Monday, September 26, 2005

Working Class Hero is Something to Be

Watched my 49ers go down to ignominious defeat yesterday but in my over-analytical way was more fascinated by the working class crowd at the local sports bar, the baseball caps and facial hair and solidarity built around A SPORTS TEAM. The interminable commercials focus on large breasts, sleek cars (one and the same?) and these ultra-violent computer war games who's existence , in my pop culture ignorance, I was totally unaware of. psycho- social explanations needed please. World-historical if possible, ha ha.

Also attended an anti-war rally in Missoula ,not exactly the same energy as a DC event but I don't want to disparage the heart and spirit of the hard core who stood in the cold drizzle. These are the ones we can count on for the long haul, and struggle is nothing if not a long haul.

Prof. Adolph Reed Jr. says it incredibly well in The Nation :...liberal's fear of seeming irresponsibly combative and their commitment to the primacy of corporate and investor -class interests will lead them to aid and abet the short-circuiting of whatever transformative potential this moment ( the aftermath of Katrina ) has. To para phrase historian Barbara Fields, race is a language through which American capitalism's class contradictions are commonly expressed. The only hope we have...lies in finding ways to build a broad movement of the vast majority of us who are not part of the investor class.

Check his article Class-ifying the Hurricane, Id link it if I had a friggin clue how to run this wierd machine. He is a member of the interim national council of the Labor Party and obviously a fellow traveller.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Freedom of Choice

Every single person in this valley in western montana is driving a huge , white pickup. A few started showing up last year, monstrous things with crew cabs and duelies with hyper- masculine names from the alaskan wilderness, you know, Yukon and Tundra and crap like that. And they just caught on like wildfire, it is now THE status symbol of choice and despite the fact many of these knucleheads have to take out second mortgages just to fill the tank they are totally de rigeur. I should mention there is also lots of new money here and four dollar a gallon gas for them means theyll only be able to travel in Tuscany for a month this year, but my real point is just how funny it is in our consumer culture that every good patriotic republican here is willing to lay down his life for the right to express his own ,unique individuality and what do they do, by God they buy the exact same truck, live in the exact same suburban ranchstyle house, where the same damn clothes etc.. But dread the commernist nightmare of having to do things collectively, of having to share, of having to look the same.... This rant is dedicated to Steel Magnolia and Andy Rooney.

PS Bravo to the pilot of that Jet Blue who landed that plane so sublimely. Good news is sweet.

Pressure Under Fire

Perhaps the hardest part of this blogging is coming up with clever titles. And now I have the added pressure of appearing "brilliant"! (just kidding extra dry with a splash, thanks)
Americans everywhere wishing they had stock in peanut butter companies as that product disappears from the shelves in Houston and Galveston supermarkets. Hey, what's wrong with making a little money off misery, right? Bottled water is up fifty points! And look at how on top of the situation old GW Bush is, all he needs is a practice run and he's right up to speed. I expect an invasion of Iran would go much smoother than this Iraq (remember that place our young people are fighting ,Katie Couric? ) debacle now that a few of the bugs have been worked out.

Seriously now. A truly brilliant essay by Giovanni Arrighi in the Mar/Apr. New Left Review takes a "reality based approach"to, as opposed to the delusional neo-con vision of ,"The Project for a New American Century" www.newamericancentury.org. (Some of you might remember Henry Luce's "The American Century") Titled Hegemony Unravelling Arrighi argues that "we may be seeing the terminal crisis of US hegemony", and this is before the horrible out of control spin the war in Iraq has now taken. Unintended consequenses of this disastrous policy include but are not limited to : extension of the" Viet Nam Syndrome" ( the superpower got it's ass handed to it again?) strenghtening of Irans position(oops), a trajectory in which US hegemony is eclipsed by China (East Asian holdings of US treasuries total more than 1.1 TRILLION dollars) and the related loss of the "global oil spigot, and thus over the global economy.
All and all a huge 'well done' to the Bush team!

The big question then becomes : Why would the greatest capitalist power in world history need to develop a military apparatus of unparralleled and unprecedented destructiveness? Why bomb them when we could just let them shop their way into our "sphere of influence"? To answer this ,Arrighi looks to the work of David Harvey ( The New Imperialism) and his description of capitalist imperialism consisting of an often contradictory (dialectical) fusion of the territorial logic of power ( in which the command over territory and resources constitutes the basis of the pusuit of power ie. bombs ) and the capitalist logic of power where command over economic power does the same. Bear with me. Over accumulation of capital is the critical, essential crisis of capitalism and Harvey tells us resolution lies in the "spatial fix" or the production of space in which to expand. Good Morning Viet Nam, Iraq, etc..

Another Big question: Is "over-extension" inevitable as hegemonic states attempt to maintain their position in relation to endless capital accumulation ? Or, if the US cannot manage the global economy what form of state or states can? Here we use Gramsci's definition : hegemony as the ADDITIONAL power that accrues to a dominant group by virtue of it's capacity to lead society in a direction that not only serves the dominant groups interests but is also PERCIEVED (we are going to talk more about Spectacle) by subordinate groups as serving a more general interest.

Big Problems for US: These" spatial fixes" involve interregional volatility ( Shumpeters "creative destruction") such as the de-industrialization of the American heartland. What Marx called "the annihilation of space through time" ( what was he smoking way back then?) Anyway, guess where capital is rebuilding that infrastructure, where is it creating that fix ? Exactly, China.
Meanwhile, back in Iraq, bombing our way to Empire is not going so good, hence the CONTRADICTION between hegemony and unrestrained capital flows. It aint light reading, but it is fascinating.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

More Fear

In a great Nation article (Sept.26 05) Corey Robin argues that "many liberals have concluded that evil in the world is so titanic that only US power can deliver us from it." Sound familiar Norm Geras, Chris Hitchens, Paul Berman etc? This "new" liberalism according to Michael Ignatieff "rests less on hope than on fear, less on optimism about the human capacity for good than on dread of the human capacity for evil, less on a vision of man as maker of his history than of man the wolf toward his own kind." Is this your liberalism Wiser Man than I?

So we need to not only overcome fear but aquire "an ideologically grounded hope for progress." . Richard Rorty :once liberals realize that they are "more afraid of being cruel than of anything else" they need not worry about more utopian goals. And yet these same liberals have hitched their wagon to the Great American Adventure, militarily democratizing the planet.What gives? These fearful liberals have decided to export revolution to the far flung corners of the globe in order to evade it here at home. In my own opinion, "liberalism is a bankrupt project, hopelessly compromised by it's alliance with capital and indulgence of empire." Frederick Douglass said it well in 1852 "Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocricy, America reigns without a rival."

"If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who posess power without compassion, might without morality and strenghth without sight" Martin Luther King

"for totalitarian is not only a terroristic political coordination of society but a non-terroristic economic-technical coordination which operates through the manipulation of needs by vested interests". Herbert Marcuse

We have nothing to fear but fear itself

Negroes With Guns

What is the most frightening thing to the white American psyche ? Thats right, pissed off armed black people roaming the streets. Shades of Nat Turner, Malcom X and Huey Newton, Watts and Detroit. Buried in the din of the "newly opened discussion on race and class" is this very spectre which is the driving motivational fear of a large segment of our population. The police in the township across the bridge from New Orleans fired over the heads of people tryng to escape the flooded chaos, to turn them back and keep THEIR community safe. The horror movie you could never make : Negoes with guns sweep through the nation, freeing their brothers who have been locked up by the tens of thousands in the prisons, the inner cities erupt, wives and daughters... you get the picture.

The pictures of the storm as it swept in, very frightening, awesome indeed. Pictures of the people huddled and terrified, very sad and provoking righteous indignation (why doesnt somebody help those people!) , pictures of the looters ,armed thugs, snipers , buried in the unconscious with no real emotional outlet. Lets talk about race and class, for real.

Check out Jose Saramago's novel Blindness.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Potpourri

All the news reports I saw last night portrayed the breakthrough on nuclear proliferation as a sudden concession by the N.Koreans, with all credit given to the Bush administration for it's negotiating prowess. The way I understand it , the US conceeded to N.Korean demands to develope light water nuclear power, as is their right, and has committed resources to help feed and power the country as well as to not attack it. Questions. How much resources? In a time of enormous national debt. Will the US rejoin the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty process? Did this agreement come about because Bush is now in such a weakened position? Did the news people get instructions to put a positive spin on it? Will the ultra-conservatives back an agreement Bolton couldnt do but Condi could, with this member of "the axis of evil"?

We feel that as fellow citizens we should be donating to help the people of New Orleans. Don't we already donate a bunch as tax payers to a government that should be spending money on helping it's citizens rather than building weapons, invading countries, subsidizing corporations etc? Shouldnt the obscenely wealthy give up their tax cuts to be put into a hurricane clean up fund?

Pete Dominiechi of New Mexico thinks there might be something to this global warming thing, though he takes pains to remind us many scientists still have doubts. The most important source for information here in the West is a guy with a noon time radio show named Paul Harvey. A right -wing shill, he has been poh-poohing global warming for decades. As did Ronald Reagan on his radio show, listened to by the masses here in the vast countryside of America. The blue collar workers (of which I am one) sit eating their brown bag lunches listening to these guys tell them that liberal intellectuals and East Coast (read Jewish) bunny huggers are the source of all their misery.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Reply to A Wiser Man Than I

Being one of the more thoughtful bloggers to engage me in this cyber spatial discourse, I want to provide an equally thoughtful response to your questions regarding my ideology and viewpoint and also thankyou for the somewhat rare , civil tone of your comments. It would seem at first blush that we have fundamental disagreements as to what constitutes "progress"in terms of historical development and human social conditions but this may be decieving, may in fact be more a product of labels and symbols and terminology than real opposition.

Your basic question has to do with my obviously radical beliefs and how I might effect changes given the modern "realm of necessity" and it's seemingly insurmountable blockages to the revolutionary project to which I subscribe. Somebody recently said "praxis is now an enigma".Yes indeed, the last seventy years has seen the movement for an international workers party eviscerated , due to some terrible mistakes in both theory and action. On these points the Left owes everyone a huge apology and a reckoning of those mistakes in detail is in order. Stalin was a tyrant, probably "evil", though I struggle somewhat with that word. Ho Chi Mihn, Mao, Nasser, and all the other "leaders" turned dictator or ideologue , teaches us something of the razors edge separating revolutionary struggle from fascist despotism. Some even attempt to include Hitler and Milosevich in the panapoly of discredited socialist leaders, a fine piece of propoganda, if false. I understand any distrust of the Left carried over from this last, brutal, blood spattered century.

But this notion of "dustbin of history" is to me an unscientific way of approaching past epochs and within each of the struggles these figures represent there is a matrix of cause and effect requiring a great deal of study and analysis before they are relegated to a place, much less a dustbin, in history. As Edward Said and others have taught, controlling the dominant narrative is the highest expression of imperialism, once our minds have been colonized the power has been projected without a shot having been fired. This is where the more modern concept of "The Spectacle", best expressed by Debord, comes into play with the New Imperialism and it's imperative to translate over-accumulated capital into some type of "fix". All of this to say, there is much modern theoretical work going on right now, much of it very exciting. There is a great deal of organizing and agitating going on right now, in areas such as global justice, human rights, environmental justice etc. There are many struggles against various forms of oppression going on right now, there is a huge global peace movement and all these factions are beginning to make linkages between themselves and the structural and systemic roots of their various causes, many of which, as Marx astutely pointed out, are economic in nature. In other words, we aint goin in no dustbin.

As to the question ,"what is to be done" or as you put it , what small changes can we hope to effect, knowing that we cannot overthrow capitalism overnight. Though you wouldnt know it by reading mainstream media, socialists are everywhere. There are still trade unionists who know exactly what the struggle is about, there are many more who still need to be organized. We have a long and proud tradition with many heroes but the schools don't teach it, the radio doesnt play our songs and the tv news won't mention our activities. General Electric owns NBC. (you get the point) Though sectarian factionalism plagues the movement, there are many parties and organizations, Communist, Socialist, Maoist , Marxist-Leninist etc.. who educate and demonstrate and are building a student movement, there are brilliant scholars and intellectuals working to adapt theory to contemporary issues but most importantly there is a mass groundswell of moral indignation at the denigration of basic liberal values which so many people around the globe believe exemplify the progress of mankind. For these well meaning "progressives", militarization, vast inequalities in opportunity and huge disparities in wealth are causing them to question bourgeois "democracy" and question authority, priveledge, wealth and power. What I do is constantly and at every chance possible point out to people the basic contradictions and immoral aspects inherent within the capitalist system and point them ,depending upon their development, to resources where they can learn more, to areas where they can become active and to likeminded comrades where they can find solidarity. Although I realize "liberal reforms" and electoral politics are a shadow game, they provide a space where i can interact with my fellow citizens and try to educate. For example, I worked on the Kerry campaign in several states and some local campaigns here in Montana knowing full well those figureheads are just part of the Spectacle but taking every opportunity to discuss capitalism with all the good liberals I meet. Lenin spoke of the unwillingness of Marxists to engage in the "realm of necessity" as "Left -wing infantilism" . Marx did not try to predict when the "rupture" of capitalist forces would occur, he did teach us to be ready and what signs to look for.

So what is a Libertarian to do in these times? Do your candidates hope to control the power of corporations? Do you hope to cut military spending? The few Libertarians I know who can articulate their views seem to have a great deal of faith in Friedman and the Market but at least they havent been bullied away from a vision of a better world. Call it idealistic or Utopian if you like, the courage to dream is diametrically opposed to the fear- based world view so in vogue now and is at the core of a humanistic spirituality so needed on our planet.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Movement

Hey Tim and Kevin, sign up and tell me what you think.

Sept.24 anti-war demonstrators ONCE AGAIN take to the streets to exercise the right to dissent that marks our democratic system. Not. Ive been marching since 1969 and it has absolutely no effect on the decision by the ruling class to go to war. Yes, marches help to mobilize and energize and even educate people but it seems to me we need to be organizing to stop the NEXT war and ALL war and that means changing the focus from certain politicians or certain policies to an examination and protest about the system which fosters not only war but poverty, racism and environmental destruction. You guessed it, capitalism.

Martin Luther King was on the right track when he organized the Poor Peoples March. One good that can come of the tragedy on the Gulf Coast is that poverty in the "wealthiest nation in history" is once again in the spotlight. Remember Johnsons War On Poverty ? We lost.

"The dispossed of this nation, the poor, both white and Negro, live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize a REVOLUTION against that injustice, not against the lives of the persons who are their fellow citizens, but against the STRUCTURES through which the society is refusing to take means which have been called for, and which are at hand, to lift the load of poverty."
Martin Luther King Jr.

Read a thousand conservative blogs, editorials, commentaries etc and tell me if you ever see SYSTEMS or STRUCTURES mentioned once.

MLK again, in 1968 :

"... the crisis we face is international in scope.In fact it is inseperable from an international emergency which involves the poor, the dispossesed, and the exploited of the whole world. We in the West must bear in mind that the poor countries are poor primarily because we have exploited them through political or economic colonialism. Americans in particular must help their nation repent of her modern economic imperialism."
This is what the demonstrations on the 24th should be calling for. Repentence.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Two Bums

Bloggers on the right are busy reminding us that poor people/ black people need to "take responsibility" for their situation. Funny how the priveledged ones are such great supporters of a Meritocracy and find character faults to be the underlying cause of poverty and racism. What history? What structures, what institutions? What, me worry? They won't say it in so many words but they certainly imply that God is on their side. Here's a poem by Fryin Pan Jack, an old, radical hoboe. A "rod" is the under structure of an old railroad car.

The bum on the rods is hunted down as an enemy of mankind
the other is driven to his club, is feted ,wined and dined
And they who curse the bum on the rod as the essence of all thats bad
will greet the other with a winning smile and extend the hand so glad
The bum on the rods is a social flea who gets an occasional bite
the bum on the plush is a social leech, blood sucking day and night
The bum on the rods is a lone sole light whose weight you can scarcely feel
but it takes the labor of dozens of folks to furnish the other a meal
As long as we sanction the bum on the plush the other will always be there
but rid ourselves of the bum on the plush and the other will dissapear
And make an intelligent , organized kick, get rid of the wasted crush
don't worry about the bum on the rods, get rid of the bum on the plush

I was having dinner with a couple of "bums on the plush" the other night and this one was going on about the great "work ethic" her black housekeeper had. This in the middle of a discussion about the deplorable actions of the looters in New Orleans. This fat, elitist who had never done an honest days work in her life, was so moved by this blacks hard work she would sometimes give her a ride to the bus stop. This was proof that not all of "them" were lazy. This "blood sucking leech" is looting the rest of the planet with every breath of good air she wastes.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Enviro- Labor Split

"Nature is the natural substratum from which wealth is also created; contemporously with human labor"
I cannot remember if Engles said this or some other equally smart theorist but it matters not, should it be true ( I believe it is) the struggle for labor justice becomes a natural ally of environmentalists and vise versa. "Ones struggle against oppression (environmental justice) is meaningless unless it is connected to the oppression of others" (Alice Walker). CONNECTED. They in fact become critical components of one anothers struggle. the issue of environmental justice cannot be seperated from the issue of habitat degradation and preservation.

Substratum in this case does not denote an order of lesser importance but instead refers to the base or foundation existing in the same time frame or continuim and having the same,equal presence as labor.
Because the riches of the natural world, mineral, water,flora, fauna etc. were bestowed upon all mankind to be shared in equal parts and measure the withholding and hoarding of the wealth created from these resources is thievery. Same in every way as the theivery committed each time the capitalist extracts profit from the exploitation of anothers labor.
It is in this sense that the wronged parties (the working class) find common cause and overlapping of purpose and logically , it would seem, of membership. Yet we find bougeois values and afliliation amongst so called conservationists and distrust of earnest environmentalists by the working class in general. This must be ended and organizational efforts increased.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Anarchy

I always prefer to let events settle a bit before attempting a full scale analysis. The situation in New orleans has plenty of class and race implications waiting to be explored. The narrative being formed will also be interesting to watch develop.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Liberal Media

Like Rush and Hannity, I'm wondering why the Liberal Media does'nt talk about all the good news coming out of New Orleans and Mississippi ? Surely there must be some toilets flushing in the outlying areas. Just like they do in Iraq, it's just nattering nabobs of negativity (Thanks Spiro Agnew) and spreading malaise and they never talk about all the puppies and popsicles and cute things.