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Communism

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Communism - the only hope for humanity or a big bag of bollocks?

Yes
42
36%
No
48
41%
I'm not sure
15
13%
If i'm honest i don't really know what it is
12
10%
 
Total votes : 117

Re: Communism

Postby Wood Goblin on Sun Feb 02, 2014 11:47 am

tocharian wrote:My understanding is that that bank has been around for a very long time and has always done well.


That could very well be. The bank's website only posts financials (that I could see) dating back five or so years. But it wouldn't surprise me if it's always been fine.

Wood Goblin... I have to ask... do you think Illinois will try to frack its way to fiscal solvency? (Not to imply that you'd be in favor of this!)


I doubt it, mostly because that would require planning, which the folks in Springfield struggle to do.
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Re: Communism

Postby jimmy two hands on Sun Feb 02, 2014 12:39 pm

Wood Goblin wrote:
tocharian wrote:My understanding is that that bank has been around for a very long time and has always done well.


That could very well be. The bank's website only posts financials (that I could see) dating back five or so years. But it wouldn't surprise me if it's always been fine.


Started in 1919.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bank_of_North_Dakota
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Re: Communism

Postby tocharian on Sun Feb 02, 2014 4:54 pm

I sort of wish like-minded New Yorkers associated with Jacobin would just declare themselves a political party and make Doug Henwood the chair. Come up with an awesome platform, so as to spare us the torture of months and months of trying to persuade people not to make shit like transforming community gardens into the sole source of our food supply campaign issues.

Then create some sort of Emily's List boot camp for training people to work on campaigns and fan out across the country.

Henwood was completely correct about this slavishly horizontal activistism nonsense. Duh guys, state power is hierarchical, so you need to get comfortable working within hierarchies in your own organizations if you hope to ever engage with real power.
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Re: Communism

Postby tocharian on Sun Feb 02, 2014 10:25 pm

It's the instant gratification of easy power. My thimbleful of "say" that I'm guaranteed for showing up at this "action." I understand how this appeals to powerless people, but it's not gonna get us mincome.
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Re: Communism

Postby OrthodoxEaster on Mon Feb 03, 2014 2:05 pm

connor wrote:Horizontalism and other anarcho-inflected pieties have been disastrous for the Left. Of course, it's something that could only take center stage once labor (which has few illusions about state power, hierarchy, etc.) had been effectively wiped out and detached from radical politics decades earlier. But yes, it's been very bad.

It's kind of how I see Occupy Wall Street: not the beginning of anything but the end of the 1990's anti-globalization/anarcho-dominated left. They had their shot: the whole country was desperate for a left, any left, to show up on the scene.

And to the credit of the Adbusters weirdos, they showed up. And despite what anyone says, it was indeed anarcho culture, anti-political proceduralism, direct-democracy fetishism, and a shocking, almost religious faith in consensus (over majority decisions) that dominated. And look what they accomplished.

Contrast that record with an incredibly disciplined, ideologically-coherent, hierarchical, pro-"taking state power" movement like the Tea Party, which was absolutely hated by far, far more people than OWS ever was. They changed the country--for the worse--in a matter of months. They put their people into office. They forced things to happen that were deeply unpopular. Yet because of their discipline, their ideological coherence, they got better results.

Ask a "conservative" what she or he thinks about "free market capitalism" and you'll hear: "FREE MARKETS! NOW! IT'S WHAT JESUS WANTED! IT'S WHAT MAKES THIS COUNTRY GREAT!"

Ask a "progressive" what she or he thinks about "socialism" and you'll hear: "Well, er...obviously, the USSR was a disaster. And China. Oh oh, I agree: the worst tyrants that ever lived! I guess, like, Nordic style capitalism is good? That's kind of socialism, right? But man, put a communist in front of me and I'll punch him right in the face, I promise!"

Can you see the problem?


See now, I agree w/most of what you've written here, almost to the letter. (I know, I know... nobody asked.) And obviously, you're exaggerating for comic effect there about "conservatives" b/c I know quite a few of them who are atheists. As in, almost every business person w/whom I have dined.

But I think we're getting to the heart of our disagreement when I say that I must take issue w/the last paragraph. I really don't think too many progressives in this day and age object much to the term "socialism." Particularly when it's explained in the context of Western European-style trade unions and social safety nets and how that might work w/in the existing system. It scares very few. Strong trade unions? Nobody thinks about the Soviets, they maybe think of France (certain dopes might think "Mafia" and "corruption," but they're not thinking "genocidal tyrants"). "Socialism" tends to be a term that mostly freaks out conservatives and a few center-right dems. And that's about it.

On the other hand, when you start implying that socialism is a path to Communism and getting defensive about the shortcomings of various Communist and yes, some socialist "heroes," everything changes and a lot of progressives get off the boat. I can't say I blame them.
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Re: Communism

Postby Andrew. on Mon Feb 03, 2014 2:57 pm

connor wrote:Horizontalism and other anarcho-inflected pieties have been disastrous for the Left. Of course, it's something that could only take center stage once labor (which has few illusions about state power, hierarchy, etc.) had been effectively wiped out and detached from radical politics decades earlier. But yes, it's been very bad.

It's kind of how I see Occupy Wall Street: not the beginning of anything but the end of the 1990's anti-globalization/anarcho-dominated left. They had their shot: the whole country was desperate for a left, any left, to show up on the scene.

And to the credit of the Adbusters weirdos, they showed up. And despite what anyone says, it was indeed anarcho culture, anti-political proceduralism, direct-democracy fetishism, and a shocking, almost religious faith in consensus (over majority decisions) that dominated. And look what they accomplished.


Agree in a lot of respects, but as much as a fetishism of direct democracy and consensus it was a total lack of structure and *effective* procedures that defined Occupy. You can contrast the Occupy shitshow with the Quebec student movement, which uses a time-consuming but highly systematized (basically anarcho-syndicalist) structure of federated assemblies and direct democracy that it has maintained and refined over decades.

The Quebec student movement has been the best organized, most militant, and most effective mass challenge to neoliberal politics in N America. It is built from practices of direct democracy and a combination of consensus and majority voting that look nothing like the ill-fated crap that went down in Occupy.

So, what was the chief stopper on the Quebec student movement that mobilized the largest street demonstrations in Canadian history, toppled a government, and sought to push further into a "social strike" with revolutionary potential? Other than corporate media propaganda and the government and cops themselves, was it anarcho-pieties and horizontalism? Nope. It was actually trade union leadership. Sad fact.

The best take on the relation between the left and trade unions (and Occupy) is Doug Henwood's recent interview with Sam Gindin. Indispensable stuff. I also interviewed Sam as part of a roundtable on organized labor here.

The fact is most unions are not very democratic, they're not militant, and they're not effective. They've been losing ground for about 3 decades. While not the root cause of organized labor's decline, bureaucracy, representational pseudo-democracy, and entrenched hierarchy between leadership and staffers, on one hand, and a disaffected rank-and-file, on the other, is a big part of the picture. I was on a panel with two union staffers, an organizer and a federation executive, last weekend, and they acknowledge all this and more off record.

The point isn't to abandon unions, obviously, but to recognize that transforming them into effective organs of working-class struggle is going to take years and years of work.

As Sam, a 27-year staffer with the Auto Workers, said to me:

The ineffectiveness of unions through recent decades makes future rebellions of some kind almost inevitable.


The Henwood interview w/ Sam is so good.
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Re: Communism

Postby Andrew. on Mon Feb 03, 2014 4:54 pm

connor wrote:I'd say the difference is that the Quebec Left has a long history of party politics, effective organizational discipline and ideological coherence.


True historically, and it was the revolutionary Marxist push within the "Quiet Revolution" of the 60s that gave rise to the dream of free post-secondary education in Quebec in the first place. There is a narrative arc rooted in historical revolutionary politics for Quebec students. A bigger picture, a dream. Exactly what the anti-globalization left of the 90s lacked. At the same time, most Quebec students were not invested in party politics with mandated discipline, etc, even if some of their parents were. Rather, they were engaged and mobilized through the movement's participatory, horizontal structures. And many were first radicalized through participation in the WTO and G7 summit protests of the past decade or so (certainly far more than through any party or disciplined organization -- no comparison).

Party politics and tight, coherent organizations have basically no impact on the Quebec student movement.

Anyway, what I'm also underlining is that for unions to become relevant and effective, they need to become more like grassroots organizations: more democratic, more participatory, more accountable to and supportive of the base, less male-dominated, etc. A focus on Occupy's failings can risk distracting from the fact that the calcified, top-down structures of organized labor are actually a more pressing problem than the goofs who run Adbusters.
Last edited by Andrew. on Mon Feb 03, 2014 5:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Communism

Postby OrthodoxEaster on Mon Feb 03, 2014 5:52 pm

connor wrote:
OrthodoxEaster wrote:On the other hand, when you start implying that socialism is a path to Communism and getting defensive about the shortcomings of various Communist and yes, some socialist "heroes," everything changes and a lot of progressives get off the boat. I can't say I blame them.

You misunderstand. I simply get annoyed by three things:

1. your lack of knowledge about any "communism" or Communist Party outside of the USSR

and

2. the fact that you keep falling into--and repeating--the right-wing trap of judging communist states by standards which, if applied to global capitalism, would make our liberal-capitalist world look like just as much a nightmare, but without any material excuse other than "so sayeth private property rights!"

and

3. Your inability to understand that even your desired moderate version of European "social capitalism" is 100% undermined by anti-Communism, both liberal and conservative strains.

I do not think you do this because you're a right-winger. I think you do this because, like all of us, you can only see the world through the ideological lens with which we're all brought up into. Even I still do this without realizing it.

So you can see the gulags, and you see how they're directly related to the nightmare of Stalinism and Soviet Communism. But you don't apply that to our socioeconomic system: capitalism.

Paraphrasing Zizek, you can't just look at Park Slope or some middle class neighborhood in Chicago to judge capitalism: you also have to look at Detroit and you also have to look at our prison-industrial complex and you also have to look at the coltan mines of the Congo. All three are firmly integrated into our capitalist world. And of course, let's not forget that American capitalism got its massive kickstart by running the largest slave society in human history.

Here's the kicker and here's what you just plain 100% do not get:

Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize winning economist, quoted in Antony Black, ‘Black propaganda’, Guardian Weekly, Feb. 24, 2000 wrote:[India] had, in terms of morbidity, mortality and longevity, suffered an excess in mortality over China of close to 4 [million] a year during the same period [of the Great Leap Forward]… Thus, in this one geographical area alone, more deaths resulted from ‘this failed capitalist experiment’ (more than 100 million by 1980) than can be contributed to the ‘failed communist experiment’ all over the world since 1917.”



Just as it would not be fair for me to judge Stalinism by the quality of life of state officials and middling bureacrats in 1950s Moscow and Leningrad, it is ridiculous for you to look at our own socioeconomic system with the massive blinders with which you do.


Well that was rather presumptuous and condescending, wasn't it?
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Re: Communism

Postby OrthodoxEaster on Mon Feb 03, 2014 8:43 pm

"Blinders"? "The ideological lens w/which we're all brought up into"? What the hell? Maybe you said this stuff in haste and did not mean for it to come out so condescendingly, but you seem to type these very broad and smug things only b/c I don't agree w/you and b/c I refuse to use capitalism as some all-purpose whipping boy or label it as the sole root of all the world's ills. I mean, your own position could also be construed as living w/"blinders" or perhaps just needing a bogeyman to simplify a complicated world. I just don't think any one ideology is a cure-all and I think blaming "capitalism" for some of this shit is way too simplistic while looking to Communism is perhaps historically foolish.

And did it ever occur to you that some of what you post here may not be all that revelatory for many people? Seriously. Žižek? No to Nordic social democracy, but yes to Žižek? Maybe a decade ago, but come on, that guy becomes more of a self-parody w/each article written about him, it's like he's the Marxist Spike Jones.

The Tea Party resonated w/ and changed the American right b/c of its populist tendencies and I don't see your position as one that might energize many progressives who are not students, academics, or perhaps media people looking for a story about how socialism is "hip" again. If your aim is to create some American leftist version of the Tea Party, your methods--at least based on what you post here--strike me as perverse. It's not that the left has been brainwashed or that you poor peeps are the victims of some "problem w/liberalism," it's simply that your logic is not particularly pragmatic or tangible. And Americans do love them some pragmatism, for better or for worse.

I think you're plenty intelligent and probably a fine person but Jesus, the majority of kicking and screaming here also seems to be done by you. Typically, I only bitch when you do something absurd like compare the American prison system to the gulag or display ignorance regarding the Soviet history that my family actually lived (and died) thru.

Of course you get mad about "anti-Communism," it's a major impediment to your goals. But that doesn't mean that plenty of people in the world don't have very valid reasons to remember and say "never again." (Once again, I will remind you that I did not vote in this thread.)

I'm fairly certain this back-and-forth is boring the shit out of everyone and monopolizing a thread or two (actually, several posters have said as much) so we should probably just figure out some way to make this a less public disagreement.
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Re: Communism

Postby OrthodoxEaster on Mon Feb 03, 2014 9:37 pm

connor wrote:Actually, Jacobin seems to have radicalized a great many left-liberals and introduced Marxian socialist critiques of things they probably otherwise would not have thought about. I mean, I suppose it's possible that hundreds of thousands of people are reading these things for shits-and-giggles but I doubt it. I'm quite proud of it.


5,000 print subscribers is basically a fanzine but yes, I agree that the web numbers are decent and they ultimately probably matter a hell of a lot more in this day and age. You should be proud! And I do wish you luck w/your endeavor. Not being sarcastic. But I was basing my thoughts above more on our own discussions, and not necessarily on the voice of the magazine.

connor wrote:Actually, my point is that it's a huge impediment to your goals as well.


Perhaps. Thing is, I'm not actively looking to influence anyone, per se.
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Re: Communism

Postby tocharian on Tue Feb 04, 2014 9:42 am

Jacobin has over 30,000 followers on facebook and it's great. It's widely read by the major liberal economic and policy journalists, and its pieces are often reprinted in Slate and Salon. The magazine is furiously restoring socialist and communist politics to the Left, things that academic abstraction and this ultra pragmatic, anti-intellectual activist politics of procedure had drained from it.

I think it is import to come up with a definition of communism that Orthodox Easter likes. In Jodi Dean's formulation, it's 1.) an absolute commitment to a state and a society in which the collective rules over those who would oppress and exploit us. 2.) an absolute commitment to caring for the resources we hold in common.

Programmatically, it's a cautious process of expropriation from the wealthy: progressive taxation, regulation of finance, campaign finance restrictions, labor protections, state run banks, minimum basic income, free schools, sovereign wealth fund, jobs programs, expansion of social security, shorter work week, real environmental protections.

Nobody wants to suddenly nationalize everything and destroy markets.

You need this communism, this absolute commitment to the public interest and public goods, because without it our politics will forever be dragged rightward by people absolutely committed to unfettered capital.
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Re: Communism

Postby Ernest on Tue Feb 04, 2014 10:39 pm

It's weird thing to read to a transformation of what communism ought to be through the lens of social democracy, when the entire issue is the existence of class, and of the existence of the wealthy amongst us, and how piecemeal movement toward an equitable socialism is communism, or that campaign finance reform would have anything to do with communism in the first place.

That list is a list of liberal concerns, and while they're awesome in context to our situation, why the hell is anyone, least of all Salon, even aligning those ideas with communism? Expansion of social security is usually a dream of the 90s outside of the political class, never mind a period where intense economic crisis almost obliterates even the idea of retirement.

I think the left needs to figure out what the hell it wants before communism is even on their minds to put on the drawing board.
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Re: Communism

Postby tocharian on Tue Feb 04, 2014 10:58 pm

Communism is a process of destroying the capitalist class. It can be incremental and begin with reforms that are programmatically liberal.
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Re: Communism

Postby Ernest on Tue Feb 04, 2014 11:20 pm

tocharian wrote:Communism is a process of destroying the capitalist class. It can be incremental and begin with reforms that are programmatically liberal.


Suffice to say we don't agree on it's condition (process versus definite state?), there's a reason why reformist socialism broke away fairly heavily from Marxism, like the Fabians did from the First International/Reds, is that the two are pretty incompatible in overall ideology. You seem to be sticking together progressivism of the former, with the radicalism of the latter, and using the word communist.

How do you (everybody) intend to reform capitalism into a communism, let alone a socialism from the bottom up, rather than a prolonged social engineered experiment that evokes the days of British eugenics/imperial "better society" type?

Reform is to keep the current system, it's framework, and it's underlying mode of operating in place, rather than to create a fundamental shift in society to move toward a classless society where private property is nonexistent. You can't reform a wage system while simultaneously aiming for the eradication of exploitative labor, if the realization that labor itself is the issue isn't there.

In a liberal society, it's reforms are limited to liberal paradigms of what constitute solutions; market based, political class-enabled progressivism, but it would need something on the order of a new Marshall Plan, or heavy military armament after the current crisis runs it's course. I'm just scratching my head, sort of.
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Re: Communism

Postby tocharian on Sat Mar 15, 2014 5:03 pm

Reading T. H. Breen's The Marketplace of Revolution. Masterfully argues that consumer debt was in fact the major underlying cause of the American Revolution:

T. H. Breen wrote:From the colonial perspective, it seemed that Americans had to work even harder to maintain a fiction of commercial reciprocity within the [British] empire. "Our importation of ... goods from England is so vastly great... that we are obliged to betake ourselves to all possible arts to make remittances... In Debt we are... and in Debt we must be for those vast Importations from Europe and as we increase, so will our Debts without, from the present Prospect of Things, ever being able to make suitable Returns."

...

It was not that the colonists rejected the basic protectionist assumptions that underlay the British mercantile system. Rather, they insisted that commercial reciprocity encouraged a kind of pragmatic fair play, for, as seemed obvious to them, it made little sense in the long run to encourage colonial consumption unless the provincials could expect realistically to pay for what they had purchased.

By the 1770s, colonists were spending as much on English-made goods as the English themselves. Although, unlike their much wealthier John Bull counterparts, they were purchasing these goods largely on credit.

Since British manufacturers had a monopoly on American markets thanks to the Navigation Acts, and since the indebtedness of the American consumer contributed substantially to the prosperity of the English bourgeoisie, the colonists believed they were entitled to a certain degree of military protection and good government without further exploitation. E.g. taxes on items they already couldn't afford.

Recommended.
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Re: Communism

Postby Andrew. on Fri May 16, 2014 2:53 pm

I started watching this last night. Will finish watching on the weekend. Really good. It's an Oscar-nominated 1983 documentary on American communists.

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Re: Communism

Postby NewDarkAge on Fri May 16, 2014 3:35 pm

connor wrote:It is difficult to kick off the ideological blinders we grow up with and look at the fundamentals of what each of us takes as a given. So I don't blame people for that. I *do* get annoyed when they kick and scream and lash out when called on it. But even then, I try my hardest to stay cool.


This is a little alarming to read considering how some of Zizek's most important work is about how 'kicking off the ideological blinders' is at best an oversimplification, at worst completely the wrong way to tackle ideology.
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Re: Communism

Postby NewDarkAge on Fri May 16, 2014 3:40 pm

Dude, re-read the first chapter of Sublime Object. Especially the cynicism bit.
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Re: Communism

Postby NewDarkAge on Fri May 16, 2014 3:55 pm

SZ actually says:

...we must avoid the simple metaphors of demasking, of throwing away the veils which are supposed to hide the naked reality.


He explains this point further of course. Worth reading!
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Re: Communism

Postby Andrew. on Fri May 16, 2014 4:26 pm

The documentary portrays true believers but also -- at exactly the same time -- their resistance to patriarchal and authoritarian aspects of the Party, the frustration and boredom of doing organizing work, etc.

One of my frequent talking points when chatting with young activists is basically Connor's: that an overarching narrative that one could embrace was essential to the determination and sacrifice that drove early 20th-century radicalism. And, today, we can't just protest and resist, just be against stuff and defend stuff, we need to think about a positive vision again, recognizing that the total commitment of early radicals was often bound up in total delusion about the USSR.

To quote myself like an asshole: In the absence of our own social vision, all we can do is react, using someone else’s terms of debate. We know what we are against, but what is it we are for?
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