Socialism Seminar #2: On the collapse of the USSR

This post is in two main parts. The first consists of a quick analysis of class in Soviet society (i will expand more on this in future posts) and an explanation for how right-opportunist ideology was able to be put into action leading to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The second part consists of an examination of alternate theories of collapse.

in Is The Red Flag Flying (1979), Al Szymanski examined empirical research on the Soviet Union and came to the conclusion that the USSR was socialist, but that technical and professional intelligentsia (those “who develop and disseminate knowledge and skills and who provide professional services”) had disproportionate influence over policy. However, “the managerial stratum appears to be significantly closer to the manual working class than is the scientific-technical intelligentsia”.

There appears to be a high level of political participation in the Soviet Union, both through formal governmental channels and through the process of public opinion formation in the mass media. Public debate on a wide range of topics is real and growing in depth and significance. Support for the government is especially high amongst the working class. Manual workers are playing a greater and greater role in the self-management of enterprises…The pressures to maintain legitimacy push the power elite to take egalitarian and democratic measures. In sum, there appear to be numerous mechanisms by which real control is exerted by the producing classes over the power elite. The only important qualification to this statement is that the centre of gravity of power within the producing classes lies with the skilled workers and the mechanical and professional intelligentsia who seem to play a disproportionate role in public debates, the Communist Party, the government apparatus, and the decision making processes in economic enterprises. While democratic life in the Soviet Union seems to be real, it is not dominated by the peasantry and unskilled and semi-skilled workers but rather by the upper levels of the working class and professionals and experts of various kinds.

Socialism Betrayed by Keeran and Kennan noticed that this intelligentsia was dominated by right-opportunists who wanted to introduce capitalist “reforms”.

Recognizing problems on the one hand and explaining their origin and devising their solution on the other hand were of course two entirely different matters, and matters on which Communists disagreed. In general, the analysis of the economic problems fell into the two traditional camps: the camp with ideological links to Bukharin and Khrushchev and the camp with links to Lenin and Stalin. The former saw the problems as due to over-centralization, and for it the solution was decentralization, the use of market mechanisms, and the allowance of certain forms of private enterprise….Soviet economics of this mind represented only a minority, but they dominated three of the four leading academic institutes. A leading economist in this camp was Abel Aganbegyan, who later became a key adviser to Gorbachev.

The large amount of wheeling and dealing that occurred outside the official socialized economy contributed mightily to the Soviet downfall. First it created or exacerbated the economic and political problems the Soviet Union faced in the 1980s that gave rise to the need for reform. Secondly, it provided an economic basis for the ideas and policies that Gorbachev eventually adopted that doomed Soviet socialism.

Instead of combating illegal economic activity, Brezhnev let illegal economic activity and the corruption it caused happen unfettered.

In the early 1980s, crimes of speculation accounted for only 2 percent of all reported crimes. According to one estimate, the actual amount of speculation was a hundred times great. In retrospect, few other mistakes of the Soviet leadership did so much harm as the indifference toward illegal economic activity.

Whatever small and temporary benefits Soviet society may have reaped from the second economy, the costs far outstripped them. Most important, the second economy damaged the first economy. If the second economy satisfied some consumer appetites and deflected some discontent, it simultaneously stimulated these appetites and increased discontent….Moreover, the larger the illegal economy became, the more it interfered with the performance of the legitimate economy. Since the second economy involved stealing time and material from the socialist sector, it impaired socialism’s efficiency….Furthermore, the second economy undermined economic planning. if an enterprise compensated for a misallocation of resources by resorting to informal purchases or trades, the planners had no reason to correct future allocations.

How did the second economy influence the Communist Party? In one word, the answer was corruption….The peasantry that provided a class basis for Bukharin’s ideas did not require the corruption of the Party for its existence, but the entrepreneurs of the second economy did. Simply put, to exist and thrive, illegal producing and selling required the bribery of some Party and state officials, and the more organized and widespread this producing and selling became, the more corruption they required.

This caused perestroika to take on a distinctly pro-capitalist political and class character. The policy of slashing state orders by 50% (encouraged by the right-opportunist academics mentioned before), caused inflation to rise by 80% and created incentive to hoard. Instead of using central planning, Gorbachev redefined the role of ministries as “developing enterprise autonomy”.

As perestroika failed in one sphere, the damage rippled in all directions. Starting in 1988, economic hardship and separatism reinforced each other. As consumer shortages worsened in 1988, the tendency for various republics to hoard production and to go it alone increased. The USSR planned economy had developed as a single grid with a precise division of labor and specialization among republics. For example, one industrial complex in the Baltic region supplied paper cups for the USSR….The economic disorder and uncertainty field separatist fires, as each union republic sought to protect its economic interests as best it could.

Gorbachev’s opportunism wasn’t just a domestic policy, it was the basis of his foreign policy as well. He capitulated in nuclear arms talks, slashed $5 billion in aid to Cuba, betrayed Nicaragua, and betrayed South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, all in the name of appeasing imperialism.

The events of August 1991 are especially critical. A group of Soviet leaders dedicated to keeping socialism intact formed the State Committee for the State of Emergency. Gorbachev supported the state of emergency in its early stages, and the SCSE sent troops and tanks into Moscow. They made a declaration to the Soviet people that they would stop the theft of the people’s wealth which was causing the severe drop in the quality of life of the overwhelming majority of the population. This wasn’t a coup, this was a declaration of a State of Emergency that had the support of 70% of local officials in the Russian Republic according to Yeltsin’s own team.

However, the SCSE didn’t restrict the virulently anti-Communist media, and the media was able to frame the struggle as one between “democrats” and “conservatives”, when it was actually a struggle between counterrevolutionary capitalists and socialists. However, Gorbachev capitulated and withdrew his support at a critical moment, likely to please the US and European powers. Gorbachev was completely delegitimized, and resigned 6 months later, signing over the Soviet Union’s powers to the Russian Republic

In many ways the most disturbing aspect of the Soviet collapse was not that Gorbachev’s opportunism arose within the Soviet Communist Party. What was disturbing was that the Communist Party proved unable to thwart Gorbachev’s opportunism as it had thwarted that of his forerunners. Why was the CPSU less able to deal with Gorbachev in 1987 and 1988 then with Khrushchev in 1964, or Bukharin in 1929?

The Party failed to maintain vigilance against the second economy, corruption, was lax in its political education of its members, and democratic centralism deteriorated. The Party itself needed reform.

Part 2

there are 6 common misconceptions over the cause of the collapse

1. an inherent flaw of socialism

2. popular opposition

3. external factors

4. bureaucratic counter-revolution

5. lack of democracy/over-centralization

6. its all gorby’s fault

1. an inherent flaw of socialism

Socialism, as is defined by Lenin, was doomed from the start because it was based on mistaken assumptions about human nature

Jack Matlock, US Ambassador/professional hack

the main problem w/ this theory is that it views Soviet history as unfolding towards its collapse due to human nature. historical determinism based on human nature is considered by most historians to be total bullshit. this theory doesn’t take into account that the soviet union survived collectivization and world war 2, both of which were far bigger challenges than the 80s.

the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that it was Gorbachev’s policies of destabilizing the Party, turning over the media to right-wing forces, rash changes in state purchases, and a domestic and foreign policy that is primarily defined by opportunism that were the cause of the crises that led to the collapse.

2. popular opposition

there’s a saying, glasnost gave Soviet citizens the right to criticize, perestroika gave them something to criticize. while there was some unrest, it came after gorby’s market reforms that were laying the groundwork for a transition to capitalism.

polls were taken in 1990 and 1991 showing that the majority of Soviet citizens were satisfied with their lives and satisfaction with the Soviet system was comparable to american satisfaction with theirs. Soviet citizens supported public ownership, price controls, and the maintenance of the Soviet Union by large majorities.

3. external factors

this theory puts it all on reagan for Defeating The Communists with his brilliant plan of throwing a shit ton of money at his weapons manufacturer buddies.

the problems with this is that the increase in military spending in the us had no effect on the USSR’s military spending according to Soviet insiders. while Soviet society never had the luxury of focusing on internal development without the threat of annihilation, it was not a direct cause of the collapse.

4.bureaucratic counter-revolution

this theory basically argues that the bureaucracy formed into a possessing class
and the breakup was a result of the Yeltsin faction of the bureaucracy defeating the Gorbachev faction. however, this doesn’t explain why the bureaucracy apparently backed Andropov’s Marxist-Leninist point of view in 83, gorbachev’s revisionist reformist ideology in 87, and yeltsin’s free market cannibalism in 93. this is highly inconsistent, and since theft from the state by the bureaucracy was embyonic in 87 and became more and more blatant in the 90s suggests that outside class forces were causing the collapse and opportunists within the bureaucracy jumped on board.

An authoritative, in-depth study based on interviews with the Party elite showed that the bureaucracy was incapable of collective action to save or hurry the dismantling of the system.

5.lack of democracy/over-centralization
this theory attempts to save socialism by distancing it from the Soviet Union. It argues “The Soviet Communists screwed up, but we are different and smarter. They were too bureaucratic, undemocratic, and over-centralized, but we know better than that.” This explanation doesnt have any explanatory power, whatsoever, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a common anti-Communist staple. It makes up for analysis with lofty utopianism and tries to explain history by the degree to which a country conforms to an ideal, instead of looking at the material conditions behind the collapse.

6.its all gorby’s fault

while the role of gorbachev can’t be ignored, many writers see a long-term plan behind gorbachev’s actions. however, this view disregards the fact that his beliefs in weakening the Party, expanding private property and capitalist market relations reflected the interests of the growing illegal private sector. one of gorbachev’s main characteristics was opportunism, he capitulated to imperialist pressures abroad as well as corrupt interests at home.


labor aristocracy and the first world left


Why is the Left so broken?

Is it because of the failure of so-called Soviet Socialism? Or is it because of lack of support from the working classes? Or because traditional leftist philosophy does not account for the fresh problems wrought upon society by modern capitalism, such as the destruction of the environment?

To some extent, I believe the answer to all of the above is yes, although these factors tend not to paint the whole picture. I believe one of the fundamental problems experienced by the modern Left is political confusion. From the outset, the Left needs to operate on an anti-political basis. Any leftist organization attempting to establish influence via the mainstream framework of bourgeois parliamentary democracy defeats its revolutionary outlook immediately by submitting to the reactionary environment of bourgeois politics, thus wasting its revolutionary resources in the process. Democratic mandates can be sought elsewhere: most notably through the independent implementation of polls and petitions, as well as via the means of popular debate. My second point is that the Left needs to make a sustained effort to address the forceful presence of right-wing propaganda, which, needless to say, is everywhere. This effort ought to be unashamed and determined not only in its assault on capitalism itself, but also in its response to the vile and baseless, yet largely successful accusations directed toward leftist ideology by conservative propagandists and commentators. It is also important to note that by ‘propaganda’, I am referring not only to political forms of persuasion, but to the modes of ‘advertising’ which support and purport the supremacy of capitalism in a decidedly non-political but equally devastating fashion. The distraction of consumer-fetishism is an all too powerful one in our modern media-driven society.

Thirdly, and perhaps most pertinently, the Left must remember that it is capitalism that is broken (or never worked), and thus any determination that leftist-ideologies are utopian or fundamentally flawed must be instantly dismissed. Across its entire spectrum the Left must absolve itself of a culture that is ‘pervaded by a deep, corrosive pessimism about the possibilities of a radically different social order.’[1]

Let us reassure ourselves of the morally admirable aim of our intentions. Let us put aside the minutiae which divide our ranks and thus strengthen the position of our common enemy. Let us recognize that the future is malleable, and the future is now.

I have a lot of problems with this essay, a lot of your criticisms just don’t seem to match up with the actual situation in the world.

1. Pretty much every single leftist party/group/formation lambasts capitalism for its devastating effect on nature. Marx was a vocal critic of this as well.

2. When you say the Left should be anti-political, it sounds like you mean revolutionary. You describe reformism, but reform is not the only form of politics.

3. What is the best usage for the very limited resources of most leftist organizations? Effectively combating capitalist propaganda requires a lot of money, because that’s how the media is set up. Pretty much all leftist parties/groups/formations put forward their own ideas against capitalist propaganda. Why is spending that money more important than making an immediate improvement in the lives of working people? I’m not saying that fighting propaganda is irrelevant, but on a limited budget and considering how the media works, it should be on the backburner. What are you concretely looking for?

Earlier in the post, you mention that there is a lack of working class support for leftist organizations (I’m assuming youre talking about the first world), instead of looking at this as a philosophical, organizational, or moral failure, we should look at the material conditions.

While the working class generally isn’t supportive of the Left in the first world, this isn’t the case everywhere. Nepal’s communists overthrew the monarchy, India’s communists and adivasis are waging a war of self-defense against the Indian ruling class and US imperialism and controlled 1/3 of India at one point, FARC-EP has mass support in most of the Colombian countryside and has created a radical new social order there, and US-sponsored neoliberalism is being rolled back all across Latin America.

There’s a reason that the Left is dead in most of the First World and is being revived everywhere else, and it’s because of the benefits First Worlders receive from imperialism and neocolonialism. Here’s a good post on it:

I hope you keep blogging!

Female Genital Mutilation: The failure of neoliberal feminism

h/t to discipline

A march took place in London Harley street today to raise awareness of the increase in gynaecological cosmetic surgery.

In Western countries FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is associated with tribal cultures and Islamic extremism. Articles inviting us to express horror at the primitiveness of other cultures and religions proliferate in the media. This emphasis diverts attention away  from the fact that FGM is also a highly prevalent cultural practice of Western countries.

 The Western version of FGM is perhaps even more pernicious because it carries with it the added taint of Western cultural imperialism, and is legitimized by the medical profession and the governments run by white males, meaning politicians do not regard it as an issue worth discussing.

Labiaplasty is an operation undertaken to “tidy up” and “neaten” the look of the vulva, and is the latest example of the lengths women must go to in order to make their bodies acceptable to men.

It has its roots in porn.

In Beauty and Misogyny, Sheila Jeffreys painstakingly examines the link between pornography and beauty norms, demonstrating that just as women’s fashion orginates in porn, so does what is considered to be an acceptable body shape for women. Having long ago conquered women’s psyches when it comes to weight anxiety and worries about breast size, now the media (in cahoots with the medical industry) focuses on manufacturing hang-ups about the appearance of genitals.

“In pornography women’s labia are frequently airbrushed so that they are uniform. The women do not have obviously unequally sized labia or particularly long labia because they are tidied up in the airbrushing so that men will not be offended, and able to purchase a uniform product. But airbrushing is not enough and women in porn regularly employ labiaplasty, in which the labia are cut to shape, to create the regulation look. This pornographic practice has an impact on women outside the industry when boyfriends pressure women to look like hairless pornstars. Women, already trained in male dominant cultures to dislike their genitals, notice their genitalia more. They may worry that they are not like those on the women in porn, or their male partners may make this clear to them.” (Jeffreys, p.83)

Today, girls in their mid-teens are worried about the appearance of their genitals. The negative messages of the malestream media are compounded by the fact that most women and girls do not know what each other’s normal genitals look like. They believe the appearance of the women in porn is the norm, when in fact it is not. The medical profession is cashing in on society’s carefully cultivated disgust of the female body.

This issue is often dismissed as being apolitical because Western women are said to choose to go under the knife, whereas Muslim women do not. But the “choice” argument ignores social pressure to conform and the fact that many women perceive (correctly perhaps) that if their bodies are pleasing to men it will help them survive, either by enabling them to find a male spouse, or by facilitating their entry into the sex industry (which is, by the way, very well-paid compared to the pink-collar ghetto.)

Couple this with the garden-variety disgust that women are taught to feel towards their bodies, which has a long history in Western culture, and you get a cultural backdrop whereby women are coerced into surgery in order to feel normal perhaps, or at least less of a freak. It is these pressures which drive women to “neaten themselves up”, not vanity.

Protestors at the march also dressed up in nude bodysuits decorated with lavish pubic hair as a nod to the beauty standard of hairlessness now foisted upon women.

Pubic hair on women has long been regarded as an obscenity, and in order to evade bullying and harassment women shave and wax. Any woman who believes she is doing this by choice should try not doing next time she visits the beach or pool…and see what happens when a group of boys or men spot her pubes hanging out of her swimsuit…


As Allan Johnson explains in The Gender Knot:

In addition to socialization, participation in social systems shapes out behavior through paths of least resistance, a concept that refers to the conscious and unconscious choices we make from one moment to the next….Patriarchy is a kind of society organized around certain kinds of social relationships and ideas that shape paths of least resistance….If a society is oppressive, then people who grow up and live in it will tend to accept, identify with, and participate in it as “normal” and unremarkable life. That’s the path of leaast resistance in any system. It’s hard not to follow it, given how we depend on society and its rewardsa and punishment that hinge on going along with the status quo.

Meghan Murphy has written some awesome stuff on choice in feminism


Within feminist or, what some might call ‘post-feminist’ discourse today, ‘choice’ is front and center – it makes up the framework within which so many debates begin and end. And indeed, ‘choice’ is often used as a way to end the conversation. “Well, it’s my choice.” or “No one was ‘forced’ they just ‘chose’ to take off their shirts.” or “These women aren’t victims, they have ‘choice.” are commonly thrown about as ways to defend women’s choices and actions as being representative of freedom and to present every female choice as, in fact, a feminist act.

This kind of ‘anything-goes-so-long-as-we-call-it-a-choice’ discourse often, rather than signaling collective female power and freedom, is a co-optation feminist language used for individual means. Often this version of ‘choice’ is used in order to frame sexist imagery and actions as something that empowers women, when in fact, it is often doing nothing of the sort. While certainly ‘choice’ is one of the founding concepts of the feminist movement, and of primary importance, I can’t help but feel as though it has been taken from us; that the word ‘choice’ continues to represent feminism but is more often used in an entirely ‘unfeminist’ way. I believe we are beginning to forget where ‘choice’ came from and what it means. And I think it’s time we started paying attention.

Choice became a key part of feminist language and action as an integral aspect and rallying call within the fight for reproductive rights – the right to choose whether or not we wanted to get pregnant and to choose what we wanted for our bodies and lives. This choice was, and is, a fundamental aspect of the feminist movement because it impacts our ability to be empowered and autonomous in, not only the home and as individuals , but in other, more public, aspects of life and society. Having reproductive rights means we get to make real choices about what happens to our bodies, real choices about education, work, marriage, and family.

As of late, though, it has become standard to talk about ‘choice’ in terms of individual choice rather than collective choice (and collective freedom). As though ‘MY CHOICE’ could not possibly affect anyone in the world except for the individual who is making it. And, as though ‘HER CHOICE’ can somehow negate any justifiable criticism or questioning of said choice or the context within which said choice was made. Used in this context, it is a way a shutting down the conversation. And where would feminism be (and where will it go) without conversation and critique?


Postmodern Racism and OWS: The myth of non-hierarchy

what the heck is pomo? well here’s a cool chart

(from the condition of postmodernity by david harvey)

Clearly the occupy movement is a perfect paragon of the pomo paradigm!

Racism in the Occupy movement

When formal hierarchies are attacked and dismantled, oppressive social power doesn’t disappear, it intensifies along informal social hierarchal lines. This was critiqued by Jo Freeman in her essay “The Tyranny of Structurelessness”:

Contrary to what we would like to believe, there is no such thing as a structureless group. Any group of people of whatever nature that comes together for any length of time for any purpose will inevitably structure itself in some fashion. The structure may be flexible; it may vary over time; it may evenly or unevenly distribute tasks, power and resources over the members of the group. But it will be formed regardless of the abilities, personalities, or intentions of the people involved. The very fact that we are individuals, with different talents, predispositions, and backgrounds makes this inevitable. Only if we refused to relate or interact on any basis whatsoever could we approximate structurelessness — and that is not the nature of a human group.

Critical thinkers need to look at the hidden structure behind the occupations. Due to the nature of the occupations and the societies they operate in, these structures are broadly white supremacist and sexist, with local variations.

According to the main websites associated with #OccupyWallStreet, it is “one people, united,” a “leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions,” and an “open, participatory and horizontally organized process.” In other words, it professes to be the universal protest against the greed and corruption rampant in our society, open for anyone to join and shape.

But a quick survey of the movement so far shows that that the good intentions outlined do not reflect the reality of the situation.  There is indeed an organizational structure and a core group that makes leadership decisions in #OWS (and we think this is a good thing). They are the media team at the media command center, the committee facilitators and the people who have been actually occupying the park for the past three weeks. One only needs to take a good look around to see that the leadership and the core group—which has managed to attract enormous national and international media attention—is overwhelmingly white (and largely male), and as a result the voices and perspectives of #OccupyWallStreet reflect that reality more generally.

One striking example of the marginalization of non-white voices within the movement was seen at the march on Friday against police brutality. Because this march was organized by activist groups in conjunction with #OWS, it was by far the most diverse rally yet. But towards the end of the march, when organizers were speaking to the group at One Police Plaza, a black woman near the speakers was clearly agitating for her voice to be heard. Despite the line of white people speaking before her, a white #OWS organizer spoke to the crowd and informed them that within a few minutes, the march would be over and everyone should leave peacefully. Of course, that meant that as soon as he was finished speaking everyone got up to leave. As the black woman (the lone black voice speaking in a march against police brutality) got up to speak, her voice was lost because by that point no one was paying attention.

In this case, the marginalization was not intentional: a PSA was made to inform people to ensure the rally’s peaceful closure. But most racial marginalization is indeed “unintentional.” In this case the silenced black woman was going to speak about her close relative, who was killed by police. She was the only person speaking with a personal relationship to police brutality at a level almost unimaginable to the people occupying Zucotti Park, and her voice was not heard.

The 99% rhetoric ignores wildly divergent class interests

One picture symbolizes this especially well:

Broad American Populism = White Supremacy

Notions of broad American populism are popular on the white “left”, but nearly all the gains from broad American populism go to a privileged strata of white people. When radicals divorce the 99% rhetoric from the history of American populism, they are ignoring how that broad rhetoric has been used to exclude the needs of the disenfranchised. Without a POC-centered strategy, nothing is stopping the ruling class from using the same tools to reduce class tensions. The biggest threat to the occupy movement isn’t cops or cold weather, it’s the dropping white unemployment rate. My prediction is that the same thing will happen to OWS as what happened with its fraternal twin, the Tent City movement in Israel. after the white radicals get bored or get jobs, the only people left will be those most vulnerable, then the cops can sweep in and remove them without anyone giving a shit.

Less known are more recent government racial preferences, first enacted during the New Deal, that directed wealth to white families and continue to shape life opportunities and chances today.

The landmark Social Security Act of 1935 provided a safety net for millions of workers, guaranteeing them an income after retirement. But the act specifically excluded two occupations: agricultural workers and domestic servants, who were predominately African American, Mexican, and Asian. As low-income workers, they also had the least opportunity to save for their retirement. They couldn’t pass wealth on to their children. Just the opposite. Their children had to support them.

Like Social Security, the 1935 Wagner Act helped establish an important new right for white people. By granting unions the power of collective bargaining, it helped millions of white workers gain entry into the middle class over the next 30 years. But the Wagner Act permitted unions to exclude non-whites and deny them access to better paid jobs and union protections and benefits such as health care, job security, and pensions. Many craft unions remained nearly all-white well into the 1970s. In 1972, for example, every single one of the 3,000 members of Los Angeles Steam Fitters Local #250 was still white.

But it was another racialized New Deal program, the Federal Housing Administration, that helped generate much of the wealth that so many white families enjoy today. These revolutionary programs made it possible for millions of average white Americans – but not others – to own a home for the first time. The government set up a national neighborhood appraisal system, explicitly tying mortgage eligibility to race. Integrated communities were ipso facto deemed a financial risk and made ineligible for home loans, a policy known today as “redlining.” Between 1934 and 1962, the federal government backed $120 billion of home loans. More than 98% went to whites. Of the 350,000 new homes built with federal support in northern California between 1946 and 1960, fewer than 100 went to African Americans.

These government programs made possible the new segregated white suburbs that sprang up around the country after World War II. Government subsidies for municipal services helped develop and enhance these suburbs further, in turn fueling commercial investments. Freeways tied the new suburbs to central business districts, but they often cut through and destroyed the vitality of non-white neighborhoods in the central city.

Today, Black and Latino mortgage applicants are still 60% more likely than whites to be turned down for a loan, even after controlling for employment, financial, and neighborhood factors. According to the Census, whites are more likely to be segregated than any other group. As recently as 1993, 86% of suburban whites still lived in neighborhoods with a black population of less than 1%.

Reaping the Rewards of Racial Preference

One result of the generations of preferential treatment for whites is that a typical white family today has on average eight times the assets, or net worth, of a typical African American family, according to New York University economist Edward Wolff. Even when families of the same income are compared, white families have more than twice the wealth of Black families. Much of that wealth difference can be attributed to the value of one’s home, and how much one inherited from parents.

But a family’s net worth is not simply the finish line, it’s also the starting point for the next generation. Those with wealth pass their assets on to their children – by financing a college education, lending a hand during hard times, or assisting with the down payment for a home. Some economists estimate that up to 80 percent of lifetime wealth accumulation depends on these intergenerational transfers. White advantage is passed down, from parent to child to grand-child. As a result, the racial wealth gap – and the head start enjoyed by whites – appears to have grown since the civil rights days.

Since Occupy cannot escape its pomo prison, it is likely that all the benefits will only go to the pale, pasty protesters and not those who need it the most.

The White “Left”

During a large anti-Klan march, the local RCP posse broke off as an all white contingent and proceeded into the courtyard of a predominantly Black housing project, declaring to the crowd gathered there, “We’re here to save you [from the Klan]!” The RCP, along with the Guardian Angels, Spartacist League, and officers from the Atlanta police department were chased out of there by a hail of bricks, bottles, and whatever else angry residents could get their hands on.


The ISO, Libya, and the need for self-criticism

This is somewhat of a reply to zedweiller’s post here and a continuance of our discussion here, but my criticisms aren’t really of his positions, but of the ISO’s.

The problem with the ISO was that they refused to report facts about the NATO rebels that didn’t fit their initial analysis of the events in Libya. From the beginning, they claimed that the NATO rebels were a popular uprising by a broad swath of the producing classes of Libya. Under the circumstances, this is an understandable misconception, because Al Jazeera and other media networks were pumping out tons of misinformation (more on al jazeera’s propaganda here: However, after a few weeks it was crystal clear that this was not a popular uprising, but an uprising by a coalition of bin ladenites, monarchists, and neoliberals rife with ethnic cleansing.

The problem with the ISO isn’t that they criticized the Libyan government, it is that they refused to report facts that didn’t fit their analysis, leading them to be far less critical of the rebels than mainstream outlets like ABC, Fox news, and NBC.

If someone only got their information on Libya from the ISO newspaper, here’s some of the facts they would be completely unaware of:

  • 1 million people (~1/6 of the country) came out in support of the Libyan government
  • Amnesty International showed that there weren’t any cases of mass rape, anti-aircraft guns being used against protesters, African mercenaries were not used, aircraft machine guns were not used against protesters, and there was no evidence of genocide by the Libyan government.
  • Tawergha, a town that used to be populated by mostly black Libyans, was completely depopulated and ethnically cleansed by the NATO rebels.
  • NATO rebels are torturing anyone they suspect of supporting Gaddafi (these people are mostly black)
  • Black Libyans were being mass arrested by NATO rebels.
  • NATO rebels were creating fake mass grave sites

The Amnesty International report debunked several of the false claims that the ISO made, yet there was no retraction or notification. Instead, they refused to report it. This is what separates criticism from assisting the propaganda war.

I believe the cause of this “selective” media reporting is a result of the ISO’s polemical stance early in the anti-Libya campaign, where they attacked organizations that questioned the rebels. To admit that the rebels are a racist, extremist group wiping entire towns of black Libyans off the map would mean that their initial analysis was wrong.

As I’ve said before, this is not the first time that the ISO has uncritically supported neoliberal movements in countries targeted by western imperialism.

While the capitalist media skews their reporting based on dollars, the ISO skewed their reporting based on the Party line. Self-criticism is needed to prevent another Yugoslavia and another Libya.

For those interested in the real reasons behind the US intervention, read this:

Is prostitution a job like any other?


Was reading Martha Nussbaum’s essay on prostitution earlier today and some of her points are truly brilliant.

For anyone who hasn’t read it, Nussbaum believes that prostitution is no worse than other jobs that exist legally in the world today and that the reasons we use to ban it are…

theres a lot of reasons that prostitution is far worse than other jobs that exist legally. 90% of Native American women who have been prostituted are raped.

here’s one of the best essays ive read about why prostitution cannot be a job like any other

its worth reading the comments as well



Valid point, but a lot of the issues like the danger of getting raped, abused, or murdered would be solved with legalization. If it was regulated there could be police protection. The violence would decrease dramatically.

The idea that prostitution is a “violation” is always one that puzzled me. Consenting to have someone enter your personal space is not a violation. If someone pays you and you agree to let them enter your personal space that it is an agreement. Is it really that different from someone being paid to be a nude model? Someone being paid to test invasive medical equipment? Sure, there’s sex. But that’s just another type of personal space. 

I really think that prostitution is just another job that someone can choose, whether they are down on their luck or really just like having sex with multiple people (let’s not pretend there aren’t people like this in the world). I don’t think the answer is getting rid of the option. The answer is making the option safer. 

no, they wouldn’t be solved by legalization at all. the women most at risk of being raped, abused, and murdered are far less likely to meet the standards for regulation (like passing clean on drug and STD tests).

This paragraph by Meghan Murphy sums up why just because women make a choice to do something doesn’t mean its okay:

Prostitution exists because of the inextricable link between capitalism and patriarchy. The two, under these circumstances, cannot be separated. Desperation, poverty, abuse, addiction, a lack of other opportunities for work, a need to pay the rent and feed the kids, a history of colonialism and racism, and of course, a misogynistic culture that treats women as things that exist to feed the capitalist wheel, to sell and to be sold,  all work together to create a society wherein prostitution not only exists, but thrives (if you consider an abundance of men profiting from prostitution and sex industries ‘thriving’). Why is the response to the abuse, to the exploitation, to the deaths, and to the trauma that many women experience as a result of being prostituted, to treat this as simply ‘a job like any other’? What other job demands that the employee be violated? Maybe raped? Maybe abused? Maybe murdered? Maybe called horrid names until self-confidence has been worn down to a thread? Maybe develop PTSD? What progressive person would argue that this kind of treatment should be legitimized? That women’s bodies, indeed, should be available for purchase by men? And that men should feel A-OK about that?

For 90% of women, they would not “choose” prostitution if capitalism wasn’t forcing it on them. This is not a choice that is made freely, it is made under extreme duress.

Another fantastic essay by her debunks the “choice is the only thing that matters” narrative (I really suggest reading the whole thing):

I think you are partly right though, decriminalization would decrease a lot of the abuses. But it will never make prostitution like any other work, because of capitalism and patriarchy. Meghan Murphy supports decriminalization and efforts at regulation, but she also recognizes that these efforts will help those with the most resources.

We want women to be safe, but we also want women to be human. We want women to have rights, but we also want women to have real choices. We want respect and equitable treatment for women but we don’t believe that johns will ever provide this. No man who thinks he has the right to purchase women is a man who believes in real equality and a man who can legally do this is a man who thinks that this is what women should do for him. No woman should be thrown in jail for having to do what she needs to in order to survive, but certainly we don’t need to accept and legalize exploitation from men in order to decriminalize the women?



You, again, make some great points, and I agree with some of what you are saying. I would like to point out that a lot of jobs are harmful to the workers, but they are still legal. Yes, perhaps those jobs don’t come with the precise dangers that prostitution does (and I would say that’s because they are legal, regulated, and don’t come with the stigma of a sex worker), but they still carry very real dangers and downsides. All jobs chosen by desperate people are going to have extreme downsides.

The male dominated society we live in is indeed harming prostitutes, but it’s not because of their job, it’s because of how society treats them because of that job. The actual act of selling sex is not what’s harmful. (And it is selling sex, not selling women. Exceptions of course are made for those in prostitution due to kidnapping, trickery, blackmail, etc. These cases are BAD and should definitely be illegal, no question.) What’s harmful are the consequences society imposes to keep prostitutes in the gutter. We don’t want prostitutes to be respectable, so we disgrace them. But what is REALLY wrong about selling sex? I can’t seem to find a satisfactory answer for this. Sure, selling sex will never quite be like any other job, but does that mean it’s not a job worth having around? 

I think the main difference in our opinions is where the source of violence against women who are prostituted comes from. I don’t mean to misrepresent you, but it seems like you’re arguing that it stems mainly from its illegality and negative stigma, whereas I think it comes from interlocking systems of oppression (patriarchy, racism, and capitalism are the big 3).

If there was any other job that was illegal, would 90% of Native American women who worked in that job be raped? We know for a fact that this isn’t true, there is something about prostitution which makes it unlike other forms of work.

For a long time, feminists have viewed sex as more than genital contact. Since 90% of women are not being prostituted out of their own free will (they are being forced into it by capitalism), prostitution should not be viewed as sex work, because for the vast majority of women it clearly does not fit the enthusiastic consent model.

Not only that but when we frame sex as work, we work from an assumption that sex can be something that exists only for male pleasure. That sex can be something that happens to women but does not require that women feel pleasure as part of the act.

The reason for a man to buy sex from a woman is, without a doubt, because he desires pleasure without having to give anything in return. This is a male-centered purchase. If we are to define sex as something pleasurable for both parties then how on earth can we define prostitution as sex work? There is something decidedly unprogressive about calling something ‘sex’ when the act is, in fact, solely about providing pleasure for one party (the male party) without any regard for the woman with whom you are engaging in this supposed ‘sex’ with. Doesn’t this defy the whole enthusiastic consent model?

You cannot divorce a choice from the conditions that the choice is made under. If it is the choice between being prostituted or starving on the streets, that isn’t much of a choice.

There was an excellent comment on one of the feminisms posts I linked:

From “A Research Report Based on Interviews with 110 Men Who Bought Women in Prostitution”:

-One-fourth to one-third of the men we interviewed endorsed rape-tolerant attitudes.

-12% told us that the rape of a prostitute or call girl was not possible.

-10% asserted that the concept of rape simply does not apply to women in prostitution.

-22% of our interviewees explained that once he pays for it, the customer is entitled to do
whatever he wants to the woman he buys.

From “Comparing Sex Buyers with Men Who Don’t Buy Sex”:

-Thirty-seven percent of sex buyers and 21% of non-sex buyers think that once sex is paid for, women are obligated do whatever the buyer wants

-Both sex buyers and non-sex buyers evidenced extensive knowledge of the physical and psychological harms of prostitution. The men observed common psychological symptoms include low self-esteem, depression, substance abuse disorders, and dissociative disorders.

-Paradoxically, while viewing prostituted women as degraded objects who were different from other women, at the same time, a number of men understood that their extremely negative attitudes toward women in prostitution inevitably also contaminated their own relationships with other women.

-Several men clearly expressed their awareness of – and their satisfaction with – the falseness of the women’s emotional expression. “The best part about going to prostitutes is you don‘t have to worry about them feeling good because they‘re going to fake it no matter what. So you can just focus on having a good time yourself.”

From “Men who buy sex
Who they buy and what they know”:

-Twenty-five per cent told us that the very concept of raping a prostitute or call girl was “ridiculous.”

-Sixteen per cent stated that they would rape a woman if they could be assured that they would not be caught.

-Acknowledging their sexually coercive behaviours with non-prostitute women, 37% told us that they had tricked non-prostituting women into having sex by lying to them.

-Twenty-seven per cent of our interviewees explained that once he pays, the customer is entitled to engage in any act he chooses with the woman he buys.

-Forty-seven per cent of these London men expressed the view to a greater or lesser degree that women did not always have certain rights during prostitution.

-As Kinnell (2008) argues, such men believe that “buying sex entitles them to do anything they want” (p264) or that paying “gave them the right to inflict any kind of assault they chose” (p86).

The fundamental cause of these attitudes is patriarchy, which does not disappear with regulation. Yes, fewer women will be abused and raped because of decriminalization, but the driving force of these attitudes will still exist. I think we agree on part of this, but instead of calling it patriarchy, you’re calling it stigma against women who are prostituted. But the stigma doesn’t come from the legal system, it comes from patriarchy. However, when you recognize that its patriarchy that’s the cause, then decriminalizing it doesn’t change the stigma against women who are prostituted.