By Peter Frase

We need a politics that acknowledges that the social-democratic class compromise is unsustainable.

Patrick Iber and Mike Konczal have an essay at Dissent in which they use the Bernie Sanders phenomenon as an opportunity to explain the theories of Karl Polanyi, and what they mean for the future of progressive politics. Polanyi was a Hungarian emigré to Vienna and later England and the United States, a veteran of the interwar period that gave us the Great Depression and the rise of fascism.

His most famous work, The Great Transformation, was written in the 1930s and 1940s. In it, he attempted to diagnose the failures of the free-market capitalism of his time, which in his view had given rise to the reaction and war he lived through.

His central point, and the one which has been most influential on contemporary liberals, is that there has never been any such thing as an unfettered or natural free market.

Rather, all really existing social formations involve complex ties between people based on a variety of norms and traditions. As Iber and Konczal put it, “the economy is ’embedded’ in society — part of social relations — not apart from them.”

For this reason, the attempt to establish unfettered and unregulated markets is doomed: a pure free-market society is a utopian project, and impossible to realize, because people will resist the process of being turned into commodities.

This is an important insight, and to this point there’s not much about it that I can disagree with. The problem arises when one tries to derive a complete political strategy from this analysis. This is where I part ways with the Polanyian analysis that Iber and Konczal offer.

They suggest that the vision of “socialism” offered by Polanyi, and also by Bernie Sanders, ultimately just involves subjecting capitalism to some humane and democratic limits. They quote a passage in which Polanyi defines socialism as “the tendency inherent in an industrial civilization to transcend the self-regulating market by consciously subordinating it to a democratic society.”

Continue reading at: Social Democracy’s Breaking Point

A history lesson.

Source: Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party

Absolutely a MUST READ!

A new Vox video (7/17/17) is the latest addition to a media onslaught that propagates numerous misleading talking points to demonize Iran—just as the US government, under Donald Trump’s vehemently anti-Iran administration, is ratcheting up aggression against that country.

Source: How Media Spread CIA’s Sectarian, Anti-Iran ‘Mideast Cold War’ Narrative | By Ben Norton | Common Dreams

James McGill Buchanan’s vision of totalitarian capitalism has infected public policy in the US. Now it’s being exported • George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

It’s the missing chapter: a key to understanding the politics of the past half century. To read Nancy MacLean’s new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, is to see what was previously invisible.

The history professor’s work on the subject began by accident. In 2013 she stumbled across a deserted clapboard house on the campus of George Mason University in Virginia. It was stuffed with the unsorted archives of a man who had died that year whose name is probably unfamiliar to you: James McGill Buchanan. She says the first thing she picked up was a stack of confidential letters concerning millions of dollars transferred to the university by the billionaire Charles Koch

Continue to full story: A despot in disguise: one man’s mission to rip up democracy | George Monbiot | Opinion | The Guardian

By J. F. Conway / Socialist Project

Populism: “any political movement which seeks
to mobilize the people… against a state which
is either controlled by vested interests or too powerful in itself.”

— Oxford Dictionary of Sociology

 

Commentators on the political scene in the established media typically use the term “populism” simplistically and pejoratively. This is a blind, thoughtless, and ill-conceived attack on decades of predictable stability in our democracies. There is a sense of imminent danger conveyed – where will this upheaval lead? The consensus seems to be that populism is something to be feared and contained. It is irrational – a modern expression of mob psychology. Often facile comparisons to the rise of Italian fascism and German Nazism are tentatively made.

Some commentators attempt a deeper analysis, aware that a simplistic notion of populism cannot account for the complexities of the phenomenon. Hence, there is the “left-wing populism” of Corbyn in the UK, Sanders in the U.S., and Mélenchon in France, and the “right-wing populism” of Trump in the U.S., the Independence Party in the UK, and Le Pen in France. Indeed, the two varieties of populism have emerged to become challengers to political orthodoxy in most European countries. Both left and right populism condemn neoliberalism and globalization for their terrible consequences for the underclasses. Both have little faith in the existing political system, and their base was previously largely disengaged from the electoral process. Both blame current élites for the troubles the people face and the hardships they endure.

Fundamental Differences

But the differences are fundamental. Left populism blames the system – neoliberal capitalism – and seeks systemic change. To achieve this change requires the capture of state power and its use to end austerity by raising taxes and increasing social spending, to take measures to reduce inequality, and to end the uncontested power of the super-rich. Left populism rejects white nationalism, xenophobia, and racism. Right populism blames the current political élite, not the economic élite, and deplores a rigged political system that shuts them out. They embrace white nationalism and hark back to earlier times when “white privilege” was intact. Their economic woes are blamed on the cheap labour available offshore, luring factories to foreign nations, and the cheap labour of immigrants at home stealing their jobs. They yearn for a return to the golden days of the past when jobs were plentiful and life was prosperous and secure.

We can perhaps learn from the past. Twentieth century populism unsettled established capitalist politics in Canada and the U.S. from the turn of the century to the Great Depression. Left agrarian populist movements in Canada organized the Progressive Party challenge in 1921, denouncing the Special Interests and the plutocracy of the élite, demanding progressive reforms and thus ending the cozy two party domination of Canadian politics by the Liberals and Tories. They were joined in that challenge by militant trade unions and working class socialist parties. In the Great Depression left agrarian populist and working class organizations joined forces in Saskatchewan, founding the Farmer-Labour Party/CCF, driving to power in 1944. The threat of the CCF on the federal scene contributed to the rapid construction of the welfare state. In the U.S. left agrarian populist organizations, militant trade unions, and a small working class socialist party fused with the Democratic Party, providing much of the impetus and energy for the election of Franklin Roosevelt and the implementation of the New Deal. Class analysis, and sustained political and economic class struggle contesting for state power, were the essence of the movements both in Canada and the USA.

Left Populism Ascendant

Similarly the left-wing and right-wing populist upsurge of today is clearly all about class and class struggle. Among left populist movements this is evident in their rhetoric, analysis, and proposed remedies. But class struggle is also central to the right-wing populist upsurge as its leaders attempt to capture the discontent of the underclass and lead it into a right-wing political project (it is here where you find echoes of Italian fascism and German Nazism).

Class and class struggle has returned to political contestation in today’s late capitalism, thanks to neoliberalism’s dismantling of the welfare state and the cruel, remorseless exploitation of the underclasses in both the advanced world and abroad. So far left populism seems to be the more ascendant, as right-wing populist parties in Holland, Austria, Germany, Finland, and the UK suffered recent electoral setbacks, while left-leaning populist parties enjoyed growing support. Only in France does the right populist challenge remain strong, Marine Le Pen’s National Front. But it faces an equally popular left populist movement, Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise. And in the UK the right populist Independence Party (UKIP) was wiped out as Corbyn’s Labour Party came within striking distance of forming government. Meanwhile Trump’s right-wing electoral coalition is disintegrating around him.

We are witnessing the return of class struggle politics in the 21st century and the re-engagement of extra-parliamentary popular movements, and the disenfranchised, in electoral contests for state power. Only time and events will tell if we have entered a long term new wave of class struggle politics. •

J. F. Conway teaches sociology at the University of Regina.

Source: Populism in the 21st Century: Class Struggle Returns to Haunt Capitalist Democracies

Please take the time to read this long article. It’s worth it.

The first issue of Catalyst appears at a profoundly contradictory political conjuncture. It is the moment of the greatest promise for the working class and popular forces since the 1960s, but also one of significant danger.

Source: Editorial

The rise of idiot America has been mainly for profit.

…Ten years ago, the most popular songs read between a third and fourth grade level, but the inanity only increased with time, and after a five-year downward tumble ending in 2014 (the last year of the study), chart-topping hits had a reading level equivalent to second or third grade. Broken into genres, the levels measured just 2.6 for Hip-hop/R&B, a tie of 2.9 for Rock and Pop, and faring best was Country at 3.3 — though declaring a winner in this insipid race to the bottom seems somewhat defeatist. Even further to that point, the most intellectually stimulating song, Blake Shelton’s Country hit “All About Tonight”, measured just 5.8, while wading deeply into the ludicrous was Three Days Grace’s “The Good Life”, at a level equivalent to 0.8 — begging the question, did they have to try to craft lyrics a kindergartner could easily read?…

Source: How Popular Music’s Lyrics Perpetuate American Idiocy