Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Break With The Democrats! For A Workers Party!

Since the Democrats have ignominiously and through no effort of their own, “re-taken” both the Senate and the House, and the AFL-CIO has claimed “a victory for working family friendly candidates (AFL-CIO Press Release, Nov 8 2006)” it seems appropriate to have a comment on the necessity of class independence for the proletariat. Class independence does not mean shunning or refusing to work with other classes, such as poor peasants, the unemployed, the lumpen proletariat, intellectuals, or even liberals struggling to preserve bourgeois democratic freedoms. Class independence does mean that the working class has its own platform and program, classically when workers have created their own parties this platform has been some form of socialism (German Social Democrats, early British Labor, French Syndicalists and Socialists, Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (Bolshevik)etc.). Class independence entails that action and thought be carried out independently of any force other than the workers or intellectuals attached to them, such as Karl Marx. They do not rely on any bourgeois or other ruling class force or party to carry out their program for them. They create their own theory and critique through knowledge of the world class struggle (with the assistance of intellectuals). This means that they do not appeal, plead, call, ask, beseech, or strongly demand that some other class force, such as the Democratic Party carry out reforms on their behalf. If reforms are to be granted, they should be granted because the proletariat demanded and forced the hand of the ruling class to act. This is preserving one’s class independence.

When Marxists present the idea of class independence, breaking labor, Blacks, oppressed women, and other minorities away from the Democratic Party’s deathlike embrace, many people respond in disbelief, reject the idea as impossible, or dismiss the idea saying “the Democrats are not that bad, and anyway they are friends of labor!” Friends of labor indeed! What follows are some talking points, facts, and instances where the Democrat “fiends of labor” have betrayed or stabbed their supporters in the back, enjoy and please add more!

-“Welfare Reform” which threw millions of unemployed, under employed, suffering minorities, working but poor mothers with children, and indigent out on the street and even required many to “pay back” that which they received from the state, a form of debt peonage. This program was fully supported by Democrat President Clinton and most legislators. Insult was added to injury when the use of phrases like “return to dignity” were used to prettify the slashing of welfare benefits. Most egregious, Democrats turned a blind eye to the constant racist attacks and stereotypes such as the “Welfare Queen.”

A common misunderstanding among the working class is that welfare or public assistance somehow negatively affects them. Far from it. By eliminating public assistance programs people are forced into the labor market, contributing to the growing Reserve Army of Labor used for times of acute capitalist labor demand. These job seekers are forced to compete for scarce jobs, especially in the low skill and low wage markets thus driving down wages. By receiving public assistance, workers are better able to stay off the market and keep competition against their compatriots lower.

-Labor bureaucrats and the dems: At this page one can see how the labor bureaucracy that today misleads the American labor movement in both the AFL-CIO and the “Change to Win” coalition put their faith in the Democratic party to carry out the policies of labor. A quick review of what they ask for is minimal indeed!

-Now governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, Democrat, while Attorney General imprisoned Transit Workers Union President Roger Toussaint for several days, imposed millions of dollars in fines on the TWU and the Amalgamated Transport Workers Union through the treacherous use of the injunction-labors ancient foe. He as well as Hillary Clinton supported the anti-labor Taylor Law that forbids public employees from striking.

-Black Democrats often pose as both friends of labor and of Black people but they often are neither. The Democrats have no real interest in helping African-Americans win new gains and protect themselves from racist cop violence:
From Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick has been cutting and threatening to cut thousands of unionized jobs in the city of Detroit. The last thing Detroit needs is fewer jobs! Ray Nagin supported non-union/below union scale wage recognition in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. In the 1970’s a New Jersey teachers strike was baited and attacked as racist by a Black mayor. Black Democrats channel the wholly righteous community rage at the police into meaningless review boards meant as a prop for the police and state machinery. Both Jesse Jackson and Ray Naginhave used anti-Mexican anti-immigrant scapegoating and chauvinism to rally people to their cause around the governments, including Democrats, racist atrocity around Hurricane Katrina.

-But certainly white Democrats are the worst: Clinton, during his first campaign for President, cynically and with racist vengeance flew home to Arkansas to oversee the execution of a retarded black death row inmate. Though posing as a liberal and speaking against “illegal war” now, Senator Byrd of West Virginia used to support segregation in the South. Jimmy Carter spoke about peoples desire for "ethnic purity" during his campaign for president, a nod to the white supremacist and segregationist tendencies. A Democrat has led every major U.S. war of the century, since the bourgeoisie recognizes them as “more credible covers for imperialism”: WWI-Wilson, WWII-Roosevelt/Truman, Korea-Truman, Vietnam-Kennedy/Johnson. But people still try to promote the Democrats as peaceful.

Forge a revolutionary workers party!

There are certainly more examples but this was meant to stimulate debate and thinking. Feel free to add more, I will gladly add them to the text.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Miswritting of Soviet History

In the advanced capitalist countries the writing of Russian and Soviet history has for some time been possibly the most political and ideologically charged and biased of any historical subject matter. This is not to say that politics and ideology do not belong in history, they do. To deny or reject this is to deny reality, drain history of excitement, and create a false aura of objectivity. Ideology and politics, in history, as in science and society must be tested! Proposals and suppositions must be placed under scientific scrutiny, whether they are proposed by the left or by the right. I wish to promote theorizing about politics and ideology by an engagement with facts and analysis.

I propose here to detail several myths, fallacies, and stopgaps used in the historiography of Russia and the Soviet Union that prevent real analysis and thinking. By stopgaps, I mean words, phrases, or popular short hand that encapsulates an entire argument that is absent, assumed and never presented. The stopgap is a label, such as “totalitarian” that ends all consideration of counter facts, details, and history! It is a dismissive that ends discussion, to the detriment of thought. This brings us to our first fallacy.

Totalitarianism- this label whether used for the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany, its two most common uses, is purely ideological, used as a prop for western liberalism. By calling a nation totalitarian, we cut short analysis and research, and bring in elementary or sophomoric assumptions about the all controlling society, “Big Brother” and other literary allusions to the works of Orwell and Arendt. The use of totalitarianism is wrong and false for several reasons. First, totalitarian society does not exist. For example, classic Stalinist terror in the 1930’s was actually a response to not controlling the situation in the realm of the economy. Terror and coercion in this case was the ultimate expression of being out of control of the pace and contradictions of building massive industry, at a fantastical pace, with minimal assistance, and with ever rising and more impossible targets. Terror was the only way the bureaucracy saw that it could attempt to gain control of the situation it partially produced. Second, totalitarianism ignores the ways in which the order it is supposedly referring to is built using methods of cooptation, privileges, and terror, even under U.S. capitalism. Totalitarianism is always used for the other, never for one’s own country. (For a fuller discussion of this, see Slavoj Zizek’s Did Someone Say Totalitarianism? Verso 2001).

A second myth in what we might say in the bourgeois writing of Russian history is the use of the idea of the “golden mean,” closely linked to the totalitarian use above. The “golden mean” refers to the idea that going to the extreme either on the left or on the right leads to evil totalitarianism. Again, this is another crutch and justification for bourgeois democracy (control of politics by capital, occasional elections that determine who will oppress the masses now, a cooptation of workers organizations into the state, etc.) and usually ignores much of western history, inequality, racism, and brutality while extolling the benefits of “pluralist tolerance.” This tactic is employed against any radical program for the remaking of society towards greater equality and socialism by falsely identifying any methods that do not match methods employed in legal parliamentary politics with evil tyranny. At the very least, the golden mean is another ideological tool that that stops thinking, the conclusion is given before the facts. We want to start thinking! Real thinking requires systematic reading and argumentation not simple brainstorming some shreds of facts one has heard in the press or in popular consciousness. The golden mean is employed principally against the Bolsheviks during the revolutionary period to argue against the Bolshevik seizure of power and the dismissal of the Constituent Assembly. That these were necessary and vastly progressive acts in history is shown elsewhere, the point here is that the golden mean automatically gives the conclusion that these are bad practices because they violate parliamentary procedure, never mind that they were necessary to the salvation of the revolution, the ending of the imperialist war, and a step toward world socialist revolution. But,because they are labled as anti-democratic acts, the reader, naturally wants to be democratic and thus concludes that these practices are bad.

A third falsification in Russian history writing is the “magic bullet” of the “Russian Radical Tradition.” In short, the argument is that all Russian radicals share a messianic, anti-capitalist, primitivist, non-democratic, non-liberal, terror-embracing worldview. This is meant to include everyone from Hertzen, Bakunin, the Narodniks, to the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks. This magic bullet is supposed to explain every twist and turn of the Russian Marxist and radical movement. Tactics, strategy, the actual conditions on the ground are secondary in this kind of analysis. Why did the Bolsheviks resort to terror? Because of the Russian radical tradition, of course! This is an anti-scientific, non-analysis. This is akin to explaining the recent fundamentalist religious revival in the U.S. by saying the Puritans founded the country! This should strike one as at least unsatisfactory and unscientific. Anti-Marxists to besmirch or belittle Karl Marx with a similar argument. It says his belief in the development of society and revolution is entirely a product of the messianic Jewish Rabbinical tradition, not the result of his years of careful study and argumentation, no.

I have encountered all of these arguments in textbooks, history books, the classroom, and in discussions with all sorts of people. The purpose here was to expose the ideological function of these arguments in putting down the struggle for socialism and supporting bourgeois democracy and often imperialist war. Be on the lookout for these arguments and recognize them as what they are, tools for stopping thinking and consideration and for forcing one to agree with capitalist politics.