“The working class will acquire the sense of the new discipline, the freely assumed self-discipline of the Social Democracy, not as a result of the discipline imposed on it by the capitalist state, but by extirpating, to the last root, its old habits of obedience and servility.”–Rosa Luxemburg
Bernie Sanders’ reformist welfare state capitalism is not, in any way, shape, or form socialist, let alone Marxist. His way is just a prettier repackaging of neoliberalism for desperate Millennials emeeging from the warm nest of the post-WWII capitalist bubble into the cold reality of late-stage capitalism in crisis.
Sanders & his ilk seek to improve the material conditions of the middle, and to a much lesser extent, working classes WITHOUT addressing the system which creates and will continue to create the conditions seeking to be reformed.
Sanders’ kabuki theater “revolution” is a essentially a morphine drip for the petty bourgeois Millennials who are the first generation in the advnced post-industrial west to experiance the full savagry of late stage-capitalism in crisis. His policies would make the current generation more comfortable with their misery under the current system, and would have as a consequence the INTENSIFICATION AND PROLONGATION of the crisis and its’ attendent woes & brutalities. Only the overthrow of the capitalist system and its replacement with communism will ameliorate the condition of the working classes & disintegrate the class barriers that stratify society. Sanders is a new coat of paint on the walls of the same old reformist blind alley.
“We are constantly making the mistake in Russia of judging the slogans and tactics of a certain party or group, of judging its general trend, by the intentions or motives that the group claims for itself. Such judgement is worthless. The road to hell—as was said long ago—is paved with good intentions.”1
Lenin wrote at a time in history that would inevitably be seen to be nearly providential by those looking back from the contemporary vantage point. In 1913 the crucible of revolution had yet to boil over into the true paradigm shift that was the fall of the Russian Monarchy and its’ proto-capitalist/feudal system. We forget today, or are made to ignore the fact, that history is not preordained or inevitable even if it is in fact possible to be analyzed rationally. Lenin wrote in his letter, Word and Deed, of imminent, arising social upheaval. We cannot look at this letter as a piece of self-conscious dogma; instead we must realize that Lenin is expressing a realization of political reality that is made self-evident by the events taking place around him.
The workers strike was still seen as a violation of societal doxa, a rejection of the contract written and executed from above and based upon the premise that mass civic action was a form of terrorism. Lenin makes an especial case against the liberal members of the structural orthodoxy who viewed worker organization and proletarian action as a dangerous attack on their own pursuit of “reform” within the context of the existing system. The rejection of the liberal bourgeois conception that change within a flawed system is required or preferable to the dismantling of the system through class struggle was an important step for the socialist movement in Russia and an essential signpost on the road that we are still traveling towards a more sustainable and equitable system. By accepting the claims of liberal parties and movements that they are friendly towards the proletariat, socialism is undermined and indeed made heterodox. A step forward on a crooked road is not progress made towards the destination; it is for all intents and purposes a step backwards to a state of affairs intolerable to the interests of the proletariat and its aims.
For example, look at the left liberal (contemporary United States) Democratic party pledge of strengthening the middle class[es] through “hope” for “change” in the system of a “reformed” market capitalism. But what sort of “change” can be expected when there is no rejection of underlying conditions that lead to inequality or abuse? The classic capitalist class system is upheld and even celebrated by the acceptance of a reformation of processes and laws that can only see success as the increasing stratification and separation of workers from each other. The middle class becomes a destination away from the working classes, a realm apart and a vantage point from which the anointed can look back in shame and increasing disgust at the situation of the proletariat. Lenin says that there is nothing remarkable about the upper class, governmental or conservative reactionary dismissal of proletarian needs and struggles but that “Much “newer” is the amazing indifference of the bourgeoisie”.
Similarly the antagonism between the Democratic party and the vast and expanding ex post politico “working poor” (as the proletariat is referred to within the context of contemporary American politics) is, if not actually increasing, becoming more apparent and shocking to those who once labored under the delusion that at least one party represented a means of support for the worker. The left liberal “solution” to the problems of the unequal division of wealth and exploitation of labor is simply a less violent entrance into a feedback loop that preserves the systems that create the need for such exploitation. Members of the proletariat need to come to terms with the fact that they were and are “making the mistake of […] judging the slogans and tactics of” the liberal Democratic party based on their own standards that reject the very idea that the capitalist system is something to be overcome. Indeed, Lenin goes on to say, “in many cases this indifference [on the part of the left liberal factions] changes to a negative attitude” and eventually expresses itself as so much reactionary more violence against the rejection of the class constraints advocated by the Marxist philosophies and socialist parties. Lenin is correct that we must look beyond the word and to the deed when examining the intentions of those professing to be allies of the proletariat and its cause. Lenin makes it clear that in order to move the proletariat cause forward liberal conciliation with reactionary forces and capitalist institutions must be combated as though the factions were one and the same.
The tragic irony of this letter becomes clear when we realize that the trenchant criticisms leveled by Lenin against accommodations with strains of left liberal thought and practice can just as easily, indeed should just as readily, be leveled against Lenin’s own assertion that the vanguard party was essential to the advancement of the interests of the proletariat and its eventually achievement of a communist society without need of party (or the class system that invariably arises from a vanguard party). Lenin writes
The proletariat cannot do its democratic duty, serve as the advanced contingent, give service to, educate and consolidate the masses of the people other than by a decisive struggle against the liquidators, who, in fact, are completely dependent on liberalism. The liberals, too, frequently play at being radicals from the Duma rostrum and do it as well as the various near-Marxist or wavering elements, but that does not prevent the liberals from fighting (with the aid of the liquidators) the democratic aspirations of the masses outside the Duma.2
Lenin fails to understand that the elite vanguard party apparatus, whose very education and intellectual assumptions are themselves derived from liberal bourgeois systems and values and cannot be separated, in essence, from this strain, are also “play[ing] at being radicals”. If proletariat cannot, therefore, “do its democratic duty” by cooperation with liberal economic and social forces, how, then, can the proletariat be expected to do the same under the aegis of a vanguard party indelibly stained by bourgeois prejudices against the inherent genius of the proletariat? Lenin succeeds in highlighting the problem of compromising one’s values in the name of pragmatic expediency in pursuit of revolution and the creation of communism in a nation, but he fails to apply this criticism to his own compromised values, in the form of the vanguard party idea of revolutionary action.
This Essay is Dedicated to the victims of Imperial Violence everywhere, and throughout time
I realized the other day that the Invading US Military, controlled by Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and nominally George Bush II among others, appoint a AMERICAN MILITARY/COLONIAL DICTATOR to rule Iraq, a nation of over 20 million independent, living, breathing, worthwhile people. His name was L. Paul Bremer and he was aided by Gen. Ricardo Sanchez and they were no different than General Iwane Matsui in Nanjiang in 1937, or Lucius Flavius SIlva at Masada, or Nathan Bedford Forest at Fort Pillow or Field Marshal Walter Model in Warsaw in 1944…they were functionaries, brutal ones, of the imperial/fascistic order of their national/ethnic system of power. We are no different than any other violent, expanding, brutal, greedy, ambitious empires in history. The scale of the violence inflicted upon Iraq, for no reason other than petty revenge by the ruling Bush family, profit and for Dick Cheney, the then dictator of the US, and out of shear myopic xenophobic rage against anything that challenged or even irritated US imperial authority and economic control, is on par with the violence inflicted by the Mongols on Baghdad in 1258, or the IDF in Palestine since 1948, or the Germans on Spain in 1936.
The only objective differences between our empire and any other in history is time, distance, technology, and professed ideology. We are convinced of our moral superiority to, our difference from, the “others”, these “truly evil” empires. We killed at least a million people in war in Iraq, surely if we count the death toll from starvation and illness caused by our invasion and occupation and the sanctions, that total is closer to 2 million. We would count these deaths as part of the war victims if we were analyzing the Soviets, or ISIS, or Imperial Japan in their imperial debacles. The founding imperial myth of “American Exceptionalism” notwithstanding, a US Sniper killing a child in Baghdad because he “may have been a potential terrorist” is not different morally from a Soviet Private running a Berlin shopkeeper through with a bayonet, or British Regulars gunning down women and children at Amritsar. Iraqi lives are no less valuable than American lives, or Jewish lives, or Tibetan lives. Iraqis are no more or less prone to “evil” or “savagery” then any other arbitrary grouping of peoples in the world. How is a US soldier killing an Iraqi civilian in Anbar Provence any different than a Chinese Communist beating a Nationalist Sympathizer to death in Xian? THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE. We are no more or less evil than any other empire in history. Our belief in the righteousness of our moral/political/philosophical/economic/religious systems are not unique, every empire has its self-sustaining myths and belief in its own self evident superiority. I mention Iraq because it is the most egregious recent example of our imperial brutality, but I could also mention the fire bombing of Tokyo in 1945, the nuclear obliteration and slow radiation poisoning of 500,000 people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the ideological motivated and justified genocide committed against the Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, the wholesale slaughter of Indians over 200 years of Manifest Destiny warfare. China occupies Tibet, and Russia occupies Chechnya, but we occupy the Najavo Nation, the Cherokee Nation, the Iroquois Confederacy. There is no moral difference. Only the cast of characters, the slogans, and the justifications are different. We are what we condemn. We are the evil empire. We are the most dangerous and violent empire now existing on Earth.
there is a thorne
in my foot
and I have to pluck it out
and it bleeds more
Sun Yat Sen
and then the Generalissimo
these are the leaders we get before
the Red Emperor
a bourgeois nationalist revolutionary
and a beer hall putsch wannabe
20 years of bland protestant incompetence
the programed life
was throwing coins into the brush
the Buddha came over and retrieved the coins and
brought them back to the beggar
and the beggar wept and thanked him for his generosity
and then he returned to throwing coins into the brush
There is no such thing as a “Marxist society”…Marxism is a philosophy of materialism and human development. In a Socialist society the people would own the means of production and would democratically control the allocation and application of the fruits of labor. Profit would be an alien concept as it would be superfluous to the needs of the people, needs that would be met by the just use and distribution of the products of labor. The goal would be to move towards the elimination of want, or else to have a system in place where those who want are provided for in a just and human way according to their needs.
I do not have the answer to the question of what such a society would look like in detail as it has not come about yet, the foundations for such a system have yet to be built. That is where the aspirational, and revolutionary, nature of Marxist-Leninist philosophy and analysis is essential. the debt of history: the debt accrued when the fruit of generations of labor and innovation and thought culminate in an ingenious new application, therefore negating claims of proprietary ownership of the new application. One aspect of this application is the human artistic urge.
Art In Relation to a Revolutionary Society.
Art does not originate from the secluded person and mind in order to re-enforce the sacred seclusion (genius) of the artist. art exists to create the chance for an a priori secluded (genius) mind to connect with others and enjoy their thoughts and affection and company. art is not a product of loneliness but a way to overcome loneliness, the way the inherent uniqueness and loneliness of the artistic mind tries to connect and interact with the world. artists do not seek out the acclaim of the people, they seek out their company, they seek to become a part of the “ordinary”, the “society” through a gift of their inherent quirk, their art. art is communication failing all other communication; art is speaking, alienated from words, in the hope of achieving compatibility with and acceptance from the Other, other people, an object that can only be approached by the artistic (or autistic) mind through a gift of subjective creation. The artistic (or in many cases autistic) mind thinks “I cannot be you, I cannot be the Other, other people, I cannot relate to you as a person, therefore I will give you myself in art, a token of the chaos and constant creation and destruction in my mind, a piece of art (autism) and through your appraisal and appreciation of that piece you will come to know something of me and I will be be able to relate as the Other, other people, and for a brief moment be free of the need to create and to swim in chaotic thought”
As I write I am watching the joint press conference, more a joint organized propaganda effort, held by newly, narrowly re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and newly re-elected United States President Barack Obama. The media would have us believe that the men are separated by an ideological divide that puts the President on the left and the Prime Minister on the right. This is something of a spurious assessment and more of a self-serving obfuscation of the realpolitik facts on the ground. I say obfuscation because I believe that both the media and the agents of political power in the US and Israel fully understand that, to paraphrase a favorite metaphor of the American foreign policy class, there is no daylight between how Obama and Netanyahu view the issue of national security and Israeli imperialism. We like to believe, we are led to believe, that the American President brings a relatively pacific point of view to the events unfolding in Palestine and the greater Middle East and North Africa in contrast to Israeli belligerence. This is a foolish belief of course given the almost unyielding American support for every Israeli policy of expansion and military action in the past 50 years.
We see the Israeli/Palestinian situation as an essentially foreign i.e. un-American problem: one inherently weak party protecting itself from the predatory hatred of the other. Israel is beset by enemies on all sides and has taken many controversial (but ever justified) actions in order to secure their position and territorial integrity. Of course that position is self imposed and the territorial integrity is relative given the reality that the state of Israel is a completely artificial state founded by colonists. It is ironic that we see this is a “foreign” problem, of course, because the United States has the exact same origin story, at least in its own collective cultural consciousness. A persecuted religious minority transplanting itself into foreign soil enriched with theological and nationalistic significance by an important religious text. The side effects are of course the same as well; entrenchment followed by territorial expansion justified by self-inflicted isolation in alien lands. The natives become savages and the savages become enemies who must be first contained and then obliterated. The Americans did this to the indigenous populations and nations of the American continent and the Israelis are in the process of doing the same to the native Palestinian Arab population and non-european immigrants.
There is no daylight between the process of systematic extermination and containment perpetrated by the Americans against the “Indians” and the Israeli apartheid that has led to the slaughter of tens of thousands of Palestinians and the mass imprisonment and abuse of the same within controlled military camps and regions. Of course the Palestinians, like the “Indians”, have fought back offensively and in reaction to imperial incursion and both committed their own share of violent acts. The difference of course lies in the power structures that governs/governed the relationship between the invading and invaded parties. Both the Indians and the Palestinians started out in the majority in their realm but through attrition and patience on the part of the invading parties became exploited and abused minorities. This of course sets up the situation wherein the “natives” fight back and are then labeled violent aggressors thereby justifying ever more violent and draconian action against them and their interests. This macabre feedback loop is inherent to the imperialist mission and explains why those who are invaded and exploited are often the ones blamed for the violence inherent to imperial warfare and colonization.
History is of course written by the winners but this is only half of the truth. The “facts on the ground” are also authored by those in command and it is difficult if not impossible to get any information that would lead to a less biased assessment of any given imperialist/colonial situation. As it is with the exaggerated zeal of the converted the nationalistic fervor of the invader is magnified by the self-imposed nature of the situation at hand. This land was chosen by the invader and in time the invader comes to believe that indeed it was the land that chose him. This delusion is reinforced by the cultural zeitgeist fed by media, origin myths, and shared artistic interpretations of events.
This is the psychology of the conqueror and the creed of the victorious nation; a vital state of affairs for the perpetuation of the Pax Mercatus form of universal economic imperialism. Chaos on a nationalistic level preserves the capitalistic order of society by disrupting the ability of the proletariat to pull together and communicate. The more there is conflict between peoples over land and race and tradition the less effort will be spent investigating the real nature of capitalistic exploitation and creating a revolutionary democratic order. Read Conrad, Kipling, Achebe, Tolstoy; these great writers understood that capitalist preservation and expansion are at the center of the Imperialist mission. Exploitation and conflict go hand in hand. The less political power a people have the more they are in thrall to the market forces manipulated by those who control government and business systems. The Indians in America became pawns of the dictates of the American government in favor of Imperialist market expansion.
This same process is unfolding in Palestine. The West Bank and Gaza are now nothing more than prison camps for a population that is unwanted and indeed threatens the lie that Israel is the only bastion of participatory democracy in the Middle East. They are an inconvenient roadblock on the road to a true liberal democracy based upon market capitalism. The Middle East and North Africa are one of the last frontiers for the full expansion and implementation of the Pax Mercatus. The United States, or at least the capitalistic and governmental forces that control the policy of the nation, have a real interest in keeping the Palestinians, poor and a potential activist worker class, an unrepresented and unheard class of violent savages. There will never be peace in the Middle East within a capitalist paradigm. It is futile to even try; capitalism sees no profit in a free and empowered Palestinian population so there is no impetus for the capitalist governments of the West, especially the United States, to do anything in favor of Palestinian human rights. The conquest will continue until the basis of the Pax Mercatus, free market capitalism and the liberal representative democracy that preserves and expands the system. There is no profit in peace so we must forge ahead and create a system where profit is not to be considered in the context of human dignity.