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Anarchism in America


 
As the title promises, Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher’s Anarchism in America is a documentary survey of anarchism in the United States. The film presents an overview of the movement’s history, such as the Spanish Civil War, the 1917 Revolution, Emma Goldman, and the deaths of Sacco and Vanzetti, and takes these as the points of departure for what were then (1983) contemporary observations from the outside looking in on Ronald Reagan’s America. Whether viewed as a time capsule or as an able introduction to the various forms of anarchism, the film makes for fascinating viewing and has held up well after 31 years.

What’s perfectly obvious is how much of a libertarian or individualistic route the American strain of anarchism takes—let’s call it “free market anarchism”—in stark contrast to European-style communal living experiments (such as squatters’ groups or farm co-ops). They’re just not quite the same school of thought, although if you were to draw a Venn diagram of what they do have in common, it would be significant but also… probably equally incompatible for the things which they lack in simpatico. Does anyone in Anarchism in America have any hopes for a revolution? Seemingly not in their lifetimes. (Many of them were right, of course. I’ve read that the filmmakers are planning a sequel, so I’d suspect that post-Occupy, post-Piketty, there would be more positive prognostications to be found along those lines today.)
 

Emma Goldman will not attend your revolution if she can’t dance….

The film also offers anarchist or anarchist-leaning thinkers uninterrupted camera time to make their points. Like Murray Bookchin, who says this:
 

I had entered the communist children’s movement, an organization called the Young Pioneers of America, in 1930 in New York City; I was only nine years of age. And I’d gone through the entire ’30s as a—Stalinist—initially, and then increasingly as someone who was more and more sympathetic to Trotskyism. And by 1939, after having seen Hitler rise to power, the Austrian workers’ revolt of 1934 (an almost completely forgotten episode in labor history), the Spanish revolution, by which I mean the so-called Spanish civil war—I finally became utterly disillusioned with Stalinism, and drifted increasingly toward Trotskyism. And by 1945, I, finally, also became disillusioned with Trotskyism; and I would say, now, increasingly with Marxism and Leninism.

And I began to try to explore what were movements and ideologies, if you like, that really were liberatory, that really freed people of this hierarchical mentality, of this authoritarian outlook, of this complete assimilation by the work ethic. And I now began to turn, very consciously, toward anarchist views, because anarchism posed a question, not simply of a struggle between classes based upon economic exploitation—anarchism really was posing a much broader historical question that even goes beyond our industrial civilization—not just classes, but hierarchy—hierarchy as it exists in the family, hierarchy as it exists in the school, hierarchy as it exists in sexual relationships, hierarchy as it exists between ethnic groups. Not only class divisions, based upon economic exploitation. And it was concerned not only with economic exploitation, it was concerned with domination, domination which may not even have any economic meaning at all: the domination of women by men in which women are not economically exploited; the domination of ordinary people by bureaucrats, in which you may even have welfare, so-called socialist type of state; domination as it exists today in China, even when you’re supposed to have a classless society; domination even as it exists in Russia, where you are supposed to have a classless society, you see.

So these are the things I noted in anarchism, and increasingly I came to the conclusion that if we were to avoid—or if we are to avoid—the mistakes in over one hundred years of proletarian socialism, if we are to really achieve a liberatory movement, not simply in terms of economic questions but in terms of every aspect of life, we would have to turn to anarchism because it alone posed the problem, not merely of class domination but hierarchical domination, and it alone posed the question, not simply of economic exploitation, but exploitation in every sphere of life. And it was that growing awareness, that we had to go beyond classism into hierarchy, and beyond exploitation into domination, that led me into anarchism, and to a commitment to an anarchist outlook.

 
Worth noting that Bookchin left anarchism behind, too, due to what he saw as the antisocial element to American style anarchist thought.

There’s one particularly amazing piece of footage (among several included in the film) that I wanted to call to your attention. It’s the demonstration of how a policeman’s truncheon fares against various food items such as an egg, squash, and an eggplant before moving on to a Yippie’s head. That clip comes from an “answer” film made by the Yippies in the aftermath of the Chicago riots that was played on television there due to the “equal-time” rule specifies that U.S. radio and television broadcast stations must provide an equivalent opportunity to any opposing political parties who request it. When Mayor Richard Daley got to tell the city’s side of the story in something called “What Trees Did They Plant?” the Yippies got to tell their side in an extremely whacked-out short film scripted by Paul Krassner. That starts at 30:50 but if you want to see the entire thing, click over to archive.org, they’ve got it. (The guy with the truncheon is Chicago-based lefty humorist and radio broadcaster Marshall Efron, who played one of the prisoners in George Lucas’ THX 1138. He was also the voice of “Smelly Smurf” and works as a voice actor in animated films to this day.)

Toward the end of Anarchism in America, Jello Biafra and Dead Kennedys are seen onstage performing “We’ve Got a Bigger Problem Now,” while in the interview segment a level-headed young Biafra suggests that anarchy, or some sort of revolution in the USA, is probably a long, long way off. If they do make the sequel, he’s one of the first people they ought to interview for it. I’d be curious if he still feels that way. I would suspect that he’s much more optimistic these days.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Will Rogers calls bankers ‘the most disgustingly rich audience I’ve ever talked to’
06.03.2014
04:42 pm

Topics:
Class War
History

Tags:
Will Rogers
bankers


 
For the longest time my impression of Will Rogers was that he was just a Hollywood cowboy, but the actor and vaudevillian was also a cutting political satirist, arguably in the league of Mark Twain. He was a staunchly liberal populist—anti-war, anti-big business, anti-poverty, and he abhorred the two-party system. Lines like “a fool and his money are soon elected,” and “I belong to no organized party, I’m a Democrat,” gave him an air of relatable cynicism—think of a Jon Stewart with more middle American appeal. Rogers’ humor also laid the groundwork for Stephen Colbert’s cartoonish right-wing ideologue shtick. He even ran a mock presidential campaign in 1928, over 80 years before Colbert’s, on the fictional Anti-Bunk Party ticket.

His healthy habit of self-deprecation usually kept him in the good graces of the folks he mocked, but it’s hard to believe the speech below, from either 1923 or 1924, didn’t piss off a few oligarchs. After making some bad investments in an attempt to produce his own films, Rogers took on a bunch of corporate speaking gigs to pay off his debts—he was considered the most successful “after-dinner speakers” of his time. The performance you hear is actually the studio recording of a talk he gave live, most likely to a conference for the American Bankers Association in 1922.

It’s not likely that Rogers felt conflicted mocking capitalists and taking their money, but he also made no bones about the moral righteousness of paid funny-men, saying in 1923, “banking and after-dinner speaking are two of the most non-essential industries we have in this country. I am ready to reform if they are.”

The transcript is below, but it’s really worth listening to for Rogers’ comic timing and oratory bravado

Loan sharks and interest hounds: I have addressed every form of organized graft in the United States, excepting Congress. So it’s naturally a pleasure to me to appear before the biggest. You are without a doubt the most disgustingly rich audience I’ve ever talked to, with the possible exception of the Bootleggers’ Union Local No. 1, combined with the enforcement officers.

Now I understand you hold this convention every year to announce what the annual gyp will be. I have often wondered where the depositors hold their convention. I had an account in a bank once and the banker asked me to withdraw it. Said I used up more red ink than the account was worth.

I see where your wives come with you. You notice I say “come” not “was brought.” I see where your convention was opened with a prayer. You had to send outside your ranks to get somebody who knew how to pray. You should have had one creditor there. He’d have shown you how to pray. I noticed in the prayer the clergymen announced to the almighty that the bankers were here. Well, it wasn’t exactly an announcement. It was more in the nature of a warning. He didn’t tell the devil, he figured he knew where you all were all the time anyhow.

I see by your speeches that you are very optimistic of the business conditions of the coming year. Boy, I don’t blame you. If I had your dough, I’d be optimistic too.

Will you please tell me what you all do with the vice-presidents the bank has? I guess that’s to get anybody more discouraged before you can see the main guy. The United States is the biggest business institution in the world. They only got one vice-president. Nobody’s ever found anything for him to do!

I’ve met most of you as I come out of the stage door of the Follies every night. I want to tell you, any of you that are capitalized at under a million dollars needn’t hang around there! Our girls may not know their Latin and Greek, but they certainly know their Dun and Bradstreet.

You have a wonderful organization. I understand you have 10,000 here, and with what you have in various federal prisons, your membership is around 30,000.

So goodbye, paupers! You are the finest bunch of Shylocks that ever foreclosed a mortgage on a widow’s home.

 

 
Via The Public Domain Review

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Dialectics & Disco: Post-punk Marxists Gang of Four get funky on ‘Dance Fever,’ 1982


 
Ohhhhhhh, this clip of Gang of Four doing their biggest “hit” on that most mainstream of American pop TV programs of the 1980s, Dance Fever, is good but ultimately it’s best considered an occasion for a little “what if” speculation. If you squint your eyes just so, you can imagine the punk-funk art school Marxists up there doing “At Home He’s a Tourist” or “To Hell with Poverty,” or, perhaps even, “Capital (It Fails Us Now)”—can’t you just picture that shit??

Goddamn, that would really have been something seeing and hearing their jagged-edge critiques of Western culture beamed all across Reagan’s America! (Although “I Love a Man in a Uniform” was less politically strident than many of their songs, it was banned by the BBC during the Falklands War in 1982.)

But still, seeing them introduced by fuckin’ Denny Terrio does have its charm…
 
Gang of Four
 
Of course, it would be even better if they weren’t lip-syncing…. I half-suspect that Jon King intentionally did a shitty job with the sync as a subtle nod to the diehards, but it may just be his natural intensity and enthusiasm. Sara Lee’s prominent bassline in this song makes the groove unstoppable. There’s a reason “I Love a Man in a Uniform” got them invited to be on Dance Fever and it’s that bass.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Want a revolution? Left unchecked, parasitical capitalism WILL produce one


 
If you’ve been (wisely) keeping yourself away from the greater mainstream media miasma, you may not have heard about the book that’s been causing “conservatives” and Libertarians to foam at the mouth and in general go pretty fuckin’ apeshit. French economist Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is a match to dry drought-brush causing a veritable meme-fire, chasing out rats and other rodents from their hiding places.

It’s been fun to watch their worldview get annihilated by facts. Numbers don’t lie—but politicians do. The likes of Rep. Paul Ryan have no cover anymore. They’re holding their shticks, so to speak.

Piketty’s story makes effective use of graphs, data and highly quantitative analysis, with his conclusion being about as blunt and straightforward as a two-by-four to the back of Rush Limbaugh’s giant butter-sculpture of a head. To put it succinctly, Piketty has proven what we probably already knew: Economic growth, in developed countries like the US, has become increasingly “owned” and funneled into the gaping maws of the 1%, and is largely fueled by increasing levels of debt for all the rest of us. In other words, for the last couple of decades we’ve moved into a sort of flesh-eating bacteria version of economics that isn’t floating anyone’s boats except for a tiny minority, who are using their economic power—their capital—to grab all the benefits of growth for themselves.

But this isn’t too surprising and it’s not really what has both left and right flipping out about. The REALLY BIG STORY is about inherited wealth. In other words, that 1% we keep talking about aren’t the God-annointed uber-successful genius entrepreneurs that the Fox News types always claim they are. They aren’t the hallowed Atlas shrugging “job creators,” either. Nope: That 1% consists overwhelmingly of people who inherited their wealth, and are now using that vast amount of capital to grab any additional growth for themselves, locking out the “little guy” out in the process.

Great system we’ve got here: One baby is born with barely a pot to piss in, but another one—well 1% of babies at least—hits the fucking jackpot through an accident of birth. The other 99% are on their own!

Since the Reagan era relaxed financial and banking laws have made it ever and ever easier for enormous globs of capital to attract even more enormous globs of capital—often without doing any real “work” or creating much of anything save for more money, while smaller players got knocked out, sent to work at Walmart or some non-unionized service industry where they will never be able to accumulate enough capital themselves to ever start their own business again. With a de-capitalized and unempowered middle class, there’s not a lot of real growth around so the uber-wealthy have worked very hard to “own” what little growth there is out still out there to siphon off, stripmining the rest of the economy for whatever else they can using a mindboggling array of debt instruments: Leveraged buyouts and private equity along with consumer credit cards, mortgages, student loans, CDOs, CMOs and all sorts of other debt that funnels even more capital to the 1% without creating any real growth. They’re using your credit card debt, your mortgage and your student loans to make you work for their enrichment.

Job creators? Bullshit.

The middle class are the job creators and they are rapidly going off line for lack of access to capital. Their would be customers are broke, too. Nobody wins except for you-know-who!

This is why the Tea party has been programmed to despise the Fed’s quantitative easing program: The 1% that is largely an inheritor class don’t really care about real economic growth all that much. In fact, they don’t like it at all: Growth often comes with inflation, which for an increasingly wealthy middle class isn’t a problem as long as wealth is increasing more quickly than prices. (In fact, most economists believe that some inflation is probably necessary in order to achieve optimal growth.) But if you are a Romney or Koch or Walton who inherited a giant ball of capital, you certainly don’t want to see any inflation because that reduces your standing. I mean, it’s not like trust fund kids create REAL jobs, is it? Any of those shitty minimum wage jobs that “capitalists” crow so proudly of having created probably came about because they eliminated many more higher-paying jobs, by using their vast (and otherwise useless, ‘cause they CAN’T spend it all) capital to buy politicians and twiddle the laws in their favor.

Anyway, this grabbing of the growth by the inheritor class manifests itself in all sorts of heinous abuses of the political and economic system, but one obvious way that pops into my mind is in the real estate market. In major markets like New York and London, rents and housing costs have skyrocketed, completely out of proportion to average wages. And why? Because the uber-wealthy have so much extra cash that they dump it into real estate that neither they nor anybody else uses. Indeed, fancy neighborhoods in London like Mayfair are becoming veritable ghost towns, filled with empty houses and apartments (unless the squatters, God bless ‘em, get in there!). I remember looking at an apartment on Prince Albert Road and the doorman complained that the entire building was usually empty. But the point is that all that useless money is in effect getting speculatively dumped into real estate and the result is… nothingness. Empty neighborhoods. The oligarchs aren’t even eating in the local ritzy restaurants, because they’re someplace else. They also forced out the merely “rich”!

To sum up: Capital has become so concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority of people that those who own it can never make use of it efficiently. How could they? They inherited it after all which means they may have no business sense whatsoever aside from hiring the right people to work the system into vomiting out more capital into their cupped hands and opened mouths.

As a result, real growth (ie, not driven by middle class debt or the other myriad pyramid schemes of the super rich) has plummeted and the vast majority of middle class people have seen their standard of living slide backwards and access to the capital and tools with which in times past they may have enriched themselves has been forcibly pulled from having any practical possibility of enriching their lives! This goes way beyond mere “fairness” after all, as the new overlord “rentier” class increasingly block access to that which the middle class needs to have in order for real overall wealth to grow!

The “lumpen capitalists” have absolutely no interest in your social advancement, Jack.

In 19th century China something similar happened, and the consequences were dire indeed. Arable land (which is in effect “capital” in an agrarian society) was increasingly concentrated into the hands of a shrinking number of people. Eventually, everyone was so damned poor that by the end of the Qing dynasty even the long-suffering Chinese had had enough: 50 years of revolution later and Mao and his posse were large and in-charge. And aside from the fact that there are some who argue that Mao’s minuses (eg, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution) eventually outweighed his pluses, just getting there was no picnic.

Is that what we really want? Lots of folks say they want a revolution until they discover what living through one is actually like. Put in another way, we need some redistributive schemes now—Piketty says nothing short of an 80% wealth tax, enforced globally, will do it—or else the redistributive schemes twenty years from now will probably be far less pleasant for everyone concerned.

Below, Thomas Piketty speaks about his work with Justin Vogt, deputy managing editor of Foreign Affairs:

Posted by Em | Discussion
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Einstein was a Socialist!
05.01.2014
12:51 pm

Topics:
Class War
Thinkers

Tags:
Socialism
Albert Einstein

image
 
Another May Day related post, comrades!

Albert Einstein’s famous essay on socialism was originally published in the first issue of Monthly Review in May 1949. It’s as relevant in 2014 as it was then, perhaps—especially in light of Thomas Piketty’s bestseller Capital—even more so.

Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.

Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has—as is well known—been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.

But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called “the predatory phase” of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.

Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and—if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society.

For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.

Innumerable voices have been asserting for some time now that human society is passing through a crisis, that its stability has been gravely shattered. It is characteristic of such a situation that individuals feel indifferent or even hostile toward the group, small or large, to which they belong. In order to illustrate my meaning, let me record here a personal experience. I recently discussed with an intelligent and well-disposed man the threat of another war, which in my opinion would seriously endanger the existence of mankind, and I remarked that only a supra-national organization would offer protection from that danger. Thereupon my visitor, very calmly and coolly, said to me: “Why are you so deeply opposed to the disappearance of the human race?”

I am sure that as little as a century ago no one would have so lightly made a statement of this kind. It is the statement of a man who has striven in vain to attain an equilibrium within himself and has more or less lost hope of succeeding. It is the expression of a painful solitude and isolation from which so many people are suffering in these days. What is the cause? Is there a way out?

It is easy to raise such questions, but difficult to answer them with any degree of assurance. I must try, however, as best I can, although I am very conscious of the fact that our feelings and strivings are often contradictory and obscure and that they cannot be expressed in easy and simple formulas.

Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society. It is quite possible that the relative strength of these two drives is, in the main, fixed by inheritance. But the personality that finally emerges is largely formed by the environment in which a man happens to find himself during his development, by the structure of the society in which he grows up, by the tradition of that society, and by its appraisal of particular types of behavior. The abstract concept “society” means to the individual human being the sum total of his direct and indirect relations to his contemporaries and to all the people of earlier generations. The individual is able to think, feel, strive, and work by himself; but he depends so much upon society—in his physical, intellectual, and emotional existence—that it is impossible to think of him, or to understand him, outside the framework of society. It is “society” which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labor and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word “society.”

It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished—just as in the case of ants and bees. However, while the whole life process of ants and bees is fixed down to the smallest detail by rigid, hereditary instincts, the social pattern and interrelationships of human beings are very variable and susceptible to change. Memory, the capacity to make new combinations, the gift of oral communication have made possible developments among human being which are not dictated by biological necessities. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions, and organizations; in literature; in scientific and engineering accomplishments; in works of art. This explains how it happens that, in a certain sense, man can influence his life through his own conduct, and that in this process conscious thinking and wanting can play a part.

Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types of influences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.

If we ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible, we should constantly be conscious of the fact that there are certain conditions which we are unable to modify. As mentioned before, the biological nature of man is, for all practical purposes, not subject to change. Furthermore, technological and demographic developments of the last few centuries have created conditions which are here to stay. In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labor and a highly-centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary. The time—which, looking back, seems so idyllic—is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self-sufficient. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption.

I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.

For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists’ requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job.

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the “free labor contract” for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from “pure” capitalism.

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers’ goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.

—Albert Einstein

See also:
Why Socialism? This Guy Einstein is an Idiot (a rebuttal)

The Question of Socialism (and Beyond!) Is About to Open Up in These United States

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Helen Keller was a militant anti-capitalist radical
05.01.2014
10:22 am

Topics:
Class War
Heroes
History

Tags:
Socialism
Helen Keller


 
Today is International Workers’ Day. Happy May Day comrades!
 

“The few own the many because they possess the means of livelihood of all ... The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labor. The majority of mankind are working people. So long as their fair demands - the ownership and control of their livelihoods - are set at naught, we can have neither men’s rights nor women’s rights. The majority of mankind is ground down by industrial oppression in order that the small remnant may live in ease.”  — Helen Keller, 1911

This is taken from a short essay about Helen Keller’s political activism found at Dorian Cope’s On This Deity blog. It focuses on the parts of her life story that they didn’t teach us about when we learned about Helen Keller in school… Hey, the blind and deaf chick in The Miracle Worker was a commie!

But what the endless accolades and history books almost always fail to mention is that Helen Keller was a militant radical activist. Her views mirrored the likes of the era’s most notorious dissidents – Emma Goldman and Eugene Debs – who were respectively deported and imprisoned for ten years. “I don’t give a damn about semi-radicals,” she infamously proclaimed; indeed, she leaned so far to the left that the FBI kept a file on her for un-American activities. She was a co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union; a lifelong socialist who campaigned for Eugene Debs’ presidential candidacy; a member of the revolutionary Industrial Workers of the World; a suffragist and crusader for birth control; an anti-fascist (the Nazis publicly burned her books); and a pacifist, who condemned America’s imperialistic motives in both world wars. Having benefited from a privileged background, Helen recognised the social injustices facing those denied the same opportunities – and blamed industrialism and capitalism not only as the root of poverty but also disability-inducing disease. Her anti-capitalist and pro-worker stance was such that at the 1919 Hollywood premiere of a silent film about her own life, she refused to cross an Actors Equity Union picket line and joined the striking workers on their march.

I have to interrupt here. Ponder that last sentence for a moment. THAT is what you call a hero.

In her lifetime, Helen Keller was one of the most recognisable women in the world, and those who flocked to bask in the radiance of her fame were positively scandalised by her beliefs. After publicly supporting the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, admiring the Russian Revolution, and fearlessly lambasting the powerful John D Rockefeller for his role in the Ludlow Mine Massacre (“Mr Rockefeller is a monster of capitalism”), Helen’s radicalism became a source of extreme embarrassment to those who required her to be true to The Myth in order that they might gain:

“So long as I confine my activities to social service and the blind, they compliment me extravagantly, calling me ‘archpriestess of the sightless’, ‘wonder woman’, and ‘a modern miracle,’” Helen bemoaned. “But when it comes to a discussion of poverty, and I maintain that it is the result of wrong economics – that the industrial system under which we live is at the root of much of the physical deafness and blindness in the world – that is a different matter!”

Read the entire essay at On This Deity and watch this amazing footage:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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The best (serious) April Fools’ Day video (seriously!)


“Introducing Anti-Unional, a new, long-lasting anti-worker suppository…”

The anti-union push by the wealthy elites, the corporations and the reichwing politicians who do the bidding of the highest bidders is shameful. As someone raised in a union household, what went down in Tennessee recently made me feel heartsick. Mike Elk’s epic article “The Battle for Chattanooga: Southern Masculinity and the Anti-Union Campaign at Volkswagen” is a must-read if you want to understand the depths these middle-management class-traitor assholes will sink to and the psychological warfare they engaged in vs. the workers. One word for it: Shameful. (This is an important piece of journalism, absolutely worth your time.)

Why not ask the Germans how they feel about union membership? They have a strong economy. They have LOTS of union members. Their unions prevent them from getting screwed over by the oligarchs. They have good wages and can raise their families without struggling. They even get a month or more of vacation. Coincidence? I should think not.

Can’t have that here, now, can we? The wealthy might not like it. Look at this chart, it tells the story of what’s happened in America rather succinctly and as the saying goes, numbers don’t lie.
 

 
Utterly brilliant work, this video speaks for itself, so I’m just going to get out of its way:

Ten out of ten CEOs recommend Anti-Unional to their workers!

Time-released effects ensure that the 1% continue to take in a greater share of the nation’s wealth!

Fast-acting formula decimates wages and benefits and a secure retirement!

Certified and approved by Koch Brothers Laboratories.

If you approve of this satire, SHARE IT. So far they’ve only had a handful of views, this needs to go viral stat.
 

 
Via AFSCME

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Youth gone wild: San Francisco street gangs of the 1960s set to a bongo blasting beat
03.20.2014
12:50 pm

Topics:
Class War
Fashion

Tags:
Ask Me, Don't Tell Me


 
Ask Me, Don’t Tell is a very cool documentary that deals with San Francisco teen gangs of the early sixties and the Youth For Service organization that tried to tame their wild ways. It features some great proto-rapping backed by bongos and surf-a-billy guitars and absolutely beautiful black and white cinematography.

Overall, it’s a captivating glimpse into a world when being in a gang was more club-like than criminal.
 

 
Thanks Blackie
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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‘The Hunger’: An impressively repulsive computer-animated short from 1974
03.14.2014
07:31 am

Topics:
Animation
Class War

Tags:
animation


 
The availability of new technology usually inspires the artistic impulse to create something lovely and elaborate. But the pioneering 1974 short film, The Hunger (or La Faim, in the original French), feels—intentionally—both ugly and crude.  The art has the feel of rough sketches, and only in the movement of the animation can you see the computer technology at work. It’s a strange, eery effect that is intensified by an artfully unsettling soundtrack.

The film received a Special Jury Prize at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival, a BAFTA Award for Best Animation Film, and was the first computer-animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award. What’s more, it was actually produced by the National Film Board of Canada, an agency of The Canadian Federal Government (and we can’t even get our government to fund food stamps?)

The plot is simple: a piggish man eats too much and is eventually devoured by the starving masses. It’s all told in a sort of animated Kafkaesque expressionism, and while I’ve always scoffed at the “sinfulness” of gluttony (especially since world hunger has very little to do with actual scarcity, and even less to do with the dietary habits of fat Westerners), it did disturb me enough to eschew cookies for breakfast this morning.  It is grotesque, violent, nauseating, and truly stunning.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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A $3 million bulletproof diamond-studded suit, because safety and fabulosity first
03.13.2014
06:16 am

Topics:
Class War
Fashion
Science/Tech

Tags:
Suitart


 
This week, Luxury Launches heralded the arrival of Swiss haberdasher Suitart’s Diamond Armor bespoke men’s suit, made of bulletproof material and bedazzled with black diamonds.

The suit is not only bulletproof (certified by NATO standards) as mentioned before, it’s also waterproof due to nano-technological sealing and is equipped with an active cooling system. It’s the only suit of its kind that has an air conditioning system developed by EMPA built into it. The integrated technology can be activated at the push of a button and offers cooling through humidification of water. To add elegance and class to the suit, the Diamond Armor is encrusted with 880 black diamonds. The lapel and the contours of the Diamond Armor are graced with 600 black diamonds each with a diameter of four millimeters and a total weight of 140 carat and the buttons of the jacket consist of Swiss watch steel 316L with DLC coating and are graced with additional 280 black diamonds. To match the opulence of the suit, it can be accessorized with a 24 carat golden silk tie developed by fabric specialist Weisbrod from Zurich and EMPA and Carl F. Bucherer limited edition watch.

Wearing a suit encrusted with diamonds and a tie of spun gold? Goodness gracious me, why would anyone want to harm you?

So not only is the suit Elvis-y as all hell, it’s bulletproof, waterproof and air-conditioned? The piling of insane Liberace-isms atop the suit’s James Bond features, combined with Suitart’s refusal thus far to release a photo of the thing, gives this announcement the heady stink of hoax, but such fabrics DO exist. Non-spangly armored suits have already been available for years to heads of state and people conducting international business in conditions of civil unrest, as this CBS News video explains. (Apologies in advance if it runs an ad, I can’t make it not do that.)
 

 
Still, the lack of a simple photograph showing an item at which the world would surely love to get a gander is disheartening. What Suitart has shared is this video dramatizing how their fabric stops bullets.
 

 
This video demonstrates how bullets can be stopped with a Ted Nugent guitar solo.
 

 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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