On Policing Institutions Today and What is to Replace Them Under Socialism

First, let us address the police as they exist today, to put it bluntly, the police don’t exist for your protection, they exist to solidify the ruling classes’ hold on power. They do this by solidifying the rule of the state and thereby of the existing social order and current mode of production which is inherently exploitative in nature. They might be your friends now, going around the cities and towns promoting a false sense of communal solidarity. They may converse with you, help you, hell they may even save your life. But all of this is a mirage, masking their real purpose which isn’t all that hidden if you simply look closely. They exist solely to act as agents of the bourgeois state. On behalf of the state, they are granted the sole legitimate monopoly on violence in our society, thereby they are in many ways, the essence of the very state itself. They aren’t there to be your friend, though they may very well be so. They exist yes to prevent violent crime (which is the sole justification for their existence) but moreover to act as agents of capitalist exploitation. Look at this both now and in historical context. Who is there when the working class rises up and demands better working conditions? Who is there to intimidate and arrest when the people rise up in protest against injustice? Who was there to beat and kill when the workers demanded to join a union or to end child labor? Who is there to intimidate when the people stand up in the thousands against an unjust police killing or state corruption? Who is there to intimidate, to beat, imprison and kill when you act against their interests, against the interests of the ruling class? It is none other than the police force!

Sure they may seem your friend today, but when ‘shit hits the fan’, as they say, and 70% of the population declares itself in opposition to the current social conditions, it will be they who raise their baton and gun against the very people they are supposedly there to protect. As Trotsky correctly said, “The worker who becomes a policeman in the service of the capitalist state, is a bourgeois cop, not a worker.” They, as an institution, are always on the wrong side of history, I make no false gestures of communal solidarity with them. They serve no other purpose but to maintain and exploitative social system. To be more direct, what would happen if the workers banded together, rebelliously making up the majority of the population, and took the means of production which they toil day and night with from the capitalist who exploits them? Even if 80% of the people were in support, they would show up and beat, nay, kill those very workers! They would have no mercy! Historically this has always been the case. Show me one example where the police were on the right side of history!

But oh! You say that the police act against violent crime and therefore they are justified in their actions! But this is a meager excuse for the horrendous injustices brought about by the bourgeois state, and particularly its cronies (i.e. the police). We do not wish to abolish the police entirely today, but we do on the other hand wish to strip it of all its political attributes at once. In this way the police force, as it exists today, ceases to exist. How? Let us look to Marx’s writings on the Paris Commune as an example. Thus we transfer from focusing on the policing institutions that exist today in bourgeois society, to what will exist in the future socialist society:

“The Commune was formed of the municipal councillors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at any time. The majority of its members were naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class…. The police, which until then had been the instrument of the Government, was at once stripped of its political attributes, and turned into the responsible, and at all times revocable, agent of the Commune. So were the officials of all other branches of the administration. From the members of the Commune downwards, the public service had to be done at workmen’s wages. The privileges and the representation allowances of the high dignitaries of state disappeared along with the high dignitaries themselves…. Having once got rid of the standing army and the police, the instruments of physical force of the old government, the Commune proceeded at once to break the instrument of spiritual suppression, the power of the priests [as in separation of church and state]*…. The judicial functionaries lost that sham independence… they were thenceforward to be elective, responsible, and revocable”

But what all does this mean? It means for the first time ever, the establishment of legitimate democracy. Both in the political and industrial sense (socialism). In The State and Revolution, Lenin further clarifies:

“Democracy is a form of the state, it represents, on the one hand, the organized, systematic use of force against persons; but, on the other hand, it signifies the formal recognition of equality of citizens, the equal right of all to determine the structure of, and to administer, the state. This, in turn, results in the fact that, at a certain stage in the development of democracy, it first welds together the class that wages a revolutionary struggle against capitalism­–­the proletariat, and enables it to crush, smash to atoms, wipe off the face of the earth the bourgeois, even the republican­-bourgeois, state machine, the standing army, the police and the bureaucracy and to substitute for them a more democratic state machine, but a state machine nevertheless, in the shape of armed workers who proceed to form a militia involving the entire population.”

The police in class society, admit it or not, is an inherently political institution. What Marx, and later Lenin proposes, is to strip the policing institutions of these very political attributes. But how does this work exactly? No longer will the police force be an oppressive apparatus of the state, no longer shall it act to hold down the majority of the population but is instead to be responsible to them. The organs of the police shall be democratically elected by the proletariat, responsible to them and at all times revocable. They will act only to solve serious crimes and arrest dangerous criminals, and by serious, it is meant violent.

But who then is to suppress counter-revolution on account of the overthrown bourgeoisie? This has already been answered, an armed militia involving the entire population (and you thought we communists were against guns)! In this way, it is the population at large acting as the state through its various militias which are inherently democratic in nature. The police can be instantly recalled by the people themselves, no longer can the police raise its batons to the working people en mass. If they rise up then they rise up, and no state institution shall stop them as it will be the will of the overwhelming majority of the people. But if the counter-revolutionaries rise up to bring back the overthrown oppressive order, then the whole population, through the armed militias, rises up and stops them, by force if necessary. Thus it is the majority acting to suppress the already withering away minority, and not a minority (acting through the police) acting to suppress the majority (the proletariat).

Obviously, it must be said, this was not, and likely could not have been done in the early Soviet Union. Indeed Lenin, due to the material conditions of early Russia, had to abandon this (what was at the time a) utopian ambition of a truly democratic society. However, in modern times, such a system is possible. And we communists hold it to be much preferable to the existing mode of exploitation. So we Leninists look back to the USSR as a tragic attempt at revolutionizing a society to get to such a point where this was possible, and we Trotskyists view it as a degenerated workers state after Lenin’s death under which the Stalinist bureaucracy abandoned Lenin’s original ambitions and betrayed the revolution, as the society envisioned by Lenin was never actually attempted even on a small scale by the Stalinist bureaucracy. Even when taking into accound the civilian police under Stalin, they could not and did even later attempt to do away with the police force, and never to strip it of its political attributes. Also, it must be said, socialism itself as an economic system was never actually achieved either in these workers states!

So now I ask you in closing, wouldn’t you prefer to strip the police of its political attributes? Wouldn’t you prefer a police force you can democratically elect, that was responsible to you and instantly recallable at all times? Wouldn’t you prefer a police force going only after serious, violent crimes? I think most sane people would. The police today are a hindrance to social progress, and moreover to a truly democratic society. They are not your friend. A better world is possible my friend, but not under capitalism! The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains, now more than ever!

 

*my brackets

See Karl Marx, The Civil War in France (Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 2, Moscow, 1973, pp. 217­-21). (Also in State and Rev (below) pp. 26)

See Vladimir Lenin, The State and Revolution (Lenin Internet Archive (marxists.org) 1993, 1999, pp. 58).

“Who supports communism anymore?” I do, and I’ll tell you why.

I recently came across a comment on The Philosophical Salon about the CIA’s deliberate attacks on the intellectual left. It reads “Who supports communism anymore? Those who have never lived the communism”. Now, ignoring the obvious grammatical mistakes in this assertion let me begin to address this person’s concern, and show why it is absolutely preposterous.

People who support communism today actually have read Marx and understand the huge differences between Stalinism and the socioeconomic and political system Marx advocated. People who support communism today understand Marx believed proletarian revolution would come about only once capitalism had reached its peak stage of development in the most advanced countries int eh world first,(say in 30 years) instead of in the poorest country in the world, (1917 Russia) in an isolated revolution which could not support democracy or socialism, (industrial democracy) and where Stalinist bureaucratic degeneration was practically inevitable under such conditions.

Not to say I don’t idealize the October revolution as a general historical event, I most certainly do. What emerged from the October revolution? The writings of Lenin in The State and Revolution could not be implemented in backward Russia, that is a fact. What Lenin did was try to build the foundation on which such a society could eventually come about. This is why Lenin implemented the NEP (New Economic Policy), a system of state-capitalism as a necessary prerequisite to socialism. It was unfortunately cut short by Stalin once he came to power, the multi-party political system which existed up to 1924 (the year of Lenin’s death) was abolished and never returned. Soon the Stalinist bureaucracy emerged and the hopeful embers of October were snuffed out. Marx believed in the inevitability of proletarian revolution in the most advanced capitalist countries at the end of capitalist development, but October was not the revolution Marx foresaw as inevitable, as anyone can clearly see.

“But wasn’t Stalin doing what Marx advocated? Building a Marxist utopia?” Anyone who’s read Marx, or even Lenin’s The State and Revolution can tell you what an absurd statement that is. Let’s look at a few examples. Did the USSR get rid of the military and police force to replace it with armed militias instantly recallable of and by the people? No. Were all elected officials instantly recallable at any time and receive no more than a workman’s wage? No, they weren’t even democratically elected as the necessary preconditions for democracy simply weren’t there. Lenin and Trotsky, before the bureaucratic degeneration of the October revolution, did, however, take no more than a workman’s wage for their role in leading the country. Did the USSR utilize a system where the workers, and not the state had democratic control over enterprise (socialism)? No, it was the state that controlled industry, a form of state-capitalism as a necessary prerequisite to socialism. In essence, the USSR remained staunchly state-capitalist until, as Trotsky would call it, the inevitable dissolution of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Contrary to Stalin’s infamous declaration, any Marxian economist can tell you that the idea of 1930’s Russia having a socialist economic system was preposterous. Should I even mention the genuine worker’s revolts in Hungary, Germany, and Czechoslovakia against the Stalinist system, that aimed at genuine socialism against Stalinism, and not at capitalist restoration against socialism? I could go on and on.

Also to equate Stalinism with communism is such an ignorant thing to say. It’s not too different from equating fascism with capitalism. It is to say this highly authoritarian system which advocated the preservation of capitalism is no different than what capitalism actually is, it is an absolutely absurd statement to say that Stalinism is the same thing as communism. Furthermore, the method to get to communism, as we have stated, is not inherently through this totalitarian system whose sheer brutality and inefficiency we all know too well. In fact, most communists are highly critical of the Stalinist system and its legacy on the left. In Nazi Germany, all national socialists supported what Hiter was doing. His actions were the perfect embodiment of the Nazi ideology. Why then, in the USSR were millions of communists sent to the gulag, deported and killed for saying that Stalin betrayed the revolution, that he betrayed Marxism? Why then did characters like Leon Trotsky, bolsheviks to the core, emerge to condemn the horrific abuses of Stalin’s power? To compare communism with fascism is equally absurd. If you assert such a comparison then I should be able to compare anarchist communism with fascism, right? By your logic, I could compare two ideologies which could not be more opposite as being the same. Fascism is a highly authoritarian form of capitalism, and Stalinism (Marxism-Leninism) is a highly authoritarian form of socialism, moreover of the road to socialism. I won’t say that one is worse than the other, I have no patience for lesser evilism. We have enough of that in the two-party US as we speak. To compare the two, in your mind might make sense, but good lord it couldn’t be more wrong.

Perhaps even more importantly, we are living in the time Marx spoke of, that is- not 1917 but today, what is happening in the world today is exactly what Marx wrote about. He is more relevant now than he ever was in the 20th century. It can be said that the workers have nothing to lose but their chains, now more than ever. They still have a world to win. The time is ripening by the hour. Wealth inequality is higher now than it was in the 1920’s and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down, wages haven’t risen with productivity since the 1970’s, the most brutally efficient capitalists in the world are not in the US, Europe, or Latin American but in China. Democracy and capitalism will be, in the not too distant future, completely incompatible. Everything Marx wrote about the inevitable future of the capitalist system is happening today. So to answer the question, pretty much anyone who reads and understands Marx would see the logic in supporting communism today.

 

On Trump’s Address to the Joint Session of Congress: Immigration, Poverty and The Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie

In Trump’s Address to the Joint Session of Congress, he declared that he created an institution for the ‘Victims of illegal immigration’. In light of the evidence, I must ask: What kind of bullshit xenophobic garbage is this? It’s actually proven that Illegal Immigrants commit less violent crimes than ordinary U.S. citizens.[1] But in a world of ‘alternative facts’, I suppose this isn’t too much of a surprise. They are being scapegoated for our countries problems, but most of us know they are entirely not to blame.

Trump says we can solve poverty by addressing violence. But this is an entirely backward analysis. Anti-social behavior is a result of poverty.[2] Even Aristotle spoke of poverty being the “parent of crime”.  That is why the poor are disproportionately more violent. Violence doesn’t cause poverty, poverty causes violence. Now, if you want to address the root cause of poverty in the world today it’s people like Trump, billionaires and multi-millionaire capitalists who live off the labor of others. Those in poverty entirely make up “that class in society which lives entirely from the sale of its labor and does not draw profit from any kind of capital; whose weal and woe, whose life and death, whose sole existence depends on the demand for labor.”(Engels, 42).  And people like Trump live off their labor alone, amounting ‘their’ billions. His vast wealth is solely due to the poverty of the poor.

Trump makes grand statements of national solidarity, prosperity, liberty and democracy. But these are false slogans, they cannot and will not exist as anything more than an empty slogan in our present society. His use of bringing in the families of the ‘victims of illegal immigrants’ and of fallen soldiers is but a pathetic means to an end. The people will not be free so long as they live under a dictatorship of the rich (or as Marx called a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie), under a dictatorship of two capitalist parties who are ideologically identical in nature. The oligarchy of the property owning class is the only institution in our society that actively holds all formal political power, its power is derived from the two-party system that people are ideologically compelled to participate in. In this way, the cycle of oppression can be celebrated as ‘democracy’. Poverty can be celebrated as a ‘free choice’ even if it is practically forced upon its subjects.

People like Trump are the problem, not illegal immigrants and certainly not other countries whose labor people like Trump exploit! I think it’s high time that the workers of America unite to build their own party, to smash the fetters of the false democracy, of the two-party system, and of the capitalist state. To take back what is rightfully theirs and solemnly declare that “labor creates the world, labor is entitled to all it creates!”

Sources:

1 Immigration Study

2 Crime and poverty

3 Manifesto of the Communist Party by Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels ☭

Immigration, The Future of Capitalism, and a Defense of Trotskyism

Immigration

When we look at the world today we do not see a very pretty picture. European social democracy isn’t doing so well and its economic crisis is worsened by the immigration crisis and with it the reactionary response among the more conservative elements of European society. Indeed European society is in a crisis unforeseen in the world today. The immigration crisis on top of that is unprecedented, and the solution to this problem is impossible without issues.

Anyone who asserts the immigration crisis can simply be solved entirely by some kind of ‘peaceful integration’ is a fool. Such things are not so easy, there will always be a clash of cultures like oil and water. But by no means is it acceptable for a state responsible for bombing a countries people to turn them down when they seek refuge. It is morally wrong. It is unjust. We must let them in, it is our duty as citizens of the earth! We must let them in allow them their dignity and right to exist! But we must also acknowledge the problems that inevitably arise in mixing two cultures together in such a rapid way. It is impossible to ignore their backward customs, regarding women in particular.

On one hand, you have liberals advocating that full integration will have no problems and on the other, you have conservatives such as Milo and Trump advocating total exclusion (i.e. ‘extreme vetting’, nationalism, etc.) on the basis of religion or nationality. Both are absurd notions even if their initial premise is based on a kernel of truth.

The Future of Capitalism

Slavoj Žižek in his book Trouble in Paradise makes a good argument for the state of the world today. I am admittedly inspired by this work in this regard. It is an eye-opening look at world events today. Let’s look at the 4 great forces of capitalism in the world today. European social democracy is collapsing, US neoliberalism is in an era of seemingly permanent recession and Latin America’s capitalism isn’t doing so much better either. The only capitalism that is working in the world today in Asia, is the so-called ‘capitalism with Asian values’. It is highly authoritarian in nature and totally incompatible with democracy, and because of its success in comparison with the other 3 prevailing versions of capitalism, it is undeniably the future of the capitalist system. The two principles of democracy and of capitalism have always been contradictory, but their total divorce is inevitable as capitalist society progresses. Slavoj Žižek has taken on the role of the social alarmist in this regard, and rightfully so.

Slavoj Žižek makes another valid point in posing the question: Who has the must brutally efficient, successful capitalism? It is none other than the kind advocated by the Communist Party of China. What irony is this? In China, it is illegal to point out this contradiction, that the CPC still justifies itself on a Marxist line yet fully embraces a total bureaucratic dictatorship and a virtual dictatorship of the foreign and domestic bourgeoisie. It is even illegal to point out that it is illegal to point out this contradiction. So many intellectuals, thinkers, and socialists have been imprisoned for breaking this, which is one of many, unspoken rules of Chinese society.

Trotskyism

People often hit me with this question, “what about China? You are a socialist so you must support the Chinese one-party dictatorship, Stalin, Mao, etc.” But this is absolute nonsense. I am a member of Socialist Alternative yes, and it is a Marxist organization. But not a Marxist-Leninist organization. We are Trotskyists, and as such we are militantly opposed to Stalinism. We are also militantly opposed to a one-party state. Contrary to common belief you will not find a single page written by Lenin that advocates such a one-party system. In fact, up to 1924 in Russia, there were several mainstream political parties (the Left-Mensheviks, Anarchists, Social-Revolutionaries, etc.).

Worse still you accuse us, the most vocal opponents of totalitarianism and Stalinism of advocating the very things we are militantly and vocally opposed to. Socialist Alternative is part of the CWI, the Committee for a Workers International. It is an international Trotskyist organization and it just so happens that our Chinese counterparts have recently been illegally raided by the Chinese authorities for calling for an abolition of the Chinese dictatorship. Yes! In China, our organization’s counterpart has advocated the overthrow of the Chinese government you so fervently accuse us of supporting because we just so happen to fly the red banner.

Who supported the early worker’s revolts in Soviet Hungary, East Germany, and Czechoslovakia? It was us, the Trotskyists advocating the overthrow of Stalinism and the establishment of actual socialist democracy! 95% of the population, of the proletariat, was opposed to the Stalinist state during this time. They were calling not for the reestablishment of capitalism against socialism, but for socialism against Stalinism! Yes, it was we who supported their efforts, yes it was we who abhorred the lack of free speech, general elections, the lack of freedom of press and assembly, the religious persecution, and the one-party system that was the foundation of Stalinism in the USSR and the Marxist states of the 20th century! So how can we help but laugh when you accuse us of advocating these things? It is nonsense, total nonsense!

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

Stereotypes of Political Ideologies That are Sometiemes True

Older Republicans: MLK was actually bad, he hurt his cause. Blue lives matter. Occasionally says N-word out of old habit but tries not to. Wears Trump hat. Millenials are whining too much, it’s not like wages haven’t risen with productivity since the 1970’s, they are crushed by student debt, they can’t afford to house or medical care, or the job market is extremely scarce. “Muh bootstraps.” FAKE NEWS! Except Fox News, Fox News is the most reliable news in the world!

Republicans: Blatantly deny the overwhelming evidence that black people and other minorities are systematically put at a disadvantage. It’s poor people’s fault they are poor, nevermind the growing wealth inequality. Poor people just need to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and be born into a rich family like I was. Capitalist exploitation is good. Tax cuts to the rich trickle down to the poor- even though they never have. The world is 6000 years old and God will save us if we destroy the planet even though the overwhelming scientific evidence for climate change is a hoax. Supports small government in theory but a big government in practice. Only wants small government on things that low key allow people/ planet to get hurt. Obama is a socialist even though I don’t actually know what socialism is. Knees hit the floor faster than the democrats when big business comes knocking. Healthcare is a human right? Let me talk to you about the freedom of unfreedom!

Democrats: Praises President Obama and other Neoliberal politicians despite the terrible economic policies they have unleashed on working people, thinks an imperialist war-hawk with an ideological coalition of wall street, occupy wall street, LGBT+ rights, Saudi Arabia money is ‘progressive’ *cough Hillary. VoteBlueNoMatterWho. Thinks the TPP was a good thing. Abortion is more than just a tragic necessity, it’s a good thing. Drone strikes in X country are only bad when a Republican does it. Prides themselves on kneeling with more resistance to their capitalist overlords than the republicans.

Libertarians: Capitalism is good because it creates jobs. What do you mean empirical evidence of exploitation? Poor people have a right to be poor! But the slave signed a free contract! If you don’t want to be a wage-slave that’s okay! You can go sign a contract under another master or become a master yourself! There should be no age of consent, everything bad that capitalism does is actually the government. The state can disappear under class society. Neo-feudalism. Thinks they are anarchists.

“Progressive” Democrats: Bernie is a socialist like me. Let’s be socialist like Scandinavia because socialism is where the government regulates capitalism because I don’t know what socialism actually is. We have to vote for Clinton to stop Trump. Welfare state social-democratic capitalism is socialism, and it’s good. I’m a democratic socialist but NOT a communist.

All of the above: Socialism is when the government does stuff and when it does EVERYTHING, that’s communism!

Marxist-Leninists: Heavy historical revisionism *coughs Grover Furr. Actually, Stalin was good. Supports the DPRK because imperialism. What do you mean 20th century Marxism failed? The Berlin wall was a good thing, or a bad thing depending on which one you ask. Thinks the state-capitalist system in the USSR was socialist because daddy Stalin said so. Everything I don’t like is revisionist. China is socialist. Lowkey: Socialism is when the government does stuff when flying a red banner.

Green progressives: Pretty cool people. Good ideas on energy. Utopian ideas on government. Can be almost as bad as the republicans when it comes to GMOs, vaccines, David Avacado Wolff, and the shape of the earth. Eco-socialism. Sometimes actually knows that socialism is WORKER, not state control of the means of production. Somewhat unreliable sources.

Trotskyists: Will you buy my newspaper? Everyone thinks I’m a Marxist-Leninist because everyone thinks Marxism-Leninism = communism so I get called bad words. I get attacked for things Marxist-Leninists did even though Stalin killed or deported all the Trotskyists in the USSR. I was criticizing the same idea that the person attacked me for supposedly having myself. Permanent revolution works (in theory) even though there are no semi-feudal countries left and no real way for there to be a permanent revolution. The USSR would have been great if Trotksy was in charge. Reads a lot of books. Calls Marxist-Leninists ‘Stalinists’.

Anarchists: Let’s knock over trash cans and burn stuff. What do you mean objective material conditions? What is a dialectic? Is pretty cool. Smokes a lot of weed. Thinks the state can go away under class society. What do you mean by ‘lead a successful revolution’? You must be authoritarian tankie because you think we need even a small state in order to achieve socialism.

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.