best mayor after being nominated by Grigny residents and other elected officials. What does this recognition mean for you — and the city you represent?

First, we had the surprise to be recognized among thirty-two cities, including Washington, Milwaukee, Bogotá, Buenos Aires, and New Delhi, as a city that had taken a lot of action during COVID-19 and in fighting poverty — both themes the London foundation focused on. Then, to be elected the world’s best mayor — well, that was something we never dreamed of.

We’re one of those areas that some wrongly call “no-go zones,” but which in truth express this country’s extreme inequalities. France has many billionaires, but Paris also has pockets of deep poverty and social and spatial segregation. In Grigny, half the population is under thirty and half the population is below the poverty line. This is France’s poorest city.

During the lockdown, we did what every town hall in France had to do — we reacted. And I emphasize the “we.” A mayor isn’t a superhero — we acted collectively to serve the public. During the onset of the pandemic, we built up a barrier against the incoming tsunami. Here the health care crisis immediately meant a social crisis; whenever there are economic setbacks, it’s us who suffer it quickest, and it takes time to pick ourselves back up again. It was the same with the 2008 subprime crisis: we’ve recovered from it somewhat, but we still aren’t at the level of before.

So, faced with an abrupt shock, we simply did our job: distributing masks, being in contact with the population, dealing with the food crisis.

Areas like ours are always at the heart of French political debate, and always being mistreated by the media — Éric Zemmour’s always banging on about the banlieues, security, and immigration. But it’s communities like ours that are building France’s future. So folks who live in Grigny suffer these fascist politicians’ messages that seek to exclude whole sections of the population.

When there’s Olympic champions or actors from the banlieue who make it in the United States, people clap. But as for the rest, we’re insulted and mistreated. So this award lifted our hearts, people called me up saying we’re the world champions. Life is hard here. But we’ve succeeded in our efforts and been recognized for them internationally. Even if the French media present us negatively, what they say about us isn’t true. That’s a tribute to Grigny as a working-class city, but also to the banlieues more generally. They, too, can be proud of our success.

You’re a member of the French Communist Party (PCF) and, before becoming mayor, you were active defending tenants locally, in the Grande Borne housing estates. How did you get involved?

I’ve been a member of the PCF since 1995 — since the last century. I’m often asked what it means to be a Communist. But I remember why I joined the party back then — and looking at France, today I’d have twice as much reason to join a movement whose guiding star is indignation against injustice.

I am myself a product of municipal-level communism. I’ve never been around what’s happening at the “top” of society, but rather the work of all those invisible activists — blue-collar workers, employees, and public servants — who devote their free time to helping others live better. It was they who trained me up in the life of associations, first of all on the sports field, which is about the people who give their time and money to helping you play in a football match.

In this context, you experience magnificent things, even if you come from a poor background like mine. My dad was an unemployed worker, my parents experienced the downgrading of the working class, and sometimes there wasn’t even much to eat. So I had the food aid and the Secours Populaire [a grassroots solidarity initiative], including from the Communist town hall.

We were almost evicted ourselves. And in our Grande Borne housing estate, the people who mobilized to stop others being kicked out of their homes were in the National Housing Confederation and the Tenants’ Aid. That included Communist militants, though not only them.

But I understood that the collective action being done by these invisible militants could change peoples’ lives. I found Communist activists because they were basically the only ones who were — are — still in the working-class estates. Not as much as in the past, but they were still around. So here I am, the product of that.

As you said, Grigny has a very young population, but it’s also an area in which a lot of people don’t get qualifications. So what can you do, as a city hall, on education?

I like that line from Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” I believe that very much.

Some context: In Grigny, 50 percent of pupils leave the public school system without a diploma. This confirms another reality: the PISA [Program for International Student Assessment] rankings tell us that French schools are extremely unequal — and each successive study shows the gap’s growing. The republican school is meant to be egalitarian, in our land of liberté, égalité, fraternité. But that’s a state lie — for only half as many resources are given to a school in Grigny compared to the average in France in general. So the state is shaping people’s lives from the youngest ages. Our first act, in terms of what we can do in city hall, is to denounce these inequalities.

But as I said, I am the product of municipal communism. And part of this is the programs that Communists have built at the local level, even across very diverse territories. That means health care. That means the right to leisure, to holidays. Grigny is one of the progressive cities using local powers to achieve social emancipation.

The novelty of our educational approach — also inspiring other cities in France — is that for us, education also means culture and sport. So we have three tools at our disposal. We must do more and better schooling. We must do more and better culture. And we must do more and better sport. We might think that being hyperconnected through smartphones would allow us to talk to each other. But the loss of human contact means we need to weave the ties of community again.

Children’s success may be academic, sporting, or cultural, but the adult world is responsible for creating an atmosphere conducive to that. We’re aware that not all children will end up in the Grandes Écoles [elite higher education]. But there must be a platform for them to be full citizens. That’s also about providing lifelong learning. In Grigny, we have three schools, including one we created, which allows young adults, indeed all adults, to train when they don’t have a diploma. And the results are quite extraordinary.

We’re lucky to have a great chef, Thierry Marx, who has come to Grigny to create training schools for people who don’t have a diploma. We have an adult education center with five hundred trainees a year coming through who learn French, who train, who gain know-how, then go on into employment. We have another education center for health and social assistance.

We are inventive and innovative because we have no choice. The system is not made for us, and the answers provided from above do not correspond to our needs. So, as well as calling for more resources, we are obliged to create a side route, to change people’s prospects in life.

You mention this problem of resources, and while you are a Communist mayor in Grigny, the regional and national governments are in the hands of politically very different forces. What can you do to get funding from them, especially when it comes to long-term investment?

In our working-class neighborhoods we need to invent a new political narrative. I mentioned the scapegoating of whole areas — telling us that if France is going badly, it’s because of places like this. The events of January 2015 were an electroshock in France because the perpetrators of the attacks came from this country and grew up in the republican schoolroom.

For decades, mayors of different political persuasions, but who were in contact with the population, had been sounding the alarm. That’s our responsibility as elected representatives of the banlieue. To say “Wait a minute!” That whatever happens, these districts can’t be ignored, because we are the youth of France and will shape its future.

So, after the shock of the attacks, there was an important moment on October 16, 2017, with the Appel de Grigny for working-class neighborhoods, supported by associations and mayors of all parties — though not with the Front National, which was excluded — and with Jean-Louis Borloo, a recognized statesman in France, and two current candidates for the presidency, Anne Hidalgo [mayor of Paris] and Valérie Pécresse [president of the regional council].

They came together with a common republican demand, as the summer just before the Macron government had senselessly cut our already meager credits and, even worse, cut funding for neighborhood associations. That meant getting rid of forty thousand public-subsidized contracts overnight, on budgetary grounds, though it didn’t solve France’s budgetary problems.

So we made a national plan for the suburbs called Vivre en grand — living together, living large in the Republic. We want to reconcile the suburbs with the rest of France, because otherwise we’ll have a catastrophe. We made nineteen proposals. President Emmanuel Macron threw this report in the bin, but, for six months, the media allowed us to explain another story. The last time we’d talked about the suburbs in France for six months was during the 2005 riots. So local mayors and associations were sounding the alarm for a problem facing the whole country.

But then, last November 14, France announced the post-COVID recovery plan. Money was distributed everywhere — in rural areas, overseas territories, etc., but we had to ask, when is it going to be our turn, in working-class districts? It seemed the recovery train had passed without stopping in our station. But it’s in areas like this where the health and social crisis is worst. So we had to say stop. And the strength of this movement is that there were more than two hundred of us mayors writing to the president, both from the banlieues and even charming cities that have working-class neighborhoods, like Albi, Agen, or Cahors.

Then we had some meetings with ministers and the senior administration to make proposals, and, at the end of January, the prime minister came to Grigny, and eventually we managed to get them to release another €2 billion for urban renewal. So we’ve gone from sounding the alarm to getting solutions. We have a government that at first sometimes stubbornly refuses to listen to us — and I have huge differences with Emmanuel Macron. But at times like this, we have to rebuild the foundations of the Republic.


You mentioned the stigmatization of areas like Grigny, which also fits with the obsession with identity and security in the buildup to the 2022 election. But, even if we don’t accept talk of “no-go zones,” there clearly is real violence and the state reaching certain areas as a purely repressive force. What can be done to change that?


There’s no consensus on any issue in France, but policing is a cause of deep division. There is police violence, cases like Adama Traoré [a twenty-four-year-old who died in police custody in 2016] — reprehensible police actions against categories of French society. And I haven’t forgotten the police killed in their own homes. But the media debate is hysterical because it’s polarized only in terms of violence against the police or police violence, but they don’t talk about the other 90 percent of the issue — public policy, justice, community policing.

We got a police station in 2007, but in 2009, President Nicolas Sarkozy closed it down for the sake of reducing public spending. Mr Sarkozy posed as the man of security but cut ten thousand police jobs, and his decisions also broke the intelligence services. This, too, had its consequences for what we’ve experienced in France. There are terrible testimonies of former intelligence officials who explain that they had to stop following Mohamed Merah [an Islamist terrorist who murdered seven people in 2012] because they no longer had the financial means to do so.

France is the fifth-leading economic power but has the thirtieth or fortieth justice system in the world. The youth justice system is a disaster. For years, there has been a left-right debate, community policing versus RoboCop police, where police only intervene to restore order, but in real life that doesn’t work. And today the French police, without saying so, are in the process of redoing community policing, but after a delay of fifteen or twenty years.DB

The region around Paris has an important history of municipal communism, and Grigny has been Communist-led for decades. But the party has also had setbacks in recent years, losing Saint-Denis in 2020. Since these city halls were first won back in the 1930s, there have clearly been huge changes in the world of work and the social profile of the banlieues, and Grigny has grown a great deal since the postwar decades. But, as “best mayor in the world,” what can you do to rebuild this kind of rooted presence for your party in the life of the local population?PR

The Communist Party has its victories and defeats. Life’s like that — there are no strongholds and no election wins are guaranteed. We have to pick ourselves up and continually reinvent ourselves.

It’s true — today the working class has changed. But I can assure you, the poor are still here. When people ask me, what’s the difference, Philippe, between when you lived in Grande Borne forty years ago and today, I say it’s that then there was 5 percent unemployment and now the figure is 50 percent. With its renewed hunger to capture wealth, liberal society is also creating poor workers.

In France, mayors are the most respected politicians. People have a more positive image of us than MPs, whether they vote for us or not. So we have a special responsibility as a last defensive dam of the Republic, in a moment where people no longer believe what the president or national representatives say. That’s also why we’re working on proposing national solutions, to answer the questions people are asking me face-to-face. That means confronting the challenge of the social transition, but also ecological transition. As a nice line by Nicolas Hulot puts it, that means connecting the problem of the end of the world to the problem of how people can make it to the end of the month.

Here, too, we’ve had to take responsibility. The Grigny 2 housing trust — with five thousand dwellings and seventeen thousand inhabitants — had its heating and hot water cut off because there were unpaid bills. It relied on natural gas, which depends on fluctuations in world prices, just like how it’s going up today. We couldn’t control anything. So we made an alternative, geothermal project, which is 100 percent publicly owned. We got heat from two kilometers under our feet. We cut the bills by 25 percent and saved the planet fifteen thousand tons of COin one year. Well, I’m a Communist. And at the same time, saving the planet at my level. We like to joke that Grigny has ratified the Paris COP agreement.

Romain Rolland said that even in a hopeless situation, to fight is already hope. I have mayor friends governing populations who are having difficulties but are also rich. It’s a little easier to do socialism in those conditions than with a population suffering like ours is. We don’t exactly have oil to tap. But we do have geothermal energy, and we do have a totally different vision of how education should be.

I draw great inspiration from what’s happening elsewhere in the world — in Latin America, in Spain, but also mayors in North America and elsewhere in Europe, and all these invisible activists working for the general interest. But as we can see [with the divided field for] the French presidential election, this political family — the humanist forces of social transformation — have to talk to each other. At the local level, municipalities have been won back by a union [of the Left] with a clear program of change: in Lyon, in Bordeaux, and also in smaller towns and suburbs.

So I’m very sad about the national-level solution, and if you ask me who I’m going to vote for, I don’t know. But I really believe that local elected representatives have a role to play in this very complex situation, to maintain a thread of connection, to make sure that it doesn’t break. Because if we let go, I don’t know how our country is going to bounce back.

Source: Jacobin, November 6, 2021,


Protesters took to the streets of Glasgow near the COP26 conference to urge world leaders to take immediate action to combat the climate crisis. More than 100,000 marched in the city, organizers said. Credit: Kieran Dodds, The New York Times

Capitalism’s role in causing climate change now gains new visibility. Scientists advising world leaders present at the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) on November 1-12 in Glasgow affirmed the association. To slow down climate change and mitigate its effects, they want action taken to reduce capitalism’s impact on the climate.

The climate crisis is worsening.  For Monthly Review magazine, the COP26 gathering represents “a last-ditch effort to achieve a global solution on behalf of humanity as a whole.” The COP is the decision-making body of the 1995 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), made up of 230 climate scientists from 66 countries, monitors climate-change trends and effects. Their observations, analyses, and recommendations appear in the IPCC’s Assessment Reports, which are issued periodically. IPCC scientists, who “have spent the last 3 years reviewing over 14000 studies,” are in the process now of releasing their Sixth Assessment Report, with 4000 pages.

On August 9, 2021 they released the Report’s Part I on the “physical science basis of climate change.”  The IPCC will not release Part II, about impacts, and Part III, about mitigation, until early 2022, after all UN member states have reviewed the two sections. Key portions of the two have been leaked and, widely disseminated, they are the basis for this report.

Earlier Assessment Reports attributed climate change to human activity, unspecified.  What with IPCC scientists linking expanded industrial production and consumerism with rising greenhouse gas emissions, capitalism enters the picture.

As summarized by the Monthly Review editors, Part II asserts that “Life on Earth can recover from a drastic climate shift by evolving into new species and creating new ecosystems. Humans cannot… We need transformational change operating on processes and behaviors at all levels: individual, communities, business, institutions and governments. We must redefine our way of life and consumption.”

An important finding of Part III, according to the editors, is that, “technological improvements that allow for relative decarbonization are not enough. Rather, what is required … ‘is fundamental structural changes at the global level’ … in production and consumption systems. Accelerated climate-change transitions require a shift to entirely new systems of sustainable development. ‘Transformative change’ must replace incremental changes favored by the status quo.”

Monthly Review indicated also that “for the first time in the IPCC process,” Part III called for a “turn to demand-side strategies, exploring cutbacks in energy use and across all economic sectors, as well as aggressively pursuing conservation and low-energy paths.”

Part III, crucially, “indicates at one point, referring to the analysis of Malm and others that: ‘The character of social and economic development produced by the nature of capitalist society [is] …ultimately unsustainable.’”

UN Scientists Blame Climate Change on Capitalism; Implications for Marxists

This is not a new idea. Advocates for environmental sustainability – Marxists, academic socialists, eco-socialists, environmentalists – have long concerned themselves with capitalism’s impact on the environment. Visionary Marxist scholar Kenneth Neill Cameron called for action almost 30 years ago. Concluding his book Marxism, a Living Science (International Publishers, 1993), he discusses global warming.

“Most Marxists write as though … social advance will take place in a social bubble shut off from nature. The scientific evidence, however, points to an era of environmental stress. The evidence was already strong in 1984 when this book first went to press … [It’s] a perspective beyond anything Marx and Engels had to confront … Clearly then the struggle for socialism will take place in a world racked by natural disasters of social origin.”

Cameron explores the curbing of fossil-based fuel and reliance on alternative energy. He suggests that, “there is only one way known to slow down and then eliminate these disasters, namely by phasing out the gases that cause them.” He declares that:

“[T]o fully replace the fossil-fuel-based corporate structure is beyond the capacity of capitalism and requires a socialist planned economy … As this struggle progresses it will become apparent that human survival will depend not just on clean energy but on a socio-economic system run by the people in their own interest. In short, a new dimension has been added to the struggle for socialism, which no longer aims only at universal “social justice” but at assuring human survival.”

Marxists like Cameron, however, realize that words and theory are not enough. From Marx, they know that merely to interpret the world falls short; “The point … is tochange it.”

Marxists are able to frame climate-change action in a straightforward way. Inasmuch as their primary object is fighting capitalism, and capitalism causes climate change, and climate change endangers humanity, Marxists are duty-bound to involve themselves in the climate fight as learners, teachers and activists.

How would they do this, and what might the prospects be?

The opinions of the IPCC scientists, having circulated, constitute a kind of UN endorsement of fight-back against capitalism. To the extent that the UN position gains respect, capitalism becomes fair game for wider criticism within society as a whole. That’s helpful.

Marxists, self-described “scientific socialists” and prone to theorizing, analyzing problems, and strategizing, are prepared. As materialists, they embrace scientific inquiry and study of the natural world. The intersection of science and politics is familiar territory.

Marx himself modeled that approach. For example, he made the association between diminished productivity of soil in Britain and burgeoning industrialization. Having consulted with German scientists, he concluded that the movement of small farmers away from the land and into British factories, as industrial workers, had led to crops being under-fertilized. Because farmers had left the land, fertilizer in the form of animal and human excreta was in short supply.

Marxists are versatile. Having theorized, strategized, and acted in widely varying situations, they’ve shown that they probably would be able to confront the climate crisis. They’ve studied and defended waged labor laid low by the extraction of surplus value, small farmers displaced or oppressed by landlords, women (mostly) laboring in social reproduction for no pay, and those whose bodies, land, or subsoil resources have been plundered.

But capitalism won’t disappear quickly. After all, preparation for the way capitalism looked in the 1800s required a couple of centuries. As long as capitalism lasts, formation of a mass movement ready to defend environmental sustainability, and the climate, won’t happen soon, especially in the industrialized world.

For the sake of their jobs, wages and salaries, working people employed by entities dependent directly or indirectly on the market economy require economic stability and predictability. Under capitalism, that means an economy that produces and grows, always – one that, along the way, aggravates climate change. Working people, therefore, may find it more compelling to preserve the status quo than to pursue goals realizable only in the future, virtuous though they may be.

Relatedly, many wage workers, unemployed people, unionists, and seniors are leery of the environmental movement. They may resent the seemingly disproportionate involvement there of activists with comfortable life styles or object to the scarcity of black and brown people in such campaigns. It’s not yet clear how these twin projects, replacing capitalism and coping with climate change, are ultimately going to come together.

The possibility does emerge, however, that crisis-ridden capitalism, loaded with contradictions, will face some sort of a collapse.  Waiting in the wings are disasters like pandemics, wars, massive default on debt, underproduction due to climate-caused catastrophes, oil shortage, and more. In chaotic situations like these, the building of a mass response to the climate crisis, one that is collective, anti-capitalist, and necessary, might come about.

The stimulus would derive from fears and perplexity. These, of course, could also lead to the authoritarian solutions of fascists and their like. Such a potential outcome adds to the urgency of preparing for the great mobilization of a socialist nature that we need.

Meanwhile, socialists and Marxists have promoted programs directed at protecting the environment and climate. These are the multifaceted programs often referred to as Green New Deals, as outlined in Mark Brodine’s book Green Strategy, in John Molyneux’s article in Climate & Capitalism, and by Sean Sweeney writing in New Economic Forum.  As envisioned, they would accompany far-reaching proposals for progressive social and political change. Such undertakings are at risk of cooptation by corporations and other capitalist forces.

As the fight to ameliorate climate change proceeds, Marxists should take advantage of the teachability of their message. The idea that phenomena are connected – capitalism, expanding production, and rising emissions – is fact-based and logical. Lesser explanations blame the perversity of individuals. Exclusive focus on short-sightedness, disregard for the truth, ignorance, heartlessness, and/or immorality distracts from societal factors at work.

Class struggle will undoubtedly intensify in the years ahead. Faced with climate chaos, the upper classes, with their money, properties, and connections, will seek to wall themselves off from turmoil and victims, perhaps even hire enforcers to protect their remaining privileges.

Undone by climate change and its fallout – desertification, drought, floods, no homes, no livelihoods – people on the run worldwide become the rejects of resourced societies. Easily stigmatized, they serve as pawns for dividing and immobilizing the working class. And like nothing else, their plight calls for redistribution of wealth and resources, that is, if notions of the common good mean anything at all.

The object of this report has been to raise the consciousness of Marxists, socialists, and anyone else. Marxists ought to realize that they can contribute to and even lead collective efforts to head off climate change and to mitigate adverse effects. They have two major resources: the chain of causation from capitalism to climate change and anti-capitalism, which is their foundational tenet.

We are facing “the tragedy of our times;” and countries are “now so perilously close to the edge.” (Barbados prime minister Mia Mottley) Time is up; revolutionary socialists of all kinds need to set priorities. Let the discussion and work begin.

Author: W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine.

Source: Marxism-Leninism Today: The Electronic Journal of Marxist Leninist Thought, November 7, 2021,