#UpToDateNews on the #US #SpyAgency invading black community after #Murder of #MikeBrown, #Ferguson #Uprising against state-funded terrorists (#pigs) murdering, kidnapping, agitating the African (Black) community. This will have a significant impact upon all Black People around the Country. Some city officials & the bourgeoisie of St. Louis are also scheming to reduce the number of Alderman & Wards in St. Louis, a population of approximately 320,000, from 28 to 14. We're 80,000 here in Somerville MA and have 7 Alderman with 4 At-Large. There's no way 14 Alderman + Wards could possibly represent 320,000 people. It's clear that this is a ruthless tactic to make it easier for greedy heartless developers to snake around St. Louis buying up land, pushing out Black People and all the while having only to bribe less officials. This is a crime. It's happening too often there, here, and everywhere. It's domestic terrorism; forcibly imposing misery, suffering, and death upon Black Families. Seriously, where's the United fucking Nations? This needs to be voted against. #KeepThe28. This is a call to everyone. Make your voices heard; tune in, write letters, make statements; phones calls. I'll report more this Friday on #FallonsDailyToastfrom 6pm to 7pm on Somerville's Channel 3, followed by live-stream on Uhuru Solidarity Movement Facebook page discussing in more detail from 7pm to 8pm [EST] #SupportBlackPower Communities United for Reparations & Economic Development - CURED Black Power Blueprint
I support Black Community Control of Police. Black People most definitely should be in charge of proper background checks, hiring, and firing of the people carrying guns in their neighborhoods; around their children and friends.
Please, express you're concerns and opposition to this.
Lyda Krewson, Mayor of St. Louis phone: (314) 622-3201
More contact information St. Louis City Hall call 314-622-4800.
International callers call +1-314-622-4800
It’s not guns or mental illness. It’s white society.
AT LEAST 282 AFRICAN PEOPLE WERE KILLED BY THE POLICE IN 2017. AT LEAST 33 AFRICAN PEOPLE WERE KILLED IN THE FIRST THREE MONTHS OF 2018.
IN THE LAST 15 MONTHS THREE TIMES AS MANY AFRICANS WERE KILLED BY POLICE THAN WERE KILLED IN THE LAST 6 YEARS DUE TO SCHOOL SHOOTINGS (138).
It’s not guns or mental illness. It’s white society.
Parkland was the 18th school shooting on a predominately white school campus in the United States in this year alone – and it’s only March.
Clearly, we are not looking at some freak occurrence that can be understood by studying the psyche of the shooter; we’re looking at a problem within white American society itself.
And although the U.S. government and media are working overtime to exploit the deaths of seventeen children to hold empty, meaningless debates and rally us behind their cynical agendas, the reality is that no amount of “gun control reform,” or “mental health counseling” will solve this problem.
How can we expect to reform a society built on murder, violence and rape?
America and white society are built upon mass murder of children, millions of African and Indigenous children whose hopes and dreams and lives were crushed to build the pedestal of stolen wealth that has fed white people for the past six hundred years.
When the media refer to Parkland and Sandy Hook as the deadliest mass shootings in American history, they are using the deaths of these white children to deny and obscure the massive scale of the murder that forged the U.S. social system from its inception.
No school shooting compares to the Sand Creek Massacre on November 29, 1864, when 700 white people attacked and destroyed a village of Cheyenne and Arapaho people encamped in southeastern Colorado Territory killing and mutilating nearly 200 Indigenous people.
No school shooting has ever approached the scale of horror that unfolded during the 1921 attack and bombing of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma by white mobs, shooting, burning and slaughtering up to 300 African people in the economically thriving Greenwood community.
The culture of white society is spawned by the daily lynchings that we carried out against African people for over 100 years at the turn of the century, hanging black bodies from trees and mutilating them for fun as we posed in front of their burning corpses with our children smiling for the camera.
This is the substance from which our violent white culture was born. And this violence began long before the invention of the AR 15.
As Penny Hess, Chairwoman of the African People’s Solidarity Committee, wrote in Overturning the Culture of Violence:
“White people are indeed forever haunted by our past and present relationship to the genocide against the native and African peoples. Could it be that the inherited weight of these crimes on the shoulders of white youth plays itself out in the epidemic of violence against their parents, teachers, and schoolmates?
“White youth are simply turning back on white society what has historically been our normal and consistent behavior towards the majority of other peoples on the planet.
“The mass murder, mutilation, dismemberment.. should be no surprise when we [white people] discover our true history. We are witnessing an implosion of the culture of violence.”
Nothing short of complete social transformation can bring this to a halt.
And if we are genuinely grief stricken by the murder of children, then our grief cannot be reserved only for white children.
The implosion of white violence that reared its head last week in the form of Nikolas Cruz prowling the halls of Parkland high with an AR 15 is rooted in the daily, global killing of African, Mexican, Arab and Asian children. And that should fuel us to take action to change the world so that all children are free to live and grow in peace.
Every white parent should think about this. We don’t want our children to die, but we should be equally disturbed by the fact that under this social system, the only way for our children to live is for other children, colonized children, to die.
This is the inescapable dialectic, as Chairman Omali Yeshitela defined it, between the happiness of white people and the suffering of African people. As Chairman Omali wrote, “every white dream and aspiration requires drone strikes in Pakistan.” Our security depends on their suffering.
It was a normal, peaceful day at school for America’s white children on the day when Tamir Rice, 12 years old, was gunned down by Cleveland police as he played on a playground.
It was a normal day at school for our white children when the Detroit police stormed into the home of 7 year old Aiyana Jones, and shot her in the head in front of her grandmother who was quoted as saying, “I watched the light in her eyes go out.”
The white school children of Pinellas County, Florida did not have to hide under their desks on the morning after the Sheriff’s deputies chased three teenage black girls, Dominique Battle, Laniya Miller and Ashaunti Butler, into a cemetery pond and forced them to drown in a painful, torturous death.
On every normal afternoon when a white kid jumps into the back seat of the car after school, the peace that we take for granted translates thousands of miles away into the horror-stricken screams of Palestinian children whose arms are blasted out of their sockets by the genocidal Israeli military forces.
There is a direct relationship between these two realities and it is that violent reality which boils over every time a white kid picks up a gun and walks into a school campus.
This is the hidden price of our white lifestyle. This is the violence of white society turning inward.
It is the violence which African people who are forced to bury their children every day are fighting to overturn. It is the violence which Arab and Mexican people are forced to bury their children are fighting to overturn.
It is the violence which we, too, as white people, must take responsibility to overturn, by working under the leadership of the African Revolution which will liberate all of humanity from the fear and insecurity of life in a dying empire.
The African People’s Socialist Party is the heroic revolutionary Party of African workers fighting to build a peaceful, socialist world where no child lives at the expense of other children.
The way we can join this future is by taking responsibility to overturn our culture of violence by organizing in the white community to build a new revolutionary culture of reparations to African people.
We owe reparations and it is through repairing the damage we have done to the rest of humanity that we can end our own self-imposed isolation in a cold, inhuman society where violence is the norm. We have no future inside the society of the slavemaster.
And we should make a commitment to our children that they will not have to inherit the legacy of the slavemaster that we inherited upon birth into this social system. Nor should they have to inherit the culture of white violence.
The next generation of white people should inherit the legacy of white reparations to African people.
Attend the Uhuru Solidarity Movement National Convention this April 14~15 in St. Louis. Register @ usm2018convention.eventbrite.com
Event link on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/155062551715555/
The law when considered as institution (the courts, with their class theatre and class procedures) or as personnel (the judges, the lawyers, the justices of the peace) may very easily be assimilated to those of the ruling class. But all that is entailed in ''the law'' is not subsumed in these institutions. The law may also be see as ideology, or as particular rules and sanctions which stand in a definite and active relationship (often a field of conflict) to social norms; and finally, it may be seen simply in terms of its own logic, rules, and procedures - that is, simply as law. And it is not possible to conceive of any complex society without law.
The law (we agree) may be seen instrumentally as mediating and reinforcing existent class relations and, ideologically, as offering to these a legitimation. But we must press our definitions a little further. For if we say that existent class relations were mediated by the law, this is not the same thing as saying that the law was no more than those relations translated into other terms, which masked or mystified the reality. This may, quite often, be true, but it is not whole truth. For class relations were expressed not in any way one likes, but through the forms of law; and the law, like other institutions which from time to time can be seen as mediating (and masking) existent class relations (such as the church or media of communication), has it's own characteristics, its own independent history and logic of evolution.
Moreover, people are not as stupid as some structuralist philosophers suppose them to be. They will not be mystified by the first man who puts on a wig. It is inherent in the especial character of law, as a body of rules and procedures, that it shall apply logical criteria with reference to standards of universality and equity. It is true that certain categories of person may be excluded from this logic (as children or slaves), that other categories may be debarred from access to parts of the logic (as women or, for many forms of eighteenth-century law, those without certain kinds of property), and that the poor may often be excluded, through penury, from the law's costly procedures. All this, and more, is true. But if too much of this is true, then the consequences are plainly counterproductive. Most men have a strong sense of justice, at least with regard to their own interests. If the law is evidently partial and unjust, then it will mask nothing, legitimize nothing, contribute nothing to any class' hegemony. The essential precondition for the effectiveness of law, in its function as ideology, is that it shall display an independence from gross manipulation and shall seem to be just. It cannot seem to be so without upholding its own logic and criteria of equity, indeed, on occasion, by actually being just. And furthermore, it is not often the case that a ruling ideology can be dismissed as a mere hypocrisy; even rulers find a need to legitimize their power, to moralize their functions, to feel themselves be useful and just. In the case of an ancient historical formation like the law, a discipline which requires years of exacting study to master, there will always be some men who actively believe in their own procedures and in the logic of justice. The law may be rhetoric, but it need not be empty rhetoric.
We reach, then, not a simple conclusion (law equals class power) but a complex and contradictory one. On the one hand, it is true that the law did mediate existent class relations to the advantage of the rulers; not only is this so, but as the century advanced, the law became a superb instrument by which these rulers were able to impose new definitions of property to their even greater advantage, as in the extinction by law of indefinite agrarian use-rights and in the furtherance of enclosure. On the other hand, the law mediated these class relations through legal forms, which imposed, again and again, inhibitions upon the action of the rulers. For there is a very large difference, which twentieth-century experience ought to have made clear even to the most exalted thinker, between arbitrary extralegal power and the rule of law. And not only were the rulers (indeed, the ruling class as a whole) inhibited by their own rules of law against the exercise of direct unmediated force ( arbitrary imprisonment, the employment of troops against the crowd, torture, and those other conveniences of power with which we are all conversant), but they also believed enough in these rules, and in their accompanying ideological rhetoric, to allow, in certain limited areas, the law itself to be a genuine forum within which certain kinds of class conflict were fought out. there were even occasions (one recalls John Wilkes and several of the trials of the 1790s) when the government itself retired from the courts defeated. Such occasions served, paradoxically, to consolidate power, to enhance its legitimacy, and to inhibit revolutionary movements. But, to turn the paradox around, these same occasions served to bring power even further within constitutional controls. The rhetoric and the rules of a society are something a great deal more than sham. In the same moment they may modify, in profound ways, the behaviour of the powerful, and mystify the powerless. They may disguise the true realities of power, but at the same time, they may curb that power and check its intrusions. And it is often from within that very rhetoric that a radical critique of the practice of the society is developed: the reformers of the 1790s appeared, first of all, clothed in the rhetoric of Locke and of Blackstone.
The notion of the regulation and reconciliation of conflicts through the rule of law - and the elaboration of rules and procedures which, on occasion, made some approximate approach toward the ideal - seems to me a cultural achievement of universal significance. I do not lay any claim as to the abstract, extra-historical impartiality of these rules. In context of gross class inequalities, the equity of the law must always be in some part sham. Transplanted as it was to even more inequitable contexts, this law could become an instrument of imperialism. For this law has found its way to a good many parts of the globe. But even here the rules and the rhetoric have imposed some inhibitions on the imperial power. If the rhetoric was a mask, it was a mask with Gandhi and Nehru were to borrow, at the head of a million masked supporters.
I am not starry-eyed about his at all. I am insisting only on the obvious point, which some modern Marxists have overlooked, that there is a difference between arbitrary power and the rule of law. We ought to expose the shams and inequities which may be concealed beneath this law. But the rule of law itself, the imposing of effective inhibitions on power and the defense of the citizen from power's all intrusive claims, seems to me to be an unqualified human good. To deny or belittle this good is, in this dangerous century when the resources and pretensions of power continue to enlarge, a desperate error of intellectual abstraction. More than this, it is a self-fulfilling error, which encourages us to give up the struggle against bad laws and class-bound procedures, and to disarm ourselves before power. It is to throw away a whole inheritance of struggle about law, and within the forms of law, whose continuity can never be fractured without bringing men and women into immediate danger.
"There are 10,000 “evaluators” at Google, many of them former employees at counterterrorism agencies, who determine the “quality” and veracity of websites. They have downgraded sites such as Truthdig, and with the abolition of net neutrality can further isolate those sites on the internet. The news organizations and corporations imposing and benefiting from this censorship have strong links to the corporate establishment and the Democratic Party. They do not question corporate capitalism, American imperialism or rising social inequality. They dutifully feed the anti-Russia hysteria." - Chris Hedges
"The corporate oligarchs, lacking a valid response to the discrediting of their policies of economic pillage and endless war, have turned to the blunt instrument of censorship and to a new version of red baiting. They do not intend to institute reforms or restore an open society. They do not intend to address the social inequality behind the political insurgencies in the two major political parties and the hatred of the corporate state that spans the political spectrum. They intend to impose a cone of silence and the state-sanctioned uniformity of opinion that characterizes all totalitarian regimes. This is what the use of FARA, the imposition of algorithms and the attempt to blame Trump’s election on Russian interference is about. Critics and investigative journalists who expose the inner workings of corporate power are branded enemies of the state in the service of a foreign power. The corporate-controlled media, meanwhile, presents the salacious, the trivial and the absurd as news while fanning the obsession over Russia. This is one of the most ominous moments in American history. The complicity in this witch hunt by self-identified liberal organizations, including The New York Times and MSNBC, will come back to haunt them. When the voices for truth are erased, they will be next." Chris Hedges
"The despotism of the United States and the despotism of Israel have found an ally in the despotism of Qatar. Professed beliefs are meaningless. Israel is bonded with the regime in Saudi Arabia and the Christian right in the United States, each of which is virulently anti-Semitic. Dissidents, including Jewish and Israeli dissidents, are attacked as “self-hating Jews” or anti-Semites only because they are dissidents. The word “traitor” or “anti-Semite” has no real meaning. It is used not to describe a reality but to turn someone into a pariah. The iron wall is rising. It will cement into place a global system of corporate totalitarianism, one in which the old vocabulary of human rights and democracy is empty and where any form of defiance means you are an enemy of the state. This totalitarianism is being formed incrementally. It begins by silencing the demonized. It ends by silencing everyone." Chris Hedges
The Man from Red Vienna - -Robert Kuttner - - DECEMBER 21, 2017 ISSUE- - Karl Polanyi: A Life on the Left- - by Gareth Dale - - Columbia University Press, 381 pp., $40.00; $27.00 (paper)
What a splendid era this was going to be, with one remaining superpower spreading capitalism and liberal democracy around the world. Instead, democracy and capitalism seem increasingly incompatible. Global capitalism has escaped the bounds of the postwar mixed economy that had reconciled dynamism with security through the regulation of finance, the empowerment of labor, a welfare state, and elements of public ownership. Wealth has crowded out citizenship, producing greater concentration of both income and influence, as well as loss of faith in democracy. The result is an economy of extreme inequality and instability, organized less for the many than for the few.
Not surprisingly, the many have reacted. To the chagrin of those who look to the democratic left to restrain markets, the reaction is mostly right-wing populist. And “populist” understates the nature of this reaction, whose nationalist rhetoric, principles, and practices border on neofascism. An increased flow of migrants, another feature of globalism, has compounded the anger of economically stressed locals who want to Make America (France, Norway, Hungary, Finland…) Great Again. This is occurring not just in weakly democratic nations such as Poland and Turkey, but in the established democracies—Britain, America, France, even social-democratic Scandinavia.
We have been here before. During the period between the two world wars, free-market liberals governing Britain, France, and the US tried to restore the pre–World War I laissez-faire system. They resurrected the gold standard and put war debts and reparations ahead of economic recovery. It was an era of free trade and rampant speculation, with no controls on private capital. The result was a decade of economic insecurity ending in depression, a weakening of parliamentary democracy, and fascist backlash. Right up until the German election of July 1932, when the Nazis became the largest party in the Reichstag, the pre-Hitler governing coalition was practicing the economic austerity commended by Germany’s creditors.
The great prophet of how market forces taken to an extreme destroy both democracy and a functioning economy was not Karl Marx but Karl Polanyi. Marx expected the crisis of capitalism to end in universal worker revolt and communism. Polanyi, with nearly a century more history to draw on, appreciated that the greater likelihood was fascism.
As Polanyi demonstrated in his masterwork The Great Transformation (1944), when markets become “dis-embedded” from their societies and create severe social dislocations, people eventually revolt. Polanyi saw the catastrophe of World War I, the interwar period, the Great Depression, fascism, and World War II as the logical culmination of market forces overwhelming society—“the utopian endeavor of economic liberalism to set up a self-regulating market system” that began in nineteenth-century England. This was a deliberate choice, he insisted, not a reversion to a natural economic state. Market society, Polanyi persuasively demonstrated, could only exist because of deliberate government action defining property rights, terms of labor, trade, and finance. “Laissez faire,” he impishly wrote, “was planned.”
Polanyi believed that the only way politically to temper the destructive influence of organized capital and its ultra-market ideology was with highly mobilized, shrewd, and sophisticated worker movements. He concluded this not from Marxist economic theory but from close observation of interwar Europe’s most successful experiment in municipal socialism: Red Vienna, where he worked as an economic journalist in the 1920s. And for a time in the post–World War II era, the entire West had an egalitarian form of capitalism built on the strength of the democratic state and underpinned by strong labor movements. But since the era of Thatcher and Reagan that countervailing power has been crushed, with predictable results.
In The Great Transformation, Polanyi emphasized that the core imperatives of nineteenth-century classical liberalism were free trade, the idea that labor had to “find its price on the market,” and enforcement of the gold standard. Today’s equivalents are uncannily similar. We have an ever more intense push for deregulated trade, the better to destroy the remnants of managed capitalism; and the dismantling of what remains of labor market safeguards to increase profits for multinational corporations. In place of the gold standard—whose nineteenth-century function was to force nations to put “sound money” and the interests of bondholders ahead of real economic well-being—we have austerity policies enforced by the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with the American Federal Reserve tightening credit at the first signs of inflation.
This unholy trinity of economic policies that Polanyi identified is not working any more now than it did in the 1920s. They are practical failures, as economics, as social policy, and as politics. Polanyi’s historical analysis, in both earlier writings and The Great Transformation, has been vindicated three times, first by the events that culminated in World War II, then by the temporary containment of laissez-faire with resurgent democratic prosperity during the postwar boom, and now again by the restoration of primal economic liberalism and neofascist reaction to it. This should be the right sort of Polanyi moment; instead it is the wrong sort.
Gareth Dale’s intellectual biography, Karl Polanyi: A Life on the Left, does a fine job of exploring the man, his work, and the political and intellectual setting in which he developed. This is not the first Polanyi biography, but it is the most comprehensive. Dale, a political scientist who teaches at Brunel University in London, also wrote an earlier book, Karl Polanyi: The Limits of the Market (2010), on his economics.
Polanyi was born in 1886 in Vienna to an illustrious Jewish family. His father, Mihály Pollacsek, came from the Carpathian region of the Hapsburg Empire and acquired a Swiss engineering degree. He was a contractor for the empire’s growing rail system. In the late 1880s, Mihály moved the family to Budapest, according to the Polanyi Archive. He magyarized the children’s family name to Polanyi in 1904, the same year Karl began studies at the University of Budapest, though he kept his own surname. Karl’s mother, Cecile, the well-educated daughter of a Vilna rabbi, was a pioneering feminist. She founded a women’s college in 1912, wrote for German-language periodicals in Budapest and Berlin, and presided over one of Budapest’s literary salons.
At home, German and Hungarian were spoken (along with French “at table”), and English was learned, Dale reports. The five Polanyi children also studied Greek and Latin. In the quarter-century before World War I, Budapest was an oasis of liberal tolerance. As in Vienna, Berlin, and Prague, a large proportion of the professional and cultural elite consisted of assimilated Jews. In the mid-1890s, Dale notes, “the Jewish faith was accorded the same privileges as the Christian denominations, and Jewish representatives were accorded seats in the upper house of parliament.”
Drawing on interviews and correspondence as well as published writings, Dale vividly evokes the era. Polanyi’s milieu in Budapest, known as the Great Generation, included activists and social theorists such as his mentor, Oscar Jaszi; Karl Mannheim; the Marxist Georg Lukács; Karl’s younger brother and ideological sparring partner, the libertarian Michael Polanyi; the physicists Leo Szilard and Edward Teller; the mathematician John von Neumann; and the composers Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály, among many others. In this hothouse Polanyi thrived, attending the Minta Gymnasium, one of the city’s best, and then the University of Budapest. He was expelled in 1907 following a shoving match in which anti-Semitic right-wingers disrupted a lecture by a popular leftist professor, Gyula Pikler. He had to finish his doctor of law degree in 1908 at the provincial University of Kolozsvár (today Cluj in Romania). There, he was a founder of the left-humanist Galilei Circle and later served on the editorial board of its journal.
Polanyi became a leading member of Jaszi’s political party, the Radicals, and was named its general secretary in 1918. He was drawn to the Christian socialism of Robert Owen and Richard Tawney and the guild socialism of G.D.H. Cole. He mused about a fusion of Marxism and Christianity. Polanyi is best classified as a left-wing social democrat—but a lifelong skeptic of the possibility that a capitalist society would ever tolerate a hybrid economic system.
After World War I broke out, Polanyi enlisted as a cavalry officer. When he came home in late 1917, suffering from malnutrition, depression, and typhus, Budapest was in the throes of a chaotic conflict between the left and the right. In 1918 the Hungarian government made a separate peace with the Allies, breaking with Vienna and hoping to create a liberal republic. Events in the streets overtook parliamentary jockeying, and the Communist leader Béla Kun proclaimed what turned out to be a short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic.
Polanyi decamped for Vienna, both to recover his health and to get off the political front lines. There he found his calling as a high-level economics journalist and the love of his life, Ilona Duczynska, a Polish-born radical well to his left. Their daughter, Kari, born in 1923, recalls, as a preteen, clipping marked-up newspaper articles in three languages for her father. At age ninety-four, she continues to help direct the Polanyi Archive in Montreal.
Central Europe’s equivalent of The Economist, the weekly Österreichische Volkswirt, hired Polanyi in 1924 as a writer on international affairs. He continued his quest for a feasible socialism, engaging with others on the left and challenging the right in ongoing arguments with the free-market theorist Ludwig von Mises. The debates, published in agonizing detail, turned on whether a socialist economy was capable of efficient pricing. Mises insisted it was not. Polanyi argued that a decentralized form of worker-led socialism could price necessities with good-enough accuracy. He ultimately concluded, Dale recounts, that these abstruse technical arguments had been a waste of his time.
A practical answer to the debate with Mises was playing out in Red Vienna. Well-mobilized workers kept socialist municipal governments in power for nearly sixteen years after World War I. Gas, water, and electricity were provided by the government, which also built working-class housing financed by taxes on the rich—including a tax on servants. There were family allowances for parents and municipal unemployment insurance for the trade unions. None of this undermined the efficiency of Austria’s private economy, which was far more endangered by the hapless policies of economic austerity that were criticized by Polanyi. After 1927, unemployment relentlessly increased and wages fell, which helped bring to power in 1932–1933 an Austrofascist government.
To Polanyi, Red Vienna was as important for its politics as for its economics. The perverse policies of Dickensian England reflected the political weakness of its working class, but Red Vienna was an emblem of the strength of its working class. “While [English poor-law reform] caused a veritable disaster of the common people,” he wrote, “Vienna achieved one of the most spectacular triumphs of Western history.” But as Polanyi appreciated, an island of municipal socialism could not survive larger market turbulence and rising fascism.
In 1933, with homegrown fascists running the government, Polanyi left Vienna for London. There, with the help of Cole and Tawney, he eventually found work in an extension program sponsored by Oxford University, known as the Workers’ Educational Association. He taught, among other subjects, English industrial history. His original research for these lectures formed the first drafts of The Great Transformation.
His mentor Oscar Jaszi was also now in exile and teaching at Oberlin. To supplement his meager adjunct pay, Polanyi was able to put together lecture tours to colleges in the United States. He found Roosevelt’s America a hopeful counterpoint to Europe. After war broke out, one of those lecture trips evolved into a three-year appointment at Bennington College, where he completed his book.
The timing of publication was auspicious. The year 1944 included the Bretton Woods Agreement, Roosevelt’s call for an Economic Bill of Rights, and Lord Beveridge’s epic blueprint Full Employment in a Free Society. What these had in common with Polanyi’s work was a conviction that an excessively free market should never again lead to human misery ending in fascism.
Yet Polanyi’s book was initially met with resounding silence. This, I think, was the result of two factors. First, Polanyi belonged to no academic discipline and was essentially self-taught. Dale writes that when he was finally offered a job teaching economic history at Columbia in 1947, “the sociologists saw him as an economist, while the economists thought the reverse.” Midcentury America was also a period when political economy, institutionalism, the history of economic thought, and economic history were going into a period of eclipse, in favor of formalistic modeling. Polanyi’s was not a hypothesis that could be tested.
Second and more important, Polanyi’s ideological adversaries enjoyed subsidy and promotion while he had only the power of his ideas. Mises, like Polanyi, had no academic credentials. But he conducted an influential private seminar from his post as secretary of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce. The seminar developed the ultra-laissez-faire Austrian school of economics. Mises’s prime student was Friedrich Hayek. As a laissez-faire theorist financed by organized business, Mises anticipated the Heritage Foundation by half a century.
Hayek later contended in The Road to Serfdom that well-intentioned state efforts to temper markets would end in despotism. But there is no case of social democracy drifting into dictatorship. History sided with Polanyi, demonstrating that an unrestrained free market leads to democratic breakdown. Yet Hayek ended up with a chair at the London School of Economics, which was founded by Fabians; the “Austrian School” got dignified as a formal school of libertarian economics; and Hayek later won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. The Road to Serfdom, also published in 1944, was a best seller, serialized in Reader’s Digest. Polanyi’s Great Transformation sold just 1,701 copies in 1944 and 1945.
When The Great Transformation appeared in 1944, the review in The New York Times was withering. The reviewer, John Chamberlain, wrote, “This beautifully written essay in the revaluation of a hundred and fifty years of history adds up to a subtle appeal for a new feudalism, a new slavery, a new status of economy that will tie men to their places of abode and their jobs.” If that sounds curiously like Hayek, the same Chamberlain had just written the effusive foreword to The Road to Serfdom. Such is the political economy of influence.
Yet Polanyi’s book refused to fade away. In 1982, his concepts were the centerpiece of an influential article by the international relations scholar John Gerard Ruggie, who termed the postwar economic order of 1944 “embedded liberalism.” The Bretton Woods system, Ruggie wrote, reconciled state with market by “re-embedding” the liberal economy in society via democratic politics.2 The Danish sociologist Gøsta Esping-Andersen, a major historian of social democracy, used the Polanyian concept “decommodification” in an important book, The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism (1990), to describe how social democrats contained and complemented the market.
Other scholars who have valued Polanyi’s insights include the political historians Ira Katznelson, Jacob Hacker, and Richard Valelly, the late sociologist Daniel Bell, and the economists Joseph Stiglitz, Dani Rodrik, and Herman Daly. On the other hand, thinkers who seem quintessentially Polanyian in their concern about markets invading nonmarket realms, such as Michael Walzer, John Kenneth Galbraith, Albert Hirschman, and the Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom, don’t invoke him at all. This is the price one pays for being, in Hirschman’s self-description, a trespasser.
Having been exiled three times—from Budapest to Vienna, from Vienna to London, and later to New York—Polanyi had to move yet again when the US authorities would not grant Ilona a visa, citing her onetime membership in the Communist Party in the 1920s. They ended up in a suburb of Toronto, from which Polanyi commuted to Columbia until his retirement in the mid-1950s.
Though his enthusiasts tend to focus only on The Great Transformation, Dale’s book is valuable for his discussion of Polanyi after 1944. He lived for another twenty years, working on what was then known as primitive economic systems, which gave him yet another basis to demonstrate that the free market is no natural condition, and that markets in fact do not have to overwhelm the rest of society. On the contrary, many early cultures effectively blended market and nonmarket forms of exchange. His subjects included the slave trade of Dahomey and the economy of ancient Athens, which “demonstrated that elements of redistribution, reciprocity, and market exchange could be effectively fused into ‘an organic whole.’” Dale writes, “For Polanyi, democratic Athens was truly antiquity’s forerunner to Red Vienna.” Athens, of course, was far from socialist, but its precapitalist economy did blend market and nonmarket forms of income.
Dale also addresses Polanyi’s views on the escalating cold war and on the mixed economy of the postwar era that many now view as a golden age. The trente glorieuses, combining egalitarian capitalism and restored democracy, should have felt to him like an affirmation. But Polanyi, having lived through two wars, the destruction of socialist Vienna, the loss of close family members to the Nazis, four separate exiles, and long separations from Ilona, was not so easily convinced. While he admired Roosevelt, he considered the British Labour government of 1945 a sellout—a welfare state atop a still capitalist system.
Half a century later, that concern proved all too accurate. Others saw the Bretton Woods system as an elegant way of restarting trade while creating shelter for each member nation to run full-employment economies, but Polanyi viewed it as an extension of the sway of capital. That may also have been prescient. By the 1980s, the IMF and the World Bank had been turned into enforcers of austerity, the opposite of what was intended by their architect, John Maynard Keynes. He blamed the cold war mostly on the Allies, praising Henry Wallace’s view that the West could have reached an accommodation with Stalin.
Dale makes no excuses for Polanyi’s blind spot about the Soviet Union. At various points in the 1920s and 1930s, he notes, Polanyi gave Stalin something of a pass, even blaming the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop pact on Whitehall’s anti-Sovietism. And he was sanguine about the intentions of the Russians in the immediate postwar period. As a member of the émigré Hungarian Council in London, he broke with its other leaders over whether the Red Army should be welcomed as a harbinger of democratic socialism. The Soviet liberation of Eastern Europe, Polanyi insisted, would bring “a form of representative government based on political parties.”
Having been proven badly wrong, Polanyi cheered the abortive Hungarian revolution of 1956, yet after it was crushed by Soviet tanks he also found reasons for hope in the mildly reformist “goulash communism” that followed. This was naive, yet not totally misplaced. Though Polanyi was no Marxist, there was enough openness in Hungary that in 1963, a year before his death and well before the Berlin Wall came down, he was invited to lecture at the University of Budapest, his first visit home in four decades.
On the centennial of his birth in 1986, Kari Polanyi-Levitt organized a symposium in his honor in Budapest. The conference volume makes a superb companion to the Dale biography.4 The twenty-five short articles are written by a mix of writers based in the West and several from what was still Communist Hungary—where Polanyi was widely read. The writing is surprisingly exploratory and nondogmatic. Even so, when her turn came to speak, Polanyi-Levitt took a moment to plead: “If I may be permitted one more request to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences…it is that The Great Transformation be made available to Hungarian readers in the Hungarian language.” This was finally done in 1990. Like many in the West, the Communist regime in Budapest was not quite sure what to do with Polanyi.
Today, after a democratic interlude, Hungary is a center of ultra-nationalist autocracy. Misguided policies of financial license played their usual part. After the 2008 financial collapse, Hungarian unemployment steadily rose, from under 8 percent before the crash to almost 12 percent by early 2010. And in the 2010 election, the far-right Fidesz Party swept a left-wing government out of power, winning more than two thirds of the parliamentary seats, which made possible the “illiberal democracy” of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. It was one more echo, and one more vindication, that Polanyi didn’t need.
What, finally, are we to make of Karl Polanyi? And what lessons might he offer for the present moment? As even his champions admit, some of his details were off. Earlier friendly critics, Fred Block and Margaret Somers, point out that his account of late-eighteenth-century Britain exaggerates the ubiquity of poor relief. His famous case of the poor law of Speenhamland of 1795, whose public assistance protected the poor from the early perturbations of capitalism, overstated its application in England as a whole. Yet his account of the liberal reform of the poor laws in the 1830s was spot on. The intent and effect were to push people off of relief and force workers to take jobs at the lowest going wage.
One might also argue that the failure of liberal democracy to take hold in Central Europe in the nineteenth century, which paved the way for right-wing nationalism, had more complex causes than the spread of economic liberalism. Yet Polanyi was correct to observe that it was the failed attempt to universalize market liberalism after World War I that left the democracies weak, divided, and incapable of resisting fascism until the outbreak of war. Neville Chamberlain is best remembered for his capitulation to Hitler at Munich in 1938. But at the nadir of the Great Depression in April 1933, when Hitler was consolidating power in Berlin and Chamberlain was serving as Tory chancellor of the exchequer in London, he said this: “We are free from that fear which besets so many less fortunately placed, the fear that things are going to get worse. We owe our freedom from that fear to the fact that we have balanced our budget.” Such was the perverse conventional wisdom, then and now. That line should be chiseled on some monument to Polanyi.
A recent article by three Danish political scientists in the Journal of Democracyquestions whether it was reasonable to attribute the surge of fascism in the 1920s and 1930s to the long arc of laissez-faire and economic collapse.5 They reported that the well-established democracies of northwest Europe and the former British colonies Canada, the US, Australia, and New Zealand “were virtually immune to the repeated crises of the interwar period,” while the newer and more fragile democracies of southern, central, and eastern Europe succumbed. Indeed, fascists briefly assumed power in northwest Europe only through invasion and occupation. Yet that observation makes Polanyi a more prophetic and ominous voice for our own time. Today in much of Europe, far-right parties are now the second or third largest.
In sum, Polanyi got some details wrong, but he got the big picture right. Democracy cannot survive an excessively free market; and containing the market is the task of politics. To ignore that is to court fascism. Polanyi wrote that fascism solved the problem of the rampant market by destroying democracy. But unlike the fascists of the interwar period, today’s far-right leaders are not even bothering to contain market turbulence or to provide decent jobs through public works. Brexit, a spasm of anger by the dispossessed, will do nothing positive for the British working class; and Donald Trump’s program is a mash-up of nationalist rhetoric and even deeper government alliance with predatory capitalism. Discontent may yet go elsewhere. Assuming democracy holds, there could be a countermobilization more in the spirit of Polanyi’s feasible socialism. The pessimistic Polanyi would say that capitalism has won and democracy has lost. The optimist in him would look to resurgent popular politics.
I treated the Mises-Hayek-Polanyi conflicts in “Karl Polanyi Explains It All,” The American Prospect, May–June 2014.
John Gerard Ruggie, “International Regimes, Transactions, and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the Postwar Economic Order,” International Organization, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Spring 1982).
Gøsta Esping-Andersen, The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism (Polity, 1990).
The Life and Work of Karl Polanyi: A Celebration, edited by Kari Polanyi-Levitt (Montreal: Black Rose, 1990).
Agnes Cornell, Jørgen Møller, Svend-Erik Skaaning, “The Real Lessons of the Interwar Years,” Journal of Democracy, Vol. 28, No. 3 (July 2017).
In the current period the contradictions of imperialism are being generalized. The cascading, successive, struggles of the oppressed peoples of the world are successfully changing the political and economic contours of the world. This is the source of the crisis of imperialism and the reason the imperialists have geared up for a permanent state of war, currently characterized as a fight against terrorism.
Nevertheless, despite all the imperialist duplicity and claims about fighting terrorism, imperialist war is being increasingly discredited as a viable solution. The economic crisis and bourgeois colonialist state response to it are exposing greater numbers of North American oppressor nation citizens to economic anxiety and political outrage.
The self-interested concerns of the North American oppressor nation citizens are real. The problem historically is that the North American population has usually united with solutions to their perceived problems at the expense of Africans and others. This is an example of the power of the ideological foundation of imperialism.
Historically the ruling class initiators and ultimate beneficiaries of this ideology have used it to promote and validate the obscene ability of whites to unite with their own white ruling class and opportunistically separate their own narrow, self-serving interests from those of the majority of the peoples of the world.
This traditional North American opportunism — the tendency to accept short-term benefits for themselves at the expense of the long-term interests of the masses of the world’s peoples — serves to protect imperialism by splitting the North American people and self-serving, self-defined progressives from the struggling peoples of the world.
However, during this period where so many of the inherent contradictions of imperialism are in a state of simultaneous convergence, we have the greatest opportunity, perhaps in history, to win a significant sector of the North American oppressor nation citizens to unity with a revolutionary solution.
In the earlier-quoted 1920 presentation at the Second Congress of the Third Communist International, Lenin addressed the question of white opportunism and its material basis with these words:
“Why is this opportunism stronger in Western Europe than in our own country [Russia]? It is because the culture of the advanced countries has been, and still is, the result of being able to live at the expense of a thousand million oppressed people. It is because the capitalists of these countries obtain a great deal more in this way than they could obtain as profits by plundering the workers of their own countries.
“It is these thousands of millions in superprofits that form the economic basis of opportunism in the [white] working class movement.”
Today, with North Americans feeling pain and often needing to respond to it, we must look for occasions to use their own pain as the starting point in the discussion, helping them in the process to recognize that although they are not accustomed to it, theirs is not a special pain.
They must be made to understand that theirs is a pain born of the very nature of a social system built and sustained by the pain of slavery, colonialism and genocide committed against the majority population of the world. The theory of African Internationalism must be taken to North Americans and Europeans.
The African People’s Solidarity Committee is the potent weapon that we will employ in this critical task. In order to be effective it is not enough to only educate the North American population to the aggressions of imperialism against Africans and others. We must develop our capacity to explain to the North American population the connection between its current crisis and the very nature of the system born of slavery, colonialism and genocide.
The African People’s Solidarity Committee must become reverse missionaries, taking real “civilization” to the white world, civilization that will help them to throw off the superstition of racial separation and superiority through recognition that their fate and their possibility of a real future will depend on their willingness to join us in destroying the failed god of a parasitic based white supremacy.
The alienated sectors of the North American people must be brought to a scientific understanding of the contradictions they themselves are facing. In other words, we must become experts in winning North Americans to solidarity based on the recognition that solidarity is the only route to creating a new system that will free them from the imperialist-designed segregation from the rest of the world and from the exploitation and other contradictions with which they attempt to contend in their imaginary isolation from the rest of us. The white population must become anti-colonialists as a matter of self-defense.
- Political Report to the Fifth Congress of the
African People’s Socialist Party
What Europeans did to other Europeans under Hitler had been practiced for hundreds of years against Africans, Indigenous and Asian peoples. No white people, including Jews, protested when Africans and other colonized people were being slaughtered by the millions by European and American powers. What was inflicted on Jews by Nazi Germany was an outgrowth of centuries of genocide against other peoples. Only when the atrocities were carried out against other white people, was any outrage registered by Europeans.
Despite experiencing some of what colonized peoples have been subjected to for so long, most jews did not stand with the oppressed. Instead they stole the land of the Palestinians and created the Israeli state. Now the fiercest imperialists in the Middle East, Jews engage in the slaughter of Islamic peoples.
The mass murder of Jews in Nazi Germany is used to further attack African people. A Jewish member of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors broke into tears once when the Uhuru Movement in Oakland went before the board to protest the abuse of African children in the foster care system as genocide. Genocide only happens to Jews, she said.
Steven Spielberg once came to the nearly all-African Castlemont High School, located in East Oakland, down the street from the Oakland Uhuru House. His purpose was to force African children to watch the movie Schindler’s List.
One wonders why anyone would make a film glorifying a Nazi who saved a tiny percentage of people from death by putting them in slave labor in his factory. In any case, Spielberg and others were incensed when the Castlemont students laughed at the movie. Certainly the thought of any white people trying to tell Africans about genocide is patronizing and outright ridiculous.
Holocaust museums have opened in Washington D.C. as well as in many other U.S. cities, but the wholesale murder of Jews never took place inside the United States.
Genocide against African and indigenous people was carried out here. Jews are getting reparations by the trillions of dollars from Germany and Switzerland while reparations to African people is laughed off by white society.
Where are the Jews who are willing to use their experience in Germany as an opportunity to stand in solidarity with African and colonized people?”
-“Overturning The Culture of Violence”(2000), Penny Hess (Chairwoman of the African People’s Solidarity Committee)
''Solidarity means we wish to use those hands, long bloodied by the imperial devastation our government has wrought in our name, to contribute to the building of a new society, freed from oppression, genocide, slavery, rape and torture.
Solidarity means that we make a conscious effort to shed our opportunism.
Solidarity means that we stop trying to fight for a bigger piece of the pie for ourselves, or an elimination of conflict within a fundamentally oppressive society, and commit our lives to stand with oppressed and colonized peoples whose victory over imperialism strikes at the root of a parasitic system that endangers all of life on this planet.
Solidarity means we subordinate our short-term, narrow interests to the long-term interests of the rest of humanity, in whose liberation from white oppression we can begin to find our own genuine liberation, free from opportunism, for the first time in our history.
Solidarity for those of us who are gay, lesbian, trans or queer, or a woman, or disabled—raped by this society, beaten by this society, degraded by this society, driven to near suicide by this society—we see that our oppression takes place in the context of white power built on black oppression, and Black Power’s defeat of white power is the only roadway to a world in which we ourselves are free to live and prosper peacefully and happily. Black Power is people’s power, the power of NO OPPRESSION.
Solidarity with African liberation is our engagement in the creation of a humane, just and peaceful future.''
-African People's Solidarity Committee- Uhuru Movement - #Omalitaughtme