In his segment New Rule on this week’s “Real Time“, Bill Maher argues that socialism can work wonders when used as a supplement to capitalism.
Mar 31 2019
Aug 24 2015
There can be no doubt that the behavior of international capital is a major driver of immigration. Looking outward from the US alone, capital has long been at play in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, extracting resources and supporting dictatorial elites with little interest in economic development, forcing many of those deliberately impoverished masses to look north. Capital builds and destroys economies and rends people’s lives to the point of desperation, forcing the poor to pick up and move wherever they can to survive.
Ironically, there is great controversy over immigration in the developed world whose system did so much to create the prospective immigrant’s desperation. In the United States and Europe the right is obsessed with immigration as a threat to cultural identity; but immigration is also controversial in the center and even on the left, or what passes for the left, allegedly because it depresses working class wages and diminishes the prospects of native-born working people.
Yet if we look at the history of the United States, we see that mass immigration can co-exist with broad prosperity or even drive it. The US absorbed millions of immigrants from the 1880’s to the 1920’s and they helped to build the wealthiest, most powerful nation that ever existed. The US continues to to absorb large numbers of immigrants, documented and undocumented, and still the nation’s wealth expands, if mostly for the elite.
As anti-capitalists, we are naturally suspicious of the nativist, chauvinist notion that immigration is a threat to our security or prosperity individually or collectively, yet few of us would say that immigration without conditions or limits would produce a good result for immigrants or the native-born working class.
How do our various leftist perspectives on immigration address objective conditions in developed economies? Does the working class of one nation owe a welcome to all others who want to come? What is in the long term interest of workers at home and around the world?
Aug 03 2015
I don’t know about you, but if I never have to read another piece that mentions the Koch brothers in the first sentence that would be fine with me. Oops. It seems so unnatural to do so, especially during a hot summer of so much fun, except for the police killings, right wing terrorism, ongoing Greek tragedy, and countless other bummers that are absolutely ruining my beach blanket bingo.
But I generally assume their will to power must be confronted by mine at every opportunity. And because their will to power (collectively including that of their amazing retinue of bought and paid for attendants) is way bigger than mine, it’s going to be pretty miserable if I spend much of my time dreaming of how to bring down their kingdom, but I do it anyway.
They alone (and they are not alone) also have a huge head start in cultural hegemony, with a massive perpetual intellectual propaganda campaign involving not only think tanks, billions of dollars, binders of semi-famous dead and living capitalist economists and other scholars, and a famous dead mercenary woman with a cool first name who wrote two incredibly awful but famously anti-altruistic novels in the 1940s and 50s followed by decades of mostly inhumane essay writing, but also by a famous and imposing dead German philosopher whose name until recently I could neither spell nor pronounce.
I suppose I should on some level study up. Instead, what a major part of me really feels compelled to do down deep on hot summer days with the planet melting is to ignore my anti-capitalist comrades, to practice the fine art of chilling out, which apparently involves working on thinking more happy and grateful thoughts, appreciating family, friends, and neighbors more, and whimsically watching life drift by with the thermostat turned way down. And I think on some level those ultra-rich superior brothers know that, which disturbs my reverie-potential even more. So, in truth, for me, it is much easier to want to fight them compulsively with all my meager energy and will to power, every single waking minute until, like the Black Knight in Monty Python, I can fight no longer, the assholes.
But I awake need more than my compulsions, even my compulsion for fighting the power. I awake need to be both among the familiar and a small hopeful part of nurturing a better world. I awake do not wish to be a human commodity waiting on economic growth to trickle my way or anyone else’s, but neither do I wish to be the silly Black Knight.
I awake am not, and you are not, to use the term in Le Gauchiste’s piece last Sunday, “homo oeconomicus.” I awake want to be unchained, and I awake want others to be as well.
But how can we take power away from the Koch brothers and those like them without saying their names with the repetition of a liturgy, becoming fixated on their power and our lack thereof, and even routinely employing martial metaphors in our theory and practice? I am not talking about “eliminationist” language, which of course is disgusting, authoritarian, and rightly verboten. I am talking about the language “of force,” using imagery we may routinely feel justified if not compelled to use, but which we sometimes would prefer not to use on some internal level.
Perhaps sometimes to be squeamish is to be healthy. I may be hesitant, but I cannot simply stay inside and ignore the cries and gasps of my brothers and sisters on the outside who cannot breathe. In that situation, I have no choice, if I am to be moral, but to go outside and to join some way in the revolt against the hands and ropes literally around their throats.
Interestingly, Dr. Fanon’s full quote begins with, “When we revolt it’s not for a particular culture.” Revolution is not culturally, much less genetically, predestined, and neither is it designed in advance to implement this or that 10-point plan. “We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe.”
If I am not of the particular culture that is the oppressed group outside my window, I cannot pretend to be in a position to lead them in their time of greatest need, to tell them what their priorities should be, or to attempt to move their gaze from the hands and ropes around their necks back to the Koch brothers, income inequality, global warming, TPP, or even to the holistic and fundamental need for global system change from anti-human unsustainable capitalism to deep democracy with economic, social, and cultural, as well as civil and political, rights for all. It is their breath being lost in that moment, not mine.
Similarly, if one is being deported, or one’s parent or spouse is, in that moment, nothing else matters. Or, if a woman is being forced to abandon control of her own body because of someone else’s religion or brutality, the invasion of her person, her human dignity, and her most personal liberty and privacy is being violated, which cannot be condoned or made to wait.
While never forgetting root causes, I need to join them, follow them, take whatever solidarity positions in the masses they prefer me to have. I may even catch some words or glances of misdirected hostility or suspicion from time to time, because, THEY CAN’T BREATHE and can’t be expected always to speak or see clearly and fairly in their agony toward those who fit the outward description of the oppressor group who show up in peaceful support. Within strict limits of my right and duty to protect my own person, I should be tolerant and forgiving of their occasional minor mistakes that result from the confusing plight for which they did not ask.
And indeed, if I am not in the oppressed group, I may make mistakes too–some of my “fighting words” and show of support from time to time may not be helpful or revolutionary but rather inauthentic, presumptuous, or pretentious. While self-flagellation helps no one, neither does grandiosity.
More broadly, even from a revolutionary perspective, by being a fighter all or most of the time when I want or need more than anything to be a lover, am I not thereby becoming in some way part of the system I detest? I want to have a clean conscience as regards my friends and even my enemies as much as possible, but it is more than that. I awake want to reject holistically the system that has been foisted upon us, but even “to reject” at every turn is to live in contrast to that system rather than in freedom from it.
I am guilty as charged in some or all this and raise this complex issue of “just means” in all sincerity. In fact, I recently, ironically rather haughtily, stated as such in a religiously-themed piece I published at Daily Kos, which thankfully only a few of my best buds read (which may be the same with this here piece!): “[I] don’t claim to be pious and admit to being something of a fighter out of a sense of obligation, but with words only.”
In my opinion, apathy, not confrontation, is the social disease of our time. Faced with the seeming choice between allowing myself to be apathetic and risking imperfect confrontation, I often feel obligated to do the latter in part because so many choose the former. But is that wise? Is that the best I can be doing as a species-being?
We won’t get any modicum of heaven on Earth without raising a lot of hell. We still live in a “fighting age” and need to put on our “fighting clothes” (shout out to JayRaye and the Hellraisers like Mother Jones who are daily chronicled in Hellraisers Journal). But how we each choose to raise hell must be personally authentic to the time, place, and particular Hellraiser, with justice in the service of love not unforgiving fanaticism.
Many of us would prefer to stay in our caves, preferably a well-appointed man or woman cave. Nonetheless, caring humans crawl out even when we do not have to, blink at the uncaring sky, and seek out peace, liberty, and justice for all or at least for those we see before us being choked by “the man.” In that case, our duty is to do whatever we can to stop the choking. Our solitude and circumspection may have to wait.
But they cannot always wait. We must in general follow our bliss even as, when duty calls, we “confront,” “battle,” and “defeat” the “foes” who are the beneficiaries of divide and rule. Not always an easy balancing act. Even to begin to describe the system is to risk a migraine and to expose our own disproportionate political-economic weakness as individuals in it–a bubble-driven system powered by financial gimmickry, non-dischargeable consumer debt, production based on profits and not human need, and environmental destruction; the unsustainable but seemingly unstoppable use of non-renewable resources; the exploitation of labor and the reserve army of the unemployed; and prejudice and discrimination by “race”/ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, place of birth or other happenstance that has nothing to do with one’s infinite value as a beautiful human being; and which, in a workplace and on a street near us, is reinforced not only by institutionalized state violence but also by cultural hegemony.
Pass me the bong. As bad as the global system is, we the people, taken off the farm and often wedged into inhumane living conditions, are not at all inclined to or interested in external violence. Stress results in massive self-medication involving alcohol and other drugs, at its worst a form of internal violence. However, right wing terrorists who say, for instance, that they are trying to provoke a two-way “race” “war” are not only grotesquely immoral but also liars. It is a one-way war of right wing terror and police violence against people of color. The former (and sometimes the latter) hope to dehumanize African Americans and to encourage other lone wolves and small groups of racist killers. They do not seriously expect that African Americans are going to engage in retributive racially murderous acts.
Almost all working people, regardless of our race or ethnicity, first and foremost want peace and security for ourselves, children, elderly, and other vulnerable persons with whom we may come into contact and will not purposely engage in violence except as a last resort. In short, except for the terrorist who is exercising a bloodthirsty and hateful will to power, every normal human instinct is to walk or even run away from a gunfight. That is why stand your ground laws are not only completely unnecessary but also causative of violence. They pretend people are in harm’s way who are not in order to sell unnecessary guns that cause unnecessary injury and death. We may chafe at and hopefully do protest injustice, but we do not use violence unless truly exceptional circumstances are presented–unless, that is, we are among those mercenaries engaged in state-sanctioned local or international police action or those desperate who have been unable to find lawful employment and get caught up in the illegal non-prescription drug industry.
But how do we ourselves also avoid wallowing in the toxic language of hate?–for there are things to hate. Should we avoid the intellectual exercises and temptations involved with understanding and refuting the intellectuals and propaganda gurus of the powerful? Must we ourselves eschew aesthetics, intellectual development, and intellectual pleasure? How can we engage in the study that leads to greater ability to engage in argumentation against the philosophers of the powerful, such as Nietzsche and Rand, without becoming mesmerized or coopted in the process?
I will not link to “The Atlas Society” website, but in a 3/5/11 piece by one Stephen Hicks, the many differences in the two are, to my view, overwhelmed by their similarity in rejecting socialism and aid to society’s losers and exalting “the hero”:
In politics, they agree that contemporary civilization has very significant problems, and that socialism and the welfare state are nauseating; but while Nietzsche has good things to say about aristocracy, slavery, and war and bad things to say about capitalism, Rand says the opposite. Finally, they share the same exalted, heroic struggle sense of life–although Nietzsche adds to that a strong dose of bloodthirstiness that we do not find in Rand, while Rand regularly adds a strong dose of anger that we do not find in Nietzsche.
We have no choice but to “fight the power” and the ideas they use to blind us to the fact that they are not actually engaged in exalted, heroic struggles but mass injustice to maintain their system of divide and rule by any means necessary for the purpose of controlling the world’s resources for their own profit-taking and capital accumulation. However, we refuse to lose sight of what makes us beautiful, which has nothing to do with how we look or winning spelling contests, or our fighting ability
or winning anything else, from awards to games to wars to battles for interpretation of our history.
True allies respect the disrespected:
“I cant speak on it ’cause I’m not gonna see it,” [Spike Lee] tells VIBETV. “All I’m going to say is that it’s disrespectful to my ancestors. That’s just me…I’m not speaking on behalf of anybody else.”
We must also respect ourselves and our own imperfect humanity. Permanent deployment is deadly, including participating in endless political battles against mercenary politicians, pundits, think tanks, and advertising gurus who wish to define and commodify us at so many dollars per vote under a “First Amendment” that speaks not the language of justice in the service of love but the language of money in the service of more money. And it is not simply a matter of getting back to the future either. Our ancestors made horrible mistakes too, often of tribalism, paternalism, sexism, and other forms of division and social hierarchy, so that to awake is not merely a retrospective cultural event.
So not only the will to power but also power itself as an end or a means to money stinks with the stench of greed, selfishness, and death. We absolutely don’t want to become like the Koch brothers.
But is there an easy, or at least emotionally cathartic way out? When we awake, as we must, should we try to make being a loser “cool”?
That “loser as coolness” commodity was produced and sold two decades ago to great aesthetic effect … seems like yesterday
We should refuse to be purchased by a consumer culture that can even package the language of the desperate and their would-be allies for commercial purposes. Surely the stuff of revolution is more than adoption of a certain fashion consciousness. Signs of solidarity must be more than proudly affecting the pose of “losers” in some kind of kubuki show of support for those who truly suffer from the grosser forms of injustice.
As a precaution from being frauds, do members of the left then need to adopt cultural austerity? Do we need to stop reading all books other than our chosen school of socialist thought and lose what little sense of humor we still have? Will doing otherwise lead us down the slippery slope to being poseurs? Of course not. We should not try so hard to “fight” “the winners” in their own fixed games that we either adopt the tokens and terminology to which we have been assigned or only speak with our own insider terms of reference.
The advertisers and other mercenaries working for the ruling class have decided all manner of linguistic packaging to keep us enticed and preoccupied when all the while inside the packages there is very little there there. “Mystique” itself is such an impressive French-sounding word. But we should not adopt an anti-intellectual pose any more than we should adopt the pose of “loser.”
Still, when we unwrap the supposedly precious intellectual commodities of the ruling class, when we touch those rings of power, we should be careful and realize that, like Frodo Baggins, there is nothing so special or moral about any of us that makes us beyond temptation.
Let us begin to be awake by giving up our craving for acceptance in the supposedly glamorous world of waiting for Mr. Übermensch. Let us not be so occupied with the minds of our enemies that we are unable to free up our mental energy away from that which does not make us more loving global citizens, including the “correct” spelling and pronunciation of the names of mercenary intellectuals we are expected to admire. Let us not be taken in either by their brilliance and mental dexterity or our own.
We do not want to become one of the ruling class or one of their mercenary class who gets to stand nearby in the high places, feed our betters grapes, and wave fans over them in their exalted, heroic struggles.
Jun 01 2015
|Arise ye workers from your slumbers
Arise ye prisoners of want
For reason in revolt now thunders
And at last ends the age of cant.
Away with all your superstitions
Servile masses arise, arise
We’ll change henceforth the old tradition
And spurn the dust to win the prize.
So comrades, come rally
No more deluded by reaction
So comrades, come rally
No saviour from on high delivers
So comrades, come rally
Note 1: This was supposed to be “Part 2” of a single Beltaine Diary of which my Diary entitled “Bringing In The May: The Heroes of Haymarket” was to be “Part 1”. (So I’m posting this now, even though the First of May 2015 is now long past.)
Note 2: Please allow me to express my deepest gratitude to the Marxists Internet Archive website, http://www.marxists.org, and Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/, for much of the material I am using in today’s Diary. Although in the public domain owing to its age, I would not have been able to gather this material had it not been for these websites and those who operate them. Therefore, I express my thanks for their assistance.
Most of my readers here on Anti-Capitalist Meetup recognize this image immediately; it was used in many of the Diaries and discussions here on Daily Kos on the subject which appeared around Beltaine (May 1) this year:
This classic portrayal of the Heroes of Haymarket Square in Chicago is the work of British illustrator Walter Crane (1845 – 1915).
It is not quite as well known today, a century after his death, that Mr. Crane was a Socialist; that he employed his not insignificant talents in the graphical arts in the service to the Socialist and Labor movements in Britain and America during his time; and that even today his graphics still strike a serious chord with those of us who believe that all wealth is created by Labor, and Labor is entitled to everything it creates.
For more details — and more Walter Crane images — follow me beyond the fold!
Mar 16 2015
I have 3 articles for you on this Monday morning!
First, an interesting coalition:
But getting from general agreement to action requires a concerted effort to change minds and change policy. That’s why we recently helped launch the Coalition for Public Safety, an unprecedented national bipartisan coalition of funders and advocacy partners that will work for smart, fair and just criminal justice reform.
The coalition will work at the local, state and federal level to fix the flawed policies that have conspired to create this problem. The coalition plans a multimillion-dollar campaign in connection with emerging proposals to reduce prison populations, overhaul sentencing, reduce recidivism and address critical structural flaws in our system.
Mar 01 2015
Why do we do this? I can only speak for me, but I do it not only to foment revolution–a worldwide peaceful one of justice in the service of love brought about by direct and indirect action–but also for the camaraderie. NancyWH reminded me of that in a comment she made last Sunday night in a chain under annieli’s latest diary for this group (an amazing educational piece, read by very few at the time, I am sad to say):
Every journey starts with one step (4+ / 0-)
I hear. Now I have two! I will end up having so many tabs open, I’ll get confused. So I have a word document where I stash links, so I can find them again later.
And I am apt to come back early tomorrow, and find people came along and added other suggestions after I went to sleep. It was that comradery that drew me here in the first place.
And that comment got me thinking about “camaraderie.” I volunteered to do this diary a day later because we needed a writer for this week, thinking that I could come up with something, but as usual not knowing what it would be. I do love this unpredictable journey of socialist sharing with comrades, some of whom are now living across one big pond or another from the U.S., and none, to my knowledge, within hundreds of miles of me, a lonely watermelon in a highly un-“red” part of the Deep Red South. To me, it does not really matter what specific anti-capitalist theme I write about or one of my comrades writes about, but it does matter that we are together, sharing our bad ass love for humanity, including for each other.
Of course, Daily Kos writ large has an agenda which should bring some solidarity, and any group blog at Daily Kos has some camaraderie around a profile, and some profiles are more or less expressly aimed at camaraderie. Because of responsibilities, I don’t often get to participate in Saturday night’s WYFP?, but when I do, I am always uplifted by the fact that people bring their problems to each other there and receive encouragement from others. It is quite beautifully real and sometimes brings me to tears.
Stuck in my atrophying mental space, based on NancyWH’s comment, was this subject of camaraderie. I have never spent much time thinking about socialist camaraderie per se, but I have known some camaraderie in my day, most of it decidedly un-socialist and un-progressive–a “wide gamut,” everything from little league competition and bench-warming of the “worst” “teammates”; to high school locker room glory days, where one fits in by not only performing on the field or court but also by committing or ignoring bullying of the smallest “teammates”; to goldfish-swallowing beer-guzzling fraternity “good times,” where one fits in by committing or receiving bullying given the more grandiose name of hazing; to beer-guzzling adult softball team after-game carousing and what not–then again, it dawns, maybe I don’t know shit about camaraderie, sure haven’t had much of it that wasn’t involved with competition, cruelty, or both.
After all, as we all know down heuh, when it comes to “heaven and hell,” it is everyone for “himself,” standing condemned from the instant of birth by the sinful act of copulation, so loved by the great tortoise in the sky that he would send us into a burning eternal barbecue pit for daring to enter this perfect world. I was raised in, and in the acceptable capitalist ways rebelled from, the most conservative of fundie religious subcultures in the Cold War U.S., where “comrade” was used as a term of hostile disparagement of “the enemy.” Come to think of it, the closest I received in comradery growing up was probably involved with sharing bong hits and playing hearts while ditching some class in minimester I can’t remember now.
I do remember distinctly when I first read the word “comrade” in reference to real people that I know–the members of this group, which I’d just joined, a little over a year ago. Ironically, it was used by one of my now heroes, NY brit expat, in asking for writers! I am sorry to say that I at first assumed it was humorously used. “Comrade” died with the Soviet Union, right? I replied back somewhat tongue in cheek but even then felt scared to acknowledge the request because, as in joining this group to begin with, it means to voluntarily wear a badge that could invite repression, and where I live, repression can get ugly.
I have learned in this group that camaraderie involves honest and sometimes difficult exchanges, solidarity with not only each other but all of the workers and less fortunate of the world, gentle expressions of friendship, and tons of edjurecation, and even a little re-edjurecation.
which leads to reading,
While we have many scholars who write for this group, I am not one of them. Each week, when I read the diary and the comments, I add to my reading list. My special top secret personal revolutionary bookcase is full of pink, red, and green things to do that involve me learning, which is good, but time-consuming. Perhaps you too carry around on your smart phone links to works of Luxemburg, Gramsci, and Bookchin, things you need to read or re-read and can feel guilty over.
When I started thinking about “comradery,” I decided to start with the French “liberty, equality, fraternity,” which led to the limited spare time of three days being spent with some dead dude named Pierre Leroux, whom I have really come to like. I was going to riff this diary on him, when serendity happened …
which leads me back to a dear friend from long ago, “a queer socialist poet.”
At 2:14 pm Central Time this past Thursday, when I was at work, my real-me personal in-box received a visit from my independent socialist comrades at Monthly Review. And, maybe my life will never be the same, I am serious. Into my life came a new book by some literary lefty at Penn State named John Marsh, In Walt We Trust: How a Queer Socialist Poet Can Save America from Itself (Monthly Review Press, 2015).
By Friday night I had read the UTNE Reader excerpt from the book and was completely stoked. I took the full plunge, and it now mysteriously “sits” in my dinosaur first generation pawn shop iPad half-read but already well-loved. I would be reading the rest of it now, except that I have to write this darn diary and go chop down some wild stuff before spring gets here.
I will, tortoise willing, come back to you one day with a full review of the book. It is friggin’ terrific. Like my other new buddy Leroux, it implies that the liberal and the socialist have much to learn from each other. For instance, while the liberal conception of “justice” as defined by capitalist laws is woefully inadequate, the artistic and intellectual freedom of humanity should not be pinned down by what came to be known as “socialist realism” or convenient to a hierarchy, respectively.
We will fight for a just world for all and not accept no for an answer. But our blades will primarily be leaves of grass. Our practice must account for time and place, and we all need true friends:
Nor did I always believe that Whitman would save America from what ailed it. More often than not I thought he was-or represented-exactly what it suffered from. His naive optimism, his boosterish patriotism, his fuzzy spiritualism, his celebration of the body and sex-though these may have once seemed, in the nineteenth century perhaps, like the solution to a problem, they now seemed like the problem itself. Americans did not need to be told to look on the bright side, to love America, to trust God, or, my Lord, to worship sex. They needed to be told not to.
But I know now that I was wrong. At some point, and for me it came in my early thirties, you realize that socialism will be a long time coming in the United States, especially when one of our two political parties fervently believes that the United States is already on the road to socialist serfdom. When you wake up to this reality, you care a lot less about whether a poet was socialist enough or not, and a lot more about how he can help you live in the world you have.
[W]hitman had nothing to do with building up the empire of illusions that currently enfold and enthrall Americans, not just because few people actually read him, then or now, and therefore you cannot lay much blame at his door. But also because-read carefully-he says no such things. Indeed, I am now convinced that reading Whitman would go far toward striking back against that empire of illusion.
When I read Leaves of Grass the first time, I was beginning a new life, becoming must closer to who I am today than who I was raised to be. Something told me to take Walt Whitman with me on that long back-packing trip. I sat and read him on rainy days in the tent and on a clear day by a roaring ice-filled river read him too. He, long dead as Leroux, planted wonderful seeds in me, like not only a love of compost but also the assumption that composting can be a political act.
He was fearless. What kind of bravery it would have taken in 1855 to self-publish such thoughts: “Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and of any man hearty and clean. / Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be less familiar than the rest.”
Well I am off to chop those vines, which will go in This Compost, where I will hopefully one day join them:
Behold this compost! behold it well!
Perhaps every mite has once form’d part of a sick person-Yet behold!
The grass of spring covers the prairies,
The bean bursts noislessly through the mould in the garden,
The delicate spear of the onion pierces upward,
The apple-buds cluster together on the apple-branches,
The resurrection of the wheat appears with pale visage out of its graves,
The tinge awakes over the willow-tree and the mulberry-tree,
The he-birds carol mornings and evenings, while the she-birds sit on their nests,
The young of poultry break through the hatch’d eggs,
The new-born of animals appear-the calf is dropt from the cow, the colt from the mare,
Out of its little hill faithfully rise the potato’s dark green leaves,
Out of its hill rises the yellow maize-stalk-the lilacs bloom in the door-yards;
The summer growth is innocent and disdainful above all those strata of sour dead.
That the winds are really not infectious,
That this is no cheat, this transparent green-wash of the sea, which is so amorous after me,
That it is safe to allow it to lick my naked body all over with its tongues,
That it will not endanger me with the fevers that have deposited themselves in it,
That all is clean forever and forever.
That the cool drink from the well tastes so good,
That blackberries are so flavorous and juicy,
That the fruits of the apple-orchard, and of the orange-orchard-that melons, grapes, peaches, plums, will none of them poison me,
That when I recline on the grass I do not catch any disease,
Though probably every spear of grass rises out of what was once a catching disease.
Now I am terrified at the Earth! it is that calm and patient,
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,
It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such endless successions of diseas’d corpses,
It distils such exquisite winds out of such infused fetor,
It renews with such unwitting looks, its prodigal, annual, sumptuous crops,
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts such leavings from them at last.
See you next week, same lefty batting channel. Meanwhile, let’s go hit the books comrades–when, that is, we are not working, dancing, frolicking naked across the prairie, etc.
Jan 04 2015
There can be no immaculate conception of socialism …
Aneurin Bevin, 1945;
or of our posts about socialism.
I had hoped this post would be the fabulous coming out ceremony for a pamphlet I have been working on in my spare time for over a year on the need for a global social compact. I view Pope Francis as being a potential key Gramscian player in this prospect. I was going to highlight how Cuba may present a unique opportunity for the global social compact paradigm. But, as they sometimes do, real world events in my little world have taken precedence over the Holidays, and the pamphlet is not complete. Nonetheless, I feel I can still take an abbreviated stab at the post I mentioned week before last in a comment on MrJayTee’s excellent Cuba post:
a look at the Cuban constitution, Cuba’s survival of the fittest/meanest capitalist island neighbor immediately to its east, and the potential helpful role of Pope Francis
(My patient, kind but busy tovarishch MrJayTee prefers I keep my posts short anyway, so perhaps this is divine providence.)
Before I get into the meat of this post, I need to get some slights, and caveats, out of the way. Let me begin by “apologizing” to socialists who happen to be Catholic for the Immaculate Conception invocation, but it seemed to fit my situation, and, 55 years into both experiments, it seems to fit Cuba’s as well. That cultural reference got Aneurin Bevin, the founder of Britain’s National Health Service, in trouble with this important left subgroup seventy years ago. But what the hell, Bevin, and after him the Castro brothers, did more to help the working class have earth as it is in heaven than any pope or archbishop of Canterbury in my estimation. So, please accept my laurel and hardy handshake and nonpology.
As for caveats, for stinging critique by me of the Catholic Church’s anti-women, anti-GLBT, and in general anti-human policies, and its tendency to produce smarmy moralizing with little or no praxis to produce change, please see here and here, respectively, including ditty about:
the unelected Constantinian conservative RC majority of the SCOTUS, the Republican Party’s politburo, the vanguard in robes of U.S. political corruption and global neoliberalism, his humble flock, who put capital unction into the grotesque shunning of humanity that is institutionalized social repression
In a nutshell, while I have taken the gloves off with Pope Francis’s street cred, I believe in working with him too.
I do need to add one last preliminary sting:
No, Pope Francis, I do not buy that you did all you could to protect your own priests from right wing killers/torturers in Argentina’s Dirty War. I will not battle that history out in this post, but suffice it to say that you could have placed your prestige, and your body, on the line to protect them, but failed to do so.
To see how a real moral leader leads by example, please read Gramsci’s 1925 speech directly to the face of Mussolini and the Italian parliament.
Moving right along …
Nov 17 2014
Some illusions are not good. Keeping up appearances can be dangerous. We should have the courage to admit that we or those we love or should love are in need. A political party that is too afraid to speak this message is nearly worthless.
I love the honest moment many critics hate in Akira Kurisawa’s One Wonderful Sunday (1947) when the director, through the female co-lead, confesses the act of creating for the public good by turning to us, the viewers, and begging for help for the poor lovers of post-WWII Japan: “There are so many poor lovers like us.”
Generations later, the Japanese left is by and large retaining its moral courage against a denialist onslaught that would have fit right in with Fascist days gone by. In a vicious campaign of moral inversion that would make Karl Rove proud, those who dare to stand by the historical veracity of the exploitation of “comfort women” are themselves scandalized. The current conservative Japanese effort to expunge from history the Japanese military’s mass brutalizing of women during WWII is, needless to say, itself deeply shameful. But this need for maintenance of societal illusion is by no means a new creation. Nor can the U.S. exempt itself from criticism with respect to its own deep and wide illusion at home and abroad, and in particular with respect to Japan.
In these sad days it is difficult to remember except with sadness that not too long ago a first term presidency was won on a simultaneously discomforting and audacious vision—
The title of The Audacity of Hope was derived from a sermon delivered by Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Wright had attended a lecture by Dr. Frederick G. Sampson in Richmond, Virginia, in the late 1980s, on the G. F. Watts painting Hope, which inspired him to give a sermon in 1990 based on the subject of the painting – “with her clothes in rags, her body scarred and bruised and bleeding, her harp all but destroyed and with only one string left, she had the audacity to make music and praise God … To take the one string you have left and to have the audacity to hope… that’s the real word God will have us hear from this passage and from Watt’s painting.”
While “her” audacity is commendable, where is “ours”? Can we look on at a person in such a condition and not ask why and then do all we can to change those conditions?
This vision, which was ultimately an appeal to honestly assess the requirements of justice in the service of love, has been diminished through a societal psychosis brought about only in part by an opposition party strategically incapable of telling the truth on anything serious. The Republican Party is built on lying, to be sure. But it has received decades of assistance from the pathetic unwillingness of the U.S.’s so-called liberal party to have the audacity to honestly call even for old time liberal religion and from the pathetic unwillingness of the so-called liberal media to have the audacity to expose lies on a prolonged basis except of the inconsequential variety–such as the covering up of the pathetic sex life of a president with a consenting intern. While I hope most of us would agree that Bill Clinton was a putz, our collective political lives should not turn based on what he does with his. Had he turned to the camera and said “There are so many poor [so to speak] lovers like us” we all should have clapped, laughed, or yawned, but certainly immediately moved on.
It is worth pondering who is really running this sickly thickly syrupy daytime theatre of life in the U.S.–so comfortable with societal psychosis once reserved for dreams of a heavenly one–while we put on our daily generally modest costumes. We have lost the will to pray, oh Lord, for a Mercedes Benz or even a new pickup, although we may still feel this unexplained ungratified compulsion to purchase new gizmos with whatever is left over after the tank of gas that will get us from our trailer to our part time jobs if we can get them.
It can sometimes be difficult, however, to tell the actors from the playwrights, for even the playwrights have to play dress up, or, more typically, dress down. When you are an imperial family, it is important to look the part, which will vary according to the needs of the occasion. If your power is mainly cultural, with pretentions of divinity, your plumage may need to be bold. While living large you may feel compelled to use your women and children more like props than actors on the stage of your pampered world.
If your power is economic, you may need to dress like regular small business folk on the way to the quaint grand opening of a new five and dime, complete with soda fountain. Your appearance should reflect the business needs of your milieu, even if that means you too must look like you eat tons of that processed corn-shit you sell to us at everyday low prices.
Before I come back to them, I want to mention the customers. You may wholly or partly not realize it, but, if you are reading this, you are likely sitting or standing (pray not driving) in the Wholly Walton Empire. You won’t actually get to “[m]eet the 6 Walton Heirs at the [t]op of the Walmart [e]mpire,” but it is important to their tight hold on power in the U.S. that you and hundreds of millions of species-beings like you remain alienated and not develop class consciousness of them and moral consciousness of the ends and means of their empire.
Now back to our story …
The Walton family are just regular folk, plus lots of money and power. They are at the pinochle of a homestyle capitalist family built on the illusion of choice. They are mere country vendors.
Other small town folk make the stuff that they vend, which we stuff into our bodies and souls to the limit of our credit and physiological and psychological capacity to intake stuff.
These ultra rich “regular folk” use slick mercenary politicians from both U.S. ruling parties to carry out their policies in exchange for chump change and neoliberal-circumscribed political power implemented through the kabuki theatre of “aw shucks, pass me them taters” known as U.S. “democracy.” A broad spectrum of “regular folk,” sometimes already wealthy but usually not “ultra rich,” compete within this mercenary class. Enter folks like Jeb (make no mistake, Jeb does not come to Arkansas because he cares about education)
and “our” very own HRC.
Now what in tarnation does this have to do with Japan?
Nov 03 2014
Mexico has a lot more to be fearful of than its rural educators and those rural young people who try to make the best of things and both learn and fight to make a just society where students do not have to fight over bones with other students. However, to capitalists, naturally when a poor Latin American country is being destroyed by the capitalist drug war, after being weakened to the point of desperation by capitalist neoliberalism, after being exploited for nearly two centuries by the big neighbor to the north for purposes of capital accumulation, it is time to start changing the subject. Because, after all, Mexico’s problems, as we all know, emanate from the failure of its public school system. That darn Mexican public school system is slow to emulate the wise and knowing educational plans cooked up in conservative Washington think tanks to distract U.S. residents from their own systemic problems, which, among other things, create massive amounts of insecurity and stress which drive demand for legal and illegal hard drugs among U.S. residents, which provides the irrational rationale for the never ending, never succeeding drug war.
Capitalists are so darn smart, handsome, cuddly, and good (except when they get to murderin’ and such) that the Washington Consensus keeps rearing its dapper head–even if it means Mexican teenagers must now lose theirs, and faces too, after standing in solidarity with poor teachers who stand in solidarity with Mexico’s poor. But first, the U.S. Presidential Campaign of 1848 in a nutshell:
◾ Henry Clay, frustrated by Taylor’s popularity as Old “Rough and Ready,” the war hero of Buena Visita, sighed: “I wish I could slay a Mexican.” Don’t sell yourself short dear Henry dear Henry. The U.S. is the gift that keeps on giving–Freeeeeeeedom!
Ah yes, who can forget the son of Freeeeeeeedom, Zachary Taylor, Rumadum Dum? “He’s the boy can skin and beat ’em. … Everybody!” Sounds vaguely familiar, if you are the parent of a missing Mexican college student.
And who can forget the need for the accumulation of U.S. capital (why did Rosa Luxemburg have to go and talk about that?) in our neighbor to the south (which led to all that debt, which led to the Washington Consensus to get debtor nations out of debt so they can incur more debt), which led to resentment by Mexican landed gentry and capitalists, so that, to this day, the Mexican people totter between exploitation by foreign and domestic capitalists–when they are not dodging bullets, heh heh.
I digress (or do I?):
◾”Crisis in Mexico: Could Forty-Three Missing Students Spark a Revolution?” Well, yes, they could. But let’s consider the dry kindling to which the spark has been applied, shall we?
We in the U.S. “know” all about the drug violence. Hell, we know a lot about Mexico. We “know” about the dirty water, heh heh.
Little known in the U.S. is that some Mexican teachers want SYSTEM CHANGE and are paying for it with their careers and even their lives.
“Those thousands of teachers you see blocking the streets of the City have the courage millions of workers in other industries have not had in recent years.”
Mexico City August 30, 2013.
L, the logo of the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE), the leftist teachers’ group working in Mexico’s poor southern states which is the radical offshoot of the sell-out Mexican teachers’ union, SNTE:
Radical teachers’ syndicate returns to Mexico City streets
School strike in Oaxaca, Chiapas enters sixth week, as far left union continues disrupting the capital …
SNTE demands firing of CNTE teachers
In a related development today the president of another educators’ union, the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE), called for all CNTE strikers to be fired immediately in accord with the just enacted reforms. The new laws provide that any school teacher who fails to show up in the classroom for three consecutive days will be automatically terminated. In Oaxaca state alone 74,000 CNTE teachers have not worked a single day since the new school year opened on Aug. 19, but none have been dismissed. SNTE staged its own work stoppage in Yucatán in early September, but members very responsibly returned to the classroom a week later after reaching an agreement with the PRI state government. “There are thousands of teachers looking for work who would love to fill those spots so children can return to classrooms,” SNTE’s president noted in a public appeal.
CNTE is a splinter group that broke off from SNTE in 1979. Since then union leaders have taken the membership down an increasingly radical political course, often far removed from educational issues.
So reported the conservative Mexico GulfReporter.com over a year ago (http://www.mexicogulfreporter.com/2013/10/radical-teacher-syndicate-returns-to.html)
CNTE provided not only a courageous voice on the streets but also a detailed and thoughtful analysis (Note: the analysis is 218 pages long, so don’t open it if you are in a hurry and don’t read Spanish or wish to use a Translator) of neoliberal educational reforms implemented as part of Mexico’s implementation of the Washington Consensus. And it was a lesson the students of Ayotzinapa learned. The “background” for the students’ own protests and resulting kidnapping was the earlier, and continuing, protesting by the CNTE, joined in solidarity by the sympathetic students.
In an especially chilling twist, the violence seems to have been partly set in motion by the students’ plans to travel to the capital for the commemoration of modern Mexico’s most notorious incident of political violence: the Tlatelolco massacre of Oct 2, 1968.
The Tlatelolco slayings took place 10 days before the opening of the Olympic games in Mexico City. After days of anti-government demonstrations, police and soldiers opened fire on a group of protesters, killing dozens or possibly hundreds. The massacre has been a rallying cry for rights activists and student radicals ever since.
In Iguala, a group of 80 to 120 students from the local teaching college gathered Sept 26 to demonstrate against education reforms and to raise money for their trip to Mexico City.
At the end of the day, they allegedly forced their way onto three buses. It’s unclear if they intended to commandeer them for a trip back their college or all the way to Mexico City.
Could capitalist divide and rule be backfiring in Mexico? Is this marching, so solemn and sad, part of the march to real “freedom,” not U.S.-mandated freedom to be hungry and hopeless at home or invisible and hated on the streets of the U.S.? Where oh where are our leftist divisions in a potentially-revolutionary time like this? Can “WE” finally start sharing our hard-won quasi-jurisdictions and terms of art? E.g., dirt poor Trotskyite teachers, “of all people,” sending of what little they have to provide anarchist-like “mutual aid” to the suffering families of Ayotzinapa, as Zapatistas also now overtly struggle with their non-agrarian comrades.
The mass crime of the 43 missing students and related murders of students may, in its enormity, reinforce efforts to unite the serious Mexican left, something which has not been achieved for much of Mexico’s post-Spanish-independence history. Tragically, over a hundred years ago, agrarian anarcho-communist ancestors of the present-day Zapatistas were rebuffed partly because they did not fully understand factory worker demands but also because many urban anarcho-syndicalists would not accept the Catholic religious traditions of their rural comrades. (For an excellent review of Mexican revolutionary history, focused on 1870-1920, see http://www.selfed.org.uk/node/…
Meanwhile, “I” search for the clicker, and I like think, in between doses of my favorite mind-numbing substance:
What? Mexico is too far away from Nowheresville for me to give a damn (except when it is invading our sacred border, now at the Rio Grande, with Ebola-carrying brown people). Who is Trotsky anyway? Zapatistas? And “anarchy” sounds bad, almost, uh, “Mexicany.” What the hell is “mutual aid”? I got your mutual aid right here. Get me my AR-quince!
“I” may be about to learn a lot more about Mexico and revolution south of the border.
Please go below for a brief caveat from this writer sitting comfortably numb north of the border, far even from Mom’s Opa-Locka, finally trying not to be another brick in the wall.