President Hillary Clinton as the symbol by which the masses will represent to themselves the bitterness of neocolonialism

clinton

 

After November, I’m expecting a mass movement–or at least a broad and deep undercurrent–that starts to focus directly on Hillary Clinton herself as the symbol and most revealing manifestation of the whole problem.

There is going to be such a bitterness from so many quarters, and she will face it again and again, and then the way she responds–the only way she will ever respond–will only deepen the people’s bitterness.

What I’m trying to talk about results from three things:

first, the people’s long pain: from a recession that never ended for the working poor–from terrorist cops and reactionaries that have harassed and murdered black, brown, trans, and disabled people relentlessly–from hipster and tech gentrifiers who sound and act more and more like literal colonizers every passing year; second, from the frustrated disillusionment the people have learned after the shockingly rapid hope-disappointment cycle that has burned the people again and again–Obama, Occupy, BLM, Sanders; third, from Hillary Clinton’s unparalleled mastery of all the system’s forms of illusion–master of phony Democratic “progress” rhetoric, co-opter of feminism, co-opter of “social justice.”

She is so good at covering over bullshit as usual. President Hillary Clinton would have been totally acceptable 15 years ago. But since then there has been so much pain, and already so much deceit of every species to try to smooth over it, that her skills still won’t be enough to cover for all of it.

And in this spillover, in this insufficiency of even her best attempts, the full magnitude of both aspects of the system will be sharply revealed: on one hand, the flabbergasting scale and depth of the deceit; on the other, the vastness and profoundness of the injustice and suffering it suddenly fails to conceal. Her name will be the slogan for the problem.

She will embody it; she will embody both the whole world of pain, and the massive but at last insufficient deceit that attempts to cover it. She will be the symbol of the whole of bourgeois society, of the final vapidity and selfish disgustingness of liberalism, of everything the people will be quite sure has to be totally destroyed.

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A few thoughts on The Ataris

I was a really big fan of The Ataris as a teenager. I had been reading lyrics from my old favorite songs for like an hour and I got progressively more teary-eyed with a kind of nostalgia or wistfulness for the way their music used to make me feel. Here is the one that finally made me crack. It’s funny, this song came out in 2003, I remember when it was “their new album” to me. Here are just some thoughts on it, most of which I’ve had before but which I feel more sure of my ability to express now.
 
– yes, part of me is still able to be briefly enchanted by the longing to experience that scenario The Ataris specialized in portraying: of being so obsessively, so elaborately and romantically infatuated with someone and having them feel exactly the same same way and sharing a mutual excitement with them not just in being together in the immediate moment but also at the thought that it was only going to get deeper and sweeter and more infatuation-y the deeper we dug into each other, because it turns out we were just literally perfectly made for each other and would only become more perfect for each other the longer we knew each other–as though the castle-upon-air that is our projections onto someone we’re first meeting could be fully true, let alone true forever. as though one didn’t divide into two.
 
– yes this is disney romance, yes this is unhealthy. by that i mean, it is selling the concept that “The One” is out there somewhere, an incredibly powerful tool of patriarchy and capitalism that provides a perfect justification for the institution of hyper-isolated nuclear families. a society broken up into hundreds of millions of couples who are wrapped up in a marriage-worshiping, family-centered selfishness is obviously easier to exploit and manipulate than one where everyone instead prioritizes many and diverse strong, intimate bonds and active connections across all society with many different people. the more “The One” a person takes their partner to be, the more they will try to make a whole world out of that relationship, to the exclusion of connections with the rest of society.
 
– some of it is horrifying, hearing the “i tried to convince you not to go home” in this song that i listened to over and over, sighing heavily and thinking that that was romantic and sweet instead of rape culture. and that i made that same mistake for so much other stuff in their songs. in general, a *lot* of The Ataris’ work is about being in the ~Friend Zone~ even though it doesn’t use those words, like, many songs telling the object of infatuation that their choice of partner is foolish, and how much it hurts that they don’t dump them and get with the singer. so presumptuously entitled and infantilizing. some of it just outright misogynist, albeit “jokingly.”
 
– yes, it is disney in more ways than one–it is disney in the way every setting for every song is so utterly predicated on a society with such a massive suburban middle-class population that it really does seem to stretch off in all directions and be all that there is to the world. (i think there is a lot of good historical materialist work to be done on the epistemology of growing up in such a massive middle class as the one that came about in the united states after the 50s.)
 
– pitying the poor naive young person i was, who would have to forfeit basically every last one of the sweet fantasies of connection i had at that point. (but on the other hand, it occurs to me to say, when i was like 23 and thought, “I’ll move to Brooklyn, that’s where all the most passionate people go, and I’ll be among the greatest and most beautiful of ideas and engage with them”–actually that idea really did more or less come true here in Austin. i am so incredibly fortunate to be able to learn from and work alongside the people i have met here, in more challenging and fulfilling work than i could even have imagined at 23.)

If you argue against communist revolution, you are complicit in the deaths of 100 million innocent people every five years

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When it comes to “death tolls” attributed to the socialist countries of the 20th century:

– Most of it wasn’t due to shooting, but instead to famines caused by droughts that had occurred regularly every decade or so for hundreds of years, causing famines each time. But capitalist-hired historians will only mention the famines that occurred during revolutionary times, and let the reader conclude this was the revolutionaries’ fault.

– Much of the capitalist-hired “research” is totally baseless, or based on hearsay from defectors and never corroborated. Believe it or not, the capitalist media has no problem pushing baseless, academic-seeming anticommunist writings to prominence. (For the USSR, some of the deaths counted by the most prominent anticommunist “historians” were people the Nazis killed. .. ???? How is a Nazi invasion the Soviet Union’s fault?)

– The vast majority of the people intentionally killed are class enemies, e.g., landlords and the mercenaries they hired to kill and terrorize people whose work kept them rich.

– Some innocent people die in a revolution, this is unavoidable. As Malcolm X said, ” Revolution is bloody, revolution is hostile, revolution knows no compromise, revolution overturns and destroys everything that gets in its way.”

(More on the subject of properly understanding the history of the socialist countries here.)

Some words should be said about that final one. Some people will say, “Even one innocent person is too much.”

And I say, no, you don’t get to say those words. Because as soon as you try to, there is in fact no moral high ground left available to you.

Once you have waded into this argument, you have become ethically complicit in the deaths of innocent people *either way*.

Because 20 million innocent people die of deprivation needlessly every year under capitalism, and the experience of the socialist countries of the 20th century proves just how needless that is. We *have* constructed systems that feed, shelter, and provide medical care to everyone–planned economies. Arguing against communism is arguing for remaining within the capitalism that kills so many people each year.

And yeah, that’s a brutal calculus–x thousand innocent people dead in a revolutionary war, or y million innocent people dead each year from starvation and disease in “peacetime” under capitalism.

But once you assume the ethical responsibility of weighing in on capitalism-vs-communism argument, nothing at all relieves you of the ethical burden of the consequences of your argument. Just as you sought the ethical valor of arguing for the right side, you are ethically liable if it turns out your arguments are actually leading to more deaths of innocent people.

Yes, I accept it–my arguments will lead to thousands of innocent people dead in a war, killed by stray bullets or disrupted supply chains or even mistaken identity–but if you argue against such a revolution, you are complicit in the deaths of 100 million innocent people every five years.

And if at this point you recoil and refuse to investigate any of these claims you’re skeptical of, you are no less liable. Refusing to investigate the consequences of your actions does not take you off the hook for those actions.

A few thoughts on the restoration of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie in a socialist country

what is a state? it is not just a supreme ruler and a set of mindless zombies who are obedient slaves, carrying out that ruler’s wishes.

in Tunisia during the so-called Arab Spring, what was the difference between the first officer from the old ruling regime to defect to the revolution (and the unit that defected with them) and all subsequent officers (and their units)? each sub-commander (along with their unit) is obedient to the chief commander for personal motivations and personal ideological commitments and convictions. they can and will have their minds changed by various processes. there is variation in all things in nature, and change is ceaseless.

if, in 1979, 15 more countries had suddenly gone socialist, would the remnants of the Maoist-sympathizing forces–suddenly willing to risk being executed for it–have been able to re-detonate a cultural revolution, calling upon the masses to re-bombard the headquarters?

what would that look like? first, we have to recognize both that there obviously is a minimum amount of state power, a quantum of it, necessary to detonate a cultural revolution, and also that clearly it isn’t necessary to control the entirety of state power to detonate a cultural revolution, either, because Mao did not have omnipotent state power when he detonated the GPCR.

so isn’t it possible that some Maoist captain who had successfully passed through whatever purges Deng made (i really have no idea of the specific changes Deng made upon immediately taking office, though a comrade supplied this PDF as having some details on that) could have seized a radio station, presented a plea to re-activate the cultural revolution in light of the recent wave of communist revolutions, and swept the revisionists back out of power? maybe, but the longer Deng remained in power, the farther and farther down the state structure the remaining principled Maoist forces could be found–until the last minimum-unit-of-state-power-necessary-for-detonating-a-cultural-revolution flipped to never being willing to undertake a cultural revolution.

and that was that–after that point, there was no one in the Communist Party of China willing to detonate a cultural revolution who had the power to do so, meaning that bourgeois dictatorship had completely returned–meaning that the only way for China to return of socialism is if the current government is overthrown and replaced with one that is willing to keep detonating cultural revolutions until communism.

* * *

what does it mean for a socialist country to go state capitalist?

well, to use and simplify the model presented in “Rethinking Socialism,” throughout the base there are overall-bourgeoisifying projects and overall-proletarianizing projects. these are constantly having their effects both on the masses and on members of the party. (for something i wrote to try to go into more detail on the psychological process of bourgeoisification, see here.)

if the “ratio” of these two types of projects is in favor of bourgeoisifying projects, then sooner or later, the quantitative, the sheer number of lieutenants and generals and factory managers and party members having been bourgeoisified, will lead to a qualitative shift, a tipping point, such that (a) there is a base of support for a bourgeoisified individual to become head of state, and (b) that head of state in turn acts back upon the party as a whole to make it acceptable to further alter the ratio in the base in favor of more rapid and deep bourgeoisification.

and that’s that–after that point, both the base and the party are both influences for bourgeoisification, and nothing imaginable barring a truly extreme external influencing factor could empower still-proletarian elements in the state to detonate a cultural revolution to sweep out the capitalist roaders at every level, proletarianizing both sufficiently many economic projects and political institutions that the prevailing tendency is then of proletarianization.

obviously this will never happen in the abstract. the decisions are of the type, “ah, this education program can get cut. ah, no, this incentive program is okay.” it is not always 100% clear to all people making the decision whether a given project is overall proletarianizing or overall bourgeoisifying. and of course, deciding the ratio of proletarianizing projects to bourgeoisifying projects isn’t the only thing a state does. a state also is a direct influencer of ideology in itself, by publicly declaring the correctness of various lines.

capitalism is not some timeless default–but the reason a socialist country can slip so easily back into capitalism currently, without a social revolution, is that to survive in a mostly capitalist world means to produce commodities to sell to the sea of capitalist countries that surround any given socialist country. merely to survive, a socialist country must incorporate many projects into its base that will bourgeoisify its population and its party. the converse simply isn’t true of any capitalist countries, so it simply couldn’t happen in reverse. and the last socialist country to emerge in the world will have a vastly easier time consolidating itself and will require very few bourgeoisifying projects because there will be very little impetus for it to engage in commodity production–it will be able to trade with dozens if not hundreds of socialist countries, all of which have a vested interest in seeing the last bit of soil consolidated in having a solidly and overwhelmingly proletarianizing base and solidly proletarian politics in command.

the MLM argument isn’t that Deng, some random capitalist roader who sprung from thin air, won an election alone and bamboozled a sea of otherwise proletarian-minded people who made up the rest of the state. it’s that his attaining the chairmanship was the point of inflection of a much broader process of bourgeoisification that had also already won over lots of guns to him and the project he represented, and in turn consolidated that bourgeoisification and accelerated it.

Edit (2016 09 09 0304 CDT):

To clarify, when I say someone in the party can “detonate a cultural revolution,” this is not to say that the party can merely urge the masses to undertake a cultural revolution if there is no mass demand for a proletarianization of the party, other institutions, and society at large. The party can do what it likes, and without such a mass demand there will be no cultural revolution.

However, the more the party and other institutions become bourgeoisified, the sharper the contradictions in society become, which for a people living in a revolutionary society will be intolerable, so in all times when a restoration of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie has become likely, there will likely also be mass support for cultural revolution to eject “those within the Party who are in authority and are taking the capitalist road.”

Edit (2016 11 29 1028 CST):

Here’s a really excellent quote that I think is also helpful for anyone trying to understand this question:

“It is impossible for some classless group of “bureaucrats” to rule society in the name of the proletariat, because in order to maintain such rule these “bureaucrats” must organize the production and distribution of goods and services. If bureaucratic methods of doing this prevail and come to politically characterize the planning process under socialism; and if a group of bureaucrats, divorced from and not relying upon the masses, makes the decisions on how to carry out this process; then inevitably this will be done along capitalist lines.

In the final analysis, the revisionists can only fall back on the law of value as the “lever” which organizes production. They must reduce the workers to propertyless proletarians, competing in the sale of their single commodity—their labor power—to live. They must appeal to the narrow self-interest of the worker in this competition, backing this up with the power of the state, as a force standing above and oppressing the workers, a weapon in the hands of the owners of the means of production. They must do this because they must find some way to organize production which they cannot do consciously in a planned way by themselves. They have no choice but to become a new bourgeoisie.

— “How Capitalism Has Been Restored in the Soviet Union and What This Means for the World Struggle” (1974), quoted in The Science of Revolution

A brief but thorough explanation of why armed revolution is necessary to end the abject suffering on this planet

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“Capital eschews no profit, … just as Nature was formerly said to abhor a vacuum. With adequate profit, capital is very bold. A certain 10 percent will ensure its employment anywhere; 20 percent certain will produce eagerness; 50 percent, positive audacity; 100 percent will make it ready to trample on all human laws; 300 percent, and there is not a crime at which it will scruple, nor a risk it will not run, even to the chance of its owner being hanged. If turbulence and strife will bring a profit, it will freely encourage both. Smuggling and the slave-trade have amply proved all that is here stated.” (T.J. Dunning, quoted in Marx’s “Capital”)

* Capitalists control all the world’s governments.

* Reliable workers and a complacent public are the basis for steady profits. So every government policy that can be enacted to placate workers or prevent outrage that doesn’t overall hurt profits has already been passed.

* Thus, any change to the status quo that would genuinely benefit workers or the environment would hurt profitability—or else it would already have been passed voluntarily by the capitalists. If such a change happens anyway, it creates a “profit vacuum.”

* The first corporation or bloc of corporations that figures out a way to “bust in” to this vacuum and subvert this change will profit just as surely as it would from discovering a massive new oil field or gold deposit. The more effective a social change is at alleviating pain or environmental destruction, the larger the profit to be gained by subverting this change.

* Thus, the more effective a movement is at overall changing the world for the better, the more violence is used against it to destroy the movement and reverse whatever changes it made.

* This is why u.s. intelligence agencies have attacked dozens of countries between 1945 and the present day, no matter how peaceful their efforts to improve their citizens’ lives were.

* If you accept this, you must conclude that any movement that intends to end all oppression and exploitation must be armed, disciplined, and planning on eventually fighting and defeating all standing armies in the world.

* for some thoughts on how this might be done, read about the political-military strategy called protracted people’s war here.


or, to put it slightly differently:

when we talk about the history of revolutions, what we’re really talking about is systems for exploiting labor.

for instance, feudalism was a system where labor was exploited because serfs were tied to the land, and knights came around and collected some fraction of the harvest, and if anyone didn’t pay up, the knights beat them or killed them.

slavery was a system where labor was exploited where slaves were tied to an owner, and those owners paid overseers to make sure the slaves kept working, or else the overseers beat them or killed them.

in capitalism, the system of control has been refined. some people own so much wealth they never need to work a day in their lives. the overwhelming majority of people have nowhere to run–they live in cities where there is no arable land. they must either work for someone and have their labor exploited, or else starvation and disease are the knights/overseers who will come kill them. that or they end up on the streets and become pariahs who make the police “fear for their lives” and then the police murder them and no one bats an eye.

when movements begin to collectively pool resources to start to give people options–alternatives to working for a capitalist and having their labor exploited–every single time, the system uses violence to destroy these movements once they disrupt profit beyond a certain point.

we must understand the civil rights movement, for instance, as a movement that intended to give black, brown, and indigenous people *more resources* so that they could have more to fall back on and fight harder to get *less* exploitative (but still exploitative) arrangements. and that faced fierce, brutal, murderous opposition the bigger it got.

when this movement became even sharper and more militant and sought to completely overturn the colonial relationship between white people and black, brown, and indigenous people, in the Black Power movement, the American Indian Movement, and so on, the violence became even more deadly.

the rate of exploitation for black, brown, indigenous, and poor white working people was *not* changed by those movements, nor has the oppression that makes that exploitation possible ended. the exploitation and oppression did not change because they did not succeed in destroying the oppressor’s ability to do repressive violence.

this book, “Killing Hope,” describes dozens of times a poor country somewhere in the world stood up and decided it wanted a slightly better, less exploitative life for its people, frequently insisting on using pacifistic methods to try to bring about this change–and the united states overthrew its government, frequently installing fascist governments who used death squads to exterminate the people who had been pushing for a slightly more decent society: anticapitalismfaq.com/kh/

never once in history has such a system of exploitation been overturned without violence. the more a movement disrupts profit, the more violence is used against it.

again: the more a movement disrupts profit, the more violence is used against it. there are no exceptions in all of history.

only movements that were prepared to use *revolutionary violence* in order to destroy the oppressor’s ability to do *repressive violence* have ended exploitation and the oppression that is its shadow.


or, one other way to put it, also worded slightly differently:

here is as accessible a piece as i am currently capable of writing, offered as part of an ongoing discussion about the question of violence in pursuit of liberation.–

when it comes down to it, the question of violence in history is always fundamentally a question of *stuff*–the stuff people need to live, and the stuff they need to thrive. the question of violence in history is always fundamentally a question of who makes stuff and who consumes it. it is a question of economic control and economic exploitation.

why did europeans carry out slavery in the americas? it wasn’t because of racism, which was invented after the fact as a justification. it was in search of *stuff*. it was in search of wealth.

when the masses in north america decided slavery was to end, why did the slave-owners fight back? was it because they had deep ideological disagreements about the truth of their racist theories? not at its core–it was over control of stuff–who made it, and who consumed it.

when the 13 colonies that came to constitute the united states wanted independence, was it merely terms of names? was it a question of whether the king had power *in name* over the colonies? no, it was a question of *stuff*–who would consume the stuff being produced by the slaves and the other working people in the colonies–would it be consumed by the ruling class of britain, or the ruling class in the united states?

when the people of Haiti wanted independence from France, was it merely a question of names? was it was it merely that they couldn’t stand the idea that France controlled their country *in name*? no, the heavy French consumption of the products of Haitian labor meant the Haitian laborers were starving. it was a question of *stuff*–who makes it and who consumes it.

what was Nazi Germany after? was it just a sudden furious dislike for the rest of the people of the world that overcame them? no, more than anything it was that the country as a whole had suffered a great loss of wealth as a result of the terms of the end of World War I, with the broad masses of German people suffering far more greatly than the ruling/capitalist class of Germany. it was principally this desire for stuff in the broad masses of the German population that had literally been made very hungry.

when the civil rights movement finished, did black, brown, and indigenous people control who would consume the stuff they made? no, that stuff continued to be consumed predominantly by the white population in the united states and especially by the white ruling/capitalist class.

when the civil rights movement finished, did black, brown, and indigenous people cease to suffer systemic violence at the hands of the people who consumed the stuff they made? no, that violence continued at the same rates that it had before.

perhaps this is why the civil rights movement came and went–achieving more than anything changes in law rather than changes in ways of living for the broad masses of nonwhite people in the united states–and did so with nonviolent methods being most salient in that movement.

when the independence movement in India finished, did the broad masses of Indian people control who would consume the stuff they made? no, that stuff continued to be consumed predominantly by the English people and by people in imperialist countries generally, especially by the ruling/capitalist classes of those countries.

when the independence movement in India finished, did the broad masses of Indian people cease to suffer systemic violence at the hands of the people who consumed the stuff they made? no, that violence continued at the same rates that it had before–though it was now carried out by Indian officials upholding a government that ensured that the people in those imperialist countries continued to be able to consume the products of Indian labor at the same rates as before.

perhaps this is why the Indian independence movement came and went–achieving more than anything changes in law rather than changes in ways of living for the broad masses of the Indian people–and did so with nonviolent methods being most salient in that movement.

when the American revolution finished, were the rulers of America any longer subject to the systemic violence of the British? no, their violence had destroyed the British ruling class’s ability to carry out that violence.

the violence at Standing Rock right now is about stuff. the people there are denying the ability of the u.s. ruling/capitalist class to amass stuff, and violence is being used against them.

the police violence in black, brown, indigenous, and poor white working-class neighborhoods is about stuff. these people will not keep producing stuff for the u.s. ruling/capitalist class unless the violence is consistently applied. if it were not, people would soon find ways to eat and thrive without working at exploitative wages for horrible bosses.

the imperialist violence against the six countries the united states is bombing right now is about stuff. those countries will not keep producing stuff for the u.s. ruling/capitalist class unless the violence is consistently applied. if it were not, the oppressed nations of the world would soon find ways to eat and thrive without working at exploitative wages for horrible bosses, and without shipping their precious resources overseas at heavily reduced prices.

wherever we see systemic violence, we should look to see economic exploitation–systemic economic exploitation casts systemic oppressive violence like a shadow.

and systematic economic exploitation has never once in the history of the world been ended without those who were being exploited using *liberatory violence* to destroy the ability of the oppressor/exploiter to use *oppressive violence*. never.

Among all demographics, the so-called middle class has the least ability to grasp the reality of how society works

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Among all demographics, the so-called middle class (the petty bourgeoisie and labor aristocracy) has the least ability to grasp the reality of how society works, and are most intellectually adrift.

Because like, the working class confronts the obvious day-to-day reality that they are at the bottom of a systematically violent class structure—and at the top, the capitalist class has to grasp class as well in order to remain successful and stay in power.

But the middle class has neither of those methods for encountering reality. Middle-class people are free (and doomed) to speculate wildly about the workings of society and humanity, and never encounter any real data to confirm or deny their theories.

This is why utopian socialism is so common in this demographic. (Utopian socialism is the idea to build a communism-in-miniature and hope that by doing so you can make the idea to build more of them go viral and overtake all of society—e.g., a commune / community garden / anarchist space / Food Not Bombs chapter / worker-owned co-op). This is why “everyone should just follow their bliss and we’d all be happy” is often accepted as a meaningful political outlook in this demographic.

It is also why the twins of fascism & “democratic socialism” find their mass social base in this demographic. (The shared idea between these two is to repair our “degenerate”/greedy society and resolve class conflict not by overturning capitalism, which is the root of class conflict, but instead by returning to the ideals of mythical bygone days—Trump’s “make America great again”… Sanders’s “restore our democracy”).

This is all the more true for white straight cis men* in this demographic. They are padded on all sides from encountering the truth. They face extremely few snags or roadbumps that call into question the official explanations for how society works. I can corroborate this because I grew up in this position. I look back and am flabbergasted at how long I spent as a libertarian (until I was 24), totally mystified as to the real workings of society, oblivious of my obliviousness, even to such now-obvious-to-me facts as the daily, brutal pervasiveness of patriarchy. Everything in the world—including the very ideology I had been taught—was set up to make these things invisible to me, and make me feel skeptical of and superior to anyone who tried to bring them to my attention.

My instinct is to pity or talk shit about people caught in this ideological trap (because they are so often smug and stubborn), but I think as revolutionaries we have to do better.

When we do try to work with them—and I understand that doing so is an emotionally labor-intensive process—we have to dispassionately understand that they can’t really help it: their theories are just what the human mind gets up to when it’s thrust into this political-economic positioning. The strategy has to be to act with both principled firmness *and* compassion as we help them find their way out of the labyrinth of mystification and egotism they were born and raised in.

(* or at least people whose identity can float not-super-uncomfortably within the category of “straight man” as white amab middle-class people are expected to perform it)