Thursday, October 22, 2020

Critical Race Theory: An attack on the working class?

A short leftist criticism of "Critical Race Theory". Note also the attack on Antifa! 

From "The Militant", published by the US Socialist Workers Party.

Rulers use "racial sensitivity" programs to attack working class

Oh, October, sweet October

The election campaign is really getting into overdrive this week. Burat, Giuliani, Hunter Biden, Swazi and Fijian oligarchs, ok maybe not yet but you do get my point...

This isn't even pop corn anymore. It's a virtual smorgasbord!

Perhaps inevitably, our old friends from the Lincoln Project are right in the thick of it. This anti-Trump outfit was recently caught redhanded as they were promoting disinfo from the Iranian regime aimed at compromising the integrity of the US elections. Which doesn't mean they did so deliberately. They were played by Iranian operatives hard.

It's interesting to note that one of the founders of the Lincoln Project used to literally work for the Russians...

I'm pretty sure that wasn't deliberate either.

Lincoln Project peddled Iranian disinformation to help Biden

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Inexplicable failure

The link below is to a peculiar article in an on-line academic journal. The authors do make a few interesting points, but within a context that frequently made me gasp. I sincereky wonder whether the article is Chinese propaganda! And yes, even some TDS have been incorporated into the "peer reviewed" paper... 

First, some of the interesting points. The authors argue that pre-modern state formations weren't necessarily worse than modern polities. Even an undemocratic regime can have the long-term consent of the governed. This is predicted by something the authors call Collective Action Theory. "Good government" in the ancient world included public works, free distribution of food for the needy, large-scale infrastructure and "joint production", by which the authors presumably mean that the patrician class wasn't exploiting the plebeians. They must have exploited the slaves, though - one of the good regimes mentioned in the article is the Roman polity from Caesar to Marcus Aurelius.

Other examples of good regimes discussed in the article include early Ming China, the Mughal Empire under Akbar the Great, and the Republic of Venice. The most sensational finding is that good governments don't last much longer than bad ones. On average, both types of regime last about one century and a half, with good governments surviving only a decade more than bad ones. Also, the collapse of a good government is usually much worse than that of a bad one. However, this seems to be true by definition: since good regimes invest heavily in infrastructure and a kind of welfare state, they are bound to collapse more dramatically than a regime which never cared about such things in the first place. 

However, somewhere here, the article goes seriously off rails. It claims that good regimes fail because the ruling elite (or is it the actual ruler himself) for "inexplicable reasons" experience a "moral failing". Inexplicable? Moral? And this from modern and presumably secular historians! At times, the authors sound like Confucian preachers, extolling the virtues and bemoaning the vices of emperors. They actually blame the decline of Rome on the bad morality of Commodus! I suppose he lost the Mandate of the Stoa, whatever. 

When discussing Venice, the authors write that the Doges could no longer be effectively impeached.

Hmmm... 

Yes, they mean Donald J Trump. For *inexplicable* reasons, the current God-Emperor of MAGA is a moral failure, presumably being a clear and present danger to the social contract between ruler and ruled. To their credit, the authors do begin their odyssey through the morally failed American political landscape with Watergate and the Nixon presidency, but this simply makes their position even more, shall we say, inexplicable. Surely there are structural reasons for America's slow decline as a good government since the 1970's? Also, what if voters chose Trump in the (perhaps mistaken) belief that he can restore the "joint production"? 

As for the one and a half century which is the average life span of any regime (impeachable or not), if the current US regime was established after the Civil War, 2020 is indeed near its end point. If it was established by McKinley, I suppose we still have a few decades, and I suppose moral failings, to go... 

Moral collapse and state failure: A view from the past


Cheer up, it might never happen

Michael Tracey, a roving independent reporter of a mostly liberal persuasion, has attempted to play "the voice of reason" in this year's election kerfuffle. In the article linked below, Tracey argues against the liberal and leftist notion that Trump is a budding dictator, a new Mussolini or Caesar.

For the record, Tracey have also argued that Biden or Harris aren't "radical leftists" hell bent on wrecking America if given half the chance. Apparently, we will all be here for the great rematch in 2024!

Well, that feels so good to hear...

How hysterical punditry failed America


Veckans Strasser

En krönika av Kommunistiska Partiets förra ordförande Robert Mathiasson om medelklassvänstern och Brexit.

Varför gick det åt helvete med vänstern?


Monday, October 19, 2020

Post-revolutionary society

"Post-revolutionary society" is a book published in 1980. It contains essays by Paul M Sweezy, written during the period 1968 to 1980. Sweezy was a prominent American Marxist economist and theoretician. Most of the essays were originally published in Sweezy's own journal, Monthly Review.

Sweezy begins by explaining his disillusionment with the Soviet Union. Although the Soviet Communist regime developed the productive forces to a stunningly high degree (Sweezy believes that some branches of the Soviet economy are better than their American equivalents), the Soviet Union is not appreciably closer to real socialism. Rather, the Soviet system is characterized by a widespread depolitization, careerism, consumerism and the dominance of a privileged bureaucracy. The working class is not really in command. Isaac Deutscher's hopes for a peaceful democratization after the death of Stalin have also been dashed.

Sweezy's alternative to the Soviet failure turns out to be Mao's China, although his interpretations of Maoism are perhaps his own. He is worried that post-Mao China, too, will end up like the Soviet Union.

On some points, Sweezy sounds like a rather typical Maoist. Politics should be in command, periodic cultural revolutions are necessary, everyone's standard of living should be the same, consumerism is bad, etc. On other points, however, the author sounds more idiosyncratic. He tries to make a connection between Mao's politics and the New Economic Policy (NEP) in the Soviet Union (1921-28). This sounds frankly absurd since Mao is better seen as a ultraleftist adventurist, but there you go!

To Sweezy, the NEP was first and foremost a form of peasant orientation, something necessary in a peasant-majority nation like Russia (and, obviously, China). He points out that Lenin called for the establishment of voluntary peasant cooperatives on a massive scale as a kind of alternate route to socialism. Unfortunately, this was never implemented. Sweezy regards the Chinese people's communes as the voluntary co-ops Lenin wanted! The goal is to expand industry together with agriculture, and only to the extent agriculture permits. 

Sweezy was originally positive to French Marxist Charles Bettelheim's analysis of Soviet history. Bettelheim regarded the Soviet social formation as a form of capitalism, with a "state bourgeoisie" as the ruling class. This class was actually a leftover from the old system, comprising its administrative apparatus, which the Bolsheviks for various reasons were forced to take over. The old Russian state bureaucracy was completely imbued with a "capitalist" mentality and became strong already under Lenin. 

In later essays, Sweezy changes his perspective. Now, he says that the Soviet Union is an entirely new form of class society. Its ruling class has emerged *through conditions created by the revolution itself*. He never uses the term "bureaucratic collectivism", but that's clearly what he means. Nor is it clear whether the new class society is better nor worse than capitalism = hardly a minor point for Marxists. Sweezy regards full employment as a positive gain for the working class, and says that this commends the new system to the poor Third World masses. However, I get the impression that he really sees the system as ultimately reactionary, since it blocks a real socialist development. 

Indeed, Sweezy is very pessimistic. There is no real socialism anywhere in the world, and seemingly no prospect making it happen. All new revolutions will be bureaucratic in nature. The once expansive Soviet system is stagnating, being forced to import capital from the West (which isn't in very good shape either). Worst of all, Marxist theory itself is in crisis and badly in need of a Kuhnian paradigm shift. 

While Sweezy does sound honest enough (although slightly deluded by the towering presence of Chairman Mao), I think it's obvious what the real solution to the theoretical problem is. The Soviet Union and China really were socialist. The bureaucratic post-revolutionary society described by Paul M Sweezy is *really existing* socialism. No other form is possible, except as a very long shot. 

That is the real secret of the post-revolutionary society. 


Thursday, October 15, 2020

OCTOBER SURPRISE

Roger Penrose actually got the Nobel Prize in Physics. I had no idea! Penrose seems to be one of the few independent-minded scientists out there. Not that I understand anything he is saying, of course...

No Lenin medal for this girl

Imagine being 17 years old and attacked by some outfit named Red Flag Platform...

Greta Thunberg refuses to name the enemy in the room

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Marxism and the working class

The Marxist idea that the working class is "historically progressive" is based on two interrelated propositions.

First, the notion that only a global, centralized planned economy can develop the productive forces and create the material foundations for further social progress. Therefore, capitalism must be abolished. At the same time, capitalism has within itself tendencies that point towards its own dissolution. For instance, centralization and the need for more planning to overcome larger and larger crisis. 

Second, that only the working class has a material self-interest to abolish capitalism. Therefore, the working class is the only consistently revolutionary class in capitalist society. Since the working class was "created" by capitalism, it's the single most important force within it pointing to its destruction. "Capitalism creates its own grave-diggers".

Today, we know that this perspective is wrong. The working class has never managed to take power anywhere in the world, except briefly. Left to its own devices, when it actually acts like an independent class, the working class never tends towards centralization. Rather, it's syndicalist. The working class becomes centralized only when organized *from above* by Social Democrats and Communists. That is, by the labor aristocracy, "labor" bureaucracy, or a budding state bureaucracy. The argument that the Communist Party is itself a product of the proletarian class struggle won't wash, since Communist regimes can be established *without* the working class or even *against* the working class. 

Some of the more notable working class revolts were directed against Communist regimes: East Germany 1953, Hungary 1956, Poland 1980-81. 

The idea that a super-centralized planned economy is even possible, is also problematic. In general, mixed economies (regarded as "capitalist" by Marxists) have proven more efficient than the Soviet-style system. It's not clear at all that a global planned economy would work better (or be easier for workers to control). 

The working class is neither better nor worse than other oppressed classes in world history. The medieval peasants often revolted. Sometimes they succeeded. Usually, they didn't. As for the contradictions in capitalist society, they might be solved in several different ways. Nazism was one attempt, Keynesianism another, Stalinism a third. Or they might not be solved, capitalism simply self-destructing due to climate change or what have you. 

There doesn't seem to be any hard teleology in world history. Perhaps there is a kind of soft teleology whereby humans (or some humans) try to become more solidaristic and creative but this can express itself in a myriad of ways. World history could have gone off in completely different directions than it actually did (both for the better or for the worse). Ironically, the most succesful "socialist" societies existed thousand of years ago (or at least centuries ago). If Mao-Stalinism is your thing, ancient Egypt or the Inca Empire might make your day, for a more moderate approach see the Indus Valley Civilization. I'm sure some ancient syndicalist federation can also be found, perhaps among Raetian tribes in the Jura mountains? 

Our present civilization will probably decline (it already is) and fall (or be radically transformed), without neither the bourgeoisie nor the working class having a say in the matter.  





Fuck Columbus hard in the ass

Apparently, October 12 is "Columbus Day" in the United States. With all due respect to Italian-Americans, good ol' Cristobal Colon can't be seen as one of history's good guys. He's right up there with Mussolini, Berlusconi, Andreotti, Jimmy Hoffa, Al Capone and, I suppose, Caligula...