Archives for category: Politics

Alt-Right Comes Out With Statement, ‘James Fields Jr. Just Trolling’

In the wake of the terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacist James Field Jr. rammed his vehicle into a crowd of peaceful anti-racist protesters, journalists sought the perspective of the controversial Alt-Right movement, as their surging popularity has been linked to growing white supremacy and Neo-Nazism in the United States. Some see them as synonymous, but Alt-Right spokesperson, Steve Brandon, said that the liberal media has been misrepresenting their views.

“James Fields Jr. was just trolling,” said Brandon, “Liberals are so thin-skinned!” Brandon painted a picture of scrappy outsiders, getting together to play pranks and have some laughs. “We sort of play at social satire. We’ll make jokes about lynchings, make denigrating comments about Jews, or run over peaceful protesters, but it’s on you if you get offended! If you think the celebration of certain views inevitably leads to real-world actions based on those views, then you just don’t understand the First Amendment! We have the right to free speech in this country, and criticizing that speech is censorship!”

Brandon says that the main difference between the Alt-Right and Hitler’s Nazi party, even though the two openly share slogans, was that the Nazis were in power, while the Alt-Right has no such claims to government positions. Their entire worldview relies on not being a part of the mainstream, thus holding power is antithetical to their outlook of being oppressed. When asked about the current president, Brandon referred back to Obama and Hilary, saying that the two of them are evil incarnate. When it was expressed that this made no actual sense, Brandon rolled his eyes, and castigated the liberal fake news media once more, before returning to the White House to continue as a top adviser in Trump’s cabinet.

For full effect, listen to this as you read.

In the West, most people see communism as a failed social enterprise, relegated to the dustbin of history after its atrocious implementation during the 20th century. People look at the oppressive Stalinist regime, the brutality of the Maoist revolution, and the devastation of Pol Pot, and argue that while it works nicely on paper, communism is far too appalling, evidenced by precedent, to be taken seriously in any kind of discussion for the future.

Of course, no one seems to know what communism actually means. People use the term “cultural Marxism” to denounce pretty much anyone on the left that they disagree with, since the term is vague to the point of meaninglessness, making it easy to apply. It boils down to modern day McCarthyism against groups of people who probably don’t even identify as Marxist at all. People associate communism and socialism with welfare spending, and Big Government interfering in the economy, staying the invisible hand. In actuality, socialism is the equivalent of industrial democracy, and means that workers run their businesses as a collective, rather than under the autocratic rule of a monarch. Engels actually wrote that once socialism was in place, there would be a “withering away of the state” as it became obsolete, with people becoming more and more involved in the maintenance of their own communities. Communism, once realized, doesn’t involve Big Government at all, and is actually libertarian in principle. The difference is that power is diffused among the people, rather than maintained in tyrannical, non-governmental structures as in contemporary libertarianism. For the record, government interference to guide the economy is called Keynesian Economics, and is responsible for such things as FDR’s New Deal which incidentally brought the Americans out of the Great Depression. Unfortunately, this misinformation isn’t just propagated by the neo-McCarthyists on the Right, since Bernie Sanders, who essentially promotes New Deal-styled policy ideas, proclaims himself a socialist. Not to say that they’re bad ideas in the current economic and political climate, they’re just not socialist.

What separates communism from anarchism (or libertarian socialism, if you prefer), is the method of implementation, and here is where the problems start. Marx, Engels, and Lenin advocated the “dictatorship of the proletariat” which is the transitional state between capitalism and communism. In order for the transition to be successful, there must be centralized power which enforces the new ideological system, as outside forces will continuously threaten the newly established way of life. They give the example of the Paris Commune, which showed promise as a communist paradise, but was overthrown by hostile capitalists not long after its implementation. Had the Commune bolstered its power to enforce its ideals more effectively, it could have survived. Thus, the necessity of centralized power. Of course, once the threats dissipate, the state will allegedly wither away, but the anarchists believed that oppressive power is oppressive power, regardless of who wields the stick of oppression, be it the proletariat or the bourgeoisie. The anarchists wished to abolish all structures of power at the outset, without resorting to authoritarian methods to do so.

If the USSR never actually achieved full communism (a stateless, democratically organized society), and never even implemented any socialist initiatives (democratically organized businesses), how did it becomes the scapegoat for the so-called even-minded critiques of those doctrines? The blame mostly rests on the shoulders of the “liberal media” that has been propagating the capitalist imperative for decades.

Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman published possibly the first thoroughly researched look at what has now become Fake News, in their book Manufacturing Consent. In it, they look at how the media portrays the objectives of capitalist elites as morally honourable, while demonizing those who disagree with the accepted model. For example, everyone knows about the Killing Fields of Cambodia, they even made a movie about it, and everyone knows that Pol Pot and communism in general are responsible for all those deaths. What is less known is that from 1969 to 1973, the Americans had been bombing Cambodia, creating a death toll comparable though slightly less than the numbers of dead under Pol Pot, and then after the Vietnamese ousted Pol Pot’s regime, the Americans covertly supported the Khmer Rouge since Vietnam was seen to be the worse evil of the two. When measuring outrage against atrocity, context is important.

For additional context, there is also the Indonesian genocide of the East Timorese which happened concurrently to the Cambodian one. The difference between the two genocides was that the Indonesian government was being supplied by the Americans, and were slaughtering those with left-leaning principles. Media outcry could very easily have ended the genocide, given America’s involvement in its process, but the outcry never happened, and many of those involved in the massacre are still a part of the contemporary Indonesian government. There was actually an independent film documenting the effects of the genocide today, The Act of Killing (2012), but its accusations of US complicity were pretty much ignored.

Chomsky and Herman give many more examples, such as media comparisons between a priest being killed in Poland and four religious American women killed in El Salvador. Or the media’s attempt to pin the assassination attempt on the Pope onto Soviet communists, ignoring all evidence to the contrary. Their criticism of the media’s portrayal of the Vietnam War, commonly associated with media hostility to power, is that the media decried American casualties, and American blunders within the war, but it never criticized America’s right to intervene militarily in foreign nations, nor the devastation wrought to the Vietnamese. Similarly today, the legitimacy of the War on Terror is simply assumed, and weeping over American casualties and condemning certain methods remain the only viable criticism. The deaths of Middle Eastern civilians are basically shrugged off.

Capitalist propaganda is why we associate Russian Gulags with communism, but not the Western assassination of the democratically elected leader of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh, in 1953 with capitalism. Mosaddegh was trying to limit the powers of Western oil companies in his country while trying to keep the profit derived from his nation within his nation, and was killed for it. That’s not capitalism. Or the Great Bengal famine, when the British East India Company implemented crop policies that reduced the production of edible crops for those that were more viable on the international market. The food shortage that erupted resulted in the deaths of 10 million people. Again, not the fault of capitalism. Donald Trump today wants to reinvigorate the Afghanistan war, instate an American Viceroy, and claim ownership of Afghan mineral deposits as compensation for the 16 year war that America started. Using war, death, and destruction to enrich resource-driven oligarchs could never be categorized as a staple of capitalist doctrine. Those who denounce Venezuela as a failed socialist state ought to maintain that Haiti, the Philippines, Guatemala, Chile, Iran, and many, many others should be capitalist utopias due to the intervention into their politics that emphasized private power over public ownership. A system where the ultimate goal is profit at any cost could never result in anything terrible. But it does, obviously, since that doesn’t make sense at all. Communism at least works on paper.

Where does propaganda end and reality set in? The USSR, Cambodia under Pol Pot, and Maoist China all resulted in terrible atrocities, and that is something that no one will deny. But are they appropriate examples of communist principles in action, or even socialist ones? If you are going to criticize socialist states, there are examples where the ideal was realized. Israeli Kibbutz, starting before Israel was even a thing, are socialist communities that still flourish today. Catalonia, Spain, prior to Franco’s attempt at fascism, was a successful anarchist society. It was even described with reverence by famed author of Animal Farm and 1984, George Orwell, in his book Homage to Catalonia. Orwell, being an ardent socialist, was quite fond of the experiment. The Diggers in 17th century England are another example. Today, Marinaleda, also in Spain, admits to being a successful communist utopia, and economically speaking, far surpasses the surrounding cities which gives credence to its claim. There are certainly criticisms that exist of these places; the Kibbutz are mired in Judaic and Israeli cultural/political intrigue, there are few opportunities for ambition in Marinaleda, and the Diggers and Catalonians were wiped out by their ideological opponents (Is being wiped out a criticism? Marx thought it was, but perhaps these examples exist better as a condemnation of an ideology, ironically driven by competition, that cannot abide competition. Fukuyama’s End of History is essentially the monopoly of a system that claims such a development is a destructive failure).

We shouldn’t dismiss misunderstood ideas without proper analysis, and we shouldn’t read Animal Farm and assume that the solution is to leave Mr Jones in charge. Communism is certainly associated with a sordid history, but how much of that is reality and how much is propaganda? How does it fare against the reality and propaganda of capitalism? There are reasonable precedents that we can learn from without being blinded by the grotesque theatre of the common strawmen. We don’t have to strive for an anarcho-communist utopia, but neither should we dismiss it out of hand.

I had an interesting, albeit brief conversation with a particularly radical professor of mine who had recommended I read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. I had found an audio book version, and would listen to it while I was on the bus, getting groceries, or out for a walk. Meanwhile, while I was at home doing proper reading with words on a page, I was reading the book Germinal by Émile Zola. For those who may not know, both of these book share similar themes: depressingly abused working class families under the heel of oppressive capitalist structures eventually coming to realize that there are alternative solutions to the miseries of their existence. They both go into excruciating detail about the horrors these proletarians endure, and consuming both essentially simultaneously was quite a downer.

The conversation we had ended with her suggesting that the importance of these stories is the solidarity that we revolutionaries can embrace with the disenfranchised of the past. Those who fought before us join the ranks of those who fight at our sides, and together we stand with those who will continue to fight once we tire or fall. Like I said, quite radical. I mean I’m paraphrasing what she said, but the gist is there. We are stronger when we are many.

What I found interesting about this conversation was the undercurrent of broad acceptance of varying beliefs, not all of them “politically correct,” let’s say. Germinal was published in 1885, The Jungle in 1906. The views of men toward women were those that existed before women were even allowed to vote, and the portrayals of those relationships, marriage especially, are not particularly progressive by today’s standards. Domestic abuse was deemed somewhat reasonable, wives were expected to tend the home, proprietorship of female relatives was prevalent, etc. Could a revolutionary today stand next to someone like this?

Though certainly not a foundation of comprehensive political clout, Cracked released a video recently that said no, they couldn’t. They use the example of Bernie Sanders campaigning for an anti-abortion Democrat in a mayoral election. Sanders’s view is that progress can only be made with a Democrat majority, regardless of any singular view of one of its members, and thus is criticized for essentially abandoning the purity that is necessary to advance the approved goals of progressive politics. Those who differ on an issue would sideline the entire movement. If enough compromises are made, for example with pro-lifers, then the majority on that one issue would be lost, and progress on women’s health would be lost along with it.

Then again, there are others who condemn revolutionary purists. According to this view, revolutionaries need to chill the fuck out and stop finding literally everything so “problematic” and focus on large issues rather than day to day minutia. Self-righteous shaming serves only to alienate those who might want to learn and grow within progressive movements, and dogmatic zealotry is quite frankly annoying in anyone, regardless of cause.

The Jungle and Germinal become relevant once more because one must ask where the balance lies between solidarity and purity? Could a feminist today stand next to an unapologetic wife beater in the cause of worker’s rights? If she stands with him, could he be expected to stand with her? Reciprocity in compromise ought to be expected, but certainly in this case it seems unlikely. And should it? Are all causes equally valid to the point where we should stand in solidarity with everyone? Alleged feminists attack Islam on the whole because they believe that it is oppressive to women, and justify attacks on the Middle East based on this premise; is that a proper ally within the feminist movement?

This debate has been around for as long as people have been up in arms over social progress. Bakunin and Marx famously disagreed over the theoretical differences of Communism and Anarchism, which differ about as much as Protestantism and Catholicism; which is to say very little. About as much as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, really. Even within basically the same ideology, humans seem to dismiss solidarity for the sake of indistinguishable purity in almost every instance.

For this reason, traditionalism prevails almost every time. Factions develop almost naturally when change is demanded, and the common denominator among them all is some degree of contentedness with the status quo. Though each aspect may be different (working class males may be content with gender norms; white females may be content with racial disparities, etc.), the bond between every schism is the clenched hold on the way things are. Conservatism wins by default.

Pick your cause. Be specific in your goals, that way you don’t have to be specific with your allies. If your goals are vague, like ending racism, then just about anything can distract from that impossibility. If your goals are to end Stop-And-Frisk, then so long as everyone is on board with that, there are no problems. You might disagree with the person standing next to you on something else, but you’re both there for the same reason which means you’ve already got something in common. That commonality means that conversations will be easier, and conversing could create new allies in other areas, or help reevaluate some of your own beliefs. Purity matters in goals lest the conversation become bogged down by tangents, but it is much less important in ideology. Whatever the reason that someone got to their position is irrelevant, and demanding purity in ideology is characteristic of a cult.

Advancement isn’t going to happen in partisan politics; it will happen in movements driven by people wanting to make change. Sanders is right to an extent that Democrats will achieve more if there are more democrats, and Cracked is right that on a singular issue, diversity may topple that issue. However, letting politicians decide how things ought to be done is a terrible idea. How about we decide what the issues should be, and all we should expect from our politicians is to listen?