Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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

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

Anarchism 101. This piece explains some of the core ideas of anarchism, what type of society anarchists want to create and how they want to get there.

Core Anarchist Values

At the most basic level, anarchists believe in the equal value of all human beings. Anarchists also believe that hierarchical power relations are not only unjust, but corrupt those who have power and dehumanize those who don’t. Instead anarchists believe in direct democracy, cooperation, and solidarity. Anarchists oppose the state, capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, imperialism and other forms of oppression, not because they believe in disorder; but rather because they believe in equal freedom for all and oppose all forms of exploitation, domination and hierarchy.

So if anarchists aren’t for disorder and chaos, what are they for? Anarchists recognize that the current social order promotes individualistic, competitive disorder and ecological destruction, not freedom for all. For example, under capitalism the wealthy elite have the freedom to dominate and exploit the rest of us, while taking away our freedom to control our work and lives, and taking away our ability to equitably share in the globally and historically created economic and technological advances of our world. In contrast to this, anarchists support the principles of solidarity and equal freedom for all, in all aspects of society.

Source: Who Are the Anarchists and What is Anarchism? – Black Rose Anarchist Federation

…Without question, an old saw – what goes around comes around – rings true when it comes to radiation, and it should admonish (but it doesn’t phase ‘em) strident nuclear proponents, claiming Fukushima is an example of how safe nuclear power is “because there are so few, if any, deaths” (not true). As Chernobyl clearly demonstrates: Over time, radiation cumulates in bodily organs. For a real life example of how radiation devastates human bodies, consider this fact: 453,391 children with bodies ravaged, none born at the time of the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986, today receive special healthcare because of Chernobyl radiation-related medical problems like cancer, digestive, respiratory, musculoskeletal, eye disease, blood disease, congenital malformation, and genetic abnormalities. Their parents were children in the Chernobyl zone in 1986 (Source: Chernobyl’s Legacy: Kids With Bodies Ravaged by Disaster, USA Today, April 17, 2016).

Making matters worse yet, Fukushima Diiachi sets smack dab in the middle of earthquake country, which defines the boundaries of Japan. In that regard, according to Dr. Shuzo Takemoto, professor, Department of Geophysics, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University: “The problem of Unit 2… If it should encounter a big earth tremor, it will be destroyed and scatter the remaining nuclear fuel and its debris, making the Tokyo metropolitan area uninhabitable. The Tokyo Olympics in 2020 will then be utterly out of the question,” (Shuzo Takemoto, Potential Global Catastrophe of the Reactor No. 2 at Fukushima Daiichi, February 11, 2017)…

Source: Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt made the comments that follow in 1974 during an interview with the French writer Roger Errera.

Totalitarianism

Totalitarianism begins in contempt for what you have. The second step is the notion: “Things must change—no matter how, Anything is better than what we have.” Totalitarian rulers organize this kind of mass sentiment, and by organizing it articulate it, and by articulating it make the people somehow love it. They were told before, thou shalt not kill; and they didn’t kill. Now they are told, thou shalt kill; and although they think it’s very difficult to kill, they do it because it’s now part of the code of behavior. They learn whom to kill and how to kill and how to do it together. This is the much talked about Gleichschaltung—the coordination process. You are coordinated not with the powers that be, but with your neighbor—coordinated with the majority. But instead of communicating with the other you are now glued to him. And you feel of course marvelous. Totalitarianism appeals to the very dangerous emotional needs of people who live in complete isolation and in fear of one another.

Lies

The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie—a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days—but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.

Contingency and History

The main characteristic of any event is that it has not been foreseen. We don’t know the future but everybody acts into the future. Nobody knows what he is doing because the future is being done, action is being done by a “we” and not an “I.” Only if I were the only one acting could I foretell the consequences of what I’m doing. What actually happens is entirely contingent, and contingency is indeed one of the biggest factors in all history.

Nobody knows what is going to happen because so much depends on an enormous number of variables, on simple hazard. On the other hand if you look at history retrospectively, then, even though it was contingent, you can tell a story that makes sense…. Jewish history, for example, in fact had its ups and downs, its, enmities and its friendships, as every history of all people has. The notion that there is one unilinear history is of course false. But if you look at it after the experience of Auschwitz it looks as though all of history—or at least history since the Middle Ages—had no other alm than Auschwitz…. This, is the real problem of every philosophy of history how is it possible that in retrospect it always looks as though it couldn’t have happened otherwise?

Facts and Theories

A good example of the kind of scientific mentality that overwhelms all other insights is the “domino theory.” The fact is that very few of the sophisticated intellectuals who wrote the Pentagon Papers believed in this theory. Yet everything they did was based on this assumption—not because they were liars, or because they wanted to please their superiors, but because it gave them a framework within which they could work. They took this framework even though they knew—and though every intelligence report and every factual analysis proved to them every morning—that these assumptions were simply factually wrong. They took it because they didn’t have any other framework. People find such theories in order to get rid of contingency and unexpectedness. Good old Hegel once said that all philosophical contemplation serves only to eliminate the accidental. A fact has to be witnessed by eyewitnesses who are not the best of witnesses; no fact is beyond doubt. But that two and two are four is somehow beyond doubt. And the theories produced in the Pentagon were all much more plausible than the facts of what actually happened.

Jews

The “giftedness”—so to speak—of a certain part at least of the Jewish people is a historical problem, a problem of the first order for the historians. I can risk a speculative explanation: we are the only people, the only European people, who have survived from antiquity pretty much intact. That means we have kept our identity, and it means we are the only people who have never known analphabetism. We were always literate because you cannot be a Jew without being literate. The women were less literate than the men but even they were much more literate than their counterparts elsewhere. Not only the elite knew how to read but every Jew had to read—the whole people, in all its classes and on all levels of giftedness and intelligence.

Evil

When I wrote my Eichmann in Jerusalem one of my main intentions was to destroy the legend of the greatness of evil, of the demonic force, to take away from people the admiration they have for the great evildoers like Richard III.

I found in Brecht the following remark:

The great political criminals must be exposed and exposed especially to laughter. They are not great political criminals, but people who permitted great political crimes, which is something entirely different. The failure of his enterprises does not indicate that Hitler was an idiot.

Now, that Hitler was an idiot was of course a prejudice of the whole opposition to Hitler prior to his seizure of power and therefore a great many books tried then to justify him and to make him a great man. So, Brecht says, “The fact that he failed did not indicate that Hitler was an idiot and the extent of his enterprises does not make him a great man.” It is neither the one nor the other: this whole category of greatness has no application.

“If the ruling classes,” he goes on, “permit a small crook to become a great crook, he is not entitled to a privileged position in our view of history. That is, the fact that he becomes a great crook and that what he does has great consequences does not add to his stature.” And generally speaking he then says in these very abrupt remarks: “One may say that tragedy deals with the sufferings of mankind in a less serious way than comedy.” This of course is a shocking statement; I think that at the same time it is entirely true. What is really necessary is, if you want to keep your integrity under these circumstances, then you can do it only if you remember your old way of looking at such things and say: “No matter what he does and if he killed ten million people, he is still a clown.”

Progress

The law of progress holds that everything now must be better than what was there before. Don’t you see if you want something better, and better, and better, you lose the good. The good is no longer even being measured.

Source: Hannah Arendt: From an Interview | by Hannah Arendt | The New York Review of Books

To call Trumpism fascist is to suggest that it demands from us a unique response. We can deploy the “fascism” moniker to Trump’s ascendance by recognizing features like selective populism, nationalism, racism, traditionalism, the deployment of Newspeak and disregard for reasoned debate.

Source: Anti-Fascists Will Fight Trump’s Fascism in the Streets | The Nation

This is an absolute must see for anyone trying to make sense of the last forty years. It’s long at 2 hrs and 46 minutes but well worth the time spent.