[OPE-L] The Global Fight for Immigrant Rights in a Neo-Liberal Economy

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Tue May 09 2006 - 12:57:37 EDT

-------------------- Original Message ---------------------
Marx After Marxism

The Global Fight for Immigrant Rights in a Neo-Liberal



"Let us remember that he said that it was not enough
that the idea clamored to be made reality, but that it
was also necessary that reality shout out to be made
into idea."

-- Franz Mehring

I will not attempt to delineate here the ample and rich
intellectual production of Karl Marx, his deep analysis
of capitalism or the principal events of his era, nor
will I touch upon his exemplary life as a social
fighter and revolutionary leader. I know that these
themes are familiar to you all.

I propose, if you allow me, to separate Marx from
Marxism. With that I allude to the necessity of
thinking of Marx as Marx, rather than from any of the
versions of Marxism, to imagine him declaring the
challenges of the twenty-first century, separating what
is essential of his work from what others made of his
work. Instead of embarking on the endless succession of
reviews of his thinking that goes along with those who
have claimed him as their own, as well as with those
who have tried unsuccessfully to bury him, it is
necessary to rescue his fundamental legacy, that which
makes him transcend his era to be [with us] here and
now in the struggle for human emancipation.

I take as a starting point the warning, not always
heeded, of Rosa Luxemburg: "The work Capital of Marx,
like all his ideology, is not gospel in which we are
given Revealed Truth, set in stone and eternal, but an
endless flow of suggestions to keep working on with
intelligence, in order to continue researching and
struggling for truth."

To take his work, on top of any other consideration, as
a source of inspiration and guide for those who, like
he, want not only to explain the world but, more than
anything, transform it, fighting until achieving

We are not trying to find in his texts data that may
seem useful to the analysis of contemporary reality, of
capitalism as it is today, something which he didn't
try to do nor would have been able to propose doing.

Our obligation is to arm ourselves with all of his
ideology and from that build a theory and practice that
corresponds with that reality and helps to transform

There is probably no higher nor more urgent priority
for socialists than this: to define a strategic
conception and precisely delineate the tactics and
methods of struggle adequate for confronting the
capitalism that exists now. The theoretical tools at
our disposal need to be sharpened for their efficient
employment in this era that presents new challenges for
the revolutionary movement.

These notes do not have any other aim than contributing
to the discussion of that crucial theme and obviously
lack any pretension of exhausting it. They have been
edited having in mind that which from the great
unfinished text declared Rosa Luxembourg:

"Incomplete as they are, these two volumes enclose
values infinitely more precious than any definitive and
perfect truth, the spur for the labor of thought and
that critical analysis and judgment of ideas, which is
what is most genuine in the theory that Karl Marx has
left to us."

Another indispensable observation: The necessity of
elaborating a revolutionary theory that brings victory
confronted with what has been called neo-liberal
globalization has absolutely nothing to do with a
supposed liquidation of Marxism and much less with the
imaginary disappearance of class struggle, which some
intended to convert in immoveable dogmas in rushed
texts that inundated the planet at the beginnings of
the last decade of the twentieth century.

The collapse of the USSR and the bankruptcy of the
so-called "real socialism" gave way for a triumphalist
operation skillfully launched by the main centers of
imperialism which, nevertheless, could hardly hide
their essentially defensive character with its
apparently total and definitive victory, capitalism, in
reality, entered a new phase that could be terminal, in
which its contradictions and limitations are manifested
with a frank crudeness and in which arise new,
unsuspected possibilities for revolutionary action.

That paradox perhaps may explain the short duration of
that triumphalism in the academic level. Few today
repeat that nonsense about the "end of history." Not
even Fukuyama does it, more busy these days in
criticizing the failure of the policies of Bush which
are, nevertheless, much due to his own laborious and
wordy work. The present crisis within the U.S.
neoconservative movement suggests that not a few
question now if they were the true winners of the Cold

Self-critical reflection is called for on our side as

We should admit our own errors, especially those that
served as fertile ground for the bourgeois manipulation
of the destruction of the Soviet model. This is not the
time for profound analysis of the failure of an
experience that now belongs to historians. But it is
inevitable that we underline here something that led to
the defeat and to its advantageous use by the enemy.

That project--independently of Lenin and of the
creative spirit that animated the first years of the
Bolshevik revolution--reduced Marxism to a determinist
and mechanist school of thought, transformed research
into dogma, thought into propaganda, until the point of
confining it to a condition of terminal hardening of
the arteries. It constructed a simplified "science"
that thought it had demonstrated that socialism would
inevitably come about, by itself, as an unavoidable
consequence of a predetermined history and that that
socialism would continue its march, also uncontestable,
according to laws and rules codified in a strange
ritual. Socialism, therefore, was inevitable and
invincible; with it one would truly arrive to the end
of history. Not any socialism, but that one in
particular, that which, with admirable struggle, Lenin
and the Bolsheviks tried to achieve, whose enormous
meaning no one will be able to tear out of the memory
of the proletariat but which was a specific
project--that is to say, a human work, with virtues and
defects, glories and shadows, a result of immense
sacrifice of a concrete people in circumstances and
conditions likewise concrete--and not the outcome of a
predestined and universal idea.

The conversion of the Soviet experience into a paradigm
for those who in other places fought their own
anti-capitalist battles, and the imperative obligation
of defending it from its inflamed and powerful enemies,
led to the subordination of a great part of the
revolutionary movement to the policies and interests of
the USSR, which did not always correspond to those of
other peoples. The Cold War and the division of the
world into two blocks of antagonistic states that
threatened each other with mutual nuclear annihilation,
reduced to a minimum the capacity of critical thought
and reinforced dogmatism.

In honor of the truth one must render homage to the
numberless men and women who sacrificed their lives,
the greater part in total anonymity, and died
heroically in any corner of the planet defending the
land of the Soviets, its policies and its application
in its own native soil, as wrong as it may have been in
more than a few cases. For them, respect and
admiration. But what is being considered now is
recognizing the very harmful consequences of that

The tendency to blindly "tail" thoroughly penetrated
many organizations and individuals, and they couldn't
react rationally when the system that supported their
faith collapsed. They had lived convinced that they
were part of an unbeatable force, owners and
administrators of truths scientifically demonstrated,
and they marched in an enthusiastic procession in
which, curiously, the founder did not march, having
declared, with all naturalness, "I am not a Marxist."

The myth destroyed, old dogmatists were incapable of
appreciating the new possibilities in the revolutionary
movement, the spaces heretofore nonexistent that were
necessary to explore with audacity and creativity.
There were those who, in unsurpassed acrobatics, joined
the "conquerors," converting treason into their new

But there is a growing number of those who do not
conform, are unsatisfied and rebel. All the rhetoric
about U.S. hegemony falls to pieces with its bogging
down in Iraq, the undeniable contradictions and
limitations of its economy, the awakening of masses
that were supposed to be asleep there, and the
corruption and moral fissure that undermine its
political system.

Their associates in Europe are in the same boat.
Accustomed as well to the "bloc" discipline and
"tailism," they don't arrive at the knowledge of the
depth of the insurmountable crisis of that which it
was, but no longer is, omnipotent boss.

In Latin America and in other parts of the Third World,
meanwhile, radical processes are affirmed and plans are
put forth that seek to eliminate, or at least reduce,
imperialist domination.

For the first time, anti-capitalist malaise is
manifested, simultaneously and everywhere, in advanced
countries and in those left behind and is not limited
to the proletariat and other exploited sectors. This is
not only expressed today in the struggles that we could
call "classics"--between classes and nations that are
exploited and exploiters--but in those that are added,
at times with more vigor, those that demand the
preservation of the environment, or work for the rights
of women and discriminated people and those excluded
because of gender, ethnicity or religion.

A diverse group, multicolor, in which there is no
shortage of contradictions and paradoxes grows in front
of the dominant system. It is not yet the rainbow that
announces the end of the storm. Spontaneity
characterizes it; it needs articulation and coherence
that need to be stimulated without sectarianism,
without being carried away with wildness. The great
challenge of revolutionaries, of communists, is to
define our part, the place that we should occupy in
this battle. For that we need a theory.

In that sense one must return to the well known but
forgotten definition of Lenin: "A correct revolutionary
theory is only formed in a definitive manner in close
connection with practical experience in a movement that
is truly mass and truly revolutionary."

That theory, on a world scale, does not exist in fact,
to serve as a guide in the struggle to substitute the
present order and transform it in the direction toward
socialism. That theory has to be formed and its
definitive formation has to take place in constant
interrelation with practice, in a process in which both
form an inseparable whole. But we are not speaking of
just any practice but that of a movement that is both
"truly mass and truly revolutionary."

When can a movement be defined as truly a mass movement
and when does it acquire the quality of being truly
revolutionary? The answers will not be found in a
research laboratory, nor will they erupt from academic
debate. Revolutionaries themselves will have to create
them, men and women of flesh and blood, acting from the
masses, building their movement and trying to make it
ever more revolutionary. The entire life of the genial
Bolshevik leader can be described in that commitment. A
persistent legend attributes to the author of Capital
the saying "Man [sic] thinks as he lives," which more
than a few militants still repeat, without warning of
the mistake nor of its paralyzing effects. The relation
between man and his surroundings is of decisive
importance for ethics and politics and in order to
understand the Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach. To
transform the world the key is in the Third Thesis.
Let's remember the statements of Marx:

"The materialist theory that men are product of
circumstances and of education, and that, therefore,
changed men are a product of different circumstances
and of a modified education, forgets that it is men,
precisely, who make circumstances chanage and that even
the educator needs to be educated. This leads, then,
inevitably, to the division of society in two parts,
one of which is on top of society (this, for example,
in Robert Owen)

"The coincidence of the modification of circumstances
and of human activity can only be conceived and
understood rationally as revolutionary practice."

In the Second Declaration of Havana, Cubans proclaimed
that "the duty of every revolutionary is to make
revolution." To make it means to create a new world in
spite of the obstacles and limitations that
circumstances impose, in a ceaseless battle in which
both man and reality will go on transforming each other

* * *

"A certain form of socialism will emerge inevitably
from the also inevitable decay of capitalism"

-- Joseph A. Schumpeter

The prediction that I just cited has been the object of
implacable denunciation on the part of bourgeois
thinkers. In 1942 it was difficult to see the fall of
capitalism as something inevitable. Its author,
nevertheless, did not cease believing in it until the

Eight years afterward, just before dying, he said:
"Marx was wrong in his diagnosis of how capitalist
society would fall; but he was not wrong in the
prediction that finally it would fall."

In 1950 U.S. capitalism reached the zenith of its
hegemony. It was the only nuclear power, it hadn't
suffered the devastation that the world war had wreaked
on the other developed countries, it dominated Western
Europe and Latin America economically and politically,
it possessed a superiority in science and technology.

At the middle of the last century the world was quite
different from what it is today. By a route that they
probably did not foresee we are now nearer the
fulfillment of the prophecy in which, paradoxically,
both the author of Capital and his tenacious
Austro-North American critic coincided.

The protagonist has changed, the subject of history,
man. The world population has grown in an exponential
manner since the days of the publication of the
Communist Manifesto and it continues doing so. Man
traveled through tens of thousands of years to arrive
at the first billion. It took a century to triple the
double of that figure. Each 25 years is added to that
figure a quantity similar to that which represented the
whole planet when Karl Marx was born. At a similar
rhythm the natural resources of the earth is exhausted
and animal and vegetable species are annihilated
forever. Man is the only being that has dedicated
himself with so much fury and efficiency to destroy

Irreversible climactic changes, forests transformed
into deserts, poisoned waters, unbreathable air,
irremediably degraded soils, astounding conglomerations
of human beings in uninhabitable and always growing
urban clogs are distressing worries that compose a
reality not known before.

Beyond ideologies the people continue discovering that
which is obvious. In 1992, at the Earth Summit at Rio
de Janeiro, governments and civil society put ourselves
in agreement that in order to save the earth it was
necessary "to change the bosses of production and of
consumption," words subscribed to by many, including
Bush senior. They were words, certainly. But they imply
explicit recognition although in the text of a
document, of the necessity of the radical
transformation of the relations between men and between
them and nature.

The subject, besides, inevitably moves. Population
grows exponentially but it doesn't do so equally in all
parts of the world.

In the so-called developed countries it is frozen and
even tends to shrink. In the rest, in that part of the
world that was baptized as the Third, they are more,
ever many more--in spite of early death, misery,
hunger--and also those who in an unstoppable spiral,
are displaced toward the enclaves of opulence.

The Third World penetrates the First. The latter needs
the former and at the same time rejects it. In Europe
and North America appears an undesirable protagonist, a
mute guest that demands its rights. While here we carry
out this important collective reflection animated by
the example of a truly creative and humanist thinker
and try to find the paths toward a better world, the
U.S. Congress continues discussing what to do with
those who number at least 11 million people--that is,
the Cuban population--the so-called undocumented,
searching for formulas that allow them to continue to
be exploited while access to that society is closed.

The migratory phenomenon will be maintained and will
gain in size along with capitalism, with its present
characteristics, as it is expanded through the whole
world. Capitalism cannot stop it, just as it is neither
capable of abandoning those characteristics and much
less transform itself into another thing.

The Central Intelligence Agency of the United States
has prognosticated that, as a consequence of that
phenomenon, very soon deep changes will have been
produced in the cultures of several European countries.
The struggle for the rights of immigrants and against
discrimination expressed in public demonstrations that
mobilized millions of people and in the historic May
Day protest--a date that never before had been
expressed in this way in the United States--brings to
the forefront a political force that now cannot be
easily ignored.

The presence of millions of people discriminated
against and lacking civil and political rights raises
an essential question that goes to the very roots of
the political system that the West has attempted to set
as an obligatory model for all. There is an
increasingly growing number of those who work hard
there, pay their taxes, die in their wars, but cannot
vote nor be elected. In today's Rome the participation
of the citizens is reduced while the mass of those
excluded is constantly growing, the modern
"barbarians." In this very building, recently,
professor Robert Dahl--prominent apologist for the
archetypical capitalist--recognized in such
marginalization the principal lack of contemporary
liberal democracy.

The end of that exclusion, the struggle for democracy,
specifically including the democratization of Western
societies, should be a priority for those who wish to
transform the world. This is yet more urgent if we
perceive the other face of the migratory phenomenon
together with it grows, in parallel, racial hatred,
xenophobia, which feeds fascist tendencies today
present in an obvious manner in those societies.

The migratory problem reflects, thus, an aspect of
capitalism today that it is also worthwhile reflecting
on. While the emigrants are humiliated and super
exploited in the countries where they end up, there
they are used also as instruments for the oppression of
the local workers. Being used as the international
reserve army, stripped of rights, and until now not
organized, they serve to lower wages, are forced to
accept conditions that, as Bush the lesser likes to
say, U.S. workers do not accept.

To free the immigrants from their exploitation becomes,
therefore, essential for the emancipation of the
workers in the developed countries. To forge a union
between both exploited sectors, in an area that has had
advances that are still insufficient but whose
importance cannot be underestimated, is today a task
that cannot be postponed. To rescue the role of the
labor union, true bulwark of civil society and to
guarantee the rights of all workers, without
exceptions, to organize oneself is an indispensable
response to a capitalism that ever more openly casts
off its "liberal" mask and demonstrates the perverse
face of tyranny.

Fascism must be stopped. It is necessary to prevent it
from being able to gather its own victims into a
senseless opposition. Never again should a Nixon be
able to mobilize construction workers against the youth
who, in the seventies of the last century, rebelled
against the war in Vietnam. It is possible to unite
them. We saw them united, in Seattle, both opposing
neo-liberal globalization.

One must help them to converge, and it is possible to
propose this to them, and it is a crucial aspect of the
world today and in the struggle to change it.

The poor try to emigrate to the rich world to escape
poverty. The rich, meanwhile, try to place their
capital in the poor countries in order to increase
their profits with the misery of others and inevitably
worsen the conditions of work and of life for workers
in the developed countries. Few in the United States
and Europe would identify themselves as members of a
worker aristocracy, beneficiary of the dropping of
crumbs coming from the colonies. Today they are seen as
those defeated by a system that, among other things,
depends ever more on "outsourcing" and the maquila and
that imposes everywhere the dogma of the omnipotent
market and "free trade."

To forge convergence, to later on reach unity between
the exploited people of the First and Third World, is
now not only possible but necessary. But it is not
enough to work for unity between all the proletariat of
the world, of the First and Third World, of the South
and of the North. Antifascist is essential for
democracy, peace and life. To fight to create new
models, to forge alliances where possible or meanwhile
promote points or moments of coincidence between the
diverse forces that today, for the most varied motives,
are out of step with the world as it is, should
constitute the principal guide for revolutionaries.

To struggle so that the antiwar and anti-globalization
movements flow into the same great stream and that all
those discriminated against, all the marginalized be
included is the main duty of revolutionaries today. It
is the way to create a better world. It is the road to
take in advancing toward socialism. To achieve
socialism in this century there must be "heroic
creation," a creation that is authentic, independent,
and therefore diverse and unique.

Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada is Cuba's Vice President and
President of its National Assembly.

Translation by Joe Bryak for CubaNews.

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