Recovering from the China shock
Recovering from the China Shock
U.S. industrial policy and competition with China
Joe Biden’s U.S. administration promises a “foreign policy for the ‘middle class’” and wants to prevent China from outstripping the U.S. in high-tech industries. It’s also about selling investments in so-called green technology in a way that even Republicans can’t refuse.
by Paul Simon
[This article posted on 8/24/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://jungle.world/artikel/2023/34/us-industriepolitik-wettbewerb-mit-china-erholen-vom-chinaschock.]
Representatives of the “middle class” at the White House. Ceremony one year after the signing of the Inflation Reduction Act, Aug. 16.
On August 9, President Joe Biden issued a decree banning investment from the US in China’s high-tech industry. Among the companies affected are those that produce sophisticated microchips, artificial intelligence and quantum computers. These technologies have special significance for military and surveillance technology, and in the wrong hands would pose “an extraordinary threat to the national security of the United States,” the decree says.
The U.S. government has been taking action against the Chinese computer and microchip industry for nearly a year. Sophisticated microchips may no longer be sold to Chinese customers, and the export of the technologies to produce and develop them is subject to sanctions.
The “Chips and Science Act” passed a year ago, which among other things provided billions in funding for research and production of microchips in the U.S., was also presented by the Biden administration as a measure against China. The law would “cut costs, create jobs, strengthen supply chains, and counter China,” a White House press release at the time promised in its headline.
When U.S. government representatives justify their turn toward active industrial policy, they often point to China as a rising competitor.
When representatives of the U.S. government justify their turn to active industrial policy, they often refer to the rising competitor: China, whose companies are poised to become world leaders in future flagship industries such as electric mobility and solar technology; China, which controls too many of the industrial and raw material supply chains important to the U.S.; China, which is investing vast sums to become a leader in strategically important areas of research; and, finally, China, whose economic rise has spurred deindustrialization in the U.S. and with it the social decline of millions of U.S. industrial workers – even if the Biden administration does not phrase it in as rumblingly nationalistic terms as Donald Trump.
One person who makes these goals clear is Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan. The latter already held various government posts under President Barack Obama. But then in 2016, Donald Trump surprisingly won the presidential election against Hillary Clinton. Democrats had to think about how to realign their policies.
Sullivan helped draft a paper published in 2020 by the Carnegie Endowment think tank that reads like a blueprint for today’s “Bidenomics.” Numerous economists conducted hundreds of interviews for the paper and analyzed, among other things, the regional economies of the states of Colorado, Nebraska and Ohio in “America’s heartland” in order to develop proposals for what a “U.S. foreign policy that works better for the middle class” should look like.
The authors argue that the wealthiest in the United States have benefited the most from globalization in recent years. Therefore, they argue, the U.S. government must ensure that more industrial jobs are created in the U.S. again, which requires a different trade policy as well as government investment and subsidies. This would require tearing down “the dividing walls between domestic and foreign policy.”
In April, Sullivan gave a well-received talk at the Brookings Institution think tank on the Biden administration’s “new Washington consensus.” The dogmas of “tax cutting and deregulation, privatization rather than public action, and free trade as an end in itself” are outdated, he said. What is needed, he said, is a “modern industrial and innovation strategy” to “invest in our own economic and technological strengths,” as well as a return to government investment policies to mobilize capital for “public goods like climate and health.”
Sullivan also mentioned China more than a dozen times. Active industrial policy is also needed, he said, because China has pursued it so assiduously for years. China was subsidizing not only its steel industry, but also “key industries of the future.” The U.S., on the other hand, has “not only lost industrial production – we have undermined our competitiveness in essential technologies that will determine the future.”
Also, “the so-called’ China shock has hit parts of our domestic manufacturing industry particularly hard – with severe and long-lasting consequences,” Sullivan said. Economists refer to the decline of certain industries in the U.S. after China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001 as the “China shock.” During that period, while many U.S. companies benefited enormously from China’s integration into the global economy, factories in certain regions of the U.S., such as the Midwest, closed and unemployment rose.
“Bidenomics” is designed to ensure that industrial investment is directed to regions that have suffered from deindustrialization
The reason for this was not only the relocation of production to China – as Trump, in particular, would later portray it – but also the general trend toward shifting production to other regions of the world, automation and the increasing concentration of economic sectors in certain regions, especially in some major cities.
Therefore, he said, one goal of “bidenomics” is to ensure that industrial investment is directed to those regions that have suffered from deindustrialization. “I believe that every American who wants to work hard should be able to get a job no matter where they live – whether it’s in the heartland or in small towns,” Joe Biden said in a speech in Wisconsin in mid-August. Everyone, he said, “should be able to keep their roots where they grew up. That’s the American dream. That’s ‘Bidenomics.’”
There are political tactics behind this, too. The Financial Times has calculated that in the past twelve months, over 18 times as much industrial investment has been announced in districts where Republicans usually win elections than in Democratic-dominated ones. Once the factories in question are built, according to the Democrats’ political calculus, Republicans will be hard pressed to oppose funding for factories in their constituencies.
And Joe Biden can travel the country campaigning on his industrial policies. “All the members of Congress who voted against it are suddenly realizing how great it is,” he mocked Republicans during an appearance in South Carolina in July. Investments in so-called green technology and electric cars are also easier to sell to Republican voters if done by saying it’s about defending U.S. technological supremacy over China.
Paul Simon U.S. imposes sanctions on Chinese microchip industry
Biden doesn’t make the labor sellers happy
Despite good economic data, many citizens are unhappy with President Biden’s economic policies
Irrational voters are not so much the ones who do not want to re-elect President Joe Biden despite good economic data, but the choice they face. Because voting has always meant voting against one’s own interests.
by Lars Quadfasel
[This article posted on 8/24/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://jungle.world/artikel/2023/34/biden-macht-die-arbeitskraftverkaeufer-nicht-gluecklich.]
A few years ago, the so-called “realist theory of democracy” was all the rage in political science. All the fine words about the “responsible citizen,” it said, were nothing but window dressing. The outcome of elections was decided not by political debate about programs, not even by the charisma of the respective personnel, but by a mere stimulus-response pattern: If the money is right, the government will be reelected; if things are going badly, they won’t be – regardless of whether those in power can be held even remotely responsible for the predicament.
In 2020, therefore, adepts of this theory had only weary derision for all efforts to declare the election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden one about authoritarianism versus freedom. “Democracy,” “dignity,” “freedom” – with such airy slogans, which did not make themselves felt in the wallet, one could really not lure voters to the ballot box.
If the theory is correct, Biden’s re-election in 2024 should not be a problem. The warnings of a recession last year did not come true. All economic indicators show that the majority of Americans are doing comparatively well: unemployment is at a historic low; inflation is significantly lower than in most other industrialized nations; real wages are finally rising again after three years, and with them the consumer confidence index, people’s willingness to spend money.
So if future election results could be read from the economic data, Biden wouldn’t have to worry. But he does have to. In all polls, Biden and Trump are more or less tied, and economic policy in particular is Biden’s Achilles’ heel. The number of those who are convinced that the U.S. is going downhill economically is regularly 60 percent or more; half of the voters are even convinced that the country is in an acute crisis. Political polarization alone cannot explain this.
Biden’s advisors console themselves with the fact that people are far too unsettled by the crises of recent years to trust the signs of improvement too quickly; it simply takes time for the objective trend to be reflected in people’s consciousness. This is not entirely taken out of the air. While the majority assess the situation in the country as a whole rather gloomily, most are confident about the future when it comes to their personal circumstances.
No U.S. president since Lyndon B. Johnson, if not Franklin D. Roosevelt, may have come closer to the social democratic ideal than Joe Biden.
Critics on the left, in turn, are convinced that people feel they are in crisis because they are still suffering the consequences of 40 years of neoliberal policies. It’s hard to argue with that. It is, however, difficult to disagree with the constant insinuation that the Biden administration is continuing this policy uninterruptedly. If, like the representatives of this camp, one sees poverty and misery not as a necessary side effect of systemic constraints, but as the result of misguided policies, one can hardly avoid attributing a certain share of the increase in wages to the government, however grudgingly.
Indeed, no U.S. president since Lyndon B. Johnson, if not Franklin D. Roosevelt, has come closer to the social democratic ideal than Biden. Which means that one constantly hears sermons about the “dignity of work” in his speeches. But it also means that when all the experts agreed in the summer of 2021 that inflation could only be brought under control with the help of an artificially induced recession, because only the resulting unemployment would be able to curb the wage demands of the working class, the government did not launch the demanded austerity program, but rather economic stimulus programs worth billions. It is hard to imagine that a President Bernie Sanders could have acted much differently.
The fact that the masses do not quite honor the Biden administration’s policies is therefore not due to a lack of good will. Sanders supporters may be firmly convinced that a policy that has its heart in the right place and is truly on the side of the “little guy” cannot help but meet with overwhelming approval. But what it means to be on the side of “the little guy” is not so easy to say – and certainly not without contradictions.
Voting always means voting against one’s own interests: For anyone who has nothing to sell but his labor power is necessarily dependent on it being profitable for those who buy it, i.e. on exploitation remaining profitable. How much self-restraint is necessary for this and which interests have to be curtailed in one’s own interest cannot be determined rationally at all – simply because the process as a whole represents a single affront to reason.
Therefore, an object like “the economy” cannot be talked about in any other way than ideologically; and what decisively influences its interpretation is least of all data and facts. Which brings us back to the “realistic theory of democracy”. The catch is not that it is too cynical about democracy – but that it could be a bit more cynical.
Build, please build
In Berlin, there is again a dispute about the development of the Tempelhof field
The housing shortage is getting worse in Berlin. The discussion about the Tempelhofer Feld is just a side issue – but there are hardly any good arguments against building on it.
by Johannes Simon
[This article posted on 8/24/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://jungle.world/artikel/2023/34/tempelhofer-feld-bauen-bitte-bauen.]
If the author has his way, the construction industry will soon be breeding here. Whether that will lead to affordable housing is debatable
In the meantime, the attitude seems to have prevailed in Berlin’s state politics that referendums are rather to be understood as friendly advice from the voters:inside. This apparently also applies to the referendum of 2014, which banned a peripheral development of Tempelhofer Feld with immediate legal effect. The previous red-red-green coalition had already relaxed the ban on building on the edge of the field for refugee accommodation. The current governing parties, the SPD and the CDU, now want to collect ideas for a possible development with an international competition costing 1.2 million euros.
The “Berliner:innen may feel fooled,” commented the housing policy spokesman of the Left Party’s parliamentary group, Niklas Schenker, last week. He announced, “We will fight resolutely to preserve this green lung for the city.”
It is probably quite true that the referendum would turn out differently today, as surveys also show. In 2014, the situation for female tenants in Berlin was much more relaxed. In the meantime, not only have rents risen enormously, but the housing shortage has also become worse. The huge open space right in the city center looks tempting.
It is true that the reason for the housing shortage is not a lack of building space. Far too little is being built because it doesn’t seem profitable enough for companies at the moment.
But it is also true that the reason for the housing shortage is not a lack of building land. Far too little is being built because it doesn’t seem profitable enough for the companies at the moment. The large housing group Vonovia, for example, announced at the beginning of the year that it would postpone all new construction projects planned in Berlin for 2023. This would affect 1,500 new apartments. New apartments will only be built again “when the general conditions are right again,” said a company spokeswoman. In other words, the company prefers to wait until there is more money to be made from construction.
Nationwide, the number of new building applications has plummeted dramatically this year. Construction costs are high, and financing is expensive because of the rise in interest rates. So people prefer to leave the land lying fallow and wait until something changes – or there are government subsidies and other improvements to the “framework conditions”.
Federal Construction Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) is already planning to pass subsidy measures for new construction in September. In Berlin, meanwhile, the “Schneller-Bauen-Gesetz” (Faster Building Act) is planned, which is primarily intended to relax building regulations; it is to be passed this year. Such measures are intended to encourage real estate companies, which have made excellent profits in the past boom, to put their money back into the construction of new apartments.
An alternative to state aid for the private sector would be for the state to finance housing construction directly. But when the federal leader of the Green Party, Ricarda Lang, recently proposed using a so-called special fund to circumvent the ‘debt brake’ in order to finance government investment in social housing, among other things, Geywitz rejected it. “If the constitution provides for a debt brake,” one should not try to “find a way around it,” the SPD politician said earlier this week.
The housing shortage in major German cities is likely to worsen significantly in the coming years. In particular, the stock of social housing will continue to decline. In Berlin, according to ZDF, almost half – 735,000 – of 1.8 million households are entitled to social housing. However, the current stock is only 96,000 and has been shrinking for years. By 2025, another nearly 20,000 homes will be out of social housing; at the same time, fewer than 2,000 new social housing units are currently approved each year.
A valid argument against development would be that the beautiful, huge social housing estates that Berlin urgently needs in the city center would hardly be built there.
In view of this, one can only wonder why the partial development of Tempelhofer Feld is still being fought so vehemently. One argument against the peripheral development was that it would accelerate gentrification, rent increases and displacement, especially in the adjacent part of Neukölln. And yet this was happening at breakneck speed – precisely because of the undeveloped Tempelhofer Feld. Since the closure of the airport and the opening of the field as a recreational area, the small part of Neukölln that bordered the field developed “from a neglected noise neighborhood to a throughput heater in the gentrification process,” as the Berliner Morgenpost wrote back in 2017. Even then, the area once considered seedy was among the top fifth of zip code areas in Germany in terms of rents.
A valid argument against development would be that the beautiful, huge social housing estates that Berlin desperately needs in the city center would hardly be built there. After all, one can observe elsewhere in Berlin what happens when large open spaces in prime locations are thrown to investors – for example, the ugly, mostly largely deserted collection of hotels and offices at the Eastside Gallery.
Niklas Schenker of the Left Party predicted about the planned development of Tempelhofer Feld: “If apartments were built there, they would be expensive, extremely lengthy to develop and would not alleviate the housing shortage.” While there is absolutely no compelling reason why this would have to be the case, there are probably enough reasons to assume that it will.
Subsidies and sabotage
Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act is a start to taking climate policy seriously
The Inflation Reduction Act signed by U.S. President Joe Biden a year ago shows that getting started on a serious climate policy isn’t that hard.
[This article posted on 8/24/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://jungle.world/artikel/2023/34/biden-ernstzunehmende-klimapolitik-subventionen-und-sabotage,]
With Bidenomics against the climate catastrophe? Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) shows that getting started with a serious climate policy is possible and not that hard at all
Among the weaknesses that even many fans of Donald Trump’s administration attest to is his unwillingness to deal with details and documents. That’s one reason why the legislative record of his presidency has been poor. That should change if Trump, or even Ron DeSantis, who is also not known as diligent or detail-oriented, is elected in November 2024.
Project 2025’s pamphlet “Mandate for Leadership – The Conservative Promise,” prepared by 400 experts, including numerous of Donald Trump’s associates during his presidency, runs to 920 pages and does not skimp on detail. It is not an official Republican party program, but the influential right-wing think tank Heritage Foundation was in charge. It is likely to reflect the guidelines under a future Republican presidency – and they would be disastrous in climate policy.
Under the slogan “End the focus on climate change and green subsidies,” the climate protection policies of Joe Biden’s administration are to be rolled back and the Environmental Protection Agency largely stripped of its power. No expansion of renewable energy power grids, continued use of fossil fuels including coal – it’s a program to promote global warming.
Project 2025 went public in late July, a few weeks before the first anniversary of Biden’s signing of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) on Aug. 16, 2022. The law is only partly a climate change program, and funding has been significantly reduced because of the compromises needed to pass it in Congress. Nevertheless, it is by far the most ambitious climate protection law passed by an industrialized nation, and serious estimates indicate that it will have an impact.
Under the slogan “End the focus on climate change and green subsidies,” it aims to roll back the Joe Biden administration’s climate change policies and largely strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its power.
According to the independent Rhodium Group, the IRA will “likely” reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 32 to 42 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. With further climate action now urged by many Democrat:in on the anniversary of the bill’s signing, the targeted 50 percent emissions reduction by 2030 would likely be achievable. But there are risks beyond a Republican election victory. The IRA primarily provides subsidies to citizens and businesses to encourage the use of renewable energy. Anyone with less than 80 percent of the median income in their area receives a tax rebate for all the costs of a heat pump, while those with 150 percent of the median income still receive a 30 percent rebate; in any case, the devices, including installation, are significantly cheaper than in Germany, at around $6,000 to a maximum of $30,000 (with their own solar power supply).
In the USA, it is therefore simply sensible to opt for a heat pump, but reason has become a rare commodity among right-wingers. To many of them, climate protection is seen as a conspiracy of a “woken elite” that must be fought at all costs. As a result, it is not certain that jobs created via subsidies in Republican-dominated areas will bring about a change in thinking. Nevertheless, the IRA shows that getting started on a serious climate policy is possible and not that difficult.
All that is needed is to refrain from distributing subsidies according to the volume of the whining of business associations, as is still the case in Germany, and instead use them as a political steering instrument. Moreover, climate protection in the U.S. is not understood as a sacrifice to be made by citizens, for which the poorest may receive some social compensation. The IRA envisions the creation of well-paying jobs and infrastructure improvements, especially in poorer neighborhoods; according to the Rhodium Group, annual energy costs per household will have dropped by an average of $112 by 2030.
Biden’s meager poll numbers show that combining climate and social policies won’t bring quick popularity. But Project 2025’s attention to detail in sabotaging climate action suggests that the U.S. right sees a danger here.
Georgia on My Mind
Donald Trump faces conviction in Georgia under anti-mafia law for election fraud
Former U.S. President Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants face sentencing for violating an anti-mafia law aimed at election fraud in the state of Georgia.
by Elke Wittich
[This article posted on 8/23/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://jungle.world/artikel/2023/34/donald-trump-droht-verurteilung-in-georgia.]
Trump faces sentencing in Georgia
Trump is facing sentencing in Georgia. In 2022, he was still agitating there at a Republican campaign rally
The latest charges against Donald J. Trump are the most serious yet, as he and his 18 alleged co-conspirators face conviction in Georgia for violating the Rico Act for the purpose of election fraud. In the 2020 presidential election, Trump had attempted to change their results in the state of Georgia in his favor. “Rico” is an acronym and stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Criminal Organizations Act, an anti-organized crime bill introduced in the Senate in 1970 by Democrat John L. McClellan and signed into law in October of that year by then-Republican President Richard Nixon. At the federal level, the Rico Act allows criminal investigators and prosecutors to consolidate various violations and crimes committed in different states and to investigate an organization or corporation (even a loose one) if it is suspected of at least two of 35 crimes listed in the law.
Thirty-three states adopted the Rico Act into their jurisdictions, each with regional variations. In Georgia, Rico legislation is broader than in other states. For example, defendants do not have to have been physically present in Georgia; moreover, only attempted Rico law violations can be charged.
One of the most spectacular Rico cases in Georgia occurred in December 2000, when newly elected DeKalb County Sheriff Derwin Brown was murdered outside his home three days before his inauguration. Brown, a highly respected police officer and columnist for the local newspaper, had repeatedly pledged during the campaign to fight police corruption and bribery. That was also the motive for the crime; former Sheriff Sidney Dorsey, who had lost re-election to Brown, had hired a later confessed associate to commit the murder and offered him a promotion as a reward because he feared his criminal activities would be exposed. Dorsey, who repeatedly maintained his innocence at trial, was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of early release. In 2007, while in prison, he confessed to ordering the murder.
Sidney Blumenthal thinks the trials of Trump contribute to the “quasi-religious martyr mythology” in the perception of his supporters that makes him attractive to them.
On Monday, bail was set for defendant Trump in the amount of $200,000. To that end, the bail order explicitly stated that he could not influence witnesses or co-defendants, as well as make direct or indirect threats against litigants. This also applies to postings on social media as well as reposts of other users’ posts.
Since Friday of last week, Georgia has been investigating a Qanon platform on which not only the clear names of the members of the secretly and anonymously convening grand jury, which ensured that Trump would have to face a trial, had been published. The addresses, social media accounts and other personal data of the jurors were also posted, users were already rejoicing about the “hit list”.
Whether Trump will really manage to dispense with his typical pronouncements is questionable – he has repeatedly violated similar requirements in other states’ bail orders without consequence in recent months. However, experts agree that locking up the possible Republican presidential nominee would be a very big step for any judge or magistrate, with unforeseeable consequences.
It’s entirely conceivable that Trump could go for imprisonment. After all, the recent indictment in Georgia didn’t hurt his chances in the primary: In a poll of presumptive participants in the Iowa Republican primary released Monday, 42 percent of respondents said they planned to vote for Donald J. Trump. Nineteen percent said their candidate was Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. According to a national poll by the CBS television network, 62 percent of primary voters would vote for Trump.
Sidney Blumenthal, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton, is not surprised by those polls. In the perception of his supporters, the court cases against Trump contribute significantly to the “quasi-religious martyr mythology” that makes the former president attractive to them. The upcoming trials are therefore not a “sideshow, but the heart and soul of the Trump campaign,” namely indispensable means of financing his defense as well as the means to keep his supporters consistently excited.
Currently, Trump’s lawyers are also trying to have the trial dates scheduled to have the maximum effect during the primaries. “Everyone from the prosecutor to the co-conspirator, whether named and unnamed, indicted and unindicted,” Blumenthal said, “are characters in Trump’s new reality show.”
The Fulton County Courthouse, seat of the grand jury, Aug. 21.
The media is already here, too. The Fulton County Courthouse, seat of the grand jury, Aug. 21.
It’s fitting that Trump is convinced he can win the primary without a traditional campaign. On Monday, he canceled his participation in the televised debate of the Republican candidates at short notice. He was in the lead anyway, he let it be known, and announced for Friday an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show, which the former Fox News anchor distributes via the microblogging service X (formerly Twitter).
Actually, moreover, Trump had intended to torpedo the televised debate by turning himself in to Georgia authorities at the same time. The headlines would then belong to him and not to the candidates, he had argued, but his advisers were able to convince him that it would not be a wise idea to dupe the Republican Party in such a way.
Trump now plans to face authorities in Atlanta on Thursday. All attempts by his lawyers to negotiate special conditions for the arrest, which is an indispensable part of the impeachment, were unsuccessful. And so it will probably be nothing with the hoped-for ancestor of the Trump convoy in front of the tasteful ambience of an imposing-representative state building, furnished with a lot of marble. At least until the formal arraignment, Trump will probably be housed in a jail cell – and in the Fulton County Jail, of all places, one of the most run-down and notorious jails in Georgia.
Sheriff-in-Charge Patrick Labat had called conditions at the jail, currently at 120 percent capacity, “a humanitarian crisis” last month after the U.S. Department of Justice launched an official investigation into conditions there following the discovery of an inmate’s body covered in lice and bed bugs. According to Labat, the building is also in danger of collapse because inmates repeatedly damaged the rotten walls to make stabbing weapons from the materials. The sheriff most recently insisted that Trump and his co-defendants be remanded in custody at the Fulton County Jail.
If it actually comes to that, Trump, like every other defendant, will first be examined and given identification services; then he will be photographed, and this time the mug shot, as it is known in everyday language, would also be made public, because that is mandatory in Georgia. In addition to the photos, personal data such as height and weight will be disclosed; bets have already been placed on X about the former president’s body weight.
Giuliani should have known that Trump is very reluctant to pay bills – but for the man who was once a favorite of conservatives, the damage is now compounded by intense ridicule.
Whether Trump’s alleged co-conspirator Rudy Giuliani will appear with the latter is unclear. The relationship between the two men seems to have broken down; most recently, Giuliani had complained that the former president still owed him around $300,000 and that he was therefore having trouble paying his lawyers.
Giuliani should have been aware that Trump is very reluctant to pay bills – but for the man who was once a favorite of conservatives, the damage has now been compounded by intense ridicule. The fact that Rudy Giuliani, of all people, is threatened with a conviction under the Rico Act has triggered gleeful enthusiasm in organized crime circles. In the eighties, the then district attorney and later mayor of New York had used Rico laws to crack down on the Mafia.
“He put hundreds of people in jail using Rico,” Salvatore Gravano, for example, said in an interview. “Now, how does it feel to be kicked in the butt by the Rico law itself and maybe locked away?” Now 78, Gravano, also known as “Sammy the Bull,” was a Gambino family underboss who in 1991 became the first high-ranking member of the Five Families, New York City’s leading U.S. Mafia clans, to break the omertà, the commandment of silence.
Gravano’s extensive cooperation with prosecutors led to the 1992 conviction of Gambino boss John Gotti, among others, to a life sentence. “Sammy the Bull,” who had confessed as a key witness to being involved in 19 murders, was sentenced to only five years and, declining to remain in the witness protection program, moved to Arizona in 1995. In February 2000, he, his former wife and two adult children, and 40 others were arrested as operators of an ecstasy trafficking ring. Gravano subsequently spent 13 years in prison; he currently runs a podcast on YouTube with 560,000 subscribers – where he most recently outed himself as a big Trump supporter. Gravano is firmly convinced that all the charges are the result of an outrageous Democratic conspiracy against his idol.
Abandoned by all good masses
On the new edition of Perry Anderson’s “On Western Marxism”
In his 1976 book “Considerations on Western Marxism,” the British historian Perry Anderson accused the representatives of the Frankfurt School, among others, of having neglected the class struggle. Western Marxism, he said, was characterized by a separation from political practice. A new edition of the German version of his influential book has now been published.
by Holger Pauler
[This article posted on 8/17/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://jungle.world/artikel/2023/33/von-allen-guten-massen-verlassen-perry-anderson-westlicher-marxismus.]
The masses are silent, the theorist speaks. Perry Anderson on a podium in Porto Alegre in Brazil in 2013.
“We have not abandoned practice, but practice has abandoned us,” declared literary sociologist Leo Löwenthal in a 1980 conversation with social scientist Helmut Dubiel. Löwenthal belongs to the first generation of Critical Theory, a school of thought often assigned to “Western Marxism.” Perry Anderson popularized this label in the 1970s through his programmatic essay “On Western Marxism” (“Considerations on Western Marxism,” 1976). The British historian and protagonist of the New Left of the 1960s and 1970s accused “Western Marxism” of having sealed the separation of theory and (revolutionary) practice within the socialist movement. In an interview with Dubiel, Löwenthal rejected this accusation with his bon mot.
For many years, the German translation of Anderson’s book was out of print; now the Berlin-based Dietz-Verlag has republished the text. Stephan Lessenich, the director of the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research, writes in the afterword to the new edition: “The distance, even dissociation from proletarian masses and their political-social struggles is regarded by Anderson as a birth defect and cardinal virtue of the theoretical community he constructs.”
Already this construct of a community of theory is problematic. Anderson groups together theorists who come from partly antagonistic traditions of thought. In addition to the representatives of Critical Theory, he counts not only theorists such as Georg Lukács, Karl Korsch, or Roman Rosdolsky among “Western Marxism,” who, to put it briefly, can be assigned to so-called Hegelian Marxism, but also representatives of structuralist Marxism such as Louis Althusser, Antonio Gramsci, or Nicos Poulantzas. Unlike in Critical Theory, unlike in Lukács or Korsch or even in the New Marx Reading, society is no longer conceived as a totality in the structuralist Marxism of Althusser or Poulantzas. Ideology there is no longer necessarily false consciousness, but an expression of political and economic power relations.
The term “Western Marxism” goes back to the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who dedicates a complete chapter to it in his 1955 work “The Adventures of Dialectics”.
Anderson hardly goes into the differences, since he is less concerned with a theoretical analysis than with the relationship to real politics. What the aforementioned theorists had in common was their opposition to social democracy and, above all, to Stalinism. Anderson consequently accuses them all of a negative fixation on Stalinism; he also holds them at least partly responsible for the failure of the workers’ movement at least since the end of World War II: “Western Marxism from Lukács and Korsch to Gramsci and Althusser in many respects occupied the entire stage of the intellectuals of the European left after Stalin’s victory in the USSR. (…) Never did it (Western Marxism, editor’s note) fully accept Stalinism, but it never actively fought it either. (…) For all of them there was no other real field of socialist action outside Stalinism.” It is an accusation that is so untenable, as a look at the historical development of the traditions of thought in question shows.
The term “Western Marxism” goes back to the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who devotes an entire chapter to it in his 1955 paper “The Adventures of Dialectics.” In it, he deals primarily with the controversy between “Western Marxism” and Leninism. This is already described by Marx “as a conflict of dialectical thinking and naturalism”. One could also say: “Western Marxism” turns radically against the blind belief in progress of the II. and III. International, according to which a kind of natural law makes the transition to socialism inevitable.
Herbert Marcuse summed this up in his 1941 work “Reason and Revolution”: “We recall Marx’s view that the natural laws of society expressed the blind and irrational processes of capitalist production, and that the socialist revolution should entail emancipation from these laws. In contrast, the revisionists advocated that the laws of society were ‘natural laws’ that guaranteed the inevitable development toward socialism.”
Although Anderson is not a Stalinist, he is oriented toward a concept of politics that differs little from that of orthodox Marxism-Leninism.
Anderson’s essay takes up the controversy by attempting in turn to reconstruct Leninism for political practice, quoting Lenin: “His famous dictum ‘without revolutionary theory no revolutionary movement’ is often rightly cited. But with equal emphasis he also wrote that ‘correct revolutionary theory (…) takes final shape only in close connection with the practice of a real mass movement and a truly revolutionary movement.’”
Even though Anderson is not a Stalinist, he is oriented toward a concept of politics that differs little from that of orthodox Marxism-Leninism. At this point, it helps to look at the era in which Anderson’s book was written. “In the mid-seventies, the world still seemed all right,” Lessenich writes, referring to a passage at the end of Anderson’s essay: “When the masses themselves speak, the theoreticians, such as the West has produced for 50 years, will of necessity remain silent.”
Anderson’s optimism seemed richly anachronistic even then: the protest movement had already disintegrated, and its successors had achieved brief alliances with organized labor in Italy or France at best. The New Left was fraying into factions that fought bitterly among themselves: The often student-oriented Maoist K groups accused the Moscow-oriented Communist parties of revisionism and reformism-the latter especially where they entered into government alliances with Socialists (France) or even at least wanted to enter into them with Christian Democrats (Italy). Others went underground, propagated the march through the institutions, sought alternatives or dropped out completely.
Political scientist Johannes Agnoli has described the dilemma thus: “The political is truly autonomous only as revolution, as practice that thwarts the logic of capitalist development and cancels all subsumption under exploitation.” Culturally, the New Left may have achieved something, but in terms of power politics and economics, it was obvious by the end of the 1970s at the latest that it was not socialism that would replace Fordism, but radical neoliberalism. Thatcherism, Reaganomics and Helmut Kohl’s “spiritual-moral turn” left the labor movement and the left of the movement helpless, because they had not only lost the theory; they entered hopeless last standings, which in Great Britain resulted in the demise of the organized working class. It was a development that Anderson did not foresee, or did not want to foresee.
Anderson attests to a latent pessimism on the part of the protagonists. Accordingly, Marxism had “changed color” between 1920 and 1960. “Increasingly, the confidence and optimism of the founders of historical materialism and their successors faded away.” Anderson largely ignores National Socialism and the persecution of many Marxists and socialists, who were not infrequently also Jews. Yet this profound break, which usually radically changed the complete lives of those affected, was a major reason for also questioning one’s own theoretical thinking and analyzing the failure of the working class.
“Marxism for us meant the theory of society, but the right policy toward the realization of what Marx called the right society, that was certainly not the business of the Communist Party of the time.” Max Horkheimer
For these theorists, however, the farewell to the proletariat as a revolutionary subject was by no means the farewell to revolutionary thought. Socialist society would be realized “not by a logic immanent in history, but by people trained in theory and determined to do better (…), or not at all,” Max Horkheimer wrote as early as 1926 (under the pseudonym Heinrich Regius) in his aphorism collection Twilight. In 1969, he told Swiss journalist Otmar Hersche: “Marxism for us meant the theory of society, but the right policy toward the realization of what Marx called the right society, that was certainly not the business of the Communist Party of the time.”
Anderson, on the other hand, remained very much committed to party communism and later turned primarily to Trotskyism. “Thus the tradition derived from Trotsky stands in marked contrast to that of Western Marxism. At its center were politics and economics, not philosophy,” he writes.
This, however, is what the “Western Marxists” would reject. Sometimes it is enough to look at the titles of the writings to recognize the concern: “Philosophy of Practice” (Gramsci), “Reason and Revolution” (Marcuse) or “Marxism and Philosophy” (Korsch). Even Theodor W. Adorno begins his 1966 opus magnum, “Negative Dialectics,” with the sentence: “Philosophy, which once seemed obsolete, keeps itself alive because the moment of its realization was missed.” Upheaval is thought of primarily as a possibility rather than a voluntaristic act.
Anderson has failed to recognize this. His book is therefore less suitable as an analysis than as a documentation of a primarily theoretical examination of the failure of the workers’ movement and the attempt to develop from it a revolutionary theory that does not betray emancipation. Anyone who wants to delve further into this should definitely read the originals.
Perry Anderson: On Western Marxism. Translated from the English by Reinhard Kaiser. Dietz-Verlag, Berlin 2023, 152 pages, 18 euros.
In bad shape
The weaknesses of the U.S. political system could help Donald Trump win the presidency
Comprehensive reforms to the U.S. Constitution are only being discussed in expert circles, although it is now clear how Donald Trump could exploit the weaknesses of the political system to get himself another presidency.
by Jörn Schulz
[This article posted on 8/17/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://jungle.world/artikel/2023/33/schlechter-verfassung-USA-Donald-Trump-Pr%C3%A4sidentschaft.]
“Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States”. Painting by Howard Chandler Christy (1873-1952).
“Provisions Useful to State Building in the Stagecoach Era”. Painting by Howard Chandler Christy from 1940 of a scene at the signing of the Constitution of the United States.
Late in the evening of September 18, 1787, most founding fathers probably would not have been able to spell “United States.” The Constitution had been signed the day before, and this was duly celebrated by the 55 members of the Constitutional Convention with 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of red wine, eight bottles of whiskey, 22 bottles of port, eight bottles of cider, twelve bottles of beer, and seven bowls of punch.
They may have been aware of their historic achievement, but it was probably also a reconciliation party. The booze-up had been preceded by sober and controversial debates, not least about the representation of the states. Sixteen delegates had not signed the document, but unity was to be preserved.
So the U.S. Constitution could have looked different, but it is the oldest still in force in the world – and that is a problem. For it contains provisions that made sense for state-building in the stagecoach era, but today are at least useless, if not dangerous. To incorporate new territories into the United States in a reasonably conflict-free manner, states had to be guaranteed broad powers and influence in Congress.
The Electoral College has become a redundant institution since rapid means of nationwide communication became available.
As a result, however, the government in Washington, D.C., has difficulty asserting itself against the states, and the approximately 40 million Californians are represented by two senators, as are the nearly 600,000 residents of Wyoming. The Electoral College, in which the electors (and now also women) choose the president on the basis of the results in the states, has become a superfluous institution since rapid means of nationwide communication have become available.
Comprehensive reforms continue to be discussed only in professional circles, although it is now clear how Donald Trump could exploit the weaknesses of the political system to get himself another presidency. There would be no need to worry if the nationwide vote totals were the deciding factor. But the results in a few swing states will be crucial, giving Republican allies there opportunities for manipulation.
That’s what – according to one of the points in the recent indictment of Trump in Georgia – the unwilling outgoing president had already tried his hand at when he called on Georgia Interior Secretary Brad Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021, to come up with the 11,780 votes he lacked for a majority. If it doesn’t work out that way, Republican allies could send fake electors to the Electoral College to vote the way they want – something Trump and his team also tried early in 2021. And if Trump is sentenced to prison before the upcoming election, he may be able to amnesty himself as president; the legal situation is unclear, as the founding fathers probably couldn’t imagine such a constellation even when fully drunk.
Learning from China
Leading AfD European politicians hope for China as countervailing power to U.S.
The AfD and the New Right dream of a geopolitical reordering of the world. Some hope for the rise of China to liberate Germany and Europe from “U.S. global hegemony.”
by Felix Schilk
[This article posted on 8/10/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://jungle.world/artikel/2023/32/von-china-lernen.]
AfD leader Alice Weidel worked in China for a long time and speaks Mandarin
Hello Beijing! AfD chairwoman Alice Weidel, who has worked in China for a long time and speaks Mandarin, and her co-chairman Tino Chrupalla at the party conference in Magdeburg in July.
Even the notoriously humorless Götz Kubitschek had to smile. At the summer party of the far-right “Institute for State Policy” co-founded by Kubitschek, AfD MEP Maximilian Krah had called the term “bourgeois-liberal-conservative” “nonsense” and emphasized that the AfD’s federal executive committee, of which Krah is an associate member, had now “produced clarity” in this regard. A short time later, Krah, who has been closely associated with the neo-Right milieu for some time and recently published a manifesto for a “politics from the right” in Kubitschek’s publishing house Antaios, was elected the AfD’s top candidate for the upcoming European elections.
Krah is considered an uncompromising hardliner who wants to abolish the EU in its current form. Last year, he was suspended for six months from his parliamentary group, Identity and Democracy, for “repeated violation of duties of loyalty and allegiance” because he had not supported Marie Le Pen in the French presidential election campaign, but the more radical Éric Zemmour. He was also accused of being too close to Chinese politics in the inner-party power struggle over the EU leadership candidacy.
“The CCP’s AfD Man in Brussels” – this is the title of an English-language article published by former Breitbart author Matthew Tyrmand last December. In it, he claimed that Krah had traveled to China at the expense of the Chinese corporation Huawei and the state-owned oil company Sinopec. Krah denied this – he had been invited by the two corporations, but they had not paid for his flight or hotel – and announced a “legal repercussion” on Twitter. In Germany, the right-wing online medium Tichys Einblick picked up on the accusations against Krah.
It is no secret that Krah has a soft spot for China. In the EU Parliament, he was a member of the unofficial EU-China Friendship Group. On the occasion of the 72nd founding day of the People’s Republic, Krah posted an extremely heartfelt congratulatory video on Facebook. In November 2022, he gave an interview to the Global Times, the CCP’s English-language propaganda organ, in which he warned of “anti-Chinese forces in Germany” and advocated Europe turning away from the United States.
Even in the AfD’s neo-Right environment, many hope that the rise of the PRC offers an opportunity for Germany to become independent of the United States. At its core, the neo-Right’s image of China is an anti-American projection. Some of the articles on the topic in Kubitschek’s magazine Sezession read as if they came from the CCP’s propaganda apparatus.
According to Benedikt Kaiser, who now works for AfD member of the Bundestag Jürgen Pohl, China could be an ally in “correcting the existing world order toward a multipolar reordering.” Peter Kuntze wrote as early as 2010 in a guest article for Secession entitled “Learning from China and Mao” that the People’s Republic of China takes “non-interference in internal affairs” seriously, rejects “human rights teachings” and has “no imperial ambitions.”
The Chinese state party apparently sees the AfD as a potential ally. In July, co-party spokeswoman Alice Weidel was on a delegation trip to the People’s Republic.
The translation of Chinese philosopher Zhao Tingyang’s draft world order, published two years ago, was also enthusiastically received by the New Right. Martin Sellner, until earlier this year spokesman for the Austrian Identitarian Movement, praised in Secession the “state philosopher’s” adaptation of the imperial Tianxia concept (Everything Under Heaven) as an example of the “visionary intellectual counter-designs to Western liberal ‘thalassocracy’” that “thinkers from the continental power centers of China and Russia” are currently working on.
Thalassocracy is an ancient word for naval powers that Carl Schmitt picked up on. In his theory of spatial order, he distinguishes between maritime powers such as Great Britain and the United States, which are commercial, liberal and universalistic, and continental land powers such as Germany, which stand for tradition, sovereignty and identity. Following Schmitt, fascist thinkers such as Alain de Benoist and Aleksandr Dugin see a Russian-led “Eurasia” as the antithesis of Anglo-American liberalism. Sellner seems to suggest that China also has potential in this regard.
Dimitrios Kisoudis argues similarly. A Putin admirer, he is a policy adviser to Tino Chrupalla, the AfD’s co-federal spokesman. In his book “Gold Ground Eurasia” (2015), he emphasized that “the U.S. lays claim to a unipolar world, read: world domination, while Russia and China aspire to a multipolar world.”
According to the usual New Right notion, a “multipolar” world means that great powers can determine their zones of influence. There, as Carl Schmitt put it, there is a “ban on intervention by powers foreign to the region.” According to this view, Russia has the right to dominate Ukraine – and the same applies to China with regard to Taiwan. “Parts of Taiwanese society,” Kaiser writes in Secession, are “economically and spiritually Americanized.” Because of its geographic location and as “part of the team of U.S. global hegemony,” the country is therefore a “challenge” and “threat” to the People’s Republic.
In a 2020 interview with Free West Media, Krah also expressed sympathy for the “Chinese people” who “hope for and are working toward reunification with Formosa.” Formosa is the name Portuguese navigators had given to what is now Taiwan. In articles and comment columns on new-right blogs, the term is often used to deny Taiwan its sovereignty.
The Chinese state party apparently sees the AfD as a potential ally. In July, co-party spokeswoman Alice Weidel, who has worked in China for a long time and speaks Mandarin, was on a delegation trip to the People’s Republic. She was accompanied by members of the Bundestag Peter Felser and Petr Bystroň. The latter is now second only to Krah on the European election list. After the trip, Felser told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland that he was surprised how well the Chinese interlocutors knew about the AfD’s current poll numbers and its work in the Bundestag.