2016 Election, GOP, history, Nations, News, Socialism, Uncategorized, Writing

Notes Under The Pavement: 1/10/17

The US media, or at least that vast Nixonian [un]silent majority that represents the media Left of Center to  Right of Center and every CNN & TIME Magazine in between, now seem content with dryly reporting the bare facts of Trump’s misdeeds pre-Presidential misdemeanors with aw shucks faux shock. The insufferably bourgeois hip-Left news dumping ground Huffington Post (or “HuffPo” to the denizens of the portmanteau saturated social media world) posted a headline, Trump Denies Mocking Reporter With Disability, Even Though It Appears He Did, attached to a bricolage of links and tweets mixed into a brain dead snark-filled navel gazing exercise disguised as click-bait. “Appears” to have? APPEARS TO HAVE? Not only did “HuffPo” plaster the drooling, spasmodic pantomime performed by Trump all over their front “page”, they lionized themselves for their moral superiority in denouncing this obviously horrid abuse of his privilege & power for weeks on end. Giving even the hint of self-doubting deference now to a living, toupee abusing example of confirmation bias shows how low the media mojo has sunk in the age of right wing reactionary driven”Facts are what you FEEL” information nihilism.

This Barney Fife approach to media due diligence may keep their readership (or the firewall flouting “Nine of Ten articles remaining this month” group which plays the part well enough) mollified & with enough full of self-righteous pride to keep clicking past the pleas to subscribe & keep the first amendment alive, but it is not what a republican system descending into kleptocracy needs to survive. There is such an  air of affected incredulity emanating from the offices of the Times, Post & Co. that one would be forgiven in believing Claude Rains’ ethically pragmatic Capt. Renault had returned from the dead in order to run the UPI wire.

The refugees from the erstwhile Grand Obama Coalition are still milling about, shiftless, abandoned by their great Pant-suited Hope, desperate for a political gong to bang which will summon forth a new New Deal (or at the very least a new Great Society) but settling instead for gloomy Wednesday (Thursday, Friday…) quarterbacking over an election that was lost as soon as the rust belt & the Jim Crow 2.0 voter suppression Governors heard dog whistle to end all others, “Make [White] America Great Again.” With the swearing in of Trump less than two weeks away, the White Liberal base is getting more and more enamored with token gestures of “Resistance”, lapping up the trickle down pat public declarations and demonstrations of safe, easily retweeted self righteous indignation by aging and burgeoning Progressive Icons™ like Meryl Streep, Mark Ruffalo, and Rob Reiner, or Elizabeth Banks. All the while, the newly panicked Liberal popular vote majoritarians continue, as they always do, to ignore, turn up their noses to, or pay lip service towards true examples of resistance and push back from the radical Left, LGBTQ, Black, and Native American communities. Ms Streep gets a million twitter bromides and a heroic profile on every major media front page while the concrete, community driven direct revolutionary actions of Black Lives Matter or the continuing pogrom against Trans women of color are brushed aside with a heart emoji or a generous “like”.

To top it all off, Russia has emerged once more as the Great Foreign Adversary of the moment, bedeviling the inexorably collapsing Pax Americana with the specter of sexy Russian spy/spin masters & crafty hacker-warriors electronically burgling an electronic Watergate. we are told to be afraid, very afraid for our “democratic values”, which are only ever invoked when they are justifiably sneered at by our fellow nation states/Masters of the Universe. This time it is the turn of the Liberal Left to take up the McCarthyite torch, and they are not wasting any time red-baiting grammatically and intellectually challenged Right Wing Depolorable media personalities, whose only familiarity with Lenin consists of their belief that he declared long ago that “Happiness is a Warm Gun”. Ostentatious Patriotism is once more the hobby horse of jack-asses.

—L’Ennemi

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Civil rights

Selma

030212-national-john-lewis-bloody-sunday

50 years ago today

Blood and tears

ran on the Edmund Pettus Bridge

The people gathered

would not give way

to the false might

of segregation and reactions

John Lewis earned his red badge of courage

that day

a broken skull from a

Selma Police Man’s baton

they can’t beat you with words or reason

so they beat you with sticks and stones

march across the bridge

one man, one woman, one vote

that is the promise

that is the mission

the rights are yours

take them!

show the racists

and the conservatives

and the reactionaries

that their beliefs

their hate

is not welcome in this

land of ours

brave souls marched in Selma

were trampled underfoot

by terrified men with small hearts

and smaller minds

one man, one woman, one vote

Can you hear their voices raised in song?

Can you hear their feet on the pavement?

Can you hear them, Congress?

Well, can you?

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Uncategorized

Pakistan and India Share the Nobel Peace Prize

Prashant

The Nobel Committee, for the first time in decades, has FINALLY gotten it right when it comes to the Peace Prize. Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India have been awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize for Peace. Yousafzai is the youngest ever winner of the award. Ms. Yousafzai has blogged, campaigned, written and spoken out for education, especially for women and young girls, in her native Pakistan and throughout the world. For her troubles she endured a failed assassination attempt by the Pakistani Taliban. She has helped her mother learn to read and write and is the face of women’s rights throughout the world. Mr. Satyarthi is a long time advocate for the rights of children enslaved in the garment and textile industries in India and has led protests and raids on factories employing children working in slave-labor conditions. His movement has inspired hundreds of similar ones across the world and has helped to liberate hundreds of thousands of children for horrifying and undignified slave labor. The Nobel Committee, in its announcement of the Prize, expressed hope that the awarding of the Prize to two people from two nations who have traditionally been enemies would help to broker peace and understanding between India and Pakistan.

We can and must take note of this decision by the committee and apply it to a greater movement for liberation and peace in the world. We must stop focusing on petty issues of the ebb and flow of middle class income stability and refocus, redouble, our efforts as a unified, truly international movement of the left for the empowerment of women, persecuted minorities, slaves, workers and children. These are the constituents we must serve. The cause is peace, the goal is a better world where war and endless toil is not the lot of every child born onto this Earth. The only hope for a future without cataclysmic violence and horrid exploitation is the education of the people and of children most of all. No child should have to work in squalid, Dickensian horror so that his family does not starve. No woman should ever have to go her entire life without being able to read and write just because she is told she is inherently of less worth than a man. No person should ever have to fear that the fickle whims of political and corporate power-brokers will lead their communities into unspeakable violence and decay. The people should never have to live in poverty while a tiny, greedy, lecherous minority lives it up in the palaces of wealth and privilege they have constructed upon the spoils of their own labor! There is no European left, there is no American left or Western left. There is only a united, world wide left, a movement of people all over the world who strive for a life of dignity and contentment. All we want is to be able to enjoy the fruits of our own labor, to live in peace and relative comfort, and to educate ourselves and our children. That is not too much to demand, and demand it must.

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Activism, Capitalism, economy, essay, Socialism

A Short Marxist Discourse on Land and Property Rent

John_Constable_-_The_Hay-Wain_-_WGA5191

            The system of tenant renter based housing has been at the center of socialist and housing rights movements throughout the world. The exploitative practice of collecting rent from a group of renters living on property owned and operated by a largely unaccountable landlord (the term itself a left over from the pre-capitalist feudal economies) has long been a plague upon the working classes. The structure of a rental property agreement is largely a pyramid scheme that can be manipulated and shaped to fit the needs of the landlord and his interest in making a profit off of the workers and families who rent his property. This of course is not all the fault of the landlord; the system of regressive and restrictive property taxation and the dearth of government participation in creating affordable safe housing. Though referring in particular to arable land rents, Marx  in his essay Rent of Land makes a general point about the landlord/renter system that is equally valid when applied to modern day rental housing: “the rent of land [or the property thereon] is established as the result of the struggle between tenant and landlord” (The emphasis is Marx’s). Marx goes on to quote Adam Smith:

               “The rent of land, therefore, considered as the price paid for the use of the land, is naturally a monopoly price. It is not at all proportioned to what the landlord may have laid out upon the improvement of the land, or to what he can afford to take; but to what the farmer can afford to give.”  

            This goes to the inherent corruption in the rental system; there is no accountability or reckoning when it comes to how rental rates are established or how the income made therefrom is used to improve the properties or reduce rental rates. There is indeed an incentive built in to the arraignment that rewards the landlord for maintaining substandard conditions and a high or even punitive rent. The drive towards profitability, the capitalistic ethos that underpins the belligerent relationship between renter and landlord, and the bias in favor of the landlord and landowner inherent in most forms of local and state governments, makes certain that renters are always, or at least nearly always, the loser in the equation.

            It is a fact that much in the way of making a rental property habitable is taken up by the renter himself. In my personal experience as a renter, I have found that the landlord often will not take the initiative in improving the property or repairing appliances or utilities. Indeed, some landlords structure the rental agreement so as to put as much responsibility for the upkeep and maintenance of the property and appliances/utilities into the hands of the renter, without a commensurate reduction in rent. There is therefore no incentive for the landlord to repair property, as he controls the rate of rent totally, and a punitive mandate for the renter to maintain the property at a potential loss to his personal income. This situation is alluded to by Marx, once more quoting Smith:

“…Improvements, besides, are not always made by the stock of the landlord, but sometimes by that of the tenant. When the lease comes to be renewed, however, the landlord commonly demands the same augmentation of rent as if they had been all made by his own.” (From Rent of Land)

            In fact, the agricultural renter/tenant has the potential advantage of deriving some sustenance or income form the property rented. The housing renter simply does not have that option. What, then, is the renter/tenant to do to bring equity and justice to the situation? The answer is nothing, nothing, at least, within the confines of the current capitalist land renting/taxation/purchasing system. There must be a radical departure from the current way renters are treated and indeed how they rent. We cannot expect such change to come from above, indeed capitalist control over the governmental apparatus and political system precludes this. So the change must come from us, the renters and the workers. Since we do not have a viable democratic socialist system and structure with which to work in we must make do with the system we have, and to come at it from a revolutionary and counter-capitalist perspective.

            The cultural disdain extant today against the renting of property, usually purely for housing purposes in this day and age, is in America largely a result of the bias against the working classes and the poor in general. The renting of property is an implicit acknowledgement of defeat in the pursuit of the American dream of owning property and transcending the bounds of welfare state which as implemented is as much use for the humiliation as for the benefit of the working classes. This is of course a somewhat hilarious prejudice given the pitiful and criminal system of mortgage and finance available to the middle class. As the recent housing market collapse has shown us, renting is not the financially unsounds option claimed by so many gurus of personal economics. The renting system merely puts the renter in a more dramatic and visceral situation vis a vis the exploitative market forces at play; the landlord can find resource in archaic and punitive renters laws and has direct control over the circumstances and obligations that must be maintained in order to secure housing. The home owner, or rather mortgage owner given the realities of the system put in place for the purchase and financing of housing, has a few levels of corporate and banking bureaucracy between him and the visage of his exploiter, but he does exist to exploit him nonetheless.

            The state of affairs is of course violently opposed to the interests of the proletariat because there is no recourse available to the renter against the whims of the landlord. The landlord holds the deed and directly pays the taxes on the property, and as the renter has no legal right to negotiate a more equitable arrangement (nor is there even an expectation of such parity between the two parties) there can be no law but whim and personal greed. This is a remnant of a feudal system that never hid its intent to exploit and constrain the proletariat. Marx said

               “It is absurd to conclude, as Smith does, that since the landlord exploits [through the collection of rent] every benefit which comes to society, the interest of the landlord is always identical with that of society.” [Rent of Land]

            This of course begs the question, how can land be seen as property? Upon what basis does one man transfer ownership of fixed area of earth to another? And why should the basic human need of shelter be subject to the whims of those seeking to derive profit? These are question I do not presently have an answer for but it should be the pursuit of a contemporary socialism to puzzle it out and elucidate a theory upon whose foundation a new system can be created.

 

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Communism, Conservatism, Democracy, Philosophy, Politics, Socialism

The Right and the Closing of the American Mind

Niccolo_Machiavelli_Osho

“What we are witnessing is the closing of the American mind.” This not at all sanguine appraisal of the contemporary American condition is offered tonight by radio demagogue Mark Levin. This sage of American reactionary pedagogy is of course a corporate tool and shill for the capitalist establishment but that does not mean he does not have a certain understanding of the conditions underlying that problem that faces us today, albeit unwitting.

 

In a civil society you must have a moral order. Right versus wrong, good versus evil, just versus unjust, and means versus ends. They’re not the same thing, and when we talk about moral order, you must have a moral order to have a rule of law, for the free market to work, to advance national security.

This declaration of principles is an almost perfect elucidation of the reactionary capitalist doxa. The argument of Right and Wrong are a convenient dichotomy for those attempting to disguise their lack of moral authority. Compassionate conservatism (see compassionate capitalism) failed, globalized market based prosperity is a oxymoronic farce and supply side theology has been abandoned as the worst sort of wishful thinking by any capitalist economic theorist not wishing to be laughed out of the ivory tower. All that remains to the reactionary capitalist is the fantasy that what they do is for the Right against the Wrong; painting change as an intrinsic Wrong perpetrated against the “people”, in reality the consumer, the customer. Levin is also correct that there must be a moral order, or at least a beloved facsimile of one. This can be patriotism, or family values (actually Bible based Christian paternalist misogyny and authoritarianism), or the most potent, love for the free market. On that issue the American mind is indeed “closed”. Or at least it would appear at first glance.

The Now is the essence of the inevitable. What we experience and live on a moment by moment basis seems to demand the a priori acceptance of the conditions being experienced as inherent to existence. Or at least this is the case in the realm of societal evolution. The status quo is an addictive prospect and a potent intellectual narcotic. This is why it is so often drafted in the reactionary philosophy. “You must have a moral order to have a rule of law, for the free market to work, to advance national security.” Levin actually repeats himself three times in this sentence: the rule of law is the free market which is the main impetus and rational for the aggressive militarization of the police state and conversion of the military into a police apparatus known as National Security. “It’s a free country”, we are reminded by the political Right, their voice raising another octave. Of course, but freedom to what end? Freedom to consume? Freedom to choose where and when to consume? “Would you, sir, like to take the red train to hell or the green?” In an imperial system there is, by definition, no freedom. There cannot be. The peace maintained not for the proletariat but for those exploiting their needs and aspirations is the Pax Mercatus, the peace of the market. This peace of course is a false concept as it is in any imperially imposed idyll. Participate in the system or else allow it to drain you of life. But there then is the contradiction of freedom, the false choice; choosing to participate will just as surely drain you. So the peace, the inevitable, is the realization that life is as it is and there is no use in fighting that fact. At least you have some time and enjoyment while you are being drained! At least you get to ride the train. The freedom beloved by the people is the freedom to choose the method of their own exploitation, and of course even this is a false choice. Where do you hide in an all-pervasive system? How do you survive in a world of capital and greed by being poor and unselfish? You either consume or are consumed and of course the former is just a roundabout way of coming to the latter. So what is the moral order of the reactionary capitalist supporters? Inertia.

In his Discourses Machiavelli said

“Prudent men always and in all their actions make a favour of doing things even though they would of necessity be constrained to do them anyhow.”1

 

                This is a delightfully pragmatic proposal that nonetheless exposes an insidious though essential aspect of the imperial capitalist system. The favour in this case is capitalist governmental structure’s maintaining  the right to a stable and humane living through the fruits of one’s own labor. This labor is of course appropriated by the corporate system and the government whose main interest is in maintaining the capitalist power structure and divvied up the way this power structure sees fit. The tax structure in the USA maintains a token all but subsistence level “social safety net” and finances a full blown welfare system for corporate interests. This illusion of “prosperity” is the basis of the claim that the American system is the most successful and free in the world. The proletariat is given just enough to survive the work needed to maintain the system that keeps them in thrall to the corporate controlled government structure and just enough hope to motivate them into working beyond what is healthy or sane in order to grasp at an all but impossible future in the upper echelon of the class structure. Belief in this fantasy is inculcated in the population by an educational system, funded by the arbitrary tax value of property, that is increasingly maintained as a factory for creating minds ready and willing to participate in the capitalist market. Art, social studies, physical education or anything else that would lead to a rational mind and healthy body is eliminated in favor of class-biased standardized testing and even market based programs like “Sales”, “Business”, and “finance” classes. So in the end the “American Dream” is the appropriation of labor from the proletariat so that it may be given back to them in smaller and pre-determined allotments, minus the “surplus” needed to maintain th capitalist corporate welfare system that enforces the unending toil and exploitation required to make the proletariat create the wealth that can then be appropriated. No one ever said the capitalist system was not thorough.

This of course leads to the sublimation of any sort of proletarian activism or economic consciousness. “Hard work” is what leads to “success” but of course both concepts are arbitrary standards composed and maintained by a corporate business class that has a vested interest in cheap and overworked service workers. The American mind is not closing, as Levin argues, but is already sealed shut. For the majority of workers alienated from the means of production, the creation of capital, or the mechanisms of control there is no conceivable escape from this system. In fact any attempt by the leftist class conscious forces within society, where the in fact exist at all, is shunned and attacked by the working and middle classes as a dangerous affront against the system that gives them the chance to keep themselves “comfortable” and advancing towards the goal of entering the capitalist class of entrepreneurs and managers. As John Steinbeck said, Americans are not able to move beyond this vicious and exploitative cycle because in their own minds they are but “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” There is no better way to ensure servitude then to promise freedom.

National security is a key term to recognize and understand within the context of a global capitalist system. The national security state took hold as a seeming means unto itself around the time that the collapse of state communism left the capitalist authorities bereft of a raison d’etre relating to their increased militarization. The retardation of Communism was abandoned in favor of the expansion of the global free market. These concepts of course have essentially the same meaning; the maintenance of forces, systems, and circumstances that are friendly to exploitation of the local proletariat. The Pax Americana ended out of necessity so that the Pax Mercatus could rise, the latter being the post-national synthesis of multinational corporate capitalism with nationalistic imperialism. There is no locus of power beyond the financial centers and boardrooms of the corporate and managerial class. The entire world is feudalized and each human being owes a life-term of “hard work” to contribute to the capitalist system and its expansion.

Peace is needed for this sort of system to work, a certain sort of peace that preserves the prerogative of the market forces, which are of course merely the whims and wishes of the robber barons and multinationals. The multinational uses resources collected from the proletariat of the various industrialized nations in order to expand and maintain the status quo in regions of the world where democracy has not yet softened the desire of the proletariat to fight for a feature less assured but more humane in potential. The people of the industrial democracies do not dispute, for the most part, the choice of intervening in the affairs of “less developed” nations. This is because the potent mix of nationalism and xenophobia cultivated and stoked by the government and its reactionary tools in the media and cultural institutions. In this effort religion is less an opiate than a stimulant pushing society towards a violent hatred for and confrontation by proxy with the proletariat of another state. War is exported abroad in order to spread peace and prosperity at home. We are even told that through war will come peace, peace in the sort of way that only an un-wittingly exploited and placated democratic populace can comprehend. War is preferable to peace because peace would mean the inertia required to maintain the order would have more of a chance to be disturbed. Idle hands and idle minds tend to stray towards innovation or at least contemplation. Besides, as Lenin said

“a certain period of acute economic dislocation and chaos, which accompany all wars, and civil war in particular, is inevitable, before the resistance of the bourgeoisie is crushed”2

And the proletariat does not want war, it does not want upheaval and chaos and change. At least it does not think it wants it. Not yet at least. In this regard Levin is correct, but only by mistake. The American mind is closed, but that does not mean it cannot be opened.

***

  1. The Discourses, Machiavelli, Niccolo, trans. Walker, Leslie J, and Richardson, Brian, Penguin Classics Ed.
  2. 2.       On The History Of The Question Of The Unfortunate Peace, Lenin, V.I., http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1918/jan/07.htm
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