Saturday, April 30, 2005

I have to gloat: Seattle Weekly:"Revolutionary Kitsch", by Andrew Engelson, about NSK

Thank god NSK is finally getting the credit it deserves. It's been overlooked, made to appear fascist, relegated to the margins, everything except actually being looked at seriously. At least by a mass market alt. weekly like the Seattle Weekly. Now, in the wake of the spectacular NSK exhibit going on at the Frye art museum right now, http://www.fryeart.org/pages/NSK.htm , it's making the big time. Much overdue.

The exhibit is wonderful; I've already been there and it delivers. It's the biggest collection of Irwin collective NSK art in the United States at the moment, and features Laibach uniforms and other memorabilia as well, images from a stage production NSK put on, and a cheesy video display which seems to feature "Geburt Einer Nation" (Birth of the Nation, the "One Vision" cover) and Tanz mit Laibach alternating endlessly. The "Geburt Einer Nation" video leaves much to be desired, it's essentially a video of Milan Fras, the singer, belting out the song on a stage with two Laibach drummers in the background and orange light for a backdrop. I think I'll just listen to the CD, no offense. I was hoping that I'd see the video for "Wirtschaft ist Tot" (Economy is dead), which, judging by the still shots on the NSK athens website looks pretty good. It was promoted on the Frye's website, but I didn't see it.

There's also some really good explanatory notes, which make it extremely clear where these folks are coming from, which I'm sure will be greatly appreciated by the people who come in there not knowing much about NSK.

Anyways...this is a great triumph. Here's something to show the hipsters a thing or two: here's the real avant-garde, boyz.

Vladimir Soloviev on immortality

While we're posting excerpts from books...I thought I'd post this excerpt, which, unlike the one below, is probably much more inaccesable to most people because it's in a book which was only issued in hardback and which costs $75. And not everyone has access to an academic library for these things.

OK well, on second thought, there'd be no way to really capture Soloviev's argument, which equates Nietzsche's superman with the achievment of immortality, without totally reproducing his essay "The idea of the superman", from his book "Politics, Law, and Morality".

The cliff notes version of Soloviev's argument is as follows: we become immortal by freeing ourselves, as much as we can, from the restraints which day to day life puts on us and then using that freedom to work for things which are permanent, to produce things which are of such quality that they won't be washed away in an instant but will endure for a long period of time. By doing this we become, or, in actuality, produce things which become, closer to being immortal than before.

"Politics Without the State: Joy, Terror and Depression in the Global Corporate Order"

Ah, blame it on the University of Washington Bookstore. They had to stock this thing right when I was making my rounds, pardoxically to see if I could find a used copy of one of Roger Shattuck's new books about the literary tradition and how to redeem it. Or, to be honest, I was going to browse through the U Dub bookstore, find the book, then see if I could find it used someplace else. And in the event of that not happening at least buy something which would entitle me to a parking validation.

But, as luck would have it, this little book of essays caught my eye and thoughts of finding Shattuck soon vanished.

What it is are a series of essays put out by the Seattle Research Institute, a group of motley radical grad students versed in the reality of theory as opposed to the bullshit of it who come up with some interesting things, as far as I can tell.

Specifically, the book, originally composed (mostly) before 9/11 presents one of the very few, few as in this may be one of the only ones, perspectives out there which deals with the post-9/11 world in a thoroughly radical and valid way.

For conetmporaneous purposes the first essay, by Nic Veroli, is the most applicable. He takes up the theme of how exactly the media manages to do it's wonderous work of convincing people to support wars and invasions, and the restrictions of their own civil liberties by extension, time after time. Draws a lot on the book "PR!, a social history of spin", which, you'll notice (hint hint) is listed under the essential readings section on the right side of this blog.

Through all of their essays the authors touch on the essential concept of "Joy" as being an affirmative thing to fight for which can break through the system we see all around us. I assume that if you're reading this that you know the title of this blog is "Times of hate, times of Joy". The sense in which I mean Joy and the sense in which these writers mean Joy is identical.

There are some things I have some criticism of: in the second essay, about the potential communication of revolution, which draws on the thought of Hans Magnus Enzensberger, who, it should be noted, I've written about in these pages. I've read his "Political Crumbs" and some of his book about life in the late Communist states... HIs "highest stage of underdevelopement" essay in "Political Crumbs" is especially good...the writer, in trying to come up with an application of the guy's ideas to the globalization movement, seems to put too much emphasis on decentralization and not enough on collectivization, the emerging potentials of the new types of media, new in the sense of tv, internet etc.. in HME's thought seem to involve collective action and collective process as opposed to just decentralization. The author does mention collectivity, but this is a lesser part in the presentation.

Veroli's second essay seems to collapse the class content of American society into the very rich and everyone else, or, alternatively, to the very rich, the bottom 20%, and the rest of American society, which, because it's two months away from not having enough funds to maintain it's current standard of living without a job, is therefore thought to be somehow part of the working class? I think there's a large thing called the middle class in there, and that the mere act of having to sacrifice one's standard of living after being out of work for two months doesn't make you one of the oppressed. Sacrificing standard of living can mean a lot of things, many of which would not be considered too bad by people who don't have a whole lot.

The main point of the essay is that we shouldn't fear the economy going down the tubes but look for the potentials for joy, because, and this gets back to what I'm saying above, if the economy is dominated by a small group of rich people then the falling of the economy will therefore open up potentials for the majority. As said before, it isn't exactly that simple. I doubt that the middle class will really think about throwing their lot in with the oppressed; likely, they'll turn to a charismatic leader who offers a strong hand before that. Who also wants to protect traditional values.

Last criticism is of the last essay, which is about desertion as a strategy for dealing with late capitalism, with the idea being that if people desert the economy once it goes down in flames capitalism won't be able to stand any longer. Well, people have to eat. That's the basic problem I have with these types of strategies. You have at bottom the economic reality which people face, and I think that although taking the idea of desertion out of the realm of simply going into the hinterlands is a good thing that this potentially risks hemming the idea into a place where there's no effective way of dealing with the aftermath of such a desertion.

But, if what people are going to do after deserting is something like what happened in Argentina, then all's well.

The idea that's put forward of the Seattle protests creating something with an "Ontological Dimension", which, more than the physcial action created a new sense, seems right on. But this has to be preserved and not mythologized, either. I wasn't there, I can't vouch for any of the stuff about Seattle becoming a kind of participatory democracy or a revitalized urban landscape, but that idea at least hits home.

So here's an excerpt from their Manifesto, or introduction, which I've pilfered from the Seattle Research Institute site...wait a second, the excerpt I wanted to include isn't there, so I'll just have to type it in. Please e-mail me if you have objections to this use of copyrighted material:

2 Above all, what is needed today is the universal communication of joy. Whether in times of "peace" or in times of war, the corporate-owned media communicate only fear. Fear of otheres. Fear of lack. Fear of ourselves. In all these cases, these media communicate only barriers, limits, and separations.[snip] But the opposite of fear is joy. It is the only reason anyone has ever done anything aside from following orders. Joy is the meaning of freedom. ABOVE ALL, WHAT IS NEEDED TODAY IS THE UNIVERSAL COMMUNICATION OF JOY! But how can joy be communicated in a world of joyless media?

Jason Miller: "Take the red pill"

Oh boy. There are so many good things in this article it's hard to pick a few out for showcasing. It's a philosophical article about the nature of life and about the manipulations which our culture puts us through, as well as the bigger picture of the administration, the world, etc..

From the age we learn to speak, our gender roles are assigned to us with a rigid delineation. Boys play with trucks and girls play with dolls. Boys are taught not to cry. Girls learn to act fragile and sweet. America inculcates boys with its twisted compulsion to compete. Losing is cause for shame, and winning is the only thing that matters. The drive to be "number one" is the only goal worth pursuing. Many boys are seduced by the alluring myth that they are valued solely based upon their performance, and when they perform well, they feel high as a kite. Unfortunately, when they do not "perform well", whether it be in school, at work, in the bedroom, or on the football field, their feelings plunge to extreme lows as their sense of worth dissipates. Girls learn that they derive their self worth from their beauty and ability to attract men. America's obsession with the "ideal woman", created with silicone, personal trainers, tanning salons, and air brushes has driven many females to engage in the horrors of eating disorders. How can one know one's true self or one's true purpose on this earth when one is compulsively striving to "be number one" or to be the next Pamela Anderson?

Madison Avenue bears much of the responsibility for manufacturing the alluring lies that Americans swallow so readily. The illusions and pleasant fictions that they project to us through television, magazines, the Internet, and on radio border on the obscene in their disconnect from truth and reality. These propagandistic wizards use intricate forms of manipulation to entice us to buy what we do not need, use products that are unsafe or of low quality, and to our greatest detriment, to waste our precious drive and energy attempting to be someone we are not. Sprite's slogan is to "obey your thirst". If I were to truly obey my thirst, which is a physical drive to maintain the water volume that comprises much of my physical self, I would drink of water, not Sprite. Wearing the "right cologne" or driving the "right car" are not going to get me the "right girl", or at least not one with whom I will enjoy a fulfilling relationship. Drinking Coors at an NFL game is not going to morph me into Kid Rock and surround me with scantily clad women. Madison Avenue projects a steady stream of garbage into the minds of the willing. Unfortunately, most people engage in the mediums used by advertisers to hock their wares, and are readily seduced by the images, sounds, and enticing lies evoked by commercials and ads.


and this:

Wandering in this barren spiritual desert, it is small wonder that many fall prey to the "quick fixes" and easy answers. Instead of continuing on their spiritual journey through the sometimes barren land-scape of ongoing self discovery, and continuing on the challenging quest toward fulfilling one's higher purpose, some get side-tracked by oases offered by the media or government. They focus their attention and energy on attempting to attain society's definition of "success" by becoming the next Michael Jordan, pursuing wealth for the sake of accumulation in an effort to emulate Donald Trump, embodying the patriotic ideal projected by Big Brother, or accepting Christ as one's personal savior and embarking on a crusade to stamp out homosexuality.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Hubert G. Locke:"The People don't always know best"

It's unfortunate -- and in one sense, dangerous -- that a sentiment persists in this country that democracy means majority opinion ought to be the rule of the day. Since the conservatives have prevailed in the latest national election, their ideas and convictions, it is believed, ought to be the law of the land.


So says the retired Dean of the Daniel J. Evans Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington.

Wondeful how he says that democracy isn't majority rule.

The article is about how, in his opinion, sometimes the rule of the people isn't a good thing, which is exactly what conservatives have said liberals believe all along.

He justifies it with a reference to the Constitution. The Constitution is inherently elitist, for one, in that it's original vision of the federal government was that of a government run by and for the elites of society--who had to be protected against the majority. So that was the reasoning behind the restraining the people by checks and balances thing. One can choose to ally themselves with that sentiment or not to. I choose not to, because if I lined up with this whole tyranny of the majority argument I'd be putting myself on the same side as the elitists who the Constitution was written for, which I don't want to do.
In other words, the argument that democracy is anything other than democracy will have bad consequences eventually, somewhere down the road, because the argument does not benefit the people; ultimately it benefits elites. A person could argue that the reason why liberals seem to be so keen on allying themselves with a system that benefits elites is because they come from the economic elite, who the Constitution was invented to protect in the first place, and so are more comfortable with it.

The solution to the problem of the religious right isn't to restrict democracy but to get out there and sell your ideas to them, to convert them, I suppose. Restricting democracy when it doesn't agree with you is such a liberal thing to do.

Power-line

Got to the Powerline blog from a link on Cursor. Hadn't been there before. What to think...

Well, they seem to be committing a logical fallacy in their analysis of things: if a is against c and b is against c it doesn't follow that A and B necessarily have that much in common. A being the university professors which they oppose so much, B being people who oppose Ann Coulter and C being conservatives in general. This is in reference to a recent post detailing opposition to Coulter when she was speaking at a campus in Minnesota recently.

In other words, just because those damn mulit-cultural promotin' professors oppose Coulter and oppose conservatives doesn't mean that a) Coulter doesn't have some really messed up views which warrant protesting and b) that the people who were protesting here weren't actually acting in opposition to those things but were instead just opposing her because of some multi-cultural liberal agenda which they already had.

Coulter is the reason people oppose Coulter, not something which some professor put into someone's mind.

Another thing, and this goes for the conservatives on the web more broadly, is that, although I don't have enough information to conclusively say this, it appears that the people who they are opposing don't really have much of a connection to the left. This is a tricky subject because I do know that many of these professors aren't politically apathetic and are involved to some extent in their communities, but on the other hand I also know that a complaint has been raised over and over again that for the many of them their radicalism seems to be limited to their classrooms and that no matter what they teach many of them really don't have connections to any left movement which exists in the real world.

People should remember that the reason Alan Sokal made his famous hoax, which was fabricating a paper using fashionable theory which questioned the existence of gravity, and then having it be accepted in Social Text, was that, in his own words:

But why did I do it? I confess that I'm an unabashed Old Leftist who never quite understood how deconstruction was supposed to help the working class. And I'm a stodgy old scientist who believes, naively, that there exists an external world, that there exist objective truths about that world, and that my job is to discover some of them. (If science were merely a negotiation of social conventions about what is agreed to be ``true'', why would I bother devoting a large fraction of my all-too-short life to it? I don't aspire to be the Emily Post of quantum field theory.3)


That isn't exactly an endorsement of the right wing.

Other people have made similar comments.

Point is that now there is something more like a living left out there, call them progressives, call them anti-globalization people, call them what you will, and they critique the right for the correct reasons, not out of some doctrinaire opposition to everything conservative.

By refusing to recognize this Powerline and the rest of the conservative right are dodging the question of the validity of their own ideas and they thereby shut the door on examination of the real question: what impact are these ideas having on the rest of the world?

"National Defeat Day, National Liberation Day", by Andrew Lam

The link is to a beautiful piece written by Andrew Lam about conflicting thoughts on April 30th, the day of the fall of Saigon, commemorated as "National Liberation" day by Vietnamese in Vietnam and "National Defeat Day" by members of the Vietnamese exile or diaspora community in the United States.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Romanticism....

Readers will note that there've been a lot of revisions to the links page lately. This is part of the effort to clarify things. I'm going to sort out the links into categories soon for easier viewing and navigation.

Anyways, with all of this sorting it sort of makes me want to make known a few pieces of motivation. First off, where this whole romanticism thing comes from.

OK, I came to this from the point of view of someone who was totally immersed in modernism, and so the romanticism isn't in place of the modernism but rather...I thought, and still do think, that it's wise to let a little romanticism back into the modern perspective as a way to reinvigorate it, or into the post-modern perspective, for that matter, but how that works is another story.

So it isn't "Moon in june" romance that I'm talking about here when I reference romanticism. In fact, I probably don't value the typical English romantic poets as much as I should, preferring other countries. Nevertheless, E.P. Thompson wrote a good book on Romanticism and Political action, coming from an English perspective.

60th anniversary of the death of Mussolini

An informed source has reported to me that today is the sixtieth anniversary of Mussolini being strung up from a light post in Milan, hung, and and his body beaten by people in the crowd of Partisans who liberated the region.

All right!

A fitting end for someone who thought he was a superman and inflicted his vision on the rest of the world.

What Would Dick Think? (WWDT)

This is a link to the Venezuela post on the "What Would Dick Think?" website.

The Dick in question is Phillip K. Dick, author and thinker.

"reality is becoming more like a Phillip K. Dick novel all the time" says the site, which earns kudos from me for trying to apply Phillip K. Dick's political thought to our world.

"Straight out of Ann Arbor", says the site as well.

If you believe in synchronicities, here's a story.

I remember buying a book which was, I believe, Phillip K. Dick's non-fiction, from Borders in Ann Arbor, the big one right down there on State street and that other cross street, right by School Kids Records. At the checkout the woman who was ringing me up engaged me in conversation about Phillip K. Dick. Turned out that she'd read everything he'd written and taken his philosophy to heart....Strange, sometimes people communicate to each other theough the walls of the black iron prison without even realizing it.

Anyways, I went through my Dick period, which engendered many jokes by people.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Fillibuster and Democracy

Recently, the argument that the fillibuster is anti-democratic has been making the rounds. The idea behind it is this: filibusters stop the democratic process from occurring by preventing the majority from making policy. The reality is that on top of the will of the majority in collaborative decisionmaking there's usually a way for a part of the group to block something which they think is completely unacceptable, even if the majority supports it. This is the deal breaker. I think that this sort of thing is really honestly needed and functions well, because the subtext of collaborative decisionmaking, which at our best moments our government embodies, is that the community as a collaborative whole makes the decisions. Because the community, or the community virtually represented by representatives and senators, is what's being served then ultimately a part of the community should have veto power if they feel something is happening which totally goes against what they believe in.

Of course, you could argue that if there are consistent differences like this that maybe we should consider changing what constitutes the community, and possibly splitting into several communities which can best serve the needs of all their people in an efficient way without the veto being used in ways which don't lead to serious divisions.

However, we live in a unified country right now. The Republicans have to respect that Democrats have a right to their beliefs as well and not try to squash that.

Apology to William Gillis

A few days ago I wrote three posts attacking William Gillis, who runs the website "Human Iterations", which is located at
http://williamgillis.blogspot.com .

The posts were a mistake because he was saying something completely different from what I thought he was saying. He links to this website and posted a rethinking of his political strategy shortly after I posted mine. I though that what he was saying was a parody of my posting. This was not the case. It was a real statement by him.

I apologize for putting this out there on the web, syndicated by XML, naming him and accusing him of parodying my posts and then going on to impute things about him for supposedly parodying them. None of the things I imputed were accurate.

What's more, the style which I wrote the posts in was itself highly insulting, I apologize for that as well.The age reference is definitely included in that.Everything which I pretty much responded to was not there.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Amazon.com Associates thoughts

*This was provoked by getting my quarterly Amazon.com Associates statement in the mail*


A big shout out to the one person who actually bought something through my Amazon.com associates store when it was up and running. It now exists in the Google cache and nowhere else, although Amazon.com still has the account so you can theoretically still buy stuff from it, I suppose.

I must have one of the lowest conversion rates on record.

Well, what to say about the experience of being an Amazon.com associate? A lot of work, not necessarily that much payback for it.

Matt Yglesias on Culture!!!

Color me impressed. I'll have to read more of Mr. Yglesias. TAP is usually too mainstream liberal-social democrat for me, but this is a really good post.

This is unfortunate, not because it ends with the Federal Censorship Commission and book-burning (though I suppose it's possible it might lead to that), but because long before you got there you would just have created a small-minded and philistine public culture. Politics is important, but it's not everything. Insisting on the autonomy and integrity of the cultural sphere is important. One of the things that I really appreciated about Passion was specifically that it did this. It's no secret that traditionalists and religiously-minded folks of various sorts feel themselves to be marginalized in the cultural mainstream. All-too-often they seek to use their greater power in the political domain to try and win their cultural battles for them. This is bad. What's needed is less whining and more filmmaking. Movies, music, and television shows that contest the cultural mainstream in the cultural domain.

As a transition from "engage on what terms?" to "who engages?", note that there is a role for politics and policy here. Decisions made in congress effect the feasibility of bringing new voices to bear on the cultural dialogue. I've brought up à la carte cable in this regard before. The anti-trust laws are also relevant. So are the copyright laws. It's important for politicians to enact a policy environment that allows people of different views to contest values -- moral values, political values, and aesthetic values -- inside the cultural realm.

This sort of thing -- making policy -- is what politicians are for. Who engages? In my view, ideally, not politicians. This isn't what they're for. If Dan Gerstein wants to write op-eds decrying Friends then let's have at it. Friends is not above criticism. But Joe Lieberman shouldn't be doing this. If he wants to be a movie critic, or a rabbi, or whatever he should leave the Senate and let someone else write the laws. This is the old Rawlsian saw about "background culture" versus "politics." The point isn't that liberals shouldn't have substantive views, or should be afraid of controversies about substantive views. It's that liberal are characterized by the belief that the state shouldn't have substantive views about these things. Now, of course, Joe Lieberman isn't the state, as such. And I'm not dogmatic about this. If someone says, "Senator -- do you think Ross and Rachel will end up together?" and Lieberman's honest (it's important that it be honest and not just posturing) response is "To tell the truth, I don't watch the program, I think it's approach to sexuality sends a very bad message and I don't enjoy participating in that kind of thing" (or whatever) then he should say so. But for politicians -- and I really do mean politicians -- to go out of their way to enter into these debates leads, implicitly if not (often, at least) in practice to the idea that the state must take a stand.


Exactly. The part about statist policies leading to philistine public culture is right on. As he says, it's not the basic idea that maybe it wouldn't be so healthy to have certain kinds of culture being consumed which is the issue but rather that people speaking for themselves in the name of the State want to impose their own personal whims about cultural correctness and non-correctness on the rest of the country.

I'd be fine with non-specific codes that generally restricted access to certain things, like certain types of pornography, as well being fine with TV cleaning up it's act somewhat and not being sex driven, either by law or by voluntary agreement, but there's a difference between those types of things and government officials putting their own views in the mouth of the state and in the mouth of the law and thereby enforcing those views as if they were some logical, generally agreed upon, statement of belief.

This happens constantly. A city council gets a bee in it's bonnett and next thing you know you have movements to restrict things...because the people in charge found out about them and personally don't like them. Happens in reference to public schools all the time. Someone arrogates to himself the responsability of making moral decisions in the name of the community, goes to town, and expects everyone else to follow in lock step or else they're now bad, bad people.

The truth is that no person's personal morality is wide enough to ever be a public standard. And no small homogenous group's personal morality is wide enough to be a public standard. There's a basic flaw in the philosophy behind this stuff which will always lead to restrictions far over and above what a society which at least respected libertarian ethics would demand.

Lee Sustar: the Strong Life of Dave Yettaw

THE LABOR movement suffered an irreplaceable loss April 14 when Dave Yettaw passed away at the untimely age of 58.


As a longtime rank-and-file activist and later local president in the United Auto Workers (UAW) at General Motors’ Buick City complex in Flint, Mich., Dave was a key leader of the New Directions Movement that challenged the contract givebacks and pro-corporate policies of the UAW in the 1980s. As president of UAW Local 599, he put his perspectives to the test, leading an important strike in 1994 that showed the union’s power by winning hundreds of new jobs after years of devastating cuts.


That victory rattled both GM execs and top UAW leaders, who conspired to oust Dave and the New Directions slate in the next local union election. “Vote for Yettaw and New Directions, and GM will close the plant,” Yettaw’s opponents said. Dave and his team lost--and GM closed the plant anyway.


As a retiree, Dave ran with a New Directions slate as delegates to the 1998 UAW convention and won, elected by workers who felt betrayed by the UAW. The convention took place amid a long strike at two Flint parts plants that had virtually shut down GM’s entire North American production system.

Leonardo Boff: A Liberation Theologist on Ratsinger

Boff, a Brazilian liberation theologian, writes on Counterpunch:

Pope of Fear and Centralized Power?


By LEONARDO BOFF



The elevation of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to Pope of the Catholic Church has brought satisfaction to some, and concern to others. Two factors cause these concerns: his style of governing the Church, and his basic attitude vis-a-vis today's pluralistic world.


As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for more than twenty years, and in his homily to the Cardinals before entering the Conclave, Benedict XVI made it clear that he will continue the line of his predecessor.


If his style of governing the Church were to centralize it, as previously, there is a risk that the Church will be identified with the Pope. If, in the face of a plural world, the basic attitude is purely and simply to affirm orthodoxy, openly opposing cultural pluralist tendencies, the Church runs the risk of identifying Rome with the world, thus becoming a redoubt of conservatism and of Christian intellectual mediocrity.

If centralization prevails, it will restrict the creativity of the local churches that need freedom to articulate to the masses of the suffering faithful, faith with justice and social mission with liberation, without which evangelization is alienation. The exodus of the faithful to other denominations will worsen. This situation is characteristic of all the Third World where more than half of all the Catholic of the world are found.


If the attitude of confrontation with modernity and post-modernity prevails, I foresee disastrous consequences for the future of the Church. Traditionalist as he is, Benedict XVI must know that this strategy profoundly wears down the Church. In the past, he deprived the liberation movements of the oppressed the cooperation of Christians who could have offered Christian values to the emerging social relations, leaving them instead alienated and immature. The Church herself arrived always late for everything, even to the signing of the Declaration of Human Rights. A Church that returns to models of the past becomes immobile, like a fossil. Accommodating, she does not fulfill her mission of educating Christians for the new times. Instead, she clericalizes, leaving them immature in matters of faith, if not childish, popish flatterers, of whom there are so many these days.

What's left

Recently, it's come to my attention that when people hear the word 'left' they automatically associate it with one of the myriad of Marxoid leninist groups out there, people who don't represent anyone or anything except themselves, and that people have a hard time grasping what I'm trying to put out there as being the real left, or the relevant left.

So....if you take those people out of the picture, what is the relevant left? I think that the relevant left, the left that I associate myself most with, is expressed in the wonderful book by Paul and Mary Jo Buhle and Dan Georgakas entitled "The Encyclopedia of the American Left", which if you want to know about the left you should look up at your library. It's really expensive.

Anyways, like any other book this one has it's own perspective and is shaped by the author's own beliefs; however, unlike most beliefs, theirs translates out into increased, not lessened respect of their subject matter, in this case the left in American history.

Instead of giving a little synopsis of the Trotskyist or whatever groups that happen to make the most noise these people actually examine the labor struggles of our history, the early attempts to build socialist parties and socialist support, they examine utopian community advocates and anarchists. They examine Communists as well as radical gay rights groups. Immigrant socialist groups and native born ones.


Buhle and Georgakas come from a tradition of labor history which draws on the experience of and writings of C.L.R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya. James, in particular, emphasized workers' self initiative and actually broke with the established organized left groups of his day in order to do something which was more

They basically start from the Revolution and go until the seventies.





That, the actual tradition of the American left, the living tradition of the American left, is what I believe in.

Another good book is "American Socialism from the Shakers to the Third International: A documentary history", edited by Albert Fried. It covers some of the same ground through reproducing the actual texts from this movement. Both books, Encyclopedia of the American Left and this one, are great reads.

Bob Burnett: "That Other America"

Good article dealing with how cultural distinctions have replaced class distinctions when it comes to who supports which party. Suggests that they feed into each other in that working class people who vote Republican really care about their kids, can't spend enough time with them, and so fear for their future. Reports that Howard Dean said this.

I agree with most of it. I think that people on the left have to a) make a moral argument themselves and b) put forward a populist agenda, at the very least, which would have more credibility with working class voteres than a traditional liberal one.

Although I'm not a fan of populism as a political ideology as such I think that at the present time this is the best we have, and that, even though it's not what I'd prefer, that at least it's a genuine current in American politics which is in fact radical in its own way. At least radical in comparison with what liberalism has been putting out there.

Land Redistribution

This might not be the most complete statement on land redistribution, but it occurs to me that one of the reasons there was such a need for land redistribution was that the titles connected to various pieces of land had grown so complex and so corrupted that to simply put things right, i.e. to give the land to the people who actually had claim to it, required a general redistribution process where people said "All right, we know that generally you should have this much land, you should have that much land, etc.., we're going to cut through the red tape and just redistribute it".

If this is true than it would be a sign that redistribution happened not because land tenure existed in a simple system but because it existed in a complex system that became stultified over time.

Could that happen again? Could it happen with capitalist property?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Ezra Klein:Point, Counterpoint

Quoth Ezra:
Krauthammer writes:

Have that independence and supremacy been abused? Grossly. What other advanced democracy would radically legalize abortion by judicial decree rather than by democratic will expressed through legislatures or referendums? What sane democracy allows four unelected robed eminences in Massachusetts to revolutionize the very definition of marriage, the most ancient institution in society?



The counterpoint is that the Massachusets supreme court is in fact a local institution which was expressing the will of the people when it did this. But in giving the counterpoint he misses the first point which Krauthammer made, which is that abortion, an extremely controversial thing, was in fact legalized by the supreme court without any sort of democratic buildup, thereby setting the stage for abortion vs. anti-abortion to become an enourmous issue.

Krauthammer uses this fact, which is a sticking point in the history of liberal reforms in the United States, to make the illogical jump to condemning the Massachusets supreme court for doing something which is probably in line with the will of its citizens and, by the way, doesn't undermine the 'most ancient institution in society' but instead redefines it in the state of Massachusets.

There's a large difference between something controversial decided on by the Supreme Court justices, which effects all 50 states, and something decided by the Supreme Court of a single state, one which happens to be really liberal.

And let me get one thing clear

Free and fair elections aren't the U.S. backing new elections vs. Russia backing an old set of elections.

The U.S. is a partisan party in the Ukraine just as much as Russia is, so elections backed by the United States, which the United States poured money into in order to get done, are just as invalid as Putin's meddling with the election in Eastern Ukraine. There's no difference.

If there was going to be a real vote in the Ukraine it would be overseen by a truly non-partisan party, including, in this case, one which wasn't either pro-Europe, pro-U.S., or pro-Russia, but maybe was instead a panel of some sort. That did not happen, so Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" has just about as much validity as the ballot boxes stuffed and manipulated in the coup that took Czechoslovakia into the Eastern Bloc.

Ezra Klein: Humanitarian interventions

Ezra Klein, or the guest blogger, whatever his name is, makes the argument that people in the U.S. really aren't isolationists, that they in fact support humanitarian intervention, especially when there are moral issues such as mass slaughter and genocide going on. Therefore, we should do it.

Well, there's this issue here. First off, I agree that people are really willing to support military interventions to stop genocide or the impression of genocide. That, however, is part of the problem. Because those who can control the media to show the genocide which they want us to intervene in can drum up support in an instant. He mentions Rwanda. Rwanda didn't get much press coverage, Yugoslavia did. We invaded Yugoslavia twice. Yugoslavia is also European and is in a strategic place in Europe vis a vis oil pipelines as well as in terms of new markets and geopolitical influence. Rwanda isn't. So, while both people's were suffering, our heartstrings were taken to the Yugoslav experience, which was not as severe as the Rwandan genocide.

Look at the entire buildup to the Iraq war. How many times was it repeated that he used chemical weapons on his own people? Time and time again. It's perfectly true, except it happened in the eighties during the Iran-Iraq war when we were in fact on Iraq's side. But no matter. The fact was put out there, people's heart strings were stimulated and next thing you know anyone who objects to invading Iraq is accused of endorsing the use of chemical and biological weapons on civilians or acting like it didn't really happen.

Just look at the manufactured democratic revolutions in the Ukraine, in Lebanon, and in Kyrgyzstan. How easy it is to pull on people's hearts to make them support autocrats and crony capitalist millionaires in the name of democracy. Just tell them that people have been groaning under an egregious dictatorship, that these people have been waging a valliant struggle for democratization and have been thwarted at every turn, and that a savior, in the form of a manufactured U.S. supported democratic 'Student Movement' is here to save the day and they'll do anything you want.

Maybe it's just projection, you know, people are aware of how things are here in the United States and therefore are hoping for the same issues to be resolved elsewhere.

Maybe that's just wishful thinking.

But people a fucking dishonest liars if they actually want people to believe that they gave two shits about Kyrgyzstan or Ukraine before it became a media spectacle.

And now that the media is no longer covering them they give the same two shits again.

So much for your fucking moral politics you hypocritical idiots. Yes, yes, I want to feel the emotional catharsis of the fall of the Berlin Wall, yeah, yeah, give it to me, let me live someone else's fantasies because my life is such a fucking wasteland that I can't distinguish between real issues and the crap I live through from TV.

Just life in the U.S. for you.

The Slowpoke Blog

Ha! Funny, funny, funny. You have to check this out. Humor, politics, and being good at both, a great combination. I think I shall add it to my blog roll. Always good to know that there are really cool thought processes behind the cartoons you read.

Funny Slowpoke Comic:"The New Web Browsers"

Have to click on ye' old link to see this one, but it's pretty funny. I especially like "Rothkoscape", which "Converts web content into luminous color-field paintings, allowing users to experience information as pure emotion." after which the character says "Ahh...I love basking in the hot, sensuous glow of the blogosphere!". They also have a web browser from the future which is viewing "The Survivor Times". I wonder if there could be a connection....

Political Research Associates

Seriously, check out Political Research Associates' webpage. They're probably the premier organization analyzing the fascist right from a left wing perspective, they aren't conspiracy folks. The main persona is a veteran activist named Chip Berlet, who does very good writing and has a good perspective, and they're in some way connected to Noel Ignatiev, author of the autonomist history "How the Irish became White", which looks at the construction of race in America.

Correction:

Martin Lee wrote "The Beast Reawakens", Christopher Simpson wrote "The Splendid Blond Beast"

Andrea Dworkin again

Reading more of her work I think that the criticisms levelled against her stem more from the fact that as an original and complex writer she has her hits and misses than anything else. Can't expect people to be super human. So you have really good stuff and then you have some rather tenuous metaphysics talking about the penis and then you have some more good stuff and then you'll have a reference to something historically which may not be completely true. It's part of the creative process.

Of course, there are substantive things which I could disagree with her on but I doubt people would really understand it, and since the waters are so polluted with anti-Dworkin rhetoric I think I'll demure from it so as not to throw any more fuel on the fire.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Qualification on Dworkin

I don't totally endorse her ideas. I think that, unfortunately, personal responsability comes into it at some time. If you consistantly engage in high risk sexual behavior, which is unhealthy, even if you know that you're doing something wrong, then you have some responsability for what comes of it and I don't think people in those situations should totally blame men in general for what they've experienced.

Cockburn: Time's buried Hitler cover

Which is a sarcastic comment on Anne Coulter's recent appearance as a Time covergirl. Of course I'm sure Cockburn can't come right out and say that or he'd be sued to death for it, but in my considered opinion this is what he's getting at. Excerpts:

Throughout the article, Time’s reporters and rewrite team gave Hitler every benefit of the doubt. Hitler’s notoriously vitriolic hate speech was alternately dismissed as a put-on or excused as “from his heart.” The worst Time could say about Hitler is that he could “occasionally be coarse,” citing Hitler’s oft-repeated claim that Jews are “genetic garbage”. Time readers learned that Hitler is an omnivorous reader (the report mentions Gobineau and several American writers on population control), and that he regards himself “as a public intellectual.”


Throughout the cover story, Time presents instances where Hitler has been allegedly misunderstood or underappreciated. Hitler, it claims, “likes to shock reporters by wondering aloud whether Germany might be better off if the world was rid of global lice like Slavs, gypsies and Jews” but writes or speaks such things on “only to get a rise out of journalists” and enhance his political profile. Time recalls a 1932 Munich rally where Hitler offered his typical hyperbole: “We must drench the world in blood in retribution for Germany’s past injuries”. Unfortunately, writes Time, “his drench-the-world bit” would later be wrenched from context and repeatedly quoted as Hitlerian nuttiness or worse, The context, apparently, is that Hitler was laughing when he said it. Time admits that maybe not everyone would find the line funny.


All applies, in my humble and personal opinion, to Ms. Coulter, who, if she was a man, would be called the fascist that she is.

The Danger

Which I'm afraid is really hard to communicate, is not seeing that there's no difference between the actions which were taken by the Nazis and the violence which we have today. The Nazis were much more extreme but the impulses were the same. If you take what's happening in the climate of America today down the road a few years you could, in potential, see some of the same accumulated abberations which characterized the Nazi state.

Connecting Dworkin's ideas with greater social context

The dimension of messed up social violence, sometimes with sexual overtones, which Dworkin talks about, isn't limited to just our society. There was a society which in many ways epitomized the sexualized violence which she talks about. I'm talking about the Nazi state.

If you want to find a textbook example of virtually everything which she and others who have written on the subject are talking about, about what happens when social violence is legitimized and made an acceptable principle for organizing society, you have to look no further than the S.S.

Idolizing death and self superiority, living according to a military idealism, purity, maleness, macho, killers, sadists, torturers, taught to have no moral feelings of compassion for people outside of their world.

Read Walter Schellenberg's description of Reinhard Heydrich, SS commander and architect of the final solution, in his memoirs. Schellenberg was the chief of S.S. intelligence. Even he describes Heydrich openly as a psychopath who, perched on the top of the SS empire, felt that he was bound by no laws and exercised violence against anyone he chose, kept mistresses, had no cumpunction about killing at all.

The Holocaust didn't come out of nowhere. It was not simply a product of bueaucracy grinding along or of banal evil. No, the Final Solution was based on a decade of experience with torture and violence.

Strangely enough, the people who were responsable for the formation of the ideas behind the SS were pretty open about what they were doing. Christopher Simpson's great book 'The Beast Reawakens' goes into detail about this stuff, about how they saw the SS as the manifestation of this primeval brotherhood, all male, which at one time was supposed to have ruled over society, but which was in time overcome by the feminine principle, which must be eliminated.
They saw themselves as new Knights, as people who established the law and didn't have to obey it, who had concentrated in them complete authority which was unquestioned and which was in fact unquestionable--or else. They saw themselves as the elite whose genetic background empowered them to do all this. Violence? That's a natural manly feature. Fighting and war is the right thing. Women should be in their place, which is at home acting as submissive wives and mothers of the German race. There was nothing about this which was hidden or concealed, although we tend to forget these things.

'Jan Valtin', the pseudonymynous author of 'Out of the Night', published by AK Press, a recounting of his years as a Communist fighter in late Weimar and early Nazi Germany, recounts coming into contact with the hardest of the hard members of the Brownshirts in prison. These were people who were so extreme that the Nazis themselves, after they came to power, had to lock them up because they were threats to society. He reported that they were primarily interested in sodomy with each other and violence.

I should throw out, too, that, of course, the general climate of torture and violence is the same as that which manifests in Abu-Ghraib and in Guantanamo.

Andrea Dworkin, or, I surprise everyone

OK, the link above is to an excerpt from the Andrea Dworkin online library entitled "Men & Boys".

Ms. Dworkin has recently passed away. I've thought about writing something, wondered how to do it. Once, many moons ago, on an e-mail list, people were rehashing complaints about radical feminism, or rather, to be more precise, people who are radical feminists who are quite absolutist in their styles of argument and don't seem to be able to explain themselves without reference to ideology. In the process someone brought up Dworkin's name, to which a member of the list sensibly replied "How can you know that she's wrong if you haven't read her?'. Good question. Ever since I've sort of held back from Dworkin comments since I had not read her and I value actual knowledge of what a writer has to say above whatever values of liberal-leftist piety rule the day.

Then, the New York Times printed a letter which said that one of her strong points is that she communicated the experience of what it was like to be a battered woman to a greater audience. This is the sort of primary experience which I prefer to bullshit, so I thought a thought.

So today, I went to the Andrea Dworkin online library. Well, she's really good. She has many, many really good insights into the relationship between men and women. I think she's largely right. This is sort of the other side of the descriptions of society as having a large violent component to it...which has become fashionable in certain circles....in that most of the analysis of this sort have been from the point of view of those who have engaged in violence, or who have been ok with it, rather than from the point of view of people who have been victims. So you can choose either the Marquis de Sade or Dworkin, in which case I think Dworkin has more relevance to real social problems since she isn't an insane rapist misogynist.



One of the things that clued me in to the relevance of the perspective of Dworkin was the fact that, in looking through avante-garde literature and in the writings and thoughts of people who really, in actuality, were pushing all the limits in terms of sexuality and other things that I found that a lot of disturbing and messed up stuff lied behind it. It wasn't just an invention of the right. I remember watching the movie 'Quills', a pop examination of the Marquis de Sade loaded with references to pop theory in a cinema group and commenting afterwards that people really didn't seem to get that Sade wrote about doing really bad and cruel things, that if you actually read Sade instead of just talking about him what you find is really, really, messed up, by any standards. Another person in the group commented that they liked the idea of freedom, of writing despite being locked up, that Sade was presented as embodying in the movie.

This analysis was confirmed by Roger Shattuck in his book "Forbidden Knowledge". Shattuck has some authority on the subject since he is a scholar of the decadent avant-garde of early 20th century France and is not exactly a conservative. Nevertheless, even he, the person who sympathetically studied these very interesting people, who on top of being decadent were also some of the best creative minds of the 20th century, comes out against the legalization of certain kinds of pornography, citing Ted Bundy's interview with Jerry Falwell where he says that violent pornography had a factor in him comitting his murders.

When the people who like the decadents, as I do, and as Roger Shattuck does, when the people who have even literally written the book on them, come out against sexualization and certain attitudes towards women, you know it's serious.

Bolton: "Testimony of UN nominee is disputed"

Bolton friggin' Bolton.

He throws shit at people who disagree with him, kicks down, kicks sideways, acts like someone in la cosa nostra rather than a government employee, and...he's being presented as the nominee for UN ambassador!

Only in the United States could a person who otherwise may be pumping gas and sporting confederate flag tatoos while his teeth slowly decompose from meth get to this sort of power.

Isn't it wonderful how in politics nothing abnormal is considered to be...abnormal. You have alcoholic careerists, sexual harassers, people who go for underage girls, like some Republican politicians out east, people who are generally nasty, and there's a place for all of them on the federal level.

Not to mention coke snortting frat boys.

I'd like to think that that whole coke/Bush thing was an expression of privilege, but, nope, I'm more inclined to believe that, on top the privilege, Bush really is no different from a thousand other thugs out there and that ultimately the government is run by people like that.

Then of course you have the hangers on...the psychotic people pimping the system, mostly on the right but also on the liberal end of the spectrum, with people with serious problems posing as Christian activists, forming the anti-abortion groups, etc...take for instance the fact that one of the core Terry Schiavo protesters is in fact a registered sex offender.


Or take Rush fucking Limbaugh, Mr. 'I had a problem, but lock everyone else who did what I did up'.

Or Coulter, or Michael "I'm not really crazy!" Savage.



Jesus christ, you'd expect people who were aligning themselves with moral issues not to be moral failures, but the Right has always served power and power attracts the usual crowd, no matter what ideology is on top.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Mikhailovsky on 'A Cruel Talent', Dostoevsky

I'm reading Russian author Mikhailovsky's essay 'A Cruel Talent', about Dostoevsky...I don't quite know what to think about his argument. His ideas are brilliant, the way he puts them forward is brilliant, and insightful, but as for the crux...well, ok, the crux of the argument is that Dostoevsky was really a sadist who revelled and essentially got off on writing about people doing cruel and torturous things to other people, that he enjoyed making scenarios where people suffered because, in the end, he was on the side of the people inflicting the suffering and not on the side of the sufferers.

Also, that Dostoevsky essentially created a new species of topic for literature which made pathological impulses acceptable for discussion and reflection, but which are not necessary for a normal society.

Like I said, I don't know what to think about the argument; particularly Mikhailovsky's assertion that even when Dostoevsky is writing about the people who suffering is being inflicted upon rather than the inflicters that he's really just looking at the dismemberment of the sheep by the wolves from a position temporarily sympathetic to the sheep, while still being on the side of the wolf.

This disturbs me because I like Dostoevsky's book "The House of the Dead" very much; the book is his semi-fictional recollection of life in a labor camp/prison in Siberia where even the most depraved people find a sort of pure spiritual redemption.

I'd really, really like to believe that that's true; in fact I do believe that it's true, and that it reflects a profound understanding of Christianity and the potentials within Christianity for ultimate reconcilliation with the divine no matter what standing you possess at the particular time in relation to it.

Maybe Mikhailovsky and Dostoevsky were both right. Maybe, on the one hand, Dostoevsky was a sadist, but, on the other, he picked up on the fact that even for the depraved redemption is possible.

Just to clarify....

With that post below which questioned "Why a left?", I wasn't endorsing the Prussian way of doing things at all. Instead, the discussion surrounding the post had revolved around non-western alternatives to bourgeois society. Prussia, it so happens, tried to do an alternative to bourgeois society. One could ask the question: were they succesful? It's a fair one. The answer, in my opinion, would be no, because they kept intact and sought to keep intact structures of exploitation which were unacceptable.

The question revolves around, at it's base, the idea of sudden, inorganic, movements for reform or revolution being bad, as in 'if they are so bad, is there a progressive alternative?'. The rhetoric of organic-ness has been co-opted pretty thoroughly by conservatives, who like to paint everything that liberals or progressives do as some sort of alien, non-organic, act, which will doom society to failure, but it doesn't have to be.

I remember reading Burke's book "Reflections on the Revolution in France", which, although it doesn't have much of a relation to the way the French Revolution actually went down is nevertheless a masterpiece, and thinking to myself "Ok, this thing about selfish, self interested middle class people with no respect for anything messing things up is a good point; people shouldn't act like that, but why does all of this have to justify conservatism? Couldn't liberal reform be done from a position which respected historical tradition and culture, which wasn't based on a sort of self-interested capitalistic spirit?"

I think it can be.

I think that democracy, representative government, liberty, civil liberties, all of these things can be accomplished in an organic way, and not at the snails' pace which the conservatives suggest is the only timetable to truly, constructively, doing these things.

Mark Morford: The San Francisco Bubble

From roughly two years ago. Found it while looking for info on the San Fran housing bubble crashing.

He talks about a cultural bubble....like S.F. as a sort of insular utopia.

My problem with San Francisco, and it isn't a big one, isn't that it's radical but that it's radical in an ultra-liberal way and not radical in a socialist way.

There's a difference. I consider socialist allied radicalism to be true radicalism, whether you define that as anarchism, left-libertarianism, social democracy, socialism, some weird mix of all of the above, or communist and assorted leninist currents.

S.F., while a real liberal town, isn't a town where, in my experience, the radical left gets the hearing it should. Sound insane? No. It's just that there are many, many, many, more people who are radically liberal who live in San Francisco than there are people who are radically leftist. They have every right to move to San Francisco and follow their vision of what radicalism means....but it's still based on the liberal framework as opposed to some sort of socialist or leftist framework.


Ironically, there are of course many San Fran based radical organizations and outlets, but in my understanding of things their status is somewhat subordinated to the much greater ultra-liberal majority.

So when Morford talks about the S.F. cultural bubble and about how great it is to live inside the cultural bubble I can't help but think that there are quite a few things that he's leaving out. I mean, are organic restaurants, yoga, and an ultra-open attitude to alternative sexuality all that makes life decent? I think not.
While being good things I wouldn't go so far to say that the presence or absence of them (with the exception of general acceptance of other sexual preferences) is enough to make life either good or bad. It takes more than that to make a good life, and I think that San Fran's emphasis leaves a lot of blind spots, which may have something to do with class. San Fran isn't a workers' town.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Just a thought...

And it might be glaringly obvious but, it's never a good thing to let unconscious concerns or concerns from your personal life dictate your choice of writing topics and the way you treat them. Although sometimes there's not a lot of control which we have over these things, nevertheless, to the extent that we can control it it isn't a good idea to let these issues have their play.

Writing is something like an extended form of self-therapy, or of self discovery, even non-fiction political writing. To raise your consciousness, to come up with these ideas, time and time again, to get the fires of thinking and creativity going and staying there you need to constantly examine yourself and your own mind and your own views on things. Your own thought processes. And in this there's a lot of therapeutic stuff which happens. But, seeking to raise ourselves out of the unconscious domination of our writing creativity by our personal stuff, by our incidental lives in the real world and by things which have nothing directly to do with what we're talking about is a worthy venture. The venture reaches its completion by the experience of a general self awareness of how unconscious influences reach into ones writing.

No one wants to be the writer with the fucked up personal life....because it's obvious to the outside observer that there's some connection between the one and the other and that, therefore, the actual content and quality of the writing and of the ideas is compromised somewhat. Or greatly, depending on the way of things.


At the end, there's no difference between writing life and personal life in that the act of writing is no escape from consensus reality. Therefore, it is not a magic 'out', a sort of logo-centric problem solver, to use Derridaian terms, which makes the system work. Why? Because there aren't two separate systems.

The stage which writing takes place on is frequently much larger than one's personal life, so in that way it is a sort of escape, but an illusory one, as it's just another slice of the cake.

The below could be called

The instrumentalist or pragmatic view of nature.

Kyoto and American environmental denial

You know, our refusal to sign the Kyoto accords mystifies everyone. Why would we not do it?

I think part of the reason has to do with how the U.S. industrialized, or rather that the genius of American capitalism produced a whole bunch of inefficient plants doling out toxic emissions with not a concern or a real understanding of what this was doing to the environment or to people.

It's a huge topic, I can't say that I know enough to really write something that truly addresses the issue in a comprehensive way, but I have sneaking suspicions that American industry was founded much more by taking general principles which apply to mechanical engineering and using them to regulate how we construct industrial concerns than on any sort of prudent understanding of what we were doing.

By this I mean that a) in a mechanical engineering setting the goal is to get the job done by using chemicals and things which generate pollution as tools rather than looking at how they actually function. Outrageously toxic chemicals seem to have been used in industrial processing because one aspect of their behavior did something which helped the production process along, which either couldn't be done with conventional tools at all or could only be done at a much greater cost. Footnotes, footnotes, I know, they aren't here...but consider early pesticides. They get the job done, they kill the weeds, right, and they don't kill the plant. Come to find out they have serious effects on human health. Maybe they'd have found that out if they weren't simply looking at the efficacy of using pesticides to help boost production in a capitalistic society.

How this potentially relates to Kyoto is that, I think, because of the disconnect between what we put out there into the world and the consequences of it, because of the idea that if it helps to make industry hum it can't be that bad, we don't get that we're living in a sensitive system where our actions have potentially radical consequences for the environment or for future generations.

Cars pollute? That's just propaganda that it's so bad, besides (so the reasoning goes), if we made cars less polluting (or reduced our dependence on them) we'd have to boost costs in some part of the system, make cars more expensive, or make gas more expensive, and that would eventually have negative impacts on our overall economic strength, which would in turn be more damaging to American life than this "potential threat of global warming". Or so the rhetoric goes. Doesn't get to the base of the issue, which is that global warming and the consequences of environmental degradation trump economic efficiency, that economic efficiency is secondary to the lived environment.

Bernard Wiener:"What does 'progress' mean?"

When it rains it pours, so it seems. Not minutes after writing that thing below talking about Nietzsche, non-western societies, fascism, etc... I find this article by Bernard Wiener which talks about (almost) all of the same. He doesn't mention Nietzsche.

Going from wealthy, solidly infrastructered Germany to poor, developing Morocco stimulates culture shock in major proportions. I was in Deutschland to address a meeting of Democrats Abroad-Germany, and to join the celebration for my mother-in-law's 90th birthday; though the German economy, along with most of the rest of the world these days, is sluggish, still the country exudes enormous financial strength and stability, with a huge middle class doing relatively well.

...

THE RIPTIDE OF ALIEN CULTURE

This disparity between rich and poor countries reflects a social/political phenomenon with which I've become all too familiar in my trips abroad in the past several years. In the rural areas of mainland Greece and Crete, in the Southeast Asia countries of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, in North Africa's Morocco, and probably equally true in many ways for Asia's emerging industrial/technological giants China and India, the same dilemma confronts these nations:

That is, how can one reach "first-world" status without being sucked totally into the undertow that is the prevailing international culture sweeping across the globe -- largely Western/America-based, aided greatly by the ubiquity of cell-phones and satellite dishes -- and without having to go through the worst excesses of the industrialization cycle?

This desire for modernity and status -- symbolized by the desire for big-ticket technological items such as cars, for example -- brings with it the toxic pollution that seems to certify for them a developing culture on its way to someday playing in the same league with the advanced nations of the world.

Is there a way to leapfrog over the worst of industrial/technological development -- the pollution, the corruption, the social cruelty -- without having to repeat the mistakes and unfolding history of the developed world? So far, I see little evidence of such a positive pattern, as each region and developing nation rushes headlong into its own industrial revolution, in order to get to the 21st-century dream of riches and world status as quickly as possible. In doing so, it pays a heavy social, political and environmental price.

....

BOOK AND MOVIE

I recommended to the Democrats Abroad that they get ahold of Sebastian Haffner's illuminating book "Defying Hitler," written in the '30s inside the country about how the Nazis came to achieve full power in Germany. Here's my review of it, "Germany in 1933: The Easy Slide Into Fascism."

Obviously, America 2005 is not Germany 1933, and Bush is not Hitler, but the history of how the Nazis slowly sliced away the freedoms and rights of the German population, to the point of total dictatorial rule, has lessons to teach us as the U.S. extremists of the far-right take us further down the road to an American brand of effective one-party, authoritarian domination.

I wish I had seen "Downfall," the movie about Hitler's final days in the bunker, before I gave my DA talk. There are even more scary parallels in that film, which I saw upon my return to San Francisco.

Ratzinger again

I hate to say it, but without the foil of Communism to make a pope who had conservative views on many things look more progressive, I fear what Ratzinger is going to do.

Will Popes go back to being conservative bedrocks, people who keep the Catholic church from changing with the times, or is there a chance that someday the spirit motivating Pope John XXIII, who presided over Vatican II, will come back?

So why the left?

The stuff about Prussian society sort of implies the question: why the left? Ok, it might not, but it does to me.

So my answer is that the Left exists and came to being in the west in order to combat the excesses of feudalism. This whole process of collective liberation which swept western Europe and it's spheres of influence seems to have been particularly impacted by the deformations on human freedom and liberty which feudalism imposed on the people's involved. Being owned by a person, forced into military service, deprived of your right of leaving an estate, having your marriages have to be approved by the lord, deprived of freedom of conscience, deprived of freedoms down the board, doesn't do much to inspire great confidence in the social system in which you live.

Nietzsche and the anarchists, 'society', thoughts

There's been an e-mail circulating around the web promoting Autonomedia's book "Nietzsche and the Anarchists", which is probably a really good book. Unfortunately, along with the goodness there seems to be a sort of willingness to overlook the real contributions that Nietzschean philosophy made to the growth of fascism.

And this brings us to the question of what do I mean when I say 'society'? This blog used to be subtitled "Against the capitalism, the state, and society". A gentleman who I jousted with once has recently made a comment about 'society', so this makes a good opportunity to expand on the concept a little bit.

"Against Society". That comes from Nietzschean influenced ultra-left theorists like Jacques Camatte, author of 'The world we must leave' and other writings. Also people like the perpetual favorite of the feds, Mr. John Zerzan, as well as some others. Well, all these guys who talk about the concept of 'society' and being against it, at least from a leftist perspective, really are 1) against bourgeois society, and 2) are suggesting looking at non-western societies for examples of how a real, healthy, functioning society could look like. So they aren't abstractly against the concept of 'society' in general, just the dominant society which we live in. Zerzan likes tribes living in remote parts of Africa and, I suppose, the Americas, who have little in the way of organized hierarchical social structure but who nevertheless have a high quality of life and much free time. Camatte may be a little more flexable than that.

Other people who have done the same thing include Maurice Godelier, fabulous French Anthropologist, who wrote the now out of print "Rationality and Irrationality in Economics", where he made the same sort of argument against bourgeois society, pictured in this case through bourgeois economic thought; then he did years of field work with a society in Indonesia which was more structured than Zerzan would like and
came back with an analysis of how they looked at the world and organized their lives differently from us, in a way which, in all probability, he sees as being much better. The current of thought which this is all part of overlaps heavily with the Third World Marxist current, as in "Communism with African characteristics" or "Communism with Asian characteristics", etc...



So society in general, as in an organized group of people living and working together for common benefit and living a common existence, isn't what I'm against.

But, ok, and this is how it gets back to the Nietzsche, there's a common misperception that that in fact is what people who use rhetoric like that mean, meaning that they'd be against any society anywhere no matter what it looked like because they're just cranky little buggers.

Fair enough, because there are people out there like that, including many who would call themselves anarchists inspired by Nietzsche, but even Nietzsche himself wasn't really saying that.

Nope.

People out here in the U.S. of A. forget that Nietzsche was writing within a specific historical moment, and that his criticisms of society weren't happening in a vacuum. Specifically, Nietzsche really hated middle class life. He hated the rising bourgeois world around him, thought that it was producing blowhards and idiots masquerading as being important and knowledgable when really they weren't, etc....but reading Nietzsche with the knowledge that he was writing this in 19th century Germany, in fact in the later years of the 19th century, puts a whole different spin on it.

Because in Germany at that time the middle class was not dominant, it was just a rising interest group. You had many people who believed like Nietzsche did, and most of them were upper class aristocrats who wanted to get rid of bourgeois society by pushing back the clock. This was who Nietzsche was allying himself with when he spoke out against society.

In particular, his later writings, which combine his usual contempt for the middle class world with a high amount of praise for modernity and technology, could easily be seen as being an endorsement of the Prussian government's policies, which aimed at undercutting socialism by combining social programs and modernization with a continued dominance of social and governmental life by the aristocracy.

The point was to defeat both socialism and capitalism by evolving a way to a modern economy which kept the traditional social relationships intact.

After the Prussian Empire was defeated in World War I and dismantled, along with the Austro-Hungarian Empire, thereby destroying any credible hope for an alternative to Republican government by conservatives, you have a phenomenon known as fascism start to occur.

The first people in Germany who were identified publicly with fascism were people who still stuck to the idea of an revived Prussian empire, somehow, people like Ernst Junger. But without that traditional lodestone of Prussian society in place they started to farther and farther afield to more and more radical and odd ideas, so that it seems to have gone from traditional Prussian aristocratic ideas to Germanic Aryan utopias pretty quickly.

They wanted a national revolution which would have social characteristics, with the national being the thing placed first, because they felt that their nationality was being undercut by foreign ideas and forms of government.

The socialists, on the other hand, wanted a social revolution first, with maybe a national thing here and there to reflect the particular historical experience and culture of the region.

****

Sort of like the difference between people who want to put America first, and then maybe do some social security 'ownership society' business which is supposed to help out the working folks, and progressives who want a progressive program but also want to reach out to red stater folks with a message that resonates with real people, no?


It all relates back to Nietzsche and all this stuff somehow....oh yeah...Nietzsche was the prophet of the Prussian way to try to sidestep capitalism which became German Fascism once Prussian society was no more.

Just goes to show you that there's more at stake than just being simply against 'society', because if that's all you're dealing with then both a fascist and a leftist could claim with equal legitimacy that they were against it.

Ratzinger

The election of Ratzinger to pope doesn't bode well, I'm afraid. I was hoping that someone who was more progressive would get into the position. Ratzinger isn't. That's an understatement.

In other news, I've been alerted to the fact that my sidebar is now on the bottom of the screen, which makes getting to the links and the archives hard. I'm working on the problem, which likely has something to do wtih cascading style sheets. It happened after I re-enabled comments. I think that the comments page is really useful, so I'm going to work on having both links/sidebar, and comments working at the same time.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Naming the system: Neo-Conservatism=Neo-Fascism

If we're going to point fingers and say "Bush is a fascist!" we better know where we're pointing, and why. The where is neo-conservatism, the why is because they have real similarities with fascist ideology.

Neo-conservatives are statist conservatives who originally believed in a strong conservative state for the purposes of fighting the Cold War. The idea was simple: America needed a strong state which was involved with geo-political situations around the world to ensure the high standard of living of the American public and to stop the spread of Communism abroad, to contain the Soviet Union, and if neccesary, to accomplish those geo-political goals through overthrowing governments and supporting armed resistance to Communist (and otherwise) aligned liberation and decolonization movements in the Third World.

The former leftist ideology of these folks combined with their new found conservatism qualifies them as 'brown Bolsheviks', the term German writer Ernst Junger, who was in fact a fascist supporter, used to describe the National Socialists. This term and this characterization wasn't demagoguery, instead it referred to a quite specific arrangement where you had conservative politics operating under the banner of a self consciously radical government, which had more in common with the French Revolutionary state than it did with any conservative state which came before.

Anyways, the neo-cons share at the top the commitment to a corporate state at home and, abroad, a will to let U.S. nationalism dominate the world.

The neo-cons haven't been quite as flashy about all this as were the original fascists. It appears to be something which has been established on the top level, at the most abstract and distant points of policy, and is working its way down.


Well, I have to leave the topic for another day, or later in the day. This is more a basic thesis than an real entry and there's much fertile ground here for making the concrete connections between fascist state policy and the view of the state established by the neo-cons.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

A person could trace a line

From the Enlightenment, which put it's faith in individuals united in a free society, and after the failing of that to nationalism, where the locus of social change shifts to a collective idea where the group represents the individuals, to, after the failing of that strategy, to the working class, where a collective group within the nation, and then somewhat internationally (at least in gestures and speeches), is now seen as the hope of creating a free society.

But what's lost is that the Enlightenment was just one interest group within a greater society. It had some good ideas for reform but denying the existence of the greater society and thinking you can just start over with a blank slate is not reality.

Wasn't the point reform, not total destruction? And couldn't this reform be done without total denial of everything else in service of the reform, and couldn't this reform not be expanded to include workers' rights as well as other areas of rights?

The last thing we need in the United States right now is more social instability. We're already such an unstable society that we're tottering on the edge of collapsing into reaction.

Originally the Enlightenment was a reform movement not a replacement for society.

Being for the working class without engaging in Rousseauian idealization

A few posts down I wrote about how some of the fetishism of the Mayans of Chiapas could be contrued as coming from this idea of them as a noble savage culture, something unconditioned by western society which exists in a pure form and which is thereby virtuous because of it. Much the same could be said of some views of working class culture by people who are socialists. The idea of a noble savage is Rousseau's.

Rousseau's basic idea was that civilization had chained humanity and that beyond the bounds of civilization lay man as he really was, which was somewhat dark and monstrous but also his own self. Rousseau's ideas are like an attack on Enlightenment rationalism which takes everything which they deny and puts it into the figure of the man beyond society. Think your society is stifling? Surely the real representative of humanity, who doesn't feel the stifling, can be found beyond the boundaries of your world.

What it appears to be is a protest against the Enlightenment rather than a real analysis or a real proposition of an alternative.

How this relates to the working class, is as follows: the enlightenment is a middle class phenomenon par excellance, the political current which was the beneficiary of the enlightenment was the middle class, liberalism is the ideology most associated with it. Now, if you oppose middle class society, there is a possibility that in looking for a way out of the bind of enlightenment politics that you'd try to find a group which didn't possess the flaws which you see the middle class as having; moreover, if you found such a group the possibility might be that you'd see them as potential redeemers of society, as people who because of their position of being shut out of middle class life were therefore still pure. Solution to the problem of middle class stasis? Promote rule by the pure working class, who are sure to embody everything that you see the middle class as not possessing.

But it's a game, a set up, where the working class itself doesn't get a say in whether they want this or not. Or if they actually reflect in their culture what's being put onto them by these middle class drop outs (mostly).

The working class isn't going to solve the problems created by the deficiencies in enlightenment ideology and in western society in general; they aren't going to be the solution which magically makes everything better.

Working class and poorer americans do have interests which are increasingly being shared by many people, but at the same time the class structure which we see around us is generated by the economic necessity of having our system work in a certain way. I don't think it matters who gets put on top, as long as those economic structures, relating to how the greater economic world is structured, how businesses are structured, how the businesses community exists, flows of power in management and decision making, virtually everything in the extended economic world, are there the same class relations are going to manufacture themselves. I think working class culture should get a lot of recognition and be a central and vital part of our world but I don't think it's a question of denying every other culture which is out there, either. Which is a long winded way of saying that if we're going to try to reform all of this that there should be some other standard than simply manufacturing working class cultural hegemony, that there should be concrete standards of justice and concrete principles outside of the class relationship, but not in denial of it, which we're basing this on.

Fascism and the 'end of the world'

OK, reading Ted Rall's blog I noticed that a reader had wrote in accusing the left of running around like a chicken with it's head cut off because of the possibility which we talk about of the U.S. degenerating into a fascistic dictatorship. I agree that there's a lot of talk out there, some of it emanating from right here, which might appear to portray what's happening with the U.S. right now as a precursor to some apocalypse.

Whatever rhetoric we use, the reality is likely to be somewhat different. Why? Because although fascism and dictatorship are apocalyptic occurances, in that it's an enourmous tradgedy when they occur, once they're put in place they aren't unstable but instead tend to last very, very, long.

Italian fascism took over in '22 and lasted til '43. The Nazis took over in '33 and lasted till '45. Franco took over in '39 and lasted until '75. Portugal was under dictatorship from '29 till '74. Chile's dictatorship lasted from '73 to '90.

There isn't going to be some sort of easy decomposition and internal collapse if this thing gets established.
So, I'll be clear, the point, as Ted Rall makes on his blog, is to stop this before it can be established. Because if it does get established it will likely be extremely hard to get rid of.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Of course in saying that..

I don't know what the reality is on the ground in Zapatista land. The power dynamics might be different, although I did read a rumor that Marcos had actually been ousted from power by a group of Zapatistas leaders.

Whatever the case may be I find it very curious that a movement which is supposed to empower indigenous people hasn't developed indigenous people as spokespeople who can write and communicate their point of view to the outside world, but instead relies on an educated white Mexican to do the talking.

To be honest, and you're getting the backstory of the blog here.

The reason that the link to the FMLN, a Salvadoran ex-guerrila group which has turned itself into a legitimate political party, is higher up on the link food chain than the Zapatista stuff is precisely because the Zapatistas put out a romanticized vision of themselves while other Central American groups like the FMLN don't.

FMLN is socialist, has links to the Catholic Church, exists in a universe quite like that which any person in the Western hempishere would inhabit.

And they don't have a charismatic leader who pens communiques all the time. All I'm saying with that is that although he calls himself a Sub-Commandante I haven't seen any writings by non-Marcos Zapatistas, you know? Or, ok, I've seen a few, but not nearly as many as the huge output of Marcos, who is clearly in charge.

Ted Lewis:" Political lynching of Andres Obrador";and unhealthy romanticism about Mexico

The link above leads to a story by Ted Lewis about how the ruling party of Mexico is acting to prevent the popular left-populist mayor of Mexico City from running for President.

The article is decent, but thinking about the ramifications of how we, in the United States, treat Mexico, not having to do with Ted Lewis, it comes to mind that maybe the whole infatuation with the Zapatistas is just another unhealthy romanticization of the third world..

Let me explain. Obrador represents populist politics as could be understood by anyone in the United States or anyone in Latin America. He is a conventional populist-leftist politician. We have this thing in the United States where Mexico is seen as totally and completely other to us, because they aren't white, and a component of that seems to be that we don't easily support Mexican political movements which have something in common with our politics. Or we don't recognize that Mexicans have politics which might be similar to ours. Instead, we look at the Zapatistas as being representative of Mexico.

They aren't.

Maybe it's easier to look at these people who are totally indigenous fighting against the Mexican state in their own way than to actually deal with mainstream Mexican political parties. Because exotic indigenous cultures fit when North Americans look at Mexico and the more complex reality of Mexican life doesn't.

With the Mayans, who are struggling indeed, you have the perfect pristine, third world, culture, seemingly untouched by western life, which wants to be liberated with the help of compassionate white Latinos and North Americans. They have an exotic previous civilization behind them, with pyramids, texts, temples, abandoned cities. They even have prophecies, which Sub-Commondante Marcos makes use of in his writings on their situation, implicitly comparing himself to a legendary figure who will come out of the blue and liberate the Maya and begin a new age. Don't take my word for it, look at the story, I believe the figure he makes reference to is "Pacal Votan", in his "Writings of Subcommandante Marcos" published by Seven Stories Press a while ago. Votan is going to liberate the Maya, a force of thunder. Guess who that seems like.

Zapatismo, although it has helped the indigenous communities, seems to be a diversion in some ways away from the problems of the Latin Americans who aren't totally indigenous, who are closer to North Americans... It could almost be seen, and this is revving it up a little bit, as a denial of Latin American politics, a denial of the idea that Latin Americans can have their own politics which is like our politics. No, instead, focus on the groups which are picturesque.

Miguel Obrador shows the reality of the situation. Hopefully people will become more aware of Mexican politics.

One thing is for sure, I don't think that the Zapatista sympathetic people in the U.S. would like Rock en Espanol a whole lot....

Friday, April 15, 2005

Joy joy joy

Always good to see thoughts actually corresponding to reality in some way.

Case in point. Surfing the web, looking originally at Eric Rudolph stuff, I came across a link to a white supremacist web forum of the neo-nazi type. And guess what. They're just as well read and well versed as anyone on the left, maybe moreso. Not the blathering morons which the left wants to paint them as.

I've stated many times, and it's right there in the documents on the right, that if you want to oppose these people you have to oppose their ideas.

These guys are wrong, but they're not stupid.

People who perpetuate the stereotype of these folks being just lower than they are as the reason for them doing this are dodging the issue, which is the big no-no on the left : what if some of the things these people are saying is right, or at least good in ideas, and you can't fight back with ideas against them or counter them because you have no ideas of your own, or no real understanding of things?

I don't believe they're right. I have, however, seriously looked at their writings and know, based on my own knowledge of philosophy, what the flaws are and can argue against them if needed. In other words, I know that I'm not one of them because I've looked at their ideas, thought about it for a little while, and said, nope, doesn't work.

Most of the left isn't willing to do that for fear that they'll be contaminated by their essence in some way.

***

People who just want to treat these folks as if they were a half-literate pseudo-threat will eventually wake up one day to find that their organizational skills beat name calling any day of the week, and that reality check won't be a pleasant one.

Christian Terrorism?

The Christianity Today article linked to below tries to make the point that since murder is against Christianity that there can therefore not be Christian terrorists, and that, in fact, Muslims object to things being called Islamic terrorism.

Well, people don't get to pick what they'd like to be called, do they? If the terrorist groups out there had their way there would be no terrorists called as such, there'd only be freedom fighters and whatever else. So, if the shoe fits, wear it.

Eric Rudolph is a Christian who has said that his actions were motivated by his Christian faith and that he believes that the taking of life in trying to stop abortion, which he sees as taking life, is justified. He is a Christian terrorist.

The militant protestant groups in Northern Ireland are Christian terrorists. The Falange, the Christian militia in Lebanon's civil war, were Christian terrorists.

There's no contradiction between Christianity and terrorism, no matter what the bible says.

You can just ask the people who were on the receiving end of the Crusades.

Ot the people expelled from Spain in the Reconquista. Or the people who were victims of the Inquisition, if it were possible.
Or Native Americans.

Eric Rudolph and Christian Identity

While Christian groups say that the "evil and wicked religion" that Rudolph was associated with—the Church of Israel—isn't one of ours, the Church of Israel says Rudolph isn't one of their own, either.


"We very clearly and emphatically teach that all Christians have a duty and an obligation to respect all law enforcement authorities. If Eric Rudolph had listened to his lessons here, he would have learned that acts of violence were absolutely and completely out of order and something this church would never have condoned," Dan Gayman said.


Syracuse's Barkun seems to give some credence to this, noting that the issues of abortion and homosexuality "are a rather subordinate theme" in Christian Identity—and that "anti-Olympic sentiment is not a motif in Christian Identity, and it still strikes me as an odd target."


In other words, even if Christian Identity was a kind of Christian version of Wahabbism (which it isn't), Rudolph wouldn't even have acted consistently with it.


In their efforts to get Christianity off the hook with Eric Rudolph's self professed Christian Jihad against abortion clinics and the Olympics, Christianity Today goes a little too far.

Christian Identity, the movement Eric Rudolph spent some time with, is a racist church whch the Aryan Nations is loosely associated with. Not exactly a non-violent group of people. They believe whites are the real tribes of Israel and that Jews are children of Satan and that Blacks are mud people who aren't even fully human.

So the protestations that "even if Christian Identity was a kind of Christian version of Wahabbism...Trudolph wouldn't even have acted consistently with it" is a little hollow.

Here's an excerpt from an article on this site which has a bunch of documents relating to the Church of Israel, which Eric Rudolph was briefly associated with:
A new way to hate


Former member of group cites influence of Schell City pastor

The Joplin Globe/January 2001
By Andy Ostmeyer


Although Dan Gayman denies ever meeting James Ellison, the head of a violent, domestic terrorist organization called the Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord a former CSA member says the two not only met, but that it was Gayman who taught Ellison a new way to hate.

Former CSA member Kerry Noble said Gayman should not be blamed for any of the group's violent acts, including the bombing of a Jewish community center in Indiana and plans more than a decade ago to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building.

But, Noble said it was Gayman who helped turn Ellison - and, through him, other CSA members - into white supremacists who blamed blacks and Jews for many of the nation's social and economic problems.

Noble, now of Fort Worth, Texas, said Ellison and his followers originally were something of a religious community, a group of seekers unhappy with mainstream churches who were looking for a more authentic Christian experience.


In another article the pastor, Gayman, writes about his church's racial separatism:
It is very difficult for the congregation to understand why the word diversity cannot be inclusive of The Church of Israel. Recall that the Pilgrims and Puritans who first arrived on American soil in the early 1600s were all Separatists. Why is it suddenly wrong to be Separatist in terms of dating, marriage and worship? Why is it good for other racial groups to practice Separatism while being bad for this congregation? There is a lot of Separatism practiced in America and some of it is blatant and open. This Separatism is fully acceptable unless it happens to be practiced by Caucasians? Why is Separatism good for some but bad if it happens to be practiced by Caucasians?


The point I'm trying to make isn't that separatism as such is a bad thing which shouldn't be tolerated but that, in contradiction to what the pastor is putting out about not being part of the Christian Identity movement, about respecting other races, that this is not the case. They are part of the far right millieu and some nice words aren't going to change the fact that they are. White separatism is by definition far right.

Different visions of totalitarianism

OK, building on that last post, one of the huge weaknesses in the neo-con oh so facionable idea of totalitarianism is that their underlying point, which is that centrism is natural and that the extremes of right and left aren't, does not apply outside of the United States.

What we would consider the extreme right, in some ways, is in many countries simply 'the right'. Like I wrote below, there are main parties in Europe who don't believe in democracy, don't believe in social equality, don't believe in free speech at all, and really do openly want a state where all these things were limited. And it's been that way for centuries.

So the idea that fascism, because of it's extreme qualities, is some sort of departure from a pre-established centrism which naturally prevailed the world over is dead wrong. What about the Royalists in France? What about the people who supported the Junkers in the Prussian state? None of these people wanted democracy or freedom and they had huge influence in their countries. What about the Tsar and Tsarism in pre-Revolutionary Russia? Not exactly a middle of the road kind of office.

In fact, in some countries, like France, the extreme pre-Fascist Right merged with the Fascist Right.

And the Nazis took their legal theories from a person whose whole philosophy was based on supporting the ideas which propped up French absolutism under Louis XIV, Carl Schmitt.

The middle of the road is good for you theory doesn't work. It just doesn't, no matter if it's in it's liberal Clintonesque incarnation or it's rightwing (supposedly) moderate version.

Totalitarianism didn't happen because people just decided to one day depart from the old order. Likewise, the center will get you nowhere.