I sense no soul in this rabble
just fearful alchemy
a hum of devilish trouble
’tis no people’s celebration
this fascist akelarre
just a rueful abnegation
of what we’re fighting for
a ghastly chill is in the air—
Priests bless the perversions of the fascists
While condemning the sharing of the land
but no foul curate will thwart our demand
we have no fear of holy chauvinists
Mass is held with the flesh of socialists
While Fathers absolve the barbarous bands
The sign of the cross made with bloody hands
Having sold their souls to Nationalists
We drink the pure water of righteousness
Boorish Priests are drunk on the holy blood
We sup as one on the bread of blitheness
While like cows with their host they chew the cud
they make a desert of faith with their weakness
Lo, and heed; after us will come the flood
Her smile inspires her fellow partisans and her community
She throws caution to the wind
so as to watch their spirits soar
When Fascists questioned her commitment
she let her carbine counterclaim
She looks out over Barcelona
From the top of the highest tower
survaying a land riven by
passions and politics
But beyond this tumultuous horizon
there is a glint of light
beginning to peak through
the gathered clouds
and so she smiles
and goes about her revolution
Workers, artists, the land is yours
Fascists have no claim on it
Farmers, mothers, the land is yours
Stalinists have no stake in it
The land feeds you, it shelters you
Capitalists will pillage it
The land conceived you, it birthed you
Priests will diseffect you from it
Swains, partisans, the land is yours
Fatalists have no love for it
Songstresses, bards, the land is yours
Puritans will sanitize it
The land inspires you, delights you
The abject will denigrate it
The land endows you, renews you
The callous will despoil it
The land is yours
Will you fight for it?
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.
“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.
There have been some truly astounding and naive (and borderline racist) attacks on Rep. John Lewis, Civil Rights icon, by supporters of the liberal Vermont Democratic currently running for President. Sanders involvement in the Civil Rights Movement was very much an aspect of his radical student days, another notch in the belt of a budding white liberal intellectual. This is not in and of itself a bad thing at all, far from it, but to act as those this makes him some sort of equal to John Lewis, let alone MLK, is whitewashing history to the point if ridiculousness. According to Mother Jones (hardly a Clinton organ, that publication) Sanders was arrested while working for CORE and SNCC, but he quit both operations entirely when participation start to hurt his grades. Mother Jones reporter Tim Murphy summarizes it this way:
“Sanders’ involvement was, by comparison [to SNCC Leader and future Congressman John Lewis] brief and localized, his sacrifices limited to one arrest for protesting and a bad GPA from neglecting his studies.”
Bernie Sanders had enough privilege to be able to walk away from the civil rights movement when it started to impact him in a negative way and to come back again when he had bored of his studies and it was more convenient for him to do so. Black activists and revolutionaries were not so lucky. They didn’t get to walk away when the going got a little tough. Just like I wouldn’t claim to be a civil rights leader because I am decent white person who tries to listen and better himself, Sanders and his supporters should not claim he was anything more than an enlightened bystander in the movement. And for Sanders supporters to use a discredited photograph and misrepresentation of facts and history to attack and discredit a true hero of the people like John Lewis, just because he didn’t remember Sanders or choose to support him, is reprehensible and the worst sort of politics, the sort of politics that is rightfully condemned when Trump or Cruz does it.
Again, I am so tough on Sanders not because he spit in my cheerios or anything (he’d probably have made a fun intro to Poli Sci professor back in my Junior College days) but because he has claimed a reputation as a “revolutionary” that he has not earned. At least Clinton, as cynical and establishment as she is, has never claimed to be anything other than a left of center Democrat at most. Sanders entire shtick is that he is going to rally the American people together to “destroy inequality and the 1%” and it’s grip on the levers of power in politics and economics. How do you do that as the head of the most power manifestation of that power and inequality? The U.S. Presidency is not, and has never been, a revolutionary office. It is an office of entrenched imperial authority, a powerful force for institutional change at best and of gross repression and exploitation at its worse. It makes me angry that Sanders is all but promising free college to a new generation of young people without any sort of honest discussion on how this is to be done in a congressional system that is jerry-rigged and gerrymandered in favor of incumbent, especially conservative Republican, elements.
My little brother is now excited about having his dream of a free college education come true…but it is a betrayal of his enthusiasm and hope, a crass exercise in cynical emotional manipulation, for Sanders to promise these things as quick legislative fixes instead of the monumental political and institutional slogs they are inevitably going to be. This is the hipster-ification of radical and revolutionary politics that emerged after the collapse of President Obama’s laudable Hope and Change platform. Sanders is a symptom of the cynical navel gazing savior seeking tendencies that have always bedeviled the left and far left; the admission that top down revolutionary change is not only possible, but desirable. This is the utopian tendency of the left in a nutshell. Reform must not be mistaken for revolution. In Sanders we that mistake is taken and turned into a political gospel, his base feeding off the reflected ego that comes from seeing what you want to see out of political ennui bordering on desperation. Electing Sanders would not tear off the chains that link us to an oppressive and inherently violent system: it would merely make those chains more colorful and comfortable so that a whole new generation can slip into them and be sanguine about the prospect of living forever in an exploitative monolith that occasionally gives those who whine the most and loudest a bit of relief from its deprivations. This is not revolution, this is acquiescence. People like my brother deserve a the truth, real hope, real ways to fight for a system that is truly just and democratic and revolutionary, with real opportunities that do not require a toeing of the institutional line. He deserves real hope, and real change, not a false hope and the mimicry of change. Revolution is not performance art, and it is not something that can be brought from the top down, no matter how many people vote for the man at the top.
The Sanders of the world would have us believe that racism is a class issue exclusively or primarily. This is wrong and perhaps even a deliberate obfuscation of reality. Racism is the exact OPPOSITE of a class issue! It violates the bounds and meaning of class at every level. Racism in the U.S. is an institutional caste system based on fear, exploitation, white enrichment, and power. The class element is secondary, or even tertiary to this. Sanders looks at poverty and sees a lot of black faces and white faces…what he fails to realize is that the black faces are there because they are SUPPOSED to be! The system is DESIGNED that way! How else does a convicted violent white felon have twice as much chance as getting a job as a more qualified black college graduate applicant? This is the trap FDR, LBJ, and the Bill Clinton fell into, seeing race as a class issue and thus trying a blanket approach to reform that neglected to even ACKNOWLEDGE that the inherent racist corruption of the system itself would keep the benefits of the social welfare programs and market reforms from benefiting all aspects of society equally. Clinton hit on that in he closing argument last night, and it quite impressed me. Not saying she “gets it”, because of course she does not, she is as much of a shill as Sanders, but at least she does not play up this class issue that has always been yet ANOTHER way for white liberals to avoid the giant rampaging elephant in the room that is institutional racism. Clinton, at least, has never claimed to be a revolutionary figure. As Emperor, at least she would be clothed. Do not buy into the Bernie as Revolutionary Savior meme. As the great Rebel Commander in Charge of Forces Orbiting the Forest Moon of Endor warned us all: “It’s Trap!”
If you want to read more about Sanders political activities in the 60’s please read this excellent profile by Tim Murphy of Mother Jones magazine: