Year in Review: 2010
The events of 2010 made clear that the economic slump stemming from the 2008 financial crash was not merely a cyclical downturn. Rather, it represented a fundamental breakdown of the world capitalist system and a turning point in class relations on a global scale.
In response to the sovereign debt crisis, particularly the state bankruptcies of Greece and Ireland, the European ruling classes adopted a policy of savage austerity. They launched a social counterrevolution aimed at the destruction of the post-World War II European welfare system. In the United States, the Obama administration initiated major attacks on health care under the guise of “reform” and presided over the worst recession since the 1930s.
A series of natural and social disasters—beginning with the earthquake in Haiti in January that killed 200,000 people—cast light on the consequences of social inequality and the historic failure of the capitalist system.
International relations became increasingly unstable, with American imperialism the driving force for military aggression, not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but ultimately against Iran and China. This was combined with attacks on democratic rights internationally, as the ruling class in each country sought to prepare repressive measures to deal with mass resistance and social upheavals.
In anticipation of major developments in the class struggle, the International Committee of the Fourth International held founding congresses of its sections in Australia, Britain and Germany, while a congress of the SEP in the US adopted a party program. The year also saw a major development in the ICFI’s campaign in defense of the ideas and legacy of Leon Trotsky.
In their report to a national aggregate meeting in early 2010, SEP (US) National Chairman David North and National Secretary Joseph Kishore reviewed the experiences of the first decade of the 21st century. The euphoria that had accompanied the beginning of the new millennium had, under the impact of deepening crisis, turned to gloom, a mood summed up in a Time magazine headline, “The Decade From Hell.”
The report warned that there were two diametrically opposed class responses to the world financial collapse:
The crash of 2007-2008 set into motion a massive restructuring of global geopolitical, economic and social relations. The crisis arising from this convulsive process will be resolved in one of two ways. The capitalist solution requires a drastic lowering of the living standards of the American and international working class, internal repression, the destruction of the democratic rights of the working class, and the unleashing of military violence on a scale not seen since World War II. The only alternative to this capitalist scenario is the socialist solution: that is, the taking of political power by the American and international working class, the establishment of popular democratic control of industrial, financial and natural resources, and the development of a scientifically planned global economy dedicated to the satisfaction of the needs of society as a whole, rather than the destructive pursuit of profit and personal wealth.
Greece became a test case for the capitalist “solution” in Europe and internationally and marked a new stage in the class conflict. The European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank acted in concert on behalf of the financial aristocracy, with the German government of Chancellor Angela Merkel setting the pace. Workers across Europe were thrust into a common struggle against globally organized capital.
The year began in the aftermath of the downgrading of Greek debt and cuts in public expenditure by the social democratic PASOK government of George Papandreou, which promised to “draw blood” from the working class. Nevertheless, European Union finance ministers rejected these measures as inadequate and imposed an EU diktat on Greece.
The Greek austerity measures were met with a general strike of over two million workers. In April, Standard & Poor’s assigned Greek sovereign debt “junk” status, prompting huge increases in interest rates and threatening state bankruptcy. In the face of mass protests, the Greek government of Prime Minister Papandreou imposed an additional round of cuts in jobs and pensions in return for a €110 billion bailout.
In a statement, the WSWS pointed to the revolutionary implications of the crisis:
The rising risk of state bankruptcy poses stark alternatives: either the ruling class will keep its riches by impoverishing the workers, or the workers will expropriate the ruling class. The challenge facing workers is to grasp the full political and historical implications of the struggles they now face.
The European crisis fueled intense divisions within the ruling class. In mid-May, European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet warned that the continent faced “the most difficult situation since the Second World War—perhaps even since the First World War.” There were reports of furious meetings over Greece involving the heads of state of France and Germany, in which the future of the euro was called into question. In “The specter of catastrophe returns,” the WSWS wrote:
In the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991—the outcome of the betrayal of socialism by the reactionary Stalinist regimes—the propagandists of global capitalism proclaimed the historic triumph of the market. The revolutionary struggles of the 20th century against capitalism had been futile and misguided efforts, aberrations from the “normal” process of history, doomed to failure. The Marxist materialist conception of history, and its analysis of the contradictions of the capitalist mode of production, had been refuted.
Now, the refutations of Marxism have been refuted by the objective development of the crisis of world capitalism. This crisis has reached such an advanced level that the system’s leading representatives invoke the specter of catastrophes that, in the last century, cost the lives of tens of millions.
To impose its attacks on Greek workers, the ruling class relied heavily on the trade unions and their close collaborators in the petty-bourgeois ex-left SYRIZA (a coalition of pseudo-left groupings including ex-Stalinists, Pabloite renegades from Trotskyism, “state capitalist” formations, and environmentalists) and the Greek Communist Party (KKE). The role of these organizations was to keep opposition tied to the political establishment. Alex Lantier and John Vassilopoulos reported on a May 14 rally in Athens:
For its part, SYRIZA disorients and demoralizes working class opposition. Indeed, one of SYRIZA’s leading factions, the Renewal Wing, advocates forming an open political coalition with PASOK.
In this context, the SYRIZA rally’s predominant feature was the absence of any call for bringing down the Papandreou government, despite its wildly unpopular and anti-social policies. Instead, the main speakers—SYRIZA parliamentary delegation leader Alexis Tsipras and former member of parliament Manolis Glezos—demanded looser monetary policy and promoted Greek chauvinism.
In July and August, 33,000 Greek truck drivers defied the PASOK government and carried out a six-day strike against the IMF measures, shutting down the Greek economy. With the survival of the government hanging in the balance, the trade unions and SYRIZA came to its aid, denouncing the strike as “illegitimate blackmail.” This smoothed the way for the government to mobilize the military and crush the strike.
In contrast to the reactionary appeals to Greek nationalism by the pseudo-left organizations, the WSWS campaigned continuously to defend the Greek working class on the basis of the internationalist perspective of the United Socialist States of Europe.
Greek-style cuts were being imposed across the euro zone by European governments and the IMF with the aim of achieving a staggering €400 billion in deficit reduction. This slash-and-burn assault on the welfare state included cuts of €80 billion in Spain, €2 billion in Portugal and €24 billion in Italy. The debt crisis also threatened the impoverished nations of Eastern Europe, with Latvia, Romania and Hungary already billions in debt to the IMF.
Ireland received a €110 billion bailout in November, with a direct €35 billion infusion into the Irish banks. As in all these agreements, the hedge funds and bondholders were protected, while the dispensing of funds was premised on an assault on the working class.
In France, the Sarkozy government demanded cuts of €100 billion. Over a million French public service and government employees struck in March, with more than 600,000 workers and youth participating in 177 demonstrations. The trade unions, in the face of rising popular opposition to the cuts, organized eight national “days of action.” They did so, however, without any intention of challenging, let alone bringing down, the government. On the contrary, behind the backs of the working class, the unions fully collaborated in implementing the cuts.
In the fall, French oil refinery workers’ job actions threatened to bring the economy to a standstill, but the Sarkozy government brought in the police and ended the strike by force. The trade unions did nothing to defend the workers. On the contrary, they supported the strike-breaking. A critical role in this betrayal was played by the New Anti-capitalist Party (Parti Nouveau Anticapitaliste—NPA), which insisted that the unions alone had the right to lead workers’ struggles.
In Britain, the first general election since the outbreak of the economic crisis in 2008 took place in May. The Labour Party, after 13 years in power, saw its vote fall to a record post-World War II low. The Conservatives formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrats to replace Labour with a government headed by David Cameron and committed to savage attacks on the working class.
A statement issued by the SEP of Britain explained that the Cameron Tory-Lib Dem coalition would implement the same measures demanded by the EU and IMF in Greece, Ireland, Spain and other crisis-ridden euro zone countries, which would inevitably provoke mass struggles of the working class.
The year ended on an ominous note, when in December, the Spanish government—following the Greek and French examples—deployed the military against striking workers. Spanish air traffic controllers had carried out a mass sick-out in opposition to the demand for partial privatization of the airport authority. In response, the government imposed a 15-day state of alert, the first since the fall of the fascist dictatorship in 1975. The 2,200 controllers were forced back to work at gunpoint and placed under military discipline. A series of controllers wrote to the WSWS, including one who warned, “We have arrived at something akin to Stalinist Russia, the Stasi or Hitler’s SS.”
While Europe sank deeper into recession, millions of workers in the US remained out of work, facing foreclosure and eviction, impoverished and hungry, despite the Obama administration’s claims that an economic “recovery” had begun.
The explosive growth of poverty and social inequality in the US following the 2008 financial crash was the result of policies deliberately pursued by the Obama administration, which sought both to protect the criminally-acquired fortunes of the financial aristocracy and to employ the sharply lowered living standards of American workers to gain a competitive advantage for American corporations.
Insofar as there was a recovery—in the profit rates of the big banks and corporations and in the stock portfolios of the major investors—it was predicated upon the policy of mass layoffs, wage cuts, and benefit reductions that began with Obama’s restructuring of the auto industry in 2009.
Nationwide, states suffered their largest drop in revenue on record, largely due to the mass unemployment created by the recession. The Obama administration refused to provide federal aid to reduce the $375 billion collective budget deficit of the states. This massive deficit led to state-level assaults on public services, particularly on schools and social programs.
Obama went out of his way to praise the mass firing of high school teachers in Rhode Island. As state cutbacks hit higher education, tuition at American universities skyrocketed, and paying for higher education became a painful burden for many young people. By mid-2010, student loan debt surpassed that of credit cards for the first time. In November, the WSWS published a detailed investigative report, “The American Student Loan Racket.”
The Obama administration pushed two major pieces of legislation through the Democratic-controlled Congress. The administration cynically portrayed its health care overhaul as a progressive “reform,” but its aim was to initiate a major attack on health care. The corporate media, particularly the New York Times, backed it as a measure to cut “wasteful” spending on the sick and elderly.
This reactionary legislation, drafted in consultation with the insurance industry, was aimed at safeguarding the profits of the insurance and drug companies while reducing health care costs for the government and big business as a whole. In “Obama health bill sets the stage for assault on Medicare and Social Security,” written shortly after the bill was passed in March, Barry Grey noted the exuberant response of the media:
Behind the celebrations of the health care overhaul lies a definite perspective. The authors of these commentaries see the legislation as a major step in confronting profound problems facing American and world capitalism. They are hailing what they consider a breakthrough in reining in massive US deficits that are destabilizing the world financial system.
It has for decades been deemed politically impossible to attack basic entitlement programs in the US, such as Social Security and Medicare, which account for an enormous and rising portion of the federal budget. Now, with Obama’s health care plan, the stage has been set for slashing these programs. This is the reason for the general jubilation in media and financial circles.
The second measure, the Dodd-Frank bill, was presented as an effort to curb the type of speculation that had produced the 2008 financial crash. Its actual function was to consolidate the dominant role of the largest banks, demonstrating the Democratic Party’s subservience to Wall Street.
With the unions, liberal and pseudo-left groups blocking any genuine expression of working class opposition to Obama’s right-wing program, sections of big business and the ultra-right, with media support, inflated the “Tea Party” movement.
While there was little popular support for the extreme “free market” policies of the Tea Party, the 2010 congressional election in November saw a victory for the ultra-right by default. The collapse in support for the Democrats among youth and working people, reflected in a huge decline in voter turnout, allowed the Republicans to regain control of the House of Representatives. The WSWS commented, “After coming to power by posing as the tribune of ‘hope’ and ‘change you can believe in,’ Obama, through his pro-corporate and pro-war policies, has succeeded in alienating and politically demoralizing large sections of the population that had voted for him.”
The election results set the stage for the Obama administration’s open embrace of an agenda of deficit-reduction in the name of seeking “bipartisan consensus.” The Obama-appointed Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction commission released its recommendations just days after the November election. The bipartisan group called for massive cuts in basic social programs such as Medicare and Social Security, mass layoffs of federal employees, and tax cuts for corporations and the super-rich.
The year began with additional US troops pouring into Afghanistan and a sharp increase in US drone strikes in Pakistan as part of the AfPak war “surge” ordered by President Obama. In February, Marines launched an offensive in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, an opening shot in a brutal campaign to crush any resistance to the American occupation.
The Democratic-controlled Congress overwhelmingly backed the escalation of the war, and Obama made his first trip to Afghanistan as president to lay down the law to the puppet regime of Hamid Karzai and pose for the cameras with US troops.
A central feature of the US offensive was a stepped-up campaign of assassinations, particularly in the southern provinces, modeled on the methods previously employed by the US commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, as chief of US special forces operations in Iraq. By early summer, however, it was clear that the “surge” strategy was faltering, having failed to achieve a crushing military victory against the Taliban.
After a dispute involving public criticism that McCrystal leveled against Obama, the general was removed and replaced by Gen. David Petraeus, which set the stage for an even more brutal campaign. Under Petraeus’s direction, the military violence intensified both within Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan, where the Taliban and other insurgents had supply bases and extensive popular support.
In late September, Pakistani authorities temporarily closed a pivotal Afghan war supply route after a US-NATO raid on a Pakistani border patrol. After issuing a pro-forma apology, the US went full-speed ahead with the drone war—there were reportedly 115 strikes by year’s end, double the 2009 total— while pressing Islamabad to launch a military offensive in North Waziristan.
Meanwhile, US imperialism remained deeply engaged in Iraq, with tens of thousands of troops continuing to occupy the country. Parliamentary elections in March underscored the sectarian divisions among the bourgeois forces collaborating with the US occupation. There were still days of widespread bloodshed, but the Obama administration maintained its timetable to withdraw US combat troops by September, mainly to ease the strain on US forces caused by the escalation in Afghanistan.
Despite Obama’s posturing, however, Iraq remained under US occupation, devastated by seven years of war and civil war. And the United States had as many soldiers deployed in war zones under Obama as under of George W. Bush.
Moreover, the Obama administration was setting the stage for new wars in the region with its intensifying economic, political and military pressure on Iran, coordinated with Israel and the main European imperialist powers. This ranged from the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists, to demands for tighter economic sanctions, to thinly veiled threats of all-out war.
In August, after Obama called in selected journalists to the White House to emphasize that military action against Iran was one of the options being contemplated, the WSWS commented:
To get a lasting deal with Washington, Iran would have to publicly renounce supporting parties or resistance movements in regions oppressed by the US or Israel, grant US firms access or control of its oil fields, and submit to invasive controls of its nuclear program. This would amount to a public declaration by the Iranian government that it is a lackey of American imperialism.
While Washington portrayed Iran as an outlaw state, it was the United States that openly defied international law. In April, Obama ordered the assassination of US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, with the tenuous claim that he was linked to the failed attempt to blow up a US airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. The WSWS wrote:
For the first time in history, an American president has officially ordered the assassination of a US citizen. President Barack Obama has approved the ‘targeted killing’ of Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born Muslim cleric who is reported to be in hiding in Yemen. No substantial evidence has been brought to bear against Awlaki, 38, who is accused of terrorism, and he will be afforded no legal recourse against the death sentence.
The action set in motion as many as 12 murder attempts, which culminated in al-Awlaki’s summary execution by Hellfire missiles, launched by drones, in 2011.
In April 2010, the online whistleblower organization WikiLeaks posted a video entitled “Collateral Murder,” documenting the criminal character of the US occupation of Iraq. The footage showed the 2007 US Apache helicopter massacre of at least 12 civilians, mostly unarmed Iraqis, together with two Reuters journalists and a passerby who tried to help the injured.
Private First Class Bradley Manning leaked the video and other documents in an act of conscience that demonstrated great personal courage. In May 2010, Manning was arrested. He would be held for more than 1,000 days before being brought before a military court martial, during which time he would be subjected to abuse and solitary confinement.
WikiLeaks released hundreds of thousands of classified US embassy cables, baring before the world a wide range of criminal activities by the United States, including 9,000 battlefield reports from Afghanistan documenting the killing of over 20,000 Afghan civilians, 400,000 documents on Iraq exposing at least 15,000 previously undisclosed Iraqi civilian deaths, and evidence of specific war crimes, including the killing in cold blood of Iraqi civilians, the murder of 834 Iraqi civilians at US military checkpoints, and systematic torture.
The cables exposed an international web of American political conspiracies on every continent, including: plans for war with China, NATO war-plans against Russia, the Sri Lankan government’s collusion with paramilitary death squads, American complicity in Sri Lankan war crimes, the US role in the 2006 Thai coup, US bombings of civilians in Yemen, US spying on UN officials in violation of international treaties, US governmental obstruction in the prosecution of CIA agents guilty of torture, and US contempt for international law. As Joseph Kishore wrote in a comment, “WikiLeaks and secret diplomacy”: “American policy depends crucially on secrecy and lies precisely because it is in such irreconcilable conflict with the interests of the people of the United States and the world.”
With the aim of crushing the organization and imprisoning, if not executing, its principals, the Obama administration set in motion a “dirty tricks” operation, inducing the Swedish government to file sexual assault charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The US-orchestrated campaign led to an international arrest warrant and attempts to extradite the Australian-born Assange from Great Britain to Sweden and eventually the US, where he could face charges under the Espionage Act.
From the beginning, the WSWS waged an aggressive campaign to defend WikiLeaks, Assange and Manning. The WSWS ran nearly 100 articles in 2010 on the impact of WikiLeaks and the political implications of its exposures. A statement in June, “Hands off WikiLeaks,” was followed by meetings around the world, including in Sri Lanka, Germany, the UK, Australia and the US.
The WSWS subjected to a detailed critique the despicable role played by liberals and the pseudo-left in the operation against Assange. In a comment on the role of the New York Times, Barry Grey wrote:
The newspaper of record of the American liberal establishment is not outraged by further proof of murder and torture on a mass scale, implicating the highest officials in both the Bush and Obama administrations, but instead reserves its fury for those courageous individuals who have dared to breach the government-media wall of silence and give the public access to some portion of the horrific truth about the US war in Iraq.
Times editor Bill Keller collaborated with the US State Department on a daily basis to vet and censor all exposures, concealing anything that might impede US war aims.
In a reply to a column by civil liberties lawyer Floyd Abrams denouncing WikiLeaks, David North contrasted the role Abrams played in the legal defense of the New York Times’ publication of the Pentagon papers in 1971 with his attack on WikiLeaks and Assange 40 years later:
Within the ruling elite and its intellectual representatives, there has been a virtual collapse of any substantial politically-committed constituency for democratic rights. In this sense, the lining up of institutions such as the Times and past defenders of the First Amendment like Abrams behind the persecution of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks is a significant measure of the diseased state of American democracy at the end of the first decade of the 21st century.
The smear campaign against Assange was supported by the advocates of feminism and identity politics in the pseudo-left, who displayed no concern over the attack on democratic rights at the heart of the frame-up. The WSWS explained that the sexual assault charges against Assange were “part of an orchestrated effort to divert public attention from the content of the WikiLeaks exposures.”
Political, economic and security tensions between the US and China mounted in the course of 2010. The US imposed tariffs on a range of Chinese goods in January, and in February announced the sale of $6.4 billion in arms to Taiwan. Demands were being made in the US Senate and Congress for the US to charge China with currency manipulation.
Increasing the pressure on China, Obama made visits to India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia. In Indonesia, the US re-established military ties with the notorious Kopassus special forces, which had a long history of arbitrary detention, torture and murder. The conflict between Japan and China over the Senkaku/Daioyu islands also became public in 2010.
US-China tensions underlay the crisis that erupted within the government of Australia, one of the main US allies in the region, which culminated in the ousting of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on June 24. An extensive US network of “protected assets” within the Australian Labor Party, together with right-wing faction leaders, maneuvered behind the backs of the general population to remove Rudd and install Julia Gillard, the favorite of the Obama administration, without even a caucus vote.
The anti-democratic leadership coup was portrayed by the media as a result of opposition by Australia’s biggest mining companies against Rudd’s proposed tax on mining “super profits.” Sections of the mining sector, enormously profitable as a result of exports to China, had threatened to move offshore and sack thousands of workers if the modest tax went ahead.
However, as the WSWS explained, while the domestic destabilization was an element, the decisive trigger for the coup was Washington’s intervention. Obama was increasingly dissatisfied with Rudd’s wavering commitment to the war in Afghanistan. Even more critically, Washington opposed Rudd’s advocacy of a so-called “Asia-Pacific Community,” a diplomatic mechanism that would seek to mediate tensions between the US and China. Just weeks earlier, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who espoused similar policies to Rudd, resigned following a concerted campaign against him by Washington.
US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks in December confirmed that the coup was “made in the USA.” They revealed Washington’s scathing assessment of Rudd and his attempt to implement a degree of power-sharing with Beijing, recognizing this would cut across US hegemony in the region.
From her very first day in office, Gillard made it abundantly clear that her government would stand unambiguously with Washington’s provocative efforts to undermine China’s influence throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Once installed, she scrapped the mining tax and signaled a deepening of Labor's right-wing policies. She also announced new measures against refugees and pledged indefinite participation in the war in Afghanistan and unquestioning commitment to the US alliance.
Shortly afterwards, the US Naval War College published a study that detailed Australia’s “numerous advantages” as a base from which the US military could control the vital sea lanes between the Indian and Pacific Oceans in the event of conflict with China. Australian ports and airbases were to be upgraded for use by the American military and the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean made available as an airbase for US surveillance drones and, potentially, warplanes.
On January 12, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake shattered the impoverished nation of Haiti. The death toll was a staggering 200,000 people, with many buried beneath cheaply-made buildings. Three-quarters of the buildings in the capital city of Port-au-Prince were reduced to rubble. One and a half million were left homeless, without food or water. An estimated quarter of a million survivors were treated largely without antibiotics or anesthetics, while thousands died unnecessarily from dehydration, gangrene and septicemia.
Responsibility for the immense scale of the disaster lay at the feet of the American ruling class. In “Haiti’s tragedy: A crime of US imperialism,” the WSWS wrote that “the lack of infrastructure, the poor quality of construction in Port-au-Prince and the impotence of the Haitian government to organize any response are determining factors in this tragedy.” The statement continued:
These social conditions are the product of a protracted relationship between Haiti and the United States, which, ever since US Marines occupied the island nation for nearly 20 years beginning in 1915, has treated the country as a de facto colonial protectorate...
The US-led military mobilization protected Haiti’s wealthy oligarchy and entrenched US interests, even while aid to earthquake victims was doled out with appalling slowness. Haiti was placed under effective trusteeship, with earthquake aid funneled through a commission co-chaired by former US President Bill Clinton. Security was handled first by the US Marines and Canadian troops, then by a UN peacekeeping force whose largest component came from Brazil.
In October, a cholera epidemic broke out, killing an additional 8,000 people and infecting 640,000 more. It was ultimately traced back to Nepalese troops stationed in Haiti as part of the UN force.
Elsewhere in the Americas, police-state methods were used against G20 demonstrators in Toronto, Canada, as police beat protestors and bystanders, fired rubber bullets and charged peaceful crowds assembled to protest against the meeting of the leaders of the 20 largest capitalist economies.
In January, Canada’s highest court conceded that the Canadian state had violated the constitutional rights of child soldier and Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr by conniving in his torture. But in a ruling with chilling implications for basic rights, the court failed to impose any remedy, saying that to do so would impinge on the government’s prerogative to conduct foreign policy. In May, Canada’s parliamentary parties agreed to a mechanism that enabled the Canadian government to suppress a mountain of evidence that the Canadian Armed Forces had, in violation of international law, handed over Afghans for torture by that country’s security forces.
In Cuba, where Fidel Castro had handed off power in 2006 to his brother Raul, the longtime defense minister, the regime announced plans to eliminate the jobs of as many as 1.3 million workers in state employment, the biggest economic and social transformation since the 1959 Cuban Revolution.
In Brazil, Latin America’s largest country, the union-backed Workers Party retained power in the presidential election to choose a successor to Luis Inacio da Silva (Lula), with Lula’s chief of staff Dilma Rousseff winning the poll. The stock market celebrated the victory, as Lula had loyally promoted the interests of Brazilian capitalism.
In the course of the year, China surpassed Japan to become the world’s second largest economy, an event of vast symbolic and historical significance. However, China’s emergence as the sweatshop of world capitalism in no way resolved the crisis of capitalism, either in China or globally. Social tensions began to erupt in a series of mass struggles and protests in the southern industrial centers in China. In June, Honda workers struck at a number of factories, and 13 Foxconn workers committed suicide in response to conditions of brutal exploitation.
Thailand was placed under a state of emergency for eight months in the aftermath of the April government crackdown on thousands of “Red Shirt” protesters in Bangkok. Demonstrators supporting the opposition United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, linked to ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, camped for weeks in a fortified zone. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva seized on a demonstration at the national parliament building to declare the state of emergency and mobilize the military. More than 90 were killed and over 1,800 were injured.
In the Philippines, Benigno Aquino III, the son of former president Corazon Aquino, was elected president, keeping control of the office in the hands of the narrow oligarchy of wealthy landowners. Within months, the new government had slashed food subsidies while awarding more tax breaks to the rich.
In south Asia, heavy flooding in Pakistan produced a social disaster approaching the scale of the Haitian tragedy, with thousands dead, 21 million displaced, crops ruined and livestock drowned. According to the UN, the floods impacted more people than any humanitarian disaster since World War II. As the WSWS explained, the floods were more a socially-produced than a natural disaster—a product of imperialist oppression and the venal rule of the Pakistani bourgeoisie.
Pakistan lacked a proper flood-warning system, the Indus Valley flood-control system was in disrepair, the rich and politically connected arranged for the surging waters to be diverted away from their lands and crops, frequently toward more populated areas, and the state lacked the means and will to organize speedy and effective relief.
In September, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse forced through an amendment to the constitution giving him a free hand to appoint key state officials and allowing him to run for office indefinitely. The “emergency” bill was not submitted to a popular referendum, as required by law, but was specially ratified by the Supreme Court.
In the Middle East, two crimes committed by Israeli forces captured international attention. In March, Israel organized the assassination of Hamas member Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, an act that underscored the extent to which the basic precepts of international law had been abandoned under the “war on terror.”
On May 31, the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” of six ships sailing in international waters and carrying humanitarian aid towards Gaza was attacked by Israeli commandos, killing nine. The attack sparked international condemnation against a background of global protests and calls for Israel to lift its three-year blockade of Gaza.
In Africa, the African Union summit backed the American initiative for more troops to battle the Islamist militia al-Shabaab in Somalia. Under the agreement, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troop levels would rise to 9,500. The use of US surveillance drones to carry out targeted killings became a hallmark of the Obama administration’s operations in the area.
In France, the government of President Nicolas Sarkozy carried out a forcible mass deportation of Roma, sparking protests by over 100,000 people in cities throughout the country. In Paris, supporters of the ICFI distributed copies of the WSWS statement “Back to Vichy,” pointing out that the persecution of Roma by Sarkozy—backed by the Socialist Party—harked back to the methods of the Vichy dictatorship established under Nazi occupation in World War II.
As part of his racist campaign to promote French “national identity,” Sarkozy also supported a public ban on wearing the burqa. The WSWS denounced this trampling on religious freedom as part of a broad move toward police-state measures. The entire official “left,” including the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle—LO) and the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (New Anti-capitalist Party—NPA), lined up with the racist and anti-democratic measure.
Similar anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-Roma prejudices were whipped up elsewhere in Europe. Former Berlin finance minister and member of the Bundesbank executive board Thilo Sarrazin published a book entitled Germany Abolishes Itself, a tirade against Muslim immigrants combined with social Darwinist prejudices and racist theories that recalled the eugenics of the Third Reich. In September, the WSWS provided an extensive two-part analysis.
In Hungary, a far-right party, Fidesz, won a two-thirds majority in national elections, campaigning on anti-Semitic and anti-Roma policies and in a tacit alliance with the neo-fascist party Jobbik. This victory marked a collapse of the discredited Stalinists and Social Democrats, who had imposed draconian IMF economic measures on the impoverished population. In December, the new government granted itself sweeping powers to effectively abolish freedom of the press.
On April 20, the worst environmental catastrophe in US history began with the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil well 50 miles off the American Gulf Coast. Eleven oil workers were killed and 17 seriously injured in the sinking of the oil rig. The sea-floor oil gusher caused by the explosion flowed unabated for 87 days, until July 15, releasing some 206 million gallons of oil. The long-term ecological damage is incalculable, hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents lost jobs and income, and serious health problems persist among those subjected to the toxins released by the oil and chemical dispersants.
The spill was the direct product of negligence and cost-cutting by BP in a new international scramble for oil. The drive for cheap forms of energy has been an essential component of Obama’s strategy of trade war and the “in-sourcing” of manufacturing. The long chain of events leading to the explosion implicated the US government “oversight” agencies.
In the days following the blast, the media followed the government's lead in seeking to downplay the potential ratifications of the disaster. As a result, the deaths of the oil workers were largely ignored. The WSWS was among the only outlets to cover their funerals, sending a reporter to Natchez, Mississippi for the funeral of Karl Kleppinger, one of the workers killed on the rig, and to interview his family.
WSWS reporters travelled to the gulf of Mexico and published a series of videos on the spill, including interviews with New Orleans area workers and health professionals. We exposed the cover-up by the Obama administration, which lied about the damage to the environment, the health effects for Coast residents, and the toxicity (and even the chemical content) of the nearly 2 million gallons of dispersant thrown into the Gulf.
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard acted as a private security force for BP, blocking reporters from surveying beaches or even flying over the spill. Environmental scientists who predicted massive destruction to the Gulf’s environment faced a wall of lies from the media and political establishment.
In a perspective titled “Gulf oil spill: Why is BP in charge?,” the WSWS pointed to the criminal decision by the Obama administration to leave BP in control of the response and cleanup.
In June, Obama and BP approved placing multi-millionaire lawyer Kenneth Feinberg in charge of the payment of damage claims, in order to protect the financial interests of BP.
In the statement “Beyond BP,” the WSWS responded to attempts to portray the company and its executives as aberrations, even as everything was done to maintain BP’s profitability:
The vast dimensions of the ecological and economic nightmare stand in sharp and revealing contrast to the miserable actions of the federal government. The main aim of the Obama administration has been to evade the underlying causes of the disaster and prevent public outrage from intersecting with growing anti-corporate sentiment throughout the country...
BP is not an aberration. Until the next disaster, the company is only the most public face of corporate criminality that has become pervasive. In particular, BP shares with all the major oil companies a relentless drive for profit at the expense of the most elementary safety precautions and considerations.
Only two weeks before the BP disaster, an April 5 explosion at the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine in Montcoal, West Virginia, owned at the time by Massey Energy, killed 29 coal miners. It was the worst mining accident in the US in 40 years. A spark ignited accumulated methane gas, generating a massive coal dust-fueled blast that traveled through miles of tunnels, destroying everything and everyone in its path.
The WSWS traveled to Montcoal, providing on-the-spot coverage and interviews with miners and their families. The conditions in the mines were bound up with the betrayal and disintegration of the United Mine Workers (UMW) union, at one time the spearhead of the organization of the CIO and the most militant union in the US. Massey CEO Don Blankenship, a right-wing Republican multi-millionaire, had made his name in the coal industry by heading up the union-busting operation against miners who struck what was then called AT Massey in 1984-85, a critical turning point in the gutting of miners’ rights.
The Obama administration shared responsibility for the disaster. In the 18 months preceding the explosion, federal health and safety investigators had issued citations for more than 600 safety violations, yet never attempted to shut down the mine or demand more frequent inspections.
Massey officials maintained two sets of books and showed regulators fake safety reports. Massey warned underground miners when inspectors arrived at the mine and threatened miners if they spoke to officials about safety problems. Blankenship and at least 15 other high-ranking management officials refused to testify under oath before government investigators. Instead, Blankenship was allowed to retire with $12 million in severance pay. Not a single top company official would be charged with any crime.
The conditions at Massey were typical of the mining industry in the United States and internationally. There were repeated major disasters in China, including a week of explosions and underground flooding in April, an explosion at a mine in Hunan province in June, and another explosion at a mine in Henan province in October, killing 32. In May came an explosion at the Raspadskaya mine in the Kemerovo region in southwestern Siberia, the largest underground mine in Russia, killing 90 workers. One month later, 73 miners were killed in an underground explosion at the San Fernando mine in Colombia.
In New Zealand, 29 workers died in the November 19 explosion at the Pike River Coal mine. The company, which was heavily in debt to its shareholders, deliberately cut corners on safety in order to save cash, to extract coal as quickly as possible and to compete with its rivals internationally. The WSWS explained that responsibility for the disaster lay not only with Pike River Coal, but also with successive National and Labour Party governments, which had dismantled the Labour Department’s mines inspectorate and failed to shut down Pike River despite blatant safety violations—including the absence of an emergency exit and no adequate ventilation.
In Chile, the world’s biggest copper producer, a massive explosion and cave-in at the San Jose mine in the Atacama Desert trapped 33 miners underground for 69 days, although they all survived. The rescue effort was a triumph of international collaboration, technology and the resilience of the men, who credited their survival to equality in decision-making and the division of rations while they were entombed.
In 2010, Socialist Equality parties in Australia, Germany and Britain held their founding congresses. This was the culmination of more than a decade of protracted theoretical, political and organizational preparation. Beginning with the Founding Congress of the SEP in the United States in August 2008, each congress formed part of an international initiative by the International Committee of the Fourth International in response to the breakdown of world capitalism and the new political tasks it posed to the international working class.
The Founding Congress of the SEP (Australia) was held January 21-25. Following intensive discussion, based on an opening report delivered by National Secretary Nick Beams, the congress unanimously adopted the SEP’s statement of principles and its founding perspectives resolution, “The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (Australia).” The Congress also adopted the US SEP’s historical document, which outlined the key strategic experiences of the international working class throughout the course of the 20th century.
The SEP’s perspectives document explained that the fight for socialism in the Australian working class required “an unrelenting struggle against the nationalist doctrines of Australian exceptionalism that historically have formed the chief ideological obstacle to the development of socialist consciousness.” It pointed to the historical origins and development of these doctrines and their relationship to the Australian Labor Party.
Reviewing the analyses, made by Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and other representatives of classical Marxism at the turn of the twentieth century, of the specific features of the emerging Australian nation, the document explained that the Australian Labor Party had developed and strengthened the unity of the capitalist state, which, “in other countries [had been] done by the Liberals.”
As Lenin had noted: “… the Labor Party is a thoroughly bourgeois party, because, although made up of workers, it is led by reactionaries, and the worst kind of reactionaries at that, who act quite in the spirit of the bourgeoisie. It is an organization of the bourgeoisie, which exists systematically to dupe the workers…”
The SEP document emphasized that the Labor Party had been founded to promote nationalism and exceptionalism in the working class “in direct opposition to Marxism and its scientifically-grounded program of socialist internationalism.” It had emerged as the “chief instrument for the subordination of the working class to the capitalist state.”
The resolution also reviewed the key strategic experiences through which the Australian working class had passed, at each stage clarifying their international context. These experiences included World War I and the revolutionary upheavals, inspired by the 1917 Russian Revolution, that followed in its wake; the founding and subsequent Stalinist degeneration of the Communist Party of Australia; the emergence of the Trotskyist movement in Australia in the 1930s and its courageous struggle against imperialist war during World War II; its liquidation in the early 1950s under the pressure of the post-war stabilization of capitalism; the founding of the Socialist Labour League (predecessor of the SEP) as the Australian section of the ICFI in 1972 and the critical struggles it waged for internationalism against Stalinism, Laborism and all forms of national opportunism; and the split within the ICFI in 1985-86 and its international consequences.
The document made clear that the breakdown of the global economic order had “shattered the material foundations of Australian exceptionalism, ensuring that the Australian working class will be drawn into the whirlwind of the global economic, social and political upheavals now being unleashed.”
The Founding Congress of the Partei für Soziale Gleichheit (PSG), German section of the International Committee, was held May 22-24, in Berlin. The congress adopted a resolution, “The Historical Foundations of the Partei für Soziale Gleichheit,” and endorsed the historical document adopted at the American SEP congress in 2008.
The resolution traced the history of the revolutionary workers’ movement in Germany, the country with the longest tradition of the struggle for socialist consciousness in the working class. This tradition goes back to the work of Marx and Engels themselves, followed by the establishment of the Social Democratic Party as the first mass working class party based on Marxist principles.
The document reviewed the betrayal carried out by the SPD in its support for German imperialism in World War I; the struggle waged by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht for socialist internationalism; the founding of the Communist Party of Germany; the emergence of the German Left Opposition in response to the betrayals of Stalinism and the growing danger of Nazism; and the destructive impact of Pabloite revisionism in the post-World War II period.
A particularly critical period came with the reestablishment of the Trotskyist movement in Germany after 1969, when a section of students and young workers were won to the perspective of the International Committee, eventually forming the Bund Sozialisticher Arbeiter (Socialist Workers League) as a section of the ICFI. As the document states:
The importance of the BSA in the 1970s was the fact that it resumed, in Germany, the historical thread that had been severed by the Pabloites. Regardless of the difficulties, weaknesses and errors it confronted, it avowed itself unreservedly to the perspective of the world socialist revolution.
The BSA was part of the ICFI majority in the 1985-86 split with the WRP and went on to form the PSG.
The Founding Congress of the Socialist Equality Party (Britain), held in Manchester October 22-25, adopted a “Statement of Principles” and “The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (Britain),” which reviewed the most critical political experiences of the British working class, particularly the post-World War II history of the Trotskyist movement.
The Congress examined the role of Gerry Healy in the formation of the Socialist Labour League, the fight against Stalinism and the creation of the ICFI in the struggle against Pabloism. It also reviewed the founding of the Workers Revolutionary Party and its subsequent degeneration and split with the ICFI in 1985-86.
As the document stated, the International Communist Party, the pro-ICFI group within the WRP that was the forerunner of the SEP (Britain),
… proved to be the only viable tendency to emerge from the split. It undertook to educate the advanced workers and youth in its central lessons and to renew the political offensive against the Labour and trade union bureaucracy that had been abandoned by the WRP. Its work was characterized by an intimate collaboration with its international co-thinkers without precedent in the history of the Trotskyist movement.
The Socialist Equality Party (US) held its First National Congress. Foreseeing a coming upsurge of working class struggle, the SEP prepared itself politically by adopting a party program and two additional resolutions, “On the 70th Anniversary of the Assassination of Leon Trotsky,” and “On the 25th Anniversary of the Split with the Workers Revolutionary Party.”
The SEP program, “The Breakdown of Capitalism and the Fight for Socialism in the United States” is a revolutionary socialist program for the working class. It advances a series of basic social rights—the right to a job; a livable income; leisure; decent and affordable housing, utilities and transportation; high-quality health care; a secure retirement; education, a healthful and safe environment; and culture. It explains that these rights, along with the fight against war and opposition to dictatorial forms of rule, can only be won through the independent political mobilization of the working class, the taking of political power, and the socialist reorganization of economic life.
Explaining the significance of the congress, SEP National Secretary Joseph Kishore noted, “The SEP enters this new period with the greatest strength of all: a clear program and perspective that is based on a vast historical experience. It is the union of this history and the principles of Marxism with the growing upsurge of millions of workers all over the world that will provide the force to overturn the capitalist system—an irrational, outmoded form of social organization—and lay the foundations for socialism and the progressive development of humankind.”
The ICFI’s campaign in defense of historical truth and the legacy of Leon Trotsky was at the political and conceptual center of its work. In August, Mehring Books published In Defense of Leon Trotsky by David North, an exposure of the neo-Stalinist falsifications of Geoffrey Swain, Ian Thatcher and Robert Service. The landmark publication exposed the attempts to discredit Leon Trotsky and forestall a resurgence of interest in the great revolutionist, at a time when millions of people were becoming disenchanted with capitalism.
In the book’s introduction, North noted that it is “difficult to think of another figure in the twentieth century, and perhaps in world history, whose life has been the subject of such unrelenting vilification and falsification as Leon Trotsky… The passions evoked by his name testify to the enduring significance of Trotsky’s ideas. Arguments about Trotsky are never simply about what happened in the past. They are just as much about what is happening in the world today, and what is likely to happen in the future.”
North expanded on the themes of the book in a series of well-attended lectures throughout the world, including in Sydney, Oxford and Los Angeles.
Addressing an October 17 meeting on “Seventy years since the assassination of Trotsky” in Berlin, North concluded with an assessment of Trotsky’s place in history and his significance today:
What is Trotsky’s place in history? As a writer, orator, strategist of revolutionary insurrection, military leader and political thinker, Trotsky represents the summit of socialist politics and culture in the 20th century. Before 1917 Trotsky elaborated the strategy of the Russian Revolution. During the years of revolution and civil war, he personified the proletariat’s will to victory. And later, in the face of political defeat and isolation, as a hunted exile, Trotsky rose to still greater political and moral heights—as the implacable opponent of the Stalinist counterrevolution and the strategist of the future world socialist revolution...
No political tendency that calls itself socialist can define its program, can define its relationship to Marxism today, except through the political conceptions and political struggles developed by Trotsky. The Fourth International, which he founded in 1938, has endured and developed as the political expression of genuine Marxism. Seventy years after his death, Trotsky, the greatest political figure of the last century, remains the most important teacher of socialists in the new century.
Two leaders of the ICFI were invited to address the annual convention of the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies in November. David North’s paper, entitled “Assessing Leon Trotsky seventy years after his assassination,” and Nick Beams’ “Leon Trotsky’s Analysis of the Emerging Global Role of US Capitalism” were extremely well received.
As part of this ideological initiative, the ICFI collaborated with Alexander Rabinowitch, one of the world’s leading experts in the history of the Russian Revolution. The German publishing house Mehring Verlag published Rabinowitch’s latest book, “The Bolsheviks in Power--The First Year of Soviet Rule in Petrograd.”
The International Students for Social Equality and Mehring Verlag also invited Rabinowitch to speak at Humboldt University in Berlin in October. The meeting was held in the teeth of concerted opposition from pro-Stalinists within the university. Nevertheless, a packed audience greeted the appearance of the US historian.
David North also published a detailed review of a new volume of documents on the theory of Permanent Revolution, which provided a valuable resource for the political education of the revolutionary socialist movement. The book, Witnesses to Permanent Revolution: The Documentary Record, confirms the central role of Leon Trotsky in elaborating the theoretical foundations of the Russian Revolution.
On January 5, three people died in a house fire on Dexter Ave on Detroit's west side. The family had been living without gas or electricity for more than a year after DTE Energy shut off service. In the course of the winter, fires due to utility shutoffs resulted in nearly a dozen fatalities. On March 2, DTE cut off the utilities to the home of Sylvia Young, despite subfreezing temperatures and the presence of seven young children in the house. While Young was out buying a space heater, the house burst into flames, killing three of her children.
The SEP launched a campaign for a Citizens Inquiry, held on March 20, that was attended by dozens of workers, including many who had experienced utility shutoffs. The inquiry found that the cause of the death of Detroit residents was the shutoff of utilities, the lack of assistance for those who had fallen behind on their heating bills, and the growth of extreme poverty.
The inquiry issued a series of findings that amounted to a devastating indictment of for-profit utility companies, the Democratic-run city and state governments, and the deindustrialization of Detroit. Drawing the political lessons, it pointed to the role of the unions, particularly the United Auto Workers (UAW), and the Obama administration.
The growing support for the work of the Inquiry led the SEP to form the Committee Against Utility Shutoffs (CAUS) in May. CAUS was a landmark in the fight to mobilize broad sections of the working class in opposition to the Democratic Party and the trade unions. CAUS turned to DTE workers and solidarized with their struggles against the outsourcing of jobs, a lockout of tree-trimmers and deadly working conditions.
In August, CAUS voted to endorse D’Artagnan Collier, a city worker and SEP leader, in his race for Michigan House of Representatives. The following year, CAUS would go on to organize a powerful demonstration commemorating the lives of the Dexter Avenue fire victims, hold meetings to oppose budget cuts in Detroit, and rally to the defense of public libraries and the Catherine Ferguson girls’ academy.
In the aftermath of the Obama administration’s restructuring of the auto industry with the full support of the UAW, auto workers began to rebel. In late January, auto workers at the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plant in Fremont, California erupted in an angry protest against United Auto Workers officials who were supporting the closure of the plant and the loss of 4,500 jobs.
In May, workers at a General Motors stamping plant in Indianapolis, Indiana voted by a 95 percent margin against demands to reopen their contract and cut their wages in half. UAW and GM officials continued to push the cuts to pave the way for the sale of the plant to a corporate raider, JD Norman. When the workers learned this, they chased United Auto Workers officials out of a union meeting. The workers again voted down the proposed deal in September, and GM retaliated by closing the plant.
With the assistance of the Socialist Equality Party, a group of workers established the GM Stamping Rank-and-file Committee to fight the threat of closure, wage cuts and the conspiracies of the union. Support immediately came in from workers around the world, including a letter from workers in Sri Lanka and from GM’s Flint Metal Center. Fake union dissidents and pseudo-left supporters of the UAW did everything they could to block this rebellion and isolate the struggle. The rank-and-file committee rejected this perspective and instead issued an urgent appeal to the working class to wage a wider struggle against concessions, job cuts and poverty-level wages.
In the aftermath of the 26-year-long Sri Lankan civil war, Socialist Equality Party (Sri Lanka) General Secretary Wije Dias was the SEP’s candidate in presidential elections held in late January, opposing President Mahinda Rajapakse and General Sarath Fonseka, the country’s leading war criminals, who represented the two main bourgeois parties.
The war waged by the Sinhala elite against the Tamil-separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had cost the lives of 70,000 in the tiny island nation, with nearly a quarter of a million incarcerated in military-run detention camps at the conclusion of the war. In its election statement, the SEP explained the role of communalist politics and the pivotal position of Sri Lanka within great power rivalries. The SEP called for a workers’ and farmers’ government in the form of a socialist republic of Sri Lanka and Eelam, as part of a socialist federation of South Asia and the entire globe.
The SEP in Sri Lanka also contested the April 8 parliamentary elections, fielding 58 candidates on slates in four districts across the island: Jaffna in the north, Nuwara Eliya in the plantation areas, the capital Colombo, and Galle in the south. During the campaign, SEP and ISSE members and supporters visited working class residential areas and universities, circulated thousands of copies of the SEP election manifesto, and held meetings in Hatton, Galle, Ambalangoda, the fishing village of Uori on the island of Karainagar, and Colombo.
The WSWS noted, with great sadness, the untimely passing of SEP member Piyaseeli Wijegunasingha, the wife of Wije Dias, on September 2, 2010. Piyaseeli was a lifelong Trotskyist and a renowned authority on Marxist literary criticism, authoring A Marxist Study of Modern Sinhala Literary Criticism, and A Reply to Sucharitha Gamlath: Marxist Principles on Criticism of the Arts. Piyaseeli made an indelible contribution to the struggle for a socialist culture in the working class.
In April, the SEP (UK) ran two candidates, David O’Sullivan and Robert Skelton, in the British general election. The election manifesto pointed to IMF demands for public spending cuts of up to 20 percent and called for an independent political movement of the working class against austerity, militarism and war.
In August, the SEP in Australia ran an aggressive election campaign, standing National Secretary Nick Beams and Gabriela Zabala for Senate contests in New South Wales and Victoria, as well as ten candidates in the House of Representatives electorates. The SEP emphasized that the elections were aimed at concealing the aims of the sudden installation of Julia Gillard and the US-directed coup that removed her predecessor, and at preparing greater austerity, militarism and attacks on democratic rights.
The SEP in the United States held an emergency conference in April, a well-attended event that brought youth and workers from throughout the United States and Canada, as well as representatives of other sections of the ICFI. The conference adopted six resolutions outlining the struggle to defend jobs and living standards, against utility shutoffs, for the international unity of the working class, opposing war and militarism, defending the right of youth to a decent future, and calling for a political break by the working class from the Democratic Party and the building of a mass political movement for socialism.
The precarious position of the arts, and culture more generally, under conditions of the global crisis of capitalism found vivid expression in the brutal assault on one of America’s premier musical institutions, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, whose musicians began a protracted strike in October. The WSWS linked the symphony management’s attacks—which were wholeheartedly supported by the media—to the overall effort to deny the mass of the population access to culture. The SEP launched an energetic defense of the striking musicians, who won widespread support throughout the city of Detroit and the entire country.
WSWS Arts Editor David Walsh delivered a series of important lectures in 2010—one in New York City and Detroit and one in Manchester—on the crisis of American culture and the relationship between socialism, the arts, and, in particular, film. He noted the contrast between the Russian novelists of the 19th century, who, by their combined efforts, contributed to the discrediting of official society and its eventual downfall, and the largely uncritical approach of contemporary American filmmakers and writers. Walsh explained that the “problem lies outside them, in historical traumas and difficulties that have yet to be overcome, in new realities that have yet to be cognized.”
An exhibition of early Soviet art at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, originally reviewed in 1993, also provided an opportunity to explore in detail the historical relationship between the Bolsheviks and avant-garde art.
As the WSWS noted in its yearly review of cinema, 2010 offered “shamefully thin” pickings for films—regardless of whether they were Hollywood-produced, “independent,” or foreign. The most-nominated films at that year’s Academy Awards were a particularly miserable lot, led by the Best Picture winner, the pro-war The Hurt Locker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Nevertheless, a small number of works were either able to capture something of real life or register some opposition to the status quo, particularly Winter’s Bone, and Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer.
There were also a number of interesting television productions during the year including Rubicon and Mad Men, and they were not alone. “The Wire, Hung, Treme, In Treatment, Big Love and The Tudors, among others, suggest something of a renaissance in American television, at least by comparison to the generally banal programming of the 1980s and 1990s,” noted reviewer James Brookfield.
The WSWS provided a number of appraisals of the lives and work of important artistic figures: Mark Twain; the 19th century British novelist George Eliot; Mexican painter Frida Kahlo; performance artist Maria Abramovic; director Arthur Penn; and actor Corin Redgrave, a longtime member of the Workers Revolutionary Party, formerly the British section of the International Committee. In addition, interviews were conducted with artists producing some of the more thoughtful work that year, including British director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty and Debra Granik.
A number of articles were published on the intersection between science and contemporary society, including an obituary of mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot and a book review titled “What does particle physics tell us about the nature of matter?” In a significant development for human knowledge, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the collaborative effort of some 60,000 scientists, was restarted and achieved the highest particle energy yet in such a device, built for the purpose of understanding the nature and structure of subatomic physics.
A series of book reviews also provided an opportunity to explore a range of topics, including the French Revolution, the Enlightenment, the political role of Leonard Bernstein, US school “reform” and the biological notion of race.