Tuesday, April 30, 2002
Saturday, April 27, 2002
This article's legitmacy depends on the truthfulness of a certain type of perspectivism,
but I really hope that it rises above what latter day Nietszcheans have produced. But like them it focusses a lot on the roots of the percieved problems, hopefully the roots are not contradicted too much by the leaves, as it were.
This is a very technical article, but, one that I feel is necessary. I, an anonymous individual, have made some attacks on Mike Albert and Z over the years on this wire, and I think that I’m obligated to go deeper into them for the purpose of enhancing collective understanding. I see the unorthodox Marxism of Albert as being premised on sociology as opposed to anthropology. What does this mean? Well, first it means that Albert has sought to go beyond traditional Marxist analysis by including concerns that are addressed most forthrightly in the writings of Max Weber, the founder of modern sociology. Weber located sociology within the spectrum of social sciences as the analysis of groups of individuals and of why those groups form and why they act in the ways they act. To turn analysis of society to these concerns he developed an approach, which from here will be termed his Typology or his typological approach, which analyzed social groups on the basis of abstracted ideal forms. These forms were abstracted from an analysis of what would be considered normal human interactions, and then the forms abstracted were linked together analytically to form a typological scheme which explained the pattern of ideal forms, why they were there, etc...
What Weber didn’t do was a functional analysis, which is an analysis which organizes social phenomenon based on a percieved social function that they serve in relation to some other objective phenomenon. This approach is much closer to Marxism than is Weber’s typological approach, which proceeds more from the German school of history inspired by Hegel.
The advantage of adding Weberian analysis to a Marxian or a Marxian and Functionalist scheme is that through Weber social phenomenon can be dealt with without having to resolve them into their function in the scheme of things, a la Emile Durkheim, or by reducing them to causality vis a vis the economy, a la Marx. Both approaches limit the social phenomenon that can be considered within a picture of the world, and both shut out the possibility of examining the relationships of social phenomenon in and of themselves, without the requirement that they be resolved into some bigger cause. This is the approach that Albert in his writings uses to try to get beyond the limitations of Marxism, or the percieved limitations, as I will argue.
The topic of books like “Liberating Theory” is how to make radical analysis more applicable to everyday life. Albert assumes a general humanistic sentiment, which says that what all forms of oppression have in common is their suppression of generic human fullfillment, as the base from which to work up a fuller theory. In the process he identifies several areas, Kinship, Community, Gender, Class, and others which seem to be social constants, meaning that these areas seem to ones that generate social relationships, which can either liberate or oppresss, without in turn being generated by other areas, like economics for example. By applying a Weberian approach to analysing how these given originary social relationships play out in today’s society Albert aims to identify features within these relationships that are in themselves social constants, or at least factors which aren’t totally historical, who’s permutations and possibilities provide the basis from which and attempt at liberation of the human within those areas can proceed from. This approach has the advantage of finding within the possibilities that society throws out the concrete relationships which would lead to liberation-there by breaching the barrier between generic humanistic talk about achieving self-actualization and the world in which people live. Albert also spends a lot of time trying to find a way of conceptualizing all these relationships which, on the one hand doesn’t account causality to any of them but on the other hand does not isolate each of the spheres from each other. The sum total of all of this, of rejecting monism and pluralism as it were, is a generic picture of society itself, in it’s dynamic relationships, and with it’s general social possibilities for liberation clearly spelled out.
While I admire the approach of identifying which social relationships beyond the economic are originary, there won’t ever be a time when Gender or Kinship won’t generate their own social relationships, I have to dissent strongly on the view that class can be subsumed within the general conception of originary concepts. I think that class is something more than just another social typology, that what this sociological analysis is missing is an awareness of anthropological relativism which the concept of class in Marxism provides. Anthropology is the study of human culture in general, whereas sociology is the study of the behavior of social groups within the general realm of a given overall culture.
Anthropology is conceptually prior to sociology, and I feel that Anthroplogical relativism undermines nicely arranged sociological typological schemes.
This, I feel, goes much farther than just assuming that various heterogeneous cultures can be explained by expanding the concept of typology to include various potential alternate typologies which would reflect variant historical experience. I thinik that human culture and human relationships contribute to an overall conceptual cast to individuals within a culture that escapes analysis of the motives of individuals acting alone and in various social groups. Furthermore, I think that this conceptual cast that culture gives to people is only resolvable by the use of higher order concepts which deal with human culture as a subject in and of itself and not just as a background for the action of social groups. These concepts bring an analysis of culture closer to the lived experience than do sociological models. The lived experience of culture A does not just include given social reltionships and institutions but also a cultural realm which posses great meaning which frames all of those social relationships, action, and institutions. So the difference between cultured A and B then is resolvable only through appeals to more general concepts, which are in turn closer to the lived experience of the individuals and groups than are sociological constructions. It follows from any thought about changing society in order to liberate the individual that it’s the lived experience which matters most, not the restricted institutional experience taken alone.
It could be argued that although all of this is true that it’s signifigance only lies with the aplication of liberatory concepts to cultures radically different from the culture which they originated in, i.e. adapting Marxist concepts for China and for Africa, or for indigenous people’s in South and North America. Surely within a culture there isn’t the difference in perception and in the lived experience which would warrant anthropological focus on the culture which both originated the theory and which has since generated capable sociology which already has analyzed the society in depth? This is where I think that Albert is wrong. I contend that the lived experience of class, the generation of class structure by society, is such that it has produced different anthropological viewpoints in people who exist within a given society, not just with those who live without. Following the young Marx of the Economic and Philosophical manuscripts I see the division of labor as responsable for generating widely different ideological variation among social classes as made possible by the widely different social experiences that occupying different places within the division of labor in society generates. Furthermore, I feel that the economic relationship sets the preconditions from which the secondary sociological relationships are generated. I also think that the economic relationship is the one which sets the tone for the other originary relationships, like Kinship, Gender, Commnity, etc.. It ‘sets the tone’ not in a monistic way but by establishing the basic framework through which the basic means of existance:Housing, food, support, are in turn determined by. Without these things, the things which economics provides, people cannot exist, whereas people are more than capable of existing in situations, like prision, where many of the sociological relationships are obliterated. Economics cannot be reduced out of the picture then. It would be hoped that the questions of “Who GetsWhat Where When and How?” would be resolved in a just way in any good society and that therefore the question of the means of existing would not lead to serious social divisions like I have described. I would argue against that that the immense wealth generated in the twentieth century was the exception, not the norm, and that the norm had been, and still is in most of the world, that of scarcity in the means of existence leading to struggles over it’s distribution which undoubtedly produce social divisions of anthropoligcal significance as a result.
I would argue also that the idea that the twentieth century brought in the era of Post-Scarcity is a flawed one, one that has unfortuanately been adopted into the New Left pantheon, because although total wealth has increased greatly the internal distribution of wealth within American society and within Western society in general has not changed in a way significant enough to eliminate the serious anthropological class divisions which have been inherited from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Post-Scarcity has not automatically manifested itself under the guise of liberal Keynesianism, and I strongly feel that socialism in the traditional sense is what is required to realize a post-scarcity society. I feel that the trend towards priveledging sociological analysis as opposed to anthropological analysis stems from the misunderstanding that the New Left had about the nature of the society that they lived in: they fealt that primary social problems like Class had been mitigated by the post-war welfare state and it’s ensuing economic prosperity and assumed that the only problems which persisted were secondary ones, sociological ones in relationship to the primary anthropological ones. The economic crisis in the mid seventies no doubt disabused many people of that notion.
But back to the question of an anthropological vs. sociological view of society. It should be obvious that I feel that though sociological analysis might move Marxism beyond facile monism and determinism that it itself can only have significance when predicated within a historically determined anthropological framework. From this the discussion naturally shifts into the differntial goals of the two approaches. I locate work and home as being primary locations for anthropology to start with. In terms of goals I feel that the class structure of society has produced a logic of it’s own which indicates the ways in which a goal of anthropological self-realization by all concerned can be generated: Workers are liberated in practice but constrained in their theoretical knowledge because of lack of support in those areas from school and society. The upper classes, on the other hand, have a surfeit of theory but have no practical connection to nature and to society, relationships which would be established through work. The lived experience, which is the anthropological experience, is also the practical or pragmatic experience: people might second guess what they believe later on but the living of life is conducted through the work of a person in their job and in their community, not within the realm of abstract speculation, what’s more there is a possible pragmatic approach to mental work as well. This seems to indicate that the working class experience, although bereft of the theoretical knowledge of the upper classes, can potentially acquire an even better pragmatic knowledge of intellectual things which supercedes the theoretical, traditional humanistic, mode of learning greatly. The upper classes, on the other hand suffer from the reverse problem: they are cut off from the work of society both physically and mentally, for them the pragmatic sphere is very limited so that people with dubious intellectual capabilities can be guaranteed to succeed. They probably will not be able to pick up the pragmatic connection to physical work with the ease that the workers formulate a pragmatic connetion to intellectual matters, and their prior programming with the Theoretical model is a serious count against they’re future potential.
Therefore, it seems that the working class has everything to gain by using it’s particular pragmatic anthropological setup to expand the worker’s experience, whether in the workplace by reskilling, in the home by having the opportunity of having better things, or in the community by becoming a better citizen, while the upper classes seemed ossified and only useful as potential members of the general crowd, as opposed to workers who will surely be the new high achievers. Capitalism, in this scheme, is seen as being a foreign ideology imposed on workers from the top down, on which has never been succesful in eliminating the working class because of the impossibility of taking the work out of working and therefore severing the natural pragmatic relationship between the worker and the world. The individualism of capitalism only makes sense to one of the bourgeois, never to the worker, unless of course that worker has bought into the upper classes values. But this itself never works to liberate the sell-out worker, precisely because while he may establish a sociological relationship with the upper class he’ll never share their anthropological background and will never, then, be accepted as one of their own. Individualism is based on class dominance, once the dominance of the upper class is destroyed capitalism itself will disappear. The real industrial potential of society has provided the means for the workers to realize their liberation in the way that is natural both to them and to humanity in general: through the pragmatic and technical relationship between man and work, between man and nature. Science and industry, work and the humanities, all can be approached without the individualistic ways of capitalism, but capitalism cannot live without industry. Therefore, liberation has to come not as a liberation accomplished within a given scheme of social groups but first as a liberation of a primary human anthropological perspective by a dominance by a fundamentally inhuman anthropological perspective. The workers, who have since the beginning of time been linked to the world through their work, can finally take over society and liberate the knowledge and resources which have been kept to them in the process of remaking society in a way which priveledges both hand and head in a pragmatic way.
As Marx said, or tried to say, the working classes are the agent which will change society: the goal of socialism is a class free society run on collective principles, but that has to come fafter the remaking of society from the worker’s perspective. Group liberation in the Anthropological perspective replaces, or at least supplements individual liberation, and the goal of liberation is correspondingly non individualistic: in place of demands for the exclusive individual come demands for a liberated quality of life and liberated set of basic social relationships, which will grow out of the liberation of the basic means of existing, the economic support of the individual, his commnity, his work experience, even his political experience, from the starvation imposed on them by the dominance of the bourgeois class and of capitalism. First should come the liberation of the lived experience, leading to a decrease in alienation in work by reskilling and worker’s self control, and also, as said above, by the liberation of the material constraints on the lived experience. Anthropological liberation therefore entails not just liberation of the economic underpinnings of a fulfilling lived experience but also of the social and cultural constraints to the natural assertion by individuals and natural groups of their own cultural creativity and sense of fulfillment.
Marx described as the goal of society in his “Introduction to a Contribution to the Critque of Political Economy” the freedom of people to radically redefine society in whatever way they wished. As he talks about culture in the same introduction it can be assumed that he meant cultural liberation as well. This goal can only be met by the liberation of the general human experience from both the economic and the social effects of capitalism by way of an anthropological liberation which opens up the opportunity for people to individually and collectively determine the content of their society on a deep way, issuing from the basic pragmatic relationship between man and the world realized through work and the struggles entailed in the process of living.
It’s a viewpoint which addresse the relativity of the human experience vis a vis what sort of ultimate meaning it has. In the sociological approach it’s taken as a given that even if these social relationships are just that, relationships between people, that their meaning and importance is only relatively displaced from what the actors involved think it is. In the anthropological experience society is taken as potentially meaningless outside of the human perspective, but nevertheless it’s realized that although this may be the case that it’s still important for people to live lives that are percieved by them to important psychologically and socially, and for this to be accomplished in a democratic and equal way, with due respect to the rest of the ecology of the world, etc...Maybe after that is accomplished we can see if this pragmatic experience of life really does lead us into an unknown understanding of the world or if it does just portend the pessimistic option. This anthropological awareness, liberation, etc...would not signal the end to history...it would not be an a-historical event, but what it would do would be to facillitate the liberation of historically oppressed cultural and social groups, liberation of regional culture, liberation of all that people naturally tend to see and act in accordance to but are prevented from doing by the dominance of the bourgeois class over society. Again, the goal that Marx outlined is a negative freedom: a freedom to which says that the best freedom to is the freedom to which is not limited by a verb being attached to the end of that phrase. A freedom to what? To do everything. And anything, within the expanded notion of the cultural and anthropological spheres.It does not prescribe what social experience should be the product of the realization of this freedom. Obviously this liberation takes place within human history, but, following Marx, the realization of this anthropological liberation would not be the end of history, but might possibly be the beginning of society’s true history, the first one which we all, collectively, get to decide according to natural inclination and equalized economic and liberated social dispositions.
How does this connect back to a critique of sociological Marxism? Simple, in that the anthropological sphere recognizes differences and priveledges various lived experiences that sociology does not. But, however, once this wonderful anthropological liberation is accomplished, I think that there will be a relative need to use Weberian sociology and other concepts of that sort, i.e. from political science, etc.. to flesh out insight into how further liberation within a given context might proceed. My feeling that sociological analysis like this portends to statism and dictatorship is based on the notion that treating history, non foundational, transitory social relationships as if they were naturally given on a deep level leads to the enforced exclusion of radical anthropological perspectives, like the ones that I’ve just outlined, which, if taken seriously, would question the entire scheme that society was based on. Therefore it’s my feeling that any sociological beefing up of Marxism would lead in practice to conservative repression based on the unvoiced anthropological
prejudices that the creaters of the sociological scheme were working on. This would cause a fundamental break between the base of the sociological scheme, the fulfillment of the human individual in all of his respects, and the means of achieving that goal, i.e. the discovery of basic ways of acting towards one another which would lead to liberation in their various spheres if acted upon. The basic sentiment is right, but the means for realization ignore fundamental factors which would render those means inconsistant with the basic goals of social transformation, meaning that the means are historical and positional and therefore without basic meaning. No doubt anthropology does not indicate that a radical Nietzschean perspectivism is what in this brave new world of anthropological liberation we would be left with. There are undoubtedly some social constant in the anthropological realm which would play themselves out in liberated practice, but if the structure determines the possible content, as it were, it does so in a much broader and historically determined way than the sociological analysis indicates, which takes the wind out of strict anthropological or sociological structuralism before the ship even gets out of the port. No doubt general sociological analysis of social relationships like Albert suggests would be very useful as a culturally, regionally, and historically, bounded supplement to the anthropological perspective, but I think that what would be more useful would be a broader sociological analysis which takes into account the wide variations between cultures and between classes and proceeds from there to make some gneral observations on the way that culture seem to create social groupings and relationships in general. That could serve as a grab bag for stimulating people to take possible action in their communities, where they could examine them, see what parts of them seem to correspond to relevant parts of the general body of insight, and then apply ideas in their own lives and in the lives of their communities if they think that they’re appropriate. Case studies instead of absolute studies. All of this essay is predicated on the idea that the requirements of economy which exist whenever it’s embedded in any social process have lead to the establishment of an anthropological situation which broadly mirrors Marx’s view of the Bourgeois vs. the Working Class on the whole, even though, of course the picture presented here is an abstracted and idealized one itself. Local variations and variant histories will no doubt modify and make richer this abstract model, and the model needs serious variation if it’s to be applied outside of America and Europe, as well as with regards to colonial relationships, but I think it’s a start at least for a generalized way of thinking about society liberated from both sloppy thinking and sociological relativity. Or I could just be a blow hard who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, you be the judge.
Wednesday, April 24, 2002
Tuesday, April 23, 2002
We're the only major western power that doesn't have a socialist party which participates in a relevant way in our political system. Even Canada has the New Democratic Party.
The reason, or at least one of the reasons, that I see for this is the accomadation of John Kenneth Galbraith and others to this idea of Keynesian liberalism. Galbraith started Americans for Democratic Action, an anti-communist liberal organization, in order to try to defend liberalism against the godless commies. ADA's influence, well, I'm not sure how far it went, but it was probably a factor in the Democrats closing ranks around a reduced political understanding which excluded large parts of New Deal type thought. As I've written below the New Deal was based in large part on socialist ideas, even if Roosevelt had trouble getting some of them through. His inaugural speech specifically made the claim that the free market would have to go away if that's what solving the Depression entailed.
It's interesting to think of some of Galbraith's concepts in light of the United Front period of the CPUSA in the forties. Galbraith, in "The Affluent Society", makes the claim that America was experiencing a tremendous amount of prosperity but that, unfortuanately, our public services aren't developing at the same rate as the rest of the economy, and (I think Galbraith touched on this and not just Michael Harrington) that there still are pockets of poverty, but that since we're so affluent we can afford in our largesse to take care of these problems by throwing money at them. Affluent society came out in...'59 I think. Compare this with the slogan that Earl Browder, head of the CP up to '46 was using from the time Russia entered the war: Communism is twentieth century Americanism. The CP was very adamant about it, and connected Lincoln, Jefferson, Walt Whitman, and others to what Communism meant then.
Browder was able to fill Madison Square Garden and get the CP a whole lot of legitamacy as well. How soon they forget....from Communism is Twentieth century Americanism to throwing a few bones out there for public services and the poor, quite a trip. The same could be said for the distance between Henry Wallace's campaign for president in the late '40s and the ADA. Wallace proposed greater cooperation with the Soviet Union and an expanded New Deal. Suddenly in the late fifties it was fashionable, following Galbraith, to suggest that the 'Conventional Wisdom' regarding government and economics only went so far as to be opposed to accomodationist Unions, helping public services like education, and eliminating pockets of the 'deserving poor'. Never mind doing what Britain in this time period did, which was to nationalize it's entire system of coal mines and set up national health insurance.
In a very real way Galbraith and company set the stage for the fall of the sixties and seventies generation and the rise of Reagan, the NeoCons, and the rabid Right by asserting Liberalism at a time when liberalism had been dead, in the rest of the world, as a relevant concept for decades. Saving Liberalism by injecting Keynes into it had the effect of distracting attention from the core economic and social problems which really needed addressing. Class was dismissed and in it's place a lot of secondary concerns like civil rights and womens rights, which are no doubt extraordinarily important, were presented as primary concerns. When the recession of the mid seventies hit and suddenly economics was important again the Left and the Liberals had no idea how to address the very real class problems that it generated. They had already been isolated from labor throughout the sixties and seventies, and now found that labor was the thing that they needed the most understanding of. The way I see it is that Reagan and the Right appealed to working class people who felt that Liberals and student radicals had pushed their concerns out of the political arena. Hence Reagan's appeals against intellectuals, Limousine liberals etc...I also think that the Keynesian illusion was the reason why a lot of radicals and leftists who came of age in that time became disillusioned NeoCons. Keynesian liberalism was easy to support when the economy was good, but it still did not address the root of social problems, leading people to believe in a pollyanna like version of the world that held that class didn't matter and that the only problems that existed could be cured by the old Liberal methods etc...When these two premises were proven wrong people became Neocons.
"A neocon is a liberal that's been mugged", so the saying goes. But I'd argue that in the case of many liberals they were mugged while walking through Central Park at midnight. Socialism has never said that there isn't good and bad in everyone. I'd argue that it's led the charge in realism and that that's why social programs in Europe have been so succesful. Keynesian Liberalism, on the other hand, substituted the old idea of human perfectability and Lockean environmental influence psychology for realism. These were traditional liberal staples. But they had been discredited long before the sixties. So people who bought into them were buying into doctrines which weren't considered relevant in a great deal of the rest of the world in the first place. When these false doctrines were overturned guess what? You get a bunch of people in effect disillusioned about something which was never a realistic proposition to begin with.
"Ah, but I am older and wiser and that's why I'm turning you in" goes the Phil Ochs line. I'm hoping that a socialist movement can dispense with this accomodationist liberalism, hearken back to the old left with a few useful additions from the new, and replace the Dems etc...but then I'm just an old romantic aren't I.
Sunday, April 14, 2002
The same could be said about nations. It's a given that people are always pushing for change-things are never standing still-but people working for change have to work within the culture they live in. Change really means cultural change-which leads to or involves economic, social, and sometimes technological change- when people want to change the world they don't mean making an artificial mountain-they mean changing the culture they live in, or the 'world culture'. The fact that whatever our aspirations we're born into and live in a culture which has it's own problems means that we rarely get to choose our battles. There are ever present tendencies for change but they are applied to the problems of the day. This means that real change has to be on the terms of the greater culture. The greater culture usually doesn't like change, and so to effect change people have to sense the unknown potentials and possibilities that the current culture is concealing, or that may be felt by many people but isn't articulated, and act on them, express them in order to break the log jam. If the 'quality', in this sense the greater culture, which in itself seems rock solid, is examined in a quantitative way, kind of like I've been describing, so that underlying instabilities and inconsisitancies are found and are acted on, then you'll see the cunning of history in action: there'll arise a protest movement that 'seems to come out of no where' about issues that 'no one seemed to be aware of' which will blossom into a mature movement which will end by redefining society itself. These things always 'seem to catch people by surprise', they're never expected by the people in charge-who are responsable for keeping up the status quo- but the potentials are always there, and if you find a problem which has great potential to move people for social change it doesn't matter what the people in charge think-society will change and they'll be out in the street. That's the 'cunning of history', cunning because change is always unexpected. Unless of course you orient yourself and your life to what could be rather than what is. In that case anything is always possible.
I can't believe that it's finally come to this. Israel has demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt what it's true nature is. No matter how many quotes the media puts around the word massacre the truth will come out. I have to wonder about all the American Jews who have been pro-Israel from the very beginning. Anti-Semitism, or at least what's percieved as anti-semitism here, is a strange thing. Once when in the South I saw a biography of a pro-Confederacy pro-Slavery Jewish lawyer from South Carolina who lived during the Civil War. I can't help but wonder what's in the mind of Jews living in the South who buy a book like that. Can it be that hating black people and praising Slavery is some how alright because the Confederacy accepted Jews who backed it? That sounds like bigots justifying themselves. I wonder though, what exactly does Jewish identity mean to someone who is ready to condone one of the major crimes against humanity that the US has perpetrated because the slave interests weren't anti-semitic. Is Jewish identity in the U.S. based on an actual knowledge and respect for Jewish history and culture, or is it an excuse that people use when they want to justify beliefs that are otherwise abhorrent? Take the Palestinians. My thought is that Jews, being basicly Europeans and not Middle Easterners, view the Palestinians in exactly the same way as the great Colonial powers viewed Arabs in general: as inferior savages. But somehow when the discussion is shifted away from Europeans vs. non-Europeans and put into the context of Jew vs. Arab the moral repugnance is supposed to be mitigated. We're supposed to believe that even though Israel only became a nation in '49 that the conflict in the middle east goes back thousands of years. To be frank, I doubt if many Jews could trace their own lineage back to the middle east in that time frame. Jew vs. Palestinian....another excuse for white supremacy....it's what a somewhat vicious article in the New Republic about Prof. Cornel West called 'mau-mauing'.
Mau-Mauing is what political science professor Adolph Reed Jr. has called 'Pimping Poverty'. Back in the good old days of the sixties and seventies armed thugs fresh from street gangs were christened victims of society, who should be forgiven for their crimes. And we should feel sorry for them. It's called moral relativism and it isn't a good standard. What happened is that, of course, undeserving minorities took advantage of the white proclivity to say that 2+2=5 when it comes to race, and layed guilt trips on many a white person which resulted in special favors and priveledges. The thought was that no one could understand the black experience except black people, white people exploited black people, so white people aren't qualified to judge the claims of a black person crying prejudice-and so should just give them what they want. This is a fact which liberals would like to forget. No wonder so many of them became disillusioned.
Israel and the American Jews is the same way. The holocaust was indeed an inhuman crime which is hard to even comprehend, but insincere Jews have used the holocaust as an excuse to get whatever they want regarding Israel. Look at Norman Finkelstein's book 'The Holocaust Industy'. This is a book that points out that Jews in priveledged places in society are profiting off holocaust lawsuits more than are the actual survivors. No one 'can do no wrong'. The Palestinians shouldn't have to pay for crimes committed by Europeans fifty years ago.
Saturday, April 13, 2002
Friday, April 12, 2002
Unfortuanately the situation in Palestine has only gotten worse. If you want to read something about it, scroll down a couple posts. I can't leave my blog unchanged indefinitely while the situation works it's way to some vile conclusion. So regrettably this blog is moving on.
I'm a little chastened in my bombast now after reading Tom Tommorrow's insightful comments about the expected exposure that blogs can get, but, who cares, I'm still going to write....
The topic for today is the complicity of the mainstream liberal-left in squashing socialism and social democracy as viable post-war programs.
Readers of this blog will be familiar with the radical change which took place after Truman's ascension to the presidency. He instituted the post-war national security state, which led to the destruction of the organized left in America as well as to McCarthyism. One of the ironies or oddities of America is that after the war (World War Two) we had a measure of cooperation between unions, the government, and business which served as a basis for a skeleton welfare state-yet the main party here, the Democrats, trumpted from the end of the War on that this wasn't Socialism, and that the Democrats were not actually Social Democrats. I'm using Socialism here to mean Social Democracy rather than what happened in Russia. All the countries of Europe recognized that the post-War state was generally one that incorporated large measures of Socialist theory into it's planning and public life. Britain nationalized coal mines under the post-war Labour government, led by Asquith. If you look at speeches and statements by the guy you'll see that Socialism is what he was after.
Indeed, if you were in the U.S. before the National Security State (NSS) went up, you'd probably have thought that America was on the same road. Look at Roosevelt's inauguration speech: everyone quotes his phrase 'The only thing we have to fear is fear itself', but few people give the context in which he said it: the Fear he was talking about was the fear of further economic collapse, and saying that that the only thing we had to fear was Fear itself was meant to say that the government would do all that was neccesary, trampling on corporations as much as was required, to get the economy rolling again. He explicitly said that corporations operate on the basis of a trust relationship with the people that stated that they would conduct themselves in an appropriate manner. If that trust was broken it was the job of the government to step in and restructure things in order to provide a decent standard of living for people. As time went on Roosevelt went so far as to suggest that wholesale nationalization of offending industries was possible.
What happened? Surely this is Socialism, no matter how you slice it. It turns out that what happened, the destruction of Socialism as a political possibility, had almost as much to do with the birth of a new animal known as the Keynesian Liberal as with the institution of the NSS. The birth of the Keynesian Liberal is the main reason why the Democratic Party now a days has no coherent ideology or political program. According to the founders of Keynesian Liberalism the most important part of keeping an economy going is keeping up effective economic demand, or effective demand. Effective demand is just that-Demand by both consumers and businesses for products which is at a level that will support the further production of those products. Keynes of course was the most important economist of the twentieth century, and I'm not attempting to give a comprehensive review of his ideas, just those that are relevant to what happened. What this meant in practice was that wages had to be kept artificially high in order for workers to afford products, and along with it weant taxing the rich and redistributing the wealth so that the money would get spent instead of saved, and exercising some control over industrial production to prevent too much unused capacity from developing. Sounds a little like Socialism doesn't it? To my knowledge Keynesian thought was used in post-war Europe as a component of Socialist programs, but over here the tables were turned: Keynesian economic practice was justified as being a new fangled doctrine that liberals would have to buy into in the wake of the Great Depression because it reflected some sort of change in economic reality. In other words Keynes was taken out of context in America and used to support a skeleton welfare state that kept Socialism at bay while ensuring stability for the big corporations. Keynesian Liberalism was born. It was an enourmous conceit which retroactively explained away the New Deal as simply being an application of Keynesian ideas instead of a logical lurch towards Socialism.
Liberalism did have a welfare state program, and had had it since the time of John Stuart Mill, but it was always too little too late. In the face of child labor and industrial hell in America it offered trust busting and a few regulations 'To keep things fair'. It offered limited social programs-again for parity-but
it's life sputtered out in America before the Depression, and had been replaced with Socialism and Socialist parties everywhere else in Europe. Socialism meant taking liberalism to task for it's beliefs that a few programs here and there would make things 'fair'. Instead it suggested changing the structure of society directly in order to make things really fair. This meant something like defining what a person needed to live a decent fulfilling life, saying that all people were entitled to it, and then changing the structure of society to provide it. Or at least attempting to. Everywhere else but in the U.S. the Depression, combined with the success of war time and post war economic planning, had convinced people that some degree of real change to the social structure was necessary not just for 'fairness' but for the economic survival of their countries themselves.
The Depression was played as proof of the failure of Capitalism. Capitalism failed, if order was to be ensured Capitalism would have to give up substantial amounts of power to the people and to the government. Just take a look at any of the works of Gunnar Myrdal, Swedish economist, to know what I'm talking about. But in the U.S. a very different lesson was instilled in the post-war era.
In place of general discussions of the failure of Capitalism came technical discussions about the failure of effective demand, and of how businesses made wrong judgements about where the market was going-which led to a chain reaction and a downward spiral into unused capacity. This, and not a general failure of Capitalism, was what was portrayed as having happened. It was the equivalent of the magician in Oz saying 'Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain'. And people may have just taken a look or two if it hadn't been for a couple of apologists who argued forcefully for the Keynesian cure.
You see, liberalism-based on personal choice and autonomy-was presented as being faced with a practical problem-lack of effective demand, which happened by chance misreadings of market signals, -which had to be met with a practical doctrine-Keynesianism-in order for economic stability to be maintained. Sure, it led to some policies that could be considered Socialistic, but these were argued for on the basis of their Keynesian contributions to economic security and stability, therefore vanquishing the idea that Welfare, or Unemployment, were actually about helping people in need who had been dispossesed by Capitalism. The liberal compromise was secure. It was cemented by the work of one John Kenneth Galbraith, some time economist who was imported to Washington for the New Deal brain trust.
Galbraith wrote the book on Keynesian compromise, it's called 'The Affluent Society'. .....
Monday, April 01, 2002
If you want to know what America is like look at Israel. Beneath the Flag and the Eagle if the U.S. is the brutality of Israel and of the internal state of the U.S. The same violent and fascist impulses which run rampant in Israeli society against the Palestinians are allowed free reign in the so-called free world of the U.S. Want an answear to Columbine? Look at Israel. Want an answear to why America is so violence prone? Look at Israel. People outside the U.S. don't realize it but America's frontier libertarian mentality is matched by it's tradition of frontier violence of the strong against the weak, on all levels of American society.
Israel and the palestinians, what's going on? People don't know much about the Palestinian situation and even less about Israel. Yes, they both engage in violence, but Palestinians use 'retail violence' while
Israel goes in for wholesale violence-Palestinians engage in random acts of terror that are responded to with calculated slaughters by the Israeli Army-not lone suicide bombers or gun men but regular troops with machine guns, tanks, and armed helicopters. All of which are used against innocent Palestianians.
In the real world violence happens, we might not like that it happens, but it happens anyways-if non-violence by a party involved in a conflict was the standard used to judge whether a war or a situation was just or not we'd have to rule out almost every battle except that of Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., and smaller conflicts like the non-violent anti-Nazi resistence in Denmark. So the fact that both sides hurt people has nothing to do with right and wrong.
That said it's useful to state up front and in the beginning of a discussion about Israel the most glaring and most important fact: Israel would not exist if Europe hadn't made the middle east a colony after World War I. Israel owes it's entire existence to European colonialism and imperialism. It owes it's whole existence to the fact that, even though Jews were a persecuted population in Europe, European Jews had the money that goes with European society and the support of the white supremacist social
structure of European society-both of which they used against the non-white Arabs in order to establish
a European state in the Middle East. Even though Jews were persecuted the powers that be in Europe and the United States recognized them as superior culturally to the totally non-European Arabs in the Middle East. Let me go into some more detail.
The Middle East was a part of the Ottoman Empire, which was a loose confederation of Muslim states under the ultimate control of the Caliph. The Caliphate of the Ottoman empire was controlled by a number of prominent Turkish families; the Ottoman Empire was a Turkish empire, even though it's
authority was nominally religious. The Caliph, who resided in Istanbul, in Turkey, was regarded as
the nominal successor with regards to leading the Muslim community to the Prophet Muhammad. In reality the Turkish Caliphate was, as said, an office and an empire captured by the Turks and turned into their imperial enterprise. The Ottoman empire lasted until the end of World War I. It had sided
with Germany, nominally, even though most of the fighting did not involve Turkey or the Middle East.
It did this because Germany had been cultivating a neo-colonial trading relationship with the Ottoman Empire. After World War I several things happened-secular radicals under the leadership of Mustafa Attaturk gained control of Turkey and dissolved the office of the Caliph, and with it the Ottoman empire.
Since the Ottoman Empire was on the losing side of World War I it also came under the control of the
Allied forces-Britain, France, and the U.S., who were the winners. From there it was decided that the Ottoman empire be split up: Turkey would only control areas that were ethnically Turkish, which was fine
with the secular radicals-they were radical nationalists as well. This led to the Armenian Genocide-as the newly nationalistic Turkey sought to ethnicly reclaim it's eastern frontier. The rest of the Ottoman Empire, i.e. the entire Middle East, was formed into mandates under the League of Nations-the organization founded after World War I to perform the sort of international function that the UN does now. A 'mandate' in the League of Nations world was essentially a colony. Britain and France were
given the opportunity to restructure the middle east politically as the saw fit. Britain was in charge of Palestine.
An interesting aside to this is that when the Russian Revolution happened-while WWI was still going on, the Bolsheviks discovered secret correpsondence between Russia-who was part of the Allies-- and the others which detailed how they wanted to carve up the middle east for their own benefit. It was published as proof the WWI was an imperialist war.
Colonialism wasn't a new thing in the Middle East. As said before Germany was cultivating relationships with Turkey involving trade. The Ottoman Empire had closed itself off to the west-but
in the latter part of the 19th century it became clear that it couldn't, and shouldn't, keep the influence of Western industrial products out- it's closedness resulted in stagnation-so various parts of the Ottoman
Empire cultivated exclusive trading relationships with certain European powers.
The phrase trading relationship is a misnomer, because from China to Africa European colonialism always started with trading relationships. The first thing to realize is that these 'relationships' were between two vastly unequal players. The Ottoman Empire became dependent on western products-yet it had nothing of equal sophistication to offer, so like in all colonial relationships it started to offer primary products, things like oil-although middle east oil wasn't as known then as now, and I suppose minerals, things like that.
This seemingly 'natural' trading relationship does not foster ecnomic development for the colonized country, it keeps the economy primitive by making the inhabitants dependent on things made in the European world.
My point is that a relationship like this had already existed in the Middle East before the League of Nations put the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East under the Mandate system. All of the countries in the Middle East which exist now are artificial creations of the British and the French. The French created Syria, the British created Iraq. Only Iran was seperate, but that's another story, because the Iranians are really Persians, not Arabs, and they practice Shi'ia Islam instead of Sunni, the major form.
All the Kings that you see from time to time, like the King of Jordan, their office, that of 'King' was created for them by the British and the French. These 'Kings' are descendents of prominant military officers who the colonial powers elevated after WWI.
In this context, under British domination, the Brits established a program for Jews to emigrate to Palestine. The Jews, being essentially Europeans, were favored allies of the colonial government.
It's true that after a certain number of Jewish settlers were established that radical Zionists, Jewish Nationalists, struggled against Britain for control of Palestine, but these terrorists, some of them outright Fascists, could not have even existed if Britain hadn't already carved out a priveledged place for them, as Europeans, among the 'non-white rabble'.
The story of the formation of Israel is instructive: it was done largely as pay back for the Holocaust.
A good thing right? But what's never mentioned is that this payback was done with land that was already occupied, and with cities that had their own history going back thousands of years. Because the residents were non-white the fact that the formation of Israel meant the destruction of several thousand years of Palestinian civilization never crossed their minds. What would some one say if, in payback for the extermination of Native Americans, the surviving Indians were given a small city, already occupied by Europeans for several hundred years, and were encouraged to purge it of all of it's American content. What if those Americans were thrown out of power, and Indians who had never even visited, given the right to claim land. What if English was thrown out of the schools and replaced with Mohawk, and people who couldn't speak Mohawk were discriminated against. What if with this linguistic tyranny it turned out that Mohawk had to be substantially reworked to turn it into a living language, yet still the new pseudo-Mohawk was still established as the law of the land.
Jewish nationalism doesn't operate in a vaccuum. Everyone knows that the big factor in the middle East is Oil and not Jerusalem. So Israel operates as a established front of European colonialism along with puppet rulers of 'former' Mandates, who ensure that the supply of Oil is not impeded. Which is not to say there isn't conflict, all the client states hate Israel as well, but it remains as the potential enforcer.
An Israeli scientist went forward a while ago with the fact that Israel has an extensive nuclear weapon stockpile. It has Nuclear Missles. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the target of those missles isn't Palestinians in the West Bank but other countries in the Middle East. Israel is largely supported by U.S. aid-it has no indigenous industries, no oil, and so when Israel has Nuclear weapons it essentially means that the U.S. has Nuclear weapons to use against the client states of the Middle East if they really get out of line.
So what are people fighting about? Well, first of all it's about the elimination of Palestinian culture and of the Palestinian people themselves, who along with being murdered, tortured, and harassed were forcably expelled, at least a great deal of them were, after Israel was formed in the late '40s. But the treatment of the Palestinians has ominous significance for the other countries of the Middle East. I think that it's a common fear, I think, that if the Israelis are able to totally crush the Palestinians that that will be the harbinger of greater direct control of the middle east by Europe and America. The death tolls, the suffering, the horror that Palestinians endure daily is beyond belief. It's only comparable to the savageness of people in the Slave trade who didn't even regard slaves as people, it's fanatical racism.
Nothing else. It's Hate that's penetrated to the soul of the country. I'll continue with this but web resources are http://www.palestinechronicle.com and http://www.electronicintifada.org (com?)...these might not be exact links so mess around with them.
The arab world doesn't like the people that rule them-they know that they're corrupt, but they also don't want Islamic Fundamentalism-even more basicly they don't want they're states to be replaced by outright U.S. puppet states, like Afghanistan now is. Even though the rulers of the middle East client states are corrupt they are still primarily 'Arabist' or Arab Nationalist, which the people like. You see there are three options here-American takeover, like in Afghanistan, continuation of corrupt Nationalist regime, or takeover of U.S. friendly fundamentalism. U.S. friendly? you ask, why's that? Well, I use that term loosely-because fundamentalism is more western oriented, unbelievably, than the big elephant in the room in the Middle East-Radical nationalist and socialist regimes. The Arab world wants this. Even though formally both Fundamentalism and Arab Socialism are deemed things that the U.S. doesn't like, time and time again the U.S. has supported, sometimes covertly, Fundamentalist regimes who don't want to mess around too much with the distribution of wealth and power, to Arab Socialist regimes.
It's overthrown them, Nasser in Egypt is an example. Saddam Hussein is another one. Even though Hussein and his regime are corrupt and plutocratic Hussein originally started out as an Arab Socialist with the Ba'ath party, which gained power and keeps power in Syria. We want to overthrow him now because the remnants of nationalism that he maintains keeps Iraq from being integrated into the client system.
The Palestinians, Yasser Arafat, who is now in serious danger of being murdered, the PLO specifically, is not a religious organization-it too is Arab socialist, although so far to the right end of the spectrum that 'socialism' might not apply. A little known fact: Arafat is in power today because of the various groups seeking to liberate Palestine from Israeli rule his was the most rightwing and willing to compromise. The real Palestinian Socialists were all repressed. The Soviet Union played a positive role in the Middle East during the cold war by supporting the various Arab nationalist resistence groups.
Now that it's gone the Middle East is ripe for the picking by the United States and Europe.
The suffering of the Palestinians is reaching a new height. What is the point? What is Israel's objective? It's simple: the assertion of a new level of dominance in Palestine and the Middle East. Right now their power is contested by the Palestinians and the Palestinian resistence groups, Israel does not
truly rule Palestine yet-even though it's portrayed in the U.S. as being the equanonimous ruler. Not yet.
If Arafat is murdered, and the U.S. allows it, it will signal a new level of Israeli dominance of Palestine.
If a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize can be murdered by the people he was formerly bargaining with without any legal action, or military action, taken against the killers, if they're paraded around as heroes,
then the stage will be set for a greater genocide-which will lead to the elimination of Arabs and Arab culture in an area which has been culturally Arab for over a thousand years. Israel only came along in 1948. The genocide of the Palestinians could be the prelude for the 'liberation' of the rest of the middle east.
I take it that most readers of this saw how the puppet government of Afghanistan was praised by Liberals because it gave rights to Women? And how most Liberal commentators started to fall all over themselves with the thought of being the sahibs that would come to Afghanistan and introduce 'Liberal Democracy' to the naked savages? Well the same thing could happen again and again in the middle East. If you believe in 'Nation Building' or in whatever they're calling Imperialism these days, then you have the moral status of someone who wants to kill the inhabitants of the village to save it from Communist rule.
And how did all of this start? Well it started because Europe got lucky: it had a population who saw a part of the Middle East as a holy site. They asserted a much stronger claim to it than Christianity. The Palestinians just happened to be born in the wrong section of the Middle East at the wrong time. I suppose is we had had an Egyptian minority population living in Europe the battle these days would be about Cairo. But the objective is the same: Oil and resources. The Palestinians are being used as human fodder in the war machine to accomplish the goal of U.S. control of that valuable substance.