Colin Kaepernick, Patriotism, and the Owning Class

Colin Jenkins

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Colin Kaepernick took a courageous and principled stand this past season by kneeling during the national anthem before NFL games. This was done in response to a society that continues to systematically, culturally, and institutionally devalue non-white lives. This devaluation is played out in many areas, including politics, economics, housing, employment, and perhaps most notably, within the criminal justice system. Non-white lives are routinely extinguished by police in the streets without recourse, in the courts without pause, and in the prisons without hesitation. Entire generations of non-white Americans have essentially been destroyed through the “school-to-prison pipeline” and a system of mass incarceration.

Kaepernick recognized this and felt compelled to bring attention to it. He openly protested the national anthem, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to community agencies, and started a national youth camp program to teach children from marginalized communities about self-empowerment.

He is now a free agent, in the prime of his career, and without a job. By all “measurables” (and the NFL is big on “measurables”), Kaepernick should have a starting job somewhere. Despite playing for one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2016, he still managed to put up impressive numbers in only 12 games: 2,241 passing yard, 468 rushing yards on a 6.8 yards-per-carry average, a 16/4 TD/INT ratio, and a passer rating of 90.7. His passer rating was higher than that of 13 other starting QBs, including Eli Manning, Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, and Joe Flacco.

The only reasonable explanation for Kaepernick’s newfound unemployment status is that he’s being blackballed by billionaire NFL owners. We’ve seen this before. Muhammad Ali, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Craig Hodges, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos all faced similar treatment after using their platforms to take principled stands. Kaepernick has made millions of dollars in the NFL, so he will be fine either way. But there are many lessons to be learned from this situation.

One important lesson is how the capitalist class relies on patriotism to help protect and secure its position in society. The notion of patriotism is one that tells the working class within any given country that they have a deep, common bond with the owning class. This, of course, couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, the owning-class minority drives the working-class majority into widespread deprivation in order to secure more and more wealth for itself. One way to hide this reality is to create an artificial bond based in geographic nationalism — patriotism.

While globalizing its capital, the owning class calls for “national unity.” While laying off American workers in mass, it airs multi-million dollar ad campaigns celebrating patriotic loyalty. While employing foreign workers for slave wages, it parades its brand name during celebrations of national independence. While driving wages down and forcing American workers into welfare programs, it asks that you celebrate “American values.” While systematically exploiting the majority, it demands that this majority remain loyal to its nationalistic ties.

Patriotism is a crucial tool for the owning class. To them, Kaepernick’s refusal to submit to this nationalistic ritual was not merely “disrespect”; it was a potentially damaging challenge to this incredibly important tool that is wielded in their quest to extract all of society’s wealth. For this reason, it is vitally important that Kaepernick be taught a lesson. The NFL’s billionaire class is in the process of carrying out this lesson.

In solidarity.

 

The Founding Fathers: “Neoliberals” Avant le Mot

Chris Wright

 

“Who is to blame for the election of Donald Trump?” It’s a question that has been asked more than a few times since November. We’re all familiar with the answers that have been given: James Comey, the electoral college, the DNC’s leaked -not hacked-emails, the characteristically shameful performance of the mainstream media in its focus on personalities rather than substance, the stupefying incompetence of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the elitist insularity and corruption of the Democratic Party, etc. Longer-term causes (which are intertwined) include the decline of organized labor, which has always served as a bulwark against fascism or semi-fascism; deindustrialization, which has contributed to the economic insecurity that apparently motivated many of Trump’s supporters; and the almost total capture of the Democratic Party by the corporate sector of the economy. But one group of people has tended to escape blame, even despite widespread disgust with the electoral college: the U.S.’s “Founding Fathers.” While they are distant in time from the political obscenity that was Trump’s election, they are far from innocent.

This is clear from two books that every American should read, published in 2008 and 2009 respectively: Woody Holton’s Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution and Terry Bouton’sTaming Democracy: “The People,” the Founders, and the Troubled Ending of the American Revolution . These books reveal the extent to which nearly all the Founders loathed and feared democracy, at least between the 1780s and the first decade of the nineteenth century. (Their attitudes were more complex in the 1770s, and in their later years such (former) anti-democrats as James Madison and John Adams were repulsed by the excesses of the capitalist aristocracy.) The popular attitude of reverence for the Founders is a product of deep misunderstanding and ignorance, for it is the viciously antidemocratic structure of the political system the Founders created that has helped make possible our new Gilded Age, and thus the political success of someone like Donald Trump.

In fact, I think it’s important to spread the idea that, far from being “liberators,” the Founders were, in essence, the first in America’s long line of usurpers and oppressors. This idea is a simplification, but it contains a large kernel of truth. The hackneyed narrative that history textbooks still teach about the greatness and nobility of Washington, Madison, Adams, Hamilton, and the others is nothing but nationalist propaganda that serves to obscure the malignity of these people’s historical impact and legacy. One might even say that their most potent legacy was the precise opposite of what we’ve been trained to think (and what they thought): rather than having been great figures of anti-authoritarian revolution, heroic fighters against tyranny, in effect they did much to clear the ground for the most rapacious tyranny in history, the national and eventually global tyranny of capital.
The 1780s: the Founders vs. the People

These judgments might seem excessively harsh, but consider the facts. Across the American colonies, the revolutionary 1770s were a time of relative democracy. In the struggle against the British, the gentry and the lower classes to some extent united around the banner of white male popular empowerment. States adopted strikingly democratic constitutions, none more impressive than Pennsylvania’s in 1776, which established a unicameral legislature, annual elections for every representative, a weak governorship that could not veto laws the legislature passed, the election rather than appointment of most offices in the state and county governments, and the enfranchisement of nearly all adult men, even those who owned no property.

But things changed in the 1780s. The gentry had “tired of an excess of democracy,” to quote Alexander Hamilton-others were less restrained, decrying “democratical tyranny,” a “republican frenzy,” a “prevailing rage of excessive democracy”-and tried to take total control of state governments. Given the shortage of gold and silver, during the war with Britain governments had issued paper money, which soon led to high inflation. This was blamed, simplistically, on the democratic character of the governments, the “imbecility” of popularly elected politicians; and most of the elite “gentlemen” came to view all government-issued paper money as an evil to be done away with. They also disliked the social and cultural manifestations of democracy, the leveling spirit that raised commoners in their own eyes and lowered the gentry. The ultra-rich financier Robert Morris represented his class when he resolved to strip power from all these “vulgar Souls whose narrow Optics can see but the little Circle of selfish Concerns.”

The political and economic agenda that Morris and his associates championed bore a remarkable, if hardly surprising, resemblance to neoliberalism. “Morris wanted government to channel money to the wealthy,” Terry Bouton writes, “either through direct payouts or by privatizing the most lucrative parts of the state and turning them over to new for-profit corporations owned and run by the gentry.” One of the most powerful figures in American history, Morris founded in 1781 the first private bank in the United States-the Bank of North America-in part to remove finance from democratic control: not governments, but banks would issue paper money. Private corporations, unlike governments, would be immune to public pressure for a greater supply of money, and would therefore be able to prevent inflation. Actually, the acute shortage of money during the 1780s showed that Morris was too pessimistic: even in states where legislatures did on occasion print money, they certainly did not do so to the extent that “the people” desired.

The 1780s were a time of ferocious class conflict, with most of the eventual framers of the U.S. Constitution facing off, alongside Robert Morris and the majority of the gentry, against the middling and lower classes, overwhelmingly agrarian. On one side were the wealthy speculators in government IOUs, who had bought these bonds for pennies on the dollar from the farmers, artisans, and soldiers to whom they had been given during the war as payment for goods and services. Their original holders, expecting the bonds to depreciate and needing money right away, sold them for whatever they could get. Speculators, on the other hand, could afford to wait years for the government to redeem the bonds, and had the political clout to insist that they be paid at or near the certificates’ full face value even though at the time of issuance the certificates’ market value was far below this. The state and federal war debt most of which speculators thus bought up was enormous, about $27 million.

To pay interest on the war debt, many states tended to impose the same type of fiscal and monetary regime on the populace that more recently the IMF has favored: oppressive taxes, a tight money supply, and the curtailing of public services (such as government-run “loan offices” that gave cheap credit to farmers and artisans). Since both private creditors and bond speculators were averse to paper money, governments compelled debtors and taxpayers to pay with gold and silver. But the war years had drained the country of gold and silver, making it impossible for people to pay. The nationwide tragedy that resulted has been compared to the Great Depression of the 1930s: tsunamis of property foreclosures swept up hundreds of thousands of families, and economic activity plummeted. “Public Trade and Private transactions of Human Life,” petitioners in Pennsylvania protested, “[are] nearly reduced to a total Stagnation.”

On the other side of the economic divide, then, were masses of ordinary people who found that their troubles were much worse in the 1780s than they had been in the last years of British rule, when their hardships had driven them to rebellion and war. “Have we not expended our blood and our treasure to expel from the land a set of invaders who sought to rule over us as taskmasters,” they exclaimed in the mid-1780s, “and shall we now become bondsmen to people of our own country?” The irony was appalling, and the victims fought back.

In fact, they were able to extract significant concessions and relief measures. In some states, by electing legislators sympathetic to their plight, farmers and artisans benefited from temporary suspensions of tax collection. Violent resistance, such as Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts in 1786 and ’87, frightened governments into being more lenient in their fiscal and monetary policies. Local and county officials often were sympathetic to the suffering of their neighbors and refused to enforce the law or carry out orders: for example, county tax officers would delay collection; some sheriffs obstructed or prevented property foreclosures; justices of the peace refused to prosecute people for nonpayment of taxes. Nor were state militias always of use in enforcing tax collection, for it was frequently militiamen who were leading the anti-tax protests. All this protest in the mid-1780s substantially mitigated the hardships of “the 99 percent” (so to speak)-which means that it was a tremendous irritant to the elite. For one thing, it prevented bondholders and creditors from being paid as much and as regularly as they wanted. For another, it fostered economic and political uncertainty, which made for a bad investment climate. European investors, in particular, were leery of sending their capital to a land that was so riven by conflict. How could a country develop if it couldn’t attract investment?

Various solutions were possible to the political and economic instabilities of the 1780s, and spokesmen of the aggrieved masses made reasonable proposals that were relatively fair to both sides of the class struggle. They called for a revaluation of war debt certificates, progressive taxation, limits on land speculation, bans on for-profit corporations, and other measures that would alleviate spiraling wealth inequality and strengthen democracy. Such proposals were consistent with the popular understanding of republicanism, an understanding that differed from that of aristocrats like Madison, Washington, Adams, Hamilton, and Edmund Randolph. As Gordon Wood describes in The Radicalism of the American Revolution , these latter men considered it axiomatic that, because only an elite of disinterested, virtuous, propertied gentlemen was capable of pursuing the public good over selfish private ends, the success of a republic required that such men hold power. It was necessary to tame the wildness of democracy-i.e., to effectively disenfranchise the majority-in order for enlightened civic virtue to flourish.

“The people,” on the other hand, tended to have a less naïve view of the world. As yeomen from Pennsylvania said in one of their many petitions to the state government, “No observation is better supported, than this that, a country cannot long preserve its liberty, where a great inequality of property takes place.” Some of their legislators agreed: they declared that for-profit corporations were “totally destructive of that equality which ought to prevail in a republic.” Farmers wrote that “We observe, with great anxiety, wealthy incorporated companies taking possession of public and private property,” and condemned processes that made “a few men…sufficiently powerful by privileges and wealth, to purchase, or to destroy, the property and rights of their fellow citizens.” Evidently these farmers had a more sophisticated political understanding than James Madison and his idealistic colleagues did, at least insofar as they understood that the real danger to republicanism was not democracy but rather a sharp inequality of property.
The Constitution: Triumph of Reaction

Needless to say, it was not the farmers’ democratic vision that ultimately prevailed. Robert Morris and other anti-democrats across the states organized a new Constitutional Convention in 1787 to remedy the defects of the Articles of Confederation, which is to say to write a new Constitution that would more adequately insulate government from democratic control. The convention was not sold this way to the people, of course; its purpose, instead, was supposed to be to find ways to give government more power to protect shipping and to negotiate trade deals with foreign nations. Secretly, though, nearly all the delegates had one goal mainly in mind: to make America more attractive to investment, as Woody Holton argues. “And the linchpin to that endeavor,” he says, “was taking power away from the states and away from the people.”

In other words, the U.S. was founded from the motive, and on the principle, of serving capital. The very structure of its political system was chosen so as, chiefly, to attract investors, i.e., to be a tool of capital accumulation. It is probably the only country in history of which this is the case. But to those who are familiar with U.S. history, so full of subservience to capitalism , such a revelation should not be surprising.

Many of the devices that the Constitution’s framers proposed to limit democracy were not adopted at the convention in Philadelphia. The delegates had to navigate between two contradictory imperatives: on one hand, they wanted to make it forever impossible for states to adopt the kinds of debtor-relief and taxpayer-relief legislation that the 1780s had seen; on the other hand, they could not make the Constitution so antidemocratic that the states and the people would not ratify it. Because of this second consideration, for example, Madison’s proposal that the U.S. Senate be able to veto state legislation “in all cases whatsoever” was rejected. The same fate befell Hamilton’s extreme proposal that the Senate and President be elected for life, as a way to provide the government with maximum protection against democracy. Nearly all the delegates strongly favored Hamilton’s plan, but they knew it would prevent the Constitution from being ratified.

Nevertheless, in its finished form the Constitution was hardly a model of democracy. While senators’ terms were not nine years long, as Madison wanted, six years was long enough to considerably insulate the Senate from the popular will. The Senate’s very existence, of course-as a body explicitly reminiscent of Britain’s House of Lords-was a significant “check and balance” against the people. As was the indirect election of its members, and of the president (by means of the electoral college). The Constitution’s framers even managed to limit democracy in the House of Representatives, by making election districts so large that ordinary people would have a hard time getting elected. Men of wealth would be much more successful than others in making their names and views known in a large district. To say it differently, large districts would “divide the community,” as Madison said, and make it difficult for the non-wealthy to “unite in the pursuit [of a] common interest.”

Furthermore, members of the House and the Senate could not be recalled, and constituents were not given the right to instruct their representatives on how to vote on particular issues (a right that even as British colonists many of them had had).

As for the presidency, it would be a very powerful position that could veto any dangerously democratic law that somehow made it through the gauntlet of the deliberately cumbersome and convoluted machinery for passing legislation in Congress. The president would also be responsible for making most major appointments in the national government, a power that under the Articles of Confederation had resided in the legislative branch.

The Supreme Court-appointed, not directly elected-had its part to play in “check[ing] the imprudence of democracy” (to quote Hamilton): through judicial review it could overturn both federal and state legislation. In this way, Madison’s proposal that the national government have some means of vetoing inconveniently democratic state laws was salvaged.

In case such protections were not enough, language was written into the Constitution that expressly forbade most of the pro-debtor, pro-taxpayer laws states had passed in the 1780s. Article I deprived states of control over the war debt, thus preventing them from paying war debt speculators the market worth rather than the much higher face value of the certificates they held. (As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton, who had been mentored by the ultra-conservative Robert Morris, gave these speculators a tremendous windfall, to the outrage of farmers.) Congress was granted the power to directly tax citizens instead of relying on states to do so, and it could break mass resistance to tax policies by bringing in militias from surrounding states. Section 10 of Article I was especially momentous: it reads, in part, “No State shall…emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts [nor] pass any…Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts.” In one swoop, this established a political-economic regime that overwhelmingly favored creditors. It prohibited states from issuing their own paper currency-“effectively destroying state-run land banks [i.e., loan offices],” as Bouton notes, “and the system of public, long-term, low-cost credit” that had been very effective and enormously popular with farmers. Debt arbitration was outlawed. In general, states were prohibited from rescuing debtors.

(It is worth noting, parenthetically, that the recent fashions of “originalism,” “original intent,” “strict constructionism,” and such tendencies in legal interpretation of the Constitution are predictable in a neoliberal context, given that the framers and their contemporaries thought of the now-revered document as thoroughly antidemocratic. Originalism can be a useful tool of hyper-capitalism.)

The majority of ordinary citizens were none too fond of this radically elitist Constitution. But they were so scattered and had so few resources compared to the “Federalists” who supported it that it was difficult for them to mount an effective opposition. Federalists, moreover, did not play nice. They were prepared to go to almost any length to get the Constitution ratified. In some states, such as Pennsylvania, they organized a ratification convention before the opposition had a chance to mobilize, and they gave districts that favored ratification a disproportionately large number of delegates. Their ownership of most newspapers allowed them to conduct a major propaganda campaign that suppressed the voices of Anti-Federalists. Violent threats were made against Anti-Federalist printers; offending pamphlets and newspapers were “stopped & destroyed”; Federalist postmasters intercepted and suppressed Anti-Federalist mail; writers resorted to lies about the provisions that the Constitution contained and the process that had brought it into being.

On the other hand, many people were reconciled to it on the basis of legitimate considerations. For one thing, since the national government would have the power to impose tariffs on imports, most people’s taxes would likely be reduced. The government could rely primarily on tariffs for its revenue, not direct taxation of citizens (as had been the case in the 1780s). Even more importantly, Federalists committed to adding a Bill of Rights to the Constitution after it was ratified. This was something that middling citizens from across the country insisted on. Woody Holton makes an apt observation on this point: “It is a remarkable but rarely noted irony,” he says, “that Americans owe their most cherished rights-among them freedom of speech and religion, the right to trial by jury, and protection against self-incrimination and illegal search and seizure-not to the authors of the Constitution but to its inveterate enemies.” The Bill of Rights was a concession to the rabble.

If the farmers of the 1780s were alive today, however, they might feel vindicated. This isn’t the place to review the entire history of the U.S.’s capitalism-on-steroids, but it should hardly be controversial to say that the antidemocratic, anti-“working class” political framework the Founders put in place has been perfectly adapted to the ambitions of a predatory economic system. It is almost as if capitalism had reached back from the future to move its pawns like chess pieces against capital’s early opponents, who were finally checkmated when the Constitution was, through fair means and foul, ratified. After that, it could be smoother sailing for a developing American capitalism-although even then its development had to continually confront mass resistance . Eventually, and always with the decisive aidof the peculiar structure of the American polity, a point was reached wh ere wealth could be so concentrated, the political system could be so captured by the corporate oligarchy, and ordinary people could be so desperate for change that they would elect a monstrosity like Donald Trump.

So here we are in 2017 still burdened with political leaders who, like the Constitution’s framers, are concerned above all to protect creditors, financiers, and investors; who have the same “wisdom” as most of the Founders in their desire to undermine democracy, whether through gerrymandering, major propaganda campaigns, arcane Congressional tricks of obstructing popular legislation, or simply the appointment of wealthy friends to important government posts. The growing democratic resistance is in the tradition not of the “great men” who wrote the Constitution but of their enemies.

Chris Wright is a doctoral candidate in U.S. history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the author of Worker Cooperatives and Revolution: History and Possibilities in the United States and Notes of an Underground Humanist. His website is www.wrightswriting.com.

Misoprostol, Coat Hangers, and Trump: Foreign Objects in Our Wombs

Assata Baxter

 

In the United States, one in three of us has had one. We don’t share this. In the midst of making hard decisions, we bear the vitriolic harassment of those who have never and will never carry children, or those who chose to project the insecurities of their own decisions on others, before we can get to the door. We are blamed and shamed in clinic parking lots with pictures of 56 week old dead fetuses. We enter clinics alone without our partners’ knowledge, weighted with surprises in pink lines when it’s not yet our time. Or our partners hold our hands and say that whatever we choose they are beside us. Or depending where we are in a low-income country, there may be no clinics. So, we ask our friends if anyone has a doctor in the family who can write a prescription; anyone who knows someone who knows someone who works at a pharmacy. We look up which combination of pills it requires, and pray that it works. We go to sangomas in another village. We put our lives in the hands of “surgeons” and hope that we wake up with use of our reproductive organs… or that we wake up period. There are no certain answers. No “do-it-yourself” manuals. And every 8 minutes in low-income countries, one of us will die of complications arising from it.

We don’t announce our decisions on Facebook, or post pictures to Instagram of the sonogram, of the fetus we have chosen not to keep. We may tell some close to us, but often we don’t tell our best friends, our parents, our siblings, sometimes our partners. We are afraid their religion or recently recognized righteousness will get in the way of them hearing us…that they will guilt us into thinking otherwise, or it may change forever how they see us. We fear scarlet letter branding. We talk in hushed whispers if at all. Sometimes we find support groups. Sometimes we continue life as usual. Sometimes we are forever changed. While our experiences are different, what remains consistent is that abortion sits squarely at the juncture of ethics, religion, morals, science, gender and politics. And yet the discussion of the experience remains taboo.

I have had two abortions; one in Kenya, one in Djibouti, both “back alley” in the sense that they lacked medical supervision or prescription. I was not raped. My health was not in danger. Simply, neither the birth control, nor the morning after pill worked. I give you these moderating factors for two reasons. One, because the myth often goes that underserved populations use abortion as birth control. This was not the case. Further these very factors had both an impact on my conscience and impacted accessibility to any legal type of procedure.

My period was a week late. But, my period was always a little bit hard to calculate. It didn’t cross my mind that I could be pregnant until week two. We always used protection, and our one accident, I had taken the morning after pill. I bought a take-home pregnancy test at the nearby market. I remember crouching on the floor of my apartment in south B, Nairobi watching the Test line appear. The test was supposed to take three minutes, but positives appear faster… and even the few seconds it took, seemed like a lifetime. I rocked back and forth, hugging my knees to my chest, crying… I called my boyfriend, shaking, inconsolable, tears pouring down my face. He rushed over and held me as I cried myself to sleep. I wished it happened like in the movies. The girl who finds herself pregnant always magically miscarriages. She never actually has to make a decision. She can share her story freely, with whoever chooses to listen, because miscarriages are not of our choosing. They are not our fault or our choice. They are met with sorrow or pity or empathy, because they are God’s will or the will of the Universe or whomever we believe in. We hold no “fault”.

But it did not happen like the movies. I bought three more pregnancy tests the next week. I convinced myself I had ovarian cysts, that I kept contaminating the urine sample, or that the pharmacy by my house was selling expired tests. By the end of the week, I started having dizzy spells. I was beginning to feel nauseous quite often, but I had three days off work before heading to rural Uganda for work, and so the race against the clock started. The next day I woke up I felt awful, and depressed. I wanted to see a doctor. That would be the only way to know for sure. We made an appointment at a nearby hospital. I explained the situation and they too thought that pregnancy was unlikely, particularly given the dates of my last period and encouraged me to do an ultrasound. I agreed. For once and for all, I would know.

My memories of the next few moments that day are very blurred. I remember hearing a heartbeat. I remember crying and heaving in some corner in the hospital. I remember I went home with a sonogram as a parting gift, that I have never brought myself to discard. But I did not want to have a baby, even after heartbeats and sonograms. I was 24, living and working in Kenya on 2000 USD a month, with an ocean separating me from my family, and financially supporting a sick mother back at home. I was six weeks pregnant, and I did not want to be a mother, then… the same way I am unsure if I want to be a mother now. I knew immediately what I wanted to do, but had no idea how to do it, and having chosen to abort, there was nothing more that I wanted than to stop being pregnant. In my mind, I kept thinking the longer I waited, the closer the fetus came to viability, or to what in my mind was personhood. However, figuring out what to do was not easy. There is no “Planned Parenthood” in Kenya. I could not make an appointment to discuss my options. Abortion is and was illegal in Kenya, and only viable to save a woman’s life or preserve her physical health.

I was not willing to wait any amount of weeks to try and fly to another country and come back. I also was not willing to literally have a back alley surgical abortion. I had one or two friends I confided in, who might have known someone who had “the surgery”. I was not willing to risk my future reproductive health or a return to consciousness being unsure of what had been cut, or poked or inserted inside of my body. Here there was no RU-486. We had to find a doctor who would be willing to write a prescription for the pills I would need to give myself a medical abortion. We could not get it in the pharmacy without a prescription. We found a doctor who was willing to write a prescription however the dosage was not enough. It was for only 200mcg. We made copies of the prescription. We bribed pharmacists to give us more until we had 800mcg. There were multiple websites with multiple directions. I chose one and stuck with it. I put a pill under my tongue, wrote a letter to my unborn child, and asked for her forgiveness and to come back when it was her time. I wore a pad for the rest of the night. And in the morning, it was just as if I started my period. And that was it. I no longer felt nauseous. I just had what felt like period cramps… At least I thought that was it. I headed to Uganda for work. The secret safe between my boyfriend and I.

For the next two days life, continued as somewhat normal. However the third day, I had cramps far worse than any period I had ever had. They were so painful that I had to bite on a towel to keep from screaming out, every time I used the bathroom. I struggled through my work day, taking multiple breaks per hour. I was dizzy, sweating, and nauseous. Day four, I had what I realize now was probably Class Two hemorrhaging. I woke up to blood everywhere in the sheets. I wouldn’t stop bleeding. In a town in far West Uganda, coming from the bathroom, too weak to walk, I tried to crawl back to bed, but could not make it. So, I lay on the cold floor of a hotel room, entering and exiting consciousness until morning; bleeding uncontrollably, until a friend found me in the morning. I never did see a doctor, but the process of healing from both the physical and psychological wounds was a long one. The psychological wounds remained because the physical damage to my body, the anticipated lack of support, my suffering in physical and emotional pain in silence, the battle of my conscience, and the feeling of utter loneliness did not leave immediately. But I survived… which makes me a lucky one.
International Access to Abortion

Imagine that approximately 310,000 women undergo abortions in secrecy each year in Kenya alone, according to the East Africa Centre for Law and Justice[1]. 21,000 women are admitted each year as a result of complications related to unsafe abortions, which are usually undertaken in back alley clinics. 2,600 of these women eventually die. Research from the Center for Reproductive Rights has found that unsafe abortions account for 40% of the maternal mortality rate[2]. I was fortunate enough to have a supportive boyfriend, and enough financial capital to be able to afford both seeing private doctors, and paying the costs of both prescriptions and bribes. I know that is a privilege not all women have in Kenya. Due to restricted abortion legislation, even with the new constitution, women, less than having access to a medically safe procedure, do not even have access to the human contact that would provide them with the support and empathy they seek, and the tools they would need to make an informed decision.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 98% of countries allow abortions to save the mother’s life, however only 33% permit abortion in cases of rape or incest and only two allow elective abortions for any reason. But, I will point fingers neither at Kenya, nor the continent of Africa. Kenya is not the only country with restrictive abortion legislation. In fact the countries with the most restrictive abortion legislation are found in Europe, Central and South America. The Holy See (Vatican City), Malta, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Chile do not allow abortion under any circumstances, even if the mother will die from complications prior to or giving birth[3].

According to Pew Research Centre, although in Europe about 73% of countries allow abortions for any reason, Ireland, Andorra (between France and Spain) and San Marino (Italy) only allow abortions in order to save the life of the mother. In Ireland, illegal abortion carries a sentence of up to 14 years in prison. And therefore, more than 5000 women each year are forced to leave the country to have abortions outside of Ireland [4]. These same studies have revealed that 26% of countries in the world only allow abortion to save a mother’s life; and 42% allow abortions only when the mother’s life is at risk in combination with “at least one other specific reason, such as to preserve a woman’s physical or mental health, in cases of rape or incest, because of fetal impairment or for social or economic reasons” [5]. According to the World Health Organization 21.6 million women undergo unsafe abortions every year [6]. Of those, 6.9 million women were treated for complications from unsafe abortions. I form part of the 40% of women who experienced complications but never received treatment. Unsurprisingly, almost all abortion-related deaths occur in low-income countries, with the highest number occurring in Africa. The Guttmacher Institute, according to recent studies have found that 8-18% of maternal deaths worldwide are due to unsafe abortion, and the number of abortion-related deaths in 2014 ranged from 22,500 to 44,000 [7].

What these numbers and percentages mean, is that beyond any discussion about population control in low-income countries, at what specific age human life becomes viable, if abortion is morally right or wrong, the after-life consequences of our actions, is that women are literally dying trying to get abortions, often of the surgical kind.
Trump in Our Wombs

The 1973 Helms Amendment , created in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision, prevents the use of American foreign aid for abortions. The caveat being that the money could still be used to fund family planning, or educate women about abortions, but could not be allocated to the procedure itself. On January 23 rd 2017, beneath our noses, President Trump signed an executive order which reinstated the “global gag rule”. Effectively this rule bans federal funding for international non-governmental organizations that offer abortions, advocate for the right to an abortion, or even discuss abortion as an option to mothers. In the past this order known as the “Mexico-City Policy”, has been instituted by Republicans and struck down by Democrats multiple times. Yet the massive degree of funding that will be affected by this gag order is absolutely unprecedented. The gag rule will apply to about $9.5 billion dollars in global health funding which will effect organizations mostly in low and middle income countries. These cuts may even effect HIV prevention and treatment, and maternal health care. Conservative estimates by the Guttmacher Institute project that the result will be 38,000 more abortions. Marie Stopes International estimates that the global gag rule will lead to an additional 2.2 million abortions worldwide, and given the restrictive abortion policies in 68% of countries, a vast majority of these will be unsafe abortions.
Basta de Rosarios en Nuestros Ovarios (No More Rosaries in Our Ovaries)

While it is impossible to project definitively, I wonder how many more women will die this way, unaccounted for, afraid, hemorrhaging to death on the floor of a hotel room, or during surgery in the room of a back office with no windows, where her body may simply be disposed of, to ensure the continued financial gain of the “clinic”. This unnecessary maternal mortality is a direct byproduct of desperation in environments that stigmatize and demonize women for unintentionally becoming pregnant, for whatever reason, and then punish them by restricting access to services. On top of this, with funding basically drained to international and national NGOs who specialize in family planning, pregnancy prevention, and pre- and post-counseling, women, especially in low-income countries are left very alone. I took years to heal from my psychological wounds. I never once regretted my decision. But I almost lost my life in the process. Reproductive rights belong to those who are doing the reproducing. Trump’s new policies are invading our wombs, reaching into our bodies to yank away reproductive rights with fetal heartbeat bills and global gag rules. As has happened historically, when autonomy over our own bodies is taken away, we as women find a way to take it back. Banning abortion, or cutting funding to organizations that even discuss abortion will not make abortion disappear, it will only result in the unnecessary death of tens of thousands of women a year, by knitting needle, Misoprostol and coat hangers.

Notes

A Brief Inquiry into the History, Logic, and Spatiality of Financial Derivatives

Jacob Ertel

 

Capitalism, at its most elemental, is a system of inherent volatility. The character of this volatility is contingent on how a state’s political-economic institutions are able to mitigate risk by facilitating the movement of capital. How and where this capital moves is paramount in crisis obviation. Capitalism tends towards a range of interrelated crises-democratic, economic, political, social-but central to them all is the ongoing accumulation of surplus-value. The central risk here is that competition will result in an excess of capital relative to available opportunities to reinvest it. This excess can take a range of forms, from commodities, to money, to labor power (i.e., unemployment). States may attempt to resolve crises of overaccumulation in two ways. The first involves devaluating capital through inflation, commodity gluts on the market and falling prices, diminished productive capacity, and/or falling real standards of living for workers. The second method, known as the ‘spatial fix’, entails developing new markets in which to invest excess capital.[1] These terrains are often conceived as untapped geographical markets that may be turned into new centers of production, thus allowing for a temporary displacement of overaccumulation. Though productive forces remain indispensible to any mode of accumulation, advanced capitalism today may be characterized above all by an ongoing 40 year shift towards the primacy of the financial sector and the predominance of circulation over production.

Whereas the motive of the production process is the extraction of surplus-value through the exploitation of labor, the circulation process itself does not create value; instead, its profits generally derive from the redistribution of surplus-value. [2] This fundamental shift (the specifics of which will be discussed below) exposes more individuals and firms to financial risk than ever before. While capital seeks out new productive markets for reinvestment in all modes of capitalist accumulation, with financialization have come new kinds of spatial fixes that cohere with the unproductive, fictitious, and redistributive logic of circulation. As both social and historical constructions, the structures that facilitate the displacement of risk undergo periods of relative strength and weakness according to the dynamic between an economy’s productive capacity and its exposure to risk. [3] When productive capacity is diminished, speculative capital flows increase as investment shifts from productive to financial capital in the attempt to ensure stability against currency devaluation. With the advent of derivatives, however, risk is not only circulated faster and further, but commodified itself. Building on financialization and derivatives literature, this essay suggests that we may understand derivatives as a spatial fix in their own right, which paradoxically both displaces and amplifies risk. Despite important qualitative differences from older, more established strategies of crisis displacement, however, derivative-based spatial fixes exemplify a core dynamic central to all forms of capitalist accumulation. It will be argued here that while on one hand financial derivatives constitute the separation of the sphere of circulation from the sphere of production and thus from physical localities, they are simultaneously inextricable from them. This tension between production and circulation may in part account for the unique form of contemporary capitalist accumulation.

This essay is divided into four sections. The first section addresses the technical aspects of derivatives: what they are, how they work, and some of the different forms they may take. The second section will present an abridged history of derivatives spanning from their agricultural origins to their current use in financial markets. The third section explains how derivatives are unique from other financial instruments, and asks what these differences indicate for the state of the global economy more generally. The final section analyzes derivatives with regard to two critical concepts in geographical political economy: spatio-temporal fixes and time-space compression.
What Are Derivatives?

At the most general level, a derivative may be understood as a kind of financial contract used to expose counterparties to fluctuations in the market price of an underlying commodity, asset, or event.[4] They may also be thought of as “bilateral contract[s] that [stipulate] future payment and whose [values are] tied to the value of another asset, index, or rate or, in some cases, depends on the occurrence of an event.” [5] Whereas other financial instruments may involve an exchange of principal or title, derivatives exist in order transfer value between parties based on an underlying price change or event. In so doing, derivatives exist “to bind and blend different sorts of ‘particular’ capital together” [6]through securitization and risk commodification. A derivative contract entails that the claim on the underlying asset or the cash value of that asset must be executed at a definite time in the future. Capital is moved until the contract is settled. As opposed to insurance instruments, which protect individuals from risk by requiring policyholders to buy in with some sort of collateral (an ‘insured interest’) that they could lose in the context of the issuance of the policy, derivatives do not require this kind of collateral; anyone can trade in derivatives regardless of their relation to the underlying asset.[7]As such, derivatives operate solely according to these bilateral contracts between parties with differing perspectives on or vulnerabilities to risk. [8] This is the core feature of derivatives: that a plethora of risk may be traded independent the underlying asset. This development now often comes in form of cash settlement, which frees counterparties from delivering the underlying asset.[9] Cash settlement allows various characteristics of a commodity, asset or security to be separated and traded. In financial derivatives contracts, transactions are purely monetary and do not entail any change in ownership of the underlying assets. [10] Derivatives are assigned a notional value according to the multiplication of its spot price by the number of units of the underlying asset stated on the contract.[11] Pricing derivatives is determined by a rate of interest, specifically the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). LIBOR is set by an amalgam of banks in the derivatives markets, and is made through the evaluating the average of interest rates submitted by each of these banks daily. [12]

Derivative contracts are supposed to offset volatility in financial markets by separating assets themselves from their price’s volatility. [13] This separation constitutes a way to hedge the risks endemic to financial speculation, as speculators believe they can diminish their exposure to volatile asset prices. Because any potential failure to execute a contract at full notional value may be hedged through another derivative contract (valued according to perceived chance of execution of the initial derivative contract), the aggregate value circulating through derivatives contracts is grossly disproportionate to the price of all the underlying assets being traded for. [14] Despite this risk-exacerbating practice, derivatives are generally considered relatively inconsequential to capitalist economies. Because they are not a “real input in the production process nor a means of conveying wealth,” and since they “fixate on short-term capital flows rather than longer-term investment,” traditionally liberal economic views do not take derivatives seriously as a global threat to the banking system, even with their ability to concentrate a large amount of leverage on a single instrument. [15]Yet whereas they are often considered economically marginal and unrelated to the real economy, in fact derivatives have become the largest industry in the world, such that they themselves are becoming key sites of asset price determination rather than the other way around. [16] What these more traditional views miss, then, is that derivatives are in fact related to the real economy, despite their relative degree of separation from the production process.

Derivatives can be traded either in regulated exchanges or ‘over-the-counter’ (OTC). Exchanges include institutions such as the London International Financial Futures Exchange and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Whereas derivatives traded on exchanges require money as collateral and for extra margin payments to be made against adverse fluctuations in the market, OTC derivatives are entirely unregulated. [17] Unlike exchange-traded derivatives, which entail a finite transfer of payment between parties, OTC derivatives contracts are kept open through clearing houses that continuously circulate debt instruments. The market for OTC derivatives has expanded drastically in recent decades, bringing with it new forms of risk and volatility. OTC derivatives are cheaper and more flexible than exchange-traded derivatives, but also they carry a higher degree of risk and are not easily sold to third parties due to their relative lack of liquidity.[18] This means that during volatile periods OTC derivatives are more likely to adversely impact the entire financial system. Yet OTC trading has been on the rise despite this predicament, with nearly one third of trading taking place in dealer-to-dealer transactions, and with each transaction tied to at least one dealer bank as a counter party. [19] Dealer banks are highly concentrated, with fifteen to twenty dealers controlling bulk of OTC trading globally.[20] The boom in OTC trading may be exemplified best by the growth of hedge funds, the participation of financial wings of major corporations, and the involvement of commercial and investment banks. [21] All of this signals an increasing predominance of the financial sector of the economy over the productive sector. It also points towards greater susceptibility to economic instability, as the “default by a major institution, a shift in the prices of derivatives in financial markets sufficient to undermine the viability of a major institution, or the inability to net out obligations and receipts” could all trigger a system-wide crisis. [22]With less productive capital overall in the era of financialization, greater exposures to risk likewise threaten the longevity of the productive sector itself, which is now thoroughly integrated into the financial sphere. Taking on greater risks through trading in derivatives raises the likelihood that the investor will profit or lose money. Large losses can result in bankruptcy, engulfing the various individuals, banks, and institutions that lent money to them and exacerbating systemic risk. [23] In this sense, we may begin to better understand the paradoxical connectedness between the ‘real’ economy and financial markets.
Different Types of Derivatives

Most derivatives traded today take the form of forwards, futures, options, and swaps. The oldest and most intuitive type of derivative is a forward. Briefly, a forward is a contract between two parties codifying the obligation to buy or sell a particular quantity of an item at a fixed price or rate and a definite future point in time. Foreign exchange forwards, for example, obligate both parties to exchange agreed upon amounts of foreign currencies at a specified rate at a future date. These rates are generally traded ‘at par’ or ‘at market,’ meaning the value of the contract at the time it is traded is zero and no money need be traded at the contract’s initiation. This means that the market value of the contract is zero, but parties can decide to post collateral as a means of insuring the terms of the contract.[24] Because they are specialized according to specific needs, forwards are relatively limited derivatives contracts, and may involve high search costs to find parties with opposite needs (i.e., exposures to risk). [25] Forwards’ binding of parties to exchange may also lead to inconveniences for one or both parties after the contract is actually entered into. If one party defaults, significant legal fees may be required to secure the forward price, and this risk prompts both parties to monitor one another’s respective viability.[26] Contract terms are often standardized in order to avoid some of these potential issues. Forward contracts that are standardized, publicly traded, and cleared through a clearing house are referred to as futures. As opposed to forwards, futures are traded on organized exchanges and are largely substitutable for one another, which allows for greater trading volume and contributes to higher market liquidity. This new liquidity may improve the price discovery process, or how reflective market prices are of key information.[27]

As opposed to forwards and futures, option contracts allow the buyer or holder (also called the long options position) to buy or sell the underlying asset in the future. More specifically, buyers are purchasing the right to buy or sell the asset at a particular price (known as the strike price) either at a particular date (known as a European option) or at any time between the option’s initiation until its expiration date (known as an American option), and can be traded on individual stocks, stock indexes, and even through futures contracts themselves. [28] Options to buy and sell are known as calls and puts, respectively. Buying and selling on options is somewhat trickier than with forwards and futures; if the spot market price of a stock exceeds the strike price during the window in which the option could be exercised, then the holder may buy at a lower strike price by exercising the option. In this case, the option’s value would be the higher market price. If the market price remained below the strike price during the period in which the call option could be exercised, however, then the option would expire worthless. [29] An option’s price is often a reflection of market interest rates, the time to its maturity, the historical price volatility of the underlying asset, and the proximity of the underlying asset to its strike price. [30] As with other types of derivatives such as foreign exchange forwards, options can concern financial rather than real commodities. For example, interest rate options provide insurance against increases and deceases (caps and floors) and hikes and drops (collars) in interest rates. Cap options create a ceiling to protect against hikes in interest rates, while floor options create a minimum rate to protect against a potential fall in rates. [31] Options are predicated on the tension between selling short and going long. If someone who does not own the underlying asset sells it through a derivative contract in anticipation of buying it back at a lower price or in the open market at whatever price prevails, they are selling it ‘short’. Short-selling produces tremendous exposure to risk. As Henwood notes, “short-selling exposes the practitioner to enormous risks: when you buy something-go long, in the jargon-your loss is limited to what you paid for it; when you go short, however, your losses are potentially without limit.” [32] Brokers hypothetically are expected to evaluate clients’ credit rating in order to justify short-selling, but this practice is not highly regulated.

More recently, derivatives markets have turned towards the proliferation of swap contracts, which differ somewhat from forwards, futures, and options. A swap contract is perhaps most reflective of the contemporary usage of derivatives, constituting an agreement between counterparties to ‘swap’ two different kinds of payments, each calculated by applying an interest rate, exchange rate, index, or the price of an underlying commodity or asset to a notional principal.[33] Swaps usually do not require the transfer or exchange of the principal. Uniquely, payments based on swaps are done at regular intervals throughout the duration of the contract. In other words, whereas exchange-traded derivatives involve actual claims on an underlying assets, swaps do not; instead, the swap is between two sets of cash flows, which are usually destabilized by positions in other securities such as bonds or stock dividends.[34] Swaps can take several forms. A ‘vanilla’ interest rate swap, for example, involves one series of payments based on a fixed interest rate and another based on a floating interest rate. A foreign exchange swap entails an opening payment to purchase a foreign currency at a specified exchange rate, and a closing payment selling the currency at a specified exchange rate. A foreign currency swap consists of one set of payments derived from either a long or short position in a stock or index, and another set derived from an interest rate or other equity position,

amounting to a combination of a spot and forward transaction. [35] Currency and interest rate swaps have become especially important in recent decades. The former allows investors to hedge principle and interest payments in one currency against a preferred currency, while the latter allows borrowers to arbitrate between component markets of the international bond market. In this respect, swaps have played an instrumental role in controlling for short-term risk and thus making international bond markets particularly attractive for global investment. [36]

While each type of derivative contract is uniquely structured, they all share important commonalities. Derivative contracts can be settled either through the physical delivery of the underlying asset or through cash settlement with adjustments of margins on financial differences. Cash settlements allow for agents uninvolved in either production or the use of the underlying assets to speculate. Today cash settlement is more common, as most derivatives no longer involve the transfer of a title or a principle; instead, they create price exposure by conjoining their value and a notional amount or principal of the item form which the contract derives.[37] Taking a price position in the market while only putting up a small amount of capital used allows the investor to leverage, making it cheaper to hedge and speculate. Here derivatives are able to cover hedgers’ risks on the spot market covering losses or compensating gains. [38] In speculative transactions with derivatives, however, an agents’ position does not correspond to the spot market, and is thus exposed to greater risks in price variation.[39] A similar dynamic applies to arbitrage transactions, which occur simultaneously on the spot market and in the derivatives market. Arbitrage transactions, however, involve parties attempting to profit by exploiting price differentials, thus creating the opportunity for gains without risks. [40] All of this shows us that derivatives are used by a wide range of actors (investors, corporations, banks, etc.) to protect themselves against forms of risk. International agencies and banks use derivatives to hedge their loan portfolio positions, and transnational corporations use them to reduce their exposure to risk, with many creating financial divisions to actively speculate in derivatives markets. [41] Investment banks may also trade in derivatives for corporate clients, with the aim of boosting their liquidity by hedging positions in an inter-bank market.
An Abridged History of Derivatives

Some accounts of derivatives date their origins to biblical times in the form of agricultural consignment transactions. While derivatives trading can also be traced to 12th century Venice (exchanges on agriculture), late 16th century Amsterdam (forwards and options on commodities and securities), and 18th century Japan (futures on warehouse receipts and rice), modern derivatives trading began officially in 1849 when a group of grain merchants created the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT).[42] The Chicago Board of Trade was originally designed to coordinate “geographically dispersed agricultural markets.”[43] Through its legal framework for standardizing the classification of grain trading, it became the central hub in the United States for pricing grains. The CBOT’s centrality during this period was facilitated by the development of new networks of railways and telegraphs in the US, which consequently enabled the CBOT to become first institution with a highly liquid futures market for grain contracts.[44] In so doing, the CBOT set the stage for a new kind of financial system in the late twentieth century, with the first formal set of rules governing futures contracts in forged in 1865. [45]Many farmers initially objected to the CBOT because they believed their products were priced too far away from the point of production. Such prices soon became essential for farmers, processors, and traders, however. As Muellerleile explains, “as grain commerce became more integrated with circuits of credit and capital, and more dependent upon risk-management tools such as futures contracts, the flow of price information became a prerequisite for cash crop farming.”[46] This integration into growingly expansive flows of capital allowed the consistency of the price mechanism to become a measurement of the strength of the grain industry, which the US Congress declared in the national interest in 1922.[47]

With the onset of the Great Depression, however, the government adopted a more stringent role towards financial speculation (though the agricultural sector was excluded from this approach). The financial legislation put in place by the New Deal would form the bedrock for these new regulatory efforts, most particularly the Banking Act of 1933, which comprised of Regulation Q (the imposition of ceilings on savings deposits and interest rates that could be paid on time), the Glass-Steagall Act, and the creation of a national deposit insurance system facilitated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.[48] By the 1970s, however, the Chicago exchanges began to apply their methods for pricing agricultural futures to urban financial instruments. State institutions began to more heavily regulate speculation, marking its first serious effort to do so since 1936. [49] The Chicago Mercantile Exchange created the International Money Market in 1972, which allowed for trading in currency futures and paved the way for more abstract contracts. [50] This development in part signified the dissolution of the boundary between agricultural futures and finance, aided by the expansion of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s (the second largest exchange in Chicago) entrance into new products. [51]Chicago exchanges influenced the passage of the 1974 Commodities Exchange Act that expanded the definition of a commodity from several agricultural products (in the 1936 Commodities Exchange Act) to all goods, articles, services, rights, and interests that can be dealt in futures contracts. [52] At the same time, Congress granted the Chicago Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) sole jurisdiction over futures trading, disallowing any other federal agency or state government entity or law from interfering with the development of futures markets.[53] The CFTC and its related state financial agencies saw it as their duty to promote the spread and hedging of risk, including by the range of non-financial corporations that had traded in derivatives to shield themselves from fluctuating commodity prices, interest rates, and floating exchange rates with the demise of the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1971.[54] These developments were also aided by technological and conceptual innovations during the 1960s, as more economists began to claim that the US stock market was fully efficient in responding to all publicly available information and could be modeled with reasonable accuracy. [55] The popularization of the Black-Scholes pricing formula, for example, changed the character of speculation from advising on option prices to calculating mispriced options or assets, empowering traders to invest on market mispricings with large amounts of borrowed money. [56] Today hedge funds carry out these activities, pooling wealthy clients’ investment contributions to arbitrate and trade in derivatives. [57] By the late 1970s in the midst of a crisis of stagnant economic growth and inflation, the Treasury decided it could stabilize currency by raising interest rates to encourage foreign holdings in US Treasury bonds and allowing for the exchange of derivatives on US debt brought to bond markets by the New York Federal Reserve.[58] This move provided the foundation for an unprecedented internationalization of derivatives markets.
Derivatives and Financialization

Derivatives trading has expanded to global proportions since the 1980s. The industry’s growth may be attributed most centrally to the development over-the-counter trading for financial derivatives, which corporations utilize to protect themselves from volatility in interest and exchange rates, and which speculators use in their efforts to predict trends in financial markets.[59] The proliferation of financial derivatives during this period is a less frequently discussed but critical component of broader patterns of neoliberal financialization beginning with the gradual dissolution of the Fordist-Keynesian accumulation regime beginning in the late 1960s and taking off in the early 1970s. Keynesianism had provided a unique way of managing risks through stimulating consumer demand with demand-side policy. Its decline gave way to a flexibilization of price relations and the growing importance of market processes in managing financial matters, leading to an influx in derivatives trading. [60] With the deregulation of capital flows, Nixon’s move to decouple the US dollar from the gold standard, and the 1973 OPEC oil shocks, price volatility increased in the early 1970s and paved the way for the internationalization of trade investment, exposing firms to greater degrees of risk. With the end of the fixed exchange rate system of Bretton Woods, Panitch and Gindin explain, “the derivatives revolution was crucial to the stabilization of currency markets…and was also immediately linked to the internationalization of the US bond market, which was occurring at the same time as the development of the separate Eurodollar market.” [61] More simply, the growth of financial derivatives markets was a requisite for avoiding capital devaluation in a period of economic tumult. The growth of the multinational firm during this period demonstrates the attempts made to mitigate the new volatility endemic to a globalizing derivatives market. [62]As the US bond market opened up, foreign investors began maintain greater holdings in US Treasury securities, above 21 percent by the 1980s. Paradoxically, this uncertainty, “amid the volatility of commodity prices and rising short-term interest rates, actually enhanced the attractiveness of Treasury bills for international investors, who recognized the depth and liquidity of the US bond market despite all the hand-wringing about declining US economic power and strength.”[63] Here we can begin to trace a theme of global integration into the financial derivatives market, underpinned by the US dollar-trading on international bonds implicates investors in the volatile movements of currency and interest rates. With investors able to swap various floating and fixed exchange rate obligations in order to better fit their perception of the market direction, the changes in currency levels and interest rates that had traditionally slowed markets down (investment in bonds denominated in suboptimal currencies were deemed too big a risk) began to play a different role in the global economy. [64]

Like the Fordist-Keynesian accumulation regime before it, financialization is a stage of capitalism fraught with contradictions. The term ‘financialization’ itself is heavily debated, with disagreements over its periodicity, its coherence with or distinctiveness from neoliberalism, and its most essential characteristics. For our purposes here, Kippner’s definition is useful. For her, financialization refers to “a broad-based transformation in which financial activities (rather than services generally) have become increasingly dominant in the US economy over the last several decades.”[65] The ‘financial’ here “references the provision (or transfer) of capital in expectation of future interest, dividends, or capital gains,” as opposed to productive capital that arises from the production and trade of commodities.[66]This shift towards finance, beginning in the 1970s and expanding in the 1980s and 1990s, provided the state with a means for displacing the rigidities of the Fordist-Keynesian accumulation regime. This displacement occurred first and foremost in the deregulation of domestic financial markets throughout the 1970s, which gradually reduced restraints on the flow of credit. [67] Concurrent spikes in interest rates (most notably Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker’s 1981 hike, more notoriously known as the “Volcker Shock”) in order to restrain the economy in the absence of regulation on the supply of credit also emerged as a response to deregulation. These higher interest rates attracted remarkably high levels of foreign capital into the US economy, thus allowing for a drastic expansion of domestic financial markets and helping to tie the global economy to the floating US dollar. As strict monetary policy became the preferred tactic for stabilizing US currency during this time (resulting in rising unemployment), the Federal Reserve turned to a greater extent to the market, expanding credit at the same time as it increased interest rate volatility. [68] Above all, however, it was the deregulatory moves of the 1980s-removing controls that had restricted interest rates payable on savings deposits-that shaped the course of financialization. [69]
Financialization with Derivatives

Deregulation increased the price of credit while extending it to a broader constituency.[70] The incorporation of US multinational commercial banks into derivatives trading-in addition to Wall Street-based investment banks-should not be overlooked here. (Whereas investment banks create liquidity by dictating the terms of trading of securities, commercial banks do so by transforming deposits into longer-term assets.) [71] With the first significant derivative bond swap in the early 1980s between IBM and the World Bank, banks such as J.P. Morgan used overseas operations in London to bypass the regulations previously put in place by the Glass-Steagall Act and take advantage of growing derivatives markets. After executing the first credit default swap in the early 1990s, derivative contracts accounted for over half of Morgan’s trading revenue. [72] Because derivatives are able to conjoin a variety of forms of capital and convert fixed and floating rate loans and currencies, Panitch and Gindin note, these markets were “able to meet the hedging needs not only of financial institutions (which exchanged 40 percent of all swaps among themselves), but also of the many corporations seeking protection from the rapidly evolving vulnerabilities associated with global trade and investment.” [73] By the time the Clinton administration took power in 1993, Streeck explains, financial deregulation had “made it possible to plug the gaps resulting from deficit reduction, by means of a rapid extension of loan facilities for private households at a time when falling or stagnant wages and transfer incomes, combined with rising costs of ‘responsible self-provision’, might otherwise have jeopardized support for the policy of economic liberalization.” [74] This shift may be understood as a kind of ‘privatized Keynesianism,’ [75] in which the public debt taken on by the state during the Fordist-Keynesian accumulation regime is transferred onto consumers in the form of individualized debt relations in tandem with a dissolving social safety net. This extension of credit to compensate for slipping wages and benefits effectively redistributes capital upwards.[76] With the state shifting debt-driven consumption from public financing to private, credit-based consumption, government debt comes instead from low receipts, or limits to taxation, while corporate interests are empowered to make increasing demands on the state. [77]

Arguably the central paradox of financialization is that while financial institutions, markets, and assets “can secure the return of value in particular instances,” they “cannot guarantee the systematic augmentation and return of value in the aggregate.” [78] As opposed to a wage labor relation, in which a fixed amount of capital is guaranteed to a capitalist according to the rate of surplus-value extracted from a worker and marks a contribution to the overall amount of real capital in circulation, financial markets operate in the sphere of circulation and can only either redistribute capital or create fictitious value. Financial markets begin to malfunction when the expansion of monetary value across an economy can no longer be guaranteed by participants in financial transactions. Here we can better understand a central contradiction of derivatives: they exist to offset or control this risk but ultimately increase it. Despite this paradox, it is not difficult to understand why derivatives have grown over the past nearly-four decades. They provide investors, corporate treasury departments, and bank risk management departments with the advantage of being able to hedge risk as a measure of insurance against adverse fluctuations in the market. [79] Moreover, they can provide signals to larger financial markets, which could ostensibly reduce uncertainty and unequal access to information. Derivatives also allow investors to more cheaply diversify their portfolios, as managers are able to expose themselves to derivatives according to a larger number of shares. Furthermore, derivatives operate on leverage and are thus cheap to trade in.[80] A liberal economic perspective might claim that derivatives are incapable of affecting the price of underlying assets in conditions of perfect market competition, and that they simply provide greater economic stability by spreading risk between different agents in the market; in reality, however, asymmetric access to information and imperfections in the instruments themselves open markets up to greater degrees of systemic risk. [81] In bypassing the sphere of production, surplus-value in production is replaced by essentially zero-sum casino bets, manufacturing risk through a social logic of mutual indebtedness.[82]
What’s New About Derivatives?

As the field of financialized economic activity incorporates greater numbers of people through the financialization of risk, capital circulation becomes decoupled from the labor process. [83] Whereas the labor process relies on the extraction of surplus-value in the sphere of production, financialization means that the appreciation of fictitious capital becomes autonomous relative to productive appreciation, as tradable financial instruments are valued according to expected income flows and discounted by an interest rate. [84] On the other hand, however, this process should be understood as a means of integrating the workforce into financial channels and is thus actually semi-dependent on productive capital. Carneiro et al. assert that the advent of derivatives constitutes a new form of accumulation entirely, which they call the ‘fourth dimension’.[85] While historically this fourth dimension of capital has developed in tandem with capital in its monetary form, it also “progressively constitutes an autonomous force in the process of capital appreciation when deep and liquid markets freely negotiate stocks of wealth.” [86] In other words, this fourth dimension is linked to the changing role of derivatives in the 1970s, along with fundamental changes in the international financial and monetary systems allowing for more rapid accumulation over greater distances.[87]

At this point it is necessary to clarify two related yet distinct issues. One is the process of financialization, the other the growth of derivatives trading. Carneiro et al. assert that derivatives markets constitute a unique form of accumulation because capital appreciation occurs independent of initial investment. This is markedly different from credit-based capital appreciation. Since the 1970s financial relations have dominated economic policy-making, pushed more individuals into debt, and formed a new mode of accumulation characterized by falling profit rates and real wages, persistent unemployment, and mediocre growth in productive sectors. Yet within financialization, derivatives signify an even greater abstraction of capital from the process of accumulation. [88] Carneiro et al. explain this as “a difference in the nature of the gain from the operation,” jettisoning the “need for money as a means of appreciation, or its advance in the beginning of the process.” [89] This means that though “money is still an end to the process of valorization,” it “loses its relevance as a vehicle of valorization, as well as the credit system.” [90] This form of accumulation is intrinsically speculative-gains from derivatives transactions come simply from a bet on a price movement by an asset that is not owned by the speculator. Despite this fundamentally unique character of derivatives, however, it would be unfair to claim that derivatives are actually entirely independent of the production process. When changes in risk perception generate price-adjustments in the market in the form of the inversion of bets and settlements of contracts, “social relations of property and credit are again essential to ensure liquidity and solvency of agents involved in these markets, revealing the real social relations of power, property, and money that appeared previously only in a veiled manner.”[91] The remainder of this report will detail the relation between the spheres of production and circulation vis-à-vis derivative-based accumulation.
Derivatives, Time-Space Compression, and Spatio-Temporal Fixes

Though the derivatives market is the most liquid in the world, it is also highly vulnerable to systemic crisis. Of particular concern is that derivatives may be based on practically any asset, including worker debt. As Lapavitsas explains, “these derivatives could be thought of as synthetic bonds,” or “securities promising to pay the holder a return (interest) out of a variety of payments made by the workers which are pooled and then divided.”[92] Workers’ payments on, for example, housing and consumer debts, would entail a payoff for the holder of a given derivative security who has a claim on that personal debt. Despite their separation from the sphere of production, derivatives are in the final instance contingent on it. Labor thus becomes an extension of financial services themselves, vulnerable to risks entailed by the circulation and realization of capital, which it simultaneously empowers through deferred wages and relies upon in order to access necessities such as education and retirement costs. [93] Those that make up the productive sector are both incorporated into and dependent upon these circuits of realization.

Understanding derivatives’ functionality helps us evaluate the specificities of contemporary capitalism’s tendency towards crisis. As derivatives markets are predicated on the mitigation of risk, it is crucial here to consider how derivatives fit with established theories of capitalist crisis. One of the most notorious theories on this count is David Harvey’s ‘spatial fix.’ Harvey explains that competition between capitalists leads to an uneven accumulation of capital, which threatens the reproduction of both capitalist and working classes. To recall from earlier, this threat takes the form of an excess of capital relative to available opportunities for profitable reinvestment (also known as overaccumulation). Overaccumulation manifests through a surplus of commodities, money-capital, and/or labor power. [94]There are two solutions to this problem. The first involves the devaluation of capital through inflation, gluts of commodities on the market and falling prices, productive capacity culminating in bankruptcy, and falling real wages and standards of living. This solution is not optimal for capitalists. The second solution, however, involves lending surplus capital abroad to create productive powers in new regions. This latter option is the crux of the ‘spatial fix’. Crises are temporarily resolved because rates of profit in these new regions incentivize a flow of capital and raise the rate of profit in the system as a whole. The problem here is that higher profits entail an increase in the tendency towards overaccumulation; moreover, this now takes place on an expanding geographical scale. As Harvey writes, “the only escape lies in a continuous acceleration in the creation of fresh productive powers. From this we can derive an impulsion within capitalism to create the world market, to intensify the volume of exchange, to produce new needs and new kinds of products.” [95] While capital is ultimately limited through productive capacity (only so many goods can be produced and circulated), derivatives-as instruments whose value is only derived from the asset underlying them-may represent a way of circumventing real barriers to accumulation.

According to Harvey, an irresolvable tension emerges between the devaluation of domestic capital due to international competition (apropos the development of new export-driven regions), and the internal devaluation of capital in these regions (as constrained development also limits international competition and blocks opportunities for profitable export). Productive forces in new regions constitute a competitive threat to the country that introduced the spatial fix, whereas limited development in new productive centers hinders international competition and reduces profitable opportunities for capital export, thus leading to an internal devaluation of capital with immobile overaccumulated capital. [96]Geographical expansion allows overaccumulated capital to be invested into labor surpluses and for the development of primitive accumulation processes in these exterior regions as an alternative to devaluation. Though the spatial fix applies mostly to overaccumulation resulting from competition in the sphere of production, overaccumulation itself is not limited to this dimension of capitalist relations. Beginning in the 1970s, for example, overaccumulated manufacturing capital in cities-in tandem with the influx of capital due to higher petroleum prices-garnered an excess of speculative capital that could not be used to boost industrial production. [97] This speaks to a crucial tension between speculative and productive capital, as this juncture required the freeing of speculative capital from the production process by creating a separation between new derivative instruments and their underlying assets. It is thus argued here, then, that derivatives markets constitute their own paradoxical form of a spatial fix, especially as the underlying assets become currency-related.

Crucial to the spatial fix embodied by derivatives markets is the time-space compression endemic to capitalist accumulation and financialization more dramatically. During the 1970s this dynamic took the form of organizational shifts in production that undid the managerial tendencies of Fordism, generating a more fluid and decentralized mode of production.[98] At the same time, technological innovation during this period allowed for a faster and more geographically distantiated financial sector. With an expanded reach, however, comes an increased tendency towards volatility; the shortened length of time capital takes to move across space facilitates more short-term gratification, but compromises states’ ability to engage in long-term planning. This limitation means that financial institutions must either adapt quickly to rapid market shifts, or find ways to control volatility themselves.[99] The rapid and expansive movement of capital under financialization represents a paradox for Harvey, as “the less important the spatial barriers, the greater the sensitivity of capital to the variations of place within space, and the greater the incentive for places to be differentiated in ways attractive to capital,” all of which leads to increasingly uneven development “within a highly unified global space economy of capital flows.”[100] Though Harvey’s “globalized space economy” still primarily refers to the sphere of production, the flexibilization of the financialized accumulation regime entails a fundamental shift in how value is represented as money: “the de-linking of the financial system from active production and from any material monetary base calls into question the reliability of the basic mechanism whereby value is supposed to be represented.” [101] In other words, the productive sphere loses power relative to the financial.

Here it is necessary to question more precisely how the migration of capital from the sphere of production to the sphere of circulation may constitute a spatial fix. Bob Jessop, a critic of Harvey, argues that for however important the spatial fix, Harvey’s focus on “the production of localized geographical landscapes of long-term infrastructural investments that facilitate the turnover time of industrial capital and the circulation of commercial and financial capital” [102] cannot adequately account for the movements and contours of capital under financialization. By examining spatial fixes solely in terms of the contradiction between the unstable movement of productive capital in the form of profits for reinvestment and the fixity of concrete assets with particular times and places, Jessop explains, Harvey elides a discussion of “the different forms of spatio-temporal fix in relation to the different stages or forms of capital accumulation, nor their articulation to institutionalized class compromise or modes of regulation.” [103] While production entails a profit motive (the creation of surplus-value through relations of exploitation), the profits resulting from circulation derive not from any value it creates, but rather from its capacity to redistribute surplus-value. Jessop writes of the importance of ‘time-space distantiation’-not just compression-in a globalizing world economy, or the expansion of political-economic relations across time and space such that they may be coordinated over greater distances and scales of activity. [104] For him, the twin dynamics of compression and distantiation indicate that “the power of hypermobile forms of finance capital depends on their unique capacity to compress their own decision-making time…whilst continuing to extend and consolidate their global reach.” [105] This tension is present within any individual or interconnected circuit of capital, depending as they do on the relationship between “a physical marketplace and a conceptual marketspace.” [106] Despite the altered character of these spatial barriers to accumulation, however, physical territory remains essential to the circulation of capital, as it is contingent on static ensembles in which the means of production and organization necessitate the extraction of surplus-value. [107]

Derivatives markets exhibit a unique spatio-temporal in relation to contemporary capitalist accumulation. As Bryan and Rafferty write, “derivatives, through options and futures, establish pricing relationships that ‘bind’ the future to the present.” [108] Like Harvey’s spatial fix centered on productive capital, derivatives markets may be viewed as a spatial fix in and of themselves in their attempt to hedge risk and stave off devaluation as more individuals and institutions become exposed to financial risk. Corporations trade in derivatives markets in order to handle their exposure to risks in a sea of variable rates and prices. Ensuring the value of money is key, and the spatial displacement constituted by derivatives (into cyberspace or digital space, as it were). It purports to facilitate this process in several respects. First, derivatives constitute a unique form of money by providing a universal measure for asset value across space, despite their dependence on nationally-based unequal levels of contestability. [109] In other words, derivatives are ultimately based on US norms of risk value and conceptions of secure financial claims. Second, derivatives markets aim to allow for the limiting of exchange- and interest-rate risks for corporations and for comparing various risk management strategies across time and space, though this may increase systemic volatility even these new strategies do not immediately drain productive capacity. [110] Finally, banks or other financial institutions might engage in securitization and over-the-counter trading in order to mitigate the uncertainties of profiting from credit money. As Soederberg explains, over-the-counter trading on securitized derivatives, particularly credit default swaps, “facilitates temporal and spatial displacements that allow banks to shift loans off the balance sheet by selling them to outside institutional investors, such as pension and mutual funds.” [111] By spreading risk and shifting risks on to others, these institutions are able to at least temporarily protect themselves.

Here we encounter some problems, however. In particular, the dominance of credit makes it especially difficult to ensure the quality of money. This is especially true when it is less profitable to expand value production than to provide credit and profit through interest rates. [112] This is what Jessop means when he writes of “a fundamental contradiction between the economy considered as a pure space of flows and the economy as a territorially and/or socially embedded system of extra-economic as well as economic resources and competencies.” [113] When capital is able to quickly exploit resources in one area without contributing to their reproduction and then move elsewhere to replicate this kind of circulation, it is compromising the sphere of production and thus the strength of the dollar. The sphere of circulation is particularly vulnerable when debt enmeshed in the web of speculation becomes irredeemable or the gap between the value of credit and that of real money becomes too wide. [114]However, the increasing use of securitization and derivatives markets as a risk management strategy has made regulating banks for capital adequacy unable to guarantee seriously limiting risk exposure. This is why in 2008 the key US financial institutions (the Fed and Treasury, as well as the Bank for International Settlements) all shifted to the same models for assessing risk as the largest banks, in the hope of accessing regulators’ “fire codes.”[115] Competitive pressures between big banks in derivatives and securities markets can lead to an indifference to these regulative warnings, thus further widening the gap between fictitious and real value. [116] When this occurs, the glut of fictitious values (in the form of privately created credit money) contributes to inflation and devalues currency. This problem was most severe in the crisis of 2008, when the American International Group (AIG)-a financial institution that provided insurance for other financial institutions on the creditworthiness of their derivative holdings-was ultimately unable to honor its insurance contracts and protect against loss.[117] Banks extending mortgages to borrowers turned to commercial banks in order to fund the loan, which would then sell the loan to government-sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae. These institutions consolidate a range of mortgages and sell the resultant mortgage-backed security (MBS) to an investment bank, which repackages the MBS according to its needs and issues other derivatives such as collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) to be bought by other lenders, banks, or hedge funds.

The link to the sphere of production is again crucial here. As Wolfson explains, “at the base of this complicated pyramid of derivatives might be a subprime borrower whose lenders did not explain an adjustable-rate loan, or another borrower whose ability to meet mortgage payments depended on a continued escalation of home prices. As the subprime borrowers’ rates reset, and especially as housing price speculation collapsed, the whole house of cards came crashing down.” [118] Derivatives do not require ownership of the underlying asset, so it is possible to speculate-via credit default swaps with an insurer-on the chance of default on a security without owning it. This property of derivatives means that the volume of insured securities can increase quickly and significantly, such that a relatively small quantity of securities can be insured at a much higher amount.[119] Since consumer credit can circulate only as a claim over a share of future profit, or surplus-value and depends on the stability of creditors to pay their loans, asset-backed securitzation has developed in order to ultimately ensure the quality of real money for speculative interests. [120] The time-space compression that occurs through derivatives trading “entails new actors, new strategies and the continual inversion of time and the expansion of virtual space to continue to fund claims on the fictitious value of credit.”[121] It is clear, then, that derivatives are ultimately reliant upon productive capital. And while price fluctuations might trigger financial crises, the fear of devaluation due to an overaccumulation of capital is still at the crux. Because of the global scale of derivatives, it is not just the American state that must ensure the stability of the dollar, but any marginal economy, as a means of guarding against a downturn in their own currency value.[122]
Conclusion: Towards a Typology of Spatial Fixes

This paper has attempted to explain derivatives’ instrumental properties, their historical development, and their distinct role in both mitigating and exacerbating crises. The basic premise argued that derivatives markets act as a kind of spatial fix in and of themselves, one that maintains several properties of Harvey’s spatial fix of productive capital but that also differs in important ways. In summing up, then, this paper will provide a brief typology of spatial fixes in order to provide some clarity to the question of how these spatial fixes differ analytically.

We can think here of three kinds of spatial fixes. First is Harvey’s spatial fix, which pertains to productive capital only. Second are financialized spatio-temporal fixes. These fixes are unique in their supplying of fictitious capital. Last are derivative spatio-temporal fixes which, like financialized spatio-temporal fixes, ultimately are dependent upon the sphere of production (in the sense of its effect on interest rates and exchange rates), but operate abstractly in digital OTC markets and move at an unprecedentedly rapid speed. While maintaining many of the properties of financialized spatio-temporal fixes, derivative spatio-temporal fixes constitute their own category because of their separation from an underlying asset. What unites these three forms of spatial fixes is that they are used in order to solve the problem of overaccumulation, yet ultimately contribute to greater systemic risk. What differentiate them are their respective degrees of separation from the sphere of production and, equally important, how they modify the circulation of capital according to spatial parameters. Each type of spatial fix also affects those linked to them in unique ways. For example, a spatial fix of productive capital mitigates a crisis of overaccumulation by opening up productive markets in new regions, or expanding the means of production. This affects capital by increasing the rate of profit in the system as a whole by incentivizing the flow of capital to these regions and trading on the world market, which ultimately tends again towards overaccumulation. A financialized spatio-temporal fix, in contrast, works by extending fictitious capital to individuals and institutions in exchange for later interest payments. Finance capital may be deployed in tandem with productive capital in order to build industry, procure assets, or pay for goods and services. At the same time, fictitious capital is by nature unproductive and thus its extension can be characterized as a mode of debt-driven accumulation. We can understand this process as a spatio-temporal rather than simply a temporal one because finance concurrently reshapes the landscape for productive capital while maintaining speculative interest due to stable currency. Of course, when expectations are too optimistic and a speculative bubble pops, debts are not repayable and financial institutions experience severe losses. [123]

Derivative spatio-temporal fixes are unique in their ability to commodify risk itself, thus “transform[ing] the temporal horizon of circulation-centered capitalism.” [124] Derivatives constitute a fundamental shift in the operations of speculative capital and the internationalization of risk. [125] Whereas financial spatio-temporal fixes constitute a debt-driven accumulation tactic, derivative spatio-temporal fixes commodify the inherent relationship structured by that debt, and may be used for hedging, speculation, and leveraging across infinite space. This movement entails particular political consequences that are unlikely to recede on their own. As risks to capital are speculated on rather than altered and the globalization of risk is further insulated from political pressures, [126] crises such as that of 2008 will continue. Understanding the proliferation of these fixes to capitalist crisis is crucial if we are to consider viable alternatives.
References:

Aquanno, Scott. “US Power and the International Bond Market: Financial Flows and the Construction of Risk Value.” In American Empire and the Political Economy of Global Finance, edited by Leo Panitch and Martijn Konings, 119-134. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Bryan, Dick and Michael Rafferty. Capitalism with Derivatives: A Political Economy of Financial Derivatives, Capital, and Class . New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

Bush, Sarah Breger. “Risk Markets and the Landscape of Social Change: Notes on Derivatives, Insurance, and Global Neoliberalism.” International Journal of Political Economy, Volume 45 (2016): 124-146.

Carneiro, Ricardo de Medeiros, Pedro Rossi, Guilherme Santos Mello, and Marcos Vinicius Chiliatto-Leite. “The Fourth Dimension: Derivatives and Financial Dominance.” Review of Radical Political Economics, Volume 47, Issue 4 (2015): 641-662.

Crouch, Colin. “Privatized Keynesianism: An Unacknowledged Policy Regime.” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, Volume 11, Issue 3 (August 2009): 382-399.

Dodd, Randall. “Derivatives Markets: Sources of Vulnerability in US Financial Markets.” Financial Policy Forum, Derivative Study Center (May 2004): 1-25.

Harvey, David. The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change . Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 1991.

Harvey, David. “The Spatial Fix – Hegel, Von Thunen, and Marx.” Antipode, Volume 13, Issue 3 (1981): 1-12.

Henwood, Doug. Wall Street: How It Works and for Whom. New York: Verso, 1997.

Jessop, Bob. “The Crisis of the National Spatio-Temporal Fix and the Tendential Ecological Dominance of Globalizing Capitalism.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Volume 24, Issue 2 (June 2000): 323-360.

Krippner, Greta. Capitalizing on Crisis: The Political Origins of the Rise of Finance . Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012.

Lapavitsas, Costas. Profiting Without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All. New York: Verso, 2013.

Mackenzie, Donald and Yuval Millo. “Constructing a Market, Performing Theory: The Historical Sociology of a Financial Derivatives Exchange.” American Journal of Sociology, Volume 19, Number 1 (July 2003): 107-145.

Martin, Randy. “What Differences do Derivatives Make? From the Technical to the Political Conjuncture.” Culture Unbound, Volume 6 (2014): 189-2010.

Muellerleile, Chris. “Speculative Boundaries: Chicago and the Regulatory History of US Financial Derivative Markets.” Environment and Planning A, Volume 47 (2015): 1-19.

Panitch, Leo and Sam Gindin. The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire . New York: Verso, 2013.

Soederberg, Susanne. Debtfare States and the Poverty Industry: Money, Discipline and the Surplus Population . New York: Routledge, 2014.

Streeck, Wolfgang. Buying Time: The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism. New York: Verso, 2014.

Tickell, Adam. “Dangerous Derivatives: Controlling and Creating Risks in International Money.” Geoforum, Volume 31 (2000): 87-99.

Wolfson, Marty. “Derivatives and Deregulation.” In Real World Banking and Finance, 6th Edition, edited by Doug Orr, Marty Wolfson, Chris Sturr, 151-154. Boston: Dollars and Sense, 2010.
Citations

[1] David Harvey, “The Spatial Fix – Hegel, Von Thunen, and Marx,” Antipode, Volume 13, Issue 3 (1981): 7.

[2] Costas Lapavitsas, Profiting Without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All (New York: Verso, 2013), 4.

[3] Scott Aquanno, “US Power and the International Bond Market: Financial Flows and the Construction of Risk Value,” in American Empire and the Political Economy of Global Finance , ed. Leo Panitch and Martijn Konings (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 121.

[4] Randall Dodd, “Derivatives Markets: Sources of Vulnerability in US Financial Markets,” Financial Policy Forum, Derivative Study Center (May 2004), 1.

[5] Ibid, 643.

[6] Dick Bryan and Michael Rafferty, Capitalism with Derivatives: A Political Economy of Financial Derivatives, Capital, and Class (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 13.

[7] Sarah Breger Bush, “Risk Markets and the Landscape of Social Change: Notes on Derivatives, Insurance, and Global Neoliberalism,” International Journal of Political Economy, Volume 45 (2016), 127.

[8] Bryan and Rafferty, Capitalism with Derivatives, 2.

[9] Lapavitsas, Profiting Without Producing, 6.

[10] Ricardo de Medeiros Carneiro, Pedro Rossi, Guilherme Santos Mello, and Marcos Vinicius Chiliatto-Leite, “The Fourth Dimension: Derivatives and Financial Dominance,” Review of Radical Political Economics, Volume 47 (2015), 642.

[11] Lapavitsas, 5.

[12] Ibid, 9.

[13] Carneiro et al., “The Fourth Dimension: Derivatives and Financial Dominance,” 644.

[14] Randy Martin, “What Differences do Derivatives Make? From the Technical to the Political Conjuncture,” Culture Unbound, Volume 6 (2014), 193.

[15] LiPuma and Lee, 87.

[16] Bryan and Rafferty, 63.

[17] Adam Tickell, “Dangerous Derivatives: Controlling and Creating Risks in International Money,” Geoforum, Volume 31 (2000), 90.

[18] Tickell, “Dangerous Derivatives,” 90.

[19] Lapavitsas, 8.

[20] Ibid.

[21] LiPuma and Lee, 91-92.

[22] Tickell, 90.

[23] Dodd, 6.

[24] Dodd, 20.

[25] Bryan and Rafferty, 42.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Dodd, 20.

[28] Doug Henwood, Wall Street: How It Works and for Whom (New York: Verso, 1997), 29.

[29] Dodd, 21.

[30] Henwood, Wall Street, 30.

[31] Dodd, 22.

[32] Henwood, 29.

[33] Dodd, 23.

[34] Henwood, 34.

[35] Dodd, 23.

[36] Aquanno, “US Power and the International Bond Market,” 131.

[37] Ibid, 19.

[38] Carneiro et al., 643.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid, 644.

[41] LiPuma and Lee, 43.

[42] Tickell, 88.

[43] Chris Muellerleile, “Speculative Boundaries: Chicago and the Regulatory History of US Financial Derivative Markets” Environment and Planning A, Volume 47 (2015), 2.

[44] Ibid, 4.

[45] Tickell, 88.

[46] Muellerleile, 5.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Greta Krippner, Capitalizing on Crisis: The Political Origins of the Rise of Finance (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012), 60.

[49] Muellerleile, 8.

[50] Tickell, 88.

[51] Muellerleile, 9.

[52] Ibid, 12.

[53] Ibid, 13.

[54] Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin, The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire (New York: Verso, 2013), 150.

[55] Donald Mackenzie and Yuval Millo, “Constructing a Market, Performing Theory: The Historical Sociology of a Financial Derivatives Exchange,” American Journal of Sociology, Volume 19, Number 1 (July 2003), 114.

[56] Ibid, 44.

[57] Bryan and Rafferty, 4.

[58] Panitch and Gindin, The Making of Global Capitalism, 150.

[59] Bryan and Rafferty, 7.

[60] Ibid, 8.

[61] Panitch and Gindin, 150.

[62] Ibid, 50-51.

[63] Ibid, 151.

[64] Aquanno, 131.

[65] Krippner, Capitalizing on Crisis, 2.

[66] Ibid, 4.

[67] Ibid, 52.

[68] Ibid.

[69] Ibid.

[70] Ibid, 58-59.

[71] Lapavitsas, 134.

[72] Panitch and Gindin, 176.

[73] Ibid.

[74] Wolfgang Streeck, Buying Time: The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism (New York: Verso, 2014), 51.

[75] Colin Crouch, “Privatized Keynesianism: An Unacknowledged Policy Regime,” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations , Volume 11, Issue 3 (August 2009), 382.

[76] Martin, 195.

[77] Streeck, Buying Time, 66.

[78] Lapavitsas, 108.

[79] Tickell, 89.

[80] Ibid.

[81] Ibid.

[82] Martin, 191.

[83] Ibid, 199.

[84] Carneiro et al., 647.

[85] Ibid, 648.

[86] Ibid.

[87] Ibid.

[88] Lapavitsas, 3.

[89] Carneiro et al., 649.

[90] Ibid.

[91] Ibid, 650.

[92] Lapavitsas, 167.

[93] Martin, 196.

[94] Harvey, “The Spatial Fix,” 7.

[95] Ibid.

[96] Ibid, 8.

[97] LiPuma and Lee, 98.

[98] David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change(Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 1991): 284.

[99] Ibid, 287.

[100] Ibid, 295-96.

[101] Ibid, 296.

[102] Bob Jessop, “The Crisis of the National Spatio-Temporal Fix and the Tendential Ecological Dominance of Globalizing Capitalism,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Volume 24.2 (June 2000), 337.

[103] Ibid, 340.

[104] Ibid.

[105] Ibid.

[106] Ibid, 346.

[107] Ibid.

[108] Bryan and Rafferty, 12.

[109] Aquanno, 130.

[110] Panitch and Gindin, 188.

[111] Susanne Soederberg, Debtfare States and the Poverty Industry: Money, Discipline and the Surplus Population (New York: Routledge, 2014), 91.

[112] Ibid, 54.

[113] Jessop, 347.

[114] Soederberg, Debtfare States and the Poverty Industry, 54.

[115] Panitch and Gindin, 266.

[116] Ibid.

[117] Marty Wolfson, “Derivatives and Deregulation,” in Real World Banking and Finance, 6th Edition, ed. Doug Orr, Marty Wolfson, Chris Sturr (Boston: Dollars and Sense, 2010), 152.

[118] Ibid.

[119] Ibid, 153.

[120] Soederberg, 43.

[121] Ibid, 91.

[122] LiPuma and Lee, 52.

[123] Wolfson, 151.

[124] LiPuma and Lee, 127.

[125] Ibid, 37.

[126] Bush, 134.

The Question of Hierarchy: An Interview with Colin Jenkins

Brenan Daniels

 

This is a recent email interview I did with Hampton Institute founder and Social Economics Dept. Chair, Colin Jenkins, on the nature and problems with hierarchical structures, which he discusses in his article entitled Deconstructing Hierarchies: On Contrived Leadership and Arbitrary Positions of Power .

Some people would argue that hierarchies are needed as people aren’t really capable of leading themselves or that if they did, we wouldn’t have a stable modern society. What is your response to that?

First, I would ask where this “stable modern society” is? For a majority of the world’s population, life is incredibly unstable. For many, life is dire. Even in a so-called “advanced” society like the US, tens of millions of people suffer from homelessness, food insecurity, joblessness, a lack of reliable and affordable healthcare, and with no means to feed and clothe their children. Tens of millions must rely on government assistance. Tens of millions do not receive adequate education. Tens of millions live paycheck-to-paycheck and can’t pay their bills. And millions are terrorized by police forces and government agents in their own neighborhoods. Most Americans have less than $1,000 in savings , if any, and studies have estimated that more than half of all working Americans are one paycheck away from being homeless . And even those who appear to be getting by just fine are actually buried in debt, with credit card debt averaging $16,000 per household , mortgage and car payments that are barely doable, and student loan debt averaging at $49,000 per borrower, many of whom are in no position to ever pay that back. Our collective existence, despite a general appearance of comfort, is extremely fragile. And this economic reality doesn’t even begin to touch on the compounded social realities lived by historically marginalized sections of the working class – people of color, women, immigrants, etc… The US is a ticking time bomb on the verge of exploding at any moment. Stability is a mirage.

Second, the idea that “people aren’t capable of leading themselves” stems from a need to maintain fundamentally unequal societies where a very small percentage of the population controls most of the wealth and power. This has become part of the dominant ideology of most of the modern world. Because, quite simply, when a very small percentage of a particular population controls everything, there must be various ways to justify and enforce this control.

One way is through brute force or the threat of such force, which the modern nation-state holds a monopoly on. This is accomplished through the mere construction of a criminal justice system that has laws and ways of enforcing those laws. Over time, these laws become equated with some vague form of morality that is not questioned by most. You see the effects of this everywhere. For instance, when people try to condemn political struggles for doing things that are “illegal,” they have subconsciously bought into the idea that written laws which have been drawn up by millionaire politicians , who are directly influenced by billionaires, should be revered as some sort of moral code. In reality, many of these laws are constructed to keep our extremely unequal society intact, and are directly tied to protecting those who own this illegitimate wealth and power . They are designed to keep most of us powerless and stuck in our increasingly precarious lives. Under such a society, a person who does not have access to food for themselves or their family is punished for taking food. A person who is homeless is punished for squatting in an abandoned building. A person who does not have medical care is punished (financially, if not criminally) for seeking medical attention. So on and so on… and all of this takes place in a very strict hierarchical arrangement where the appearance of “stability” remains at the forefront. It’s an inherently unjust arrangement for so many, and the threat of force is constantly held over our heads to maintain this façade of stability.

Another way to justify and enforce this control is through what Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci referred to as “cultural hegemony,” or dominant culture. Ruling classes throughout history have relied on both formal and informal channels to mold a dominant culture (ideology) that supports their rule. This can be established through a formal education system, through media sources, through organized religion and churches, etc… Under capitalism, this doesn’t have to be done in a conspiratorial kind of way because the basic inequities stemming from the economic system create a sociopolitical structure that mimics and protects these inequities through social, cultural, political, and “legal” avenues. One of the results of this is a widespread, conditioned belief that we are not capable of caring for ourselves, our families, and our communities; and thus need so-called “extraordinary” people (politicians) to do this for us. It is a lie.
In a social sense, why do you think that social hierarchies and larger societal norms still reign when we don’t seem to need them anymore? (Social norms were important in the early days of humanity as if one wasn’t part of the group, they often wouldn’t survive, but now it is rather easy to flourish alone or find people who you link with.)

Social hierarchies still exist because they are a natural extension from the more tangible/structural economic hierarchy. The dominant culture in this type of society needs such social norms. The Marxist theory of base and superstructure is useful in this regard. A materialist conception of history tells us that society is constructed on an economic base, or is based on the modes of production, because it is this fundamental arrangement that ultimately determines how people fulfill their basic needs. Everything else builds off of that arrangement. In a capitalist system, a large majority of the population is forced to rely on wage labor. This is an incredibly fragile and unstable existence because we are completely dependant on a privileged minority to provide us with jobs and living wages, things that capitalism inherently cannot provide to all. So, most of us are set up for failure from birth. This is why Frederick Douglass recognized that a “slavery of wages [is] only a little less galling and crushing in its effects than chattel slavery.” Hence, Marx’s focus on exploitation and alienation. This structural oppression created by capitalism explains the need for a Welfare State, because societal unrest would be inevitable without the state supplementing these inherent and widespread inequities.

So, according to this analysis, there is a superstructure that builds from this unequal base, and this includes social, cultural, and political realities. Naturally, the superstructure mimics the base, while it also helps to maintain it. In doing so, these corollary developments tend to take on the same characteristics as the base, which, as already noted, consists of a high degree of alienation and exploitation. This basically means that social systems stemming from an inherently exploitative base tend to become exploitative themselves. One of the best examples of this is white supremacy, which is an artificial system of valuing human worth based on skin color. White supremacy is a modern cultural phenomenon that extends throughout the superstructure in both overt and undetected or insidious ways. And it is a valuable tool used by the capitalist/ruling class to create division within the working-class majority. This is why Malcolm X once proclaimed that “you can’t have capitalism without racism.”

Other cultural phenomena like patriarchy and homophobia work the same way. These things easily catch on within the working class because they are a source of empowerment for an otherwise powerless group. We’re all economically disenfranchised, but poor and working-class white men can still grasp on to whiteness, “manliness,” misogyny, and homophobia as sources of power and social dominance. You see this psyche develop not only in white people, but also throughout the working class. Some black men, despite their own intense structural oppression, will become misogynistic or homophobic as a source of empowerment. A particular immigrant community will dehumanize another immigrant community as a source of empowerment. American workers across the board will target and dehumanize immigrants. So on and so on. What we’re seeing here is the formation of social hierarchies within the working class, all of which mimic the hierarchy created by the economic base. Tragically, this perceived power over others within the working class is easily accessible, and it’s a cheap and toxic source of empowerment. But it is a good thing for the capitalist class, as it keeps working-class angst directed within its own ranks and away from the real culprits – the rich. It’s the ultimate distraction.

On a related note, these social hierarchies are worthy of examination to all of us who oppose the capitalist system. When we look at developments within the superstructure, we can strategize and build liberation movements that will ultimately break them down, which will in turn allow us to build a formidable resistance against the economic base. This is why intersectionality is crucial. But intersectionality only works if it is based in a fundamentally anti-capitalist orientation. Because if we don’t approach this with the ultimate goal of attacking and destroying the economic base, it won’t matter in the end. We’ll find ourselves in the same position, only under a multi-cultural, multi-sex, non-gender-descript boot, as opposed to a “white, cisgender, male” boot. And this is the pitfall that identity politics fall into. Capitalism has the ability to accommodate these types of political movements by simply allowing individuals from hyper-marginalized sections of the working class to assume positions of power within these hierarchies. This approach is only about assimilation; and because of this, it only demands that that the power structure become more inclusive, not that the power structure be eliminated. Capitalism can and will seek to appease this kind of tokenism without changing its inherently authoritative and exploitative structure.
People seem to be (at least somewhat) against hierarchy, from having an intense dislike of their bosses to wanting a level playing field. Why do we not see more people moving away or speaking out against hierarchy? So many times, it seems that the very people at the bottom are the ones who argue in favor of it.

Yes, definitely. This is a form of cognitive dissonance that we all experience from time to time, and I reflect on it briefly in the piece: “…organizations are often able to stoke a cognitive dissonance among its workforce, which simultaneously puts forth a healthy dose of faith in the ‘team approach’ by day while complaining about the incompetent and overbearing bosses by night.”

This particular line refers to the contradictions we feel in the workplace. The daytime mentality is one that is a product of constant conditioning, which tells us that hierarchies are needed, that we are naturally dependent on bosses, and that we would be lost without them. The nighttime mentality is more natural and will creep into our heads at times, causing us to question everything we’re conditioned to believe during the day. Daily interactions with bosses plant the seed for these realizations, as we recognize their incompetence or at the very least their lack of exceptionalism. This will inevitably bring us to consider that maybe we don’t need them, maybe we are just as (if not more) competent, that there really is no meritocracy, and that if they happened to suddenly disappear one day they probably wouldn’t be missed.

This is, of course, true. We don’t need them. But the conditioning that we are subjected to in most aspects of our lives tells us otherwise, and this makes it difficult for many to realize that truth. To consider the very notion of “supervision” and “management” as anything but insulting is truly amazing, when you think about it, yet most struggle with this dissonance. And understandably so, since the conditioning is intense and begins at such a young age. This reminds me of the notion of ” bullshit jobs” that David Graeber has talked about in length, and is in the process of writing a book about. His angle is more focused on working-class jobs throughout the system, but I think this same line of thinking can be applied to jobs that fill the hierarchy just for the sake of filling the hierarchy.

In addition to this conditioning, there is also a mentality that becomes fairly prevalent among those who exist on the lower end of the hierarchy, and it speaks to the old adage, “if you can’t beat em, join em.” It is the mentality that creates the toadies for bullies, that creates house slaves for the master, etc… it forms whenever someone has been psychologically beaten into submission. These are the folks who have given themselves completely to the system, to the powers, to their bosses and overseers because, quite frankly, they simply have no fight in them, no self-esteem, and no dignity left. They are the first to dish the dirt to the bosses, the first to scab during a strike, the first to call the police on their neighbor, the first to serve the powerful with whatever is needed, and always at the sake of their class peers on the lower end of the hierarchy. These folks will always argue in favor of hierarchy, despite their lowly position in it, because they’ve decided that it’s easier to accept it, support it, and invest in it, rather than fight it. And, in many respects, they’re right. Fighting power isn’t easy. It often has disastrous personal consequences for those who partake in it. As the Russian anarchist Sergey Nechayez wrote in the opening of his famous Catechism of a Revolutionary, “The revolutionary is a doomed man.” There is a lot of truth to this.
How do people reinforce hierarchy in their everyday lives and how can they fight back against it?

I think basic daily human interactions reinforce these cultural hierarchies that the base relies on. There is an ongoing debate within the Left about the power and usefulness of language. This debate is intimately connected with things like “privilege discourse,” “political correctness,” “call-out culture,” and identity politics. Many leftists who are loyal to materialist analysis, and who spend a lot of time railing against post-new left discourse, minimize the importance of language. Many younger leftists, who are more inclined to intersectionality or who enter the Left through a lens of identity politics, place a premium on policing language. While I realize the dangers that are associated with this type of ” post-new left discourse ” (primarily when it is not based in anti-capitalism), I also agree that there is something to language and how it reinforces the hierarchies that we are ultimately seeking to bring down.

Dominant vernacular is rooted in dominant culture, no? If we are to believe in historical materialism and the reciprocal relationship between the base and superstructure, then it seems consistent to also believe that all of the societal norms that development within this cultural hegemony stem from this same base. Because of this, language tends to be misogynistic, homophobic, white supremacist, and classist. This is reflected in media, Hollywood, advertisement, talk radio, and sports, and as well as in our daily interactions with one another.

It can be very subtle. Using the n-word reinforces white supremacy. Using the f-word reinforces homophobia. Claiming that someone has “no class” reinforces bourgeois culture. Using the term “white trash” reinforces white supremacy by implying that “trash” is defaulted as being non-white. Calling women “hoes” and “whores,” while at the same time basing their human value in attractiveness or sexuality, reinforces patriarchy. Praising someone as being “like a boss” reinforces capitalist hierarchy. Worshipping celebrities reinforces a capitalist culture that determines human value based in wealth, or the lack thereof. Being absorbed in consumerism reinforces a culture that determines human value on the brand of clothing or shoes one is wearing, or the kind of car they drive, or the house they live in. These types of things quite literally place varying degrees of value on human lives, thus reinforcing various forms of social hierarchy. And something as simple as language, or the ways in which we interact with one another, emboldens the power structure(s) that we as leftists seek to destroy.
In what ways do you see hierarchy expanding or intensifying now that the US has moved to a ‘service economy,’ apparently in which there will be an increase in hierarchical authority, compared to when the US was a manufacturing nation? How has the dismantling of unions aided (as of current) or helped to dissuade (in the past) workplace hierarchy?

I am not sure the service economy will necessarily expand or intensify hierarchical arrangements in any structural sense. But you’re right in suggesting that a move away from an industrial/manufacturing economy has made workers more vulnerable and powerless within these hierarchies. Service-sector work is much more precarious, is typically low-wage with very few benefits, and often does not include any kind of healthcare coverage or retirement plan. And the service-sector environment leaves workers on a virtual island, in that it doesn’t offer the same potential for collectivization as the traditional shop floor once did. Without collectivization, workers are basically powerless.

The dismantling of unions went hand in hand with the offshoring of manufacturing jobs. Since the neoliberal revolution that was ushered in by Reagan, the share of workers who belong to unions in the private sector has fallen from 34 percent to 7 percent. I believe 1 in 3 public sector workers are still in unions. Overall though, union membership has plummeted in the US, which is a very bad thing for the working class. Under capitalism, our only leverage against capital is either (1) the government, or (2) labor unions. The government is now owned by capital, and thus acts solely in its interest. So that’s effectively out of the equation. And unions have not only eroded, but many that have endured have taken on a corporate hierarchical structure themselves, where union executives are often completely out of touch with membership. Union leaders tend to be in bed with corporate politicians, an arrangement that is contradictory to the purpose of unions.

We see this contradictory nature when unions routinely endorse corporate Democrats who represent capital. We see it when unions agree to no-strike clauses. We see it when so-called leadership gives concession after concession, year after year, until there’s virtually nothing left to bargain for. And we see it in this bureaucratic, corporatized union culture of today, where demands have been replaced by requests. Unions will often take reactionary stands that defy international and universal solidarity. We saw this recently with the AFL-CIO endorsing the Dakota Access Pipeline. You see it with police unions or prison employee unions, all of which side with capital and the social hierarchies that extend from capital, ultimately oppressing large sectors of the working class.

With the erosion of authentic labor unions, we’ve become much more vulnerable to these extreme hierarchies as a whole. And without these types of unions, workers simply have no chance against the powerful interests of capital. So, yes, the degrees to which we are smothered by these hierarchies will only intensify in this environment, especially if we continue to place our hopes in the government, politicians, and corporatized labor unions. This is exactly why I’m a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, which is “one big union” that is rooted in revolutionary industrial unionism.
How does your argument regarding hierarchy creating a lack of trust square with this modern idea that work places need to be ‘open areas’ so that people can ‘bond?’

That’s a good question. We read a lot about this new-age sort of workplace organization stemming from Silicon Valley, Google, Apple, etc… This idea that workplaces should be more carefree, less constrained. I’ve read about such experiments where workers can take naps, bring their pets to work, have access to fun activities directly in the workplace. And when you look at workplace organization in some European countries, you see that many companies have attempted to do away with traditional hierarchical structures to make workers feel more “at home” in a relaxed environment.

The fact that companies are experimenting with these ‘open areas’ confirms, at the very least, that they are aware of the archaic and inhumane nature of traditional hierarchical workplaces. This move also reflects some studies that have been done regarding productivity, which have suggested that workers are more productive in environments that are less constrictive, and that workers typically are only productive for a few hours a day. So, if anything, it’s an attempt by companies to adjust with the times and do away with old forms of organization.

Unfortunately, attempts like these only tend to create more internal contradictions to capitalism. Attempting to mask the inherent nature of capitalism only goes so far. And the “open-office model” that Google became known for is not really an effort to make hierarchical structures more horizontal. It is concerned only with literal workspace, not with the ways in which the hierarchy operates on a structural level. And while it may appear to be benevolent on the surface, it often has more insidious motives. A2014 article by Lindsey Kaufman touched on some of these issues, pointing out that “these new floor plans are ideal for maximizing a company’s space while minimizing costs,” and that “bosses love the ability to keep a closer eye on employees,” with less physical barriers obstructing them. Studies cited in the article suggested that these open-office experiments were not beneficial to workers, at least from the workers’ point of view. A study found that many workers are “frustrated by distractions” and lack of privacy, both sound and visual. And workers reported that these new floor plans did not ease interactions with colleagues, as intended, because this was never viewed as a problem to begin with.

With these results in mind, it seems such attempts have been a failure. And it makes you wonder why they were attempted in the first place. Was it really to create a “friendlier” atmosphere, or was it rooted in something more sinister? Understanding the way capitalism operates, it’s safe to assume the latter. Either way, despite the motivations, the capitalist structure still remains – which means that most workers are creating massive amounts of wealth for executives and shareholders in exchange for wages and salaries that do not equal their contribution. If they make enough to lead comfortable lives, they may be more willing to overlook this structural exploitation. But it still exists. Bosses still remain, and workers are still treated as commodities, no matter how glossed over the physical workplace appears. There are still those who make more, in many cases a whole lot more, for doing much less (the pursuit of “money and idleness” that I referenced in the piece). And some who rake in large amounts of money for doing absolutely nothing, and without even stepping foot in the workplace. That is the fundamental nature of both capitalism and hierarchies. No amount of makeup can change this.
What is your take on the literature and ideas surrounding employee relationship management? What do you think is the actual idea around it on a structural level?

This type of literature is designed to address the inequities by essentially covering them up as best as possible. Their purpose is two-fold: to teach bosses how to get the most from their workers; and to get workers to buy into a “team approach” that convinces them they’re vested in the mission in some way. This is accomplished basically through propaganda, or a conscious effort to downplay the coercive nature of this relationship. On the one end it provides bosses, supervisors, and managers with tools and tactics rooted in persuasion, to get workers to think, behave, and perceive themselves in a way that is detached as far from reality as possible. Since human beings don’t typically react well to being treated and used as tools, to be manipulated, prodded, directed, etc, employers find its useful to mask this reality as best as possible.

So this type of literature is designed to give bosses ways to obstruct this reality. To interact with their workers in ways that mask the coercive power they wield over them. And they tend to be very successful in doing this… so much so that many workers truly believe they are vested in the businesses they work for, or at the very least will rep that business in a positive way to friends and family, if only to mask their shitty realities to themselves. A shitty reality that basically amounts to us spending most of our waking hours in a place we do not want to be in, doing something we would rather not be doing, so we can get a paycheck every few weeks, so we can pay our bills, so we can scrape out a living for another few weeks. For most of us, it’s a never-ending cycle that we’ll never escape. It’s a miserable, inhumane existence where life is lived a week at a time, or two weeks at a time, essentially from one paycheck to the next. And the best we can hope for is to stay afloat until the next paycheck, so we can start over again. And to add insult to injury, we’re told that we “should feel lucky to even have a job.” That’s the world capitalism brings us.

So this workplace literature, and the management tactics that come from it, plays into the cognitive dissonance that I mentioned earlier. On a structural level, the idea is merely to keep things churning by creating alternative realities that workers can be proud of. To use the plantation analogy, it really is a way to instill the house-slave mentality in each and every one of us. It won’t work for some, but it works well enough for most. Even those struck with this cognitive dissonance will often lean toward that which makes them feel vested, secure, proud, respected, appreciated, etc… even though these feeling are not consistent with reality. It is a form of coping for many, and corporate literature will certainly exploit that and drill it home. And we as workers, stuck in our miserable realities, will often accept it if it helps us cope. Because we need that paycheck.

Wrenching: On Building Coalitions

David I. Backer

 

In the movie Independence Day, terrifying aliens show up to take over the earth, but something amazing happens: all the peoples of the planet join together–despite their differences–and successfully fend off the threat. We don’t get a good look at this coalition, or how it forms, but it appears to encompass a vast swath of the spectrum of difference: race, gender, class, nation, religion, language…

It was a rainbow coalition, right out of Fred Hampton’s playbook–except the enemies were colonizing aliens rather than colonizing capitalists. (The metaphor is pretty good, however.) Other examples of such coalitions include the Communist Party’s organizing in the Black Belt in the 1930s, as well as the Young Lords’ work in Chicago in the 1970s.

What do these coalitions show us about emerging forms of solidarity as we build the Left now? Specifically, what gets in the way of rainbow coalitions?

One answer is that folks belonging to various social categories are wrenched apart by the categories themselves. The best-known case is race and class. When it comes to race and class in the US, as Adolph Reed has long argued, the ruling class wins when race wrenches workers apart.

Racism is thus a tool the ruling class uses to make sure workers don’t get together and get rid of them. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor has articulated the same insight in reference to the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent Women’s Marches.

But that phenomenon–wrenching–can and does happen in many struggles, both between and within many social categories. Wrenching is one of the things that can keep the Left from getting together and warding off threats to the planet.
How Wrenching Works

Wrenching works like this. There is a ruling set with certain nefarious structural interests. The ruling set could be the ruling class (capitalism), white supremacists (racism), cis-male patriarchy (gender oppression), heterosexual norms (sexual oppression), able-bodies (ableism)…and others.

Adolph Reed, building on a long tradition of thinking, has pointed out that racism divides the working classes and helps capitalists maintain power. Yet we know this same thing happens in other social categories. Racism divides women in their struggle against patriarchy. It divides queer communities in their struggle against normativity.

But racism isn’t the only wrench dividing subordinated sets when making gains against the ruling sets. Class divisions wrench African Americans apart in their struggle against white supremacy. Gender divisions wrench queer folks apart in their struggle against heternormativity.

In each case, wrenching has the same form but different contents: in the struggle of a subordinated set against a ruling set within one social category, another social category–adjacent to their struggle–divides the subordinated set.

That’s wrenching: when a subordinated set is struggling against a ruling set in one social category and the subordinated set is divided by another social category orthogonal to their struggle.

Workers fight capitalists, but racism divides them, and capitalists keep exploiting. Women fight patriarchy, classism divides them, and the patriarchy stays strong. In each case there’s a wrench: racism is the wrench in the first and classism is the wrench in the second.

But the thing is, there’s never just one wrench. There are always wrenches. In any given struggle there will be multiple wrenches with different salience, as intersectional sociologists like Patricia Hill Collins point out. You might work through the race problems in your union, but next up is the patriarchy and then the heteronormativity and then the ableism and transphobia…

Wrenching is gut-wrenchingly powerful and complex. But if you’ve ever quit something difficult to quit, you know that the first step to getting rid of the problem is knowing that you have one. Then hopefully you can do something about it. Same goes for wrenching (hopefully).
Taking Out the Wrenches

The concept helps. ‘Wrenching’ names a key barrier to coalition and accomplicing: wrenching wrenches us apart as we fight against the ruling sets. But a wrench is also a human made object, a tool, and tools can be used or not used for various purposes. They can be manipulated and moved around. So what do we do about the wrenches?

First, we have to find the wrenches, be clear that they are tools the ruling sets use to divide us. This isn’t easy to do. Most organizations are only sort of aware that there are a number of wrenches dividing them from one another and other groups. If they do know about the wrenches, it probably hasn’t been made crystal clear that these wrenches were put in the works by the the ruling sets in order to divide them (or at least have that effect).

After finding the wrenches, we have to pick the most salient one and take it out, which can be a painful process full of friction. It must be slow, careful, intentional. Workshops, discussions, debriefs. There will be mistakes. False starts. Hurt feelings. Time “wasted.” It won’t happen immediately, and if you try to take the wrench out quickly without the right plan the machine could fall apart, particularly if it’s been in there for a long time.

After that we have to find the other wrenches and take them out too. After the first time, it should be easier–but each wrench is different and might require starting all over again.

Finally, we put the wrenches into our tool box and save them if we need them in our work. We probably don’t want to use them against our enemies since they’re the master’s tools, as Audre Lorde said.

Maybe, at the very least, we should keep the wrenches to remember how they were used against us so as not to let it happen again, and also remember the process for removing them in case another one gets lodged in the works.

Wrenching need not divide us. The time for removing these tools of the ruling classes is now. Somehow the people in Independence Day did it. Like them, our world can’t wait.

Gun Control in Capitalist America

LeftistCritic

 

With the beginning of the “Trump era,” the calls for gun control have been partially (but not fully) muted. This article will go beyond the critical history of gun control and armed resistance by discussing my justification for rejecting gun control and, instead, an embrace of armed self-defense and armed resistance, terms which I will explore later in this post.
The Battle Between Gun Control, Gun Rights, and Armed Resistance

Gun control and armed resistance, with the latter used to defend against acts of oppression, have been often at odds. When the White European settlers came to the Western Hemisphere, indigenous peoples “offered heroic resistance” but they were ultimately suppressed because “Europeans possessed a huge superiority in weapons.” [1] At the same time, armed resistance has been an effective form of self-defense. During the Reconstruction period, Black militias were formed to defend the Black population against racist Whites, sometimes even unifying with poor whites to achieve this goal. [2] Examples of such self-defense later on includes Robert F. Williams and his gun club, called the Black Armed Guard, as noted in a previous post, meaning that “becoming a threat to the capitalist order and defending the gains of the workers movement and democratic rights through force if necessary” is important. The long history of racial domination in the United States (1510-2017), with “systematic transportation of African slaves to the New World” beginning on January 22, 1510 , shows that the right and ability to own guns is an essential tool to “stand up to white terrorists and overt racist ideologues.” [3] This has been flaunted by the fact that, as also noted in the previous post of this series, some of the first gun control laws were aimed at Blacks, which is why many view the debate over such control with caution, and the fact that the KKK was first a “gun-control organization,” and that policies like “stop and frisk” were driven by gun control desires, feeding an “exploding prison population.” [4] Such history allows gun rights supporters on the “Right” to claim that gun control has racist roots, even though some liberals say that this claim does not negate the possibility of adopting any gun regulations in the present. [5]

The history of guns and gun rights have become politicized. Some claim that the assertion that gun control is racist and that the civil rights movement succeeded because blacks “were willing to take up arms against their oppressors” came from libertarian and “obscure right-wing” websites. [6] Some of these people have also used the example of gun control laws enacted after the Civil War and that Martin Luther King, Jr. was “blocked by segregationists when he tried to get his concealed carry permit” to argue against current gun control efforts, criticizing “Obama or his gun-grabbing cohorts,” saying that gun control is racially motivated. [7] This claim reportedly was tied with the claim that “slavery might not have lasted so long in America if black people had been granted the right to bear arms at the outset of their arrival in the new world.” [8] To digress a bit here, not only is the claim that armed enslaved Blacks could have resisted their bondage with guns ahistorical (because why would the white overlords give enslaved Blacks guns at all? wouldn’t that undermine their whole system of control?) but it implies that enslaved Blacks did not resist their chains of human bondage. Any analysis of history shows this to be completely false. Yet again, gun rights supporters will do anything they can to promote the use of guns. Saying that, the liberal arguments for gun control are at times so deluded as to be a joke.

Ladd Everitt, the former communications director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV), a gun reform organization, is one of theses people. In his article on Waging Nonviolence, one of thoseprogressive publications, he scoffs at the idea of gun control being racist, asking “if gun control laws had targeted blacks for disarmament, how would they have been able to successfully engage in armed resistance against White terrorists during Reconstruction and the civil rights movement?” [9] This ignorant argument doesn’t even make sense, because it disregards the fact that enslaved Blacks gained guns during the Civil War and due to evasion of gun control laws, allowing them to engage in armed resistance. Apart from Everitt’s silly argument, he then claims that calling gun control racist doesn’t make sense because “for most of our 234 years, the entire U.S. legal system has been arrayed against blacks” and that history is “replete with examples of African-American communities being severely punished and repressed after they did take up arms against white terrorists.” [10] Now, he is correct that the entire US legal system has been arrayed against Blacks and that some Black communities did suffer backlash from armed resistance, but he dismisses the obvious reality that such resistance allowed Blacks to survive through years upon years of bondage, discrimination, and bigotry.

As the years have gone by, the ” political forms of the left-right axis ” have begun to change. In 1976, cities like DC led the way in gun control, with the majority black city council banning “residents from owning or carrying handguns (excluding guards, police, and those with already registered handguns).” [11] By 1989, the NAACP voted to support gun control measures, and four years later, during “the peak of gun homicides among African-Americans,” 74% supported gun control.” [12] Still, a number of groups have historically engaged in armed self-defense, including the Deacons for Defense and Justice, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, the Brown Berets (which has a modern version formedin 1993) the Young Lords, the Young Patriots , and the still-existing American Indian Movement. Currently there is the Fruit of Islam, Muslim Girls Training , the Red Guard Party (Maoists in Texas), Brothas Against Racist Cops , Redneck Revolt, Black Guns Matter, the John Brown Gun Club/ John Brown Militia , the Huey P. Newton Gun Club , and the Indigenous People’s Liberation Front , among many others, showing that “marginalized communities and their supporters [can use]…firearms for self-defense and the defense of others against hate crimes, protection against the police, and as a means of challenging oppression from across the political spectrum.” [13]

There have been a number of current developments when it comes to gun rights. In 2008, the Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller , held that the Second Amendment “guarantees an individual’s right to possess a gun” rejecting the existing D.C. law that someone could own a shotgun but could not use in self-defense apparently, but Antonin Scalia had a whole set of exceptions to this declaration of gun rights including allowing “laws banning guns in sensitive places…laws prohibiting the mentally ill from possessing guns, [and] laws requiring commercial gun dealers to be licensed.” [14] This decision was also one of the first fortes into “gay rights activism for the Second Amendment rights of sexual minorities and of all other Americans.” [15]

In 2010, the Supreme Court hit another nail in the coffin of gun control in the United States. In a 5-4 decision in McDonald v. Chicago , the longstanding ban in Chicago of handguns was overturned, with the declaration that the Second Amendment applies to states. Justice Alito, writing for the majority, noted Black Americans who used guns throughout US history, noting that “Reconstruction-era efforts designed to grant equal citizenship to black Americans were equally as much about gun rights as they were about civil rights.” [16] The amicus brief for the Pink Pistols group declared “Recognition Of An Individual Right To Keep And Bear Arms Is Literally A Matter Of Life Or Death For Members Of The LGBT Community,” which was cited by Justice Scalia , contending that gun rights are “especially important for women and members of other groups that may be especially vulnerable to violent crime.” [17] Scalia further argued that even the Fourteenth Amendment contemplated guns rights because it was based on the Civil Rights Act of 1866 , which is not likely referring to the law itself, since it NEVER mentions the words “gun” or “arms,” but rather to the fact that “advocates of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 cited the disarmament of freed blacks as a reason the law was necessary” as the arch-conservative National Review claims . While these claims may seem erroneous, a number of books seem to back up this assessment as a correct one. [18] There is no doubt that gun rights were on the minds of Radical Republicans in Congress since the State of Mississippi had enacted a law in November 1865, part of the ” Black Code ” in the state, saying

“…it shall be the duty of every civil and military officer to arrest any freedman, free negro, or mulatto found with any such arms or ammunition, and cause him or her to be committed for trial in default of bail…That if any white person shall sell, lend, or give to any freedman, free negro, or mulatto any fire-arms, dirk or bowie-knife, or ammunition, or any spirituous or intoxicating liquors, such person or persons so offending, upon conviction thereof in the county court of his or her county, shall be fined not exceeding fifty dollars, and may be imprisoned.”

Furthermore, the Second Freedman’s Bill the following month declared in Section 7 that

“…whenever in any State or district in which the ordinary course of judicial proceedings has been interrupted by the rebellion, and wherein, in consequence of any State or local law, ordinance, police or other regulation, custom, or prejudice, any of the civil rights or immunities belonging to white persons, including the right to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold and convey real and personal property, and to have full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and estate, including the constitutional right of bearing arms, are refused or denied to negroes, mulattoes, freedmen, refugees, or any other persons, on account of race, color , or any previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude, or wherein they or any of them are subjected to any other or different punishment, pains, or penalties, for the commission of any act or offence, than are prescribed for white persons committing like acts or offences, it shall be the duty of the President of the United States, through the Commissioner, to extend military protection and jurisdiction over all cases affecting such persons so discriminated against.”

White racist attacks on Southern Blacks and efforts to take guns away from them by the KKK and other terrorist groups likely influenced the provision in the 1868 Mississippi Constitution saying “All persons shall have a right to keep and bear arms for their defense.”

Back to the McDonald case, Clarence Thomas had a concurring opinion which was evidently different than Alito’s . He noted how “blacks were disarmed by state legislatures and denied protection from white mobs” and after this, and the decision itself, articles appeared in numerous conservative publications saying that gun control was racist. [19]

Fast forward to 2013. That year, the Washington Post came out with an article about Black gun clubs in Maryland such as the Metro Gun Club, Big Foot Hunt Club, and elsewhere. The members of the club who were interviewed said that they loved “their guns and recalled growing up in black farming communities where every family had guns for hunting – and protection” noting that such love for guns “spanned generations in their families.” [20] Members had a variety of opinions, with some believing that “guns should be in the hands of decent, honest people” but that assault rifles should be “restricted to military and law-enforcement personnel,” some saying that guns could protect women from rapists, others saying there are new challenges being in favor of guns “in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December and talk of tighter gun control laws,” and one long-time gun owner saying “I’m torn. I don’t want guns to shoot people, but I don’t want you to take away my guns either.”

As the years past, more began to question peaceful protest and thought that violence could be the answer. One writer put it in 2014 that “weeks of peaceful protests and outright riots in Missouri have accomplished nothing” and said that people should act to “preserve their own life” from an out-of-control police state, and then posing the question “is it time to start resisting police with violence?” [21] This question is nothing new, as resistance to police has taken a more combative tone in the past, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, during the main thrust of the Black Power movement.

In 2015, the tension between gun control and gun rights continued. That year, 60 percent of Black Americans believed firmly in gun control, while White Americans believed the opposite. However, the racist history of gun control is present for some in the Black community, with the right to bear arms seen as civil rights issue, support for gun control in this community decreasing in the last 20 years, and support for gun ownership by black Americans has grown, especially since the massacre at the Charleston Emanuel AME Church when gun control was pushed as a solution by President Obama. [22] Taking this into account, it worth remembering that “gun control and race…are inextricably linked.” The idea of gun ownership as a form of civil rights may result in some balking from liberal gun control supporters. One point they can dispute is the idea that guns are used in self-defense. From first glance, it may seem that firearms are not used in self-defense, with gun rights supporters countering that “in most cases shots are never fired, because simply displaying a weapon can deter a criminal.” [23] The idea of guns being used for self-defense is supported by many Americans, even if evidence may not be as clear, especially when it comes to armed civilians ending acts of mass killing, with date from places such as the Violence Policy Center. However, it is worth noting that even the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, cited by gun control advocates, says that “firearms are used far more often to intimidate than in self-defense.” [24] While they say that this isn’t a use of self-defense, this is actually the idea entirely. It is worth quoting this Center in full:

“We found that firearms are used far more often to frighten and intimidate than they are used in self-defense…We found that guns in the home are used more often to frighten intimates than to thwart crime; other weapons are far more commonly used against intruders than are guns…We found that these young people were far more likely to be threatened with a gun than to use a gun in self-defense, and most of the reported self-defense gun uses were hostile interactions between armed adolescents…Compared to other protective actions, the National Crime Victimization Surveys provide little evidence that self-defense gun use is uniquely beneficial in reducing the likelihood of injury or property loss.” [25]

You could say that this disproves the idea of armed self-defense, but actually I would say that in a sense, it actually proves the idea by saying that guns can frighten and intimidate. And isn’t that part of self-defense?

In 2015, the Pink Pistols filed an amicus brief in the case of Fyock v. Sunnyvale . They argues against a ban on standard magazines for common defensive arms, such as popular handguns from Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Springfield or Glocks, making clear the idea of a “relationship between gay rights and gun rights.” [26] That same year, there was a powerful argument against gun control. The writer said that the idea to do something after a tragedy is nothing new, but new gun laws have consequences for Black people. He argued that any new criminal laws should be “carefully considered” saying that gun laws, like many criminal laws have “contributed to sky-high rates of incarceration for minorities,” citing the story of Marissa Alexander, and saying that “strict gun laws with harsh penalties aimed at punishing violent criminals can also ensnare law-abiding people who make mistakes.” [27] He goes on to say that gun control, historically has “been directly or indirectly tied to race,” citing bills such as theGun Control Act in 1968 and the Mulford Act in 1967, noting that these laws, among others in the years to come , “opened the floodgate to further federalization of criminal laws and the “tough on crime” mindset that dominated late 20th century American politics.” He ends by saying that while “every gun death is a tragedy,” with loss of life being horrendous, gun laws, even if well-intentioned, disproportionately burden the black community, arguing that “as calls grow for more gun laws, let’s not compound a tragedy by continuing the same mistakes of the past.”

From 2015 to the present, Black Lives Matter fits into this equation. They didn’t focus on gun control as a priority possibly because of the “racist history of gun control” and the fact that such gun laws are “are more likely to be used against African-Americans than whites.” [28]

There have been a number of developments in the fight between gun rights and gun control. The NRA, which declared that women with guns can stop abusers and rapists, called for armed guards in schools after Sandy Hook), was mum when unarmed Blacks (incl. Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, and Tamir Rice) were killed, even when a black man with a concealed permit, Philando Castile, was killed. [29] They weren’t the only game in town. In Dallas, Texas, a Black man named Mark Hughes was marching with an AR-15 rifle across his chest in a solidarity rally to protest the deaths of Castile and Sterling, shooting began and he was referred as the “suspect” in the shooting on Dallas police officers by Micah Xavier Johnson, leading Black gun owners to feel, rightly, that “they’re discriminated against for exercising their constitutional right to bear arms.” [30] Clearly, the NRA is “a bunch of old white guys, and honestly, I don’t think they have the tools and minorities in the organization to address these types of issues” as Michael Cargill, the owner of Central Texas Gun Works, put it, even as he said that they were “afraid to make the wrong statement,” which just seems like a convenient excuse. [31]

In the Black community in the United States, there have been strong calls for Black gun ownership and establishment of a Black nation within the US. [32] As General Babu Omowale, national minister of defense for the New Black Panther Party and co-founder of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club argued, “we [Black Americans] are a defenseless people and surrounded by a hostile society here in America…Blacks and African people need to be armed, We look at our history in this country…Being surrounded by white supremacy like we are, we are in the most volatile position of any race in the world.” [33] Such feelings means that as Victoria Bynum, author of The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War, a book on Newton Knight, a white Mississippi farmer, soldier and Union sympathizer who united with Confederate deserters and escaped slaves to secede from the Confederacy, puts it, “we’re at a critical juncture of history in terms of race relations, reminiscent of the post-Civil War era” with independence and separatism viewed as the only recourse. Christian Davenport, author of How Social Movements Die: Repression and Demobilization of the Republic of New Africa , adds that “it is fairly easily for African-Americans to form a Black nation within the United States” including organizations like the Nation of Islam occupying “decent size areas in American cities.” [34] Apart from this, other groups have been formed. In February 2015, Philip Smith started a group, the National African American Gun Association (NAAG), for “law-abiding, license-carrying gun owners who happen to be African-American” which had grown to over 11,000 members in all 50 states, a sign of more interest by Black Americans in gun ownership, especially from Black women. [35] This has also manifested itself on protests by armed members of the New Black Panther Party (with questionable beliefs) and the Huey P. Newton gun club against the anti-Muslim hate group named the Bureau of American Islamic Relations (BAIR), with the horrid group declaring that, in typical fashion, “we cannot stand by while all these different anti-American, Arab radical Islamists team up with Nation of Islam/Black Panthers and White anti-American anarchist groups, joining together in the goal of destroying our country and killing innocent people to gain dominance through fear! We will be going in full gear for self defense only. This is a full gear situation.” [36]

Since Trump’s election, there have been a rise in memberships in gun clubs and gun ownership because they are worried about their safety, especially threatened by white racists, bigots, and neo-Nazis emboldened by the Trumpster. This includes more members in the Liberal Gun Club, which will be described later, Black Guns Matter, and the NAAG among “non-traditional” people such as self-described liberals, non-binary folks, Black Americans, and Latino Americans. [37] This included people, like Yolanda Scott, who said “I’m not the type of person who is afraid of my own shadow. I’m going to protect myself, whatever that means.”

In 2016, there were a number of other developments. After the shooting at the Orlando LGBTQ nightclub, Democrats in the US Senate pushed forward a “gun control” measure to demonize Muslims by pushing to exclude those in on “watchlist” that the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center maintains. [38] Bursting to the forefront was the Pink Pistols, a decentralized “LGBT self-defense” group founded in 2000, headed by a disabled woman in Philadelphia named Gwendolyn Patton, with 45 chapters nationwide and 1,500 to 25,000 members, declaring “armed queers don’t get bashed.” [39] The group also files court cases on their behalf. They describe themselves as people dedicated “to the legal, safe, and responsible use of firearms for self-defense of the sexual-minority community…We change the public perception of the sexual minorities, such that those who have in the past perceived them as safe targets” and sometimes work with the NRA on certain cases, but not always. [40] At the present, there is another gun group, called the Liberal Gun Club. This group aims to “provide a voice for gun-owning liberals and moderates in the national conversation on gun rights, gun legislation, firearms safety, and shooting sports.” [41] They also describe themselves as an “education and outreach non-profit” Beyond this, they declare they provide a place for gun owners who do not agree with “right-wing rhetoric surrounding firearm ownership” a voice. [42] With a range of opinions, the long-time contributors and annual meeting attendees (not all members), who they call “elders,” believe in stronger mental healthcare, addressing homeless and unemployment, along with poverty, enforcement of existing laws instead of new laws such as the Assault Weapons Ban, uniformity in permits for guns if they are the law of the land, licenses for carrying a concealed weapon. [43]

There are a number of aspects worth keeping in mind. For one, at the present, as Democrats push forward gun control measures, including a number of Black politicians, White politicians oppose the measures, along with the NRA, which wants gun use to be deregulated without a doubt, and “conservative entertainment complex.” [44] Perhaps those who call for Communist Gun Clubs to “learn basic skills of using weapons and armed self-defense, could become a basis for future workers militias that will fight all forms of reactionaries,” recognizing that the principle of self-defense is universal, that views of guns are racialized, and that “opposition movements [to bigots] cannot function without simultaneously building communities.” [45] Once we realize that, we should not reject those in the heartland of the United States who may oppose fracking but also strongly believe in their right to have firearms, with ” liberals ” possibly a section of the citizenry which is “less well informed than it believes it is, more driven by emotion and prejudice than it realizes,” leading it to harboring “dangerous biases,” as shown in the recent presidential election. [46]
Where we Stand Now

With the beginning of Trump’s presidency, a grueling four years (or horrifyingly eight) is ahead. While there are some who say that gun control laws are classist, some say that gun control efforts are not racist, others who demand the removal of all gun laws, there is no need to delve in such areas [47] There is no doubt that there are people in the United States who feel that guns make them safe, whether they are part of the largely White NRA or not. [48] As it stands now in the US, gun laws will contribute to the white supremacist order. [49] More specifically, such laws are related to the fact that class rule in all states and in the US at large, reply on “bodies of armed men,” such as police, prisons, a standing army, and other “instruments of coercion” to maintain order, manifesting itself in the Klan disarming Blacks, the “stop and frisk” laws in New York City, and creating “ore reasons for police to suspect people of crimes,” bringing with it more justifications for a militarized police force. [50] Already, over 7 million Americans are subject to a form of correctional control, with gun control efforts as a major factor, coupled with Supreme Court decisions that authorized exceptions to the Fourth Amendment since policing guns, with unequal and unfair enforcement, can said to be like policing drugs.

While practical measures, such as increasing funding for mental health programs should occur, we have to turn to “mutual help and self-defense” to strengthen the solidarity between all of those never meant to survive under the unjust system of capitalism. [51] Additionally, a “reasonable gun control regime” is not possible in the US currently, with the need for racial justice ignored, even as some claim that “permissive gun laws [in the US] are a manifestation of racism,” and claiming that gun control are anti-racist measures, which doesn’t even make sense. [52] Some who are in favor of gun control have proposed all sorts of “technological fixes.” This includes support of (1) “smart guns” that can only be fired by “authorized users” and connected to cell phones perhaps; (2)”gunfire detectors” or make a school a “fortress” with lockable doors and a computer terminal at a local police department allowing police to control the school; (3) using robots to detect those who “don’t belong” in an effort and ultimately having “lethal robots” to kill suspected shooters. [53] In all, each of these ideas is horrible and should not even be considered as a “solution” as they would increase police power and reinforce the problems with the (in)justice system. Others are vehemently opposed to guns, like one person who was incensed with “gun ads” on TV, the rhetoric of the NRA, and romanticizing gun efforts. [54] One piece specifically, mocking those on the “Left” who “active oppose gun control,” says that it doesn’t make sense that people need “guns to wage an eventual revolution and liberate themselves from the shackles of the state and corporate America,” saying that such “leftist dreams” would not occur because of a “toxic gun culture….with a lethal cocktail of supercharged masculinity, racism, and provincialism” and that “disarming the Right” would do more, even saying that “guns hardly keep away the police or help communities fight back against the cops” and implying that such laws are “against patriarchy and other forms of oppression.” [55] While the piece may have some good points, it misses the bigger picture. Gun control laws are not the the “only ways to reduce gun violence and save lives” and such laws don’t help protect marginalized communities, arguably disarming them at most, or weakening their protection at minimum. [56]

As the Trumpster continues to sit in office with his cronies and state violence increases across the country by police, immigration enforcers, and bigots, we should listen to Lorenzo Raymond . He said that in this “historical moment,” hate crimes and racist terror is growing and the “Left” needs to recognize the right of “necessary self-defense against oppressive force.” Raymond goes on to say that there is a growing “black gun movement” in the US based on past history, remembers that there has been a “virgorous Black gun culture” in the South when the Black freedom movement was working to overturn segregation, and that gun control for most of the establishment isn’t about peace but has to do with “an orderly and centralized capitalist empire.” He adds that while guns kill 33,000 a year, alcohol (80,000 a year) and prescription drugs (120,000 a year) kill more, with more lobbying by these interests than the NRA since as the New York Times put it once, guns are a small business in the US at large. He goes on to say that gun control won’t bring us to a humane society, noting that Australia has such control and their society isn’t humane, while saying that the “open-carry state of Vermont” has electedimperialist “progressive” Bernie Sanders, and citing the “autonomist Kurds of Northern Syria,” who are not as radical as he portrays them but are actually serving the interests of imperialism in helping to split up the Syrian Arab Republic, as examples. Raymond has more. He says that “unilateral disarmament of the American Left” is new, with Eugene Debs calling for guns after the Ludlow Massacre to protect from Rockefeller’s assassins (and goons), armed miners in Harlan Country in the 193os, and armed protection by urban labor unions. He ends by saying that armed resistance by the Right-wing is likely in the coming year, such as by right-wing militias and white terrorists, that there is a need to recognize the right to bear arms like conservatives, joining groups like the Liberal Gun Club and Phoenix John Brown Gun Club, since it is the only hope of making the country safer, defending from bigots and others by any means necessary, even as the “right-wing’s fetishization of brute force” should be refuted most definitely.

While Raymond is right, he is only putting forward part of the puzzle. A month ago, in an article where I attempted to predict the likely agenda of Trump’s administration, I declared at the following:

“…Considering that US society is racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and otherwise bigoted, it is criminal and irresponsible to fight for gun control. Anyone who is a person of color, whether female, transgender, bisexual, homosexual, intersex, or is otherwise considered a “minority” in current society, should have the right to defend themselves with arms as necessary. That right is already claimed by white, straight men, so why can’t others in society arm themselves to fight off bigots? You can’t fight a revolution with flowers and sayings, but political power, as Mao Zedong put it, “grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Gun control, if decided as necessary, should happen after a socialist revolution, not before it.”

Now, in saying this, I am simply saying that any “minority” should have the right to self-defense by arms as necessary. Also, in saying that revolution can’t be fought with “flowers and sayings” but that political power grows out of a gun barrel, I was trying to say that there should be a diversity of tactics. When I pointed out that gun control should happen after a socialist revolution, not before, I was arguing out that such self-defense cannot occur as effectively with gun control measures in place. Also, I was trying to say that the focus on gun control should be removed from the equation, with other approaches instead, which are more effective.

Guns have been seen as necessary by those advocating for socialist revolution. Karl Marx, in his 1850 Address to the Communist League, declared that

“…it is necessary to organize and arm the proletariat. The arming of the whole proletariat with rifles, guns, and ammunition must be carried out at once; we must prevent the revival of the old bourgeois militia, which has always been directed against the workers. Where the latter measure cannot be carried out, the workers must try to organize themselves into an independent guard, with their own chiefs and general staff…under no pretext must they give up their arms and equipment, and any attempt at disarmament must be forcibly resisted.” [57]

Marx was not the only one to make such a declaration. Vladimir Lenin, one of the leaders of the Great October Socialist Revolution , supported “special bodies of armed men” as part of a socialist revolution and believed that armed people can make communism a possibility. [58]

He even went as far as saying, in earlier years that workers should be immediately armed and said something that should make liberals tremble:

“…only an armed people can be a real stronghold of national freedom. And the sooner the proletariat succeeds in arming itself, and the longer it maintain its position of striker and revolutionary, the sooner the soldiers will at last begun to understand what they are doing, they will go over to the side of the people against the monsters, against the tyrants, against the murderers of defenceless workers and of their wives and children” [59]

There is no doubt that guns can be a tool to allow socialist revolution to succeed. Why should the “Left” focus on limiting such a tool? Sure, guns can be used for malevolent ends and have often been used in such a way as gun violence on the streets of cities across the US, in the slums and ghettos of the oppressed, demonstrates. However, they can also be used to allow socialist revolution to succeed in countries such as China (1949), Russia (1917), Cuba (1959), and the DPRK (1948-1950), among many more.

Finding the way forward requires looking at the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. I am aware that the document in its entirety is classist and bourgeois in character. However, I think it is worth reprinting here:

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Apart from the fact that this Amendment reads like an unfinished sentence, one can still have an interpretation. I think it is fair to say that the amendment says that militia units in states should be well-regulated for the purposes of securing the State from “undesirables” (whoever the elites and society think they are) but also declares that “the people” which means the whole population of the US, over 324 million people, have the right to “keep and bear Arms,” a right which shouldn’t be infringed.

Now, while the Second Amendment is mainly said to be about gun rights, I would argue that is too narrow. The word “arm,” which has been associated with weapons since its origin in Indo-European languages is defined by “any instrument used in fighting” or a “weapon,” with a weapon defined as either an organ used for defense or an “instrument of any kind used to injure or kill, as in fighting or hunting” as noted by Webster’s New World College Dictionary and numerous thesauruses. This means that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” applies to ALL weapons, not just guns. Hence, people, as noted by Akinyele Omowale Umoja in We Will Shoot Back, on pages 7 and 8, have the right to defend themselves with “fists, feet, stones, bricks, blades, and gasoline firebombs,” along with guns of course.

Keeping this in mind, it worth defining a number of terms. Umoja, in We Will Shoot Back, on page 7, defines armed resistance was the “individual and collective use of force for protection, protest, or other goals of insurgent political action and in defense of human rights,” while also including armed struggle, armed vigilance, guerilla warfare, spontaneous rebellion, retaliatory violence, and armed self-defense. He also defines armed defense, on the same page, as the “protection of life, persons, and property from aggressive assault through the application of force necessary to thwart or neutralize attack.” Adding to this, Black’s Law Dictionary (Third Pocket Edition), defines force (which they break down into eight types), on page 294, as “power, violence, or pressure directed against a person or thing,” meaning that one does not have to kill or maim someone to apply force. These definitions are suitable for describing tactics used in the current political climate of the United States.

As we watch the Trump Administration from our TVs, computer screens, phones, or read it in the papers, we must recognize the need for resistance and act on such feelings. Still, we cannot be roped into the bourgeois milquetoast resistance by the Democratic Party and their lackeys and instead engage in solidarity, at minimum, with those under attack by the capitalist system within the US and across the world as a whole. It is not worth “waiting” for revolution. Rather, it is best to act in the present against the threats that face this planet and its people, even when one should do so without illusion, whatever form that takes offline or online.
This was originally published one the author’s personal blog.
Notes

[1] LeftistCritic, ” Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encyclopedia ,” Soviet History, Vol. 1, no. 1, p. 6.

[2] Donald Parkinson, ” Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right ,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016.

[3] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[4] Ibid; Joe Catron, ” Gun control and bigotry ,” Worker’s World, ; David Babat, ” The discriminatory history of gun control ,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017.

[5] David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. The latter piece Ends up advocating for gun control.

[6] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017. Everitt heads the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV). He goes on to talk about Nat Turner’s rebellion, the Colfax Massacre, and numerous other instances to disprove the gun control is racist idea.

[7] Newsmax, “Top Firearms Group: Gun Control Has Roots in Racism,” February 25, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[8] Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[9] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Logan Marie Glitterbomb , “Combating Hate: A Radical Leftist Guide to Gun Control,” Augusta Free Press, January 11, 2017; accessed January 16, 2017. Reposted from the website of the Center for a Stateless Society which states that this article is only “Part 1.” They also note the Sylvia Rivera Gun Club for Self-Defense as an example but this group could not be found despite internet searchings. It is possible the group exists but may be a small group with little publicity or its name has changed from the past.

[14] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[15] David Kopel, “The history of LGBT gun-rights litigation,” Washington Post, June 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[16] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017. Everitt heads the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV).

[17] David Kopel, “The history of LGBT gun-rights litigation,” Washington Post, June 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[18] Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture, and the Law , Vol. 1 (ed. Gregg Lee Carter, Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2012), 9; John Massaro, No Guarantee of a Gun: How and Why the Second Amendment Means Exactly What It Says (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2009), 652; Markus Dirk Dubber, Victims in the War on Crime: The Use and Abuse of Victims’ Rights(New York: New York University Press, 2002), 93; Deborah Homsher, Women and Guns: Politics and the Culture of Firearms in America: Politics of Firearms in America (Expanded Edition, New York: Routledge, 2015), 292; Christopher B. Strain, Pure Fire: Self-defense as Activism in the Civil Rights Era (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2005), 19, 197; Charles E. Cobb, Jr., This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible (New York: Basic Books, 2014), 45; Philip Wolny, Gun Rights: Interpreting the Constitution (New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2015), 26.

[19] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017.

[20] Sonsyrea Tate Montgomery, “Black gun clubs and the right to bear arms,” Washington Post, February 19, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[21] Rob Los Ricos, ” The US police state is out of control – is armed self-defense a necessary option?,” rob’s revolting, November 15, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017; Justin King, ” When Should We Start Forcibly Resisting Police Tyranny? ,” September 19, 2014, TheAntiMedia; accessed January 16, 2017.

[22] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Gun control’s racist reality: The liberal argument against giving police more power,” Salon, June 24, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[23] The Week Staff, “The truth about guns and self-defense,” November 1, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[24] Michael McLaughlin, “Using Guns In Self-Defense Is Rare, Study Finds,” Huffington Post, June 17, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[25] Harvard Injury Control Research Center, ” Gun Threats and Self-Defense Gun Use ,” accessed January 16, 2017.

[26] David Kopel, “The history of LGBT gun-rights litigation,” Washington Post, June 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[27] Jonathan Banks, “Gun Control Will Not Save America from Racism,”Vice, June 22, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017. I know its horrid Vice, but so what.

[28] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[29] Claire Landsbaum, “NRA Ad Claims ‘Real Women’s Empowerment’ Is Owning a Gun,” New York Magazine, July 13, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Max Plenke, “When Black Men Are Shot and Killed, the NRA Is Silent,” Mic, July 7, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[30] Tessa Stuart, “Black Gun Owners Speak Out About Facing a Racist Double Standard,” Rolling Stone, July 14, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Korri Atkinson, “Black Gun Owners in Texas Decry Racial Bias,” Texas Tribune, July 9, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[31] Hannah Allam, “For black gun owners, bearing arms is a civil rights issue,” McClatchy DC, July 15, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Korri Atkinson, “Black Gun Owners in Texas Decry Racial Bias,” Texas Tribune, July 9, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[32] David Love, “Is it Time for Black People to Reconsider a Black Nation Within a Nation and Armed Self-Defense?,” Atlanta Black Star, July 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Hannah Allam, “For black gun owners, bearing arms is a civil rights issue,” McClatchy DC, July 15, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[36] RT (Russia Today), “New Black Panthers in armed showdown with anti-Muslim militia in Texas,” April 6, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[37] Charmaine Lomabao, “Liberal Gun Club Experiences Increasing Membership Since Trump Victory,” Newsline, December 27, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Shantella Y. Sherman, “Black Gun Purchases Reportedly Skyrocket Since Trump Election,” Afro, January 4, 2017; accessed January 16, 2017; The Grio, “Gun sales to blacks, minorities surge after Trump win,” Aol News, November 28, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; , “Firearm sales rise among minorities,” WBCD (NBC Affiliate), December 28, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Ben Popken, “Trump’s Victory Has Fearful Minorities Buying Up Guns,” NBC News, November 27, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Teryn Payne, “Gun Sales Among Blacks See Increase,” Ebony magazine, November 29, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017. Reprinted from Jet magazine; Brian Wheeler, “Why US liberals are now buying guns too,” BBC News, December 20, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Joe Schoenmann, “Fearing Trump Supporters, Now Liberals Are Buying Guns,” KNPR, January 10, 2017; accessed January 16, 2017; Teresa Walsh, “Now it’s the liberals who are arming up,” McClatchy DC, December 23, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Brandon Ellington Patterson, “African American Gun Ownership Is Up, and So Is Wariness,” Mother Jones, July 12, 2016; Brandon Ellington Patterson, “African American Gun Ownership Is Up, and So Is Wariness,” Mother Jones, July 12, 2016.

[38] Minnie Bruce Pratt, ” Gun control or self-defense? ,” Worker’s World, Joe Catron, ” Gun control and bigotry ,” Worker’s World,

[39] John Burnett, “LGBT Self-Defense Site ‘Pink Pistols’ Gains Followers After Orlando Massacre,” NPR, June 23, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Julia Ioffe, “The Group that Wants to Arm Gay America,” Politico, June 13, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; David Kopel, “The history of LGBT gun-rights litigation,” Washington Post, June 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[40] Pink Pistols, ” About the Pink Pistols ,” accessed January 16, 2017.

[41] The Liberal Gun Club, ” Who We Are,” accessed January 16, 2017.

[42] The Liberal Gun Club, ” What We Do,” accessed January 16, 2017.

[43] The Liberal Gun Club, ” Talking Points Regarding Regulation ,” accessed January 16, 2017.

[44] Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[45] Donald Parkinson, ” Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right ,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016; Nicholas Johnson, “Negroes and the Gun: The early NAACP championed armed self-defense,” Washington Post, January 30, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; Alexander Reid Ross, ” “Death to the Klan” and Armed Antifascist Community Defense in the US ,” It’s Going Down, July 26, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[46] Barbara Nimiri Aziz, ” Profile of a Progressive Gun Enthusiast ,” CounterPunch, Accessed January 16, 2017.

[47] David Babat, ” The discriminatory history of gun control ,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[48] Ehab Zahriyeh, “For some blacks, gun control raises echoes of segregated past,” Al Jazeera America, September 1, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Stephen A. Nuňo, “Gun control is people control, with racist implications,” NBC Latino, July 24, 2012; accessed January 16, 2017.

[49] Donald Parkinson, ” Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right ,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016.

[50] Gun control’s racist reality: The liberal argument against giving police more power,” Salon, June 24, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; Minnie Bruce Pratt, ” Gun control or self-defense? ,” Worker’s World,

[51] Ibid.

[52] Gun control’s racist reality: The liberal argument against giving police more power,” Salon, June 24, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; Gary Gutting, “Guns and Racism,” The New York Times, December 28, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[53] William Brennan, “Bulletproofing,” The Atlantic, January/February 2017.

[54] Bruce Mastron, ” My Latest Reason to Boycott the NFL: Guns ,” CounterPunch, January 16, 2017; accessed January 16, 2017; Ken Levy, ” If You Don’t Support Gun Control, Then You Don’t Support the Police ,” CounterPunch, July 16, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[55] Andrew Culp and Darwin BondGraham, ” Left Gun Nuts ,” CounterPunch, May 29, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017.

[56] Logan Marie Glitterbomb , “Combating Hate: A Radical Leftist Guide to Gun Control,” Augusta Free Press, January 11, 2017; accessed January 16, 2017. Reposted from the website of the Center for a Stateless Society which states that this article is only “Part 1.”

[57] Karl Marx, “Address to the Communist League,” The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 67.

[58] V.I. Lenin, “The State and Revolution” (1918), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 572, 591.

[59] V.I. Lenin, “The revolution in 1905: The beginning of the revolution in 1905” (January 25, 1905),The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 508-509.