27 June 2010
21 June 2010
13 June 2010
I was browsing the New York Times last week and saw this article about Lori Berenson. Lori was 26 in 1995 when she was arrested in Peru on charges of conspiring with the Marxist group Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) to overthrow the Peruvian State. She was released last week after serving 15 years of a 20 year sentence.
It got me thinking what it takes to leave your home country at such a relatively young age to join an armed revolutionary group in a tiny foreign country. That sort of thing wouldn't have been so unusual in the thirties, many Americans (and others) left for Spain to participate in the Civil War there. Before the United States joined in the hostilities of the First and Second World Wars, many Americans left for Europe to fight. Even in the 70's and 80's there were Vietnam Veterans who fought in African civil wars. But in the 90's the Cold War was over, and the guerilla wars in South and Central America had disappeared from U.S. media. What would make a young woman from New York go to Peru and join an armed Marxist insurgency? To join an ideological struggle in a tiny developing country?
What does it say about the United States that both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush petitioned the Peruvian govt. for Berenson's release? Particularly the latter, a staunch opponent of anything even remotely terrorist or non-capitalist (a label explicitly applied to the MRTA by the U.S. Dept. of State).
Finally, I am curious what place Marxism really has in all of this. There are undoubtedly Marxists all over the world, in many forms and guises and sub-ideologies, but what place does it have in the context of the 1990's and even more, today in 2010? Is Marxism even a valid starting point, much less an answer to modern global capitalism?
It really makes me wonder about the condition of the global social justice movement as a whole that there is so little active ongoing resistance. I do not by any means mean to denigrate the activism and agitation of anarchists and socialists and NGO's the world over. Okay, what it does is put into question the efficacy of contemporary forms of resistance. The question is whether neo-liberalism has won, if it is simply now accepted, and we have to deal with it and work within it in order to make anything happen. The case of Berenson and the MRTA seems to make the forboding suggestion that confronted with the awesome and overwhelming economic and military power of global capital (and it's willingness to use that power), reform is the only viable option.
After watching a huge number of people the world over rise up and oppose the Iraq War before it happened (It took a few years to get much protest for Vietnam) it was profoundly disappointing to see the movement ignored, and subsequently see how fleeting and shallow it was. Now it seems war is evil unless you're a Democrat. After the failure of violence and protest to make any discernable difference in these cases, it's disheartening.
But there is a profound variety of social justice work being done that we never hear about and it takes a lot of hard work by a lot of people to prepare the way for change. There is no planning for the revolution.