A comradely response to Mike Gonzalez’s ‘Letters from Venezuela’

April 16, 2014

Gonzalez T02812Dan Gent has written a response to Mike Gonzalez’s recent ‘Letters from Venezuela‘, in which he counters Mike’s perspective on the unfolding political turmoil in Venezuela, arguing that Chavismo and the Bolivarian revolution is not so close to being destroyed as may be apparent.

The article was published on 11th April in LINKS – the International Journal of Socialist Review. We’ve reproduced the first section below. You can read the whole thing on the LINKS website, here. We also sat down with Mike Gonzalez two weeks ago to get his thoughts on the situation in Venezuela. The interview was filmed, and is embedded below. To find out more about his most recent book, Hugo Chavez: Socialist for the Twenty-first Century (Pluto, 2014), click on the cover image.

Dan Gent

Opposition protests have rocked Venezuela for over a month now and in many areas barricades remain. These had already been going on for a while in Merida and being called protests is a loose term as these have mainly involved youths with their faces covered, setting up burning barricades in the street to completely block the road, mostly lacking any political slogans or any message. These started with students from the University of Los Andes, one of Venezuela’s elite universities, who would repeatedly block the main road of Merida (Avenida de Las Americas). Supported by the university management (who have always been anti-Chavista) who would then shut the university down whenever the tyre burning started. These protests only involved a hand full of people who would then run into the university whenever the police arrived, exploiting the fact that the police can’t legally enter the university and that the management would do nothing to help the police arrest them.

These events started to spread throughout the country when on the 22nd of January, Leopold Lopez (one of the signatories to the 2002 coup attempt) and a group of opposition leaders demanded “La Salida” (the exit) of the Chavista government. In Tachira, in early February, opposition supporters attacked the state Governor’s house with Molotov cocktails leading to a string of arrests, and then on the 12th of February, National Youth Day, the opposition marches ended in violence with many public buildings in central Caracas destroyed. Since then the various tyre burnings and blockades in major roads have escalated into permanent barricades closing off entire areas of cities. While these barricades have been responsible for many deaths and caused much disruption across the country, they are only present in a handful of opposition ran municipalities.


I have spent the last 6 weeks living in Merida, the capital of Merida state and a stronghold for the opposition, and the middle class area of the main road of Avenida Las Americas has been blocked by barricades resembling a war zone for weeks now. But take a bus for an hour in any direction and you wouldn’t know there was a problem. Recently I went to Elorza in the region “Los Llanos”, a huge flat plain several times the size of the UK, where the place is covered with PSUV propaganda. I took a ride on a mototaxi in solid red with PSUV logos all over it, and a rode in a speedboat with PSUV propaganda covering the engine. The riots in east Caracas and Merida feel as far away as they do in England. It is very important to note that the riots only affect core opposition areas and are not moving into other areas, especially not Chavista areas. As Mike says in his article, he lives in “a middle class dormitory suburb” of Caracas. Now I don’t want to attack him as I’m not about to move to a barrio, but where you live does affect how you view the situation. Presumably this area is in the east of the city, the highest average earnings in Venezuela, solid 80+% vote for the opposition and one of the epicentres of the recent opposition violence.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Are Corporations Really Hogging Workers’ Wages?

April 10, 2014

Andrew Kliman is the author of The Failure of Capitalist Production. In a new article for truthdig.com he looks at productivity and wages, and dissects the ever expanding gap between them. We’ve reproduced an extract below. You can read the full thing on the truthdig website, here.

Buy The Failure of Capitalist Production with 10% off from Pluto PressWhat if some of the most respected economists in the world told you that as an employee, your pay is 40 percent lower than it would be if it had increased in recent decades at the same rate as your productivity? If you are a typical American worker, that is how large the gap in your pay became by 2011, according to the Economic Policy Institute, one of the most trusted liberal think tanks in the nation.

In its 2012 study, “The State of Working America,” the EPI reported that between 1973 and 2011, the goods and services produced per hour of work (which economists call productivity) in the American economy “grew strongly, especially after 1995, while the typical worker’s compensation was relatively stagnant.” Productivity increased by more than 80 percent in the interim, even after adjusting for inflation, but the hourly compensation of those who held production and nonsupervisory positions increased by less than 11 percent. The EPI contended that this “divergence of pay and productivity has meant that many workers were not benefiting from productivity growth—the economy could afford higher pay but was not providing it.”

The “productivity/compensation gap,” as journalists and academics call it, has become a flashpoint in the debate over income inequality. Equipped with statistics like those produced by the EPI, trusting activists and members of the press point to the supposed gap as proof that corporate profits have been rising at the expense of employees’ compensation—not just since the Great Recession, but throughout the last four decades. (For an example of such a claim, see the piece written by Doug Henwood, editor of the Left Business Observer, in the opinion pages of March 30’s New York Times.)

To read the rest of this article, go to truthdig.com.

‘Black Star’ at Bristol Anarchist Bookfair

April 10, 2014

ARamamurthy T02692s part of this year’s Bristol Anarchist Bookfair, the Bristol Radical History Group will be hosting a series of talks at Hydra Books and we are delighted to announce that Anandi Ramamurthy, author of Black Star: Britain’s Asian Youth Movements (Pluto, 2013), will be one of those invited to speak. The event will be taking place on Sunday 26th April and will be free admission to all who wish to attend. Anandi, a Senior Lecturer in Film and Media at the University of Central Lancashire, will be discussing the issues raised in her book especially the structural and ideological prejudice faced by young Asian people in Britain and their radical political struggles to overcome it.

You can find more information about the event here and why not pick up a copy of the book beforehand so you can come ready to take part in what is sure to be a fruitful and enlightening discussion.

Jeremy Gilbert talks to Compass

April 9, 2014

Gilbert T01517If you haven’t read Jeremy Gilbert’s Common Ground (Pluto, 2014) yet, then you really should. The book is a vital contribution to the debate around neoliberalism – What is it? What has it done to us? How do we defeat it? Displaying both an impressive breadth of reading (Deleueze, Badiou, Laclau, Gramsci etc.) and striking erudition, Gilbert takes aim at the modern crisis of democracy which he roots in the neoliberal ideology of the individual and charts a way through it and out of it.

Unlike some contemporary social theorists who tackle the “big questions”, however, Gilbert also has a practical grasp on the political questions of the day, and nowhere is that more evident than in a long article he has written for Compass in which he introduces his book and explains its key political message, free from philosophical jargon:

Representative democracy has not really been effective in countries such as the UK since the 1970s, when the era of post-war ‘consensus’ gave way to one in which successive governments have implemented a neoliberal programme in the interests of a tiny elite, while rarely if ever enjoying a legitimate popular mandate for doing so. This is not to say that there was ever much of a democratic ‘golden age’, but governments from the 30s to the 70s more-or-less required popular support for the general direction of policy and for major undertakings such as foreign wars, and during this period – almost uniquely since the industrial revolution – the gap between rich and poor shrank significantly. However, this was a very different age from our own or from the ones which preceded it. It was the epoch of mass industry, mass culture, social conformism and centralised state power, the latter being manifested both in the extremes of Soviet and fascist totalitarianism and in the more benign bureaucratic paternalism of the welfare state. But the repressive dimensions of such authoritarianism were always likely to provoke resistance, and the 1960s revolt against discipline and homogeneity in the factory, the university, and the wider culture was one of the major reasons why that social system broke down.

In its place has arisen a culture which tolerates a very wide diversity of individual lifestyles, but which conversely makes it extremely difficult to achieve the types of collective feat which typified the mid-twentieth century, and which was the basis for achievements such as the National Health Service. In contemporary consumer society, everyone is free to do their own thing as long as they can pay for it and doesn’t get in anyone’s face; but what we can’t do is the kinds of things that require us to co-ordinate our desires and capabilities with those of others. The inherited systems of party democracy were designed for that old epoch. Mass political parties were appropriate political vehicles for people who experienced very similar lifestyles and life-courses and who consequently shared outlooks and opinions across a whole range of topics with millions of other people, doing similar jobs, living similar lives. They have become increasingly ineffective as people’s lifestyles have diversified and society has become more complex, leaving the political class increasingly cut off from any substantial constituency whose opinions and interests they could be expected to represent.

If that quote has peaked your interest then make sure to read the rest of the article, after which you ought to may well feel compelled to pick up the book itself in which Jeremy goes into far great depth and provides far more comprehensive analyses and solutions.

“Ready to Fight”: Leila Khaled at 70

April 9, 2014

9780745329512“I will only retire when I go back to Haifa,” claimed Leila Khaled, the ‘icon of Palestinian liberation’, back in 2008. Today, the date of her 70th Birthday, she seems defiant as ever. Having stepped back from the active armed struggle in which she made her name, Khaled is now the Chief of the Department of Refugees and Right of Return for the PFLP, but continues to inspire her supporters and incense her opponents with incendiary rhetoric. Her potential to inspire was in evidence last week when she was interviewed by the Palestinian activist radio station Le Mur a Des Oreilles (and you can listen to the whole thing here). In the interview, which covered a wide range of topics from the Right of Return to the recent Kerry peace talks, Khaled dismissed any suggestion that either she or the PFLP, which recently held its 7th Congress, might be becoming more moderate with age:

No liberation is achieved without resistance. My party has not changed. It has stuck to its original program. We are calling to escalate the resistance. People talk about popular resistance. It does not only mean demonstrations. Using arms is also popular. We have people who are ready to fight. … We do not want more blood, but are obliged to resist. We have the right to live in our homeland.

To celebrate the life, both past and future, of this remarkable Palestinian resistance fighter we are offering you a chance to pick up a copy of Sarah Irving’s excellent biography, Leila Khaled: Icon of Palestinian Liberation (Pluto, 2012) at the discounted price of just £9.99. As Nicholas Blincoe has said, Irving’s book “mixes biography and historical critique to deliver a valuable insight into Leila Khaled’s character as well as her extraordinary appeal as a revolutionary icon” and takes readers from her birth in 1944 to the present day. What better time than now to give it a read?

Video Trailer: Richard Seymour, Against Austerity: How We Can Fix the Crisis They Made

April 8, 2014

Last week we shot a lovely new video trailer for Richard Seymour’s book, Against Austerity (Pluto, 2014). …and here it is!

In just 7 minutes, Seymour discusses the nature of austerity, and what the UK Left needs to do in order to combat it. The video is an extract of a longer interview, available to watch on the Pluto Youtube channel, here.

You can buy Against Austerity for just £11.50 on the Pluto website (that’s 10% off, with free UK P&P!). Simply click on the cover image for more…

Seymour T02680

Against Austerity reviewed by the North Star

April 7, 2014

Richard Seymour’s new book, Against Austerity: How We Can Fix the Crisis They Made (Pluto, 2014), has been reviewed this week in the North Star.

We picked out some of our favourite bits from Matthijs Krul’s positive review – but you can read the full thing on their website, here. Click on the cover image for more info on how to buy the book.

Click here to buy the book for just £11.50 including free UK P&P‘[A] clear and well-structured read…. Refreshing especially are two important things about this work: firstly, Seymour’s resistance to wishful thinking and hand-waving optimism. He describes the utter weakness of the left’s resistance, the decline in unionism and the small likelihood of its recovery, and the increasing neoliberalization of the Western common sense in no uncertain terms. Secondly, he rightly points out how identifying neoliberalism simply with ‘free marketeers’ and seeking a restoration of the old welfare capitalism and union alliances to combat it is an illegitimate and impossible exercise in old union worker nostalgia and doomed to collapse before it ever gets off the ground. He emphasizes how much unions have now come to rely on public service workers for their base, the last relatively privileged and secure bastion against the labour market, and how the neoliberal offensive on this point is destroying even that base as we speak — without any clear counter-strategy to be seen. The spirit of ’45 is an obscene display of delusional nostalgia, and should be rejected wherever it appears, and Richard Seymour does not indulge it — which is rare among the left in the UK, although such politics of nostalgia is much less evident in the United States. On the whole, this book does what should be the starting point of any Marxist analysis: it describes with sober senses how bad the radical left’s strategic position is, unhindered by the shibboleths or blinders of sect strategy.
‘[A] readable and useful guide to the interrelationship between austerity, neoliberalism, and the state at the level of strategy and ideology’
‘[T]he book has much to offer in terms of a sober and nuanced analysis. This goes especially in the UK where the trend towards nostalgia, wishful thinking, and resisting empirical and strategic reconsideration is so strong. As Richard Seymour puts it in the conclusion: “if this book has been intended to do anything, it has been to find a way to drop those fetishes… assimilate the reality of our present situation, and soberly assess the challenge posed by austerity, without losing sight of the objective — which is to navigate our way out of this impasse” (152). To that aim this book is certainly a worthwhile contribution.’



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