Views in brief

July 14, 2017

Another world is possible

IN RESPONSE to "Why Socialism was a big deal": This October will mark 50 years since I became an organized socialist. In 1967, the movements that defined that era were reaching their pinnacle. Optimism and enthusiasm were everywhere. Revolution seemed to be in the air.

This past weekend at Socialism 2017, for the first time in decades, those old emotions were rekindled. At the final plenary, 1,500-plus, young, dedicated comrades chanting, "We are unstoppable, another world is possible," convinced me the future is in good hands.
Guy Miller, Chicago

The price of working for UPS

IN RESPONSE to "Victims of UPS's deadly drive for profit": As a 40-year employee of UPS, I was not surprised to hear of the tragic event in San Francisco. The only thing that surprises me is that it hasn't happened sooner or more often.

I understand the need to increase productivity to compete in the market, but this should not come at the price of job safety. Emphasis should be put on technological advances and lower corporate salaries rather than drivers' stops per hour and increased production standards in the hubs and centers.

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As a 30-year route driver, I consistently beat ORION--computer software that cut 210 million miles out of the routes driven by UPS drivers in a year. It is a great tool for training new hires, but experienced drivers know their areas better than any computer could.
Michael Whittemore, Columbus, Ohio

A Marxist approach to religion

SOME ON the left believe that religion is oppression in all its forms, and therefore that Muslims should not be defended on the basis of religious freedom.

As Marxists, this kind of un-nuanced perspective is both incompatible with our theoretical tradition and self-defeating in our practice on the ground; it plays into right-wing narratives that paint Muslim communities as irreconcilable others limiting the possible expression of solidarity; and it creates double standards that ignore the potentially negative religious influences and assumptions that have been taken for granted in Western "secular cultures" while dismissing beneficial organic struggles from below that were constructed though religious channels and language.

Readers’ Views welcomes our readers' contributions to discussion and debate about articles we've published and questions facing the left. Opinions expressed in these contributions don't necessarily reflect those of SW.

For Marx, religion was not only a vehicle of exploitation by the ruling classes, but it was also the cry of the oppressed and the way they expressed their ideas about the world. Marx said in Volume One of Capital, "The religious world is but a reflex of the real world."

Ecclesiastical ruling classes, though they tried, were never capable of creating one static homogenizing narrative internalized by all. Bertell Ollman explains in his book Alienation: Marx's Conception of Man in Capitalist Society that religion was a communicative tool for alienated humanity, who "in [the] quest to make cosmic sense of hostile and overpowering surroundings...can only mimic those processes which have brought on [their] affliction."

Thus, the emergence of the idea of equality before god did not come from the oppressive ecclesiastical ruling class, but instead came from both the expression of the lesser nobles wishing to have autonomy from the clergy, and the peasants and toilers fighting the enclosures and concentrations of property and production becoming more and more recurrent in the time of the Reformation.

Terry Eagleton, in Culture and the Death of God, explains that even Marx uses some useful religious metaphors and imagery within his text to communicate particular ideas--"the day of reckoning," "emancipation," "equality."

These concepts and images are central to the discourse of "the people" and "community" and are also religiously rooted as terms of resistance against the dominant status quo as much as for them. This is an illustration of the working of the class dialectic that exists within religious thought and culture as a lived experience within class society.

Western ruling classes have often been guilty of putting forward a reductive narrative of subaltern cultures in the disguise of a critique of religious repression or backwardness in order to reinforce their power over, and isolation of these peripheries.

The paternalizing discourse around the "management" of the "religion question" and the "ignorant" subaltern classes by cultural chauvinists in the Western left reflects the dismissive bourgeois narratives, which reject the agency and right to self-determination not only of the religious, but of workers, LGBT people, the uneducated, the homeless, welfare recipients, drug users, migrants and women.

Unless we can recognize these links and remedy these issues within the broad left, the kind of solidarity we need to build for real change will remain intangible.
Arno Noack, from the Internet

Haitian rights in the Dominican Republic

GIVEN THE state of affairs throughout this planet, maybe the issue I raise does not rise to the top of your list. However, I write to bring this issue to your attention, and also to ask whether anyone is monitoring the rights and treatment of migrant workers from Haiti in the Dominican Republic (DR).

I wonder about the treatment of migrant workers specifically in the hotel industry. We know large corporations have occupied DR's beautiful beaches to populate them with resorts. What I don't know and fear is that these workers are not being treated well. I am sure that the hotel industry is not the only industry that is taking advantage of cheap labor from those fleeing the great poverty plaguing Haiti.

But as an American who both travels to a beach resort from time to time and also cares that her dollars are going to an industry/company that treats workers well, I write to ask your perspective. Should I be concerned?

On a recent trip, I watched as crews of men raking seaweed from the beach spent the entire day under the sun with no one giving them water. Yes, they had a noon break, but what about all the other hours? I saw nothing that resembled a water break or accessible water for that matter.

I spoke to the hotel director while there and asked him for the hotel's policy on point. He said he needed to ask the crew manager. Despite a few e-mails following up with the hotel, I await a response.

I know this is not about any one hotel chain. Can we get Americans who care about such things to hear that their money is going to promote abuse of workers? Such information has started to make a dent with American shopping patterns--could it make a dent on vacations they take? Could it cause hotels to change their ways by paying these workers a little better promoting positive workplace practices?
Antoinette Mancusi, from the Internet

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