essay, Philosophy, Politics, Uncategorized, Writing

The Illusion of Nationalism in Isolation: A Response to Daniel McCarthy’s essay “A New Conservative Agenda”

I.

Daniel McCarthy’s “A New Conservative Agenda” is a wonderful piece of writing. It is erudite without being snobbish, polished without being verbose, and never commits the ultimate rhetorical crime of being pedantic. McCarthy makes an actual declaration of moral imperative and intent, something rare in political writing across the spectrum. The work is blessedly free of the tedious cultural and religious moralizing so common to conservative writing. It is also refreshing to come across a conservative thinker who has the courage to look askance at the “deification” as McCarthy himself puts it, of the late Ronald Reagan and his adoption by the political right as some sort of homespun American Pericles who could, and did, no wrong. It is the best piece of mainstream conservative writing I have come across in many years, and belongs in the great lay Catholic essay writing tradition mastered by C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton. I have chosen to respond to this piece because of its honesty, its forthrightness, and, most important of all, the absolute wrongheadedness of its conclusions.

The title of McCarthy’s piece gets right to the point, which is an attempt to critique and catalogue the conservative point of view in US politics, particularly the economic sphere, during the past 30 odd years, and outline a new way forward for this ideological strain. McCarthy is refreshingly candid about the failings of conservative policies, and even more so conservative politics, from the apex of Reagan down to the current day. Betraying a bit of class pretension, he bemoans the fact that the hoi polloi seem no longer taken with the Reagan style, the embrace of what conservatives term “the free market”, which took, and still takes, the form of neoliberal deregulation of corporate finance and industry markets, the dismantling of labor union power, privatization and/or liquidation of the left liberal welfare state, and an aggressive carrot and stick approach to a decentralized global capital empire. The majority of the US, according to McCarthy, have widened their ideological horizons beyond establishment, in its myriad forms, focus on this “conservative orthodoxy”. He believes the voters are jaded with the wonkish debates on tweaks to an economic and political system they have seen does not have their interests at heart, and have turned their attention to a more vigorous and directly confrontational political style. Populism has taken the place of the tried and true system crafted in response to The New Deal in the classrooms and conferences of the anti-Keynesian academic sphere. Conservatism today is “in flux”, as demonstrated by the popular rejection of the slate of movement candidates from the various wings of the conservative establishment. McCarthy dolefully ticks off a few failed examples before arriving at the new nexus of right wing energy and expression: Trump. 

McCarthy plays his cards close to his vest regarding his own allegiance to any of the factions he mentions (be it religious conservative, libertarian, neocon hawk etc) but it is clear that he is far from satisfied with the Trumpian mien. He is nonetheless sanguine when it comes to Trump’s stated aims i.e. an “economic nationalism”. McCarthy seeks to find this concept in the storied pages of  US political history, an example being Lincoln’s bill of rights centered, Union oriented, industrial populism/pragmatism. McCarthy makes a strange claim regarding the more “globalist” (an enigmatic, amorphous word whose meaning I will explore further on in this piece) turn of the US in the post-WWII Marshall Plan reconstruction (or, rather, economic colonization) of the capitalist systems in Western Europe. He seems to posit this program, and the system it helped to create, was an aberrant albeit noble pursuit that was somehow facilitated by a generation or so of self interested nationalism.

Herein lies most potent flaws in McCarthy’s thesis; a series of supposedly logical conclusions that only hold water when certain a priori assumptions are made and certain inconvenient narratives and realities are downplayed or ignored outright. These leaps of logic are not justified by the arguments the author makes. The author betrays a strange lack of knowledge, or willful ignorance of, US geopolitical strategy during the Cold War. He divorces, for the sake of his thesis, the inherently connected nature of the nationalist and internationalist impulses and actions of the US during this period. In the case of the US and it’s now subordinated allies (the UK, France, occupied “west” Germany, etc.) economic nationalism as domestic and international political rhetorical was served by the continuing isolation and warfare against the so called “communist bloc” of nations. The material cause of economic nationalism was bolstered by creating more secure (read colonized) markets for US goods and services, much of it military, agricultural and industrial in nature. 

To suggest the actions of the US were a departure from the purely inward looking nationalist interest in service of a freestanding internationalist approach is to misunderstand the deformations of political economy of capitalism that are inherent to the imperialist phase of the system. Foreign markets are exploited and controlled in order to preserve and expand and provide a market for the products of  internal regional and national level industry in the US

Lenin makes clear in Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism, that the development of a national capitalist industry cannot continue in isolation. If productive growth and the accumulation of capital are to be maintained, the export of capital overseas into new markets, and/or the creation of those markets by force, must be a policy pursued by a given national government. Given the uneven emergence of capitalism in states, this leads to uneven exchange between nations, and the emergence of partnerships of conveinvence, cartels of exchange and production, that will soon necessitate the enforcement of conditions in less developed nations that are conducive to the growth of the national and domestic systems of the capitalist power. Apropos McCarthy’s later reference to the development of the English economy, and its apparent successes, is Lenin’s argument

 

England became a capitalist country before any other, and by the middle of the nineteenth century, having adopted free trade, claimed to be the “workshop of the world”, the supplier of manufactured goods to all countries, which in exchange were to keep her provided with raw materials. But in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, this monopoly was already undermined; for other countries, sheltering themselves with “protective” tariffs, developed into independent capitalist states

 

Far from being two isolated mindsets, the internationalist vs the nationalist impulses re-enforce and in fact cultivate, in a dialectical manner, the conditions that make pure domestic market interest impossible in any system that depends upon the growth of capitalism, even, or especially, within national economies. A tariff then does not, to quote McCarthy, “serve the whole [of a national economy] by serving its parts and drawing them ­together”, but is a response to conditions that are created by the uneven development of the means of production within a national system as well as without in various other national systems which have not yet achieved parity with the dominant nations. 

McCarthy references  partnerships of “convenience” with nations like China as though this were somehow a novel deviation from a nationalist policy purchased through prior sustained self interested nationalism, but these outreaches served the interests of creating markets for the national economy of the US, for the capital it needed to export and the raw resources it needed to import in order to maintain the economy that “provid[ed] the basis for the healthy culture in which citizens and their families [flourished]”. Furthermore, the idea of the selfless impulse inherent to the rebuilding of the post-WWII ravaged nations misunderstands how this policy was essentially a nationalistic one, with the US now taking the place of the British empire in the maintenance of stable, but subservient economies where goods, services, and capital could be easily unloaded and exchanged, providing an outlet for the growth and perpetuation of the nationalist system at home. Economic nationalism in large or powerful nations can never be divorced from internationalist endeavors in furtherance of an economy of scale. 

In McCarthy’s analysis the communist bloc is of course taken for granted as the terminal opposite of the “free market” that flourished under US/NATO hegemony. The communist collapse is discussed as though a preordained consequence of economic natural law. This assumption continues from McCarthy’s ignorance, or dismissal, of the nationalist/internationalist dichotomy at play during the Cold War. Supranational systems of economic leverage and military might combined with the unleashing of post-colonial nationalist movements and unforeseeable material contingencies and advances in technology to lead to a collapse of the bipolar Post-WWII political status quo, such as it was. These new nationalities, and the opportunities for capital expansion, transfer, and material exploitation ensuant to their emergence, were more deftly exploited by the capitalist regimes of the West, creating the conditions for a new global market system that transcended the more traditionally socio-political “clash of ideologies” so beloved/bemoaned by the cold warrior “elites”, as McCarthy would call them.

 

II.

 

McCarthy moves from this meditation on economic nationalism, or rather his myopic postulate of such a system, to a surprisingly cogent, though inherently flawed, materialist analysis of the apparent decline of the US socioeconomic system in general, combined with a rather novel, even Romantic, discussion of culture as a fulcrum for nationalist political economy. In this section McCarthy credits Trump for capturing the political zeitgeist of a society that has now run out of moral and social energy, but wonders whether he will be effective in actually implementing the policies that the author believes is necessary for a renewal of the US. 

It is with his discussion of “culture”, meaning the intersection of the beliefs the US body politic holds as expressed and reenforced by and through its media, entertainment, and political apparatuses, that McCarthy is at his best. McCarthy takes for granted, rightly I believe, that the predominant, but by no means correct morally or historically, socio-political narrative adopted by the US has been white, working to middle class or bourgeois, and economically idealistic. He returns to Lincoln and his renewal of the constitutional order and his shepherding of emergence of the US industrial economy and labor force. 

The dominant  classes, i.e. the white population taken as a whole,  in the US have always had a peculiarly optimistic view of themselves. Some thinkers and writers have termed this a “city on a hill” conception, after a line in a sermon given by early settler-colonial Protestant preacher John Winthrop. Others prefer the more ecumenical term “American exceptionalism”, a sort of middle class version of the British White Man’s Burden. Never has the US seen itself as an imperial state, instead creating a point of demarcation between the colonial aspirations of the European states and their own “expansion” into land that was “manifest” in their destiny. Where Europe grasped and conquered, the US “grew” and “expanded”, casting imperial expansion in the naturalistic terms befitting a nation whose founding philosophical ideals can be gleaned from the natural law philosophers of the Enlightenment era. 

The fruits of the land, fruits harvested by free labor and administered by a capitalist, though enlightened, patrician elite, were utilized in order to create a welfare state that was first local in structure, but after the cataclysm of Second Revolution that took place with the US Civil War, Federal and National. Labor was open to all (white, able bodied, industrious) men, and much later, women, and this labor was to be compensated by a living wage, a hedge against old age in the form of a pension, and readily available credit. In reality, of course, this system was far more often an ideal aspired to then a reality achieved, and these boons were never fully extended to blacks, native peoples, certain groups of migrants, certain classes of laborers, and those who deviated from the political, gender, and sexual mainstream. McCarthy recognizes that the two major parties, less institutionally bound than shifting coalitions of labor, capital, and regional interests, “agree[d] on the overall story of politics and frame[d] their proposals in light of [that story].” The system as constructed, built in discrimination and all, worked and compromise more often took the place of acrimony, or at least distilled the regional digressions and pettifogging into a workable solution that could be applied through a well oiled Federal apparatus. 

Culture saw itself expressed in the form of a political economy that provided the material basis for the values held in common by the two parties, nuclear families, heteronormative romantic and sexual relationships, a reverence for authority, particularly martial, and private property rights. The competing interests of the various ideological strains of liberalism, conservatism, and progressivism endemic to the nation could be balanced. It is worth quoting McCarthy at length regarding this outlook. McCarthy utilizes, consciously or not, a truly trenchant materialist analysis

 

Different kinds of political economy not only produce different dispensations of wealth and power but also profoundly shape family life, individual character, and the civic landscape. A political program therefore has to be an economic program, not just in the superficial sense of dealing with subjects like taxes and regulation but in the deeper sense of relating the nation’s economic way of life to its cultural fabric and the very conditions of its existence.

 

His point is well made, and if he ended his essay here, I believe his argument would have been stronger. Unfortunately he takes this, his strongest segment, as a jumping off point for the rest of the piece, and his inchoate materialism opens up contradictions that ultimately undermine his overall thesis. 

 

III

 

“There are times when a nation faces a fundamental choice about its nature and direction.” McCarthy uses as an example the supposed “choice” between Jeffersonian aristocratic republican agrarianism and the bourgeois industrial urban federalism of Hamilton and his faction. Once again McCarthy is creating a barrier between two concepts of thought and praxis. Yet, there never was a material division between the agrarian slave economy of the rural US and the South and the emerging financial, service and trading hubs on the coast. One fed into the other, made the other possible, justifying each others existence. The dichotomy of Coast/Rural, a dichotomy still at play in US political rhetoric, was itself the result of the interconnectedness of these ways of life and modes of production. 

The political system that has arisen in the US over the past two centuries emerged from the interplay between two systems caught in the same orbit of exchange and production. The division between them, the bright red line separating them, was only ever a cultural abstraction created by the de facto geographical isolation imposed by pre-modern transportation and communication technology. As the movement of goods and people increased, sped up, provincialism, the idea of inherent differences, both did not have time to catch up with reality, and was strategically cultivated by the political and economic establishment. 

There are rarely ever times when “a nation”, an inherently ambiguous concept at best, can “choose” to move in one direction or another. Most often, the material conditions faced by people in a society, and how they react to them, are set by how they organize their systems in the face of these conditions, and the dialectical emergence of new conditions that result continues this process of adaptation. 

McCarthy’s analysis makes a good case, unintentionally, for a materialist understanding of  the historical socio-economic development of nation states. He talks of the ever increasing hyper specialization in the job market, the shattering of the social compact between industrial labor and capitalists regarding a living wage, the increasing power of intellectual, business, and government specialists over the direction of society, and the concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands. He describes what he calls, rather creatively I might add, “palliative liberalism”, an attempt by the specialists (he uses the word “elites”, but I feel the term is far too loaded with antisemitic and anti-communist overtones) to stave off the wholesale rejection of the current capitalist system by those he terms “the unproductives”, or what traditional Marxist theory would call the reserve army of labor.   McCarthy then goes on 

 

Palliative liberalism, on the other hand, aims not to repair labor-capital relations but to euthanize, as humanely [sic] as possible, millions of economically unneeded and politically retrograde Americans.

 

McCarthy has stumbled upon a key aspect of the transformation of a society from industrial to post-industrial capitalism, and the chief reason why the pursuit of a policy of internationalist engagement, projection of force and market expansion is an essential component of any economic nationalist system: if a nation centers its productive forces within its own borders, building up capital and resources and a reserve army of labor, eventually there must be an outlet for these surpluses. Capital must eventually be allowed to flow freely beyond its border, to be dispersed and reinvested, new resources must be allowed to enter in order to maintain a healthy level of production. The reserve army created by these economic forces must be placated to some degree, or else class war begins to foment, and the consciousness of the underclasses begins to emerge, threatening revolutionary upheaval. 

McCarthy seems to draw the absolute opposite conclusion from these facts, however, seeing economic nationalism as a “state of nature”, or at least as some sort of  equilibrium to return to. He talks of domestic energy production supplying the resources needed for economic expansion, and notes how “the real economy” exists in specific regions whose conditions are suited to particular industries. McCarthy believes there is a solution at hand to “repair labor-capital relations”. This relationship, indeed, which was itself only ever, to borrow a word from McCarthy, palliative in nature. It served to stave off the contradictions and tensions in a system built on land appropriated from its native inhabitants, improved for exploitation with the power of slave labor, and maintained by free labor policed with an iron hand ready to crush any emergence of class solidarity or consciousness between the disparate social, racial, and ethnic groups that made up the working classes. 

McCarthy attempts to center a new set of class relations in a fantasy of a past populist national social contract that only ever existed as an ideal which confounded attempts to understand the material reality of the US socioeconomic situation. McCarthy correctly notes that “Leaders in both parties, in corporate America and in the academy and media, have [incorrectly] assumed that what worked twenty or thirty years ago will continue to work today”, all the while proposing a return to a populist nationalist utopia that never existed except for in a suspended state within the memories of an ever shrinking bourgeoisie. “Globalization was relatively pain-free during the 1990s”, McCarthy insists without irony, ignoring the cataclysmic violence and depression that came in the wake of the collapse of the communist bloc, the liberalization of the economies of Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia, the collapse of the industrial working class in the US (a victim of the successes of US economic nationalism and its attendant internationalist power projections) and the emergence and cultivation of a permanent underclass of undocumented immigrant labor. 

McCarthy falls into the trap of believing the myth the white US bourgeois has created to justify its existence. McCarthy talks of the supposedly “new” calcified stratification of the US working classes: the upwardly mobile but economically paranoid educated elites, barely hanging on to the fiction of a respectable bourgeois middle class, and the dispossessed and increasingly superfluous industrial and service proletariat. What McCarthy sees as novel is simply the blurring of the lines between the racialized class distinctions that have always existed in the post industrial revolution US, with an increasing number of whites falling into the heretofore mostly black and brown and undocumented ranks of the “unneeded” and “expendable”. The “desolation of America’s “red” counties” that McCarthy blames on the machinations of internationalist minded, P.C., and bi-coastal Mandarins is a natural consequence of the economic nationalism pursued by the US as an imperial power. 

McCarthy is not calling for a return to an old way of doing things, but a return to an old story about how things are done. But the dialectic has turned, the material conditions of the US have changed, the “rest” have begun to catch up to the game played by the “west”, and a new paradigm of capital management and expansion has taken root. China is now playing the game the US inherited from the British, and is doing it better, and at a faster pace, to boot. They are accomplishing the material development of their nation without the ham-fisted hypocritical cant about “liberty”, the worship of private property, and also by treating emerging nations as partners in growth instead of savages held hostage to their own natural resource development. Expect other formerly colonized nations to emerge onto the neoliberal playing field soon enough, constructing their own mythologies and justifications for actions and beliefs that will someday produce the sort of conditions the declining US Empire is now facing.

 

IV

McCarthy longs for a return to a US that makes what it needs, locally, heartily whistling while it works for itself and itself alone. This palliative provincialism, to once again borrow and modify a phrase coined by the author,  is an attempt to recapture a fictional past: a white bourgeois led, industrial worker powered giant that at its center was always and will always be centered around “rural” morality and values. But this center cannot hold; the only palliative that is being applied is that which McCarthy posits as a “solution” to a system that has been, and will continue to be, shaped by the forces of capital which now exist at a insurmountably complex supranational level, a system that will continue to spin further and further out of the control of those who unleashed its potential, and who benefited most from it for its first 200 years of existence. 

At one point in his piece, and as a way of illustrating his own belief in nostalgia for a mythologized US utopia long passed, McCarthy calls back to another imagined “golden age” of human security and wealth. In this case the world that emerged in the Victorian age from the productive chaos that was the British industrial revolution. He seems to believe this was a utopia where all was well, and that the US can strive towards this sort of glory. But what of that system, a system that emerged from a rural nation of yeomen and cavaliers and landowners? It became a relentless, brutal, technologically advanced and resource craving world empire, finally collapsing under the weight of its own dialectical development into the morose, decaying, deluded self-destructive has-been nation that we see today. Where was this golden age? McCarthy would do himself a service if he were to read Friedrich Engels, a man who lived in the England McCarthy mythologizes, and who sought to do something about this system his industrialist family had a hand in creating and perpetuating. In his great work The Condition of the Working Class in England Engels has this to say about the economy and world English popular national industrial development created

 

Everywhere [there is] barbarous indifference, hard egotism on one hand, and nameless misery on the other, everywhere social warfare, every man’s house in a state of siege, everywhere reciprocal plundering under the protection of the law, and all so shameless, so openly avowed that one shrinks before the consequences of our social state as they manifest themselves here undisguised, and can only wonder that the whole crazy fabric still hangs together

 

The English Industrial Revolution began with technological advances that could not have been predicted, but whose effects can now be understood from the impact on the historical development of England. In the wake of industry came an explosion in domestic production, new domestic consumption, and a new nationalism that sought more than anything else to preserve the gains industry had made for the emerging bourgeois and capitalist classes. 

Empire emerged from a conglomeration of  various merchantilist and royally chartered entities who were placed at hubs of trade and military outposts. What were once interactions between kingdoms and monied interests were subsumed by the national interest in creating outposts of capital creation and exchange. India, to cite but one of many possible examples, became an extraction point, but also an enormous captive market for goods that were once solely exchanged and consumed domestically. The domestic, formerly yeoman and household industrial workers were absorbed into the great machines at the center of the supercities that were consciously and unconsciously crafted in order to better control and utilize labor. 

Mores, be they sexual, artistic, aesthetic or political, emerged or evolved and rancorous regionalism was subsumed into a manageable parliamentary factionalism, and government action domestically and internationally became increasingly strident. “Crisis” became the word of the hour, the upper classes bemoaned the loss of a unique English national character, of a time when merry old England lived by its own means, for itself, alone. Perhaps the US truly is the heir of  the British Empire and its incumbent pathology.

Economic change cannot happen in a vacuum in a materialist world: each step in development, each dialectical turn,  is in fact a new set of variables which provide a launch pad for new systems, the emergence of which are impacted as much by the direct actions and needs of workers and consumers as by financial and bureaucratic brahmins. There is no such thing as nationalism in isolation, a provincial industrial state. Internationalism is the outgrowth of productive nationalist policy, and even if the rhetoric of politics and culture deny this reality, it does not make a scintilla of difference regarding the material reality of the situation. At the end of his piece, McCarthy calls out for a new nationalism, same as the old nationalism, that makes “productive work” for America First possible in a populist economic system. But we must remember that all productivity has consequences, material consequences that will play out in ways that guarantee that no nation can forever retreat into a self-serving idyll, nostalgia for a past that never was and can never be.

—-

[If you would like to see what I am responding to, check out the piece itself https://www.firstthings.com/article/2019/03/a-new-conservative-agenda]

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history, News, Politics, Uncategorized

On The Bourgeois Temper Tantrum In Hong Kong

It is telling that the Hong Kong comprador-bourgeois protests, which are supposedly based on “justice” for Hong Kong, began as a way to deny justice to the people of the rest of China, by denying the people’s government the right to arrest & try a man who killed a pregnant woman.

It is true that one can know everything about the situation if you are not there, but that is why a materialist analysis of material history and conditions can be helpful: Hong Kong was a part of China without any uprisings or separatism since it was taken over by Qin Shi Huang in the 200s BC, and the first separatism started after the British stole Hong Kong in the first opium war, and then selectively developed it in order to create what is called a comprador class. Compradors are usually the bourgeois/richer elements of a society that are selected by colonizers to enforce the rules of the colonial regime, and reap the benefits of being treated as “junior” members of the ruling race.

This happened in India under the UK, in Puerto Rico and Cuba and the Philippines under the US, and in Vietnam and Algeria under France. The colonialists have then created a vested class interest for the compradors to keep things the way they are, because they benefit and become the middle classes. When the territory, in this case Hong Kong, is returned, you have a built in protest movement/subversive movement against the government that was wronged by the colonialists, and a permanent capitalist class to do business with in the more globalized stage of capital that emerges from the ashes of colonialism. 

In the minds of many of these protesters, they truly think they deserve to be treated differently than the mainland Chinese, because they and especially their parents and grandparents, held positions of authority, and lots of capital and property, under the colonialist regime that enriched them and privileged them over the proletarian “natives”, as they are increasingly seen. This is why you have colonial era flags being waved, colonial anthems being sung, and mainland Chinese people and working class Hong Kongers, who are often from mainland China, being harassed and beaten by protesters. 

This is why, in Hong Kong, you are not seeing factories staging walkouts, or street cleaners holding signs, or women and their kids out in the streets, or masses of migrant workers protesting. You are only seeing mostly men, aged 18-30, well dressed, with iPhones and well made signs, singing western anthems and talking with western diplomats and media, always western media, and always using symbols and slogans and concepts westerners will recognize and value. 

THIS IS NOT A PROLETARIAN UPRISING. Do not buy into the colonialist propaganda.

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Philosophy, Sexuality, Uncategorized

Excerpt From My Thesis on de Sade’s Oeuvre: The Morality of Power

Lately I have been reading an underrated work of one of the greatest, most misunderstood, and most misused artists in all of human history: Juliette, Donatian Alphonse Francois de Sade’s great exploration of erotic fantasy, cruelty, and the morality of power. This work is often overshadowed by its shorter, and better known, prequel Justine. The intimidating size of Juliette (over 1100 pages of densely packed brutal, and none too pithy, language) may have something to do with this discrepancy in popularity but I personally think the real reason may be in the hard to swallow (forgive the terrible Sadean pun) moral message of the piece, or rather, the perspective from which the moral message is delivered.

Justine is a parable of innocence degraded and abused in order to show the futility of traditional, in his time Christian, morality regarding sexuality and social responsibility. In a time when Rousseau was writing on naturalistic social contracts and Philosophes like Diderot were discussing how best to preserve and expand the intellectual fabric of a civilized nation, Donatian, that Mad Marquis, was showing the world what he believed was the true nature of Nature. Through the character of Justine, the poor unfortunate girl betrayed and abused by all those she had the temerity to trust, Sade explores what he sees as the facts of power and moral agency and exposes the filthy undergarments hidden by the flashy attire worn by the nobility. He saw first hand how his own class behaved as though Nature demanded the powerful take what they wish with whatever means at their disposal. Sneering at what he saw as the pretense of oppressive moral paternalism, indeed tyranny, of so called revealed Religion (the belief that the goodness  God governs all of us and ordains good men to rule over us all) Sade instead embraced a philosophy of pure materialism that better fit what he witnessed in the world: an awesome wedding of power and morality, might not only making right but being right in fact and deed. In Justine he declares

“What, then, are religions if not the restraint wherewith the tyranny of the mightier sought to enslave the weaker? Motivated by that design, he dared say to him whom he claimed the right to dominate, that a God had forged the irons with which cruelty manacled him; and the latter, bestialized by his misery, indistinctly believed everything the former wished. Can religions, born of these rogueries, merit respect?” 

When Nature (and he meant Nature in a materialistic, proto-dialectical-materialist unity of balanced forces and processes) endowed animals, which in his mind included man, with the power to dominate and exploit other creatures it did not mean for that power to be sublimated in the name of petty moral scruples. Indeed, if it could be done, it should be done and indeed it would be done, one way or the other. The weak are preyed upon by the strong and the strong justify this exploitation not by an appeal to wishy-washy legal justifications but because they are in a position to exploit.

With Juliette, his sequel to Justine, de Sade does attempts what no other author had ever attempted before: he sought to depict the worldview, the passions, and the moral system of a person who was completely devoted to a materialism that not only privileged the power of the upper classes, but pushed the very idea of privilege to its natural limits. How he chose to do this was even more revolutionary; the protagonist, most evil character, and most empowered individual in the piece was a woman.

 

 

 

 

 

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Activism, antifa, Capitalism, Civil War, Communism, economy, El Paso, Fascism, Marxism, Politics, racism, terrorism, Uncategorized, United States

A Dialectical Analysis Of The Potential Collapse Of US Federalism

“In reality the ‘crisis’ of fascism is not new. It has always existed. Once the contingent reasons that maintained the unity of these anti-proletarian groups ceased, it was inevitable that their latent disagreements would quickly flare up. The crisis, therefore, is nothing other than the clarification of pre-existing tendencies.”

-Antonio Gramsci, The Two Fascisms

 

Fascism always attacks the weak points, fissures, in a political system and society. In Weimar Germany this in the legislature and executive, the dyspeptic political parties & leadership, and the inchoate antisemitic & nationalistic violence bubbling just below the surface of the civil society.

The US Empire is in a similar, but in a few key ways markedly different position when compared to Weimar and its collapse. The US has never been a fully centralized system, with much power delegated to states municipalities. The states, particularly the large ones, and the big cities which are increasingly systemically and economically structured like states unto themselves, have less and less reason to buy into US republican federalism and its incumbent electoral system.

The weak points are not in the executive, which is relatively stable, or the legislature, which is deadlocked, not crumbling, but in the states, the smaller, rural, white, electorally powerful but economically stagnating South & Rust Belt.

Weaknesses also exist in the social and economic contract, with the compact between white capital and the white working classes & petite bourgeoisie, what Du Bois called “the wages of whiteness”, returning fewer and fewer dividends with the further development of capital.

The White petite bourgeoisie, prone to racialized hysteria over relative class status in relation to the “underclasses” (i.e. black, brown, immigrant, and increasingly LGBTQ proletariat) in the BEST of times, are panicking over no longer getting richer and advancing upward in relative class status generation after generation. The class element is particularly galling for whites as class has been intrinsically linked to racial supremacy in relation to the minority underclasses for over two centuries in the US imperial state.

This hysteria is in turn being exploited by the capitalist political class through increasingly strident right wing populism & xenophobic nationalism, which when exercised through an electoral system weighted in favor of rural, white, Southern & Rust Belt states leads to a general lack of confidence in the federalist system as a whole, with larger, more diverse, more economically powerful and market liberalizing states, CA, IL, NY, and increasingly TX and VA, finding fewer and fewer benefit to participating in a system wherein they to pay tax revenue to government electorally & fiscally shortchanges them at the Federal level. 

I believe here will be a dialectical progression towards the big states and cities becoming more de facto independent (witness CA and its increasingly internationalist outlook, trade, space, and ecological, and regulatory policies) which will progress towards de jure independence. Expect tax strikes by the bigger states, de facto nullification of federal law (see marijuana legalization & the immigrant sanctuary laws and ordinances in big states and cities) state vs state boycotts, walkouts by state delegations to congress, and overtures towards independence through increasingly sovereign trade and defense deals between states and major industrial nations.

This process will of course shift the economic, cultural, and social power dynamic within the US economic and cultural system further in favor of the big states, feeding into the increasingly impotent and self-righteous rage of the smaller/whiter/rural states, fueling their innate political secessionist/ethnic nationalist inclinations.

The smaller/whiter/rural nations will grow poorer and less stable economically and structurally, which will lead to mass migration, often by black & brown & migrant folks, out of these states, further degrading their economic base. These states will “lash out”

with compensatory reactionary policy and politics, increasingly defining themselves racially, nationalistically, and culturally. This could lead to outright fascism in power at the state level & extreme violence against non-whites in these states.

This will push the dialectical development of the big states and cities further & further towards sovereignty from the federalist system, which may outrage the least economically powerful whites in these states, leading to increased terrorism within these areas

The more diverse, increasingly less structurally white nationalist big states & cities (while by no means leftist or socialist) will begin to crack down, hard, on these terrorist elements from the white community, which they see as disruptive to their liberal market agenda.

This will further entrench rural/small/white states into reaction & what was left of liberal governmental systems in these societies will totally collapse. From there, who knows? We are indeed at a dangerous stage in the political and economic development of the US capitalist system, similar in practical sense to that of Weimar Germany, but materially diverging in a few key ways: US is much larger, and much more federalist than Germany was at its time of crisis. It is also much more diverse, with less national civic cohesion, more overextended internationally and militarily, and with the extreme fascist element less organized and unified than the Nazi movement in the late 1920’s and early 30’s in Germany. This is why the Left must organize and prioritize black, brown, LGBTQ, and indigenous leadership and liberation and the destruction of the US empire. The white Left in the US is nigh on useless, with the most effort put forth in favor of left-liberalism in socialist trappings. The true proletariat of the US, black, brown, migrant, LGBTQ, & indigenous folks, are far ahead of the white left in theoretical and practical development, and the best place to exploit the revolutionary potential of the coming decades.

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Uncategorized

The Last Good Emperor

Americans imagine the terms of our Presidents to be eras, self contained stories of men, who through the force of their personalities, promises, policies, and the capital they can muster are able to ascend to the top of our brutal political system. We modern, Enlightened Westerners tend to like to see our history as a series of events defined by great men, or at least great causes. The grand narrative, the charge of forces of civilization against barbarism. So many of us, more than we who style ourselves intellectuals would ever like to admit, look up at great men and still see a King, an Emperor. Eras are reigns to us, or to many of us, and the intricately cultivated fiction we perpetuate ourselves through our media, our schools, our busy lives in an increasingly inhumane society, keeps this myth of the age maker, the peacekeeper, the war fighter, the exemplar through deed and, increasingly, through blood alive and well in our conception of our national selves.

President Barack Obama was a great man to many people, if not through the force of his deed than by the compelling nature of his story, his stolid demeanor, his charming family, and, perhaps more than anything else, his intellectualism. How we have defined genius overtime has varied so greatly, changed so radically from era to era and from person to person, that while it is true Obama created no great work of literature, no great treatise (though many well wrought essays and articles), no revolutionary theory, he is in fact a genius. Obama succeeded in political organization and political messaging in a way which will become the new, perhaps the final, standard against which all campaigns for the Presidency will be judged. On paper, or on the glowing screen, Obama is the perfect man to rule a country that exists only in the mind: a benevolent empire which through performative democratic symbols had elevated a man who truly matched the grandeur of the office of the US Presidency.

Many pundits, those overpriced soothsayers of republicanism, still believe Obama’s election was the culmination of a progressive left reaction to the carnage and cynicism of the Bush II years. America was ready for a progressive turn, for a New New Deal (the Shangri-La of Liberal establishment figures), for a second run at Camelot, this time without the bawdy undercurrent, and the bloody ending. I believe it is wrong to see the election of Obama as the voters and the establishment wanting to usher in an inchoate progressive Renaissance. In fact, I see Obama’s anointment (and it is so very royal, our Presidency, as though we were only able to take the monarchy out of the office, but not the monarchical aura off of the office holder) as an almost panicked embrace of Conservatism, a Rockwellian fantasy which, as opposed to rejecting the conjured up values of the “Golden Age of America”, embraces them, indeed expands their scope to include the newly “liberated” voices and dreams of the various groups that make up non-white America. This was not the rejection of the American Dream, the embrace of Obama & his Era, this was the desegregation, from the top down of course, of the American Dream.

This Conservatism, Obamaism if you will, is non-exclusionary, at least not in an conscious sense, is largely a petty bourgeois liberal capitalist phenomenon, is globalist and expansionist, and has a diligently maintained aura of reluctant neo-conservatism. It is not the contrived “3rd Way” nonsense of Clintonism and Blairism, the cynical pantomiming of progressive values while instituting the dismantling the shattered remains of the welfare state and replacing it with deregulated capitalist oligarchy backed up by brutal military force. Obamaism is an aspirational, self-consciously naive in the sense of what unregulated (or tokenly regulated) free market capitalism can achieve for the world. If a few more billionaires are created along the way, all the better! An illuminating incident with a self-styled plumber during the 2012 Presidential campaign throws Obama sincere belief in a compassionate free market, a belief in a benevolent empire, into stark relief

 

Right now, everybody’s so pinched that business is bad for everybody. And I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.

 

The atavistic right wingers who controlled the Republican system and associated media jumped on this statement and tried to use it in a propagandic matter as a sort of Marxist statement, a line right out of Das Kapital. The entire conversation was about the tax code and its impact on non corporate and smaller businesses. Obama preached of tax incentives, and investment, and a fruitful public/private alliance. The whole “Obama’s Declaration of Marxist Intent” quote, in context

 

If you’ve got a plumbing business, you’re going to be better off if you’ve got a whole bunch of customers who can afford to hire you, Right now, everybody’s so pinched that business is bad for everybody. And I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.

 

This is a textbook defense of free market liberalism, of the neoliberal code of ethics. All the wheeling and dealing and regretful, benevolent imperialism is in pursuit of this idea: capitalism, if nudged just a little bit along, can be great for everyone. So what if there are still billionaires and a corporate oligarchy steering an imperialist ship of state, most people can potentially live a lower middle class two income lifestyle!  Obama is the ideal American Conservative: the kind capitalist, the reforming authoritarian, the sincere paterfamilias, the sober Enlightened Liberal. Obama’s flirtation with radicalism in his earlier years was formative, though he was never as actively radical as the far right paint him as and desperately need him to be. He was, nonetheless, plugged into the fading undercurrent of Left Radicalism/Terrorism/Praxis of 1960s-70’s nonetheless, being feted by the aging who’s who of Weather Underground and other radical and student activist groups. What Obama took from these encounters was less a mission than a mindset, a way of organizing and understanding politics, as well as a cache with a certain easily impressed segment of  bourgeois left liberals.

Obama would become a community organizer, a functionary of a liberal system of welfare and reform which could co-exist with, even thrive under, free market capitalism. A focus on “education”, on a Booker T. Washington-esque moralistic view of black culture and progress, an obsession with reform through harmonizing & desegregating existing systems, along with an aspirational, measured optimism. Obamaism is the culmination of the gentrification of the Martin Luther King, Jr.’s philosophy and theology by the liberal establishment, a process which includes the mythologization of his life, the appropriation of his words and image, and his deification (and annexation) by the state through a holiday. Gone is the Christian Socialism, the Gandhian fusion of Ahimsa and Swarj, the focus on the poor, the critique of industrial age materialism. All that remains is a man carved in stone, who said beautiful things, with a dream that has now come true. And when your dream has come true, that means it’s time to stop dreaming, and “get real”.

There was hope Obama would be less prone to military adventurism, and this was true to a degree, with no new mass invasions of sovereign states. State violence, however, merely went more covert, more institutionalized. The transparent self interest behind the premature awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize, that signifier of the European form of what we know of as Obamaism, personified by affectedly benevolent conservatives like France’s Macron and Germany’s Merkel, was helpful in facilitating cover for Obama’s increasingly effective neoconservative imperialism. The drone program inaugurated by the Bush II regime was fully absorbed into mammoth machinery of the defense establishment and system. The drone would be the tool the Obama Administration would use to enforce conditions suitable for capital and to maintain the frontiers of the Empire.

Targeted assassinations, mass electronic espionage, use of proxies and covert operatives against foreign nations, information warfare, digital warfare, dirty tricks, corporatized NGOs, the continuation of the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the support of violent right wing regimes, sabotaging or rigging elections, the Obama Administration used them all in great service to the capitalist system and the empire needed to maintain it all. And, it must be said, he was popular while doing these things. Much of the American proletariat is not yet fully class conscious, much less radicalized or allowed the time or resources to educate themselves in dissecting political propaganda, and the nationalism of the US state is deeply ingrained in our cultural and family rituals and in our civic morality.

It is enough, for most Americans, that Obama was a kind man, by all accounts a good father, attentive and loving husband, and a truly engaging and charismatic person. All the better, too, that he could write well, speak beautifully, and was clearly a true intellectual. That he turned out to be relatively scandal free in an institutional sense was the cherry on top. Post Nixonian corruption, Post Clintonian sleaziness, Post Bush II recklessness, what more could be desired from a leader, an era, from Obamaism? As long as the world is made safe for the American Dream, and especially if the man making that safe world made them feel good about themselves, most Americans will excuse, or ignore, any crime, any violation of (non-American) dignity, any perpetuation of privileged systems, any deal struck with the capitalist classes. I am not a nihilist when it comes to the potential of the American proletariat, not in the least, but I am a pessimist. It will take a truly revolutionary change in the way the proletariat is educated and understands itself, before anything better than Obamaism can be expected from the US system as it has currently constituted itself. It may well take the complete collapse or destruction of the US state before a space can be found where revolutionary action can be fruitfully directed to achieve real change.

Most Americans love their Presidents, many even deify them. America has been compared and contrasted to Rome far too many times in far too many fatuous & unhelpful ways. I am not going to extend the comparison here. We are not Rome, we will not End how Rome Ended. We are, however, an empire, a powerful one, though increasingly less so. Obama was a competent and ethical leader of that empire, a smart leader, a dignified leader. He was a good emperor, an American Aurelius one who believed like this ancient personage that a leader of the empire must “waste no more time arguing what a good man should be”; he should simply “Be one.” Like the Roman Philosopher Emperor, he was a thoughtful, brilliant despot. And he would also most likely be the last of his kind.

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Activism, Communism, Democracy, Politics, Uncategorized

A Note Concerning True Democracy

Democratic systems, such as they are today, exist either as an end of a long period of dialectical progression towards capitalism as an imposition by a “developed” capitalist system upon a “developing” (read: colonized) society, or by a decolonized society seeking to start on dialectical progression towards capitalism. the systems of capitalist democratic governance allow a vote only on the mechanisms
used to implement capitalist policy to further the expansion and flow of capital. There can be no democratic vote on the FACT of capitalism in itself. There can be no vote to undermine the system of capital.
The details of the real of everyday life under capitalism can change according to the whims of the voters i.e. more or less social permissiveness or more or less tokens of welfare to the exploited classes but the Real of capitalism, the objective schema of the expansion of the flow of capital by any and all means, can NEVER be voted upon. Democracy only ever extends to subjective effects, never objective systems themselves.
Liberals mistake the trappings of democracy for democracy. Voting for the means and severity of owns own exploitation and brutalization is not, cannot be, democratic, even if the forms appear so at a surface level. True democracy is the collective decision making processes of the workers and the people to satisfies their needs, and further their own interests, and prosperity. True democracy CANNOT EXIST without the precondition of communism, of the disruption of the flow of capital used to perpetuate imperialism. Democracy coexists with workers owning the means of production.
This does not mean that the level and exchange of material production will continue to increase and expand under communism. In fact, under true communist democracy, material progress, as measured by capitalist standards, may retract, may be retarded, for some time but this retardation will be overcome when the people and workers in a communist democracy reorder the priorities of material production, a reorganization that will be informed by sustainable, practical ecology, the needs and desires of various communities, and their aspirations. However, none of this can occur before DISRUPTION OF THE FLOW & EXPANSION OF CAPITAL & democratic systems maintaining the charade of popular control
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Democratic Party, Race, racism, Uncategorized

The Clinton’s “Peculiar Institution”

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

—Section 1 of the 13th Amendment to The Constitution of the United States

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It is Hilarious how Clinton Liberals are now trying to be pro-slave wage prison labor at Southern plantation/gov buildings and sympathetic to racist stereotypes about IQ and emotional intelligence now that the racist segments of Hillary Clinton’s ’96 book are going viral. And by “hilarious” I mean morally repugnant.

I’m going to post an article that features Sec. Clinton’s own words on this. Warning, the way she talks about the human beings who served her is incredibly demeaning, Uncle Tom’s Cabin levelshit. Also remember, the 13th Amendment explicitly carves out an exception for PRISON SLAVE LABOR, which is what is being described here. I’ve seen liberals try to say “but inmates WANT to work” or “it’s good for inmates”. Remember, these are the exact same excuses slavery supporters used to justify chattel slavery. Also, I’ve seen liberals say “well, this IS legal”. So was chattel slavery.

Inmates used for labor are often unpaid or only paid a tiny, pitiful fraction of minimum wage, often as little as a few cents an hour. They often must work over 10hrs a day in unsafe, undignified, or unsanitary conditions while wearing humiliating prison garb and be overseen by armed guards with absolute authority over their bodies. The vast majority of unpaid or token-paid prison labor is done by black men.

Here are links to Clinton’s casually racist and cavalier attitude to the imprisoned black men who served her and an article putting it all in context. Note how Mrs. Clinton seems most concerned for her own safety and how this “peculiar institution” at the Arkansas Governor’s residence confirms or denies her personal prejudices about “criminals”. Also note how she acts as though she is helpless in the face of an entrenched institution, even though in reality she and her husband, then Governor Clinton, were in fact uniquely empowered to do something, anything, to mitigate or eliminate this injustice.

Ask yourself, Clinton true-believers, would you be defending these words or actions if they had instead come from, and described by, the pen of a Mike Huckabee or George Bush…or a Donald Trump? The passage bellow is taken verbatim from Mrs. Clinton’s 1996 book “It Takes a Village”. It is important to remember, however, that while the Clinton’s are a particularly hideous example of this moral evil, we’re ALL party to this crime. As Nathan J. Robinson says in the articled linked below:

This is not a mere pathology of the Clintons, but a pathology of the country we all inhabit. And it is not just a single noxious political family that is complicit. We all are. 

https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/06/the-clintons-had-slaves

Solidarity, Comrades

“Workers of the World…Unite!”

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