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Vijay Prashad: To Be Effective, Socialism Must Adapt to 21st Century Needs

Global News and Analysis

Is socialism making a comeback? If so, what exactly is socialism, why did it lose steam toward the latter part of the 20th century, and how do we distinguish democratic socialism, currently in an upward trend in the U.S., from social democracy, which has all but collapsed? Vijay Prashad, executive director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and a leading scholar in socialist studies and the politics of the global South, offers answers to these questions.

Europe

Book Review: Naomi Wolf’s Outrages against the world of fact

Naomi Wolf loves suppressed books; she loves them so much that she’s managed to suppress her own. One way of extinguishing a brilliant idea is to smother it under an enormous quantity of misinformation. Another is to discredit the author. In her new book Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love, Wolf seems to have accomplished both.

Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalization of Love” Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019.

The signal error, grabbing headlines immediately upon the book’s release, was her claim that “several dozen” men inVictorian England were executed for sodomy. They were not: the last were hanged in 1835. Wolf’s error was the result of an understandable but embarrassing misreading of the legal arcana: taking “death recorded” to indicate a completed execution rather than the mere documentation of a formal sentence that the judge expected to see commuted. The goof was made known to Wolf in a most public way, in the midst of a BBC interview. This led to the recall of the first British printing and the delayed release of the US edition. Some observers took the opportunity to soak in the schadenfreude, but I suspect a larger number started quietly humming “There but for Fortune.” I know I did. read more

Americas

In Memory of Immanuel Wallerstein: Ah, We Were Once Young and Hopeful!

Immanuel Wallerstein (28 September 1930 – 31 August 2019), the political sociologist best known for his writings on the “world system” and I were friends in the mid 1950s. Perhaps not close friends but at least both student activists in the world federalist/world citizen movement, especially in their international dimension. We shared a common analysis of situations and were largely in agreement as to the short-term steps to be taken. I would not say we influenced each other, but rather that we shared a common approach coming from different directions. Our shared interest in Africa as the early 1960s brought independence and later there was a focus on what Manny (as he was known by his friends) called the “world system” and I “the world society.” After the late 1950s, we rarely saw each other, but we continued to exchange offprints of our articles instead of Christmas cards at the start of the year. read more

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Toward Freedom

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Toward Freedom: a progressive perspective on world events.

Toward Freedom

12 hours 17 minutes ago

Greetings readers,

After 14 solid years of working with Toward Freedom, our editor Ben Dangl is stepping away to take up a teaching position at the University of Vermont.

We are thrilled to announce that we have hired a new contributing editor, Dawn Marie Paley. She is based in Mexico and will no doubt bring forth grassroots perspectives and critical investigations from Latin America and beyond.

“I was honored to work at such a historic and critical publication for so long,” said Ben in a farewell message. “It has been a great joy and privilege to work with so many excellent and inspiring writers over the years at TF. Together, we navigated, reported from, and analyzed turbulent times spanning continents, US presidents, people’s uprisings, and years of war and peace. I would like to particularly thank the readers and TF board members who have stood beside us over the years as we worked together for global peace and justice.”

We are so thankful for Ben’s contributions over the last decade and a half. He will be tremendously missed.

At the same time, we’re very excited about this new chapter at Toward Freedom, bringing you a progressive perspective on world events since 1952.

In solidarity, toward a more just future for all,

Sam Mayfield

Board Chair, president Toward Freedom

About our new editor: Dawn Marie Paley is a journalist and sociologist. Her first book, Drug War Capitalism, examines how the US backed drug war in Mexico, Colombia, and Central America are connected with the expansion of capitalism. She has been active in independent media as a journalist, editor and organizer for more than a decade. She has a Masters in Journalism from the University of British Columbia and a PhD in Sociology from the Autonomous University of Puebla. Dawn Marie is currently working on a new book about Mexico, where she is based. Over the past months, she has written about Canada’s cannabis colonialism and done an interview about the overdose crisis for Toward Freedom. You can reach her at editor@towardfreedom.org.

Toward Freedom

2 days 1 hour ago

Sharing the translation of a new article by Raúl Zibechi, originally published in Brecha Semanario.

"On Wednesday the 13th, an unprecedented series of events occurred, in a turn as important as the resignation of Morales three days earlier. Jeanine Áñez was named President in a parliament that was without quorum. The representatives of the MAS, which holds an absolute majority, as well as MAS senator Adriana Salvatierra, were unable to enter the building. Salvatierra had publicly resigned her position as president of the senate on the same day as Evo Morales and Vice President Álvaro Garcia Linera did the same, but she did not give up her seat. When she and others from her party tried to enter parliament, they were kept out by security forces.

For her part, Áñez was vice president of the second chamber. She was able to arrive to the presidency of the republic because all of the others in the line of succession, who were from the MAS, had resigned as part of the government’s policy of denouncing a coup. Áñez is a member of the Democratic Union, an opposition alliance, and she is an unconditional ally of the racist elites from the department of Santa Cruz. This is how, three days after the resignation of Evo, a true coup was consolidated, though in reality a combination of interests led to this situation."

Toward Freedom

3 days 11 hours ago

Sharing a new investigation into the state of political prisoners in Mexico today. Here's a snippet.

"There are estimated to be hundreds of political prisoners in Mexico, including environmental defenders, Indigenous activists and women imprisoned for abortion, among others. Many are activists imprisoned for false charges after threatening local political or economic interests.

Pérez Espinoza’s imprisonment is one of those many cases. In 2015, as he left a press conference, he was arrested on charges of robbing his neighbours at gunpoint. After the charges were struck down for lack of evidence, another charge of robbery was made against him. That charge was also struck down, and as he was about to be freed, in early 2016, another accusation of armed robbery surfaced.

On the phone from the La Perla prison, Pérez Espinoza listed the irregularities in his case. The evidence against him hasn’t held up in court: the witnesses on whose declarations the charges were based didn’t show up for the trial.

On September 10, AMLO promised to have his Sub-Secretary for Human Rights Alejandro Encinas look into Pérez Espinoza’s case. Members of the imprisoned man’s family have met with numerous representatives from the new government, including Senator Nestora Salgado, tasked with helping release political prisoners.

'For them, I’m innocent,' said Pérez Espinoza. Beyond the speeches and fanfare of the new administration, which the president dubbed the 'Fourth Transformation' (4T) in reference to the dramatic structural changes he’s promised, Pérez Espinoza points to political motivations behind his continued imprisonment.

'The groups that defrauded us the most are in the circle of the 4T,' Pérez Espinoza said. 'Since they found out I was on the list of prisoners, they started to pressure for me to not be released.” Several of the businesspeople involved in the housing fraud Pérez Espinoza uncovered are close members of López Obrador’s advisory circle.'

Toward Freedom

5 days 13 hours ago

Sharing a chilling story with powerful photos, reported from Veracruz, Mexico, about how victim-led searches for the disappeared have led to the emergence of a new trade: that of the bone searchers.

"In Colinas de Santa Fe, on the outskirts of the city of Veracruz, this good-natured, strong armed man began again to listen carefully to the field before him. He identified a tree, detected that the natural harmony of the surface of the land had been interrupted, and pointed at a place to dig. There, many of the largest graves were found. There were 155 graves, to be exact, from which 302 bodies and almost 70,000 bones and bone fragments were recovered.

Gómez García, a farmer who does not read or write, has become part anthropologist, part forensic expert; part archeologist, and part laborer. He became a bone searcher, a new trade that shows the cracks in a country with more than 40,000 disappeared people and over 240,000 murders over the last 12 years.

The first time he found a body, Gómez García felt a chill.

'My friend,' he said to the bones, 'I am not here to harm you. Forgive me if I hurt you, I have to dig because I have to find you.'"

Toward Freedom

1 week 3 hours ago

Sharing a new translation of a piece by Bolivian feminist María Galindo.

"Evo has denounced to the international community that it is a coup d'etat promoted by the CIA and the fascist landowning oligarchy of Santa Cruz, and that is partly true, but it is only half of the conflict.

On October 20th we went to vote in the general election with the sweetness inherent to these lands, but both the polls and the ballots were wet and empty. Empty of real alternatives and wet with a fraud of a magnitude that has already been denounced by the Electoral Observation Commission of the Organization of American States and the Electoral Observation Commission of the European Union.

That is why this election represented the opening of a latent conflict in Bolivian society and in the region. The deep crisis of representative liberal democracy and the 'party' structure as the exclusive and official way of doing politics."

Toward Freedom

1 week 8 hours ago

Sharing a new analysis on Bolivia by Raúl Zibechi.

"What caused the fall of the government of Evo Morales in Bolivia is an uprising by the people of Bolivia and their organizations. Their movements demanded his resignation before the army and police did. The Organization of American States sustained the government until the bitter end.

The context for what is taking place in Bolivia didn’t start with electoral fraud, rather it began with systematic attacks by the government of Evo Morales and Álvaro García Linera against the same popular movements that brought them to power, to the point that when they needed the movements to defend them, the movements were deactivated and demoralized.

The social mobilization and the refusal of movements to defend what in another moment they considered to be 'their' government was what precipitated Morales’ resignation. That is made clear by the declarations by the Workers’ Central of Bolivia (COB), the teachers and authorities of the Public University of El Alto (UPEA), and dozens of other organizations, including Mujeres Creando, which has been perhaps the clearest of all. The Latin American left appears unable to accept that a considerable segment of popular movements demanded the resignation of the government, because they can’t see beyond the leaders (los caudillos)."

Toward Freedom

1 week 1 day ago

Sharing a brand new piece on events in Bolivia today.

"The first report of the OAS is not a victory, rather, it deepens our rage and pain, for a number of reasons: 1) it confirms what we all knew in Bolivia, and what the government knew: there was fraud; 2) because over the past days three people have been killed, and hundreds wounded, and the government defended the fraud, deepening violence; 3) because the government purposefully invoked Bolivia’s demons: racism and discrimination, and the polarization of the most profound and reactionary hatreds, strengthening the rancid right wing; 4) because people who we thought were comrades in different parts of Latin America needed the OAS come and say there was fraud (even such, some refuse to believe it), in order to be able to recognize the discontent in Bolivia and stand in solidarity with Bolivians in this moment. The desire to hold up an idealized Evo de-legitimizes ongoing social struggles inside Bolivia. This dogmatic, colonial and paternalistic attitude must be examined."

Toward Freedom

1 week 3 days ago

It is with measured relief that we share a new translation of detailed account of the political forces at work in Bolivia today, written by Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar.

"We have to remember that on February 21, 2016, there was a referendum in which Bolivian elders were asked about the re-election of Evo for the fourth time, in contradiction to and above the Constitutional text, which was adopted in 2009. And Bolivia said 'No.'

No to the indefinite reelection of a political regime that encourages extractivism, though they do so with an anti-imperialist and rigidly authoritarian rhetoric, dressed up in the costume of plurinationalism. Then came judicial and argumentative gymnastics about the “political right” to stand for elections that has come to the fore over recent years. This was another affront: Evo Morales was being set up to stay in power indefinitely.

There were elections on October 20, 2019, in which various candidates went against each other. The two candidates with the best chances were Evo Morales, with the MAS and Carlos Mesa, with Comunidad Ciudadana. The two are distinguishable in form, though in fact their economic projects are not that different: both prioritize the expansion of extractivism as the beating heart of the national economy.

Electoral law in Bolivia determines the following: if neither candidate earns 50% of the votes, there will be a run-off election if the difference between the first and the second candidate is less than 10%. The first counts that came in on that Sunday that already seems so far away pointed to a runoff."

Toward Freedom

1 week 3 days ago

This piece tells the story of ongoing protests in Chile, exploring the main demands of the people in the streets and how they're using popular assemblies to push for change.

"As Chileans continue to mobilize, their demands have grown: make water utilities public, establish a minimum wage of $676 a month, enshrine a 40 hour workweek, end corruption, reverse the hike in transit fares, reduce the wages of politicians, create a new Constitution, cancel a new free trade agreement, and demilitarize Wallmapu (the ancestral land of the Mapuche people)."

Toward Freedom

1 week 4 days ago

Re-upping this story on Algeria that we posted last week.

"In Algiers, the centre of political power in Algeria, mass protests continue as hundreds of thousands join marches every Tuesday and Friday. Authorities are doing all they can to silence dissidents and impose presidential elections, scheduled for December 12th. All of the politicians running for office are from the traditional political class, not one has connections to the Hirak. Protesters are demanding a period of transition. They claim there is no guarantee of free and fair elections, as Bouteflika’s departure in April left the same political class behind.

Though Abdelkader Bensalah is the interim president, Army Chief of Staff and vice-minister of defence General Ahmed Gaid Salah is the real strongman of the country, leading many to fear the installation of a military dictatorship. The pressure is on Gaid Salah to resign. One of their most recent slogans is: 'Bye bye Gaid Salah! This year, there won’t be any vote!'"