Friday, November 05, 2010

The Democratic Debacle

The Republican Party picked up a swath of seats within the House of Representatives and several seats in the senate, although the Democrats retained their Senate dominance, riding a wave of enthusiasm among Republican supporters and taking advantage of the receding crest that is the demoralized and disgusted Democratic party’s progressive base and that is, speaking truthfully, the majority of American citizens.

The corporate press will no doubt spin elaborate and not so elaborate lies about how the Obama Democratic Party was for the most part dismissed in the midterms because the United States is actually a right leaning country and President Obama took the country too far to the left. Nothing could be more ridiculous.

The American citizenry holds social democratic positions on most issues. For example, an overwhelming majority of U.S. voters when polled have supported a universal healthcare system for decades[1] and viewed the lame, pro-corporate “healthcare reform” bill that did little more than mandate people to buy into the outrageously high-cost, dismally low-coverage, privatized, for-profit healthcare industry as a betrayal of trust and a selling out to precisely the same-old Wall Street friendly politics-as-usual apparatchiks that Obama’s campaign opportunistically and deceitfully ran against. The “financial reform” bill tells the same story, as does most of Obama’s policies, that is, when they are not significantly worse.[2]

Perhaps one of the single most painful losses is that of principled and independent liberal Russ Feingold in Wisconsin to Tea Party supported Republican businessman Ron Johnson. Feingold essentially lost by being associated with the status quo Democratic Party and the pro-corporate health care reform bill, an association so unfortunate it is difficult to formulate with concision.

Feingold was party to some of the best legislation and attempted legislation that has appeared in the last several decades. He struggled and achieved the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, along with pre-2004 John McCain, that took seven years to pass in opposition to the overwhelming might of corporate interests. Feingold was opposed to NAFTA and the spate of “free trade” agreements that serve as the foundation for the flood of jobs being outsourced to other countries. He was one of the sole principled opponents to the heinously illegal, anti-democratic, unconstitutional USA Patriot Act and, despite his support for President Obama’s healthcare bill, which he was repeatedly castigated for by Ron Johnson, he has long supported universal healthcare. In 2006 he authored the State-Based Health Care Reform Act that was to act as a “pilot program” for universal health care.

Katharine Seelye quotes Ken Goldstein, a University of Wisconsin at Madison political scientist, for the New York Times observing that “Independents deserted Democrats, period. This was not about Feingold’s record or the money or the advertising. It was about the anger of independents at the status quo.” Seelye observes that “the loss came…despite Mr. Feingold’s record of one maverick vote after another” and despite his independence and principled opposition to the status quo.

This is a distilled expression of John Judis’ observation that while “Obama deserved to lose…the country doesn’t deserve the consequences.” Nothing could illustrate this better than the situation in Wisconsin where one of the rare and unique liberal independents led by principle alone in opposition to moneyed, corporate interests was thrown overboard in favor of a Tea Party supported Republican businessman (sure to be as status quo and reactionary as anyone). The consequences of this alone are already quite unfortunate (although it is not too soon to predict a successful Feingold campaign in 2012).

The bourgeois press, certainly the outrageously partisan Fox News and its minions, are already beginning to churn out nonsense about the American people rejecting President Obama’s liberal agenda and that he must therefore turn to the right in order to regain confidence. However, the reality is that there is always a low turnout for midterm elections, those getting out to vote typically being of the right, there was enthusiasm within the Republican base which manifested itself in high voter turnout in Republican strongholds and there was a significant lack of enthusiasm within the Democratic base, manifested in low voter turnout in Democratic strongholds.

Patricia Elizondo, the Milwaukee International Association of Machinists local president discussed this lack of enthusiasm when interviewed by the New York Times. Elizondo observed that the union was not able to mobilize its members to vote in the same way they had been able to in 2008: “People have been unemployed for two years, and they’re unhappy that the health care bill was not as good as they expected…Two years ago, I had many members going door-to-door to campaign. Now they’re saying, ‘Why should I? We supported that candidate, but he didn’t follow through.’”

The only way for President Obama to regain the confidence of a majority of Americans is to keep to his campaign pledges, to stop being a business-as-usual functionary and to stop caving into some of the most extreme elements and compromising with them on far too important issues, but as any analysis of American political economy reveals, such a departure from within is practically impossible.

Therefore, let the establishment burn. Let this serve as a lesson to those politically coming of age that the left hand of the business party is no more to be trusted than the right hand and that the only way forward is to build an organized socialist movement guided democratically by the participants involved and beholden only to the people united.

[1] Noam Chomsky observes within Failed States that “[a] large majority of the population supports extensive government intervention…An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll found that ‘over 2/3 of all Americans thought the government should guarantee ‘everyone’ the best and most advanced health care that technology can supply’; a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 80 percent regard universal health care as ‘more important than holding down taxes’; polls reported in Business Week found that ‘67% of Americans think it’s a good idea to guarantee health care for all U.S. citizens, as Canada and Britain do, with just 27% dissenting’; the Pew Research Center found that 64 percent of Americans favor the ‘U.S. government guaranteeing health insurance for all citizens, even if it means raising taxes’ (30 percent opposed). By the late 1980’s, more than 70 percent of Americans ‘thought health care should be a constitutional guarantee,’ while 40 percent ‘thought it already was.’”

[2]Such as, for instance, his alleged opposition to kidnapping, torture and special rendition that consists in reality of Obama’s Justice Department claiming that prisoners being detained indefinitely without charge or trial at a U.S. prison at Bagram air base in Afghanistan have no right to challenge these illegal transgressions through American courts. According to a UN report “ex-Bagram detainees reported being subjected to repeated interrogation involving torture or abuse.(James Cogan)”

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Discussing Anarchism and Marxism

With Eric Kerl’s recent article entitled “Contemporary Anarchism” in issue 72 of the International Socialist Review we at long last have an example of the ISR putting forth some effort to take anarchism a bit more seriously than in the past. While there is much to be desired and quite a bit lacking from the article, there is acknowledgement of the growing international anarchist movement, the significant influence of anarchism within the global movements and the outstanding call for “Marxists and…anarchists” to “stand shoulder-to-shoulder in every aspect of struggle…” That is a call not seen from the ISR in the past and it is a very welcome one indeed.

There are a few central points Kerl proposes with regards to what he calls “contemporary anarchism.” Principle among them is the claim that contemporary anarchism has drifted from classical opposition to state power and now merely “attempts to resolve the problem of state power by going around it. It claims to do this by creating space independent of authoritarian control by establishing autonomous zones.” Kerl then cites as evidence an excerpt from Hakim Bey’s The Temporary Autonomous Zone wherein Bey essentially calls for the passive retreat into one’s self, what he conceives to be the real revolutionary arena, where one must not only, as Kerl observes, cease waiting for revolutionary transition, but cease wanting it.

While it is true that Bey has become very popular and even, during the 90’s, became something of a Priest of anarchy among certain segments, it is quite open to debate how much influence this tract of lifestylism has had upon the activist anarchist movement. It is certainly without dispute that various anarchists and anarchist groups have roundly critiqued Bey and the TAZ, one of the more notorious critiques, to be sure, being Murray Bookchin’s critique in his polemic Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism that Kerl is certainly aware of considering he cites it within another context.

Rudolf Rocker provides one of the best distillations of the anarchist conception of state power in his Anarcho-Syndicalism wherein he writes that “[a]s long as within society a possessing and a non-possessing group of human beings face one another in enmity, the state will be indispensable to the possessing minority for the protection of its privileges.”

Kerl proclaims that anarchists “wish away the demands of history, as if the state will either simply evaporate or become somehow irrelevant – with no alternative prepared to fill the needs of reconstructing society.” Such a statement indicates a severe absence of knowledge of anarchist history and, in particular, Spanish anarchist history.

Rocker writes that “the problem that is set for our time is that of freeing man from the curse of economic exploitation and political and social enslavement” and Noam Chomsky, discussing this in his famous Notes on Anarchism, explains that “the method is not the conquest and exercise of state power, nor stultifying parliamentarianism, but rather ‘to reconstruct the economic life of the peoples from the ground up and build it up in the spirit of Socialism.’”

Continuing on the subjects of anarchism with regards to state power and the way in which to dismantle it Chomsky writes that “prior to the outbreak of the [Spanish] revolution, the anarchosyndicalist economist Diego Abad de Santillan had written: ‘…in facing the problem of social transformation, the Revolution cannot consider the state as a medium, but must depend on the organization of producers. We have followed this norm and we find no need for the hypothesis of a superior power to organized labor, in order to establish a new order of things. We would thank anyone to point out to us what function, if any, the State can have in an economic organization, where private property has been abolished and in which parasitism and special privilege have no place. The suppression of the State cannot be a languid affair; it must be the task of the Revolution to finish with the State. Either the Revolution gives social wealth to the producers in which case the producers organize themselves for due collective distribution and the State has nothing to do; or the Revolution does not give social wealth to the producers, in which case the Revolution has been a lie and the State would continue. Our federal council of economy is not a political power but an economic and administrative regulating power. It receives its orientation from below and operates in accordance with the resolutions of the regional and national assemblies. It is a liaison corps and nothing else.’”

During the course of the Spanish Revolution, the so-called Civil War, Gaston Leval documented collectivization and appropriation of land and industry by the revolutionary CNT (Confederacion National del Trabajo) in his Collectives in the Spanish Civil War. In Catalonia three-fourths of the land had been collectivized and workers’ syndicates appropriated the administration of industry. While collectivization existed during the Revolution, essentially while libertarian socialism existed, the state had been rendered superfluous. It was the federal council of economy, manifested through the CNT that became the “economic and administrative regulating power” as Santillan had written.

Kerl commits absolute violence against this history by dismissing the incredible heroism, diversity, nuance and achievement (however temporary) of the Spanish experiment with a few dismissive sentences. Kerl’s only source on this expansive subject appears to be the self-referential, he offers that for more on “the role anarchists played in the Spanish Civil War” we should look up Geoff Bailey’s “Anarchists in the Civil War’ in issue 24 of the ISR. Not a very promising prospect considering the ISR’s previous treatment, or mistreatment, of anarchism and anarchists. One would do much better by reading Murray Bookchin’s The Spanish Anarchists: The Heroic Years 1868-1936 and, in particular, the masterful Durruti in the Spanish Revolution by Abel Paz which offers one of the most in-depth accounts available.

Anarchism, in the libertarian socialist tradition, has quite definitive views about State power and how to dismantle it and they go well beyond theory and have in history entered into the realm of action and practice. It is ironically Marxism that never definitively deals with the dismantling of State power, leaving the problem, as with most socialist transformation and social organization within Marxism, to the dim, hazy future. Kerl illustrates this himself when he writes that “Marx once wrote, ‘All socialists see anarchy as the following program: Once the aim of the proletarian movement – i.e., abolition of classes – is attained, the power of the state, which serves to keep the great majority of producers in bondage to a very small exploiter minority, disappears, and the functions of government become simple administrative functions.’”

Marx only ever claims that the State will simply disappear, apparently by itself, with the abolition of classes. He does not explain how or why this is, he merely assumes it. However, the assumption, as Bakunin and others pointed out, was flawed. Bakunin wrote that “[n]o state, however democratic, not even the reddest republic – can ever give the people what they really want, i.e. the free self-organization and administration of their own affairs from the bottom upward, without any interference or violence from above, because every state, even the pseudo-People’s State concocted by Mr. Marx, is in essence only a machine ruling the masses from above, through a privileged minority of conceited intellectuals, who imagine that they know what the people need and want better than do the people themselves.(quoted in Chomsky’s Notes on Anarchism)”

The left-Marxist Anton Pannekoek (head of education for the international Marxist movement) agreed, writing in his Five Theses on the Class Struggle that “[t]he goal of the working class is liberation from exploitation. This goal is not reached and cannot be reached by a new directing and governing class substituting itself for the bourgeoisie. It is only realized by the workers themselves being master over production.” Chomsky quotes one of the better expressions of this view by William Paul (member of the Marxist-De Leonist Socialist Labor Party) writing in The State: its Origins and Function that “[t]he revolutionary Socialist denies that State ownership can end in anything other than a bureaucratic despotism…Industry can only be democratically owned and controlled by the workers electing directly from their own ranks industrial administrative committees.”

Anarchists contend that the State exists as Rocker wrote, to serve and secure the interests of those wielding State power and that whether they be the bourgeoisie or the vanguard of the radical intelligentsia they will perpetuate it for their own interests, for, as Bakunin observed, even workers entering into the bureaucracy of the state cease being members of the proletariat.

Preceding Kerl’s claim that anarchists have no alternative to seizing State power is a quote from Leon Trotsky on “dual power” and a quote from Engels asking whether the Paris Commune would have lasted “a single day” if not for the use of authority by the armed people. Kerl here goes awry. Firstly he conflates Bey’s TAZ with an anarchist failure to grasp Trotsky’s insightful analysis and, secondly, he conflates the authority of the collective people of the Paris Commune, presumably, with the State.

Having previously written a flawed review of Staughton Lynd’s and Andrej Grubacic’s Wobblies and Zapatistas and having here cited it Kerl should at least be aware of the notions of counter/dual power that exists within anarchism, that is what the Zapatista program is partially based upon: expanding the floor of the cage (to borrow a concept from Buenos Aires anarchists) while also creating autonomous sociopolitical space and Bey’s amorphous individualist TAZ does not constitute the latter, rather collective villages, municipalities, organizations and so on do. It is something of an irony that Kerl quotes Engels in this capacity for Engels also wrote, due to the fact that the Paris Commune demonstrated the fact that the Marxist notion that the State must first be seized was fallacious (which is what prompted Marx to write, in his pamphlet The Civil War in France, that “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made State machinery and wield it for its own purposes”, among other things), that anarchists have “the thing upside down.” He observes that anarchists “declare that the proletarian revolution must begin by doing away with the political organization of the state” and that this “must end in a new defeat and in a mass slaughter of the workers similar to those after the Paris commune.” It should be here noted that it was Marx who altered the Communist Manifesto’s position on the State in his The Civil War in France pamphlet, about which Engels later, after Marx’s death, reversed back to the original premise.

Kerl writes that “the fundamentals of Marxism are about full and complete human liberation – not so different from anarchist aspirations…However, political differences do exist, particularly over the means to achieve human liberation, and what social forces or classes can accomplish it.” It is true that the fundamentals of Marxism, conspicuously the writing of Marx himself and the left-Marxist tradition (Luxemburg, Pannekoek, Gorter, Ruhle, Korsch, Mattick, etcetera) consist of complete human liberation and it should further be argued that not only are they “not so different from anarchist aspirations,” they are the same aspirations and actually parallel remarkably (as I have written about with the specific examples of Rudolf Rocker, Anton Pannekoek, Rosa Luxemburg and Paul Mattick). The means to achieve liberation may differ in various ways, conspicuously with regards to seizing state power, although considering Marx’s writing on the Paris Commune, Marx himself came to agree more with the anarchists than many later self-professed “Marxists,” but the differences within the libertarian left (Marxist and anarchist) is more or less superficial and virtually negligible.

The single most significant difference between anarchism and Marxism would be that anarchism derives great strength from being a tradition or tendency that continually evolves, led by specific principles, and views revolutionary struggle as a ceaseless process rather than a doctrine and practice sealed by ideological and tactical limits and commandments. Past anarchist theorists and tacticians are understood to be flawed human beings working within the specific context of their historical and social reality who have offered great insight but who may have been wrong in various ways about a multitude of issues or whose insights may no longer apply to the constant flowing currents of history.

Marxism is similar to anarchism in having various tendencies and strains but is unlike anarchism in that it is defined by a single person, Karl Marx, who was merely a person rather than an omniscient god. In an interview entitled “The Manufacture of Consent” Noam Chomsky explains that “Marx was a major intellectual figure and it would be foolish not to learn from him or to value his contributions properly. He was, like anyone, limited in his perceptions and understanding.” He certainly wrote some of the most revolutionary analysis of capitalist production and relations, but it must be kept in mind that he did so in the 19th century and while much of it remains relevant, some of it is no longer. Treating everything Marx wrote and said as though it were the Gospel of the Lord quite simply has nothing to do with a rational scientific endeavor (Marxism self-proclaims to “scientific socialism”). For a rational science is not built upon a concrete theory set in stone that is not to be deviated from, science is actually predicated upon the attempt to falsify itself and established theory, it proceeds from various principles and axioms and is guided by theory and experimentation, discarding that which is found to be incorrect and misleading and accepting that which is found to be valid and of some pragmatic value.

As John Moore illustrates, instead of “being determined by a set of fixed theoretical and organizational concepts, anarchism develops within an ideological framework susceptible to dynamic and extensive transformations. Hence, while certain conceptual tendencies and continuities are perceptible, these are rarely permitted to ossify into dogmatic or static definition…” Anarchism here bears more resemblance to a scientific endeavor.

Perhaps an equally significant difference is that anarchism places hierarchy and domination at the center. All socially produced hierarchical relations are, unless justified in some fashion, critiqued and found to be in need of dismantling. Indeed, as Graham Purchase observes in his critique of post-modern anarchism, “anti-hierarchical ideology differentiates anarchism from All other major alternative political philosophies and practices.”

In what is perhaps Murray Bookchin’s enduring masterpiece, The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy, he demonstrates how anti-hierarchical ideology in anarchism differentiates it from Marxism by tracing the socially constructed origins of hierarchy back through patriarchic social constructions and gerontocracy, among other forms. Bookchin defines hierarchy as “the cultural, traditional and psychological systems of obedience and command, not merely the economic and political systems to which the terms class and State most appropriately refer. Accordingly, hierarchy and domination could easily continue to exist in a ‘classless’ or ‘Stateless’ society. I refer to the domination of the young by the old, of women by men, of one ethnic group by another, of ‘masses’ by bureaucrats who profess to speak in their ‘higher social interests,’ of countryside by town, and in a more subtle psychological sense, of body by mind, of spirit by a shallow instrumental rationality, and of nature by society and technology.” To be sure, for the sake of clarity for those unfamiliar, Bookchin was a conscious descendent of the secular Enlightenment and by sprit he meant a deep, conscious-feeling and awareness and contrasted reason with instrumental rationality, the former imparting “meaning and coherence to reality at all levels of existence” while the latter “reduced reason to rationalization…to a mere technique for achieving practical ends.” As the founder of social ecology he was also strongly opposed to anarcho-primitivism and its anti-technics, he insisted upon a rational, humane balance between natural ecology and human social technology.

Whereas Marxism is entirely predicated upon the economic realm of exploitation and oppression, anarchism is an open opposition to all forms of unjustified hierarchy and domination wherever the roots may lie.

Rudolf Rocker summarizes this well when he writes that anarchism “recognizes only the relative significance of ideas, institutions and social forms. It is, therefore, not a fixed, self-enclosed social system, but rather a definite trend in historical development of [human]kind, which, in contrast with the intellectual guardianship of all clerical and governmental institutions, strives for the free unhindered unfolding of all the individual and social forces in life. Even freedom is only a relative, not an absolute concept, since it tends constantly to become broader and to affect wider circles in more manifold ways. For the Anarchist, freedom is not an abstract philosophical concept, but the vital concrete possibility for every human being to bring to full development all the powers, capacities, and talents with which nature has endowed him[/her], and turn them to social account.”

The preceding representing differences and disagreements there is actually much of Kerl’s critique of contemporary anarchism that many anarchists would not only agree with but critique just as forcefully.

Coincidentally, while Kerl critiqued the trend in “contemporary anarchism” to espouse post-modern ideas and, in particular, the view that “the working class” is “just another socially constructed identity” with little to no revolutionary agency and potential. Graham Purchase made much the same critique in issue 54 of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review within his “Post-anarchism and other blind spots.”

Kerl critiques the anarchist “black bloc” tactics of protest wherein a group of more or less lifestyle anarchists attempt to reach Bey’s TAZ by forming tight, militant groups for the engagement of property destruction (the smashing of corporate lobby windows, the burning of cars and so on) and street fights with the riot police in order to illustrate to the general public the hegemony of the State. While these tactics may be exciting for the lifestyle anarchists involved and make for good cannon fodder for the bourgeois press, they are wholly disengaged with the goal of attracting sympathy and good-will, raising consciousness and winning over more and more of the public.

Civil disobedience and protests are an integral aspect to any social transition and, in particular, American history. The purpose and utility behind protests is to raise the consciousness of the public, to awaken the mass slumber that is sleeping on various issues and to stir the public to mass action. Property destruction and violence prove to be the worst enemies of such a goal. The Civil Rights movement was incredibly effective because people have a general sympathy and inclination towards the nonviolent when confronted with violence. It is difficult for even a segregation sympathizer to witness the unleashing of police dogs, batons and harsh blasts of fire-hose water upon innocent, nonviolent black children. Conversely, even many of the radical left look upon adolescents throwing bricks through windows, burning cars and openly and aggressively challenging the police with disgust and regret.

While Kerl is correct when he writes that “[s]ometimes, confronting the police is necessary to win, or to defend our movement” and while there is no doubt that if there is ever to be socialist transformation there will come a point in time when the Movement will necessarily have to meet and defeat the reactionary violent retribution of the State, it remains true that unnecessary provocation that alienates and turns off the public and wonton, senseless destruction are nothing more than the self-defeating stuff of the oppositions wildest dreams.

Even the nonviolent, more passive elements of the global movement in many ways pose no real challenge or threat. Purchase writes that “[w]hile carnivals [against capital] may be fun, and certainly contain important elements of self-organization, many have become major tourist attractions that disrupt the normal flow of events (and sometimes assert diversity), but pose no real challenge to capital or the state. If the global capitalist offensive is to be contained and defeated, strategies that strike at its economic heart will have to be developed.”

Therefore many anarchists are in accord with Kerl when he writes that “[r]ather than emboldening and empowering the mass forces whose self-activity are at the heart of any successful struggle, these elitist, provocative tactics accomplish little more than offering an excuse for the state to justify its violence against social movements.”

There are, as Kerl writes, differences and disagreements between Marxists and anarchists on various issues, such as those described here, yet there are also similarities and agreements, far more than many realize. There needs to be a free, open and fair exchange of ideas and a fraternal discussion about differences (Kerl’s article is a worthy effort) and, above all, there needs to be solidarity in the struggle. For as one of the slogans of the Movement goes, “the people united will never be defeated.”

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Indian State and the Maoists

To set aside for the moment opposition to Maoism itself – an opposition significant enough in principle alone – and to look for now only at practice, specifically, the recent Maoist militia actions, such as the killing “of nearly 40 civilians and trainee special police officers…[a]fter exploding a civilian bus carrying 50-60 persons, they opened fire on those who survived the blast(Nirmalangshu Mukherji),” it is without difficulty to identify the current Maoist strategy as having not only nothing to do with a revolutionary program, but, ominously, with a counterrevolutionary campaign of desperate terrorism.

Revolutionary campaigns consist of, by principle and definition, raising the consciousness of the people, rallying and organizing the masses, educating and preparing them for the responsibilities that form the very foundation for the initiation of a people’s governance. It need not be stressed in detail that bombing civilian buses, killing innocent civilians and waging a campaign of terrorism against the public is intrinsically diametrically opposed to any such effort. One cannot hope to educate, organize and raise the consciousness of those one is inexplicably and indiscriminately killing.

The Indian situation is among the horrors of the world, the tribal situation even more so and it is therefore a shame and a crime that the Maoists have exploited the tribals’ impoverished destitution for their own military centered strategy over and against any serious material improvement in the tribal situation. Mukherji observes that “[i]n an act of palpable cowardice, the defeated maoist leadership from Andhra and Bihar abandoned the struggling people there, and entered the safe havens of Dandakaranya forests. Taking advantage of the historical neglect and exploitation of the tribals by the state - the ‘root cause’ - the maoist leadership ensured the support of hapless tribals with token welfare measures while directing most of the attention secretly to construct guerrilla bases. In the process, they lured a large number of tribal children with assurances of food and clothing. These children have now grown into formidable militia and guerrilla forces. After committing atrocious crimes in the name of ‘revolutionary violence’, these youth brigades are now facing the wrath of the mighty Indian state. It is reasonable to infer that millions of tribals continue to side with the maoists largely because their children are with them.”

The Indian state’s “Operation Green Hunt,” a ruthless and violent campaign initiated by the state consisting of forming paramilitary forces and sending them into the forests in order to murder Maoists, tribals and anyone who will not submit and even many who will - a campaign described as genocidal by some and which will, in effect, include the killing of many children (considering that many of the Maoists’ “guerrilla forces” are young and impressionable tribal children who were offered no alternative) – is nothing short of a crime against humanity and must be identified as such, Maoist terrorism not being a rational justification for such heinous murder (especially when considering that Indian state sanctioned murder predates recent Maoist terrorist actions).

The Vietnam inspired program of Operation Green Hunt has historical roots and parallels. Arundhati Roy writes that “the Salwa Judum was a ground-clearing operation, meant to move people out of their villages into roadside camps, where they could be policed and controlled. In military terms, it’s called Strategic Hamleting. It was devised by General Sir Harold Briggs in 1950 when the British were at war against the communists in Malaya. The Briggs Plan became very popular with the Indian army, which has used it in Nagaland, Mizoram and in Telangana. The BJP chief minister of Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh, announced that as far as his government was concerned, villagers who did not move into the camps would be considered Maoists. So, in Bastar, for an ordinary villager, just staying at home became the equivalent of indulging in dangerous terrorist activity.” This was the program of the U.S. in Vietnam: roll through the country burning down village by village and imprisoning the inhabitants in concentration camps where they could be controlled and restrained from supporting the indigenous political movement that was opposed by U.S. foreign policy when they were not massacred outright or when they had not already been decimated either by aerial fire bombing or chemical warfare. This is the policy taken by the Indian state and now heightened to new levels of violence and murder.

In light of the situation: violence, death and destruction from both sides, a ceasefire need immediately be called, peaceful negotiations taken up and grievances aired and addressed, predominately and centrally those of the tribals who have suffered unspeakable oppression, exploitation and domination for far too long. Here the burden lies upon the back of the treasonous Indian state which at every opportunity has refused such offers from the Maoists (such as in late Februrary when Kishenji challenged the Indian government to declare a 72 day cease-fire, among other immediately important and reasonable demands, such as the ending of “encounter killings” which target not only any Maoists but even “suspected supporters”), stamped upon every chance of ceasefire and negotiation and has spurned on to exponentially greater degree the circular internecine violence that disproportionately injures and maims Indian tribals and civilians.

Terrorism is for the most part and almost axiomatically acts of the desperate, the last resort of those who feel suffocated and left with no alternative and the Maoists, constituted by the most oppressed and neglected in India, the tribals, are just such a demographic. The resolution of any conflict that involves them must be predicated upon improving their horrific plight, acknowledging and including them in the social and political arena in India and rectifying the history of wonton disregard, exploitation and destruction of their lives. They must be offered real, substantive alternatives in order that they are no longer left in disparate villages in the forest hiding from the next paramilitary assault targeting any and everyone in the area, while simultaneously being subject to some of the most naked forms of oppression by the mining and other corporations in India and living every moment of their lives, men, women and children, with targets on their backs.

When the Maoists bomb a civilian bus they are not engaged in revolution, but are instead perpetrating terrorism, however, when the Indian state wages war within its own borders against some of the most impoverished and oppressed human beings on the planet one cannot but expect them to resist and to retaliate by any means necessary. The Maoists have proposed cease-fires, unless the Indian state is determined to exterminate the tribals, to cleanse the Indian forests of their long established inhabitants only in order to strip the forests barren by mining corporations and other business interests, and to show to the world how little life is worth in India, what “free-market capitalism” really consists of at its most naked and unregulated, they shall and must accept such offers. Only then can the ugly history of India be placed within the proper trajectory and only then can light begin to rejuvenate the unspeakably violent darkness of India.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Immediate Situation

As congressional elections loom President Obama has launched the Democrats’ 2010 campaign. The fear within Washington is that the Democrats and President Obama have been so milquetoast, so compromising, so middle-of-the-road, so pro-corporate and have represented so little progressive change that the unprecedented, massive base that swept Obama into the presidency is going to, as they did in Massachusetts, sit the vote out in dejected apathy. This is to be feared and it is to be placed within a more serious context than all of the white-noise being broadcast by the bourgeois, corporate media.

The corporate media have for some time now been parading the tea party movement as though it were of some real significance relating to a “populist uprising” of the disenfranchised working class and that a much broader segment of society either agreed with the movement or identified in some ways with it. However, as recent research derived from national data illustrates, the tea partiers are overwhelmingly rich, white males. 76 percent of them have incomes above $50,000, 59% are males, 75% are 45 or older, 54% are Republican supporters, 66% usually or always vote Republican, 57% have a favorable view of George W. Bush, 66% have a favorable view of Sarah Palin, 92% believe Obama is moving the country towards socialism and, taking the specific example of the Chicago protest, 99% of them are white(Paul Street and Anthony Dimaggio).

The “populist uprising” of the tea party represents nothing even remotely similar to a populist movement, rather, it represents the last, drowning fragments of what remains of the GOP’s base for which was issued the “southern strategy”: predominately rich, white constituents who opposed everything progressive about the sixties and who wished to dismantle “the left hand of the state.”

As Paul Street and Anthony Dimaggio observe: “The Tea Partyers are mainly people of overlapping racial and socioeconomic privilege. They are intent on maintaining that privilege at the expense of disproportionately poor minorities. The ugly message at Tea Party rallies is clear: ‘keep your hands off my money; social welfare is fine, as long as I’m the beneficiary, but if my taxes go to the poor and needy, I’ll scream in the street until they’re cut off.’

This is a toxic brew. It reflects a culture of greed, narcissism, nationalism, white supremacy, and self indulgence. The Tea Party at its heart is a tool of the neoliberal corporate-imperial state, singing praises of ‘small government’ and ‘free markets,’ while quietly demanding massive state welfare subsidies for oneself, and demanding ‘market discipline,’ ‘personal responsibility,’ and ‘rugged individualism’ for the less fortunate. On the global stage, it is worth adding that, as Ford notes, ‘all but a sliver of the Tea Party crowd are belligerent hawks, as racist in their global worldview as in their domestic outlook.’”

This all plays out in the foreground of the looming elections, rather than the background where it so certainly should be. As the reactionary results of the election in Massachusett’s indicates there is serious trouble ahead for everyone if those who voted in 2008 stay at home on election day, as they did in Massachusett’s, ensuring the election of the reactionary and clearly incompetent Scott Brown. Undoubtedly the Democrats are spineless, pro-corporate shills, however, they differ from the other variant of the business faction, the Republicans, and, it should also be noted, it is not simply the standard Republican candidates and party that would be winning in the upcoming elections, it would be the crazed, proto-fascist, reactionary fringe represented by the Tea Party and their mouth-pieces and representatives, unless, of course, the Republican party is so thoroughly broken and splintered by the extremists, as they are now, that they are unable to cobble together enough unity to beat the Democrats. The latter result is a for sure one so long as people take the time to merely go mark a piece of paper and go back to what they were doing, so long as they don’t stay at home stewing in dejection and apathy.

What progressives and activists should be doing and should be preparing to do is, as always, educating and organizing. They should be organizing autonomously from either faction of the business party and building an independent movement that will hopefully eventually forcefully move the Democrats to substantively progressive and rational policy. A popular slogan now heard is “don’t vote, organize.” There is value within the slogan, but there is also, as with any slogan, a simplicity that obfuscates the nuances and complexities of our sociopolitical reality. The value is that one should be organizing, always and regardless, the obfuscation is the call for voter abstention, which, within our current situation, is an implicit endorsement of the opposition, in this case, potentially the reactionary elements manifested through the tea party. Such self-masticating is the content of the opposition’s wildest dreams and is inconsistent with even some of the most thoroughly revolutionary movements in history.

The Spanish Anarchists were certainly some of the most thoroughly principled revolutionary actors in human history, yet even they departed from their doctrine of complete voter abstention in order to secure the death of Spanish dictatorship and the initiation of the Spanish Republic (which they rightly viewed as similarly their antagonist, yet, righty, as one which afforded them more breathing room). Noam Chomsky, the greatest polymath since Denis Diderot, and the greatest revolutionary intellectual, perhaps ever, observes that when the difference is little yet existent nonetheless, a difference as between two factions of the business party when one is boiling over with elements that cannot but recall elements of late Weimar Germany, it is not inconsistent to be educating, agitating and organizing and to also go into a voting booth for a few moments and help to ensure that the more reactionary of the ruling parties does not succeed in securing a position with which to even further severely beat down the efforts one is making autonomously as well as the minor gains that have been won and then return without a moments pause to the very same work. The CNTistas did it in Spain and they did so within a trajectory that directly preceded the fascist revolt and the Spanish Revolution (nothing the least bit counterrevolutionary about that).

The stakes are becoming rather serious. It is not for nothing that serious, sober commentators, many of whom are not in the least given to hyperbole, are discussing analogies of the current condition to late Weimar Germany, analogies of what the Tea Party represents, it’s constituents, it’s mouth-pieces and it’s representatives to that situation and movement that saw to the end of Weimar Germany. Bearing in mind that the overwhelming majority of the Tea Party is made up of rich, while males and recalling, as Street and Dimaggio rightly suggest that we do, Trotsky’s diagnosis of fascism as a reaction of the petty bourgeois, voter abstention is a grave threat that could well ensure the victory of what is now only the swirling detritus of proto-fascism. Everyone who is at all concerned about these things and more should make absolutely certain that they condemn the opposition to its proper place at the fringe of society and make sure that they convince everyone they know to do the same as well. Then, of course, we should all continue to pressure the Democrats to pursue a sane, progressive policy through organizing an autonomous movement beholden only to the communities, workers and people directly involved.