Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The Leftist's Guide to Winning Elections

Can't it be 2008 again?  Or at least some time like that.  That is the question leftists all over the western world today must ask themselves.  Barack Obama was poised to become America's first black president in a landslide victory over John McCain.  And even where nominally conservative parties held office, such as in Canada and the UK, the overall mood was still quite progressive.  The Lehman Bro's meltdown had tanked the credibility of trickle down economics.  Stimulus was the word of the day.

For the social conservatives, things were worse.  Demolishing evangelical Christian dogmas was the favorite sport of the internet, as the works of Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins had recently been international bestsellers.  Wall Street was soon to be occupied, and gay marriage destined for legalization.  Of course, there were successes on the right, such as the 2010 emergence of the Tea Party in red state America, David Cameron in the UK or Stephen Harper's conservative majority in Canada, but these just seemed more like a foil for the increasingly progressive and secular status quo.  Remember the debt ceiling fiasco?

Feminism, secularism and LGBT pride ruled the internet, and the old angry white males and the evangelicals were, it was agreed, a diminishing demographic eventually destined for the ash heap of history.  The mere suggestion of racism, misogyny or homophobia was more than sufficient to silence any message board, office or lecture hall into swift submission.  No crystal ball or deck of tarot cards in the halcyon early days of social media could have foreseen Brexit, meme magic, GamerGate or Donald Trump.

As I write this, Trump is poised to take the office of POTUS with a red house and senate.  Right wing, in some cases far right parties surge in the European polls.  Pepe the frog pops up all over social media, and tumblr SJWs with their trigger warnings and safe spaces are now the favorite punching bags of the very kinds of bloggers and YouTubers that not so long ago, it seemed, were trouncing evangelicals.  Even the last great standard bearer of 1st world progressivism, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, has come in for ridicule and criticism for his poetic praise of the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

It didn't have to come to this.  And it doesn't have to stay this way.  It would be quite easy, in fact, for the progressive left to regain the high ground and get the wind back in its sails.  The easiest way to do this might be just to do nothing.  The instant, and I mean the very nanosecond they're sworn in, it will most likely be back to pet issues and fetish causes for the GOP.  Namely, corporate tax cuts, middle east power projection and regional hegemony, and efforts to curb abortion rights.  Not quite what the Cult of Kek had in mind, I'm sure, but did they really think they could challenge the ossified neo-cons of the US deep state that are, for all intents and purposes, there enthroned?  They wouldn't be the first to falter on that assumption.  Hope and change, anyone?

If the progressives want to hasten the process of returning to the White House, and maybe taking back a senate seat or two and a few state governorships, however, here are a few suggestions I have for them:

  • There are two kinds of people whom you call racist: real racists, who don't care all that much because you're just a worthless pinko commie to them, and people who aren't racist.  People who aren't racist will get tired of you calling them one sooner or later, so don't.
  • The above is also true of people whom you call misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic or any other kind of phobic your lexicon might contain.
  • This is especially true of you use any of the above to emotionally blackmail or kafkatrap people into accepting your views on broader political issues.  Or to demonstrate a presumed moral, cultural or intellectual superiority on your part.  Or use them to dodge or sidestep lines of argument that challenge your world view.  Try to refrain from doing these things.  If it would help, consider avoiding news sites and blogs that encourage this kind of behavior, such as Everyday Feminism, Jezebel or HuffPost Women (these being the worst offenders, but by no means the only ones).
  • It is incumbent upon you to convince others of the merits of your political philosophy.  It is not incumbent upon others to accept your political philosophy or vote in a manner of your preference simply because you want or feel entitled to it.  This is true even if you have a college diploma, a vagina or dark skin.  There is nothing wrong with having any of those things, but they don't entitle you to other people's allegiance.  Even if those factors make you "marginalized" or you fear the results of an election not going your way. 
  • Your political views, stances on social issues, education, marginalized identities or any combination thereof do not make you morally or intellectually superior to others.  I'd recommend you not act as though they do.
  • Those same factors do not absolve you of the responsibility to prove as factual any claims you make if you wish to have your claims regarded as fact.  
  • Those same factors do not entitle you to obstruct traffic, disrupt classroom, workplace or governmental activities, shut down meetings and speakers you disagree with and act like an asshole towards other people.  
  • You'd be surprised at how many people privilege theory and "power plus prejudice" don't wash with.  A considerable number of people quite rightly view such sophistry as self serving rationalizations that smug douchebags use to license their own shitty behavior.  Your marginalized identities do not exempt you from being an asshole when that is, in fact, what you are being.
  • People don't really care how many college professors or textbooks told you that any of the above is okay.  Credentializing an ideology and institutionalizing it in academia doesn't make said ideology infallible.  If it did, scientific racism would be true because the university of Berlin taught it as gospel circa 1935 or so.  Your own postmodern philosophies are, perhaps, truer than you'd like them to be in this regard.  In this case, your "knowledge" really is just self serving bias.
I could say more, and maybe even go into ideological and policy matters.  But I really don't think it's necessary.  It really comes down to not being an asshole.  Quite frequently, the advice you'd have been quick to give others regarding any kind of PC related issue, except applied to yourself.  That is the hard part, I realize.  But there's a reason the religious leaders of world history so stressed ideas like "doing unto others as you'd have others do unto you," and "removing first the log from thine own eye ..."  It's not because they believed in some fairy tale sky daddy, as I'm sure you've told yourself when you want to feel superior to churchgoing folks - you know, the ones you so smugly derided because they never practiced what they preached?  Yes, those ones.  It's because it really works.  It shows integrity and demonstrable commitment to your values.  People are drawn to that.  People respect that.  Try it.  I think you'd be glad of the results.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Alt-Left in the Media

It's been a busy week since Trump toot the election, and there's been a raft of articles and videos about why the democrats lost.  A lot of it has to do with weak and corrupt liberal and social democratic politicians, masking their sell out to neo-liberal corporatism behind a mask of snobbish cultural liberalism, have sold out the working class.  This must be the alt-left's primary narrative right now.  And it hasn't just been me who's noticed it.  The excesses of cultural "leftism", regressive leftism and the SJWs along with the shutting out of economic leftism in the Democratic Party and other center-left parties world wide has led first to Brexit, then to this.  By the looks of things, France is next.  Maybe it's not such a bad thing.  Neoliberalism and cultural leftism needs to die.

So here's a run down of many of the headlines I've been seeing that all point to the need for a serious rethink on the center left of the direction it's been headed, from all across the political spectrum.

In Politico, Brent Griffiths notes that "Bernie Sanders Slams Identity Politics as Democrats Figure out Their Future."

George will, writing in the Washington Post, observes that Higher Education is Awash in Hysteria that Might have Helped Elect Trump.

David Marcus, writing in the Federalist, warns that This Election Marks the End of America's Racial Detente.  With Jeff Sessions and Steve Bannon heading for Trump's cabinet, that would appear to be so.

Author Sam Harris with a nuanced take on "America's Most Powerful Clown."

Ryan Copper, writing in The Week, laments the Year 2009: The Year the Democratic Party Died, due to mishandling an economic crisis.

Mark Lilla, writing in the New York Times, declares the End of Identity Liberalism.

The Amazing Atheist on YouTube explains how to "Make Liberalism Great Again."

Eli Zaretsky, writing in VersoBooks, describes Trump and the Decline of American Liberalism.

Johnathin Pie rants about Why Trump Won.

Sargon of Akkad on YouTube on "The State of the Media After Trump."

Eddie Slovak: "Sorry liberals, but I'm Leaving you on the Left: An Acknowledgement of Vacuousness."

Sean Trende, writing in Real Clear Politics, describes the socially moderate, fiscally cautious and culturally cosmopolitan "New Democrats" as the God that Failed.

The Jimmy Dore Show on "Donald Trump Defeats Hillary Clinton."

In the New York Times, Johnathan Martin writes about Pulling Democrats Back to 'It's the Economy, Stupid!"

Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk on "The Issue that Won Trump the Election."

Writing in the Washington Monthly, David Atkins implores the Democratic Establishment to "Stop Blaming the Voters."

In the Washington Post, John B. Judis opines on Why Identity Politics Couldn't Clinch a Clinton Win.

Steve Keen, writing in Forbes, points out Trump's Truthful Heresy on Globalization and Free Trade.

In the New Republic, Sarah Jones writes that Hillary Clinton's Celebrity Feminism was a Failure.

Frank Bruni, opining in the New York Times, states quite bluntly, "The Democrats Screwed Up."

In the Boston Globe, John Mcwhorter writes that "The idea that America Doesn't Talk About Racism is Absurd."

Brendan O'Neil, editor at Spiked, warns: "Everyone Needs to Stop Talking About 'White People,"

In The Guardian, George Monbiot writes, "Neoliberalism: the Deep Story that lies Beneath Donald Trump's Triumph."

In the World Socialist Website, Eric London debunks "The Myth of the Reactionary White Working Class."

Jedidiah Purdy, writing in the Jacobin, describes "How Trump Won."

In the Guardian, Thomas Frank tells us that "Donald Trump is Moving into the White House, and Liberals put him There."

Robert Reich, once Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, writes in Alernet, "Why the White Working Class Abandoned the Democratic Party."

Freddie DeBoer tells us "Why They're Going to Keep Losing."

In the Guardian, Naomi Klein tells us that "It was the Democrat's Embrace of Neo Liberalism that Won it for Trump."

This list is by no means conclusive.  Any other articles and videos I've missed?  Let me know in the comments.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Egolitarians and Class Cucks have Ruined the Working Class

Donald Trump's electoral victory was, perhaps, a greater win still for the alt-left.  The absurd and ersatz nature of the regressive left a-la Bill + Hillary Clinton has come in for intense scrutiny from across the political spectrum.  The "Bernie Bro's" lost this round, but as a result may end up being in a better position to eventually win the larger war.  Part of why this is so as that the events of this election have given the alt-left a powerful legitimizing narrative.

Even in the abodes of the regressive SJW media, there seems to be some soul searching in the wake of Trump's win.  The Guardian - Too frequently a megaphone for the likes of Jessica Valenti and Julie "all men are rapists and should be put in prison then shot" Bindel, ran an essay by Thomas Frank: "Donald Trump is Moving to the White House, and Liberals put him there." Frank's recent best seller, Listen Liberal, gives an insincere democratic party machine the same kind of droll, sarcastic dressing down that his earlier classic What's the Matter With Kansas gives the Republicans.

Frank's Guardian article is not even the tip of the iceberg.  Former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, Robert Reich, answers the question of  "Why the White Working Class Abandoned the Democratic Party."  From many sources a narrative of the defeat of Hillary Clinton and the lost opportunities of the Obama administration is emerging.  A narrative comparable in many ways to the "cuckservative" meme that drove the alt-right; the idea that weak and effeminate mainstream conservatives betrayed national interests by embracing social liberalism and sacrificed the west's European cultural heritage on the altar of immigration and multiculturalism.

Trump's election has given the alt-left its own variation of the same theme: weak and corrupt liberal and social democratic politicians, masking their sell out to neo liberal corporatism behind a mask of snobbish cultural liberalism, have betrayed the working class.  This class treason takes several forms:
  • Running on reformist, hope-and-change platforms to get Wall Street back on a leash, only to not do this once taking office and instead opting for anti-worker free trade deals such as Bill Clinton's embrace of NAFTA and Barack Obama's support of the TPP.
  • Embracing mass immigration, despite its damaging effects on unemployment and wage levels in order to built electoral constituencies, and then hide behind multiculturalism in order to preserve leftist cred and to avoid scrutiny and accuse critics of such policies of being "racist."  
  • For the same reasons, promoting sexual and racial identity politics, which weaponizes feminist and minority grievances as tools with which to shame and guilt lower class white males into accepting reduced status, while simultaneously redirecting the anger of lower class women and minorities against the white male working class instead of against the rich and powerful institutions.  This also causes the white male working class to see women and minorities instead of those same rich and powerful institutions as their enemies.  Beneath the thin veneer of racial and sexual progressivism is a much darker and deeply regressive undercurrent of upper middle class smugness towards the unwashed masses. 
  • Promoting visions of racial equality and feminist empowerment that are really about consumerism and careerism in the corporate world.
  • Wasting activist vigor on silly and frivolous causes such as safe spaces, trigger warnings, cultural appropriation and privilege checking. This also makes the left objects of deserved ridicule in the eyes of the general public and makes the right seem more credible.  The polarity has completely reversed from where it was ten years ago, when intellectually vigorous liberals had a field day demolishing conservative foolishness like hurricanes being God's punishment for allowing gay marriage, creation "science" in schools and so on.
  • Affirming decidedly illiberal ideas, such as censorship of "offensive" art and speech, and legitimization of racial and sexual bigotry, government in the bedrooms of the nation (if "consent" is not filled out in triplicate, it's rape culture!) so long as it's against acceptable targets - lower class white males, and defending these illiberal ideas in decidedly fanatical, closed minded and morally overbearing ways - naysayers are "mansplaining", "whitesplaining", the "voice of privilege", "crying white male tears", not to mention no platforming, bannings from social media, getting people sacked from their jobs and so on.
But the single most important point is that weak and corrupt liberal and social democratic politicians, masking their sell out to neo liberal corporatism behind a mask of snobbish cultural liberalism, have betrayed the working class.  That's what matters.  That's why white working class voters who would have voted for Bernie Sanders instead went for Donald Trump.  That's the narrative the alt-left needs to seize and they need to capitalize on the growing sympathy towards this narrative in social media.  And that social media presence grows all the time.  Observe the bar to the left of this page with links to different social media pages and YouTube channels.  Use 'em and spread 'em.  I'm sure there's more I haven't mentioned.  Let me know if there is in the comments section.

It needs to be communicated in short, quippy sound bites and internet memes.  It needs to be repeated as often as possible up to the point of backlash.  Meaning don't beat people over the head with it.  It needs to be repeated along with a small handful of popular policy proposals that we could potentially have seen enacted come 2017 had Bernie Sanders won the election: single payer health care, a somewhat progressive tax scheme, a livable minimum wage, opposition to Citizens United and similar ideas.  And for the leftist IdPol types out there, friendly reminders of what someone like Sanders could have given them too: pay equity, defense of abortion and gay marriage rights, an end to the drug war, prison privatization, the Patriot Act.  And don't pass up a chance to remind them that it was the Clinton presidency that buried Americans in a ton of regressive bullshit, and it was enabled for the most part by Senator Hillary Clinton (let's not forget her voting record) and doubled down on by President Obama.  It's quite important that it be emphasized that the secret to defeating Trump in 2020 is setting aside identity politics and building a broad coalition that keeps its eyes on the real prize.

This needs to be imparted by political activists who eschew corporate donations and fund raise primarily through individual small donors where possible, and these activists need to routinely call out political opponents who are on the corporate pay roll.

We need to learn from the success of the alt-right and the Trump presidential campaign that the medium is the message, depending on the forum.  Don't bore friends online with reams of policy when an internet meme says it all in a way that gets you all laughing at lame politicians with sharp, to the point insults like "cuckservative" or "Crooked Hillary."  

I've long been of the opinion that the political left needs to think long and hard about its relationship with academia.  Leftism is at its best when it's "from the streets" - when it's about genuinely marginalized people making themselves heard and gaining their rights through collective political action.  When the AFL-CIO organized in the 1930s and 40s, when civil rights were gradually acquired in the 1950s and 60s, when second wave feminism, whatever its flaws, emerged in the 70s - though by then the forces that were making leftism toxic were beginning to show themselves.  The intellectual leadership kept the whole thing organized, but there were no academic egos involved in making these movements about them personally and their careers.

I have no quarrel with academics who are leftists.  I know some and even have some in my family.  But critical theory and post modern philosophy is bad leftism and it's bad academia.  It's continued existence in the Ivory Tower needs to be openly questioned.  It's ultimately why American colleges have become the laughing stocks of social media, with "cry ins," safe spaces and trigger warnings.  Not that Herbert Marcuse or Simone de Beauvoir advocated those things, but their ideas began moving things in that direction. This is where abhorrent dogmas such as privilege theory and "prejudice plus power" first gained traction, and were then advanced with the certitude of the religious fanatic.  We need to get rid of it.  Political leftism thereby shifted from being about democratizing mass movements to being about a high browed secular clergy made certain of itself by credentializing its own ideologies, policing the language, opinions and manners of the unwashed masses.  It became dictatorial, elitist and focused on culture instead of economy - everything that leftism is not and should not be.  That stuff is garbage; smug rationalizations for self serving double standards favoring the pseudo leftist elect.  We need to get this crap out of academia.  End of story.

Oh, and did I mention, that Donald Trump won the White House because weak and corrupt liberal and social democratic politicians, masking their sell out to neo liberal corporatism behind a mask of snobbish cultural liberalism, have betrayed the working class?  I thought I did.  I'll mention it again.  And so should you.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

The Bernie Bro's Send Their Regards!

Responses to the Democratic debacle across the internet show that important lessons will be slow in learning for the center left.  Typical might be comments like this:
I live in liberal land where the Mayor of LA and the Governor have already come out said they will enforce no fascist Presidential orders and my Senator just submitted a bill to ban the electoral college. I make enough that I'll greatly benefit from Trumps tax cut even if he ditches the Head of Household single parent deduction. Unless the secret police catch me making out with a drag queen, I'm pretty much safe. My kid is safe. I'm not being marginalized.

That's kinda the definition of privilege.
I think it's important to look at things like this and ask ourselves what could have been done differently so that there would have been a different result. Because, and I frankly don't give a toss what anyone says about muh white male privilege - the outcome of this election was a fucking disaster.  For all kinds of people.  Not just gays.  Not just blacks.  Not just Latinos.  Not just Muslims.  Not just women.  Not just LGBT people.  Not just the poor.  Not just the working class.  Not just the middle class.  Not just anybody who makes less than 500K/year.  All kinds of people.

When I look at the paragraph I just wrote, it occurs to me that a LOT of people would be vastly better off without a GOP presidency and a GOP congress than with them.  More people than for whom the reverse would be true.  So my question is: how did we get here?

We got here when the working class white males were smugly dismissed with "angry dudes" and "privilege."  When an unemployed father in the rust belt was lectured for his "privilege" by a fucking 150K/year tenured black woman's studies professor in some shitty rag like the HuffPost.

We got here when BLM types attacked "white feminism" or crashed Gay Pride Parades, making other people's struggles all about them and bandying about accusations of "racism" and "privilege" for no other reason than that they know damn well it shames and silences people.  Or it used to.

We got here when our news-feeds were innundated with crap like "Cis/het black males are the white people of black people"

We got here when Halloween costumes became "Cultural Appropriation" and equated with slavery and genocide.

We got here when compliments and civil greetings of women by men became stalking, harassment and rape culture.

We got here when white cisgender gay men were banished from campus LGBTQ groups for not being marginalized enough.

We got here when supporters of a presidential candidate who would have given the entire country universal health care, free college and a $15 minimum wage, if he could, were smugly dismissed as "Bernie Bro's" because they felt that real tangible economic benefits that would really help the most vulnerable were better things to base a voting decision on than some feminist blogger's vagina or African ancestors.

We got here when we were asked to ignore Clinton's abyssmal record of supporting regressive neoliberal legislation going all the way back to her husband's presidency.

None of the above are solid reasons for voting for Donald Trump.  But they are valid reasons for NOT voting for Democrats either.  And that was all Trump needed.
Now obviously, I'm not the cry-in type. But I'm also not the one being marginalized. My partner is a pretty big Hillary supporter, both vocally and financially, and she's scared. She's scared about women's rights. Minorities are scared. Gay people are scared.
I hope the hysteria turns out to have been unwarranted and Trump turns out to be more of a Nixonian moderate than /pol/ on 4chan in the White House.  I am sorry about your partner, [name redacted], and I hope that women's rights, minority rights and gay rights come out of this unscathed.  I don't mean to pick a fight with you, or anyone, and I wish harm on none.

Problem is, plenty of harm was wished on me.  Not by any of you personally, but by those who dismissed any disagreement with them as "angry white dudes", "privilege", "white/mansplaining" , "#killallwhitemen", etc.  Now I know full well that none of the above have any actual teeth and pale in comparison to real oppression suffered by people of differing identities over the years.  But then again, trigger warnings, safe spaces, misgendering and microaggressions also pale in comparison to real oppression suffered over the years too.

The problem was the smugness, the double standards, the glaring lack of self awareness, the hypocrisy, the sick competitive victimhood, the empty virtue signalling, the utter and complete lack of policy substance, the censorious mindset, the puritanism, the anti-heterosexualism, the manipulativeness, the flagrant weaponization of grievance, the arrogance and the entitlement masquerading as social justice - a bastardization of language that would make George Orwell cringe were he alive to see it.  It's about recognizing your need for allies, and treating those allies with respect instead of spitting in their faces all the time because "privilege" or because "old white dudes" and then wondering why they abandon you in the crucial hour.

Come 2020, we'll be much more likely to get different results if the attitude is SOLIDARITY instead of "check your privilege."  If the attitude is "an injury to one is an injury to all" instead of "I drink white male tears."  What a farce!  You're all going to learn the hard way that the people who drink white male tears do so out of crystal goblets.  They're on Wall Street.  In the Pentagon.  In the State Department.  In the offices of defense industry lobbyists.  They're not on tumblr or buzzfeed.  And they drink white female tears too.  And black tears.  And gay tears.  And the drinking's looking to be pretty good for the next four years.

If you want to make the left great again, come check out places like this, view videos like this and read articles like this.  Just for examples.  There's hundreds more like them.  But until then ...

On Nov. 8, 2016, the SJWs of America had their Red Wedding.  And guess what?  


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

My Own Analysis of Why the Democrats Lost

I'll make my own analysis of why the Democrats lost in 2016, and how they can win again.  Why not?  Everybody else is.  Like vultures circling a dying animal, pundits are not wasting time in grafting their agendas onto the narrative of Hillary's defeat.

Robert Reich asks: "Why the White Working Class Abandoned the Party?" Thomas Frank, writing in The Guardian, "Donald Trump is Moving Into the White House, and Liberals Put Him There."  George Monbiot, also writing in The Guardian, "Neoliberalism: the Deep Story that Lies Beneath Donald Trump's Triumph."  Writing in the left wing Jacobin, Jedidiah Purdy: "The Democratic Party's Abandonment of the Working Class Cleared the Space for Trump."  "Hillary Clinton's Celebrity Feminism was a Failure" observes Sarah Jones.  Lamenting the Democrat's future, Freddie DeBoer fears that "They're Going to Keep Losing." Another Guardian article by Naomi Klein: "It was the Democrat's Embrace of Neoliberalism that won it for Trump."  Vox describes "What a Liberal Sociologist Learned from Spending Five Years in Trump's America." Lindy West, again in The Guardian, laments that "Blaming Political Correctness for Trump is Like Blaming the Civil Rights Movement for Jim Crow."  Ben Chu, writing in The Independent, asks "Why did Trump Win?  Whitelash or Economic Frustration?"  In Slate, L.V Anderson laments that "White Women Sold Out the Sisterhood by Voting for Trump." In The Nation, Monica Potts claims that "Donald Trump Won on White Male Resentment."

CNN actually lists 24 popular explanations in one article.  Undoubtedly, your favorite YouTubers weighed in somewhere along the line.

The reasons given inevitably boil down to one of a few things: the Democrats lost touch with the working class and abandoned fiscal progressivism, somewhere along the line liberal smugness and political correctness went too far and pushed frustrated white dudes into Trump's camp, white dudes voted for Trump because they hate women and people of color, Hillary Clinton's decidedly regressive record as Secretary of State, as Senator during the Bush years and as First Lady during her husband's presidency.  The system is corrupt, the Russians had a hand in it somewhere, Wikileaks, low voter turnout among traditional democratic voters, take your pick.

Ironically emboldened by Trump's victory, leftist voices ranging from classical liberals to outright tankies are calling for the Democratic Party especially and the progressive left in the western world more generally to give up on identity politics and take a more class and economic oriented approach.  No argument here.  The Amazing Atheist gave what I thought to be the most rousing video making this claim.  I'd love to see that happen.  Mark my words.  But is a lack of class consciousness on the left - an issue I feel strongly about to do a blog series on it - really why the Democrats tanked?

Let's not rush to too many judgments here.  A nation that elected a black neoliberal president for two successive terms did not suddenly turn into Klanland or the dictatorship of the proletariat by handing Trump the keys to the Oval Office.  Dream on, guys.

I certainly don't think this was the wisest decision the American people have ever collectively made.  But Trump's popular vote numbers are not that great: 61,300,000. Hardly more than either Romney (60,900,000) or McCain (59,900,000).  Not an overwhelming difference.  Now compare Hillary's popular vote performance (62,200,00) to Obama's 2012 (65,900,000) and 2008 (69,500,000).  This is more significant.  There's reasons why Hillary lost to Obama in 2008, and her victory over Sanders is marred in controversy and resentment within the party.

Trump did not win. Hillary lost.  She consistently failed to energize the party base as Obama did.  Hence the fact it's been Obama and not Hillary the last eight years. Why this is so is quite beside the point.  Leadership and charisma are esoteric qualities.  It's not always easy to explain why some people have it and others don't.  But the prevailing narratives being trotted out to explain this don't hold up based on the numbers.

Racism and sexism?  Then explain why Obama got many more votes in 2008 and 2012 than Trump did in 2016?  Trump appealed to nativist and nationalist sentiments throughout the campaign; to a considerably greater degree than mainstream Republicans in recent history, but this hardly explains his victory.

As for sexism and misogyny, more white women voted for "grab 'em by the pussy" than voted for "I'm with her!"  That says quite a bit.  That aside, he didn't perform substantially better than McCain or Romney did.  His boorishness was a liability to far more people than it was an asset to.  White males are a long way from a voting majority.  Following his notorious "pussy grabbing" comments, he was all but written off among serious pollsters, and the smart money suggests that he was saved in the last weeks by Wikileaks and Comey.

Were people voting against political correctness and liberal smugness?  See above - these things didn't spring out of thin air two years ago.  Explain Obama's victories.
Were people voting against neo-liberalism and the abandonment of the white male working class?  Again, see above.  Explain Obama.
Were people voting against having a woman in the White House?  Possibly, but unlikely.

Truth is, people weren't voting against Herbert Marcuse, Milton Friedman or Gloria Steinem in this election.  They were voting against Hillary Clinton.  It's really no more complicated than that.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Class and Gender: Engendering Failure II

Anita Sarkeesian writes:
There's no such thing as sexism against men.  That's because sexism is prejudice + power.  Men are the dominant gender with power in society.
 This is a line of reasoning one encounters frequently in so called social justice circles.  But is it accurate?  And if it is not accurate, is it merely hyperbole intended to raise awareness of legitimate issues, but doing no harm otherwise?  Or is this actually a dangerous idea?  It is an idea that distorts our understanding of how power and privilege really work?  Does this idea draw our attention away from where real power and privilege lie, and scapegoat people who are actually powerless?

What is wrong with this statement.  It's based on an understanding of power that's wrong and self serving.

Since most of the very real powerful and privileged – the super rich – are white males, therefore all white males must collectively constitute an upper class?  This is bad logic on the face of it.  But to assume that males collectively constitute an elite that’s organized around recognition and defense of its privileges as a gender completely flies in the face of the behavior of corporations and governments daily.  Corporate and state power rarely meets a feminist cause it doesn’t like.  Could it be because feminist causes usually entail an expansion of state power?  Could it be because the real value that women have as far as capital is concerned, is as workers, consumers and as tax payers? 

Those who defend the concept of “male privilege” may indeed have some valid points to make overall about how men have it easier than women.  The point of my saying this is not to be yet another anti-feminist commentator to toss his hat, or should I day his fedora, into the messy dispute over gender and privilege.  Rather, I question whether or not “privilege” is actually a useful concept in describing the advantages that men do enjoy.

Privilege, by its nature and definition, implies a source of power sufficiently strong to grant special prerogatives to one segment of the population but not to another.  If there was so strong a power in our society, would this individual or body be the more logical target for the critics of institutional power and privilege?

Those who defend the notion of male privilege point out that women still make less money overall then men.  77 cents for every dollar or something like that.  The real nature of this pay gap and the reasons for it have been explained time and again and I won’t get into them in detail here.  Suffice it to say, that when your value is measured more in pure economic terms, you’ll place a higher premium on economic reward when making your career choices.  This often comes at the expense of longer hours and harsher working conditions.  But even if it were true that men were paid more money than women for the same jobs, does this make men the real bearers of privilege?  Seems to me as though those who sign the paychecks are the ones with the real power and privilege in this scenario.  Why no analysis of corporate structure and power, Ms. Sarkeesian?  Perhaps because you’re a beneficiary of it?

Which raises another question.  The narrative presented by Sarkeesian in this tweet is one that is repeated frequently, in academia and “left” leaning corporate media and disseminated very effectively by a vast network of bloggers, academics and professional activists.  It is frequently pushed on social media platforms whose multi million dollar CEOs openly embrace this line of thinking, to the point that critics of it can face blocking on these very social media sites?  Does it make sense that the truly rich and powerful would openly embrace a very real criticism of institutional power?  Does access to this kind of influence really characterize a powerless and marginalized segment of the population.  Anita Sarkeesian herself has addressed the United Nations on behalf of causes important to her.  Similar access to the UN has not been extended to her opponents and critics in social media, some of whom have many more followers than Feminist Frequency does.  Is this what we’d expect from a marginalized demographic?

Sarkeesian’s statement assumes that prejudice against powerful groups is okay - it is based upon a "two wrongs make a right" kind of mentality. Note that real, concrete measures to erode power differences are not a problem. But that is not the purpose of this statement.  Sarkeesian’s statement obscures who the real holders of power are, and therefore makes even holding them accountable, let alone fundamentally reshifting the balance of power in a more egalitarian direction, more rather than less difficult.  How can you redistribute power away from people who already have very little power, except to become more powerful than them.  Which is what this is really all about.

None of this means that it is actually men who are the oppressed class – there are plenty of both men and women out there with nothing but their own labor power to sell as a means of sustenance, and the lack of access real power and influence that this entails.  Nor is this to be taken as a denial of female mistreatment at the hands of males in many circumstances.  I do not condone this, and I would urge my male listeners not to take what I’ve said as a license to look down on or mistreat women in any way.

Sarkeesian’s statement’s real purpose is to be a self serving statement in that it enables women who agree with it to assume a stance of moral superiority vis-a-vis men, which can be exploited for personal advantage.  She does not seek to obstruct those who would enable violence against women.  She seeks to obstruct those who would bring to light and criticize female mistreatment of men, in both private and public contexts.  There is no place for either in any real progressivism worth its salt.  Any version of the left that does not have “an injury to one is an injury to all” as a core motto is not a left worthy of anyone’s support.

Her statement is a conservative; a reactionary statement in that by defining a powerless people as the ruling class, those who really are powerful escape scrutiny.  It seeks to establish gender rather than class solidarity, and the beneficiaries of this can only be the rich and powerful.

Note too that much of Sarkeesian’s social criticism is directed at the preponderance of sexual imagery in popular culture, and the portrayal of sexuality in media.  This kind of criticism has typically come from the far right rather than the left.  In light of that, and the high levels of institutional support that Sarkeesian’s variation on feminist ideals actually receives, what does this tell you about how “progressive” her agenda really is? 

With "social justice leftists" like this, who needs conservatives?

Thursday, 10 November 2016

YouTube Post Election Rant

 I’m not sure what bothers me more at this point, quite frankly.  The outcome of the recent US presidential election itself, or the nature of the popular responses to the outcome based on what I’ve seen in social media.  People are sharing posts that sometimes relay elation and joy, but more often convey dread, disbelief and anger.  People are asking themselves, in all seriousness, how they’re going to explain this to their children.  Again and again the outcome of this election is being framed in terms of a victory of intolerance and ignorance, even outright racism and sexism, over inclusion and fairness.  I find all of this to be deeply troubling.

To be sure, I am no fan of Donald Trump.  I have grave reservations about the prospect of his presidency.  I’m deeply skeptical of his fitness to hold the office of leader of the free world.  His lack of political experience, what looks quite often like a very superficial grasp of what are complex policy issues and some of his policy proposals are frankly alarming.  And while I don’t think he’s as racist or authoritarian he’s often made out to be, his abrasive and boorish manner while campaigning make me wonder how he will handle the high level diplomatic and trade relations he claims need to be revisited in order to better insure American interests.  People all over the world look at him with considerable concern and skepticism, and while some of that is establishment media spin and bias, Trump has quite knowingly, I think, contributed to the establishment of a deeply polarizing public persona, and this will come back to haunt him during his tenure as president.
What I do not believe, however, is that most of Trump’s supporters had, well, deplorable motivations, nor do I believe that Hillary Clinton was this paragon of liberal inclusiveness that her supporters made her out to be.  I will take both of these on in turn.
Firstly, a vote for Trump was not likely to be a vote for white supremacy or misogyny, though in some cases it could have been, and people with those kinds of attitudes did express support for Trump.  But issues surrounding race, sex and immigration are more complex and nuanced than a lot of media discourse makes them out to be, and the tendency of a lot of public discussion to frame these issues – both literally and figuratively – in such black and white terms is something that I frankly find deeply troubling.

I’m not convinced, as other articles and posts suggest, that Trump’s victory comes entirely down to a protest vote against political correctness, I do see where the frustration with the kinds of self-righteous militancy we’ve seen out of social liberals concerned with identity politics comes from, and I completely sympathize with it.  When every unequal outcome is attributable to “racism” and honest discussion of pathologies within minority communities are thereby shut down, when real and legitimate concerns with terrorism and immigration are brushed aside with accusations of “islamophobia”, when college students who should be engaging in critical thought and open debate are instead needing “safe spaces,” or else engaging in violent and disruptive protests motivated by radical identitarian ideologies that they’re being indoctrinated in on these same college campuses – at the taxpayer’s expense, when Halloween costumes and hairstyles become “cultural appropriation” and are considered a form of oppression, when innocent flirtation or even just a polite and civil greeting of a woman by a man are construed as “sexual harassment” and “stalking” – we have very deep and serious structural problems in the body politic, and media, academia and government have been displaying the utmost height of irresponsibility in pandering to and promoting this.
Of course, brazen displays of bigotry rightly warrant censure.  Trump’s boorish comments about women are indeed troubling, though I can’t help but think that at least some of the hysteria over them is contrived and partisan.  It’s not like Bill Clinton was a paragon of feminist chivalry or anything.  But the kinds of petty, manufactured grievances coming out of the supposedly liberal media are not only contributing to what is likely to be irreversible deterioration of race and gender relations, they are distracting us from looking seriously at where the real axes of power and privilege lie and where the real abuses are taking place – corporate and state power.

Which brings me to my second concern, which is with this idealized perception of Hillary Clinton.  A more critical look at the life and career of Hillary and her family reveals a different and more disturbing picture. A picture that must be better understood in order to make sense of the outcome of the recent electoral outcomes.

Unlike Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton’s public persona is that of a polished career politician and philanthropist concerned especially with the status of women and girls both at home and abroad.  But behind this feminist persona is an individual who’s always been closely aligned with the interests of corporate and state power, sometimes at the expense of the very minority communities she professes to champion.

For example, Hillary sat on the board of directors of Walmart from 1986 to 1992, while the retail giant was actively involved in union suppression activities at home and profiting from sweat labor abroad.  Despite claiming to want to use her position to help advance women and girls, Walmart has been sued dozens of times over the years, for gender discrimination, among other things.

And that’s just the beginning.  During her husband’s tenure as President, Hillary was in favor of all kinds of regressive legislation enacted by the administration, including welfare reform – which doubled levels of absolute poverty in America, draconian anti-crime bills that fell very heavily upon black inner city communities and the repeal of key financial sector regulation such as the new deal era glass-steagall act; the repeal of which paved the way for the eventual Lehman Brothers meltdown.  Should I conclude from public reaction to the election that the Clinton family also is too big to fail?  How about too rich and powerful not to.

While in the Senate during the Bush years, Clinton certainly did think the big banks were too big to fail – she supported the TARP bailouts.  They were not too big to be broken up, however.  One wonders how well girls and women in Iraq, Syria, Libya and other mid-east hotspots have fared since Senator Clinton voted in favor of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and as Secretary of State for Obama has been among the most hawkish people in recent times to hold that office.  One wonders if this was part of the reason the Clinton campaign was so heavily favored by the arms industry.

Among other things favored by Clinton, but opposed by Sanders while in the senate, were NAFTA, the Patriot Act, the Trans Pacific Partnership, the Keystone Pipeline and if you liked that, she also favored the 2006 border fence legislation for the US Mexico border.  A nice little head start on the wall Clinton’s supporters freaked out and called Trump a racist over.

None of any of this makes Trump a good candidate for president.  He comes with ample historical baggage of his own.  People who look upon Trump as this savior of western civilization against globalism or as a champion of the forgotten American worker are in for a rude awakening, I suspect.  It should not surprise us if the chief beneficiary of a Trump administration ends up being, well, Trump, and organizations he has ties to.  If his past is any indication of what his future will look like, I really doubt that he will be any less willing to import immigrants and export jobs if that means a healthy bottom line for his businesses or cronies. 

America had one chance at a populist president whose record demonstrates a commitment to the interests of the working and middle classes, and he was screwed out of the democratic nomination.  It should be observed that Trump was not responsible for this, and the kinds of salt were seeing from the would-be populists now that Trump has won was notably absent when corporate Hillary shafted the populist Sanders in their respective bids for the White House.

What this reveals to me is a very disturbing trend in US, and indeed western politics, and that’s a growing obsession with identity politics.  A deeper look at the facts shows how utterly misguided the view is that Trump’s victory is entirely attributable to a white backlash against an increasingly multicultural America, or evidence that “America hates women more than it hates racists” or any of the other emotionally charged identitarian rhetoric that has become so central on social media.  Prejudice may have been a factor in some cases, and I don’t condone that.  But the lack of criticism that the State Dept., that the Pentagon, that Wall Street, that authoritarian foreign governments that the US has business dealings with, and the other elements of the American “deep state” receive in favor of  the blanket condemnations that “white America” receive from the so called liberals and progressives in America is frankly very, very disturbing.

To scapegoat the white male working class for America’s numerous social problems and policy failures is no better than scapegoating immigrants or minorities for those same problems.  In both cases, this serves the interests of corporate and state power and places the blame squarely on the powerless and on the victim.  This does not mean that we cannot call out the sliver of racism in our neighbor’s eye, but let’s be sure that we first remove the log of support for corporate and state power from our own eye.  We are all under increasing pressure from the real bastions of power and privilege and their shills in media and academia to see complex social issues entirely through the lens of identity politics.  I urge you to resist this pressure and instead see people of different races, genders and religious affiliations as potential allies in taking these bastions of power and privilege to task and demanding a more just and accountable polity.

(listen to it on Samizdat Broadcasts!)

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Triumph of the Iron Heel

The electoral defeat of Chairwomyn and General Secretary of the Womyn's Worker's Party of America, Hillary Clinton, was a crippling blow to the workers and oppressed peoples of the entire world.  It was nothing less than a death sentence passed against disabled children everywhere!   Oh noes!  Whatever are we going to do now?

It's not like Comrade Hillary "Red Storm" Clinton was actually in favor of restoring Glass Steagall, a New Deal era law that barred commercial banks from investment banking and insurance activities, that her dear faithful husband repealed in 1999.  Too big not to fail, and not big enough to not stiff the tax payer with the bill.  But hey, that finance sector campaign money has to come from somewhere, right?

It's not like Sister Hillary "Power to the People" Clinton DIDN'T refer to underclass black youth as "superpredators" when shilling for her husaband's draconian anti-crime bill back in 1996.   But then the dear leader then went on to describe lower class white males who supported Bernie Sanders as knuckle dragging "basement dwellers" in late September, 2016.  So at least the working class heroine isn't racist; she disdains all lower class dudes regardless of color equally.  You go girl!

It's not like the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Womyn's Worker's Party, Madam Hillary Clinton did not likewise support her husband's welfare reform initiatives in the mid 1990s, doubling the levels of extreme poverty in the US.

Ever the defender of the rights of the people against the iron heel of corporate oppression, the fearless leader of the Womyn Worker's Liberation Army, Hillary Clinton, also voted for the Patriot Act and proudly displayed her opposition to white male imperialism when she voted in favor of the Invasion of Iraq in 2003.  Her proud legacy of anti-imperialism while Secretary of State under Comrade Obama lives on: in Libya, in Syria, to say nothing of State Department arms deals to such People's Democracies and champions of women's liberation as Saudi Arabia and other nations that donated to the Clinton Foundation.  So now you know, my comrade and fellow Clintonista revolutionary, that when we denounce religion as the opiate of the people, and condemn its barbaric practices at home and abroad, we make a revolutionary exception for the religion based out of Saudi Arabia.  To do otherwise would be RACISS and MUHSOGYNY!

And all of the arms industry's support for the General Secretary of the Politburo of the Woman's Worker's Party, brave Comrade Hillary Clinton?  For the defense of the Queer Womyn of Color's  motherland, of course!

"All power to the workers!" didn't appear to be Chairwomyn Hillary Clinton's approach to Walmart's labor relations strategy when she sat on its Board of Directors in the 1986 to 1992 time span, when said Board fought hard to crush union activities at the retail giant.  She did, however, urge the Board to adopt better environmental policies and better treatment of women.  How suppressing their right to bargain collectively furthers this goal, your guess is as good as mine.  To question the dear leader is MUHSOGYNY and HOMERPHOBIA!

It's not like the Dear Leader of the proletariat the world over was so incorruptible when it came to trade liberalization with Columbia in the face of violent union suppression and human rights violations in that country.  After millions of dollars were pledged by Canadian oil giant Pacific Rubiales to the Clinton Foundation -- supplemented by millions more from the company’s founder, Frank Giustra himself -- Secretary Clinton abruptly changed her position on the controversial U.S.-Colombia trade pact. Having opposed the deal as a bad one for labor rights back when she was a presidential candidate in 2008, she now promoted it, calling it “strongly in the interests of both Colombia and the United States.”  Ever the one to reward her comrade's loyal service, Comrade Clinton rewarded Giustra with a seat on the Board of the Clinton Foundation.

The philanthropy of this revolutionary hero of womyn and oppressed peoples the world over does not end there, and would not have ended had it not been for her reactionary defeat at the hands of privileged, basement dwelling neckbeard muhsogynists, raciss and homerphobic Trump supporters.  We must demand safe spaces for those of us who've been triggered by this bloody crackdown of the Iron Heel of white male privilege forthwith!

A Tale of Two Progressives

Okay, so then THAT happened.  And I'd be lying if I told you I was among those who saw this coming.

Of course, hindsight is always 20/20.  From the defeated camp, two narratives seem to be emerging.  Mainly because the defeated camp is be no means united.  Which is why they were the defeated camp, after all.

One of these camps is showing itself to be sadly predictable.  As boilerplate in its lack of self awareness as it is in what passes for its ideological content.  "I'm not shocked by any of this," began the tweet that the HuffPost described as a "Nightmare Election Night Summarized in 1 Bleak Tweet" - "People hate women for more than they hate racists."


Don't get me wrong.  I'm no fan of Trump.  I have grave reservations about his capacity to govern, given his glaring lack of political experience, among other numerous flaws and blemishes.  I do not condone his racial insensitivity nor his boorish attitude towards women.  But any kind of evil Hitler agenda will have to get through Congress first - which though in Republican hands, is so only by a margin, especially the senate.  And it's not like the G.O.P are solidly behind the Donald in any event.

HuffPost Canada did no better: "Hate and Fear Won!"  This saccharine article goes on to say, "When I think of my friends and family in the US, I genuinely fear for them. I fear for women, for minorities and people of colour. I fear for their professional and personal interactions, their reproductive rights and their right to basic safety and security. I fear for the legitimization of identity politics. I fear for climate change and the EPA."

Hate and fear won?

So too has irony.  In a paragraph laden with identity politics - "I fear for women, for minorities and people of color", the author goes on to say that she fears for "the legitimization of identity politics."  Oblivious to the irony, apparently.  And this is the deeper problem with this narrative: its comical lack of self awareness.  Hate and fear - of the uneducated white male working class got us here.  The legitimization of identity politics - for the exclusive charmed circle of feminists, minorities and people of color - also got us here.

Hate and fear of unemployment?  Hate and fear of terrorism?  Specifically, Islamic terrorism?  Hate and fear of the horrors Europe has been dealing with during its migrant crisis?  Nowhere in sight, apparently.

These articles are but two of a countless number cropping up everywhere online, including all of our Facebook news-feeds, since news of Trump's victory was announced.  Baskets and baskets full of deplorables turned loose on our streets.  Pepe the Frog on our computer screens!  Evil Hitler on the rise!

Can we really claim that racism drove so many to put Trump in office when the same electorate so recently handed a black man two terms in the Oval Office?  Was a vote for Trump really a vote against a woman president and for Trump's locker room boorishness?

Maybe.  I honestly hope not, but in some cases, people no doubt voted for Trump for the wrong reasons.  Or maybe it's an insult to all but a tiny handful of glaringly sociopathic voters to assume they had such dark motives.  Which is really part of the deeper problem.

Or maybe it was a vote against an obviously corrupt and Machiavellian DNC establishment candidate who willfully weaponized identity politics for use against Bernie Sander's basement dwelling supporters, and enjoyed considerable DNC favoritism in her race for the candidacy right from the get-go?

Or maybe it was a vote against Hillary's support of welfare reform while her hubby was in office?

Or maybe it was a vote against support for NAFTA, the TPP and other job killing trade deals?

Or maybe it was a vote against her hostility to union rights?

Or maybe it was a vote against the war on drugs, or against the war in Iraq?

And perhaps, most significantly, maybe it was a vote against an overarching sense of entitlement.  Hillary Clinton was not entitled to sit in the Oval Office.  Was she better qualified than Donald Trump to do so?  Quite probable.  But it doesn't work that way.  Hillary Clinton was not owed the White House.  Not because she is a Clinton.  Not because she is a Democrat.  Not because she is a woman.  Not because she is a progressive or a liberal.  And screaming "dat raciss!" or "Muhsogyny!" at anyone who won't vote for any of the above is just compounding the problem.  Shut up and get some self awareness before you drive progressive politics back into late 1980s levels of obscurity and political toxicity.

And this leads us into the second narrative to come from the other side of the defeated camp.  A narrative that is quieter and more introspective.  More level headed and frankly, more intelligent.

A narrative that wonders if it's such a good idea for progressive media to keep beating the rest of the country over the head with aggressive anti white male identity politics and political correctness?
A narrative that wonders if it was so wise for the DNC to screw the best candidate from a genuinely progressive perspective that they've had in decades, out of the nomination?
A narrative that wonders if the white working class who feels left behind and shut out by changes to the global economy aren't the kinds of people progressives should be reaching out to, rather than simply condemning as racist rubes?

I won't go as far as to say that the Democrats completely brought this on themselves.  Okay, who am I kidding?  They brought this completely on themselves.  With a still popular outgoing two term president - a remarkable achievement - they've quite suddenly stooped to levels of lacking political acumen that we've not seen from them since the bad old days of Gary Hart and Michael Dukakis.  An even more remarkable political achievement.  This was a very, very winnable election for them, and they lost it to their own glaring lack of collective self awareness.

Two different narratives from two different progressive mindsets.  One wants to tell you what to think or else you're a racist and a muhsogynist.  The other wants to listen to you and take your fears and concerns, including of racism and misogyny, seriously.  One of these has a political future.  The other does not.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

The Other Red Pill: Wake Up! Class is Back in Session!

I mentioned previously that societies that romanticize revolution and demonize capitalists do so at a heavy cost.  But then, so do societies that fail to take materialist definitions of class into account when looking at both economic and social issues.  To say that our society has suffered enormously as a result of a lack of class in its political outlook is an understatement of grand proportions.

Historical materialism was consigned to the dustbin of history very prematurely.  The failure of the USSR was not the failure of this kind of an outlook on political economy.  If anything, we've been failing for a lack of it, as I've tried to demonstrate throughout the Other Red Pill Series.  To address numerous social problems, it must be resurrected and rehabilitated, without a lot of the other Marxist baggage it became burdened with over time.  Let's just pretend that Lenin and everything after in the east and the Frankfurt School and everything after in the west never happened, shall we?

In fact, I would go as far as to say that The resuscitation of economic class, as defined in Marx's materialist conception of history, must be THE central project of alternative-left politics.  This is what the Other Red Pill is ultimately really all about.  What we do with that knowledge, as it becomes more mainstream, is up to us. 

But the truancy of the left must come to an end.  It's time to wake up Identitarians of all stripes and neo-liberals have kept the wool over our eyes for far too long now.  It's time for the alt-left to take them back to school: class is back in session!

The Other Red Pill: A Touch of Class

Friedrich Engels wrote:
The materialist conception of history has a lot of [dangerous friends] nowadays, to whom it serves as an excuse for not studying history. Just as Marx used to say, commenting on the French "Marxists" of the late 70s: "All I know is that I am not a Marxist." (...) In general, the word "materialistic" serves many of the younger writers in Germany as a mere phrase with which anything and everything is labeled without further study, that is, they stick on this label and then consider the question disposed of. But our conception of history is above all a guide to study, not a lever for construction after the manner of the Hegelian. All history must be studied afresh, the conditions of existence of the different formations of society must be examined individually before the attempt is made to deduce them from the political, civil law, aesthetic, philosophic, religious, etc., views corresponding to them. 
In short, historical materialism is not a master key to understanding all of history and society, and is not a shortcut to understanding the complexities and nuances of each individual society and era.  Marx and Engels, though they had insights sufficient enough to merit rescue from "the more savage travesties of his critics", were not infallible or omniscient.  No one ever is.

The usefulness of historical materialism as a means of analyzing the way societies worked, and just how powerful a critique it was (and to a considerable extent still is) in criticizing capitalism, combined with with the almost apocalyptic nature of Marx's predictions on where capitalist society was headed (predictions that were overwhelmingly wrong the vast majority of the time) and the resulting romanticization of revolution for its own sake, led to Marxism becoming a kind of surrogate religion for many of its most devoted followers.  Especially since Marxism naturally entailed kicking one's opium (of the masses) habit, and a similar kind of belief system was needed to fill the void.

This resulted in all of the evils of religious fanaticism that were carried out under the cross or the crescent over the centuries being carried out under the hammer and sickle in the 20th century.  These "communist" states carried out countless atrocities and disastrous policies which were driven in large part by a religious fervor towards Marxist ideology, or what these fanatics thought Marxist ideology was, which is very often very different from what both its supporters and opponents thought it was.  Think critically at all times, even towards otherwise good ideas.

It's worth touching upon the age old debate of whether or not the USSR was actually socialist.  This depends on how one defines the term.  What we do know, however, were that the "soviets" - democratic councils of workers established to manage factories and local economies - for which the USSR was named, were taken over, often by force, by the central Bolshevik state as soon as they had the power to do so.  Like the "state priests" of the "Bonapartist State" of the early 19th century that Marx himself criticized, and like the regressive left SJWs in media and academia in our time, the Bolsheviks regarded themselves as a kind of "intellectual" elite who, by virtue of their superior insight into the one true faith, had the right to capture popular democratic institutions and use them to rule over the plebs with an iron fist.  For their own good, of course.

In materialist terms, what we know is that the Soviet state had utter and complete control over the means of production.  Compared even to monopoly capitalism, ownership was more rather than less concentrated under the USSR system.  Of course, even totalitarian states knew the value of good PR, and so described themselves in ideal socialist terms.  The arrangement was also useful, if in an ironic way, to the capitalist elite in the west, who could then point to the monstrosity that was the Soviet state and claiming that was what socialism really was all about, kill any interest in the materialist outlook that its working classes may have had.  Even western leftists were drinking this Kool-Aid, especially after the Soviet state unraveled, with results I've discussed elsewhere.  

Any Soviet citizen who complained about any aspect of it could expect to find themselves sent to that part of it known as the gulag.  If socialism or communism can be defined as kinds of democratic citizen's or worker's control over the means of production, the USSR and its copycats and sock puppets were as far away from that as you can get.

Perhaps more significantly, is full blown democratic citizen's or worker's control over the entire means of production feasible or even desirable?  Perhaps they were when Marx put pen to paper in the mid 19th century, but are they now?  Are they now that the joint stock or limited liability corporations have become the primary organization in capitalist production and distribution, doing away with the strict dichotomy of bourgeois tycoon vs. propertiless proletariat that so much of Marx's theory depended on?  What would Marx, or Adam Smith or John Maynard Keynes for that matter, make of an incorporated entity in which the employees, customers, parts of the broader community or even the state were in part or in whole, the shareholders?  These all seem to be vastly superior models to classic Marxist-Leninism if you ask me.  If we were opt to "in whole" as opposed to "in part" ownership in the above cases, how would these organizations raise capital?

Marx's critique of capitalism relied heavily on the labor theory of value, and the claim that profit resulted from surplus value: the workers receiving less than the value of what they produced, and the difference going into the capitalist's pocket.  I doubt that this is always necessarily true, though it can be, and without a proper regulatory structure, economic forces most likely will result in the kinds of economic meltdowns that Marx believed would eventually destroy capitalism, such as the market crashes of 1929 and 2008.  

If the capitalists compensate themselves for their own work in organizing production, if they compensate shareholders for the risk the run in investing in the business in the first place, if they invest in capital that increases the productivity of the business, resulting in more revenue and allowing for higher salaries across the board, wouldn't this admittedly ideal (meaning not always the really occurring) scenario be, in many ways preferable to the physical laborers simply taking it all as income, while allowing the capital assets to deteriorate?  I've often suspected that this is why real existing socialist societies - from Russia a century ago to Venezuela today, start out so well for the commoners, but the standard of living then deteriorates to a point where capitalist systems surpass them in terms of living standards.  

And don't get me started on the economic calculation problem, demonstrating the almost total lack of feasibility for any system of planned economics.  Societies that romanticize revolution and demonize capitalists pay a heavy price for doing so.  The thing to aspire to, I think, is not a retread of revolutionary socialism, but a capitalism wherein all, or at least most can profit, not just a few.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

The Other Red Pill: Engendered Failure

In 1993, Warren Farrell, Ph.D. exposed us to many poignant truths about the reality of being male in America at the time.  Among them are:
  • 94 percent of occupational deaths occur to men.
  • Every workday hour, one construction worker in the US loses his life
  • Men have been the overwhelming majority of the cannon fodder in every major war ever waged.
  • Most successful suicides are male, and unemployed males commit suicide at twice the rate of their employed brethren.
  • 96% of the adult homeless in San Francisco are male.  The national median at the time of writing was 85%.
And more besides.  Things have not improved either.  Not for most men anyway.  Eighty percent of job losses in the 2007 to 2009 time span were male.  This led to the coining of the term "mancession", which did not end until 2015, according to some sources.  Except for black males, which must doubtlessly be the fault of white privilege.  

Some men have done quite well through it all, however.  Which ones?   Probably not the ones reading this, despite what the feminists are no doubt telling them about their male privilege.  Which all men have, regardless of race, sexual orientation or physical ability.  Or, you know, anything else that might impact social inequality.  If you're still confused, go and take a cl ... I mean course on it.  The important thing is that men as a cl ... as a group supposedly have all the power and women have none.

And the statistics bear that out, as any woman will tell you.  Women still suffer from a very real wage and wealth gap compared to men.  Which can only be explained by men, all men, hording all the money to themselves.  But not evenly.  White men, quite naturally, have the most.  Even the homeless white men referenced above?  Well, yes I suppose.  The historical reality, after all, is that blacks were slaves and were discriminated against in the Jim Crow era while whites were not.  That's the only real explanation open to us, since race and gender are the only social axes upon which wealth and power are distributed.  So all white males benefited, and benefited equally.  Or so the best social commentators of our time will tell us.  The ones who graduated at the top of their cl ... I mean, got the best marks while in college.

The Myth of Male Power was a book not lacking in power.  It quite effectively takes a wrecking ball to notions popular at the time of its writing, and still popular today, that men have gone and made everything wonderful for themselves at the expense of all women.  Which needed to be said.  It apparently still does need to be said, and even I've said it.  But not nearly as well as Dr. Farrell said it.  In some respects, The Myth of Male Power is in a cl ... a category by itself.

Men continue to be the disposable sex, and growing numbers of men continue to be mad about it.  And so they should be.  Though the mancession is over, most men are finding job prospects limited and wages stagnant.  If you take the "red pill" and go into the online "manosphere", you will find that feminism has been responsible for most of men's woes over the years.  We can only guess that all of those military and workplace fatalities and the economic struggles that working cl ... I mean just men face are due to feminism also.  Even though feminism is scarcely more than two hundred years old and men have been dying in wars and working in drudgery for a lot longer than that.  

And I don't blame the manosphere types.  They do have legitimate gripes with feminism.  No, really.  They do.  Because many feminists have been blaming all men, at least collectively, for their own struggles, which are sometimes different but quite frequently look the same as well.  Lagging wages, declining opportunities, all too frequently outright poverty.  Whose fault could all of this be?  After all, corporate profits are up again.  Who could be making it if not white men and their centuries of privilege?  It's not like there's any other cl ... I mean category of people who could be benefiting at the expense of women?

Well that's obviously preposterous, and you'll learn that quite quickly the deeper into the underworld of the internet you go.  You'll find that it goes beyond feminism.  The deeper problem is "cultural Marxism."  Or should I say, (((cultural Marxism))).   You see, this "Marxism" has to do with this guy in the 19th century who must have figured that white western civilization was a bad, BAD thing because it oppressed and colonized women and people of color.  And what's funny about it is that if you go to college and take a cl ... course on critical theory, for example, or women's or black studies, they will indeed teach you that those terrible things did happen.  And the only reason they happened was because racism and sexism.  For the benefit of white males, just for being white males!  After all, it's not like there's any other way that any other cl ... group of people could have benefited from the dispossession of indigenous people and African slavery.  

Or so the cultural Marxist colleges will teach you.  But it's all a lie, don't you know?  A (((lie!)))  Any fool worth his salt knows that white males are struggling to get by these days.  Well, most white males, anyway.  The real blame lies with the Jews, or so I've read, because I can't imagine any other cl ... category of people who might benefit from stagnant wages and unemployment among the white male working cl ...

One other thing that I've run into with all of this study of the politics of race, gender, culture and oppression.  And that's this idea of linguistic reclaimation -  a once dirty, derogatory or forbidden word being brought back into acceptable use by the communities that experienced oppression under that word, or perhaps by the absence of that word.

Right off hand, I'd say there's one word that people of all races, genders and sexual orientations have been far too afraid to say for far too long now, and our racial and sexual politics have been distorted almost beyond reason and recognition as a result.  The first task of the Alt-Left should be to reclaim that word.

A good place to start might be to take a look at what that Marx guy (Karl, not Groucho, in case you were wondering) really had to say.

Critical Theory - the Unlikely Conservatism

If "critical theory" is to be a useful and good thing, it needs to punch up, not down. This is a crux of social justice thinking. ...