We must assume the people to be good and the state evil (Reflections on our society)

“We must assume the people good and the state evil.”(1) Obviously the state, as an inherently violent institution, is a necessary evil both in our bourgeois society, and in the society which will be born of the triumph of labor under capital, it will be necessary until that day when bourgeois right ceases to be.
We say that the people are of good nature. What do we mean? Anyone who goes to a place where the poor are numerous and paupers beg for change will find abnormally high rates of crime. Everywhere the mentality will be ‘every man for himself’. The poor, who are deprived of the means of subsistence, of the means of production, are found to be in a constant state of stress and disorientation. Their concern is for themselves and their immediate relatives, for their immediate needs.
Then we go to those who own the means of subsistence, who grow extremely wealthy for owning the means of production with which the poor toil day and night without ever making a penny more than the capitalist allows. We find here an extremely wealthy fellow, whose “wealth springs quite literally from the poverty of the poor”(2). He lives off the labor of others, off the poor who have nothing to sell but their labor power as the precious commodity that it is, while he does no real work himself. We find a man who, unlike the pauper, has secured the means of maintaining his immediate survival and happiness. But even among him, selfishness runs rampant. It is a selfishness far worse than that which is forced onto the poor. He is in a state of constant struggle not only against the poor who, lacking class consciousness, want only better wages and better working conditions, but also against his fellow capitalist, both within his enterprise and in those enterprises competing against him.
If he grows concerned for the well being of his workers, for their humanity, he will certainly find himself going down a slippery slope. If he goes so far as to forfeit the means of production to the working class, then he will be forced to work like they do, under explorative conditions, with nothing to sell but his labor power. If he runs his business like the good Christian he claims to be, he will soon go out of business and become a laughingstock among the whole capitalist class.(3)
His own survival is based on his greed, on the ceaseless accumulation of capital. We see for both rich and poor alike that self-interest is compelled to become selfishness. “We see that the worker is compelled to work under feudal conditions, or die of hunger”(2), to look after only his own hide, or risk going hungry. We see that the selfishness of the ruling class becomes the ruling ideas of our age, for rich and poor alike. 
So what madness is it to assume the people good? Everywhere we look around we see that greed and selfishness are the sole motivating factors of our society. But we also know that “the ruling ideas of each age have only ever been the ruling ideas of each ages ruling class.”(4) If we imagine instead, “a free association of producers with the means of production held in common”(5), where the means of production are democratically controlled by society at large, then we see that greed ceases to be the sole motivator, the sole ruling idea of society. We see that the pursuit of meeting actual human needs instead of profits exorcizes the hold that greed has over our society.
Only in such a society can the natural virtue of the people by embodied, only in such a society can today’s rich and poor alike live free from constant want and worry, for the states of rich and poor alike will cease to be. Only in such a society can equality be real, and not “the formal inequality in spite of rich and poor, ‘equality’ in spite of inequality.”(6) Only in such a society can democracy embody the true will of all of society, and not only that of the ruling class. When man is free from manmade poverty, and from being compelled to live off of the conditions that create poverty, we will find a society in which the natural virtue of man is truly embodied. As James Connolly once said, “The.. people will only be free when they own everything from the plough to the stars”.(7)
1: Robespierre, Speech/ Rousseau

2: Kropotkin, Conquest of Bread

3: Connolly, Socialism Made Easy

4: Marx & Engels, Communist Manifesto

5: Marx, Capital

6: Engels, Marx Engels Collected Works Volume 6

7: James Connolly

On The Motto of “Wolves and Sheep”

“There are wolves and sheep in this world, hammers and nails, etc.”

That may be true, but a good sheep does not just allow itself to be eaten, nor especially their fellow sheep. A good nail does not just allow itself to be pounded, nor especially their fellow nails. The wolf is no match for a thousand sheep, the hammer no match for a thousand nails. When the nails and sheep of the earth unite, the hammers and wolves of the world will tremble in fear at the sight of the oppressed and exploited masses organized, and armed in the name of justice. Unity is strength when dealing with those who have been stepped on and crushed for someone else’s profit. One brave nail or sheep cannot stop an army, but all the nails and sheep united together can rid the world of all hammers and wolves once and for all. Wouldn’t that be a better world for the sheep and the nails (who constitute the vast majority) than to passively accept that there are wolves and sheep, hammers and nails?

To Be Born Is Arguably The Worst Injustice, Consent and Existentialism, Psychoanalysis and Parenting

To be born is arguably the worst injustice, one cannot consent to being thrust into existence, for to say “I consent” implies that there is an I, that existence is already attained. It is to be, in the inverted sense, raped by mother nature, a one in a trillion rape, a one in a trillion, horrific injustice. And of course, we are wired to consent after the fact, after we already exist. “I don’t want to die” is the norm thanks to natural selection, and I say that not cynically. I say that as someone who has had depression in the past. In absolutely no way do I defend or support social Darwinism, but natural selection as opposed to human selection has hitherto been responsible for shaping our instincts and minds from birth, not to say that they are not largely malleable by the material conditions and society this mind finds itself in, but that the general trend has been a desire to live and survive, the most deeply rooted instincts.

This is also not an argument against procreation. Yes, we should have fewer babies because of overpopulation, but by all means, have children if you so will. Just know that it is as you will, or the material conditions you find yourself in (i.e. sex, rape, moral stance against abortion or contraception, etc.) and not a non-existent other, not according to the will of the thing you are going to thrust into the world without its consent. But there is a silver lining, being a good parent helps to atone for this injustice, in fac, if you are responsible for creating this thing then it is you alone, with (hopefully) the obligation of the other, that can, and therefore must do to atone for this injustice. 

Perhaps this can explain the paternal/ maternal instinct. “My god I have brought this innocent thing into the world, It’s so helpless.” And then in the subconscious, “It couldn’t even consent to being thrust into existence, I have to give it a happy life and be a good parent to make up for this”, even though it is in most every regard a most happy moment. I think this may be a valid form of subconscious moral reasoning. In essence, you do not choose to exist, someone and something else did. To be born, to exist against your will is in the absolute sense, injustice. But this is an absolutely necessary, and permanent injustice. Not in the sense that immorality, oppression, and exploitation are unjust, but in another, wholly existential and absolute form.

Why does something exist instead of nothing? And what of God? A philosophical hypotheses 

The subjugation of the absolute is infinitely malleable, though it appears the exact opposite, and often is for human affairs. To bring the absolute under scientific laws which are to us, constant, implies that the laws themselves are the absolute. Yet we know that our universe has a beginning, therefore the absolute we can say is subjugated to the conditions it finds itself in. 

We find everywhere, in the smallest and most finite spaces that there exists infinite finite infinities. Can we say that the all, the universe, the sum of the whole is in fact the absolute? We can indeed, however what we find is the absolute here, we also find to be the absolute there. The absolute is the infinite sum of all possible infinities, it is unfathomable but to the infinite creator (assuming it is a conscious force). 

In theoretical physics, though I do not claim to be any sort of expert in the field by any means whatsoever, we find what we know as virtual particles. Spontaneous particles with an equal and opposite anti-particle come into being and annihilate with one another. Mathematically we can say that +1 and -1 come into being simultaneously and then collide, becoming 0. This is a sort of eternal dialectical process going on all around us, like popcorn (with the exception of Hawking radiation in which one of these particles falls into a blackhole and the other escapes). 

Matter cannot be created or destroyed, yet we know that matter can spontaneously come into being so long as its absolute opposite accompanies its creation. Is it absurd to suggest that, perhaps what happens on the smallest scale so too happens on the largest? That the universe has an equal, opposite counterpart? This could in fact answer the question of “why does something exist instead of nothing?” For in actuality nothing does exist. All we know is a value of -1, and somewhere outside of our reality is an equal but opposite +1. 

Therefore everything adds together into nothing. If then there is a God, an infinite being, than in its infinite power it would forever and irrevocably put up a barrier between itself and its opposite. Therefore God could exist forever, and could have always existed. God, coming into being in the same way I speculate the universe coming into being, a force that is of the substance of spontaneous creation and therefore the creator of itself, the master of mathematics and all of creation, in every possible form. Thus we can say that the subjugation of the absolute is infinitely malleable.

The Dialectic of The Two Party System: The Illusion of Free Will and The Only Way Out

When you think of the American two-party system as a dialectic, only then does the realization of total political class servitude enter into the mind. In American society the liberal “left” and conservative right is designed to act as the thesis and anti-thesis of this dialectic. So that the only viable outcome (the synthesis) is the result of a conflict of these two ideologies, which are inherently favorable the same capitalist ideology of both the synthesis and anti-synthesis. There are fundamental issues of grave importance that are not discussed in the two party system, as any socialist can tell you.

In order to have free will, there has to be a recollection between these two sides (the synthesis). You have to pick a side to influence change in the political sphere. But in the two-party system, this is an intentionally limited paradigm so that the only conclusions one can come to in mainstream politics is one that reinforces the existing social order, and this synthesis can do nothing but. This is the dialectic of the two party system. There are those of us who do not fit into this two-party dialectic (we socialists in particular). For those of us who do not fit into the two-party system, it is our duty to do away with it entirely by introducing a rogue variable into the political sphere that will smash it entirely. This is our call to the working class.

The two-party system is but an illusion of free will and democracy. The two parties are nothing but toys of the ruling class, which when politicized in bourgeois society (as it always is) becomes an oligarchy. To quote the question posed by one of my favorite early Marxists, Ernest Untermann, “Has history not taught us that mere political democracy without industrial democracy amounts to virtual oligarchy in practice?” This oligarchy supports both parties because they both support the interests of the oligarchy and thereby of the ruling class.

As Engels says in his 1891 work The Civil War in France“It is precisely in America that we see best how there takes place this process of the state power making itself independent in relation to society, whose mere instrument it was originally intended to be. Here there exists no dynasty, no nobility, no standing army, beyond the few men keeping watch on the Indians, no bureaucracy with permanent posts or the right to pensions. and nevertheless we find here two great gangs of political speculators, who alternately take possession of the state power and exploit it by the most corrupt means and for the most corrupt ends* — and the nation is powerless against these two great cartels of politicians, who are ostensibly its servants, but in reality exploit and plunder it.”

There is virtually no difference between this system of limited, truncated and false “democracy” and a one party state except for this illusion of choice. And I by no means am advocating a one-party system. The only solutions that can be found for the problems we face today on a large scale are wholly outside the two-party system, for the bourgeoisie itself (acting through this two-party system) is wholly responsible for creating and maintaining these problems on a massive scale, for producing the problems of capitalist society which are innumerable. The synthesis of the dialectic will only ever solidify the rule of the oligarchy, the reign of the ruling class. The synthesis may address feeble problems that concern this ruling class’s hold on power but never will it threaten that power directly, even in circumstances of dire emergency.

Has this not, on the other hand, brought us many progressive reforms to the capitalist system? Indeed it has, but at the same time, there are problems posed by the very capitalist system itself, fundamental problems that threaten our very existence, that cannot be solved but by the abolition of the capitalist system entirely. These are the problems of homelessness, poverty, hunger, the anarchy of production, vast wealth inequality, alienation, unhappiness, climate change, imperialism, imperialist war, capitalist exploitation itself, lack of real political democracy, total lack of any real industrial democracy, the crippling of the individual, of individual liberty and creative expression, etc. Sure they can put band-aids on these issues to soften their blow, or dazzle them with grand words of liberty and duty but in the end, they cannot solve these problems inside the capitalist system. For when capitalism is abolished there will be nothing pushing back on such reforms, these problems can be addressed directly without challenging the fundamental nature of the prevailing socio-economic system. In fact, socialism demands these problems be solved immediately and without hesitation. There is no conflict of interest in pursuing these issues absolutely and without excuse under a socialist system. And for these grave evils, there certainly is no acceptable excuse to be made in addressing them.

This, my friends, is why at Socialist Alternative we call for a new party of the 99%. A party that will not be a part of this dialectic, nor part of a three-party dialectic of the same nature (if you can imagine such a thing). It will be wholly outside the scope of the action of this oligarchy, and thereby it will directly threaten its power. Thus it forms a new dialectic between the 99% and the 1% directly. The interests of the majority and of the bourgeoisie go head to head against one another. This new party is but a step in our transitional program (see Trotsky’s Transitional Program). We at Socialist Alternative do not claim to be this party, nor do we want to be. We call on the working class itself to unify in struggle and build it themselves! We simply wish to be a leading force in guiding this party, the party of the 99%, towards total liberation. This is not to say that this party will by any means lead directly to some sort of revolutionary struggle, but rather that it will unify the proletarian masses to allow for such a dialectic to exist in a much more powerfull way. The synthesis of a unified, class-conscious proletariat and the bourgeoisie can be only in what Marx would call “the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions”, in the establishment of absolute and genuine democracy, for true liberty and equality for all. And that my friends, is the end of capitalism.

 

*  My Italics -TFB

Briefly, The Psychedelic Experience

Just as the mind and the consciousness contained within it is an abstraction of material reality, so too is hallucination an abstraction of this abstraction. In the process in which hallucination begins, the abstracting mechanism of the psychedelic, or the part of the mind that procures the hallucination undoes the mechanism inherent to creating this abstraction between the real world and the mind. Though this division cannot practically be eliminated, it’s abstracting mechanism acts virtually in this way. The part of the mind responsible for blocking out the abstract phenomena of the material world is removed and reality in its purest, most vibrant form is revealed to the subject. The sense of self, the distinction between self and non-self withers away. This is the purest stage of psychedelic consciousness, and not when all sensation of external reality is lost.

In this state, the subject sees reality as it truly is, without an abstracting filter on the mind. Of course, the inert abstraction that is consciousness is not overcome but rather it is realized in the fullest sense of the word, in other words, the filter on sensory input is removed. The sky appears as an overwhelmingly beautiful creation, the most vibrant blues and colors of nature are fully appreciated by the subject. The complexity and beauty of reality itself are presented to the subject. But also this runs the risk of terrible danger as the mind ceases to be able to filter out the bad. Every phenomenon both internal and external is magnified. At this point, one understands the unknowable. Reality presents itself in a way hitherto unseen. It is the most real thing a person can experience. This is the stage where one reasons in a way that transcends formal logic, the epitome of dialectical thinking. The genius of the human machine is unleashed and ingenious thoughts and realizations flow like rivers in the subject’s mind. We should not embrace this as something transcending ourselves but rather as the epitome of the union of the self with other. In a way, this stage of the psychedelic experience ceases to be a drug which intoxicates the user, but rather causes the subject to be soberer than he/ she has ever been in the past. But of course no normal human being experiences this level of sobriety naturally, and therefore it is perceived as an intoxicant by society. Of course, I am not advocating one put themselves in this ‘sober’ mindset often. We are not made to continuously see reality in this way.

The real usefulness of psychedelics in its practical application is innumerable. However, its danger is also without limit. It must be used responsibly and in a strictly controlled setting. The subject must be of good mental health and stability at the time and in a comfortable setting. How many of mankind’s greatest discoveries have taken place under the brief time that the brightest members of the human race were widely exposed to these drugs? Bill Gates and Steve Jobs both accredit their success to these substances. The shape of DNA, one of the biggest milestones in biology was discovered on LSD, and so on. Scientists can sit in a room and work out a problem they have been trying to solve for months in a matter of hours. It can take a person to virtual heaven, or to virtual hell. I argue that society should embrace psychedelics again, as it did in the 1960’s. But with absolute caution and responsibility. Let them be tools used to usher in a new era of science, art, technology, spirituality and reason. I argue that the only thing that can save both spirituality itself and religion as a whole is the psychedelic experience. I argue that we can get done in 100 years what would take a thousand with these drugs. They should be strictly regulated and legal for all consenting adults of a certain age.

The Elements of Leadership: Immoral, Moral and Immorally Moral Pragmatism

The dramatic introduction in the very first scene to Frank Underwood, the protagonist in the Netflix Original Series House of Cards is worthy of an analysis for this post. The scene I am referring to can be found below. There is no doubt a reason why this is the viewers introduction to the shows main character as this embodies a fundamental characteristic not only of Frank Underwood himself but one inherent to leadership in general. As to not spoil the show I recommend you to stop reading here if you have not watched the first three seasons of House of Cards.

“Moments like this require someone who will act, [someone who will] do the unpleasant thing, the necessary thing… There, no more suffering”

This ability to act, to do the unthinkable when it is necessary is the embodiment of pragmatism. By ‘pragmatism’ I do not mean it in the philosophical sense of the word but rather the ability to realize what is necessary and logical in a given situation and the ability to do it. Pragmatism is of course necessary for any leader to have. When governing a large number of people you have to be willing to sacrifice the few for the many without a moment’s hesitation. However as you may very well know Frank Underwood is not your typical pragmatic acting only when it is right but he is immorally pragmatic. We see this in the fact that he acts in such a way when it threatens his political career and not merely the status and security of the sovereign. Was it pragmatic to kill Zoe Barnes or Peter Russo? It was necessary only insofar as to protect Frank’s political career. In this sense such actions were not justified by any external element or purpose higher than himself but rather solely by his thirst for power. Such selfish pragmatism I shall refer to immoral or absolute pragmatism.

Moral pragmatism on the other hand is the use of pragmatism only when it is moral. In this sense of the word many actions a leader or even a normal person in day-to-day life can be an expression of moral pragmatism. However sometimes the most moral act is inherently immoral. This is the kind of situation leaders are faced with everyday. For an example of this moral dilemma I shall refer to a film (that can be found on Netflix) called Unthinkable.

The general synopsis of the film is that there is a terrorist who sets 3 nuclear weapons in unknown cities across the United States. He makes a film and releases it to the public threatening they will go off in X days and then intentionally gets arrested. He promises to reveal the location of the three bombs if they (the various intelligence agencies interrogating him) meet his demands, which are that the US stop funding puppet dictators and withdraw all troops from Muslim countries. But his demands here are irrelevant. What is relevant is the moral dilemma that the movie poses. Of course I recommend going and seeing this film for yourself, it is a very good film but it is not necessary.

What we have in this movie is essentially the use of torture that gets increasingly brutal and morally unacceptable in order to compel him (the terrorist) to reveal the locations of the bombs. The question comes down to whether there is a limit of justifiable injustice you can inflict on 1, 2 or 10 people to save millions. Towards the end of the movie, the torture ‘specialist’ named H decides to take things to the next level and gets the terrorists children into the interrogation room to kill them in front of him. The shows protagonist, (an FBI agent on the case) argues from the moralistic side that we must take the moral high ground and not torture, and that we must not resort to such brutality. Now I am assuming the obvious here, that torture under specific circumstances and when applied correctly works. But the question of if torture works generally will not be addressed here.

While H drags the children into the room various members of other intelligence agencies are arguing for its immorality, trying to shut it down, etc. The CIA however, of which H is a part of, threatens to use force on anyone who stops H from acting and potentially killing these innocent children. I will not spoil the film but the question remains, is it moral? Is it just?

Can what is inherently unjust be just under certain circumstances? The CIA director in the film, along with H seems to argue that it can absolutely be just. They argue that it is immoral of course, however it is necessary to torture/ kill 2 innocent children in order to prevent the deaths of millions of innocent children. Because of this necessity it truly becomes the lesser of the two evils. By taking the ‘moral high ground’ and refusing to hurt two innocent children you are in fact acting immorally because you are essentially responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent children by not acting. For it is truly the only way to uncover the locations of the two bombs.

I argue that it is the moral obligation of H to go through with the horrific act. H is in a predicament where he must act. By not acting H would be making a conscious decision to let some 6 million people die in a nuclear inferno. Are you not therefore responsible for this then? Yes and no. Whoever planted the bombs in the first place (the antagonist) is of course directly responsible and most of the blame falls on him. However, you have it in your power to prevent this enormous injustice that he plans to orchestrate and therefore by not doing everything in your power, even the unthinkable, you are responsible to an undeniably significant degree.

Thus to not act you are committing an ever graver crime than by acting. By refusing to get your hands dirty and do the unthinkable you are willing to stand by and allow millions to die because your conscience prevents you from acting. Should the conscience be ignored in this act? Not at all! The conscience should be the part of you urging you to do the unthinkable act. It should be the driving force in the recognition that by doing nothing you are doing something, a something that will lead to the deaths of millions. What you are left with is the compulsion to ultimate lesser evil.

By doing nothing at all it may appear that you are taking the moral high ground, by not sinking to their level. But this is a mistake; by being in that situation you have to choose between one or the other. It comes down to a simple question: do you want 2 innocent children to die (even by your own hands) or millions of innocent children? The moral high ground in this situation is precisely putting your own morals and values aside and committing the unthinkable act. You have to sacrifice the children for the greater good, but also your own moral dignity, your own values and likely your mental health as well. The heroic thing becomes not the refusal to act due to the horrific nature of the act itself but the ability to do so regardless.

This is the kind of pragmatism we are referring to, it is moral pragmatism because it is morally justifiable even if the act itself is inherently immoral. However it is not merely moral pragmatism, it is immorally moral pragmatism. Decisions like this are made on a daily basis by leaders trying to do what is best for their people. But sometimes they act with immoral pragmatism, disregarding the well being of the people for their own personal gain (i.e. to stay in power, to gain material wealth, etc.) Frank Underwood is a perfect example of immoral pragmatism.

Frank takes things to the absolute extreme and thereby transcends moral pragmatism. This is the double-sided coin of absolute or immoral pragmatism. Pragmatism is a necessary trait in a leader, but too much pragmatism is not a good thing at all. Absolute or immoral pragmatism is the ability to completely disregard morality in order to do what is necessary. This is not what we are referring to here. The pragmatism we are referring to is precisely the ability to use moral reasoning to quickly judge what is the lesser evil and to act without hesitation and not to disregard morality entirely. Absolute pragmatism disregards this.

In the situation in Unthinkable, both the moral pragmatism and the absolute pragmatism lead us to the same conclusion that two people have to die so that millions can live. But the absolute pragmatic does not do so out of moral conviction to do what is just or what is right. For them it is merely cold reasoning, they have no concern for the well being of one or of millions. Their concern is their own self-interest. The element of conscience is absent entirely in their logical formulation of what is necessary. This kind of pragmatism is the most dangerous form as it takes an illogical and immoral attribute in many situations. To kill 5 people to stay in power or stay out of jail ceases to be an issue even if the lives of 5 good people are worth more than 1 bad one.

The moral (the immorally moral) pragmatic is the most heroic in the situation of doing the unthinkable. Not only are they using moral reasoning to decide what to do but also they are sacrificing their own well-being, their own innocence for the greater good. The absolute or immoral pragmatic loses nothing from committing this act; they have no conscience that prevents them from casually doing so without reason. To know that it is an injustice on a relatively small scale, even when it is extremely disturbing to the perpetrator, and to do it anyways is arguably the most heroic thing a person can do in this situation. Thus the moral pragmatic embodies moral immorality while the absolute pragmatic embodies only immorality.

The best kind of leader is one that recognizes that the well being of the many is worth more than the well being of the few, even if that means doing the unnecessary, often horrible act with their own hands to prevent something even worse from happening. The best kind of leader formulates moral reasoning into the analysis that leads them to such actions as a necessary prerequisite to the action itself. To use moral justification and not merely cold, emotionless reasoning is absolutely crucial. Only can such a leader genuinely care about his/her subjects and not merely their position of power.

This kind of leader has a conscience but uses it constructively in this moral reasoning process. They use it to justify their actions even if they are immoral insofar as they prevent an even worse injustice, and thus the action becomes moral (or immorally moral). This kind of leader is logical but not cold in his reasoning. They feel the pain of those they hurt but they also know the pain of those that would have been hurt by their non-action (which itself is an action). Empathy is crucial to responsible leadership however it must be understood that sometimes a small injustice is necessary to prevent an even greater one. The best leader is morally, even immorally morally pragmatic while the worst leader is merely immorally or absolutely pragmatic.