Stop The Wicked Fascists at The Capitol

A year or so ago I read an article that I cannot seem to track down now but it was written by a New York reporter who was originally from one of the Plain States; Iowa, Kansas, maybe Nebraska. And the story revolved around what he realized when visiting his hometown on one occasion. He observed that the Right-wing, God-fearing, “wholesome” people of his home state had something in common that the Left did not: They all believed that people are born inherently bad. But, on the other side, we know the Left believes every human is born good. To illustrate, have ever you noticed how we on the Left try to diagnose people psychologically, or diagnose a culture sociologically, when they go wrong, e.g., when we try to take apart the pasts of young school shooters? What did their parents do to them? What did their classmates do to them? What went wrong? Well, the Right does not think that way. They do not think about it because people are inherently bad and that’s why they do bad things. That’s why religion is so important to conservatives. If we further the above example, these school shooters were born bad, like everyone else, and something like a religious upbringing would have kept them on a better path. Observing a faith’s tenets keeps you in line. This is where the Right gets their criticism of what they call “moral relativism,” i.e., the concept professing that there is no objective right or wrong but just a myriad of social and philosophical variables. It is also such as social scientists, in their studies, portray so-called sacred things: Marriage? social construct. The Law? social construct. General ideas of right and wrong? Social constructs. But this issue of right and wrong is not as complicated as we leftists make it out to be. Sure, there is no God, and there are no objective morals or cultural practices which are inherently “good” out there But as true leftists we do agree that we know how society should work. We do not need to be conflicted about 1 in 8 kids combatting hunger here in my home state of Kentucky. We do not need some “Good Book” to tell us that it is unfair for some to have so much while others have so little. We know how a better society could, and should, be constructed.

My point is that we leftists are milling around questions of right or wrong too much. The invasion of the Capitol Building a few days ago by Trump-ist fascists was an act performed by those who are WRONG. Their so-called “values” of exclusion and oppression, their existence as bootlickers for the 1%, their exclusive religious morals, are WRONG. Not because of some objective truth out there in the universe but because we agree that they are wrong. Our leftist values are simply better. And, therefore, we cannot idly stand by as the fascists invade the Capitol building. We need to make sure that this never happens again. WE ARE THE PEOPLE, not those right-wing extremists who climbed through those shattered windows and up those concrete walls. There IS a right and wrong because we know what is for the best, and those jackasses who mugged for those selfies inside the Rotunda do not.

I’ve read Stalin make this argument before in some interview with a prominent Western journalist. Stalin, although not the most morally inclined person in history, insisted that there are “wicked” people in the world. And, of course, the Western journalist made excuses for these “wicked” people. He gave this excuse or that excuse, or this philosophical thought or that philosophical thought. But Stalin was right. There are wicked people in this world. The men and women who stormed the Capitol building the other day are wicked in their beliefs and I’m tired of the excuses the Left give them. A line must be drawn: The Right or the Left. That symbol of power in D.C. belongs to the socialists, communists, anarchists, the People. We cannot allow Right-wing radicals that kind of power ever again. We must stop them as a movement for they are simply wicked.

The Arab Spring,10 Years On…

I believe that one of the most important political/cultural/social movements of the last ten years was the Arab Spring. Therefore, I thought it deserved the initial post here at the relaunch of STL. But as I tried to put something together as a coherent argument on something about it, I realized that I am at a loss. The way in which it did not substantially work for the better leaves me lost even after ten years. I have no sure feelings, beliefs, or convictions on the period, or what is now called the “Arab Winter.” I can say I was so hopeful at the time that it almost lent itself to elation, but now I feel nothing but such dense disappointment; almost hopelessness. I have read books, articles, and saw many documentaries and news pieces on this most important set of events, yet I cannot put my finger on any argument to be made. Maybe it’s because I am a Westerner; a Roman Catholic. Maybe it’s because I was not there on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, or the destroyed streets of Aleppo, or at the Libyan storm drain where Qaddafi was found and killed. Maybe it is because I do not want to believe something negative. I don’t know. But below is a strategy, something I hope that can salvage the movement using the stories of the those times. Maybe something to look to inspire the future.

Simply put, What happened between the end of 2010 and the end of 2020? My thoughts are scattered below: 

Up until December 2010, the North African country of Tunisia was as typical of an Arab state as it gets: a history of empire and colonialism; a hopeful independence; a state-centered, socialist economy; a slide into dictatorship implemented through secret police (Feldman, 2020). This small, coastal nation on the Mediterranean Sea did not seem out of the ordinary in any way compared to its’ neighbors..

Then on December 17, 2010, a young Tunisian named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself afire to protest against police harassment. He died on January 4, 2011, but not before his gesture went viral, sparking protests against the country’s authoritarian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the people’s poor economic situation. Ben Ali’s 23-year-rule ended 10 days later when he fled to Saudi Arabia, becoming the first leader of an Arab nation to be pushed out by popular protests. What happened next across the Arab world, what we now refer to the as the “Arab Spring,” followed something like this:

On January 25, 2011, thousands of Egyptians marched in Cairo, Alexandria, and other cities, demanding the departure of President Hosni Mubarak, who had been in power for 30 years.  Then on February 11, as more than a million took to the streets, Mubarak resigned and handed control to the military.

The Muslim Brotherhood-linked government of Mohammed Morsi was then elected in 2012, but was overthrown the following year by the military led by the general, now president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

On February 15, in Bahrain, protesters took over the Pearl Square roundabout in the capital which they renamed “Tahrir Square”, and demanded a constitutional monarchy among other reforms. But their camp was stormed by riot police three days later, killing three people and injuring many.

The same day the Bahrain protests started, the Libyan police used force to break up a sit-in against the government in the second city, Benghazi. The country’s leader Muammar Gaddafi pledged to hunt down the “rats” opposing him. The uprising turned into a civil war with French, British and American air forces intervening against Gaddafi. On October 20, 2011, Gaddafi was captured and killed in his home region of Sirte by rebels who found him hiding in a storm drain. The country is now split between rival eastern and western-based administrations.

On March 6, a dozen teenagers tagged the wall of their school in southern Syria with “Your turn, doctor”, referring to President Bashar al-Assad, a trained ophthalmologist. The torture of the youths sparked mainly peaceful protests at first, and calls for democratic reform. But with violent repression by the government, the revolt turned into civil war. Syria’s war also contributed to the rise of the ISIL (ISIS) group and renewed conflict in neighboring Iraq, culminating in a genocidal attack on minorities in the north of the country.

On October 23, 2011, Tunisians streamed to the polls for their first free election, in which members of the Ennahdha movement triumph.

On February 27, 2012, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had ruled for 33 years, handed power to his deputy Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, after a year of protests. The Arab world’s poorest country, Yemen also descended into violence following initial protests.

Russia, who with Iran is al-Assad’s biggest ally, started air attacks against Syrian rebels on September 30, 2015, changing the course of the war. After 10 years of fighting, which left 380,000 dead, al-Assad was able to claim significant victories.

Ten years after Tunisia, It all seems for nothing when put together like that, does it not? All those aspirations for a more liberal-democratic pan-Arab region. A Guardian-YouGov poll published on December 17 even finds that a majority of populations of nine countries across the Arab world feel they are living in significantly more unequal society today than before the Arab Spring. And read here about Bouazizi’s legacy in his own country.

But maybe not all is lost. Let’s look at some social movement theory from Han and Wuk Ahn (2020) that may pick up the Arab Spring up from the canvas someday:

“Studies of social movements have benefited from the examination of narratives. Social movements are defined as networks of informal interactions between a plurality of individual, groups, and/or organizations engaged in political or cultural conflicts, on the basis of shared collective identities. Activists use stories to make sense of the reality surrounding them, motivate collective action by forging collective policymaking. Narratives unite participants in social movements and are utilized as tools. To be effective…social movements should not just mobilize financial and human resources, utilize political opportunities, and present solid transition plans but should also adopt effective frames. Narratives provide actors with tools to turn themselves into heroes with a powerfully mobilizing identity when they lack established organizations or coherent ideologies [38]. Narratives translate feelings of shame and individual responsibility into feelings of empowerment, efficacy, and entitlement.”

So maybe the people of the Mid-East will someday be able to launch a new uprising, one taken from the stories of the those contentious politics that have occurred over the last decade. At this point, I admit I really do not know. I feel as if I’m just clinching at straws to pull something positive out of it all, something positive in this Arab Winter.

What do you think? Leave comments below. 

Here is a good video piece from Al-Jazeera I find particularly moving that centers on the professional and amateur reporters who documented the movement. Maybe those reports and films will serve to inspire those of the next Arab Spring, if it ever occurs. 

How to Change: Restraint, and Issues of Equality

In previous posts I have advocated for some rather radical societal changes: smashing capitalism, fighting off cultural hegemony, etc. But let me explain how the essence of a new, better society also needs some restraint.

First, I have advocated for a vanguard party to lead us at first, or a small group of revolutionaries who will rule in the interests of the working class, what’s called the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” as Lenin proposed. But we must learn from history that we must put some legal/constitutional regulations on this group of leaders. What can happen is, like what happened with Stalin in the old USSR, a single leader may wrestle from the people far too much power and enact a totalitarian government serving only their interests. We must hold their feet to the fire as the people.

Second, we must not make any change too fast for the people will rebel against the new society, as happened during the French Revolution. We must not have economic “Five Year Plans,” or “Great Leaps Forward,” or how Khmer Rouge emptied the cities of Cambodia and shipped all the citizens to the countryside to work in collective farms. That would be insane. We can’t make such mistakes as these as far leftists have done in the past. Revolutionaries have not always known how to run a country. We must read the people and act accordingly maybe even welcoming a period of Thermidor.

What will be enacted right away, though, in the interest of a new, better, revolutionary society is enacting far leftist social changes. We must remove all wage discrimination between women and men. We must remove all hindrances for LGBTQ citizens from gaining equal rights. We must address the issue of reparations for both the Native American and African American communities. These must be addressed immediately. Capitalist WASP’s want to divide us through these differences. If we can make these changes we will realize that the only thing that separates us is class. Than all will become apparent.

What is to Be Done?.2020

To smash capitalism.

That is the central goal of the far/radical left movement.

Why is this our goal? This should be everyone’s goal in that the very rich, the 1%, usurp the labor value produced by the rest of us. They are society’s parasites contributing nothing to our material world. They have the most, we have the least…and we want it back.

This is not simple or easy. Unfettered, free market neoliberalism is the only thing we know here in America, and its cultural hegemony finds a no more welcoming place. So what do I mean by cultural hegemony? I take it to mean that our dominant American culture,all of our social constructs, which seep down into every subculture, function like the air we breathe. We never question its presence, it’s just taken for granted. We do not contemplate it’s existence or attributes. We just don’t.

So similarly, we rarely find any other avenue of thought outside of the capitalist system. Capitalism is so ingrained into our social milieu all alternative ways of organizing society seems ridiculous. The capitalist class has succeeded in making capitalism the best way to organize our society…the only way.

Few are firmly in control of the many. And they are successfully winning a class war that the 99% doesn’t even know is taking place. So our goal as the radical left is to tell the people how the capitalist class is thriving off the labor of the workers. To show how they contribute nothing while we contribute everything. How we suffer as a people as they prosper by what is ours.

As far/radical leftists, we must offer up an alternative reality to the masses. We must show how the system is rigged and how they are scammed every time. We need to expose them to another way.

The people are so drowning within the soup of capitalism they do not see these truths so apparent to you and I. It just plainly does not exist for them. And if anything does exist, it does not have their best interest at heart. Capitalism cares for everyone, equally.

We must show them another way.

5 New Images/Graphics for 11/28/2019!

Comrades, Friends, Brothers and Sisters,

Sorry I’m a day late. Here is a link to the new pics over at Google Photos.

Right Here!

Organized Workers Taking It to the 1%

In yesterday’s NYT there was a good article entitled “In a Strong Economy, Why Are So Many Workers on Strike?” It reported that from Chicago teachers, to GM workers, to Marriot International Hotel employees, labor is taking it to the capitalists through collective action. Even flight attendants and airplane mechanics are finding creative ways of sabotage (which they unconvincingly deny) due to the fact that they cannot legally strike without federal approval. It’s as D. Taylor, president of the UNITE HERE hospitality workers union, is quoted in the story saying:

“It’s about: ‘OK, the government is not going in to take care of us. Business is not going to take care of us. We’ve got to take care of ourselves.”

Why? The American worker took cuts to their pay and benefits in the wake of the Great Recession ten-years ago, but now their capitalist masters are making billions and billions while the proletariat is getting shafted. Due to the austerity measures they pitched in with during the 2007-2008 economic crisis which remain in place, they are not getting anything back as their wages remain stagnant in comparison to the ridiculous amounts of profits gained by Wall St.
It’s as D. Taylor is further quoted stating:


“It’s been bubbling up for some time. Now it’s come up to the surface.”

The American worker needs to keep up the fight against their rich masters with strikes and sabotage. Organized labor, from Marx and Engels to the Russian Soviets, is an essential force with which to gain leverage over the bourgeoisie. Remember, the 1% are winning the class war while most of the 99% don’t even recognize that it’s taking place.

Smashing Capitalism, Not Fancy Measures

In the “Broken Capitalism” series being published over at The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/01/broken-capitalism-economy-americans-fix?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other, Heather Boushey argues that the way academics measure economic growth is outdated and doesn’t show the full picture of the wealth gap between the 1% and the rest of us. Here’s her argument:

GDP used to be a good indicator of national income. If GDP rose 2%, most gained 2% across the board. But due to the current economic separation between the 1% and the 99%, simple GDP is no longer a valid measuring tool. Boushey gives us this example:

Take 2014. While aggregate national income grew by 2.3%, after taxes and government transfer programs such as supplemental nutrition assistance, incomes for those in the bottom 90% grew by less than the average – 1.5% – while those in the top 1% saw their income grow by twice the average – about 5%.

She then argues for a new disaggregate measure made up of national income and product accounts with data from surveys and administrative sources to clear the picture. This would not only produce more representative ratios between the rich and poor, but also between race, gender, and age

That’s a great idea, but it does not get to the question of what is to be done.

Boushey offers that better published numbers will make the masses more aware of the economic canyon between those of the top SES and the rest of us:

Better, fairer growth measures are a vital step towards better, fairer growth. A clearer picture of the disconnect between overall growth and worker welfare will force a deeper examination of what’s gone wrong with the capitalist engine

Boushey goes on to argue that these new measures will give more power to the people enabling unions to rise. But that is not what I take issue with here.

I am arguing that better tools for showing the income gap between rich and poor will not fuel the smashing of capitalism. The proletariat is not concerned with new academic information to show how poor they are. What they are concerned with is putting food on the table. This is why “Peace, Land, Bread” was so effective in 1917. Lenin and the Bolsheviks didn’t lay out Marx’s material dialectic to the masses as a way to spark them to action. Not in the slightest. They got down to the brass tacks of what ailed the Russian workers and peasants at the time: the end of participation in WWI, land redistribution, and food for their families.

I am not arguing against Boushey’s proposal of how to better measure the income gap among in American society. Her methods show who is making all the money (the 1%) while the vast majority (the 99%) receive so little. Great! I love it! But don’t fool your bourgeois self into thinking that fancy numbers will serve as a catalyst for real social change, Ms. Boushey. The masses could never understand this measurement with more than a 100 years of educational development and the destruction of media power.

A “clearer picture” of the math of inequality is definitely valuable among the academy. But to the masses, it means very little. They do not understand nor are concerned with such matters. They know they are working harder to make less as they fall further and further behind. This how you fix broken capitalism. Peace, land, bread, not disaggregate GDP measures.

5 New STL Images!

Five new pics for propaganda. Sorry for my late post!

https://photos.app.goo.gl/TUomKrYbsYCMEWC59

NYT: Many Top Corps Paying 0% Taxes Driving Some to Far Left Organization

We want what the people want:

Mr. Robertson, the carpet cleaner, has his own idea: nationalizing the companies. “I think forcing them to pay higher alone is inefficient,” he said, “and taxation alone is inefficient.”

www.nytimes.com/2019/04/29/us/politics/democrats-taxes-2020.html

Gentrification Here In America

For this post I want to talk about an issue that hits close to home for me. It deals with a concept some may not know the definition of or have heard of but don’t know what exactly it entails. I’m talking about gentrification.

The exact definition of gentrification from Brittanica Academic is:

the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanied by a wave of middle- or upper-class people moving into the area and displacing poorer residents

And what’s further:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report Health Effects of Gentrification defines the real estate concept of gentrification as “the transformation of neighborhoods from low value to high value. This change has the potential to cause displacement of long-time residents and businesses … when long-time or original neighborhood residents move from a gentrified area because of higher rents, mortgages, and property taxes. Gentrification is a housing, economic, and health issue that affects a community’s history and culture and reduces social capital. It often shifts a neighborhood’s characteristics, e.g., racial-ethnic composition and household income, by adding new stores and resources in previously run-down neighborhoods.

The possible negative effects of gentrification are, but not limited to:

Displacement through rent/price increases

Loss of affordable housing

Commercial/industrial displacement

Unsustainable property prices

Displacement and housing demand pressures on surrounding poor areas

Community resentment and conflict

Homelessness

Secondary psychological costs of displacement

Increased cost and charges to local services

Loss of social diversity (from socially disparate to rich ghettos)

Under occupancy and population loss to gentrified area


Loretta Lees, Tom Slater, and Elvin Wyly, Gentrification Reader, p. 196. © 2008 Routledge.; Rowland Atkinson and Gary Bridge, eds., Gentrification in a Global Context: the New Urban Colonialism, p. 5. © 2005 Routledge.

This an important concept in terms of income-inequality rights. Big investors may come to a “ran-down” neighborhood, start some huge new development to serve bourgeois interests, and then drive people out of their homes along with other negative impacts. And it hits close to home for me because it is affecting a special place for myself right here in Louisville, KY. Let me explain:

There is an area in Louisville called Germantown/Schnitzelburg (G/S) which is composed of a few adjoining neighborhoods where an enclave of German Catholics moved into soon after arriving from Europe. And this is where my family is from and where I spent a lot of my young adult/university days. But G/S shares a border with the trendy/hipster section of town, and they are beginning to run out of real estate. So, in response, they are currently gentrifying G/S and bringing all the negative effects in with it. They are running out good, hardworking people from their family homes by increasing rent/tax prices and renovating old warehouses into apartment buildings and transforming little family bars into hipster hangouts.

The repertoire of the capitalist/bourgeois machine effects can hit the people in many ways. Gentrification is one of them.