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What’s wrong with us? (0.44%)

12:23 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

To tell the truth, I’m still reeling from the November elections, a big, hard topic to write about. But it looks like, from the tone and high quality of recent comments here at MyFDL, maybe now is the time. Recently received an e-mail from Diane Gee of Wild Wild Left, a nice smaller blog asking for the return of former writers who’d drifted off during the 2012 election hell/season. My response gets into those damn election results (and my lament):

Diane and all,

Thanks for the e-mail and all the responses to the e-mail. Times are remarkably dark for the left as evidenced by the presidential race and results. I think we are all still reeling from them, which no one at my main blog, myfdl, has written about, me included. (I think the expression of anger and dark thoughts actually are just starting to come out now). Obamney received 98.33%, the far right 1.11%, and the left (Stein, Anderson, Barr) 0.44%. 0.44%. How do you grock that? How do you ‘build’ on it?

I think we need to breathe in and make sense of how remarkably bad left _politics_ are for it to have achieved point zero four four fucking percent in THIS economy. Until that reckoning comes to pass and the right things are done about our too comfortable, too set-in-its-ways house of the left, what is there to say when no one is listening?


The problem isn’t just us, of course, it’s the times. This cool comment by chicago dyke (under one of those ‘faux clueless’ “we gotta hold ‘em accountable” posts by someone ‘left-famous’) makes a lot of the foundational points that might help us lefties figure out what’s wrong with something (link added):

chicago dyke January 9th, 2013 at 2:30 pm @55

personally, i think it’s too late and the one world “government” by the superrich is here to stay for a while.

that said, if you’re the hopeful type, spend your time organizing initiatives and ballot movements to do what they did in CA, and end the practice of gerrymandering. sort of amazing what neutral citizens were able to accomplish there, no?

also: note how the interwebs are a curse and a blessing. you know what is very noticeable about sites like this one? our age. where are the teens? i was politically active when i was young; why don’t we have lots of those here? i’m not trying to say the people here do a poor job; this is an excellent blog. but i can’t help but note i’m probably one of only a handful of people who have an electronica collection. and that’s dating myself compared to the 25 and under set.

finally, life at 10$/hr is harsh, and doesn’t leave for a lot of time for political activity. the death of the labor movement in this country, along with the decline of quality public education, is what is making all this horror possible. recognize we’re entering into a new “lost generation” and all that entails.

i don’t mean to sound hopeless. but i agree with a friend of mine (we were just talking about this yesterday) it will be at least ten years before a new, probably unpredictable political movement rises in this country and demands and enacts reform. if not revolution. so many of us are locked into a system that does not allow us to achieve such, right now.

(Electronica?) My response:

fairleft January 9th, 2013 at 10:21 pm @76 (In response to chicago dyke @55)

Yeah, yours is the good common sense assessment of what has already happened to the political/media system. “What should we do about it?” was my comment way up at @4.

Hell, I don’t know, but I think a lot of us older folks are just on automatic pilot, ’cause political discussion is part of what happened at dinner tables and in colleges back thirty, forty years ago. Younger people, the cut-off is really around 40, almost never have that background. Political discussion around the dinner table died because it’s embarrassing to do that unless you have an actual democracy that listens to you and doesn’t treat you like a sucker. And very few could pretend Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan were serious, honest people rather than ‘anything it takes’ salesmen. A couple of manipulating scam artists, and the same with the sold-out parties they belonged to – crass vehicles for redistributing income up. And more recently their successors Obama and Bush, the same thing.

Occupy was a failed attempt to at least have an actual democratic politics in the space of small downtown parks. It briefly inspired a lot of young people, but its failure and partial cooptation into ‘those scary Republican’ electoral politics surely has done the opposite.

Not much to work with on the hope front.

The only thing I’d say is that ten years is much too long a time frame. We could have very different politics soon if Obama continues to grind the economy down and redistribute money up. Basically, when the rich run things they do a progressively crappier job of it from the perspective of the bottom 80%, and we do have ways of letting our masters know we’re pissed off. Take a look around two years from now.

Okay, enough whining about post-democracy. I hate elections. No, better end on a more civilized note. Colin Crouch, from the preceding link:

Post-democracy is like post-industrialism. … All the institutions of democracy remain – we use them. It’s just the energy of the political system and the innovative capacity have moved to other spheres … to rather secret private discourse between great global corporations and governments.

Occupy Ignores Israel

3:35 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Does Occupy even know that Israel exists, and that the U.S. is its leading supporter/funder? Not from looking at Facebook’s two main Occupy pages (here and here). Just saying, but Occupy seems not to have noticed that our leading Middle East ally is murdering Gaza children in our name.

Oh well, maybe this is just another indicator of the intractable problems an intentionally voiceless and wordless organization will have. Of course there never was a debate of any kind, hot-blooded or reasoned, within Occupy about what stance the organization should take on the U.S government’s slavish and lavish support for Israel no matter what it does, because no one has ever established what and where Occupy is or how or if it makes decisions.

But the photos of dead babies are real and IT WOULD NOT BE HAPPENING BUT FOR U.S. SUPPORT. I.e., as an American movement, you, Occupy, do not have a convenient way out: if you’re not against it then you are for it. But, yeah, okay …

“Never mind, go away, we’re trying to be an inoffensive Occupy!”

Okay, sorry, wouldn’t be prudent. But then …

If not now, when?

Me, Finkelstein & Occupy: Next Time a Revolution, Not a Peasants’ Revolt

2:17 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Peter Gaiss, leader of the Poor Conrad peasant rebellion in Germany, 1514

Like any good movement, the Occupy movement has to conduct a serious self-criticism and look at what it did right and what it did wrong. At this point it’s pretty much disappeared. And that’s just a fact. I pass Union Square nearly every day and it’s a very sad sight now. When I go to Union Square the main occupants of the square now are the Hare Krishnas again. Well with all due respect to Hare Krishnas it was much more inspiring when the center stage was occupied by the Occupy movement. — Norman Finkelstein

Norman Finkelstein, interviewed at Counterpunch on his new book on Gandhi, relates it to the Occupy Movement with the following two comparisons/criticisms:

1. With the people. “… Gandhi … dug very deep roots in the Indian masses. He was not speaking from the outside. He was among them. He lived like them. He dug deep roots and he was careful, methodical, to the point of tedium, organizer of every detail of his movement. … And he’s watching where every nickel and dime goes. This is the people’s money. Nothing is going to be wasted. Nothing is going to be squandered, let alone no one is going to be cheated. No one is going to get away with thievery. So the first rule is you have to dig very deep roots in your constituency. I’m not sure how successful the Occupy movement even initially was at that. I got the impression – it’s a superficial impression but nonetheless even surfaces tell something about reality – let’s say when you were in the Boston Occupy. There seemed to be a sense of “We the encampment.” Us versus them. Namely the world outside. We were the enlightened ones and surrounded by the corrupt society. That’s not how you build a movement. It has to be among the people. The moment it becomes us versus them you then become an easy target for the bulldozers because nobody cares.”

Finkelstein later in the interview expands on and re-emphasizes the point: “When you are a people’s movement you have one thing. Your only asset is people. And you have to deal with real people. Not the people of your imagination. Not the people you wish people would be. But people as they exist actually out there in the real world. So you have to be among the people. Hear what they’re saying, know what they’re thinking, and then you’ll be able to figure out what is a realistic demand and what is not.”

2. From slogan to demands. “… the Occupy movement never got beyond the speechifying to ‘Where’s the Beef?’ The ability to not just synthesize a slogan, which was brilliantly done, but then we have to move … to synthesizing a demand or a series of demands with the same criteria. Where is the consciousness of people? What’s the furthest you can reach them with, or their incipient consciousness? What are their demands. Obviously a demand like, nationalize the banks, no – people were nowhere near there. But demands like, if you had four demands. One, a moratorium on student loans. Two, a public works program. Three, a major increase in taxes for the rich. And four, something on the mortgage crisis which is hitting so many people badly.”

I would add a third criticism, which Finkelstein does _not_ state, and it comes from my sense early on that Occupy was anti-intellectual or at least afraid of being accused of eggheaded intellectualism.

3. Empower expertise. Finkelstein touches on this issue at various points in his interview, particularly in the following:

“Number one, to the extent that politics is an intellectual debate, a debate over real ideas and the so called market place of free ideas, you have to be able to defend your position against other people out there. Otherwise in a course of public debate, public so called discourse, you are going to be trounced. You’re going to look the fool. That’s why we like a person like Ralph Nader out there who can tell you everything about regulation, everything about the tricks and the thievery and so forth, the cheating of the banks and the corporations, because we recognize that politics is in part about that public debate – discourse and being able to make rational arguments that carry the day. So in that respect, no we do need to know the facts. We have to have a full and complete control over the facts. Otherwise we’re simply going to be easily dismissed in the course of a public debate.

Secondly, you have to put forth demands which can work. And it’s not enough to say I don’t like banks. Therefore “B.” Well you have to explain “B.” Does it work. Does it have a real possibility of working. Because you don’t want to mobilize people around a demand which then just blows up in their face. Then you lose all credibility. So A, you have to make a convincing case. And B, the case you make has to be rooted in reality. Otherwise a very short way down the road you are going to be made to look very foolish. As in we told you that wouldn’t work.

So no, I don’t think there’s a shortcut. We need people who are competent, who understand these things. And also we have to make ourselves reasonably competent.”

Of course, see 2, defending your position with Occupy-empowered expertise requires first having such positions to defend. Which Occupy never got to. And then, also, how, with such an absence of organizational structure, would Occupy have recognized and empowered individuals to be “its” experts?

4. We are the 90%. Reluctantly and with all respect to ’99%’ as a galvanizing slogan, and this is entirely my own criticism not Finkelstein’s, but somehow sloganizing the conflict as between the 1% and the rest of us too conveniently avoids most of the real class conflict that controls U.S. politics. Doctors mostly aren’t part of the 1% but they’re sure part of the 10%, for instance, and they’re part of a healthcare system that costs double what it should. And most doctors (through the AMA) will fight like hell to keep things that way. Frankly, if you aren’t going to confront most of your enemies (which is what “We are the 99%” definitely indicates), but instead are even going to welcome them onto your side, that’s a prescription for aimlessness, confusion and finally cooptation/death.

Peasant revolts are a dime a dozen. If the successor to Occupy wants to be more than that, 1, 2, and 3 will be present early on. (I’ll leave 4 aside.) Still doesn’t mean such a popular revolution would be successful. That will depend on how bad things get. But, well, “pretty damn hellaciously bad” would about do it, and I see that coming fairly soon.