The U.S. is as much a dictatorship as it is a democracy!

What was the early American state? What was an early Greek slave republic? Both were “democracies”, yes, but for who? For the ruling class which in those times consisted of male property/ slave owners to the forceful exclusion of everyone else. No democracy has ever been without a class dictatorship. Today this has been “formally” abolished but it de facto remains the same today, no one can deny this fact. It was a democracy as much as it was a dictatorship of the ruling class. The movements and struggles of the 20th century may have made this less apparent, may have guaranteed more liberty, more democracy, etc. but the general premise remains the same.

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For the haters of socialism, let it be said that Marx himself thought the first successful socialist revolutions would take place in the most advanced capitalist countries, at the end of capitalist development. Yet the exact opposite happened in 1917 Russia, one of the most backward countries on earth. It was a socialist revolution in such a country that wasn’t international, that was economically isolated from the rest of the world. Not only that, but when it degenerated into the Stalinist distortion of October that it did, this system became the basis of every singe self-identified “Marxist” state that came after it.. Am I somehow supposed to be surprised that one of the most democratic systems conceivable didn’t work in such a country when we can’t even get liberal democracy to work in Iraq?

In Defense of The French and Soviet Revolutionary Terror, and A New Dialectical Formula For Change

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Terrorism is a touchy subject these days, and I have wanted to avoid the topic of revolutionary terror for that reason. But I feel that what I have to say is important. I have, for the record, condemned all acts of individual terrorism in another post. I do not consider what we call in everyday life, terrorism, to be productive or useful and I unequivocally condemn it. What revolutionary terror is, is not terrorism to establish or make revolution, but terror done by the revolutionary government to suppress counter-revolutionary terror after a social revolution has erupted in a particular society. We see this in France with the infamous ‘Reign of Terror’ under Robespierre, the ‘Red Terror’ under Lenin in Russia, etc. These eruptions in society were not done by a malevolent bloodthirsty government but quite the opposite, these eruptions were done to quell not only counter-revolutionary violence, but to eradicate the subtle, less pronounced violence that plagued the previous epoch. In the words of Danton, the early French Republic was to “be terrible so as to spare the people the need to be so”[1]. Violence is not only direct, most of the time it is indirect, and far more sinister in nature.

In the words of my comrade and fellow blogger, Christian Chiakulas, who runs the blog Radical Christian Millennial, “In a world that produces enough food to feed each and every one of us, starvation is violence.  In a society where vacant houses outnumber homeless people six to one, homelessness is violence.  A country in which health insurance companies rake in billions in profits while leaving nearly thirty million people uninsured and unable to access medical care is a violent society. This is the everyday violence of capitalism – if it is profitable to let somebody die, or languish in abject poverty, we do so.  That is a violent society.”[2]

Perhaps Mark Twain best outlines the defense of the reign of terror when he said, “There were two ‘Reigns of Terror,’ if we would but remember it and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the “horrors” of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe, compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty, and heart-break? What is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the stake? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror—that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.”[3] For Robespierre and for Lenin, the revolutionary terror sought to eliminate the older, colder, more sinister terror brought about by the old social order. If you read the writings of Robespierre, you see that he understood that he was killing people, that his hands had blood on them. But he also understood how many more would die if the transition from feudalism to capitalism was not complete, if the old terror was not ended swiftly by the new.

For a full defense of the reign of terror, see Sophie Wahnich’s book In Defense of The Terror. The point of this post is to point out that while the Jacobin and Leninist terror was necessary due to historical circumstance, Stalinist terror was absolutely not. The two are incomparable. Let us be frank, as Robespierre himself said, “one cannot cook an omelette without breaking an egg”, but one also cannot pump a tire until it bursts and expect the car to take one to their destination, one cannot forge steel forever lest it evaporate. I will very briefly attempt to elaborate on the typical dialectics of a social revolution:

Thesis: Old society becomes outdated, is already rotten from the inside, and unable to address a crisis.

Anti-thesis: Revolution from below, typically without too much bloodshed. New government established. New constitution written and established. A revolution without a revolution.

Synthesis/ New Thesis: Old ruling classes reacts violently to social change, extreme reaction, counter-revolutionary terror. At this point the international response tends to be greatest, surrounding countries aid counter-revolutionary forces. Country breaks out into chaos/ war.

Anti-thesis: Government reacts by making government revolutionary until peacetime, temporarily suspends new constitution, initiates the terror to suppress the counter-revolution and shorten the birth pains of the new society. The real revolution begins.

At this point, depending on the circumstances, there are many potentialities for where this society can end up:

Potential synthesis: Thermidorian reaction. Nearly all the progress by the revolution is undone and the conservatives/ counter-revolutionaries take power, typically reinitiating the terror against the former revolutionaries and supporters of the revolution from above.

Potential synthesis: Stalinist terror. The revolution is over, the revolutionary terror formally ends. But a bureaucracy takes hold of the state due underdevelopment, unviability for democracy, degeneration of the revolution, etc. Formally the constitution is reestablished, but on paper only. The terror becomes unofficial, unmentionable, and far more terrible than the original. The state believes it can slaughter its way to communism or to some better society. The original democratic gains of the revolution, are, once again, lost. This is what Trotsky called the “Soviet Thermidor”.

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There is, however, another potential synthesis. For this reason, I think that in order to truly critique the Stalinist failures of the 20th century, we have to go back to Robespierre himself. Robespierre said once that, “The aim of constitutional government is to preserve the Republic; that of revolutionary government is to lay its foundation.” Robespierre recognized that terror alone was not a means to an end. He recognized that terror was a means to a means to an end. The point of the terror was to lay the foundation for the republic. The point of the republic is to bring the society towards its end goal (i.e. a newer, better social order). As I have previously said, one cannot slaughter their way to communism. Thus,

Potential Synthesis: Peace time is established, terror ends before Thermidorian reaction takes hold. Society is developed enough and economically healthy enough to allow democracy to be established fully among the new ruling class (consisting of the proletariat, or the 99%), in order to make progress towards a stateless, classless society. The constitution is restored not merely on paper but in actuality. The state begins to establish itself in such a way that it withers away. The first act towards this end is the ending of the revolutionary terror. It is terrible not against the people but against itself as an institution of organized violence.

I recognize that the ruling class never willingly gives up political power, and in the struggle for power, sometimes revolutionary terror emerges in a particular society as a response to counter-revolutionary terror and international reaction. I do not glorify this, or portray it as something favorable. But if and when it does emerge in a later epoch, those in power must learn both from Thermidor and from the Stalinist legacy of the past in order to ensure both that it is neither abused or used to the extent that it causes all progress hitherto made to burst asunder.

 

 

Sources:

1: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/233177/in-defence-of-the-terror-by-sophie-wahnich/9781784782023

2: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/radicalchristianmillennial/2017/08/jesus-punch-nazi

3: http://www.bartleby.com/71/0530.html

Very briefly, have the basic tools of warfare not gotten more humane over the ages?

To kill with fists is more humane than to kill by starvation.
To kill with stones is more humane than to kill with fists.
To kill with swords is more humane than to kill with stones.
To kill with arrows is more humane than to kill with swords.
To kill with guns is more humane than to kill with arrows.

The most basic tools of warfare have tended to get more humane through the ages. To be shot is far better than to be cut to death with a sword, starved out, or bludgeoned with a rock. But at the same time, certain tools such as chemical weapons and radiation are far more horrible than their prehistoric counterparts. But at least today one does not have to be ripped apart in agony with a monstrous knife to die on the battlefield. Not only warfare, but society too has gotten far less violent and far more humane over time. Steven Pinker wrote a book called The Better Angels of our Nature precisely about this. Today we do not have to worry about a neighboring tribe coming over with stones to murder us all to death because we have food, nor do we have to worry about the Canadian Empire invading us, raping and pillaging its way through America. The more brutal aspects of our nature have not been abolished in regards to our affairs with society at large, but replaced with less direct forms of exploitation of foreign lands. Imperialism today has taken the place of the raping, pillaging and conquering of the middle ages. According to Pinker though, we are living in the most peaceful era of human history. We are also, though, more connected to other societies and people’s lives than in any other epoch. A terrorist attack in China would make us react on the other side of the planet!

Very briefly, my stance on The Cultural Revolution

I have to agree with the position of Slavoj Žižek and Alain Badiou in that I support the idea of the cultural revolution in the sense that I support the workers and peasants of Shanghai who took Mao too literally and seized the city and created the Shanghai Commune. I support the idea of cultural revolution in that I am critical of a top-down maneuvering of power that caused Mao to initiate the cultural revolution for personal gain, and not to increase the political power of the masses. I am critical of the fact that Mao sent in soldiers to disarm the Shanghai workers who rose up in his name.

But the principles of the cultural revolution were noble. There were what, less than 50 red guards in the entire country of Tibet? The Tibetan cultural revolution was initiated by the Tibetan youth, by the workers and peasants who genuinely wished to shake off 1000’s of years of feudal oppression. Sorry, but this is true. You can say Free Tibet, and sure it’s a worthy cause. But the feudal relations of Tibet had genuinely come to an end, they were not forced by the hand Mao or the red guards.

On the intentional obfuscation of the explanation of Marxism practiced by bourgeois educators

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My old political science professor once pointed to someone’s laptop as an example of private property and said to the class that this was what the cold war was about. “Wouldn’t you want to live in a society where your laptop, phone, and house belongs to you?” Yes! Of course, I, as a Marxist, would! But Marx never said a negative thing about your personal property, he was against private property. This was the same obfuscated explanation of communism I was taught back in high school. I was furious at this absurdity and explained the difference between personal property (such as your phone, laptop, home) and private property (factories, enterprises, i.e. the means of production). I remember that the class seemed rightfully baffled at such an obfuscation of one of the most basic ideas of Marxism
 
Marx himself wrote in The Communist Manifesto that,
“You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society.
 
In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend.”
 
By this absurd equation of private and personal property, my professor would have been implying that Marx thought that 9/10 of the population had no personal belongings, something that throughout human history, has never been the case in the least.
Such explanations are one of the many attempts on account of bourgeois intellectuals and educators to obfuscate the logic of Marxism, for if it were presented as it actually was to the broad masses of people, no one would ever deny its logic. In fact, if Marxism was taught by Marxists in schools, even side by side with bourgeois lectures on the necessity of greed, 9/10 of the population would identify as Marxist.

Who does the “Alt-Left” hate?

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Recently Trump gave a speech about the massive alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Instead of unilaterally condemning the racist violence, hatred, and bigotry of the alt-right, Trump claimed that “there was blame on both sides”, and coined the term “the alt-left” to refer to the leftist counter-protestors. Despite the outbreak of racist violence at the rally, accompanied with domestic terrorism from the far-right, Trump de facto placed more blame on the left for “not having a permit”.

As of late, many conservative and libertarian (as in libertarian capitalist) media outlets have been on a frenzy condemning what they call “hate on both sides”. In this sense, they equate the far left and the far right as equally bad, a concept similar to the “Horseshoe Theory” which I debunked in an earlier post. As an example of this meme frenzy, let’s take a look at a meme shared by Turning Point USA on the issue:

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What is meant by the term “hate”? Lets break this down by separating the far-right organizations mentioned (which everyone knows are inherently hateful) from the left-wing organizations mentioned. Who or what exactly do these left-wing organizations hate?

What does Black Lives Matter hate? Black Lives Matter is an organization created to address the horrific abuses suffered by African Americans by the United States Criminal Justice System. As an organization, it has condemned racially oriented violence, violent tactics, and police brutality. In a word, it hates racism and oppression.

What did The Black Panther Party hate? The Black Panther Party was an anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist Party formed during the beginning of the American civil rights movement as a militant anti-racist organization to address the horrific injustices suffered by the working class and African Americans. It was a revolutionary Marxist organization that was militantly opposed to the 400 years of oppression suffered by black people in America. Never did the organization, or Black Lives Matter, for that matter, advocate Black Supremacy or racist politics. As a matter of fact, both organizations had white members and white majority organizations that stood in solidarity with them. In a word, it hated racism and exploitation.

What do the communists hate? The communists hate a social system where 5 people have expropriated the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of humanity (3.5 billion people), a system that awards those who produced that great wealth barely enough to maintain a wretched existence. They hate a social system that has the productive potential to end homelessness, hunger, poverty, and treatable diseases 20 times over but refuses to do so because it “isn’t profitable”. In the words of the late American socialist Eugene V. Debs, “I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.” Communists recognize that the history of all human history is a history of class struggles. Throughout human history there has always been social classes that produce all the wealth in a given society, and has the lions share of what it produces taken from it by a ruling class in the form of economic exploitation (everything the slave produced, what the peasant produced 3 days of the week, the surplus value produced by the worker today). The members of the ruling class in each epoch typically did no work of their own but rather lived off of the labor of others. The class or classes that owned the means of production, in every epoch, controlled the state and used it to its own advantage. The communists recognize that our capitalist society is no different from earlier epochs in this regard, and that as such, is fundamentally based on exploitation. They wish to create a social system where all members of society own the means of producing wealth, and have democratic control over them. In such a society the state (an inherently violent institution) would become superfluous, money as a form of exchange would become superfluous, and social classes (classes that exist with a particular relation to the means of production) would disappear. In a word, the communists hate oppression and exploitation.

What does CIAR (The Council of Islamic-American Relations) hate? The organization says that they “promote civil rights, diversity and freedom of religion and oppose policies that limit civil rights, permit racial, ethnic or religious profiling, infringe on due process, or that prevent Muslims and others from participating fully in American civic life.” Based on their actions, we can say that this is an accurate summery of the CIAR. Thus it can be said that, in a word, they hate religious persecution and oppression.

What do the anti-fascists hate? As anyone can tell by the name, the anti-fascists hate fascism. Generally the anti-fascists are anarchists (typically anarcho-communists) and communists. In a word, the anarchists hate fascism, and the oppression and exploitation that fascism brings.

What, then have we established? The KKK, the White Supremacists, and the Nazi’s hate people, and they hate people because of things they cannot help (race, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality and religion in particular). The Black Panthers, Black Lives Matter, CIAR, and the communists do not tend to hate individuals in particular, but various forms of oppression or exploitation. Whenever they do hate individuals, they hate those who directly and unapologetically perpetrate various forms of oppression and exploitation.

What, then, is the position of the “alt-left” in regards to hate? The general position is that the “alt-left” hates every single form of oppression and exploitation. When the “alt-left” does hate individuals, it is because they directly and unapologetically perpetrate various forms of oppression and exploitation. What is detestable to the “Alt-Left” is the hatred of the far-right, a group that hates people because of things that they generally cannot help, such as their nationality, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or religion. When centrists and conservatives say that “all hate is bad” and condemn “both sides”, they mean hatred of anything, regardless of whether that thing is good or bad. They mean not only hatred of individuals, but hatred of things in particular, they mean the feeling of hatred itself. Was it wrong for a slave to hate slavery? Not in the least. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that this kind of reasoning used by centrists and conservatives is absolute nonsense and that there is no comparison between the “Alt-Right” and the so-called “Alt-Left”.