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Tractor factory in the Soviet Union in 1972

Crisis of Socialism and Effects of Capitalist Restoration

This article will be released in full online April 13, 2020.

The main criticism leveled at the socialist economies was that a planned economy was inherently less efficient than a market one, due to the sheer scale of the bureaucratic task involved with planning a major economy. But the collapse of the Soviet and later the Russian economy under Mikhail Gorbachev and then Boris Yeltsin was an economic disaster that was otherwise unprecedented during times of peace. The world’s second superpower was reduced to the status of a minor bankrupt economy with a huge decline in industrial production and in living standards. | more…

Labor leader Clinton Jencks (center) in the fictionalized film "Salt of the Earth"

The Legacy of Clinton Jencks

This article will be released in full online April 27, 2020.

In 1950, the mainly Mexican and Mexican-American members of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Local 890 went on strike against Empire Zinc in southern New Mexico. One of the only fair-haired and pale-skinned union men in meetings and jail was Mine Mill organizer Clinton Jencks. Raymond Caballero’s study, McCarthyism vs. Clinton Jencks, exhaustively details how the federal government brought the entire weight of its repressive apparatus down on the heads of Jencks, his family, and his union siblings. | more…

Gilets jaunes, acte XVIII

The Yellow Vests in France

People or Proletariat?

The Yellow Vests (gilets jaunes) movement first appeared in October 2018 and is active everywhere in France. As this article was written, the spontaneous mobilization was in its twenty-first week. The demonstrations are mainly organized around traffic circles, where protesters block transportation lines. While their concrete demands are about wages, these demands are not presented by workers’ actions aimed at defending the value of labor power, but rather as part of a citizens’ movement, as referred to by the media and many of the demonstrators. In this way, the site of political confrontation has been shifted. | more…

Tell the Bosses We're Coming: A New Action Plan for Workers in the Twenty-First Century

Tell the Bosses We’re Coming: A New Action Plan for Workers in the Twenty-First Century

Forthcoming in May 2020

Lengthening hours, lessening pay, no parental leave, scant job security… Never have so many workers needed so much support. Yet the very labor unions that could garner us protections and help us speak up for ourselves are growing weaker every day. In an age of rampant inequality, of increasing social protest and strikes— and when a majority of workers say they want to be union members—why does union density continue to decline? Shaun Richman offers some answers in his book, Tell the Bosses We’re Coming. | more…

Safehouse in Ladvi near Prague used by Che Guevara

Cuba, Che Guevara, and the Problem of “Socialism in One Country”

The presidential elections in Cuba in March 2018 has raised again the question of the country’s survival. How can Cuba hold up and develop against the economic, cultural, and military encirclement of U.S. imperialism in particular and the capitalist system in general? An answer can be sought in the history of Cuba’s socialist transition, the unique role played by Che Guevara, and the emergence of ideas regarding the possibility (and impossibility) of achieving socialism in one country alone. | more…

Can the Working Class Change the World?

Can the Working Class Change the World?

One of the horrors of the capitalist system is that slave labor, which was central to the formation and growth of capitalism itself, is still fully able to coexist alongside wage labor. But, as Karl Marx pointed out, it is the fact of being paid for one’s work that validates capitalism as a viable socio-economic structure. Beneath this veil of “free commerce”—where workers are paid only for a portion of their workday, and buyers and sellers in the marketplace face each other as “equals”—lies a foundation of immense inequality. Yet workers have always rebelled. They’ve organized unions, struck, picketed, boycotted, formed political organizations and parties—sometimes they have actually won and improved their lives. In his timely and innovative book, Michael D. Yates asks if the working class can, indeed, change the world. | more…

Postcard depicting heroes of the October revolution in Petrograd

The Western Left and the Russian Revolution

For a century, the counterrevolutionary reaction to the events of October 1917 has arguably been the most determining ideological factor in Western politics. Today the victory of that counterrevolution is complete, but Western powers still need their inherited antithesis, in changing form, as self-justification. | more…

City Council members Gayle McLaughlin, Jovanka Beckles and Eduardo Martinez are all members of the anti-Chevron Richmond Progressive Alliance

A Progressive City Fights Back

In 2014, after years of grassroots organizing, a coalition of progressives transformed Richmond, California into the largest city in the United States governed by a Green Party mayor. But Richmond is not just Anytown: its economy and government has been dominated for a century by a giant Chevron refinery, and by a racist political machine determined to keep the city’s working-class and nonwhite majority out of power. | more…

2013 Immigration Reform March

Marx on Immigration

Workers, Wages, and Legal Status

Given the intense and often bitter debates over immigration now taking place in the United States and Europe…. [Marx’s thoughts on the subject have] received surprisingly little attention from the modern left.… [Marx wrote about immigrant workers] nearly 150 years ago, and he was certainly not infallible, but a great deal of his analysis sounds remarkably contemporary.… [And among his insights, largely ignored by economists and activists alike, is] the one Marx considered “most important of all”: the way immigration can be used to create “a working class divided into two hostile camps.” | more…

Chávez and the Communal State

On the Transition to Socialism in Venezuela

On October 20, 2012, less than two weeks after being reelected to his fourth term as Venezuelan president and only months before his death, Hugo Chávez delivered his crucial El Golpe de Timón (“Strike at the Helm”) speech to the first meeting of his ministers in the new revolutionary cycle. Chávez surprised even some of his strongest supporters by his insistence on the need for changes at the top in order to promote an immediate leap forward in the creation of what is referred to as “the communal state.” This was to accelerate the shift of power to the population that had begun with the formation of the communal councils (groupings of families involved in self-governance projects—in densely populated urban areas, 200–400 families; in rural areas, 50–100 families). The main aim in the new revolutionary cycle, he insisted, was to speed up the registration of communes, the key structure of the communal state. | more…