Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Capital is afraid of their own economic system

The response to HRC's recent comments regarding who creates jobs has been interesting.

http://m.wsj.com/articles/BL-WB-50148

In a market economy, consumers create jobs. Business does everything in their power in order to not create jobs (e.g. raise productivity of current workforce), as labor is a major expense, and is only forced to when demand overwhelms capacity. I thought this was market economics 101?

She was posturing, trying to fend off Elizabeth Warren, to be sure, but capital is so afraid of this basic fact (which at least in theory gives the rabble some power) it gets buried in hyperbole. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Once secret but now available documents show that people like Anne Applebaum are intellectual hacks of the worst kind

It seems the sole purpose of people like Anne Applebaum is to warn educated and engaged liberals (you know, the kind that read "The Atlantic" and 'The New Yorker") about allowing their ideology to stray too far from bourgeois comfort zones. Make your home in identity politics, vague and self-righteous notions of human rights, hell, maybe even support a national health service, but by god make sure you don't start talking about property relations because then before you know it you'll wake up, look in the mirror, and you'll have a big bushy mustache and be starving Ukrainian peasants!

Of course, some new found information (you always find it in the last place you look! Doh!) always will pop up to ensure you that Stalinism was indeed purely ideological and there is, of course, a straight line from Marx's "workers of the world unite" to Stalin's "socialism in one country." No pragmatism there. No, none whatsoever. The Communist International notoriously switching from promotion of world revolution to suppression of it? Yes, well that was well understood to be a purely ideological move, based on Marx's (although probably largely ghostwritten by Engels) polemic "How to Keep Some Guy Who Hasn't Been Born Yet Named Stalin in Total and Complete Power."

You know, in order to understand societies based on classical liberalism, nuance is ok. Yes, our development was based on genocide and slavery, but freedom of speech and Iphones and stuff. Yes, they went from a backwards peasant society to first in space in a couple generations but everything about it was BAD. BAD. BAD. BAD. And that was because of IDEOLOGY. Get it yet? Even with lots of the same people running things the same way in the post-Soviet states, the people are much better off because they lost the ideology.

Thanks Anne, because of you I can't have a decent conversation, with proper historical context, without a liberal (or anarchist for that matter) feeling it necessary to drown the baby in the bathwater violently in front of me. Yes, fuck Stalin, I'm with you, but if you can still pull some feelings of hope out of the glimmer in lady liberty's eyes (I'm with you on that too) let's talk about ideology, history, and politics like well-rounded adults that understand life is full of contradictions. That's why anything about everything is fucking complicated. Reductionist punditry of this sort is taken serious by powerful people, and therefore far more reactionary than what comes from punching bag buffoons like Bill O'Reilly. So let's stop thinking these people are fucking geniuses because they write in the New York Review of Books and can find other countries on a map. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Soldier Policeman


The events in Ferguson Missouri have me thinking about former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his infamous “Midnight Crew.” While much has been made about the militarization of the police regarding body armor and Humvees, not so much has been said about what certainly can be seen as a shared mentality, even identity, between the soldier and the police officer. Burge brought the Phoenix Program from Vietnam to Chicago and tortured people (black men of course) freely for decades. Certainly this was a militarization of the police.

A couple years ago the Obama Administration made a conscious effort to get war veterans into police uniforms. For the first time since its creation the Justice Department’s grant program “Community Oriented Policing Services,” or COPS, (one wonders how long it took them to come up with words that fit the acronym) required cities to hire only veterans with the federal money. Just like Black Hawk helicopters, we have a bunch of them and have no clue what to do with them. With the Department of Veterans Affairs in shambles, it is easier to give them the same weapons with a new uniform, and a new enemy.

In a paper done by the Naval Center for Combat and Operational Stress Control specifically dealing with the question of war veterans going into law enforcement after PTSD diagnoses, it was concluded “PTSD is not generally an automatic disqualification for employment with law enforcement agencies.” Furthermore, “several agencies, including the Seattle Police Department and California Department of Forestry, stated that they had hired individuals with histories of PTSD, although most agencies alluded that they had as well.”

People fighting in unnecessary wars overseas come back to find the only marketable skills they have are put to use fighting unnecessary wars at home. Our industrial complexes, both prison and military, aren’t so far apart.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

C > I

Back in 2008 I wrote the following description of an exercise I took part in while I attended an immigrant rights coalition meetings-

The moderator, in all seriousness, had us draw a flower. Our flower needed at least four large petals, with a smaller petal drawn inside the outline of the larger one. We were then to label each petal. One should be race, one gender, one whether or not English is our mother tongue, and one marking our social class (which wasn't talked about much, if at all). If you are white, male, and speak English, then you were to fill in the outer layer of your flower petals. This means you are an 'exploiter' in these areas. If you are female, non-white, and learned a language besides English when you were young, then you were to fill in the inner layer of the petals. You are "exploited." 

I went on to make a basic point that should be obvious to any socialist, or anyone on the left for that matter. Succinctly put: while both are important, class ultimately trumps identity. The people who facilitated the meeting saw the post and confronted a friend of mine, who was much more active in the coalition than I, about it. Briefly put, they were activists looking to make a career out of that sort of thing and had no interest in challenging fundamental social relations that privileged local business owners they considered "allies" (nevermind those business owners had no problem paying immigrants poverty wages). He is an immigrant worker who, gasp, thought they actually might be trying to help him and had no illusions whatsoever in capitalism being anything other than what it was in his home country.

The recent bout of identity politics gone wild over a Jacobin piece reminded me of the above episode. I won't recap, as for some goddamned reason I spent a good couple hours staring at tweets and blog posts and facebook updates and smoke signals, and going over it again could ruin my brain, but Fredrik Deboer's excellent blog provides the context.

Just so I'm clear, let me say again identity issues are important. Extremely important. Some of the most important progressive advances in human history have involved issues of identity. In specific situations it's more important than class. (You aren't likely to be the victim of a hate crime because of your class.) But, if you want to not only change society but create a new one, you have to use a tool that can't be co-opted by the ruling class. This has been understood, in various degrees, by the radical left since the original Jacobins.

What's really troubling here, aside from the prose of this stubbornly awful sniveling, is the discussion that was and will be taking place. This isn't a nuanced discussion on the relationship between class and identity with people more or less on the same side, it's a new version of red-baiting. Call it red-baiting 2.0. These people are not interested at all in changing the status quo. On the contrary, they are interested in becoming a more integral part of the status quo, the smiling and accepting face of neoliberalism. I suppose it's not too surprising all villains aren't as cartoonish as the Koch brothers and Fox News, and it's certainly not news neoliberalism has a "left" wing, but I was a bit surprised at the overt and obvious intent to attack Jacobin (and the left in general). Even the pretense of a semi-serious discussion was missing. I will be surprised no longer.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

What is to be done? No, seriously, what is to be done? Or, the Revolution will not be televised, but it will be streaming on Netflix!

It seems like a month can't go by without us being able to watch a revolution unfold. They are unsurprisingly chaotic, and completely and utterly destroying the idea that a spontaneous, leaderless, movement can take (or abolish) state power. That's the formula right now. Camp out in the city square and soon enough there will be a confrontation which eventually might create enough havoc to shutdown your country. Sure, this sort of "general strike," if we want to call it that, can throw state power up for grabs, but that just makes it easy for any organized social force with even a tad bit of popular support to step in and snatch it. Often times it is simply the opposition political party that has positioned itself to be at the right place at the right time. (If this is the case, you guys might as well have a "managed" democracy like us. Sure it's boring, but less people die. You need not ask who controls the state if you just want to know who controls the government.)

The Arab Revolutions are a mess. The Egyptian military is back in power. Libya is run by militias. Tunisia, which started the whole thing, is looking like the best of the lot, although some political assassinations nearly caused a spiral into chaos last year. Syria is a mess, as nasty bastards like Bashar-al Assad would shoot a kid in the face if it meant a minute more of political power. (It doesn't help matters that the most dedicated fighters in the Free Syrian Army appear to also be jihadist nutjobs.)

It looks like the unfortunately named "gas princess" is out of jail and ready to take charge of the bizarre Ukrainian opposition, which apparently has pro-west liberals holding hands with open fascists in order to topple a dickhead Russian-backed oligarch.

It's a slight relief to read about Venezuela where the forces of revolution and counterrevolution are, despite the media's best efforts, easy enough to decipher. There is an unmistakable class consciousnesses in Latin America that has a lot to do with the obscenely overt rule of that region's flamboyant, and violent, ruling class. 

I realize it's rather *privileged to write about such life and death situations from a position of comfort. But the only thing worse than snark from afar is self-righteous anecdotal proclamations about supposed truths from inside the fray. I think Marx, or maybe just some Marxists, significantly underestimated how hard people will cling to social identities. *Eventually it sets in, but shit, how many Americans making $30,000 a year still think they have more in common with their boss than the person who cleans the office? "We're both from the midwest!" Add more poverty, weak state structures, ancient religious arguments that have morphed into ethnic differences, etc., and you have a recipe for a gigantic mess.

This is the part where every leftist analysis says something like "correct leadership of the working class is needed to usher in a world socialist revoution!" Ok, sounds good. But I'm going to add a precursor, which is probably just as daunting- historical progression is not guaranteed. We have to fight for it. Do we do that through tiny "Leninist" groups all trying to poach the most politically conscious people from one another, or do we combine forces based on the 99% of ideas we all agree on? I'd say the latter. We have a whole group of people, who outnumber us by the millions, who still think that a limited social democracy is the best possible result for the future. And they are the ones with good politics. We've got our work cut out for us.

*I hate that fucking word in this sort of context, but try talking to an overeducated liberal who thinks they're a leftist without them belching it out- because it's always the answer to the question you weren't asking.

*I'm realizing that this "eventually people will realize they're being exploited" is an act of faith not terribly different than believing in a messiah coming, or coming back, to save all humankind.