Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

What does communism mean to me?

I enjoy starting blog posts with rhetorical questions. Aren’t they nice?

I’ve had some heated debate with friends and not-so-friendly individuals about communism. For some reason, people seem to insist on linking communism to that bourgeois paradise of the USSR or China. For the uninitiated, communist theory can by scary, it’s filled with slightly foreign terms like proletariat or bourgeois, and scary words like capital (which has nothing to do with places like Paris, Berlin or Washington DC). It all has to do with what’re called dialectics. Dialectics are, simply put, methods of argument. Karl Marx introduced Marxist dialectics (the best kind, if I do say so myself), which revolutionized the discussion of history. Rather than the traditional Western view of history, government and its influence on the people, along with military conflicts, Marx presented the idea that all of human history was the history of class struggle. The proletariat, or working class, are constantly oppressed by the bourgeoisie, or the business owners. The bourgeoisie own capital, which is a method of production. The easiest way to understand these concepts is in a factory system. In a factory, you have the workers (proletariat, individuals are called proletarians) who are paid for their labor by the factory owners (the bourgeoisie) who own the machinery and factory itself. The workers basically trade their labor for money, then the owners go out and sell the goods. Marx presents the idea of removing the bourgeoisie, who don’t actually add anything to the process, they just serve as a middle man. The means of production, or capital, would be owned by the workers, or proletariat, cutting out the middle man. Obviously, there’s a lot more to Marxist theory, but this is a basic crash course.

Later communists added things to Marx’s original theory, but I prefer to take it straight from the source. Ideally, I believe that through socialism, through common ownership of capital, we will eventually reach a communist society. A communist society is, essentially, a state-less society run by what is called a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” People generally tend to shy away from the term dictatorship, but this is another Marxist dialectic. It doesn’t refer to an actual dictatorship, rather, it refers to a system where there is no “government” per-se, rather, it’s simply a direct democracy. In my ideal political system, politicians and representatives would be done away with, and instead, we would have a direct democracy, similar to that of Ancient Athens. All governing was done on the communal level, at a certain increment of time, all the townspeople (mind you, in that day, this excluded women, slaves, and non-land-owning men) came together to take a vote on everything concerning the community. Naturally, in an egalitarian society, absolutely everyone would be included, regardless of gender, ethnicity, job etc. This is, naturally, a very simplified overview of what would happen, someday, I want to get deeper into individual issues,  but I’ll leave it here for now.

The next thing I want to touch on is the abolition of money. This is something that, I think, many people have a great deal of trouble with. The concept of money is quite ingrained in our society, many people really just don’t understand how a system could work without it. I do not propose that we return to a barter economy (obviously that would be useless today) but rather that we revolutionize the concept of work. Right now, you work because you want to provide for your family, you want to secure yourself a better economic status, or you simply want to eat. Rather than seeing work as a begrudging obligation, as we do today, work should be seen as a fundamental important part of the smooth running of a community. We shouldn’t work because we want a pat on the head and a present, but rather because we realize that our work allows society to function properly. Something that I find very irritating today, is the reverence of different types of work. The jobs that contribute the least to society, being a businessman or stock broker for example, are seen as more prestigious than the ones which contribute the most to society, like plumbers or janitors. Money is another kind of middle-man between the work done and goods, similar to the bourgeoisie.

A quick obligated note: I always feel that it’s important to mention that this is not a process that could feasibly happen overnight. The speed in which it would occur is up to your own personal theories, but I don’t think anyone thinks that society could completely be overhauled in the space of a couple weeks. Indeed, this would have disastrous effects, displacing people’s jobs without creating new ones.

I think I’m going to pause now, and let this portion be absorbed. Feel free to leave a comment or contact me another way, let me know what you think of my political and economic theories! Thanks for listening 🙂

Living Red

Wake up to the smell of class struggle...I wanted to speak a bit on my choice of communism, and on what communism means to me, eventually winding back into how choosing to pursue the life of a revolutionary Marxist effects my day to day life.

I like to joke that I’ve been red all my life. I started off, as most young boys, following right in my father’s footsteps. My father is a gun-touting, misogynist, Social-Darwinist Republican. For much of the first half of my life, I chose to go with my father.  I think I was probably one of the most brainwashed misinformed little robots running around the playground, but the worst part was that I was being encouraged to think for myself. Essentially, I was told to think for myself, while being misinformed about all other view points. So it was like “believe how you like, as long as you believe what I believe.” I’ll always remember walking around the mall with my father and step-brother, and eventually stumbling onto the subject of politics, where I proclaimed to everyone the common cop out that, “sure communism sounds great in theory, but when it gets to practice, it just doesn’t work.” My step-brother agreed with me, but my father was shocked and appalled! “It doesn’t even make sense in theory? You have us [essentially the blue collar white people] workin’ hard and contributin’ as much to society as possible, then those lazy liberals, runnin’ off welfare [“lazy” brown people, who were also all here illegally and taking all our jobs, goddammit!] benefitin’ from all our [again, the white people] hard work!” Well of course, that makes perfect sense! My young brain certainly didn’t think that questioning authority might be virtuous, or doing my own personal research might have some kind of benefit. He’s an adult, he knows what he’s talking about, right?

I continued on this young republican path for a good chunk of time, but eventually I began to have questions that my father couldn’t answer, or I was just too terrified to answer myself. This was right about that time when we got a computer and I learned all about the wonders of the internet and, especially, Wikipedia. I devoured everything that they had on any sort of political theory, I read about Ancient Chinese political systems and small poorly developed economic theories that had never made their way into a textbook, and certainly not into the world at large, nothing could sate my voracious appetite. It went on like this for, literally, years, until I started finding things that were a bit further to the left of the typical politics I was used to, and this is where I simmered for some time. I began to describe myself as a Democrat, and I aligned myself based on American politics and American political issues. Pro-choice. Pro-gay marriage. Pro-welfare and social security.

I stayed in this kind of in between stage for quite some time as well. As I read more and acquainted myself with more and more political theory, I found myself drifting further and further to the left, even to the point where I found my “fellow” Democrats too conservative for me. This is also the point where I really began to develop my love of foreign languages, and, naturally, to learn a language, one must acquaint oneself with the culture at hand. This introduced me to European politics and, ultimately, socialism. Socialism, of course! This kind of statist, Euro-socialism finally met my full needs as the happy little leftist teenager I was. Along with this I was introduced to a world where environmentalism wasn’t just those hippies chaining themselves to trees, but to a place where it actually had a huge and, at some points, very powerful voice in the government.

It really took me a while to actually find Karl Marx. For European politics, it seems that socialism was represented by faces like Lionel Jospin and countries such as Denmark, while communism was associated with Karl Marx and the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, following the workings of the Socialist Party, especially in France, taught me a lot about their modern ideology, but actually very little about their roots. It actually took me until my sophomore year of high school (last year, if I have to remind anyone!) to be introduced to communism and Marx, by a friend of mine. I instantly felt my appetite settled, my hunger for an ideological home settled. The more I read from him, the more I felt that he was speaking to me. Although I may not agree with Marx on every single ideological point, I will always have a very very special place in my heart for him, for bringing me home. I began to familiarize myself with other modern communist and anarchist writers, such as my dear Emma Goldman, Lenin, Trotsky, Kropotkin (who I hear from a little birdy did the nasty with Emma Goldman. All I can say is YES, you go girl! Sexual revolution all the way!) and Proudhon among many many others.

Alright, I’m going to cut myself off right now. I think that there’s a lot more that I can say, but I’m going to just talk about my journey to where I am right now. I’ll add more later, but I think that monstrous long blog posts make readers sad and scared. 😛

Wake up and smell the class struggle

Fascism? In my America?

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“When facism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross” ~Sinclair Lewis

I’m such a big fan of quotes, anyone that knows me, knows that this is true. This particular quote is from Sinclair Lewis, an author, philosopher and all around amazing man. The picture shows it emblazoned across Republican cheerleader Sarah Palin, wrapped up in an American flag. Essentially, I want to dish a little bit about fascism and the rise of fascism in America and American life – both from Republicans and Democrats. Before I bother anyone, I’d like to stress that I’m not calling either party fascists, nor am I calling Sarah Palin a fascist, it’s just a poignant picture expressing my views on the subject.

The first thing we need to think about is the rise of fascism. German fascism, specifically in the form of Hitler and the Nazi party, rose because of a Germany disillusioned and facing tremendous inflation after loosing WWI. They were essentially being blamed for the entire war, causing tremendous animosity between Germans and the rest of Europe. Italian fascism, with Mussolini and the blackshirts/camicie nere, arose because Italy involved itself in WWII with the expectation of getting certain rewards. Although they were on the winning side, they did not get what they felt that they “deserved” for taking part in the war,  and what they were promised.

Before I begin to draw parallels to America’s current situation, I want to be sure that we’re all on the same page regarding what fascism actually is. Wikipedia[2] explains that “Fascism, pronounced /ˈfæʃɪzəm/, is a radical and authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to organize a nation according to corporatist perspectives, values, and systems, including the political system and the economy.” Now, although most people I don’t think consider Nazism technically Fascism, there are so many strong parallels, that I would follow in the footsteps of my World History teacher, sophomore year, and link Nazism and Fascism. Nazism is, for me, Fascism with strong social darwinist undertones and a few different types of racism. In any case, Fascism can be generally be characterized by strong, strong nationalist currents, which comes along with a belief that “we” are better than “them.” Because of this, it’s not a large step to move toward racism and Anti-semitism, as as done by the Nazi party. Fascists generally see the nation as a creature, a being created of every member of the government and laity, which means that one must do everything in one’s power to keep this beast healthy and safe. The final important characteristic of fascism is that they generally see groups that haven’t been assimilated into the belly of the nation as inferior or downright nefarious. You can see where the small, closed Jewish communities, called shtetls, would be seen as a bad thing, here.

So, finally, we come to America. Most find the thought of fascism coming to America shocking, and moreover ridiculous, however we must remember that, as the Sinclair Lewis quote explains, fascism changes drastically based on the culture that it is bred in. American bred fascism is going to look very different from nazism or Italian Fascism because it draws on the traditional religious, social and cultural beliefs and values of the area. Fascism prevails because it draws on the individual prejudices of the area that it is involved with.

The first characteristic is lauding authoritarian government. From both sides of American politics lately, authoritarian governments are being cheered, because the country needs protecting from, you know, those scary brown people with the odd languages.  We’re embracing our government to protect us from the “Other,” and both the democrats and the republicans would urge us to believe that Americans as a whole are bumbling idiots, so we need mommy government to take care of us. This is simply not true. While the vast majority of Americans are indeed confused and uninformed about the world around them, it’s certainly not because they have some kind of stupid predisposition. Rather, it is because American culture condemns intelligence, and no one is making an effort to spread knowledge. We are forced into the open arms of authoritarianism, because the tools to take care of ourselves are being deprived to us. This is incredibly similar to what happened, particularly in Italy. Propaganda and misinformation are used to make the people believe what they need to believe, information is spread only on a “need-to-know basis.” American propaganda is just as much propaganda as the Nazi kind.

As I’ve briefly touched on, fascism embraces ethnic and racial tensions and uses them to influence the people. Americans have strong prejudices against…essentially anyone who isn’t a rich, straight, white, Christian male. Now, although there isn’t anything inherently wrong with Christians or straight people or anything else, the American breed of fascism embraces this prejudice to turn the majority of the American population against various groups, such as homosexuals, Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Mexicans, the list could go on and on. We, as Americans, need to see that we have these prejudices, and not allow them to be played up to our detriment.

Finally, a word on how we can prevent the spread of “American fascism:” First, and possibly most importantly, we mustn’t allow ourselves to be drawn to the allure of authoritarian government. As I’m fond of saying, everything would definitely be a lot easier under an authoritarian dictatorship. Life would be dictated to you, dissidents would be killed and everything would run smoothly. But is it right? That’s the important question each of us need to ask ourselves before allowing any of our ideological flaws to come out. Is the hateful, discriminatory speech you’re about to release right? I’ve talked your ear off, if you’ve made it this far through my spiel, I’ve got a lot of respect for you, thank you for listening. Please, feel free to leave comments, especially if you feel like my analysis is faulty or off in some way.

Smash the fash.

[1] https://vejewtarianpolyglot.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/fascist-palin.jpg?w=232

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism