Open Threads

Open Threads is an open blogging platform, for debate and exploration of ideas among communists and radicals. Content presented here is contributed by Kasama site users.

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By Gary Leupp, originally published at Dissident Voice.

About a week into the Ferguson crisis, cable TV anchors like Chris Cuomo and Anderson Cooper began to decry the presence of “outside agitators” in the community. This was after SWAT teams with MRAP trucks and M-16 assault rifles came from outside in response to crimes against property (window-smashing and looting) prompted by outrage at the police killing of an unarmed black 18-year-old boy.

There are 53 members of the Ferguson police force, 50 of them white in a town that is almost 70% black. One in four people lives below the federal poverty line in Ferguson, and most black residents say they’ve been pulled over by police or have friends or family members who have been harassed by the police. It’s a place that was ready to explode.

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Whatever one's opinions on the RCP and their effectiveness in Ferguson, the recent attacks on them by liberals are nothing but good old fashioned red-baiting portraying them as "outside agitators."  The term "outside agitators" goes back to the Jim Crow South when white supremacists referred to civil rights activists, such Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as "outside agitators" who had come to "rile up" the otherwise content peaceful black populace. To the white supremacists, black people were seen as too dumb to protest without "Red influence." We should reject these stereotypes and stand in principled solidarity and defend the RCP from these anticommunist attacks.



By Douglas Williams, originally published at Jacobin.

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This article was originally published at Open Media Boston. It is republished here with slight edits.

By Enaa

As I write this, the Israeli Defense Forces have begun a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. I am a  secular Jew, and myself along with millions of other Jews, hear that the state of Israel which claims to speak and act in our name - is now indiscriminately bombarding and murdering Palestinians. What stand should we take? What is the right and the wrong? The reactions among the apologists for Israel, Jewish and non-Jewish, Democrat and Republican, are to be expected: support for Israel's offensive against “terrorists” and “extremists.” Israel is praised for “showing restraint” and its “purity of arms.” After all, this is only natural for the “only democracy in the Middle East” which shares “our values.” And none of this whitewashing for Israeli colonialism should be surprising to anyone. We are under no illusions – they are forthright about where they stand.

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“Peoples do not judge in the same way as courts of law; they do not hand down sentences, they throw thunderbolts; they do not condemn kings, they drop them back into the void; and this justice is worth just as much as that of the courts.”

― Maximilien de Robespierre

Wallace Shawn is a world famous actor and playwright. He has starred in multiple roles in the Princess Bride, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Toy Story and Gossip Girl. Aside from such roles, Shawn is also a life-long socialist. In the excerpt from his play "The Fever" reprinted below, Shawn gives a succinct explanation of Marx's theory of commodity fetishism.


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One day there was an anonymous present sitting on my doorstep—Volume One of Capital by Karl Marx, in a brown paper bag. A joke? Serious? And who had sent it? I never found out. Late that night, naked in bed, I leafed through it. The beginning was impenetrable, I couldn't understand it, but when I came to the part about the lives of the workers—the coal miners, the child laborers—I could feel myself suddenly breathing more slowly. How angry he was. Page after page. Then I turned back to an earlier section, and I came to a phrase that I'd heard before, a strange, upsetting, sort of ugly phrase: this was the section on "commodity fetishism," "the fetishism of commodities." I wanted to understand that weird-sounding phrase, but I could tell that, to understand it, your whole life would probably have to change.

His explanation was very elusive. He used the example that people say, "Twenty yards of linen are worth two pounds." People say that about every thing that it has a certain value. This is worth that. This coat, this sweater, this cup of coffee: each thing worth some quantity of money, or some number of other things—one coat, worth three sweaters, or so much money—as if that coat, suddenly appearing on the earth, contained somewhere inside itself an amount of value, like an inner soul, as if the coat were a fetish, a physical object that contains a living spirit. But what really determines the value of a coat? The coat's price comes from its history, the history of all the people involved in making it and selling it and all the particular relationships they had. And if we buy the coat, we, too, form relationships with all those people, and yet we hide those relationships from our own awareness by pretending we live in a world where coats have no history but just fall down from heaven with prices marked inside. "I like this coat," we say, "It's not expensive," as if that were a fact about the coat and not the end of a story about all the people who made it and sold it, "I like the pictures in this magazine."

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