Posts Tagged ‘conservative

27
Dec
11

A Communist’s Defense of the Occupy Wall Street Movement (Part I)

I’ll admit freely- I didn’t expect the OWS movement to take off when I first heard of it in August. Despite the advances made by Egypt and other Arab countries utilizing the same techniques, I never would have expected Americans to have taken to the streets in a unified expression of frustration and desperation. And yet here we are, nearly half a year later with the OWS movement in every major city in the US and solidarity movements across the globe. It would naturally be remiss of me to not to comment on the OWS and offer, for anyone interested, a Marxist take on the whole venture. Despite this, months after the first protestors gathered in New York, there are people who claim to not know what it is the movement wants, and the most common criticism of the movement is that it has yet to produce a concrete list of demands.

 

Now this is something that has always irked me, but after some contemplation, I think I’ve figured out what it is that people aren’t clear on. Many seem to be under the impression that the OWS is not so much a movement as it is a campaign- that the protestors are (or at least, ought to be) after a few specific objectives,and after these have been achieved, the movement will disband. But that’s not what the OWS is- not at all. The OWS is not just a political movement, it is an entirely new political and social perspective. You could no sooner get a list of objects from liberalism or conservatism than you could from the OWS movement. These are not goals in play here, these are values. In a world where Republican/Democrat or Conservative/Liberal have been dominant for so long, its difficult to grasp the idea that there are indeed other views out there on the way the world can be.

 

So what is the perspective? Again, defining the exact content of the OWS perspective would be as difficult and pointless as trying to catalog every aspect of liberalism or conservatism- you’re going to find varying degrees of liberalism/conservatism and you’re going to find arguments about what tenets you have to hold to be liberal/conservative. The same is true of the OWS movement- you’re going to meet everyone from moderates, liberals, and libertarians angry at the behavior of corporations to the most hardline Marxists and anarchists. On the whole, the whole perspective could be argued to be the rise (or, depending on how you look at it, the resurfacing) of the radical left, targeting both the current economic system and ever increasing government power. Take the following general values as an illustration of the mindset the OWS represents.

 

Economic Equity:

Despite the old Capitalist fairy tale that the wealthy are wealthy because they’ve worked harder, or are smarter, or more competent than their peers, the recent financial crisis (or rather, crises) have disillusioned most people about the truth in all this. Further, as countless Americans who have worked hard their entire lives, never making a risky investment or acting irresponsibly with their money, find themselves nevertheless in dire economic straights, the justification for the rampant inequality in wealth is more widely being seen for the lie that it is. Greater economic equality, both in the workplace and in society in general, is a core tenet of the perspective OWS represents.

Democracy:

Similarly, the long list of interferences by corporations and the wealthy in government and democracy have forced many to question whether economic inequality can coexist with democracy. When unlimited corporate spending on political campaigns, as well as lobbyists, and a host of former CEOs and corporate lawyers now in charge of regulatory organizations, the credibility of both the current administration and in the current system of government in general is rapidly deteriorating (and police brutality against the OWS isn’t helping much either). Greater representation through greater democratic control is another principal component of the OWS perspective.

Justice/Responsibility:

Arising out of the combination of a lack of faith in either the current economic or political system, many are questioning the exact “fairness” of it all. Returning again to the issue of the actions of a few affecting the vast majority, there is much discussion on how to create a world where the majority are not punished for the failings of the minority and vice versa. The twin values of justice and responsibility, even if their correct implementation is not fully understood, is at the heart of the OWS mentality.

 

Human Dignity:

With increased rates of homelessness and poverty, the issue of basic human dignity is emphasized in the OWS movement. With corporate personhood juxtaposed to the suffering of many actual people serving as insult to injury, exactly what it means to be a member of society is being rethought. Emphasis on the right of all people to housing and employment, regardless of economic circumstances is arising out of rejection of the Capitalist treatment of humans as products and instruments of labor.

Of course, there are plenty of degrees to which you can take any of these points. For some “moderates” of the OWS movement, these values can be achieved through the implementation of political reform, greater regulatory legislation, and taxation on the wealthy “1 percent”. For others holding more extreme views, the current system can be neither reformed nor regulated, and the only way to improve society is through eliminating all economic disparity. No demands can be put forward for the OWS simply because the OWS is not a uniform group with a single plan. It is a mass movement of individuals united under a single set of principals, all seeking together to implement those principals.

You still need an OWS objective? Here it is:

20
Jul
10

A Communist Look Back (and Forward)

It’s been over a year since I first started this blog, and a lot has happened in the world- I think it only appropriate that I write a brief post reviewing the past year and making a few predictions for the next one.

We have the economic crisis (or rather, a series of crises) of such great proportions the public’s faith in Capitalism has been badly shaken. The bailouts, the BP oil spill, the revelation of corruption within the regulatory branches of government- none of these have done much to convince the people that Capitalism has their best interests at heart. Indeed, the loss of faith in the current system has led many to look into alternatives, such as Libertarianism, Socialism, and to an extent, Communism. Despite this, neocolonialism, economic and cultural imperialism continue to spread. The poor and working class of the third world remain largely oppressed. Slavery rates continue to rise. In xenophobic reaction to ever increasing immigration rates, the US and Western Europe has become more hostile to foreigners.

The controversial creation of public healthcare in the US- indicative of widespread dissatisfaction with healthcare under Capitalism (or the lack thereof)- has garnered both enthusiastic support and vehement opposition, most on the far-left have voiced support for the change, but maintain that free, universal healthcare is the only answer.

In short, to say that the past twelve months have brought forth dramatic change would be an exaggeration- at the same time, it is undeniable that have been significant developments in economics and the public views of Capitalism.

Predictions for next year:

1. Continued disillusionment with Capitalism- independent parties will probably gain in popularity.

2. Extreme right-wing reactions in the Republican and Conservative movements will ultimately alienate moderates and undecided voters, resulting in more harm to the GOP/Conservative movement than benefit.

3. Immigration into the US and Western Europe will result in greater hostility towards immigrants, possibly resulting in blatantly anti-immigrant legislation, violence, and the oppression of minorities. Fascists, racists, and extreme right-wing groups will probably be seeing some victories unless this xenophobia is immediately combated.

4.  Austerity measures in some European countries will result (or rather continue to result) in strikes by the working class- some potential for rioting, but no absolute certainty.

Looks like it’s gonna be fun…

28
Jul
09

Why I’m Still a Communist

I became a Communist because I believed that it was the only viable political/economic system capable of providing liberty, justice, and security for everyone, rather than just those who can afford it. I have remained a Communist for much the same reason. While one might expect (and many have hoped) that experience would lead me to leave Communism, it seems the more I see of life, the universe, and everything, the more I become confident that my views are correct.

For example, when I was seventeen I took a course on mainstream worldviews (Christian, Humanist, New Age, Marxist). The class turned out to be a series of hyper-Conservative, dogmatic lectures and the textbook wasn’t much more than a seriously biased collection of arguments against any view other than Conservative Protestantism. Despite the waste of time, effort, and money that the class was, I nevertheless found myself affected by it (or at least, an event resulting from the class). While the textbook was full of little cartoons advocating various right-wing stances- one stood out to me in particular. It showed two frames, one in which a wealthy man giving a handful of coins to a poor man, the other depicted the poor man robbing the rich man. The caption claimed (roughly) that in Capitalism, when the rich give to poor it is called “charity” and- no matter what Communist word you use to describe it- when a poor man takes from the rich it is called theft. When I saw this cartoon, it took a while for me to fully digest what it’s implications were. Granted, it seemed reasonable- giving is accepting, taking isn’t. But when one thinks about it, if this were to be applied, the poor would be reliant on the wealthy giving out a steady stream of spare change. Of course, this would mean that the wealthy are willing to give out a steady stream of spare change (and they say that Communism claims humans are basically good). Quite simply, charity doesn’t work- the people need a better way to survive than aid, pity, and welfare. All in all, as a result of reading a simple political cartoon, I became even more entrenched in the idea that Communism offers the solutions for the problems Capitalism simply can’t solve.

Another example would be the game of monopoly (yes, even Communists play monopoly). You gather the players around the board, they compete and trade and make wild gambles but in the end, there is only one winner. Now disregarding the amount of pain and suffering caused by running every competitor out of business, one must consider what it would be like to live in a country with a monopoly on- let’s say- iron. If you want to make anything with iron, you have to pay the monopoly’s price. If your looking for quality, then it’s more or less a game of chance- the monopoly has no reason to sell anything better than its lowest quality product. If you try to import, then it’ll probably a baffling and expensive ordeal- the monopoly has a hefty lobby at the capitol and there aren’t many senators and congressmen and even presidential candidates who wouldn’t mind taking contributions from the monopoly. Regulation laws? This is Capitalism- regulations are, as Milton Friedman is attributed with saying, “corruption”. Communism averts a disaster that Capitalism leads to.

Or yet another example would be that of airplanes. Nowhere is the class system so pronounced as on a transatlantic flight. The same distance is being traveled, the same plane is being ridden, but the differences between the 1st class and coach cabins are massive. Now we must keep in mind that the people in coach are just as human as those in 1st class. Yet, due to a simple lack of money, those in coach have a dramatically different flight from those in 1st class. The food is inedible, the seats are cramped, the cabin is crowded. Why? Because some people are poorer than others and therefore less valuable. The class system is the greatest example of social injustice since the days of segregation and religious persecution. Communism does away with the class system and ensures equality for all- not only those who can pay for it.

In short, while it was the massive tomes of Marx, Engels, and Smith that convinced me to become a Communist,  it is the little things in life- cartoons, board games, traveling- that convince me to stay Communist.

11
Jul
09

Fighting Facism

Nearly a century ago, Communist leader Leon Trotsky defined Fascism as “…Nothing but Capitalist reaction…”. A reaction to what? There are a number of factors that can result in the rise of Fascism but in order to understand the events that cause this reaction, we must first understand what Fascism is.

One’s might make the assumption that Fascism is the same as Nazism. This is only partly true. Nazism is a white supremacist ideology that originated in Germany, based roughly off of a twisted interpretation of the works of Friedrich Nietzsche. Nazism can perhaps best be described as a subdivision of Fascism (in other words, all Nazis are Fascists, not all Fascists are Nazis). Fascism itself could best be described as the polar opposite of Communism. While Communism demands the eventual abolition of the state, Fascism requires the existence of an almost all-powerful centralized government. While Communism calls for the abolition of private property and traditionalism, Fascism is based on conserving Capitalism and tradition. In short, Fascism can be described as a far-right Capitalist police state.

From this definition it’s easy to see why people turn to Fascism. Whenever people feel that their traditional values, social/economic standing, or status quo is facing the threat of change, there will be some who turn to Fascism as a form of defense. People, if sufficiently frightened, will trade freedom for safety (or at least, the illusion of safety). However, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both…”. During the 1950s, the US was gripped by the idea that treacherous, subversive Communists were infiltrating the country’s government and infrastructure. Fascists, particularly Senator Joseph McCarthy and his following (though of course, they never indentified themselves with Fascism), exploited the public’s fear and used it to further their own ends, namely by removing political rivals and silencing media opposition by accusing them of having leftist sympathies. At the height of his power, Joseph McCarthy was one of the most powerful (and feared) men in the US, with the support of the FBI and various members of the US government. With promises of protecting the American way of life, exposing the disloyal and subversive, and defending Capitalism from Marxism (by any means possible, no matter how unethical), McCarthy fits all the criteria of a Fascist. Of course, one could argue that McCarthy wasn’t an actual Fascist but a simple megalomaniac who used Communist witch-hunts as a way of seizing power. That may or may not be true- no one is sure of how much McCarthy actually believed the things he said. That aside, it is undeniable that McCarthy led a massive following that actually did believe in the “threat of Communism” and supported and even took part in McCarthy’s Fascist actions.

Of course, the “red scare” of the 1950s is only one example of Fascism; in this case, a reaction to the perceived threat of Marxist infiltration. But people will turn to Fascism for many reasons- take immigration for example.

Throughout the 1870s, 80s, and 90s, America was flooded with immigrants. Millions from Italy, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, etc. traveled to the US in search of a better life. Some, such as factory owners and industrialists, saw this as a good thing- a sudden (and seemingly endless) supply of cheap labor had become available. Some saw this as a testament to the superiority of American democracy and the liberties set down in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Others, however, saw this as a threat to the known balance of life. The sudden surge of new citizens had upset the previous social order, and in reaction to this, Fascism rose up in the form of the Klu Klux Klan. Granted, the KKK had existed since the end of the US civil war (a reaction to the massive social and cultural changes taking place due to both emancipation and rapid expansion) however, it was the massive immigration of the 1890s that turned the KKK from a mere white-supremacist group to a full-fledged Fascist organization. Before immigration, the KKK’s sphere of influence was limited primarily to the South and parts of the Midwest, the areas where the effects of the civil war were most pronounced. Immigration, however, affected the entire US and during this time, the KKK’s empire expanded across the country, fueled by the fires of racism, xenophobia, and hatred. By the 1920s, the KKK had well over five million members, and was capable of murdering anyone it wanted with no fear of action from the authorities (who often enough were members of the Klan themselves). “Why would any rational society not be horrified and disgusted enough by the actions of these Fascists to take action against them? Why would any reasonable and free society tolerate this?”. Quite simply, fear is neither rational nor reasonable. Even at their largest, the KKK never numbered at more than five and a half million members- a fraction of the general population. The only reason the Klu Klux Klan had the power it did was because the general populace tolerated and accepted them out of misdirected fear. The public, terrified of the thought that their way of life was being taken from them, reacted to the change immigration was bringing by turning to Fascist murderers and terrorists. The Klu Klux Klan, like every Fascist organization, has never admitted to the charges of racism and murder. What we would call racism, a Fascist would call “patriotism” or “nativism” (a word meaning “the rights of a native population [or at least, a group claiming to be native] superseding those of newcomers and immigrants [i.e. ethnocentric racism]). What we would call murder, a Fascist would call “the actions of a non-representative extremist group” (effectively shifting blame without condemning the crime) or even “self-defense” (of the imaginary attack on the traditional values of said group, of course). The admonition of American writer Sinclair Lewis have proven true, “When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross…”. Fascism- even in all its terrorizing, murdering, big-brother glory- will still attempt to pass itself off as the reasonable, patriotic, pious, tradition-oriented movement existing only to serve and protect. Take the words Thomas Robb, the national director of a Fascist group called the “Knights of the Klu Klux Klan”, for example. According to Robb “… Our people- my white brothers and sisters- will stay committed to a non-violent resolution… The hatred for our children and their future is growing and is being fueled every single day. Stay firm in your convictions. Keeping loving your heritage and keep witnessing to others that there is a better way than a war torn, violent, wicked, socialist, new world order. That way is the Christian way- law and order- love of family- love of nation. These are the principles of western Christian civilization. There is a war to destroy these things. Pray that our people see the error of their ways and regain a sense of loyalty. Repent America!”. In this diatribe (for that is what it is, once you cut through the thinly veiled propaganda), key words and phrases stand out: “hatred for our children and their future”, “convictions”, “heritage”, “way”, “the Christian way”, “law and order”, “love of family”, “love of nation”, “principles”, and “loyalty”. All of these words fit with the Fascist creed- the “defense” of traditional values and ideals (in the case of the Klu Klux Klan, an America dominated by conservative, protestant Christian, pro-Capitalist  Caucasians) through any means necessary. Of course, Robb states that actions must be “non-violent”. Quite simply, this is a lie. Robb insists that there is “…a war to destroy these things…” yet insists that his organization is non-violent and based on the love of law, order, and family. When a man- any man- is woken up in the middle of the night and believes that someone is breaking into his house (whether this is true or not), he will get up, grab a baseball bat/fire poker/golf club/etc. and start prowling the house. How then are we expected to believe that such a group as the KKK (with a long history of violence), fully believing that there is a war against their very value system, will not react to this threat (whether it’s real or not). One might as well use that logic to argue that a bear won’t maul you if kick it’s cub, or that a snake won’t bite you if you try to tie it in a knot. To believe that the Klu Klux Klan, an organization responsible for hundreds of lynchings, beatings, hate crimes, and savage acts of intimidation, will suddenly stand back and passively allow their dreams (delusions, is perhaps a better word) of white-supremacy be destroyed is simply ridiculous. Where there is fear (particularly the fear of change), there are those who will turn to Fascism.

Of course the Klu Klux Klan still exists, as does racism and hate crime. Fortunately, however, the KKK is barely a shadow of its former self. No longer a unified group and having long since lost any credibility or respectability among the general populace, the Klan is- at most- a tiny (yet still toxic) fringe group and a sad reminder of a part of American history we’d rather (but cannot and should not) forget. Of course, one could argue that Fascism in the US didn’t die with the Klan but transferred to the industrial-military complex (an issue to be discussed in a later post), however one could just as easily counter that (like McCarthy) these groups themselves are not Fascist, but would merely benefit most from a Fascist or Fascist-style government.

“So what’s the point of all this?” one might ask, “The Nazis, Klansmen, McCarthyites, and Blackshirts are dead and gone and the Neo-Nazis and Skinheads are few in number and have most of the population turned against them!”. Now that is partly true. Yes, the KKK’s power is broken but there has been increased growth in their numbers, and while estimate believe that there are about eight thousand KKK members currently spread across the country (which is about eight thousand too many, if you think about it). Please, keep in mind that while the Klu Klux Klan is a nauseatingly racist and potentially dangerous organization, I am by no means advocating any physical attack (no need to lower ourselves to their level). According to US law, everyone has the right to peaceably assemble. To use the KKK’s own tactics would not help defeat Fascism but help lead it to victory. After all, if we violently attempt to preserve our value system from those who would change it, we ourselves become Fascist.

So why write a lengthy explanation (and condemnation) of a dead ideology? Because Fascism isn’t dead!

Yes, Hitler is dead, as is Mussolini, and Disney (yes, Walt Disney was a supporter of Nazism), and countless others. Fascism, however, survives and has recently taken hold in Europe, primarily Britain. Like America in the 1890s, Europe is currently experiencing a similar wave of immigration. And as the power of the KKK expanded in 1890s America, so has the support for various Fascist groups in Europe. Take the British Nationalist Party (BNP) for example.

The British Nationalist Party (founded 1982) is the quintessential Fascist organization. The BNP is unconditionally pro-Capitalist, nativist to the point of ethnocentrism (“Sink the [immigrant] boats!” has become a BNP slogan), violently anti-leftist (The Propaganda Director of the BNP was convicted for attempting to plant a nail-bomb in the headquarters of a British Communist party), and vehemently anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic, anti-racial mixing, and anti-Homosexual (while none of these last four are technically Fascist, they are traits commonly found in Fascist organizations). “So Britain’s got a Fascist party that actively spreads propaganda and in some cases, perpetrates acts of violence- America has the KKK and neo-Nazis groups, but that doesn’t mean they’re about to win seats in the Senate!”. In America, that is true. Not so in Britain. Earlier this year, two seats in the European Parliament were won by the BNP, and the party has made increasing strides in both popularity and elections (which are small victories, but victories nonetheless). Let the facts be faced, in Europe, Fascism is rising again.

So what’s to be done? How does one go about fighting Fascism?

Fascism, one must remember, is a social, economic, and political system based on fear. People turn to Fascism when they are afraid, trading freedom, rights, and privacy for security (or at least, the illusion of security). The easiest way to combat Fascism is to combat fear. If people are afraid that immigrants are changing their way of life, remind them that it’s the immigrants who have uprooted themselves to become part of the society they’re moving to. If people are afraid that Communism (or general leftism) is threatening them, explain that they will probably benefit from the socio-economic and political change. If people are afraid that they may lose some of their traditions as a result of change, instruct them that just because something is tradition it doesn’t mean it’s right, important, or useful. Attacking the roots of Fascism (fear, xenophobia, ignorance, and racism) essentially wipes Fascism out before it can take root, and keeps it from spreading if it already exists. Protests, anti-Fascist (also called “Antifa”) groups, and general participation in counter-Fascist movements also helps. Indeed, even having a basic education about Fascism helps in combating it.

Let there be no mistake, Fascism, while battered and broken, is far from dead and buried. The world is changing and many across the globe are turning to Fascism out of fear. I submit that FDR was right when he stated that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”. In short, it not we who should be afraid of the Fascists- it is the Fascists who should be afraid of us!