Posts Tagged ‘revolutionary

02
Jan
12

Podcasts for Leftists

Once again I’m putting off writing on a more difficult subject, so I’ve written up three brief reviews of podcasts you benefit from. All are free from iTunes, though I believe you can also download audio files directly from the various host websites.

 

Socialism Conference:

Every year, the ISO helps in the hosting of two major conferences for revolutionary socialists in the cities of Chicago and Oakland (both historically significant cities for the left, but more on that later). Covering a wide range of topics, the conference speakers offer insightful and informative lectures on such issues as the victories and defeats of Marxism in the US, the ever growing problem of mass incarcerations, the Palestinian freedom struggle, feminism, culture, and international politics. I would personally recommend the 2010 Oakland conference lecture “Legal Lynching in America”, in which family members of Oscar Grant, a young man murdered at the hands of the police, call for justice. “Breaking the Siege of Gaza” is also well worth listening to, as the speakers were actually participants in the tragically ill-fated first Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

If there’s criticism to be had of the Socialism Conference lectures, it’s that they, like much contemporary Communist dialogue, tend to be based in analysis of the past, rather than focusing on application. That said, the analysis is great.

 

Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Radio Essays:

Incarcerated Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal has, with the help of Prison Radio (a site well worth visiting), been putting out three minute essays on his views on current events, politics, economics, culture (with a soft spot for music), and history, generally focusing on the struggle of African Americans. His involvement in the radical leftist movement, as well as his thirty years experience inside the prison system, serve to bolster his challenging, simply-stated perspectives. Many times I find myself wondering how it is that Mumia, in solitary confinement, is able to speak with greater authority and accuracy on the state of the world than most pundits and politicians.

If there’s a downside to these podcasts, it’s that they leave you wanting more.

 

I hesitate to add “Occupy the Airwaves”, only because I myself have yet to make up my mind about it. A collection of interviews with various OWS members (primarily in California), “Occupy the Airwaves” was created to give people who have yet to make up their minds about the movement a chance to hear some of the backgrounds, perspectives, and demands of the protestors, hopefully raising greater support for the movement as a whole.

 

Now while these podcasts (at least, the five I’ve listened to so far) are informative and interesting, I do often myself frustrated with the host who consciously avoids interviewing what he calls “the regular suspects”, that is, “veteran” protestors (not to be confused with protestors who are veterans, though the two aren’t mutually exclusive). His reasoning for this is that his target audience is one that will be moved to action through seeing “normal” people for whom the OWS movement is their first protest, allowing the listens to relate. Of course, the problem I have with this is that (1) it’s making that assumption that the protestors who demonstrated at the WTO or G12 meetings are not normal or sympathetic, and (2) that a hefty portion of those who have both planned and attended the OWS movement are not being able to voice their own (more radical) views. In the host’s defense, he has interviewed one anarchist, and while I was initially hoping to hear more from the far-left, I’ll take what I can get.

 

Is it a revolutionary podcast? Not at all- the host has a strange obsession with political philosophy John Rawls that, frankly, isn’t an answer to the root problem of inequality and injustice. That said, Occupy the Airwaves is professionally done, and while I certainly don’t agree with the perspectives of the host, it still merits looking into.

07
May
10

Anarchism and Communsim

Communism is often depicted as a political system in which a faceless, oppressive state exerts almost unlimited control over the lives of the impoverished citizens. This of course isn’t even remotely close the society Marx (and other founders of Communism) called for or the sociopolitical-economic system Communists strive for. Such depictions are a result of generalizing Communism as a whole based on the actions of a certain group (imagine claiming Christianity calls for the ruthless extermination of those of differing religious views based on the participants of the Spanish Inquisition or crusades).

In much the same way Anarchism is commonly considered to be a political system (or lack thereof) in which riots take place in the streets, looters run free, and so forth. In reality Anarchy is a sociopolitical-economic system that attempts to do away with the concept of rulers and the state as a whole. The vilification of Anarchy is a result of propaganda that depicted Anarchists as dangerous maniacs. In reality, both Communism and Anarchism call for similar goals, the creation of a classless, stateless society based around the concepts of public property and community organization. In fact, during the mid 1800s,┬áthe terms “Communist” and “Anarchist” were interchangeable! Until 1872 Karl Marx and Mikhail Bakunin (the leading figures of Communism and Anarchism respectively) worked together.

So what went wrong?

The Communist/Anarchist split occurred as a result of differences in the opinion of which was the greater enemy, Capitalism or the state. The Anarchists argued that the primary goal of the revolution ought to be the abolition of the state, as opposed to the Communist argument that Capitalism was the true oppressor. Now these points of view were (and remain to be) by no means mutually exclusive. Anarchism, like Communism, calls for the institution of private property and community organization- just look at Russian Anarchist Peter Kropotkin who, in essay Economic Views of Anarchism wrote “…The Capitalist exploitation of labor, we must work for its abolition.” Communism, like Anarchism, calls for the abolition of the state- just look at Marx’s essay The Origin of Family, Private Property, and the State in which he claims “…The state… becomes also the politically dominant class, and thus acquires new means of holding down and exploiting the oppressed class.”

So what’s the big difference?

Well the problem that Baukin and his followers saw with Marx’s theory was that focusing on the abolition of Capitalism may lead to the establishment of a new state in which the leaders of the revolution simply replace the overthrown state. Marx and the communists took issue with the fact that focusing on the abolition of the state would simply allow the wealthy and ruling classes to fill the void the state had left.

So who’s right, the Anarchists or the Communists?

Interestingly enough both sides’ concerns have been proven to have equal merit. Without abolishing the state, the Russian revolution quickly devolved into state-capitalism (what we would today call “Socialism”). Without abolishing private property, Capitalism, and the class system, abolishing the state is pointless- Capitalist oppression remains and may even be strengthened by the lack of a regulatory system.

So what it really comes down to isn’t a question of who’s right and who’s wrong. The Communist/Anarchist split shouldn’t be an either/or choice. Both sides are struggling for the same goal and both sides agree that both Capitalism and the state should be wiped out (though there different opinions about which to target first). Should this be something worth bickering over? Absolutely not. This is an opportunity to ensure that the mistakes of early Communist and Anarchist revolutions are not repeated. We worked together at the Paris Commune, we can work together today.

Long live the revolution.

01
Sep
09

Communist Slang

Throughout the years, Communists have been depicted and portrayed in the media as always having beards, thick Russian accents, and a unique vocabulary used when interacting with Capitalists. While only some Communists actually ever had the thick accents and beards hair (let the facts be faced, Colonel Sander’s is just a composite of Stalin’s face and Trotsky’s facial hair) for once the media stereotype of Communists is accurate when it comes to the slang. Communism, you see, is not merely a political-economic system but also a worldview and a kind of culture, and like every culture, there’s a specialized vocabulary that goes along with it. Listed below are some of the more common Communist phrases and terms:

Comrade: Though originating during the French Revolution, the word first became associated with Communism during the mid 1870s, though it was briefly used by the Nazis during the Second World War. The word itself was created (and to this day used) as a term of address doing away with any titles of nobility and royalty. While used in a derogatorily and sarcastic manner by Capitalists to describe someone of a far left-wing orientation, the term “Comrade” is still used as a formal term of address among Marxists.

Imperialist: The term “Imperialist” is an insult commonly used throughout the Communist movement. While the word may have any number of uses, it is most commonly employed to describe a person or group engaged or associated with globalization, unrestricted international or “free” trade, or war. The insult has its origins in the early years of Communism, when imperialism was taking place under the name of colonialism. Sympathizing with the indigenous populations, Communists began applying the word “Imperialist” to those involved in the expansion of European (and later, American) power. The word is still used frequently today, though it is often paired with another word, creating combinations such as “Imperialist Pig” or “Imperialist Exploiter”.

Fascist: While “Fascist” does technically have its own definition (Fascist: noun. A movement or group attempting to maintain culture, Capitalism, tradition, and the status quo through whatever means available) when used as an insult, the word takes on the simpler meaning of “repressive”, “authoritarian”, and “totalitarian”. Often applied to the police, members of far right-wing/conservative groups, and the military, “Fascist” perhaps can be ranked as one of the stronger Communist insults. For those of you who may have difficulty discerning when a┬áCommunist is using “Fascist” to refer to the insult or the actual political theory, simply study the tone- if the Communist is screaming and/or throwing things at you while referring to you as a “Fascist”, chances are he’s using the word as an insult rather than a technical term.

Revisionist: While the word “Revisionist” may refer to a number of things, when used in a Communist context, this most commonly refers to heterodox Communist theory (i.e. “Communism” with one or more basic tenets changed). “Revisionist” is often used as an intra-Communist insult, used to attack members of a school of Communism the insulter deems to be strayed from orthodox Marxism.

Revolutionary: While technically used to refer to anything associated with the Communist revolution, the term, when used casually, is simply a positive Communist term meaning “good” or “excellent”. For example, while a Communist would not reply “revolutionary!” when informed of a good event (such as free pizza being delivered to his house), some Communists might describe the pizza as being “revolutionary”. While this term is by no means common, it is used in certain circles.

Capitalist: Like “Revolutionary”, the word “Capitalist” has both a technical and casual usage. Technically the word refers to an economic system based on private-property, free trade, and commerce, however when used informally, the word acts as the reverse of “revolutionary” (see previous entry)- used simply to refer to anything considered “bad” or “unfair”. For example, if a Communist did not like the price of pizza at a certain restaurant, chances are you’ll hear him angrily mutter something about the restaurant being run by “filthy Capitalists”.

Bourgeois/Bourgeoisie: Much like “Capitalist” the terms “Bourgeois” and “Bourgeoisie” (while technically referring to the middle-class) are used to describe anything distasteful or traditionalist. Essentially, the word “Bourgeois” is used to refer to anything considered to be “counter-revolutionary” or un-Communist. For example, if one person were to say to a Communist “My life’s goal is to get married and run a successful pizza restaurant”, the Communist may reply that this goal is sickeningly “Bourgeois”.

The Man/The System: While the exact era and region that this term originated in are unclear, most believe that the term was developed sometime between 1880s-1950s in rural America. “The Man” is a term used to refer to the government or indeed, any authority figure- derived from the word “management”. Likewise, the term “the system” is also used refer to political or social authority. Both terms are used in an extremely derogatory sense, though they are more often attributed to the left-wing in general, rather than Communism specifically.

Pig: While more commonly used in reference to the police (the exact origin of the term is unknown), when used among Communists, the word “pig” is often a suffix to a larger insult (i.e. “Capitalist Pigs”, “Imperialist Pigs”, etc.). It is commonly hypothesized that the origin of the use of the word “pig” in this context is derived from stereotypes of a pig’s nature, especially its association with gluttony.

Proletariat: (See “Revolutionary”)

Socialist: Once again, “Socialist” has a number of technical terms however when used among Communists, the word is often used according to its classical definition as being synonymous with Marxism.

Amerika/Amerikkka: Common Leftist derogatory refference to the United States, or right-wing elements of the United States.