Tag Archive | "Socialism"

Dogma or Revolution? The Choice Is Ours for American Left

By Christian Wright

I like this article, and I am glad it is written.

The American left barely exists. The self-consciously “anti-imperialist” American left, in a country of 300 million people, can probably be housed in its entirety in one of our smaller to mid-sized sports areas. Its influence is marginal, but unfortunately this rarely translates into approaches of humility.

Gazing into the darkness of our political life, often from the vantage of a dingy apartment in some gray, overcrowded, stressful, expensive city of hostile, preoccupied strangers, many of our anti-imperialist leftists comfort themselves with dogmas and rigidity. This is understandable. Why do you think Mormon missionaries forgo reading non-Mormon literature during their missions? Why do they pray so hard at night and spend so much attention on the neatness of their uniforms? It is difficult to be a missionary, a bearer of truth in an apathetic, sinful, and oft-unfriendly world. Insulating oneself within the mother-bosom of dogma, icons, and sacred writ is a useful way to strengthen oneself, regardless of how well it retards one’s own development as a critically thinking individual.

I think the “hard left” in the U.S. picked its sides and stuck with them before, and independently of, any facts or developments in Libya. If you believe certain dictators are better than others, and ought to be supported, despite their authoritarianism, because they have nationalized such-and-such resource, or initiated such-and-such social program to try and win popular support, you are going to have a hard time finding the right side to be on when one day the people tire of their dictator’s rule.

The U.S. “hard left” is a collection of aged and unsuccessful revolutionaries who developed politically in the 1960s and 70s. They grew up with a view that authoritarian one-party states, and charismatic Third World dictators ought to be supported as liberators because they were fighting against capitalistic exploiters. Long after the capitalistic exploiters had been chased away and the new emperors began developing their own ways of exploiting people, the fawning and dictator-worship remained. So what if Ghadafi’s kids were entertained on Caribbean islands by American pop stars while they guzzled cases of champagne? Their dad has said the word “socialist” before! Therefore, he deserves our support. Of course!

I don’t care what the “correct” anti-imperialist line is and I don’t care to try and rank the nation’s countries on a “socialistic” hierarchy where individual freedoms and political rights can be exchanged for social services or a cut of the pie. I also don’t care whether or not a Third World dictator is able to buy the support of some of his people by putting gas and oil profits back into infrastructure, because guess what? Global warming is real and Ghadafi and Chavez’s development of their national resources is, globally, a step in the wrong direction that will contribute to catastrophic changes in weather patterns and sea levels.

If you want to be a usefully political citizen you have to learn to be a critical thinker first. This is a world that is being destroyed ecologically by powerful people who make comfortable living for themselves by keeping the majority of people politically and economically powerless — and more importantly — confused. You can’t trust anyone or any group to do your thinking for you, you have to do it for yourself. That is a practice the hard left organizations in the United States generally (not always) do not train their members in.

Our left does not know what it means to fight to win. They have won little over my life time. They have been very adept at fighting loosing battles and spouting slogans into the air. If you’re not expecting to win anything anyway, it’s pretty easy to say whatever you want. Being “right” and letting other people know it becomes more important than being effective. Like college sophomores trying to impress one another in a dorm with their knowledge of obscure subjects, our domestically unsuccessful revolutionaries are quite vocal in their instructions to people actually fighting revolutions abroad. These instructions are not usually helpful, but of course, why would they be?

There is fundamental disagreement about who “the enemy” is. It is my opinion that most of the allegedly American Marxist organizations thought Ghadafi was closer to socialism than a post-Ghadafi Libya would be. After that point the case was closed. They would have preferred to see Benghazi leveled than to see the different classes, individuals, and parties within that country decide for themselves what political policies their nation should adopt.

People who fight to win and actually win often prioritize effectiveness over the integrity of principles. When the people you are fighting have tanks and bombers and snipers and are shelling and bombing you and you can expect to be murdered within a few hours, days, or weeks, at that point military efficiency and effectiveness, not intellectually correct political positions, will be of great value.

Those whose conception of a revolution anywhere today involves a self-consciously Marxist, feminist, grassroots network of democratically functioning workers’ councils, with its own movement controlled independent media and accountable leaders, and, heck, commitment to non-violence and secularism to boot, can expect to be disappointed by what actual revolutions actually look like. This even more so in the Middle East.

Revolutions are not academic exercises in political correctness. They start with the humans we have today, whose political development has been determined by the real world and the legacy of past victories, failures, promises, and betrayals, and whose resources, allies, and agendas are confused, vacillating, and often contradictory.

Al-Jazeera has been criticized for being controlled by the Qatari monarchy. Hence, I suppose, it must be incapable of ever telling the truth or functioning independently. It must have been illusion then, when I noticed in 2010 and 2011 that Al-Jazeera supported the Egyptian Revolution wholeheartedly from day one to the great distress and embarrassment of that government’s principle military sponsor, the United States of America.

I also noticed someone in this discussion posted a link to a Huffington Post article, but no one here then criticized the Huffington Post. Did you know the Huffington Post is run by member of the bourgeois class? Did you know they like to not pay their writers and that many left writers recently stopped writing for them in protest of its policies? Did you know that the Huffington Post Web site is getting paid by Sears to advertise a new grill they are selling, and while the capitalistic owner of the Huffington Post is being paid by Sears for the use of their site, Huffington Post writers are themselves often not paid? Isn’t that a terrible example of capitalistic exploitation? They are even supporting Barack Obama for God sake! So why is a link to their Web site posted here, and no one points this out, and no one says that everything on the Huffinton Post cannot be believed because it is obviously controlled by a member of the ruling class?

That is because we know the Huffington Post continues to post many useful and relevant articles, despite its shortcomings. The Huffington Post likes gay people having rights too and has news about that. The Huffington Post directs scrutiny against the misdeeds of Wall Street. The Huffington Post likes people being able to have health care and thinks Wal Mart workers get a raw deal and that they deserve a better one.

The Huffington Post is an ally of justice and of oppressed people. At the same time, it functions as an imperfect entity, containing within itself relations of injustice and oppression. Often it sides with oppressors and is content to celebrate the charity of exploitative billionaires at the same it laments the condition of poverty in America.

It is contradictory and imperfect.

As is everything. Everywhere.

Navigating our political world, we must pledge our allegiance to genuine principles, not to organizations, presidents, or parties. All of these can, have, and will fail us. All of them can be corrupted. You can make use of some of them by doing so critically, and you must constantly evaluate what you get from something, versus what potential bad thing might happen later if you get involved with it. By reading the above Huffington Post article, I contributed to advertising revenue and market share of an exploitative and capitalistic news agency. I did so because I felt it was worth it to understand this discussion.

It disappoints, but does not surprise me, that an individual here found a problem with the idea that, “the international left base its positions regarding imperialist intervention on what the 0.2% of the world’s population who lived in Libya might have wanted.” Is this not, then, revealing?

I believe wholeheartedly that Libyans and no one else had the right to determine how a revolution in Libya should proceed.

A revolution is made by a people. When you have a movement, and the power structure represses it, you have to decide whether to retreat, reorganize, and try again later, or whether to respond and escalate and accept the consequences of that escalation. Revolutions are highly escalated political dialogues between rulers and ruled people. The right to determine when to risk that escalation, and when to open the Pandora’s Box of armed conflict, is the right of free people everywhere.

When a people decides to have a revolution, it is done not through a ballot box or through an online internet survey. There are those ahead of the game, and those who lag behind it. There are those who lead and those who follow. There are hotheads who invite premature and catastrophic oppression. There are conservatives who mask the protection of their own vested interests and positions behind concerns for “peace” and “orderliness.” Politically “combined and uneven development” is the rule. It cannot be otherwise.

I might also take this opportunity to remind our laptop revolutionaries that an actual revolution is a bloody awful and horrible thing. If you embark on a revolution you know that you are going to risk everything and everyone that you love and that is important to you. You may even loose yourself, and you may find yourself doing terrible things in order to prevent them being done to you.

If and when a revolution is necessary, that is to be determined by an internal dialogue among the people waging it. When it does occur and you find yourself in a military engagement, you are no longer fighting on moral terms. You may have to make compromises and temporary allegiances with untrustworthy, and even politically suspect allies. May I remind you that we in the United States are no longer ruled over by a monarch because of our alliance with the reactionary, slaveholding, French aristocracy in the 1770s and 1780s? Should black Americans in the 1860s have opposed the intervention of the North in the Civil War that freed them because the North was ruled by capitalists?

Were the Viet Minh wrong to accept the help of the Americans in their fight against the Japanese during World War Two?

Certainly, the Americans later betrayed them. Cold war politics led them to side with the French, and assist their re-conquest of their former colony in exchange for French anti-communist political support. In doing so, they turned their backs on their old allies. The Americans ultimately behaved dishonorably and against the goals of the Viet Minh in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Still, if it was 1943 and you were in Viet Nam fighting the Japanese, even if you could see in the future that the Americans might betray you, would you still refuse their gifts of arms and the military training OSS officers were willing to provide for you?

OSS members pose with Viet Minh leaders Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap during training at Tan Trao in August 1945. Deer Team members standing, l to r, are Rene Defourneaux, (Ho), Allison Thomas, (Giap), Henry Prunier and Paul Hoagland, far right. Kneeling, left, are Lawrence Vogt and Aaron Squires.

A revolution has the right to choose its own allies, make its own mistakes, and succeed or fail as it will. I support the right of Libyans, Syrians, and everyone else who can expect to be murdered by a dictator’s henchman to secure whatever military support they can from where ever they can get it to support their cause. I’ll leave the long-term consequences of such alliances for them to determine the potential benefit or liability of. No one is going to shoot me tomorrow or shell my house if I fail to win. As such I am not about to substitute my own uninformed and distant opinion for the decisions made by actual revolutionaries actually fighting a revolution.

Posted in Imperialism, Peak oil, Politics, populism, Socialism

The Jones Report

An attempt at a “Jones Report” a report on the average American.

Posted in Anti-war, recession, Socialism

Eugene Debs

eugene debs

There is so much forgotten history in the US. Like Eugene Debs, who ran for president as a socialist in 1920 from prison and got almost a million votes.

He was a labor organizer, and so active in the Pullman Strike of 1896 that it became known as “Deb’s Rebellion.” The government sent in troops, 13 strikers were killed, and Debs was arrested.

Debs was represented by Clarence Darrow, hitherto a corporate lawyer for the railroad company, who “switched sides” to represent Debs. Darrow, a leading American lawyer and civil libertarian, had resigned his corporate position in order to represent Debs, making a substantial financial sacrifice in order to do so.

While jailed during this he became socialist after reading Marx. He soon co-founded the IWW (Wobblies) as well as the Socialist Democratic Party.

He ran for president as a socialist a number of times. In 1912 he got 6% of the vote, still a record for a socialist candidate. He was imprisoned for urging men not to fight in World War I and received almost a million votes while in his prison cell.

At his sentencing he said

Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

Incoming president Warren Harding pardoned him in 1920. He died seven years later.

Quotes

Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization. Progress is born of agitation. It is agitation or stagnation.

Years ago I declared that there was only one war in which I would enlist and that was the war of the workers of the world against the exploiters of the world.

They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people.

When great changes occur in history, when great principles are involved, as a rule the majority are wrong.

Those who produce should have, but we know that those who produce the most – that is, those who work hardest, and at the most difficult and most menial tasks, have the least.

Eugene V Debs Foundation

Posted in News

Capitalist blogs rage against exploitation. Far left snoozes

capitalism

Is SLP the NYSE’s answer to Direct Edge’s “Advance Look” Enhanced Liquidity Provider Program or You Trade You Lose, You Trade Goldman Wins

So says Zero Hedge in yet another stunning blog post, this time on how major stock exchanges have, in effect, preferential tiered private clubs that allow the wealthy and connected to get better prices than you.

If you could buy XYZ at 20.05 a share knowing you could sell it microseconds later for 20.06, why, that would be a license to print money, wouldn’t it?

Goldman Sachs. When one firm dominates 50% of principal HFT [High Frequency Trading] on an exchange and, according to the above logic, can legally front run the other half, what does that mean for the rest of the world?

Wow, how surprising that Goldman Sachs, our favorite financial vampire squid, is up to its eyeballs in this too.

It’s almost humorous that the stock exchanges are snarling at each other about this, not because of quaint concerns about ethics or honesty, but because another exchange might get an edge up on delivering unfair advantage to the privileged. And that would be so wrong.

Our federal government of course seems to think such private clubs are a jolly good idea and the SEC is already implicitly allowing it now.

Zero Hedge popped out of nowhere a little while ago and has been doing a fine job of seriously good investigative reporting. It’s written by people who are obviously deep within the financial world, and they are pissed about what is happening.

This is happening a lot on financial blogs. Hardcore capitalists are seriously angry about the looting, favoritism, and corruption so obvious on Wall Street now, aided and abetted by a compliant and docile federal regulatory system. And they’re doing something about it.

As I’ve said before, these are perfect issues for the far left to organize on. But sadly, too much of the hard left is even more asleep and comatose than the federal government on this. Check out far left socialist sites and you’ll find they’ve generally ignored the financial crisis. Oh, there’s been a few desultory articles denouncing capitalism that appear to have been stamped out of a cookie cutter. But there’s little directly addressing the current capitalist crisis. And virtually nothing about organizing the increasingly pissed-off multitudes.

How does one explain such myopic ineptness? It’s almost like they want to remain marginalized, ineffective, and on the fringes. It’s really quite curious.

Posted in News

G20, expected to be dud, instead rewrites rules of international finance

g20

The G20 meeting this week will be viewed as epochal. One era, that of deregulation, has ended, and a new era with much stricter international regulation is beginning. Plus the US is no longer the sole predominant power and the beginnings of a world currency and banking system can be glimpsed. Sounds like a game changer to me.

This must have been planned for weeks, as there was no real arguments or protests. The specter of worldwide depression was the spur for change, and big change we shall have.

Bloomberg

Global leaders took their biggest steps yet toward a new world order that’s less U.S.-centric with a more heavily regulated financial industry and a greater role for international institutions and emerging markets.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy said turned the page on the Anglo-Saxon model of free markets by placing stricter limits on hedge funds and other financiers. The leaders also pledged to triple the resources of the International Monetary Fund and to hand China and other developing economies a greater say in the management of the world economy.

“This is a major step forward and a reversal of the ideology of the 1990s, and at a very official level, a rejection of the ideas pushed by the U.S. and others,” said Stiglitz, an economics professor at Columbia University. “It’s a historic moment when the world came together and said we were wrong to push deregulation.”

Ding, dong, the neocons are dead. And so are the Randians and the bizarre belief, so popular with the Bushies, that a deregulated market will magically shower prosperity on us all while it polices itself. Right, that sure worked out well, didn’t it?

Have the G20 saved capitalism?

So whilst the global recession is far from over, the complete collapse of capitalism – ruefully predicted by free market ideologues and gleefully predicted by anti-capitalists and socialists – looks to have been averted.

Never underestimate the ability of capitalism to reinvent itself overnight, morphing into something else. Which is something the Left, I’m afraid, has trouble doing.

Objectively, conditions have never been as ripe in the West for the propagation of socialist ideas and a radical alternative to capitalism as they are now. Sadly, however, the crucial subjective factor in the form of a united, coherent socialist organisation required to press the cause of socialism effectively and forcefully does not yet exist.

That Saul Alinsky quote I found and posted yesterday really got me thinking. The Left, especially the socialist Left, persists in thinking that they must organize among the working class because, well, Marx said that’s where revolution must come out of. But in his day, the class differences were obvious. Factory workers. Owners. It was real clear.

But it’s not nearly so clear now. Besides, leaders of revolutions historically come from the upper middle and upper classes, not from workers. So, Marx was wrong. And Saul Alinsky was right. Here’s that quote again.

Alinsky advises his followers that the poor have no power and that the real target is the middle class: “Organization for action will now and in the decade ahead center upon America’s white middle class. That is where the power is. … Our rebels have contemptuously rejected the values and the way of life of the middle class. They have stigmatized it as materialistic, decadent, bourgeois, degenerate, imperialistic, war-mongering, brutalized and corrupt. They are right; but we must begin from where we are if we are to build power for change, and the power and the people are in the middle class majority.”

So, if you really want to change the country, then the middle class must be organized. Win them over and the rest is easy. Ignore or vilify them, as the Left too often does, then you remain on the fringe and politically powerless.

Posted in recession

Alex Jones and Michelle Malkin – Together At Last?

During the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, I had the somewhat unpleasant task of covering “Shake Your Money Maker,” a protest, or demonstration, or something like that. Basically, a bunch of conspiratorial, Austrian school economics folks (and a few lost or confused peace activists) gathered around the Denver Mint downtown and attempted to “levitate it” (also known as yelling slogans at it). However, what I actually ended up covering was a confrontation between between radio host Alex Jones and pro-torture advocate Michelle Malkin.

Since this happened during the DNC in the middle of a very polarizing election campaign, Malkin immediately went on FOX News and her blog to slam Alex Jones as some sort of Liberal Left Wing Democratic operative (for his part, Jones claims to be an “independent”). But now the political landscape is changed dramatically. The Republican party (the low taxes, small government guys) is nowadays less popular than the Chinese Communist Party (the harvesting organs from live dissidents in a moving vehicle guys). Michelle Malkin and her plucky conservative movement need all the friends they can get.

That brings us to the Tea Parties, a string of anti-government protests going on all around the United States. Here’s one that took place in Washington, DC featuring an appearance by Malkin.

Cool, huh? It’s like you too can join their movement to battle the evil government overlords. It’s actually very similar to extreme anti-government propaganda produced by the Mehdi Army in Iraq, what with its sweeping musical score and rousing speeches and elaborate costumes…but I digress.  It turns out these Tea Parties attract a particular crowd. The same crowd, in fact, that comes to things like “Shake Your Money Maker” in Denver. Yep, conspiracy theorists. Here’s a Tea Party from Cleveland

It seems to me it might be time for Michelle Malkin and Alex Jones to reconcile. They agree that Obama is a socialist, that he’s destroying the American way of life, and best of all, that he might not really be an American period. They could unite their audiences of conspiratorial shut-ins, economic witch doctors, and arm-chair insurgents into quite a large conservative movement.

It wouldn’t be unreasonable, they both have plenty to offer and plenty to gain. Jones may appreciate the legitimacy the mainstream media gives Malkin and her pro-torture, anti-government extremism, and she in turn would no doubt benefit from a little conspiracy theory “street cred” from Jones’ followers. There wouldn’t have to be any massive bureaucratic changes; both of their audiences call themselves “patriots” fighting a revolution, and both of their audiences do little or nothing for their revolution besides buying books or DVDs from whichever bloviating media ego maniac they happen to follow.

What do you think? Is it time these two rivals set aside their differences and united for the common good of their conservative movement? Or do you think they’re both nuts? Let me know.

(Disclosure: I could be considered a “fan” of Alex Jones; I read his website, watch his movies, etc. However, I’ve only ever read Michelle Malkin’s book about how concentration camps are a good thing and I’ve accidentally clicked over to her blog a few times. Her other work could be stellar, I wouldn’t know.)

Posted in Politics, Socialism

Newsweek: “We are all socialists now”

newsweek socialist cover 090207

In many ways our economy already resembles a European one. As boomers age and spending grows, we will become even more French.

I hope so. Then the US will have actual, affordable health care for all, among other such socialist interventions.

But right now, the socialism has just been for the rich. Or for the lemons. But certainly not for the people.

Posted in News

Egads! It can’t be! Capitalism’s dead

t-1000 from terminator II
T-1000, the self-reconstituting cyborg from Terminator II

So, socialism, finally. This has got to be up there with the most unlikely developments of the epoch. After the collapse of planned market economies everywhere, the right’s trouncing of the left, the rise of a near-universal awe of the free market, and the triumph of the unimaginably rich, here we are. What we’re talking about isn’t just a stimulus package, but rather an astounding revolution.

Well, I wouldn’t go erecting statues to Karl Marx quite yet. Capitalism is a wily, tenacious beast. It survived the Great Depression and came out even stronger.

Like the old leftie self-jibe says, socialists have predicted eleven out of the last seven crises. But somehow capitalism just morphs, reinvents itself, and keeps going.

Yes, we’re in a major financial crisis now, with banks and institutions getting semi-nationalized. But the plan isn’t to keep them that way, nor are health care, education, and mass transit being socialized. So this is hardly full-tilt socialism.

Like T-1000, capitalism is reconstituting itself. That borg isn’t nearly dead yet.

Posted in News


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