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June 08, 2008

For Anybody Interested

Herein I continue my conversation with Courtney the Marxist Revolutionary, who responded to me after I responded to her, all of which you can read in the past few posts beginning with the one about Barack Obama being black.

Fair warning: it's very long and very dry and I wouldn't encourage anybody to read it who isn't Courtney or me.

Truisms19

Courtney writes:

Firstly, I'm a revolutionary Marxist activist (a lot to explain) or just radical or revolutionary (or progressive+). I do not sit back. Those who believe they must only pull a lever several times a decade are the ones sitting back. It's a shame that talking about politics is a matter of manners here. I have an Indian professor who told me she is so frustrated because in India when there's a speech or something important, the buses and everywhere are BUZZING. If people discussed things, we would all have a better sense of what's up.

For those of you interested in reading about revolutionary Marxism, I would suggest reading this.

We certainly agree that it would be great if people in this country were better educated/informed about the issues of the day and maybe less educated/informed about, say, Brittney Spears, but I have noticed a lot of chatter about what I consider to be the dominant issues of the day: Iraq, the economy and the election. People are certainly talking about these issues, care about them, and as we’ve seen by the turnout in the primaries on the Democratic side, are passionate enough about them to vote.

While I am aware that India has a vibrant democracy and booming economy, it is probably worth noting “that 10% of the population in that country controls 33% of the wealth,” and “a quarter of the population earns less than the government-specified poverty threshold of $.040/day.” Forty cents a day? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_India) Maybe the reason they spend so much talking every day is because, as the expression goes, “talk is cheap.” For forty cents a day, that’s probably all they can afford to do.(If you'd like to read an interesting article about income inequity in India, read this.)

To hold India up as a model of what our nation should look like is kind of a tough sell.

I have gotten this response before. For some reason, you either must buy into the legimacy of electoral politics OR you must be a pessimist and a defeatist. Personally, I believe it is much more depressing to believe that this is as good as it gets and that's it's truly representative. If the Democrats were going to change anything, they would de-fund the war and call for immediate, [or if that word is too scary] very rapid withdrawal of all troops (and contractors) from Iraq. Bush would veto, but everyone realizes it's a disaster and it could be overriden. It's only a matter of containing the disaster and finding out how to maintain our grasp on that geopolitically essential region to imperial domination.

I am certainly not saying that our system is “as good as it gets.” I think there is always room for improvement. In fact, I think there is room for a lot of improvement, particularly in the areas of health care, social policy, corporate power, etc. But that is not the same as throwing up your arms and asking for a governmental mulligan. Our system has survived and largely thrived for over two hundred years, along the way creating the wealthiest and powerful nation in the history of the world. Wealth and power might not be the measure by which you choose to judge a country’s success, but when viewed across the world stage, I would say those wealth and power go pretty far.

Further, what do you mean, “If the Democrats were going to change anything, they would de-fund the war and call for immediate…very rapid withdrawal of all troops…from Iraq?” I mean, I understand what you literally mean, but I suspect that, while many Americans (D and R) would like this, I also suspect it’s not as simple as just pulling the plug on our obligations in Iraq. You will never hear me defend this illegal war: I think it’s an outrage. More than that, I think Bush is guilty of treason, which I discuss here. But just because YOU want something to happen doesn’t mean that’s what SHOULD happen. I’m assuming better minds than yours and mine are trying very hard to figure out a way to extricate ourselves from Iraq within the minimum amount of time and with the minimum loss of life.

We deserve better than the electoral college and super-delegates - both of which are designed to prevent popular control.

Again, I’ll bite –what would that be? What is “popular control?” Because if it is what I think it is – every single issue being voted upon by the public – I don’t want it. I don’t have that kind of time.

Acknowledging the centrality and influence of economic power is not equivalent to conspiracy theory. Obama would not be where he is now, at such a level in our government, without conceding any of his principles and values that would cause trouble. He has a checkered past, but he used to go to pro-Palestian events and was a corporate lawyer, he said he was against the war from the beginning but keeps funding it.

I can’t really speak to this because I don’t which principles you’re talking about. What has he compromised? Are you saying that he should be speaking out more on behalf of the Palestinians? Okay. I’m fine with him if he does that, but he has also been going out of his way to defend a strong Israel. Are those two mutually exclusive? Personally I don’t think so. As for him being a “corporate lawyer,” I guess my question to you is: so what? He was also a community organizer, university professor, and political activist. Aren’t those exactly the job titles you, specifically you, would want a political leader to hold?

[NOTE: Personally I couldn’t confirm that he was a “corporate lawyer.” According to Wikipedia, not always the most reliable source of information I know, this is what Obama did while working for the firm Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland from 1993 to 2002: “Obama worked on cases where the firm represented community organizers, pursued discrimination claims, and on voting rights cases. He also spent time on real estate transactions, filing incorporation papers and defending clients against minor lawsuits.[22] Mostly he drew up briefs, contracts, and other legal documents as a junior associate on legal teams.[22]” Doesn’t sound particularly “corporate” to me.]

As for continuing to fund a war he is against, were I in the Senate, I would probably feel the need to do the same thing. The problem is, we’re there now. He may feel that abruptly defunding the war would cause more harm than good. On that, I think he’s probably right.

When electoral politics is a business and journalism is too, what else does one expect? I ask you to look to any other country in the world to see that the parameters of political debate in this country are so narrow, that people arrange their own expectations around them. If Democrat=Left and Republican=Right, than we surely need a new spectrum.

Why do need a new spectrum? Within the current one are people like you, people like me, and people like Dick Cheney. The spectrum works fine. What it sounds like you want are more parties. That’s fine. They exist. As I’m sure you know, this country has lots of political parties. What most of them don’t have is any power. You can ask yourself, “Is that because they have no money or because their message doesn’t resonate with enough people?” I don’t know, although I suspect that there is room in this country for a third party which combines conservative fiscal policy with liberal social policy. And the parameters of political debate in this country are exactly the same as in any other country. The fact that you and I are debating is proof.

In the marketplace of ideas, the good ones will attract “customers.” The fact that we won’t have a Marxist Revolutionary candidate debating McCain and Obama this year on TV, I think, speaks more to the ideas than to any inherent corruption in our country. As you know, Communism absolutely made some inroads in this country during the early part of the century. But people soured on the idea. Why?

On the whole spectrum, from Fascism to Anarchism, all of our elected representatives are somewhere in the middle.

Obviously. Unless you want Fascists or Anarchists running the country.

People don't know much about politics because it's either made so dull that it would be silly to pay attention, it's preoccupied with inheritance taxes rather than wage increases or people don't have time because they're working constantly and still want some time to be themselves and relax everyday. If we had genuine democracy, the Iraq war would have ended the minute 2/3 of people were against it - we would have had a referendum. If we had genuine democracy, a similar margin could force a politican out of office that was not doing what he promised. Immediate recall is one of the least thinkable principles of socialist (meaning after a working class revolution, which spreads throughout the world and doesn't leave a country like Russia out in the cold, poised to collapse in on itself) democracy is that representatives make the same wage as everyone else and if a majority feels they are being betrayed by their leaders, they can remove them. This means that political oppurtunism doesn't even make sense.

What I think you are suggesting is actually a terrible idea. If you think politicians pander now just imagine what would happen if they had to worry about a referendum throwing them out of office every time they made a decision. How could a government function at all like that? At times, politicians are forced to make unpopular decisions for the greater good. Whether or not you believe this depends on your level of cynicism, but I personally do believe it. And we do have mechanisms in place for removing our leaders from office. One is called impeachment. Also, California has referendums and issued a popular recall to get rid of their governor Gray Davis, which is why we unbelievably can speak of Governor Schwarzenegger (sp?)). It’s just not used much.

As far as your idea that our representatives “make the same wage” as everyone else, I assume this is part of the Marxist Revolutionary philosophy that we should all be making the same amount of money. I would suggest to you that this is total nonsense. While it’s a noble thought that the brain surgeon and the street sweeper should all make the same amount, in a practical sense this simply wouldn’t work. What motive does the brain surgeon have for attending school for all those years when he could just pick up a broom and start picking up trash? Why do anything if there is no incentive? For the common good? In this case, I am the cynical one: if their basic needs are being provided for (Food, clothing, shelter), then I suspect most of them would be happy to put in a few hours a day sweeping the streets rather than devoting themselves to truly difficult endeavors. Why risk if there is no reward?

So if we end up with a nation of street sweepers, won’t there come a time when one of our nation’s leaders looks around and says, “Hey we have too many street sweepers and not enough librarians?” Wouldn’t that leader then begin assigning some of the street sweepers to the library, regardless of whether or not that street sweeper actually wanted to work in the library? Once that begins to happen, where has the freedom gone that you keep promoting?

As for our representatives making the same as the rest of us: this seems arbitrary to me. A US Senator currently makes $165,200. Not chump change by any means, but hardly the windfall you seem to be implying.

"In other words, the Republicans represent the ruling class and the Democrats represent everybody else."

What proof do you have of this? If you look at corporate donations, many smart corporations have switched to supporting Dems to guarantee they will bet on the winning horse, although, the REALLY smart ones bet on both. These corporations are given so many tax breaks and giveaways and won't pay their workers enough to get health care or own homes or get out of debt, that they have unthinkable amounts of money to throw around. They very reasonably (in capitalist logic) give such substantial donations that whoever gets into office gives them tax breaks and giveaways! It's a cruel cycle.

I completely agree with you that corporate influence peddling is a genuine problem and real concern. But I don’t want to paint all political donors in the same broad strokes. Phillip Morris (now the sexily-named “Altria Group”) contributes to politicians. So does the Sierra Club. So does the ALCU. So does my union, SAG. Lots of organizations give. Obviously this is good if you happen to agree with their stand on the issues. Not so good if you don’t.

"To say that the Dems are “’b-team of the ruling class” is simplistic and contradicts your own statement that they “exist to check the unbridled disregard for the working class and most of the people in the world that is the Republican Party.” "

The key word is UNBRIDLED. Republicans will practically say, "Fuck poor people" and "Fuck international cooperation." Democrats won't. They will say absurd, racist and fucked up things like the Iraqis need to pay for what we destroyed and proceed to kill, maim and repress themselves in our place. To claim that one is a party of capitalism and the other is not is to ignore the great amount of continuity between Whigs and Republicans and Democrats throughout the history of the country. "The candidates of the two great parties have accepted their nominations, understandingly and distinctly. And these nominations have not been more distinctly and understandingly accepted than have the platforms; both came from the same bodies, and were presented at the same time, and accepted at the same time. There can be no mistake about it. " -Frederick Douglass
(unfortunately, this tag team dynamic is older than the Democratic party itself)

Of course both Dems and Republicans are capitalists. I never said they weren’t. We have a capitalist system. But there are degrees of capitalism, and the Dems happen to support a degree of capitalism that I can live with: the kind that helps people earn a living wage, receive a good education, and have access to healthcare, whereas I agree with you that, in general, the Republicans do not think the government has any role in ensuring that these things happen.

"Which social movements are you talking about? What have they diluted and killed? It seems to me that the great social movements of the past century (women’s rights, Civil Rights, social security, the environment, etc) have all been championed by Democrats."

"Championed" is wishful thinking. Dems are a capitalist party. They want votes but they wouldn't get the corporate funding needed to be a "legitimate" candidate if they didn't serve corporate interests. So, they pay lip service to movements but ALWAYS make sure they steer movements into the Party fold. For example, our anti-war movement at the moment is shit. It is not independent and so people will make these unfounded and idealistic demands that we "wait and see" and not "rock the boat." NOW didn't call a single protest during Clinton's administration. Gay rights organizations stayed silent when Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Act, Don't Tell. Anti-war activists also did little during his "humanitarian interventions." If you put trained killers into a country and give them free reign, nothing good will come of it. Just look at Kosovo or Somalia. I wish to god that campaign promises weren't meaningless, but they're the ones who sign the laws and send the troops, not me.

It sounds like your problem is with the anti-war movement, NOW, gay rights organizations, etc. Nobody is telling these organizations not to protest, not to organize. Nobody is holding them back, certainly not politicians or corporations. If NOW wants to hold a rally, they should hold a rally. If millions want to take to the streets to protest the war or globalization or what have you, they should. And sometimes do.

Did you just say "classism"? These people don't HAPPEN to be wealthy, they are NECESSARILY WEALTHY. Why do you think Kucinich and Nader can't get in debates? It's because laws to get on ballots and the debates require a certain amount of funds that excludes regular people from running. Classism is a concept that I've never understood. If the government serves the interests of capital and capital makes sure there is a small group of owners and a vast group of workers, classism against rich people is the least we can have. We should be contemptuous of them.

First of all, Nader is rich. He’s a multi-millionaire. This came out when he ran in 2000. Kucinich is not. Bill Clinton wasn’t rich when he ran. So this idea that politicians have to be necessarily rich to run is demonstrably false. Yes, the two parties make it hard for other independent candidates to get on nationwide ballots, but I don’t think it’s particularly difficult to run on a local level. You certainly don’t have to be rich, and serving locally is probably the place where it’s easiest to make an immediate difference to your community.

And to say we should “be contemptuous” of the rich is just sad. One of the great joys of this country is that everybody has the opportunity, if they desire, to accumulate wealth. In this nation you do not need to come from money to make money. I am a perfect example: my family was not wealthy, and while I am not rich, I am able to earn a comfortable living doing work that I love because I dedicated myself to it, worked hard and yes, got lucky. Should people be contemptuous of me for that? I hope not. You said I was “funny and clever.” I hope you don’t think I am less funny or less clever because I make a lot of money. As far as redistributing some of my wealth to those who are less fortunate, I do that through taxation and charity.

Hillary doesn't care about women or working people. And if she does, as a politican, she can't act on those things. Just like Obama, a minority politician in a high office must sell out the rest of their brothers and sisters in order to be allowed to kick it with the reps of the bosses.”

What are you basing this on? What evidence do you have to suggest that she doesn’t care about women or working people? I honestly think you’re starting to get silly here. Instead of arguing facts you are arguing people’s intentions, which you can’t possibly know. Obama’s “brothers and sisters?” What are you talking about? Do you mean black people? He sold them out? How? I think, if anything, he’s inspired them. 

"And when you say activists bemoan the lack of debate, I have to question what you’re talking about."

I had to step back and see if you actually wrote this. This is a seriously wishful and deluded statement. Debating how we are going to continue the occupation does not count as debate. Debating whether abortion is "tragic" or wrong is not a debate. Debating whether the super rich ought to be given some more money or a lot more money is not a debate. Up until the 70s, the wealth distribution in this country was not like it is today. Literally, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poor - here and everywhere. When most of the country is against the war and yet no one will come out as solidly anti-war and NO ONE (including Obama) will present immediate withdrawal - it has nothing to do with "electability."

Just so you don’t have to step back when I repeat my point, I’ll say it again: we have continual debate in this country about all manner of issues including immediate withdrawal from Iraq, taxation, wealth distribution, etc. Just turn on CNN, MSNBC, or FOX. Listen to the radio. Watch C-Span. People ARE talking about these things, constantly. Maybe too much. If you turn around and say, “Yeah, but you can’t trust the media because they are only serving their corporate masters,” then I would refer you to the internet, to periodicals, or to your friends. People ARE talking about these things at every level of the country. Which is why I question what you are talking about.

Now, perhaps the issues aren’t being framed in the way you would like. That’s different. I’m not sure what you meant by your abortion example. Are you saying abortion isn’t tragic or wrong? That there’s no debate there? Because obviously there is a debate there. Some people think it is tragic and wrong. Some people don’t. They talk about it – that’s a debate. I totally agree with you about wealth distribution in this country, and the only reason I even know what you’re talking about is because I’ve heard other people debating it.

[There’s a whole bunch of stuff about Israel and the Middle East that I skipped over here because I don’t want to get sidetracked on the larger points of this conversation with a mini-debate about Israel. Suffice to say that I agree with Courtney that the Palestinian situation is horrendous, but unlike her, I don’t place the bulk of the blame on the Israelis.]

"Further, I believe that the real reason we invaded Iraq was to make that democracy happen."

For serious? If we wanted Saddam gone, Bush I might have not had the US (during the Gulf War) quash the uprising that would have toppled him.

I wanted to expand on my earlier point that I believe the real reason we invaded Iraq was to make democracy happen. Rereading this, I realized that, without the proper context, it probably sounds a little naïve. Let me be clear; I believe the neocons saw a golden opportunity after 9/11 to do something they’d be longing to do for over a decade – topple Saddam. Why did they want this? Not because Saddam was strong, but because he was weak. I think they believed that, first of all, the Iraqis would welcome the invasion because they wanted to be rid of Saddam. (Nobody disputes Saddam was maniac who needed to be removed from power, but not by us. By his own people.) I think they further believed that establishing a democracy in Iraq would be relatively easy. That, after 35 years under Saddam, the Iraqis would greet us as liberators, and their desire for freedom would trump any sectarian considerations. Once a stable government was put into place, Iraq would serve as a model for other Middle East nations, notably Iran, which I think was always the real target due to their larger size, wealth, and the fact that they are a theocracy. Attacking Iraq, I think, was an attempt to overthrow Iran, as well as to establish democracies in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, etc. Why do they want democracy in the Middle East? Part of it, I think, is for high-minded reasons. They legitimately believe (as I do) in the power of democracy to transform people’s lives for the better. I also think they were looking to strengthen Israel, and have better access to oil. I think oil, however, was pretty far down on the list. I believe this was an ideological war fought for ideological reasons. But they couldn’t just come out and say this because starting an ideological war is illegal.

"Would the country be in the same place today if Al Gore had won the Presidency in 2000?"

If people were willing to put pressure on him and not trade in activism for passivism, then it might be. A President does not magically control everything that happens in a country. JFK escalated the war because he could. He signed the Civil Rights Act because he knew that if he didn't, he would need to use force that would likely only increase the power of the movement.

I’m not really sure what you’re saying here. No, a President doesn’t control the country. He does, however, often set the agenda. Were Al Gore the President, I feel like I can much guarantee the agenda would not have been invading a country that didn’t attack us. As for your point about JFK, your belief is that JFK escalated Vietnam simply because he could? Was he sitting around and decided to send more troops to Vietnam on a whim? As for the Civil Rights Act, I believe it was Lyndon Johnson who signed that in 1964, hence the name “The Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

Your point is that, by signing it, he was attempting to actually undermine the civil rights movement by taking away the threat of violence? This sounds a little bit crazy to me. This piece of legislation, incidentally, also cuts against your argument that politicians only act in their cynical best interest. At the time, JFK was freshly assassinated, and this legislation was supposed to be one of the cornerstones of his legacy. LBJ, from Texas, signed the bill despite misgivings about how it would shift the electoral map. In other words, he knew that by signing the legislation he was going to alienate a huge swatch of the South, sending it to the Republicans. In fact, after signing the Bill, he famously said, “We have lost the South for a generation.” And he was right. So why did he do it? Not to undermine the civil right movement, but to enhance it. He signed it because it was right thing to do.

As long as we look to one person to fix everything, wages will continue to decline, the death penalty will continue to exist (yay, we're the only industrialized nation that uses it!), young Black men will continue to be warehoused in prisons (to prevent them from recreating anything like the Black PAnther Party), abortion rights will continue to disappear, the US will continue to invade, occupy, arm and threaten whoever it wants to.

First of all, you just said that one person doesn’t control the country, so what do you fear from looking to “one person to fix everything?” Second, what is your solution? I know you have said you are a Marxist Revolutionary. What kind of government would you like us to have?

I took this from the Marxist FAQ I referenced earlier, which is the only thing I could provide that gives a hint as to what an actual Marxist Revolutionary government would be like:

“This refers not to some formal democracy on paper - more accurately bourgeois democracy where you are allowed to vote every few years for a committee (parliament) who then run things in the interests of capitalism - but a democracy where we all play a full and active part not just in voting but in actually running our communities, our workplaces, and our society.”

Do you have kids? Because I do. Kids take up a lot of time. As does my job and my other responsibilities. I don’t know that I have time to play a full and active part in running my community, workplace, and my society. You might think I’m being flip here but I’m not. What kind of clap-trap is this? People elect other people specifically so they don’t have to do this shit. Why? Because we don’t want to. I don’t think that’s going to change even in a worker’s revolution. People aren’t going to suddenly wake up and be excited to do water planning for the community. It’s just not going to happen.

"Be the change you want to make."

What does this even mean? I am the change I want to see. I attend countless boring meetings, I read theory and history, I call people up that I don't actually know, I stand on the street and talk to people about politics. Self-activity is the only way. No one is going to legislate us into anything that a human being deserves out of the goodness of their heart. Also, why is there this assumption that we are stuck with this? I can't guarantee a revolution, but I can make sure that I never stop fighting. If you never fight at all, you are allowing the status quo to continue.
http://www.isreview.org/issues/58/feat-elections.shtml\

I think your attitude is great, and I would encourage you to continue fighting for whatever misguided beliefs you hold.

I would like to thank you for responding. I find it kind of funny that you say my arguments are typical.

I meant typical of a kind of idealist socialist/Marxist/communist/whatever you want to call it. Anybody with a passing knowledge of this philosophy has heard the ideas before. Ultimately, the reason they have so little traction is because the ideas have been tried and they failed, whereas a different idea was tried here and it's been humming along for over two hundred years, providing an incredibly high standard of living (comparatively speaking to most of the rest of the world).

If this were so, I think the country would look a lot different. I'm not against elections. One can vote for whomever, but to invest everything in them doesn't make sense. If movements didn't end around election season (because activists become campaigners and because certain things become taboo - 'We wouldn't want to embarass ______ by bringing up a demand they won't agree to' - it's self-censorship), I wouldn't care. If we didn't have a two-party lock, I would revise my positions. But progress is not going to come from this or that politician. Since it's been 35 years since the last period of sustained struggle, so many have never seen or participated in strikes and meetings and organizations and boycotts and strikes. Our own history is hidden from us and the media is no help. And people get really irrationally defensive of Dems when it comes to having other parties. The argument goes: if people vote for the progressive, the ultra-conservative will win rather than the centrist-conservative. We don't have a LABOR PARTY!!!!! What the hell? I know that other labor parties get coopted, when there is no struggle, bureacracy sets in and people become very settled and comfortable.

If choosing a soda drink were as important as electoral politics is considered, this CHOICE would be equivalent to choosing between Pepsi or Coke. We have choices on things that don't matter.

The choice does matter. Our candidates do have ideological differences on a host of issues. Just do a little research to find out which.

Marx wrote that all models of freedom are modeled on "free" market capitalism. So, it is freedom for Blackwater and KBR and Pepsi and Raytheon. But not for the rest of us. Real choices would be like being able to choose a candidate that is anti-imperialist or demands single-payer health care (neither Clinton nor Obama's plans curb the obscene profits of health insurance and pharmaceuticals - which is exactly why it's expensive!) or demands an immediate exit from Iraq (like not leaving 50 military bases behind, etc).

Maybe you don’t have a candidate that espouses your beliefs, but my guess is, if your views were more popular, then we would have the candidates to give them voice. Popular movements have to be popular. Just because you want something to be so doesn’t mean any of your neighbors will agree with you. They might simply disagree with you and elect people who best reflect their values and opinions.

Thanks again for responding. I get passionate, just as you obviously do. So, I mean nothing personally when I use harsh language or rhetoric. So passionate that I have totally been stopping working (it's without supervision) for however long it takes to type this stuff. I'm like one of those people who want to get through to people so much, I might knock them out or tie them up to do it. (Kidding). I love finding out why people think things and what people believe. I think debate can only be a good thing. I respect you and thank you for responding.

I promise never to post a pamphlet in response to any of your posts!!

Also, I loved your kitty cats post! ;)

Thanks – back atcha.


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Aaron

Despite a bit of hand waving about the order of specific political events, there's actually a lot of interesting contrarian thought here. I wonder if Courtney has thought about advanced studies in History or Political Science.

Jordan

Fantastic!

josh

These debates are a much better read then you give yourself credit for Michael.

KM

*applause*

And, seriously. Colbert Report + Michael Ian Black = heaven.

ebg

it's worse than street sweepers vs. brain surgeons/librarians -- it's that there would be next to no technological innovation in a revolutionary marxist society. why would there be, both motivationally (why innovate with no profit motive) and logistically (where do you get investment capital to fund research and development)? a revolutionary marxist society would have given us no blogs, no robots, no nyquil, no custom vans, no the state, no doritos, no first girls to finger at summer camp, and, probably, little possibility to study at a top university with open debate that edumacated Courtney or MIB himself.

viva la revolucion? arrivaderci, mofos.

Reen

You made many excellent points, this was one of my favorites:

"And to say we should “be contemptuous” of the rich is just sad. One of the great joys of this country is that everybody has the opportunity, if they desire, to accumulate wealth. In this nation you do not need to come from money to make money. I am a perfect example: my family was not wealthy, and while I am not rich, I am able to earn a comfortable living doing work that I love because I dedicated myself to it, worked hard and yes, got lucky. Should people be contemptuous of me for that? I hope not. You said I was “funny and clever.” I hope you don’t think I am less funny or less clever because I make a lot of money. As far as redistributing some of my wealth to those who are less fortunate, I do that through taxation and charity".

Eloquently said.

Folks with money are always on the chopping block. The bigger they are, the harder jealous and bitter people hope they fall.

Like most Americans, I'm middle class. I have some rich friends and I have some poor ones, and a host of them in the same boat I am. That aside, it's wrong to begrudge another persons success in terms of wealth and/or happiness. It's that sort of mentality that can sometimes brand us as a nation of greedy people. When is enough, enough? Why is the grass always greener? Why can't we be satisfied with what we have? We grasp for that intangible "it" - and the "it" changes once it's acquired, yes? Perhaps that's just our human condition.

Well I am way off subject here, but I just have one more thing to add: it cripples us, as human beings, to base a persons worthiness on their wealth and/or education, or lack thereof. We are much, much more than that.

Sorry to go so far sideways. You are all very interesting. Carry on...

Steve Huff

"And, seriously. Colbert Report + Michael Ian Black = heaven."

I heartily second that notion. That would be a lot of fun to watch.

nnnn

This was really long, so I just skimmed it and filled in the rest. What's with all the fart jokes? That's just tacky.

Mauro

Oh thanks Michael Ian Black, next time just post a whole Dostoievski-long book over here. Make it 490 pages only.

Todd from australia

hmm that was really interesting, but if i had to make one suggestion, it would be this

Courtney, you are not the change you want to make, you are what you want to change to.

Plus, change doesn't happen if the poorest or the minority only wants it. Ever. (example - Zapatista movement in Chiapas)

To summate, the words were around wrong: you have to make the change, not be it

paul

Whew..
Never thought I'd chime in, but why not. Full dislosure, I'm neither a fan of Marxists or Capitalists (most closely identify as an anarchist.)

A couple of things stuck out in this dialogue I wanted to comment on. I think the best way to inform ourselves about a lot of these issues is to really examine history. Part of the reason people in the U.S. are not well informed about whats going on now, is the lack of a real understanding of history; its not just facts and names and places, but really it contextualizes things going on today and helps humans in general learn from mistakes. The idea that something like Howard Zinn's Peoples' History wasn't a view exposed to literally geneations of people in public schools gives some reason why we remain very shallow as a country in our collective memory.

MIB:"Our system has survived and largely thrived for over two hundred years, along the way creating the wealthiest and powerful nation in the history of the world. Wealth and power might not be the measure by which you choose to judge a country’s success, but when viewed across the world stage, I would say those wealth and power go pretty far."

1) On the comparison of India and general holding up of the wealth of the U.S. as verification of our form of govt.
I hope/think we can all agree that the world has a finite amount of resources, which get finite-er every day. The reason that this country (and many European) can live in the "well-off" way we do is a direct result of other countries not living that way. China makes our products on the cheap for painfully low wages, and we reap that benefit. Same goes for something like garbage. Our e-waste alone gets shipped off to poorer countries like Indonesia to deal with, or to scrap from and its not a happenstance. The cost of resources has to be paid somewhere, and here we eliminate certain costs- like cleanup/disposal of packaging, obtaining a processing oil, even the creation of the machines the brain surgeon uses- by shifting that cost to other countries. Labor struggle and racism aside (which are both deeply rooted in this system), when talking about the "wealth" generated here this HAS to be part of the discussion. I'm sure you both have differing ideas as to why, or maybe even the validity of it.


2)On Framing the debate. I think some of C's criticisms of the "range of debate" hinge on the reflection of not just a 2 sided coin. It's something that when you take a macro look at the whole you can see that very often these news shows present the idea, a status quo, and a challenege to that status quo. Example; Iraq. The debate ranging on the talking heads is now what to do about the "mistake" we made going in. There's some debate on if we were "misled" or it was "executed poorly" or we "had the intention of liberation" but the crux around that is there was a fuck up, now what. That part of the debate ignores what I think both of you have expressed. The U.S. committed IMMORRAL AGGRESSION. Now, taking that assumption we have massive reparations to pay Iraqis, in the form of their choosing. The unspoken assumption during the debate of Iraq now is very careful not to put U.S. actions as anything but benevolent. We make mistakes, but we never have bad intentions.

Now, we probably disagree on that, but I think the question is more important than where you end up standing. The question of does the U.S. always have the best intentions in a given situation; more generally- does any power? So the argument of a third party comes up; you ask “Is that because they have no money or because their message doesn’t resonate with enough people?”
Well I first think about the fact that there are 2 major parties with control over most of the politics here. Now, is it advantageous to either of them to let another party in? By simple logic, no. The more parties, the more they lose. So from their point of view, its consistent with their intentions to keep that 3rd party out (ballot access, etc) and to allow those who play their game to join their party. Again, the best intentions for democracy/people, or for their organization? The central question I like to ask is _always_ "who benefits?" Just like a murder investigation, it often leads to motives.

3)On referendums and impeachment. I think a reason for the disconnect in the great/terrible idea of constant referendums is that everything else would stay the same. The pandering politician would cease to exist in such a system (not one I personally advocate, w/o more clarification), because instead of being elected to represent how citizens think, they would be elected to DO what citizens think. They would take care of the nitty gritty and process etc, and likely be rotated out with all of us sharing time as a "legislator" (loosely used). As far as the levers of protest now, impeachment, its mostly a threat (and usually historically used) for getting the guy on a technicality. Nixon's break in, Clinton's sex; nothing related to the power of the office. If starting a war on false premises becomes impeachable, it severly limits future prez's power. Bad for both R and D parties. Power cedes nothing without a struggle (the 8 hour day, women's rights, civil rights, don't exist from a benevolent govt- people dies in struggles for years to get them).

4)MIB:"What motive does the brain surgeon have for attending school for all those years when he could just pick up a broom and start picking up trash?" This strikes a chord for me; I beleive that human beings are decent, hard working, inquisitive creatures. I've never found that motivating someone through money has been a solution to anything, and rarely matches the job.

If that were the case, coal miners would make more than senators. More money for more dangerous/skilled work. You could also look at it as punishment. Its also a slippery slope. Is it ok for someone to amass billions of dollars by any means while thousands starve? There's a free solution and a moral one.

5)MIB:"In this nation you do not need to come from money to make money." This is true, but context is everything. Whats the % of new money to old? Yes, some people work "hard" (I don't see office presidents who golf and take meetings as working hard but thats just me) and come into wealth; but the families that pass their wealth on have vastly more influence than those who don't (Rockefeller, Morgan, Dupont, etc etc). Theres an interesting facet to this "class defensiveness" that people who rise above middle class feel. The rich need not be respected, since the poor have never had respect (the basic respect of a place to sleep, or adequate health care.. the homeless in this country). I have a hard time holding back my critiques of a system where that is allowed to happen. But, the point I wanted to make on this is the difference between money and wealth. You and I may start at a place with no money, or very little, and climb that ladder to success. But we have vast advantages over others to whom that just doesnt happen (ie, not exceptions, the bigger picture). These can range from; stable family life, good education, non-disability, our geographic location, access to transportation, and maybe the biggest- being white. There's so much rooted in our "wealth" as people as viewed in the U.S. because we are white. The criminal justice system is skewed for us (more likley to get lesser sentances), the credit industry skews our way, even walking down the street we don't have to notice people assuming things about us as often as people of color do. I just want to make the point that its not just work hard and you can be rich too!


6)MIB:"People ARE talking about these things at every level of the country....Now, perhaps the issues aren’t being framed in the way you would like."
I think we really are living in (finally) a time when questions are being asked more openly than in the past 10 years. It almost seems like a kneejerk to the blind obedience forced on us in the early part of the decade, but it exists. The frame of these debates though is always important, going back to what I said earlier about the 2 sided coin. There are more than 2 opinions in the country and pigeon holing it into 2 sides takes away discussions like these and informed opinion. I am upset that when issues of the war come up, retired generals, ex-govt officials, and current memebrs of govt are all asked their thoughts- but never anyone from a peace coalition or social justice movement. Yes, its my feeling that they should be represented, but I also feel when disussing something as grave as war, its only just to have that point of view. Or- imagine the point of view of the people we make war on! I have never seen an Iraqi brough on these shows.

I'll stop here in case it's not relevant. My points on history informing today were the ones I really wanted to make. Hopefully the tiny little anarchist in me added something to this.

Cheers,
Paul


Courtney

The distribution of wealth in this country is outrageous, I'm not sure the exact numbers of neoliberalism (market deregulation) has led to a larger gap meaning an ever smaller group of people own much more, meaning everyone else gets poorer. It's a fact. These numbers may be old: "In the United States at the end of 2001, 10% of the population owned 71% of the wealth, and the top 1% controlled 38%. On the other hand, the bottom 40% owned less than 1% of the nation's wealth."(Wikipedia)

Wealth and power - for who? Bourgeois democracy (which has limits - no politican who will last will enact policies that will piss off that 1% of people, even if 80% of people believe in those policies) has become a kind of organizing committee of the bourgeoisie. The wealth is not OURS, it's THEIRS.

This power is not a good thing for anyone who is not part of the top 10% of people. We have power based on military domination or intimidation, economic servitude, etc. There is no reason that our ruling class ought to be ruling the world. Have you seen all this stuff (http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/06/08/9485/) . The reason Rosa Luxembourg said the choice is either socialism or barbarism is that eventually either the two contending classes will collapse into some kind of medieval chaos or - what's more likely these days - there will be an environmental catastrophe. The reason these corporations are demanding more money to save the world is they couldnt' give a fuck about it.


PROFIT, that's the only thing that matters in capitalism. Without profit, it doesn't matter. If clean air and clean water and people with full bellies are not profitable. All the shit that is produced is not made for human need, though that ends of people produced because they know they can sell it at a profit. Grain is dumped into the ocean or left rotting is warehouses not because people don't need it but because they can't afford it.

I don't think that less than 1/6 of the planet (the combined bourgeoisies) living well is worth 1/6 of the planet living in slums. That's not justifiable by saying 'that's the way it is.' We've had two revolutions in this country. Even the constitution - written by slave owning liberal elites - said we have the right and obligation to overturn a government that doesn't satisfy our needs and people in other countries don't have the power we do. We live in the belly of the beast.

If 70% want us out of Iraq, that's not me wishing for something unrealistic. Plus an even larger number of US troops and Iraqis (whose country it is - democracy, you know) want us out. Also, it's usually students and people who are middle class or identify as such that take so long to come to an anti-war position. The working class is almost always majority against the war because they know they will be fighting it.

My basic views - that every life is equal, that everyone deserves to have food, clothing, work, education and respect, that oppression and exploitation are wrong, that the government and the economy oughtn't stand above us as if it has a life of its own, etc. These are very widespread views.

"The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it." -Karl Marx

In school we learn about presidents and wars in chronological order (with no hint that there are mechanisms or any causes at work), we learn to sit when told, eat when told and generally move at the sound of a bell (trained to be workers), unless you are well-to-do, in which case even in public schools you are treated with respect, the classes are dominated by discussion, etc.

Revolutions and upheavals happen all the time. They always have and always will. But rather than they be wasted in riots or strikes that lose steam, Leninists believe that the most militant workers and (unfortunately) others ought to be organizing constantly so that when the masses move, someone is there to guide them and not like tell them what to do. Socialists are the memory of the working class and we have skills that someone who has never been involved in activism can't have. When soviets (workers' councils) sprung up in Russia - it wasn't Lenin telling them what to do, in fact, the workers were often to the left and ahead of him. It's making sure that the state (which is backed by unlimited violence and money) will not crush them and lead to defeat and demoralization.

"minimum loss of life" - This always means minimum loss of American life. The US has been responsible (not wholy, but since we are the UN, essentially) for about 2.2-2.5 million Iraqi deaths in the last 18 years. They "don't do body counts" because it doesn't matter. The reason there is so much violence is because the US is occupying them. If a country occupied us, everyone with a shotgun would be out shooting at them.

A "strong Israel" is an Israel that can use US manufactured weapons to bomb any little Arab country to smithereens. Olmert has said that he will bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. WHAT A HYPOCRITE! Israel is the ONLY nuclear power in the region, but they are above international law (or they would withdraw to the 1967 borders) and stop keeping tax money, water, and food from the Gazans.

Just because we are "there now" doesn't mean anything about us staying. That's an excuse. If a fox gets into a henhouse and eats a bunch of eggs and fucks up the chickens, you don't ask it to clean up the mess. The military KILLS PEOPLE. That's what they are trained to do. Working class kids are brainwashed to see Iraqis as less than animsals (the same way Israeli youth are) - no human being could do that otherwise. And the rich send the poor off to war to kill other poor people so the rich get richer.

The spectrum is tiny. When I was a liberal, I thought, 'Nader should die, he'll ruin everything.' Because I could only think in terms of two-parties and this bogus politics of "realism," which is equivalent to cooperation - in the end. When people get home they want to turn home the TV and watch the news - and what they get is CNN, Fox and all this nonsense. It's sensationalistic and continually reinforces the idea that capitalism is eternal, we cannot change it, women will always be oppressed, there will always be rich/poor, wars, etc. This is very much the advantage of the Robert Murdochs int he world. They want ratings, not people thinking for themselves. To keep a tiny minority in power, it takes a lot of work and the US is #1 on this.

The idea of popular democracy in a capitalist system means THOSE WITH MORE MONEY HAVE MORE VOTES. It looks equal, but the corporations (that make health care unaffordable, manufacture weapons, etc) have essentially elected the Dems already. The idea that we have one or two choices is such bullshit. We don't choose anything.

I don't talk about socialism because it's a long way off. The working class must struggle, win, lose, struggle and gain self-confidence before anything like that happens. But under socialism, the people who manufacture products would choose what is manufactured. It would be a network of people deciding what their own work will go to and what their own communities will look like.

People are busy. I'm 22 and have no kids, but my mom is busy and not politically involved. This is one reason that mostly people who are in the middle class or higher have the time to do this shit. I'm a student, I got a shit load of time. Everyone knows that people are more efficient when they work less, but the point is to rule over the workers. They feel alienated from what they make and alienated from their true allies. Ideas trickled down from the top. Donald Rumsfeld decided waterboarding was cool, not Joe Schmoe.

So, a capitalist party, like the Democrats make concessions. Kennedy knew he had to enforce federal law and thus sent troopers to protect the Little Rock 9. I don't give a shit what he thought. It doesn't matter if he's a nice dinner guest. Someone who has everyone's lives on earth in their hand does not get that benefit from me. He almost started a nuclear war - to show Cuba who's boss? A movement that is independent will demand things that the Democrats cannot and will not concede to, so if you give them enough to keep them quiet, they won't continue the movement. There's a reason movements are weak. That's because there has been a 35 year assault on working standards, the media is owned by 5 corporations, the government does what it wants and people don't know how to fix that.

If the papers wanted to inform people, there would be a "Work" section in every paper, instead of a "Business" section. The people who need stock scores are a tiny percentage, but it makes it seem like WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER, what benefits you, benfits me. But that's not true. Wolf Blitzer says a protest of 300,000 against the war is not "important" - only activists know about it. People don't see themselves in movies (like Sex & the City) or on the news, there is no role for them to play.

The American socialist Hal Draper wrote, "To engage in class struggle, it is not necessary to 'believe in' the class struggle any more than it is necessary to believe in Newton in order to fall from an airplane...The working class moves toward class struggle insofar as capitalism fails to satisfy its economic and social needs and aspirations."

I don't expect people to agree with me, but the ~70% of people who work for a living in this country know they are being screwed! They just don't know how to overcome this. Everyone is afraid to lose their job because wages haven't gone up in the country since the 1970s.

We deserve better and when the upswing in struggle comes, which is will, I hope we don't get nuclear armageddon. We deserve a rational, planned system where people vote on things that effect them and everyone gets to make art like you do, adults go to school, children learn things that effect their lives, etc.

My fingers don't hurt, but I'm getting sweaty in my unairconditioned room and I'm late for my class.

Thanks for reading this stuff people. Americans and people in general are very smart, but it's very hard to talk to people about politics. And sorry about the 'pamphlet' long post. You kind of egged me on, pal.

By the way, all my comrades (yes, I use that word, stop sniggering) think this is kind of cool. Thanks for letting this happen, y'all.

Where We Stand
http://socialistworker.org/where-we-stand

sarah

Courtney, right on! I've been hearing a lot about social movements specifically the ones going on in South America. It's a tough battle because the U.S. pokes its nose in everyone's business. As it turns out the U.S. funds those political leaders in South America who oppose and work to end and discredit such movements painting them as anti-democratic. Social movements can definitely change things but here in America it will be tough as people are complaisant and hardly ever seriously and critically question the status quo.

Bill Gates

I'm all for totalitarianism.

Hayden Panettiere

I think we should just focus on saving dolphins. Save the dophins, save the world.

Brittany Spears

I think Cheetos should be a sidedish at Ruby Tuesdays,ya'll.

Jaime Sommers

I think we should save the bionic people. They are so oppressed. That is more the way to go.

paul

I sympathize with much of what Courtney says in her analysis of the current climate in the world, but have to make a distinction;

"Revolutions and upheavals happen all the time...But rather than they be wasted in riots or strikes that lose steam, Leninists believe that the most militant workers and (unfortunately) others ought to be organizing constantly so that when the masses move, someone is there to guide them and not like tell them what to do."

The RCP follows something like this as well, a workers' vaguard to lead the way. My belief is that this is just replacing one set of leaders with another, and much of the resulting power problems in big "C" Communism came from such power. In my view, the people who do riot/strike/take control of their lives should then decide how to move on. Vanguards are opportunistic and stifle the organic growth of a movement by directing it for their interests. I have no problem with them voicing their views, but they often speak of swooping in in leadership roles during these periods of rebellion.

The skills gained by activism are inherent in human communication; its the USE of these skills that allows their sharpening.

Another state is not needed to protect people from the original. The communists did not do much protecting of the anti-fascists at the end of the day during the Spanish Civil War.

Cheers,
Paul

Jessica Alba

I don't think working class people should have any say in anything because they're all stupid.

Courtney

To Aaron: I am actually pursuing graduate studies in film studies. I read history and politics on my own and I value it for its practical purposes. It means little to me as knowledge itself, but many of my comrades are historians or history students. It's like my life-long undergraduate major! I don't expect everyone to be able to do that, but academics often have that kind of leisure - because they sit on their asses all day talking about ideas. I'm actually interested in horror films and low genres in general. My comrades are insanely smart and energetic and accomplished people. I'm of 'average' knowledge of history and theory and they'd rip apart my posts. Most of them are public school teachers too, which is already a full-time job. I'm still trying to figure out how they do it. It's an extremely time consuming hobby, but I met certain people and have decided that it's my life's mission to do this. I'm constantly stressing about getting everything done! Thanks for the tip.

Thanks Paul, for replying with something that dignifies a response. Anarchists and Marxists just don't agree on this and in Russia the fact that the revolution in Germany and everywhere else failed, meant that the Bolsheviks' holding onto power until such a thing happened resulted in Stalinism - a betrayal of Marxism. With the Spanish Civil War, I would say that I don't know as much as I like, but I would say that one thing that distinguishes the syndicalists and Trotskyists is that we think that taking power is necessary if we aren't going to allow the more powerful forces to regain it. I think the CP did some really messed up shit there. Stalinists essentially undermined genuinely revolutionary struggles until it collapsed.

The idea of a vanguard is sometimes misunderstood, at least as Leninists think. The vaguard is supposed to be the most class-conscious and experienced workers in organizing. The problem with relying on spontaneity is that the vast majority of supporters of these ideas will not have much experience in this kind of thing and it leaves open the possibility that oppurtunists and reformists have no bones about that.

We have to be as organized as the ruling class is. They crush us because their resources are outrageous. It's like the argument against unconditional nonviolence. It allows for those who would destroy us to do so.

The 'dictatorship of the proletariat' - a very controversial phrase - is a way to make sure the ruling class doesn't regain power. The reason civil war often follows revolution is because we will have to use violence and force to make sure this bullshit doesn't continue. Revolution is, as Lenin said, one of the most authoritarian things in the world. If the majority of people support the revolution and their interests and ideas are respected, it seems either sectarian or idealistic or foolish not to defend this new social formation from its enemies. If that means repressing 1-10% of the population - so be it. Many many more people will die if it's not done that way.

I'm glad you mentioned the connection between rich and poor. It's not some coincidence that the so-called Western world has most of the resources at its control and does the most harm to the planet and its people. If a corporate CEO makes 12 million dollars a year that's because the workers make $15000.

Actually, until the 1970s, the distribution of wealth was much better in this country. AND most people agree that it ought to be more fairly distributed. Just as most people agree we should get out of Iraq, that the country is going in the wrong direction, that education is important and worth the investment, that everyone should have healthcare. People often say they'd even pay higher taxes so that everyone could have health care. Most Americans are not selfish. They want to do good, but if they are pitted against one another and people get ahead by being greedy, people tend to have that streak in them.

A few other things in response to Michael:

I was surprised that you seem to believe that the American dream is something that is available to everyone. It is true that you have worked your way up. In fact, my dad did as well. But just because someone doesn't have the intelligence or oppurtunity or whatever to do that doesn't mean they ought to be held responsible for their failure to succeed. If there are winners, most people HAVE to be losers. I think this system is indefensible.

I think that capitalism can be reformed but never changed in a way that human beings deserve. I'm not willing to accept that thousands of peopel HAVE to die from hunger, HAVE to be unemployed, homeless, etc. These things are NOT inevitable. That's where ideology comes in. If people believe we HAVE to work with the system we have, then their ideas are constrained.

Capitalism is not some neutral, natural or effective system. It's true that it has given progress, but the people who benefit from that progress gets fewer and fewer. This is when dialectics comes in handy. We have a lot of contradictions - the average life span of people increases while the ways of killing people more effectively also does.

Also, I do not equate Israel with Israelis. Israel, a state, a historical and social reality is a colonial-settler state. I believe any one who wants to live there ought to be able to, but a Jewish-only state is not just. If the land had truly been unoccupied, the situation would be different. But the establishment of the state of Israel, which is condemned to be a military state by the fact that without arms and repression it cannot exist, has caused all of this strife. Normal Finkelstein is a controversial guy, but his research proves that the idea that Jews ought to be able to occupy a land despite the people who live there, etc. because of the Holocaust is a modern invention. The imperialist states SHOULD feel guilty because they didn't let Jews into their countries, where most Jews wanted to go. I don't assume all Israelis are zealots. In fact, most are not religious and yet most also believe they were given this land by God. It's clearly a political idea. Just like us, Israelis grow up with certain values that makes it hard to separate fact from fiction. When I argue with a hardcore Zionist, we have two completely different timelines. I reject the history as told by the ruling class, the winners and instead look for that which is told from the perspective (still factual, but like hegemonic history not objective) that matters - the perspective, experiences and triumphs of the vast majority.

Also, is it me, I thought everyone knew politicians lie. Not everything they say is untrue, but you can only judge a politican by their actions. I can say Bill Clinton is a war criminal because of what he did, not what he said. He'd say anything. It's not cynical to say that. Look at his record. And he's just one example of someone who people have fond thoughts for because of the way he talked, not what he did. Those things are forgotten.

We really have historical amnesia in this country. Every four years people think that things are going to change and they don't.

DEMOCRACY CANNOT BE HANDED DOWN OR IMPOSED ON SOMEONE. That is not democracy. If the US wanted a democracy in Iraq, Bush I would have allowed the Iraqis to overthrow Saddam in the early 90s. He encouraged them to and then changed his mind and restrained them. Why? He figured Saddam was still useful for us. Saddam did terrible things, but many Iraqis find life under US occupation even worse than life under Saddam and US/UN sanctions because there's no stability and even less access to basic necessities. People WIN reforms, they don't get them handed to them. It never has happened. To think that it will is to delude oneself.

True democracy scares those, especially in the US, who are in power. "And the name for our profits is de-moc-racy, so like it or not you will have to be free, cuz we're the cops of the world". THat's from a Phil Ochs song from the mid 1960s. A democratic government is defined as one that plays ball with the US. A dictator is Evo Morales, not the King in Saudi Arabia. It's Hugo Chavez not Musharraf. This talk of democracy or nuclear proliferation is so patently hypocritical, you cannot possibly believe them.

If you make the "wrong" choice, you are punished: Hamas. I have issues with Hamas, but it is not MY CHOICE or the choice of Ehud Olmert or Bush or the UN Secretary General to decide what government the Palestinians have. They didn't vote for Fatah because it's weak and gives into US-Israeli demands.

THE USE HAS NO RIGHT TO CHOOSE OTHER PEOPLE'S GOVERNMENTS. Part of democracy and sovereignty is self-determination. The Iraqis would be stupid to not be resisting an occupation. And they aren't stupid. If they had allowed the US to plow in, we would be in Syria and Iran and steamrolling the entire region. It's because of their resistance that the military is getting stuck and thus unable to impose hegemony.

Just because I want something doesn't mean it should be so. But, that doesn't hold for Dick Cheney, Chief Justic Roberts and Eric Prince of Blackwater. What they want happens despite everything. I don't hate people because they are rich. People like these three act as representatives of the ruling class and in that capacity do terrible things. They are corrupt and their decisions lead to death and suffering. In that capacity, I think they are horrible people. If Bush or Cheney are nice guys - who cares? They have their finger on the button and their decisions effect every living thing on the planet. If they snub their nose at what the people in this country and around the world want, they are contemptable.

It happens that many of the most basic things I want, most of them actually grantable under capitalism, but highly unlikely are what most of the world wants. People in the US have to realize how much power our government exercises in the world and how destructive that is. Just because maybe most of the people you or I know are doing fine doesn't mean that is everyone's experience. And living on less than a dollar a day is worse than living on $10 or a day. But that doesn't mean it's okay for people to live on $10 a day.

Again, on this issue of popular ideas. My ENTIRE POINT is that the ideas that are most mainstream are not espoused by either party. Those things I mentioned earlier about the war, healthcare, education, etc. are mainstream ideas. The public is WAY to the left of the politicans. But the two-party system says to workers, minorities of all kinds: what the hell are you going to do about it? Vote for an independent candidate? There's almost a scare tactic used to get people to continually accept the Democrats.

The reason that the anti-war movement and all these other movements are weak is because they are tied to the Democrats. Even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. realized that moral suasion and non-violence were not going to change everything in the US, "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world." One can appeal to individuals on such a basis, but when police and soldiers can be deployed by the ruling class to crush popular aspiration, it may be crushed or not even attempted because of fear.

"True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."
-- The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world -- a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight." -Dr King

"Liberalism began as a preserve of the elite in the 19th century, and true democracy is never handed down by elites. It is always fought for and struggled for." -John Pilger

"Where there is oppression, it will always be challenged by those of us who will challenge it with greater intensity, you know? So that's why I don't believe that there can ever be peace without justice, you know? The two go together. And there cannot be peace in the world with full-spectrum dominance or, you know, nuclear warfare or any of those things. They won't help, because always there will be people who demand dignity, who demand justice, who demand their rights." - Arundhati Roy

"We live in a world where millions of children die each year because they lack food--while the rich get richer. A world where the living standards of workers and the poor continue to erode, year after year. A world threatened by environmental catastrophe. The Case for Socialism argues that another world--a socialist world--is possible, in which people come before profit and working people control society democratically, putting the world's resources to meeting human needs." -Alan Maas

"I don't think working class people should have any say in anything because they're all stupid." I certainly hope this is a joke. The people who produce the world's wealth have more say than do those who receive the benefit of their work. When the workers stop working, society shuts down because they really keep it all going.

Also, activists are some of the most optimistic people I know. Even if they hate what they see, they talk to people and struggle with people and learn with people and have hope that we all don't have to put up with this shit so that CEOs, shareholders and rulers in the "Third World" who sell out their own people don't get a world in their interests rather than the other 90% of humanity. Just because it seems unthinkable now doesn't mean much. Slavery, segregation, male only suffrage, etc. These all seemed like they'd last forever. Most of human history lacked capitalism. This is but a blip on the radar screen.

Courtney

http://www.democracynow.org/

For some real news and views unavailable in corporate media.

paul

Again, some really important points Courtney makes; but from a little different radical perspective:

C writes: "it seems either sectarian or idealistic or foolish not to defend this new social formation from its enemies. If that means repressing 1-10% of the population - so be it. Many many more people will die if it's not done that way."

From my experience (the only one I have, right?) I have heard this word time and time again mostly thrown about to block critiques. I think you use it slightly in this way, but more to the point understand this is a very loaded leftist word. As far as the rest, I hold very strongly that the ends do not justify the means; that the extermination of people (or the cleaner 'repressing') that happens when new power centralizes goes against everything a true revolutionary principle should be. You fight the oppressors, not for vengeance but for liberation. Some of the most eloquent essays on this can be traced back to black liberation movements in Haiti and elsewhere. Again, this POV assumes that there will be sort of a duel/dualing power struggle soon afterwards, which is something my ideals would resist. Rather a movement of people rising up to take control of their lives by example, because they see the benefit- not to join against the old state in service of a new one..
in fact you go on to say:
"I'm not willing to accept that thousands of people HAVE to die from hunger, HAVE to be unemployed, homeless, etc. These things are NOT inevitable. "
-which I wholeheartedly agree, and carry forward to all aspects of a better future.

Looking at the makeup of the advocates of the vanguard they tend to be younger, middle class, students (largely white)- at least in the past 10 years or so. Something that also gives me pause. Revolutionaries (who are not under the gun in this society) should follow the lead of the oppressed, not lead the way IMO.

all of this kind of gets away from MIB's original essays though.. so back to the idea.

"Every four years people think that things are going to change and they don't. "

I think this kind of is central to the main discussion going on (without having to refresh our pamphlet reading or wiki-searching.) MIB and C's points of view are both true, I think. C is right when she despairs the hope (catchword!) that people fall into every couple years will result in a systematic change. Or that pulling a lever means they are a functioning part of taking control over their lives-kind-of-democracy. But its also extremely privileged to opt out of that process and say nothing changes because of it. Sure, its not the wholesale change I want; but it makes a real difference in peoples lives both around the world and here.. and mostly the traditionally oppressed (minorities, poor.)

For example, judicial appointments. I'm not happy with the criminal justice system period, but its there right now and its crushing young people all over in its grasp.. and its pretty demonstrable that on the whole (obvs exceptions) a D in office is more likely to appoint a more liberal judge, who at the end of the day will overturn a mandatory minimum sentence for a poor young person on some b.s. drug charge. That's important. That kid's life is important, and (I came around on this because) its a tad arrogant as a decently off white person to deny that chance to make some ideological point.

So, yes - fight the system, expose hypocrisy, and argue the issues.. but let's not forget the here and now and the people struggling around the world and this country to ease the boot off their back by any and ALL means necessary.

And to quote Marx, again (he had a few ways with words, I admit):
"The demand to abandon the illusions about our condition is a demand to abandon a condition which requires illusions."

Cheers,
Paul

p.s. I find fart jokes to be ideologically transcendent.

Nina

I came here to read a comedian's blog and have stumbled upon a political debate. At first completely awesome yet now is growing increasingly annoying.

Jaime Sommers

But the transcendent fart thing, that's good stuff. C'mon -- har har har. Still funny, AND pinko! Perfect combo.

Bob

Show me a socialist country, and I will show you a country with a poor and oppressed citizenry.

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