Monday, June 30, 2003

Here's something I wrote a few days ago, after returning from a whirlwing car trip to New York City and Boston......It's about the Autonomen movement in Germany and the Netherlands, and was published on http://slash.autonomedia.org, which is the Interactivist Infosite, I believe....I think I have their link on my links side bar...

While it could stand some revision and also a serious fleshing out of some of the implicit and sketched ideas, I present it here untouched for your consumption.

Economic background to Autonomy.

This is an article about the background and principles which underlie the German autonomist movement.

Right off, at the start, I’d like to point out that there are two movements out there in Europe which have similar names but which are oriented in different directions: there’s the Autonomia movement in Italy, which focusses on the inherent autonomy of the working class from the economy in which it’s located, and then there’s the Autonomen movement in Germany and the Low Countries, which focussed on remaking society through autonomous centers and squats outside of the system.

It’s the latter I’m going to be focussing on today. What I want to talk about is what makes the Autonomist idea possible, what makes it possible to realize it in the real world. I’m assuming a basic knowledge of what this movement was about on the part of the reader, but for those just tuning in hold on because you’ll learn a thing or two anyways.

The Autonomy movement was based on taking the concept of alternative spaces one step further by going from creating counter institutions to creating spaces which used the basic foundations of economy and society in ways totally different from the prevailing capitalist model, and in so doing created a different, functioning, society and economy which existed right now, in the real world.

From alternative spaces to the creation of an alternative world right here, autonomy challenged the notion that we had to accept the basic premises of society and then fight with the crumbs left over for radical thought.

But isn’t this just another form of dropping out? Haven’t we already learned from the experience of communes and co-ops that movements seeking to seperate themselves from society and live by different principles doom themselves to poverty and irrelevance? Not quite. The difference between what traditional, Western, counter-institutions and utopian experiments, on the one hand, and autonomy, on the other, is that while the utopians sought to start a new society from absolutely nothing the autonomen realized that the foundation of the current society could be refashioned, hacked, made to serve a different purpose, made liberatory, and so provide an ‘in’ to modern standards of living, as well as the greater economy as a whole.

It’s one thing to want to start with an agrarian commune in the woods and think that in a few years growth will enable one to move from the country to the city and eventually take over the whole society, and another one to start with an already advanced infrastructure and reprogram it in a systemically harmonious way for operating on different values.

One starts with nothing, the other uses the potentialities in the machine to make something better.

How is that possible, though?

It comes back to the question of ‘What is an economy?’ and to ‘What makes society work?’. Many people have had the experience of living in a technological society, then, one day as a child, getting interested in electronics or computers, reading up, and then realizing that what was once mysterious actually operates according to rational principles, principles which can be tweaked and messed with, improved. The person who starts out with a CB can find, in time, that the world of amateur radio, of ham and shortwave, operates on the same principles that radio and TV stations do, and by that avenue come to understand that rearrranging circuits to make ones’ own radio or television station isn’t that hard.

Breakthroughs come along like this which jolt us out of our alienation from the technological world around us, and open up possibilities for taking control of the machine by working on it and messing around with it’s principles for our own ends.

Electronics are easy, computers more so because of the abstract nature of computer programming and functioning, but maybe the would be hacker takes a look at less hi-tech ventures and realizes that the same pricinples can be applied to them.

Cars can be understood and worked on; you don’t have to rely on a technician who overcharges you if you can understand the principles that your car works on and act accordingly.
In the working class world, where this sort of insight is approved, many people use the potentials of automobiles as vehicles for their own creativity, working on their car and altering it so that it meets their high specifications.

Or maybe you can work down from there and find out how your house or apartment functions, what the electrical system operates by, how water enters into the house, is heated, and distrributed, how isulation is arranged and how roofs are constructed.


******

All this is very well and good, it all reduces alienation and opens up avenues for creativity, but it’s lacking the essential component that seperates a hacker from an autonomist----an awareness of work and of the economic sphere in and of itself.

Yes, while all the previous things mentioned do influence our lives and in some sense control them, when we get old enough we find out that there’s an even bigger fish out there called work, wherein we ourselves participate in the maintenance of the machine and take our payments for other products of the machine by.

Work turns what is essentially a consumer affair into a social one, for in work the secrets of the temple from which consumer products are made and into our lives reveal themselves. Work also reveals that the technics of society are just a subset of a process of production and consumption which obeys it’s own commands and operates by it’s own rules. Technology only makes sense within economy, and economy makes sense only within a self sustaining system, whereby, for example, iron is mined, then forged into steel, the made into car parts, then assembled into cars, which are then sold to the people who mined the iron forged the steel made the car parts and put the cars together.

An economy exists so that one mans consumption becomes another mans production.

Economy, mediated by work, emerges as a factor which structures things on top of the techonological alienation, and which, by the very nature of it’s essential function, can be hacked in a way which will truly alter the way society is structured and functions.

There are functions and then there are functions, there are functions that are rather trivial----like how UPC codes are derieved----and functions that are more important----like how the manufacture of consumer goods and the maintenance of the industrial system is set up.

When one goes down to this level it becomes apparant that the same techniques which produce amusement and insight in the purely technical realm become, instead, techniques which can redefine how people work, live, consume, etc.....Economy is a system which just happens to be the most important structuring force on the planet, but it is a system nonetheless.

******

The autonomen step into the story by their willingness to go beyond neat hacks and instead liberate the knowledge by which the economic system itself functions and use that knowledge to create fully modern, functional, squats, and social centers which exist totally outside of the grid and are operated according to radically different principles of production and distribution.

So why is this possible? An electrical box doesn’t know if you’re an electrician or a squatter; neither does a water main. Pipes don’t distinguish between the master plumber and the talented amateur. Food produced collectively will feed people just as surely as food produced in capitalist agriculture, and shelter and a bed provided by a group obeying a communst/libertarian mindset will keep you from the cold and give you rest just as well as a capitalist hotel will.

Taking a step back from the technical aspects of all of this and instead focussing on the economic aspects, it becomes clear that economies exist because people act in economic ways----not because a social system, or a nation-state, has decried that they should exist as they are. They might act coercively to force economies to behave in a certain way, but this is no more than bludgeoning a system which is indifferent to them into obeying their commands.

In reality, an economy is any process of production and exchange mediated by cultural patterns and human beings. An economy, as Maurice Godelier points out, can be composed of methods of production and distribution which look nothing like modern capitalism but which nonetheless play the structuring role that capitalism does.

The basic reason an economy exists is because farms, factories, stores, and service people, exist and decide to exchange goods and services with each other in a socially approved way.

There’s a great difference between what economy is said to be driven by, consumption and consumer demand, and what economic activity actually consists of, which is work and the manipluation of materal goods.

The money economy is just a place holder for the work economy, for the material economy. Anything bought with money has to be made by work, money is a place holder for the material work and distribution which is required to brings that good from primary resources into final being.

As such money is not the primary foci of economic activity---the real work goes on where the place holders are called in and the goods and services realized.

This material economy has two aspects, the first the production of the means of production, of the basic machines, mines, and farms which make the transformation of primary resources into consumer goods possible; then there is the life cycle of the consumer-producer economy, in which the means of production, as they are needed, are applied to real world problems and adapted to produce goods and services along capitalist lines, through capitalist methods of work.

The production of the means of production is the pure technical resource from which capitalist society draws it’s particular inspiration. It in itself is neutral. But this production allows capitalist production to go on----to make a capitalist economy, you need such and such agricultural practices hooking into such and such industrial practices, hooking into such and such work practices...etc...

But the primary thing, before the production of the means of production, is the work and the culture of those who use the production to fashion an economy based on their own values and beliefs.

In good Marxian fashion, it’s not the ur-production that defines society, and not therefore what we should be looking at, but instead it’s the cultural and social production that makes use of the ur production that makes the difference and is what we should be looking at.

At the bottom, this social production is based on a circle of reciprocity, of producers consuming and consumers producing, so that no one is a complete product of the consumer society and no one is a complet slave to work,. Everyone consumes and everyone produces, just to different degrees and in different ways.

This reciprocal production and consumption, and the economic institutions which make it possible, are what makes up the economy. Nothing more, nothing less.

The economy, then, has definite limits which obey the rough countours of human material and cultural society; change material and cultural society, through the medium of the possibilities that material production open up to us, and you’ve changed the economy.

But it doesn’t have to be regulated by capitalist exchange; once the material primacy in economy is recognized the impetus to continue to use money and property to regulate it all is gone. More creative methods and principles present themselves. After all, it’s only stuff, and stuff doesn’t care if it’s distributed and made in a communist way or in a capitalist way.

Operate the basic functions of consumption/production outside of the established economy, or hooking up to it, or stealing from it partially, according to different principles, and you’ve made yourself an economy just as valid as the capitalist economy around you.

This is what makes the autonomen concept valid and hot.

***********

A good aside that can be made has to do with the concept of liberty, particularly as it was concieved of by the political philosopher John Locke. Locke is known for his Second Treatise on government, wherein he outlines the case for a libertarian society, an outline which has shaped all liberal political theory down the line.


Locke quite literally starts his society off from nothing, in the Second Treatise, and describes how it can grow up to be a mature society which nevertheless is formed from totally libertarian premises; with monarchy and the rest conveniantly side stepped.

Locke based his concept of a libertarian society on the idea that there was an underlying natural law to human society, which people were in touch with, and that by obeying this natural law and forming society from the concessions to collectivity which have to be extracted from natural law, that society could function totally on it’s own.

Locke’s natural law was an individualistic one, but the implications of their being an underlying strata to social life which has to be preserved in order for society to function, and the possibility of preserving this strata within a developed society speak to the collectivist in all of us.

Natural law is, after all, acknowledged by everyone in Locke’s world, so conjointly obeying it is another form of collective solidarity.

But it’s Locke’s contention that a society can grow up on pure natural law without the law of any established society interfering which concerns us now.

In Locke’s day this idea was completely against the political and social though prevelant at the time; the king was entitled to rule because he had been appointed by god, god had also ordained Christianity as the true faith, thereby the organization of society in concentric circles from the monarch on down, with the Church likewise controlling social life on all levels, making it comply with Christian doctrine, was the order of the day.

The thought that you could dispense with a monarch, the origin of social stability, as well as dispense with the Church’s regulation of things “for the benefit of our souls” was uniqeuly anarchistic.

Locke’s vision, although he qualified it in other places, can apply to society today; indeed, the utiliarians declared that Locke’s natural law was nothing other than the pursuit of personal pleasure.

Locke’s thought that society is consituted by a common assent to the natural law and a common agreement on when and how that natural law should be transgressed for the exigencies of society resonate well with the idea that liberty flows from taking back economy into one’s own hands and creating a society of consumer/producers outside of the system and obeying laws and standards against the spirit of the system.

Locke did believe, of course, that the society which obeyed the natural law the most was the freeest society.

**********

If the autonomen could build up an economy by hacking the substructure of economic life and devising alternative systems of production, distribution, and consumption, then this activity could also be seen as the raising of an alternative social fabric, a new natural law to undergird society based on libertarian values, exisitng totally apart from the monarchist system of capitalism and the religious system of the state.

The only thing needed for an economy to exist is for it to get going.

********

The means to accomplish this are many, as varied as the types of work it takes to maintain and drive the system itself.

As to the apparantly transient nature of autonomist institutions founded on such a basis, it’s worth considering the opion of Piero Sraffa, the neo-ricardian theorist who believed that work and material becomes Capital by the action of time upon it.

Which is to say that if an instution can function for a long enough time that the economy will adjust to it and make it, eventually, an integral part of the functioning of the overall economy, thereby preserving it when the thin times hit regarding variable labor and supplies.

********

And autonomist world is possible, it’s possible to take from society and form a new society with society’s splinters, it’s even concievable that large autonomist projects could legitamately hook up into the greater society’s economic structure as integral yet independent blocks.

Which is why autonomist culture, from Kraftwerk to Caffentzis, has a residue of legitmacy which most other social movements, or philosophies, or ideas, lack. That residue is reality. We can hack reality itself if we choose to, all it takes is the will to roll up our sleaves and do the work that those arcane craftsmen and priests from long ago alienated to themselves, for themselves, and for no one else.
*******

Here are a list of books which flesh out the ideas above a little better:

Anarcho-Syndicalism by Rudolph Rocker,

Community Technology by Karl Hess

Bolo’Bolo by P.M.

Cracking the Movement by George Caffentzis

Fuhrer-Ex by Ingo Hasselbach (he talks a lot about the war between German Autonomen and the Neo-Nazis in Berlin)

Lenin and the Cultural Revolution by Carmen Claudin-Urondo

and any books about, by, or having something to do with the theories of Bogdanov and his ideas about Tektology


Any books about the Austro-Marxist movement in Vienna and Austrria, like “Red Vienna” which
talks about the Austrian Marxist effort to create a workers’ culture by municipal socialism in Vienna, as well as books of primary documents like “The Austro-Marxists” edited by Tom Bottomore which deal with the Austro-Marxist response to the question of nationalism.

Any books from the environmental movement having to do with Appropriate technology

An Introduction to Post-Keynesian Economics (author unknown)

If you search the web you can find a treasure trove of introductions to the Neo-Ricardian theories of Pierro Sraffa, from which the conception of economy above partially derives.

Any books by Maurice Godelier.

Culture of the Future, about the Proletkult movement in revolutionary Russia.

Future Primitive, by John Zerzan.

Against His-Tory against Leviathan, by Freddy Pearlman.

Any books by Cliford Geertz

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Bourgeois consciousness and the Feudal Mind,

Or, why Bourgeois culture has appropriated the form but not the content of the upper classes, and why this had led to cultural sterility as opposed to progress.

Back in the day, before capitalism, society was divided along two poles: first, there was the social stratification approved by the Church hierarchy, and then there was the inner life of Christianity, which was thought of as being removed totally from the first pole and an intensely personal matter.

The upper classes shared a strange commonality of belief in which they upheld the first pole as the ceremonial heads of society while personally practicing the second pole amongst themselves...

This led to the condition which can even now be observed whereupon upper class people might behave like figureheads come to life when around lower classes but when amongst themselves behave like pious friends and equals.

Strictly, the great chain of being wasn't purely honored by the church---there was always the component of God making a variety of people for a variety of positions in society as opposed to hte concept of pure divine right....but that didn't stop the upper classes from acting as if it was so.

The ideal of behavior put forward by them was supposed to spring from a culmination of personal christian and humanistic self cultivation, and so wasn't supposed to be a fraud, but it wasn't something which was autochthonous either.

The Bourgeoisie, however, because they sprang from classes which were shut out of this priveleged knowledge of the inner life of their social betters, only percieved the ceremonial aspects of what upper class life was and didn't pick up on the fact that this ceremonial aspect was only made possible by a humanistic and christian personal attitude towards self, society, and learning, which was collegial and not anti-personalistic.

This led to the bourgeoisie copying the form of upper class life but missing the content altogether, and eventually to bourgeois society putting into place social norms and attitudes which, in following a purely ceremonial understanding of life, actually cut down the very trends of thought which made the old upper class ceremonial life possible in the first place.

So in their zeal to become superior the bourgeoisie have killed the golden goose---namely the non-competative collegial commonwealth atmosphere which layed behind the ceremonial aspects of upper class behavior and which made it possible.

They've killed humanism in an effort to ape the very style of the upper class, not realizing that it was humanism itself that made that style possible.

As a consequence we have a sterile culture where the common sense measures which could lead to a revitalized society---namely, restoring humanism as a value in a commonwealth setting---are trampled on as being against what all our values should be.

So, in pursuing excellence, the bourgeoisie have created a hell which nonetheless conforms to what they think that upper class life was like----a sort of cargo cult mentality where, if they follow all the outward forms the inward secret will neccesarily reveal itself.

But it's not happening. And it never will. And so we're left with a culture that flogs false idols and waits for them to say something.

Until the inner vision which accompanied the outward social ordering, which was the product of inner Christian contemplation, is recognized as having a place in society, and the consequences of it are followed through, we're never going to have a culture which goes beyond being a cargo cult carried out by the ignorant.

Following through with the idea means recognizing humanism at the base of all the inhumanity of society and culture and using that basic identity of experience and mind as a rock from which to build social programs and progressive legislation which depends on our collective similarity and the collectivity of our needs and values.
Of old friends and keyword searches....

If you're an old friend, who I saw over the weekend, who has found this site by doing a keyword search know that you've found the right place and that, yes, this is my website....and feel free to pass the URL on to anyone else from way back when who might be interested in it. However, this website is anonymous, and so you'll never see my name appearing on it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Just added a great link---the Collective Knowledge library, a diverse selection of Left-Wing Marxist and Anarchist thought, with some philosophy thrown in..This is stuff which is really rare and which you can't find anywhere else.
There's an old Persian myth that's worth repeating. I came across it in one of Russel's books.....In the beginning there was the divine, who was perfect in and of himself, he was the master of time.........but he was surrounded by space and a void. In order to become infinite space had to be conquered and the void encompassed within the divine.
It's a good motto for how life should be lived: We start out with endless time, but to really achieve we have to conquer space.
I suppose Kucinich is OK...

Monday, June 16, 2003

You know what possibly makes me the maddest about what the parties in Washington are doing? Duplicity where clarity would be perfectly recieved.

Compared to the war crimes committed by the administration it might be a small thing, but on a personal level it just riles me.

When it comes to policy there are plenty of models out there all across the political spectrum which can be used while being backed up by solid thought and objective studies.

At a certain point politics becomes a game of choosing which preference you want to pursue out of a small constellation of possible alternatives, each of which on it's own is perfectly logical and self sufficient. The choice has to come from considerations outside of pure consistancy.

What those considerations boil down to are the deeper principles and values motivating political ideologies and philosophies.

So while a person may disagree with the values and principles behind a particular policy move, what can't be disputed is that if you do indeed agree with that philosophy the move is a perfectly legitamate one to make.

It's your choice, in the end.

There are conservative policy models which are perfectly legitamate, there are social democratic models, there are liberal ones, neo-liberal ones, third way Clintonist ones, authoritarian ones, ones that emphasize democratic involvement, ones that emphasize religion, etc....

You can go down the line and identify policy ideas which have been drawn from every combination of political ideologies imaginable, and which have been executed somewhere, and have, in their own sphere at least if not wholly in the greater sphere, have been succesful per the values they were imbued with.

Society at that level is malleable, admiting fewer natural constraints, and policy can indeed succeed without immediately facing natural checks coming from the inherent nature of things...

But you wouldn't guess it from listening to the politicians.

What I'm saying is that if you want a conservative government, fine, you can have it, you can do it, and there are a bunch of precedents on how to do it. If you want a liberal government, same thing, if you want a socialist government, same thing. But it comes down to personal choice and is not self evident or derivable from principles which are self-evident.

That's what you won't here politicians on the liberal or right wing side of the aisle ever say: that they support this political position because they agree with it's values, and not because they think that this ideology is derivable from natural law and so is and always will be the one way to achieve a good society.

We have a disconnect between people who pursue very earthly political enquiries in the course of doing their jobs or participating in political culture and those outside of the sphere who are led to believe that the principles espoused by politicians came from Heaven itself with no intermediary involved in birthing it.

So the right wing radio shows hammer out every hour that Conservatism is the only logical political idea and that liberals and liberalism are just stupid. According to them Conservatism has been established in advance of the world and society, possibly established by God as the one and only possible political philosophy sometime between the day he created the waters of the earth and the day he seperated the land from the water.

Why can't, just once, Conservatives in Washington actually say what motivates them instead of pandering towards society's leader fixation.

And the problem isn't just with Conservatives. Clinton was the previous king of presenting policy as natural law for the many while obviously fleshing out a very practical and earthy political theory for the few who care about those things. The Third Way was not natural, was not what naturally had to follow the Soviet Union, but, hey, that was what Clinton presented while people like Anthony Giddens and others spelled out just what the Third Way was, where it came from, how it operated, and why it was, in pretty sophisticated, if flawed, sociological and poli-sci terms.

It goes back to my characterization of Bush as Hirohito----continuing the ancient rites while in secret believing in a totally modern conception of reality.
If people in Washington could just tell the truth about this aspect of themselves for one day it would improve democracy and political life in America immesurably.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

About a Neo-Hegelian Marxism....

A while ago I floated the idea of creating a brand of Marxism which used Neo-Hegelian philosophy as the cornerstone with which the normative aspects of Marxism, which are virtually non-existent, could be patched up.

I've recently turned against this idea because while the Neo-Hegelians, like F.H. Bradley and McTaggert, are great to read and always enlightening they're also, in my opinion, somewhat unnecesary.

A rule that I suppose journalists, or at least students writing term papers, have been told to obey is to say what you're going to say, say it, and then tell people what you've said.

While in term papers this might work, when it comes to philosophy it's a little bit laborious and unnecesary: the aspects of reality and life that the British Neo-Hegelians dealt with and explicated should not need Neo-Hegelian philosophers to put people in touch with it.

The Neo-Hegelians describe life and the mind pretty well, but at the same time they're freezing life processes which people don't normally percieve as individual realities, but rather as aspects of actions which have different causes and different ends.

It's great to contemplate will and ethics as they do, but in real life people engaged in trying to achieve something use will and ethics transparently in their quest. The quest, why it exists, where it comes from, and what it's aims are, are far more important, in my mind, then the actual mental mechanics by which the quest is accomplished.

In my worldview, at least, the quest is described in terms and values which harken back to the social Catholics, although there are a great many admixtures and variations. So......if I'm pursuing meaning and understanding by way of the general Social Catholic way of viewing things it seems to be much more valuable to describe what I'm aiming for and what contributes to that understanding than to outline the basic mental operations that accomplish it.

So it's probably more fruitful to talk about a re-valorized society and what it would look like and why it should look like it should and what aims should be included, etc....than to create a Neo-Hegelian Marxism which only deals obliquely with these questions.

If a reconstitution of socialist theory is going to go on through the concepts that I'm working with it'll be based on a much broader understanding of the nature of society and the aims towards which society and humanity tend than Neo-Hegelian philosophy allows in it's tight circle of interest.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

In regards to some of the anti-British sentiment in the earlier Tropicalia posts---don't get too offended, they were part of a process of working some implicit ideas out. I don't really dislike people from England.

An interesting thing that I picked up out of the mail.....


Hi there,

Although I haven't been keeping up on the discussion surrounding "Settlers", this relates to it somewhat.

First, the problem, as I see it: Although people self identifying as being of English descent in the United States number less than one in ten people, our cultural institutions, our political institutions, and our educational institutions overwhelmingly display a pro-anglo, or anglo only bias---letting in blacks, hispanics, and other minorities, such as Jews, when the outcry gets loud enough. Not only that, but from colloqial evidence, i.e. my experience and what I can extrapolate from that, although making up less than a tenth of the population (probably a bit more chose not to self identify), people of English descent in the United States wield economic and political power totally out of proportion to their numbers, controlling the essential elite structures of society even though the society which that elite controls is not Anglo based.

Underneath the Anglos, who got their status from being here first (or second), or, who, alternately, though without economic power wield cultural and social power of comparable worth, are the ethnic Americans who came here in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century who, despite the claim of some that America is the land of opportunity, are nevertheless shut out of power---unless you live in an immigrant ghetto---and consigned to working class jobs and shut out of college, at least shut out compared to the access that those either of English descent or those who have completely assimiliated gain access.

The ethnic Americans in the United States far outnumber the persons of Anglo descent---the English identify as being 22,000,000----in the ENTIRE COUNTRY---while the total of people classifying themselves as being 'white' is about 220,000,000. Keep in mind that a substantial number of people, 13 million classify themselves as simply "american", and a substantial number probably just checked other....but keeping that in mind it's still pretty amazing that out of 220,000,000 people only an estimated 22,000,000 identify themselves with the ethnic group that founded the country, and which gave it it's language and political system.

Germans, it turns out, are the biggest white ethnic group, with about 45M, followed by the Irish, who slightly outnumber the English. Then you have the Italians and the Poles.


My colloquial take on things is that non-Anglo whites vastly outnumber Anglo-whites, and that they, not to mention hispanics, african americans, natives, and some asians, are not represented in the institutions of society in a way that's by any measure proportional.

Non-Anglos as a whole should own this country.

The people who now appreciate the residual effects of being white were origingally imported here to do the hard labor that Anglos were clamoring for higher wages to do; throughout the nineteenth and early to mid twentieth centuries immigrant ghettos of whites from Italy, Germany, Poland, Ireland, and people of Jewish descent from all over, flourished with the same sorts of conditions lived in today by hispanics and blacks.


What I'm getting at is that despite being lumped together with Anglos as being 'White', the majority of whites in this country came to where they are through a radically different process than did the settlers, who still control the United States. This differential experience translates out into prejudice as well as being closed out from power even today, and has created in effect a different cultural group within the larger group called 'white'.

I'm proposing that a new political group, possibly a party (perish the thought), be formed in the United States which would unite ethnic whites with blacks and hispanics, and natives, against the Anglos.....and would campaign for what I call multi-ethnic democracy as well as a democratic and humane socialism based on the principles of equality and universal human rights instead of on maintaining Settler privelege.

I'd like to see Anglo people in the U.S. demoted to being just another ethnic group among many, and, conversely, for the great impasse reached regarding race to be resolved by recognizing blacks and hispanics as being---not the totally abstract and platonic concept 'race'---but instead being members of minority ethnic and cultural groups which deserve a piece of the pie just like the rest of us.

I feel that if that monolith called 'Whiteness' is broken up, if we can allow for the existence of somewhat priveleged white ethnic communities which preserve their culture and their heritage, recognizing the differential American experience that they went through, instead of demonizing all whites, then we can mobilize ethnic whites together with blacks and hispanics in an effective coalition.

It's much easier, in my opinion, to attack privelege when you know the name and address of the priveleged group----if you're dealing with totally abstract concepts like "White" and "Black" you're not going to get anywhere because the problem is more complex than that.

If we could break the hold of white supremacy by pointing out how one section, the majority in fact, of that white supremacist monolith, has been exploited by the other section, then we could make the argument for an inter-racial politics much more easily than we could now.

The Canadians on the list have probably noted some familiarity in what I've just outlined; indeed, I'm basing this analysis partly on the experience, as I've read about it, of Quebec; Rene Levesque is a figure who, from the little I've read by hiim, has some interesting concepts about the interaction between Anglo-political machinery and subject people's.

I'd also introduce the concept, similar to Quebec, that great pieces of America, staffed by Blacks, Hispanics, and Ethnic Whites, act as internal colonies for the benefit of local state and national groupings of people of Anglo descent, with a few people who have totally assimilated gaining a small piece of the pie.

Although the names and the concepts behind them are pretty abstract to me; I don't live them; what I'm envisioning is a combination of the Parti Quebecois and the New Democratic Party, emphasizing the working class traditions which the NDP was founded on, as a multi-ethnic socialist party which would aim to redefine the cultural, social, political, and economic structure of the United States....definitely for the better.

What is today called Nationalism in the US, the flags, the lock step salutes to presidential authority, is, in my mind, the product not of the majority of Americans, but is instead a reflection of the experience of the Anglo minority anxious to keep power in a world in which they are hopelessly outnumbered. Whether poor and racist or rich and self consciously superior, the experience which resonates most highly with this flag waving is a narrow, Anglo, racist, anti-Catholic, anti-Ethnic, one which only those who can trace their origin in a satisfactory enough way that they could join the "Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution" can fully appreciate.

Everyone else is supposed to lock step with them, salute, and say fuck off to any lingering ethnic heritage that they may have.

Well, I have a different vision for what American media should reflect.

Making the difference by self consciously rejecting the Anglo ideal for a moderate multi-ethnic democracy founded on universal rights instead of on English traditions would take us back to some sort of sanity and parity, socially speaking.

Quebecers have stated that Canada is only a map-country, not a nation-country; don't take offense, but what they're highlighting as well is that we, no matter who 'we' is (excepting native americans), are here conditionally, and any political and social institution that we set up is similarly conditional.

It's not set in stone, it can be changed, and should be changed if neccesary; that's why we emigrated over here in the first place, right? That's what the U.S. has been blaring to the rest of the world for the past century, right?

So let's do something about it. Organize, raise consciousness.

Some day, hell, why not today, I'm going to collect all my Tropicalia/Neo-Romantic posts and put new permalinks up for them. I have to update the books in the bookstore as well as the music too....
Ben Tripp's new column on Counterpunch is pretty good; it deals with the shock of recognizing that your worldview is wrong, and suggests that avoidance of such shock is what's fueling mass support for Bush's agenda.

There's a fair amount of truth to that; I'd like to make some more categorical statements about how the cold war effected people, but unfortunately I'm too young to have had the experience of seeing how these things were viewed in the mid to late seventies, and before. So I can't say that the myths reached some sort of definite end with Reagan, or with Clinton, although I'd like to.

Domesticly the Cold War effected people with it's adversarial propaganda, and it's tempting to say that the Reagan presidency as well as the Clinton presidency were shaped by people's expectations about what society should look like based on Cold War values. So I suppose it would be safe to say that with Clinton, coupled with the demise of the Soviet Union, the internal logic of the aims and principles thought to be upheld by us during the Cold War reached their final apotheosis as well as their final wretched resting place. Clintonism is a dead end; but it's a dead end that jibed very well with all of the Cold War values which the right had cultivated and which Reagan had consciously injected into public policy.

Clinton, it might be said, represented the full flowering of the image of the Cold War; and that full flowering simultaneously revealed itself to be infertile, unworkable, out of touch with reality as a whole.

There's no riding off into the sunset under Cold War values implemented as policy in a post-Cold War world where those values supposedly triumphed over those of the Soviets.

There's no riding off into the sunset with the winners' dogma raining supreme because the winners' dogma was just as false as the losers', and it wasn't the cause for the Soviet Union's demise at all.

So we have to deal with the consequences of a value system out of touch with reality on all levels which nevertheless provides a structure of meaning for a great many people, who embraced the governing dogma.

For society to advance that dogma has to be exposed for what it is and people have to get on with things.

I thought this had already happened with the end of the Cold War, I certainly operate under that sort of understanding, but obviously I was wrong; a great many people are still looking for an enemy like the Evil Empire, and are still waiting to see American virtue triumph over everything else.

I hope that they get their jollies now, because that attitude is, unfortunately, only going to live on as nostalgia...the truth will be something else. It's like a book, or a movie, or a television show, that I saw, read, watched, some time ago where the lead charchter goes to a great party, meets all these wonderful people, goes home to his exotic life, lives it, has affairs, loves, intrigues, travels the world,.........and then the head charachter wakes up, awoken by his alarm clock in the wee hours of the morning, get's out of bed, puts his work clothes on, fixes breakfast, and goes down to the mine just like he's done every weekday for his entire adult life, and just like he'll probably do for the rest of it. No parties, just work in the mouth of the all consuming beast from which no light can escape.

Wow. Poetry.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Why the chicken with the head cut off strategy will not work.....

I read, with dismay now, the articles that Elaine Cassel posts on Counterpunch.org; she is probably the Left's queen of impending doom, although that title could apply to a great many number of people out here.

What I have a problem with is not that she's sensitive to the possible creation of an American police state, but that, in this period of time, it has not been established, it can be stopped, and yet she's acting like it's a fait accompli. You right wing bloggers might want to get out your dictionary for that one.

It's not a done deal; we don't live in a dictatorship; the Republicans would like to make the U.S. a dictatorship, but everything they're advancing right now in terms of legislation and programs is tentative, all of it can be stopped or undone by people leaning on their representatives to do something to counter it.

Nothing in politics is a done deal; certainly not what the Republicans are doing now.....but people don't contact their representatives because they're alienated from the system.

That's a bad strategy, because your representatives are legally obligated to listen to you and to enact your opinion on the house and senate floors. It doesn't matter if you're a Republican, a Democrat, a Green, a Socialist, a Communist, an Anarchist, whatever, your representative, no matter what party he or she belongs to, is obligated to listen to your opinion----and if enough people out there, constituants, voice the same opinion, he's obligated to change the way he behaves and votes on things on the floor.

It's time to take a step back from personalities and the idea that without campaign financing laws we can't influence our representatives; instead, we should use our resources to flood our representaives offices saying that we do not agree with the Bush program and with the Republican's agenda, and that we want them to vote against it and to stop it.

Easy as that.

You don't have to be a democrat to do this, you don't have to be a registered voter even. All you have to be is a constituent who can write and can express his or her opinion in an effective way---and you have to have the will to actually send the stuff and make the telephone calls.

Don't burn your bridges before the invaders actually get here; the surest way for tyranny to win is for good people to do nothing, as Edmund Burke wrote. So do something, quit whining that we're entering a fascist state, recognize that everything the Republicans are doing is based on having balls and not on having any real power, and that if we pressure our representatives we can give them a swift kick which will deflate their agenda and their police state forever.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

What's happening/happened to America.

America is an empire in decline; the truths that Americans were told about their country for the forty years that the cold war took up have started to unravel.....and simultaneously our position in the world, as one of the superpowers, has begun to unravel....

There are a lot of people out there who don't want to accept that things have changed, that they now live in an America and a world which operates from different rules than they grew up with, and in a country which is substantially reduced in status.

Everyone knows this. Dogs know it, Republicans know it, Democrats know it, but Bush is there at the helm like Hirohito----intoning the ancient rituals and performing the function of the sacred king even though he knows he's not divine and that the monarchial system and religion will be dismantled shortly.

Bush is going through the motions of the imperial presidency in order to keep up the illusion that that world hasn't ended, in order to try to keep people under control; but you can't stop reality and the knowledge of reality from getting out. Eventually we're going to have to admit that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction, that none of what Bush said about Saddam was true, that most of what's been done since 9/11 has been based on patriotic lies.

The system doesn't work. Pure and simple. And it's showing signs of decay everywhere; eventually, we'll have to acknowledge that it doesn't work and start picking up the pieces of our fractured society, but for now the illusion that an imperial america with free market capitalism is the best political and social system out there is still standing. And Bush and company are performing every rite they can to try to propitiate the spirits of government to let it continue, even though they know that it can't forever.

When the truth comes, it will sit with people as the breakup of Austria-Hungary sat with people......a social system which once was great but has now fragmented, a way of life which was good, but which can't be continued anymore for reasons of geopolitics.

We're a living museum, we're living in a museum, the museum of American life at the end of the 20th century. Eventually we're going to have to take our tickets and leave the building, and when that happens the blinding light will not be pleasant.
Vanity of man and the myth of the market.

If Semptember 11th has done one thing, hopefully it's caused people to see that the hyper-capitalist culture which was being shoved down our throats is so much hot air; in the face of almost two thousand people dead, internet companies, new drugs from pharmaceutical firms, e-trading, slick marketing, the media, etc...don't seem to be that important.

It's how it should be anyways; reading through "The Liberty Fund"'s latest catelogue, which, at Liberty fund is a good resource overall, I was struck by how they pointed out that before Adam Smith most economists associated economy with morality-----and then went on to take a pro-capitalist viewpoint, as if pre-Adam Smith economists had lauded the market as a moral mechanism.

Quite the reverse. Under the Catholic Church, as well as some of it's descendents, the market was clearly associated with morality, but the attitude taken was that it was associated with vice, greed, and usury----and so had to be kept tightly controlled---rather than that it was some sort of generator of moral order.

I think that the Church was onto something; human nature has always, and will always, include the potentialities both for great achievements and for great crimes, as 9/11 proved, with that duality in mind it's hard to argue that human kind is overcoming evil and working towards the good, working towards a totally good society which will be a city on the hill, a utopia, based on moral, intellectual, and cultural progress.

What the presence of evil in the world does in knock down the hope that we can proceed, via capitalism or any other progressive philosophy, towards an orderly end; whatever progress we accomplish, if it's not balanced based on a realistic assesment of human society, will be knocked down whenever evil reasserts itself in our community.

When 9/11 hit the market crashed, the internet stocks continued to fall, and the economy lost millions of dollars in revenue. Why is it that the economy was set up so precariously that one, albeit horrible, terrorist event was enough to trigger a recession? The answer lies in neo-liberal propaganda which, apart from not being true and apart from slowly bleeding society to death through inequality, put's all of it's faith in an ever expanding future based on letting the market be the guide----thereby eliminating in it's philosophy any need for institutions, laws, or social structures which may restrain the market and prevent the catastrophes that unregulated capitalism opens up for societies from happening.

Neo-Liberalism's progressivism was so well developed that it knew exactly where the increase in internet commerce, marketing, globalization, capital moblility, etc... was taking it but it didn't know how to deal with a crisis at home which, in the global perspective, was more psychological than it was actually threatening to the country itself.

It knew exactly where it was going in the next few years, but it didn't know how to deal with a few psychopaths who commandeered planes and used them as weapons. This should tell us something about the philosophy that our economic system is based on.

Instead of unregulated capitalism, which promises that utopia is just around the corner, what we need are hard and basic guarantees of rough equality and rough access to social services right now.....instead of working towards a utopia which a single attack would derail, we should work to have the basics of a good society materialize right here and now, thanks to prudent management of it by representative bodies, bodies whose philosophy is based on conservative growth and stability, which takes as given the need to maintain a basic equality----since capitalism can't even do that---and to prudently weft our way forward on a policy which will ensure life and comfort for centuries, not short term gain for a few years and then collapse.

What this means is a return to morality as the basis of economy, in a sense, maybe more "in a sense" than other people who advocate this sort of thing; but whether it's simply an animating spirit in a system which goes by different ideology or not, we can't afford to leave the ideal of a basic, just, society up to capitalism anymore. Basic human dignity has to be guaranteed by society, not the market; how much the market is able to control life after that basic dignity is accomplished should be strictly controlled.

A free market depends on free people, and the concept of free people depends on the majority of people being good people; and as the goodness of the majority can't be ascertained, and as even if it could be this would be no guarantee of eradicating evil and evil deeds forever, the idea of a free people in that sense is invalid, is not true. If people aren't truly free, but are constrained by the lapses in morality of their fellow citizens in terms of progress, then a free market cannot truly exist.

As a free market cannot truly exist or function attempts to impose a freemarket system on society are bound to both end in failure and to promote immorality and social instability in the process.

A regulated economy is an economy which doesn't put it's faith totally on free people for it's stability.
Enlightened self-regulation.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Reflections on the Take Back America conference.....

My candidate of choice, among all those that I saw, is John Edwards of North Carolina....not Denis Kucinich..

Both are people from working class backgrounds who have done good in the world, but Kucinich is so allied to middle class progressivism that, in my mind, no working class person would vote for him.

They say it's not where your from it's where your at and Kucinich is definitely at the side of the poorer, more honest, and more genuine, cousins of the latte drinking NPR crowd. They might be closer to the genuine left, but they're still hung up on middle class issues which working people don't give a fuck about.

Edwards, on the other hand, is pure working class----even though he became a trial lawyer---he really talks the talk and walks the walk, comes from a strong union background and understands working class issues intimately, and fights for them. His progressivism is based on where he comes from, and is most in tune with union members RIGHT NOW, as opposed to Kucinich who, despite doing good things, seemed to bank on his working class background more than he talked about working class issues.

It's nice that he came from this background; he probably has done some great things in Cleveland; but the image he's putting out as a presidential candidate has almost zero to do with people from that background, and instead appears to be just a nice addition to his resume.

Edwards, on the other hand, embodies living working class values and is in touch with what that means to people from this background RIGHT NOW.

He gets my vote as the democratic candidate of choice. He was definitely one of the two most genuine people who spoke, the other being Kucinich. Dean came off, against everyone else, as being fake and an opportunist; John Kerry came off as being Darth Vader....

Half man, half machine, a person who sold his sole to the dark side long ago........

But in regards to other issues.......

Going to the conference highlighted for me the poverty of most mainstream organized labor.....

Now, it wasn't the unions themselves that did it, instead, it was the people.


On the one hand the union delegates who came were a blast from the past; these were the type of people that I grew up with, working class people who were doing well, who were at the high end of the spectrum, and who loved their union and were devoted to it.
But in and of itself, you know, that sort of thing isn't really indicative of the life of most of the working class.....

The people who came were of the labor aristocracy, and you know, what they experience is almost unheard of in non-union industries and in parts of the country where unions aren't strong. They really don't know what most working people go through; if they did, they'd be a hell of lot more radical and a hell of a lot less complacent with the union system as it is.

So it was a tad bit hypocritical for these people, who don't really know what it's like out there, to come to Washington D.C. and talk about the need for policies that help working people as opposed to millionaires.

I had the fortune, or maybe it was misfortune, of living in both worlds, being exposed not only to the life of the upper-working class union aristocracy but also to the dirt poor working class which most workers belong to....quite an eye opener.

These people, for all the good their activism does, aren't the people who should have been at the conference in Washington last week; it should have been working people from industries where unions are really needed, where people really suffer, and not where a union job get's you one step away from Buffy and Kip in the suburbs.

Organized labor lives in a different world than most workers; if they're going to change things they're going to have to get out of their cocoon and really get to know working class america.

That said, the president of the Steel workers was really great, was in fact one of the highlights of my experience. A strong, big Quebecois, he took no prisoners in his speech. If only there were more people like him south of the border.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

The poverty of liberalism,or, why the conservatives are somewhat right in attacking liberals and why it doesn't matter.

During the eighties and early nineties government regulation was a prime target for newsprogram ridicule; the conventional wisdom, so it seems, was to equate government regulation with the sentiments of starry-eyed liberals who weren't in touch with reality.

Looking back, having partially grown up during those years and having had the experience of watching said TV programs with my parents, I think that there was a small measure of truth in what the people were complaining about, a small measure, but that the complaints were, nevertheless largely missing the point.

The point, as I see it, is that appart from the environmental movement of the eighties and early nineties, liberals were almost totally concerned with issues which were at the margins of society as opposed to being substantive.

A distinction has to be made between liberals and the left; liberal political theory, modern liberal political theory, stresses the value of autonomy as embodied by individuals and seeks to enact legislation and social reforms which enable all people to posses a reasonable measure of autonomy in their own lives; from this comes the freedom to act as a full citizen in a modern nation state, and to fairly compete in a regulated capitalist environment on the basis of merit, with rewards coming back which are proportional to such merit. That's liberal political theory in a nutshell; what autonomy means in this context is taking away systemic barriers which prevent an individual from acting as a sovereign, self-directing, being---examples of which include legalized discrimination against blacks in the south, discrimination against women, against youth, the elderly, and the disabled.

Autonomy is thought to be interrupted when a person faces barriers in life which are tied to conditions over which the individual did not have any control and which go beyond merely having the bad luck of being born in a poor area or to a poor family and instead actively prevent a normal self-directing life from being possible based solely on society's non-accomodation of this feature.

The United States, by this measure of autonomy, is a very liberal country in that almost all of the possible hinderances to the attainment of autonomy are routinely condemned and looked down upon as being regressive. So that leaves, and left in the eighties and nineties, very little, apart from issues connected with the environment, for people adhering to this version of liberal political doctrine to change. In theory and, to a lesser extent in practice, all the major obstacles to autonomy had been dealt with----so what did liberals start doing? Emphasizing marginal cases where autonomy was being threatened and blowing them up to the status of national issues. Enter the era of a legitmization of over-regulation.

I was prompted in this, in part, by an outrageous article on counterpunch where a woman, talking about ergonomics I believe, made the overthetop statement that "Some of us don't have hands". She has no use of her hands; but the phrase, implying that now we have to cow-tow to those who have lost their hands in car accidents or other similar severe and rare forms of trauma is just so prima facie absurd that it highlights what's wrong with emphasizing marginal cases and acting like they're major issues.

But this isn't a conservative piece outlining how those damn liberals are elitists, far from it; instead, the tradgedy isn't that liberals are alienated from the common people and concerned with marginal interest groups, the tradgedy is that while all of this inflation of marginal causes was going on Socialism and socialist policies, which had been the norm for Europe for decades, weren't even on the table.

The big elephant in the room which no one acknowledged, because, coming from the sixties and seventies when labor was opposed to radicalism perhaps, was that there were issues much larger than paying attention to marginal problems, which effected many more people and effected them in the most fundamental way possible---through their economic and social life---which were shitcanned while the democrats went after the latest cause.

Environmentalism provides a nice relief from that track record, but it's an exception which proves the rule since environmentalism differs from all the rest of the liberal causes in that it deals with things in a systemic, as opposed to atomized, way.

So, were liberals concerned with some pretty far out, irrelevant, stuff during the eighties and early nineties? Yes. Were they out of touch with life because of concern for causes which had almost zero real world impact?Yes. But their crime was ignoring class, not hurting business at the expense of new programs. The current rump of liberal politics which is savaged by conservative journnalists all over the place is certainly based on some reality, but it's a reality which has little to do with any inherent flaw in liberal doctrine or in persons supporting liberalism and much to do with liberals overlooking socialist issues for political conveniance.

Monday, June 09, 2003

If you want to get a clue as to why the movement of the sixties and seventies in the United States produced a body of doctrine almost wholely bereft of the socialist features common to the paralell movements across the Atlantic and down South, take a look at the different experience of the US coming out of WWII.

We emerged as total victors; as victors who had never been invaded, never been occupied, and who had rid the world of an evil universally acknowledged as such. The fact that the Soviet Union deserved much of the credit didn't enter into the equation. Unlike the French, we can never say that we were occupied and therefore unable to do what we otherwise would have done.

Instead, our success opened up the valve for scrutiny by the post-war generation, scrutiny which by this time also included the events of the Korean war on top of World War II. And, what we found, or what they found, was that in addition to winning against fascism we also incinerated tens of thousands of people, at least, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as firebombing a good portion of Germany's cities, thereby killing civilians who weren't involved with fighting. We also pushed for further devlopment of those weapons which had incinerated the cities in Japan, extending the potential damage that could be done; combined with this was the willingness to use Nuclear weapons as part of normal battle which Douglas McArthur exhibeted in his desire to invade China using Nuclear weapons as the first offensive wave. He was censored and fired by Eisenhower, but the mentality which, in winning World War II, also showed itself to be bereft of a great deal of respect for human life sufficiently surprised and outraged enough young people that it contributed to the movements of the sixties and seventies.

On top of this, of course, was the treatment of African Americans in the South; legally prohibited from voting because of racist poll laws, among other things, the country and the administration which had so triumphantly won against the Nazis in Europe refused to acknowledge that there was any problem in the South; indeed, one of the standard questions asked in the McCarthy hearings was "Do you believe that Blacks don't enjoy full civil rights?", and this during the time of legalized segregation in the 40s and 50s. The suppression was due to both our self-congratulation and our official anti-communism. But the hypocracy continued, indeed continued until Kennedy, and then only reluctantly changed.

So crimes at home, as well as an analysis of what really happened during WWII and Korea, pushed people to name the threat to world peace, and even to the continuance of life on this planet, as the modernistic, beurocratic, system of corporate thinking and action, which could be identified in Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, and in the United States. Corporatism, from this point of view, allowed the tradgedies to happen, and corporatism, in demanding that we all be on the same page with regards to how we view the United States, covered up the crimes happening to African Americans int he name of national unity.

Corporatism isn't the same as Capitalism, indeed, corporate thinking and the abolition of freedom by such a system harken back to the arguments between liberalism and the ancient regimes which took place during the French and American Revolutions.

Because, as victors, standing over a field which for better or worse we now took the blame for, we had to see ourselves and see the world through the broadest possible lens, our movement for civil, economic, and social rights, which took place during the sixties and seventies, never got past the most basic, fundamental, questions, regarding the nature of society and democracy.

Because the threat of nuclear annihilation, and the crimes of the Holocaust, to say nothing about the crimes of Stalin, were so immense in their horror, the young people of the United States decided that it was more important to focus on fundamentals, and possibly act as a conservative force against the corporate juggernaut taking us towards Armageddon, than branch out into more extensive critiques.

Of course we were unique in that World War II did not present questions regarding the nature of society as it had in Europe; in Europe, where there was a very strong workers movement before the second world war, and where there was active collaboration and support for Nazis and Fascists before the war, coupled of course with the depression, the playing out and the consequences of World War II raised immediate issues regarding the health of the state, the type of the state, the burden of blame, and the place of social welfare projects within the scheme of political society.

In France the consequences and ramifications of the maneavors which preceded occupation, those which took place during it, and those regarding relations with the Allies and with the Soviet Union which took place after it, are still being felt.

We, on the other hand, escaped all of that by dint of not sharing that common thread of history. So it was much easier, in practice, to take the long view, to take the wide view, and to examine only the most basic problems of liberty and of democracy, or freedom and demcracy, you could say, as well.

As much as it happened it was created by the same group of people that normally supported bourgeois revolutions, the middle class, but not because of a bias as much as because of a lack which predisposed middle class people to resonate with the ideas easier.
Working class people had a harder time simply dealing with questions of liberty and democracy, as they were involved with the union movement as well as being the footsoldiers for the U.S.'s wars, which made abstracting a little bit harder.

They had issues.

Now the tide has turned; now, with the heritage of the sixties behind us our national rumination about the fundamental questions which define the nature of our country has gotten to the point where we need to branch out and embrace working class, socialist, and anti-capitalist, ideas, programs, concerns, and concepts. Now is a time when the working class can be honestly brought in on our national redefinition. And it should.

The ruminations which took place during the sixties and seventies in the post-war era were and are very valuable in recentering and reaffirming the nature of democracy in this country as genuine and non-corporate, or alternately, as establishing that genuine democracy in this country is non-corporate. But now it's time to expand. Let the sixties be the base on which a great nation is born.
What the sixties were good for:

Looking back on the sixties from today, with an essay below as an initial contribution to an analyses, what stands out are two factors: first, the Sixties succeeded in returning America back to democratic ideas which had largely been lost or obscured, if they ever really existed at all, and second, that that basic analysis wasn't enough to come to grips with the complexity of the modern world, the complexity of modern industrial capitalism.

So the sixties succeeded on getting us back to a decent conception of what rights are, but it failed comletely in extending that vision out to capitalism through ideas like industrial democracy, unions, and explicitly workerist socialist ideas. Instead, in the vaccuum between radical thought on democracy and radical thought on capitalism, it became liable to pitch it's sails to any authoritarian solution to the problem of capitalism which it encountered, since not having a viewpoint on it it wasn't qualified to seperate the wheat from the chaff on this count.

The current youth political movements come out of a youth culture which turned against the remnants of sixties styled, humanist centered, liberalism, and instead adopted more harsh viewpoints drawing heavily on the '20s Avant-Garde and modernist movements. But we still implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, build and depend on the progress that was made in the sixties and seventies.

Let's finish the job that the sixties started by adding to that basic critique one which emphasizes working class politics and socialist/anarchist critiques of capitalism, and socialist/anarchist solutions to those problems. We don't have to be enemies.
You know what the sad truth is about what the Bush administration is putting out?

It's all a game; it has been from the beginning, when people pegged it as such, and it so now.

They aren't looking for real terrorists, instead this whole thing has been a public relations blitz, whereupon a number of Arab men, who committed the crime of fitting the picture that the administration needed at the right time, have been locked up and let out to dry because of it. Just one example among others.

The Bush administration does have concrete goals, there is a plan behind the cultivation of paranoia, but it's something totally conventional, and totally unrelated to the hysteria which is being used to whip people into obediance.

The things that the administration and conservatives on the hill want are things that they've always wanted, things which could be just as easily explained in plain language just as conservative presidential candidates in the past have spelled it out, so there isn't anything new there; however, the difference is that they're relying on intimidation to get it passed.

So meet the new boss, same as the old boss; only this new boss has destroyed Iraq, tortured people, and arrested it's own citizens in pursuit of it's old program.
How the Bush administration is playing in Washington DC.

Hey,
Your humble blogmaster was in DC this week; no, not to engage in conspiracy, but instead to participate in the "campaign for America's future" conference....it was eye opening to be there.

It was only my second time in DC; I was at the conference one day and spent the next seeing the sites and eating exotic food, basicly.

Well, you might be wondering: how is President Bush's paranoia state going over in Washington DC itself, the place where, theoretically, people are most at risk from terrorists?

The answer: No one gives a damn. No one that I encountered, apart from some idiots protesting Sidney Blumenthal at Politics and Prose, actually believed that what the Bush administration was doing was anything except a partisan ploy. Everything was normal; I saw a total of about four police cars, or three cars and one cop on a motorcycle during my stay.

Not only that but, looking through the book selection at DC's finest stores it became pretty apparant that, even if it doesn't play well in Peoria, and even if representatives themselves don't buy into it, that the people of DC as a whole are smart enough and serious enough to be willing to consider radical ideas which literally leave this site behind. A difficult thing to accomplish, to be sure, but even in radical politics people in the District are more sophisticated and advanced than everyone else.

So, when you see your town being turned into a fascist republic by the local right wing idiots, rest assured that no one inside the beltway actually believes that this crap has any merit at all; and rest assured----even though I didn't meet any personally---that the probability is high that the members of the Bush administration itself don't even believe the stuff they're putting out. It's all realpolitick, cynical masking for the usual objectives of power and dominance. Which is nothing new in DC or in politics.

So, well, jesus christ, when I think of police state USA here at home and compare it to the friday nightlife going on from Kalorama down to Dupont Circle, and up to Columbia and 18th in Adams-Morgan, it's hard to not bust out laughing.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Why post-structuralism is so popular.

The hows and whys of the philosophical movement which has come to dominate a large portion of academia are largely unknown. Post-Structuralism, and structuralism for that matter, look like they’ve come out of nowhere, totally foreign, totally without precedent in American political and philosophical thought.

Well, not quite.

But to explain that we need to go back in history a little.

Throughout Western history the pendulum has swung between people who, in their political and philosophical views could be categorized as being ‘humanist’, and those who could be categorized as being ‘anti-humanist’. The humanist group has traditionally stressed mankind’s innate potential for good and for achievement in the world, and has frequently expressed this in the language of self-realization, which can be found all the way back to the rennaisance. The anti-humanists have, on the other hand, traditionally stressed man’s weaknesses in the face of a world which at the same time has the potential to corrupt and to totally control a man’s destiny.

So the battle between the humanists and the anti-humanists has been going on for quite some time; originally it was expressed through religious argument, with the humanists stressing man’s potential for perfectability----the cultivation of excellence over time---and the anit-humanists stressing man’s sinful nature and the arrogance of thinking that human beings can triumph over the world---God’s creation.

But, like most religous arguments, it translated itself over into the philosophical realm, where a secularized version of this line of thought played itself out.

The Post-Structuralists, it shouldn’t be required to say, are most definitely anti-humanist---and say so themselves.

In Amreican culture the anti-humanist strain of thought has not been well represented; beyond figures like George Santayana, philosopher and author, the only place where it’s really gotten play is in figures like Jonathan Edwards, the protestant theologian, as well as other conservative theologians, and possibly some conservative Southerners in the ante-bellum era.

The dominant trend has, on the contrary, been towards the exhaltation of the human spirit, I guess you could say, with a straight line going from Jefferson to the Transcendentalists, to the Progressives and Instrumentalists---associated with John Dewey and William James---to, arguably, the Beats and the hippies of the sixties and seventies.

And that’s where the trail ends. That’s where post-structuralism, with it’s rabidly anti-humanistic arguments drawing from Nietzsche, who had previously been assimilated by progressives, starts.

It’s no coincidence, and in fact is the reason why Post-Structuralism is so popular today. The trail ends in the seventies because by that time Humanism of the tradition just outlined above had transformed itself into an apologist for authoritarianism, restriction of civil liberties, violence, and dictatorship.

Brock writes in “Blinded by the Right” about how he went to Berkeley in the early eighties with stars in his eyes about going to help people and do something worthwhile, and about how when he got there he was greeted by the descendents of the Free Speech Movement denying free speech to speakers that they didn’t agree with. This was his catalyst for joing the right wing.

Yes, all that human potential movement, talking about self-realization, about rights and the maximiazation of them, unfortunately ended with people supporting Maoism. Maoism, why? Because one could argue that Mao’s refashioning of Communist doctrine relied on a species of humanism which could be used to construct socialism with Chinese characteristics. It probably made sense, provided that you were willing to accept the premises of the argument----which meant in practice overlooking the fact that Mao was very much a Stalinist and very much against even the Khruschev reforms in the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, many people were all to willing to do just that.

The writings of people in the sixties, particularly the earlier ones, are still great---but the reality of where they lead to was so bad that many people decided to abandon ship and hop on one which didn’t have the flaws of the old one. So instead of an individual centered philosophy you now had a society centered philosophy which ridiculed the idea that individuals could exist outside of society, and that society didn’t really determine people.

It might sound like a parody of some black power speeches, but it comes from a different source; the abuses that people leaning on the idea of white oppression committed were done with the humanist goal of self-realization in mind, while the post-structuralists are much to thorough to allow for such cooptation.

So, because of the self-discredidation----about a decade before Communism as a whole fell----of the American New Left, academia broke with a several centuries old tradition regarding American attitudes towards philosophy and politics and adopted instead the opposition tendency as their standard.


And so today the new leftist movement centered around youth ultimately comes from this anti-humanistic tradition.

The people who exemplified the old way are still around, still giving speeches---indeed, one of them prompted this article---but the poverty of their thought is self-evident, Not a lot of people are rushing to join up with them.

Instead, you have people who came from the marginals milliuex, who supported and pursued ideas which Berkeley liberals, for all of their supposed tolerance, opposed themselves----ideas like that contained in Jim Goad’s magazine, which among other things, actualy featured an issue devoted to Rape which included screeds like Goad’s, which said in it’s course that women liked to be treated rough and beaten. He didn’t mean it. All of this way tongue in cheek, but the fact was that Berkeley liberals were, and still are, as eager to censor this kind of thing as they would be to censor someone coming out in favor of right-wing death squads in central America.

And that’s the point.

That’s where the current left movement is coming from, in totality, and that’s why post-structuralism gained popularity and continues to enjoy popularity as a more and more established part of American culture. The tradition that Post-Strucuralism embodies is becoming a more and more enduring part of American society, and this even though people from across the board, including me, can point to a thousand analytical and philosophical flaws within post-structuralism which should discredit it.

People make decisions based on what they percieve their choices to be, not on reason alone. That’s what William James said. And although it’s a flawed philosophy, as long as there isn’t any leftist alternative to it that doesn’t plunge us back down into the morass of insane Berkeley Maoist seventies humanism, it’ll remain popular among the left.

The tradition can be salvaged provided that we view it through the lens of realism.

Camille Paglia was right when she said that, on the one hand, post-structuralism is the province of the elite and used by them in order to keep power, but her solution to the problem is, at the present, so obscure in relation to the currents of thought dominate in American culture that, although linked at one time to exclusive prep-schools, post-structuralism is nevertheless steadily migrating to the wokring and middle class mainstream.

Monday, June 02, 2003

But we must remember as well that it's been less than five hundred years since the first European set foot on the land of the present United States. By the time that that happened, England had already been invaded twice, first by the Anglo-Saxons, then by the Normans, and had suffered a few major dynastic wars; on top of all that, in the early 16th century, England was about to shift it's entire State religion from Catholicism and the Pope to a form of Protestantism which gave the King that power. This is no small amount of history. And I'm not even counting the occupation of Britain by the Romans. So you see, although the United States has been independent for 227 years, in the slightly longer run we've only been here for a fraction of the time some societies have existed, and because of that no one has the right to declare that how it is is how it's always been and how it always will be.


In the face of a lack of tradition, the Americans innovated; that innovation still forms the core of our being. Tradition does not. If we can reclaim our tradition of innovation and experimentation we might see that the new world is our oyster for creating what we please.
When I wrote that 227 years wasn't a long time, I was somewhat wrong; the political traditions of the United States matter a great deal---we're not going to reject them and think that we can start over somehow, but instead take them and build on them and direct them to a more equal and universal future.
How about a party that's a combination of the Parti-Quebecois and the New Democratic Party oriented towards ethnic Americans with the goal of establishing a mutli-ethnic version of America on a humane basis?
Quebec seperatism and what it could mean to the U.S.........

The nationalism of the Quebecois could be a good model by which ethnic Americans could unite in order to form a party and get political power, under a flag of a multi-ethnic America, including blacks and latinos, and asians, as ethnic groups, as opposed to the Anglo minority, and in favor of a moderate socialism or, shudder the thought, social democratic program, in order to humanize American society and make it a decent place. It would be against religious extremism as well as against patriotic extremism.

There's a saying that the Quebecois have, or that was coined by someone and which became popular, which says that Canada is a map country and not a nation-country; it exists because of commonly acknoweledged geographic and political boundaries instead of because of a particular national character. Why then, they may ask, is Quebec not entitled to nation status if all it contributes to Canada is a space on a map?

The same thing could be said about much of the United States, although seperatism is not on the agenda I have in mind; the point being that we're all here contingently; we're all here in the new world because a few generations ago our forefathers decided to come here and make a new life; any political boundaries as well as political traditions, as well as conceptions about ourselves, which we entertain are similarly contingent----there is no natural law, no sanction of thousands of years establishing that the United States has to be the way it is, or that it always has been and always will be. It's not. Four hundred years ago it was ruled by Native Americans along political and social lines totally unlike how the U.S. is currently organized. It can be changed, and, not only that, but any changes proposed have a good mandate because of this fact. Projecting U.S. dominance and stasis back into the past is a fantasy, and one which does not propose a good counterargument to the idea that the U.S. should be radically changed in order to reflect the actual racial and ethnic makeup of it's people.

Two hundred and twenty seven years isn't that long of a time, and it certainly isn't enough time by which an inviolable mandate for a particular type of government or social system to be set up by.

Nationalism, or multi-ethnicism which partakes in the European as opposed to the USA definition of nationalism, isn't naturally connected to the right, by the way. Nationalism in this case was associated with left-wing movements in Europe for quite a long time; there's nothing in this proposal which would give reactionary and rightwing elements in ethnic communities inordinate power, on the contrary, it might open up the space for real leftism to have a fair evaluation.

Expect more to come on this.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

There's a saying, or rather a sentiment with a saying attached, which is worth pondering, and it goes something like this: In any organization, people who are willing to lie to the hilt in order to please the boss don't deserve to be employed in their professions.

Call it a mark on one's character which says a lot about a person.
Defense Intelligence Agency Head says CIA spineless in standing up to Rumsfeld

That link from Smirking Chimp.com . If I was an intelligence professional, including one of those that probably monitor my site, I'd be thinking long and hard about whether I wanted to continue supporting this administration. Bush and company are not going to be in power forever; no matter what happens eventually Bush and his administration will be gone, and when that happens the intelligence professionals who lied on his behalf will be fired. When a new administration takes over and they tally up what happened in the various agencies during the Bush tenure, I can almost guarantee you that they'll purge every last one of you who bent the facts for Bush instead of giving him and the rest of the administration the straight information. So....as Bush and Ashcroft will probably be gearing up for further adventures using U.S. troops abroad and domestic surveillance at home it's incumbant on you to make the choice of whether you want to cooperate with it or not. You be the judge, because unlike in the past, history will judge you pretty fast if you make the wrong decision.

Which brings me to the fundamental question: What is America? Is it a place in the new world where people can experience political rights and economic opportunities that they would be unable to experience in the old, or is it a country set up to guarantee the original settlers wealth and social status, out of proportion ot the rest of the country, into perpetuity?

Is it an experience in Democracy, or a smug exercise in Plutocracy?

I'd like to know.

If it is a Democracy then it has to be a racial and ethnic democracy as well, or else the principle does not apply.
In comparing Brazil to the U.S. in terms of culture, the obvious contrast comes up that Brazil actually had to fight against the U.S. and Europe in order to establish it's own popular culture while we, seemingly, have been blessed with self control. I'd argue that this is not so.

The way I see it, the Anglos talked about in the previous post are a colonial power, they are a branch of the British family which, after declaring independence, became the colonizers themselves as they internalized the colonial mindset in struggles over America and it's relationship with the rest of the world.

If this seems too farfetched look at the Federalist papers and the thought of Alexander Hamilton, which declared essentially the same thing---minus the ethnic component. Hamilton declares that with self control and unity that the Colonies could control the carribbean, and have enough economic power to act as a player in world affairs. Presumably it's the English former colonists who would be at the head of this new Empire, which we're living in a way right now.

So the colonial power never left us, although it was transformed to appear indigenous as opposed to imposed from without. The United States was definitely fighting colonial wars against the Indians as well as managing colonial estates during slavery. What was absent during this period was a conception of America as a place where everyone, regardless of ancestry and religious belief, was considered to have the same inalienable rights, to be citizens in the truest sense of the word. This is what every other nation in the world bases their understanding of rights and of political society on, but not us; instead, we're the colonizers who, instead of bowing down before inalienable rights a la the French Revolution, decided instead that being the masters was better than being equals and instead ignored political ideas which are sine non qua elsewhere.

The results of all this are that the United States is essentially an occupied country; occupied by the former colonists and their descendents, with people from other ethnic groups, as well as blacks, hispanics, and some Asians, not to mention Indians, existing for the benefit of the economic machinery of this elite, and made to cower in fear when the poorer descendents establish their right of dominance by terror and intimidation, as in the example of the KKK.

Non-Anglo Whites cannot get their version of things onto TV, or into Movies, or into print. Ethnic America is belittled even though Ethnic America is numerically greater than Anglo America by any measure.

We are the colonized, along with racial minorities, and in any sane system of representation we would have multi-ethnic culture as the head of what it means to be American, instead of having any ethnicity one step beyond the Irish belittled or taken as fools and relics of a backwards time.

So the paralell between Brazil and the U.S. in this respect may be closer to the difference between the culture of the Paulistas and people from RIo, cariocas, on the one hand, and the majority of Brazillians in other parts of the country,than to the overall situation with respect to Brazil's place in the world, but the parallel still holds, and that paralell means that a Tropicalista styled movement in the United States would find some fertile ground for producing things which would resonate with people and redefine what it meant to be American in line with who America really is made up of.

And if the concept of representation means anything in America anymore, it's a moral imperative that this SHOULD happen.
Enough of sedition, let's talk about the flag.

That flag does not represent me. That flag does not represent my ancestors and family who endured backbreaking labor in the immigrant ghettos of this country while the Anglos enjoyed lives of stability and comfor. It does not represent the experience of my Grandfather, who, emigrating from Poland as a child, grew up in Poletown, the polish ghetto of Chicago, and at eighteen was drafted to fight in World War II, whereupon he was captured at the beginning, and spent the rest of the war in a Japanese prison camp. He came home with irreversable injuries which left him unable to do most kinds of work, and, moving his kids out of the ghetto, died a few years after from complications due to his condition.

It doesn't represent my other Grandfather, who slaved away as a white migrant farm laborer in the celery fields of central New York, and who worked from childhood almost to death.

It doesn't represent my Great Grandfather who, coming here from Ireland, lost a hand in a mill accident which left him partially unemployable as well.

And it doesn't represent my family which, although living a decent life in their Wisconsin Italian community, would be looked down upon and denigrated if they tried to make it back east in Anglo strongholds.

That flag does not represent me, and it doesn't represent my family. My first ancestors, the first people I can document, were either descendents of Dutch settlers in New Netherlands, the present Hudson Valley and Albany in New York State, or came shortly after New Netherlands was taken over by the English, from Holland, in the 17th century. A document which the Mormons got a hold of records a marriage between one of the New York Dutch and a man who came from the Palatinate in Germany after the 30 years war via the Netherlands, who would be my second recorded ancestor. He emigrated to New York State to be part of the Dutch speaking community there, and to practice his Calvinism in peace, I believe.

Later my family moved to a German speaking community in western New York state, where they stayed for over a hundred years, and where they are still today----although I don't know them. My Great Grandmother made the mistake of falling in love with an outsider and was thus banished from the community.

They obviously had their own ideas about what the New World was about.

And the Flag does not represent them.

What the flag represents, who it represents, to me are two groups, both connected by a common ancestry: Anglos who, through being in this country since the beginning, have great power and wealth, and influence, and who want to protect that influence from that of the majority of people in this country--who are not Anglo; and, on the flip side, people of Anglo descent who, although not rich or powerful, still feel that they have a special status here which it's their duty to deny to those coming from different backgrounds: they yell and scream about America because without America they wouldn't have any privelege at all; their ethinicity gives them status, and their yelling for the flag squeezes out people who can't endorse their sentiments because of the kind of cruelties I've described.

These two groups are a numerical minority that neverthless exerts a disproportional amount of influence in this country----the flag is their rallying point, 'cause nothing else so shuts out outsiders like the Red White and Blue, with it's reference to the Thirteen colonies in the bars and with the stars, which represent where the majority of people in the U.S. live, being consigned to anonymity in the upper left hand corner.

May the flag burn in hell. I support America, the real America, and not cracker white supremacy.