Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Towards Socialism

For those of us who advocate the striving towards a just socialist society free of exploitation, oppression, hierarchy and domination and instead founded upon rational ethical principles such as equality, mutual aid, solidarity, cooperation, freedom and democracy, we certainly do not expect to see such a radical transformation occur overnight. Any rational person looking at existing society could not possibly believe that it is anything like ripe for substantive, foundational socialist change; that would be a ludicrous conclusion. These are for sure long-term goals, although anything can happen at anytime, most unexpectedly.

This being the case, the question arises: what to do? Noam Chomsky stresses that what should drive people working “for change are certain principles you’d like to see achieved,” such as the ones I have cited; people must advance these principles. Chomsky observes that many people refer to such tactics as “reformism,” and that this is more of a baseless “put-down” because “reforms can be quite revolutionary if they lead in a certain direction,” and they can certainly help better lay the foundation and create the material conditions for a more thorough transformation.

The question then arises as to what reforms should be advocated and implemented, what reforms would be likely to help work towards a more just socialist society. In my view some of the immediate tasks should be the reestablishment and reorganization of the unions that have been absolutely decimated from, conspicuously, the Reagan administration throughout every following administration (both Republican and Democratic). Historically unions act as centers furthering democracy, freedom, solidarity, welfare and so on. Noam Chomsky elaborates upon this point in his lecture “Class War: The Attack on Working People”:

“Effective democratizing forces has always been the labor movement, labor unions; history on that is completely clear. In countries that have a strong labor movement there is also a very strong tendency or a strong correlation with a real, live, functioning social contract that includes not only rights for working people, but for people who need help and protection: for the defenseless, for children, for women, for families, for people in need of assistance generally, for the general public in fact. And there’s also a culture that goes along with it: a culture of solidarity and sympathy and mutual aid and support.”

For these reasons it is surely of critical importance to reorganize the unions and to reinvigorate and empower the labor movement. The labor movement is a strong countervailing force for democracy promotion, social justice and the like and must become again a leading social force.

It would also seem practical to form a viable labor party that actually represents working class and regular, ordinary people – rather than being forced with simply two divergent factions of the single business party – seeing as the United States is one of the only, if not the only, “first-world” industrialized nations without such a labor party.

Taking into consideration the effects of corporate globalization – for example, the fact that a multinational corporation, such as a car manufacturing company, can, when labor demands become “too costly” for the company, simply, because it is cheaper, transfer manufacturing somewhere else, from the United States to Mexico or Indonesia, from Germany to Alabama, etcetera, where workers rights have either not been achieved or have been decimated – the reconstitution of the labor movement must truly be international, as they have always made a pretense of. This project can take as a guide the Industrial Workers’ of the World Union’s international unionization of Starbucks baristas where labor actions have taken place in various countries, following the fact that the company is international, so too must be the unionization of it.

Following the subject of internationalism, the Humanist Manifesto 2000, drafted by Paul Kurtz, presents some pragmatic international reforms. A Planetary Bill of Rights and Responsibilities is proposed. “It incorporates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but goes beyond it by offering some new provisions” and goes into detail describing these new provisions, such as economic security, protection from unnecessary injury, danger and death (the inadmissibility of capital punishment), protection from discrimination based upon race, ethnic origin, nationality, culture, caste, class, creed, gender, or sexual orientation, the necessity of the principles of equality (equality before the law, equality of consideration, satisfaction of basic needs, equality of opportunity) and so on.

Discussing “The Need For New Planetary Institutions” it is observed that “[t]o solve problems on the transnational level and to contribute to planetwide development, we need gradually but drastically to transform the United Nations…The most fundamental change would be to enhance the effectiveness of the UN by converting it from an assembly of sovereign states to an assembly of peoples as well.”

The Manifesto cites as some more reforms that “the world needs…to establish an effective World Parliament – and elections to it based on populations – which will represent the people, not their governments.”

The Security Council veto must be abolished due to its having the effect of allowing any permanent Security Council member, such as the United States (the most egregious abuser), to halt any action or policy it wishes, even over and against overwhelming international consensus. As the manifesto states “[t]he basic principle of world security is that no single state or alliance of states has the right to undermine the political and territorial integrity of other states by aggression; nor should any nation or group of nations be allowed to police the world or unilaterally bomb others without the concurrence of the Security Council.”

There must be developed “an effective World Court and an International Judiciary with sufficient power to enforce its rulings.” There needs to be “a planetary environmental monitoring agency on the transnational level” and “the development of global institutions should include some procedure for the regulation of multinational corporations and state monopolies.”

Outside of these broad, international reforms, tactics must vary, being contingent upon specific circumstances, geographic regions and so forth. In this sense local community centers, cooperatives and activist groups should be created in order to address local issues as well as partake in the broader, larger issues; such a reorganization should begin from the ground up.

Elaborating upon these themes Chomsky suggests that “in your local community you want to have sources of alternative action; people with parallel concerns, maybe differently focused, but, at the core, sort of similar values and similar interests in helping people learn how to defend themselves against external power, taking control of their lives, reaching out your hand to people in need, that’s a common array of concerns. You can learn about your values, you can figure out how to defend yourself and so on in conjunction with others.”

Working towards socialist change must be variegated and diverse, manifesting the specificities of the regions, organizations, cultures, issues and peoples working toward such change and such work should begin immediately, where it has not begun already.

19 comments:

pmatthews said...

Great blog!!
Thanks for sharing.

Stay connected with friends at global personal
networking
.

capecodkwassa said...

This is an incredible post, JDHURF. Extremely well-written and reasonable.

I have read it a few times now, and I'm impressed by its substance. Instead of just offering vague generalities, you have come up with specific ideas regarding unions and people-organizing that could actually help.

Terrific job!!

JDHURF said...

Thanks for the kind words cape!

Anonymous said...

I vomitted all over your dirty blog. Yuck

Beyond The Political Spectrum said...

Be careful...there are many dogmatic conservatives who are ever-ready to slander such talk as "Un-American."

JDHURF said...

Beyond the Political Spectrum:


There certainly are and I have already encountered such reactions which inspired me to write the following post:

Anti-Americanism and Totalitarianism

Renegade Eye said...

The bridge between the demand for socialism, and reform demands is the transitional demand.

An example is US out of Iraq and Afghanistan, money for jobs, education, healthcare not for war, factory closed is a factory occupied, universal healthcare, etc.

That in no way negates reform demands.

JDHURF said...

Renegade Eye:

I for the most part agree with the Trotskyist notion of "transitional demands,” such as the ones you cited and, to take a specific demand from the former British Trotskyist movement: equal housing for all.

The Troskyist premise posits that such demands would consist of ones that the state and the corporate world are either unwilling or, more precisely, unable to actualize within the confines of state capitalism and are therefore revolutionary, exposing the limitations and failings of the system and thereby also weakening it. I agree with this.

I also agree with reforms as elucidated in my OP that while they do not pose a direct challenge to state capitalism, do indeed help lay a foundation that better suits such challenges: i.e., strengthening international organizations, converting the UN from an assembly of sovereign states to an assembly of peoples as well, internationally regulating state monopolies and corporations and so on.

Socialist anti-religious said...

hey JDHURF, great post.

I want to pose a question to you.

Among other things, I am a socialist humanist; an advocate of freedom of speech; and, I am anti-religion because I consider religion to be of backward mentally, dangerous, an obstruction to progress and freedom of speech. In my opinion, religion has been more harmful than good to mankind and society.

As a secularist, I have always appreciated French secularism. Now, there is a possibility in France to pass a law that bans the use of religious clothing that covers the face(for instance the islamic burqa). In my opinion, this is a great step and sends a powerful message for secularism, for women's rights, and against religious oppression, in this case, islamic religion.

Some say that socialists and leftist should be against this law. That this ban is a right wing struggle. But i disagree. I think this ban is a progressive, socialist humanist measure because it will defend secularism, equality and freedom of speech and liberty for women. This is a strong message to send, specially to young women: there will be people defending your rights against religious oppression and violence in France.

What do you think about this?

JDHURF said...

I completely disagree with you. Enlightenment values consist of freedom of speech and expression, of which clothing choices is a part, and freedom from as well as to religion. As someone who is entirely secular I do not accept supernatural explanations and do not accept any extraordinary premise without extraordinary evidence and I do believe that faith can be problematic because it can induce, promote and justify further irrational beliefs and behavior, but that is not necessarily the case.

The view that religion is the root cause of all evil or even most evil and is in every manifestation so is simply a failed analysis of religion: it neglects the fact that the prophets of the Bible are what Chomsky observes “we would call dissident intellectuals. They were giving geopolitical critique, they were warning that the [Hebrew] kings were going to destroy the country. They were calling for support for suffering people, widows and orphans and so on…Jesus himself, and most of the message of the Gospels, is a message of service to the poor, a critique of the rich and the powerful, and a pacifist doctrine. And it remained that way, that’s what Christianity was up until Constantine. Constantine shifted it so the cross, which was the symbol of persecution of somebody working for the poor, was put on the shield of the Roman Empire. It became the symbol for violence and oppression…” I neglects such tendencies as liberation theology and such religious activists and revolutionaries as Dorothy Day and others. Religion, if one is to be serious and rational about the matter, is not a monolith, it is incredibly diverse and varied. Religion is, in fact, basically, as Chomsky observes, a neutral vessel, it has the potential to be either good, bad or any combination thereof depending upon the way in which it is harnessed by those who do.

As for banning religious scarfs, I couldn’t be more forcefully opposed. Such a policy is simply yet another manifestation of the racist/bigoted European charade. Hijabs and so on are not only a part of Islamic religion, it is part of Middle Eastern culture and the drive to repress those women who wear them is an expression of naked anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Arab racism so endemic to Europe at the moment. I’m sorry, but you are absolutely making a mockery and a disgrace of Enlightenment values and secular reason when you argue for the oppression of some minority, religious, cultural or otherwise, that’s simply not part of the Enlightenment program: it’s more in line with the repression of Muslims and Jews during the Inquisitions. You have less in common with the secular Enlightenment than you do with the savage and archaic church.
To say that this measure is defending women’s rights is almost too much for me to address while remaining civil. It is a woman’s right to decide for herself whether or not she wishes to wear a head scarf, it is for damn sure not the state’s decision to repress her fundamental right to wear what she wishes, also, you may have noticed, young girls typically do not wear head scarfs because they are left to decide later in life whether they wish to do so or not, it’s their decision and it should be their decision, not the state’s (your arguing for an extremely ugly form of state oppression that could very easily pave the way towards a more fuller totalitarianism, like the Nazis forcing the Jews to wear arm bands with Stars of David on them).

People have the right to believe whatever they like and to wear whatever they like, that is what the Enlightenment is about. The notion that people can only think and wear what someone else deems appropriate is the tradition that gave birth to the Inquisitions, the Moscow stage trials and the Holocaust and, as extreme as those examples are, that is the simple truth.

I sincerely hope you reconsider. Do not follow the proto-fascist European herd on this one, it's very dangerous.

Socialist anti-religious said...

Thank you for the reply.

But I respectfully disagree with you due to the reasons I exposed in my earlier comment. Oppression doesn't come solely from dictatorships. It comes also from religion and culture. And this is exactly the point:

"People have the right to believe whatever they like and to wear whatever they like, that is what the Enlightenment is about."

Many people who are religious didn't have and do not have nowadays that right and that freedom of thought. They are told to do this or that, or else, in the name of a so called benevolent christian, muslim, or jewish god. Calling it a tradition or a cultural expression shouldn't make it right.

Religion has been a great obstacle of progress for mankind. It has been more totalitarian than many states.

You talk about racist Europe. There has not been a better place to practice freedom of speech than in Europe throughout history, specially in France. It is true that the right wing has gained momentum in Europe, but if you are so fast in trying to understand cultures maybe you should try to understand why this is happening. Take the Danish prophet cartoons in Europe, the Jesus cartoons in the US. I don't care who you are, where you're from, what you believe in. No one should be killed, or threaten to be killed, or live in fear, because they did a drawing. You can call it anti-muslim, anti-semitic, anti-evangelical-christian, whatever. Many religious drawings are offensive to atheists and agnostic, and no one says anything. Again, it is religion cults doing their oppressive and dangerous behaviour.

Nice to exchange thoughts with you, even if we disagree on this point.

JDHURF said...

The reasons you give are terribly fallacious. To begin with, never once have I argued that oppression stems solely from dictatorships – my entire blog should be a testament to that: exposing and critiquing oppression as it is manifested within corporate-state capitalism (not a dictatorship) as well as religious and cultural sources – so that is simply either a misunderstanding on your part or a red-herring altogether.

There are, of course, situations wherein a person is demanded to follow some religious dictate/practice or another – in U.S. supported Saudi Arabia, for instance, deviation from state-religious doctrine can carry the punishment of beheading and so on – but it is beyond doubt that not everyone who believes in or practices a religious tradition is only doing so by some external force: many/most religious people are so because they choose to be/do so and it is simply elementary that it is their right to choose, otherwise you’re advocating a form of authoritarianism that reeks of theocratic dictatorship (if, in this case, secular).

Of course the militant reaction against the Danish cartoons was unjustified – which is why I commended the secular humanist magazine, Free Inquiry, of which I am a subscriber and supporter, for reprinting the cartoons in solidarity – but that is not analogous to someone wearing a headscarf and the very fact that you think you can compare violent reactions to provocative expressions of freedom of speech to the absolutely mundane and trivial decision to wear certain clothes is absolutely idiotic and infantile, a vulgar failure of analysis.

Modern France, actually, of all places, has had a horrendous track record regarding freedom of speech and expression: the French intelligentsia don’t even grasp the concept. You can review the matter through Chomsky here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=1lCwP-RNExkC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Chomsky%2BLanguage+and+Politics&source=bl&ots=azJiItF6mv&sig=zKpIfzRtVXegtmBx3cKvokiqnIY&hl=en&ei=gxhnS7nkJ4zINYT64PcG&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CB8Q6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=&f=false

The claim, with which I agree, that people shouldn’t be threatened or killed for expressing themselves is so elementary trivial that it should only ever have to be discussed in some Sunday school sermon or kindergarten class for five year olds. Again, the comparison you are making here is as utterly risible as it is intellectually fraudulent: it’s laughable really. Furthermore, the logical extension of this is that people shouldn’t be threatened with criminal actions for freely choosing to wear some article of clothing and they shouldn’t fear the racist/bigoted backlash that is the impetus for such discriminatory policies (you don’t seem to be advocating that Christians can no longer wear crucifixes around their neck or that Jews can no longer wear yarmulkes and that’s probably because it would too obviously reek of Nazism, but, somehow, oppressing by force an Arab woman’s right to wear a headscarf is acceptable (the racist reasoning for this is all but too obvious to those who haven’t fallen in goose-step behind their fascist leaders). Again, you are here placing yourself within the tradition of religio-state oppression and divorcing yourself from the Enlightenment program.

What you advocate reeks to the sky of proto-fascism.

JDHURF said...

btw - I noticed that the link only goes to the cover of the Chomsky book, go to page 287 (The Treachery of the Intelligenstia: A French Travesty).

capecodkwassa said...

First of all, these posts all make it seem like France is debating whether or not to strip Muslim women of their hajibs. That's false. The debate is about kids wearing them to SCHOOL, and the potential ban includes Crucifixes, stars of David, and kippahs.

For the record, I think Muslim girls (and Christians and Jews) should be able to wear their traditional religious clothing to school.

I just think a little nuance is in order. JDHURF, you claimed about Socialist Anti Religious, "you don’t seem to be advocating that Christians can no longer wear crucifixes around their neck or that Jews can no longer wear yarmulkes. . . "

His inclusion of Christians and Jews is evident when he says "you can call it anti-muslim, anti-semitic, anti-evangelical-christian, whatever."

More importantly, the Jewish equivalent to a Muslim hajib would not be a kippah; it would be the wigs that Orthodox Jewish women so that only their husbands can see their hair (women's hair is considered intimate and sensual.)

I am all for religious people making their own choices, even if I think they're stupid, backwards choices. I've defended Muslim women's rights to wear their headscarves in driver's licenses. But I am at odds with both hajibs and Orthodox wigs and head coverings.

But please don't act like you don't understand that many Muslim girls are indoctrinated with anti-female beliefs from childhood, and while it may technically be a choice to wear one in adulthood, often times these choices stem from pressure--familial, cultural, and religious. If I can understand that about Judaism--a culture I actually belong to--I'm almost positive you can muster the same undestanding about Islam without calling anyone who has a problem with the practice a racist.

Also, Islam is a religion and most Muslims are not Arabs, so this has nothing to do with "anti-Arab racism." It has nothing to do with race at all, which makes your equivocation with the Holocaust nasty and ignorant.

Seriously. Some people in France are wanting to ban religous costumes from all religions. It's wrong, but please refrain from comparing that to rounding up Jews, forcing them to identify themselves so they can be subjected to humiliation and open discrimination, and later forced into concentration camps and gas chambers.

Socialist Anti-Religious:

Most headscarves do not obscure the face, so I don't see what the problem is. It just seems like an attempt to force everyone to be the same and take away their freedom of religious expression.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JDHURF said...

cape:


I don’t know where you have gotten your information, but it is false that the ban only applies to schools, the ban also applies to public spaces. The banning of wearing such clothing to schools was already passed back in 2004, that ban is already in effect. The ban now being debated applies to hospitals, government offices and on public transport. I was unable to find any source that claimed the ban on wearing face veils in public spaces, such as those I cited, also included crucifixes or kippahs.

I wasn’t looking for an exact equivalent to the Muslim hijab, I was only looking for other religious wear, other religious clothing, so the crucifix and the kippah sufficed for that purpose, although the wig you mentioned certainly does as well.


Obviously there is social pressure involved, as there is to remain Christian, Jewish or Muslim in the first place, which also requires indoctrination from childhood (which is why most Americans born into Christian families remain Christian in their adulthood and this goes for Jews and Muslisms and Buddhists and everyone else). However, it’s not only for strictly Islamic reasons that Arab and Middle Eastern women wear these headscarves. I watched either a BBC or Al Jazeera English piece on these cloths in Britain (or it may have been about trying to get Sharia law courts in Britain) and one of the people shown was an Arab woman living in Britain who was actually now secular and wore the hijab for strictly cultural reasons and as a way of expressing her background and retaining aspects of her past culture that she liked and so on. So this is not only about Muslisms, which is why I quite correctly discussed Arab women as well as Middle Eastern women generally, because not all of those women who wear the hijab and so on are actually still practicing Muslims.

There was no equivocation with the Holocaust and I believe that any literate reading of my post would realize this. I was discussing the historical ideology of xenophobia that leads to the practiced prejudice against a minority (I was not comparing the outcomes of any of these examples, I was discussing the shared ideological thread that produced them: not the effects, the causes).

capecodkwassa said...

Quote: "I don’t know where you have gotten your information, but it is false that the ban only applies to schools, the ban also applies to public spaces."

From a BBC article about banning Christian, Jewish, and Muslim identifiers in public schools that has apparently already happened. And we were all wrong, seeing as how nobody said the ban you're talking about referred to face veils.

Quote: "I was unable to find any source that claimed the ban on wearing face veils in public spaces, such as those I cited, also included crucifixes or kippahs."

That's true in this most recent ban, since crosses and kippot do not cover a person's entire face. But the ban I was apparently referring to shows that it's false that Muslims are the only religious group being targeted by these types of laws.

Quote: "I wasn’t looking for an exact equivalent to the Muslim hijab, I was only looking for other religious wear, other religious clothing, so the crucifix and the kippah sufficed for that purpose, although the wig you mentioned certainly does as well."

You probably should have been looking for an exact equivalent, since it doesn't make much sense to compare completely different things. It would be like me saying I should be able to wear a Polish Orthodox Jewish beaverskin hat to work because some employees are wearing crosses. A face veil covers the entire face.


Quote: "Obviously there is social pressure involved, as there is to remain Christian, Jewish or Muslim in the first place. . ."

The pressure to remain in your family's religion is not comparable to the pressure for girls to submit to men. It's not necessary to remind me how universal religious nonsense is, seeing as how I was generous enough to include an example from my own culture (an example that unlike your's really is an exact equivalent.)

Quote: "However, it’s not only for strictly Islamic reasons that Arab and Middle Eastern women wear these headscarves."

Headscarves? One of your points is that this ban is about FACE VEILS.

Quote: "or it may have been about trying to get Sharia law courts in Britain"

That's terrifying. If I wanted Europe and the U.S. to set up halachic courts, you'd (rightly) call me a nut-job.

Quote: ". . . and one of the people shown was an Arab woman living in Britain who was actually now secular and wore the hijab for strictly cultural reasons and as a way of expressing her background and retaining aspects of her past culture that she liked and so on."

Seriously, your very first point was that this ban was about FACE VEILS, so why are you repeating things everyone already knows?

Quote: " There was no equivocation with the Holocaust and I believe that any literate reading of my post would realize this. I was discussing the historical ideology of xenophobia that leads to the practiced prejudice against a minority (I was not comparing the outcomes of any of these examples, I was discussing the shared ideological thread that produced them: not the effects, the causes)."

I don't think you meant any harm, but it's silly to compare a potential ban on people covering their entire faces (as part of a series of bans that did indeed include Christians and Jews) to ANY aspect of the Nazi's persecution. And forcing to Jews to wear stars of David so they can be subjected to violence and discrimination actually sounds like the exact opposite of what's happening.

Having said all that, I do not support a ban on face veils, as wrong as I think they are. Religious conservatism is like drugs. People should totally be allowed to mess up their lives.

JDHURF said...

Cape said:

“And we were all wrong, seeing as how nobody said the ban you're talking about referred to face veils.”

Actually, I did mention that the ban applied to face veils, as you later acknowledge: “One of your points is that this ban is about FACE VEILS.” Although, it is true that from what I gathered at the beginning from what Socialist anti-religious posted, I was originally under the impression that the ban also applied to headscarves as well.

It’s true that the ban that already exists that applies to schools also includes Christian and Jewish wear as well, but as we discussed elsewhere, I submit that there is no comparison whatsoever between a school’s dress code (which is perfectly normal and understandable) and the banning of religious clothing in public spaces.

If I were to have found an “exact equivalent” it would’ve no longer been a comparison or an analogy: comparisons and analogies are by definition not exact equivalents.

The discussion is not about having Sharia courts in Britain or anywhere else – that was only a reference to Middle Eastern women wearing clothing that is assumed to denote explicit Islamic practices and so on while it, in fact, does not necessarily – and I never wrote anything in favor of it, so your claim that I would rightly call you insane for arguing for halachic courts (as though I wouldn’t were one to argue for Sharia) is really neither here nor there. I am, however, fully and forcefully opposed to any such courts in Britain or anywhere else. Defending people’s right to wear religious clothing in public quite obviously has nothing to do with allowing dual religious courts.

As I already explained, the comparison was not about the potential ban and Nazi persecution directly, but rather, it was illustrating the shared common “notion that people can only think and wear what someone else deems appropriate” and this as a general distillation, latter on, of “the historical ideology of xenophobia that leads to the practiced prejudice against a minority” and I explicitly made clear that the comparison was not of “the outcomes of any of these examples” (which are obviously light-years away from each which is why it is assumed the reader will understand that the discussion here prescinds from such obvious differences) but rather “the shared ideological thread that produced them: not the effects, the causes.”

I agree that people should be allowed to religious fundamentalism or illicit drugs even if it begins to “mess up their lives,” but I also believe that there should be programs and organizations that seek to secularize or at least liberalize the fundamentalists and to ensure that drug users use drugs safely and that they do not become self-destructuve and as I have discussed elsewhere the method by which to pursue these goals, as you no doubt agree, is not through state oppression (which would only strengthen these already reactionary forces), but rather through education and secular and progressive organizing.

capecodkwassa said...

Good response, JDHURF.