Animals and Humans – do we exploit animals?

Questions regarding the human species relationship to the natural world can be complicated to understand. It encompasses all three categories of Marxist “philosophy”: dialectical materialism, historical materialism, and scientific socialism. First, let me say that I’m sympathetic to discussions on this subject matter in general; but I find the way Jon Hochschartner’s article compares animal “’exploitation” to human slavery objectionable.

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A Note on Foundational Assumptions

There is no going back.

We are forty years into that phase of capitalism that those in economic and radical circles know as “neoliberalism.” Margaret Thatcher famously defined it as “There Is No Alternative.” No alternative, that is, to the free market, the free flow of capital.

In brief: the last forty years have seen a massive push by the capitalist classes of the world to privatize, deregulate, capitalize, deunionize, undemocratize. Many books have been written about this process, wherein the US working class has lost 20 per cent of its purchasing power, while union density has dropped from 28% to 12%; wherein the world is now, for the first time in history, more than 50 per cent proletarian; wherein all the old certainties about economics, politics and society are now dead. Consciousness lags behind the course of material changes, so perhaps we should not be surprised that so many, particularly of the older generation, view all of this as a loss of what was a golden age, and cling so doggedly to notions that are now simply a lost cause.

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Jon Hochschartner: Towards a Marxist Animalism

To develop a Marxist animalism, we must situate non-humans within the labor theory of value, building on the intellectual groundwork laid by anti-speciesists like Barbara Noske and Bob Torres. The vegetarian socialist George Bernard Shaw reportedly argued, “I don’t need a theory of value to tell me the poor are exploited.” I’m sympathetic to such anti-intellectualism. But the truth is that for animalists to effect the species politics of Marxists, who have a disproportionate ideological influence on the far left, we must learn to speak their language. While I am very far from an expert on the minutiae of communist theory, this is what I have attempted to begin doing here.

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The pilgrim’s lack of progress: An assessment of the ISO Renewal Faction

A recurring complaint of the Renewal Faction, and before that me personally, regarding the political method of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) was that the group rarely assessed its own activity. It seemed, therefore, that it would be gauche for me not to attempt an assessment of the faction itself. I should stress that these are my views as an individual on questions that were more often than not disputed within Renewal itself–the ISO leadership faction’s image of us as a clique ruled by one person (me) notwithstanding. I think other Renewal comrades would (and should!) produce different assessments.

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Questions and concerns about the ISO and CERSC (Unredacted)

[Unredacted as of 12 February 2014; see our revised publication policy.]

The Center for Economic Research and Social Change (CERSC) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization legally independent of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), but to which ISO members have contributed significant time, money, and talent. The success of CERSC, especially its Haymarket Books project, is due in great part to ISO members. Some of us in the Renewal Faction, for example, have supported CERSC since its foundation in 2000. We have a sense of investment in the nonprofit, and consequently a sense that we ought to understand and influence its direction, especially as it intersects with the life of the ISO.

Through our experiences and a study of the publicly-available information about the finances of CERSC (available here), we have become concerned that the development of the nonprofit may be a force tending to undermine democratic accountability and control in the ISO. It occurs to us that the membership of the ISO ought to know much more about CERSC and the relationship between the ISO and CERSC given the contribution that the former makes to the latter. This document therefore poses a series of questions about the leadership, finances, and apparatus of the nonprofit. It concludes with further considerations of the importance of the questions we raise in the general context of the left today.

This document is based overwhelmingly on material available to the public–most of it filed with the state and/or federal government. In the rare instances where we use internal material, it is redacted for external publication.

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The role of perspectives (Unredacted)

[Unredacted as of 12 February 2014; see our revised publication policy.]

The recent debates in and around the ISO have brought to light a core question: What is the role of perspectives and how should such perspectives be set?

What has become clear to us is a tendency in the ISO wherein our perspectives focus on “next steps” and “immediate opportunities” and emphasize the possibilities inherent in every political moment while downplaying the real challenges. The goal seems to be to keep the membership activated and (ultimately) trained, so that when the big struggles break out, comrades will be tested and steeled and able to act decisively.

The ISO’s perspectives, then, are structurally biased against having an accurate reading of the world and a strategy that flows from that. Rather, the perspectives are set so as to see within the world only the possibilities, successes and positives and keeping the membership focused on activity—even if that activity does not have clear political goals in the long-term.

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