2017/07/15

James Kunstler: We're Good People, Really We Are!

James Kunstler writes that We're Good People, Really We Are!.

Now, the question of motive. Why does the thinking class in America embrace ideas that are not necessarily, and surely not self-evidently, truthful, and even self-destructive? Because this class is dangerously insecure and perversely needs to insist on being right about its guiding dogmas and shibboleths at all costs. That is why so much of the behavior emanating from the thinking class amounts to virtue signaling — we are the good people on the side of what’s right, really we are! Of course, virtue signaling is just the new term for self-righteousness. There is also the issue of careerism. So many individuals are making a living at trafficking in, supporting, or executing policy based on these dogmas and shibboleths that they don’t dare depart from the Overton Bubble of permissible, received thought lest they sacrifice their status and incomes.

The thinking classes are also the leaders and foot-soldiers in American institutions. When they are unable or unwilling to think clearly, then you get a breakdown of authority, which leads to a breakdown of legitimacy. That’s exactly where we’re at today in our national politics — our ability to manage the polity.

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Kunstler seems to be faintly aware of the Marxist idea of an ideological superstructure which reproduces the dominant ideology of the underlying class relationships. Indeed, this superstructure has its careerists and the construction of an Overton Window. The superstructure defends and promulugates the class relations in the minds of the oppressed classes. It cannot do otherwise as it is an instrument of control.

Thinkers, like Kunstler, believe the superstructure is undermining the political, economic, and social system. What is happening is that the class relations are changing, and the superstucture is struggling to maintain the old system. The ideology is diverging from reality.

To admit a new reality would undermine the legitimacy of the current ruling class. This is one of the pre-conditions for a social revolution: the ruling ideology cannot grasp the new economic reality that it has created. With the rise of automation, the old caste of unskilled, and therefore, disposable workers is rapidly disappearing. Skilled workers are coming to the fore. With that, the old caste of line managers and supervisors are disappearing as well. Workers are supposed to become self-directed thereby eliminating the need and expense of direct control.

What we have left is:


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2017/07/14

Shamus Cooke: Why can't the left get Venezuela right?

Shamus Cooke asks Why can't the left get Venezuela right?.

If working and poor people actively engage in the process of creating a new, more progressive constitution and this constitution is approved via referendum by a large majority, it will constitute an essential step forward for the revolution. If the masses are unengaged or the referendum fails, it may signify the death knell of Chavismo and the return of the oligarchy.

And while Maduro is right to use the state as a repressive agent against the oligarchy, an over reliance on the state repression only leads to more contradictions, rather than relying on the self-activity of the workers and poor. Revolutions cannot be won by administrative tinkering, but rather by revolutionary measures consciously implemented by the vast majority. At bottom it’s the actions of ordinary working people that make or break a revolution; if the masses are lulled to sleep the revolution is lost. They must be unleashed not ignored.

It’s clear that Maduro’s politics have not been capable of leading the revolution to success, and therefore his government requires deep criticism combined with organized protest. But there are two kinds of protest: legitimate protest that arises from the needs of working and poor people, and the counter-revolutionary protest based in the neighborhoods of the rich that aim to restore the power of the oligarchy.

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The problem has always been how the working class develop confidence in itself. Workers are continually being isolated and humilated. Survival takes all of our energy.

This is the importance of a revolutionary party in its mission to develop cadre. The party develops itself through experience from historical action, reflection on that experience through theory, and action from deliberation on that theory in solidarity with others.


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Dilar Dirik: The revolutionary feminists fighting ISIS

Dilar Dirik writes about The revolutionary feminists fighting ISIS.

Rojava’s revolutionaries are trying to formulate an identity around principles rather than ethnicity. The presence of an autonomous women’s army, unapologetically committed to women’s struggles, in a sea of militarist, patriarchal violence, constitutes the most liberationist, anti-capitalist, anti-fascist element.

By organising in cooperatives, communes, assemblies and academies, women become the guarantors of freedom.

Male domination has not been overcome entirely, but women have established a political culture that no longer normalises patriarchy and unconditionally respects autonomous women’s decision-making mechanisms.

The YPJ underlines that the most direct way of defeating religious fascism, statism and other forms of authoritarianism is women’s liberation.

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Capitalism alienates us from our work and, by doing so, alienates from each other. That product was not made by a person but by a company.

This alienation is maintained through racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, nationalism, etc. I cease to be myself, but I became a white man of certain sexuality who is an Australian.

In order to build a better world, we have to take control of our identities. I need to reproduce myself every day as a worker who is working towards a Communist future. In doing so, I have to fight against the Capitalist molding of my soul.


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Chris Dillow: Ideologue managerialists

Chris Dillow writes about Ideologue managerialists.

Herein lies what so appalling about Ms Campbell. In being wilfully out of touch, she is actually typical of so many policy-makers. Today’s dangerous ideologues are not Marxists but managerialists of all parties who are constitutionally unable to learn.

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Marxists should be very cognizant of this failing. Marxists should be workers first, theorist second. For it is out of the experience of being a worker that useful and practical theory can arise.


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2017/07/11

Socialist Project: Working classes and the rise of the new right: Socialist politics in the era of Trump

Socialist Project examines Working classes and the rise of the new right: Socialist politics in the era of Trump.

The point is, we need a socialist politics that embraces yet transcends identity politics through making universal claims for social as well as environmental justice, for decommodified social services, for better wages and working conditions. An anti-racist politics needs to emerge directly from struggles that address the material conditions by which we produce, distribute, and consume. Only in that way will we be able to transcend the debilitating ‘guilting’ rhetoric so prevalent on the left today. Only in that way will we be able to transcend the tendency, even in today’s trade unions, to address class issues in identity-representational terms rather than on the basis of universal claims.

The political significance of the far right in the current political conjuncture must make us sensitive to the danger of an imminent closure of the democratic space upon which the left depends to develop and grow, and which indeed makes socialist working class organizing possible. This raises the question of a ‘popular front’ strategy, whereby socialists’ political activism would be thrown behind liberal forces facing an existential challenge to their hegemony from a neo-fascist right. The magnitude of this far-right threat suggests that socialists should support those forces seeking to defend liberal democratic institutions against any and all moves to foreclose the freedoms they support.

But we must not lose sight of the need to build the socialist movements and form political alliances and fronts, so tragically absent amidst the traumas of neoliberalism, capable of reinvigorating class struggles, of confronting corporate power and the capitalist class, of addressing the environmental and social as well as economic and political crises of our time. The capacity to envision and push forward the serious, bold programs to fundamentally transform and democratize the state we so urgently need can only emerge through this process of struggle and organization.

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As seen in Turkey, the authoritarian state grows through democratic means as the dispossessed seek to take power away from the establishment. As Ted Rall wrote, 'Trump is a brick thrown through the window panes of the establishment'. Thus, the weeds of Fascism grow as people see that the only solution is to have a strong leader lead them to the Promised Land. But, the reality is that they will be led into the desert to die.


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2017/07/10

Seth Godin: The Reality Paradox

Seth Godin explains The rationality paradox .

If you see yourself as an engineer, a scientist, or even a person of logic, then it's entirely possible that you work to make rational decisions, decisions that lead to the outcomes you seek.

The paradox is that you might also believe that you do this all the time, and that others do it too.

But a rational analysis shows that this is far from true. Almost every choice we make is subconscious. We're glitch-ridden, superstitious creatures of habit. We are swayed by social forces that are almost always greater than our attraction to symbolic logic would indicate. We prioritize the urgent and most of the decisions we make don't even feel like decisions. They're mostly habits combined with a deep desire to go along with the people we identify with.

Every time you assume that others will be swayed by your logical argument, you've most likely made a significant, irrational mistake. 

Your actions and your symbols and your tribe dwarf the words you use to make your argument.

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From a Marxist perspective, this makes sense. The objective reality and subjective one form each other. If I view the world through Capitalist eyes, I make the world a Capitalist one. And I would then believe in Capitalism because I see that it matches reality. This is further re-inforced by greater material wealth accuring to me because I do so because I act in a way that matches a Capitalist economy.

Even if I do not see the Capitalist way, I would still see people who do accuring wealth. This would encourage me to think that way. But not all people who do so succeed. For conformity beckons like a lottery ticket — you have to buy in so that you have a chance of winning.


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2017/06/24

James Massola: Malcolm Turnbull promises social media crackdown to target terrorists

James Massola writes that Malcolm Turnbull promises social media crackdown to target terrorists .

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has social media giants including Facebook and WhatsApp in his sights in the global fight against terrorism, flagging a crackdown on "ungoverned spaces" online.

In the clearest signal yet that Australia will, like Britain, pressure social media companies to do more to cooperate with governments to combat would-be terrorists who are organising online, Mr Turnbull has declared the rule of law must apply online as it does in the "analogue, offline world".

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John Stuart Mill writes about the preventative functions of the police in Chapter 5: Applications of On Liberty.

One of these examples, that of the sale of poisons, opens a new question; the proper limits of what may be called the functions of police; how far liberty may legitimately be invaded for the prevention of crime, or of accident. It is one of the undisputed functions of government to take precautions against crime before it has been committed, as well as to detect and punish it afterwards. The preventive function of government, however, is far more liable to be abused, to the prejudice of liberty, than the punitory function; for there is hardly any part of the legitimate freedom of action of a human being which would not admit of being represented, and fairly too, as increasing the facilities for some form or other of delinquency. Nevertheless, if a public authority, or even a private person, sees any one evidently preparing to commit a crime, they are not bound to look on inactive until the crime is committed, but may interfere to prevent it. If poisons were never bought or used for any purpose except the commission of murder, it would be right to prohibit their manufacture and sale. They may, however, be wanted not only for innocent but for useful purposes, and restrictions cannot be imposed in the one case without operating in the other. Again, it is a proper office of public authority to guard against accidents. If either a public officer or any one else saw a person attempting to cross a bridge which had been ascertained to be unsafe, and there were no time to warn him of his danger, they might seize him and turn him back, without any real infringement of his liberty; for liberty consists in doing what one desires, and he does not desire to fall into the river. Nevertheless, when there is not a certainty, but only a danger of mischief, no one but the person himself can judge of the sufficiency of the motive which may prompt him to incur the risk: in this case, therefore, (unless he is a child, or delirious, or in some state of excitement or absorption incompatible with the full use of the reflecting faculty) he ought, I conceive, to be only warned of the danger; not forcibly prevented from exposing himself to it. Similar considerations, applied to such a question as the sale of poisons, may enable us to decide which among the possible modes of regulation are or are not contrary to principle.…

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I take Mill's thesis to mean that the police functions should be curtailed in the cause of liberty because an innocent action of one is seem as suspicious by another.

Turnbull now wants to interfere with the actvities of Twitter, Facebook, etc. even though these services fuelled the Arab Spring. In other words, these services are useful against our enemies but not against us.

Turnbull wants to have services support the status-quo of the Capitalist societies while undermining the enemies of those societies. Unfortunately, Capitalism is using these services as a source of profit. And woe betide any government that gets between a Capitalist and a source of profit!


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2017/05/18

Chris Dillow: When bad arguments work

Chris Dillow finds When bad arguments work.

It’s often said that many people oppose higher taxes on top earners because they hope (mostly wrongly) to become one themselves. But this is only part of the story. We sympathize with the rich not (just) because we hope to become rich ourselves, but because we hear so damned much from them.

There’s a nasty flipside to this. If we don’t hear from people, we tend not to sympathize with them. Separate experiments by Agne Kajackaite has shown this. She got people to work where the rewards went not just to them but to a bad cause (the NRA). She found that when people chose not to know whether the money was donated to that cause, they behaved more selfishly; they worked harder to make money for themselves. “Ignorant agents behave in a more selfish way” she concludes.

Thigh might well have political effects. WBecause the worst-off have less voice, we are relatively ignorant of their suffering and so less sympathetic to them. Support for benefit cuts isn’t based solely upon outright untruths, but upon a lack of sympathy for them caused by their relative lack of voice.

Most of us, I guess, can name far more people who are in the top 5% of the income distribution than in the bottom 5%. This introduces a bias towards the rich.

My point here is that the media’s bias isn’t merely conscious and deliberate. There are more subtle ways in which it serves the interests of the well-off.

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The workers need to continually raise their voices through protests, strikes, and their own media. We cannot be silent. Our voices matter. We should rely on celebrities to promote our causess. This we must do ourselves.

Also, this is the reason that the state keeps restricting those actions through laws and regulations. A quiet population is easier to suppress.


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2017/01/26

Ted Rall: The Women's March Failed But Was Hopeful Too

Ted Rall writes that The Women’s March Failed But Was Hopeful Too.

A good indication that the Women’s March got co-opted into a Democratic boo-hoo Hillary/Cory Booker-in-2020 pep rally was that the speakers were limited to celebrity millionaire liberal Democrats like Michael Moore, Ashley Judd and Gloria Steinem and defanged ex-radicals like Angela Davis. Had this been a militant action (i.e., one that might frighten Trump and the GOP), or a coalition of liberals who welcomed and respected their leftist allies rather than merely wanting to vampirize their righteous anger and energy into midterm votes, the roster of speakers would have included people calling for revolutionary change and action outside of the existing system. There would also have been some radical activists you’d never heard of who do important work.

Celebrity liberalism and pleas to vote Democratic are where the Left goes to die.

No wonder the Women’s March was doomed to join the list of fruitless liberal marches! Because they’re Democrats, none of the speakers suggested scrapping the whole sick system of systemized poverty, industrialized prisons, war and slave labor altogether. Instead marchers got a washed-up documentary filmmaker urging them to memorize a phone number they could use to call Congress because, yeah, that’s going to do so much good, especially these days with Republicans in charge of everything.

Still, despite the Democratic BS, those huge crowds were glorious. They showed up, they were heard, they hint at the better country we could have.

May they soon get the radical, genuine political movement they and the world deserve.

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The liberals continually fight a rear-guard action against radical popular unrest. This is something the right does not want to understand. The liberals and the right are defending the same system: Capitalism.

However, the attacks by the right on the liberals give the liberals credibility they would otherwise not have. In other words, the elites put on a Punch-and-Judy show between the liberals and the right with accompanying thunder and lightening while signifying nothing.

… it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

The Tragedy of Macbeth — Act 5, Scene 5


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Kurds Will Come Together to Discuss Independence With Baghdad

TeleSur reports that Kurds Will Come Together to Discuss Independence With Baghdad.

Kurdish independence “is a reality that will come true,” said Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq.

Kurdish parties will meet with the Iraqi government to discuss independence, reported Kurdish media on Saturday.

The delegation will include five Kurdish parties, who will meet with Turkmen, Chaldean and Assyrian delegates, reported Rudaw, which is funded by the Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP.

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Unfortunately, Kurdish independence is a major threat to Turkey who has been fighting and suppressing Kurds within its own borders for decades. Kurdish independence in Northern Iraq will probably be immediately followed by a Turkish invasion and occupation in order to deny the Kurdish resistance groups in Turkey a safe haven and a politcal base.

Also, Kurdish independence would likely devolve into a Kurdish civil war as various factions vie for hegemony. It is not that Kurdistan is a political goal among Kurds, it is just that Kurdistan exists as a vague, feel-good idea. It is not strong enough to overcome the antipathy between the Syrian, Turkish, Iraqi and Iranian Kurds and their long history of fighting among themselves.

From Iraq's point of view, the loss of a major oil-producing region to an independent state would also interpose another state to control the water supply to Iraq. Already, Turkey is taking large amounts of water away from Iraq. Although, the unification of Turkish and Iraqi Kurdistan would mean that there would be a possibly more friendly state controlling Iraqi water supply.

At this stage, I think Kurdistan as an idependent state is a remote dream. Kurdistan as a loose confederation of autonomous regions in Syria and Iraq is far more likely. This is a potential reward for the eventual defeat of Daesh.


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