Friday, November 29, 2013

The Comintern and Africa


By Andy Brooks

Pan-Africanism and Communism; The Communist International, Africa and the Diaspora, 1919-1939: Hakim Adi, Africa World Press 2013,pbk, illus, 446 pp, £28.99

THE COMMUNIST International was established in Moscow in 1919 to build the international communist movement following the revolutionary upsurge that swept the globe following the Russian Revolution in 1917. For the next 20 odd years the Comintern exerted immense influence over the communist parties in Europe, Asia and the Americas that were, in theory, branches of a world party.
 The role of the Third International, as it was called until it was dissolved in 1943, has been subject of a number of scholarly books from bourgeois and progressive academicians over the years. But the role of the communist movement in Africa during this period has been sadly neglected.
One problem was the lack of access to original documents but this has been remedied by Dr Hakim Adi who traces the efforts of the Comintern during the inter-war period as well as the work of the of the International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers (ITUCNW), established by the Red International of Labour Unions (Profintern) in 1928 and its activities in Africa, the United States, the Caribbean and Europe.
Dr Adi says that the aim of the book is to promote discussion and combat some of the disinformation that surrounds the Communist movement and its connection with Africa and Africans during the period. He looks at the role of controversial figures like George Padmore, the pan-African writer who broke with the communist movement in 1934, and the part played by communists in the metropolitan heartlands of the British and French empires.
            The author draws on archives in the United States and Russia, including the newly-available sources from the Comintern Archives in Moscow to shed new light on the Soviet Union’s response to what was then called the “Negro Question” in this work that charts the embryonic efforts to build revolutionary movements in Africa and America.
            The clandestine efforts to distribute the Comintern’s Negro Worker journal, often through cadres in the Merchant Navy, are chronicled in this book as well as the movement’s problem in dealing with backward ideas that still had a resonance within the metropolitan parties of the colonial empires – like the British Daily Worker, that was criticised for using the word “nigger” in 1930.
This is a book is a compilation of ten years of meticulous research primarily aimed at students and academics and this is reflected in its price. This massive tome is essentially a work of reference that chronicles the work of the black pioneers of the working class movement through their correspondence and publications that will doubtless remain a source of reference to future scholars for many years to come. Every academic library should have a copy.  

Friday, November 08, 2013

The Invalidation of the Worker: Disability in Capitalist Society

By Adrian Chan-Wyles

THE TERM “invalid” has been used for decades to describe a human being who is subject to a psychological or physical disability.  The term “invalid” means quite clearly that the subject being described is in a state of existence that is free of value.  The in-valid state is one stripped of consensual value.  Society as a whole withdraws acknowledgement of “value” from a human being who happens to be subject to a unique or unusual psychological or physical limitation.  What is it that has no value?
In this respect the “value-less” aspect of the disabled state is one that re-enforces the interpretation of a lack of productability in the work place.  Regardless of the quality of life of the disabled person, or the effort made to come to terms with the state of everyday life, the disabled person in a capitalist society is reduced to a theoretical measurement of the possible productive force, or available, exploitative output in the work place.  Any such base assumption can only ever be “theoretical” in nature, as it is not a statement in fact, but rather a profound, debilitating prejudice disguised as objective, economic science.  Invalidity as a concept has no bearing in the outside world of commerce, and is merely a dismissive concept created by the capitalist system to invalidate an entire section of the working-class.
  In reality the capitalist system is judging the so-called “disabled” person unworthy of the usual exploitative forces associated with free market economics.  The disabled person does not warrant the status of “exploitable” worker, as if a certain line can not be reached or crossed.  To extract the necessarily assumed exploitable worth (value) from the disabled person requires a financial and labour intensive input that the bourgeois employer is unwilling to meet – even in theory.  This theoretical pre-cost of employing a disabled worker is considered to be so high that profitability for the employer is judged to be greatly reduced as a consequence.  This is a system-wide assumption in a capitalist society and condemns millions of human beings to an existence outside of the usual work-force environment.
  The starting line for the physically fit worker is deemed to be unreachable for the disabled person.  The disabled person is judged solely upon a dysfunctioning, or missing limb or organ.  The human body of a disabled person is judged as if it is a factory with missing machine parts, and as a consequence, is broken and non-productive to the capitalist system.  The totality of the state of human existence is ignored completely.
  That a person with a disability may well have perfectly functioning body and mind outside of the disabled aspect is never considered.  A disabled person is judged by “what is not there”, rather than on what is there.  It makes no difference whatsoever – to the capitalist – what kind of disability is under discussion, or the type of personality of the person concerned.  The judgement is one of a systemic dysfunctionality and as a consequence, a complete redundancy.  A human consciousness, born into the working-class is negated to a state of “incompleteness”, and economic non-existence.  The disabled person can neither work their way out of poverty, or, indeed into poverty.  Theirs is a neutral position that denies the possibility of validity, and the (accumulative) positive attributes society associates with such a state.
 More than this, however, this state of “lacking” has another aspect implicitly associated with it.  It is not a new difference, but is another way of viewing the “invalid” state.  The bourgeois establishment, not only content with stripping away the self-evident and positive state of what it is to a “worker”, also further denigrates the individual by allotting the judgement of “invalid”, as if it were the invention of those subjected to it.  The bourgeois, capitalist system creates a dysfunctional category deprived of all human dignity and means of self-betterment through work – and then blames the disempowered victim himself, for the limitations (he experiences on a daily basis), which are enforced from the outside.  As if the fictitious state of the “invalid”, (that is “those existing without value”), is an invention of the so-called “invalid” or disabled people themselves.
 The disabled are blamed in two distinct ways by the bourgeois state, namely in that they are declared “inferior” to those with no obvious psychological or physical disability, and blamed for attracting such a categorisation, as if they have some how collectively requested the bourgeois system to impose this demeaning interpretation upon them, when the truth of the matter is that disabled people are the victims of those who have access to social power, because they, as a collective, have little or no access to the same social power.
 Deprived of the validity to participate as a worker in society as a whole, the bourgeois system ensures that this state is maintained by excluding the disabled from suitable employment, and therefore wealth and influence in society.  The disabled, as a class deemed “invalid”, are thereby condemned to a state of permanent psychological and physical impoverishment.  Everything is stripped from them before they are born, as they enter a world that rejects them as an equal and valid human being, from the first moment of existence.
  This is effectively a state of servitude, but unlike the life of a slave, no work is intended or allowed.  Disability is servitude without objective or end. Whereas the state of conventional slavery can theoretically come to an end, the state of what it is to be judged an “invalid” is permanent, with no apparent redeeming qualities.  This implies that any psychological and physical limitation, such as those experienced by the disabled, can not be reformed, abolished or transformed through any political process.
 The state of invalidity may use differing expressions, but the underlying reality always stays the same.  The surface structure of the expression may change from time to time, but the underlying reality is always constant and unchanging.  Profitability is reduced by disability, and human nature, as a consequence, is reduced to a mere statistic.  This reduction can not be rescued – even mathematically.  The disabled person is reduced to a state of being “sub-human”.
 This should be read with a clear mind.  The bourgeois thinkers allow this to happen because commercial profitability is far more important to them than the personal dignity of their fellow human beings.  Sub-humanity, as an accepted category, allows the disabled workers to fall victim to the horrorific practices of the biological determinists.  This has been seen in history during 20th century Europe, which saw laws that rounded up the disabled out of mainstream society, and into holding camps where they were treated with barbarism and malice in the extreme, culminating in mass sterilisation and extermination campaigns.  Bourgeois logic allowed for the development of certain philosophies that advocated the removal of those who possess no apparent value in the capitalist system.
  These happenings, with the defeat of Nazi Germany, came to be seen as extremism with no place in the civilised western world, and yet, even after this holocaust of those with no value, (the “invalids”), the equilibrium of the demeaning of those who suffer a disability was quickly re-established, with no change whatsoever in its structure.  The state of invalidity attracts no positive emotional responses.  All emotion is negative, and designed to maintain the status quo of disempowerment.
The disabled are not to be “freed”, actively encouraged, or given equality of any kind, but rather pitied, and sentimentalised.  There can be no inspiration for those in the disabled position.  This is how the situation exists.  Although the oppression is like a heavy rock on the dignity of the disabled person, and that the bourgeois system attempts to continuously replicate the demeaning position, it is, nevertheless, not a true state of nature, but rather a contrived state of human making, and like any human-made state, it can and will change, when awareness of its structure is thoroughly understood by those subject to it. 
In the past, the disabled were excluded from education, but this has changed rapidly in recent times.  The shackles of bourgeois tyranny can be thrown off for ever, through the development of understanding.
  Two men, of equal age, size and strength, with no apparent psychological and physical disability have, for sake of argument two very different skills.  Worker “A” is a lumberjack, whilst worker “B” is a computer technician.  Worker “A” cannot use a computer, but this inability is not deemed a “disability”.  Worker “B” cannot cut wood, but this is not considered a “disability”.  Both men possess certain skills, and lack other skills.  Their lack of skill does not reduce them to the state of “‘invalid”.
 Worker “‘C” has one-hand and is a lumberjack.  Worker “D” has one-foot and is a computer technician.  Worker “C” has a disability, and yet can perform a job that a man with two-hands usually performs.  He does this by adapting his ability to the task at hand.  Worker “‘D” has a disability, but this does not affect the use of his mind when manipulating the computer keyboard – again, he merely adjusts his ability toward the task at hand.  Workers “A” and “B” lack certain skills, but are not considered “invalid” to the capitalist system.  Workers “C” and “D”, although disabled, have definite and obvious abilities – they even exhibit a greater adaptability than their fellow able-bodied workers, but nevertheless, they are defined by what is lacking in their body (or mind), and their positive capabilities are completely ignored. 
The label of “invalidity” is as unjust as it is immoral.  It has no basis in fact, and is the bourgeois expression of immense ignorance, developed through greed and avarice.  Disabled workers, although subject to the immense pressures of social constraints, should, where possible, educate themselves beyond the bourgeois cul-de-sac of illogicality that defines their life situation.  The educated mind transcends the narrow confines of ignorance and paves the way for the development of true freedom.  Of course the obstacles can still be daunting.  The bourgeois employer will judge the applicant according to disability, rather than in relation to ability.  In this way, and through this method, it is often the case that those human beings with disabilities are kept firmly out of the job market.  But the first crucial stage of emancipation is that of intellectual (and spiritual) independence from the requirement to rely upon the exploitative system.
 This is not an easy task, and there will always be set-backs, but by freeing the mind, the body will soon follow.  At any rate, the physical conditions for change should be worked toward and developed, so that the optimum time for transition is not wasted.  Education is the worker’s duty – regardless of ability or disability.  People who are multiply handicapped should be placed in a position whereby communal caring allots them dignity and self-determination.  One thing is certain: the old ways of viewing the world must transform and give way to clearer and far reaching thinking.  The invalidation of the worker must cease, as it gives expression to the worst kind of enslavement.  This must happen within the mind of the disabled worker, and the minds of his fellow workers, simultaneously.  Only then can humanity progress as a whole toward a better future.