JR'S Free Thought Pages
                                                                       No Gods  ~ No Masters    ~ No Bullshit



Malfunctions of the Political Left

An Analysis

by Johnny Reb,  January 2014

* = footnote

“I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate (the) grave evils (of capitalism), namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion.” - Albert Einstein

Following upon Capitalism, it was held, even by such intellectual and antagonistic giants as Herbert Spencer, that Socialism would come. Out of the decay of self-seeking capitalism, it was held, would arise that flower of the ages, the Brotherhood of Man. Instead of which, appalling alike to us who look back and to those that lived at the time, capitalism, rotten-ripe, sent forth that monstrous offshoot, the Oligarchy. (Jack London, The Iron Heel, 1906)

History is written by conservative learned men, and so it is natural and agreeable for them to think that the activity of their class supplies the basis of movements for all humanity. - Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Lerida fell on April 3 [1937] but the hard fight was of value. It gave the [Republican] government time to reorganize. As I was coming back to Lerida on the last day I picked up an engine-driver who had come up to drive away any locomotives left but had found they had all gone. He was a stolid veteran of about sixty. I asked him what his politics were. He said in slow measured tones: "I have no politics. I know nothing about them. But what I cannot understand is why people who themselves have so much in life should have should have risen against we who have so little." Never, I think, have I heard the Spanish [Republican] case presented so clearly and so accurately. - Henry Buckley, The Life and Death of the Spanish Republic: A Witness to the Spanish Civil War, 1940, pp. 365-66

It is easy to be on the side of wealth and power, I thought. But Christ from what we know on his life was never on that side of the fence. It seemed funny that two thousand years later anyone who felt for the poor, who wished to see poverty and misery abolished and the good things of the world extended to all, should be looked at as anti-Catholic. - Henry Buckley [a devout British Catholic journalist during the Spanish Civil War],  The Life and Death of the Spanish Republic: A Witness to the Spanish Civil War, 1940,

Democracy forever teases us with the contrast between its ideals and its realities, between its heroic possibilities and its sorry achievements. - Agnes Repplier

The U.S. worked hard to create the American Dream of opportunity. But today, that dream is a myth. - Economist Joseph Stiglitz, Financial Times

A Brief Left Wing Dialogue:

Revolutionary Marxist: "What are you personally doing to expedite the people's revolution against the exploitation, oppression and corruption by big business and the state capitalist oligarchy?"

Christian Socialist: "I'm waiting for the meek to inherit the earth!"

Obfuscations, Obstacles and an Attempt at Clarification:

The delusion that another world is possible, that we don't have to live the way we do, is traditionally called the "left". Despite this alleged delusion, the source of every beneficial advancement of the working class has come  from the left, gains that were paid for by blood in the streets. But many have accepted the standard conservative propaganda that these gains were conceded willingly. Police and corporate thugs murdered workers in the streets for a hundred years who were fighting to end child labour and the right to a maximum  twelve hour, and eventually eight hour, work day.* So the eventual eight hour workday we have today (in any civilized world it should be no more than four) is no accident or beneficent bequest from our conservative rulers. The eight hour workday and other gains in social justice were delivered by unions, gains that are now being taken back as unions have been rendered powerless by the hegemony of global capitalism. The few unions that remain have been co-opted by collaborators and dupes of the business world.

* May Day is historically tied to the struggle for a shorter workday, a demand of major political significance for both Marxism and the working class. This struggle is discernible from the beginning, primarily by the exploitive and oppressive conditions of the  factory system in the United States. Already at the opening of the 19th century workers in the United States made known their grievances against working under subsistence wages from "sunrise to sunset," the then prevailing workday. Fourteen, sixteen and even eighteen hours a day were not uncommon. During the conspiracy trial against the leaders of striking shoe makers in 1806, it was revealed that workers were employed as long as nineteen and twenty hours a day. The International Communist movement got its first real start in the United States by proclaiming a strike for an eight-hour day on May 1, 1886, against their Christian employers who used child labor seven days a week, a practice that seemed to not bother these sanctimonious hypocritical employers who were violating their own consecrated Biblical Fourth Commandment. For most self-professed Christians, apparently the God of capitalism dictates that profit trumps the Christian God - as it does today, thus violating the First and Second Commandments.

According to neo-conservatives, Karl Marx's single most influential text, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy is an utopian anachronism because we've now arrived at "the end of history" in which there is no alternative to the corporate capitalism that dominates the planet. We do, they superciliously argue, live in the best of all possible worlds. Those on the left fear this is true, and would contend that Marx's questions about the brand of capitalism he wrote about in the mid-nineteenth century are just as relevant today. Why should workers not receive full value for the products they produce? In fact why should those who do the work not control the mechanisms of production in the form of forming worker owned cooperatives whereby they manage and thereby share the various components of a business enterprise that include the  profits from their labor? Why should people toil in Third World sweatshops and starve in the streets when there is enough wealth in the world to feed everyone? Why do people live on the streets in our own First World countries? Why should aboriginal people whose land we stole be treated like second class citizens in the country in which they resided and flourished for thousands of years before us? Why should our parliamentary "representatives" be primarily lawyers, businessmen and people from certain corporate professions such as law, banking and finance capital? Why should authoritarian based religions be a factor in government decision making and legislation? Why are gay people persecuted, even beaten up in back alleys, as they are pilloried from the pulpit? Why are most of the decisions of government made in corporate back rooms? The list is long. Why do we put up with it?

The working class and the "left" in general throughout the world have been fighting a losing rearguard battle to defend the social democratic  gains made in the post-World War II years. This retrenchment began in the mid 1970's when neo-conservative "trickle down" ideologues such as Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Brian Mulroney, and their ilk took power worldwide and started an all-out assault on workers living standards and organizations like unions, which have almost ceased to exist in Canada and the US.

In Canada the last election saw the Liberals and the NDP split the anti-Conservative vote almost evenly, enabling Harper to seize power with a 39 percent "majority" in our unjust "first past the post" electoral system. We cannot afford to allow that to happen again or Canada as we have known it will disappear, morphing into a clone of the United States. Make no mistake - this is the agenda of neo-fascist Christian fundamentalist Stephen Harper. In the absence of a proportional representation parliamentary election system, the best bet is to try to organize a strategic voting system for the 61 percent of Canadians who oppose the Conservatives so we don't get another 5 years of extreme right rule, destroying the little that is left of the country's social fabric and accelerating the collapse into 'third world' living standards complete with a militarized police and Big Brother spying on everyone like the US.

Certainly one of the prime reasons Stephen Harper, the most conservative, anti-science and most reactionary prime minister in Canadian history, has power is because there is considerable division, dissension and juvenile bickering on the political left. Almost every non-sectarian working class organization understands the need to consolidate our efforts and work together to defeat the Conservatives in 2015. Failure is not an option. Let's kiss and make up to save our country from this religious zealot and fanatical neo-conservative ideologue. Harper will easily surpass Brian Mulroney and R. B. Bennett as Canada's worst Prime Ministers since 1867.

To take a position on the political left to embrace the idea that we don't have to live as we do. We are not morally depraved at birth as many of the religious tell us; and we certainly are not predestined to live under an immoral global socio-economic and political corporatist ideology based on greed, acquisitiveness, self-interest, injustice, gross inequality, imperialism and war. Surely we can do better than this? If not, we don't deserve to survive as a species. One of the problems with the left has been that whenever they did achieve some electoral power, as they did in Saskatchewan, BC and Ontario for brief periods, very little of real change could be accomplished. This was primarily because they were faced with an entrenched pre-existing corporate hegemony and system of laws, education, media and economic arrangements and practices in which everything including people are commodities and value is placed at the altar of the market. Any reforms they were successful at implementing were immediately challenged and often overturned by the next right wing government that was elected. Nearly every television advertisement is a mini-sermon on the impossibility of living otherwise than in a market based society in which we are all atomized consumers rather than citizens within a caring and sharing community.

One wonders the attraction that an authoritarian fundamentalist Christian and extreme right wing neo-conservative ideologue such as Stephen Harper has for the average working Canadian? Why would working class Canadians vote for such a man whose economic and social policies are anathema to the social democratic principles that has made Canada a country of fairness, social justice and opportunity for those not fortunate to have been born with a silver spoon.

Conservatives, particularly the academic neo-conservative mutation that has evolved in the past four decades, rarely ask if an economic policy or course of action is right or wrong, but whether it is efficient or inefficient. They don’t ask if a measure is good or bad and meets the needs of the people, but whether or not it improves profit, productivity, growth and efficiency. The late Canadian economist John Kenneth Galbraith was right when he said, "The modern conservative is engaged in one of mans' oldest exercises in moral philosophy, that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." Notwithstanding the moralizing fundamentalist Christian variety of conservative, everything they say is couched in the jargon of just-world theory* economics and cost-benefit analysis. If science or environmental issues get in the way, they are trumped by corporate balance sheets, efficiencies and, above all, profit. Moreover, generally speaking, for the new brand of  conservative, the end justifies the means. The nature of the restrictive debates about the building of the XL and Gateway pipelines from the  Alberta Tar Sands to Texas and the BC coast respectively are a case in point. They will be built regardless of the crucial ethical issues raised by many ordinary citizens, scientists, environmentalists and First Nations tribes whose lands and waters they must traverse. For a man such as Prime Minister Stephen Harper who typifies this particular conservative strain, there is his ever-dangerous authoritarian anti-science Christian fundamentalism. Harper spells disaster for Canada, a once thriving social democracy that is beginning to look more and more like a carbon copy of the United States.

* "Just-world theory" is based on the premise that we live in a fair and just world in which everyone gets what they deserve. It's the Leibnitz doctrine of  "best of all possible worlds" simply because [the Christian] God would not have it otherwise. The neo-conservative economist Milton Friedman expressed this notion well when he said "To each according to what he and the instruments he owns produces." This belief grants conservatives a lame license to assuage their conscience by rationalizing away strategic opportunism (i.e., cheating, fraud, etc.), exploitation, greed, injustice and gross inequalities. The upshot is to often blame the victim for "making bad choices", regardless of the contingencies of their birth and/or economic conditions. Thus the individual has no responsibility to anyone except himself and any notion of reciprocal obligation, ironically a notion espoused by Adam Smith, can be conveniently ignored.

The ability of the left to convey its message to the public has always been a huge challenge for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the pre-existing ideological hegemony of capitalism and its concomitant system of indoctrination in the mass media, schools and overall culture.  Another important and neglected factor has been the proliferation of self-help books and get rich schemes that began in the early 20th century. Most North Americans, as they are today, became infatuated with the enticing carrot called the "American Dream". The basic premise behind the dream is that anyone can pull themselves up by their boot straps (regardless of whether you have boots or not) and get rich despite ones socio-economic status or background. To the priests of self-help, material success is exclusively a matter developing an appropriate state of mind. Our troubles and inability to succeed are merely a manifestation of our inner lives, not anything genetic, external or environmental. This idea was first promoted in a big way during the depths of the Great Depression with the 1936 publication of  self-help avatar Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. Carnegie's immensely successful book opened the way for a burgeoning industry of the self-help gurus to come, from Napoleon Hill, whose Think and Grow Rich came out in 1937, to Stephen Covey, whose Seven Habits pabulum is still displayed in airport and pharmacy book shelves. More recently, there is Rhonda Byrnes asinine best-selling book The Secret, complete with companion DVD and movie that has contributed to the huge volume of metaphysical nonsense promoting self-initiative; in this case claiming that the universe is governed by a mystical  "law of attraction" that returns our positive thoughts to us in the form of health and wealth. If you don't succeed in your quest for riches, you only have yourself to blame.

According to what Carnegie claims in his book, you can act as robber baron John D. Rockefeller Jr. once did and bring an end to a miner's strike simply by professing to understand and share common interests with the workers - a move that, Carnegie writes, “produced astonishing results... [T]he strikers went back to work without saying another word about the increase in wages for which they had fought so violently.” Conveniently, Carnegie leaves out most of the unpleasant facts surrounding the incident. In fact, Rockefeller did not win hearts and minds during the violent confrontation of the Great Coalfield strike of 1914 merely by providing the strikers with a friendly fireside chat. After the standard union-busting techniques of mass firings and intimidation failed to bring about the desired end to the strike, his Colorado Fuel and Iron Company acquired the services of Colorado’s National Guardsmen, who, along with company goons, turned machine guns on a strikers’ encampment, killing approximately twenty of its inhabitants. Accounts vary, but we know for sure that the dead included eleven children and two women. Another hundred strikers and demonstrators or so were killed in the guerrilla war that broke out in subsequent days, which ended only after Woodrow Wilson sent in federal troops. It was only after this violence and mayhem that Rockefeller arrived on the scene, preaching conciliation and cooperation by making various minor concessions to the vanquished strikers. With their union broken, scarcity of funds and the jackboot of Rockefeller's thugs and the state police and military firmly planted on their collective necks, the impoverished and downtrodden miners had little choice but to accept his paltry offer. This sordid story was commonplace during strikes throughout the 19th and well into the 20th centuries. *

*One is reminded of the 1931 coal miners' strike at Estevan Saskatchewan, witnessed by a young pastor by the name of Tommy Douglas who had driven there with donations from his church in Weyburn. The wages of the coal miners had been driven down by the Depression to $1.60 a day, their working conditions were unsafe and their living conditions dreadful. When Douglas arrived the miners were holding placards and peacefully demonstrating and marching down the main streets of town. What Douglas witnessed next was a troop of RCMP charging on horseback with automatic weapons who then proceeded to open fire on the defenseless strikers. In addition to his witnessing the brutality of the Winnipeg General Strike in 1919 as a young teen, this incident was a life-changer for the young Tommy Douglas. He was shocked that these things were happening in a country like Canada that he perceived to be democratic and just. These appalling incidents of cruelty and injustice were instrumental in his thoughts about leaving the church and entering politics. Canadians ought to be thankful that he did because without him we would very likely not have our government universal health care, old age security or the Canada pension Plan. These were all policies of the CCF/NDP long before they were introduced by federal minority liberal governments that were being persistently prodded by people like Douglas.

Carnegie’s simplistic rendering of this traumatic event epitomized a larger difficulty in How to Win Friends and Influence People. The book is a an extremely naïve account of social, economic, and political issues that reduce them to matters of personality, human relations and psychological adjustment. It's a variation on blaming the victim of a systemically  unjust and grossly inequitable socio-economic system. But the view isn’t at all bizarre to many in the working classes, at least not to contemporary eyes - thanks in no small part to the success of Carnegie and all the subsequent self-help messiahs and charlatans who have followed in his wake. The masses continue to embrace the facade called the American Dream, still believing that all our problems are symptoms of the failure of our inner lives and psyches not an exploitive capitalist system of class privilege that rarely even gets most of us to the start line. To pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you need boots.

The victim blaming in books of metaphysical hooey such as The Secret seem like heartless platitudes of a writer (Rhonda Byrne) who has not simply forgotten the past but pushed it away with brutal force. It assures those mired in poverty or toiling for slave wages that their suffering is not really the fault of the a broken oppressive system of casino capitalism, pillage of the commons and criminal bankers and speculators who have demolished the economy. It's within themselves to overcome their deficiencies, aspire and hope to join this pampered class of corporate plutocrats and financial oligarchs. It’s no more cruel than telling the desperately poor that what they lack isn’t money but the confidence and determination that would eventually render their penury inconsequential even as it makes their affluence marginally more probable. That’s what you really need when you’ve been humiliated and pummelled to your knees, lost your job to someone in a South East Asian sweatshop and had your home foreclosed, is it not?  Just a dose of sunny optimism, false hope and delusion. With all the other great reading classics available, life is too short to waste my valuable time reading rubbish such as Byrne's kooky book but one of the more inane passages I found while skimming through the pages of The Secret at a bookstore was: “Our physiology creates disease to give us feedback, to let us know we have an unbalanced perspective, or we’re not being loving and grateful.” I suppose this implies that Alzheimer's, heart disease and ALS are signs of ingratitude or you don’t love your family enough. The Secret is not only pseudoscience, psychobabble and a fraud; it’s perhaps a social barometer that reveals something poignant about our psyches after 2000 years of Christian hokum and 40 years of New Age mumbo jumbo that has encouraged superstition, ignorance, inequality, injustice, authoritarianism and the collapse of political hope. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the rise of the self-help industry is coincidental with sociopathic individualism, increasingly authoritarian repressive modes of global capitalism and the steady decline in recent decades of confidence in social democratic and collective political alternatives.

Dale Carnegie was an non-believer, often contemptuous of religion as delusionary childishness. He never wholly abandoned his scepticism of religion but did return to a quasi-religious semblance of spirituality, not because he had suddenly developed faith, but because he had realized its emotional utility and therapeutic efficacy. During his many travels throughout the country he apparently would drop in to churches between lectures to assuage his stress and anxieties. If religion was therapeutic for him, evangelists who had perfected the art of monetizing compassion and inducing hopefulness, confidence and desire such as Elmer Gantry (like today's Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar), he came to recognize that both religion and psychotherapy were effective as a palliative or placebo effect that relieved inertia and distress through faith. Before Carnegie attenuated his atheism, the novelist Sinclair Lewis had come to understand the self-help messiah’s peculiar religiosity. How to Win Friends and Influence People, he wrote in 1937, was a “streamlined Bible” that made “Big Business safe for God, and vice-versa.” This sacred text of the entrepreneur or venture capitalist told “people how to smile and bob and pretend to be interested in people’s hobbies precisely so that you may screw things out of them.” Perhaps honesty demands that in the title of Carnegie's book "influence" be replaced with "manipulate". But compared with Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar* in this respect, Carnegie seems subdued and sensible. Moreover, he was not too diligent in managing his own financial affairs, having been apparently fleeced regularly by his own employees. His old-fashioned circumspection about money, disingenuous as it may be, is refreshing, if only because it softens the pathological nature of his advice.

*During rousing services in his multi-million dollar mega-church, Dollar has "collection barrels" rather than the traditional "collection plate". God needs money now, and lots of it. After all, if you preach the prosperity gospel in the name of God, surely God ought to be in the greed game too.

It would seem that the real American religion is not Christianity but rather optimism, positive thinking (recall the other spiritual sage of American fantasy, Norman Vincent Peale and his The Power of Positive Thinking), patriotism and an unquestioned credulous belief in the delusionary dream of getting obscenely rich. These are the attributes that political leaders, military officers, corporate CEOs and power elites want from their workers and the rest of the perplexed indoctrinated masses. And if Joel Osteen and Creflo Dollar are more obtuse and shrill than Carnegie and Peale about their outrageous promises, it may only be because hope has become that much harder to keep alive. Each generation produces its own dreams, desperation and high priests of optimism, faith and salvation plans for the destitute masses. But what never seems to waver is the opportunity during tough economic times, as we experience them globally today, to create an propitious environment for hucksterism, flimflam and outright fraud. God Bless America.

Right v Left in the USA

Is there really a "left" in the United States? Not according to the conception of socialism in any work of political philosophy I've read. Unions have been crushed by the likes of Reagan, Clinton and Bush but they but were rarely deemed socialist; rather they were merely representative of  oppressed members of the capitalist working class community trying to get a slice of the capitalist pie. Communists and socialists have always been at one another's throats as any reading of their histories will reveal.  If you read my piece called Norman Thomas: The Last American Socialist (follow the link), you'll perhaps understand what I'm trying to say. The left has been dead in the United States at least since the late 1970s and has never been a strong influence as it has in Europe and elsewhere. The Democratic Party could at one time been considered "liberal" in a neo-classical sense but certainly not in the past 30 years. The Republicans and Democrats have become interchangeable entities once elected, with the only distinguishable characteristic being the proliferation of  Christian zealots who have more or less hijacked the GOP since the Reagan era. But there are plenty of evangelical Christians in the Democratic Party as well since declaring oneself Christian is a necessary requirement for entry into US politics. Despite the strong statement in the Constitution, the separation of church and state in the US has always been a facade. Political figures in the United States struggle to utter a sentence without some reference to their God, that sees fit to endlessly "bless" their country.

In the United States today “right” and “left” are typically invoked to refer to Republicans and Democrats, two right wing parties that essentially represent different factions within the 1 percent- or perhaps, if one were to be extremely charitable, the top 2 to 5 percent of the U.S. population. Wall Street, which controls both, seems equally divided between the two. One could similarly apply this spurious "left-right" distinction to the ossified Conservative and Liberal parties in Canada which, once attaining power, are indistinguishable. In the USA Republicans are primarily represented by the bulk of corporate executive officers, particularly in the military, financial and insurance and extractive resource industries (energy, mining, timber), most Christians and just about all middle class businessmen. Democrats are represented by the upper echelons of what author and social critic Barbara Ehrenreich once called “the professional-managerial class,” the wealthiest lawyers, doctors, administrators, as well as pretty much everyone in academia and the entertainment industry. Of course, these categorizations are surely not absolute. There are widespread exceptions  and can change ad hoc depending on party policy statements and the effectiveness of bribery of both parties by venal corporate "lobbyists". Certainly these elite groups are the source of each party’s funding - and increasingly, raising and spending money to win the next phoney election is all these parties really do.

Fragmentation and Failure

Socialism in the United States has been a non-starter for almost a century now and has been demonized relentlessly by both big business parties, their supportive mass media and the Christian right. In the US if you want to depict someone as the anti-Christ, call them a socialist - or worse, communist - as the Republican Party has done with Barrack Obama. Most people in the USA are sufficiently credulous to believe this, despite the fact that Obama is a corporatist conservative whose policies differ insignificantly from those of the Republican "opposition". Ironically, during the Cold War both the USSR and the United States invoked the word "socialism" to propagandize their own populace. First, it must be understood that the totalitarian regime in the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) under Stalin did not in any way resemble socialism that would be consistent with the ideas and writings of Karl Marx. Second, the meanings of all four words in "USSR" were the very antithesis of what was actually the case in Stalinist Russia, as the disclosures by former Bolshevists such as libertarian socialist Victor Serge*, Leon Trotsky and other dissidents and "oppositionists" revealed. Serge, in particular, exposed the  authoritarianism, purges and pogroms of Stalinism long before Nikita Khrushchev's revelations in the 1950s. The USSR under Stalin was a dictatorial and tyrannical nightmare, not even remotely resembling a people's social democracy. This being the case, the United States government conveniently used "socialism" as a propaganda ploy to falsely depict what actually existed and was happening in the USSR then and during the Cold War. So despite what in fact was really happening in the USSR did not even remotely resemble socialism, the Soviet leadership under Stalin and his successors continually described itself as socialist to propagandize its own people and protect its right to wield the big stick all the wile murdering thousands of the old Bolsheviks from the Revolution, including finally, Leon Trotsky. Western conservatives and liberals in capitalist countries adopted the same facade in order to demonize socialism and forestall the emergence of a socialist democracy and a more free, equitable and just society. This bizarre joint employment of socialism as a propaganda tool has been highly effective in undermining it, particularly in latter half of the 20th century.  As mentioned, to counteract this ruse, the social democratic parties that existed in Canada and Europe have navigated far to the political right of what they were in the pre 1980s era.

* Victor Serge's Memoirs of a Revolutionary, State Repression: A Guide for Activists" and his novel The Case of Comrade Tulayev are must reads for anyone interested in understanding from first-hand experience and insight the emergence of Stalinism out of the hopes and dreams of the Bolshevik Revolution. Incidentally the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917 was comparatively speaking a reasonably mild  non-violent affair. Both the Tsarist regime and the bourgeois Kerensky interim government dissolved with very little resistance. But not one socialist revolution in history has escaped the interference of outside imperialist forces that created massive economic and social chaos. The real carnage began in Russia with the military intervention of about fifteen Western capitalist nations (including The US and Canada) that were determined to sabotage the Revolution and reinstate the feudal monarchy. They incited the aforementioned three year civil war that burned and pillaged the countryside in a protracted conflict of attrition and carnage until the Leon Trotsky led Red Army miraculously defeated them. Soviet Russia was deemed a threat to capitalist nations right from the very start and the cold war that erupted after World War II can be attributed to reactionary zealots in the US and Britain like Winston Churchill who simply continued the antagonism that had prevailed from the time of the Bolshevik Revolution.

But this part of the Russian Revolution has been conveniently air-brushed out of our history textbooks. One can only imagine if history had happened in such a way that Russia had intervened in the frequent massive labour unrest, armed uprisings and strikes that occurred in the US from the1890s up to World War I and the aftermath. Suppose that the young Soviet government had sent a large expeditionary force through Alaska and down the pacific coast to Seattle, Portland and San Francisco in support of American radicals and strikers, inciting a civil war? We'd still be hearing about it in political speeches and ceremonies like the nauseating and endless weeping and wailing about 9-11.

What is beguiling is that, during the last thirty years of the preponderance and dominance of finance capitalism, each of these core constituencies has developed its own theory of why the use of money and power to create reality is inherently unobjectionable, since, ultimately, money and power are the only things that really exist. Chris Hedges has forcefully argued in The Death of the Liberal Class that traditional liberals have "sold out". Today, people who call themselves "liberals" tend to be overly-sensitive, capricious and non-committal. This is because although they claim to share the ideas of radical movements - direct democracy, social justice, egalitarianism, humanism, environmentalism and free thought - they’ve also managed to convince themselves that most of these ideals are ultimately utopian or unattainable. For that reason, they see anyone determined to bring about a world based on these principles as a kind of moral threat. Many who had revolutionary ideas in the 1960s have ostensibly convinced themselves that they have not "sold out" because they have also convinced themselves that their former revolutionary dreams were profoundly unrealistic and that actually, fighting against racism, for women's rights, abortion rights or gay marriage are about as radical as one can realistically be. If you are a radical, at least with conservatives you know where you stand - they are your eternal enemies. If conservatives desire to understand you, it is only to facilitate being put in your rightful place as a docile obedient slave to god and country.

Conservatives are not known for their profundity or philosophical depth. I submit that their world view and ethos can be summed in three pithy pronouncements: (1) Whatever serves my interests is the only alternative for action, (2) Power at all costs; in other words, might is right, and (3) Avarice is for winners and altruism for losers. Not too much nuance or ambiguity to confuse anyone, even the most obtuse conservative, in these three axioms.

Conservatism invokes no concepts, has not articulated a coherent political philosophy or ethically based program, but rather wide-ranging attitudes expressed by distinctive reactions to such things as academia, intellectuals, science, war, depression, the behaviour of the economy, social welfare, markets and so on.* The vast majority of conservative are members of organized religions, arguably the most conservative of institutions. Not unlike it's close fascist cousin on the right, conservatism promotes the idea that the conservative corporatist state has the right to do anything it wants from printing money to starting pre-emptive or imperialistic wars, to persecuting political opponents on the left. Conservatives have a difficult time with ambiguity, pluralism, complexity, and uncertainty. Finally, they don't start out with a set of complex ideas and proceed to apply them to the world. If you asked them to explain liberalism, socialism, communism or anarchism they would be hard pressed to come up with anything coherent; they just do not like them. Big government they will embrace provided it is supporting their interests which throughout history it has consistently done. Conservative forces supported the Romanoff monarchy against the Bolsheviks and Hitler against his left wing political opponents in Germany, with Hitler again in Vichy France, and tyrannical puppet dictatorship in Cuba against Castro's socialist revolution and police, military and hired thugs against labour unions and striking workers; in short, they will do anything to prevent the emergence of social justice and a working class democracy. The history of conservative support of tyranny against democracy in order to preserve their entitlements is long and well-documented.

*One wonders why Americans prefer the warfare state to the welfare state. Money is always being redistributed by the state in the form of taxes on certain people and tax concessions to others. Assuming that they pay any taxes at all, corporate federal tax rates in Canada are at an historical low of 12%, about a quarter of what they were a few decades ago. In the United States the Iraq War for example redistributed billions of dollars to a very small conservative and corporate elite that profited from the war. But this sort of grotesque relocation of wealth to those at the top seems not to bother most Americans in the working class (who also fight and die in these imperialist wars) who perhaps feel they may one day join that elite privileged group of profiteers. To pay for these immoral and illegal wars the US government has incurred massive deficits and unmanageable debt which they are now attempting to cope with by cutting food stamps, social services and unemployment benefits to that same working class. China holds much of this debt, keeps their economy afloat by putting  money in impoverished American workers pockets so they can buy Chinese made products like overpriced tablets, LCD TVs and smart phones. Meanwhile the US which has since its inception rejected European style social democratic solutions is beginning to look more like the fascist police surveillance state that exists in communist-capitalist China, the country that is holding them hostage in debt penury.

The upshot of this free for all neo-conservative economic model is the flawed all-or-nothing view that global market forces make it impossible for individual states to maintain any autonomy and maintain social programs of their own choosing. This is the dilemma faced today by Scotland in their effort at gaining independence from Britain. Of course for most state leaders in the West such as the neo-conservative ideologue and Christian fundamentalist Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Canada this is a desirable and even intended outcome. We have now become so used to this unexamined economic ideology that any argument against social democracy, socialism even basic economic regulation such as anti-trust legislation, is the tautological response that global competition and the struggle for markets renders this impossible. It's like the religious sceptic who questions a theist how he knows God exists. "It's in the Bible!" "But how do you know that book is true?", the sceptic asks. The response from the theist: "It's the word of God." Perhaps we need to follow the advice of William Shakespeare and "kill all the economists". Certainly, with rare exception such as a brilliant man such as John Maynard Keynes who was more philosopher than economist, economists have added little or nothing to the sum of social and scientific knowledge or understanding.

Unlike the political right, the left, in addition to being philosophically fragmented, has always been grossly underfunded and perpetually confronted by an avalanche of power, propaganda and money from big business, organized religion, public education and the mass media. In short, the left has been forced to function from a position of extreme weakness, up against a pre-existing infrastructure of capitalist ideology and hierarchy. In the US over 80 percent of campaign contributions flow to either Republicans and Democrats from the wealthiest 0.5 percent, and 60 percent from the wealthiest .01 percent. Of this, far and away the largest portion comes from the financial sector. This statistic alone implies plutocracy, not democracy. After that, business and law firms, and after that, health lobbyists - that is, pharmaceutical corporations and HMOs - then media the energy sector. Similar statistics can be applied to the two major right wing corporatist parties in Canada. But the more serious problem for the left is that it has historically been very much divided, its myriad factions often misdirected against other leftist groups over often subtle differences of doctrine and strategy. There's an old adage, a popular cliché some might say, that "the left seeks traitors and the right seeks converts." There is much truth, verified by history, that the political left has in fact been frequently ripped apart by internecine bickering , often over fine points of policy or philosophy. Unlike the political right, this has been the Achilles heel of all movements on the political left that includes liberals, socialists, communists, social democrats and anarchists. And among these three main categories there have been a myriad of further sub-divisions. Sadly, the political left has been AWOL for over three decades.

These structural and divisional problems have plagued countries such as those in Western Europe and Scandinavia where social democratic regimes have been elected. One can think of the CCF/NDP and the problems they encountered when they were able to win elections in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia and Ontario. Saskatchewan under Premier Tommy Douglas was by far the most successful, having held power from 1944 to 1961. Douglas was successful in balancing the budget of a province that had been bankrupted and corrupted by preceding Liberal and Conservative governments. He faced huge obstacles and constraints of an entrenched capitalist economic environment in implementing social programs such as public health care and the nationalization of major industries that he deemed essential to people's lives. Without Douglas' successes in implementing  government run universal health care in Saskatchewan it never would have been possible federally, the health care system that all Canadians now enjoy.* The environment for social democracy throughout the world is now under extreme duress with the threat of economic isolation and sanctions from a global hegemonic system controlled by oppressive free trade agreements and threatening institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF and other powerful and bullying weapons of the capitalist corporatist world. Scotland, a country seriously considering independence from Britain,  is one that immediately comes to mind; you can read about it here. The Reagan/Thatcher idea that all wealth and resources within a country should be in private hands for the purposes of unlimited private profit was never an agenda of the original capitalists, including Adam Smith. Smith and most neo-classical economists would be appalled at the record levels of global inequality we have today and the facility of hyper-capitalists like Bill Gates to accumulate $80 billion. But the grotesque inequalities, human suffering, poverty, exploitation and the ability of a Gates to accumulate obscene wealth is the upshot of a deregulated neo-liberal paradigm that has been facilitated by the state and forced upon the world for the past several decades. Private enterprise can be a good thing as can public ownership of certain resources. The extremes of wealth and poverty can be mitigated, even controlled, by anti-trust laws (that have been rescinded) and a regulatory mechanism to prohibit the size of corporations . The problem seems to be primarily one of scale; capitalism gravitates toward mass and monopoly and with this begets bureaucracy, political oppression and the erosion of any semblance of democracy. As the Marxist scholar Karl Kautsky noted as far back as 1892, without the democratic participation and input of workers, the state can be as much of an exploiter of labour as private capitalism. We certainly need a higher maximum wage (at least $15 per hour) and its time we examined the idea of imposing a maximum on income and wealth accumulation.

* The United States is the only so-called democracy in the industrialized world that does not provide a single payer government health care system for all its citizens. The finance sector in the United States economy took more than 35% of the corporate profits in 2008 but accounted for only 7% of wages and salaries. if you add to that the even larger percentage taken by the private health-care industry, most of which is, of course, devoted to administering the industry rather than making people well, and subtracted those two from America’s economic performance over the last quarter century, the U.S. would be seen to have seriously underperformed most of the developed world. This raises a debate about risk. A society pays a premium in the form of unfair rewards to people who do nothing for it other than generate paper wealth and profit. Now let us translate that idea into the logic of a casino which is, after all, what capitalism has been reduced to at the financial level. Someone bets on a certain outcome in which they are taking a substantial risk and the bigger the risk they take in theory, the larger the reward. Now suppose someone walked in and said to the gambler, “you are too big to fail.” Or, “we guarantee you that we will absorb X percent of your loss because we, the casino, need you to keep on playing. So continue with your risky bets with the assurance that your losses will be mitigated and reduced.” Ergo, the conditions about risk disappear and consequently, the casino soon goes out of business. Within the context of the capital markets and under current arrangements, the losses of the biggest gamblers are covered sufficiently by government and the taxpaying public to ensure that people will, indeed, continue to take the risks but with no downside. But this apparent capitalist heaven in which risks on bets will be covered by the state will be ever less justified since, if you don’t have to worry about making the wrong decision, then there’s a greater chance you will in fact make the wrong decision. That brings us to the ethical questions about gambling. Like debt, it was once frowned upon and mostly banned. It was widely and correctly assumed that gambling led to criminality and was thus a social pathology to be avoided. Moreover, it was also regarded in a long-standing Christian tradition as wrong in itself; namely, money is the root of all evil and money should never beget money.

To continue with this thread, much of the energy of left wing groups has been dispersed and directed not at the common enemy of wealth and power in all its manifestations in religion, the state and global state capitalism with its adjuncts of imperialism, war and rampant systemic bribery and corruption of government officials, but to the more internal conflicts with other left wing groups. The most vitriolic dissension during the first half of the twentieth century was among the various communist groups that urged the complete overthrow of the free market profit system. To a lesser extent there were the various socialist factions who chose to work within the existing system, taking a reformist stance by attempting to put a civilizing and compassionate human mask on a stern ideology of conservatism, self-interest and greed.

Reaction and Counterrevolution

In Canada during the first half of the 20th century the Communist Party and the Socialist CCF/NDP feared one another more than they did the Conservatives and Liberals, the two traditional political parties that supported the prevailing institutions of big business, wealth and power. Communists argued that for the revolution to come about, it was first necessary to eliminate the bourgeois illusions of working within the state capitalist system of parliamentary faux democracy by fair contract negotiations, strikes, picket lines, protests, demonstrations, civil disobedience and other typically futile efforts at reform. Although gains were made, the communists rightly argued that such a strategies would not lead to any real substantive and permanent changes for the masses. But they disagreed as to how to bring about the revolution. The events since the Reagan & Thatcher neo-conservative counter-revolution over the past 30 years, and especially the vicious accelerated onslaught against working people since 2007, have more than confirmed this contention. But even within the socialists and communists, there were multiple variants, often differing on minor issues of Marxist doctrine.

In the events leading to the 1917 October insurrection  of the weak Provisional Government in Russia, even the Bolsheviks were many currents of opinion and subsequent party squabbles over strategy and doctrine. The Bolsheviks were badly split between those like Lenin and Trotsky, who were committed to a perspective of insurrection, and those  Mensheviks and moderate "right" Central Committee Bolsheviks, such as Leo Kamenev, Alexey Rykov and Gregory Zinoviev who favoured continued work within the Soviets and forging a coalition of left-wing parties to replace Kerensky's inept Provisional Government. The fragmentation of the Popular Front in Spain in 1932-36, a coalition of liberals, socialists, communists and anarchists that sought to democratize a country that was mired in the Dark Ages by a brutal combination of Catholicism and feudalism, was plagued by internal squabbles. These conflicts, outlined by participants such a George Orwell in Homage to Catalonia,  were serious enough when the civil war broke out with the fascist insurrection of Francisco Franco but the final blow to the burgeoning Spanish Republic came with the intervention of Hitler and Mussolini and the depraved indifference of the conservative governments in Britain, France, US and other so-called democracies that feared a genuine people's democracy more than they feared the extreme right wing of fascist totalitarianism. This apathetic abandonment of Spain's new-born democracy was a contributing factor to the outbreak of the Second World War as Hitler and Mussolini used the bloody battlegrounds of Spain's civil war during 1936-39 as a training ground for their ever-growing militaries. Not only was the Spanish Republic  abandoned by the conservative dominated Western "democracies", but they were denied the right to financial help and the ability to purchase arms. It was Britain and extreme reactionaries such as Winston Churchill who were the most adamant about any support for the Spanish Republic. Even the volunteers in the International Brigades, including about 2000 Canadians, had to smuggle themselves into Spain in order to fight for the Republican cause, many by hiding aboard ships or by crossing the treacherous French Pyrenees on foot.

This sort of division and factionalism has never been a problem for conservatives who will unite at all costs to defeat any attempt by the mass of working classes to infringe on their traditional power and entitlements. In Germany in the 1930s, rather than allow the left to usurp their power, conservatives of all stripes including the church, big business and the military supported Hitler. Without that conservative support he would never have attained absolute power. Once he obtained total control, Hitler's first order of business was to declare trade unions, communist and socialist parties illegal. The first death camp at Dachau was reserved for all his enemies on the left. The all-out attack on Jewish people came later.  Historically, conservative elites will resort to almost anything to abort the possibility of a coup by the apathetic 21st Century working class who today are more interested in their horoscopes, their Face Book page, tinkering with their "smart" phones and watching mind-numbing TV programs like "Storage Wars" and "Say Yes to the Dress" than they are in dealing with the stark reality of their oppression by a corporate oligarchy.

It's Called Democracy

The economic future for the next generation looks very bleak indeed. But, one might ask, is it reasonable to rebel against your conservative masters provided you are conceded some liberties and benefits, however paltry, and so long as the alternatives are deemed perilous and obscure. For most of the unthinking herd, Karl Marx is dead, and after all, real change is discomforting and may entail some sort of intellectual and ethical commitment and material risk. Despite the validity of Marx's critique,  radical politics in the face of raw power is a thankless, usually futile, enterprise. But once a socio-economic order fails to provide a certain minimal gratification, health and material comfort, one would think that sticking with it would require more blind faith than that held by the religious. I believe it was Bertolt Brecht who once remarked that it was capitalism that was radical, not communism. Brecht's contemporary Walter Benjamin* added that revolution was not an out of control  runaway train, but rather applying the emergency brake. When capitalism is out of control like a drunken sailor, it needs to be abolished or, at the very least, provided with an injection of socialism - a remedy that FDR wisely prescribed. But for the Wall Street oligarchs who run the show today, the solution to malfunction and failure is to bail out not the victims of its crimes, but rather the offending system and then add an even larger dose of the same lethal narcotic that caused the global economic meltdown in the first place. Socialism may have been defeated by the onslaught of the corporatist takeover of the media and predominance of right wing think tank propaganda for now, but it has not been invalidated. The fact that the left is so plagued by inertia and powerlessness is a sure sign that neo-conservative capitalism is perilously out of control. The most depressing and pathetic phenomenon today is the former radical leftist student who has ossified into a cynical do-nothing liberal or austere conservative.

*Walter Benjamin's famous statement that "every rise of fascism bears witness to a failed revolution" is a testament to the rise of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin. In the case of the Hitler and Mussolini respectively, Germany and Italy were countries primed for socialist revolutions between the two World Wars. The communists and social democrats were by far the two most popular political forces in those countries during the 1920s and 1930s. But conservative forces both within and outside Germany and Italy insured that they would not succeed. They sabotaged the revolutions by aligning themselves with fascist parties in those countries, facilitating the totalitarian regimes of Hitler and Mussolini's  rise to power. The rise of fascism was due in part by the failure of  socialists and communists to combine forces, avoid fragmentation and thereby mobilize the extreme dissension and dissatisfaction of the populace within those two countries. Instead they were outmanoeuvred by powerful moneyed and conservative interests including big business, the military and the churches who preferred fascism to a people's social democracy. In the case of the Soviet Union, the rise of Stalin resulted from the chaos of the civil war and the death of Lenin  after the 1917 revolution, Stalin's rise to power and his eventual rejection of the Revolution and his paranoid and authoritarian purges of all the old Bolsheviks, thus gaining absolute power in the USSR.

Another lesser know incident not unlike the aforementioned occurred in Iran in the period 1951-53 in which following the first free elections were finally held, Iranians elected a socialist Prime Minister by the name of Mohammad Mosaddegh. But the British and Americans who have always considered the world was their playground, would not permit this to happen. They sent in their secret service goons, military special forces and economic hit men, created economic chaos, removed the evil socialist and re-inserted their own lap dog fascist puppet, the tyrannical monarch called the Shah. Mossaddegh had the temerity to proclaim that Iran's oil belongs to Iranians. Wrong!

One cannot help but notice that whenever real democracy breaks out, as in the G-8 protests in Toronto or Occupy Wall Street, the fear of entrenched power and privilege becomes obvious by the sheer presence of force by heavily armed police, agents provocateurs and, if needed, the military. But power never concedes anything without a fight; history has taught us that repeatedly. Insofar as we have rights, justice and freedoms, it’s not because some great wise Founding Father, conservative or liberal politician  granted them to us. It's because people protested and fought for them. And many were beaten and killed in the process, contrary to what our education systems and cultural mechanisms of indoctrination inform us.

Sadly, most people don't seem to care who rules and controls the economic order as long as their own petty lives are endurable and provide a few superfluous perks. There are the enticements of the latest overpriced i-phone and i-pad from Apple (a predatory corporation that makes an annual profit of $400,000 per employee) and $3 underwear at Walmart, courtesy of sweatshops in South East Asia where slaves earn as little 13 cents/hr. And why should we care if over half the planet's population live on less than $2 per day and has no access to clean water?

Most people in the USA and Canada are neither socialists nor anarchists and most have no idea what they mean within the context of history and political philosophy. They reject both positions outright as untenable based on the relentless propaganda they are fed by their religion, culture and media. I suggest they engage in some serious reading, starting with Marx's uplifting Communist Manifesto and Bakunin's God and the State. But that requires intellectual effort, reflection and thinking for oneself. Most people refer to themselves as liberals or conservatives without ever having read any of the philosophical treatises on liberalism or conservatism such as those by John Stuart Mill and Edmund Burke respectively. In fact what we call "Western Civilization" was a creation of anti-democratic reactionaries that can be traced all the way back to Plato. One might ask "Have conservatives ever read Plato's Republic, and why then do they insist that democracy was an innovation of the Ancient Greeks such as Plato, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary?" The answer to that ought to be patently obvious but, in the end, it's just what the wealthy and entitled, represented by conservative elites, have always done: take control of the fruits of other people's labour. It's a manner of staking a property claim and property claims are forever defended.

Contrary to the meaningless ritual we undergo every four years in this country, democracy is not confined to elections and majority voting. More importantly  it is the process of collective deliberation on the principle of full and equal participation. Democratic ingenuity and improvisation is most likely to occur when one has a diverse collection of participants, drawn from very different traditions and diverse segments of society, with an urgent need to regulate their common affairs, free of a pre-existing overarching authority. The present system of hierarchical governance inherited from the British called representative or parliamentary democracy is antithetical to forms of direct democracy propounded by anarchists. It is a political apparatus that was never intended to speak for the interests of the masses, but designed to protect wealth and privilege. The hypocritical and somewhat disingenuous critiques of direct democracy in the writings of conservative elitists like Madison, Adams and Jefferson warrant serious consideration. First, in a society deeply divided by inequalities of wealth, class, race and gender there is a strong possibility of instability and unrest leading to civil disobedience and violence and the proliferation of demagogues and tyrants. Second, they contended that voting ought to be restricted to men of property and leisure because they had had the independence, intellectual refinements and free time to think about the "common good". The latter point is well-taken, especially considering the time constraints on most working people to be seriously involved in politics. The four hour work day would certainly help. The idea that only men of wealth, property and education are sufficiently rational and having the organizational skills to engage in the political process can be traced back to Plato and Aristotle.

And when the need for educating the masses was deemed necessary for the new Industrial Revolution, the conservatives who drafted the banal and droll curriculums insured that critical thinking and skepticism would not be part of it. They needed people smart enough to run the machines in the factories but (heaven forbid) not smart enough to realize what they might be able to do about their subordinate and oppressed condition. Anarchists do, and most workers in the early stages of capitalism, considered mind numbing wage labour as just another form of enslavement.

I contend that democracy be only understood within the context of the long tradition of anarchism, tracing back to philosophers such as Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin. For contemporary proponents of anarchism one could cite Noam Chomsky and David Graeber. Anarchism literally translated means "without rulers".  Here is David Graeber:

The easiest way to explain anarchism in either sense is to say that it is a political movement that aims to bring about a genuinely free society -and that defines a “free society” as one where humans only enter those kinds of relations with one another that would not have to be enforced by the constant threat of violence. History has shown that vast inequalities of wealth, institutions like slavery, debt peonage, or wage labour, can only exist if backed up by armies, prisons, and police. Even deeper structural inequalities like racism and sexism are ultimately based on the (more subtle and insidious) threat of force. Anarchists thus envision a world based on equality and solidarity, in which human beings would be free to associate with one another to pursue an endless variety of visions, projects, and conceptions of what they find valuable in life. When people ask me what sorts of organization could exist in an anarchist society, I always answer: any form of organization one can imagine, and probably many we presently can’t, with only one proviso - they would be limited to ones that could exist without anyone having the ability, at any point, to call on armed men to show up and say “I don’t care what you have to say about this; shut up and do what you’re told.” (The Democracy Project, pp. 187-88)

However much they may profess to dislike the corrupt hierarchical faux-democratic parliamentary and republican liberal and conservative governments they have endured over the past century  or more, very few working class people would consider supporting radical movements that might dismantle them. Again, perhaps this is because they have acquiesced and internalized the standard conservative elitist rant and Christian doctrine that we are all morally depraved and will descend into a chaotic Thomas Hobbes dystopian unless we accept a strong arm authoritarian deity and state. Moreover, most have no idea what could possibly replace our present system of corruption and have thought little about real democratic alternatives. Most have no idea what a real democracy would look like. Unfortunately, the fragmentation and intellectual abstractions of the left* have contributed to the mass confusion of the "swinish multitude" (conservative icon Edmund Burke's** contemptible expression for the working classes) and their docile submission to the status quo.

* Despite their compelling moral force, people generally find it difficult to open their hearts, intellects or wallets to wide-ranging moral abstractions such as universal empathy and justice, Karl Marx's concepts of class conflict and historical determinism or Kant's categorical imperative. It usually takes the emotional shock of seeing the shocking Vietnam War photo of a terrorised  child or a starving woman in the Sudan embracing her emaciated child. But even those images are quickly forgotten as people's attention turn to the endless mass media distractions such as the banality of the Major League Baseball drug scandals or Royal Family's next birth.

** Much has been written about Burke and hopefully a conservative pundit will reveal the struggles Edmund Burke had in his final years to overcome his incompetence at balancing his budget. He incurred considerable debt, some £30,000, but was able to alleviate the problem by securing a peerage and a pension from the Crown. Sound familiar? Throughout his career, Burke’s financial conditions had been precarious. Much to his embarrassment, he was periodically forced to rely upon well timed gifts and loans from his wealthier conservative friends and patrons. So terrified was he of dying in a debtor’s prison that he struggled in his retirement to learn Italian. His hope, claimed one of the many visitors at his estate, was to flee England and “end his days with tolerable Ease in Italy.” (He also considered, apparently, the possibility of fleeing to Portugal or America.) “I cannot quite reconcile my mind to a prison,” he  told a friend.

Thanks to the interventions of his well connected friends, Burke secured from William Pitt in August 1795 two annuities that would wipe out his debts and a pension that, along with an additional pension and the income from his estate, would enable him and his wife to live in comfort into their old age. This is the long held conservative elite modus operandi. Three months later, when Burke took up his pen against a proposal for the government to subsidize the wages of farm labourers during bad harvest years (so that they could sustain themselves and their families), he wrote, “To provide for us in our necessities is not in the power of government.”

Another important factor is that we've all been taught since a very young age to have extremely limited political horizons and expectations, an extremely narrow sense of real direct non-hierarchical democracy and human flourishing. For most of us, democracy, like anarchism and socialism are more or less arcane abstractions or utopian dreams, not something we've ever studied, practiced, experienced or taken seriously. If one examines the chaotic and fragmented history of the communist and socialist parties that thrived in the earlier part of the twentieth century in North America and elsewhere, it's not surprising why many were perplexed, ambivalent and apathetic. On the other hand, if one considers the explanatory simplicity of the origins of the universe and human life on earth to a fundamentalist Christian and the facile social Darwinian self-interested maxims of conservatism, they are understandable to a six year old.

Another important point is the fear and trepidation of communism*, a notion not originally conceived by Karl Marx by the way. Sharing, caring and communal living are the basis of all family life, civic responsibility and civilized and amicable social arrangements and are grounded in that very principle. In the absence of intrusive and debilitating management and superfluous micro-managing bosses, it's also the basics of all work and play. Moreover, in circumstances of crisis or disaster, greed and self-interest are not the driving dispositions, but rather cooperation and compassion: who has the required skills and abilities and how to we get them to those in need? So we are really practicing communists in most of our family lives, friendships and everyday activities of both work and play. One must include a proviso that what is being suggested is a type of horizontal communism and bottom-up anarchism rather than hierarchical, conservative and top-down. Sadly, the sort of communist states that have existed in the past century have been not unlike capitalist ones: strongly hierarchical, bureaucratic, authoritarian and undemocratic. Whenever you hear a conservative member of Congress or the House of Commons talk about the "public interest", raise your skeptical antenna and be very suspicious.**

*One of the traditional definitions of communism is the adage: "from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs". Marxism and Anarchism emerged as political philosophies at roughly the same time in the mid-nineteenth century. Marxism and anarchism, particularly in their infancy, aspired to the same ultimate goals: a free non-coercive egalitarian society, the abolition of all forms of social injustice, self-managed workplaces owned by those who do the work and the dismantling of the state. But from the debates surrounding the creation of the First International onwards there was a key difference. Most Marxists insisted that it was necessary first to seize state power - whether by the ballot or by force -and use its mechanisms to transform society, to the point where, the argument usually went, such mechanisms would ultimately become redundant and simply fade away into nothingness. Bakunin and Marx had endless philosophical debates over this strategy, with Bakunin pointing out that it was a pipe dream. When one  studies how the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia transpired, morphing into tyranny under Stalin, Bakunin was right. One cannot create peace by coercion, by muting or eliminating  dissenting political factions, preparing for endless wars, induce equality by creating top-down chains of command, or, for that matter, human happiness by becoming grim joyless bureaucratic ideologues who sacrifice all personal self-realization or self-fulfillment to the cause. Sounds a lot like state capitalism, does it not? But simply because libertarian socialism was co-opted, maligned, distorted and perverted, does not negate its intrinsic moral force for creating a genuine democracy.

Anarchists insisted that it wasn’t just that the ends do not justify the means (though the

ends do not, of course, justify the means) but that you will never achieve the ends at all unless the means are themselves a model for the world you wish to create.

** "The great flaw of all these administrative techniques is that, in the name of equality and democracy, they function as a vast "anti politics machine; sweeping vast realms of legitimate public debate out of the public sphere and into the arms of bureaucratic, technical, administrative committees. They stand in the way of potentially revitalizing and instructive debates about social policy, the meaning of intelligence, the selection of elites, the value of equity and diversity, and the purpose of economic growth and development. They are, in short, the means by which technical and administrative elites attempt to convince a skeptical public - while excluding that public from the debate - that they play no favourites, take no obscure discretionary action, and have no biases but are merely making transparent technical calculations. They are, today, the hallmark o f a neoconservative/neoliberal political order in which the techniques of neoclassical economics have, in the name o f scientific calculation and objectivity, come to replace other forms of reasoning. Whenever you hear someone say "I'm deeply invested in him/her" or refer to social or human "capital" or, so help me, refer to the "opportunity cost" of a human relationship, you'll know what I 'm talking about." (James C Scott, Two Cheers fort Anarchism, pp. 127-28)

The Left has lost its way

A serious problem in Canada, which is beginning to look more like the USA under the neo-conservative ideologue and Christian fundamentalist Stephen Harper,  is that there has been no serious bona fide party on the left for at least three decades. In the USA it's become far more serious. Almost a century has passed since the last socialist, Eugene Debs, ran for president, a man who was subsequently incarcerated with a ten year prison sentence by the Woodrow Wilson administration for merely speaking out against the US entry into the slaughter of the Great "War to end all Wars" in 1917. The political events of the past few decades in the UK, however, have been more like that of Canada. The British Labour Party in Britain, once the flagship of the British working class, has, since the Thatcher assault on unions, social programs and the working class, under the Tony Blair, been transmogrified into another droll conservative party touting untrammelled global capitalism and imperialism. The social democratic party in Canada, the NDP, has similarly lost its way and has all but sold out since the death of Tommy Douglas in 1986. The 99% simply has no strong voice and it's not being heard. Since the corporate takeover of everything including the mass media, education and the governments - and the decimation and sell-out of unions - the working class has no voice. Soon the last bastion of freedom, the internet, will also be hijacked by corporate power.

Contrary to perceived wisdom, it was self-criticism by the Western Left that exposed and was the first to condemn the “Stalinist” regimes, including those of Mao, Kim Il Sung or Pol Pot. But do they forget that it was Lenin and Trotsky who fought against brutal feudalism of the Tsarist monarchy, Stalin against Hitler, Mao against the Kuomintang, Kim Il Sung against the Japanese and that the last two, as well as Pol Pot, fought against the imperialist U.S.? If history has taught us anything, it is that struggling against injustice and oppression does not necessarily transform one into a beneficent savior of the people. And given that so many violent revolutions of the past have turned out badly, what reason is there to believe that the “revolutions” in Egypt and Syria, increasingly taken over by religious fanatics, will emerge as a shining example of freedom and democracy?

In a recent article by Chris Hedges he alluded to Victor Hugo's description in Les Misérables of the aristocracy's assault on the working classes and the poor. Hugo described this war with the poor in as one between the “egoists” and the “outcasts.” The egoists, Hugo wrote, had “the bemusement of prosperity, which blunts the sense, the fear of suffering which is some cases goes so far as to hate all sufferers, and unshakable complacency, the ego so inflated that is stifles the soul.” The outcasts, whose persecution and deprivation was ignored until it morphed into violence, had “greed and envy, resentment at the happiness of others, the turmoil of the human element in search of personal fulfillment, hearts filled with fog, misery, needs, and fatalism, and simple, impure ignorance.”

The "egoists" in Hugo's time were the monarchy, feudal landlords and the complicit and corrupt Catholic hierarchy. Today the "egoists" are the big corporations that now control our bankrupt economies and political apparatus - and us.. Hedges goes on to say that:

" The belief systems the oppressed embrace can be intolerant, but these belief systems are a response to the injustice, state violence and cruelty inflicted on them by the global elites. Our enemy is not radical Islam. It is global capitalism. It is a world where the wretched of the earth are forced to bow before the dictates of the marketplace, where children go hungry so global corporate elites siphon away the world’s wealth and natural resources and where our troops and U.S.-backed militaries carry out massacres on city streets. Egypt offers a window into the coming dystopia. The wars of survival will mark the final stage of human habitation of the planet. And if you want to know what they will look like visit any city morgue in Cairo."

Throughout history power has always been exercised by wealthy conservative minorities against poor majorities. The present is no different; but our masters and oppressors are an oligarchy of financiers supported by privileged classes and the governments they get elected. Laws, the police and the military are created by the state to protect the actions and status of capital and property. And as in the past, it is a far greater crime to steal a loaf of bread from a rich man, than to murder a poor man. The conservative falsifiers of the history most of us were taught knowingly omitted or air brushed  the truth about the history of modern capitalism dating from the early 19th century. As it created untold wealth for a entitled few , capitalism and it's adjunct imperialism trampled over generations of working people who lived in abject poverty and squalor in shacks and unhealthy tenements. Working seven days a week, often more than 12 hours a day, they even donated  their eight year old children to the factories and mines as they lived out their short lives. One only needs to read George Orwell's Down and out in Paris and London and his Road to Wigan Pier for a sampling of this human misery that continued well into the 20th century. As Victor Serge commented, "On the bones, flesh, blood and sweat of generations this sacrificed, the whole of modern civilization was built". For example, the Due primarily to the economic terrorism of the English, the Irish famine of 1846 killed more than one million people, but to the wealthy land barons, absentee landlords and aristocrats , it created not the slightest concern nor discomfort. Here is a prophetic Victor Serge writing in 1925:

At the end of the last century, it was possible to entertain the great dream of an idyllic social transformation. Broad-minded people went in for this, scorning, or twisting Marx's science. They dreamed of the social revolution as the virtually painless expropriation of a tiny minority of plutocrats. Why should the proletariat in its magnanimity not break up the old blades and the modern firearms and grant an indemnity to its exploiters of yesterday? The last of the rich would peaceably die out, at leisure, surrounded by an atmosphere of healthy distrust. The expropriation of the treasures accumulated by capitalists, together with the rational reorganization of production, would instantly procure well-being and security for the whole of society. All prewar working class ideologies were to some degree penetrated by these false ideas. The radical myth of progress dominated. The imperialist powers were nonetheless mounting their artillery. In the Second Inter­national, a handful of revolutionary Marxists alone discerned the great outlines of historical development. In France, on the question of proletarian violence, some revolutionary syndicalists had a clear view of things.

Capitalism, previously no doubt iniquitous and cruel but wealth creating, now, in the apogee of its history which began on August 2, 1914, became the destroyer of its own civilization, the exterminator of its own peoples. After its prodigious development throughout a century of discoveries and feverish advances, scientific technique, in the hands of the big bourgeois, the bankers and the trusts, was turned against humanity. Everything of use for production and for extending human beings' power over nature and enriching life was now used to destroy and kill with suddenly heightened powers. A morning's bombing was enough to destroy a city, the work of centuries of culture. One six-millimeter bullet was enough to cut short the working of the best-organized brain. We cannot forget that a new imperialist conflagration could mortally wound European civilization, which has already been so hard hit. It is fair enough to predict that due to the advance of "military art," we shall see the depopulation of whole countries by air forces armed with the chemical weapons whose unnamed dangers were denounced in 1924 in an official document by the League of Nations—whom no one will accuse of revolutionary demagogy! The flesh and bones of the millions of dead of 1914-18, under their patriotic monuments, were still not enough to remove this threat from humankind. Looking at the harsh realities of revolution in the face, we must not forget these things. The sacrifices imposed by the Civil War, the implacable necessity for terror, the rigors of revolutionary repression, and the inevitability of painful mistakes, then appear in their rightful proportions. They are the smallest of evils compared with such immense calamities. The cemetery of Verdun alone would be more than enough to justify them.

"Revolution or Death." This watchword from a fighter at Verdun still contains profound truth. In the coming dark hours of history, this will be the dilemma. The time will have arrived for the working class to carry out the harsh but salutary, saving task: the revolution.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s and the four decades that followed it, the structure of society and the economic model of the state capitalist system underwent a dramatic transformation. The well heeled historically entitled conservative elites, the people who owned the country's wealth and the political apparatus, were compelled to concede a few crumbs and concessions to the unwashed masses. They and liberal politicians like FDR, did not do this out of compassion or guilt, but in order to save their own privileged silver-lined decadent existences. It was a nice ride while it lasted. The systematic impoverishment and debt penury of working people returned with a vengeance in the US and throughout the rest of the world, a renewed assault that began with the era of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Their neo-conservative agendas contributed significantly to the outbreak of an inevitable financial collapse and global depression in 2007. Continued efforts by the über-rich, corporate oligarchs and their paid political pimps in government to deepen the pauperization are also worsening the current global depression, as events from England, Spain, Brazil, Ireland, Portugal, the United States, Egypt, Greece and much of the Middle East, once again demonstrate. Reports by Wall Street propagandists that the "recession" is over based on the their personally manipulated, over-bloated stock markets are ludicrous. We ought to heed Marx's infamous statement 150 years ago that "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce."

It doesn't have to be this way.

When you engage in serious dialogue with people, particularly in light of the bailouts of corporate criminals in 2008, regardless of their political sentiments, there is an almost universal consensus that the current political systems in both Canada and the US are undemocratic, corrupt and beyond redemption. The partnership of big government and big business has always existed for the further enrichment of the 1%, but the events in the past 5 years have confirmed this to all but the delusional. The question that frequently crops up during such discussions of rampant bribery and corruption, especially with right leaning liberals and conservatives, is inevitably: "What will you replace it with". Then they expect some sort of detailed response akin to a 1000 page treatise outlining exactly what needs be done and precisely what sort of system will replace it. People don't seem to understand that history has never evolved according to such a lock-step orderly manner, as in a Hollywood script. Rather, it has been a series of chaotic and unpredictable set of contingencies that required some decisive action whereby things could have just as easily turned out differently. Does anyone really think that the emergence of capitalism* followed a detailed script concocted by liberal philosophers, such as a John Locke or Adam Smith?

* The expressions "free trade", "free market" and "free enterprise" are supercilious Orwellian terms designed to hoodwink the masses into a false perception of what capitalism really entails. NAFTA and other so-called "free trade" agreements are essentially market Stalinism, nothing more than blank checks to global capital, facilitating financial imperialism and global plunder throughout the planet via bureaucratic mafia type organizations such as the World Bank, IMF, WTO and the European Union. In short, to allow the free flow of capital, enabling corporations to operate without democratic accountability or adherence to any sovereign laws.

NAFTA has been an unmitigated disaster for the vast majority of Mexicans whereby American agricultural subsidies of $4.5 billion a year have allowed large U.S. corn growers to flood the Mexican market. During the first decade of NAFTA some two million Mexican farmers who had produced for subsistence and local markets were forced to leave their farms and seek jobs in urban areas because they could not compete with the U.S. subsidized imports. My wife and I saw this first hand when we went on a holiday to Puerto Vallarta in 2003 and were shocked by the exploitation of Mexican workers in five star hotels that were paying them $5 a day for a 12 hour shift. Needless to say, we've too ashamed to return. NAFTA had only created 700,000 manufacturing jobs at its peak in 2000; nowhere near enough to offset the number of peasants forcibly displaced from the land. And by 2003, more than 300,000 of those jobs had moved overseas, primarily to China, where multinational corporations were being better served through labour costs that were even lower than in Mexico.

The result has been increased insecurity for hundreds of thousands of displaced Mexican peasants who have been forced to endure the rampant drug violence related to the social breakdown and dysfunction that has resulted from the free trade agreement. Many rural migrants now struggle to survive in the informal economies (including the violent drug trade) of Mexico’s cities or they endure the treacherous life of an illegal immigrant in the United States. During the first six years of NAFTA, the number of Mexican-born people living in the United States doubled, which suggests that the so-called illegal immigration problem that free trade Republicans complain about is directly linked to free trade policies that displace rural populations. Moreover, while these migrants now endure increased economic and physical hardship and insecurity in the city, much of the land they previously farmed has been taken over by foreign mining companies or multinational agri-businesses to extract valuable minerals and to produce tropical foods and agro-fuels for export to wealthy nations. As a result, both the peasants and the land they used to farm have been incorporated into the global capitalist economy, thereby contributing to economic growth and increased profits for corporations.

Here is a rather lengthy enlightening passage from James C Scott's stimulating book, Two Cheers for Anarchism (2012). By the way, Scott is not an anarchist, but generally sympathetic with their critique of top-down hierarchical structures such as organized religion and the state. Another of his insightful books is Seeing like A State(1998).

The Russian Revolution of 1917 was, like the French Revolution, a process in which the many and varied participants had no knowledge of the outcome. Those who have examined the process minutely agree on several things. They agree that the Bolsheviks played a negligible role in bringing it about; as Hannah Arendt put it, " The Bolsheviks found power lying in the street and picked it up." The events of late October 1917 were marked by utter confusion and spontaneity. They agree that the collapse of the tsar's armies on the Austrian front and the subsequent rush home of soldiers to participate in spontaneous land seizures in the countryside were decisive in breaking tsarist power in rural Russia. They agree that the working class of Moscow and St. Petersburg, while discontented and militant, did not envision owning the factories. Finally, they agree that on the eve of the revolution, the Bolsheviks had precious little influence among workers and no influence whatever in the countryside.

Once the Bolsheviks had seized power, however, they began developing an account that wrote contingency, confusion, spontaneity, and the many other revolutionary groups out o f the story. This new "just so" story emphasized the clairvoyance, determination, and power of the vanguard party. In keeping with the Leninist vision in What Is to Be Done, the Bolsheviks saw themselves as the prime animators of the historical outcome. Given the tenuousness with which they ruled from 1917 to 1921, the Bolsheviks had a powerful interest in moving the revolution out of the streets and into the museums and schoolbooks as soon as possible, lest the people decide to repeat the experience. The revolutionary process was "naturalized" as a product of historical necessity, legitimating the "dictatorship of the proletariat."

The "official story" of the revolution was being elaborated almost before the real revolution was consummated. Just as Lenin's idea of the state (as well as of the revolution) resembled that of a well-oiled machine run from above with military precision, so were subsequent revolutionary "re-enactments" conducted along the same lines. Lunacharsky, the cultural impresario of early Bolshevism, devised a huge urban public theatre depicting the revolution, with four thousand actors {mostly soldiers) following a choreographed script, canons, ships on the river, and a red sun in the east (simulated by searchlights) as civic instruction for 35,000 spectators. In public theatre, literature, film, and history, the Bolsheviks expressed a vital interest in "packaging" the revolution in a way that eliminated all the contingency, variety, and cross purposes of the real revolution. After the generation that had experienced the revolution firsthand and could compare the script with its own experience had died, the official version tended to prevail.

Revolutions and social movements are, then, typically confected by a plurality of actors: actors with wildly divergent objectives mixed with a large dose of rage and indignation, actors with little knowledge of the situation beyond their immediate ken, actors subject to chance occurrences (a rain shower, a rumour, a gunshot)- and yet the vector sum of this cacophony of events may set the stage for what later is se en as a revolution. They are rarely, if ever, the work o f coherent organizations directing their "troops" to a determined objective, as the Leninist script would have it.

The visual depiction of order and discipline is a staple of authoritarian stagecraft. Amid rural famine, urban hunger, and growing flight to the Chinese border, Kim Jong-11 managed to stage massive parades with tens of thousands of participants in a tableau meant to suggest a united populace moving in unison to the baton of the "Dear Leader".

This form of theatrical bluster has a long lineage. It can be found in the early twentieth century in "mass exercises" organized by both socialist and right-wing parties in large stadiums as displays of power and discipline. The minutely coordinated movements of thousands of uniformed gymnasts, like those of a marching band in close-order drill, conveyed an image of synchronized power and, of course, of choreography scripted by a commanding but invisible orchestra conductor.

The pageantry of symbolic order is evident not only in public ceremonies such as coronations and May Day parades but in the very architecture of public spaces: squares, statuary, arches, and broad avenues. Buildings themselves are often designed to overawe the populace with their size and majesty. They often seem to function as a kind of shamanism, as a symbolic makeweight of order against a reality that is anything but orderly. Ceaucescu's Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest, 85 percent complete in 1 989 when the regime fell, is a case in point. The "legislative assembly" resembled an opera house, with ringed balconies and a hydraulically lifted podium for Ceaucescu at th e center. The building's six hundred clocks were all centrally controlled by a console in the president's suite.

A great deal of the symbolic work of official power is precisely to obscure the confusion, disorder, spontaneity, error, and improvisation of political power as it is in fact exercised, beneath a billiard-ball-smooth surface of order, deliberation, rationality, and control. I think of this as the "miniaturization of order." It is a practice we are all familiar with from the world of toys. The larger world of warfare, family life, machines, and wild nature is a dangerous reality that is beyond a child's control. Those worlds are domesticated by miniaturization in the form o f toy soldiers, dollhouses, toy tanks and airplanes, model railroads, and small gardens. Much the same logic is at work in model villages, demonstration projects, model housing projects, and model collective farms. Experimentation on a small scale, where the consequences of failure are less catastrophic, is, of course, a prudent strategy for social innovation. More often, however, I suspect that such demonstrations are literally for "show; that they represent a substitute for more substantive change, and that they display a carefully tended micro-order designed in large part to mesmerize both rulers (self-hypnosis ?) and a larger public with a Potemkin facade of centralized order. The greater the proliferation of these small "islands of order," the more one suspects they were erected to block one's view of an unofficial social order that is beyond the control of elites.

The condensation of history, our desire for clean narratives, and the need for elites and organizations to project an image of control and purpose all conspire to convey a false image of historical causation. They blind us to the fact that most revolutions are not the work of revolutionary parties but the precipitate of spontaneous and improvised action ("adventurism", in the Marxist lexicon), that organized social movements are usually the product, not the cause, of uncoordinated protests and demonstrations, and that the great emancipatory gains for human freedom have not been the result of orderly, institutional procedures but of disorderly, unpredictable, spontaneous action cracking open the social order from below. (pp. 137-141)

Today we all ought to know that another artificially created bubble will soon become bloated and burst, unleashing what will be the final blow to late stage capitalism. Just examine the inflated stock market indices, if you're looking for a possible candidate. The "too big to fail" ruse won't work this time  because governments around the world at all levels are bankrupt, reeling from the 2007-09 massive taxpayer bailouts of the banks and financial criminals who, along with their partners in government,  are now making the people pay for their reckless corporate crimes. And there's not much point in worrying too much about your pension or the money you have diligently saved so far for the "Freedom 95 Plan". The money you have diligently contributed to pensions and prudently saved is hardly worth the paper it's printed on. Money is just another article of faith, like the familiar lies that "wars are fought for democracy" and that "God exists and Jesus died for our sins".

The Occupy Wall Street movement was an attempt to delegitimize the present corrupt system of corporate control and bribery, which is why the movement made no demands and it was brutally put down by thugs and police. Why should you negotiate with criminals? The Occupy protestors invoked the same slogan directed at the corporate oligarchy as some Latin American radicals had toward their oppressors: que se vayan todos ("they can go to hell"). The overwhelming majority of people in most Western democracies already consider their political systems as systemically corrupt, ineffectual and hopeless. That's why half of the populace no longer show up at the futile ritual called elections every four years. What's the point? Here's David Graeber:

In fact the summer when the occupation was first being planned had been marked by an unusually bizarre, childish, and pointless display of political histrionics over the national debt ceiling that had left congressional approval ratings in the single digits (9 percent)—the lowest they had ever been. As most Americans languished in the midst of a crippling recession, millions in desperate situations that the political system had essentially declared itself unwilling or unable to address, congressional Republicans were threatening to cause the U.S. government to default in order to force massive cuts in social services intended to head of a largely imaginary debt crisis that would, in a worst-case scenario, cause the U.S. government to default some years further down the line. President Obama, in turn, had decided the way to appear reasonable in comparison, and thus seem as his advisors liked to put it “the only adult in the room,” was not to point out that the entire debate was founded on false economic premises, but to prepare a milder, “compromise” version of the exact same program—as if the best way to expose a lunatic is to pretend that 50 percent of their delusions are actually true. In this context, the only really reasonable thing to do is to point out exactly that the entire debate was meaningless, and that the political order had succeeded only in delegitimizing itself. This is how a ragtag group of anarchists, hippies, unemployed college students, pagan tree sitters, and peace activists suddenly managed to establish themselves, by default, as America’s adults in the first place. There are times when staking out a radical position is the only reasonable thing to do. The Democracy Project, 2013, pp. 268-69)

For at past thirty years or more the world has been dominated by an economic ideological hammer known either as neo-conservatism or neo-liberalism. In elections at all levels discourse has been reduced to facile slogans such as "growing the economy". This was the meaningless mantra in the last provincial election in British Columbia of Liberal Premier Christie Clarke who was desperately attempting to defend a decade of scandal, corruption, profligacy, corporatism  and assaults on working people.  But what could "growing the economy" really mean?  Growing the economy for whom one might ask? It really means whatever one wants it to mean. Like the pitiable non-stop advertising smears on the inept opposition, the NDP and innocuous framed questions in the TV debates, they revealed nothing. All form, no content. Slogans are designed to do this convincing an unthinking populace, for example, that our faux free market system and "economic growth" are synonymous with human freedom and democracy. Nothing was said about conflict between an unsustainable, inhuman, anti-democratic and unjust economic model on a finite planet reeling from environmental degradation, overpopulation and global warming. The notion of a citizenry directly involved in the democratic process and a common good have long been relegated to the dustbin of history. As I write the G-20 is having another of its meetings of government elites that will mean more misery, surveillance and austerity for the world's masses and a hypocritical and arrogant  US President trying to justify another imperialistic invasion, this time Syria. This venture to fool no one but credulous Americans, many who still believe the deceitful sham called the "war on terror" and that weapons of mass destruction are still in Iraq. As Bertrand Russell once remarked, "people would rather die than think." Or rather than choose death, they drown their dying intellects in consumerism, working two minimum wage jobs and self-lobotomizing virtual unrealities of i-phones, i-pads, twitter, text messaging and face book. For most young people, education they see as nothing more than preparing them for marketing, entrepreneurship and hucksterism.

We are a planet of laws and constitutions written not of, for and by the people, but crafted by elites in the service of wealth and power. I have no socioeconomic blueprint for the future; all I do know is that the present self-serving hierarchical system of dishonesty, fraud and injustice must be brought down. If the political left does not jump start the imagination and re-invent itself soon, this planet is doomed. The Social Democrats had their chance their chance at reform, embracing both hierarchy, bureaucracy and the capitalist system.  They won some concessions for the working classes, but have, in the end, failed.

A good place to start might be to rethink the ideas of the state, money, debt and work that are the ideological weapons in the hands of corporate oligarchs presently running the system and the destroying the world for their collective self-interest.

Permit me to close this essay with a few passages from the final pages of David Graeber's thoughtful new book, The Democracy Project.  Here he examines the plausibility of a stateless society with a thought experiment:

“How can you be for a free society and be against wage labour? If I want to hire someone to pick my tomatoes, how are you going to stop me except through force?” Logically then any attempt to abolish the wage system can only be enforced by some new version of the KGB. One hears such arguments frequently. What one never hears, significantly, is anyone saying “If I want to hire myself out to pick someone else’s tomatoes, how are you going to stop me except through force?” Everyone seems to imagine that in a future stateless society, they will somehow end up members of the employing class. Nobody seems to think theyll be the tomato pickers. But where, exactly, do they imagine these tomato pickers are going to come from? Here one might employ a little thought experiment: let’s call it the parable of the divided island. Two groups of idealists each claim half of an island. They agree to draw the border in such a way that there are roughly equal resources on each side. One group proceeds to create an economic system where certain members have property, others have none, and those who have none have no social guarantees: they will be left to starve to death unless they seek employment on any terms the wealthy are willing to offer. The other group creates a system where everyone is guaranteed at least the basic means of existence and welcomes all comers. What possible reason would those slated to be the night watchmen, nurses, and bauxite miners on the libertarian capitalist side of the island have to stay there? The capitalists would be bereft of their labour force in a matter of weeks. As a result, they’d be forced to patrol their own grounds, empty their own bedpans, and operate their own heavy machinery—that is, unless they quickly began offering their workers such an extravagantly good deal that they might as well be living in a socialist utopia after all.

For this and any number of other reasons, I’m sure that in practice any attempt to create a market economy without armies, police, and prisons to back it up will end up looking nothing like capitalism very quickly. In fact I strongly suspect it will soon look very little like what we are used to thinking of as a market. Obviously I could be wrong. It’s possible someone will attempt this, and the results will be very different than I imagined. In which case, 􀉹ne, I’ll be wrong. Mainly I’m interested in creating the conditions where we can find out. (pp. 296-97)


Economically, what I would really like to see is some kind of guarantee of life security that would allow people to pursue those kinds of value they actually consider worth pursuing—individually, or with others. As I’ve observed, that’s the main reason people pursue money anyway. To be able to pursue something else: something they consider noble, or beautiful, profound, or simply good. What might they pursue in a free society? Presumably, many things we could barely now imagine, though one might expect familiar values like arts or spirituality or sports or landscape gardening or fantasy games or scientific research or intellectual or hedonistic pleasures would figure in, in every sort of unanticipated combination.

The challenge will obviously be how to allocate resources between pursuits that are utterly incomparable, forms of value that simply cannot be translated into one another. Which in turn leads to another question I’m sometimes asked: what does “equality” really mean?

I get this sort of question a lot. Usually from very rich people. “So what are you calling for? Complete equality? How could that be possible? Would you really want to live in a society where everyone would have exactly the same thing?”—and, once again, with the tacit suggestion that any such project would, necessarily, mean the KGB again. Such are the concerns of the 1 percent. The answer is: “I would like to live in a world where asking that question would be nonsensical.”

Instead of a parable here, perhaps a historical example. In recent years, archaeologists have discovered something that has thrown all previous understandings of human history askew. In both Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley, the first thousand years of urban civilization were rigorously egalitarian. Almost obsessively so. There is no evidence of social inequality at all: no remains of palaces, no sumptuous burials; the only monumental structures were such as could be shared by everyone (e.g., gigantic public baths). Often, every house in an urban neighbourhood was of precisely the same size. It’s hard to escape the impression that this obsession with uniformity was exactly the problem. As my friend, the brilliant British archaeologist David Wengrow always likes to point out, the birth of urban civilization came in the immediate wake of what was possibly an even more important innovation: the birth of mass production, the first time in history it was possible to create a thousand containers of oil or grain of exactly the same size, each stamped with an identical seal impression. Apparently, everyone quickly became aware of the implications, and they were terrified After all, it’s only once you have such uniform products that you can also begin comparing exactly how much more one person has than another. It’s only such technologies of equality that make inequality, as we know it today, possible. The inhabitants of the first cities managed to hold off the inevitable for a thousand years, which is a remarkable testimony to sheer determination, but what happened eventually had to  happen, and we have been dealing with the legacy ever since.

It’s not likely we will ever be able to undo a six-thousand-year-old innovation. Neither is it clear why we ever should. Large impersonal structures, like uniform products, will always exist. The question is not how to undo such things but how to put them to work in the service of their opposite: a world where freedom becomes the ability to pursue completely incommensurable ends. Our current consumer society claims to hold that out as its ultimate ideal, but, in fact, what it holds out is a hollow simulacrum. It is often remarked that you can conceive equality in two ways: either by saying two things are (in any important respect anyway) precisely the same, or else by saying they are so different, there’s simply no way to compare them at all. It’s the latter logic that allows us to say that, since we are all unique individuals, it’s impossible to say any one of us is intrinsically better than any other, any more, for instance, than it would be possible to say there are superior and inferior snowflakes. If one is going to base an egalitarian politics on that understanding, the logic would have to be: since there’s no basis for ranking such unique individuals on their merits, everyone deserves the same amount of those things that can be measured: an equal income, an equal amount of money, or an equal share of wealth.

Still, if you think about it this is odd. It assumes that we are all completely different in what we are, but identical in what we want. What if we were to turn this around? In a funny way, the current feudalized version of capitalism, where money and power have become effectively the same thing, makes it easier for us to do so. The 1 percent who rule the world may have turned the pursuit of both into a kind of pathological game where money and power are ends in themselves, but for the rest of us, having money, having an income, being free from debt, has come to mean having the power to pursue something other than money. Certainly, we all want to ensure our loved ones are safe, and taken care of. We all want to live in healthy and beautiful communities. But beyond that, the things we wish to pursue are likely to be wildly different. What if freedom were the ability to make up our minds about what it was we wished to pursue, with whom we wished to pursue it, and what sort of commitments we wish to make to them in the process? Equality, then, would simply be a matter of guaranteeing equal access to those resources needed in the pursuit of an endless variety of forms of value. Democracy in that case would simply be our capacity to come together as reasonable human beings and work out the resulting common problems—since problems there will always be—a capacity that can only truly be realized once the bureaucracies of coercion that hold existing structures of power together collapse or fade away.

All this might still seem very distant. At the moment, the planet might seem poised more for a series of unprecedented catastrophes than for the kind of broad moral and political transformation that would open the way to such a world. But if we are going to have any chance of heading of those catastrophes we’re going to have to change our accustomed ways of thinking. And as the events of 2011 reveal, the age of revolutions is by no means over. The human imagination stubbornly refuses to die. And the moment any significant number of people simultaneously shake o􀊃 the shackles that have been placed on that collective imagination, even our most deeply inculcated assumptions about what is and is not politically possible have been known to crumble overnight. (pp. 299-302)

John Stuart Mill, famous liberal political philosopher and author of On Liberty (1859),  remarked in his groundbreaking essay on women's rights, "Was there ever any domination which did not appear natural to those who possessed it?" The current neoliberal ideology and dominance of global state capitalism can be likened to a cancer. It's doctrine can be compared with an overpowering  monotheistic theology, spreading its uncontrolled tentacles into every aspect of our lives, stifling any effort towards real freedom, including freedom of  exchange, compassion, empathy, basic decency, social justice, real democracy while it desecrates and systematically destroys our natural environment. Just as the power of theocracy, monarchy and feudal aristocracy had to be destroyed in order for free markets and capitalism to emerge, so must the present hegemony of neoliberal state capitalism. Surely no one can confuse free markets with the daunting scale and stark inequalities of corporatism and monopoly capitalism, an overriding paradigm that not only stifles competition, but controls the political apparatus while it dictates to our compliant government agencies via its powerful lobbies. The Occupy Wall Street protestors had it right. The 99% must realize that their political sentiments are far to the left of those of the oligarchy that prevails in our conservative governments and their corporate masters, reconcile their petty differences, get out in the streets and start a grass roots movement. Then we can kick the bastards out.

This venomous death cult and the immoral corrupt states and legal systems that sustain it will eventually consume its host. A cure must be found for this disease or our species will likely not survive this century. This will not be easy. It will require a massive paradigm shift and vast sacrifices from the privileged first world countries. Every leftist movement, even when a successful revolution has been carried out, has been subjected to counterrevolution and placed under siege by conservative reactionary forces representing privilege, capital, wealth and power.


 Can anyone cite even one instance in which a capitalist country such as the United States or Britain has supported a people's movement from below fighting plutocracy and oppression in some civil war in a far off country? In fact, as was the case in every working class  uprising such as the Russian Revolution, Spanish Civil War and the Cuban Revolution, for example, the capitalist countries took the sides of monarchies, entrenched elites  and plutocracies of various forms. Why has the United States always been on the wrong side of the moral divide in supporting dictatorial right wing military and fascist regimes around the world, rather than supporting the oppressed people who were fighting these tyrants in endless insurrections and civil wars.? Franklin Delano Roosevelt's, arguably one of the most revered liberal presidents, once commented on his governments support for the brutal right wing Somoza regime in Nicaragua: "He may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he's our son-of-a-bitch." So why was an ostensible progressive like FDR supporting such a monster? The answer ought to be obvious: he served the interests not of the Nicaraguan people, but himself and America's wealthy investor class and the big rapacious multinational corporations. As they did to post revolutionary Cuba in the 1960s*, during the 1980s under Ronald Reagan the US imposed debilitating trade embargos against the new left wing democratically elected government of Nicaragua while at the same time refusing to apply sanctions against apartheid South Africa.

*The CIA sponsored "Bay of Pigs" invasion of Cuba in 1961 was a fiasco not because of "insufficient air support," as some members of the invasion force claimed, but because the Cuban people, instead of rising to join the counterrevolutionary expeditionary forces as anticipated by the CIA, closed ranks behind Fidel Castro and their revolution.  Among the many invaders taken prisoner were men who between them had in pre-revolutionary Cuba under the dictatorial police state under US puppet Batista, owned 914,859 acres of land, 9,666 houses, 70 factories, 5 mines, 2 banks and 10 sugar mills. Similarly, another "captive people", the North Vietnamese, acted strangely  during the vicious invasion forces and massive aerial bombardments conducted against their country by the US Air Force ordered by Johnson and Nixon. Rather than treating the invasion and devastation as a golden opportunity to overthrow the communist regime in Hanoi under Ho Chi Minh (revered as a deity by North Vietnamese people) they rallied to its support.

The US government is invariably on the wrong side of moral arguments, against the poor and oppressed, because the wrong side is the right side, given the class interests upon which their policies are grounded. In addition to the collapse of progressive liberalism and the philosophical and moral bankruptcy of political conservatism, the other fundamental  question one ought to ask is: where was Christianity through all this? Sadly, with rare exception, for over five centuries they waved the flag behind their colonialist and imperialist leaders with chants of "God Bless America".

The time is long overdue that the masses of men and women throughout the world take control over their own destinies by rejecting the various coercive top down hierarchical authoritarian bureaucratic ideologies that have controlled them.  Throw the bums out! This will include the rejection of all organized theistic religions that are by their very nature anti-scientific, authoritarian, coercive and undemocratic. Then one must question the very idea of the state and its faux democracy of representative governance. Every four years we are presented with an ever-diminishing array of political options, all of which entail the same all-encompassing state capitalist ideology as if it's the "best of all possible worlds". We need to heed Karl Marx's prescient statement about the need for "merciless criticism of all that exists". One can start by honestly asking yourself this simple vital question: Whose interests are our tunnel vision one-dimensional managerial class of doctrinaire politicians representing?


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