The Pillars of Society = 21st Century Barbarians

Lodging a Complaint

I have had my head around the world, both man and boy, for many a year . I’ve strutted and fretted; witnessed my share of hi fidelity sound and ferocious fury.

But when it comes down to it I gotta say: “Bah!”

Hello! Are you listening?

Way back when I knew something was wrong. It was as plain as the smell under my very own nose.

It wasn’t that I was intellectually precocious or party to a special knowledge or insight. I just knew that the world was in in parlous state.

Don’t be thinking that I’m going on about a feral asteroid set to make a mess of downtown where ever. I’m not being apocalyptal. I’m far too young for that. (And besides, if the truth be known I’m spiritually shallow inside without an ounce of repentance worth harnessing.)

All I’m saying is that was bad way back when has got even worse.

Our lives have got worse. And this worseness has not occurred because there’s more juvenile delinquency, illegal drugs, invading Latins or swear words on the teley. Things have gone from bad to worse one hoodwink at a time.

What wages buy has gone down. Personal debt has gone up. We work longer. The social ‘safety net’ , inasmuch as it existed, has been trimmed right back to bare bones. Accommodation is expensive. Employment security no longer exists. Murderous wars persist as a permanent feature of a sham quest for ‘peace’. We are ruled by the stock market and God Profit. The air temperature is rising.

But this demented, sorry, brutal and nasty world is sold to us as the best of all possible options. How sick is that?

As for me, I miss the 20th Century. 1953, for instance. That was good year. Or 1968. And 1972 wasn’t so bad either….

But today, what’s on offer? Unless you make your own way through your own customized ‘opening’ and got ahead — ahead of any competing others (“Stiff bickies mate:your loss/my gain.” ) — you are going to be just another 21st century victim living an insecure existence one pay check (if you get one) at a time.

And there are billions of us –all more or less in the same boat. While some of us are worse off than others, we are all servants to the same master.

The same master? As I say I am lacking in spiritual essences.I’m theologically empty inside. So I can’t complain to somebody upstairs.

I’m also too kind to blame migrants or refugees. I rather like Arabs (and Arabic food) for instance and get a kick out of mixing with Latins. If I complain to the media they won’t print what I say.

If I start yapping on about ” the system” I’m dismissed as ideological, or that I have “an agenda”.

I have an agenda but they don’t?

Even at election time, which should be open season for whining , my complaints are worked over by party spin doctors and drowned in rhetoric. “Responsible government” prevails.

I’m ignored. Belittled. Abused. Dismissed. Patronized. I’m nobody.

And the pillars of society go about their business of looting and killing like the 21st Century Barbarians they are.

They do all these things and there’s not a fuckin’ thing in it for me.

No wonder I complain. Next time you butcher a Afghani wedding party or deport another Mexican , I want to know what’s in it for me?

Party on, Dave

I’m a party person. I like to enrich my calendar with the occasional rage. If there’s a turn on somewhere, I’ll be there — usually in the kitchen in close proximity to the refrigerator. Although my tipple has changed over the years, I imbibe more than the odd glass.

In four states, I’ve partied. I’ve B(ought) my O(wn) G(rog) to many a domestic venue excused with such terms as “house warming”, “birthday”, “twenty-first” and “fundraiser”. My partying has taken my ear from Bob Dylan to Arrested Development. I’m a veteran.

When I’m told to, “Maintain your rage!” I just think that’s so hip! . All I want is to party on.

But what’s a party person to do? When I first took up partying seriously my first stop was a party who had elected reps. I then drifted into another in search of a crowd more my kind. Selling the “Party Press” (“the only paper your boss doesn’t own or print”) and standing on picket lines seemed more fruitful than hanging around the doorway rubbing shoulders with the notables and fixing up the numbers at state conventions.

Maybe I was just too keen to be where the action was, and somehow neither of my early experiments could put on a good turn. I’d always come home embarrassed over some incident or someone’s behavior.

But I was lucky. I could pull up after all this without so much as a hangover. Still keen to do it again, rather than partake in the hair of the dog I sought out a new crowd.

When you have some fire in your belly, you don’t want it to turn into an ulcer, do you?

Back then, parties seemed to be going on all over. Each one promising to party on until a new dawn. They all raged and each one insisted that they had their own special something which made them different from their neighbor. None of them were big. A French bloke I know referred to them all as “groupuscules”. It was almost as though you could call together your own party then wait and see who turned up after the invites had been posted.

Even with so many pre- and proto-parties around, there was also a line offered in Claytons — the party you have when you don’t have a party. Come the moment when it was time to go out and rage there would be a wide choice to select from.

Nowadays, partying is not seen as the “in” thing to do. But I think the people who run the activity down are mistaken. Parties are the best way to maintain your rage. We all get hot under the collar every now and then. For a time we each embrace social life in a big way.

There’s nothing wrong with that — I’m all for spontaneity — but there always seems to be a reason to party. Maybe the good times don’t roll as often as they should and more folk than usual decide to stay at home. But if they don’t turn up again, who is there to tell the tale of rages past? There’s more to it than sending out for pizza.

So how would you know a good party if you came across it? The answer is simple: the one that returns to rage again and again. That’s how I judge them, and I should know because I’ve been in a few. Maybe you’d like to join me and we could perhaps … party on.

Dave Riley

Left for Dead?

(Promoted from the comments. Dave Riley responds to my Left for Dead post.)

I don’t know where you’ve been at, Bob, but this straw man argument you are building comes across as a chronic winge.

The main complication of the ‘working class’ focus has been the post war economic boom which, combined with the ideological inroads of the Cold War rolled back trade union militancy and the perceived primacy of class issues.

The “new social movements” grew directly out of the national liberation struggles of the same period — Africa, Asia, Latin America, etc which impacted most especially in the US with the rise of the Civil Right Movement and with that  the coincidence of the baby boomer generation. These movements grew out of that phenomenon but the engine room wasn’t so much identity politics but the massive impact of the movement against the Vietnam War. With the withdrawal of US troops the radicalisation subsided and either people dropped out of struggle or found routes to accommodation.

Ideologically, there was a major push to transcend its radicalism by dint of new theories — with Post Modernism being the latest of these fads — but a classical Marxism still remained an inspiration primarily for small currents who suffered bitterly in isolation from the working class as the locus of struggle had not returned to class issues and the sixties mass movements were in ebb.This is why so many of these became sects — the isolation promoted a certain circle spirit and inwardness.

Granted that the world has changed — especially since 1989 — but no mass workers or consistently radical left party exists in many countries to reflect and harness the new possibilities. This is especially the case in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and the US.

I agree that given these changes it’s “time for new ideas on the hard Left.” But I’d assume that you would at least go looking for them rather than simply complain about their absence.

I think there are indeed some key “new ideas” on offer that enrich the Marxist tradition and represent a novel synthesis:

  • (1) The new rise of the democratic movements of Latin America exemplified by the processes being embraced in Venezuela and Bolivia but also the recent successes in El Salvador. This blog treats Chavez as a Latino clown and refuses to look at the Bolivarian process and the new ALBA momentum seriously. (So what can I say? Are you purposely blind?)These movements are marked by some key elements — a very broad and very pluralistic democracy which is respectful of Indigenous people and the environment and one that relies on a mobilised population rather than simply an occasionally voting one.
  • (2) A re-connection with the rich ecology of Marxism which stretches not only back to Marx and Engels but was buoyed up by a succession of biologists and related scientists who have contributed so much to our understanding of ecology — a concept that was first described (and term invented) by a Marxist biologist. In North America , the two main proponents of this tradition, that come to mind, are Richard Leewontin and the late Stephen Jay Gould. At a theoretical level the work of John Bellamy Foster and the team at Monthly Review have consolidated and revived not only a rich Marxist ecology (and a rigorous materialism) but also have remained consistently rooted in a classical Marxist economic analysis of capitalism. Eg: Foster/Magdoffs book: The Great Financial Crisis.
  • (3) In more countries than you ever mention, Marxist currents are working to build and broaden new left parties which are not dedicated to a boutique ideology. This phenomenon is weakest in the English speaking countries. In Germany for instance Die Linke out performs and has transcended the now conservative role of the German Greens and in Italy, France, and Portugal new and very buoyant formations have broken out of the left marginalisation in a way we have not seen since the thirties.
  • (4) All these elements have led to a rethinking of revolutionary and radical politics and a new synthesis is being born among a layer on the far left. For me Marta Harnecker‘s `Ideas for the Struggle’ is an attempt to give this process of experiment and rethinking a concrete form. But it is difficult to describe the various coal faces being worked at. What we are seeing, contrary to the quote you posted, is a movement away from relying purely on identity politics to a broader political synthesis mainly because “identity politics” by itself hasn’t been strong enough to forge the kind of changes being demanded. However, while the working class remains non combative — as it definitively is in the English speaking countries — these changes will have to find their own way by dint of true grit and experience.

So it is still a hard struggle. We also have the overbearing complication that the mass antiwar movement is in idle mode and a confidence in mass struggle has been weakened.In this regard and going back to Harnecker, I believe that the beginnings of a solution has to be not just a movement solution but a party one. How we do that in each country is going to be both difficult and different. But whats’ at stake isn’t so much “new social movements” but “new social parties”.

Australian Socialist Alliance

By Dave Riley

Over the weekend of 5-7 December, more than 150 people attended the Sixth Socialist Alliance national conference, held in the Geelong Trades Hall. The conference opened against the backdrop of the Alliance’s promising results in the November 29 Victorian local government elections, in which its candidates scored up to 18.9%.

The conference also saw the broadening of the Socialist Alliance as a coalition of socialist organisations and individuals in Australia. This was evidenced by the affiliation of the Sudanese Australian Human Rights Association, the participation of keynote speakers from Turkish and Salvadoran socialist organisations and the intervention of Dr Brian Senewiratne, internationally known fighter for the rights of Sri Lanka’s oppressed Tamil community.

Alliance building

The conference registered the Socialist Alliance’s successful work in building alliances with a broad range of socialist and progressive activists and organisations around Australia and abroad over the past few years. This is a new phenomenon on the Australian left which has tended to be ideologically packaged and separated, like elsewhere, into competing small socialist groups.

While the Socialist Alliance began life in 2001 as a electoral coalition between six founding socialist organisations, by 2007 most of these had withdrawn from the project. At its 2003 national conference the Alliance had decided by an overwhelming majority to proceed toward becoming a broad left, anti-capitalist political party — and as part of that process, the largest SA affiliate, the Democratic Socialist Perspective resolved to become ” a Marxist tendency in the Socialist Alliance” as a step toward consolidating the SA as a future “Multi-Tendency Socialist Party.”

With the re-election of the conservative Howard government in 2004 the Alliance project lost some momentum and the integration of the DSP and its assets stalled. But as the political climate improved during 2006/2007– especially with the broad based Your Rights at Work Campaign — which the Alliance was heavily involved in trying to sponsor mobilisations and an industrial campaign — the Alliance’s fortunes began to pick up.
Continue reading “Australian Socialist Alliance”

URGENT ACTION: Right-wing militia attacking PAPERNAS again

We have just received an urgent appeal by SMS from Katarina Pujiastuti, International Relations Officer for the National Liberation Party of Unity, PAPERNAS, in Indonesia. PAPERNAS presidential election candidate for Dita Indah Sari is at the venue under seige now and has appealed for urgent international solidarity.

A regional conference of PAPERNAS in East Java is now under attack from 100 right-wing militia claiming to belong to the Front Anti Komunis Indonesia (FAKI). The conference has been forced to stop but the participants have resolved to carry on with their legitimate agenda. FAKI is the same militia group that attacked the founding conference of
PAPERNAS in early January.

PAPERNAS comrades are asking for urgent messages of protest to be faxed to the Chief of Police, General Sutanto +62 818 315703.

Please pass this urgent request to any contacts you have who may help and post to any appropriate lists you are on.

Please send copies of messages of protest and solidarity messages to:

LATEST UPDATE: The right-wing militia have now broken into the conference venue and fighting is raging with the PAPERNAS conference participants right now.