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#OtMA Why George Washington was a Revolutionary (according to Marx) and Why Marxists Just Don’t Get It

February 10, 2012 Leave a comment

This is my second response to JMP, who answered my previous response, #OtMA: A Reply To JMP, with the following statement: “Oh it’s all fine and good to call yourself an historical materialist, but if you make bizarre statements about the American Revolution, fail to understand its class content or the theory that was actually and HISTORICALLY used to structure said revolution, then you’re not a historical materialist.  You’re an idealist and your “historical materialism” is the historicism of Hegel, or at least Feuerbach.  Furthermore, when you ignore the content and meaning of world historical revolutions––those locomotives of history which form the principle of change for the historical materialist––then you are disappearing even further into the idealist universe.  To be an historical materialist is not to wax eloquent about what you think the theory is, but to engage the crude matter of history in an historically materialist manner: which that article failed to do in any way shape or form.  One must engage concretely with history and draw concrete concepts, not simply declare positions already proven erroneous by the momentum of revolutionary history.

This is my response to JMP’s argument:

Read more…

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Obama and The End of Prehistory…

April 22, 2010 3 comments

Napoleon Bonaparte

As usual, Threecrow peers into the quandary besetting most supporters of the Messiah and comes up with a gem – is the Anointed One a successful corporate shill, or just another failed and flawed populist representative of the masses? (The Past is Prologue. Or, “America Is Ready”) All but the most cynical and hateful poured their hopes and dreams into Barack Obama. We expected no less than he go before us and make the crooked straight, and the darkness light.

I believe they were voting for an Emperor. The candidate delivered his message to massive crowds of hundreds of thousands gathered in his name, we’re talking Woodstock numbers here, and he delivered those speeches in such a manner that the simple, bumper sticker claim of “Yes We Can” had reached the level of a promise, nay, more than that, a pledge, in fact an oath of “Yes We Will.” The image implanted in the minds of every citizen by that promise was that by giving the Emperor the Crown everything that was wrong in the nation and in the world would be made right. Not only that, but that it would be made right Overnight.

Instead, we have been subjected to one after another disappointment:

During the following two years after the election the perception most Americans developed was that the “Bail-Out” billions seemed to go to the very banks that broke us in the first place. What happened to all those “shovel ready” projects that were alluded to in an FDR manner during the campaign? The “health care debate” dragged on endlessly and took on the appearance of a Pyrrhic victory at best when finally passed and so confused the public that one would be hard pressed to find a single citizen who can tell you that he or she feels they have improved their situation or standing in the Health Care System a single degree. On energy all that is visible is the decision to “Drill baby drill” in the Atlantic and Gulf States region. Where are the Windmills? The Sun comes out daily; where are the millions of jobs that the commercials informed us would arrive with this “Time for Change?” And as to War, our Universal Soldier seems endlessly committed to conquering the very people who have successfully turned back every would be conqueror since Alexander the Great, while the seven year War in Iraq has become invisible to every “news” organization with a corporate owner. Only the families with one of their own staked out in that nation know anything of what has become of Iraq.

Threecrow argues that Americans, sensing a headlong rush into domestic bloodshed, sought to evade that catastrophe by raising Obama to put an end to the divisions of society – a man on the white horse who would, “impose his laws and rule over the empire with an unfailing and unflinching will, and woe-betide any individual or group who opposed his will. The lopping off of heads bit was left to the newly crowned man who they believed they had by their collective act of voting set upon the throne.”

Yet, we have witnessed an unbroken string of defeats as the Messiah implements, without exception, the very agenda of the Party of Wall Street in one sphere after another.

So, what is this? Is it, as stated in Ecclesiastes, “That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.” (Ecc. 1:15) Should we conclude that there is no solution within the context of political-economy – that we can neither vote nor work our way out of our present difficulties: the collapse of the material standard of living of American working families, the mad despoiling of our environment, the rapacious predatory activities of a small class of plutocrats, and war without end?

Is it even possible to have a man on a white horse without the previous lopping off of heads?

Consider, first, that this crowned rider is called forth as we are hopelessly locked in irresolvable political conflict, and incapable of overcoming that conflict. Consider, second, that this conflict is permanent and ongoing, and, thus, not just one man on a white horse, but a succession of men on white horses are called forth by us; that the historical singularity of a Napoleon becomes the routine procession of increasingly diminutive men into an ever more powerful office.

What then? The Triumph of Will having morphed into the Triumph of Wall Street (was it ever anything but, since we fought the battle on the enemy’s ground, that of demagoguery and illusion, by giving over our human capacity, which, by its very alienation, converted it into the very instrument of our defeat) The People are shocked to discover we had elected not a midget on stilts but a man lacking in stature nonetheless!

Could it have been otherwise? Was it possible that this revolution could be televised on MSNBC, sponsored by the Fortune 500, as we switched absentmindedly between the unfolding chastisement of Washington and Dancing with the Stars?

***

George Washington

The man on the white horse is a potent symbol of power and authority in our Civilization’s self-narrative. Is he the Father of Liberty? Or, a murderous slaveholder, confiscating the lands of the original peoples, and speculating on its value? Hero or Villain? It is a controversial question, as likely to elicit opinion on one side as on the other, but, before you take sides, consider the dilemma in a broader context.

This is an excerpt from the Wiki on the ambiguous symbolism of the White Horseman in our culture:

I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the seven living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.revelation 6:1-2 NIV

The white horse of the apocalyptic four has been argued to represent either evil or righteousness:

As evil

The other three horsemen represent evil, destructive forces, and given the unified way in which all seven (sic) are introduced and described, it may be most likely that the first horseman is correspondingly evil. The rider of [the] white horse is often associated with Plague, as the bow is the symbol of Apollo and Artemis, and in Greek stories, illness was thought to be caused by their arrows. The German Stuttgarter Erklärungsbibel casts him as civil war and internal strife. One interpretation—which was held by evangelist Billy Graham—casts the rider of the white horse as the Antichrist, or a representation of false prophets, citing differences between the white horse in Revelation 6 and Jesus on the white Horse in Revelation 19. In Revelation 19 Jesus has many crowns, but in Revelation 6 the rider has just one.

As righteous

Irenaeus, an influential Christian theologian of the second century, was among the first to interpret this horseman as Christ himself, his white horse representing the successful spread of the gospel. Various scholars have since supported this theory, citing the later appearance, in Revelation 19, of Christ mounted on a white horse, appearing as The Word of God. Furthermore, earlier in the New Testament, the Book of Mark indicates that the advance of the gospel may indeed precede and foretell the apocalypse. The color white also tends to represent righteousness in the Bible, and Christ is in other instances portrayed as a conqueror. However, opposing interpretations argue that the first of the four horsemen is probably not the horseman of Revelation 19. They are described in significantly different ways, and Christ’s role as the Lamb who opens the seven seals makes it unlikely that he would also be one of the forces released by the seals.

Besides Christ, the horseman could represent the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was understood to have come upon the Apostles at Pentecost after Jesus’ departure from earth. The appearance of the Lamb in Revelation 5 shows the triumphant arrival of Jesus in heaven, and the white horseman could represent the sending of the Holy Spirit by Jesus and the advance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, folks, pick your side. Is Obama the Anti-Christ? Or, the Christ? Is he a Harbinger of civil war and strife, as in the German interpretation? Or, that of a pre-Apocalyptic turn to Righteousness? One thing is certain, no matter your choice, there exists a ready made narrative through which your purely personal political prejudices can be transmitted immediately to society as the preferred narrative for our times.

“See,” you argue, “He is the Messiah, because he proposes to provide us with socialized health care insurance!

“See,” you argue, “He is the Anti-Christ, because he proposes to impose socialized health care insurance on us!

By one and the same act, Obama truly becomes all things to all people: a representative of God’s Love, and a scourge on, and tormentor of, God’s People. Each side rallies its forces – with teabaggers on the one side confronting supporters of the dying, and all but defunct, European social compact on the other. In this way, we study the signs, consult our favorite astrologers among the economists and pundits, and hold seance with long dead authorities, to discover the hidden patterns of history and auger the signs and omens that portend our deepest fears.

Our ambivalence toward the man on the white horse is further complicated by our disgust with Congress. If Congress can only represent our divided and fractured society in its profane, vulgar, and readily perceptible form – as a filthy, odious, assembly of whores, fortune seekers, predators, malcontents and bumbling co-conspirators against the public interest – the Presidency can only appear to us either as the singular embodiment of these virtues, or as their negation – as the Anti-Christ, who rules over this den of thieves, or as the Christ, who drives them from our Temple.

***

Franklin D. Roosevelt

The revulsion with which we regard Washington – the nauseating and truly pervasive sense of disgust at “the stench and sight of that heap of rotting viscera” called politics – is, therefore, no more than the way we comprehend our own Alienated Humanity, our own very real divisions embodied in Washington as an echo – a play of shadows, an image caught in a mirror on passing – and those divisions are of such petty and insignificant quality as only to be represented by a succession of midgets with the hubris to claim that they can put an end to them.

It is probably appropriate that the hubris of the present midget in the White House – who proposed to overcome our divisions by gathering them into his administration – was heralded by the hubris of his supporters, who proposed to put an end to the divisions of society by imposing the will of one faction of society on the other. Having chased the Moron from power, amidst the raucous celebration and heckling by his followers, who had sworn to erase the Moron’s naked partisanship and imperial rule, the Messiah promptly stunned his followers by actually proposing Bipartisan Cooperation, and undertaking negotiations with the Party of Wall Street to arrive at a solution to health care coverage first implemented by the Party of Wall Street in Massachusetts.

What a fool! Did Obama really think that his supporters wanted bipartisanship? What Terror declares its intention not to abolish the Monarchy, but to include it in its cabinet? What Civil War promises the Slavocracy a place among its war council before proceeding against it? What Populist Uprising backs the Trusts with the Treasury of the United States?

Did he really think a society seething with deep, persistent, hardened divisions could be ushered into the Civil Utopia by force of his personality and persistence? Are progressives in his coalition supposed to look the other way while American troops under his command murder pregnant mothers in Afghanistan, continue to occupy Iraq, and plan for the annihilation of Iran, simply because he also supports the Employee Free Choice Act?

Moreover, just try telling his supporters that health insurance for mothers in the United States presupposes bullets in the bodies of mothers in Afghanistan, and watch them look at you in stunned disbelief, as if they had somehow encountered a madman. Tell them that both are rooted in our own activity, which creates nothing, produces nothing, offers no value to us but robs us of our own humanity, and they will protest. “But we are productive,” they proclaim.”Unless we work the check out counter, WalMart cannot export our jobs to China and then sell us the very product of our own immiseration? Who will serve us cheeseburgers? If not us. Who will call our home during dinner? Who will nag us to pay our bills? Or, ding our credit ratings when we don’t? Who will process our mortgage payments? And, if we have no job, who will pay them?”

The very idea that We The People are superfluous to the Empire – a fifth wheel on the unicycle of modern industry – is not only repellent and insulting to them, but seizes them with such foreboding as to send them running wildly to Washington demanding that their useless sinecures be made more secure by reproduction on a greater scale.

WE WANT JOBS, MESSIAH!

or, alternately

STOP KILLING OUR JOBS, SATAN!

And they are goaded on this fool’s errand, by the economists of every stripe and political persuasion – men and women who are, as Karl Marx wrote, complete “simpletons [whose] specific talent [is to] deal with everything in monosyllables … The monetary system and the entire present system are in their opinion as straightforward and as stupid as they themselves are.” Idiots, who periodically break off from their scholarly masturbations to read the entrails of the bloated carcass of the Empire, and declare, “Yes, indeed, recovery is just around the corner! We need only tweak money a little more – put a few more dancing electrons in the hands of the consumer, and all will be right!”

Thus all of our conflicts and divisions, in their very real and palpable forms, between capital and labor, black and white; Jew, Christian and Muslim; native and foreign born; liberal, conservative, teabagger and progressive – the whole of the ceaselessly appearing real, imagined, or wholly manufactured fractures and conflicts of society – can be resolved with a fucking group shopping trip to T.J. Maxx.

***

Human Being

In his Epilogue, Threecrow asks if the Messiah is the first of the Horsemen to come, to be followed, in turn, by War, Famine and Sarah Palin.

This raises a frightening question for the nation. If I am right about any of this and America in 2008 did move towards Empire and Emperor flavored with spices from France, 1789, and the perception is as of now that of a failed or even flawed Emperor who was placed into power riding the back of a three word slogan of “Time for Change,”

How much more dangerous and perilous an Emperor can be placed upon the throne with the warning challenge of another three word slogan: America is Ready!

For what, one asks with quaking tone, is America ready?

What rough beast is slouching towards D.C. to be born?

That choice is completely up to us, of course, since We are Threecrow’s Rough Beast.

What will we do? Are we headed toward an inevitable civil conflict, or is there reason for hope the we can avoid catastrophe?

In every epoch of human conflict and suffering, the predatory forces of society could always rely not simply on the power to overwhelm, conquer and control their subjects, but also on the fact that those subjects – who were slaves not only to their oppressors but also to nature, want, poverty and the primitive productive forces of society – were compelled to labor notwithstanding their particular grievances bound up with their enslavement. The peasant, serf and slave could only hope to one day achieve the status of free labor – and, thus freed, peacefully continue their bondage to nature. A society founded on poverty and want is the natural and only basis for the horrors imposed on mankind by its members.

It is not until, as at present, we are confronted by the superfluity of our own labors – by the sheer lack of its necessity – and, by this means, compelled to acknowledge our redundancy as a mere beast of burden, that we are compelled to throw off the whole of mankind’s self-deceptions – of politics, economics, law, morality and the entire dead weight of our prehistory – and claim for ourselves the noble title of Human Being.

It is, therefore, merely (MERELY!) a matter of a revolution in our own consciousness – a revolution that acknowledges simply that we are no longer fit to be an appendage of a machine, because the machine has rendered us superfluous.

From that moment of acknowledgment forward, all the vexing problems of politics and economics, of war and peace, of wealth and poverty, which have for eons tortured society and subjected it to the mad passions of mobs and tyrants, dissolve into nothingness. All the divisions of society, all the factions and conspiracies, all the forms of servitude, dependence and obligation, and, hence, all the means by which midgets have raised themselves to be emperors, vanish with it. And their bothersome supporters and detractors, promoters and bashers, who have occupied and dominated our attention for all of human prehistory, can instead concern themselves with what should have always occupied their own attention: namely, what to do with the rest of their lives.

The Empire is mortally vulnerable, people!

And, this vulnerability rests not on the threat of small bands of militants inspired by one or another useless ideology and armed with the fabled weapon of mass destruction. It is vulnerable because you are superfluous to it, or, rather, that your only economic function within it is that of a passive consumer! Unless you stand ready to absorb ever increasing quantities of Chinese made product, the Empire falls. Unless you are willing to undertake even more debt, the Empire falls. Unless you are willing to go each day to a job where you produce nothing, and contribute nothing to society and to your own material living standard, the Empire falls.

Never before in human history have a group of slaves been able, on any pretext (whether it is that of the teabagger, with his hatred of taxes, or the simple-minded progressive, with her worship of European Socialism) to bring down the entire system of their enslavement just by shutting off their cable service until their oppressors are brought to heel! Even now families for none other than economic consideration are foregoing the payment of their mortgages to the criminals on Wall Street, because they will not service their debt on homes that are under water. You don’t even need a political complaint!

Moreover, every specific complaint on which you initially found your actions has the potential to rapidly metastasize into a general critique of your position in society, because (1) that position is bound up with your labor, which is, on the one hand, absolutely necessary to the continuation of your enslavement, but, on the other hand, absolutely superfluous to your own material standard of living; (2) your activity has this dual nature not only with respect to the US economy, but with all economies in the world market, i.e., that your activity is necessary to the continuation of the enslavement of the Chinese, German, Greek, South African, Indian, Nigerian, Brazilian and Chilean worker – i.e., of wage slavery on a global scale – even as it is superfluous to your own well being; (3) that it is impossible, therefore, to free ourselves of this activity without, at once, dooming the entire system of wage slavery, not just in one nation but all of them and simultaneously, because, without our superfluous activity, slavery everywhere becomes economically, and, therefore, practically, untenable.

It follows from this, that the divisions within this class, between teabagger and progressive; black and white; native and foreign born; liberal and conservative; socialist and libertarian – and all such meaningless divisions among us, or imagined by us, such as nationality, race, religious creed, political affiliation, sexual orientation, etc. – are of no significance whatsoever, except that each is no more than a starting point of a journey toward a general critique of our position as slaves in society, and therefore, leads to this revolution in consciousness by our direct action.

The fact is a debate over the historical significance of Obama and his administration is quite beside the point. The real question is our own power to force events. Can the vulnerability of the Empire’s fragile financial sector, and the dependence of the Empire on ever greater accumulation of consumer debt, be used as a lever to end the murderous outrages in Afghanistan and Iraq? Will one million, ten million, or even twenty million credit card holders in the United States commit themselves to not use those cards – and avoid tapping their credit – until the wars are ended, and the troops are home? Will others in the US and around the world join them and swear off all new debt for auto purchases, home mortgages, etc., until Washington’s budget for new wars is eliminated?

If these are not enough should we not consider boycotting lucrative but non-essential services like cable television, shutting off extra services on our cell phones, etc? Escalation could even continue to include collective slowing or ceasing payment on outstanding credit card, auto and other consumer and mortgage debt. Our ultimate weapon, of course, is to stop all work in non-manufacturing businesses, and those which do not provide a vital service, like hospitals, schools, etc.

We can and should relentlessly escalate our pressure until Washington ends its defiance and bends to our will.

Maids and menial workers brought down the entire system of segregation by means of a simple boycott in Montgomery – can we do no less to end the slaughter of pregnant mothers in American adventures, and return our sons and daughters to their families?

We have that power. Will we use it on our own behalf, or continue to hand it over to those who oppress us?

How does capitalism end? (Part 3, or Why Bernie Maddoff should replace George Washington on the dollar bill)

April 24, 2009 1 comment

Hint: It ain't because of his good looks!

Hint: It ain't because of his good looks!

Continued from here

We have stated the death of capitalism is the death of work.

We have also stated that, rather than reducing hours of work during the Great Depression, and, thereby, gradually abolishing capitalism, virtually all governments decided to kill money instead.

According to the Wiki:

Every major currency left the gold standard during the Great Depression. Great Britain was the first to do so. Facing speculative attacks on the pound and depleting gold reserves, in September 1931 the Bank of England ceased exchanging pound notes for gold and the pound was floated on foreign exchange markets.

Great Britain, Japan, and the Scandinavian countries left the gold standard in 1931. Other countries, such as Italy and the United States, remained on the gold standard into 1932 or 1933, while a few countries in the so-called “gold bloc”, led by France and including Poland, Belgium and Switzerland, stayed on the standard until 1935-1936.

According to later analysis, the earliness with which a country left the gold standard reliably predicted its economic recovery. For example, Great Britain and Scandinavia, which left the gold standard in 1931, recovered much earlier than France and Belgium, which remained on gold much longer. Countries such as China, which had a silver standard, almost avoided the depression entirely. The connection between leaving the gold standard as a strong predictor of that country’s severity of its depression and the length of time of its recovery has been shown to be consistent for dozens of countries, including developing countries. This partly explains why the experience and length of the depression differed between national economies.

What the above statement says, in economist-speak, is that governments around the world sought to save capitalism, and maintain the overly long hours of work, by first debasing money – breaking the link between paper currency and gold – and, then, in a deliberate, and covert manner, insidiously subverting its purchasing power.

Thus began the largest and most sustained act of class warfare in the history of humanity, as governments, at the urging of industry and finance, began to sabotage the living standards of working people in every nation – a surreptitious campaign of starvation designed to bludgeon their populations into working longer and longer hours.

Within a short period of time, these same working families would come to expect each year that maintaining the exact same standard of living they had enjoyed the previous year would require more hours of work, more members of their families performing wage work, and, increasingly, to leverage those additional hours with an ever increasing volume of debt.

It is fairly easy to see the results of this secret war in the graph below compiled from statistics provided by  the Federal Reserve Bank from 1985 to 2006. The graph shows the decline in net savings of Americans as a percentage of their disposable income:

savings_dis_inc

From Discursive Monologue blog

The net effect of these policies were to discourage and penalize saving, and convert the populations of various countries to a life of debt-driven consumption – the actual and very real potential for starvation lurking beneath a thin veneer of only apparently stable subsistence.

These three moments which we have so far discussed: (1) The steady abolition of work by the internal logic of capital; (2) the creation of a mass of superfluous labor utterly cut off from productive employment; and, (3) this same work force mired in actual conditions of abject impoverishment beneath a thin veneer of only an apparently stable, even an apparently improving, standard of living, finds its most developed expression precisely in statistics drawn from the United States for good reason: Owning the world’s reserve currency has allowed the US to pursue these policies more aggressively than any other nation on the planet, and all of them collectively.

Owing to the dollar’s unique status, a legacy of World War II and the resulting war-related economic catastrophe visited on the other industrial nations, the US was in the enviable position to do to all other nations what they were doing to their own national populations: rob them.

The Wiki provides a case which demonstrates the problem countries faced when they did not own the world reserve currency:

Japan’s Finance Minister Takahashi Korekiyo was the first to implement what have come to be identified as Keynesian economic policies: first, by large fiscal stimulus involving deficit spending; and second, by devaluing the currency. Takahashi used the Bank of Japan to sterilize the deficit spending and minimize resulting inflationary pressures. Econometric studies have identified the fiscal stimulus as especially effective.

The devaluation of the currency had an immediate effect. Japanese textiles began to displace British textiles in export markets. The deficit spending, however proved to be most profound. The deficit spending went into the purchase of munitions for the armed forces. By 1933, Japan was already out of the depression. By 1934 Takahashi realized that the economy was in danger of overheating, and to avoid inflation, moved to reduce the deficit spending that went towards armaments and munitions. This resulted in a strong and swift negative reaction from nationalists, especially those in the Army, culminating in his assassination in the course of the February 26 Incident. This had a chilling effect on all civilian bureaucrats in the Japanese government. From 1934, the military’s dominance of the government continued to grow. Instead of reducing deficit spending, the government introduced price controls and rationing schemes that reduced, but did not eliminate inflation, which would remain a problem until the end of World War II.

Japan left the Gold Standard in 1931, allowing it to discourage imports and make its exports cheaper through devaluation of its currency – which had the effect of reducing the standard of living of its own population. Additionally, it was borrowing in the capital markets to fund a massive military build up.

Japanese working families were dealt a triple blow to their living standards: Cheaper imports were curtailed, exports grew at the expense of domestic consumption, and domestic productive resources, which could have been utilized to satisfy consumer demand, were being redirected to military preparations.

THe United States suffered no such ill effects because the dollar was not only the national currency, it was the world reserve currency as well.

Since, goods are denominated indollars, and all currencies tend to be valued by their exchange rate with dollars, the US was uniquely positioned to do what Japan could not: Maintain the appearance of a rising standard of living, while pursuing a massive military build up, and an ever growing trade deficit, by borrowing back the money it used to purchase goods and services from the rest of the world.

Essentially, the United States was able to enjoy all of the goods and services it imported from the rest of the world – including the much complained about cost of imported oil – free of charge, simply by recycling the dollars it used to purchase those goods and services through American banks to be lent out to you, or, to purchase state and local government, corporate, and federal bonds!

However, far more important than this silly global ponzi scheme, is the net effect of this process as it applies to the question at hand, “How does capitalism end?”

Because it is precisely the dollar, the currency at the heart of this ponzi scheme, which became the scaffolding around which was erected, the actual empirical existence of men in their world-historical, instead of local, being.”

To be continued